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Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
New York City has a new mayor—a new face at the helm of a city that serves as a headquarters for a global empire of plunder and oppression.
Bill de Blasio has a mixed-race family, a leftist background, and a populist style. At a moment of profound disillusionment among vast sections of people in this country, his election is being touted nationwide as a beacon of hope and change. De Blasio declared, “There’s a progressive movement in this country that’s having a real effect.” And “the inequalities we’re facing are becoming just fundamentally unacceptable.”
Bill de Blasio came from the “back of the pack” in the Democratic primary election. His denunciations of gross disparities in wealth and opportunity in New York City became a channel for very broad and deep discontent. A campaign ad featuring his Black teenage son saying his dad would “end an era of stop-and-frisk that unfairly targets people of color" became a sensation. De Blasio scored an overwhelming victory in the final election (he got 73% of the vote).
At de Blasio’s inauguration, actor, musician and activist Harry Belafonte called the U.S. justice system “deeply Dickensian”—a reference to laws in England in the times of author Charles Dickens that overtly criminalized and locked people up simply for poverty and debt. The Reverend Fred A. Lucas Jr., who has been active in protesting police brutality, called New York City a “plantation.” When controversy erupted over these statements, de Blasio said he was “very comfortable” with what was said. And de Blasio has proposed a series of reforms ranging from free pre-kindergarten to legal IDs for undocumented immigrants. He promises to make changes to the hated stop-and-frisk policies.
But in a world of horrors, is that the acme of what people can hope for?
Nearly half of all New York City residents live near or below the poverty level as officially defined—struggling to eat, find healthcare, stay warm, and avoid having their lives crushed by the clutches of mass incarceration. They scramble to survive in the shadows of obscene wealth, office towers, and luxury shops.
If they are Black or brown, they have been subjected to apartheid-style stop-and-frisk that is humiliating and degrading at best, fatal at worst. Over four million times in the last 10 years someone—overwhelmingly a young Black or brown person—has been jacked up, insulted, threatened or worse by the NYPD. NYC is a city where a woman might be able to get access to an abortion, but is constantly bombarded with degradation and abuse from the haute couture fashion displays to hip-hop culture.
Over the past several years, New York City has seen important struggle against police brutality and stop-and-frisk. And the growing inequality clashes sharply with the sensibilities and values of large sections of the enlightened middle class there, who have staked their lot in living in a city that—as they see it—celebrates diversity. The Occupy Wall Street movement was born in New York City, with thousands occupying Zucotti Park for months until they were driven out.
New York City is both the financial center and key to the stability and functioning of the United States as the head of a global empire. That empire lives off the lives of billions, subjected to the most vicious impact of global climate change, epidemics of rape around the world, and a mad race by capital to find ever more exploitative conditions in which to make fashions to stock the shelves of Walmart and the Gap, and provide new generations of iGadgets.
All this is the product of a system where a small class—the capitalists—control and monopolize the means for producing the necessities of life. The production of those necessities can only go on so long and to the extent that it serves accumulating profit for capitalists. On the other side of this, billions worldwide and including many millions in the U.S. who do not own or control those means are at the mercy of those who do, either to be exploited or cast aside. And in this world, there is a large middle class who must play by the rules of capitalism, and whose lives are also very uncertain.
It is THIS CAPITALIST SYSTEM which produces these outrages. Unless and until that class structure, and the economic relations on which it rests, is uprooted... this system will continue to crush lives and ravage the planet.
Stabilizing New York City, and bringing sections of people “back into the fold” and under the wing of the system, is essential to those who rule over all this. And de Blasio’s election serves that purpose.
Will Bill de Blasio make some changes? He’ll try. Will long-suppressed voices be allowed into the halls of power? Yes. Will he call on people to hold his feet to the fire and make him live up to the promises he’s made? Yes.
But those promises don’t begin to touch the reality of the world where—pre-k or not—there is no future for millions and millions of youth. This is capitalism in the era of “lean and mean” globalization. Capital rushes from continent to continent, competing with other capitals to exploit and pillage, leaving broken lives and spirits and a ruined environment. Whatever reforms and changes in style de Blasio brings to Gracie Mansion (the official mayor’s residence), they won’t TOUCH these horrors in any serious way.
And here’s the most essential point: what de Blasio represents is a package. You take part of it, you take it all. As part of the deal, the hopes, the energy, the money, and yes the dreams of those who want REAL change are diverted into a package that reinforces the whole setup. Your expectations and demands become lowered to “what’s realistic,” meaning you adapt your demands and your morality to only what is acceptable to the very CAPITALIST SYSTEM that is the PROBLEM in the first place.
That’s not positive. It’s not progressive. It’s not harmless. It’s deadly.
Inequalities and injustices define life in New York City, in the U.S.A., and in the world. The fact that these inequalities and injustices are so extreme, and generating such deep outrage that so many feel compelled to speak to them, speaks volumes as to the reality of capitalism.
But the idea that we can change this with anything short of a profound revolution is a false solution, diverting and damaging; we need the real solution.
The workings of the capitalist system constantly pose the need for a radically different world. And there is a REAL solution, and a way to get to that different world. The Revolutionary Communist Party is building a movement for revolution with the Party at the core. If you are someone who really does want to get to the root of things, who is not willing to be played in ways that simply tighten the noose around our necks, then you need to check this out and get with it.
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
January 6, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
At the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, Revolution Books in Chicago was crowded with people (35+) who came to collectively grapple with the article from 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.” There were veteran activists together with people very new to the movement for revolution. Almost everyone was there from the beginning right through to the end of the discussion three hours later and then stuck around to talk more.
The presenter opened with remarks that stressed why these questions are so important. Lotta’s article is addressing foundational questions about the nature of society relevant to understanding the world we are confronting and acting upon, the basis for change and for a radically different and far better world to be brought into being. Citing the Appendix to the Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, she brought out that to understand the world, and to change it in the interests of humanity, people need scientific theory. Science is not some set of “mysterious laws belonging to the scientists.” Science aims to learn the causes of phenomena, the reasons why things happen and how they develop—and it seeks these causes in the material world, which includes human society. A scientific approach does not seek supernatural “explanations,” nor does it accept any explanations which cannot be tested, and verified or disproved, in the real material world, but instead develops an initial theory based on evidence from the world, tests out the theory in actual practice and against the results achieved, and through this process arrives at a deepened understanding of what is true. That understanding must then be further applied to reality. Further, she also underscored the importance of the breakthroughs in science made by the leading revolutionary communists—Marx laying the foundation, right down to the breakthroughs by Bob Avakian including in rescuing and deepening a more scientific understanding of the actual underlying dynamics of the capitalist/imperialist system and the material basis for why revolution is not only necessary but possible.
The presenter also stressed that while the subject matter of the article was complex—not something obvious on the surface—she urged the group to approach this discussion as a beginning exploration and introduction to this for those who are new or as a start to a serious re-engagement for veterans of the communist movement who at minimum are likely “rusty” on this understanding of the very fundamental workings of capitalism. This is complex, but understandable.
The discussion did in fact serve to spur further reading and wrangling with the full article at revcom.us on the part of both some people very new to the movement for revolution, excited to get a scientific understanding of society, and some veterans who expressed a new appreciation for the breakthroughs of BA's new synthesis of communism and how that was reflected in Lotta's polemic.
Drawing from Views on Socialism and Communism: A Radically New Kind of State, A Radically Different and Far Greater Vision of Freedom, the section “A Scientific Understanding: The Decisive and Determining Contradictions in All Societies,” the presenter went very briefly into how in all of human society the most fundamental thing is the basic production and distribution of the material requirements of life and reproduction of the basis for life, BUT this is not producing material requirements in the abstract or an economy in the abstract. It is the case in all of human society that this production and distribution is carried out in very definite production relations and these are social production relations. No man or woman is an island—not Robinson Crusoe... and this went all the way back to the earliest period of human history, even “cave men” worked in various ways together in concrete social relations to produce and distribute these material requirements of life. While this discussion could not get into all of that complex history and development of human society, the discussion did focus on what these relations are under the current system of capitalism-imperialism.
The initial brief presentation was followed by watching the chapter “What Is Capitalism?” from the film Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It's All About, where BA breaks down the basic character of capitalism and its driving dynamics. This was a really good way to bring everyone into some of the complex concepts in the article.
There were five points outlined to guide the discussion, and although it wasn’t possible to cover them all in such a large group in that amount of time, it provided a framework including for further discussions and study of the article and related materials passed out in the session.
• What is a commodity, what characterizes capitalism: is it greed, and does it flow from human nature? What are the laws of capitalism and who is subject to having to follow “the rules” of the game: is it just the proletariat and other oppressed or do they apply to the capitalists too? Where does profit derive from and why do the capitalists face a compulsion to expand or die?
• The article and the excerpt from BA’s Revolution talk go into the fundamental contradiction of capitalism between socialized production (on an increasingly global scale) and private appropriation. What are these two forms of motion of this fundamental contradiction and how do they interact with each other? (One form of motion is the struggle between the proletariat and the 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. The other form of motion is the antagonism between the organization of production at the level of the individual unit of capital, and the anarchy of production in society overall.)
• Dig into the importance of BA’s crucial breakthrough and deeper grounding in materialism in understanding the “driving force of anarchy” as the decisive dynamic of capitalism. What was this breakthrough in understanding in contrast to wrong understandings of this in the international communist movement including in method and approach?
• Exploring the example from Lotta’s article about the environment, including why capitalism cannot solve the climate crisis. Another example of this same dynamic at work: the globalization of food, the crises that followed and why there is no right to eat under capitalism. (In a packet given to all participants there was a two-page handout on socialist sustainable development from the special Environmental Emergency issue of Revolution and two pieces on the global food crisis—the centerfolds from June 22, 2008 and May 1, 2008).
• How could society be organized differently, and why do you need a revolution to accomplish that? (It was clear at the start of the discussion that we weren’t going to be able to dig into this question on any level that was deserved, so the presenter encouraged people right at this point to dig into the handout mentioned above on socialist sustainable development as well as the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) to get a much deeper sense of how society could be organized radically differently.)
The discussion was fast-paced and wide-ranging. One of the participants right away said that the essential character of the capitalists is “without a doubt” greed. The discussion dug into slavery (and the movie 12 Years a Slave) by way of analogy—the slave masters committed monstrous crimes but what shaped and drove their brutal ugliness? And what were the implications of the slave system producing commodities for a capitalist market on the organization of production to extract everything out of the slaves’ toil? What would happen if a slave master wasn’t “greedy” and only worked his slaves for three hours/day? There was recognition that such a slave owner would go under. It became clearer through the discussion that the accumulation of vast wealth and the callous crimes of the capitalists is part of the reason why people spontaneously and erroneously think that the essence of the problem lies in the greed of the capitalists. The discussion brought out in different dimensions how bigger shaping forces are at work and if you don’t understand the actual laws and dynamics of capitalism and imperialism, you will constantly be fooled into thinking capitalism can be reformed through one scheme or another.
Many different aspects of political economy and social relations were spoken to in the discussion—this article can't do justice to the richness and liveliness of the discussion in which almost everyone participated. But to give a flavor of the types of questions that were explored (some in a beginning way and some more thoroughly) through the course of the discussion: how is living labor the only source of profit? Why can’t an individual capitalist be satisfied with a certain level of profit-making but instead is forced to expand or die? How are the social contradictions of capitalism-imperialism manifested not only in class antagonisms but also in the oppression of whole nations (internal and external to the country); the divisions between those who work with their minds and those who work with their hands (mental/manual contradiction); the old and new forms of patriarchy deeply embedded in class society including capitalism? What is the role of the superstructure (including culture, laws, etc.) and how does that interpenetrate with this fundamental contradiction and its driving dynamic in capitalist society as well as how do the prevailing ideas among all sections of people—including the most oppressed—reflect the ideas of the ruling class ideology in a world dominated by commodity exchange?
There was an important thread running through parts of the discussion off this last point on how even basic proletarians end up confronting the world as individuals trying to get the best terms for the sale of their labor power. This engenders looking at the world through the prism of commodity and bourgeois relations overall. Confounding this spontaneous outlook with the goals of the communist revolution has been the source of very sharp struggle among communists going all the way back to Marx. Is the goal of the communist movement “a fair days wage for a fair days work” or the actual abolition of the wage system and radical rupture with all of this—something BA has developed much further in the new synthesis? One person pointed to what was in the segment from the Revolution talk about how something that can be quite beautiful like intimacy between two people based on mutual respect gets turned to shit when commodity exchange enters in and that these are the relations and outlook cultivated by commodity relations and capitalism. There was also some struggle over whether class distinctions were part of human nature.
Other questions arose: Was the one form of motion, the “bourgeoisie/proletariat contradiction,” principal at the time of Marx but later changed to the anarchy/organization being principal or has the anarchy/organization form of motion been principal all along? What is the material basis for people from the middle strata to be won to being part of this revolution and what does this have to do with the anarchy/organization being principal? When the principal contradiction in the world in the 1960s was between oppressed nations and imperialism (when there were revolutionary risings all over the world)—how did this understanding correspond to the analysis in Lotta’s article that the anarchy/organization contradiction is principal in an overall way?
The discussion only was able to touch the surface in relation to the environmental crisis, which would have been a rich example to explore. Similarly, the question of why there is no right to eat under capitalism. Both are important manifestations of the two forms of motion addressed in the Lotta article. There was a recognition that this understanding of the breakthrough by BA in understanding the deep structural dynamics of capitalism, the shaping role of the form of motion of anarchy/organization and Lotta’s polemic need to get out in a major way as part of people seeing that there is a way out of the horrors, including the actual destruction of the planet.
In hindsight, it would have been good to focus even more time on the other lines within the international communist movement, and even though there were people very new to the movement for revolution at the discussion, we could have dug into more substantially what that wrong understanding is and done more comparing and contrasting. As part of this we could have maybe dug more than we did into how the accumulation of capital is not only a dynamic but at the same time a disruptive process of expansion and adjustment and crisis (in short, the fuller complexity of this driving force of anarchy) and how this opens up diverse channels for change and for sudden eruptions. Grasping this scientifically is a critical orientation for building the movement for revolution. Lotta's article in part IV ("The Stakes: A System That Cannot Be Reformed...The Revolution That is Needed) quotes Avakian from Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon (“Part 1: Revolution and the State”):
Now, 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.
And just after that excerpt quoted in Lotta’s article, Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon continues:
So this was a fundamentally important breakthrough when we firmly identified "the driving force of anarchy" as the principal dynamic of capitalism. And this has to do with everything I've been talking about: why you can't reform this system, in fact, and why you can't just arbitrarily try to replace it with any old utopian scheme of whatever kind, that you might like to impose on reality, proclaimed under whatever banner.
Along with all these dynamics of capitalism, which I've been speaking to, there are other aspects of the relations of production besides the ownership system, which capitalism embodies within its overall functioning, and there are other social relations that are embodied within the capitalist system. For example, what we call the mental/manual contradiction, the contradiction between people who carry out physical labor and those who carry out intellectual labor; patriarchy and the oppression of women; the oppression of various nations and peoples (national oppression); regional differences and disparities which can become antagonisms and often do; and other significant contradictions within a particular country or part of the world and between different countries, or different parts of the world, and different alliances of countries. These are all fundamentally encompassed within, and expressions of, the underlying dynamics of capitalism at this stage in the development of human society—not some predetermined development that was bound to happen, but how human historical evolution has actually taken place, and where it has actually brought us to.
So all that is something to dig into more fully.
Also, the article “ ‘Preliminary Transformation into Capital’ ... And Putting an End to Capitalism” by Bob Avakian was crucial in preparation for the discussion and would have been good to include in the packet of materials given to participants for further study.
The presenter's closing comments returned to the theme that you need far-sighted scientific leadership that understands the world the way it really is in order to change it. This revolution is what humanity really needs. And on that basis we can unite with and lead all kinds of people. But we have to recognize that the dominant ideology out on the street—and among all different sections of society—is a reflection of the prevailing capitalist outlook. You need a scientific understanding that people do not get spontaneously through the experience of being oppressed. The reality in the world today is that well over 10,000 kids die daily from preventable causes; there is extensive malnutrition in this country and yet the productive forces are on a scale where these things can be solved. This party, the Revolutionary Communist Party, is needed at the core of the movement for revolution. We have to get into the science, fight for a new culture. And to people who run that all you can do is try to get “yours” within these awful social relations, we need to say to them "that is the old system way of thinking." We have to do battle ideologically and politically, while we wrangle with ourselves like a team of scientists who are out to change the world.
This was an important beginning discussion and it needs to continue in big and small groups digging into the most advanced scientific understanding of communism, including how capitalism functions as a critical part of being able to change the world in a way that is in the interest of the vast majority of humanity.
As one comrade wrote in the wake of the discussion at Revolution Books, “I have noted recently in conversations with a couple of [veterans of the revolutionary movement], the phenomenon of not getting the significance of the recent work by Lotta, the article and interview (“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” and the interview “You Don’t Know What You Think You “Know” About...The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future”) and the struggle for a scientific epistemology that we are currently waging both in our party, with the masses, and out in the world in terms of the actual possibility of breaking through. Both of these are tremendously powerful concentrations and distillations of the new synthesis of communism brought forward by BA. I feel this is something that we really have to grasp deeply, engage and re-engage, promote broadly and in particular dig into the method and approach being modeled in these pieces. (And this very directly relates to unleashing and uncorking the importance of fighting through and winning in terms of BA Everywhere and raising big bucks and being able to get this out into the world.)”
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
January 2014: Time for going all out in a renewed effort to carry forward the nationwide campaign of BA Everywhere—raising funds from people of all walks of life to make Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, and the new synthesis of communism that he has brought forward a major question in society, seriously contending against all the dead-end non-solutions out there. Spreading BA's New Year's message should be an important part of this—through the Internet, played on street corners, posted at campuses, and many other ways—along with getting out the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, the book BAsics, and other important works.
In all of this—we should continue to find ways, new and old, to involve more and more people in ever broader fundraising...giving people an opportunity to contribute to letting the whole world know that there is a way out of the madness of this system and a real potential for a radically new and better world. Learn from these articles/letters and much more available at revcom.us, and contribute your experience to this campaign and building the movement for revolution.
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
As classes began on January 6, students at UCLA were greeted with flyers, a trailer on the closed circuit TV in the dorms, and a campus electronic billboard ad about the film BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less! Bob Avakian Live. There were classroom announcements about the film and the BA Everywhere fundraising campaign. One class was treated to the entire audio clip of BA’s New Year's message “A Call to REVOLUTION” while hundreds others got the printed copy.
On January 9, between 55-60 people attended the second of three screenings of an hour excerpt from the film. A short welcome statement was read by a staff member from one of the campus sponsors.
This film series is a real collaborative effort among members of the staffs of the three sponsors: the UCLA departments of Academic Advancement Program (AAP), the Office of Residential Life (ORL), and Revolution Books, LA. People came to this from different perspectives: some wanting the big ideas about the problem and solution to the outrages in our society and the world that BA represents and speaks about to reach the students; others are more drawn and committed to the content of the film and BA—of the need and basis for communist revolution.
At the showing, there was a good mix of UCLA students and staff, students from two other area campuses, and people from South Central LA who came with Revolution Books and the LA Revolution Club. A couple of the people from South Central had gone out and fliered the campus in their “This system has no future for the youth but the revolution does” and BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less! t-shirts.
A few responses collected from the audience indicate the breadth of views in the room. One UCLA student wrote that “a representative came to my geography class” and s/he came to the showing because of “optimism and curiosity of something I have not thought much about in terms of communism.” Another student wrote that they came off getting a flier and “I, too, am trying to figure out how I can help to make the system (government and economy) better, and I always wanted to learn more.” One wrote they came due to a professor offering extra credit. One of the people from the neighborhood wrote that a relative “is always sharing about the revolution and we share the same interest. I loved the film. I hope to see it all. There is a whole other world out there. I am hungry for answers.”
The audience saw the first hour from the second DVD of the 3-DVD film. The audience learned about the basis for communist revolution in this country and the world at this point in history, and why this was not possible for the oppressed and exploited people in early eras. They heard the chapters where BA speaks on why “a radically different and far better world is possible”; “we need a revolution to overcome all oppressive divisions”; “remind me: ‘which system, capitalism or communism, is the nightmare for humanity?’”; and part of “the election hustle: ‘if they draw you in, they win.’”
Most of the audience stayed for the hour-long Q&A afterwards with a writer for Revolution newspaper and a member of the Revolution Club. The questions were heartfelt and serious. The panel members drew from BAsics: from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, and made a fund pitch for BA Everywhere.
There was a lot of exchange between the panel and audience about the reality that a small number of the people make it out of the ghetto, but that the vast majority are trapped, and crushed. Animated exchanges took place between the revolutionaries and the audience but also among people in the audience trying to answer each other's questions, with the discussion and debate spilling out into lobby afterwards for another hour.
One UCLA student expressed a certain fear and dismay when looking into the world and the future, and one of the people from South Central responded with the need for everyone to fight for a better world, and calling on him to make a visit to Revolution Books and get into ideas available there.
A question from someone on the UCLA campus touched off a whole round of comments from the panel and others in the room. He asked, how do you reach all the youth in the neighborhoods and in “the life” that he himself is intimately familiar with, and stepped away from? Some students called out that they wanted this question answered.
Someone from South Central, and intimately linked to those youth, spoke about the need to get into and be in the revolution yourself and step to the youth from that vantage point. He described coming from being in "the life" and his own transformation as he began to learn more about the system responsible for the horrible conditions people face. As the discussion continued in the lobby, he continued to expand on how much he learned from BA and the RCP about revolution, and the importance of getting BA Everywhere.
An urgent challenge posed to revolutionaries is how to forge ongoing cores of students that, through encountering this film and the fundraising campaign to get BA Everywhere, become committed to changing the world, and in particular to this movement for revolution—students and others whose thinking is transformed about how the world could be and in turn will take these ideas and transform the world.
This challenge is still in front of us. The attendance at the event was somewhat anticipated given the first week of school, yet inadequate in relation to the goal of getting students and faculty, especially here at UCLA, serious about revolution and communism—and the need to get BA Everywhere. It is something we need to learn more deeply about and lead to transform—about what and HOW the students think about the biggest questions and ANSWERS about the future of humanity—about the need, basis and possibility of revolution.
The first UCLA screening of this film took place in the fall quarter on October 17, and the third one will take place on April 10 in the spring quarter. A more informal follow-up screening will take place on January 23 in room 1224 in Campbell Hall where AAP is housed.
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
After discussing BA’s New Year’s message of revolution, a group of us spent the weekend in an inner-city neighborhood and later in an area where counter-culture youth and others hang out. We looked for opportunities to play the audio track to groups of people at barber shops, restaurants, and cafés. Though we didn’t immediately impact a large number of people, our renewed effort to carry forward the BA Everywhere campaign did create a buzz.
We encountered, first off, quite a bit of interest in the message, as there is much discontent with the state of the world, with a number of people agreeing that yes, things are the way they are because of the system. One man even gestured a thumbs-down at the mention of the system as the cause, when he brought up the death of Detroit (and was pleasantly surprised to see the article on that in Revolution newspaper). Some—especially those familiar with BA—felt like he was talking directly to them. Others wanted to find out more about BA.
In just a few hours, we played the message several times, and set up a number of sessions for the following week. In a number of places, every person in the establishment was engaged in some way with this. Several people asked, “What can I do?” and many small stacks of flyers went out
Along the way, some youth debated whether people can get into changing the world unless they change themselves first; after wrangling with what BA says about “fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution,” they took flyers to get out.
Our experience in one shop revealed the potential that has yet to be unleashed broadly: we asked the two people working there if we could play the message and they said sure. They had never heard of BA or the Revolutionary Communist Party or Revolution. They and their customers listened (even over the pro football playoff on TV).
We talked about the BA Everywhere campaign and what difference it would make to really get this out there. In response, one guy said that raising money is the easy part—saying that they can come together for stuff like a football game, but he felt like only a few people would be into what we were talking about. This led to discussion about the strategy for revolution and the role of revcom.us and Revolution newspaper, where, like BA says in the New Year’s statement, “our Party puts forward why we need revolution, what the goals of this revolution are, and how to work for this revolution. With the guidelines this provides, thousands can move now in a unified way and build up the basis to lead millions when the time comes...” He read one of the prisoner letters published in Revolution that expressed how getting into the paper and BA has opened his eyes to the revolutionary potential of “someone who got caught up in terrible things.” He bought a DVD of BA Speaks : Revolution —Nothing Less, and plans to come to the next discussion.
Meanwhile a few customers came and went and they, too, got drawn into discussion and got materials. One woman was moved to go the revcom.us website right there on her phone. One youth at the shop said he was just 21 and didn’t think much about these things. We responded that the Black Panther Party was led in many cases by teenagers, and that one of the most advanced of them, the Chicago chapter chairman, Fred Hampton, was assassinated by the police and FBI for being a revolutionary leader at age 21. The youth took our flyer and replied, “I think I have to read this.”
Sunday was our day in the counter-culture community. Though there was not as much eagerness to get into the New Year’s message as there was in the inner-city neighborhood, there was a fair amount of curiosity and some agreement that the world was in need of profound change. One older middle strata couple read the statement carefully and commented that things were really bad and it just might come down to revolution. On several occasions, youth contributed for a paper or got a few extra copies of the message. Several immigrants were inspired to check out this movement as well. The idea that communism was what humanity needed compelled the younger crowd to voice their own thinking. Several got the special Revolution issue on the experience of socialist societies.
We didn’t raise a lot of money on the spot, but have big plans for next weekend, to play BA’s New Year’s message to more people and deepen the ties we had initiated.
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
January 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
I recently met with two strong supporters of Stop Patriarchy and the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride that took place this summer. We had already been planning to meet to talk about the Freedom Ride report summing up what was accomplished and learned on the ride, so I contacted them and asked that we get together to do that soon and said I also wanted to talk with them about BA Everywhere and ask for a contribution. I explained that I’d like our conversation to get into the relationship between the Mass Initiative to End Pornography & Patriarchy: The Enslavement & Degradation of Women and BA Everywhere. They said that sounded good and agreed to meet.
I started by thanking them for meeting with me and restating the dual and related reason for the meeting. They have donated to BA Everywhere before and know a lot about the campaign because they read Revolution newspaper and come to discussions at Revolution Books. I let them know that we’re approaching people like them, longtime supporters, but also approaching people we’ve never met before and trying to get with wealthy people, basically situating this as a national campaign aimed at making a big leap. Then we started with following up on the impact of the donation they made to Stop Patriarchy. I asked them if they’d read the Freedom Ride report and what thoughts or questions they had. One of them had just finished reading it. She jumped right in with her main question, “Will it really make a difference?” She then went on to express that while she had doubts, she had hope that it would make a difference because what she got from the report is that what Stop Patriarchy is doing is a totally new approach, breaking with the losing strategy of relying on the Democrats. Now, she said, she could see how the dynamic of things could change with this kind of unapologetic approach of calling for Abortion on Demand & Without Apology—how this is attracting people on a better political basis.
I responded that she was basically answering her own question and everything she’s saying is true and is what we are seeing in a beginning way—and that one of the main things those of us working with Stop Patriarchy are grappling with now is how to go from being a small group of people who travel to confront different abortion rights emergencies with the support of people like them donating, to a truly mass organization with people from around the country taking these politics up as their own. From there, I shared and we talked about some of Stop Patriarchy’s experiences, painting a picture in broad strokes, of forging new connections and a new chapter in one area based on not just engaging people around what’s a correct strategy and stand in relation to defeating the attacks on abortion, but by getting into the need for revolution and introducing them to the leadership of Bob Avakian. Along the rides, it was very much the case that those most desiring real change and wanting to understand why things are the way they are and how they can be STOPPED—those were the people who were also open, or became open, to exploring their questions about communism and engaging Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of revolution. Not only did we do outreach together and protest side-by-side, we got together to watch and talk about BA Speaks: Revolution--Nothing Less! and Stepping into the Future. People started reading BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian after they heard BA quoted on different occasions and realized how what was being said resonated with them even though they didn’t consider themselves communists. Some local activists braved anti-communist controversy to follow their own convictions in working with Stop Patriarchy and checking out the movement for revolution. It was on this basis that people’s sights about what kind of world is possible were raised and unity was forged. All of this was explained in the context of how this relationship between BA Everywhere and the mass initiatives is WHY Stop Patriarchy will make a difference—because the fight for abortion rights is connected to a movement for revolution based on Bob Avakian’s new synthesis and only this can uproot the oppression of women and change the whole world.
Both of them expressed thinking all this was really cool and they seemed inspired and maybe a little surprised that Stop Patriarchy was also spreading BA Everywhere in these ways. Earlier they had mentioned how much they were planning to donate and it was less than I was planning to ask for. At this point, I told them that we really appreciated their large donation to Stop Patriarchy, and that I understood why they would be considering a smaller amount so soon afterwards, but I also let them know that I had come to the meeting planning to ask them for the same amount they had donated to Stop Patriarchy because I didn’t want to communicate that BA Everywhere was less important or needed than Stop Patriarchy—that in fact this was even more important when it comes down to whether the mass initiatives can ultimately impact society in a fundamental way. Based on agreeing with this, they decided that since this was a one-time donation, they wanted to and could donate the larger amount I requested. One of them followed up by saying that he was not fully in agreement with BA’s new synthesis but he wants it to be out there as part of what people are reading, considering and debating. He also expressed appreciation for the Revolution special issue on the history of communism. Afterwards, they helped us connect with an activist leader they knew who then met with one of them and a bookstore volunteer about BA Everywhere.
I think there are a couple things to sum up or remind ourselves of off of this meeting. First, it was correct to not take a stagist approach of thinking that first I needed to meet with them about Stop Patriarchy and then I could follow up with a separate meeting about BA Everywhere. Everything in the movement for revolution is connected and flows from the leadership of BA. This is not something we ever hide, but I learned a lot about the power of leveraging this understanding and not assuming that people "get it." It’s an approach that breaks from a history of revisionism in the communist movement so it has to be explicitly stated and fought for. Drawing out the interconnections between something they had expressed full unity with and something they actually expressed having less unity with allowed them to see that they had more unity with getting BA Everywhere than they originally thought. Second, wanting to hear and see BA Everywhere IS the unity of the BA Everywhere campaign, and people don’t have to have unity with every view of BA or the RCP to donate generously.
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
January 11, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revolution is very excited to announce the release of the third issue of Demarcations, A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic, available at demarcations-journal.org.
This issue, as the Opening Editorial states, appears at first glance to be "straddling two different sets of questions: one the sharpening struggle in the ranks of those who consider themselves communists and revolutionaries internationally, and the other coming out of contemporary experience such as the upsurges of the Arab Spring, where very few sense a connection to the broader communist movement, historically or internationally.... Yet, underlying both, with their seeming complexities, is a simple question: What is the solution to all this madness and horror in the world today? Is there one?"
Emphatically answering Yes is the answer and approach concentrated in Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism, this has to be popularized and fought for at this historical moment, in contention and polemic with other lines and frameworks—among those newly arising to struggle and with those who consider themselves revolutionary, communist, or part of different social movements.
The new issue of Demarcations features a major article onthe impasse faced by the Arab Spring and what is fundamentally needed, along with a statement from Bob Avakian released soon after the fall of Mubarak in Egypt. This issue also continues to frame and concentrate key struggles on the theoretical framework for a new stage of communist revolution, with important and significant contributions from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, the Revolutionary Communist Organization, Mexico (OCR, Mexico), the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist), and Raymond Lotta.
Following are the articles in this issue:
Egypt, Tunisia and the Arab Spring:
How the Revolts Came to an Impasse and How to Get Out of It
In the space of a few short years, what seemed like all-powerful regimes have collapsed, uprisings and revolutionary hope have surged again and again, often only to tumble into deeper, paralyzing despair. A bloody civil war has emerged in Syria and threatens to spread, pitting religious and ethnic groups against each other. The article provides a framework of analysis for the impasse faced today in these countries, indicating the deeper material roots, what is fundamentally needed in terms of a real revolutionary alternative, and what this would look like.
Egypt 2011: Millions Have Heroically Stood Up...The Future Remains To Be Written
A Statement By Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
A public statement from Bob Avakian, released weeks after the fall of Mubarak in Egypt. Avakian hails the upsurge of the people of Egypt and its shattering of the notion that things can never change, and calls for communist leadership to be forged in the midst of and through this uprising to lead the process for the real revolutionary transformation of society and genuine liberation. Recent events have brought the need and relevance of this into even sharper relief.
Letter to Participating Parties and Organizations of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement
The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
This letter was first distributed privately on May 1, 2012 to parties and organizations that participated in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM), an international grouping formed in 1984 as the "embryonic center of the world's Maoist movement." In summing up this experience, the letter discusses the history, and political and ideological basis, of major line struggles within this movement, culminating in what is now the defining two-line struggle in the RIM, between Avakian's new synthesis of communism as a qualitative advance in the science of communism, and its "mirror opposites"—worship of dry dogma masquerading as "Maoism" and/or outright supporters of bourgeois democracy, the political theories and system that fundamentally are consistent with and enforce the rule of the capitalist class.
The New Synthesis of Communism and the Residues of the Past
The Revolutionary Communist Organization, Mexico (OCR, Mexico)
Communists in Mexico contribute to the two-line struggle in the international communist movement with a fierce polemic in response to some of the detractors of the new synthesis. In the course of dissecting the opposing arguments, the OCR engages with and elaborates on several of the important themes of the new synthesis.
Reviewing the Differences Between Our Party and the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan
The Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist)
The CPI(MLM) has long been the standard-bearer of revolutionary communism in Iran. In this polemic, they respond forcefully to attacks on the new synthesis coming from a party in Afghanistan, illustrating the need and importance for this theory in the world today. They draw deeply from the experience of the failed revolution in Iran and the errors of the communist movement in that country and internationally.
On the "Driving Force of Anarchy" and the Dynamics of Change
Raymond Lotta's polemic deals with an important and controversial question of Marxist political economy today. How do the laws of capitalist accumulation interact with and set the primary framework for the class struggle? This has everything to do with the understanding the motion and development of human society in this epoch, the kinds of changes that have taken place in the world, especially over the last 50 years, and the ground on which revolution is made. The essay poses the question sharply: 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?
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
An Open Letter to David Simon:
January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors’ Note: David Simon, the writer and creator of the TV series The Wire and Treme, gave a major talk at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Australia in December 2013. It was excerpted in The Guardian under the title “There Are Now Two Americas. My Country is a Horror Show.” His comments have been provoking considerable discussion and debate on the internet. Raymond Lotta has written this response.
Dear David Simon,
I am writing this open letter in response to your recent talk at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas on the deepening social and economic polarization of U.S. society.
The picture you paint of the separate “life futures” of the African-American poor in Baltimore, and how this is emblematic of a growing divide in America, is a stark and grim reminder of the continuing reality of racism and the systematic oppression of African-Americans in U.S. society.
Your indictment of a “war on the poor” that has seen massive cuts in social services and the mass imprisonment of Black and Latino youth by “the most incarcerative state in the history of mankind” is righteous.
You express outrage at a political system that is unable and unwilling to provide something as elementary as decent health care—and wonder how it could possibly deal with a problem as monumental and “complicated” as global warming.
All of this and more are part of what you describe as the “horror show” of “my country,” and impel you to pose big questions about capitalism and socialism.
Yes, America is a “horror show.” But it has been from its very founding in slavery and genocide...and it has brought incalculable suffering to the people of the world. Indeed, America cannot be conceived as a self-enclosed entity. It is not only a society with a profoundly unequal and oppressive social structure—its domestic economy is the “home base” of a global network of exploitation.
Yes, it is essential and timely to ask whether capitalism is the only way and what can be learned from Marx. But the answers and argumentation that you offer are wrong and lead you right back into the suffocating embrace of the very system that produces the outrages that you deplore.
And so this open letter to you.
You describe Marx as “better diagnostician than clinician.” You seem to regard Marx’s “diagnosis” as a critique of the inequitable distribution of wealth, of capital seeking to “diminish” the role and place of labor, and of capitalism’s placing the “metric” of profit above all else. These are certainly phenomenal expressions of capitalism. But they do not get at the heart of capitalism, or at the heart of Marx’s analysis—which involves both a scientific diagnosis and solution.
In works like Capital, Marx showed that capitalism is not some eternal system. It has a history; it arose at a certain time in the development of human society. And he showed that capitalism operates according to certain economic laws, the most important of which is the competitive urging to produce profit and more profit—as a matter of individual capitalist survival. And that profit is produced on the basis of the exploitation of wage labor.
An important talk by Bob Avakian succinctly and scientifically breaks down how capitalism operates. Let me briefly quote from it:
If...money [were] in the hands of a socialist government, we’d say: what are the social needs and how do we apply this accumulated wealth to meet those social needs in the context of everything else that we have to take into account? We wouldn’t have to undergo the preliminary transformation into capital. But a capitalist, or a capitalist system, fundamentally cannot do that. Particular capitalists have to say: how can we invest this in labor power, as well as in raw materials, in means of transportation, and so on, in a way which will be most profitable for us? The defining feature of capitalism is profit in command and profit accumulated privately. (From “‘Preliminary Transformation into Capital’...And Putting an End to Capitalism,” by Bob Avakian)
Profit is not simply, as you present it, a “metric” or priority. It is the spur, measure, and goal of capitalist development. Capitalism is driven by the competitive imperative to expand or die. It is a law-like compulsion, like the force of gravity, of the system.
Individual capitals, and we are talking about huge agglomerations, like transnational corporations and banks, are compelled to increase profit and market share in order to survive as functional capitals. The only means to do this are to introduce labor-saving technology, to shift production to where labor and social costs are lower, to more intensely exploit labor, to create more “effective” systems of control and management, and so forth.
Capitalism has evolved historically into the global system of capitalism-imperialism. It has transformed the world according to its brutal logic. It has turned human beings and nature into disposable commodities. It has colonized (and neo-colonized) vast stretches of the Third World. It creates and re-creates vast oceans of poverty and chasms of inequality. It is marked by great power imperial rivalry for global dominance. It has wreaked havoc with the ecosystems of the planet—and is now bringing the planet to the precipice of environmental disaster. This is a world in which 18,000 children die each and every day of preventable disease and malnutrition.
Capitalism-imperialism has produced global economic crises. It has led to two horrendous world wars, and to imperial wars and occupations in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Tens of millions have died as a consequence of this particular set of social arrangements, just in the past century—and more than 5 million have died in the ongoing Congo civil wars that have been taken advantage of, if not directly fueled, by rival imperial powers.
Marx’s solution, and the solution of Marxism or communism (which has been further developed and deepened through the 20th and into the 21st centuries), is scientifically grounded:
Unless and until this system is done away with through communist revolution—a revolution that makes the means of producing the necessities of life the common property of society, and does this in a way that is part of overcoming the very division of society into classes and all the institutions, practices and ideas that reinforce that division—then this capitalist system, operating according to its logic, will continue to exact its horrendous toll on humanity and nature.
You are prepared to go a certain distance in decrying the “horror show.” But you are quick to pronounce that you remain “committed to the idea that capitalism has to be the way we generate mass wealth in the coming century.” Why? Because capitalism is, in your view, an incredible and irreplaceable economic “engine.” As though a social-economic system were a piece of machinery. And who is this “we”?
Please, tell me how Apple, that paragon of 21st century “market capitalism,” is an “engine” of wealth creation absent the super-exploitation of workers producing the iPod components in the bowels of China’s export-processing zones? We’re talking about young women and migrants from the rural areas laboring 12-14 hours a day, risking life and limb, living in military-style dormitories, and driven to such despair that mass suicide jumps became a necessary form of protest.
Please tell me how oil companies “generate wealth” absent the plundering and heating up of the planet?
Please tell me how “intellectual property rights,” so central to the functioning of modern capitalism and the cause of needed medicines and treatments being priced out of reach of much of the world’s poor...please tell me how this is part of some “great toolbox” that, in your words, “allows society to advance”?
Do you really want to live in that kind of world in the “coming century”?
I don’t believe you do. But the solutions you offer will work against the very impulses that drive you to condemn what capitalism has done. You call for a capitalism that better “distributes its benefits” and you hark back to the 1930s and the New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). This, you say, was a time when a “communal logic” and “social compact” between capital and labor was forged, with “no one left behind.”
But let’s look at what the New Deal was essentially about. The economic and social measures of the New Deal were launched by the dominant section of the U.S. ruling class to prevent the collapse of capitalism. The U.S. and world economy in the 1930s were in the grips of the worst crisis in the history of capitalism. The New Deal was designed to rescue and rationalize the banking system, to stimulate industrial production and job creation, and to establish new regulations and forms of government intervention in order to stabilize capitalism and restore profitability.
The New Deal was also decisively aimed at preventing mass social upheaval, including the possibility of revolution. The Roosevelt years were about repressing and co-opting resistance, and restoring people’s dwindling faith in the system. That’s why unions were recognized and institutionalized, that’s why social programs were enacted, and that’s why FDR spouted the rhetoric of easing the plight of the dispossessed.
There are two “dirty little secrets” of the New Deal.
First, the New Deal was not, as the official narrative proclaims, about social justice. Segregation and white privilege were built into the foundations of the welfare state that was established during the New Deal years and after. Social spending and social programs were racially differentiated—with white workers receiving more of the unemployment benefits and Black workers put into welfare lines. Federal housing programs inaugurated practices like “redlining” (where prospective white and Black homeowners were steered into different neighborhoods). Ira Katznelson’s groundbreaking study of these policies has the apt title: When Affirmative Action Was White.
Second, the government social programs of the New Deal did not get the U.S. out of the Great Depression. No, it was World War 2 and its particular outcome.
You speak admiringly of the “American century” and America’s industrial prowess and ability to raise living standards after World War 2. The truth of the “American century” is that, as a result of World War 2, the U.S. became, far and away, the dominant world imperialist power. The U.S.’s wartime rivals, German and Japanese imperialism, were defeated. The U.S.’s victorious wartime allies, British and French imperialism, were greatly weakened and their colonial empires shaken.
The U.S. emerged from World War 2 with its productive base intact. Contrast this with the socialist Soviet Union, where one-third of the national wealth was obliterated and where 26 million (roughly 1 in 8 of the population) perished in the war. You may have seen Oliver Stone’s series that documents how the U.S. in fact took advantage of its power to isolate the Soviet Union, with the conscious goal of starving it out and forcing it to its knees.
In these circumstances, the U.S. forged the most extensive and integrated global empire in world history. The U.S. imperialists imposed the dollar as the global currency. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund, created as World War 2 was ending, enabled the U.S. to control the economic lifeblood and shape the development of economies of the Third World. The U.S. was able to secure cheap raw materials and obtain high profits from low-cost manufacturing and agribusiness in the Third World.
The whole structure of the U.S. economy, the growth of its middle-class, the vast streams of super-exploitable immigrants (from Mexico and Latin America and then from Asia) laboring in the shadows, and its fabled prosperity—all this has rested on America’s privileged position in the global economy. And this privileged position, in turn, has been backed up and enforced by the most massive military machine of death and destruction in human history.
As for the “consumer society” celebrated in the West, three things. One, it is not something to aspire to—and even you speak of America producing “shit that people wanted but didn’t really need”; two, it is environmentally insane (it would take the resources of almost 5 Earths if the rest of the world had the same ecological footprint of America’s consumer society); and three, America’s great “consumer engine” is based on the misery of the enslaved and oppressed of Asia, Africa, and Latin America (the “convenience” of child laborers cultivating high-quality cocoa in the Ivory Coast; or of women workers dying in factory fires and building collapses in Bangladesh for the sake of new seasonal fashion lines).
America is a class-divided, deeply polarized, and segmented society. But it is not “two societies,” or “two Americas.” It is, as I stated earlier, a society with a profoundly unequal and oppressive social structure, and the domestic economy is the “home base” of a global network of exploitation.
The life paths and “life futures” of Black people that you touch on have been shaped by the needs, transformations, and international position of U.S. capitalism: first, as slaves; then as sharecroppers; then, with the Great Migration from the rural South to the North in the 20th century, and accelerating after World 2, occupying a caste-like position in the lower rungs of the proletariat.
Today, for those millions still locked in the inner cities and condemned to the lower rungs of American society, they are increasingly becoming—from the standpoint of capital—a surplus, expendable, and “dangerous” section of the population. The so-called “war on drugs,” with its world-historic levels of incarceration and police-state tactics in the ghettoes, and which you have decried and exposed...this is the response of U.S. capitalism to that fact.
You say that you “lived through the 20th century...[and] don’t believe that a state-run economy can be as viable as market capitalism” and that “the argument [about the economic viability of socialism] is over.” Here I must set the record straight.
Socialism is not any kind of “state-run” economy; nor is it a fairer distribution of income and social benefits that can be grafted on to a system based on exploitation.
No, socialism is something radically different and radically liberatory. It is, fundamentally, three things:
Socialism is a new political-state power in which the formerly oppressed and exploited, in alliance with the great majority of society, rule over old and new exploiters and have the capacity to change society and change themselves.
It is a new economic system in which public-state ownership replaces private ownership of the major means of production and in which production for social need replaces production for profit. This is an economy that is consciously planned to serve the all-around betterment of humanity, the advance of the world revolution, and the protection of the ecosystems of the planet.
Finally, socialism is a whole historical period of transition and transformation in which the masses of people, led by a vanguard party, are carrying out great struggles and transformations to overcome the inequalities and ideological influences of capitalism and to move towards communism: a world community of humanity.
Now the Soviet revolution of 1917-56 and the Chinese revolution of 1949-76 were the first attempts to build real socialist societies. These were the most liberating episodes in human history: unprecedented in what they set out to achieve and unprecedented in what they actually accomplished. But this experience that involved more than a quarter of humanity during the 20th century fighting for a whole different future—has been viciously distorted and vilified.
In a recent, wide-ranging interview, “You Don’t Know What You Think You ‘Know’ About the Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future,” I survey this experience and take on the lies and slanders directed against it. I encourage you to read it.
I talk about the role and importance of leadership in these revolutions. I discuss how these first socialist revolutions set out to overcome the oppression of minority nationalities and to liberate women, and how they tackled mass poverty and issues of health. I explore how these revolutions empowered the former “have-nots,” “nobodies,” and “expendables” of those societies. I talk about the creation of revolutionary culture. Of how these societies sought to overcome the great gaps between those who have been trained to work in the realm of ideas and administration and the great majority of those who are mainly working with their backs and hands.
It is alleged that socialist economies are simply incapable of creating mass wealth. Nonsense. The Soviet Union when it was socialist and China during the period of Mao’s leadership went from societies of terrible deprivation for the masses into ones where the material needs of the people were being met, on a steadily expanding scale—and this in the face of vengeful embargos. When the Maoist revolution came to power in 1949, it carried through the most massive reduction in poverty and attack on inequality in history, lifting hundreds of millions out of destitution; and it established the most egalitarian health care system in the world, based on the principle of serving the people, with essential primary care reaching practically the entire population.
Again, something new and truly liberating was being created, and in circumstances of unrelenting imperialist encirclement and pressure. Not surprisingly, these revolutions had problems and shortcomings and went through twists and turns. And, ultimately, they met defeat by the stronger forces of world capitalism.
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, has summed up this experience, and drawn from experience more broadly. He has brought forward a new synthesis of communism. It is a deeper, more scientific, and more emancipatory understanding of the methods, goals, strategy and plan for making revolution and for creating a new society that people could flourish in.
I would invite you to get into the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, which is based on this new synthesis. It sets forth how a new socialist society would be constituted and function. You will be able to see how a real socialist economy would be meeting the basic needs of people in a way that did not plunder either the nations of the Third World or the environment. You will be able to see how a planned socialist economy would enable cities to become sustainable, with vibrant “social space,” where work that is meaningful and creative will be connected with people’s sense of community. You will be able to see how such a society would be addressing and tackling the environmental crisis—and only with a socialist system and economy run along the lines described in this document is there even a hope for dealing with the environmental catastrophe generated by capitalism.
Let me conclude with this. Every day that this system, this “horror show,” continues, there is the needless waste of human beings and the crushing of lives and spirits. There is the threat of more wars and the real and growing prospect of environmental collapse. This situation has to be urgently ended. The most “dangerous delusional idea” of all is that we can gradually half-step our way out of this.
I welcome your response.
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
This call was issued by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network:
January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
February 26, 2014 - 2 years since Trayvon Martin was murdered by vigilante, wannabe cop George Zimmerman; 2 years since this 17-year-old African-American walking home at 7:15 PM with skittles and iced tea and wearing a hoodie was murdered because he looked "suspicious" and "up to no good" to Zimmerman.
Zimmerman didn't know Trayvon—had never met him or spoke to him. But America had taught Zimmerman that Black youth are guilty until proven innocent. And he learned this lesson well. Zimmerman called Trayvon "a punk," "a fucking asshole," and said "they always get away...."
He stalked Trayvon, confronted him and shot him dead.
This was a modern day lynching. It sent a message that Black youth have a bulls-eye on their backs that cops and any ordinary racist can use as target practice. The recent murders of Renisha McBride in Detroit, Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, Florida, Jonathan Smith in North Carolina and Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, California underscore this message.
In response we must deliver our own message: we will not stand by in silence as our youth are brutalized, locked up, murdered and more. On Feb. 26th, we must say NO MORE! to the criminalization of whole generations of Black and Latino youth.
Look at what this case revealed. When the police arrived on the scene finding Zimmerman standing over Trayvon's dead body, they drug tested Trayvon—the victim—and let Zimmerman—the killer—walk free. It took weeks of nationwide mobilization to force the authorities to put Zimmerman on trial.
Then Trayvon was put on trial. Stories of marijuana being found in his backpack and a school suspension filled the media. As Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother, put it: "They've killed my son, and now they are trying to kill his reputation."
In the trial, the judge ruled the prosecution could talk about profiling, but not RACIAL profiling. The prosecutors forgot how to prosecute, putting on Zimmerman's case so well he didn't have to testify. The defense assassinated the character of Trayvon and then unleashed crude insults and racist attacks on Rachel Jeantel, who spoke the truth about what happened the night of Trayvon's murder.
The question is what will we do now in the face of this outrage? Will we stand by in silence as youth like Trayvon die or face lives of brutality, misery and incarceration? Or will we stand up and say NO MORE!—on February 26, 2014, and from here on out? Now is NOT the time to "move on." Now IS the time for basic people and youth, professors and students, artists and writers, athletes, musicians and prominent voices of conscience to rise up in spirited resistance with the clear objective of STOPPING mass incarceration, criminalization and murder of our youth.
On February 26, step off in determined street protests; hold campus teach-ins and cultural events; speak out in the media; spread the image and national sticker "We Are All Trayvon, The Whole Damn System is Guilty" and say NO MORE! to the green light this system has given to police and vigilantes to gun down and murder any youth they deem "suspect" because of the color of their skin or the clothes they wear. Spread the "We Say No More" statement which condemns the murder of Trayvon.
The murder of Trayvon was and is a towering outrage. Remember: when the verdict came down many thousands rejected the call for "calm reflection" from Obama and others and took to the streets in outrage. Many more asked: Why does this happen? And, what can we do about it? There is a challenge before us: what kind of world are we going to live in? On February 26, 2014 we must answer that challenge with a day of outrage and remembrance for Trayvon Martin and all the others like Trayvon.
Hoodies Up! We Are All Trayvon,
The Whole Damn System is Guilty!
The Youth Are Not Suspects, They Are Human Beings!
Stop Mass Incarceration Network, P.O. Box 941 Knickerbocker Station, New York, NY 10002-0900
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
From The Michael Slate Show:
January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following is a transcript of a December 13, 2013 interview on The Michael Slate Show on KPFK Pacifica radio.
“Welcome to my neck of the woods. Where we seek justice no matter how many people have their backs turned against us. We are the WOODS MOVEMENT; in dedication to the late Tyler Damon Woods who was slayed by the Long Beach Police department, On Tuesday November 19, 2013. Our mission is to capture justice and end police brutality against defenseless citizens.”
From a petition demanding justice for Tyler Damon Woods
At 3 a.m. on November 19, 2013, 19-year-old Tyler Damon Woods was in a car with his friends when they were stopped by the police in Long Beach, California. Tyler ran away from the police. They chased him and when they eventually cornered him, he knelt down and turned his head to face them. The Long Beach police opened fire, savagely killing him. Tkeyah Boyd, mother of her and Tyler’s one-year-old child, has been leading a fight to spread the word about this killing, and to demand justice for Tyler Damon Woods. On December 27, 2013, Tkeyah told the story of Tyler’s murder on The Michael Slate Show.
Michael Slate: Tell us what happened to Tyler.
Tkeyah Boyd: Well, he was fleeing the police at first. They were chasing him. And he ran and he was very scared. From what the witnesses in the apartments were telling us, he was very scared. And a lot of people wanted to help him, but he was turning down their help. He didn’t want to involve anybody in what was going on. And as he was running and he was about to get on the roof, he was gunned down. The autopsy hasn’t been released, but they shot him anywhere from thirty to sixty times. So they emptied their clips, reloaded—emptied their clips, reloaded—on an unarmed man. And it’s very tragic to me because I don’t think anybody—that’s overkill. Nobody should be killed with that many shots. It’s just crazy that he was really gunned down viciously for no reason. He was surrendering; he had his hands up. He was kneeling. If anything they should have shot rubber bullets, or anything. But, you know, that’s the Long Beach Police Department. He’s the 20th killing alone this year.
Michael Slate: One of the things that they kept saying is, in the early reports on the murder—and I do think people have to be clear, this is an outright murder. When someone is kneeling down, and he’s facing away and he turns around to face them and they just open fire, like you said, with anywhere from thirty to sixty shots—what’s going on there? Anybody who’s rational has to say, what the hell is going on there. And then the first thing that they do, is they say, well, we can’t tell yet whether he had a gun. That’s what the newspapers do. And then the second thing they do is, they say, well, you know, he was wanted for this, and he had done this, and he had done that, and they really try to demonize and criminalize him, as if that would somehow justify their outright murder.
Tkeyah Boyd: Right. And that’s what I say, you know. You guys know if he had a gun or not. They searched him before he even ran from them. So they knew already before that he didn’t have a weapon on him. That’s just an excuse for why they had a reason to kill him. There’s no reason to kill him. There’s no reason. It was wrong. They need to be held accountable for what they did.
Michael Slate: Now let me repeat this. They searched him before they began to chase him?
Tkeyah Boyd: Yes. Prior to him running, he was searched, from head to toe. They knew he was unarmed. He had no weapon on him. No weapon was ever found. There was no weapon at all. They’re just trying to make that up to make it seem like there was a weapon so they had a reason to shoot him when they didn’t have no reason. They’re covering up everything. They’re trying to cover up right now.
Michael Slate: Tell us a little bit about Tyler. What was he like?
Tkeyah Boyd: Really cool. He was really funny. Never a dull moment with him. You just spend one day with him and—it was life, you know. He’s a different type of person. He wasn’t just a 19-year-old. He loved his child. That was number one. He always wanted to do for our son Nye. He wanted to make sure that he’s always taken care of. He was good. And that was what he was trying to do. He was trying to be a father. He was trying to be a man. He was growing from a boy to a man. And they didn’t give him a chance.
Yeah, he had this on his record, whatever the case is. He could have went to jail. He could have had a change, he could have turned over. You know, you never know what could have happened with him. But they didn’t think that way, you know. So we’ll never know. And now my son has to grow up without a father. He loved that baby so much. It’s crazy.
Michael Slate: It’s really important for people to understand who he was and what he was like. Because, again, like I said, one of the things they do all the time is they murder someone, the police murder someone, and then they turn around and they murder them again, a second time, by murdering their reputation, by murdering even the memories that their families have. They try to cast a pall over everything by saying this guy had a criminal record. This guy was wanted for this. And actually when you look at it—while they ran all this stuff out, they also said, oh, well, he was convicted for a burglary or something in San Bernardino. And then as they were reporting on it, they say, well, he actually got probation for that because he didn’t have any prior adult record. Even there, they’re offering a hint that he wasn’t the monster that they were trying to portray.
Tkeyah Boyd: And that’s what I think. Anything that he had on his record now, the wanted for armed robbery or suspicion for carjacking, he didn’t go to court for that. So you can’t say he did that. He didn’t get his time in court for that. So we can’t put that on him that he did that. It could have been somebody could have made a mistake. Somebody could have pointed him out and it could have been the wrong person. Who knows? But, for me, he wasn’t like that. He was very caring. He made sure that everybody around him was taken care of. That’s number one. If somebody couldn’t eat, he would help them eat. That’s what people don’t know about him. He was very caring, very loving. He’s been through a whole bunch, a whole bunch in his life. And he was just trying to be a man. He was growing. He had a child. This is his first child. This is the first experience for him. He has to learn that. And he has to be a father now. And now his son won’t even get to experience that. He won’t even get to experience a tad of what I’ve experienced of him: very loving, very great person. All the records and all that, nobody’s perfect. Everybody has a past. Everybody does wrong. But don’t judge him off of what they’re telling you about him.
Michael Slate: You folks in the movement there, you make a very important statement in the petition you have up on Change.org. People should actually go and check that petition out. You make a statement that no matter what anybody did, even if Tyler was convicted or it was proven that he’d done many, many things, committed many crimes, or whatever—nothing justifies being shot and killed while kneeling down and having done nothing at all.
Tkeyah Boyd: Correct. That is exactly the point of our whole movement. The petition will tell you the whole story and what we’re trying to do as far as the petition, getting the petition up to the city council instead of police department. Because we want these officers convicted like as if they were us. These are people who are killing people. This is the 20th shooting alone this year. That’s crazy. And then these cops are still out there. They’re killing people. And I don’t want there to be another Tyler Woods. I don’t want anybody to feel what I feel. I don’t want anybody to feel the pain that I feel, or a son to have to go through what my son will have to go through. I need it to end. You know, it won’t end. I’m not saying that it will end. But I want it to be a change.
And the more people who stand up, and the more people who are becoming a voice for the people who have been killed by these policemen, the more chance we have of getting these men prosecuted. They’re regular people just like us. Without that badge, they’re just a person.
Michael Slate: You make that point in the Change.org petition, you actually make that point where you say, “The officers involved in these killing sprees and heinous acts of violence should be convicted, tried, and sentenced for their involvement in such matters. Officers should permanently be removed from patrol and their badges should be revoked. Officers should face the same criminal charges, and punishments as civilians! Just because they have a badge doesn’t make killing justifiable, in fact they are trained to kill so that should be held against them.” That’s a pretty heavy statement.
Tkeyah Boyd: Yes. And see, they’re cops, so people believe their words. They’re just automatically right, when they’re just a person just like us. They’re trained. They know what they’re supposed to do. They know how to take people down. Killing shouldn’t be their first option. It shouldn’t even be an option. There’s fifty ways I know they know how to take somebody down without killing them. And they’ automatically just shooting people. There’s no reason. We’re talking about an unarmed surrendering man. No Chance. We have more than twenty cops there. And then we have cops shooting. Who knows how many cops were shooting? And they’re just trying to cover up and make it seem like he was just that much—they were scared. You’re scared? I’m scared. I’m a civilian. I’m scared. You’re telling them you’re scared? I’m scared. I’m supposed to call you for help.
Michael Slate: When you mention the number of cops that were there, actually one of the residents of the area said that she was woken up and she saw several police cars speeding up and down the street. When she looked out the window there were helicopters. She then said they were coming in hordes, to chase one young man, they were coming in hordes.
Tkeyah Boyd: We’re talking about one man, with no gun, who’s running, who’s terrified. Any of the witnesses could tell you he was scared.
Michael Slate: Yeah, exactly. Now, one of the things you also bring out, and it was very important to me, because you’ve started a movement that is really aimed at getting justice for Tyler. Tell us a little bit about that movement., because again, it says very clearly, “Our mission is to capture justice and end police brutality against defenseless citizens.” And there’s a number of times you point out in different things that I’ve read that the role of the police in killing Black people in a certain sense, is part of the whole conditions of life that Black people are forced to live under, which actually is part of an entire genocide.
Tkeyah Boyd: Right. And our movement, Justice For Tyler, we want his story to get heard. It happened. People sweep it under the rug, or it happened, he was killed and, you know, sorry to him. But we’re trying to be the voice for him. He can’t talk any more. So now we’re going to be the voice. We do marches. Almost every weekend I have a march, I have a march going. We just got out of a Kwanzaa parade so we were in that, and that went really well.
Our movement is really to get his story out. We pass out fliers, we get people to sign the petition wherever we are. If we’re just walking in the mall, we passing out fliers. I have a great support system behind me that really helps me get this movement out. And if it’s just ten of us out there marching, at least we’re getting heard. And as I march, I pick up more stories. I pick up more people who’ve been involved in stuff like this, and that groups us as one. Their stories are dying down. We want to bring those back up. We want justice for everybody. Justice for Tyler. Justice for anybody who’s been killed by the police department, period. That is our whole movement. Because we work better as one, than as separate little stories.
Michael Slate: There’s a point where you say that, again, you emphasize this wanting justice and you emphasize this thing about the nature of the police. You say, they’re “murderers—they are PAID career criminals in uniforms, being valued by their unit for minimizing the population, by killing us off one by one. We as a whole will fight for Tyler. We will not let his story go unheard!” And I thought it was worth mentioning that one of the people that came up on this was a fairly influential person, the hip hop artist “The Game”. I thought that was a very important thing to happen, because he turned around and he said, “Look, there were no questions about it.” He compared what happened to Tyler to what happened to Trayvon Martin.
Tkeyah Boyd: Yes. And it’s crazy because we’re talking about young men who don’t have any protection on them. They’re just minding their business. They’re stopped by these men and they’re gunned down, over the fact that you’re scared of me. But we’re talking about people of higher power with the police. Trayvon, he was gunned down by an older man. He was scared of this young man. How are you scared? If you’re that scared, you have to kill him? I get scared all the time. You don’t see me shooting people. It’s crazy. That’s what I think about the police. You guys are for our protection. You guys are supposed to be our protectors, not to kill us. And you’re laying us down like it’s nothing. And it’s crazy that they do that.
And they think it’s OK. They wake up the next morning and it’s like nothing ever happened, because they go out and they kill another person. And they sleep at home with their kids and they’re with their families. And they’re not knowing that other people are hurt. They don’t know how much pain we feel. They don’t know what we go through. But let it happen to a cop that got killed. Then it’s all this crazy madness. They’re prosecuting the person to the max, to the fullest.
We can’t even get a little justice as people? We’re that much not looked at? We’re that much below you guys that we don’t deserve the same justice that you would give if it was one of your own?
Michael Slate: Very well put, Tkeyah, and we’re going to have to wrap this up. But I wanted to let people know if they want to get involved with this, if they’re interested in finding out how to get involved, they can do it through Twitter. The hashtag is #JusticeForTyler.
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
Letter from a Reader
January 6, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A group of us got together recently to dig into "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" by Raymond Lotta. The leadership of a collective body understood the need to discuss this "urgent polemic" and set up a time and date for people to get together. The group which met was a little broader than just the collective body, including a comrade with a deeper grasp of the overall topic and political economy in particular who was invited to be part of the discussion. This salon proved to be a very important and lively, and initial, digging into the polemic. People’s understanding was uneven, but everyone jumped in to be part of the process at one point or another. Everyone was very exhilarated and wants to do this again soon. I hope a brief report on this session will encourage others to get together and wrangle over this critical piece.
We had to keep coming back to the starting point of "what is true and why" to wrangle on these questions of theory, and as part of that the point made by BA, "we may not like all this, but that's where we are." As a reflection of wielding the epistemological method which proceeds from reality, not formulas or "precepts," it is critical for us not to just repeat what is in the polemic and then figure out how to explain all of this to others. We have to ourselves dig into whether and how the analysis in the polemic is true and how we understand reality first and then, yes, we do need to get this out into the world. There is a crying need for more science and more rigorous and critical thinking, which we tried to wield.
One point that was made in the opening rounds was that our responsibility to struggle through these lines is not just part of taking responsibility for the line of our own party, which is extremely important, but we have a special responsibility in this party in this country for what the line among those who consider themselves communists in the world today will be and forging an international communist organization on a scientific communist line. We discussed the stakes of applying BA’s new synthesis to bringing forward new initiators of a new stage of communism worldwide. If we aren’t having this discussion in the context of these stakes posed by the "sharp debate and urgent polemic" in the context of the whole world, we won’t be having the right discussion.
We started out with a discussion of the development of commodity production and the leap from feudalism to capitalism with people bringing in some study they had done of Engels’ Anti-Duhring. With the help of the more experienced comrade, we dug into the whole process described there and how this process is not driven by "greedy" capitalists or by the struggle of the workers against their exploitation but rather the cutthroat competition between capitalists to each cut their own costs in one way or another—which leads to organization on the level of each enterprise but anarchy in society as a whole as they compete.
We got into examples of how the anarchy/organization form of motion actually is overall the determining factor of the fundamental contradiction in the capitalists' quest for profit. The dynamism generated by this competition for more and more profit produces a very dynamic economic system, but this "dynamism" is not just creative, it is also destructive—destructive of commodities, of technology when it becomes obsolete and, more importantly, destructive of human beings as part of the forces of production either through terrible exploitation or when they are no longer profitable. The example of how in Africa the capitalists of various kinds are now engaged in many different vicious forms of domination and exploitation—taking the form of a huge land, mineral and resource grab, throwing the people off the land and destroying the local agriculture. The movie Darwin’s Nightmare was referenced as well. We walked thru some of the section on the environment to understand more deeply how this anarchy/organization contradiction drives the "ceaseless striving for more surplus," at the potential expense of the whole planet as well as how it interacts with other contradictions like the geopolitical needs of imperialism.
One way this was posed for discussion was: Is "the ceaseless striving for more surplus" driven by compulsion/necessity of the capitalist to survive, or is it a process of opportunity/freedom where the various capitalists are just seizing on the opportunity to make more profit and they could just as easily decide to just stay at the level they are at? As part of that discussion we also examined the expression the "capitalist is capital personified." It is not a choice s/he makes to chase the creation of more surplus value and all the implications of that, but a compulsion to do so as long as they want to remain capitalists. All of this is happening "behind the backs" of the capitalists and their system. It is only by wielding and deepening the science of communism that the vanguard party can arm the masses with the real understanding of how this system works. "And in this reality is the basis of radically changing things. It’s in confrontation 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...." (From the quote in the polemic from Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon by Bob Avakian)
We dug into the criticism of this analysis presented at the beginning of the II section of the polemic—"A Refusal to Come to Grips with the Nature of Capitalist Accumulation—Or Why the 'Capitalist Is Capital Personified.'" At first there was a tendency to belittle and dismiss the 3 points in that section in defense of the argument that the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is principal as being superficial and illogical. However it was pointed out that this is actually the main line holding sway in the world today among those who consider themselves communists and among progressive intellectuals who consider themselves Marxists. We got into some of the best arguments made for this position, trying to get at how people were thinking with this analysis as well as what the implications are. We need to dig into this, deepen our own understanding of how reality actually works and be ready to take on very sophisticated arguments for that position, not being satisfied with a superficial approach of a reaffirmation of our own beliefs.
Then we did get into some of the implications of this analysis that the class contradiction is the principal form of motion. We dug into the tendency historically among communists that communist revolution is inevitable because of the internal contradictions of the imperialist system—a ‘general crisis’ of imperialism—and that the masses will surely rise up against their oppression as a reflection of the class contradiction being the principal and determining form of motion.
A thought experiment was posed: Is it possible for the contradiction between anarchy and organization to be mitigated, either by the capitalists directly or by the bourgeois state in its role of safeguarding the interests of the bourgeoisie as a class overall? We discussed how there are no international structures capable of imposing limits, and the dependence on fossil fuels at this point is such that any single unit of capital which tried to go against this "ceaseless striving for more surplus value" would not exist very long. Right now the imperialists are in crisis and don’t have much maneuvering room. But we barely scratched the surface on this and a number of other key questions.
Many other questions were put on the table which we didn’t fully get into this time. There was some discussion of the relationship between economism, reification and identifying the principal form of motion of the fundamental contradiction being the class struggle. We also decided that we need to get more into the interpenetration of the two forms of motion in a future discussion. Often the imperialists attempt to solve some of the sharp challenges they face in ways which then actually heighten the contradiction, like Japan relying on nuclear power. It will be important to go more deeply into all of the three examples in the polemic. And we have to understand that this dynamic of anarchy/organization does not define all the contradictions in society even while it does interpenetrate with them, often in unexpected and perverse ways, for example, the question of the oppression of women.
We closed with an appreciation for why BA Everywhere is in fact what the world cries out for and how this polemic highlights the reality that we have a special and urgent responsibility to make this campaign successful and everything that encompasses about making revolution in the belly of the beast. Again, there is a lot more to get into and everyone is down for another session soon!
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
From a reader
January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader;
A really horrible situation has unfolded in Oakland over the past few weeks. On December 9, 13-year-old Jahi McMath came to Children’s Hospital in Oakland for three surgical procedures to treat sleep apnea. The surgery seemed to go well. But hours later, blood started pouring out of her mouth and she went into cardiac arrest. Although doctors were able to get her heart beating again, blood was not circulating to her brain, which led to total and irreversible brain death. The coroner issued a death certificate for Jahi, dated December 12. The shock and disbelief of Jahi’s mother Nailah Winkfield and the rest of the family was more than understandable. But this family’s pain and religious faith was seized on by forces larger than this family, turning one tragedy into another.
Almost immediately, all the local mainstream media began to pump out anti-scientific propaganda about this case. First, they demonized Children’s Hospital, and promoted the assumption that there must have been malpractice for Jahi to end up brain dead from a “routine tonsillectomy.” In fact, this was not simply a routine tonsillectomy on an otherwise healthy child—although further details about Jahi’s health, the nature of the surgery, and what went wrong afterward cannot be released due to privacy laws. Jahi’s family, of course, has every right to sue, and the courts have the responsibility to determine whether or not there was malpractice. But, A) it shouldn’t be assumed in advance of an investigation that this was malpractice. All surgery involves risk. And even “routine tonsillectomies” on very rare occasions result in deaths. And B) Children’s Hospital is an important institution. Despite the financial challenges it faces as a safety net hospital for those without insurance, Children’s has done a pretty good job serving poor kids in Oakland for decades, including by pioneering research and treatment for sickle cell anemia, a painful blood disease that primarily affects African Americans.
The campaign on the part of the media, the family’s lawyer, the courts, certain local African American religious institutions, and even some right-wing Christian fundamentalist forces on a national level, to promote superstition and undermine science quickly intensified. They turned the question of “why did she die,” into “was she really dead” and “why is Children’s trying to pull the plug on her?” It wasn’t just that the family kept refusing to accept that Jahi was really dead, and kept praying to God for a “miracle.” For weeks now, the media has covered this story in a way that treats Jahi as if she was still alive, where “dead” is put in quotations, and the false hope of this family for a “miracle” is elevated above the scientific fact that Jahi IS dead and she’s not coming back. The family’s lawyer, Christopher Dolan, has gotten judges to grant restraining orders forcing Children’s to keep Jahi’s dead body on a ventilator, and has been unsuccessfully attempting to force Children’s to do a tracheotomy and insert feeding tubes... all of which has been falsely characterized by the media as “life support.” He has dragged out supposed “experts” like Dr. Paul A. Byrne, past president of the Catholic Medical Association, who insist (without having examined Jahi’s body) that she is “not brain dead” and can recover with “proper nutrition and care.”
Think about the legal precedent that is set if hospitals can be forced to perform surgeries on dead bodies, and dedicate resources toward “care” for the dead! Think about how that would affect health care, ideologically and practically. Religious leaders in East Oakland have organized prayer vigils, which have been attended by hundreds of people, and there have been protests outside of Children’s calling for “Justice for Jahi” and “Keep Jahi alive.” Behind the scenes, the Christian fundamentalist Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network has been fundraising to get Jahi’s body transferred, apparently to a facility in Medford, New York, called “New Beginnings.” The network and the facility issued statements reading, “Jahi McMath has been labeled a ‘deceased’ person. Yet she retains all the functional attributes of a living person, despite her brain injury. This includes a beating heart, circulation and respiration, the ability to metabolize nutrition and more. Jahi is a living human being.” The New Beginnings statement adds, “We do encourage every citizen to take the time to educate themselves more clearly on the issues of what brain death is and what it is not.” I couldn’t agree more with that last part. And the fact that so many people in this society are so mis-educated about basic science—trained to believe in “miracles” instead of learning to understand the world and the way things really work—has made way too many people easy prey for groups like Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, with their religious nonsense masquerading as science and their phony concern for Jahi and her family. Let’s be honest, these right wing Christian forces that Jahi’s family have aligned themselves with don’t give a fuck about “life,” especially Black life. As Bob Avakian pointed out recently,
The crude and venomous rantings of Phil Robertson, “patriarch” of the “Duck Dynasty,” show once again how, especially in the U.S., Christian fundamentalism is closely bound up with racism, slavery and Jim Crow (old and new), anti-gay hatred, “traditional” oppression of women, and in general a thoroughly outmoded, all- around reactionary worldview and values. Robertson’s invocation of Biblical scripture, as justification for vicious oppression, is yet another vivid illustration of the fact that “The Bible, taken literally, is a horror.”
But let’s clear up some basic science about the brain, and why “brain death” equals death. The human brain has different parts that play different roles in creating conscious thought, emotions, and maintaining life functions: the brain stem is the part of the brain that regulates and controls and regulates breathing, heartbeat, blood pressure and other basic life functions; the cerebral cortex controls consciousness, processes ideas, responds to other humans, and stores memories; the thalamus is the part deep within the brain that is a center for sensation, including pain and pleasure.
In Jahi’s case, all three parts were irreparably dead. Jahi is not “brain damaged.” Jahi is not in a coma. She is not even in a “Permanent Vegetative State” (where the brain stem keeps functioning), as Terri Schiavo was—the Florida woman who was finally disconnected from feeding tubes in 2005 after a major societal and legal battle. Jahi’s entire brain is dead, with no chance of recovery. At least six doctors, including one from another hospital, have examined her and confirmed the death. Her body is “breathing” because of a ventilator, which is temporarily keeping her heart beating as well. There may be some spontaneous bodily twitch or motion, but there is no electrical signal coming from the brain at all.
As David Magnus, director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, said in the New York Times, “There’s no reported case of a correct diagnosis of brain death where anybody comes back,” Magnus “added that while death occurs after an hour because of a lack of blood flowing into the brain, Jahi has not had blood flowing into her brain since at least Dec. 12.” These are the facts. It certainly must be hard for the family to come to grips with. But promoting false hope and prolonging the suffering and uncertainty of the family is not doing them any favors. As Santa Clara University professor, Lawrence Nelson, told the San Francisco Chronicle, “This is not compassion... She is gone, and no prayer, no judge, no transfer to a different facility can change that.”
But what has been the dominant message from the media for the last three weeks? Deliberate confusion about the science of brain death, and the promotion of superstition. It’s one thing for Jahi’s highly religious family to think she is still alive and to believe that she can be awakened by divine intervention. But it’s another thing for the media to trumpet that, to treat it as a legitimate idea on par with the scientific facts, and to attack Children’s Hospital for acting on those facts. This is not just “corporate media,” this is propaganda media. It is designed to promote and reinforce capitalist values and ways of thinking, and a general ignorance about the world, to systematically mis-educate people. But how should people be educated? What is the responsibility of the media and school system? As the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) says, in the section on education:
The educational system in the New Socialist Republic in North America must enable people to pursue the truth wherever it leads, with a spirit of critical thinking and scientific curiosity, and in this way to continually learn about the world and be better able to contribute to changing it in accordance with the fundamental interests of humanity. To this end, in the study of human society and its historical development, and in the social as well as the natural sciences in general, the pursuit of the truth, through the accumulation of facts and empirical evidence and the synthesis of this through logical reasoning and rational discourse, including the testing of ideas against reality, shall be the objective and standard. Scientific and other theories which have met these criteria and have been clearly confirmed and validated through the scientific method (such as evolution, which is one of the most soundly confirmed and well established facts in all of science) shall be presented as what they are—true and valid understanding of reality...
In the current society (in contrast to the alternative vision laid out above), way too many people are kept in the dark about science. Compounding that is the skepticism that many people feel toward the medical establishment, which has come to the surface in relation to Jahi McMath, and is not entirely without reason. There is the long history of racist pseudo-science (false science pretending to be scientific) being used to justify oppression, erroneous theories about the supposed natural biological “superiority” and “inferiority” of the “races,” etc. There was the Tuskegee experiment 1932-1972, where the U.S. Public Health Service literally tested the effects of syphilis on hundreds of Black males in rural Alabama who thought they were getting free health care from the government.
And then there are the grotesque modern day disparities in health and health care. Go watch the movie, Waiting Room, about Highland Hospital, Oakland’s adult safety net hospital, and you see up close and personal the trials and tribulations that poor people, immigrants, and Black people face just to get some decent health care. It is not that the doctors, nurses, and hospital staff are out to make people suffer in pain while waiting for hours or even days to get treated at the ER... it’s that they are all constrained by the lack of resources, by a cold and brutal system of capitalist health care.
If you watch Elysium, the recent sci-fi movie about a future world where the rich live on a space colony and have the technology to cure any medical problem, while the masses of people are trapped in polluted slums on Earth and have to take the most desperate measures when they are sick... you see a world not that different from our own. With all that, it’s not hard to see why many people, Black people in particular, would feel they are being mistreated, not treated as full human beings whose lives matter. And they are right! But it is quite another thing to be against science itself. And it is a big mistake.
Let’s not mystify science. Science is a method for investigating reality and it is a body of knowledge based on thousands of years of human beings doing that. And that is something that has the potential to benefit humanity greatly. The problem with the Tuskegee experiments was not science—the problem was that Black people were (and still are) oppressed in Amerikkka. In fact, by 1947 scientists had figured out how to treat syphilis with penicillin, but they continued with the study anyway without treating those men... again, not because of science, but because of a system based on oppressing Black people!
Science, and the scientific method of investigating and coming to understand reality, is not just something for scientists. It is what the most oppressed actually need to get free. The fact is, as Bob Avakian put it in BAsics, “Oppressed people who are unable or unwilling to confront reality as it actually is, are condemned to remain enslaved and oppressed.” And we should ask, in whose interests is it for oppressed people to remain ignorant about how society works and how it can be changed? Whose interests are served when oppressed people are on their knees praying for salvation and putting everything in “God’s hands”?
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
This call is from Stop Patriarchy:
January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
January 2014—the beginning of a new year and an escalating SHOWDOWN over the lives and future of women.
On Wednesday, January 22, 2014 in Washington, DC, the anti-abortion movement will stage their annual March for "Life" on the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade.* In DC, tens of thousands will stream past the Supreme Court in a frenzy of anti-abortion lies, religious backwardness & anti-science ignorance. On Saturday, January 25 in San Francisco, the anti's stage their Walk for "Life." In both SF and DC, they will fill the streets with their dehumanizing portrayals of women as murderers, and all the messages of shame and condemnation that typifies this front of the war on women. They are puffed up over their vicious progress in dismantling women's reproductive rights.
All this at a time when women are being slammed back in every realm: from the mainstreaming of violent and degrading pornography to a global epidemic of rape, from a culture that celebrates pimping to the shaming of women who choose to have sex, and from the sexual enslavement of millions of women and girls in the sex industry to the widespread celebration of Pope Francis while he has changed nothing of church doctrine that enslaves and humiliates women and LGBT people.
This must be opposed!
Fetuses are NOT babies. Women are NOT incubators.
Abortion is NOT murder.
Take a stand. On Wednesday, January 22, noon at the Supreme Court in DC, and on Saturday, January 25, 1:00 pm in San Francisco—against what truthfully should be called the "March for Forced Motherhood & Female Enslavement." Stand up for Abortion on Demand & Without Apology! Stand up for the full liberation of women! Bring truth, your joyful defiance, your creativity & morality for the liberation of women.
There are only two sides in the battle over abortion: Do you think woman are full human beings who must be able to decide for themselves when or whether to have a child OR do you think women should be reduced to breeders?
Reproductive rights are in a state of emergency. 2013 was another record year of assault on abortion and birth control:
But 2013 was also a year of important new resistance against this assault and the war on women from the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, to the ten of thousands in the streets in Texas, to the significant defeat of a so-called "fetal pain" abortion ban in Albuquerque. This must be multiplied a million-fold. We must rely on ourselves—not the politicians. In our lives and in the streets. In independent mass political resistance.
Where do YOU stand? Make it clear on January 22nd in Washington, DC and January 25th in San Francisco.
"Women are not objects. Women are not things to be used for the sexual pleasure of men NOR are they breeders of children. WOMEN ARE HUMAN BEINGS CAPABLE OF FULL EQUALITY IN EVERY REALM!"
—From the Call to End Pornography & Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women!
* Supreme Court 1973 ruling which legalized abortion across the U.S. [back]
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
From a Reader
January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Out of the cauldron of war, invasions and occupations, Obama’s drones and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism—out of resistance to Islamic theocracy in Iran, the Arab Spring and the subsequent military coup in Egypt, comes an exhibition of brave and insightful work by 12 photographers. Given the forces colliding in the region, it’s not surprising that some of the most radical and imaginative artistic expression is coming from women. Some of the artists on display until January 12 are part of Rawiya, a small collective of female photographers in the Middle East—the translation of Rawiya is “She Who Tells a Story” and gives the exhibit its title.
Much of the work is commentary on the division of humankind along lines of sexuality and gender and the domination of women by men made inviolable under Sharia laws. Some of these women are working in exile, some of them are bi-national, and some of them are continuing to work in their home countries dealing with censorship, the challenges of being among the first female photojournalists venturing out onto streets and into war zones, risking their own personal safety, potentially bringing “dishonor” to their families and having to coax their female subjects into allowing themselves to be photographed.
A panel of moving video images by photographer Newsha Tavakolian titled "Listen" features six Iranian singers—their faces full of emotion but there is no sound—you cannot hear their voices. The accompanying text reads
“Imagining a dream.”
“Eyes closed, mouths open as if in a dream. Standing, facing us with their backs to the darkness, they sing soundless; they have standing here, singing for themselves for a long time, imagining us. Standing, facing the days of tedium. Facing a world that has adorned them with a false crown.”
Forbidden by Islamic law to perform by themselves in public or to produce recordings—the next panels are imaginary album covers created for each artist and each has an empty CD case as a statement against the restrictions they face. The covers include irreverent depictions of women, one of a young woman in red boxing gloves with Farsi words dripping from the sky, or images of the same woman standing in pounding ocean surf.
Palestinian photographer Rula Halawani presents “Negative Incursions” shot during the Israeli incursion into the West Bank during the second Intifada in 2002. The images capture Israeli tanks bulldozing homes and the grief of displaced people in the rubble of the aftermath. Displayed as negatives, Rula Halawani describes her purpose: “As negatives they express the negation of our reality that the invasion represented.”
Working with contradictions, the artists provoke people to look at things usually taken for granted from a different angle. Shadi Ghadirian counterposes the “domestic realm” of women with the “male realm” of war. A photo of a bowl of fruit—with a hand grenade nestled in the still life. A sepia portrait series of a woman in a chador holding banned objects. Nermine Hammam takes pictures of soldiers on duty in Tahrir Square and digitally manipulates them to take them out of context and situates them in bucolic nature scenes taken from her collection of traditional Japanese landscape paintings. This includes an iconic scene of a woman being violently attacked by soldiers in Tahrir Square—her abaya torn open to reveal a brightly colored bra. Nermine explains that this image, published and distributed by Reuters, quickly eclipsed the brutality of the soldiers and added a second violation, turning her into an object of titillation as the image went viral. Rania Matar’s series “A girl in her room” juxtaposes teenagers from the greater Boston area and Lebanon, and the self-expression of their bedrooms—or just a small individual space on a wall of a one-room apartment in a refugee camp.
The impact of Western imperialism on how people not just in the West but in the Middle East see themselves is a tension that runs through much of photographic work. Lalla Essaydi from Morocco addresses this most explicitly—Essaydi takes the 19th-century European "orientalist" paintings and tales like The Thousand and One Nights and the musical composition Sheherazade, and creates an image of a woman arranged in an "odalisque" pose. Odalisques were slaves and concubines, and in the photo the subject is draped over cushions in a chamber with her hair flowing back. According to the exhibit notes, the image is a comment both on the way Western colonialists produced voyeuristic images of women in harems and the artist’s fear of increasing reactionary restrictions on women in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. The image appears as luminous and golden but as you approach closer you realize the gleam in the image is constructed with bullet casings. Like the Ghanian sculptor El Anatsui who works with bottle caps to make amazing metallic hanging sculptures—Lalla Essaydi has worked with the detritus of wars in the region with provocative effect. She also works with the traditional use of henna in Moroccan celebrations of puberty, weddings, and childbirth and draws calligraphy over the entire image including over their skin. Calligraphy is a sacred Islamic art reserved for men—and the exhibit notes explain that by appropriating this she is giving women a way to speak and express themselves in her art.
Iranian photographer and filmmaker Shirin Neshat has a whole body of work that is also situated between the patriarchal legislation of women under Sharia law and the domination of the Middle East by the West, particularly by U.S. imperialism. As she put it in a recent talk, Iranian artists have to fight two battles at once in different realms—one the depiction of Iran produced by the Western media and the other against the atrocities of the Islamic fundamentalist regime. Shirin returned to Iran after attending school in the U.S. She arrived after the Islamic revolution and went with an uncritical view. This changed slowly as she sharpened her analysis and the blade of her art—and therefore facing censorship, imprisonment, and torture that artists considered a threat to the regime were facing—made the decision to go into exile.
Perhaps the most discussed photos in the exhibit is a series titled “Mother, Daughter, Doll” by Boushra Almutawakel from Yemen. The nine photos begin with a mother (Boushra used herself and her daughter as subjects) her daughter and doll dressed in what was more typical Yemeni custom—a plaid coat and pastel headscarf—her daughter with no head covering. With each successive photo the dress becomes darker, the hands more closed, the faces more guarded, until midway through, mother, daughter, and doll are cloaked in the niquab with faces and hands covered until in the last photo the only thing left is a black pedestal—the woman, daughter, and doll have been disappeared. Boushra Almutawakel—the first female photo journalist in Yemen describes the photo essay as an expression of her concern for the growing religious extremism in Yemen—but she’s also conflicted herself about the veil and this has informed an exploration of this subject in quite a few of her projects—one series showing the roles reversed with men in the veil and women without, another showing the way Western women cover themselves with make-up while women in the Middle East cover themselves with the veil. Another shows the Middle Eastern version of a Barbie doll complete with niquab.
This ambivalence runs through some of the artists’ work—seeing the veil as part of their cultural identity or allowing for the anonymity and protection the veil provides women in the public spaces when society (everywhere) is saturated with misogyny.
Caught in between the rise of Islamic fundamentalism on one side and the domination of the West and in particular imperialism with its bogus claim to be the liberator of women—artists are shining a light on this predicament for women in the region—but nearly absent is the ability of these same artists to see the possibility of a world without the domination of half of humanity by the other. Still hidden is where the oppression of women arises from and the fact that there is a basis for this age-old and outmoded way of thinking to be uprooted and superseded at this point in human history.
Sharia law, the segregation of women from men, the view that a woman is nothing more than the property of a man and her sexuality as something to be controlled by men, alternately objectified and stigmatized as shameful, the compulsory veiling of a woman’s body is intolerable in the 21st century. Any woman or man can and should be able to say this without reservation—anywhere on the planet. This is what heroic women in the Middle East are risking everything to resist. It’s why the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in the Soviet Union led people and freed a generation of women to cast off the veil in the nations formerly oppressed by Russia at the same time the world's first socialist state was legalizing abortion and decriminalizing homosexuality. It is no more essential or immutable to culture than arranged marriages, female infanticide, and binding women’s feet were in pre-revolutionary China. Those who wanted to uphold this as “Chinese” culture had tens of thousands of years of feudal traditions to claim but that did not stop tens of millions of women from leaping at the prospect of liberation when the Red Army marched through and for them to continue to be a driving force in the Chinese revolution—before capitalism was restored when the first socialist revolutions were defeated.
For some of the artists, family honor and patriarchal traditions appear so deeply embedded that it seems improbable that this will change—but what people currently think does not determine what is just nor what is possible. In the U.S., where there has been a long history of Black people’s struggle being deeply intertwined with the struggle for the liberation of women, the 1960s produced a generation of people who experienced a repolarization of millions of people and how they transformed their thinking and deeply embedded beliefs through the convulsions of the civil rights and Black liberation movements. One of the first truths young people grabbed onto was an understanding that if you were taking part in holding your foot on the neck of another human being—if you held to the groundless belief that Black people were inferior and tolerated a society segregated on the basis of race where Black people were legally designated as “lesser”—then ALL of society was bound to be poisoned and stunted by that injustice. There wasn’t anything about Jim Crow, Confederate culture, or the institutionalized racism in the country as a whole that was morally acceptable or justifiable.
Different classes and class interests see questions of culture and morality especially as embodied in the treatment and status of women with completely different and opposed outlooks, sensibilities, and aspirations.
Veiling under burkas and niquabs, a culture of rape and pornography, feudal honor killings, the marketing of women as sexual commodities, as prizes of war and trophies of success, the control by men of women by stripping them of any self-determination over their own reproductive decisions—these are essential and indispensable to carrying forward and buttressing patriarchal systems that depend on oppression and the subordination of women. Whether it is capitalism that traffics in the degradation and exploitation of women anywhere the dollar and its military reach, or outmoded feudal forces in the oppressed nations who may oppose the West but ultimately look to find their own reactionary niche in the imperialist world market—none of it is necessary, desirable, or in the interests of the vast majority of humanity.
All over the third world people are being thrown off the land and into the world’s megacities, often in the sprawling slums and shantytowns. Uprooted from the traditional means of life and hurled into miserable and uncertain conditions, people often turn to movements like Islamic fundamentalism to try and find some kind of anchor in the midst of all the dislocation and precariousness of “modern” existence. The majority of the world's population has shifted from rural to urban in just a few decades and this rapid urbanization is taking place in the context of domination and exploitation by foreign imperialists who align themselves with local tyrants. After decades of counterinsurgency in the Middle East—where the West systematically targeted and decimated secular opposition to imperialism (and often funded and fed reactionary religious movements to go after the secular left)—all this has strengthened the growth of Islamic fundamentalists who portray themselves as the opposition to Western decadence and foreign domination.
These contending outmoded and reactionary poles of imperialism on one hand and Islamic fundamentalism on the other, as Bob Avakian has pointed out, actually “reinforce each other even while opposing each other.” And while Avakian makes clear that the greater damage is being done by imperialism, he also makes the point that “If you side with either one of these ‘outmodeds’ you end up strengthening both.”
Culture, like human nature throughout human history, is a moving target—undergoing subtle, even imperceptible changes that often give rise to dramatic ruptures in what had been the social norms.
Today the family—worldwide—is undergoing a tidal wave of change. Women in large parts of the world have been driven by the workings of imperialism into the job market—into the sweatshops of Bangladesh and Cairo, the high-tech call centers of Bombay or into the universities of Tehran. In the U.S., jobs once held only by men have moved overseas and women are supporting the family by working at the local Walmart. In the U.S., the majority of people no longer live in the traditional nuclear family. In fact, increasingly, the nuclear family is practicable only for the more privileged strata. And that traditional nuclear family arrangement is often made possible by a woman who has traveled halfway across the world to be a nanny—often leaving her own children behind. In the U.S. today, of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in U.S. prisons, more than half are parents of children under 18. That translates to 2.7 million children with one of their parents in prison—a disproportionate number of them Black people with a historical legacy of children being torn from their parents' arms in one form or another since slavery.
This upending of the traditional family opens a veritable Pandora’s box of unforeseen worldwide consequences and social forces. The last decades have witnessed youth revolts and cultural movements with progressive aspirations and subversive views of sexuality, gender and equality colliding with ugly currents of resentment, as male entitlement is disrupted and eroded by the anarchic workings of the capitalist economic system. The very workings of capitalism are pushing increasing numbers of women to work, to maintain a middle class existence or simply a below subsistence existence. And that entry of women all over the world into the workforce is undermining traditional family arrangements. Capitalism and capitalist globalization undermines the family even as the patriarchal family is—for those who rule society—essential for social stability and reinforcing the subordination of women. From misogynist "Guy Culture" to reactionary religious movements, that promise to restore man’s domination over his wife and children and bring back order and the “good old days,” these reactionary movements and social trends are embraced, funded, initiated, or aided by powerful forces in the ruling class.
When I look at the iconic photo of the young women being brutalized in Tahrir Square, I can’t help but think about the push and pull of these currents with their antagonistic views of what it is to even be human—in bitter contention worldwide—and a prescient statement made by Bob Avakian in the 1980s:
"The whole question of the position and role of women in society is more and more acutely posing itself in today's extreme circumstances.... It is not conceivable that all this will find any resolution other than in the most radical terms.... The question yet to be determined is: will it be a radical reactionary or a radical revolutionary resolution, will it mean the reinforcing of the chains of enslavement or the shattering of the most decisive links in those chains and the opening up of the possibility of realizing the complete elimination of all forms of such enslavement?”
What is needed and eminently reasonable is carving out of this morass a whole other way—of liberating women through communist revolution. Led with a communist outlook revolution would, to quote from the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the RCP:
Section 3. Eradicating the Oppression of Women.
1. The oppression of women emerged thousands of years ago in human history together with the splitting of society into exploiting and exploited classes, and this oppression is one of the cornerstones of all societies based on exploitation. For the same reason, the struggle to finally and fully uproot the oppression of women is of profound importance and will be a decisive driving force in carrying forward the revolution toward the final goal of communism, and the eradication of all exploitation and oppression, throughout the world. Based on this understanding, the New Socialist Republic in North America gives the highest priority not only to establishing and giving practical effect to full legal equality for women–and to basic rights and liberties that are essential for the emancipation of women, such as reproductive freedom, including the right to abortion as well as birth control—but also to the increasing, and increasingly unfettered, involvement of women, equally with men, in every sphere of society, and to propagating and popularizing the need for and importance of uprooting and overcoming all remaining expressions and manifestations of patriarchy and male supremacy, in the economic and social relations and in the realms of politics, ideology and culture, and to promote the objective of fully emancipating women and the pivotal role of the struggle for this emancipation in the overall transformation of this society and the world as a whole. This orientation, and policies and laws flowing from it, shall be applied, promoted, encouraged and supported with the full political, legal and moral force, authority and influence of the government, at all levels, in the New Socialist Republic in North America.
So I will end this correspondence by inviting people to look at the book of this exhibit, which is published by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and which can be found or ordered from Revolution Books, and to invite people to discover a whole other way the world could be—the most radical and realistic that has ever existed—uprooting the oppression of women by bringing about communist revolution, worldwide. Communism has been put on a more revolutionary, scientific and viable foundation due to the breakthroughs in communist theory, method and strategy made by Bob Avakian. A new synthesis of communism that is a real source of hope, especially for anyone who has dreamed of freeing humanity from traditions chains.
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
For readers looking for backdrop to the controversy around the “basketball diplomacy” involving Dennis Rodman and the rulers of North Korea, see:
For a serious understanding of what a socialist country is, and is not, see
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In light of the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 20, we are reprinting this short polemic that appeared as part of the Revolution special issue “The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System, and the Revolution We Need.”
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
Letter from a Prisoner:
January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
February 12 is Darwin Day—an international celebration of the birth of Charles Darwin, who first developed the modern scientific theory of the evolution of life. On the occasion of this day, we are reposting on revcom.us an excerpt from a letter from a prisoner who wrote to Insight Press, publisher of The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters by Ardea Skybreak. Insight Press forwarded the letter to Revolution so it could be shared with our readers.
I bought this book because I'd had the great fortune of reading it in [Revolutionary Worker] as a series a few years ago [editors' note: Ardea Skybreak's work originally appeared as a series in the Revolutionary Worker—Revolution newspaper's former name]. I was absolutely fascinated by Ardea Skybreak's presentation of evolution scientifically and exposé of the myth of creationism. It was and is very beautiful and enlightening.
What I enjoyed most about the series and now the book is that it has caused me to think and look at life and the world differently, scientifically! And not in a way that causes me to feel that I've lost the sense of purpose and destiny and amazement religion is supposed to provide. Rather, with new found purpose! Let me quote from one of my favorite parts of the book: Since there's really no particular special purpose to our existence...
"Does that mean we don't matter? Does it mean we might as well kill each other off because there's no god out there to care what we do one way or the other? Does it mean that our lives have absolutely no purpose? Of course not! Our lives are precious and we do matter a great deal...to each other! We should decide to "do the right thing"—and act with each other with some integrity and in ways that are "moral and ethical"—not because we're afraid we'll get written up by some warden-like god if we don't, but because what we do directly affects the quality of human life. And, of course, our lives can and do have purpose (though different people will define that in different ways in accordance with their world outlooks), because we humans can choose to imbue our lives with purpose!
"So here we are: a bunch of wonderfully complex living creatures, who have been at one and the same time highly destructive and highly creative, with an unprecedented capacity to consciously transform the natural world around us and the societies in which we live. There's nothing else 'out there'...but isn't this plenty enough?"
I love that part. It kind of throws the last shovel full of dirt on God's grave. It gives expression to the fact that all we've got is each other and whether we matter ultimately depends on what we do with our capacities as a species and how we use them to be better humans or go extinct.
I'm not the only one who read this book since I got it. A few captives have been intrigued by my enthusiastic promotion of it and put down the Mario Puzo and Jackie Collins novels for long enough to give it a try. It's amazing how much has been kept from us! How much knowledge about ourselves as human beings and how we came into existence has been withheld and for why! Not to mention the rest of the world around us. A couple of the captives who read the book (as best as our limited educations permit us to reach much higher than a seventh or eighth grade level) had never been exposed to the theory of evolution before or had gross misunderstandings or misconceptions (furnished by the ruling class, reactionaries, and various brands of religious fundamentalists) of what evolution is and how it works. One captive thought "evolution" was a religion, like Christianity or Islam!
One of the most fundamental things we all learned is that all life underwent and continues to undergo evolution. Before realizing this essential point, many of us assumed that only humans evolved, or that evolution only applied to the human species. And then there was the linear evolutionary model we've all seen of the chimp slowly losing hair and walking erect to conquer in our conception of how human beings actually evolved from our closest living relative, the chimpanzee. It was very easy to understand and imagine the whole evolutionary process in all its complexity, from the formation of the earth and single celled bacteria to how speciation and other natural factors contributed to evolutionary dead ends and countless "branching" of life. Very amazing.
I particularly enjoyed Ardea Skybreak's critique of creationism and how she turned the various brands of creationists—from Old Earth to Young Earth, from Evolutionary Creationists to Intelligent Design Creationists—on their heads. Most captives grew up in this society poor and oppressed and steeped and indoctrinated in religious fundamentalism, so evolution is pretty uncomfortable to lend credence to, especially in the beginning when it's hard for us to really "trade" our relatively comfortable dependence on a Creator for ideas and theories and such a lot of us haven't been given the opportunity to develop intellects for and use knowledge gained through education to support and sustain. The whole "scientific method" and process is foreign to so many people who have been figuratively and literally "locked out" of using it and working within it. So it was real refreshing to read how Ardea Skybreak not only articulated the science of evolution but also explained why evolution and the scientific method generally is so important for all human beings to know and be benefited by and why so many around the world do not have very much—if any—familiarity with the theory of evolution and how we've all been more or less kept from liberating ourselves from enslavement to religious dogma and superstition and mysticism and spirituality and enforced ignorance!
There is so much more for me to learn about and explore in this wonderful book. I have nothing but time to do what I can to immerse myself in this work and propagate a understanding of evolution and science more broadly and use my knowledge, however great or small at the moment, to encourage and motivate and inspire captives here to reconsider their purpose and power! Captives in prison are among those who need to grasp science and the theory of evolution most of all, for every aspect of our oppressive and brutal confinement SCREAMS for a liberator! Come to find out, there's not just a Liberator but Liberators—US! OURSELVES! We can free and make each other's lives better!
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
by Carl Dix | January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This article by Carl Dix appeared online at KultureKritic.com.
A passionate conversation erupted on Your Black World site about baby mamas, baby daddies and sisters raising children without a father in the picture. People talked, and argued, about this. It is very important to critically examine these issues, but this was a conversation taken up on the wrong terms.
70% of Black children are being raised in single parent homes, most of them by single women who have never been married. That's serious. But these numbers don't exist in a vacuum.
The context for this is the disappearance of legitimate ways to maintain stable families in inner cities across the U.S. Outside that context, you end up approaching single women raising most Black children as a behavior problem of Black people. Then you prescribe Bill Cosby type solutions of Black people needing to get their acts together. This is blaming the victims for the problems created by the system that oppresses Black people.
Let's ask the right questions here. Why are many Black children being raised without fathers in their lives? Why do so many of these children end up in poverty, with higher drop-out rates? Why are they more likely to end up in prison? All this results from the way the capitalist system works, together with conscious policies put in place by the people who run this country, not from Black people's behavior problems!
Chasing after profits, capitalists have moved factories and jobs to countries where workers can be worked harder for less pay in more dangerous conditions. This leaves inner city youth facing futures where jobs at living wages have just about disappeared. Even jobs at fast food places are scarce because older workers who have lost more stable jobs are increasingly taking them. And the educational system in these communities has been geared to fail our youth.
On top of this the criminal "injustice" system targets Black and Latino youth. With laws, police practices, judges and prosecutors who disproportionate arrest, convict and imprison our youth. These are the reasons for rising numbers of single parent households and of youth being raised in poverty and dropping out of school. Young Black women and men didn't create these conditions. They didn't leave millions of young people to grow up in the inner city without legitimate ways to maintain stable 2 parent families!
In this context, condemning women for having children with men they don't plan to marry comes down to blaming people for things that have been done to them. The same can be said for condemning "dead beat dads" for not supporting their kids. This amounts to accepting the oppression the system inflicts on Black people and shaming people for not denying segments of their humanity to fit into the limits this oppression puts on them.
Are millions of poor Black people in the inner cities supposed to stop having sex because the system has no avenues for them to be able to support the children who might result from that very human activity? Good luck with that approach. And before anyone says they should practice safe sex, remember that conservative politicians are working to limit access to birth control and abortion.
We don't have to accept the terms of the system, with baby mamas & baby daddies becoming the norm for parenting. And millions of children raised in poverty and facing high drop-out rates with prison looming in too many of their futures.
Things don't have to be this way. Thru revolution we can break out of sisters having to do whatever to raise children alone, brothers being unable to contribute much to their children because they're out of work or locked down in prison. And break beyond shaming both for getting caught up in the trick bag the system has forced us into. We could open up a bright future for Black youth and everyone else too, and end all the horrors this system enforces on people here in this country and around the world—the attacks on women's rights, the government spying, the wars for empire, the millions of children worldwide who die every year from disease and starvation. It will take revolution—nothing less to end all these horrors.
Revolution is possible. The leadership for it exists in Bob Avakian. The party he leads, the Revolutionary Communist Party, has developed the plan and strategic approach needed to get ready for revolution in a country like this. I have been involved in building a movement for revolution as a representative of this party.
This is the understanding that led me to join with Cornel West in 2011 to launch a campaign of civil disobedience to stop "Stop and Frisk" and to form the Stop Mass Incarceration Network to fight the slow genocide of mass incarceration. Our youth deserve better lives and a better future. They shouldn't be raised in poverty, and facing futures of dropping out of school, unemployment, low wage jobs, prison and the like. Shaming people facing and responding to conditions they did not create isn't the way to work on bringing that future about.
Young Black people do need to get out of what they're into and get into something else. But that something else is fighting the powers that have enforced these miserable conditions on us, and on the majority of humanity. They need to join the fight to stop mass incarceration and the attacks on women's rights to abortion and birth control. We need to challenge them to do this, but that challenge needs to recognize that the conditions they're in aren't their fault!
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
By Larry Everest | January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Iraq is being convulsed with reactionary violence. Nearly 8,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in 2013, double the number in 2012 and more than any year since 2008. As 2014 began, various Sunni forces attacked police stations and occupied the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. Iraq’s government has threatened to retake the cities by force, and the U.S. government has rushed it more arms.
How is the U.S. imperialist media dealing with the ongoing carnage in Iraq? One example was the January 10 New York Times front-page story titled, “Fallujah’s Fall Stuns Marines Who Fought There.” This article is an exposure of the bankruptcy and illegitimacy of the U.S. imperialist media. People need to reject this drumbeat to think like Americans, and see the world through the lens of the American empire, and start thinking about humanity!
The Times theme was the real tragedy here is that U.S. Marines had sacrificed so much to take control of Fallujah, a town of 350,000 in central Iraq, in November-December 2004 (the Times called it the Marines’ “biggest and most iconic fight since Vietnam”), and now the ‘bad guys’ had retaken it again, so their heroic sacrifice seemed to have been in vain: “It made me sick to my stomach to have that thrown in our face,” one Marine said, “everything we fought for so blatantly taken away.”
Well, what did you fight for?
The U.S. attack on Fallujah was aimed at crushing any opposition to America’s illegal and unjust invasion and occupation of Iraq—justified with the most absurd lies (“weapons of mass destruction”). This war was about conquering Iraq and restructuring the entire Middle East to entrench and expand an empire of global exploitation and oppression. It wasn’t about liberating anyone, just the opposite. And how did you fight?
The 1st Marine Division bombarded Fallujah with thousands of artillery rounds, hundreds of rockets, bombs, and missiles, and nearly 100,000 machine gun and cannon rounds. As many as 2,000 Iraqis labeled “insurgents” and another 800 or more civilians were killed. Sixty of the city’s 200 Mosques were destroyed. Some 200,000 residents were forced out of the city and into internal exile. Italian television aired a documentary entitled Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre, documenting how the U.S. government indiscriminately rained white phosphorous chemical fire down on the Iraqi city and melted women and children to death. And U.S. forces used depleted uranium weapons against the people of Fallujah, leaving a legacy of birth defects to this day.
None of this is anything to identify with or to be proud of being part of, and there is nothing to uphold about those who carried out these crimes.
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
From A World to Win News Service
January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Note from Revolution: For some background on the situation, see the A World to Win News Service article "Sri Lanka: A foreseeable massacre" from 2009.
January 6, 2014. A World to Win News Service. In a sharp indictment of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime in Sri Lanka, video footage screened by UK television Channel 4 News has shown the military shooting unarmed people in the head at point blank range, with many bodies of men and women lying on the ground.
One of the victims of these executions was a woman known as Isaipriya, a high-profile journalist who was part of the press and communications department for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Her body was identified by a close friend, who said that due to health conditions Isaipriya never carried a gun or went to the battlefield. Instead she carried a camera and notepad to document the situation around her. Her varied artistic talents included acting, singing and dancing, and she became a TV presenter for LTTE's channel. The LTTE were fighting for a homeland in the north and east of Sri Lanka where the majority of the population is Tamil.
The Channel 4 video shows 27-year-old Isaipriya being led away half-naked and being given a cloth to cover herself by people in military uniform who are heard saying they had found Tamil Tiger rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran's daughter. She is seen telling her captors "No, I am not her."
While what caused her death is uncertain, the video shows cuts to her face, and her hands appear to be tied behind her back. Later in the video her body is seen positioned in a ditch alongside another bound woman. The Sinhalese-speaking soldiers look directly into the camera.
The Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense website lists May 18, 2009, as the date of her death and the names of the soldiers who killed her. It refers to her as Lt. Col. Isaipriya and says she was killed along with 31 other LTTE leaders while engaged in a hostile operation against the Sri Lanka Security Forces during an offensive attack by troops of the 53rd division in the last few days of the war. Some 100,000 people lost their lives in the 26-year-long civil war.
Experts and many others dispute the assertions made by the government. After considering the images and whether there should be prosecution of those responsible, international war crimes lawyer Julian Knowles said: "To my eye, two things stand out—one is the fastening of the hands behind the back. It's difficult to see how that could have happened if this death occurred in the course of battle. Secondly there's the absence of any weapons—and thirdly the bodies look posed or arranged. They don't look like they've fallen necessarily in battle as the result of a battle-led injury, so it's difficult to think of a mechanism how they could have died other than a cold blooded execution."
He went on to say, "Even if she had been injured in battle and left to die by the soldiers pictured in the video, that still constituted a grave breach of the Geneva Convention... that these mopping up operations did involve the mass killings of civilians or combatants who were trying to surrender. Mopping up operations is just really a euphemism... this is astonishingly powerful evidence of a type I've only seen in a handful of times—there's some footage from Yugoslavia about mass killings—and this is up there. It's within a very very rare category of evidence where killings are actually captured on tape and the idea that there can be a debate about whether there should be an investigation in the face of evidence like this is very surprising."
Rajapaksa insists that no war crimes were committed during or after the country's civil war and has repeatedly refused to allow an independent investigation of atrocities on the part of his troops who allegedly killed 40,000 civilians. But the evidence indicates that he rules the country now with the same efficiency, viciousness and iron hand that he used to annihilate the Tamil Tigers and tens of thousands of people who supported them. Human rights organizations say the country has not stopped pervasive human rights violations such as extra-judicial killings, disappearances and the weakening of checks on executive power through media freedom and judicial independence.
Since 2009 the former war zone of the north has continued to be heavily occupied by the army. Infrastructure is being greatly improved and Sinhalese are flooding to the north, which Tamils see as another form of occupation. The president's brother Gotabaya has said that it is unnatural for the north to be predominantly Tamil. There are 89,000 war widows in the north and east of Sri Lanka and these women endure sexual harassment and violence from the huge army contingent that still occupies and basically runs the area.
A United Nations report said 70,000 civilians were still unaccounted for after the war. Almost 10,000 are still living in refugee camps. Another UN report says that after Iraq, Sri Lanka has the highest number of disappearances in the world, over 5,600 people. The actual number is considered to be much higher. Most of these disappearances date back to the civil war, but today disappearances of social activists, journalists and government opposition figures continue at an alarming rate. Recently even a high court judge was assaulted after complaining about executive interference in the courts.
One form of suppression and terror is the men in white vans who come to snatch people away from their homes or on the streets. Most of these people are never seen again. Leena Manimekalai from Channel 4 News documented this in her film White Van Stories. Despite severe vigilance and intimidation by the Sri Lankan military, her team interviewed 500 families whose members disappeared after being abducted, taken for enquiry or surrendering during the last stage of war in 2009. The resolute determination of the families to get their stories told gave Manimekalai courage to continue. She went through heavily militarized zones, endured intense intimidation and risked possible "disappearance" herself, like many journalists who dare criticize the government. On one occasion she was held for questioning for several hours and on another she was told to leave the country.
Channel 4 News aired the Isaipriya video shortly before the three-day summit by the Commonwealth Heads of Government in Colombo last November. Outraged Indian Tamils demonstrated against India's planned participation in the event hosted by the Sri Lankan regime. India was obliged to send a lower-level delegation. Among the 50 mainly former member British colonies making up the Commonwealth today, Canada and Mauritius boycotted the meeting.
Before the summit opening, UK Prime Minister David Cameron made a visit to the Tamil region, where he was confronted by several hundred people holding up pictures of loved ones disappeared by the Rajapaksa government. Cameron as well as other politicians called for transparent and independent investigation of the regime's "alleged war crimes." Rajapaksa simply responded to these criticisms as hypocritical, considering the long history of violence and abuse endured under British colonial rule in Asia.
A statement by the Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist) entitled, "The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting: A Meeting of Genocidal Criminals, Terrorists, and Torturers," summarizes it like this: "The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) was held in Sri Lanka recently, between the 15th and 17th of November 2013. This is at a time when the Sri Lankan State and the current Rajapaksa regime is being held accountable for 'alleged' war crimes and atrocities during the final phase of the civil war by the UNHRC in Geneva, led by the U.S. and its coalition of partners. The U.S., as the number one terrorist, genocidal state in the world and in history, which stands accused of the most horrendous and barbaric war crimes, and its equally complicit coalition, is holding one of its trusted junior neo-colonial partners accountable for war crimes. This has to do with consolidating effective control over the lifelines and the politics of Sri Lanka in the context of intensifying inter-imperialist rivalry to maintain and expand strategic superiority in the Asia Pacific/Indian Ocean Region between the U.S. and China. It shows up the murdering hypocrisy of the imperialist system, including that of the United Nations.
"To be expected, the Commonwealth, a crowning world body of former genocidal colonial predator states along with their bloodied neo-colonial enforcers, has conferred its blessings and approval on one of the most trusted and ruthless neo-colonial terrorist executors of world imperialism—the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. The Commonwealth has conferred chairmanship to an 'alleged' war criminal being held accountable by the UN. The regime seized upon the chance to ingratiate and legitimate itself with this club of colonial-imperialist criminals in order to save its neck from the Geneva stranglehold.
"It was indeed pathetic and comic to see H.E. the President beaming with supreme pride as he showered his supine and servile graces upon Prince Charles, who had represented the Queen of Britain—one last archaic symbolic vestige of colonial barbarism, genocidal conquest and plunder. This is the Executive President who is claimed to be the reincarnation of a legendary line of Sinhala warrior-conqueror kings. The one who had authorized and orchestrated the military decimation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and 'liberated the Motherland'. This is the President who stands up as the guardian of the Sinhala-Buddhist Nation, the living embodiment of militant patriotism, fighting to defend the Land, Religion and Language of the 'chosen people' against any and all foreign powers. The charade, the hypocrisy, the sheer ideological jugglery and political bankruptcy, the abject colonial servility was drowned out by the sustained din of official patriotism, jingoism and self-glorification, designed to stupefy and entrance the masses into fervent submission to the regime.
"It was just one sick show of abject servility and capitulation to colonial-imperialist and regional hegemonic powers who are busily dividing up, slicing and devouring the country in order to advance their geo-political strategic interests in the region, with the regime living off the fat spoils of imperialist exploitation, profit and plunder."
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 #327 January 19, 2014
January 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
January 13, 2014. A World to Win News Service. When Ariel Sharon died January 11 after eight years in a coma, most Western politicians and media, if they were critical at all, called him "controversial" or "divisive, mainly referring to Israeli public opinion. Nevertheless they treated the occasion with great solemnity and respect. It was like "a death in the family", U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden lamented at the memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv, notable for the empty seats and hilltops that the public failed to fill.
What Israeli and Western statesmen felt should be considered most memorable and unifying about Sharon was his qualities as a "warrior"—his "courage" and his "North Star", as Biden put it, his commitment to the Zionist cause. This reveals much of what the Palestinian people are up against. There is no controversy about the facts. Sharon built an identity as a butcher on a mass scale. There are no two conflicting sides to his story, just two different sides in the real world, divided by whether or not the Palestinian people should be crushed.
Sharon's military career started with the Naqba, the armed expulsion of Palestinians from their homes that marked the establishment of Israel in 1948. Later, as a rapidly rising young officer, he founded and commanded the Israeli Army's Unit 101. Its mission was to carry out reprisal raids against villages outside of what was then Israel, punishing civilians for harbouring "infiltrators"—Palestinian fighters, smugglers and often unarmed people trying to get back home. In 1953, he lead an assault against a village called Qibya.
The village was guarded by a dozen or less armed men. Sharon's unit, with hundreds of soldiers, blocked off the village on all sides, fired mortars and rockets and then went in. They killed 69 people. More than half (The New York Times, January 13, 2014) of the dead and perhaps as many as two-thirds were women and children. Many died in their homes, which soldiers shot up and then demolished without checking to see who was inside. The attackers suffered only one slightly wounded soldier. This is the "battle" that brought Sharon to prominence as Israel's signature "warrior", to quote the title of his autobiography.
Sharon was a cold-blooded strategist, however, not just a monster, and he understood the political aims of his war. "The orders were utterly clear: Qibya was to become an example for everyone," wrote Israeli historian Benny Morris in Israel's Border Wars. That was Sharon's creed as a soldier: to make a special point of killing not just fighters but civilians in order to demonstrate Israeli power and ruthlessness, to terrorize the Palestinian people into submission. The UN condemned the massacre but Sharon was promoted to help reorganize and shape the Israeli army. Unit 101 was disbanded, but it became a model for the tactics and spirit of the Israeli armed forces.
Real courage in the pursuit of justice lay with Israel's enemies. After those years Sharon himself was not directly involved in fighting Palestinian fedayeen, who won some important tactical victories against overwhelming odds, for instance the celebrated battle of Karameh in 1968. Sharon's most famous campaign was when he led the invasion of Egypt in 1973. In the city of Suez, factory workers and other people, armed and hastily organized by nationalist army officers and leftists in the Popular Resistance Committees, came out to stop the Israeli army from taking the city. Armed mainly with rifles and RPGs, they destroyed tanks, surrounded the invaders and captured many professional soldiers, helping to halt the Israeli push towards Cairo. Although Israel eventually came out on top in this war, it destroyed the myth of Zionist invincibility.
In 1982, Sharon repeated Qibya on an even more massive scale. With U.S. backing, he launched and led an invasion of Lebanon. The pretext was that Israel was protecting its own security by clearing Palestinian fighters along the border. Then the Israeli armed forces moved far north into Beirut, where they forced the Palestine Liberation Organization leadership and thousands of its fighters to leave the country by ship. The American government, supposedly acting as a mediator, guaranteed the safety of the Palestinian civilians left behind.
The U.S. and Israel hoped they could run the country through an alliance with the Christian-based Phalangist party, whose head Bashir Gamayel was set to become the country's president. Bashir had agreed to let Israel take over southern Lebanon, which they did. But then he was assassinated.
The day Bashir was killed, Sharon met with the family, one of the most powerful clans in Lebanon, supposedly to offer his condolences. According to Time magazine, "Sharon reportedly told the Gemayels that the Israeli army would be moving into West Beirut and that he expected the Christian forces to go into the Palestinian refugee camps. Sharon also reportedly discussed with the Geymayels the need for the Phalangists to take revenge for the assassination of Bashir, but the details of the conversation are not known." (Time, February 21, 1983) The Israeli government blamed the PLO for the assassination, even though they knew that was not true.
The Israeli army surrounded the adjacent Palestinian refugee camps known as Sabra and Shatila. They prevented anyone from leaving, but let Phalangist militiamen move in. Israeli flares lit the night sky. The Phalangist leader of the operation, Elie Hobeika, and the Israeli field commander on the scene, Brigadier General Amos Yanon, were stationed together on an overlooking rooftop.
An Israeli lieutenant later told a Knesset (Israeli parliament) commission that an hour after the Phalangist militia entered the camp's narrow streets, an officer in the camp radioed for instructions about what to do with the women and children. Hobeika answered, "This is the last time you're going to ask me a question like that. You know exactly what to do." The Israeli general was aware of this exchange (see indictsharon.net). When twenty years later, a Belgian court prepared to try Sharon, Yanon and Hobeika for the massacre, the Phalangist said that in his own defence he would testify that the Israelis knew and approved of everything. He was killed by a car bomb and the case was dismissed at the U.S.'s insistence.
There is also evidence that the Israeli army itself killed many Palestinians, even after the massacre had ended in the camp. Only about 600 bodies were found in Sabra and Shatila, while almost 2,000 people are known to have disappeared and the actual toll may have been higher. British journalist Robert Fisk, who arrived on the scene shortly after the Phalangists left, wrote that the Israelis brought "probably well over a thousand" Palestinian men and boys to the nearby sports stadium. When he returned, they were gone, and their families couldn't find them. After discussions with witnesses, he concluded that the Israelis killed the prisoners and buried them in secret graves. (Robert Fisk, The Independent, reprinted by Counterpunch, November 28, 2001)
The basic facts about Sabra and Shatila came out in the report of the commission established by the Israeli parliament after an unprecedented public outcry in Israel in the days following the massacre. Yet the Kahan commission came to the conclusion that the massacre was the work of the Phalangists alone, while Sharon and other officers were guilty of failing to prevent it. That commission held that Sharon bore "personal responsibility", and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was "indirectly responsible" for not looking into Sharon's negligence.
That was both a mere slap on the hand and a cover-up. While Sharon certainly did bear personal responsibility, the massacre was not due to his negligence or indifference—or even his personal criminality. It was committed as part of overall Israeli policy toward the Palestinians and its neighbours, policies that led to three invasions of Lebanon and continuing horrors against the Palestinians. These are the natural result of Zionism itself—logical solutions to the problem of establishing and safeguarding a Jewish state based on the racist fantasy of a mystically-defined Jewish people worldwide somehow gathered into a single nation and endowed with a genetic birthright to land already peopled for thousands of years.
As a consequence, Sharon was forced to resign as Defence Minister, but Begin kept him on in the cabinet. Begin is said to have told Sharon, "You are young. You still have much to do." He remained a pillar of Israel's political establishment as well as its leading general, and went on to continue his work as prime minister until a stroke left him all but dead in 2006. His "personal responsibility" was approved by Israel's ruling class as a whole and a large part of the electorate. There was never any danger that he would end up facing an international trial for his crimes. The U.S. did not let that happen.
Sharon used the various cabinet posts he occupied to win himself the name of the father of the Jewish settlement movement. The Israeli government financed and protected Jewish "settlers" who helped themselves to land still occupied and farmed by Palestinians in the West Bank. In 1998 he told them to "run and grab as many hilltops as they can, because everything we take will be ours." (Reuters, January 12, 2014) These settlements are armed outposts of the Zionist state in what remains of Palestinian territories.
But what most made Sharon "controversial", especially in Israel today, is that he supposedly turned against the settlement movement. In 2005 he sent Israeli troops to evacuate Jewish families who refused to leave Gaza, which Israel invaded and took over in 1967.
The evacuation move sparked an ideological crisis in a movement that until then thought itself entitled to whatever it wanted because of what it considered God's promise. Some families are still enraged about losing their highly subsidized farms and businesses in Gaza. Perhaps they resent having been wiling Zionist cannon fodder. But the evacuation did not represent a departure from the goals behind state support for the settler movement.
It enabled the Israeli state to consolidate its military situation, so that its troops would no longer be tied down defending a few hundred families. The displaced settlers were supposed to be sent to fatten up more viable Jewish towns in the West Bank.
Even more important was the political purpose of what Sharon called "disengagement". For Sharon this was a change of tactics, not change of heart. Tony Blair, who famously lied to the British public to garner acceptance for the invasion of Iraq and was rewarded by becoming the envoy for the Quartet, a body established by the U.S.,UK, EU, UN and Russia to oversee the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, shamelessly told the truth at Ariel Sharon's memorial. Blair said he wanted to correct the widely-accepted misconception that Sharon "changed from man of war to a man of peace. He never changed. His strategic objective never wavered. The state of Israel... had to be preserved for future generations. When that meant fighting, he fought. When that meant making peace, he sought peace with the same iron determination."
But what was this talk of "peace" if not another attempt to crush the Palestinians by other means? Sharon conducted the evacuation of Gaza unilaterally in order to weaken and not strengthen the PLO's authority. He considered it a matter of principle never to negotiate with Palestinians. He had refused to shake hands with PLO chairman Yasser Arafat when Arafat signed on to the U.S. plan for a "two-state solution", and kept Arafat a prisoner in his home until the day he died under circumstances that have never been made clear.
If Sharon had come to believe in the necessity of a "two-state solution," as the U.S. had by then—and because of his subsequent stroke no one can know exactly what he had in mind or what he would have done later—the plan was (and still is) to make a "Palestinian" state that would amount to nothing more than a big detention centre. The same vision connected Israel's construction of a wall around the West Bank, which began under Sharon, and his policy of "disengagement" that meant that instead of occupying Gaza, Israel would fence it in and pick off its inhabitants from the air whenever considered necessary.
Whether or not a Palestinian "mini-state" is ever allowed to emerge, what Sharon tried to further, and the U.S. still values, is the "peace process". This "process" only goes one way—against Palestinians. The number of West Bank settlers swelled by a third during the years Sharon spent in a coma, with no end in sight. Further, it is based on an illusion: the U.S. is no more likely to protect the Palestinians in the future than it did at Sabra and Shatila. Very importantly, it provides political cover for reactionary Arab regimes allied with Washington, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
But it also causes some ideological friction for some Israelis who object to interference with what they consider God's plan. They hate even pretending to consider Palestinians as worthy of rights. To the degree that there are real contradictions between Israel and the U.S., it is because that while the U.S. cannot do without the Jewish state, a reliable outpost in an increasingly volatile region, the U.S. is also concerned with the regional stability that Israel often endangers. For the U.S. and the EU, Sharon's memorial—where they hailed this mass murderer as a "man of peace"—was an occasion to gently nudge the Israeli government toward the revival of the "peace process".
This was unwelcome for many Israelis. Only a few thousand came to his funeral. Many hated Sharon. Some of them were embarrassed by his naked, joyful brutality, even though they cannot imagine an acceptable alternative to the Jewish state. Others, especially the so-called national religious movement, considered him a traitor. As much as they clash, both currents operate within the limits of the interests of the larger settler state. That's why a sober-minded, secular Zionist like Sharon championed crazed Jewish religious fanatics when that served Israel's goals.
The concept of a multi-national, non-religious state once championed by the PLO has been blasted off today's political landscape, in no small part due to Sharon and the policies he represented. He did his part—under the wing of the U.S., of course—to create the conditions, at times deliberately, in which Islamic fundamentalism is thrusting itself to the forefront of the struggle against Zionism.
At the memorial for Sharon, the present Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said, "Your memory will be part of this nation forever." That's true: Sharon's criminal deeds were totally consistent with the criminality of the Zionist project, and will always be synonymous with Israel and the imperialist powers it serves.
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 #327 January 19, 2014
Contribute to BA Everywhere!
Updated April 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following is the text of a national leaflet for the BA Everywhere campaign. At the end of the article is a link to a pdf version, suitable for downloading and printing.
We face a crossroads. In the opening of his 2014 New Year's Message, Bob Avakian put it like this:
“Look at the world today. Destruction of the environment. Youth in the inner cities robbed of a future, ‘presumed guilty’ for being Black or Brown, hounded and shot down by police, incarcerated in huge numbers. Women raped, battered and murdered, denied their basic humanity and their full potential as human beings. People scorned, bullied, brutalized for being gay, or just being ‘different.’ Millions of children dying every year from starvation and disease. Immigrants driven from their homelands, forced into the shadows, exploited, deported, ripped away from their children. Slaughter and enslavement in the name of one god or another. Wars, torture, and massive government spying.
“Things are this way because of the system that rules over us and declares its ‘special right’ to rule the world. A system like this is a system that no one should put up with or go along with. It needs to be swept off the face of the earth. And it can be.
“This system is not a mystery, or something that only a few people can understand. And it is not all-powerful. This system has a name—capitalism. This system is full of contradictions—an economy based on ruthless exploitation and dog-eat-dog competition, repeated crises, unemployment and poverty... savage inequalities...claims of ‘peace’ and ‘justice for all’ that are bitter lies—contradictions that this system cannot resolve. All this is the basis to bring this system down and bring something much better into being.”
Bob Avakian—BA—has not only named this insanity, he has put forward a solution to it: revolution, communist revolution. He has, over the past 40 years, developed a new synthesis of communism—building on the path-breaking achievements of past revolutions, but also summing up their shortcomings and problems and on that basis forged a further pathway to emancipation.
Nothing less than revolution is needed for a better world. Revolution today—if it is to bring about a better society and future without exploitation and oppression—means BA's new synthesis of communism. He has shown how such a revolution could actually be made... yes, even in today's world. And BA is leading a party, and a movement, to make all that real.
Bob Avakian has developed a vision and viable framework for a new society that is working to overcome and dig up the roots of all the forms of exploitation and savage inequality that people suffer from today; where wars of plunder and subjugation of nations and cultures are no more; where a new constitution would require safeguarding the environment. All in a framework that gives great scope to intellectual work, ferment, and dissent so that people could consciously and collectively strive for a world where all humanity could flourish.
The work BA has done creates new possibility at an excruciating time for humanity—nothing less than an opening for a visionary and viable future. The biggest immediate problem right now is that all this is basically not known. It's not on the scene in the way it needs to be—engaged and discussed, popularized and debated. And to solve that problem, there is, right now, a major fundraising campaign to make Avakian's work and leadership known in every corner of society.
If you are seriously concerned about the direction that this capitalist world is heading... if you look for real at current political institutions and processes that offer no fundamental answers to all the misery in the world... you need to check out and engage BA. And, you can contribute to making this known.
BA Everywhere is a national campaign to raise large sums of money so that BA becomes a household word. So that this radical vision and strategy of how the world could be becomes a contending pole throughout society... so that when people are profoundly outraged by the horrific situation and the oppressive, paltry, and draconian political solutions put forward by the system, they know about and are able to weigh all that up against what BA has brought forward.
The BA Everywhere campaign has begun to make a difference—reaching deep into where people live, work, and struggle. It has sponsored bus tours of volunteers of all ages and nationalities to go into the Deep South, the California fields, and the inner cities, spreading BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian—a handbook for revolution of quotes and short essays—and the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Artists have contributed their work and performances. Hundreds of copies of BAsics have been sent into the prisons. From barber shops, to housing projects, to salons in well-off neighborhoods—people are beginning to talk, engage, debate and wrangle with BA. This needs to be amplified a thousandfold.
These are times of great peril and great possibility—potential that is constrained by people not knowing that there is a viable revolutionary solution.
Your financial contribution as well as your creativity and effort to make BA known now will make it possible for whole sections of people to engage and debate BA's vision and framework for a new society. As this becomes known and a contending social force it will change how whole sections of people think about what is desirable and possible. The times will once again resonate with big dreams and growing potential for the emancipation of all humanity.
Bob Avakian came out of the struggles of the 1960s, working closely with the Black Panther Party and other radical movements of the times. Coming off that era, he led in forming the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. After the defeats of the first socialist revolutions in the 20th century, first in the former Soviet Union in the mid-1950s, and then in China in 1976 after the death of Mao, BA went deeply into this experience—learning from and firmly upholding and defending their path-breaking achievements, while also scientifically probing and summing up their shortcomings. Drawing from that, and from broader inquiry, he has developed a new synthesis of communism that builds on this and in important dimensions is a leap beyond what came before—enabling humanity to do even better in the revolutions to come.
See more information on Bob Avakian
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
"They Murdered My Son and they got away with it"—
January 16, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
January 13, 2014, Fullerton, California. Another punch in the gut is delivered by the American system of injustice as the two Fullerton cops on trial for killing Kelly Thomas walk out of court free—a jury declaring "not guilty on all counts" of second degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, and excessive use of force.
This verdict is a message being sent to the masses of people in this country, not just by the defense and the jury in this case, but by the rulers of this country: Police repression, brutality and murder is not only perfectly fine, to be expected, and accepted, but is a "standard operating procedure." They are telling us, "This is going to continue to happen, to intensify, so shut up and take it!"
On July 5, 2011, Thomas, a white, 37-year old, mentally ill, homeless man, was jumped by six Fullerton cops in the local bus terminal. He was beaten with batons, tasered multiple times over and over, and when the electric charge ran out the cop beat him with the butt of the taser gun. The beating so disfigured his face that he was completely unrecognizable from his pictures. He died 5 days later, after never regaining consciousness.
This murder was caught on video and it showed the savagery and brutality of the beating inflicted upon Kelly. You could hear him calling out for his father and saying he could not breathe, but the beating continued until he became unconscious. One of the murdering cops, Manuel Ramos, can be seen in the video putting on a pair of Latex gloves, making two fists and telling Thomas, "Now you see my fists? They're getting ready to fuck you up." While the other murdering cop, Jay Cicinelli, later recounted, "I got to the end of my Taser and I probably...I just probably smashed his face to hell."
Protests of hundreds, demanding justice for Kelly and the arrest of the cops who killed him, took place over several months in Fullerton. It was due to these protests that the cops were finally indicted, the Chief of Police resigned, and three city council members were recalled.
The video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fs4iZtvYZg) of the beating was clearly evidence that Kelly had been viciously beaten to death by the cops. Plus the coroner listed the cause of death as brain death caused by asphyxiation from the officers piling on Kelly's chest. A person writing to the Orange County Register about another police murder wrote, "This case of police justifying a killing of an unarmed man reminds me of Kelly Thomas, who was beaten to death last year. Luckily in that situation they had many witnesses and videotape to bring a case against the officers."
But this is America and now in America, even clear video evidence of cops murdering people does not result in convictions. Because in America, as we have learned with the Rodney King beating and the Oscar Grant trial and Trayvon Martin murder trial, evidence and the truth does not mean shit when it comes to cops and vigilantes. In America, trials of murdering cops end up with blaming the victim, with the prosecutors forgetting how to prosecute, and with laws and rules that give cops the right "to use deadly force." This is what happened in the Kelly Thomas murder trial as clear evidence of the murder gave way to an argument about whether the cops adhered to proper standards, to attacking Kelly Thomas, painting him as a violent person due to his mental illness and as a drug user, and with the prosecutors, who openly admitted that they failed to prosecute in a way that would show a "burden of proof."
What's shown by this trial and the verdict is that it is perfectly legitimate for the cops to use "illegitimate deadly force." That was the cops' defense; that it's perfectly okay to do this. "They (the cops) were just doing their job," said the defense attorneys. "They were trained to do this." Think about it, they were trained to savagely brutalize, pummel, and murder Kelly Thomas. If you don't believe that's what they did, then watch the video and look at pictures of his face. Yes, this is the reality of America for millions of people in this country.
But we are not going to stand by and let this shit continue to go down. We are not going to stop fighting against this until we put an end to it once and for all. "The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness...those days must be GONE. And they CAN be." ("The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have," A Message, And A Call, From The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Revolution #170, July 19, 2009.)
Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas' father and a former Orange County Sheriff's deputy, said he was stunned by the verdict, and that he'd "never seen such a miscarriage of justice." "It's carte blanche for police officers everywhere to beat us, kill us" and "they'll get away with it." ("Former California Police Officers Found Not Guilty Of Killing Homeless Man" by Gillian Flaccus, Huffington Post, January 14, 2014) Kelly's mother said, "They murdered my son and they got away with it."
We say no more Kelly Thomases, no more Oscar Grants, no more Trayvon Martins!
"If you can't handle this situation differently than this, then get the fuck out of the way. Not only out of the way of this situation, but get off the earth. Get out of the way of the masses of people. Because, you know, we could have handled this situation any number of ways that would have resulted in a much better outcome. And frankly, if we had state power and we were faced with a similar situation, we would sooner have one of our own people's police killed than go wantonly murder one of the masses. That's what you're supposed to do if you're actually trying to be a servant of the people. You go there and you put your own life on the line, rather than just wantonly murder one of the people. Fuck all this 'serve and protect' bullshit! If they were there to serve and protect, they would have found any way but the way they did it to handle this scene. They could have and would have found a solution that was much better than this. This is the way the proletariat, when it's been in power has handled—and would again handle—this kind of thing, valuing the lives of the masses of people. As opposed to the bourgeoisie in power, where the role of their police is to terrorize the masses, including wantonly murdering them, murdering them without provocation, without necessity, because exactly the more arbitrary the terror is, the more broadly it affects the masses. And that's one of the reasons why they like to engage in, and have as one of their main functions to engage in, wanton and arbitrary terror against the masses of people." (Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, BAsics 2:16, on the police murder of Tyisha Miller.)
On Monday night after the verdict, a protest of close to 100 people took place near the site where Kelly was murdered, then people marched to the police department. People shouted "Justice for Kelly Thomas. We saw the video." Signs read "No More Killer Cops" and "End Police Brutality." People in Fullerton are planning a protest for Saturday, January 18th at 10am at the Fullerton Police Department. We'll be there and encourage others to be there too.
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
January 20, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In the [original] article on BA Everywhere, there are a number of good and important points. But there are, unfortunately, some formulations which are wrong and actually harmful—which are not scientific and run counter to the emphasis in this piece itself, and how we have been giving emphasis overall, to the need for and importance of a scientific method and approach, and which can have the effect of promoting religiosity, and of undermining BA Everywhere and the pivotal role it must play in the overall ensemble of revolutionary work we are carrying out now. Here I am going to focus on two of these formulations which concentrate the problem.
The most striking of these is the following:
"Without BA Everywhere, quite simply, revolution is not possible...."
This is simply not true. BA Everywhere is a very important campaign—it is at this point the leading edge of the overall revolutionary work (the ensemble) we are carrying out—but it is just that, a campaign, and NOT something on which the whole prospect of revolution depends. Think about it: as important as it is to actually achieve the objectives of this campaign (BA Everywhere), if we were to fail to do so, would it actually be correct to conclude that revolution had become impossible? To pose the question this way points to the answer: NO. Failing in this campaign would constitute a serious setback—and for that, as well as more positive reasons, we should really work to achieve the goals of this campaign, as the leading edge of the overall ensemble of our revolutionary work in this period—but if this should somehow fail, we would sum up what happened (how and why we fell short, etc.) and we would determine how to regroup and fight forward toward the goal of revolution, on the basis of a scientific assessment that this revolution is still both necessary and possible. Starting out this important paragraph with a sentence that is wrong, unscientific, vitiates what follows in this paragraph and in a significant way vitiates the article as a whole.
It is true that without making major advances in terms of the impact of the first mainstay of our overall revolutionary work—the appreciation, promotion and popularization of BA/the new synthesis of communism—as well as the other mainstay (the website/newspaper), we would very likely be unable to make revolution. But that is NOT the same thing as saying what is said in this piece—that "Without BA Everywhere, quite simply, revolution is not possible." Among other things, what is involved here is a confusing—a conflating—of BA Everywhere with the first mainstay, in its role overall and in an ongoing way.
To further highlight the decisive distinctions here, let me suggest a rewrite of the passage in question:
"The widespread promotion and popularization of the new synthesis of communism that BA has brought forward, and what is embodied in his leadership overall, is a crucial part of preparing minds as well as organizing forces for revolution. In this period BA Everywhere is the concentrated focus of the work to carry out that promotion and popularization. It is the leading edge now of a whole strategic process interacting with objective developments in the world through which the movement for revolution and the party that is leading the revolution gets built; a process through which a revolutionary people takes shape; a process which can hasten the understanding of people broadly that the system is the problem—with its leaders and structures seen to be illegitimate and through which millions can come to see that this revolution is the solution to the horrific and intractable problems that humanity faces. If people broadly do not know there is another way the world could be—with a vision and plan for a far better society that would actually be liberatory; and know and respect that there is a plan and a leadership to make that real; that there is a whole other way to think about, understand, and act on what is the problem and what the solution is in the world today, then the world will stay as it is—destroying lives and crushing spirits.”
Instead of the above, what was in this part of the piece, as written and posted, can very well encourage both religiosity and defeatism, making everything hinge on the success (or failure) of BA Everywhere. To emphasize it once more, it is certainly NOT the case that we do not need to be stressing the importance of achieving the objectives of BA Everywhere—indeed, we very much and very urgently need to actually realize those objectives, and we need to be leading people on the basis of that understanding—but this needs to be done, and in fact can only be done, on the basis of being thoroughly and consistently scientific, and not lapsing into non-scientific analyses and statements which run counter to what we need to be leading with and popularizing.
The other formulation that concentrates the problems I am focusing on here comes a little earlier in the article. It is in the following paragraph, speaking to the need for revolution, as the solution to the problem in the world:
"Today, what makes this possible is the leadership and the work of Bob Avakian—BA—the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. The basis for revolution lies within the very nature of the capitalist system itself—its very sharp contradictions that repeatedly give rise to great suffering and crisis, including at times acute situations when the system is shaken to its foundations. Whether the contradictions and crises of this system can be transformed into a revolution depends on far-sighted, scientific revolutionary leadership."
To make the bald statement—and to start this paragraph with this bald statement—that what makes revolution possible now is the leadership and work of BA puts things on the wrong foundation and wrong footing. It strongly implies, if it does not actually state, that without BA revolution would not be possible. This is wrong, and harmful—and again promotes religiosity, which can easily "flip" into (or in fact be accompanied by) defeatism. What if something were to happen to me, which literally or in effect removed me from the scene and meant that I could no longer provide leadership? Obviously, something like that would be a very major setback—and doing everything possible to prevent this is critically important. But, if such a setback were to occur, would it be scientifically correct to say that revolution would then become impossible? NO—again. No, because the fundamental basis for this revolution resides in the contradictions of this system.
Along the same lines, in the last sentence (in the paragraph as written) the statement that the possibility of making revolution (on the basis of the contradictions and acute crises of this system) "depends on" scientific revolutionary leadership, is also too bald, and absolute. This possibility of revolution does depend to a large degree on this—but everything, even in the context of acute crisis, cannot be reduced to just the subjective factor (scientific revolutionary leadership). And, as I have emphasized before, we should not be giving grist to formulations—which in fact are redolent of religiosity—that it is "because of BA" that revolution is possible. While, again—and this does need to be stressed—scientific revolutionary leadership is crucial, and this does take concentrated expression in the new synthesis and the leadership I am providing, it is NOT correct to say that this leadership is what "makes revolution possible." If you compare this incorrect statement to what is said in the "Because" statement which we have correctly given emphasis to, the basic difference will stand out. *
In this paragraph in the piece (on BA Everywhere) as originally posted, it is the second sentence that is actually fundamental and pivotal. As we have been giving increased emphasis to, as an important part of the overall emphasis on a scientific, materialist and dialectical, method and approach, the basis for revolution does indeed lie within the very nature of, and decisive contradictions within, this system. This is what should have been stated first in this paragraph, as the foundation for the rest. To again highlight the decisive distinctions, here is a rendering of this paragraph, in the way it should state, and unfold, things:
"The basis for revolution lies within the very nature of the capitalist system itself—the very sharp contradictions within this system which it is incapable of resolving and which repeatedly give rise to great suffering and crisis, including at times acute situations when the system is shaken to its foundations. Whether the contradictions and crisis of this system can be transformed into a revolution depends in great part on far-sighted, scientific revolutionary leadership. With this understanding, the importance of the leadership of BA, and the new synthesis of communism he has brought forward, stands out."
Hopefully, the fundamental and essential questions of principle and method—and the contrast with the problems in the formulations I have cited and examined—is clear. And the point is to learn from this, and do better as we go forward.
* The "Because" statement referred to here by BA is as follows: “Because of Bob Avakian and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal.” [back]
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
November 27, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
What follows is a new version of a previously posted article which incorporates some changes to more correctly express the relationship between the leadership of BA and the prospects for revolution.
Life is an unrelenting horror for billions of people around the world. It doesn’t have to be this way, there is a way out of the madness, but people do not know this.
Why do 10 million children die every year from preventable disease? Why are the earth’s atmosphere and water being destroyed? Why are women subjected to rape, assault, and degradation on every continent? Why are millions of Black and Latino youth in the U.S. going through life with a target on their backs with the prospect of prison more likely than college? Why did the election of a Black president in the U.S. not change any of this, and in some ways made it worse?
Why? Because what drives every nation on every continent is a dog-eat-dog system. A system driven by competition over who can viciously exploit the people and the resources ever more ruthlessly. Wars are fought, laws written, people jailed and suppressed to enforce and reinforce these relations. All this misery, all the outrages that people agonize over, have their common source in the system that dominates the world today—capitalism-imperialism.
But, can you get rid of it?
Yes. This way of life is no longer necessary. There is a whole other way humanity could be. A world where people could work and struggle together for the common good... where exploitation and all forms of oppression were no more and where people could flourish and live lives worthy of human beings. This is communism. A society that can only come about through a great, liberating revolution as the first step to emancipate all of humanity.
The basis for revolution lies within the very nature of the capitalist system itself—the very sharp contradictions within this system which it is incapable of resolving and which repeatedly give rise to great suffering and crisis, including at times acute situations when the system is shaken to its foundations. Whether the contradictions and crisis of this system can be transformed into a revolution depends in great part on far-sighted, scientific revolutionary leadership. With this understanding, the importance of the leadership of BA, and the new synthesis of communism he has brought forward, stands out.
The first communist-led revolutions in Russia and China were defeated in 1956 in the Soviet Union and then in 1976 in China after the death of Mao Zedong. At this juncture, BA stepped up to scientifically analyze these first liberatory revolutions in order to deeply understand and draw from this experience so that humanity could move forward again. BA faced an analogous situation to that of “Marx at the beginning of the communist movement—establishing in the new conditions that exist, after the end of the first stage of the communist revolution, a theoretical framework for the renewed advance of that revolution.”1 Learning from the path-breaking achievements of these first revolutions and digging deeply into their shortcomings, including at times serious errors, along with drawing from broader human experiences, BA developed a new synthesis of communism that is an advance in the science of revolution that in several dimensions is a radical rupture beyond what came before, enabling humanity to do even better going forward.
A key breakthrough in Bob Avakian’s new synthesis has been the development of a viable strategy to be able to make revolution to get to a new society. BA leads a party that is actively working today to prepare millions to carry out that strategy and realize the vision of a new world when conditions emerge to do so.
For these reasons, communism today means BA’s new synthesis of communism. People need to know about this. Putting communism on a more scientific foundation, we have a deeper understanding of the problem: the life- and spirit-draining profit system, and the solution: a new era of revolution to thoroughly uproot and overcome all forms and relations of exploitation and oppression, domination, and degradation throughout the whole world.
People need to know BA so that they have a vision of a whole new world, an understanding that the horrors of today need not be forever. People need to hear this not in whispers or off in some niche to the side of society, but as a point of reference and a contending pole in society. This needs to resonate deep into the neighborhoods of the oppressed, be known and debated on the campuses, become a source of controversy in the media, given backing by respected prominent voices of influence—by all kinds of opinion makers. In short, BA needs to become a revolutionary pole with impact and influence penetrating all quarters of society. The BA Everywhere campaign will make BA a household name and, in so doing, make this revolution known. This requires huge sums of money. That is why BA Everywhere is a multi-faceted fundraising campaign to involve and bring forward thousands of people to contribute and be a part of raising these funds with the stakes being no less than whether or not humanity is going to suffer needlessly under the vicious workings of capitalism.
The widespread promotion and popularization of the new synthesis of communism that BA has brought forward, and what is embodied in his leadership overall, is a crucial part of preparing minds as well as organizing forces for revolution. In this period BA Everywhere is the concentrated focus of the work to carry out that promotion and popularization. It is the leading edge now of a whole strategic process interacting with objective developments in the world through which the movement for revolution and the party that is leading the revolution gets built; a process through which a revolutionary people takes shape; a process which can hasten the understanding of people broadly that the system is the problem—with its leaders and structures seen to be illegitimate and through which millions can come to see that this revolution is the solution to the horrific and intractable problems that humanity faces. If people broadly do not know there is another way the world could be—with a vision and plan for a far better society that would actually be liberatory; and know and respect that there is a plan and a leadership to make that real; that there is a whole other way to think about, understand, and act on what is the problem and what the solution is in the world today, then the world will stay as it is—destroying lives and crushing spirits.
BA and the new synthesis of communism sets the goal, context, and framework for all the different elements of revolutionary work in today’s situation—preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution. Without this, no matter how much resistance and struggle is waged—against mass incarceration, against the oppression and degradation of women, against the wars, torture, and mass police state spying, against the demonization and deportation of immigrants, against the accelerating, wanton destruction of the environment—the source of these outrages, capitalism-imperialism, will continue to give rise to the same oppression in even more grotesque forms. Without the vision and plan for a new society and the strategy to get there, all the “movement building” and struggle will become aimless and reformist, serving to reinforce this horrific system—which is the problem—rather than serving to build up the understanding and the forces to finally do away with it.
BA has written:
“...what people see as tolerable, or intolerable, is dialectically related to what they see is possible or necessary (or, on the other hand, what they come to see as un-necessary—or no longer necessary—no longer something they just have to put up with and endure).... the more that people grasp that this is not the way things have to be, but only the way things are because of the workings of a system—a system which is full of contradiction—the more they can feel, and will feel, impelled to act. Lacking that, even our best efforts at mobilizing them to act are going to eventually run into their limitations and be sidetracked or turned around into their opposite, into something which actually reinforces the present system and the sense that nothing can be done to radically change things.”2
Looking back over the past decades since the 1960s and early 1970s, the reality that there was not a revolution in this country even after all the upheaval of that time, as well as the loss of the first socialist revolutions, weighs heavy, even if unexamined, on people’s consciousness of the possibility of revolution. Getting out now in a big, bold, contending way with BA’s new synthesis and with BA Everywhere is key to people beginning to think about how society actually works, seeing things from the vantage point of the whole world—coming to understand what the sweatshops in Bangladesh have to do with whole generations of Black and Latino youth being treated as superfluous, suitable only to be locked up; opening eyes so that people find common cause with the oppressed of the whole planet. Even more fundamentally, sharply delineating that either this system continues with what it does to people and the planet or there is the road of this revolution—in reality there are just two choices—enables more and more people to see revolution not as some far-off dream but as something to be actively and urgently worked for.
This applies and matters internationally. Look only to Egypt to see how urgently people need a materially founded—that is, a scientific—framework for a new, emancipatory society and the strategy to get there. And, how without it, not only is the struggle being drowned in blood and jail, but disillusion spreads there and globally because people don’t see another way.
A key part of how to build the movement for revolution is fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution. Fighting the power, standing up and refusing to be crushed, helps people to raise their sights—propelling them to look out beyond their daily grind. But again, without transforming their thinking about why these abuses keep happening, why those who govern and rule this society cannot and will not redress these enormous injustices, why this system can only keep doing what it is doing, in short, without having a scientific understanding of the problem and the solution, which is concentrated in BA’s new synthesis, then all this struggle will only lead to new outrages and a sense that you can’t change the world—that what is must always be.
In the course of the BA Everywhere campaign, people should learn about the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal),3 which is a plan for a new kind of state power that would be organized with radically different aims, morality, laws, a qualitatively different and greater justice than what exists anywhere in the world today, and a plan and structure for society that would be overcoming all the oppressive social divisions of the past, and is a living, concrete application of BA’s new synthesis of communism. Imagine this being debated up against the U.S. Constitution—an enshrinement of the principles of exploitation—and you get a picture of the difference that BA Everywhere can make.
BA Everywhere puts revolution at the front and at the center of preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution. There needs to be a situation where growing numbers of people from all strata are seeking out and want to be a part of or to support the movement for revolution. For this to develop, people need to see and know there is a way—that there is the leadership, organization, vision, and a concrete plan for revolution. This, the real solution to casting off the millennia of oppressive society, the leadership and work of BA, being way out in society, known everywhere, hastens the development of a revolutionary people and a situation where revolution could actually be possible.
* * * * *
There is a very real objective basis, and need, for broad numbers of people, from many different parts of society, to take part in and contribute to BA Everywhere. People will have varying levels of agreement and disagreement with what is represented by the new synthesis and BA, but can at the same time recognize—or be won to see—the importance for this to be out there in a big way creating major impact in society, playing a significant and positive role in influencing and raising the level of what people think about, discuss, and debate regarding human possibility and the kind of future that would be both desirable and achievable.
Those who are raising funds for BA Everywhere should expect, welcome, and engage in healthy struggle over the big questions while finding the ways for people to contribute even as they are engaging what it’s all about. Fundraisers should recognize that people will come to these conversations with all their preexisting assumptions and ways that they think about the world: Is the world today the product of a flawed human nature or the nature of the system? Is it a god’s will or fate? Weren’t the past attempts to radically remake society really bad and unworkable?4 And most critically, what sort of world is really desirable, viable, and possible? Isn’t U.S. democracy a perfectible society and model even if it is imperfect today? Often these ideas have to be brought to the surface, articulated in the discussion, so that they can be joined and so that people are able to see what is real and true and what is not. It is, after all, true that society at this stage of human history is either going to be organized in accordance with the vicious exploiting dynamics of capitalism, or be organized on the basis of communist principles that are leading to a world community where all forms of exploitation and oppression are being overcome.
Fundraising for BA Everywhere necessarily involves transforming the thinking of blocs of people. And that’s a good thing. It’s a big part of the whole point—the campaign is raising big funds so that revolution is in the air. Now that would be a big societal change in thinking. People can see and be won to the importance and difference that BA and what he represents being widely known and debated will make even as they have not yet resolved their thinking about what they agree with and what they don’t. People can appreciate, desire, and support the political, cultural, and intellectual ferment and process that will be unleashed as BA increasingly becomes a point of reference in society. On the basis of good ideological struggle over the heart and soul of what BA and the new synthesis of communism means for the future of humanity, and as people come to see the positive impact this being out in the world can have, people can unite with and contribute funds to make this possible.
In What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism, An Interview with Bob Avakian by A. Brooks, speaking of the BA Everywhere campaign, Bob Avakian said that:
...people are fully capable of holding two thoughts in their head at the same time.... [They] can feel that they personally don't know that much about, or maybe don't agree with parts or much of what is actually embodied in the new synthesis of communism and my body of work and method and approach overall, but they can at the same time feel that it would be very important for these ideas to be projected broadly into society and for many, many more people, in all corners of society, to be actively engaging and debating these ideas as part of generating a much greater and much loftier wrangling with the question of, once again, "whither humanity?" What is the situation humanity is confronted with? Why are we confronted with the situation we are today? Is there a possibility of radically changing it? Does it need to be radically changed? If so, how?
Even people who may not agree with or may not know that much about the new synthesis of communism, for example—many, many people, thousands and thousands of people—can get actively involved in and be motivated to be part of helping to project this into all corners of society. They can find their own level, so to speak—as long as the way is provided for them to find their own level—to participate in that, with that kind of contradiction in their own understanding, and in their own approach.
There are millions of people from all strata who are agonizing over the state of the world—and each of us reading this article can think of family, friends, and colleagues who feel this way, because we all live in this same social reality with its truly massive, horrific suffering, injustices, and devastation that is continually generated by the workings of this system. Recognizing this should open up huge vistas of places and people to take the BA Everywhere campaign, from concerts and plays, to schools and campuses, to churches and libraries, to museums and cultural festivals, in the media and on the Internet, and into the projects and neighborhoods.
Achieving this—BA Everywhere—will require truly massive fundraising, on a mass scale among people of different strata, including major donors.
This need for massive fundraising comes into sharp relief with even just a moment of reflection and real reckoning on what it will take to get BA out to ALL corners of society. Just think of what is spent for the advertising budgets to attract audiences to major films involving known Hollywood actors. Then, think about what a large-scale promotional campaign for the films Stepping Into the Future...and BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live would cost. Consider too what it would cost to sustain and support teams of full-time young volunteers for a nationwide campaign, or to really get thousands of copies of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian into the prisons on a mass scale, and then to make known the response. The amount of money required starts not just adding up, but multiplying, quickly.
Raising money for BA Everywhere is bringing something new onto the political landscape that will accelerate the whole process of building a movement for revolution, giving a living sense and involving people from all strata, transforming the thinking of different sections of people impacting on the whole atmosphere. These are times that require radical thinking and radical solutions. People can recognize and support how BA Everywhere makes that possible.
BA Everywhere should be, and can only succeed if it is a mass campaign infused with imagination, defiance, and community in all it does. These are times of great peril and great potential—potential that is currently constrained by people not knowing that there is a viable revolutionary solution. That can—and will—be changed through BA Everywhere. Millions and millions will come to know of BA, and that there is a way out of this madness and horror. Society will resonate with big dreams and a living, growing potential of fundamental change and the emancipation of humanity.
4. See the special Revolution/revcom.us issue: "You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future." [back]
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
January 20, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I think it is really important to recognize that the special issue of Revolution newspaper, "You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About...The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future," is a phenomenal resource. I think it is critical to study, broadly spread, and stir up discussion, debate and controversy in society around this issue in all kinds of different ways, as part of working to bring closer and prepare for the radically different future conditions that would make revolution possible.
The statement "On the Strategy for Revolution" from the Revolutionary Communist Party makes the point that: "In order for revolution to be real there must be: a revolutionary crisis, and a revolutionary people, numbering in the millions and led by a far-seeing, highly organized and disciplined revolutionary party." Key features of these future conditions will be that millions of people will be conscious of the need for revolutionary change and determined to fight for it; that millions of people will have come to view this system and its rule as illegitimate; and that there will be a core of thousands of people who have been brought forward, oriented and trained in a revolutionary way, reaching and influencing millions of people in society before a revolutionary situation and, quoting the strategy statement again, "and then, when there is a revolutionary situation, those thousands can be a backbone and pivotal force in winning millions to revolution and organizing them in the struggle to carry the revolution through."
All of this is going to necessitate transforming the thinking of people on a massive societal scale, and radically reshaping the political terrain! And we must be working on this transformation of people's thinking and reshaping of the political terrain now, as part of working towards and preparing for the future conditions in which revolution would be possible. From that standpoint, I think this special issue of Revolution newspaper has tremendous importance. Because one of the biggest elements of people's thinking that needs to be transformed... one of the biggest dimensions around which the political terrain needs to be radically reshaped... one of the biggest factors keeping people from seeing the necessity and possibility of revolution and the illegitimacy of the current system... one of the biggest things standing in the way of them getting with the movement for revolution... is that people, broadly, in this society do not know that a whole different world is possible, and/or they have accepted the idea that any past attempts to radically change the world through revolution have been a nightmare. In other words: The only actual solution to the horrors confronting humanity—the communist revolution—has been written off the agenda, and people broadly in society have no idea about decades of experience of that revolution in which humanity lived a radically different way than they do now. And people broadly in society do not know about BA's new synthesis of communism, which provides a framework for a new stage of communist revolution, for humanity to correctly understand and also advance beyond even the best of that previous experience. Again, all this keeps people locked into accepting and working within the confines of the capitalist-imperialist system. But getting this special issue of Revolution way out into society has the potential to change all of that.
So those were some brief general thoughts on how I see the importance of this special issue. But in this letter, I wanted to focus on and share some thinking about one particular section of the interview with Raymond Lotta that I thought was really illuminating and important: The section titled, "What's Wrong with 'History by Memoir'?"
Think about it: How often, in the course of talking with people about communism—and more generally in the academic and societal discourse about communism—are individual memoirs and personal accounts from those who lived in past socialist societies cited as definitive "proof" that these societies were nightmares and disasters? Who, in the course of carrying out work building the movement for revolution, has not encountered from the masses of all different strata some variation of the following objection (even if not expressed in these exact words): "If communism is so great, and if previous socialist societies were so liberating, how come I've read or heard all these stories from people who lived in these societies saying it was terrible?"
The way Lotta speaks to this in the interview ideologically equips people to correctly understand, speak to, and take on this objection.
So, in this letter, I wanted to highlight what I thought were some really important points from how Lotta goes at the question of "history by memoir," and also share some brief additional thoughts provoked and inspired by this section of the interview.
How do you determine the essence of an experience?
This system of capitalism-imperialism, the ways in which its economic and social relations pit people against each other in dog-eat-dog competition, and the ethos, morality, ideas, and culture this produces, constantly train people to think, and to evaluate everything, in terms of the individual, and in terms of individual/personal experience. Individual accounts and "narratives" are held up as the ultimate yardstick to measure what is true, and what is right: "What are things like—or what were they like—for me?"
When you combine this pervasive individualism with the non-stop barrage of cartoon-like attacks on communism and the experience of the communist revolution put forth by this system's ruling class, media, and educational system, and its advocates and representatives in different quarters—attacks that are, at this point uncritically swallowed and repeated by the vast majority of people in society, including many progressives who should know better—you get a situation in which individual memoirs and accounts from people about how "horrible" communism supposedly was are both accepted at face value, no questions asked, and also treated as the "be-all, end-all," the final word on the communist revolution and the experience of past socialist societies. This shit gets over on people, and I think it is a significant part of shaping what people think they know—but in fact do not know—about the communist revolution.
This is why I think what Lotta speaks to in the "What's Wrong with 'History by Memoir'?" section of the interview is so important: With some exceptions, looking at memoirs is not, in fact, a good way to determine the main character and essence of a rich and complex experience that involved and impacted hundreds of millions of people and radically changed society as a whole and in so many different particular spheres, or to evaluate the various social and class forces, programs and outlooks in contention. This is a methodological point that not only applies to the communist revolution, but in fact to the question of how any major social experience should be evaluated. Lotta cites an example in the interview: "You know, I was reading a discussion on memoir literature by an historian of the Soviet revolution. He made the point that you would never attempt to understand a major event like the French Revolution through personal stories...you know, the telling of 'here's what I went through,' or 'what I heard,' etc." (Revolution #323).
And there are many other examples you could think of as well. Would you seek to evaluate the U.S. Civil War—its causes, its effects, its principal character—by looking at individual accounts from people involved in or impacted by the Civil War, or who lived at the time of the Civil War? Or, would you look at the broader, overall social and historical context and experience of the Civil War, asking some basic questions like: What did it mean that millions of Black people were brutally enslaved for centuries prior to the Civil War? And what did it mean that the Union side of the Civil War was seeking to, and—through emerging victorious in the War—in fact did, put an end to slavery?
As Lotta points to in the interview, it's not that there is nothing to learn from some individual memoirs, and in fact there are some memoirs that do "capture and analyze the main lines and trends of the whole historical period the author lived through," but: a) these are the exception, not the rule, and b) in an overall sense and as a methodological point, looking at individual personal accounts is not a good way to evaluate broad, rich and complex historical experience.
Given the vicious and ludicrous anti-communist ideological assault that I mentioned earlier in this letter, and for reasons I will speak briefly to a bit further on, nobody should simply accept personal accounts of "horrors" experienced under communism at face value. In other words, some negative personal accounts—to be frank—are just going to be straight-up lies and bullshit in which people are wildly distorting experiences and events with the conscious aim and agenda of slandering communism and the past experience of the socialist revolution. But the methodological points Lotta emphasizes in the interview apply even in instances in which personal accounts of unjust persecution are, or may be, at least partly accurate. To illustrate this point, let's look at a more recent example—the L.A. Rebellion of 1992. Obviously, to be clear, the L.A. Rebellion was not part of the past experience of communist revolution! But there are still many important lessons to be drawn from this experience, including in relation to the subject of this letter.
For those who don't know the history of the L.A. Rebellion: In 1991, the LAPD was caught on videotape viciously and mercilessly beating Rodney King, a Black man whom they had pulled over and who was handcuffed as they were beating him. And in 1992, despite this videotape, the four white officers charged with beating King were found "not guilty." This shit was just too much to take for many, many people in, and well beyond, Los Angeles, particularly masses of Black people and those most brutally oppressed every day by this system, for whom the beating of King and subsequent acquittal of the officers was a concentration of the brutality and injustice that the police and the system as a whole heap upon them over and over and over again and who, after learning that the beating was videotaped, felt that this time they would finally get justice, only to have those hopes crushed and mocked. The masses in L.A. rose up in rebellion in response to the verdict, an event that inspired people in this country and all over the world who experienced, or had a deep hatred for, oppression and injustice. It forced people to confront, on a huge, societal scale, what the police and what this system do to Black people. It led those brutally beaten down under this system to raise their heads and fight back, to think about big questions and relate to one another differently.
In the midst of this rebellion, a white truck driver named Reginald Denny, who just happened to be passing through the area where the rebellion was taking place, was beaten. This was not good, and should not have happened. Now, if my memory is correct, Denny actually ended up taking a good stand and, in spite of what had happened to him personally, expressed sympathy for the rebellion. But let's say, hypothetically, that he hadn't. Let's say that Denny wrote a personal account of his experience during the LA Rebellion, using what happened to him to say how horrible this rebellion was. And let's even say for the sake of argument that his description of what happened to him personally was accurate. And let's say that he told this story divorced from the context of everything described in the previous paragraph about the situation for Black people in the U.S., the causes, effects, and circumstances of the LA Rebellion, and everything that this represented and concentrated. What kind of picture of the LA Rebellion would one get from such an account?! And which would actually be the correct way to arrive at an understanding of the main character and essence of the L.A. rebellion: looking at everything that is outlined in the previous paragraph, and on that basis identifying and learning from individual experiences and excesses such as what happened to Denny? Or to approach Denny's experience in isolation and arrive at the conclusion: "I heard that a truck driver was unfairly beaten in the LA. Rebellion. Therefore, the rebellion must have been a horror."
Applying this overall point of method to the specific question of how one evaluates the experience of the communist revolution and the socialist societies it brought into being: Should one do this by looking at individual personal accounts of excesses, or supposed excesses, or unjust suffering—even if some of these accounts might even be true, or partly true, and important to learn from? Or by looking at the totality of the experience, its principal character and objectives—the degree to which these societies were moving towards, and guided by the goal of, overcoming all exploitation and oppression; the degree to which people's basic human needs were being met; the steps these societies took to overcome the horrors of the old societies out of which they emerged; the radical positive transformations that were made in education, health care, employment, the status of women and oppressed nationalities, in art and culture, just to name a few spheres of society; the degree to which the thinking and relations of people, and whole sections of people, changed radically and for the better; the steps that were taken to overcome divisions and inequalities between people; the way these societies related to, and inspired, people all over the world; the degree to which life dramatically improved for literally hundreds of millions of people?
In addition to speaking to the critical methodological points that Raymond Lotta raises in the interview about the correct means to evaluate the experience of the communist revolution, and broad social and historical experience more generally, I also wanted to briefly raise a few other points and questions that I think are very important in relation to this topic:
"Where, When, and What Are You Talking About?"
Whenever anyone says that they read, or heard, accounts from people "who lived in communist countries and said it was terrible," one of the first questions that needs to be asked is: "Which country, and which time period, are you talking about?" One major element of the anti-communist ideological assault discussed earlier in this letter is that people's sense of what socialism and communism even are, and which countries are or were genuine socialist countries, and when, has been completely warped and distorted! So, it is quite possible that when people reference "horror stories" that they heard about communism, they are actually talking about societies that are/were the furthest thing from socialist or communist, such as North Korea, countries in Eastern Europe that used to be part of the "Soviet bloc" after the Soviet Union became thoroughly capitalist, countries in Latin or South America, or perhaps even Scandinavian countries. In addition, many people do not even realize that China and the Soviet Union have now been capitalist countries for decades! So, it is also quite possible that they are referring to China and Russia after these societies became capitalist countries!
So again, I think it is important to find out what countries and time periods people are referring to, both to continue to learn about people's thinking about communism and what is shaping that thinking, but also—very critically—in order to set the record straight about what genuine socialism and communism actually are and what we are talking about when we talk about the communist revolution.
The next few points and questions I want to raise relate to "horror stories" that people tell, or repeat, in relation to Russia and China when they were genuinely socialist countries...
Consider the Source
Two other basic questions I think need to be raised and explored when someone says—or references someone else saying—that they experienced horrors under communism: Who is saying that their experience in these societies was a nightmare, and what are they saying was horrible about it?
Now, I think it is very important to understand and approach this correctly, because there is a right way to understand and apply that point, and a very wrong way to understand and apply it. Whether or not something is true does not depend on the class background of the person saying it. This understanding is one of the critical breakthroughs—one of the critical ruptures with the past experience of the communist revolution—that BA has made in forging the new synthesis of communism. In other words: The point is not that if someone who comes from privileged sections of society says that something happened to him or her in socialist societies, then he or she must be lying, or must have been hostile to the revolution, or that his or her experience is unimportant or simply representative of that person's individual or class "narrative." Similarly, if someone comes from the oppressed and exploited sections of society, this does not mean that what he or she is saying must be true, or must be representative of the interests of the proletarian revolution, or simply a reflection of that person's individual or class narrative. There is one reality, not several different realities for different classes or billions of different realities for different individuals. Here, I would refer people to the points made in the special issue, including in the article, "But How Do We Know Who's Telling the Truth About Communism?" on why it is critical to take a scientific approach to all of reality, including the experience of the communist revolution, in order to determine what is true.
So, the point of saying "consider the source" is not that one should determine what's true based on the source. The point is that you can't look at these memoirs and personal accounts in a vacuum, or simply accept them at face value, without questioning and exploring who is saying his or her experience was terrible and what they are saying was terrible about it.
Let's take the example of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) in China (1966-1976) which—as is pointed out in the interview—is one of the most vilified periods in the entire history of the communist revolution. As Lotta discusses in the interview, the GPCR was a society-wide struggle in China between the socialist and capitalist roads, a real revolution launched by Mao after he recognized that the persistence in socialist society of class divisions, inequalities, and the ideas that went along with this—if not overcome—posed the danger for capitalism to be restored in China, and after he recognized that the core of those fighting to restore capitalism in China were within the Communist Party. To take just two examples of key things that happened in the course of this major social upheaval involving tens of millions of people: 1) The masses, with revolutionary leadership, identified, criticized, called out, struggled against, and in many cases overthrew Party leaders who were taking the capitalist road. 2) The educational system was totally changed. As Lotta describes it in the interview: "The old teaching methods, where students are just passive receptacles of knowledge and are driven to grub for grades, and the teachers are absolute authorities—that was challenged, very sharply. Instead, the critical spirit was fostered. Study was combined with productive activity. The elite admissions policies into the universities that gave sons and daughters of Party members and professionals kind of a special track...these were overhauled."
What do we imagine capitalist-roaders who were overthrown in the course of the GPCR—or those who were sharply criticized and struggled against yet persisted on the capitalist road ... or teachers who were determined to hold absolute authority over students and did not like having this authority challenged... or students whose special educational privileges as party members and professionals were overhauled... might have to say about the GPCR, and about their overall experience in socialist society? Would it be surprising if they had very negative things to say? And would these accounts be a good yardstick to use in evaluating the essence, nature, and overall experience of the revolutionary societies of which they were a part?
Or, to take another example: Let's think about people who, prior to the Russian and Chinese revolutions, were wealthy landlords or landowners who bitterly exploited and oppressed the masses, and whose land was taken away after these revolutions as part of massive redistribution of land to the formerly exploited and oppressed peasants. Same two questions: What do we imagine that these former exploiters might have to say about their experiences under socialism? And would these accounts be a good way to evaluate the essence, nature, and overall experience of the revolutionary societies of which they were a part?
Now, again, the point is not that negative personal accounts about experiences under socialism automatically fall under the heading of capitalist-roaders, former exploiters, or the elites complaining about their privileges being challenged or taken away... nor, very importantly, is the point that whether or not negative personal accounts are accurate, or worthy of consideration, depends on the class background of the person providing these accounts. And neither is the point that there were not problems, errors, and shortcomings in the past experience of socialism; as discussed in the interview, there were—including in relation to how intellectuals and their role in society was understood and approached, and Bob Avakian has deeply analyzed, learned from, and ruptured with these errors and shortcomings as part of forging the new synthesis of communism that allows humanity to do even better in the next wave of communist revolution.
But the idea that personal accounts from people who lived in socialist societies and say their experiences were terrible should be uncritically accepted as true, portrayed as representative of the essence of these societies, or approached in complete isolation from the social context in which these experiences occurred... the notion that the existence of these memoirs somehow constitutes evidence that previous socialist societies have been a horror... is ridiculous!
The following are just two of many excerpts that could be cited from personal accounts of people who grew up in socialist China and have very positive things to say about their experiences:
I am very grateful that I grew up in an extremely special moment in Chinese history. The dominant ideology was that women hold up half the sky; what men can do, women can do. Those may sound now as hollow slogans; but I lived through that period really believing in myself, in my ability in bringing about changes in my own life and the lives of other people.
(Bai Di, from "Bai Di: Growing Up in Revolutionary China," an interview with Li Onesto that is available at thisiscommunism.org)
Before the Cultural Revolution, we were only doing farming. During the Cultural Revolution years, the high school graduates helped diversify our village economy. We had a forest team composed of high school graduates. They planted many different kinds of fruit trees, pepper trees, as well as other trees. And we also built a factory. And there were 175 people working in that factory. In China today, rural young people have to leave the village to find jobs in the cities. But during the Cultural Revolution years we didn't need to go anywhere. We were not anybody else's slaves. We worked for our own future. And the 175 people working in the factory were able to generate an income for the collective, which greatly improved farmers' livelihoods.
(Dongpin Han, from "Dongpin Han: The Unknown Cultural Revolution," available at thisiscommunism.org. People should ask themselves: Why is it that I have not heard these accounts, and others like them, but I have heard accounts from people saying communism was a "nightmare"?
It's not an accident. After Mao died and Deng Xiaoping came to power in China and brought capitalism back, he launched a very conscious, vicious and massive ideological attack on the Cultural Revolution. Here is how Wang Zheng, a professor of women's studies at the University of Michigan who grew up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, described this:
Thoroughly negate the Cultural Revolution' was a scheme by Deng Xiaoping to pave the way for his dismantling of socialism while consolidating political power. It was a way to whitewash or shift attention from his and his associates' crimes.
(From "Wang Zheng: 'We had a dream that the world can be better than today," available at thisiscommunism.org)
But it's not just a question of what gets promoted within China. The rulers of and advocates for this capitalist-imperialist system—certainly including the ruling class and major media and educational system of the United States—which causes one horror after another after another for humanity, have every interest in promoting the idea that any attempts to bring a radically different world into being were, and could only be, a nightmare! On this point, I would highly recommend that people read, or re-read, "No Wonder They Slander Communism," an excerpt from What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism, an interview with Bob Avakian by A. Brooks. In this excerpt, which was published in the recent special issue of Revolution newspaper, Avakian brilliantly exposes and demystifies the barrage of slanders and ideological attacks on communism that are launched by the rulers of this system and its mouthpieces and advocates and then parroted by far, far too many people. People should really study both the content and method of this excerpt and keep returning to and struggling for the points Avakian makes there.
To the degree that there were secondary problems and errors in the past experience of the communist revolution—and there were—BA's new synthesis of communism provides the framework for correctly identifying, understanding, and rupturing with these errors and shortcomings and doing better in the next wave of communist revolution.
After capitalism was restored in China following the death of Mao in 1976, causing great demoralization and disorientation for communists and others all over the world who had been inspired by revolutionary China, BA did the work—decades of work—to exhaustively and critically analyze the past experience, in theory and practice, of the communist revolution and the previous socialist societies it brought into being, synthesizing the lessons of what actually happened in the course of this experience and how this experience should actually be understood and evaluated scientifically. On that basis, along with drawing from many diverse fields of human endeavor, BA developed a new synthesis of communism that stands on the shoulders of the first wave of communist revolution and upholds the experience of that first wave as principally and overwhelmingly positive and emancipatory, while also identifying and rupturing with secondary shortcomings and errors in that experience and areas where humanity needs to do better in the next wave of communist revolution.
For a much fuller discussion of these points, I really want to emphasize and refer people to Lotta's discussion—in Part 4 of the interview—of BA's new synthesis of communism and the possibility it opens up for humanity.
And I want to close by quoting two excerpts from that section of the interview to illustrate some of the points made above.
The first excerpt is the one towards the end of the interview in which Lotta discusses the importance of, and then quotes, a point made by Avakian in What Humanity Needs:
Avakian identifies the great challenge, in an interview from 2012 entitled What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism, where he poses a critical question that arises out of the first stage of communist revolution...and that the new synthesis has broken through on:
How do you give the correct and necessary priority to the fundamental needs of the masses of people in society—especially those whose needs have been trampled under the old exploitative system, economically, socially, and politically and culturally—while at the same time not undermining the necessary intellectual and cultural ferment, creativity, and even dissent that's essential in order to have the kind of process in society where both the masses of people as a whole, and also the leadership of the party and the government, is learning from this whole process, including the criticisms that are raised and the unconventional ideas that find expression in intellectual endeavor, and in the field of the arts, and so on—so that you have a richer process?
That's a huge breakthrough, part of a larger breakthrough based on deep study and wrangling which is the new synthesis, and it provides a real basis for hope on a solid scientific foundation.
And the second excerpt, with which I want to conclude this letter, is the very last paragraph in the interview with Lotta:
It all comes back to this: the world urgently cries out for radical change, for revolution. And correctly grasping the REAL character, the liberatory character, of the first stage of the communist revolution AND immersing oneself in the contributions of Bob Avakian in summing up that stage and providing direction for a new, even greater one is critical and necessary...to continue on and to make leaps in the journey out of that "darkness" of class society. It's about the need and basis for a world in which human beings can truly flourish. And it's about all of us rising to the great need before us: taking up this science and using it to transform the reality humanity faces.
Revolution #327 January 19, 2014
January 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Inspired by the letter from a prisoner, "Looking at the World Differently, Scientifically—Thoughts on The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism" which appeared in the last issue of Revolution, #327, January 19, 2014, I have a radically simple proposal for Darwin Day, the international celebration of the birth of Charles Darwin.
Charles Darwin is the scientist who, in the 1850s, discovered how all life on planet Earth evolved from common ancestry and the earliest forms of life.
The great naturalist Charles Darwin caused a genuine revolution in human thought and understanding when he wrote a book published in 1859 called The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. This book presented a great deal of concrete evidence that living creatures had evolved over time. And Darwin went one giant step even beyond that, developing a comprehensive theory and proposing a concrete mechanism through which he thought evolutionary change could take place. Darwin called this basic mechanism of evolutionary change in living creatures "natural selection"; and, in the nearly 150 years since he published his breakthrough theory, natural selection has actually been proven (again and again) to be one of the most crucial and fundamental mechanisms through which life does, in fact, evolve.
The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters, by Ardea Skybreak, pp. 21-22
Like the prisoner, and for many of the same reasons, I am a big fan of the book, The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters, by Ardea Skybreak. I am a scientist by training and studying this book has given me new insights and appreciation of the science of evolution. While the blurbs from a range of people—from established and prominent scientists to prisoners—attest to the scientific rigor and the accessibility, I personally feel it's a masterpiece in "breaking down without dumbing down" the science of evolution and the scientific method—and there is a lot to learn from this.
In particular, the brilliant and colorful visual displays in the centerfold of the book and its accompanying text, are a concentration of this, walking and working through the entire science of evolution, Darwin's breakthrough, with illustrations and examples, and it seems to me was specially designed for precisely the purpose of popularizing the science of evolution for an audience not familiar with this subject matter. I have utilized this centerfold many times, actually walking through in order with folks, page by page, and this forms the heart of my proposal for Darwin Day.
The centerfold can be utilized in displays and presentations to walk through a presentation on The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters—which can form the theme and topic of this year's Darwin Day celebrations (on February 12 or around) in the neighborhoods of the oppressed, in community centers, church salons, local library presentation rooms, and even people's living rooms—with people from the neighborhood and others. All anchored by a formal showing with the centerpiece being such a presentation, keying off the centerfold of the book.
I have found people really heartened and provoked by readings from the prisoner letters that reference this grappling and debate with the science of evolution, and this could also be part of the celebrations. I understand the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) is inundated with many, many, many more requests for this book than can be met with current funding, and fundraising could be an important component of these celebrations.
On this basis, there should be a real effort to invite professors, graduate students, and others from local colleges and universities to participate and even potentially present at these celebrations. We cannot underestimate the number and sentiment among some sections of the intellectuals who look at this accursed divide in society—where a few are trained in and have facility in the realm of ideas, including science, the scientific method, and the science of evolution, and the vast majority who are locked out of it by the workings of this system and conscious policy—and are horrified and would like to do something to break down these barriers but don't have a vehicle to do so, don't have the means provided to them whereby they can play a role in transforming this.
This proposal for Darwin Day celebrations should be taken widely to the biology departments of the local colleges, and other intellectuals and students around the Revolution Clubs, Revolution Books, and other groupings that host such celebrations. Some may want to just come and celebrate with others, and some may want to present on accompanying themes, like an account of Darwin's life and his voyage to the Galapagos Islands that was decisive in his scientific discoveries, or new insights and research in the science of evolution, or on particular questions like race—whether it has a biological basis or is a social construct (see page 166 of Skybreak's book for more on this. I virtually always encounter this question when I present on the science of evolution).
I'd imagine these would be fun and lively celebrations—and they also should be full of grappling and debate, on how all life came to be, and on the broader epistemological questions of knowing what's real and why it matters. I am sure readers of Revolution would love to hear about these celebrations, and read about the debates and discussions that broke out.
(I am sure there are more, and would love to hear from other readers on this website)
Everyone needs to understand the basic facts of evolution as well as the essentials of the scientific method ...When people are deprived of a scientific approach to reality as a whole they are robbed of both a full appreciation of the beauty and richness of the natural world and the means to understand the dynamics of change not only in nature but in human society as well.
The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters
I feel this brilliant concentration gives a real appreciation why readers of Revolution—not only those fighting for a radically different and far better world through communist revolution, but also those who care more broadly about humanity and about the masses of people who have been locked out of the world of ideas and science by this system—should celebrate Darwin Day, and really use it as an opportunity to popularize the science of evolution and Darwin's scientific discovery.
Darwin's breakthrough is a critical aspect of liberating humanity from the dark-ages of ignorance of how life came to be, especially concentrated in religious nonsense like the biblical creation stories that unfortunately pervade to this day. In particular, Darwin's theory of evolution—a scientific breakthrough and an application of the scientific method—really struck an epistemological blow against religion—that is, it went right up against the religious approach to the world that the Bible, rather than observation, experimentation, and analysis of the natural world, is the source of truth. And it struck an epistemic blow as well—that is, it actually gave a true picture and analysis of how life did develop, one quite different than the myths of the Bible.
It is also part of why there is such a fierce political battle over evolution and the teaching of evolution in schools across the country, with all manner of Christian Fascists and biblical literalists fighting for the myth of creationism to be taught instead of evolution. Or else they put biblical creationism "on a par" with evolution as "an alternative" theory, while at the same time undermining the epistemological certitude of Darwin's theory of evolution with specious arguments and plain falsehood, relying on and reinforcing the very ignorance propagated by the system that locks a vast section of humanity out of the realm of ideas. Darwin Day celebrations are a boost in this political battle to unite with others to defend and popularize science and evolution, and really take on the myth of creationism.
As a regular reader of Revolution and a student of Bob Avakian, I have been deeply struck by how the process of making revolution—and transforming the thinking of blocs of people—goes through "many channels," including struggles and debates not only in politics, but in the realms of art, culture, history, morality, and the world of ideas and intellectual discourse more broadly.
In this process, the battle over epistemology and approach to reality remains a touchstone question, and forms the crux of why this battle over evolution matters in the battle for revolution. Polemically commenting on this relationship, Avakian states in BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, [4:12,] "...Are we going to proceed according to a scientific approach—investigating reality, to accumulate experience and evidence about reality, and then drawing rational conclusions? Or, are we going to blindly adopt an outmoded way of understanding how the world works and what its driving forces are, and insist upon superimposing that on reality and on smashing down anything which conflicts with that non-rational (or irrational) approach? Are we going to insist on a priori notions of truth—dogmatic assumptions which are not drawn from reality and not testable in reality—and rule out of order things which are drawn from reality and have been tested and shown in reality to be true?"
Science and a thoroughly scientific method and approach to reality and its transformation has everything to do with whether the world remains "as is" or is radically transformed to bring about a far better world through communist revolution.
Epistemologically, religion and a religious approach is enslaving to the masses of humanity under the yoke of oppression and exploitation, depriving them of the critical scientific approach to knowing and changing the world. This goes with an utter slavishness of worshipping non-existing gods and looking to them for salvation and solution at a time of such needless suffering in the world. Evolution strikes a much-needed blow against this worldview. The must-read letter from the prisoner referenced above quotes a section of Skybreak's book on the meaning and purpose of human life—in a world without god—and then goes onto say, in one of my favorite statements, "it kind of throws the last shovel full of dirt on God's grave."
Epistemologically, Darwin's theory of evolution—and science and the scientific method and approach overall—also strikes a much-needed blow against the postmodernist fashionable nonsense of denying the very existence of objective reality, and what is more common, denying the existence of or possibility of ascertaining objective truth. This, it strikes me, is but a mere mirror-opposite of truth by revelation, the religious and dogmatic approach to reality and truth—and is enslaving to this system of capitalism-imperialism which benefits mightily from students and intellectuals going around denying the existence of objective reality—and enforcing this as norm on campuses and intellectual discourse. A fucking cartoon and caricature if it was not so harmful.
In light of all this, Darwin Day celebrations are a really good opportunity to explore and open up discussions more widely on major epistemological questions such as how do we know what is true, and what is science and the scientific method—as the title of Skybreak's book states—knowing what's real and why it matters.