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Revolution #342 June 22, 2014
June 16, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Over the next several weeks we will be outlining major moves for the summer and into the fall—all designed to "prepare minds and organize forces" FOR revolution...to hasten the time when millions can be won to revolution and led to seize power.
But how will this ensemble of different initiatives concretely advance things toward revolution? How are they connected into something larger than just a lot of good things to do? This editorial lays out the overall strategic thinking that will ground, and give meaning and direction to, these different initiatives. It will enable those in and around the movement for revolution to grasp HOW what we do today can make a real difference to getting to the point where we finally can, as conditions change and develop, make a real go at seizing power.
Last week we presented a new slogan:
Prepare the ground, prepare the people, and prepare the vanguard—get ready for the time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win.
Let's start there. This slogan encapsulates "A Statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party: On the Strategy for Revolution" in a few short words. The different parts of what we have called "the ensemble of revolutionary work" are all, taken together, about that—about carrying forward our Party's strategy. While there is a whole process involved in preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution, with this slogan in mind we can see the potential for the different things that the Party is leading and participating in to actually serve making revolution, at the earliest possible time.
How is this so?
If there is a situation where BA Everywhere—the campaign to raise big money to spread the word on the vision and leadership of Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA—is reaching out to millions with the word that there is a conception of and leadership for a whole new world... if tens of thousands are being inspired and organized to actively stand up against and resist the glaring outrages of the mass incarceration of Black and Latino peoples and where thousands more are taking action against the enslavement and degradation of women and different terms are being set around these outrages... if Revolution/revcom.us is reaching hundreds of thousands, and then millions... if the Party itself is becoming known and seen as the leading force at the forefront of the struggle for a whole new world... and all these are mixing and meshing in people's minds—then this would greatly increase the potential to change how literally millions see this world and what is desirable and possible.
Doing this—affecting the thinking of millions, propelling them toward revolution—IS societal impact. And that is what we need to have. Everyone in our movement should constantly ask themselves—what is the importance of societal impact? Are we having it? And will our plans, if realized, give us the impact we need? We cannot build a revolutionary movement off to the side of what is going on in society—that just won't cut it. Revolutions are built by going into the heart of the most intense contradictions in society, leading people to stand up and politically battle back against that... putting that resistance in the context of a way and a strategy to change the whole world through revolution... and leading people to change themselves as they change the world.
Each of these initiatives—again, the BA Everywhere campaign as the leading edge, and the initiatives to stop mass incarceration and to end pornography and patriarchy, the enslavement and degradation of women—are important in their own right. But they are even more important and can have greater impact in the ways in which they work together, interact, synergize. Each of these has to aim, in its own right, to mobilize hundreds and thousands and to reach millions... but they are even more powerful and more effective in the ways in which they combine to do so. The second slogan of the July 4 picnics this year—"We Refuse to Accept Slavery in Any Form"—provides a powerful framework for many people to understand the links between these different kinds of activities. These picnics themselves should be occasions when the links are being drawn and all kinds of people are mixing together—and they shouldn't be the only time that happens either!
But this doesn't mean that everybody who gets active or contributes in some way has to agree with or participate in everything that the Party is doing. It's a process! Actually, in projects like the Month of Resistance to End Mass Incarceration (set for October) or the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride in Texas (set for August and early September)—the overwhelming majority, on the order of 90 percent of those who take action or otherwise support these efforts, will probably NOT agree at the outset with the need for revolution (even though their actions objectively contribute to revolution and some actually gravitate in that direction); and if the percentage is much less than that, it means that we have not been reaching out broadly enough, and these initiatives will fall short of what is needed.
At the same time, while these initiatives do have their own identity and integrity, Party supporters and revolutionaries within these initiatives will put forward their views as to the source of the problem and the character of the solution and show the connections to the fundamental dynamics of the larger society and to other things going on—the same as other people within these struggles who also will put forward their views as to the character of the problem and the solution. There should be lively struggle between all kinds of views over what is the reality we face... HOW to fight it... and WHAT to fight for; in other words, the world we face now... the immediate struggle, with all its high stakes... and the world we want to ultimately bring into being.
When we say BA Everywhere is the leading edge of this ensemble, it means that the crucial work in this realm puts the ensemble—as a whole—in the context and a framework of what is the problem, and what is the solution to all the horrors and outrages in the world today, raising sights to a radically different and far better world, concentrated in BA's new synthesis of communism. The massive multi-faceted fundraising efforts should be reaching out to and involving all sections of society to contribute to getting BA everywhere, characterized by all the lively debate and actual struggle over these questions. As an important element, it involves creative projects such as the current 1000 years—$1000 initiative that mobilizes prisoners and ex-prisoners to reach out to all sections of society. All of this creates a certain atmosphere or chemistry, and lends the whole ensemble power and direction by doing so.
Revolutionary work must go on in all sections of society. But it must have a particular energy and force among those who catch the hardest hell every day, and especially the youth. These youth can and must play a powerful and unique role in turning around the thinking of tens of millions as to what is possible and desirable in society—this happened before in the 1960s, it has happened in other countries, and it can happen here, today, on a far more significant scale. But that will take dedicated WORK... along with daring and imagination.
In order for that to happen, the revolutionaries have to challenge these youth to get into the revolution—challenging them not just to stand up, but to get with what is REALLY worth living and dying for: Revolution... nothing less! This can't be done without real ways to go up against the powers-that-be... but it also can't be done without BA Everywhere, and everything that this vision, line, and leadership represents, as the leading edge of how we step to these youth. If they've been caught up in madness, or have just gone along with it, we can't—and shouldn't want to—step around that; and we don't need to! Again, challenge it. And BA, and what he's brought forward is a tremendously powerful factor in doing that—if we wield it boldly and represent for it in a way consistent with what people get from BA, as epitomized and concentrated in his New Year's message.
In this work to bring forward the youth, and in their effect more broadly on society, the role of those prisoners who have in fact broken with their old lives and taken up the revolution is extremely important and potentially very powerful. We have barely scratched the surface in doing that. It is also critical in this that the WHOLE package—including, in particular, the emancipation of women and the fight against the enslavement and degradation of women—be brought to these youth, both male and female.
In all this work and through all this work, there should be a palpable feel of "Revolution in the City" this summer. Revolutionaries and people who are part of this movement have to be constantly going out among the masses... giving people easy ways to find and plug into the revolution... getting materials advertising revcom.us and BA Everywhere up and around everywhere... and right in the thick of leading people against the outrages that this system constantly generates among these masses.
At the same time, there is a real importance to reaching out as far as we can to students... to intellectuals... to middle-class people who do have concern and empathy for those on the bottom and for the world as a whole and who in different ways are trying to change things, or restlessly seeking answers... and again, with the whole ensemble of this work, and in its various facets.
One very important point to prepare for this summer will be the massive demonstrations around the environment, set now for New York, in late September. The movement for revolution, with the Party at its core, must be reaching broadly into those involved in these movements and demonstrations, in many different ways... with its full program... with the elements of its ensemble... and also by bringing forward those from among the basic people who have caught fire with revolution over the summer to be part of, and positively influence, what is shaping up to be an extremely important struggle around the environment.
There have been a lot of stirrings on campuses this past year, with students beginning to much more actively fight back and raise questions on different fronts. Uniting and interacting with these struggles, debating philosophical outlooks and what is to be done, the whole ensemble for revolution should be manifest at select campuses this fall, from widespread popularization of BA's New Year's message, BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian and the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live, to providing ways for students to organize and fight around mass incarceration and the enslavement and degradation of women. Across campuses nationwide, there is tremendous potential and basis for the Month of Resistance in October to be a big deal. What we do throughout the summer should lay the basis for and put us in a different position to go to the campuses when they open in the fall. This should include as a crucial aspect, preparing people from the base of society to go onto the campuses and vice-versa.
This ensemble has been conceived in active engagement with the key dynamics of how society is developing, and it has to be continually re-conceived in that light. And this means that it must be adjusted if and as things go through leaps.
Even as this is being written, there is dramatic change going on—and the potential for much greater change. The nexus of Iraq, Syria, and Iran is in deep crisis... Ukraine... Egypt... who can say what may happen? Revolutionaries have to be preparing people even now to distinguish the interests of the people of the world from those of the imperialists.
It is also particularly important to continue to grasp the extreme polarization within the U.S. ruling class—polarization so acute as to recall the period leading up to the U.S. Civil War in 1861, about which we've written elsewhere. (See The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era and Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution by Bob Avakian; and "The Shutdown, the Showdown, and the Urgent Need to Repolarize... For Revolution.") This crisis, which simmers along and then periodically flares up, sets a backdrop for things. A sharp crisis among the rulers over how to rule can create openings for people to question things more deeply, as well as a greater willingness to resist. From the opposite end, sharp struggle from the people can heighten the divisions and difficulties among the rulers. This dynamic may come into play independently of what we do or, for instance, in relation to the struggle focused this summer in Texas over abortion rights, where the rulers are set to effectively deprive millions and millions of women of this basic right.
The point is this: We have to be alive to the world, and ready to respond in a heartbeat.
In all of this, the importance of the Revolution website stands out. This site can enable people to grasp the larger significance of the major events in the world... it can expose the ways in which the powers-that-be are twisting things, or covering up the real truth... it can give them a living sense of how the movement for revolution is fighting the powers, and transforming the people... it can introduce them to, and deepen their grasp of, the key elements of the line of our Party, with the work of Bob Avakian at its foundation... it can let the basic people, in particular, "see themselves"—speaking to their questions and showing them the effect that they are having... and in all these ways and more drive forward the revolution.
At the same time, we must involve people in everything we're doing—not only giving them the ways to be active (though that is crucial!), but also the ways to transform their thinking. This gets to the other big question we should be constantly asking ourselves as we go forward this summer and fall: Are we accumulating forces for revolution in everything we do? Are more and more people being actually organized for revolution, to act collectively to impact society?
In regard to this, BA said in his recent talk on strategy, "The Strategic Approach to Revolution and Its Relation to Basic Questions of Epistemology and Method":
To put it another way, we're accumulating forces for revolution. That's very important. That is one of the major yardsticks by which we should measure what we're doing. Are we actually accumulating forces? Not just accumulating forces for any old thing, but are we actually, in this overall process—not that everybody we're involved with in any particular struggle or any particular mass initiative, not that all the people or even maybe a majority of the people at any given time are for revolution—but are we actually, through this overall process, which I've spoken to in many dimensions, are we through this overall process actually accumulating forces who are more and more consciously seeing the need and basis for revolution and actively working to bring closer and then to carry out that actual revolution, when the time comes and the situation is qualitatively different: the actual defeat and dismantling of the old system and its forces of violent repression and the bringing about of a radically different system—are we accumulating forces who are actually more and more consciously working for that and are part of that process where they're moving forward in a revolutionary direction, and making the leap to join the Party as part of that?
In this, the element of BA—what he's brought forward and the leadership he provides—is critical. This has to take a lot of forms—including, as was published in Revolution several weeks ago, the use of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and, in particular, the regular showings at the bookstores, or in other venues.
These showings should serve to cohere people around the revolution—these should be times when they come together from the swirl of revolutionary activity and get a deeper grounding in what the revolution has to be all about. Yes, they should be getting that from everything we do. But these showings, in other words, focus on that aspect of things, and have great importance—they should be giving a whole significant dimension of meaning to people. The same is true in a different way for very broad and on-the-spot use of the New Year's message from BA. And from the book of Bob Avakian's quotations and short essays, BAsics.
Fighting and learning better how to fight, people learning about the different world that is possible as they do, changing their thinking and themselves in the process and learning how to link theory and practice—this process of Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution should be the vibrant core of the movement for revolution, pulsing with energy.
If there is to be a revolution, there MUST be a revolutionary party, a vanguard. We have such a vanguard today, the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, with a revolutionary line, strategy, and leadership. This is precious, but the Party must be built and strengthened to rise to what is required of it.
First, the Party must grow in quantity—drawing new people into its ranks, bringing forward new initiators of a new stage of communism. The time we have now is precious time to strengthen our ranks, to train people, to focus our efforts as fully and effectively as possible on hastening the development of a revolutionary situation, and to develop as much capacity as possible going into such a situation... when and as it does finally emerge. Helping people sort through their questions in the midst of this bubbling cauldron will be very important—and here, the recent paper "What the World Needs Now, More Than Anything Else, Is Communists: A Few Reflections on Individual Passion, Self, and the Revolutionary Process" is very important for people to engage.
Second, within the Party, the struggle to fully take up the orientation, method, and approach concentrated in BA's new synthesis continues in different forms. These struggles and transformations must be done not apart from but in the heat of struggle, with all comrades reaching for the heights and flying without a safety net. As part of the whole process of and implementing the strategy for making revolution, practice should be informed by a sense of how all these efforts and struggles fit into the larger goal, not "without perspective," and guided by the dialectic of theory-practice-theory (as described in the Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA). While everyone is very busy and "a thousand deeds cry out to be done," there is a need to continually keep the larger goal of revolution in mind and in perspective, which will contribute to the life of the Party being full of both the seriousness of purpose and yet playful informality of people engaged in scientifically trying to understand and transform the world... trying to lead humanity out of its "long dark night" of oppression, exploitation, and needless suffering.
These "3 prepares" are not separate from each other. For instance, you're not going to build the Party—not a revolutionary party, anyway—off to the side of fighting to transform the world, in its biggest dimensions. And you're not going to really have societal impact—revolutionary societal impact, at least—if you're not building and projecting the fact that there IS a vanguard, and that people need to relate to and support this vanguard. To a certain extent, the way in which this editorial has treated each in turn is a bit artificial. It's not like that in real life, but it can help to look at things in their parts sometimes before—and in order to—put them back together. Each "prepare" works in relation to the others, and unless we're working on all of them at once... on the whole process... things are going to go off and people's efforts and sacrifice will be squandered.
And it's not just that. These all have a purpose. For what? To prepare for "the time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win."
Are we getting closer to that? Are we advancing in the "3 prepares"? This is the yardstick with which to measure the work that the movement for revolution is already launching, and the important initiatives we'll be discussing on this site/in these pages in the weeks to come. If we're not, what do we need to do? If we are, how do we go further, with all the urgency demanded by the terrible situation humanity faces? Those are the questions with which this movement for revolution, with the Party as its leading core, must bristle and vibrate, all summer and into the fall... and beyond.
Revolution #342 June 22, 2014
NYPD Raids in Harlem
June 16, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
"I woke up, opened my bedroom door and there was a gun in my face. Nobody knocked on my door. My son was not in the apartment. They told me, 'Shut the fuck up' and put my hands up, put handcuffs on me, smashed my face into a wall. They never told me what they were there for... They wouldn't let my seven-year-old grandson come out of the room, who was in there screaming. They told me they will 'get to him later.' They tore my house up...."
—A woman resident of a Harlem housing project
5:30 am: more than 400 heavily armed men break down doors, put guns to the heads of grandmothers and toddlers, pull a teenage girl out of bed and handcuff her face-down on the floor at gun point, in her underwear. Women try to hide their sons. Dozens of young males, age 15 to 30, are dragged out of their homes in chains while the commandos destroy the belongings of their families, laughing and talking about what they are going to have for lunch.
The scene reminds you of different places and times in the history of this country and in places where the U.S. has marauded around the world: slave-catchers hunting down escaped slaves... KKK lynch mobs snatching, hanging, and mutilating Black youth and men... U.S. troops busting into homes and rousting families in Afghanistan or Iraq...
But this time the place was Harlem, New York City, and the date was June 4, 2014. Over 400 NYPD swarmed the Grant Houses and Manhattanville Houses and the Manhattan Ave. buildings in a pre-dawn raid complete with helicopters buzzing the area. Several other, smaller projects were raided at the same time.
Speaking at the June 13 People's Press Conference and Speak-out called by the NYC Revolution Club and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, one woman said her son—who has sickle cell disease and had just been released from the hospital—was kicked in the scrotum and cuffed. He was hospitalized again, this time chained to the bed. Police Commissioner William Bratton popped into her apartment, said "good morning" with cold-blooded cheer, and then strolled through the buildings to survey other ransacked apartments.
Behind the June 4 raid are two indictments announced by the Manhattan District Attorney, charging 103 individuals with 145 counts, including conspiracy, attempted murder, assault, and criminal weapons possession. The charges are reportedly based on four years of monitoring of over one million Facebook posts, hundreds of hours of surveillance video, and over 40,000 recorded phone calls from Rikers Island.* This massive surveillance operation produced what officials are touting as "the largest indicted gang case in NYC history"—based not on any physical or even (notoriously unreliable and easily manipulated) eyewitness evidence, but solely on boasts and threats in Facebook posts and phone calls. Imagine any other population being demonized, criminalized, and rounded up based upon Facebook posts and tapped phone calls!
As Revolution said last week: "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.... 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." (See "NYPD Terrorizes Harlem Neighborhood—Seizes Dozens of Youth.")
Speaking about the Harlem raid at a June 11 press conference, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he is for "gang intervention" programs to "turn around some of our younger individuals who've had some trouble and help them veer away from that path." But then he came to what he called "the bottom line": "Commissioner Bratton and I have talked frequently. I understood that this was coming, and I absolutely approved and supported it, because for those two developments, they are a lot safer today because of this action. And you're going to see a lot more of these kinds of actions wherever we are in a position to put together the evidence to do that kind of full sweep." (Emphasis added)
De Blasio was elected six months ago amid a wave of anger among a very wide section of people, of all nationalities, about New York City's extremes of wealth and poverty, vicious inequality in the school system, and NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy that massively targeted Black and Latino young men who were committing no wrongdoing at all, at a rate approaching 700,000 stops a year (almost 2,000 every day). Stop-and-frisk was widely exposed and opposed by civil rights lawsuits and by a campaign of powerful resistance, including civil disobedience, initiated by Carl Dix and Cornel West. The blatant injustice, illegality, and immorality of stop-and-frisk—and beyond that, the whole situation with the mass incarceration of Black and Latino youth—was threatening to shred the legitimacy of the police, courts, and the system's whole apparatus that enforces grotesque inequalities through the facade of "war on crime." All this has posed a lot of necessity on those in power to make some changes in the way they carry out their repression.
Very significantly, de Blasio's first appointment in office was William Bratton as police commissioner. Bratton was one of the architects of stop-and-frisk when he was NYC's police commissioner in the mid-1990s. Later he was police chief in Los Angeles. As Revolution has pointed out: "[Bratton] inherited a system of gang injunctions [which made it a crime for two or more youth to gather in an outside area] that was started under LAPD Chief Daryl Gates in the latter part of the 1980s. Bratton used these gang injunctions as a way to institute his 'zero tolerance' policing in Los Angeles. The gang injunctions became a more palatable way to round up Black and Latino youth and incarcerate them because it was presented as dealing with gangs that were seen as the main problem on the streets of Los Angeles, not only by those who rule the city but also by broad sections of people."
Under Bratton's program, "in the name of 'community based policing and protecting the community from the gangs,' whole communities were targeted by the police in the name of stopping the gangs—with thousands, especially Black and Latino youth, stopped. It was all combined with meetings with church and community leaders to enlist their support and the insistence that the pigs get out of their cars and make a show of treating people with respect." (Revolution, December 16, 2013)
Bratton was brought in as the new head of the NYPD because of this history and "expertise." And the June 4 raid in Harlem was a big "coming-out" bash for the de Blasio-Bratton policing strategy. But what they are doing—and what the police do generally—is not in any fundamental way about stopping crime. Now, in the form of "anti-gang" actions, the system is working to enlist those who are genuinely concerned about the future of the youth and the shit that so many are drawn into—to enlist them into supporting what is actually an escalation and intensification of the criminalization and persecution of our youth.
A woman whose son was one of those swept up in the raid spoke to this reality when she said at the June 13 press conference/speak-out, "They want to stop this whole generation. They're going to arrest them, or they're going to kill them. And then the next generation, there's not gonna be one, because it's going to be eliminated."
At the same press conference/speak-out, Carl Dix from the Revolutionary Communist Party addressed the question that many people raise—but aren't these youth into some really bad shit? "Now, we do got to talk about this question of crime. Because some of our young people do get caught up in it. But why does that happen? It happens because the system ain't got nothing out there for them. Where are the jobs? They've disappeared from our communities. Educational system is being geared to fail our youth. Then the cops come and treat them like criminals if they get caught up in something, or even if they're near something that they didn't even get involved in.
"So to the young people: don't go out the way they want you to. Do not fight each other. Do not get caught up in killing each other. That's what the system wants us to do. We've got to get out of that, and get into something that's about something. And I'll tell you this: to deal with problems like this—because this is built into the fabric of this system... there's a slow genocide, like the sister talked about, a whole generation of Black and Latino youth that this system has in its crosshairs... they're slowly taking them out, warehousing them in prisons, brutalizing them and gunning them down—it's going to take revolution, nothing less, to deal with it once and for all. And people need to get with the movement for revolution that we're working on building.
"To the young people: get out of fighting and killing each other and get with the emancipators of humanity, get with the movement that's out here taking on police brutality, that's taking on the way these police swagger around and treat people like they're not human beings, that's taking on stop-and-frisk, that's taking on everything that this system does wrong and is working to get rid of this system once and for all."
* With 20,000 inmates, Rikers is said to be the largest penal colony in the world; it is the largest youth detention center in the world. [back]
Revolution #342 June 22, 2014
By Carl Dix and Cornel West | June 16, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The NYPD storming into people's homes before dawn on June 4 wearing body armor and carrying assault weapons, with battering rams to break down doors while helicopters hovered overhead, were the actions of an occupying army and not of an institution that serves the public. Was putting guns in the faces of small children and grandparents and forcing a young woman to lay on the floor half naked while male officers ransacked her room a display of the Courtesy and Respect New York City officials claim their cops give to the citizenry?
We strongly condemn these raids, and we call on everyone with an ounce of justice in their hearts to join us in condemning them. We must not turn our eyes away from this injustice because it wasn't our homes that these police marauded into, and we must not leave the people of Harlem alone in resisting this horrible mistreatment. They are our sisters and brothers. We love them, and we must care about what is done to them.
We must also note that these brutal, Gestapo-style raids are in keeping with the way the NYPD has historically mistreated people. These raids and Operation Crew Cut overall, just like Stop-and-Frisk, are rooted in the way that Black and Latino youth have been criminalized in this society, treated like they're guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence. This is illegitimate and unacceptable. It must be stopped. We initiated the civil disobedience campaign to Stop “Stop-and-Frisk” in 2011 to stop horrors like this, and we will continue and accelerate our efforts to stop it.
To the residents resisting these raids: We pledge to be with you in this fight, always in spirit and physically when we can. And we will take your spirit of resistance into the mobilization for the October Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. We call on everyone to join us, both in resisting these raids and in manifesting resistance in October that is powerful enough to change the way millions of people see the way the criminal justice system mistreats so many people.
Revolution #342 June 22, 2014
Revolution #342 June 22, 2014
June 16, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On June 10, armed fighters of the Sunni jihadist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL—the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) took over Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh and its capital Mosul, a city of over 1 million people, driving out the armed forces of the U.S.-installed Iraqi government of Nouri al-Malaki. ISIS then moved south, toward Baghdad, the capital, attacking and capturing other cities. While Barack Obama has indicated he’s not ready to send in U.S. ground troops, he is talking seriously about air strikes. He also declared, “our national security team is looking into all the options." Coming from the commander-in-chief of a ruling class that enforces a world of oppression with drones, spies and torture, this needs to be called out and opposed!
How should people understand the dramatic occupation of Iraq’s second largest city by ISIS? This is a reactionary force. In the sizable areas they control, they ban music, force women to wear the niqab—a covering with only a small opening to see through—and terrorize other Muslim sects and non-believers. There are reports coming out of Iraq that ISIS massacred Iraqi soldiers taken prisoner.
Obama says the U.S. needs to respond militarily because ISIS “poses a danger to Iraq and its people” and to “American interests.” But the main cause of the unimaginable suffering of the Iraqi people has been those very same American—imperialist—interests. The 2003 invasion and occupation by the U.S.—based on lies about “weapons of mass destruction”—led to the deaths of 600,000 to 1.4 million Iraqis, the displacement of over 4 million more, and the strengthening of reactionary Islamic fundamentalism including ISIS. And those imperialist interests are essentially maintaining and enforcing a world of exploitation, oppression, and environmental devastation.
The conflict between the U.S.-backed regime in Iraq and ISIS is part of much larger, complex set of challenges to the U.S. empire by rivals and other reactionary forces. This has taken expression in intense conflict, brutal oppression, and horrific suffering in Iraq and neighboring Syria. Three years ago, the U.S. (and, with both overlapping and conflicting interests, U.S. allies) encouraged and backed an array of reactionary forces seeking to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and install a regime more compliant with the interests of U.S. imperialism. The result has been a civil war in Syria that has devastated the country, destroyed basic infrastructure, and created a massive humanitarian crisis with hundreds of thousands of refugees. The U.S. occupation of Iraq, and the preceding decades of murderous sanctions and invasion, have created terrible conditions for the people there. And from Pakistan to Yemen, and beyond, U.S drones, mercenaries and allied regimes have generated widespread fury at the U.S. These and other factors, including the lack of a real radical revolutionary alternative in the region, have created fertile ground for the rise of reactionary forces like ISIS.
What is at work in Iraq—and beyond that in large sections of the world—is conflict between different oppressive and reactionary forces. Supporting any of them will only perpetuate oppression and suffering. And any escalation of U.S. military involvement must be opposed by people in the U.S. in whose name this aggression is being carried out.
What will it take for something good to be wrenched out of this madness devastating the people of Iraq, and the whole Middle East? In a word: revolution! One that uproots—not intensifies—oppression, including the oppression of women. There is a deep basis for revolution in the misery and anger, the chaos and constant crises generated by the workings of the capitalist-imperialist system in the Middle East in general, and in Iraq in particular.
One thing revealed by this latest crisis for the U.S. in Iraq is that U.S. imperialism is not all-powerful. The whole situation in Iraq and the region is wracked with contradictions. Despite its military might, the U.S. has failed to achieve its objectives in Iraq. The 13-year-long global so-called “war on terror” (really a war for empire) has weakened their system and spawned new contradictions and difficulties, including the spread of reactionary Islamic Jihadism across North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and elsewhere.
Absent a real alternative, all the outrage and fury generated by imperialism will be channeled into dead-ends, despair, and reactionary agendas. But there IS another way! Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism IS the real, radical, viable and visionary alternative to Western imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism. Bringing that forward requires digging into the science of revolution. It means leading people in struggle, transforming their thinking, to make revolution. And as part of that, it requires a movement worldwide, and on the political map in the U.S., that exposes and opposes imperialist crimes but rejects and opposes the Islamic fundamentalist (non) “alternative.” In that light, it is urgent now to spread the new synthesis of communism, concentrated in Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (available online in English, Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, Spanish, German and Portuguese) through every possible channel, and to politically support those forces in the Middle East which are engaging and promoting this understanding and working for real revolution.
Revolution #342 June 22, 2014
June 16, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Texas is the second most populous state in the country with more than 26 million people. In 2011, Texas had 46 freestanding abortion clinics. By September, it could have as few as six left!
This is an emergency. When women cannot access safe and affordable abortion, their lives are foreclosed by forced motherhood. Or they are driven to risk their lives by seeking illegal abortions. Before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in 1973, it is estimated that thousands of women died each year from botched illegal abortions. Already, especially in the Rio Grande Valley near the U.S.-Mexico border, where there is a high concentration of poor and immigrant women, women are resorting to desperate and dangerous measures to self-induce abortions.
On August 4, in Austin, Texas, a trial begins in a lawsuit that challenges one part of the law House Bill 2 (HB2) that has driven these clinic closures. The law's requirement that abortion clinics meet the same standards as Ambulatory Surgery Centers is medically completely unnecessary and—like the other parts of HB2—was designed to shut down clinics. If this lawsuit is unsuccessful, this law could close all but six remaining abortion clinics in Texas on September 1.
This must not be allowed!
NOW is the time for mass public outpourings of resistance. Through massive resistance, we must create a political situation where the courts and politicians fear that any negative ruling will not only inflame resistance, defiance, and protest, but will also call into question the very legitimacy of a system that would force women to have children against their will. Look at how the right to abortion was won in the first place.
At stake is not just the future for Texas women, but for women across this country.
What is happening in Texas is just the front end of a battering ram against women's right to abortion nationwide. Hundreds of anti-abortion restrictions have been passed at the state level in the last three years. Dozens and dozens of clinics have been forced to close—in Alabama, Arizona, Michigan, Virginia, Ohio and beyond. The last abortion clinic in Mississippi remains open only because of a temporary ruling from a judge. The political and legal precedent in Texas will influence the course of similar laws in other states.
Join with Stop Patriarchy (End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women) this summer for the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride: Ground Zero Texas!
August 1 into September, volunteers from around the country will travel to Texas to stand up against these attacks: building mass protest and resistance, staging determined acts of resistance, confronting the anti-abortion forces and institutions, and caravanning down to the Rio Grande Valley. More plans to be announced soon. Volunteers needed now.
Go to: StopPatriarchy.org
Revolution #342 June 22, 2014
June 16, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
Friday, June 13—About 80 people gathered at a busy Harlem intersection to denounce and condemn the massive NYPD assault against the Grant and Manhattanville housing projects and Manhattan Ave. buildings. At the speak-out/press conference were people from the projects, including people whose homes were invaded by the police as well as anti-mass incarceration activists, revolutionaries, and others supporting them. A huge rainstorm started as the press arrived, and people bunched in around news cameras under the eaves of the Harlem State Office Building.
The authorities are finding that their military assault, which Mayor Bill de Blasio and others have been portraying as universally welcomed by the residents, is being unexpectedly challenged. Even before the speak-out, a journalist exposing the police was featured on an NPR station morning talk show, and victims of the assault had called in to pour out their anger. The show aroused much controversy, and the host put the Manhattan DA on the air the next day to defend the operation, with no call-in.
At the speak-out, women from the projects angrily waved a hate piece that had appeared that morning in the New York Daily News titled "Harlem Kids Proudly Aligning With Violent Gangs," with a photo of young kids playing basketball, and with text saying "meet the gangbangers of tomorrow" and blaming the mothers for not "taking personal responsibility" and abandoning the kids to the "gangs." (Along with this, the Daily News ran a small box about the speak-out/press conference, with a quote from a member of the NYC Revolution Club.)
In front of TV cameras and some print media, residents described the nightmare of violence and deliberate degradation by the police that had left those affected deeply traumatized. And ANGRY. One woman recounted a horrific ordeal that lasted for hours—how the sounds and terrifying scenes reverberate in her mind. Her teenage daughter has not been able to sleep since she awoke to her bedroom door being kicked in, men with guns and shields sticking a gun and a flashlight in her face, and shouting "get up!" Then they slammed her face-down on the floor and handcuffed her. She only had on a bra and panties, and the cops would not allow her to dress until much later. All the while, she was thinking, "Why is this happening? Where is my brother?"
The woman said she awoke to the sight of a gun stuck at her three-month-old baby's head. Her partner tried to shield the baby with his body, the cops pulling him from the bed by his legs while they screamed: "Get on the ground! Get on the ground! Freeze! Freeze! Police!" Both the woman and her partner were handcuffed, and the baby was taken away screaming. The woman described the way the cops laughed and high-fived, snooped around her daughter's room asking invasive questions, and talked about what they would eat for lunch. They poured garbage on her son's bed, ripped out the couch, tore up the bathroom. Upon leaving, the cops told them to "have a nice day." When she went to the precinct to complain about not being shown a search warrant, she was told, "You're watching too much TV ... We don't have to show you a search warrant. We can do this."
After the press conference, a march took off in the rain to a nearby site where the new police commander of one of the precincts that had taken part in the raid was being celebrated. Entering guests were greeted by loud chants by parents and others, as they stood together. Carl Dix from the Revolutionary Communist Party and Noche Diaz from the NYC Revolution Club spoke on the steps of the building, with a banner as a backdrop that said "Grant Houses, Manhattanville, Manhattan Ave. Together against Police Assault on Black and Latino People, especially our Youth! No More!" One woman called guests out by name as they entered the building and yelled at them: "You should be ashamed! Don't you know what these mothers have been through?"
After the march returned to the Harlem State Office Building, more righteous fury at the police burst forth as mothers and grandmothers, sisters and aunts of the imprisoned young men raged against the police and vowed that the authorities would not get away with this attack.
Revolution #342 June 22, 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 #342 June 22, 2014
June 16, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On May 1, the BA Everywhere campaign launched the "1000 Years–$1000 for BA Everywhere" project, calling on BA Everywhere committees and people around the country to meet the challenge of raising $1,000 that would be pledged by ex-prisoners, prisoners, and their families and loved ones—$1 for every year lost in the cages of this nation of prisons. And then, to go on and match and multiply the first $1,000 many times over.
As of June 14, over $2,200 has been raised for more than 1,300 years lost in these dungeons. This is the first step in raising the many tens of thousands of dollars that are needed over the next few months to begin to project the revolutionary vision, leadership and framework for radically new world developed by BA to have impact and influence throughout the whole society.
Now, we are bringing to you, below, a challenge from a donor who will match $3,000 when that amount has been raised from among those most impacted by mass incarceration. And, he is challenging those with more means to donate more.
The statements and interviews from those responding to this call over the past few weeks are incredibly powerful: from the ex-prisoner interviewed about what it means for the youth who pour into the prisons to learn about Bob Avakian and his revolutionary leadership; to the family of an Iranian revolutionary who donated $100 so that his life, lost in the dungeons of the Khomeini regime in the late 1970s, "can count for the emancipation of humanity."
Read these stories and statements. Let them wash over you. Feel the heart and courage of those stepping out to make their bitter lost years count toward a whole different world. Then, think of who to reach out to. Put the challenge of matching many times over the dollars for bitter lost years already donated to BA Everywhere, to many people who may not have experienced, but who are disgusted, alarmed, agonized by mass incarceration and the many other brutal life-stealing crimes of this criminal system and have the ability to donate significant amounts.
"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." ("From A Former Prisoner Who's Answering the Call to Contribute to "1000 Years–$1000 for BA Everywhere")
Isn't THIS—making what BA's work is all about, known everywhere—what so many people should learn about, be thinking about, challenged to give resources to?
In this light, the BA Everywhere campaign is putting the challenge to all of you who are reading this, to spread to others. The donor writes (below) that if the BA Everywhere campaign can reach the goal of $3,000 raised for the years lost in this country's dungeons from among those BA is speaking to in the "Appeal to Those the System Has Cast Off" by the first week in July, he will match that $3,000.
And, the BA Everywhere campaign, along with this donor, challenges those with more resources to give more. For every $1 for one year given by an ex-prisoner or the families impacted by losing the years of their loved ones, those with the ability to do so should donate many times more.
One-third of what is raised through the "1000 Years–$1000 for BA Everywhere" project will go to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund, to send copies of BA's book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian into the prisons, in response to prisoners' requests. The other two-thirds will go to the Bob Avakian Institute which promotes knowledge of and engagement with Avakian's work.
So to everyone reading this; to every BA Everywhere committee, to every person raising funds for BA Everywhere, to everyone giving efforts and heart to stopping mass incarceration—including those now taking up the Call from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network: "WE SAY NO MORE! A Call for a Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation!"—read through this donor's challenge below. Read the words of the prisoners and ex-prisoners and families who have written about why they have already pledged. Donate yourself, and involve others in donating.
Then come together at the BA Everywhere July 4 gatherings to celebrate and mark what should be a great success in meeting this donor's challenge, and going on to raise tens of thousands for BAE over this summer.
I am mortified knowing what this system does to so many oppressed people here. It's disgusting that the people who aren't wealthy are being squeezed more and more, fall between the cracks and are being ground up. Giving them the "choice" to slog through schools—which are like prisons in so many ways—or drop out into the unofficial/underground economy, or getting an entry-level job that enriches someone else. Like BA says, "No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that."
So often youth are railroaded into prison like the Central Park Five, or given no real choice for another future, so the "choice" they "choose" puts them there. Think of the dimensions of the pipeline to mass incarceration; what proportion of the oppressed community has suffered from being, or knowing someone, behind bars. It's become part of the culture! Saggy pants, from belts not being allowed in prisons; the youth are mooning society! Too bad that can't bring it down.
I was reluctant to give to the BA Everywhere campaign overall. I was thinking it is mainly the prisoners who need Bob Avakian's works and the Party's literature. But now I realize that if BA and his new synthesis of revolution, of communism, if his leadership isn't known, isn't in the mix outside the prison walls, what are we bringing to the prisoners? Busting BA Everywhere onto the scene—everywhere—so that BA becomes a household word, so it can't be ignored, is crucial; who else can lead where we need to go?
Imagine a future where a million-plus Black and Latino youth are out from under the thumb of the system, in fervent debate about the way forward and the role people should play in society. The true nature of the system exposed, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) being wrangled over and honed, sharpened to further prepare and inspire struggle for revolution.
I call on those BA is talking to in BAsics 3:16: "An Appeal to Those the System Has Cast Off": " Here I am speaking not only to prisoners but to those whose life is lived on the desperate edge, whether or not they find some work; to those without work or even homes; to all those the system and its enforcers treat as so much human waste material...." I'm calling on those people—the people in Harlem, the Bronx, South Central LA, East Oakland—you know who you are. I am challenging YOU to join together, to raise $3,000 nationally by the first week of July, for the "1000 years–$1000 for BA Everywhere" project. And I pledge to match that amount.
Further, I challenge others in a position to greatly further this campaign: consider making significant contributions. The system has made this society intolerable to live in on so many levels. But there is something we can do about this that makes a difference—the BA Everywhere campaign. Match and multiply the first $1,000 donations to this "1000 years–$1000 to BA Everywhere" project over and over.
What else could make such a difference?
Revolution #342 June 22, 2014
June 16, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Thousands of desperate youths from Central America continue to be detained and taken into U.S. government custody in South Texas. (See part 1 of this series, "Tens of Thousands of Immigrant Youth Brutally Imprisoned—In the USA.") The suffering these children are enduring is a tragedy and a catastrophe. And unnecessary! It is a product—in many different ways—of the capitalist-imperialist system. And it is a burning testament to the need to make revolution as soon as possible, and put an end to the system that perpetrates such abominations.
The number of youths crossing the border is rising daily. Most of these young people are unaccompanied by adults. On Monday, June 9, the Obama administration announced that it is seeking an additional $1.57 billion to fund its efforts to deal with what is an increasingly difficult and potentially damaging crisis for the U.S. By Thursday the Attorney General of Texas demanded an additional $30 million from the federal government to "fill enforcement gaps" along the border with state police. Later that same day, Jeh Johnson, Obama's Homeland Security Secretary, announced a "90 day surge" of federal investigators going to Texas, and said that people taken into custody at the border, including children, are "priorities for removal"—meaning they will probably be deported.
Most of the Central American teenagers and children trying to come to the U.S. are picked up by the Border Patrol and other U.S. authorities in South Texas. Many have been warehoused in detention centers in the Rio Grande Valley—El Valle—the southernmost tip of Texas. But the authorities have run out of room for the children in the frigid holding cells known by immigrants as hieleras (ice boxes) and other heavily guarded detention centers along the border. In the last week alone, the U.S. has set up makeshift detention centers for the young people on military bases in Texas, Arizona, California, and Oklahoma. Yet every day, hundreds more children continue to try to make their way across the Rio Grande.
Two young women from the city of San Salvador described to Revolution the frightening horrors they and their family members experienced when they were children in that city. "You can get killed anytime, just for being there. It happened to two of my cousins. They were both just shot down in the street. One of them was just walking down the street when something happened and he was shot. A few weeks later it happened to another cousin in the middle of the afternoon. My mother wanted to get us out of there before it happened to us."
Both of them described seeing bodies in the street, hearing gun battles ring out through the night while they lay on the floor. "Sometimes gangs get kids to work for them," one said, "even little kids. And everybody's so poor, the kids think they're rich if they get a phone, they get a little money maybe and at least they can eat. Plus maybe they could get killed if they don't go along. So lots of times kids start doing little things for a gang, and they get friends but they also get enemies. And a lot of people get caught in the middle."
These horrors pose urgent questions: What is driving the violence in Central America? Why is it happening now on such a horrific scale? And even beyond that, what is compelling children as young as five to set out on an unimaginably arduous and frightening journey towards "El Norte"?
Let's start with the source of the gang violence that racks Central America.
The rulers of the U.S. and their media mouthpieces portray the influx of youths from Central America as if they are bringing some alien culture and danger of gang violence into the U.S. The reality is basically the opposite: the terrible gang situation in Central America is more than anything else a product of the workings of U.S. imperialism.
How so? The 1980s was a period of great social transition and global turmoil. An enormous growth in gang activity, throughout the U.S. but especially in Los Angeles and Southern California, was one outcome. In a very real way this was caused by the workings of the capitalist system itself: Inner cities were emptied of worthwhile jobs but flooded with cocaine, some of which was used to fund pro-U.S. terrorists in Nicaragua. Hundreds of thousands of people in Central America were driven from their homes and homelands to U.S. cities by U.S.-backed wars. And when they got to the U.S., the putrid values and "every man for himself" morality of capitalism all came together to create a desperate situation for millions of people.
In the U.S., massive immigration from Mexico and Central America was transforming cities across the country, especially in the Southwest. Great economic and social changes were underway as well. There were few good jobs—the industrial base of the cities was largely being moved to suburbs and "exurbs," or out of the U.S. altogether. The revolutionary and radical upsurges of the 1960s and early '70s that had influenced and given meaning to the lives of so many Black and Latino youths had largely subsided. Harsh and brutal repression, in the name of the "war on gangs" and the "war on drugs," had become a daily reality for the lives of millions of youths. A program of mass criminalization and incarceration of Black and Latino youth was initiated.
The combination of economic, political, and repressive factors touched on above converged and greatly contributed to the growth of gangs and gang culture in the inner cities of the U.S. Then in 1986 the "Immigration Control and Reform Act" provided for the "expedited removal" of immigrants convicted of crimes. By the early 1990s, the U.S. began deporting thousands of Central American youths in the name of the "war on gangs."
These deportations accelerated after rebellion rocked Los Angeles in 1992. These were mainly youths from the inner cities of the U.S., especially LA, who had grown up living in the U.S. with all that means, not in Central America. Youths who had spent their lives being hounded by police and some of whom had been organized into gangs, and now were sent to impoverished, devastated countries they knew barely or not at all. These deportations accelerated in the first decade of this century: almost 130,000 "criminal aliens" were deported to Central America between 2001 and 2010.
These deportations have had a huge impact on the small and impoverished countries of Central America. El Salvador is the most densely populated country in the Americas, with a population of about six million people. About 300 "criminal aliens" are deported there every month. "Gang culture" that began in the U.S. has been taken to and taken root in the impoverished and economically barren landscape of teeming Central American barrios.
Beyond the economic impoverishment of Central America created by U.S. imperialism, the social and economic terrain in these countries was profoundly framed by devastating counter-revolutionary wars waged by the U.S. and its local allies and enforcers throughout the 1980s.
By the late '80s resistance to U.S. domination that had surged throughout Central America had been drowned in rivers of blood. People were traumatized, and many were demoralized by the defeat of these upsurges, which though not real revolutions to liberate the people in these countries, had once been the source of hope to many people, especially the youth. Much of the countryside had been laid to waste. The movements and organizations that had led resistance and guerrilla wars against U.S. domination had been defeated and/or incorporated into the ruling apparatus of society. The economies of these countries, in particular the ability of the basic people to make a living, had been ruined.
Horrific gang-related violence, including battles among and involving different sections of the police and armed forces allied with different gangs, is a scourge on the people in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. But think about it for just a minute. People from Central America fled their homelands in the 1970s and '80s because U.S.-backed wars had made life impossible in their native countries. They came to the U.S. where they worked shit jobs at low pay. They had the threat of raids by La Migra and deportation hanging over their heads constantly. Their children, including many born in the U.S., were hounded and persecuted, often beaten and killed, by the police, and some of them were organized into gangs. Tens of thousands of these youths were deported and forced to begin their lives over again in a place where there was no possibility for an education or to earn a living.
Think about it, then ask yourself—did these "gang members" create the conditions of despair, poverty, violence, and repression in which they and others were forced to live? The violence people of Central America are fleeing today has its ultimate source in the capitalist-imperialist system that has feasted on them for a century. It is the utmost hypocrisy for U.S. politicians and journalists to talk of the violence ripping at these countries, and to feign sympathy with its young victims, without addressing at all the economic, social, and political roots of the conditions ensnaring people.
Now, let's speak to the bigger picture. Children are not just fleeing from gang violence.
Children and others fleeing Central America now are trapped in conditions that offer no future, no prospect of a decent life. Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are among the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Children are brutally exploited in El Salvador, one of the worst places in the world to be a child. Between 8,000 and 9,000 children in El Salvador work harvesting sugar cane and coffee. For years Coca-Cola has been a major purchaser of sugar harvested in El Salvador, where up to one-third of the cane workers are children under the age of 18. A report from the U.S. Department of Labor said that "these children are exposed to the elements, toxic substances, long workdays, and injuries from machetes and long knives. These children cut, plant, and pick crops, and they carry heavy loads."
Children in El Salvador also make fireworks, work on fishing boats, and scavenge for garbage. Many more try to somehow earn a living from the informal economy on the streets of El Salvador's cities and villages. Many are forced into working for drug gangs at very young ages. Many are "trafficked internally and internationally, some for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation; girls from poor communities ages 12 to 18 are at the greatest risk."
Many articles in the U.S. media, and some politicians, claim that, as the New York Times wrote on June 4, many young immigrants are going north "because they believe that the United States treats migrant children traveling alone and women with their children more leniently than adult illegal immigrants with no children." As if—if such a policy actually existed—it would be some kind of gracious act of kindheartedness on the part of a system that has made these children's lives hell on earth.
But any expectation that U.S. policy towards unaccompanied children or women with children has somehow become more lenient under Obama is a heartbreakingly cruel illusion. Deportations under Obama have in fact far surpassed those under George W. Bush and all other previous U.S. presidents. Countless families have been torn apart. In 2012 alone, almost 14,000 unaccompanied minors were sent back from the U.S. to Mexico.
Stacy Merkt was a courageous religious activist in the Rio Grande Valley who in the 1980s provided sanctuary to Salvadorans fleeing the U.S.-sponsored bloodbath in El Salvador, only to be hunted down by La Migra if they made it to the U.S. She described U.S. policy then as being as if someone had set a house on fire, and then shot down survivors trying to flee.
That is a true and apt description of what the U.S. is doing today. Barack Obama wants to project a benevolent, "humane" image of this country to the world. The standing of the U.S. as a supposedly compassionate defender of human rights is undermined by the heartless cruelties this system is inflicting on the children of Central America.
Anyone with a heart has to be filled with anguish and outrage at the great crisis underway in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. But that is not enough.
The seemingly bottomless well of torment this system of capitalism-imperialism draws upon to exploit and oppress people across the world is on display in this crisis. A deeper look reveals some of the smoldering volcano of contradictions the system rests upon—and the potential to overcome them. The tensions created by the ruthless oppression and domination of people across the world are pressing right against the borders of the empire. They reverberate within the imperialist heartland itself.
But the question remains—what will be done about this?
All the youths and children who make it to the U.S. must be treated humanely and compassionately; whenever possible, they must be reunited with family members as soon as possible. They must be given all necessary medical treatment, and put in a caring, loving environment. They must be provided with education, and they must never be deported.
Even more, all those who want to see an end to a world where children—where anyone—gets put through the sadistic torment these youths are subjected to, needs to get with the movement for revolution.
Revolution #342 June 22, 2014
June 16, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The U.S. has long been the dominant imperialist power in Central America. For centuries it has, through coups, invasions, military training of assassins, and other murderous means, maintained control over countries contemptuously referred to by some Americans as "banana republics." It has installed a series of puppets loyal to the U.S. as rulers. U.S. corporations have reaped obscene fortunes from brutal exploitation of the peasantry of Central America, while the people, especially the peasants, have lived in poverty.
During the 1980s, the U.S. directly and through its flunky governments waged and led genocidal campaigns in several Central American countries to quell rebellions influenced by its imperialist rival, the Soviet Union. It turned these countries into hellish cauldrons of blood. The butchers who led these murderous campaigns were hailed as "freedom fighters" and "champions of democracy" by U.S. leaders.
Revolution wrote last year that in three years of the rule of the U.S.-backed mass murderer Efraín Ríos Montt as President of Guatemala, "the Guatemalan army destroyed 626 villages, killed or 'disappeared' more than 200,000 people—mostly indigenous Mayan people—and displaced an additional 1.5 million people, about a fifth of the entire population. The Guatemalan government had a 'scorched earth' policy—destroying and burning buildings and crops, slaughtering livestock, fouling water supplies, and violating sacred places and cultural symbols." U.S. President Ronald Reagan described Ríos Montt as "a man of great personal integrity and commitment."
In the same time period, Honduras became a major focus and base of U.S. efforts to topple the Sandinista government in neighboring Nicaragua. The U.S. poured in money, military equipment, and "advisors," and helped the Honduran military set up base camps throughout the country. General Gustavo Alvarez Martínez, a graduate of the U.S. Army's School of the Americas, advocated what he and his American backers called the "Argentine approach" against their opponents—"disappearances" torture, death squads, genocidal rampages through villages and farmlands of the peasants.
Over two dozen Honduran Army officers were trained in these techniques on a U.S. military base. These officers, who continued to receive CIA direction when they returned to Honduras, became the core in the formation of the infamous "Battalion 316." Certain units of the battalion were put in charge of torture, others were responsible for abduction and kidnapping, still others disposed of the dead bodies. The U.S. consistently denied any responsibility. John Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to Honduras during the Reagan presidency, wrote in a 1982 magazine article, "It is simply untrue to state that death squads have made their appearance in Honduras." It was a complete and utter lie, and a cover up of mass murder.
The U.S. waged and backed a bloody, genocidal war in El Salvador during these same years. Based on training and instruction from their American "advisors," the Salvadoran military carried out a scorched earth policy against the peasantry. They carried out massacres and "disappearances" in the cities, especially of people suspected of being politically opposed to them. The U.S. sent tens of millions of dollars, heavily armed helicopters, Green Beret and CIA "advisors" to the Salvadoran military. In 1980 alone, almost 12,000 people were killed by U.S.-supported and trained death squads. In one particularly bloody massacre along the Sumpul River in May 1980, about 600 Mayan peasants, most of them women and children, were slaughtered by the U.S.-supported Salvadoran National Guard and a paramilitary group called Orden. During the 12 years of this onslaught, about one-fifth of the population of El Salvador was displaced, and at least 75,000 people were killed by the death squads.
More recently, in 2009 the Honduran government of Manuel Zelaya was overthrown in a coup. Zelaya had aligned himself with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and other opponents of U.S. domination of Latin America. In the years following this coup, there have been hundreds of murders and disappearances of political opponents by Honduran security forces. The response of the Obama administration has been to ask Congress for an increase in financial support for the Honduran military. Both these developments received little or no coverage in the U.S. media.
The above examples only touch on and outline the deadly onslaught U.S. imperialism has inflicted upon people in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The violence people of Central America are fleeing today, whatever its immediate source may be in any particular situation, has its ultimate source in the capitalist-imperialist system that has feasted on them for a century, and murdered them in the hundreds of thousands. It is the utmost hypocrisy for U.S. politicians and journalists to talk of the violence ripping at these countries, and to feign sympathy with its young victims, without addressing at all the economic, social, and political roots of the conditions ensnaring people, and without addressing the genocidal horrors committed and directed by the U.S. government.
Revolution #342 June 22, 2014
June 19, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
With this article, we are introducing a new column in Revolution: “Percolations,” which will feature some of the thoughts that are sent in concerning developments in the world, questions of theory, observations from the work and life of the Party, and ideas on what to do.
In recently going back and reading Part 2 of Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon and digging into the very real need we have to be accumulating forces for revolution right now, I thought it was very helpful and instructive how BA approaches this question, both what immediately precedes the question, hastening while awaiting a revolutionary situation, and everything we are doing being aimed at being in a position to make revolution when the conditions are right, and in particular the question of revolutionary tenseness, which I think is something we as a Party need to be much more grappling with and applying to the conditions we face—to quote—“constantly probing in the realm of analysis and theory to see what might be beneath the surface that could be part of the ‘mix’ of a revolutionary situation emerging, while working consciously with the necessary revolutionary tenseness to hasten things towards that– to influence the political terrain, to do what is possible at a given time to shape that terrain, and to reshape it, rather than passively waiting on and reacting to objective developments.” I really think there is something to the question of being tense, in the sense of being able to recognize based on a scientific analysis as different contradictions start playing out and working consciously to shape and reshape the actual terrain. I think the paper (published in Revolution) a few months ago on the questions of immigration and the border was both in line with and working on this.
by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
The next point I wanted to make, drawing from Birds/Crocodiles, is that on the basis of the orientation of hastening while awaiting a revolutionary situation, he talks about the importance of accumulating forces for revolution and I found it really instructive to go at this question by digging into and breaking down “Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution.” I think this is something really worth us going back to– including why BA poses there that “Some Principles...” in a concentrated way really does speak to much of what is involved in this process. One of the reasons I was reflecting on this was recently when we had the discussion about accumulating forces for revolution, near the end I think I brought up some of the picture of the next few months, with the Texas Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, the 1000 years/$1000 BA Everywhere nodal points, the McKibben call for tens of thousands of people to come to NY around the environmental crisis and what we need to do to shape the terrain, all of which would be going into the October Month of Resistance and this doesn’t include what other things may erupt in society, and another person said, yes, but that’s what we said last year, if the only thing we do over the next few months is accumulate forces for revolution that will be right, and I agreed with them then, but it has been on my mind because if that is how we are looking at it, I don’t think we will be accumulating forces for revolution. I think we really need to wrestle with and actually carry out the actual process concentrated in the “Some Principles...” as well as what the full process of “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, For Revolution” describes. It’s true that we have not been accumulating forces for revolution, in particular bringing people into contributing at the highest level of organization, i.e. the Party, but we need to both interrogate why that is, and we need to go to work on carrying out the strategy that would actually result in doing that—and not keep separating aspects of the strategy out from each other in a way that ultimately guts the process of preparing for the seizure of power.
For example, right now it is worth reflecting on the following from “Some Principles...” and think about the ensemble of revolutionary work over the next few months: “The objective and orientation must be to carry out work which, together with the development of the objective situation, can transform the political terrain, so that the legitimacy of the established order, and the right and ability of the ruling class to rule, is called into question, in an acute and active sense, throughout society; so that resistance to this system becomes increasingly broad, deep and determined; so that the ‘pole’ and the organized vanguard force of revolutionary communism is greatly strengthened; and so that, at the decisive time, this advanced force is able to lead the struggle of millions, and tens of millions, to make revolution.” Now as the comrade was correctly pointing to, if we went at the question of transforming the political terrain without accumulating forces we would not be carrying out this objective and orientation, and this has been a key weakness in our work, but to then swing into thinking that we can work on that cut off from the fuller picture and process described here is also incorrect. So again, we need to actively and consistently be working on the whole thing, also keeping our eyes open to developments in the terrain.
One other point that I was provoked to think about off of re-reading BA’s piece about the two mass initiatives and their relationship to preparing for revolution—this question of driving people to the mainstays—how are we actively, both formally and informally, finding the ways and the means for driving people to the two mainstays? As developments happen in the world, and we get out there to lead the masses of people in struggle, what’s the relationship of we ourselves being driven back to the mainstays to wrestle with how and why to carry out our strategy of preparing for seizure of power, and what that’s good for, but also contributing to the paper on this and consciously driving the people we are leading to them as well—and the role of both formal and informal discussion and wrestling with this? When you read the memoir you get much more a sense of people collectively informally wrestling with big questions, and this is what is beginning to happen in some places where we work. This has to become much more of the culture and life of the movement for revolution and the Party and not people being so busy going from meeting to meeting and no time to spend being out to the masses and with the masses, working both on changing circumstances and changing people. The bookstore also needs to much more have this atmosphere—where people really can come find the books AND the engagement over why things are the way they are and how they could be radically different—it is the importance of the hot topics/burning issues discussions. For example, recently another comrade and I were talking about how questions concentrated in BA’s piece “More on Choices... And Radical Change” are being struggled over, so we should do a discussion at the store or in the communities where we do work. Not everything has to be planned weeks in advance. That comrade can lead such a discussion and members of the Revolution Club can too, learning as they are doing. All this is related to “Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism,” and it’s worth going back to that portion of Birds/Crocodiles as well.
Revolution #342 June 22, 2014
From A World to Win News Service:
Reposted December 27, 2015 (originally June 19, 2014) | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors’ note: In light of the ferocious persecution of immigrants and refugees seeking safety in Europe, and the general demonization of and brutal attacks on refugees around the world, we are reprinting the following article from 2014. It features the story told by an Afghan migrant who calls himself Jawad. His story brings to life one man’s experience fleeing a country turned into a living hell in the clash between Islamic fundamentalists and western capitalism-imperialism—a dynamic in which the driving factor is the U.S. invasion and ongoing occupation of Afghanistan. Jawad describes a journey in 2012; conditions for migrants have gotten much, much worse since.
June 9, 2014. A World to Win News Service. On the eve of the elections for the European Parliament in May, the French government sent the CRS riot police and bulldozers to tear down an improvised complex of immigrant camps outside the northern city of Calais and scattered its inhabitants. Many hundreds of people, mostly refugees from countries racked by wars spurred on by the U.S. and Europe, had gathered to help each other stay alive as they waited for the chance to hop on a lorry and make it across the English channel in search of work.
The government's official pretext for the attack was that the immigrants posed a public health hazard. Some allegedly suffered from scabies, a skin disease easily prevented by clean water and sanitation facilities—which the government itself had deprived them of when it razed the Red Cross refugee center there several years ago.
The police brutalized local people and others who came to the migrants' aid. A few days later, after the plurality won by the anti-immigrant National Front party in the French EU parliament elections, "We are all children of immigrants" was the main slogan of street protests by secondary school students in half a dozen French cities. Later several hundred people traveled to Calais in a show of support for the refugees.
A previous gathering place for migrants was Villemin Square in Paris, where Afghan migrants took shelter in 2009, before they were scattered by police, and some of them, with no other place to go, moved on to Calais. The French photographer Mathieu Pernot spent time with them then.
His photos show young men wrapped up in sleeping bags or sheets of plastic, their heads covered to shield their eyes from the early morning light: "Invisible, silent and anonymous, reduced to their simple forms, they sleep and hide themselves from the public gaze, withdrawing from a world which no longer wants to see them. Both present and absent, they remind us of the bodies found on the battlefields of a war we no longer see."
Pernot's work is marked by a determination to connect with his subjects over time so as to create an interplay between how they look, his artistic depiction of their exclusion and oppression, and their own interiority and outlook. In 2012, an Afghan migrant called Jawad filled up some notebooks Pernot had given him with this account of how he ended up in Paris. In today's world few countries have produced more refugees and migrants than Afghanistan, from the days of the Soviet [social-imperialist] occupation to the hell its people now endure in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation.
Syrian refugees waiting to cross the border into Turkey, June 15, 2015. (AP photo)
My name is Jawad. I'm from Afghanistan and I'm 26 years old. I was born in 1986 in a working class district of Kabul. In 1989, my father, Moudjahidin, received threats from the Afghan government and we had to leave Kabul for Iran. I couldn't go to school, as my parents didn't have residence permits. They used someone else's identity papers to get me into evening classes with some older people. Thanks to that, I know how to read and write. Once I'd finished these classes, I wanted to enrol in an Islamic university, but once again I wasn't allowed to because of my Afghan nationality, even though it's possible for people from anywhere else in the world to enrol. The Iranian government is very unfair; it doesn't want Afghan refugees in the country and so we didn't receive any help from anyone. I'd been living in Iran for seventeen years when I was arrested by the police and sent back to Afghanistan. It was then that I took the decision to leave for Europe. I and some other Afghans asked a people smuggler to get us into Turkey.
Once he had got us across the Iranian border, the smuggler picked us up in a car in the town of Van. For twenty-four hours we traveled like sheep with some Pakistani migrants in a vehicle, with nothing to eat or drink. We arrived totally exhausted in Istanbul where we stayed for three days. The smuggler took us to Izmir on a bus and left us in a house. One evening, he took us to a forest that it took three hours to cross before finally arriving in the dead of night at the coast. He left, alone, in a motorboat and just left us there. We spent the night there. The next day, he brought us some bread and water and a dinghy, which he inflated and hid in the thicket. A little while later, some police came by and discovered our boat. We got frightened and went to hide in the mountains. We didn't have any food or water left. We were hungry and thirsty. We didn't know what was going on and called the smuggler. During the night, we came down from the mountain and headed back to the coast. With no food or water, we were losing all hope. I dreamt of eating bread. We didn't know what to do and prayed to God to help us. Suddenly, the smuggler arrived with some bottles of water! He became our guardian angel! He decided to take us back into town but got us lost in the forest. We wandered about in the countryside for several hours. A dozen of my friends decided to set off on their own in another direction. They asked if I wanted to go with them but I preferred to stay in the smuggler's group. There were just twenty of us left in the group now, rather than the thirty we had started out with. We walked and eventually found a barn that we spent the night in.
The next day we set off again and went past a village, crawling on our hands and knees for fear of being seen by the inhabitants. We came to a tunnel that runs under the motorway and spent a whole day there. That evening, someone else picked us up in a car and dropped us off in a town we didn't know. When we got out of the car, a man came over to speak to us but we didn't know what he was saying. He started shouting, 'Police! Police!' Everyone quickly scattered, running off in all directions. Eventually, we found our smuggler who took us down to a beach. He inflated the dinghy and made us all get inside. He pointed to a light on the other side of the sea and told us it was Greece. Our little boat sailed across a very big sea.
As we approached the Greek shore, we watched the sun rise over the sea. I had the thought that we were leaving darkness and misfortune behind us and heading into the light and a better world. But a little while later the Greek police spotted us and approached us in their boat. The man who was steering our boat decided to puncture it so that we'd be classed as drowning and the Greeks wouldn't be able to send us back to Turkey. We jumped into the water and swam to the shore. There was a pregnant woman in the boat and she didn't know how to swim, so she clung on to the side of the rapidly deflating dinghy and waited for the police to come and get her. When we got to the bank we climbed up it, hoping to find a town. At the top, we found a road that led to Samos. From there we hoped to reach Athens but unfortunately the police arrested us and took us to a refugee camp that was just like a prison.
It was in this camp that I met an Afghan who asked me if I wanted to go to Norway with him because he'd heard that it was a country that welcomed people in our situation. To get there, we'd have to cross Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. I got through Macedonia and arrived in Serbia. Along with my friends, I got arrested in the Serbian town of Nis. We were brought before a judge who fined us all 70 euros and sentenced us to ten days in prison. Arriving in the detention centre, we were told to get undressed in front of everyone and then had to undergo a body search, which I found really difficult to bear. I spent ten days in prison, locked up with murderers and drug mules. There was a head count three times a day. Those ten days felt like a hundred years to me.
When we got out of prison, we weren't given any documents that would allow us to circulate freely in Serbia. The police in Nis simply told us that if we were arrested again in Serbia, we should just tell the other police to get in touch with them. The next morning, we took the train to Subotica, on the Hungarian border, and were arrested again that evening and taken to court the following morning. We told the judge that we had been in prison in Nis but it didn't help. The magistrate said that either we paid up or we'd go back to jail. The prison in Subotica was worse than the one in Nis. We were only allowed out of our cells for an hour a day to walk around the yard. We were only permitted to get washed once a week and could only spend two minutes in the bathroom.
After we got out of prison, we managed to get across the border into Hungary but just after we arrived there, we were arrested again and taken to a refugee camp in Bekescsaba. In the camp, we had to queue just to get a banana, apple or pear. You had to sign two or three documents just to be able to eat a piece of fruit. We were under constant observation by CCTV cameras and brutal guards, who would beat anyone who tried to escape. We didn't have the right to answer them back or to ask any questions. We couldn't understand whether we were refugees or prisoners. Despite the presence of the guards, I managed to go under the barbed-wire fences and escape from the camp.
I went from there to Budapest and then to Vienna, where I took the train to Hamburg without buying a ticket. I hid in a storage cupboard under one of the bunks in the sleeping carriage. In the middle of the night, the old woman who was sleeping in the bunk above me realised I was there and called the ticket inspector so he could call the police. I begged him not to do it! In the end, I got to Hamburg without being arrested. I was alone and I walked. I looked for a train that would take me to Denmark. Once again, I got stopped by the police. I could have escaped, but I was so hungry and tired that I gave myself up to them. They took me to a police station and presented me with a document written in Dari that said I was a criminal. I asked them why they considered me a criminal when I hadn't done anything wrong. They told me that entering Germany without the right papers is a crime. As I didn't have any choice, I signed the document. My situation was getting worse and worse every day. In Hungary, I had to sign a paper to eat an apple and in Germany I signed a paper to acknowledge that I was a criminal. After the administrative formalities were over, the police sent me to a really tough prison. I felt very sad and prayed to God to give me my freedom back. He must have listened to me because the next day I got out of prison. They gave me the address of a refugee camp where I could apply for asylum.
In this camp, there was a lovely building that I stayed in for a few days. Having spent several weeks not eating very well, at last I had some decent food. It was really nice for me. But when I got to thinking about how the German police might arrest me and deport me back to Hungary, I told myself that maybe the food had been poisoned! After two or three days, the governor of the camp gave me a document with a train ticket to go to another camp in Neumunster. I stayed in that camp, which was comfortable, for nearly three months. There was a gym that I trained in. I enjoyed going for a run in the city streets. Very early one morning, a policeman knocked on our bedroom door and asked to see our papers. I showed him my papers and he told me I had to go back to Hungary. He told me to pack my bags and I told him I had none. He checked in my wardrobe, saw I didn't have anything and then told me to follow him. He took me to an immigration removal centre at the airport and I waited there until 10 am. They made me get on a plane to Budapest. During the two-hour flight, I told myself that I'd lost all my friends and my whole life in Germany.
In the plane, I made the decision to go to France as soon as I was able. A friend in the camp I'd just left had told me it was a welcoming country. The plane landed in Budapest at 12 pm and I waited at the airport till 1am. It was still night and I had to get into a bus full of unfortunate people who, like me, had fled Hungary and now found themselves back there. At 8 am the bus took us to the Bekescsaba camp. I spent a night there and tried to escape again the following morning. But I cut my hand on the barbed wire and it bled a lot. As I was injured, I let the guards take me without kicking up any fuss. They took me straight back to the camp without treating my hand. When I went to see the governor to show him the cut, he decided finally to send me to the hospital. I spent about a dozen days in the camp. The authorities gave me a card that would allow me to get into the camp in Debrecen. It's for people who are seeking asylum. I stayed there for twenty-five days. Life there was really hard. Our rights weren't respected. It was more like a prison, with the only difference being that you could go out. Sometimes, the police would come with six or seven dogs to search the rooms for banned objects. When we asked them why they came with dogs, they said they weren't dogs, but work colleagues! I didn't like living in Hungary so my friends and I took the decision to leave for France.
We decided to go in a taxi. First we went to Austria, then to Italy where we got out at Milan. From there we took the train to Ventimiglia and crossed the Italian-French border on foot. We had to go through a narrow train tunnel. If a train had come while we were in that tunnel, I wouldn't be writing this story.
When we arrived in France we discovered Monaco, a very pretty, old town. There were lots of beautiful orange trees in the streets, but we were more interested in eating the oranges than in looking at them. We ate some and put some in our bags. As we went on our way, we met an Arab. We asked him how to get to Paris. He told us to get on the number 100 bus for Nice and to get a train from there to the capital. But in Nice, when we asked how to get a train for Paris, no one understood. We were amazed to learn that people in Nice didn't know Paris, a city that's so well known across the world! We finally came upon someone who understood us. He also took the opportunity to tell us how to pronounce Paris... It was evening, we were still in Nice, and it was really cold and raining. Our clothes were soaked. We were hungry and didn't have enough money to get to Paris. We decided to go and take shelter in a church but the priest wouldn't let us in. We begged him but he asked us to leave. It was as though God's door had been closed on us. We left for the station thinking that "God's enemy," the police, might arrest us, which would at least give us a roof for the night. We got arrested at the station. The policeman asked us for the papers we didn't have. I had the thought at that moment that we were stateless refugees. The police handcuffed us, hands behind our backs, made us get in a police car and put on the blues and twos.
In town, the passers-by must have thought that the police had arrested some dangerous people, but we're just refugees! They took us to the police station, locked us in a cell and handcuffed one of our hands to a bar fixed quite high up on the wall. When we asked them to take the handcuffs off because they were hurting (and anyway, we couldn't escape), they just laughed at us. Then they took us to another cell where we spent the night. There was absolutely nothing in it and we were soaking wet. We asked for a blanket. The policeman just mocked us by way of an answer. We slept on the cell floor in our wet clothes. As I drifted off to sleep, I thought about my Afghan friend who had told me that France was a very welcoming country.
The next day, the policeman came back with an interpreter who spoke Dari. They asked us several times whether we wanted to stay in France or go to England and I told them each time that I wanted to stay in France. He gave us a piece of paper and let us out of the police station. We went back to the station where we met a fellow Afghan who was having some problems. He explained that he had bought a train ticket but a policeman had confiscated it and taken him to prison the night before. By the next day, his ticket had expired. As we didn't have enough money to buy a ticket, we tried to jump on the train but the ticket inspector stopped us. So we spent another night sleeping rough in Nice. The next day, we got on a train but got caught by the ticket inspector, who I begged to allow us to go to Paris. I offered to give him my jacket, my shoes and my turquoise ring, which was a present from my father. I even offered to work in the train (cleaning the toilets, for example), but he refused and we had to get off the train at Cannes. At the station in Cannes, we managed to take a bus we thought was going to Paris, but we'd made a mistake and we found ourselves instead on a bus for tourists. We arrived in a really beautiful city but didn't know where it was. We explained to the driver that we wanted to get to Paris. He was really surprised and explained that we had to go back to Saint-Raphael, where we could catch a train for Paris. At Saint-Raphael, we tried to sneak on the train without a ticket but the inspectors were watching us. We were really unlucky that day! It was still raining. We looked for a place and slept on a cafe terrace. The next day, we went back to the station and, thanks be to God, managed to get the train to Paris. In this city we asked for asylum and we slept rough on cardboard boxes. Our situation is very bad. Sometimes I wish I were a dog because in Europe, dogs have a better life than foreigners like us.
Translated text taken from the book Les Migrants, published by Guingamp, edited by GwinZegal, 2012. For Pernot's work, see www.mathieupernot.com. Also see "Should immigrants be criminalized or supported?" in AWTWNS140310.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #342 June 22, 2014
From A World to Win News Service
June 19, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
May 26, 2014. A World to Win News Service. India has seen a rising chorus of protests against the imprisonment of G. N. Saibaba, an associate professor of English at Delhi University and longtime activist in the Indian people's movement.
A team of police in civilian clothing stopped his car on May 9, as he was returning to his university residence for lunch after exam duty. Saibaba, 47, is 90 percent disabled and uses a wheelchair. He and his driver were blindfolded and hustled into an unmarked vehicle. He was immediately taken to the airport and flown to Nagpur in the state of Maharashtra, where he was brought before a court the next day.
Saibaba's wife said that all she knew was that he suddenly disappeared shortly after calling her, and then his phone was turned off. The driver was not released until that evening. In the afternoon his wife received a phone call, but there was no official notification or word about his fate until he was presented in court the next day, after she filed a missing person report and outrage at his apparent disappearance had begun to mount. She accused the authorities of arresting him in this furtive manner to prevent anyone from notifying his lawyers before he could be taken to Nagpur, where charges had been filed against him under the Illegal Activities Prevention Act for alleged contacts with a banned organization, the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
The Nagpur court ordered him held without bail for 14 days. As of May 26, nothing has been said about his release. While he was in prison, the police said in a press statement, "The Maoists have themselves given proof of Professor Saibaba's Maoist links. They dropped some pamphlets near Jambiya (Gatta) village condemning the arrest of the professor." The District Superintendent of Police claimed that this made his links with the CPI(M) "clear." According to the Hindustan Times, citing government sources, the police planned to oppose his release on bail because an alleged rural confrontation between police and guerrillas proved that he was "dangerous," because, they claimed, it was "retaliation" for his arrest.
Many rights organizations, other groups, and intellectuals such as Arundhati Roy have pointed out that with "evidence" like this, the Indian government could arrest anyone they want and hold them indefinitely—which has happened to many activists, charged not for their actions but their alleged associations. They consider Saibaba's arrest an attempt to intimidate free speech, free association, and free thought.
Indian and international legal organizations have denounced the Illegal Activities Prevention Act for the vagueness of its definitions of what is illegal and the arbitrariness of the arrests made under its provisions. People have been held for possessing literature of banned organizations. In Saibaba's case, the authorities are presenting alleged actions by people other than the accused, which even occurred after his arrest, as "evidence" of ties to an organization they decided to outlaw. This whole package of measures makes it legal for the authorities to deny people's rights whenever they deem it necessary.
Saibaba is the joint secretary of the Revolutionary Democratic Front and convener of the Forum against the War on the People, which opposes a government counterinsurgency campaign that has killed thousands of Adavasi (tribal people). He has organized fact-finding missions to look into state violence in rural areas.
He has been interrogated four times in the last year. In September 2013, police from Maharashtra raided his Delhi campus residence and seized computer hard drives, reading materials, and electronic devices with the pretext of looking for stolen goods. They came back to his home to interrogate him for four or five hours when the charges first surfaced last January. Since then he notified the Nagpur police that he would be available for further questioning at his home or office.
In jail, Saibaba has threatened to go on hunger strike because the conditions make it impossible to use the toilet or take care of himself properly.
The Delhi Teachers Association released a statement strongly condemning "this arbitrary and illegal action by the police in connivance with the university authorities." Following the arrest, Saibaba was suspended from his teaching position. Now and on previous occasions when he has faced repression he has had broad support from professors and students.
Demonstrations, meetings, and other events in support of Saibaba have taken place in Delhi, Kolkata [formerly Calcutta], Barnala, Hyderabad, Maharashtra, and New York.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.