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Revolution #321 November 3, 2013
by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA| Oct. 28, 2013| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This essay appears in the book BAsics, from the talks and writing of Bob Avakian.
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a talk given by Bob Avakian to a group of Party members and supporters in 2005.
Now, when you come up against the great gulf that often, and even generally, exists between the conditions and the suffering of the masses of people, on the one hand, and what you are able to do about that at any given point—when you run up against that repeatedly, everyone feels a definite pull which expresses itself in moral terms: how can you stand by and not do something about what’s happening to the masses of people? As I have said a number of times, I have enormous respect for people who do things like volunteer for Doctors Without Borders. But the fact is that while they’re doing what they’re doing, and even with the good they do, this is being engulfed and overwhelmed by a tsunami of suffering (metaphorically speaking and sometimes literally) that’s brought forth by larger objective forces.
When I was younger, I considered being a doctor or a lawyer, not to make money and get on the golf course, but because I knew there were many people who needed good medical care and people who were victimized by the so‑called legal system who could use an advocate who really would be an advocate and a fighter for them. But at a certain point I came to understand that, while I would be helping a few people, and even if I threw myself into it, much greater numbers of people would find themselves in the position of needing these services—far beyond what I, and others, could do to help them—and it would just be perpetuated forever, and the conditions would get worse. And once you understand this, you can’t look yourself in the mirror and do anything less than what you understand, if you’re going to be consistent and follow through on your own principles.
So, yes, there’s a moral dimension here. How can you sit by and watch people die of diseases that are preventable, not just in the Third World, but right down the street from you? How can you “sit by”? How can you not immediately try to do something about that? But moralities are a reflection of class outlooks, ultimately. They are a reflection of your understanding of reality, which takes a class expression in class society, in an ultimate and fundamental sense. And there is a morality that corresponds not to reformism and seeking merely to mitigate the conditions and the suffering of masses of people—not merely to addressing some, and only some, of the symptoms of that suffering—but to uprooting and abolishing the causes of that suffering. This morality corresponds to a revolutionary understanding, that we cannot eliminate the suffering of the masses, and in fact it’s only going to get worse, as long as this capitalist‑imperialist system remains.
This doesn’t mean that it is unimportant to address particular abuses, or that mass resistance to particular forms of oppression is not important. Far from it. The basic point that Marx emphasized is profoundly true: If the masses don’t fight back and resist their oppression, even short of revolution, they will be crushed and reduced to a broken mass and will be incapable of rising up for any higher thing. But, as a fundamental point of orientation, we have to grasp firmly the truth that, despite the best and most heroic and self‑sacrificing efforts, it is not possible, within the framework of this system, even to really alleviate, let alone eliminate, the suffering and the causes of the suffering of the masses of people. And our morality has to flow from that.
Let me give you an analogy. Let’s say you went back several centuries, somewhat like Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Let’s say in this case you went back to the time of the plagues in Europe that wiped out huge swaths of the population. And the most people knew to do then was to try to quarantine and stay away from people infected with the plague. Then, looking at all these people dying of the plague, if you were a good‑hearted person perhaps you would take wet towels and put them on the foreheads of the people who were dying, or take some other steps to try to minimize their suffering to some degree. And maybe you would do what you could to keep the disease from spreading. But let’s say that, as a person from the present time, you know that the plague could actually be cured, fairly easily, with antibiotics, if they were administered in time. And, further extending and elaborating the analogy, let’s imagine that somehow there were antibiotics back in that time—of course, in reality antibiotics did not exist and the scientific understanding had not been developed to produce antibiotics until more recent times, but let’s say that somehow these antibiotics also existed back then: let’s put into our scenario some other people who had also gone back in time from the present age and had taken with them a big stash of antibiotics, which could prevent the millions of deaths that were caused by the plague several centuries ago. But these other time‑travelers were monopolizing the ownership of these antibiotics and had organized and paid an armed force of thugs to guard this stash of antibiotics, and were refusing to distribute any of these antibiotics unless they could profit from it, by charging a price that most of the people could not afford.
Now, knowing this, which way would people be better served: by continuing to put towels on the foreheads of the fevered people, or by organizing people to storm the compound where the antibiotics were being hoarded, seize the antibiotics and distribute them among the people?
This is, by analogy, the essential difference between reform and revolution. And our morality flows from our understanding of this. Yes, it’s very hard to see masses of people suffer and not be able to put a stop to this suffering, right at the time; and, yes, we should organize the masses to fight back against their oppression and the ways in which this system causes them to suffer; but if we really understand where “the antibiotics” are and who’s hoarding and monopolizing them and turning them into machinery for profit, into capital, and what it is that’s preventing the masses of people from getting to those antibiotics, then our responsibility is to lead the masses to rise up and seize those things and distribute them among themselves.
Now, let me emphasize again: I can and do admire the morality of people who want to alleviate suffering (and who may not see beyond that). We should in no way denigrate or put down these people—people who do things like put water in the desert for immigrants crossing from Mexico—we should admire them and we should unite with them. But that cannot provide the fundamental solution to that particular problem, of the suffering of these immigrants and what drives them to leave their homelands in the first place, nor can it eliminate all the other ways in which masses of people, throughout the world, are oppressed and caused to suffer. Or, again, while I admire the people who volunteer with things like Doctors Without Borders, if they were to say, “this is the most anybody can do, there’s nothing more you can do,” we would have to engage in principled but very sharp struggle with them, even while uniting with them and admiring their spirit, because it is objectively not true that this is all that can, or should, be done—and it is harmful to the masses of people to say that this is all that can be done.
In fundamental and strategic terms, it is necessary to choose where the weight and the essence of your efforts is going to go: into fighting the effects and the symptoms, or getting to the cause and uprooting and getting rid of that cause? And that’s why you become a revolutionary—when you realize that you have to seek the full solution to this, or else the suffering is going to continue, and get worse. That’s one of the main things that impels people toward revolution, even before they understand, scientifically, all the complexity of what revolution means and what it requires. And, as you become a communist and you increasingly look at the whole world, and not just the part of the world that you are immediately situated in, you see that the whole world has to change, that all oppression and exploitation has to be uprooted, everywhere, so that it can no longer exist anywhere.
So we have to be on a mission to liberate those antibiotics, and not get diverted into thinking that the most and the highest good we can do is trying to lessen the misery, to mitigate the symptoms, rather than getting to the cause and bringing about a real and lasting cure. The question of reform vs. revolution is not some petty notion of “our thing” vs. somebody else’s “thing”—it is a matter of what is really required to eliminate the horrendous suffering to which the great majority of humanity is subjected, day after day, and what kind of world is possible.
Nor are we revolutionaries because it’s a “fashionable” thing to do—right now, in fact, it’s not very fashionable at all. Back in the ‘60s, among certain sections of the people, Black people and others, being a revolutionary was a “legitimate avocation”: What do you do? I’m a doctor. What do you do? I’m a basketball player. What do you do? I’m a revolutionary. Legitimate avocation. I was talking to another veteran comrade about this, and they pointed out that, in a certain sense, it was easier in those days to be a revolutionary because you had a lot of “social approbation”—there was a lot of approval coming from significant sections of society for being a revolutionary. Right now you don’t get that much “social approbation” for being a revolutionary, and in particular a revolutionary communist. [laughter] “What the fuck, you crazy?!” [laughter] That’s a lot of what you get, as you know. Or you get more theoretically developed arguments about why it’s hopeless or a bad idea, or a disaster, or a nightmare. Well, we aren’t doing this because we’re seeking social approbation. It’s good in one sense if you have that—in the sense that it reflects favorable elements in society, in terms of how people are viewing the question of radical change—but we’re not doing what we’re doing in order to get “social approbation,” and we’re not relying on such “social approbation” for what we’re doing. If there isn’t “social approbation,” we have to create it—not so people will “approve” of what we’re doing, in some more narrow or personal sense, but because we need to transform people’s understanding of reality and therefore the way they act in terms of transforming reality.
So this is a fundamental question of orientation, but that orientation is not just: revolution, it’s more righteous. “Reform, that sounds kind of paltry; revolutionary, that’s more righteous.” [laughter] No, that’s not the heart of the matter. It’s very righteous to be in Doctors Without Borders. But the essential thing is that revolution corresponds to reality, it corresponds to what’s needed to resolve the contradictions that have been spoken to repeatedly in this talk—the fundamental contradiction of capitalism and other contradictions bound up with that, and all the effects of this in the world—to resolve these contradictions in the interests of the masses of people. That’s why we’re revolutionaries—and a certain kind of revolutionaries—communist revolutionaries. Because that’s the only kind of revolution that can do what needs to be done, what cries out to be done. So what we do has to proceed from that, in terms of our fundamental orientation.
Revolution #321 November 3, 2013
November and December
October 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Announcing: two months of major fundraising for BA Everywhere... Imagine the Difference It Could Make—aiming now through the end of the year to begin to raise funds on a level that can begin to get BA Everywhere—for real.
Making Bob Avakian and his work known in every corner of society requires going to work to raise major funds from every section of people—and especially right now making a breakthrough in raising serious funds from among those with serious resources who are concerned about the world. Half of donations to causes are made in November and December, and people with means are considering at this moment how their resources can make a difference.
"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 BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! "How long?" How long will this nightmare continue for humanity?....
"[T]he 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....
"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." (From a recent letter to Revolution, "Will People Go for Something That Will Disrupt Their Whole Lives?," online at revcom.us)
Think about the significance of these recent news items: Pierre Omidyar, the founder and chairman of eBay, is funding an enterprise to support the kind of journalism that released the proof of American war crimes and massive repression revealed by Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning). Peter Buffett, the son of super-wealthy Warren Buffett, wrote in the New York Times about how the "philanthropy-industrial complex" is worsening the huge income disparity in the world. The British comedian and actor Russell Brand has guest-edited a "revolution"-themed issue of the New Statesman with his own editorial calling on people to reject voting and the system ways of thinking—causing an uproar and now being read by millions around the world.
There are people with substantial financial capacity and/or media reach who are seriously upset with the way the world is, trying to understand why it is this way, and looking for a way out. Yet, without BA's leadership and new synthesis of communism being known, discussed, and debated widely, there is no contending viable vision and plan up against the killing program and oppressive reality of life for most people in the world. Money and heart is poured into NGO band-aids and the ruling Democratic Party, legitimizing war crimes, torture, mass incarceration, and repression in the name of holding off the genocidal forces of the right.
We need revolution, nothing less, to get out of this nightmare for humanity and bring in a society in which people could flourish and social resources would be put to reversing the planetary ecological disaster. Right now, in these two months, beginning to raise really big funds for the mission of making BA a household word requires building on the base of support and the people that BA Everywhere has brought forward—and really busting out of a mode of focusing on first popularizing and engaging with BA's work and putting fundraising off for later... and for smaller projects. Going to people right from the beginning with the great need for big funds conveys the seriousness and the stakes of this campaign.
The next two months should see major, mass fundraising among every layer of people. Cores of people in the ghettos and barrios donating $5 or $10 to BA Everywhere every month, bringing forward bedrock support among those who catch hell every day are essential to a serious movement for revolution. And we should be reaching out to many more professionals and those in the middle class with resources who can make a real difference and who often have wide opinion-creating impact. The voices of these donors should speak to each other and challenge those with more resources through the pages of Revolution newspaper and on revcom.us.
The key and dynamic factor right now, in being serious about BA really becoming a household name, is going to those who can contribute on a very serious level and telling them straight-up what difference their contributions will make. And this is not just for a few people to work on! Whether you are a first-time or a longtime reader of Revolution newspaper/revcom.us, in prison or school, or in a Revolution Books store, or at a shit job—you are needed to be part of tackling how to raise the serious funds to have huge impact with BA Everywhere, in this "giving" season, at this moment.
Here are some ideas for how to go at this. The holiday season is upon us now.
**This week, begin making appointments with people you know who have supported important causes in the past or observed the movement for revolution from a distance for a while—especially those who have funds and perhaps you haven't been back to in a while.
**At the same time as we start—now—going out to the people we already know, start reaching out much more widely to break new ground with people we don't yet know. This week, find at least one event where wealthy people who care about the world will be, and take a BA Everywhere team there to meet people who can donate substantially. And this week, start learning—quickly—about the wealthy individuals who are speaking out and concerned about events.
Who are these people? This might include academics, authors, and artists, but go beyond those circles. Art and performances, lectures, conferences, history and science exhibits that address world-shaking problems are often funded by wealthy people who are not artists or political activists. This is generally public information and you can often easily reach out to these people.
**Find the events, conferences, benefits, performances, seminars where wealthy people who are concerned about the world will be. Develop creative ways for BA Everywhere to be at these events and scenes, to be a point of attraction and controversy, with certitude (and yes, sometimes humor!) about BA's work and vision and what it means for bringing about a whole different world. Raise money to pay the ticket price so you can be talking to and meeting people inside the event. Let's break way out of having some good broad impact to the point where people feel when they find out about BA that they have met the revolution; that they are compelled to learn more about it; and that they should consider supporting the effort for BA's work to be known widely.
Break down your goals: How many potential $10,000 donations are within reach, and from whom? How many $5,000 donations, how many $1,000 donations? How many $100 donations? Then, regularly evaluate what is being accomplished, what questions you are encountering, how you might be getting stuck, what ways you are coming up with to break through. Write to revcom.us to share and exchange experience.
If you can, team up experienced people and new people to break this new ground. If you don't have a lot of resources yourself but want to help raise the funds to get BA really EVERYWHERE, be part of teams working to break through to raise very significant funds in these next two months. For many people, this might mean going among sections of people where you have been told you don't "belong." Actually, as BA says, the people who have been most cast off by this system don't know the profound effect they have on other sections of people when they stand up to find another way. Mixing up different kinds of people to reach out among those with means can bring alive how knowing and engaging with BA starts to change the ways people think and relate together.
To tell people why it's important to meet about BA Everywhere and why their donations will matter, use the basic materials of The Bob Avakian Institute (TBAI), which describe the objectives of spreading BA's work. The Mission Statement of the Bob Avakian Institute is "to preserve, project, and promote the works and vision of Bob Avakian with the aim of reaching the broadest possible audience," and among its undertakings are to: "educate the public about the path-breaking and provocative philosophical and political synthesis that Bob Avakian has developed over the past few decades; ... develop advertising campaigns and strategies, and produce a wide variety of promotional materials; develop and carry out multiple forms of broad public outreach in all sectors of society..." and much more. (See thebobavakianinstitute.org for the TBAI's mission statement and a short introduction to the work and vision of Bob Avakian.)
Along with the BA Institute cards, the 20-minute audio interview by Cornel West of Bob Avakian that aired on NPR in Fall 2012 (available online at revcom.us) is a lively engagement over the biggest questions many people have: religion, the possibility of a leap to a fascist form of government and what to do about that, and what it means to have revolutionary love for the people.
And that's not all. Very soon, the film STEPPING INTO THE FUTURE: On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World will come out in pre-release, with major showings to be organized in early December in Los Angeles and New York City. Stepping Into the Future is the documentary of the celebration on April 11, 2011, of the publication of the book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian at Harlem Stage in New York City. Musicians, dancers, poets, actors, visual artists, came together with revolutionaries and activists from the 1960s and an audience of hundreds from diverse backgrounds, ages and political viewpoints—all lifted off their feet and touched to their core. And all of it woven together with deep revolutionary insight from archival film of Bob Avakian, readings from BAsics, and voices of those on the front lines for decades.
Through performance footage and narration by the organizers, presenters, and artists, the film gives a glimpse of the kind of culture, the kind of revolution, and the kind of world BA's vision can inspire and lead. Stepping Into the Future should have special reach and impact among artists; and it should be one important factor generating major donations for BA Everywhere. Seeing it, people should be compelled to get into BA and his work: especially the book BAsics and the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live, both of which are now in their second releases. The film Stepping Into the Future will be part of a holiday sale promotion together with these foundational materials to spread and contribute to funding BA Everywhere.
Revolution Books and/or BA Everywhere Committees will sponsor dinners or other gatherings in early November to show Stepping Into the Future, to plan for its major opening events and for the major fundraising for BA Everywhere laid out here. (For more information, see "Stepping Into the Future: New Documentary Film and Big Plans for BA Everywhere" in Revolution #320, October 20, 2013.)
Again: start now to be out among those with resources, and start now to make appointments to sit down with people—schedules for the next several weeks will be filling up fast. With BA Everywhere we are giving people from all walks of life the chance to make the biggest difference that could be. This is about changing the face of everything. There is nothing more ambitious and nothing more vital—if you want a world that is fit for humanity and all the other species that live on it—than making BA and his work REAL and PRESENT in the world, now, today. Let's get to it.
Revolution #321 November 3, 2013
October 21, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On the evening of Thursday, October 17, more than 100 people attended a screening of the first hour of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live, at UCLA's DeNeve Auditorium. It was the first of a three-part series spreading over the next two academic quarters, sponsored by UCLA's Office of Residential Life, the Academic Advancement Program (AAP), and Revolution Books.
The audience was multinational and made up mainly of students from UCLA and surrounding schools, including a couple dozen from a campus over an hour away.
Juan Gomez-Quiñones, UCLA history professor, author, and activist, provided a warm welcome. He spoke to the importance of this film in enabling students to consider the possibility of a better world. He said that just that morning one of his students had asked him "what is social revolution?" and he expressed deep concern that these questions were not enough in the discourse. He said that the university has a responsibility to stimulate critical thinking, including introducing them to the rigorous analysis and vision provided by Bob Avakian in this talk.
Everyone in the room seemed at rapt attention as the first hour of the film unfolded, with powerful, often gut-wrenching exposure of the ugly, brutal, and massive crimes of this system, and what it means to the tens and hundreds of millions and ultimately billions of people who are forced to live with this as a result of the system of capitalism-imperialism. But there also were moments of laughter as Avakian sharply challenged prevailing norms that the audience recognized as problems in their own thinking or in society.
Following the screening, most of the audience stayed for a lively and wide-ranging Q&A with a panel consisting of a writer from Revolution newspaper and Dennis Loo, a professor of sociology at Cal Poly Pomona. The discussion went well past the scheduled hour and spilled into the hallway afterward.
For many, this was the very beginning of a journey totally new to them, an extremely different and challenging view of and approach to knowing and changing the world. Some found it "interesting," admitting that they knew practically nothing of what they heard in this hour, and had not even thought about things this way, or at all. Others felt that we didn't need revolution, or that it wouldn't accomplish anything good, and they remained convinced that these problems could be worked out through this system. Still others felt revolution was necessary and were seriously asking how they could meaningfully contribute to this movement for revolution.
Most people were struck, if not shaken alive, by what they heard, and felt that others should learn about, or be made to confront, the reality of life for the masses of people today. A number of people said they wanted to show it to others, to relatives or friends. Some students expressed wanting to get together with others they knew at this showing on a regular basis, to watch the rest of the film. In the lobby afterward, there was a lot of discussion about how people could contribute to BA Everywhere, the massive fundraising campaign to get BA's vision and works into every corner of society, how to hook up with the Revolution Club, and how they could take up the fight around O22.
Overall, students and others had thoughtful and agonizing questions and comments about what they had just encountered. The questions were mainly coming from the perspective of how to change the world, and how people should see themselves in this process.
A young woman asked about doing away with multinational corporations and how that would affect people around the world who've come to rely on them; another asked about whether you could just do away with corporations one by one; there was a question about how BA sees the relationship between the development of white supremacy and capitalism. A young man asked about the protest on October 22 (which had been spoken to during the Q&A): Was this kind of resistance and call for reforming the police in contradiction to revolution, and could those who are suffering most under this system, and have the least time and space, be able to meaningfully participate? A young Black student said he believed "knowledge is power" but asked why there is such a quiet atmosphere on college campuses today and how to change it. Another young woman asked a question she seemed to be agonizing quite deeply about: She said that the last time she felt so inspired and empowered coming off an event like this, she was incredibly disheartened when she went back out and no one else seemed to care about what was happening in the world. She asked what to make of this and what to do about it.
From the panel there was a lot of unity with the audience but also struggle to look not just at the excesses or pieces of capitalism but at what the real source of the problem is: the whole system of capitalism-imperialism; to understand what revolution really means and how this is a revolution that is being built for now; to widen their horizons to look at the whole different system that is possible; and to get much more deeply into BA's work—getting the rest of the film, hooking up with the movement for revolution, contributing to BA Everywhere. And there was special emphasis put on being a part of fighting the power on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
There was also struggle on a more epistemological and ideological level—people have to fight for what they understand to be true, to go up against all the philosophical and moral relativism in our society and which (along with the pervasive lies and distortions about communism) is especially impacting college campuses. On that basis, they have to take responsibility for what kind of world they're going to fight for, and what their lives are going to be about.
Speaking to a Revolution reporter afterwards, one of the campus organizers spoke to the significance of this screening taking place at an elite campus like UCLA: We're really excited to be able to offer it here, on a campus. As the moderator said, this is the kind of activity that should be occurring on campuses. You're bringing new ideas, you're educating people; this is a place that should be a hotbed for struggle; college campuses have historically been that, so it's exciting to be able to bring it here and to get our students to think critically, and learn, and talk about ideas, and try to figure out for themselves how they want to struggle for social change, and revolution. So it's exciting.
In the weeks before the screening, people with Revolution Books and with the Revolution Club spent time on campus—learning from the students and working with professors and staff people to have an impact on campus. People heard about the film through the sponsoring UCLA departments; their professors; revolutionaries announcing it in classrooms; seeing fliers around campus or on electronic billboards in sponsoring departments; via a trailer worked on by a UCLA videographer shown on the closed-circuit TV channel accessible in the dorms; mass emails through several campus departments; and through four ads in the UCLA campus paper, The Daily Bruin, including one in color on the day of the event, designed by a student volunteer.One student came off of seeing a "tent card" on her dining hall table earlier that day. About a third of the audience came from other parts of LA or surrounding cities who had heard about the film from Revolution distributors or Revolution Books, which co-sponsored the event.
All kinds of people took initiative to provide ideas and resources, develop materials, and spread the word of this screening. Tens of thousands of people saw something about this film on and around the UCLA campus—and there is a great deal to build on in the coming weeks... for many more people to experience BA and the scientific summoning to revolution that is concentrated in this film... and to break open wider debate and discussion.
Comments from the audience after the screening:
A student who learned of it when organizers spoke in their class on the environment:
I expected something different, more like a film than a lecture about society, what he thinks of society, but I do agree with what he says; and I think he has very interesting viewpoints that I would consider. In general I agree... the things I didn't agree with stem from the view of, we do acknowledge some of the problems, but we have different solutions. I'm only 18, so I'm not that knowledgeable about it; but I'm generally skeptical of complete change. I feel like I take a more pragmatic viewpoint, that one should do the best that he or she can. People like me, we just want to lead our lives, but it's good to acknowledge these problems in society and do the best we can with the governments we have, basically.
A Chicano student expressing appreciation for Professor Gomez-Quiñones participation:
I thought it was great to see a professor so involved in this. You know, more professors should be doing this. I wish they would play this in my history class. Especially my Chicano classes, because this is something we can identify with, as Latinos and African-Americans. And it's something that needs to be put out there. You shouldn't have people out there tabling fliers, 'cause I know how difficult it is. It's got to happen more in an academic setting, where profs say "you know what, sit down and watch this, and let's discuss it." Once that happens, I'm pretty sure everybody on campus will start getting more involved and invested...
I'm a fourth-year student, and I heard about this at an Academic Advancement Program. When this was presented, it really intrigued me. I'm trying to get into social documentary work, so to hear all the issues... what was surprising was the things he was describing wasn't that new to me... being a Chicano from that community, it's something that's kind of pushed off here, because they're more about empowering the student without getting into the background from where he comes.... A lot of people fear being radical... but it's something I don't fear.... I don't want to see this happen to my kids, in my community. I'd definitely be for revolution... if it comes to revolution, so be it.
Someone familiar with BA and the campaign to raise big funds to get BA Everywhere:
... Just to make him more accessible, where people don't have to dig so fucking far to find someone who is so incredible, so groundbreaking. Even the intellectuals, they have to dig to find it; and it shouldn't be that way, because this is a big-ass breakthrough. He's been here 30, 40 years synthesizing, and synthesizing, and synthesizing; he's the most prominent revolutionary thinker right now. And it shouldn't be that hard to fucking find out about him. Because he is the real deal, as Cornel West said. And it's a basic necessity that we need to raise big funds to get him out there into the mainstream.
A young woman student:
... He was able fluently to go from one subject to another, and also draw on history, and then bring it back to the present.... He was able to... make all of the issues and all of these atrocities flow together while also bringing [in] the past and pulling it into the future; so I was very impressed.
Another important point BA made was the connection between our current culture of pornography and the way he compared that to the lynch mobs and the lynch picnics, and also postcards that were sent out, from the lynchings, all the way up to 1960s and '70s, and I think the last lynching was in '75. I like how he compared that to the violent nature of pornography; of how it's used to titillate men's desires and give them entertainment while it's really violent. It was refreshing to hear him say it, because not many people will come out and do that, especially white men.
Revolution #321 November 3, 2013
November 2-6, Jackson, Mississippi
October 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We received this announcement from StopPatriarchy.org:
STOP PATRIARCHY CALLS ON YOU TO JOIN IN DEFENDING ABORTION RIGHTS AND THE LAST ABORTION CLINIC IN MISSISSIPPI
The anti-abortion fanatics of "Operation Save America/Operation Rescue" (OSA/OR) are planning an extended protest against Jackson Women's Health Organization, the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, from November 2-6. They aim to make Mississippi a so-called "State of Refuge" where women will have no access to abortion and are forced to have children against their will. Meanwhile, this clinic is only open due to a judge’s order postponing the implementation of a law that would close it down. THIS IS A STATE OF EMERGENCY! This must be opposed! Come to Jackson November 2-6 to support the clinic and to demand Abortion on Demand & Without Apology!
This siege on the last clinic in Mississippi is part of a national assault on women’s abortion rights. It is an attack on women in Mississippi and women everywhere. Everyone has a responsibility to oppose this and we must rely on ourselves. From around the country and on the ground in Jackson, we must resist! Forced motherhood is female enslavement.
We are pleased that WakeUpMississippi.org, who we worked with this past summer in Jackson during the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, is organizing for people to come and stand with Jackson Women’s Health Organization, to say, “THIS CLINIC IS A REFUGE.”
Stop Patriarchy is making plans now to be in Jackson, November 2-6. Join us on the ground or through your message of support, financial contribution, or satellite protest/actions. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Revolution #321 November 3, 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.
Revolution #321 November 3, 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 #321 November 3, 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 #321 November 3, 2013
Updated November 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Actions for October 22, 2013, the 18th National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation, were called for in more than 50 cities, across the United States and in two cities in Canada. Revolution received the following initial reports of protests on October 22. Check back for additional reports that will be posted as we receive them.
O22 was marked by car caravans, a rally of over 120 people and a spirited march through the Fruitvale District, ending with a speech at the Fruitvale BART station by Oscar Grant's uncle, Cephus Johnson. Following the speech, there was a film showing of disc 1 from BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less in Fruitvale Plaza.
After a short rally in East Oakland a car caravan took residents from this hood to the rally in the Fruitvale District, going through neighborhoods where police had killed Alan Blueford and Brownie Polk and many others, and where countless numbers of youth are being criminalized and brutalized every day.
At Fruitvale Plaza 120 people had gathered for a rally, over half young and of all nationalities. There were 15-20 college students from Diablo Valley College, Laney and Merritt College and UC Berkeley, as well as youth from different high schools in Oakland and San Francisco, folks from Occupy Oakland, Food Not Bombs, church groups, several immigrant rights groups, family of victims of police murder and abuse, anarchists, and people from the Revolution Club of the Bay Area as well as members of Stop Mass Incarceration Network who had announced the demonstration in a widely distributed leaflet. The rally was also announced on KPFA radio by Davey D as well as social media including #Occupyoakland.
Speakers at the rally included Mara Randall, a teacher who was beaten and arrested during the Oakland Occupy and featured in a documentary of this brutal assault. A sizeable contingent came from Merritt College, and four members of their Black Students Union took the stage as their president spoke of Black people's very “existence” being threatened—"the cops are killing us." Other Merritt students included members of the MLK Jr. Freedom Center. A young woman from a group protesting Urban Shield spoke about the increasing militarization of the police.
Glide Church members came with their banner from San Francisco, and Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto took the stage. In July, she had given a sermon from her pulpit inside a mock SHU isolation unit in support of the recent California prisoners' hunger strike against the conditions of solitary confinement. She was passionate as she spoke about the need to act now against the criminalization of the youth, especially because of Trayvon Martin. A Stop Mass Incarceration Network speaker also spoke to this as well as linking it up with the fight to stop torture of massive numbers of people who are locked up.
Other speakers included a woman from Mujeres Unidas y Activas who spoke of the link between mass deportation of immigrants and the role of the police—one of their slogans used in the rally and march translates as “police and La Migra, the same filth.” Some of their members had recently been involved in civil disobedience, blocking a deportation bus in the Bay Area. Importantly, she also spoke of the attacks on immigrant women who are afraid to go to authorities for fear of being deported when they are beaten! And the desperate feeling of children when they come home to learn that their parents were detained to be deported.
Revolution writer Larry Everest read the O22 statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party, and the crowd which had grown to 150 drew nearer to the stage and listened intently as he talked about strategy for and the possibility of revolution, including the significance of both police murders of youth and the recent government shutdown. Drawing from the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, Everest urged people who wanted a solution to "Get With BA ... and GET THIS FILM!"
2013 Youth Poet Laureate of Oakland, Obasi D. Davis, ended the rally with a fiery poem, "Hunting Day"—one of the lines says "Oscar Grant is dead, but I'm still alive!"... and this became the call to begin the march.
About 60-70 people in the crowd took off up Fruitvale Avenue with a lot of fanfare. A couple of people from the East Oakland hood took the bullhorn up with passion, assisting the agitators with chanting, "We are all Trayvon Martin, hoodies up/hoodies up"; "If you don't like Stop and Frisk, let me see you raise your fist"; "OPD what do you say, how many kids did you kill today?"; "NO MORE ... mass incarceration....criminalization"; "Being Black is not a crime, but the pigs still fuck with you all the time"; and several others.
As the march began a loop, neighbors stepped out of their porches to watch, applaud, honk horns, and buy copies of Revolution (altogether 120 copies were distributed, as well as dozens of "Three Strikes" posters, large copies of Basics 1:24 on the role of the police; flyers promoting a November 15 Berkeley film showing of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!. There was a notable increase in police presence at this point as well with a copter in the air and 13 cop cars in a nearby parking lot.
As the march returned to the plaza, a crowd of local residents raised their fists in solidarity. The march continued to the train station itself where Uncle Bobby, Cephus Johnson, spoke beneath the platform where his nephew Oscar Grant was killed by the police in 2009. Uncle Bobby spoke of the importance of acting on the spot when people see police abuse and not just letting it go. He mentioned the arrest and conviction of Johannes Mehserle, the BART cop who killed Oscar Grant, as being "not a victory, but historic"... and he mentioned the importance of people stepping up and taking pictures as being very important. He said we cannot just step aside and let it go, but we must ACT to stop these criminal actions of the police.
To cap off the day, some people stayed to watch part of the movie BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! on the plaza wall—bringing meaning to the Revolution Club slogan, "Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution."
A powerful demonstration 400-500 strong was held at the California State Capitol—organized by "A California Campaign to Stop Police Brutality," a state-wide network including over 50 families of victims of police murder. The demands included stopping the ICE immigration raids, abolishing the SHU, and ending mass incarceration. The protest enunciated not only the heavy toll of this epidemic but the fighting, defiant spirit of the families who organized with each other, speaking out, sharing materials, demanding justice for their loved ones and an end to police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation.
Speakers included many family members, including Cephus Johnson, uncle of Oscar Grant, and lawyers, clergy, and other activists including speakers from Stop Mass Incarceration Network, and Larry Everest reading a statement on O22 from the RCP. A model of the SHU was set up, and excerpts of the film BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less! were played inside.
Latino, Black, Asian and white family members expressed their outrage and determination throughout the day, over the mic, and talking with others.
"They tased him and beat him to death!" "They shot my brother Mario Romero 30 times!" "Ernest was unarmed." "We won't be intimidated." "We were looking for medical assistance for Robert, and my son received death." "We won't stop until there is justice." "We're letting them know that we will not be silenced." "Micah...killed in Reno, Nevada on Christmas Day. Tased 26 times." "I thank all of you for making me strong because I know you are gone through horrible things, cause your pain is as bad as mine."
For many this was the first time they had protested on October 22nd. People came from all over the state, and at least one mother and grandmother came from Nevada. About 45 family members came from Anaheim alone, where there have been over 40 police shootings in the last 10 years, over 20 of them resulting in a death, every one of these murders found "justifiable" by the authorities.
There was a march to the State Attorney General's office where one person from each family spoke the name of their murdered loved ones and laid a red rose on a stylized casket in front of the doors of the building.
Many of the people had been harassed by the authorities for speaking out and demanding justice—one woman had been pulled over the day before because she had a poster for the protest on her car window. Another woman said she had been stopped by police in her town 42 times, because she had written her brother's name and the cops who killed him across the back window of her car. But this harassment has backfired and hardened the resolve to fight for justice. Many copies of Revolution newspaper were distributed, as people struggle to understand both the root cause of this epidemic, and the solution.
A march of close to 200 people on Crenshaw Blvd rekindled some of the resistance and defiance that had filled the streets for several days this past summer after the verdict acquitting the killer of Trayvon Martin. The day was full of rage and joyful, celebratory defiance. People were dressed in all black, and hoodies were up.
The march was fiercely contentious with the LAPD who had denied the permit at the last minute—for the first time in 18 years of October 22 marches. But this did not stop the people who were determined to expose and protest rampant police brutality and murder, mass incarceration, torture in U.S. prisons, attacks on the undocumented, discrimination and police harassment of LGBT people, and heightened repression in the U.S. There was media coverage of the event in the Los Angeles Times, La Opinión, CBS and KCAL news television, Huffington Post Los Angeles, RT TV, USC Annenberg News, and other media outlets.
People stepped off chanting, “Oink, oink, bang, bang, every day the same old thing...” behind a Stolen Lives truck covered with pictures of people killed by the police and a Trayvon banner that read, “We are all Trayvon, the whole damn system is guilty.”
The march included students, activists, family members of people killed by the police, families with loved ones locked down in prison and in solitary isolation, revolutionaries, and others deeply affected by the murder of Trayvon Martin, sick and tired of the official murder and brutality and the targeting and criminalization of Black and Latino youth. All along the march people at bus stops and stores took up stickers and flyers to spread word of the resistance.
After a few blocks, the march turned off the main street to pass by Crenshaw High School as students were coming out of school. The police, who had been hounding the youth in the area the day before (like they do EVERY day), were trying to derail and control the march and were also inside the school forcing students to leave out of the back door. But this didn't work.
As the Stolen Lives truck stopped in front of the school, people called on the students to come out and scores of students rushed into the march, grabbed bullhorns, shouted "Fuck the Police" and began dancing in the street. Some students talked about how they were against the murders by police and how they were harassed and treated like criminals. NO MORE! was the cry, and organizers spoke of how O22 was happening in dozens of cities all over the country to put an end to the crimes of this system.
Out came the sidewalk chalk.... and young kids whose relatives had been killed by the police helped get it around to others. Organizers called out the names of people who had been murdered with the crowd responding “presente!” and people started writing names on the street and sidewalk. High school students took part, some drawing pictures and names of their own friends who have been killed or brutalized by police.
Students were dancing in the streets—jumping up and down in the face of the police who racially profile and harass them ALL the time. The joy was infectious, of seeing the youth—who are targeted and usually held down or caught up in bullshit—step out and stand up. People in the march began laughing, celebrating. A woman who had seen the protest on the street and pulled over her car to join in insisted she needed the microphone and repeated what the student had said, and then went on to call out courthouses and police stations by name. A young woman from the school told a reporter how she had been part of a protest for Trayvon Martin and talked about how his murder was so unjust.
One young man said, “It’s like the cops, they come, and they kill the whole society, and people think, they put it on the news as, the kids kill each other. But it’s the cops, you know. The cops, they come, they try to get you late at night, they try to lock you up. I’ve personally been handcuffed for no reason. It’s like you just want to beat the statistics, but there’s no way possible you could beat the statistics.”
The march took off down Crenshaw Blvd, with high school students at the front. The LAPD threatened people, telling them to “stay in your lane” and then drove their cars into the lane, nearly hitting people. But this only made people more energized and defiant.
At the rally, a family member of Marcus Smith, killed by police in Inglewood, said: “He got shot in the back 22 times with his hands up.... It has been unbearable because even after that our family was harassed. The night he got killed, they left his body covered in the backyard for hours. They did not even want to call the medic or anything like that. They wrestled his brother down. They wrestled him down, beat him up, or whatever, and they beat up the mother of his three children that same night..... We got to take a stand, man, and bring this shit together, not just for him but for all of us—our children and the children of the future....”
Wayne Higgins, the attorney for the family of Terry Lafitte, said, “My client was shot in the back of his head when he was on his knees. He was executed. His life was worth something, more than just another Black man dying..... So let’s make a change.”
The O22 statement from the RCP, USA was delivered by Joe Veale. It was very well received and the crowd paid close attention to his words, with fists in the air. As Joe finished his speech many loudly repeated his concluding statement: "Revolution, Nothing Less! Revolution, Nothing Less! Revolution, Nothing Less!"
A poet powerfully called out the history of murders of this system, and a solo musician sang songs of freedom. There were also speakers from Stop Mass Incarceration Network, the People’s Neighborhood Patrols and from Gender Justice LA on behalf of the queer and transgender community.
Throughout the day, people openly wrestled with and discussed how to actively involve more people... how to win many more to hit the streets in a powerful movement that openly refuses to accept police brutality and the criminalization of our youth. People left determined to spread the word and organize others in this fight.
Harlem: People gathered on a very busy street corner in the heart of Harlem to denounce police brutality and speak out about how the Black and Latino people, especially the youth are being criminalized by this system. The crowd was mainly people from Harlem but there were also others, of all nationalities, including some who had come from New Jersey and Staten Island. One Black man from Yonkers said he had been in Harlem the weekend before and seen the chalking on the street with the names of those killed by the police and the announcement of the rally. He took a photo of the sidewalk and tweeted it to others and then decided to come himself.
During the rally there was a steady presence of people, including members of the Revolution Club, lined up alongside the speakers holding signs that said: “NO MORE! No More Stolen Lives!” People walking by were recruited on the spot to take up the signs and join in making this determined statement. At one point people listened intently as a speaker held up the Three Strikes poster with the quote from Bob Avakian and went through each of the three crimes of the system: Dred Scott, Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin. There were folks in the crowd who were old enough to remember the racist murder of Emmett Till and nodded their heads in remembrance. There were young people who were perhaps putting this all together for the first time, and were riveted by the truth of what the speaker was saying: That’s It For the System—Three Strikes, You’re Out!
Speakers included Noche Diaz and Jamel Mims from the Revolution Club; Deborah Sweet from World Can't Wait; Palina Prasasouk, from Witness Against Torture; representatives from the Peoples Organization for Progress; Jim Vrettos, a professor at John Jay College; and Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party, who had just arrived from the O22 rally in the Bronx. The statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party was read. A statement was read from Rev. Stephen Phelps from Riverside Church in Harlem.
After the rally there was a very spirited march through Harlem, spreading the message and determination of the rally out to many more people.
Bronx: About 150 people gathered in Joyce Kilmer Park, directly across from the Bronx Courthouse where over the years so many cases of police brutality have been whitewashed and declared “justified.” The crowd was mainly young, Latino, Black, Asian and white. Some had been to October 22 events before, and some were here for the first time, often due to their own or a loved one’s fresh experience with police brutality.
Representatives of several political groups spoke, including Carl Dix, a founder of the October 22 Coalition. Carl’s indictment of the system that unleashes violence and oppression on the people around the world, his assertion that only revolution could bring about a new world free of these horrors, and his challenge for people to get with the movement for revolution, was listened to intently.
Many speakers were parents of victims of police murder, some of whom had been fighting for justice for close to 20 years. These parents exposed and denounced the many ways that the system suppresses and evades the evidence of cold-blooded murder at the hands of their police; they expressed the pain—still achingly fresh—of having a child stolen in such a brutal manner; and through all that expressed their determination to keep fighting, while challenging everyone there to step up the struggle. One of them, Nicholas Heyward, whose 13-year-old son was killed by the police in 1994, said that his experience of trying to work through the system—with elected officials, prosecutors, courts—had brought him to the truth that Carl Dix had spoken, that nothing short of revolution could bring about justice for the people.
After the rally there was a spirited march through the streets of the Bronx, stopping at the notorious 42nd police precinct along the way. The march was welcomed by many in the Bronx, including small shopkeepers and street vendors.
Throughout the march and rally people expressed markedly different views about the source of police brutality and the solution to it. Many talked about how brutality is getting worse, but also that there is clearly growing discontent among the people, though still mainly under the surface. Many thought and hoped that if that could be fully aroused, then the people on top who are responsible for what the police do would make some serious changes. Others recognized that this oppression is so deep in the DNA of the system that it would take a revolution to end it, but still had many questions about whether this was possible, what would replace it, and how to be sure a new revolutionary government wouldn’t end up being oppressive as well.
Jamaica, Queens: O22 was marked in this neighborhood at a busy pedestrian mall on 165th Street and Jamaica Avenue. Among people here, there is deep anger over the police harassment and brutality, and stop-and-frisk actions. These oppressive actions are hated features of life in this predominantly working and lower middle class African American community. This is the neighborhood—which also has sizable sections of Caribbean, South Asian and Latino immigrant families—where the unarmed Sean Bell was killed, on the evening before his wedding, by plainclothes cops in 2006; and where one of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network’s “stop stop-and-frisk” civil disobedience actions took place in 2011 at the NYPD’s 103rd Precinct. Organized by an activist clergy person known for her outspokenness against police brutality and the incarceration of Blacks and Latinos, five people gathered and distributed flyers, and along with homemade signage, called out the escalation of police violence in the predominantly middle class African American community. A local weekly community newspaper recorded their action.
The crowd of over 200 that gathered for a downtown rally was overwhelmingly African-American and mainly young—in their teens and twenties. An effort had been made to reach out to people from two high schools, a faith oriented community organization that focuses on issues of criminalization, and a college. There were families of people killed by the police and those wrongfully convicted; and there were also people from other colleges, the Occupy movement, and many others who heard about it from the internet or from a flyer. One woman from the Occupy movement had stayed up the night before to produce a beautiful painting symbolizing “the death of Jim Crow.” There were some Latinos and a handful of white people among those that attended. The event was powerful—especially with the participation of youth and others who are “directly under the gun” of police brutality and criminalization. But what was noticeable was that there was not many from other sections of society. A young woman who had organized for the day commented that this could leave the youth “feeling very alone—you need all colors of the rainbow.”
Some at the protest have been active around issues of police brutality and mass incarceration for years, but for most it was their first protest and they came to it with great energy. There was a joy among the youth in being at an event where the outrages they face every day were recognized and condemned—laughing, almost dancing as the march snaked through downtown. People called out the cops with the chant “Indict, Convict, Send the Killer Cops to Jail! The WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM is Guilty as HELL!” Letting everyone know, “WE ARE NOT SUSPECTS! WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS!” and “Being Black (Brown, young, immigrant) is not a Crime, But pigs still mess with us All the Time!” These were two very popular chants. A poster with Trayvon’s face and “the whole system is guilty” were held high at the rally and throughout the march. An office worker who commutes in from the suburb came out to the event. He said this is one of very few times where these youth have a voice.
About 60 people gathered in Troy Davis Park downtown for a speak-out and march to mark O22, joined for the initial speak-out by several dozen homeless people and others hanging out in the park, many of whom put on bright orange stickers for the day passed out to the crowd.
At the park, the mother of Zaus Barnett, who was shot 12 times and killed by Atlanta police earlier this year, spoke movingly and made the point that this wasn’t just about her son but that everyone was affected. The co-MCs, a spokesperson for Revolution Books and a representative from the NAACP Criminal Justice Committee, read out names and stories of Stolen Lives and led the crowd in the Stolen Lives Pledge. As the march was ready to take off, Copwatch alerted the crowd that someone was being harassed by the police on the street adjacent to the park, so people went over to expose what was going on and call out the police. The spirited march then took to the streets with drums and loud chants, and made several stops through downtown. The first was in front of the Georgia State University building that houses GILEE, the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange—a joint training program between Georgia and Israeli police. A representative from the GSU Progressive Student Alliance exposed the program and pointed out that police brutality and repression are international issues, calling for solidarity with the Palestinian people living under Israeli repression. After marching past the main transit station and a shopping area where many people joined in the chants and raised fists, the march stopped in front of the ICE field office responsible for immigrant “Enforcement and Removal Operations.” A youth from Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance spoke to the crowd about the detention and deportation of immigrants, and said that President Obama could end this horror through executive order but has refused to do so. The final stop was the Atlanta Pretrial Detention Center, the main city jail.
A longer speak-out was held, which included two former prisoners, one of whom participated in the Georgia prison hunger strike in 2011, and another who spent 30 years in a Texas prison, including 12 years in solitary confinement. Other speakers included the RCP, Copwatch and the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance, as well as several people who came up to testify about experience with police brutality. The MC also pointed out a few of the nearly 1,000 video surveillance cameras on poles and buildings in the city monitored by the Atlanta Police, who have a goal of installing 10,000 cameras over the next 5 years. And as the march passed the transit station on the way back to the park, a youth came up and got on the bullhorn to let everyone know that a woman had just been beat down by the police at the station earlier in the afternoon, underscoring the pervasiveness of police brutality and the need for massive resistance. Throughout the day about 50 copies of Revolution were distributed along with several hundred palm cards promoting BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less! and BAsics quote 1:24, "The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people..."
About 100 people rallied in Seattle, followed by a march—with no shortage of people speaking bitterness, as so many have lost loved ones to the plague of murders by the police. A younger Latino man told of losing his beloved brother to the police violence in Arizona: "You know soldiers with PTSD from Iraq? Well, I have PTSD, and it's from a war too. There is a war in Arizona. I had to escape it. The police there are conducting a war in the streets against people, they gun you down in the street. I lost my brother!"
A friend of Prince Gavin, a Black soldier murdered by police in Tacoma, Washington, said she has learned to "never call 911. You just can't. They will come and kill people.” There was a friend of Victor Duffy Jr., a Black youth who, suffering from mental illness, confused, and unarmed, was blinded by pepper spray and then viciously tasered and crushed to death by a gang of cops. Talking about Duffy, she became completely overcome and broke down with emotion, saying, "I miss him so badly, and feel so for the pain of Victor's family, and how so very much we all miss the joy he brought into our lives." The grandmother and sister of the Native youth Jimi Johnson, who this spring died in the Mason County, Washington, jail, spoke of the value of his life, and the unanswered and ignored questions around his death. A speaker against marijuana prohibition told of the historically racist basis of anti-marijuana laws, and tied that in to mass incarceration.
A comrade read the O22 statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party and the need for revolution to actually END police brutality was spoken to and fought for in different ways throughout the rally and march. This was controversial. Not everyone agreed with bringing the need for revolution to the forefront of the protest, and this was reflected in disagreements over chants and tactics during the march. The protesters divided out between those who wanted to understand and end the epidemic of police brutality, including those giving consideration to the need and possibility of communist revolution; and those who wanted the main purpose of the protest to be venting personal frustration at the cops while basically accepting that the nightmare will always continue. Throughout the controversy, there were many who stood with the revolutionaries, and had their back. In a discussion after the protest two young women said they also really appreciated how the revolutionaries had addressed patriarchy and made connections between the different horrors in the world.
The marchers refused to be intimidated by an overwhelming number of cops surrounding the march and planned to go by the East Precinct station of the notoriously brutal Seattle Police Department (SPD). In clear and criminal violation of the people's right of assembly and speech, SPD cops blocked the street and armed with clubs and deadly firearms they prevented the march from even going down the street the precinct is located on. Here people erected a sign with bloody hand prints on it, saying "Seattle Police You Have Blood on Your Hands" and shouted out, one by one, the deadly toll of the names of those murdered by the SPD.
The night was transformative for a number of people. One young student had expressed fear of marching in a protest against police brutality precisely because of the violent nature of the police—by the end of the march, she was at the very front. Two of the speakers who lost loved ones to the police were not sure if they could speak, but each found their courage after hearing the testimony and speeches of others. Two young men, one Latino and one white, during the march had together carried a very large placard listing hundreds of stolen lives nation wide.
New connections were made among people who want to connect to the October 22 Coalition, and who want to end this horror and other horrors of this world. Connections were also made with the revolution, with a number of people who were serious about the world needing to change said they'd be coming to the upcoming screening of a clip from the film BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less!
During lunch at a major university in Houston, a revolution corner was setup in a busy plaza. The scene created quite a stir and some of the students took up the call to join with the protests on O22. A bunch of students pulled their hoodies up as they walked by, and others put on black armbands. Several students stopped to write their messages on signs. In response to the argument that it will take “Revolution, Nothing Less!” a women stopped and said, “I really like this. That’s exactly what we need”, and took her black hoodie from her bag and put it on.
Later in the day, a few dozen people converged in downtown Houston to rally. There were lifelong activists, young people, some from the Occupy movement, freethinkers, people from a Black community, and revolutionary communists. Laid out on the sidewalk was a beautiful Mexican-style Stolen Lives ofrenda (altar) that two young women had made, dedicated to the many thousands murdered by police. They had taken pictures from the Stolen Lives Project book, and mixed it with their own art.
The march took off through the courthouse district to the county jail—some held homemade signs, others carried the Three Strikes posters. More people had joined in by the time the march got to the jail and several people came up to the mic to tell their stories of brutality at the hands of this system and to deliver their message of NO MORE! One young woman said, “There are so many ways they control you, they got you on paper, on parole, but we can’t be afraid to speak out!” Emboldened by this outpouring, other people came up to speak. One Black man told how he was assaulted by the police when he was 19, and then spent 23 of his 44 years in jail, for something he didn’t even do. Dramatically pulling his partial dentures out of his mouth and waving them before the crowd, he described how the cops beat the shit out of him, knocking his teeth out. Another man yelled. “Fuck the Police!” pointing to the jail and said, “They beat you up in there!” He pulled up his shirt to show marks where he had been tased. At the end of the day, people were energized with what we accomplished, and several people were moved to check more into BA and the movement for revolution.
75 people of different nationalities, mostly youth and students, rallied and marched through downtown, spirited and bold from beginning to end. A number of youth came to the event and right away helped get banners and pictures displayed of people killed by the police and Trayvon Martin. They went all over the area getting out hundreds of flyers.
Before the rally began, a banner with the quote “No more generations of our youth...” (BAsics 1:13) drew people. A young person started to call on people to sign it. Soon there was line of people waiting to sign.
Many different people spoke at the rally. An organizer for the immigrant community spoke about the attacks and killing of immigrants and massive deportations going on under Obama. Some mothers and relatives of loved ones killed by the police spoke about how the fight against police brutality and murder has to get stronger and that they are committed to being part of doing that. Members of a Black community group that has fought against and exposed police killings spoke. Others spoke about how they have experienced profiling and brutality at the hands of the police and are glad to have met up with this protest. One woman spoke on a vicious attack on her niece and how she went to jail for it. A Revolution seller read the RCP statement. As the words of the statement rang out, some people responded to the need for revolution, applauding and speaking out several times. When it said, “When people no longer have to say 'how long' and they can walk in the liberating sun of a whole new day," people smiled and clapped to hear of an alternative to this system of horrors.
The march took off, leading with a banner, “Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation,” a huge picture of Trayvon Martin, and lots of signs and pictures of those killed by the police. We marched to the Justice Center, a target people feel deeply about because of all the injustice that goes on there. Prisoners crowded to a window with fists in the air and we returned the same, chanting, “Prisoners are HUMAN BEINGS.” People marched on chanting loudly and with deep conviction, like “Killer cops by the hour/What do we say/Fight the power!” and more.
There were different sentiments among the people there. A Black man in his 20s was drawn to revolution. He marched and carried the banner. He said he thought what we were saying about revolution was right. He said he was going to a community college to take a speaking class to be able to speak to people about these things. Another Black man, maybe in his 30s, spoke with outrage about a friend who is in prison. He carried the banner and said it was an honor to do it.
It would have been hard to be on the University of Hawai`i-Manoa Campus on Tuesday, October 22 and not know that it was the day to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Large banners had been hanging from a central campus building for a week. Facts about U.S. prisons, photos of victims of police brutality, the Three Strikes poster, and the front pages and centerfolds of Revolution had been appearing on bulletin boards for several weeks.
On the morning of October 22 about 30 lawn signs with facts about the prison system lined sidewalks and displays of large photos of victims of police murders were strung on clotheslines between palm trees along the central mall. A small crew passed out leaflets, armbands and chalk on the mall for three hours, and at noon a small but loud and energetic march demanding Justice for Kollin Elderts wound through campus. When the campus security police confronted a young student leading the march and told her she was disturbing classes and was facing arrest she righteously responded: “This is a protest. It should disturb students” and refused to back down. Since the march had reached the endpoint the guard backed down and she wasn’t arrested.
Kollin Elderts was a 23-year-old Hawaiian man who was murdered in cold blood by a U.S. State Department Agent at McDonald’s in Waikiki during the 2011 APEC Conference in Honolulu. The trial of the U.S. agent in July-August 2013 ended with a hung jury and has been re-scheduled for summer 2014 while the agent is back on the job at the State Department. The murder of a Hawaiian youth by a U.S. federal agent tapped into deep anger over the role of the federal government in the continued occupation and militarization of Hawai`i and the government no doubt hopes that delaying the trial for more than two and a half years after the murder will be long enough for the people to forget but a movement is coming together to continue to fight for justice for Kollin Elderts.
650 leaflets were distributed, about 50 students put on black armbands; some took chalk to write their own messages and throughout the day people stopped by the photo displays to read about the people who had been murdered by the police. Some shook their heads in disbelief; some said they just felt sad and some were angry. Some shared stories about their own experiences. Several faculty said they were talking about police brutality and the U.S. prison system in their classes, and one said he was using Revolution newspaper for coverage and facts.
For a day thousands of students, faculty and staff were forced to wake up to the reality of police brutality and the horror of U.S. prisons.
100 came out at 4 pm at the Hemming Plaza. The stage had tables against the death penalty; petitions for Gov. Scott and D.A. Angela Corey demanding release of Marissa Alexander; and petitions to change the name of Nathan B. Forrest (KKK founder/leader) High School. We got rained out but then marched in singing to the City Council meeting. 20 demonstrators spoke at the podium—children, homeless, mothers of killed or jailed youth & community leaders. Then we picketed in front of City Hall.
A rally of 35 people was held at the brand-new 1,032-bed "Guilty" County (Guilford) jail. Speakers talked about the new Jim Crow, "Slow Genocide," school-to-prison pipeline. A woman spoke of how the Greensboro police murdered TWO of her family and then covered it up. Her husband was killed over 20 years ago in front of her four-year-old son and then 18 years later that same unarmed son was killed by police. She said how Black lives meant nothing in this system.
50 people rallied and marched through the Smith Homes. Speakers spoke about the everyday harassment and recent murders by police—in Charlotte of Jonathan Ferrell (who had just been in a car wreck and was seeking help and was gunned down) and in Fayetteville of 16-year-old Shakur McNair who was objecting to the treatment of his mother after police were called to settle a domestic dispute. The march stepped off chanting "Shakur didn't have to die, we all know the reason why—the whole system's guilty".
Drums and chants rang out through the streets and over 50 more joined in. Several young people grabbed stacks and passed out cards with the Bob Avakian quote: "No More Generations of Our Youth..." and on "The Role of the Police..."
At the conclusion of the march, several more spoke, including a youth and student group from the Beloved Community Center about continuing the fight against police brutality. Another speaker asked people to help with the Stolen Lives Project. A speaker from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network urged people to join in this sharp battle that has reached epidemic proportions nationwide including neighborhoods such as this. The RCP statement was read and copies were handed out all day to participants and spectators.
The day concluded, as it does every October 22, with the mother of a victim of police murder leading everyone in saying the "Stolen Lives Pledge."
A group, including families of victims, met at the 15th precinct. Some years ago, a person was killed by police out of this precinct; another was killed while detained there. The group released balloons with several Stolen Lives names attached to each. Later, a Speak Out was held at the main City bus terminal downtown. People stepped forward to take over the mike and called on all the people waiting for buses to get out of normal life, step up to the mike to speak out, and get involved in the movement to stop police brutality. Stories about police harassment were told. One of the people at the speak out made his own flyer with a graphic headline, "Under the Gun," going on to say, "Every 40 hours a Black man, woman or child is killed by police security guards or 'self-appointed' law enforcers, according to a new report." The flyer featured pictures of victims, including Trayvon Martin. A deep discussion formed among several participants, digging into the whole history of Black people in the U.S.—oppression and resistance—and how people saw solutions.
As the Speak Out gained momentum, the police sent first one, then five cars to the scene. After a supervisor checked it out, a cop came and said we have no right to do this "on public property" and threatened to ticket or arrest us. We then spread out through the large bus terminal to continue to take out O22.
Soon after, family members of police murder victims arrived. They spread out through the crowd with leaflets, talking to people. They talked about the new police chief who has appointed an "all-star team" to clamp down on the youth. These are the very same cops who have killed or brutalized many people in Detroit, including their family members. High school youth and others took very seriously the message that the "slow genocide could develop into a faster genocide."
About 100 people gathered outside the Lynn City Hall. Earlier in the month, about 75-100 people had attended a rally here to protest the killing of Denis Reynoso (see correspondence below: "The Killing of Denis Reynoso").
The MC of the rally announced that this was part of the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality. There were more youth of different nationalities, a number of whom spoke bitterness to the crowd.
A revolutionary addressed the rally. He represented himself as a supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Party and told the audience that what he had to say might be controversial to many but needed to be heard. He presented that the murder of Denis Reynoso and the grief his fiancé and family were going through were not isolated but part of a broader systematic assault aimed overwhelmingly at Black and Latino youth that was rooted in this system, and drew on the Ramarley Graham murder in New York City as another recent example—police barging into his home and gunning him down in front of his family.
He came back to the point that it is this system that is the source of these outrages and we cannot expect to get justice from this system. Then, in an extremely important point, he spoke about how Denis had joined the U.S. Army because that is what you are taught that you are “suppose to do” and was sent to Iraq to be part of the vicious military machine of U.S. imperialism imposing and enforcing the very same oppressive conditions on people around the world that Denis, himself became the victim of.
This was very controversial point—one of the main arguments being raised by the family and friends was that Denis didn’t deserve to die because he was a vet! The main photo of him on T-shirts and posters is in his uniform. Previous speakers included in their comments the fact that Denis didn’t deserve to die because he had “served his country.”
The speaker went on to say that another world IS possible but it would take a revolution to get rid of this system and that was what we were all about—people should check out Revolution newspaper and the film BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less! Overall this rap got a big applause from the crowd and immediately afterward some people came up to the speaker and other people distributing Revolution to get copies of the paper and to find out more about the DVD of Revolution—Nothing Less! One group of young men, strongly influenced by Islam and who mentor in an alternative school in Lynn, spoke with revolutionaries about the possibilities of bringing the film into their school. After hearing the speaker and looking at Revolution, they said they thought there were big differences but that it seemed like it would be very important to watch the DVD and to engage more deeply with what it would take to bring a different world into being.
* * * * *
Revolution received the following correspondence:
Lynn, Massachusetts is a small working class city of 90,000 12 miles north of Boston. Over the past 25 years, it has gone from almost 100% white to very multi-national with 12% African American and over 30% Latino, mainly Caribbean. Over the same period, the major employer, General Electric, has reduced its workforce by several thousand. Unemployment in the city is three times that of Massachusetts as a whole and twice the national average. So there is an aging (and shrinking) white population and a younger and growing African-American and immigrant population.
While only a few miles north of Boston and well within the dense urban ring around the city, Lynn is geographically isolated and a world apart from the Boston/Cambridge environment that is promoted nationally—of elite universities, high tech start ups and bio-medical centers. Police brutality is a common occurrence in the Black and immigrant communities but is seldom reported in the Boston media.
On September 6, Lynn police entered the home of Denis Reynoso, a 30-year-old Dominican American, and shot and killed him in front of his 5-year-old son. The police were responding to a “disturbing the peace” report that had been filed after Denis had reportedly gotten into an argument outside his home with a passing motorist. The three police on the scene entered his home with guns drawn and claimed that Denis had lunged for one of the officer’s guns. After shooting Denis three times and while waiting for an ambulance, the police searched his home for drugs or weapons (none were found) and stripped his son’s blood stained shirt as possible evidence. Denis died in the hospital a few minutes later.
The police involved were briefly suspended and the police department launched an internal investigation which is still ongoing.
Denis’s fiancé and the extended family and friends were both stunned and angered by the official story. Denis had tried to live his life the “right way,” joining the army, doing a tour of duty in Iraq, later transferring to the National Guard. He had recently become engaged to the mother of his two children and was working as a clerk in a local post office. He was soft-spoken and well liked in his neighborhood.
Denis’s fiancé started a “Justice for Denis” Facebook page and hooked up with a couple of local activists connected with “Defend the 4th (Amendment),” a local group of activists, law students and professors who are involved in the battle against illegal search and seizure of individual’s homes.
Together, the family, friends and local activists, collected money to print “Justice for Denis” T-shirts and stickers. They called for an October 5 “Justice for Denis” rally that marched through downtown Lynn to the police department with their demand for an independent investigation.
A small team of revolutionaries began traveling to Lynn a couple of weeks before the Oct. 5 rally, canvassing the neighborhood where Denis was killed, connecting with family members and neighbors, going to nearby markets and onto a local community college taking out Revolution newspaper and the BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less video. While they received a good welcome, they were surprised that many of the students at the college were unaware of the killing. At the same time, local residents whom were mainly immigrants were not comfortable talking publicly.
About 75-100 people attended the October 5 rally, where many of Denis’s relatives and some local activists spoke. Revolution newspaper was a noticeable presence at the rally and someone from the paper spoke briefly towards the end at the police station.
While revolutionaries have met and talked with Denis’s fiancé and other family members, they had not had an opportunity to actually sit down with them. Even now, the fiancé is very grief-stricken by the murder. So the announcement that the organizers of “Justice for Denis Reynoso” had officially endorsed and taken up October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and Criminalization of a Generation was based mainly on people reading the coverage in Revolution in the weeks leading up to the 22nd.
There has been a lot of discussion and struggle among people taking Revolution newspaper out in this mix about how to apply a correct understanding of “Fight the Power, and Transform the People for Revolution,” and how the most important contribution that we can make is to bring out to people that things don't have to be this way—another world is possible.
Revolution #321 November 3, 2013
October 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
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Revolution #321 November 3, 2013
Revolution #321 November 3, 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 #321 November 3, 2013
October 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
→ Ever notice how some people are absolutely certain that you can’t be sure that anything is true?
→ Ever notice how people who say “you can only talk about your own experience” have already talked about other people’s experience the minute they said that?
→ Ever notice how the only college students who think they should change how people think are the ones in marketing?
→ Ever worry that having a brand might make people mistake you for cattle?
→ Ever wonder who wrote your narrative?
→ Ever notice how people who say “I already know all that” really don’t?
→ Ever notice how people who say “I’m good” really aren’t?
→ Ever notice how safety for some means danger for others?
→ Ever wonder why that’s so—or if it has to be that way?
→ Ever notice how people who say “I don’t believe in objective reality” live in it—and often rather comfortably at that?
→ Ever notice how people who accuse you of having no sense of humor get very serious indeed about their right to tell anti-woman, anti-Black, anti-gay, etc. jokes?
→ Ever notice how “feeling funny about participating in ‘someone else’s struggle’” leaves things just as they are?
→ Ever notice how ambivalence has a way of turning into tacit approval?
→ Ever worry that doing good in a bad world just enables the badness to keep going?
Revolution #321 November 3, 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 #321 November 3, 2013
Check It Out
October 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
In his latest book, author Michael Klare draws a shocking and unsparing picture of the relentless rush to grab up the world's key, diminishing resources on the part of powerful countries and huge corporations. Klare shows how the last 60 years have seen the insatiable gobbling up of resources. He details how the world's formerly immense sources of easily accessible and cheap oil and gas are in decline. But it's not just oil and gas. Key minerals and rare elements upon which the vast expansion of production and military power rely are also being depleted. Klare predicts many of these key resources could completely disappear. The response of the world's powers and global capitalist corporations is to step up a mad "race for what's left."
Klare starts his book in the Arctic. Here, Russian explorers plant their nation's flag on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean seabed, claiming it as their own. It's not just Russia. All the countries bordering the Arctic—the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Russia—are trying to lay claim, even twisting facts to argue the continental shelves of their countries extend into key reaches of the Arctic. At stake are an estimated 20% of the earth's remaining reserves of oil and gas, only now made more accessible to grab and burn because burning of fossil fuels has already warmed the earth and melted Arctic ice to the lowest levels in recorded history!
Klare quotes U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, commander of the European Command: "It's no coincidence that our strategic interest in the Arctic warms with its climate. For now the disputes in the north have been dealt with peacefully, but climate change could alter the equilibrium over the coming years...."
Klare shows how the decline in the world's largest oil and gas fields has set off a worldwide race to find and exploit fossil fuels that are harder to reach and extract. From the deep offshore waters of Brazil and the Gulf of Mexico to vast stretches of the Arctic, from coastal waters off western Africa to the former republics of the Soviet Union, from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to throughout the U.S., new technologies with huge environmental risks are being experimented with and used to exploit new "tough" reserves of oil, coal, and gas. Much of these reserves are miles under the earth in deep offshore waters, embedded in rock that was formerly inaccessible and too expensive to drill out, or in forms much harder and more costly to extract and process.
Getting to these reserves and getting them out requires much more environmentally destructive and risky techniques: heating solid oil to make it liquid, using explosives and immense amounts of water laced with carcinogenic solvents to break them free from rock to drill out, drilling in deep ocean waters where icebergs abound, or miles under the earth where spills like the BP spill in the Gulf could easily take place and be even more difficult or impossible to clean up. The world's powers and all of the international energy companies rooted in these countries are engaged in a ruthless struggle that, no matter how costly and complicated, they consider "essential... to maintain the pace of production in the face of declining output elsewhere."
This same race is occurring to find new sources of key and rare minerals that are essential to the production of everything from steel, to cell phones and computers, to high-tech weapons. In Gabon, a land of beautiful rain forests, unspoiled preserves of endangered jungle wildlife and pristine rivers, "now roads are being slashed through the jungle and preliminary work has begun on establishing open-pit mines in areas currently occupied by wild animals and scattered local tribes." All for iron ore—the rights to which Chinese state enterprises are competing with mining companies from other countries. In Afghanistan, the U.S Geological Survey has conducted "the most comprehensive geologic survey" of the country ever conducted, finding huge deposits of valuable minerals. New finds like this are setting off intense competition and maneuvering among many countries and firms to grab up these new deposits.
Klare portrays how the global food crisis, the growth of human population, and the threat of more crisis as climate change advances, have set off an international land grab. Rich countries and investors buy up or lease immense tracts of land in poor and oppressed countries to grow food to be directly exported back to the rich countries, or as "investments." Big capitalist corporations, banks and countries are betting on the food crisis to get worse as climate change advances, as soils erode, as drought spreads and land turns to desert, to seize on this crisis as an opportunity for profit-making and power by control of huge quantities of land in countries where people are already starving.
Throughout the book, Klare paints a picture of a relentless and ruthless competition by the big powers for strategic interests, along with the giant corporations connected to them—whether state run or private. He says this race for "tougher" energy and minerals will "set the stage for ferocious competition between major corporations and for perilous wrangling among rival nation-states." Those that get these resources will flourish and those that don't will perish or decline. Klare predicts, "The competition among the various powers, therefore, will be ruthless, unrelenting and severe. Every key player in the race for what's left will do whatever it can to advance its own position, while striving without mercy to eliminate or subdue all the others."
While Klare insightfully and powerfully demonstrates this ruthless drive, he stops short of getting to the real root of the problem—the imperatives of a whole capitalist-imperialist system. (I recommend the special Revolution issue on the environmental emergency, available at revcom.us/environment, as well as Raymond Lotta's "Four Points for Bill McKibben.") Instead of recognizing the essential relations of domination of capitalist-imperialist countries over oppressed nations, he sees the problem in extracting resources as a "resource curse," where poor countries get screwed by corruption and lack of proper use of the wealth generated by selling off resources. He holds out hope for a "race to adapt" to win out over 'the race for what's left" (which he does correctly see as leading to catastrophe, impending war, and even more devastating environmental damage). He still falsely hopes for the most "enlightened" of these vultures to wake up to the reality of where this road is leading and move away from the insatiable gobbling up of resources to a more sustainable, efficient, and renewable approach. These are big and urgent questions around which there needs to be a lot of debate and wrangling.
But people should check out Klare's book. It is an important contribution to a deeper understanding of what's actually going on with the environmental emergency, with valuable insights to learn from.
Revolution #321 November 3, 2013
by Orpheus Reed | October 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Two scientific studies in the past month have again underscored the emergency facing humanity from climate change and the urgent need for humanity to come together to wrench things away from the direction they are heading with "business as usual."
On October 10, researchers at the University of Hawai`i published a paper in the leading scientific journal Nature on the timing of "climate departure" for the planet as a whole and for particular cities and regions all over the globe. A co-author of the paper, geographer Abby Frazier, explained the meaning of this to the environmental news magazine Living on Earth: "What we did is we looked at the minimum and maximum temperatures that every location has experienced in the last 150 years and we set those as the bounds of historical variability, and we then determined the year that the temperature goes outside of those bounds, of the minimum and maximum that we've seen in the last 150 years and we named that as the year of climate departure-when it goes outside the bounds and does not come back in."
What this means is that in the years after the point of "climate departure," the coldest average year on the earth as a whole will be hotter than the hottest average year of all years between 1860 and 2005.
Climate departure means in essence that a radical change to a different climate has occurred.
The study used the results of many climate research studies and models. In a scenario where greenhouse gases from burning of oil, coal, gas, and deforestation, etc. continue to rise at the same rate as they are now—a "business as usual" scenario—the scientists found that this date of climate departure for the average temperature of the earth as a whole will occur in 2047.
This change will occur at different rates at different places, with the fastest point of climate departure occurring in the tropics. In some areas this will happen as early as 2020, less than a decade from now. This is alarming news in several ways. Frazier points out that most of the world's population is concentrated near the tropics and that many of the poorest countries in the world are also there. She says, "So these countries that are going to be hit first by unprecedented climates have the least economic capacity to respond, and these countries have ironically contributed the least to this change in the first place." So this will dangerously impact lives of people in this region, especially people in the poor, oppressed countries of Central and South America, Asia, and Africa.
The reason this hits the tropics first is that there is only a small natural variation in climate there. So it doesn't take much to push it outside the bounds of what normally occurs. This is very dangerous to species in this region, which have evolved to live within a narrow range of climatic conditions. The tropics contain the largest biodiversity of species on Earth. Frazier said that it's hard to predict the precise impacts on specific species, but the responses could be massive. "We've seen responses in species for recent extreme events that we've experienced, and we've seen species that try to move, other species that try to adapt to the changes, and others experience massive die-offs or even extinction. So we can expect responses along the whole spectrum."
While many of these changes are already in motion and there is a built-up warming momentum already underway, the study also indicated that these changes could be slowed if there are serious and dramatic efforts to slow down the rate of greenhouse gas emissions.
This study comes on the heels of the release of the fifth report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in late September. The IPCC is a panel of climate scientists representing countries from around the world. These reports have been coming out for 25 years. With each report, the reality of how the climate is changing and the fact that this is happening because of human influence becomes clearer, and the threat this poses to the future of life on Earth becomes sharper.
Among the main findings of this study are:
While the IPCC findings represent important overall scientific truths and trends and the dangers these pose to the planet, if anything, its findings about the extent of the climate emergency are more conservative than reality. Michael Mann is one of a number of climate scientists who criticized the IPCC for playing it safe. Mann said the IPCC is being overly cautious in its predictions to avoid being further attacked by climate change deniers. The climate blog Real Climate says, "The IPCC statements form a kind of lowest common denominator on which many researchers can agree."
While all the ins and outs of the political struggle on this panel are not open, the IPCC is a panel overseen by the world's governments. These are the same governments that have taken the world down the road to this climate emergency by their increasing and relentless burning of fossil fuels and deforestation in the economic pattern that is integral to the functioning of capitalism-imperialism. So "oversight" of the IPCC by such political forces is bound to impact and curtail what its reports can say.
For 25 years the IPCC reports have warned of these dangers, even if at times underplaying them, and yet no meaningful change has come from those in power in the U.S. or any of the major powers controlling the world and dominating the planet. Carbon emissions continue to rise. The relentless drive to seek out, extract, and burn even harder-to-find, even more carbon-polluting and extreme "unconventional" forms of fossil fuels only increases, despite world leaders like U.S. President Barack Obama wringing their hands about the danger of climate change. For over 20 years there have been international conferences on the danger of climate change and the scientists have been ringing the alarm louder and louder. None of this has made a dent in the trajectory of destruction. This system and these leaders are completely and totally incapable of making the kind of massive, urgent changes and transformations that the situation demands. For them to do so would require unallowable setbacks to their drive for economic growth to "out eat" the other capitalist sharks in the water and, especially, to their strategic power in the world.
The world must be wrenched from their hands and set on a different course through revolution. What is so needed, and possible, is this revolution to bring into being a new socialist system, on the road to a communist world. (See "Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development" and the Constitution for a New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). This is the only real hope for a future where humanity could be mobilized for the first time, to seriously address and combat the climate emergency. This represents the only real hope for humanity to liberate itself and save its own future, while working to save as much as possible of all of Earth's species.
Revolution #321 November 3, 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 #321 November 3, 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 #321 November 3, 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 #321 November 3, 2013
Santa Rosa, California:
October 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
Nationally, October 22 has been a date to expose the epidemic of police brutality and murder that goes on across the U.S., especially against minorities. This year, as people in dozens of cities across this capitalist-imperialist state mobilized to protest in memory of those who have fallen to the brutality of the armed police, yet another innocent child lost his life on the very day dedicated to the opposition to police brutality. Andy Lopez, a 13-year-old from Santa Rosa, California, was gunned down within a matter of seconds by what many have come to address as "trigger happy police." Andy was walking on a rural road, carrying a toy replica BB gun to a friend's house. According to witnesses, two Sonoma County sheriffs in a patrol car pulled up behind Andy, and one of the sheriffs said something to him and immediately opened fire. According to the police, one of the sheriffs fired eight shots within 26 seconds, and a police autopsy reports that Andy was hit seven times with two fatal wounds. Witnesses claim that police yelled at him from behind, and when he turned to see who was yelling, they immediately opened fire. Witnesses also claim that the sheriff continued to shoot the boy as he lay on the ground!
Andy's mother and father are devastated by the loss of their son, but are fighting back! They and many others are organizing themselves to protest this unjust murder. People we have talked to at protests and vigils have felt a mixture of grief and anger, and have also held marches searching for justice for their loss of a friend, brother, son, and classmate in this community of working class minorities.
On October 25, a walkout from Santa Rosa High School, joined by several junior high students, marched, altogether 300+ strong, to the sheriff's office, and we talked to several youth who had known Andy since kindergarten.
"Race matters a lot here" is what one resident commented, adding, "Being Hispanic here, you're more of a target." Many people asked how a young boy, only 13 years old, could be seen as a threat by two grown men, supposedly "law enforcement professionals." Several parents told us their own teenagers also had air guns for sport or shooting cans and worried that their children too could be in mortal danger. A number of people mentioned Trayvon Martin's murder and how minority youth are racially profiled and seen as "suspicious" just because of the color of their skin. People told us that if Andy was a young boy walking down the street of a nearby more affluent white neighborhood, the cops might have acted differently, but in a poor working class Latino area, the cops already see the masses as the enemy and not worthy of such precautions!
The vigils and protests have been constant since this murder. At one evening vigil at the murder site, a 100 or so folks were sharing their grief around a memorial of pictures and candles which outlined the letters AL. We talked to some of the folks, sharing a copy of Revolution, and we had a big enlargement of the BAsics 1:24 quote (on the "role of the police").
The enlargement had a photo of two huge pigs putting all their weight on a Black man they had on the ground, along with other photos of police pepper spraying UC Davis students and brutalizing those in Occupy Oakland. This caused a lot to stop and read the quote in the context of this brutality.
All of a sudden, 100+ youth (many junior high) marched up the street yelling "ANDY, ANDY" and "justice for Andy" and "fuck the police."
Many of these youth knew Andy from way back in elementary school and described him as a boy who would make them happy. Others felt a sense of shared loss, even if they didn't know him, also realizing that it could have been any one of them instead of Andy! This gave meaning to the October 22 slogan when we talk about the CRIMINALIZATION OF A GENERATION, and that it has to STOP!
These youth are the future, but the truth is that if they are to have a future and if humanity is also to have a future, these youth have to become part of the movement for revolution. We told the youth that we came from Oakland to be there with the protests and to stand with them in their "justice for Andy Lopez." They grabbed at Revolution newspaper, hungry to find out more. We shared our chants from October 22 with them; and they got on the bullhorn to yell "Andy didn't have to die, we all know the reason why, the whole system is guilty." And they also liked "Whose world? Our world. Is it the pigs' world? Hell NO."
To hear a big group of teens who are told all the time by enforcers of this system that their lives, hopes, and dreams are nothing, just dirt—to hear these youth chanting that the world and the future is theirs, means a lot! We need, humanity needs a lot more of the new generation on a mission to bury this capitalist system.
Santa Rosa is 50 miles north of San Francisco, mixed with both more affluent sections, but also many working class, Latino, and immigrant neighborhoods. People there do work cleaning offices, working in restaurants, and other service jobs; and also working in vineyards and other agriculture jobs for long hours with low pay. There is little respect in these neighborhoods for the police who lurk around at night checking on expired plates and harassing the youth.
Seven bullets found at the autopsy inside the body of Andy show not an attempt to "protect themselves" as the cops claim, but more the assassination of a child. Too many have fallen from a system that forces minorities into poverty and living conditions that jeopardize their lives. Only after this system that nurtures discrimination is overthrown by the people, is swept away by revolution, will the fear of being targeted disappear.
When you see Andy's mother and father at the vigil and protest, your heart breaks, but you are proud of their courage. You cannot help but be reminded of Trayvon Martin's parents and the thousands of others like them thrust into a situation where their child or loved one is stolen from them. Just regular people, thrust into an extraordinary situation and having to shoulder a lot! They and the whole community are determined to keep the fight going for "justice for Andy" until that justice is delivered. The family has set up a Facebook page, Justice for Andy Lopez, and we will continue to follow this.
Revolution #321 November 3, 2013
October 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
November 22, Friday, 7 pm
National Black Theater
2031 5th Ave. in Harlem (between E. 125 St. and E. 126 St.), New York
Tickets: $35, premium $100, $10 low income and unemployed available at the door. For tickets call 347-979-7646 or go to stopmassincarceration.net.
The evening will feature Arturo O’Farrill, Grammy award-winning pianist and composer, and founder of the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. Learn about Arturo O’Farrill at arturoofarrill.com. On YouTube, see “Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra at Celebrate Brooklyn—The Offense of the Drum.”
The Stop Mass Incarceration Network is building a movement to stop the injustice of mass incarceration and police brutality; the racially biased policies and practices of the police, the courts, and the U.S. legal system; and to support the rights of prisoners and the formerly incarcerated.
Revolution #321 November 3, 2013
October 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From staff members of Revolution Books, NYC:
Over this past summer, Revolution Books in New York City made a great beginning in meeting the challenge of not just surviving, but sustaining and expanding its mission. Over $30,000 was raised, going against every conventional notion and assumption about the revolutionary possibilities in today's world and against the prevailing political and cultural climate. How did this happen?
First, the world has been in turmoil through the whole summer: millions watching the Zimmerman trial were slammed with a verdict which brought thousands into the street and many more to a hot simmer; the whole world learned that the U.S. government is spying on pretty much everyone with a computer or phone; Obama was threatening a major military assault on Syria; the planet heat-up hit another sickening milestone.
Second, as this summer unfolded, the store was at a critical juncture. The lease had expired, and to keep Revolution Books open was going to require an immediate and gigantic leap in fund raising. In fact, everything—donations, sales, traffic, events, and publicity—had to jump to another level to save the store and get it in position to become self-sustaining by 2014.
Just holding on was neither desirable nor an option. Revolution Books is needed more than ever. Where else in New York City can people explore why the world is like this, and how the future could be radically different? Where else will someone dare to tell you about this movement for revolution and its leader Bob Avakian who has forged a way out of this madness?
In July, Revolution Books announced a drive to raise $30,000 through a combination of one-time donations, increasing net sales by 20% each month, and signing up 50 new monthly sustainers by September 30. This fund drive challenged the view that raising this kind of money cannot be done when other bookstores and centers for intellectual inquiry, alternative spaces, radio stations and media of all kinds are closing right and left, from the small and progressive to the big-box and mainstream. The bookstore also resisted advice to tone down the revolutionary politics in order "to invite more people in." Revolution Books is not just another, or even the most radical, indie bookstore, failing along with the rest. It is entirely different: home to a movement for revolution that is urgently and seriously taking on the largest problem facing humanity—this people-crushing capitalist-imperialist system. Which is exactly why the bookstore can potentially be saved.
In launching the fund drive, the bookstore went out to its many friends and customers and to the wider world with the call "Humanity needs revolution, revolution needs Revolution Books, and Revolution Books needs you." This was more than a slogan. Over the summer many people found out about this strategy for revolution and Bob Avakian through screenings of clips from the new film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! in the store. Youth who'd been in the streets for Trayvon or in university classes when Revolution Books delivered course books, folks from Harlem and the suburbs who learned about this movement for revolution when they encountered the BA Everywhere van, neighbors who had been by the store many times, decided that now was the time to come on in. They discovered the uncommon collection of books, provocative dialogue on why capitalism cannot be fixed, and the most advanced revolutionary theory in the world.
A wide range of people—professors, social workers, artists, students, business people, retired people in the area and new young interns placed through a public program—started to think about what it would mean to lose this bookstore where the biggest questions get debated and real answers are being scientifically put to the test, with great consequences for humanity. As people mulled all this over, agreeing with some things, disagreeing with others, they started to contribute. Some people who'd been buying books for years decided to become monthly sustainers. For some new to the store, the campaign challenged precepts—do we really have to accept this horrendous society as normal, permanent? Can we really do nothing to change all this? One woman who contributed said: "I've been a registered Democrat my whole life, and most political discussions I have with friends are about fixing different parts of the system. No one thinks maybe we should have a different lens altogether, we should be talking about a different system..."
Some extraordinary authors also responded to Revolution Books' call. The Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat was the first to sign on to the bookstore's new fundraising series "Hidden Lives, Human Possibilities: Authors Present to Save Revolution Books." Edwidge remembered meeting Revolution Books soon after arriving from Haiti as a teenager, and the store has been a destination for friends over the years. "So it means a great deal to me, and I am one of many people who are concerned about what's happening to it." Edwidge spoke on July 24 and was followed by Walter Mosley, Henry Wiencek and Eve Ensler—all nationally known writers who stepped out to be part of this effort and to advocate for Revolution Books from their own perspectives. (To view videos of these amazing evenings, go to http://revolutionbooksnyc.org/videos.html)
The efforts around the series helped put the bookstore on the map around the city. Announcements of the author events and the fund raising campaign appeared multiple times in Time Out, the New York Times, Chelsea Now, Media Bistro, on WBAI radio, and in many Twitter feeds, blogs and Facebook pages.
Different audiences showed up to the events. One filmmaker who came said, "When I heard that Edwidge was doing a fundraiser for Revolution Books, it was like a double-whammy"—a chance to hear one of her favorite authors at a bookstore she'd hung out in for years but had lost track of. Among those who came to see Henry Wiencek talk about his book, Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves: a woman who runs a Black genealogical group, a middle school history teacher who brought two of his students who'd been reading the book. A fascinating fundraising dinner with Walter Mosley before his talk at the store drew people who had never been to Revolution Books, including a dean at a Black college, two filmmakers and a union organizer. A number of people bought $100 benefit tickets to the events (general admission was $35). Some people became monthly sustainers after experiencing the bookstore for one evening. A longtime supporter of the store was inspired to contribute $500 at the first event. Several people came to their favorite author's evening and then returned to hear others they weren't as familiar with in the series.
These evenings both revealed and provoked. Andy Zee, the spokesperson for Revolution Books, talked with Walter Mosley about Little Green, his newest Easy Rawlins novel in which the Black private detective gets to know the mostly white hippie scene in late-'60s Los Angeles. Andy asked about this new connection between white hippies and Black people: "what began to change, and what didn't?"
Mosley answered: "The things that [Easy] notices about the hippies is that they're experiencing for the first time being kept out of places because of the way they look. They say, ‘You look like this so you can't come in here. You look like this, so you can't work here. You look like this so I'm going to arrest you and search you and beat you up and fuck your girlfriend.' OK. But the difference is, there's a kind of an acceptance in a large part of Black America of this kind of oppression and this kind of world because this is something that we've experienced for generations so we just know it happens. And you say, "Well, that's not right, but you better still take your hat off, motherfucker.' So this is the thing, the white people actually believe that they can change the world, and in believing they can change the world, they have an impact on Easy. There's an optimism that's almost catching and he brings this optimism in to himself. He runs into a lot of hippies who are not worth it, but there are some people, who the fact that they feel so open really makes a difference in their lives."
One thread running through the contributions by these authors: a shared intolerance for human suffering, a passion for the oppressed, and the refusal to flinch from confronting hard reality.
Henry Wiencek's book on Jefferson had been lambasted by mainstream Jeffersonian scholars over the past year for exposing the bitter reality hidden under the durable myth of Jefferson as the "flawed giant"—a great man and brilliant thinker who was trapped in his time in the system of slavery that he actually hated. No. Wiencek revealed how Jefferson's overseers, with his full knowledge, whipped young boys of 10 and 12 to get them to work harder in his plantation nail factory; how Jefferson made written calculations on the 4% profit each Black baby born into slavery brought him; how Jefferson's slaves (he owned 600 human beings during his lifetime) would have starved on the rations he allotted and had to grow their own food in the hours before dawn and after dark. Yet, "to his dying day, Jefferson insisted he was one of last true holders of revolutionary virtue." (Wiencek)
When Wiencek was asked about the relativism employed by many in what he calls the "church" of Jeffersonian historians who despise his book, his answer stunned the room: "It took me a long while of reading [these people's books] to come to a kind of moral cracking point where I got the sense, there's something wrong here and [they don't] seem to sense it. So when [they] come out and say [what I've written] is ‘old news repackaged,' it is. And that's the scary thing. They have all known this for a long time. And you know what? They got used to it... It didn't bother them anymore. And that's the mental moral process that a slaveholder went through. You see people getting beaten, you see women getting raped, you see children in slavery who are your kin, who look like you. You see it over and over... you get used to it. After a while there's nothing wrong, it's the new normal. That's the way it is with those scholars..."
Edwidge Danticat was asked by the audience about her memoir Brother, I'm Dying, which ends when her elderly uncle flees to Miami from Haiti in 2004 and is sent directly to Krome, an infamous (still-operating) U.S. detention center. He was refused his medicine, interrogated without mercy, and died hours later, still incarcerated. She said, "Watching the whole Trayvon Martin thing, just watching that family, I kept going back to that time, being part of a family where you've lost someone to a great injustice, and I completely understand the desire, you really want to make sure that doesn't happen to someone else." She told how she fought to get the documents on her uncle's case through the Freedom of Information Act. "I wanted to write the book in a way that their words themselves would indict them... You think at any moment someone could have made this turn out differently... someone who is thinking about humans as opposed to thinking of immigrants as pests. You are recreating [in your head] the whole thing with another outcome, but it never has one."
Some heavy questions were debated at these events: what will it really take for the world's people to get out from under this monstrous system? Can capitalism be undermined from within, or do people need total revolution? Is shrinking your ecological and privileged footprint—just doing some good things in a bad world—all that's possible for the time being? Or is now the time when people of conscience need to seriously check out this revolution and get with the movement preparing to lead millions when they're ready to rise up and there's a chance to get rid of this system? These evenings could be unsettling, even as doors were opened. It was probably the first time many people heard a clear defense of the first wave of socialist revolutions, their great achievements and their shortcomings. This too was contended and people listened keenly.
It might have seemed counter-intuitive to undertake a major fund drive simultaneously with launching an ambitious author series. But really, does any revolutionary advance, or any significant development for that matter, happen sequentially bit by bit? Going all out for a breakthrough brought on a synergy that was electric. The "Hidden Lives, Human Possibilities" events brought in $1,800-$2,500 each, and stirred enthusiasm among store volunteers who went all over the city, from the Harlem Book Fair to lines at the Jon Stewart Show, publicizing the bookstore, the fund drive and the events.
The campaign inspired other new forays. Some 2500 postcards were snail-mailed to residents in a five-block area surrounding the store, prompting visits and contributions from neighbors. Testimonials on "why I gave" took over a wall in the store. A weekend used book sale attracted 200 people and raised $1200. Traffic in the normally slow late-summer started going way up, and stayed up, a result of increased promotion, and Revolution Books and the revolutionary movement hitting the streets as the political scene heated up. Net sales income for September was up 90% over June.
But even with all that, by mid-September, the tally was still at $12,000—with two weeks left till the deadline to raise $30,000. Where would the rest of it come from? The staff and volunteers stepped up calling, emailing, Facebooking and tweeting potential supporters and talking to everyone who came in the store. Right about then, a $10,000 donation came in from someone who had never contributed to the bookstore before. This put the goal well within range, brought in more donations, small and large, including one for almost $4000, which took the total to $32,299 by midnight on September 30.
This was a huge victory. And a sharp rebuke to the commonplace thinking that you'll be hard pressed to find someone with means who will give to the movement for revolution or its bookstores.
" ...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?... 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...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." (from a recent letter to Revolution, "Will People Go for Something That Will Disrupt Their Whole Lives?")
Reaching and surpassing this initial goal has allowed the bookstore to remain open over the summer, stock many new books, and buy time to increase sales as the word spreads about this irreplaceable revolutionary bookstore and as plans are laid for the next, even more major initiatives to make this bookstore and its mission known and supported on a whole new level.
The goal of 50 new monthly sustainers wasn't reached, however; 24 new sustainers signed up, and there's now a push to bring in the additional 26 (and 100 total by the end of the year) so that this not-for-profit all-volunteer bookstore can negotiate a new lease and meet monthly expenses.*
Still, all this is only a beginning. Way too many people don't know about Revolution Books and, while the store reached a level that allowed it to remain open over the summer on a month-to-month basis, it has not yet achieved on-going of self-sufficiency. The next critical phase in the fund drive is beginning with meetings with potential funders and sustainers, getting out in the city with 50,000 cards, maybe launching a national crowd-sourcing campaign. In late September, a designer volunteered to build a beautiful new website which will also allow RB to sell its unique collection of books online.
At a time when critical thought is an endangered species and revolution is urgently needed, the great objective of self-sustainability for Revolution Books by 2014 is within reach. One progressive publisher who has been following RB's emails remarked at a recent book festival that the success of the fund drive is "a testament to how many people feel about the mission of that bookstore."
Indeed, persevering in the fundamental mission of Revolution Books has been critical to the recent advance, and was a matter of struggle among the staff, volunteers, and everyone involved, and continues to be.
Andy Zee spoke to the stakes in a fundraising talk during the evening with Eve Ensler:
"Two of the ten principles that Eve mentions that govern at the City of Joy [a center in Congo supported by V-Day for women raped in the ongoing civil war there] are Tell the truth and Stop waiting to be rescued. That's not a bad place to begin to tell you about Revolution Books and what we're doing here and why it matters that you're here, and making a deep commitment to not just to support Rev Books but to actually spread it all over the city and, given where we're located, the world...
"We're governed here and we engage the whole world not by how much force is behind any of our ideas, not what can be marshaled to get you to agree with our ‘narrative.' Like ‘America is the shining city on a hill'—they're backing that up with drones. This is part of the problem in the world. But here we have a method and approach that looks at the world as it actually is, in its motion and development, and this approach is essential if we are to get to a point where we get beyond where might makes right. And that's what we're all about: getting to that world, actually a communist world. This scientific method that's infused by the poetic spirit has been developed by Bob Avakian. At RB we have the spirit, the critical inquiry and the theory that the people need—people like Cindy [the nurse's aide who cared for Eve], and the people in Rwanda and the Congo and Bangladesh—the theory that they need to be able to change the world so that there aren't the divisions that Eve spoke about so eloquently....
"At Revolution Books we get to the root of why the world is this way and how it could be different... Bob Avakian has brought forward a new understanding of communism, a different way the world could be ... He's gone deeply into the history of communism, its great achievements, its shortcomings, at times its grievous errors... And we have a new understanding of communism. And why am I telling you this now—when we have Eve Ensler here? Because it really matters that there's a way out, and this store is about engaging that, and engaging all of reality in doing that.
"Humanity cannot wait to be rescued. This takes people acting consciously on the reality we face, and Revolution Books is a site for that..."
For more information, and to become a sustainer or contribute to Revolution Books in New York City, go to http://revolutionbooksnyc.org/Donate-sustain.htm.
* A regular sustainer is $20/month for which you get 10% off books, free admission to most events and an RB mug or tote bag. This past year, the store launched a popular "6 Books a Year" program: people who sustain at $35 or more per month receive a free new book every other month (they select from 4 books chosen by RB staff). [back]
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