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Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
A Call for Major Events on July 4th Weekend
June 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In 1852, the escaped slave and freedom fighter Frederick Douglass gave a powerful, historic speech condemning the hypocrisy of America. Douglass exposed how the vaunted "greatest democracy in the world" had built its wealth on the enslavement of Africans and their descendants, and called for the abolition of this slavery.
Today, 162 years later, chattel slavery is no longer the law of the land (though millions worldwide are still enslaved, in ways that indirectly and often directly feed into and benefit the American empire). (See "21st Century Slavery Under Global Capitalism," Revolution #102, September 23, 2007.) Yet today...
From those millions of Black and Latino youth put in a pipeline to prison the hour they are born... to the women who, even if they do not find themselves among the millions and even billions directly trafficked or raped or brutalized or denied the rights to abortion and birth control, still suffer the consequences of those practices and like all women must every day walk a gauntlet of potential abuse and danger...
From the immigrants, here and around the world, driven by a desperate need to work to risk their lives in the deserts and oceans to then live in the shadows for the "chance" to be bitterly exploited... to the billions overall, whose very lives are funneled into amassing huge wealth for the imperialists while they themselves scrape for survival...
From those who suffer the horrors of America's invasions, proxy wars, and drone strikes... to the way in which humanity as a whole faces an environmental catastrophe for which capitalism, in its mad pursuit for profit, has no other recourse but to make it worse...
...for all these, and for those whose hearts beat in empathy with them, America's July 4th boasts are still nothing but mockery and hypocrisy. July 4th this year must NOT be a holiday to celebrate their revolution but a time to seize to build for the REVOLUTION we need now, at the earliest possible time, to get rid of their instruments of power and bring in a whole new world, free of all forms of slavery, all exploitation, and all the rotten institutions and ideas that go with the system of capitalism and prop it up.
This July 4th, BA Everywhere has called for major activities throughout the "holiday weekend" to raise funds to get the word out on Bob Avakian—the leadership he's provided, both in the form of the revolutionary theory that he's brought forward that forms the framework for actually overcoming this madness, and the practical leadership he has provided through his leadership of the vanguard of the revolution we need, the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. In commemoration of Douglass' speech—and in recognition of the fact that, as BA writes in BAsics, "There would be no United States as we know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth."—these activities will go forward under two slogans:
WHAT TO A SLAVE IS YOUR FOURTH OF JULY?
WE REFUSE TO ACCEPT SLAVERY IN ANY FORM!
The weekend should be filled with revolutionary activity. As a centerpiece, there should be fundraising picnics, which should be very, very broadly built for, and, at the same time, be full of revolutionary celebration and activity. The film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, the book BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian, and BA's 2014 New Year's message should be right there, playing at different times, and be widely available. Testimonials, culture, games, food, displays, community—everything that makes for a good time—should be going on, infused with the content of the whole new world to which people aspire, and for which we are fighting. Everybody who comes should be introduced to Revolution—the website and the newspaper—and this heartbeat of the movement for revolution should be utilized and built all the way through the lead-up to the weekend. And along with all the celebration, there should be active engagement with why we need a revolution, with what BA has brought forward in relation to that, and with how we actually need to and can prepare the ground, prepare the people, and prepare the vanguard TO get ready for the time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win.
These celebrations should build on what has been accomplished so far in the campaign to get BA Everywhere—and be a significant success in their own right. And they should mark a kick-off to a whole summer of intense efforts leading into Fall 2014. At these events, let's energetically raise money to Get BA Everywhere – across this country! A focus of this fundraising should be the 1000 years—$1000 dollars project. That project is calling on people from all walks of life to make the hundreds and thousands of years suffered in the hellholes of this nation of prisons count for something that will really matter. As the BA Everywhere campaign has said, "Let's celebrate throwing those thousands of bitter years taken from us, taken from humanity, back into the face of the system that took them as we contribute to the BA Everywhere campaign and the fight for a radically different world."
These July 4th events should concentrate real substance...going up against the patriotic July 4th fervor that celebrates the bloody history and current day oppressive reality of the U.S., and make known to all that a whole new world is possible through revolution. And throughout society, people need to know of the leadership we have in BA. And let's draw in many, many people, and people who are only meeting the revolution now, into making these celebrations be a moment when the revolution leaps into and becomes a serious question for many who are agonizing over the state of this society and the world. And let this especially be true in neighborhoods and communities among the people who have been outcast and downpressed in this country.
Who should come to, participate in, and/or help build these weekend celebrations? EVERYONE WHO HATES THE MODERN-DAY FORMS OF ENSLAVEMENT THAT CHAIN PEOPLE DOWN, AND HUNGERS FOR A BETTER WORLD... EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO SEE A REAL FUTURE FOR OUR YOUTH... EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO HEAR ABOUT REVOLUTIONARY IDEAS ON WHAT CAN BE DONE TO BRING THAT WORLD, AND THAT FUTURE, INTO BEING!
People who come should be made aware of the purpose and point and activities of BA Everywhere, in different ways, and learn how they can contribute to this. At the same time, they should also learn about and have a chance to get into the important struggles against mass incarceration and the oppression of women.
But the weekend should not just be these picnics. People who come to the picnics should have ways to get involved and do things—right on the spot, fanning out over the next two days of the holiday weekend, going to festivals, beaches, community events, concerts, etc.
How should these events be built? We need to be out, everywhere people are, inviting them into things, spreading materials, raising funds, and giving them ways to get involved and find out more. We need especially to be where outrages are happening and people are raising, or need to be inspired and organized to raise, their heads and fight back. And this is the time when people who attended the "Where We Are in the Revolution" talk should be joining in concerted efforts to reach out to their friends, colleagues and communities and bring them to the July 4th celebrations. We should not rely on emails to reach people—though we SHOULD use the Internet and definitely spread the YouTube of BA embedded in this article.
Plans should be made with objectives in mind—in what areas, with which sections of the people, do we need to make breakthroughs this summer? What goals should be set? How should we keep track of our progress in meeting these goals? How do we quickly both grab hold of positive experience and build on it, and also learn from setbacks, mistakes, or disappointments? How do we utilize revcom.us to spread the lessons and to give leadership?
Here we want to quote from a reflection by a comrade. While this comrade was speaking specifically of the initiative against mass incarceration, the spirit applies to the entire "ensemble" of revolutionary work, of which BA Everywhere is the leading edge.
We need a calendar of nodal points when we call out the masses to act, and weekly activity of going out into the world to the centers where these outrages are perpetrated and when outrages occur like the police ramming the youth's head through a plate glass window, we need to be there. Someone that was involved in the grape boycott back in the day recounted how every week they were out picketing and demonstrating, passing out fliers, calling on people to boycott grapes and join the movement to support the farm workers and hardly ever had meetings. The movement was built by being out among the people. We should be getting out the call, leading people to fight the power, and bringing them into this. We have to break out of the dynamic of meeting after meeting where we have a major event every six months or so that is well attended but in the meantime we are not out in the world to the masses in a mass way. Every weekend we need to go out and do something to change the world, do things that affect public opinion, where people are standing up and feel like they are standing up. These actions serve to build a movement. Go out to distribute the call, flier with here is what you can do, and stickers. After these outings people can gather over dinner or whatever to sum up and write a report to submit to the SMIN website. Rather than all these meetings we have been doing we can organize film showings that expose these crimes. People like coming to these and then discussing the films and getting into all kinds of questions. Formal and informal dinners are an opportunity to strategize and get to know people. Part of the point in all of this is giving people ways into this movement that are ways to act that are meaningful and an opportunity to meet the movement and get into all the questions that are being posed in the world and in their thinking.
Again, while this was written specifically in regard to the initiative against mass incarceration, its spirit and approach is very applicable. Going out to build this picnic should be anything but lifeless! We need a combination of individuals getting this out, often in subtle ways, and at times where, with radically simple plans and materials, people make a big scene and this has big impact. What the comrade says about showing films and discussing definitely applies to BA Everywhere, and to how this picnic should be built. And let's mix it up a little—when people run into the movement for revolution let them learn about and meet people from all these realms of activity and struggle.
Come to the revcom.us site for materials—including for a possible layout of a flier/poster this Thursday, June 12.
Editor's note: Stay tuned to revcom.us for coming thinking and guidance on building the whole ensemble of revolutionary work, including ideas on making plans for this summer and beyond.
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
On the Santa Barbara Mass Killings:
by Sunsara Taylor | May 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The mass murder carried out on May 23 in Santa Barbara by a young man who professed profound hatred of women—and who released a manifesto which revealed years of cultivated resentment, score-keeping against women for living lives that did not reduce to sexually servicing him, “loving” him, and hanging on his arm in a way that elevated his “status” as a man—poses these questions:
How long must women live with the fear of violence at the hands of men who are trained by society to hate them, to feel entitled to their bodies, to view women not as human but as things who exist to sexually and emotionally service them or bear their children?
How long will young women in “the West” face the likelihood of rape while in college while girls in Nigeria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere face the terror of death, abduction, or acid-attacks simply for going to school?
How much longer will we tolerate a society where every 15 seconds a woman is beaten, where every day three to four women are killed by their male partners, and where—on top of all this—the jails and prisons are then filled with the women who have dared to defend themselves against this abuse?
How long will we tolerate a culture which mainstreams violent and vicious pornography that trains millions and millions of men to see women's degradation, torture, and humiliation as “sexy”?
How many more girls and very young women will be kidnapped or tricked, sold by starving families or drugged and beaten into sexual slavery in every part of the world including here, where the average age of entry into prostitution is 12?
How long will women's lives be foreclosed by forced motherhood because they are unable to access safe, affordable, and unstigmatized birth control and abortion—rights which are under vicious and escalating assault in every part of this country right now as you read?
And how long will we be fed the bullshit LIE that women have “achieved their equality,” that all that is left is for individual women to “empower themselves” within this landscape of abuse and degradation?
All this violence and terror against women is NOT “human nature.” It is the system that rules over the people. Today, this system is capitalism-imperialism, and in every part of the world the workings of this system are intensifying the vicious and cruel oppression and exploitation of women.
It is possible to end all this terror and oppression, but not without ending that system. NOT WITHOUT REVOLUTION—GENUINE, ALL-THE-WAY COMMUNIST REVOLUTION.
Through revolution, we can end once and for all the millennia of women being terrorized, abused, degraded and oppressed. Through revolution, we can get rid of the deep divisions in society that give rise to and require the oppression of women by men. Through revolution, when the time is right—and as a key part of what revolution actually means—the people can and must defeat and dismantle the state which rules over us and enforces all this oppression, and whose military and police forces actually concentrate this hatred of women. With a new revolutionary state power, a new form of rule that puts the needs of the people and the fight to dig up all forms of oppression and exploitation first, we can fully unleash and give backing to the pent-up fury of women at thousands of years of tradition's chains as a mighty force in achieving the full emancipation of all humanity.
This revolution is possible. This revolution is urgent. And the leadership and understanding for this revolution exists in Bob Avakian (BA) and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. As concentrated in a just-released compendium, Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution, and in A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity, the vision and strategy for this revolution have been forged, and movement for this revolution IS being built. Get into this deeply and with urgency, and be part of spreading it.
At the same time, as part of hastening the development of such a revolution and preparing people to seize on it and take it all the way—OR even if you are not yet convinced of the need for such a revolution—join in the fight today to stand up against and shake off the ways this system puts on us. Refuse to stay silent or go along. Link up with the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: the Enslavement and Degradation of Women, becoming part of the fight right now to defeat this war on women and forging a spreading culture and community of revolt and liberation up against all the woman-hating that is so prevalent.
Answer the call of the future by stepping to the front lines of the fight to #BreakALLtheChains.
As BA has said over many years:
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.
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
by T. Redtree | May 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The spring 2014 school year wound down with a mounting number of female students coming forward to testify about their experience with campus rape and to protest the callous failure of universities to acknowledge and address this. Then last week Elliot Rodger unleashed his murdering retribution against women, which also took the lives of four male students in Isla Vista, California. UC Santa Barbara is a campus that had already been plagued by two gang rapes this winter. Students there held a small protest which together with a Twitter campaign has sparked an outpouring of grief, rage, and soul-searching discussion about rape culture on campus and in society at large.
Two young women started a hashtag titled “#YesAllWomen” to answer the all too typical response epitomized by a Twitter account titled “Not All men”—which was objecting to attributing the massacre to misogyny (women hating) and claiming this was portraying all men as sexist aggressors when this was just an act of a mentally deranged individual. The #YesAllWomen tweets stepped off with messages like “Not all men harass women but ALL women at some point have been harassed by men.” Within a few days, #YesAllWomen had over a million posts with an international following including celebrities, news reporters, and authors weighing in.
As women and young men poured their hearts out and gave testimony, a picture of what most people tolerate as normal began to take shape and pick up steam—challenging and changing the way that people have been thinking about these things:
“Because how often does a man text his friend to say he got home safe”; “Because the response ‘I have a boyfriend’ is easier than saying No”; “Because I was taught to scream fire instead of rape because it increases the chances of someone coming to help”; "Because women are taught to hate themselves if a man rejects them and men are taught to hate women who reject them”; “Because when men say No it’s the end of the discussion but when women say No it’s the beginning of a negotiation”; “Because I don’t make eye contact on the Street. I don’t put my drink down at parties, I cross the street when I see groups of men, because I use a buddy system"; "Because I use keys as a political weapon”; “Because we walk in groups not because we like to be in cliques”; “Because rape is the only crime where the victim has to prove it wasn’t their fault.”
Young women are expressing encouragement by the numerous posts by men giving their support and saying how much they are learning from absorbing the torrent of posts: “Because I started to read this site because I have a daughter but now I see I should keep reading because I have two sons”; “Because as a man I don’t have to carry pepper spray everywhere in case a man rapes me behind a dumpster.”
“Because the backlash from speaking out can be more traumatic than the incident”—this tweet was shamefully substantiated when the two women who started #YesAllWomen had to take down their personal accounts due to the online threats and harassment they received. In many of the posts, women confessed debating whether they should tweet, knowing they would be told by friends and colleagues to not be so angry or oversensitive. Bloggers testified to losing followers for posting. Feminist and mainstream journalists shared how often they are threatened with rape online for their reporting and having to take down the comment pages because of piling on by men acting like an online lynch mob.
This outpouring is giving voice to emotions normally shoved down and silenced—where what women too often put up with as “normal” is starting to give way to anger and a collective strength of spirit that women shouldn’t have to live like this. And it’s about time! These are the kinds of cracks in the normal routine that people have to step through and pry open so that there are real alternatives to how women at great cost accept and internalize their oppression. Cause let’s face it—it’s been fucking degrading and disheartening that the highest young women can shoot for in the 21st century is “owning” your own sexuality so you can “get yours” out of the dominant social relations that are saturated in patriarchal privilege and firmly embedded in the capitalist dog-eat-dog commodity relations that shape every choice you can make—no matter how free you think you are to make them.
It’s been disorienting that women have gained formal equality—while the culture has been seething with backlash, resentment, and brutality. You are supposed to “lean in” and have it all—to put longing for a loving meaningful relationship on hold while you pay attention to your education and consume yourself with a career, and in the meantime you can “man up” and do what the boys do... except you can’t really. Because the boys don’t have to walk home with their keys between their knuckles, and they are not the ones who are going to be looked at and treated like a slut.
Elliot Rodger’s manifesto was full of self-pity and resentment that he was being deprived of his rightful privilege; he was outraged at Black and Mexican men who were able to have sex with white women when he, who was half white, could not. He wrote in his manifesto, “Tomorrow is my day of retribution, the day in which I will have my revenge...you girls are not attracted to me, but I will punish you for it. I’ll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you... I am the true victim of this. I am the good guy... I didn’t start this war.” These are ravings of someone who was mentally broken, but what has to be called out as even more disturbing is that these are the very same ravings being promoted by very powerful people in the political culture, in government, by organized fascist political movements and in the actions of resentful individuals this unleashes. From soldiers who have committed atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the endemic use of rape as a weapon of war, to the man who rapes—to the gangs who rape, to Bush then Obama who justify military intervention, torture, and drones in the name of “We didn’t start this war... We’re the Good Guys,” to the men’s rights groups that paint themselves as the true victims—this shit is epidemic.
Yes this was a very extreme event exaggerated by mental illness, but there is a reason it has also struck so many people as not just an aberration. That same sense of privilege denied—that act that says “if I can’t have her no one can”—is manifested in three women a day being murdered by a current or former intimate partner. This same spring a popular high school student in Connecticut stabbed the girl who declined his invitation to the prom. The same week a crowd of 30 men stood and watched as a young woman, who had married the man she loved and not the one her family had arranged, was bludgeoned to death with bricks as she met with her lawyer in front of a courthouse in an honor killing in Lahore, Pakistan. Patriarchal traditions dictated that she deserved to die for disgracing her family. Elliot Rodger's massacre is just a peculiarly American form of honor killing. The satire magazine The Onion captured this with the headline “‘No Way to Prevent This’ Says Only Nation Where This Happens Regularly.”
Rape—including campus rape—is not about sex. It’s about the violent assertion of male right and power over women. Popular culture has desensitized rape and blurred lines so many male students actually don’t know that “No” does not mean “I know you want it.” Generations of people are being raised in a pornified culture. Young men (and young women) are assaulted with imagery and advertising where sexuality is modeled as objectification, and selling your body as your product. Prostitution is taught as a legitimate career choice in Women’s Studies departments, as if the best a women can do is negotiate a price instead of asking the question What kind of society is this that does this to women and what does the explosion of sexual slavery have to do with imperialist globalization?
As Bob Avakian points out in the film of the speech REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!—“You can do in this society today to women what you could not do to any other group without a huge outcry. Or imagine if you literally showed lynchings [of Black people] and depicted them as a source of titillation.... There would be outrage as there should be.... What goes on, particularly in the increasingly violent and vicious pornography, is very much along the same lines as the postcards of the hanging: the titillation of men through the physical torture and degradation of women, which is becoming more and more the norm and more and more mainstream in pornography. We should all think about the fact that one of the most popular forms of pornography, as it’s being more and more mainstreamed, is rape pornography, depicting literally the woman being raped.”
The right of women to abortion is now all but outlawed in seven states and is in a perilous state of emergency in the whole country—and yet too many people don’t get what the big deal is. Elliot Rodger's rantings—that “Women should not have the right to choose who to mate and breed with. That decision should be made for them by rational men of intelligence... Women have more power in human society than they deserve, all because of sex”—isn’t any different than what is being shouted in women’s faces on any given weekend in front of abortion clinics across the country being besieged by religious right-wing fanatics. It’s the same logic that has higher courts upholding reactionary local legislation that is closing abortion clinics with technicalities and making it unavailable, especially for women who do not have the money to travel to another state for an abortion. These are not unconnected issues—they are all part of a war on women—all made of the same stuff linked and woven from the same fabric.
Anguished parents are blaming gun laws, but the causes are much deeper, more intractable and more systemic. It’s part of the very fabric of this society. As A Declaration: For Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity by the RCP puts it: “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 prospects of every corner of humanity in the 21st century.” To live like this cannot be justified and should not be excused away with counsel of patience or false promises that this can be changed within the confines of the system of capitalism.
There is another radically different way society could be. As a young high school student in the early 1970s, I had the opportunity to hear a speaker talk about having been to revolutionary China, where she described that women could walk the streets at night without fear of being assaulted. I have to admit I just could not believe it. I had to do my research, which confirmed that many others who had traveled there also found this to be true. But more than that I realized that I just couldn’t even wrap my head around what that would even feel like. Now that capitalism has been restored in China—it has the world’s fastest growing pornography market. But I learned at that time that the subordination of women was not human nature—it was the nature of the system. I, like tens of thousands of others, began to ask the question: What kind of a system is this and why should anyone accept this as the best possible way things could be?
We Need A Revolution! We need a new and radically different state power! To learn much more about that, a must read is Break ALL the Chains, Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution, now available at revcom.us.
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
May 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Take to the streets one week after the misogynist murders in Santa Barbara, in resistance against the whole culture of rape, violence against women, and patriarchy. Join different individuals and organizations in cities across the country in bringing these messages and more into rush hour, into the public square, and into the conversation.
In response to the mass murder in Santa Barbara by a man who openly proclaimed his hatred for women, stand up to STOP violence against women in every form.
Seattle: FRIDAY, 5:30 pm, Westlake Center
San Francisco: FRIDAY, 6 pm, 24th St / Mission
NYC: SATURDAY, 3 pm, Union Square Park
Chicago: SATURDAY, 1 pm, Jackson & State
Philadelphia: SATURDAY, 4 pm, Rittenhouse Square
Portland: SUNDAY, 3 pm, Pioneer Courthouse Square
Santa Barbara (Isla Vista): A march begins at 2 pm SATURDAY, May 31 at I.V. Deli Mart (where one of the students was killed), 6549 Pardall Rd., Goleta (Isla Vista), CA 93117. Join a team heading there from L.A.; meet at 10:30 am at Revolution Books, 5726 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles: Speak Out! in the Crenshaw district - SATURDAY, May 31, meet at 11:30 am at Crenshaw & Slauson at the Burger King; and at 2 pm at Crenshaw & MLK at Krispy Kreme Donuts.
It is true, and a very good thing, that not all men violate, beat, and disrespect women.
But it is INTOLERABLE and OUTRAGEOUS that #YesAllWomen face degradation, harassment, derision, ridicule, shame, and violence -- or the constant threat of violence -- and sexual assault.
We must go from tweets into the streets -- to express our outrage, to stand together publicly, and to draw forward others to stand up and say NO MORE!
No more rape, rape jokes, gang-rape, or rape porn... no more acid attacks, "honor" killings, or kidnappings... no more street harassment or roofies... no more anti-abortion restrictions or denial of birth control... no more forced motherhood or sexual objectification... no more misogyny and no more excuses.
We can and must END the enslavement and degradation of women in all its forms.
What better time than now? What better place than here? Who else, if not all of us and YOU?
After UCSB student Elliot Rodgers went on a shooting spree on May 23, 2014, to exact his revenge on women for not having sex with him, social media exploded with conversations and stories about misogyny, male entitlement, the oppression of women, rape culture, and patriarchy, under the hashtag #YesAllWomen.
In a video he recorded the day before he shot several students in Santa Barbara, Rodgers revealed his plan:
On the day of retribution, I am going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB and I will slaughter every single spoiled, stuck up, blonde slut I see inside there. All those girls that I’ve desired so much, they would have all rejected me and looked down on me as an inferior man. If I ever made a sexual advance toward them, while they throw themselves at these obnoxious brutes. I’ll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am in truth the superior one, the true alpha male.
The initial conversation on Twitter about this tragic incident as a product of a male supremacist system and culture was met with backlash under the banner of #NotAllMen (as in, don’t blame men, this is a gun control issue, this is a mental health issue, this is any other kind of issue than the oppression of women). The result was an outpouring of stories and the wide acknowledgement of a culture that objectifies women and feeds male entitlement. #YESALLWOMEN live under the constant threat of violence.
For more info, including ideas to call your own event, and to get connected, go to StopPatriarchy.org
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
June 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
"All the police and helicopters, radios popping... I thought there was a terrorist attack or something," a resident of one of the projects told Revolution that afternoon. "Then when I saw what was happening... I realized it was terrorism. The police was terrorizing the neighborhood!"
At 6 am on Wednesday, June 4, the New York Police Department launched a massive raid in West Harlem at two public housing projects that sit within a couple blocks of each other. Over 400 of this system's enforcers, the NYPD, in body armor, with military-style weapons, charged up stairwells and down hallways, breaking down doors with battering rams. As helicopters hovered overhead, women scrambled to shield their children, especially their teenage sons, from the havoc. Families were forced, face down, onto floors, apartments were ransacked, and 40 young people, ages 15 to 30, that the NYPD claims are gang members, were dragged out by cops in a scene reminiscent of slavery days, and of U.S. soldiers brutalizing villagers in present day Afghanistan. Dozens of young people were kidnapped by the NYPD in this raid.
The police say these youth are criminals, but there is no reason to believe ANYTHING these pigs say! Everything they say—and do—is in the service of keeping this monstrous system going, and they need to win as many people as they can to not only go along with this and accept it, but to assist them as well. Some people who are genuinely and deeply concerned about the very bad things some of the youth are into are torn, thinking that even though they don't trust the police, that maybe such raids and arrests will do some good. BULLSHIT! Come on people. We need to confront the reality of the situation we're in. Bob Avakian is telling the truth when he says:
The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and the order that enforces all this oppression and madness. (BAsics 1:24)
For the NYPD and police departments across the country, lying is as natural as breathing—from their "testifying" on the witness stand, to cooked-up evidence and coerced false confessions, to framing people on false charges. Lying is essential to carrying out their duties as protectors and defenders of this unjust, rotten system.
Look at what the NYPD did in the Central Park Jogger case. A white female jogger was viciously attacked, beaten, and raped in Central Park in 1989. Six Black and Latino youth between the ages of 13 and 16 were rounded up and each one was interrogated alone for many hours. The cops lied, telling each youth that the others had named them as culprits; they threatened them and also promised them they could go home if they'd only confess and implicate one or more of the other youth. The police, the politicians, the court system, and the media depicted these youth and all youth like them as vicious, as a heartless "wolf pack." A lynch mob atmosphere was whipped up with talk about how these "super predators" deserved the death penalty. Five of the six youth were convicted and given long prison terms—even though they were completely innocent! Twelve years after the convictions the actual person who attacked the jogger in Central Park, who had no connection to these youth, confessed to the assault. (See "Propaganda Instruments of the Ruling Class... And the Railroad of the Central Park 5," by Bob Avakian.)
Or what about the innocent people sent to prison for decades on murder convictions orchestrated by Brooklyn homicide detective Louis Scarcella and the workings of this system? Five people framed by Detective Scarcella were recently released as this scandal began to come to light. He told witnesses who to choose in police line-ups; he delivered confessions from suspects who never confessed; he used the same supposed eyewitness in six different murders on six different occasions. She was known to lawyers as "Louie's Go-to Witness." 57 convictions were based in part on testimony by this liar.
This June 4 raid comes only five months into the new administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, the so-called "progressive" mayor who was elected spouting promises to reform stop-and-frisk—which had became broadly hated and exposed for racially profiling Blacks and Latinos, especially the youth, and subjecting them to repeated stops, searches, degradation, arrests, and worse. He named as police commissioner William Bratton, one of stop-and-frisk's chief architects, who pledged to devise a strategy to go after the "known criminal population" of the community.
The massive display of police force against the people on June 4 marked the coming-out party for the new strategy for controlling and terrorizing the same criminalized youth that stop-and-frisk had targeted. Now police assaults on whole neighborhoods will be justified and done in the name of "complex conspiracy cases," In this raid, people were rounded up for supposed "guilt by association" based on tens of thousands of tapped phone calls from jail, hundreds of hours of surveillance video, and police spying on over a million social media pages.
So they're taking the criminalization of the youth to new levels, using social media and technology to frame people. They're talking about charging people with "conspiracy" based on bogus connections, linking people together through everything from surveillance videos, to Facebook posts, telephone conversations, and texts. So that everyone who has crossed paths in any way with anyone the system claims is a criminal is criminalized themselves.
The REAL conspiracy being committed here is what this system is doing to whole generations of youth—for whom this system has no future.
Bratton outrageously said at a press conference after the raid: "If you choose this lifestyle, you will suffer the same fate as these individuals." CHOOSE THIS LIFESTYLE??!! What the hell is he talking about? What choices does this system offer the youth?
This system has no future for millions and millions of youth, no choices except jail, an early death in the streets, or maybe going into their army to kill and die around the world to defend this whole setup. No jobs, no respect, no decent education, no prospects of a life worthy of human beings. This system steals the lives and the futures from people and then turns around and stomps people down, destroys their lives and their families' lives by demonizing and terrorizing them and devising all kinds of strategies to lock them up for life. Statistics show that one in three Black male babies born in 2001 is destined to be locked up in prison. And more than 60 percent of those in U.S. prisons are Black and Latino.
This is a heartless, cold-blooded system carrying out premeditated slow genocide against Black and Latino people, and then blaming the youth. This alone would be enough reason to seize power from these oppressive monsters as soon as it's possible, but this is only one fraction of the suffering it brings down on humanity here and across the planet.
This system has no future for the youth, but the revolution does. As Carl Dix says in his statement on the Harlem raid:
I want to say something to the youth. We know that it's the capitalist system that has put us in the situation we're in. We know that the system wants us fighting against each other because it makes it easier for them to keep us all down. But we can't go out like they want us to. Like BA says in his New Year's message: "Why should we do what they want us to do—killing and crippling each other, trying to beat down or beat out each other, ending up in jail, or paralyzed, or dead at an early age—instead of joining together to go up against the system that has got us in this mess in the first place?" Again to the youth—you gotta get out of the bad shit that too many of you are caught up in and get with the movement for revolution that we in the RCP are building.
We are determined to make revolution, to seize power from these bloodsucking capitalist rulers and build a whole new society. We have the leadership needed for this revolution in BA, the leader of our Party. We have a strategy for revolution, and we are politically preparing for the time when we could lead millions in seizing power and sweeping this blood-soaked system off the face of the earth. Learn more about this revolution. Get into BA's writings, and get with the movement for revolution. Join with the Revolution Club, these young sisters and brothers, as they fight the power and transform the people for revolution.
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
June 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The day after the massive police assault, revolutionaries organized a press conference/speakout on the corner adjoining the Grant Houses. These are some of what people said at the speakout and in interviews.
A woman who lives at Grant Houses said:
Instead of building this community up, they are trying to break this community down. It needs help. It needs a lot of help. As far as the kids, you know, they need something to do. I mean, if the kids don't have any outlet, you know, what do you think they are going to do? They are going to stand on the corner. They are going to sell drugs. You know, they are going to get into stuff because there is no help in the community.
I always thought the police was here to serve and protect. The police are not here to serve and protect. They're here to destroy. That's all they're about—destroying the community ... My son had nothing to do with nothing like that. My son's not even a gang member. He's just a kid. You know, these kids, they grew up together and they're in this community. You know, what kid in the community don't hang out with each other and don't stick together and do things together, you know?
Another woman said:
The police are robbing the youth of their community. They are stripped of their identity. It is an outrage, it has to stop. Since stop-and-frisk has been stopped, so they have come up with another way which is actually a continuation of slavery, like take all the Blacks off the street. They take innocent people who don't know how to fight, people they pick up are illiterate. They have continued it in another way. I live in Grant Homes, I had my son with me that day, he is an "A" student. But if he weren't with me he would have been picked up.
A woman whose son was recently arrested in a police sweep in another part of Harlem spoke of what she experienced in the courtroom downtown:
There is a new gang court, giving your 13- and 14-year-olds 15 and 20 years. I watch nothing but youth of color in that court, women crying, day after day—it is a mass incarceration going on. It is my son today, your son tomorrow. Caught up, swept up, stopped for no reason. Nobody there came home, nobody. They didn't offer them programs, just 15 to 20 years in prison... Wake up, this is genocide, this is the new Jim Crow. It is going down before your eyes. Not one of those people yesterday had a chance, but they are incarcerating them by the masses...
They rounded up 14 [in the raid that took her son], that was the first. You noticed from yesterday the numbers are going up and up. They are taking them from every borough—majority under 21 years of age. But ask them could they offer them a job. Nobody offers them a job. What can they do when they come home? How can they get their life together when they have been convicted of a crime and no one offers them a job?
A young man said:
The police is like a military occupation in our community. And that's how it's been for a long time and it's just getting worse. They come already with a guilty until proven innocent attitude and that you don't have any rights that they need to respect. That's how they approach us... I think there needs to be a change in the system—a drastic change, because if not, it doesn't matter who you elect or who's in office because the system stays the same.
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
May 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I'm a former prisoner who's answering the call to contribute to "1000 Years - $1000 for BA Everywhere." I'm also extending a challenge to everyone who hates and wants to eliminate the many outrages that unceasingly flow from the capitalist-imperialist system - or anyone who hates to see injustice go unchallenged - to match not just the amount I'm raising, but all that will be given by prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their loved ones. All those that haven't been directly affected by the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people need to step forth and answer this call, but it's also urgent for those who remain behind the walls I left to answer this call as well.
There is an important role that prisoners can play by answering this call. The "BA Everywhere" campaign is a mass fundraising campaign aiming to make Bob Avakian and the leadership he concentrates known throughout all society, it's about putting REAL revolution back on the ideological map in order to prepare the ground for a revolutionary rising that has a solid basis and a real chance of winning. I'm aware that prisoners have very limited funds and that is why it would be so meaningful for prisoners themselves to answer this call. If those locked down in the hellholes of this nation of cages, who have so fucken little as it is, can come up with ways to raise a dollar for every year they've spent in prison, they could have a resonating impact not only on our fund-raising efforts out here on the streets, but also in the overall work we are doing in building the movement for a REAL revolution.
This isn't about raising money for some feel-good-about-yourself charity that doesn't change shit, this is about filling the great need to raise the consciousness of the masses to a level that, when conditions are right, opens up the possibility to meet, defeat, abolish, and dismantle the repressive forces and institutions that have targeted and hounded us on the street, decided our fate with the mere hit of a gavel, and held us in torturous conditions for years on end. Huge chunks of our lives have been stolen from us, while the real criminals - those BA has said make the godfather look like Mary Poppins - remain free to plunder and exploit, bomb and invade whole countries whenever and wherever they feel the need to pursue their interest, the interest of their horrid capitalist-imperialist system. Despite the horrible consequences pursuing those interests have on innocent children and humanity as a whole, these monstrous criminals never have to worry about setting foot in one of those cages that currently hold more than 2 million people.
I'm making the years that have been stolen from me count for something that will really matter, but I want to make the years that have been stolen from my family members, childhood friends, cellmates, and other people I got close to while in prison count as well. However, adding up all those years is overwhelming in more ways than one. The list of people I jotted down and the number of years they've spent in prison up until now is incomplete. I started adding from the 17 years I did until I got up to 324 years before giving up - there are more people and a lot more years that need to be counted. I'm pledging to donate $200 (of the $324 goal) and I'm doing it to help spread BA's vision, strategy, and leadership in every corner of society so as to increase our chances of making real breakthroughs in our mission to sweep this heartless system off the face of the earth and bring a truly liberating world into being. A world where there will be not just no more of our youth in the inner cities robbed of a future, killed at an early age or destined for prison, but where there will be no more children unnecessarily dying from hunger and preventable disease the world over. Raising money to get BA known everywhere is part of bringing that world into being.
I want to call on all those who can find the means to help me reach the goal of $324 and then others to match the full amount. And I especially want to call on prisoners to make their own years count as well because of the inspiring effect they can have in answering this particular call, "1000 Years--$1000 for BA Everywhere." I want to urge you to not just raise money but to become actively involved in building the movement for revolution-inside and outside the walls that hold you. Contributing to this project can be one of the first steps you take on a road full of struggle and sacrifice but also full of the great joy that comes from making your life about something that is really worth living for and fighting for. As BA said in his new year's message, "The challenge is there. The leadership is there. What's needed... is you."
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
Correspondence from a reader on the Chicago BA Everywhere Fundraiser
June 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We received this correspondence from a reader about the successful benefit for Chicago BA Everywhere with the Chicago singer/storyteller Maggie Brown performing her one-woman show, Legacy: Our Wealth of Music, a short clip from STEPPING INTO THE FUTURE; On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World and a reading from a prisoner's letter about revolution.
* * *
Sunday afternoon, June 1, 2014, the rooftop chapel/auditorium at the beautiful and newly built Chicago Theological Seminary in Hyde Park, enjoyed a large audience in a benefit for 'BA Everywhere'. The Chicago singer/storyteller, Maggie Brown performed her one-woman show, Legacy: Our Wealth of Music.
This show is an encapsulated history of Black American music and culture, specifically in the United States. As a monologue in words and music, Maggie shared everything from stories, to old spirituals, gospel tunes as well as originally composed material, interspersed with political and social commentary, while interacting with the audience whenever possible.
The program began with call and response, the traditional, antiphonal group vocal technique used by slaves in the cotton fields and still employed by many modern Black Gospel churches. Spirituals, such as Wade in da Water, are antecedents to ragtime and modern rhythmic jazz. From there, Maggie took the audience on a brief tour of that genre, specifically the music of legendary genius composer/pianist, Scott Joplin.
In between these musical examples, Maggie interspersed critical and historical commentary about culture, Black and otherwise. For example, Scott Joplin's publishers and subsequent pianist imitators enjoyed fabulous notoriety and wealth while Joplin died largely penniless and in an unmarked grave; a latter day Mozart of sorts. As an aside, this grim scenario would repeat itself throughout the years as numerous jazz and blues musicians found their music appropriated by Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and other popular rock stars.
And Maggie is never shy or too politically correct to inject some witty, razor sharp invective about modern Black commercial artists, including Rihanna, Beyonce, gangsta rappers and the commodification of these personalities for corporate profits, even when the result is violence, sexism or misogyny which keeps us divided amongst ourselves. This reviewer specifically admired how Maggie served as a vehicle for the word and song she represented without casting the entire spotlight on herself ala many popular self-billed 'divas'. The audience appreciated it as well, giving her three well-deserved ovations.
Due to obvious time constraints, Maggie's program abruptly fast forwards to bebop, modern Jazz and a bit of rap, a reminder of how vast the scope of Black American music is and how immeasurable is its contribution to world culture. One cannot help but note that even a program three times in length would just begin to scratch the surface.
Still, Maggie tackled a lot in about an hour's time. One of the key reasons for the program was to remind the audience about the problems of the world: imperialistic wars, millions of imprisoned Black and Latino youth, poverty, despair and the need for a radically different world. Prior to the performance, a short clip of Stepping into the Future, featuring Ms. Brown's lively contribution to that Harlem event, was shown. Additionally, a supporter of PRLF read from a prisoner's letter after the performance.
In her program notes, Maggie writes: "What if the words we say led to a better way of being certain of our future's brighter day? My people – that's what's to talk about today!", and "Those are my words – and when I learned of BA Everywhere, I felt like what he is laying out is just what needs to be not just talked about but acted on."
Perhaps if we had a radically different world, enlightening programs such as these would not be limited to a rooftop chapel at a theological seminary for a mere hundred or so attendees, but in public squares and parks shared by thousands of people. We'd be talking and mixing it up amongst ourselves. We'd be singing and dancing and participating and not just plugged into our sound devices as spectators and consumers of music. Maggie Brown's witness and artistic energy give us a small but powerful glimpse of what that Revolution could really mean!
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
June 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors' Note: The following is a paper which was distributed within the RCP,USA in 2004, during the early stages of the Cultural Revolution within the RCP, which was launched by Bob Avakian (BA), Chairman of the RCP, in 2003. This paper (which came to be known within the RCP as the "Passion Paper") speaks to a number of questions of basic orientation and method that—in the context of the continuing Cultural Revolution within the RCP, but well beyond that and more generally as well—have continuing, and very profound, relevance and importance. For this reason, we are publishing this paper at this time. Some editing has been done in preparing this for publication.
I know something about Passion with a capital P. More specifically, for the greater part of my life I have been very intimately, very acutely, and at times even excruciatingly aware of the objective contradiction which poses itself when one's most deeply felt passion or passions cannot, for a variety of reasons (both legitimate and not legitimate), be given full and unfettered expression in the context of a revolutionary political party and process. On a personal level, it hurts. It hurts a lot. And, much as in the case of the loss of a loved one, the attendant sense of very real personal grief and profound loss is not necessarily something that one ever fully "gets over."
That being said, I also feel compelled to look at things from another, somewhat less melodramatic (!) perspective, and add: so fucking what? From the perspective of the daily agonies of the multitudes of humanity: so fucking what? From the perspective of the beauty of unprecedented sweep and scale which some of us know—deeply and scientifically know—could be brought forth from these horrors if we do what needs to be done: so fucking what?
And while the motivation to strive to put the self and its passions into such a grander overall perspective should obviously be rooted in a deep desire to contribute to the emancipation of humanity, it also happens to be the case that even the individual mind and self can undergo a fuller and richer emancipation (a more profound individual unfettering in effect) simply in the course of striving to correctly situate the individual within this larger perspective, and of then pursuing a lifelong struggle to ever more consciously harness individual passion and other aspects of "self" to the grander sweep and flow of matter and human history—which, lo and behold, it turns out we individual human beings can—amazingly enough—actually affect!
Which brings me back to the point that what the world needs now, more than anything else, is communists. Far-reaching, all-encompassing visionary communists. And, more specifically, the world has dire and pressing need of many more individual communists willing to step to the plate to assume responsibility for providing humanity with all-round communist leadership. This great need must, as a simple matter of fact, trump all personal individual passions, concerns, and interests.
Easy to say perhaps, but not always so easy to do!
This difficulty arises especially acutely in cases where one's individual "passions" might well, in a more ideal (and idealized) world, be very much in line with "what would be good and wonderful, and perhaps even crucial, to do"! This may seem somewhat counter-intuitive, but I have come to understand from a deeper materialist perspective that a great many individual skills and passions and creative energies—even those aimed at correctly undertaking and unleashing many even urgently needed intellectual, artistic and scientific advances, even those which have great potential to meet human needs of various sorts—simply cannot be given full and unfettered expression at certain historical moments, and that there is actually a correct way (from the perspective of the overall social process and goal of revolution) that such creative energies must sometimes be severely restricted, restrained, or—more positively put—dramatically redirected and rechanneled into different avenues.
In short, constraint and restriction should not be conceived simply in "negative" terms (as in "having one's wings clipped," for instance). Interestingly, "restriction" and "constraint" seem to play an important role in the emergence of new things and pathways in natural evolutionary processes. While prior historical development always brings forth the diversity and unevenness which serves as the "raw material" out of which even radically new changes are built, this very same prior historical development also brings forth significant built-in constraints and limitations on just what future pathways of change can be undertaken at any given point—in other words change is, in very real ways, always severely "channeled and restricted" by prior historical development. And yet, even with such inescapable restrictions and constraints, and in a very real sense even because of them, look at what wondrous new forms matter keeps bringing forth!
I do think all this is worth some further reflection with regard to the role of constraint (including constraint on "self," individuals and individual passion) in actually unleashing higher order creativity—and perhaps this is yet another expression of the somewhat counter-intuitive point that it is possible to unleash greater elasticity and initiative if this is undertaken on the basis of a truly solid core (and with discipline, subordination, humility, and so on) rather than attempting to do so in some unreal state of non-materialist "dissociation" from (or, in effect, opposition to) that solid core. In any case I guess the point I am trying to get at here is that, in the human social arena and within the revolutionary process, objective constraints and restrictions imposed on individuals—and on their skills, passions, and so on—are not at all necessarily a bad thing (to think it is always a bad thing is the outlook of the atomized petty bourgeois who can't see beyond those narrowest of horizons of individual bourgeois right and who can therefore not get very far at all in charting the path to truly radical revolutionary change!).
The question should be not so much can there be, must there be, constraints on individuals as part of the revolutionary process, but are these constraints correct and legitimate and themselves contributing to the larger societal objectives, or not?
And here it must be said: The (properly infuriating) past mistakes and shortcomings of the communist movement internationally and within our own ranks and the whole history of Menshevism and economist and instrumentalist dogmato-revisionism repeatedly opposing and contending with the revolutionary vision and synthesis of BA (with all the costs and losses which this has already entailed) should not be invoked as an excuse for "revisionism inside out" and allowed to obscure the correct handling of this question and end up giving ground to a "revolt of the individualistic social democratic petite bourgeoisie" right within the revolutionary communist party. And yet this is exactly what we will be giving ground to if we end up throwing solid core (along with the correct understanding of the need for restriction, as well as channeling and redirection, of individual passions) out the window "in the name of" such things as getting some air, overcoming the errors and shortcomings of the communist movement historically and internationally, unleashing more widespread creativity, flexibly engaging diverse voices and perspectives, or even, simply and baldly put, "freeing me"!
There is, after all, the simple question we need to keep coming back to, of what the masses of people the world over objectively need, and what it is we can and must do.
Do individuals and their individual inclinations, skills, interests, concerns and passions MATTER within the greater collectivity of a disciplined revolutionary communist movement, party, and leadership? Of course they do. There is no such thing as a one-note symphony, and if there were it wouldn't be very compelling. And individuals and individual initiative matter all the more when these highly diverse strands can be brought into common alignment in an enthusiastic and highly disciplined revolutionary communist core, so that all within it, with all their different individual abilities and contributions, end up pulling in the same direction, in mutually supportive ways, in line with the same larger strategic objectives, consciously bound one to the other in the willingness and humility to be led by (and to fight to bring to material fruition) the most radically transformative vision for the emancipation of all of humanity which the world has yet seen (as concentrated today in the radically invigorating works, method and approach of Bob Avakian).
As communists, we need to keep clearly in mind that:
• Individuality and individual persona does matter, but its content needs to be continually transformed and redefined and re-envisioned to bring it into ever closer correspondence with overall strategic objectives (and that includes jumping in with both feet to stop pulling in objectively "opposing" directions and allowing oneself to be led by what we—yes, as individuals!—can systematically and scientifically determine to be the most advanced representation of our project and objectives to have ever yet emerged in the world—namely BA and all that he represents).
• If we try to "embrace," encompass and explore non-communist people, ideas and perspectives ever more widely and flexibly (which we should do) but do so on the basis of something other than a truly solid core and strategic grounding in OUR project and objectives, we will at one and the same time fail to harvest as much as we could from these wider explorations and initiatives AND, most unconscionably, we will LOSE THE WHOLE THING!
This is a very real and pressing danger.
Some, including some of our own comrades, have argued, in essence, that certain spheres, such as art and culture, are so important, and that in many instances at least they have been so poorly handled by the communist movement, that they should essentially be made the "special province" of people directly involved in them and that any communist leadership in these spheres can come only from comrades who have devoted themselves to specializing in them—which means walling these spheres off from and in effect even "protecting" them from the overall communist movement and party, and its overall leadership. Well of course it is true that "cultural arenas are important ideological forms," through which many masses come to know the world and even why and how to change it. Yes, it is true that there can be no revolution without revolutionary cultural movements. But it is important to dig further into what this does and doesn't mean from our overall strategic perspective and responsibilities. For instance, it is not in my opinion correct to make a "special category" or concern out of unleashing and providing communist direction and leadership to the sphere of "art and culture" any more than it would be to the sphere of "science."
The point here is obviously not to "pit" art and science against each other, nor to deny that, in society as it is today, art and culture often present themselves as more accessible spheres through which the masses can actively engage. But I am trying to make the point that, as all-round revolutionary communist leaders, we need to focus less on the particularities of any one sphere or of our individual roles within those spheres—all of which could easily turn into a form of identity politics for the previously unsung art and culture (or science) "franchises" (!)—and need instead to focus more on the understanding that theory is the leading edge of ideological line more generally. Developing and widely promoting all-round communist theory and ideological line is what we—yes, even as individuals and regardless of our individual fields of passion, interest and expertise—should be doing above all else.
• What we, as members of our Party and individual communist leaders, "should be doing" at any given time should proceed more from a materialist assessment of freedom and necessity at that time and of what would likely be the key links and foci through which to make the necessary strategic revolutionary advances at that particular juncture.
For one thing the Party is obviously not in the business of "maximizing any individual's particular abilities and contributions." This is something I've often pointed out to others (and repeatedly to myself!), often in the course of (once again) reflecting on my own need to come to terms with no longer being able to "do" scientific research, regardless of how good I might be at it, how much it has always been my "first love" and core passion, or even how valuable and important a contribution I might conceivably be able to make to humanity via scientific investigation. For instance, I've often felt (and not without basis I still think) that I would have made a "better" scientist than communist party cadre. This is for a number of reasons, including the fact that I am not exactly a "political animal" by inclination; that I was systematically trained as an intellectual in the European tradition from about the age of 11 (which developed in me critical thinking and provided me with some critical intellectual tools and also fueled a wide and diverse range of intellectual interests and passions in a great many spheres of both arts and sciences); that I was actually professionally trained as a working scientist, actively and productively engaged in the process of scientific research and investigation, etc. In short, let's put it this way: by the time I was in my early 20s I was already well grounded in scientific theories and controversies in my field, had taught at college level, had engaged in both theoretical and practical research projects, had traveled, lived and worked in a number of challenging and thrilling exotic world locales, had already published a few articles in professional journals, was well respected and actively working on my PhD., and in an overall sense could honestly claim to be living exactly the life I wanted to live and "getting paid for doing what I would gladly do for free"! So, as you can imagine, leaving all that behind in order to join the Party, many years ago now, was a genuine and profound sacrifice. I had been a "communistic radical" since high school (the Vietnam war, Free Huey, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the radical emancipation of women, China...were, as for so many others, formative) but I had never found an organization I could join, and I went on to college and beyond "waiting for the day." Ironically it was a scientific aspect I felt I detected in the RU and its methods and approaches which drew me (I remember Red Papers 6 and also the argumentation for why we needed an actual party as particularly compelling). But still...natural science and active engagement in scientific research was, it seemed to me, my "true calling"—science was my passion, my avocation, my first love...so when the issue of recruitment was directly posed, I kicked and screamed and madly resisted and blubbered through desperate offers of "compromise" (I really can do BOTH I argued, to deaf ears). And so my heart broke, I reluctantly put down my "tools" and left the scientific world (I even wrote a maudlin poem about it at the time), and I went off to join the Party. I did it for ultimately a very simple reason: I realized I knew too much by then about not only what needed to be done but that there actually was a basis to do it, so how could I look at myself in the mirror from that point on if I didn't join in?
I am sharing this highly personal anecdote for the following reasons:
1) I want to stress again that I know and feel deeply about passion for a particular sphere of life and work. But, again, in the bigger scheme of things: so fucking what?
2) Obvious mistakes (due to a combination of primitiveness and economism) were made in recruiting me and, while I shouldn't have made it a precondition for joining the Party that I would "be allowed" to continue doing science, I also shouldn't have been forced, in the mechanical way I was, to give up science as a precondition of becoming a communist—today we would hopefully handle things differently in significant ways and, yes, we want people who are working intellectuals, artists and scientists to be able to also be full-blown communists and members of the Party.
3) While professionals should often be able to be communists and Party members and still engage their professions as well, we are kidding ourselves if we don't realize that there will continue to be real contradictions involved with this, especially before the seizure of power and as long as communist leaders are in short supply, including because when a working professional inside a communist party (artist, scientist or whatever) begins to develop and to be able to assume more overall and all-encompassing communist leadership responsibilities, giving full and due expression to THAT, while still maintaining the necessary standards and practices of the given "other" profession, will likely become untenable, at least past a certain point. We have to accept that as part of the terms of revolution.
Another way to put it: I could have been a working scientist and a full-blown communist and basic member of the Party, but it is unlikely I could have then gone on to assume larger overall leadership responsibilities and remained a working scientist in a professional capacity. So breaking with Menshevik economism and dogmato-revisionism is not the only side of the contradiction we must grapple with. This is a contradiction that we all need to reflect on (with regard to our own subjective frustrations and the underlying causes of this, and also with regard to how we are going to lead younger comrades and lead outside scientists and artists and intellectuals more generally to become actual Party members).
This is something we will all need to wrangle with in training and developing working professionals in fields like science, the arts, etc., as professional communists.
4) It might even be true, in a funny kind of way, that what I personally might have been "best" at (or best suited to), in some individualized and idealized realm, might have involved making contributions to the advance of the natural sciences rather than to the direct advance of the political arena, and if so I could even argue that this might well have indirectly contributed (including philosophically and epistemologically) to our cause in some significant ways. But again this (and I think this would likely apply also to any other comrade with specific "outside" skills and "passions") is essentially irrelevant in the larger scheme of things: we're supposed to try to set out to fulfill a great and pressing societal need as best we can, not "maximize" what we ourselves as individuals might be particularly good at or even best able to contribute.
And this is even true when there is a very direct and immediate connection between what the individual could do and is "good at" and our overall strategic direction. Example: one of the things BA is most "good at" (out of the many things he is good at!!) and is clearly personally inclined towards, and passionate about, is public speaking. And there is literally no other individual who can do what he can do with that. And yet that doesn't mean (as we have seen) that it would necessarily be right for him to do this at any given point, just because it would be great and crucially valuable to do "in the abstract." And that also doesn't mean that it would be tolerable for BA to therefore go into a funk, give vent to destructive subjectivity about the myriad frustrations, obstacles and difficulties of what revisionism has already cost our Party, our international movement, and no doubt him personally (not to mention what more it is likely to cost us still) and in assorted ways try to "escape" what it is that he can and must focus on in this period. Something to reflect on here?
• More generally we need to see our own comrades and broad masses of people taking up, "running with" and wildly spreading (in countless creative ways we can still barely start to imagine) the whole historically unprecedented "revolution in the world of ideas" represented by BA's existing and ongoing epistemological breakthroughs. This is what we ALL need to be doing and this is also ultimately (but also quite immediately and directly) what stands the best chance of providing the material basis to truly unleash the much needed "radical cultural movements" and bringing forth many new innovations and creative expressions, great and small, which will help pull and drive the masses in the revolutionary direction. Ironically I think there may be a definite tendency to greatly underestimate the ways in which PROVIDING ALL-ROUND COMMUNIST LEADERSHIP (especially via spreading BA's method and approach far and wide) is actually the key link in this unleashing of the arts and cultural movements and in correctly LEADING this process (which after all must be led, right?). It is no accident that it is a poet, grappling directly with BA's words, who came up with the formulation "solid core with lots of elasticity." It is no accident that another poet, grappling directly with BA's words, started to envision a creative new work of art with potential to be both powerful art and to concretely advance revolution. Tantalizing glimmers of the future to be tapped? I can also well imagine scientists grappling with BA's words and then being inspired to some new breakthrough in the lab or field or theoretical musings...because what BA represents really IS a revolution in the world of ideas.
In short, I think we are going to have to wrangle more with what is actually the main way to unleash, develop and lead the cultural movements and the artistic, intellectual and scientific professionals—and how much of it is to be direct vs. how much more we are going to lead by promoting and spreading our full communist project among these professionals and allowing them/encouraging them to relate to this (including BA's words) on their own terms and then "run with it" in countless wonderful directions—and I see the role of comrades with overall leadership responsibility, regardless of their particular passions, or even their particular areas of responsibility, more in helping to do THAT than necessarily more directly in any particular sphere.
• There is no such thing as "exceptionalism" in any sphere of the overall communist movement we need to be building—neither art and culture, nor science, nor any other: By now my thinking on this should be obvious but I thought I would emphasize that I think it is incorrect (non-materialist and unscientific) to "make a principle" out of any of the "particularities" of any of these spheres. We need to grasp ever more deeply "embrace but doesn't replace" and really learn about the particularities of each sphere of life we seek to enter into, divert and lead (i.e., all spheres!), but the commonplace idea that the realm of "art and artists" (sometimes extended to the intelligentsia as a whole) is somehow inherently touchier or more delicate or more easily bruised or even simply more complex than other spheres is, in my opinion, hogwash and an unscientific and romanticized notion that just doesn't hold up. If what I am saying on this is correct, then it is also true that there is no scientific justification for being extra protective or defensive about the arts and cultural figures and no reason to expect that many artists and other cultural figures could not deal with (and be greatly inspired by) straight up uncensored full-out communism—we just have to make sure what we're giving them is actually communism and not some horrid revisionist porridge!—and even respond well to being struggled with around their own mistaken or backward views and prejudices, whether about the history of communism or sundry other topics.
It is a simple fact of this era that misconceptions, prejudices and gross anti-communism is the "normal" currency among intellectuals and people working in the arts and sciences generally. We can, and should, matter of factly and undefensively address the concerns of such strata which have (or may have) some basis in reality and in the shortcomings of our historical project. But let's not overdo it! The bigger problem, by far, among such strata today is their reluctance to fully acknowledge and confront the full spectrum of horrors of the imperialist system (including as pertains to their own fields of activity) and follow to its logical conclusion the logic of that logic (including the materialist assessment of why this system is "utterly unreformable") while at the same time failing to accurately contrast all this to both the actual accomplishments and the still-much-more and better-to-come basis for what the world we are fighting to bring into being could look like.
And we need to start with ourselves, to break ourselves out of the narrow and restricted boundaries of our own historically conditioned habits of thought. For example, look at the issue of the newspaper (Revolution #4), which has quite rightly come in for sharp criticism—criticism initiated in very unsparing terms by BA. Take the article on Arthur Miller, "Theater to Change the World." Not even close! Yes, Miller's work has its positive aspects but "theater to change the world" is way overblown and simply not a correct assessment of what Miller and his work represent. In short, the way I see it is that if we are going to properly lead in these various spheres and work for a genuinely revolutionary "convergence" and synergy, we need among other things to: not tail popular anti-communist prejudices and non-defensively fight for true and scientific assessments of reality; acknowledge and appreciate, but again not tail or overly extol, the best manifestations of the progressive or radical middle strata; loft our own "dreams" and help paint the vision of what the communist future could be like, including in these spheres.
• Red and Expert:
There is a way that fiefdoms can be decreed and moats drawn around them by declaring some matters or spheres "no-go" or "hands-off" areas, or matters of relatively "secondary importance" (when really they are not) or even conjuring up the frankly anti-communist specter of artistic suppression (as in the notion that leadership bodies poring over such things could "squeeze all the life" out of them). This isn't at all right and needs to be deeply excavated and rejected. And I say this having myself quite a bit of understanding and appreciation of both the question of the value of "expert knowledge" in particular areas, as well as the need generally for "wine to breathe" and for creative work in general to be afforded some room to experiment, try out some new things, etc., without every new exploration being immediately jumped on and too quickly trounced. So I understand why creative work, of whatever type, and especially in the first and initial stages, can't be excessively "hovered over" and "micromanaged" down to every petty detail and in similar ways stifled and suffocated, if we want it to actually grow wings and be any good. But that doesn't relieve us of the obligation to get it right, and of the obligation to offer it up for constructive criticism before it is sent out in the world—exactly because such things matter, and have impact and influence.
I don't know if this would help but I will tell one more little anecdote which was for me a learning experience. Some 20 years ago I was attempting to popularize some basic facts about evolutionary processes, and I was using some formulations which were a form of quickie "shorthand" commonly used among biologists at the time but which a broader public might well have interpreted as promoting deterministic adaptationism (including the notion that something might evolve "for" one or another predetermined purpose). BA actually caught this, and offered a criticism, pointing out this problem to me. I didn't take this critique too well at first—after all, I was the professionally trained biologist, I knew what passed for common and accepted language in the field, I knew what other experts did and didn't mean by such shorthand formulations, I felt he was blowing this out of proportion, I...well...what the fuck did he know about any of this anyway?! The point was I was just being subjective and letting my "ego" and "expertise" get in the way—whereas the reality was that, despite having admittedly little prior knowledge and direct experience with some of the more particular scientific concepts being discussed, he had nevertheless picked up on a seemingly minor instance of methodological "sloppiness" which I would soon come to realize had actually much more far-ranging implications and impact (including epistemologically) than I was at first willing or able to recognize. I never forgot that lesson.
Along a similar vein Mao reportedly once said something like, "If you go see enough opera, you will eventually be able to distinguish good opera from bad opera."
The point is that, here again, the mere fact that Menshevik revisionism typically fails to properly acknowledge and appreciate the value of accumulated experience and the "expert" side of the dynamic (instead typically spouting one version or another of narrow revanchist philistine workerism to trash such expertise) doesn't mean that we should flip into the "logical opposite" of mystifying and romanticizing any given area of expertise or accumulated experience—declaring it essentially "off limits" to (supposed or actual) non-experts. This is wrong and unscientific in general, and it is particularly egregious when the value of a truly advanced epistemological method and approach is not in and of itself recognized to be a form of much greater "expertise," one which is fully capable of embracing and encompassing any arena of human thought and activity, and which can provide experts and non-experts alike truly valuable insights if only we would be more open to hearing them!
This too is I think something well worth discussing/reflecting on more deeply. And it also ties in, once again, to the multi-faceted concept of "having the humility to allow oneself to be led."
So I'll just end here for now, with a final reiteration of a thought which keeps going through my mind: Yes, the world needs lots of artists and scientists and intellectuals, and lots of creative innovations and cultural movements, all in one way or another tending towards, driving towards revolution and ultimately communism. But what the world needs now, more than anything else, is what is in fact in very short supply: real genuine revolutionary communists. And among the communists themselves, what is most needed, more than ever, is for people to step up and fulfill their obligations not in one or another "specialty-niche" but as ALL-ROUND COMMUNIST LEADERS. It is especially in this way that we'll most help to usher in a radically new world, including in all the many diverse realms of human activity and imagination.
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
June 2, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors' Note: The following is a part of some observations that were made by Bob Avakian, and were originally distributed within the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP) at the beginning of 2012. This is being published now as the third installment of the serialization of these observations. The first installment of this series, "The Mass Initiatives and Their Relation to Our Strategic Objectives," was published online May 19, 2014 and is serialized in the print edition of Revolution, beginning with issue #339 (May 25, 2014). The second installment, "Freedom and Necessity, and Proceeding from a Strategic Standpoint: Some Thoughts on Methods and Leadership," was published online May 26, 2014. These observations were originally made at a time when the "Occupy" movement was having a significant—and overall positive—impact but was also increasingly running up against the repressive force of the state, as well as its own limitations. While this was an important particular aspect of the overall situation at that time, and this is reflected in these observations by BA, these observations are speaking more broadly to the overall situation and challenges facing the RCP and the communist movement in the world as a whole. For this reason—and because these observations continue to have relevance and importance in that light—the decision has been made to publish these observations. Some editing has been done, and footnotes have been added, in preparing this for publication.
We have to start by returning to the reality that the international communist movement, and our Party specifically, is faced with the rather acute contradiction that we must make significant, qualitative breakthroughs and advances, in the near future, or we will be seriously set back, or even face the danger of being rendered "out of the game" for a certain historical period. And the consequences of that for the communist movement and ultimately the masses of the world are very, very heavy. This is another way of formulating—and underlining the importance of—what is said in the Manifesto from our Party,1 regarding the crossroads facing communists today: vanguard of the future, or residue of the past. We have to soberly and scientifically reground ourselves in this, and deepen our grounding in how all this has to be approached. It is not that there are no favorable objective developments, and no prospects for making the needed breakthroughs and advances—but the point is that the basis must be seized and new, more favorable conditions created through struggle, in order to actually make these breakthroughs and advances.
This calls to mind a comment from another leading person: In this context where there are more contradictory but overall favorable developments happening, in particular mass upsurge and the sharpening of the objective situation overall, if we don't go forward, then we'll go significantly backward. If we take this seriously and recognize in fact the acute contradiction we are confronting, then we will see that we do not have infinite time to make the necessary breakthroughs. And, while there should not be any panic in this regard, there most definitely needs to be a sense of urgency. This orientation has to form an important part of the grounding for everything we do.
We are doing some positive things with BAsics,2 for example, and some comrades have gathered people around them on this basis—although this, too, is contradictory. And the events, the dialogues, involving Carl Dix and Cornel West have been very positive—drawing large numbers of people and having a significant impact. There are the two mass initiatives—against mass incarceration, and pornography and patriarchy—and masses have come forward around those initiatives. Some of the advanced people closely around the Party are continuing to advance. All that is on the one side. But then there is what we could call "what is objective to us, department one" and "what is objective to us, department two" that we have to deal with—the second "what is objective to us" being the opportunist and counter-revolutionary attacks on us.
In regard to this "objective to us, two" factor, we are not correctly recognizing, let alone dealing with this. And how we understand and approach this has everything to do with fundamental principles concentrated in the "as long as" point (in essence: as long as what we are actually about is revolution and communism, it should be easy to correctly appreciate and promote BA and the new synthesis he has brought forward). What is concentrated in that "as long as" point has to do with our whole core message—you could rephrase it as that core message and the "because" statement3: the fundamental fact that what we're about is radically transforming the world through revolution and the seizure of power, with the dictatorship of the proletariat as the transition to communism, and how BA/the new synthesis relates to all that, is crucial for all that.
There is the first quote in Chapter 3 of BAsics, which begins: "Let's get down to basics. We need a revolution. Anything else, in the final analysis, is bullshit."
We don't proceed enough from the understanding that anything else, in fundamental terms, is bullshit. I took note of a report about a youth who worked with us closely for a while in "Occupy" but lately has been pulled toward anarchism and influenced by opportunist and counter-revolutionary shit. This happens all too often: people come around us and get close—or, in some cases, youth in particular have been recruited, but on the wrong basis and with a heavy influence of a revisionist line, and then some quit and pull away from us—in some instances going over to the camp of counter-revolution. This is both a result of objective factors—including what I'm calling "objective factor, two"—and is a result of revisionist lines and influences within our own Party and how, consequently, we work with people. This reminds me of how Lenin said that, in the revolutionary movement of his time, anarchism was to a significant degree payment for the sins of revisionism within the ranks of the communists—this revisionism, gutting the revolutionary heart out of communism, made it easier for anarchism to appeal to some people. But, speaking of our situation specifically, it is a combination of remaining revisionist influences on our part and the pull of objective factors. This involves the influence of what exists and predominates in society and the world as a whole, under the rule of the imperialists—including, as a very significant factor, the reality and continuing effects of the reversal of socialism and the restoration of capitalism first in the Soviet Union and then in China. But it also involves the role of opportunists and outright counter-revolutionaries.
You can see this reflected in some reports on work with students. People are initially attracted to what we're about, in a general and basic sense, and then they begin to get a fuller sense of what we're about, and everything this involves—and the heaviness hits them. They get introduced to BAsics and they are drawn to what it concentrates, but then they come up against everything this involves, and many back away, at least in the short run. We should understand that this is part of the process. We shouldn't get freaked out. We should remain firmly grounded in our scientific materialist understanding of the whole process, and maintain the orientation of struggling this through with people. But we also have to understand that what happens is not just that people come forward, come up against the heaviness of it, come up against the difficulties in taking this out, and then they back away. In the age of the Internet, there's an analogy between people who defect from our camp, so to speak, and the Christian Fascists in society at large. If the Christian Fascists were just scattered, just a bunch of scattered individuals, they'd be a problem—but nothing like the problem they are, where they are given a coherent and organized expression and powerful backing by sections of the ruling class. The analogy is that when people drop away there is a place where they can go where they will get a coherent counter-revolutionary program that is directly in opposition to us and is determined to viciously attack, undermine and if possible destroy us.
It is time for us to put on our boxing gloves. We have to realize that this process involving counter-revolutionary attacks on us is not going to go away—we have to incorporate in our approach the understanding that this is objective to us, is a significant part of the objective obstacles we face. The conscious opportunist and counter-revolutionary forces—which are objective to us—this is part of the terrain we have to reckon with and deal with correctly. And we are not really doing this the way we need to.
Not that this should be our main thing. But if we don't incorporate this understanding and deal with this—recognize that this is a real part of the "encirclement" we're dealing with: people and forces which have a passionate, active orientation of trying to destroy us and keep people from joining up with us—then we are going to pay a heavy price for failing to recognize and deal with this. If it weren't for the Internet, it wouldn't be the same thing, although it would still be a problem on a certain level. But there IS the Internet, and the Internet provides a means whereby people who really represent nothing—or at least nothing positive, in terms of actually opposing and going up against this horrific system, and offering any kind of real alternative to it—can magnify their influence, especially in today's putrid cultural atmosphere, and especially if they engage in "snarky" attacks against those who are seriously going up against this system and actually working for revolution. Yes, this is part of the process; but dealing with this, in the way it needs to be dealt with, is OUR part of the process. We have to take on this opportunist and counter-revolutionary garbage—with the right approach, flowing from and consistent with our fundamental revolutionary communist orientation and objectives. And this means we need a lot more "down on the ground"—and, yes, "up on the mountain" at the same time—ideological struggle and polemics to hit at this crap and expose it for its utter bankruptcy and its role in aiding the ruling class in maintaining this oppressive system. And, overall, we have to hit hard, in polemicizing against and exposing things that help to keep the masses in an enslaved and degraded situation.
For literally more than 10 years we said, let's write something on the Illuminati, and nothing appeared. That can't continue.4 I noted that someone who was drawn to us but then got pulled by slanders as well as spontaneous petit bourgeois thinking, read a statement by some anarchists and said: "This is the greatest statement I have read." We should get hold of that statement and polemicize against it, including in our paper. Let's dissect a statement like that and tear it apart. Because this matters—it is actually of profound importance in relation to the fundamental interests of the masses of people—which road leads to actual emancipation, and which to a dead end, or worse. We have to learn how to do quick, short and concise, hard-hitting polemics. The Badiou polemic5 is great, very powerful. It is a living and compelling application of the new synthesis of communism. But we can't approach everything as if we're writing the Badiou polemic. This gets back to the basic point: everything else, in the final analysis, really is bullshit. But we don't proceed that way, from that basic understanding—or at least we certainly don't do so consistently. We are too afraid to be sharp. Yes, we need to do this in a principled and lofty way—but sharply.
I am sorry but the culture that has been "imbibed" to a significant degree by this younger generation is very bad. Many of them are arrogant—frankly on the basis of very little substance. Not all, but far too many, have the ignorance/arrogance thing that Mark Twain talked about, when he said: What you need to get along in America is the perfect combination of ignorance and arrogance. They don't ask questions, they just make assertions. And I get the definite sense that we don't respond strongly ourselves—and, in fact, we are still often defensive in the face of this stuff, when there is absolutely no good reason to be defensive. The point—at least with people who are not conscious and dedicated opportunists and counter-revolutionaries—is not to "demolish" them, but there is definitely a role and value to administering a good "shock" to them, through sharp ideological struggle.
When people say stuff that reflects ignorance—like someone at a protest who demanded: why isn't Bob Avakian out here among the masses who are protesting?—our people don't respond the way they should. They should be ready to say: "Even assuming BA wanted to come here, it would be extremely irresponsible for our Party to allow him to do that." And then, in basic terms, they should explain why. How about wielding my memoir6 when someone says, "Why isn't BA out here"? There is a whole history of activism, as well as revolutionary leadership, there. And let's get into the substance of what communist leadership actually is, and what role I play in relation to that.
All this backward stuff comes from the fact that people are not really talking about changing the world in a fundamental way—or they haven't really thought about and grappled with what that really means. We shouldn't just let that go and be liberal. There is a time and a place to be sharp, to draw the lines sharply. If people don't like it, TOUGH. In one report I read, someone was complaining that Raymond Lotta was being sharp. That's part of waging the struggle for people. That's part of why I responded the way I did to hearing about a religious person attacking Mao as well as Stalin for "killing their own people." Along with refuting this, we should put back to such people: How about Moses? How about all that monstrous shit in the Bible—mass rape and slaughter, including the killing of babies, which is ordained and commanded by the Bible's god and that god's representatives like Moses? Even with people with whom we should be and need to be uniting, when they come up with rank shit, we need to call it out and hit back, ideologically. Let's put on our boxing gloves—get ready for some ideological battle here.
Someone else (a person from the "Occupy" movement) is quoted in a report as saying, "Well, I've been thinking about these big questions all my life, so what's so special about BA?" Okay, then, here are some questions:
Being defensive in the face of a comment like that?—you've got to be kidding me! There is not enough in our paper of: "Here's the reality and here's bullshit"—and if people don't like it, tough.
If that guy says my statement ("Reflection") on "Occupy" is the last straw—good. [This refers to someone who had been, or who had appeared to be, coming close to the RCP, but then went to join the camp of counter-revolution.] That is a reflection of the fact that my statement didn't just tail "Occupy," but went into things that needed to be gone into and hit at things that needed to be hit. That statement didn't say anything like "Occupy" is all fucked up; it recognized the positive side of "Occupy," and got into the material contradictions that are involved and laid out what we need.7
Is it true, or not true, that fundamentally everything else is bullshit? There are real tactical problems, and necessary tactical considerations, in putting forward the need for revolution and what revolution is actually all about and requires. But we have to talk about what revolution really means—we have to find the best and most mature ways to get across the essential point that revolution means overthrowing capitalism and replacing it with socialism (and then continuing on the socialist road toward the final goal of communism). We do have to take tactical concerns seriously into account, but we can't let tactical problems set the fundamental terms. And we have to tell people that anything else in the final analysis is bullshit, as it says in BAsics. And then the next paragraph in BAsics (3:1) "rounds things out," making clear that it is necessary and important to wage struggles against particular outrages and injustices of this system—and, in doing so, to unite with people who do not, at that point, agree with the need for revolution—while we act on the scientific understanding that all these outrages can only be fully and finally eliminated through revolution, aiming toward the final goal of communism throughout the world. Is that true or not? Or is that just our "narrative"? Our "mantra"? "Our thing" that we're feebly trying to impose on reality?
What is the problem in the world? What is the solution? We need to keep going back to that, and then get into the role that different people and social forces play in relation to that. We let these other people set the terms too much, instead of bringing them back to the real terms. What are the terms here? You want to say we don't need leadership?—let's talk about what you're going to encounter if you are really trying to fundamentally change the world, and what you need to do that. And if you have someone who has in reality emerged as a leader on another level than the rest of those around, you should celebrate it—it is precious, if your goal is really the emancipation of the masses of oppressed humanity, and ultimately humanity as a whole.
The problem is that, with people we encounter, and where they're coming from spontaneously, we're not talking about the same project. I am not upset that youth we encounter, who are newly awakening in mass movements, see things in ways that reflect a lot of spontaneous misunderstanding—but what are WE saying and doing about this? The point is not to club people over the head or swear at them. The point is, what do WE really understand, and point toward, about what is fundamentally needed? It is important whether people in the Party are actually (re)reading the Badiou polemic. There are real and important reasons why studying that was called for in the midst of this upsurge, with "Occupy" and some other things. The Badiou polemic continues to be highly relevant, and it is very substantial.
We can't put out every slanderous fire. But we have to have the right orientation and approach. There are positive things developing, objectively and through work we are doing, but they're not going to go anywhere good with a wrong orientation. We can't afford another rerun of the movie "The Movement Is Everything, the Final Aim Nothing"—where it's worse than just a rerun because, among other things, you're going to have people going to the camp of counter-revolution. I don't want to see that kind of rerun, or any rerun, of "The Movement Is Everything, the Final Aim Nothing."
The "to the masses" orientation has to apply to the Party and Party units as a whole—but also to more than just the units. We have to look at the whole thing. The Party leadership, and certainly those people with particular responsibility for speaking for the Party and being propagators of the new synthesis and the leadership of BA, have to put on their boxing gloves. The real issue got focused in a program/debate between Bernard Harcourt and Raymond Lotta—and I was glad to see the issue get joined in that way: Is being a permanent opposition within the existing system all you can do, while the machinery hums in the background, crushing lives and destroying spirits, to paraphrase the Badiou polemic?
Speaking of "Occupy," there's still a lot of American national chauvinism in the "Occupy" thing—some more conscious and some less. When we came forward in the '60s, one of the reasons we weren't arrogant in the way still too many youth today are, including many in the movements of today, is that you had a sense of your responsibility to the people of the world—you felt that responsibility. "Look at Vietnam, what they're doing in our name." This point that Raymond Lotta brought out about communizing the spoils of imperialism—how that's what anarchism ultimately amounts to—is very important. And that's what "Occupy" would represent, even in its most radical expression, left on its own terms and taken to its logical conclusion: more economic equity in the framework of being good patriotic Americans. Should we just whisper about this among ourselves, or should we take this out there to people?
We're not getting up in the morning itching for battle ideologically. We go out with our basic toolkit of revolutionary materials, and that's fine, that's important—but we have to be itching for ideological battle. Not sectarian diatribes—and that should be stopped if it starts. Leading people should be modeling this. Unity-struggle-unity. Advance through struggle—uniting with people, but advancing THROUGH STRUGGLE. We should be itching for ideological battle—we should be looking for people to join this with. The problems with this are related to why our own people don't take out the Cultural Revolution in our Party8—don't bring this up with people and get into it with them. If this is going to happen—if it's going to be done right, the way it should be—it's going to have to happen by Party leadership actually leading it and modeling it. If something happens that's important, call something at the bookstore and talk about this. If opportunists and counter-revolutionaries are running shit and confusing people, get people together and expose the bankruptcy of these people—set the terms the way they should be set, with the focus on the problem and the solution.
I was reading a report about the ISO9—people pulled to that trend canceling out on meeting with us because they're pulled by the shit that ISO puts out. We should be having things at the bookstores. Don't overcomplicate things—get right into it: what the deal is with this ISO, and why it won't lead anywhere good. What is this "S"—this "socialism"—they have in their name: what does that actually mean, and how do they say it will get brought about? Let's dissect this and expose what it really represents, and where it will lead—and won't lead. Or what the deal is with anarchism and why it just reinforces the existing system. If we can't do this, and do it well, we should learn how to—QUICKLY. And we should model that from the top. Don't answer rumors and slander with rumors and slander—don't descend to addressing things on that level and on those terms—answer it with substance, speaking to essential questions regarding problem and solution. This is not a matter of "sectarian squabbles"—and it should not be allowed to become that, or to be treated as that. This is nothing less than a matter of the fundamental needs and interests of the masses of oppressed people in the world, and ultimately humanity as a whole.
There should be a combative atmosphere in a good sense. We actually believe BAsics 3:1, and we know what the content of that revolution is. "Dictatorship of the proletariat" is not an unfortunate phrase (as the opportunist Kautsky once said as part of his attacks on Lenin). The dictatorship of the proletariat is a fucking good thing. Do you want to keep having vicious police repressing, brutalizing, and murdering masses of people—or a state power in the interests of masses of people and backing them up in overcoming exploitation and oppression? Why in the world would you be defensive? Yes, there have been some problems in how the dictatorship of the proletariat has been exercised in the experience of socialist society so far—but, mainly, there have been some really great things. I certainly don't feel apologetic about that. It's time we stop any defensiveness now. You're not going to get anywhere good without the DOP. All these contradictions you can't solve now—divisions among the masses, etc.—you won't solve them within the confines of this system, and you won't solve this without the DOP. These are simple, basic facts—and anything else, fundamentally and in the final analysis, is bullshit. Let's talk about that.
We cannot afford another round of squandering things and squandering people. If we do that, we are going to be much further behind. Part of the backdrop for the backward lines that some comrades are running into and tailing is also people getting demoralized about the "Occupy" thing. People are finding out even that's not so easy. First, "oh it's great..." But then there's state power that you have to go up against. State power exercised on behalf of the "one percent." They don't give a fuck about you—other than to stop you. If you persist in getting in their way, they'll do a lot more. Some of us have been through that—and if you're new to this, you need to learn about that, too. If people are not learning that, and we are not challenging them in order for them to learn what they need to learn, that's on us.
All this relates to how we view this fundraising campaign—this massive fundraising campaign to project BA Everywhere, to have that actually create societal impact, raise the level of discussion and debate throughout society about the state of the world and what can and should be done about that. It has everything to do with whether this campaign is really going to be what it needs to be—or falls short. We are not really going to succeed with this, and we are not going to make the critical breakthroughs overall that we need to make, unless leading people model this and lead with this, and insist that people do this—applying democratic centralism. If you get a report that speaks about a lot of problems comrades are encountering—and maybe also reflects problems with how these comrades are dealing with this, ways they are being pulled by spontaneity and tailing wrong lines—you deal with those contradictions and have people learn from how you deal with it.
Even small things can't be squandered. This whole situation we face can't be turned around by just winning and recruiting twos and twos. But we can't squander that either. We have to be thinking in terms of winning and recruiting masses, in waves. If we're not thinking in terms of masses, we won't even get twos and twos. But we also can't step over the twos and twos. Some people will go backward, and some will even go into the camp of counter-revolution—but we have to be winning and recruiting people, in growing numbers, and in waves.
We have to look at comrades' situation on different levels, and take tactical things seriously into account, but we cannot let that fundamentally set the terms as to whether people are being unleashed and utilized in the correct way. We cannot keep this knowledge we have about the history of our project, about the DOP and what the transition to communism has to be about—we can't keep that bottled up among a few people. We have to mobilize all positive factors and the synergy between them, to get this line out there, contending in a big way.
In carrying out ideological struggle—particularly when people are influenced by and caught up in bullshit—we have to strongly insist: that's not the question, here's the question. Whatever it is—dredging up and regurgitating unprincipled attacks against the Party and its leadership, or in talking about what's wrong with society—an important part of struggling with people is constantly recasting the terms: "that's not the question, this is the question." And then you have to back it up, with substance. But we do have people to back it up, and others should learn from them how to do it. We are perfectly willing to argue with you all day if you're principled and serious but not convinced—fine, we'll talk with you and struggle with you all day... unless you're not principled and not serious.
We cannot do things to organize people for revolution, and accumulate forces for revolution, on the wrong basis, where the wrong terms are being set. Not only do you lose people, you lose at least some to the camp of counter-revolution. When we do things on the wrong basis, we go backward and hurt ourselves. We have to have a core that's really won to what this is all about—including people who may not be quite ready for the next leap to join the Party, but are really close, and are being struggled with to make that further, crucial leap. That is the struggle with them: are they going to go forward to that? You can have your electrons around that solid core, but the electrons can't be the nucleus.
What HAVE we been working for, for nearly 50 years? What have we been learning through all this? Does everyone have to repeat the mistakes of the past? Do people in these movements today really think nobody ever tried this before? In the past upsurges, we didn't succeed in getting all the way to revolution—that's what remains to be done—and you don't have to repeat every lack of knowledge and mistake that we made. And, yes, we're here to teach you what we've learned. And not just in terms of this or that practical aspect of a particular movement, but in relation to the broader questions and the fundamental interests of humanity.
I read a comment by someone involved in the "Occupy" movement in NY—saying that the problem with the '60s was that people gave up, "but we're in it for the long haul." That's still the ignorance/arrogance thing. It goes along with the culture of tabloids, of short attention spans, and of solipsism and individualism. Do you really think there weren't many people in the '60s who were very dedicated and went up against a lot, and made many sacrifices, for a number of years, really trying to bring about radical change? Do you really think nobody has been in this for the real "long haul," and that nobody has learned anything in the process? There is too much of people proceeding from subjectivity—from how they see something from a limited perspective, or even how it "makes them feel." For example, whether we need leadership doesn't turn on the personal experience you've had, or "how it makes you feel." The question is what the masses of people are going through, and what's the solution to that? Is there an answer? What does the answer consist in? How it makes you feel is definitely not the question—how it makes you feel depends on what you understand. What is needed is not these tendencies of empiricism and individuals proceeding from their subjective impressions. No, we need a scientific method and approach—the scientific method and approach of communism, as it has been further developed through the new synthesis.
In terms of the communist vanguard, democratic centralism is not just a matter of discipline in an organizational sense, but a matter of how you actually come to know and transform the world in the most profound ways in the interests of humanity. You don't get a better understanding of reality if everyone in a party goes off in their own direction. There is an important lesson relating to this in my memoir, regarding the struggle with the Mensheviks within our Party who tried to take our Party into the swamp—supporting the revisionist coup in China after the death of Mao in 1976 and arguing for a whole revisionist line—and why it was important to apply d.c., even in the face of factionalizing by those Mensheviks. People should review and reflect on that experience and how it is summarized in the memoir. We definitely need lots of initiative and creative and critical thinking, within the right overall collective framework and with the right spirit and orientation. But you won't learn more all on your own, and you definitely don't learn more by having factions within a party. Factions among the communists (or alleged communists) of Lenin's time were a remnant of social democracy, which led to the collapse of the Second International of supposed socialist and communist parties. Having factions was a part of that social democracy—in reality a form of bourgeois democracy, in the name of "socialism"—which actually rendered support to the existing imperialist system, in opposition to real revolution and communism. The Bolsheviks breaking with and moving against that was part of rupturing with everything that led to the collapse of the Second International, the degeneration by almost every one of its parties into open support for "their" imperialists in the context of World War 1.
Can prohibiting factions be misused to suppress initiative and the necessary lively atmosphere and ferment within the Party? Of course. But the possibility of its being misused does not change the fact that it is correct, and is essential, not to have factions. It is correct and essential, not just in terms of organizational functioning and discipline, but even more fundamentally in terms of epistemology and epistemological discipline, in terms of increasingly gaining a correct understanding of reality and moving to radically transform it in the direction of communism.
We are not going to make it if we continue to have too much of a revolving door—where people come around us and become supportive, but then they are pulled away, and in some cases even turned against us, and we don't correctly recognize, and counter this, winning people over more deeply through really joining struggle with them. We will never make it, if we don't get down in the trenches ideologically and have a hunger for ideological struggle. Really, we don't think we can take on anarchism? Come on. You just have to ask a few questions. We can't answer the weak shit the anarchists put forward? Come on!
Who shot Lenin in the early years of the Soviet republic, seriously wounding him while attempting to assassinate him? It was forces that were essentially anarchist. Why did they do that? Because Lenin approached things from the largest perspective, proceeding from the interests of the proletariat as a class, in the most fundamental sense, and he understood what would happen if you allowed the terms of things to be set by workers in this or that factory, or a particular group of peasants, or the sailors on a ship, acting on the basis of their more particular and narrow interests. He understood that, if you proceeded in that way, different sections of the masses would be pitted against each other, in opposition to their most fundamental interests, socialism would be undermined and destroyed, and things would be dragged back to the anarchy of capitalist production and capitalist competition, and the overall dynamics of the capitalist system, with all its horrors.
Anarchism is an outlook representative of the petite bourgeoisie—and it will not and cannot lead to a radical rupture with and advance beyond capitalism, beyond the anarchistic dynamics of commodity production and exchange.10 There is much in the Badiou polemic that is very relevant in this regard.
As opposed to what people like Badiou try to argue, the "party-state paradigm"—state power, the dictatorship of the proletariat, led by a communist vanguard—is a very good, very necessary thing, so long as the line of that vanguard is correct. And you have to use that state power, to keep the revolution and to continue the revolution. Do we think the whole petite bourgeoisie in socialist society will just be wildly in favor of carrying forward revolutionary transformation in that society, that there won't be any opposition among them? As long as there is the material basis for the petite bourgeoisie to exist, including in socialist society, there will be manifestations of the assertion of the outlook and aspirations of the petite bourgeoisie. I think of students at a university in Canada who, during the high tide of the 1960s, staged a march under the banner: "as the future managerial class, we demand our rights." You're going to get that—whether expressed that crudely or not. You think that outlook doesn't exist in the "Occupy" thing? And, while this outlook basically corresponds to the material position and corresponding aspirations of the petite bourgeoisie, it's not only among the petite bourgeoisie itself that petit bourgeois ways of thinking exist—this kind of thinking exists among basic people too. The idea that we should tail this in any way is ridiculous and should be solidly combated and overcome.
Of course, the point is not that the petite bourgeoisie is the same, or should be treated in the same way, as the big bourgeoisie—the class that dominates ownership of the means of production and exercises dictatorship in capitalist society. The orientation is not that, in socialist society, dictatorship should be exercised over the petite bourgeoisie. In strategic terms, the point is, as Lenin put it, to live with and transform the petite bourgeoisie, through the course of the socialist transition to communism; and the relations involved are fundamentally non-antagonistic. But the terms cannot be set by an orientation that corresponds to the social position and spontaneous aspirations of the petite bourgeoisie, or there will be no revolution, no socialism, and no transition to communism.
My "Reflection" on "Occupy" welcomed "Occupy," but then went into the depth and complexity of the contradictions involved and what needs to happen if you don't want to maintain a society and a world marked by profound inequalities, oppression and exploitation—if you don't want people to continue suffering needlessly in this world.
We really have to come out strongly on this. We have to sharpen up this orientation. And we have to use this website and newspaper of ours, for many things—but including quick, concise, and sharp polemics. "What's wrong with Slavoj Žižek?"—that is, what's wrong with his viewpoint? What about Gramsci? Can't we do a few paragraphs on Althusser? Is it so hard? Can't we do simple things that provoke people, in the good sense? Can't we do that? And people do learn by comparing and contrasting. They learn by doing, but also by compare/contrast. We're cheating people and cheating ourselves by not struggling with them and joining the questions with them that are of objective importance—questions that they are often raising in somewhat distorted form (not always, but often). This is not surprising, because how they see things, spontaneously, is refracted through the predominant bourgeois outlook in society. Even people who are not consciously doing so, but are more spontaneously doing so, still represent the outlook and aspirations of classes other than the proletariat when they open their mouths to speak. The fact that you, in "Occupy," are discovering that it's much harder than you thought: ask yourself WHY it's much harder than you thought it was. It's not just that you are confronted by a wall of police. Why are they there, and why are they acting the way they do? And why does Mayor Bloomberg call them out and you can't? There are bigger, more powerful social forces at work, and underneath those forces are dynamics—the fundamental dynamics of this system—that even they don't control. Can't we get into joining these kinds of things with people? How to wield spokespeople and leadership to do this?—we have to pay systematic attention to that. We need to become good at quickly developing the forms for doing this. If five or 10 show up for a meeting or discussion, then give them something, some basic substance, to take out and join with others.
Without this basic orientation and approach, there won't be a real fundraising battle. We won't get where we need to go unless these questions are being fought through on the correct basis. There will be funds raised, but there will be no massive, multi-faceted fundraising campaign unless we lead with this orientation. Not only with the masses, but if you go to people who do have real money and you tail, you won't get anywhere. We need to put it to these people, straight up, and struggle on this basis: If you give your money to something like Obama, and not to this BA Everywhere fundraising campaign, it will have bad results and bad consequences for the masses of people and for humanity. We need a revolution, a communist revolution, and what you think you know about this is NOT true.
We can't let "Stalin and Mao were mass murderers" just go down. More than a few people sit in a privileged position in this country, with the "luxury" of accepting "verdicts" on crucial things without really bothering to learn the truth about them, because people have been slaughtered on a massive scale—in reality, and without hyperbole, their lives have been snuffed out in the tens and hundreds of millions—by the rulers of this country and the workings of their system, all over the world. People just can't get away with accepting the slanders about communism and refusing to face the real, truly monstrous crimes of this system. There are tactics and tact in struggling with people—but strategically we cannot let this go down. We can't let people go on talking about how Qadaffi (or whoever is identified as the villain of the moment) is somehow the worst person in the world. Can we talk about reality? We need to join these things with people—from a lofty and principled position, and with substance, but sharply.
If we don't do this, we are going to go backward and toward the abyss. Some of what I am talking about can happen right away, including with the website and newspaper. Can't we back our shit up?
BAsics is very important—a very valuable tool—and we need to be wielding it in even greater ways. But it is a distillation of much bigger things. Do we think Marx is obsolete? No, there is much to learn, much of importance, in studying Marx. In speaking of the shopkeeper and the democratic intellectual, for example, Marx points out that they are driven to the same problems and solutions—not just the solutions. There is a lot to learn from repeatedly going back to this. There is great importance to correctly, scientifically understanding, and presenting, the problem—to setting the terms on the right, scientifically grounded basis.
On Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy.11 This is on a high level of theoretical abstraction, even while efforts were made to break that down as much as possible, without "dumbing it down." It is an important work and definitely serves a very important purpose. But we need to take the line that's in there and go with it—popularize it, without distorting it or watering it down. And we need things besides that work which deal with the same basic subjects. There is a need for things that are shorter, hard-hitting—boom boom. We should correctly understand and deal with, and not mis-handle, the simplicity-complexity contradiction. Dealing with the complexity of things is necessary, and very important—and we should struggle with people when they want things to be too simple, oversimplified, when they don't want to do the work you have to do to really understand and therefore be able to transform the world in the way it needs to be transformed. But we also need forms for boiling things down to their essence—things that are simple in that sense. If someone wants to say, "It's more complex than that," we can speak to the complexity, and we do speak to it.
We definitely should not do what opportunists do, where they vulgarize things, including by chopping up and distorting the statements of people they disagree with, in an unprincipled, instrumentalist way. But we shouldn't overburden ourselves with the complexity of things. There is a trend like that—to overburden ourselves with attempts to deal with complexity, to where we mumble and then don't get to the point. We don't want simplicity in the sense of vulgarizing and taking cheap shots—but in the sense of really getting to the essence in a concise and basic way. There is a point to boiling the complex down to the simple and basic, so long as it is accurate.
You want the masses to learn?—let them see someone doing this. That's one of the main ways masses learn. Training them involves letting them see how it's done. Let them see the confrontation of opposing views. When we had the struggle vs. the Bundists (nationalist opportunists, posturing as communists), way back in the day, a few of us wrote things and everyone grappled with them. And people learned a lot.
In my memoir, there is a part that talks about this guy, Robere, who was a dogmatist who intimidated a lot of people, back in the day, by spouting from memory passages from Mao and Lenin, and so on. He created this "larger than life" image around himself. But some of us knew enough to recognize that rote recitation of "classics"—in the manner of a religious zealot repeating scripture—did not mean that there was a lot of substance, or a correct method for that matter. Then, one time, he got up and spoke at some demonstration at a courthouse, and in listening to him it struck me: "there is nothing there"—no real substance behind the supposedly intimidating front. And there is nothing there with these other lines, as far as problem/solution. This is an important point of orientation. Robere wasn't speaking to reality, and wasn't correctly dealing with it, and he had no "solution" other than dogma.
In short, with these opportunist forces: strategically, there's nothing there. And especially when you get to solution, there's nothing there. Now, it's different with someone like a Chomsky, or Arundhati Roy. There is much they do that is positive. In contrast with opportunists and counter-revolutionaries, their orientation and intent is to proceed in a principled way, and they do a lot of good work particularly in exposing many crimes of oppressive forces throughout the world, with a lot of focus on bringing to light the crimes of U.S. and western imperialism. But, in fundamental terms, and particularly when it comes to the solution, there is nothing there—no real orientation or program that can actually lead to a radically different world. With the opportunists and counter-revolutionaries, there is nothing there at all—that is, they have nothing positive to offer—they can only do damage. And we do have something—there is something here—because we are dealing with reality, that's what we're grappling with, scientifically, and struggling to transform. We have learned a lot in this way, and of course we have much more to learn—but we have a foundation to learn a lot more as we go forward.
It is not a matter of preoccupation with opportunists and counter-revolutionaries. But we do have to take into account, and actively counter, the one thing they can do: cause real damage through their counter-revolutionary activity. They are profiting from the larger putrid culture that still holds sway to far too great a degree, and profiting from the fact that they are not seeking to really go up against the powers-that-be, but in fact can and do act in ways that not only don't threaten but that actually serve those powers. We do have to actively take on the harm they are able to do, with their counter-revolutionary activity, particularly with today's technology and in the context of today's putrid culture. We have to take that shit on sharply and powerfully, even while not becoming overly preoccupied with it, in order to counter—and to provide a positive, substantive and uplifting alternative to—their opportunist and counter-revolutionary garbage. Again, the point is not to answer them on their terms, getting dragged down into the gutter—the point is to answer with substance, and by focusing things on the fundamental questions related to problem and solution, to what is needed to actually transform the world in an emancipatory way.
The "advanced" who, in today's situation, are simply "immune" to this all this "stuff out there" simply don't exist—or are very few. People come forward the way they come forward—this is part of the objective reality we're dealing with—and people running into, and even being influenced by, opportunist and counter-revolutionary shit is part of the objective reality we have to become better at recognizing and dealing with—struggling effectively to bring more and more people through it. Too often our response to this kind of stuff is watered down and namby-pamby. Again, we need to answer this with substance—but not in a way that is merely academic and educational, in the wrong sense. There is a battle to be waged. Part of the struggle we need to wage, an important part, is over the question: what matters, and what should we focus on and get into? Is it tabloidism, gossip, rumor-mongering and slander—or lines? Of course it should be lines, and where they will lead. We have to fight for people—which means fighting with people, ideologically—in order to make breakthroughs.
The fact that some people get drawn forward and then get turned away because we are "making too much of BA" isn't happening in a vacuum—or simply because of the influence of the ruling class and the dominant institutions and what prevails in society generally. Opportunists and counter-revolutionaries are telling them shit. They work on people that we draw forward. "Work on" doesn't really get it. Often they descend on people, including through the Internet. Some of this is studied counter-revolution. To use a metaphor, if people are sitting in the bushes and taking potshots at you, and you ignore it because you don't want to be dragged down to a petty level, or into the gutter, then you are making a mistake—you have to deal with it, without allowing yourself to get dragged down. If we don't sharply deal with this, shame on us. Not to answer it on its terms, but by pointing out the bankruptcy of this—and, in some cases, the outright piggery as well as the ideological and political bankruptcy.
I recently read again our response to Mike Ely's "Nine Letters." That response is quite good.12 In particular I was struck by the exposure and refutation of Ely's rank relativism and agnosticism—his attempt to undermine the understanding that, while there are of course things human beings cannot know with certainty at any given time, on the other hand there is much human knowledge that has a well-founded and well-established basis in reality and can be judged to be true, with a great deal of certainty, and does not simply have a tenuous link to reality, to use Ely's formulation. As part of our response, since Ely had invoked—and in fact had crudely distorted—Mao in an attempt to buttress Ely's agnosticism and relativism, the following was posed, pointedly, to Ely: Does he think that dialectical and historical materialism, the need for revolution and the seizure of state power, the DOP and socialism as a transition to communism, and the continuation of classes and class struggle in socialist society—do these have a tenuous link to reality? And would Mao agree? There is no good answer to that, if you are proceeding according to the opportunist "logic" of Mike Ely. He has also never been held to account on his shit with Nepal—tailing all the revisionism there and attacking us for not tailing it. Apparently, being an opportunist and a counter-revolutionary means never having to be accountable for anything—so long as you attack what is genuinely revolutionary and communist, you can get a "pass" from some people for just about anything you say and do. When he first quit the Party, Ely's opportunism and his attacks on me and the Party were mainly rationalization for giving up—for capitulating to imperialism and everything that represents—while putting up a shabby pretense of still being some kind of "communist" or "revolutionary." But here something Lenin pointed to is very relevant. It is one thing to make a mistake, Lenin said (although capitulating to imperialism, turning your back on and attacking what actually represents revolution and communism—even stooping so low as to appeal to ignorant and crude prejudice against communism and communist organization, invoking the specter of "thought control" within the RCP, and so on... garbage literally on the level of a J. Edgar Hoover—is more than a mere mistake; but to continue with Lenin's essential point) if a mistake is persisted in—and if "profound justifications" are sought for this—then this can become something truly monstrous. This is the basic process that has taken place with Ely.
Again, the point is not to have a disproportionate preoccupation with these opportunists and counter-revolutionaries, but to take seriously the fact that they can, and do, cause real harm, especially in today's situation and with the putrid culture that prevails, including far too much among people who claim to be some kind of opposition. It is part of the process that some people who are initially drawn toward us—especially if they are worked, and struggled, with well—will continue to make leaps forward, while some others will fall back after a certain point. But, if things are dividing out the wrong way with this, something is wrong. Part of the problem is that we don't join these issues sharply enough with people. Too often there is too much of trying to evade or finesse things, rather than getting into the essential questions frontally and sharply. Our sharp edge should not be dulled.
When people come around, and then they begin to get a sense of how big what we're talking about is—how hard and complex, and how much up against what most people think, as well as being up against the state—they discover this, and they come to a juncture. Now you're in a different stage with people than when they first came around. The questions are not simply the same as when they first came around, first got on the escalator. And the things that are pulling them down, pulling them away from this, are not just the objective things that come from the bourgeoisie and its ruling institutions and ideas—what also pulls on them is what these other forces are saying, what they are saying about our Party and BA and the whole communist project, really. These forces do fight for their line—such as it is. We certainly cannot afford not to fight for ours. To really counter their shit, we need to get, deeply and sharply, into what the differences are—the real and substantial differences that matter—and why this is right and these other people are wrong: why there really is "nothing there," when it comes to an analysis of the fundamental problem and the solution, why in fact everything else is bullshit.
As you learn more about the actual process of building a movement for revolution, and carrying out that revolution when the conditions for that emerge, the more complicated and difficult it seems, particularly as you first come to grips with these contradictions. But the fact is that actually making revolution involves and requires consistently applying a scientific method and approach to identify and analyze, and to develop the means to radically transform, the contradictions that are bound up with this process. We have gone to work, in a substantial way, on these problems—and we have more work to do to solve these problems as we go forward. We have a foundation, and there is a need for new people to join in and help do the further work that is needed. And the truth is, nobody else has anything underneath what they're talking about, because it doesn't correspond to reality. This point needs to be driven home.
This has to be very sharp. In the current situation, and in terms of the forces coming forward in the movements of today, we are dealing to a very large degree with forces representing the petite bourgeoisie. Something like "Occupy," while it has attracted and drawn in some people from the basic masses, is largely and essentially a movement of the petite bourgeoisie, and you are going to get lines, tendencies, and pulls characteristic of the petite bourgeoisie—coming at things from a different point of view than that which represents the interests of the proletariat, in the most fundamental sense. Approaching this scientifically, we can see that this is what we're dealing with, in terms of things like "Occupy"—even with its very definite positive aspects. We had better understand that and struggle accordingly. And, again, this way of thinking is not limited to just the petite bourgeoisie itself—it exists more broadly in society. Add to that the fact that people actually know very little about communism and its history—and most of what they think they know is wrong. With all this in mind, it should stand out very prominently what is profoundly wrong with the idea that we should tail this, rather than waging principled but fierce struggle, ideologically, with what is wrong—with what represents a misguided, unscientific sense of the problem and solution.
Yes, we should discuss and wrangle with people over questions like what direction movements that arise, like "Occupy," should take, as such. That is part of our responsibility, even an important part, but it is not our main responsibility. Our main and essential responsibility is building a movement for revolution—and we have to approach everything from the fundamental perspective of how it relates to that.
The problem that some of our comrades have, in relation to movements like "Occupy," stems to a significant degree from the fact that they are not proceeding systematically from an understanding that there is not an antagonism but there is a real contradiction between what's represented by things like "Occupy" and where things need to go. There needs to be unity/struggle/unity to resolve contradictions among the people—but if we are not proceeding from the correct foundation and the correct, scientifically based understanding, we will not have a real chance of correctly handling the very real contradictions and the unity/struggle/unity dialectic.
Problem/solution. Problem/solution. Problem/solution. Everything revolves around problem-solution: what the fundamental problem in the world is, and what the solution is. In a fundamental sense, this includes me and my role. The emphasis we give to my leadership, and what it has brought forward and concentrates, has real meaning and great importance—but only in the context of problem-solution. It is not simply an appendage or addendum or footnote to that—but it IS in that context.
This applies also to polemics—in an overall and fundamental sense, they should focus on and continually ground things in the problem/solution.
Keep in mind: "there is nothing there." Polemics should focus to a large degree on the fact that what is represented by these various other forces—and in particular organized opportunist and counter-revolutionary forces—will not lead to anything good and is actually working against what is needed.
One: There is the phenomenon that when you are drawn to our Party and what it represents, and then you step out with this, people representing the disaffected but self-absorbed petite bourgeoisie bray and bark. This is fundamentally how we have to understand these attacks—and, in a living way, explain it to others, including those who come in for such braying and barking.
Two: Every time we tail, we kick ourselves in the teeth and get seriously set back.
Three: We are for revolution and communism. You opportunists don't like it because, in reality—in terms of the content of what you put forward—you want to make this system "work"; your vision and aspirations actually do not extend beyond the narrow horizon of this system, to paraphrase Marx. Let's recast the terms to what they actually are. Our Party, and in a concentrated way BA, represents the leadership that is needed and the struggle for revolution, and the state, the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is the necessary outcome of that struggle— and in turn is a transition to the final goal of a communist world. That is why people, and in particular those who constitute political and literary representatives of the petite bourgeoisie, react the way they do. They want to make this system "work," at least for themselves. That's not what we're about.
We should take a lesson from the experience in the Bay Area with the group STORM some years back. Unfortunately, there was a marked tendency on the part of comrades there to be intimidated by STORM, because these comrades were approaching things incorrectly, looking too much at surface phenomena and not grounding themselves in the deeper dynamics of things. STORM seemed to be a "going thing," for a while, and was wielding nationalist identity politics as a weapon, while putting up some kind of a pretense of being Marxist, or in some way against the system. But where is STORM now? And where are the people who were put forward as its leading lights—someone like Van Jones—what's the deal with him now?! Openly working for this system. Which is a kind of leap, but a leap that, in a real sense, is an extension of the outlook and approach of something like STORM. This is not a matter of "personal traits," but of line—of outlook and method, and the strategic orientation flowing from that. Of course, so long as there are class distinctions, and so long in particular as there are people constituting the political and literary representatives of the petite bourgeoisie, including among the oppressed nationalities, there will continue to be different incarnations of the kind of phenomenon that STORM represented. But lessons should be drawn from the experience with STORM—and the fact that STORM itself is now defunct!
Apparently Chris Hedges declared that "Occupy" is "too big to fail." This is simply wrong. "Occupy," as such, will have a certain life—and, as I put it in my "Reflection" on "Occupy," it can make a significant contribution to the revolution that is needed, IF the revolutionary communists approach this correctly. "Occupy" itself will have a certain life and, as has already happened, it will face a series of challenges; and how those challenges are dealt with will have a major role in determining what course it takes and whether and in what ways it can continue to have a mainly positive impact. Right now this is concentrated in whether there will be a powerful challenge to the concentrated move by the ruling class to suppress and disperse "Occupy." There are important things that we can and should seek to do in relation to that, but the most important thing that we should be doing is accumulating forces for revolution, in relation to this movement and in other ways as well. If we don't really and deeply grasp this, and act on it, then not only "Occupy" but our Party, too, will either go out of existence or be absorbed into the political scenery of bourgeois society, to paraphrase the recent polemic against Slavoj Žižek13.
Can anyone claim that they've never been influenced by the line that something good has happened, so let's not spoil it by bringing in the solid core, by bringing alive the need for revolution and the final goal of communism? No it happens—but we have to be very attuned to that, recognizing and struggling against that.
We have to think about different ways of working with the advanced around us—to struggle things through and make some much-needed advances in bringing forward new forces, new initiators of the new stage of the communist movement—accumulating forces for revolution and recruiting more of the advanced into the Party. We need to make breakthroughs in all three objectives of the overall Campaign we are carrying out: really putting revolution and communism on the map; making BA a household name and what BA represents a subject of substantive discussion and debate throughout society; and bringing forward waves of new initiators of the communist revolution. This—and in particular the third objective—requires winning people to be really partisan for and then fully committed to THIS. We have to get more and more people to the point where they want to go out and take on the braying hounds. Let's instill that Black Panther Party spirit from back in the day. The BPP members really believed they were the vanguard, and they didn't want to hear any shit from you about how they weren't. We need much more of that basic spirit. The point is not to attack people, but to have a spirit of itching for ideological struggle.
We need to unleash and marshal the people who feel that way—give them substance, and get them out there fighting for this.
We don't think enough in terms of fighting for people who are being influenced toward wrong lines. Let's go up against the spontaneity—let's put on our boxing gloves. Let's jump into ideological contention, spoiling for a fight. If you are a leading person, take some others, including advanced masses, with you when you do this. Take these masses coming around with you. Engage these other lines. Call them out: "You don't even know what the problem is, let alone the solution." Then get into the substance. We have a developed line with a lot of substance. But you have to fight for it. If you want to win masses you have to fight, and you have to take masses with you so they see the contending lines and which ones have substance and are based on reality, and which ones don't and aren't.
How do we make sure that people go out in the right way to do revolutionary work? One of the advantages of BAsics is that this book lets you do good work. But, as we've seen, you can do work with BAsics with a wrong line seriously contending in that work. BAsics is not some kind of inoculation against the wrong line—it's a factor that creates more favorable conditions for work to be done correctly. With many people we need to figure out how to simplify things without being reckless, and get people into the mix and swirl of what's going on these days.
Let's pose a series of very basic questions. Do you think that this outrage of police brutality is going to be eliminated with a few sit-ins? If not, is that tolerable? And if not, further, what is it going to take to get rid of this outrage? Do you think this is the only outrage of this system, and how are all those other outrages going to get dealt with? How does what we are doing fit into a revolutionary movement to get rid of this whole thing? This resistance is great as a beginning and part of what needs to happen—but not so great as just a thing in itself and unto itself. Bring people back to what they know, and have a basis for knowing.
Do you really think that "Occupy" just growing and growing is going to solve everything we're about? People in the Party and close to us know the answers, and "forget" them. We have to constantly bring them back to what they know. There are line questions and the pull of spontaneity.
In situations where there are increased numbers of masses awakening and in motion politically, and we are working to relate to that, what we say matters more. And the more it matters, the greater the pull to tone it down. When you introduce something like my "Occupy" statement, it breaks up some of the unity that exists, even as it has the potential to unite people on a higher level. It is the same thing with regard to STOP "Stop & Frisk." Is it a static linear thing of more and more unity—or is it unity-divide-more unity, through junctures and struggles? Comrades, and in particular comrades with leadership responsibility, know the answers. So why does it happen that people lose sight of this and tend to tail? One, the pull of "the movement is everything, the final aim nothing"—and part of you is pulled toward thinking that revolution and communism is not viable, or is in some abstract realm, unrelated to what is going on now. And two, the pull to thinking: bringing this in is going to disrupt the unity we've forged, when we've got something good going here. This has to be fought through, in repeated rounds of struggle. Comrades need to see their responsibilities above all as communists, and not as people dealing in a particular realm.
We should use the website and newspaper to model things. Even a short piece, like the one I wrote on "The American Enterprise,"14 can concentrate a lot. If someone raises the present Constitution of the USA, we can respond by saying things like, "that belongs in the museum"—as opposed to an academic argument. The effect of a punchy response like that is to change the terms to more what they should be. And then you get further into the substance. That Constitution represents the past, here's what we need for the future—and point to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)15. Use the website and newspaper to model things like that. They should have some more in-depth analysis, but there is also a definite need for a lot of shorter, biting stuff.
We have to consistently lead with the correct line, and most fundamentally the correct, scientific method and approach. That has to be what we're striving for. That's the standard we have to set and aim for—nothing less. And, even as we are persevering to make breakthroughs in things we have identified as crucial, we need to keep looking afresh at things, and not fall into ruts and routines. We have to adhere to certain fundamental matters of principle and keep our eye on the prize of decisive objectives, while looking at things anew repeatedly.
We do have to get more focused in what we do and how we wield our forces, but the principal and decisive thing is leading with the correct line, and then how to get the correct combinations and synergies. We don't want to just judiciously wield our forces—we want, we need, to grow. We want more people to carry out the correct line and not some other line. Attention needs to be paid to how to lead that and effect the right combinations and synergies to make that happen. Think about the effect of a leading person going with a comrade in the work and doing the work correctly and fighting it through and summing it up with them. And we should involve advanced masses where that's appropriate. Masses learn by seeing things done correctly and seeing them in contention with other things. There are people who can do this right, and do it really well, but there are still too few—we need to wield them correctly and combine them, correctly, with basic Party members and people who are coming forward, so others can learn and develop.
How do we wield the strengths we have and the strengths of people around us in the best possible combinations and synergies, and get into the real-world places where this can go on? We can't just bring masses to our bookstores—we have to do that, but we also have to go TO the masses. This goes along with simplify, simplify, simplify. Radical simplicity. Get people together in groups and go places with somebody who's gonna set the terms in the right way.
Because I have given so much emphasis to the confrontation of opposing lines where the contradiction is in fact antagonistic—dealing with opportunists and counter-revolutionaries—I don't want to underplay the importance of non-antagonistic struggle, struggle with people with whom it is also correct to seek unity, even while carrying out ideological struggle over big questions and matters of principle. The difference is that there are many people who disagree with us, who are objectively representatives of an incorrect outlook, which ultimately leads things away from where they need to go, but they haven't made themselves in effect an appendage of the ruling class. They are not setting out to destroy our Party. And they are not framing their disagreements with us in the guise of "revolution" or "communism." This relates to why the Chinese Communist Party made clear, in its polemics against the Soviet revisionists in the 1960s, that unity with many forces who do not claim to be communists is possible, but there can be no unity with revisionists—phony communists who distort and oppose the revolutionary core of communism, while attacking those who uphold and act on the basis of real, revolutionary communism.
The emphasis on the need to hit back, with substance, ideologically, against the opportunist and counter-revolutionary forces that do make it their business to wage unprincipled attacks against our Party and BA—this should not lead to ignoring or undermining the importance of engagement and carrying forward the unity/struggle/unity process with what are objectively non-antagonistic representatives of other classes and strata. That remains very important.
1. Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, September 2008 (RCP Publications, 2009) [back]
2. BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, RCP Publications, 2011 [back]
3. The "because" statement refers to the following:
Because of Bob Avakian and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal. [back]
4. After BA made these observations, Revolution/revcom.us published "The 'Illuminati' Is a Myth! Wake Up and Deal With the REAL Problem!," #272. June 17, 2012. [back]
5. "Alain Badiou's 'Politics of Emancipation': A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World," by Raymond Lotta, Nayi Duniya, and K. J. A., Demarcations: A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic, Issue Number 1, Summer-Fall 2009 [back]
7. "A Reflection on the 'Occupy' Movement: An Inspiring Beginning...and the Need to Go Further," by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Revolution #250, November 13, 2011 [back]
8. For a discussion of the Cultural Revolution in the RCP, see Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Part VI, "A Cultural Revolution Within the RCP," begins on page 34 of the pamphlet. [back]
9. International Socialist Organization [back]
10. For an analysis of the driving force of anarchy as the most essential expression of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism, see "On the 'Driving Force of Anarchy' and the Dynamics of Change—A Sharp Debate and Urgent Polemic: The Struggle for a Radically Different World and the Struggle for a Scientific Approach to Reality," by Raymond Lotta, Revolution, November 4, 2013. [back]
12. "Stuck in the 'Awful Capitalist Present' or Forging a Path to the Communist Future? A Response to Mike Ely's Nine Letters," by a writing group in the RCP, 2008 [back]
13. "Vilifying Communism and Accommodating Imperialism: The Sham and Shame of Slavoj Žižek's 'Honest Pessimism,'" by Raymond Lotta, Revolution #256, January 15, 2012 [back]
14. "The American Enterprise—Property and Slavery: Peculiar Notions of 'Freedom' and Profound Contradictions," by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Revolution #252, December 11, 2011 [back]
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
May 26, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Abortion rights—and the lives and future of women—are in a state of emergency. Nowhere is this more concentrated than in Texas.
In 2011 there were 46 abortion clinics in Texas; if all the current restrictions go into effect as scheduled, by September 1st of 2014 there will be only 6 clinics remaining. Texas is over 800 miles wide and has over 26 million residents. Women who cannot access safe, legal abortions have their lives foreclosed when they are forced to have children against their will. Or, they risk their lives, die, or go to prison for attempting to self-induce abortions.
Women who live in poverty, especially immigrant women and others in the Rio Grande Valley along the Mexican border, have been hit the hardest. Unable to come up with the money to travel hours to the nearest clinic and/or unable to travel through the immigration checkpoints for lack of “legal” documents, these women are trapped. On September 1st, if a medically unnecessary law designed to close abortion clinics goes into effect, the nearest clinic will be closed and these women will have to travel approximately 300 miles to the next nearest clinic.
It is immoral to abandon the women of Texas. It is also delusional to think that these attacks will not spread to the rest of the country if they are not stopped there. In reality, Texas is a concentration of the nationwide war on women. 6 states have only one abortion clinic. 203 laws restricting abortion have been passed nationwide since 2011. 8 doctors and clinic workers have been murdered by anti-abortion violence, and in March 2014 a clinic was so severely vandalized in Montana that it was forced to close. Everywhere, women who seek abortions are harassed, shamed, humiliated and terrorized.
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
This call appeared on the Stop Mass Incarceration Network website:
April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
For 2 generations, Black and Latina/Latino youth in the U.S. have been shipped off to prison in numbers never before seen anywhere in the world at any time. More than 2 million people, of all nationalities languish in prison—ten times the number 50 years ago. The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prison population! More than 60% of those in U.S. prisons are Black or Latina/o. 32% of Black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are in prison or on parole or probation on any given day. More than 80,000 people in prison are held in solitary confinement under conditions that fit the international definition of torture.
The incarceration of women has increased by 800% over the last 30 years. They, along with those whose sexual orientation is not “mainstream” or who are gender non-conforming—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex prisoners—face extremely harsh and abusive treatment in prison, including widespread rape. Alongside this has risen a massive program of criminally prosecuting undocumented immigrants, essentially hidden from public view. As a result of the devastation of their homelands, these immigrants have been driven to this country to work without papers, and today they are being criminalized. The U.S. chastises other countries for human rights violations, yet it enmeshes the lives of tens of millions of people in its criminal “injustice” system. The courts, cops, prisons and La Migra all play a part in enforcing mass incarceration. There are genocidal aspects and a genocidal logic to this program, and it has been gathering momentum. All this is intolerable, and, if it isn’t stopped, it will get much worse!
Mass incarceration has grown beside the criminalization of whole peoples; a situation in which every African-American or Latina/o is a permanent suspect—treated as guilty until proven innocent by police and racist vigilantes, if they can survive to prove their innocence. This is especially concentrated among the youth, starting with cops in schools, arresting children for things that used to mean a visit to the principal’s office at worse, putting youth on a trajectory from school to prison. Black and Latina/o youth have a target on their backs in this society. Literally tens of millions of lives have been scarred and worse—both the direct victims and their families and communities. People who heroically resisted these and other injustices have been imprisoned, some of them for decades. These political prisoners must be freed.
The malignancy of mass incarceration did not arise from a sudden epidemic of crime. Nor did it result from people making poor personal choices. Instead it arose from cold political calculations made in response to the massive and heroic struggle for the rights of Black and other minority peoples that took place in the 1960’s and 70’s, and in response to the enormous economic and social changes brought about by globalized production. This cancer of mass incarceration has been, from the beginning, nothing but a new Jim Crow in place of the old one. Like the old Jim Crow, it drew on, fed off and reinforced the deep-seated roots of the racism that grew up with slavery. Like the old Jim Crow, it has been, from the beginning, unjustifiable, utterly immoral and thoroughly illegitimate.
This must stop—NOW! Not the next generation, not in ten years, not any time off in some promised future that never seems to come. NOW!
But it will not stop unless and until millions of people, of all nationalities, stand up and say NO MORE, in unmistakable terms. The history of this and every other country shows that without struggle, there can be no positive change; but with struggle this kind of change becomes possible.
It is not enough to oppose this in the privacy of your own conscience or the company of like-minded people. It is not enough to curse this out, but then tell yourself nothing can be done. If you live your life under this threat, you MUST act. If you understand how wrong this is and how much it devastates the lives of so many millions, you MUST act.
NOW is the time to act. People are beginning to awaken and stir. Resistance has begun: Heroic hunger strikes by people in prisons and detention centers and outpourings in response to murders by police and racist vigilantes. Prisoners in solitary confinement in California declared a cessation of racial hostilities as Black, Latino and white prisoners came together to resist the torture of solitary confinement. All this must be taken to a much higher level. We call for a massive Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration in October of this year; a Month that can impact all of society; one that can open the eyes of millions of people to the need to end this new Jim Crow.
In October, 2014, our resistance to mass incarceration must reverberate across the country and around the world. There must be powerful demonstrations nationwide on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Throughout October there must be panels and symposiums on campuses and in neighborhoods; major concerts and other cultural expressions; ferment in the faith communities, and more—all aimed at taking the movement to STOP mass incarceration to a much higher level. October, 2014, must be a month that makes clear that thousands and thousands are willing to stand up and speak out today and to awaken and rally forth millions. It must be the beginning of the end of the mass incarceration in the U.S. To that end:
Initial Signatories include:
Stop Mass Incarceration Network
Cornel West, author, educator, voice of conscience
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party
Noam Chomsky, Professor (ret.), MIT*
Marjorie Cohn, Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Robin D.G. Kelley, Distinguished Professor of History, UCLA*
Carl Hart, Professor, Author of "High Price"
Colin Dayan, Professor, Vanderbilt University
Henry A. Giroux, McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest
Efia Nwangaza, Malcolm X Center/Radio Station WMXP*
Ulis C. Williams, Olympic Gold Medalist, 4 x 400m Relay, 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo
Aleta Alston-Toure, New Jim Crow Movement/Free Marissa Now*
Pam Africa, International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal
Cephus "Uncle Bobby" Johnson - uncle of Oscar Grant, killed by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
Police New Years Day, 2009
Stephen Rohde, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP)*
Debra Sweet, Director, World Can't Wait
Medea Benjamin, Co-founder, CODEPINK*
John L. Burris, lawyer
Marilyn S. McMahon, California Prison Focus*
Juanita Young, mother of Malcolm Ferguson - killed in 2000 by NYPD
Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez - killed in 1994 by NYPD
Dionne Smith Downs and Carey Downs, parents of James Earl Rivera Jr. - killed in 2010
by Stockton Police
Collette Flanagan, Founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, mother of Clinton Allen - killed
by Dallas Police in 2013
Gloria Leiva, mother of Dante Pomar - killed in 2004 by NYPD
Gilda Baker, Mother of Diallo Neal, Killed by California Highway Patrol in 2005
Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., son of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. - killed by White Plains (NY)
Miles Solay, OuterNational
Denis O'Hearn, Professor of Sociology, Binghamton University and author of Nothing but
an Unfinished Song: Bobby Sands, the Irish Hunger Striker Who Ignited a Generation
Blase Bonpane, Ph.D. Director, Office of the Americas*
Marie Martin, retired nurse and teacher, relative in solitary confinement in CA prison
Margarita McAuliffe, Founder, Texas Moms United For Domestic Peace*
F. Luis Barrios, professor, John Jay College, IFCO - Pastors for Peace
Jim Vrettos, professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice*
Marvin X, poet, playwright, essayist, Black Bird Press News*
Rev. Jerome McCorry, The Adam Project*
Rev. Stephen A. Phelps, former Interim Senior Minister, The Riverside Church* New York
Rev. Frank Wulf, United University Church*
Ray Hill, 30 years Producer and Host of "The Prison Show", KPFT, Houston, TX
Obidike Kamau, 15 years Host and Producer, "Self-Determination", KPFT 90.1 FM, Houston, TX
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor *Tikkun: a quarterly Jewish and Interfaith Critique of Politics,
Culture and Society*
Dahlia Wasfi M.D.
Rev. Richard Meri Ka Ra Byrd, KRST Unity Center*
Rev. Darrel Meyers, Minister (ret.) Presbyterian Church (USA)*
Dorsey O. Blake, Presiding Minister of the Church of All Peoples*
Mary Ratcliff, Editor, San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper*
Grace Dyrness, ICUJP*
Jim Lafferty, Executive Director, Los Angeles Chapter, National Lawyers Guild
Rafael C. Angulo, USC School of Social Work*
Rael Nidess M.D.
Dread Scott, Artist
Manuel Olivera, Actor
Alaudin Ullah, Actor
Elizabeth Forsythe Haily, novelist and playwright, ICUJP*
Lynne Stewart & Ralph Poynter
Mike Holman, Executive Director, Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund*
Andres Thomas Conteris, Nonviolence International*
Dr. James Cockroft, Ph.D
Rev. Jerald Stinson, Interfaith Communities United For Justice and Peace*
King Downing, Human Rights-Racial Justice Center*
Iskander Kourkjian-Mowad, #Justice4Cecily*
Afua Ampoma, Recovering and Rebuilding, Inc.
"Cye" Harold Sheppard Jr., Advancing the Ancester Coalition (ATAC)*
Vernellia R. Randall, Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Dayton
Paul Von Blum, Senior Lecturer, African-American and Communication Studies, UCLA*
David B. Rankin, Esq., Rankin and Taylor*
Tarak Kauff, Veterans For Peace* National Board Member
Bonnie Kerness, American Friends Service Committee,* Newark NJ
Mary Phillips, Lehman College*, Bronx NY
Erin Adair, Oberlin Abolition Network*, Oberlin
Amanda Morales, Welfare Warriors*
Milwaukee; People's Organization for Progress, New York Chapter
Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice
Justice For Families, Portland, OR
Global Kindness Revolution and Sagewriters
Racial Justice Now!
*for identification purposes only
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
June 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A monstrous crime against humanity is unfolding right now in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Tens of thousands of young people—teenagers and children—have been fleeing U.S.-imposed devastation and wrenching poverty in their Central American homelands. They set out on desperate, terrifying thousand-mile journeys to South Texas, most of them trying to get farther north. Many have been captured by Mexican authorities; others have been killed by police or smuggler gangs while trying to make it to the United States. But for many, their perilous treks end when they are captured by the Border Patrol and other U.S. authorities.
The number of unaccompanied youth and children captured by the authorities in South Texas this year is expected, by the U.S. government's own predictions, to be over 60,000—about 10 times the number of youth captured in 2013.
Barack Obama announced June 2 that there is an "urgent humanitarian situation" in South Texas. He didn't mention two essential aspects of that situation. One is that its cause is the system of capitalism-imperialism that he represents; the other is that the measures his administration is taking in response to this will worsen the suffering and pain of the young people captured by the system's enforcers.
The Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have suffered under decades of brutal U.S. domination: invasions and coups, genocidal wars, savage exploitation, dislocation of the peasantry, and destruction of the environment. NBC News last year described Honduras, which has the highest murder rate in the world, as "a country in meltdown." Guatemala has some of the most fertile and productive agricultural land on the planet—but, according to the United Nations' World Food Programme, it has a malnutrition rate of 49.8 percent for children under five.
The heart of Obama's "humanitarian gesture" is a 1,000-bed detention center for children at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Obama also announced that another detention center for children and youth pulled into the Border Patrol dragnet in South Texas will be on a Navy base in faraway Ventura County, California.
The number of children swept into the U.S. detention snare this year is actually likely to far surpass the government's estimate of 60,000. The number of teenagers and young children picked up by the Border Patrol has risen dramatically in the last month. One day in late May, more than 400 unaccompanied children, all of them "Other than Mexican," in the hateful racist language of the Border Patrol, were taken into custody in South Texas.
Most were put into Border Patrol holding cells that immigrants call hieleras—ice boxes—because of the frigid temperatures maintained in them. The hieleras are supposedly intended to hold adults for a few hours. They have no beds, only concrete benches and floors for the children to sleep on. Federal law states that unaccompanied children are supposed to be turned over to a federal agency, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within 72 hours, for long term placement. But a Department of Homeland Security official acknowledged that over half of the 2,000 children at the main hielera in South Texas had been there for more than three days.
A woman who had worked in the San Antonio detention center told a TV station there that over 1,000 teenagers have been moved into the detention center since early May. She said her first impression of their condition and the way they were treated was "complete disbelief." "We have had a break out of medical conditions such as lice, bed bugs, scabies, different types of illnesses that are occurring: strep, sore throat, coughs.... Many of the children were traumatized by their journeys to the United States. Many of them have incurred abuse, rape, they incurred starvation." She reported that there are nurses, but no doctors or psychiatrists working with the children.
Children caught up in this system of confinement are often subjected to further horrific cruelty and torment—abuse that is consistently covered up—on top of the traumas they have already experienced. The Houston Chronicle reported that "the full extent of sexual and physical abuse in the federal shelters is unknown."
The ORR claims that it is unable to track allegations of rape, abuse, and assault upon the children under its supervision. But documents released under the Freedom of Information Act detail 101 "significant incident reports" in the two years from March 2011 to March 2013. The incidents involved rape of both girls and boys, sexual harassment, assaults, constant abuse, and threats. These incidents occurred in "shelters" in Texas, Florida, and New York. In the very rare instances where state criminal charges have been brought against one or more of the children's guardians, they have almost always fallen apart because the children were moved, the cops never followed through, the authorities claimed they didn't know who was responsible, and other cover-up excuses. As the Houston Chronicle reported, "No shelter worker has been prosecuted under a 2008 federal provision that makes sexual contact with a detainee in ORR's care a felony."
The full scope of these savage assaults on immigrant children will probably never be known. Many children are threatened that they will be punished further, or be deported and never again see their families, if they tell anyone about what has happened to them. One boy who was raped by a guard told a reporter "he said something bad would happen if I told anyone."
If the violence inflicted on the youth of Central America were the only crime this system is responsible for—that would be reason enough to be part of the movement for revolution and working to put an end to it. But the intense pain and torment poured upon these young people is no aberration. It is not a result of “mistaken policy,” or inept political leadership. It is an expression—particularly brutal, but not at all out of the ordinary—of the way capitalist imperialism functions. Here, and in even more intense and horrific ways in Central America, as we shall explore in the second and final installment of this series.
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
June 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On May 28 Edward Snowden spoke directly for the first time to a wide audience, in an interview on prime-time network TV. (The interview, which aired on NBC, can be seen online.) It was almost a year ago that Snowden—who had worked for a decade inside the "intelligence community" at the National Security Agency, the CIA, and the Defense Intelligence Agency—came forward to blow the whistle on the massive, illegal, and illegitimate surveillance that the U.S. has been carrying out on the phone and Internet communications of literally billions of people, here and around the globe. (Extensive exposures, based on the secret documents leaked by Snowden, continue to come out, including the new book by journalist Glenn Greenwald, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State.)
Snowden's revelations shocked the world—and the U.S. government launched a furious attack, accusing Snowden of "betraying his country" and charging him with felonies under the Espionage Act, which could land him in prison for a lifetime. These charges and the cancellation of his passport by the U.S. forced Snowden into exile in Russia—which is where the TV interview took place. In the interview Snowden, in the face of difficult circumstances he currently faces, made clear that he hasn't been shaken from the courageous and determined course of action he took to expose U.S. mass surveillance: "I think the most important idea is to remember that there have been times throughout American history where what is right is not the same as what is legal. Sometimes to do the right thing you have to break a law."
At one point in the interview, NBC interviewer Brian Williams hands Snowden a "burner"—a phone for temporary use to avoid being monitored. Williams says he had Googled the score of a hockey game on the way to Russia, and he asks Snowden, "What can the NSA do with the device and my life?" Snowden replies that the NSA can turn the device on remotely and use it as a microphone and take data off of it—but what the NSA might do with information about the Google search is "also pretty scary." Snowden explains, "They’d be able to tell something called your 'pattern of life.' When are you doing these kind of activities? When do you wake up? When do you go to sleep? What other phones are around when you wake up or go to sleep? Are you with someone who’s not your wife? Are you someplace you shouldn’t be—according to the government, which is arbitrary, you know. Are you engaged in any kind of activities that we disapprove of, even if they aren’t technically illegal? These things can raise your level of scrutiny even if it seems entirely innocent to you, even if you have nothing to hide, even if you’re doing nothing wrong."
Just before the full TV interview aired, John Kerry, Obama's Secretary of State, appeared on multiple news shows to call Snowden a "traitor" and accuse him of making it harder to "protect" the people from terrorists. Kerry and other powerful voices attacking Snowden serve and represent a system that has created and thrives on a planet of slums and sweatshops grinding up countless millions of lives as part of its daily workings... that has brought about vast ecological disasters and threatens global environmental catastrophe... that wages constant wars against any forces that get in their way—and these rulers bring down the hammer of repression and terror against legitimate protest and opposition that endanger their hold on power in any way.
That is why these rulers see the vast majority of people—here in the U.S. and across the world—as potential threats to their power. That is why, even as they talk on and on about democracy and rights, they are driven to build and maintain such a vast network of surveillance. Programs like the bulk collection of the metadata for virtually all phone calls in the U.S. (information about the duration of calls, who the calls were made to, details about the phone used, etc.) are not the result of a "national security state" gone wild or bureaucrats drunk with power. The NSA and other intelligence agencies are a crucial part of their whole state apparatus—the dictatorship of the ruling capitalist-imperialist class.
These rulers order murderous drone attacks on individuals and whole villages thousands of miles from U.S. borders, and imprison their own population at a higher rate than any other country. It's not concern about the "safety" of people in the U.S., much less people in other parts of the world, that is driving these rulers to spy pervasively on a historically unprecedented level. People in the U.S. and around the world became aware of the reality thanks to Snowden's leaks. This was a serious blow to the capitalist-imperialist state. And that is what's behind the accusations by Kerry, Obama, and other ruling class figures that Snowden is a "traitor" and has endangered American "national interests." So when they talk about protecting "national interests," they're talking about the interests of their class—which are not the interests of the great majority of people.
This mass surveillance is not just about monitoring people's thoughts and actions, so that the full repressive force of the state can be brought down quickly—which is horrific in itself. It is also about controlling and constraining people's thinking and activity. To cite one example: In his book, Glenn Greenwald cites a 2013 report from the writers' group PEN America titled Chilling Effects: NSA Surveillance Drives U.S. Writers to Self-Censor, which found that many writers now "assume that their communications are being monitored" and have changed their behavior in ways that "curtail their freedom of expression and restrict the free flow of information."
"Hero or traitor?" As we said shortly after the Snowden revelations first appeared: "By any objective measure, and from the perspective of a morality that values lives and freedom, the facts speak for themselves." ("Five Points of Orientation on the Revelations of Government Surveillance.") After the 9/11 attacks, Snowden volunteered for the U.S. military because, he said, "I believed the government's arguments—that we were going to do good things in Iraq, that we were going to free the oppressed. And I wanted to do my part to help share the national burden, and to help create not just a better America but a better world." But then he, like millions of others, realized that the government had outright lied about the war. And as Snowden rose up in the ranks of the "intelligence community," he became increasingly alarmed by the immorality, illegitimacy, and criminality of the ways in which the U.S. government was intruding into the private lives of billions of people. He decided that it was his responsibility to act on his conscience, fully aware that he was risking a lot and even putting his life on the line.
Exposing great crimes is NOT a crime! All people of conscience must oppose the ominous threats against Snowden, and demand that the unjust charges against him be dropped.
In his attacks on Snowden after the TV interview, Kerry declared that Snowden should act like Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the famous Pentagon Papers some 40 years ago laying bare the government's lies around the Vietnam war, and face trial in the U.S. For Kerry to bring up Ellsberg's name is utterly slimy and insidious. At the time, the government wiretapped Ellsberg's conversations with his defense lawyer and broke into his psychiatrist's office to try to steal damaging information—and it was only when all this came out that the court was compelled to dismiss charges. This hardly shows the possibilities for a "fair trial" for Snowden. And Ellsberg himself has said that Snowden is the most important whistleblower in U.S. history and should be supported.
The extent of U.S. surveillance technology that Snowden's whistleblowing exposed points to the reality that the ruling forces of repression are very powerful—but they aren't all powerful. They ultimately depend on people—and that's a big contradiction for the system. There are people like Snowden, as well as Chelsea Manning and others, who start out believing the lies they are told about America being "the best country in the world"—and then come to see some of the bitter truths about this monstrous system, and are compelled to act to do the right thing, in the face of personal risk and sacrifice.
It's going to take a revolution, nothing less, to defeat and abolish the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and create a radically new state power that will allow society to be organized in a whole different way—a society that is led and mobilized to end exploitation and oppression around the world, and in that context is not just allowing but promoting a flowering of debate and dissent. In order for this revolution to be real, there must be a profound crisis in society, a revolutionary people in the millions, and a highly organized and disciplined revolutionary vanguard. There IS a movement for revolution, with the Party as its leading core, that is working right now to prepare for the time when the fight to defeat the old power and bring about a new power is possible. Looked at from that strategic perspective, the actions of Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers, and the ripples they send out throughout society, are very significant.
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
June 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Students Against Surveillance has begun a nationwide campaign against Internet spying by the National Security Agency (NSA). The campaign began on June 5, the one-year anniversary of the day the newspaper Guardian UK first published articles based on files released by Edward Snowden, a former NSA analyst, exposing massive NSA spying.
A “Global Letter” by the group states that “we came to university thinking that we could learn with confidence, without fear that what we are studying or learning could be used against us. Given what we now know about from Edward Snowden’s leaks, we no longer have that assurance. In an environment of mass surveillance speech and academic freedom are chilled. People are afraid to speak freely. This is not a healthy environment for learning. We, as members of the global academic community, protest. We are taking a stand against mass surveillance on our campus, and we want you to join us.”
The protest is underway on at least 16 campuses, including Stanford, Purdue, Mount Holyoke, Eastern Michigan, and the University of Oregon. It follows another campaign by academics against government spying and in defense of Edward Snowden. In January of this year, hundreds of professors across the world signed a declaration called “Academics Against Mass Surveillance.” It read, in part, “In sum: the world is under an unprecedented level of surveillance. This has to stop.”
Many students are especially concerned about the impact of massive surveillance on political activity and critical thought. An open letter by law students at the University of Oregon said government spying “impairs our collective ability to imagine and organize.” A similar letter from undergraduates at New York University brought out some of the political focus and targeting of massive government surveillance: “What’s more, our Muslim and Arab peers are being targeted. In February 2012, the AP reported that the NYPD was monitoring students at NYU, Columbia, and Yale.”
Students launching these initiatives are fighting for university and college campuses to be places where critical thought is encouraged, not chilled and monitored; where dissenting ideas and inquiries are valued and studied for their merit, not dismissed and attacked because they are outside government-established norms; where people can lead their lives and conduct their personal, political, social, and academic activities without being under a constant government watch. They must be supported and their efforts learned from and spread.
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
Check It Out:
June 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Obvious Child, the new film by Gillian Robespierre which bills itself as “An Abortion Comedy,” is a breath of fresh air and a lot of fun. In it, Donna Stern (played by Jenny Slate) is a 20-something stand-up comedian who goes through a painful break-up, has an exuberant one-night stand, and then discovers to her great dismay that she has become pregnant. We watch as she navigates everything this news means: whether to tell her mother, how to respond to the guy involved, where she will come up with the funds, and what it means that the only abortion appointment that will work for her is on Valentine's Day. Never does she agonize about the abortion itself. Never for a second does she consider having a child. Nor does anyone in her life pressure her against abortion. In fact, to her great relief, the person she most fears will judge her opens up with her own stories of abortion, which took place before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal. While it is clear that Donna is not the most responsible person in every aspect of her life, it is also clear that her decision to get an abortion was profoundly responsible. All of this is done with a great deal of humor, emotional honesty, and without a trace of cynicism.
This is incredibly refreshing and important. Not only are abortion rights across the country in an all-out state of emergency with many states down to only one abortion clinic left and new laws closing down clinics all over the country—but abortion has never been more stigmatized and it has been many years since there was an uncomplicated, unstigmatized portrayal of abortion in mainstream culture. For most young people, this film will be the first time they see abortion dealt with as it should be—as a routine and necessary part of life. As actor Jenny Slate put it, challenging portrayals in movies like Knocked Up and Juno where women who are at first distressed to find themselves pregnant go on to discover great fulfillment in having those babies, “A woman who is not ready to have a baby making it work is not a happy ending to me,” she said. “It’s a personal nightmare.”
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
May 31, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On May 12, Black homes were firebombed in the mainly Latino housing project of Ramona Gardens in East Los Angeles. In the middle of the night Black children awoke to the terror of crashing glass and flames, pulled outside to safety by their parents. This is a familiar terror, reaching through the whole history of this monstrous country. Take the example of Chicago in the 1940s and '50s, described in the current issue of The Atlantic magazine (and I urge readers to check out the whole article "The Case for Reparations" by Ta-Nehisi Coates, in The Atlantic, May 21, 2014):
In 1947, after a few black veterans moved into the Fernwood section of Chicago, three nights of rioting broke out; gangs of whites yanked blacks off streetcars and beat them. Two years later, when a union meeting attended by blacks in Englewood triggered rumors that a home was being "sold to niggers," blacks (and whites thought to be sympathetic to them) were beaten in the streets. In 1951, thousands of whites in Cicero, 20 minutes or so west of downtown Chicago, attacked an apartment building that housed a single black family, throwing bricks and firebombs through the windows and setting the apartment on fire. A Cook County grand jury declined to charge the rioters—and instead indicted the family's NAACP attorney, the apartment's white owner, and the owner's attorney and rental agent, charging them with conspiring to lower property values. Two years after that, whites picketed and planted explosives in South Deering, about 30 minutes from downtown Chicago, to force blacks out.
Attacks like those in Chicago happened throughout cities of the North, over and over again for decades, especially in places where Black people were migrating in waves out of the South, pushed and pulled to the cities by economic factors and to escape KKK lynchings and other horrors, coming out of hundreds of years of the most unimaginably brutal and dehumanizing conditions of slavery (see the movie 12 Years a Slave if you don't know about this). Today it's Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis who are gunned down by racists, and the way the courts work end with verdicts that refuse to come up with murder convictions, sending the same message the Supreme Court gave in 1857 when it ruled that Black people have no rights the white man is bound to respect.
In Ramona Gardens, where Black people only recently began to move in after firebombings in 1992 drove them out for many years, those doing the driving out are Latinos who live in the very same conditions of poverty and discrimination.
Because this is what happens when people are trained in and actively take up the outlook of the very system that is fucking them over, capitalism-imperialism.
Bob Avakian has described this many ways in many of his talks and writings. In Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, he describes a scene where you have a bunch of people lined up, and a guy with a gun in one hand and a club in the other going down the line, hitting people with the club and breaking their legs. And somebody jumps up and says, "Alright then, I'm gonna be the baddest broke-leg muthafucker there is!" And BA goes on, to laughter, and then resounding applause from the audience: "Something's wrong here. What we need to be doing is saying, 'Hey, that man's breaking everybody's legs! Let's get together and stop that muthafucker from breaking everybody's legs!'"
This system has always worked to pit one section of people it oppresses against another. And for many years now in places like Los Angeles, it has been Black people and Latinos fighting against each other. People know almost nothing about each other's history and how while the ways they've been tormented are different, they share the same tormentors. (To find out more about the history that is kept hidden from people, listen to the clip from BA's Revolution talk, "Why Do People Come Here From All Over the World?")
On January 1 of this year, Bob Avakian gave a New Year's message—A Call to REVOLUTION—and in it he shows how people don't have to go along with how this system trains us to think and act:
Why should we do what they want us to do—killing and crippling each other, trying to beat down or beat out each other, ending up in jail, or paralyzed, or dead at an early age—instead of joining together to go up against the system that has got us in this mess in the first place? Why should we accept the lies that people who are of a different color, or live in a different place, or speak a different language, or love in a different way, are less than human and deserve to be locked up, or beaten down, or murdered? Why should girls and women be treated like things, whose only value is to be used for sex and having babies? Why should we go along with the sickening culture of this system which says money is more important than people, and people are only a means to make money? Why should we believe that "it's all in god's hands," when all this horror and suffering is completely unnecessary and could be ended? Why should we accept the way things are, or just try to make things a little bit better, still living within this system that will keep on destroying the lives of human beings, and denying a decent future to the youth, all over the world?
Revolutionaries who heard about what happened in Ramona Gardens went there with this message, to take this to people who are caught up in the logic of the system and connect up with people who don't want to go along with all this. We also brought two other things to help people get clear on who are their friends and who are their enemies: the Call to End Racial Hostilities that was written in 2012 by SHU prisoners in Pelican Bay who were leaders of prisoner hunger strikes to stop the torture of solitary confinement, and copies of Revolution newspaper with a poster on the back page that vividly exposes the oppression of Black people from slavery until today and points clearly to the need for revolution to uproot this (Three Strikes poster).
We talked mainly with Latinos, young and old. We didn't find a neighborhood full of racists. We found people who said they didn't like that this happened, and some were even outraged and upset. But they also didn't want to confront what this country has done to Black people, historically and today. One way several people avoided confronting this reality was to talk about the attack only in terms of gang violence. Perhaps it was gang-related (which we don't know), but for the people, this is much bigger than a feud—and it means something when three out of the four apartments firebombed were Black people's homes, when there are only 78 Black residents out of the total 1,791 who live in Ramona Gardens, and everybody knows that, as one Black person commented to us, "Black people aren't supposed to be here."
We also got a feel for the resentment that was just under the surface in the people we heard from, but clearly is a big part of the larger picture. More than one person said that the victims of the firebombings were now going to get Section 8 vouchers and be able to move to Long Beach (a nicer area), so what's the big deal, they're actually benefiting from what happened!
This is part of how people who are themselves held down and treated like something less than human, become part of holding down other people in the same situation. They get caught in the trap of seeing their problems as how to survive individually or as a family or as an oppressed section of people that is competing for resources and opportunities with each other and with other oppressed sections of people. They don't see the common source of their problems, and the common solution.
This also contributes to the feeling from those who don't like what they see happening and don't want to go along with it, that there's nothing they can do about it anyway. Reading to people the questions posed by BA in the New Year's Message challenged their thinking about this. It made them seriously think about what they are going along with and they went from saying there's nothing we can do, to asking, what can we do about changing all this? We had discussions with people about the need for revolution and the strategy for how to get to the conditions where it would be possible to seize power, establish a new state power, and lead a new society. And we also explored with some people the possibilities of how people could come together in that area to take a stand and not go along with the ways the system has people thinking and acting in opposition to each other—in particular in this situation the violence against Black people.
There was a clear distinction that what the revolutionaries are about are values and thinking and acting in ways that are part of building a movement for revolution to emancipate humanity. This was most sharply in contention with the massive and constant police presence in the neighborhood—with both their constant threat of violence and force against the people, including a gang injunction there that prevents groups of young people hanging outside together, as well as their Community Snitch Program (CSP "Community Safety Program") that has been going on in several housing projects the last couple years.
There is still a need for people in the neighborhood to stand up/speak out in support of the Black people in Ramona Gardens and in ways where they are changing the overall atmosphere by what they do. When people begin to challenge how everyone thinks the way things "just are," it changes what others understand and how they see what's possible. One lesson we summed up after going there is that as important as it was to learn about and challenge people's thinking, we also needed to have concrete ways people could act. When people said, "what can we do about it?" we actually needed to have an answer! In some other places when there have been fights or other ways the Black/Latino contradiction has sharpened up, there is experience leading people to put together unity picnics or mass wearing of black and brown ribbons.
One of the concrete ways we've thought of for people to act is popularizing that question from BA, whether on a sticker, button, t-shirt, or other forms: Why should we do what they want us to do—killing and crippling each other, trying to beat down or beat out each other, ending up in jail, or paralyzed, or dead at an early age—instead of joining together to go up against the system that has got us in this mess in the first place? And together with that quote, an image of black and brown hands together breaking out chains. People need to act in ways that are part of building and strengthening the movement for revolution, and we're heading back to Ramona Gardens to work with people there to do that.
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
by Sunsara Taylor | June 2, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I really appreciated the recent polemic published in Revolution/revcom.us, "Mass Incarceration, the Democrats, and Angela Davis—Don't Be Fooled; and Don't Let Others Be Part of Fooling You." That piece reveals powerfully and poignantly the way that she is misdirecting people's anger and leading them towards a harmful and poisonous dead-end. If anyone hasn't yet read it, they should do so right away.
I am writing because recently I heard Angela Davis's sister, Fania Davis, speak and this further drove home the need for clarity on the fundamentally different approaches being advocated in response to what is actually a slow genocide of Black and Latino people in this country, as well as the question of reform or revolution. Fania Davis, who is the director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth and who shares the same overall political and ideological outlook as her sister Angela, was speaking on a panel focused on mass incarceration at the Left Forum in New York, a major conference of various "leftist trends" and activists.
Fania began by sharing how she and her Restorative Justice project have spent the last two days "training police officers." As one major part of this, she proudly described organizing a "youth/police healing circle" in which the youth complained about the way police make jokes and laugh at the crime scenes of murders in their communities and where the police explained that that was just their way of handling the ongoing stress and tension of their jobs. Then, she explained, they all played a game of basketball together and this has "significantly eased tensions between them."
Later, she addressed the theme of the conference while at the same time implicitly polemicizing against Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. The main title of the Left Forum this year is "Reform and/or Revolution," and Carl Dix had just argued that you cannot have both reform and revolution as your main approach. Either you make revolution and defeat and dismantle this whole foul system that rules over and destroys the lives of billions, he argued, or you end up tinkering around the blood-soaked margins of this nightmare of a world. In the fight to make revolution, it is correct at times to take up the fight for certain reforms, (for example, demanding justice for victims of police murder or fighting to overturn laws that have closed down women's abortion clinics), and it is important to unite with and "stretch a line" to people who are rising up against this system's crimes even if they themselves are not coming from a revolutionary perspective. But it is necessary to do this in a way that strengthens people's understanding and ability to go forward to make revolution. Carl called on people to join with the major October Month of Resistance being planned against mass incarceration and wrapped up by explaining how this fits into the RCP's strategic approach of "Fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution."
In stark contrast to this is the approach of reformism—making a principle of the notion that all one can, or should want to do is make some reforms to the system. That approach is very harmful—and all the more so when it is advocated by people who claim that their brand of reformism is somehow actually "revolutionary," even though they never put forward the clear understanding of the need for revolution or how the particular struggles they are advocating today can advance the people towards such a revolution.
About halfway into her presentation, Fania referenced Carl's remarks by calling them "binary." She said that we have to get away from that kind of "binary" and "simplistic" thinking that things are all one way or the other—either reform or revolution. Instead, she argued that we need both reform and revolution, putting them on equal par with each other (thereby opposing the need for clarity on which one is primary and must set the terms for the other) and went on to describe a very reformist, gradualist, non-revolutionary vision of personal change, spiritual "healing" and more about bringing the police and the youth together. She included in this the proclamation that she was "not just about protesting" or just saying what she is against (again, an implicit polemic against Carl Dix), but that she is bringing alive what she is for.
What a bunch of poison!
First off, revolution—especially as Carl Dix and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA are fighting for it—is not just "what we are against." It is a profoundly positive and realistic vision and program and strategy for a world without exploitation and oppression in any form. It is about defeating and dismantling the capitalist-imperialist system that is on track to lock up one out of every three Black male babies born today, that carries out terror from the sky in countries around the world, that traps millions of children worldwide in sweatshops and fields as the basic fuel for its international economy, that is devastating the natural environment, and that requires and is ramping up the enslavement and degradation of women everywhere. Revolution is about bringing into being a world where not only people's basic needs are met, but where everyone—including those who have for millennia been locked out of these realms—is part of a rich cultural, intellectual, and social life that is breaking down former divisions and social antagonisms. To get a sense of the real world history of this kind of revolution read the interview with Raymond Lotta, ("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 to get a living and concrete sense of what this will look like dig into the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. What could be more "positive" than this?
Second, this whole notion that it is categorically wrong or simplistic to be "binary" (i.e.: draw clear lines of demarcation) is just bullshit. During slavery, was it "simplistic" and wrong to be "binary" by standing unequivocally for the abolition, not the reform, of slavery? Is it simplistic and wrong to be "binary" towards, and fail to find anything redeeming about, the Nazis? Is it simplistic and wrong to be "binary" about, and to firmly oppose, torture?
Those questions should answer themselves. And the same applies to the question of revolution. The system of capitalism-imperialism causes—and can only cause—tremendous misery and suffering. This system cannot be reformed; the actual dynamics of this system as well as generations of struggle and sacrifice have demonstrated that even hard-fought reforms will be undercut and turned back against the people (often in new, and disorienting ways) until this system is swept off the face of the earth and a new revolutionary society constructed in its place. Again, while the fight for reforms can at times be part of the struggle for revolution, and while it is essential to unite with and reach out (especially through our newspaper, Revolution, and website, revcom.us) to the many outbreaks of struggle coming from other perspectives, all this must be done in a way that contributes to and hastens the development of an actual revolution.
By actively spreading unclarity about this, by criticizing this for being "simplistic," Fania Davis is just using her "radical" image to foster poisonous illusions and turn people away from the only path to real liberation.
Third, as one vivid dimension of where this approach of trying to combine reform and revolution (in reality defanging the idea of revolution by submerging it in a program of reformism) leads, lets look at the real meaning of Fania's "police/youth healing circles." A slow and grinding genocide is taking place against Black and Latino youth. Millions are locked out of any sort of decent education, healthcare, housing or prospects of work and instead turned against each other on the streets, sent off to kill others in U.S. wars, and locked in concrete cages.
What is the role of the police in all this? They are the armed enforcers of the system that is carrying out this genocide. They are not just a collection of individuals any more than the overseers and slave-catchers during slavery or the Nazi guards at Auschwitz were. They are organized, trained, and deployed to enforce the policies and programs of the state and system they serve. And the program of working to improve interpersonal relations between oppressed youth and the police, in opposition to leading those youth to join with others to fight against this terror and criminalization as part of building up the strength and understanding to make revolution as soon as that becomes possible, is deadly! It is exactly analogous to having organized the slaves to sit down with and seek "understanding" and a "defusion of tensions" with the lynch mobs and slave-chasers, rather than joining in the fight to rise up and abolish slavery. Or to trying to get Jewish people to build "understanding" and "defuse tensions" with the concentration camp guards, without doing anything to break people out of the camps or put an end to the overall genocide.
Again, the question should answer itself. We do NOT need to "foster understanding" between the police and those they terrorize, brutalize, and massively imprison. We need to build massive resistance against this terror and criminalization, among all sections of society including the oppressed youth who are the most direct targets of this, and do so in a way that increasingly strengthens people's fighting capacity, organization, and understanding of the need for revolution at the soonest possible time to put an end to this outrage as well as all the other crimes of this system!
Finally, a word on simplicity and complexity. The world is, indeed, complex and it is important to be willing and able to deal with the world in all its complexity. But some things are very simple. And frankly, if you don't get clear on some very simple things you cannot even begin to make sense out of all the various layers of complexity. For example, there is a lot of complexity to the strategy of basketball, but you can only begin to master all that if you are clear on the basic and simple rules that define the game. Or, there is lot of complexity to the different kinds of breads and pastries that can be baked, but there are some simple and basic things that you have to grasp to even begin to master all that, like the need to turn on the oven. Similarly, making revolution and going on to achieve the emancipation of all humanity is a tremendously complex process and it requires deep study and theoretical work. This is why it is so precious and so significant for the world that this work has been taken to a whole new level through the new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian (BA), Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. But one thing that is very simple and which must be grasped clearly—and which BA has consistently fought for—is that without making a real revolution humanity will remain trapped in horrific wars, exploitation, degradation, and terror.
With that, I want to end on a "binary" but basic and true statement: There is nothing good about the confusion and misdirection that Fania Davis is spreading. Get with the real revolution at revcom.us. And get with the fight today to resist the slow genocide of mass incarceration at the "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" page at revcom.us.
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
Interview with Author Alice Goffman
June 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Michael Slate recently interviewed Alice Goffman, author of the book, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, for his radio show on KPFK (90.7 FM, Los Angeles). The following is an excerpt from that interview
Michael Slate: Your book is On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City. But it's not just any fugitive life, because it's the story of an entire people, Black people and their relation with the criminal justice system in the city of Philadelphia, but I would think from what I know, extends across the country in every city in this country. Can you put a little more meat on the bones about your book?
Alice Goffman: Yes. I guess growing up I thought of fugitives as very famous people who made the FBI list and movies were made about them. The kind of fugitives that I'm writing about are people who are on probation or parole, or have low level warrants for technical violations or for not paying fees or not showing up for a court date. So, we've had these rising imprisonment rates over the past four decades. Crime has gone up and gone down, but we've had a penal system that has grown by five times since 1970.
We now have a lot of statistics on this. We know that many more Black people are in prison, disproportionate to their share of crime and of the population, and particularly Black men. I wanted to know what this meant for communities of color, for the neighborhood, for family life, for school. So I lived in a neighborhood in Philadelphia, a working-class-to-poor, African-American neighborhood, for six years while I was in college and graduate school. And this is a book about what that life is like.
Michael Slate: It's very heavy, too. As you were saying, these are not fugitives like John Dillinger running around. These are just everyday people who are forced into an underground existence to a certain extent, in the cities where they were born, in the neighborhoods where they were born and grew up and where they were living their life. They're under a constant state of siege.
Alice Goffman: Right. So when I got there—I got there in 2002, and police curfews had been established around the area for those under age 18. So that basically meant anybody under 30 could be stopped and searched and frisked. There were police video cameras on major streets. So the first 18 months I was there, I saw the police stop people in cars, or stop pedestrians, search them, run their names for warrants, ask them to come in for questioning, or make an arrest, every day except five days. I saw the police break down doors, search houses, chase people through houses, 52 times in the first year and a half that I spent there. Helicopters circling overhead beaming searchlights onto local streets. Fourteen times in the first year and a half I spent there I saw the police punch, choke, kick, stomp on or beat young men with nightsticks.
So living in a neighborhood with that level of police activity and violence, you really learn to fear the police and to run when they are coming. This is a very different understanding of the police than the one I had growing up in a white neighborhood in Philadelphia, a pretty upper middle-class white neighborhood.
Michael Slate: When I came to that passage in your book where you were talking about exactly what you just said, this is what it looked like in general. And in that first 18 months, what you saw. I kept thinking about the way that you did this. I know you have that whole last section of your book where you talk about the entire methodology and what was behind it, and why you did it the way you did it. I don't want to get into all of that, but I do have to ask you this question: a lot of times, this idea of actually going and really embedding yourself, and I know embedding has taken on a whole other meaning in relation to everything else in the last decade, but you actually became part of the neighborhood, and I was really curious about that, because you could have just gone and done statistical research. You could have gone out a couple days a week and gotten some interviews, or done whatever. But you instead decided that you had to really become part of the whole life there. Talk about what compelled you to do that.
Alice Goffman: I think ethnography is this method that has a long history in sociology, and it's really about participant observation, so what you do is you try to subject yourself as much as possible to the crap that is being thrown at whoever you're trying to understand. So my teachers Eli Anderson, Mitch Duneier, this is the method that they used. So it wasn't really pioneering, I think. But just living in this neighborhood, like many Americans live in neighborhoods like this, I saw things that many people who live outside of these kinds of neighborhoods have never seen or heard about. So I feel very privileged to be able to talk about what's going on, and talk about it to people who are not aware.
Michael Slate: And when you talk about the kinds of things that you were just running down, it's important for people to understand that this isn't out of the ordinary. This is just part of the normal, everyday workings of the system in that neighborhood. And this neighborhood isn't even considered one of the most so-called dangerous neighborhoods or poorest neighborhoods in Philadelphia.
Alice Goffman: That's right. When I interviewed police officers many years later, after I had been living in this neighborhood for a long time, I was very surprised to find out that this neighborhood was not even on their radar. It wasn't like a hotspot for crime. It wasn't a neighborhood that they thought was particularly violent or dangerous. And the same thing with local residents. This is a neighborhood that many of the people living in other nearby neighborhoods were very excited to be able to move to if they got a little bit more money. It had nicer houses; it had more well-trimmed lawns. So the number of young men who are entangled in the criminal justice system, it's on par with some neighborhoods, and it's probably less than other neighborhoods.
But, yeah, it was incredible to me just how much this has permeated kind of everyday life. So like the first week I spent there, I saw two boys, five and seven years old, play this game of "chase," where one boy had the role of cop, who was running after the other. And when the "cop" caught up to the other child, then he pushed him down with imaginary handcuffs, and he patted the other child down and felt in his pockets, asking if he had a warrant, or was carrying a gun or any drugs. Then the child took a quarter out of the other child's pockets and laughed and yelled, "I'm seizing that!"
I saw this game repeated many times in the following months: Children running and sticking their hands behind their backs as if in handcuffs, or pushing their bodies up against a car without being asked, or lying flat on the ground, putting their hands above their heads. So children would yell, "I'm gonna lock you up! I'm gonna lock you up and you're never coming home!" I once saw like a six-year-old child pull another child's pants down and try to do a cavity search.
Michael Slate: Michelle Alexander did a book, The New Jim Crow, and she talked about mass incarceration and the impact of the criminal justice system on Black people overall. But in a lot of ways, she did it by marshaling a lot of statistics and facts. But you went into this, and when you were talking about being immersed in the neighborhood, becoming part of the neighborhood, the kinds of things that you saw, you actually painted a picture of the lived experience of all this, the lived experience of people, which made it very powerful and different than anything else that's out there. You talk about how every aspect of the lives of Black people in that neighborhood, and particularly those who are targeted— and there were not only little kids playing at being the cop and the neighborhood resident, but the little kids themselves became targets at a very early age. The whole thing of how it transformed the neighborhood overall, as well as the relations between people in the neighborhood.
Alice Goffman: Yeah, so let's take Tim. Tim was the younger brother of Chuck, who was one of the guys that I got to know very well. So Tim's first arrest came at age 11, when he was stopped in a car. His older brother Chuck was driving him to school in his girlfriend's car, and a cop pulled them over and searched the car and ran the tags, and the car came up as stolen in California, actually. Chuck had never been to California, had no idea which one of his girlfriend's relatives had stolen the car, but the officer took both brothers into custody and down to the police station. They charged Chuck with receiving stolen property. And then they charged Tim, age 11, with accessory. And later a judge in the juvenile courts put Tim on three years of probation. So as an 11-year-old, he was on probation; he had to go to court. He had to pay court fees, which he was unable to pay, and it sort of spiraled from there.
Another guy I got to know, Mike, his first arrest came at age 13 when the police stopped and searched him and arrested him for carrying a small amount of marijuana. He was then put on probation. The arrest that really pushed Chuck off of the good path was when he was 18. He had actually gone all the way through until 18, which he was super-proud about. He was a senior in high school. He got into a schoolyard fight with a guy who called his mom a "crack whore," and he was charged with aggravated assault. The guy wasn't severely injured. Chuck had pushed his face into the snow, which was sort of insulting to him.
So he had this aggravated assault case which dragged on. He went to jail. He was unable to make bail; he couldn't afford bail. So he was in jail during the trial dates. So it went on for eight months and he lost his senior year of high school. Almost all of the charges were dropped. The case was dismissed. But he was 19 when he came out, so the school would not readmit him. So there went his high school diploma. He had been making C's and B's before that. Then he had court fees he had to pay at the end of the court case, which he couldn't afford to pay. So he had a bench warrant out for unpaid court fees. So then he was on the run.
Michael Slate: There's a part in your book where you talk about an entire net of entrapment. And what you're laying out really sort of begins to hint at that. Can we dig a little more into this net of entrapment? When you talk about how it changes what would be normal human life in a neighborhood. It gets completely changed, from the most mundane to the most significant aspects of your life. There's an entire net of entrapment that's been constructed.
Alice Goffman: Yeah, so this is what was really kind of the surprising finding for me of this research, is that once you're on the wrong side of the law, once you have a probation violation, it's exactly the things you would be doing to be a good person, an upstanding citizen, a good father, a good employee, going to work, showing up routinely to your kids' activities, sleeping in the same bed every night, being a known person with a stable routine—it's exactly all those things that allow the police to find you.
So the way the police make their stats and round up enough young men to get these very high arrest rates is by looking for people in all the places that they know them to be. They've got a lot of technology to do this. So your mother's house becomes a last known address. Your girlfriend who you love, and you care about becomes a person who the police can turn to, to provide information. Your job—the police will come to young men's jobs to take them into custody. Also going to the hospitals.
So when Alex, another young man I got to know, when his girlfriend was giving birth to his first son, he had a parole violation for drinking alcohol at the time. So he didn't want to go to the hospital because he was worried the police would arrest him at the hospital. But he went anyway, because he wasn't going to miss his son's birth. So he stayed with his girlfriend for many hours of labor. I got there after the baby had been born, and we were there in the delivery room. And two police officers came into the room and arrested him on this parole violation. And when I asked them how they had found him, they said that they had run the names of the men on the visitors' list and had arrested him and two other men with low-level warrants who had also been on the delivery room floor. So hospitals become dangerous.
Later when he was on probation and working very hard to complete his probation, he got beat up in an alleyway and then refused to go to the hospital to seek medical treatment because he was so worried that being beaten up and going to the hospital would cause him to violate his parole—for being out late, if there was alcohol in his system, etc. So his eyes are not set at the right level in his face, and he speaks with a muffled lisp. But he didn't go to the hospital and he completed his parole.
So it's setting up this incentive system where doing exactly the things we would want people to do to be good people wind up as sort of pathways to prison. So kind of not the way we would want it to be organized to encourage people to stay on the right path....
Michael Slate: There's so much in this book, so much in the experience that you had. I want to give people the sense of terror that pervades throughout the entire community to a very large extent, the question of raids. And you had personal experience in a raid. I want people to get a sense of what that was like. What happens with these raids? How are they carried out? What are they carried out for, and what happens during them?
Alice Goffman: Yeah, so I was present for a few nighttime raids, and I heard recounted a good deal more. The one that I talk about in the book, it was late at night, and we had been watching Gangs of New York, on the couch. I was at Mike's mother's house with Mike and Chuck and Mike's mother and I'd fallen asleep on the couch and I heard the banging in my dreams sort of mixed in with the title page music. And then two police officers busted through the door, both white, SWAT gear, guns on the sides of their legs. One officer pushed me down onto the floor and put his boot over me and then cuffed me with plastic handcuffs and yelled at me to say where the guys in the house were hiding.
At this point I didn't know where they were. It turns out that they had fled. So then another officer comes in and takes everything out of the fridge and opens the cabinets and throws the china out of the cabinets and then comes into the living room and takes out the drop ceiling and throws the drop ceiling squares down on the floor and opens the closet and takes out the old shoes and games. And I can hear Mike's mother upstairs screaming at them not to shoot her and screaming at them to let her get dressed. And all the while the cop with his foot on me is saying, "You'd better tell me where they're hiding. I can tell that Mike's mother takes pride in her house, and we don't want to have to ruin it," which they had sort of already done.
So like over the course of these raids and also interrogations, what the police do is convince women that if they don't give up the men in their lives, they will be evicted, their children will be taken away, they will be arrested for the man's crimes. And if they're trying to turn a girlfriend, rather than a mother or a sister or a friend, like I was, then the police use all this technology at their disposal to show women that the men have cheated on them, or that the men don't really love them, or will be trying to blame them for their crimes. And then they do the same thing to the man. So they do these kind of complex, two-way maneuvers where women learn that the man that they love they can't trust, and they imagine these long years in prison if they don't inform.
This is something you see in the movies happening to women who are involved with very, very high profile murderers. But this is like sort of something the police are doing in poor communities of color to many young women, to many mothers and sisters and cousins as a kind of routine way to round up enough men to make their stats.
Michael Slate: And it's a very special oppression that they aim at women. As you're pointing out, including this point about the threat—there's all kinds of other threats beyond the question of turning them against the man who's their partner in life, or at the time. But there's a very special pressure that relates to children and security whether you're going to have a house and whether you'll be able to keep your kids. And all of this stuff gets put on the line very heavily. From what you're saying, it's a routine thing to pressure women in this manner.
Alice Goffman: Yeah, so we did this survey, Chuck and I, one summer. We interviewed the households in this four-block radius of the area that I use the pseudonym "6th Street" for, because I just wanted to know if this was happening to most women, or just a few, or just the ones I'd gotten to know. So it was really incredible. We found that, I think, a third of women had been interrogated like this in the past couple of years. So it's happening very routinely to women. It's something that's part of what they have to deal with. And these are communities that are struggling with all kinds of problems beyond the kinds of violence and pressure from the criminal justice system, right? There's poverty, there's high crime, there's drug addiction and all the kinds of problems that come with being in a community that's been historically excluded and marginalized and impoverished. So people are dealing with all of this, right? But then on top of that they're dealing with the threat of the police and the men in their lives going in and out of prison and all this.
Michael Slate: A whole new social world gets created in relation to what the criminal injustice system is doing to the people there. There's a whole new social order that gets created. You point out that all the things that are the significant moments in one's life, so many of them, in a normal neighborhood or whatever, in a neighborhood that's not a Black neighborhood that's under the gun of the police 24/7, what ends up happening is you have a prom, you have a marriage, you have all these things. But in the neighborhoods that we're talking about, in the neighborhood that you did your study in, the whole social life of the neighborhood gets warped and changed into something very different in relation to what's going on in terms of the oppression that comes down on people there.
Alice Goffman: Right, so the kind of key moments in young adulthood, if you think about the key moments of adolescence: first year in high school, first day of school, graduation, prom, first job, all these kinds of moments. A few people were getting to have these moments. But many young men, and many women too, their moments were, first time being arrested, first time going to jail, coming home from jail. Bail hearings became a big moment. Court cases. So when prom comes for a young man, it's like OK, who are you going to invite to prom, right? That's a pretty big sign of who is the most important girl in your life, right?
But for Mike, and Chuck and other young men that I got to know, this was like a court date. So the sentencing hearing became these times where like, well who are you going to invite to the sentencing hearing? And who was going to sit next to your mother in the first row? So it's a kind of transferring over of all of these moments of young adulthood into the criminal justice system. So not graduations and first days on the job, but sentencing hearings and parole hearings and bail. They became these moments where people kind of came together and figured out who was who in each other's lives.
And they're not the same, right? I mean, they're profoundly sad. So even when you're the woman who gets picked to be sitting next to the mom of a man getting sentenced, you're still watching the person that you love be sentenced to ten years in prison. It's a kind of hellish sort of graduation.
And then, in terms of the fabric of community life, one really surprising thing to me was that there's all of these job opportunities for people who can't work and who are not able to find work in the legal economy. There's this whole underground economy that's been created to provide for people who have legal entanglements, who are on probation, who are on parole, who are sitting in jail. So people are selling fake documents, people are selling clean urine so people can get past their court cases. People are smuggling basic goods into jails and getting paid for that. So there's this whole kind of underground network of support, and people making little bits of money out of the legal woes of their neighbors and friends and cousins. So that was surprising to me, too.
Michael Slate: That was the next question I was going to ask you. There was something that was really interesting to me, in that, yes, there were people who were saying, OK, they have a chance to make a little extra here, to do this, do that. But a lot of them were rising to serve, like you said, a certain need. It was interesting to see people, one way or another, they have some understanding of, there's something very terrible going on here, and the whole question of restoring some element of humanity. Even the guy who was running the half-way house that you write about, who would let people leave the half-way house overnight, violating all the rules, cover for them, because he wanted them to have an element of humanity. For all these things that people do, yes, making money, getting a chance to do this, do that, but at the same time there was also this element, and I don't know how widespread it was, but there was something terrible going on and I want to do something to counter this.
Alice Goffman: There was a woman who I got to know pretty well who was studying to be a nurse's assistant, who ended up bringing drugs that were needed, like antibiotics, kind of an underground provider of antibiotics, and also she would make casts and reset people's arms when they had been broken and things like that for people who were too scared to go to the hospital. So Ronnie was climbing on a bus and shot himself in the leg by accident with a gun he was carrying because his older cousin had just died in a very violent conflict. He had come home from juvenile detention and was very scared for his life. Anyway, he got on this bus, the gun went off, shot himself in the leg. And she came and took the bullet out on his grandmother's kitchen table, knowing that he was refusing to go to the hospital because he didn't want to go back to jail.
So there's a lot of women and some men providing health care to people who are too scared to seek formal care. There's also, like you said, this man that I met who worked in a half-way house, who was letting men leave the house at night. It was this very overcrowded halfway house. Men were sleeping two and three to a bunk. The plumbing system was all screwy so there was sewage like on the floor of these rooms so he basically thought that was wrong and he talked about wanting to be on the right side of history, and he would let men out at night to see their families and then come back before count in the morning. He was partly taking some money on the side for this, but he was also letting people go for free. He talked about it as an underground railroad.
Michael Slate: Throughout the book and throughout this interview we've been talking about the repercussions of all the police activity against all of the people in this neighborhood. To my mind, this is obviously something that gets repeated in one way or another in neighborhoods just like this all over the country. I wanted to ask you this: you also made a big point about surveillance of people, and the fact that people are living under almost constant surveillance in one way or another. And I wanted to know if you could expand on that a little bit more.
Alice Goffman: I thought a lot about surveillance as I was doing this project, particularly because technology was changing across all kinds of groups in society. So like, as a middle-class white person, I think like lots of people, I'm scared about what the government knows about me. But most of the way that this technology works in my life is when I swipe my card at a train station it can tell me what trains I've taken in the past and ask me if I want to go on that one again. Amazon knows what things I might want to watch. It's sort of helpful in my life.
In this neighborhood this technology is being deployed to make people feel unsafe in their homes, and to round up people at their jobs. And it's really impressive the kinds of technologies that are being used. So like the question of, how do you create a kind of fugitive life for this many people in poor communities of color? And the answer is like, well partly just through lots of police. There's this huge ramping up of policing. In the second half of the 20th century, urban police departments across the country got kind of flooded with federal dollars. All these special units got created. But there's also this incredible transformation in technology. So the police officers that I interviewed in Philadelphia, when they're looking for somebody they use social security records, court records, hospital admissions records, electric and gas bills, employment records. They go to a person's usual haunts—his home, his workplace, his street corner. They threaten family and friends with arrest. And they can find out all the places where family might be or their friends might be through all this information that they can pull up very quickly on the computer screen.
They also turn to people in the neighborhood who have their own pending legal entanglements and put pressure on them to provide information about whoever is on their list that day. Also, the warrant units operating in the Philadelphia police department, they use this pretty sophisticated computer mapping program that tracks people that have warrants or who are on probation or parole or have been released on bail. So then you can round up these people and get them to provide information about whoever you're looking for.
A local FBI officer got inspired to develop this computer program after watching a documentary on the Stasi, the East German secret police. They also track people in real time with their cell phones. It's really incredible the technology at their disposal and the harmful effects of it in this community.
Michael Slate: There are some people who operate in the world who understand some of the complexity of this massive web of surveillance and are very careful about the kind of tracks that they leave. Not that they're doing anything illegal or anything untoward. They just don't want to be followed. Yet you look at this and this is for people who are really on the bottom of society, and yet are faced with such a massive web of surveillance. It's incredible. And it must be really incredibly repressive and oppressive in people's lives.
Alice Goffman: And the cost of this. It could be put toward much more kind of socially positive and job creation, better schools. We're talking about a massive budget here going to this policing and imprisonment.
Michael Slate: You've talked about the penal system, that the overall penal system has become America's way of managing the problem of Black poverty. Let's talk about that.
Alice Goffman: Michelle Alexander and other scholars and others have made this case that the War on Crime and the War on Drugs have substantially targeted Black Americans, and that the felony conviction that people receive when they get out of prison is equivalent to a second-class citizenship status—the same kind of second-class citizenship status that Black people suffered under Jim Crow.
I think what my book shows is that many poor Black Americans are living not just as felons, but as fugitives. They're worried that at any moment they may be seized. And this also goes very far back. So during slavery, through the fugitive slave laws, during Jim Crow through the vagrancy statutes that arrested large numbers of Black people trying to move north during the First and Second Great Migrations. After slavery and Jim Crow we had the Civil Rights Movement, right? Black Americans finally won the rights of citizenship that had eluded them for centuries.
What my book shows is that these citizenship rights have been removed and people are now living as fugitives, and that's kind of the lowest form of citizenship we could imagine, when the state is actually on the hunt for you.
Michael Slate: It's very heavy, because in a way, you're a prisoner whether you're in jail or not in jail.
Alice Goffman: That puts it very well.
Michael Slate: Bob Avakian has said this—what you're looking at with the onslaught, after the War on Drugs began under Nixon, and the idea that as Haldeman quoted him, "the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to." They know what happened in the 1960s, with all the massive rebellions and whatnot, and the idea that, in these decades, they don't want to have that happen again and this was a way to sort of clamp down on that possibility. .And as this all developed essentially what you end up having is the launching of a counter-insurgency at a time when there is not yet an insurgency.
Alice Goffman: I think the whole concept of mass incarceration is sort of premised on the idea that this isn't just about punishing single offenders. This is about imprisoning an entire group of people. I think that that's what we're seeing for poor African-Americans today. The question moving forward is, what place are African-Americans going to have in our liberal democracy? Are we going to continue to be a society where African-American young men are living as felons and fugitives and with a secondary citizenship status, or are we going to really include African-American young men in the labor market, include them in higher education? Are we going to grant full membership in American life to Black young men, or not?
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
by Orpheus Reed | June 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In mid-May, two scientific studies were released that came to the same horrifying conclusion—the immense glaciers in the Amundsen sea sector of West Antarctica are collapsing. The lead author of one of the studies, Eric Rignot, said the glaciers "have passed the point of no return." The melt of these glaciers is predicted to occur over the next 200-500 years.
These glaciers are truly massive works of nature—as large as the state of Texas, with an average thickness of two miles. The glaciers flow off of the Antarctic land mass and extend as ice shelves into Amundsen Sea. The ice shelves are melting from underneath because of contact with warming ocean waters most likely caused by climate change. According to Rignot, their collapse "appears to be unstoppable." (See sidebar: "Antarctic Ice Sheets and Climate Tipping Points.")
The collapse of West Antarctic ice sheets is a very big deal. The system of capitalism is responsible for warming the globe and transforming the climate by its relentless burning of fossil fuels and mowing down of forests worldwide. This warming now seems the most likely cause of melting of these glaciers, thus guaranteeing a global sea level rise of four feet over the next several centuries from these sheets alone. Even worse, the collapse over the next centuries of these glaciers is very likely to significantly accelerate the melt and potential collapse of other Antarctic ice sheets, leading to a much larger sea level rise. On top of this, there is an acceleration of melting already occurring in the Greenland ice sheets in the Arctic near the North Pole due to climate change.
The melting of these ice sheets will likely necessitate the relocation of tens of millions of people globally. In Bangladesh, for example, scientists have predicted that by 2050, rising sea levels will inundate 17 percent of the land and displace about 18 million people. Beyond this, we now face potential of rising sea levels flooding all the world's coastlines and whole island countries over the next centuries. Think about many of the world's largest cities—New York, Mumbai, Shanghai, Miami, Osaka-Kobe, New Orleans, etc.—threatened with inundation. According to globalgreen.org, "Two-thirds of the world's cities have populations of five million or more living in at-risk areas that are less than 10 meters [32.8 feet] above sea level."
More powerful storms caused by climate change will come ashore with devastating surges riding these rising seas. Rich ecosystems in the Arctic and Antarctic that sustain whole peoples and in fact the world's ocean ecosystems are facing degradation and possibly elimination. Humanity and the natural balances of the earth are facing environmental disaster. Faced with this, those in power in the capitalist-imperialist system are doing, and can do, essentially nothing of real substance to deal with this tremendous threat to the very future of our planet's living systems. Instead of immediately moving and mobilizing society to stop and reverse the practices that are causing global warming and climate change, the capitalist world powers do the opposite. They are moving even more urgently to seek and exploit new sources of fossil fuels, ruthlessly seeking to beat each other out for strategic power and control.
At the same time, as this crisis heightens they are increasingly compelled to make some moves to address the situation—like Obama's new regulations to limit emissions from coal—even as these moves don't come anywhere close to what is truly needed to effectively deal with this crisis. Such moves can only take place under capitalism in service of the capitalist mode of production, which is the problem in the first place. What they do flows from and serves their strategic interests—of how to adapt to this crisis and maintain their legitimacy and power in the face of a coming catastrophe.
The lack of a complete and drastic change in direction on the part of these powers in the face of the collapse of the Antarctic ice sheets and other signs of global environmental emergency is a stunning indictment of this system. These capitalist-imperialists cannot be entrusted with the future of the world's people and environment. The collapse of the glaciers in West Antarctica appears inevitable, but the destruction of at least much of our world ecosystems and humanity is not yet inevitable. The collapse of these amazing ice sheets is a clarion call: it makes even clearer the urgent need for revolution at the earliest possible time to bring into the world a new system of socialism heading toward communism. This would allow society to deal in a real way with the environmental emergency—to do all that's possible to prevent the further collapse of world ecosystems as an essential part of liberating humanity.
Read Revolution's special issue on the environment: State of EMERGENCY! The Plunder of Our Planet, The Environmental Catastrophe & The Real Revolutionary Solution for a deep sense of the scope of the developing environmental catastrophe, its roots in the system, and the potential for its resolution through revolution. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) is a concrete plan and vision of how a new society would transform the nightmare of capitalism-imperialism, including bringing about a new relationship between humanity and the planet we live on.
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
June 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
If you haven’t read it yet, check out the article by Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” in the June issue of The Atlantic (available at the newsstand or online at theatlantic.com).
Coates starts off his article with these sentences:
250 years of slavery.
90 years of Jim Crow.
60 years of separate but equal.
35 years of racist housing policy.
Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.
What follows is a deep and searing look at the the oppression of Black people in the United States of America—an indictment that makes a case for reparations. The just demand for reparations—that the descendants of slaves in the U.S. be given some kind of compensation—has been debated since the end of the Civil War. Coates says the very idea of reparations threatens “America’s heritage, history, and standing in the world.” And his article has set off a whole new round of much-needed public discussion in these times—of mass incarceration, the killing of Trayvon Martin, and police murder and brutality.
Coates goes deeply into the profound consequences of 250 years of slavery in the United States. He gets into how the enslavement of Black people was so foundational to this country that “those who sought to end it were branded heretics worthy of death.” He painstakingly chronicles how Black people in this country have been systematically treated as “sub-citizens, sub-Americans, and sub-humans.” And he says that perhaps no statistic better illustrates this “enduring legacy of our country’s shameful history” than the wealth gap between Black and white people.
In these times, when we got a Black president constantly blaming the youth for their predicament and pointing the finger at “bad fathers,” Coates' argument for reparation says:
“The early American economy was built on slave labor. The Capitol and the White House were built by slaves. President James K. Polk traded slaves from the Oval Office. The laments about “black pathology,” the criticism of black family structures by pundits and intellectuals, ring hollow in a country whose existence was predicated on the torture of black fathers, on the rape of black mothers, on the sale of black children. An honest assessment of America’s relationship to the black family reveals the country to be not its nurturer but its destroyer. And this destruction did not end with slavery. Discriminatory laws joined the equal burden of citizenship to unequal distribution of its bounty. These laws reached their apex in the mid-20th century, when the federal government—through housing policies—engineered the wealth gap, which remains with us to this day. When we think of white supremacy, we picture Colored Only signs, but we should picture pirate flags."
We encourage readers of Revolution to not only read “The Case for Reparations,” but join the conversation and debate. Talk to others and write to Revolution about your thinking on this important issue.
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
June 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On June 1, Yuri Nakahara Kochiyama died at the age of 93. Yuri was a fierce, eloquent fighter against oppression and injustice, and tears of loss are flowing around the world because she was loved by so many people over several generations—not only in the progressive and radical movements and struggles here "in the belly of the beast" (as she liked to say), but on every continent.
Her life story is legendary, tracking huge social upheavals and changes of the latter decades of the 20th century, and stands as a testament to the powerful force of the liberation movements of those times. In her late 80s, Yuri said, "I sure wish I had opened my eyes to the real nature of this country, and the need to stand up and fight it, before I was in my 40s! But at least when I was shown how things really are—for Black people, and Native people, and prisoners, and everybody else who's oppressed—I was able to put 2 and 2 together, and figure out that I needed to join the movement and start fighting." For the next half century, she chose a fearless, passionate life that had at its center a love for the people and a tireless energy in the struggle against oppression.
Yuri's life shows how people can at any point come upon a door and find themselves compelled to step through it to take part in transforming the world—and in doing so, they themselves are transformed. We often speak of the '60s as a time when millions of young people were awakened to resistance and many to revolution. But Yuri was in her early 40s when the 1960s broke open.
Living in Harlem with her husband Bill and their six children, Yuri was involved in community and civil rights struggles. She developed an abiding friendship with Malcolm X, who sparked her awakening to the cause of Black liberation—pushing her beyond the principles of integration and nonviolent civil disobedience she had believed in to take up in thought and practice self-determination and self-defense for Black and other oppressed peoples. Yuri is perhaps most famous for the photograph in Life magazine taken seconds after Malcolm X was fatally shot, showing her cradling his head on her lap as he lay dying. But Yuri once told friends: "Yes, I happened to be there when Malcolm was assassinated. But I wish more people would understand how much I owe him for his friendship and leadership, how he gave me and many other people a real understanding of the racist system and a way to fight against it. Leaders like this are very, very precious."
Yuri also had close relationships with many other revolutionary nationalist leaders including Robert F. Williams (who gifted Yuri with her first Red Book of quotations by Mao Zedong) and Puerto Rican independentistas (in whose cause Yuri took part in the 1977 occupation of the Statue of Liberty).
For decades, Yuri was devoted to the cause of political prisoners, who she championed as brothers and sisters who must not be forgotten, imprisoned for commitment to political struggles that threaten the system and/or associations with radical and revolutionary struggles.
When Yuri spoke about her decades of support through legal battles and personal correspondence with dozens of political prisoners—she sometimes pointed to the importance of "making connections." She would talk about her own life as an example of the fact that just being mistreated by the system does not in itself push a person to fight against that abuse or the system causing it. In 1942 during World War 2, Yuri had been a young patriotic believer in the red-white-and-blue American Dream. Then she found herself among the 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans locked up in America's concentration camps. Solely on the basis of being Japanese, people were rounded up and forcibly removed from the West Coast, forced to leave behind homes, land, and property, and then held captive in 10 camps across the U.S. for the next three years. Just being imprisoned was a shock. Yuri, like so many Japanese in America, could not comprehend this immense and racist injustice in the country she considered her own. Her family was at the camp in Jerome, Arkansas, and there in the Jim Crow segregated South she began to see parallels between the lives of Black people and the treatment of the Japanese in America.
Later, Yuri often made the point that it was the concentration camp experience that gave her a connection both historically and viscerally to see the importance of standing with the political prisoners whom the U.S. government had targeted for their political work and/or associations that the system deemed to be threatening and subversive. "I cannot help but feel strongly about this [political prisoners], because I can never forget what we, peoples of Japanese ancestry, experienced during World War II because of hysteria, isolation, and absolutely no support... Yes, we were also political prisoners..." (Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama," by Diane C. Fujino)
The first political-legal case Yuri ever worked on was for Mae Mallory, a close associate of Robert F. Williams, the revolutionary nationalist leader in the early 60s who advocated armed self-defense by Black people. Both Williams and Mallory were framed on false criminal charges. From then on, the cause of political prisoners in the U.S., especially those connected to liberation movements of the '60s and '70s, was Yuri's most heartfelt work. Yuri exchanged personal letters with political prisoners, wrote articles about them, visited them, and stayed in touch with many of their attorneys and supporters. This included well-known political prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, and dozens of jailed Black Panthers and Republic of New Afrika leaders—as well as others not so well known.
Yuri was determined and fearless when it came to learning and taking on new things. She joined the struggle against the Vietnam war, supported national liberation struggles around the world, and was part of the fight against national oppression in the United States, including the movement that rose up among Asian-American students and youth. Even into her late 80s, Yuri continued to reach out as teacher, comrade, and mentor to new generations of young people of all nationalities. There are children (for at least three generations now) named after Yuri; rappers have songs about her; a university has a student center named in her honor.
Yuri's core outlook and philosophy was forged and driven by a profound sense of mission. In an interview with Revolution (then the Revolutionary Worker) Yuri was asked what she would say to those involved in different struggles, trying to figure out where they fit in and how to carry the struggle forward and she said, " I think part of the mission would be to fight against racism and polarization, learn from each other's struggles, but also understand national liberation struggles..." She was principled in uniting with all who she saw truly fighting oppression and in her own search for how to get justice in the world. And in this spirit she opened her heart and mind to those who brought other visions to the question of what it will take to achieve the full liberation of Black and other oppressed people in this country and the world.
We will always remember Yuri's ardent demand and indefatigable passion for real justice. We will always cherish and learn from her big heart and stubborn refusal to tolerate or be silent in the face of oppression. And we will always remember, love, and honor Yuri Kochiyama's wholehearted, and wholly lived, insistent "connection" between having a love for the people and oppressed—and never, ever, making peace with the system.
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
Letter from a reader:
June 12, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors’ note: The 2014 World Cup—the international soccer (or football, as it’s known in most parts of the world) competition held every four years in a different country—began on June 12 in Brazil. The World Cup is one of the world’s most widely watched sports events, and for four weeks hundreds of millions of people across the globe will be closely following the games. As in the past, this World Cup is not only about sports competition but also involves big political and societal issues. The following is a letter from a reader we recently received.
“Rubber bullets, drones and FBI-trained riot police. Welcome to Brazil’s 2014 World Cup.”
—from May 13 CNN news report
With the World Cup in Brazil starting on June 12, people have been taking to the streets in what looks to be a month of large and militant protests against the World Cup, the Brazilian government, and FIFA (Féderation Internationale de Football Association, the world’s soccer governing body).
Protests against the World Cup have been rocking the country for the past year. Last summer, enormous protests took place all over Brazil where over a million people took to the streets on a day that coincided with FIFA’s Confederation Cup1 that was taking place in Brazil. Over 100,000 people protested in the streets of Rio de Janeiro, while thousands took part in protests in about a hundred cities and towns across the country.
The battle cry of millions in Brazil is “NÃO VAI TER COPA!”—or “(We) WILL HAVE NO CUP!”
Since last summer, protests have continued leading up to the opening of the World Cup this week. The main character of these protests has been the militancy of the people, the police attacking the demonstrators, and the people defending themselves against the police. São Paulo, a city of 11.8 million, where the opening match between Brazil and Croatia will be played, has been the center of some of the largest protests this year. People took to the streets on January 25 in São Paulo, clashing with the police and setting a police car on fire as they protested the World Cup, waving flags, carrying banners and chanting, “There will be no Cup!” Over 100 were arrested that day.
On May 15 this year, large protests took place São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, where the World Cup finals will be played on July 13, and in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. Protesters in São Paulo burned tires, blocked roads, and hurled rocks at the police, who fired tear gas on the demonstrators. In Rio de Janeiro, police fired tear gas on the protestors and barricaded the streets. The people responded by burning the barricades. At the same time, teachers, civil servants and others were striking in different cities in Brazil.
Earlier this month, subway workers in São Paulo went on strike and held a massive protest of thousands. They were joined by the homeless workers movement, MTST (Movimento de los Trabalhadores Sem-Teto), and retired military police. Many carried signs, “FIFA Go Home!” The protest blocked streets and intersections, creating miles of grid-locked traffic. Cops fired tear gas at the protesters.
Police have brutalized protestors in these demonstrations, beating and injuring many, including journalists covering the protests.
People in Brazil from all sections of the people—youth, the poorest, workers, students, intellectuals, the middle class, and the native people—are determined to disrupt and to even try to stop the matches from taking place. They are angry and fighting mad over what is taking place in their country, in general, as well as in the name of The World Cup.
There are many conditions in the country and actions of the authorities that are fueling the anger of the people. Those who are the poorest and the most oppressed in Brazil are being kicked out of the favelas (shantytowns in the Brazilian cities) from the homes they have hand-built, and they are being relocated in order to make room for World Cup facilities in 12 cities and the facilities for the 2016 Summer Olympics that will be held in Rio de Janeiro. It’s estimated that over 1.5 million people will be relocated. Many are being relocated 25 miles away from their current homes with very little notice and no compensation.
In the most recent Real Sports on HBO, there was a report on the Brazilian protests and the high costs for holding the World Cup. A woman who lives in a Rio de Janeiro favela was interviewed. Below, you could see the Maracana Stadium, where the World Cup finals will be played, from the favela that sits high on a hill in Rio. The woman tells how she has never been in the stadium because she can’t afford it. She says, “We realize that the wealth we can see from here and the poverty that we experience every day is enormous.” Then we are told that right after the World Cup, she will be forced out of the home that she has lived in for 70 years so it can be demolished for Olympic construction.
This recent urban cleansing of the poorest sections of people has been greeted with anger and hostility, not only from the residents of the favelas but from the wider public, including large sections of the middle class.
The government has instituted a program against the poorest sections of the population where massive police brutality and police killings have become a fact of daily life for the people in Brazil. According to the Brazilian Forum on Public Security the police killed 1,890 people in 2012. In the first six months of 2013, 362 people were killed by the police in Rio de Janeiro and 165 in São Paulo.2 There is a massive campaign by the authorities to criminalize the youth in Brazil by arresting them and locking them up in the country’s dungeons.
The government predicts it will spend over $30 billion3 for the World Cup and the Olympics. On the other hand the people in the country face economic hardships. Due to the worst drought in Brazil’s history, food prices have been soaring. There have been huge increases in public transportation fares. Many of the protests against the World Cup have included demands that the government spend the money on education, health care, and housing, which are badly needed, instead of the World Cup and the Olympics.
The anger at the Brazilian government is extremely widespread and much of the focus of this anger is aimed at President Dilma Rousseff. When the Confederation Cup was held last year, she was roundly booed at the opening of the tournament. Support for the World Cup was at 79% in 2008, one year after it was awarded to Brazil. In a recent Pew Research Center report, “Brazilian Discontent Ahead of the World Cup,” released this month, 61% of the people in Brazil now say the World Cup is a bad thing and almost 50% of the people say that the protests are a good thing.
“I hope Brazil loses in the first round,” Maria de Lourdes, 39, a street vendor who participated in a recent anti-World Cup demonstration, told USA Today. She said the Brazilian team falling early would make locals lose their nationalistic goodwill toward the event. “Brazil, with all its problems, Rio with all its problems—many people still die from hunger while others are spending money on these games,” she said. (Forbes, “How the 2014 FIFA World Cup Became the Worst Publicity Stunt in History,” May 27, 2014)
So what you have is a very angry populace that has taken to the streets to try and stop the World Cup from happening. On the other side is the government that is amassing a tremendous military force to intimidate and to actually try to stop the people from raising their voices in protest. The World Cup is one of the largest sporting events in the world and millions and millions of people around the world will be watching it and their eyes will be on Brazil. The Brazilian government is going to do everything in its power to keep the people from interfering with their precious World Cup show.
It is estimated that Brazil will use 150,000 police and troops (with 57,000 being Brazilian military) and 2,600 private security firms to provide “security” for the World Cup. The federal government has prepared an “anti-riot force” of 10,000. Most of the weaponry at the disposal of the security forces will be of military grade.
In order to attempt to prevent what happened last summer, the U.S. FBI, who are experts in oppressing people and violating their rights, was called in to train Brazilian security forces. According to Christopher Gaffney, a visiting professor in the Graduate School of Architecture and Urbanism at the Universidade Federal Fluminense in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian government “operates under a military police system which takes the citizenry as potential combatant enemies.” I need to emphasize that for people to chew on for a while. The Brazilian government views its citizens as “potential combatant enemies!” (See “World Cup 2014: Can the FBI help stop Brazil’s World Cup protesters?”, CNN, by James Masters, May 13, 2014.)
Massive police and military presence has been occurring and will be ramped up to the max when the Cup begins. CNN reported that in April the authorities in Rio got the federal government to send over 2,500 military troops into the Complexo da Maré favela as an occupying army in order to keep the people under the jackboot of the government. (“Brazilian army occupies Rio shantytown ahead of World Cup,” CNN, by Shasta Darlinton, April 24, 2014)
The Brazilian government will occupy the sea, the land and the air in order to spy on and control the Brazilian people. CNN reports that the Brazilian government has purchased drones from Israel that “can fly at 30,000 feet while being able to see 70 miles away,” and “the skies will be patrolled by 48 aircraft, including helicopters and airplanes, while 20 ships and 60 smaller vessels such as speed boats will patrol the seas.”
It appears that from June 12-July 13, Brazil will look like a country that is mainly preparing for and going to war with its own people, while a soccer match may break out here and there.
(For a more complete picture of the demonstrations in Brazil last summer, the reasons for these demonstrations, who is involved in them, the role of the government, and how people should understand the illegitimacy of the government in this, see “Brazil: Huge protests and illusions of capitalist development” (August 29, 2013, Revolution newspaper/revcom.us). This article gives a very good analysis that will enable people to have a good understanding of the forces involved in this struggle and what people in this struggle and others need to learn from it.)
1. The FIFA Confederations Cup is an international association football tournament for national teams that is currently held every four years in the host country of the following year’s World Cup. The participants are the teams that won each of the six FIFA confederation championships, along with the FIFA World Cup holder and the host nation, to bring the number of teams up to eight. This is basically a rehearsal for the World Cup. [back]
2. See www.forumsseguranca.org.br [back]
3. The actual costs are projected to be much more. For instance, Qatar will be spending $65 billion for the World Cup they are hosting in 2022, and China spent $40 billion for the 2008 Summer Olympics. [back]
Revolution #341 June 15, 2014
From NYC Revolution Club:
June 12, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On June 4th at 6:00 A.M as helicopters hovered overhead, 400 police in body armor, with weapons drawn, charged down hallways breaking down doors with battering rams in private apartment buildings and two housing projects in West Harlem. Mothers scrambled to protect their children, especially their teenaged boys. It was a scene reminiscent of slavery days, or U.S. troops rousting villagers in Vietnam or present day Afghanistan. Dozens and dozens of young men, ages 15 to 30, were dragged away by cops. They have been given bails of hundreds of 1000’s of dollars in some cases and are facing 15 years to life.
“All the police and helicopters, radios popping... I thought there was a terrorist attack or something. Then when I saw what was happening I realized it was terrorism. The police was terrorizing the neighborhood.”
The June 4th raid was a brutal escalation of this system’s war on Black and Latino people, especially the youth. It is bound up with the criminalization of generations of young people by a system that has no future for them other than the horror of mass incarceration, poverty, misery, or death at an early age. It is part of a slow genocide that could become a fast one.
The authorities have seized center stage—lying about what they did and why—laying the groundwork for even more vicious, brutal, and totally illegitimate attacks.
“The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people...” by Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:24
We Must Not, We Will Not Accept These Attacks on the People!
Stand Up! Speak Out! Resist This Outrage!
# # #
Speak Out, Press Conference called for by the Revolution Club NYC
Go to www.revcom.us for updates. For more info call 917 501 0354
Endorsed by: Stop Mass Incarceration Network (www.stopmassincarceration.net)
& Residents of the West Harlem