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Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
October 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Step into the future ... a future people would actually want to be in... a future that really could be.
For an evening, on April 11, 2011, hundreds of people joined in a thrilling taste of revolutionary possibility at Harlem Stage in NYC. BAsics from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian—the handbook for revolution in the twenty-first century—had just been published (and today is in its second printing). To mark the occasion, musicians, dancers, poets, actors, visual artists, came together with revolutionaries and activists from the 1960s down to today for a cultural event titled: "On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World."
Harlem Stage soared with revolutionary joy as hundreds of people, young and old, of different backgrounds and diverse political viewpoints were taken on a journey: lifted off their feet and touched to their cores as they traveled through the night of jazz, funk, soul, rock, poetry, dance, theatrical readings, and visual arts all woven together with deep revolutionary insight from archival film of Bob Avakian, readings from his BAsics, and commentary from voices who have been on the front lines for decades. As Revolution newspaper wrote at that time: "All of it aching for, giving voice to, and infused with the possibility of a radically different world than the maddening planet we live on now."
This November, the story of this night— the reflections of the artists and participants: what inspired them, their hopes and dreams—is coming to the screen in a new documentary film: STEPPING INTO THE FUTURE; On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World. In one hour and 15 minutes you feel and understand the depth of transformation that can take place when the revolutionary vision and framework developed by Bob Avakian which is concentrated in BAsics sets the stage—here for an evening—yet foreshadowing the potential for a whole new world. Featuring tastes of the performances at Harlem Stage, the urgency and uplift of the night comes through a compelling narrative of the deep concerns of the artists and presenters about the horrific state of today's world, the lies and the crimes of America, the import they see in revolution and in BA's voice being out on the scene—why that matters and their hopes for what this could mean for the future of humanity.
For people who have never seen or experienced Bob Avakian and the impact of his words, this film is an inspiring introduction. In the documentary, the jazz composer and musician Matthew Shipp comments: "Avakian talks a lot about revolutionaries having a poetic imagination, so it was really good to see that idea within the context of an event that has to do with the political or philosophical idealism of revolution." After a screening of a rough cut of the film, a couple of artists were discussing how the film makes you recognize the brainwash of this culture and society and not just wish you had been there on April 11, but impels you to want to find out more about this revolution and BA.
What could be more timely at a juncture when the world is roiling with reactionary governments and movements, when it reeks from a putrid culture, and is imperiled by the prospect of the destruction of the planet we live on? At a cultural moment when those films and novels that do envision the future typically project a dystopian world (e.g.: Elysium, Hunger Games, Mad Max)—which is where the world is heading absent radical fundamental change—think of what an inspiration and difference a radically new culture as part of a new revolutionary society and the movement to bring it into being means. STEPPING INTO THE FUTURE makes that real.
Plans are afoot for breaking STEPPING INTO THE FUTURE ... out into the world. During the first week of December there will be important widely publicized Opening Celebrations that premiere the film in Los Angeles and New York City, featuring some of the artists, presenters, creators of the film. At the same time, it will be shown in publicized showings in other cities around the country.
From mid-October through November, there will be a "soft launch" release of the film to build up to the celebratory opening screenings. The DVD of the documentary will be available for sale in early November. It will be part of a major BA Everywhere Holiday Sale running through the end of the year that will include the foundational works of Bob Avakian, as well as other items to support the campaign to get BA—everywhere. When the DVD of STEPPING INTO THE FUTURE .... comes out, Revolution Books and/or BA Everywhere Committees should sponsor dinners that show the film, plan for its opening, and especially get into and plan for major fundraising for BA Everywhere throughout the months of November and December. Also, in mid-October there will be pre-release copies of the film available for private showings for fundraising meetings and salons for the BA Everywhere Campaign. An important part of the "soft launch" will be utilizing the pre-release copies to involve and enlist people to work on the promotion of the film, setting up screenings, and broad publicity. This film in its own right, and especially in the context of wide promotion and popularization of BA, BAsics, and the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live, has the potential to make a huge difference in opening up a new positive radical and revolutionary trend in the political and cultural terrain. But that will take people—contributing funds and being a part of the movement to spread this.
Plans are still being developed but without doubt there is enormous potential for this documentary to be widely shown on campuses, in film schools, in art, performance and cultural centers, as well as in independent movie houses and as things develop way out in the world through different forms of internet and/or cable broadcast.
BA Everywhere—Imagine the Difference It Could Make
Raising big funds for big impact so that BA is known to everyone
STEPPING INTO THE FUTURE; On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World is but one part of stepping up to fill a great need to break open the possibility for millions of people so that they can know there is a revolutionary way out of the horrors of the world that is concentrated in the leadership of Bob Avakian and the new synthesis of communism he has forged.
This fall, especially in the months of November and December, all who really want to do something to go up against all the outrageous crimes of the imperialist world today, all who yearn for there to be a radically different and better future, should join in going all out this holiday season to involve lots of people in raising the kind of big money needed to project BA way out in the world, making BA a household name so that this revolution is known far and wide—what's it about and what it's for.
Everywhere you look—from the Mideast to North Africa; to the U.S. government shutdown spearheaded by virulent fascist forces busting a move while their imperialist opposites in the Democratic Party conciliate while carrying out an overall program of brutal repression and suppression of people here and around the world; the poisoning of the whole planet—the great need for revolutionary change cries out.
This system is not, can not, and will not produce anything other than misery for the majority of the world's people while endangering the future for everyone. The very acute problems and crises that their system is caught in also hold the potential for a positive revolutionary resolution. There is another way the world could be. And that is concentrated in the vision and framework of BA's new synthesis of communism. There is an urgent need to make this known now. To put before the world the only real alternative to the capitalist/imperialist system.
The campaign to project BA's leadership and the new synthesis of communism to the world is called BA Everywhere for good reason. There needs to be a contending viable vision and plan that is arrayed up against the killing program and oppressive reality that people are living. To break people out of thinking in that old system way, for people to see through and beyond the band-aid programs of social welfare and NGO charity there must be an alternative that is known throughout society, that is a point of reference, a fulcrum of controversy and debate, and around which a serious movement for revolution is being built. This will shape what people see is possible, changing the dynamics of everything.
For BA to be known everywhere, to have societal impact, requires big money. Now is the time to build on all the publicity and work that this campaign has done over the last two years and go all out this November and December to raise those funds—not only for one or another project to promote BA—but to realize the full vision of putting BA and what he has brought forward before all.
Teams should be getting out the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live—selling the DVD, sitting down and watching and discussing the whole film with people. The film should be shown in libraries, schools and community centers while work is undertaken for even more significant showings and popularization in the months ahead. At the same time, BAsics needs to get out on a whole other level. We are beginning the sale of the second printing of 10,000 copies of BAsics, which in turn should inspire many thousands to get their copy. Together BA Speaks... and BAsics provide the foundation and the introduction to what people need to change the world.
At its core, BA Everywhere is a multi-dimensional fundraising campaign among all strata. Now is the time to form teams of fundraisers, to plan fundraising activities among those who catch hell the hardest from this system. Now is the time to set up appointments, meetings, and house parties with professors and professionals; now especially is the time to be going out to events and places to seek to meet really wealthy people who can contribute the level of funds to make a societal impact. There is a new correspondence on the website revcom.us that grapples with the basis to raise really large sums of money from among the wealthiest people. The letter makes the point that these people live in the same world as everyone else with all its horrors and the dangers—and that many are moved to do something about it. But, most of what their large scale philanthropy contributes to now either does great harm—such as contributing to the Democrats—or offers some relief to a few people while the system crushes lives and spirits around the world.
With BA Everywhere we are giving people of all strata an opportunity to make the biggest difference that could be. This is about changing the face of everything. There is nothing more ambitious and nothing more real—if you want a world that is fit for humanity and all the species that live on it.
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
I was very excited by the editorial in last week’s Revolution newspaper, “November and December: Time to Raise Big Funds for BA Everywhere,” about the major campaign to raise big funds to project Bob Avakian’s vision and works into every corner of society, and wanted to share what we’re doing in my city to apply it.
First, we really need to hit the ground running. As the editorial pointed out, “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.” And Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away so schedules will be filling up fast! We talked about having an approach of getting out the gate quickly and stepping back and summing up deeply as we go. There shouldn’t be a lot of complicated and unnecessary steps.
We’re going to have a small core team who can dedicate a good deal of time over the next two months, really going on a mission to reach out to more propertied people, and working on a few different levels. And hoping for this to involve some people from different backgrounds and levels of experience. At the same time we’re going to involve a broader section of people—in particular those who work with the BA Everywhere committee and others who want to volunteer to be part of important mass efforts and targeted research in this sphere.
This small core team is going to pile into someone’s place and all work together—going through lists, writing short letters, getting on the phone, tracking down ways to reach people if it’s not so easy, going out to events together where we know we can reach these people. This way we can really bear down and sum up as we go. We’re going to struggle to get meetings with people so we can really make the case in person for why they should give a serious contribution ($1,000, $5,000 or $10,000 depending on the person we’re talking to). But there’s also not a one-size-fits-all approach. If people don’t want to make time for a meeting, but will talk to us on the phone, then we should make the argument that way. If we can’t reach them on the phone and we know they’ll be speaking at this or that place, we should go there and make the case.
The main thing is there has to be a lot of fluidity and determination—what we’re raising funds for really is the most important thing in the world right now: broad societal awareness and impact with Bob Avakian’s revolutionary leadership and new synthesis of communism... that there is a whole different way the world could be up against the nightmare, disaster and cruelty of this world... the strategy, vision and leadership for this is concentrated in BA.
A lot of people will have questions and differences with all this, including as they more deeply engage it. This is a good and important part of the process. We have to join these at the same time as we bring it back to why—even as we continue to debate out these differences—they should contribute financially to BA Everywhere: making known in every corner of society that there is a program and vision that is about the total emancipation of humanity, and a leadership in BA working at that today.
Taking off from the editorial, we’ve identified three interrelated but distinct categories of (a) people we know, sort of know or can contact to begin with (people “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”) (b) people we should know and make a real effort to meet, given what they say/write and indications of real agonizing about the state of the world or others who may not themselves be in a position to contribute large funds but might know people in these spheres (c) scenes we should be mixing in to meet others—there are lots of examples, but you might start with a broad category like the New York jazz scene, including arts philanthropists or progressive Hollywood, Silicon Valley (including these types of centers nationally), or well-known architects. We can reach out more as we go, but mainly we want to pick one or two and begin the process.
These last two categories should involve the broader team I mentioned above—people who are maybe newer to all this, or who have less time but want to contribute. What events in the next three weeks should we aim to have a broader impact at? Is there simple research that can be done by people who are maybe too shy to get on the phone but want to help (i.e., sifting through donor lists is something anyone with internet access can do and it can save the core team a lot of time). Finally, this broader team should also do some neighborhood canvassing in wealthier areas in conjunction with the core group. Through this, we’ll also help people develop this new kind of experience and will need to lead all this politically and sum up along the way.
All this should be focused on raising funds for BA Everywhere and (at least in New York and Los Angeles), building for the formal premieres of the new film, Stepping Into the Future—On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World.
When we get the meetings, we want to mix in some different kinds of people—people with different backgrounds who can make the case at different levels but with passion and conviction. We should have simple materials as well.
The editorial pointed out that along with the new film Stepping Into the Future, BA Speaks: REVOLUTON—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live, and BAsics, we should make packets with Cornel West’s interview of BA and the mission statement of The Bob Avakian Institute (if we’re sitting down with people, we can also show them the video about the BAsics Bus Tour that went to Sanford, Florida, in 2012).
For the meeting itself, people should be ready to make the case for the impact of BA Everywhere as a whole—really making BA a household name. And more concretely, what will be done with the funds we’re raising to enable this. We’re not raising a smaller amount of funds for this or that immediate project, but we should give a sense of what has been accomplished thus far with the funds raised and in an overall sense what their contribution will go towards. The BA Institute mission statement paints an important picture of this: publicizing and promoting BA’s works and things inspired by BA’s work (including the new film, Stepping Into the Future...); paying for speaking tours, panels and interviews about BA’s work; multi-layered advertising campaigns including PR work to garner higher level interviews and media about BA and BA Everywhere; national outreach to libraries, high schools and colleges with BA’s work, syllabus ideas, a movement of showings of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and more; funding future bus tours to the metropolitan centers and hinterlands of the U.S. with volunteers from across the country of different ages and backgrounds... reaching people with BA’s work who are never otherwise reached; encouraging and promoting a variety of artistic and cultural expressions in relation to BA’s work. We want their ideas as well in all this—but we are serious, and should convey this, about changing the face of everything with BA’s vision and works.
Finally, write in to Revolution newspaper and revcom.us with questions and experience so we can all learn from each other.
I’ll repeat how last week’s editorial ended: “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 #322 November 10, 2013
Statement by Carl Dix
November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On October 31, a panel of judges on the federal appeals court in New York City delivered a slap in the face to the millions of people who have been harassed, disrespected, and worse under the NYPD's racist stop-and-frisk policy, to all the people who don't want to live in a society where people are criminalized because of the color of their skin and to the 10,000s of people who have marched and spoken out against stop-and-frisk.
The appeals court issued a stay of a lower court ruling that the NYPD's approach to stop-and-frisk was unconstitutional. The appeals court also stayed the remedies the lower court had set in motion to reform stop-and-frisk. Going further, the appeals court dressed down the lower court judge, Shira Scheindlin, claiming that she acted improperly by bringing the case onto her calendar as a related case and for failing to maintain the appearance of impartiality and removed her from the case. On top of being a major attack on the rights of Black and Latino people, this ruling sends a chilling message to anybody, whether in the legal arena or not, that they better not stand with the people on the bottom of society in the face of attacks from the powers-that-be.
This appeals court ruling is a major attack on the rights of Black and Latino people. It is a statement that, once again, this system is determined to treat the basic and fundamental rights of Black and Latino people as "up for arbitration" and, in this instance, something to be denied at the whim of those who hold power. Once again, white supremacy is legally consecrated by this system.
This has been the case since the very beginning—from slavery days when Africans were dragged to these shores in chains and worked from can't see in the morning to can't see at night to build up the wealth and power of America. Thru the century of Jim Crow segregation when Black people were sharecroppers on the same plantations, being cheated by many of the same plantation masters, who had enslaved them and their ancestors, and who were kept down by Ku Klux Klan and lynch mob terror. Up thru the period after World War 2, when millions of Black people migrated to cities across the U.S. to end up on the bottom tier of the work force, faced with discrimination, police terror, and inequality wherever they turned.
And it continues today, with the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, the intensifying nationwide epidemic of police murder in which killings of unarmed, innocent people by cops has become almost a daily occurrence. And with the horrific reality of mass incarceration and all its consequences, which comes down to a slow genocide that could easily become a fast one aimed at Black and Latino people.
All along the way, there have been legal decisions that made white supremacy the law of the land. This goes back to 1857, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared, in the Dred Scott decision, that Black people "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." It continued thru judicial decisions that literally overruled the rights granted to freed slaves by the Thirteenth and Fourteenth amendments to the Constitution and made separate and "unequal" the law of the land in the late 1800s; thru the exoneration of the white men who lynched Emmett Till in 1954; thru not guilty verdicts in the rare cases where cops end up in court facing charges for having brutalized and even murdered people; and thru the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. This tradition legally consecrates white supremacy. It is unacceptable, and it must be stopped!
The brutal oppression of Black people has been deeply embedded into the very fabric of this system from the very beginning, and it will take revolution, nothing less, to deal with it, once and for all. Things don't have to be this way. We should live in a society where those entrusted with public security would sooner risk their own lives than kill or injure an innocent person, and where the legal system would protect people's rights, not criminalize them. To bring that kind of society into being will take a revolution.
We in the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) are building a movement for revolution. We have the leadership needed to make revolution and bring a totally different and far better way for people to live into being in Bob Avakian. The RCP has laid out the vision and strategic plan for making revolution in its statement, "On the Strategy for Revolution," and for building a new society in a country like this in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) [CNSRNA].
If you hate the horrors this system inflicts on humanity and want to see them ended, you need to get with the movement for revolution. Watch the DVD, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION – NOTHING LESS! Read and engage the CSNRNA and the strategy statement. Join us in spreading BA's voice and his works and the need for and possibility of revolution everywhere. And join us in Fighting the Power, and Transforming the People, for Revolution.
And if you have an ounce of justice in your heart, join us in rejecting this ruling and calling for an end to stop-and-frisk as part of saying NO MORE to the whole slow genocide of mass incarceration and all its consequences. A very broad fight needs to be waged over this. There will and should be ongoing struggle over the bigger question of revolution – but getting with the revolution is not a "prerequisite" for acting. EVERYONE who finds it outrageous that people are being criminalized because of the color of their skin should be taking action NOW. This needs to be taken up in neighborhoods all across NYC. Religious leaders must address it in their sermons. Students and faculty must mobilize people to take this on in the high schools and on college campuses.
Everybody needs to refuse to turn their heads and walk away in the face of this outrage but should step out and oppose this. NOW. This appeals court ruling must be denounced and rejected, and we have to blow the whistle on stop-and-frisk.
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On October 31, a panel of appeals court judges stayed (put a halt to) a lower-court ruling that the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy was unconstitutional as implemented. And the appeals court removed Judge Shira Scheindlin from the case—supposedly for bringing the case onto her calendar as a related case and for failing to maintain the appearance of impartiality. Mainstream news sources described this as "stunning." It was outrageous.
Exactly what did Judge Scheindlin do that sent the appeals court panel into such a frenzy? Judge Scheindlin has been hearing stop-and-frisk lawsuits for more than a decade. She presided over a settlement reached with city officials in 2003 in the case of Daniels, et al. v. the City of New York. The Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented the plaintiffs in that case, filed Floyd v. the City of New York, which is the case at issue in the recent rulings, and the judge took it on as a related case.
In this case, Judge Scheindlin heard data on the number of stops the NYPD made—more than four million in less than a decade; who was stopped—more than 85 percent of those stopped were Black or Latino; and the outcome of those stops—that more than 90 percent of those stopped were found to be doing nothing wrong. She reviewed what cops said about why they had stopped each person. She heard testimony and recordings from police officers who were told they had to stop certain numbers of people and were questioned when they didn't reach those numbers. And she heard a number of the plaintiffs talk about the circumstances of their encounters with the NYPD because of stop-and-frisk; about how they were stopped for bullshit reasons and subjected to abuse and disrespect by the cops who stopped them. In some cases, the plaintiffs spoke of being repeatedly stopped for nothing. One plaintiff had recorded one of the incidents when cops stopped him. This recording documented that the cops who stopped him called him "mutt" repeatedly and vowed to continue stopping him as long as he looked "crazy."
All this led to Judge Scheindlin ruling that the way the NYPD carried out its stop-and-frisk policy was unconstitutional, and she imposed legal remedies that amounted to mandating changes and putting in place a process to reform and adjust the policy. The changes included a pilot project to have a small number of cops wear body cameras that would record their interactions with people they stop. A monitor was also appointed to oversee the reform process.
This ruling didn't really solve the problem. Stop-and-frisk isn't a necessary policing tactic that the NYPD took too far. It's a policy based on racially profiling people, one that concentrates the way Black and Latino people, especially young people, have been criminalized and demonized in U.S. society. Under this policy, police stop people on the way to and from work or school. They accost people who are sitting on park benches relaxing, playing basketball in the park, visiting a friend or relative in a housing project or even entering or leaving their own buildings! Young Black men have told of being stopped on a regular basis, sometimes by the same cops. NYPD Chief Ray Kelly told three Black elected officials that he wanted every young Black and Latino male to fear that the NYPD would stop-and-frisk them whenever they left the house in the morning. (Kelly doesn't deny saying this. Instead he says it was taken out of context.) In 2011, the NYPD recorded 150,000 stops of Black males between the ages of 15 and 24—there are fewer than 150,000 Black males between those ages in New York City!
All this was brought into Judge Scheindlin's court by testimony in the case. And it is even worse than that. Some of the less than 10 percent of people stopped and frisked who do get arrested or ticketed were also not doing anything illegal. Cops routinely arrest Black and Latino youth for asking why they're being stopped and harassed. Cops also arrest people who don't have ID on them and keep them in jail till someone brings their ID.
All this combines to create a situation where Blacks and Latinos are treated like criminals, guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence. Think about this—Black and Latino parents have to tell their children what they should do and shouldn't do to have the best chance at survival if they're confronted by a cop. "Remain calm," "Don't raise your voice," "Say yes sir and no sir," "Keep your hands in view at all times." And even as these parents give these instructions, they know their child might still end up arrested, brutalized or even murdered, even if they follow their guidance to the letter!
This is how stop-and-frisk impacts the lives of so many people every day, and the reform process Judge Scheindlin put in place falls short of getting to the heart of and ending what it brings down on people. As Carl Dix says: stop-and-frisk can't be mended—it needs to be ended!
Part of the backdrop for Judge Scheindlin's ruling, and possibly a factor in the way her decision was worded, is the way US courts, including the Supreme Court have shredded supposed constitutional protections against searches without probably cause. A big step in this shredding process was the 1968 case, Terry v. Ohio, where the Supreme Court ruled that what is supposed to be Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures is not violated if a police officer stops a suspect on the street and frisks him or her without probable cause to arrest.
These rulings had the effect of further unleashing police to especially target people on the bottom of this society, especially Blacks and Latinos. The ruling in Terry v. Ohio was issued at the height of the 1960s where uprisings of Black people against their oppression sparked a broader revolutionary movement that rocked the whole system back on its heels.
But Judge Scheindlin's ruling did go too far for significant sections of the powers-that-be and for the three judges on the appeals court panel. They granted the city's request for a stay of Judge Scheindlin's ruling and the reform process she had set in place without referring to any of the arguments made by the city's attorneys or the counter-arguments of the plaintiffs' lawyers about why this stay was needed. And the panel went beyond that to remove the judge from the case for supposed improprieties in taking the case onto her calendar and for supposedly failing to avoid the appearance of bias against one side (NYC and the NYPD) in the case.
Here the appeals court panel referred to interviews the judge gave to the media. The backdrop for these interviews were continued public statements by NYPD and city officials complaining about anti-police bias on the part of the judge. They also said repeatedly that the judge didn't know enough about policing to be making decisions about stop-and-frisk. In response, Judge Scheindlin did interviews countering these charges of bias and lack of experience, but she didn't discuss the case she was currently hearing about stop-and-frisk. In an article entitled, "The Preposterous Removal of Judge Scheindlin," Jeffrey Toobin, a prominent legal commentator and author, said: "Scheindlin did nothing wrong. She talked about her judicial career and her history on the bench in a way that illuminated the work that all judges do. In my experience, it's a common complaint from judges that the public doesn't understand their work, and doesn't care about what they do. Scheindlin's conduct in this case exemplified the independent tradition of the judiciary. She should be honored for it, not scolded."
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
Dispatch #2 from Jackson, Mississippi
by Sunsara Taylor | November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The last time Operation Save America (OSA) called for a week-long siege on the last abortion clinic in Mississippi back in 2006, I watched up close—and counter-protested—as they ran amok throughout the entire city. They targeted and terrorized women and staff at the Jackson Women's Health Organization. They held major press-garnering protests throughout the city. They hooked up a high-decibel sound system and had women wail and weep about how deeply they regretted their abortions and how desperately they sought forgiveness for "murdering their babies." Then Christian fascist men who love patriarchy and hate women would call forth vengeance and incite an atmosphere of dangerous violence against abortion providers. They terrorized not only the clinic, but also the Unitarian Church which had opened itself up to out-of-town protesters and they even burned a Koran!
So, as we got ready for yesterday (Saturday, November 2), the first day OSA would be at the Jackson Women's Health Organization during their present siege, we were prepared for all of this and more. What we found instead was about 15 anti-abortion religious fanatics who set up lawn chairs and held a prayer circle across the street from the clinic. Meanwhile, about 40 supporters of the Jackson Women's Health Organization and abortion rights stood proudly in front of the "Pink House" (the informal and affectionate name given to the clinic after its owner painted it bright, vagina pink earlier this year).
We spent the morning chanting, holding signs up and cheering as people in cars honked in support. A few local media showed up and took statements from "both sides" (to then proceed to show extremely biased reports on the evening news—there is this common myth that when they show "both sides" of the truth and a lie, or of oppression and liberation, they are being "even-handed").
After a couple of hours, Diane Derzis, the owner of the Pink House, arrived and everyone gathered to honor her. Local activists with Hell No Mississippi (a group that formed several years ago to fight a law that would have granted personhood rights to fetuses, thereby criminalizing all abortions, and against voter ID laws that targeted Black and Latino voters) gave a moving introduction to Ms. Derzis. Derzis began running abortion facilities in 1974, just the year after abortion became legal nationwide. Back in 1998, her clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, was bombed, causing the death of one security guard and the lifelong maiming of Emily Lyons, a nurse. With deep courage, Emily Lyons has spent years speaking uncompromisingly on behalf of women's right to abortion. Immediately after her clinic had been bombed, Diane Derzis fought with incredible determination and heroism to open that clinic back up and she refused to be intimidated or to back down. She also did it with style and attitude, walking out into a crowd of anti-abortion fanatics with a banana in one hand and a condom in the other and conducting a scientifically based and thoroughly comprehensive sex-education demonstration for the whole Dark Ages crowd!
Derzis was presented with a beautiful original painting of the Pink House by a local artist. She spoke a few words about how determined she is to keep the clinic open and how much she appreciates the staff and local support for the clinic. Then we all headed down to protest at the governor's mansion. Governor Phil Bryant has said of the Jackson Women's Health Organization, "My goal of course is to shut it down." Back in 2011, a woman who had been kidnapped, raped, and shot twice challenged him that the "Personhood Amendment" that he was pushing would force women to bear the children of their rapists. "Why can't you men have any sympathy for women like me?" she asked him. But he demonstrated no sympathy at all, insisting that the fight to grant personhood rights to fertilized eggs was "a battle of good and evil of Biblical proportions," and that if the amendment was defeated it meant that "Satan wins."
The fact that such a man is holding major public office and is treated as legitimate by this system speaks volumes about how fundamentally illegitimate this whole system is and of how badly we need a real revolution. He has openly declared his total disdain for women's lives and his determination to see women slammed back to the back alleys and under the harsh authority of men. It was righteous and uplifting to stand with Diane Derzis and others in front of his mansion to voice our determination to fight against everything he represents.
We Remain Tense for Anti-Abortion Protests, But Recognize Even Greater Legal Dangers Looming, and Take Advantage of Our Time Here to Build this Fight
It is hard to tell exactly what to make of the very small turnout of anti-abortion protesters yesterday. It is impossible to tell if this is a pattern that will continue throughout the week or if there will be a greater turnout and anti-abortion protests and terror tactics in the days to come. The fact that there is even the potential for such protests and tactics underscores how important it is that we are down here. It is necessary for many more people and organizations to take this approach of responding and politically countering the anti-abortion forces everywhere they mobilize, especially when they target abortion doctors, providers, clinics, and staff.
At the same time, the fact that their turnout thus far has been low is no cause for celebration. As I wrote about recently, there was a horrific legal decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans this past Thursday that had the immediate effect of shutting down abortion services at as many as thirteen clinics throughout the state of Texas. The media has reported about patients showing up across the state to find that their abortion procedures had been cancelled. Especially in the southern and western portions of the state, these patients as well as the clinic staff were weeping, freaking out, breaking down, and searching desperately for the means to get these women hundreds of miles to a clinic where they could get the care they need.
At the very moments that we stood gathered in front of the Jackson Women's Health Organization, women across Texas were going through this same experience again and again. Clinic owners were making tough decisions about whether to close their doors and lay off their staff because they have no legal means to run their regular practice and take in income. Not only is this denying women the services they need right now, not only will this concretely mean that many women this week will end up being forced to have children they had already decided they did not want to have, this will make it very difficult for these clinics to re-open even if the legal decision is later reversed (something that there is no guarantee of!). Just think about what actually happens if you are forced to close down your medical facility, lay off your doctors and staff but continue to pay rent and taxes on your property and other expenses. How many clinics will be able to do that? And how many will be able to reassemble staff and doctors many months, or years, down the road even if the decision were reversed?
But even all that is not bad enough. The Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans is the same court that will hear any appeal from the state of Mississippi over a similar law that currently threatens to close the Jackson Women's Health Organization! This only intensifies the very immediate danger facing this last abortion clinic in Mississippi.
Indeed, the emergency down here in Mississippi is even more intense than when we first got here!
As such, we are—as I stated before—very glad that we mobilized to be down here, and we are determined to take advantage of every minute here on the ground to both build support for the last clinic here and to build involvement in the ongoing nationwide movement to turn the tide in the vicious and murderous war on women. So, after our time at the clinic, then the governor's mansion, and then at a great picnic hosted by two local activists who escort regularly at the clinic and made up the core of Mississippi Occupy, we split our forces up, going in different directions to get to work on this in various ways.
I don't have time to report right now on the afternoon some of us spent out in the neighborhoods of Jackson, beyond saying that we found a good number of folks (both older and younger) in a low-income African-American neighborhood that is dotted with foreclosed and boarded-up houses. About half the men we spoke to told us of having spent serious time in prison (one had only recently gotten out after 14 years which began when he was only 15 years old!). And most knew very well the Jackson Women's Health Organization and spoke movingly about the women and young girls who rely on that clinic. They told the kinds of stories we have been hearing a lot down here, of young women and girls who have been either afraid to tell their families or unable to afford the services who have tried to take pills or stick sharp objects up inside them to self-induce an abortion and how this will happen even more if the clinic is forced to close. While there exists a lot of moral condemnation about the act of abortion among some (something we deeply explored and struggled over), many at the same time held great sympathy for the struggles of women with kids they cannot afford and spoke with deep conviction about the importance, the life-saving importance, of abortion access. We also heard harrowing stories of police brutality especially against Black boys and young men, routine humiliation, lack of jobs, torture in the prisons, and an overall situation of brutal oppression against Black people. I promise to write more about all this soon.
The Urgent Need for Massive Resistance, As Well As for Open and Principled Debate Over the Way Forward
Everything I have said thus far only underscores the extremely urgent need for people who care about women's right to abortion to get off the sidelines right now and begin fighting to change the whole direction that this society is going in. The three goals that were identified by Stop Patriarchy when we launched the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride are more urgent than ever. These goals were: 1. to wage a national counter-offensive against this national war on women, 2. to radically reset the political, ideological and moral terms so that people recognize that this is a fight over women's liberation or women's enslavement and that abortion must be available on demand and without apology, 3. to forge a movement that relies on ourselves, not politicians or the courts, to wage massive society-wide resistance of millions of people to defeat this whole war on women.
It is imperative that we fight to change the way people in their millions understand the fight over abortion. Most people still think that this fight has something to do with babies. It does not. Fetuses are NOT babies. What the fight over abortion is and has always been about is control over women. Women who cannot decide for themselves when and whether to have a child, women who are denied the right to abortion, cannot be free. And if women are not free then no one is free.
When I first got involved in defending abortion clinics almost 20 years ago, I thought that there was just a big misunderstanding about abortion between the pro-choice side and the "pro-life" side. I thought maybe the anti-abortion folks didn't realize that even if they made abortion illegal women would still get them but they would just die in their attempts to do so. I thought that we could seek "common ground" on the basis of trying to promote birth control and real sex education to reduce the number of abortions. This is the program that was being promoted at the time by Bill Clinton and it had its influence on a great many of us.
However, what I came to learn—both through my personal experience at the clinics interacting with anti-abortion fanatics, in examining legislation pushed mainly by Republicans but also by Democrats, and even more through my study and in particular the analysis on this that had been brought forward by Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party—was that there is no misunderstanding. The anti-abortion leaders are completely aware of the fact that denying abortion will put women's lives at risk and they have never been motivated by concern to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. All of them are against birth control! Their real motivation is to take women back to the days when they were openly the property of their husbands and reduced to breeders of children. Bob Avakian points out in his book, Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones; We Need Morality But Not Traditional Morality, and I have directly witnessed this, that the anti-abortionists raise prayers like, "Lord, break this curse of independence that has afflicted women." They rail against abortion and against birth control because they are dead-set opposed to the idea that women should have full equality together with men, which requires that women be able to control for themselves their own reproduction.
Many abortion providers who have been stalked and terrorized for years know this deeply. However, very few in the "pro-choice" movement will say this. Very few in the pro-choice movement will say the word abortion and very few think it's okay to set out to change people's thinking. Largely, they are still trapped in the deadly and losing strategy promoted by the Democratic Party leadership to seek "common ground," to conciliate, and to defend abortion mainly by appealing to the needs of women in the most extreme circumstances (women who have been raped, might die from their pregnancies, or are as young as 11 years old and victims of incest). While of course it is an incredible and outrageous exposure of the misogyny of the anti-abortion movement that they would deny abortions even to women in those most extreme circumstances, it is just as unacceptable to deny abortions to other women for whatever reason they might choose them. And reducing the "pro-choice" argument to only (or mainly) those extreme cases ends up conceding to the idea that abortion is somehow wrong (and should be restricted) for other women.
The same holds true for the very common insistence (offered repeatedly by Hillary Clinton, a war criminal who is now being promoted and championed by "pro-choice" organizations and websites as the "great feminist choice" for next president) that abortion be "safe, legal and rare." Why the hell should abortion be "rare"? People who raise this slogan should be asked, "Which women do YOU force to have a child against her will, who would YOU deny an abortion to?" At a time when abortion is already unavailable to so many women, when women and young girls across this country already face incredible hardship seeking abortions and at least one in four who are low-income and seek abortions cannot afford it and are forced to have a child against their will, and when young women are TODAY already doing great self-harm in their attempts to self-abort in ghettoes and barrios and rural areas throughout this country, what are the real-world implications of making abortion more "rare"? The implications are enslavement, humiliation, possible death and great harm for women, straight up. We need more abortions, more abortion access, more abortion providers, and a much greater and more vibrant movement of resistance to fight for these things—not less! Besides, saying that abortion should be rare implies that there is something wrong with it, adding to the stigma and shame that already heavily presses down on women. There is nothing immoral about abortion; what is immoral is forcing women to have children against their will!
All this needs to be fought out, and it must be fought out now. It is on the basis of changing people's thinking, really waging major political battle with people's thinking, that we will be able to unleash the kind of massive and determined resistance among literally millions of people throughout this country necessary to turn the tide. And this resistance must be more than just fighting each battle one by one, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught. This must be a national counter-offensive and it must be one that relies on ourselves. The courts cannot be relied on to protect these fundamental rights of women, as is being shown in devastating living color right now. And the politicians—not only the very large fascist wing of them that glorifies pregnancy through rape as a "blessing from god" but also the Democratic Party that conciliates and seeks "common ground" with this Dark Ages lunacy—cannot be relied on to do anything but continue the dynamic we've been on for decades where yesterday's outrage becomes today's "compromise position" and tomorrow's limit of what can be imagined.
We have to break out of this dynamic. That is what Stop Patriarchy is determined to lead and everyone who recognizes the true state of emergency facing women must join with us in fighting for this.
Let Us Not Talk Falsely, the Hour Is Getting Late—A "New Underground" Is Not the Answer!
Finally, I want to speak to something that I have heard advocated with increasing frequency as these attacks on abortion rights escalate to this fevered pitch. Some within the pro-choice movement insist that it is time to be developing networks and schemes to continue to provide abortions to women even if it becomes illegal.
The first time I heard this advocated more than 15 years ago at a women's conference, I found it extremely attractive because it had the appearance of defiance and determination not to be stopped by unjust and illegitimate laws. However, now when I hear this advocated I hear the air of defeat and honestly a degree of self-delusion.
To be clear, the stand and orientation of being willing to risk one's own safety to provide women with basic, life-saving and fundamental rights is undoubtedly righteous. More people need to be willing to put themselves on the line, to risk great sacrifice, for the lives and freedom of women. That is not the problem I have with this "strategy" and that is not the criticism that I have of people who advocate for it.
There are three major problems with this so-called "strategy."
First, this approach totally underestimates the power of the state. Already women who attempt to self-induce abortions, or who simply have miscarriages, have been arrested or thrown in prison. Already, an award-winning abortion doctor, Dr. James Pendergraft, has been forced to spend time in prison based on bogus charges, and other providers are currently facing bogus lawsuits. If abortion is made illegal today, it will not simply take us back to the days before Roe v. Wade (as bad as that was). We will go back to that plus a situation in which millions have been mobilized into the anti-abortion witch-hunt. Activists and repressive state agencies will hunt down and imprison those who dare to provide abortions against the law. We will face a situation more like El Salvador, where women who come to emergency rooms with perforated uteruses face criminal investigation and are often thrown into prison. And where doctors and nurses are required to report these women to the state or risk going to prison themselves.
As heroic as the attempts to provide women with abortions may be in such a situation, and as much of a life-saving difference as they might be able to make to a small number of women, it is impossible to imagine that such networks would last very long unless they were kept extremely close to the vest. And if that were the case, there is just no way they could be made known to and available to all the women who will need them. Most women throughout the country, and again especially those who are poor and live in rural areas, would have no access at all.
Second, this approach doesn't even aim to challenge the broader stigma and wrong thinking that surrounds abortion. Already, a great many women who objectively need abortions do not even seek them because they believe doing so is "sinning." And women who do get abortions face incredible stigma from their families, communities, churches, and themselves—all owing to the fact that the moral assault on abortion waged by Christian fascists has been conciliated with repeatedly for decades by most of the "pro-choice" movement. Most people have never heard of abortion spoken of positively! If we do not fight right now very broadly and publicly to change this, if we do not raise the slogan Abortion On Demand and Without Apology and tell the truth that fetuses are NOT babies, abortion is NOT murder, and women are NOT incubators, then we will not lift the crushing weight of this shame off millions of women.
Third, and most urgently at this decisive moment, this "strategy" concedes wrongly that we are destined to lose the fight for legal abortion rights in this country. I know we have been steadily losing ground for decades and it can be hard, especially for those who have been on the front lines, often all by themselves, to imagine reversing this tide in a society-wide way. But this is possible! It is actually true that forced motherhood is female enslavement and that criminalizing abortion is against the fundamental interests not only of women (that is, half of humanity) but of humanity as a whole. Millions and millions and millions of people objectively will be negatively impacted by the loss of this right.
If we refuse to base ourselves simply on "where people are at" right now (after decades of relentless and nearly unchallenged anti-abortion rhetoric and attacks), but instead root ourselves in what is objectively truth (abortion is NOT murder!) and what is objectively in the interests of humanity (Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!) we can go out and fight to change people's hearts and minds, and correspondingly their actions.
There are already millions of people who feel very strongly that they do not want to see this right taken away. If we tell them the truth about how extreme the situation is, if we set new moral, political and ideological terms in this fight, and if we give people concrete forms to take part in organized resistance, this can have an enormous effect right now. This can have the effect of taking on and potentially reversing some of the most extreme restrictions being hammered into place right now and it can have the even greater effect of changing the terms in which millions and millions more are thinking about this fight and relating to it. It can re-polarize the huge numbers who are currently in the "murky middle" on this fight—who feel that maybe there is something wrong with abortion but that it should really be allowed at least for "other women," or various shades of this thinking—so that increasingly they come to recognize the truth that there is nothing wrong with abortion and that this is a fight over the future of women. Acting on the truth and acting in resistance together, we can change these terms throughout society. Acting on the truth and acting in resistance together, we can bring forward a powerful movement to turn the tide and defeat this war on women. Acting on the truth and acting in resistance together, we can take a big step towards the kind of re-polarization necessary in society to go even further, to contribute to a real revolution that can bring about women's full liberation as a central part of the emancipation of all humanity.
This is what all of us must be aiming for. Not only that, these are arguments we need to open up very broadly among those who are fighting back or who are just now waking up to the need to fight back. We cannot win if we do not understand the nature of the problems we confront and if we do not have a correct strategy to go forward. It is NOT a distraction from the needed resistance to open up dialogue and debate, principled polemics and struggle of real substance over how we got into this situation and how we get out of it. Everyone, including those of us who are communist revolutionaries as well as others coming from a great many different perspectives, need to put forward our understanding of these questions, and everyone needs to be engaging the substance of these arguments. We need understanding as badly as we need massive resistance—and we need that resistance even more urgently now than ever before. I offer this second dispatch from on the ground in Jackson, Mississippi, at this moment of intensifying danger to women's fundamental rights, as both an update from the road and a contribution to this process.
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
November 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
StopPatriarchy.org condemns in the strongest possible terms the outrageous ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on October 31 which will have the effect of immediately closing down abortion services at as many as 13 clinics throughout Texas! That this ruling came just three days after a federal judge had blocked the implementation of a new Texas law that would require abortion doctors to have arrangements to admit patients with local hospitals shows how extreme and intense the fight is right now over the direction of abortion rights—and the lives of women—throughout this country.
Everyone who cares about the lives and futures of women must make their outrage heard and their resistance seen throughout this country. We must stand against this outrageous assault on the fundamental rights of women in Texas and this escalation in the national war on women.
There is absolutely no medical advantage to requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Not only is abortion an extremely safe medical procedure (10 times safer than childbirth, for instance), hospitals are already required to admit patients if an emergency were to occur. The only purpose this law serves is to close down women's fundamental right to abortion. This law was passed with the intent of, and will have the effect of, slamming women backwards, to a time when they were openly enslaved to their ability to reproduce.
This ruling will have immediate, devastating and even lethal implications for women throughout Texas. Many women will now be forced to travel several hours on at least two days to obtain an abortion. This will concretely put abortion care out of the reach of a great many women, particularly women who live in poverty or lack transportation, are underage or have repressive or abusive partners, are undocumented immigrants who—for lack of legal papers—are afraid to travel great distances, are victims of sexual assault and other violence, or simply lack basic knowledge about their bodies and the pregnancies that might be developing within them. Starting today and every day going forward, many women who need abortions will be forced instead to foreclose their lives and have children they do not want. Other women will go to desperate and dangerous measures to self-induce abortions, risking their safety and risking criminal prosecution.
No one in any part of this country should accept this ruling. It is immoral and it is illegitimate and it must be massively resisted.
This ruling is also part of something much bigger: a nationwide war on women. Across this country, abortion rights are in an utter state of emergency. Over 300 restrictions on abortion have been introduced at the state level across this country this year alone. More than 50 abortion clinics have been forced to close in the last three years. Five states have only one abortion clinic left. And several other states—Mississippi, Alabama, North Dakota, and Wisconsin—are all facing the same bogus "hospital admitting privileges" law that threatens to close down clinics there. Therefore, it is not only immoral to abandon the women of Texas, it is delusional to think that these outrageous clinic closings—and their devastating effects on women—will not spread if we do not stand up now!
I write this message from Jackson, Mississippi where the last abortion clinic in the entire state is in danger of being closed based on the exact same bogus hospital admitting privileges law. A trial to determine whether this law will be implemented is scheduled in March, but anti-abortion legislators have been pushing the courts to implement the law (i.e., close the last clinic) while this appeals process goes forward. Yesterday's ruling in the Fifth Circuit will undoubtedly encourage and intensify their fight to make this happen.
I and others with StopPatriarchy.org have traveled here because, in addition to everything else I just mentioned, this week—from November 2 through 6—Operation Save America, a Christian fascist anti-abortion group, will lay siege to the last clinic here in the state. We have joined with local organizers in WakeUpMississippi and the Hell No Campaign and called on people nationwide to join us in standing up against this assault.
Now, as we continue to deepen this fight here, we send our deepest sentiments of support and outrage to the women throughout Texas, and we call on people everywhere, in every corner of this country, to raise their voices today. Pour out to local courthouses with signs against this new ruling and insisting on "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology!" Send in video messages of support. Travel down to Texas or join us here in Mississippi.
There are moments in life where history pivots on what people do—or fail to do. We are living through such days and months when it comes to the future of women. Forced motherhood is female enslavement. A society that reduces women to breeders cares nothing for women. Abortion must be available on demand and without apology. No one can be allowed a clean conscience if they stand on the sidelines at a moment like this.
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
by Raymond Lotta | November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The world is a horror. More precisely, the world created and reinforced by capitalism-imperialism is one of unjust wars and brutal occupations, of life-crushing poverty and savage inequality, of the pervasive subordination and degradation of women. This is a world—and here it is proper to speak of the planet—on which accelerating environmental crisis is not only part of the warp and woof of everyday life, but threatening the very ecological balances and life-support systems of Earth.
The suffering of world humanity and the perilous state of the planet are, at their core, the outcome of the workings of the fundamental contradiction of our epoch: between highly socialized, interconnected, and globalized forces of production, on the one hand; and relations of private ownership and control over these forces of production, on the other. But locked within this contradiction is the potential for humanity to move beyond scarcity, beyond exploitation, and beyond social division—the potential to organize society on a whole different foundation that will enable human beings to truly flourish.
Which is to say, the world as it is... is not the way it must and can only be.
What is the problem before humanity; what must be changed in order to solve this problem; and how can that change come about? Communism is the science that enables humanity to understand the world, in order to change it—to understand the world ever more deeply, in order to transform it ever more profoundly in the direction of a world community of humanity. As with all sciences, communism proceeds from the world as it actually is, from the necessity (the structures and dynamics) that actually confronts humanity. Within reality lies the real basis to overcome exploitation and oppression, and to bring a radically different world into being through revolution.
And this brings me to the focus of this polemic.
In the international communist movement, there is sharp debate about the nature and process of working out of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism: between socialized production and private appropriation. The debate pivots on the forms of motion—and what is, overall, the principal form of motion—of this fundamental contradiction.
This debate involves crucial questions of political economy. But it also, and centrally, turns on issues of method and approach. Are we going to scientifically confront, analyze, and on that basis transform the world that actually exists, in its changing-ness and complexity? Or are we going to use Marxist terminology as an essentially pragmatic tool to locate sources of change and seek guarantees that history will "work out" for us, that the masses will prevail, by constructing a metaphysical framework of politics and philosophy?
What kind of international communist movement will there be: one rooted in science and proceeding from the world as it is, or one that proceeds from "narratives" that force-fit reality into a reassuring belief system?
The defeat of the Chinese revolution in 1976 marked the end of the first stage of communist revolution. This first stage saw the creation of the world's first socialist state in the Soviet Union (1917-56) and a further leap and advance with the establishment of revolutionary state power in China and the carrying forward of that revolution (1949-76).
In the wake of the counterrevolution in China, Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP), began a process of sifting through and scientifically studying the incredibly inspiring accomplishments of that first stage of communist revolution, as well as its shortcomings and real errors, some very serious. Upholding the basic principles of communism and advancing the science in qualitative, new ways, Avakian has forged a new synthesis of communism out of a scientific summation of the revolutionary experience of the communist movement and by learning and drawing from broader streams of scientific, intellectual, and artistic thought and endeavor.
Avakian has radically reenvisioned the socialist transition to communism and, at the same time, put communism on an even more scientific foundation. This new synthesis provides the framework to go further and do better in a new stage of communist revolution in the contemporary world.
The new synthesis of communism has developed in opposition to, and has been opposed by, two other responses to the defeat of socialism in revolutionary China: the one, a rejection of communism's basic principles and an embrace of bourgeois democracy; the other, a rigid and quasi-religious clinging to previous socialist experience and communist theory that rejects a thoroughly scientific approach to summing up the past and further developing communist theory.1
That is the backdrop of this debate. But the issues of political economy and methodology being joined in this polemic are not esoteric ones limited, or only of relevance and interest, to the international communist movement.
This debate encompasses issues of concern, theorization, and contention in broader progressive political and intellectual-academic circles, issues of profound import and moment. Is capitalism actually a system—with systemic drives and with systemic outcomes, that is, with its own laws of motion? How do we understand the scope for conscious human initiative, given capitalism's structural dynamics? What is a scientific approach to understanding and changing society? And what indeed constitutes human emancipation in this epoch?
A passage from Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, but Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon by Bob Avakian concentrates a critical point of departure:
[T]his is how things actually are in regard to the present circumstances of human society and the possibilities for how society can proceed and be organized: It is a matter of either bringing about a radical alternative to the presently dominant capitalist-imperialist system—an alternative which is viable, and sustainable, because it proceeds on the basis of the productive forces at hand and further unfetters them, through the transformation of the social relations, and most fundamentally the production relations and, in dialectical relation with that, the transformation of the superstructure of politics and ideology—creating, through this transformation, and fundamentally the transformation of the underlying material conditions, a radically new economic system, as the foundation of a radically new society as a whole; either that, or, what will in fact assert itself as the only real alternative in today's world—being drawn, or forced, into a society proceeding on the terms, and locked within the confines, of commodity production and exchange, and more specifically the production relations and accumulation process and dynamics of capitalism....2
In the early 1980s, the RCP initiated important theoretical work and research into the political economy of capitalism and how the contradictions of the world asserted themselves and interacted. The question was being posed about the dynamics of capitalism and how this sets the "stage" on which the revolutionary struggle takes place, both in relation to the concrete world situation at the time and in relation to the larger question of the historical transition from the bourgeois epoch to the epoch of world communism.
Central to this theoretical work was an insight brought forward by Bob Avakian. He had identified the "driving force of anarchy" as the principal form of motion of fundamental contradiction of capitalism, setting the overall terms for the class struggle.
The delineation of the "driving force of anarchy" as the principal dynamic of capitalism set off no small amount of upset and outrage from various quarters of the international communist movement (here I am referring to the Maoist forces and formations of the period, not to the revisionist communist parties associated with the then-social-imperialist Soviet Union, which had long given up on revolution).
It was argued by some in the Maoist movement at the time that this understanding effectively liquidates the role of the masses and of class struggle in history. Others held that since the exploitation of wage-labor, of the proletariat, is the source of surplus value (profit), and since maximization of profit is the raison d'être of the bourgeoisie—then it follows, logically and historically, that the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, rooted in the production of surplus value, is necessarily the principal dynamic of capitalist development.
The argument was also made that it is a core principle of Marxism that the masses make history, and that oppression gives rise to resistance that can be transformed into revolution—and so the class struggle and its revolutionary potential must be the principal form of motion.
It is objectively true that the masses make history. But it is also true that objective conditions actually set the overall framework for the class struggle, and that the masses cannot make history in their highest interests and humanity cannot get to communism without leadership, concentrated in the vanguard party, that bases itself on the most advanced scientific understanding of how the world is and how it can be transformed in the interests of emancipating world humanity.
This debate has surfaced anew, though now in the context of ideological struggle over whether the new synthesis of communism brought forward by Bob Avakian is the framework for a new stage of communism. At stake is the actual need and basis for all-the-way communist revolution in today's world, in order to truly emancipate humanity and safeguard the planet... and the need for an unsparingly scientific approach if that revolution is to be made and carried forward.
The basic change wrought by bourgeois society is the socialization of production. Individual, limited means of production are transformed into social means of production, workable only by collectivities of laborers. Production itself is changed from a series of individual operations into a series of social acts, and the products from individual products into social products.
These products were now in fact the product of a single class, the proletariat.3
The proletariat, the class that is at the base of collective, socialized labor, carries out production in factories, sweatshops, mines, industrialized farms, and other industrial-agricultural-transport-storage-distribution complexes. It works in common networks and webs of production on the vast, socialized, and increasingly globalized means of production that capitalism has brought forth. It utilizes the social knowledge developed and transmitted by previous generations.
But this socialized production is owned, controlled, and deployed by a relatively tiny capitalist class. The proletariat and this form of socialized production are in fundamental contradiction with capitalism's private appropriation of socially produced wealth—in the form of private capital.
In Anti-Duhring, Frederick Engels shows that the contradiction between socialized production and capitalistic appropriation of the product of socialized labor manifests itself and moves in two forms of antagonism.4
One form of motion is the antagonism of proletariat and bourgeoisie. With the rise and development of capitalism, wage-labor had become the main basis of modern social production. These wage-laborers are separated from—they do not own or control—society's principal means of production. These means of production are concentrated in the hands of the capitalist class. Possessing only their labor power (their capacity to work), wage-laborers must, in order to survive, sell their labor power to capital. Labor power becomes a commodity under capitalism.
Employed by capital, these wage-laborers set in motion these socialized means of production. But the product of that social labor and the process of social labor are controlled by the capitalist class. Capital subordinates living labor to the creation of value, and aims to extract maximal surplus labor (surplus value)—the amount of labor above and beyond the labor time embodied in their wages (corresponding to what is required for the producers to live and maintain themselves and families, rearing new generations of wage-laborers).
The struggle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie, along with other struggles arising from various social contradictions conditioned by and incorporated into the development of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism on a global scale, exert a profound influence on economy, society, and the world.
Let's take a few examples of how the class contradiction and other social contradictions are part of the ongoing necessity faced by capital:
A major concern of ever-more mobile manufacturing capital is social stability. There are tremendous competitive pressures goading capital to move from Mexico, to China, to Vietnam, etc., in search of cheaper production costs. But cost is not the only calculation; decisions are also influenced by factors of "labor unrest" and organization. Or consider the neocolonial state shaped and propped up by U.S. imperialism through the post-World War 2 period: one of its important functions was and is to enforce conditions of social order to facilitate deeper penetration by capital. There is the situation in Western Europe today, where the whole austerity offensive has been carried out with a calculus that includes anticipation of mass response. Going back to the 1960s and 1970s in the U.S., the hiring patterns of U.S. industry, the location of factories, and urban social policy were very much conditioned by the threat (and reality) of uprisings and rebellions by the oppressed Black masses. Again, the class contradiction and other social contradictions are part of the ongoing necessity faced by capital.
The antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is one form of motion of the fundamental contradiction.
The other form of motion of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism is the antagonism between the organization of production at the level of the individual workshop, factory, enterprise, and unit of capital, and the anarchy of production in society overall.
The individual capitalist strives to organize production efficiently in order to recoup investment costs and gain advantage and market share vis-à-vis other capitals. And to do so, the capitalist undertakes the scientific and "despotic" organization of production: input-output analysis, strict accounting, optimal scheduling, speed-up, stretching of work, and extreme surveillance and control of the worker. This takes place at all levels of private capital up through the contemporary transnational corporation (think Wal-Mart and the organization of its supply chains).
But as highly organized as production is at the enterprise level, there is, and can be, no systematic and rational planning at the societywide level. This has to be explained.
Under capitalism, the vast bulk of products that form the material basis of the social reproduction of society are produced as commodities. That is, they are produced for exchange (for profit). Buyers and sellers of these or those commodities—whether of means of production that are inputs into the production process or means of consumption—are taken as a given. But there are no direct social links between the agents of production; social production is not coordinated as a social whole.
Built into capitalist commodity production is a contradiction that has to be continually resolved. On the one hand, individual producers carry on their activity independently of one another: the many different labor processes that constitute the productive activity of society are privately organized. On the other hand, these individual producers are mutually dependent on one another—they are part of a larger social division of labor. How then does capitalist society's economic activity get coordinated? How do the different pieces fit together?
The answer is that these privately organized labor processes are linked together and forged into a social division of labor through exchange. Exchange is the exchange of commodities, and commodities exchange in definite proportions: they are bought and sold at prices that reflect the labor time socially necessary to produce them. This is the law of value, and social labor time is the regulator of prices and profits.
The quest for profit dominates privately organized labor processes. Profit determines what gets produced—and how.
In response to the movement of prices and profit, capital moves into high-profit sectors, and out of low-profit sectors. If an investment does not yield a satisfactory profit, or if a particular commodity does not get sold at a price that can cover its production cost, then capital is forced to raise efficiency, or to shift into another line of production. The movements of prices and profits communicate the "information" on which production decisions are based. The market regulates in this way and also dictates reorganization... and so the auto industry closes inefficient plants, retools, cuts its labor force; companies get swallowed up and workers are forced to change jobs. Thus the social division of labor is forged and re-forged.
This is blind and anarchic regulation. It is hit-and-miss, too-much-and-too-little: a process of over-shooting and under-shooting of investment; of discovering, after the fact, what the market will clear or not clear, and whether the labor process under the command of this or that capitalist is actually needed or up to competitive standard. Marx says of the regulating role of the market based on the operation of the law value: "the total movement of this disorder is its order."5 As Engels puts it in his exposition of the two forms of motion: "anarchy reigns in socialized production."
Individual capitals produce and expand as though there were no limit (again, presupposing the necessary buyers and sellers). Why? Because, as Marx explains in Capital, "[T]he development of capitalist production makes it constantly necessary to keep increasing the amount of capital laid out in a given industrial undertaking.... Competition compels [the individual capitalist] to keep constantly extending his capital, in order to preserve itself..."6
The fundamental contradiction of capitalism between socialized production and private appropriation develops through these two forms of motion: the contradiction between bourgeoisie and proletariat, and the contradiction between organization in the unit of production-enterprise and anarchy in production in society overall. Each of these forms of motion has its own effects and each interpenetrates the other.
But in an ongoing way, as long as the capitalist mode of production is dominant on a world scale, it is the anarchy of capitalist production that brings about the fundamental changes in the material sphere that set the context for the class struggle. Movement compelled by anarchy, the anarchic relations among capitalist producers driven by competition, is the principal form of motion of the fundamental contradiction. This was an important breakthrough in understanding made by Bob Avakian:
It is the anarchy of capitalist production which is, in fact, the driving or motive force of this process, even though the contradiction between the bourgeoisie and proletariat is an integral part of the contradiction between socialized production and private appropriation. While the exploitation of labor-power is the form by and through which surplus value is created and appropriated, it is the anarchic relations between capitalist producers, and not the mere existence of propertyless proletarians or the class contradiction as such, that drives these producers to exploit the working class on an historically more intensive and extensive scale. This motive force of anarchy is an expression of the fact that the capitalist mode of production represents the full development of commodity production and the law of value. Were it not the case that these capitalist commodity producers are separated from each other and yet linked by the operation of the law of value they would not face the same compulsion to exploit the proletariat—the class contradiction between bourgeoisie and proletariat could be mitigated. It is the inner compulsion of capital to expand which accounts for the historically unprecedented dynamism of this mode of production, a process which continually transforms value relations and which leads to crisis.7
The understanding of the primacy of the "driving force of anarchy" was further theorized, applied, and extended in America in Decline, which carried forward and advanced Lenin's systematization of the dynamics of imperialism and proletarian revolution.8
With the rise of imperialism, accumulation takes place in the context of the qualitatively greater unification and integration of the world capitalist market—no longer principally a function of the circuits of trade and money but now of the internationalization of productive capital (the production of surplus value). And accumulation takes place in the context of the political-territorial division of the world among the great powers and the shifting relations of strength among these powers in the world economy and global system of territorially-based nation-states.
Accumulation in the imperialist era has particular features. It proceeds through highly mobile and flexible forms of monopolized finance capital; through the division of the world into a handful of rich capitalist powers and the oppressed nations in which the great majority of humanity lives; and through geo-economic and geo-political rivalry concentrated in the rivalry and struggle for global supremacy among imperial national states.
The antagonism between different national imperialist capitals, and the struggle over the division over the world, chiefly grows out of, extends, and is a qualitative development of the contradiction between organization at the enterprise level and the anarchy of social production. This antagonism led to two world wars in the 20th century.
At the same time, the fundamental contradiction is also manifested in class terms. Among its key forms of expression are the contradiction between the proletariat and bourgeoisie in the imperialist countries, the contradiction between the oppressed nations and imperialism, and the contradiction between socialist countries and the imperialist camp (when socialist countries exist, which is not the case now).
One or another of these contradictions may become principal over a period of time, that is, one or another may influence the development of the others more than it in turn is influenced by them—and thus most determine how the fundamental contradiction develops at a given stage.
From the late 1950s until the early 1970s, for instance, the principal contradiction on a world scale was between imperialism and national liberation in the Third World. Revolutionary storms had swept through Asia, Africa, and Latin America. This contradiction was creating qualitative new necessity for the imperialist (and local) ruling classes and influencing the accumulation of capital on a world scale.
U.S. imperialism, in particular, was developing and applying, on a vast scale, doctrines of counterinsurgency. The Vietnamese liberation struggle was inflicting major setbacks on the battlefield; the war absorbed a huge fraction of the U.S. ground forces and spurred massive increases in U.S. military expenditure, which in turn contributed to the weakening of the dollar (and dollar-gold standard) internationally. During this period, the U.S. was promoting aid and development programs in South America, like the Alliance for Progress, the main aim of which was, in conjunction with repression, to stabilize social conditions and counteract the potential for revolution.
At any given time, the class struggle may be principal, locally (nationally) or globally. But generally, and in a long-term, overall sense, until the capitalist mode of production is no longer dominant on a world scale, the driving force of anarchy of the world imperialist system is and will be the principal form of motion of the fundamental contradiction. It is the driving force of anarchy—the underlying dynamics and contradictions of capitalist accumulation on a world scale, the various expressions of that, including but not only inter-imperial rivalry, and changes in the material and economic-social and, increasingly, natural-ecological conditions of life—that sets the primary stage and foundation for the transformation of society and the world.
And transforming society and the world on the basis of reality as it is, and not what we would like it to be, is precisely the point:
It is only in the realm of the superstructure that the contradiction between socialized production and private appropriation can be resolved. It is only through the conscious struggle to make revolution, to decisively defeat the bourgeoisie (and all exploiting-ruling classes) and dismantle its apparatus of control and suppression. It is only through the conscious struggle to constitute a new revolutionary state power that is a base area for the world revolution and on that basis creating a new socialist economy that operates according to different dynamics and principles than does capitalism (the law of value no longer commanding), and carrying forward the all-around struggle to transform society and people's thinking.
It is only through conscious revolution, based on a scientific approach to understanding and changing the world, that the fundamental contradiction of the bourgeois epoch can be resolved.
The historic mission of the proletariat is to abolish capitalism, to put an end to all exploitation and oppression, and to overcome the division of human society into classes, and to create a world community of humanity.
The identification of the "driving force of anarchy" as the principal form of motion of the fundamental contradiction has occasioned criticism and, at times, vitriolic attacks from some within the international communist movement.
One line of criticism unfolds this way: since a) the "ceaseless striving for more surplus" is of the essence of capital; and since b) this surplus rests on the exploitation of wage-labor; and since c) this exploitation calls forth resistance from the exploited—it therefore follows that the antagonism and class struggle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie stands at a deeper level of determination than does the anarchic interplay among capitals in the motion and development of the fundamental contradiction.
There is an apparent logic to this argument. But that is exactly the problem with the argument: its superficiality. It begs the question: why must capital "ceaselessly" accumulate? Is it merely the fact that there are proletarians to exploit (and opportunities to exploit)? I will come to this shortly.
Now some of the critics acknowledge the existence and force of competition but ascribe to it a secondary role. Competition is construed as something "external" to the deeper essence of capital, to the wage labor-capital relation. Some invoke Marx's passage from Volume 1 of Capital where he references the "coercive laws of competition" but points out that "a scientific analysis of competition is not possible before we have a conception of the inner nature of capital."9 And they raise the objection that the anarchy of capitalism is ultimately rooted in capitalism's exploitative character—with some even attributing this view to Engels.
But Engels does not locate the anarchy of capitalist production in exploitation of wage-labor and extraction of surplus labor as such, but rather in the particular dynamics of capitalist commodity production. Let's examine what he actually says:
[T]he capitalistic mode of production thrust its way into a society of commodity producers, of individual producers, whose social bond was the exchange of their product. But every society based upon the production of commodities has this peculiarity: that the producers have lost control over their own social interrelations.... No one knows whether his individual product will meet an actual demand, whether he will be able to make good his costs of production or even to sell his commodity at all. Anarchy reigns in socialized production.10
This general character of commodity production that Engels pinpoints takes a qualitative leap with the development of capitalism. On the one hand, commodity production becomes generalized, with the full monetization of the means of production and the transformation of labor power into a commodity. On the other, capitalist commodity production is carried out on the basis of unprecedented scale of production; the advance, and continuous advances, in technology; the dense network of interrelations among producers, now global; and the "scientific" and "rational" organization at the level of the individual unit of capital. And yet and still, the "social bond" of the individual producers, to use Engels's phrase, remains the exchange of products—only now it is highly socialized production for exchange.
As for the argument that Marx treats competition in (secondary) relation to the "inner nature of capital," here we must take note of an important aspect of Marx's method in Capital. In Volume 1 of that work, Marx scientifically penetrates to and identifies the basic nature of capital, distinguishing capital from other forms of wealth and abstracting from the interrelations of the many capitals.
Capital is a social relation and process whose essence is the domination of labor power by alien, antagonistic interests and the reproduction and expanded reproduction of that relation. The most fundamental law of the capitalist mode of production is the law of value and production of surplus value. The most important production relation of capitalism is the relation of capital to labor. And exploitation of wage-labor is the basis of the creation and appropriation of surplus value.
This is scientifically established. But the critics want to explain anarchy on the basis of the exploitation of wage-labor, as this exploitation is foundational. This is not science. It is not proceeding from reality and the fundamental contradiction in its complexity, and the "real movement of capital," but rather from a reductionist view of reality, a distortion of reality to serve the narrative of the primacy of the class struggle.
Which brings us back to the question: what drives the exploitation of wage-labor? Or to pose it differently: is there a compulsion to exploit wage-labor on a wider and more capital-intense basis? The answer is, yes, there is such compulsion, and it derives from competition.
Capital lives under the constant pressure to expand. In order to survive, it must grow: capital can only exist if more capital is being accumulated. At the concrete level, "capital-in-general" exists, and can only exist, as many capitals in competition with each other, precisely because capitalism is based on private appropriation. Marx explains:
Competition makes the immanent laws of capitalist production to be felt by each individual capitalist as external coercive laws. It compels him to keep constantly extending his capital, in order to preserve it, but extend it he cannot, except by means of progressive accumulation.11
Competition, the "battle of competition" as Marx describes it, compels individual capitals to cheapen production costs. This mainly turns on raising the productivity of labor and extending the scale of production and achieving what are called "economies of scale" (lower cost per unit of output) through mechanization and technological innovation, as well as organizational innovation.
The technological and organizational transformation of production demands more capital, which requires a growing mass of surplus value out of which to finance investment—thus the drive for more surplus value. The needs of accumulation are increasingly met through loan capital and the credit system, which enables capital to finance new investment and move into new lines of production—but this too is premised on an expanding pool of surplus value. In other words, for capital in its different forms, there is an underlying drive to expand, to increase capital accumulation. All of which is bound up with competition.
Those who move first to innovate are able to gain temporary advantage (extra profit), while those who fail to act and stay with the pack lose market share and position. Take the U.S. auto industry relative to the more innovative Japanese auto manufacturers from the late 1970s onward. Japanese capital was pioneering more efficient methods of production, which ultimately became generalized. This broke the monopoly of the "Big Three" auto manufacturers (in the U.S. market in particular) and forced the adoption of labor-saving technology.
The "coercive laws of competition" impose the imperative on individual capitals: "expand or die." The reciprocal interaction of private capitals forces the continual revolutionizing of the productive forces as a matter of internal necessity and self-preservation. This is what accounts for the dynamism of capitalism.
This is why capitalists cannot simply exploit and then just turn their wealth towards consumption—that is, if they are to remain capitalists. Because something deeper is at work: "as capitalist," in Marx's memorable and profoundly scientific phrase, "he is only capital personified."12
This is also why capitalism does not achieve a steady-state equilibrium. As explained earlier, it is through the blind competitive interactions of individual capitals that norms of social production (efficiency, etc.) are established, and that capital is allocated into this or that sector (in response to price and profit signals). These norms of production, in turn, must be obeyed... if particular capitals are to stay competitive.
But individual capitals develop unevenly, the one overtaking the other; new lines of production open, only to be glutted; new capitals form and old ones split apart on the basis of colliding claims to surplus value produced throughout society; and new competitive hierarchies are established. New technology develops, and this opens up new arenas of investment; technology becomes a battleground around which new capitals form, split apart, or collapse. Think about the shifts that take place in the global computer and high-tech industries.
The accumulation of capital is a dynamic and disruptive process of expansion and adjustment and crisis.
In the Grundrisse, Marx explains that competition "executes" the laws of accumulation: "Competition generally, this essential locomotive force of the bourgeois economy, does not establish its laws, but is rather their executor."13
What is this executor role? Competition impels growing concentration (new productive capacity, enlargement of the scale of production) and growing centralization (mergers, takeovers, etc.) of existing capitals. Competition impels increasing mechanization and specialization and complexity of social production and a rising organic composition of capital (more investment in machinery, raw materials, etc., relative to living labor), which underlie the tendency for the rate of profit to decline. The laws of accumulation driven by competition lead to the creation of a "reserve army of labor" (an important component of which are workers displaced by mechanization).
Competition involves the movement of capital from one sphere to another, in search of higher profit; it involves rivalry for market shares; it involves technical change that transforms the conditions of production.
In sum, capital necessarily exists as many capitals in competition, and competition has determining effects.
Competition is rooted in the private-ness of capital: in that private organization of discrete labor processes, organized around the production of profit (surplus value), but which are objectively interlinked with one another, with other privately organized labor processes. Competition and private-ness are rooted in the existence of independent sites of accumulation and discrete centers of decision-making in what is in fact an interdependent and integrated economic formation—where production is production for an anonymous market.
The very dynamism of capitalism arises from technical change embodied in the competitive process. That is the reality of capital accumulation.
Our critics are in a tight spot. They have to explain away the manifest dynamism of capitalism that arises from the expand-or-die urging that competition imposes on capital. They have to explain this dynamism by some other means in order to keep the class contradiction as the principal form of motion. So they trundle out another argument: worker resistance is actually the fount of innovation and mechanization. On this account, the capitalist invests to displace workers, to compress wages, and/or to better control a recalcitrant workforce. On this account, there is not the compulsion of competitive interaction, but rather the deliberate choice of technique and/or strategy to contain labor.
Let's return to the example of the Japanese auto industry to reveal some of the problems with this argument. The adoption of "just-in-time" production, of "responsible" work teams, the practice of keeping inventories tight (to reduce cost), and extensive robotification by Japanese capital constituted a critical transformation in modern manufacturing. But it would border on the absurd to argue that this was governed by the necessity to stave off or cut off resistance by workers; if anything, the Japanese proletariat was fairly docile at the time.
What in fact was going on in this period of the 1970s through the mid-1980s was that competition and geo-economic rivalry were intensifying in the Western imperialist bloc. Japanese imperialism, as well as German imperialism, was making competitive inroads at the expense of U.S. imperialist capital, even as this rivalry was subordinated to and conditioned by the more determining strategic global rivalry at the time: between the U.S.-led and then Soviet-led imperialist blocs for world supremacy.
Now it is certainly true that an important aspect of the "rationalization" of production, the organization of "supply chains" and forms of "subcontracting," the use of information technology, etc., serves the role of disciplining and controlling labor. But this is not what fundamentally drives innovation.
The dynamic of capitalism is not one in which the capitalist strives to maximize surplus labor according to his own desire for profit. It is not a dynamic in which the capitalist has the freedom to invest or not to invest, save for the limiting factor of resistance of the worker. In that case, the "logical" move would be for capitals to band together, agree to invest and produce at certain levels, normalize profit rates, make concessions, and achieve social peace. But that does not happen, because there is compulsion to invest, to expand, to win market share... on pain of ruin.
To return to Avakian's critical insight cited above: "Were it not the case that these capitalist commodity producers are separated from each other and yet linked by the operation of the law of value, they would not face the same compulsion to exploit the proletariat—the class contradiction could be mitigated."
The capitalist is subject to the "coercive laws of competition." The capitalist is compelled to cheapen costs and is the instrument of technical progress. As "capitalist, he is only capital personified."
The denial, by the critics, of the "driving force of anarchy" as the principal form of motion of the fundamental contradiction makes it impossible for them to deeply and comprehensively understand major trends in the world and the stage on which communist revolution must be fought for and conducted. The "narrative" of class struggle and worker resistance not only obscures the major and unprecedented challenges before this communist revolution, but the great potential for revolutionary struggle as well. This is what I want to illustrate and explore.
On May 9, 2013, the Earth Systems Research Laboratory in Hawaii recorded that the carbon dioxide levels in Earth's atmosphere had reached 400 parts per million. The last time Earth supported so much carbon dioxide was some three million years ago, when there was no human life on the planet. Climate science has established that a rise in the Earth's temperature beyond two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels could lead to irreversible and devastating climate change.
The capitalist industrial revolution beginning in the 1700s, the leap to imperialism in the late 19th century, and the enormous acceleration of environmental stresses of the mid-20th century through today have created a dire environmental emergency.14
The impacts are already with us: extreme climate events (unprecedented floods, cyclones, and typhoons), droughts, desertification, Arctic ice melting to its lowest levels.
Meanwhile the imperialists continue to make staggering investments in fossil fuels, with an ever-increasing share going to so-called "unconventional" oil and gas reserves (hydro-fracking, deep offshore, tar sands, heavy crude, and shale oil, etc.). Global climate negotiations, most significantly Copenhagen 2010, go nowhere.
On the one hand, oil is foundational to the profitable functioning of the whole imperialist system. Six of the 10 largest corporations in the U.S., and eight of the 10 largest in the world, are auto and oil companies. On the other, oil is central to inter-imperial rivalry. Major capitalist firms and the major capitalist powers—the U.S., China, the countries of the EU, Russia, Japan, and others vie with each other for control over the regions where new fossil-fuel sources are to be found: in the Arctic, the South Atlantic, and elsewhere.
Rivalry among the great powers for control of production, refining, transport, and marketing of oil is in fact rivalry for control over the world economy. U.S. imperialism's military depends on oil to maintain and extend empire, to wage its neocolonial wars and to maintain its global supremacy. And, right now, one of U.S. imperialism's global competitive advantages is exactly its growing fossil-fuel capability: in 2012, the U.S. posted the largest increase in oil production in the world, and the largest single-year increase in oil output in U.S. history.
None of what is happening (and not happening) in the sphere of energy can be understood outside the framework of the drive for profit and intense competition and rivalry at the enterprise, sectoral, and national-state levels in the world economy and imperialist interstate system.
The most salient characteristic of recent climate negotiations is the fact that they have been sites of intense rivalry among the "great powers"—on the one hand, unwilling and unable to make any substantive moves away from reliance on fossil fuels; and, on the other, pressing climate-change adaptation into the tool-box of competitive positioning (the Europeans and the Chinese, for instance, having advantage in certain renewable energy technologies).
And not just energy: the major powers are engaged in sharp global competition for the planet's minerals and raw materials. It is a scramble for the reckless plunder of Earth's resources, or as one progressive scholar has called it, "the race for what's left."
The emergence of China as the world's second largest capitalist economy, with its demand for resources and its growing international reach, is a major element in the ecological equation. Its growth has been fueled by the massive inflow of investment capital over the last 20 years, and that growth has been a major, if not the major, source of dynamism in the world economy. And China is now the largest emitter of carbon dioxide.
The real threat of unstoppable climate change is part of a larger environmental crisis. The planet is not only on a trajectory towards massive extinction of species but also the collapse of critical ecosystems, especially rainforests and coral reefs, with the threat of cascading effects on the Earth's global ecosystem as a whole. There is the real possibility of Earth being transformed into a very different kind of planet... one that potentially could threaten human existence. No one can predict the precise pathways and outcomes of what is happening. But this is the trajectory that we, and planet Earth, are on.
Why are tropical forests being wiped out by logging and timber operations? Why is soil being degraded and dried out by agribusiness, and oceans acidified? Why is nature turned into a "sink" for toxic waste? Because capitalism-imperialism invests, speculates, trades, and roams the globe treating nature as a limitless input to serve ever-expanding production for profit.
The short-term desideratum of expanded accumulation has long-term environmental consequences—but these are not of immediate "consequence" in the competitive battle. Individual units of capital seek to minimize costs to stay competitive, calculating with great precision (organization at the enterprise level). But the effects of production activities, like pollution, that fall outside the sphere of economic calculation of these units of private ownership do not "register" on the profit-and-loss ledger. These social and environmental costs are "externalized": off-loaded on to society and the planet, and pushed off into the future (anarchy at the societal and planetary level).
The calamitous environmental effects of globalization have been greatest in the oppressed nations, yet caused disproportionately by the imperialist countries. Between 1961 and 2000, the rich countries generated over 40 percent of the environmental degradation around the world while shouldering only 3 percent of the costs of ecosystem change.15
When capitalist firms cut down rainforest in Indonesia for timber, and plant trees to produce palm oil for bio-fuels—a highly volatile sector of the world economy reflecting intense competition between world energy and food markets—the carbon released into the atmosphere and the destruction of habitat of the Sumatran tigers are not part of the cost-benefit calculus of these capitals.
Now if someone is going to argue that the environmental crisis is principally the result of the class contradiction, that this crisis is the product of worker, peasant, or mass resistance, or the quest for labor-saving technology to control labor, I for one would be quite intrigued to hear someone make the case, although it strains credulity.
The inability of capitalism to interact with nature in a sustainable way... the devastation capitalism has caused nature... and the acceleration of planet-engulfing and planet-threatening environmental crisis are all rooted in the anarchic interactions of highly organized, private aggregations of capital, facing the compulsion to profitably expand or die—and rivalry at the global level.
At the same time, it is crucial to understand that the ecological crisis is impacting, and will impact, the class struggle in manifold ways. To begin with, environmental destruction is a fault-line of the global class struggle and a focal point of important mass resistance, especially in the oppressed nations, often connected with peasant and indigenous peoples' struggles, but also in the imperialist citadels.
Further, the kinds of instabilities and "environmental security crises" (as the imperialists call them) that might be set off by environmental degradation could very likely trigger massive social crisis, and could be an accelerant of revolutionary crisis.
Millions could be flooded out of densely settled delta regions like Bangladesh, prompting vast migrations. The effects of climate changes on agricultural systems, especially in the oppressed nations, will, similarly, cause enormous economic and social strains. According to some impact estimates, by the later decades of this century, 29 countries in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean and Mexico will lose 20 percent or more of their current farm output to global warming.16
And in the imperialist countries: Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. saw the intersection of global warming with the sharp oppression of Black people, and presented great necessity and opportunity to advance the movement for revolution in the "belly of the beast." The Fukishima reactor meltdown and resulting contamination—and Japanese imperialism's vast network of nuclear power and its robust export of nuclear reactors has been one of its global competitive advantages—is also expressive of the kinds of dislocative events that will likely increase in the future.
The underlying causes and monumental implications of the environmental crisis do not register and cannot be fathomed through the narrow, economist filter of the class contradiction as the ongoing principal form of motion of the fundamental contradiction. Yet this crisis, driven overwhelmingly by the anarchy/organization contradiction, will be a major factor setting the stage on which the class struggle will unfold.
As the 21st century opened, and for the first time in human history, more than half the world's population lives in cities. For almost four decades, cities in the oppressed nations have been growing at a breakneck pace. This is chaotic and oppressive urbanization. More than a billion people live in squalid slums-shantytowns within and surrounding cities in the Third World—and this population will likely double by 2030—while an equal number eke out a desperate living in the so-called informal economy.
What is driving this urbanization? For one, leaps in the industrialization of agriculture and the transnational integration of food production and transport, with imperialist agribusiness grabbing up land and consolidating holdings, have undermined rural livelihoods based on small-scale subsistence agriculture.
Imperialism has been transforming national systems of agriculture into globalized components of transnational production and marketing chains, more detached from local populations; and, increasingly, agriculture is becoming less "foundational" to many national economies of the Third World. And the imperialist-led conversion of land previously serving food production into land serving production of ethanol and other crop-based fuels has further exacerbated these trends.
At the same time, environmental devastation, droughts, and civil wars (often fueled or taken advantage of by the great powers, as in Congo) have brought ruin to agricultural systems—and driven people into the cities.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) insisted, as a condition for loans, that governments of many poor countries eliminate subsidies to small rural landholders, and also "open up" economies to food imports from the West to expand markets and to allow for further capitalization of agriculture. This has put incredible pressures on the rural poor, ruining livelihoods.
Vast swaths of humanity flee the poverty, devastation, and despair of the world's countryside.
Finally, China's rapid capitalist growth has siphoned hundreds of millions of peasants into the cities; this, the largest rural-to-city migration in human history, is propelled by the churning of market forces in China's countryside and the pull of jobs, often cheap-labor (sweatshop) manufacturing, in China's cities.
These phenomena are fundamentally governed by the needs, imperatives, and unforeseen consequences of accumulation on a world scale, particularly deepening imperialist penetration of the oppressed nations and globalization of production.
Urbanization and "shantytown-ization" cannot be scientifically explained as a primary consequence of the class contradiction. It's simply not true that class resistance in the countryside has propelled these social-demographic shifts. Is the argument of our critics that peasant revolts in the countryside were posing a threat to the social order such that the only way to stanch them was through the expulsion of peasant labor by means of undermining subsistence agriculture?
Is the argument that urban upheaval had brought about such levels of instability that the exploiting classes somehow have had to spur mass migrations of peasants into the cities in the hope that this might be a conservatizing and counterrevolutionary influence? This is not scientific methodology.
A brief historical aside and question: Would the partisans of this view argue that World War 1 was driven by the need to divert or re-channel the class struggle within the European countries—or was this war driven, as indeed it was, by intensifying inter-imperial rivalry and in particular contention over the colonies (even as Europe was the main theater of battle)?
The urbanization, proletarianization, and shanty-townization taking place in the oppressed nations, owing to the anarchic workings of capital, are having very contradictory effects on the masses: economically and ideologically. The uprooting of traditional ways of life in the countryside by imperialism and the instability attendant to urbanization of sections of masses who are not being incorporated into the "formal" economy have fed the growth and appeal of Islamic fundamentalism, Pentecostalism, varieties of religious millennialism, etc. These trends provide a coherent reactionary ideological and moral compass in conditions of uncertainty and dislocation.
Again, the underpinnings of what is actually happening, and the challenges this actually poses in terms of transforming society and the world, cannot be comprehended scientifically if the motion and development of the fundamental contradiction is viewed through an economist lens.
I have written on the factors propelling this crisis.17 Briefly, to identify some key dynamics of a particular trajectory of growth that turned into its opposite:
The dynamics that spurred growth generated new barriers to the profitable accumulation of capital. In sum, the crisis is a concentrated, though highly complex and fluid, expression and outcome of the anarchy of capitalist production.
But some of the critics cannot let go of easily earned theoretical fallacies when it comes to analyzing crisis.
Some have argued that the class contradiction, particularly in the form of resistance to globalization and the IMF, has been a major driving factor behind this crisis, affecting structural adjustment plans and so forth. Indeed, there was a major wave of resistance to globalization. But a) significant as that had been in the 1990s, this opposition and struggle did not rise to a level that qualitatively impinged on the motion and development of world accumulation; and b) in fact, as sketched out above, the crisis that erupted in 2008-09 has deep determinants in the contradictions of a particular trajectory of expansion, marked by that dynamic of heightened globalization and heightened financialization.
The argument is also posited that collusion is principal among the imperial powers, this flowing from the joint need of capital to exploit labor power. But rivalry, propelled by uneven development and the shifting tectonic plates of the world economy, has been a major feature of contemporary imperial interrelations. This rivalry has mainly expressed itself economically and geo-economically, and not so much in the military realm.
This crisis broke out in the context of major shifts in the competitive relations and strengths among the great powers, among which: the "rise of China" and its transition towards becoming an imperialist power, with its influence reaching beyond East Asia to the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa and its growth now influencing the international division of labor; European Union market enlargement and regional currency integration providing a framework for advantage in scale and efficiency for globalized West European capital, and for pressing a monetary challenge to the dominance of the dollar; and a re-assertive Russian imperialism.
The crisis has in turn had repercussions not just for the stability of the world imperialist system but for ongoing power shifts and rivalries within it. Two of the more salient: the crisis has exacerbated contradictions between the U.S. and China, with the U.S. more aggressively seeking to counter China's rise and growing reach; and the crisis has posed new difficulties for the EU imperial project.
In Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon, Bob Avakian makes the point:
[W]e we may not like all this, but that's where we are. We may not like the fact that capitalism and its dynamics are still dominant in the world, overwhelmingly so at this time, and set the stage for the struggle we have to wage—we may not like this, but that's the reality. And in that reality is the basis for radically changing things. It's in confronting and struggling to change that reality, and not through some other means. It's through understanding and then acting to transform that reality along pathways that the contradictory character of that reality does open up—pathways which must be seized on and acted on to carry out that transformation of reality.19
Avakian is not only commenting on the work of analyzing the dynamics of capitalism and how the contradictions in the world assert themselves and interact, and grasping why the "driving force of anarchy" is indeed the principal dynamic of capitalism. He is also focusing up a fundamental issue of science, of communism as a science: "whether" as he writes, "you proceed from objective reality and recognize the basis, within the contradictory dynamics of that reality, for radical change—or whether you're just proceeding from a set of ideas, including an idealized vision of the masses, which you are trying to impose on reality..."20
In coming to grips with capitalism-imperialism and its functioning, we are dealing with its necessity—with particular laws of operation and laws of motion. These laws are independent of the will of individuals and independent of the will of a class, even one (the capitalist-imperialists) that possesses the greatest arsenal of repression and force in history.
Capitalism is not a system based on greed, or the "will to exploit." It is not a system based on the profit motive as "first principle"—squeeze what you can from the workers. It is a mode of production based on the exploitation of wage-labor and driven by the inner necessity to expand. Not to grasp this is to objectively deny the need for revolution—if this system is not governed by necessity, by underlying laws and imperatives of accumulation, then perhaps... perhaps it can be reformed.
These laws and in particular the compelling force of anarchy do not, contrary to the charges of the critics, "liquidate" the class struggle. Rather, and to reiterate: this is what sets the primary stage for what has to be done to transform society and the world. If that is grasped, then it becomes possible, as Avakian emphasizes, to discover the pathways for radically transforming this reality. It becomes possible to seize and carve out freedom, because this mode of production and its laws are dynamic, are contradictory. And this opens up vast possibilities for the conscious factor, to act, on the basis of scientifically understanding reality—in its complexity and changing-ness.
There are diverse channels for change and for sudden eruptions. This scientific orientation is critical in building the movement for revolution, for a revolution that is total in its scope, and for recognizing and acting on the need and potential for that revolution—and the challenges before it. The environmental crisis is momentous in this regard.
There are the challenges posed by how the fundamental contradiction between socialized production and private appropriation actually develops. The growth of Islamic and other fundamentalisms at the same time that the productive forces have grown more socialized and the world more intertwined is a case in point. This "perverse" working out of the fundamental contradiction illustrates that its motion and development is not a linear process of modernization, proletarianization, and secularization. Rather, it is a complex process of changes in class and social configuration, of ideology and social movements interpenetrating with economic transformation, with need for a liberating morality and the question of uprooting patriarchy getting profoundly posed.
We are living in a period of transition with the potential for great upheaval: global capitalism in flux, heightening inequality and dislocation, environmental degradation, the horrors visited upon women, half of humanity. Capitalism in the imperialist era is a mode of production that is at once in transition to something higher and violently straining against its limits.
Are we going to invent realities and verities, and construct narratives that the class struggle is always principal, in order to console ourselves and ward off the real challenges? Or are we going to confront reality in order to transform it?
What is at stake is a materialist understanding of the world, of what must be changed in people's thinking and society, and how. Anything other than a truly scientific approach is going to leave the world as it is. What is at stake is the communist revolution that humanity needs: to resolve the fundamental contradiction of the epoch and to emancipate humanity and safeguard the planet.
1. For background, see Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (Chicago: RCP Publications, 2009), especially sections III-V. [back]
2. Bob Avakian, Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles but Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon (hereafter referred to as Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles) [back]
3. As capitalism emerged and developed, a vast global peasantry continued to play an important part in world production, and was quantitatively dominant, but pre-capitalist relations of production became increasingly subsumed by, subordinated to, and penetrated by capitalism. [back]
4. Frederick Engels, Anti-Duhring, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1969), pp. 316-324. [back]
5. Karl Marx, "Wage-Labor and Capital," in Marx-Engels, Selected Works 1 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1973), p. 157. [back]
6. Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1 (New York: International Publishers, 1967), p. 555. [back]
7. See Bob Avakian, "Fundamental and Principal Contradictions on A World Scale" Revolutionary Worker, September 17, 1982. [back]
8. Raymond Lotta, America in Decline (Chicago: Banner Press, 1984), pp. 40-56. [back]
9. Marx, Capital, 1, p. 300. [back]
10. Engels, Anti-Duhring, p. 322. [back]
11. Marx, Capital 1, p. 555. [back]
12. Marx, Capital 1, p. 224. [back]
13. Karl Marx, Grundrisse (Hammondsworth: Penguin, 1973), p. 552. [back]
14. See the special issue of Revolution, "State of EMERGENCY: The Plunder of Our Planet, the Environmental Catastrophe, and the Real Revolutionary Solution," April 18, 2010. [back]
15. R. Kerry Turner & Brendan Fisher, "Environmental economics: To the rich man the spoils," Nature 451, 28 February 2008, pp. 1067-1068. [back]
16. William Cline. 2007. Global Warming and Agriculture: Impact Estimates by Country (Washington, D.C.: Center for Global Development and Peterson Institute for International Economics). [back]
17. See, for instance, Raymond Lotta, "Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry: What Is Happening and What It Might Mean," Revolution, July 24, 27, August 3, August 24 (2008), especially Part 1; and Raymond Lotta, "Financial Hurricane Batters World Capitalism: System Failure and the Need for Revolution," Revolution, October 19, 2008 [back]
18. The reader is encouraged to study the discussion in Notes on Political Economy: Our Analysis of the 1980s, Issues of Methodology, and The Current World Situation (Chicago: RCP Publications, 2000), Part 1, pp. 7-30, where the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA identifies problems in the analysis it made in the 1980s of the motion of the U.S.-led and Soviet-led imperialist blocs towards world war. Methodological lessons are drawn out as part of a deepening grasp of the scientific method. [back]
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Since June of this year, a series of exposures about the horrendously massive surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on the communications of billions of phone and Internet users in the U.S. and other countries have shaken and outraged people around the world. This began with reportage in the British newspaper the Guardian by Glenn Greenwald, based on documents brought to light by former NSA consultant Edward Snowden—who courageously stepped forward as a whistleblower after witnessing first-hand the rampant crimes being committed by the U.S. government with its spying operations.
Among the latest revelations based on files leaked by Snowden are the reports that for many years, the NSA recorded the cell phone conversations of the head of the German government, Chancellor Angela Merkel. This spying operation began in 2002, even before Merkel became chancellor. President Barack Obama's spokesman refused to acknowledge that the U.S. had been listening in on Merkel's phone conversations, only saying that such surveillance is not going on now. The news that the U.S. was tapping the personal phone of the leader of one of its major allies has sparked a huge furor in Germany and across Europe.
Merkel is hardly the only government leader to be targeted by NSA spying. The Guardian reported that "the NSA encourages senior officials in its 'customer' departments [i.e., government departments that receive the intelligence data gathered by the NSA], such as the White House, State and the Pentagon, to share their 'Rolodexes' so the agency can add the phone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems." In September, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff angrily canceled a state visit to the U.S. to meet with Obama after reports of NSA spying on Rousseff and other top Brazilian officials. Other U.S. "allies" reportedly targeted include the current and former presidents of Mexico and the European Union offices in Belgium—and all this is just the tip of the iceberg.
A November 3 New York Times article disclosed that the NSA intercepted communications from Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, to obtain his talking points for an April meeting with Obama at the White House. This major front-page article, "No Morsel Too Miniscule For All-Consuming N.S.A.," describes how the NSA "sucks the contents from fiber-optic cables, sits on telephone switches and Internet hubs, digitally burglarizes laptops and plants bugs on smartphones around the globe," calling the "scale and aggressiveness" of NSA's agenda "breathtaking." Watch for more coverage of this at revcom.us.
And if the U.S. imperialists brazenly spy on an important close ally like Merkel, can anyone doubt that they see absolutely no limits when it comes to highly intrusive surveillance on anyone? In fact, it's no exaggeration to say, as we did at the beginning, that the NSA spying is aimed at literally billions of people around the planet who the U.S. rulers see as enemies or potential enemies. Some of these are reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces that the U.S. sees as obstacles to its control of strategic areas of the world. Some of the spying is aimed at rival global or regional powers that the U.S. is contending with for domination. Some is aimed at allies, who the U.S. "trusts" the way a mob boss trusts his underlings.
The original exposures based on the Snowden files revealed, in the words of the New York Times, "There is every reason to believe the federal government has been collecting every bit of information about every American's phone calls except the words actually exchanged in those calls." The NSA has also been collecting data directly from the servers of major U.S. service providers like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and others, with the cooperation of those providers.
Other reports have revealed the NSA collected data on tens and hundreds of millions of phone calls in Brazil, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and other countries. According to an article co-written by Greenwald in the Indian daily, the Hindu, "In the overall list of countries spied on by NSA programs, India stands at fifth place, with billions of pieces of information plucked from its telephone and internet networks just in 30 days."
The vast range of NSA surveillance outlined in the Nov. 3 NY Times article includes: "The agency's Dishfire database... stores years of text messages from around the world, just in case. Its Tracfin collection accumulates gigabytes of credit card purchases. The fellow pretending to send a text message at an Internet café in Jordan may be using an N.S.A. technique code-named Polarbreeze to tap into the nearby computers. The Russian businessman who is socially active on the web might just become food for Snacks, the acronym-mad agency's Social Network Analysis Collaboration Knowledge Services, which figures out the personnel hierarchies of organizations from texts."
Among the other latest outrages to come out based on the Snowden files is the news that the NSA had secretly accessed the main fiber-optic communication links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world. This gives the NSA the ability to freely collect data from hundreds of millions of accounts belonging to people in the U.S. as well as around the world.
An October 30 Washington Post article reported, "According to a top-secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, the NSA's acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from internal Yahoo and Google networks to data warehouses at the agency's headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records—including 'metadata,' which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, as well as content such as text, audio and video.
"The NSA's principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency's British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters. From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and the GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information among the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants."
The Obama White House and U.S. officials have responded to all this with a mixture of shameless lies, promises of internal "investigations" (which, no doubt, mean an even more intense witch-hunt in an effort to prevent more whistleblowers like Snowden), and outright defense of the NSA surveillance. It's become clear since the flood of NSA exposures began in June that the U.S is, in fact, doing everything they claimed they're not doing. They said they don't spy on the phone calls of everyone in the U.S.—they are. They claimed that the "metadata" they're collecting is not really spying—this is, in fact, invasive surveillance that provides the kind of "intel" that the U.S. uses to track and even assassinate people—including U.S. citizens—without trials. They said they only collect data with cooperation of phone and Internet service providers—in fact, they've broken into the communication networks that carry vast amounts of personal information.
Edward Snowden told Glenn Greenwald, "I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in." People are coming into this debate and resistance around NSA surveillance with various views and ways of thinking. The following is an important point of orientation about what is actually driving the massive surveillance by the U.S. imperialists. (This is excerpted from "Five Basic Points of Orientation on the Revelations of Government Surveillance" which appeared on revcom.us in June. We encourage readers to check out the whole article.)
"As the scope of government surveillance is dragged into the light, those in power, starting with President Barack Obama, claim all this is to 'help us prevent terrorist attacks.' And Obama characterized the surveillance as 'modest encroachments.'
"No. This is massive surveillance of all manner of activities of billions of people around the world. And it is driven not by concerns for the safety of Americans, much less anyone else.
"The fundamental framework for understanding the scope and intensity of all this surveillance is concentrated in this statement by Bob Avakian:
The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.
"This capitalist-imperialist system enslaves workers in its sweatshops in Bangladesh and its oil fields of Saudi Arabia. It has created a planet of slums and environmental devastation, its morality and culture have produced an epidemic of rape. And this system wages constant wars around the world against threats from rivals or smaller-scale reactionary forces, and brings down violent repression against legitimate protest and opposition to its crimes. That is why this state sees the vast majority of people on the planet—billions and billions of people—as potential threats, and maintains such intense and broad surveillance. And that is why the state apparatus—the dictatorship of the capitalist-imperialist class (the bourgeoisie)—does what it does to people.
"All this surveillance is not just about monitoring everyone's thoughts and actions (horrific as that is), it is about CONTROLLING everyone's activity, communications, and thinking. It is about being able to bring the full power of the state down on them at a moment's notice. This system kills people—even U.S. citizens—simply on the president's say-so. It has "rendered" people to secret "black sites" around the world for horrific torture (and Obama has steadfastly refused to expose or prosecute those torturers and those who gave the orders). This is a system that locks up more of its population than any nation on earth—by a long shot.
"For all their talk about democracy and rights, what has been revealed so far is activity that shreds basic rights supposedly guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution: The Fourth Amendment, which supposedly prohibits unreasonable or warrantless searches of people, property, and documents; and the First Amendment, which claims to guarantee freedom of speech and the press, and the right to protest—just for starters. As for promises in the Constitution that 'No person... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law'—that too is totally out the fucking window. So all this surveillance is not only immoral and illegitimate, it is unlawful to boot. The fact that there are so few in Congress who even intend to make a show of objecting to all this, and so many who have vented 'righteous indignation' in attacking those who have made the leaks, further reveals that virtually everyone at the top levels of government actually takes for granted that this society really is—beneath all the promises of democracy for all—a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie over everyone else."
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The first large protest to stop NSA mass surveillance brought 1000 people to march and rally at the U.S. Capitol on October 26, the anniversary of the passage of the fascist 2001 USA PATRIOT Act. Organizers, part of StopWatching.us, a coalition of 100 organizations including most actively the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Libertarian Party, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and the ACLU, began in June 2013 to collect signatures to a letter to Congress. Their message seeks reform of the Patriot Act's provisions for surveillance, and "a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying."
Days before the rally, StopWatching.us debuted a video (which can be viewed online at youtu.be/aGmiw_rrNxk) in which Daniel Ellsberg, Oliver Stone, Phil Donahue, actors Maggie Gyllenhaal, John Cusack, and Will Wheaton, and others described the extent of NSA spying and called for opposition. "History tells us we need to watch the watchers," says Stone, recalling the crimes carried out by Richard Nixon before internet use. John Cusack says, "The threat to our civil liberties has never been greater." Artist Molly Crabapple: "Some concerned email providers have chosen to shut their doors rather than cave to government subpoenas to collect their customers' data." The video warns that anyone could be "caught up in the NSA dragnet, including average citizens not suspected of a crime." The video ends with a call by Gyllenhaal: "We need to end mass, suspicionless surveillance."
The most basic demands of the crowd came through in chants, in particular, "Mass surveillance has got to go!" and "No secret courts!" Most of the marchers were under 35 years old, from the Washington area, dressed mostly preppy, many involved in the internet-based movement for electronic privacy. They carried signs saying things like "Defend Constitutional Rights—Stop Mass Surveillance," "Thank you, Edward Snowden," and "Unplug Big Brother." There were hand-made signs satirizing the National Security Agency's name and their spying on cell phone calls of world leaders and billions of ordinary people. Most of the crowd's anger was directed at the NSA, and secondarily, at Obama and Congress. A "Yes We Scan" banner brought by Occupy Wall Street parodied Obama's campaign slogan. There was almost a complete absence of U.S. flags, unusual for a civil liberties protest. "Flying" at 14 feet was World Can't Wait's model of the U.S. Reaper drone used by the CIA over Pakistan and Yemen, bearing the message "Stop U.S. Wars & Surveillance by Drone."
A statement to the rally from Edward Snowden (who is currently in Russia, with temporary asylum status) said in part: "We've learned that the U.S. intelligence community secretly built a system of pervasive surveillance. Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA's hands. Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They're wrong."
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
One Week Left in the Fall 2013 Drive to
November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
For the past few weeks, we've been informing you, our readers, of the urgent situation revcom.us confronts—the need to have a sustained financial base in order not just to continue but to grow. Some have responded, but not enough. Imagine the possibility of revcom.us going offline, even for a period of time. And then imagine an energized revcom.us with strong resources to be the hub and pivot of the movement for revolution. Going offline even temporarily is unthinkable, especially at a moment like we're living through right now when real breakthroughs are called for and very possible. And going offline is also completely unnecessary, because of you and many others.
But so far not enough of our readers have responded to this call. With one week left in this Fall 2013 Sustainer Drive, now is the time.
We reported last week that the monthly cost of having revcom.us online, with everything that goes into that, reaches over $7,000. We want to clarify that that figure is the shoe-string budget. To live up to our responsibility will take a sustained financial base of $12,000 per month. Make arrangements now for a regular monthly contribution—online, at the Revolution Books nearest you, or with your local Revolution distributor.
Revcom.us really is the only place on the web people can find, all in one place, a serious, comprehensive, honest picture of the problems humanity faces. And it's the only place they can find, all at one website, a serious, comprehensive, revolutionary solution—especially in the vision, works, and leadership of Bob Avakian and the Party he leads. At revcom.us people find the ways to be part of this movement for revolution, and in reports that are posted on this site they can see how it is developing and their own impact. This is not microchange, or electoral delusions, or the "politics of the possible." It is not "solutions" that start from the interests of America, but from the interests of humanity. And it is the hub and pivot of the struggle to, as the RCP says, "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution." This system is not the best that humanity can do, and there is nothing permanent about it.
To say this is contended is an understatement. And yet this analysis, vision, solution, and leadership is grounded in the real world and very possible.
But not without revcom.us.
On revcom.us is everything that is available about the vision, works, and leadership of Bob Avakian.
On revcom.us now are the vision, goals, and plans for the BA Everywhere Campaign, aiming now through the end of the year to begin to raise funds on a level that can begin to get BA's vision and works Into every corner of society—for real.
On revcom.us is the Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, "COMMUNISM: THE BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE," available in many languages for people here and around the world working on how their often heroic struggles can lead to meaningful change.
On revcom.us now is a new and highly important polemic by Raymond Lotta, "On the 'Driving Force of Anarchy' and the Dynamics of Change—A Sharp Debate and Urgent Polemic: The Struggle for a Radically Different World and the Struggle for a Scientific Approach to Reality."
On revcom.us now is sharp and timely exposure and coverage of the recent court ruling once again strengthening the officlal criminal police practice of stop-and-frisk.
On revcom.us now is timely coverage of the crisis opened up by whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations of U.S. spying on the world.
On revcom.us now are reports from all over the country on the efforts of the movement for revolution, including right now in Jackson, Mississippi, confronting the Christian fascist siege on the last abortion clinic in that state, as part of mounting a national counter-offensive to these attacks on women's rights to not be enslaved, and as part of hastening the revolution that would finally get humanity past this madness.
On revcom.us now are reports from the October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation—coverage bringing to life the important resistance around this, and working on breaking more people out of thinking that limits our struggles to one or another version of reforming a truly unreformable system.
So... how could any of our efforts be brought together in a serious, conscious movement for revolution, with society-wide influence, for a radically different and far better world, without revcom.us?
Right now, you are needed to become, or renew being, a regular financial sustainer of revcom.us with a regular monthly contribution.
A great deal rides on how well the revcom.us website can play its role in the world for humanity to understand and radically change the world. It is really indispensable. This problem is solvable. The key to solving it is you—both what you plan to contribute each month, and how much you are letting others know about this concrete way they can contribute to the radical change this world cries out for.
If you are a sustainer, consider increasing your amount. If you have been a sustainer but have missed some payments, help figure out how those funds can be systematically turned in. If you have sustained in the past but are not now, pick it up again. If this is the first time you've considered this, start now. Let others know, and think big.
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The next issue of Revolution, #323,will be a special issue on the experience of previous socialist revolutions and socialist societies.
The first wave of socialist societies—beginning with the short-lived Paris Commune in 1871, and then in the Soviet Union from 1917 to the mid-1950s, and in China from 1949 to 1976—were forged out of monumental revolutions. They were the rising up of the wretched of the earth, of the oppressed and the exploited. These were revolutions involving hundreds of millions in determined struggle to overthrow the old order and to build a new world.
The socialist states that were the products of these revolutions were the first attempts in modern history to create societies free from exploitation and oppression. These societies were about changing all of society. And they accomplished amazing things. Everyone who engages with this special issue will get a living feel for what that meant—for the liberation of women, for ending the oppression of minorities and historically persecuted and oppressed peoples. And they will be exposed to a picture of a whole new world in birth.
Today, people are told, and believe, that the "best" one can hope to do is bring about change on a very micro and personal level—maybe we can improve the situation here, in this community, in this neighborhood, in this profession. Maybe my group of people, or my identity group of people, can change some things. People talk about elections, but elections are not changing the fundamental character of anything in this society. Witness the continuation of the drones and wars for empire around the world. Look at what's happening to the environment: destruction. Look at the treatment of women—the degradation, the subordination, the horrors visited upon women—worldwide, every day.
These first socialist revolutions involved societal change. They were aiming to dig up all forms of exploitation and oppression. They were total revolutions—not just to change the economy, but to change morality, to change culture, to change values. And these revolutions made leaps in all of these dimensions.
With these socialist societies, a path was being carved out and charted toward a whole different world. The experience of these revolutions really changed everything. The world does not have to be the way it is. These were the most liberating episodes, the most emancipating experience in human history thus far. That is the truth that has been hidden and suppressed from people. These revolutions carved out and charted out a path to a whole different world.
The special issue will feature an extensive interview with Raymond Lotta—a leading expert on the experiences of the Soviet Union and China when they were socialist societies. And he is an advocate for Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism. Bob Avakian has deeply studied the experience of revolution—the shortcomings as well as the great achievements, and has brought the science and method of revolution to a whole new level.
Through that interview, through photos and other print and online features, the special issue will bring to life the reality of these societies—transformations that marked the beginning of the end of the long dark night of exploitation and oppression.
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
by Larry Everest | November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
For the past 12 years, following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States has been waging what it initially called a global "war on terror." Through various adjustments and "rebrandings," this has included the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq; the construction of a massive apparatus to spy on people all over the world; and increasingly global drone warfare: missiles fired from unmanned aircraft, or drones.
Since 2002, there have been hundreds of drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and perhaps other countries. Thousands have been killed.
The U.S. government steadfastly claims these drone strikes are "necessary, legal, and just." This past May, President Obama, who has radically escalated U.S. drone warfare, said the U.S. only targets "terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people." He stated that "before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured." Because of these criteria, his administration claims that very, very few non-"terrorist" civilians have been killed in drone strikes. The bottom line, according to Obama: "our actions are effective.... Simply put, these strikes have saved lives."
Recently, a series of in-depth investigations by human rights groups, United Nations agencies, and news organizations have exposed these claims and shined a light on the brutal reality of U.S. drone warfare. For the most part, these exposures are being ignored or downplayed by the mainstream media and the U.S. government. But an analysis of what is revealed in these reports reveals not just that most of these attacks are illegal (which the human rights reports document), beyond that, they are illegitimate and immoral.
Laborers were gathered in a tent on the edge of the village of Zowi Sidgi, home to hundreds in northwest Pakistan, after working a long, hot summer day. Most there worked in the local chromite (iron ore) mine. Others made their living from farming, cutting and selling wood, or driving. "It was our gathering place; usually at the end of the day after work the villagers sit together and talk to each other about our daily business," said Ahsan, a chromite miner.
Four drones were visible overhead. The sound of Hellfire missiles piercing the air at 950 miles an hour came without warning. At least one scored a direct hit on the tent. At least eight were killed instantly. The tent burned. "When we went to where the missiles hit to help people," Ahsan told Amnesty International, "we saw a very horrible scene. Body parts were scattered everywhere. [I saw] bodies without heads and bodies without hands or legs. Everyone in the hut was cut to pieces."
Family and friends ran to help and retrieve the bodies, carrying water, blankets, and stretchers. But moments after the first volley, another was launched, instantly massacring at least six first responders. "Some people lost their hands," one villager said of the follow-on strike. "Others had their heads cut off. Some lost their legs. Human body parts were scattered everywhere on the ground. The bodies were burnt and it was not possible to recognize them."
Eighteen were killed that night, and at least 22 more would wounded, including an eight-year-old girl.
A little before 3:00 in the afternoon, Mamana Bibi, a 68-year-old grandmother, was picking okra for the evening meal in her family's field in Ghundi Kala, a small agricultural village in northwest Pakistan. Eid al-Adha, the year's holiest day for Muslims, was the next day. Her eight-year-old granddaughter Nabila and 12-year-old grandson Zubair were helping her nearby.
"They noticed drones overhead. They were sort of used to that, because drones are ubiquitous in the skies over there," an Amnesty International researcher told Democracy Now! Suddenly, there was a whistling sound, a loud explosion. Mamana was hit directly by a U.S. Hellfire missile, fired from a drone. She was blown to bits, pieces of her body scattered across the field.Two of her grandchildren witnessed the attack: "There was a very bad smell," said Zubair, "and the area was full of smoke and dust. I couldn't breathe properly for several minutes." Nabila went to look for her grandmother: "I saw her shoes. We found her mutilated body a short time afterwards. It had been thrown quite a long distance away by the blast and it was in pieces. We collected as many different parts from the field and wrapped them in a cloth."
Two other grandchildren, Kaleemul and Samadur Rehman, were in the family home drinking tea when they heard the explosion. "I ran outside and saw the rocket had left a big crater in the field and dead animals, and the area was full of smoke and dust. I could not see my grandmother anywhere," said Kaleemul. He and Samadur were afraid of more strikes so they tried to flee. They were too late. A few moments after their grandmother had been blown to pieces, the U.S. launched another strike about nine feet from where Mamana had been working. Shrapnel hit Kaleemul. "This time I felt something hit my leg and the wave of the blast knocked me unconscious. Later I regained consciousness and noticed that my leg was wounded and my cousin was carrying me on his back to the main road, about 1.5 miles away."
No one from the United States government ever contacted Mamana's family to acknowledge their grandmother was killed by a U.S. drone, much less apologize or compensate the family.
These two accounts come from a new report by the human rights organization Amnesty International, "'Will I Be Next?' US Drone Strikes in Pakistan." This extensively documented study, released on October 22, is based on on-the-scene investigations, including testimony from survivors of drone attacks and analysis of the 45 known drone strikes in North Waziristan, Pakistan, that occurred from January 2012 to August 2013. On Tuesday, October 29, the late Mamana Bibi's son, Rafiq ur Rehman, and his two children, Nabila and Zubair, also gave their testimony to a Congressional committee. It was the first time victims of drone strikes had testified before Congress. Only five of 435 members of the House of Representatives bothered to attend.
On October 22, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released its own report on drone strikes in Yemen: "'Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda': The Civilian Cost of US Targeted Killings in Yemen." The same day, the New York Times carried a lengthy front-page story and an editorial on Amnesty's and HRW's findings, and its own investigation of the impact of the drone war on Miranshah, a small town in North Waziristan. United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, and on Human Rights and Counterterrorism also issued reports documenting and criticizing U.S. attacks, reports which were debated at the UN.
All of this is coming in the context of an international uproar over America's NSA global spy net and the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden. The Washington Post reports that Snowden's documents reveal the NSA's "extensive involvement in the targeted killing [drone] program," that many drone attacks have been based on information culled from NSA phone and Internet surveillance.
While these reports do not analyze or question the fundamental nature of the U.S. "war on terror," they do expose the illegality, under current international law, of many of these strikes, the lie that very few innocent people have been killed by U.S. drones, and the enormous toll these attacks have taken on thousands upon thousands of oppressed people.
For instance, Amnesty's investigation found that "In some circumstances arbitrary killing can amount to a war crime or extrajudicial execution, which are crimes under international law." Human Rights Watch's 102-page report concluded, "United States targeted airstrikes against alleged terrorists in Yemen have killed civilians in violation of international law."
One issue these investigations focus on is the death of civilians or non-combatants.
The Obama administration has dismissed past investigations reporting that many civilians had been killed by U.S. drone strikes. In 2011, White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan (now CIA director) even stated that "for nearly the past year, there hasn't been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency [and] precision" of U.S. drone strikes. The CIA later claimed the number of civilian were in the "single digits."
In his May 2013 speech, Obama claimed, "we only target al Qaeda and its associated forces," that "we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people," and that "before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured." He pushed aside concerns about civilian deaths saying, "There's a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties and nongovernmental reports." (Of course, the government refuses to release its assessments.)
Yet the cases examined by Amnesty show Obama's statements are not true. "The killing of Mamana Bibi appears to be a clear case of extrajudicial execution," said Mustafa Qadri, who wrote Amnesty's report. "It is extremely difficult to see how she could have been mistaken for a militant, let alone an imminent threat to the U.S."
Summing up its latest investigation, Amnesty writes, "Contrary to official claims that those killed were 'terrorists,' Amnesty International's research indicates that the victims of these attacks were not involved in fighting and posed no threat to life."
Amnesty's and other reports point to the reality that hundreds and hundreds of non-combatants are being killed by U.S. drones—not just a handful of people. Amnesty states, "According to NGO and Pakistan government sources the USA has launched some 330 to 374 drone strikes in Pakistan between 2004 and September 2013...according to these sources, between 400 and 900 civilians have been killed in these attacks and at least 600 people seriously injured."
(The Pakistani government recently, and inexplicably, reduced its estimate of civilian drone deaths to 67. It's widely suspected this is a political fabrication, put forward in the wake of a U.S.-Pakistani agreement struck during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's recent meeting with Obama in Washington.)
In just six of the dozens of drone and missile strikes in Yemen, Human Rights Watch found that 82 people had been killed, "at least 57 of them civilians." One 2012 strike on a passenger van killed 12; a 2009 cruise missile strike "killed more than 40 civilians, most of them women and children..." Pakistani officials told UN investigators that U.S. drone attacks have killed at least 400 to 600 or more civilians. (Democracy Now! October 21, 2013)
According to the New America Foundation, overall (both so-called "militants" and civilians), more than 640 people have been killed in U.S.-directed drone strikes in Yemen over the past decade, and some 2,065 people in the hundreds of strikes in Pakistan. The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that in Pakistan alone, between 2,371 and 3,433 people have been killed by drones since January 1, 2008, including between 308 and 789 civilians.
"It is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in every war," Barack Obama said this past May. "And for the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss. For me, and those in my chain of command, those deaths will haunt us as long as we live..."
Stop for a minute. Try and wrap your mind around this typically Obama-esque hypocrisy and deceit. True—"no words or legal construct can justify" the murder of a 68-year-old grandmother like Mamana Bibi, or the hundreds of children killed or injured. But Obama feigns compassion to skip past his administration's refusal to disclose its "legal construct" for drone murder, or to offer any "words" of condolence or apology for those killed, or to halt the killing that supposedly "haunt" him and his death merchant officer corps. Rather, he's invoking phony compassion to justify and continue mass murder. (Days after reports exposing drone killings were issued, the U.S. launched strikes killing two in Somalia on October 29, three in Pakistan on October 31, and another four there on November 1.)
In fact, disclosing the truth about the U.S. drone program could greatly impede it. "Secrecy surrounding the drones program gives the US administration a license to kill beyond the reach of the courts or basic standards of international law," Amnesty's Qadri stated.
There is no reason to think these killings really do "haunt" Obama or others in the U.S. military apparatus deciding who lives and dies in Pakistan, Yemen, and any number of countries around the world. But even if they did, those feelings would be overridden by the needs and interests of empire, and the killings would continue. One thing is certain: these murders will haunt Maman Bibi's family and thousands of other victims for the rest of their lives—and millions of oppressed peoples for the rest of ours.
So, if U.S. drones are so accurate, why have so many non-combatants been killed? Is Obama telling the truth when he says the U.S. only targets those bent on attacking the U.S., and that a little "collateral damage" is a sad but inevitable risk in war?
No, the issue is not faulty electronics or the "fog of war." The Obama administration refuses to release its "rules of engagement," but the U.S. has consistently targeted groups of people for drone attacks, not "carefully selected" individuals.
Take the issue of "follow-on" strikes, or the so-called "double-tap" (imperialist slang that both sanitizes and "macho-izes" mass murder). "The US relies on consecutive rounds of strikes—missiles are dropped, killing people," the BBC reports. "A moment later—when people in the area have raced to the scene to help the wounded, another round of missiles is dropped. This practice, known as a 'double tap', as journalists have described, is being used more often"—such as at Zowi Sidgi and Ghundi Kala.
Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, calls targeting civilian rescuers a "war crime." "When one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict."
Think about it: how is it remotely possible to tell ahead of time who exactly will rush to aid victims of a drone strike, or whether they're members of "al Qaeda and its associated forces," and to make sure there's "near-certainty" no civilians are killed. Is rushing to help someone who is injured or trying to find or retrieve the body of a loved one now proof, in the eyes of the empire, that someone is a "terrorist"?
There is a logic and a reason the "double-tap" and mass civilian casualties. It's rooted in the nature and objectives of the U.S. "war on terror," and imperialist logic and necessities driving it.
In his May speech, Obama claimed, "America's actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11. ... Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces. We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war—a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense."
This statement is packed with distortions, half-truths, and outright lies. The U.S. "war on terror" is, at heart, an unjust war for greater empire—not a "just" war to liberate people, "defend the American homeland," or rid the world of violence and terror. A key aim of this war is defeating al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other "associated" Islamist forces. This is not simply or mainly because these groups are plotting attacks on the U.S. It's mainly because they pose a big challenge to U.S. control of Central Asia and the Middle East, including because they're directly clashing with U.S. client regimes. This could greatly weaken the U.S. hold on these regions, which are key to U.S. global dominance and the functioning of its empire of exploitation. And provide openings for rival regional and global powers.
The U.S. initially tried to deal with this problem by invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq. But this strategy has, in many ways, backfired. The U.S. has not succeeded in either outright defeating the Islamists or in "draining the swamp"—restructuring these societies to undercut the societal roots of the Islamic fundamentalist opposition. And these occupations have cost the U.S. dearly, and have further fueled anti-U.S. Islamist trends.
So the U.S. has wound down the occupations of Iraq and now Afghanistan. But it hasn't abandoned the "long war" to defeat Islamic fundamentalism and maintain control of the arc from Morocco through Saudi Arabia to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rather it is increasingly employing drone warfare and other covert operations to achieve its imperial objectives, while avoiding, as Obama has put it, American "boots on the ground."
The U.S. drone war in North Waziristan in northwest Pakistan is a key front in this war, which shows a lot about what it's actually about, and why so many are being blown to bits. North Waziristan, home to some 840,000 people, borders Afghanistan. It's where Zowi Sidgi, Ghundi Kala, and Miranshah are located and is a base area for the Taliban fighters from both Afghanistan and Pakistan and other Islamist forces. These groups oppose the U.S. puppet government in Afghanistan and the current regime in Pakistan, and are fighting for reactionary Islamic states in both countries.
This is why U.S. drone surveillance is constant and drone strikes have been concentrated in this region. Here the U.S. is targeting individual Taliban, al Qaeda, or other Islamist leaders or fighters.
Even when the targets of U.S. drone attacks actually are commanders of jihadist forces who may be plotting or carrying out terrorist attacks, these attacks are not about "saving lives." U.S. drone attacks, regardless of the intended victim, create a state of ongoing terror among all the people in large regions of the world. They are in the service of imposing the U.S. empire, which has brought so much misery to the Middle East, North Africa, and the rest of the world.
Again, the U.S. drone strikes are not at all limited to targeted strikes on jihadist leaders. There is also the "double-tap" logic at work of attacking any who might be Islamists or their supporters, or "associated forces"—a definition which can be stretched to mean most anything. This leads to murdering, injuring, and terrorizing whole groups—even whole populations—of people who may support, sympathize or just tolerate the Islamists, or who're just part of the population the fundamentalists draw from. And so these drone attacks perpetuate and accelerate the vicious cycle of U.S. imperialist aggression driving people into the arms of the jihadists.
These patterns have been evident since the drone strikes began a decade ago. Wedding parties in Afghanistan were obliterated. Funerals have been attacked. And then there were widely used "signature strikes" targeting people or groups of people based on "behavior patterns"—not because they'd been specifically identified as members of al Qaeda or "terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people."
The New York Times report (October 22, 2013) on the impact of the drone war on Miram Shah [Miranshah], a small town of some 3,500 in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border, paints a picture of systematic terror impacting a whole population:
[V]iewed from Miram Shah, the frontier Pakistani town that has become a virtual test laboratory for drone warfare, the campaign has not been the antiseptic salve portrayed in Washington. In interviews over the past year, residents paint a portrait of extended terror and strain within a tribal society caught between vicious militants and the American drones hunting them. "The drones are like the angels of death," said Nazeer Gul, a shopkeeper in Miram Shah. "Only they know when and where they will strike."
It has become a fearful and paranoid town, dealt at least 13 drone strikes since 2008, with an additional 25 in adjoining districts—more than any other urban settlement in the world. Even when the missiles do not strike, buzzing drones hover day and night, scanning the alleys and markets with roving high-resolution cameras... the strikes in the area mostly occur in densely populated neighborhoods. The drones have hit a bakery, a disused girls' school and a money changers' market, residents say... While the strike rate has dropped drastically in recent months, the constant presence of circling drones—and accompanying tension over when, or whom, they will strike—is a crushing psychological burden for many residents. Sales of sleeping tablets, antidepressants and medicine to treat anxiety have soared, said Hajji Gulab Jan Dawar, a pharmacist in the town bazaar.
Think about what the U.S. is fighting to preserve in Pakistan: an oppressive tyranny ruling over one of the most brutally exploited and impoverished countries on earth. A country where 82 million people will spend their entire lives in poverty, earning less than $19 per person per month. Where millions of children are driven to work in factories earning perhaps $10 a week to support their families. Where nearly all medium-size and large agricultural enterprises are owned by a tiny elite—less than 1 percent of the population. A country shackled by feudal, patriarchal traditions where less than half of women living in rural areas can read.
This is why—despite tensions and contradictions—the U.S. and Pakistani governments work together to crush any challenges, whether reactionary like the Islamists, or revolution, to the current order. This is why the Pakistani government, like the Islamists and the U.S., target restive populations: "We are scared that at any time there could be a blast [from an armed group] and then the Army will fire mortars without caring who they hit," one villager told Amnesty. And this is why despite its public protests, the Pakistani government supports U.S. drone strikes: "top officials in Pakistan's government have for years secretly endorsed the program and routinely received classified briefings on strikes and casualty counts, according to top-secret CIA documents and Pakistani diplomatic memos," Washington Post reports (October 24, 2013).
What kind of empire and global order is it that depends on violence to preserve such oppression and suffering? That murders 68-year-old grandmothers, blowing them to pieces as they tend their small fields, and then attacking their children and grandchildren when they try to help? Or that massacres chromite miners, landless farmers, and near-penniless drivers? What is legitimate about trying to violently preserve a world in which millions upon millions are forced to live in destitution and fear, now, in the 21st century? Yet this is, at bottom, what the "war on terror" is about.
Why should anyone accept U.S. drone strikes, Obama's lies, and most fundamentally, this kind of world?
Amnesty International, "'Will I be next?' US drone strikes in Pakistan", October, 22, 2013
Human Rights Watch, "Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda," October 22, 2013
"Documents reveal NSA's extensive involvement in targeted killing program," WashingtonPost, October 16, 2013
Civilian Deaths in Drone Strikes Cited in Report," New York Times, October 22, 2013
"'How Do You Justify Killing a Grandmother?' Amnesty Says U.S. Drone Strikes May Be War Crimes," Democracy Now!, October 23, 2013
"The Deaths of Innocents," New York Times, October 23, 2013
Amnesty International, "USA Must Be Held To Account For Drone Killings In Pakistan," October 23, 2013
."Pakistan says drones killed 67 civilians since 2008," BBC, October 30, 2013
"Too Scared to Go Outside": Family of Pakistani Grandmother Killed in U.S. Drone Strike Speaks Out," Democracy Now! October 31. 2013
For extensive documentation of the U.S. "war on terror," drone strikes, and other covert operations, see Jeremy Scahill, Dirty War: The World Is A Battlefield (Nation Books, 2003)
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
October 22, 2013: National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation
November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This year, October 22—the 18th National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation was marked by many youth from the neighborhoods coming out and manifesting their outrage—joined by many others of all nationalities and from different walks of life—sick and tired of the whole way this system is carrying out a slow genocide of Black and Latino people through police murders, mass incarceration, and criminalization. There was an angry spirit of defiance and determination.
This was the context for October 22 [O22] this year:
All this is part of the illegitimate matrix of police brutality, murder, repression and criminalization of a generation—which is what people took to the streets to STOP on October 22. And this sets the context for understanding what was accomplished on October 22, what it revealed, and what needs to be done now to build off it.
When this system let the killer of Trayvon Martin walk free, all of this welled up and came to the surface. This is why a lot of people said, "We are All Trayvon Martin." Why so many took to the streets, saying, "That could have been me," "Could have been my son," "Could have been my brother."
And many others, not directly under the gun in this way, looked at this verdict and had to ask themselves, "What does this say about America? Is this the kind of society I want to be a part of—when racist vigilantes and cops kill Black and Latino youth and this system lets them get away with it almost all the time?
At the O22 rally in Oakland, Uncle Bobby, Cephus Johnson, spoke beneath the platform where his nephew Oscar Grant was killed by the police in 2009. Juanita Young, whose son, Malcolm Ferguson, was killed by a NYPD cop in 2000 and Margarita Rosario, whose two nephews were killed by cops in 1995, marched in the Bronx in New York. In Atlanta, Delzora Wall, mother of Zaus Barnett, who was shot 12 times and killed by the police this year, spoke at the rally. A friend of Prince Gavin, a Black soldier murdered in Tacoma, Washington, addressed the crowd in Seattle.
In Sacramento, California, the rally of 4-500 people was organized by "A California Campaign to Stop Police Brutality," a state-wide network that includes over 50 families of victims of police murder. Latino, Black, Asian and white family members came from all over the state. 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 single one found "justifiable" by authorities.
Youth and students also played a significant role in O22 this year. Revolution Clubs in different cities went out to high schools to organize for O22. College students and high school youth were an important and large component of many of O22 events. At the Fruitvale Plaza in Oakland, where Oscar Grant was killed by the police, the rally of 120 people of all nationalities was over half young people, a contingent came from Merritt College and the Black Students Union took the stage as their president addressed the crowd and spoke of Black peoples' very "existence" being threatened by how "the cops are killing us." In Los Angeles, when the march passed by Crenshaw High School, scores of students rushed in and went to the head of the march, despite the police trying to stop them. In Atlanta, when the march went by a Georgia State University building a representative from the GSU Progressive Student Alliance exposed a joint training program between the police in Georgia and Israel. Later a youth from Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance spoke about Obama's detention and deportation of immigrants.
In Chicago, the crowd of 200 at the rally was overwhelmingly African-American and mainly young. Youth came from two alternative high schools—one school sent almost 40 students on a bus paid for by donations; another had over 15 students. When students from the first school marched up and saw students from the other school there were hugs and cheers. They were joined by both by junior college students from a downtown campus and a class on social justice from a private downtown university brought by their professor. A report from Chicago notes: "This was very significant in a city wracked by cycles of violence between different sets of youth... instead here is a glimpse of something new coming on the terrain (new for O22 too), youth fighting the power and transforming themselves in the process....Other social forces, like lawyers, ministers, other progressive or radical groups helped to make it possible for these youth to take part in O22... If we don't fully appreciate what this represented, the movement for revolution will not be able to build on it, to see it as a harbinger of what is stirring below the surface among many more youth who did not come out that day, while deepening the fight against the police brutality and the jailing of these youth in huge numbers and bringing as many as possible into the movement for revolution."
This year over 50 cities announced plans for O22 and different kinds of people of all nationalities, from different parts of society, came together. People were in a very defiant mood. There were marches to jails, precincts, an ICE field office—to directly expose, condemn and confront the representatives of the system carrying out crimes against the people.
Lots of people came from the neighborhoods as well as activists in the immigrant rights struggle, Black nationalists, people from Occupy, artists, lawyers and other professionals, intellectuals, and people from the religious community. In New York, Reverend Stephen H. Phelps from The Riverside Church in Harlem sent a statement of solidarity to the rally in Harlem. In Oakland, members from the Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco attended with Dr. Karen Oliveto. Oliveto, who spoke at the rally, had recently given a sermon from a mock SHU [solitary confinement] unit in support of the prisoners hunger strike.
There were other expressions of protest on O22, like people wearing black at their workplace and Youtube videos done to promote the day, including one by rapper Jasiri X who announced that in support of this movement he was releasing a new video on O22 called "Crooked Cops." Also of important note is a benefit concert by Arturo O'Farrill, Grammy award-winning pianist and composer and founder of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, for the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. In July, at an Evening of Conscience in support of the prisoners hunger strike, O'Farrill talked about how the murder of Ramarley Graham had shocked him and he said: "I'll use my voice, I'll use what I have, the platform that I've built, the orchestra, the music, the records, the composing, everything I can do, I aim towards the purpose of letting people know that things have got to change. It is the most important thing a person can do."
The movement for revolution also had a strong and important presence on O22. The "3 Strikes Poster" with the quote from Bob Avakian was widely distributed. Revolutionaries promoted showings of the film Revolution—Nothing Less! during the building of O22, got out copies of Revolution newspaper and sent people to the website revcom.us. At many O22 rallies the statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party was read. Carl Dix, from the RCP spoke at rallies in the Bronx and Harlem, and revolutionaries spoke in other cities—exposing how this slow genocide can become a fast genocide and that only revolution can bring about a new world free of all the horrors people are facing, and challenging people to get with the movement for revolution.
October 22 this year was a good, and important advance. And it gives a sense of the potential breadth of people who can be won in an even bigger and more powerful way to make this voice of determined resistance heard ON A BIG SOCIETAL STAGE—in a way that cannot be ignored, that can change the actual terms of conversation and struggle in society. And that contributes, increasingly, to repolarizing society, and as we say: "Fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution."
More than anything else, it revealed the need and potential, for a movement to change all of society. It revealed the great need and great potential to build a movement for revolution to finally get rid of this system that is responsible for this nightmare of oppression and brutality—and all of the other horrors of the capitalist system, from the oppression of women, to the U.S. wars of empire around the world, to the savage exploitation of sweatshops and child labor and the ravaging of the environment.
Millions of people are already losing sleep about the state of the world, hating the way things are, wishing things could be different—BUT not knowing that in fact, things don't have to be this way AND that there is the leadership and the vision and the plan for how to get the world to a whole other place, to emancipate all of humanity.
So we need to take the real strengths and advances of this year's O22, that more than anything else, showed the POTENTIAL and the NEED to rally many more to take this up—and we need to build off this in ways which can advance this movement in new and strategic ways.
This movement, "To Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation" can and must be a way for tens of thousands today and, in the not too distant future, MILLIONS... to take up this important struggle, for it to grow in its breadth, diversity and determination.
Revolution #322 November 10, 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 #322 November 10, 2013
November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The documentary film The Square, by the filmmaker Jehane Noujaim, brings us inside the mass uprisings in Egypt—the courageous outpourings that toppled the decades-long, brutal U.S.-backed regime of Hosni Mubarak in the winter of 2011. And it takes us up to current events in that country, through the complex struggle of the Egyptian people in the tumultuous two years since the fall of Mubarak.
The film takes its name from Tahrir Square—the square in the middle of Egypt’s capital city, Cairo—where protests, counterprotests, violent repression, and mass debates have been concentrated since the uprising began.
The struggle against Mubarak, and the search for a way to continue to fight for freedom, is presented through the eyes of three protagonists. Ahmed Hassan is a rebellious and free-spirited working class youth. The camera is behind and beside him as he and other rebellious forces (mainly youth) go literally up in the face of the arguments, the threats, and the violence of defenders of both the army that serves and enforces the rule of the entrenched pro-U.S. Egyptian ruling class and the reactionary “alternative” forces of the Muslim Brotherhood. Khalid Abdalla is an actor and activist who has appeared in movies like The Kite Runner. He struggles to make the world aware of the brutal repression against the people which, as he calls out in The Square, is funded by the U.S. The third activist is Magdy Ashour—torn between his membership in the Muslim Brotherhood and his repulsion at some of the ways in which the Brotherhood betrays the interests of the people. The last we learn of Magdy Ashour is that he has been rounded up by the army in the bloody aftermath of the military coup that ended the elected presidency of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
There are many reasons to see The Square. It is a powerful, visceral slice of reality that gives a feel for what it is like when people in their millions awaken to political life and are searching for a way to get free. Even for those of us who have been following the struggle in Egypt through articles at revcom.us and beyond, this is as close as most of us will get to the mass debates, the tear gas and bullets, the anguished arguing and wrangling over how to move the struggle forward among the activists, and the cold-blooded logic, immorality, and reactionary violence of the defenders of the old order (who express themselves quite freely in interviews in the film).
For readers of revcom.us, theatrical showings of the film in your area are a chance to connect the analysis of Egypt in articles at revcom.us with an audience that is likely to leave the film discussing and arguing over how to understand what is happening in Egypt and the lessons for people seeking liberation. At the showing I attended, that discussion included thoughtful and passionate exchanges around the role of women in the struggle in Egypt, and the lack of focus on their role in the film (the filmmaker, Jehane Noujaim, is a woman, and there are women interviewed in the documentary—particularly Aida El Kashef—but for whatever reason she and other women activists aren’t given the same stage as the three main male subjects). And showings are a chance to bring Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism to an audience confronting the question: what is revolution.
But there are other reasons why followers of revcom.us in particular should see this movie. We get a vivid picture of what a potential revolutionary situation feels like, from the point of view of forces who, with their limitations, are trying to break through and bring forward something far more radical than the “choices” offered by the dominant paradigm. If you lived through the 1960s in somewhere like the U.S. or France, your memories of that era will be revived. If you haven’t lived through such a historic moment, all the more reason to check out this film.
In his review of the film in the New York Times, A.O. Scott notes, “Ms. Noujaim’s sympathies are clearly with those who refer to themselves as ‘revolutionaries’—a word that comes to signify resistance to both the Brotherhood and the military—but she is hardly blind to their limitations.” And Scott comments, with some insight, that “The revolutionaries are able to compel the world’s attention and sympathy, and to risk life and limb in defiance of authority, but they have neither the organizational discipline nor the strategic ability to assume and exercise power. Lacking weapons or a party apparatus, they become pawns and bystanders in an increasingly lethal struggle between forces more ruthless and less principled than they.”
For those who are working to grasp and apply the RCP’s “On the Strategy for Revolution,” who are struggling to work backwards from the future revolutionary situation that we are both working to hasten, and prepare for, you can get a powerful sense of how essential it is to enter into such a situation with a revolutionary communist vanguard party, with the requisite “organizational discipline,” and with “strategic ability” to lead people, and transform them, on a tumultuous and rapidly shifting political landscape, to “assume and exercise power.” And you can appreciate in a very visceral way how essential it is to have a critical mass cohered in a revolutionary movement around the core—hundreds now who can quickly expand to be thousands, and then lead millions with a vision, strategy, and a Constitution for a new society aimed at doing away with all oppression.
Available in English, Farsi, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish from RCP Publications, P.O. Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
$5 + $1 shipping. A draft translation into Arabic is now available online. See all translations here.
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
“Ray Kelly, you can’t hide, we charge you with homicide.” This was one of the chants on October 30 as about 100 Brown University students, along with people from the neighboring community in Providence, Rhode Island, prevented New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly from giving a speech on “Proactive Policing in America’s Biggest City.”
By “proactive policing,” Kelly means especially stop-and-frisk, the openly racist NYPD policy that results in hundreds of thousands of people, mainly Black and Latino youth, being harassed and often brutalized by the police every year. During the trial on the lawsuit against the stop-and-frisk policy earlier this year, a former NYPD captain testified that Kelly said, during a meeting with the New Jersey governor, that stop-and-frisk was focused on young Black and Latino men because he “wanted to instill fear in them, every time they leave their home they could be stopped by the police.”
The Brown protest is a very positive development! It happened immediately after a federal appeals court stopped the changes in the stop-and-frisk policy mandated by a lower court, pending the appeal of that ruling by the City of New York, and even threw the trial judge off the case. The students who protested and disrupted Kelly’s speech on the Brown campus have set a standard in refusing to accept stop-and-frisk or the outrageous federal court ruling protecting it.
One of the student protesters said, “We drafted a petition last Thursday, and as of today there are over 500 signatures. We delivered it... and they didn’t respond to our demand to cancel the lecture. So today, we canceled it for them.” Another protester said, “The concept of freedom of speech, of allowing Ray Kelly his constitutional right to express his speech, in this particular situation, is illegitimate. How can I say such a thing? Well, an abolitionist is not interested in the freedom of speech of a slave master. He’s simply trying to abolish the system...”
Before Kelly’s speech students marched and chanted outside the room. Among the signs they carried were “My Skin is Not a Crime,” “Don’t Honor the Police State,” “Stop and Frisk” with a big “X” crossing the words out, and “Stop Police Brutality.”
Inside, Kelly was booed by many in the audience (and applauded by some) as he was introduced. (See a video of the scene above.) Soon after Kelly began speaking, students began standing up to denounce stop-and-frisk and Kelly’s role in implementing and defending it. A young Black man who initiated this soon was joined by a group of about 20 who spoke in unison for a moment, preventing Kelly from giving his lecture. Kelly thought he could continue when they sat down, but whenever he tried other students stood and shouted demands that he stop.
A Brown administrator who intervened on the basis of people’s supposed “right” to hear Kelly asked how many people wanted to program to proceed. A few people applauded and raised their hands. Then a young woman yelled, “How many people do NOT want to hear Ray Kelly” Many more people raised their hands and cheered. The administrator conceded defeat: “This program is now concluded, and we’re going to ask everyone to leave the audience”.
Brown is an “Ivy League” institution, one of the country’s elite universities, a place where future generations of “the nation’s leaders” are trained. It is very significant that such protest is breaking out there. One young woman who spoke at a rally after the disruption said she had been told by someone on the podium that nothing like this had taken place at Brown for at least 15 years.
The Brown protest has struck a nerve. One letter to the New York Times referred to it as a “contemptible reanimation of 1960s mobocracy.” Another letter, by a former executive of the NY Civil Liberties Union, said the protest was “wrong and unethical.” These are completely wrong arguments. Allowing Ray Kelly—a top architect and perpetrator of stop-and-frisk—to speak would be wrong and unethical and would make Brown University complicit in the crimes against the people he perpetrates, as many students pointed out. The protests at Brown, and the spirit of resistance, must be defended, upheld and spread to other campuses and cities!
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
Santa Rosa, CA:
November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On October 29, some 1,000 to 2,000 (maybe more) people—mostly high school and junior high students—poured into the streets of Santa Rosa, a city of 170,000 north of San Francisco, in the latest in a string of marches and protests against the police murder of 13-year-old Andy Lopez. It was the largest outpouring against police murder in Sonoma County in memory.
Andy was shot down by County sheriffs on October 22. This cold-blooded murder was shocking and outrageous. Andy was just minding his own business, heading to a field to play, carrying a toy rifle. According to an ABC TV news report, the Santa Rosa police have released a timeline showing that "only 10 seconds passed from the moment that the Sheriff's deputy and his partner called dispatch to report a suspicious person to the moment they called back to say shots had been fired." Within those 10 seconds the two deputies rolled up behind Andy, ordered him to drop his "gun," and one deputy exited the patrol car and fired eight shots, seven of them hitting Andy. This veteran cop who killed Andy is a police weapons instructor and led U.S. military squads in combat in Iraq. Andy never had a chance to fully turn around or to understand what he was being told, much less to explain himself.
Adding fuel to the fire are the sickening lies and bullshit now being spread by the pigs and their apologists—like the deputies feared for their lives; they have to react instantly and they can’t tell a toy gun from a real gun (never mind that Andy never pointed this toy at them much less “fired” it, never mind that the pig who shot Andy was supposedly a weapons expert); it’s all a tragic accident.
But this bullshit isn’t washing with thousands and thousands of people, including Andy’s friends and classmates and other youth—particularly Latino youth. And the defiance of these youth—including a very militant protest last week that broke through police tape to come right to the front of the Sheriff’s station and write messages in the still-drying concrete that had just been poured there. This very bold spirit and resistance was key in turning Andy’s murder into a society-wide question—covered on national TV news, discussed on Bay Area radio and TV broadcasts, generating messages of support for the youth and condemnation of the police from around the world.
And precisely because of the outrageousness of Andy’s murder and the rebellion it provoked, there was a lot of anticipation on all sides for the October 29 march.
The main Santa Rosa newspaper, the Press Democrat, warned of “outside agitators” joining the protest. Heavily armed Sheriffs were waiting in the wings and on the roof of the Sheriffs’ Department. Indeed, people from all over Northern California showed up, including a bus from Stockton, which made a stop in Oakland; and there were a few people from East Oakland as well. But well over half of the crowd were local high schoolers, junior high, and students from Santa Rosa Junior College, mostly Latino, but a fair number of all nationalities. (It was something special to see Black people in the crowd including from Santa Rosa JC’s Black Student Union, all there for Andy.) There were many homemade signs like “Toys Don’t Kill, Sheriffs are killers,” “I’m 13, are you gonna shoot me too?” And people held up a banner at the first stage at Old Town Square which read “We are All Andy Lopez, the whole damn system is guilty... visit us at revcom.us.” The Stolen Lives banner that shows people killed by police—with a picture of Andy newly added—was held by a group of young high school women.
The first speakers included junior high classmates, one of whom bravely spoke about being hassled by police just walking home from school, as if he were a criminal, giving voice to the fact that "criminalization of youth" begins with children. One junior high youth told us that the police are a constant presence at their school both in the morning and afternoon. “The only time I don’t see the cops is in my bedroom.” Later, some parents who were by the stage, told of their children being beaten severely by cops!
The march charged off in a boisterous way, with the youth setting a defiant and enthusiastic pace, undeterred by some of the organizers who argued people should not march in the street. They quickly took over both sides of busy Mendocino Avenue, breaking from the plan of taking only one side, chanting loudly "Andy, Andy, Andy, Andy"; "Andy was just a boy, it was just a fucking toy"; “Justice for Andy" and many others. It was beautifully uncontrollable. During the march, a statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party, Bay Area Branch, "On the Murder of Andy Lopez," found its way into many hands as it was passed down the rows.
We marched for three miles, blocking traffic all the way, till we arrived at Santa Rosa Junior College, where a number of speakers took the stage to decry the murder and call for justice. A revolutionary analysis and viewpoint were urgently needed in the mix, and there was struggle to have such voices heard. Larry Everest, a writer for Revolution newspaper, was able to take the mic. He offered the RCP’s “deepest condolences” to friends and family of Andy. He talked about the boy who “made people happy... who had potential,” but who was cut down before he could realize it. Referencing parts of the RCP statement, he asked, “What kind of system does this?” He then saluted the defiance and resistance of the youth, “without which we wouldn’t even stand a chance,” and added “we have to get to the root of the problem. I’ve been protesting this for 40 years. I don’t want you to have to do that.” He urged people to get into Bob Avakian and the film BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less!, and get with the RCP which is determined to lead a revolution and bring a world where “police murder is a thing of the past.”
The march then continued for another half mile to the barricaded and heavily armed Sheriff’s station. A makeshift stage allowed family victims of police murder to speak as well as others like Veterans for Peace who railed against the increased militarization of police. Attorney John Burris, who represented Oscar Grant’s family, spoke, and a statement from Oscar Grant’s Uncle Cephus Johnson was read earlier in support of the protest.
Pigs in riot gear surrounded the station as if it were a fortress; and there were armed cops on the rooftop as well. But the police show of intimidation (along with a few who wanted to calm the youth down) was met by many youth who defiantly shouted “fuck the police,” dared them to “take off your badge and come down here”: and one young man spoke into the bullhorn “Being Mexican is not a crime, mothafucka.”
There were many in the crowd who also wanted a deeper understanding of why the police act this way with impunity! Lots of yellow posters of BAsics 1:24 (on the role of the police) and 3 Strikes posters were distributed, the latest issue of Revolution nearly sold out, and 100s of palm cards announcing a showing of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! in Berkeley were distributed.
Stay tuned for further developments.
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
From A World to Win News Service:
October 31, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Note from Revolution: We thought the following would be of interest to our readers.
October 21, 2013. A World to Win News Service. Another killing fire broke out in a Bangladesh garment factory in early October. Ten people died and scores more injured when four buildings caught fire in a clothing manufacturing zone outside Dhaka. Just days earlier, in late September, as many as 200,000 angry workers closed down 300 factories for a day, set some on fire and clashed with police for three days demanding a minimum monthly salary of $100, while companies offered only $46. Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the demonstrators, injuring dozens in this overall volatile situation. Ongoing events bring forward actions by the garment workers as their anger continues to boil over.
The garment industry produces never-ending tragedies for workers, four million people, mainly women. It is the main industry, second in size only to China's clothing manufacture, in a country of 155 million. This on-the-job slaughter continues, despite the spotlight shown on the major international clothing retailers and their claims and vows to change working conditions after the Rana Plaza building collapse in April that killed 1,200 workers. The trail of blood leads to the imperialist towers of capital in New York, London and Paris, where brands like Carrefour, Walmart, H&M, Tesco, IKEA, C&A, Gap and Sainsbury intensely compete for market share. Extremely low wages, child labor, repression of the people, no building or safety codes, and corrupt and pliable local governments are in fact the necessary conditions for profitable imperialist investment.
The following is a slightly edited version of an article sent to A World to Win News Service from comrades in Bangladesh.
After the Rana Plaza incident, the high-intensity outbursts of the garment workers ended, but the movement continued on various levels, particularly around working conditions in the industry, concentrated on efforts to raise wages. The minimum wage has been 3,000 taka, or $38 per month ($1 = 80 BD taka), since 2010. With this wage, one person can barely survive. The new wage scale was not even close to sufficient, and at the same the cost of living rose. So, the new salary made very little change in living conditions.
A major portion of the salary goes to landlords. The workers are required to work at least two hours overtime, sometimes as much as five to 10 hours. If they do so, they can earn 1-2,000 takas per month more, and are thus able to survive and send money to their families in the villages. Not all workers receive the minimum entry wage. Expert workers get 4-6,000 takas as a basic salary plus overtime (which can be 1-3,000 takas more). Many of the woman garment workers are unmarried, divorced, widows or have husbands who are physically unable to work. Many married couples are in the workplace, so there are often several members of the family at work, including children. This is the only way they survive.
Even though life is very difficult, garment workers are not fully dissatisfied with this situation. In the villages where there are few jobs, especially for young girls or women, life is impossible. Women there basically do their household chores which are considered of no value.
In these circumstances, together the ruling class, the imperialists and the garment owners propagate that the garment industry saves the economy, creates many jobs, especially for women, and this is a great achievement of this system. With the exception of some progressive and Maoist organizations, all the other political forces think like this. The "left" among them wants to reform this situation and concentrate on raising wages and improving working conditions of the workers.
Now, after Tazreen [121 garment workers died and at least 200 were injured last November in a fire that spread rapidly throughout the Tazreen Fashions factory] and especially the Rana Plaza tragedy, the workers' movement was revitalized around the question of wages. After the Rana Plaza tragedy, the government and factory owners became very frightened and cautious. The pressure from Western NGOs, trade unions, and humanitarian organizations, etc., also gave them problems. Worker organizations (mainly some NGOs and some left and reformist trade unions) now demand a minimum wage of 8,000 takas. Due to upcoming elections, the government is calling for a new wage scale. After a long time, the owners said they will raise wages to 3,600 takas. This created a furious reaction among the workers, giving rise to the recent upsurge.
Due to the momentum of the workers' movement, the government and the factory owners complained that the workers are conspiring to crush the garment sector. The so-called secular government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina even propagated that fundamentalists Islamists or the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP, the main bourgeois rival party) are behind the conspiracy. On the other hand, BNP is blaming the governing Awami League (AL) for ruining the garment sector. Everyone blames their opponents in an effort to be in the best position for upcoming elections. The current situation will definitely influence the outcome.
Most of the factory owners are the hooligans of the ruling parties or ex-bureaucrats or other rich people. They might have some land in rural areas, but they are not large landowners. For example, Sohel Rana, the owner of Rana Plaza, was not a landlord but a mastan ["godfather," a leader of an organized crime syndicate in league with politicians who benefit from them financially and in turn protect them] of the AL party now in power. Through many means and with the help of those in power, he became the owner of Rana Plaza. Now he is a big, rich businessman. Feudal relationships are incorporated into this type of capitalism.
People do not support these bourgeois parties. They think they are all the same, that they exist for the betterment of the rich and not for the poor. Yet they continue to participate in elections and in each election round, vote for one party, then in the next, change and vote for the other. During the last 23 years of "democracy," no party was elected for two successive terms. The opposition BNP party will benefit from this situation, because the workers and people blame the current ruling party for their misery.
The AL knows they will lose to the BNP in the coming election, so they are trying to gain control of the NGOs and revisionist trade unions. They already assigned Shajahan Khan, a notorious mastan and bourgeois trade union leader, to lead this organization.
All these bourgeois and other forces claim that the garment industry has saved the country by creating so many jobs. They say that jobs have even made women self-sufficient, so the industry should not be destroyed and if the workers continue protesting, they themselves will be jobless and the women workers will be compelled to become prostitutes.
Many workers also think this. But paradoxically, they continue fighting against their low salaries and horrible working conditions. They attack the institutions of the state and the rich, including their industries. They practically want to attack the system, but do not know how to do this or what the alternate system would be.
All these issues are part of the cruel reality on the ground.
And hiding behind all this is the most important reality—the role of the capitalist-imperialists who really dominate the garment industry—the foreign buyers. The government, the bourgeois parties and the garment owners insist that the buyers will take their business to other countries if labor unrest continues. They say the workers must accept whatever is offered to them.
An article by Dr Muhammad Yunus exposed the imbalance in profits gained by the local producers and big company buyers like Walmart, Gap, etc. He concludes that the domestic factory owners get about $5 for a shirt. The price of this shirt in the U.S. is $25. The other costs for the imperialist corporate owners are not more than $10 per piece. Their profit is a minimum of $10 per shirt. [Yunus is a Bangladeshi economist who is a leading proponent of the need for capitalist economic development in the Third World by means of a "micro-credit" system to encourage poor women to become small-scale entrepreneurs, a scheme for which he received a Nobel Prize in 2006.]
Dr Yunus' exposure was not widely propagated. He did not want to disturb the local bourgeoisie nor the imperialist bourgeois buyers. Instead he appealed to Western consumers to pay 50 cents more for an item of clothing, providing this money be used to increase the wages and improve working conditions. This is all part of the discourse in Bangladesh.
All this avoids seeing imperialist penetration as the main issue. The garment industry is not a national industry. It is solely dependent on imperialism and is a feature of the globalized economy of imperialism. If you want revolution, and want to proceed towards socialism and communism, you must break with this economy, not try to reform it like Hugo Chavez and others.
To make this happen will be a very hard and complex process because workers and people generally are not thinking like this. You must propagate revolutionary politics and build a revolutionary organization that shows them the road to liberation. It may be an easier task in the rural areas. At the same time, most of the workers are rural people.
To break with this type of imperialist-dependent economy is not easy. Bangladesh is a small country with a huge population. There is not sufficient land to distribute among workers. At the same time, you cannot build the necessary number of industries overnight to solve the jobless condition of a huge population of this sector and other sectors like it. But that is what is needed. The economy also can and must be reconstructed through the process of protracted people's war. Many small industry and work-sectors must be created in villages, first in support of agriculture, and then meeting other important needs of the population.
Many things in the villages—the economy, class structure, culture, the environment, etc. are changing rapidly. And important changes are taking place in towns and cities also. There is a need to study the effects of all these things.
The capitalist system and its proponents and the revisionists hide Bangladesh's imperialist dependency. And as long as the economy is dependent on imperialism, you can do very little for the safety and welfare of the workers. The owners are the worst type of compradors, one of the main pillars of the ruling class, and the main beneficiary of this man- (woman-) eating big economy. They are the main financiers of the ruling class parties.
The government and the ruling parties are trying to cool down the revolt of workers through suppression and phony "workers' leaders." With the elections ahead, the contradictions among the ruling class parties will intensify. At the same time, they are all in unity against the workers' movement.
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 #322 November 10, 2013
November 4, 2013, originally published October 14, 2007 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We are highlighting this week the following excerpt from Bob Avakian's book Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, Chapter 2, "Christianity, Judaism, and Isla—-Rooted in the Past, Standing in the Way of the Future." The book was published in 2008.
Among the most distinguishing features of today’s situation are the leaps that are occurring in globalization, linked to an accelerating process of capitalist accumulation in a world dominated by the capitalist-imperialist system. This has led to significant, and often dramatic, changes in the lives of huge numbers of people, often undermining traditional relations and customs. Here I will focus on the effects of this in the Third World—the countries of Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East—and the ways in which this has contributed to the current growth of religious fundamentalism there.
Throughout the Third World people are being driven in the millions each year away from the farmlands, where they have lived and tried to eke out an existence under very oppressive conditions but now can no longer do even that: they are being thrown into the urban areas, most often into the sprawling shantytowns, ring after ring of slums, that surround the core of the cities. For the first time in history, it is now the case that half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, including these massive and ever-growing shantytowns.
Being uprooted from their traditional conditions—and the traditional forms in which they have been exploited and oppressed—masses of people are being hurled into a very insecure and unstable existence, unable to be integrated, in any kind of “articulated way,” into the economic and social fabric and functioning of society. In many of these Third World countries, a majority of the people in the urban areas work in the informal economy—for example, as small-scale peddlers or traders, of various kinds, or in underground and illegal activity. To a significant degree because of this, many people are turning to religious fundamentalism to try to give them an anchor, in the midst of all this dislocation and upheaval.
An additional factor in all this is that, in the Third World, these massive and rapid changes and dislocations are occurring in the context of domination and exploitation by foreign imperialists—and this is associated with “local” ruling classes which are economically and politically dependent on and subordinate to imperialism, and are broadly seen as the corrupt agents of an alien power, who also promote the “decadent culture of the West.” This, in the short run, can strengthen the hand of fundamentalist religious forces and leaders who frame opposition to the “corruption” and “Western decadence” of the local ruling classes, and the imperialists to which they are beholden, in terms of returning to, and enforcing with a vengeance, traditional relations, customs, ideas and values which themselves are rooted in the past and embody extreme forms of exploitation and oppression.
Where Islam is the dominant religion—in the Middle East but also countries such as Indonesia—this is manifested in the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. In much of Latin America, where Christianity, particularly in the form of Catholicism, has been the dominant religion, the growth of fundamentalism is marked by a situation where significant numbers of people, in particular poor people, who have come to feel that the Catholic Church has failed them, are being drawn into various forms of protestant fundamentalism, such as Pentecostalism, which combines forms of religious fanaticism with a rhetoric that claims to speak in the name of the poor and oppressed. In parts of Africa as well, particularly among masses crowded into the shantytown slums, Christian fundamentalism, including Pentecostalism, has been a growing phenomenon, at the same time as Islamic fundamentalism has been growing in other parts of Africa. 1
But the rise of fundamentalism is also owing to major political changes, and conscious policy and actions on the part of the imperialists in the political arena, which have had a profound impact on the situation in many countries in the Third World, including in the Middle East. As one key dimension of this, it is very important not to overlook or to underestimate the impact of the developments in China since the death of Mao Tsetung and the complete change in that country, from one that was advancing on the road of socialism to one where in fact capitalism has been restored and the orientation of promoting and supporting revolution, in China and throughout the world, has been replaced by one of seeking to establish for China a stronger position within the framework of world power politics dominated by imperialism. This has had a profound effect—negatively—in undermining, in the shorter term, the sense among many oppressed people, throughout the world, that socialist revolution offered the way out of their misery and in creating more ground for those, and in particular religious fundamentalists, who seek to rally people behind something which in certain ways is opposing the dominant oppressive power in the world but which itself represents a reactionary worldview and program.
This phenomenon is reflected in the comments of a “terrorism expert” who observed about some people recently accused of terrorist acts in England that, a generation ago, these people would have been Maoists. Now, despite the fact that the aims and strategy, and the tactics, of genuine Maoists—people guided by communist ideology—are radically different from those of religious fundamentalists and that communists reject, in principle, terrorism as a method and approach, there is something real and important in this “terrorism expert’s” comments: a generation ago many of the same youths and others who are, for the time being, drawn toward Islamic and other religious fundamentalisms, would instead have been drawn toward the radically different, revolutionary pole of communism. And this phenomenon has been further strengthened by the demise of the Soviet Union and the “socialist camp” that it headed. In reality, the Soviet Union had ceased to be socialist since the time, in the mid-1950s, when revisionists (communists in name but capitalists in fact) seized the reins of power and began running the country in accordance with capitalist principles (but in the form of state capitalism and with a continuing “socialist” camouflage). But by the 1990s, the leaders of the Soviet Union began to openly discard socialism, and then the Soviet Union itself was abolished and Russia and the other countries that had been part of the Soviet “camp” abandoned any pretense of “socialism.”
All this—and, in relation to it, a relentless ideological offensive by the imperialists and their intellectual camp followers—has led to the notion, widely propagated and propagandized, of the defeat and demise of communism and, for the time being, the discrediting of communism among broad sections of people, including among those restlessly searching for a way to fight back against imperialist domination, oppression and degradation. 2
But it is not only communism that the imperialists have worked to defeat and discredit. They have also targeted other secular forces and governments which, to one degree or another, have opposed, or objectively constituted obstacles to, the interests and aims of the imperialists, particularly in parts of the world that they have regarded as of strategic importance. For example, going back to the 1950s, the U.S. engineered a coup that overthrew the nationalist government of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran, because that government’s policies were viewed as a threat to the control of Iran’s oil by the U.S. (and secondarily the British) and to U.S. domination of the region more broadly. This has had repercussions and consequences for decades since then. Among other things, it has contributed to the growth of Islamic fundamentalism and the eventual establishment of an Islamic Republic in Iran, when Islamic fundamentalists seized power in the context of a mass upheaval of the Iranian people in the late 1970s, which led to the overthrow of the highly repressive government of the Shah of Iran, who had been backed and in fact maintained in power by the U.S. since the ouster of Mossadegh. 3
In other parts of the Middle East, and elsewhere, over the past several decades the imperialists have also consciously set out to defeat and decimate even nationalist secular opposition; and, in fact, they have at times consciously fed the growth of religious fundamentalist forces. Palestine is a sharp example of this: Islamic fundamentalist forces there were actually aided by Israel—and the U.S. imperialists, for whom Israel acts as an armed garrison—in order to undermine the more secular Palestine Liberation Organization. In Afghanistan, particularly during the Soviet occupation of that country in the 1980s, the U.S. backed and provided arms to the Islamic fundamentalist Mujahadeen, because it was recognized that they would be fanatical fighters against the Soviets. Other forces, including not only more secular nationalists but Maoists, opposed the Soviet occupation and the puppet governments it installed in Afghanistan, but of course the Maoists in particular were not supported by the U.S., and in fact many of them were killed by the “Jihadist” Islamic fundamentalists that the U.S. was aiding and arming.
In Egypt, going back to the 1950s, there was the whole phenomenon of the popular nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, and of “Nasserism,” a form of Arab nationalism which wasn’t limited to Egypt but whose influence was very widespread after Nasser came to power in Egypt. In 1956 a crisis developed when Nasser acted to assert more control over the Suez Canal; and Israel, along with France and England—still not fully resigned to the loss of their large colonial empires—moved together in opposition to Nasser. Now, as an illustration of the complexity of things, in that “Suez crisis,” the U.S. opposed Israel, France and Britain. The U.S. motive was not to support Arab nationalism or Nasser in particular, but to further supplant the European imperialists who had previously colonized these parts of the world. To look briefly at the background of this, in the aftermath of World War 1, with the defeat of the old Ottoman Empire, centered in Turkey, France and England basically divided up the Middle East between them—some of it was allotted to the French sphere of influence, as essentially French colonies, and other parts were under British control. But then after World War 2—through which Japan as well as Germany and Italy were thoroughly defeated, and countries like France and Britain were weakened, while the U.S. was greatly strengthened—the U.S. moved to create a new order in the world and, as part of that, to impose in the Third World, in place of the old-line colonialism, a new form of colonialism (neo-
colonialism) through which the U.S. would maintain effective control of countries and their political structures and economic life, even where they became formally independent. And, as part of this, Israel was made to find its place in relation to the now more fully realized and aggressively asserted American domination in the Middle East.
But, out of his stand in what became the “Suez crisis,” and as a result of other nationalist moves, Nasser and “Nasserism” developed a widespread following in the Arab countries in particular. In this situation, the U.S., while not seeking overtly to overthrow Nasser, worked to undermine Nasserism and generally more secular forces—including, obviously, communist forces—that were opposed to, or stood in the way of, U.S. imperialism. And, especially after the 1967 war, in which Israel defeated surrounding Arab states and seized additional Palestinian territory (now generally referred to as the “occupied territories,” outside of the state of Israel which itself rests on land stolen from the Palestinians), Israel has been firmly backed by and has acted as a force on behalf of U.S. imperialism.
Defeat at the hands of Israel in the 1967 war contributed significantly to a decline in the stature and influence of Nasser and Nasserism—and similar, more or less secular, leaders and trends—among the people in the Middle East; and by the time of his death in 1970, Nasser had already begun to lose a significant amount of his luster in the eyes of the Arab masses.
Here again we can see another dimension to the complexity of things. The practical defeats and failure of Nasser had the effect of undermining, in the eyes of increasing numbers of people, the legitimacy, or viability, of what Nasser represented ideologically. Now, the fact is that “Nasserism” and similar ideological and political trends, do not represent, and cannot lead to, a thorough rupture with imperialist domination and all forms of the oppression and exploitation of the people. But that is something which has to be, and is in fact, established by a scientific analysis of what is represented by such ideologies and programs and what they aim to achieve, and are actually capable of achieving; it is not proven by the fact that, in certain particular instances or even over a certain limited period of time, the leaders personifying and seeking to implement such ideologies and programs suffer setbacks and defeats. In the ways in which masses of people in the Arab countries (and more broadly) responded to such setbacks and defeats, on the part of Nasser and those more or less representing the same ideology and program, there was a definite element of pragmatism—the notion that, even in the short run, what prevails is true and good, and what suffers losses is flawed and bankrupt. And, of course, a spontaneous tendency toward such pragmatism, among the masses of people, has been reinforced by the verdicts pronounced by the imperialists and other reactionaries—not only, of course, in relation to secular forces such as Nasser but, even more so, in relation to communists and communism, which represent a much more fundamental opposition to imperialism and reaction.
In all this it is important to keep in mind that over a number of decades, and at least until very recently, the U.S. and Israel have worked to undermine secular forces among the opposition to them in the Middle East (and elsewhere) and have at least objectively favored, where they have not deliberately fostered, the growth of Islamic fundamentalist forces. During the “Cold War,” this was, to a significant degree, out of a calculation that these Islamic fundamentalists would be much less likely to align themselves with the Soviet camp. And, to no small degree, this favoring of religious fundamentalists over more secular forces has been motivated by the recognition of the inherently conservative, indeed reactionary, essence of this religious fundamentalism, and the fact that, to a significant degree, it can act as a useful foil for the imperialists (and Israel) in presenting themselves as an enlightened, democratic force for progress.
Now, one of the ironies of this whole experience is that Nasser, and other Arab nationalist heads of state, viciously and murderously suppressed not only Islamic fundamentalist opposition (such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt) but also communists. But, with what has taken place on the world stage, so to speak, in recent decades—including what has happened in China and the Soviet Union (as discussed above) and the widely propagated verdict that this represents the “defeat” of communism; the seizure of power in Iran by Islamic fundamentalists, with the fall of the Shah of Iran in the late 1970s; the resistance to the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, which by the late 1980s forced a Soviet withdrawal and contributed significantly to the downfall of the Soviet Union itself; and the setbacks and defeats for more or less secular rulers like Nasser (and more recently someone like Saddam Hussein) in the Middle East and elsewhere—it has, in the short term, been the Islamic fundamentalists, much more than revolutionaries and communists, who have been able to regroup, and to experience a significant growth in influence and organized strength.
Another example of this whole trajectory, from the 1950s to the present time—which illustrates, in very stark and graphic terms, the points being made above—is the country of Indonesia. During the 1950s and 1960s Indonesia had the third largest communist party in the world (only in the Soviet Union and China were the communist parties larger). The Indonesian Communist Party had a massive following among the poor in the urban areas (whose slums, in the city of Jakarta and elsewhere, were already legendary, in the negative sense) as well as among the peasants in the countryside and sections of the intellectuals and even some more nationalist bourgeois strata. Unfortunately, the Indonesian Communist Party also had a very eclectic line—a mixed bag of communism and revisionism, of seeking revolutionary change but also trying to work through parliamentary means within the established government structures.
The government at that time was headed by the nationalist leader Achmed Sukarno. Now, an important insight into this was provided as part of a visit I made to China in the 1970s, during which some members of the Chinese Communist Party talked about the experience of the Indonesian Communist Party, and they specifically recounted: We used to struggle with comrade Aidit (the head of the Indonesian Communist Party during the period of Sukarno’s government); we warned him about what could happen as a result of trying to have one foot in communism and revolution and one foot in reformism and revisionism. But the Indonesian Communist Party persisted on the same path, with its eclectic approach; and in 1965 the U.S., through the CIA, working with the Indonesian military and a leading general, Suharto, carried out a bloody coup, in which hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists, and others, were massacred, the Communist Party of Indonesia was thoroughly decimated, and at the same time Sukarno was ousted as the head of government and replaced by Suharto.
In the course of this coup, the rivers around Jakarta became clogged with the bodies of the victims: the reactionaries would kill people, alleged or actual communists, and throw their bodies, in massive numbers, into the rivers. And, in a phenomenon that is all too familiar, once this coup—which the CIA led, organized and engineered—was unleashed and carried out, all kinds of people who were involved in personal or family disputes and feuds would start accusing other people of being communists and turning them into the authorities, with the result that a lot of people who weren’t even communists got slaughtered, along with many who were. Once the imperialists and reactionaries unleashed this blood-letting, this encouraged and gave impetus to, and swept many people up in, a kind of bloodlust of revenge. The CIA openly brags about how they not only organized and orchestrated this coup but also specifically targeted several thousand of the leading communists and got rid of them directly, within this larger massacre of hundreds of thousands.
The fundamental problem with the strategy of the Indonesian Communist Party was that the nature of the state—and in particular the military—had not changed: the parliament was to a large degree made up of nationalists and communists, but the state was still in the hands of the reactionary classes; and because their control of the state had never been broken, and the old state apparatus in which they maintained control was never shattered and dismantled, Suharto and other reactionary forces were able, working together with and under the direction of the CIA, to pull off this bloody coup, with its terrible consequences.
In this regard, another anecdote that was recounted by members of the Chinese Communist Party is very telling and poignant. They told a story about how Sukarno had a scepter that he used to carry around, and the Chinese officials who met with him asked him, “What is this scepter you carry around?” And Sukarno replied: “This scepter represents state power.” Well, the Chinese comrades telling this story summed up, after the coup “Sukarno still had the scepter, they let him keep that, but he didn’t have any state power.”
The Indonesian Communist Party was all but totally wiped out, physically—its membership was virtually exterminated, with only a few remnants of it here and there—a devastating blow from which it has never recovered. And the decimation was not only in literal and physical terms but also was expressed in ideological and political defeat, disorientation and demoralization. Over the decades since then, what has happened in Indonesia? One of the most striking developments is the tremendous growth of Islamic fundamentalism in Indonesia. The communist alternative was wiped out. In its place—in part being consciously fostered by the imperialists and other reactionary forces, but partly growing on its own momentum in the context where a powerful secular and, at least in name, communist opposition had been destroyed—Islamic fundamentalism filled the vacuum that had been left by the lack of a real alternative to the highly oppressive rule of Suharto and his cronies that was installed and kept in power for decades by the U.S. 4
All this—what has taken place in Indonesia, as well as in Egypt, Palestine and other parts of the Middle East—is a political dimension which has been combined with the economic and social factors mentioned above—the upheaval and volatility and rapid change imposed from the top and seemingly coming from unknown and/or alien and foreign sources and powers—to undermine and weaken secular, including genuinely revolutionary and communist, forces and to strengthen Islamic fundamentalism (in a way similar to how Christian fundamentalism has been gaining strength in Latin America and parts of Africa).
This is obviously a tremendously significant phenomenon. It is a major part of the objective reality that people throughout the world who are seeking to bring about change in a progressive direction—and still more those who are striving to achieve truly radical change guided by a revolutionary and communist outlook—have to confront and transform. And in order to do that, it is necessary, first of all, to seriously engage and understand this reality, rather than remaining dangerously ignorant of it, or adopting an orientation of stubbornly ignoring it. It is necessary, and indeed crucial, to dig down beneath the surface of this phenomenon and its various manifestations, to grasp more deeply what are the underlying and driving dynamics in all this—what are the fundamental contradictions and what are the particular expressions of fundamental and essential contradictions, on a world scale and within particular countries and regions in the world—that this religious fundamentalism is the expression of, and how, on the basis of that deeper understanding, a movement can be developed to win masses of people away from this and to something which can actually bring about a radically different and much better world.
There is a definite tendency among those who are “people of the Enlightenment,” shall we say—including, it must be said, some communists—to fall into what amounts to a smugly arrogant attitude toward religious fundamentalism and religion in general. Because it seems so absurd, and difficult to comprehend, that people living in the 21st century can actually cling to religion and in fact adhere, in a fanatical and absolutist way, to dogmas and notions that are clearly without any foundation in reality, it is easy to dismiss this whole phenomenon and fail to recognize, or to correctly approach, the fact that this is indeed taken very seriously by masses of people. And this includes more than a few people among the lower, deeper sections of the proletariat and other oppressed people who need to be at the very base and bedrock of—and be a driving force within—the revolution that can actually lead to emancipation.
It is a form of contempt for the masses to fail to take seriously the deep belief that many of them have in religion, including religious fundamentalism of one kind or another, just as tailing after the fact that many believe in these things and refusing to struggle with them to give this up is also in reality an expression of contempt for them. The hold of religion on masses of people, including among the most oppressed, is a major shackle on them, and a major obstacle to mobilizing them to fight for their own emancipation and to be emancipators of all humanity—and it must be approached, and struggled against, with that understanding, even as, at any given time, it is necessary, possible, and crucial, in the fight against injustice and oppression, to unite as broadly as possible with people who continue to hold religious beliefs.
Another strange, or peculiar, expression of contradictions in the world today is that, on the one hand, there is all this highly developed technology and sophisticated technique in fields such as medicine and other spheres, including information technology (and, even taking account that large sections of the population in many parts of the world, and significant numbers even within the “technologically advanced” countries, still do not have access to this advanced technology, growing numbers of people actually do have access to the Internet and to the extensive amounts of information available through the Internet, and in other ways) and yet, at the same time, there is the tremendous growth of, let’s call it what it is: organized ignorance, in the form of religion and religious fundamentalism in particular. This appears as not only a glaring but a strange contradiction: so much technology and knowledge on the one hand, and yet on the other hand so much widespread ignorance and belief in, and retreat into, obscurantist superstition.
Well, along with analyzing this in terms of the economic, social and political factors that have given rise to this (to which I have spoken above) another, and even more basic, way of understanding this is that it is an extremely acute expression in today’s world of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism: the contradiction between highly socialized production and private (capitalist) appropriation of what is produced.
Where does all this technology come from? On what basis has it been produced? And speaking specifically of the dissemination of information, and the basis for people to acquire knowledge—what is that founded on? All the technology that exists—and, for that matter, the wealth that has been created—has been produced in socialized forms by millions and millions of people through an international network of production and exchange; but all this takes place under the command of a relative handful of capitalists, who appropriate the wealth produced—and appropriate the knowledge produced as well—and bend it to their purposes.
What is this an illustration of? It is, for one thing, a refutation of the “theory of the productive forces,” which argues that the more technology you have, the more enlightenment there will be, more or less directly in relation to that technology—and which, in its “Marxist” expression, argues that the greater the development of technology, the closer things will be to socialism or to communism. Well, look around the world. Why is this not the case? Because of a very fundamental fact: All this technology, all the forces of production, “go through,” and have to “go through,” certain definite production relations—they can be developed and utilized only by being incorporated into what the prevailing ensemble of production relations is at any given time. And, in turn, there are certain class and social relations that are themselves an expression of (or are in any case in general correspondence with) the prevailing production relations; and there is a superstructure of politics, ideology and culture whose essential character reflects and reinforces all those relations. So, it is not a matter of productive forces—including all the technology and knowledge—just existing in a social vacuum and being distributed and utilized in a way that is divorced from the production relations through which it is developed and employed (and the corresponding class and social relations and superstructure). This takes place, and can only take place, through one or another set of production, social and class relations, with the corresponding customs, cultures, ways of thinking, political institutions, and so on.
In the world today, dominated as it is by the capitalist-imperialist system, this technology and knowledge is “going through” the existing capitalist and imperialist relations and superstructure, and one of the main manifestations of this is the extremely grotesque disparity between what is appropriated by a tiny handful—and a lesser amount that is meted out to broader strata in some of the imperialist countries, in order to stabilize those countries and to mollify and pacify sections of the population who are not part of the ruling class there—while amongst the great majority of humanity there is unbelievable poverty and suffering and ignorance. And, along with this profound disparity, we are witnessing this peculiar contradiction between so much technology and so much knowledge, on the one hand, and yet such widespread belief in, and retreat into, obscurantist superstition, particularly in the form of religious fundamentalism—all of which is in fact an expression of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism.
This is an extremely important point to understand. If, instead of this understanding, one were to proceed with a more linear approach and method, it would be easy to fall into saying: “I don’t get it, there is all this technology, all this knowledge, why are so many people so ignorant and so mired in superstition?” Once again, the answer—and it is an answer that touches on the most fundamental of relations in the world—is that it is because of the prevailing production, social and class relations, the political institutions, structures, and processes, and the rest of the superstructure—the prevailing culture, the ways of thinking, the customs, habits, and so on, which correspond to and reinforce the system of capitalist accumulation, as this finds expression in the era where capitalism has developed into a worldwide system of exploitation and oppression.
This is another important perspective from which to understand the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism. The more this disparity grows, the more there is a breeding ground for religious fundamentalism and related tendencies. At the same time, and in acute contradiction to this, there is also a potentially more powerful basis for revolutionary transformation. All of the profound disparities in the world—not only in terms of conditions of life but also with regard to access to knowledge—can be overcome only through the communist revolution, whose aim is to wrest control of society out the hands of the imperialists and other exploiters and to advance, through the increasingly conscious initiative of growing numbers of people, to achieve (in the formulation of Marx) the elimination of all class distinctions, all the production relations on which these class distinctions rest, all the social relations that correspond to those production relations, and the revolutionization of all the ideas that correspond to those social relations—in order to bring about, ultimately and fundamentally on a world scale, a society of freely associating human beings, who consciously and voluntarily cooperate for the common good, while also giving increasing scope to the initiative and creativity of the members of society as a whole.
1. For many of the same reasons that have been touched on here, religious fundamentalism has also been strengthened in recent decades among sections of the poor, oppressed and marginalized within the U.S. This includes the fact that there is a conscious strategy, on the part of powerful sections of the ruling class in the U.S., aimed at promoting religious fundamentalism among masses of people whose conditions of life cry out for radical change, and ensnaring them in the reactionary ideology and political program of which this religious fundamentalism is a concentrated expression.
The growth of fundamentalism among significant numbers of people within the broad category of the “middle class” in the U.S. is largely due to other factors, including: a heightened sense of anxiety owing to an economy and a culture which promotes and provides seemingly ceaseless consumption on the basis of expansive credit and debt; a sense of volatility and insecurity in the economy and in society overall; a feeling of losing control even over their children in the face of technological changes (cable and satellite TV, the Internet, etc.); a sense of loss of “place” and community in a society and culture which produce atomization and promote extreme individualism. But what is very important to understand is that, especially among the “middle class” in the U.S., this phenomenon of growing fundamentalism is also a product of the parasitism of imperialism—of the fact that U.S. imperialism in particular is the world’s dominant power, which lives off, and could not do without, the super-exploitation of masses of people throughout the Third World, and that people in the U.S., particularly within the “middle class,” are “high up on the food chain” among the world’s peoples. And, it is important to note, what is involved in the religious fundamentalism that finds adherents particularly in the suburbs and exurbs of America is a deep-seated sense of the role of America as “God’s chosen nation,” accompanied by an aggressive assertion of American chauvinism, as well as of traditional relations and values which embody white supremacy and male supremacy.
The phenomenon of fundamentalism, and in particular Christian Fascist fundamentalism, in the U.S. will be returned to in a later section of this book. [back]
2. In addition to what is contained in a number of writings and talks of mine that speak to this subject, an analysis of important aspects of the actual experience of socialism in the Soviet Union and in China—including very real mistakes and shortcomings as well as historically unprecedented achievements—and answers to the slanders and distortions of this experience, is provided by the project Set the Record Straight. This can be accessed, and more information about this provided, online at thisiscommunism.org. [back]
3. An important source of information and analysis in regard to these events in Iran and their consequences is All The Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer, John Wiley & Sons, 2003. [back]
4. In addition to brutally oppressing the people of Indonesia itself, the regime of Suharto carried out a genocidal reign of terror in East Timor, massacring a huge section of the population there—and in this, too, it was backed and assisted by U.S. imperialism, through successive Administrations, including that of Bill Clinton. [back]
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader
The most striking aspect of October 22, 2013, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and Criminalization of a Generation in Chicago [and perhaps not fully captured in the initial coverage] was the participation of youth from the oppressed neighborhoods, Black youth in their teens and early twenties... as many as 70 youth stamped the character of O22. If we don't fully appreciate what this represented, the movement for revolution will not be able to build on it, to see it as a harbinger of what is stirring below the surface among many more youth who did not come out that day, while deepening the fight against the police brutality and the jailing of these youth in huge numbers and bringing as many as possible into the movement for revolution.
Chicago is a city where the police routinely chase groups of Black youth out of downtown, even when they come to parade their outfits on Easter. So it is a big deal for these youth to come out to protest, most doing so for the first time. And marching through the heart of downtown Chicago at lunch hour where they can be seen and heard by thousands. They were joined by family members of people killed by the police as well a faith based community group which works with ex-offenders and at-risk youth on the west side of Chicago. Two members of the Revolution Club who have had children murdered by police played important roles in protecting the integrity of O22 from attempts to disrupt it.
There were youth from two alternative high schools. Some of the students at these schools have been ordered by the courts to attend the school as a condition of not going to juvie/jail. This school sent almost 40 students on a bus that was paid for by donations. Another school had over 15 students and their teachers take part, having to make their way by public transportation. When the students from the first school marched up and saw the students from the other school waiting for them there were hugs and cheers to see each other there. These youth were joined both by junior college students from a downtown campus and toward the end by a class on social justice from a private downtown university brought by their professor. In addition and very importantly, there were about 30 people from the faith-based community group who were of different ages and who added real spirit and discipline to O22.
This was very significant in a city wracked by cycles of violence between different sets of youth... instead here is a glimpse of something new coming on the terrain (new for O22 too), youth fighting the power and transforming themselves in the process. At both schools Revolution newspaper was used in building for the day.
The turn-out seems to represent both the ongoing response to the murder of Trayvon and the extreme police clampdown/occupation taking place in many neighborhoods on the south and west sides of the city. The call for "hoodies UP" resonated with the simmering outrage that still exists over Zimmerman's acquittal and the fact that these youth are made to feel like suspects all the time by the police. This was even being taken up even by at least one security guard at school—"O22 is hoodies up day right?" the guard would call out. When the kids asked about the school dress codes which ban hoodies, the teachers said bring them in your back pack and we will put them on, on the way to the demonstration.
The extreme repression against the youth is also a big part of the picture. In the name of stopping violence among the youth, the police commit big-time violence against the youth regardless of who or what they have done. Many students knew one of the few dozen people from Chicago pictured on the "Killed by Police" banner. In interviews with high school students, one thing repeated over and over was that the police can do ANYTHING to them, including kill them—and nothing will happen to the police. They put their heart into the chant, "We are not suspects, we are human beings." More echoes of Trayvon.
In some of the Chicago neighborhoods targeted by police, their practice isn't STOP-And-FRISK, it is STOP-And-JAIL.
In building for O22, a 22-year-old young man talked to a revolutionary about what the police do to the young men in the park where he hangs out: If you are standing in the park, they arrest you for soliciting (they had tried to arrest people for trespassing but the guys told them, "It's a public park—we are allowed to be here.") If they are standing on the sidewalk, they are arrested for trespassing. If they are standing over by the store they are arrested for loitering. It used to be that after 8 hours you would get out. But now they say you are a gang member so you have to post bail. And then when you go back to court they take a portion of the bail as a fine. He says he has "about 100" of these charges on his record. When the regular police round them up they tell them, "don't complain to me, the white shirt told us to do this" meaning that the orders came down from the commander to go out and round up a bunch of the young men. He and two of his friends made a video calling on people to participate in O22. He has begun to get into BAsics and Revolution newspaper, as well as watch some clips from BA Speaks: REVOLUTION-NOTHING LESS!
There were speeches and poems from the students and community group, a family member of a relative killed by police and a statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party. All were well received and the crowd would up the noise every time the word revolution was mentioned.
Again, I don't think we can underestimate the importance of taking to the streets of downtown in the middle of lunch hour and proclaiming NO MORE and the impact it had on the youth themselves as well as those who saw and heard them.
While there were not lots of other social forces (like lawyers, ministers, other progressive or radical groups, etc.) who came out on O22, we should also recognize those social forces who not only came out but made it possible for these youth to take part in O22 in the first place. The teachers made a big difference. At one school the students wrote poetry and two youth performed their poems at O22. At another school revolutionaries and activists building for O22 spoke at the school. Again we should not fail to appreciate that it is not a small act for these teachers to help these youth find their voice, a powerful voice when they are so under the gun of the police.
The scene at the downtown O22 rally and march: not surprisingly, Black people on the streets were more openly supportive, but there were still a number of people of different nationalities who were expressing their support including giving the fist (even some white businessmen), getting the Revolution newspapers, O22 flyers, etc. There were people, especially young people, who joined in on the spot. And even if all that were not the case, STILL the youth standing up together in noticeable numbers is a CRITICAL ingredient to changing the mindset of the broader population that has bought into the lies spread by the powers that be that the problem is the youth and not the system that denies them a future.
The revolutionaries are putting a lot of emphasis on getting back out to all the groups of people who came out. Stacks of Revolution newspapers are going out to the schools, the groups who came out, etc. Arrangements to show the DVD at the schools (high schools and colleges) are a real priority. There are two parks where the youth broadly know about the revolution, where some of the more advanced have watched the DVD etc. and who built for O22 and which are in areas where there is intense conflict among the youth... there needs to be big advances in showings of the DVD. Everywhere we need to be enlisting as many of these youth into revolution clubs and into a systematic relationship to the movement for revolution.
Also, there is a collage of pictures from O22 in the making—some pictures from Chicago and some from around the country—an 11X17 full-color poster. The idea is to make multiple copies and get these together with the 3 Strikes poster distributed in quantity for all the students and other groupings who came out to O22 so they can post them up at school and at home. This should help keep what they accomplished that day from fading too far into the background. This was an important beginning.
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
Resisting Stop-and-Frisk and Supporting Abortion in Harlem
November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The night after a federal court issued a stay of a lower court ruling that elements of stop-and-frisk amounted to racial profiling and were unconstitutional (see "Statement by Carl Dix on the Federal Appeal Court Ruling Re Floyd vs City of New York")—you could hear little groups at the bus stops and outside the projects discussing this. The court ruling was a big message to the people. The reactionaries were crowing their victory, and the people had been slapped in the face. On the cover of the NY Post the headline was "Frisk You!"
Another major attack on the people, however, was being rarely discussed—the rolling assault on abortion. There were people in Jackson, Mississippi, defending the last abortion clinic in the state against a siege by fundamental Christian fascist forces, and a federal appeals court had just issued a ruling that is leading to the immediate shut down of as many 13 abortion clinics in Texas.
We went out with the orientation that the ruling class legitimacy on both these questions must be challenged. "We Will Not Accept Slavery of any Kind!" was at the heart of the matter. We had to draw people's attention to the emergency in Mississippi and draw the links to the program of new Jim Crow and slow genocide against the Black and Latino people.
On the sidewalk was chalked "No Mayors, No Presidents, No Gods! It's Up to Us! We Will Not Accept Slavery in Any Form!" Passersby were called over to sign a banner that said "It's Up to Us! STOP Stop-and-Frisk! No More!" and some in the middle of crossing the street turned around and came back when they realized they were being called on to participate. Some of the African drummers who often perform in the plaza pointed to the poster with Bob Avakian's "3 Strikes" quote and said that they considered their drumming to be an extension of this movement. We also put "Abortion on Demand Without Apology" signs on the posts lining the walkway, and planted a big color "3 Strikes" poster with "Abortion on Demand Without Apology" above it. A speaker on a stepladder drew out the links and called on people to step up and join the movement for revolution.
Soon a swirling scene emerged—people of all ages and nationalities signed the STOP Stop-and-Frisk banner. Knots of people, with individuals holding just-purchased copies of Revolution newspaper, talked with revolutionaries all over the plaza. People took turns posing for photographs in front of it with their fist in the air. One of the Central Park Five (five innocent Black and Latino youth convicted in a lynch-mob atmosphere of a brutal crime in the 1980s), with his young daughter on his shoulders, stopped and took a picture in front of the banner. Some white youth doing a school project on stop-and-frisk, a mother with two young daughters, an older white man with long white hair and a beard took a turn. A photojournalist, well-known in Harlem, stopped to watch the scene and take pictures. He went up to the speaker and shook his hand: "You're motivating the people," he said. A young white couple listened for quite a while to the speaker boldly arguing for women's right to abortion, its connections to the oppression of Black people and that another world is possible. Especially the young woman was greatly impacted. New connections were being made.
An older Black man came up to two revolutionaries and said, "What you're doing means a lot." His eyes were filled with pain, as he described the daily harassment he is subjected to from police. He lives in a small town, and the police there know him, know his name, live in his neighborhood and yet when they see him they demand his ID and search his backpack "They try to make us feel like we're two inches high. They won't let us live. Anything we do, anywhere we go. No one will help us. We're fighting for the children, not for ourselves. We can't let our kids grow up like this." Meanwhile the police began massing and talking among themselves, getting out their ticket books. A commander joined them, but they ended up watching a few yards away, the whole time. There seemed to always be people filming the scene, including a photojournalist from France who stayed a long time and was very affected by what he saw.
A young woman with the Revolution Club called on people to add their message to a statement that read: "To the doctors, nurses, clinic staff, patients and people defending the last abortion clinic in Mississippi—THANK YOU for your courage. You are not alone! From Harlem, NY." Groups of people were constantly gathered around the statement. She struggled with people over concepts that, in most cases, were completely new to them. "A fetus is not a baby, it is a subordinate part of the woman's body, while the woman is a fully developed human being with memories and future plans. A woman should be able to choose an abortion for any reason and a woman's role does not have to include motherhood." She found that most people were approaching the question from the standpoint that the right to abortion should exist because there was so much poverty or in the case of rape. People that disagreed with the right to abortion were in most cases willing to engage in debate.
"This is like Woodstock here!" said an older Black man. "All these people coming together and speaking out!" He added "Men! Mind your own business. From a man" on the message to be sent to Mississippi. Some of the other messages were: "Women of Mississippi—My heart is with you in this fight for our choices and right to access to safe abortions! Stay strong—with love and peace." "I think women should be able to do what they want with their bodies because they have just as much of a right to freedom as men. There is no reason to differentiate between people and treat them different because of their gender or skin-tone!" An African woman wrote, "Every woman has a right to make choices in relation to her own body and well being." Then she exclaimed, "These people who want to end abortion and birth control should come to Africa and see all the homeless, hungry children roaming the streets! What will happen to the children that they force women to have?"
For some, STOP Stop & Frisk was spontaneously an easier issue to relate to, and they stopped to sign that banner. They were also encouraged and struggled with to sign the statement being sent to Mississippi. This was challenging to many people. Some, often but not exclusively men, continued on their way instead of going over to this scene around the abortion statement. Some groups of friends struggled among themselves. One woman in her 20s said, "I support the right to choose, but I am against abortion." Her friend argued with her, "But look how social programs are being cut, many women cannot afford to have children." Biblical literalism and ignorant woman-hating views were not heard in this liberated zone, but one important section of people—middle-school aged Black teenagers—were overwhelmingly found to be against abortion and unwilling to discuss their views. One young woman in her 20s gave a taste of the barbarous indoctrination young people are subjected to: the pastor of her church had shown a video of a supposed "abortion" where a baby was born alive and the woman was asked if she wanted the baby or not, and when she said no, the baby was euthanized with a lethal injection. This was exposed as being part of the "anti-abortion porn," which too much characterizes what young people are familiar with. We realized the crucial importance of bringing out placards with pictures to scientifically illustrate the truth about what a pregnancy is and what an abortion is.
Another woman in her 30s discussed the connection she saw between the reinstatement of stop-and-frisk and the attacks on abortion. She said, "In truth I think we are moving toward communism." It was clear from the context that she meant fascism and actually did not know that it is completely different from communism. When we explained the truth, she said what she wanted was a world of "full equality" and that she really wanted to come to the dinner next Saturday that will preview the new film Stepping Into the Future: On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World and celebrate raising big money to spread BA Everywhere.
A man in his 30s who had been in prison for 20 years since age 17 and had been recently released—a phenomenon that we regularly run into here—stopped to talk about "how it seemed that people are not fighting back like they used to." He spoke about reforming police practices. When revolution was posed in opposition to reform, the discussion changed. "But I don't think the people are ready for that." Through the back and forth over the leadership we have, the movement to project and promote this, and the role he could play in building this movement for revolution, he bought a ticket to the dinner party.
People were beginning to make important connections in the midst of this scene Saturday. It was an expression of people wrestling with not accepting slavery in any form.
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In these intense times when people are beginning to stand up and refuse to go along with the wanton police murder of Black and Latino youth, the torture of thousands in the prisons where millions are warehoused, and the attacks on the fundamental rights of women to control their own bodies and decide when and if to have children, people are looking around to see who are their allies and who can be relied on to help the people's struggles. In a time when many of the reactionary attacks coming down on the people are coming from the assertion of "state's rights" and from local police and courts, some people look to the federal government and its various agencies such as the Justice Department, including even the FBI, as the recourse of last resort to get some relief from the most blatant fascist laws and other attacks coming down on the people.
But this is a dangerous illusion and there are bitter lessons from the history of the people's struggle—from the civil rights movement to the righteous movements and uprisings of the '60s to more recent history—that expose the reality behind claims that the FBI is protecting the rights of the people supposedly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
During the civil rights movement there were many cases where people who were fighting for basic rights for Black people to attend all-white universities, sit next to white people on buses, vote, and integrate other public facilities looked to the federal government and the FBI to enforce federal laws that supposedly guaranteed these rights. But what was the essence and real nature of the role the FBI played in all this? It is a history lesson written in blood and one that we cannot afford to ignore. The FBI targeting of Martin Luther King has been well documented by historians. He was spied on in the most intimate and personal ways. Even though he was a major proponent of non-violence in the civil rights movement and of keeping the struggle well within the bounds of the system and one of U.S. rulers' best hopes in trying to keep the struggle from boiling over, the FBI still treated him as a potential threat.
This alone should be a lesson as to the FBI's true nature.
But let's also look at an individual white woman, one of many who went to the South to help secure voting rights, Viola Liuzzo. Viola lived in Michigan, but was moved to go to Selma, Alabama, in response to calls issued by civil rights leaders after police brutally attacked a civil rights march—there she was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan, shot in the head as she was courageously transporting other activists to safe locations.
Black people throughout the South suffered under brutal Jim Crow segregation, enforced by the police and the KKK. In Selma, only 150 Black people were registered to vote out of a Black population of 30,000. The documentary Home of the Brave (2004) points out that the FBI, the federal agency supposedly protecting those seeking to enforce the federal laws against discrimination, had 1,000 pages in its files on the victim, Viola Liuzzo—three times the size of their file on the KKK at the height of the civil rights movement.
There was an FBI informant in the car that carried the murderers of Viola, one Gary Thomas Rowe. Yet, even with this, the other three men responsible for her murder were tried and acquitted at the state level and given a short sentence on federal retrial. It was not until the 1970s, that it was revealed that the FBI informant had actually played a larger role in the Klan overall and in the killing of Liuzzo. It turned out that Gary Rowe "had been present at just about every violent act committed by the KKK," according to Viola's daughter. The FBI had told him to engage in violent acts. And it came out that Rowe was most likely the person who actually pulled the trigger killing Viola. Adding insult to injury, the FBI documents obtained by the family also revealed that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had personally and deliberately engineered a vicious smear campaign against Viola in the wake of her murder.
This too should be a lesson as to the FBI's true nature.
Then as the Black liberation struggle burst onto the political stage in the mid-'60s, especially with the emergence of the Black Panther Party, the FBI unleashed its Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO for short) and set out to destroy this movement. All manner of brutal and underhanded tactics were employed by the FBI in what has become a well-documented and sordid history: murdering the people's leaders like Chicago Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, setting people up for long imprisonment, slandering the leaders and the movements, trying to fracture and turn people against each other over political differences. The same counterintelligence operations were unleashed against the radical student and anti-war movement in the 1960s, revolutionaries who emerged during the '60s of all nationalities; the Native American struggles like Wounded Knee; and later to those who opposed to U.S.-propped up dictators in El Salvador and Nicaragua. All of this has been well-documented through efforts of many investigators, writers, and journalists to expose the real truth of the role the FBI has played.
And for those who want to kid themselves that that was Hoover's FBI and that today is different, consider one of many, many cases like that of Scott Crow, a self-described anarchist who has been arrested a dozen times in anti-corporate, animal rights, and other protests but never convicted of anything more serious than trespassing. Using the Freedom of Information Act, he obtained 440 pages from his FBI files. Although large sections were blacked out, the documents revealed that Crow had been labeled a "domestic terrorist" and that the FBI has been carrying out intense surveillance on him since 2001. Agents snooped on his phone calls and email; infiltrated groups he was involved in; searched through his trash; asked the IRS to monitor his tax returns; set up a video surveillance camera across from his house, and so on. This is hardly an isolated case. The New York Times wrote that Crow is "among dozens of political activists across the country known to have come under scrutiny from the FBI's increased counterterrorism operations since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Other targets of bureau surveillance... have included antiwar activists in Pittsburgh, animal rights advocates in Virginia and liberal Roman Catholics in Nebraska." Since these operations are being carried out in secret, there's no way for the public to know just how many such outrageous actions the FBI has actually carried out.
This too should be a lesson as to the FBI's true nature.
There are also bitter lessons from the struggle to defend abortion rights about the actual role of the FBI. In 1998, Dr. Barnett Slepian, a doctor committed to providing abortions as part of offering all-around reproductive health care for women, was brutally murdered by an anti-abortion assassin in his Amherst, New York, home. A day later, 250 people attended a pro-choice night time vigil for Dr. Slepian outside his Amherst clinic.
Two well-known and respected activists in the Cleveland area who have been involved for years in the struggle for reproductive rights joined the vigil with a beautiful banner that said, "We Won't Go Back, Defend the Right to Abortion." Little did these two men know at the time that, almost a month later, they would be targeted and persecuted by the FBI, becoming the subjects of a nationwide manhunt and FBI-instigated smear campaign which painted them as possibly linked to the murder of Dr. Slepian. While the FBI was busy terrorizing the pro-choice activists, the actual assassin escaped the U.S. and was being handed a "reasonable doubt" defense since the FBI pursued the pro-choice activists for the murder. (James Kopp was later extradited and pleaded guilty.)
At a press conference held outside the FBI's offices in Cleveland, one of the targeted activists raised his questions for the FBI: "Why did you pick out two activists who support women's right to abortion? Why are you pretending you didn't know that? Didn't you look in the files that you keep on us (and probably everyone else out here today)? Why has only our names surfaced from your hundreds of interviews? And if in fact, you are trying to find the attackers of abortion doctors, why haven't you solved ONE case in the five years of these attacks which have resulted in the injury of four doctors and the killing of Dr. Slepian?"
Step back and look at what has happened in all the years that this assault on abortion has been taking place. While federal law says that abortion is legal, it has not only been stigmatized in the realm of public opinion, but doctors have been murdered and clinics and patients relentlessly attacked. The anti-abortion fanatics in the street are courted and welcomed in the highest offices of the land and in the state legislatures and have only continued to get stronger including through their spasms of violence against the clinics and providers, while the very right to abortion is in a complete state of emergency. The murderers of doctors and attackers of clinics escape the country or hide in the mountains for months and longer... the networks of those who support and protect them go untouched.
This case and this history once again show that nothing good can come from the involvement of government agencies like the FBI in solving the problems of the people.
Ask yourself: is the mission of the FBI/justice department to protect the rights of the people? And what has been the actual practice of the FBI in relation to the struggles of the people?
The reality is that the system that exists in the U.S. is a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie—the class of exploiters and oppressors who control the economy and the state (the military, police, courts, and laws), and who sit atop a whole worldwide empire. When these capitalist rulers feel their system and their interests are seriously threatened, their state openly uses extreme violence against political opposition—as in the 1960s when soldiers fired at Black people rising up in the inner cities as well as on anti-war protesters on campuses, and the FBI/police assassinated Black Panthers, among other actions. It is very heavy and serious that in the last decade, even though there have not been a lot of major upsurges rocking society, the rulers have been openly trampling on and rewriting what are supposed to be basic Constitutional rights—such as the ban on "unreasonable searches"—to fortify their repressive machinery.
Relying on the FBI to protect people's rights is akin to asking the Mafia for protection after they have created a situation in the first place where wave after wave of violence is unleashed to intimidate and terrorize people who are exercising their basic rights... relying on the agents of repression is a dangerous and deadly illusion... one which can easily turn on the very people who were supposedly being protected and instead became unwitting or unwilling victims. And even if the effect is not immediate... everything the FBI learns as a result can and likely will be used against those who are resisting and fighting on the side of the people.
But there are other lessons to learn from history as well. Such as when the Black Panther Party offices were under literal attack by local police forces, they called on the people to defend them—and people came from the community and the campuses to put their bodies on the line. Day after day people physically surrounded their offices to protect them from murderous assault. Today as the people rally in defense of the victims of police murder or stand up against the brutal stop-and-frisk reign of terror or take a stand in the face of the relentless attacks against women's right to abortions, we need a movement with that kind of determination and spirit—as well as a clear understanding of who are the friends and who are the enemies of the people's struggles.
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
After a four-year battle against a vindictive prosecution, Gregory Kroger is finally out of the clutches of the Cook County system of criminal injustice. (For background see "Revolutionary Gregory Koger Sent Back to Jail.") His "crime"? Videoing a statement by Sunsara Taylor, correspondent to Revolution newspaper, against censorship at a public meeting of the "Ethical" Humanist Society of Chicago. He faced this outrageous prosecution mainly because he is a former prisoner who has now dedicated his life to the emancipation of humanity. At a welcome back party on November 2, Gregory, his Defense Committee and many friends came together to celebrate his release and his continued dedication to justice.
Revolution #322 November 10, 2013
November 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Over 50 people came together in Chicago on Saturday, November 2 to celebrate Gregory Koger's release from Cook County Jail. Gregory's release came after he served the remainder of an outrageous sentence that should never have been imposed, for a political act that was never a crime. (See "Revolutionary Gregory Koger Sent Back to Jail" for background.) The evening of music, hugs, and conversation was sponsored by the defense committee that has fought for his innocence and freedom for four years, warmly welcoming him back to the "outside" where he vowed to continue to fight to liberate humanity.
Sunsara Taylor, whose statement protesting censorship Gregory was filming when he was arrested, sent a beautiful statement. A member of his defense committee, the Ad Hoc Committee for Reason, spoke for many when she said, "Speaking as a visitor to that hellhole, spending even one hour there was too much. How anyone incarcerated under those conditions could be expected to survive, much less be rehabilitated is unrealistic. Gregory did manage to survive and no doubt had some damned good discussions with his fellow inmates and will continue his fight against injustice."
Gregory's heartfelt talk was the highlight of the evening. We want to share this with the readers of Revolution, especially those who are locked down in the hellholes of this country:
"In talking to someone earlier tonight, I recounted that in the last 19 years of my life, I have had 9 months when I wasn't in jail, in prison, on parole, on probation, or on bond. Including over half the time of the [seven years] since I've been out of prison has been spent fighting this case."
"It didn't surprise me what the criminal injustice system did in this case, but there were aspects that I think surprised all of us. The fact that I was charged with criminal trespass for just standing there holding an iPhone, which every legal scholar and lawyer we consulted with said there is no way that is trespassing; the fact they tried to hold me in contempt of court because my defense committee had a website that talked about the larger political questions related to this case; the fact that at the very end of the case, the judge issued a secret ruling without any notice to my attorney or myself that there was a hearing happening and then issued a warrant for my arrest. The fact that none of the substantive legal issues we raised were ever addressed by the court was not all that surprising to me because I know how the system works."
"People have spoken about where I come from. It was very much in the conditions of torture, conditions in which tens of thousands of people in U.S. prisons are held in solitary confinement, where I began to really grapple with the broader questions of society, including why is the world this way. And that is where I ultimately came to conclude, through reading Revolution newspaper and other revolutionary literature, that there is absolutely no reason for this system to do what it does to people—billions and billions of people in the world—ruining their lives and offering them no hope whatsoever. There are the resources on this planet to feed, clothe, provide housing, healthcare, and education for everyone, and to provide intellectual and cultural life for the millions and billions of people who are systematically locked out of those realms. All that could happen, but it doesn't because of the capitalist-imperialist system. But we can get to that world through revolution—nothing less. This is what I firmly believe."
"During the course of this battle I have made friends with so many people who don't all agree with what I believe, including many who do not agree with communism. But we have united together to oppose the glaring injustices of this system, of which one small part is this case we have fought for the last four years. To me this is an expression and an example of what needs to happen much more in society. An example of both the core strategic approach and outlook of the Revolutionary Communist Party—that we have to bring together people from the bottom of society and people from middle class backgrounds who don't have the direct experience of that kind of oppression and injustice. We will never get to another world without people from the bottom and people from other parts of society being firmly committed toward humanity. We really had a great expression of that throughout the course of this case."
"On a personal level, just seeing and knowing everybody here, many of whom I first met through the work of struggling against this case, people from many different backgrounds—writers, intellectuals, and people who don't have a fucking thing. Artists like [the world-renowned jazz musicians] who are performing here tonight. Other people who know what torture is like [a friend at the party] who was tortured in Chile under Pinochet, who was out there fighting against the torture that's happening to prisoners in solitary confinement in the U.S. People like me, and like this brother here, who was in the same prisons as me in the same conditions, who are now revolutionaries fighting against the system. I was on a hunger strike the first two weeks I was in jail in solidarity with the California prisoners' hunger strike against torture..."
"I want to thank everybody. This has been a very trying and difficult four years, but we have built a tremendous amount of strength taking this on. On the biggest level in society, the core fault line contradictions that were embodied and encapsulated in this case—from the role of prisoners in this society, and mass incarceration, to the repression of voices of dissent and critical thinking. I will say that we lost the case legally, but we won it politically." [cheers]
"This is a big inflection point, not the least for me. This has been a major component of the last 4 years. The last time I was in Cook County Jail three years ago there was a point when I was depressed, recognizing that the place they had me—in that jail cell—was exactly where they wanted me and people like me. But this time I didn't get depressed, I got pissed off. My life will continue to be dedicated to fighting against this system and its outrageous manifestation of mass incarceration, against the degrading oppression of women and LGBT brothers and sisters; against the oppression of immigrants and all the things this system does to people here and around the world. I will continue to be on the front lines and continue to fight, and I know many of you will be there with me. So I want to thank everybody for coming out tonight from the bottom of my heart."
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