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Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
By Carl Dix | October 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
October 22, the 18th annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation, is less than two weeks away. So far, 15 cities in this country and one in Canada have announced plans to take to the streets on this day. This list needs to grow quickly. We need to have 50 or even 100 cities planning marches and rallies, cultural events, teach-ins, and more on O22.
Look at the horrors being inflicted on people. Police killing innocent, unarmed people is about an everyday occurrence. And these cops are almost never punished in any way for these crimes. Recently in some outrageous cases where cops were brought into court for killing people, those courts have dropped the charges or overturned convictions of killer cops. All this is unacceptable and it must be stopped! BE THERE ON OCTOBER 22 TO SAY NO MORE!!
Youth face being harassed, jacked up, beaten down, arrested, and worse for nothing more than being Black or Latino and in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s three months since the Trayvon Martin verdict and the criminalization and demonization of our youth continues without letup. If you boiled with rage and disgust over that verdict, if you took to the streets when it came down, you need to act now.
Immigrants are being hit with raids by La Migra that tear families apart and disappear people. More than two million people are being warehoused in prisons across the country. 80,000 people are subjected to solitary confinement in those prisons, held in conditions that amount to torture. Five million are being treated like second-class citizens because they used to be in prison. People like Mumia Abu-Jamal, Lynne Stewart, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and many others have had the system’s repressive apparatus unleashed on them for standing up to the injustice being done to people and exposing the system’s crimes. One of those who stood up to decades of torture and solitary confinement was Herman Wallace, a courageous fighter for justice, a political prisoner who this system locked up for 41 years. Herman Wallace passed away on October 4. (See “Herman Wallace: Unrepentant Political Prisoner and Fighter for Justice” at revcom.us.)
The question is: Are we going to stand up and loudly say NO MORE to these horrors, or will they be allowed to continue? The impact of the Trayvon verdict isn’t over, the rage is still eating away at people, and the questioning it sparked among many is still going on, but there are forces working on suppressing all that; working on getting people to go back to looking to the channels the system has out there to deal with these issues. These forces can’t be allowed to succeed. This verdict came down to saying Black people have no rights that white people are bound to respect, and we need to make that verdict the beginning of the end for this system!
What can you say about a system that perpetrates this kind of injustice? That it’s illegitimate and no damn good. That it needs to be done away with thru revolution as soon as possible. AND that people need to engage in powerful resistance to the horrors it inflicts on people.
Powerful outpourings on October 22 are a critical necessity. We must say in a loud voice: NO MORE to police murder, NO MORE to government repression, NO MORE to La Migra raids, NO MORE to mass incarceration and all its consequences, and NO MORE to criminalizing the youth.
Today is a time of spreading upheaval in the country and the world—the intense infighting within the ruling class that has shut down the federal government, the attacks on the right to abortion and on voting rights, the wars for empire and more. Against this backdrop, this is a time to seize. A time for powerful resistance that gives a platform to those on the bottom of society whose lives are being devastated by abuse at the hands of law enforcement. As we do this, more people will be ready to hear the voices of those subjected to the most intense police brutality and murder on a daily basis. And more people will change how they think, and come to the side of those most directly under the gun.
OCTOBER 22 IS A PERFECT TIME TO ACT ON ALL THIS.
If you’re someone who’s fed up with being jacked up, harassed, beaten down, arrested, and worse by the cops, you need to act on O22!
If your eyes were opened to this abuse by the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, you need to act on O22!
If you’re one of the actors, musicians, and other well-known people who tweeted “No Justice, No Peace!” when that verdict came down—well, we haven’t gotten justice, so you need to act on O22!
High school students and teachers need to mobilize their schools on O22!
College students and faculty members need to mobilize their campuses to act on O22!
Religious leaders need to address this injustice in their sermons, and lead their congregations to take to the streets on O22!
EVERYBODY NEEDS TO ACT ON OCTOBER 22!
STOP POLICE BRUTALITY, REPRESSION AND THE CRIMINALIZATION OF A GENERATION!
NO MORE STOLEN LIVES!
HOODIES UP! WEAR BLACK, FIGHT BACK!
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 12, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Albuquerque, New Mexico
4 pm: Rally in front of the mayor's office (One Civic Plaza, NW), followed by a march to Albuquerque Police Department (400 Roma Ave. NW)
4:30 pm: Assemble at Troy Davis (Woodruff) Park (Peachtree Street and Edgewood Ave., downtown);
5:30 pm: March
Noon: Daley Plaza, Washington & Dearborn in the Chicago Loop
2:30 pm: Assemble at Public Square (across from Tower City), downtown Cleveland;
3:30 pm: Rally, followed by march to the (In)Justice Center downtown (Ontario and Lakeside Aves.)
3-5 pm Speak out at Rosa Parks Transit Center, 1310 Cass Ave., Detroit MI 48226
6:00 pm, October 21: film screening: Dr. King & The Black Panther Party vs. United States of America Police Brutality at New Light for New Life Church of God (1106 W. Woodward)
5:30 pm, October 22: Assemble at Eaton Plaza (2400 Fresno Street, next to Fresno Police Department and behind Fresno County Library in downtown Fresno);
Greensboro, North Carolina
4:30 pm: Protest at the Guilford County jail (corner of W. Washington and S. Edgeworth);
5:30 pm Speak-out and march at Smith Homes, assemble at corner of Florida Street and Freeman Mill Road
6:30 pm: Pancho Villa Event Center (The White Hall), 1026 B Street
5 pm: Rally and march at Market Square Park (Travis and Preston). Bring your voice, drums, music, noise, signs, banners; 832-865-0408
4 pm: Hemming Plaza (135 Monroe Street West)
Los Angeles, California
2 pm: Gather at Crenshaw/Slauson; 3 pm March;
4:30 pm: Rally
5 pm: Assemble at 3 City Hall Square
Mobile Know Your Rights training in downtown Minneapolis during the day;
6:30 pm: Rally and vigil for Stolen Lives at the 5th Precinct in South Minneapolis (3101 Nicollet Ave. South)
New York City
4 pm: 125th Street & Adam Clayton Powell Blvd., in front of the Harlem State Office Building
In the Bronx, 2:30 pm, Joyce Kilmer Park, 161 Street and Grand Concourse
Oakland/Bay Area, California
4:30 pm: Fruitvale BART Station, Oakland
12 pm: Rally at Redding Courthouse (1525 Court Street)
10 am: Assemble at California State Capitol (1315 10th Street) for rally, workshops, edutainment, and march
San Diego, California
6 pm: Assemble at I-15 overpass on University Ave. (City Heights Transit Plaza at 3878 40th Street).
Vigil and speak-out at sundown, followed by a light brigade action to FilmThePolice.
Please bring candles, signs, and cameras that have the ability to record video.
5:30 pm: Rally at Seattle Central Community College (Broadway and Pine), followed by march
Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 7:00pm Emergence Community Arts Collective, 733 Euclid St. NW The National Black United Front invites you to a discussion panel honouring the National Day Against Police Brutality:Mass Incarceration Vs. The Black Family - See more at: www.stopmassincarceration.net/content/october-22#sthash.Iuzpw6Zi.dpuf
CANADA Montreal, QC
6:30 pm: Assemble at 480 Gilford, métro Laurier (St-Joseph exit) in front of the Fraternité des policiers et policières de Montréal
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following are several of the letters we have received in response to our call to prisoners to write about October 22.
Corcoran CA, 10-2-13
On October 22: I think that it is imperative that people unite, protest, and resist the ever growing police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation. We have witnessed countless of times that people's resistance to the injustices perpetrated by this system (capitalism/imperialism) has been and is a crucial prerequisite to bringing those injustices to a halt. Whether it's been in eliminating the racist Jim Crow laws; to forcing the District Attorney to file charges against George Zimmerman for murdering Trayvon Martin. On the other hand, we have also witnessed that although those have been important victories, they have been partial victories, because we didn't rid ourselves of the system that produces all those injustices. We should have no illusions of getting justice from the "department of justice." The acquittal of George Zimmerman and the judge's decision in New York to throw out the indictment against Richard Haste (the cop who murdered Ramarley Graham) are prime examples of that.
In short, we should unite and resist the rampant police brutality and all other injustices that are perpetrated by this system daily, but we shouldn't be content with a reform here and there—we should aim and fight for a "Revolution—Nothing Less!"
Greetings from behind the walls of concrete and bars of steel.
Artist: Larry James DeRossett. From "Artworks from Prisoners," art sent to Revolution/revcom.us by prisoners.
October 22, the 18th Annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and Criminalization of a Generation is upon us. Once again it is our duty to stand up and stand against injustice. Now if you don't stand for something then you'll fall for anything. And the only thing worth standing for in this day and age is Revolution. Not just any Revolution, but a Communist Revolution. Why a Communist Revolution, you ask? For that is the only way to overcome police brutality, repression, and the criminalization of our Black and Latino youth. If you are truly tired of being discriminated against because of who you love, if you are tired of police killing with impunity. If you are fighting for women's reproductive rights, and it seems like for every two steps forward you are knocked back five. I've got the answer for you!
Look, I can sit here and write a book on what's wrong with this system we are now existing under. But you all see it, hear about it, feel it, and hate it as much as I do. So, I chose to spend these few moments I have to talk about the solution to and an exit out of this madness. There is only one way out of this insanity and that is through Revolution. Get with Bob Avakian and open the BAsics, students get with your local Revolutionary Club to raise up, stand up and get with this Movement.
If you all crave redress, embrace this Revolution and settle for nothing less!
On October 22 when you all stand up and protest against the crimes of this system, I will be right there with all of you, in spirit. Because I truly believe if you are not part of the solution, then you must be part of the problem!
Get with this, BA is the way, the only way! Power to the People!
In The Struggle
Crescent City CA, 10/2/2013
Today the spectre of U.S. Imperialism is haunting the Barrios and Ghettos throughout the U.S. and this is manifested in the over accumulation of prisoners and the phenomenon of control units, particularly the use of solitary confinement as a new tool.
Police brutality and criminalization are vestiges of state repression. But state repression derives from a class character. It is the ruling class exercising its power and dominance in Amerikkkan society. Although no speech or ballot box effort will completely solve our problem of police brutality, repression or other attacks, our efforts in protests serve to educate the people and raise awareness to these issues.
In my experience of growing up in the Chicano Barrios of San Jose, pig repression was just a way of life, it was considered normal to be 'stopped and frisked' whenever police seen you walking down the street. The pig was seen as just another gang which drove around and gang banged on the people, but they went past just having conflict with different hoods and even targeted honest hardworking people whose only crime is being Brown or Black.
Like most people in the U.S. prisons I grew up with the understanding that poor people were beaten or killed by the pig and that this was just the way it is. But this is not the way it is, it's the way it is right now.
The situation here in Pelican Bay Shu can also be looked at in the same fashion. Some think that this torture is the way it is, this is wrong. When we went on strike by the tens of thousands we showed that it is not ok the way it is and even though our actions were not meant to obtain complete victory where we totally transform the U.S. injustice system or shut down the Shu's etc we still underwent this strike. This was done of course to hopefully gain some small changes but more importantly to educate the people. Prisoners were the first ones to benefit from our protest and this was because people are affected by mass struggle. By 30,000 prisoners being mobilized this gave hands-on training in prison activism to thousands. This type of education was essential to our future struggles.
But the public was also educated on what is occurring to poor people in the U.S. prisons and this is what I believed may have threatened the state the most. The so called "land of the free" was now fronted off as being the land of the tortured.
The protests being prepared for Oct 22nd is important to once more educate the people who for whatever reason had previously been engaged in the dog eat dog world.
Ultimately police brutality and all forms of state repression - including the phenomenon of mass criminalization of millions are methods of controlling the oppressed who are currently under Amerikkkan domination. There is no 'PIC', financial incentives, although they do occur in some cases money making is not the primary cause of the criminalization of poor people in the U.S. in a nutshell, this mass criminalization is conducted in order to prevent the revolutionary elements from rising up and threatening the White ruling class.
What the state continues to get wrong is that this mass criminalization will not work because repression never works, it only fuels the resistance that will ultimately overturn the repression at hand. California's Shu's which were meant to destroy revolutionary prisoners are currently becoming liberation schools where the movements future cadre will surface.
New York's 'stop and frisk' which was meant to terrorize oppressed neighborhoods is now mobilizing these very areas in opposition to state repression. The cold blooded murders that occur in Brown and Black streets across the U.S. by police which are meant to terrorize the people are now mobilizing more and more from these communities in order to fight the power. We are building a momentum from the city streets to the Shu torture chambers, the front against oppression is everywhere! But at some point whether one is at some dead end job, on a college campus or in a prison cell we should understand that in Capitalist society anywhere on the planet, repression will continue in some form and only a socialist revolution would ever completely reverse this and put society on to a path that combats oppression in all areas.
Today's social conditions call for more methods of educating the people, we need to find more ways to reach those who have not been reached. Protests whether they are in prisons, jails, college campuses or on streets of cities are all sprouting from the tree of resistance. Often times when we look to history it was not the primary battles which propelled a revolution to victory, but those secondary struggles which became the decisive factor in determining what direction the pendulum swing.
La lucha Continua!
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Step into the future ... a future people would actually want to be in... a future that really could be.
For an evening, on April 11, 2011, hundreds of people joined in a thrilling taste of revolutionary possibility at Harlem Stage in NYC. BAsics from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian—the handbook for revolution in the twenty-first century—had just been published (and today is in its second printing). To mark the occasion, musicians, dancers, poets, actors, visual artists, came together with revolutionaries and activists from the 1960s down to today for a cultural event titled: "On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World."
Harlem Stage soared with revolutionary joy as hundreds of people, young and old, of different backgrounds and diverse political viewpoints were taken on a journey: lifted off their feet and touched to their cores as they traveled through the night of jazz, funk, soul, rock, poetry, dance, theatrical readings, and visual arts all woven together with deep revolutionary insight from archival film of Bob Avakian, readings from his BAsics, and commentary from voices who have been on the front lines for decades. As Revolution newspaper wrote at that time: "All of it aching for, giving voice to, and infused with the possibility of a radically different world than the maddening planet we live on now."
This November, the story of this night— the reflections of the artists and participants: what inspired them, their hopes and dreams—is coming to the screen in a new documentary film: STEPPING INTO THE FUTURE; On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World. In one hour and 15 minutes you feel and understand the depth of transformation that can take place when the revolutionary vision and framework developed by Bob Avakian which is concentrated in BAsics sets the stage—here for an evening—yet foreshadowing the potential for a whole new world. Featuring tastes of the performances at Harlem Stage, the urgency and uplift of the night comes through a compelling narrative of the deep concerns of the artists and presenters about the horrific state of today's world, the lies and the crimes of America, the import they see in revolution and in BA's voice being out on the scene—why that matters and their hopes for what this could mean for the future of humanity.
For people who have never seen or experienced Bob Avakian and the impact of his words, this film is an inspiring introduction. In the documentary, the jazz composer and musician Matthew Shipp comments: "Avakian talks a lot about revolutionaries having a poetic imagination, so it was really good to see that idea within the context of an event that has to do with the political or philosophical idealism of revolution." After a screening of a rough cut of the film, a couple of artists were discussing how the film makes you recognize the brainwash of this culture and society and not just wish you had been there on April 11, but impels you to want to find out more about this revolution and BA.
What could be more timely at a juncture when the world is roiling with reactionary governments and movements, when it reeks from a putrid culture, and is imperiled by the prospect of the destruction of the planet we live on? At a cultural moment when those films and novels that do envision the future typically project a dystopian world (e.g.: Elysium, Hunger Games, Mad Max)—which is where the world is heading absent radical fundamental change—think of what an inspiration and difference a radically new culture as part of a new revolutionary society and the movement to bring it into being means. STEPPING INTO THE FUTURE makes that real.
Plans are afoot for breaking STEPPING INTO THE FUTURE ... out into the world. During the first week of December there will be important widely publicized Opening Celebrations that premiere the film in Los Angeles and New York City, featuring some of the artists, presenters, creators of the film. At the same time, it will be shown in publicized showings in other cities around the country.
From mid-October through November, there will be a "soft launch" release of the film to build up to the celebratory opening screenings. The DVD of the documentary will be available for sale in early November. It will be part of a major BA Everywhere Holiday Sale running through the end of the year that will include the foundational works of Bob Avakian, as well as other items to support the campaign to get BA—everywhere. When the DVD of STEPPING INTO THE FUTURE .... comes out, Revolution Books and/or BA Everywhere Committees should sponsor dinners that show the film, plan for its opening, and especially get into and plan for major fundraising for BA Everywhere throughout the months of November and December. Also, in mid-October there will be pre-release copies of the film available for private showings for fundraising meetings and salons for the BA Everywhere Campaign. An important part of the "soft launch" will be utilizing the pre-release copies to involve and enlist people to work on the promotion of the film, setting up screenings, and broad publicity. This film in its own right, and especially in the context of wide promotion and popularization of BA, BAsics, and the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live, has the potential to make a huge difference in opening up a new positive radical and revolutionary trend in the political and cultural terrain. But that will take people—contributing funds and being a part of the movement to spread this.
Plans are still being developed but without doubt there is enormous potential for this documentary to be widely shown on campuses, in film schools, in art, performance and cultural centers, as well as in independent movie houses and as things develop way out in the world through different forms of internet and/or cable broadcast.
BA Everywhere—Imagine the Difference It Could Make
Raising big funds for big impact so that BA is known to everyone
STEPPING INTO THE FUTURE; On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World is but one part of stepping up to fill a great need to break open the possibility for millions of people so that they can know there is a revolutionary way out of the horrors of the world that is concentrated in the leadership of Bob Avakian and the new synthesis of communism he has forged.
This fall, especially in the months of November and December, all who really want to do something to go up against all the outrageous crimes of the imperialist world today, all who yearn for there to be a radically different and better future, should join in going all out this holiday season to involve lots of people in raising the kind of big money needed to project BA way out in the world, making BA a household name so that this revolution is known far and wide—what's it about and what it's for.
Everywhere you look—from the Mideast to North Africa; to the U.S. government shutdown spearheaded by virulent fascist forces busting a move while their imperialist opposites in the Democratic Party conciliate while carrying out an overall program of brutal repression and suppression of people here and around the world; the poisoning of the whole planet—the great need for revolutionary change cries out.
This system is not, can not, and will not produce anything other than misery for the majority of the world's people while endangering the future for everyone. The very acute problems and crises that their system is caught in also hold the potential for a positive revolutionary resolution. There is another way the world could be. And that is concentrated in the vision and framework of BA's new synthesis of communism. There is an urgent need to make this known now. To put before the world the only real alternative to the capitalist/imperialist system.
The campaign to project BA's leadership and the new synthesis of communism to the world is called BA Everywhere for good reason. There needs to be a contending viable vision and plan that is arrayed up against the killing program and oppressive reality that people are living. To break people out of thinking in that old system way, for people to see through and beyond the band-aid programs of social welfare and NGO charity there must be an alternative that is known throughout society, that is a point of reference, a fulcrum of controversy and debate, and around which a serious movement for revolution is being built. This will shape what people see is possible, changing the dynamics of everything.
For BA to be known everywhere, to have societal impact, requires big money. Now is the time to build on all the publicity and work that this campaign has done over the last two years and go all out this November and December to raise those funds—not only for one or another project to promote BA—but to realize the full vision of putting BA and what he has brought forward before all.
Teams should be getting out the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live—selling the DVD, sitting down and watching and discussing the whole film with people. The film should be shown in libraries, schools and community centers while work is undertaken for even more significant showings and popularization in the months ahead. At the same time, BAsics needs to get out on a whole other level. We are beginning the sale of the second printing of 10,000 copies of BAsics, which in turn should inspire many thousands to get their copy. Together BA Speaks... and BAsics provide the foundation and the introduction to what people need to change the world.
At its core, BA Everywhere is a multi-dimensional fundraising campaign among all strata. Now is the time to form teams of fundraisers, to plan fundraising activities among those who catch hell the hardest from this system. Now is the time to set up appointments, meetings, and house parties with professors and professionals; now especially is the time to be going out to events and places to seek to meet really wealthy people who can contribute the level of funds to make a societal impact. There is a new correspondence on the website revcom.us that grapples with the basis to raise really large sums of money from among the wealthiest people. The letter makes the point that these people live in the same world as everyone else with all its horrors and the dangers—and that many are moved to do something about it. But, most of what their large scale philanthropy contributes to now either does great harm—such as contributing to the Democrats—or offers some relief to a few people while the system crushes lives and spirits around the world.
With BA Everywhere we are giving people of all strata an opportunity to make the biggest difference that could be. This is about changing the face of everything. There is nothing more ambitious and nothing more real—if you want a world that is fit for humanity and all the species that live on it.
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
Letter on BA Everywhere:
October 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
Recently, I was in a discussion with some people about the BA Everywhere campaign and one of the questions posed was: Is it really possible to win over people with a lot of means to support this campaign? Are people going to give money to a movement going for changing all of society? Will people donate to a campaign that will disrupt their whole lives?
I think it’s a very important question to get into for two main reasons: First, the BA Everywhere campaign is about raising BIG money to truly push BA’s work and vision into all corners of society, and raising BIG money means that we will need to do a lot of work reaching out to the people that have those kinds of means. And second, because this question really gets at: Can people of all strata come to understand and appreciate BA’s work and the role that he plays, and what’s the basis for winning them over? So, I wanted to share some thinking on this question.
What’s really framing my thinking in relation to this question is this quote from the book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian:
“There is a place where epistemology and morality meet. There is a place where you have to stand and say: It is not acceptable to refuse to look at something—or to refuse to believe something—because it makes you uncomfortable. And: It is not acceptable to believe something just because it makes you feel comfortable.”—BAsics 5:11
So I want to dig into a little bit here how I see the meaning of epistemology and morality meeting and how this relates to the campaign. First, there is the realm of epistemology, and I would say that this means the realm of knowledge: what people know about the world, how they understand it and what they think is possible. Then morality, a basic sense of right and wrong, people acting in accordance to what they believe is the right thing to do, that will benefit others and that corresponds to the kind of world they want to live in. So when epistemology meets morality it means that people’s sense of what is right and wrong is directly connected to and relates to what they know and understand about the world.
When it comes to people of means, it is objectively true that these people live in the same world as the people who are catching hell under the boot of this system all over the world and in the worst possible ways. Not only is it true that people of means live in this same world, but it is true that this reality is shaping their thinking and understanding of the world, and in many cases leading them to feel outraged about the horrors of this system. Take a moment to think about the movie Fruitvale Station, which depicted the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, a Black youth who was viciously murdered by the transit police in Oakland on a platform in front of a train full of passengers, many of whom captured the murder with their cell phone cameras. This movie Fruitvale Station was made in response to this horror and is a poignant and moving depiction of the full humanity of Oscar Grant. Think about the fact that many of the people who made, produced and backed this movie are people with larger means and what this reveals about what these people are thinking about the world we live in and what they find intolerable and outrageous. Think about the Miami Heat basketball team that took a defiant and important team picture donning hoodies after the murder of Trayvon Martin, and think about the many, many angry tweets from celebrities and intellectuals after the outrageous “Not Guilty” verdict for Trayvon’s murderer George Zimmerman, with everyone from QuestLove to Miley Cyrus expressing contempt for the verdict. And think about the recent open letter written by Sinead O’Connor in which she grapples with the role women are expected to play in the entertainment industry after Miley Cyrus’ performance on MTV.
There are people today in every strata, including the very wealthiest, that are looking out into the world, seeing the horrors and wondering, as BA poses in the film REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! “How long?” How long will this nightmare continue for humanity?
And while these people are rightly angered and upset about the horrors of this world, the biggest contradiction here lies in the fact that these same people don’t yet know about Bob Avakian, and so they don’t yet know that the world could be a radically better place. And this is our responsibility with the BA Everywhere campaign: to bring to ever growing numbers of people the understanding that because of BA and the work he has done, it truly is possible to throw off the shackles of this system and work for a world that can bring the emancipation of all of humanity!
When you open up the possibility of a radically different world for people, the terms of what people want in their lives and what they want their lives to be about can become very different. And when we bring to people the understanding that BA has brought forward, it will influence what they see as right and wrong and what they want their money to support.
Now, that’s not to say it will be easy. And you can never say ahead of time where people will fall out in relation to this: Some people will staunchly disagree with you, some will be interested and want to know more and some will become very attracted. And there are definite questions that will be struggled out: Would an actual revolution, which could only come about under radically different future conditions, involve disruption? Yes, but for what? For a radically better world! The “permanent necessity” of this world that BA has spoken about does weigh heavily on people, and right now far too many people are locked into thinking that the world could never be different. But we have to crack through that!
We cannot underestimate the realm of morality and how people will feel compelled to act once their understanding of the world is opened up. And we have to have the strategic confidence and broad arms that BA models in his piece “An Invitation.” We need to lead people to have courage to pursue their convictions, to see them through to their logical conclusions and lead them not to turn away from that, but to learn more and act accordingly. Because fundraising is really a process of leading. Leading people to see that because of BA we do have an understanding of the way the world is and how it could be different, leading people to confront reality as it actually is, with all its comfortable and uncomfortable implications, and leading them to act on that knowledge: To support this campaign, to donate big funds and be part of a process where millions of people throughout society are digging into BA’s work and grappling with the very biggest questions of what kind of world is possible for all of humanity.
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On October 5, 2013, the Shulamith Firestone Women's Liberation Memorial Conference On What Is to Be Done was held in New York City. It was hosted by members of Redstockings, a radical women's liberation group founded in 1969. As the organizers explained, "This August marks a year since the death of Shulamith Firestone, a cherished Redstockings founder. The jolting finality of losing her was a powerful reminder of all that she had given us, she and a revolutionary era of feminism. How fast we moved forward in the late 1960s—how fast we're losing ground these days in so many of the fundamental areas. Why? At the memorial for Shulamith last September, Kate Millet said that the movement had lost its nerve. But how to get it back? Deeper theory and creative strategy seemed a way forward."
Ardea Skybreak, author of The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters, Of Primeval Steps and Future Leaps: An Essay on the Emergence of Human Beings, the Source of Women's Oppression, and the Road to Emancipation (available from Revolution Books and from amazon.com), and other important works, was invited but unable to attend this conference. Reprinted with her permission below is the correspondence she wrote to be shared with the conference.
First of all, I simply want to express my heartfelt thanks for inviting me to this year's Shulamith Firestone Memorial Conference. While I am unfortunately not able to attend due to other obligations, I am definitely honored to have been invited to participate, and I very much look forward to hearing and reading about the nature and scope of what I am sure will be very interesting and important discussions and deliberations. I am particularly encouraged by your appreciation of, and emphasis on, the importance of theory. This is all too rare in the world today. I very much hope the work of this Conference will contribute to opening up some new pathways to productive future engagements as well, with each other, and with the world!
If I may be so bold, allow me to contribute the following points, which I feel are very important if we are to truly advance the fight for the emancipation of women (ALL women) as a crucial and critical component of the struggle for the emancipation of all of humanity, throughout the world.
1) Today especially, we really need SCIENCE—a truly methodical, comprehensive scientific approach to the analysis of both problems and solutions. Empiricist subjectivity just won't cut it. As someone who was trained as a professional scientist in the natural sciences, I have always been dismayed by the widespread ignorance in society about what science actually is, as a method and approach, and by the reluctance of so many to seek to systematically apply the methods of science to the problems of society (including the historically constituted and systemically maintained oppression of women as women, in the U.S. and all around the world). We need the evidence-based analyses and syntheses of science in order to more fully and more correctly determine the origins of the oppression of women, its historical evolution through different forms of societal organization, its persistence and profound integral connection with the way society functions to this very day, and what are the actual material bases which might allow us to break out of this once and for all, and the world over. Good scientists understand that there is material reality (which actually exists, and has motion and development, independently of what particular human beings might imagine it to be at any given time!), and that it is possible to work on more correctly understanding that reality, and its dynamics, in all its contradictoriness, by systematically applying the methods of science. And good scientists actually understand that the very contradictoriness of any given thing in material reality (the "unevenness within" so to speak) also points to the very basis for transformation and change of that reality. This is certainly evident in medical research and all the fields of natural science in which people seek to achieve not only understanding but also transformation. The same applies to the problems of society. But we will miss all that if we proceed to base what we think and what we do on partial and unsystematic descriptions of portions of reality, or on what individuals, or even large groups of people, might happen to believe or favor at a particular time. We need to dig into the macro patterns, the ways in which the political/economic and cultural features of the oppression of women are historically evolved and continue to be deeply intertwined with (and necessarily integral to) the functioning of today's societal systems, including the globally predominant system of capitalism/imperialism. But we need nothing less than genuinely scientific materialism to understand and break through all that and to find the ways to truly dig out the oppression of women not just at the surface but at the very root!
2) To first of all deny (as is commonly argued today) that there even is such a thing as objective reality (which exists independently of what any individual might think at any given time) and that this objective reality can be deeply studied and understood, and then to claim that it is somehow wrong to even dare try to CHANGE how people currently think and act (or fail to act!) on the basis of what one has been able to learn and understand about the larger patterns of social reality, and to argue instead that there is no greater or more valid truth than that which stems from individual personal experience or individual narrative (which we are not even supposedly allowed to ever judge or criticize) is not simply nonsense—it is poisonous nonsense. I feel very strongly that we should not be at all reluctant to argue with each other and others throughout society about such critical issues of philosophy and epistemology because it really matters to whether we will be able to go forward in the struggle for the full emancipation of women, and all of humanity—or not. I am sick to death of the relativistic and exceedingly individualistic norms which prevail in academia and elsewhere these days—norms which, perhaps ironically, are often tyrannically insisted upon in all too frequent attempts to literally rule out of order any genuine intellectual contestation about the problems of society on a societal level, including as pertains to the oppression of women, as women, here and the world over, and deems "oppressive" any healthy challenging and sorting out of differences over how people should or should not think and also act in relation to all this.
While individual experience can be important and can also shed light on larger social phenomena, our approach should not be to primarily proceed from "individual narratives" and such partial individual experiences but to look for and proceed from the larger and deeper patterns as well as the common shared experience of millions and actually billions of women. Our goal should not be reduced to individual "self-empowerment" but should seek to encompass the emancipation of ALL women everywhere. And as a key and critical necessary component of the emancipation of humanity as a whole. If that's not what we're going for, then I for one am not interested.
3) Finally, I think everyone should really dig into what I consider to be the most advanced and radical overall social theory of our times—the new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian, which has been developed over more than 40 years of hard work. This new synthesis, which has developed and evolved over such a significant period of time, has worked through the lessons of the 1960s and '70s, and of the first early waves of socialist revolutions in the Soviet Union and China, distilled the best of these lessons, and then also taken it much further—on every important social question, including the question of the oppression of women and how best to achieve actual emancipation, that would be neither tokenistic nor easily reversed.
In my opinion you cannot be serious about social change, in any arena, at this point in human history and yet not engage this truly substantive body of work and richly developed comprehensive theory of emancipation. Do it with a critical spirit, with an open mind, with science and with heart. A good place to start digging into Bob Avakian's work is the film of an extensive talk he gave recently (BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live) and BAsics, a book of short quotations and brief essays excerpted from numerous longer works. Be sure to check out as well the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), which is both a sweeping and a concrete envisioning of what a new society based on this new synthesis might actually look like. Go to revcom.us for more information on these and numerous other works by Bob Avakian. I feel this work needs to be very much part of the broader societal discourse on change and emancipation, and that engaging it will help to focus up many more questions about how to go forward from today.
In conclusion let me just thank you again for inviting me to participate. I hope my few comments above may be useful to you in some capacity. I really wish you all the best with the upcoming Shulamith Firestone Memorial Conference, and I can't wait to hear all about it!
Here's to much good and principled and productive wrangling over important issues of our times and how to advance the emancipation of all women, everywhere! Because it matters.
With warm greetings to all involved,
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
If you are one of the over 10,000 people who have bought the print version of BAsics, you know that this selection of quotations and essays from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian is a tremendous introduction to Bob Avakian and the new synthesis of communism that he has developed. BAsics is this era's handbook for revolution and is indispensable for anyone wanting to learn about and be part of building the movement for revolution. Indeed, "You can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics" (as the back cover so aptly puts it).
However, if you don't have the e-book version of BAsics, look what you have been missing out on:
So treat yourself (and friends, family, and others you know) to the e-book version of BAsics. Once you get the e-book and begin discovering all its capabilities, you'll wonder what took you so long!
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
Two Concentrations of the Fight Over Abortion Rights Loom in November
by Sunsara Taylor and Rigel Kane | October 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Right now, there are two key places in the country where the battle over abortion is most concentrated. From November 2-6, the last abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi will be under siege from Operation Save America, an extreme, violence-inciting, woman-hating Christian fascist organization. And on November 19, a vote will be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico that could ban abortions after 20 weeks, thereby shutting down two of the four doctors in the country who openly provide abortions for women who desperately need them in the third trimester of pregnancy.
These are not “local” issues. What happens in each of these places—whether people mobilize to resist these attacks on women, including traveling to these places from across the country, or whether people stay home and “lay low”—will have tremendous implications not only for the outcome of these particular battles, but for the direction of the whole war on women. StopPatriarchy.org will be down there and calls on everyone else to join us there or to find others ways to strengthen this effort, through sending messages, donating to this effort, taking action where you are, and using your own networks and voices to bring others very broadly into this mobilization. Together, we must turn these attacks into a sea-change where increasingly thousands and soon millions are standing up to resist and defeat the entire war on women.
Let’s start in Jackson, Mississippi. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the very last abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi, has been under escalating siege from anti-abortion forces for years. Women, many of whom travel long distances and the majority of whom are African-American and poor, are forced to undergo a 24-hour waiting period after first meeting with the doctor. Many cannot afford the extra time off work, two trips to the clinic, or a place to stay overnight if they try to do these two visits. There is a 16-week cut-off for abortions which means that women who cannot come up with the funds in time end up forced to have children they don’t want. Mississippi law mandates that doctors who provide abortions be trained as OB/GYN doctors; this is totally unnecessary but makes it difficult for the clinic to find doctors.
But that is not all. As we experienced firsthand last summer during our time in Jackson on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, entering the clinic means navigating through angry fanatics who tout bloody images of mangled fetuses, scream at women that they are “murderers,” and hiss at the patient escorts that they should kill themselves.
As one of these hateful protesters put it, revealing how steeped the anti-abortion agenda is in archaic Old Testament values: “I grew up in a time when girls ... grew up scared of the natural consequences of sexual intercourse. They were closer to God.” The cold hatred against women who step outside their biblically mandated “role” as breeders of children, the constant threats to abortion providers (that are occasionally acted on through clinic bombings, arson, and murder), and the red, sweaty, screaming faces spitting vile condemnation at women who are already weighed down by everything that unplanned pregnancy brings, are all justified by the inflated, imaginary, and incredibly dangerous sense of being crusaders on a “mission from God.”
On top of all this, a law was recently passed which requires abortion doctors in Mississippi to have official arrangements with local hospitals to admit patients. This very, very rarely happens; abortion is ten times safer than childbirth. Besides, hospitals are already required to admit patients in the cases of emergency so this law does nothing to improve patient safety. The real purpose of the law is to close the clinic; local hospitals have denied these privileges to the doctors at Jackson Women’s Health which would mean this clinic must close. The only thing keeping this clinic open is a temporary order from a judge until a trial over the constitutionality of the law is held in March.
Now, Operation Save America, a Christian fascist anti-abortion organization, is seizing on this vulnerability by calling for a national convergence on this clinic from November 2-6. They will bring their hatred and thug-like tactics to the clinic doors and throughout the city of Jackson. Beyond the extremely negative effect all this will have on further stigmatizing abortion very broadly and intimidating those who actually support this right, they are praying that “God” will close the clinic by the end of this year. What does that mean other than encouraging the most violent edge of the anti-abortion movement to act out in extra-legal ways?
Flip Benham, leader of Operation Save America, has said, “We will become like the God we worship.” Let’s be clear: the God that Flip Benham worships is wrathful, condones genocide, hates gay people, mandates the stoning to death of women who have sex outside of marriage, and revels in fear. A tour through the Operation Save America website reveals an unabashed hatred of immigrants, a macho pro-U.S. military and imperialist chauvinism, a desire to force LGBT people “back into the closet,” and a persistent white male supremacy. They are open about it; they are proud of it. It is what drives them.
Now, let’s look at Southwestern Women’s Options in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Albuquerque is the only town in all of New Mexico with any abortion providers (it’s worth mentioning that this is a very, very large state, riddled with economic disparity and a large population of Native American people who are increasingly disenfranchised). Southwestern Women’s Options is the home of two of the only four doctors left in the country who openly provide third trimester abortions in the wake of the murder of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas in 2009 (see the new documentary, After Tiller). While abortions this late are extremely rare, women need them because many life-threatening complications for the woman or the fetus don’t emerge until late in pregnancy, and because of other extreme circumstances of many women. These courageous doctors have been under ongoing attack from the anti-abortion movement, maybe most relentlessly from Operation Rescue, the organization that created the climate of brutal hatred and provided the resources that made Tiller’s murder possible. Now Operation Rescue has followed these two doctors from Wichita, Kansas to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and has plastered their faces all over the web with descriptions like, “Member of Tiller’s killing team.”
Just like they did in Wichita, Operation Rescue moved “missionaries” out to live in Albuquerque to target these doctors full-time. Now, they have succeeded in getting a 20-week ban on abortions on the ballot coming up on November 19. In August, Operation Rescue’s youth group, Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, conducted a weeklong attack on the town to promote this ban. They swarmed and shut down a local Holocaust Museum, demanding that an abortion exhibit be added. They terrorized physicians, midwives and their families at their homes, screaming, “Murderers!” and trapping them inside for hours.
When the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride arrived in August, we learned that one home they went to belongs to a doctor in his 80s who provided abortions well before Roe v. Wade. Ever since then, his policy is that if a woman has been raped, payment should not even be discussed and the abortion will be free. Operation Rescue circulated fliers throughout this doctor’s neighborhood with his face, his name, and his home address, that read, “Killers Among Us.” They hung bloody baby dolls from the lampposts and saturated local neighborhoods with their pictures of mutilated stillborns. Lest anyone dismiss this terror as the tactics of a dismissible, isolated “fringe,” the mayor of Albuquerque, Richard J. Berry, welcomed these fascists and took a photo-op shaking their hands.
Here is the national picture that Mississippi and New Mexico concentrate: just this year, nearly 300 abortion restrictions have flooded legislatures nationwide, and last year 43 similar restrictions were passed across 19 states. 97% of rural counties in the U.S. have no abortion provider, and 5 states have only one abortion clinic in the whole state.
Abortion providers are heroes to women. They risk their lives every day so that women will not be forced to have children against their will. It is utterly unacceptable for Christian fascists and fanatics to be allowed to run wild, unchecked and unopposed. Those who care about women must make their voices heard, their bodies seen, and their moral indignation at this terror and woman-hating felt throughout society. We must be on the ground in each of these places telling the truth about abortion—that it is a perfectly moral and absolutely essential right for all women to be able to access without restriction, judgment, shame or stigma—and resisting these attacks.
Now is not the time to sit back and hope that somehow the courts or the politicians will protect abortion rights and abortion providers. While Republican fascists have proven more than willing to push extreme anti-abortion legislation, to whip up and unleash a fascist social base in the streets, and to use their bully pulpit to shame women and trivialize rape (think of Rush Limbaugh calling a law student a “slut” for daring to stand up for birth control or Todd Akin claiming that women cannot get pregnant from “legitimate rape”), Democratic Party leaders have never called on people to wage real political resistance commensurate with the threat women face. No major Democrat has come out and spoken non-defensively about the positive morality of abortion rights or called out the fascist immorality of those who would take this right away. Instead, Bill Clinton insisted that abortion be “safe, legal, and rare” (implying that there is something wrong with abortion), Hillary Clinton called abortion “tragic,” and Obama repeatedly insists on seeking “common ground” with these woman-hating fanatics. And for far too long, much of the official pro-choice movement has channeled people’s efforts into supporting these Democrats, rather than getting out and really politically battling to change the terms and direction throughout society.
The last several decades—where yesterday’s outrage repeatedly becomes today’s “compromise position” and tomorrow’s limit of what can be imagined—and the utter state of emergency we are in today, have proven the bankruptcy of this approach.
It is essential that the people who do not want to see women enslaved to their reproduction stand up now and in each of these places. We ourselves must publicly and very vocally insist on women’s right to abortion on demand and without apology! We must set out to change the way people think and feel about abortion—so that millions begin to recognize it as something positive, essential, and liberating. We must strip away the legitimacy of those—whether they be the thugs on the street or the fascists in power—who claim to be “pro-life” when what they really are about is the enslavement of women. And we must rally and mobilize thousands and soon millions to stand up and rely on ourselves to defeat this all-out assault on the rights and lives of women because it is the right thing to do and the only way to win.
Join with StopPatriarchy.org in traveling to Jackson and Albuquerque, sending messages of support, donating to this effort, or in other ways using your voice and your influence to turn these vicious attacks into a resounding political defeat for those who want to criminalize abortion. By standing up, let's make a major leap in building the kind of unapologetic, self-reliant, nationwide resistance that is necessary to defeat the war on women and win all-the-way liberation.
November 2-6: Operation Save America and their shock troops from around the nation will once again lay siege to the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last clinic in Mississippi. This terror must be resisted by people traveling down to Mississippi. WakeUpMississippi.org are calling on people to protest Operation Save America and defend the clinic, beginning Saturday, November 2. Stop Patriarchy calls on you to join us there October 29-November 6!
November 19: Operation Rescue is returning in full force to Albuquerque, as residents prepare to vote on the 20-week ban on abortion. If passed, this would close HALF the services available in the U.S. to women with dangerous complications late in their pregnancies or who face other extreme circumstances. Be there November 15-17!
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org today to get involved.
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
With this issue we're sharing some contributions from readers about this Sustainer Drive. While reading this correspondence, think of the contrast between the thinking and culture that predominates today, and what that needs to, and can, change into when masses of people get into Bob Avakian, and get into revcom.us. Both these correspondences are about reaching out to others with this need. Let's learn from that, too.
I was recently talking with a young member in the Revolution Club who graduated from college a couple years ago. We were talking about what's wrong with the culture in society, and on campus. One thing he was emphasizing was how people, including college educated youth, know very little about the world, and he was describing how everything in our society reinforces that. He included in this the role of the Internet. Often, students get their news from the headlines at yahoo or gmail when they're going to check their email. But these sites are designed—or you design it yourself—to only show you what you're already interested in, "my news." So you are rarely confronted with something that is outside of what you already know.
This is a big problem! And reinforces small-mindedness and individualism. An ever-narrowing understanding of the broader world with your horizons squashed and your thinking gets more and more segmented.
revcom.us—in its substance and in its structure is just the opposite, cutting against the grain of our society—taking you broader and deeper.
Anyone considering a regular contribution to revcom.us—take some time to explore this website.
In everything about revcom.us it is leading people—to understand not just what is happening but why, the deeper mainsprings giving rise to any one particular outrage, how any single outrage is connected up more deeply to other outrages of this system that they may not experience or even be aware of. It gives people a way to be part of fighting the power today, getting connected with the movement for revolution, and most importantly it takes you to the deepest level of theory concentrated in the work of Bob Avakian and the Party he leads.
The whole design of the site goes up against the spontaneity of a lot of internet culture which too often leads people to deal with surface-level phenomenon, information with no analysis and a narrowing of the questions. Overall in the culture there is a deep under-appreciation and opposition to theory. But without a theoretical understand of what is happening, why and what the potential is for transformation—in a world that is moving and changing—we will, as Revolution newspaper put it recently, end up groping blindly in the dark.
If you arrived at revcom.us because you are agonizing about the murder of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer, you would find not just deep analysis of the case itself, exposure of what happened in the trial and why, but on-the-ground reportage from the courtroom that challenges people's false and fundamental assumptions about the legal system in America. You would find sharp critiques of all the ways this system and those who fight for its interests were trying to demobilize people's outrage—from getting them to rely on the Justice Department or thinking we should rely on a nonexistent god. At revcom.us and in the pages of Revolution newspaper, you are asked to question not just what you are being told to think but how you are trained to come to that understanding. And you are led to ask the biggest questions about the source of these outrages and the most fundamental solution in the need, basis and possibility of real revolution. In the case of Trayvon Martin, we were digging in deeply to the source of the oppression of Black people, what this is part of and the roots of this in the whole system, and we are driving people to get more deeply into the solution to all this—the deeper theoretical questions of revolution, communism, and the leadership and strategy to make revolution in the world today.
Contribute and sustain revcom.us
From a reader:
Everyone I know has been agonizing over what the hell is going on with this shutdown. I must admit I did not see all that is revealed in this article from revcom.us, the website of Revolution newspaper, AND what we need to be doing if we want to radically change the world, including for those of us who are part of a movement for revolution: "The Shutdown, the Showdown, and the Urgent Need to Repolarize... for Revolution."
This article is an excellent example of the leadership provided by Revolution newspaper/revcom.us AND why you should support financially the paper and website, including by doing a monthly sustainer. In the article "Fall 2013 Drive to Financially Sustain revcom.us" it tells of how in the few days after the verdict letting George Zimmerman walk after his trial for murdering Trayvon Martin, the number of visits to revcom.us tripled. I'll bet there will be a big increase around this shutdown.
And the article on financially sustaining revcom.us ends with this, which tells sharply the role of revcom.us: "As people lift their heads, because of that verdict or because of other jolts in the mix right now, their ability to find revcom.us and learn how what has moved them relates to all the outrages people face around the world; how this is the result of the system we live under, how this can be resolved with revolution; that there is a strategy for that revolution, that there is the vision, understanding and leadership we have for this; and that they can find their place in it—this depends on you. Support revcom.us!"
"I just finished reading the article on the Gov. Shutdown and didn't realize that it was more than just Republican dicking around. I figured you could use 10 pigs so here's a check. Use it where you need it most."
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
A temporary deal has been struck, but the conflict is far from over
Updated October 19, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
With the shutdown ended and a deal between the some Republicans and Democrats concluded for now, we—and the people of the world—are all supposed to heave a big sigh of relief and "put this crisis behind us."
In fact, the underlying contradictions which gave rise to this clash continue to intensify and the analysis in this article remains very relevant. We urge our readers to continue to study this article. At the beginning of the week, Revolution will publish an analysis of this temporary deal and its implications.
The government shutdown dominates the news. Republicans and Democrats fight in a stalemate, unable to agree. There is talk, including by mainstream commentators, that “our democracy is imperiled.” (See Thomas Friedman’s op-ed, “Our Democracy Is at Stake,” in the October 1 New York Times.) Each night witnesses a parade of extreme right-wing demagogues dominating the cable news shows, influencing the thinking of millions, and rallying people to their side.
What is going on? Is the situation as serious as some say? Why? Who are these Republicans? Are they just lunatics, fools, and racists—or are they actually proceeding with a strategy and a goal in mind? And what about the Democrats—are they “finally standing up for reason”? Why do these disagreements seem so bitter—is it for real, is it for short-term advantage, or is it just fakery altogether? What is really being fought over—is it only about health care? What stakes, if any, do the masses of people—in the U.S. but, more important, all around the world—have in this conflict? And what challenge does this pose to those who really want to see a better world?
To begin with the facts: A faction of Republicans has refused to pass what is called a “continuing resolution” that keeps the government funded. As this is written, October 6, they say they won’t pass this bill until the Democrats agree to changes in the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”—that is, the health care reform bill passed by Congress three years ago, central parts of which are now coming into effect. This Republican faction has made a number of different demands, but most of them involve delaying, overturning, or changing different parts of the law.
The Democrats have answered back that if you don’t like a law, then you have to follow the rules to get it repealed. That is, you have to get a majority of both houses to overturn it, and then you have to either get the president to sign that bill or else get a big enough majority to override his opposition to the bill. In fact, the Democrats are right—but the Republicans don’t care. The Republicans can’t win through the actual laws and they haven’t even tried. Instead, they’ve taken something totally unrelated to the health care law (the “continuing resolution”) and blocked it in order to prevent the government from functioning and force the majority to meet their demands.
The result smacks very strongly of extortion. Many government programs vital to people’s functioning—for instance, the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), from which nine million women and children get nutritional aid—have now shut down, or are rapidly running out of funds. There is worry in the ruling class that the Republicans will persist in this and go further by refusing to pass the resolution that enables the U.S. Treasury to pay its debts. This resolution must be passed by October 17. But nobody knows whether this hardcore section of Republicans are so committed to blocking the health care law that they would be prepared, by defunding it and also possibly forcing the U.S. to default on its debt obligations, to precipitate both a constitutional crisis and a financial crisis and recession that could have severe global repercussions.
This is an extreme situation. In fact, what the Republicans are doing is quite outrageous—it is a very high-stakes, strong-arm move designed to advance an actual fascist agenda. Further, as an article in the New York Times makes clear, far from being the creation of one or two “rogue senators,” this was worked up over the months by very powerful forces, and has included the building up of a whole organized network and mass base, especially among youth. If they get away with this, this will be a serious leap into an even worse situation. (“A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning,” Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Mike McIntire, New York Times, October 5, 2013) At the same time, as we’ll see, the Democrats are NOT the answer.
So let’s dig into the underlying dynamics, examine where all this could go, and figure out on that basis what needs to be done.
In part, but only in part, this is about “Obamacare,” or the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Health care in America is capitalist—it is set up to turn a profit for the capitalists who invest in insurance companies, hospitals, the drug industry, etc. In recent decades, this industry has been extremely profitable—but this has come at the expense of other capitalists and the overall functioning of the economy, and has hurt the international position of the U.S. capitalist-imperialist class as a whole.
At the same time, tens of millions of people have no access to health care. Thousands have died each year of curable conditions, and others have been forced into crushing debt or homelessness through lack of insurance. Meanwhile, billions have gone to build up the already-massive military. This glaring injustice gave rise to big questions and growing anger among people: What does it mean when the ability to provide everyone with good health care exists, yet tens of millions of people have to go without it, thousands of whom needlessly suffered and died each year, with millions more living seriously diminished lives?
As a result, a consensus emerged among powerful sections of the capitalist class that something major had to be done to contain health care costs and expand coverage. Obama moved to deal with this by an act which maintained the profitable position of the capitalists in the health care industry while aiming to “bring down costs”—to other capitalists. He also expanded insurance coverage for many lower- and middle-income people—in part by forcing people to buy insurance, with subsidies depending on income, in exchanges coordinated by the government. But this is far from “universal coverage.” To take two examples: businesses are not required to provide coverage to those working less than 30 hours; and undocumented workers and their families (numbering in the millions) are not allowed to purchase coverage on the health insurance exchanges. At the same time, most of the things people hate about the way that health care is delivered in America are very unlikely to change.
The Supreme Court, which today is dominated by justices with extremely reactionary views, upheld most of the law—with one important exception. The ACA had originally mandated that the states expand Medicaid coverage—which is very basic health coverage—to the millions and millions of poor people who were not covered by insurance. But the Supreme Court ruled that this part of the law was unconstitutional—on the basis that it violated “states’ rights” (a rationale which, by the way, was used for decades to uphold segregation in the Jim Crow South and, before that, slavery itself).
As a result over 68 percent of the poor people who were supposed to have been covered by this law now will NOT be. That means, according to the New York Times, that two out of three of African-American poor people and single mothers, and more than half of low-wage workers, in the U.S. will STILL have no health care coverage! (See “Millions of Poor Are Left Uncovered By Health Law,” Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff, October 3, 2013.) Obama and the Democrats went along with this—they “played by the rules.” Meanwhile, the Republicans totally ignored the fact that this same Court, which again, is made up of extremely reactionary justices—could find nothing unconstitutional about the law as a whole; instead, they continued on their path of ignoring those laws and rules which do not suit their agenda.
This sharp contrast—between the Democrats, who let this attack go down without even the pretense of a fight, and the hardcore Republicans, who have never given up on fighting and obstructing the new law, and now are willing to risk major economic and even constitutional crisis over it—is very significant, and we’ll return to it later.
Obama’s plan—the ACA—was the most conservative of all the options before him when he got elected in 2008, with large majorities in both houses of Congress. In fact, the model for this plan was the one that his 2012 Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, had put into effect as governor of Massachusetts. Nevertheless, the Republicans opposed this plan. They ran out a number of arguments, but the main one was philosophical. The government, they argued, should not “meddle” in the health care market. If people wanted health insurance, they should have to buy it, or else work for a company that provided it as part of their “compensation package.” People who could not afford an insurance policy should rely on charity, they said. They argued that the ACA was “socialist” and re-distributing wealth from those who had earned it to those who had not.
First off, the ACA is far from socialist! (For an idea of how a genuine socialist state would approach health care, see Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)) In fact, the ACA is a capitalist plan designed to 1) maintain the profitability of those capitalists who have a major stake in health care while 2) taking into account the interests of other capitalists, and 3) making some concessions to some sections of the people in the hopes of tamping down a source of political outrage against the system.
But let’s look at their core argument: that society and government have no organized responsibility for anything bearing on the well-being and welfare of people. This is nothing but “each for himself/herself,” a vicious individualism aimed especially at the poor and minorities. These Republicans promote an almost religious faith that “the market” can do no wrong, and that any attempt to soften its predatory impact on people causes great harm. This faith—a “free-market fundamentalism”—unites many of the different strands of the Republican Party: the multi-billionaire Koch brothers, the libertarians, all the different Tea Party factions, and a good section of the Christian fascists (right-wing fundamentalist Christian theocrats, i.e., people who demand that their religious principles be enshrined as law). The ACA—even with its extremely limited concessions to the people and its extremely “sweet” measures to the different sectors of the health care industry—is too much for them.
Then there is a more unspoken reason—at least in “prime time.” This has to do with the insane and poisonous hatred of Obama, and of Black people in general, that these Republicans tap into and unleash. The fascists feed a feeling among their followers that Obama being president means that America is not “theirs” anymore and that they must “take it back,” and much of what results is very sick and fucked up indeed. In this light, doing anything to “get” Obama, including wrecking his major legislative “accomplishment,” is crucially important to them and their most hardcore followers. At the same time, particularly now when they are playing on a larger stage and branch out from the hard core, they can soft pedal the visceral anti-Obama stuff and pose as “reasonable people, seeking compromise”—while still pushing this theme of “taking back the country,” with its implicit and all-but-open appeal to white male entitlement.
In fact, readers should look at Revolution’s April 4, 2010 article, “The Battle Over the Healthcare Bill... The Fascist Reaction... and the Potential for REAL Revolution” to remind themselves of the openly violent and openly racist character of the opposition to the health care law when it was introduced into Congress in 2010. At that point, Republican Representative Steve King, someone who is a major figure in the current struggle, shouted at a Tea Party rally in Washington, “If I could start a country with a bunch of people, they’d be the folks who were standing with us the last few days. Let’s hope we don’t have to do that! Let’s beat that other side to a pulp! Let’s take them out. Let’s chase them down. There’s going to be a reckoning!” Members of this same mob then spat upon and even hit Black representatives trying to make their way in to vote, and one of them called Representative John Lewis of Georgia a “nigger.”
To be clear, there are very good reasons to oppose Obama, and to detest everything that he stands for: in short, the many policies that Obama has fought for and implemented that directly flow out of his role as the commander in chief of the world’s only superpower and the greatest oppressor the world has ever known, the U.S. empire, as well as the particular way that he has used his presidency to promote the idea that oppressed people—especially people of color—who do NOT “make it” in this country are somehow to blame for that. But that is very different from the reactionary, racist, and mad-dog venom that these Republican politicians have tapped into, stirred up, and given very ugly expression to. (We should also note that Tea Party forces in the Southwest are foaming-at-the-mouth haters of immigrants, tied in with the vigilantes and others who harass and intimidate immigrants—and sometimes do worse.)
These two streams—the heartless free-market fundamentalism and the racist appeals to white male entitlement, with a virulent racist hatred of Obama at the core—are the cornerstones of the Republican hatred of the ACA.
This crisis goes very deep. As we stated at the outset, there is serious concern that the rules are breaking down. So let’s take a closer look at those rules, and what they serve.
The state in capitalist society serves several functions. First, and principally, it enforces the interests of the capitalist class as a whole against rivals in other countries and against the masses of people, worldwide and in this country. You don’t have to go way back in history to remember how in city after city, massive strength was deployed to crush and brutalize the Occupy demonstrators and their sympathizers. And you don’t have to go back in history at all to see how the police are deployed to stop-and-frisk, harass, brutalize, shuttle into prison, and often kill millions of Black, Latino and other “minority” youth in this country. Nor does it take much to think of instances in which the U.S. threatens other countries with invasion and slaughter if they don’t obey U.S. commands, and/or actually carries out such slaughter—in fact, just read our account of Obama’s September 24 UN speech! So that’s the first function of the state.
In addition, the state must maintain and safeguard the general conditions of profitable capitalist accumulation—from building infrastructure (bridges, roads, etc.), to regulating the financial system, to seeking to contain and counteract crisis through bailouts and emergency spending, etc.
But the state must also serve as a vehicle that can mediate conflicts between the different blocs of capitalist-imperialists. This includes, but is not limited, to clashes over economic interests—in fact, those clashes are not even the main expression or driving force of the conflicts. To apply it to the current struggle, this is not mainly a battle between some people representing the insurance industry, say, and others representing the auto industry. Politics grows out of and reflects the economic relations of society, but it is also a separate sphere with its own dynamics and logic. Different political representatives of the capitalist-imperialist class have different ideas on what should be done politically. They differ over how the masses should be led to think and act, what reforms should or should not be made, and overall what should be the “acceptable limits” and governing assumptions of political discourse and ideological principle. They struggle this out through elections, the media, and in other forms. (This function also includes allowing the masses to undertake action for some reforms to deal with their conditions, to make the state seem legitimate in their eyes, and to confine their thinking to how to keep a fundamentally exploitative, oppressive, and unjust system running, rather than overthrowing it.)
These conflicts can get very nasty, but it is important to the capitalist class as a whole that certain rules be obeyed. In part, this is because when one section of the ruling class decides that they can no longer allow themselves to be bound by the rules, and that the way in which they perceive both their own interests as well as “larger interests” of the “body politic” demands that they defy and violate those rules, even to the point of precipitating a major crisis... then, as the saying goes, “all bets are off.” To put it scientifically, this can become a legitimacy crisis. The rulers can no longer agree on the rules, and the state, which people are taught from first grade to regard with “superstitious awe,” is revealed to be the arbitrary creation of people. If the crisis cannot be solved, the outcome can be a civil war—as happened in this country in 1861—or even a revolution, out of which a whole new class can come to power with a whole new state.
In other words, what begins as a battle between two sections of the capitalists over how things should go could turn into something else—IF there is a force in the midst of this that is showing how BOTH factions do not serve the fundamental interests of the people, how NEITHER can provide a real way out and way forward for people, and how the people themselves must take matters into their own hands and build a movement for revolution to bring into being a society that CAN solve the terrible problems people face. That depends on many things—including how all the different political forces, including the revolutionary forces—respond to events. But either of these outcomes—civil war, or revolution—could happen as a result of such a crisis getting out of control, and this is why talk of “our democracy being imperiled” is the order of the day for some bourgeois commentators.
This is NOT to say that the present crisis will end up going over the brink, with either of those outcomes. BUT—it is not clear at this point to any of the players where it will go, how it will get resolved and, if it does get resolved this time, when and how and with what level of intensity it will flare up next time. Often, as Bob Avakian points out in REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, the measures taken by rulers to get out of crises backfire, and things spin out of control. AND, again, what the revolutionary forces do in such situations can have great impact, one way or the other, on how these develop and what ultimately comes out of them—a point which we’ll come back to.
The fact that they are willing to risk so much only underlines the question we started with: WHY?
For some time now, beginning with his book Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones: We Need Morality But Not Traditional Morality (1999), Bob Avakian has analyzed the emergence of this fascist1 hard-core and the underlying dynamics driving its emergence. In that book BA wrote that:
The fact is, however, that in this crusade [for “the Family” and “Family values], and more generally these days, the “Conservatives” have the initiative over the “Liberals.” Why? There are a number of underlying factors: major geopolitical changes, in particular the disintegration of the Soviet bloc and the Soviet Union; changes in the world economy—involving the further internationalization of production and of speculative and other parasitic activity by capital—together with changes in the U.S. economy, including significant shifts in the composition of the work force away from “blue-collar” jobs; and a huge increase in debt associated with the unprecedented U.S. military build-up during the 1980s (the cost of “winning the cold war”).
So the waning of liberalism must be seen against a broad canvas. On the one hand, economic and social shifts—like “downsizing” of industry and the decline of unions, suburbanization and the fracturing of the old-line urban political coalitions—have weakened the traditional social props of New Deal politics. On the other hand, intense global economic pressures and looming fiscal crisis are forcing drastic restructuring of government spending and social programs—this following years of restructuring in the private sector. This is an era of “lean and mean” and ever more mobile capitalism. It is about cheapening production, depressing wages and benefit levels, and creating a more flexible and “disposable” labor force. And it is about massively slashing New Deal/Great Society-type social spending—now decried as “unproductive cost burdens.” (Wasn’t it the Democrat Clinton who coined the phrase, “end welfare as we know it”?) These and related factors have cut the ground from under the “New Deal consensus” and the concessionary programs (“war on poverty,” etc.) which have been the basis for Democratic Party administration of capitalist rule in the U.S.
At the same time, many of these same factors, together with the struggle waged by the women’s movement, have resulted in a situation where large numbers of women have not only the necessity but also the possibility of working outside the home. All this has been accompanied by a great deal of turmoil and upheaval, and one of its most important consequences has been that, from a number of angles and among various sectors of the population in the U.S., the basis of the traditional patriarchal family and the “traditional family values” associated with it has been significantly eroded. And yet all these changes are taking place within the confines of the same system—on the same foundation of capitalist economic relations.
This is potentially a very explosive contradiction, and in many aspects this explosiveness is already erupting....
BA then goes on to discuss the question of abortion in this light in particular. In another work, "The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy... And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer," he points out, discussing the situation in the 1990s when this was written, but applying in large part to Obama and the Democrats today, that:
Clinton represents an attempt to deal with these acute and potentially explosive contradictions by giving a certain expression to “inclusiveness”—to “diversity” and “multi-culturalism”—while retaining and fortifying the white supremacist and male supremacist relations that are an integral and indispensable part of the structure of U.S. capitalism-imperialism. In line with this, Clinton has promoted a less absolutist version of the “traditional values” and the “Judeo-Christian tradition” which has justified and reinforced the exploitative and oppressive relations on which this system is built.
But, in the view of Clinton’s conservative and particularly his fundamentalist opponents, Clinton’s program will not work and will only undermine the historically established girdings of the system, both in its economic base and in the superstructure of politics, culture and ideology—it will lead to the unraveling of the legitimating social “consensus” and social “cohesion” necessary to maintain this system. And the fact is that there are today in the U.S. broad numbers of people who, yes, participated in or were influenced by the movements of the ’60s and have a corresponding commitment to social justice and equality, and who are unwilling to go along with the notion that America has some inherent moral right and obligation to bully its way around the world and impose a world order under its domination. At the same time, there is the phenomenon that, in some important aspects, the “recovery” of the U.S. economy that has taken place during the Clinton administration, and the more highly “globalized” and “flexible” production that has been a marked feature of this “recovery,” has also contributed to “undermining the traditional family.” And it has fostered the florescence of an outlook, particularly (though not exclusively) among more highly paid professionals, that involves no small amount of self-indulgence and, related to that, a weakening of some “traditional values,” including old-style patriotism and the willingness to sacrifice for the officially defined and proclaimed “national interest.”
These works have proved strikingly prescient, and over the years BA has built on this.2 In some key respects, things today remain within the same broad outlines—though with great intensification and complication internationally, especially since September 11, 2001 with the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the emergence of the so-called “War On Terror,” with all that entailed, and then the subsequent U.S. military debacle in Iraq and the massive ongoing global economic crisis. Still, the observation of Newt Gingrich in 2004 remains relevant: that American politics today resembles the 1840s and’50s in this country, the period leading to the Civil War, when two sides kept clashing over the same issues until finally it had to be settled by all-out conflict.
In short, two blocs within the ruling class sharply contend with each other. They have very different views of what must be the “cohering consensus” of the American “body politic”—even while agreeing that the point of all this is to continue to buttress and expand the American empire. These views cover the international position of the U.S. and what it should do, economic policy, women, Black people, immigrants, the environment, and morality. While there are different forces contending for influence within each of these blocs, you can roughly divide them out between the Republicans on the one hand and the Democrats on the other.
The dominant force within the Republican Party has, for some time, been a fascist force. They demand a forceful reassertion of “traditional American values.” And what ARE those values? One need only look at the Republican legislative agenda and the activities surrounding it to get a sense of this:
They have opposed Obama on some international policy—they have mostly, for instance, argued for more forceful measures against Iran and against any possible opening to the Tehran regime. On this question generally, however, there is right now less coherence and more struggling within the Republicans themselves; one section opposed Obama’s move to bomb Syria, while another criticized him for not moving resolutely and quickly enough on it.
In short, these Republi-fascists uphold white supremacy, the subjugation of women, nativism (that is, a hatred of those not born in the U.S.), and religious fundamentalism, along with a general glorying in ignorance and irrationality. Added to this is the very important fact of fascist strength in the military.
In light of all that, there is great significance in the racial makeup of the strongholds of these Republicans. Numerous commentators have cited the fact that while the U.S. as a whole went from 69 percent white in 2000 to 64 percent white in 2010, the makeup of the solid Republican House districts rose from 73 percent white to 75 percent white. Among some liberals, the talk is about how the U.S. is increasingly diverse and modern, and how this will more or less soon lead to Republican defeat at the polls. What these commentators don’t reckon with are 1) the Republicans are working very hard to disenfranchise a whole section of the electorate, and 2) and more to the point, they may not necessarily be bound by elections (as happened in 2000, when George W. Bush took office despite losing the popular vote and being on his way to losing the electoral vote before the Supreme Court halted the recount). Indeed, the shrinking percentage of white people may be one big factor that could propel the fascists toward some kind of combination of a fascist coup backed by paramilitary forces from the rural strongholds of this movement. Dismissing this prospect is very dangerous indeed; to say that there are deep racist currents in the American psyche is an understatement, and history is riddled with the corpses of those who said, “It can’t happen here.”
The point is not that this is certain, or even likely, in the immediate period. It is impossible to exactly foretell how all this will unfold—either the current struggle or still less how ultimately these forces will attempt to resolve the conflict. This depends on a wide range of factors, including how things fall out internationally... how these different forces in the ruling class calculate what they need to do and then what they actually choose to do... AND how millions of people who have no fundamental interest in maintaining this system are mobilized and led to understand the real problem, and the real solution, and what they do as the situation unfolds.
But understand this: For the most part, these fascists really believe what they say, and they are more than willing to fight for it, if it comes to that. For them, this shutdown battle has something of the character of a rehearsal. At the same time, they have already gained quite a bit from this—they have shifted the terms in which people think, and they have firmed up their forces and drawn in new ones. Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who has led this mania, has been thrust into the national spotlight. He appeared on Meet the Press and the host David Gregory—who just weeks before had attempted to browbeat and threaten the courageous journalist Glenn Greenwald, when Greenwald was the guest—basically pitched Cruz a series of softballs, and allowed him to spout off about his love for the people and his desire for the people to get the same benefits as “the ruling class”—and yes, he used that term, calling to mind the ways in which the Nazis came to power as the “champion of the little man.”
A few days later, on the Anderson Cooper 360 show on CNN, a number of the commentators were puzzling over what the Republicans would get out of this; after all, one said, there’s only about 15 or 20 percent of the people who approve of Cruz. And Peter King, a Republican Congressman who is himself quite reactionary, but is also for his own reasons to some degree opposed to the shutdown, explained that this doesn’t matter to Cruz. King said that right now Cruz aims to firm up his hard core and then he will “build out from there.”
And what of the Democrats? What are their priorities and what is their plan to combat all this?
In a word, conciliation—in the service of empire.
In every case cited above—the right to abortion, the criminalization of the youth, immigration, the environment—when have the Democrats ever called on the people who look to them for leadership—generally speaking here, the oppressed and the more progressive-minded people in society—to go into the streets and seriously oppose this, let alone to disrupt meetings, etc.? How did the Democratic mayors respond to Occupy, for instance? Not by welcoming and supporting the protesters—but by unleashing the police on them, in the dead of night, with batons, pepper spray, and tear gas canisters. Contrast that to how Republican politicians respond to the Tea Party.
In some cases, the Democrats even attempt to outdo the Republicans in being reactionary. You can begin with how the Democrats continually try to drape themselves in the mantle of “love for our men and women in uniform,” slobbering over them at every chance. And in drone strikes (which have murdered thousands of civilians and hundreds of children) and assassinations (including of American citizens), Obama has actually outdone Bush.
When it comes to the criminalization of Black and Latino youth, not only did Bill Clinton preside over the doubling of the prison population overall and himself push repressive new legislation making it harder for defendants in criminal trials... and not only did Obama make it his business to tell people to “respect the verdicts” when the outrageous acquittals of the murderers of Sean Bell and Trayvon Martin happened... but they both made use of their so-called “bully pulpit” to viciously blame Black youth for reacting to a situation into which they were thrust by the capitalist system which Clinton and Obama uphold and represent.
Yes, they profess a greater attachment to inclusivity, as BA points out above. But how much has Obama even defended himself, let alone others, against the sewer-streams of racism these people spout and vomit up? Indeed, Obama only spoke out on the Trayvon Martin verdict, and then very late and frankly very minimally, when the anger among those who look to the Democrats was beginning to roll out of their control.
Or what about the rights of women, especially as concentrated around the very fundamental right of whether a woman can choose when and if she wishes to be a mother? Here the Democrats “seek common ground”—common ground with a party whose official platform opposes all abortions and makes no exception for rape and incest. The Democrats, and those under their leadership, continually backpedal and concede that abortions should be rare, that there is something tragic and wrong (and, by implication, ultimately shameful) about a procedure which has meant the difference between domestic slavery and a chance for at least some measure of freedom for tens of millions of women in the U.S. alone.
For the Democratic politicians, it’s a balancing act. On the one hand, they do not want to push the fascists at the core of the Republican Party into an even more open rebellion. The Democrats accept these lunatics as a necessary part of the spectrum. The Democrats respect the legitimacy of these nut-cases, while they fear their fanaticism and their followers (including their strength in the armed forces). Hence they strive to accommodate and placate them. It is very possible that Obama will end up making some concessions to the Republicans on the current battle, despite the openly extortionate character of the Republican demands.
On the other hand, these Democrats continually smother and suppress those who look to them for leadership—which, again, is mostly the most oppressed in society and those with progressive sympathies and viewpoints. They may at times make noises of sympathy, or allow their operatives like Al Sharpton to go into the streets—in a purely symbolic way. But on the major questions in society, which are both integral to the system’s functioning and which cause misery for millions of people, here and around the world—no.
This is for two reasons: First, they fear more than anything the prospect of the oppressed and those who sympathize with the oppressed getting “out of control,” as they did in the 1960s, rising up in struggle and possibly becoming revolutionary in their orientation. Second, they do not have fundamental disagreements with the Republicans on the need to preserve the bedrock pillars of society, which right now do find expression in programs like mass incarceration and the curtailment of the fundamental rights of women, as well as the unending aggression the U.S. carries out worldwide (no matter who is president) and the severely repressive measures undertaken since 9/11. This is because for the Democrats, both the acceptance of the fascist Republicans and the suppression of their own political supporters is not a result of “spinelessness,” but flows out of their single greatest priority—the preservation and expansion of empire... an empire which means utter misery and real horror for literally billions of people around the world today, right now, as you read this.
But while there is underlying unity between the leaders of the two parties over maintaining empire and the domestic pillars of that empire, the conflicts between them are quite real. These battles are not, in the main, phony pro-wrestling-type posturing—and they could easily get out of control of the antagonists. One miscalculation on either side, and an even more open and serious conflict actually could erupt. It is also possible, for instance, that a series of events could ensue in which, in part owing to the current conflict, there were a major international economic crisis or a major setback for U.S. interests internationally; or you could have a situation in which the Republicans would attempt to impeach Obama—something that they did, let us remember, to the last Democratic president (just as they caused a shutdown with him, too). Anything like that, or a combination of things, could drag many more millions of people into political life, creating a situation in which, to quote the RCP’s “On the Strategy for Revolution,” “many more people are searching for answers and open to considering radical change.” That statement goes on to discuss how major events or big changes “can come together in such a way that the system is shaken to its foundations...deep cracks appear and magnify within the ruling structures and institutions...the raw relations of oppression are more sharply exposed...conflicts among the powers-that-be deepen, and cannot be easily resolved, and it becomes much more difficult for them to hold things together under their control and keep people down. In this kind of situation, for great numbers of people, the “legitimacy” of the current system, and the right and ability of the ruling powers to keep on ruling, can be called seriously and directly into question, with millions hungering for a radical change that only a revolution can bring about.” (“On the Strategy for Revolution,” online at revcom.us and in BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, pp 105 &106)
Today’s battle contains embryos of that—and we should recognize and work on both the challenges and openings that are already before us. Should things sharpen up even further, it would be deadly for the people to put their faith in an “anti-fascist” wing of the rulers. All that will do will be to perpetuate empire and produce foot-soldiers for one or another form of capitalist rule.
In any case, for all of the imperialists, fascism is a matter of taste, not principle; and as BA has pointed out, in terms of principle they will all unite with fascism rather than with the prospect of a proletarian revolution. But there are many among those that these imperialist politicians consider their base who could, in fact, be WON to revolution—especially those whose allegiance is now held by the Democrats but whose most fundamental interests and highest aspirations are continually betrayed by those Democrats. But, yes, also some among the fascist social base, with whom we must also struggle, sharply, to see reality and the interests of humanity.
In the event that things do develop in such a way, what we do NOW will have everything to do with the outcome.
None of us can be mere spectators in this situation. And we don’t have to be—there is a way, now, to go to work on these contradictions.
To begin with, people must actually understand this situation and its underlying dynamics, and as they do so get a deeper grasp of the basic structure of society—the way it is divided into classes, what gives rise to the different problems, what is the solution. Right now this means getting into the new synthesis of communism by Bob Avakian, starting with works like BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian and the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live. Building on that, those who want to see a better world must root themselves in and bring to others an even deeper understanding of reality: that the situation right now is already a horror for literally billions of people from Congo, to Bangladesh, to the Middle East, and into the inner cities and borderlands and reservations of USA... that the situation right now already holds out the very real prospect of the end of humanity, due to capitalism’s insatiable and insane plundering of the environment... that the situation right now is already one in which some wars continue to drag on while new ones erupt, in which people rot in solitary cells in prison, in which women in their millions are each year sold into sex slavery—and that this situation is not one that anyone should want to preserve. This situation, indeed, comes from an economic system that is both ruthless and outmoded, both exploitative and insane... and from political structures to reinforce and expand that system which are fundamentally illegitimate. And (while not the main point) not only should we not want to hold on to that status quo, we should also rid ourselves and others of the illusion that the deep conflict between the two factions of the ruling class is most likely going to get resolved in some painless, no-fuss way.
But even more important and equally real: it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a method and approach for understanding the world and going to work on even the most seemingly daunting of situations... there is a solution to these problems facing the planet and a plan to build a society both visionary and viable... there is a strategy to make that solution real, through revolution... all of which is part of BA’s new synthesis of communism. And there is a leadership to actually make revolution in this country, embodied in the party that BA leads.
First, we should persevere and actually fight to make a leap in the campaign to raise big money to get BA Everywhere. People in their millions and tens of millions are awakening to political life, they are wondering what the future will bring, and right now BA is not enough out there as a real and present alternative. Bob Avakian’s work and leadership is the most incredibly positive prospect there is, but it is not known. But making it known cannot be done on the cheap; the necessary meetings must be sought out and the real questions put to people who have the means to make this leader, and the path and solution that he stands for, available to those millions. In addition, the ways must be found for those at the bottom of society, who don’t have much money but who ARE increasingly getting how much BA means, to bring that understanding to others and to themselves become a motive force in raising those funds. If you are someone coming to this now, for the first time, DONATE and make it possible for something totally different, with real hope, to get out there into the world. There are millions now raising their heads, and the prospect that all this could grow even more intense underlines the urgency.
Second, this website—revcom.us—must also be much more known to people. This is the site where they can get into BA’s new synthesis of communism in depth, and learn about the movement for revolution. This is the site where every week people can get into the actual struggle over what is true and learn how to participate in the movement for revolution. And this article can itself be a way to intervene in the situation, spreading this analysis and letting people know about this movement, and this website.
Third, the mass struggles in which people are standing up against the criminalization of entire generations of Black and Latino and other “minority” youth, or in which women and men are standing up against the oppression of women, or in which people are taking to the streets around the environment or against war—these must be strengthened and built in an uncompromising way and with redoubled vigor and imagination, and the real links between these struggles and the overall situation that people face—including WHY this is all happening and WHAT is the way forward—must be drawn by revolutionaries.
Fourth, in everything we need to be bringing forward a different morality—one that goes up against both the murderous absolutism of the fascists and the killing relativism so predominant among those who are more progressive. There is the basis to fight for and live a different morality—a morality based on ending and getting beyond exploitation and the narrow calculations of “me against the world,” one based on emancipating all humanity—a morality of putting one’s life and energies to that and daring to say “this is morally right—and the morality that either reinforces or leaves untouched a world based on exploitation and filled with oppression is wrong.”
Fifth, we need to be “tense” to the possibility of all kinds of twists and turns, including the challenge laid out by Bob Avakian in discussing precisely a situation like this in his 2009 talk, Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution:
There may be a need, and in fact almost certainly will be a need, for conscious revolutionary forces to take the lead in opposing certain fascist initiatives which take form, to a significant degree at least, as attacks on bourgeois-democratic rights and norms and, in certain cases perhaps, even some figures identified with bourgeois democracy and liberalism; but, let me underline, this must be done not by way of promoting and defending bourgeois democracy and bourgeois-democratic political leaders, but instead radically recasting this and directing it against the whole system of bourgeois rule, that is bourgeois dictatorship (which is what is actually embodied in the dominant political structures in this country) and the capitalist-imperialist system this enforces.
Finally, the current situation—including the possibility (not the certainty but the possibility) that it could spiral out of control onto another level—sharpens up the need to build up the organized strength of the revolution, including especially around the Party itself. Whether anything good can be wrenched out of such a situation depends, ultimately, on both the wisdom and the organized strength of the revolutionary vanguard.
The kind of work we are describing “can enable the revolutionary movement, with the Party at the core, to confront and overcome the very real obstacles in its path...to advance and grow, through ongoing work, and through a series of critical leaps in times of sudden breaks and ruptures with the ‘normal routine’...to prepare the ground, and accumulate forces, for revolution—and have a real chance at winning. It is how thousands can be brought forward and oriented, organized and trained in a revolutionary way, while beginning to reach and influence millions more, even before there is a revolutionary situation...and then, when there is a revolutionary situation, those thousands can be a backbone and pivotal force in winning millions to revolution and organizing them in the struggle to carry the revolution through.” (“On the Strategy for Revolution” in BAsics pp. 111-112)
In the midst of great turmoil, and hints of greater turmoil to come, this, and nothing less, is what we must aim for.
1. By fascism, we mean, to quote BA “the imposition of a form of dictatorship which openly relies on violence and terror to maintain the rule and the imperative of the capitalist-imperialist system.” (BAsics 3:11) Fascism often comes to power with the mobilization of a mass base around a populist, nationalist and aggressively obscurantist program. [back]
2. BA has traced this course of development in different works since then—“The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy... And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer, “The New Situation and the Great Challenges,” “The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era,” “Why We’re in the Situation We’re in Today... And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution,” Bringing Forward Another Way, and Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution—and anyone who seriously wants to understand what is at work here and what the implications are should dig into these works. [back]
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
By Raymond Lotta | October 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Nicholas Kristof is a columnist for the New York Times who has gained a following for his apparent concern for the disadvantaged and poor of the world. He is also a prominent liberal advocate of globalization—in 2010, he famously declared, “the only thing worse than a sweatshop is indeed no sweatshop at all, no employment whatsoever.”1
Recently, Kristof wrote a column entitled “A Way of Life Is Ending. Thank Goodness.”2 He paints a picture of the impoverished countries of the Third World undergoing great and positive change owing to the combined effects of the work of “Western donors or aide groups” (people like Bill Gates) and economic growth that enables poor people to “get jobs ... [and] forge their own path out of poverty.” He marshals some data to march the reader to his bold conclusion: “The world of extreme poverty and disease that characterized life for most people throughout history may now finally be on its way out.” Kristof proclaims that we have reached a watershed moment: we can now “celebrate a triumph for humanity.”
“A Way of Life Is Ending. Thank Goodness.” is an outrageous, deceitful, and morally bankrupt ode to imperialism.
Kristof talks about growth, poverty, aid, and wealth. But he cannot speak about a system with systemic drives and systemic outcomes.
The reality is, we live in a world of capitalism-imperialism. It is an economic system and social order organized around profit, in which a tiny handful, the ruling capitalist-imperialist class, controls the vast wealth and means of producing wealth on the planet.
This is a global system of contending imperial powers. It is a world economy dominated by competing transnational banks and corporations that finance and organize the extraction of minerals and resources destroying livelihoods and ecosystems, that coordinate the supply chains of low-cost manufacturing production based on savage super-exploitation in the oppressed nations of Asia, Latin America, and Africa. It is system in which institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) control the economic lifeblood and shape polices and direction of economic development of the countries of the Third World.
It is a system kept in place by a colossal apparatus of force and repression to carry out imperial wars and occupations... to deploy drones and death squads... and to wage rivalry among the great powers.
Capitalism-imperialism has integrated the world into a complex of production and exchange that rules the lives of billions and that reinforces the privileged position of a handful of rich countries. This system is capable of promoting development in the Third World. But of a certain kind: it is dependent development (dependent on foreign capital and loans); distorted development (that leads to the ruin of subsistence agriculture, to specialization that serves the world imperialist economy, and to swollen cities with vast armies of the unemployed); and unsustainable development (spurts of growth that have adverse long-term environmental consequences).
Nicholas Kristof assumes the structure and functioning of this system to be the unchangeable order of things—and a force for good, so good that he heralds a new dawn in which poverty will be a thing of the past.
A linchpin of Kristof’s celebration of the world system is the reduction in what is called “extreme poverty.” He cites World Bank data showing that the share of people living in extreme poverty in the “developing world” (the oppressed nations of Africa, Latin America, and Asia) has declined from 1 in 2 people in 1980 to 1 in 5 today.
There are several basic problems with this statistic:
A. To begin with, the World Bank has conveniently revised the measure of extreme poverty—from its original benchmark of $1 per person per day in 1985 dollars to an even lower $1.25 person per day in 2005 dollars. The $1.25 a day measure is worth less in real purchasing terms than the $1 of 1985. So this revised statistical measure creates the impression of poverty improvement on a scale that is simply not happening.
It also masks the tremendous rise in inequality over the last two decades. The bottom 20 percent of the world’s households experienced a 22 percent decline in their share of global household income between 1988 and 2008, while the top 5 percent saw its share of global household income grow 7 percent.3
The “extreme poverty” measure also underrates the cost of food in poor countries and overlooks the increasing vulnerability of the poor to fluctuations in food prices—in 2008 global food prices hit historic highs. The poor spend on average half of their income on food. So “official” poverty can go down while hunger goes up. And when economic crisis upends fragile livelihoods, there is no social safety net.
Moreover, this single metric ($1.25 per person per day) does not take into account the multi-dimensional character of poverty: from poor schooling and poor health care and nutrition, to lack of access to clean water and effective sanitation, to debt bondage, to women denied access to land and resources in rural areas. 780 million people worldwide lack access to clean water and 2.5 billion lack adequate sanitation. On average, women in the oppressed nations walk about four miles each day to collect water.4
From 1981 to 2008, the number of people living below what is still a low poverty line of $2.50 a day increased by almost 8 percent, to three billion.5 The truth is that the majority of the world’s population is still living in life-threatening and spirit-crushing poverty.
B. Much of the official reduction in “extreme poverty” is accounted for by the massive migration of huge swaths of humanity from rural to urban areas. Incomes might rise, but poverty is reproduced in different forms. Let’s look at some key elements behind this dynamic.
Imperialist agribusiness has grabbed up land, consolidated holdings, and undermined rural livelihoods based on small-scale subsistence agriculture. Environmental devastation, droughts, and civil wars (often fueled or taken advantage of by the great powers, as in Congo) have brought ruin to agricultural systems. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the IMF insisted, as a condition for loans, that governments of many poor countries eliminate subsidies to small rural landholders, and also “open up” economies to food imports from the West.
These and other factors have driven people into the cities. Many are forced to live in squalid, dangerous slums and shantytowns—where investments in public services are totally inadequate to the rapid and chaotic growth of these slums. We are talking about lack of functioning utilities and sewage systems, people living in dilapidated, cramped, poorly ventilated, and unclean dwellings, where diseases like diarrhea are widespread.
To survive, hundreds of millions on this planet have no choice but to work in the unregulated and unstable “informal economy,” a technical term put into quite vivid human terms by the author Mike Davis who explains that in large parts of Latin America and Africa vast numbers of women are “improvising a life as piece workers, liquor sellers, street vendors, cleaners, washers, rag pickers, nannies, and prostitutes.”6
Imperialism has been globalizing and outsourcing production. In countries like China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mexico, Honduras, and elsewhere, new legions of laborers, many drawn from the countryside, are working in the “formal economy” of industrial factories and death-trap sweatshops—producing garments, electronics, and other consumer goods for the West. These factories are often run like military barracks; safety is ignored and women preyed upon sexually. In Bangladesh earlier this year, some 1,000 workers, most of them women, died in a horrific but totally avoidable building collapse (had safety not been sacrificed for profit).
These workers may have cell phones, and their standard of living may have risen—but basic needs go unmet, and these are not lives of fulfillment.
The point is, money income tells us nothing about the actual quality of life. Someone driven off a farm that provided nutrition outside of a formal income economy into a city where every tortilla or piece of bread has to be bought with cash, and whose income has “risen” from $1 to $1.25 or $1.50 a day could very well be in a more dire situation, or at least in circumstances that hardly call for celebration. A prostitute living a desperate life with AIDS in a Rio slum (or, for that matter, a high-priced one in Bogotá) has something to cheer about on account of a rise in money income? What a twisted measure of quality of life—even if it is the case that in certain situations some exploited and oppressed people have technically higher incomes than before.
And Kristof gloats about how jobs are allowing the poor to “forge their own path out of poverty”? No, the choices and framework are set by imperialism. This system continues to dispossess small farmers, to consolidate control of seeds and other farm inputs, and to shift the use of farmland from food to fuel production; the workings of the world capitalist system lead to the explosive growth of slums and shantytowns; and this system has generated a global cheap-labor, manufacturing economy.
The biggest contributor, in the last 25 years, to the decline of “extreme poverty,” measured by the $1.25 yardstick, has been the rise in formal money incomes in China, particularly among peasants drawn into the rural capitalist market economy and into the cities.
After Mao Tsetung’s death in 1976, a counter-revolution took place in China. Socialism was overthrown, and what followed was the capitalist restructuring of society and the economy.
Some 230 million people from the countryside have been pushed into the cities by the dismantling of China’s formerly socialist economy and by the churning of capitalist market forces. Better-off farmers have consolidated land holdings; land has become an object of commercial development and speculation; and hundreds of millions of the rural poor have struggled to eke out survival on tiny plots of land. These kinds of conditions, and the far more dynamic growth in and lure of the cities, have produced the largest mass migration from countryside to city in human history.
Imperialist outsourcing has led to export-processing zones and factories like those run by Foxconn, which makes iPhones for Apple. Young migrant workers are often working 12 to 14 hours a day, subject to grueling work regimens, facing injury and loss of limb, and denied basic rights. During 2010, 18 Foxconn workers jumped from the roof of the factory in suicide attempts (14 died), and in 2012, 150 workers threatened to jump in a protest against unbearable working conditions. And suicide is the leading cause of death for young women in China.7
Capitalist development in China has led to grotesque extremes of inequality in income and in access to education and health care. It has led to an environmental catastrophe: China’s cities are choking on pollution, rivers are dying, and China is now the largest emitter of carbon into the atmosphere.
But... by the measure of the World Bank standard of overcoming “extreme poverty,” China is experiencing “big gains.”
Kristof points to the decline in deaths for children under five (the infant mortality rate) as a crucial measure of “spectacular progress.” It is true that the number of under-five deaths has dropped worldwide from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012.
This decline is the result of several converging factors, including: more effective vaccination campaigns and treatments; more widespread reach of such prevention and cure, especially in the cities of the Third World; and the epochal movement of populations out of the more desperate conditions of the world’s countryside, where lack of sanitation, disease, and hunger take enormous tolls.
But there is nothing to celebrate about 18,000 children, overwhelmingly in the Third World, dying each and every day of preventable disease and undernutrition.
Nothing to celebrate in sub-Saharan Africa where hunger, disease (especially AIDS), and conflict have been killing off and ruining the lives of women and children on a scale that has ravaged the social fabric of society.
Nothing to celebrate when infant mortality rates in the poorest countries of the Third World are 13 times the average rate in the high-income capitalist countries.8
Nothing to celebrate when such deaths are totally unnecessary.
And what happens to those children who make it beyond five years? What kind of life, what kind of world, awaits them? In 2008, over 200 million girls and boys aged 5-17 were engaged in child labor, 115 million of them in hazardous work. Some 15.5 million children under 18 years work as domestic laborers, and 10 million of them are working in conditions that the International Labor Organization has described as “tantamount to slavery.” These domestic laborers are overwhelmingly young girls, forced by harsh economic circumstances to surrender their childhoods and their basic right to education.9
The life chances of the young are increasingly impacted by the global environmental crisis. In India, 70 percent of surface water and a growing amount of groundwater is contaminated by chemical, organic and inorganic, biological toxic pollutants. So once again, what of those children who make it past five years of age? Some will be killed by toxic water, while others who survive their contaminated daily doses will live “half-lives,” debilitated by disease, weakened and stunted in mind and body.10
Kristof sees philanthropic donations from the likes of Bill Gates to combat malaria and other diseases, by providing mosquito nets and underwriting immunization programs, as both essential to the battle to reduce poverty and disease and a guarantee of its continuing success.
What kind of world is it that depends on the good will and philanthropy of people who monopolize the great bulk of productive forces and wealth of the planet? And the vast wealth of Bill Gates derives from a particularly parasitic form of capital: intellectual property rights. So here you have a situation where, on the one hand, he is donating funds to malaria and measles vaccination campaigns; while, on the other hand, it is precisely the regime of intellectual property rights that turns human knowledge gained through the interconnected efforts of great numbers of people throughout the world into a private source of wealth and control. Thus, needed medicines are protected as intellectual property and priced beyond the reach of those who need them.
200 million cases of malaria are reported each year, and 660,000 people die of malaria each year.11 The potential of the disease to strike and spread is intensified by chaotic urbanization, by poor irrigation planning, by deteriorating sanitary conditions, and by environmental hazards like heavy rains and floods that are linked to global warming (and rises in atmospheric temperature will increase malarial risk).
Philanthropy is not going to solve this. On the contrary, all these “good deeds” are linked to a wider project: the further penetration of imperialist production and social relations into these countries. A self-critical reflection by philanthropist Peter Buffett (son of Warren Buffett) about charity and Western promotion of programs like microlending is salient: “People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?” 12
The problems confronting humanity are so great, so interdependent, and so urgent that something radically different is required to overcome poverty, disease, and inequality, and to act on the environmental crisis: the conscious mobilization of the masses of people, both experts and basic people; the socialization of the means of production and resources of the planet; vast cooperative efforts in which knowledge is shared and deepened; and comprehensive planning.
That cannot happen without revolution, without the creation of socialist society and world.
The way the world is... is not the way it has to be. The development of the world’s productive forces and technology, the accumulated knowledge of humanity, and the creative potential of the billions on this planet open up the possibility to move society and the world beyond scarcity and exploitation. And there is the experience of a truly transformative revolution to learn from.
Earlier I mentioned China during the Mao years. On a societal scale and under a different system—socialism—China was able to wipe out major infectious diseases and mass hunger. Revolutionary China carried through the most massive reduction in poverty and attack on inequality in history, lifting hundreds of millions out of destitution.13 It established the most egalitarian health care system in the world, based on the principle of serving the people, with essential primary care reaching practically the entire population. Education and basic literacy were extended to the countryside, and a basic level of essential consumption was achieved. Life expectancy doubled, from 32 to 65 years, between 1949 and 1976, and by the early 1970s Shanghai had a lower infant mortality rate than did New York City.14
This was not the spectacular, glittering development of the kind that sees skyscrapers going up to serve financial elites... alongside sprawling shantytowns. It was development based on social cooperation, social mobilization, and integrated planning to solve the problems of society and to advance the world revolution. It was balanced development—between regions and between town and country. And built into this model of development was the goal of overcoming the oppression of women and the ages-long division between mental and manual labor.
There was a quality to life, meaning and purpose to people’s lives, as they joined together to transform society and their own thinking. Under communist leadership, real political power was being exercised by masses in communes and revolutionary committees of the cities. People took up big questions of society and the world and took increasing responsibility for the direction of society.
The world has changed considerably since the defeat in 1976 of the Chinese revolution; and there are new challenges, not least the environmental crisis. Most decisively, Bob Avakian has brought forward a new synthesis of communism that sums up the great achievements as well as the problems of the Russian and Chinese revolutions, that draws from diverse spheres of human endeavor, and that enables humanity to go further and do better in a new wave of revolution. To create a society and world in which human beings can truly flourish.
The world cries out for this, and it is possible to achieve.
Nicholas Kristof wants readers to believe that a “way of life is ending.” It is not true, and what he is offering up is a brief for a world of misery and powerlessness, with some incremental changes...that leave that world as it is.
3. Thomas Pogge and Mitu Sengupta, “New Millenium Development Goals: A New Version, an Old Wish List,” Economic and Political Weekly, September 28, 2013. I have benefited from the authors’ critique of the World Bank’s definition, and revised benchmarks, of “extreme poverty.” [back]
4. Francis Moore Lappé, “Poverty Down! Inequality and Hunger Up... Huh?”, Huffington Post, September 13, 2012. [back]
5. World Health Organization data summarized in One, “Water and Sanitation.” [back]
6. Mike Davis, Planet of Slums (London: Verso, 2007), p. 159. [back]
7. Jenny Chan, “A Suicide Survivor, The Life of a Chinese Migrant Worker at Foxconn,” The Asia Pacific Journal,” Vol. 11, No. 1, August 12, 2013. World Health Organization, “Women and suicide in rural China,” Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Vol. 87, No. 12, Dec. 2009. [back]
8. UNICEF, Levels and Trends in Infant Mortality, Report 2013. [back]
9. UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an urban world, February 2012, p. 8; International Labor Organization, Ending child labor in domestic work, June 2013. [back]
13. Land reform was a pivotal, preliminary measure. In the early 1950s, the new revolutionary state power, carrying forward the land reform enacted in the communist-led base areas, distributed 30-40 percent of China’s cultivated land away from landlord-exploiting classes to some 300 million peasants. China historian William Hinton characterized this land reform as “the most massive expropriation and distribution of property and repudiation of debt in world history.” See, William Hinton, “The Importance of Land Reform in the Reconstruction of China,” in Fred Magdoff, et. al., Hungry for Profit: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the Environment (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000), p. 216. [back]
14. Penny Kane, The Second Billion (Hammandsworth: Penguin, 1987), p. 172 and chapter 5; Ruth and Victor Sidel, Serve the People: Observations on Medicine in the People’s Republic of China (New York: Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, 1973), pp. 255-56. [back]
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors' Note: For more analysis on this story, see "NFL Concussion Settlement: $765 Million to Suppress the Truth About Brain Injuries" and "NFL Capitalist Concussions."
From a reader:
After watching the Frontline documentary League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis, I wanted to wring the necks (figuratively speaking) of Paul Tagliabue and Roger Goodell, the former and current commissioners of the National Football League. They, along with a bunch of NFL doctors, not only withheld information that they knew football concussions can cause Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)1 from the public, but they lied to their football players in telling them that there were no long-term effects from concussions, as long as they were treated properly.
The day after the documentary aired on PBS, most media outlets gave glowing reviews and recommended that it be watched, but they failed to say what was needed to be said: "These guys are criminals because their football players are dying because of brain disease that was caused from brain injuries while playing football." The documentary compared the NFL to the tobacco industry that also withheld information from the public the fact that smoking tobacco causes cancer.
I can't get into everything that was in this documentary. (You can watch it at "League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis.") However, the outrageous way the NFL dealt with people who were bringing to the light of day the relationship between playing football, concussions, and this deadly disease was despicable. Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian-born forensic pathologist, was the first to discover CTE, when he examined the brain of Mike Webster, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dr. Omalu told Frontline that the NFL "insinuated I was not practicing medicine; I was practicing voodoo." When Dr. Ann McKee, lead researcher on the brains of former NFL players at the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy,2 went to the NFL with her findings, the "Good Ole Boys" of the NFL disrespected her and ignored her presentation. The way Dr. McKee put it is: "Sexism plays a big role when you're a doctor of my age, who's come up in the ranks with a lot of male doctors. Sexism is part of my life. And getting in that room with a bunch of males who already thought they knew all the answers, more sexism. It was like: 'Oh, the girl talked. Now we can get back into some serious business.'"
Besides hiding and denying the truth about concussions, the NFL viciously attacked those who were trying to bring this out into the open. Dr. Omalu and Dr. Mckee were the focus of their attacks. After Junior Seau, who played for the San Diego Chargers, committed suicide, his son was prepared to give his dad's brain to Dr. Omalu to test for CTE. The NFL went to Junior Seau's son with slanderous lies about Dr. Omalu and forced Junior Seau's son to give the brain to the National Institutes of Health instead of to Dr. Omalu. The NIH did discover that Junior Seau had CTE. This prompted Dr. Omalu to say: "CTE has dragged me into the politics of science, the politics of the NFL. You can't go against the NFL. They'll squash you."
The documentary ends with Harry Carson, who played for the New York Giants, saying "The NFL has given everybody 765 million reasons why you don't want to play football." He was referring to the $765 million payout of the NFL to former players. This statement by Carson has the potential to send shockwaves throughout the football world and beyond. You got an inkling of this questioning about the future of football in many of the reviews of the documentary, where the reviewers were convinced that these football players are dying because of the head injuries they received while playing football, but claim that they think nothing would change because football and the violence of football is so deeply embedded in the American culture and that football brings in billions of dollars to the NFL and colleges. Bob Avakian put it this way, "football is an important part of the cultural realm, and it has mass influence in this society. The Super Bowl (the national championship of American professional football) is a major event, for example—watched by literally hundreds of millions of people, if not more, around the world, as well as in the U.S. And football certainly does have a major influence, particularly on guys and "guy culture"—which is not a healthy culture—it's a male chauvinist culture, for short, which incorporates the celebration of violence, real as well as ritualized violence" (See "Tim Tebow and the 'Tuck Rule,'" Revolution #258, February 5, 2012.)
Despite all the doubts that football could change, an NFL-affiliated doctor told Dr. Omalu: "If 10% of mothers in this country would begin to perceive football as a dangerous sport, that is the end of football." The cats have now been let out of the bag, so who knows where this may go? Stay tuned.
1. "Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head. CTE has been known to affect boxers since the 1920s. However, recent reports have been published of neuropathologically confirmed CTE in retired professional football players and other athletes who have a history of repetitive brain trauma. This trauma triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau. These changes in the brain can begin months, years, or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement. The brain degeneration is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia." (Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy) [back]
2. Dr. McKee has examined 46 brains of former football players. 45 have CTE. [back]
Revolution #320 October 20, 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!
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
by Annie Day | October 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Applying the approach in the article from Sunsara Taylor, Learning About and Struggling with Students over What and How They Are Thinking, I went out with a younger revolutionary and spent a couple hours on the campus of a prestigious university. We’re building for a major screening on campus of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—Nothing Less! and are building this in a different kind of way. Along with aiming to have a lot more direct engagement with Bob Avakian in this breakthrough film, we want to learn more deeply the thinking of the students. As Sunsara emphasizes, both what they are thinking but also how. We have to learn this deeply and really aim to transform it—through struggle, comparing and contrasting what’s true, and how one arrives at the truth. Not mainly one-on-one (though that can be very important), but in mass ways—aiming to impact the whole terrain and change the whole atmosphere, bringing forward people who are working to build the movement for revolution themselves in different ways in that process.
We were only able to talk with a handful of students in the time we had, but we learned a great deal.
A few students—even those who seemed to be a bit more engaged in bigger questions in the world—didn’t want to talk, were having a “chill lunch” and didn’t want to be made to think more deeply. Others took a longer time with us and were surprised themselves about where the discussions went. Mainly what stood out to us were the contradictions in people’s own thinking as well as how much is just under the surface that you would’ve otherwise never understood or drawn forward.
A couple more universal themes: even as some of the students we spoke with had a lot to say about their concerns, including about the broader society, none of them said they talk about these things with their friends. One student, a Latino Baptist who reads the Bible every day (more on him below), said he and his friends will often talk about deeper philosophical discussions related to their faith, but they never talk about world events. Everyone else said they talk about “dumb shit” or what’s happening with different friends and school. One student who is very active with Amnesty International stood out as different—much more aware of the situation of the lives of people around the world.
Also, people don’t spontaneously draw out the logic of their own thinking, the contradictions within that and the contradictions between their thinking and reality. In a couple of the lengthier discussions, it was a heavy thing to walk this through with people. We did this mainly through asking questions—and really learning not just what they think, but why they think it and what methods they used to come to those conclusions. At different points, we would pose their thinking—including the contradictions in that thinking—up against the real world. And on two occasions, this really forced people to think about things they had never considered while we learned about all this more ourselves.
The other running theme in our discussions was the question of whether or not objective reality exists. Every single student we spoke with conflated people’s opinions or preferences with an understanding that objective reality exists outside of human consciousness. It was only after we walked this through briefly, and explained the difference that a number of students would agree that objective reality does exist and that humans can come to understand it. But even those who did agree had an aversion to declaring this emphatically and certainly wouldn’t argue for that. There were a couple others that insisted that reality is just a collection of personal narratives, views and opinions.
The student who works with Amnesty is a senior philosophy major. He had thought the most about this and felt up against a contradiction. He felt he had to separate out “these philosophical questions of reality and truth” and how it gets determined from what he feels compelled to do with Amnesty International, which he kept emphasizing was fact-based and non-partisan. He said that philosophically, he agreed objective truths existed but only in terms of things that were hard sciences i.e., science and math. Even as at the same time, he was acting on things he knew to be true and felt compelled to change through the work of Amnesty. He was conflicted about all this.
In terms of communism, he said he liked it as an idea but because “it argues for a total solution and universal truths, this can only lead to harm.” Even talking about this seemed to make him uncomfortable and he physically leaned back and grimaced at the idea. He argued that “different people think all kinds of different things and you would be forced to tamp down all that individualism if you tried to make people see things in terms of what you’re asserting to be true.” There was a lot to unpack here. First, what did he think of the difference between individualism and individuality, something which BA has emphasized in different ways? Individualism being the focus on yourself above all else and individuality being your individual characteristics, personality, interests, individual expression, etc. He said that actually there is an important difference and appreciated the distinction, saying that we actually need less individualism but shouldn’t tamp down the individuality. Second, we asked him about how he understood Marx and Engels’ (who he said he’d read and appreciated) distinction between scientific and utopian socialism—i.e., a socialism whose basis lies in the way in which human society has developed or “a good idea” that you’re aiming to impose on the world? He said he hadn’t thought about it that way—though he was familiar with Engels’ piece about this (Socialism: Utopian and Scientific where Engels critiques utopian socialism and upholds and argues for scientific socialism). He said he wasn’t sure what he thought except that you would still have to force people to go along with something that they may not want to go along with.
He had to get to class so we weren’t able to continue the discussion but gave him a flier and he gave us a way to be in touch.
There was one young woman who felt strongly that objective reality does not exist. She was a freshman, an Asian woman from the Bay Area who first said that our questions were too big and general. She suggested we narrow it down to something more specific because she—and her fellow students—couldn’t speak to something so broad (i.e. what are your biggest concerns about the state of the world, or do you think there’s such a thing as objective reality). When we did start talking about how one, and whether one can, determine what is true, she got pretty stand-offish and said she absolutely didn’t want to talk about it. She said that if she thought there was such a thing as objective reality, she would have to end up killing herself and then said it was way too personal to get into further. We respected that and moved the discussion, but afterwards couldn’t figure out what this might have provoked in her.
We spent a long time talking with two students from Macau, an island off Hong Kong. They were both majoring in economics and knew each other from back home. They both said they are very concerned about the divisions among people all around the world—divisions between people from different countries, cultures and religions. They said this really keeps people apart and is causing a lot of strife. They said since coming to the U.S. and at their school, they’ve experienced mistreatment because they both have thick accents. One of them said they get dissed or treated like they’re stupid, and said this kind of thing keeps people from even getting to know each other.
We asked them more about how they saw the cause of these divisions worldwide and they emphasized the problems with religion. We then asked if they themselves were religious and they hesitated. One said he didn’t really believe in some kind of big, more powerful force but again, was very hesitant in saying this. We asked his friend what he thought and he said he agreed, he didn’t think there was a god. We told them that what they said was true—there is no god. But also wanted to know how they came to that understanding. The first person who spoke up about this said he went to a Christian school where you had to pray and go to mass every single day, and he remembers listening to them talk on and on about Jesus and thinking that none of this was true, that he couldn’t see any proof for it. The other friend said he came to this understanding because when you look at the world and all the suffering that goes on, what kind of god would allow all this? We asked if they would ever argue for what they were saying to us with others, or do they even talk about this with others and they said “no, it would be too controversial” and “it’s just my opinion anyway.”
I asked them if they thought that what people think determines what is true and they both immediately said yes, and that “what is true for me may not be true for you.” One of them gave an example that he eats a banana for lunch every day and is unsatisfied if he doesn’t have a banana for lunch, but someone else may hate bananas or may be left really hungry if all they eat is a banana for lunch. The young person I was with said there was a difference between personal preference and truth and went on using the example, “this would be like someone saying because I don’t like bananas, it is my truth that you do not eat them for lunch.”
We had them both read BAsics 4:11 (“What people think is part of objective reality, but objective reality is not determined by what people think.”) and they sat in silence for a minute. One then answered in a real sincere way, “that is very deep.” I asked them to say more what they thought and they said they needed to think about it more, and then repeated what the quote was. The other person said he also wanted to think about it more, but that he agreed things are true outside of what we think and had never thought about all this before and said, “You are asking very hard questions.”
We talked some about communism—they said they didn’t think it worked in China, that at first, it really helped the country but now it wasn’t good. They agreed they only really ever heard one side of the story though and themselves weren’t sure what to think. We talked about this briefly, and then asked more about them and what their major was and when they said economics, we asked why they were interested in this. They both said they wanted to go into business to help people. I asked more how they saw that and they talked about being able to help their country thrive, or at least their city. One of them said he was 5-years-old in the Asian economic crisis in 1997, but he remembered seeing all the suffering that came from that, people going hungry, businessmen killing themselves. He wants to do what he can to help avert that kind of crisis, and thinks business is the way to do it.
I asked how he saw that happening, and the other answered that business is about helping people’s lives, helping them to live better. I asked him to think about people all over the world—the sweatshops and mining conditions, the mass unemployment, people living off recycled garbage—when he looks at that, how does it match up to what he just said, that business is about helping people’s lives? They both stopped short and the one who said this looked at us and kind of laughed at himself, “Yeah, well I guess it doesn’t.” I asked what he thought accounted for that then and they both answered that it could work, but people get greedy so take more for themselves.
I stepped back some and spoke for a bit about the actual nature of this system. First, that economics is not just a sphere by itself but a reflection of deeper relations of capitalism. I defined some of these terms and talked about how the problem isn’t greedy people, but the nature of a system that is rooted in the competitive drive for profit through exploitation of people and the planet’s resources. That under capitalism, you’re not really in the business of making this or that product, you’re in the business of making a profit... social need is not a reason things get produced, profit is the only calculation. Also, I introduced the phrase from Marx that the “Moses of capitalism," meaning its guiding force, is “expand or die.” And if you don’t expand at a fast enough rate— through the exploitation of people and the planet, you will get taken over by someone else who does.
On the one hand, they could see in reality what I was saying—that things in our society only get produced for profit, or companies that get taken over by other companies, the competitive drive within the functioning of the economics (as they defined it)... but one of them said, “yes, but if I am a good person and don’t get greedy, then I can pay my workers well and won’t be exploiting them.” We talked about what exploitation actually means and how capitalism is defined by the exploitation of labor, that is where profit comes from—the gap between what people are paid to live and the profit gained through their labor in full. Even if you attempt to be “fair,” you are part of this larger system with these underlying dynamics which are causing tremendous suffering and mass immiseration around the world.
They had never heard this kind of analysis and weren’t sure what to think. I suggested they dig into Marx as well as Avakian and we encouraged them to come to the screening of BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less! that was going to be on their campus soon. They thanked us and said we’d given them a lot to think about and had to go grab lunch before their next class.
When we left, my friend and I both commented that these are students who would probably have never stopped at a Revolution Books table but were thinking deeply—even if to themselves—about a number of things. And we talked about why we can’t just go out “looking for the advanced” in a linear and mechanical way, but really plant a pole impacting the whole atmosphere, building up organization in that context. This can shape the whole terrain—drawing forward a lot of debate and contestation and reaching and impacting these kinds of youth, transforming their thinking within this whole bigger process of the strategy for revolution.
We went up to a young Latino linguistics major (second or third year) sitting by himself at a table eating lunch. He was open to talking and was quite friendly. He is from a poor suburb of LA (made up of impoverished or working class immigrants and Chicanos) but lives and works on campus during the school year.
In answer to our first question—what are your big concerns about the world, your life, etc.—he said, apologetically, that he really doesn’t think about or pay attention to the world, he is very focused on school and he only really pays attention to what’s happening at school. He reads the campus newspaper every day, he lives and works on that campus, is focused on his classes, his whole world is that school. I asked, for example, how did he feel when the verdict around Trayvon Martin came down and he scrunched his face: “To be honest, I really wasn’t paying attention. I mean, I heard about it, but I didn’t really feel any type of way.” I asked if he thought it was a correct verdict and then explained the basics about the case. He was hesitant to voice his opinion but finally said that no, he didn’t think it was correct, it didn’t seem right that Zimmerman got out of his car, but then added, “but that’s just my opinion and I know there are other people who have different opinions.”
We talked for a while about the difference between facts and opinions and he said he did think there was objective truth and that a lot of people were wrong in what they understood about that, but that you should validate people’s opinions no matter what. We asked why and what he meant by that. He said that if you acted like you were sure you were right or argued really strongly for something and seemed like you were adamant about not changing your mind, you came off ignorant and would turn off anyone you were trying to talk to. We talked some about what scientific certitude is and how you have to stand on what you know to be true and fight for it, even as you understand that you don’t know everything and that you may be proven wrong. But that doesn’t mean you don’t fight—even adamantly— for what you do know, and for what has been proven. He said he didn’t mean validate like in agree with, but validate like, “ok, I see you think this and I hear you but here’s why that is wrong.” We agreed that you shouldn’t be arrogant, but you shouldn’t have fake humility either, if you know something to be true, something that has been scientifically proven, and something that really matters, you have a responsibility to fight for it.
This brought us back to the Trayvon Martin case and he said that while he felt bad saying this, it just didn’t really affect him, it wasn’t happening to him or his family so he doesn’t think it was right but didn’t feel compelled to really take notice. He said that even though he did think it was messed up, he didn’t really know that much about it so if he somehow had gone to any of the protests that happened, and someone asked him why he was there, he couldn’t say anything more than, “it was kind of messed up.”
I asked him if Trayvon Martin was shot in front of him just because of the color of his skin, would he do something to stop it. He said he thinks he would. So, I asked, what is the difference? I described what this murder and acquittal means—that this basically reinforced in the legal system a situation where a Black youth can be murdered because some white person feels threatened (whether they are or not in reality does not matter) and that is not considered a crime but self-defense. So that is what that means, and while it may not be happening physically and literally in front of you, how is that any different?
He thought about this and with some seriousness, said, “it’s not, it’s really messed up.” Meaning both the situation and his response to it. He seemed so apologetic about his response so I asked why he thinks it’s right to pay more attention to the world and to act on the situation even though he doesn’t? He said he thinks you’re a bad citizen and a bad human to only pay attention to yourself and he knows there are bad things going on that he should be paying attention to, that it’s wrong to only be thinking about yourself and the people you know. But he doesn’t because he is so busy all the time—over the summer, he had a two-hour commute to and from school, he works at school, is trying to do well in his classes, etc. He just doesn’t feel he has space in his mind to pay attention to all this.
I said I wanted to pose a historic analogy and see what he thought. I can imagine a German student in 1937 (four years into Hitler’s rule and two years before WW2) describing the same kind of situation—busy with his life and his studies. While in the background, dissidents, gay people, Jews and others were being rounded up, beaten, harassed, murdered and criminalized. But let’s say that student is so consumed with his day-to-day existence that he is just paying it no mind. So here we are in today’s situation, and I described very briefly the slow genocide of mass incarceration and how this could turn into a fast one. So that’s the situation we’re in now, and Trayvon’s murder was a part of that, the criminalization of a whole generation of Black and Latino youth. All this is going on, and he’s a good- hearted person who is letting all this go on in the background. What did he think of this?
His face sort of froze and he said, “That’s true, that’s the right analogy.” We all stayed quiet a minute, letting this sink in. I asked what he thought about that then, and he said he didn’t know, that he had to think more.
I asked then about whether any of these are things he talks about with his friends and he said they didn’t. They just talked about school, friends, work, family. This is when he said they do sometimes talk about faith. We asked him whether he was religious and he said he was very religious, a Baptist. He said he tries to go to church every week (though it’s far away so he makes it less during the school year). I asked if he has read the Bible (you’d be surprised how few religious people really have) and he said he does, he reads it every day, it’s the truth. I asked him if he thought the whole thing was the truth and he said he did. So you think it’s the right thing to do for parents to kill their children for being disobedient? Or for women to be stoned for not being a virgin before marriage? He said that no, that was the Old Testament— the law of Moses—now we have the age of Grace, Jesus changed all that with the New Testament. Drawing on BA in Away With All Gods, I asked him first was he then willing to do away with the Old Testament? No, he answered, there is a whole lot there. Second, I asked what god did Jesus uphold and what Bible did he preach? The god of the Old Testament and the substance of the Old Testament. So is that what he would uphold today? The killing of disobedient children and the stoning of women who aren’t virgins? He said that he wouldn’t but that you had to look at these things in historical context. But this begs the question: these things are either the true word of god or they were written by people and are being interpreted by people, in which case, it’s not the word of god. Plus, if Jesus upheld everything from the Old Testament you can’t separate out the god he was arguing people believe in and the god in the Old Testament (bloodthirsty, arbitrary and vengeful).
After I posed this, he stayed quiet. After a minute of silence, I asked what he was thinking. He said he was trying to think of a Bible verse to explain this. I told him this was the wrong method. That if you want to argue something is true, you don’t look for internal proof within it, you have to look at the objective world and look for proof there. I talked about the difference between a closed system and something that corresponds to reality.
I referenced something BA says in the new film, REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! That there is no god and no evidence for god. But that there is a great deal of evidence for the ways in which people have invented gods, and that he should ask himself who benefits from people thinking there are gods that are making all this happen for a reason, and that the poor and impoverished will be rewarded in some nonexistent future realm.
He was dumbstruck, but also clearly moved by all this. He looked at his watch and said he had to go, but that we could walk with him to his next class. Unfortunately, we had to go meet up with a couple other revolutionaries so we had to say goodbye. We emphasized that there really is a different way the world could be but that we had to fight—in the real world—to bring that into being, we need to make a revolution and he should get with the movement for revolution right now. We also encouraged him to go to revcom.us and to get into this more—don’t let these questions and this unsettledness in his thinking get buried. He thanked us seriously for the discussion and we parted ways.
We did have a few other briefer discussions. We talked with a table of four freshmen who were all just getting to know each other, it was a multinational group—from around the Bay Area and one woman from around Boston. They spent part of the time giggling with each other and part of the time saying what they thought. They seemed a bit put off by the whole thing and somewhat suspect that we actually wanted to know what they thought, thinking this was some kind of marketing ploy. One woman whose family is from India said she thinks a lot about the unequal distribution of wealth in the world. They all said they thought communism is a good idea but doesn’t work. When asked to define communism, they said it was a society where people are made to share, or where everything gets equalized in a flat way. I said that this was wrong—and defined communism as a society where people live in common for the common good, from each according to their ability and to each according to their need... a society not marked by antagonistic social divisions and oppressive class relations... I didn’t want to spend a lot of time with this, but did say it should strike them as odd that here’s this idea they know they’re not supposed to like but they don’t even really know what it is. I also thought it was interesting that a couple of the students seemed more like they wanted to talk, were more thoughtful and perhaps would’ve if they’d been on their own, but the tenor of the group ran counter to that.
We wished we had more time as we felt we only scratched the surface. Part of what was so important in all this is that too often we settle with layering what we’re doing on top of what people are already thinking—without getting more deeply into not just what they are thinking, but as Sunsara emphasized in her article, how they are thinking. This kind of deeper investigation enabled us to get more deeply into it with people—learning what are some of the contradictions in people’s thinking and in their modes of thinking... This really is essential to the kind of revolution we need to be building towards.
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 9, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors' Note: The following is a letter from prison by Gregory Koger. At the time he wrote the letter, the hunger strike by prisoners in California to demand an end to solitary confinement and torture was still underway. The strike has since been suspended (see "California Prisoners Hunger Strike Suspended—Struggle to End Torture Continues").
I recently received a letter from a brother who recounted to me a story of a fish rights activist who compared the conditions of a fish being raised in a fish farm to the conditions of prisoners. He asked if I could write something regarding the conditions that prisoners are subjected to here in the United States’ world-leading system of mass incarceration in response.
As a prefatory matter, I should explain that I am currently a political prisoner being held in the Cook County Jail in Chicago. My “crime”? Recording a political statement opposing censorship on an iPhone at a public meeting of the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago four years ago. Further details of my case are available at my defense committee’s website: www.dropthecharges.net.
I want to begin by uniting with the sentiments of people—like the fish activist—who find the commodification of animals and nature by this capitalist-imperialist system a travesty. Factory farming undeniably causes undue suffering and wanton cruelty to animals and our planet teeters on the precipice of ecological disaster from the despoliation and defiling of the globe due to the driving demands of capitalist production. I would point people to the special issue of Revolution newspaper on the environmental emergency, especially the section on principles for a socialist sustainable economy [“State of EMERGENCY! The Plunder of Our Planet, The Environmental Catastrophe & The Real Revolutionary Solution,” #199, April 19, 2010), as well as the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Both provide a very concrete yet broadly sweeping vision of how we could collectively begin to address and reverse the scars to the global environment inflicted by capitalism through the course of the struggle to bring into being a radically different world.
I know personally the living nightmare of spending many years—including over six years straight in solitary confinement—locked down in the hellholes of America’s historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration. The U.S. has a rate of incarceration for Black males that is five times higher than apartheid South Africa. More women are imprisoned in the US than anywhere else in the world—and women are one of the fastest growing segments of the prison population. Entire families of immigrants are held in immigration prisons. Children in juvenile prisons face mind-numbing conditions of solitary confinement and high rates of sexual assault and abuse at the hands of prison guards.
The United States leads the world in torturing its own people under long-term solitary confinement—a policy of torture afflicting at least 80,000 men, women and children and categorically condemned by the United Nations and international law.
On July 8, 2013, 30,000 prisoners in California began a hunger strike and work stoppage to demand an end to the conditions of long-term solitary confinement. I spent my first two weeks as a political prisoner here in Cook County Jail on hunger strike in solidarity with the courageous and heroic prisoners in California. Many of those brothers remain on hunger strike approaching 60 days and are entering a critical period where they are facing long-term health damage and imminent death. All people of conscience must step forward now to stand with the prisoners and demand that officials end the systematic practices of torture and refuse to allow long-term harm or deaths to occur. The Five Core Demands of the brothers in California must be met immediately.
The human suffering inflicted by the rulers of this system upon millions and millions of its own people here in prisons is reason alone to sweep this illegitimate, oppressive system from the pages of history. Yet this is but one example of the crimes of this system! Women are treated as less than full human beings, with access to abortion and reproductive health care under assault; massive programs of surveillance and spying on the entire population of the world go forward; activists and whistleblowers who expose the crimes of this system are imprisoned while the rulers of the system that perpetuated the crimes they expose continue to rain terror down on the people of the world; and the entire planet faces ecological disaster.
Not only does the world not have to be this way, we can end these crimes and bring into being a radically different world. This is going to take revolution—nothing less, based on a serious, scientific understanding and strategy. The RCP has such a strategy for revolution, based on the path-breaking new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian—who has dedicated his life to analyzing the historical experience of previous socialist revolutions and societies and is leading the Party to build a movement for revolution. And let me say from personal experience: BA deeply respects those this system counts as nothing and believes in our potential to transform the world.
Both the despoliation of nature and the untold suffering and oppression inflicted upon humanity can and must be ended. Those this system treats as worthless have the tremendous potential to step forward—along with people from more privileged backgrounds who refuse to live in comfortable complicity—to fight the crimes of this system, to transform themselves and the world through building a movement to end these crimes once and for all. This will not be easy—people will face repression from the rulers of this system. But those with nothing to lose but our chains must realize that potential and struggle together for the emancipation of all humanity from thousands of years of class divisions, exploitation and oppression.
A world where everyone contributes what they can and gets back what they need to lead lives worthy of human beings, where truth is struggled for by everyone, where everyone has the ability to participate in intellectual, artistic and cultural pursuits and the people are unleashed in ways undreamed of is possible—a communist world. Get with the movement for revolution to be part of bringing this world into reality.
Love and struggle
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 5, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Herman Wallace was a courageous fighter for justice, a political prisoner who this system locked up in conditions of torture, in solitary confinement, for 41 years.
On Tuesday, October 1, Herman Wallace was finally freed after a federal judge ruled that his original indictment in the killing of a prison guard had been unconstitutional. Three days later, on Friday morning, October 4, Herman Wallace died of cancer in New Orleans. He was 71.
The story of what the U.S. government did to him is an outrage and an indictment of this whole system and its so-called "system of justice." The life of Herman Wallace is one of inspiration.
Herman Wallace spent 41 years in prison, since 1971, most of it at the infamous Angola prison farm, which, fittingly, was a former slave plantation on the banks of the Mississippi River.
In a radio interview earlier this year, Wallace described what it was like to be caged in a 6 foot by 9 foot cell: "Where we stay, we're usually in the cell for 23 hours, and an hour out. I'm not 'out.' I may come out of the hole here, but I'm still locked up on that unit. I'm locked up. I can't get around that. Anywhere I go, I have to be in chains. Chains have become a part of my existence. And that's one of the things that people have to fully understand. But understanding it is one thing, but experiencing it is quite another."
These conditions of solitary confinement are internationally recognized as a crime against humanity. Yet it is these conditions that are routinely meted out as punishment in this country to tens of thousands of prisoners throughout the U.S. in "supermax" or "restrictive segregation" units.
In 1974, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, also a prisoner in Angola, were unjustly and wrongly convicted in the stabbing death of a prison guard. After the guard was killed, Wallace and Woodfox were placed in solitary confinement, along with Robert King. Prison officials claimed King was involved in the guard's death although he was never charged with it. Together, Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox, and Robert King are the Angola 3.
The three spent over one hundred years in solitary for a crime they did not commit. All three stood strong in the face of sadistic and vengeful persecution by prison and judicial authorities.
Robert King was released from prison, after 29 years in solitary, when a judge overturned his original conviction. Albert Woodfox is still in prison. His conviction for involvement in the guard's death has been overturned three times, but each time the state of Louisiana has kept him in prison, in the torment of solitary.
The persecution and heartless torment, year after year, of the Angola 3 is a towering crime of this system that must never be forgotten, must never be forgiven. It is a concentration of the cold reality of this capitalist-imperialist system, and the "freedom and democracy" proclaimed by its defenders.
The Angola 3 were singled out for punishment for blatantly political reasons. The three were part of a generation of youth who became radicalized in their millions during the great upheavals of the 1960s. While in prison, these three youths from the ghettoes of New Orleans became revolutionaries associated with the Black Panther Party. They organized fellow prisoners and studied the history and theory of revolution. They were an inspiration and example to prisoners and people outside the prisons. For the Louisiana prison authorities, this was their unforgiveable crime.
Robert King described how he became a revolutionary in prison in an interview several years ago with Dennis Bernstein of Pacifica Radio: "Many of the Panthers that were arrested in a shootout [with New Orleans police] came to the Parrish Prison. I became aware of what was taking place and I met those guys. We started to do things. We became an extension of the Black Panther Party. We carried its program into the Parrish Prison through certain means of communication. We started to deal with conditions in the Parrish Prison. We organized a hunger strike. At one time we got almost the whole prison—I think about 700 prisoners—to go on a hunger strike. The prison conditions were so horrible."
When Robert King was sent to Angola, he was able to hook up with Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, who had already started an Angola chapter of the Black Panther Party. The brutal, utterly inhumane and racist treatment of the Angola work farm was—and is—almost unchanged since its days as a slave plantation in the 1800s. Armed guards on horseback monitor gangs of Black men forced to work in the cotton and cane fields. The minority of white prisoners are given preferential treatment in housing, food, and everything else. Vicious beatings and rapes are meted out as punishment. Robert King said: "Herman and Albert and other folks recognized the violation of human rights in prison, and they were trying to achieve a better prison and living conditions. And as a result of that, they were targeted."
The government's case against the Angola 3 was riddled with lies, inconsistencies, and fabrications. The state claimed it "lost" DNA evidence favorable to the three. Bloody prints found at the scene of the killing do not match any of the three. All three men had multiple witnesses who testified that each of them was far from the murder scene when the killing happened.
But Herman and Albert were convicted for the guard's murder and punished relentlessly for their revolutionary politics. The current Angola warden justified the decades they spent in solitary in a court deposition: "Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace is locked in time with the Black Panther revolutionary actions they were doing way back when." He said that if he released them to the general prison population "I would have me all kinds of problems, more than I could stand."
But the three never broke. Albert Woodfox spoke for all three in the movie, In the Land of the Free when he explained: "I thought that my cause, then and now, was noble. So therefore, they could never break me. They might bend me a little bit, they might cause me a lot of pain. They might even take my life. But they will never be able to break me."
The powers-that-be kept Herman Wallace behind bars for more than half his life, but they were unsuccessful in breaking his spirit. From the depths of this system's horrific dungeons Herman Wallace joined the struggle against inhumane prison conditions and answered letters from people who wrote to him about his case. He struck up a correspondence with an artist who asked him to describe his "dream house"—and his drawings were then turned into a scale model that became an art installation seen in galleries in a dozen countries. Just think about the fact that this tremendous and creative human resource for society, Herman Wallace, was locked up and tortured by this system for 41 years! (The documentary film Herman's House was shown on PBS in July.)
The state of Louisiana sought to punish Herman Wallace up to the moment of his death. A report on the New Orleans Times-Picayune web site said that the District Attorney for West Feliciana Parish re-indicted Herman for murder two days after he was released and went to a home in New Orleans to die. The D.A. was quoted as saying "I say he is a murderer..."
Herman Wallace spent most of his life in one of the most brutal and racist prisons in this country. He was deprived of the most basic human contact, day after day, for 41 years. Over and over he was tormented by the sadistic, bottomless cruelty of this capitalist-imperialist system's legal and police structures.
But from his tiny cell in the depths of a prison deep in the Louisiana swamps, Herman's enormous courage and unvanquished revolutionary spirit touched, inspired, and gave strength to countless people around the world. Three movies have been made about the Angola 3, and shown around the world. Thousands of people in many countries have rallied to their defense and signed petitions for their release.
As he faced his death, Herman Wallace courageously released a final statement: "I want the world to know that I am an innocent man and that Albert Woodfox is innocent as well. We are just two of thousands of wrongfully convicted prisoners held captive in the American Gulag. We mourn for the family of Brent Miller [the murdered prison guard] and the many other victims of murder who will never be able to find closure for the loss of their loved ones due to the unjust criminal justice system in this country. We mourn for the loss of the families of those unjustly accused who suffer the loss of their loved ones as well.
"Only a handful of prisoners globally have withstood the duration of years of harsh and solitary confinement that Albert and myself have. The State may have stolen my life, but my spirit will continue to struggle along with Albert and the many comrades that have joined us along the way here in the belly of the beast.
"In 1970 I took an oath to dedicate my life as a servant of the people, and although I'm down on my back, I remain at your service. I want to thank all of you, my devoted supporters, for being with me to the end."
After more than four decades of being tortured by this system, Herman Wallace was finally able to spend a few days, able to see the sun, the moon, able to embrace loved ones—a brief respite from the horrors of solitary confinement. His lawyers said in a statement: "One of the final things that Herman said to us was, 'I am free. I am free.'" But what is achingly sad—and utterly maddening—is that this vengeful system robbed him of almost all of his adult life.
In the future, after we get rid of this system, people may ask, a new generation may ask, "How bad was it?" The story of Herman Wallace would certainly stand as a powerful and painful illustration of the old society.
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 22: Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation
October 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We're going into the last weekend before October 22.
We know that there is a deep well of righteous outrage and anger against the hell that people need to protest against on October 22.
This anger must find mass political expression on October 22 as part of changing the whole way that people think, the whole "terms" in society, and what people see needs to be done to fight—and put an end to—these outrages.
NO MORE TO POLICE BRUTALITY! NO MORE TO REPRESSION! NO MORE TO THE CRIMINALIZATION OF A GENERATION!
But think about this: if people don't know about October 22, they CAN'T act on it. And even among those who do—if they don't see people on a mission to put a stop to this... people who are organized, with ways to involve those who want be part of this... they won't feel COMPELLED to act on it.
If people see hundreds, even thousands, of posters printed up from this week's centerspread of Revolution up in the shops, the schools, on the lampposts, posted in the halls of the projects, and all over in the communities of the oppressed and on the campuses... letting people know when and where to be...
If they see hundreds, even thousands, of the "3 Strikes" poster with the quote from BA that makes the connections to the whole system, and to revolution... and with stickers letting people know about the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live...
If they run into or hear about cores of youth and others, not just flyering but manifesting in a way that challenges everyone—including straight-up challenging those youth who hang back to stand up on O22 and, as they stand up, to learn about and get into the revolution...
If they come across the O22 poster all over the social media, and get driven to the O22 videos that people have done, and get inspired to do more... and if they also get driven to video clips from BA's 2003 Revolution talk available online get the whole bigger picture and to meet the leader of the revolution, Bob Avakian (see "Yes there's a conspiracy, to get the cops off" and "The police, Black youth and what kind of a system is this?")...
If they go the new movie 12 Years a Slave or other cultural events which attract youth and progressive middle class people and meet other people building for O22 there, with the posters on O22 and 3 Strikes, raising money and raising hell on the movie lines and after...
And if they run into people raising funds for all this and are given a chance to participate by donating and raising funds themselves...
And if wherever you are, whatever you are doing, on O22, you wear black and hoodies up!
THEN there is a possibility that O22 can be what it needs to be: A MILITANT OUTPOURING TO STOP POLICE BRUTALITY, REPRESSION AND THE CRIMINALIZATION OF A GENERATION! And a further step in the badly needed waking up that began to happen, and now needs to go further and get stronger, after the outrageous acquittal of George Zimmerman, the killer of Trayvon Martin.
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
A World to Win News Service:
October 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
October 14, 2013. A World to Win News Service. Following is a leaflet being circulated by the Revolutionary Communist Organization of Mexico (OCR) that also appeared in Aurora Roja (aurora-roja.blogspot.mx).
This past October 2 saw spirited and combative commemorations of the massacre of hundreds of students, youth and other people demonstrating against the government at Plaza Tlatelolco on the eve of the Mexico City Olympic Games in 1968. That event intensified a long period of upheaval and revolt that reverberates throughout Mexico today. This year striking teachers furious at government attempts to weaken the educational system and dismantle their union took to the streets in large numbers that morning, and the afternoon saw major clashes between students and youth and police.
This is the context for a call for a National Week of Resistance entitled "Stop the War on the People" whose initial signatories include numerous professors, school teachers, union representatives, lawyers and journalists, a street vendors' group and people from indigenous (Indian) communities, among others. The call denounces more than 100,000 murders, 25,000 disappearances and 4,000 femicides (murders of women).
Let's unleash a torrent of struggle to stop the war against the people! If you hate the state's brutality and injustice, you have to act now!
The same state that 45 years ago murdered hundreds of activists on October 2, 1968 is now executing, torturing, jailing and disappearing people with impunity. This is truly a war against the people.
The death squads run by the Navy and the Army are murdering innocent people. In September 2011, the bodies of 35 brutally murdered people were thrown alongside a motorway in Boca del Rio in the state of Veracruz. They were allegedly killed by the "MataZetas" [supposed vigilantes targeting the Zeta drug organization], but, as we exposed at that time, the victims were not Zetas but innocent people, and these so-called MataZetas acted just like a death squad. Now a member of an elite Navy unit has confirmed that the killers were Navy troops. The existence of this and other death squads whose members were trained in Colombia and the United States was documented in the book published by Parliament, Escuadrones de la muerte en Mexico (Ricardo Monreal, Camara de Diputados, 2013). These secret counter-insurgency units murder people arbitrarily, especially poor people, even before any insurgency takes place. The murders are part of a war against the people. What we are witnessing is a "preventive" war whose purpose is to terrorize and demoralize the people on the bottom of society, especially youth who have no future under this system, before they have a chance to rise up and struggle for the road to liberation.
The police and armed forces in general are killing and disappearing many innocent people under the pretext of combating "organized crime," when actually they are in collusion with it at the federal, state and local levels of government. Further, the government uses narcos to commit political assassinations, as has been documented by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (CIDH) in its Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas. Despite government propaganda, there have been more than 13,000 such killings so far this year, which is almost the same level as 2012.
The state represses and disarms community police and guards [informal, armed village defense groups organized to keep out marauders of all types] while at the same time militarizing many areas, especially indigenous communities and regions. Instead of pursuing the criminals, they are attacking people who are defending themselves against the mining and energy corporations that are destroying the environment, and against the soldiers and police who are raping women and arresting or murdering political activists. Last August some 6,000 uniformed members of the Navy, Army and Federal Police raided a mountain area in the state of Guerrero to arrest 29 members of a coordinating committee of community authorities and self-defense organizations, the CRAC-PC (Coordinadora Regional de Autoridades Comunitarias-Policía Comunitaria). The coordinator in Olinala, Nestora Salgado Garcia, was held in a maximum security prison in Tepic, Nayarit, under trumped-up kidnapping charges. When community police members protested this injustice, more of them were arrested. The state government of Guerrero and the federal Attorney General try to either dismantle these organizations or bring them under control by making them part of an official "rural police." Moreover, in September, a Chiapas court approved the 60-year jail term meted out to the Tzotzil [Indian] school teacher Alberto Patishtan, who has already served 13 years for a crime he did not commit.
The state continues to cover up the murders of women that are becoming even more numerous in some states, and it threatens the victim's family members when they demand justice. It covers up the disappearances of these young women and protects the networks of sex-slave traffickers. At the same time, it imprisons women for having an abortion or even a spontaneous miscarriage. These criminal laws deny women their basic right to decide what to do with their bodies and their lives.
The Navy, Army, police, National Migration Institute agents and hired killers work together to kidnap and disappear immigrants from Central America—somewhere between 10,000 and 80,000 in the last six years. They serve U.S. interests (reducing immigration) and take their share, forcing immigrants to work as slaves for the drug cartels and killing those who refuse, like the 72 executed a few years ago in San Fernando, Tamaulipas. The Meso-American Migrant Movement (MMM) says it has documented between 70,000 and 80,000 cases of Central American migrants who disappeared during President Felipe Calderon's six years in office. About 30 percent were women and girls, many of them sold to the trafficking networks in Tlaxcala, Puebla and Chiapas.
The U.S. National Security Agency in the U.S., and in Mexico the Interior Ministry, Defence Ministry and the Attorney General systematically spy on all electronic communications (Internet, cell phones) in Mexico, and, in fact, the NSA spies on the whole world, not only to "monitor" what people think and do, but also to use this information to repress and kill them when they consider that appropriate to achieve their objectives.
They disappear and murder people struggling against these injustices in order to tame and demoralize other activists and many other people who hate all this, even if they haven't yet dared fight against it. For example, they murdered Nepomuceno Moreno Nunez (2011), because he protested the disappearance of his son in Sonora; Marisela Escobedo (2010), because she protested the disappearance of her daughter and the unjust freeing of the man who murdered her in Chihuahua; Josefina Reyes Salazar and five other members of her family (2009-2011) who had denounced the repression by the Army and other crimes in Juarez; Digna Ochoa (2001), [a human rights lawyer] who brought charges against the Army and defended the environmentalist peasants of Petatlán, Guerrero (a murder covered up as a so-called suicide by the Federal District government led by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador [the standard-bearer of the allegedly reformist Party of the Democratic Revolution, PRD] and his prosecutor Bernardo Batiz). They murdered the National University (UNAM) student activists Pavel Gonzalez (2004, a murder the Federal District judicial police also called a "suicide") and Carlos Sinuhe Cuevas Mejia (2011), who had been previously harassed and threatened by anonymous fliers and the Net. From 2007 through 2011, at least 63 political activists were assassinated in Mexico, according to the UN Human Rights Commission.
Javier Sicilia of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) recently declared that "this is a failed, criminal state," and that "the problem is that the state is totally corrupt, it's criminal because it is working hand in hand with organized crime in some way or another." Clearly it is "corrupt" and in collusion with organized crime, but to conclude that this is the basic problem would mean confusing some of the effects with the cause that produces them. All this reactionary violence by the state is not simply due to corrupt officials, negligent authorities or the lack of "human rights sensitivity training" among the police and armed forces members (a favorite remedy suggested by human rights organizations). It is not because the state is "non-existent" or "not doing its job," although certainly in many areas of the country the drug traffickers are more in control than the state institutions. The truth is that basically, the state is doing its job, because its job is not to "serve and protect the people," as they always say. On the contrary, its job is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people, to defend and enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression that characterize this system and produce all the poverty, brutality, humiliation and degradation the people suffer from. For example, in 1968 in Tlatelolco or in 2006 in Oaxaca, the state did not murder and imprison people to "protect and serve the people" but rather to smash just protest and rebellion against an oppressive social order. And this "order" is still in force, generating more horrors than ever, in 2013.
This is not the only possible social order. On the contrary, this is an outmoded system in which capitalist exploitation is combined with the remains of semi-feudal serfdom and dominated by imperialism. It is an obstacle that can and must be eliminated by a revolution carried out by millions of the oppressed under communist leadership, a revolution that will give birth to a much better society, one that will serve not only the Mexican people but also the struggle to emancipate all humanity. This revolution is possible and necessary. It is the only real solution, the only way to put an end to the totally unnecessary suffering caused by this system. There is an urgent need for many more struggling people to take part in and strengthen the movement for this revolution. We have to fight these attacks on the people and at the same time change the way people act and think, so that we can make this revolution.
Compañeras and compañeros, we call on you to act now to put an end to an intolerable situation, the brutal violence being unleashed against the people by a criminal state – in essence, a war against the people. This state represents and serves the interests of the big corporations, landowners and imperialists; it is murdering, torturing, disappearing and imprisoning tens of thousands of people in order to tame, paralyze and demoralize the people they oppress, hate and fear. As many people have said, this is an emergency. We can't let those who hold power have a free hand to continue committing these atrocities without facing a stronger and more determined resistance. We can't let them continue covering up these heartless attacks so that most people don't even know about them. Nor can we allow those who are resisting to remain alone and beaten down. We have to mobilize the people who suffer from these attacks and win over other sections of the people to take part in this struggle. We have to wage a serious resistance with the goal of putting an end to these horrors and not just lessening them a little, or being satisfied with false promises and meaningless gestures by a government seeking to disorient and break up the resistance. By uniting to expose, denounce and struggle against these crimes, we can put this government and the system it defends on trial, nourish a new, hopeful-creating and combative atmosphere in the country, and forge greater clarity and unity about how to fight this soulless repression and better understand its origin and how to get rid of it.
The challenge is this: to forge an independent and combative network that exposes this state's crimes and creates more resistance, consciousness and capacity to change this world. To as broadly as possible denounce the reactionary and totally illegitimate violence being carried out by the Army, Navy and police forces at every level. To begin to organize a National Week of Resistance-Stop the War Against the People, October 21-27, 2013. Let's organize cultural events, forums, film showings, photo exhibitions, plays and so on during this week, culminating in marches and rallies on Sunday, October 27 in cities and towns throughout the country.
The Army and police are not workers, they are the armed forces of the exploiters!
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 #320 October 20, 2013
October 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
We decided to talk to teachers about showing BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live in their classes. A teacher in an inner-city high school who has watched the full DVD and has a lot of appreciation for it liked the idea of showing it to the students and brought to bear his thinking about the difficulty for them to get what BA is saying. He said BA is fighting for a complete change economically, politically, culturally and in how people treat each other, and the students' life experiences are so narrow that that's hard for them to grasp.
The person meeting with him brought up the point that BA makes in the talk, that people with very little education can understand what's in his book BAsics. The teacher said he doesn't mean the students can't understand it but that they don't have a context that facilitates grasping the totality of the change BA is fighting for. This is an important insight raised by this teacher and is something we want to explore further with him.
The teacher invited us in to speak to three classes of 12th grade government/history classes. The classes are each 1 hour and 45 minutes long, which gives time to get deeply into some things. In making the plans to go to these classes, we took into account what he was saying about students needing the context to understand what BA is saying. We decided rather than showing a short clip and having a lot of discussion, or showing a clip from the middle of the talk speaking to particular questions that would be good to address, we needed to show students as much of the first hour of the talk as possible.
We also had thought about making the October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation more of the focus of the classes, but as we talked it through we realized that we have this opportunity for students to engage BA and we need to make the most out of it, and that they need to be able to learn and think about this very important day of protest and the need to act in relation to it in the context of learning and thinking about the larger picture this flows from. We decided to show the first 40 minutes of the film to students and link in O22 along the way.
The students were drawn in by our intro to really engage BA. Not everyone did, but students were compelled by what we said. A young member of the Revolution Club read out loud the short piece "Who Is BA" found on page two of Revolution newspaper to kick it off.
The teacher opened up the class asking students to take 10 minutes to write down their thoughts on two words: revolution and love. Love, which is found (backwards) in revolution. By giving the students a definition of both words, he asked them to write down what they thought and asked if they went together.
Students would say things like revolution brings people together against a common enemy (the government) and out of that comes love because they are in it together... that was just one response to give an example of how students were thinking. We used that as part of the intro in speaking to who BA is, having a deep love for humanity he has forged a path out of this horror based on a scientific understanding which allows the needed space and wrangling to get at the root of the problem.
We split the video clip into two parts, showing the first 18 minutes. We would stop there and allow the time for questions. Then we would go on to show the next clip.
There was some laughter during the film. Students liked the fact that BA used curse words to express himself. A student who talked individually with one of the presenters said he had never heard a white person say that before, followed by the realization that he doesn't know too many white people other than teachers. You could tell just by looking at the students that they were feeling what BA was saying, and a number of them had things to say in response to what was said.
Students had an intimate understanding of the horrors, the murder and brutality that takes place around them, and different views of where this comes from. One student expressed that "they [government] are the ones doing this to us." He followed that by saying "the government does a lot of bad things and then they do some good things to try to make themselves seem like the good guys." Other students agreed with what the student put out about this.
There was some blaming the people put out by students too. One example in the same class was someone saying that "the way people have tried to change is the wrong way by 'rioting,' so they bring it on themselves."
In another class this was posed more sharply, with anger directed at BA by a young Latina who asked "why does he [BA] think he has the authority to talk about Latinos?" and followed this with an argument that it's mainly ourselves causing the problem and not the police. She also said, "What has BA done to help Black and Latino people, besides pointing out all these things that we already know?"
We briefly went at this by saying that BA is getting at the source of all the suffering and fighting for truth which is not something that you own but is objective (speaking to her narrow outlook that sees the oppression of "my people" as something to try to own, instead of something that is part of reality and can be understood objectively as part of understanding and changing the whole world). In response to her second question, we responded that BA is not feeding or housing people, he is leading people to make revolution to get rid of the cause of all this. In relation to what students were saying about "ourselves" causing the problem, in the next 20+ minutes of the film we showed BA speaks directly to this and it seemed they were engaging this answer. However, we summed up this would have been important to lead some discussion of after watching it.
Students raised many examples of how this system keeps them down: stop-and-frisk, gang injunctions, court system, criminalization, etc. They wanted to understand why there is no future for them and why couldn't they be given a chance. One way this was brought out by the students was realizing that "Trayvon Martin could have been anybody here, he was a normal kid in school, could have been any one of us!" Many of the students were upset at the verdict acquitting Zimmerman but voiced that they and many others think it's never gonna stop.
One thing we put forward is the need to dig into BA and get connected with this movement for revolution. As part of our intro to the film, we spoke about the framework with which he is analyzing shit, and thru this film, the basis it provides for many like them (students) to do the same, opening doors for ways to go up against this that furthers the cause of ultimately doing away with this system.
The students and teacher saw the problem that what you make revolution against is the government and not a whole system. We spoke in each class to how this is not just the government but the system of capitalism-imperialism (in some classes highlighted with examples from the DVD like how the IMF—Institute of Misery and Famine—sets policies that raise the cost of firewood in places like Peru which results in cholera epidemics). We also made clear, drawing from the statement on strategy and "Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution," what a revolution is and is not.
In one class, there was discussion about atheism and religion, and about how revolution would actually solve the problems people are up against by bringing in a new state power. When we stopped the film after the first 18 minutes, a Black student in the middle of the class raised his hand and said—in a way that indicated both excitement and nervousness—BA's an atheist, he doesn't believe in God because why would God make a world with all this suffering? A Black student sitting behind him spoke up, "Well I believe in God, and everything that's happening now was already talked about in the Bible."
We walked through this a little bit with him. He said the Bible says you're not supposed to pass laws for gay marriage. We told him he should go back and read his Bible—which doesn't say anything of the sort, but does say gay people should be killed and along with that people who believe in other gods should be killed, the women raped, and the babies' heads bashed in. And we told the class, in any book you have to look at the content of what it's putting forward and whether it is something that should be upheld or not—and the Bible reflects the morality of the slave society that produced it.
We went on to say something about the essential question of how to determine what's true. We pointed to what BA said in the film about evidence. How there is no evidence for a god, but there is a lot of evidence for how different societies at different times made up different gods to try to explain things they didn't understand. We asked students how many of them had taken a science class. All raised their hands. We asked them what kind of science. They answered, biology, physics, and chemistry. We said in all and any of those classes, if you had science teachers that were worth anything, they taught you about the scientific method and about how there has to be evidence to determine what's going on. You can't see the air but you can know there are molecules of oxygen and other things in the air because this can be tested. Students nodded along, understanding this. This scientific method can be applied to understanding human society, and it is in contrast to faith-based. In church they tell you to believe in God and not ask any questions and not look for evidence. By definition, you are just supposed to have faith. These are two different approaches to understanding the world and we need to apply a scientific approach to really understand and change the world.
The student who had said he believes in God didn't want to say anything else, but he was clearly unhappy with what we were saying. We said there is a need to fight against injustice and you shouldn't turn away from that because of your belief in God—if you stand up to fight injustice, we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you, and keep discussing this as we fight together. He was still angry and when we turned the film back on, he wasn't paying very close attention. When BA did exposure and ridicule of the bankruptcy of the "pull up your pants" line, and said sarcastically, "these Black youth must be really stupid," the student didn't catch the sarcasm and shouted back at the film, "You're stupid!" As BA continued to explain in the film the way that in reality it is NOT the fault of the Black youth—that they have no future under this system—the expression on his face changed and his demeanor changed. By the end of the class period, he was engaging the question of how to go up against and stop police brutality and the criminalization of a generation, and he was asking about and commenting positively about having run into revolutionaries building the movement for revolution on a street corner he passes by.
Other students in this class had questions about what revolution is and what is the goal of this revolution. A young Latina asked, "You want to get rid of this system, what would you build up after doing that?" We told them about the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America and gave some examples of how a new state power, immediately after the revolution, would change things. We started with what neighborhoods like the one we were speaking in are like under this system—these neighborhoods are left to rot, they don't give a fuck about these places. The guy in the middle of the room blurted out, "That is the truest thing I've heard anybody say." We described how immediately after seizing power, the first thing would be resources and attention being put into these neighborhoods to enable people to build them up, to overcome the legacy of oppression, to make beautiful housing and playgrounds and schools.
Several students were paying very close attention and nodding along. We went on to talk about education, how in this system they don't teach people anything about the truth of the history of this country and in particular people don't know about each other and each other's history—so you have Black people and Latinos fighting each other and don't know anything about how this country and this system has oppressed and exploited them in different ways and then pit them against each other. This is something we would teach people about, and the schools would be places where students together with teachers talk about what should be taught in the schools. The young woman who'd asked the question jumped in to say there are some states that don't even teach about slavery, and she was nodding with a big smile when we talked about what the schools would be like in a new society.
The guy in the middle really liked what he was hearing, but then asked hesitantly, "Is this a cult?" He had a hard time explaining why he asked the question, and kind of felt bad about asking it because he thought it was insulting and didn't want to insult us. We told him it was good to ask about this and in answering it we returned to the discussion of science vs. faith and that this is not a movement or leader who is asking people to follow blindly, but in fact to themselves take up a scientific approach and ask questions and think critically about and challenge what we say. He was satisfied with this answer, but we went on to say a little about how some things get labeled as cults (like the people who commit mass-suicide based on religious beliefs are considered a cult, but Christianity is not, even though the beliefs are just as little founded in reality) and the way in which the charge of "cult" has been used to attack communism.
In the last part of the discussion, we tried to dig back into what BA was talking about in relation to the gangs and people fighting each other, but didn't have enough time to do the work to really get people opened up about this. We spent the last 10 minutes talking explicitly about October 22nd and the need for students to take this up and the ways it can and needs to reverberate throughout their school and throughout society.
We asked for a show of hands of people who know someone in prison and at least half the class raised their hands. We asked for a show of hands of people who know someone beaten or killed by police and a third of the class raised their hands. We told them that what happens on O22 can change people's thinking about why this is happening and what we can do about it, and standing up to this is a very important part of getting to the point when we can make a revolution. This is a school where the wearing of hoodies has been banned since the verdict exonerating Trayvon's killer—and when we said there should be a fight over this on O22, with lots of people wearing hoodies, there was an immediate audible response of appreciation from much of the class.
In each class, students bought copies of Revolution newspaper, which we'd drawn from and referenced throughout the classes, and they took fliers and lots of stickers for O22 to spread everywhere. They also got the postcard for the Revolution—Nothing Less! DVD and a flier for an upcoming screening of part of the film. A handful of students from all three classes wanted to learn more and go to the screening. Students mentioned they would like to have us back.
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
Counting Down to October 22nd
By Carl Dix | October 17, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
It's a few days till October 22nd, the 18th annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Let's step back and look at the situation this day is occurring in and how crucial it is that everyone go all out to mobilize the most powerful protests possible.
October 22nd is happening three months after the verdict came down in the Trayvon Martin case. Think about how you felt when you heard the court had found George Zimmerman not guilty after he stalked, confronted and gunned down Trayvon. Didn't this verdict have you thinking about Emmett Till and wondering HOW LONG were these horrors going to keep on happening?
You weren't the only one who felt that way. That verdict drove 1000's into the streets in outrage, AND it had many, many people questioning the injustice of this set up. This outrage and this questioning haven't gone away. They are like raw nerves that tear at people every time they hear of another Black or Latino youth murdered by police, something that happens just about every damned day in this country.
As we said in the article "On the Murder of Trayvon Martin and the Outrageous Acquittal of His Killer: THEY MUST NOT—THEY WILL NOT—GET AWAY WITH THIS!!!" in Revolution newspaper, "This must be a watershed moment. This must become the day that people look back on and say, 'that's when people began to see that you couldn't reform this shit, and a whole different way—a revolution—was needed.'" This remains a real necessity, and what we do on October 22nd must contribute to making it happen.
October 22nd is also occurring at a time when record numbers of people are being caught up in La Migra raids that tear families apart and disappear people. At a time when people who stand up to what the government does to people in this country and around the world, like Mumia Abu-Jamal, Lynne Stewart, Herman Wallace, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and others, have the system's repressive apparatus unleashed on them. At a time when the government is carrying out a massive spying program.
Mounting powerful protests against the way the criminal "injustice" system comes down on millions of people can have a huge impact. This can embolden those who are targeted by this injustice, countering the lies they are told that their lives count for nothing. It can inspire them to stand up and resist. It can open the eyes of those who don't experience this injustice to the horrific reality they have been shielded from and drive many of them to join those who suffer this bullshit everyday in resisting it.
But if we fail to mobilize this resistance, if these horrors keep coming down without commensurate outpourings of resistance, it can lead people to resign themselves to putting up with these horrors.
I know there are those who say, "What we do doesn't matter. There are too few of us who see the need to act to have a real impact." This is not true. Powerful outbreaks of resistance that contribute to dramatically transforming the face of society always begin with small numbers of people daring to stand up and say NO MORE. The powerful movements against the oppression of Black people in the 1960s began with a few people refusing to continue to obey unjust laws. The movement against the war in Vietnam of the same period began with a few people who stood up and called it out as being an unjust war. The resistance in the immediate aftermath of the murder of Trayvon Martin began with just his family crying out for justice. Their cries connected with many, many people and tapped into their hatred for the way the youth have been criminalized and brought them out to call for Justice for Trayvon.
Mobilizing outpourings on October 22nd can have the same kind of impact. If you are someone who heard about the need to act on this day in the last few days, it will make a difference if you get together with those you know and plan an action with them. Organize a speak-out at your high school, put together a panel discussion on your campus, address this injustice in your sermon and bring your congregation out on the 22nd. Even if your numbers are small, it matters.
These actions will be addressing issues that greatly impact people's lives. They will have greater impact because they will be happening as part of a nationwide outpouring of resistance. They can give heart to people who hate having to suffer under all this official brutality and call out to people who are having their eyes opened to these horrors that they must join the resistance.
Go to the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) web site, www.stopmassincarceration.net, to find out whether something is being planned for your area. If not, plan something and let SMIN know about it, so it can be added to the list of what's going to happen on October 22nd. Spread the word about October 22nd. Do a statement in either video or written form saying why you will be acting on October 22nd and calling on others to join us in doing so.
Tens of millions of people are suffering from this injustice every day. It's way past time that we stand up and say NO MORE to all these horrors.
STOP POLICE BRUTALITY, REPRESSION AND THE CRIMINALIZATION OF A GENERATION!
NO MORE STOLEN LIVES!
WEAR BLACK, FIGHT BACK!
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
by Larry Everest | October 18, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On Tuesday and Wednesday, October 15-16, the U.S. and other world powers met in Geneva, Switzerland, for formal negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. The group negotiating with Iran is called the P5 + 1—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the U.S., France, Russia, China, and Britain) plus Germany. On Tuesday, the Iranian delegation also met directly with the U.S. delegation for the first time. Further meetings are scheduled for early November.
This follows President Obama's September 24 speech at the UN in which he called for a major diplomatic push to "resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear program" as a step toward building a "different relationship" with Iran "based on mutual interests and mutual respect," which Obama argued was critical to stabilizing the Middle East. Three days later, he talked with Iranian President Rouhani, the first time the leaders of the two countries had spoken since 1979.
These moves come against the backdrop of upheaval and turmoil in the Middle East. This is a region where the U.S. rulers feel it's critical that they call the shots on the basic setup and power relations; where Iran has traditionally been a local power; and where, since 1979, U.S. and Iranian interests have been sharply at odds. While it is too early to tell precisely what each side is seeking, or whether any agreements will be reached, it's important to understand some basic facts about Iran's nuclear program, the U.S.-led response, and the broader context this issue is situated in.
Iran's nuclear program was revealed in 2002. Iran insists that its program is only for enriching uranium to fuel nuclear reactors, not for military purposes—i.e., to build a nuclear bomb, and that it has the right to enrich under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The U.S. and its closest allies, in particular Israel, have insisted Iran is violating the NPT, not living up to its "obligations," and secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. (No conclusive proof has ever been brought forward for these charges, or that Iran is in violation of the NPT in any significant way). The U.S. and its allies have demanded Iran halt all enrichment and dismantle much of its nuclear program, threatened Iran militarily, refused to restore diplomatic relations with Iran after breaking them in 1980 after the takeover of the U.S. Embassy by Iranian students, and then imposed draconian sanctions.
However, it is critical to understand first that the "nuclear issue" exists in a broader context of overall U.S.-Israeli hostility and opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) going back to the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the IRI's ambitions to maintain its rule and assert itself as a regional power. As we explore in Part 1 of the article "Obama at the UN: Whitewashing the Real 'Roots of Mistrust' between the U.S. and Iran," the core issue here is that while the Islamic Republic of Iran is a reactionary, oppressive theocracy whose interests, including regional objectives, are in direct opposition to the interests of the people in Iran and in the region, it also represents a significant challenge to American dominance of the Middle East, including to its key client Israel. So the U.S. and Israel have spent the last 30-plus years trying to weaken, contain, and even overthrow the IRI because they felt it posed an unacceptable impediment and alternative source of influence in the region on many fronts.
The nuclear issue must be understood in this context. The issue for the U.S. and Israel has never been whether or not Iran is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. They've been opposed to Iran having any right or ability to enrich uranium (which countries do have under the NPT) for a number of imperialist geopolitical reasons:
The precise terms of the current negotiations are not known. According to news reports, Iran is willing to agree to limits on its nuclear enrichment and to more intrusive and "transparent" inspections, in return for easing of sanctions, acknowledging its basic right to enrich uranium for nuclear power, and an easing overall of Western hostility toward the Islamic Republic.
It is not yet clear how the U.S., Israel, and other world powers will respond to Iran's proposal and exactly how they see advancing their imperialist interests in the region and toward Iran. However, it's important to understand that both the U.S. and Iran are confronted with their own set of major necessities, including the deep fissures and rapidly changing situation across the region from North Africa, through the Middle East, to Central Asia.
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
by Larry Everest | October 18, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On September 27, the President of the United States spoke directly (by phone) to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani. This is a big deal. The leaders of these two countries haven't spoken to each other since 1979. Since then, the U.S. and Iran have been nose-to-nose in conflict, with the real possibility of U.S.-Israeli military action that would hold terrible consequences for the people of Iran, and the whole region and beyond.
The Obama-Rouhani conversation comes at a time of great upheaval in the Middle East that's impacting the calculations of all the players involved, including the world's big powers. Against this backdrop, the phone call between the two heads of state appears to be part of a new, broader diplomatic effort, which Obama claimed is aimed at lessening U.S.-Iranian tensions and would "help serve as a foundation for a broader peace." Since then, Secretary of State John Kerry met directly with the foreign ministers of Iran, China, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany. New talks are reportedly in the works.
It's important to analyze and assess all of Obama's UN comments on Iran, as well as why the U.S. is making this move now, what it's demanding from Iran, what the Iranian position is, the prospects for an agreement, and what it would mean for the people of Iran, the Middle East, and the world. Revolution will be doing so in future coverage.
But to understand any of these particular moves and, more importantly, the overall course of U.S.-Iranian relations, you have to understand the actual history and relationship between the United States and Iran. This is a subject the powers-that-be in the U.S. constantly lie about—as Obama did at the UN, which we'll dig into here (and in Part 2).
One way to get into that history and relationship is to take apart the script Obama put forward in his UN speech, shortly before he reached out to Rouhani. Here's how Obama characterized what he called the "difficult history" between the U.S. and Iran:
The United States and Iran have been isolated from one another since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. This mistrust has deep roots. Iranians have long complained of a history of U.S. interference in their affairs and of America's role in overthrowing an Iranian government during the Cold War. On the other hand, Americans see an Iranian government that has declared the United States an enemy and directly—or through proxies—taken American hostages, killed U.S. troops and civilians, and threatened our ally Israel with destruction.
Obama has chosen his words very carefully so that every sentence distorts history and reality with half-truths, omissions, mischaracterizations, and outright lies to serve U.S. imperialism and foster a "thinking like an American" outlook and understanding of history. Is this too bald a statement? Knee-jerk, blame America rhetoric? Let's break it down, step by step.
What is the overall picture that emerges from Obama's "balanced" portrayal: the U.S. and Iran are more or less equal players in the region and that each has its own complaints. Iran's "mistrust" is rooted in American political actions ("interference"), which he implies took place long ago ("during the Cold War"—this omits or covers up the crimes the U.S. has carried out against Iran over the past several decades). In contrast, Obama presents America's fears as present, immediate, and literally life-and-death: Iran has declared the U.S. an "enemy," actually killed Americans, and threatened to obliterate its ally Israel. As we'll show below, Obama is touching on certain partial truths to totally distort the big picture, including the Islamic Republic's actual positions, and to whitewash and cover up U.S. actions and motives toward Iran—and what it's still doing.
The first and most important thing this distorts and thereby falsifies is the overall context and framework within which the U.S.-Iran clash is taking place. To begin, the U.S. is far, far, far more powerful than Iran, a reality Obama slides over, giving the impression of some sort of rough equality. In fact, the U.S. economy is 30 times larger than Iran's and worlds ahead technologically. Nor is there any equality militarily: the U.S. spends 100 times more on its armed forces than does Iran; it has roughly 750 military bases around the world; Iran has none, though it does have military forces and advisors deployed in Iraq, Syria, and perhaps Lebanon, along with relationships with other forces that are engaged in small-scale conflict with Israel—the key U.S. ally in the region. America has approximately 5,113 nuclear warheads; Iran, none.
But these are just indicators of the deeper, foundational, and overall relationship between the U.S. and Iran: the U.S. is the world's dominant imperialist power, while Iran is a relatively cohered and highly repressive country that stands in a dependent and subordinate relationship to world imperialism. In other words, the U.S. and a handful of other imperialist powers compete to dominate and shape the global economic-political-military playing field and subordinate the economic and political life of countries like Iran to their overall needs.
U.S.-orchestrated sanctions and their impact on Iran illustrates imperialism's stranglehold on the global economy. The U.S. and a handful of global powers control the international banking and financial system which shapes how—and whether—countries are able to conduct business, obtain basic goods, etc. One element is called SWIFT, a mechanism for transmitting money electronically around the world. The U.S. first imposed sanctions which legally restrict trade and commerce with Iran in 1979, but they've been ratcheted up significantly since 2002. In 2010, the U.S. and its allies tightened the noose by expelling Iran from SWIFT, making it extremely difficult for it to trade internationally. Oil sales, which make up 80 percent of government revenues, have been cut in half. Iran is unable to access its own foreign currency reserves held abroad, and is facing an intense shortage of foreign currencies. Severe restrictions are placed on how it can use the money it is earning from oil sales. All this, according to a recent New York Times analysis, is "bringing the country's economy to its knees."1
Such sanctions are a form of warfare against an entire population—a real weapon of mass destruction—that is causing enormous suffering, including needless deaths, on Iran's population. Factories and businesses have shut down, unemployment is widespread, even vital medicines are unavailable. "Hundreds of thousands of Iranians with serious illnesses have been put at imminent risk by the unintended consequences of international sanctions, which have led to dire shortages of life-saving medicines such as chemotherapy drugs for cancer and blood-clotting agents for haemophiliacs," the Guardian UK reported earlier this year.2
Think about it: In today's world it's unimaginable that Iran, Argentina, Nigeria, or any other country could exert this kind of stranglehold on other economies. In this and many other ways, the system of imperialism is the cause of unseen and untold suffering for hundreds of millions of people worldwide.3
Why has the U.S. concentrated such power in its hands? Because the functioning and global dominance of U.S. capitalism-imperialism requires the control of key markets, labor pools, resources, and strategic regions. These are the real drivers of U.S. actions around the world—not the declarations of so-called universal principles and core American values like "peace" and "human rights," that America's imperial spokespeople incessantly yap about to cloak actual motives.
The Middle East is one such strategic region—the geographic, military, and trade nexus between Europe, Asia, and Africa, and where over 60 percent of the world's known energy reserves are located. This necessity has driven decades of fierce U.S. jockeying, interventions, and wars in the region to defeat or fend off other global powers and regional forces that arise (in reaction to American actions and the anarchic workings of their system globally) to challenge the U.S.-dominated order. It has led it to build the settler-state of Israel into its key pillar of U.S. regional political and military power, and to its vociferous support for every towering crime Israel has committed against Palestinians and others in the region and globally.
For the past 30-plus years, the Islamic Republic of Iran and other Islamic fundamentalist trends from North Africa through the Middle East, Central Asia, and beyond have been one such major challenge facing the U.S. empire. That Iran sits at the geopolitical fulcrum of key and shifting world contradictions (energy, geopolitics, ideology, religion), with its own regional ambitions and links to major world powers (and U.S. rivals) including Russia and China, makes the Islamic Republic's existence and ambitions all the more vexing and problematic for the imperialists.
Any real understanding of U.S.-Iranian relations—borne out by every episode of history discussed below—must start from this overall reality.
Obama is largely repeating the empire's "narrative" about Iran that's been relentlessly drummed into the American mind. So it's crucial to dig into some of the key chapters of U.S.-Iran history Obama touched on in his UN speech and excavate the actual motives and interests of the imperialists as well as the class forces they're clashing with in Iran.
Here's Obama's capsule version of the U.S. record in Iran: "Iranians have long complained of a history of U.S. interference in their affairs, and of America's role in overthrowing an Iranian government during the Cold War."
What Obama is referring to when he speaks of "America's role in overthrowing an Iranian government during the Cold War" is the CIA-organized 1953 coup d'état that overthrew the government of Mohammad Mossadegh and made the Shah, Reza Pahlavi, an absolute monarch serving the U.S.
Some background is important.
Iran had been invaded, colonized, and dominated by the Russian and British empires since the late 1700s. British imperialist domination in Iran was highly oppressive itself, and it relied on local oppressors—Iran's Kings (known as "Shahs") and feudal landlords, along with some urban merchants, to protect its interests there. These local oppressors played the key role in suppressing the masses of Iranian people, whose interests lay in Iran developing as an independent nation free of imperialism—and in getting rid of feudalism—while the local oppressors benefited politically and economically from their relationship with imperialism. But at the same time, there were many ways in which capitalist-imperialist domination disrupted and undercut the traditional feudal economic and social relations, and the traditional feudal ideologies, which had held society together, on a reactionary basis, for generations.
British imperialist domination also meant directly controlling and exploiting Iran's main commercial resource—oil—via the British government-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later renamed British Petroleum). In 1947, Anglo-Iranian earned $112 million from Iranian oil, while paying Iran only $19.5 million. Meanwhile, the bulk of Iran's population was impoverished and denied basic political rights.
By the late 1940s, a broad movement to take control of the country's oil wealth was gaining momentum. It coalesced in the National Front, a diverse alliance under the leadership of a bourgeois nationalist, Mohammad Mossadegh, who sought to loosen imperialism's control of Iran and strengthen parliament's power against the monarchy. In April 1951, Iran's parliament (Majlis) nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC). A week later, Mossadegh was named Prime Minister.
These modest reforms were intolerable to the U.S. and Britain. At the time, Middle East oil production was controlled by Western oil conglomerates, and Iran's nationalization was unprecedented. The U.S. was moving into the Middle East and taking over from Britain and France as the region's predominant power. The Eisenhower administration feared that Mossadegh's actions would not only rob the West of billions in oil revenues and supplies, it would set a bad precedent for other oil producing countries in the region. And it could enable the then-socialist Soviet Union to increase its influence in Iran.
In 1953, Iran's military carried out a violent coup "under CIA direction" and "as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government," the CIA finally admitted in August 2013.4
Iran's CIA-directed military government made Shah Reza Pahlavi an absolute monarch. With full U.S. backing, the Shah imposed indefinite martial law that was overseen by U.S. military advisors and imposed by the dreaded secret police—SAVAK. Opposition groups were outlawed. All forms of political organization and activity—even literary gatherings—were banned. Massive arrests, unjustified detentions, institutionalized torture, summary tribunals, prison-murders, and executions were the order of the day. Five out of every six publications that were operating before the Shah came to power were shut down by his regime. The Shah ruled Iran with an iron fist for the next 26 years.
Full control of production and sale of Iran's oil was returned to a consortium of international oil corporations, which now included five American oil giants.
Some may hail Obama's "candor" in critically referring to this sordid chapter of U.S. history. But think about it: The fact that the1953 CIA coup is rarely, if ever, discussed by top officials or in the mainstream press just shows how thoroughly America's ruling structures suppress the truth and exercise overall dictatorship over the discourse and thinking of the population.
Second, Obama is talking about these events as part of a strategic move aimed at maintaining overall U.S. control of the Middle East—including reasserting greater control of Iran. But he's talking about these events in ways that not only cloak the reality but are aimed at legitimizing U.S. maneuvers and aggression toward Iran.
The events of 1953 were just the start of America's strangulation of Iran under the rule of the tyrant it installed, the Shah, which helped sow the seeds for the whirlwind that was to come—Iran's 1979 revolution and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.
Talking generically and generally of Iranian "complaints" of a "history of U.S. interference in their affairs" doesn't even begin to capture the enormity of what the U.S. did to Iran and its tens of millions of people during the 25-plus years the Shah ruled with an iron, U.S.-controlled, hand. It's like saying a neighbor "complained" because you burned down their house and murdered their children.
For 25 years, Iran under the Shah became internationally notorious for the torture, jailing, and repression carried out by its U.S.-trained secret police SAVAK. And Iran's infrastructure, oil industry, economy, and military and political posture were all configured to serve Western interests. This process caused tremendous suffering and dislocation in Iran, in both the countryside and cities, and it alienated wide swaths of the population—including elements of the old ruling order, most notably sections of the clerical establishment.
At the same time, the U.S. was building up the Shah's regime as a regional instrument of American power—arming and utilizing it against revolutionary movements in the region and as a bulwark against the Soviet Union.5 The U.S.-Soviet "cold war" was a battle between imperialist rivals for global dominance. This conflict played out intensely across the Middle East, and decisively shaped U.S. policy toward Iran. During these decades, the U.S didn't "advise" Iran—it utterly dictated the course of development and political life. All this resulted from how the U.S. perceived and was fighting for its interests in Iran, the region, and globally—not from "universal values" or "human rights." This was also the period in which the U.S. greatly stepped up its support for—and arming of—the state of Israel, its other main pillar in the region.
This is the bitter, blood-stained, 25-year history that Obama covers up, trivializes, and whitewashes as "Iranian complaints"—and on a par with some U.S. personnel being held hostage for a year-plus (none of whom were injured or killed). Meanwhile, Iran was held hostage for over two and a half decades!6
At the UN, Obama said, "The United States and Iran have been isolated from one another since the Islamic Revolution of 1979." He makes it sound like the U.S. didn't have much to do with the revolution. True, it wasn't in control of events—but that wasn't for lack of trying, including backing the Shah's violent attempts to crush the uprising.
Opposition to and hatred for the Shah had simmered for decades. And it was no secret to the victims of the Shah's brutal rule that he had been installed, and was backed lock, stock, and barrel, by the United States. A succession of U.S. presidents embraced the Shah, perhaps none more exuberantly than Jimmy Carter, who branded himself the "human rights" president. In December 1977, as protests against the Shah were on the rise (particularly among students abroad), Carter toasted the Shah and his regime as an "island of stability" in a sea of turmoil.
Literally weeks later, a mass uprising began that soon became a tidal wave of revolt, seemingly out of nowhere, The U.S. was hardly "isolated" from what was taking place. As the uprising unfolded and gained momentum in 1978, the Shah attempted to drown it in blood—backed and supported by the United States. In a September massacre known as "Bloody Friday," the Shah's troops killed thousands of people. But this ended up broadening and accelerating the mass upheaval and de-legitimizing the Shah. In December 1978, more than 10 million people—a third of Iran's entire population—took to the streets demanding an end to the Shah's rule. In January 1979, the Shah was forced to go into exile under U.S. protection. The Islamic Republic of Iran was established in February 1979, sending shockwaves rippling across the region and world.
A wide variety of political forces and people from all walks of life congealed to topple the Shah. Radicals and leftists, including revolutionary communists, played a key and heroic role in the rebellion (and in the final overthrow of the old regime).
A section of Iran's Islamic religious establishment, headed by the Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini (who had been living in exile since the mid-1960s), emerged as a major and ultimately the leading element in this mix. The Khomeini-led Islamists condemned the history of colonial and imperialist interference in Iran. They pointed to the West, and the U.S. in particular, as a source of the oppression and repression Iran's people faced under the Shah. And they argued that only an Islamic state, a theocracy based on the Koran and Islamic law (Sharia) and ruled by a hierarchy of clerics, could end these abuses and create a just society.
Khomeini's vision and program were extremely reactionary—not emancipatory. They would not and could not free Iran from imperialist control (despite their claims to the contrary). Nor would this Islamist agenda alleviate the exploitation and oppression of the vast majority of Iran's people, which was closely bound up with the country's subordination to global capital.
Ayatollah Khomeini's actual program and ideology reflected the outlook of remnants of outmoded strata—classes from Iran's feudal past—that still retained influence in modern Iranian society. Khomeini in particular claimed devotion to the impoverished masses, the "mostazafin" (literally, shoeless). But his program and outlook sought to alleviate suffering by going backward (for instance, promoting religious charity), not challenging the basic oppressive economic and social relations of class society in Iran, let alone the world. So Khomeini's Islamist project could only serve to perpetuate those class and oppressive divisions. In fact, Khomeini and his supporters aimed to cohere (and retrench) Iranian society around fundamentally oppressive social relations and a culture and morality that reflected those relations. For example, the subordination of women by men was an essential pillar of Khomeini's program, which was violently imposed, including by attacking an International Women's Day rally less than a month after the revolution.
Yes, Khomeini did develop a mass following, including among sections of Iran's downtrodden and oppressed. On the eve of the revolution, there were many forces in the field, but the Islamists retained a nationwide network and platform in many mosques. Khomeini was in exile in Iraq and then Paris, but was able to speak to thousands and later millions via widely circulated audio-taped messages. It is beyond the scope of this article to explore all the reasons the Islamist movement developed such significant traction among anti-Shah Iranians. But the fact that many oppressed masses rallied to Khomeini's banner did not in any way change the reactionary nature of his program, or the fact that it did not represent the interests of the Iranian masses or humanity.7
The 1978 events in Iran took the U.S. rulers and their "intelligence" agencies by surprise. Not grasping the deeper contradictions at work, Iran did appear to be an "island of stability," where the Shah's enormous U.S.-armed and -trained military and repressive apparatus could readily crush any and all challenges. U.S. strategists suddenly faced a choice of bad options.
Given the alignment of anti-Shah political forces and the depth and breadth of the uprising against his hated regime, the U.S. sensed that pushing Iran's military to attempt to violently suppress the revolution would only make matters worse. It would likely fail, and instead radicalize the situation and enable a host of secular left political trends—from Mossadegh-style secular nationalists, to pro-Soviet revisionists, to genuine Maoist communists—to gain traction. It could also have fractured Iran's military—the key pillar of U.S. influence in Iran. So instead, the Carter administration calculated that U.S. interests could be best served by going along with Khomeini's ascent to power. In early February 1979, Khomeini was allowed to return to Iran from exile in France, and by mid-February he became the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
For one, Khomeini and his followers were vehemently anti-communist and anti-Soviet Union, so U.S. officials assumed a Khomeini-led regime would remain a bulwark against their main global adversary. In January 1979, a U.S. Embassy official wrote in a secret cable that the Khomeini-led forces were "far better organized, enlightened, able to resist communism than its detractors would lead us to believe."8
The Carter administration was also betting that the more secular, pro-Western, and so-called "moderate" elements in Khomeini's entourage were likely to end up doing the actual governing. They didn't grasp that Ayatollah Khomeini and the clerical establishment were not going to fade into the background as cultural advisors, but were intent on establishing a reactionary Islamic theocracy, ruled by clerics and their ideological followers.
So during the first months of 1979, the U.S. maintained diplomatic relations with Iran, and attempted to build ties with and strengthen the hand of these "moderates," while publicly supporting the Khomeini regime's efforts to crush the oppressed Kurdish people, as well as radical secularists, leftists, and communists broadly.
This chapter too is part of the long history of U.S. "interference in Iranian affairs."
Obama "balanced" his airbrush of Iran's grievances with U.S. counter-charges: "On the other hand, Americans see an Iranian government that has declared the United States an enemy, and directly—or through proxies—taken American hostages..."
These charges stem in part from the 1979 "Hostage Crisis," as it was labeled, an event which helped inaugurate decades of U.S. hostility toward the Islamic Republic and still shapes how most people living in this country view Iran and U.S.-Iranian relations.
On October 22, 1979, the Carter administration admitted the deposed Shah into the U.S., ostensibly for medical treatment—this after refusing Iranian demands that this hated butcher be returned to face trial in the country whose people he so tormented. This added to growing anger at perceived U.S. efforts to continue to shape Iran's politics, and sparked fears of a replay of the 1953 coup. The U.S. Embassy in downtown Teheran became a site of frequent protests and chants of "Down with America" and "Death to America."
On November 4, at one such protest, a group of Iranian students linked with the Islamic Republic entered the grounds and seized control of the embassy itself, taking some embassy staff hostages. The students then held them and the embassy for 444 days with Khomeini's blessing. None of the U.S. personnel were killed, beaten, or tortured.
Why did Khomeini support these students? Establishing an Islamic Republic meant establishing it as against the U.S. in certain ways. Khomeini needed to ride the widespread popular hatred of the U.S. and what it had done, as well as rebuff attempts to use the embassy to shape Iran's politics (as embassy cables, shredded by embassy officials but painstakingly pasted back together by the occupying students, revealed). The Islamists also used the embassy seizure to oust lukewarm supporters within the Islamic Republic and crush its opponents without. Over the first several years of its rule, the Islamic Republic murdered tens of thousands, including many revolutionary communists, partly under the banner of "anti-imperialism." (See "Interview with Former Iranian Political Prisoner," Revolution, March 23, 2008.) And it instituted draconian repression against women, suppressed scientific and critical thinking, and forced fundamentalist religion on society.
Overall the Khomeini regime sought to loosen the U.S. and Western stranglehold on Iran's politics, economics, military, and, very importantly culture—and carve out a somewhat more independent role internationally. This was driven by both the clerics' ambitions and the necessities the array of clerics and other forces emerging as a new ruling class in Iran faced in consolidating Islamist rule, and reshaping Iranian law, politics, culture, and ideology accordingly.
A key tenet of the Islamic fundamentalist movement has been stated opposition to Israel and its treatment of Palestinians, and one of the Islamic Republic's first acts was to break relations with the state of Israel. In part, the fundamentalists are playing to the hatred of Israel's crimes that is widespread across the Middle East. In part, this stance reflects Islamist ideological opposition to a Jewish state in the heart of the Islamic world. And in part, the Islamic Republic sees Israel as an impediment to its regional needs and ambitions. It should be noted that this is not the same thing as genuine support for struggle aimed at fundamentally liberating the Palestinian people. But in any case, the U.S. is heavily committed to the Zionist state as its main and only fully reliable enforcer in the region, a commitment that increased after the sudden fall of its other main regional pillar—the Shah's regime. So the Islamic Republic's posture toward Israel fed and deepened U.S. antagonism.9
None of this had anything to do with Iran fundamentally rupturing from the global market, uprooting capitalism, narrowing and ultimately eliminating class divisions, or emancipating humanity. It was in vehement and violent opposition to those communist goals and to the fundamental interests of the popular strata they rallied under their wing. Instead, the Iranian revolution marked the rise of another outmoded, reactionary force in the region contending with outmoded, reactionary imperialism that had been dominating the region for over a century.
The U.S. imperialist class reacted to the embassy seizure with a frenzy of American chauvinism, anti-Iran propaganda, and a bevy of economic, political, and military attacks on the Islamic Republic. The U.S. immediately froze billions in Iran's assets, began imposing sanctions, in April 1980 broke diplomatic relations, and later that month conducted a military raid to free its embassy personnel, which failed. Meanwhile, the U.S. built up its regional military forces, and later in 1980 encouraged Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran.
The system turned the 444-day embassy seizure into a daily "made-for-TV" exercise in American chauvinism, training people to see the world through the eyes of the ruling imperialists and their interests. ABC began a nightly program—America Held Hostage: The Iran Crisis, hosted by Ted Koppel (which later became the program Nightline). Night after night, it was "America Held Hostage, Day..." whatever. History was obliterated and turned upside down: Suddenly the power responsible for 25 years of torture under the Shah, of robbing Iran of billions, and stomping on Iranian needs and aspirations, was now the "victim." This upside-down and reactionary storyline was recently, and shamefully, reprised in the film Argo, and is being channeled in basic form by Obama.
In reality, the U.S. rulers' concerns didn't start or end with the situation of their embassy personnel. The issue for them was their continued hold on this vital country and region and their overall contention at the time with the imperialist Soviet Union. The embassy seizure was a direct slap at U.S. global credibility—America's perceived ability to impose its will at will—and it threatened U.S. interests in Iran, the region, and globally.
This episode also put revolutionaries in the U.S. to the test. Communist opposition to the reactionary nature of the Islamic Republic and its assaults on revolutionary and progressive Iranians did not mean going along with U.S. imperialist aggression, intervention, or propaganda. Instead, it meant opposing such attacks, supporting the genuine revolutionaries in Iran, and being clear that U.S. imperialism represented the far greater danger to humanity. It meant being clear on the special responsibility people living in the belly of this imperial beast had to stand against the crimes, aggression, and legitimacy of "our" rulers. And it meant ideologically opposing American chauvinism with communist internationalism. This stance was powerfully captured in Bob Avakian's statement at the time:
"It's not our embassy, we don't have an embassy; this is the embassy of the imperialist ruling class and we stand with the Iranian people." (From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, Insight Press, 2005, page 400)
The 1979 Revolution and then the U.S. embassy crisis marked the beginning of over three decades of U.S. antagonism toward the Islamic Republic. But as we'll delve into in Part 2, this has not meant, as Obama claimed, that the U.S. and Iran have been "isolated" from each other! On the contrary, Iran has been directly subjected to U.S. aggression for over 30 years, from the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War which the U.S. helped fuel (when Iran was hardly "isolated" from the effects of Iraqi chemical weapons attacks, which were facilitated by the U.S.), to crippling U.S. sanctions which reach deeply into every corner of Iran's economy and society, and repeated U.S. military threats over the past 20-plus years. Nor was the U.S. isolated from Iranian moves to increase its presence in the region, including in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.
To be continued
1. "Iran Staggers as Sanctions Hit Economy," September 30, 2013. [back]
2. Larry Everest, "Sanctions: Weapons of Mass Death and Destruction," Revolution, January 20, 2013. We'll dig further into the role and impact of U.S.-imposed international sanctions in Part 2. [back]
3. See Raymond Lotta, "Nicholas Kristof's Ode to Imperialism...What Kind of World Is He Celebrating? What Kind of World Can Emancipate Humanity?" Revolution, October 14, 2013. [back]
4. "In Declassified Document, CIA Acknowledges Role In '53 Iran Coup," CNN.com, August 22, 2013. [back]
5. The Soviet Union was then an imperialist power, having restored capitalism (in the form of ownership of major enterprises by various (and competing) government agencies and departments, i.e, "state capitalism") in the mid-1950s. This state capitalist form enabled them to continue to operate under the guise of "communism." Wielding this mask of (phony) "communism," the Soviet Union tried to increase their influence in the Middle East, where (real) communism was widely identified with opposition to imperialism and oppression. [back]
6. For background on much of the history of U.S.-Iran relations outlined in this article, see "The U.S. & Iran: A History of Imperialist Domination, Intrigue and Intervention," by Larry Everest, Revolution, May 20, 2007. [back]
7. Those factors included widespread opposition to Western influence and imperialism, which was blamed for backing the Shah and all the suffering and dislocation that took place under his rule. This gave traction to the notion that going back to the "old ways" and traditional culture were antidotes to imperialist-driven economic and cultural "modernization." Another major factor was the global political and ideological impact of losing the revolutionary pole represented by Maoist China in the wake of the 1976 coup that restored capitalism following Mao's death. For a thorough discussion of these and other factors in Islamic fundamentalism's rise, see Bob Avakian's Away With All Gods, Insight Press, 2008. [back]
8. Robert Dreyfuss, Devil's Game–How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (Metropolitan Books, 2006), p. 219. [back]
9. It should be noted that over the last decade, the Islamic Republic has made it very clear that it was willing to recognize Israel and work out a modus vivendi with it in return for U.S. recognition of its legitimate place in the region and an end to the U.S.-imposed state of siege. [back]
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 19, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In Revolution #318 (September 29, 2013), we announced the Fall 2013 revcom.us Sustainer Drive. To fill the need that only revcom.us can fill, we urgently need to build a stronger financial base we can count on.
If you think your contribution would be too small to make a difference, you are wrong.
In issue #318 we said: "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.... 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." Take a serious look around revcom.us, and think about the urgent need for many more people to be connected with this, right now.
So, to those who catch the worst hell every day under this system: When people from among the most oppressed, who don't have much to give, when they pledge to give money, it does two things:
If you like revcom.us, sign up now to give a fixed amount, $5, $10 or more each month to make sure it not only maintains but grows. If you not only like it but see that it is important, get your friends, coworkers, family, fellow students to do the same. Make your pledge an amount you'll really be able to do, and make sure there's a plan for how it will get turned in each month. You can also get some friends together who will make sure a fixed amount you collectively decide on will be turned in each month.
Why is no contribution too small? In the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live, BA says basic masses of people don't know the impact they have. He gives the example of the Occupy movement and the impact it would have had if even a dozen people from among the most oppressed had shown up there with T-shirts saying "I'm with the real revolution" and talked to people about that revolution, about his book BAsics and other things. When things like this happen it has a big effect on everyone. It challenges what "everybody knows" is possible, and challenges people to discard wrong ways of thinking and to think about humanity. It contributes to the chance for a real revolution.
BA also talks about the impact it has when oppressed people stand up in all kinds of ways, things like the hunger striking prisoners calling for peace among prisoners of different races, struggling to overcome the ways the system pits people against each other to keep them down. These things have a very big effect. This kind of thing needs to be felt this Tuesday, October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
This same thing is true when it comes to raising money for revcom.us. This is especially true if you write a letter that can be published on revcom.us and/or in Revolution newspaper. It can be a couple of sentences, a paragraph, or a whole page. Record an audio and send that in to revcom.us. Tell about why you are sustaining and call on others to do so.
The two mainstays of the revolution are: the vision, the works, and leadership of Bob Avakian; and revcom.us/Revolution newspaper. And to those this system has cast off and cast aside—YOU have a very important role to play, including in the struggle to raise these needed funds.
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."
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 19, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
September 23, the UCLA Daily Bruin, student newspaper at University of California, Los Angeles, published the op-ed: "Alexandra Tashman: Activism should refocus on public speech, tangible goals." Dolly Veale, volunteer at Revolution Books, wrote the following letter to the editor, "Students should tackle large, societal issues." Her letter appeared in the Bruin October 4.
In her recent column, Alexandra Tashman argues that students should protest for goals that are "tangible, local and relevant" instead of "choosing to tackle too lofty or abstract goals.
But she has it all wrong. She accepts the terms and confines of the very system creating the horrors all around us, taking as a given that we will live in a world marked by profound class divisions, inequalities, brutality and suffering. This doesn't reflect reality and suffocates the dreams of students considering whether another world is possible.
Let's apply Tashman's logic to another sphere. What if doctors stopped seeking a cure for cancer because they weren't getting tangible results? Or if doctors in one country stopped investigating a cure for malaria because it wasn't a local problem? You can see how outrageous and harmful this would be.
Bob Avakian, chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, puts it this way: "The politics of the 'possible' is the politics of monstrosity. To adhere to, or acquiesce in, the politics of the 'possible' is to support, and actually to facilitate, monstrosity."
If something is wrong, you should work to change it while determining the ultimate and fundamental source of the problem and whether there is a solution.
It takes more than the space allotted here to address the root problem of, and revolutionary solution to, a whole system of capitalism with white supremacy and male supremacy built into its economic and ideological foundation. See revcom.us to dig into this more deeply.
Volunteer at Revolution Books.
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 22, 2013
October 21, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The Revolutionary Communist Party salutes you who have come out here, who are part of actions going on all over the country. We salute you who have been fighting this fight for years, and you who have taken your first step today. Without the kind of resistance we're seeing here today, we have no chance whatsoever at justice, and at a better life for everyone. And we need more of this—as our Party says,
The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world... when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness... those days must be GONE. And they CAN be.
We need a mass movement, far beyond what we have here today, yes eventually of millions, that says NO MORE to this outrage. A movement that unites all kinds of people who suffer under this horror and all kinds of people who refuse to go along with it and want to act against it, even if it doesn't personally affect them. A movement that can change the ways that middle-class people are taught to fear those under the gun, and that can change the ways that the people under the gun are taught to blame themselves for what is being done to them by the system, or to feel that if they do stand up, nobody will hear and it will make no difference.
Bob Avakian, BA, the Chairman of our Party and the leader who has brought forward the new synthesis of communism, starts his epic speech REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! by asking, how long must "this nightmare of oppression and brutality that so many in the world are forced to endure, day after day, generation after generation" go on? And he goes on to say, "Let's start with just one great crime of this system—police murder... after murder, after murder, of Black people and Latinos, especially youth."
And many, many people in these past few months have expressed that very same kind of sentiment over the outrageous acquittal of the man who killed Trayvon Martin—a murder that harkened back to Emmett Till and the days of lynching. How long... how long indeed!? That is the question we're asking today.
And we also have to ask ourselves—what kind of a system, for generations now, has confined millions, maybe tens of millions, of mainly minority people into prison? What kind of a system vindicates the police who chased down an unarmed young Black man in the Bronx, Ramarley Graham, and then killed him in his own bathroom? Or who hogtied a young Chicano father in California, David Sal Silva, and then murdered him in front of witnesses from the community? What kind of a system treats those who are driven here to survive as criminals, calling them "illegal aliens" and hounding and persecuting them, and breaking up their families? What kind of a system must wiretap literally billions of people around the world in the name of "security"? The horrors we are here to fight against today—the police harassment, brutality and outright murder of young Black, Latino and other minority people, the criminalization of whole peoples, the Big Brother repression, and other horrors of an equally towering nature—will go on and keep going on just so long as the source of the problem is not dealt with and eradicated.
Let's be clear: it is crucially important to stand up and fight back against police brutality and mass incarceration, as well as other horrors and outrages. At the same time, it is just as important and even more important, that we get to the source of the problem and that we get into the real solution: revolution—nothing less.
We can do that. We can get rid of this system, and put a whole different one in its place. We can make revolution—not today, not next week... but we CAN do it. That is not just talk, it is real. And we are not just talking about it, we are working to prepare for the day when we can do it, and we are hastening that day.
This system has deep problems. Just look at this shutdown, with two camps among the rulers fighting among themselves. Why? It comes out of the very way they have to exploit and oppress the whole world, the problems and resistance of various kinds that they run into in doing that, and the bitter arguments all that gives rise to among the rulers themselves about HOW they are going to do that. When those kinds of things happen, it potentially raises big questions among millions. It can show that these rulers are NOT all-powerful, and that their system doesn't have to be permanent. And when the people decide that they are not going to keep letting the system keep them down, when and as people increasingly stand up in struggle as you are doing today, when people check out and get with and increasingly get closer to the real revolutionary alternative, it can prepare the ground and it can organize the people to bring closer the day so that when those on top cannot easily get out of their conflicts, and when people broadly see a real alternative and are ready to sacrifice for it, then millions of people will actually be able to make a revolution.
We can build a movement that can hasten that day—but you can't know how to do that, and you can't fully participate in it, without going to the revcom.us website or keeping up with Revolution newspaper. This site and this paper exposes the lies they tell all the time, and shows how our movement is doing and gets into WHAT it is learning about making revolution.
A whole new system can be built, one in which people are NOT subject to the myriad horrors of today—the police murder and massive systematic criminalization of whole peoples, the persecution and super-exploitation of immigrants, the oppression and constant demeaning of women, the horrible wars and the living hells of an even worse degree in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and the way that the monsters who run this thing are raping the natural world we live in—we can get beyond that into a world where people can truly flourish. But you can't know that and you can't know how without getting into BA, and the whole new synthesis of communism he's brought forward, and the Constitution for this new society that's been written and that's based on his work.
Our Party is determined to bring forward and to lead the millions to make revolution and to bring in a whole new day, a whole new society where October 22 is no longer a day of protest but a day of celebration and commemoration each year so that the children and young people in the future can learn about this horror of the old society, and how people like you courageously stood up to fight it, and they will shake their heads and cry and they will echo BA and look in our faces and ask, "How long did this go on? How could people live like that? What did they do to end it?" And then they will commemorate those who lost their lives to this system and those who sacrificed everything fighting it and answer that question by saying, "Never Again!"
This cannot happen without you. But with you, it can. And there IS a role for you in this movement—there are ways for you to contribute, large and small to help make this revolution happen. Number one: get into BA. Start with this film, REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! If you have seen it, see it again. Show it to your friends. Talk with them about it and talk with people in the movement for revolution about it. Get into BAsics, the book of quotes and short essays by BA. BAsics is the handbook for revolutionaries, and we say, "You can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics!"
And while you're doing that, be part of a campaign to spread this to every corner of society. We are in the middle of—and we are going to take to a whole 'nother level—a campaign to raise big money to get BA everywhere, to let people know that another world is possible and that there is someone who can lead us there.
Get with our Party. Work with it, support it, come closer to it and join it—because not only are we going to need a strong, experienced, deeply-rooted vanguard party capable of leading when the deal does go down—we need that Party right now and we need it all the way through the revolution and after.
And finally, let's continue this struggle against police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation, let's intensify it and let's broaden it, and let's work together to get to the day when people no longer have to say "how long" and they can walk in the liberating sun of a whole new day. There are no guarantees, and the struggle will be hard, but can we settle for anything less?
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
Check It Out:
October 21, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
from a reader
A refreshing and funky pop album was released recently that Revolution readers should check out. Pure Heroine is the first album by Lorde, a 16-year-old from New Zealand with a unique and stirring voice. Her first single from the album, "Royals," has been pumping on the radio waves for a couple months and has over 5 millions views on YouTube. The song is full of sass and finger snapping, about being a teenager "not proud of my address in a torn up town no postcode envy" and it goes up against the crass consumerism and celebration of wealth that dominates so much pop and hip-hop these days. She sings, "But everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece, jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash, we don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair..."
She also stands out in her views of how women are seen, "I'm sick of women being portrayed in this way" referring to a pop song from a young woman whose theme she characterizes as "when you're ready, come and get it from me." The album as a whole is real interesting musically—a fusion of styles with a hip-hop influence... some songs are spare and rhythmic and others with a richer mélange... it's a real contribution to the culture overall and makes you want to dance.
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 20, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This past summer, nearly two dozen people loaded into vans and drove from both coasts and down the middle of the country, stopping in 15 states over the course of a month in response to the nationwide state of emergency facing abortion and reproductive rights. They set out to launch a national counteroffensive to the war on women, to reclaim the moral high ground by declaring Abortion on Demand and Without Apology, and to bring forward a movement of resistance that breaks free of the killing confines of official politics. Major advances were made on all of these fronts and critical lessons were learned.
Now, StopPatriarchy.org is proud to announce that the full report on what we did, what we learned, what we transformed, and what remains to be done is finished. We are happy to share with the many hundreds of people who took active part and many thousands more who are hearing about this for the first time the tremendous understanding we have forged, and the new ground we stand on, to go forward to build the kind of massive, nationwide resistance necessary to defeat the entire war on women.
Look for the report at the End Pornography and Patriarchy: the Enslavement and Degradation of Women! page at revcom.us, StopPatriarchy.org, at your local Revolution Books store, or by contacting StopPatriarchy@gmail.com.
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 21, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We received this article from one of the Freedom Riders.
I participated in the Fargo, ND and Wichita, KS legs of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, the month-long caravan in July from both coasts down the middle of the country where clinics, providers and women are most sharply under attack. What hit me most strongly while on the ride, in an increasing way, is both how needed the Freedom Ride was and how much of a fight it is going to be to make the kind of society-wide impact that can turn the tide for abortion rights, the war on women, and the emancipation of humanity. These two things are related. If it was not a state of emergency, if the thinking of the people was not so backwards and confused on the question of abortion and what it represents for women, the ride would not have been needed so urgently. I know I may be stating the obvious, but it is FUCKED UP out there; female enslavement is already in effect in many ways. Things are going to have to get a lot more polarized—with people understanding that the terms of this struggle are either female enslavement or the full liberation of women, and FIGHTING for the right to abortion based on that understanding VERY SOON—or things are going to get much worse.
This was most evident in Wichita. A woman who had had an abortion and her mother told me that “Dr. Tiller was such a nice doctor. It was so terrible, they killed him in his own church.” When I asked them what people in Wichita thought about it when Dr. Tiller was killed, the mother answered, “It was about half and half. Some people thought it was good. Other people thought it was bad.” They seemed resigned and not particularly disturbed by how extremely bad the climate is. Most people who are pro-choice (at least in some circumstances) and really would not want to see forced motherhood and a whole Dark Ages enslavement of women, have no idea that that’s where things are headed. Even those who see some of the outlines of this and hate the antis do not want to see increasing polarization, do not want to fight. They want to find some “reasonable middle ground” and hope that the most vicious attacks on women and the right to abortion somehow just go away. Troy Newman and Operation Rescue (and the forces they represent) are very clear on the fact that they are winning, and the clinic in Wichita and the pro-choice non-movement are in denial that they are not only losing, but losing by a lot—losing ground even when they manage to hold back some aspects of the attacks, at least temporarily. You really get a sense that what is going on in these states down through the middle of the country are not only NOT simply local fights, but are setting terms politically for the whole country. It’s very correct that the ARFR is fighting for people to understand the need for a national counteroffensive and doing polemics that go up against the narrow localism.
I think one of the most important things we did on the part of the ride I was on was the talk by Sunsara Taylor held at a great coffeehouse in Fargo that is known for publicly supporting the right to abortion and not backing down in the face of a boycotting campaign by the antis. The talk was on the “State of Emergency: Winning Abortion on Demand & Defeating the War on Women.” The transformation of people in the room was so evident—like you could see and hear people “getting it,” having epiphanies, being able to see in themselves how their thinking was changing since encountering these ideas and the ride. One woman ran down a conversation she had with her daughter about whether to support the Freedom Ride when it came to Fargo. She was concerned that the call for Abortion on Demand & Without Apology was too extreme. She led us through her thought process, explaining that she asked herself, “Do women need to get abortions on demand, which really means when they want and need them?” Her answer was yes. Then she asked herself, “Should women feel bad about getting abortions and have to apologize?” Her answer was no. So she summed up that she decided, “Yes, Abortion on Demand and Without Apology. That’s the way it has to be.” We should not underestimate the importance of continuing to have these longer presentations and discussions, even if it’s only a handful of people besides the riders.
A couple of us Freedom Riders had the opportunity to watch part of the BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less DVD with a couple people who came to the talk and then bought the DVD and the book BAsics and stayed after the talk to have more informal discussion. One of them, a college student, said that he had an epiphany during Sunsara’s talk. He said he’d always been for equality for women and considered himself pro-choice, but that he’d never thought of what denying women the right to abortion actually was—that it would mean forced motherhood for women as a whole—and that that was a form of slavery. The other person, a young woman, when asked what stood out to her about the talk said that it was when Sunsara described what it meant for generations of girls to grow up with the assumption that their main and most important role in the world was to be a mother, and the effect it has on them when they see all women being degraded and abused and treated less than human, that it is like trying to grow a plant under a rock. She said she really felt that, that it made her reflect on how she would be different if she hadn’t grown up with those ideas, which were especially enforced in her life by her conservative Christian Catholic upbringing. These are important people—both of them were very broadminded and wanted to know how oppression could be ended. They were not heavily steeped in identity politics or looking at things from improving their own positions. The woman described doing a project about genital mutilation in other countries and not being swayed into accepting that it was okay in the name of “cultural sensitivity” or relativism. A lot of their questions centered around how you could get people to act because they feel alone in terms of wanting to do anything even though they have lots of friends who share their ideas.
We watched two parts of the Revolution—Nothing Less DVD—the parts on bourgeois democratic intellectuals thinking like serfs and the first section on strategy that starts with describing what a revolution actually is. One thing that seemed to hit at their questions in a different way was the “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution” approach and what that has to do with bringing forward a revolutionary people. They were looking at it more as a question of what would make everyone move all at once, not necessarily seeing the importance of people like them acting on what they know and how this can grow in relationship to entering into and transforming key concentrations of social contradictions that this system continues to generate, working on them in a way that’s favorable to revolution. We also talked about the importance of what is true and basing ourselves on that instead of what’s popular or what can get the most people around something. We talked about BA (Bob Avakian) and the importance of leadership and particularly BA’s leadership, getting into their questions of who he is through talking about some of his memoir (From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist).
They both expressed a lot of appreciation and gratitude that the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride and the movement for revolution that it’s a part of came through Fargo and connected with them. We talked with them about staying connected through Revolution newspaper, how they could be a part of this movement for revolution from Fargo, the idea of showing the DVD to friends or doing a showing at the coffeehouse, and of course continuing to follow and spread the ARFR in a way that would make them virtual freedom riders. When we left, the woman said she had the next day off and planned on watching a lot more of the more of the DVD. This experience underscored to me the importance of Revolution newspaper as a collective organizer and a portal to allow people in all parts of the country to get a big picture understanding of the current system and the need for revolution.
These two people were a part of that reservoir of people that can be reached and transformed and activated to be a part of this initiative and the movement for revolution if we tell people the truth, really fighting to change what people think about abortion and women, thereby re-setting the terms of this struggle. The article at revcom.us, “Two Different Approaches, Two Different Epistemologies—Two Different Worlds,” applies to this and everything we do. I must say that Sunsara Taylor and the leadership of this Party really did a great job leading the ARFR because they fought for all of us on the ride to think and understand what the truth is in the deepest way possible so that we could base ourselves on it. It was actually a pretty solid core of freedom riders and, while it is always a pull on everything because of the society we live in, my evaluation is that due to the work of leadership and the determination and struggle of the riders themselves, we can be confident that this is a project that is not going to descend into populist ideology and just tell people what they want to hear or reflect back to people what they are already thinking. We are on fire with the truth! I’m so glad I got to participate and contribute, but beyond that, this fight needs to be WON.
One night we had a discussion that got into how changing people’s thinking is the most dynamic factor of the three objectives of the freedom ride. I agree and I think what I’ve written here are examples of why and how this is true. But one problem that needs to be solved in order to change the thinking and subsequent actions of thousands and then millions of people is the limitation on the number of people we are reaching. Most people still don’t know that the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride happened or that Stop Patriarchy (the initiative to End Pornography and Patriarchy, the Enslavement and Degradation of Women) exists. Most people have still never heard anyone speak positively about abortion or tell the truth about how bad it is and what it’s going to take to defeat the war on women. I’ve been thinking on this a lot and am just vexed as to how we can bust into the superstructure on a whole other level. Consistently being on social media allowed us at first to make a leap in the number of followers and getting the word out, but then it kind of reached a plateau and got more gradual. We need to make sure we are projecting out everything we are doing and affecting to a larger audience. Sometimes it won’t seem like it’s making that much of a difference, sometimes we won’t succeed when we know an EXCELLENT video (like the one of the Fargo rally!) needs to go viral. However, everything we’re doing to push this out in a consistent way can, at certain times in interaction with the objective factors of what else is going on in the world and other advances we’re making, make an incredible difference and break through to new sections of people or even become a mass question. If you are reading this, you can be a part of helping to spread what was accomplished and learned by the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. You can start by sharing this article and others about the ARFR found on revcom.us. You can also retweet @StopPatriarchy on Twitter, and share Stop Patriarchy’s posts on Facebook and Tumblr.
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 22, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
Some friends and I went to see the new movie 12 Years a Slave, which opened in select theaters this past Friday, and will open more generally soon. I will say that at the earliest opportunity, go see this movie and bring some friends. Make sure no one has to run home right away afterwards. You'll want to be with others to digest this one. I'm not writing a review here, but I will say that this is one of the most powerful major movies I've seen in a long time, and the artistry it's done with is just outstanding. It's already having a powerful effect on people who see it. Slavery... godDAMN these motherfuckers! But no spoilers here, just go see it.
At the theater where we saw it, the audience was mainly solidly middle class, mostly (but not all) white, and predominantly (but not only) older than 40 or so, in an area of the city mainly characterized by progressive Democratic politics. We got the last four tickets to the third show of the night. Every showing was sold out, and people were turned away.
After the movie, as the music died down (it took that long for me to find my voice—yes, the movie is that powerful), as my comrades headed to the door to distribute leaflets with the October 22 centerfold in Revolution newspaper and local info for events that day, I got up and said to the whole audience, "That is the foundation of this country, what this country was first built on. And it is not over. Michelle Alexander is right, slavery, Jim Crow, and now the New Jim Crow. Dred Scot, Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin. This is still a profound problem to solve." Someone up front called out, "They need reparations." I responded, "We need revolution! And we can do that, too! This system won't solve this, and can't solve it. Stop and get into Revolution newspaper on your way out. And this Tuesday is the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. The section of people facing this New Jim Crow need everyone here standing with them that day. This needs to stop. Get the info about that on your way out, too."
For anyone thinking of doing something like this, I would urge you to say it more accurately: After the part about Michelle Alexander is right, say, "And Bob Avakian is right, this can't be ended under this system. Three strikes and they're out. We need revolution." BA is actually taking the point where it needs to go, where Alexander didn't go with her very powerful work.
Before I finished talking, a woman was tapping me on the back reaching for Revolution newspaper. She said she's in the middle of Alexander's book. Before I could say anything, others were coming up. I tried holding up the front and back covers so people could see them. We sold 11 Revolution newspapers in maybe five minutes there and four others outside, and distributed a lot of leaflets.
Unfortunately, this was a crowd on the move and for the most part I don't know what was on people's minds. I can tell you the response we got is different than usually happens from this section of people. This movie moves people. What's depicted objectively challenges the programs and solutions people usually look to and even insist upon. It's an important moment to pose to them to dig for real into BA and this revolution, and to really stand with those under the gun today. One white woman said something about Trayvon Martin as she got the paper. Another said, "Some in government want to go back to this now." I asked if she meant these fascist forces, and she said yes. I pointed to the ad for the film REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! as someone else reached out with their dollar.
A Black man we spoke with outside traced for me his family history going back to slaves in North Carolina. He described himself now as a libertarian, opposed to communism, but got the paper and plans to watch the film REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! in case it does have a better solution. A white man with his college-age daughters told us about his previous experience with campus socialist movements. He was the one that had yelled out, "They need reparations." After buying the paper he half-jokingly said he told his daughters about the danger of getting into movements like this. I said this movement has a place for everyone, and they need to contribute as they see is appropriate for them. And while that happens we're going to get deeper into what the problem and solution is, and if they find they become communists, all the better. We're working it out for them to see REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and take part in October 22.
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
StopPatriarchy.org has launched a crowd-funding campaign to support its efforts to defend abortion rights where they are most under attack and to do this as part of building nation-wide resistance to defeat the whole war on women. Read more about our plans to defend the last abortion clinic in Mississippi from Christian fascist fanatics from October 29-November 6 and to oppose a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks pregnancy in Albuquerque, New Mexico from November 15-17, here: Two Concentrations of the Fight Over Abortion Rights Loom in November; Everyone Who Supports Abortion Rights Must Rally in Mississippi and Albuquerque.
If you can join us in Mississippi and/or Albuquerque let us know right away—your participation will make a big difference!
Either way, on Saturday, October 26, join us in a fundraising surge. Make a donation yourself, call others to do the same, and participate in a “Twitter Storm” to raise at least $2,000 towards the $15,000 needed for this effort in one day.
Already, someone who generously supported last summer's Abortion Rights Freedom Ride has pledged a $1,000 matching contribution which will double the first $1,000 raised on Oct. 26. We thank them and we call on you to join them as part of a community that is standing up to defeat the war on women.
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
I recently talked with several people about the Revolution article, “The Shutdown, the Showdown, and the Urgent Need to Repolarize... for Revolution.” (#319, October 13, 2013) On one level, the article clarified the actual dynamics of the situation for them. On that basis, the point that is made on how none of us should be spectators in this and how there is a way to work at the contradictions really challenged them. Some of the questions were: Why is the contention in the ruling class so sharp? Is the fascist program a response to the Republican base? How could this all lead to a legitimacy crisis? and How is it possible for masses of people to be won to communist revolution?
Through grappling with what was said in the article, and getting a more all-sided sense of what is really going on, one person donated $200 to BA Everywhere and challenged his friend to match his donation. He said that he is seeing the urgency to get BA out in a big way right now, and that everyone needs to do all they can to donate money to do that. After some serious consideration, his friend matched his donation. He said he is donating because the contradictions are sharpening up and feels he can make a difference in this way to make things more favorable for revolution. While they have many questions about the possibility of communist revolution, what they did agree on is that it would be impossible without BA and the movement for revolution he leads being a more powerful force impacting society.
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
October 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The government shutdown crisis is over—for now. But the conflicts that gave rise to the shutdown come from very deep sources. This is a capitalist-imperialist empire facing very deep and strategic contradictions, with two powerful blocs at the top sharply disagreeing over how to handle them.
The antagonism between these blocs and their political representatives is real. To be clear: they are not struggling over how to do away with the current world order of heartless exploitation and oppression and environmental destruction. They are battling over how best to defend and expand it, in the face of sharp global challenges.
But: what IS this world they want to defend?
A world in which, over the past two decades, 8 million people in Congo have been killed in murderous, imperialist-sponsored civil war—and hundreds of thousands of women have been cruelly gang-raped in the process...
A world in which millions of women in countries like Bangladesh or Pakistan or Vietnam go to work in horrible sweatshops that at any moment can become living tombs as the buildings collapse or catch on fire...
A world in which more than 2.3 million people rot in prison in the very heart of this "exceptional" nation... in which the bodies and autonomy of women are fought over, commodified, and repressed on every continent... in which the very planet is being plundered and the environment despoiled at a pace which throws the continued existence of humanity itself into question. A "brave new world" of smothering surveillance and drone strikes from above, and the hounding, persecution, and imprisonment of those who expose it from one end of the planet to the next. And a world in which you may not even know about much of the above because of the way in which their "free press" judges what is newsworthy!
Yet, for all their bedrock unity in defending this empire, these politicians came very close to a train wreck. There are new conflicts over these same unsettled questions looming fairly soon, and very few of their commentators and pundits dare to predict that this won't soon happen again.
Why has this conflict been so stubborn and so intense?
Huge changes in the world have undermined the "cohering consensus" of American social and political life. These changes are multiple and go to the very fabric of society. At the economic foundation of society, there is the turbo-charged leap in the global coordination of capitalism-imperialism that arose in the early '90s. Taking place in the framework of capitalism, this more closely connected and productive world economy has actually heightened mass immiseration and inequality. Even among relatively better off people, not to mention those who have been able to scrape by, there is a sense of "losing ground," and great uncertainty.
There are the rapidly changing social relations, especially focused on the role of women, and the struggle over what those relations should and will be, both within the U.S. and globally. There is also the rapidly changing racial and national makeup of the U.S., taking place against a backdrop of the fundamental failure of the U.S. rulers to meet the demands for emancipation that erupted in the 1960s, and responding instead with a mixture of some concessions coupled with the "slow genocide" of mass incarceration and police repression. There is the way in which the much more intense and interconnected networks of exploitation have led to massive immigration into the U.S. In response, there has been a spontaneous wave of frustrated "white male entitlement" and a demand to "take back the country for the 'real [by which they mean white and native-born] Americans'"—all of which has been given systematic and organized support and expression from top levels of the ruling class. There has been a struggle over morality and the role of religion in the face of these massive changes. And there is more, including a potentially catastrophic environmental crisis and an extremely volatile international situation, riven by conflicts among imperialists and would-be imperialists, and with different kinds of struggles erupting among the masses.
Different sections of the American ruling class are struggling over how to reforge the necessary political consensus to defend their empire in the midst of this turmoil. (For more on how the different sides see doing this, see "The Shutdown, the Showdown, and the Urgent Need to Repolarize... for Revolution," Revolution #319.) These differences drove the shutdown. And these conflicts are so deep that, at this point, it is now very common for spokespeople for these different sections, as well as journalists, to compare this to the period before the U.S. Civil War.
In the wake of this, there's a lot of talk about how Obama got tough this time, and that he showed he's not going to take it anymore, and there's a lot of talk as well about how the Republicans are going to have to change their ways. Really?
First, for all the talk about being tough, the Democrats and "moderate Republicans" allowed these fanatics to take things very far indeed, up to the brink of what could have been a major economic collapse and geostrategic disaster for the U.S. One miscalculation and things could have gone to a whole deeper level.
As for the so-called "chastening" of the Republicans and the Tea Party core, just spend a few hours listening to FOX News (which, let us remember, continues to be the news network with the highest ratings): these people think they won a moral and political victory, and they intend to go after the ones on their side who "surrendered." In fact, to a very large degree these Tea Party lunatics set the terms of the debate, and they grew more influential and more organized through this. The question is not whether Obama is now "tough," but why did things go so far and why has this same overall pattern been repeated over and over for 20 years now? This goes again to the depth of what we have pointed to as the real causes, and the ways in which they touch on foundation stones of U.S. society.
Precisely because these conflicts are so deep, there is a likelihood of more such crises, and not necessarily very far into the future either. But because of the underlying agreement that the U.S. must stay number one, the Democrats will almost certainly continue to attempt to conciliate, and the resistance they do put up will take place within strict limits. As we explained in the article "The Shutdown, the Showdown, and the Urgent Need to Repolarize... for Revolution," this too is due to deeper dynamics:
For the Democratic politicians, it's a balancing act. On the one hand, they do not want to push the fascists at the core of the Republican Party into an even more open rebellion. The Democrats accept these lunatics as a necessary part of the spectrum. The Democrats respect the legitimacy of these nut-cases, while they fear their fanaticism and their followers (including their strength in the armed forces). Hence they strive to accommodate and placate them....
On the other hand, these Democrats continually smother and suppress those who look to them for leadership—which, again, is mostly the most oppressed in society and those with progressive sympathies and viewpoints. They may at times make noises of sympathy, or allow their operatives like Al Sharpton to go into the streets—in a purely symbolic way. But on the major questions in society, which are both integral to the system's functioning and which cause misery for millions of people, here and around the world—no.
This is for two reasons: First, they fear more than anything the prospect of the oppressed and those who sympathize with the oppressed getting "out of control," as they did in the 1960s, rising up in struggle and possibly becoming revolutionary in their orientation. Second, they do not have fundamental disagreements with the Republicans on the need to preserve the bedrock pillars of society, which right now do find expression in programs like mass incarceration and the curtailment of the fundamental rights of women, as well as the unending aggression the U.S. carries out worldwide (no matter who is president) and the severely repressive measures undertaken since 9/11. This is because for the Democrats, both the acceptance of the fascist Republicans and the suppression of their own political supporters is not a result of "spinelessness," but flows out of their single greatest priority—the preservation and expansion of empire... an empire which means utter misery and real horror for literally billions of people around the world today, right now, as you read this.
And then there is the conclusion of that section of the article, which continues to hold true:
Should things sharpen up even further, it would be deadly for the people to put their faith in an "anti-fascist" wing of the rulers. All that will do will be to perpetuate empire and produce foot-soldiers for one or another form of capitalist rule.
In any case, for all of the imperialists, fascism is a matter of taste, not principle; and as BA has pointed out, in terms of principle they will all unite with fascism rather than with the prospect of a proletarian revolution.
Still, many would have you believe that you must choose—indeed, that you can only choose—between what amounts to either the open lunatics, fanatical racists and women-haters, and free-market fundamentalists on the one side or the cold-blooded, rationally calculating, and "enlightened" defenders of capitalism-imperialism on the other.
Well, there IS a choice to be made; a real "either-or." But the Democrat-Republican one isn't it.
Let's get down to the most important fact about the world we live in. There are 7 billion people on earth, and the way that most of their needs are met is through collective, socialized labor. People across the globe work together, coordinated in branching webs and networks, using the knowledge gathered by the generations before them, to produce the vast majority of what we need to live. At the base of this is the proletariat, the class spread across the planet that actually carries out the production in the sweatshop factories, the mines, the giant industrial farms, etc. BUT, all this production is owned and controlled by a relative handful of people. Because of that, what gets produced, how it gets produced, and to whom the product of that labor goes is determined NOT by social need but by something far different: the ability of that handful to make a profit and to amass even more capital.
Further: to keep such a manifestly unjust way of life going, those who benefit from it and control it are driven to use massive violence to meet any serious challenge, and to strive to control the political terms of debate, the media, the educational system, and the culture. The result is a planet of slums side by side with cities of parasitic indulgence, a planet of sweatshops, a planet of oil spills, and starvation, a planet of sex trafficking, war, and genocide... a planet of deception, manipulation, distraction, degradation, demoralization, and disorientation in which "the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."
This world is a world based on capitalist, or bourgeois, production relations. That kind of system of production has three rules: 1) that production is privately owned and controlled; 2) production is—must be—for profit; and 3) production and exchange proceed through competition between individual blocs of capital, none of whom can know the whole picture or take into account social need. These individual capitalists, whether large or small, all must proceed from one commandment: the accumulation of ever more capital, in order to even stay in the game.
Dreams of "democratizing the economy"—which reflect the position of smaller-scale capitalists who want to make the system work "more equitably" (at least for them!)—are just that: dreams. While there is more to get into on why that is so, in brief both the history of every capitalist country thus far, as well as any kind of scientific approach to the laws inherent in these relations as laid out above, prove that capitalism of any kind, even were it to somehow start out with a "level playing field," MUST give rise to monopoly, inequality, and oppression based on that inequality.1
The political system that enforces these social and production relations is, and can only be, a dictatorship of the dominant class. It is in the fundamental interests of the capitalist-imperialist class—it is in the service of the defense and extension of capitalist production relations—that the state's monopoly on the use of force and coercion is exercised—from the wars and acts of war, to the prisons, courts and police. As the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) puts it, "Any democracy which is practiced in this situation is democracy on the terms of, and fundamentally serving the interests of, the ruling class and its exercise of dictatorship."
Again, that is the world that both Republicans and Democrats are fighting to maintain—fighting against each other, at times, but most of all fighting against those on the bottom worldwide and their would-be rivals, the other "great powers."
Bob Avakian has raised a very profound question in this light:
[W]hy is the morality that's constantly pumped at people, and promoted in a thousand different ways in this society—why is that what it is, and not a different morality? Why aren't values of cooperation and acting for the larger good promoted—except in a perverse form, for example, in the bourgeois-imperialist military, which in fact is structured and run on a very hierarchical basis, as an instrument enforcing the most brutal exploitation and oppression? Why isn't the idea of a cooperative association of human beings, freed from the kinds of competition and conflict that are characteristic of this society, asserted as the highest value? Why is it constantly said that society cannot operate any other way, except through the market and market relations, through commodity production and exchange? Why—other than the fact that this corresponds to the way the system we live under actually operates and has to operate? (Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon, "Part 1: Revolution and the State")
In that work, he goes on to show in depth that there is a choice. It is either the world dominated by capitalist relations, the politics and morality that corresponds to and reinforces those relations... or it requires a whole different world, one where the means to satisfy people's needs are not only collectively produced, but owned, determined, and deployed collectively as well, for the good of all humanity. It requires a world where the ways that interests are defined and decisions are made, the ways that people are taught to think and to relate to each other, are in line with that—and not the dog-eat-dog me-against-the-world mentality and morality of capitalism. These relations correspond to the fundamental class position and interests of the proletariat, which carries out this global production in a collective way.
We can bring such a world into being. BUT NOT WITHOUT MAKING REVOLUTION—not without, that is, defeating and dismantling the oppressive state power, the reactionary concentrations of violence and coercion, that enforces and reinforces the rotten and reactionary relations and ideas. This revolution would replace the state that rules over people today with organs of revolutionary political power, and other political institutions and governmental structures. In contrast to the bourgeois state, this power would be instituted to mobilize the masses to eliminate exploitation and oppression, and all the relations, institutions, and ideas which reinforce that. In other words, we are talking about a revolution to replace the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie with one representing the fundamental interests of the proletariat. Such a state would be qualitatively different in the way it enforced those interests than the one we have today, doing so in a way consistent with the values of the world it was striving to bring into being; and it would involve forms of democracy of a qualitatively different purpose, character and dimension.
This revolution can only be made when the conditions emerge to do it, which in a country like this requires a deep crisis in society and government, millions of people drawn to the revolutionary banner and ready to fight and sacrifice for it, and a force and program capable of leading that revolution.2
The first steps to this world have been taken in the past, in the first wave of socialist revolutions of the 20th Century, and you can find out the real truth about these much maligned revolutions not only on this website (see the Everything You've Been Told About Socialism and Communism Is a Lie—We Are Setting the Record Straight page), but in an upcoming special issue of Revolution which will be devoted to this history. Up against tremendous odds, these heroic revolutions—first in Russia in 1917, and then in China in 1949—had been defeated by 1976. Today socialist countries exist in name only. But the example of these revolutions, and the overwhelmingly positive lessons, lives on, and we can and must draw from that.
At the same time, because of Bob Avakian and the work he's done, there is today both a strategy to actually make such a revolution in a country like this, and there is the basis to go further and do better this time. There is a Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) embodying the goals and methods of this revolution, building on but going beyond what was accomplished in the past. Right now, in the wake of this shutdown battle, is a very important time to get into this document AND to get it out very broadly.
And, there is a strategy to do this—yes, up against the most powerful empire on the planet. The RCP, USA has published "On the Strategy for Revolution," which shows how to fight for this whole different world, how to prepare for and hasten the development of the kind of situation where it is possible to make revolution, how to even make use of crises like the one we just witnessed as part of that. This is discussed as well in the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, including very specifically how to view and understand the significance of such conflicts for making revolution.
Today, as we said in our original article on the shutdown, the main way that this strategy finds expression is actually getting word of this revolutionary alternative out there—and right now, mainly doing that in the form of the campaign to get BA Everywhere. That campaign aims to raise the money to get what BA stands for and what he's done broadly known in society, as part of letting people know about THIS revolution, and as we do so to build community and to strengthen the movement for revolution and foster a new ferment and vibrancy in society at large. There is also the importance of following and spreading and, yes, contributing to this website, making it into a go-to place for the truth about the world and the news, and lessons, about the movement for revolution. And there is as well the crucial need to support and participate in the extremely important struggles to end mass incarceration, to end pornography and patriarchy, and to defend the environment. All this must be knit together into a powerful movement FOR revolution, greater than the sum of its parts and making its presence felt even today throughout society.
This IS the work of actually making possible a different future. Anything less—anything else—is just a vain and worthless attempt to cast the actors in our nightmares, one which will, as we said in our last article, "perpetuate empire and produce foot-soldiers for one or another form of capitalist rule."
1. For more on this, see Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon, "Part 1: Revolution and the State," by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, November 28, 2010. [back]
2. See Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP Publications, 2008), pp. 3-5. [back]
Revolution #320 October 20, 2013
by Sunsara Taylor | October 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A special feature of Revolution to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.
From November 2–6, the Jackson Women's Health Organization (JWHO), the last abortion clinic left in Mississippi, will be besieged by one of the most woman-hating, Dark Ages, bigoted Christian fascist organizations in the country. Operation Save America/Operation Rescue, has been associated with clinic violence and terror over decades. Local activists have called for a week of action defending this clinic and StopPatriarchy.org is mobilizing people nation-wide to join with and link this up to the fight to win abortion on demand and without apology across the country. Find out more about this effort at StopPatriarchy.org or revcom.us/movement-for-revolution/stop-patriarchy.
In an effort to bring attention to the emergency that confronts the women of Mississippi, Sunsara Taylor conducted the following interview with Dr. Willie Parker, one of the two heroic abortion doctors who regularly flies to Mississippi to provide abortions. Earlier this year, Dr. Parker received the George Tiller, MD Award (named after the well-loved abortion doctor who was assassinated in 2009) for his leadership and courage and was presented with an Abortion Providers Are Heroes certificate of appreciation by the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride at the Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation, in Oak Park, IL.