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.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
by Carl Dix | July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Unspeakable brutality is being inflicted on people in U.S. prisons. The authorities keep most of us in the dark about the horrific things they do in the name of “keeping society safe.” The truth is that prison authorities enforce a regime of brutality and revenge aimed at dehumanizing people in prison in order to keep them under tight control. People are being scarred physically and mentally for life. People are being killed. This is unacceptable and illegitimate. It must be stopped! And now that you know about these horrors, you must be part of acting to stop them.
It has been dragged into the light of day that prison guards at Rikers Island, one of the largest prisons in the U.S., routinely inflict unspeakably brutal beatings on inmates, especially inmates who suffer from mental illnesses. Reporters for the New York Times discovered a secret report that detailed 129 cases of people who suffered “serious injuries” in altercations with guards at the NYC prison in 11 months in 2013.
We're not talking here about injuries suffered in fights started by the inmates. The report revealed that in most of the cases, the inmates were brutally beaten after they were handcuffed! Seventy-seven percent of the people beaten had been diagnosed with mental health problems.
Here is some of what this secret report dragged into the light of day:
None of the guards involved in these incidents have yet faced criminal—or even administrative—charges.
And this isn't the only foul shit that goes down at Rikers. At least two women held there have died in the past year because guards refused to allow them medication or medical care. I know this not because the authorities have released this information, but because people incarcerated with them exposed these horrors. A man held at Rikers, again someone with a mental health diagnosis, was deliberately placed in a cell where the temperature soared above 100 degrees and was left there till he baked to death!
And it doesn't just happen at Rikers Island. Eighteen Los Angeles County sheriffs were indicted in December 2013, including two high-ranking officers, for maintaining a culture in which widespread brutality and dehumanization of inmates was tolerated. In the women's prison in Tutwiler, Alabama, a federal investigation found that guards subjected the female inmates to rape and other forms of sexual abuse in order to get basic necessities like toilet paper and tampons! In Chicago, a high-ranking police officer named Jon Burge ran a torture chamber in a police station that used beatings to extract confessions out of more than 200 people between 1972 and 1991! This went on until some of the victims of these frame-ups connected with people who proved their innocence and showed there was a pattern of wrongful convictions Burge was responsible for.
And on top of that, there's the torture of long-term solitary confinement. Eighty thousand people in prison in the U.S. are held in these conditions. People are held inside cramped, concrete, windowless cells in near total isolation for between 22 and 24 hours a day, with no human contact, no chance to feel the sun, to see the moon and stars, or to breathe fresh air. People have been held in these conditions for months, years, and even decades. Studies have shown that this kind of confinement can drive people insane, yet the U.S. continues to subject tens of thousands of people to it!
This is not a matter of a few rogue officers who took things too far. One-third of the 99 guards at Tutwiler were found to have had sex with the inmates. The assaults on the mentally ill inmates at Rikers Island typically involved multiple guards and often were caught on the security cameras, but still no guards have been punished for those 129 cases where inmates were sent to the hospital. The county sheriffs in Los Angeles were indicted for creating a culture of violence and dehumanization, not for isolated cases of brutality. The unspeakable brutality being inflicted on far too many incarcerated people concentrates the injustice of mass incarceration in the U.S.
What kind of society treats people like this? What kind of people allow outrages like this to be done in their name?
In Germany during World War 2, people claimed they were unaware of the atrocities being committed by the Nazis. I think it was more the case that the “good Germans” didn't really want to know what was going down in the ghettos or where Jews, gays, Romany (Gypsies) and others were being carted off to.
But you can't use that excuse today in this country. The foul shit is being dragged into the light of day. It's sitting right there in front of your eyes, fouling the atmosphere everybody's breathing in.
So, what are you going to do now? Are you going to be a “good American” and go about your daily routine as if nothing's happening?
Or are you going to join those who are standing up and saying, NO FUCKING MORE OF THIS FOUL SHIT?
The October Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration is the time to raise your voice and to act. The horrific brutality visited on people in the jails of this country, like the genocidal program of mass incarceration this brutality concentrates, is unjustifiable, immoral, and illegitimate.
In October people all across the country will stand up and say NO MORE to mass incarceration and all its consequences. There must be tens of thousands of people who engage in many different forms of mass, determined resistance; ferment in religious institutions, panels and symposiums on campuses, cultural events, defiant demonstrations, and more. If there's an ounce of justice in your hearts, you need to join us.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
by Alan Goodman | July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On the morning of Wednesday, July 16, four cousins, age 9 to 12, were among a group of eight children who were playing on the Gaza Strip beach. For generations Palestinians, including the fathers of several of these youths, have fished those waters to feed their families and neighbors.
Since 2008, Israeli warships stationed off the coast have fired at and detained fishermen. In June, a fisherman, shot in May by the Israeli navy, died. But these Palestinian children went to the beach Wednesday morning because their neighborhood had become a constant target of Israeli airstrikes. They thought the beach was the one place they might be safe.
One of the boys was playing in a tin hut on the beach when the first Israeli missile hit. He was killed. Four of the boys ran toward an old shipping container in search of safety. One of them was blown up on the spot, his body blown into the air, his head split open. A second Israeli missile crashed into the beach. A picture posted online shows the impact of the blast near the children’s path as they ran for safety. Two more children were killed.
The massacre of these four children by an Israeli military that has, and brags of having, world-class state of the art military technology was captured by a photographer who happened to be near the beach when the crime took place. As photos and narratives describing the killings went viral, every human on the planet with a heart was filled with outrage.
Since July 8, Israel has been pounding the nearly two million Palestinian people locked down in the tiny, densely populated Gaza Strip with thousands of attacks by fighter jets, helicopters, missiles, tanks, warships, and drones. At this writing, those attacks have killed children, people living at a center for severely disabled people, and whole families.
Israel's response to worldwide condemnation: escalation of the slaughter in the form of a ground invasion launched July 17.
The full military objectives of this assault are not clear at this writing. Israel has given conflicting explanations for the immediate cause and the scope of the invasion—including that it was provoked by the incursion of a small group of Palestinian combatants into Israel through a tunnel that resulted in no attacks in Israel or on Israelis. But whatever the official explanation, this much is clear: The ground invasion has greatly escalated the death and destruction in Gaza and that is intentional.
Gaza is as densely populated as New York City. The people who live there are literally trapped in a tiny area, cut off from the ability to travel, to get medical care, to go to colleges outside the Gaza Strip, and to acquire the basic necessities of life. As Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers rumble through the streets of Gaza, tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes. At this writing, with the Israeli assault on Gaza City, the Palestinian death toll is approaching 400, something like 20% of them children. Thousands more Palestinians have been injured since the beginning of the bombardment. The narrow streets of Gaza City and other areas are choked with whole families desperately seeking safe ground, and hospitals and other care centers are completely overwhelmed.
At Nasser Hospital in the heavily bombarded Khan Younis neighborhood in southern Gaza, doctors and nurses are working 24-hour shifts, overwhelmed by the number of wounded—many of them children—and facing desperate shortages of supplies, including sutures for stitches.
The Israeli invasion is aimed at the entire population of Gaza. It is collective punishment. It is a war crime of terrible magnitude.
As the invasion grinds on, there is a disturbing and ominous drop-off in reports on the situation in Gaza, at least through mainstream media sources. Based on everything we do know, we can expect more gruesome reports from Gaza, more suffering and death.
And every step of the way, the United States continues to provide military, diplomatic, financial, and “moral” cover for these crimes.
Historian Ilan Pappé, the author of the book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, has done seminal work explicitly documenting that the State of Israel is a product of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population. He insists that the Israeli policy towards the Gaza Strip has to be seen as part of “an incremental genocide.”
This is a critical insight.
Israel was founded on ethnic cleansing. Through the “Nakba” (the Arabic word for catastrophe) in 1948, through successive and almost continuous wars, enforcing terror on Palestinians within its borders and beyond, ongoing attacks on Palestinian culture, health, and the integrity and continuity of Palestinian society, Israel—and behind it the United States—has continued and expanded that ethnic cleansing for decades at horrific cost.
Since its inception, Israel has carried out great crimes as an enforcer for the interests of the U.S. empire. In the Mideast this has included repeated wars and carrying out repeated missile strikes, bombing, assassinations, kidnapping, sabotage and torture. Around the world, Israel has served to do the “dirty work” for the U.S. empire, including arming South Africa during the Apartheid era, and playing a critical role in the suppression of revolts in Central American through genocide, like the killing of 200,000 Indigenous people in Guatemala in the early 1980s.
For decades, the criminal “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel has been a cornerstone of the ability of the rulers of the U.S. to stand atop a world of slums and sweatshops, racism, oppression of women, devastation of the environment, and all the rest.
U.S. backing for Israel poses problems for the rulers of the U.S. in the context of continuing upheaval and chaos in the Middle East and their attempts to maneuver and bully their way through that upheaval. But even as this is the case, the rulers of the U.S. continue to have a great need for Israel and the role it plays.
Protests are breaking out around the world as I write this. There need to be many more! Now is no time for silence, or silent complicity—including in the form of, or justified by, excuses that “the situation is so complicated.”
No, it isn’t.
Calling this one-sided slaughter a situation too complicated to sort out, or faulting “both sides” because Hamas is an Islamic fundamentalist group that has launched missiles at Israel, while dismissing the exponentially more defining elements of Israel’s massacre in Gaza, is an immoral cop-out. It is as if a woman slapped a man who had been abusing her, beating her, raping her, threatening her with death repeatedly, and that woman was blamed for causing whatever came next from her abuser because she slapped him.
There is a basic question of right and wrong here. Everyone needs to be challenged to confront reality and struggle to stop the “incremental genocide” and ongoing ethnic cleansing being implemented in an extreme way right now against the Palestinian people in Gaza.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In 2011, Texas had 46 clinics; by September 1, 2014, there are likely to be only six left. Nationwide, hundreds of laws restricting abortion have been passed in recent years. Six states have only one abortion clinic left.
THIS MUST BE RESISTED AND REVERSED! Without access to safe abortion, women die from dangerous, illegal abortions and many more are forced to bear children they don't want, foreclosing their lives and dreams.
Through the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, through the People's Hearings, through dramatic and determined protest, through mass participation throughout Texas and around the country, and through a nationwide Week of Defiance August 25-September 1, a huge leap can and must be made in forging the kind of mass independent political resistance that can turn the tide.
Become a freedom rider for women's lives!
Join in the National Week of Defiance from August 25-September 1. Wherever you are: Hold readings of abortion testimony, spread the stickers, storm social media, and go into the streets with pictures of the women who have died from illegal abortions, shackles representing female enslavement, and bloody coat-hangers.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
Updated July 22, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
These statements are from Abortion Rights Freedom Riders at Ground Zero: Texas and elsewhere.
Off the Sidelines... Because I Do Not Like to Be Controlled
From a Texas woman
Watching the filibuster of the Texas legislature, and the subsequent outpouring of dissent last summer, I felt a number of emotions. Shock that this was actually happening. Excited that Texas women were standing up for our rights. And jealousy that I wasn't there with them! I was hopeful that this was a tide that was turning. That society was shifting in a way that was favorable towards women's rights, specifically, the right to a safe and accessible abortion.
I was wrong.
More and more TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws are being passed around the country. Texas is the latest example of how the legislatures can use the courts to ban abortions. But Texas must also be an example of how to create visible resistance to any restrictions to women's liberation.
Part of the jealousy that I talked about earlier was due to the fact that I was sitting on the sidelines, living life, not getting involved with political matters. I think a lot of people do that and it's understandable. As women, we have jobs and families that keep us occupied. But in my opinion, banning abortion is one of the tools that reactionary forces in our society are using to control women, keeping us subjugated. And I do not like to be controlled.
That is why I am supporting the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride as it makes its way through Texas. If the courts, reactionary politicians, and misinformation are allowed to reduce the number of abortion clinics in Texas to 6, in a state with 26 million people, and I did nothing, then I would be beyond jealous. I'd be pissed.
"Not the Time to be Ladylike and Follow Rules Doled Out by the Establishment"
From Mary Lou Singleton, licensed Midwife and Family Nurse Practitioner, as well as Founder of Personhood for Women
Like most women who believe they deserve full human rights and dignity, I am furious. Actually, I alternate between feelings of total despair and full-bodied rage as I watch the rights of women in the United States, like those of women all over the world, erode to the point where we are considered nothing more than public breeding stock. I live in a country that has failed for close to 100 years to give women full constitutional rights in the form of the Equal Rights Amendment, but now recognizes constitutional and human rights for capitalist corporations. Worse yet, constitutional rights and protections are being legally conferred to fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses. The lack of a ratified ERA combined with codification of fetal personhood together relegate women in the US to the legal status of state-regulated incubators.
I am a life-long women's rights activist and have been a practicing midwife for over 20 years. Midwives carry the privelege and burden of knowing and witnessing the most private details of women's lives. From this knowledge, I am fully aware that the majority of the women I have served have made the decision to abort a pregnancy at some point in their reproductive lives. From conversations with other midwives, I believe the often quoted statistic that one in three women will have an abortion is an understatement. Very rarely do I encounter a woman who regrets her decision to have an abortion. More frequently I hear the tearful confession of a woman who is having post-partum depression or difficulty bonding or alienation from older children telling me that she never wanted to have children in the first place but felt she had no choice. Sadly, as I watch the erosion of abortion rights in our country, I expect to hear more and more of these confessions.
I support the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride because no other organization in the country is speaking the full truth about abortion rights. Forced motherhood absolutely is female enslavement. Without the right to abortion on demand, women are not free. There is no greater human rights abuse than forcing a woman to endure the threats to her emotional and physical health that are inherent in pregnancy and childbirth against her will. There is no more misogynist statement than the odious, "Adoption, not abortion." Forcing women to gestate and give birth is barbaric and criminal.
I support the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride because under the guidance of the Democratic Party and mainstream pro-choice organizations, the right to abortion has basically disappeared in large swaths of our country. I no longer believe that following the instructions of the non-profit industrial complex and the Democratic Party will do anything to stop the erosion of women's rights, let alone lead to an expansion of abortion rights in the US.
This is not the time to be nice and ladylike and follow the rules doled out by the same establishment that has failed to protect us from having our rights ripped away. This is an emergency.
The majority of American women already cannot access safe, legal, affordable abortion. Women are already being forced to give birth to children that they do not want. Hundreds of women are already in jail for crimes against fetuses. Pregnancy has become a nine-month suspension of our civil liberties. And as far as I can see, things are getting worse and worse and worse.
Stop Patriarchy is right to call for a mass mobilization to defend women's rights. Stop Partriarchy is absolutely right that we need to change the terms of the conversation and expose the attacks on abortion and the expansion of fetal personhood legislation for what they are: a so-far successful strategy to destroy women's bodily autonomy and personhood. We need to confront the forces of religious fascism and expose them with all of the power we can muster.
If, like me, you are angry, I ask you to unleash your fury and fight like hell for the rights of women. I ask you to sign the Abortion on Demand and Without Apology statement. I ask you to stop making apologetic statements about abortion and come out loud and proud as a supporter of abortion on demand for all women. I ask you to contemplate the strategies being proposed by mainstream, professional pro-choice groups and decide for yourself whether or not donating more money to Democratic candidates is going to expand women's rights when the Democratic Party has done nothing so far to stem the tide of anti-abortion legislation. Ask yourself how it will be of use to women to donate to abortion access funds when there are no legal abortion clinics to access. In this critical moment where abortion rights have already been lost for the majority of women and are hanging by a thread for the rest of us, I ask you to donate to the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride and help change the terms of this war on women.
Mary Lou Singleton
Licensed Midwife and Family Nurse Practitioner
Founder of Personhood for Women, personhoodforwomen.org
Mark Ruffalo: If u trust women...
This is a Freedom Ride Moment & I am Ready to Ride for Female Freedom
from a college student
I am 18 years old. Last summer I graduated from high school and my commencement speaker droned a lofty speech about "my generation." I just finished my first year of college, and I cannot tell you how many times I heard about "hope" for my generation. With all this talk of millennials being incredibly progressive, the terrible truth is that a backwards women-hating ideology and program is winning at the expense of every inch of progress made towards women's liberation in the past. I am coming of age in a day where all of this progress is being stolen. We need young people to fight to not only maintain, but to actually ensure and expand the rights that women have already demanded. We need all generations working together to ensure the safety and freedom to dream in the futures of every little girl, no matter where she lives.
Last summer, I joined the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride with activists from all over this nation. We rode through fifteen states, including the five that only had one abortion clinic left. We learned from each other and from people on the ground in the places where abortion is the most difficult to access. We thanked heroic providers and spoke in defense of abortion on demand and without apology for every women in every state. It was educational, liberating, and inspiring. It was just the beginning.
We are living through the violent backlash from a system that hates how abortion and birth control let women determine their own destinies.
Doctors have been murdered. Clinics have been bombed. Funding has been cut. Access has been restricted. Stigma has been accepted.
This is a freedom ride moment.
In 2011 there were 46 abortion clinics in Texas. 21 clinics have already closed. Unless HB2 is overturned in the district court before September 1, only 6 clinics will remain open. Closing clinics is a hate crime against female bodies. Women's lives are at stake, but so is the extent of what we are allowed to dream. When you are taught the fatal lesson that your body is not your own, you quickly forget how to dream in the first place.
This is a freedom ride moment.
Women's hopes, dreams, and futures are at stake. Even our lives are at stake as our heartbeats are legislatively subordinated to blastocysts, embryos, and fetuses. Zip codes and state lines should not determine the worth of anybody's future because a woman's dreams must have more rights to her body than any state does to foreclose them. I am ready to throw some shorts and a toothbrush in a duffel bag and travel to Texas to lead a fight that can and must win.
This is a freedom ride moment.
You need to come down to Texas as early and for as long as you can. Donate and be part of raising the funds needed to make this happen. Mobilize your friends in Texas or wherever you are: host freedom riders in your home, host viewing parties of the webcasts. Send your story to be read at a People's Hearing. Tweet and share so that our impact does not stop in Texas. Our impact cannot stop in Texas. We are going to Texas because the women of Texas cannot be abandoned by the national movement, but it would be naive to assume that the anti's are stopping there. In fact, take a second to zoom out: from the midwest to the deep south and the rural corners of any community, abortion access is being stolen from women. This is a critical juncture in the struggle for female autonomy and basic humanity. If you cannot join me in Texas, throw in to make sure that I can buy my ticket. Throw in to make sure that every person willing to put things on the line for women's lives can get to Texas and that this ride can be commensurate with what's needed to defeat these laws in Texas and the entire war on women.
Why I Want to Join the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride
From a 17-year-old high school student
If I got the opportunity to Travel with Abortion Rights Freedom Ride I would be extremely grateful.
If women’s abortion rights were taken, women would feel as if they don’t have a voice. As women we have honorable rights to do what we want with our bodies so not being able to turn to abortion when needed, would make one feel as if she has no control over her life. Abortions help women of all ages make an important decision about their life, while also making the woman understand that she is more than just a holder for the fetus. Being a part of something this special will let women know all over the world that they are not alone when it comes to fighting for our rights for abortions.
From second hand experience I know that abortion saves a lot of teens/young adults from feeling as if they cannot succeed in life. No one in life is perfect; nothing is guaranteed one hundred percent effective, and everyone learns from mistakes. I have never been pregnant myself but I have close friends that have. Some of them never had a good role model in their lives to tell them the importance of not getting pregnant at a young age, while others just simply made mistakes. One of my friends stressed herself out so much about her pregnancy, she decided to drop out of school and run away from home because she wanted to save herself from embarrassment. I was extremely sad to hear that my friend who was such an honorable student, felt as if she had no choice in life because of a simple mistake. Since my friend was extremely scared to tell her mother and abusive father I encouraged her to talk to a teacher who I felt would provide wise information about an abortion. Weeks later after the abortion, I was ecstatic to see my close friend back at school focused more than ever.
Abortion clinics offer young teens a choice to live again. There are so many teens unable to take care of a child mentally as well as financially. Why should one be forced into motherhood if they know that they are not able to provide a stable safe environment for their child? In Texas, I would be happy to fight for what is right, there is nothing worse than feeling alone and held down.
NOW IS THE TIME: A Statement of Support for the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride: Ground Zero Texas
from Carol Downer, feminist, lawyer, and co-founder of the Feminist Women's Health Center in Los Angeles which started providing abortions in 1971
I totally support the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride that will take place through Texas this August and possibly through September, and I hope that everyone who values women's reproductive freedom will support this beginning of a new chapter of the Battle for Women's Reproductive Rights.
I was there in the mid-1960's, when abortion was still illegal in much of the United States and women were forced to travel to states and cities where abortion, legal or illegal, was available, or to subject themselves to procedures done by unknown abortionists. I was one of them. I had taken no action to stand up for my reproductive rights, and I didn't know anyone else who had.
We're in that same position today. There is a splash of newspaper coverage when one more defeat of the so-called "pro-choice" movement takes place in the courts or the legislatures, or when clinics in Texas close, but mostly life goes on as though nothing significant is happening. Perhaps we send in a few dollars to Planned Parenthood, which has positioned itself as the champion of women's rights, although that championing is strictly limited to lady-like tactics, not grass-roots organizing.
But, something significant is happening.
Suddenly, ridiculous regulations that have been proposed in State legislatures for the last 40 years and quickly quashed, have now gained traction. The Supreme Court has even refused to stay the Texas law that requires a clinic to have a doctor on staff at a hospital within 30 miles. In general, hospitals have not wanted to touch abortion with a 10-foot pole, ever. That's why abortions are provided in clinics. There are extremely few complications from abortion that require hospitalization, and when they do, hospitals have staffs who are equipped to deal with them and are already required by law to do so. Forty years of providing legal abortion shows that this regulation is bogus, but it is being treated as legitimate by legislators and jurists.
If the U.S. Supreme Court finds that these regulations are constitutional, it is just a matter of months or a couple of years, for State legislators around the country to emulate Texas and Mississippi. Clinics will scramble to somehow get a doctor on staff if they can. Perhaps those abortion doctors who presently have staff privileges will lose them. Clinics will close. We will find ourselves in a patchwork situation of abortion access similar to pre-Roe v. Wade.
You may think, "Well, that's when women will wake up. We'll take to the streets." Or, you may think, "Well, thousands of abortion clinic workers know how to perform abortions safely. Clandestine clinics will come into existence." Or, you may think, "Well, there will be an underground supply of abortion pills." If you're really dreaming, you'll think, "Heck, women did it themselves before Roe v. Wade. They'll do it again, and the law will collapse of its own weight."
None of these solutions is going to occur, at least without the dedication and organization of those activists who will make them occur.
Why? Because, history shows that Richard Wright, who wrote "Native Son" was right when he said, "Oppression oppresses." As the new status quo is established, people will be even less optimistic, less willing to take a chance.
Most people in the late 60's and early 70's took no active interest in abortion, beyond inviting a NOW speaker to come talk about abortion. Public opinion polls showed, as they consistently show today, that a small percentage of people are very concerned about the issue, either pro or con. The majority of people are in the middle. Most of these people are uncomfortable with abortion. Many believe it to be immoral, and would never have an abortion or want their loved one to have one. And, many believe that abortion should be regulated or limited in some fashion. However, all but those at the extreme anti-abortion end of the continuum, do not want abortion to be illegal.
I believe that the Freedom Ride will awaken those at our end of the continuum who care passionately about women having reproductive freedom. It will form networks, draw attention, support abortion providers, raise consciousness, inspire the future Lana Clarke Phelans and Pat Maginnises. It will be raucous but non-violent; it will be confrontational and enlightening.
Social change in regards to women's reproductive rights is not measured by the changes in the law. For example, the Comstock Law, which forbade the mailing of information on birth control, stayed on the books until the 70's, but it was not enforced. The Freedom Ride will build on the fact that most people are with us. "Abortion should not be illegal!" will resonate with almost everyone. "Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!" will thrill some and start many others thinking about this in a new way. Openly talking about it will keep the dialogue going and reduce the shame. These changes cannot be accomplished on the internet. The internet can coordinate activities and make us aware of each other; the websites where women can talk about their abortions or those that raise money to help women get abortions perform a valuable service, but daughters talking to their moms, and speakouts and demonstrations is what's going to change the climate around abortion. Social change is not going to come by getting on or watching the Anderson Cooper 360 or Wolf Blitzer's Situation Room. These programs follow the changes in public opinion; they articulate them.
No one can predict how far-reaching the impact from the Freedom Ride will be. For sure, it will break down isolation and it will bring grass-roots voices to the debate. It certainly will nourish the spirits of those who go on the ride and those who benefit from its actions and programs. It may inspire other projects, other Rides. It could even awaken the potential leaders of mass movements, or even it may itself lead a mass movement.
NOW IS THE TIME
What does it say that this country cares more about these cells inside a woman’s body than about families torn apart by wars in which the United States is constantly meddling?
From a college student
I will be a third year college undergrad in the fall, studying history and women and gender studies. I feel very strongly about issues that enforce a system of inequality and oppression among all kinds of people around the world. And one of the largest groups that is constantly put down, degraded and controlled is undeniably women; one half of the world’s population.
I want to go to Texas.
I am shocked, stunned and furious at what is happening not only worldwide, not only closer to us, but right in front of our faces. Between the years 2001-2010 189 restrictions on abortion were passed in the United States. In the years 2011-2013 another 205 were passed, more than in the previous ten years combined. But that also means that that’s a total of 394. Three hundred and ninety four restrictions passed. Almost 8 per state.
In Texas, 32 out of the 46 abortion clinics there used to be were forced to close. It is possible that in September, 8 of the remaining 14 will close as well. That would leave 6 clinics in the entire state.
This is the situation allowed by this “liberal” government we now have presiding over the White House... And it’s just getting worse. So-called pro-lifers will not stop at anything: they blatantly do not care that abortion is legal, as long as not a single woman has access to it. Women die when they don’t have access to abortion—and there are plenty of reasons to get one, too.
What does it mean to live in a country, in a society, in a culture, that values the life of an unborn potential (an important word here) human MORE than that of a woman? A woman with a life, dreams, hopes, aspirations...? What does it mean that we care more about what a woman does or does not do with her own body than we care about the millions of starving children all around the world? That we care more about these cells inside a woman’s body than about families torn apart by war in which the United States is constantly meddling?
I am horrified and outraged, and you should be, too. I am going to Texas in August, because nothing will change if we sit back and watch the news as these atrocities keep happening. And because I think it is a matter of utmost importance, I am asking you—and by you I mean you, your family, your friends, your acquaintances, your work relations, etc.—to help out. Help in any way you can: donate; spread the word; get engaged with this issue, this war on women that’s not happening far away, but right here.
I am going to Texas because I see this as an incredibly important battle to fight, and I am going also in the name of everybody who is just as outraged. However, the rest of the people going and I really, really need funds to go. We need much more than one plane ticket—we need material, and transportation and everything else. Every little bit counts, so please check out the Indiegogo campaign and the StopPatriarchy website.
Between a Rock and a Free Place
From an Abortion Rights Freedom Rider in the Midwest
What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a rock. Even now, almost fifty years later, I remember the clarity of that decision.
No, I did not want to be a solid mass of mineral material, I wanted to be the kind of rock that Paul Simon sang about it in 1966. I was a brooding, alienated kid who thought the world was screwed up and adults were squares. Inside my head I screamed about the outrageous injustices and judged everyone who couldn't read my mind and agree with me. I pulled my mattress into my too small closet and set up my cheap little record player. I lay in the dark for hours listening to the theme song of my life. "I am a rock, I am an island. I have my books and my poetry to protect me. I am shielded by my armor." I sat in that dark little closet, no fresh air, crowded by bell-bottom pants and paisley print blouses and took comfort in the lyrics of isolation.
Of course Simon was talking about lost love. If he never loved he never would have cried. I did not get that part, or maybe I didn't care. I was a rock because I was alone. Nobody understood me or took seriously the righteous concerns of my twelve-year-old mind. I saw a country that discriminated against blacks, treated women unfairly and made war not love. I felt condemned to be a loner who saw the horrors of oppression and the stupidity of those who went about their lives as if nothing bad was happening.
It was also Paul Simon who introduced me to the Freedom Riders. His song "He Was My Brother" was dedicated to Andrew Goodman, who was murdered in the Freedom Summer of 1964. Goodman "hated what was wrong" so "Mississippi would be his burying place." I didn't understand the full extent of events but the anger and passion of the song told me it was important. And here was my problem: people WERE aware of the injustice. Some people were putting their lives on the line to make a better world. How could I be a rock when others were joining together in a fight for freedom?
I would like to say that I truly wrestled with that contradiction but I did not. I considered it briefly but then moved on to other teenage horrors like acne and mandatory pep rallies. In recent years, however, I think about it a lot. I am surrounded by the Golden Oldies. I hear Paul Simon and I am immediately transported back to the dark closet. I still see discrimination, sexism, a culture of hate and crippling poverty. And I still ask myself the same question: do I live as a rock or as a Freedom Rider?
What is a Freedom Rider? In the early 1960s riders were activists who rode buses into the segregated south to challenge acts of discrimination. Rather than working individually they harnessed the energy of the collective group, connected with locals along the way and fought not just for what was legally right (freedom and equality on interstate travel) but what was morally right: equality as human beings.
In 2013 Freedom Riders were activists who traveled across the country fighting for women's reproductive rights. In the spirit of the original Riders they worked collectively to call for state and federal governments to respect the Roe v. Wade decision that guarantees women the right to control their own bodies. Even more importantly these Riders fought for women's rights as equal citizens of the world. Women must have the ability to decide when and if they have children; only then will they be free to fulfill the true potential of their lives. That means access to birth control and to abortion. No compromise, no qualifying it. Each woman has the right to choose for herself. Being a Freedom Rider in the 21st century is to honor those riders who sacrificed, who put their lives on the line in 1961 and 1964, fighting for what was right. Being a Freedom Rider now is to harness the energy of the past, work collectively with people in the present, and set an example for young people of the future who may not know how to come out of their solitary suffering and band together for change.
I traveled with the Abortion Rights Freedom Riders in 2013. For three weeks I shared their energy and their passion. I leaned on them and learned from them and I hope I gave something back to the cause. We met abortion providers and clinic workers who put up with abuse and threats to their lives but showed up every day to make their services available to women in need. We met women, young and old, who told us their personal abortion stories, pre- and post- the Roe v. Wade decision. We met men and women who whispered their thanks to us but said they were afraid to speak out. We gathered crowds everywhere we went as we spoke out against the petty, manipulative laws that seek to drive women back to the dark ages. Small towns and big towns, on both coasts, in the midwest and in the south, each area had it own unique set of circumstances but the battles were all the same.
In 2014 I will again be part of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, this time as we travel to Texas. This is truly "ground zero" in the current threat to women's rights. With court cases looming that might shut down more clinics and women forced to travel farther than ever and jump through meaningless hoops and red tape, Texas is at the epicenter of a massive earthquake that is about to break apart the ground beneath us. Along with others who come to Texas and live in Texas, I must join the fight before it is too late.
I still enjoy being a rock; it is very important to me. I need time alone to read, listen to music, think and ponder my place in this world. But I am also a Freedom Rider. Alone in my darkness I can only see the problems. Together with others I can make a change. Be together somehow. Add your voice, sign your name, make a donation, share a video, write a song, do something that brings you together with others. In the spirit of all who have fought for equality, be a 21st-century Freedom Rider.
When we look back at this moment in history, will we be able to say we did everything we could?
From a young man
I'm in Texas right now for the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride and I want to share why it matters that we are building this. Last year, I was a part of the summer trip caravanning across the country as part of movement initiated by Stop Patriarchy to particularly the five states that only have one abortion provider. Today, there are SIX states which only have one abortion provider. The numbers continue to grow. We need to stand up and say we won't be pushed back to a time when women's bodies are not their own, when women's basic rights to abortion and birth control are taken away, when women's lives do not matter. WOMEN ARE FULL HUMAN BEINGS and should not be regarded as any less than that.
Please donate whatever you can: your time to call people you know to alert them about the state of emergency of abortion rights (as well as the recent attacks on birth control and the urgency to act), your money so volunteers such as myself and others and yourself can contribute in huge ways on the ground in Texas. We are not out here to merely stem the tide of violent assaults on women's bodies and abortion providers' lives. We are set to reset the terms and turn back the tide that has stigmatized abortion and broken women's hearts by foreclosing their lives and futures. There is an ever growing theocratic assault that is closing abortion clinics and sweeping up fanatical violence in states across the country. What has been happening around the country and what is happening in Texas will determine whether women are human beings capable of determining whether or when they will become mothers or if the patriarchal agenda of forced motherhood and female enslavement will persevere and rule in this country.
In the future, when we look back at this moment in history, will we be able to say "Yes! I was a part of that movement to drive back the war on women for the liberation of women that exists today" or will we be forced to say "We should have done more to stop those attacks that have left women to resort back to illegal and dangerous abortions, and we should have stopped the ongoing move to render us voiceless today"?
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
Bringing the Revolution to the September 21 People's Climate March and Its Call "To Change Everything"
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A coalition of environmental groups has issued a call for a massive protest, a “People’s Climate March,” on September 21 in New York City. The protest is timed to coincide with a UN global climate summit involving the leaders of the states of the world. The organizers are anticipating that tens of thousands of marchers will turn out.
The website for the march declares: “This is an invitation to change everything.” It goes on to say: “With our future on the line and the whole world watching, we’ll take a stand to bend the course of history. We’ll take to the streets to demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.” And the organizers also say that, “to change everything, we need everyone on board.”
This march is a very positive development. And the movement for revolution, with the Party at its core, must be in the midst of this. It must be building for this mobilization, mixing it up with other perspectives, and getting a whole dynamic process going. It must be reaching out broadly to those from the various movements who are taking part in this mobilization and become a real force and magnet in the whole scene going into and at the September 21 march.
That means going out to the broad byways of this mobilization and both encouraging people to stand firm in fighting to save the planet and getting out the full program on why revolution is needed if humanity is going to be able to truly confront and act on this environmental emergency. It means getting into with people the content and scope of what it means “to change everything”—and why you need to put an end to the capitalist economic-social system that exploits world humanity and views the planet as a source of limitless wealth to be poured into production for profit.
We must be bringing the elements of the ensemble of revolutionary work into the mix. We must be mobilizing basic people who have been brought forward into the movement for revolution over the summer to join in and positively influence what is shaping up to be an extremely important struggle around the environment.
The revcom.us website will be a pivot of work. Revolution Books, especially in New York City, will have a crucial role to play. And starting now, we will be organizing a powerful, inspiring, and lively contingent at the September 21 march under the slogan: Capitalism Is Destroying the Planet...We Need Revolution, Nothing Less.
The wanton destruction of the planet—its air, water, climate, and all the forms of life that inhabit it—screams out for urgent action. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report issued earlier this year is an urgent call from scientists to confront reality. Science is showing that the crisis is happening now, not some time in the future: floods in one place, drought in another—with both devastating agriculture and causing mass hunger and starvation; rising seas endangering entire island-nations; salt water from rising oceans poisoning once fertile river deltas that millions depend on; millions and millions without drinkable water; regions pitted against regions in battles over increasingly scarce fundamental requirements of life; major coastal cities everywhere facing more extreme weather disasters.
These multiple threats are rooted in capitalism’s rapacious expansion. There is the real danger that the rich biodiversity of the planet will be ripped apart. Scientists talk about the real possibility of the mass extinction of species on the scale of what wiped out the dinosaurs—only this time the cause is within human society itself. And that cause is the mad, anarchic compulsion of capitalism.
This is what this system has done to the planet, and what the continued existence of this system will make even worse--unless and until it is overthrown by revolution, here and around the world, and replaced with socialism leading to communism.
In response to the environmental crisis, all kinds of movements have emerged. Students have spearheaded a “divestment” campaign, demanding that universities get rid of their investments in fossil fuels that reap profits from emitting carbon into the atmosphere. More broadly, there have been protests against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that is being built to carry oil from tar sands deposits in Canada across the U.S. These protests have involved many people committing civil disobedience to stop the pipeline. Across the country, the movement to stop “fracking”—the environmentally destructive method of extracting natural gas—has gained momentum. People are debating what a sustainable economy and society would look like and how to achieve it.
These are the kinds of movements and the kind of energy that will be coming together in the September 21 People’s Climate March.
To those coming out to September 21, we say: Be true to your convictions and your best principles to save the planet. Fight through on your concerns, whatever the obstacles, pressures, and difficulties. Don’t back off your convictions or lower your sights when you come up against the magnitude of what we are facing.
The people running this system, however you might see them, are enormously powerful and extremely ruthless. But don’t get to a certain point, and say, “Well, if we keep hammering away at this and if we persist on pushing harder and harder, things will break out of a framework that I feel comfortable with.” If you are a scientist, don’t water down your findings and their implications because of pressures from industry, government, or academia. To activists, don’t adapt to the so-called “realities of the system”—that you can’t go beyond certain bounds. Again, don’t stop...keep fighting for your convictions that human society must stop plundering the planet and wrecking things for future generations.
This stand is a basic dividing line at a time when the future of the planet is at stake.
At the same time, the revolution will be there with you. We will be there in the midst of important battles. We will be bringing to people who are seeking a way out, and we will be projecting throughout society, the scientific understanding that revolution is the only viable solution. The reality is that we need to bring about a whole different way of organizing society if we are going to be able to cope with this crisis on the scale and with the urgency required. It won’t be easy. But it is our only chance of achieving a sustainable society and beginning the process of restoring the ecosystems of the planet. Communist revolution is about emancipating all of humanity and enabling humanity to become the caretakers of the planet.
So we envision a dynamic process. The revolutionaries will be joining with people in this vitally important September march, strengthening it with clarity and vision, and with determination and passion. We will be engaging in all kinds of discussion, dialogue, and debate. People will be testing out different ideas and perspectives. We will be learning from each other, and people will be discovering new things.
This is going to be a challenging and exciting process. It can and must contribute to changing the atmosphere in society around the environmental emergency, bringing new people into the movement for revolution and building the Revolutionary Communist Party, and advancing the struggle to save the planet!
The Party has very ambitious plans for this summer and fall. We have a whole ensemble of revolutionary work—the fight to defend abortion rights, focused on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride in Texas; the Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Bob Avakian Everywhere sets the context and framework of what is the problem, and what is the solution to all the horrors and outrages of the world today, raising sights to a radically different and far better world concentrated in Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism.
Our work around the September climate march is a critical component of the Party’s summer-to-fall plans. Revcom.us will be a pivot: providing continuing guidance, speaking to big questions and controversies, summing up lessons in the struggle, and enabling people to learn about and access key materials, especially the special environmental emergency issue of Revolution, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, and Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development, as well as many other important materials and articles. We invite people to write to the website, and to be part of the larger process of engagement with all the questions of the revolution that are taken up on that website.
The Revolution Books stores around the country, especially in New York City, will have a crucial role to play. In addition to everything just listed above, there are many important books about the environmental crisis that people can learn from—as well as books on other scientific questions like evolution, which is essential to an understanding of what is going on with the environmental crisis.
Revolution Books has to be a place of lively forums and discussions, formal and informal, about what’s going on and what’s at stake. There should be video showings from relevant parts of Bob Avakian’s talks REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, where he addresses why only revolution can take us to a place where we humans are caretakers of the planet.
Activists, writers, and others from the environmental movement should be coming to the stores. Many scientists from around the country have made important contributions to the science of global warming and have been popularizing understanding and sounding the alarm. They should be invited to speak at the stores.
The stores need to be centers of debate, ferment, and exchange of ideas about the depth of the environmental crisis, the causes, and the solution. A place where students come when they need answers to hard questions... where activists come when they are running up against the limits of their understanding and feel they have to take things to another level, and want fuel to take them there. One store has decided to organize a series of study-discussion sessions: first session on what the science has to say about the environmental crisis; second session on why capitalism is the problem; third session on how communist revolution can take us to a radically different world where human society is taking care of the planet and its life-forms.
Who should be involved in these activities at the stores? Anyone who is seriously agonizing over the fate of the planet and looking for a solution.
We should also appreciate the fact that for many college students of the current generation, taking care of the environment is a basic and strong moral imperative. This needs to become a much more powerful force in society.
Imagine a process through the rest of the summer and into the fall where there are programs at the bookstores, other discussions and outings that forge crews, including people from the most oppressed sections of society, who will go onto key college campuses. They will be introducing people to the vision and leadership of Bob Avakian, getting into why it will take revolution to confront and work to solve this crisis—and also why it is so critical that people step forward now to act on their convictions to save the planet.
A major focus of our plans is building a powerful contingent for the September 21 march. This contingent should speak to those tens of thousands marching, to the people in New York City who will be watching, and to the many millions more around the country and the world who will see this march in all different kinds of media and social media.
The contingent should radiate the revolution. It should be full of verve, huge and brilliant banners, chants, T-shirts, drum corps, lively involvement of students, as well as many from the most oppressed sections of society. The spirit of internationalism must be conveyed in diverse ways. The contingent should be disciplined and project passion for the planet and its people, with its slogan “Capitalism Is Destroying the Planet...We Need Revolution, Nothing Less!”
It should bring alive to all who see and hear about it that there is a way out for humanity and the planet—and it should invite in all who feel the depth and urgency of the situation and want to fight to save the planet.
We want people to get a sense from this contingent, and from all that we do, that this is a crucial battle with the highest possible stakes, that we must go all the way, we must save life on this planet...that we cannot stop and cannot back down. People should be getting the sense that there is something new arising in society: the movement for revolution with the leadership, with the strategy, and with the vision and plan to create a liberating society and world that can sustain life and human society and put an end to all the abuses and horrors the capitalist-imperialist system gives rise to. Everyone who cannot tolerate the way things are and is looking for a real solution should want to engage with, and draw strength from and be challenged by, our scientific revolutionary vision of an emancipated humanity and world.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
Celebrations inspired by "You cannot break all the chains, except one"
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From: BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian:
You cannot break all the chains, except one. You cannot say you want to be free of exploitation and oppression, except you want to keep the oppression of women by men. You can’t say you want to liberate humanity yet keep one half of the people enslaved to the other half. The oppression of women is completely bound up with the division of society into masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited, and the ending of all such conditions is impossible without the complete liberation of women. All this is why women have a tremendous role to play not only in making revolution but in making sure there is all-the-way revolution. The fury of women can and must be fully unleashed as a mighty force for proletarian revolution.
If this moves you, if this provokes you to think about why women are under such vicious assault here and around the world and what it will take for half of humanity to be treated as full people; if this causes you to want to know more about why and how women have a decisive role to play in changing all that is oppressive in the world today; if this leads you to consider women’s decisive role in making revolution and then pushing the revolution forward to completely uproot all forms of oppression—for any and all of these reasons, you are invited to a cultural celebration on August 9, 2014, a day inspired by the quote above: “You cannot break all the chains, except one,” from the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian (BA).
Leading up to August 9, and on the day itself, we’re encouraging all our readers to distribute the sampler edition of the compendium Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution. The sampler is available at revcom.us (as is the full compendium), and printed editions of these samplers—32-page booklets with a four-color cover—are being made available free for distribution in prisons, schools, and communities courtesy of the Bob Avakian Institute as indicated on a sticker printed on the booklet.
Up to and on August 9: Get out the sampler all over—in communities, schools, and beyond. And get donations, especially (but not only) where we are distributing the samplers.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
To BA Everywhere organizers and to many others who are supporting and spreading the work of BA or who are just learning about it...
We are posting this new palm card version of quote 3:22 from the book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian. The quote starts out: “You cannot break all the chains, except one....” – which is the heart and theme of the Break ALL the Chains BA Everywhere cultural celebrations called for nationwide on August 9. On the back of the card are the basic ways people can be involved in the BA Everywhere campaign.
As the article “Building the August 9, 2014 Break ALL the Chains Celebrations, and Raising Funds & Involving People in the BA Everywhere Campaign” says about going out to involve many people in these celebrations:
The heart of these discussions with people should be BAsics 3:22—“You cannot break all the chains, except one...”. Introduce people to the new pamphlet, Break ALL the Chains (download PDF of full pamphlet or sampler—or get the printed version of the sampler from your Revolution distributor), and to BA and the new synthesis of communism. Find out how they are looking at the situation women face as well as the larger world. Discuss the BA Everywhere campaign—what it is, what difference it could make, how they can be a part of raising funds, spreading the word through palm cards and on social media, and finding ways to involve them in the campaign...
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
Challenge from a Former Prisoner:
June 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I want to stand with the people who are standing up to the NYPD pig invasion and occupation of Black and Latino neighborhoods in Harlem. This system cannot be allowed to just come into neighborhoods and round up our youth in the name of stopping crime and get away with it. That is how the Nazis started going after Jewish communities in Germany. A slow genocide is being carried out. It is that serious. The people from the different neighborhoods who are unifying and fighting against this outrage are fighting for all of us. I stand with them.
To the youth who are the targets:
This system has no future for you! It treats you like garbage and it needs you to believe that is what you are and for you to treat each other that way. Some of you who were swept up in the raids are fighting each other in jail. WHY? The system needs for you to hurt each other and to hate each other. Why do what they want you to do?
I had that same rage in me. I was ready to smash in somebody's face for a few dollars, or because they were from some other block and feel little remorse. I saw no hope and hated everything but what I should have been hating—the system that caused all this suffering. This set up was stealing my humanity and making me into a monster. I was doing things that hurt the people not the system, and was programmed for prison or death from the time I was a child. Some of you are into that same shit now and you got to get out of it. Not just for yourselves and your families, but for humanity! You got to find the ways to unite against this system and stop being played by it. It's time to stop doing what they want us to do.
Start thinking a different way. The philosophy of "If it ain't about money, it ain't about nothing" is the way of thinking of the people who rule over us. That is the way of thinking of the capitalists and the police and courts that back them up. To die for a piece of real-estate that ain't yours—a fucking city block, hurting each other—for what? And then to take pride in being used this way, in acting in this way, is really messed up. Stop it! We have to start thinking in a different way.
I was you. I'm a former gangster youth and believe me I've probably done every stupid thing you've done and more. When I was your age, and doing a long bid, somebody handed me a book one day and told me to read it. I didn't like to read then but read it anyway. The book was Soledad Brother by revolutionary prisoner George Jackson. I didn't know that people like George Jackson existed. Somebody who had come up like me, being told by the system that he was a criminal and an animal and believing it. But George Jackson transformed. He went from criminal to revolutionary and a fighter for the people. My eyes began to open. I began to change. I came to hate this capitalist system and what it had done, not just to me and people like me, but to people worldwide. The more I learned the more I hated this system and the more I wanted to be part of ending it. I became a revolutionary.
Today I am appealing to you brothers to stop the bullshit and get with Bob Avakian and the movement for revolution. BA is the leader of the RCP, the Revolutionary Communist Party. He has the strategy for how to make revolution. I did not know how different the world could be if we get rid of this system until I started to get down with the work BA is doing. Nobody has to be treated as less than human or be made to feel that way. We can learn to understand the truth about why things are the way they are and how we can change them by using the scientific approach to everything. Bob Avakian's works is like a flashlight to find our way out of this fucking darkness they got us in. I'm telling you like someone once told me, read this book, BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, and it can change how you see everything. Read From Ike to Mao and Beyond, and watch BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Read the books and watch the video all the way through. You don't like to read—do it anyway!
BA ain't playing! He is not talking about people holding hands waiting for some savior. He's talking about getting ready for the time when we can throw down, millions of us, and defeat this system and make a better world for humanity. I went from being a hard core criminal; from wanting to be John Dillinger, to becoming one of the emancipators of humanity. We need a lot more emancipators!
I am raising a dollar for every year I was in prison for the "1,000 Years–$1,000 for BA Everywhere" campaign. That money is going toward getting the word out about BA into the prisons, and neighborhoods, into the colleges, and high schools, everywhere. This has to get out there to stand up to the lie that we have to accept this living hell, that we are to blame for how messed up things are or it's human nature. Or that the system is too powerful to be defeated. All lies! People need to know that—the youth need to know that—NOW!
A call to former prisoners:
All the former prisoners who read this—raise a dollar for every year you were behind bars and contribute that to the BA Everywhere campaign. Ask everybody you know to participate. Let's start getting more into BA ourselves and working together to connect this young generation with the leader who knows how to get out of this hellhole we all live in.
To all the rest of you:
Match the money we raise for BA Everywhere.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
Mothers and Children Deported Back to Honduras
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On May 13, 1939, the passenger ship the St. Louis left Hamburg, Germany, carrying 937 Jewish refugees seeking asylum from Nazi persecution. After first trying unsuccessfully to enter Cuba, the St. Louis headed for Florida, hoping that they would be welcomed there. They were not. On June 4, 1939, the U.S. not only refused their entry but even fired a warning shot to keep the ship away from Florida’s shores.
Canada also refused to accept the refugees, so the St. Louis returned to Europe. The passengers were allowed entry to Britain, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. But when Germany invaded Belgium and France in May 1940, the lives of all the Jews in those countries were threatened, and many were put to death. After the war, it was estimated that the number of Jews aboard the St. Louis who were killed by the Nazis was between 227 and 254.
On July 14, President Obama sent the first planeload of Honduran children, some as young as one and a half, back to the city with the highest murder rate in the world—San Pedro Sula, Honduras. And he did it with the promise that this is only the first of many such trips. A Department of Homeland Security official said, “Our border is not open to illegal migration, and we will send recent illegal migrants back.” How much different is this from the treatment the U.S. gave the refugees aboard the St. Louis? How long will it be before we learn that the first child deported to Honduras or another Central American country is found dead—from a bullet or from hunger—back “home”?
There were 17 women along with 21 children on the flight. But in the rush to send them back, according to the director of the Center for Attention for Returned Migrants in Honduras, “Many of the mothers are sometimes not even the real mothers of the children.” (Reuters, July 15, 2014)
One woman reported getting caught after spending $7,000 to try to get herself and her six-year-old daughter across the border. She said U.S. officials treated them like “animals,” held them in rooms of 50 people so crowded that some mothers had to sleep standing up with their child in their arms. Her daughter called the trek “horrible, cold and tiring.”
Why had they risked such a dangerous journey? A single mother said she left Honduras with her six-year-old daughter because she couldn’t find a job. She walked, took buses, and paid someone $25 to ride with her daughter on top of the “Beast,” the train that carries people north to the U.S. border. She’d been told that there was a new U.S. law that would let her enter the country. Another said her region of Honduras had become a living hell because of gangs, drug traffickers, political violence, and a lack of jobs after many factories had shut down. (For more on the U.S. hand behind the situation there, see “What’s Driving the Children of Honduras to Come to the U.S.?”)
What the U.S. is doing to these children, and to all those desperately fleeing Central America, is a crime against humanity; and it cannot be tolerated. As we have written in Revolution since the beginning of this crisis:
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.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On July 14, the U.S. government loaded a plane with 12 women and 21 children between the ages of 18 months and 15 years old who were being deported back to Honduras. These people are part of the tens of thousands, many of them children, who have made the dangerous trek across thousands of miles from Honduras and other Central American countries to come to the U.S.—and then are caught at the border and treated like criminals. Obama has vowed to speed up the deportations of the more than 57,000 children who have fled from Central America in recent months. The day after the first planeload of Hondurans was deported since Obama’s pledge, his spokesman cold-bloodedly said that people from Central America should know “they will not be welcome to this country.”
The story in the mainstream media is that the children, alone or with their mothers, are coming to the U.S. to escape the gang violence in their countries. As we wrote last week in “Why Do Children from Central America Come Here?”: “There is truth to this. Children in countries like Honduras are forced to flee in order to escape gang violence. But there are other, underlying reasons these children are leaving their homes to make a dangerous trip to come to the U.S.”
In a July 17 interview on Democracy Now! and a July 9 piece on huffingtonpost.com, Dana Frank—a history professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz—brought important insight into the question of what is driving children and their mothers to flee Honduras.
The current regime in Honduras came to power five years ago after a coup that overthrew the elected government of Manuel Zelaya. As Frank explains, “We keep hearing the fact that people are fleeing gangs and violence, but there hasn’t been an analysis or discussion of why is there so much gang activity and violence in Honduras. And the answer is this tremendous criminality that the 2009 military coup opened the door to when it overthrew the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya. The coup, of course, itself was a criminal act, and it really opened the door for this spectacular corruption of the police and up-and-down, top-to-bottom of the government. And that, in turn, means it’s possible to kill anybody you want, practically, and nothing will happen to you. It’s widely documented that the police are overwhelmingly corrupt...”
In addition, as Frank notes, there has been a dangerous militarization of the whole country under current president Juan Orlando Hernández: “Not only does the regular military now patrol residential neighborhoods, airports, and prisons, but Hernández’s new 5,000-strong military police force is fanning out across the country. The judiciary and prosecutors are often corrupt as well... ‘Perpetrators of killings and other violent crimes are rarely brought to justice,’ reports Human Rights Watch. As a result, post-coup Honduras now boasts the highest murder rate in the world, according to United Nations figures.
“[T]he police and military themselves kill and beat people with impunity. Human Rights Watch has documented widespread allegations of killings of land rights activists by security forces....”
The 2009 coup was carried out with U.S. backing—and, as Frank points out, “The U.S. government continues to support, even celebrate the regime.” In the name of fighting drugs, the U.S. sent $25 million to the brutal Honduran security forces in 2013, and additional funds to the army and police come from various U.S. agencies and programs.
Further, as Frank explains, “When we talk about fleeing the gangs and violence, it’s also this tremendous poverty. And poverty doesn’t just happen. It, itself, is a direct result of policies of both the Honduran government and the U.S. government, including privatizations, mass layoffs of government workers, and a new—in Honduras, a new law that’s now made permanent, that breaks up full-time jobs and makes them part-time and ineligible for unionization, [a] living wage, and the national health service. And a lot of these economic policies are driven by the U.S.-funded lending organizations like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank, which itself is funding the corrupt Honduran police.”
Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the world and, like many poor countries, is caught in a web of debt to imperialist powers and financial institutions. In 2000, Honduras was put under a group of countries classified by the International Monetary Fund as “heavily indebted poor countries.” Its economy is reliant on export of bananas and coffee as well as on maquiladoras—sweatshop factories where tens of thousands of Hondurans work for very low pay while the foreign owners reap huge profits.
The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which went into effect in 2005 and reduced or eliminated trade tariffs between the U.S. and Central American countries, has led to even more intensified devastation of the economies of Honduras and other countries. For instance, CAFTA immediately reduced the taxes paid by U.S. corporations to Honduras by $148 million—a relatively small amount for the U.S., but a huge sum for a small, poor country like Honduras. (See “Why Do Children from Central America Come Here?” for more on the effects of CAFTA on the Central American economies.) During the period 2010-12, the Honduran government reduced spending on public housing, health, and education, while extreme poverty rose by over 26 percent.
Frank says, “With this poverty that we’re seeing that people are fleeing, it’s not like people are like, ‘Let’s go have the American dream.’ There are almost no jobs for young people. Their parents know it. And we’re talking about starving to death—that’s the alternative—or being driven into gangs with tremendous sexual violence. And it’s a very, very tragic situation there. But it’s not like it tragically just happened. It’s a direct result of very conscious policies by the U.S. and Honduran governments.”
As Frank notes, “In this overall scenario, children indeed die. With few jobs and without a functioning criminal justice system, truly terrifying gangs have proliferated, and drug trafficking engenders spectacular violence, including multiple massacres of children in April and May splayed all over the pages. According to Casa Alianza, the leading independent advocate for homeless children in Honduras, ‘in May 2014 alone 104 young people were killed; between 2010 and 2013, 458 children 14 or younger were assassinated’.”
These are the brutal, intolerable conditions that have forced tens of thousands to flee. And the U.S. is now deporting these children and their mothers right back to the same hell of killing violence and poverty—a hell that the U.S. rulers had a big hand in creating in the first place.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On Thursday, July 17, two events jolted the world. The first was the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, killing all 298 on board, in the midst of months of clashes between rival reactionary Ukrainian factions and their great-power backers over the country’s future alignment. The second was Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza, which followed weeks of savage bombing and which together have led, at this writing, to the deaths of 370 Palestinians and the wounding of thousands more.
Anywhere you look, the global terrain is shifting, increasingly in profound and rapid ways. Many different contradictions are intensifying, creating the potential—indeed likelihood—for unexpected jolts and shocks to the world capitalist-imperialist system on any number of different, but inter-connected fronts. One New York Times columnist tweeted, “The tremendous amount of concurrent volatility in the world is unlike anything we have seen in years.”
Revolution will continue to cover these events in depth, but here we wanted to give our readers some basic points of orientation in terms of how to understand these developments, and what all who are outraged by the horrors taking place on a daily basis can and must do to hasten the day when we will not have to wake up to news of yet another savage outrage.
Two of the main contradictions behind many of the upheavals, crises, and transformations in the world today are:
First, the savage oppression and plunder of the oppressed or “Third World” countries by a handful of imperialist powers. We see this in the U.S.-created nightmares in Central America, where thousands are fleeing violence and abysmal poverty, and in the Middle East—whether the horrors in Iraq or Israel’s bombing of Gaza.
Second, the conflicts and tensions between rival capitalist powers are sharpening in ways not seen since the 1991 collapse of the then-imperialist Soviet Union. We see this in the confrontation between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine; the clashes between China, a rising global power, and the U.S. and its allies (Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines) in the Pacific; and on many other fronts, such as developing economic and military alliances, global trade negotiations, even environmental summits. (For background, see Raymond Lotta’s four-part 2008 series: “Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry—What Is Happening and What It Might Mean.”)
These clashes are a product of the fundamental nature of the capitalist-imperialist system and the horrors it generates, and they are causing all manner of suffering and destruction: from the environmental crisis, to global joblessness, impoverishment, and inequality, to massive immigration and refugee crises (and the chauvinist backlash against migrants especially in the richer countries), to the global war on women, to the undermining of sustainable food production, to the mass incarceration of Black and Latino peoples in the U.S., even to the rise of reactionary religious fundamentalism.
This system is unable to address any of these nightmares because they are rooted in its most essential dynamics and workings: the relentless drive to accumulate profit in ruthless, crush-or-be crushed competition between capitalists and between capitalist powers. This is why these outrages are getting worse, not better. (For an in-depth analysis of capitalism’s driving dynamics, see “On the ‘Driving Force of Anarchy’ and the Dynamics of Change—A Sharp Debate and Urgent Polemic: The Struggle for a Radically Different World and the Struggle for a Scientific Approach to Reality,” by Raymond Lotta.)
All this—on the 100th anniversary of the first great global imperialist slaughter, known as World War 1, no less—reveals the unreformability, utter bankruptcy, and illegitimacy of the current world order and the system that created it, capitalism-imperialism headed by the U.S.
But these events also reveal that the rulers are not all-powerful and not, at the most fundamental level, in control of events. In fact the current world order is changing and fracturing before our eyes. It is important for people to confront that the world is not going to stay the same or revert to “normal.” And that the question is not whether the horrors will increase—they will in ways many people believe could “never happen here” (including events in seemingly “far off” places reverberating globally including right here in the U.S.). The real question is whether something radically different and much better can and will be wrenched out of this escalating madness and suffering.
It can be... and for humanity’s sake it must be. There is the vision and concrete plan for this radically different and much better world, and the line, leadership, and strategy to get out of this madness and get there. But taking this up and fighting for it depends on us.
Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution. This means urgently persisting in all of the components of the Revolutionary Communist Party’s strategy for revolution, as this strategy is being actively and scientifically applied to the developing situation. (See, “Summer 2014: Making Advances... Toward Revolution.”) This includes two key battles now: the mass initiatives to stop patriarchy and the enslavement of women and to end mass incarceration.
But especially important now, and throughout the whole process of preparing for revolution, are the two mainstays:
First, developing a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around the leadership, the body of work, and the method and approach of Bob Avakian.
Second, wielding revcom.us/Revolution newspaper as a key tool in building the movement for revolution.
(For more on how these are at the center of the strategy for revolution, see “A Statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party: On the Strategy for Revolution.”)
For those already part of the movement for revolution, and all who want to support it or join in, dig into, promote, sustain, and spread these mainstays.
For those agonizing about the state of the world but not yet sure about the causes and solutions, actively oppose the things you find outrageous—like the U.S.-backed Israeli massacre of Palestinians. And keep fighting them until they are ended—wherever they occur, not just in the U.S. but globally. Second, work to understand the problem and the solution, especially by actively engaging the pathbreaking work of Bob Avakian and Revolution newspaper’s coverage and analysis.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Following is a rush transcript of that interview.
Michael Slate: We’re going to spend the entire hour on one subject, and you know what that is, if you’re at all paying attention to what’s happening in the world.
Today the world is witnessing an atrocity. Since July 7, the Israeli government has subjected the two million people of Gaza to a deadly reign of terror, from the sky, from the ground, from the sea. Israel has now intensified its murderous attacks with a land invasion. And even before the ground invasion began, Israeli bombs, missiles, and shells killed hundreds of Palestinians, including, now we’re told it’s 50 children have been killed in the course of this attack. In 2008-2009 Israel invaded and bombed Gaza, killing 1,400 people, most of them civilians, 89 of them children, by Israel’s official count. Now we’re going to spend the whole hour talking to a man I’ve been looking forward to talking to for a long time. His name is Ilan Pappé, a historian who John Pilger once described as Israel’s bravest, most principled, most incisive historian. The fact is Ilan Pappé has spent his life trying to tell the truth, in a fearless search for truth, bringing that truth out to people, about what is going on, not just what’s going on in relation to Israel and the Zionist government and the Palestinian people, but in relation to much bigger questions as well, in terms of crimes against humanity and the idea that these should not only never be forgotten, but there’s a moral imperative for everyone to stand up and speak out, and that’s what Ilan has been doing, that’s what he’s spent his life doing, so I’m really happy to welcome him.
Ilan, welcome to the Michael Slate Show!
Ilan Pappé: It’s a great pleasure to be on your show, Michael.
Michael Slate: As people are listening, I want them to write this down. Your book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, is a really important book for people to get and dig into. And it has a lot to do with what we’re going to be talking about.
Once again Israel has launched a full-scale war against the people of Gaza, as I was saying. Can you give us an up-to-the-minute sense of what’s happening in Gaza?
Ilan Pappé: Yes, as far as we know—there’s a bit of a fog—the picture is quite clear. In the last 24 hours, Israeli ground forces have entered the [Gaza] Strip with tanks, heavy guns, and so on, and are systematically as we speak destroying the margins of the urban space of Gaza in different places, and it seems that they will not be content with just doing that, and probably will go deeper into the various cities that make the Gaza Strip. They’re still using a lot of power from the air and from the sea; just in the last few hours we heard of a hospital and some other places that people thought would shelter them as they obeyed the Israeli orders to leave their houses, that also were bombed by the Israelis. The number of casualties is rising, including quite a high number of children among them.
Michael Slate: Ilan, tell me this: If you looked at it in general, you might say, “Okay, they’re just raining bombs down on Gaza and on the Palestinian people.” At the same time, to hit things like hospitals, and to—as we’ve heard in other reports—they’ve been calling people up and saying, “Leave, we’re going to attack your building or where you are right now.” There’s this insane, very savage combination of clinical precision and blatant outright savagery. It’s not just a question of carrying out a war; there’s really an element of terrorizing an entire population.
Ilan Pappé: I agree; there’s an element of—it’s a sinister approach, and this kind of brutality was always there. I think this is something that may have been missing from some of the analyses in the reports. There’s a certain aspect of Israeli actions that is different maybe from many other atrocities that are going on even as we speak in other parts of the world. It is this righteousness that accompanies this, and that pretends that this is done in the name of high values, of enlightenment, democracy, and so on. Actually the high level of technology is used to terrorize people; I think you’re absolutely right. I don’t know if your listeners were able to see, because I’m sure American mainstream media does not show this, but when the Israelis give a warning to some of the houses, they give you 57 seconds to leave the house. Now try and be on the fifth floor in any part of the world and leave in 57 seconds. This is ridiculous, but this is as cruel a technique as the very destruction of the house and the killing of the people in it. It’s a rare combination of high tech, a very extremist ideology in many ways, and long, long periods of dehumanization of the almost two million people who are incarcerated in this big ghetto—and their only crime is being Palestinian.
Michael Slate: I read somewhere where you were talking about how this all falls out on children too, and I was thinking about that as I heard both that the sum total so far of the number of children dead as a result of all this, but also the really heartbreaking things about the kids playing on the roof, the kids on the beach, and this whole idea of terrorizing the population, and really if you’re looking at this, terrorizing humanity as a whole. If you look at the dehumanization of the people that gets concentrated up in the children, which seems to be a particular aspect of what Israel does to the Palestinian people.
Ilan Pappé: I’m not sure whether they target children as such, but I think there’s something more important going on here. It’s a combination of three factors; one is, I call it the laboratory, or the lab factor. The urban space of Gaza is a lab for the Israeli military industry and other military industries, probably also in the United States, to experiment with new weapons. There was a terrifying film that was shown at Sundance called The Lab, by a director who showed how these actions in Gaza and elsewhere, in the West Bank, are used as test cases that are being filmed in order to show them later to prospective buyers of these weapons, because clients would be most convinced when you show them that the weapons were actually used against human beings, not against puppets or dummies. So that’s one factor which makes it so horrible. And then of course you don’t differentiate between women, men, young men, warriors, or children. The second one is the dehumanization, this idea that the Palestinians are the enemy, whether it’s a village, whether it’s a house, whether it’s a kindergarten, it’s the face of the enemy, the enemy that you only see through the eyes of the military gun or aircraft or ship, and it becomes a legitimate military target. On top of it you have this self-confidence that you are doing a pharmaceutical, surgical operation, because you have such sophisticated high tech. It’s obscene. Really, it’s obscene. It would have been bad enough without this righteousness and this kind of self-explanatory mechanism which says we are so technically advanced that we can be surgical, where the results on the ground show that there’s nothing to it; it’s a barbaric action like any barbaric action against unarmed civilians. But this righteousness, this sense that you’re somehow morally unique in the way you do it, regardless that at the end of the day, 50 to 100 dead children I think makes it even worse in a way from a moral, an ethical, point of view.
Michael Slate: One of the things I was talking about with the children too: There is a way that [the Israelis] they terrorize the entire population, and one of the things even aside stepping back away from whether it’s the bombs and the missiles falling, even the idea that I read in an interview you did a couple years ago with the International Solidarity Movement, you talked about that the children are specifically targeted. You talk about this heartbreaking scene of people going into a courtroom and seeing Palestinian child after child in chains and orange jump suits.
Ilan Pappé: You’re right to point it out. So it’s not the targeting of the children specifically in this operation. But there’s a certain horrific perception of what is a Palestinian child. It goes back to 1948. You’ve mentioned my book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, in which I describe the Israeli operations in 1948. One of the things I mention there is that the orders that the Israeli troops received before occupying either a neighborhood, a town, or a village—the order said that men of fighting age should be separated from the rest of the population, either killed or sent to prisons. Now, the troops wanted to know how do you define a man of fighting age—and that’s back in 1948, right? The army orders say very clearly, “Anyone above the age of ten.” So they included in it those who potentially could be men; they knew that someone who is 10 years old is not a man, right? And I think it began there, that children are potential terrorists, are potential enemies, they’re not just children. And I think that brought the scenes that you quoted from my article some years ago about the children’s court. We have special courts for children, where sometimes the whole class is brought in shackled as if they are mass murderers. It also reminds me... in 2002, where the Israeli army has this habit of midnight tank tour in the refugee camp of Jenin at midnight that terrified the children there, and really disturbed for years to come a whole generation of children. But I think the key is the dehumanization, this ability now, and you can hear it in the Israeli media and those in America who support Israel. It’s to talk about Gaza as if it’s a battlefield, as if all you have there is a desert and you have tank brigades facing each other. Not understanding that you’re talking about the most densely populated urban space in the world. So any movement with a tank, any bomb from the air, any shell by a gunboat brings mass destruction, and it’s ridiculous to talk about surgical precision or any humane consideration in this operation.
Michael Slate: You’ve talked about this situation today being an incremental genocide, and it seems to me you’re saying there’s been a qualitative leap in what’s going on, and I want to talk with you about that; because it’s also related to what we’re talking about in relation to Gaza and what they’re doing in this sense too, that the particularities of the Gaza Strip make it clear that any collective punitive action—I think this is something you’ve said—like what’s going on now, could only be an operation of massive killing and destruction, a continued genocide. So is this a leap in the situation as you see it?
Ilan Pappé: Always with this case, with Israeli policy, it’s a small leap in terms of numbers of troops used, numbers of people targeted, numbers of people killed. But it’s a bit worse than the previous one, and you can imagine that the next one will be even worse. But I think it began in 2006. We have to remember how it also began even in the short term, let alone a more general historical context. It began when, in 2006, encouraged by the American discourse and propaganda about democracy, Palestinians went to the polling station, in January 2006, and thought that they were really spearheading democracy in the Middle East, and they chose a government. And the reaction of Israel, with the help of the United States, was to ghetto-ize them, without any way of getting in or getting out, and slowly cutting their rations of food and strangulating them.
It was very clear that even if you don’t bomb Gaza every two years from the air, the sea and the land, you are creating a situation in terms of human conditions that in the long run by itself can turn into a genocide. Let alone that in four waves since 2006, you use Merkava tanks, which are the most ferocious tanks in the world: F-16s, Apache helicopters, naval gunships and phosphorus bombs—by the way, all of them made in the United States, I should say to your listeners. All these horrible lethal weapons have been used four times on top of the strangulation, the starvation since 2006 as a punishment for exercising democracy. It’s unbelievable if you think about it.
The naked truth about Palestine is infuriating, the way it is being reported elsewhere. I think this is why I call it incremental genocide, because you can see this combination of the military on the one hand, and that narrative that somehow legitimizes in the West this ghetto-ization of almost two million people. How else can it end, if not with a massive destruction of the Gaza Strip?
Michael Slate: You said, too, and this really grabbed me, because you said this particular term, incremental genocide, is important because it locates savage acts by Israel within an important and wider context. And you argue that this has to be insisted upon if people want to talk about this. Why is that so important? Why is it so important that people understand this particular term’s importance?
Ilan Pappé: For me it was very important to say this because Israel every now and then gets the green light from the West to do what it does. And every time after such a wave, [Israel] eventually is being absolved from any real condemnation, or is not held accountable for what is going on. And the reason is that they succeed in selling a narrative which says, “We did what we did as a reaction to the last Palestinian action in this ghetto of Gaza. Namely, because they launched missiles against Israel, we did what we did. So how can you not justify us?” Immediately we’ll hear President Obama say, “Israel has a right to defend itself.” And all the leaders of the Western world would follow suit. But this is taken out of context.
It’s almost like you watch a clip of a person hitting someone in the face, and the person who was hit in the face shoots the guy who hits him. And you say, well, he was right maybe to shoot him because the guy was hitting him. You don’t see the early bits of the clip. This was the last punch this person was able to give because he was outnumbered by six hooligans who were beating him to death. This is what I mean. You need to see the whole picture to also understand where the Palestinian rockets come from. Why do they come the way they come into Israel? And this is so true even if you just widen—that’s what I meant in my article—even if you widen the camera a little bit, not to 1948, not even to 1967, which I think is even more important. Even if you widen it to three or four weeks ago, and you see that Israel arrested all the Hamas elected members of Parliament—and re-arrested all the people it had pledged to release from jail according to the prisoner exchange deal it had signed, you can see who started this present crisis.
But it goes deeper into the question which I raise in my article, that while the Israelis think that they know what they’re doing in the West Bank, they think that they can divide the West Bank into two parts: one part they would annex to Israel, and the rest they will enclave, maybe even call it a state, or hope that the people somehow will be attached or expelled to Jordan. They can’t do the same in the Gaza Strip because of the geopolitical situation there. So they’re faced with an area which is locked. And what they want is to forget about it. They really want to throw the key of this huge prison into the sea. But the “inmates,” so to speak, rebelled. And when [the “inmates”] rebel, [Israel] uses this lethal combination I’ve talked about, of tanks, helicopters, F-16s, gunships and the most horrific repertoire of new kinds of weapons we don’t even know of, as a punishment for people’s unwillingness to live forever in a situation of a ghetto.
Michael Slate: Ilan, you’ve spoken about how the Zionist state can only really exist or materialize if there is not any significant number of Palestinian people in it. One argument upon which the Zionist state has been built is that when they first came there, when they first found the land, that it was “a land without people for a people without land.” Another argument was that the Palestinians voluntarily left Palestine in order to facilitate an invasion by Arab military forces after the British Mandate ended. What’s the truth here? I want people to understand, so let’s dig a little bit into this background. What’s the truth here? What did Palestine look like before the Zionists established the state of Israel? What was really happening?
Ilan Pappé: It’s a good point. On the eve of the arrival of the first Zionist settler in the late 19th century, Palestine was a thriving part of the Ottoman Empire. It had towns that were flourishing with vital cultural and social activity. It had a very fertile countryside. We don’t know exactly the number of people who were there. I think there were between half a million and three-quarters of a million, which is the numbers there were in the world in the late 19th century. They’re not our numbers today. So it was a sizable, significant number of people living there. Like everyone else who lived in the Ottoman Empire, they had both allegiance to the empire itself, but also a local kind of identity which was recognized by the special dialect that they spoke, by the connection with people, and a kind of affiliation to the heritage of the place.
So it was not a land without people. It was a land with people. And by the time the Zionists got there, which was the late 19th century, like everybody else in the Arab world, they began to think about themselves in national terms, as a national movement that wanted to turn their homeland into either part of a huge nation-state, which would be an Arab republic which the colonialist powers did not allow at the end of the day, or a nation-state like the neighboring nation-states Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.
That’s for this mythology that Palestine was empty. By the way, the Zionist leaders, those who were in the core leadership, knew that the land was not empty. They knew very well. They envisaged “a land without people” knowing that there were people on the land. The question was, how were the people, in the words of the prophet of the Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl, who said, “Can we find a way of spiriting away the people from this country?” And they found a way. They eventually in 1948 found a way in massively expelling the people. So that’s the other myth. That people somehow who live in a place for hundreds of years would voluntarily take their things and get out just in order to enable the return of the Jews, as if there were Christian Zionists. This is ridiculous.
For years, Palestinians told us, Palestinian refugees, Palestinian survivors from 1948 told us that they were physically expelled. But the world did not believe the Palestinians. But since the 1980s, we have solid documentary evidence for the planning, for the implementation, village to village, town to town, for the ethnic cleansing operation. And I must say today, most Israelis are not even shocked by this. Therefore it’s in a way easier to speak about it. They see it as a justified act for building the Jewish state instead of Palestine.
Michael Slate: Well, let’s jump into this a little bit deeper, because this point about ethnic cleansing... people have to understand this. This isn’t just another peoples’ narrative or an assertion. It’s an actual scientific assessment, ethnic cleansing. Let’s talk about this. How do you define ethnic cleansing, and why was it necessary from the standpoint of the Zionists?
Ilan Pappé: Let me first say that, in order to be on safe ground, I decided to look for a source that would define for me the concept legally and morally in a way that at least the vast majority of the people would say, OK, this is a credible, or at least a mainstream source. So I went to the website of the [U.S.] State Department. I did the same with the criminology of ethnic cleansing. The website of the State Department defines very clearly ethnic cleansing as an act where you have two ethnic groups, and one ethnic group is determined to purify this mixed area by every means possible. In fact, the State Department website, and this is something that international jurists agree upon, they say that even if people left because they were frightened, from a mixed area, not allowing them to come back is an act of ethnic cleansing.
So even the Israeli narrative that argues with me and says, “No, no. We didn’t intend to expel them. They just ran away.” It does not absolve them from the crime of ethnic cleansing. Because even if people left because they were frightened, not allowing them to come back home is an act of ethnic cleansing, as I stated.
If you have an ideological movement that in 1948 faces a reality by which its own ethnic group is only 30 percent of the population, and 70 percent of the population are the native, indigenous people of Palestine. And it sees that population, to the last person in it, as a threat to its survival, to its ability to create a pure Jewish state, and is determined to use every possible means to achieve this purity, then the movement itself is committed to the ideology of ethnic cleansing. And the first proof of that claim was in 1948. But it didn’t end in 1948. Israel found out from 1948 onwards until today that there are two means of achieving this ethnic purity. One is of course directly expelling people, as they did in 1948, and not in small numbers after 1967: 300,000 Palestinians were expelled from the West Bank by force by Israel.
But the other means, much more popular, much more favorable from an Israeli’s point of view after 1948, was not allowing people to move, to leave, to expand. They have to be enclaved. To stay in enclaves, like Bantustans. And if they’re there, although they are physically within the state of Israel, they don’t have to be counted demographically. So they’re not part of the community of citizens. They don’t have rights. They are citizen-less citizens. Gaza is the worst example of that, of course. It’s much better to be in Ramallah in the West Bank than in Gaza. But it’s the same principle. What do we do when we think that we can only exist without having any Palestinians among us, but half of the population insists on being Palestinian. They remain Palestinians. So your whole preoccupation as a state, as an ideological movement, as a military establishment is with this demographic reality.
Most of Israel’s strategy revolves around what they call the demographic question, which is a horrible thought if you think that Zionism speaks in the name of the victims of Nazism. And what was the main obsession of Nazism? It was the demography of the Jews, the existence of the Jews demographically within the realm of Nazi Germany. That those who speak in the name of these victims are using demography as the principal way of assessing whether they are secure or not is more than irony. It’s macabre.
Michael Slate: We were talking about ethnic cleansing, and you were making some very important points in relation to comparing and contrasting what’s going on with Israel today and what the Nazis were using as an excuse to get rid of the Jewish people back during the Holocaust. There’s something I want to make clear to people. It seems like it might be obvious, but I don’t think so. The fact is, there is no debate about whether or not ethnic cleansing is actually a crime against humanity, a war crime. It’s not like, OK, as Obama has been trying to say, the whole situation is tragic, and both sides have to give a little and understand a little. There actually has been an ethnic cleansing, which is a crime against humanity. And your book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine—I thought I knew a lot about what had happened, but as I read your book and your uncovering the true history of how this was carried out, the fact that there seemed to be a combination of a very systematic, almost clinical approach to developing this whole thing, combined with an unfettered savagery in the preparation and implementation of what was going on. An actual master plan was developed. Can we talk about this thing about how this ethnic cleansing was actually taken up and developed by the Zionists?
Ilan Pappé: Yeah, definitely. Maybe we’ll go a little bit back in time for just one second to put this in the right context. I would say that, until the 1930s, the Zionist leadership in Palestine did not engage too much with what would be the fate of the vast majority of the people of Palestine, and the native people of Palestine, the Palestinians. They had other concerns, and they attended to them. But ever since the late 1930s, it became one of the most important issues, namely, how do we achieve this idea of a Jewish state while there are so many Palestinians around? And it became an urgent issue for them when it became clear after the Second World War that the British Mandate is coming to an end, and Britain is going to withdraw its forces from Palestine, and that the international community, through the agency of the United Nations, is going to try and offer a solution instead of the British Mandate. This was a crucial period. And that period, in more concrete terms, is more or less between February 1947, when Britain declared its intention to leave Palestine, and the 15th of May, 1948, the day Israel was officially founded. Through that year and a half, we have very solid documentation to show how the Zionist leadership set on this question, sort of pondered within a small group of decision makers, how to deal with this demographic issue, namely the presence of so many Palestinians in what they saw as the future Jewish state.
It took time for them to find a way to do it. But eventually, when they have defined precisely the space in which they want to have the Jewish state—the reason they had to define the space was that they had a secret agreement with the Jordanians that not the whole of Palestine would become Israel, that part of Palestine, that is the West Bank today, would be annexed to Jordan in return for very minimal Jordanian resistance in 1948. But the rest was to be Israel. And in that part, which is almost 80 percent of Palestine, you had, as far as the Zionist leaders were concerned, too many Palestinians.
Around March/April 1948, eventually the pondering ended, the tactical debates came to a close, and the people with the power to decide in the Zionist movement made a conscious decision to get rid of the Palestinians in the area that would become the Jewish state, namely 80 percent of Palestine. And for that reason they prepared a master plan, called Plan D, because there were earlier drafts of that plan, which divided Palestine into areas, and in each area, a different military unit or brigade operated, with direct orders to get rid of the Palestinian population. The operation started three months before the British left, and that’s why the British are accountable for some of it, because they were watching as most of the towns of Palestine were ethnically cleansed by the Jewish forces, and they did nothing to stop it, although they were obliged to do it under the charter of the mandate they had received from the League of Nations after the First World War. The other half of the people, which was mostly the people in the countryside, was expelled after Britain left Palestine and Israel was declared.
There was an attempt by the Arab world to try and stop it, while sending troops on the 15th of May into Palestine. But they sent a relatively small number of troops, and they had their own agendas, and apart from a few cases, they were unable to stop the ethnic cleansing until it just petered out, because the Israelis were exhausted, around the end of 1948. Out of one million Palestinians who lived in what became Israel, about 100,000 were left, because frankly speaking, I don’t think the Israeli army had the energy and the inertia to complete the job.
Michael Slate: Let’s dig a little bit deeper into this, because I want people to understand the particularity here. Again, as I said, the immensity of the savage attacks. I was stunned by this. If you could talk just a little about this. This idea that when we talk about, it’s a war crime, a crime against humanity, that there’s a content to ethnic cleansing. People don’t know, for instance, that there were some cases where they poisoned the water supply of whole villages with typhoid, the rapes, the mass executions. If you could just give people a sense. Just pick one example of something and tell us a little deeper about what actually happened.
Ilan Pappé: Let me explain the logic of it. Basically, generals who supervise an act of ethnic cleansing are content with people leaving forever their places. Namely, if they can intimidate you enough to leave your house, they would be pleased. They won’t necessarily chase you and kill you. It’s not genocide in the sense that there was no idea of exterminating the people, but just making sure that they’re dispossessing them. However, it’s a bit like the Gaza Strip today. Palestine is a human habitat. And you can’t always do it that way. And quite a lot of people resist. People don’t want to leave a home where they’ve lived for centuries, if not a millennium. So if there were the smallest resistance to the order to evict—and these people knew that the moment they leave their house, the house would be detonated, and their village or neighborhood would be flattened—the smallest token of resistance, the response to this was very, very brutal.
Sometimes it was not just massacring people because they resisted. In some cases, people were massacred because of bad planning by the Israeli army. The idea was always to leave one flank of the neighborhood or the village open so that the people could be chased out of there. But in some cases, the Israelis themselves closed the places from four flanks. And then they found the people in there, and the military orders show very clearly that, especially when you have a concentration of young men, and remember our definition of young men in 1948, anyone above the age of 10, Israel doesn’t know what to do with them, and sometimes the order to slaughter came just from the fact that people maybe even wanted to run away, but were unable. That reminds me a little bit of Gaza today.
Now the specific issue we’re talking about, it’s very interesting. The Israeli army had a kind of chemical unit that experimented with all kinds of things, including biological warfare. And in two cases—it wasn’t used extensively, one should say—it was used in Acca, because Acca resisted and typhoid was injected into the water. This I say on the basis of a report of the Red Cross from Acca. This is not something that Palestinian sources invented. And some Israelis, I show in the book, some Israelis were willing to admit this, many, many years ago, two more decent people, maybe more conscientious and maybe with some moral problems with it.
The other attempt was in Gaza, interestingly enough, but the Egyptian army caught these people, and they were tried and imprisoned for trying to inject these biological agents. Maybe it was not typhoid. I don’t remember which particular disease they wanted to inject into the water of Gaza.
It’s the margins of brutality. It’s not the main thing that the Israelis did. But you can see how easily, once you dehumanize a whole population between “just” shooting them to brutally killing them is not very far.
Michael Slate: And that “just” shooting them was actually carried out pretty regularly, right?
Ilan Pappé: Yeah. Definitely. Shooting over the head, first of all, to make them run away, or executing several people in each village to make sure that the flight will be complete.
Michael Slate: I wanted to dig into something else, because there’s a point here, too, where you said, after the Holocaust, it would seem that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to conceal large-scale crimes against humanity. Yet no one has ever really paid much attention about what happened to the Palestinian people, and what continues to happen to them.
Ilan Pappé: Yes, it’s an amazing story in a way. When people in Israel say to me, “But, can you compare what happened to the Palestinians with what happened to people in Cambodia, or in Rwanda, or nowadays in Iraq and in Syria?”
And I say, “No.” I’m sure that there are cases in history, and there are cases today, which in terms of number of people killed are far worse than what’s happening in Palestine. But I say, “But we know about these places. And we condemn them. And eventually, we bring the criminals to court. We boycott these places. We do not accept these states within the community of civilized nations. But especially, we know about it.” And I said, “This is something that was hidden. This is a crime that was hidden from the world.” It’s not so much that the Israelis were willing a narrative with this absurd idea, that one million people left voluntarily, as if this is at all possible. Or this absurd idea that when they came to Palestine it was empty. You know, I once said to a teacher of mine back in high school, if the country was empty, who were the people who you say left voluntarily? He was very angry with this question. (Laughing)
But coming back to the issue, the best way of describing it is to talk to Palestinians who were scholars or journalists, or who decided to tell the world, a year or two after 1948, what happened. And no one believed them! No one believed them! People said to them, “Oh, it’s your oriental imagination. We don’t believe that three years after the Holocaust, the Jews could do such a thing to anyone.” And this is in spite of the fact that there were quite a few foreigners on the ground when this happened. There were journalists from the United States. There were emissaries from the International Red Cross and from the United Nations. You cannot hide an ethnic cleansing operation of this magnitude. But it was very easy for people to accept that this didn’t happen. I think part of the Palestinian anger and frustration that comes out every now and then in different forms is not just about the crime itself, but it’s the denial of the crime. I think at least in that, and we owe a lot to the late Professor Edward Said for this, because he told us in 1982, to fight more fiercely against this denial. And I think we are succeeding. We are succeeding. We are not there yet. But for so many years, until very recently, the denial was as criminal as the crime itself.
Michael Slate: Well, let’s jump into that. Because you were one of those people who actually has been fighting to bring out the true history of what happened and what continues to happen. What is the situation of resisters like yourself? How significant is this movement overall in the world? There’s like a new historian movement [and] you’re part of that, I assume. And I know you got hit to a certain extent. Do people get punished for actually standing up and telling the truth there?
Ilan Pappé: Well, let me put it this way. First of all, just recently in February of this year, I published a book called The Idea of Israel, in which I describe in detail or answer in detail the questions you are asking. So I recommend to people who want to know more about it looking for this book, The Idea of Israel, in which I answer this question in the following way: the first thing to remember about all of this is that most dissidents in the world, if you are a dissenting voice, if you are an objector, if you are a person who fights against your government, your enemy is the regime. Your problem is the regime. The regime can throw you into jail and can sack you from your job, can shoot you, can execute you. In Israel the problem is very different. You have a problem with your own society, not just with your own state. So to begin with, the number of people inside the Jewish society throughout the years of Israel’s existence who are willing to challenge the basic truisms and assumptions of Zionism is so minimal that I can give you all the names, and I’m talking about the last 70 years. I can give you all the names of these people. I’m sure you don’t know all the names of people who demonstrated against the Vietnam war. As much as we may think that America is, you know, conformist and does not rebel against its own government’s policies, at least I don’t know—I’m sure nobody in America knows—all the names of the people who demonstrated against Vietnam.
I know the names of all the people who challenged the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and until today. That’s how terrible the situation is in this respect. Now, in answer to your question, it means the state itself does not have to deal with us. The society deals with us. And my personal case is one that sort of illustrates this. I was not expelled from the state or I was not harassed by the state itself. The university in which I worked made sure that I would find it intolerable to continue to teach with opinions like the ones I have and I had to leave the university and the job which I had for 25 years. So there was punishment. It was a very low punishment compared to what Palestinians would suffer in similar situations, but that’s what happens to dissident voices in Israel. They are so marginalized and boycotted and not heard that actually the government does not have to deal with them. I have a feeling that things are changing for the better, by the way. I think the BDS campaign, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign from abroad, increased the numbers. It’s still a drop in the sea, but increased the numbers. Maybe I don’t know their names any more, which is a good sign. It increased the number of people who are dissidents, who are anti-Zionist. I think the first indication for this is, for the first time the government tries to pass laws that will enable it to deal with dissent, dissenting voices like this, which is a good sign. It needs to become a phenomenon but we’re not there yet. The vast majority of the Israeli Jews not only support this operation, this dehumanized, barbaric operation in Gaza. They want the army to do even worse. They are a bit irritated with the army, what they think is a sort of self-restraint of the army in dealing with the population of Gaza.
Michael Slate: So in relation to this I want to just very quickly visit this. In relation to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that actually gives you heart today, is what it sounds like, not just in terms of increasing the amount of resisters inside Israel but also internationally. You look at that as a very significant movement in the world?
Ilan Pappé: Yes I do. I really think so. I think that it’s true that Israel that probably also exist without a moral foundation and without moral or ethical support, but I think the one has an influence on the other. We saw it in the case of apartheid South Africa. Even the most cynical government in the world would say—and it’s not true just about Israel, we have our own national interests so we can turn—we can sort of ignore what we don’t want to see. The moment there is a massive moral movement that is abhorred by what’s going on on the ground, eventually it also affects politics and economics. The moment it affects politics and economics it’s a different game. And then the balance of power is not between those who have all these mighty weapons and those who don’t have any weapons at all. It’s between people still craving some sort of legitimacy and the danger that they will become a pariah state. I think this is what the BDS is pointing to; the non-violent possibilities in bringing peace and justice to Palestine.
Michael Slate: And in a certain way it does pose a moral imperative to people, in terms of people having to take a stand. This will bring us back to where we began, where you were talking about the framework that the Israeli state insists upon. It brings you right back to the Holocaust to a certain extent. The Zionists always justify everything they do on the basis of the Holocaust. It’s the idea that, what happened to the Jewish people should never happen again. Never again! And “Never again!” is not said in the sense that it should never again happen to people anywhere in the world, but never again to us, and that allows us to do whatever the hell we want to the Palestinian people and anywhere else. There’s a whole different morality that needs to come into play here. It’s posed up against a lot of things that people need to think about. I was thinking about this quote from Bob Avakian that says, “After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel,” which poses the fact that people have been sucked into this very immoral view and stand in relation to the people of the world.
Ilan Pappé: And again, my books are selling well, so I’m not trying to sell them. (Laughing) But in my last book, The Idea of Israel, I have a whole chapter on this, which I call the Nazification of the Palestinian question. This is not only justifying—you’re right, they justify what they do in the name of the Holocaust. But for themselves they justify it by claiming that actually they are continuing to fight the Nazis after the Holocaust in Palestine itself. And this comes back to the issues we began talking about, the dehumanization that allows them not to blink an eye when they kill children. This is exactly that. And I think that an insistence on a universal message from the Holocaust, from any genocide, not just the Holocaust, a universal message from any genocide, including the Holocaust, is the basis for a solution in Israel and Palestine. The two are connected. It’s exactly this idea that I was talking [about] in the article you quoted, that you have to use the same moral measure to examine everyone in the Middle East, including Israel. And the moment people in the Arab world would see—which they haven’t seen until now, that the Western world is willing to judge Israel the way it judges Egypt, Bashar al Assad, the Islamist movements in Iraq—the moment they would think that everyone is judged in the same way, they would be much more willing to resist the other more oppressive phenomena and listen to the world and maybe even seek its help. But when the world has this double standard, where one particular political outfit has a license to do whatever he wants, and all the rest are being judged differently, no wonder people in the Middle East do not look up to America or to the West as a beacon of enlightenment, progress and humanity. And that leaves our area in a very, very difficult situation, where only a genuine solution to the Palestine question would help it to move forward to a much better future.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
May 19, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors' Note: The following are part of observations that were made by Bob Avakian, and were originally distributed within the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) at the beginning of 2012. This is being published now as the first part of the serialization of these observations. These observations were originally made at a time when the "Occupy" movement was having a significant—and overall positive—impact, but was also increasingly running up against the repressive force of the state, as well as its own limitations. While this was an important particular aspect of the overall situation at that time, and this is reflected in these observations by BA, these observations are speaking more broadly to the situation and challenges facing the RCP and the communist movement in the world as a whole. For this reason—and because these observations continue to have relevance and importance in that light—the decision has been made to publish these observations. Also included, as an addendum at the end, is a more recent document, "Basic Orientation Regarding the Two Mass Initiatives (and the Overall Ensemble of Revolutionary Work)," written by Bob Avakian and distributed within the RCP earlier this year (2014). Some editing has been done, and footnotes have been added, in preparing this for publication.
We have to resituate the two initiatives—against mass incarceration, and against the degradation of women—in the context of the larger approach and objectives embodied in the Campaign as a whole that we are carrying out, with its three objectives: really putting revolution and communism on the map; making BA a household name and what BA represents a subject of substantive discussion and debate throughout society; and bringing forward waves of new initiators of the communist revolution. At the same time, we need to keep in mind that while these mass initiatives are part of an overall strategic approach or ensemble, they are not gimmicks to achieve the goals of the Campaign. There are two "mirror opposite" errors: the economism of "the movement is everything, the final aim nothing," divorcing these initiatives from larger strategic objectives (and slicing further down within that, reducing mass incarceration to STOP Stop & Frisk, for example); or not really building these initiatives as truly mass movements and struggles.
These mass initiatives are part of a strategic approach, but they also have relative identity themselves. They are real struggles that we are taking up—real outrages and concentrations of key social contradictions. And Marx's point applies to both—if these are not resisted, the masses will be degraded into broken wretches, incapable of rising up for anything greater. Think about that report summarizing a wild discussion with basic masses about the oppression and degradation of women—and all the backward shit that came out from those very oppressed masses, including women, about the degradation of women, rationalizing and even in some ways getting into this. And these are not the most backward masses—in fact, in some ways these masses are advanced. It is not just a matter of the degradation of masses who are directly oppressed by this, but the dragging down of the masses as a whole. And the same applies to mass incarceration. It is not just that it's hard for masses of inner city youth to rise up in these conditions—including the aspect of self-degradation when they are cast into these conditions—but also the effects in society as a whole. These are egregious outrages, acute concentrations of major social contradictions, and masses do need to rise up against them. People of all strata have to be won to take this up. "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" has to be going forward rather than people being dragged down by these things.
And, without any hyperbole, we should recognize and present to people what really is involved in these concentrations of social contradictions. It is a form of slow genocide, what is happening with mass incarceration. That is not hyperbole. The degradation of women that's involved in both of these expressions—pornography and the Christian Fascist-spearheaded offensive on forced child-bearing—that's not hyperbole either. Forced child-bearing—denying the right to abortion, as well as to birth control—is slavery. There needs to be a truly mass struggle that's called forth in society against these things.
We're not going to overturn and eliminate national oppression and the oppression of women within the present system. But we're not Trotskyites with "transitional demands," aimed at tricking people into fighting the system over certain demands, and then, when they realize that they can't win those demands under this system, they supposedly become convinced of the need for some other system (whatever that means in the minds of Trotskyites). But this doesn't mean that there can't be real mass struggle developed and that the political and ideological terms can't be changed around these outrages, that the masses can't be transformed in their understanding; and it doesn't mean you can't put the ruling class back on its heels on these things. If we are correctly working in relation to this—if we are approaching all this with the understanding and orientation that this is all part of building a movement for revolution and these contradictions can only be fully and finally resolved by revolution, even as people should not now just take this and not fight it—then people, rather than being demoralized, can advance.
So, two points: One, what is involved with these mass initiatives are real battles in their own right that have to be built to change the terrain ideologically and politically, in terms of who has the initiative on this and how the masses are being transformed; and two, there is the question of how these link to the whole oppressive system and to making revolution.
These mass initiatives have to be taken up, on our part, in the framework of "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution"; we have to constantly raise things back up to that vantage point and framework. At the same time, while we are coming from that framework and approach things from that perspective, these DO have to be taken on as real questions, real concentrations of major social contradictions. These outrages are NOT tolerable, and a mass struggle in many different forms has to be undertaken on the basis that they are not tolerable. Masses of people should not be forced, tricked and misled into putting up with this. If we don't approach this with this orientation, it will just be "let's get a few things going," and nothing will change.
That's why I keep going back to the paragraph in the Badiou polemic1 on the machinery of capitalism-imperialism humming in the background: "And [with reformism] the world stays fundamentally unchanged. Capitalism-imperialism continues humming in the 'background,' crushing lives and destroying spirits in its meat-grinder of exploitation. And the horrors continue unabated." That captures very powerfully the difference between reform and revolution. That basic point of orientation has to infuse how we take up both of these initiatives and how we handle the relation between them and the overall strategic objectives we have to keep clearly in mind and be guided by.
We should look at each of these mass initiatives in its own right, but not lose track of bedrock principles relating to the full picture, the overall strategic situation. And we need to go to people with a compelling argument for why these outrages are intolerable and mass struggle must be built against them. If you don't give people a feeling of what an intolerable outrage they are, you won't call forth the felt compulsion to struggle against them; but if you just do that and don't give them the full picture, they will be demoralized by the difficulties and twists and turns in the struggle, and/or misled and co-opted by other forces which will not lead things in the direction they need to go, even in terms of really building mass struggle against these outrages, let alone in terms of the fundamental solution. If you get something going, then other forces come in; if we don't bring in the larger picture, then it gets led back under the wing of the bourgeoisie, it gets sidetracked and dissipated and/or crushed.
To emphasize it again: These outrages—mass incarceration and the degradation of women—need to be fought, and we can change the terrain around these things. "Occupy" hasn't "won" anything, but it has contributed in a significant way to changing the political terrain. These mass initiatives have, if anything, even more potential to do that. These outrages really are as egregious, and as integral to this system, as we say they are. At the same time, I agree (with the point raised by another leading comrade) that a key goal of the work of our comrades in these initiatives should be driving people to the two mainstays of our ongoing work.2
We are still not thinking big enough in terms of these initiatives. With mass incarceration, we are talking about millions of people affected by this, and whole generations of inner city youth. On the one hand, there has been, since the time of the 1960s, the raising of significant Black middle strata—although their position is still precarious. On the other hand, this—mass incarceration—concentrates what this system has done to the masses of Black people in the inner cities. It is no better than Jim Crow. And don't think that—during the time of Jim Crow segregation and Ku Klux Klan terror—they didn't have all kinds of rationalizations about how this was necessary and even good. This is a big deal, mass incarceration. With the woman question, we're talking about the oppression and degradation of half the human race.
These are outrages around which really mass struggle has to be called forth. We need to constantly return to that. And then, in turn, on a more fundamental level, we are taking this up because these are two very key concentrations of what this system is all about and part of the whole larger picture of what this system is all about—which is why this system needs to be swept away. That's how we are coming at these initiatives, that's why we are working to make revolution, and why we're driving people to the two mainstays. Without revolution, egregious oppression, in many forms, will remain. And the world will get worse—there are the wars and torture, poverty and starvation, the brutal repression of people, the devastation of the environment. All this is rooted in the same system. And that's why you have to get into the question of what our Party is all about. We cannot mishandle this either way—either in effect treating these initiatives like gimmicks, around which we are not really intending to change anything, or treating them as things unto themselves. Many other people can and should be involved in these mass initiatives, for a diversity of reasons, but our orientation has to be: "We're going to change the whole society around these things as part of laying the groundwork and building up the basis for going for the whole thing." If you don't set out to change the society around these things, you're not taking up these initiatives correctly. There's a difference between saying you're going to eliminate all these outrages short of revolution, and saying you're going to change the whole society, that is, the whole political terrain, in relation to them-—the first is not true, the second better be. And then there is the fundamental point of how our work in relation to all this is laying the groundwork and building up the basis for revolution.
Changing society around these things, while it is not the same thing, and should not be confused with, making revolution, is nevertheless a real objective that has to be approached and fought for—but, on our part, fought for as an important part of building up the basis for and building up the movement and accumulating forces for revolution, and bringing something better into being. This is what we have to be constantly regrounding our own people in, and this is what the responsible Party collectivities should be constantly bringing it back to: how are we doing at handling these different aspects and their correct relation?
On the question of transformation of people vs. the notion of unchanging human nature. We have repeatedly—and for very good reason—emphasized the point that the problem is not human nature, the problem is the nature of the system. There is an analogy here to what is said in Part 2 of "Birds/Crocodiles"3: how do people get out of the self-degradation, which IS real? Particularly in regard to inner city youth, there is this notion, which is widespread, including among the basic masses, that "they're all messed up." What is actually wrong with where many of these youth are at right now—the shit they have gotten pulled into—will not be changed by telling them not to wear baggy pants, to pull up their pants and get respectable. No, through sharp struggle against what's holding them down, and especially as they see the prospect of a whole different world, and that becomes real and viable to them, they CAN transform themselves—but that is the ONLY way this can happen on a mass scale. The only way that will change for the better. Once again, we need to be bold with that.
In regard to what these two initiatives are dealing with, there is an element of self-degradation involved on the part of masses. But how you are gonna deal with that? This is the only way it's gonna change—through building mass resistance against these outrages and, on our part in particular, waging struggle to win people to revolution. In other words, "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution." As has been emphasized, people don't make choices in a vacuum, they do it in the context of the social relations they're enmeshed in and the options they have within those relations. Which are not of their own choosing. They confront those relations, they don't choose them. Second, if people feel for whatever reasons they want to choose to harm themselves and others, we're going to struggle with them but not blame them—we're going to show them the source of all this, and call on them to struggle against it.4 There is no other way, besides "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" that this will change for the better in any fundamental sense.
A point on how people with the responsibility of representing publicly for our Party and its line present themselves vis-à-vis BA. We do not want "preliminary mantras" (or "mantras" of any kind) "in praise of BA." We are not, and we should not come off as if we were, some kind of religious cult which has to begin everything we say by praising our "god." What we want, what we need, is to bring out in a living way where we are coming from. The point is that we have a Party that stands on the basis of certain fundamental things. We should present this well. We should, in essential terms, put this forward: We have a Party that bases itself on communism as it's been brought forward to a new synthesis by BA, a Party that is led by BA. We should do this in a living way, as opposed to religious-like "mantras."
This should not be difficult at all. This should just be presented naturally—in a matter of fact, and at the same time compelling, way. It should be put forward boldly, and with the essential substance—and if people don't like that... boxing gloves—ideological struggle. But we should not come off as if there is, or there has to be, some kind of religious "mantra" involved. We shouldn't let petit bourgeois ways of thinking, with their prejudice against leaders, or at least communist leaders in particular, set the terms for what we do. But we also shouldn't actually turn into a cult, and tactically we should take into account how things affect people.
Where is all this proceeding from and where does it all have to go? How do you convey that, and not something else—how do you present that in the best way—given the particularity of the audience and the particularity of the circumstance? There needs to be a further leap in terms of how this is presented, with substance, in a living and compelling way—not only by a few people but by our people as whole.
If we are talking about someone like Sunsara Taylor, or Andy Zee, or Carl Dix, or Raymond Lotta, for example, what's the correct synthesis? People should get a living sense that these people are coming from a certain place—with substance, and liveliness—they are not at all a bunch of automatons. If our people clearly come through as basing themselves on a developed line, the new synthesis, and the leadership of BA, and at the same time it comes through that they are lively and creative people, and so on—that's what we need. Here are people basing themselves on this line and leadership and, wow, they can really think on their feet and have a lot to say—that's what should come through, that's what's gonna build up the whole thing.
Both of these things have to come through very prominently: 1, people are coming from the new synthesis of communism and the leadership of BA—that's the foundation; and 2, what they have to say and the way they present it is very provocative and illuminating—they don't fit the stereotype of a dogmatic communist, they're not cultists, etc., but people who are lively, creative and critical thinkers, with a scientific method and approach. And, in an overall way, it should come through that one flows from the other (that 2 flows from 1) in a fundamental sense. That is the right synthesis—there shouldn't be even a hint of defensiveness in all this, but there does need to be the right synthesis—and that will help drive people to the mainstays.
It should come across: The essential reason this person (an ST, AZ, CD, RL, etc.) is cool is because they've come to this understanding and orientation, this communism; it has a specific content in the world today and they're part of or related to a Party that has as its basis the new synthesis of communism and the leadership that's provided by BA. This embodies a synthesis of two things, which should be mutually reinforcing, in a positive way: the particular person with their own experiences, positive qualities, their own way of going after things, as one aspect, which is real; and the foundation and leadership that gives this the character that it has in its most fundamental aspect.
All this goes back to the interconnection (the dialectical relation) between the fact that what we're all about is revolution and communism, and that the new synthesis and the leadership that has brought this forward is crucial in relation to that. In ultimate and fundamental terms, the reason people get exercised about my role and leadership has to do with the reality that we're actually working to make revolution, with the final goal of a communist world. The terrain today is not what it was in the early 1970s, when there was a big struggle over what's real communism. The reason that people are so put off today is that they're not for revolution and not for communism—or they haven't been won to that yet. You can't understand why you should give so much importance to one person, unless you understand what it is that needs to be done—that you need a revolution, and what kind of revolution—and what the role of this person is in relation to that.
This relates to what is concentrated in Chapter 6 of BAsics,5 on revolutionary responsibility and leadership and the role of outstanding individual leaders, in relation to the challenge of making revolution and advancing toward the final goal of communism. Back in the day, from the time of the late 1960s, we'd argue: there is no such thing as being a communist without being a Maoist. Communism has developed—if you're not with Mao, you're not a communist.
Today, communism has advanced again, through the new synthesis. It is, and it should be, very easy, not at all hard, to present that, and argue for it, with substance and in a living and compelling way. Even with people, or at least honest people, who may not agree with you, who may not see or agree that communist revolution is what is needed—even with people like that, to present things in these terms is better. Whether someone agrees or disagrees with you, you get to the real question: whether you should be for communism or not, whether or not there should be revolution aiming for communism. Those are the fundamental terms we want to get to. The boxing gloves should be put on essentially to struggle around that. Problem-solution. It is simple if you're coming from that—if you present things in a living way and get into the role of leadership and individual leaders, and specifically myself, in that context, it makes sense, it puts things on the right terms, provides the right framework for struggling over things.
To go back to the two mass initiatives—and this applies to all that we do—in our approach we can't allow these things to be separated off from communism and what that means. If the mass initiatives become things unto themselves, then they will not actually be built as powerfully, in a mass way, as they can be and need to be, and they definitely will not contribute to building the movement for revolution, in the way they can and should. If we do our work correctly, in relation to these mass initiatives—and overall—growing numbers of people will begin to see the need for revolution and the need for communism. In the final analysis, if people do not get won to the need for revolution and communism, we're not going to get anywhere and the masses are not going to get out from under all the many different ways in which they are oppressed, exploited, and degraded.
People are not going to really understand and appreciate our Party and my role in particular if they're not being won in the direction of seeing that we need a revolution and it's got to be a communist revolution. We have to do all our work in a way that brings that forward. The reason for promoting and popularizing BA and the new synthesis is that this is what is needed to deal with the problems of the world and the solution to them. This relates to the "Because" formulation that our Party has brought forward as a concentrated statement on this question: "Because of BA and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal."
Let's get back to the basic question: what is the significance of this for humanity? People don't have to live this way. Here's what communism is about, and here, in the new synthesis, is another leap to it. People are living in ways that are horrible, and here's a way that they don't have to. Not that it's going to be easy, and not that people won't have to make sacrifices, but we don't have to live this way. Why can't people get excited about that? I can understand why certain people attack and don't want it. But why cannot people who are straining for a different way get excited? We ought to be able to convey this in a living way: this is where we're coming from, this is why we're taking up this mass initiative, as well as other important things we're doing, and this is why we're part of an organized vanguard force, or with that vanguard force, that is fighting to make this a reality, and to bring forward others to make it a reality. It's that that people ought to be deeply with and passionate for, and on fire to present to many others; and that should come across as really exciting to people. Not because you're some kind of "mentally deranged cult member," but because people could live in a much better way than this cesspool that they're chaining people in. If you're a Party member or a supporter really partisan to the Party, you ought to radiate this—not in a religious "beatific" way, but with living passion, because this is really the scientifically grounded understanding of what is, and what could be, and how to bridge the gap between the one and the other.
If that is what people are grounded in, we won't have these recurrent problems of going off track on this and even getting defensive when there is no reason to be defensive. This is what should infuse the Party and everybody around it. Yes, what we're setting out to do is very tough—but there is something to be very passionate around here.
As our Party's Manifesto6 puts it, there has been this long night, since the emergence of class divisions among human beings, and everything bound up with that. We don't want to go back to early communal society, which had real problems. But there has been a long night since then of enslavement and exploitation and oppression. And it can end. It could end badly or it could end well and go to a whole different, much better thing. And that's what we're fighting for here—and it is a fight. If you come into contact with people who have a sense that the world can go a whole different, much better way—that should be exciting.
In terms of these mass initiatives, once again, it is a matter of transforming societal terms around this and really mobilizing masses to battle back, politically, against certain concentrated forms of oppression. There is a need for massive struggle to do this—to change the terms, the thinking of people, and to really affect who has the initiative, politically and ideologically. At the same time, in terms of our orientation and approach, we have to do all of this, out of the gate and consistently, as part of building the movement for revolution. We need to be constantly regrounded in that synthesis—of really building struggle around these mass initiatives, against these concentrated outrages, on a truly mass scale, and at the same time doing this as part of building the movement for revolution. This orientation, on the part of our comrades involved in these initiatives, and of our Party as a whole, needs to be consistently applied, modeled, and fought for by people who have responsibility for providing leadership, in regard to these initiatives and overall, and this should be basically and increasingly setting the terms and the orientation for people who are around us and are being more and more drawn to our line. We need to change society on these questions—in terms of the major social contradictions that these initiatives are addressing—as part of building up the basis to make a fundamental change in the whole society and make a qualitative leap in terms of fully uprooting the different forms of oppression, in this society and ultimately throughout the world.
With regard to these mass initiatives, we have to be constantly paying attention to making sure that these things are both staying on track and getting somewhere. There really does have to be mass struggle against these outrages. These things are intolerable. And they are objectively intolerable to millions and millions of people. These are assaults on the masses which are against their interests, and masses can be won to see the intolerability of this and therefore feel compelled by that understanding to act. We have to win them to that and give expression to that. We have to mean what we say—these things are intolerable—and we have to take them on and mobilize broad masses of people who feel that they are intolerable and want to act because of that. And, in terms of our fundamental orientation, we approach all this—and we present all this to other people—as part of our work to build the basis for the revolution that is needed.
More on the role of the website/newspaper and polemics. The website/newspaper needs to be a key tool to take on the lines that have to be taken on, and it needs to model how to do that. That's how my statement on "Occupy"7 should be seen—as a tool for people to use to go out and unite, and struggle, with people. Unite—and struggle.
We do need people to get deeply into things like "Birds/Crocodiles," with all the complexity that involves. Not everything should be "quick and concise." The Badiou polemic, the polemic against Popper in Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity8—those things are very good, and very important. More and more people should be introduced to things of that kind, and led to "work their way through" them. That is very important, it is essential. But we also need—and the website/newspaper should be a key source and model for—punchy, quick and concise polemics. Let's encourage people to use the website/newspaper in this way: "I ran into this, and I don't know how to answer it." Utilize the website/newspaper to answer it, and move the process along. We need to model and lead in making this happen and come alive. And if we do that, people will want to use the website/newspaper in that way. If we can't answer stuff that people run into, then we should just fold up and go away. But we CAN answer it—and we should—with the website/newspaper a key resource and tool for doing that.
Grappling with questions of theory and line (including policy for particular initiatives, etc.) is of course necessary and important, and has a definite role to play in the overall process of making revolution. BUT IT IS ALSO IMPORTANT TO EMPHASIZE THIS: Let's not overcomplicate matters—causing things to go off course and be stuck in paralysis, when there is a pressing need for things to move forward, and advances and breakthroughs to be made, in actually building these two mass initiatives, as mass movements/mass struggles, and pushing forward the ensemble of our revolutionary work as a whole, with BA Everywhere as its leading edge. The basic orientation that needs to be taken up—and actively applied—with regard to the two mass initiatives (as well as BA Everywhere and the ensemble overall), should be very clear. We need radical simplicity here and now, not overcomplication of what should be very clear.
What follows is the basic orientation for what is to be done with regard to the two mass initiatives and the ensemble overall, and basic guidelines for proceeding now to do it.
There is a profound basis in the objective world—in the contradictions of this system and how they find expression continually—for these mass initiatives (and the ensemble overall). And there is a definite and powerful basis in the subjective factor—that is, in the actual line of our Party—our line overall and specifically in relation to these mass initiatives (and the ensemble as a whole).
Who should be part of these mass initiatives—whom should we be working to involve in them? Everyone who agrees—or can be won to see—that what these mass initiatives are taking up (in essence: mass incarceration and everything bound up with that; and the degradation of women, particularly as focused now around the attacks on the right to abortion, and even birth control, and pornography and the sexual degradation of women) is intolerable, and must be fought against. This should mean that, in the very near future, hundreds are actively involved, in an ongoing way, in building these initiatives, with the aim of involving thousands and ultimately millions in various ways and on various levels. The situation and atmosphere need to be created in which people broadly who meet this criterion (of who should be involved) will recognize and feel that there is an important place and role for them in these mass initiatives, and the practical means must be developed to enable them to be actively involved and make real contributions to the initiatives.
At the same time, WE, as revolutionary communists (and those who are in basic agreement with us on this), should be putting forward, in relation to these mass initiatives, as well as in an overall way, that these and other outrages which in fact constitute concentrations of major social contradictions, are rooted in the basic nature and dynamics of this system, and they can only be finally and fully ended, and a radically different and much better society and world brought into being, through communist revolution, proceeding on the basis of the new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward through the work done by BA over many decades.
Through this ongoing process, and through correctly handling the contradictions (dialectical relations) that will be involved, in an overall way both the mass initiatives—as truly mass initiatives, involving growing numbers of people who are, at any given time, coming from different perspectives but are all in basic unity with the understanding that these outrages are intolerable and must be fought—and the movement for revolution, and the Party as its leading core, should grow and gain strength.
VERY IMPORTANTLY: We should certainly include ourselves among those who are in fact outraged by these outrages and feel deeply that they are intolerable and must be fought. The fact that we—as revolutionary communists, with a grounding in the scientific outlook, method and approach of communism (dialectical materialism), and its development through the new synthesis—understand that these outrages (and the many others we recognize as flowing from the fundamental nature and dynamics of this system) can only be finally and fully ended through communist revolution, and ultimately the achievement of a communist world, should make us even more—and certainly not less—outraged about all this and determined to fight it, now and in an ongoing way! This should come through in everything we do. And, as a matter of fact, a very important part of what we should be doing is (as another leading comrade put it) ORGANIZING AND MOBILIZING THE ANGER OF THE PEOPLE. In relation to that, as well as overall, we need to be consistently working—in the correct ways—to make all this serve the building of the movement for revolution, and the Party as its leading core.
And what about BA Everywhere—whom should we be working to involve in that? Everyone who agrees—or can be won to see—that it is very important that what is represented by BA/the new synthesis become a major point of reference, and subject of discussion and debate, throughout society, can and should be involved in and contribute, in various ways, to BA Everywhere. At the same time, those of us who are revolutionary communists, basing ourselves on the new synthesis, should be consistently setting forth, boldly and compellingly, our understanding of the importance of BA Everywhere, and its role as the leading edge of an overall ensemble of revolutionary work, and should be working consistently to build the movement for revolution, and to win growing numbers of people to agreement with what is actually the line of our Party, and to join the Party on that basis. In dialectical relation with that, the number of people who are, in various ways, involved in and contributing to BA Everywhere should also be continually growing—including many people who are not (or not yet) won to full agreement with what is represented by BA/the new synthesis of communism, but are in agreement that this, and the big questions it raises, should be broadly known, and actively discussed and debated, throughout society.
The important thing now is to have a grounding in this basic understanding, and to implement this, actually building the mass initiatives as truly and increasingly mass initiatives—and building BA Everywhere in the ways and on the level it needs to be built, to truly have major societal impact—all as part of an overall ensemble, whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
As has been emphasized, in proceeding to actually carry this forward, various contradictions, including ones which are complicated and difficult, will have to be confronted and correctly handled, and there will be a need, and a role, for continually returning to the basic grounding and guidelines that have been provided—and undoubtedly further guidelines that will need to be developed as things go forward, proceeding from the basic grounding spoken to here. But, to emphasize it again: The basic grounding and guidelines are there, to proceed to actually build these mass initiatives as truly mass movements/mass struggles around these crucial faultlines—involving growing numbers of people, with diverse viewpoints but all in unity that the outrages these mass initiatives are taking up are intolerable and must be fought—and to build BA Everywhere on the correct basis, while WE (and those who agree with us on this at any given time) work, in the correct ways, to have all this contribute to building the overall movement for revolution, and the Party as its leading core—learning and deepening our understanding and our ability to handle the contradictions that have to be confronted and struggled through, AS WE GO FORWARD.
In conclusion, let me return to where I started and give this emphasis yet again: As a basic point of orientation, and especially now: We must not get mired in overcomplication and paralysis. Again, radical simplicity. Grappling with questions of line and theory, and developing conceptions, plans, etc., are necessary and important; however, this must not be allowed to become, or be turned into, yet further, self-imposed, obstacles. Right now we need conception and plans that in fact facilitate—provide means and vehicles for—the carrying out of the line on the two mass initiatives (and the overall ensemble, with BA Everywhere the leading edge) in an active way, from here forward. On the basis of what I have written above here, and what it concentrates, and continually returning to and deepening this, AS WE GO FORWARD... LET'S GET OUT THERE, NOW, AND DO WHAT NEEDS—WHAT CRIES OUT—TO BE DONE!!
1. "Alain Badiou's 'Politics of Emancipation': A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World," by Raymond Lotta, Nayi Duniya, and K. J. A., Demarcations: A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic, Issue Number 1, Summer-Fall 2009 [back]
2. These two mainstays are the promotion and popularization of the leadership of Bob Avakian (BA) and the new synthesis of communism he has brought forward; and the website revcom.us/Revolution newspaper. [back]
4. This is spoken to in an article by Bob Avakian: "On Choices...and Radical Changes," Revolution #254, December 25, 2011:
On Choices... And Radical Changes
First, people don't make choices in a vacuum. They do it in the context of the social relations they're enmeshed in and the options they have within those relations—which are not of their own choosing. They confront those relations, they don't choose them.
Two, if people feel for whatever reasons that they want to choose to harm themselves and others, we're going to struggle with them—but we're not going to blame them. We're going to show them the source of all this in the system, and call on them to struggle against that system, and transform themselves in the process. Just because a youth "chooses" to sell drugs, or a woman "chooses" to commodify herself sexually, doesn't mean that they chose to have those choices. And there is no other way besides fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution that all this will change for the better. Blaming the masses for bad choices just reinforces the conditions that they are oppressed by.
In sum, people do make choices—but they make them enmeshed and confined within social relations that are not of their choosing. We have to bring into being different social relations and conditions so that masses of people can act differently and relate differently to each other. Fundamentally, that takes a revolution which is aiming for communism. [back]
5. BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, RCP Publications, 2011. The title of Chapter 6 is "Revolutionary Responsibility and Leadership." [back]
6. Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, September 2008 (RCP Publications, 2009) [back]
7. "A Reflection on the 'Occupy' Movement: An Inspiring Beginning...and the Need to Go Further," by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Revolution #250, November 13, 2011 [back]
8. Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity: Part 1: "Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right"; Part 2: "Everything We're Doing Is About Revolution", Revolution, October 2007-February 2008. Also included in Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, 2008. "Marxism as a Science—Refuting Karl Popper" is in Part 1 of Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity. It begins on page 18 of the pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation. [back]
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
May 26, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors' Note: The following is a part of some observations that were made by Bob Avakian, and were originally distributed within the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP) at the beginning of 2012. This is being published now as the second installment of the serialization of these observations. The first installment of this series, "The Mass Initiatives and Their Relation to Our Strategic Objectives," was published online May 19, 2014 and is being serialized in the print edition of Revolution, beginning with issue #339 (May 25, 2014). These observations were originally made at a time when the "Occupy" movement was having a significant—and overall positive—impact but was also increasingly running up against the repressive force of the state, as well as its own limitations. While this was an important particular aspect of the overall situation at that time, and this is reflected in these observations by BA, these observations are speaking more broadly to the overall situation and challenges facing the RCP and the communist movement in the world as a whole. For this reason—and because these observations continue to have relevance and importance in that light—the decision has been made to publish these observations. Some editing has been done, and footnotes have been added, in preparing this for publication.
A big and recurrent problem has to do with the relation between freedom and necessity. Historically, there have been difficulties with this in the communist movement and in our own Party. On another level, this is manifested in relation to "Occupy" and what it is up against. It has come up against necessity, particularly in the form of repression by the bourgeois state, and there is the phenomenon among many of not seeing any way to forge any freedom out of this—and, instead, they are trying to find some way to work within the necessity that's been imposed that they don't see any way of breaking through on. That is objectively what is going on to a significant degree.
Returning to our Party, if you have a successful program like 411 (the April 11, 2011 program on the occasion of the publication of BAsics1) even the very real advance represented by this program creates new necessity for you. All of a sudden, here you have some people come forward that have made a commitment on a certain level, and you have to allow for the fact that they're in the picture now, in terms of what to do to build on and go forward from this. But you will run into problems if you don't see that the freedom in this situation lies in grasping the principal aspect of this contradiction, and then going to work on things from there. The principal aspect is that there WAS a solid core that did cohere that program and give a central expression to what that program was about; but in going forward from there, you have to go back and have further rounds of discussion and struggle with people based on continuing to put forward the solid core, and developing elasticity on that basis.
But there is a recurrent tendency: instead of seeing the freedom, one gets weighed down by the necessity. When you have made advances, and when the situation is overall more advanced, more people take seriously and care what you say, and that brings new necessity. The constant pull is a pull to determinism—to being afraid of losing advances that have been made. Do you play to win or play not to lose? In the name of playing to win you can play recklessly—but the far bigger erroneous tendency is that people get a lead and they get conservative and they lose. People start protecting what they have and get afraid to risk that to make further advances, and therefore they begin throwing away what they've achieved.
Okay, we have new necessity—how did we get to this point? We confronted necessity and transformed it. Did everybody immediately say "great!" when we contacted them to get involved with that 411 program? No, of course not, we had to struggle to transform necessity into freedom. Then you get new necessity. So why, in that situation—or any other situation where advances have been made—should we stop the approach of transforming necessity into freedom? In going forward to build off what has been achieved, you have to recognize that the achievements themselves bring new necessity; you have to be anticipating that and working to lay the basis to transform new necessity into new freedom (which will itself involve necessity).
Another important factor contributing to the tendency to bow down to necessity is losing sight of the larger objective that this is all part of. There is not going to be a seizure of state power on the basis of what was achieved through the 411 program. As positive as that was, it was only a small building block of what needs to happen. If you keep that in mind, you have more of a basis to be less determinist in the next round of things, because you know we have to get to a whole other place. If you lose sight of that, the pull to play not to lose becomes stronger, because you see things in narrower terms. Things have to go a lot further than any particular event, or any particular movement or struggle, so how do we get things to go further? Proceeding on that basis, you are better able to handle the solid core/elasticity dialectic. This involves a combination of the freedom/necessity dialectic with whether we are really continually going back to the largest strategic perspective and looking at things in regard to that, and figuring out how to struggle through to transform necessity into freedom and make things go further to advance toward the goal it all has to contribute to.
In order to lead and not continually be pulled off the track and not be pulled down, these are key questions of ideology and methodology, as well as political orientation in terms of what we're aiming for. If you see particular things as "things unto themselves," you are going to have a tendency to go off to the right and get conservative (this could conceivably cause you to go off in a "left" direction, but that is less likely) because you're gonna lose sight of the larger reason why things have to be ruptured from the present level they've achieved to something larger.
Where does freedom come from? It comes from a correct analysis of objective reality and its contradictory character. And that has a material basis. We don't have spontaneity going for us, but we do have reality, in the most fundamental terms, going for us. Therein lies a lot of our freedom—grasping that. Here I think of a recent comment by the actor Johnny Depp about Marlon Brando. Brando, he said, had "the great gift of not caring." In other words, he didn't care about, he wasn't weighed down by, what other people thought of his acting and how they thought he should approach it. There is an analogy here, to keeping the larger picture constantly in view. I think, for example, of the 1977 Central Committee, where the struggle with the Mensheviks in our Party came to a head—concentrated over the question of how to assess and what stand to take in relation to what was in fact the revisionist coup in China, following the death of Mao in 1976. This is spoken to in my memoir.2 In that situation, a lot of freedom came from recognizing that, even if the battle was not won at that Central Committee meeting, those of us fighting for the revolutionary line, and opposing the revisionist coup, could not lose, because in any case we had to take the stand of opposing that coup and fighting to win as many people as possible to that stand, even if that meant splitting the Party, or having to leave the Party and fighting to form a new one. The question of the revisionist coup in China was that kind of a cardinal question, on which there could be no compromise. And while that presented us with a lot of necessity, it also embodied a definite freedom. Why? Because, those of us upholding and fighting for the revolutionary line, and opposing the revisionist coup, were coming from an understanding of the deeper reality and the bigger stakes than simply what happened at that Central Committee meeting, or even what happened with regard to our Party, as it had been up to that point. One way or another, that Party was going to be qualitatively different coming out of that Central Committee meeting—either strengthened as a revolutionary communist vanguard, or dragged down into revisionist betrayal. Understanding the stakes in those terms, and proceeding from the larger strategic standpoint that the Party had to really be a revolutionary communist vanguard, or if instead it became an instrument of revisionism then it wasn't worth preserving and remaining in—and something new would have to be brought into being, to reconstitute the remaining revolutionary forces—that provided the basis to not bow down to necessity.
Our thinking and approach should not be shaped by the immediate thing before us. Why can we wage struggle—dare to wage struggle—with people, including people with whom we have had a certain level of unity? Because we are waging struggle for a bigger thing, AND we know that this is grounded in a deeper material reality. And while things may be tougher in the short run, reality is what it is—and that will assert itself. We can't be governed and determined, constrained and confined, by the ups and downs of the mass movement, or of any particular struggle or initiative, or by the "chops and changes" of the situation at any given time. We have to take these things into account, but we can't bow down to them in a determinist fashion. We have to proceed from a scientific, dialectical materialist, analysis and synthesis of the deeper reality, and its contradictory dynamics.
Freedom lies in grasping, in this way, the material basis for what we are setting out to do, strategically. Grasping that, and proceeding from the larger perspective corresponding to that, enables you to wrench freedom out of necessity, because you are looking at things from where you fundamentally and ultimately need to get to, proceeding from a scientific, materialist and dialectical, assessment of reality, particularly the deeper and driving mainsprings and dynamics of that reality.
Not recognizing that reality is constantly changing AND that there are other class forces out there in the world which are working on people in various ways, directly and indirectly, will cause you to go off track and lose your bearings. People who have united and worked with us will often then come under attack as a result of having taken the step to work with us. Or they get a sense that taking another forward step in uniting with us could jeopardize their career, or make it more difficult for them to achieve certain short-term objectives they may have. To fail to take this into account amounts to ignoring the fact that there is a larger and continually changing reality out there that is also acting on and influencing other people.
The masses do know a lot about reality, and we need to learn from that, but they're not going to tell us about the deeper mainsprings of reality and where that reality can go and needs to go. When we go out among the basic masses, they can tell us a lot about what we're up against—among the masses, as well as with the authorities—and how things work. That can and should enrich our understanding of reality—but if you think that whether something is true or not depends on whether masses say it's good or bad, you will get into a lot of trouble and become disoriented. People keep getting away from the point—and we need to keep drawing people back to the point—that what the masses think is part of objective reality, but it does not determine objective reality. Rather than going up and down with the mood of the masses, we have to be proceeding with a deeper, and more strategic, scientific approach and method. What have certain opportunists and counter-revolutionaries attacked us for—what has been one of their main lines of attack? A whole pragmatic thing that our line "hasn't worked and won't work." That begs the question of what "working" means. Our line has "worked" to maintain a revolutionary communist party over a whole period in which there have been major setbacks for the communist movement in the world as a whole, and conditions for building a revolutionary movement, with such a revolutionary communist party at the core, have been very difficult, particularly in a country like this. Has it "worked" to give us a big mass base during a period when that wasn't possible on the right basis, on a basis that would actually be leading toward the revolution that is needed? No. Of course, the point is not simply to remain as a party and to "stay in the game." The point is to work, actively, to build a movement for revolution; to influence and change the "political terrain" in a way more favorable to revolution; to accumulate increasing forces for revolution; to prepare for—to hasten while awaiting—the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people, whenever that is brought into being. But doing that, and evaluating how we are doing in relation to that, involves and requires the application of scientific communism, and not pragmatism and empiricism.
At the same time, we also have to combat a tendency to have a superficial, and fundamentally wrong, view that what we are basing ourselves on is ideas abstracted from reality—as if we, with our set of ideas, can see that other sets of ideas are not the same as our set of ideas, and therefore they are wrong. That kind of approach explains why, as indicated in a report on a discussion of the Badiou polemic,3 people in our own ranks can say things like: "Why would anybody be attracted to the Badiou line?" That reflects an approach of not really looking at things in terms of what social position and aspirations might the Badiou line express, and therefore not recognizing that there might be a significant attraction, particularly among certain social strata within the "middle class," to ideas of this kind. This is not thinking like a materialist and not proceeding from our strategic standpoint and the recognition that this strategic standpoint flows from a scientific analysis and synthesis of a deeper material reality. Why would people in "Occupy" be pulled toward doing something that (to refer to Badiou's orientation) is "at a distance from the state"? Because they've run right up against the state—and their response to that is significantly conditioned by their social position, and correspondingly their spontaneous aspirations, and a spontaneous orientation that corresponds to those aspirations.
Failing to see this—or to really take it into account, proceeding from a scientific materialist approach—has to do with why in some cases we don't write with the audience in mind: don't proceed with a sense of where the audience, for example the audience for our website/newspaper, is "at," what at least many of them don't understand or aren't familiar with, how they spontaneously see the events and questions we are addressing, and therefore how we have to approach things in order to address these contradictions in the best way to move people from where they are in the direction of where they need to go, with regard to their thinking and their felt need to act. This happens when and to the degree that we are not really thinking about transforming people and dealing with the contradictions that weigh upon them and push them in certain directions—including ignorance in some cases, as well as spontaneous aspirations, inclinations, and prejudices—but rather approach all this as just a matter of presenting our set of ideas. We have to consistently approach things with our scientific materialist standpoint and method: that we are seeking to understand reality, as it actually is—in its contradictory nature, and as it is actually moving and changing—in order to be able to transform material reality in a certain way, and that we have to be constantly seeking to learn more and more about reality. We have to consistently come at all this from the framework of our scientifically grounded strategic objectives, as opposed to viewing it through the tunnel of this or that particular thing.
The essence of the problem is whether we're proceeding in a materialist and dialectical way, and whether we're really working and struggling to transform the necessity—which is posed by the actual reality and its changingness—into freedom, by recognizing where the pathway lies for doing that. If your framework is too narrow, you are not going to see the pathways for freedom correctly. If you are looking at only a corner of the world, and viewing things just through that prism, then you're not going to see how you're going to be able to change the world in the way it needs to be changed.
Especially in the context of the acute challenges facing our Party (and, more broadly, the international communist movement as whole), and in terms specifically of the role of people with leadership responsibility in our Party, an important part of the objective reality we have to know about is the Party itself. If people with leadership responsibility don't have a good sense of the work of the Party, the "ideological state" of the Party, and so on, then we have problems. A question: What percentage of the people in the Party really understand Marx's point about the shopkeeper and the democratic intellectual? Do we know the answer to that? We need to know the answers to those kinds of things. What is the ideological state of the Party?—that is also part of the objective reality we have to know.
Even with very real and significant positive developments, the objective situation we are confronting remains difficult. It is no doubt wearing on people that we are having difficulty breaking through in qualitative terms, and that our movement is continuing to suffer losses in the world. This is the objective reality and the dynamic we have to confront, and transform, and if we don't break through—if we think we can just go along and do a few good things—we're going to be seriously set back. Plus there are people out there—including opportunists and counter-revolutionaries—who are trying to destroy us. Those opportunists and counter-revolutionaries are, in a basic sense, motivated by the same kinds of petit bourgeois viewpoints and aspirations as someone like Badiou—except that theirs is a virulent variation of this that wants to destroy us, because these are people whose particular petit bourgeois aspirations depend on our not being there and not constituting a standing alternative to—and in fact a standing indictment of—what they're about, and not about. If, as is the case with these opportunists and counter-revolutionaries, what you do is in fact predicated on the view that you can't—or really that you shouldn't—change things in any fundamental way, but you want to pretend you are for that, then you will feel compelled to destroy a force that says you can and is actively working to do it.
In a basic sense, the world outlook of at least many of these opportunists and counter-revolutionaries is not different than a lot of other viewpoints that have sway among sections of the petite bourgeoisie. It is just that their particular form of capital—in pretending to be for some kind of social change, while not really believing in or working for a truly radical change—is invested in trying to build themselves up as what amounts to a "perpetual left opposition" within the existing system, and this involves animus, extreme hostility, toward us and a necessity to see us fail and to no longer exist as what we objectively are, even with all our shortcomings and difficulties: a revolutionary communist vanguard. Other people among the petite bourgeoisie, even where they may have certain views in common with these opportunists and counter-revolutionaries, don't have the same "investment" and thus not the same animus toward us. This is why, as the Chinese Communist Party pointed out in its polemics with the Soviet revisionists back in the 1960s, it is possible to unite with many people who are not communists but also don't pretend to be communists, while unity with revisionists (phony communists) is impossible.
So this is what we're up against—this is the objective situation, in its various dimensions, that we have to confront and transform—and we have to make real breakthroughs and advances, not just in some long-term sense but in more immediate terms. The objective situation, even if and as it could become more favorable, in strategic terms, would also involve the heightening of negative aspects, including the prospect of heightened repression and increasing attacks on us of various kinds and from various quarters. We cannot afford to be passive, or to just go along in a routine way, or even just "do a few good things." We need to transform the situation, qualitatively, wave after wave, to where on a whole other level growing numbers of people are won to this—including new and fresh people, particularly (though not only) youth, who have the advantage of youth to go out and work and struggle, tirelessly and with great energy and initiative, for this.
This is a materialist assessment. You can get absorbed in what we're doing at any given time and lose sight of the larger picture—both the positive elements that are emerging and developing, even if in a contradictory and still fragile way, as well as the negative elements—and you can lose sight of the bigger strategic orientation in which all this has to be viewed and approached.
To meet the very real and acute challenges we face requires "playing the piano" well—handling well the dialectical relation of things, and in particular the relation between principal and decisive things, on the one hand, and secondary things—correctly dealing with the question of "props on the stage," and solid core/elasticity: handling well the relation between things that require finely tuned and calibrated attention, and those things to which such detailed attention not only cannot but should not be paid. It requires keeping in mind that reality is constantly changing and that, with regard to "key links" and key "props on the stage," this is not a static matter, but something that may undergo change—what is a "key link" or a key "prop on the stage," requiring continual and finely calibrated attention, today, may not be that tomorrow—and other things may come to occupy that kind of role and require that kind of attention.
This is a key part of the challenge: constantly investigating and interrogating reality, to see what in fact should be the main theme on the piano at a given time, and how you let the fingers play the other parts without paying the same level of finely tuned attention to that (to continue, and perhaps torture, this metaphor of "playing the piano"). You have to know if you're dealing with something that would have a decisive outcome on a whole process—or even on the overall strategic process of revolution. This constantly poses AND re-poses itself—what we need to concentrate on really knowing and giving concentrated direction to, as opposed to what we do not need to pay so much attention to (or perhaps can even be relatively ignorant of) at any given time. This changes all the time. It is not just a matter of reality shifting in a general sense, but the ways in which things get posed in a concentrated and decisive way repeatedly shift.
We do have to pay significant attention to "Set The Record Straight" (STRS). The questions that STRS is addressing are coming more to the fore now, because there is more upheaval and resistance, more questioning and searching for an alternative, for another way. We need to be speaking to this in a consistent and compelling way—working to turn the negative view that far too many people have, and which generally prevails, regarding the history of the communist movement and socialist society, into something positive. The fact that many people are raising their heads and thinking about big things creates more favorable conditions for doing this—but it requires work and struggle.
I noted in a report that a basic person who has been around us, and generally supportive, for some time now has changed his thinking radically on Stalin: kind of "flipping" from really one-sidedly opposing Stalin (he had been influenced by the ISO) to thinking—once he understood, on the basis of reading Conquer the World?4 the necessity that Stalin was facing—that Stalin really had no alternative other than to do what he did. That, too, is wrong; and it is not what is said in Conquer the World? We need to win people to the correct synthesis on this—and to the new synthesis of communism overall.
But it is a bedrock fact that, in general and as an overall and at this point overwhelming phenomenon, people don't have even an inkling of a materialist understanding of things like this. What was Stalin actually up against, and how did he do at dealing with this—evaluated from a materialist standpoint and in accordance with the strategic orientation of advancing toward communism? People's prejudices are striking. Many people talk glibly about Stalin, and Mao, repeating slanders about how they "killed millions of their own people" without having actually looked into this in any serious way. And many of the same people will refer to the Bible as a moral authority! Well, the fact is that the Bible is full of figures who insist on slaughtering many, many people, often in the most wanton ways, and committing other truly horrendous and grotesque acts—and these people are upheld as positive figures, even icons—people like Moses, for example.
Moving closer to the present time, and looking at this country, how many people were killed through the Civil War? A great, great number. And it could be said that Lincoln was ultimately responsible for this. Why did Lincoln do this—why did he wage war against the Confederacy, instead of just letting it secede? His essential and basic reason was not to end slavery—Lincoln himself made that clear. It was because the Confederate forces were trying to break up the Union—the United States of America—and that, Lincoln insisted, could not be allowed, even if huge numbers of people had to be killed in a war to prevent it. As it turned out, this war could not be won—by the Union—without emancipating the slaves of the Confederacy and allowing them to fight on the Union side, a fight in which many of these emancipated slaves died. Should we condemn Lincoln as a mass murderer?
We are still not materialist enough when we are hit with stuff like this. And we need to be.
We have to confront, understand and transform material reality. We have to proceed as dialectical materialists, not as sectarian keepers of a "temple of secret knowledge." It will not do to dismiss Badiou, or similar types, as "Kautskyite," as someone did recently in a discussion. We have to have substance—and present it in a living way. What would our answer be to someone who says, "I don't know who Kautsky is and what he was about, so that doesn't mean anything to me"? By contrast, the actual polemic against Badiou is very substantive, thoroughly dissecting the Badiou line and its bankruptcy. The recent Raymond Lotta polemic against Žižek5 is also a positive example and model—it has substance and a good method. We have to do the work to actually understand different aspects of reality, and to win people to understand it correctly. We—our Party collectively and comrades in the Party—also have to make use of, wield effectively, the work that has been done. A lot of work has been done through STRS. A lot of work has been done in relation to many other dimensions of reality, in the present era and historically. We must not squander this work either—we have to immerse ourselves in what it has brought to light and wield this in a living and compelling way.
Comrades in the Party and people around us should be demanding answers from us. People should be going into their Party units and saying, "this came up, and I don't know how to answer it"—demanding collectivity and leadership in dealing with this. Where is the percolation? There is not nearly enough. But instead of bemoaning the fact that there is not enough of this, we need to find out why and do something about it. The "tone" for the whole Party gets set by leadership. Leadership IS decisive. Yes, the masses make history—but even with good aspirations, if they don't have the necessary leadership, they can't make history in the way they need to, in accordance with their own fundamental interests. Leadership is of decisive importance in all this, including within the Party, and we do have to lead on the basis of being materialists and scientists, and lead with an understanding of where we are in the process, the process of confronting and transforming the objective situation, the necessity we face, in its many different significant manifestations—and specifically the acute challenges we face now.
Where are we at in this process now, and how does that relate to what we're all about? We need to consistently keep that in mind, in order to determine how to play the piano well and to lead overall. This means constantly interrogating reality, being in touch with and learning more deeply about and keeping pace with key aspects of reality, and their changingness, in the various aspects of the objective situation, and in regard to the subjective factor (the Party itself), in order to correctly lead. If we just make a list of what we're doing, or supposed to be doing, at any given time, and try to lead that as best we can, that's not gonna cut it. We have to pay attention to important particular aspects of things—but we have to view and approach all this with a grounding in an understanding of the deeper material reality, and its contradictoriness and changingness, correctly comprehending and handling the relation between necessity and freedom, and proceeding fundamentally from the plane of our strategic revolutionary objectives.
On any and all levels of the Party, in any Party collectivity, everyone is supposed to speak up and say if something is right or wrong; it doesn't matter where it's coming from. Of course this needs to be done through the right channels, and in the right spirit. And it is true, it is a key aspect of democratic centralism, both epistemologically as well as organizationally, that the higher up the "chain" you go, the more basis there is, and the more responsibility there is, for grappling with and concentrating what is being learned, through the work of the Party overall and from other sources. That is one side of the picture, and it is important. But, at the same time, just because there are people who have more and higher level leadership responsibility, doesn't mean that other people aren't responsible. Everybody, on every level of the Party, has responsibility for the line of the Party and the direction of its work in carrying out that line, even as that gets expressed through a division of labor and through the channels of the Party, which are not simply "horizontal" (involving people on the same level of collectivity and responsibility) but are also "vertical" (involving a chain of knowledge and of command, from lower to higher levels, and back down again). But, again, in terms of fundamental orientation, everyone has responsibility for the revolution and for the line and role of the Party which must be the leading core of that revolutionary process. And everyone should be striving to take as much responsibility as they can, and to contribute as much as they can, in ways consistent with the democratic centralist principles of the Party and the structures and processes of the Party which give expression to those principles. In a way consistent with this, we need a great deal of, and continually increasing, initiative and percolation, throughout the Party, on all levels and in the back and forth process which gives life to the Party's chain of knowledge and of command.
Wield, model and insist. Wield the line of the Party...be a model of grasping and wielding this line...and insist that this line, and no other, be carried out, through the application of democratic centralism, in both its epistemological and organizational dimensions. And approach all this as an ongoing, living process.
1. BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, RCP Publications, 2011 [back]
3. "Alain Badiou's 'Politics of Emancipation': A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World,"
by Raymond Lotta, Nayi Duniya, and K. J. A., Demarcations: A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic, Issue Number 1, Summer-Fall 2009 [back]
4. Conquer the World? The International Proletariat Must and Will, by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, published as No. 50 of Revolution magazine, RCP Publications, 1981 [back]
5. "Vilifying Communism and Accommodating Imperialism: The Sham and Shame of Slavoj Žižek's 'Honest Pessimism,'" by Raymond Lotta, Revolution #256, January 15, 2012 [back]
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
June 2, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors' Note: The following is a part of some observations that were made by Bob Avakian, and were originally distributed within the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP) at the beginning of 2012. This is being published now as the third installment of the serialization of these observations. The first installment of this series, "The Mass Initiatives and Their Relation to Our Strategic Objectives," was published online May 19, 2014 and is serialized in the print edition of Revolution, beginning with issue #339 (May 25, 2014). The second installment, "Freedom and Necessity, and Proceeding from a Strategic Standpoint: Some Thoughts on Methods and Leadership," was published online May 26, 2014. These observations were originally made at a time when the "Occupy" movement was having a significant—and overall positive—impact but was also increasingly running up against the repressive force of the state, as well as its own limitations. While this was an important particular aspect of the overall situation at that time, and this is reflected in these observations by BA, these observations are speaking more broadly to the overall situation and challenges facing the RCP and the communist movement in the world as a whole. For this reason—and because these observations continue to have relevance and importance in that light—the decision has been made to publish these observations. Some editing has been done, and footnotes have been added, in preparing this for publication.
We have to start by returning to the reality that the international communist movement, and our Party specifically, is faced with the rather acute contradiction that we must make significant, qualitative breakthroughs and advances, in the near future, or we will be seriously set back, or even face the danger of being rendered "out of the game" for a certain historical period. And the consequences of that for the communist movement and ultimately the masses of the world are very, very heavy. This is another way of formulating—and underlining the importance of—what is said in the Manifesto from our Party,1 regarding the crossroads facing communists today: vanguard of the future, or residue of the past. We have to soberly and scientifically reground ourselves in this, and deepen our grounding in how all this has to be approached. It is not that there are no favorable objective developments, and no prospects for making the needed breakthroughs and advances—but the point is that the basis must be seized and new, more favorable conditions created through struggle, in order to actually make these breakthroughs and advances.
This calls to mind a comment from another leading person: In this context where there are more contradictory but overall favorable developments happening, in particular mass upsurge and the sharpening of the objective situation overall, if we don't go forward, then we'll go significantly backward. If we take this seriously and recognize in fact the acute contradiction we are confronting, then we will see that we do not have infinite time to make the necessary breakthroughs. And, while there should not be any panic in this regard, there most definitely needs to be a sense of urgency. This orientation has to form an important part of the grounding for everything we do.
We are doing some positive things with BAsics,2 for example, and some comrades have gathered people around them on this basis—although this, too, is contradictory. And the events, the dialogues, involving Carl Dix and Cornel West have been very positive—drawing large numbers of people and having a significant impact. There are the two mass initiatives—against mass incarceration, and pornography and patriarchy—and masses have come forward around those initiatives. Some of the advanced people closely around the Party are continuing to advance. All that is on the one side. But then there is what we could call "what is objective to us, department one" and "what is objective to us, department two" that we have to deal with—the second "what is objective to us" being the opportunist and counter-revolutionary attacks on us.
In regard to this "objective to us, two" factor, we are not correctly recognizing, let alone dealing with this. And how we understand and approach this has everything to do with fundamental principles concentrated in the "as long as" point (in essence: as long as what we are actually about is revolution and communism, it should be easy to correctly appreciate and promote BA and the new synthesis he has brought forward). What is concentrated in that "as long as" point has to do with our whole core message—you could rephrase it as that core message and the "because" statement3: the fundamental fact that what we're about is radically transforming the world through revolution and the seizure of power, with the dictatorship of the proletariat as the transition to communism, and how BA/the new synthesis relates to all that, is crucial for all that.
There is the first quote in Chapter 3 of BAsics, which begins: "Let's get down to basics. We need a revolution. Anything else, in the final analysis, is bullshit."
We don't proceed enough from the understanding that anything else, in fundamental terms, is bullshit. I took note of a report about a youth who worked with us closely for a while in "Occupy" but lately has been pulled toward anarchism and influenced by opportunist and counter-revolutionary shit. This happens all too often: people come around us and get close—or, in some cases, youth in particular have been recruited, but on the wrong basis and with a heavy influence of a revisionist line, and then some quit and pull away from us—in some instances going over to the camp of counter-revolution. This is both a result of objective factors—including what I'm calling "objective factor, two"—and is a result of revisionist lines and influences within our own Party and how, consequently, we work with people. This reminds me of how Lenin said that, in the revolutionary movement of his time, anarchism was to a significant degree payment for the sins of revisionism within the ranks of the communists—this revisionism, gutting the revolutionary heart out of communism, made it easier for anarchism to appeal to some people. But, speaking of our situation specifically, it is a combination of remaining revisionist influences on our part and the pull of objective factors. This involves the influence of what exists and predominates in society and the world as a whole, under the rule of the imperialists—including, as a very significant factor, the reality and continuing effects of the reversal of socialism and the restoration of capitalism first in the Soviet Union and then in China. But it also involves the role of opportunists and outright counter-revolutionaries.
You can see this reflected in some reports on work with students. People are initially attracted to what we're about, in a general and basic sense, and then they begin to get a fuller sense of what we're about, and everything this involves—and the heaviness hits them. They get introduced to BAsics and they are drawn to what it concentrates, but then they come up against everything this involves, and many back away, at least in the short run. We should understand that this is part of the process. We shouldn't get freaked out. We should remain firmly grounded in our scientific materialist understanding of the whole process, and maintain the orientation of struggling this through with people. But we also have to understand that what happens is not just that people come forward, come up against the heaviness of it, come up against the difficulties in taking this out, and then they back away. In the age of the Internet, there's an analogy between people who defect from our camp, so to speak, and the Christian Fascists in society at large. If the Christian Fascists were just scattered, just a bunch of scattered individuals, they'd be a problem—but nothing like the problem they are, where they are given a coherent and organized expression and powerful backing by sections of the ruling class. The analogy is that when people drop away there is a place where they can go where they will get a coherent counter-revolutionary program that is directly in opposition to us and is determined to viciously attack, undermine and if possible destroy us.
It is time for us to put on our boxing gloves. We have to realize that this process involving counter-revolutionary attacks on us is not going to go away—we have to incorporate in our approach the understanding that this is objective to us, is a significant part of the objective obstacles we face. The conscious opportunist and counter-revolutionary forces—which are objective to us—this is part of the terrain we have to reckon with and deal with correctly. And we are not really doing this the way we need to.
Not that this should be our main thing. But if we don't incorporate this understanding and deal with this—recognize that this is a real part of the "encirclement" we're dealing with: people and forces which have a passionate, active orientation of trying to destroy us and keep people from joining up with us—then we are going to pay a heavy price for failing to recognize and deal with this. If it weren't for the Internet, it wouldn't be the same thing, although it would still be a problem on a certain level. But there IS the Internet, and the Internet provides a means whereby people who really represent nothing—or at least nothing positive, in terms of actually opposing and going up against this horrific system, and offering any kind of real alternative to it—can magnify their influence, especially in today's putrid cultural atmosphere, and especially if they engage in "snarky" attacks against those who are seriously going up against this system and actually working for revolution. Yes, this is part of the process; but dealing with this, in the way it needs to be dealt with, is OUR part of the process. We have to take on this opportunist and counter-revolutionary garbage—with the right approach, flowing from and consistent with our fundamental revolutionary communist orientation and objectives. And this means we need a lot more "down on the ground"—and, yes, "up on the mountain" at the same time—ideological struggle and polemics to hit at this crap and expose it for its utter bankruptcy and its role in aiding the ruling class in maintaining this oppressive system. And, overall, we have to hit hard, in polemicizing against and exposing things that help to keep the masses in an enslaved and degraded situation.
For literally more than 10 years we said, let's write something on the Illuminati, and nothing appeared. That can't continue.4 I noted that someone who was drawn to us but then got pulled by slanders as well as spontaneous petit bourgeois thinking, read a statement by some anarchists and said: "This is the greatest statement I have read." We should get hold of that statement and polemicize against it, including in our paper. Let's dissect a statement like that and tear it apart. Because this matters—it is actually of profound importance in relation to the fundamental interests of the masses of people—which road leads to actual emancipation, and which to a dead end, or worse. We have to learn how to do quick, short and concise, hard-hitting polemics. The Badiou polemic5 is great, very powerful. It is a living and compelling application of the new synthesis of communism. But we can't approach everything as if we're writing the Badiou polemic. This gets back to the basic point: everything else, in the final analysis, really is bullshit. But we don't proceed that way, from that basic understanding—or at least we certainly don't do so consistently. We are too afraid to be sharp. Yes, we need to do this in a principled and lofty way—but sharply.
I am sorry but the culture that has been "imbibed" to a significant degree by this younger generation is very bad. Many of them are arrogant—frankly on the basis of very little substance. Not all, but far too many, have the ignorance/arrogance thing that Mark Twain talked about, when he said: What you need to get along in America is the perfect combination of ignorance and arrogance. They don't ask questions, they just make assertions. And I get the definite sense that we don't respond strongly ourselves—and, in fact, we are still often defensive in the face of this stuff, when there is absolutely no good reason to be defensive. The point—at least with people who are not conscious and dedicated opportunists and counter-revolutionaries—is not to "demolish" them, but there is definitely a role and value to administering a good "shock" to them, through sharp ideological struggle.
When people say stuff that reflects ignorance—like someone at a protest who demanded: why isn't Bob Avakian out here among the masses who are protesting?—our people don't respond the way they should. They should be ready to say: "Even assuming BA wanted to come here, it would be extremely irresponsible for our Party to allow him to do that." And then, in basic terms, they should explain why. How about wielding my memoir6 when someone says, "Why isn't BA out here"? There is a whole history of activism, as well as revolutionary leadership, there. And let's get into the substance of what communist leadership actually is, and what role I play in relation to that.
All this backward stuff comes from the fact that people are not really talking about changing the world in a fundamental way—or they haven't really thought about and grappled with what that really means. We shouldn't just let that go and be liberal. There is a time and a place to be sharp, to draw the lines sharply. If people don't like it, TOUGH. In one report I read, someone was complaining that Raymond Lotta was being sharp. That's part of waging the struggle for people. That's part of why I responded the way I did to hearing about a religious person attacking Mao as well as Stalin for "killing their own people." Along with refuting this, we should put back to such people: How about Moses? How about all that monstrous shit in the Bible—mass rape and slaughter, including the killing of babies, which is ordained and commanded by the Bible's god and that god's representatives like Moses? Even with people with whom we should be and need to be uniting, when they come up with rank shit, we need to call it out and hit back, ideologically. Let's put on our boxing gloves—get ready for some ideological battle here.
Someone else (a person from the "Occupy" movement) is quoted in a report as saying, "Well, I've been thinking about these big questions all my life, so what's so special about BA?" Okay, then, here are some questions:
Being defensive in the face of a comment like that?—you've got to be kidding me! There is not enough in our paper of: "Here's the reality and here's bullshit"—and if people don't like it, tough.
If that guy says my statement ("Reflection") on "Occupy" is the last straw—good. [This refers to someone who had been, or who had appeared to be, coming close to the RCP, but then went to join the camp of counter-revolution.] That is a reflection of the fact that my statement didn't just tail "Occupy," but went into things that needed to be gone into and hit at things that needed to be hit. That statement didn't say anything like "Occupy" is all fucked up; it recognized the positive side of "Occupy," and got into the material contradictions that are involved and laid out what we need.7
Is it true, or not true, that fundamentally everything else is bullshit? There are real tactical problems, and necessary tactical considerations, in putting forward the need for revolution and what revolution is actually all about and requires. But we have to talk about what revolution really means—we have to find the best and most mature ways to get across the essential point that revolution means overthrowing capitalism and replacing it with socialism (and then continuing on the socialist road toward the final goal of communism). We do have to take tactical concerns seriously into account, but we can't let tactical problems set the fundamental terms. And we have to tell people that anything else in the final analysis is bullshit, as it says in BAsics. And then the next paragraph in BAsics (3:1) "rounds things out," making clear that it is necessary and important to wage struggles against particular outrages and injustices of this system—and, in doing so, to unite with people who do not, at that point, agree with the need for revolution—while we act on the scientific understanding that all these outrages can only be fully and finally eliminated through revolution, aiming toward the final goal of communism throughout the world. Is that true or not? Or is that just our "narrative"? Our "mantra"? "Our thing" that we're feebly trying to impose on reality?
What is the problem in the world? What is the solution? We need to keep going back to that, and then get into the role that different people and social forces play in relation to that. We let these other people set the terms too much, instead of bringing them back to the real terms. What are the terms here? You want to say we don't need leadership?—let's talk about what you're going to encounter if you are really trying to fundamentally change the world, and what you need to do that. And if you have someone who has in reality emerged as a leader on another level than the rest of those around, you should celebrate it—it is precious, if your goal is really the emancipation of the masses of oppressed humanity, and ultimately humanity as a whole.
The problem is that, with people we encounter, and where they're coming from spontaneously, we're not talking about the same project. I am not upset that youth we encounter, who are newly awakening in mass movements, see things in ways that reflect a lot of spontaneous misunderstanding—but what are WE saying and doing about this? The point is not to club people over the head or swear at them. The point is, what do WE really understand, and point toward, about what is fundamentally needed? It is important whether people in the Party are actually (re)reading the Badiou polemic. There are real and important reasons why studying that was called for in the midst of this upsurge, with "Occupy" and some other things. The Badiou polemic continues to be highly relevant, and it is very substantial.
We can't put out every slanderous fire. But we have to have the right orientation and approach. There are positive things developing, objectively and through work we are doing, but they're not going to go anywhere good with a wrong orientation. We can't afford another rerun of the movie "The Movement Is Everything, the Final Aim Nothing"—where it's worse than just a rerun because, among other things, you're going to have people going to the camp of counter-revolution. I don't want to see that kind of rerun, or any rerun, of "The Movement Is Everything, the Final Aim Nothing."
The "to the masses" orientation has to apply to the Party and Party units as a whole—but also to more than just the units. We have to look at the whole thing. The Party leadership, and certainly those people with particular responsibility for speaking for the Party and being propagators of the new synthesis and the leadership of BA, have to put on their boxing gloves. The real issue got focused in a program/debate between Bernard Harcourt and Raymond Lotta—and I was glad to see the issue get joined in that way: Is being a permanent opposition within the existing system all you can do, while the machinery hums in the background, crushing lives and destroying spirits, to paraphrase the Badiou polemic?
Speaking of "Occupy," there's still a lot of American national chauvinism in the "Occupy" thing—some more conscious and some less. When we came forward in the '60s, one of the reasons we weren't arrogant in the way still too many youth today are, including many in the movements of today, is that you had a sense of your responsibility to the people of the world—you felt that responsibility. "Look at Vietnam, what they're doing in our name." This point that Raymond Lotta brought out about communizing the spoils of imperialism—how that's what anarchism ultimately amounts to—is very important. And that's what "Occupy" would represent, even in its most radical expression, left on its own terms and taken to its logical conclusion: more economic equity in the framework of being good patriotic Americans. Should we just whisper about this among ourselves, or should we take this out there to people?
We're not getting up in the morning itching for battle ideologically. We go out with our basic toolkit of revolutionary materials, and that's fine, that's important—but we have to be itching for ideological battle. Not sectarian diatribes—and that should be stopped if it starts. Leading people should be modeling this. Unity-struggle-unity. Advance through struggle—uniting with people, but advancing THROUGH STRUGGLE. We should be itching for ideological battle—we should be looking for people to join this with. The problems with this are related to why our own people don't take out the Cultural Revolution in our Party8—don't bring this up with people and get into it with them. If this is going to happen—if it's going to be done right, the way it should be—it's going to have to happen by Party leadership actually leading it and modeling it. If something happens that's important, call something at the bookstore and talk about this. If opportunists and counter-revolutionaries are running shit and confusing people, get people together and expose the bankruptcy of these people—set the terms the way they should be set, with the focus on the problem and the solution.
I was reading a report about the ISO9—people pulled to that trend canceling out on meeting with us because they're pulled by the shit that ISO puts out. We should be having things at the bookstores. Don't overcomplicate things—get right into it: what the deal is with this ISO, and why it won't lead anywhere good. What is this "S"—this "socialism"—they have in their name: what does that actually mean, and how do they say it will get brought about? Let's dissect this and expose what it really represents, and where it will lead—and won't lead. Or what the deal is with anarchism and why it just reinforces the existing system. If we can't do this, and do it well, we should learn how to—QUICKLY. And we should model that from the top. Don't answer rumors and slander with rumors and slander—don't descend to addressing things on that level and on those terms—answer it with substance, speaking to essential questions regarding problem and solution. This is not a matter of "sectarian squabbles"—and it should not be allowed to become that, or to be treated as that. This is nothing less than a matter of the fundamental needs and interests of the masses of oppressed people in the world, and ultimately humanity as a whole.
There should be a combative atmosphere in a good sense. We actually believe BAsics 3:1, and we know what the content of that revolution is. "Dictatorship of the proletariat" is not an unfortunate phrase (as the opportunist Kautsky once said as part of his attacks on Lenin). The dictatorship of the proletariat is a fucking good thing. Do you want to keep having vicious police repressing, brutalizing, and murdering masses of people—or a state power in the interests of masses of people and backing them up in overcoming exploitation and oppression? Why in the world would you be defensive? Yes, there have been some problems in how the dictatorship of the proletariat has been exercised in the experience of socialist society so far—but, mainly, there have been some really great things. I certainly don't feel apologetic about that. It's time we stop any defensiveness now. You're not going to get anywhere good without the DOP. All these contradictions you can't solve now—divisions among the masses, etc.—you won't solve them within the confines of this system, and you won't solve this without the DOP. These are simple, basic facts—and anything else, fundamentally and in the final analysis, is bullshit. Let's talk about that.
We cannot afford another round of squandering things and squandering people. If we do that, we are going to be much further behind. Part of the backdrop for the backward lines that some comrades are running into and tailing is also people getting demoralized about the "Occupy" thing. People are finding out even that's not so easy. First, "oh it's great..." But then there's state power that you have to go up against. State power exercised on behalf of the "one percent." They don't give a fuck about you—other than to stop you. If you persist in getting in their way, they'll do a lot more. Some of us have been through that—and if you're new to this, you need to learn about that, too. If people are not learning that, and we are not challenging them in order for them to learn what they need to learn, that's on us.
All this relates to how we view this fundraising campaign—this massive fundraising campaign to project BA Everywhere, to have that actually create societal impact, raise the level of discussion and debate throughout society about the state of the world and what can and should be done about that. It has everything to do with whether this campaign is really going to be what it needs to be—or falls short. We are not really going to succeed with this, and we are not going to make the critical breakthroughs overall that we need to make, unless leading people model this and lead with this, and insist that people do this—applying democratic centralism. If you get a report that speaks about a lot of problems comrades are encountering—and maybe also reflects problems with how these comrades are dealing with this, ways they are being pulled by spontaneity and tailing wrong lines—you deal with those contradictions and have people learn from how you deal with it.
Even small things can't be squandered. This whole situation we face can't be turned around by just winning and recruiting twos and twos. But we can't squander that either. We have to be thinking in terms of winning and recruiting masses, in waves. If we're not thinking in terms of masses, we won't even get twos and twos. But we also can't step over the twos and twos. Some people will go backward, and some will even go into the camp of counter-revolution—but we have to be winning and recruiting people, in growing numbers, and in waves.
We have to look at comrades' situation on different levels, and take tactical things seriously into account, but we cannot let that fundamentally set the terms as to whether people are being unleashed and utilized in the correct way. We cannot keep this knowledge we have about the history of our project, about the DOP and what the transition to communism has to be about—we can't keep that bottled up among a few people. We have to mobilize all positive factors and the synergy between them, to get this line out there, contending in a big way.
In carrying out ideological struggle—particularly when people are influenced by and caught up in bullshit—we have to strongly insist: that's not the question, here's the question. Whatever it is—dredging up and regurgitating unprincipled attacks against the Party and its leadership, or in talking about what's wrong with society—an important part of struggling with people is constantly recasting the terms: "that's not the question, this is the question." And then you have to back it up, with substance. But we do have people to back it up, and others should learn from them how to do it. We are perfectly willing to argue with you all day if you're principled and serious but not convinced—fine, we'll talk with you and struggle with you all day... unless you're not principled and not serious.
We cannot do things to organize people for revolution, and accumulate forces for revolution, on the wrong basis, where the wrong terms are being set. Not only do you lose people, you lose at least some to the camp of counter-revolution. When we do things on the wrong basis, we go backward and hurt ourselves. We have to have a core that's really won to what this is all about—including people who may not be quite ready for the next leap to join the Party, but are really close, and are being struggled with to make that further, crucial leap. That is the struggle with them: are they going to go forward to that? You can have your electrons around that solid core, but the electrons can't be the nucleus.
What HAVE we been working for, for nearly 50 years? What have we been learning through all this? Does everyone have to repeat the mistakes of the past? Do people in these movements today really think nobody ever tried this before? In the past upsurges, we didn't succeed in getting all the way to revolution—that's what remains to be done—and you don't have to repeat every lack of knowledge and mistake that we made. And, yes, we're here to teach you what we've learned. And not just in terms of this or that practical aspect of a particular movement, but in relation to the broader questions and the fundamental interests of humanity.
I read a comment by someone involved in the "Occupy" movement in NY—saying that the problem with the '60s was that people gave up, "but we're in it for the long haul." That's still the ignorance/arrogance thing. It goes along with the culture of tabloids, of short attention spans, and of solipsism and individualism. Do you really think there weren't many people in the '60s who were very dedicated and went up against a lot, and made many sacrifices, for a number of years, really trying to bring about radical change? Do you really think nobody has been in this for the real "long haul," and that nobody has learned anything in the process? There is too much of people proceeding from subjectivity—from how they see something from a limited perspective, or even how it "makes them feel." For example, whether we need leadership doesn't turn on the personal experience you've had, or "how it makes you feel." The question is what the masses of people are going through, and what's the solution to that? Is there an answer? What does the answer consist in? How it makes you feel is definitely not the question—how it makes you feel depends on what you understand. What is needed is not these tendencies of empiricism and individuals proceeding from their subjective impressions. No, we need a scientific method and approach—the scientific method and approach of communism, as it has been further developed through the new synthesis.
In terms of the communist vanguard, democratic centralism is not just a matter of discipline in an organizational sense, but a matter of how you actually come to know and transform the world in the most profound ways in the interests of humanity. You don't get a better understanding of reality if everyone in a party goes off in their own direction. There is an important lesson relating to this in my memoir, regarding the struggle with the Mensheviks within our Party who tried to take our Party into the swamp—supporting the revisionist coup in China after the death of Mao in 1976 and arguing for a whole revisionist line—and why it was important to apply d.c., even in the face of factionalizing by those Mensheviks. People should review and reflect on that experience and how it is summarized in the memoir. We definitely need lots of initiative and creative and critical thinking, within the right overall collective framework and with the right spirit and orientation. But you won't learn more all on your own, and you definitely don't learn more by having factions within a party. Factions among the communists (or alleged communists) of Lenin's time were a remnant of social democracy, which led to the collapse of the Second International of supposed socialist and communist parties. Having factions was a part of that social democracy—in reality a form of bourgeois democracy, in the name of "socialism"—which actually rendered support to the existing imperialist system, in opposition to real revolution and communism. The Bolsheviks breaking with and moving against that was part of rupturing with everything that led to the collapse of the Second International, the degeneration by almost every one of its parties into open support for "their" imperialists in the context of World War 1.
Can prohibiting factions be misused to suppress initiative and the necessary lively atmosphere and ferment within the Party? Of course. But the possibility of its being misused does not change the fact that it is correct, and is essential, not to have factions. It is correct and essential, not just in terms of organizational functioning and discipline, but even more fundamentally in terms of epistemology and epistemological discipline, in terms of increasingly gaining a correct understanding of reality and moving to radically transform it in the direction of communism.
We are not going to make it if we continue to have too much of a revolving door—where people come around us and become supportive, but then they are pulled away, and in some cases even turned against us, and we don't correctly recognize, and counter this, winning people over more deeply through really joining struggle with them. We will never make it, if we don't get down in the trenches ideologically and have a hunger for ideological struggle. Really, we don't think we can take on anarchism? Come on. You just have to ask a few questions. We can't answer the weak shit the anarchists put forward? Come on!
Who shot Lenin in the early years of the Soviet republic, seriously wounding him while attempting to assassinate him? It was forces that were essentially anarchist. Why did they do that? Because Lenin approached things from the largest perspective, proceeding from the interests of the proletariat as a class, in the most fundamental sense, and he understood what would happen if you allowed the terms of things to be set by workers in this or that factory, or a particular group of peasants, or the sailors on a ship, acting on the basis of their more particular and narrow interests. He understood that, if you proceeded in that way, different sections of the masses would be pitted against each other, in opposition to their most fundamental interests, socialism would be undermined and destroyed, and things would be dragged back to the anarchy of capitalist production and capitalist competition, and the overall dynamics of the capitalist system, with all its horrors.
Anarchism is an outlook representative of the petite bourgeoisie—and it will not and cannot lead to a radical rupture with and advance beyond capitalism, beyond the anarchistic dynamics of commodity production and exchange.10 There is much in the Badiou polemic that is very relevant in this regard.
As opposed to what people like Badiou try to argue, the "party-state paradigm"—state power, the dictatorship of the proletariat, led by a communist vanguard—is a very good, very necessary thing, so long as the line of that vanguard is correct. And you have to use that state power, to keep the revolution and to continue the revolution. Do we think the whole petite bourgeoisie in socialist society will just be wildly in favor of carrying forward revolutionary transformation in that society, that there won't be any opposition among them? As long as there is the material basis for the petite bourgeoisie to exist, including in socialist society, there will be manifestations of the assertion of the outlook and aspirations of the petite bourgeoisie. I think of students at a university in Canada who, during the high tide of the 1960s, staged a march under the banner: "as the future managerial class, we demand our rights." You're going to get that—whether expressed that crudely or not. You think that outlook doesn't exist in the "Occupy" thing? And, while this outlook basically corresponds to the material position and corresponding aspirations of the petite bourgeoisie, it's not only among the petite bourgeoisie itself that petit bourgeois ways of thinking exist—this kind of thinking exists among basic people too. The idea that we should tail this in any way is ridiculous and should be solidly combated and overcome.
Of course, the point is not that the petite bourgeoisie is the same, or should be treated in the same way, as the big bourgeoisie—the class that dominates ownership of the means of production and exercises dictatorship in capitalist society. The orientation is not that, in socialist society, dictatorship should be exercised over the petite bourgeoisie. In strategic terms, the point is, as Lenin put it, to live with and transform the petite bourgeoisie, through the course of the socialist transition to communism; and the relations involved are fundamentally non-antagonistic. But the terms cannot be set by an orientation that corresponds to the social position and spontaneous aspirations of the petite bourgeoisie, or there will be no revolution, no socialism, and no transition to communism.
My "Reflection" on "Occupy" welcomed "Occupy," but then went into the depth and complexity of the contradictions involved and what needs to happen if you don't want to maintain a society and a world marked by profound inequalities, oppression and exploitation—if you don't want people to continue suffering needlessly in this world.
We really have to come out strongly on this. We have to sharpen up this orientation. And we have to use this website and newspaper of ours, for many things—but including quick, concise, and sharp polemics. "What's wrong with Slavoj Žižek?"—that is, what's wrong with his viewpoint? What about Gramsci? Can't we do a few paragraphs on Althusser? Is it so hard? Can't we do simple things that provoke people, in the good sense? Can't we do that? And people do learn by comparing and contrasting. They learn by doing, but also by compare/contrast. We're cheating people and cheating ourselves by not struggling with them and joining the questions with them that are of objective importance—questions that they are often raising in somewhat distorted form (not always, but often). This is not surprising, because how they see things, spontaneously, is refracted through the predominant bourgeois outlook in society. Even people who are not consciously doing so, but are more spontaneously doing so, still represent the outlook and aspirations of classes other than the proletariat when they open their mouths to speak. The fact that you, in "Occupy," are discovering that it's much harder than you thought: ask yourself WHY it's much harder than you thought it was. It's not just that you are confronted by a wall of police. Why are they there, and why are they acting the way they do? And why does Mayor Bloomberg call them out and you can't? There are bigger, more powerful social forces at work, and underneath those forces are dynamics—the fundamental dynamics of this system—that even they don't control. Can't we get into joining these kinds of things with people? How to wield spokespeople and leadership to do this?—we have to pay systematic attention to that. We need to become good at quickly developing the forms for doing this. If five or 10 show up for a meeting or discussion, then give them something, some basic substance, to take out and join with others.
Without this basic orientation and approach, there won't be a real fundraising battle. We won't get where we need to go unless these questions are being fought through on the correct basis. There will be funds raised, but there will be no massive, multi-faceted fundraising campaign unless we lead with this orientation. Not only with the masses, but if you go to people who do have real money and you tail, you won't get anywhere. We need to put it to these people, straight up, and struggle on this basis: If you give your money to something like Obama, and not to this BA Everywhere fundraising campaign, it will have bad results and bad consequences for the masses of people and for humanity. We need a revolution, a communist revolution, and what you think you know about this is NOT true.
We can't let "Stalin and Mao were mass murderers" just go down. More than a few people sit in a privileged position in this country, with the "luxury" of accepting "verdicts" on crucial things without really bothering to learn the truth about them, because people have been slaughtered on a massive scale—in reality, and without hyperbole, their lives have been snuffed out in the tens and hundreds of millions—by the rulers of this country and the workings of their system, all over the world. People just can't get away with accepting the slanders about communism and refusing to face the real, truly monstrous crimes of this system. There are tactics and tact in struggling with people—but strategically we cannot let this go down. We can't let people go on talking about how Qadaffi (or whoever is identified as the villain of the moment) is somehow the worst person in the world. Can we talk about reality? We need to join these things with people—from a lofty and principled position, and with substance, but sharply.
If we don't do this, we are going to go backward and toward the abyss. Some of what I am talking about can happen right away, including with the website and newspaper. Can't we back our shit up?
BAsics is very important—a very valuable tool—and we need to be wielding it in even greater ways. But it is a distillation of much bigger things. Do we think Marx is obsolete? No, there is much to learn, much of importance, in studying Marx. In speaking of the shopkeeper and the democratic intellectual, for example, Marx points out that they are driven to the same problems and solutions—not just the solutions. There is a lot to learn from repeatedly going back to this. There is great importance to correctly, scientifically understanding, and presenting, the problem—to setting the terms on the right, scientifically grounded basis.
On Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy.11 This is on a high level of theoretical abstraction, even while efforts were made to break that down as much as possible, without "dumbing it down." It is an important work and definitely serves a very important purpose. But we need to take the line that's in there and go with it—popularize it, without distorting it or watering it down. And we need things besides that work which deal with the same basic subjects. There is a need for things that are shorter, hard-hitting—boom boom. We should correctly understand and deal with, and not mis-handle, the simplicity-complexity contradiction. Dealing with the complexity of things is necessary, and very important—and we should struggle with people when they want things to be too simple, oversimplified, when they don't want to do the work you have to do to really understand and therefore be able to transform the world in the way it needs to be transformed. But we also need forms for boiling things down to their essence—things that are simple in that sense. If someone wants to say, "It's more complex than that," we can speak to the complexity, and we do speak to it.
We definitely should not do what opportunists do, where they vulgarize things, including by chopping up and distorting the statements of people they disagree with, in an unprincipled, instrumentalist way. But we shouldn't overburden ourselves with the complexity of things. There is a trend like that—to overburden ourselves with attempts to deal with complexity, to where we mumble and then don't get to the point. We don't want simplicity in the sense of vulgarizing and taking cheap shots—but in the sense of really getting to the essence in a concise and basic way. There is a point to boiling the complex down to the simple and basic, so long as it is accurate.
You want the masses to learn?—let them see someone doing this. That's one of the main ways masses learn. Training them involves letting them see how it's done. Let them see the confrontation of opposing views. When we had the struggle vs. the Bundists (nationalist opportunists, posturing as communists), way back in the day, a few of us wrote things and everyone grappled with them. And people learned a lot.
In my memoir, there is a part that talks about this guy, Robere, who was a dogmatist who intimidated a lot of people, back in the day, by spouting from memory passages from Mao and Lenin, and so on. He created this "larger than life" image around himself. But some of us knew enough to recognize that rote recitation of "classics"—in the manner of a religious zealot repeating scripture—did not mean that there was a lot of substance, or a correct method for that matter. Then, one time, he got up and spoke at some demonstration at a courthouse, and in listening to him it struck me: "there is nothing there"—no real substance behind the supposedly intimidating front. And there is nothing there with these other lines, as far as problem/solution. This is an important point of orientation. Robere wasn't speaking to reality, and wasn't correctly dealing with it, and he had no "solution" other than dogma.
In short, with these opportunist forces: strategically, there's nothing there. And especially when you get to solution, there's nothing there. Now, it's different with someone like a Chomsky, or Arundhati Roy. There is much they do that is positive. In contrast with opportunists and counter-revolutionaries, their orientation and intent is to proceed in a principled way, and they do a lot of good work particularly in exposing many crimes of oppressive forces throughout the world, with a lot of focus on bringing to light the crimes of U.S. and western imperialism. But, in fundamental terms, and particularly when it comes to the solution, there is nothing there—no real orientation or program that can actually lead to a radically different world. With the opportunists and counter-revolutionaries, there is nothing there at all—that is, they have nothing positive to offer—they can only do damage. And we do have something—there is something here—because we are dealing with reality, that's what we're grappling with, scientifically, and struggling to transform. We have learned a lot in this way, and of course we have much more to learn—but we have a foundation to learn a lot more as we go forward.
It is not a matter of preoccupation with opportunists and counter-revolutionaries. But we do have to take into account, and actively counter, the one thing they can do: cause real damage through their counter-revolutionary activity. They are profiting from the larger putrid culture that still holds sway to far too great a degree, and profiting from the fact that they are not seeking to really go up against the powers-that-be, but in fact can and do act in ways that not only don't threaten but that actually serve those powers. We do have to actively take on the harm they are able to do, with their counter-revolutionary activity, particularly with today's technology and in the context of today's putrid culture. We have to take that shit on sharply and powerfully, even while not becoming overly preoccupied with it, in order to counter—and to provide a positive, substantive and uplifting alternative to—their opportunist and counter-revolutionary garbage. Again, the point is not to answer them on their terms, getting dragged down into the gutter—the point is to answer with substance, and by focusing things on the fundamental questions related to problem and solution, to what is needed to actually transform the world in an emancipatory way.
The "advanced" who, in today's situation, are simply "immune" to this all this "stuff out there" simply don't exist—or are very few. People come forward the way they come forward—this is part of the objective reality we're dealing with—and people running into, and even being influenced by, opportunist and counter-revolutionary shit is part of the objective reality we have to become better at recognizing and dealing with—struggling effectively to bring more and more people through it. Too often our response to this kind of stuff is watered down and namby-pamby. Again, we need to answer this with substance—but not in a way that is merely academic and educational, in the wrong sense. There is a battle to be waged. Part of the struggle we need to wage, an important part, is over the question: what matters, and what should we focus on and get into? Is it tabloidism, gossip, rumor-mongering and slander—or lines? Of course it should be lines, and where they will lead. We have to fight for people—which means fighting with people, ideologically—in order to make breakthroughs.
The fact that some people get drawn forward and then get turned away because we are "making too much of BA" isn't happening in a vacuum—or simply because of the influence of the ruling class and the dominant institutions and what prevails in society generally. Opportunists and counter-revolutionaries are telling them shit. They work on people that we draw forward. "Work on" doesn't really get it. Often they descend on people, including through the Internet. Some of this is studied counter-revolution. To use a metaphor, if people are sitting in the bushes and taking potshots at you, and you ignore it because you don't want to be dragged down to a petty level, or into the gutter, then you are making a mistake—you have to deal with it, without allowing yourself to get dragged down. If we don't sharply deal with this, shame on us. Not to answer it on its terms, but by pointing out the bankruptcy of this—and, in some cases, the outright piggery as well as the ideological and political bankruptcy.
I recently read again our response to Mike Ely's "Nine Letters." That response is quite good.12 In particular I was struck by the exposure and refutation of Ely's rank relativism and agnosticism—his attempt to undermine the understanding that, while there are of course things human beings cannot know with certainty at any given time, on the other hand there is much human knowledge that has a well-founded and well-established basis in reality and can be judged to be true, with a great deal of certainty, and does not simply have a tenuous link to reality, to use Ely's formulation. As part of our response, since Ely had invoked—and in fact had crudely distorted—Mao in an attempt to buttress Ely's agnosticism and relativism, the following was posed, pointedly, to Ely: Does he think that dialectical and historical materialism, the need for revolution and the seizure of state power, the DOP and socialism as a transition to communism, and the continuation of classes and class struggle in socialist society—do these have a tenuous link to reality? And would Mao agree? There is no good answer to that, if you are proceeding according to the opportunist "logic" of Mike Ely. He has also never been held to account on his shit with Nepal—tailing all the revisionism there and attacking us for not tailing it. Apparently, being an opportunist and a counter-revolutionary means never having to be accountable for anything—so long as you attack what is genuinely revolutionary and communist, you can get a "pass" from some people for just about anything you say and do. When he first quit the Party, Ely's opportunism and his attacks on me and the Party were mainly rationalization for giving up—for capitulating to imperialism and everything that represents—while putting up a shabby pretense of still being some kind of "communist" or "revolutionary." But here something Lenin pointed to is very relevant. It is one thing to make a mistake, Lenin said (although capitulating to imperialism, turning your back on and attacking what actually represents revolution and communism—even stooping so low as to appeal to ignorant and crude prejudice against communism and communist organization, invoking the specter of "thought control" within the RCP, and so on... garbage literally on the level of a J. Edgar Hoover—is more than a mere mistake; but to continue with Lenin's essential point) if a mistake is persisted in—and if "profound justifications" are sought for this—then this can become something truly monstrous. This is the basic process that has taken place with Ely.
Again, the point is not to have a disproportionate preoccupation with these opportunists and counter-revolutionaries, but to take seriously the fact that they can, and do, cause real harm, especially in today's situation and with the putrid culture that prevails, including far too much among people who claim to be some kind of opposition. It is part of the process that some people who are initially drawn toward us—especially if they are worked, and struggled, with well—will continue to make leaps forward, while some others will fall back after a certain point. But, if things are dividing out the wrong way with this, something is wrong. Part of the problem is that we don't join these issues sharply enough with people. Too often there is too much of trying to evade or finesse things, rather than getting into the essential questions frontally and sharply. Our sharp edge should not be dulled.
When people come around, and then they begin to get a sense of how big what we're talking about is—how hard and complex, and how much up against what most people think, as well as being up against the state—they discover this, and they come to a juncture. Now you're in a different stage with people than when they first came around. The questions are not simply the same as when they first came around, first got on the escalator. And the things that are pulling them down, pulling them away from this, are not just the objective things that come from the bourgeoisie and its ruling institutions and ideas—what also pulls on them is what these other forces are saying, what they are saying about our Party and BA and the whole communist project, really. These forces do fight for their line—such as it is. We certainly cannot afford not to fight for ours. To really counter their shit, we need to get, deeply and sharply, into what the differences are—the real and substantial differences that matter—and why this is right and these other people are wrong: why there really is "nothing there," when it comes to an analysis of the fundamental problem and the solution, why in fact everything else is bullshit.
As you learn more about the actual process of building a movement for revolution, and carrying out that revolution when the conditions for that emerge, the more complicated and difficult it seems, particularly as you first come to grips with these contradictions. But the fact is that actually making revolution involves and requires consistently applying a scientific method and approach to identify and analyze, and to develop the means to radically transform, the contradictions that are bound up with this process. We have gone to work, in a substantial way, on these problems—and we have more work to do to solve these problems as we go forward. We have a foundation, and there is a need for new people to join in and help do the further work that is needed. And the truth is, nobody else has anything underneath what they're talking about, because it doesn't correspond to reality. This point needs to be driven home.
This has to be very sharp. In the current situation, and in terms of the forces coming forward in the movements of today, we are dealing to a very large degree with forces representing the petite bourgeoisie. Something like "Occupy," while it has attracted and drawn in some people from the basic masses, is largely and essentially a movement of the petite bourgeoisie, and you are going to get lines, tendencies, and pulls characteristic of the petite bourgeoisie—coming at things from a different point of view than that which represents the interests of the proletariat, in the most fundamental sense. Approaching this scientifically, we can see that this is what we're dealing with, in terms of things like "Occupy"—even with its very definite positive aspects. We had better understand that and struggle accordingly. And, again, this way of thinking is not limited to just the petite bourgeoisie itself—it exists more broadly in society. Add to that the fact that people actually know very little about communism and its history—and most of what they think they know is wrong. With all this in mind, it should stand out very prominently what is profoundly wrong with the idea that we should tail this, rather than waging principled but fierce struggle, ideologically, with what is wrong—with what represents a misguided, unscientific sense of the problem and solution.
Yes, we should discuss and wrangle with people over questions like what direction movements that arise, like "Occupy," should take, as such. That is part of our responsibility, even an important part, but it is not our main responsibility. Our main and essential responsibility is building a movement for revolution—and we have to approach everything from the fundamental perspective of how it relates to that.
The problem that some of our comrades have, in relation to movements like "Occupy," stems to a significant degree from the fact that they are not proceeding systematically from an understanding that there is not an antagonism but there is a real contradiction between what's represented by things like "Occupy" and where things need to go. There needs to be unity/struggle/unity to resolve contradictions among the people—but if we are not proceeding from the correct foundation and the correct, scientifically based understanding, we will not have a real chance of correctly handling the very real contradictions and the unity/struggle/unity dialectic.
Problem/solution. Problem/solution. Problem/solution. Everything revolves around problem-solution: what the fundamental problem in the world is, and what the solution is. In a fundamental sense, this includes me and my role. The emphasis we give to my leadership, and what it has brought forward and concentrates, has real meaning and great importance—but only in the context of problem-solution. It is not simply an appendage or addendum or footnote to that—but it IS in that context.
This applies also to polemics—in an overall and fundamental sense, they should focus on and continually ground things in the problem/solution.
Keep in mind: "there is nothing there." Polemics should focus to a large degree on the fact that what is represented by these various other forces—and in particular organized opportunist and counter-revolutionary forces—will not lead to anything good and is actually working against what is needed.
One: There is the phenomenon that when you are drawn to our Party and what it represents, and then you step out with this, people representing the disaffected but self-absorbed petite bourgeoisie bray and bark. This is fundamentally how we have to understand these attacks—and, in a living way, explain it to others, including those who come in for such braying and barking.
Two: Every time we tail, we kick ourselves in the teeth and get seriously set back.
Three: We are for revolution and communism. You opportunists don't like it because, in reality—in terms of the content of what you put forward—you want to make this system "work"; your vision and aspirations actually do not extend beyond the narrow horizon of this system, to paraphrase Marx. Let's recast the terms to what they actually are. Our Party, and in a concentrated way BA, represents the leadership that is needed and the struggle for revolution, and the state, the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is the necessary outcome of that struggle— and in turn is a transition to the final goal of a communist world. That is why people, and in particular those who constitute political and literary representatives of the petite bourgeoisie, react the way they do. They want to make this system "work," at least for themselves. That's not what we're about.
We should take a lesson from the experience in the Bay Area with the group STORM some years back. Unfortunately, there was a marked tendency on the part of comrades there to be intimidated by STORM, because these comrades were approaching things incorrectly, looking too much at surface phenomena and not grounding themselves in the deeper dynamics of things. STORM seemed to be a "going thing," for a while, and was wielding nationalist identity politics as a weapon, while putting up some kind of a pretense of being Marxist, or in some way against the system. But where is STORM now? And where are the people who were put forward as its leading lights—someone like Van Jones—what's the deal with him now?! Openly working for this system. Which is a kind of leap, but a leap that, in a real sense, is an extension of the outlook and approach of something like STORM. This is not a matter of "personal traits," but of line—of outlook and method, and the strategic orientation flowing from that. Of course, so long as there are class distinctions, and so long in particular as there are people constituting the political and literary representatives of the petite bourgeoisie, including among the oppressed nationalities, there will continue to be different incarnations of the kind of phenomenon that STORM represented. But lessons should be drawn from the experience with STORM—and the fact that STORM itself is now defunct!
Apparently Chris Hedges declared that "Occupy" is "too big to fail." This is simply wrong. "Occupy," as such, will have a certain life—and, as I put it in my "Reflection" on "Occupy," it can make a significant contribution to the revolution that is needed, IF the revolutionary communists approach this correctly. "Occupy" itself will have a certain life and, as has already happened, it will face a series of challenges; and how those challenges are dealt with will have a major role in determining what course it takes and whether and in what ways it can continue to have a mainly positive impact. Right now this is concentrated in whether there will be a powerful challenge to the concentrated move by the ruling class to suppress and disperse "Occupy." There are important things that we can and should seek to do in relation to that, but the most important thing that we should be doing is accumulating forces for revolution, in relation to this movement and in other ways as well. If we don't really and deeply grasp this, and act on it, then not only "Occupy" but our Party, too, will either go out of existence or be absorbed into the political scenery of bourgeois society, to paraphrase the recent polemic against Slavoj Žižek13.
Can anyone claim that they've never been influenced by the line that something good has happened, so let's not spoil it by bringing in the solid core, by bringing alive the need for revolution and the final goal of communism? No it happens—but we have to be very attuned to that, recognizing and struggling against that.
We have to think about different ways of working with the advanced around us—to struggle things through and make some much-needed advances in bringing forward new forces, new initiators of the new stage of the communist movement—accumulating forces for revolution and recruiting more of the advanced into the Party. We need to make breakthroughs in all three objectives of the overall Campaign we are carrying out: really putting revolution and communism on the map; making BA a household name and what BA represents a subject of substantive discussion and debate throughout society; and bringing forward waves of new initiators of the communist revolution. This—and in particular the third objective—requires winning people to be really partisan for and then fully committed to THIS. We have to get more and more people to the point where they want to go out and take on the braying hounds. Let's instill that Black Panther Party spirit from back in the day. The BPP members really believed they were the vanguard, and they didn't want to hear any shit from you about how they weren't. We need much more of that basic spirit. The point is not to attack people, but to have a spirit of itching for ideological struggle.
We need to unleash and marshal the people who feel that way—give them substance, and get them out there fighting for this.
We don't think enough in terms of fighting for people who are being influenced toward wrong lines. Let's go up against the spontaneity—let's put on our boxing gloves. Let's jump into ideological contention, spoiling for a fight. If you are a leading person, take some others, including advanced masses, with you when you do this. Take these masses coming around with you. Engage these other lines. Call them out: "You don't even know what the problem is, let alone the solution." Then get into the substance. We have a developed line with a lot of substance. But you have to fight for it. If you want to win masses you have to fight, and you have to take masses with you so they see the contending lines and which ones have substance and are based on reality, and which ones don't and aren't.
How do we make sure that people go out in the right way to do revolutionary work? One of the advantages of BAsics is that this book lets you do good work. But, as we've seen, you can do work with BAsics with a wrong line seriously contending in that work. BAsics is not some kind of inoculation against the wrong line—it's a factor that creates more favorable conditions for work to be done correctly. With many people we need to figure out how to simplify things without being reckless, and get people into the mix and swirl of what's going on these days.
Let's pose a series of very basic questions. Do you think that this outrage of police brutality is going to be eliminated with a few sit-ins? If not, is that tolerable? And if not, further, what is it going to take to get rid of this outrage? Do you think this is the only outrage of this system, and how are all those other outrages going to get dealt with? How does what we are doing fit into a revolutionary movement to get rid of this whole thing? This resistance is great as a beginning and part of what needs to happen—but not so great as just a thing in itself and unto itself. Bring people back to what they know, and have a basis for knowing.
Do you really think that "Occupy" just growing and growing is going to solve everything we're about? People in the Party and close to us know the answers, and "forget" them. We have to constantly bring them back to what they know. There are line questions and the pull of spontaneity.
In situations where there are increased numbers of masses awakening and in motion politically, and we are working to relate to that, what we say matters more. And the more it matters, the greater the pull to tone it down. When you introduce something like my "Occupy" statement, it breaks up some of the unity that exists, even as it has the potential to unite people on a higher level. It is the same thing with regard to STOP "Stop & Frisk." Is it a static linear thing of more and more unity—or is it unity-divide-more unity, through junctures and struggles? Comrades, and in particular comrades with leadership responsibility, know the answers. So why does it happen that people lose sight of this and tend to tail? One, the pull of "the movement is everything, the final aim nothing"—and part of you is pulled toward thinking that revolution and communism is not viable, or is in some abstract realm, unrelated to what is going on now. And two, the pull to thinking: bringing this in is going to disrupt the unity we've forged, when we've got something good going here. This has to be fought through, in repeated rounds of struggle. Comrades need to see their responsibilities above all as communists, and not as people dealing in a particular realm.
We should use the website and newspaper to model things. Even a short piece, like the one I wrote on "The American Enterprise,"14 can concentrate a lot. If someone raises the present Constitution of the USA, we can respond by saying things like, "that belongs in the museum"—as opposed to an academic argument. The effect of a punchy response like that is to change the terms to more what they should be. And then you get further into the substance. That Constitution represents the past, here's what we need for the future—and point to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)15. Use the website and newspaper to model things like that. They should have some more in-depth analysis, but there is also a definite need for a lot of shorter, biting stuff.
We have to consistently lead with the correct line, and most fundamentally the correct, scientific method and approach. That has to be what we're striving for. That's the standard we have to set and aim for—nothing less. And, even as we are persevering to make breakthroughs in things we have identified as crucial, we need to keep looking afresh at things, and not fall into ruts and routines. We have to adhere to certain fundamental matters of principle and keep our eye on the prize of decisive objectives, while looking at things anew repeatedly.
We do have to get more focused in what we do and how we wield our forces, but the principal and decisive thing is leading with the correct line, and then how to get the correct combinations and synergies. We don't want to just judiciously wield our forces—we want, we need, to grow. We want more people to carry out the correct line and not some other line. Attention needs to be paid to how to lead that and effect the right combinations and synergies to make that happen. Think about the effect of a leading person going with a comrade in the work and doing the work correctly and fighting it through and summing it up with them. And we should involve advanced masses where that's appropriate. Masses learn by seeing things done correctly and seeing them in contention with other things. There are people who can do this right, and do it really well, but there are still too few—we need to wield them correctly and combine them, correctly, with basic Party members and people who are coming forward, so others can learn and develop.
How do we wield the strengths we have and the strengths of people around us in the best possible combinations and synergies, and get into the real-world places where this can go on? We can't just bring masses to our bookstores—we have to do that, but we also have to go TO the masses. This goes along with simplify, simplify, simplify. Radical simplicity. Get people together in groups and go places with somebody who's gonna set the terms in the right way.
Because I have given so much emphasis to the confrontation of opposing lines where the contradiction is in fact antagonistic—dealing with opportunists and counter-revolutionaries—I don't want to underplay the importance of non-antagonistic struggle, struggle with people with whom it is also correct to seek unity, even while carrying out ideological struggle over big questions and matters of principle. The difference is that there are many people who disagree with us, who are objectively representatives of an incorrect outlook, which ultimately leads things away from where they need to go, but they haven't made themselves in effect an appendage of the ruling class. They are not setting out to destroy our Party. And they are not framing their disagreements with us in the guise of "revolution" or "communism." This relates to why the Chinese Communist Party made clear, in its polemics against the Soviet revisionists in the 1960s, that unity with many forces who do not claim to be communists is possible, but there can be no unity with revisionists—phony communists who distort and oppose the revolutionary core of communism, while attacking those who uphold and act on the basis of real, revolutionary communism.
The emphasis on the need to hit back, with substance, ideologically, against the opportunist and counter-revolutionary forces that do make it their business to wage unprincipled attacks against our Party and BA—this should not lead to ignoring or undermining the importance of engagement and carrying forward the unity/struggle/unity process with what are objectively non-antagonistic representatives of other classes and strata. That remains very important.
1. Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, September 2008 (RCP Publications, 2009) [back]
2. BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, RCP Publications, 2011 [back]
3. The "because" statement refers to the following:
Because of Bob Avakian and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal. [back]
4. After BA made these observations, Revolution/revcom.us published "The 'Illuminati' Is a Myth! Wake Up and Deal With the REAL Problem!," #272. June 17, 2012. [back]
5. "Alain Badiou's 'Politics of Emancipation': A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World," by Raymond Lotta, Nayi Duniya, and K. J. A., Demarcations: A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic, Issue Number 1, Summer-Fall 2009 [back]
7. "A Reflection on the 'Occupy' Movement: An Inspiring Beginning...and the Need to Go Further," by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Revolution #250, November 13, 2011 [back]
8. For a discussion of the Cultural Revolution in the RCP, see Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Part VI, "A Cultural Revolution Within the RCP," begins on page 34 of the pamphlet. [back]
9. International Socialist Organization [back]
10. For an analysis of the driving force of anarchy as the most essential expression of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism, see "On the 'Driving Force of Anarchy' and the Dynamics of Change—A Sharp Debate and Urgent Polemic: The Struggle for a Radically Different World and the Struggle for a Scientific Approach to Reality," by Raymond Lotta, Revolution, November 4, 2013. [back]
12. "Stuck in the 'Awful Capitalist Present' or Forging a Path to the Communist Future? A Response to Mike Ely's Nine Letters," by a writing group in the RCP, 2008 [back]
13. "Vilifying Communism and Accommodating Imperialism: The Sham and Shame of Slavoj Žižek's 'Honest Pessimism,'" by Raymond Lotta, Revolution #256, January 15, 2012 [back]
14. "The American Enterprise—Property and Slavery: Peculiar Notions of 'Freedom' and Profound Contradictions," by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Revolution #252, December 11, 2011 [back]
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
To the editors:
I have received a number of comments on the letter/reflection I wrote about the documentary on Mississippi Freedom Summer ("Mississippi Freedom Summer—Deep and Important Lessons"). In thinking about these, there is one important point that I would like to add. It's like a "p.s." to a letter—but one of those postscripts that bear on the letter as a whole.
One thing that very strongly came through in the film was not only how these students were willing to put a lot on the line, but how making this choice gave powerful and irreplaceable meaning to the lives of those who made it. All that SNCC offered was intense struggle side by side with masses up against a vicious, violent power structure... some hardship and a whole lot of risk... and the chance to change the world in a meaningful way. People agonized—one woman describes how the volunteers were told to call home the night the news came in of the disappearance of Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman and how her parents told her that she should "do what she had to do." Stacked against what U.S. society had to offer—the promise of a comfortable spot in society if they'd just go by the rules—people made their choice. And they almost all ended up casting their lot with the brave people in Mississippi—the SNCC volunteers who had been "on the ground" for several years, and the masses themselves who had been braving murder and other reprisals for years with very little notice or outcry.
It is clear from the interviews and the show overall that this choice—to be part of something uplifting, centered on the fight against injustice, no matter what the potential sacrifices—was one that not only contributed to changing the course of history, but also gave tremendous meaning to the lives of those who made it. This comes through overall, and especially in the final interviews of the show. One woman describes how she fell "in love with the people... the wholeness that you have when you're working as part of something that's meaningful..." When you feel that, she said, "It's very, very hard to go back ... to some staid life." A man says, "I hope I made a difference [to the people in Mississippi], but I don't have any doubt that the person who benefitted the most from my being in Mississippi was me... [I got] an understanding of race that it's impossible [for a white person] to get any other way."
It is clear, as you watch, that this is not being said in some narrow sense, where the point was "self-fulfillment" or "finding out who you were"—the point was actually that in the process of subordinating himself, subordinating his own interests to something larger, a whole world opened up. In the course of doing that, something powerful and important happened to the people who did it.
This contrasts sharply with the dominant ethos of self-indulgence in today's society. Even among those who want to do something beyond that, the path of "social entrepreneurialism"—of "doing well while doing good"—is held out as the alternative. How puny that is up against what SNCC offered then... and what revolution offers today.
This is true for students—and it is true as well for young people on the bottom of society, facing futures where no real promise is held out. The chance to eradicate injustice, to change the world and to learn and connect, to be part of transforming people and in the process to change yourself—there is no greater opportunity that exists.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
It was 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning, I heard this banging noise on my door. Seemed like they was just tearing down the door; it was very loud, I didn’t know what was goin’ on, I thought somebody was beatin’ on my car. I thought it was an earthquake at first, and then I thought somebody was breakin’ into the house, which they were. They was breakin’ into the house. I got up, and woke him up [her husband], like, “What is that noise?” So he got up and went to the front and was like, “It’s the police.”
By that time they was comin’ in on us, and sayin’ “get down, get down.” And I just started screaming, I was just letting them know, I have an autistic son, I had my mother and my mother-in-law there, they both sick, with heart problems and different stuff like that... I had to really scream, and pretty much put my life in danger. At that point I just really did not care because I felt it wasn’t right, I didn’t know what they was comin’ for; I hadn’t done nothing wrong; he hadn’t—we hadn’t done anything wrong. (Terri)
In the early morning hours of Tuesday, June 17, an army of 1,300 heavily armed FBI agents and LAPD cops spread out over South Central Los Angeles, smashing down doors and busting into houses and apartments. Armed with arrest warrants, names, and addresses, teams of 10 or more cops tore off metal security doors and stormed inside each address, aiming their shotguns and rifles at everyone—from small children to elderly grandparents. Then they forced the residents outside in the darkness and cold while they searched the houses for their “targets.” This is what “serving a warrant” looks like in the inner city.
At least 10 cops came into our house. They had guns, shotguns, handguns, pointed into the house. One had a scope with a light on it, pointed at me, and he was just screamin’, and my son said, “Look, that’s my mom, take that gun off of her, she don’t have nothing.” I had just had a mild stroke and by all the noise I grabbed my left side, and I said, “Wait a minute, why are you comin’ in here like this? Why are you doin’ this to us?” (Terri’s mother-in-law, Matti)
I was handcuffed, because I was screaming I guess, goin’ off at them... I did not want them putting them guns in my child’s face, or scaring my child, or any of that. They put the handcuffs on my husband and took him outside; he don’t have any clothes on, he’s only in his boxers, and no shirt, no socks, nothing else. (Terri)
He didn’t have a stitch on. He was saying, “Mom, it’s going to be OK, mom, please don’t get upset, you just had a mild stroke.” They thought it was funny. Cause every last one of ’em was standing right in a line, on the sidewalk, laughing about this. They upset her mom also... They couldn’t help but see the wheelchair. They didn’t know she didn’t have no legs... She had to say, “I don’t have no damn legs and I ain’t rollin on no floor.” (Matti)
These raids targeted individual addresses; and they were not focused on one neighborhood, but were spread out over different parts of South Central. Because of this, the entire operation was carried out largely in secret—neighbors down the street or on nearby blocks were largely unaware of what was taking place at the time. This should send a chill down the spine of anyone who recognizes the scent of Nazi Germany, and the tactics of the Gestapo that rounded up Jewish people during Hitler’s regime.
The coverage by the mainstream media of this overwhelming mobilization of violence amounted to reprinting the FBI and LAPD press releases as “news.” And barely a word has been written since that day about this early morning of terror.
At the courthouse Terri and Matti ran into other women they knew, who told similar stories. One young pregnant woman said they broke into her house and took her child’s father out of bed. Another woman was leaving to go to work when they came to the door. She said “Jesus! He don’t do nothing. He works! So why they took him?” And the 19-year-old boyfriend was arrested.
Terri said the same thing about her husband, now in his 40s:
He hasn´t done anything but stayed out of trouble, do odd jobs... My brother-in-law has his own business, and he does that. He doin’ that to keep busy. And he been doin’ odd painting jobs around the neighborhood. He didn’t have warrants. No driving record or anything like that, no bail warrant, none of that. No violation, parole warrants, nothing. He was doing odd jobs with his uncle, and painting, stuff like that.
Another said that the person arrested from their house had already been to jail, done time, parole, all that. Others said that those arrested from their homes had good jobs. The point they were making is that these weren’t “body warrants;” they weren’t arrests of people believed to have committed a crime. And then people talked about how these raids would make a desperate situation worse:
He’s gonna have done lost his job—if he get out then what’s he gonna have? Nothing. You know... it’s enough goin’ on as it is; people can’t pay the bills, and losin’ their homes, just by the system. It’s ridiculous... They really have made things worse. Because they have families they tryin’ to take care of, and the little jobs they do get, they tryin’ to hold on to it... They got kids. Why would you take them away from this? Why!? You can’t find a job with that type of record.
All of those arrested in this massive police strike are scheduled to appear in federal court in downtown LA on August 14.
None of those arrested are being released on bail; and friends or family members are not allowed to visit them for 90 days. But none of this is supposed to matter; after all, the public has been assured that those arrested are the “worst of the worst.” The authorities claim to have arrested 50 members or associates of a street gang known as the Five Deuce Broadway Gangster Crips.
Those arrested have been indicted for conspiracy, based on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law. The FBI claims the indictment “outlines two decades of criminal conduct, including murders, robberies, extortion, witness intimidation, and narcotics trafficking.” It alleges that, over 27 years, members of the gang committed four murders; in one case fired shots at California Highway Patrol officers, committed robberies, and sold drugs near schools and playgrounds.
RICO was created decades ago with the alleged purpose of getting the leaders of Mafia gangs who were “shot-callers” but didn’t themselves carry out the crimes. Now it’s being used for an entirely different purpose—the incarceration of large sections of basic people on the basis of “guilt by association,” and terrorizing the masses of whole sections of the inner cities.
What this really means is that if the Feds allege that you are, or have ever been, “associated” with this group, then you are now being arrested and held accountable for any crime committed by anyone else the FBI claims is, or was, also associated with this group. Keep in mind these are not unsolved crimes; someone has already been convicted and done time for them.
Someone who witnessed the arrests said they saw at least five people in their 50s in custody. And there are others arrested who were no more than 19 or 20 years old. That means among those rounded up, there are people who may have left any meaningful connection to the gang years ago; and others who are now facing the mandatory 10 years in prison, or who are so young they couldn’t have had any involvement in the vast majority of these alleged crimes.
This is not the first time that federal, state, and local police forces have carried out this kind of massive coordinated raid. Less than a year earlier, more than 800 of these storm troopers were unleashed in a section of South Central, supposedly targeting another gang. And in October 2009, 1,100 federal, state, and LAPD forces targeted another gang.
These massive police raids provide training in integrating and coordinating police forces on the federal and state level with different local police departments throughout a region. The FBI identified three other police departments in Southern California that took part in the pre-dawn assault together with the LAPD. And they named three other local police forces that helped gather information that went into the preparation for these surgical strikes.
An essential component of this form of policing is CompStat, or “Computer Comparison Statistics,” a data-driven system “for managing crime reduction,” according to its handlers. This is the program that William Bratton first implemented in the 1990s as police commissioner of New York City under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Credited by the authorities with dramatically decreasing crime in the city, it has spread across the country. This reliance on statistics and statistical analysis gives the impression that policing decisions are objective, efficient, and benign. They are nothing of the sort.
What it actually does is enable law enforcement to justify, and normalize, targeting whole neighborhoods and peoples for “special policing”—and claim they are doing it for the “good of the neighborhood” based on higher crime statistics. CompStat serves what’s called “predictive policing,” or pro-active policing—the idea that the authorities are capable of predicting who is going to commit crimes, and therefore are justified in instituting a degree of social control that has turned whole sections of inner cities into war zones.
Another information-gathering tool being instituted by police forces around the country, and justified in the name of this crackdown on inner-city crime, are license plate recorders, which are used to identify and record huge quantities of license plate numbers of parked cars, or cars passing by. The manufacturers of these LPRs are aiming to fuse this technology with public records and facial recognition software to enable cops to instantly identify and search records for anyone driving by or parking on the street.
The Stop Mass Incarceration Network has brought forward a slogan: Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide. A June 30 article in Revolution describes the genocidal aspect of this systematic criminalizing of generations of Black and Latino youth:
A genocidal program needs to create broad public opinion to justify the attacks on the section of the population it is targeting. So, for example, getting middle class people as well as people in the Black community itself to think that the Black youth are “criminals who are hopeless and have no one to blame but themselves” has been an important ideological component of justifying the war on drugs and mass incarceration. And this also lays the basis for the system to get people in society to accept future and even more genocidal attacks against Black people, especially the youth. (“Understanding Genocide, Black People, and Capitalist Accumulation.”)
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Jerome Murdough was a 56-year-old Marine Corps veteran. Murdough suffered from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and alcoholism, and was homeless for the last few years.
On a bitterly cold night in February 2014, New York City police found Murdough sleeping in the stairwell of a Harlem housing project. The police arrested him for trespassing, a minor misdemeanor. Bail was set outrageously high—$2,500—so Murdough was locked up on Rikers Island to await trial.
Rikers’ officials recognized Murdough was mentally ill and even placed him on suicide watch, which means he was supposed to be checked every 15 minutes. But on the evening of Valentine’s Day he was placed alone in a cell where the temperature soared to 100 degrees. Some of his medications are known to increase vulnerability to heat.
Four hours later when guards finally checked on him he was dead from dehydration and heat stroke. One jail official told the Associated Press (AP), “He basically baked to death.” Murdough’s sister, Cheryl Warner, said: “They just put him in there and went about their business, you know?... and come back four hours later? That’s terrible—like he’s not a human being?” (CBS News, March 19, 2014)
The system’s cruel disregard for Murdough’s humanity even continued after his death. His mother, Alma Murdough, said she was never even notified of his death—she only found out about it a month later when AP contacted her for their article, and even after that the Department of Corrections never reached out to her. She also said that when she tried to contact the Marine Corps to secure the military funeral to which he was entitled as a veteran, the Marines didn’t respond, leaving the family to handle the funeral on their own. (Military Times, April 25, 2014)
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On Tuesday, July 15, Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented immigration activist and journalist who had traveled to the border region of Texas to take a stand with the thousands of Central American children streaming across the border, was detained by the U.S. Border Patrol while attempting to board a plane to leave the region. He was released with an order to appear for an immigration hearing.
In a statement in the wake of his detention Vargas said that he went to the border to “shed a light on children who parts of America and many in the news media are actively turning their backs on. But what I saw was the generosity of the American people, documented and undocumented, in the Rio Grande Valley.... I’ve been released by Border Patrol. I want to thank everyone who stands by me and the undocumented immigrants of south Texas and across the country. Our daily lives are filled with fear in simple acts such as getting on an airplane to go home to our family.... With Congress failing to act on immigration reform, and President Obama weighing his options on executive action, the critical question remains: how do we define American?”
Vargas, who was born in the Philippines, has been living without papers in the United States since 1993 when he came here at age 12. He grew up, went to school, and became a respected journalist for the Washington Post, all the while keeping his status well hidden. But then the world changed, and thousands of young undocumented immigrants like himself, who had been living their lives in the shadows, began raising their voices, putting their lives and bodies on the line, and speaking out to demand an end to deportations and a pathway to remain in the U.S.
And Vargas was confronted with the choice: whether to continue to get along within the comfortable space that he had carved out for himself or to come out and use his voice and stature to declare to the world that he also is undocumented and unafraid. Vargas chose the latter.
In a 2011 cover story in The New York Times Magazine, Vargas declared his undocumented status. And then his life changed dramatically. In a documentary recently aired on CNN called Documented, Vargas tells his own story and describes how he lost his job and without legal papers could no longer work, how travel and every other aspect of his life became perilous. But all this became a means and a platform to tell his story to broad audiences and in doing that to speak for all the undocumented and to challenge the notion that all the undocumented are less deserving and less than human. He tells the excruciating story of his 20-year separation from his mother who remained in the Philippines and who could never visit, and in this story what comes through is a picture of the ripping apart of families, the tearing up of lives that takes place in a world where millions and millions of people are driven from their home countries in search of some kind of decent life and way to survive.
In the wake of Vargas’ detention, United We Dream and other immigration activists denounced his detention and continued to shine a light on the dire situation facing the thousands of children and the millions of undocumented in this country.
Cristina Jiménez, managing director of United We Dream, issued the following statement:
“We stand in solidarity with Jose Antonio and demand for his immediate release, but we must remember that there are thousands of people along the border that live with this same fear every day.
“Once again, the Border Patrol has proven to be a rogue agency after arresting Jose Antonio, a low-priority case for detention and deportation.
“Our undocumented community along the border is trapped within its own country, unable to leave and surrounded by checkpoints. It’s immoral that people aren’t free to move around the country they know as home because of a system that seeks to criminalize them.”
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
“Percolations” is a column featuring some of the thoughts sent to Revolution concerning developments in the world, questions of theory, observations from the work and life of the Party, and ideas on what to do.
From a reader:
These are some thoughts and observations on the accelerating environmental crisis, and some beginning thinking on what we should do.
I want to start with the environmental crisis itself. I recently read The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Some of what I have to say is influenced by that book and thinking about that book. Very striking and pivotal in this book is the contradiction between the fact that she presents a convincing and fairly all-sided and scientific picture of the environmental crisis and its impact on life on the planet, and draws the conclusion that if things continue as they are now, we are likely going to have an extremely serious extinction event and profound environmental crisis—on the order of the five previous major extinctions, most of which destroyed a majority of the species on the planet. She makes the case that this extinction event could change life on Earth so much that it could make it impossible for human beings to live on the planet.
And after having the science (and intellectual courage) to confront that horrific conclusion, Kolbert is still completely trapped within the confines of the horizon of bourgeois right, and cannot see the real possibility or even remote possibility of a revolution in human social relations and revolution in humanity’s relation to the natural world that would put human society in the position of caretaker of the planet, and not destroyer of life on the planet. This expresses very sharply the much more general contradiction that intellectuals, the movement around the environment, and the society more broadly do not see beyond these confines.
This is one particular agonizing expression of the juncture we are at. The question is, how can we seize some freedom out of this?
In terms of where are we at with the environmental crisis now, one thing I have been grappling with is this “tipping point” idea. I think that we have already passed an important “tipping point.” I do think there are problems with the notion of “tipping point” as generally talked about among the scientists and in the movement around the environment. It is a little apocalyptic, a little bit too much all or nothing. And a little too limited to the climate crisis. There is the view that “Once past the climate tipping point, we are doomed.”
There has been a positive role in that the phrase has helped to popularize the extremity of the situation we are approaching, and the notion that there could be a leap to a radically different situation. But this has translated politically into something like: our job is to prevent getting to the tipping point. Hence 350.org’s name (350.org is one of the main organizations mobilizing people to stop climate change): 350 is precisely the level of CO2 in the atmosphere—350 ppm, parts per million—which some scientists have assessed would keep us on this side of the tipping point. (We have now reached 400 ppm, and are going up, up, up.)
But I think a more correct, scientific way to think about it is in terms of qualitative leaps and further qualitative leaps. Leaps in the overall climate and environmental crisis. Leaps that set things on a different trajectory for life on the planet, and which are extremely difficult if not completely impossible to reverse.
There are many signs such a leap or leaps have taken place, which should heighten the urgency to act, not send us into despair. At this point, we have the likelihood of complete summer melting of the Arctic icecap in decades if not sooner. We have this new study that points to the inevitable collapse of the West Antarctica ice sheet, which we wrote an article about. If the study holds up, this will lead to sea level rises of four to 10 or 15 feet, from what I have read. This will happen over hundreds of years, but the point is that the process is irreversible. It will wipe out a huge number of coastal cities and who knows what else. We already have extreme storms, and extreme weather phenomena. We have the great likelihood that in the trajectory we are on, almost all or all of the coral reefs, vastly important ocean ecosystems, will die. We have now devastated rain forests across the planet. Ocean acidification is rising, is a key agent in the destruction of coral reefs, and already is eating up things like some shells of shellfish, and acidification is bound to rise, I have no idea how fast or how much. We already ARE on a trajectory to a really different planet. And not a good one for life forms now on the earth.
The reason to go into this “tipping point” phrase is not just to pick at words, but because it makes a difference how we see things. I don’t think that we should run around saying “we have passed the tipping point” exactly. I do think that a sharpened sense of urgency, on a scientific materialist basis, about the environmental crisis is crucial. We do not want to put a false kind of distance between where we are now and some future tipping point that makes it sound like we are not there yet. We need to deal with the way things really are.
This makes a difference in sweeping and long-range terms. Even if we had revolution tomorrow, even in a number of imperialist countries, we would be dealing with the struggle to become caretakers, not ravagers, of the planet, for a very long time, and we would be doing it under conditions that for quite a while would be getting harsher and harsher—including for things like human agriculture. I don’t think it will be easy to provide food for everyone on the basis of a sustainable and non-exploitative economy. We will need to radically transform all economic relations, build a whole new and different technological base that is renewable, and do this under conditions of extreme drought, floods, rising seas, etc., etc.
This will be a very central, and pivotal, struggle for getting to communism, and possibly even preserving the planet as a place that human beings can live on. And just to be perfectly clear, only communist revolution has any chance of dealing with all of this in a good way.
One of the characteristics of this overall environmental crisis, and particularly the climate aspect, is that it keeps moving fast, faster than scientific predictions on many important dimensions, most spectacularly, the melting polar ice. This is somewhat speculative, but I think part of the reason that this keeps going like this is because leaps are taking place. It is harder for scientists to get a quantitative grasp on leaps taking place, even leaps that unfold over decades and centuries like this one. Again, it seems that we are in the midst of leaps now, they are not something in the future.
All this is driven by capitalism and in particular the anarchy/organization contradiction, blindly. Again, only communist revolution makes it possible to overcome this, to increasingly enlist the collective efforts of humanity as a whole in solving these problems and moving beyond the anarchic ravaging of the planet. It is really glaringly obvious that this is the case, yet few can even talk frankly about this because of the ideological encirclement of communism. You often hear the argument, including from Bill McKibben, one of the main leaders of the climate movement, that the situation is too urgent, “we don’t have time” for revolution. Well, we are already in a phase of qualitative change—we can’t tell where it is going—do you want to deal with that with capitalism and its anarchy? Or with socialism and communism?
In terms of the interpenetration of this with revolution and how it could shape revolutionary crisis, I think that there are different ways things could go. How fast will a revolutionary crisis emerge? How quickly will the environmental crisis manifest and in what ways? All of this is not settled. But I do think that some things are true already. We already had Katrina, and there is a great likelihood of other Katrina-like events very closely linked to climate change. We had one in New York City with Hurricane Sandy. There is already the impact of drought affecting international relations, e.g., in Syria, in parts of Africa, to name a few.
Right now in the U.S., the social movement around global warming is one of the more important on the terrain, even as it is shackled and limited in important ways. I do think that the question of the environment is probably one of or perhaps the most important basic moral/political question that commands the attention and allegiance of students on campuses.
I feel that in the midst of all that we are taking responsibility for, we need to find the ways to give attention to this. I have been glad to see some good articles. I felt that the relatively recent IPCC report article by Orpheus Reed was hard-hitting and passionate and I really liked it. Also the article more recently on the collapse of the Antarctic ice. Both did capture the kind of urgency I am talking about.
I think that we have to really hit hard and keep hitting at the contradiction between the very obvious fact that this whole crisis is driven by rampaging capitalism, and the political absurdity that hardly anyone with standing in the movement around the environment or in intellectual life can even talk about this, or wants to. The McKibben polemic by Raymond Lotta hit this spot and we should keep hitting it.
One important point about the scientists. For all the conservatism, wanting to be politically “objective,” i.e., not take a political stand, and all the shortcomings in relation to communism that they have in common with all the intellectuals now, there is one really important positive thing. On a social question of immense importance, the scientists are lined up on one side, saying “there is a huge environmental crisis, and global warming, driven by human society, is objectively true.” That helps. We need more from them, but that is very important.
This links up with the question of students. I think that one way of looking at it is that one basic quality that students feel is what you might call the moral imperative to take care of the planet. Some of this gets expressed in very narrow terms right now but it is very important. And many get channeled into narrow and technological/reformist solutions. But there is a very broad and strong impulse.
And there are counteracting trends. I heard someone tell about going to a conference which was a national gathering of the divestment movement. Unfortunately, we missed a lot of the conference. One plenary session was led by “climate justice” forces steeped in identity politics. There were students there from across the country, many very new to political life, with deep concerns about the environment, many willing to talk about capitalism.
But this session was led by a line which told these students (almost all white) that they could not talk about the situation with climate change in the world as a whole—they could only let the voices of the oppressed communities who were victims of climate change speak about their direct experience of confronting this. And this was put forward in a way where the students enthusiastically applauded these speakers and felt that they were standing with the oppressed.
But what could be more in line with the fundamental interests of oppressed people—and everyone—than to tell the truth about what is actually, scientifically happening to the environment of the planet and to make everyone aware of the enormous dangers—and to urge people to act? Horribly narrow and anti-scientific identity politics is a big problem in general on campuses. But here, where the planet is at stake and the verdict of science is clear—global warming is real and human society is driving it, and the future of humanity and the planet is on the line—the problem stands out even more sharply. Identity politics rules out talking about the truth of what is happening to the planet, rules out busting out of the confines of the daily routine and insisting that everyone confront reality.
And whatever miserable confines identity politics tries to set, the seas continue to rise and the storms and droughts get more intense, and species die off at accelerating rates. The question is whether the people will shed the ideological shackles, including identity politics, and confront reality and change it. I am not saying that identity politics characterized the entire conference, or characterizes the whole movement around divestment of fossil fuels, I don’t think it does, but what happened at the conference points to a real problem. And it also underscores the importance of the point that there is a scientific verdict on the objective reality of climate change and environmental crisis.
I think that in terms of stepping up our efforts, and thinking about how to do this in very concentrated ways, the campuses should be a major focus of our efforts. Because of both this point of the “moral imperative” among students and also the presence and role of scientists on these campuses. And more overall, because of the crucial role of students and campuses in society.
In whatever we do, I think that one really important objective is to find the ways to hit again and again at this point that capitalism is behind this, and to win others over to take this up. There is a dual point—on the one hand, this will greatly strengthen the struggle around climate. And on the other, putting the onus on capitalism in this way (with us playing a critical role of advocating for revolutionary solutions and for communism and the new synthesis) can have a very important and positive effect on the intellectual life on these campuses overall.
This is not the plan we need for how to take all this on. But I am raising these questions and thoughts to contribute to that plan.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 18, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
For months there's been an escalating battle in Ukraine between one faction of the Ukrainian capitalist ruling class and their imperialist backers, the U.S. and the European Union, on one side, and the Russian imperialists and their Ukrainian allies on the other. Now, in the aftermath of the crash of the Malaysian jet, each side is blaming the other for this horrible loss of life, which includes the deaths of world-renowned AIDS researchers. Each side has been systemically lying about the nature of their battle over Ukraine. So in the aftermath of the crash it's very important for people not to jump to quick conclusions based on the claims of proven liars and mass murderers on either side, but to understand things in terms of the class forces behind these events and where the interests of the people lie.
Follow, and spread the coverage and analysis at revcom.us and send people to revcom.us to be able to understand and act in the current situation:
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
In the speech “What to the Slave Is Your Fourth of July,” quoted by Bob Avakian in his talk, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, Frederick Douglass, former slave and anti-slavery leader, said that America’s crimes “would shock a nation of savages” and that “for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.” It was true during slavery and it is still true.
Two years ago, Darren Rainey, a Black 50-year-old mentally ill prisoner serving a two-year term for cocaine possession at the Dade Correctional Center in Florida, was savagely murdered by prison guards—forced into a scalding hot shower and left there for more than an hour. According to witnesses quoted in the Miami Herald, he screamed the whole time, “I can’t take it no more,” while guards taunted him, “How do you like your shower?” When guards finally opened the door, Darren was dead, with his skin shriveled and peeling from his body, a condition called “slippage” in medical terms. One inmate said he saw Darren’s “burnt dead body” go by his cell on a stretcher. Another was told to clean up the scene, and said he found chunks of Darren’s skin in the shower and on Darren’s shoe that he was told to throw in the trash.
A witness later said that the water temperature was at least 180 degrees and that it was controlled by guards, who deliberately turned it up to full strength. A nurse reported that after he died Darren’s body temperature was too hot to be measured by thermometer.
On the second anniversary of this savage murder, have the guards or anyone else connected with this unspeakable crime been indicted, locked up, punished? No, but courageous witnesses who came forward to expose and speak out against Darren’s murder have faced retaliation.
George Mallinckrodt, a prison psychotherapist in the unit where Darren died, wrote grievances and letters to prison officials, the Florida Department of Corrections, and all the way up to Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder, exposing Darren’s brutal murder and the systematic abuse of prisoners at Dade Correctional Center. For this, he was fired 10 months after Darren was murdered. Mallinkcrodt wrote in his blog, “In the Middle Ages, the mentally ill were thrown into dungeons to be beaten, tortured and killed. What’s changed?”
Several inmate witnesses unrelentingly filed grievances and wrote letters, including to the Miami Herald, which subsequently published articles exposing the monstrous crime. One of the witnesses, Mark Joiner, said, “Look, I’m in prison for killing somebody, and I will never justify what I did... But nobody, nobody deserves to die like that. The thing that really got me was the cruelty of it and to hear them bragging about it.” He also said it wasn’t the first time guards had locked prisoners in scalding showers, and that they told new inmates they could kill prisoners and get away with it. He and other inmates who have exposed these crimes have been threatened and Joiner said he fears for his life.
After two years of a systematic cover-up, including the video camera in the shower that supposedly malfunctioned, the police never interviewed anyone, no autopsy was ever done, and the Department of Corrections closed the case. Recently the Florida affiliates of ACLU, Amnesty International, NAACP, and National Council of Churches called for a federal investigation of the murder. Howard Simon, the Executive Director of the Florida ACLU, said, “These revelations that are coming out are not about incompetence. They’re about guards killing people and public officials working feverishly to cover it up.” He also revealed that seven other inmate deaths in Florida are under investigation.
There has been outrage on the Internet. One blogger said it was “like something out of the Spanish Inquisition.” But we don’t have to go back that far. This murder is like something out of slavery, where slaves were routinely brutalized, tortured, and murdered. It is like something out of Jim Crow, where Black people were mutilated, lynched, and burned, and as Bob Dylan and Bob Avakian have said, then there were “postcards of the hangings.” It is something out of what Michelle Alexander calls the “New Jim Crow,” the mass incarceration of more than 2.2 million mostly Black and Latino people, and what Carl Dix has called the “slow genocide” of Black people.
As Bob Avakian said in his “3 Strikes” quote: “First, Slavery... Then, Jim Crow—segregation and Ku Klux Klan terror... And now, The New Jim Crow—police brutality and murder, wholesale criminalization and mass incarceration, and legalized discrimination yet again. That’s it for this system: Three strikes and you’re out!”
If there were no other reason for revolution but the brutal oppression of Black people, of which the savage murder of Darren Rainey is an expression, that would certainly be enough reason. But there is more. Darren Rainey’s death is also an expression of what is happening to mentally ill people in this “best country in the world.” In Florida, mentally ill individuals in jail and prison outnumber those in state mental hospitals by nearly five to one. Nationwide, the number of people with serious mental illness in prisons is now 10 times the number of mentally ill people in psychiatric facilities.
Florida is not the only state where brutality against mentally ill inmates is endemic. There have been several recent reports of savage brutality by prison guards against mentally ill prisoners at the notorious Rikers Island prison in New York. Numerous studies have documented how the mentally ill are vulnerable to especially brutal abuse, including disproportionate solitary confinement, a form of torture, in prison. Heather Barr of the Urban Justice Center’s Mental Health Project said, “We demolished the mental health system at the same time we skipped merrily down the path of criminalizing everything” and noted that Black people are much more likely to be incarcerated for exhibiting symptoms of mental illness than whites.
What kind of system locks up whole generations of Black people and brutalizes, tortures, and murders them in prison? What kind of system criminalizes its most vulnerable citizens, people with mental illness, and brutalizes, tortures, and murders them in prison? A savagely unequal and unjust system, and that system has a name: capitalism.
It is worth thinking about the underlying workings of capitalism that are giving rise to all this, as analyzed in a recent Revolution article, “Understanding Genocide, Black People, and Capitalist Accumulation”: “Black people are no longer serving the needs and profitable functioning of capital in the same way as before. They are no longer inserted into the larger economic structures in the same way as before. The system has increasingly turned African-Americans into a ‘surplus’ population.
“This was not the product of a grand plan. It is the product of the expand-or-die workings of capital in the U.S. and on a world scale—this anarchic, competitive drive of capital interacting with the historical and continuing oppression of Black people in the U.S. And there have been conscious policies with very conscious aims on the part of the U.S. ruling class which have enforced and deepened this oppression.
“But this ‘surplus’ population is a population that the U.S. ruling class recognizes as a potentially explosive and revolutionary one. From the standpoint of the ruling class, it is a population to be policed, criminalized, and broken. Which brings us back to the discussion of genocide and Black people: a machinery of social control and an economic dynamic that, taken together, are destroying life chances and the viable survival of a people.”
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors' note: After hearing Ilan Pappé interviewed on The Michael Slate Show, artist Norton Wisdom made the following artwork available to revcom.us to share with our readers. We welcome correspondence and artwork, including poetry, music, literature and graphic art sent to email@example.com (please include contact and crediting information). The perspective and political views of those submitting works are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in revcom.us/Revolution.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
by Alan Goodman | July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
For decades, criticism of Israel in U.S. society has been marginalized, subjected to threats, censored, and banned.
Many of the more prominent critics of Israel have been forced out of their positions in academia, including from Northwestern, Bard, and Columbia University
As Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people becomes more and more questioned and condemned worldwide, as the U.S. continues to back these crimes, the legitimacy of a state based on ethnic cleansing has become more contested—particularly on U.S. campuses.
The response has been more and more intense repression.
During the past school year, there were important and inspiring actions—including by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. They were immediately censored, threatened, and attacked in the media.
Last spring, students at Barnard (a college affiliated with Columbia) got official permission to put up a banner that said, “Stand with Justice in Palestine.” The university administration took it down after complaints from pro-Israel forces, in part because—they said—the iconic map on the banner didn’t draw a line on the border between Israel and other parts of Palestine and thus supposedly constituted a call for killing all the Jews in Israel. (SJP activists responded in part that Israel doesn’t recognize any such borders, so where would they draw them on a map?!)
At Northeastern University in Boston, the administration banned the SJP chapter as punishment for creative actions, including faux “eviction notices” passed out to students by activists in SJP, exposing Israel’s policy of random, brutal, traumatic evictions of Palestinian people from their homes. (See “Students for Justice in Palestine at Northeastern Banned for Telling the Truth About Israel.”)
At UCLA, activists who asked candidates for student council to pledge not to accept overtly politically biased “tours” of Israel paid for and sponsored by groups that are overtly opposed to any criticisms of Israel’s crimes were attacked for being “anti-Semitic,” engaging in a “witch hunt,” and “bullying.” (See “Janet Napolitano Demands ‘Civility, Respect, and Inclusion’ for Defenders of Death, Destruction, and Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine.”)
In February 2014, in a very significant action, the members of the prestigious American Studies Association endorsed the association’s participation in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. State legislatures, including in Illinois, reacted with moves to outlaw such boycotts!
Throughout society in the last few days, figures in sports, science, and entertainment who have spoken out against Israel’s attacks on the Palestinian people or even simply expressed a desire for an end to violence have come under intense attack. (Unfortunately—in the face of vicious attacks on these postings via celebrity gossip networks that are essentially ruling class ideological propaganda—some of these tweets and postings have been taken down.)
But these attacks have failed to silence a growing tide of exposure, outrage, and protest worldwide, and in the U.S. World-renowned scientist Steven Hawking has refused to back off his pledge to boycott scientific conferences in Israel. When such prominent figures stick to their principles and do the right thing, they must be backed up, supported, and defended!
Despite all the repression (and in some cases, in part because of it), the question of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people, the origins and nature of Israel, the suppression of criticism of Israel by the academic establishment, and the ties between the academic establishment and the larger “establishment” that sits atop a world of oppression and plunder are being called out and opposed on campuses.
These courageous academics and students of all nationalities, ethnic groups, and religions (including significant numbers of Jewish academics and students) have challenged Israel’s crimes, and continued to protest, investigate, and expose what is behind those crimes, and the U.S. backing for them.
The BDS movement and academic and political exposure and protest against Israel overall are breathing life and fresh air into the stifling and toxic political atmosphere that has dominated U.S. campuses for too long! That can have a ripple effect in U.S. society at large. From the perspective of the need for fundamental change in the current world order, and preparing to go up against all that stands in the way of that fundamental change, and from the perspective of basic right and wrong, the campus struggle to expose and oppose Israel has to be welcomed, supported, and defended.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
by Alan Goodman | July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
“There’s no country on Earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets.”
Thus spoke Barack Obama on July 16, after eight days of Israeli bombing and shelling of Gaza that—at that time—had resulted in 200 deaths—many of them children. But Obama was not talking about Israel’s crimes. He was talking about the ineffective rockets from Gaza that at that point had killed exactly one Israeli—a volunteer working with a combat unit of the Israeli army on the Gaza border.
And Obama was justifying Israel’s slaughter in Gaza—which would escalate the next day.
How does a ruling class heavily invested in Israel—a Middle East-based enforcer for its interests—brand one-sided massacres by Israel as a “response to terrorist attacks on Israel?”
By lying and distorting reality through an instrument of its rule: the mass media.
Mass media propaganda organs portray ineffective—sometimes home-made—rocket attacks from Gaza as more devastating than massively destructive Israeli airstrikes on Gaza.
On July 9, ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer presented a story about “rockets raining down on Israel today” while showing video footage of massive devastation. And Sawyer claimed the footage showed “an Israeli family trying to salvage what they can, one woman standing speechless among the ruins.” But the massive devastation was in Gaza and a result of Israeli bombs. Later, ABC and Diane Sawyer apologized for the “error.” The web page at ABC that presented the original story has a meaningless note that “ABC News has misidentified a photo and has therefore removed the introduction to this story.” And the damage was done. The very fact that such an error could be made—if that’s what it was—shows how deeply the mainstream news machinery has been programmed to distort reality when anyone paying any attention to what is actually going on with Israel’s slaughter in Gaza would know that there is no such thing as Israeli families standing amidst the kind of devastation shown in the video, and that the devastation shown in the video is widespread and typical of what the Palestinian people in Gaza face daily.
And Palestinians’ lives are portrayed as cheap compared with those of Israelis.
When the first Israeli died—after 200 (at that point) Palestinians had been massacred in Gaza, many of them clearly not combatants—the headline in the New York Times was “First Israeli Killed Near Gaza Border.”
This headline trains readers to see a single Israeli life (the volunteer, as mentioned above, who was assisting the Israeli military in a combat zone on the Gaza border) as exponentially more precious than hundreds of Palestinian lives. The headline was followed by a photo of a man walking through a devastated home. That photo was of a Palestinian man in his home in Gaza. But that information was only revealed if you read the caption, and a casual reader scanning the Times got the message that Israelis were subjected to death and devastation.
When mainstream reporters attempt to humanize the Palestinian people, they are literally shut down.
Ayman Mohyeldin is an NBC News correspondent who personally witnessed Israel’s slaughter of four Palestinian boys on a Gaza beach. Mohyeldin posted numerous chilling details on Twitter and Instagram, photographs he took of their anguished parents and video of one of their mothers as she learned about the death of her young son. He interviewed a wounded boy at the hospital shortly before he was to be operated on, and recounted what he saw on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. Earlier, Ayman Mohyeldin reported: “[Y]ou can understand why some human rights organizations call Gaza ‘the world’s largest outdoor prison.’” He added: “One of the major complaints and frustrations among many people is that this is a form of collective punishment. You have 1.7 million people in this territory, now being bombarded, with really no way out.”
The day after Mohyeldin’s report on the slaughter of the fourth youth on the Gaza beach, NBC ordered him out of Gaza. Officially NBC claimed this was because of “security concerns.” Journalist Glenn Greenwald revealed the decision to completely remove Mohyeldin from reporting on Gaza by a top NBC executive. Top news media execs make calls like that based on bigger concerns than the safety of a reporter. And the reporters who replaced Mohyeldin with reportage from the Israeli city of Tel Aviv stuck much closer to the official distortions of what is going on in Gaza. Later—in response to widespread outcry and protest on social media, and reportedly angry protests by other NBC reporters—NBC returned Mohyeldin to Gaza coverage.
When, occasionally, there is anything close in the mainstream U.S. media to posing questions about U.S. backing for Israel, it is immediately slammed or “diverted.”
This is not as simple a problem as “unbalanced” media coverage. Or “one narrative being presented to the exclusion of another.” Or the “corruption” of “corporate media” by “special interests.” This is a problem of truth and reality being covered up, lied about, and distorted. The coverage of Israel in the mainstream media is a case of people being systematically and consistently lied to by a mass media that is training people to identify with the interests of the U.S. ruling class and its empire, and to see terrible crimes committed by the U.S. and its allies as “fighting terrorism.”
Think about the following example of how, when even relatively mild questions about what Israel is doing to the Palestinians are posed, they immediately and forcefully get “channeled” into identifying with the interests of the empire:
Piers Morgan, before he got fired by CNN, ran a report from a CNN reporter in Gaza depicting massive destruction and terror being rained down on people during another Israeli massacre, at the end of 2012. After watching it, he more or less blurted out: “Gaza is, to many people, one of the key problems in the region because of the terrible oppression, whatever the right phrase is for it, of the Palestinian people there. It’s an awful place for people to try and live, isn’t it?” Morgan was immediately “corrected” by his guest, CNN analyst Fareed Zakaria, who said: “First, one has to say, Piers, as you did, the Israelis are justified in doing something when all these rockets are being fired at them. So there’s no question that it’s justified.” With that “settled,” the terms of acceptable discourse were re-set, and the discussion moved on... to critiquing how successful (or not) Israel had been at advancing the interests of Israel (and by extension, its sponsor, U.S. imperialism). And in the process, utterly upside-down terms were set as the beginning and ending point for any “analysis” that was going to come across the airwaves, and how viewers were being programmed to think.
Even more damning is the way more pointed exposure of the nature and role of Israel is handled. Widely respected and veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas was threatened, suppressed, and ultimately silenced. During the Bush regime, she asked Bush’s press secretary, Tony Snow, a question that suggested the U.S. supported “collective punishment for Lebanon and Palestine." His response was, “Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view.” (Hezbollah is an Islamic fundamentalist force in Lebanon branded a terrorist organization by the U.S., and this response essentially accused Thomas of being pro-terrorist.)
After Israel attacked the Turkish humanitarian ship Mavi Marmara in international waters and murdered five unarmed activists to prevent it from breaking Israel’s brutal blockade of Gaza in May 2010, Helen Thomas asked White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, “If any other nation in the world had done it, we would have been up in arms,” and “What is the sacrosanct, iron-clad relationship where a country that deliberately kills people and boycotts—and we aid and abet the boycott?” The next day a fanatical supporter of Israel posted a video of Thomas saying Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine.” The day after that, Hearst News Service announced her (forced) “retirement,” the White House Correspondents’ Association—which slavishly accepted and fed the nation Bush’s “weapons of mass deception” lies—rushed to denounce her, and her speaker’s’ bureau fired her.
These incidents of lies, distortions, and censorship are the tip of the iceberg, but reveal a whole enforced environment of dehumanizing the Palestinian people, blaming one-sided massacres of Palestinians on the Palestinians, and cover up the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine. And an exposure of the overall nature of a media that—like the ruling class it serves—wouldn’t know the truth if it hit them in the head.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
Interview with Makers of the Film Particle Fever
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following are excerpts from an interview on The Michael Slate Show (KPFK Pacifica radio) with Mark Levinson and David Kaplan, director and producer, respectively, of the documentary film Particle Fever. The interview aired July 11, 2014.
Michael Slate: What is this film about? What’s the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment? Explain a little bit about all of that. David, why don’t you start on that?
David Kaplan: Yeah. The Large Hadron Collider is an experiment. It’s an enormous experiment. It’s a 16-and-a-half mile around ring that is about 300 feet underground. It crosses the French-Swiss border. It is at a lab called CERN, which is a center for particle physics in Europe. The acronym doesn’t work anymore.
CERN has been there for 60 years, looking at the basic laws of physics, trying to understand what matter is, and what are the properties of matter and the properties of space-time. The purpose of this specific experiment, the LHC, was to push deeper into that knowledge. And one of the things they hoped to have found, and they did find, was the Higgs boson. That is a particle that gets added to the short list of fundamental particles that make up all the dynamics of fundamental matter: how matter works, why atoms exist, and the properties of space-time to allow it to exist.
To do that, they reproduce, in a sense, a tiny fraction of the conditions that existed at a very, very early point in the universe when all these particles were bouncing around smashing into each other. And by reproducing that little image way back at that point, at very high temperatures, you get a better, broad sense of the laws of physics, and the rules. And those underlying rules tell us a lot about what we are and what matter is.
Michael Slate: What made you think that there was something in this film in particular that was really going to be a lot of fun to do, that you could be passionate about, and that would make a real difference in the world?
Mark Levinson: I actually started my film career by getting a PhD in theoretical particle physics. So, in some ways, it may have been a very unintended destiny, but why I thought it was going to be exciting was for all the reasons why I originally got involved in physics: that I knew that this was an incredible field. In particle physics you’re contemplating the most basic, fundamental elements of the universe and how it works.
But after I got my PhD, I moved into filmmaking. I had been in the narrative film world, the fiction world, had not seen very good depictions of science and scientists and the scientific process, and certainly nothing that captured the incredible excitement of this field. I hoped there might be some way to make a film that combined these two strands of my life. I thought I would maybe write a script about something, or some scientist, and then when I heard about this, realized that this was a monumental event, and when I contacted David, found that he was also not interested in doing a typical science documentary. But we wanted to do something that was completely different in terms of capturing the real process, the real lives of the characters and what was going on. So to me, it was the perfect combination of these things.
As a storyteller, I could see the potential for a good dramatic story. Of course, we had no idea that it would turn out to be way more dramatic than we expected. That’s the nature of documentary. Once I signed on, I was just along for the ride wherever it went.
Michael Slate: You’ve talked about this being the biggest physics experiment in the history of humanity. This is a huge, huge thing. And it’s not just because it’s got these giant things out there, all this stuff that’s out there, which is really remarkable when you see it in the film. It’s just going to blow your mind, folks. But these kinds of projects, they take people beyond the borders of where you think your limitations are. And I thought there’s a polemic in there, waged in a very good way, of why these kinds of projects are tackled, and what you do when you’re confronted with the unknown.
David Kaplan: I think in a historical context, you have to look at what this is, as a continuation of 400 years of attempting to discover what reality is. What is physical reality, and how is our interpretation of it flawed, in terms of actually making predictions about the future, what it is, how we got here, what it’s made of. It quantitatively started with Galileo and Newton, and it’s continued to now. So in a sense, this is just a continuing process with whatever is going on in the world politically, sociologically, this is just something that’s always been, luckily, in the background. It’s a testament to humanity that we actually do this, and we continue to do it.
The guise you see it in now is through the lens of what the modern-day world is, and international politics and science funding and all these things. But this is a very old process and procedure. And you’re right. What it does is, it answers some things—which is pure knowledge! In economic terms, you can call it a “public good.” Once we know these things, they don’t go away. And I think that it is really important for humanity in the broadest of contexts. What is this going to build us? Is it going to make computers faster? Does it cure disease? No. At least, that’s not why we’re doing it. We’re going after it for very pure reasons, for pure knowledge, and it’s something that’s a gift to the entire world, once it comes. If it becomes useful for something, okay.
But this is truly what is around us. And what’s more exciting than exploring the world we live in? This is one way of doing it. And this way gives us some very deep insights about how we got here in the first place.
Michael Slate: And it gives some very deep insights as well into the nature—as a friend of mine said, not “human nature,” but the nature of humanity in terms of actually the constant seeking to understand the world, as it is around you, and as it’s changing, and I think actually to change it as well based on what you understand. It’s an incredible argument in that direction.
David Kaplan: Absolutely. It changes me. It’s had a profound impact on me. It’s made me approach the rest of my life differently. The deeper I go into science, the broader perspective I have on what life is. Something that a number of popularizers like to say in different ways is that we are just physical manifestations of the laws of physics. We are coming out of the stuff that makes up the entire universe, and we’re governed by the laws that make those up. So in a sense, we’re a tiny fraction of the universe that’s exploring itself. We’re a manifestation such that, it’s complicated enough that we are now looking back at ourselves. So in a sense, we are part of the entire universe, and we happen to be a very particular part which is sentient [able to think] and can explore the rest of it.
Michael Slate: Mark, I’d like to ask you this. One of the things that was really interesting in relation to showing people an inside look at the working lives of scientists was the role of collectivity. It was astounding in this. And I thought both in terms of the numbers and who, but also the way that people worked together, without ego, to try and solve problems, which was really, I think, a very important aspect of this.
Mark Levinson: I think it is, and I think it’s something that a lot of people don’t realize. Well, certainly nobody realizes the scale that this is at. It’s 10,000 scientists around the world. The experiments themselves—we focused on the ATLAS experiment, the CMS experiment is of comparable size. Each of them has between two and three thousand scientists working on it all over the world. They’re working on this enormous, enormous piece of equipment that has so many components, that are very specialized, and nobody really understands all of the components, so they’re really dependent on that.
But then there’s also this whole other branch of the physicists, which is the theorists, and I think that that’s something that people outside of the field don’t realize, that there is a distinction. Everybody in the field knows it, and it’s very crucial. I think it’s a fundamental fact of particle physics that is absolutely necessary. These two different camps, the theorists, who are coming up with the theories, or working at the blackboard, coming up with ideas of how the universe works actually have to interact with the experimentalists to verify or actually get indications of how the theories might be modified. And there’s a very interesting dynamic that goes on there. I think that’s one of the main things we wanted to bring out in the film as well, that there is this necessary interaction. They need each other, even though sometimes they work almost as if they’re in completely different universes.
Then even within that, I think within the theory community—the stereotype is the theorist is this sort of isolated genius sitting there just coming up with equations. But what we show is that there’s actually a lot of interaction there as well. There’s a lot of dynamic interaction and discussion and argument. It’s a very hard pursuit, and you need a lot of brains working on it to make progress.
Michael Slate: David, what do you have to say about this relationship between the theoretical and the experimental physicists?
David Kaplan: This is sort of a newish situation. Things have just gotten so complicated that we have to split it up. So you become an expert in one or the other. The theories require a pretty deep level of mathematics, and the experiments require a broad understanding of basically everything from plumbing to computing to data analysis, as well as particle physics. So the division has to be there. And because of it, I think we’ve adopted very different attitudes toward the physics world or toward science. Both are necessary. So we have a nice, healthy suspicion of each other.
The experimentalists, as a sort of consequence, when they were first seeing hints that the Higgs was there, something was there, the theorists all decided that it was there. They decided they already knew what the number was, and they were already going off—they meaning me—writing new theory papers assuming the Higgs has already been discovered. Whereas the experimentalists, even on July 4, 2012, when they had 5-sigma* [five standard deviations] evidence, they were cautious that they discovered something—it may be the Higgs, but we don’t know. And even nine months later, they were only willing to say it was a “Higgs-like” particle.
So these different attitudes are both incredibly important. You need this very loose, limber creativity. And then you need the rigor of both the mathematics and experimental verifications for all of this to work.
Michael Slate: And then in the film you talked about, and it was shown, you have the relationship between the experimental and theoretical physicists, and then you have the kind of struggle—and I have to tell you, folks, this is a film that keeps you sitting on the edge of your seat, even though you know what they’re going to find in some way at the end of it, those of you who’ve paid attention to what’s developing in the scientific world, and the world in general. You’re aware of where things are going to end up to a certain extent, but there’s actually this real sort of edge-of-your-seat motion to this film.
What was at stake there? What was at stake with finding the Higgs particle? What was at stake there? And you talk about, there was a debate between whether the universe is beautiful and ordered, or a chaotic multi-verse, and that this had repercussions that went way beyond anything that one might immediately see in front of them.
David Kaplan: Absolutely. In fact, the core reason why I wanted to make the film in the first place was that I saw this dichotomy, and I saw that we were all freaked out about what was coming. The theorists had spent our entire careers speculating, what is the underlying theory beyond what’s called the Standard Model of Particle Physics? The Standard Model of Particle Physics is a list of particles and how they interact. Some of them are parts of the atom, and some are other things, which only last tiny fractions of a second. So we don’t interact with them very much. But the Standard Model has been the theory since the 1960s, and there was only one particle left, which was the Higgs.
There were deep mysteries about this theory, and we thought, well, those deep mysteries should be solved by a deeper theory, some deeper mathematics, more structure, more symmetry, something more beautiful that can explain those things. What is most of the universe made of? Why are particles the masses that they are? A number of questions, which maybe sound esoteric, or simple, but should be answered by the most fundamental theory that describes nature.
So we’ve been on this warpath to get that. But there’s been speculation for a number of years that maybe the laws of physics themselves are not immutable. Maybe they are just a manifestation of where we live. Another way of saying it is that you could marvel at the fact that the earth is in this amazing position that it could support life. It’s not a few percent closer to the sun, or a few percent farther away. It’s right where it needs to be at the right angle, spinning the right amount, with the right plate tectonics, and the right atmosphere to support us. What a miracle it is that that exists!
Of course, now we’re discovering that there are many, many planets out there, that it’s very likely almost every star in our galaxy has one or more planets—and that’s a hundred billion (100,000,000,000) stars. And we’re one galaxy of a hundred billion galaxies in our observable universe. So the chances that there would be a planet in the right spot with the right conditions are incredibly good. So we don’t try to come up with deep theories to explain why the earth is exactly where it is, although that’s something that people were doing 500 years ago. Now, we say that this is just historical accident.
Now the question is, when we measure laws of physics, there’s this fundamental particle, there’s this fundamental force of nature. Are those things telling us about directly the deep theory of everything? Or are they just manifestations of this universe, or of this part of the universe? And if so, some of the numbers we measure may simply be random. And some of the particles we measure may be random accidents of things that appear in our universe. Which means they are no longer clues to the deeper theory. They are just dead ends. In other universes, the laws of physics may be different. Why do we live in this universe where the laws are such that we have stars and galaxies and planets and people? Where else would we live? We’re not going to grow up on a planet which is deadly. And we’re not going to grow up in a universe which has no structure. We’re going to grow up in a universe that has all the laws necessary.
So we’re unfortunately biased by our own existence. Because it’s required that we exist in order for us to be here to study these things. But if the laws of nature can be different in different places, we’re going to only live in the place where we can live, where structure does exist. And so whenever we measure something at these colliders, now we’re starting to think, are we seeing something fundamental, or are we just cataloging? As [Ernest] Rutherford used to say, you’re either doing science or you’re stamp collecting. That’s the question that we’re asking. Are we on to something fundamental, or is it a dead end? And I would caution to say, we’re never going to be, I don’t think, at a dead end, this is all we can learn, that’s it. But certainly for our generation, we may have come to a place where we don’t know where to go next, and we won’t have the tools to facilitate the next discoveries. We won’t know, without lots of exploration, but it may just be a generational thing. And that’s an emotional context for a film, more than anything else.
Michael Slate: Mark, let me ask you this—the music in the film. And I’m going someplace with this, because the music was—I kept watching it, and I thought, “Wow, this is like something that like, captures both the enormity of the project, and of the quest that’s been undertaken there, and the sort of minutiae in a certain way. But it gives it the right amount of grandeur and import. I was really moved by that, including with the physics rap, which, folks, you have to see the film to see that physics rap. You don’t want to miss that either. But I wanted to ask you this, Mark, the music and all the rest of this, it’s part of a theme that runs throughout the film, the overlap and interpenetration of science and art, which is sort of counter-intuitive if you don’t think about it a whole lot, it’s sort of counter-intuitive. But you bring out that there’s a lot of similarities between physics and art. Can we talk about that?
Mark Levinson: Sure. Well, this was something that was a very important element to try to convey in the film for me, personally, as somebody who went from physics into art, in a sense, and something that many people see as this very strange discontinuity, but for me, even at that time was already seeing parallels. What I say is that I think I began to feel that in some sense, it’s all about man trying to represent the world around him. In physics, in science, you’re using mathematics as a language, but you’re trying to come up with a symbolic representation that somehow is simple, but encapsulates a lot more.
That’s a similar process in the arts. You may be using words in poetry, or you could use painting, or a bunch of images in a film that you somehow put together in a way that gives a representation of the world. It helps us understand the world; understand our place in the world. So it was always something that I was very interested in somehow conveying, and then we discovered organically how to incorporate it.
Then I was given this great gift when Nima [Arkani-Hamed] himself actually started talking to me about the Werner Herzog film, The Cave of Forgotten Dreams. He had gone to a special screening, and he started talking about this, and the connection that he felt to these people, the very earliest people—the first people who had this idea of symbolic representation. What made some cave man decide that he should draw something on a cave that represented the world around him? This was a fundamental step that continues to today. So it was something that I was very happy to bring out.
Of course we try to use all the tools of filmmaking, including the music, to tell a story. That’s one of the things that appeals to me about film in particular as an art, is that you get to use images—photography—and words and music, all in the course of trying to tell an important story. I’m very excited that you liked the music. Our composer Robert Miller was extremely enthusiastic. He does a lot of science things. It was a long process, and getting it just right was something that was important. We didn’t want something that was just a typical sort of score, but something that also conveyed emotionality, but also something capturing what we felt was the right sound.
Michael Slate: David, in the film there are some very important things in terms of the scientific method, how you approach the world, how you look at reality and truth, including the view of failure. You do all this stuff, you find out that, “Well, everything we knew was wrong.” But now you know the truth about what you originally thought. And somebody else said—David, was it your mentor?—that said the key to success is being able to do “Failure after failure with undiminished enthusiasm”?
David Kaplan: Yes, that was Savas [Dimopoulos].
Michael Slate: Which I thought caught something, and I think it’s linked to a comment you made which said, in exploration, you need a set of people with no rules. Let’s talk about that a little.
David Kaplan: Sure. Scientists get into a lot of trouble because when they talk about science, theories or whatever is happening, they do it very cautious-sounding. They don’t commit. They say, “This might be true.” “This is likely to be true.” They don’t like to say this is just true. And it’s because we’re really always on the path of trying to show that the last theory was a failure. We’re trying to figure out what is wrong with our description of the world. We’ll probably never have the perfect description. And the only way to make progress is to poke holes in the description we have. And we’ve been doing it for so many years, hundreds of years, that our descriptions are so incredibly good it becomes incredibly difficult to poke any holes and to find the deeper theory. So you really do have to get used to failure.
The process really lives around failure. When I come up with an idea, I think about it. I think, can it really work? Does this work? I get excited about it, and I immediately start sharing it with other physicists. And their immediate reaction, if it’s interesting, is to try to tear it apart, to tell me that I’m wrong, or no, it must have been done before. Or it’s obvious for some reason. And we all try to poke holes in it. So the process is in a sense looking for failure constantly. When you can’t get it, you put all your might into trying to kill something, and you can’t, and your colleagues can’t, and the greater community can’t, then it’s exciting. Then you’re on to something. But only then.
There’s a morality to doing science, which is, you have to be incredibly honest, honest with yourself, honest with the community, and you have to be incredibly rigorous about every step you do. For me, this is a beautiful way of living in general, but it is absolutely necessary in doing any sort of science.
Mark Levinson: I saw an interesting quote recently. It may have been by [Alfred North] Whitehead, and he was talking about the fact that, in philosophy when you come up with a contradiction, that’s the end of your argument. But in science, when you come up with a contradiction, that’s the beginning of a whole new approach. I thought it was very interesting about the difference, echoing what David was just saying, too. You’re looking for failure. You’re looking for something that is wrong, that tells you how to go forward.
Michael Slate: Mark, I wanted to ask you a last question. David said how he was changed by this film. How about you? How did working on this film and the film itself change you?
Mark Levinson: There were many levels in some sense. Reconnecting to physics, at the most obvious level. I had moved into the film world. But I think moving again in this community, it reawakened the excitement that I felt, and my awe at what we have done as humans in this field, and I think in some senses has catalyzed perhaps the direction I’m going to go in, even with future films, trying again to talk about this story, to talk about the parallels between art and science, these two things that as you said, may not even be obviously similar, but I think needs to be pursued, regardless of practical applications.
So I think that’s the message: film, art, science, these things that are least necessary for our survival are the things that we need to pursue. I hope that guides my future choice, and my future projects.
* The scientists, students, journalists and others who gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, on July 4, 2012; the other scientists, journalists and others gathered at the same time in Australia; and the untold thousands watching the live webcast on their laptops around the world were waiting to hear one thing: the number 5, or actually 5-sigma. When Fabiola Gianotti of the ATLAS experiment said that number, there was cheering, applause, high fives.
According to the Particle Fever website:
“Sigma, in a statistical sense, is the deviation from some norm and can represent a probability. When a 5-Sigma excess is announced (like evidence for the Higgs), the chance that the Higgs is not there and the data is due to a random fluctuation is 1 in 3.5 million.
“So a standard deviation is a statistical term that defines how probable it is that an event is out of the ordinary, that it stands out from the background. Five standard deviations means that it’s about 3,500,000 to one that it’s not just a fluctuation in the base or background. This very high degree of probability is required to prove certain things in physics, like the existence of a new particle.” [back]
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
On Tuesday, July 1, busloads of immigrants were being transported to a detention center in Murrieta, California (in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles). The buses were met with an anti-immigrant howling mob chanting “go home.” Facing off these Minutemen-type vigilantes were a pro-immigrant group that included the artist Lupillo Rivera, calling out the inhumanity of these reactionaries. As the buses were sent back to the San Diego border area, a few people who saw the news ran out with signs welcoming the buses.
The “Summer 2014: Making Advances...Toward Revolution” editorial makes an important observation that:
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 world through revolution...and leading people to change themselves as they change the world.
This intense and developing crisis for the system—what to do about these children—urgently calls for bringing the entire ensemble of revolutionary work—but especially BA Everywhere—into this picture as part of the above change we need. It is critical for people who are being “jolted” by this event to find not only WHY this is happening, but also what is the way out of this madness.
Now I can just hear these reactionary fools saying, “Well, Bob, answer me this. If this country is so terrible, why do people come here from all over the world? Why are so many people trying to get in, not get out?”...Why? I’ll tell you why. Because you have fucked up the rest of the world even worse than what you have done in this country. You have made it impossible for many people to live in their own countries as part of gaining your riches and power.
Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:14
BAsics 1:14 needs to spread far and wide—and revcom.us should appear on national media to respond to those reactionary fools waving American flags in Murrieta and elsewhere.
At a recent discussion at Revolution Books about the immigration surge at the U.S.-Mexico border, questions arose about why and who are people coming to the U.S. A particular wild and sharp exchange took place over someone who felt we should be outraged about the conditions for Black children/people in the U.S. (WE ARE!)—but posed it AGAINST the outrage about the treatment of the immigrants' children.
There was back and forth about what is the condition in the countries where people are fleeing and how the political and economic domination of these countries by the U.S. over many decades have created unbearable living conditions. There was struggle over why we should NOT pit the oppressed against each other, why it’s the system that is to blame and how it serves the system oppressing us all to blame each other.
The pictures of the reactionary mob in Murrieta brings to mind the mobs that attacked and blocked Black children from getting into schools of the South.
It should not be underestimated how little people in this country understand about WHY so many people (and children) are risking their very lives to make the harrowing journey crossing the U.S.-Mexico (and other) borders in order to simply survive.
Some months ago, The New York Times Magazine printed an article on quinoa recipes. In it, there was a relevant fact on the reality captured in BAsics 1:14: "...the worldwide demand for quinoa has become so high that many of those who live in the regions of Bolivia where the crop is grown can no longer afford to buy it."
The “worldwide demand” means parasitic imperialist citadels like the U.S. As with Bolivia and so many other countries in Central America or Mexico, the peasants can no longer afford the food they grow, driven off their land and into slums of those countries and now surging across the Mexico-U.S. border. It’s an ugly fact of capitalism-imperialism that people have no right to eat—even the very food they grow.
This is the irrational lopsided world capitalism-imperialism has created—the real people, real families, real children—behind the statistic that the U.S. is 5% of the world’s population but parasitically sucks up 25% of its resources.
This is the brutal relationship—the production (economic) relations—between the U.S. capitalist-imperialist system and the countries it dominates and oppresses that is compelling the immigrants surging across the U.S. border from Mexico and Central America in historically unprecedented numbers, including the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children as young as 5-6 years old.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
Saturday, July 12, saw the culmination of three days of protest in Santa Rosa, California, following the Sonoma County DA’s decision not to charge Erick Gelhaus, the cop who killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez (with seven shots in 11 seconds) on October 22, 2013, while Lopez had a toy gun.
The rally, called by Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez, drew 200+ people from all over Northern California to a downtown square, including activists from Fresno, Brown Berets from Sonoma County, and Stop Mass Incarceration Network members from the San Francisco Bay Area. Families of victims of police murder spoke of the need to stop this epidemic and take some action. The father of a man killed in Dublin, California, said, “We have to change things. I live in a neighborhood of crime, but I’m more afraid of the cops than the criminals.” The mother of James Rivera, killed by Stockton police, came with a contingent of young supporters, and said she was tired of having these police murders just ruin the families, and that she had concern for her other children. She said, “NOW is the time to stand up.” Friends of Andy Lopez spoke, including a 13-year-old girl who’d been bruised up by police, hours after a courthouse rally on Monday. Having gone through the trauma that this girl and her two friends experienced, it took courage to get on the stage and tell the world about this. These friends of Andy have maintained a stance of defiance and anger for almost nine months!
The march, numbering about 150, began with a die-in at a main downtown intersection. This was followed by several more die-ins through the shopping district, disrupting the “routine” character of the life in downtown, causing restaurant owners to close their doors, in spite of the fact that some of the diners (including tourists) were sympathetic to the protest. As bodies were outlined in chalk on the streets, one of the youths said, “I’m doing this for Andy. He can’t be here!”
As the march looped back to the main square, an announcement was made. The rally and march had made an important statement; but many want to continue this march and make some significant impact on society commensurate with the outrage felt by many toward the crime of letting Gelhaus (and many other killer cops like him) go! About 100 people continued the march toward the busy 101 freeway!!
With a loud cacophony of whistles and banners, chanting “blow your whistle, raise your fist, we refuse to live like this” and “whose world, our world” and the repeated “Andy, Andy, Andy,” the rally echoed up toward the freeway off-ramp. After a short confrontation with a line of cops, about 20-25 people made their way to the top and stopped traffic going northward with banners that read “We Are All Andy Lopez, the whole damn system is guilty” and “Rise up against Andy’s murder,” as well as another banner in Spanish. The remainder of demonstrators, about 50+ strong, had a die-in while confronting California Highway Patrol and Santa Rosa cops in riot gear (including canine units on standby) at the bottom of the off-ramp.
As the demonstrators blocked the freeway, CHP came out with beanbag guns and clubs, at one point aiming the gun directly a few feet from a demonstrator. But people stood firm and the traffic was halted for 15-20 minutes. Vehicles had meanwhile backed up 10 miles to the south. Afterwards, as people marched off the freeway through a gauntlet of cops, they joined up with others at the bottom of the off-ramp.
Still the march continued! Onto the mall, where about 50 people loudly marched through Macy’s department store. The march continued through to the other side and back to the square to talk about what happened.
A number of the young friends of Andy felt unleashed by the action. One of the girls said, “When are we doing this some more?” Another girl said, “They were afraid of us here!” An older woman with a walker said, “This was the best thing that ever happened to Santa Rosa.” Another protester said, “This city has been asleep for too long. We woke people up!” While this action aroused controversy among some, it emboldened others, including some who previously thought cops could be reasoned with to get justice for Andy and to stop police murder and brutality of the youth.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Photos circulated around the world (including in the Middle East) show Israelis watching and cheering the bombardment and mass murder of the Palestinian people in Gaza in the fashion of Germans applauding the Nazi assault on the Warsaw ghetto, or white racists in the U.S. gathering to celebrate a lynching, or the mob of xenophobes attacking a bus full of immigrant children and parents in Murrieta, Calif. A particularly disgusting and revealing illustration of what a horrible thing the creation of the Zionist state of Israel by global imperialism has been not just for the direct victims of Israel's ethnic cleansing and wars, but what it has done to the morality of too many Jewish people as well.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
by Carl Dix | July 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The NYPD choked Eric Garner to death for nothing; nothing other than being Black and being tired of being harassed by the cops. Oh they’ve got excuses—they always do. They say Eric Garner was selling loose cigarettes. He expressed completely justifiable anger and outrage over being continually harassed by the police. Now, tell me when did those so-called crimes become capital offenses where a pig can choke you to death in plain sight and full view? Let’s face it: every time they murder a Black person, they call it “justifiable homicide.”
This was a lynching caught on videotape, so they can't say it didn't happen. They can't say Eric Garner was reaching for a weapon or that his actions made the cops fear for their lives (as if that should be a license to kill someone).
Look at the damn video—the cops just grabbed him in a chokehold and kept choking him, even as he said, “I can't breathe, I can't breathe,” over and over again. Then they left him lying on the sidewalk in handcuffs, and the pigs did nothing to try to save his life.
How different is this than the old lynching days, where a Black man could be strung up and burned alive or killed in front of everyone for looking at a white man the wrong way, or not stepping off the sidewalk when a white man approached? When the bodies of Black people hung on trees like “strange fruit” as Billie Holiday used to sing.
This is no isolated incident The NYPD has gotten away with murder repeatedly, killing more than 240 people since September 2001. Cops across the country do the same damn thing. Most of the victims of police murder are Black or Latino, and most of them weren't doing anything wrong when those who are sworn to protect and serve stole their lives.
That’s part of the reason I, Cornel West, and many others have called for A MONTH OF RESISTANCE TO MASS INCARCERATION, POLICE TERROR, REPRESSION AND THE CRIMINALIZATION OF A GENERATION! October 2014 must be a month where thousands and thousands of people stand up and say NO MORE to the horrors the cops, the courts and the prisons inflict on people. To get with the Month of Resistance, go to: www.stopmassincarceration.net.
When killer cops almost always get away with murder, there is a SYSTEM behind it. And I see now some of these pigs are posting on their “police officer” websites that people like Eric Garner are “savages” who deserve to die. This is a system with a genocidal agenda at home that enforces oppression and mass murder all around the world—like they’re doing now backing their enforcer Israel’s slaughter of the Palestinians. It is a system that needs to be gotten rid of through revolution as soon as possible.
Now the Mayor and the Police Chief say they need to do an investigation of what happened to Eric Garner. No, we don’t need an investigation. We don’t need a cover-up. We don’t need a whole lot of run-around to try to chill people out and make people forget about this. What we need is mass protest.
THIS SHIT MUST STOP!
NOBODY should be quiet or put up with what they did to Eric Garner.
Now is no time for silence, fear, or bullshit. However you come at this, if you have an ounce of justice in your heart, if you're tired of being treated like criminals by the cops and courts, if you refuse to stand by while others are subjected to this kind of mistreatment, then step out and protest now! We cannot let this police murder go down like so many others. And while we do that, let’s build for the October Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
Go to the website revcom.us to get with the movement for revolution, and connect with the movement for a month of mass resistance against mass incarceration, police terror, repression and criminalization of a generation in October. Or go to the Stop Mass Incarceration Network website at stopmassincarceration.net.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
From A World to Win News Service:
July 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
21 July 2014. A World to Win News Service. As the Israeli massacre in Gaza entered its third week, many cities across the globe saw marches and demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinian people. In France, too, there were protests against the Israeli attacks in about 15 cities on 19 July. But the French government banned the planned march in Paris that day, threatening arrest and up to six months in prison for anyone who showed up at the assembly point in Barbes, the main shopping area in the largely Arab and African neighbourhoods of northern Paris.
Police blockades failed to stop thousands of youth and many others from coming. The encirclement and then brutal attack on what had been a mainly non-violent demonstration only succeeded in fragmenting the crowd into the twisting side streets of a mainly supportive neighbourhood, where they were able to evade and sometimes fight off the police for several hours. Other youth came to join them.
The pretext for the ban was scuffles around two synagogues at the end of another pro-Palestinian march the week before. After failing to prevent the 19 July protest, the authorities and their media mouthpieces tried to politically encircle and isolate the youth who had defied them by labelling it an "anti-Semitic riot", in words echoed by the BBC.
This lie was not, as many people think, an attempt to appeal to Jewish voters or even just a question of French complicity with Israel. Contrary to the popular chant, French President Francois Hollande is not Israel's "accomplice". France is an imperialist power that is now highly active in seeking to consolidate and expand its historic areas of influence, including by sending troops to former colonies in Africa where Islam is widespread. Above all its recent turn toward a more openly pro-Israeli policy has to do with France's own predatory interests and aspirations in the Arab world.
Instead, this lie reflects the dilemma of a state worried about the way hatred for its own and its allies' crimes abroad is affecting those who are most oppressed and exploited in France itself, especially immigrants and their children, who, because of France's historical colonies and sphere of influence, happen to be largely from Muslim backgrounds.
This is what President Francois Hollande was referring to when he warned, in defending the ban, "the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be imported". This is also the meaning behind Prime Minister Manuel Valls' statement justifying the ban as a measure against what he called anti-Semitism "spreading on the Internet, on social media, in our working class areas, among young people who are often directionless, who have no awareness of history, who hide their hatred of Jews behind a mask of anti-Zionism and behind the hatred of the Israeli state".
For a long time in France, like in many countries and including much of the Arab world, efforts to gather people in support of the Palestinians have not had much success, reflecting the decline in hopes of radical change among Palestinians and other Arabs in this country (and globally), as well as more generally in France. But over the past two weeks, night after night of television news showing Israeli explosives killing children in Gaza once again brought people into the streets in growing numbers, creating a worrisome situation for the French government.
France has a well-oiled political set-up in which reformist parties can often lead public outrage into acceptable channels. Some kinds of big demonstrations against the massacre in Gaza have been and will probably be allowed, but the plans for this protest in Barbes threatened to be what the government considered unacceptable and ended up trying to smash an uncontrollable big gathering of youth from immigrant backgrounds and public housing, some secondary and university students and young professionals, as well as low-wage workers and unemployed—and at least as many young women as men.
Some people who had rarely or never taken part in any kind of political demonstration felt that this time they had to be there because they felt a connection between their oppression and the oppression of the Palestinians. The actions of the French government itself worked to bring that out. The ban and the threat of brutality helped turn a slogan once chanted almost routinely at demonstrations into an accurate, if poetic, description of the way many people felt about their own situation and what they wanted to do about it: "We are all Palestinians", in some way fighting the same fight against the same enemies.
While there is plenty of anti-Semitism in France, including among youth of all nationalities, and Jews, Jewish-owned stores and synagogues are sometimes targeted, that was not what this demonstration was about. Its flag was the flag of Palestine, an oppressed nation, and its target Israel and the French government. It was "anti-Semitic" only to those who, like the French Prime Minister, argue that there is no legitimate reason to oppose what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. It was not like the Catholic fundamentalist, homophobic, proudly patriarchal and often anti-republic (in both the forms of fascism and monarchism)—and, by the way, anti-Semitic—massive demonstrations that the "Socialist" president of the French Republic has found much less disturbing than these youth seeking justice.
If the majority of the participants in this banned protest were from an Islamic background, that is certainly not because others were excluded—those who came were welcomed. It was the Jewish Defence League (on their Web site) and not the pro-Palestinians who threatened violence against the small groups in this march who carried banners reading, "Jews for Justice for Palestine". The problem is not that some people feel a special connection with Palestine but that not enough other people recognize the justice of the Palestinian cause, at least not enough to risk what these youth did.
But Islam is exerting a growing attraction among them, and one factor in that is the French state's own policies and propaganda.
It is telling that some reactionary commentators are referring to France's 2005 ghetto youth rebellion as a "French Intifada" and calling for the French government to treat second and third-generation immigrant youth the way Israel treats Palestinians, as an alien element to be walled off and gotten rid of. Yet in that rebellion religion did not play the role that it does among immigrant youth today.
Despite the overwhelming secular character of the 19 July protest, when some people began to chant "Allahu Akbar" (God is great), it was taken up widely. A few people carried Turkish flags to associate support for Palestine with that country's reactionary Islamist governing party. And, like the Islamists, the shamefully few self-defined leftists who participated had nothing better to offer than tailing after Hamas, an organization that was born and still lives for the goal of religious rule and not the liberation of any people.
Some Salafist women university students proclaimed, "We're here to say to Palestine that we have awakened for you." In the face of the last few weeks' events, far too many people are still asleep. But being pulled into religion is not becoming awake.
The fact that these young women and many other youth have adopted Islamic fundamentalism means that they have rejected French oppression and some aspects of the French slave mentality only to enslave themselves to another oppressive world outlook, that of religion. Their hope that Islam offers a way out of oppression is an illusion.
Even before Israel existed French governments tried to cast their colonial mission as a fight to civilize Islamic populations. But the vilification of Islamic populations as a weapon in the hands of the French imperialist ruling class in its moves abroad and at home is only one side of the question. The other side is what it will take for more people to awaken from feeling they have to choose between the imperialist republic and the Islamic "community of the faithful" whose promises are no less a lie.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
Statement from Revolutionary Communist Party, NY Branch on the Police Murder of Eric Garner:
July 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Everyone has seen the video. Everyone has seen the police come up to Eric Garner and put him in a chokehold for the “crime” of selling cigarettes. Everyone has seen Eric say over and over, as they drive him to the ground, “I can’t breathe.” Everyone has seen the big man go down, unconscious. Everyone has seen the pigs just stand over his body, doing nothing. Everyone has seen the paramedics do the same. Not even making a show of pretending to save him. That’s how they see the lives of Black people.
This is everyday life for masses of Black people in America now. Today. 2014.
Do you remember Eric Garner’s last words before they put him in a chokehold?
“It stops today.”
It stops today.
The murder of Eric Garner is a dagger right in the gut of millions of people—but it is part of, it is the spearpoint, of a whole bigger program. It is tied in with the horrific mass incarceration of African-American, and other minority, peoples. It is tied in with the fact that they have no future for ordinary Black people like Eric Garner other than one where you are constantly hounded and then murdered if you raise a question against them.
Face it. Right now this system is committing slow genocide against African Americans—and it is on track to commit fast genocide.
Eric Garner’s words should ring in our ears and in our consciences: this DOES have to stop today!
People’s anger at this is righteous. People’s anger is ESSENTIAL. Anyone who tells people to “be cool” is dead wrong. This righteous rage at what was done to Eric Garner is the fuel we need to “stop this today.”
Not by electing new mayors or presidents who are Black or who are supposedly sympathetic to or “listen” to Black people. Didn’t people just do that? And what did it get? The same harassment, the same imprisonment, the same being treated like a criminal. And the same murder. Why do we keep expecting this ILLEGITIMATE system to do right—when it has taught us over and over that it cannot and will not?!
Not by videos—because how many videos have we seen? It’s okay and it can be important to take videos, but the time for just taking videos has long since passed.
Not by putting our faith in the Justice Department—because how many other times has the Justice Department investigated, and then the same basic shit keeps going on? This is the same IN-justice Department that oversees the lockup of millions of our youth and that is part of this whole illegitimate thing—why should we expect it to do anything other than either a whitewash or a slap on the wrist?
Yes, by fighting back—by going up against these pigs and the whole murderous system whose laws and way of life they enforce, and demanding justice for Eric. FIGHTING BACK IS ESSENTIAL—but that fight has to be part of something bigger.
What we really need is a revolution. A real revolution. A total revolution. A revolution which actually defeats and dismantles this system’s tools of violent repression: the armed force that this system wields against oppressed people here and all around the world—from Staten Island to the Gaza Strip. A revolution to change EVERYTHING. Changing the economy, changing the way people are treated and treat each other, changing the ideas and values that get promoted and fought for, and yes, changing the way that security is provided to people. And as the first basic and essential step to this: a revolution which brings in a whole new system which leads the masses of people to exercise power and to remake the world. A revolution which must and will lead people to eliminate all the inequalities and disparities of this society—including the oppression of Black people and other oppressed nationalities by white supremacy and the oppression of women by men. A revolution which must and will lead people to struggle over and finally overcome all the rotten ideas that correspond to this system of exploitation. A communist revolution—against capitalism and bringing in a whole new socialist system.
This is what we need, and this is possible. Now on one level, the time to totally jump this revolution off is not today. We would lose if we tried that. And we aim to win. The lives of millions and, ultimately, billions depend on that.
But in another way, the revolution DOES have to start today—there is plenty to do right now to get ready for this revolution, to hasten and bring closer the chance to make revolution and then win when that chance comes. That is what our Party is all about. Our slogan puts it out:
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.
Get with this Party. Come to its website, revcom.us. Check out and get into our leader, Bob Avakian (BA), who has taken communism and revolution to a new level. Get BA’s film REVOLUTION–NOTHING LESS! and his book BAsics, the handbook of revolution. Meet BA by going online to youtube.com and searching “Yes, There Is a Conspiracy, to Get the Cops off." Get with the Revolution Club, where you can fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution, right now.
Be in the streets with us fighting for justice for Eric Garner. And join our Party and many others in getting ready for a massive month of resistance against mass incarceration, police terror, repression and the criminalization of a generation. This has to be a massive effort, and many different people of all kinds of views are uniting to do this—but you are badly needed for it! Come to a kickoff rally and meeting to get down on planning this on August 2 (12 noon - 4 pm, at St. Paul and St. Andrew Church, 263 West 86th St., New York, NY 10024).
It is up to us to make real Eric’s words: IT STOPS TODAY!!
Contact: Revolution Books • 146 W. 26th St. • New York, NY • 212-691-3345
Revolution #346 July 27, 2014
July 25, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We are building a movement for revolution, and carrying out a whole ensemble of revolutionary work. In that light, the ongoing protests against Israel’s assault on Gaza are an important opportunity to make an internationalist statement that these war crimes against the Palestinian people must end and that the world needs revolution and communism and to visibly promote Revolution—Nothing Less and revcom.us.
Revcom.us readers may have plans, and here are some suggestions for relating to these protests: