Revolution #343, June 29, 2014 (revcom.us)

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

Please note: this page is intended for quick printing of the entire issue. Some of the links may not work when clicked, and some images may be missing. Please go to the article's permalink if you require working links and images.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/343/more-US-killings-and-war-crimes-in-Iraq-HELL-NO-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

More U.S. Killings and War Crimes in Iraq?
HELL NO!

by Larry Everest | June 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

The June 10 takeover of much of northwest Iraq, including Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, by 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) and other Sunni forces has triggered a crisis in Iraq—and for the U.S. imperialists as well as other powers in the region.

The U.S. rulers immediately began discussing and implementing military moves, saying they would rule nothing out and "all options" were on the table.  So far Obama has deployed the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush and an amphibious transport ship carrying combat helicopters. These join four guided missile destroyers already in the Persian Gulf. Obama also sent an additional 275 Marines to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Then on June 19, he announced the deployment of 300 U.S. military advisers to Iraq, and stepped up spying on that country, with the possibility this would be used for "targeted" military strikes in Iraq and perhaps Syria.

In justifying this, Obama obscenely flipped reality upside down when he said: "Over the past decade, American troops have made extraordinary sacrifices to give Iraqis an opportunity to claim their own future. Unfortunately, Iraq's leaders have been unable to overcome too often the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there, and that's created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government as well as their security forces."

And the mass media—the broadcasting arm of the ruling capitalist-imperialist class—is amplifying and justifying this bullshit. Their analysts pontificate about how the fighting between different reactionary factions in Iraq is all the fault of the Nouri al-Maliki regime—conveniently "forgetting" that the U.S. installed this regime through a murderous invasion and occupation. And they do that with self-induced amnesia about how they—the ruling class's media—justified the U.S. invasion of Iraq with lies about "weapons of mass destruction," and repeatedly covered up war crimes committed by the U.S.—even as those who exposed those crimes (like Chelsea Manning) were silenced, persecuted, and jailed.

Here's the reality they want to cover up:

In 1991, the U.S. launched a massive bombing campaign against Iraq, and in the aftermath imposed murderous "sanctions" that led directly to the deaths of a half-million Iraqi children. (See "Lessons from Iraq: The 'Price' of Sanctions.")

In March 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq, starting with "Shock and Awe" massive bombing that terrorized and devastated Baghdad—a city of seven million. The U.S. overthrew the Saddam Hussein regime, and then occupied the country for the next eight and a half years—based on LIES about Iraq's nonexistent "weapons of mass destruction" and claims that the invasion was to "free" the Iraqi people, when in reality they sought to uproot what they identified as challenges to their empire from an array of rivals.

U.S. domination of Iraq has been enforced with massacres. The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime was accomplished with carpet bombing, massacres of women and children, terrorizing the civilian population, bombing hospitals including a children's hospital in the town of Rutbah, and missile attacks on civilians—all documented by mainstream media (mostly from non-U.S. sources) and human rights activists. (See "Tears and Anger: Iraqi People Under Fire.")

In November-December 2004, U.S. forces attacked the Iraqi city of Fallujah to crush oppositional forces there, and to enforce America's illegal and unjust invasion and occupation of Iraq. The 1st Marine Division bombarded Fallujah with thousands of artillery rounds, hundreds of rockets, bombs, and missiles, and nearly 100,000 machine gun and cannon rounds. As many as 2,000 Iraqis labeled "insurgents" and another 800 or more civilians were killed. Sixty of the city's 200 mosques were destroyed. Some 200,000 residents were forced out of the city and into internal exile. Italian television aired a documentary titled Fallujah, the Hidden Massacre, documenting how the U.S. government indiscriminately rained white phosphorus chemical fire down on Fallujah and melted people to death. And U.S. forces used depleted-uranium weapons against the people of Fallujah, leaving a legacy of birth defects to this day.

* * * * *

Barack Obama says the U.S .invasion and occupation gave the Iraqi people "an opportunity to forge their own future."

When you hear the commander-in-chief of the U.S. empire talk about freedom and giving people "the opportunity to forge their own future," here's what that has meant for the people of Iraq:

And the U.S. invasion, occupation, and installed puppet regime has vastly intensified women's oppression:

This is the result of Bush, Obama, and the U.S. ruling class bringing their version of "freedom" to Iraq.

The Empire Is Not All-Powerful—Bring Forward Another Way

The current crisis in Iraq exposes that the empire is not all-powerful. As Revolution wrote last week, "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."

But these difficulties the U.S. is up against are their difficulties. What Bob Avakian says in BAsics gets to the heart of how we should understand that:

The interests, objectives, and grand designs of the imperialists are not our interests—they are not the interests of the great majority of people in the U.S. nor of the overwhelming majority of people in the world as a whole. And the difficulties the imperialists have gotten themselves into in pursuit of these interests must be seen, and responded to, not from the point of view of the imperialists and their interests, but from the point of view of the great majority of humanity and the basic and urgent need of humanity for a different and better world, for another way. (BAsics 3:8)

The rulers of this country have brought incalculable death, suffering, and oppression to the people of the world. How long will we tolerate a world like this!? What do we need to be doing now? Building the movement for revolution to end all this. Take on the lies. Spread the truth. Stay tuned to revcom.us, get into the work of the leader of this revolution—Bob Avakian.

In that light, when the rulers of this country come around with their lies about “helping” people in Iraq or anywhere else with MORE U.S. death, torture, and suffering, that our answer must be:

HELL NO!

World Can't Wait (worldcantwait.org) issued this important call:

IN THE EVENT of U.S. bombing of Iraq, choose the best protest location in your city/town, and call on people to go there at 5:00 pm the day of the attack, or, in the case of an evening attack, the next day at 5:00 pm.

The full call for these protests is at www.worldcantwait.net/index.php/organizingmaterials-mainmenu-6/materials-mainmenu-296/8530-no-more-war-on-iraq. Spread this article and that call in print and online.

(For sources, see "The U.S. Legacy 10 Years After Invading Iraq: Death, Disease, Devastation, Displacement".)

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/343/calculations-of-a-war-criminal-and-a-criminal-system-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

The Calculations of a War Criminal... and a Criminal System

June 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

The debate over what to do in Iraq is being framed by the system by how much America has already "done for Iraq," how much the war has cost and any new moves will cost America.

Obama invoked this logic to justify and build acceptance in a war-weary population for his decision to send 300 military advisers to Iraq to help the reactionary Iraqi government fight Sunni jihadists.

He talked about how much American "blood and treasure ... has already been expended in Iraq."

He talked about the "deep scars"—for Americans!—left by the war in Iraq, such as "the loss of nearly 4,500 American patriots, many veterans carry the wounds of that war, and will for the rest of their lives," as well as the "intense emotions" the war generated.

Stop and think about how this system is training people to think.

First, to accept the lie that the U.S. went to Iraq to help the people.

Second, to ignore the horrendous devastation wreaked on Iraq—and to think ONLY about American lives and the "cost" to the U.S.

In short, to weigh all decisions based on cost-benefit analysis of what they do for "America"—never mind the predatory imperialist interests driving these decisions, or what they cost America's victims!

These are the calculations and logic of cold-blooded war criminals running a cold-blooded global empire of exploitation and oppression, enforced by massive violence.

Why should oppressed people swallow the oppressors' logic? Why should we think like they do? Stop thinking like "Americans"...Start thinking about humanity!

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/343/what-to-the-slave-is-your-fourth-of-july-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

June 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

“WHAT TO THE SLAVE
IS YOUR FOURTH OF JULY?”

July 4th Picnics— Building the Revolutionary Struggle Against All Forms of Slavery Today—And Raising Funds to Get the Word Out On Revolutionary Leader Bob Avakian (BA) Everywhere

 

July 4 Weekend Revolutionary Events

Come one!
Come all!

In 1852, the escaped slave and freedom fighter Frederick Douglass gave a powerful, historic speech condemning the hypocrisy of America. Douglass exposed how the vaunted “greatest democracy in the world” had built its wealth on the enslavement of Africans and their descendants, and called for the abolition of this slavery.

Today, 162 years later, chattel slavery is no longer the law of the land (though millions worldwide are still enslaved, in ways that indirectly and often directly feed into and benefit the American empire). Yet today...

From those millions of Black and Latino youth put in a pipeline to prison the hour they are born... to the women who, even if they do not find themselves among the millions and even billions directly trafficked or raped or brutalized or denied the rights to abortion and birth control still suffer the consequences of those practices and like all women must every day walk a gauntlet of potential abuse and danger...

From the immigrants, here and around the world, driven by a desperate need to work to risk their lives in the deserts and oceans to then live in the shadows for the “chance” to be bitterly exploited... to the billions overall, whose very lives are funneled into amassing huge wealth for the imperialists while they themselves scrape for survival...

From those who suffer the horrors of America’s invasions, proxy wars, and drone strikes... to the way in which humanity as a whole faces an environmental catastrophe for which capitalism, in its mad pursuit for profit, has no other recourse but to make it worse...

...for all these, and for those whose hearts beat in empathy with them, America’s July 4th boasts are still nothing but mockery and hypocrisy. July 4th this year must NOT be a holiday to celebrate their revolution but a time to seize to build for the REVOLUTION we need now, at the earliest possible time, to get rid of their instruments of power and bring in a whole new world, free of all forms of slavery, all exploitation, and all the rotten institutions and ideas that go with the system of capitalism and prop it up.

This July 4th, come to a picnic to raise funds to get the word out on the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian (BA). Bob Avakian has taken the theory of revolutionary communism to a new level and has developed a way to actually overcome this madness. And, BA provides the practical leadership to the vanguard of the revolution we need, the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.

In commemoration of Douglass’ speech—and in recognition of the fact that, as BA writes in BAsics, “There would be no United States as we know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.”—these picnics and other activities will raise two slogans:

WHAT TO A SLAVE IS YOUR FOURTH OF JULY?
WE REFUSE TO ACCEPT SLAVERY IN ANY FORM!

Along with the food, fun and culture that will be provided, you will be able to actively engage with why we need a revolution, with what BA has brought forward in relation to that, and with how we actually prepare the ground, prepare the people and prepare the vanguard TO get ready for the time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win. You will be able to find out about the BA Everywhere campaign, as well as crucially important struggles that are being waged to end the mass incarceration of Black and Latino people, and to end the degradation and oppression of women.

Who should come to these celebrations? EVERYONE WHO HATES THE MODERN-DAY FORMS OF ENSLAVEMENT THAT CHAIN PEOPLE DOWN, AND HUNGERS FOR A BETTER WORLD... EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO SEE A REAL FUTURE FOR OUR YOUTH... EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO HEAR ABOUT REVOLUTIONARY IDEAS ON WHAT CAN BE DONE TO BRING THAT WORLD, AND THAT FUTURE, INTO BEING!

 

To find out more about tickets, OR about how you can help:

New York

Sunday, July 6, 2-6 pm.
Backyard patio of New Amsterdam Music Association (NAMA) 107 West 130th Street.
Barbecue, picnic, music, film, award presentations, and more.
Tickets: $10 each. Sliding scale. $50 patron tickets.
Info: 347-835-8656 or BA.EverywhereNYC@gmail.com; Revolution Club NYC, 917-501-0354; Revolution Books, NYC, 212-691-3345

Los Angeles
Saturday, July 5, 12 noon-5 pm.
Rancho Cienega Park, Testimonials, culture, games, food, displays, community—everything that makes for a good time, infused with the content of the whole new world to which people aspire, and for which we are fighting. $10/plate; sliding scale.
Info: 213-304-9864

San Francisco Bay Area
Friday, July 4, 2-6 pm.
Mosswood Park, 3612 Webster Street, Oakland.
Picnic to raise funds for the BA Everywhere Campaign.
Info: 510-848-1196

Atlanta
Friday, July 4, 1-5 pm.
Grant Park. Look for our tent with banners and displays! Bring a dish to share, frisbees, testimonials, or music.
Info: 770-861-3339 or revbooksatl@hotmail.com

Houston
Friday, July 4, 4 pm.
Our Park, 2506 Alabama, Houston, TX 77004 (next to the SHAPE Community Center at Live Oak and Alabama).
Info: revolutionhtown@yahoo.com or 832-865-0408

Cleveland
Friday, July 4, 1-5 pm
Join us at Edgewater Park, lower level by beach walkway. Look for the canopy with the big red flag. Food, Fun, Culture.
Youth, unemployed, low income- $5 or bring a dish to share; employed- $10; families- $15.
Tickets and info: Revolution Books 216.932.2543 www.revbookscle.org

Chicago
Sunday, July 6, 2-6 pm.
63rd Street Beach. Picnic-look for the red flag.
$5 donation.

Honolulu, HI
Friday, July 4, 11 am-2 pm.
Old Stadium Park (corner of Isenberg & King).
Info:  808-944-3106

Boston-Cambridge
Friday, July 4, 12 noon.
Join Revolution Books at the Charles River in Cambridge. Food, music, speak-out. Look for the red flag at our tent.
Info: 617-492-5443.

Greensboro, NC
Friday, July 4, 6 pm.
Cookout and program with culture and testimonials featuring those who have been impacted by mass incarceration.
Info: baeverywherenc@yahoo.com.

Detroit
Friday, July 4, 2-6 pm
Picnic (bring a dish), BELLE ISLE,
east of Playscape on Central Ave.
For more information: Revolution Books, 313-204-2906, rbodetroit@yahoo.com.

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/movement-for-revolution/BAE/201406/without-further-delay-the people-need-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014


Warning: file_get_contents(../movement-for-revolution/BAE/201406/without-further-delay-the people-need-en.html): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/revweb/public_html/quick/343en.php on line 151

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/343/1000-years-1000-dollars-for-BA-everywhere-update-june-20-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

1000 Years–$1000 for BA Everywhere
Making the years suffered in the hellholes of this nation count for a radically new world

UPDATE: $3,000 Raised

Go All Out to Raise Funds by the July 4th Weekend

June 20, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Donate to radically change the world.

DONATE to the
BA Everywhere Campaign!

Click Here

$3,000 has been raised for 1000 Years–$1000 for BA Everywhere. The “1000 Years$1000 for BA Everywhere” project aims to make the hundreds and thousands of years lost in the hellholes of this nation count for something that really matters: working for a radically new world through donations to BA Everywhere. Ex-prisoners, their families and friends have begun pledging to donate or raise $1 for each year incarcerated, and others are donating to support and multiply these pledges to the BA Everywhere campaign. Read the powerful testimonials and interviews with ex-prisoners and others responding to this call.

BA Everywhere is a major fundraising campaign to project the vision and works of the revolutionary leader, Bob Avakian, society wide. (More information about the BA Everywhere campaign overall and the “1000 Years$1000 for BA Everywhere” project available here.)

A matching pledge of $3,000 will be donated for the "1000 Years–$1,000 for BA Everywhere" project as soon as an additional $1,000 has been raised from among those most impacted by mass incarceration.

The BA Everywhere campaign is calling people to GO WIDELY now through July 4th weekend. Materials are at the BA Everywhere page at revcom.us. And over July 4th weekend, everyone should come together in revolutionary BA Everywhere fundraising picnics and gatherings (see "A Call for Major Events on July 4th Weekend: 'What to the Slave Is Your Fourth of July?'")

Share your experience, accomplishments, and questions by emailing baeverywhere@gmail.com. 

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/336/a-call-for-a-month-of-resistance-to-mass-incarceration-police-terror-repression-and-the-criminalization-of-a-generation-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

This call appeared on the Stop Mass Incarceration Network website:

WE SAY NO MORE!
A Call for a Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation!

April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

For 2 generations, Black and Latina/Latino youth in the U.S. have been shipped off to prison in numbers never before seen anywhere in the world at any time. More than 2 million people, of all nationalities languish in prison—ten times the number 50 years ago. The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prison population! More than 60% of those in U.S. prisons are Black or Latina/o. 32% of Black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are in prison or on parole or probation on any given day. More than 80,000 people in prison are held in solitary confinement under conditions that fit the international definition of torture.

The incarceration of women has increased by 800% over the last 30 years. They, along with those whose sexual orientation is not “mainstream” or who are gender non-conforming—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex prisoners—face extremely harsh and abusive treatment in prison, including widespread rape. Alongside this has risen a massive program of criminally prosecuting undocumented immigrants, essentially hidden from public view. As a result of the devastation of their homelands, these immigrants have been driven to this country to work without papers, and today they are being criminalized. The U.S. chastises other countries for human rights violations, yet it enmeshes the lives of tens of millions of people in its criminal “injustice” system. The courts, cops, prisons and La Migra all play a part in enforcing mass incarceration. There are genocidal aspects and a genocidal logic to this program, and it has been gathering momentum. All this is intolerable, and, if it isn’t stopped, it will get much worse!

Mass incarceration has grown beside the criminalization of whole peoples; a situation in which every African-American or Latina/o is a permanent suspect—treated as guilty until proven innocent by police and racist vigilantes, if they can survive to prove their innocence. This is especially concentrated among the youth, starting with cops in schools, arresting children for things that used to mean a visit to the principal’s office at worse, putting youth on a trajectory from school to prison. Black and Latina/o youth have a target on their backs in this society. Literally tens of millions of lives have been scarred and worse—both the direct victims and their families and communities. People who heroically resisted these and other injustices have been imprisoned, some of them for decades. These political prisoners must be freed.

The malignancy of mass incarceration did not arise from a sudden epidemic of crime. Nor did it result from people making poor personal choices. Instead it arose from cold political calculations made in response to the massive and heroic struggle for the rights of Black and other minority peoples that took place in the 1960’s and 70’s, and in response to the enormous economic and social changes brought about by globalized production. This cancer of mass incarceration has been, from the beginning, nothing but a new Jim Crow in place of the old one. Like the old Jim Crow, it drew on, fed off and reinforced the deep-seated roots of the racism that grew up with slavery. Like the old Jim Crow, it has been, from the beginning, unjustifiable, utterly immoral and thoroughly illegitimate.

This must stop—NOW! Not the next generation, not in ten years, not any time off in some promised future that never seems to come. NOW!

But it will not stop unless and until millions of people, of all nationalities, stand up and say NO MORE, in unmistakable terms. The history of this and every other country shows that without struggle, there can be no positive change; but with struggle this kind of change becomes possible.

It is not enough to oppose this in the privacy of your own conscience or the company of like-minded people. It is not enough to curse this out, but then tell yourself nothing can be done. If you live your life under this threat, you MUST act. If you understand how wrong this is and how much it devastates the lives of so many millions, you MUST act.

NOW is the time to act. People are beginning to awaken and stir. Resistance has begun: Heroic hunger strikes by people in prisons and detention centers and outpourings in response to murders by police and racist vigilantes. Prisoners in solitary confinement in California declared a cessation of racial hostilities as Black, Latino and white prisoners came together to resist the torture of solitary confinement. All this must be taken to a much higher level. We call for a massive Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration in October of this year; a Month that can impact all of society; one that can open the eyes of millions of people to the need to end this new Jim Crow.

In October, 2014, our resistance to mass incarceration must reverberate across the country and around the world. There must be powerful demonstrations nationwide on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Throughout October there must be panels and symposiums on campuses and in neighborhoods; major concerts and other cultural expressions; ferment in the faith communities, and more—all aimed at taking the movement to STOP mass incarceration to a much higher level. October, 2014, must be a month that makes clear that thousands and thousands are willing to stand up and speak out today and to awaken and rally forth millions. It must be the beginning of the end of the mass incarceration in the U.S. To that end:

 

Initial Signatories include:

Stop Mass Incarceration Network
Cornel West, author, educator, voice of conscience
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party
Noam Chomsky, Professor (ret.), MIT*
Marjorie Cohn, Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Robin D.G. Kelley, Distinguished Professor of History, UCLA*
Carl Hart, Professor, Author of "High Price"
Colin Dayan, Professor, Vanderbilt University
Henry A. Giroux, McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest
Efia Nwangaza, Malcolm X Center/Radio Station WMXP*
Ulis C. Williams, Olympic Gold Medalist, 4 x 400m Relay, 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo
Aleta Alston-Toure, New Jim Crow Movement/Free Marissa Now*
Pam Africa, International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal
Cephus "Uncle Bobby" Johnson - uncle of Oscar Grant, killed by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
     Police New Years Day, 2009
Stephen Rohde, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP)*
Debra Sweet, Director, World Can't Wait
Medea Benjamin, Co-founder, CODEPINK*
John L. Burris, lawyer
Marilyn S. McMahon, California Prison Focus*
Juanita Young, mother of Malcolm Ferguson - killed in 2000 by NYPD
Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez - killed in 1994 by NYPD
Dionne Smith Downs and Carey Downs, parents of James Earl Rivera Jr. - killed in 2010
     by Stockton Police
Collette Flanagan, Founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, mother of Clinton Allen - killed
     by Dallas Police in 2013
Gloria Leiva, mother of Dante Pomar - killed in 2004 by NYPD
Gilda Baker, Mother of Diallo Neal, Killed by California Highway Patrol in 2005
Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., son of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. - killed by White Plains (NY)
     Police, 2013
Miles Solay, OuterNational
Denis O'Hearn, Professor of Sociology, Binghamton University and author of Nothing but
     an Unfinished Song: Bobby Sands, the Irish Hunger Striker Who Ignited a Generation

Blase Bonpane, Ph.D. Director, Office of the Americas*
Marie Martin, retired nurse and teacher, relative in solitary confinement in CA prison
Margarita McAuliffe, Founder, Texas Moms United For Domestic Peace*
F. Luis Barrios, professor, John Jay College, IFCO - Pastors for Peace
Cynthia McKinney
Jim Vrettos, professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice*
Marvin X, poet, playwright, essayist, Black Bird Press News*
Rev. Jerome McCorry, The Adam Project*
Rev. Stephen A. Phelps, former Interim Senior Minister, The Riverside Church* New York
Rev. Frank Wulf, United University Church*
Ray Hill, 30 years Producer and Host of "The Prison Show", KPFT, Houston, TX
Obidike Kamau, 15 years Host and Producer, "Self-Determination", KPFT 90.1 FM, Houston, TX
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor *Tikkun: a quarterly Jewish and Interfaith Critique of Politics,
     Culture and Society*
Dahlia Wasfi M.D.
Rev. Richard Meri Ka Ra Byrd, KRST Unity Center*
Rev. Darrel Meyers, Minister (ret.) Presbyterian Church (USA)*
Dorsey O. Blake, Presiding Minister of the Church of All Peoples*
Mary Ratcliff, Editor, San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper*
Grace Dyrness, ICUJP*
Jim Lafferty, Executive Director, Los Angeles Chapter, National Lawyers Guild
Rafael C. Angulo, USC School of Social Work*
Rael Nidess M.D.
Dread Scott, Artist
Manuel Olivera, Actor
Alaudin Ullah, Actor
Elizabeth Forsythe Haily, novelist and playwright, ICUJP*
Lynne Stewart & Ralph Poynter
Mike Holman, Executive Director, Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund*
Andres Thomas Conteris, Nonviolence International*
Dr. James Cockroft, Ph.D
Rev. Jerald Stinson, Interfaith Communities United For Justice and Peace*
King Downing, Human Rights-Racial Justice Center*
Iskander Kourkjian-Mowad, #Justice4Cecily*
Afua Ampoma, Recovering and Rebuilding, Inc.
"Cye" Harold Sheppard Jr., Advancing the Ancester Coalition (ATAC)*
Vernellia R. Randall, Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Dayton
Paul Von Blum, Senior Lecturer, African-American and Communication Studies, UCLA*
David B. Rankin, Esq., Rankin and Taylor*
Tarak Kauff, Veterans For Peace* National Board Member
Bonnie Kerness, American Friends Service Committee,* Newark NJ
Mary Phillips, Lehman College*, Bronx NY
Erin Adair, Oberlin Abolition Network*, Oberlin
Amanda Morales, Welfare Warriors*
Milwaukee; People's Organization for Progress, New York Chapter
Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice
Justice For Families, Portland, OR
Global Kindness Revolution and Sagewriters
Racial Justice Now!

*for identification purposes only

 

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/343/interview-with-filmmaker-stanley-nelson--freedom-summer-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

Interview with Filmmaker Stanley Nelson

Freedom Summer

June 20, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Michael Slate recently interviewed filmmaker Stanley Nelson—whose latest work, Freedom Summer, premieres June 24 on the PBS program American Experience—for his radio show on KPFK (90.7 FM, Los Angeles). The following is the transcript of that interview.

 

Michael Slate: In January at the Sundance Film Festival, I had a chance to see a film that just knocked me back in my seat. The film is called Freedom Summer, and it's by the award-winning director Stanley Nelson. He's the director of at least a dozen other feature documentaries, including The Murder of Emmett Till and Freedom Riders, both of which also had a deep impact on me, and on many people throughout the country.

Stanley's joining us today to talk about his new film, Freedom Summer. Stanley, welcome to the show.

Stanley Nelson: Thanks very much. It's great to be with you.

Michael Slate: Give people a sense of what Freedom Summer is about. Tell them the story of the film.

Stanley Nelson: Well, in the summer of 1964, it was decided that SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee—pronounced "snick"] and CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] and a couple other civil rights groups would get together and send over 700 volunteers into Mississippi. These 700 volunteers were mostly college students, mostly white, who would go down to Mississippi for the summer and work in voter registration and what they called Freedom Schools, for the whole summer. And what was really different about this was that even though in '64 the civil rights movement had spread all over the South, it had really not spread to Mississippi. The idea was that Mississippi was the worst of the worst, and the best thing that you could do in Mississippi was to try to change Mississippi from the outside. Or that the civil rights movement can work its way up into, in later years, them getting into Mississippi. But these young people who were running SNCC, mainly, said, “No, we can go into Mississippi, and we need to go in now.”

Michael Slate: As I was watching the film and as I was thinking about it this morning, I thought about your other films, in particular Freedom Riders. I guess you could also talk about The Murder of Emmett Till. And the fact that these two films, but especially Freedom Riders about the 1961 movement of people going to the South to defy and fight against the Jim Crow laws throughout the South—you think about the great courage it took, but also the way that that really shaped and changed the next decades. It really changed history. Let's talk a little about the relationship between Freedom Riders and Freedom Summer.

Stanley Nelson: Freedom Riders was three years earlier, that was 1961. I think the difference in Freedom Summer was that the volunteers were going to go down there and stay in Mississippi. And mainly, again, these were white college students, but they had to stay with African-American families in the Black community. So this was very different. This was not kind of a ride through the South. This was, “We're going to go. We're going to stay there for six weeks, eight weeks, and we're just going to be there.” So it was very, very dangerous, and a very, very risky proposition for everybody involved.

Michael Slate: With the three years between the time of Freedom Riders and Freedom Summer, was there anything that had changed in the South? And what made the Freedom Summer necessary?

Stanley Nelson: I think that in some places, the civil rights movement had started to take hold, but not so in Mississippi. In Mississippi in 1964, at the start of Freedom Summer, African-Americans were about half the population of Mississippi. And that's what really made Mississippi different from anywhere else in the United States, including Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, all the states in the Deep South. Because Mississippi was pretty nearly 50 percent Black. But only 6.7 percent of the African American population could vote. So Mississippi was, again, kind of the worst of the worst, the hardest of the hard.

Michael Slate: I'm really intrigued by that, because I think it's important for people to understand what the people in Mississippi were up against. This was, as you said, the worst of the worst. But it also concentrated and took to a whole new level a lot of what existed throughout the South. That was a question I had, why Mississippi in particular? What was the situation in Mississippi? Just so people get a sense of what it meant to be Black and be living in Mississippi at that time.

Stanley Nelson: Well, it was state-sponsored terrorism. There was a real thought that, and in a lot of ways it was true, that if African-Americans were allowed to vote, because they were 50 percent of the population, the whole state would change, elected officials would change, and what white Southerners called their “way of life,” would end. And so every measure was taken to keep Black people oppressed. And one of the biggest oppressions was to make sure that they did not vote. So if you got the courage to register to vote, you would go down to the registrar to vote and then a registrar would have complete say over whether you got on the rolls or not. You would have to take a test, which might be to interpret the state constitution, or part of the state constitution, which if you were Black you would fail.

But not only would you fail the test, if you got into the courthouse—you might get beat up trying to get in the courthouse—but if you got in, you failed the test, then your name might be put in the newspaper the next day. They had a little box where they would list the names of the people who tried to register to vote. You tried to register to vote. If you worked for a white person, as many, many Black people did, you'd be fired from your job. If you had a loan for your farm, or for your small business, hairdresser, or whatever, the bank might call in your loan. It was just a terrible, terrible situation.

SNCC had been down in Mississippi since 1961, a few SNCC workers trying to register people to vote. But the few people that they could even get to come down to the courthouse, they would be refused, and then there would be more repercussions against those people. So the idea was, we're going to flood Mississippi with these 700 volunteers. But also, which was a brilliant strategy, was that, we're going to bring the eyes of the country on Mississippi.

So, simply by bringing these 700 or 800 white volunteers down here, we're going to make the whole country look at Mississippi, and focus its attention on Mississippi.

Michael Slate: I know what you're saying about how all of this was focused up around voting rights, and it was very important, because that was really a statement of the position of Black people in society. And I kept thinking about this as I was watching the film. This was focused up around voting rights, but the lack of voting rights was also part of a whole oppressing and dehumanizing apparatus in the South. There's a direct continuum, a through-line, from the days of slavery to the smashing of reconstruction, to Jim Crow, and then if you play it out, to this day. Can we talk a little bit about that, the idea of this dehumanizing? Because that's one of the things I got from your film, too. Your film really brought something very powerful to me in terms of understanding what it meant to be Black in Mississippi in the fullest sense.

Stanley Nelson: I think for me, as a filmmaker, that was one of the things that was really important: to try to give the viewer a sense of what it meant to be Black. But also, we use a lot of film clips from back in that day, with white Southerners, white Mississippians, so you could hear in their own words what they felt, and what they thought. And I think that's really, really important. I think that one of the things that had to happen in the South, and as you say, in South Africa and in those situations is, if you're going to have this kind of racist regime, you have to dehumanize the people that you're oppressing. That's one of the things that was done over hundreds of years in Mississippi.

Michael Slate: When you talk about SNCC, I want people to know what that was. Could you give a brief description of that?

Stanley Nelson: Yes. SNCC was the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which was actually a student group that existed on campuses at first. It was run by African-Americans. There were some white members, but it was run by African-Americans. It was very powerful and influential in the civil rights movement in those years, from 1961 to 1964. Because they were young, they were very different from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the NAACP and some of the other groups. They were kind of the spearhead of the movement in some ways. They went into Mississippi when everybody said, “You can't go into Mississippi.”

A lot of the people who came out of SNCC were the ones who joined the Freedom Rides after the first group of freedom riders were turned back.

Michael Slate: When you talk about the importance of getting the white voices out there, too, it was pretty interesting, what you showed there. There were the mainly white students who came down to Mississippi. And then there's the white people in Mississippi—diametrically opposed poles. And when you look at that, I was wondering, how was it to find these people and to be able to incorporate this into your film? You have some white people saying and doing some things in there that get your blood boiling to this day.

Stanley Nelson: And that's one of the hardest things always to find, is people who will talk clearly about how they felt back then as white Southerners. But I think it's really important, so that's something that we really look for.

We were lucky to find a guy who is actually a history professor down in Mississippi and really to this day believes that Black people are inferior, and that white people who feel like that and won't talk about it are being hypocrites. [Laughing] It still took a little convincing for us to get him to appear on camera, but I think he adds another dimension to the film.

Michael Slate: Definitely, including his assessment that, “Well, we really didn't need the KKK down here. We were doing pretty well ourselves.”

Stanley Nelson: Right, which was something that was really amazing about Mississippi. They had something called the Citizens' Council, which was a group that somebody called “the uptown Ku Klux Klan.” It was a group of businessmen and people in the community. Their motto was something like, “Preserving the Southern Way of Life.” And that's what they did. These were the people who could get together and call in your bank loans, or any kind of reprisals that they needed to do if Black people stepped out of line at all, in any way.

Michael Slate: Let's talk about an aspect of the Freedom Summer that I think a lot of people don't know that much about. I was talking to someone this morning who was really taken by that. She said when she went to see the film, she realized there was one aspect she didn't know anything about and she was very moved by, and that was the Freedom Schools. Let's talk about what they were and why they were so important.

Stanley Nelson: One of the things that happened when they were planning Freedom Summer, to send 700 to 800 students down there, was they said, “Look, we've got all these people. What else can we do?” And one of the things that they decided to do was have Freedom Schools. There were Freedom Schools all over the state that they set up. They were set up at first for kids, all the way through high school. But to come and to learn and to read. You have to understand that in Mississippi, African-Americans were not allowed in the public libraries. So you couldn't even go into the public library and get a book. In schools, Black history or Black authors or anything like that were forbidden to be taught. So as people have said, they didn't even know that Black people had written a book until they went to Freedom Schools.

So Freedom Schools taught Black history. They taught Black dance. They did plays. They just did everything. And so many people to this day talk about what they got out of school, and how that summer, and opening up their minds to another world, changed their life even to this day.

Michael Slate: It wasn't the case that people could just walk out and do this without any fear of retribution. And also the life that people were leading—the idea that you put a lot on the line to even go to these schools, right?

Stanley Nelson: Yeah. People would park their cars across from the schools. There were massive amounts of beatings, and there were bombings. Schools were bombed. Churches were set on fire. Fifty-five churches were burned that summer. Just to go to the schools was taking your life into your own hands.

I think one of the things that we do in the film that I'm really proud of, and some of the people who were part of Freedom Summer have mentioned this to me, is that we try to talk about the Mississippians who were part of Freedom Summer. Because all of the 700 to 800 white students who went down there had to stay in the Black community. They had to find housing. They had to find a place that would take them in. But the people who took them in, they were part of that community, and they had to stay there. So after the volunteers left at the end of summer, they had to stay there. They had to have the courage to let these people in their house. Everybody knew who they were. But when the volunteers left, they had to stay in Mississippi, to stay in these small towns.

So, to me, some of the Mississippians who were part of Freedom Summer were just really, really courageous.

Michael Slate: That's an extremely important point, because I was thinking about this in terms of the violence that was sort of daily life in Mississippi. People could say that's the same thing that happens throughout the South, whatever, but really there was a concentration of this in Mississippi. In a certain sense there was a focused battle line that actually impacted and had import for the entire country, and in a lot of ways, for the people all around the world who were watching what was happening. And that was violence and death and jailing and beatings. They were a constant, not just threat, but a reality for the Black people who took the volunteers in, who worked with them, who actually became part of this movement themselves in many different ways, as well as for the volunteers that came down there. You just basically accepted that this was a possibility.

Stanley Nelson: Right. One of the things that I think is so interesting about the United States, was that, almost from the beginning, the United States made a pact that the South could do what it wanted, and the North wouldn't look—you know, would kind of shade its eyes, and hide its eyes. And that had happened—we're literally talking about hundreds of years, from slavery, end of slavery, reconstruction, hundreds of lynchings that were never talked about, never reported in the papers in the North. And one of the brilliant things about the whole civil rights movement, and Freedom Summer in particular, was that it said, no, you have to look. We are going to force you to look. And in Freedom Summer, we're going to force you to look by bringing your sons and your daughters down to Mississippi, and you're going to have to look.

Now I have to say that one of the most important things and terrible things to happen during Freedom Summer was actually the very first day, three workers went down to Mississippi, Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman, and disappeared. The very first day of Freedom Summer. That colored the whole summer and riveted the attention of the United States on where these three missing boys were.

Michael Slate: And that actually, the way you bring it out in the film, too, it was interesting because it also posed a question. On the one hand, you have the Black people who lived in the area, and this was part of their life. On the other hand, you have these hundreds of volunteers, for whom this was not part of their life. But they had to face this and make a decision about—as you're saying, the day before, and people are getting ready to come down, and they had to then stop and say, look, is the cause greater than the threat? And to me, that was a really inspiring moment in the film and in reality as well.

Stanley Nelson: Yeah, it's one of the most amazing pieces of the film, and I think of that history, that the three go missing, the other volunteers are getting ready to go down to Mississippi, and they're given the choice: Look, you can back out now, because these three guys are missing and if they're missing, we pretty much know what that means, that they're dead, and you can back out now. But I think maybe one person actually backed out, and the rest of them got on the buses and went down to Mississippi.

Michael Slate: The other thing I wanted to ask you a little bit about is the idea. When Freedom Summer was first proposed, it was somewhat controversial. Can we talk about that a little?

Stanley Nelson: Yeah. There had been maybe 20 workers from SNCC and other organizations down in Mississippi, as I mentioned earlier, trying to register people to vote. And then they came up with the idea, well, let's bring these white volunteers down here. There was a big debate about whether they should do that or not. I think that's one of the real surprises in the film, that there's this real tension that arises, because some of the workers, who were at that point probably 95 percent Black, felt like, “No, we've been working here for three years, struggling, busting our butts, to get people involved. And now you want to bring these white Northerners who know nothing about this work, and know nothing about Mississippi, to come down here.” And there was a real debate about whether Freedom Summer should happen at all.

Michael Slate: Yeah, it's interesting. And you look at that and you think about, OK, that debate, exactly what you're saying, rooted in a lot of reality, in terms of, what are the conditions? What are the things facing us? And the idea actually bringing all this in might ratchet it up. You have some scenes in there that are just remarkable, in terms of the way that the state, that the authorities in Mississippi tried to use the sort of white skin privilege, white privilege, the idea of the Black predator and the white victim, including a lot of women and all this stuff. And the whole thing that was brought against both the white youth that came down there, the Black people who lived there, as well as the organizers, was very, very heavy.

Stanley Nelson: It was not an easy situation. What I like about it is that you can easily understand both sides. I totally understand the side of the SNCC workers who were saying, “Wait. No. We've worked down here for three years. We're making a little bit of progress.”

One of the things that was really important to them was that the Mississippi residents were taking charge of their own destiny. “And now you want to bring these white people in here, who for so long they've seen as their masters or their betters, and now you want to bring them in here to help them. What we're trying to do is get them to help themselves.” So it was a real debate that went on, and a tension, that even after it was decided to do Freedom Summer, there was still tension there because so many of the original workers resented the white volunteers.

Michael Slate: Although you do have some points in there, too, where you show people who were among those who originally resented it, but then as things went on and they saw the way that the different groupings of people came together and worked around this extremely important cause.

Stanley Nelson: Yeah, I think that that was part of it. And I think, too, as I said, the day before it was officially supposed to start, Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman disappeared. Chaney was an African-American from Mississippi, but Schwerner and Goodman were both white kids from New York. So the white kids had, it looked like, given up their lives already. So how could you now resent them?

Michael Slate: Let's talk about the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and what happened around that. Because I sat there and I thought, wow, I have never seen so much truth so clearly exposed and wow!

Stanley Nelson: I'm so glad you asked about that. The third part of Freedom Summer was—the first part was registering people to vote, the second is the Freedom Schools. But the third was the idea of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. And the idea of that was, this was 1964, and it was the presidential election year, and Lyndon Johnson was going to be nominated to be reelected as president. The convention was in Atlantic City.

So the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party was a new political party that was started by the Freedom Summer volunteers and by the activists, the SNCC workers, the CORE workers, etc. The idea was that they would go to Atlantic City and challenge the all-white delegation from Mississippi. And they would go and say, “Look, this is a segregated party. We are an integrated party. We have whites and Blacks in our party. And our delegation should be seated at the convention instead of the all-white delegation from Mississippi. Now, this was something that had never been done before. But it was perfectly legal, and they did it all by the book. They hired a very high-powered Washington attorney to kind of be their counsel. They had a lot going for them going into Atlantic City.

Michael Slate: Yeah, they had a lot going for them, but they also had a lot of major power forces working behind the scenes, and not so behind the scenes, to sabotage the whole thing.

Stanley Nelson: Yeah. One of the most startling parts of the film and parts of the story is that Lyndon Johnson, who is president, is recording all his phone calls at the White House. We were able to get the audio recordings of him on the phone where he is behind the scenes pulling strings to defeat the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, at the same time saying, “Keep my name out of it. Don't let anybody know.” He says things like, “We can't let the Nigras take over the country. We've got to stop them.” I mean it's just incredible to hear the president of the United States talk like that.

Michael Slate: Yeah. It's an eye-opener for anyone who keeps thinking, “Oh, those Democrats, they're our friends.

Stanley Nelson: I think that was one of the outcomes of Freedom Summer and the challenge by the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. After that, it was really hard for the people involved to say, “The Democrats are our friends.” It was kind of thought that, if we just do everything by the book, if we show that we're better than these racists, that people will have to support us. And that was kind of one of the underlying ideas of the civil rights movement. But in some ways, with what happens in Atlantic City, that whole idea falls apart for so many people. After that, white people are kicked out of SNCC. Very soon after that, Stokely Carmichael goes down to Alabama, and stands up and starts yelling “Black power!”

So, a lot came out of the challenge in Atlantic City that kind of shifted the civil rights movement, but also shifted politics, because that was the last time that the Democratic Party was the party of the South.

Michael Slate: One of the questions I had for you was, if you look at all this now, all that was fought for, all that was sacrificed, in that period, and there were certain realities that were accomplished. Jim Crow was ended. You had, as you mentioned in the film, unprecedented numbers of Black officials in Mississippi, and I'll venture to say, in other parts of the South. And you take that all the way up to today where people can say, “Well, there've been certain gains. You even have a Black president.”

But all of that goes up against the continuing horror that's life for Black people in this country. I was just talking with somebody about Jordan Davis in Florida and what that concentrates in terms of the through-line going back to Dred Scott, that a Black person has no rights that a white man is obliged to respect—all the way up through all of this. And you keep looking at this and thinking, where the hell is this going? The racist murders, the police murders, the mass incarceration, and then the gutting of voting rights, a slap in the face. Even as you're watching this film, and then you realize, wait a minute, they just gutted a lot of this.

For you now, as a filmmaker and as a person in this society, how do you see all that in relation to what was done, and then what's going on today?

Stanley Nelson: This is probably the third film that I've done that has Mississippi as kind of a central character, and the South as a center. When you look at the film footage and when you talk to people, you have to say it's gotten better. It's really hard to say, oh, you know, as a lot of people do, saying things are just as bad. It's gotten better. But, what does that mean? What does that really mean? So we've gotten a little better. I think part of it is us. What I've learned and what I’ve seen is that it's a constant struggle. The struggle's never going to be over.

Part of something for us as African-Americans, we just want the struggle to be over. Because we've struggled for so long. So we want to say, “Slavery ended. Whew! It's over!” And then it's like, more hell. Then it's like, “Jim Crow is over! Whew!” No. More hell. So I think what I take away from all this is no, the struggle is never going to be over. We've got to continue to struggle, and that's where we kind of need to go. We've just got to keep fighting and keep struggling. Or else we can go backwards.

One of the things I've seen in doing a couple of films about history is that we also want to think that history is this kind of upward climb—“Up from Slavery.” But it's not. It's like a roller-coaster ride. And if we don't keep struggling, then the roller coaster starts going down. And the gains we're having in this country were not given to anybody. They were because people fought and died.

Michael Slate: Just one last thought on this. If you step back and you look at all this from the standpoint of morality and truth and where those two come together, it really is inspiring, in the film that you did, in terms of the courage and moral certitude involved on the part of everyone who took part in Freedom Summer. People really did—they committed their lives based on their understanding of how important the cause was, but how true the central fight was: how true that was and how important it was for humanity. I'm sort of echoing what you just said, but it does sort of issue a call to a whole new generation of people, as well as those from other generations who are still around, to actually heed that call, that relationship between truth and morality, and really act.

Stanley Nelson: I think one of the things that's so amazing about the Freedom Summer story is that you have the people from SNCC and CORE who go down there on their own, just with this incredible bravery, down there to Mississippi. You have the volunteers, mainly white college students, who had nothing for themselves to gain, but everything to gain. As one student says at the end, “The person who got the most out of Freedom Summer was me.”

And then you have the other group of Mississippi residents who risk their lives over and over again to fight for their own freedom. So I think it inspires all of us, no matter where you're coming from, to understand we've just got to keep fighting.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/343/justice-for-melissa-williams-and-timothy-russell-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

Justice for Melissa Williams and Timothy Russell!
Jail the 13 Killer Cops!
Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution!

June 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

This statement was issued by Revolution Books in Cleveland.

In Cleveland, on May 29th Grand Jury indictments came down on one of the 13 cops who shot 137 bullets at two unarmed Black people, Melissa Williams and Timothy Russell on November 29, 2012. Also, five supervisors got charged with misdemeanor counts for dereliction of duty in how they followed procedures, of course nothing about how they should have stopped the chase and the killing. So of the 13 shooters only one cop, Michael Brelo, got any charges. He got two voluntary manslaughter charges. This is outrageous that a lynch mob killing of two unarmed Black people, with the clear intention to kill, gets voluntary manslaughter (that is, when someone kills someone because of sufficient provocation or in the heat of passion).

Now let’s ask ourselves: Provoked by what? That the two were Black? He said he feared for his life. Brelo said he had been in Iraq as a Marine, never used his weapon and never faced such fear. He said he heard on the radio, “shots fired” and then said he saw the suspects “point a dark object at us” as well as seeing the victims’ car moving towards the police. First off, the shots were being fired by the police, not by the victims who were being pummeled with bullets. More lies to cover up the killings. Who was fearing for their lives? It was Timothy and Melissa being chased by the armed enforcers—THEY were fearing for their lives.

The Prosecutor and the Grand Jury indicted Brelo on these charges because he shot 15 rounds at the two after 122 shots had already been fired and the car was surrounded by police cars, immobilized. So Prosecutor, Timothy McGinty, said that Brelo went too far, because after the police had shot 122 times at the car, he jumped on the hood and shot 15 more rounds down on the two occupants. For McGinty and the system he is part of, it is all right to chase two unarmed Black people down but once 122 shots have been fired at them after they surrounded the car, starting the shooting again looked too extreme for the massacre it was. In fact, McGinty cited a recent Supreme Court Decision that police have the right to use excessive force during a police chase that endangers the lives of residents. So it is all right to chase and gun down two Black people but after 122 shots, you can’t do more shooting when there is no danger to residents or the police. It is like saying in a lynching, you can hang a Black person, but it is going too far to then burn them up.

It all started on November 29, 2012 as Melissa and Timothy were driving in downtown Cleveland when suddenly they were being followed by the police. What had they done? What law had they broken? None, they were just hanging out with each other, knew each other from being in the homeless shelters. The police claim they “thought” there was gunfire but no gun was found, and that it probably was the car backfiring. After over 20 miles, the chase ended in a parking lot, their car hemmed and stopped, but that was not enough. Those 13 depraved pigs fired 137 shots at two unarmed Black people, Timothy and Melissa. As soon as it happened the media ran out their “criminal” records, demonized them as though they deserved what they got. In fact, Jeffery Folmer, head of the police union, said “Our officers did a great job....to blame anyone else but the two occupants...for their own death, is ignorant and self-serving.” Patrick D’Angelo, lawyer for the police union, said, “It’s a class of society that is anti-social and sociopathic...and in areas where the streets are crawling with serial offenders and others engaged in criminal behavior. When you hear what’s out there, it’s not surprising that sometimes the police have to shoot people.” By blaming Timothy and Melissa for their deaths, vilifying them, and making up the usual bunch of lies to cover up their murders is to again reveal in the most horrible ways what the role of the police is. In BAsics 1:24 Bob Avakian writes, "The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and the order that enforces all this oppression and madness.”

For 1½ years the system and its politicians told us to be PATIENT because the legal system was taking much time and care to make sure “JUSTICE” was carried out. This system’s laws are to protect the cops, their “Just-us”. Of course, we know from thousands of cases of police killings that the prosecutors don’t know how to prosecute when it comes to the police but when it comes to us, we get sent up for years for offenses much less than murder. And now the local authorities are having the FBI and federal investigators come in to look into workings of the Cleveland police department. This is not the first time. If these investigations did anything good, why do these killings keep happening here and around the country, hundreds each year? These investigations give the illusion that they will expose and correct the role of the police, that somehow this system can correct itself and that the police will be there to serve and protect. If it made a difference, many cops would be in jail today for murder. Only the people’s outrage and protest ever made a difference in getting any sort of justice.

Some people say well at least one of the 13 got manslaughter. No, charges of murder should have been brought down on all 13 cops. And the fact that even one cop was charged with manslaughter was because of the continuous outrage and protests by the people. The powers that be were afraid that there could be potentially more radical resistance if no charges came down. Though it is unprecedented that a cop has been charged with any crime in the killing of people, especially Black and Latino, in Cleveland, we cannot let this stand. We have to fight hard for justice for Timothy and Melissa to get the charge of murder for the 13 killer cops.

And again there are forces, politicians who say to us to stay calm, stop the protest, let the system run its course, let the system work. The system did work its course by taking a year and a half to get manslaughter on one cop; it did work to let 12 pigs off with no charges. It was in fact our protest not the system WORKING that even got manslaughter. It's going to take continued and much more radical and broader mass resistance to have a chance for justice in this case. Across the country there are almost daily police killings of Black and Latino people part of a system that criminalizes our youth, making them suspects with permanent targets by the police or racist vigilantes, a system that has over 2 million people, mostly Black and Latino, incarcerated, more than in any country in the world. Because of this, Stop Mass Incarceration Network has called for October to be a Month of Resistance. (To endorse and to get information to make October 2014 a Month of Resistance go to www.stopmassincarceration.net) The resistance against these horrors needs to grow, get stronger and involve different sections of people who stand up and fight these abuses as an important part of preparing the ground for the time when the masses in their millions can make revolution.

To end police violence and terror, for NO MORE to be no more, we need revolution when the time is right to sweep away this system and establish a system of socialism as the first step to communism. This capitalist system relies on the police to violently enforce conditions of poverty, misery and degradation, racism and male supremacy. Revolution can and will put an end to that system. And Day One after the revolution: no more police brutality and murder. Right now be part of building a movement for revolution with the Party as the leading core.

As Carl Dix recently said, “We are determined to make revolution to seize power from these bloodsucking capitalist rulers and build a whole new society. We have the leadership needed for this revolution in BA, the leader of our party. We have a strategy for revolution, and we are politically preparing for the time when we could lead millions in seizing power and sweeping this blood-soaked system off the face of the earth. Learn more about this revolution. Get into BA’s writings, and get with the movement for revolution.”

Revolution Books, 2804 Mayfield Rd, 216-932-2543, www.revbookscle.org

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/343/obama-epa-rules-on-pollution-on-a-parth-to-earths-destruction-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

Obama EPA Rules on Pollution... On a Path to Earth's Destruction

June 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Today an environmental crisis threatens the very fate of humanity and the Earth itself. Glaciers continue to shrink all over the planet, due to global warming. Summer sea ice in the Arctic has mostly disappeared. At the South Pole, the process of massive melt is now fully under way, with 10 feet of sea-level rise predicted in the near future. There are increasing human impacts from climate change—deaths from heat waves, floods, and cyclones, as well as impacts from increasing droughts and wildfires which hit poor people and poor countries the hardest. Seawater is 30 percent more acidic than just four decades ago, because of carbon dioxide being absorbed by the sea -- killing life in the ocean. 2012 was the hottest year in America's history with a drought that caused the corn harvest to largely fail.

Burning pasture in deforested area of Brazilian Amazon.
Photo: AP

This is the EMERGENCY situation in which on June 1, the Obama administration announced new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules regulating life-choking carbon dioxide pollution from power plants in the United States. Obama claims these new rules are "one of the most ambitious steps that any nation has taken to combat climate change." But the truth is 1) what these rules aim to accomplish is puny in the face of the actual environmental crisis humanity faces; 2) even these rules will almost certainly be challenged in the courts, Congress, and at the state level, and powerful ruling class forces oppose such regulations; and 3) Obama's move is part of staying with—not moving away from—a whole energy program that is destroying the earth.

The rules are mainly aimed at cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants which are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. The burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal, and gas) to produce energy, capitalist agricultural practices, and the cutting and burning of forests, etc. release carbon dioxide, which is the main "greenhouse gas." The buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is warming the planet and causing the climate to change—and this climate emergency threatens the future of humanity and life on earth.

The new rules on power plant emissions are part of the overall target Obama announced in 2009 to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels, only 4 percent below the levels measured in 1990. But this is next to nothing compared to what's actually needed. Scientists and climate studies have repeatedly pointed out that massive cuts in greenhouse emissions—in the range of 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and much more beyond—are needed if there is any hope of preventing the very worst impacts of climate change.

What is actually required is an end to the extraction and burning of fossil fuels and a complete transformation to a new clean and sustainable energy foundation. Obama's move to cut coal-fired power plant emissions has nothing to do with this. Instead of moving away from the fossil fuel energy path that has created this crisis, Obama's action actually reinforces the current trajectory. This is because a key part of Obama's EPA rules are founded on the expanded use of natural gas, with some lessening of the use of coal in power plants. The further development and reliance on natural gas, which Obama's plan makes central, steers the economy, resources, and technology away from the urgent need to develop sustainable and renewable energy alternatives—like wind and solar—that is demanded right now to save much of life on earth. Instead, these rules support and expand the existing carbon-based energy infrastructure.

The new EPA regulations serve an ideological purpose—to put forward the U.S. rulers as being determined to "address" the climate crisis. At the same time, they are part of maneuvering to maintain the U.S.'s legitimacy and strategic competitive position over the rest of the world by portraying the U.S. as the world's "climate leaders." And this is also part of trying to seduce people into the idea that natural gas is somehow a "transition" to a carbon-free future. But the scientific reality is that natural gas is not a "clean energy" source. Natural gas, like oil and coal, is chemically a hydrocarbon.* The burning of natural gas contributes to the buildup of greenhouse gases, just like oil and coal burning, even if it produces somewhat less greenhouse emissions when burned compared to coal. Natural gas production and transport causes methane, another greenhouse gas, to leak into the atmosphere—further adding to global warming. And fracking** for gas causes widespread environmental destruction in other ways—including by the leaking of methane into water supplies that people use for drinking water.

Obama's plan underscores how fossil fuels are foundational to the profitable functioning and global strategic interests of the system of capitalism-imperialism. The U.S. has now become the world's largest producer of oil. It has vastly expanded production of natural gas and stepped up its export of coal, to be burned in other countries.

Some sections of the U.S. ruling class may be genuinely alarmed about the environmental crisis and want to do something about it. But major U.S. political figures must ultimately enforce the geostrategic interests of U.S. capitalism-imperialism.

The capitalists are driven to do what they calculate will be most profitable, and the current energy system of extracting oil, coal, and gas is tremendously profitable. This is why it is the overwhelmingly dominant form of energy use in the world, despite the fact that it is both unsustainable and tremendously destructive, and is now fueling potentially catastrophic climate change. Companies and countries must try to dig and drill for every last bit of fossil fuel because if they don't, some other competitor will grab it up and drive them under. And there is increasingly intense contention among capitalist powers in the world over control of fossil fuel sources and reserves, which is key to geostrategic power.

As the world faces an environmental catastrophe, the monstrous system that has caused this crisis is stepping up its search for new sources of more polluting fossil fuels! And it is incapable of diverging from this path because of the very rules that bind it. The fact is that whatever regulations and reforms are put in place under this system, even "green technology" that is developed or greater efficiency standards, take place on the basis of the continuing ravaging and destruction of the earth by this system of capitalism/imperialism, especially in the oppressed countries of the world.

What is actually needed to address the urgent environmental crisis humanity faces can't be done under this system. What is needed is a decisive restructuring away from reliance on fossil fuels; an end to an empire that dominates the world and contends with other rivals over raw materials; a whole new transport grid, sustainable cities, conscious planning for rising sea levels, unleashing and mobilizing people, and putting technology and knowledge in the service of confronting and tackling the climate emergency internationally. NONE of this can be done under the current economic and political system of capitalism. But it CAN be done in a new socialist society.

 


* The majority of hydrocarbons found on earth naturally occur in crude oil. Hydrocarbons are currently the main source of the world's electric energy and heat sources (such as home heating) because of the energy produced when burnt. Often this energy is used directly as heat such as in home heaters, which use either petroleum or natural gas. The hydrocarbon is burnt and the heat is used to heat water, which is then circulated. A similar principle is used to create electric energy in power plants. [source: Wikipedia] [back]

**. In fracking, wells are drilled vertically down to layers of shale, then horizontally into the layer. Millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals are then pumped through the well into the rock layer at high pressure to crack apart the layers of shale rock. Through fracking whole new floods of unconventional fossil fuels are being drilled out, burned, and leaked into the atmosphere, spreading pollution of air and water, poisoning water supplies, threatening people's health. [back]

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/342/percolations-no-1-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

Percolations – #1

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

Part 1: REVOLUTION AND THE STATE

Part 2: BUILDING THE MOVEMENT FOR REVOLUTION

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.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/343/343genocidal-realities-juvenile-life-without-parole-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

 

Genocidal Realities

Juvenile Life Without Parole
And THIS is the best of all possible worlds?!?

June 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

In speaking to the situation facing Black and Latino people in the U.S.—mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline, the criminalization and demonization of a whole generation of youth, the overt or just-below-the-surface racism prevalent in society, etc.—Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party has said what is taking place is a slow genocide that could easily become a fast genocide. This regular feature highlights aspects of this slow genocide.

 

The U.S. is the ONLY country in the world—in violation of international law—that sentences youth under 18 years of age to life in prison without the possibility of parole. This status is officially called Juvenile Life Without Parole (JLWOP). Currently, this country has 2,570 juveniles serving JLWOP; 60 percent of youth sentenced to JLWOP are Black, although Blacks make up 16 percent of the total youth population. And youth under the age of 18 face the most extreme sentence of life without parole when they are transferred from juvenile court to be tried as adults in criminal court. 73 of the juveniles sentenced to JLWOP were 13-to-14 years old when they were sentenced and 49 percent of them are Black. The reality is that juveniles who are sentenced to JLWOP will die in prison.

The whole picture is filled out by looking at the startling statistics of Black youth serving juvenile life in prison without the possibility of parole. Black youth are serving JLWOP at a rate 10 times that of white youth nationwide.

California has among the highest rates in the country in sentencing youth to JLWOP; it sentences Black youth 18.3 times more than whites to JLWOP. In Los Angeles County, Black youth are 11 percent of the population and 37 percent of youth sentenced to JLWOP, while white youth are 22 percent of the population, but only 8 percent of the youth sentenced to JLWOP. The ease with which this takes place is reflected in the fact that California allows prosecutors to file in adult court without a juvenile court hearing.

What does all this mean? It means this is the situation for Black youth—some as young as 14 years old—dealing with circumstances they are not responsible for, doing something impulsive, making a mistake, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time—and then locked-up behind bars for the rest of their lives.

Thirteen-year-old Antonio Nuñez was riding his bike near his home in South Central Los Angeles when he was shot multiple times. His 14-year-old, brother ran to help him and was shot in the head and killed. Antonio was critically injured and required surgery. Six months later and a week after returning from Nevada where he had been recovering at his aunt's house, Antonio, now 14, got into a car with two older men he met at a party. One of the men later claimed he was a kidnap victim. The car was chased by plainclothes police in an unmarked car and shots were exchanged, but no one was injured. Antonio was convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to JLWOP.

On appeal, in 2009, Antonio Nuñez's sentence of JLWOP was ruled a violation of the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, that it was "unconstitutional to impose that particular penalty for kidnapping.... the Orange County Superior Court resentenced Nuñez to five life terms with the possibility of parole—after he serves 186 years." (Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2009)

Even before the JLWOP death sentence—Antonio and so many others have already been serving unofficial death sentences as they go through daily torment and brutality at the hands of the cruel and unjust system of capitalism-imperialism.

Cries of pain and anguish...

What kind of system does THIS to youth?

One that has NO RIGHT TO RULE!

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/343/check-it-out-nell-bernstein-burning-down-the-house-the-end-of-juvenile-prison-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

Check It Out:

Interview with Nell Bernstein, Author of Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison

June 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Book cover: Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison  by Nell Bernstein

I want to recommend readers get their hands on an interview with Nell Bernstein, author of a new book called Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison, that ran on the National Public Radio show Fresh Air on Wednesday, June 4 (just google “Fresh Air Nell Bernstein”). A word of warning: it will make you angry—really angry—at what this system systematically does to hundreds of thousands of kids.

The U.S. incarcerates a higher percentage of youth than any other country in the world. Bernstein systematically takes apart all the justifications for locking these kids behind bars, especially the charge that these are “monsters” and “psychopaths,” that society has no choice but to lock these kids up.

She’s talked to hundreds of kids all around the country who have been locked up or are still in the system. One thing she emphasizes is how the youth often downplay what they’ve been through—she says she’s tried to confirm the stories she’s heard by checking the records of the institutions themselves and found that what the youth told her was either verified or the reality turned out to be even worse than what she was told. I won’t try to cover all she says, but just to give you a taste:

There’s much more, and I’m anxious to read Bernstein’s new book. But take a listen to the interview, and then think about this quote from BA:

No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that. (BAsics 1:13)

Exactly.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/343/stop-patriarchy-at-warped-tour-houston-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

Stop Patriarchy makes a splash at Warped Tour in Houston!

June 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

The Warped Tour is a music festival touring the U.S. this summer. Check out this video of images from the Stop Patriarchy booth—including on-the-spot statements of support for the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride.

For more information about the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, see End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women on revcom.us.

 

If you are unable to see the video, click here to watch the video.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/342/awtwns-sometimes-I-wish-I-were-a-dog-because-in-Europe-dogs-have-a-better-life-than-foreigners-like-us-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

From A World to Win News Service:

"Sometimes I wish I were a dog, because in Europe, dogs have a better life than foreigners like us."

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.

On August 21, photographer Georgi Licovski documented a brutal attack on migrants attempting to get out of Greece, where they are subjected to hate and concentration camps. The migrants were heading towards hoped-for sanctuary in northern Europe. But as they attempted to cross the border from Greece into neighboring Macedonia, police there fired tear gas and stun grenades to drive them back into Greece. Licovski said babies, children, and mothers were among those gassed and beaten, and that families were split up in the chaos.

Migrants attempting to cross the border from Greece into neighboring Macedonia, August 21. Police at the border fired tear gas and stun grenades to drive them back into Greece. AP photo

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.

My Journey

Syrian refugees waiting to cross the border into Turkey, June 15, 2014.
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.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/342/awtwns-india-protests-rise-against-jailing-of-G-N-Saibaba-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

From A World to Win News Service

India: Protests Rise Against Jailing of G. N. Saibaba

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.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/343/los-angeles-we-say-no-more-let-our-children-go-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

Los Angeles:

We Say No More! Let Our Children Go!

June 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

From a reader:

On Thursday, June 19, 2014, an emergency protest was held at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Los Angeles against the detention and inhumane treatment of thousands of children from Central America by the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The protest was initiated by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, co-sponsored by Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, and endorsed by Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles Revolution Club.

The children—who have been captured while trying to cross the border between Mexico and the U.S., mostly unaccompanied by adults—are being held in detention centers in Texas and other parts of the U.S. under inhumane conditions. (See "Tens of Thousands of Immigrant Youth Brutally Imprisoned—In the USA" and "The Children Who Cross the Border... And the Crimes of the U.S.")

There was a lively scene at the protest. A large banner called for the October 2014 Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation! Copies of the Call for the Month of Resistance and Revolution newspaper got out to passers-by. A group of Aztec dancers with drums united with the protest—they have been at this location every week, protesting attacks and deportations of immigrants. Among the people who joined that action were family members who came to visit some of the 50 people who had been caught up in a recent "anti-gang" sweep by the police and FBI that is one of the biggest mass arrests in recent LA history. The protest was covered by local TV news and international Spanish-language press.

We Say No More! Let Our Children Go!

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/342/the-children-who-cross-the-border-and-crimes-of-the-US-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

The Children Who Cross the Border...
and Crimes of the U.S.

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.

Young Mexican boy watches Border Patrol on New Mexico side of border fence, December 2013. Photo: AP

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 Gangs of Central America and the Godfather of El Norte

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. (See sidebar to this article.) 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.

Trapped by Imperialism in a Burning House

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.

A Great Crisis, a Great Challenge

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.

 

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/343/343-report-from-revolution-club-summer-in-los-angeles-out-to-neighborhood-hit-by-massive-police-raid-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

Report from Revolution Club Summer in Los Angeles

Out to a Neighborhood Hit by Massive Police Raid

June 26, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

From Revolution Club, Los Angeles

Revolution Club Summer is a project in Los Angeles bringing revolutionary-minded youth from across the area to spend the summer living and running with each other, together with more experienced revolutionaries, to make big advances in building the movement for revolution—especially in oppressed areas and among the youth. On our first day, an invading army of 1,300 LAPD and FBI pigs carried out a massive raid in South Central, busting into homes, sticking high-powered rifles in people’s faces, forcing elderly women out into the street in their bedclothes, and arresting Black men young and old. They arrested at least 50 people, devastating a whole community whose fathers and sons, dear friends and lovers were snatched away in an instant.

We headed out to one of the neighborhoods of the raid, with the understanding that was in the recent revcom.us editorial, “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.” (“Summer 2014: Making Advances...Toward Revolution”)

Under this system of capitalism, so many in this society and so much of humanity are forced to endure great hardship and suffering, exploitation, injustice and brutality, while wars and the ongoing destruction of the natural environment threaten the very future of humanity. This short statement outlines the strategy for revolution—the first step to end this horror.
Read more

One man whose friend was arrested in the raid told us his own story of having his life ripped apart by an arbitrary arrest just a few years ago. He spoke bitterly about how he was stopped by the police in front of a friend’s house, told to get on the ground, and when he didn’t comply, was beaten to the ground and arrested. While he was in handcuffs, the police kept saying “stop resisting.” He was charged with six felonies and couldn’t believe the judge didn’t throw it all out instantly. He hired a lawyer and still had to plea to one charge—the lawyer told him, if you go in front of a jury they will assume you’re guilty, a Black man in South Central who the police are saying did all these things. Because of all this, he lost his job and his family, and after a couple months in jail is still now on probation. He repeated this story over and over again during the discussion, while his friends nodded and added in details. But that isn’t all. The same cop driving down the block another day stopped and called him over to ask a standard question they use to fuck with people, “are you on probation?” To which he answered bitterly, “You know I’m on probation, you put me there.” The cop threatened to arrest him again.

As he was telling this story, he was also making the point that there’s nothing we can do about what is being done. He said his refusal to get down on the ground was an attempt to not just accept what the police do, but look what happened. He said when he went to jail and told people there what had happened, they asked him, was it worth it? And the fact that the same police hold out the possibility of sending him back to jail at any time is only further illustration that you have no choice but to accept it. His friend standing next to him said, with a lot of emotion, “We want to say, ‘We are human. We have rights,’ but we can’t even do that.”

The two were part of a larger group of Black men of varying ages we talked deeply with, about their life experiences and about revolution. It was wide-ranging and with a lot of struggle, including over identity politics and the oppression of women, and especially in relation to the need and possibility of revolution and getting into BA. A big part of the struggle was about whether there is anything we can do to politically fight back against what is happening to people and whether the revolution that’s needed could really be possible. It was an exchange where we all had an important impact on each other.

One member of the Revolution Club Summer summed up, “These people live in the midst of the oppression we are standing up against. They realize the system is ineffective, but they feel voiceless. One of the men we spoke to resorted to the same response no matter how many points we tried to make: ‘We’ve been fighting... it’s impossible... there’s nothing we can do.’ It’s no wonder they feel this way. They all look for justice in a system which, as one young man we spoke to said, ‘uses justice to mask brutality.’ This is why BA’s works need to be spread around urgently—to show people that the real problem is the system as a whole and the real solution is revolution.”

Since then, we’ve kept returning to the neighborhood most affected by the raids even while we’ve been out canvassing in another neighborhood with a focus on BA Everywhere as well as joining a Revolution Books discussion of BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less!, and jumping into a Stop Mass Incarceration Network demonstration at the federal detention center to resist the inhumane detentions, criminalization, and threats of deportation of the thousands of Central American children being rounded up in Texas.

We decided to do a street-corner protest on Saturday afternoon, even though it wasn’t clear whether anyone we’d talked with was convinced it would be worth it to come out to it. A woman we talked with, whose home was one of those raided, said she was too angry to come. We tried to draw out what she meant by that and told her the point is not for people to calm down, that her anger is righteous. She said they don’t give a fuck what we do, and we told her that we are not trying to convince those in power to listen, we are exposing their whole thing as illegitimate as part of how we transform people’s thinking, build up our resistance, and have all this be part of building a movement for revolution to get rid of this system and bring into being a whole new world. She said she couldn’t do it, the hurt was too raw.

Nobody we’d met previously came out to be part of it, but being at that intersection with signs demanding a stop to the raids, the slogan “We Refuse to Accept Slavery in Any Form,” and centerfolds from Revolution newspaper, drew people forward in very important ways. A woman who had just minutes earlier been stopped by the police and almost arrested for drinking a beer outside broke down crying as she talked about how people there are treated by the police. Most people passing in cars just looked or checked it out, but several honked their horns, and some had clearly emotional responses—one car with several Black youth pulled across lanes of traffic to stop and connect, in another a man leaned halfway out of the window to shout out, “I’m with you!” An older woman walked up asking for materials and wanting to know how she could take part. She suggested a petition that she and others could pass through the neighborhood to present when the men go to court.

We think the woman’s suggestion is important, and overall we are working to organize people we’re meeting into the revolution, getting into the strategy for revolution and enabling people to see how they can act to have societal impact now as part of fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution. The concrete ways in which we are working on this and working to involve the masses include: building the October Month of Resistance to mass incarceration, popularizing the People’s Neighborhood Patrols, distributing whistles as a form of organized mass resistance to police brutality, introducing people to the work of BA and getting into the BA Everywhere fundraising campaign including building the anti-4th of July picnic, and selling and popularizing Revolution newspaper and revcom.us.

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/343/come-one-come-all-to-the-july-4th-picnics-hosted-by-BA-everywhere-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

Come One! Come All! to the July 4th Picnics Hosted by BA Everywhere!

June 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Come One! Come All! to the July 4th picnics hosted by BA Everywhere! At a time when the powers-that-be will be waving the American flag and rallying people to celebrate the founding of this ugly social order which oppresses people the world over, BA Everywhere, a campaign to raise big money to project the vision and works of Bob Avakian throughout society is raising these slogans:

WHAT TO A SLAVE IS YOUR FOURTH OF JULY?
WE REFUSE TO ACCEPT SLAVERY IN ANY FORM!

Now is the time to build on what has been accomplished in the campaign so far and to break the campaign out even more broadly into society. Now is the time for BA Everywhere to reach out very, very broadly to people from all walks of life—into the neighborhoods and communities of those who catch hell every day in this society, among students, artists, professionals—and invite and unite one and all to these “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” picnics as we fight to carry through on the goals to raise big funds to get BA Everywhere. An important focus of this campaign is the 1000 years—$1000 project which aims to make the hundreds and thousands of years suffered in the hellhole prisons of this country count for bringing into being a radically new world. It matters if hundreds of people nationwide come to these picnics; they will be kicking off a whole summer of intense efforts leading into fall 2014. Let’s make these picnics major.

“Who should come to, participate in, and/or help build these weekend celebrations? EVERYONE WHO HATES THE MODERN-DAY FORMS OF ENSLAVEMENT THAT CHAIN PEOPLE DOWN, AND HUNGERS FOR A BETTER WORLD... EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO SEE A REAL FUTURE FOR OUR YOUTH... EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO HEAR ABOUT REVOLUTIONARY IDEAS ON WHAT CAN BE DONE TO BRING THAT WORLD, AND THAT FUTURE, INTO BEING!” (From "A Call for Major Events on July 4th Weekend: 'WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS YOUR FOURTH OF JULY?'")

Come one, come all!

People who hate the world as it is, and who long for a way out of this madness, should be there mixing it up with people who are outraged by the massive incarceration of Black and Latino people, especially youth, and are moving to resist this crime against humanity. People whose loved ones have been murdered by the police should be sharing their life experience with those who are horrified by the detention of tens of thousands of children seeking to escape lives of grinding poverty and violence in Central America. Fighters against the degradation of women and those who are right now moving to take up the demand that the right to abortion should be defended and extended must be there interacting with people who look out at the world and see how the billions who fight ferociously just to survive another day, and want to see an end to this horror. And engaging with those who agonize over the ongoing destruction of the planet and are determined to act to change this. 

We refuse to accept slavery in any form!

These revolutionary picnics will be a coming together of many, many people from all corners of society. They will be a time to have some fun, for there to be testimonials, culture, games and more. These picnics should be full of lively discussion and wrangling where people get together and talk about the world we could bring into being and how to do that. They will be a time for those who are just learning about this revolution to hang with those who are actively involved in building this movement and comrades from the RCP. They will be a time to build community, as people from the ghettos and barrios wrangle with academics and artists about the revolution. And as people are having a great time, they can not only find out about what BA has brought forward and the campaign to get BA Everywhere, but the battle to stop mass incarceration and the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride (led by Stop Patriarchy), as well as other fronts of struggle people are waging. People can talk about how all these struggles are all related and can work together to call into question the legitimacy of this whole set-up, and be a part of building the movement for revolution and bringing forward a revolutionary current in society. And people should be able to get materials and find out how to get involved in all these different struggles.

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/343/reactionary-islamic-fundamentalism-and-the-ISIL-or-ISIS-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

Reactionary Islamic Fundamentalism and the ISIL (or ISIS)

by Larry Everest | June 26, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 


Islamic fundamentalism is a political, religious-ideological movement and trend, with different branches, variations, and organizational expressions, that is spreading across North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia in particular, but also globally. 

Islamic fundamentalism or Islamism’s ideological and political program is completely reactionary and against the interests of the people, especially the oppressed for whom these forces often claim to speak, no matter what country or region to which it is applied.  These forces aim to forcibly impose religion, in particular a fundamentalist or absolutist, literalist interpretation of the Koran and Sharia law (the body of religious rulings made by Islamic clerics), on society as its governing law and ideology—in short by creating a theocracy and obliterating any separation of church and state. 

This means imposing and violently enforcing patriarchal, separate and unequal laws for women, including forced veiling, forced control by male family members, and denial of equal legal rights.  It includes society-wide indoctrination in religious obscurantism and discrimination and often attacks on other religions or non-believers.  It means defending feudal and capitalist private property and exploitation.  And the Islamists’ methods often reflect their reactionary ideology and program, including targeting and murdering non-combatants, terrorizing whole populations, and sanctioning severe corporal punishment or death for infractions of Islamic law. 

This movement is an expression of the class and social interests of reactionary and outmoded bourgeois and feudal social forces in countries dominated by imperialism, which have come into conflict with or been undercut by imperialism.  However, their goal is not a fundamental break with imperialism, instead their aim is to advance their vision and interests within a capitalist-imperialist world. 

While the “modern” roots of this Islamic fundamentalist political trend go back to the 1920s, it has gained traction in large part because of the enormous suffering and oppression imperialism has inflicted on people in the oppressed (or Third World) countries, and the enormous social, cultural, and demographic dislocations this has led to.  By the late 1970s, anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism began to emerge as a powerful current in the wake of the 1976 defeat of communism in China, the 1979 Iranian revolution, and the 1979-1988 war in Afghanistan. 

The group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL—the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) is part of this overall trend.  It is very important to understand that these are not nationalist forces, operating under the cloak of religion.  ISIL is a jihadist group, committed to holy or religious war across national boundaries.  Recruiting fighters from around the world, its  program is not forming a Sunni-dominated state in Iraq, but an Islamic caliphate first encompassing the entire area from Iraq, across Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean, and then expanding to other countries having a predominantly Muslim population.

None of this is to say—or imply—that all Muslims or everyone living in the Middle East or Central Asia is an Islamic fundamentalist, or that Islamic fundamentalism is part of the “identity” of the peoples in these regions.  Nor does it mean that Islam is “inherently violent,” or any more reactionary than literal or absolutist interpretations of Christianity or Judaism.  And none of this justifies the targeting, persecution, harassment, and repression of Muslims in the imperialist countries.

5. Communism and Religion: Getting Up and Getting Free—Making Revolution to Change the Real World, Not Relying on "Things Unseen"

Track 1, Track 2,
Track 3 , Track 4

However, it is very important to face the reality that Islamic fundamentalism is the increasingly dominant pole of opposition to the U.S. and the status quo across the arc from Morocco in North Africa, through the Middle East to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that this is a nightmare for the people which must be recognized.  Pretending that what is going on in the Middle East has nothing to do with religion or Islam, or that in countries like Iraq nationalist forces are really driving and cohering the anti-U.S., anti-Maliki opposition, or that Islamic fundamentalism is simply a creation of the U.S. and the CIA, is illusory and extremely harmful. 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/343/iraq-background-en.html

Revolution #343 June 29, 2014

Iraq Background: What’s Behind the Escalating Sectarian War and U.S. Intervention?  Where Could It Go? Where Do Our Interests Lie?

By Larry Everest | June 26, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

The June 10 collapse of Iraqi government forces in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and the city’s fall to the reactionary Islamic jihadists of the ISIL and other Sunni forces, stunned the Iraqi government, the U.S. rulers, and other regional and global powers, setting off alarm bells in capitals around the world.

Since then, the situation has evolved very quickly. Jihadists and other Sunni forces have rapidly extended their control of north and west Iraq, including taking control of Iraq’s border with Syria and perhaps Jordan, and moving to within 40 miles of Baghdad. There are reports that ISIL and Sunni fighters may have taken over Iraq’s largest oil refinery. So far, the Iraqi government, headed by Nouri al-Maliki, has been unable to mount a counter-offensive, and there are deep fissures among Iraq’s ruling parties. The Obama administration is furiously working to craft a response and prevent the fall of Baghdad, including deploying military forces to the region. Iran is stepping up its presence in Iraq, and other regional states, including Saudi Arabia, are also reacting to protect their own interests. .

It’s impossible to predict where this is all going, but it could develop into a major turning point—fracturing or breaking national boundaries and ruling structures which have existed for nearly 100 years, since World War 1. These structures and relations have been key components of 70 years of U.S. domination of the Middle East, which has been crucial to the functioning and power of U.S. imperialism globally and domestically.

1. How Did We Get Here? Not Essentially Bush or Stupidity, But the Dynamics and Necessities of Imperialism!

People need to understand some key truths about the current crisis in Iraq.

It isn’t simply the “fault” or “stupidity” of Bush, Cheney and the “neocons,” as some argue. If this were the case it might be fairly easy for the U.S. to extricate itself. But it’s not. This crisis is rooted in the dynamics of capitalism-imperialism, the history of its domination of the Middle East, and the actions the U.S. rulers have felt compelled to take to maintain that dominance.

Imperialism has colonized, dominated, strangled, twisted and suffocated the Middle East for over 100 years. After World War 2 ended in 1945, the U.S. became the dominant imperial overlord. During these decades, the U.S. worked to basically put the whole region on lockdown: overall integrating the core pillars of the traditional social order—feudal, tribal, and patriarchal relations, including the prominent role of Islam and the clerical establishment—into the forms through which it dominated and exploited the region. This meant backing up or installing kings, military juntas, and tyrants, while arming and training their secret police and torturers. Nationalists, revolutionaries, and especially communists were ruthlessly suppressed. Israel has been America’s local enforcer, ethnically cleansing the indigenous Palestinian population and waging war on its neighbors. During its post-World War 2 reign, the U.S. has marauded all over the world, for instance sponsoring death squads that murdered hundreds of thousands in Central America during the 1980s alone. Yet over the last 30 years or so, there’s nowhere it has waged so many wars and military interventions as the Middle East. And both Democrats and Republicans have supported all of this!

Why? Because this was—and is!— a key strategic, military and economic crossroads linking Europe, Asia, and Africa, and home to roughly 60 percent of the world’s energy reserves. (While technological changes like fracking are shifting the global energy landscape, the Middle East still accounts for a third of global oil production, more than any other region. http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=11711.)

The issue here is not simply or mainly U.S. oil consumption. Control of this global oil spigot has been called the “greatest strategic prize” in history by various imperialists because it’s been essential to the profitable functioning of U.S. capital, to its global economic and military dominance, and to its leverage over other powers . Hence no disruption of this setup was to be tolerated.

But by the dawn of the new millennium, tensions and contradictions were cracking the edifice of U.S. control. The 1979 Iranian revolution ended up bringing Islamic fundamentalists to power. The 1979-1988 war in Afghanistan, fueled by U.S., Pakistani, and Saudi Arabian support for anti-Soviet Islamist fighters, spawned organized jihadists hostile to both the former Soviet Union and to the West and its regional clients.

The 1989-1991 collapse of the Soviet Union (by then an imperialist power1) was a geopolitical earthquake that shifted the whole global terrain, ushering in what the Revolutionary Communist Party has identified as a “period of major transition with the potential for great upheaval.” The savaging of Iraq during the 1991 U.S. war and then 13 years of sanctions sent tremors throughout the region, yet did not take down the Hussein regime. This and Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians stirred anger and discontent across the region. Through all this, Middle Eastern oil and natural gas have created enormous, obscene wealth for imperialism and its local collaborators, while most of the region’s 300-400 million people remained impoverished and oppressed. At the same time, capitalist globalization has torn up traditional ways of survival and socialization, and propelled millions from the countryside into sprawling urban cities and slums.

These developments occurred in the wake of the 1976 overthrow of socialism and the restoration of capitalism in China following Mao's death. This had profound ideological and political reverberations worldwide, including creating a void of genuine opposition to imperialism. This also strengthened the Islamic fundamentalist current, which by the century's turn was becoming a serious challenge to U.S. interests in the Middle East and Central Asia.

So in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, the imperialists felt it was necessary to radically restructure the region. As Bush later summed up, "Years of pursuing stability to promote peace had left us with neither." They also felt they had the freedom to pursue their grand ambitions because the U.S. was then unquestionably the world's dominant power.

So they launched a "global war on terror." This was, in reality, a war for greater empire that aimed to defeat anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism, take down regimes that stood in the U.S.'s path, and economically, politically, and socially transform the whole region. They called this "draining the swamp"— drying up the roots and sources of the growing strength of Islamist opposition. All this was part of a larger strategy of preventing any other powers from rising to challenge the U.S., globally or regionally, locking in American hegemony for decades to come. In short, they aimed to create an unchallenged and unchallengeable empire.

This "war on terror" started in Afghanistan in October 2001, but shifted quickly to Iraq with the March 2003 invasion. The Bush regime considered Iraq key to advancing all of its objectives. They envisioned transforming it into a new kind of neo-colony in the region—more open to global capital, especially its oil sector, as well as a U.S.-led "democratic" pole and military platform. A central objective: weakening if not overthrowing the Islamic Republic of Iran, which the U.S. considered one of the prime sources of Islamist opposition regionally. Taking down the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein was also seen as dealing a death blow to Arab nationalism and what remained of Russian regional influence.

Such a vision required clearing the ground, so to speak, and this is what the Bush team did—shattering and disbanding the Baathist Army, privatizing the economy, and then purging the state of all former Baathists, which ended up gutting much of the Iraqi state and barring many Sunnis (who'd had the predominant role in Iraqi government society since the country's founding by the British in 1921) from having any meaningful future. These moves were seen as necessary and logical as part of the larger strategy the U.S. was pursuing.

The leading lights of the U.S. ruling class pretty much all supported the overarching objectives of the "war on terror," including the Democratic Party (and yes, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry)! That's why we shouldn't call these "wars for oil" or "Bush's war"—we should call them imperialist wars, because that's what they are.

But things did not go according to plan. U.S. planners imagined they could airlift a gang of puppet exiles into Baghdad and that they, together with the comprador Kurdish leadership (which had been in control of northeast Iraq since the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War), would form the core of a new U.S.-dominated "democracy." But these exiles had little popular support and no organization on the ground, and the U.S. quickly realized they couldn't cohere a nationwide government. Meanwhile an armed Baathist and Sunni Islamist resistance was emerging. So the U.S. was forced to turn to a number of different, and often contending, Shi'a religious parties, most with long-standing ties to Iran, along with the Kurdish leadership and some Sunnis to form a government.2 The outcome was the replacement of an essentially secular and nationalist neocolonial state with an Islamic state constructed along sectarian lines, dominated by religious Shi'as and also subordinate to imperialism.

The U.S.'s grand plans were made all the more difficult to achieve by the fact it was doing transformation "on the cheap"—with relatively few troops. Why? In part because their strategy was to move on to the next target, not get bogged down.

But bogged down they got, by an armed anti-U.S. resistance that included tribal, nationalist and jihadist Sunnis, as well as some Shi'a militias. This conflict evolved by 2006 into a savage sectarian civil war with the Iraqi government, backed by the U.S., utilizing death squads, torture chambers, and the sectarian 'cleansing' of many Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad. After peaking around 2008, fighting between the Iraqi government forces and Sunni jihadists and other Sunni forces in northwest Iraq has escalated sharply since 2013.

These events jolted the region. They strengthened the oppressive Shi'a regime in Iran and threatened to undercut pro-U.S. Sunni tyrannies like Saudi Arabia. This shift in the balance of forces has provoked a regional battle—sometimes open, often hidden—between the Saudis and other Gulf states backing Sunni forces, and Iran backing Shi'a forces.

As this was taking place, other developments in the region were both increasing mass suffering and shaking ruling structures. Drought created by global warming has hammered the region's agriculture. The global food and financial crises of 2008-2009 hit hard. This was the terrain out of which the "Arab Spring" exploded, increasing the fragility of the regional order, which the U.S. then exacerbated by first promising "democracy," and then supporting coups overthrowing elected Islamists, for instance in Egypt.

Syria has become a focal point—and nodal point—of these contradictions and a major factor in the crisis in Iraq today. In March 2011, in the wake of uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, tens of thousands of Syrians rose up against the oppressive Assad regime, which responded brutally. Since then, the battle in Syria has devolved into a nightmarish civil war dominated by reactionaries on both sides: Assad, backed by Iran and Russia on one side, and anti-Assad forces, dominated by reactionary Sunni Jihadists, as well as forces backed by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and other powers on the other. The Syrian people's suffering has been unimaginable, with some 160,000 killed, and at least 2.5 million forced to flee their homes. This is a major crime of U.S. imperialism, which has both stoked the carnage, and—along with all that's been described above—added jet fuel to reactionary Islamic Jihadism, giving it big openings in which to organize, grow, and become battle-hardened.

This whole history—from 1945 to the current day—shows that the interests of U.S. imperialism—what the rulers call "American interests"—are NOT in the interests of humanity, including those who happen to live within the borders of the U.S. The rulers' actions have led to terrible suffering and oppression for millions, decade after decade. Their interests are against the interests of the people—in the Middle East, here and around the world. Why should anyone think anything good can come from further U.S. intervention and domination?

Those in power understand that they must "never let them see you sweat," in other words never reveal their fears and vulnerabilities to those they oppress and rule over. Yet the events unfolding before our eyes show that the system of imperialism is full of contradictions and its rulers are not all knowing3 and not all powerful. Their "war on terror" has failed to achieve its objectives; it was designed to strengthen U.S. imperialism, instead it's created new problems and difficulties, not just in the Middle East but globally as well.

2. They can't leave...and they have no good options.

Obama's aim has been to maintain overall U.S. dominance in the Middle East-Central Asian regions, while extricating it from direct, on-the-ground wars there. One element: combating "terrorism" via drone strikes and special forces operations, as well as utilizing mercenaries and local reactionary allies. In some instances, this has meant inciting and manipulating sectarian violence—even as that can get out of their control. The Obama team—and there are sharp divisions within the U.S. ruling class over global strategy—has been driven to take these steps by the tremendous costs and ultimate failures of U.S. ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as their need to focus on repelling growing challenges from Russia and China—sharply posed in Ukraine and the South China Sea respectively—as well as other powers. Hence, Obama's stated goal of a "pivot to Asia."

However, in light of the threat to the Iraqi state, the U.S. rulers feel they have little choice, given the threat posed by ISIL to the regional order, but to send advisors, warships, and intelligence assets to prevent the reactionary Maliki regime from collapsing, even as they are maneuvering to forge a government more to their liking, and to prevent increased Iranian influence. But this choice is also full of dangers and uncertainties. For instance, the Iraqi army may be too rotten to successfully prop up. Another possible problem, the Maliki government seems to be counting on rallying the Shi'a population for a holy war against the Sunnis, and this could turn into a horrific, U.S.-supported bloodbath, further stoking Sunni Jihadism and shaking Sunni states. Then there's Iran. While it has been an enormous problem for the U.S. and its key ally Israel, the U.S. seems to be exploring at least a tactical alliance with Iran to save the Iraq state, but this too could end up strengthening Iran in the longer term.4

The U.S. rulers feel they must keep their grip on the region, including to contend with other powers globally. Yet their focus on the region has also given openings to these rivals. And now, it's possible that the U.S. will get sucked more directly back into the cauldron of the Middle East—even as Obama understands how perilous this could be.

The U.S.'s goal in all this is to attempt to protect the region's oppressive ruling forces and its subordination to imperialism. In other words, whatever particular tack the U.S. takes, its actions will only bring more horrors for the people.

3. These events have the potential to turn into major crises, forcing the imperialists to act in ways that are very risky for their power and legitimacy.

Revolution's editorial "Summer 2014: Making Advances...Toward Revolution" pointed out:

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.

The crisis in Iraq is one example, and it prompted some actual truth-telling from the rulers.

New York Times columnist David Brooks told PBS Newshour (6/13) that the ISIL-led offensive in Iraq is:

[A] gigantic problem. The idea—and this has been talked about by experts the last couple of years in particular—that it just becomes one big war, that the borders get erased, that the Sunni-Shiite splits—people are watching this—the Sunni-Shiite splits transcend borders and spread all over the region...Then you have regional powers. You got Turkey. You got the Saudis, the Iranians. Everyone's getting involved. And I just—what I read, what I hear from the people who really are experts, it's World War I. It's really a very perilous, extremely perilous situation.

Take Jordan, which is very important for the defense and stability of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Jordan is a small, relatively weak monarchy, with a majority Palestinian population bordering Syria, Iraq, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. It's now under enormous stress from the flood of refugees from first Iraq and now Syria, as well as the global economic downturn. And it's being targeted by ISIL and other Jihadists who now reportedly control its border with Iraq. And then there's Saudi Arabia, long the world's leading oil producer. While the Kingdom has aided jihadist forces to advance its own interests, these Islamist forces are also vehemently opposed to the "corrupt" Saudi monarchy. The destabilization of Jordan or Saudi Arabia would send shockwaves globally and could prompt massive U.S. and/or Israeli military responses, further throwing the region into turmoil.

4. There is a way out—revolution!

All these contradictions in the Middle East are interacting with other contradictions—globally and within the U.S.

The situation is very urgent—pregnant with possibilities and potential openings to hasten the advent of revolution, but also big challenges for the revolutionaries and grave dangers for the people. Things can happen very quickly. So it's urgent, as Revolution put it, that "We have to be alive to the world, and ready to respond in a heartbeat":

As Revolution editorialized:

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.

 


1. In the mid-1950s, socialism was overthrown and replaced by a form of state capitalism, although the Soviet rulers continued to operate under the banner of “communism.” See You Don't Know What You Think You "Know" About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future. [back]

2. Sunnis and Kurds each comprise about 20 percent of Iraq's population, with Shi'as making up the remaining 60 percent. [back]

3. In his memoir Duty, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates writes that the U.S. nearly always begins wars "profoundly ignorant about our adversaries and about the situation on the ground," and acknowledges the U.S. went into Iraq and Afghanistan "oblivious to how little we knew." pp 589-90 [back]

4. Analyzing the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the world's major powers over its nuclear program and the evolution of U.S. strategy toward Iran overall is beyond the scope of this article. However, in light of the extreme necessities they face, some sections of the U.S. ruling class seem to be exploring the possibility of a major shift in approach to Iran, including forging a new relationship, even alliance, with the Islamic Republic, while serving the reactionary interests of both states (including by maintaining the U.S. dominated regional order). I hope to speak to this in future articles. [back]