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Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
There is great importance to the special issue of Revolution on the history of the communist revolution and socialism in the Soviet Union and China (Revolution No. 323, November 24, 2013, "You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future"). It is not possible to overstate how important this is. Apparently, some people, and in particular some people who have been around for a while, think that this is just for others who are newer to things. Well, let me say this. Everyone needs to ask themselves if they could speak to things in the way, and on the level, that the interview with Raymond Lotta, and this issue overall, does. If you cannot honestly answer "yes" to that question, then that should be a clear reminder that, indeed, no matter how long you have been around, and how much you may think you know, there is a great deal that you can learn, and need to learn, from this special issue. We can all learn a great deal from this.
This special issue should be deeply, and repeatedly, studied—and vigorously wielded, promoted and disseminated far and wide by all those who recognize the importance of the analysis it provides, and the method it applies in making this analysis. There is still much more that can be, and needs to be, done in making full use of this special issue.
Revolution #328 February 2, 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 #328 February 2, 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 #328 February 2, 2014
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
“We need a new world, a radically different world.”
With this straightforward statement that opens his New Year’s message—A Call To REVOLUTION—Bob Avakian succinctly captures the situation humanity faces, and thus poses the challenge to be a part of making this a reality.
As the leading edge of the whole ensemble of revolutionary work, the BA Everywhere Campaign will play a decisive role in making big advances in 2014.
In this issue of Revolution, there is a report: “Insights from the Grassroots” that is a harbinger of the potential of the BA Everywhere Campaign—telling the story of a party greeting the 2014 new year that came alive with a contagious camaraderie coming from a Harlem-Bronx crew who, as one of them put it, have been “downgraded” by this system. During the holidays they worked, talked, and struggled together to raise $1,000 so that BA Everywhere would not be “just a vision, but would become a reality.” This spirit, this content, this commitment should multiply among all strata this year.
This issue of Revolution also has an “on the scene” report from a team that the BA Institute sent to the Sundance Film Festival—taking BA, the new synthesis of communism, and the fundraising campaign to this mecca of independent filmmaking, creating a stir with impact.
There is also an observation based on applying the editorial “BA Everywhere—Imagine the Difference it Could Make! Why and how it is key to changing the world—to making revolution” which discusses how, when talking with people about donating, we should be drawing out and contrasting frameworks for understanding the problem and solution in the world—making the case for why BA becoming a household word is essential if you want to end all the horrors of today.
Most important now, there is a piece in this issue of Revolution by Bob Avakian, incisively titled: "BA Everywhere—No Religiosity, Just a Scientific Approach," which critiques the first version of that Revolution editorial, that is both profound in scientific content, and even more fundamentally sets forth essential principles and methods. Everyone who wants to know and change the world needs to learn from this.
All of this should be reflected upon. The BA Everywhere Campaign needs to be out in the world and raising funds every day. And we should be taking time to think about what’s in this issue, as well as all the work that has been done over the past two years—learning from what has been accomplished and what is still to be done. This is part of beginning a process of envisioning and planning to make a leap in 2014.
As the articles in this issue reveal, there is much to build on. At the same time, we need also to take a hard look at where we’re at. What will it take and what should the campaign look like to realize the potential of BA Everywhere to raise the huge funds necessary to impact all of society?
We should ask ourselves some questions. Don’t we need to be looking at, and projecting, the BA Everywhere Campaign as a national fundraising campaign? Have we been too much proceeding from funding and organizing one project after another to popularize BA—without raising increasing and really massive funds needed, and building through every particular thing we do, momentum for the overall goals and objective of the campaign? Many of the projects that BA Everywhere has undertaken have been very positive, such as the premieres of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live, yet, why in most cases haven’t we raised funds over and above the cost of the projects themselves? Have we been consistently proceeding from the understanding that raising funds is the principal form of political work through which the campaign is carried out? What should the campaign look like in 2014 if we are clearly focused on the understanding that raising truly massive funds is the decisive means through which BA can become a household word and the campaign as a whole can have impact and influence throughout society? How much have we grasped and acted on the understanding that through struggling with people to donate, questions sharpen up, and their commitment and partisanship are forged? How much have we understood and conveyed that BA Everywhere is the leading edge of the whole ensemble of revolutionary work today?
Think about these questions—rooting this in the fundamentals of the campaign which are concentrated in the piece by BA in this issue and the final editorial that this led to. Brainstorm with friends and people you work with about ideas for how to realize the goals of the campaign. What are the ways that some of the really positive things the campaign has done can—in the right framework—really contribute to big advances this year? After talking it over, appoint someone to write it up and send it to us. We have been developing some proposals and ideas, some of which will be in the next issue of Revolution, but we really want to hear from you.
We want to get a deep and lively process going with everyone pitching in so that in 2014, BA Everywhere boldly projects and advances its overall mission as a national fundraising campaign to raise really massive sums of money, involving growing numbers of people, so that BA becomes a household word, so that the vision and framework of the new synthesis of communism is known throughout the country, even reaching around the world. So that when people confront the horrors of this society, they weigh this brutal reality up against what BA, and the movement and Party he leads, say: that humanity doesn’t have to live this way. So that when people feel revolted by the vicious “me first” putrid culture where everyone and every relationship is turned into a vicious game of who wins and who loses, they think of BA—as the leader who represents a future that is the opposite of all the crap of today—where humanity could get beyond the current dog-eat-dog setup to a world where people would consciously and cooperatively work in the common interest—a world fit for humanity.
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Bob Avakian is a hero. It just shows that you don’t have to be a certain skin color to want to fight for other people’s rights, to stand up for others. That quote from the book [BAsics 1:13], it’s really breathtaking, I didn’t really have words to describe it at the time [when she first heard it some months ago]. It’s really astonishing that people really cared about us, cared about me, what my future will be. Because the children are the future.
[On BA's New Year’s message]: I just hope that one day I’ll get to meet him, get to talk to him.... I liked what he said about how they treat us like animals, like we’re nothing, I like that most of all. And we’re beaten and battered and abused, by this economy and this country, because of the color of our skin or the way we look.
I got my teacher a copy of the book [BAsics] and I’m going to ask her to come to DC with me [to oppose the anti-abortion protest]. I’m telling her I’m doing revolution on that day, I’m going to change the world. She said what is it. And I told her it’s the future, I’m giving her a sneak peek on the future. I’m still reading it myself, because every time I read a quote I stop and think about it and write a reflection, and then I go on, so I’m only on page 49. It’s like when you chew a piece of gum and you want to get all the flavor out of it you can. So this book is like my piece of gum, I don’t want to finish it until there’s no more flavor in it, it’s a never-ending flow of different flavors, it’s the most long-lasting book of my life.
My teacher cares about women’s rights, she’s not afraid. She speaks out in class, she’s not afraid of losing her job. She lets the young women in my class know that you’re more than what this society puts in front of you, you’re more than a piece of meat on a platter given to the men of America. You are more than that, you are more to the world. Cause if you were put into their shoes and they in yours, and you totally trash-talked them, called them baby murderers and worse, treated them like sex toys, how would they feel if you were doing that? So that’s how I feel.
I’m here to support the truth, 'cause I know it when I hear it... Every time BA speaks, my spirit tells me, "That’s the truth." I bought BAsics for my 94-year-old grandmother, and she came back the next day and said, "I love that book." That book is the truth.
But it’s one thing to talk, and it’s another thing to actually build a movement, and to have a map, a course as to what we can actually do to have our children’s future be brighter. So I really respect him for that, because he did the homework, he’s the valedictorian of the class when it comes to it. So I have to support him with everything that I have, my body, my spirit, my mind.
[Discussing the slogan “Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide]: That shook my spirit, because that means that I cannot just watch and talk behind the backs of what’s going on with the government, the powers that be. Because if I don’t do something, then I’m a part of genocide. So I have to do something.
I decided to become involved because I’m one of those people that BA says is downgraded. And I love the fact that BA has faith, he has faith in the people. I love that he uplifts people with his speeches. And not only that, he’s a funny white boy! [laughs]
He’s the kind of guy that tells you what’s on his mind. He looks at the world and he’s not only talking, he investigates it, he researches it, and then he puts it out. And that’s what I like, it’s not like it’s someone just yakking, it’s someone that does their homework and their research and they come back and say “here.” And on top of that, he puts it in your face, he makes you think. Because mind you, the stuff that he talks about is right in your face. We’re the type of people that go about our everyday business and don’t think about that, and then when he mentions it, it’s like “oh,” and that light bulb goes off. And he challenges you and you go “hmmmm.”
With BA, you see the effects that he’s saying, you feel it. It’s not just a vision, it’s something in process, something that’s gonna be, and something that’s real. That’s the difference. This is the only leader that I’ve ever come across, there’s only one BA. He’s a leader to be reckoned with. He’s the leader that stands on his principles as well as his word. 'Cause if you notice, the politicians have lied to us and look at the state that we’re all in now, look at the world. And I believe that we need BA—we’ve been needing BA, but we need him more. Because the youth are supposed to be our future, and this society is literally telling the youth to kiss their ass, that they don’t care about them, and the youth are feeling that. And I feel that the youth have no future...
So that’s why it’s so important for people to come together, so people know there is hope. But as everyone knows, we need money, can’t do anything without money.
...I just want to challenge people—I’m part of the Harlem BA Everywhere Team—and I want to challenge people to think about the conditions here, because we really live in a hellhole. And think about what options do we have. And I would like you to open your hearts as well as your pockets, and join us, because we need all the people in the revolution.
I was walking down the stairs and my [BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!] button fell off, and my friend picked it up and said could he have it? And I said, “Well, I kind of need the button because it shows who I am.” He said “I want the button because it makes sense and I understand it—could you get me one?” So I said yes, and I got him one.
It's really inspiring when people living on the desperate edge use their energy to struggle for a better future for humanity like these people did who did the bake sale and those who did last year's penny jar collection on the streets of Harlem, both for BA Everywhere.
Last year, to challenge them, I pledged to donate 3 times what they raised. Now I'm answering their challenge, matching the $700 they raised [so far] in the bake sale.
As BA says in his “Appeal to Those the System Has Cast Off”:
Here I am speaking not only to prisoners but to those whose life is lived on the desperate edge, whether or not they find some work; to those without work or even homes; to all those the system and its enforcers treat as so much human waste material.
Raise your sights above the degradation and madness, the muck and demoralization, above the individual battle to survive and to “be somebody” on the terms of the imperialists—of fouler, more monstrous criminals than mythology has ever invented or jails ever held. Become a part of the human saviors of humanity: the gravediggers of this system and the bearers of the future communist society.
This is not just talk or an attempt to make poetry here: there are great tasks to be fulfilled, great struggles to be carried out, and yes great sacrifices to be made to accomplish all this. But there is a world to save—and to win—and in that process those the system has counted as nothing can count for a great deal. They represent a great reserve force that must become an active force for the proletarian revolution. (BAsics 3:16)
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On January 11, the New York City BA Everywhere Committee hosted a “Bring in the New” Party/New Year’s Celebration in Harlem. It was a great party, with real community coming together around raising money to get Bob Avakian and his leadership known all over the world.
About 50 people came, all ages and nationalities, including people who have known about BA for a while and some who were learning about BA and the movement for revolution for the first time. A murmur of anticipation rippled through the room when it was announced that the audio message that the leader of the revolution had released at 12:01 am on January 1, Bob Avakian's 2014 New Year's message, would kick off the evening.
The Harlem-Bronx BA Everywhere team had set out in the weeks before the party to raise $1,000 from a community bake sale; and by the night of the party, they had raised $900. During the evening, it was announced that the donations went over the $1,000 goal. The room was full of pride and appreciation, recognizing what people had come together and accomplished so far—and feeling through the evening the potential for this campaign to take root and take off, raising major funds nationwide so people can know about BA and a whole other liberating way society can be, with revolution.
One woman artist remarked to a Revolution correspondent after she heard BA's audio New Year's message: “Every time BA speaks, my spirit tells me, ‘that’s the truth.’ I bought BAsics for my 94-year-old grandmother, and she came back the next day and said ‘I love that book.’ That book is the truth. But it’s one thing to talk, and it’s another thing to actually build a movement, and to have a map, a course as to what we can actually do to have our children’s future be brighter. So I really respect him for that, because he did the homework, he’s the valedictorian of the class when it comes to it. So I have to support him with everything that I have, my body, my spirit, my mind.”
A 13-year-old told our correspondent: “Bob Avakian is a hero. It just shows that you don’t have to be a certain skin color to want to fight for other people’s rights, to stand up for others.” She shared the book BAsics with her teacher: “I told her it’s the future, I’m giving her a sneak peek on the future. I’m still reading it myself, because every time I read a quote I stop and think about it and write a reflection, and then I go on, so I’m only on page 49. It’s like when you chew a piece of gum and you want to get all the flavor out of it you can...”
There were testimonials, ceremony, music—and great food. And dancing! BA's message resonated all night long, as people from the projects, artists, and revolutionary communists talked together, connecting with “like-minded” people who weren't “like” themselves at all, about the way the world is and how it could be, and how to step up to the challenge of contributing to make it happen. One older woman came to check out what it was all about. She asked to meet the person who had been texting and sending her emails since she gave her name to a street team months ago. Before the end of the evening, she had given a significant contribution.
Noche of the New York Revolution Club MC'ed the short program. Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution newspaper/revcom.us and initiator of the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women, gave a closing toast and in her remarks brought home how BA Everywhere plays such a key role in the whole process of preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution. She said, “The world does not have to be the way it is today, but to change it means revolution. And in the world today, communism means Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism.... But the world needs to know him, and that’s why we’re here....”
A woman from the Harlem-Bronx BA Everywhere Team gave a powerful testimonial about the importance of getting BA known in the world in a big way, and later told Revolution: “I want to challenge people to think about the conditions here, because we really live in a hellhole. And think about what options do we have. I would like you to open your hearts as well as your pockets and join us, because we need all the people in the revolution.”
The NYC BA Everywhere Committee presented certificates of appreciation to the team for the success of their pie and cookie bake sale. A message of love was conveyed from the head baker, who couldn't be there, and a message was read out from a donor who had pledged $700 to match the amount the team had raised when he heard about the Harlem-Bronx challenge to match what they raised. (This $700 pledge is above the $1000-plus raised through the bake sale itself.)
People performed music that aimed to uplift, up against the degrading, dehumanizing pop culture everywhere in this society. Jamel of the Revolution Club showcased a couple of defiant rap pieces standing with those who catch the worst hell in this system, including “JAMNOFLO: We Are a Future People.” Sophia, an artist and singer from Harlem, did a spoken word piece jumping off from “This Little Light of Mine” into the hell of life today: “...there’s a war for my dreams, a war for my life...” Then, closing out the formal program, Sophia did a powerful rendition of the song made famous by Nina Simone, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” drawing in the audience and calling it the “theme song of the revolution.”
Then Leo of the revolutionary band Outernational came on to DJ, and the dancing commenced! Children jumped up first and then all ages and all kinds of combinations of people snaked through the whole room, sharing and teaching moves, laughing and clapping for each other. The music was a fine mix from different styles and cultures, all of it driving people to want to get on their feet and move together.
Creative ideas and plans for raising funds to make BA known everywhere circulated through the evening. People came away feeling there is work to do, and the potential for great things ahead.
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A team of revolutionaries, whose efforts are being funded by the Bob Avakian Institute, has been at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah with BA Everywhere—the campaign to raise big money to get the vision and works of Bob Avakian into every corner of society. Sundance was founded by actor and director Robert Redford to advance the “work of risk-taking storytellers worldwide.” Fruitvale Station, The Square, and Dirty Wars all premiered at Sundance last year. Among the over 100 films that are being screened this year, are films about domestic violence, racism on a college campus, the battle over gay marriage, and much more. This really is a special and unique opportunity to meet, dialogue, and raise money from filmmakers, actors, philanthropists, and others who are thinking about the world—from the biggest political questions to the most intimate social relations.
We have been going to the movies, Q&A’s, and panels to enter into the discussions and transform them with revolution. We have also been going straight out to the crowds in the street, distributing thousands of flyers. We have gotten out dozens of DVDs (BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and Stepping into ihe Future) and hundreds of audio CDs with BA’s interview by Cornel West, his New Year’s “Call To REVOLUTION,” and All Played Out. And we’ve met a number of influential people to follow up with for the fundraising campaign.
The work we are doing inside the events is having an effect on the outside work, and vice versa. People are starting to recognize the revolutionaries, and revolution is starting to be in the air, with an increasing number of people beginning an engagement with BA. There has been a continual need to set, and re-set terms about what revolution really is, as opposed to notions of gradual change and individual lifestyle choices. We have had to struggle for people to see the magnitude and depth of the problem, and to consider BA’s re-envisioning of revolution and communism in relation to that. People have also asked us over and over again, what kind of revolution? And we’ve had to struggle over what the goal of communism is all about, as well as the liberating path from here to there. There has been a tremendous openness to the idea of moving beyond capitalism and overcoming the inequalities and injustices that characterize this society and world, but a number of people have raised concerns about what they understand communism to inevitably lead to—the stifling of creativity and innovation (a big part of what Sundance is all about). We have struggled with people to look at the actual conditions of the vast majority of humanity today, whose creative capacity and individual initiative counts for nothing. But we have also brought out to people BA’s new synthesis of communism, radically changing the world without turning out the lights on dissent, critical thinking, artistic and intellectual ferment, individuality flourishing in a collective context. We have struggled with people to see that it is not “human nature” for innovation and creativity to be tied to the profit-motive. When one musician raised this to us, one of the revolutionaries put it back to him, “what motivates you to do your art?” Not surprisingly, personal profit was not what was driving him. Overall at Sundance, we have encountered much openness to what we are putting forward.
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
From Someone Working on BA Everywhere
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
It is often a struggle to get people to more systematically walk through what we, the revolutionaries, are actually talking about, working on, and where in reality that vision and strategy comes from AND CAN GO—in the way that the many particular parts of the REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! speech and the speech as a whole does. And also conversely, they often do not approach what they think about how the world changes, can be changed, or should be changed as A THEORY—a framework for how and what they think about and advocate for—whether it’s nonviolence as an absolute moral value, or “radical feminism,” or Occupy-ism, etc...
So a couple of times I’ve just raised: “OK, tell me: how will your path get us past the present system, and toward a world without exploitation and oppression of one group over another? Tell me how the powers that be and their whole empire with all its horrors will be vanquished by what you say people should do (whatever their thing is)?”
And I think that while we should be projecting what our understanding is, not mainly darting around THEIR theories, puncturing them here or there, that by bringing out this challenge—tell me HOW your peaceful/anti-corporate/leaderless/religious path will get to a different world system and condition for humanity?—pretty quickly can sharpen up whether someone is basically CONTENT with the way things are, or whether they do actually think there is something fundamentally rotten and intolerable in the way things are.
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
Originally published January 1, 2014 | Republished October 19, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This statement from Bob Avakian, first issued on New Year's Day, 2014, remains timely and profoundly relevant.
This is Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, with a New Year's message—A Call To REVOLUTION.
We need a new world, a radically different world.
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.
A lot of people say: "You can't really change things. Nobody cares what we think. Those who have the power don't give a damn about us." Yeah, they don't—but so what! Their power is illegitimate anyway—a law and order of injustice and exploitation, enforced with brutality, murder, high-tech assassination and devastation, here and worldwide. It needs to be overthrown.
And what we do matters a great deal. Our lives should be, and can be, about something with meaning and purpose that is really worth living for and fighting for. Why should we do what they want us to do—killing and crippling each other, trying to beat down or beat out each other, ending up in jail, or paralyzed, or dead at an early age—instead of joining together to go up against the system that has got us in this mess in the first place? Why should we accept the lies that people who are of a different color, or live in a different place, or speak a different language, or love in a different way, are less than human and deserve to be locked up, or beaten down, or murdered? Why should girls and women be treated like things, whose only value is to be used for sex and having babies? Why should we go along with the sickening culture of this system which says money is more important than people, and people are only a means to make money? Why should we believe that "it's all in god's hands," when all this horror and suffering is completely unnecessary and could be ended? Why should we accept the way things are, or just try to make things a little bit better, still living within this system that will keep on destroying the lives of human beings, and denying a decent future to the youth, all over the world?
We need to, and we can, do much better than this. We can change all this—we can change ourselves as we change the world—Fighting the Power, and Transforming the People, for REVOLUTION.
Revolution is not an impossible dream. It is not "unrealistic." Changing all of society, changing the whole world, is not a crazy or dangerous idea. What is crazy, and dangerous, is going along with the way things are, and where things are heading, under this system. Revolution—a radical change in how society works, how we relate as human beings, what our values are, how we understand the world and act to affect it—this is what we, what people all over the world, desperately need. And it is a lot more realistic than trying to "fix" this system.
People say: "Revolution has been tried, and it didn't work. It got smashed, or turned into something worse than what it was fighting against. Everybody has given up on revolution." No. The process of revolution has gone through twists and turns, mistakes have been made, there have been setbacks and defeats—but the truth is that, in its short history so far, the communist revolution has accomplished great things on a road of liberation never before taken. This revolution remains the only road which can actually bring about a radically different and much better world. As long as human beings continue to be exploited and abused, there will be the need and the possibility for this revolution.
And everybody has not given up on revolution. On my part, I have not just refused to give up, but have recognized the need to make new breakthroughs for this revolution. I have gone to work to learn from the experience of revolution, and from experience more broadly, and this has led to a new synthesis of communism—a deeper, even more scientific understanding of the methods, the goals, the strategy and plan for making revolution and creating a new society. On this basis, our Party, the Revolutionary Communist Party, is right now building a movement for revolution, and we are building our Party as the leadership that is needed for that revolution. But this movement and this Party have to get much stronger. More and more people need to get with this.
I call on youth in the inner cities, men and women in prison, people struggling just to keep from going under, mocked by the lie that "you can make it if you try," all those catching hell under this system, everyone deeply troubled by the desperate situation and dismal future facing so many youth—I call on students, academics, musicians and other artists, all those outraged by the crimes perpetrated by this system, everyone who agonizes over the state of the world and the future of humanity—to seriously get into this revolution. Go to the website revcom.us, and read the newspaper Revolution, where 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. Fighting back against the injustices of this system, and learning as we fight. Spreading and deepening the movement for revolution—preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution—in the neighborhoods and schools, everywhere people are who need to know about and join in this revolution. Helping to bring about, and getting ready for the time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win.
This is no joke, and it is not just some "grand idea" with no basis "in the real world." It is real, and it is being taken up with a serious, scientific method and approach—and with the joy of striving for a world where the suffering and madness that is now daily life for the masses of humanity will be gone, and whole new dimensions of freedom and of human potential will open up for people everywhere, no longer divided into rich and poor, masters and slaves, rulers and ruled. No longer fighting and slaughtering each other, but working together for the common good. No longer destroying, but acting as fit caretakers for the earth. This is communism, the goal of our revolution, a future—for the youth, for all of humanity—that is truly worth dedicating our lives to.
This is Bob Avakian, with a message of revolution. The challenge is there. The leadership is there. What's needed...is you.
Revolution #328 February 2, 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 #328 February 2, 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.
Revolution #328 February 2, 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 #328 February 2, 2014
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The Stop Mass Incarceration Network has issued an important call 2 years since the murder of Trayvon Martin. They are calling for A Day of Outrage and Remembrance on February 26, 2014:
We Are All Trayvon Martin,
The Whole Damn System is Guilty
This is an important call in its own right, and the anniversary of the murder of Trayvon Martin is a moment to seize in bringing forward a movement for revolution—for a world where among other things, there will be no more of these kinds of murders.
A basic plan:
1) Find ways to make a statement wearing black—be out in the streets where you can. Prisoners, find ways to make a political statement on this day and write us.
2) Promote BAsics 1:13:
No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that.
(From BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian—downloadable as a free e-book or available in paperback at www.revcom.us).
Bring this quote into the communities and schools on February 26—on palm cards, posters, flyers, human billboards, and other creative forms. Use it to provoke thinking and discussion, to introduce people to Bob Avakian and invite them into the movement for revolution he leads and building the Party as its leading core.
3) Along with BAsics 1:13, get out the poster of Bob Avakian's powerful "3 Strikes" quote—available at revcom.us/a/306/back_cover-en.html.
4) Take out Revolution and promote revcom.us
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
by Sunsara Taylor | January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In its January 9 editorial, "Abortion Restrictions in Texas and Beyond," the New York Times detailed the acute emergency surrounding women's right to abortion. After highlighting the extreme new laws which have already shut down abortion services at eight clinics in Texas and which threaten to close as many as 18 more in the next few months, the editorial points out that all this is part of a "surge of anti-abortion measures... In 2013 alone, 22 states adopted 70 different restrictions... including pre-viability abortion bans that defy Supreme Court precedent, unwarranted doctor and clinic regulations, limits on medication abortion by forbidding use of the most up-to-date drug protocol, and bans on insurance coverage."*
However, no sooner did the Times sound the alarm than it promptly hit the "snooze" button and sent everyone back to sleep. They concluded: "To stand a chance of rolling back these restrictions, supporters of abortion rights will need to fight harder... in the courts, in legislatures and at the ballot box."
It is difficult to think of worse—and more deadly—advice.
The fact that the "pro-choice movement" has for decades restricted itself to acting "in the courts, in legislatures and at the ballot box" is one of the biggest reasons why women's right to abortion has lost so much ground!
The ONLY way to defeat the escalating war on women is by relying on ourselves. What is urgently needed is massive, uncompromising, society-wide, self-sacrificing resistance.
This war is NOT a political gimmick of the "right wing" to get votes by giving lip service to issues dear to fundamentalist Christians. This war is a deadly serious move by an extremely powerful and entrenched section of the U.S. ruling class to forcibly impose traditional and theocratic forms of patriarchy on women throughout society. The fascist program includes the absolute criminalization of abortion in any and all circumstances—and steadfast opposition to birth control, real sex education, the science of evolution, and LGBT equality. This program includes the forceful reassertion of the traditional family where the man has ultimate authority and the woman submits to him.
Anyone who doubts this, needs to peel the blinders from their eyes and look at what is happening across this country. Between 2011 and 2013, more restrictions were passed against abortion than in the previous 10 years. Five states in the country have only one abortion clinic left—and in places like Mississippi and North Dakota those clinics are only still in operation because of temporary court rulings.
Already, women's lives are being ruined and risked in the name of this "culture of life." As we in StopPatriarchy.org discovered first-hand on last summer's Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, in rural and poor areas women are attempting dangerous measures to self-induce abortions: inserting sharp objects inside their vaginas, taking lots of pills, drinking to excess, throwing themselves down the stairs or getting in fist fights in attempts to terminate their pregnancies. Already, huge swaths of young, rural and poor women are finding abortion to be too difficult to access or too stigmatized to access and are foreclosing their lives and having children they did not want and aren't able to care for.
Voting for Democrats or "pro-choice" candidates, lobbying the legislatures and relying on the courts have done NOTHING to stop this direction. For decades, the Democrats have consistently refused to call out this Christian fascist assault for what it is: a program for the enslavement of women. Instead, they cede the moral high ground to these fascists when they say, as Bill Clinton did, that abortion should be "rare," or that, as Hillary Clinton did, it is a "tragic choice." Democratic leaders like Barack Obama have insisted that they "respect" these religious fanatics and that what they seek is "common ground." This has only served to demobilize people at a time when what is needed most is to fight.
As for the courts, since the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion, the courts have increasingly widened the scope of restrictions on women's access to abortion. In a very real way, the current spate of restrictions on abortion must be understood as the flood surging through the legal cracks opened up and widened by the Supreme Court itself.
This war on women is deeply rooted in the fundamental nature of the United States and the challenges it is currently facing. How this is so is gone into very deeply in the special issue of Revolution newspaper, A Declaration: for the Liberation of Women and the Emancipation of Humanity, which is essential reading for anyone serious about ending the oppression of women here or anywhere on this planet.
To fully uproot the oppression and enslavement of women will take a total revolution—a communist revolution that also puts an end to this country's mass incarceration of mainly Black and brown people, its unjust wars for empire, its global networks of sweatshops and other extreme capitalist exploitation, its destruction of the environment and its towering inequality of wealth. A concrete and sweeping vision of what this revolution will accomplish is laid out in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), published by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, and based on the new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian.
It is urgent that people who hate oppression, people who do not want to see women enslaved, lift their sights to this real possibility of a whole better world and join in the fight to bring it into being.
It is also urgent, it is necessary, and it is possible to defeat this war on women. The basis for this exists in the fact that this war is at odds with the fundamental interests of humanity. Many millions do not want to see women slammed backwards to the days of forced motherhood. And many more can be won to this position if they are uncompromisingly struggled with. But in order for this to matter, people must be mobilized to stand up and fight outside the killing confines of the courts, the legislatures and the ballot box and in opposition to the moral and political parameters set by them.
People must step out into the streets in massive resistance. People must raise their voices uncompromisingly for abortion on demand and without apology. People must put their bodies and their reputations and their social influence on the line.
Mass resistance is a big part of the way that people begin to see the many others who share their desire to see women liberated, combined with agitation, propaganda, and the all-around work of revolutionaries. It is through this whole process that people begin to feel their collective power and strength. It is through mass resistance that people can change how other whole sections of society are thinking and acting. It is through mass resistance that people become more open to the deeper questions of where all this oppression is coming from and what it will take to end it. It is through mass resistance that the total illegitimacy of this whole anti-woman program, how it flies in the face of the will of the people, can be exposed. It is through mass resistance that the rulers can be forced to either back off or risk losing even more "legitimacy" in the eyes of millions more.
It is urgent that people STOP relying on "fighting" "in the courts, in the legislatures and at the ballot box." Instead, we must rely on ourselves and make clear in word and deed that we will not stop until this whole direction is defeated.
Join today in the fight to end to the war on women. Learn about and become active in the fight to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women by visiting revcom.us/movement-for-revolution/stop-patriarchy and getting on their email list through their website www.stoppatriarchy.org. Look for announcements about mass protest against this war on women on International Women's Day, March 8, 2014 at revcom.us and www.stoppatriarchy.org.
* "Pre-viability" refers to the first 24 weeks, before which a fetus cannot survive outside of the womb. [back]
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
by Carl Dix | January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Yes again. Cops in Durham, North Carolina, claim that Jesus Huerta committed suicide on November 19, 2013, by shooting himself while his hands were cuffed behind his back in the back seat of a police car. The fatal shot traveled up thru the front of Huerta's jacket, struck him in the mouth, and lodged in the roof of the police car. Huerta's dead body ended up slumped on the back seat of the police car with his hands still cuffed behind his back! They made this claim despite the fact that Huerta had been searched by a cop before he was placed in the police car.
In explaining how this could have happened, police chief Jose Lopez said: "I know that it is hard for people not in law enforcement to understand how someone could be capable of shooting themselves while handcuffed behind the back... While incidents like this are not common, they unfortunately have happened in other jurisdictions in the past." Lopez was referring to claims of police in Arkansas that Chavis Carter, a young Black man who had been searched twice and placed in a police car with his hands cuffed behind his back, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head on August 6, 2012. Lopez also said the cop who searched Huerta was a rookie and must have missed the gun.
Yes, it is damned hard to understand how this could happen. And it's just as hard, if not harder, to believe this story! Are they telling us that, since cops in Arkansas claimed someone who had been searched by a cop could produce a gun and shoot himself in the head with his hands cuffed behind his back, we should believe that Huerta had done the same? And because the cop who had searched Huerta was a rookie we should believe that Huerta had a gun on him that the cop didn't find?
It's very, very unlikely that either Huerta or Carter committed suicide. But even if the authorities are telling the truth about how they died, their blood is still on the hands of the capitalist system. Jesus Huerta's family called 911 because they had concerns about his mental condition and were considering having him committed. Yet when the police confronted him, they arrested him and treated him like a criminal, not a youth who was at risk. And what does it say about the situation of youth under this system and the future it offers them if either of these young men had been driven to such a state of desperation that they would take their own life?
After the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, a lotta Black youth cried out: "They're killing us!" These cries expressed a cold, ugly truth about the reality Black and Latino youth face today. A bulls-eye has been placed on their backs.
This is unacceptable. It must be stopped! A system that exonerates the killers of unarmed innocent Black and Latino people again and again is illegitimate and just no damned good. It needs to be done away with. It'll take revolution, nothing less, to stop this and all the other horrors this system inflicts on people, once and for all. Everyone who has had it with the way this system is breaking the bodies and crushing the spirits of tens of millions of people, everyone who wants to see a different future for inner city youth and for all of humanity, needs to get with the movement for revolution we are building with the Revolutionary Communist Party as its leading core.
And mass, determined resistance is needed right now to take on the attacks this system's criminal "injustice" system is bringing down on people. Everybody who has an ounce of justice in their hearts needs to come together and say NO MORE to all these horrors. No More to police murders! No More to people ending up dead in police custody like Jesus Huerta and Chavis Carter! No More to torture in prison! No More to mass incarceration and all its consequences!
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
UCLA "Black Bruins" Video Hits Raw Nerve:
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Since appearing on YouTube in early November, over 1.7 million people—nearly 300,000 in the first week—have viewed "The Black Bruins" by Sy Stokes. It is a poetic and artistic, angry and moving five-minute spoken word piece about the increasing exclusion of Black men from one of this country's elite public universities. Sy Stokes is a third-year Afro-American Studies student, and he does the spoken word, with backup from 11 other Black male students. Stokes is a cousin of Arthur Ashe, a UCLA graduate ranked the world #1 professional tennis player in 1968 and again in 1975; and the only male African-American player ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon.
The statistics presented in this video are an outrage:
In fall 2012, the total enrollment, graduate and undergraduate, for African-American males at UCLA was 662; that's 3.3% of the 19,838 males enrolled. Out of that, 65% are athletes. This year's freshmen class includes 2,418 men; only 48 of them are African-American. Their expected graduation rate is 74%; which means, out of that number of freshmen, 35 Black men are expected to graduate.*
The spoken word piece then tells of one of the implications of the unspoken reality that so many of these Black students have been recruited as athletes:
When we have more national championships then we have Black male freshmen, it's evident that our only purpose here is to improve your winning percentage. So now, Black high school kids can care less about grades, just as long as the number on the back of their jersey doesn't fade. (our emphasis)
The video calls out the "fraudulent reputation" of an "institutionalized racist corporation;" and the lie that racist oppression is a thing of the past: "they don't care about the cultural limitations of being a minority in society.... stop pretending that the wounds of our past have healed." And it calls for "Increasing Graduation, Not Incarceration, Transforming Education [IGNITE] because our numbers can't be any fewer."
This video makes anyone watching it feel, for a moment, what these students face every time they enter a classroom: "So don't be surprised that we have become rebellious for what has happened to us, when every Black student in class feels like Rosa Parks on the bus." An African-American UCLA professor told USA Today: "It's just a really isolating experience when you're in a lecture hall of 200 and you're one of the few black students. You start to think, 'Is this a place for me? Can I be successful here?'" (Akane Otani, "Black UCLA students decry lack of diversity in video; USA Today, November 19, 2013) Stokes almost dropped out of UCLA during his first year because he felt isolated and alone as a black student on campus. (Stokes grew up in Richmond, California, a city just north of Berkeley with a significant ghetto. He said he was the only one of his high school friends who went to college; only because he was able to take SAT prep courses, etc. (UCLA FEM newsmagazine, November 15, 2013)
The Black Bruins perform their spoken word piece on the steps of UCLA's Campbell Hall, where AAP—the Academic Advancement Program—is located. (AAP provides academic programs and support for "historically underrepresented students" and promotes UCLA access and academic success for high school and community college students.) Campbell Hall was made infamous by a moment in its history, 45 years ago; it is the place where Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter and John Huggins, leaders of the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panther Party, were killed on January 17, 1969, in a confrontation instigated if not planned by the federal government's COINTELPRO—something noted in the opening frame of the video. And the video suggests a connection with this earlier period when it says "we are trying to rewind time" with "...voices that speak defiantly to reignite the flames to help us find a path to our future."
In going viral, the Black Bruins video has struck a raw nerve—and mainly through social media it has sparked responses of different kinds all over the country. A video by another student defends UCLA; while a student at Oregon State University posted a video revealing the even more extreme situation on his campus; saying only 1.3% of its 22,925 students are African-American; and for Black men the figure is 0.7%.
The Gavel, self-described "Progressive Student Voice of Boston College," published a "Pro/Con: Does the UCLA Black Bruins Viral Video Have Merit?" And the Yale Daily News wrote that even though Yale, as a private school, is not restricted the way California public colleges and universities are by Prop 2092, their statistics are little better: the student body is only 6% Black, and 9% percent Latino (not including international students). This despite the fact that Yale students are mainly drawn from urban areas; nearby New York City's population is 25.5% Black and 28.6% Latino.
Meanwhile, right-wing commentators and radio show hosts have attacked and ridiculed the video.
These developments have gone hand in hand with an increasing number of openly racist incidents on campuses throughout the country; most recently an incident that sparked protests at San Jose State University (In November 2013, three white students were charged with battery and a hate crime when it was discovered that they had repeatedly abused a Black freshman who shared a dorm suite with them verbally and physically, calling him names referring to slavery and putting a bicycle lock around his neck.)
And a report released in October describing "acts of bias and discrimination" against faculty at UCLA "found widespread concern among faculty members that the racial climate at UCLA had deteriorated over time." It refers to an ugly incident during a resident graduation event, where a slideshow was played that depicted a Black professor and doctor as a gorilla being sodomized by a white man; and referred to him as an 'affirmative action hire." (Daily Bruin, "Editorial: UCLA must work to cultivate faculty diversity," October 23, 2013)
The Black Bruins video has shined a light on the impact of decades of assault on admissions policies which were the result of ferocious struggles waged in the 1950s and 1960s against the legacy of centuries of slavery and "Jim Crow" segregation. The rulers of the U.S., in the face of tenacious, courageous struggle, made concessions in granting formal equality to African-Americans.
But these changes hardly scratched the surface in terms of ending inequality. Granting "equal access" to universities to everyone with grade point averages, advanced placement courses, and skill sets that are only available to people with access to libraries, tutors, or good schools still locked the vast majority of Black people out of universities. And the same was true in all kinds of realms of society, from good-old-boy networks that were a requirement to become fire fighters to traditionally "whites only" positions in corporations.
Under these circumstances, some concessions were made beyond simply getting rid of "whites only" regulations. Affirmative action policies that, for example, set aside a certain number of jobs or college admission positions for Black people did scratch the surface of generations of discrimination. These policies were far from enough, but they immediately came under ferocious assault from the powers-that-be, usually in the form of claiming that addressing systemic discrimination any meaningful way constituted so-called "reverse discrimination." In this way, the principle of formal "equality" was invoked to maintain and deepen historic injustices.*
The Supreme Court threw its weight behind the assault on these gains of the civil rights and national liberation struggles of the 1960s in its infamous Regents of the University of California v. Bakkedecision in 1978. Here they blocked the doorway to efforts to affect the racial composition in college admissions by declaring affirmative action policies unconstitutional, with the argument that they discriminate against and disadvantage those who were and are still benefiting from that continued discrimination—students of the dominant nationality.
The ugly result of banning affirmative action has been the dramatic drop-off in admissions of Black, Latino, and other historically under-represented students at public colleges, which the Black Bruins' video is calling out. At UCLA, during the three years before the Bakke decision, UCLA freshman classes had an average of 260 African Americans; in the past three years this average has fallen to 185, about 70% of the former total. Consider what the ripple effect has been when some of the country's largest graduate school systems have been producing fewer doctors, lawyers, and others many of whom serve oppressed nationality communities. This is yet another expression of the "New Jim Crow" which has been the reality for Black people for the past half century.
Public college and university admissions boards abandoned any formal recognition that these lopsided enrollment figures are an expression of continued oppression and discrimination. They have allowed the "reverse discrimination" argument against affirmative action to hold sway, and redirected admissions policies to only consider race or nationality as one of many secondary factors that go into what's called a "holistic" approach to evaluating applicants; not with the goal of redressing the continued effects of centuries of slavery and segregation, but to provide a "diverse" learning environment for the rest of the student body! These admissions policies have led to modest increases in the percentages of Black and other oppressed nationality students since the drop in enrollment after the Bakke decision. But seldom have they gone beyond the percentages admitted prior to Bakke.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court continues to move to further fortify white supremacy with rulings that are "tightening the noose" around admissions programs that take any account of students' nationality, even in the name of diversity—any attempt to counter the privilege of being white in America.
And this is taking an even more pernicious turn with the acceptance by some of these justices—expressly so by Justice Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice Roberts—of a discredited, bogus "theory" created in service of a racist agenda. Called "mismatch," this theory claims that students admitted to competitive schools with test scores and grades considerably lower than their peers end up with poor grades, lower graduation rates, lower self-esteem, and far greater difficulty passing licensing tests (such as bar exams for lawyers). The "remedy" for "mismatch" is for these students to go to less competitive schools where their level of academic preparation is closer to that of the average student.
The spearhead of this "mismatch" theory—UCLA Law School professor Richard Sander—is called out explicitly in the Black Bruins' video: "But according to Professor Sander, 3.3% is far too many Black kids." Sander's "mismatch" theory is a new angle of attack on college admissions policies developed since Bakke: accusing them of continuing to violate the Bakke decision, and allowing "unqualified" Black and other minority students into the elite law schools and other graduate and undergraduate programs—with the cover that it is harming the Black and other under-represented populations.
Sander claims to use social science and statistics to "prove" he's being objective, scientific, and scholarly; on that basis seizing the moral high ground and putting college admissions officers, and indeed anyone who defends, advocates for, or even considers the makeup of student bodies, on the moral defensive. Sander submitted amicus (friend of the court) briefs putting forward this "mismatch" theory to support Abigail Fisher, a white student who sued the University of Texas at Austin claiming reverse-discrimination in not being admitted to the University, and in support of a Michigan referendum that changed the state constitution in 2006 to outlaw any consideration of race, including in ending inequality. The Michigan amendment was modeled on Proposition 209, but its passage was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court. Now the U.S. Supreme Court is months away from deciding—in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action—whether it is constitutional.
By filing these amicus briefs, Sander has handed those on the Supreme Court who openly call affirmative action in any form "racial discrimination" a useful cudgel. In the Fisher case, Clarence Thomas' lengthy concurring opinion made Sander's "mismatch" argument a part of his own. And Chief Justice Roberts brought it into the recent oral argument held in the Schuette case. "Citing the work of UCLA law professor Richard Sander,... Chief Justice Roberts suggested that maybe in banning affirmative action Michigan's voters were acting in the interest of the state's minorities and saving them from the harm of 'academic mismatch.'" (Richard Lempert, "The Supreme Court and the Perils of Advocacy Science: Examples from the Schuette Oral Argument on Affirmative Action;" Brookings, October 29, 2013) The "mismatch" argument is also made in the briefs submitted by the Michigan Attorney General, arguing in defense of Michigan's constitutional amendment banning affirmative action.
Even if it were the case that because of the profound, multi-dimensional, deeply embedded discrimination against Black students that they didn't do well in elite universities, it would still be a total outrage to keep them out of these schools (as opposed to providing necessary support for them to succeed). But that is not the case. These Justices should be fully aware that Sander's "mismatch" theory has been rejected over and over by those who have tested his conclusions.
While Sander continues to cite his original article promoting the "mismatch" hypothesis, almost as soon as it was published half a dozen independent scholars examined the same data using a variety of scientific methods and failed to find evidence proving the effects he claims. In fact, most studies have shown that Black and other minority nationality students who attend the most competitive colleges do better than those attending less competitive ones. It has been shown, with attorneys for example, that despite substantial admissions "mismatch," the percentage of Black graduates passing the bar exam was comparable to whites, and as alumni they earned as much as white alumni, were just as satisfied with their careers, and gave more back to the community in the form of leadership and legal work done pro bono (for free).
What's more, any remaining acceptance of the "mismatch" hypothesis should have ended during the deliberations on Fisher v. University of Texas, when:
11 social scientists, most of whom had no prior involvement in affirmative action debates, reviewed the key studies in the amicus brief that Sander coauthored. This group, which included... two members of the National Academy of Sciences, along with several other of the country's top social science methodologists, advised the Court that the empirical evidence cited to it as favoring mismatch should be given no credit whatsoever.
Now what does it say that the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court makes a public statement, drawing on a discredited, bogus "theory"—in support of a law which will further codify the exclusion of Black and other oppressed people from entrance to the top universities—a statement which could have come out of the mouth of the racist governor of Alabama, George Wallace in the 1960s, who stood in the doorway to prevent the first Black students from enrolling in the University of Alabama. This harkens back to the long period of slavery, when it was forbidden to educate the slaves; the ignorance of the slaves was considered necessary to the security of the slaveholders.
The UCLA Black Bruins' video has issued a call and thrown down a challenge to students, faculty, and staff of all nationalities, on campuses nationwide, and to society as a whole. It will mean resisting the terms set by the system. All this works to enforce and deepen the "new Jim Crow." And resisting means going up against the "embrace" of those top administrators or others who are scrambling to put a patch over this and other cracks in the wall that hides the ways in which academia is contributing to an overall system which includes the "school to prison pipeline": police brutality, repression, and the mass incarceration of generations of our youth - to the intensification of the oppression of African-Americans and all those oppressed and exploited by the system. It means coming together with, and reaching out to, all those awakening to the reality that this system is a nightmare for the vast majority of society here and worldwide; those coming to realize that it does not have to be this way; and that there is a movement for revolution with the Party as its leading core, with far-sighted leadership that could finally put an end to this set-up and build a whole new world.
It has to become the case that:
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")
1. Stokes told UCLA's FEM newsmagazine, "I didn't speak of Black females because I didn't have statistics regarding Black females available to me... I did not want to put anything out there that was inaccurate... [Black Male Institute, or BMI] would like to also have a Black Women Institute, but UCLA is not giving us funding for it..." [back]
2. Proposition 209, passed by voters in 1996, amended the state Constitution; it now bans state colleges, and any other government institutions, from considering race, sex, or ethnicity in education, hiring, or contracting. [back]
3. See "Supreme Court Tightens Noose Around Affirmative Action;" Revolution #309 [back]
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following short polemic originally appeared as part of the Revolution special issue "The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System, and the Revolution We Need".
People say: "The basic reason for the problems of Black people has been the breakdown of the Black family. That's why these kids get into the gang life. We have to bring back the traditional family as the first step to solving these problems."
While there has been a tremendous breakdown of Black families in the last several decades, that too has stemmed from the workings of this system, which has cast many Black men to the margins of society, with nearly a million of them in prison as you read this. The economic basis for "stable, two-parent" families has been undercut. You could have every Black father actively involved in the care of every Black child, and the fact would still remain: this system has no future for millions and millions of these youth, with or without fathers present.
If you really think that the "stable, two-parent" family will solve the problem, take a look back to the years of KKK terror, lynchings and Jim Crow segregation in the South. Back then the great majority of Black families were traditional two-parent families. But that did not and could not prevent the devastating effects of white supremacy and capitalist exploitation and oppression.
But there is an even deeper problem with this non-explanation: it directs oppressed people towards an outlook that will strengthen the chains of oppression and lead away from liberation. The traditional family has its origins in the original division of society into oppressor and oppressed. You can get a clue to this by looking at the root word of "family," which is from the Latin "familia"—which actually means the number of slaves owned by one master! "Restoring the man to the head of the family" covers over the reality of what that means for the woman—which is exactly being treated like a slave, whether a "favored" one or one who is beaten, abused, betrayed, molested, and raped within the "holy confines" of the family (which is all too often how it really goes down). When you get right down to it, this "rightful role of the man" bullshit is just the talk and mentality of a wannabe slave master. And all this other talk from the street of "ho's and bitches"...all this hatred of gay people, with the talk of "faggots," the persecution, and the actual beat-downs and even killings of anyone whose sexual feelings differ from "the norm"...all that stuff, too, is the same messed-up, destructive mentality.
We don't need this—and it will never lead to liberation and a better world!! While the communist revolution will immediately remove the obstacles that society has placed in the way of forming Black families, it will NOT do this on the basis of the traditional relations and ideas that dominate families in capitalist society, but on the basis of equality and mutual love and respect—and of looking outward toward transforming all of society, including unleashing the full participation of women in every sphere. Black men, and other men, don't need to "get in" on their "right" to assert domination in the family over women and children—they need to rise up together with women in equality as part of emancipating all of humanity.
And Black children don't need "male role models"—they need an end to the crippling conditions that hem them in at every point. They need revolution, and they need revolutionary role models, women no less than men.They need to see men and women who model the mutual respect and equality that reflects the world we are fighting for: a whole new liberated world where girls grow up strong and without fear of being raped, degraded or abused, where no child is ever deemed "illegitimate," and where men—like everyone else—find their worth in contributing to the betterment of all of humanity through the revolutionary transformation of all society rather than by getting in on even a little of the oppression of this nightmare world.
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On January 22, opening arguments began in a Chicago courtroom in the trial of three young men facing state terrorism and conspiracy charges. This case is the first use of the Illinois Terrorism Statute passed after September 11, 2001. The defendants' arrests took place in the days leading up to the NATO war criminals summit in May 2012. (For background on the NATO Summit, the mass protests against it, and the heavy government repression, see the following revcom.us articles: "Chicago Gears Up for NATO Summit: This is What a Police State Looks Like," "NATO in Chicago: Thousands Protest War Criminals' Summit" and "Iraq, Afghan War Vets Throw Back Medals, March with Thousands.")
What follows is taken from a January 21 statement by The World Can't Wait Chicago chapter:
"... these three men were arrested just days before the NATO generals' conference held here in May 2012, when an apartment in Bridgeport was raided and 11 people arrested, most of whom were soon released. Those arrests became front page headlines alleging 'terrorist plots,' just as thousands were preparing to demonstrate. The NATO 3 have been in jail awaiting trial ever since. They are facing numerous felonies, including terrorism charges under the never-before-used 'Illinois Terrorism Statute,' charges that carry very long sentences.
"This trial matters for several reasons. First, the Illinois terrorism statute is so vague it can be stretched almost indefinitely. Their lawyers have pointed out that the statute they are charged under uses a definition of terrorism that does not even require an element of force or violence and impinges on First Amendment rights of free speech. When mere words and/or peaceful demonstrations can be defined as acts of 'terror,' everyone who understands that political protest and demonstrations are vital must speak out against such prosecution.
"Thousands from around the US and the world demonstrated in May 2012, when NATO met here in Chicago. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is a U.S.-led military alliance that bombed Libya and continues to wage war on the people of Afghanistan. It is one piece in the apparatus of endless criminal 'war OF terror' the US is waging across the globe, a dirty war in which hundreds of thousands have been killed, detained, and tortured. World Can't Wait and many organizations and individuals rightly took to the streets of Chicago that week in May 2012 to speak out against US and NATO war crimes...
"The trumped up prosecution of the NATO 3 was and is aimed at shifting the spotlight away from NATO's crimes and portraying those who speak out against war as the criminals.
"For months leading up to the NATO conference, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel fed a media frenzy about the need to 'safeguard' the city of Chicago from 'violent protesters,' to pass restrictive new anti-protest ordinances, and even re-open an old state prison—all in order to fan public fears. Weeks before NATO, the CPD was already targeting people for surveillance, especially around Occupy Chicago. It is alleged that undercover CPD cops egged on protesters to plan an action and even supplied them with what were later portrayed as 'weapons.' The People's Law Office, which is representing the NATO 3 along with National Lawyers Guild attorneys, will argue that they were targeted for their ideology and NOT because they represented any threat to public safety.
"The government responds to protests with repression, both physical attacks and draconian prosecution, but they are not all powerful. They act out of fear—fear of the people standing up against their crimes, and fear of losing legitimacy in the eyes of millions. Opposing this prosecution politically is just as important as taking it on legally, and this is where we come in, those who know the government will stop at nothing to continue its crimes and suppress those who resist. We must speak out against these outrageous charges..."
Chicago World Can't Wait also reported the following as the trial opened last week:
"The message was pretty clear: the public is not welcome at the trial of three men dubbed the NATO 3, which began today, January 21, in Chicago.
"The court has issued orders that anyone wishing to attend must submit state-issued identification the day before they want to observe what is supposed to be a public trial, so they can be cleared by the Sheriff's office. And that must be repeated each day!
"David Shapiro, professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law, and attorney Alan Mills, legal director of the Uptown People's Law Center, wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times, 'The net effect [of these restrictions] will be to deprive the public of full knowledge of how the prosecution unfolds against the three men who were arrested on terrorism charges before world leaders gathered in Chicago to attend the 2012 NATO summit. Their attorneys contend the three men were charged based on idle chatter, laced with bravado and abetted, encouraged and egged on by the undercover police agents.'" They conclude that, "This is a 'high-profile trial' only because the state has inflated misdemeanor attempted vandalism charges into trumped-up terrorism charges. There is no apparent reason to suspect any threat to security."
While the court has since ordered that spectators can register on the day they wish to observe the trial, the public still faces extraordinary measures, including police dogs in the hallway the day the trial opened. Revolution newspaper will continue to cover developments in this important prosecution.
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
by Li Onesto | January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Shimeek Gridine, was 14, his friend was only 12, when they tried to rob a man in Jacksonville, Florida in 2009. When Shimeek fired a shotgun, the man was hit but not seriously wounded. Shimeek was prosecuted as an adult and pleaded guilty to attempted murder and robbery—hoping he would get leniency because he was young and had no record of any violence. But the judge sentenced him to 70 years without parole. Now Shimeek cannot get out of prison until he turns 77, which is beyond the life expectancy for a Black man his age. Shimeek's grandmother, Wonona Graham said, "They sentenced him to death, that's how I see it."1
Quantel Lotts was 17 years old when he went to court, was tried as an adult and got the most severe sentence possible—life without parole. It didn't matter to the court that Lotts was only 14 years old when he and his step-brother were play-fighting with darts and a toy bow and arrow and then things escalated into a real fight where Lotts stabbed his step-brother. Lotts says he is a different person now, but he will never be able to make that argument to prison officials for a second chance. He will remain behind bars until he dies. "They locked me up and gave me life without," Lotts says. "It's like they killed all hope for the future. There's nothing left."2
On his 16th birthday Robert Holbrook agreed to serve as a lookout in a robbery he thought would be a simple drug deal but others involved ended up killing someone. He pled guilty to murder to avoid the death penalty. The judge convicted him of first-degree murder for aiding and abetting in the crime. Now he's serving a life-without-parole sentence in Pennsylvania.3
"Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without the possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age."
Article 37A of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, September 2, 1990.
America is the only country in the world to sentence youth to die in prison without any hope of release, and today about 2,500 people in the U.S. are serving life without parole sentences for crimes they committed when they were juveniles.4 There are many more in prison who did crimes when they were under 18 years old, serving what amounts to life sentences—given 60- or 70-year sentences which guarantee they will die behind bars.
This completely cruel and unjust situation exists even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled to restrict mandatory life sentences for juveniles, arguing that children, even those convicted of murder, are less culpable than adults and in most cases deserve a chance to try and change.
Stop and think about just how barbaric it is that this system insists on taking children and trying them as adults and then locking up many of them—some as young as 14, or even younger—for the rest of their lives, telling them they have no chance of ever being with their families again, ever going to regular school, ever having a life outside of prison.
In two separate cases, in 2010 and 2012, the Supreme Court made very important rulings about juvenile sentencing based on testimony on the differences between youth and adults.
In 2010, in the case of Graham v. Florida, the court decided that because of their cognitive, behavioral, and emotional differences from adults, youth under 18 at the time of their crime who did not commit a homicide could not be sentenced to the harshest available sentence. The court forbade sentences of life without parole for juveniles not convicted of murder and said offenders must be offered a "meaningful opportunity for release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation."
The case before the court was that of Terrance Graham, who had been sentenced to life for armed robberies. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion: "The state has denied him any chance to later demonstrate that he is fit to rejoin society based solely on a non-homicide crime that he committed while he was a child in the eyes of the law."
Then in 2012, in the case of Miller v. Alabama the court found the mandatory sentencing of juveniles to life without parole to be a violation of the 8th Amendment (that bans cruel and unusual punishment) in that it did not allow for consideration of their age and other relevant factors. The Supreme Court said that courts must "take into account how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison." This decision meant that in 26 states, the only sentence for juveniles convicted of murder is unconstitutional.
The court left it unclear, though, whether Miller can be applied to the 2,500 life without parole sentences already handed down to those convicted of crimes committed as a juvenile. Nor did this ruling deal at all with those prisoners who as juveniles were given sentences that amounted to life sentences.
A record number of people are serving life without parole sentences in the U.S. for things they did when they were juveniles. But youth were not always treated with such routine barbaric cruelty in U.S. courts.
In 1899 the U.S. actually made a deliberate decision to accommodate the developmental differences between adolescents and adults. Juvenile courts were established—a separate system of justice for youth that recognized their differences in terms of culpability and maturity. For most of the first half of the 20th century, this was the dominant thinking behind how juveniles were treated in U.S. courts, with emphasis on rehabilitation. But this drastically changed and began to unravel starting in the 1960s.5
The concept and practice of the courts taking into account actual differences between adults and juveniles began to be steadily undermined. This was especially true during the 1980s and 1990s, during the "war on drugs"—with Black and Latino youth being demonized and criminalized by the courts, politicians, and media. Remember all the talk about "superpredators"? The popularization of phrases like "adult crime, adult time"?
The age of judicial transfer was lowered in many states, allowing the criminal prosecution of youth aged 14 and younger. The range of transferable offenses was expanded—meaning a longer list of crimes for which youth could be prosecuted as adults. But perhaps the most significant change was in the automatic transfer statutes. Under these statutes, many youths are automatically treated as adults when they are charged with crimes. By some estimates this has meant more than 250,000 youth having their cases transferred into the adult criminal system every year.6
In New York, for example, a law passed in 1962 mandates that 16-year-olds be treated as adults, and 40,000 adolescents a years are tried as adults in that state—most for nonviolent crimes like fare-beating in the subways, marijuana possession and shoplifting.7
All this has been part of dramatic rise of mass incarceration in the U.S. in the last few decades.
As I wrote in the article, "What Kind of System Sentences People to a 'Living Death'?" (Revolution, December 9, 2013), the widespread use of life without parole sentencing was actually uncommon in the U.S. before the 1970s. But then came the "war on drugs" and the explosion of mass incarceration. The number of prisoners in the U.S. went from 338,029 in 1970 (in federal and state prisons and local jails) to 2,266,832 in 2010—with the majority of prisoners being Black and Latino people. This is when there came about a tremendous rise in the handing down of life without parole sentences—for adults as well as for juveniles.
In addition to juveniles serving life without parole sentences, there are 49,000 adult prisoners with such sentences—with over 3,000 of these prisoners incarcerated for nonviolent drug and property crimes. These sentences are about vindictive punishment, not rehabilitation, with a complete disregard for people's humanity. Life without parole sentences—for adults and juveniles—are cruel and inhumane.
Generations of Black and Latino youth have been treated as criminals, automatic suspects to be stopped and frisked by the police for doing nothing. And when they end up in court African American youth are sentenced to life without parole as children at a per capita rate that is 10 times that of white youth.8
This is a system that blames Black and Latino youth for "making bad choices"—while it cannot offer them any jobs, decent housing, education or any kind of future other than becoming a killing machine for their military, being constantly hounded by the police or ending up in prison.
All this underscores what Carl Dix from the Revolutionary Communist Party has said about the stakes of the struggle against mass incarceration in the United States:
"This horrific racially targeted massive incarceration is a consequence of not having made revolution in the '60s. The revolutionary upheaval of that period rocked the ruling class back on its heels, but it didn't seize power from them. Having ridden those storms out, and conscious of the role the uprisings of Black people played in spearheading that and their potential for sparking future upheaval, the ruling class has moved to viciously suppress that potential before it can manifest itself—counter-insurgency before the insurgency.
"If things are allowed to continue on this trajectory, the reality of millions of the oppressed penned up in the ghettos and barrios without opportunity or hope will intensify. Going in and out of jail will remain a rite of passage for millions of oppressed youth, many of whom already look to their immediate future and can see nothing more than prison or death. This is slow genocide and, given the sharp divisions in the ruling class and the building up and unleashing of outright fascist forces, it could easily become fast genocide."
In addition to the 2,500 prisoners serving life without parole for juvenile crimes there are another 10,000 serving life sentences for crimes they were convicted of committing before they were 18. This is in line with the general trend in America where prisoners are serving the longest sentences in the country's history.
Only a savagely cruel system sentences youth to life without parole. Only a totally illegitimate system sends thousands of young people to prison for decades with no hope of ever changing and getting a second chance, of getting out and making a contribution to society. This is a system that labels Black and Latino youth "the worst of the worst" to be thrown away and treated as less than human, that has no regard for their human potential. This is a system that has no future for the these youth. But the revolution does have a place for these youth – fighting the power and transforming the people for revolution, a revolution to emancipate all of humanity.
As Bob Avakian says:
"No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that."—BAsics 1:13
1. New York Times, "Juveniles Facing Lifelong Terms Despite Rulings," 1/20/14 [back]
2. The Guardian, "U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider life imprisonment for juveniles," 3/19/12 [back]
3. Stateline, "States Reconsider Juvenile Life Sentences," 7/27/12 [back]
4. "Life Goes On: the Historic Rise in Life Sentences in America," The Sentencing Project, 2013 [back]
5. "Adolescent Development and the Regulation of Youth Crime," by Elizabeth S. Scott and Laurence Steinberg, 2008 [back]
6. Scott and Steinberg, 2008 [back]
7. New York Times editorial, "When Children Become Criminals," 1/19/14 [back]
8. Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth [back]
Revolution #328 February 2, 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 #328 February 2, 2014
Letter from a Reader:
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
After watching the first two episodes of Friday Night Tykes on the Esquire Channel on Tuesday nights, I became sick to my stomach. Friday Night Tykes is a takeoff from the TV series, Friday Night Lights, about Texas high school football. Friday Night Tykes is a multi-week series that chronicles the teams, players, and families of a tackle football league in San Antonio, Texas, for eight-and nine-year-old kids.
The verbal and physical abuse and treatment of these children is so graphic and brutal that after watching this, you will never want your children to ever play tackle football again. Despite the fact that Esquire Channel responded to criticisms of this show by stating that the show brings up important and serious questions about parenting and safety in youth sports, it seems to me the real intent of this series is not about exposing the horrors of youth football, which it does, but principally about entertainment, and it's criminal.
In the first week, one coach yelled at his players, "You have the opportunity today to rip their freakin' head off and let them bleed." And another coach told a child, "I want you to put it in his helmet... I don't care if he don't get up. Let's go!" In the second week, some of the coaches' teaching methods included statements like, "This is a rough sport. You're gonna get hurt." "I could care less if other teams cry." And after one young player threw up on the field, his coach yelled at him, "Stop your fucking crying. Get back in there." The bullying is over the top, as one coach berated his player, "Boy, if you don't say something, I'll kick your ass."
But the worst parts of this show are the dangerous hits to the head that these children are receiving during practice and in the games that could result in permanent brain damage and ultimately death. (See "NFL Concussion Settlement: $765 Million to Suppress the Truth About Brain Injuries," Revolution #316, September 15, 2013.) One youth was shown in the hospital with all sorts of wires attached to his head after he received a severe concussion during the game. When he became conscious, he could not remember his mother's name, his father's name, and even his own name! His father refused to blame this on football, saying, "It wasn't football that it happened; it was just an unfortunate thing that it happened." His parents did have an understanding of the dangers of concussions and was holding him out for a while, but he was going to play again, and would only be stopped from playing by his parents if he gets three concussions. From what I saw, this one concussion was enough to stop him from playing.
One player got a severe head hit when he was being tackled in a game and was laid out on the field, completely motionless. The coaches ran out on the field screaming, "He's injured, he's injured." They show him getting up and walking slowly off the field, but in the next clip, he's out there in the game carrying the ball again. How can anyone have such a complete disregard for a child's well-being by placing him back in the game minutes after he was hurt?
Severe head hits and potential head injuries are almost totally disregarded. As a young player lies moaning on the ground after a head hit, people around him claim that he is okay and that he just "got stung."
There are all sorts of scenes with players crying and getting hurt. There are a lot of scenes showing violent head-hits and many players piling on one player. One player told his parents that he was fearful. "I really don't want to get injured," he told them at the dinner table.
Dr. Robert Cantu, a neurosurgeon, has co-authored a book titled Concussions and Our Kids: America's Leading Expert on How to Protect Young Athletes and Keep Sports Safe. He is an expert on concussions in youth sports and has shown that compared to adult brains, youth brains are particularly vulnerable because they do not have a protective coating that adult brains have. He also has pointed out that "Youngsters have big heads and weak necks, and that bobblehead-doll setup puts them at much greater risk for concussion." He has concluded that kids should not participate in tackle football until they are in high school. "It's not appropriate that we're subjecting their [youth] brains to that kind of trauma when the alternative is playing the sport anyway, through flag football, and still learning the skills of tackle football, but practicing those skills on pads and dummies and not getting hit." ("Dr. Robert Cantu Speaks Out About Concussions In Youth Sports," www.trainemupacademy.org, February 19, 2013)
Friday Night Tykes shows us the ideological training these kids are getting that is turning them into little macho soldiers for U.S. imperialism. "Stop being emotional," one kid is told. "Only women are emotional. This is football. This is a man's game." One youth, who is the star of the team, was going to miss a game because of a relative's wedding, but was told by his coach, in opposing his mother's decision to take him to the wedding, "The only wedding you should ever go to is your own wedding."
The analogy being made to these youth of football being compared to the military is constantly a part of this TV show. "We're going to war with our general and troops," a team was told. Another team was told, "Suit up. Put on your armor. You're gladiators, and you're going to war."
There have been a number of articles written about the show calling it "depressing," "not normal imagery," and "not about child's play." Even a spokesperson for the National Football League, after watching the show's preview, said "the show is definitely troubling to watch."
Well, I've seen enough of this show to know what it is about and I don't want to watch it any more: seeing these cute little kids getting their precious little brains knocked around, seeing them crying when they get hurt, seeing them bullied by their coaches, seeing them being trained in anti-woman and pro-military ideology. Further, this show is for me the final nail in the coffin of tackle football, a sport that I have grown up loving. I just can't see how tackle football can be a part of the kind of world I want to live in.
The world I want to live in is described in detail in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party. I encourage people to check out this very important document. This Constitution deals with sports and physical activities to provide "entertainment and recreation and promote health and fitness throughout society." In the society described in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, the "emphasis [for sports and athletics] is given participation of people broadly, and in particular the youth, in sports of many different kinds. The role of competition in sports will be recognized and given its appropriate place, but the basic and overall priority in sports will be to foster bonds of friendship, comradeship, community, cooperation and the shared experience and joy of sport, along with its contribution to health and fitness."
Friday Night Tykes presents a reality that is the complete opposite of the kind of world that I want to live in. What kind of world do you want to live in?
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Almost 50 million people had their food stamp allotments cut on November 1 when Democrats and Republicans in Congress allowed an extension in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to expire. The federal government estimates that this means 21 fewer meals a month for a family of four.
A young Chicana in Houston who works as a waitress told Revolution what this means for her and her family: "It's been really hard even before this, and we both have jobs. So I've been trying to get doubles at work, he's going in six days a week when he can. We got cut $28 a month. Maybe that doesn't sound like much to some people, but it's enough to make a real difference. Like, for instance, you want to buy juice, actual juice, for your kids. You want them to eat healthy and not just a lot of junk. But juice is so expensive compared with Kool Aid. So we get juice sometimes, but especially if there are other kids over or they go to the park it's Kool Aid. You gotta always go for the less expensive stuff. Even then, things like cereal cost a lot, and kids can go through a lot of cereal. So we're basically always trying to figure out how to cut corners, how to make things last, things like that."
More deep slashes in the program are set to follow. The only dispute within the government is over how much, how quickly. Republicans in Congress are pushing for an additional $40 billion in cuts; the Democratic counter proposal is to cut "only" $4 billion more. Whatever results from their bargaining will inflict further suffering on tens of millions of people.
An article in Revolution, "The Shutdown, the Showdown, and the Urgent Need to Repolarize ... for Revolution" provides important analysis of the framework and context for this attack. The article describes how "two blocs within the ruling class sharply contend with each other. They have very different views of what must be the 'cohering consensus' of the American 'body politic'—even while agreeing that the point of all this is to continue to buttress and expand the American empire." The fight over cutbacks in food stamp allotments—how much to cut, how quickly, who to cut first and deepest—is part of this larger battle among ruling class parties.
Hardcore Republicans argue that food stamps are morally wrong, that they only make people "dependent on government handouts," and lead people away from relying on their own efforts and discipline to get jobs. They claim that all that is needed to "break the cycle of poverty" are determination and hard work, and that programs aimed at enabling people to meet the needs of bare survival actually push people deeper into poverty.
That Revolution article points out that a core belief of these right wingers is "free market fundamentalism": "that society and government have no organized responsibility for anything bearing on the well-being and welfare of the people. This is ... a vicious individualism aimed especially at the poor and minorities." For many of them, especially those motivated by Christian Fascism, this belief is backed up by their fanatical religious beliefs. One Republican Congressman favoring deep cuts in food stamps justified his vote with the Bible: "we would give you this command: if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat."
Leading Democrats agree on the need for massive SNAP cuts. In fact, as Joel Berg of the NYC Coalition Against Hunger said, SNAP payments were reduced "due to the actions of the President and Democrats in Congress." The Democratic leadership wants these reductions to be put in place incrementally over years, to reduce the possibility of triggering more anger, disruption, and protest among the people.
A small crew of Revolution readers in Houston went out to learn what this means for people and to bring to them the movement for revolution and Revolution newspaper. We spoke with people receiving food stamps, people at food pantries, and some people responsible for large scale food distribution to the hungry. Here is some of what they told us.
Many people who volunteer at food pantries struggle to supply nourishing food and meals to as many people as they can, and are close-up witnesses to the havoc inflicted on the lives of people constantly struggling for another meal.
A Black woman who volunteers in a food pantry said "This is horrendous. People in need are going without, not just in this part of town, but all over. People's lives are at stake, I see it happening. I know one man at my church, an elderly gentleman, he's worked all his life but he can't work anymore. And now he needs to figure out whether he can eat, or buy his medicine, or pay his rent. It isn't right. What kind of government would do that to people, let people suffer like that?"
A middle aged Chicana at the same pantry jumped in: "I don't know how we're gonna make it. I honestly don't. I'm doing everything I can, but everything seems to be working against me. I'm taking care of my mother, who's got diabetes and can't work any more. I've got some of my daughter's kids now. And I'm stretching everything as far as I can. But now we've got to figure out a way to do more with less. How can people survive like this? I don't know."
We met with Betsy Ballard, the spokeswoman for the Houston Food Bank, which the group "Feeding America" says is the largest distributor of food to needy people in the country. She told us "We know definitively that there are 137,000 people served directly through the 600 agencies we work with in Southeast Texas. That represents over one million people considered food insecure here. The population shifts all the time, for all kinds of reasons. But the numbers aren't going down. And about one third of the people I'm talking about are children, which really sucks."
"Being 'food insecure' means that people don't have access to nutritious food. In other words, all they can get is crap, if they can get anything. That's why you have obesity among people who are food insecure. The skeptics say how can they be hungry when they're so fat. But they're food insecure.
"And people being in poverty and food insecure, and coming to us, it's not one to one. Sometimes elderly people, they are proud because they've worked and supported themselves and don't want to turn to anyone for help. Sometimes people speak Spanish or other languages and think they may be in trouble if they come here."
Food stamp use is at record levels—SNAP use has tripled since 2000. Impoverished communities from Woonsocket, Rhode Island to Brownsville, Texas rely on monthly SNAP allotments for bare survival. The Washington Post reported that in "cash strapped Florida ... increasing food stamp usage has become a means of economic growth, bringing almost 6 billion dollars into the state."
Hardest hit by the cuts in SNAP are some of the most vulnerable sections of the people: 22 million children; 9 million elderly or seriously disabled people. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that in New York State about 1 million elderly and disabled people will see their allotment drop; in Texas alone, it's 2.3 million children.
A disabled Black man told us what it's like to deal with the SNAP agencies, the uncertainties he faces month to month, day to day. "They cut mine from $200 a month to $16! How's anybody gonna live on $16 a month? You can't do it. You get a loaf of bread, maybe some tuna fish and some peanut butter, and that's it. Couldn't really live on the $200, this little check I been getting ain't much help at all."
"Then it went up to $95. Then for a couple of months it went to $96. Then it went to $80 and that's where it's been for a couple of months. We'll see what it is this month. I don't know why they keep doing it. You can't talk to no one. It's supposed to be if you're making more money you get less, but I've been disabled and out of work since 2008."
"It makes me so upset, it keeps me upset. But what are you going to do about it? It's all in the system they got, and you can't beat the system. They find a way that you always wrong. And a lot of people that really need it can't get it"."
Nationwide, the overwhelming majority of people on SNAP who are able to work do work—but this system provides jobs that don't even pay people enough to meet life's most basic necessities! One of the fastest growing sections of people who rely on SNAP just to make it is people who have jobs.
A middle aged white man from Louisiana who moved to Texas to find work told us that he "was making pretty good money. Me and my brother have always worked construction. I was making about $600 a week, and that was when we was doing pretty good.
"But then my hours got cut way back and I've been working only one day a week, if that. Plus I had to start helping out my brother. We've always worked together. But now he's got a rod in his right ankle because he broke it at work, and they say he's not disabled, but one thing I can flat out guarantee you is that no one wants to hire a 54 year old man with a broken foot to do construction work."
"So here we are. He had to move out of his place and I'm trying to provide for him and my family, pay the rent, buy the food, all that. Now they cut me back and won't recognize him as a dependent. I really ain't sure what's in store for us, but things damn sure ain't working out for me now."
A young woman who waits tables described the humiliating suspicion and scrutiny to which SNAP recipients are subjected. "It's so hard to deal with these people. It's like they want to know every little thing about you and how you live, but you can't even talk to them. I mean you really can't find them to talk to them. Like when (her husband's teenage daughter) moved in with us we put down that the number of dependents had gone up. But they wanted all this proof, even after we gave it to them.
"So they give you a number to call, and their office is in El Paso! That's like six or seven hundred miles away, but that's the office for the whole state. I finally found out where they have a little office here in some state building, but they were shocked when I went in there, and they said you can't talk to anyone here you have to call this number—the number in El Paso."
"All this was because (the teenager) moved in with us, so we said we needed one more person put on it. But you know, if you work a little extra—like my husband started working extra when he could and bringing in a little, and I do mean a little bit more on some of his checks— they know that and they say you're going to get cut because you're making too much. So it's like they're always ready to cut it, they're watching everything you do to make sure you're not cheating them somehow."
We spoke to a Black woman who reads Revolution periodically. She told us how her SNAP had been cut from $800 a month to $615—and she has six children she's caring for. Her Social Security was also cut by one-third recently. One of the ways she gets by is by borrowing from a food truck that comes around the projects—she already owes them $300 against next month's allotment.
She spoke about how "there really is no difference" between the Republicans and the Democrats ... "people with money is still people with money, no matter the name or the label. At first they try to make it seem like the Democrats are for the poor people and the Republicans are for the rich people. No. They are for the people who have money."
She said she thought "people with money" put up Barack Obama for president "to show the world that they are not racist." She also said "he's their puppet", even as she added that "he tries ... but he does it for just to make sure he gets the poor peoples' votes. Because he promised a change for the poor people. And they believed him. And to think about it sometimes, we kinda fell for it."
At the end of the interview, she read BAsics 1:20, and it hit her deeply. "I think what it is saying is pretty true. Why do they say we have the right to eat when they are cutting our food stamps? So it goes back to what you all say—that we don't really have a right to do anything. As long as you have a system that keeps cutting us back—well, before long we won't even have a right to live in this world. With all the cutbacks how are we even going to live, let alone eat?
"So wow, that said a whole lot, a whole lot in a nutshell. With all the food stamp cut backs. Which will make us do what? Go to these places and steal? You are going to steal your food. And if you get caught, where do you wind up? In jail. Starting back up from the bottom, because for stealing—that's years in jail."
"That's why a lot of people do take. You take because you don't have. And you are trying to accumulate something. People are of the mentality that 'if you don't give it to me when I ask you then I am going to take it'—I know a lot of people who have that mentality—that's how they become robbers."
"Because you never know what that person's situation is. Why did that man go stick up that store? Because maybe he had small children at home to feed and that's the only thing they can think of. Because when you take something away from somebody, you turn on another way of thinking. So if we can't get no food like this, and I can't get a job, and I can't afford it ..."
"But their main focus is trying to make that right to eat. So instead of blaming the people in society, people with money need to actually blame themselves. They government really need to blame themselves for the crime rate to even go up. For real."
Urgently needed in the face of these endless, vicious attacks is a spirit of resistance that is increasingly part of the movement for revolution the RCP is building. Revolution, nothing less can meet the needs of the people, and doing it as part of advancing revolution the world over. And that's for real.
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I appreciated the exposure of factors behind the election of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City, and the analysis of how his actual program, even if fulfilled, wouldn’t scratch the surface of the glaring inequalities and injustices in New York City and the world as a whole (see “New York City: The Mayor's New Clothes” at revcom.us). This is critical for people to understand.
I’ve also been reflecting on what was revealed, at least in part, by the surprising way de Blasio emerged from the “back of the pack” to end up winning the election by a landslide.
For those who don’t follow New York City politics, “independent” (neither Democrat nor Republican) billionaire Michael Bloomberg reigned over New York City for three terms, branding himself as a “CEO”-style mayor. His designated successor, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, was a Democrat who took some steps to distance herself from Bloomberg, but was closely linked to him in the public perception. The other leading candidate for the Democratic Party nomination, Bill Thompson, has a long track record as a Democratic Party/establishment figure marked by “highlights” like being backed by then-Mayor Rudolph (as Carl Dix has called him “Adolf”) Giuliani to head the NYC Board of Education. But neither of them generated much enthusiasm or energy among the electorate.
Then, as the article at revcom.us points out, de Blasio broke out of the pack—with a pivotal moment being “the ad.” It featured de Blasio’s Black teenage son saying his dad would “end an era of stop-and-frisk that unfairly targets people of color."
I was walking through the middle class Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope the day after the ad. Park Slope prides itself on diversity. It’s home to many mixed-race couples (including de Blasio, who is married to an African-American woman) and is a hotbed of liberal and progressive activism. It also happens to be a place where a lot of enlightened intellectuals raise children, and is known for sidewalks congested with baby strollers, some pushed by nannies from the Caribbean and elsewhere, some by stay-at-home fathers or mothers.
You should have seen Park Slope the day after “the ad.” De Blasio posters in every shop window and on most of the baby carriages—a celebratory, festive atmosphere as if spring had come early to New York City. And throughout the city, de Blasio connected. His leftist background, his mixed-race family. His populist style that echoed at least a bit of the Occupy sentiments, and more of the vibe. And de Blasio’s appeal extended broadly—including into communities of the most oppressed. Revelations in the New York Times that his background included strident opposition to U.S. aggression against the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua served in part as a message that “we know about your past, watch yourself,” but also enhanced his cred. And his denunciations of “two New Yorks” connected with a public that had followed a four-part series in the Times detailing the vicious deprivation faced by a young African-American girl living in a filthy, dangerous, neglected public shelter. And all this is framed by a whole swirl of outrages and crises in society at large, from the NSA spying scandal to the emergency situation for abortion in the U.S.
That it was de Blasio who “connected” with voters tells us something about the depth and breadth of dissatisfaction. My sense is that the connection is much more about style and apparent “stance” that taps idealism and hopes that things can be different. But that’s how people in this society have been trained to judge candidates. It’s why I was attracted as a youth to JFK with his cultured wife, and the big style gap between him and Jackie on the one hand, and that hunkered-down, overtly racist, visceral embodiment of traditional America Dick Nixon and his Stepford-wife Pat.
As I was to learn in a compressed way in the maelstrom of the 1960s, Kennedy orchestrated a CIA invasion to overthrow Castro, did everything he could to keep the civil rights movement “in bounds” and from challenging the status quo more than he deemed necessary, and put the U.S. on the path that led to the deaths of two million-plus Indochinese people from U.S. chemical weapons attacks, carpet bombing, and massacres. And for millions and millions at that time, the disgust that at one point was channeled into Kennedy got “re-routed” by the workings of the capitalist-imperialist system from Selma Alabama in the “deep South” to Vietnam, into people’s resistance to all this—even in the face of violent repression. And by the influence of radicals and revolutionaries into not just questioning but rejecting the very legitimacy of this system, its right to rule over the country and dominate the world. (The fact that the movement for revolution at that time was not strong enough to take that outrage “over the hump” and overthrow the system is not something that has to be repeated.)
I’m not comparing de Blasio to Kennedy or anyone else. He got elected Mayor of New York City, not President of the U.S., and history doesn’t repeat itself. And I’m not predicting a re-run of the ’60s. But I’m reflecting on how to recognize and act on what might be “early stage” harkenings of legitimacy crises from the point of view of bringing REAL change through revolution, even though those “early warning signals” might not take forms that revolutionaries would prefer (as an example, the way sections of the people may be drawn into political activity through what they see as appeals from electoral candidates “promising change,” such as de Blasio’s appeal for diversity and inclusiveness).
Back to the election story. Bill de Blasio ended up winning the Democratic primary and he won the general election by a landslide—something like 75 percent of the vote—against Joe Lhota, the Republican candidate.
* * * * *
But let’s get real. You can’t become mayor of New York City without an OK from the ruling class—those who own and control everything in this country and political operatives who serve the whole setup. There actually was at least one other candidate who by conventional election standards was to the “left” of de Blasio on stop-and-frisk at least. City Comptroller John Liu, who has a substantial resume in New York City politics, was on record that “Stop and frisk should be abolished.” Liu’s criticisms are framed in the same terms as de Blasio’s (See "The Real Problem With Stop-and-Frisk—and the Real Solution" at revcom.us), that “stop-and-frisk continues to deepen the chasm between communities and police.” He too was trying to shore up the damaged legitimacy of the system. But he was the only major candidate with that position. His campaign was effectively shut down—he didn’t have the bona fides to convince the powers-that-be he was fully housebroken. His campaign was dogged by investigations for financial irregularities and prosecution of his aides, and he was denied millions of dollars in “matching funds” necessary for a serious campaign.
Beyond things like what happened to Liu’s campaign, public opinion, while not always micromanaged by the ruling class’ media, can be manufactured to make or break a candidate with a well-timed scandal or expose. But that didn’t happen—even as Bill de Blasio emerged from the back of the pack and began to surge in the polls. The Times piece on de Blasio’s leftist past established how he became “a part of the institution he had railed against—the establishment.” And Bill de Blasio had a track record—he served under a succession of ruling class figures, including Bill “end welfare as we know it” Clinton, Hillary—the Iraq war hawk—Clinton, and as Public Advocate during the administration of his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.
In short, the powers-that-be were sufficiently convinced that if de Blasio moved into Gracie Mansion (the mayor’s office in NYC) he wasn’t going to “pee on the carpet” because whatever his leftist past, activist connections, and counterculture style, he has been thoroughly housebroken.
De Blasio’s first act, appointing Bill Bratton as police commissioner, was far more defining of the substance of what he is about than the lineup of radical views given time on the mic at his inauguration (see “Mr. ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ Bratton as New York's Police Commissioner” at revcom.us).
* * * * *
The fact that the perception that de Blasio represents something oppositional to the status quo, from a progressive (not Tea Party) direction and connected so broadly and deeply actually sheds light on, in a non-linear way, the potential for revolution — why revolution is not only necessary, but possible.
I say that NOT because de Blasio represents any kind of real “progress” in addressing the profound injustices in society and the world! There’s simply no evidence in his stated program or promises that he is, in essence, anything but the same old system in—as revcom.us put it—“new clothes.”
But the profound discontent that was revealed in the attraction to de Blasio, and the fact that the ruling class made a call to at least give a stamp of approval to his dark horse campaign when it became clear how he was connecting with people, points to the depth and breadth of discontent, rooted in the depth and breadth of the outrages built into this system.
That discontent can develop, in conjunction with other factors, including the work of revolutionaries actively hastening the development of a revolutionary situation, into a “legitimacy crisis,” where the very right of the capitalist system to rule becomes seriously questioned, and disputed by millions throughout society. And such crises can become part of the mix that goes into one of those rare moments that revolutionaries prepare for, and work to accelerate the motion towards, when it is possible for a revolutionary movement of thousands—if it has been forged—to lead millions and for there to be a real chance at a real revolution.
We definitely WON’T do that without telling the truth about what de Blasio represents and illustrating, as the article at revcom.us does, how that won’t touch but works to re-trench this global system of oppression. The sentiments that were reflected and expressed in the attraction to de Blasio will, left as is, flow along the path of least resistance into the dead end of working through and relying on the very system responsible for all the outrages that define today’s world.
Or ... those sentiments can be diverted, through a whole ensemble of revolutionary work to contribute to building a movement for revolution with the Party at the core. The forces for revolution didn’t have that ensemble in place going into the height of the ’60s, but we could—if we bend all efforts, and work with a sense of and in conjunction with developments in the situation and people’s mood—be in such a position “this time around.” That is what we must do.
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Cheers to Lupita Nyong’o, featured in the vitally important movie 12 Years a Slave. In accepting the award for best supporting performance at the recent Screen Actors Guild Awards, the actress, who grew up in Kenya and now lives in Brooklyn, New York, thanked Solomon Northup who in 1853 wrote the (true story) of his horrors as a slave for 12 years on which the movie is based.
And, pointedly, she thanked director Steve McQueen “for taking a flashlight and shining it underneath the floorboards of this nation and reminding us what it is we stand on.”
Lupita Nyong’o used the stage provided by her award to both promote the film and to speak an important truth about what is “underneath the floorboards” of this nation. That was a challenge to all to confront the implications of that statement. And Lupita Nyong’o’s comment in her acceptance speech set a standard for others who are given the spotlight and stage to speak to millions.
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors' note: We are sharing excerpts from a letter from Andy Zee, spokesperson for Revolution Books in New York City, on the importance of the One Billion Rising For Justice events, suggestions for how Revolution Books stores might participate in, and bring revolution into the mix. We feel the letter will be helpful to all revolutionaries in making plans to relate to this important day.
One Billion Rising for Justice is a very positive international manifestation against the abuse of women. It takes place on February 14 this year. The day forges a sense of world-wide community of joyful resistance to what is one of the deepest and most vicious forms of oppression—the brutalization, degradation, denial of the basic humanity of women.
The oppression of women is completely bound up with class society, it is a cornerstone of this system and the liberation of women is a decisive driving force in making revolution and carrying revolution forward to the full and complete emancipation of humanity around the world.
Revolutionaries should be a part of One Billion Rising for Justice, bringing revolution into the day and the streets—a total revolution for the liberation of women and the emancipation of humanity all over the world. As part of that, I strongly feel that Revolution Books should be a part of—and a site for—One Billion Rising for Justice this year. The store should be a place people come on 2/14 to Rise Up—an event should be planned and happening in the store and the store should lead people to dance in the street—bringing people from around the city to the store and activating the neighborhood to join in.
One Billion Rising for Justice at Revolution Books should give exuberant and substantive expression to this day. We should not think that there isn't great joy in unleashing the fury of women as a mighty force for revolution—and indeed the joy expressed in the potential of millions dancing around the world on V-Day should inspire even greater determination to work for the liberation of women as part of a total revolution. The Revolution Books One Billion Rising event should be coordinated with the citywide activities so that those who come to the store can join the "snake" dance that I believe will lead to some convergences which supporters and friends of Revolution Books can join.
People can sign up to participate and get in touch with the V-Day coordinators at onebillionrising.org.
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
from Gregory Koger | January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In 1878, convicts began backbreaking labor carving into the limestone bluffs along the bank of the Mississippi River outside Chester, Illinois. Over a decade of sweat and sorrow at gunpoint produced two cell houses enclosed by a massive wall, built from the limestone quarried by the prisoners. The prison—formerly Southern Illinois Penitentiary and now Menard "Correctional Center"—is known as "The Pit."
On January 15, 2014, prisoners in The Pit's "High Security Unit" (HSU) began a hunger strike to oppose their placement into inhumane conditions in isolation under Administrative Detention. Solitary confinement exceeding 15 days is considered torture and prohibited under international law. We must support the prisoners stepping forward and putting their lives on the line to demand an end to these crimes being systematically perpetrated by the rulers of the United States.
The courageous hunger strike by prisoners at Menard is the latest uprising in a wave of prisoner-led struggle against torture and the dehumanizing conditions within the U.S.'s historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration. Last year's 30,000-strong resumption of the California prison hunger strike (which I joined for two weeks in solidarity while a political prisoner in Cook County Jail) was the biggest and most publicized, but a number of other organized struggles by prisoners have taken place in the last several years—from work stoppages in Georgia to hunger strikes in Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina, and Washington. Prisoners in Indiana's Westville "Correctional Facility" began a hunger strike on January 13, 2014 to protest nutritionally deficient food. Also, last year prisoners in Guantánamo participated in a long hunger strike, which continues to today, during which they have faced brutal forced feeding. Their courageous hunger strike brought their resistance and exposure of this hellhole of U.S. torture to the attention of the world.
Many of the prisoners now on hunger strike in Menard were formerly held in Tamms—Illinois' official "supermax" prison which was modeled after Pelican Bay SHU. (Tamms was closed down in January 2013 after a long political and legal battle by prisoners, family members, and activists.) Several of the prisoners placed in the HSU at Menard are "jailhouse lawyers"—prisoners self-educated in the law who help other prisoners with legal work and challenge prison conditions.
"They won't tell anybody why they are in Administrative Detention, let alone give them an informal hearing to contest the undisclosed allegations," one Menard prisoner wrote. He said, "There are mice just running wild. They have 20 guys using one pair of fingernail clippers with no cleaning in between uses, there is absolutely no mental health screening or evaluation, nor do any mental health staff even make rounds." Another prisoner said, "I'm a jailhouse lawyer. And [I] file/help other prisoners with their grievances and lawsuits. Because of that I was retaliated against and transferred to Menard and placed in the High Security Unit under Administrative Detention."1
Since beginning the hunger strike, prisoners reported to attorney Alice Lynd (published in the San Francisco BayView) that "officers shook down their cells and took any food they found. The hunger strikers were sent to see medical staff and charged $5 for medical treatment."2 In 2000 the Illinois Department of Corrections began charging prisoners $2 per incident, and raised to $5 by 2012, as a "co-pay" to receive medical care—a direct violation of international law, including the United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment which states that prisoners' medical "care and treatment shall be provided free of charge."
Additionally, Lynd reported that one prisoner was pushed down the stairs by two officers while handcuffed and then beaten.3 Officers pushing handcuffed and/or shackled prisoners down the stairs is a common form of retaliation in segregation units in Illinois prisons, as prisoners are never allowed to leave their cells without handcuffs and/or shackles.
With the closing of Tamms—the most visible face of torture in Illinois' prison system—prisoners were sent to other prisons where the practice of solitary confinement has been hiding behind older and less scrutinized walls. Within weeks of the transfer of Tamms prisoners to Illinois' long-term disciplinary segregation prison in Pontiac, IL, nearly 50 prisoners began a hunger strike opposing the conditions there. A number of other smaller and not well-publicized hunger strikes against the conditions at Pontiac have taken place since it was converted from a regular maximum security prison to long-term disciplinary segregation in the late 1990s.
Debate and struggle roil every day behind the prison walls about the repressive and degrading conditions and what to do about it—especially in solitary confinement. Far too often prisoners have little or no connection on the other side of the walls to expose the horrors of what they are facing—and to support them when they do organize to oppose those conditions.
Solitary confinement is specifically implemented to destroy people psychologically, emotionally, and intellectually. It is a severely damaging and demobilizing form of torture that survivors never escape. Over 80,000 people are held in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons.
Mass incarceration, rooted in the foundational white supremacy of this country, is a response of the ruling class to the driving dynamics of capitalism-imperialism. The drive for ever greater profits has decimated inner-city communities as factories uprooted and set up sweatshops abroad where they can even more brutally exploit workers than they can here—leaving generations of principally Black and brown youth, already locked out of society, who will never be meaningfully employed. It is also a conscious response to the revolutionary upsurge of the 1960s—implemented to contain and repress millions who this system has no future for and who could become the backbone of the struggle for a radically different and more liberated world for all humanity.
The conditions and retaliation described by the men in Menard sound all too real and familiar to me. I spent over six years straight in indeterminate segregation in Pontiac—and most of my time there in the North Cellhouse. It was under those same conditions that I became part of a new generation of prison-educated revolutionaries beginning to emerge within those concrete tombs. I firmly believe it will take revolution—nothing less—to end the crimes of this system, and that we can bring into being a society that values and meets the material, cultural, and intellectual needs of all humanity—a communist world.
Last year Carl Dix, Clyde Young, and I issued a call—"An Appeal to the Brothers and Sisters Locked Down in this Society's Prisons: Bear Witness to Torture in U.S. Prisons and to All Law Enforcement Abuse." I'd like to reiterate that call, which read in part:
"The world needs to know of the sadistic, systemic horror of long-term solitary confinement, which is enforced on more than 80,000 people in the U.S. prison system. We know that revisiting this can be difficult for those who are facing or have faced these conditions, but the truth must be laid bare for all. All of society needs to know of the racial profiling that sucked you into the pipeline to prison, of the horrific conditions everyone in prison endures and of the open discrimination formerly incarcerated people face after release. You are in a unique position to expose the lying justifications given by the authorities for what they are.
"Send these stories to the Bear Witness Project of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Through this you will be opening the eyes of those who are shielded from the real situation in the inner cities and the actual conditions enforced in prison. And letting those caught up in the cycle of going in and out of prison know that what they're up against are social problems, not individual ones, and that by standing up and resisting them together, we can change the way mass incarceration is looked at in society and contribute to bringing forward a movement that can end it."
And I call on all people of conscience to support the prisoners and to step forward and follow the courageous example they are setting. Much love, respect and support to the brothers and sisters rising up from deep within the depths of this criminal system of injustice.
Mail Bear Witness correspondence to:
1321 N. Milwaukee Avenue, #407
Chicago, IL 60622
Stop Mass Incarceration Network
P.O. Box 941,
New York City, NY 10002-0900
1. "Locked-Up in 'High Security Unit' and Not Told Why, Prisoners Hunger Strike for Answer," Ray Downs; Riverfront Times Blogs, January 21, 2014 [back]
2. "Update from Menard hunger strikers: We need outside support, force feeding threatened" Alice Lynd; San Francisco BayView, January 21, 2014 [back]
3. Ibid. [back]
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editor's note: In the following correspondence, a reader responds to attacks on Seattle Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman after the National Football Conference championship game. On the last play of the game, Sherman knocked down a pass intended for San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree. After the game, Sherman approached Crabtree, patted him on the butt, extended his hand to shake hands and said, "Hell of a game. Hell of a game." In video of the exchange, Crabtree appears to respond by swatting at Sherman's head. Later, in a TV interview immediately after the game, Sherman made comments—cited by the reader—which have became the focus of furious attacks on him.
From a reader:
For those who follow football the controversy surrounding Richard Sherman and comments he made at the end of the NFL championship game, Sunday, January 19, which decided which team, Seattle or San Francisco, would advance to the Super Bowl—icon of all football games—has brought to light another damning truth in our capitalist society: it is acceptable to use the word "thug" to really say the "n" word.
On the last play of the game, when San Francisco had a chance to defeat Seattle, Richard Sherman made a spectacular play to prevent San Francisco from making a game-winning touchdown. His job was to prevent Michael Crabtree, the San Francisco player, from catching the ball and scoring 6 points. Sherman stayed close to him and soared at the last second over and above the rising Crabtree to knock the ball into a position where Crabtree could not catch it, and another member of Sherman's team did. Game over. It was truly a beautiful thing to watch. Sherman is a very talented player and the best right now at what he does. Hey, I'm a San Francisco fan, and I have to tell you it was a hell of a play—a thing of beauty.
Moments later, the game totally over, the victory sealed, Sherman was interviewed live on Fox TV. "Take us through that game winning play" he was asked. His response was to yell at the top of his voice (never mind that over 60,000 people in attendance were yelling at the top of their voices as the game was being played in Seattle). Sherman said, "I'm the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you're going to get. Don't you ever talk about me...." The day after the interview, Sherman told ESPN, "I apologize for attacking an individual and taking the attention away from the fantastic game by my teammates... That was not my intent."
In the audio to the NFL films of the game, Sherman can be heard saying to Crabtree immediately after the play, "Hell of a game, hell of a game." But the pundits would not become aware of this for several days.
So, almost immediately, pundits all across the country and especially on Twitter began calling Sherman a "thug." Right now the word "thug" has become associated with Sherman. And if you haven't figured out yet that Sherman is African American—you know now. Because he hollered, made a sharp statements dissing Crabtree, and did not kowtow to Erin Andrews, the Fox network correspondent asking him questions (and no doubt his dreadlocks didn't help). Sherman has been labeled a "thug" for his comments and actions.
Sherman is a graduate of Stanford University with a bachelor degree in communications. He grew up in Compton and accepted a full scholarship from Stanford. But he has been transformed into a thug in a matter of 5 seconds. Through this controversy, it has been made clear the word "thug" has now become an accepted way to say someone is the "n" word. So now Sherman is not called a great football player; he is called a "thug." This is ugly racism rearing its head. Instead of praising his ability to play football, he is actually being called out as a "n," a thug.
In fact throughout this controversy, he has remained articulate and kept his feet grounded. Here is some of what he had to say regarding him being called out as a thug:
"The reason it bothers me is because it seems to be the accepted way to call somebody the 'n' word now.
"I know some thugs and they know I am the furthest thing from a thug. I have fought that my whole life. Just coming from where I'm coming from—you hear Compton (California), or Watts—you hear cities like that and you think the word 'thug.' He's a gangster, he's this and that and the other. Then you hear at Stanford they really like him, Oh man—that doesn't even make sense.
"You fight so hard and then you have to come back and fight it all over again."
There you have it. Once again being Black and being vocal and proclaiming yourself without compromise make you a thug, a "n."
So much of the social relations in sports work its way into the superstructure. It is more than a game when an African American can once again be openly called the n word, even if it is disguised behind the word "thug." One website that monitors the media said that one day after the game, the word "thug" was used over 360 times in reference to Sherman.
Revolution #328 February 2, 2014
From A World to Win News Service:
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On Wednesday January 8, after three months of testimony, the verdict finally came in from the jury in the coroner’s inquest into the death of Mark Duggan—the 29-year-old black man whose killing at the hands of London’s Metropolitan police in August 2011 set off the biggest rebellion in the UK in a generation. The verdict: “lawful killing.” People expressed shock in North London’s Tottenham district, the inner-city neighborhood where Duggan lived and where the rebellion kicked off, as well as around the country. There had been a widespread sense that foul play was involved in Duggan’s death, that the police were hiding something—so how could this not come out after three months of evidence?
In a sense, something of the truth did surface when you take a look at the rest of the jury’s verdict—and this shows a lot about how the system of criminal justice functions in the world’s oldest bourgeois democracy. Among the jury’s findings of fact was that, first, Duggan’s death at the hands of the police was a “lawful killing,” but second, that Duggan was unarmed at the time he was gunned down. But how can a killing possibly be “lawful” when armed police shoot down an unarmed man in the street!?
What this seemingly absurd conclusion reveals is that first, the British authorities were fiercely determined to ensure that this case served their continuing efforts to take revenge for the mass 2011 revolt against their system no matter what, and second, that they were going to protect the front-line enforcers of that system, the elite firearms squad that shot down Duggan, at all costs. This is reflected in what the jury concluded, and what they didn’t conclude, in reaching their verdict.
In August 2011, when Duggan was gunned down, the authorities immediately issued a statement claiming that Duggan had fired on them as he emerged from the taxi that police cars had stopped, and that their officers had killed him only in self-defense. This claim resounded through the media for 24 hours until, due to repeated testimony to the contrary, it finally came out that Duggan had never even fired a shot, and that the gun he was supposedly firing was found 15 or 20 feet away from his body, behind a fence. The fact that the authorities had lied so blatantly was widely seen as one more sign that they were covering up the cold-blooded execution of yet another young black man.
But the police maintained the claim that they fired in self-defense, so a central question facing the coroner’s jury was, how did the gun get where it was? The explanation, in line with the police story, was that Duggan had gotten out of the taxi, gun in hand, and then when shot must have thrown it in his death throes. Leaving aside how improbable it is that anyone, when stopped by police cars with a total of 31 policemen surrounding you, would get out of a car brandishing a gun, the problem is that 1) all the witnesses other than the cop who shot him, which included the testimony of several bystanders and the taxi driver, said Duggan did not have a gun in his hands when he got out of the taxi; and 2) there was no forensic evidence showing that Duggan had ever even touched the gun.
But there was another possible explanation: several witnesses testified that they saw a police officer go into the car, rummage around, then walk directly to the back of the fence where the gun was found shortly afterwards. This pointed to a version of the “throw-down” weapon which is known to be frequently used by cops in the U.S. when they shoot someone who’s unarmed. But to accept this version, the jury would have had to go up against a tremendous amount of pressure and prejudice, including systematic attempts to glorify the “brave” work of the firearms specialist unit and to undermine the credibility of the evidence given by bystanders. And the jurors would have been forced to conclude that at least two members of the elite firearms specialist unit—the shooter and the cop who allegedly took the gun and planted it behind the fence—conspired to cover up a blatant murder.
This was clearly a step too far for the jurors—but it’s what is widely believed by millions, including many who’ve seen the workings of British justice from the wrong end of the police baton. And it’s totally consistent with the exposure of the systematic lying that has characterized other police murders, such as that of the Brazilian youth Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005, when police claimed that he’d acted suspiciously in so many ways that they’d been forced to conclude he was a “terrorist”—which was later established to be a tissue of lies.
The jurors instead concluded by an 8-2 vote that Duggan got out of the car and immediately threw the gun over the fence and then was subsequently shot down by the police while unarmed. This finding flies in the face of the witness testimony and the forensic evidence—but it is the “least unbelievable” of the versions that let the cops off the hook and it avoids coming to a conclusion that most of the jurors would undoubtedly have found to be deeply disturbing.
The announcement of the verdict was met with anguished cries and outrage by the dozens of family and friends who had gathered at the Coroner’s Court. Duggan’s brother said that the family “had come for justice, but all we’ve gotten is injustice.” His aunt, Carol Duggan, cried out “no peace, no justice.” The efforts of the Met’s Assistant Police Commissioner on the court steps to justify the verdict were drowned out by cries of “murderers, murderers,” and the police immediately put hundreds of riot squad police on full alert in Tottenham and around London.
The stepped-up police presence was accompanied by a frenzied media attack justifying or “explaining” the verdict—including vicious attacks on Duggan himself, with the Daily Mail headlining its coverage with talk of the “thug whose death sparked riots”—as if when the police gun down an unarmed man it’s alright so long as you can later establish his disreputable character. This evoked comparison with the way that the American media tried to use character assassination of Trayvon Martin in Florida to justify his murder at the hands of the racist vigilante George Zimmerman.
To understand how such an improbable verdict could be reached by the British courts, it is important to put it in the context of what has happened since the 2011 rebellions. The British ruling class was shocked and thrown on the defensive by the mass fury that exploded from the “lower depths” of its class order, as the rebellion shined a spotlight on the deprivation and misery that are daily life for millions. The rebellion grew stronger and spread like wildfire from day to day over three days, from Tottenham through London’s inner-city neighborhoods and then to much of England – clearly showing the fury seething just below the surface of the existing social order – before finally burning out amidst massive police repression and heavy rain.
The British ruling class immediately closed ranks, from Labour Party to Tory (Conservative Party), in a campaign of retaliation. Participants in the rebellion have been ruthlessly hunted down and punished – over 5,000 have been arrested in the last two and a half years, and over 3,000 imprisoned, the vast majority of them based on CCTV footage long after the events. Even today, two and a half years later, Scotland Yard is continuing to issue new arrest warrants using CCTV images and face recognition technology.
Quite a few young people were incarcerated for two or three years for nothing more than taking soda pop or candy from convenience stores looted during the rebellion, and one young man who, in a state of inebriation, put up a call on his Facebook page to gather and “riot” the next day, but who never even left his apartment—with not a single person showing up in answer to his call except the police—was condemned to four years, longer than the sentence given to many convicted of rape in the UK. The severity of the sentences was, and was meant to be, shocking, but was aggressively justified by British justices as warranted due to the “organized character” of the rebellion.
The rebellion inspired plays, films, poetry and music, many of these produced by black radicals and campaigners against “stop and search” and racism. Some, like the documentary film Riots Reframed, focused on repudiating the efforts of the media and politicians to portray rebels as “mindless thugs,” “hooligans” and so on – showing instead the harsh life of the “underclass,” the limited choices they face and the daily brutality they endure at the hands of the system’s enforcers. Others, like the “spoken evidence” play The Riots, which played to sold-out houses in Tottenham for several weeks, tried to give a more accurate picture of the actual events that transpired during the three days of the rebellion, in contrast to media efforts to spotlight instances when masses were attacked by participants in the rebellion.
This battle brought to the surface major fault lines in British society and exposed the real role of its institutions. The mass media bared their fangs as a propaganda organ for the capitalist state, parties like Labour came out forcefully for brutal repression of the marginalized youth, and social-democratic organs like the Guardian wrung their hands and “explained” the problem as “excesses” that needed to be “reformed.” And on the other side, tens of thousands of youth demonstrated their willingness to take enormous risks to stand up against the front-line enforcers of the system, with gang truces being called in an effort to forge unity against what was perceived as the bigger enemy. The eruption even won sympathy from many among the middle strata, which led to a great debate throughout the country about the real source of what the youth face. This battle also gave a brief glimpse of the potential for forging a revolutionary force for the overthrow of the existing system – not, it is true, as the youth, or anyone else, are today, but forged out of the fury seething just below the surface that burst forth from those with no stake in the existing society, in the realignment that eruption provoked so immediately from broader social strata, and in the clarity it brought about the real role of all these different forces.
How did the organized marxist and “revolutionary” forces in the UK fare In the light of all this? Miserably. The largest of the so-called Marxist parties, the Socialist Workers Party, argued that “riots” like this, while caused by the inequities of the British social order, were ultimately ineffectual and that what was needed was instead ... an organized revolutionary onslaught against the existing powers?! Dream on—no, far from that, the SWP concluded that the “riot” pointed to the need for ... an “organised labour movement”—in other words, more of the trade unionism and economist reformism that has long characterized the Marxist forces in the UK, and which time and again winds up sucking up the revolutionary energy of the masses and then being sucked into the Labour Party’s wake. The “labour movement” is still a hallowed term in the land where Marx laid the foundations of the communist revolution.
Once again, following the inquest verdict, the police commissioners are promising reform—such as having the firearms specialist unit wear “body cameras”—and from Prime Minister David Cameron on down politicians and pundits are demanding that any discontent with the verdict must go through the “proper channels” - in other words, further investigations by this or that official body, in particular the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The widespread nickname it has been given—the Independent Police Cover-ups Commission—is indicative of just what can be expected from that body.
Inquest, a documentary put out by a local NGO, showed that of 300 deaths in police custody in the UK over slightly over a decade, not one cop has ever been successfully prosecuted for a killing. In a dozen rulings in coroners' inquests, it has even proved possible to obtain a finding that someone who died while in police custody was a victim of an “unlawful killing”—findings that were widely hailed as showing “the system works”—yet even in these dozen cases, when the victim was inside a police station entirely under the control of the police, not a single policeman has been prosecuted successfully.
So in conclusion we would like to ask: If this case—in which the jury has ruled the killing of someone “lawful,” even though it accepts that the person was not armed, and after a rebellion of hundreds of thousands delivering the verdict of the masses on Duggan’s murder, and with everything that has ensued since then—if this doesn’t show the impossibility of reforming this system, then what do you need to convince you of this?
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 #328 February 2, 2014
A World to Win News Service
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
January 21,2014. A World to Win News Service. By a reader in France.The situation surrounding France's recent banning of a performance by comedian Dieudonné M'Bala M'Bala is complex and ugly on all sides.
The worst thing about it is that so many people who have suffered oppression themselves are being drawn to a violently anti-Jewish, anti-homosexual and anti-woman bigot. While Dieudonné's supporters are a fan base and not a political movement, the content of his so-called humor, his understanding of "the system" and what he opposes about it, coincides with core points of France's rejuvenated fascist currents and organizations for whom immigrants and homosexuals are a target.
Dieudonné's chief stock-in-trade is to expose the legal and moral double standards that prevail in France. Many people will tell you that it's a humor based on the discomfort of the truth and the pleasure of breaking of taboos against telling it. He argues: Why is it a scandal if I make fun of "your grandmother who died at Auschwitz" and he does that and worse, all but openly praising the genocide of the European Jews—while when it comes to "my grandmother who died under the boots of the French colonialists in Cameroon," "you" don't see it in the same light? Why is it illegal to defend or joke about the "crimes against humanity" that took place between 1942-1944 (the genocide of the European Jews) but that label is not applied to the genocide of the Native Americans and slavery? We could add what he doesn't: Why is it illegal in France to call the gas chambers "controversial", because that amounts to an implicit denial that they really existed, but when a government minister lectures about "the benefits of colonialism," that's considered a legitimate issue for debate?
The political establishment—almost the entire spectrum of what the French call "the political class" of past, present and possible future ministers and high officials—rained down scorn on Dieudonné's head until a court ruled that his anti-Semitic show was a "threat to public order" and riot police were sent to bar the doors of his theatre. (Since then, he has been allowed to perform a rewritten, less provocative show.) For Dieudonné fans old and new, this extraordinary and perhaps unprecedented legal move only confirmed what he was saying: "public order" means silencing rage against their oppression in the name of respect for Jewish oppression.
The first thing that has to be said is that the French state has no moral right to criticize Dieudonné for anything, including anti-Semitism. The laws against incitement to religious and ethnic hatred, and Holocaust denial (the idea that the genocide of the Jews is a myth mendaciously invented by the Jews themselves), represent hypocrisy in the service of oppression and the rule of the French capitalist class. Today's rulers obscure the degree of continuity between the French state at the time of the Jewish genocide and now.
After Germany defeated France in 1940, the French parliament called on former army head Philippe Pétain to become prime minister. Later he became head of the French state headquartered in the city of Vichy, which exercised political power in the southern part of France not occupied or administered by Germany. Pétain's ideology linked the honour of the French fatherland with the traditional family and the Church. His regime enthusiastically, and on its own initiative, rounded up tens of thousands of Jews in unoccupied France, turned over national census lists of Jews to the Germans and zealously helped search out Jews in Paris and other occupied areas. A total of about 75,000 Jews were deported from France to Nazi death camps, along with homosexuals and Gypsies.
The end of the war saw the fall of the Vichy regime, but some of its officials remained in government service. The new regime needed them to implement its own crimes against humanity. French carried out a far more brutal war against the Algerian independence movement than Germany had waged against France. The restored French Republic sent Maurice Papon, a notorious Vichy butcher, to help administer its Algerian colony, and then had him lead a Nazi-like police pogrom against Algerians in Paris.
As for anti-Semitism, it was not Muslim immigrants, as is so often implied, who introduced and nurtured it in France but the Catholic Church. The Church called for crusades and genocide against Muslims, Jews and other "infidels" long before France had an "immigration problem." The influence of anti-Semitism is so persistent in some French Catholic circles that until 1989 leading clergy sheltered a notorious Vichy official responsible for genocide.
Further on the question of the French ruling class's moral right to criticize Dieudonné, without going into detail about the lives of Arabs and Africans in France today, we could cite Dieudonné himself. In a sketch about Dominique Strauss-Khan (DSK),the head of the IMF and leading French presidential contender who was accused of raping an African maid in his Manhattan hotel room, he quotes the head of Strauss-Khan's Socialist Party who complained about the undignified conditions of DSK's arrest (handcuffs, perp walk before the press), saying that DSK had "a right to the presumption of innocence."
Dieudonné simply repeats those words again and again as he makes eye contact with audience members until everyone breaks up. Most are young. Many have parents who suffered the "benefits of colonialism" and then were brought to break their backs in French mines, factories and construction sites. Today they and other youth are confined in public housing waiting for a future. (In fact, going to a Dieudonné show in central Paris is a big deal, an act of defiance for kids from the banlieue, the broken-down and distant suburbs.) His point is all the more powerful because it doesn't have to be said. All their lives these youth have been taught by the police and the establishment that they are presumed guilty.
The problem is that after such moments this comic immediately launches into a tirade about how the Jews run France, implying that Strauss-Khan was saved from ignominy by an international conspiracy of prominent Jews (Dieudonné rattles off a half dozen names) accused of rape, child molestation and financial swindling who supposedly protect each other. He rants about why it was considered respectable in political and media circles to argue that Strauss-Khan was the victim of an anti-Socialist plot, while no mercy is shown for people who argue that September 11 was a Jewish conspiracy. This is standard Dieudonné procedure. Instead of arguing that "the Jews" were behind the attack on the World Trade Centre, he simply says that such theories should be considered legitimate—and if this claim can't be proven, it's because the Jews won't allow it. In this way he gets to proclaim that the Jews run France and the world without having to present any evidence—because there isn't any.
The importance of Israel in Dieudonné's rise cannot be overestimated. French politicians, especially the Socialists, do seek support from Jewish voters, but that's a very minor factor. If many French youth are unable to distinguish between Zionism and Jews in general, that's mainly because they have always been taught that respect for Jews means respect for Israel, in school, by the media and by the political class. Further, Israeli officials and Zionist organizations in France constantly attack even the slightest criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism. While French official circles don't always like that (the French and other European governments are sometimes the object of Zionist slanders), all this is considered part of legitimate social discourse.
When Arab and other children in France watch television and see Israeli soldiers shooting stun grenades at Palestinian demonstrators and beating even children, and they are taught this may be controversial but after all Israel must remain a Jewish state, the conclusions they draw aren't surprising. Without Israel, anti-Semitism probably would have remained mainly a problem among white people of French ancestry. Dieudonné has chosen his enemies carefully with his claim that what's wrong with France is not its capitalist economic and social system, but that its government is a front for Jewish rule.
Never is he more anti-Semitic than when he pretends to claim otherwise: "I'm not anti- Semitic—not yet," referring to what he says are Jewish attempts to crush him. Or, defending himself from the charge of supporting the Jewish genocide, he says," When it comes to the conflict between the SS and the Jews I'm neutral. I don't know who provoked whom." It's telling that when talking about homosexuals he drops even the pretence of "neutrality," openly declaring that he wants to make his audience "go out and eat queers." This supposedly "cute" additional reference to anti-Black slanders (Africans are cannibals) is used to justify an intolerance so openly violent that merely calling it homophobic doesn't get it.
In fact, he almost always portrays Jews as effeminate, with high little voices and in a constant state of the kind of hysteria his sketches attribute to women. His trademark "quenelle" gesture, an inverted Nazi salute, ties the whole package together, using a "playful" (that is, plausibly deniable) neo-Nazi gesture to throw together Jews, homosexuals and women as lesser beings who deserve to be penetrated and thus dominated by real men.
Dieudonné may have many followers in public housing, but he promotes and takes lessons from some of the main ideologues of France's "Catho-fascho" movements from the better-off Western side of Paris. These people long for what they imagine was "traditional" France and hate the idea of a multi-ethnic society. Dieudonné shares with them a reverence for Pétain. When asked his favourite French president, Dieudonné, in his usual sarcastic style, deliberately ambiguous but not really ambiguous at all, said "Pétain, because he had a nice moustache." He added that Pétain would have known what to do about the problems France faces today.
Anyone who looks at Dieudonné and sees only the class and color of the people who laugh at his jokes, or that he supposedly singles out rich people, should consider that Pétain, too, had a populist dimension. The question of goals and ideology matter. Pétain's regime recruited ordinary French youth—shopkeepers' sons, factory workers and unemployed—into a "revolutionary" militia whose members were allowed to bully better-off Jews and other people who might have once looked down on them.
Where does the "anti-system" Dieudonné stand when it comes to by far the most oppressed ethnicity in France, the country's official outcasts and scapegoats, the Roma (as Eastern European Gypsies prefer to be called)? His silence on this is striking because Manuel Valls, the Interior Minister who led the attack on Dieudonné, is also France's chief anti-Roma scourge.
Last year Valls gave a speech about the Roma emphasizing that they cannot expect to be treated like other immigrants because it is "impossible" for them to become integrated into French society. (The truth is that even Gypsies whose families have lived in France for hundreds of years face legal discrimination designed to exclude them.) In fact, Valls' speech was so vitriolic and racist that if the word Roma were replaced with the word Jew, France's top cop would be legally obligated to have himself arrested. But Dieudonné gave his most powerful critic a free pass on this particular example of a double standard.
Who are the real rebels against the system when it comes to the Roma? Who is defying the official consensus that some people's existence is a "threat to public safety"? The Socialist government of François Hollande brags that it has deported twice as many as its rightist predecessor. The strategy is to send armed riot police and bulldozers to smash their squatters camps time and again until the victims agree to "voluntary" deportation. Last summer, police stopped a school bus carrying a 15-year-old girl named Leonarda Dibrani, whose family had registered with the authorities and requested political asylum on the basis of the atrocities inflicted on Roma in Albania. She was taken away in front of her classmates and shipped out of the country immediately so that no legal move could be made to save her.
Tens of thousands of young teenagers walked out of middle school and marched in the streets in support of Leonarda for several days. Indignant and fighting mad, the children and grandchildren of Arab and African as well as French parents, they were very possibly the younger sisters and brothers of people now lined up to see Dieudonné. Similarly, some of those now in that line were probably fighting in the streets during the banlieue revolt and the wild secondary school student protests of the mid-2000s.
Here we come to the heart of the problem. It is truly terrible and tragic that someone like Dieudonné has become an outlet for their rage—any of it. This situation was not inevitable and must be changed. What his "act" is working against, and what makes it beneficial to the system, is an understanding of who are the friends and enemies of the oppressed.
For contradictory reasons, a large percentage of French people have come to despise the left and right parties that have alternated in government with increasingly converging political, social and economic programmes. What remains of the "left"—whose strategy, if not actually in the Socialist Party, was to push the Socialists to the "left"—is self-discredited, usually discouraged and in increasing disarray. The mainstream right complains that the Socialists have stolen their program, while the far right proclaims that it represents radical change. The "left", and even the so-called far left, can do nothing but defend the status quo that millions find unacceptable. Dieudonné may have half a million multinational followers on YouTube, but the groups and movements most militantly opposing the ruling class consensus are unabashedly from the far right—and militantly white.
Dieudonné represents a complex symbiosis between different brands and strands of reaction. A man who understands his times, his cynical "jokes" have a powerful resonance among many of those who can't stand the hypocrisy and moral incoherence of today's social order. But instead of advocating global emancipation from "crimes against humanity" and the oppressive system of capitalism, he wants to get rid of the people he considers in his way. How this could liberate his fan base or even save it from disastrous manipulation is not a question he feels a comedian has to answer.
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 #328 February 2, 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 #328 February 2, 2014
Letter From a Reader
January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Most students have returned, or are returning, to campus from the holiday break. We can't waste any time in getting out with and maximizing the impact of "You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future."
This special issue of Revolution is a tremendous political-ideological resource and tool in the struggle to "reset the terms" in the societal discourse around the first stage of communist revolution—and for re-polarizing for revolution. The point is driven home in the commentary on "history by memoir" that revcom.us recently posted:
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 has 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 way out into society has the potential to change that.
While these points apply to society as a whole, they also have particular relevance to the situation on campuses.
The special issue truly has the potential to transform the thinking of blocs of students and academics-intellectuals, with respect to: a) gaining a scientific understanding of the actual history, achievements, and shortcomings of these first socialist revolutions; b) the struggle over epistemology and method and approach for understanding and changing the world; and c) seeing the necessity and possibility for a "total revolution"—as opposed to the dominant discourse that incremental change within the existing order is the best and really only course for those who "care" about the world.
The title of the special issue is a scientific provocation...and that provocation really has to be the leading edge of how we go out with this issue. What people "don't know" is what these revolutions were really about and achieved, and how these revolutions actually show that socialism really is much better than capitalism... and that communism, as it has been developed and re-envisioned by BA, really will be a far better world.
Going out with this special issue is about re-setting the terms of debate and understanding—and aiming to win a critical mass of students and academics to see the whole historical experience of socialism and the question of communism in today's world in a scientific light.
This is bound up with big strategic questions of "transfer of allegiance." This is the phenomenon of sections of intellectuals coming to reject the political and ideological framework of the current order and beginning to see themselves as part of and contributing to the revolutionary struggle to create a new communist world. This is not something for the far-off future but something revolutionaries have to be working on for the "here and now."
The "brute fact" is: there can be no revolution without radical ferment among the intellectuals and students, and without a communist current exerting real influence in the campus milieu. And there needs to be "fire from below" coming from students that is "working on" the more established academics and intellectuals.
With this special issue, we have to have an "out into the world in a mass way" orientation. We can't let this semester trickle away without impacting the scene on some key campuses. So what does that call for?
There needs to be relative simplicity of plans in our initial outreach on campuses.
There needs to be consistency of work. That requires a regular presence on certain campuses, so that we can be influencing the scene and learning more about it. We should ask ourselves: where, in light of our objectives and the transformative potential of this issue...where can we make some breakthroughs? On what campuses is there a more positive basis to create an impact that can ripple out? Of course, we shouldn't put blinders on; if we can do some classroom presentations at some campuses that might not be part of an overall focus, let's do that. But there is this importance to establishing a consistent presence at some campuses.
And revcom.us has to pulse with experience and lessons in taking out the special issue, as well as ideas and recommendations for going further out with it.
1) Importance of debate. We should be stirring up discussion and debate, small-scale and large-scale. On the one hand, this should have an informal quality—going to quads, cafeterias, common rooms, etc, with the special issue. (Setting up tables has its role, but there should be this pro-active outreach.) On the other hand, there should be real efforts to enter into discussion and to intervene at formal programs and events where relevant questions are getting posed and taken up. I have also heard of some positive experience that people have had in speaking at various student clubs (debating societies, philosophy clubs, Black student groups, etc.); and we should seek out those opportunities. We should also explore openings and look to be creating conditions for big debates that would involve Raymond Lotta (and perhaps others) with major voices propounding anticommunist summations, anarchist and social-democratic summations, and so forth.
2) Classes. People have had positive experience in the past in making presentations to classes. Let's aim to do that widely. Begin looking at programs and courses in modern history, Asian history and Asian studies, Soviet studies, certain political science programs, social theory, comparative economics (or things like that), etc., to see where there might be openings—and reach out to professors (those we know and ones we don't). Be creative: if there are American history classes viewing Oliver Stone's film The Untold History of the Cold War (or using the book), then we need to be there with this special issue. Let's get quantities of the special issue sold in classes, etc. We can hand out the "But How Do We Know Who's Telling the Truth About Communism?" piece and get discussion going; make use of the "pop quiz" on the history of socialism (go to the "teaching resources" page at www.thisiscommunism.org), distribute BA's "Turner vs. Jefferson" article, etc.
By the way, there might be some high school classes where we should do some of this as well.
3) Professors and strategizing with them. We need to make determined efforts to get to professors that people know (and should get to know). We should encourage them to get into this special issue (I mean, really get into it!) and have discussion with them. We should strategize with them about the role they can play in opening up channels for this special issue—from bringing it to students to getting it into the larger intellectual world. Some of these professors are involved with or know about "brown-bag" lunch events—which are more informal gatherings where presentations are made and discussed—and Raymond Lotta will be available for some of that kind of activity as well. These professors might know of conferences where the special issue could be the topic of a panel, etc.
4) Media. Raymond Lotta will be doing interviews and going into the media. Inquiries and suggestions (both campus and bigger media) should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
5) The international communist movement, foreign students and scholars. There is a great need—and opportunity—with this special issue to influence the understanding of radical-minded intellectuals and students from abroad. This bears greatly on initiating the new stage of communist revolution worldwide. We should have our antennae out for getting the special issue into the hands of foreign students and professors, talking with them about ways to project it internationally, enlisting assistance for translating the special issue into other languages, etc.
6) Once again: the importance of the revcom.us website. People need to be writing timely accounts, synthesizing questions and controversies, and pointing to new pathways for getting this special issue out and provoking debate. Encourage students to go to revcom.us to learn more: to make use of the interactive on-line format of the special issue, to encounter the new material going up (like the piece on "memoir literature"), to check out the section on the site called "Setting the Record Straight on Socialism and Communism."
Let's have an impact on campus this semester and create conditions for even greater impact as we go forward.