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Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
March 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The BA Everywhere campaign is announcing that each month this year, there will be a weekend of nationally coordinated and focused fundraising and popularizing of BA. This will be an important way the campaign can begin to develop momentum and raise really big funds in 2014 to make Bob Avakian—BA—and his vision and framework for a radically new society concentrated in the new synthesis of communism known throughout society.
These nodal points will have themes and financial goals that will enable the consistent and ongoing work of fundraising to make leap upon leap so that BA Everywhere advances in waves over the course of this year.
The first focused weekend will begin on Thursday afternoon, March 27, on campuses and at high schools and continue society-wide through Sunday, March 30. This will be a weekend of national fundraising for BA Everywhere with a concentration on utilizing and popularizing the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live."
BA Everywhere committees and people everywhere who are inspired by the difference this campaign could make in transforming the whole political terrain should get together as soon as possible to plan. This week, even as preparations and organizing for International Women's Day are underway, BA Everywhere committees should be making plans to get with everyone who has seen BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! during the past year and tell them that this month we are going all out to raise big funds as part of the BA Everywhere campaign to widely promote the film. People need to be reminded of the deep feelings they had after seeing this film, the profound questions that were provoked, what they felt was possible, and then be challenged to be part of raising funds this month so that many more people know about and can see BA's incredible talk.
Since BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! premiered one year ago, we have seen the deep impact of experiencing BA straight-up through this film. As we wrote after the premieres, most people have "never heard anything like this before." BA breaks down for people the problem we face in this system and how the solution is nothing less than revolution—and this is real. Those who catch the hardest hell from the brutal dog-eat-dog of this system have said over and over: "He's talking about my life. He's talking about us." And BA is challenging people to be a part of the great struggle to emancipate all of humanity. The film is, indeed, a daring, substantive summoning to revolution that can change how people see the world and what they do with the rest of their lives.
Over the next year, spreading the film needs to build on the premiere screenings in major venues, the significant public library showings in Los Angeles and Berkeley, the campus showings at UCLA, the deep discussions in bookstores and living rooms, and the many partial viewings on the streets. March 27-30 should begin to make real the potential of this film to generate new contributions for BA Everywhere overall and, as a part of that, to make possible much wider promotion and screening of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! this year.
Work should begin on the college campuses and at high schools on Thursday and Friday, showing the film and raising funds and involving students in the BA Everywhere campaign. Work for showings of the film at schools and campuses needs to get underway now. Students from middle school to college should be inspired to be a part of this campaign that is not just about doing good in a bad world, but about contributing to bring about a whole, radically different and better world.
March 27-30 should be a weekend of diverse activities that build community, spirit, organization, and most of all raise big funds. BA Everywhere committees should strive to have some real house screenings/fundraising parties. Depending on the strata of people, a party could raise from $200 to $1,000.
One idea is for a committee to develop a plan to go out to 25 or more people—including all those who the committee has met over the past two years and certainly everyone who saw and was moved by the film. There should be outreach that involves "cold calling" and going door to door, all with the aim to have serious one-on-one fundraising appointments, utilizing BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and the overall BA Everywhere campaign material. In some cases it may be possible for an area or a campus group to plan to do a showing of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! as a fundraising event.
Fundraising materials that highlight the need for massive promotion of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! in the next year will be prepared. The BA Everywhere page will develop a short piece on the film—its import, ways to make it a focus—as a spur to raising funds for the campaign as a whole as well as for the particular needs of promoting the film itself.
An important way to kick this off and introduce people to Bob Avakian is to listen together to BA's New Year's statement, one-on-one or in small groups, and to play it in settings where lots of people can hear it (audio available here and text is available here) This is a key tool to be used consistently and widely—especially among the youth. It should be a big part of cohering people around BA, the campaign, and the movement for revolution. And each month there should be a couple of days when focused work with the New Year's message is done at high schools. There are small cards with a QR code that link to the audio—let's use them.
Mass work on the weekend of March 27-30 as well as leading up to it, in the 'hoods, at the schools, on the campuses, and in culture scenes, should incorporate wearing and popularizing the REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! T-shirts and getting sponsorships for the shirts.
The monthly nodal points with their themes and financial goals will build momentum and a national sense of a movement; they will be opportunities to forge community; they will provide a boost to fundraising.
At the same time, the BA Everywhere campaign needs to be out in the world organizing fundraising among all sections of the people on a continual basis. Mass fundraising among the most oppressed people and among middle class people and setting up house meetings, individual appointments, etc. should be ongoing... consistently tracked, summed up, and a sense of national progress toward goals projected. The numbers of people donating should increase, with cores of people working on the campaign growing in cities as well as outlying areas to make this possible. Among the wealthy as well as the upper sections of the middle class, including opinion makers, fundraising must also be ongoing with methodical attention paid to breaking into scenes, meeting many new people, developing relationships, and working with people who are able to contribute significant funds.
The weekend focuses will marshal all of this ongoing work for leaps in the campaign as a whole.
And all of this will be projected and led from the revcom.us website, particularly the BA Everywhere page under the section: Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.
Now is the time to get started so that the weekend of March 27-30 will be a culmination and infusion of energy and funds for BA Everywhere—providing focus, goals, and new experience... lofting BA Everywhere to a new level from which to go forward.
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
February 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Across the planet, women are being slammed backwards—facing the epidemic of rape, the scourge of sexual slavery, the degradation of pornography, the imprisonment of the veil, the humiliation of the woman-hating cultures, and the countless other punishments meted out against women and young girls for the "crime" of being born female.
"The fabric of women's oppression is carved deeply into the calloused hands of women in the sweatshops of China and Honduras. It is draped over the faces of young women in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. It is stripped off the bodies of girls of Moldova and Bangkok who are put up for sale in brothels worldwide, and it is worn like a prize by pre-teens in the U.S. and Europe who are taught to dress and move like sex objects long before they understand what sex even is. This fabric ropes back into history, it winds its way around the globe, braided into all the dominant religions and "moral codes" and woven into every aspect of human societies. It is a heavy veil that casts the darkness of humanity's first oppressive divisions over the lives, the dreams, and the prospects of every corner of humanity in the 21st century.
"To live like this on this planet in the 21st century cannot be justified and should not be accepted. None of this can be tolerated or excused away with counsel of patience.
WE DECLARE: NO MORE!
"Women need emancipation. Women need liberation from thousands of years of tradition's chains. This is a declaration that stands on the clear recognition that for humanity as a whole to advance, half of humanity must be lifted from centuries of being condemned to being the property of men and pitilessly exploited, demeaned and degraded in a thousand ways.
"Women are not breeders. Women are not lesser beings. Women are not objects created for the sexual pleasure of men. Women are human beings capable of participating fully and equally in every realm of human endeavor. When women are held down, all of humanity is held back. Women must win liberation, and they can only be liberated through the revolutionary transformation of the world and the emancipation of all of humanity, and through being a powerful motive force in that revolution."
International Women's Day is a day to call forth the fury of women and unleash it as a mighty force for revolution. It is a day for all who dream of and yearn for a better world to act on the recognition that you cannot break all the chains except one, that if you are serious about winning full liberation you must include the fight for the full liberation of women. It is a day to call forth mass struggle against all forms of enslavement and degradation of women, and it is a day to make all this contribute to hastening the development of a situation where revolution here and all over the world will become possible.
This March 8, join with protests and other actions around this country and across the world.
Break the Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution!
Go here for info on IWD 2014 actions in NYC, SF Bay Area, Seattle, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
Updated February 22, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This year, on the weekend of International Women's Day: Saturday March 8 should be a day of resistance against the horrific oppression of women; and Sunday, March 9 should be a celebration of the bright future made possible through revolution. The spirit of internationalism should infuse both of these days.
All over the world one-half of humanity is held in a state of subjugation and degradation. And right now what we face in this country is an all-sided assault on women's right to abortion, on the basic right of a woman to decide if and when she wants to bear children. Forced motherhood truly is female enslavement! And the right to abortion is seriously hanging in the balance.
On Saturday March 8, demonstrations and rallies should be organized in favor of the right to abortion where the call for "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology!" should ring out. The future of women is at stake—all those who oppose the war on women need to step out and make their voices heard on this day, International Women's Day.
One key front of the attacks on abortion is the vicious campaign of harassment against abortion clinics around the country, as Mary Lou Greenberg highlighted in her recent letter to Revolution ("The Battle for Abortion at the Clinic Doors"). One very good idea would be to mobilize people to defend these clinics and confront the anti-abortion fanatics who are terrorizing women seeking to get abortions. There may be other kinds of activities and places to focus these demonstrations—including where others are organizing women's day rallies and events, bringing this spirit into those events. Where Stop Patriarchy has called for IWD events, those should be united with. And everywhere the call to action "End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women!" should be taken out and distributed.
Banners can be taken out to communities of the oppressed and palm cards distributed with BAsics 3:22—"You can't break all the chains, except one..."—calling for people to come out and join with others in these IWD demonstrations.
And in the midst of all this—many people wearing REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! t-shirts—infusing these manifestations with that message and edge: we need a revolution, and nothing less than a revolution is needed to get rid of this system which is built on and enforces the oppression of women and all the other horrors humanity faces.
Then Sunday, March 9 should be the occasion for celebratory IWD dinners with a real revolutionary and internationalist character—gathering people who stepped out on March 8, drawing forward women and men from among the oppressed neighborhoods, students and activists, immigrants who have come here from countries all over the world, people involved in the BA Everywhere campaign, and people who support the Revolutionary Communist Party. Organize a potluck—make it simple and radical and fun! If possible find a community center or church in a neighborhood—where people from the neighborhoods along with people from the campuses and other scenes can all gather together and experience a taste of what kind of world could be possible through revolution and a new revolutionary state power.
These gatherings should pulsate with revolutionary energy and vision—displays with pictures and text about the world-shaking steps to liberate women during the first stage of communist revolution, quotes from Bob Avakian, pictures of women and men standing up against horrific forms of oppression from Mississippi to Lagos to Dhaka to Cairo and beyond. Poems, songs, music and other cultural expressions—particularly drawing forward the contributions of women and men from all over the world. Excerpts from the films Stepping Into the Future... or BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!; readings from BAsics or other revolutionary works. If there are people you know who traveled to revolutionary China in the 1970s and saw first-hand what having revolutionary state power meant for the liberation of women, they could give a brief talk and show slides or clips from revolutionary Chinese films. Preparing these celebrations can be a way for all different kinds of people to get involved—inspired by the vision of emancipating humanity and bringing forward a society that gets beyond the oppression of women and all other forms of oppression. And a special message from the Revolutionary Communist Party will be sent to be delivered at these gatherings.
All out for an International Women's Day weekend that's about fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution!
Break the Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution!
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
March 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The fabric of women’s oppression is carved deeply into the calloused hands of women in the sweatshops of China and Honduras. It is draped over the faces of young women in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. It is stripped off the bodies of girls of Moldova and Bangkok who are put up for sale in brothels worldwide, and it is worn like a prize by pre-teens in the U.S. and Europe who are taught to dress and move like sex objects long before they understand what sex even is. This fabric ropes back into history, it winds its way around the globe, braided into all the dominant religions and “moral codes” and woven into every aspect of human societies. It is a heavy veil that casts the darkness of humanity’s first oppressive divisions over the lives, the dreams, and the prospects of every corner of humanity in the 21st century.
To live like this on this planet in the 21st century cannot be justified and should not be accepted. None of this can be tolerated or excused away with counsel of patience..
WE DECLARE: NO MORE!
The first socialist societies—the short-lived Paris Commune of 1871, and the radical and far-reaching transformations that took place under socialism in Russia from 1917 to 1956, and in China from 1949 to 1976 were aimed at liberating humanity and ending all oppression. An outstanding element of this earthshaking change was the unprecedented transformation in the status and role of women. For the first time in modern human history, the chains of patriarchy began to shatter, and women were unleashed as a tremendous force for radical change throughout society. (For an in-depth discussion of these revolutions, see the special revcom.us/Revolution 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.")
Pre-revolutionary Russia was a dark and viciously oppressive place for women, crushed by the patriarchal family, the church, law and tradition. But after the old rulers were overthrown in Russia in 1917, the revolutionary state power immediately implemented radical changes that broke the hold of millennia of women’s oppression. Marriage was made secular, and equal. The church-based system of enforced male authority over women and children in the family was abolished. Divorce was made easy to obtain. Equal pay for work was enacted. The Soviet Union became the first country in modern Europe to make abortion and same-sex relations legal. New revolutionary communal and collective institutions gave women the freedom to function as full human beings, even when that meant going up against deeply entrenched tradition. Women were enabled and encouraged to take an active role in all spheres of society, including in government and other leading bodies.
There were struggles against brutally oppressive Islamic Sharia law in Central Asian republics, where the revolutionary state power backed heroic struggles against burkha-like coverings that women had been forced to wear. Open and lively debate over sex roles, marriage, and family took place in the schools and society.
In pre-revolutionary China, the status of the vast majority of women was little better than that of slaves. Very young girls were sold by their desperate starving families as “wives” for men of privilege. Millions of women, from the upper classes to prostitutes, had the bones in their feet crushed (“foot binding”) to create what was supposed to be a more “dainty,” sexually-appealling look. Women had little or no legal rights. When the revolution came to power in China in 1949, the masses of people were mobilized to change all that.
New laws banned child and arranged marriages. Divorce was made legal and accessible. Foot binding was ended. The shame was lifted from those who had previously been forced into prostitution, and a new, productive life was opened up for them—in a short time, prostitution disappeared as a social phenomenon.
Social and economic barriers that kept women from being full participants in changing the world were torn down. Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party that led the revolution, popularized the slogan “Women Hold Up Half the Sky”—a call to fight for the emancipation of women as a crucial part of liberating all of humanity.
While great changes in the role of women took place immediately with the revolutionary seizure of power in China, even more radical changes were needed. The struggle against the oppression of women was a big part of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution—an unprecedented mass political struggle, led by Mao and other revolutionaries, to beat back attempts by “capitalist roaders” intent on bringing back capitalism, and to further transform all of society. In pointing to remaining influences of traditional oppressive ideas and the need to shatter them, Mao said that unless it was radically transformed, the state ministry of culture "should be renamed the Ministry of Emperors, Kings, Generals, and Ministers, the Ministry of Talents and Beauties or the Ministry of Foreign Mummies." In striking contrast to the way women are portrayed today in culture in the world—as subservient to men in society and in relationships—new works of art and theater portrayed women as daring, strong, and on the front lines of revolutionary change. Women and men in their millions took part in broad campaigns to criticize feudal and capitalist thinking that uphold exploitative and unequal divisions in society and in how people related to each other—one participant in the Cultural Revolution described how, as a young girl, she waged a cultural revolution in her family against patriarchal values and rules.
This experience was a first step in humanity breaking all the chains of oppression. It included missteps and even serious errors, but it showed that the world does not have to be this way, that there is nothing inherent in human nature that dooms us to this, nor are the forces of the current oppressive world order all-powerful. But the first stage of communist revolution came to an end with the defeat of socialism in Russia in 1956 and in China in 1976.
The world today is deeply and profoundly stamped with the brutal degradation and oppression of women. It is a world dominated by imperialism—of unjust wars, savage poverty and inequality, the accelerating environmental crisis that threatens all life on the planet, and many other outrages. It is a world crying out for urgent, radical change—for communist revolution.
And 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 necessary to carry forward the struggle toward that goal.
A visionary, as well as very concrete, plan for how the new synthesis of communism would apply to organizing a whole new society exists in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
There is, right now, a movement for revolution being built right in the heart of the U.S. empire, with the Revolutionary Communist Party as its leading core—a movement that is fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution. The struggle against the oppression of women and for the emancipation of half of humanity is a crucial element of this movement.
What is needed is for you, and many others like you, to jump in and become a part of this movement for revolution right now. To stand up to and fight against all forms of enslavement and degradation of women—most especially the intensifying emergency confronting women's right to abortion and the mass brainwashing of society with violent and degrading pornography. To shake off the ways of thinking and relating to each other that this system puts on us, including the message they preach about it being “human nature” that women are dominated and controlled by men. To dig into the theory and spread the leadership of BA and the RCP everywhere. To struggle for the understanding that this is not a fight only for women, but for everyone who is serious about fundamental change. And to do all this as part of building the movement to overthrow all exploitation and oppression and liberate all of humanity. On this International Women's Day, March 8, 2014—stand up and join with protests and other actions around the U.S. and across the world. Break the Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution!
You cannot break all the chains, except one. You cannot say you want to be free of exploitation and oppression, except you want to keep the oppression of women by men. You can't say you want to liberate humanity yet keep one half of the people enslaved to the other half. The oppression of women is completely bound up with the division of society into masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited, and the ending of all such conditions is impossible without the complete liberation of women. All this is why women have a tremendous role to play not only in making revolution but in making sure there is all-the-way revolution. The fury of women can and must be fully unleashed as a mighty force for proletarian revolution.
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
Updated March 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Wednesday, February 26 marked two years since Trayvon Martin was killed in Sanford, Florida, by racist vigilante George Zimmerman—found not guilty and allowed to walk free. Two weeks ago, a jury in Jacksonville, Florida, refused to convict Michael Dunn for the murder of 17-year-old Jordan Davis (see "Mistrial of Michael Dunn: An Intolerable Injustice")
To mark the two-year anniversary, people across the U.S. protested to demand a STOP to the killing of youth of color by cops and racist vigilantes. There were rallies and protests in the streets, in public squares and college campuses; artistic and cultural events; students making a statement holding Skittles at candlelight marches. The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported on a rally at the student union at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee organized by the Black Student Union.
Actions took place in at least 20 cities across the country, some responding to the call from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network for a Day of Outrage and Remembrance for Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis—declaring "Hoodies Up! Targets Up! Fists Raised! We're Standing Up! No More Murder of Black Youth!"—in larger cities like New York, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles as well as smaller areas like Greenville, South Carolina, and New Haven, CT. In Jacksonville, Florida where Jordan was murdered, Carl Dix from the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network spoke at a rally in front of the courthouse. According to stopmassincarceration.net, "most of those who turned out were people who had directly felt the lash of this country's criminal 'injustice' system: family members of people wrongfully incarcerated or of people who had been brutalized or murdered by police and formerly incarcerated people."
In a message issued on February 26, Carl Dix said, "Things don't end with today's action. We are just getting started. There needs to be a movement of determined resistance to the criminalization of our youth, to the warehousing of people in prison, to mass incarceration overall and all its consequences. We need to go from the hundreds who are acting today to thousands acting soon, to ultimately mobilizing a movement of millions of people saying no more to the slow genocide the criminal 'injustice' system in this country enforces on Black and Brown people."
Carl Dix said in the message that he and Cornel West had developed a basic vision for a Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration in October: "We envision a month of nationwide rallies and demonstrations, major concerts, symposiums and panels, well known people speaking out, people wearing armbands and ribbons, and more. A month that can change the way millions of people in this society look at mass incarceration."
The hundreds who took to the streets and acted and spoke out in different ways on February 26 showed the potential for this vision to become a reality.
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
Updated March 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editor's note: The following is an updated version of an article originally posted at revcom.us March 1, 2014
The central European country of Ukraine is being convulsed by conflict and upheaval. As events continue to unfold, what is coming even more to the fore as this crisis has intensified is the jockeying for position and geopolitical advantage by rival imperialist powers—with the potential to escalate into direct great-power confrontation.
The week from February 18 to 23 witnessed a dramatic and rapid unfolding of events: mass protests centered in the capital Kiev, violent state repression and armed street fighting; behind-the-scenes maneuvering by reactionary forces in and outside Ukraine, the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych and the formation of a new government.
As we go to press, Russian troops have occupied an airport and other areas near the Russian naval base in the Crimea region of Ukraine. Obama has threatened "There will be costs for any [Russian] military intervention in Ukraine."
But people are being systematically lied to and misled about what's behind the dangerous tensions in Ukraine. When Barack Obama went on TV on February 28 to claim that the U.S. is motivated by the desires and interests of the people of Ukraine and their ability to "determine their own future," he lied.
Overwhelmingly, the main aspect of what took place in late February in the streets and government offices of Ukraine was not a "popular revolt." What's going on in the streets and in the Ukrainian halls of power is not a battle between "oligarchs and democrats," or between corrupt Soviet-style autocrats and enlightened pro-Western, anti-corruption activists. And the actions of the major players involved—the United States, European powers, Russia—and among the rulers in Ukraine are most certainly not about "democracy," much less the actual interests of the people of Ukraine or anywhere else.
The events in late February were essentially a battle within the Ukrainian capitalist ruling class—inextricably bound up with and profoundly shaped by rivalry between oppressive great powers—in particular between the U.S. and the European Union on one side and Russia on the other. What has emerged even more since is intense jockeying for position and geopolitical advantage by rival imperialist powers—again, with the potential to escalate to direct great-power confrontation. Within this context, different sections of the Ukrainian people are being manipulated and used to serve reactionary and imperialist aims. Nothing good can come of this struggle on its current terms and in its current configuration. (The nature of the various forces in the streets and in the halls of power in Ukraine is beyond the scope of this article. For a more in-depth analysis, see "Ukraine: The Wolves Are Loose.")
The sudden turn of events—the collapse of the government of Ukrainian President Yanukovych and the ensuing chaos—underscores how these rivalries and other conflicts are sharpening, and how the "tectonic plates" of world relations are shifting on many different fronts. These can lead to sharp jolts and unexpected transformations, which could in turn ripple across the globe.
Ukraine is a country of 45 million people, geostrategically located in relation to Russia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Black Sea.
What today constitutes the nation of Ukraine first emerged as a state in the 17th century, and by the end of the 18th century had largely been incorporated into the reactionary Czarist Russian Empire. In 1917, the Czarist Empire was overthrown by something new and unprecedented: the socialist revolution in Russian and the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which included Ukraine. This was a radically different kind of society until socialism was reversed and capitalism restored in 1956. (For the real story of the nature and significance of the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1956, see: You Don't Know What You Think You "Know" About...The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future; and thisiscommunism.org.)
From 1956 until 1991, the Soviet Union was an imperialist power (even though it called itself "communist") locked in sharp confrontation with the U.S. imperialists—what was known as the Cold War. Ukraine was part of the Soviet bloc of countries until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. It then became formally independent and was run by a new, openly capitalist ruling class.
Ukraine is rich agriculturally, industrially developed, and strategically located between Russia, Europe, and the Middle East. Today pipelines carrying Russian natural gas crisscross the country. The country straddles the Black Sea (which connects to the Mediterranean Sea), and Russia's Black Sea fleet is based in Crimea, a part of Ukraine. Russia considers Ukraine key to its military position.
After the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine became the focal point of a new wave of contention between the U.S., Europe, and Russia. That contention is the main driving force in the upheaval now gripping the country. Broadly speaking, since 1991, the rulers of the U.S. have assessed that it is essential to maintaining their empire to lock in global supremacy, including by hemming Russia in and preventing it from re-emerging as a global challenger. A key element of this strategy has been working with its European imperialist allies to absorb former Soviet bloc countries into the European Economic Union and the U.S.-led NATO military alliance. (Ukraine has sought NATO membership.)
Meanwhile, Russia's capitalist rulers are driven to rebuild Russian power and influence. In part, this involves attempting to reassert their influence over bordering countries once part of the Soviet bloc, including by using their enormous energy resources as economic and geopolitical leverage.
From 1991 on, these predatory imperialists—the U.S. and the European Union on one side (though the U.S. and Western Europe each have their own strategic agendas) and Russia on the other—have generally been in direct contradiction, even as there are times when these rival powers cooperate for their own reactionary interests.
The news is filled with representatives of the U.S. ruling class denouncing Russian moves in Ukraine as clear violations of Ukrainian sovereignty.
The hypocrisy is astounding.
A leaked audio of a phone call between a top U.S. State Department official and the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine revealed these officials discussing which representative of the Ukraine ruling class should replace Yanukovych and how to effect that change. Remember, Yanukovych, yes, a representative of the oppressive Ukrainian ruling class, was nevertheless the elected president of the country. Imagine high-level operatives of some other country discussing, in the midst of the recent budget crisis in the U.S., for example, how to replace the president of the United States with a more malleable ally (one who they could better manipulate to serve their own interests).
And then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry railed that "You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext."
Really!? Did Kerry forget the long list of U.S. invasions, coups and proxy wars in the 20th and 21st centuries, from southern Africa to Iran, from Vietnam to Iraq—all justified by one "trumped up pretext" after another. What was the invasion of Iraq—justified by the "trumped up pretext" of "weapons of mass destruction?" Millions and millions of people died as a result of these U.S. coups, proxy wars, and invasions.
Actually, Kerry meant you can do anything under any pretext if you are the United States, but you can't do it if you're messing with the interests of the U.S. Empire.
When Obama claims the U.S. is protecting the interests of the people of Ukraine, he's lying. Again, the leaked exchange by U.S. operatives discussing how to effect regime change in Ukraine doesn't even mention the interests of the people.
But when Obama says the U.S. is "deeply concerned" about the situation, he's not lying. Ukraine has been a focus of the clash between these powers, and the U.S., Europe, and Russia have all been deeply involved in shaping events in the country. For instance, in 2004, the Orange Revolution brought to power, with direct U.S. and European support, ruling class forces favorable to drawing closer to the West. Russia countered on a number of fronts, including in 2006 cutting off natural gas supplies to Ukraine to weaken the government. Meanwhile, Ukraine has been gripped with economic crisis, a facet of the current shocks and crises of global capitalism, and many have been suffering greatly.
This past November things came to a head. Ukraine has been desperately seeking international financial and economic aid. Such international "aid" packages are shaped by the imperatives of global capitalism and by the geopolitical interests of the "donor" countries. The U.S. and the EU have been offering Ukraine "aid" in the form of closer integration into the EU and possibly an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout. But these would involve adhering to their strictures. These often include severe austerity measures, including slashing social safety nets and sharply increasing the price of basic commodities like food, public transportation and energy—measures which have literally starved and killed people and also led to mass rebellion, for example in Greece.
Russia countered, offering Ukraine $15 billion in aid and cheap natural gas, without, reportedly, demanding that Ukraine reject Western "aid." Apparently, Yanukovych felt the Russian deal was a better option for stabilizing the situation, perhaps fearing the kind of discontent and revolt that accompanied IMF-imposed measures in Greece, and signed it. This outraged the Western imperialists and various factions of the Ukrainian ruling class, who escalated their protests and behind-the-scenes jockeying. Top U.S. and European officials have been in direct contact with Ukrainian government and bourgeois opposition figures and have gone to Ukraine to personally support anti-Yanukovych protests.
This global rivalry set the stage for the February 18-22 surge of clashes and the implosion of Yanukovych's government. On February 22, a deal brokered by U.S. allies Germany and Poland to temporarily ease the crisis was signed by President Yanukovych and Ukraine's bourgeois opposition. The New York Times reported: "A rejection of Russian aid seems to have been one of the conditions set....Europe and the United States have been leaning heavily on Kiev to accept that only a Western aid package led by the International Monetary Fund can rescue Ukraine's economy." ("With President's Departure, Ukraine Looks Toward a Murky Future").
The situation remains fluid and extremely volatile, with sections of people being mobilized around a range of reactionary programs, armed forces aligned with Russia taking up positions in Crimea, the Russian parliament authorizing sending troops into Ukraine, and Obama threatening that there will be "costs" if Russia moves into part of Ukraine.
None of these clashes and maneuvering between rival world powers and rival Ukrainian capitalists have done anything positive for the people who've suffered enormously under one predatory, oppressive government after another. The vaunted deal now cut by the West with Ukraine is more of the same, and there's nothing positive about the current configuration of power or the outcome of the current crisis in Ukraine. Instead, truly grave dangers loom.
However, the sudden, unexpected emergence of this crisis, seemingly out of nowhere, does reveal an aspect of the impermanence of the existing order. The imperialists themselves sense this potential. The German newspaper Der Spiegel called the clash in Ukraine and heightened rivalry between the U.S., the EU, and Russia "a chess game in a minefield."
The existing world order will not fundamentally change without conscious forces acting on it, but it is not a wall of permanence and stability, particularly now. All this underscores, once again, the crying need to work urgently for the emergence of genuine revolutionary communist leadership to forge another path for humanity, away from this dark past of oppressive regimes and cynical wars. Without this, imperialist and reactionary forces will continue to plunge the world into new, unprecedented nightmares.
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
February 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On February 27, Barack Obama gave a speech launching what he is calling the "My Brother’s Keeper" initiative, which he claims is about “empowering boys and young men of color, a segment of our society that too often faces disproportionate challenges and obstacles to success.” (The entire speech is at http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2014/02/27/president-obama-speaks-my-brothers-keeper-initiative#transcript.) Obama spoke to an audience that included, among others, the parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, two young Black men murdered by white racists (see revcom.us for in-depth coverage of the refusal of the system to convict their killers of murder). Obama’s speech, in the name of just talking about “what works,” actually put forth an upside-down, completely wrong and poisonous understanding of the actual problem facing not just young Black and brown men, but ALL people of color, women and men alike. In the name of “what works,” he offers paltry solutions that purport or claim to save a few more people from the meat grinder... while leaving the meat grinder intact. For now, the day after, we will only comment on:
Three Bitter Ironies, One Glaring Omission... and an Ominous Punch Line
Bitter irony number one: Obama says America is the land of opportunity, where you can make it if you try.
NO! America is the land in which the land, labor and lives of hundreds of millions of people from Africa and the Americas were ground under and ground up in order to create a powerful empire dominated by a relative handful. America is a land where this handful offered to a section of other people—historically white European-descended people—the “opportunity” to get in on or at least share in the plunder. This did not end with the great struggles of the 1960s—instead, things were adjusted to allow a section of the oppressed nationalities to “move on up” while conditions for the masses grew even worse. Today, as this empire runs into serious and in some ways unprecedented problems, they cannot offer the same—ugly—deal. The irony is this: at a time when the system literally has no future for the youth, Obama comes up with a played-out fantasy lie of the past.
Bitter irony number two: In a proposal to “do something about the situation of young men of color,” Obama honored former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Michael Bloomberg was cited for financing a program supposedly designed to mentor young Black men. Michael Bloomberg, however, is much more famous for—and much more directly affected the lives of men of color of all ages in New York by—instituting and stubbornly defending the stop-and-frisk program in New York City. This program, which arbitrarily stopped literally hundreds of thousands of Black and Latino men a year for no reason, then frisked and humiliated them, was nothing but apartheid control, and has been justly hated by masses of people and fought, including by people like Carl Dix and Cornel West and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. The irony is this: It was right for Obama to honor Bloomberg’s example in the speech, because Bloomberg’s program—a mentoring program that will have little overall social effect while maintaining and intensifying the ongoing criminalization of the masses of Black, Latino and other oppressed nationalities and the outrageous denial of their fundamental rights—is exactly the effect of what Obama puts forth.
Bitter irony number three: In the audience, and pointed to by Obama, were the parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Yet everything Obama proposed would have had absolutely no effect on either the murders of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, or the outcome of the trials that did not punish those who murdered them.
Think about it: The parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis did everything that Obama so arrogantly and downright misleadingly criticizes other Black and Brown people for NOT doing. The fathers were able to be present in their sons’ lives. The sons were in school. They were doing NOTHING at all but minding their own fucking business when some racist, feeling the power of the state and the approval of society behind them, decided that they had to die.
Nor would anything Obama proposed do anything about the structural racism that ensures less funding for minority needs (compare schools in the inner city to those in the suburbs, compare health care availability, etc.) and the countless ways this gets played out on the individual level by the human resources hiring managers, the credit officers, the doctors, the principals, the store-owners, and all the many others in positions of some authority—including, very especially, cops, judges, probation officers, prison guards, etc.—whose racist micro-decisions each day reinforce and give life to that.
The one glaring omission: Where was the mention of women and the particular oppression faced by Black, Latina and other women of color?
From listening to Obama's speech, you would think things were just great for African-American, Latina and other women of color. Their situations – which, yes, are different but certainly no less oppressive than those of men of color and further burdened by both the pornification of society (and the particular ways this targets women of color) and the denial of birth control and abortion (and, again, the particular and even more intense ways in which poor women and women of color are denied these rights in ways even more intense than comes down on white and/or middle-class women) and the many overall ways in which male supremacy comes down in all kinds of social relations, including violence against women and just generally being demeaned and devalued in every dimension of life—did not merit a single mention! This speech by Obama, and this program he says he will set in motion, in essence puts forward a solution of strengthening patriarchy in communities of color.
The ugly and ominous punch line: Once again, the heart of Obama’s message—NO EXCUSES!
There was nothing more ominous and ugly than the end of his speech, in which Obama turned to the young men he had up on stage and lectured them, invoking his “no excuses” tag line and turning these young men into props for his show. In other words, calling out racism and white supremacy... demanding an END to outrages like mass incarceration... if you stand up to all the outrages of the system... and actually dig into the CAUSES of these problems that, on the surface, seem like “individual bad choices” but are actually traps that have been knowingly set by this system... traps that not only keep the system going but persuade the victims of the system that the failures of the system are their fault... then, according to Obama, you are making an excuse. This is an extremely ugly lie. And it is ominous—it is justification for every cop, for every vigilante, for every person in any position of authority to go on with what they are doing and to even do worse... because after all, any protest, any criticism is just... “an excuse.”
“I made it,” Obama says, “therefore you can make it.” This theme of Obama calls to mind Bob Avakian’s point:
Determination decides who makes it out of the ghetto—now there is a tired old cliché, at its worst, on every level. This is like looking at millions of people being put through a meatgrinder and instead of focusing on the fact that the great majority are chewed to pieces, concentrating instead on the few who slip through in one piece and then on top of it all, using this to say that "the meatgrinder works"! (BAsics 1:11)
No, Mr. Obama, your experience proves nothing other than the fact that some from the oppressed will shamelessly pimp their own experience and that of the people from which they came and attempt to use it to buttress the powers-that-be and to invalidate any who tell the truth about what those powers actually do and enforce. And the truth is this: this society has nothing to offer anyone but more oppression, more exploitation, more war and aggression, more spying and repression, and more environmental devastation; and the situation of Black and Brown youth, both male and female, is just one particularly sharp example of the fact that what is required, at long last, is REVOLUTION...nothing less!
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
From A World to Win News Service:
Feburary 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
February 24, 2014. A World to Win News Service. "Ukraine is now in a pre-default condition and sliding into the abyss," Alexander Turchynov warned immediately after becoming speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and the country's acting president. Ukraine needs $35 billion over the next two years and an emergency loan in the next two weeks just to pay its creditors in the East and West. Those creditors are engaged in a mutual tug of war which neither side can afford to lose, and maybe not afford to win. But much more than cash is at stake.
The Ukraine governing party and most of the so-called "oligarchs" suddenly deserted President Victor Yanukovych and brought in Turchynov, an ally of Yulia Tymoshenko, the darling of the European Union (EU), especially Germany. Becoming filthy rich overnight when the country's state enterprises were dissolved, she was one of the first of Ukraine's "oligarchs" and a fitting embodiment of this class, who may be weaker and less adept at hiding their flesh-eating nature than their Western counterparts, but are no less monopoly capitalists. Like the now-deposed Yanukovych and the rest, none of them are loyal to "democratic values" or even any particular foreign power but only to the needs of their chunk of capital to expand without limit in lethal competition with other capitals.
This is not the first time that the U.S. and Europe have tried to snatch Ukraine away from Russia. The so-called "Orange Revolution" of 2004-05 exacerbated an economic and political crisis that led Ukraine to where it is today, and that underlying crisis is far from resolved.
In 2004 the West engineered street demonstrations that snatched the presidency away from Yanukovych and brought Tymoshenko and Victor Yushchenko to government. Despite her Western support, Tymoshenko's signature political move was a deal with the Russian monopoly Gazprom that was politically advantageous for her but so disadvantageous to Ukraine that by 2010 Yanukovych was back in the presidency and she was imprisoned for corruption. Though considered pro-Russian, Yanukovych entered into negotiations with the EU for a free trade agreement with it. Then last November he suddenly turned around, refused to sign after all, and instead accepted a Russian deal for $15 billion in loans and a one-third reduction in gas prices.
So much for loyalty or even predictability among any of Ukraine's leaders. His reversal, however, was not irrational: it seems that the IMF wanted to impose conditions that might have brought even greater political instability and not the relief that his debt-ridden regime needed to survive. He tried playing off Russia and the EU, and in the end neither saved him.
The youth and others who angrily took to the streets chanting "We want in to the European Union" were badly deluded. Why would the EU or the IMF treat Ukraine any differently than Greece, for example? Germany and other European powers (notably France) skinned Greece twice, once by lending it enormous amounts of money for a "development" that meant importing capital and consumer goods at a rate that helped keep the German economy humming, and then again, when the financial crisis meant that Greece couldn't pay, by forcing the country to make "adjustments" that drove millions of Greeks into destitution so that foreign capital could recover its principal and interest.
Look at Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Baltic states and other former Soviet-bloc countries that have entered the EU—where has that gotten them? Perhaps young Ukrainians hoped that EU ties would bring their country's living standards up to the slightly higher level of neighboring Poland, which used to own western Ukraine. But one of that country's leading exports is young Polish women and men. Becoming more like Poland is not a revolutionary aspiration.
A country of 46 million people, Ukraine became independent in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The world's tenth largest steel producer, it has very developed agricultural and industrial sectors, but its dependence on exporting steel and steel products has made the country highly vulnerable to the global financial turmoil as well as Russian pressure. Its geo-strategic location provides a vital energy transit route from Russia to Western Europe. About 60 percent of Ukraine exports go to Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Natural gas, used to fuel industry as well as for household consumption, is the biggest import and the main cause of its trade deficit. Ukrainian external debts grew from $23.8 billion in December 2003 to $137.7 billion in September 2013.
The U.S. and EU-backed and financed "Orange Revolution" from 2005-2010 was not able to bring about structural economic changes and rearrange Ukraine's political landscape. That would have required strategic political and astronomical financial commitments they were not able to deliver, entangled as they were in wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and especially as they sank into financial crisis.
The effects of the global financial crisis on Russia during this period were not so severe. Due to rising prices for its oil and gas exports, Russia accumulated huge currency reserves. In some aspects it began to reverse the weak situation it found itself in after the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s.
At the same time, the emergence of renewed imperialist rivalry and the rise of capitalist China, along with the global financial crisis, has forced the big powers to take greater risks to advance their spheres of influence in every dimension: strategic, political and economic. Ukraine, the biggest non-Russian piece of the shattered Soviet Union, has become one focus of global contradictions.
Germany in particular, already a major trading partner with Ukraine, has been anxious to tear more deeply into this relatively large country and its plentiful natural resources, highly developed industry and export-oriented agriculture. It is a prime market for exported capital and commodities, with a fairly young, skilled and educated labor force accustomed to low pay. German dominance over Ukraine could change the balance of power within the European Union and more broadly.
Yet while Europe and especially Germany have been poised to devour Ukraine, the U.S. has been intensely involved as well, often out of synch with Germany, if not in open opposition. While Obama and Europe's governments are hailing Yanukovych's downfall as "the will" of the Ukrainian people, no Ukrainian desires and interests were even an issue in the famous leaked phone call between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the American ambassador to Ukraine. They discussed exactly whom they would and would not accept as the future leader of Ukraine, and agreed that the transition should be brokered by the UN to take the EU out of the decision-making process—"Fuck the EU," Nuland concludes.
As it turned out, an exit plan for Yanukovych was put together by the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland, which Russia refused to sign, as it argued that it would only help pave the way for the opposition to Yanukovych to get rid of him. In any case, for the moment he's vanished.
American firepower is still Washington's ultimate argument. It was implicit in U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice's warning to Russia not to send in troops. Opposition to foreign interference rings hollow from the country that occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, led the armed overthrow of the Qaddafi regime and recently threatened military action against Syria and Iran. Not to mention its activities in its own "back yard"—the annexation of a big chunk of Mexico and a century of fattening on the wealth created by Mexicans. The concern Washington displayed for the fate of demonstrators under attack in Kiev's main square (Maidan) was nowhere to be seen when the Obama government coordinated the violent clearing of the parks taken over by the far more peaceful Occupy movement in the U.S.
The U.S. 2008 adventure at encouraging Georgia to fight Russia ended in humiliation for Washington, but the stakes for both the U.S. and Russia are now much higher.
For the U.S. and Russia especially, the chief issue is Ukraine's strategic importance to Russia's re-emergence as a great power. A tighter alliance of Ukraine with Russia could help Russia bring its former republics into line, especially the more reluctant such as Azerbaijan and to some extent Georgia. Conversely, Ukraine's further separation would make such a dream for Russia much more difficult and complicated, and encourage more mutiny within Russia's sphere of influence. Putin's plan for a Eurasian Economic Union could not prosper without the biggest and richest of the six non-Russian ex-Soviet states.
Russia's policy has apparently been to encourage contradictions between the EU and the U.S. and lean towards the EU conditionally to isolate the U.S. During the political crisis of the last months, while some forces in Ukraine demanded the resignation of the president, pro-EU forces and Germany proposed a dialogue and reform without a change in president. Even now that Yanukovych is out of the picture, it seems that Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin have been negotiating over the phone, perhaps, according to some observers, discussing the idea of putting in Tymoshenko, ironically one of the least anti-Russian aspirants, as a kind of compromise head of state.
The Ukrainian ruling class seems to have regrouped against Yanukovych. Even his own party disowned him. "All responsibility for this lies with Yanukovych," the Party of Regions said in a statement. "The party was virtually the hostage of one corrupt family." It should be noted that the state apparatus has not suffered. In fact, although parliament has called for other ex-ministers to be arrested and tried, the Defense Ministry has not changed hands and the country's large armed forces seem to have approved the anti-Yanukovych consensus. At the same time, it is not at all clear what kind of stable political alliance could replace him.
As pushed around as it has been, Ukraine itself is a relatively developed monopoly capitalist country whose ruling class has its own needs and ambitions. While members of that class may clash among themselves about foreign alliances, they have a certain unity of interests. Most probably see the current situation as an opportunity to "free" Ukrainian capital from its subordinate position or at least improve that position. This is a major reason why the situation is so volatile.
It is almost unbelievable but not impossible to understand that cries against the "Muscovite Jewish mafia" and "Russian Jewish communist domination" should be heard in the streets of Ukraine today. These were the slogans of Ukrainian nationalists who saw the Nazi German invasion in World War 2 as an opportunity to seek the overthrow of the socialism that four million Ukrainians fought and died to defend. Rather than being oppressed by the Soviet Union, it was as a Soviet Republic that Ukraine came into existence as a political entity for the first time in history and that its people were able to blossom as never before.
In the beginning of the Maidan movement, students played a major role and there seemed to be a broad political mix of people. However, according to reports, it was increasingly dominated by the Svoboda party, the historically pro-Nazi party said to have led the seizure of the Kiev city hall that triggered Yanukovych's flight, and the even more openly fascistic paramilitary bands grouped together in the Right Sector. These fascist currents seem to be an expression of the national interests of Ukrainian capital in its opposition to as well as collusion with foreign capitalist powers. The central role of these elements in Yanukovych's downfall signals a dangerous political and ideological dynamic that cannot be turned off at will.
Extreme reactionary ideology is not, however, the special mark of one side or the other in the fight for power. The debate between pro-U.S. and pro-Russian commentators about which side are the real fascists is wrong and self-serving. The Ukrainian chauvinist racism directed at Jews and ethnic Russians by the anti-Russian gangs is matched by the patriarchal obscurantism of pro-Russian forces (including Yanukovych himself) who insist Ukraine must not join the EU because the result would be homosexual marriages and the end of Christian "values."
To the extent that there is an ideological battle going on, it is not about "Western versus Russian values" or "democracy" versus "dictatorship"—Yanukovych was repeatedly elected—but about Ukrainian nationalism. Again, whether or not Tymoshenko's bad health and political circumstances allow her to come back onto the centre stage, she is a case study in that phenomenon. Brought up speaking Russian, she has said she had to learn to think in Ukrainian and came to oppose allowing Russian as a second official language because of the need to unite the country—which of course has long been united, with many speakers of four different languages, but whose capitalists need a different political climate to achieve their ends as a national capitalist class. One of the first moves of the new acting government was to end Russian's status as a second official language anywhere in Ukraine.
What we are seeing now are the tragic reverberations of the restoration of capitalism in the USSR after the death of Stalin, on the one hand, and on the other a cynical fight among the big imperialist powers not only over who gets to feed on Ukraine and its people but ultimately for empire.
Ukraine is in more turmoil than Europe has seen since the dismemberment of Yugoslavia. While there are major differences in the two situations, they bear some similarity in the rapacious and reckless ambitions of the leading imperialist powers, especially Germany, the U.S. and Russia; the rapidly shifting splits and alliances, domestic and foreign, of the country's capitalist ruling class; and the fostering of reactionary mass movements driven by these interests. But the world has changed, especially in the last decade, and the West cannot expect an easy victory.
Regardless of immediate events, given this context it is unlikely that such a complex situation will be soon resolved. The wolves have tasted blood.
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 #331 March 9, 2014
by Orpheus Reed | March 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The November-December issue of Adbusters magazine carries a piece written by economic historian Richard Smith called "Sleepwalking to Extinction." Drawn from a larger essay, the article focuses on the impending environmental catastrophe facing Earth's ecosystems and humanity. Adbusters is published by the Adbusters Media Foundation, which describes itself as "a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age." In 2011 Adbusters Media Foundation issued a call for people to "descend on Wall Street," which led to the Occupy movement.
"Sleepwalking to Extinction" vividly presents the extreme situation facing humanity. Smith says we are facing a planetary emergency, as global climate change threatens to "accelerate beyond any human power to contain it." He continues, "Yet despite all the ringing alarm bells, no corporation and no government can oppose growth and, instead, every capitalist government in the world is putting pedal to the metal to accelerate growth, to drive us full throttle off the cliff to collapse."
Smith correctly says that capitalism is "overwhelmingly, the main driver of planetary and ecological collapse" and that "the engine that has powered three centuries of accelerating economic development, revolutionizing technology, science, culture and human life itself is, today, a roaring out-of-control locomotive mowing down continents of forests, sweeping oceans of life, clawing out mountains of minerals, pumping out lakes of fuels, devouring the planet's last accessible natural resources to turn them into 'product,' while destroying fragile global ecologies built up over eons of time."
Smith writes that capitalism is driven to grow in a way that leads to ecological destruction and can do nothing else. He not only exposes how the supposedly "tough" environmental standards put out by Obama are a sham but points to how the calls by Bill McKibben, Jim Hansen, and other environmentalists to make a radical switch from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy still remain within the confines of capitalism—and so are not a real solution.
In all this, there is much to welcome, unite with, and learn from.
However, Smith sees capitalism's threat to the environment primarily as a result of the requirement of capitalist corporations for continual economic growth in order to avoid economic collapse and "for the benefit of their shareholders." This doesn't get to the fundamental laws of motion and dynamics of global capitalism-imperialism. I'm not able to get into these questions here, but I encourage readers to dig into an important recent piece from Raymond Lotta, "On the 'Driving Force of Anarchy' and the Dynamics of Change. A Sharp Debate and Polemic: The Struggle for a Radically Different World and the Struggle for a Scientific Approach to Reality."
As Lotta points out in that work, "The inability of capitalism to interact with nature in a sustainable way...the devastation capitalism has caused nature...and the acceleration of planet-engulfing and planet-threatening environmental crisis are all rooted in the anarchic interactions of highly organized, private aggregations of capital, facing the compulsion to profitably expand or die—and rivalry at the global level."
In this response, however, I want to focus on how Richard Smith, after correctly pointing to capitalism as the problem, goes entirely off the track in what he argues for as the way out.
Smith writes that "the means to derail this train wreck are in the making as, around the world we are witnessing a near simultaneous global mass democratic 'awakening'—as the Brazilians call it—from Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park, from Athens to Istanbul to Beijing and beyond such as the world has never seen." Smith does say that these movements haven't yet "clearly and robustly" answered the question of what would be an alternative social order. But, he argues, "They are working on it, and they are for the most part instinctively and radically democratic; in this lies our hope."
In other words, Smith thinks that these mass uprisings will develop into, or that they clearly point to, the big changes that are needed to bring about "an eco-socialist civilization" that will urgently bring about the major, far-reaching transformations in the way the economy and society as a whole is organized and run, which are impossible under capitalism and which are needed in order to avoid ecological catastrophe.
He sums up, "Today we are riding a swelling wave of near simultaneous global mass democratic 'awakening,' an almost global mass uprising. This global insurrection is still in its infancy, still unsure of its future, but its radical democratic instincts are, I believe, humanity's last best hope. Let's make history!"
The examples of mass uprisings that Smith identifies do indicate some of the intense dissatisfaction and upheaval among broad numbers of people against the horrible inequalities and suffering under capitalism-imperialism. But the "radical democratic instincts" that Smith promotes—which go along with notions of "leaderless movements," "horizontalism," "anti-hierarchy," and so on—will not lead to the radical, thoroughgoing transformations that are required to tackle the roots of the horrors facing humanity, including stopping the environmental catastrophe. The fundamental problem with Smith's view is an unscientific approach to "democracy."
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, hits at the crux of the question in this statement: "In a world marked by profound class divisions and social inequality, to talk about 'democracy'—without talking about the class nature of that democracy and which class it serves—is meaningless, and worse. So long as society is divided into classes, there can be no 'democracy for all': one class or another will rule, and it will uphold and promote that kind of democracy which serves its interests and goals. The question is: which class will rule and whether its rule, and its system of democracy, will serve the continuation, or the eventual abolition, of class divisions and the corresponding relations of exploitation, oppression and inequality." (BAsics 1:22)
The uprisings Smith sees as the "last best hope" are not an undifferentiated whole—they contain different political trends and programs and a mix of different class forces and interests, reflecting this "world marked by profound class divisions and social inequality." Within them there is tremendous contention over how to understand things and how to act—but all still locked within the existing relations of capitalism-imperialism, without fundamentally challenging that framework. These uprisings have not and cannot, based on their "radical democratic instincts," result in a revolution to defeat and uproot capitalism and build a whole new society and world, which is the only thing that can hope to stop environmental catastrophe.
The mass uprisings in Egypt, one of the examples Smith points to, actually show how the idea that a "leaderless" movement can somehow produce fundamental change is a deadly delusion. Millions struggled heroically to drive out the brutal U.S.-backed thug Mubarak. A new face was put on the regime, but the basic nature of the state did not change—the same military, trained and funded by the U.S., remained in control. When millions took to the streets to protest against the reactionary Islamist Morsi government, they supported the military (or stood on the sidelines), which overthrew Morsi in a U.S.-backed coup. Thousands of Morsi suppoters were slaughtered, and a new brutally repressive regime of essentially the same ruling elements people had risen against in the first place was installed. Caught in illusions about the military and capitalist "democracy," the people were led and used, against their own interests, to back the establishment of yet another horrendous, savage regime. (For more on this, see "Millions of People CAN Be Wrong: The Coup in Egypt Is Not a People's Revolution.")
Or look at Occupy. This movement was positive in its standing up against injustice, inequality and a super-rich elite, and in its basic searching for a world where people relate to each other in a different way. But again, the movement objectively did not break out of the limits and confines of this system. How can what Smith calls "democratic instincts" lead a revolution that can actually overcome the deep divisions within society—not only between the small section at the top that control vast wealth and power and the majority of people, but also the divisions among the people?
What Bob Avakian wrote in relation to Occupy is very much to the point here: "...the idea (or ideal), which at this point has considerable currency among many involved in or supportive of these protests—that a 'horizontal' (as opposed to a 'hierarchal') movement can in itself serve as a means of major social change and perhaps even a model of a different society—this idea (or ideal) does not and cannot measure up to the reality of what is actually required to fundamentally uproot and transform a society, and indeed a world, marked by and grounded in profound inequalities and relations of oppression and exploitation, within every country and in the domination by a handful of powerful, imperial powers over the great majority of countries in the world and the great mass of humanity. To uproot and transform all this requires nothing less than an unprecedented revolution: a radical overturning of the entrenched, and violently repressive, ruling forces and imperial powers who now dominate human social existence, and the deep-seated economic, social and political relations of exploitation and oppression of which they are the embodiment and enforcers. And to achieve such a radical overturning and transforming requires a scientific approach to the strategic orientation, program, and organization that is actually required for the revolution that is really needed."
As Avakian goes on to point out: "This revolution is necessary not only in order to deal with the basic, and antagonistic, relation in which the masses of people are ruled over by an exploiting class representing a small part of society, but also in order to transform the relations between different sections of the people themselves—including the transformation of the contradiction between those who (primarily) engage in physical labor and those who (primarily) engage in intellectual labor (the mental/manual contradiction)—in such a way that these relations no longer involve oppression and no longer contain the seeds of antagonism. Without such a revolution, even very positive developments, such as what is represented, in its main thrust and content, by the 'Occupy' protests, will ultimately run into their limits." (This comes from Bob Avakian's November 2011 statement "A Reflection on the 'Occupy' Movement: An Inspiring Beginning...And the Need to Go Further," which I encourage everyone to study or go back to.)
Revolution is not simply a lot of upheaval or mass protest that grows larger and larger, and then somehow leads to the defeat of capitalism and to a whole different way society is organized. Revolution will need to confront and defeat the repressive forces of the capitalist state when the necessary conditions for this come into being. It will need to dismantle capitalist institutions and set up entirely new, liberatory institutions. It will require going up against and defeating attempts by the overthrown exploiters and new exploiters that arise from within socialist society, while supporting revolutions around the world. It will mean approaching socialism not as an end in itself but as a transition to a communist world—to the abolishing of all class distinctions, all the relations of production of which those class distinctions rest, and all social relations that correspond to those relations of production, and to the revolutionizing of all the ideas that stem from those social relations.
All this cannot be accomplished by pinning hopes on things developing linearly from spontaneous uprisings like Tahrir Square or Occupy and an approach of "democratizing" the world order, as Smith advocates. Making revolution requires scientific and visionary communist leadership.
The mass upsurges are a part of the objective basis and raw material for the development of a movement for revolution. Resistance against the system is absolutely critical. In fighting back, people not only resist being crushed but can begin to raise their sights to the struggle that is needed to end exploitation, oppression, and environmental devastation. What Tahrir Square, Occupy, and other movements acutely highlight is the urgent need for a scientific understanding of the problem and solution to be brought to masses of people, and the fact that a movement for revolution does not develop spontaneously out of mass protest movements or even great upheaval involving millions. Revolutionaries need to unite and work with such struggles, but do so as part of building an overall movement for revolution that aims to transform the thinking of large sections of people and to bring forward a revolutionary people with the conscious understanding of what type of change is needed.
In the U.S., in the belly of the imperialist beast, there is a movement for revolution that is being built, right now, with a communist vanguard—the Revolutionary Communist Party—being built at its core. And there exists a developed strategic plan for making revolution in this country. (See the RCP statement On the Strategy for Revolution.)
But overthrowing the capitalist-imperialist state, as major a step as that would be, is only the beginning of this revolution. Think about what would be required to overcome the legacy of thousands of years of class and social divisions, and the devastation and suffering caused by capitalism-imperialism in the last few centuries, including environmental destruction! You would need to move decisively away from the irrational, wasteful, and destructive economy of capitalism and create a completely new economy that could organize and coordinate production in a planned and rational way. You would need to dramatically, urgently replace the fossil fuel energy foundation of capitalist society with green, renewable, and sustainable energy sources and struggle to overcome consumer culture. All this can't be accomplished by a "classless" democratic process. To actually break out of the relations of imperialist domination of the world, this revolution must be based on internationalism and put the whole world first, and the socialist state must be a base area for the world revolution. While meeting the needs of the masses of people, this system must be led in a way that puts the preservation of planetary ecosystems before the development of a particular socialist country.
This new society will require leadership to overcome age-old social divisions and inequalities—like the division between a small section of society that has access to working with ideas and privileges based on that, and large sections of people who are shut out from that—and doing so based on not suppressing but encouraging dissent, critical thinking and questioning. This society must mobilize scientists and international teams to combat ecological destruction, while mobilizing the masses of people themselves as the greatest resource to changing the world. This new society must increasingly bring masses of people into administering society themselves and sorting out how to advance society away from class divisions and all inequalities. There will be a need for a unified socialist economy that is coordinating the new economy with a centralized goal and direction, while also developing the utmost grassroots initiative and innovation based on this.
This is the kind of complex all-around process needed to overcome the legacy of capitalism-imperialism, including the trajectory toward planetary environmental doom. And all this will not happen with a "horizontal" form of organization. It will require scientific and far-sighted communist leadership.
I encourage everyone to get into the RCP's concrete and at the same time sweeping vision for socialist society, which appears in the form of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)—and is based on the new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward by Bob Avakian. And there is the basic orientation for how socialist society can begin to tackle the environmental emergency with an internationalist perspective, "Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development."
And I urge readers to deeply engage with the points raised in this polemic, spread them broadly among those resisting environmental destruction, and debate out their implications for our collective future. The stakes are no less than the future of humanity and the natural world we live in.
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
March 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On February 11, a group of us met in a library room in the hood to both celebrate Darwin Day and discuss the importance of the science of evolution. We used a computer presentation of the images in the centerfold pages of The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters (by Ardea Skybreak) as a guideline to discussion; and what a lively discussion it was.
We expected to hear some disagreement over religion, since several of the participants believe in different forms of religion, including Islam and spiritualism. The controversy jumped out right from the start, when the presenter showed pictures portraying the different creation myths in human societies throughout the world, myths which developed when people did not have the basis to have a scientific understanding of the world, and made up stories to try to explain how the world and people came to be. Right at that point, the argument was made: “OK, but there had to have been a PLAN.” When the presenter said, “no, what the science of evolution shows is that there was NOT a plan,” the question was posed, “But where did the whole universe come from? There had to have been a plan.”
The presenter said, “well, let’s set that question of a grand plan for the whole universe aside for now and let’s get into what it is that the science of evolution shows about how life actually developed on this planet.”
So we got into it, going through the concentrated short course in evolution—with amazing pictures—that is the centerfold of Ardea Skybreak’s book. And everyone took it seriously and was really engaging with what the science of evolution is all about—repeatedly comparing and contrasting this to the arguments that there had to be a PLAN. The pictures alone in the centerfold paint a powerful picture—a photo of a fossil of early one-celled life that is 3.5 billion years old.
The question was posed: how do you know, how do you know that these things are as old as you say? Drawing from an earlier part of the book, the presenter explained how there really is firm scientific grounding for dating how old things are, including going back 3.5 or 4.5 billion years. (“Dating Techniques”, on p. 17 of the book, explains clearly how it is that things that are old can be scientifically and accurately dated. This is in a chapter called “An Overview” which is a very good thing for a presenter who has already carefully studied the book as a whole to review before doing a presentation like this.)
As we got into discussing that the earliest origin of life was in the oceans of the early Earth, an interesting and important question came up which had to do with “what is life?” Isn’t every part of the material world life? Aren’t atoms life? The presenter, again drawing from the section of the book titled “An overview,” explained that in order for there to be life, the object had to be able to take energy in from the environment, had to be able to reproduce/replicate, and it had to have some sort of membrane to separate itself from other matter. Someone brought up the example that trees take in energy through photosynthesis.
We were talking about how we all came from a common ancestor ALL THE WAY BACK—all the forms of life evolved from a common one-celled ancestor 3.5 billion years ago. This led us to reflect on the depth of time involved in this—an amazing number of generations, an amazing amount of time for all the species to develop from a single original cell. Someone observed that it was kind of amazing that the Earth was just right in the right place in the solar system; but still it took catastrophic changes for even this to happen (e.g. the moon being ripped out of the Earth).
I am not going to trace through all that the presenter discussed as he went through the centerfold, step by step, with its vivid pictures—but how can you resist whale skeletons from 40 million years ago, with legs? Animal life left the sea—and there is a picture of one of the earliest fish-like creatures starting to get legs and walk on land—and then animals went back into the sea, and there is the whale with legs to prove it.
One key point in the presentation was going into descent with modification—how every population of creatures (or plants) is made up of individuals that are not the same, each has variation, and they reproduce and carry forward to the next generation what they have in common (e.g. birds cannot give birth to crocodiles, they produce birds) but also there is variation within that and some of the new generation are better adapted to the conditions they face and better able to live and to reproduce the following generation. This simple but powerful explanation developed by Darwin explains a great deal about how life evolved and does not in any way require a plan but instead shows how all of this was a natural process—all the great diversity of life can and has developed without any plan. So we went over this from different angles—the centerfold was very helpful in actually showing pictures of how animals adapt (or not) to their environment as it changes; and the important role of accident in this process as well. For example, how squirrels in the Grand Canyon started out as one species, but over time because of the enormous distance across the canyon, populations on each side are diverging into two separate species.
We talked about extinctions—how most of the species that have lived on the planet no longer exist—and mass extinctions. A heavy point was made by one of the participants—that we could destroy ourselves. The presenter mentioned that the five previous extinctions were naturally caused by many species not being able to adapt to environmental jolts like an asteroid impact, which affected all kinds of life from plants to dinosaurs. However, many scientists are now talking about how a sixth extinction is underway... and this time, it is being caused by humans. At the same time, we are capable of, and need to become, stewards of the environment.
The complexity of the eye is often brought up by creationists as an example of something that couldn’t simply evolve, supposedly because of its complexity. But in fact, the pictures show many different stages of development existing in different animals today and give you a sense of how a simple sea slug with only a small spot of light-sensitive cells would have an advantage over another sea slug that did not have any such light-sensitive cells at all—and the slug with the “eye spot” would be better able to reproduce and this points to how the eye developed through greater complexity to the eyes of humans. And we noted that humans are NOT at the top of the chart in the eye department, as some birds for example can see much better than humans.
Then we got into human evolution; and what makes us human. One slide that had a lot of impact was the picture of the early human embryo with gill slits and a tail—how did the creationist theory explain this? That one picture points powerfully to evolution—that humans descended through many generations from creatures who had gills and swam in the sea.
The further discussion of the emergence of humans in Africa was all very fascinating. One of the participants at one time believed that humans evolved separately in Africa and other parts of the world. An argument had been made at the beginning that “if humans’ closest relative is the chimpanzee, then how come chimpanzees are still here?” But the centerfold quickly and clearly traces how both chimpanzees and humans branched off from an earlier African ape—and then the line that ultimately ended up as humans produced many different branches and there are fossils of many of these. The picture of the chimpanzee and human skeletons side by side was very effective in illustrating how much underlying similarity there is.
We traced it further—how the first big leap (perhaps in response to changing conditions, as parts of Africa were drying out and some jungle was becoming more like grasslands) was the leap to walking erect, on two legs not four. There were many varieties of these hominids in Africa, and then, after millions of more years, a further leap, as large brains developed. And pre-humans (i.e. before our own Homo sapiens) were leaving Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago and that they traveled and lived across Asia and Europe; and yet they did not survive into the present. And that all of this is firmly documented and proven, and here you can see the pictures of the fossilized skulls of these creatures. All of this was quite powerful and had a big effect. And then, there was the map of how our own species, Homo sapiens, one single species of humanity, emerged in Africa 200,000 years ago and migrated across the whole planet.
All this was very, very new to some. At the end, we sort of stepped back to look at the whole picture. The idea that there had to be a PLAN, that all of this could not have just come from the world, that there had to be something to make it happen, had deep influence.
The presenter came back to the point that the truth is that the material world itself has the basis and potential to bring forward everything we see—including life and human beings—the discussion had revealed how life evolved not because of a plan but because of descent with modification.
Another way this was returned to and engaged was in addressing an argument that certain animals behave like ants: “Look at the ants, they all work together, they all have their jobs, they don’t rape and rob each other...and look at humans...” this led to the presenter talking briefly about how this human behavior was not “natural” or evolved, but a product of capitalism, which promotes and enforces individualism and competition—and that there have been periods in human history like socialism in China in which drug addiction, prostitution , etc., was eliminated, when people changed the system to one where people had meaningful lives and were not forced to choose between horrific choices.
We got into the question of, if there is no higher power, and what about morality? The presenter pointed out that Ardea Skybreak talks about how there is no larger meaning or purpose to life, if you mean some kind of cosmic, God-given meaning or purpose. There is just us human beings on this planet—we have to forge our own purpose and meaning. But that does not mean that there is no right or wrong. What we do matters—to us. It makes a great deal of difference what we do and whether we do make revolution and get rid of this system and build a much better and radically different world.
As we broke up, it was clear everyone had been challenged and excited by the discussion, was thinking about all of it, and wanted more of this in the future. Here in the hood, it was a breath of fresh air to learn some real science and not the fake stuff like ghosts and mermaids that permeate TV culture. As we went our separate ways, some participants talked about how they had not been taught evolution in school at all. One participant commented that they learned a lot in the discussion, especially in regard to race (about how we are all one species, “biologically indivisible,” as noted in the book). Someone noted that even birds have many different species, but HUMANS are only one, relatively recent and all from Africa.
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
March 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Recently I participated in a discussion of the section of the film BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less! entitled "Scientific Communist Leadership—The Rosetta Stone We Need to Win." At the beginning of this section, BA reads quotation 4:10 from BAsics as "food for thought":
For humanity to advance beyond a state in which "might makes right"—and where things ultimately come down to raw power relations—will require, as a fundamental element in this advance, an approach to understanding things (an epistemology) which recognizes that reality and truth are objective and do not vary in accordance with, nor depend on, different "narratives" and how much "authority" an idea (or "narrative") may have behind it, or how much power and force can be wielded on behalf of any particular idea or "narrative," at any given point.
Most of our discussion was taken up with this particular quotation. Some people pointed out correctly that having an epistemology based on getting at the truth about reality was critical to changing the world and making revolution. Others raised questions about whether there really was objective truth. So it was lively.
What struck me, however, was what this quotation means for a future society that actually does lie beyond where "might makes right"—beyond class society. How and on what basis would decisions be made in a future classless communist society?
Most progressive people in our society would unhesitatingly answer this question with the assertion that all decisions would be made "democratically." I think not. Rather, decisions would be made scientifically in the interests of all of humanity.
What's the difference? In What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism, BA points out (on page 98) that "when we get beyond the division of society into classes, into exploiters and exploited, the concept of democracy will no longer have meaning in the sense of the protection of the rights of a minority—or an institutionalized means through which the rights of the people are supposed to be protected—because there will no longer be sections of society ruling over and oppressing the greater part of society." Thus, "what meaning, then, is there to 'the rule of the people' when there is just the people . . . ?"
What would it mean to make all decisions scientifically and not on different ideas (or "narratives") based on the institutionalized power, popularity, or social clout they have behind them at any given time?
Let's look first at how decisions are made in science itself. For most of humanity's history, it was an obvious fact that the sun revolved around the earth. You could sit under a tree all day and watch it happen. The sun moved and you didn't, or so it seemed. Only you did move even though the movement was not felt by your senses.
Yet when some of the earliest scientists began to understand the reality of the situation, they were hit with a lot of "power and force wielded on behalf of" church and state. Should this question have been decided on the basis of popular vote? Or should it have been worked out on the basis of careful astronomical observations which compared the predictions of rival theories, even though those observations were actually performed by a small minority of society and only subsequently popularized to society as a whole? Which method would actually get at the truth of things?
Or what about biological evolution? Were all the animals created at once during "seven days," and were humans a special creation given dominion over the animals? Or was it the case that humans, apes, and all other animals evolved over millions of years from a common ancestor? When scientists first began to understand the fact of evolution and to study the mechanisms that made it happen, they took a lot of flak from a "narrative" that had a huge amount of authority behind it: the Bible. Teachers were even criminally prosecuted for teaching the facts of evolution.
Should the reality of evolution have been decided by popular vote? What might the outcome have been? Or should the issue have been wrangled out on the basis of the evidence (fossils, genetics, and the observation of mutation and change taking place in the laboratory)? Here we see just how fundamental it is that, "What people think is part of objective reality, but objective reality is not determined by what people think." (BAsics 4:11)
Nor, as many argue under capitalism, could issues be safely left to free speech and the "marketplace of ideas" for correct resolution. That only begs the question. For under the dictatorship of exploiting classes, who decides who gets to speak freely and who holds the power to distort the "free market"?
Learning from how scientists get at the truth of things, why shouldn't a future classless society get at it in the same way? In such a society, what will it mean that people broadly are educated in the scientific method and try to get at the truth of different ideas by looking at the evidence?
As with issues in science, there would be people with relatively specialized knowledge and responsibility. But now they would be trying to share both the knowledge and the responsibility with all of society to enable people collectively to make decisions based on the overall, not on parochial interests or partial knowledge. Solutions would not be reached on the basis of relative authority or might (expressed either in voting or in the institutionalized authority of a minority), but rather on what best meets the needs of society as a whole. Such questions actually can be decided on the basis of objective reality when society operates on a different epistemology that recognizes that reality and truth are objective and not "social constructs" or "narratives."
Even with that understanding broadly held in society—and in the absence of antagonistic class relations—there will still be plenty of contradiction in society, with new contentious issues rising all the time! It will still be the case that truth will often be held initially by a small minority (and not just for reasons of specialization) and truth may emerge from unexpected or unorthodox sources. Thus, new and emerging truth will still have to fight (with evidence and reason) for recognition and acceptance.
How do we get to a world like this? In short, a total revolution that establishes a whole different kind of society, a whole different kind of class rule, and a whole different kind of democracy that serves the tumultuous process of getting humanity beyond class divisions of any kind. This would be a socialist state that would back up the people's right to abolish exploitation, national chauvinism, the oppression of women and to abolish classes themselves, the economic system which gives rise to classes, and the ideas and division of labor that correspond to that system. And that would back struggles to effect radical transformations in people's thinking. A society led by a far-seeing revolutionary vanguard. It would be a period of lively and sharp struggles to overcome all forms of "might makes right" in how society is organized and how people think. And ultimately to abolish the state itself. During this whole process the scientific method would be increasingly applied in every aspect of society. (To get an idea of this whole transition and process I strongly recommend reading Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).)
I think this is some of what it means that for society to advance beyond "might makes right"—humanity must come to adopt a new epistemology, a method of finding and understanding what is objectively true.
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
March 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
When the mistrial was announced recently in Michael Dunn's trial for the murder of Jordan Davis, Revolution Books Atlanta pulled together a carload of people and headed straight to Jacksonville, Florida. Various people and organizations in Jacksonville had been responding to Jordan Davis’ murder since it happened. We went to strengthen their efforts and contribute to a rapid response to the outrageous non-conviction of Dunn for killing Jordan Davis. This should have been an open and shut case—but instead it was a declaration of open season for killing Black youth. (See "Statement by Carl Dix on the Mistrial in the Murder of Jordan Davis" at revcom.us.)
When we got to Jacksonville we were able to hook up with the New Jim Crow Movement and Free Marissa Alexander Coalition. (Marissa Alexander is a Black woman in Jacksonville who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot in the air to stop her ex from beating on her as he did regularly.) Together we decided we needed to organize a response to the verdict the next day, at the Gate gas station where Jordan Davis was murdered. The call went out and we showed up at noon.
The gas station is located on a very busy highway. We made a banner that said, “Justice for Jordan Davis, The Whole Damn System Is Guilty, revcom.us.” We brought glossy enlargements of the poster with Bob Avakian's "3 Strikes" quote and the Revolution newspaper cover with the picture of Trayvon Martin and the headline “A Modern American Lynching.” We also unfurled a beautiful, huge banner with Bob Avakian’s quote from 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.” All these visuals were very much appreciated.
People showed up with outrage about the verdict and brought their homemade signs. The media came in force, broadcasting from the site live at noon. We learned that some people came to join up with the protest after seeing it on television. About 40 people came out while we were there. As people started to leave by mid-afternoon, more people took their place because they wanted to make sure there was a presence on that corner all day. We chanted, “Jordan didn’t have to die, we all know the reason why—the whole damn system is GUILTY!” and the cars passing by honked their horns continually.
The police came out too, with their squad cars lined up adjacent to the gas station. In an act of bold defiance, one young brother parked his SUV in the gas station, opened all the doors, and turned up the music LOUD from his radio. He got out of the car and walked over to join the protest, leaving the music blasting from his empty car.
One woman was wearing a T-shirt with pictures of her son who was killed by police in a nearby small town—Tasered and shot 12 times. She simply said, “This has got to stop.” Another man carried a sign that said, “The JSO [Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office] killed my uncle.” An older Black woman was carrying her baby grandson and said, “I’m out here for my grandbaby and his future.”
We distributed Carl Dix’s statement, “The Mistrial in the Murder of Jordan Davis” and the call from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network for a Day of Outrage and Remembrance for Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis on February 26, and talked to people about what they thought about the mistrial and what needed to be done.
A Black woman in her 20s said “It’s a lack of justice. We need to educate all the youth to be aware of the racism that still exists so that they can protect themselves from injustice. This is bigger than Florida. Think about the African diaspora. We are all connected all over the world. There is a need for revolution, for change.”
A 25-year-old Black youth said, “I asked myself, this guy [Michael Dunn] is being held accountable for everything around this kid dying except for the kid who is dead. That sends a message either (a) Dunn deserved to shoot and kill the kid or (b) the kid deserved to die.”
A young white woman was frustrated that more white people weren’t outraged: “It’s crazy. He murdered a 17-year-old and didn’t get convicted. More people should be outraged. It doesn’t just affect some people, it affects all of us.”
Many people expressed anger with how the prosecution didn’t really prosecute in both Michael Dunn’s and George Zimmerman’s trials, and disgust for State's Attorney Angela Corey.
We interviewed some of the younger kids who came to the demonstration with their families. They had some incredibly insightful things to say. A 12-year-old said, “I feel there is a lack of justice in the system. You have Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till that have not been served justice for their murderers’ crimes. I feel like in the education system they teach about the advancement of Black people, but not the troubles they face today. The children of our time aren’t learning the African-American struggle for justice. They are being taught that MLK solved all racial problems in the world. That’s not true, we are still struggling and we need justice.”
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
by Li Onesto | March 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
If you aren't one of the many, many people who have read Orange Is the New Black or watched the Netflix series (or done both) let me start with the basic story behind this best-selling book and critically acclaimed TV show.
Piper Kerman grew up in a family with lots of doctors, lawyers, and teachers. She graduated from Smith College in 1992—a college she says was "full of smart and dynamic women." Then, as she wrote in her book:
"I was finished with what was required of me by birth and background. I had chafed within the safe confines of Smith, graduating by a narrow margin, and I longed to experience, experiment, investigate. It was time for me to live my own life. I was a well-educated young lady from Boston with a thirst for bohemian counterculture and no clear plan. But I had no idea what to do with all my pent-up longing for adventure, or how to make my eagerness to take risks productive. No scientific or analytical bent was evident in my thinking—what I valued was artistry and effort and emotion. I got an apartment with a fellow theater grad and her nutty artist girlfriend, and a job waiting tables at a microbrewery. I bonded with fellow waitrons, bartenders, and musicians, all equally nubile and constantly clad in black. We worked, we threw parties, we went skinny-dipping or sledding, we fucked, sometimes we fell in love. We got tattoos."
What happened next dramatically changed Kerman's life. She became romantically involved with a woman working for a West African drug lord and transported money for the drug operation a couple of times. Soon after this, she broke up with the woman, left the whole scene, and "went on with her life." Kerman started a small business with a friend; developed a relationship with a guy and moved in with him. Then five years later, in 1998, the Feds knocked on her door, informing her she had been indicted for money laundering and drug trafficking. Kerman ended up pleading guilty. In 2004 she began serving 13 months of a 15-month sentence. Orange Is the New Black is the story of her experiences at the women's minimum security prison located in Danbury, Connecticut.
Kerman told one interviewer:
"What I don't know is how it feels to serve a 20 year sentence or to be wrongfully convicted. I did commit my crime, I plead guilty. I take responsibility for my actions. But there are people in this country who are serving sometimes very lengthy sentences for crimes they didn't commit. It's my experience and it's my perspective. You know, I'm a white woman and I'm a middle class woman, if you look at the statistics of who is in prison, it's definitely not generally people like me. There were other middle-class white women in prison with me, for sure, but still the vast majority of folks come from really vulnerable communities that don't have a lot of voice, and those people were an integral part of my life, so I feel confident about talking about the intersection of my own life with those folks, but I don't speak for them. They need the opportunity to speak for themselves." (Annaliese Griffin)
Of course, there are limitations to Kerman's story. This is, after all, just one person's experience in prison. Plus she was in a minimum security facility; and in a woman's prison, which has similarities, but also differences from men's prisons.
But Kerman gives us a deep and intimate look at the women she was in prison with and in this way opens a window into the lives of millions in this country.
Kerman points out that while the statistics about mass incarceration in the U.S. are shocking, this alone doesn't tell the whole story. Indeed, numbers only scratch the surface of the actual human suffering and life-long scars. Kerman says, "Although the stats around our current prison system are staggering and when you see things like one in 100 Americans behind bars and one in 31 in the system as a whole including prison and parole—those are eye-opening numbers. But they don't completely tell the story and I think it's easier for folks to really care about an issue in the first place if they understand it on that level. Then those statistics mean even more." (Liliana Segura)
It's hard not to read or watch Orange Is the New Black without really caring a lot about the characters and what happens to them. But it's not some kind of one-dimensional story where everything is clearly defined; unrealistically black and white, good and bad, right and wrong. There's a lot of complexity here, as in real life. You learn about the difficulty of navigating prison life where Kerman encounters all kinds of people. Some have been abused, some are addicts, others are mentally unstable, some have a lot of fucked-up ideas, they sometimes treat each other really badly. And everyone's all crowded together in horrendous, cruel conditions they have no control over.
The book gives us a few hints about the lives the women led before landing in prison. But as Kerman explains, one of the first rules is you don't ask anyone what they're in for. In the Netflix series there's a lot more back-story to the characters that has been fictionally added. And you find yourself aching and cringing as these characters struggle to keep their dignity—in an absolutely irrational institution which is designed to strip people of their very humanity.
Kerman lets us into this world, telling tales with real heart and important insights. This is especially true in the Netflix series where Kerman has been a writer of some of the episodes. Poetic license has been used in the TV shows to not only develop the complexity and richness of the more than 25 characters in prison, but to also get at some real truth about the bigger circumstances that land people behind bars.
** Spoiler Alert **
As is brought out in the book, some women are doing time because of the criminal activities of their husbands and boyfriends. There's the toll the war on drugs has taken—women doing long sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. In the TV series you meet Piper's bunkmate, Miss Claudette, who came to the U.S., forced into child labor to pay off a family debt, and then ends up herself running an illegal child labor cleaning service. There's Nicky, a former drug addict, and Sophia, a transgender woman who committed credit card fraud to finance her operation and hormone therapy. "Pennsatucky" Doggett was a meth-head when she got an abortion and then murdered a clinic worker who dissed her. The anti-abortionists then took up "her cause" and Pennsatucky is now a religious lunatic, trying to "heal" and convert everyone in prison. Sister Ingalls is a nun who, in the book, is a political prisoner serving a long federal sentence for protesting at a Minuteman II missile silo. In the TV series, she really doesn't like Doggett's brand of religious fundamentalism. Some prisoners have straight-out racist views, like Flaca who believes Black people cannot float because of their bone density, which prompts another inmate to call her Flacaca.
These characters, and more, are developed with a slow pace in the TV show. They're used to create densely layered, complex, and, at the same time, highly entertaining and sometimes very funny storylines—that are in many ways subversive to the mainstream message that people in prison are violent animals who need to be locked up to keep people on the outside safe. And they also touch on interesting, important issues in society.
One of my favorite characters is Suzanne "Crazy Eyes." She is mentally unstable and right away develops an obsession with Piper, wanting to be her wife. Initially you might just think this woman is totally insane, but as you get to know her (in the series), you find a much more complex person. She recites literature and poetry, sometimes Shakespeare, and writes her own verses. There is a kind and thoughtful side to her—at one point she helps Piper make amends with another inmate. Sometimes she gets very frustrated, hitting herself on the head and calling herself "stupid." Other times she seems somewhat aware of her own mental state, even reflecting on it out loud to others. She explains to Piper why she likes to mop the bathroom floors: "Sometimes the ceilings inside me get messy like dirt. And I like to clean things. And the dirt is the feelings. This floor is my mind. That is called coping." Apparently she was adopted since she is Black and in the visiting room, we see her parents, who are both white. At one point, we find out from her what it's like in the prison psych ward—the brutality inflicted on prisoners, how they are strapped to beds, shot up with meds, and basically tortured. You really get a sense of someone struggling hard to maintain their humanity against a heartless death-machine. It really makes you ask: What kind of a system treats people with mental illness by locking them up and torturing them?
Sophia Burset, a character who breaks your heart, is a transgender woman in prison for credit card fraud. She used to be a firefighter named Marcus, but was unhappy as a man and with the support of her wife, she became a woman. There are all kinds of difficult emotions Sophia has to navigate. Her wife is supportive and visits Sophia in prison, but also wants to move on with her life. Sophia's son is angry about his father's decision to become a woman and won't visit her. Meanwhile, Sophia has to fight with prison officials who are denying her hormone treatments.
A favorite line of mine in the Netflix show (but not the book) is when "Pennsatucky" tries to baptize Chapman (the Piper character) and Chapman says: "I cannot get behind some supreme being who weighs in on the Tony Awards while a million people get whacked with machetes. I don't believe a billion Indians are going to hell, I don't think we get cancer to learn life lessons, and I don't believe that people die young because God needs another angel. I think it's just bullshit, and on some level, I think we all know that."
Kerman is asked in one interview, "So why did you want to write this book?" and she says: "When I came home, everyone wanted to know what I had experienced and what I had seen. But [what they wanted to hear was] my personal story of being in prison—which is just my story, right? I don't purport to speak for all prisoners by any stretch, but my story relates back to the lives of millions of Americans. We imprison more people than any other country in the world; there are almost 2½ million Americans in prison right now. And obviously all those people have families and communities around them. You're talking about millions and millions of Americans who my story relates to. My story isn't identical, but it is very relevant. So I think if readers have a more direct understanding of what goes on there, I think that's something that would help people maybe think a little differently about what prisons are or are not useful for." (Melissa Rose Bernardo)
Kerman also says, "My own experience was, in many ways, dramatically different from the popular conception and prevailing narrative about prison: who's there, why they're there, and what life there is like." She says, "The popular image of prison, Oz and Cops, is very narrow—and intended to justify the strengths of the prison system and its out-of-control growth.... But if in fact everyone in prison is not irredeemably violent, if their lives have meaning and value, then suddenly you really call into question whether our government is doing the right thing. It's important for people who have been prisoners to have a voice, and to say in a more authentic way what life is really like. Otherwise, someone else is telling our story." (Whitney Joiner)
The fact is, Kerman herself went through a process of transforming her own thinking when she went to prison. And if you read the book, this becomes very clear. In other words, here she was, a woman who would have, most likely, never come into much contact with the kind of women she ended up living with and becoming friends with in prison. She herself had a lot of preconceived notions and prejudices—affected by all the bullshit put out in the mainstream media about "criminals." She tried to do "research" in preparation for going to prison, which of course didn't prepare her at all for what she encountered. But the human experience and the connections she made, deeply affected her and in some ways helped sustain her.This is what comes out very strongly in Kerman's book.
People on the bottom of society, who are systematically demonized and dismissed by politicians and in popular culture; who are put behind bars and then made "invisible;" whose torture is justified by judges and wardens who call them the "worst of the worst"; who, we are told, should be kept imprisoned so that "people on the outside" can be safe—these are the kind of people we get to know some real truth about in Orange Is the New Black.
Kerman says some of her friends expected to hear about a lot of violence in prison, asking her things like, "Did you get beaten up every day?" She says, "There's definitely violence in prison, but it wasn't a central part of my own experience. I just felt like there's a much more complete and complex picture to be presented about who's in the prison, why they're there, and what happens." (Mary Elizabeth Williams)
In fact, a lot of bad shit does go down in prisons. First of all, there is the horrific violence against prisoners by guards that goes on all the time and as a matter of policy—where prisoners are subjected to beatdowns, sadistic cell extractions, and torturous solitary isolation. Then there is the violence that goes on between prisoners—especially in men's prisons. All of this is an extension of what goes on in society as a whole—and animosity and contradictions between people in society are heightened and fomented in prison by prison authorities. Shows like Oz and MSNBC's Lockup sensationalize all this to portray prisoners in a degrading way, as if they are nothing but irredeemable animals.
But here we do have to step back and ask: WHY does this kind of violence go on? What SYSTEM created the conditions that put these prisoners in such a situation? What are the conditions in society that lead so many to end up in prison—poverty, unemployment, lack of education, discrimination, and police brutality. What about this system that itself is the model of using violence all around the world to assert its dominance? And then there are the prison guards themselves who are known to consciously pit prisoners against each other, and get them to fight each other—sometimes for their own entertainment—sometimes pitting Black prisoners against white, and different gangs against each other, in order to maintain control.
In the book, Kerman tells the story of her best friend sending her a newspaper clipping from a New York Times fashion column with photos of women all clad in brilliant orange with the headline "Oranginas Uncorked." A blue stickie attached said, "NYers wear orange in solidarity w/Piper's plight!" Kerman stuck the clipping inside her locker, noting that, apparently, "orange was the new black."
Kerman says the title of her book is a [fashion] play on the classic jumpsuit. But she also says it refers to the fact that women are the fastest-growing segment of the prison population in this country and that most of those rising prisoner numbers are women who are non-violent drug offenders. (Whitney Joiner)
Indeed, the imprisonment of women in the U.S. does concentrate something about the overall oppression of women. There are now more women behind bars than at any other point in U.S. history. With the introduction of mandatory sentencing to federal drug laws, the number of women in prison increased by 646 percent between 1980 and 2010, rising from over 15,000 to almost 113,000. Including women in local jails, more than 205,000 women are now incarcerated. As of 2010, more than 1 million women were under the supervision of the criminal justice system (prison, jail, probation or parole) and the number of women in prison had increased at nearly 1.5 times the rate of men. In 2010 Black women were incarcerated nearly 3 times the rate of white women; Latino women were imprisoned 1.6 times that of white women.
Women have in fact disproportionately been affected by the war on drugs—ending up in prison for the first time, mostly for nonviolent convictions. The percentage of women incarcerated on street drug convictions has now surpassed that of men.
Many women have ended up in prison with very heavy sentences for very light involvement—or no involvement at all—in the drug trade. For example huge numbers of women are doing lots of time for "crimes" such as taking a phone message for someone who ends up accused of a drug crime. And many women end up in prison on conspiracy charges because of the testimony of boyfriends or husbands who won sentence reductions for themselves on the basis of this testimony. Ironically, the less involved a woman actually is, the less she has to offer prosecutors—the more likely she is to do serious time! (See "The Scandal of Women's Prisons... And the Shackles that Bind Half of Humanity.")
Kerman says in her book: "Most of the women in the Camp [Danbury] were poor, poorly educated, and came from neighborhoods where the mainstream economy was barely present and the narcotics trade provided the most opportunities for employment. Their typical offenses were for things like low-level dealing, allowing their apartments to be used for drug activity, serving as couriers, and passing messages, all for low wages. Small involvement in the drug trade could land you in prison for many years, especially if you had a lousy court-appointed lawyer."
There is the also the added hardship women with children face when they are incarcerated—and the fact is, most women in prison have children. Danbury, where Kerman was, had women who, in total, were mothers of at least 700 children. There are heart-wrenching scenes in Orange where Kerman talks about visiting day where children are trying to make brief, tearful connections with their mothers, how the room was "always filled with children doing their best to navigate their mother's sentences with grace and dignity." Or there is the scene in the TV show when a pregnant woman prisoner goes into labor and comes back after having her baby taken away from her. In fact, in real life, women can be shackled during labor and delivery in all but 13 states, and the majority of babies born to women in prison are immediately taken away.
Women in prison are often survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Something like a third of the women in state prisons were raped before being incarcerated, and more than 50 percent of women in state prisons have been physically and sexually abused before their imprisonment. And then inside prisons, women prisoners are subjected to sexual abuse by guards, from patriarchal/sexist verbal abuse, to invasive body searches, groping, and improper visual surveillance while women bathe, to outright rape. You get a sense of all this in Orange.
There is also the theme that is more developed in the Netflix series, of the patriarchal, venomous hatred of lesbians. A prison supervisor, Sam Healy, tells Piper he supports cordoning off "butch" inmates to prevent lesbian relationships but couldn't get the idea approved. (In fact in Virginia, the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women actually did set up such a "butch wing," which was stopped after it created a fury.) Healy is on an irrational anti-lesbian mission to stamp out lesbian relations in the prison. Women inmates are told from the very first intake to not go "gay for the stay" and that they will be punished for having any physical contact with other women. At one point he throws Piper in solitary confinement just because she is dancing with another woman.
In speaking out against the injustices of mass incarceration, Kerman also talks about how racism runs rampant in the criminal justice system and the disparity in terms of who's in prison. "It's indefensible," she says, "In other words, if you are a poor person—and particularly a poor person of color—you're going to be treated differently in the criminal justice system."
In one interview Kerman said:
"There were literally hundreds of occasions where I thought, 'Is it possible that she did something so much worse than I did to get her seven or 10 years, or is it really about the color of her skin and poverty and the way that the system works?' ...Most people in prison are very poor, have not even a high school education, they've been sent to the worst schools, they have the worst health care. It's not a system that's being administered evenly between rich and poor and it's not a system that's a good solution for the problems of poverty. Basically what's happened over the past 30 years is that rather than addressing some of the problems of poverty, including crime, we've used prisons as our sole remedy." (Annaliese Griffin)
And Kerman knows that her situation was very different than what most women face when they get out of prison. She had a job, a place to live, a supportive family, money.
"Taystee" (in the Netflix series) gets out of prison. But she can't survive on the outside—she has no job, no place to stay, no way to survive. So she ends up committing a crime just so she can get sent back to prison to have three meals a day and a place to sleep.
Prison, Kerman says, is a kind of funnel where, "once you're in the system, it's just funneling you further and further down and restricting your choices further and further, including once you've done your time ... and the idea that personal responsibility is something that will solve the problems that we are currently using prisons to try to solve is ludicrous. I mean, it's a systemic problem. It's not an issue of personal responsibility." (Liliana Segura)
The reality and INJUSTICE of mass incarceration in this country has a lot of people like Piper Kerman doing insightful work that poses big questions about this system we live under.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. There are over 2 million people behind bars in the U.S.—the majority Black and Latino. Some 80,000 are subjected to conditions of solitary confinement that are deemed torture by international standards. Generations of youth in the ghettos and barrios have been demonized and criminalized. The public is told that policies like stop-and-frisk, which are clearly unconstitutional, are necessary to "get tough on crime." Schools, even elementary schools, function as pipelines to juvenile detention centers and prisons. And the public is told that "those people in prison" are the "worst of the worst"—dangerous and violent, who deserve no mercy and need to be kept behind bars.
All this underscores the illegitimacy of this system and that it is going to take revolution—nothing less to get at the root causes of all this, to put an end to this nightmare and the many other injustices and horrors of this system.
I really recommend this book and TV series. There's a lot of heart here. A lot of fun, a lot to think and talk about. Orange Is the New Black is a welcome addition to the conversation and cultural entertainment that's needed in these urgent times where matters of conscience call upon people to open their eyes and move to change the world.
Interviews with Piper Kerman available at piperkerman.com/news:
Piper Kerman, Park Slope Prisoner, April 6, 2010, Brooklyn Based (Annaliese Griffin)
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison—a Powerful Memoir by Piper Kerman, Alternet, March 21, 2010 (Liliana Segura)
'Orange Is the New Black'—I Spent a Year in a Women's Prison, April 12, 2010, Lemondrop, (Melissa Rose Bernardo)
Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black: My Year Inside a Women's Prison, April 6th, 2010, Memoirville (Whitney Joiner)
"Orange Is the New Black": What's a nice girl like you doing in prison?, April 11, 2010, Salon (Mary Elizabeth Williams)
Piper Kerman talks about her year behind bars on drug charges, and what we get wrong about female inmates
From the Hellholes of Incarceration to a Future of Emancipation (Special Issue on Prisons and Prisoners in the U.S.)
See especially, "The Scandal of Women's Prisons...And the Shackles that Bind Half of Humanity."
The Sentencing Project fact sheet, September 2012
Coalition for Prisoners Rights Newsletter, Vol. 36-c, No. 3, March 2011
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
March 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, a 13-episode television series, starts March 9. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and Ann Druyan (producer of the series and Carl Sagan's widow) said they made the series for the broadest possible audience "Because we're coming out of a period of intense antagonism to science and we all thought that it was time to make the case for science, and make it in such a way that people would be on the edge of their seats the whole time."
This Cosmos is a continuation of Carl Sagan's 1980 Cosmos, which became a huge phenomenon in the U.S. among all ages and sections of the people and over time brought the awe and wonder of the universe and science to more than 400 million people in 60 countries. Many people have given heartfelt testimony to how that series influenced their thinking and their lives, how it opened their minds to the wonders of the universe and natural world. Sagan famously brought to us the fact that human beings are made of "star stuff": "The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff."
If this 2014 update lives up to the original, it may well open up societywide curiosity, excitement, and conversation about science and the cosmos. Hold viewing parties. DVR it. Gather together in groups of all kinds. Watch, discuss, and debate. Let us know what you and others think about it.
The series starts Sunday, March 9. Check your local listings for the series schedule. It airs on Fox and the National Geographic channel.
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
March 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Letter from a Reader
The NFL (National Football League) released its “The Wells Report,” on the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying incidents, and we are finding out that it’s even more outrageous than what we knew when this first surfaced several months ago. (See “The Outrage Over Pro Football Bullying: A ‘Guy Culture’ of Rape, Racism, and Violence,” Revolution #322, November 11, 2013.)
Incognito and Martin played side by side on the offensive line (those who block the defensive line players to protect the quarterback and the running back) for the Miami Dolphins. Incognito was told by a coach to toughen up Martin, who was perceived as being “soft.” Incognito sent bullying texts to Martin calling him the n-word, “Big Weirdo,” a “piece of shit,” and threatened to rape Martin’s sister without a condom. Martin could not take the bullying any longer, so he quit the team. Incognito was suspended from the team for his bullying of Martin.
The report was released two weeks ago, and now we know that the bullying in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room was not just confined to Incognito bullying Martin. The report reveals that:
“Incognito: Fuck Jmart That faggot is never [allowed] back
Pouncey: Bro I said the same thing I can’t even look at him the same he’s a pussy
Incognito: My agent just asked if we held mandatory strip club meetings Jmart is fucking ratting on everyone
Pouncey: Lol wow are you serious he is a fuck boy
Pouncey: He’s not welcome back bro I can’t be around that fucking guy
Incognito: Fuck that guy if Ur not with [u]s Ur against us
Pouncey: No question bro he’s a coward for snitching
Incognito: Snitches get stitches Blood in blood out Fucking guy
Pouncey: He’s dead to me”
“Player B: Especially if u plan living in Arizona in the future, that’s exactly what you want
Incognito: Yea. For picking off zombies 32
Player B: Lol isn’t that why we own any weapons!?
Incognito: That and black people
Player B: Mmm def all black ppl”
Four days later, Incognito and Player B discussed rifle scopes in text messages.
“Player B: Yes. That’s a solid optic made specifically for a .308 battle rifle
Incognito: Perfect for shooting black people
Player B: Lol exactly”
When Martin was considering leaving football he texted to a friend a list of positive and negative things in trying to figure out what decision to make. On the positive side he wrote:
“-I hate going in everyday.
-I am unable to socialize with my teammates in their crude manner
-I already have a lot of money. I could travel the world, get my degree. Then get a real job
-I could lose 70 lbs and feel good about my body
-I won’t die from CTE [Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes.]
-Maybe I’ll start to LIKE myself
-I don’t need to live lavishly. I could live very frugally
-why do I care about these people? All I need is my family.”
A week after the report was released the Dolphins fired Offensive Line Coach Jim Turner and the head trainer, who tried to block the investigation.
The report exonerates Miami Dolphin Head Coach Joe Philbin and the front office of the team in that they did not know this was happening. It’s hard to believe that others, besides the offensive line coach and players, did not know what was going on, given the normal locker room culture in the NFL—a sexist, racist, homophobic, violent “guy culture.”
In speaking to this, Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, says that “...football certainly does have a major influence, particularly on guys and ‘guy culture’—which is not a healthy culture—it’s a male chauvinist culture, for short, which incorporates the celebration of violence, real as well as ritualized violence.” (Bob Avakian, What Humanity Needs—Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism.)
Young boys and teenage boys are conditioned in this “guy culture” whether they play football or not, and this “guy culture” in the NFL is a huge part of this conditioning. As we have seen in the t.v. documentary show Friday Night Tykes, 7- and 8-year-olds are being told not to be emotional like women but to “man-up” as football “is a man’s game, not a woman’s game.” This shit that has happened in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room happens because these young men in society are being conditioned and trained to think about women in these degrading and dehumanizing ways and then to act on that with violence and rape. Richie Incognito thinks that there is nothing wrong with telling Jonathan Martin that he is going to “rape his sister” and “cum in her mouth,” and this outlook was further reinforced by Bryant McKinnie, a Miami Dolphins player, who on a radio sports talk show said that the report was not true in that there was really nothing wrong with what was going on in the team’s locker room.
As the Revolution article, “There is some justice—but there’s no cause for joy—in the Steubenville verdicts,” where high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio brutally raped an unconscious 16-year-old girl at a party and then dragged her to different parties where she was further violated, stated:
“Who or what is more profoundly to blame for all this? Yes, the culture which mythologizes football and football players played a part, as did the culture of alcohol and binge drinking, as did the culture of reckless and heartless defamation and degradation through social media...but these kids didn’t invent this stuff or decide on their own that it was OK to develop and tolerate such a culture—the fact that there is a whole systematic social conditioning of boys and men that is systematically undertaken from the earliest years, and actively tolerated and encouraged in countless ways, including through the encouragement and official acceptance of and involvement in the multi-billion-dollar porn industry, as well as the global sex trade which teaches kids from an early age that it is normal, routine and perfectly OK to buy and sell girls and women as literal chattel, to manipulate and torture their bodies for sexual titillation.”
And why do Richie Incognito and other NFL football players think that it is absolutely fine to talk about Jonathan Martin’s sister in such foul ways or to use woman-degrading and homophobic words in describing Martin himself? It is because the entire social fabric of this society is based upon the oppression of women as something less than full human beings, and this is actually institutionalized in many different ways, including in football.
The dust has not yet settled from what has now been revealed about the ugly and outrageous Miami Dolphin locker room behavior. Some people have been let go from the Dolphins and some reforms may take place. There’s no way that Incognito, Pouncey, or Turner should continue being employed by any NFL team. What they did CANNOT BE TOLERATED in any way and should be the source of OUTRAGE for all those who oppose this horrific “guy culture” and the atmosphere of violence against women and the LGBT community that it creates. This shit needs to be stopped right now.
And the conclusion of this report, that there needs to be more tolerance in the locker room and that the NFL needs to provide for a safe work place for its employees, stays within the confines of football as it currently exists and within the confines of this system of capitalism-Imperialism. We have to bust out of those confines to bring about what is required overall in this world.
Ultimately it’s going to take a real all-emancipating revolution to put this “locker room culture” in the dustbin of history—but we should think and dream today what it would be like for us to do that, and then act on that:
“Imagine a society where creative energies were no longer channeled into ever-descending new ways to demean women and accentuate oppressive social divisions, but instead, without the restrictions of gender or other unequal and oppressive social divisions, people broadly were brought into the process of creating art that uplifts people, challenges them to think critically, and expands their horizons. Imagine boys and men not mired in stupid and exploitative ‘guy culture,’ no longer influenced by a lifetime of bombardment with images of women’s bodies, half-naked and half-starved, used to sell everything from consumer goods to ideology and wars—boys and men able instead to relate to women as equal human beings. Imagine the flowering of this radically new and liberating culture—founded on equality and mutual respect between men and women and between different cultures and peoples, teeming with diversity, and filled with fun as well as seriousness, meaning as well as humor, critical thought as well as exploration and beauty.” (“A Declaration: For Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity,” Revolution #158, March 8, 2009.)
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
Cheers to Football Player Michael Sam:
March 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Letter from a Reader:
Michael Sam, the University of Missouri All-American and Southeast Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year, came out two weeks ago. He’s the first current football player to openly proclaim that he is gay, and he will be entering the National Football League (NFL) next season. "I'm not afraid to tell the world who I am. I'm Michael Sam: I'm a college graduate. I'm African American, and I'm gay. I'm comfortable in my skin." His announcement on ESPN made front-page news all over the country. This is a very big deal, indeed, and we have to give huge props to Michael Sam for being the first to come out in an arena where vicious, degrading persecution of gay people is a big part of the culture.
Sam has received support from a wide range of athletes, including professional football players. Malcolm Smith, this year’s Super Bowl most valuable player from the Seattle Seahawks, said, “There is no room for bigotry in American sports. It takes courage to change the culture.” Jonathan Martin, the Miami Dolphins’ offensive tackle who left the team in November because he felt bullied in the locker room, tweeted, “Hats off to you Michael Sam, that takes some guts #respect.” Tom Crabtree, tight end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said, “Good for Michael Sam. Takes courage for where he is in his career and where we are as a league. I applaud him.”
In order to skirt around the gay question itself, bigotry against gays has come out in the NFL in another way, where the focus has become where Sam will get drafted in the April NFL draft, when graduating college players are picked by NFL teams. Most of those who seemed to be fairly objective about where they thought Sam would go in the draft had him going in the 3rd or 4th round or around #100 overall out of a total of 254 players who will get drafted. The day after Sam announced he was gay, CBS Sports dropped his draft rating from #90 overall to #160! I’ll tell you one thing; it was not based on football and the way he played at the University of Missouri. Media reports and “sports talk” mouthpieces attributed this lowered ranking to Michael Sam’s performance in a series of physical tests (called “combines”) administered to potential NFL draftees. But his scores were well within the realm of what is normal for NFL draft picks. And the results of these tests are just one factor and never all that defining for evaluating potential NFL draft picks. The real reasons for Michael Sam’s “re-evaluation” came out in comments from NFL power brokers.
An anonymous NFL player personnel assistant said, “I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet. In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”
Another anonymous statement came from an NFL general manager. “We talked about it this week. First of all, we don’t think he’s a very good player. The reality is he’s an overrated football player in our estimation. Second: He’s going to have expectations about where he should be drafted, and I think he’ll be disappointed. He’s not going to get drafted where he thinks he should. The question you will ask yourself, knowing your team, is, ‘How will drafting him affect your locker room?’ And I am sorry to say where we are at this point in time; I think it’s going to affect most locker rooms. A lot of guys will be uncomfortable. Ten years from now, fine. But today, I think being openly gay is a factor in the locker room.” The executive was asked if he thought Sam would even be drafted and he said, “No!”
A huge part of the culture in the football locker room is the “guy culture” that has been indoctrinated into the players ever since they were little kids, as we have seen in watching the TV series Friday Night Tykes. This is a culture of rape, homophobia, violence against women, being a strong man (man-up) and not weak “like a woman,” and bullying. Football plays a huge role in the cultural arena in spreading this “guy culture” more broadly in society. Michael Sam does have support from people in sports and in society and this section of society is calling for a change in football, but this is going up against some historically very bad shit in football and in society in general that exists in a big way, which includes massive opposition to gay marriage. So it is unclear how this will play out and end up. It’s going to take a struggle to oppose this “guy culture” for Michael Sam to be on the playing field this year in the NFL.
The next step in this process of Michael Sam becoming an NFL player will be the April NFL draft, and after that, if he gets drafted, making the team who drafts him. At that time, we will see whether there has been any change to the NFL football terrain. Stay tuned.
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
From a Reader:
March 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I recently participated in a discussion of the first part, and particularly the first six paragraphs, of Part 2 of Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity ("Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism" "Hastening while awaiting—not bowing down to necessity"), by Bob Avakian (BA), now being highlighted at revcom.us. How, someone asked in this discussion, do the subjective and the objective—that is, those people who attempt to understand and act to change the larger social reality which confronts them, on the one hand and, on the other, that larger reality (of which they are a part, but which through their actions they can change)—interact? How can they and do they mutually transform—what are the dynamics of that? And what does it mean to say that the synthesis of this set forth in "Making Revolution/Emancipating Humanity" is scientific—and a major contribution to the science on that question?
To start with the last question: How do we know that this is scientific? Because we can verify this against the study of the material reality from which these theoretical concepts are drawn. Over 30 years ago, in Conquer the World? The International Proletariat Must and Will, BA talked about the need to "to combine a sweeping historical view with the rigorous and critical dissecting of especially crucial and concentrated historical experiences, and to draw out as fully as possible the lessons and to struggle to forge the lessons as sharply as possible as weapons for now and for the future." (p. 9) This includes the experience of revolutionary situations and other sorts of crises in societies of different kinds, and it encompasses things more broadly than that as well—the ways in which ideas of many different kinds concerning different spheres of endeavor and inquiry can enter into and change the character of reality. BA has also discussed how while "The pursuit of knowledge should not be reduced to discovering things in order to wage struggle in the ideological realm," as people do learn more about reality in all its dimensions this "will inevitably become part of the class struggle—and even under communism part of the ideological struggle." ("Bob Avakian in a Discussion with Comrades on Epistemology: On Knowing and Changing the World," in his Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy, p. 63) This too is important—for what is crystallized in that section of "Making Revolution/Emancipating Humanity" is not limited to only the study of revolutionary situations, but takes in the study and reflection on broader questions of science and method and a sweeping approach to society.1
What follows are reflections provoked by the discussion referred to above. The following article first examines some historical examples from the framework of that section of "Making/Emancipating," examples that are both drawn on, concentrated and further illuminated in that piece; and then reflects more deeply, in light of those examples, on the scientific principles that BA has drawn from all that. These reflections grapple with how it is that revolution could be possible and worked for; the potential dynamic role of revolutionaries in hastening the emergence, and shaping the contours, of a revolutionary situation well before it actually emerges (even as such a situation is brought on principally by developments objective, or "external," to revolutionaries); the crucial importance of the Party in actually being able to not only take initiative in such "hastening" but also to carry things all the way forward to revolution, to victory; and some of the implications of BA's development of this aspect of the science of revolution. Throughout, I'll be drawing contrasts with the "determinist realism" pinpointed in this section of "Making/Emancipating."
The first example concerns the experience of the Black Panther Party—a very rich experience to which BA has over the years continually returned. The recent book Black against Empire, by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr., attempts to give a definitive history of the Black Panther Party—to lay out objectively how they were thinking and what they did, mainly based on studying their newspaper and other documents of the historical record. In this book, you get a living sense of how the BPP at a certain point began to represent a real pole of revolution in society at large—they came to be seen by many as the core of an opposed authority with a different program, actively mobilizing people for a revolution.
Often today people try to boil this appeal down to one or two things. "It was the breakfast for children program," they'll say; or "it was the patrols they had against police brutality." Those different elements played a role; but casting it like that is too narrow. It was not just one thing. The Panthers presented an entire "package," or ensemble, with a number of elements that included: promoting revolutionary ideology (spreading and utilizing Mao Zedong's Red Book); directly confronting the authorities, as well as developing forms of alternate authority that mobilized masses in defiance of the authorities (the patrols were perhaps the most important but not the only part of this); spreading their weekly newspaper and promoting a 10-point program outlining what they aimed to do with power (though the form of this power was not spelled out, "power" was actively put forward as the goal—as in their slogan, almost universally known through society in those days, of "All Power to the People"); reaching out to other movements in society; waging ideological struggle against cultural nationalism and reformism; and not least, actively mobilizing very broadly to take on the repression that the state brought down upon them in the course of doing all this. There was an edge to all of this that they were very serious about revolution, and in doing this they leaped to the forefront of, and gave new shape to, a much broader impulse in society. I was struck again in reading Black against Empire how, while the BPP was rooted in the basic masses among Black people, in a certain sense they "took responsibility" for the movement as a whole—they reached out to, tried to influence and give leadership to, and at the same time learned from the antiwar movement, sections of the Black middle class, movements arising among other minority nationalities, artists and writers very broadly, etc. So something like the breakfast program—where the BPP would mobilize masses to demand food from local supermarkets and then feed hungry children before school, doing this in a way that instilled and propagated the Maoist ethic of "Serve the People"—had the effect, as part of a whole constellation of activity, of showing that with state power a whole other way of dealing with people's needs was possible and, moreover, the fact that they did do this while the current order didn't further pointed up the essential illegitimacy of the capitalist system. It wasn't, at least at first, a strategy to "first meet people's needs, then they'll be open to politics"; it was part of a whole way they were operating where the question of the revolution was on the agenda, and this was one concrete way among others (all of which worked together) to challenge the legitimacy of the existing system and put forward a different one, in a very vivid way.
All this took place on the foundation, and against the backdrop, of very sharp contradictions in the base of U.S. society at that time. These contradictions included the migration of millions of Black people into the cities, where generations-old modes of living were disrupted and hopes were both raised and dashed; the takeover of the colonial empires of rival imperialist powers (France, Britain) after World War 2 and the upheavals it brought in resistance to the new domination and plunder imposed by the U.S. (especially, but not only, the liberation struggle being waged against the U.S. by the Vietnamese); and the rapid changes in the role of women and the turmoil and transformations that these gave rise to. At the same time, China—at that point a genuinely revolutionary country and one in which an inspiring Cultural Revolution was being waged to stay on the revolutionary road—acted as a beacon, a source of inspiration and a direct challenge to the notion that the only alternatives were the U.S. empire or the oppressive state capitalism (socialist in name) of the Soviet Union. And leading into all this was the ferment sparked by the civil rights movement in the U.S. South, and the dividing out that occurred as that movement increasingly ran up against sharp limitations by the mid-1960s.
Beginning in 1966, the Black Panther Party had become a sort of model of a different approach to winning emancipation...but this was not that well-known beyond California. In fact, the defense campaign mounted against the imprisonment of BPP founder Huey Newton in October 1967 for an incident in which a police officer ended up dead and Newton himself was wounded, had been a major way in which the Panthers initially projected themselves, and through which they began to accumulate forces and influence on a much bigger scale. At the same time, they aggressively moved to turn outrages and atrocities committed by the ruling class into openings for masses to take up struggle. Then, when Martin Luther King was assassinated by reactionary forces in April 1968, many people became utterly fed up with the system and ready to put everything on the line to change it. Many Black youth joined the BPP, and people from all kinds of strata were very broadly influenced by the BPP in a positive direction. Their actions, in turn, along with those of other social forces—radical, progressive, reactionary and some not even falling into such neat categories—fed into a whole rich swirl and mix of social upheaval in which radical forces began to have much greater initiative.
During that period, the BPP fought to set terms for society—they were the leading core of a movement and, more broadly, a whole social impulse which, variegated as it was, still cohered around certain oppositional values and had the initiative morally, culturally and politically. In this context, and with the BPP mobilizing masses to resist every attack by the government, millions of people came to see these attempts by the powers-that-be to violently repress and legally railroad the BPP as utterly illegitimate, and this in turn spread a certain broader "outlaw" contagion into all kinds of spheres. Many forces coming from different viewpoints further came to oppose this repression for their own reasons, and all these phenomena interacted in different ways that further turned up the heat and the swirl of that boiling mix, with new elements bubbling up. Many saw the powers-that-be of the time as utterly illegitimate, utterly bankrupt, and at the same time began to see the BPP as a challenging, opposed source of legitimacy. This is really a very powerful example of the subjective entering into and transforming the larger objective situation...becoming part of that in a different way.
This was NOT a matter of catching lightning in a bottle, or waiting for things to break. Still less could this have been predicted when they began; far from it. The BPP combined imagination and daring, persistence and diligence, including at those times when people were NOT flocking to their banner, with an orientation of jumping to seize openings when those openings occurred.
But let's go back a bit further. You can't separate all that from the influence of Malcolm X. Malcolm relentlessly agitated all through the late 1950's and especially the early '60s. He challenged and tore apart people's beliefs that America was essentially good—beliefs being promoted by both the ruling class and the mainstream sections of the civil rights movement. And he affirmed and strengthened the elements that simultaneously existed in some people's understanding that America was in fact no damn good—elements which were suppressed and unvoiced, and not put into rational form, before Malcolm—at least not in the same way, and not with the same influence. Malcolm went everywhere, from the corners of the ghetto to the most elite campuses, he interacted with all different kinds of people, laying bare the truth about America and the oppression of Black people. Of course, all this didn't take place in a vacuum—there was bubbling ferment within the U.S., mainly in the form of the civil rights movement, and there was the wave of revolutionary struggle against colonialism and neo-colonialism (which socialist China was strongly upholding and supporting). In his last years, and particularly after the break with the Nation of Islam, he increasingly linked the fight against the oppression of Black people to the worldwide struggle against imperialism. Malcolm worked on people's minds, he challenged his audiences to break out of the basic framework through which they were viewing the world. He called out—he made people feel—the utter illegitimacy of everything America claimed about itself and all the force they used to defend the foundation that those lies tried to hide. He compelled people to think about the implications of that; and he popularized the idea of revolution going up against state power, and of the need for revolutionaries to wage a relentless struggle. And he did all this over and over again (and in the process became part of something larger, a nascent sea change in people's way of thinking, influencing and being influenced by it).
Because of this, and on the basis of the ways in which the struggle against the oppression of Black people was erupting and people were searching for answers, Malcolm X had begun to become very broadly known by the early '60s. Even as some of this—too much of it, in fact—, came from the vitriolic slanders of the powers-that-be, fearful of Malcolm's potential influence, he nonetheless became a point of reference very broadly among people conscious of the need for change, and known in a basic way by many people more broadly in society, even before things erupted much more powerfully in the political sphere. When the answers being proffered by the mainstream civil rights movement increasingly began to be exposed as bankrupt as the '60s wore on, Malcolm's voice and thinking took on even greater resonance and influence, and broke through in a qualitatively more powerful way. It is a great tragedy, and real crime—and it is a crime and tragedy containing painfully purchased lessons which must never be forgotten in terms of defending revolutionary leaders—when reactionaries assassinated Malcolm in 1965 with, at the very minimum, government complicity. All this was very important in laying a basis for the BPP—as the leaders of that party at the time would point out.
But important as the example of the BPP is—and it remains a deep well of lessons for any genuine revolutionary and, again, BA's work on this bears constant returning to—they were only able to go so far. They re-polarized society, but they were not able to fundamentally change, in a determining and sustained way, the course of events. The BPP came under extremely severe state repression which either imprisoned or drove into exile their main leaders, Huey P. Newton and Eldridge Cleaver. And the state acted not only to repress them, but to deal in different ways with some of the broader forces they had been influencing. The state made some concessions to the Black middle class and built up a whole range of objectively counter-insurgent political forces in the Black community. They ended the draft and scaled down the direct combat role of U.S. troops—and while this was not done mainly as part of "dealing with the Panthers," it did change the terrain on which the BPP (and everyone else) was operating, what people broadly saw as necessary and what they saw as possible. And the ruling class took other measures as well.
The BPP, meanwhile, had not been able, in their brief period of existence and before their leaders were taken out of circulation, to develop the ideology, line, program and organizational principles that might have enabled them to not only survive that repression but to maintain their bearings and ultimately advance the revolution even when the societal tides began to shift at the end of the '60s, and the different forces the BPP had been influencing began to come under the pull of different currents.
In an important article written in the mid-1980s, BA analyzed the situation they found themselves in:
...[T]hinking back on some of the early discussions and struggle that I had with people like Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver—leaders of the Black Panther Party who had a big influence on me, moving me in a revolutionary direction—it strikes me now that on the one hand they were the most advanced revolutionaries in the U.S. at that time, yet even they never really developed a clear and full sense of what needed to be done. What were the changes that needed to be made in society and in the world? How were those changes going to be made? What was the road and strategy for doing that? What kind of ideology did you need? What kind of leadership did you need, and how should it organize itself? How should it mobilize and organize the masses? What were you up against—what did you have to go up against and defeat, and how were you going to do that? Not that nobody had any ideas about these questions, because within the Black Panther Party, and within the revolutionary movement as a whole, people debated a lot of these ideas, and there was a lot of conflict and struggle about these questions. But there was never a clear, unified, and fully correct sense of (a) even posing all those questions in that kind of way, and (b) answering them. And so you had a lot of different ideas in conflict but no clear, definite sense of these things. ("Why You Really Need This Kind of Party If You're Serious About Seizing Power," from Reflections, Sketches & Provocations, pp. 238-39)
So, if you look at this experience, again coming from the need for combining "a sweeping historical view with the rigorous and critical dissecting of especially crucial and concentrated historical experiences" and doing that with the sharp challenges before us now clearly in mind, you can see both the great scope that can be seized for the subjective factor but you're also going to be forced to confront the crucial importance of the party, unified around a scientific approach and correct ideological and political line.
As pinpointed and stressed by BA, one thing the BPP came very sharply up against was what kind of party would be needed. In fact, it was Lenin who first developed the correct approach to a party. Lenin led the October Revolution of 1917—a breakthrough in which the revolutionary proletariat liberated the territory of what had been the Russian Empire and began to build a whole new socialist society, on the road to communism. Before that, Lenin had led breakthroughs in the science of communism—including on the role of the vanguard party and the character of the work it must do to actually lead a revolution.
The party he formed and led on the basis of that initial theoretical breakthrough was able not only to powerfully impact the objective situation... to not only re-polarize it temporarily... but to fight that through to revolution. And it is BA who fundamentally retrieved and excavated the essence of Lenin's work in this regard, and now has built on it.2 Contrary to a whole tradition that grew up in opposition to Lenin after his death (even among some claiming to be "Leninists"!), Lenin did not envision the party as a two-stage mechanism to first lead the struggle of the masses around their basic conditions and then, later, with the advent of a serious crisis, for this to sort of naturally turn into revolution.3
Lenin, instead, emphasized—more accurately, he insisted on and fought for—the need to focus on changing people's thinking through the medium of a newspaper. This is much of the point of Lenin's What Is To Be Done? And that in turn relates to even a more foundational point, made in the first chapter of that work, that the need for a vanguard party itself arose from the fact that Marxism is a scientific analysis of society and must be brought to the masses from outside their sphere of daily experience and struggle. A scientific worldview and approach does NOT arise spontaneously in people's thinking—actually, people's everyday experience is conditioned by the social relations in which that takes place, and gives rise to understanding that is one-sided and distorted and in large part cuts against a communist understanding, even as there are ways in which those conditions can also cause people to gravitate toward such an understanding once they come into contact with it. The point is that people have to learn this and they have to struggle, in doing so, to break with their spontaneous ways of looking at things, and to approach things consciously wielding the scientific method. This requires the party to struggle with and transform the spontaneous thinking of the masses, and to divert the spontaneous struggles the masses undertake from the gravitational pull to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie (the capitalist class).
In addition, Lenin in What Is To Be Done? put forth and elaborated on the need for a disciplined vanguard. He stressed the need to recruit and train those who stepped forward to Marxism as full-time revolutionaries within that vanguard, but also to find the ways—mainly through using the newspaper—to draw on the contributions of every person who would support, in some way, the revolutionary struggle and to develop and strengthen ties everywhere. In fact, throughout his writings Lenin gave great focus to welding people together organizationally who came forward, to valuing (and not squandering) the contribution of every potential tie of the movement and giving that organizational expression. He also pointed to the fact that the revolution follows a pattern of outbreaks alternating with intense calm, and he spoke of the need to maximize gains—to change people's thinking and to accumulate forces—through each of these phases...with the party as the key organizational force to do all that. (This pattern of outbreaks alternating with periods of intense calm—and the need for the vanguard to actively work through both those kinds of situations, with its eyes focused toward preparing for revolution—became a theme that Lenin expanded on in works like "The Collapse of the Second International.") And this was what he fought to put into practice, in the building of the vanguard party of the Russian Revolution—the Bolsheviks.
In Russia, the events that opened up a rupture in the societal framework occurred in February 1917, during World War I, independent of the work of the party led by Lenin. February 1917 witnessed a revolution in which the old form of rule—of the Tsar, a feudal monarch—was overthrown and replaced by a parliamentary democracy that represented a political framework that, as Lenin put it during that period, formed the "best possible shell" for capitalist rule. The February Revolution occurred on the basis of the extreme stresses that war and hunger had placed on Russian society, and a sharp split within the Russian ruling class at a certain point over the further conduct of the war and the role of the Tsar.This split formed a "fissure" through which the discontent of the masses—who had been simmering with suppressed anger over the continued terrible losses in the war and the deprivation brought on by it, but saw no way to express this—could erupt into a full boil. The result was a revolution in which masses poured into the streets, but the government that came out of that outpouring represented a section of the Russian bourgeoisie determined to pursue, through the form of bourgeois democracy, the same policies around the war that had brought on the crisis in the first place.
Lenin insisted, at first alone among the Bolsheviks, that there was qualitatively more to seize out of this situation—that the potential lay beneath the euphoria and illusions with which the masses greeted this new government to go all the way to socialist revolution.4 Led by Lenin, the Bolsheviks worked to grasp the dynamics of this extremely fluid situation, where all kinds of political forces were operating and first one force would ride high and then another. They continually fought to re-set the terms in which people were viewing things, to re-polarize the different elements in the field, to actively work to move masses toward and into the struggle for a whole new world.
Throughout his political life, Lenin consistently viewed things, and struggled with others to view them, from the perspective of making revolution as part of the world revolution. On that basis, he led the Bolsheviks to adopt an internationalist stand toward the world war—to oppose the war as a predatory one, to work for the defeat of their bourgeoisie and to strive to make revolution in the midst of the upheaval brought on by that war. Once the revolutionary situation developed within the Russian empire, he continued and deepened this internationalist perspective—grasping both the openings that afforded and the responsibilities it put upon the Bolsheviks to wrench as much as they could from the situation in Russia not only to make revolution there but “as part of their share” in the world revolution.
Coming from that framework, Lenin grasped in particular that the new government that had come to power with the overthrow of the Tsar had no answer for the sharpest contradictions facing Russian society—its participation in World War I, the hunger and privation among the masses, and the demand for land among the peasantry—and that the government was vulnerable. Whether that vulnerability could be turned into an actual revolution depended in large part on if a revolutionary force—the vanguard party—worked on those contradictions. That meant spreading among the broadest masses a belief in the illegitimacy of the government that promised to solve these acute problems but was in fact doing nothing; working to rapidly train as communists and recruit those who gravitated toward a more revolutionary understanding (the Bolshevik party grew exponentially in the eight months following the February Revolution, as people were going through enormous changes in their thinking); developing and defending the forms through which masses were exerting a different authority, and taking those to a higher level; and a host of other things. But note well: while the Bolsheviks were not the biggest party at the outset of the crisis, they made a point and a policy of being as big as they could be on the correct basis; and had they not had the orientation of accumulating forces for revolution, in the form of both members and organized support for the Party, to the greatest degree possible at every point, there would very likely not have been the requisite minimum base to enable that "take-off"—that exponential growth—when the opportunity opened up (or, more accurately, was wrenched open) for that to take place on a correct basis.
In a sense the lessons of both the whole period of preparation, and then the extremely intense and telescoped period of February through October 1917, with all its richness, was summed up in the very concentrated short piece by BA, "Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution:"
At every point, we must be searching out the key concentrations of social contradictions and the methods and forms which can strengthen the political consciousness of the masses, as well as their fighting capacity and organization in carrying out political resistance against the crimes of this system; which can increasingly bring the necessity, and the possibility, of a radically different world to life for growing numbers of people; and which can strengthen the understanding and determination of the advanced, revolutionary-minded masses in particular to take up our strategic objectives not merely as far-off and essentially abstract goals (or ideals) but as things to be actively striven for and built toward.
The objective and orientation must be to carry out work which, together with the development of the objective situation, can transform the political terrain, so that the legitimacy of the established order, and the right and ability of the ruling class to rule, is called into question, in an acute and active sense, throughout society; so that resistance to this system becomes increasingly broad, deep and determined; so that the "pole" and the organized vanguard force of revolutionary communism is greatly strengthened; and so that, at the decisive time, this advanced force is able to lead the struggle of millions, and tens of millions, to make revolution. (BAsics, 3:30)
Lenin grasped that the contradictions that were roiling Russian society could only be resolved by the overthrow of the new regime and its replacement with a new state power... but that if this did not happen, then things would sooner or later revert to the status quo ante (the way things had been before), and the chance for revolution that existed—albeit beneath the surface of things—would evaporate. And Lenin led the Party, at times against resistance, to take up this understanding, and through many hairpin twists and turns compressed in the months between February and October, the Party was able to lead the masses to actually make revolution. To win. And this was the greatest breakthrough in the history of humanity to that point.
Lenin also saw—he actually forecast it, based on studying previous revolutionary situations, on deeply summing up the experience of the revolutionary situation in Russia in 1905 that he had lived through, and also undertaking study in the dialectical method—that a revolutionary situation "cannot be anything other than an outburst of mass struggle on the part of all and sundry oppressed and discontented elements. Inevitably, sections of the petty bourgeoisie and of the backward workers will participate in it—without such participation, mass struggle is impossible, without it no revolution is possible—and just as inevitably they will bring into the movement their prejudices, their reactionary fantasies, their weaknesses and errors. But objectively they will attack capital, and the class-conscious vanguard of the revolution...expressing this objective truth of a variegated and discordant, motley and outwardly fragmented, mass struggle, will be able to unite and direct it, capture power..." and establish the new state power—the dictatorship of the proletariat. ("The Discussion of Self-Determination Summed Up," from Lenin's Collected Works, Volume 22, p. 356)
Lenin followed keenly the thinking and actions of these other forces, identifying the dynamics and potential lines of development within what could seem to be chaos and unpredictability, probing and pushing for ways to advance the fundamental interests of the proletariat through all this, learning the most he could, identifying openings, doing ideological battle where needed...all to the end of seizing on those openings. And through all this he fought to lead and forge the Party to grasp, and seize, the potential inherent in, but hidden within, the situation.
And that is very important, critical: Lenin did not do all this alone—he led, and led in building, a very specific kind of party, firm in principle, acute in analysis and flexible in moving to mobilize masses.
All this—and again, much, much more in other realms—has gone into the six paragraphs at the beginning of part 2 of Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, and is then further applied and made very concrete in the RCP's "On the Strategy for Revolution" (available at revcom.us as well as in BAsics).
None of this was or is magic; it has to do with the real relationship of consciousness to the material world. Human consciousness does not arise independently of the material world and the human social relations into which people are born; it arises out of and is conditioned by that context. The world, in turn, is further profoundly shaped and re-shaped by human consciousness responding to and working on what it encounters. In other words, human consciousness is a form of matter that has the particular property of being able to reflect on, engage with, experiment on, and learn about the forces of the material world, and to transform the material world in and through that process. Human beings do this constantly, learning more and changing more, summing up mistakes and drawing lessons, and returning again to change more and learn more.
When you correctly consider the process on the level of a whole society—one divided into classes, with a host of political and literary (or cultural) forces contending, and all of them ultimately (though not linearly or obviously) rooted in and representing the positions, interests and outlooks of different classes and social strata...and when you think about all this exponentially multiplying in conditions when the normal order that holds all that in check comes under strain and even rupture—then you can begin to see how, through all that swirl and complexity, there is a whole process that the vanguard party can work on, fighting for its ideas to be taken up and transformed into a material force. It's an ongoing process—with the conscious element compelled to vitally engage and transform reality to the maximum extent all along the way, and then do it again when other forces respond—and it's a fight. And if this is done consistently and consciously, there can be a dynamic unleashed where the conscious forces increasingly learn how to set terms and seize initiative, and then re-seize it when other forces try to set new terms, so that the capability can be developed to lead leaps and radical changes in that framework, both in normal times and where moments break open in a new way and the potential is qualitatively greater.
This is neither a question of doggedly hammering on a single idea until "the times catch up with you," nor a matter of "imposing one's will" through sheer force. Still less is it a matter of trying to "keep things together" waiting for favorable new conditions, which only guarantees that the times will increasingly pass you by; nor is it even just a question of utilizing the science of communism to achieve a given political objective. It is a matter of looking at everything through the prism of the revolutionary situation and (to the greatest extent possible) being alive to and constantly learning from all of material and social reality in its changing-ness and on that basis identifying, and working to learn more and transform more deeply, the key social faultlines through which the initiative of millions of the formerly suppressed could spring forth, and the ways to make that happen, and in the course of all that further deepening the understanding of reality. At the same time, as part of this process, the vanguard has to accumulate forces—it has to grow and it has to increasingly weld together what the RCP statement "On the Strategy for Revolution," calls the thousands who "can be brought forward and oriented, organized and trained in a revolutionary way, while beginning to reach and influence millions more, even before there is a revolutionary situation...and then, when there is a revolutionary situation, those thousands can be a backbone and pivotal force in winning millions to revolution and organizing them in the struggle to carry the revolution through." (BAsics, p. 112)
It was not "fated" that Lenin and the Bolsheviks would succeed; but you can say fairly certainly that without such a party, rooted in the outlook of the farthest-seeing leadership of the day, it is almost certain that revolution would not have won or perhaps even have been attempted.5
A vast scope of historical experience (including much more than the above examples) and more (including developments in the realm of science—see the earlier reflection from another reader on this question which explores this in greater depth6) is part of what is synthesized and raised to the level of scientific theory in the six paragraphs from BA's Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity that is reprinted in the recent issue of Revolution. That synthesis is pathbreaking:
It is all that, taken together, and then the conclusion that "our 'working on' [these objective contradictions] can bring about certain changes within a given framework of objective conditions and—in conjunction with and as part of a 'mix,' together with many other elements, including other forces acting on the objective situation from their own viewpoints—this can, under certain circumstances, be part of the coming together of factors which does result in a qualitative change."
BA goes on to say that revolution isn't made by formulas—"it is a much more living, rich, and complex process than that. But it is an essential characteristic of revisionism... to decide and declare that until some deus ex machina—some god-like EXTERNAL FACTOR—intervenes, there can be no essential change in the objective conditions and the most we can do, at any point, is to accept the given framework and work within it, rather than... constantly straining against the limits of the objective framework and seeking to transform the objective conditions to the maximum degree possible at any given time, always being tense to the possibility of different things coming together which bring about (or make possible the bringing about of) an actual qualitative rupture and leap in the objective situation."
Any serious look at the examples above, or other examples in history, bears out this point. The passively patient, the mechanically plodding, those who wait for or alternately trail in the wake of events, those who downplay the need to battle in the realm of consciousness all the way through, do not transform the world in a revolutionary direction. Nor do those who seek to impose schemes or gimmicks on reality, with no sense, or a shallow and truncated sense, of the depth and texture of the contradictoriness of that reality.
All of this is drawn from reality, from actual history as it has been made by real human beings, many of them attempting to apply the principles of communism; it comes from a rigorous analysis of the societal dynamics that make possible and lay the basis for the real scope of the subjective factor, and from further wrangling with philosophy and the natural sciences. The scientific synthesis of this section of Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity undergirds our Party's statement on the strategy for revolution. At the heart of this is the grasp that everything in society is being driven forward by contradiction, by unevenness, by fluidity... not stagnant and static, but volatile and eruptive... not predictable in a narrow sense, but understandable if one bases oneself on the real moving faultlines beneath the surface of society... not the least of which are the sentiments, ideas, aspirations and strivings of people who perceive on one level that "it does not have to be—it shouldn't have to be—this way," but whose thinking is held within the prison of a belief in permanent necessity.
Up until the breakthrough work begun in the early '80s and concentrated in those six paragraphs, all too many parties (and this was universal in the advanced capitalist countries) that claimed to follow Lenin essentially reduced the role of the party to that of a machine for generating and leading the spontaneous struggle of the masses, with a view that "someday" this would all come to fruition, without any ongoing struggle with masses of people over how they were thinking, into a movement for revolution. It was a model of a sort of "mass awakening," somehow brought on without determined struggle over how people were thinking but rather through people spontaneously coming to see through their participation in struggle that they needed a revolution and, moreover, the kind of revolution being put forward by the communists (leaving aside here what the actual conception of that revolution was). This model did not just ignore What Is To Be Done? It utterly negated it.
BA has gone against all that—he has re-studied Lenin and distilled and concentrated Lenin's essential insights: parties must be based on science, on grappling with objective reality, and not rely on spontaneity. Parties must be instruments through which the masses are led to increasingly know and transform reality on the path to making revolution and fully emancipating humanity. All along the way such a party proceeds through transforming reality, transforming the masses, and transforming itself in a way consistent with its world-emancipatory aims. A party like this—a real communist party—is essential; without such a party, there will be no emancipation.
If you look at today's world from the standpoint of this recently reprinted section of "Making/Emancipating," this is a situation pregnant with possibility. But that is just the point—those possibilities are largely not yet born. The potential for social upheaval is there, but it is (in many ways) beneath the surface, moving and developing. And all this ferment and simmering takes place in a situation in which the belief in the "permanent necessity" of the way things are today—that is, the idea that at bottom things just have to be this way, they can't be fundamentally changed—is dominant, and thus constrains the limits of people's imagination even as they agonize and strain. This is for a number of intersecting reasons: the defeat of revolution in China in 1976 and the restoration of capitalism there under the label of communism, which has seriously disoriented people, and, along with that, the unending slander and lies about the real experience of socialist revolution there during the era of Mao's leadership; the weight of the fact that people, worldwide and within the U.S. itself, had "stormed the heavens" in the 1960s but were fundamentally defeated, and that the concessions that were made had the confusing character of apparently granting equality while more deeply concealing the fundamentally oppressive relations of the system that people were rebelling against; the permeation of the culture with the terms of commodity exchange on the one hand and relativism on the other; etc.
So people are not right now, in their millions, rising up (even as there are important outbreaks of struggle, sometimes quite significant, as well as important manifestations of discontent, resistance and yearning for a better world in the cultural sphere going on) or even questioning whether things could be radically different. In this situation then, there is an even more urgent and magnified need to work on people's thinking, to struggle with them, to transform how they see things.
All this should point to the need for the kind of initiatives our Party is now undertaking—the efforts to strengthen and promote its website... the work involved in mobilizing (and struggling with) masses very broadly to stand up and resist around key contradictions—faultlines, as we say—of the system... but most of all, and giving all of it meaning, to work to transform the thinking of people through the comprehensive work to promote BA and the new synthesis of communism, challenging them to break out of a narrow view of what is and to see the real basis for what could be—going straight up against the prism through which they have been trained to view and "make sense out of" all events and giving them a scientific one instead. All these elements, if worked on synergistically in a way greater than the sum of each one taken as a thing unto itself and then added together, and with BA Everywhere as the dynamic factor giving coherence and direction to all of it—in fact have the potential, in this specific situation, to truly "transform the objective conditions to the maximum degree possible."
1. This latter point—how ideas from various sources enter into the class struggle—recently struck me in reading the book The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt, tracing the impact of the re-discovery in the 15th century of a poem originally written in ancient Rome by Lucretius, "On the Nature of Things." Greenblatt shows how the poem, which is a very artistic rendering of basic materialist philosophy, hit a Europe in transition from feudalism to capitalism, and then goes on to influence thinkers and fighters for centuries, in different ways. (The title itself—The Swerve—refers to Lucretius' view of the importance of what we might call the role of accident in history; and this is illustrated by the impact of the chance re-discovery of what turned out to be a very seminal work in the development of "The Enlightenment"—i.e., the movement for reason and science against the superstition that was promoted, and often enforced through torture and execution, by the Catholic Church. For more on both the strengths and limitations of The Enlightenment, see "Marxism and The Enlightenment," in Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy, pp. 148-154). [back]
2. While the BPP adopted some elements of communist thinking and represented the most advanced expression of the late 1960s, they still had a "mixed bag" of ideology and cannot be said to have fundamentally ruptured to a communist outlook, even as they adapted certain forms associated with the Leninist party. [back]
3. “...What became the model in the international movement—not only in the Second International of socialist (and some genuine communist) parties leading into World War 1,1 but to a significant degree after Lenin, in the communist movement under Stalin’s leadership, particularly from the late 1920s on—was the notion that you build up a mass movement, largely in fact a trade union movement of the working class, and then somehow under the right conditions that will go over to a general strike (or, in its best expression, into an insurrection). But this is not how proletarian revolution is going to be made: It is not historically how such a revolution has been made, and it is not how it can be made in the world as it is today...” (Bob Avakian, Out Into the World—As A Vanguard of the Future) It is well worth reviewing, or reading for the first time, what BA goes on to say in analyzing this "model" of work, the influence of which remains pervasive, including among revolutionaries, and what this then led to, and then his further reflections on some of the questions a correct approach poses today. [back]
4. Lenin's very ability to see this is itself in part the product of the struggle he conducted in defense of scientific materialism (see his Materialism and Empirio-Criticism) and his explorations and digging into the character of the dialectical method after the outbreak of World War I, which can be seen in his "Philosophical Notebooks," in Volume 38 of Lenin's Collected Works. [back]
5. The case of 1917 is worth deeper thought—even Lenin himself, a month before the crisis erupted with the February Revolution (and again, this revolution only replaced the Tsar with a bourgeois-democratic republic, and did not dismantle the organs of state power), mused in a speech that his generation might well not see the socialist revolution. The outbreak of World War 1 had been a shattering setback for the international revolutionary movement—nearly every party sided with its own bourgeoisie and told its followers to join the mutual slaughter-fest that ended up leaving millions of dead in its wake. The Bolsheviks, though they did not go back on their principles, had also suffered during the repression and the national chauvinism that accompanied the initial outbreak of the war, and had to wage very hard and determined struggle to survive the repression and continue revolutionary work. But through this period, if you read Lenin's works, you see that he hammered on the need to see beneath the surface—yes, war makes governments stronger, he would write, but each government sits on a volcano. And if you read further into his writings during the period leading from the February Revolution up to the insurrection that seized power in Russia in October 1917, you will find that he waged determined struggle against those who insisted on waiting for revolution to break out elsewhere in Europe, because they feared that the revolutionary forces in Russia would be too weak to go it alone; or against those who pointed to the masses' alienation from political action at a certain point to argue that those masses were demoralized (as opposed to being fed up with anything short of revolution by then); or people who drew on many other surface phenomena to argue that the time was not ripe and that the subjective forces must wait... "just a little longer." Lenin grasped the need to work to seriously transform conditions... he did not exaggerate conditions and was very sober in his approach... but he was alive to the potential within conditions, within contradictions, that could enable the subjective forces to radically alter the whole situation and to move closer to the moment—which would not present itself neatly and clearly—when the all-out struggle for power could be launched. [back]
6. "Thoughts Provoked by Hastening While Awaiting—Not Bowing Down to Necessity," from a reader, at revcom.us. [back]
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
March 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Readers of Revolution/revcom.us and everyone concerned with the liberation of women should know that revolutionaries working in the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women are now posting new material every week at the special page within revcom.us dedicated to this movement. The page is here. This can be accessed through the "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" button, which is on the home page of revcom.us as well as across the top of all the pages within revcom.us. Once within the "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, For Revolution" portal of the website, one can easily find the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy—as well as the campaign to spread BA Everywhere, to Stop Mass Incarceration, to Set the Record Straight about the history of communism, and other efforts building this movement for revolution.
If you haven't been checking this page of revcom lately, you will have MISSED the following important new materials and articles:
Plus movie reviews, poetry, and interviews Sunsara Taylor did on RT TV, Acronym TV, Pure Imagination Radio, and more.
This past week, a new Organizing Kit went up at StopPatriarchy.org. This is an important new resource which makes it possible for all sorts of people all over the country to get involved in building the urgently needed movement to end all forms of enslavement and degradation of women. This Organizing Kit features 13 simple things that people can do—on their own or with others—to have a real impact in building this fight. It also features step-by-step breakdowns of how to go about each of these things. And it encourages and provides a way for people to stay in touch with the movement, raising questions, making suggestions, and sharing and popularizing advanced experience across the country. Especially as new people get involved in the lead-up to, and then on International Women's Day and the following day of revolutionary celebrations, this resource should be popularized so that lasting involvement, organization, and chapters of End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women can be forged.
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
Letter from a reader
February 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I recently had the privilege of reading the book, Of Primeval Steps and Future Leaps: An Essay on the Emergence of Human Beings, the Source of Women's Oppression, and the Road to Emancipation, by Ardea Skybreak, with a veteran revolutionary, and the understanding I have gained on the origins of women's oppression is truly life changing. I am a member of the Revolution Club as well as Stop Patriarchy, so I have been trying to deepen my understanding of the history of women’s oppression, and this book was recommended to me by many comrades. When I first got into the book, I knew the importance of gaining this knowledge for my own understanding, and for future use in arguing out with others the true reason human nature does not play a decisive role in the division of society into masters and slaves. What I did not know, was the understanding I would gain in terms of method; what I mean by this is the way in which Skybreak uses science as a method of getting at what is actually true, using all available evidence and drawing conclusions from that. And that this is something that is not just science that can be applied to this topic, but to be continuously utilized in understanding anything and everything else.
Some points which really struck me about this book were:
Natural Selection—Skybreak thoroughly breaks down how so many scientists have gotten this all wrong, in terms of finding conclusions based on what is true today, i.e., a hand being used to manipulate tools, and proclaiming the behavior to be the reason the hand evolved the way it did. Skybreak gives many examples of why this kind of method is all wrong, and brings the reader through the actual history, based on all the available evidence, of how and why human beings evolved the way they did. That it was actually the interplay of accident and necessity that contributed to human beings becoming what they are today, in terms of bodily structure.
Hunter-Gatherer vs Gatherer-Hunter—Most people think the first communal societies survived primarily through hunting and therefore call these societies the hunter-gatherer societies. However, Skybreak explains how, in reality, meat was extremely rare and gathering was the main source of sustenance. This distinction is extremely important as it gives a basis for men to be more out in the world, sometimes taking days out before they even caught anything, and during this time interacting with other peoples. Men being the main hunters, although there was no real reason the women could not also hunt beyond the need to stay closer to the young while nursing, allowed men to have control over the distribution of meat as well as over the relations between their tribes and outside tribes. This laid the foundation for men to have more say in tribal matters, even as the children were allowed a place in a tribe according to their relation to the mothers since it was obvious who the mothers were, and there was no need to know who the fathers were; it did not determine whether a child would have a place in a tribe. Nor did the relation to the father determine whether a child would eat or be taken care of. The whole tribe contributed to the rearing of children.
Understanding the relations between men and women in the most primitive societies matters a great deal, because it tells us that the way in which men and women relate today is in no way human nature. Only when people began to understand the land on a deeper level, how to work it, and how to create a surplus, did there arise a need to control distribution and conservation of this surplus. It is what gave rise to the division of society into those who worked the land, and those who organized and controlled the means of production and the distribution of the products. This did not necessarily need to be an oppressive relation between these two sections of society, but with a very basic understanding of how to organize society, with a surplus that wasn’t in any sense an immense surplus, competition beginning to arise, and no real science yet, this is how things did develop and along with this developed the institution of the family, which then would maintain the property relations. This forced women into a totally subordinate position in society, where their lives, as well as their children’s lives were totally dependent on the men/husbands and the level of their work.
Throughout this book, I was brought into a deeper understanding of why society has become what it is today. That it was not the will of some ‘god’ or anything like that, nor of human nature. Instead, things have developed into what they are today due to a lot of necessity, and a lot of accident. Very similar to the way in which human beings developed; a way that was not at all linear or predetermined, society developed.
It is very easy to look out into the world and say WOW what a bunch of selfish, inconsiderate, corrupted people! It is why when someone does something nice for you, just because, it stays with you for so long! For far too long, people have been kept in the dark. People have been lied to, that this is just the way it is, and has always been; there has always been exploitation, there has always been male domination, and the fact of the matter is, this just is not true. And to take this even further, we are at a point in history where we could organize society in a way in which everyone’s needs would be met. If all people were contributing what they could in the realm of physical labor, it would allow these same people to contribute to the organization of society, as well as contribute in the realm of theory, art, culture, etc., and even just relax! There is a basis to do this today, and through getting into this book I have come to understand even more deeply why it is possible to break out of this set-up, because it truly hasn’t always been this way, and we really can do so much better than this. I strongly encourage others to read this book, get into this understanding, because it matters that we understand the method that is needed to get to the truth, in relation to history, but also in relation to the present and future we need to bring into being through revolution in order to truly flourish as human beings.
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
February 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
I have to admit, when I first saw the previews I thought, “Oh great, another movie that normalizes porn by treating it like a joke: boys will be boys, men will be men, and cool girls understand.” After all, way more porn comes out of Hollywood than feature films, and TV shows from “Friends” to “30 Rock” use porn as a punch line. Was I ever wrong. The film could’ve been called “If you can’t imagine sex without porn, you’re fucked.” a slogan on one of Stop Patriarchy’s most popular stickers.
But what makes this movie special and interesting is how the main character, Jon, transforms through his real interactions with women and liberates himself from porn, something he actually thought he loved and couldn’t live without. And it’s all done with a lot of wit, humor and heart that will appeal to a broad audience and is a great contribution to what must become a society-wide debate about the social effects of pornography. Watch this movie as soon as possible and tell your friends about it!
The movie opens up with a montage of pornified images of women and their body parts with Jon telling us that the only things he cares about are: “My body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, my porn.” His life is a carefully calibrated cycle of working out, hooking up, watching porn, and going to confession. He explains why he likes porn better than having sex: “All the bullshit fades away. I don’t have to say anything, don’t have to do anything, I just fucking lose myself.”
Jon and his buddies eye and rate women like commodities on the regular, and what he eventually seeks out as the alternative to this is equally unreal and objectifying: a traditional relationship with a woman he views as a princess, Barbara, played by Scarlett Johansson. Patriarchal capitalist property relations are in full effect as she works to shape him into marriage material and seethes with embarrassment at the thought of him, as a man, cleaning his own floors.
The Catholic Church is no help at all. The priest makes it clear that the “Hail Marys” and “Our Fathers” Jon is tasked with are punishment and forgiveness for sex without marriage period—there’s no distinction between what he describes as “more than just sex,” a meaningful and mutual connection through sexual exploration with another human being, and a one-way sex transaction, be it porn or the empty hook-up—which leaves him even more confused. Reflecting on the humorous but biting confession scenes, it struck me even more profoundly that, as Sunsara Taylor has said, there is no fundamental difference between the Pope and the pornographer. Both reduce women down to things to be owned and controlled by men.
It’s not until Jon meets Esther, played by Julianne Moore, that another way to be and experience sex is presented to Jon. Esther is older than Jon and doesn’t fit his number ranking mold. She’s not the innocent and beautiful “good girl” who shows up at the end of a romantic comedy just in time to capture Jon’s heart. Esther is messy and letting it all hang out, as she struggles through fresh and ground-shifting pain. Over time they get to know each other as people, having real conversations and sex. Esther is interested in what Jon thinks in a way that is new to him. She asks, “Why bother with porn when you can have the real thing?” and Jon begins to question why he can’t stop watching porn or even imagine his own fantasies. The problems with porn that get revealed don’t come from a place of puritanism, and their relationship is not one headed for marriage and having children as the only thing that would make their sexual experiences meaningful and beautiful. Together, they untangle the ways that Jon has been equating porn with sex, and what he is missing because of it. Jon is hit by what Esther says when she puts into words what so many people have experienced: “The way you have sex is really one-sided, like I’m not even there.” There’s a lot of poignancy and joy in how Jon goes from feeling uncomfortable when a woman looks him in the eye, to being turned on by it, from losing himself in porn, to being “lost together” with Esther when they make love.
While Don Jon doesn’t attempt to critique the harm the pornography industry does to the real women who are prostituted in it, the film does explore the harm that porn does to relationships and the people who view it. I hope that the film encourages people to seek answers to these questions and look deeper into the actual content of pornography, the overwhelming majority of which is much more violent and degrading than what could be shown in an R-rated movie. Just as one example, a popular scenario and search term for porn is “rape.” People should ask themselves, what is it about the nature of pornography that makes the storyline of Don Jon ring true? What are these real (not fantasy) social relations that people are watching play out on film and what are they training generations of primarily boys and men, but also women, to think about women and sexuality? Is this what we want? Like Jon, most people have never stopped to ask themselves these questions or think critically about porn. Don Jon provokes and pushes viewers to think anew about widespread assumptions that have everything to do with understanding and finally ending pornography and patriarchy, the enslavement and degradation of women.
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
March 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Inspired by the all-around success of the Harlem‑Bronx Bake Sale, supporters of BA Everywhere fundraising efforts made plans for a similar event in our city. This was a way to involve people in the community who struggle daily just to pay their bills in the movement for revolution and in particular the campaign to raise big funds to get BA Everywhere. The plan was to have the sale in an area we have been working in for some time, building the movement for revolution. We raised $170, brought to the surface a breadth of support that we were not previously aware of, and deepened people's connection to the movement for revolution and the leadership of BA.
One person studied the statement by the woman in New York and wrote her own piece to be included in the flier for our event. At the same time we took the proposal to other supporters and over several weeks people came on board. The whole process brought some of these folks to see themselves more consciously as a part of the BA Everywhere campaign. One person came up with a bunch of new ideas to involve artists in fundraising for BA Everywhere while whipping up a chocolate chip pound cake for the sale. An older Black woman first listened attentively to BA's New Year's message, A Call to Revolution, and responded, "That is a very fine speech. Like he says, battering women and the gay bashing has to stop. And young people need to join with others to change this system." She sees that her cooking is "my contribution to the movement for revolution," and was delighted to hear how much money was raised.
We also picked up new contributors along the way. In the course of getting out word for the bake sale we ran into someone studying to be a vegan pastry chef. This person's initial curiosity about a group with the goal of emancipating humanity turned to doubt while looking at the new brochure, "Contribute to BA Everywhere! The World Needs to Be Radically Changed. Here's One Step," and began to talk about how the system has been here forever and that we should try to reform it. Our response focused on quotes from the brochure about the capitalist system and BA's new synthesis of communism. We also brought out the special issue on 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 is too big!" the person said. We went through many of their questions about the history and current reality of this system, why capitalism leads to anarchy and suffering and why we "can't just make a law" to limit their power. The person also had big doubts about communism, but knew we were bringing something very different than the horror stories that they had been fed. We persisted and so did the person. In the end they packaged up slices of rich vegan chocolate cake for the sale, and gave us a way to stay in touch.
A local activist who had watched BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! from start to finish allowed us to stage the sale outside a well‑known community center. On the day of the event, our banner for BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! let people know what we stood for. Clips of the speech were played as well. Inside and outside the center we created a stir as people took brochures or got copies of Revolution, and then threw in for cookies or pie in support of a movement that was about radical change. It was also impressive to these folks that the baked goods were made by people in the community. "This is great!" said one woman as she made a $3 donation. "It's what I tell people all the time—we need to stand together and stand up!" We had varying degrees of success in connecting with people around how this fundraising project and BA Everywhere is "the leading edge of a whole strategic process through which the movement for revolution gets built." But we found the brochure is a very good tool to use in digging into that important point.
Our activities also caught the attention of young community service workers at the center. Several of them are immigrants from oppressed countries where armed struggle had only brought a new version of capitalist‑imperialist domination. There was sharp debate with them over the possibility of setting up a system that was not based on domination. We broke out BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and played the section titled "A Radically Different and Far Better World Is Possible." A young Black man who had not yet joined the conversation listened very intently and stayed to talk for another 15 minutes. He really grappled with the contradictions that he could see would arise as people were free to debate the big questions and put out their own ideas, and gave his name to be part of future discussions.
These same questions turned out to be a common thread of commentary and debate throughout the day among people who contributed their thinking as well as funds. There are so many different views and perspectives among individuals and groups. How would this work without turning into another oppressive dictatorship? Another question that people had was whether BA will really continue to represent for the people, both today and in the new socialist society.
After spending several hours at our table, we decided to take our fundraising into the community with a kinda "rolling bake sale." Good thinking! We turned up a whole new layer of support from people in this area, and over the next day sold out of all the goodies people had cooked up. Especially impressive was the support coming from Black men in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Some mentioned that they had seen us around—at the Trayvon Martin protests and such. Several donated and then challenged their friends to give too. "Show them some love" hollered a young guy as he pulled out of the car wash, after throwing in for a slice of pie. A good number of them contributed after carefully going over the new brochure. And there was particular interest in finding out who BA is.
We also found important support and got contributions from people who had donated in the past. Several corner men at a local convenience store got some sweets and encouraged us to come back soon. A young mother supporting a pair of feisty two-year-olds and her mother called us to order three pieces of cake before taking off for work. She continues to look for ways to fit into the movement for revolution though her time is as short as her money. A Latino youth who knew us from Occupy days yelled out, "Viva la revolucion!" when he saw us on the street. He contributed $10 for cookies, saying there should be a lot more people like us, and then proceeded to talk up revolution at his register where he works in the local dollar store.
The next day we headed out with the leftovers and sold the rest while making further contacts in an area we had not visited for a while. We were immediately swarmed by little kids. Some just wanted cookies and pooled their quarters, or got their parents involved. Then an eight-year-old girl started reading parts of BA's New Year's "A Call to Revolution," inspired by his opening statement: "We need a new world, a radically different world." Some of her friends listened intently. She struggled through the first paragraph, and then ran to her house to get some money to donate. A mother came over to buy the last four pieces of cake for all the kids to share. She turned out to be someone we had lost contact with a few years back, and she made sure she had a way to hook back into the movement.
In the midst of all this activity, there was serious talk about the need for revolution. A postman on his route stopped to express his thinking about how intense things are getting—so many racists getting away with murder—and how that is an indication to him of a revolution in the wind. He got the current issue of Revolution along with the special issue, The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation... to find out more about us. Similar sentiments came from two women who were challenged to contribute to and to join this movement by getting them to talk about why they thought a revolution was necessary. They spoke a torrent of bitterness about the racism and repression that was everywhere, along with the hopelessness and lack of unity. When one of them said their son was thinking of joining the police to "make them do what they are supposed to," we read them BAsics 1:24 which talks about the real role of the police being to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. The person immediately wanted BAsics. All these people were very impressed to hear that we would soon be showing the section of REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! on "Could we really win... Really" at a local venue, and took materials to promote it.
More to come...!
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
From A World to Win News Service:
March 6, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
March 3 2014. A World to Win News Service. Following is a statement issued on February 19 by the 8 March Women Organisation (Iran-Afghanistan) (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The 8th of March, International Women's Day, is coming, and we will continue our struggle to achieve the dream of emancipation. We are seeing the struggle of our sisters to join together with the countless hands of oppressed women all over the world to break the thousand-years-old chains of oppression that bind us.
Women carry out 2/3 of the world's labor, but obtain only 10 percent of its income and own less than 1 percent of its wealth. Seventy per cent of the world's poor are women. We are the main makers of the world and carry its load on our shoulders, but what is our lot?
Our lot is ever-increasing organized state violence, alongside the domestic and social violence which a third of the world's women experience on a daily basis. There is ever-increasing rape, murder, honor killings, prostitution, degradation, insults and threats and an unprecedented use of women's bodies as commodities. Women's "beauty" is presented as our only capital, and motherhood as the only source of our identity, with fighting over whether our bodies are to be controlled by being covered up or auctioned off by the state, religion, tradition and culture, by the demands of the market and even men's personal tendencies, just as there is fighting over the right to control or terminate our own pregnancies. This is the context in which our bodies have become commodities and assigned a price day after day.
Our bodies are commodities that are mass advertised by a pornography industry that gives training in their use. They are used in human trafficking and are priced in the sex markets where they are traded for money. In marriage contracts, financial considerations are accepted as completely legitimate and are reinforced by law and public opinion. Ultimately this commodity is sometimes appropriated free of charge as women are raped either individually or by gangs.
As part of the basic way this patriarchal system functions, imperialist powers confront each other over the division of the world, and in the name of "freedom" and "democracy" they wage war to invade the third world—and again, women are the first victims.
Although women are the cheapest, most obedient and most profitable work force for turning the wheels of capital, they name us "housewives" and hide our super-exploitation. They justify our low wages and rob us of any possibility of organizing ourselves. In the third world they force us to leave our small plots of land in our villages and move to urban shanty towns in our millions, an "unofficial" work force in the service industry, forced labor, all while taking care of their children who have been abandoned by society and the authorities.
And when we join in struggle to change the existing order, backward Islamic regimes again become our lot, as we are once again the first victims.
Unfortunately, the repetition of our experience as women in Iran has clearly demonstrated that the ideological foundation, the outlook and specific feature of an Islamic regime is the inferior position of women, our enslavement and deprivation of rights—this is how the religious fundamentalists with their international partners have harvested the fruit of the people's just struggle. Thirty-five years ago, when this backward and anti-woman regime posed as a possible replacement to the Shah as the people of Iran rose in revolutionary struggle, the religious fundamentalists tried to legitimize their rule and integrate Iran into the world capitalist system. Islamicizing the patriarchal system was their most important contribution to this effort. By utilising the full force of state power, the oppressive relations enchaining women were recast on the foundations of Sharia law. This was not some "eternal" culture of "Muslim women" being re-born, it was the culture and relations of Islamic patriarchy being given the full backing of state repression. The Islamic Republic thus codified the subjugation of women in law, and to enforce such laws established a set of courts and repressive forces.
The existence of these forces is directly related to the setbacks suffered by revolution in the world today. It is not a coincidence that one after another Islamic regime is being established either through the imperialist invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan or in the wake of the struggles of the people in the Middle East and North Africa. And at the center of these transformations women are the first social force to be controlled and oppressed. In Afghanistan and Iraq the legalization of Sharia law against women; in Libya the legalisation of polygamy; in Egypt the unprecedented increase in female genital mutilation; in Syria the re-establishment of punishing women by stoning; the rise in the hijab (head covering), whether enforced or arbitrary—all these are undeniably a concentrated expression of Sharia law.
All these represent the real bloody wars of these two outmoded forces—capitalist-imperialism and religious fundamentalism—to subjugate, oppress and control women. These two forces are equally oppressive and act as brothers in preserving their common interests, as they establish militarized regimes against women through hate and extreme violence.
We women are at the center of this war, which once again repeats the bitter tale of rape in the name of preserving and defending virginity. Once again the teeth and claws of patriarchy are shown so as to control and auction off women's bodies. Once again we see the tragedy of women courageously taking part in their masses in the process of social change, but winding up in the end pushed back down, without change. Once again women are pushed to choose between the "lesser evil" of who would violate them.
This is the so-called democratic choice facing women: do you prefer to be covered by a hijab and stay untouched and "supported" by Sharia law and Sharia-raped by your male lords, or do you prefer to be displayed in shop windows wearing the latest designer fashions and adored while you're priced and abused and molested? Do you prefer to be placed next to male rapists in Tahrir Square or under the boots of Western dependent armies claiming they support you?! Do you prefer to be an obedient wife and a "real" mother in your own country and single-handedly bear the heavy load of years of raising children without the presence of a father, or to be perched in the shopping windows of Europe or the private brothels (called harems) in the Gulf States?! Do you prefer to take part in the process of exploiting other people and oppressing other women for your own personal interests and advance and be protected by the laws of the world capitalist patriarchal system, or do you prefer to work and be exploited in some small or big factory or farm, or do you prefer to remain a "housewife" and expect god to protect you through his male representative in an effort to obtain and then safeguard your privileges in the "next world?" Do you want to take part in the population increase programme of the Islamic Republic on the basis of its Sharia law and thus bear more jihadists, or to be turned into a mere incubator by the churches and Christian fundamentalists?
All these options lie on the endless wheel of choice between these two poles that are outmoded and rotten. These two forces have no future for humanity. Indeed, the danger of collapse they both face push them not only to have a go at each other but also to support each other and hide their contradiction when they face the protesting masses.
The dynamics of this outmoded and backwards-turning wheel mean that struggle against one of them, in the absence of a clear stance against the other, invariably winds up pushing people into the other camp. Therefore, supporting one of these two poles, even if the intention is to fight and weaken the other, in practice actually strengthens the other pole. Everyone who is a victim of the existing order, all those who hate it and want to struggle to change it, ultimately have no other choice than to take a clear stance against and fight both of these poles. Women are at the heart of this contradictory situation and the struggle against these two poles. For both of these reactionary poles, women are an army of labor, foot soldiers of the system, a valuable commodity whose role is indispensable to the operation of this system of exploitation and oppression. And on the other hand, because of this strategic position, if women enter the arena of struggle with the aim of emancipating themselves and all humanity, they are capable of destroying all the rotten patriarchal barriers, which are facing historical collapse, and building a new world.
Because of all this, we as women can, through revolutionary internationalist struggle against these two outmoded and anti-women forces, succeed in lifting their blood-soaked, male and "holy" hands from the lives of millions of women who are being crushed in homes, factories, fields, streets and brothels violently, mercilessly and without precedent. Only through this kind of struggle can women chart the course of their emancipation and achieve a society without exploitation and oppression.
Without the fight and overthrow of these two outmoded forces, there is no other clear prospect for the emancipation of women and indeed of all humanity—which is impossible without the full participation of women.
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 #331 March 9, 2014
March 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
There is nothing more brutal and backward, nothing more outrageous, nothing which more concentrates the howling and unbearable gap between the world that is possible and the world that actually IS... than the way billions of women are treated every day. Rape, battery, exploitation and abuse of every kind... locked in the home or cast out on the streets, both devalued and commodified in the culture—regarded and treated like things to be bought and sold rather than full human beings... reduced to the roles of either mother and/or object of sexual plunder... exploited and abused in fields and factories and offices and then oppressed and abused once more in the home... denied the right to control their own bodies and make their own choices on reproduction... demeaned and degraded by the saturation of society with pornography... hounded, legislated against, and at times physically attacked and even murdered by religious fanatics of every type, on every continent, including the USA... and all this reaching a point of even greater, almost unimaginable, horror in the wars for resources and profit and geopolitical power that rage across the world. The very acuteness of this question means that when people rise up, this question often and increasingly and very sharply comes to the fore—as it did these past few years in Egypt and elsewhere, where different reactionary camps mobilized and waged battles over how best to maintain this oppression and even took out their conflicts on the very bodies of the women who dared to demand a voice in their futures.
The oppression of women pervades the planet; it is, today, inescapable. But this is not due to “human nature.” This is not eternal. It had a beginning—and it can have an end. This web of patriarchy—these systems of relations between people that take many forms but which all painfully bind and suffocate women everywhere they turn, in every sphere of society, and in every country in the world, including the “advanced” societies of the west—this arose at a certain time in human history. It continues today because the system we now live under—capitalism-imperialism—both requires patriarchy to maintain its “order” and feeds off it in its exploitation of the masses. While the continual blind and profit-driven development of capitalism in some ways undercuts traditional social relations, pulling women into work outside the home and disrupting family relations in certain ways, capitalism cannot do away with this oppression.
In fact, the capitalist-imperialist class is driven to reinforce and deepen this oppression, especially as the basis for traditional roles gets further undercut. First, because the maintenance of the traditional family and traditional gender roles is a pillar of social order, of keeping people “in their places.” Every and any serious effort to break these chains could potentially call into question the legitimacy of the entire social order. And so it is that in every corner of the globe we see reactionary forces slamming women even more firmly and violently back into oppressive, and often even more extremely repressive, social roles in the name of “tradition.” Second, because the driving logic at the heart of capitalism requires that everything must ultimately serve the accumulation of ever more profit for some capitalist. The logic of such a system turns everyone into a means for more profit, and requires that every demand and aspiration fit itself to the “bottom line.” Today, even as discrimination continues in both old and new, and more perverse, ways, women themselves have increasingly been “commodified,” turned into objects. As this view of women increasingly becomes the social norm, it stamps and suffocates people’s thoughts and emotions, their hopes and their dreams. Further, capitalism distributes society’s product through the family even though in most cases people have long since stopped producing as a family. The more irrational this becomes, the more the capitalist-imperialists feel compelled to buttress this institution as a means of social order and control—and, in particular, to strengthen the authority of the father and his “right” to lord it over everyone else. Was this not the essence of Obama’s recent proposed “solution” to the excruciating oppression, the life without a future beyond being ostracized and hunted and/or cast off, facing Black and Latino youth? Again, capitalism requires patriarchy—and it reinforces it, with all its power.
The oppression of women in all its forms can be ended, it could actually be put in the museum of outmoded human practices. But, two things:
One, this oppression can only be ended as part of a revolution, in which the instruments of violence and repression of the reactionary classes are defeated and dismantled with the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people numbering in the millions; and in which the new revolutionary power then leads the people to undertake the work of building a whole new society in every sphere, eliminating exploitation and taking on all the terrible disparities and oppressive abuses woven into the capitalist-imperialist system; and
Two, no revolution that does not make the ending of the oppression of women a central pivot of its mission can ever emancipate humanity. Humanity needs revolution—a communist revolution that does away with capitalism and all exploiting systems, and all the institutions and ideas—including patriarchy—that thrive in its soil and reinforce it.
This can be done. As Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, recently put it:
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.
In fact there have been times—all too briefly—when whole societies have been mobilized to uproot the oppression of women, as part of doing away with capitalism and all the institutions that reinforce it. This was true in the communist revolutions of the 20th century—first in the Soviet Union in 1917, and then in China in 1949. These revolutions were eventually reversed, but while they exercised power they mobilized masses to take the first huge steps in uprooting the oppression of women. They showed, in their relatively brief time, that what once seemed eternal could be overcome, what once seemed impossible could actually be done. And this can be true, in a far greater way, in the revolutions that must be made now, in the 21st century.
The path to this revolution can only be forged through struggle—and this struggle must be built now. The increasingly acute ways in which this oppression comes down, the sharp clashes brought forward by the very measures taken by the rulers of society to contain things, creates both the need—and a fertile soil—for fierce struggle. Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution crystallizes the path to that revolution—enabling people to change themselves as they take part in the struggle to change the world. And there is so much that cries out to be changed, and to be struggled against—right now! Break the Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution! In fact, the very holiday of International Women’s Day grew out of struggle—a massive demonstration in 1909 of women garment workers in New York City, who poured out of the dangerous sweatshops into the streets, in inspiring defiance. This outpouring inspired the first International Women’s Day on March 8, 1910, organized by communists and socialists. And in 1917, in Russia, a massive demonstration on International Women’s Day played a significant role in fanning the early sparks of struggle that eventually led to the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the Soviet Union.
Today, with the new synthesis of communism brought forward by Bob Avakian, there is a deeper understanding of the pivotal importance of the liberation of women to all of human emancipation, and the centrality of the monumental struggle necessary to uproot this. This new synthesis critically sums up the experience of the communist revolution, and draws from many other spheres of human thinking and endeavor as well. There was a tendency in the first stage of the communist revolution to see this question as important, even critical, but in certain ways to tend to “subordinate it” to other questions, and to not fully enough grasp the depth and acuity of this oppression and how decisive—how integral—it is to the total transformation of society. The new synthesis of communism has brought forward a deeper comprehension not only of how embedded this is in society but of how the transformation of the situation of women can be—and must be—a motive force in the ongoing transformation of all society, in the struggle to destroy ALL tradition’s chains. This inspiring goal of the emancipation of humanity is one that can and must be taken up by women and men, now, and actively worked for and fought for.
This system, and the main trends that claim to oppose this system, have no real answers to this terrible oppression. The communist revolution, today based on the new synthesis, does. Today we are faced with this task: to make revolution against this system at the soonest possible time, and to politically support this revolution wherever it is made, with the aim of a new socialist state power as the first step to that world without social antagonisms of any kind—a communist world. “Tomorrow,” where and as this power is seized, our movement will be faced with another task: the building of a socialist society, on the road to communism. This society will be a transition in which people will be mobilized and unleashed to overcome all the scars of capitalism, all the ways in which one part of humanity antagonistically dominates another—the exploitation of the many by the few, and the domination of intellectual life by a small elite, in the service of capital... the division of humanity into antagonistic nations and the horror-filled subjugation of some nations and nationalities by others... the distorted and oppressive division between the cities and rural areas, and the antagonistic way in which the rich diversity of the natural world is turned into a source of plunder, and nature itself is poisoned... ALL of these and more will be taken on and transformed, along with—again, as a crucial and pivotal element—the oppression of women by men. And all that will be done as part of and while supporting revolution all over the world, until every human being is truly free.
What is urgently required by humanity is the initiation of a new stage of this revolution, one that grasps the emancipation of women as a motive force AND A GREAT POTENTIAL STRENGTH for that revolution. What is urgently required of us is that we take up the process of making this revolution... that we become the new initiators of a new stage of this revolution, in which all of tradition’s chains are shattered and humanity rises to its full potential height, both collectively and as individuals.
BREAK THE CHAINS! UNLEASH THE FURY OF WOMEN AS A MIGHTY FORCE FOR REVOLUTION!
A BETTER WORLD’S IN BIRTH! WE CAN AND MUST TRANSFORM EVERYTHING!
Revolution #331 March 9, 2014
From the Editors:
March 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The programs this weekend for International Women's Day (IWD) should be festive and forward-looking—infused with the joy of being determined to break these chains and unleash the fury of women, all in service of a new world! In those areas where people will spend Saturday, March 8, fighting the power, this should give a real edge to the celebration.
We want to alert you to some things we will be posting in time for these programs, and to some suggestions as well. These are in addition to the cultural presentations, decorations, music, food, etc., all of which should, together, convey the themes of internationalism and of a determination—and confidence—that we can break these chains, unleash this fury and go forward to transform the whole world.
Along with this note, we are posting a statement from the Party on International Women's Day. This should be read at celebrations, and nice copies of this statement should be produced for people to keep.
We also think it would be very good for celebrations to play the clip from BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! entitled "RESISTING THE BRAINWASH—A RADICAL REVOLT AGAINST A REVOLTING CULTURE" There should be a good introduction and a call for people to get involved with BA Everywhere and, in particular, the activities this month focused on raising money to get the film much more broadly out into society.
There is a powerful statement by the 8 March Women's Organisation (Iran-Afghanistan) that should be read, with nicely produced copies available for people to keep.
There will either be a video or text from Sunsara Taylor focusing on some key questions specifically focused on how this comes down today, in this country, and exciting plans in this next period for ways to Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution!
Have a great celebration!