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Revolution #347 August 3, 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 #347 August 3, 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 #347 August 3, 2014
Violent revenge against women in 2014 is a worldwide epidemic. It does not have to be this way!
by Sunsara Taylor | July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
When I first took a road-trip in the dead of winter to defend the last abortion clinic in North Dakota almost 20 years ago, I still believed that the U.S. was a “free country” that took whatever course it did simply because that is what most people wanted. The forces arrayed against abortion, I thought, could be persuaded if pro-choice people just shared with them what we understood.
I understood that sometimes women don’t want to have children. I had watched girls driven out of my high school in shame because of pregnancy and fundamentalism. I grew up surrounded by women who struggled to feed and clothe the children they had. I knew about the terrible brutality men inflicted on women inside their own homes. And I had just learned that women used to bleed to death after using wire coat hangers to self-induce abortions before it became legal.
I had absolutely no doubt that I could persuade the anti-abortion protesters to redirect their energies towards something that would really help women.
I was wrong. I expected them to pray for “babies”; instead they prayed to “break the curse of independence that has afflicted women.” I expected compassion from people who called themselves Christian; instead they shouted us down and rationalized the murder of abortion doctors and put me in fear.
I got my first sense that this was much deeper than a misunderstanding.
Since that time, this same hardened anti-woman outlook has not only continued to terrorize abortion providers and women—eight abortion workers have been murdered and thousands of bombings, clinic invasions, and acts of terror have been carried out—this outlook has become mainstream within the ruling circles of this country. Hundreds of laws restricting abortion have been passed, creating a situation where 97 percent of rural counties do not have abortion providers. Recent Supreme Court rulings have green-lighted clinic harassment, deprived thousands of women meaningful access to birth control, and flung the door wide open to even more draconian religious intrusion on women and others.
None of this was driven by the “will of the people.” Despite significant gains by Christian fascists in shaming women and stigmatizing abortion—aided considerably by the defensiveness around abortion on the part of the Democrats and much of the pro-choice movement—most people in this country do not believe women should be forced to have children against their will.
Around abortion, no less than around the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, “popular will” is not what determined the direction of this country.
Over the last 20 years I have learned what it is that is “deeper” than a simple misunderstanding; it is the nature of the system of capitalism-imperialism we live under. Capitalism is a system that ravages the globe in pursuit of profit or advantage. In the two decades since that Fargo winter, it has hurled millions of peasants worldwide off their land and into the teeming slums and shantytowns. It has driven down wages and thrown huge numbers of men out of work. It has sucked millions and millions of impoverished and displaced women into sweatshops and brothels. From one corner of the globe to the other, it has caused tremendous changes in how people live, creating great suffering and affecting how people think and relate.
One effect of all this upheaval has been the undermining of traditional forms of patriarchy, the systematic oppression of women by men. Who thought that more people would live in cities than the countryside worldwide or that more women than men would be graduating college in this country?
At the same time, capitalism-imperialism cannot do without patriarchy. The patriarchal family—even as it gets stretched and strained by all these changes—is still a cornerstone of society’s economic functioning. And male supremacy remains one of the most cohering social glues that hold society together.
All this has combined to create what can only be described as a global tidal wave of violence and vengeance against women—from the Boko Haram kidnappings to the increasing popularity of violent, woman-hating porn, to the all-out assault in this country on reproductive freedom. Much of this revenge arises spontaneously, out of the resentment of men who have been bred their entire lives in the outlook of this system that in order to survive and thrive you have to dominate someone else, and where the domination of women is at the core of all of this. And much of this revenge has arisen out of the conscious policy of ruling class forces who are desperate to stabilize and re-cohere society in this increasingly unstable world. This is the context in which the tremendous advances made by Christian fascists—both from the halls of power and in their reactionary mass movements—in eliminating and shaming abortion in this country must be understood.
Bob Avakian (BA), Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, put it well years ago when he wrote:
“The whole question of the position and role of women in society is more and more acutely posing itself in today’s extreme circumstances... It is not conceivable that all this will find any resolution other than in the most radical terms... The question yet to be determined is: will it be a radical reactionary or a radical revolutionary resolution, will it mean the reinforcing of the chains of enslavement or the shattering of the most decisive links in those chains and the opening up of the possibility of realizing the complete elimination of all forms of such enslavement?”
This question is far from settled in the world today.
Ultimately, achieving a world without misogyny and oppression of women, as well as one without all other forms of exploitation and oppression, requires getting rid of the system of capitalism-imperialism. How this can be, and how unleashing the fury of women against all forms of male domination must be a driving force both in making revolution and in making sure it is all-the-way liberating revolution, is a vital part of what is new in Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism. This opens up new possibilities for real liberation. Everyone who yearns for this needs to seriously engage the new compendium of BA’s work on this question, Break ALL the Chains! And standing up today and resisting the crimes being committed against women is an absolutely integral and crucial part of hastening this revolution that women so desperately need.
So, 20 years later, as I head to Texas to take part in the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride 2014, I see this as a critical part of fighting to realize a whole better world. Stopping this assault on women’s most fundamental rights requires people standing up, telling the uncompromising truth that forced motherhood is female enslavement, putting themselves on the line against it, and calling forth millions of others to join in massive independent political resistance. And while people come into this battle around abortion, and should come into this battle from all kinds of viewpoints—and the rich vitality of the back-and-forth and learning from each other is one of the great things about being in this movement—for me this means not only waging this fight as hard and as smart as we can, and collectivizing with others on how to do that, it also means bringing BA’s insights on this question and others to people. It means showing the links to struggles waged by oppressed peoples all around the world, it means letting people know about the Revolutionary Communist Party and its website, revcom.us, and most of all that it doesn’t have to be this way.
A radically different and far better world, one without the oppression of women by men and without all the destructive antagonistic conflicts between people and WITH real human flourishing and vitality, is possible.
Revolution #347 August 3, 2014
Abortion Rights Freedom Ride 2014: Ground Zero Texas
July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Tune in every Wednesday from July 30 to August 20 to the national webcasts of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride's People's Hearings. These hearings will bring to light the true state of emergency that exists around women's right to abortion in Texas and nationwide and will make the case for why massive independent, political resistance against the national war on women is needed. The People's Hearings will feature powerful testimony and stories that bring to life what actually happens to women when abortion is illegal or inaccessible—testimony from before abortion was legalized, from areas in this country where abortion is so inaccessible that women are now having to resort once again to self-inducing, and from countries where abortion is illegal. There will be testimony from abortion providers, religious and community leaders, and other advocates for women's right to abortion.
Then each Thursday the findings will be delivered in powerful and dramatic protests outside the offices of key individuals or institutions behind this assault on women's fundamental rights.
Across the country people can send in their testimony to be part of the hearings and can tune in live to watch. This will all contribute toward building a nationwide Week of Defiance August 25 to September 1.
For more information go to StopPatriarchy.org.
Revolution #347 August 3, 2014
July 2014 Revolutionary BAE Cookout Testimonial
July 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
My grandson was fourteen years old when he entered the most dangerous prison in Texas. My grandson was put into prison with adult men. He was scared and put up a brave front. He was often involved in fights and one time he was cut from his ear to his throat. He received no visitors because his family resides across the country.
We, his family reacted like most families when he went to prison. We thought if he did the crime he must serve the time. How wrong we were.
My relationship with my grandson is practically non-existing. I feel very hurt and feel that I was robbed of my relationship with my grandson.
He was robbed of his childhood, his teen years, and now it looks like his adult years. I miss him. My grandson is bitter and angry.
I am here today, because I have three more grandsons and six granddaughters that I am fighting for. But I'm also fighting for the children of the world, and especially the children crossing the border from Central America. I now realized that our babies are suffering, and have no future unless we step up and say NO MORE! NO MAS!
All our babies are our future and in this system that is broken, they have no future. They are being killed off, kidnapped, set up and they are targets. The educational system is failing them, there is no jobs for our youth, there is very few recreation for our youth.
With each day the situation with our youth is getting worse. When they gather they are called gang bangers and drug dealers.
Our kids are like sitting ducks, this society is taking their lives. Like a spider that forms a web that traps its prey.
Having a loved one incarcerated is hard on their family. Money is needed for their cigarettes, hygiene, etc., money for calls that is really expensive, traveling back and forth to and from prison. Our loved ones have to fight for their life in order to survive, they are angry about the conditions they suffer in. Sometimes they are given nasty tasting food, showering in cold water, their health declines, they are often depressed and have mental health issues. They are placed in the hole, isolated.
We need to wake up and realize that we live in a society that don't care about women, the poor, the middle class, people of color and especially children. That is why we need to get the word out globally that there is a movement that calls for change. In order to stop the suffering, the abuse, racism, attacks on our people, we need to face reality.
I had to wake up and deal with cold reality when I met up with BA (Bob Avakian) and the Revolutionary Communist Party. I also learned that there is a way out of this madness. That as BA says: "those the system has counted as nothing can count for a great deal."
I encourage each and everyone to listen to BA speeches, to watch his videos, to read his books, to talk to the members of the Revolutionary Communist Party. To open up your minds as well as your eyes. We can play a part in changing this society. We can start by contributing to the 1000 Years–$1000 for BA Everywhere campaign.
The money being raised is to get the word out into the world that there is a leader that is willing to stand up for the people and to create a positive society where people can live a better life. The money is being raised to teach our children to be leaders, to give hope to those that have no hope.
BA needs to be heard throughout the world in order to start changing a broken society that doesn't care about its people. We are calling for everyone to help spread the word. All genders, all ethnic groups, the young and the old and people from all walks of life.
There are seven links in this piece of the chain. Each one of the links represents a year that my eldest grandson has served time in prison.
Revolution #347 August 3, 2014
July 28, 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).
The BA Everywhere Campaign is calling for Break ALL the Chains celebrations to mark the publication of Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution.1 These afternoon or evening celebrations of artistic performance, testimony, and deep revolutionary substance and feeling will build community through being part of a dinner, or picnic, or BBQ in different cities. The celebrations will raise funds as they mark a midpoint in the summer 2014 BA Everywhere campaign to raise big money to make it possible for people across the country to come to know of BA and the new synthesis of communism that he has brought forward—which is a deeper, more scientific understanding of the methods, the goals, the strategy and plan for making revolution and creating a new society.
The Break ALL the Chains celebrations will give expression to the lived experience of the vicious war that is being waged on women here and around the world. These events will sing with poems, songs, and drama of people struggling to end this degradation and oppression... words and art will fill the air with the joy that comes from imagining a radically different world that is possible through revolution. These events will celebrate the fighters in the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride taking place in Texas—who will be on the front line of the struggle for a woman’s basic right to control her own life and reproduction. The experience of being at the August 9 celebrations will introduce lots of people to BA, bringing alive the difference it makes when BA and the vision of this radically new society and the strategy for revolution to get there becomes known. When that happens, sights are raised with people thinking, talking, and relating to each other in a whole other way—inspired and provoked by a growing sense that another world really is possible.
Be a part of Breaking ALL the Chains—August 9!
1. A sampler edition of this work—a 32-page booklet with a four-color cover—has just been published, and is being made available free for distribution in prisons, schools and communities of the oppressed courtesy of The Bob Avakian Institute. [back]
Revolution #347 August 3, 2014
Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution:
July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
August 9: Celebrate the Release of Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution—a collection of groundbreaking works by Avakian on how central and defining the liberation of women is to any real revolution.
A sampler edition of Break ALL the Chains! is available at revcom.us (as is the full collection). 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.
If you are just learning about Bob Avakian (BA) and deciding about donating to see his work spread by the Bob Avakian Everywhere campaign—consider the impact of this sampler edition of Break ALL the Chains! getting into the prisons, schools, youth programs and community centers, and out to the playgrounds, stoops, courtyards. The Bob Avakian Institute has funded the publication of 20,000 of these sampler editions of Break ALL the Chains!—which only begins to meet the need and potential for many thousands and tens of thousands of people, especially young people, to encounter this unique revolutionary voice on how humanity can get free. Donate so that this work—and all of Avakian’s work on the strategy and vision for a new wave of communist revolution—can be known and debated; can lift hearts and minds to the real possibility for a whole new world. See responses to BA’s work in statements and video here.
If you are a teacher, student, youth counselor, artist, activist, parent, or caretaker who wants to make this sampler available to youths or prisoners you work with, order copies from the BA Everywhere campaign at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or find your nearest Revolution Books or the closest celebration on August 9 of the release of Break ALL the Chains! at revcom.us.
If you are working at Revolution Books, or are among young people and in the community: as you are inviting and involving people in the August 9 celebrations of the release of Break ALL the Chains!—talk to teachers, librarians, community college professors, coaches, church people, and counselors running summer youth programs, prisoners rights and prisoners support groups... get with them into what BA’s work is about. The BAsics 3:22 quote—“You cannot break all the chains, except one...” is both a challenge and a vision—of a different world with NO MORE of the brutalization and degradation that weighs down on half of humanity today—and the movement for revolution being built today that invites, welcomes, celebrates, and unleashes the fury of women as a driving force for that revolution—a revolution to bring about a whole other way humanity can be.
Introduce people to BA’s deep and incisive work on this in the new compendium, Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution. In a world of rape, human trafficking, and sexual slavery, BA’s urgent insistence that the revolution humanity needs will go to work on uprooting the thousands of years of tradition and structures that oppress women in thousands of ways needs to be known, discussed, and debated by millions.
Use letters and examples from the BA Everywhere page of revcom.us—like this grandmother’s statement and this video—indicating the impact of getting into BA on people from diverse sections of society. Explore with those you are talking with the impact the sampler version of Break ALL the Chains! can have on young women and young men, in the communities, prisons, and beyond—opening eyes and minds to a whole other way the world, and people, can be, through all-the-way revolution. Arrange for the sampler edition of Break ALL the Chains! to be provided in quantity where it will be taken up as part of summer programming. Involve people in donating to make this possible on an even greater scale, including going into fall as schools reopen in full session.
Donations can be made here.
Write to us about your experiences—at email@example.com.
Revolution #347 August 3, 2014
Excerpts from an Interview with Carl Dix
July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following excerpt is from an in interview Carl Dix did on July 25 on The Michael Slate Show (KPFK radio) about the Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation:
First what I want to do is just talk about the reality that's driving us needing to do something like this. 'Cause I've just been looking at the past couple of weeks. A week ago, the NYPD choked Eric Garner to death. There's a video of it happening. If people haven't seen it, they should look at it. You see this guy being choked to death, and saying, "I can't breathe! I can't breathe!" And still they keep choking him, and then leave his lifeless body unattended for seven minutes.
The week before that, I was writing about and speaking out about an exposé of 129 inmates at Rikers Island who were dealt unspeakably brutal beatings by the guards in the space of less than one year, and no guards being disciplined for any of this, even though many of those beatings were also caught on video tape.
And then the week before that, there were the children down on the border, fleeing violence and poverty, being rounded up by Homeland Security—and violence and poverty that's enforced on their homelands by U.S. domination— being swept up by Homeland Security, accosted by flag-waving, racist mobs. And now they're debating how quickly can they send them back to that violence and poverty.
See, and all of that reality is part of a program. They're not isolated, unconnected horrors. They are horrors, but they're not isolated and unconnected. They're part of a program that has a genocidal thrust that's targeted at controlling, beating down and even penning in people that this system has no future for. Just the way that this system works, they don't need them any more. And they've got to figure out how to control them. And, look, on one level let's just be real. What's it gonna take to deal with this once and for all? It's going to take revolution, nothing less, and that's a message that I put out everywhere that I go—and that there is leadership for this revolution. There's a strategy for it, and people need to connect with the movement for revolution that the Revolutionary Communist Party is building.
At the same time, people need to stand up and just say, "No more!" to these atrocities. You can't just become aware of them and go about your daily lives. You can't become aware of them and even angry, and then talk about it amongst your friends. You've got to stand up and do something about it. And this October Month of Resistance is a vehicle for all of those who are seeing these horrors, all of those who are becoming aware of them, all of those people who are angry about them. And even for the people who are acting against one or another horror, to come together, to raise our voices in a united way, loud, strong and powerful, "No more!" To echo what Eric Garner said before the police began choking him, "This stops now."
Well, that's what we're going to be saying in October through a variety of forms of resistance. It's going to be happening all across the country, targeting the overall genocidal program of mass incarceration, police terror, repression and the criminalization of a generation, and doing it, not as, "OK, now that's done," but doing it as a step towards and a springboard towards ending mass incarceration and all of its consequences once and for all.
Revolution #347 August 3, 2014
Carl Dix on the Month of Resistance:
July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following excerpt is from a recent interview Revolution did with Carl Dix about the Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation:
When Cornel West and I got together and came up with the idea of issuing a call for this Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration we were seeing a couple of things. One, is we were seeing that there was beginning stirring, that that was happening and that was important and needed to be built on because it was no where near commensurate to where it needed to be in relation to the way in which the genocidal program was being brought down on people. At the same time there was the beginnings of some of the expressions from Obama, from Holder about “here are some programs to address this” which went along with calls for people to get behind them. So we saw the possibility of things being derailed.
We came up with a calendar, kicking off the month with sermons in churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, all kinds of religious institutions, targeted at bringing out the horrors of mass incarceration—but also urging the congregations in those religious institutions to participate in the entire month which is going to be a month of activities on campuses, panels, symposiums, teach-ins, cultural events happening all across the country, coordinated demonstrations on October 22. These protests are an especially important part of the month because the youth who are being criminalized need to have the room and space to stand up and say no fucking more to this shit and they need to be able to do it in a way that they can see both their power in doing it and that there are others standing with them. That’s been an important thing about the October 22 demonstrations historically, that they have brought together those who have lived their lives under the guns and billy clubs of brutal, murdering police together with people from other sections of society who stand with them and have their backs. These October 22 demonstrations are very important because that’s a way to put a stamp of defiance on the activity of the whole month ,but they too, have to take a leap of massive proportions this year if we’re really gonna impact all of society—which we ARE.
We’re aiming for a Month of Resistance that can mark the beginning of the end of mass incarceration in this country. And in laying that out we were saying that OK, it’s not the case that everybody in the country is going to act in this month, but tens of thousands need to act during this month. They need to act in a determined and defiant way and in ways that impact millions of people in society and move them, impact the way they think about mass incarceration, have them looking at,—“well, ok, I used to think that these people in jail are in there for a reason.” Or, “I used to think the police targeted these communities, I kind of knew that was happening but I bought their justifications for it.”
We have to get people rethinking their acceptance of those justifications and actually breaking with their acceptance and beginning to see that people are not a bunch of criminals, but that they have been criminalized. And resistance is gonna be very, very important for that to happen. Because some people pose that we do need to do a lot of education. Well, we do need to do a lot of education. But education without resistance is not going to impact people in the same way, it’s not going to lay the basis to challenge people to look deeply into this and to change their thinking. That’s what has to happen on a very significant scale throughout the country with this Month of Resistance.
One thing that we’re doing right now are kick-off meetings in a number of different cities. Oakland has its scheduled for July 26, LA and New York the next weekend and Chicago the middle of August. There have already been kick-off meetings in Dallas and Dayton. The point of these kick-off meetings is to look at who needs to be involved to make October happen—actually getting to the forces, the organizations and individuals and forces in society, everybody who sees mass incarceration as a horror or who could be won to see that, looking at that and then saying how do we get the people to the kick-off meetings that can reach out to and mobilize those people.
The approach is a combination of going very, very broadly in the cities where the kick-off meetings are going to happen. But also very strategically looking at who are the people we need in order to be able to have a movement of sermons in this particular area. Who are the people we need to have so we can have campus events in the areas where the meetings are happening? Who do we need to have in the room to really have significant cultural events? Who do we need to have there so there are powerful demonstrations on October 22 that involve the youth who are being criminalized, that involve people who have been victimized by the criminal injustice system, who have had their loved ones murdered, or their loved ones warehoused in prison? Something emanating from the West Coast but that I think needs to be taken up nationally—Columbus Day—might be a day of “not one more deportation” demonstrations happening in different parts of the country.
So this is what we’re putting together for October, this is our vision and plan for October and the kick-off meetings have to bring into being the kind of cores that can do the work on both the local and regional but also national level to realize this vision and to carry out this plan and to bring into being the kind of October which both through the variety of activities, the numbers of people involved, and the defiant stamp that’s put on it, can not only involve tens of thousand of people but be the kind of resistance that impacts millions; challenges them to change their thinking on this and brings many of them into joining in the movement of resistance and through that can really be the game changer around this where the trajectory gets changed; where things start breaking out differently; where people are no longer accepting what’s being done to them because they think there’s no way they can do anything about it; where people are no longer standing by and saying that’s bad but it’s not happening to me, and people are no longer buying the justifications. All of that’s gotta be challenged and transformed. And that’s what October’s got to be, a time when people start to look at this differently and act on it differently—and not just a few people, but very broadly and where we can concretely begin to reverse this whole genocidal program and direction.
Revolution #347 August 3, 2014
Massacre of Palestinians at a UN School
By Alan Goodman | July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The massacre of 16 people—with a hundred more injured—in the courtyard of a UN school in Gaza on July 24 was yet another escalation of Israel’s genocidal assault on the Palestinian people in Gaza.
The assault began with Israeli air attacks on July 8. At this writing, nearly a thousand Palestinians have been slaughtered by Israeli tanks, missiles, and bombs. Large sections of Gaza—a massive outdoor prison as densely populated as New York City—have been reduced to rubble. Homes, hospitals, schools—destroyed. At least a fifth of the deaths have been children. And Israel escalated this slaughter with a ground invasion launched July 17.
On Thursday, July 24, the UN-run elementary school in Beit Hanoun was packed with hundreds of Palestinian evacuees seeking shelter under UN protection. UN representatives carefully monitored the school and kept in close touch with the Israeli authorities. The UN repeatedly certified the school was not being used by combatants or to store Palestinian weapons.
Nevertheless, on July 21, Israel sent “warnings” that the school would be targeted for attack. Israel has issued such warnings less than a minute before it bombs people in homes, offices, hospitals, and shelters (see “Historian Ilan Pappé: Author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”). But the people in the school had nowhere else to go.
Tension in the school mounted. The UN evacuated their personnel, leaving hundreds of people behind. On July 24, word spread among those huddled in the school that they were to be evacuated to a safer place. People gathered up their meager possessions and lined up in the courtyard.
That was when the rockets hit.
Sixteen people were killed on the spot, a hundred more wounded, including women, children and infants. Moments later, the courtyard was empty, the ground pooled with blood. Spilled food, abandoned shoes, bloody bandages, overturned desks and scattered books can be seen in a video captured from the massacre (see video at http://nyti.ms/1ny382o). Survivors were rushed to Gaza’s hopelessly overwhelmed hospitals and makeshift clinics.
Israel's powerful military machine has “world class” technology for carrying out and meticulously recording death and destruction. In this case, Israel’s military spokesman would only say “there was a possibility” that the powerful shells that massacred people in the school courtyard came from Israeli forces.
That would be entirely consistent with Israel’s record and current practice of mass murder of Palestinian civilians in Gaza including in schools. Before July 20, Israel bombed three other UN schools where people were seeking shelter. Some 150,000 people are huddling in UN schools in Gaza in the hope Israel will feel some constraint in slaughtering them there.
The head of the UN schools program in Gaza told the New York Times that in other instances when UN schools had been bombed, he was “certain” that Israel was responsible. Survivors of the attack on July 24, and doctors who treated them, all say the rockets were Israeli. One survivor told the Times,“We had no resistance at all in the area.” Meaning there is no basis for “errant rockets” from Hamas to have hit the school, and no excuse for Israel to have attacked the school.
If systematically murdering desperate women, children, and other refugees who have taken shelter at UN schools isn’t a war crime, what is?!
The whole world is watching.
Last week, I wrote: “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.”
The Israeli assault on Gaza must STOP NOW!
Revolution #347 August 3, 2014
Accusations of “Human Shields”:
by Alan Goodman | July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
After the massacre of 16 people seeking shelter at a UN school—as well as other massacres that Israel has overtly taken credit for—Israel claimed that these were the Palestinians’ own fault because forces firing rockets at Israel use “civilians as human shields.”
The U.S. government and the media amplify that with a constant stream of statements and coverage that portrays the one-sided slaughter of Palestinians as supposedly morally complex and ultimately justifiable. Headlines, like the one in the New York Times titled “Israel Says That Hamas Uses Civilian Shields, Reviving Debate,” train Americans to turn away from the horrific crimes Israel is committing.
A one-sided, genocidal massacre is presented as hopelessly complicated: “Nothing is ever so clear in the complex and often brutal calculus of urban warfare.” (Headline and quote are from the New York Times July 23, 2014).
A spokesman for an imperialist “think tank” (that develops strategies and excuses for the crimes of the U.S. empire and its agents around the world) declared “Hamas knows that it works to its advantage, politically and diplomatically, as the civilian death toll mounts.”
As if the Palestinians are intentionally getting Israel to slaughter them because it makes Israel look bad.
For eight years Israel has subjected the people of Gaza to constant brutality, drone strikes, assassinations. Israel has cut off almost all contact between Gaza and the outside world. You can’t visit there. Relief ships have been attacked by Israel in international waters and humanitarian activists on board murdered by Israeli troops. Israel has literally starved people in Gaza, restricting imports of food and cutting off people’s ability to grow food, or to fish off Gaza’s Mediterranean coast. Over 13 percent of the children in Gaza suffer from acute malnutrition. Nearly 19 percent suffer from anemia. Unemployment is over 38 percent—far higher than in the U.S. during the Great Depression. People in Gaza do not have access to drinkable water and reliable electric power. (See “Gaza by the Numbers: Who the People are, how They got There” by Juan Cole, Guardian, July 8, 2014.)
And all this is in the context of decades of driving the Palestinian people, as a whole, from their land, and trying to destroy their lives, spirit and culture.
Whenever there is resistance of any kind from any force to all this, Israel strikes at the civilian population. They call the non-combatants they murder “collateral damage” and blame—often without any basis—whatever group they want to target and isolate.
It is Israel that has a policy of mass murder of civilians—often at random—in schools, hospitals, homes and on beaches. In fact, mass murder and collective punishment of civilians is Israel’s main weapon in enforcing the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Some apologists for Israel openly argue that there is no such thing as a Palestinian civilian!
Now, when ineffective rockets are fired towards Israel from within this densely packed prison, Israel cries that the forces firing the rockets are using civilians as “human shields.” And Israel uses that charge to justify intensifying the genocidal ethnic cleansing of Palestine, including repeatedly bombing UN schools where people gather to seek shelter, killing dozens.
The U.S. provides massive financial and technology aid to Israel’s military. Every crime Israel has ever committed has been backed by the U.S.
Over and over again, we hear from the rulers of the U.S., including Barack Obama, about the “shared ideals” of the U.S. and Israel.
That is true: they share the (immoral) ideals of exploiters and violent oppressors that sit atop a world of exploitation, injustice and oppression.
Here’s the basic truth:
All this bullshit about “human shields” from the rulers of the U.S., their mass media, and their Israeli hitmen is an obscene, immoral “rationale” for mass murder.
Revolution #347 August 3, 2014
People’s Climate March: A Call to All Those Who Want to “Change Everything”
July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following call should be reproduced and circulated in the environmental movement, especially to those mobilizing for the September 21 protest. Copies should be available at Revolution Books stores.
On September 21, tens of thousands of people will be converging in New York City for an unprecedented “People’s Climate March.” An enormous sense of urgency and responsibility for the future of the planet is motivating people to come to the march.
The Revolutionary Communist Party calls on people to join with this effort, to mobilize broadly, and to make this outpouring as powerful as possible.
The climate emergency is impacting the entire planet, and accelerating toward catastrophe. Millions in the poor countries already face an unsustainable environmental hell, and the future of human civilization is in question. Species and critical ecosystems face degradation and collapse.
This is a moment to seize, a moment to begin to wrench the planet off the path of destruction that it is on.
We DO need to “change everything,” to “bend the course of history,” as the call for the September 21 march declares. But what will it take to “change everything”? Can that happen under this system, with its economics, its politics, and its priorities? It cannot. Because this capitalist system is the barrier to where we need to go. To “change everything” we need revolution, nothing less!
We need the most scientific understanding of the physical processes of climate change, acidification, accelerating species extinctions, and the many intertwined manifestations of ecological destruction. But we ALSO need the most scientific understanding of why governments, countries, and those sitting in the world's seats of power are not addressing this insane trajectory in the ways that would be needed to actually stop and reverse it.
A global system of ruthless competition for profit among capitalists and among nation-states cannot and will not meet the needs of humanity. It cannot and will not stop waging wars and occupations that result in vast destruction and displacement. Nor can it safeguard the rich diversity of life on this planet.
The problem is bigger than “big oil”... bigger than “the corporations.” Capitalism-imperialism is a whole profit-based system that treats people as objects of exploitation and the natural world as something to be grabbed and poured into production for profit. Fossil fuels are foundational to the profitable functioning of this system. And to its strategic requirements: the U.S. military, a military of empire, depends on oil; and great-power control over oil and natural gas and energy provides leverage over the world economy.
To capital, the destruction of Earth’s atmosphere, the seas and rivers, the magnificent species populating the earth, are of no consequence in their drive to beat out rivals at the global level.
Capitalism is completely incapable of being a fit caretaker of the planet.
The capitalist-imperialist system has brought us to the brink of catastrophe. Only the most radical revolution in human history—that liberates human beings and ends the ravaging of the planet——can cope with the environmental crisis on the scale and with the urgency required.
Bob Avakian has developed a strategy for real revolution and a vision and framework for a radically new state power. Communist revolution is about emancipating all of humanity. It is about enabling humanity to become the caretakers of the planet. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), which is inspired by Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism, makes as one of the fundamental principles governing the new society, “protecting, preserving, and enhancing the ecosystems and biodiversity of the planet for current and future generations.”
We need a very different kind of society and economy: with the means and orientation to prioritize the flourishing of human potential and to devote the necessary resources, creativity, and expertise to address the planetary environmental emergency.
It won’t be easy. But this is our only chance of achieving a truly sustainable society—and beginning the process of restoring the ecosystems of the planet.
People often say the situation is too dire to “wait” for revolution, that we need something more “practical.” Yes, the situation is urgent, critical. But here is the question: Should we deal with this emergency by hoping for capitalism to “come to its senses”——or by putting an end to a system that in its blind and remorseless pursuit of profit has brought us to this precipice?
And we are not waiting! We are standing up and fighting back now. We are building a movement for this revolution.
To all those who care about the planet, and especially those coming out to September 21, we say: Be true to your convictions. Follow through on your principles to save the planet—whatever the obstacles, pressures, and difficulties. Don’t lower your sights when you come up against the magnitude of what we are facing, or when the people running this system display their enormous power and ruthlessness.
This Revolution special issue focuses on the environmental emergency that now faces humanity and earth's ecosystems. In this issue we show:
If you are an activist, don’t adapt to the so-called “realities of the system”—that you can’t go beyond certain bounds. If you are a scientist, don’t water down your findings and their implications because of pressures from industry, government, or academia.
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: in the midst of important battles, standing side by side, and bringing our full revolutionary perspective into the swirl.
We invite those of you searching for alternatives to this madness to learn about this revolution... and to become part of the movement for revolution:
We bring a passion to save the earth and emancipate world humanity into these protests and this movement.
Let’s start this dynamic of mutual struggle and engagement now, as we move toward September 21. Let’s get an exciting process going; opening up all kinds of discussion, dialogue, and debate; learning from each other; testing out different ideas and perspectives; mobilizing millions. And not stop until we have truly changed the course of everything.
Revolution #347 August 3, 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 #347 August 3, 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 #347 August 3, 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 #347 August 3, 2014
Obama's ANTI-humanitarian response to crisis on the border:
July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The Obama administration has sent a $3.7 billion dollar appropriations bill to Congress to pay for the “costs” of the crisis at the South Texas border, as tens of thousands of immigrants—a great number of them unaccompanied minors mostly from the countries of Central America—have converged there seeking entry into the U.S. without documents. Parents are sending their children off on such a dangerous journey because life in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador has become so difficult and dangerous as a result of economies in shambles and tremendous street violence, that they believe they have no choice—that it is their children’s only hope.
The basic causes behind current violence these children face are “made in the USA.” The conditions in these Central American countries cannot be separated from the military, political, and economic domination that the U.S. has enforced on them over decades. The resistance to U.S. domination that surged throughout Central America in the 1980s was drowned in rivers of blood, leaving these countries under the thumb of ruthless dictators and death squads, all supported by the U.S. The Central America Free Trade Agreement signed in 2005—CAFTA—created an economic crisis in Central America. Gangs have filled the economic void caused by CAFTA, creating a country with vast areas run by gangs and police under their influence. Honduras, the poorest Central American country, has become the largest hub for shipping cocaine from South America into the U.S. (For more, see “The Children Who Cross the Border... and Crimes of the U.S.” and “Background to a Humanitarian Crisis: U.S. Terror in Central America.”)
This is the reality behind the humanitarian crisis at the border. A “humanitarian crisis” (according to Wikipedia) is “an event or series of events that are threatening in terms of health, safety, or well-being of a community, or large group of people.” Of course it is these immigrants, most of all the unaccompanied children, who are facing the humanitarian crisis. But for the rulers of this country, in the way they are responding, it is this country that is facing a crisis caused by these immigrants. The ugly, reactionary patriots showing up at different detention centers waving American flags and chanting “USA, USA, USA” and “Go Home” have certainly gotten the message. In fact, Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the “Minutemen,” a violent, armed vigilante militia, has called for an anti-immigration mobilization on May 1, 2015, along the U.S./Mexico border calling it “Operation Normandy” (referring to “D-Day,” the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France in 1944, during World War 2).
Once in custody, these children have been and continue to be held in cages, holding cells, and detention centers. And as all of the detention centers on the border have filled to overflowing, the Department of Homeland Security is now sending them to military bases in other parts of the country. After being “processed,” many of these children are sent to temporary shelters or to family members who may be living in other parts of the country—until they can be brought to court and in most cases sent back “home.”
The sole purpose of the $3.7 billion dollars, spelled out clearly in the fact sheet released by the White House July 8—is to speed up the apparatus designed to send these immigrants back to the hell they fled, to expand the number of holding cells to be sure they can all be safely caged, and to make sure this problem doesn’t arise in the future.
According to the fact sheet, the entire $3.7 billion will focus on: deterrence; enforcement; foreign cooperation; and capacity. $1.1 billion dollars will go to ICE—Immigration and Customs Enforcement—80 percent of that for detention, speedier prosecution, and removal of immigrant parents with children. The rest will go to enforcement efforts. Custom and Border Protection will get another $433 million. The bulk of that will go to the increased costs of dealing with larger numbers of immigrants in custody. But $40 million dollars will be used to expand the use of drone aircraft at the border.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) will get $64 million dollars to be able to rush a larger number of immigrants through federal court so they can be kicked out faster. It calls for more teams of judges; larger courtroom capacity; and even video conferencing. That means even larger groups of those detained can go through their entire federal court case—all together—in a single day, a process called “Operation Streamline.”
Another $300 million dollars will go to the Department of State and other international programs. It will be given to the governments in the region, who will be told how to spend it. Part of it will be used to deal with the impact of dumping large numbers of immigrants back to the countries they fled. Part of the money will go to helping governments “better control their borders”; this in part will be aimed at the international drug trafficking, but it’s bound to also include making it harder for people to get out.
The fact sheet mentions addressing “underlying root causes driving migration,” and even mentions “creating the economic social, governance, and citizen security conditions...” to try to stop the migration. But when Vice President Joe Biden went to Central America recently, the one concrete proposal reported on was expanding prison capacity in those countries in preparation for carrying out a war on gangs in the region. And Obama has just brought the presidents of three of these countries here, supposedly getting assurances they will work together. And $5 million will go to media campaigns in Mexico as well as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, to tell people “Don’t Come Here.”
The remaining portion, or $1.8 billion, will go to the Department of Health and Human Services, to deal with the cost of providing temporary shelter capacity for the huge increase of families and unaccompanied children.
Again—what humanitarian crisis; or whose crisis, is all of this spending aimed at? Certainly it’s not for the mothers with children, or the unaccompanied children. This is a call for more Border Patrol agents and more drone aircraft; more judges, with larger, more efficient courtrooms to speed up the process of conviction and deportation back to hell. And working with the Central American governments to do whatever it takes to stop this exodus. The Republicans have expressed opposition to the bill because it is too much money, and, if anything, not draconian enough!!
It is not an accident that the rulers of this country view the humanitarian crisis at the Texas border, just as they see the continuing massacre of men, women, and children in Gaza, with completely different eyes. The interests of humanity mean nothing to them; they see only the interests—or the threat to the interests—of a worldwide system based on domination, exploitation, and oppression.
Revolution #347 August 3, 2014
July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A special feature of Revolution to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.
On March 17, 2012, Cecily McMillan went to meet a friend at Zuccotti Park, New York City, where hundreds of people had gathered to mark six months since the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The police moved in, beating people and arresting over 70 that night. As Cecily turned to leave the park she was assaulted and arrested. Cecily’s case went to trial and on May 19, 2014, she was found guilty of felony assault on a police officer and given 90 days in jail and five years’ probation. Revolution writer Li Onesto sat down to talk with Cecily soon after she was released from Rikers Island after serving 58 days behind bars.
Li Onesto: You just got out of Rikers Prison after spending 58 days behind bars. On March 17, 2012, at an Occupy Wall Street demonstration you reflexively elbowed an NYPD cop in the temple after he came up from behind you and grabbed you so hard by your breast that bruises were left on your body in the form of a handprint. You were flung to the ground and repeatedly kicked and beaten by other cops. I understand this was not the first time you were arrested and brutalized by the NYPD.
Cecily McMillan: I was involved in a very violent arrest in October of 2011 where I was caught and released. It was an arrest that was covered by the Rolling Stone magazine, and from that period onward when I went to a protest I was told by either sympathetic journalists or someone who had been standing by the police officers, they know who you are, they know what you look like, they’re going to arrest you if you don’t leave after first call.
I had been on the frontlines of an attempt to actually take Wall Street. It was the same day that the Brooklyn Bridge action was happening and all the police attention had gone to the Brooklyn Bridge, which left Wall Street wide open with about 3,000 of us at the park. And we amassed a group of about over 300 people to try to human barricade into Wall Street and try to hold it. I was in the front lines of that. I was actually the one who counted down until we proceeded forward to try to use the force of human solidarity to take Wall Street. So we were linked arm in arm, 300 of us and we walked as a bloc. And the police had just managed to form the barricades and we walked inward to them, they shuddered and pepper-sprayed us back; we walked into them again, they shuddered, pepper-sprayed us back, one more time.
We were hoping that they would refuse to see us as an idea and have to be confronted with us as a people—nonviolent, right there, we weren’t trying to walk over them, that’s not possible, we were trying to ask them to move. Then on that third time, officers came in through the barricades because we had broken through the barricades and began helicopter status, swinging their batons in a circle whacking people. I got hit to the back of the head and then proceeded to sit down, Native American style, with my fingers up in peace signs and yelled, "Everybody sit down!" So we sat down and that’s when an officer kicked me in the chest, kicked me over and that’s where I got a cracked rib and he stomped on my head as he handcuffed me so tight with his numbered metal handcuffs that corresponded to his badge number, that my wrists were bleeding and then yanked me up at the center of the handcuffs, dislocating my shoulder and then shoved me and said get moving and I felt this terrible pain, it almost knocked me out. I didn’t say anything and I didn’t resist because I had been trained as a nonviolent activist—until he said “shut up you cunt bitch, you get what you deserve" when I was giving my birthdate to someone who was calling out and I said, “I beg your pardon!” And that is the most resistance I have ever had to an NYPD officer, ever. That was the most conscious resistance, right there. So I’m guilty of “beg your pardon.” The Rolling Stone got a snapshot where you could see the mascara tears coming down my face from the tear gas.
Li Onesto: So they targeted you.
Cecily McMillan: Oh yeah. from then on out, literally every protest I went to I left before first call because I was told you’re gonna get arrested, they’re gonna target you—because I had gotten caught and released—because it was the captain that arrested me with his cuffs; his cuffs corresponded to his badge number and they had been ordered not to hurt any women that night after this incident where a Captain Baloney point-blank pepper-sprayed two women in the face who were sitting down....
On March 17 [the day of the arrest that led to the trial and conviction] that was my first sexual assault. I’m exposed literally with my skirt above my waist. The one time I cried in the courtroom is, I had never seen, the fact that I had to sit in that courtroom watching a video that to me shows my sexual assault, with my sexual attacker, as I’m being called the attacker. That was too much for me. And yeah, I did cry. And fucking sue me and if you want to paint me as an hysterical woman—I mean it was like a Clockwork Orange, like we will beat the agency out of you, you fucking bitch, that’s what it felt like, like my eyes being made to stay open, and I’m supposed to stay calm as you parade my attacker up here who is calling himself a victim as you make me watch this video alongside of him as he is looking me in the face and calling me Cecily, like we have some familiarity. As you rape-culture me, saying, “she isn’t shy, you see her today, if she had been sexually assaulted, she would have been screaming”—through what? The hospital room I was in? Because I wasn’t in a hospital room. I was in a storage closet, handcuffed, hands and feet, open, in a room, my tights torn, my vagina exposed as officers walked in and out charging their phones and bloody rags all around. What am I supposed to say, hey officers, in between you making comments about my exposed vagina, would you like to talk to me about me being sexually assaulted by one of your own? Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It was fucked up. I cannot believe that rape culture that blatant was allowed in what is called our justice system. It is obscene.
Li Onesto: And yet you end up at Rikers.
Cecily McMillan: Yeah, I end up at Rikers.
Li Onesto: It’s interesting, this whole story of what happened before the March 17 arrest is not that well known—so I’m glad you went through that because a lot of the media just starts in the middle of the story.
Cecily McMillan: And now I’m facing another trial September 15 and I’m very much expecting that they are capable of securing the outcome that they want and that outcome will come with more prison time. I think it’s really important that people know what the inmates seem to understand better than anyone else, which is that there’s no such thing as a right to trial by a jury of your peers, there’s no such thing as a fair and impartial judge, there’s no such thing as a speedy trial, there’s no such thing as a justice system. They understand it better than anyone. I did not meet a single inmate my entire time there who had gone to trial....
Li Onesto: So let’s talk about some of the things that you experienced at Rikers. At your press conference after you were released, you talked about how many of the things being done to people in prison “seem to be aimed at simple dehumanization.” Could you talk about that from your experience at Rikers Island, and talk more generally about the conditions there?
Cecily McMillan: So a day at Rikers? There’s for instance, Diaz. She is a mother of four or five children, two staying at home. She had been going to the restroom and there was blood in her stools every time, which means generally that you have an ulcer or that it started out as a hemorrhoid and now you have an ulcer. She had gone down to the clinic and people are really terrified of the clinic because you wait and wait and wait and then you get treated for something that you don’t have or the doctors talk to you like you’re pill-searching or, worst case scenario, you’re made to trade sexual favors in order to get your medication. There’s a doctor specifically that will prescribe anything you want as long as you tug on his penis or let him touch your breast. There’s another doctor who tells people that your chromosomal count is off and you need to pull down your panties and so he can feel you to make sure you’re a woman and that you’re in the right facility.
And so Diaz goes down there and after going three days in a row, waiting for 12 hours before she is seen by anybody, she says I have blood in my stools, this has been happening for two weeks—which means you have a pretty progressive ulcer; I have been having trouble using the restroom to the point where I don’t really want to eat anything anymore because it’s so painful. And they said, ok, you need to give us your stool sample. And she’s like, I need to what? And they said, yes, we need your stool sample. And she’s like, ok, and takes this little bottle. And so I’m sitting around talking to her and she’s like, I have like three weeks left and I don’t really want to do this, I have to poop in this little cup and then I have to go and hold this cup and wait for them, I don’t even want to do this because they’re just hacks and they don’t care about you. So I said you have to give it to them, do you know what an ulcer is? She has no idea what an ulcer is. So I explain that it’s like a tear in the side of your bowel and when that tear gets irritated and inflamed enough as the feces move through it, then when it opens up, if it bursts through your bowel, then it’s leaking feces into your body which will cause you to go into systems failure within 24 hours and you will die from sepsis. And she says, oh my god, that’s why they made me sign the sheet that said on pain of death we require you to bring back this sample. But the thing is they took this woman—they didn’t explain anything, they just made her sign this paper. Which to the people who are constantly lying to you, assaulting you, making you wait for 12 hours, you’re not inclined to believe any fucking thing they say. So I told her, you have to do this, I talked to her for another two or three days. She finally does it, she brings it down to sick call, it takes her six hours. I’ve never been through sick call in less than six hours. She’s like sitting around, anxious, waiting for the results. She gets called back two days later, they lost her stool sample. So she’s like upset. They have to do it again and it turns out that she does have an ulcer that could have been a death sentence, if somebody wasn’t there to explain to her something very basic.
This is a lot of what I did every day, to read people their charges, to read people the details of their probation, to call my mother who is an RN to ask her about the myriad problems going on so I could tell people what they needed to do, to call Nairobi, my guardian who works in women’s sexual health and women’s sexual justice to ask what is and what is not right about the way they are doing things.
There is no rule of law. The rule of law is "our house, our rules." And the rules change by the shift. There’s no way of keeping up with who has to do what because nobody has to do anything and those orders are not coming from the COs [correctional officers]; they’re coming from the captains....
The most horrific things were the searches. And I’m just thinking, nothing in the whole of my life could have prepared me for this truly horrific and inhumane... I mean the whole process is just to come into your home, this tiny bit of sanity and society you manage to make for yourself in these neighborhoods and organizing your stuff in your buckets—I mean just organizing your stuff in your buckets, this is your sanity.
Li Onesto: You’re talking about the guards searching the dorms?
Cecily McMillan: The scheduled searches, they destroy everything. Even in these situations, these women manage to salvage their humanity. I remember the guards coming in and yelling, "Turn Down! Turn fucking face down! Turn down!" And then like this one girl goes, “Turn down for what”—the Lil Jon song that just came out and then everybody started like singing and giggling. Then [the guards go]—“Get up against the wall!” And three women say at the same time, “Motherfucker.” How can you manage to be so human during these experiences? It’s incredible.
You have a grand total of 20 to 30 guards coming in, 10 or so are the turtles, who are dressed from head to toe with the helmets and the Plexiglas on their faces, the Plexiglas around their bodies, the shields on one hand and the other hand holding this three-and-a-half-foot crazy wooden bat, like you know it took someone’s face off once. Then a series of women file into the bathrooms and line up and then you have the turtles in the day room and a captain in the bathroom and 10 or so in the dormitory.
Then you have to lay face down with your hands behind your back, like literally face down, so imagine if you have asthma or if you’re old or whatever and they can come in with dogs or whatever....
So you lay face down with your hands behind your back as people are walking around you, you look up—[and they yell] “I said face fucking down, do you want to get sent down to the bing, do you want to lose your good days," so you can’t look up even if they bring in dogs, even if they whack the side of our bed with a baseball bat. And these searches are specifically used with the intent to haze and to train new COs so if the COs are not being humiliating enough then a captain will come over and show them how it’s done.
So then you lay face down as row by row is called, you stand up, turn in line, go to the bathroom, totally undress, lift up your breasts, shake out your hair, squat forward, squat backwards, get re-dressed—if they think you have something, squat and cough. Then they take you out to the chair, the metal detector chair, that you sit in that can inspect your body cavity. Then you do check, chin, check on this little thing that examines the metal in your mouth and then you line up and you face the wall and you stay there until everybody has gone through that. And if you have four or five captains, they’re all telling you different things and you’re trying to obey these different orders with them yelling at you.
And then they have you come back in, line by line, and you stand there after they’ve taken over your bed. They’ve flipped your bed, your tiny thin mattress, that you can literally still feel the cold of the metal bed beneath you. They’ve flipped that and they’ve taken off your sheets and you’re made to hold the green mattress off the ground, it can’t be touching the ground, as they go through every single piece of your belongings. They open everything, they tear up everything, they can crumple your pictures, they can tear up your pictures. If you have any pictures that have you in them they take them away. You cannot have any pictures of yourself.
Li Onesto: Because?
Cecily McMillan: You’re asking why. It’s because. There’s this one woman who doesn’t have family who can contribute to her commissary—she made these little things, she would take soap parts and break them down and reform them into hearts and take pictures and put them on there and say little things like I love you or I’m your best friend or happy birthday and you’d pay her something like three bags of SunChips for that. And they can take that away from you for “mis-using correctional property.” They can take little sheets that people have cut out and made little letters, they make things like I love you or happy birthday—to send to their daughters or sons and they can take those away from people for “mis-using correctional property.”
Li Onesto: After you got out of Rikers you signed the statement for the Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation.
Cecily McMillan: Of course. I mean, I was sitting there with the Harlem families at the Stop Mass Incarceration Network meeting, the friends and the families of these folks of the raids... talking about these young men who were raided [by the NYPD], who were dragged out like that, who were hunted down in this raid.... And it reminds me of being on the phone and looking at the jail barge where it was rumored that all of those men [from the raid] were still being held. They have literally built a prison boat [because they can’t fit them on Rikers] and it was rumored that all these men [from the raid] were on that boat.... Immediately I was in the middle of a solidarity struggle that I had never felt before. These women weren’t there when these kids were taken. These women talk to their sons while they’re sitting in my room, a three-way call, perfectly orchestrated. You ever tried to be on a conference call with a bunch of organizers, that shit is a fucking mess. These women can manage a three-way call with someone sitting on a boat, or you’re sitting in the room, through a cousin or a family member, community member.
So I’m sitting there next to a woman who’s looking at the boat that her son is on, talking to her daughter who is out in Harlem as they’re communicating through the daughter in a three-way call to the boat to our room about the Harlem raids—as I’m sitting there looking at the boat, talking to my team about what happened at the Harlem raids. Like this shit is coming and it’s coming fast and nobody is ready for it.
Like that was what I said in my speech—I walked in with one movement and left a part of another. And that’s why I’m telling people, really, take your ideas and follow them through, from the street, to the jail, to the trial, to the jail, to the prison—you know, you have to follow them through because if you really mean what it is that you say, if you really mean to have a movement of the 99 percent, if you really mean to have solidarity, class solidarity, to really have a class confrontation, to really have class coalitions that are counter to the one percent—and I can say this as a woman, that is raping us—you have to be anti-fear, you have to not allow the concept of jail, which is the daily lives, which is not the if, but the when for most of these people. You have to give yourself over to the reality that that’s going to be your life too, that standing up for the poor, standing up for the persons of color, standing up for yourself has all got to become intertwined, that it can’t just be rhetoric, that you have to do it, you have to go there, you have to understand it. You have to be ready to understand that your rights as a privileged person are no longer going to keep you from this fate and you’re going to have to take it because the prisons, that fear is the only thing they have subduing us, the only thing they have that keeps us from really starting this movement and we’ve got to transcend that fear that is the daily lives of these people. We can’t sit around talking solidarity if we’re not willing to go there.
Li Onesto: The Month of Resistance aims to take this question of stopping mass incarceration to a whole other level where all kinds of people throughout society cannot stand by and let this go on. Maybe you could say something about that.
Cecily McMillan: I think it’s a really, really great initiative. I’ve already started to participate and as I’ve said, whatever I can do, use me as a tool. I’m not a prison justice activist so much as somebody who had an experience that can be used. I had 58 days, I’m not the expert on this experience. I had a taste of what it is—these people just being hunted down in the streets and being returned to this place again and again and again. I’m but a small blip on that discussion. And I’ve said, whatever I can do, please, please—I can’t even live with the reality of my friends who are still in there...
Revolution #347 August 3, 2014
July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a Reader:
Here are some thoughts I have after watching the horrifying video of Eric Garner's murder. I was re-watching the first section of REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! where BA talks about the murder of Ramarley Graham and other Black and Latino youth.
What danger did Eric Garner pose? Why did the cops even stop him in the first place? Obviously it is not because selling loose cigarettes is a "menace to society." It was clear from the video that Eric Garner's very existence was seen to be the "menace," no matter that he had just been instrumental in breaking up a disagreement between people. To the cops, he was an "alien," a disruptive presence to the "smooth functioning of society." This society, and its enforcers, have no place for him and the millions of others like him in America. As he said with his last words, "I can't breathe." Millions of people like him "can't breathe" in this country. They are hounded, harassed, jailed, demeaned, discarded. He had no place in this economy—imagine a society where people are reduced to selling loose cigarettes to survive. He called it out—you are going to hassle me, arrest me, take me in for selling cigarettes, "Are you serious?" Unfortunately, they were serious, deadly serious. They have no place for him on the very streets where he lived—and died.
Obama and many—all too many—others talk about how the problem for African-Americans is absent father figures. But here, by all accounts, was a man who was a loving father. It is like they are doing a magic trick—"watch my right hand" waving around "responsible fathers" while their left hand has got the knife—or the chokehold—ready to commit murder while you are distracted by the bullshit.
While it might not have been planned to be this way, I don't think it was entirely accidental that they killed him in broad daylight in front of many people, several of whom who were videoing the murder. There is a way that doing this is an effort to make people feel powerless, passive, horrified but shamed. Once Eric Garner was on the ground—the dehumanization by the cops intensified: mashing his head against the sidewalk, continuing the chokehold, swarming him, and then after he is clearly still, poking him periodically, wasting precious minutes—looking around pretending to be doing something, pretending to give a fuck what happens to this human being you just participated in murdering.
By standing up, refusing to go along with this now, all of this can be thrown back into their face, turned into something that gives people's anger more power and impact. Next time, and there will be a next time unfortunately, imagine how things might be different if people had encircled this scene, blowing their whistles, letting the cops know that not only are we watching, but we are going to DO something about this!
Eric Garner's last words before he was smashed against the sidewalk were, "It stops today." People are taking this up as a chant on the streets in Staten Island. These horrors do have to end. The deep anger is there, the knowledge that it could be them thrown down to the street, but people need a way to act, to make their resolve real. This is what the Month of Resistance is giving voice to as a powerful concentration of resistance in and of itself, and as part of the preparations for revolution which is necessary in order to sweep all of this aside, to change everything. We have to let people know about this, bring them into this in all the ways we can, all their ideas about how to make this as powerful and widely felt as possible.
We say NO MORE! This must STOP! Make October the Month of Resistance the beginning of a movement to bring about the end of mass incarceration.
Revolution #347 August 3, 2014
On the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride:
July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a young woman on the East Coast:
Ever since I was old enough to know about the Woodstock music festival, I took more and more interest in exploring the era in which it took place. I liked tie-dye and peace signs and thought maybe I’d be a hippie when I grew up. As I got older I grew more and more passionate about learning about social movements and began to connect the context of the festival to the time period itself. The idea that so many kinds of people would come together in mass protest and resistance floored me and really struck a chord in the part of me that wanted to make a difference for others. When people asked if I could live in another time I always said the ’60s and ’70s, which I think now was a bit naïve of me. Often that period in time is romanticized—it too was a period where living as any kind of oppressed person was dangerous. Now, I think if anyone were to ask me that same question I’d say that I am perfectly content living now because I believe that we are living in a truly pivotal point in time and that I can be a part of an incredible historical shift in how society is organized.
As a “millennial,” it has become the norm to “not give a fuck” or to “YOLO,” ideas that are such bullshit. These ubiquitous phrases among youth are a reflection of the time period that we are growing up in, which is a world WITH abortion, with birth control, gay marriage, and with the most amount of incarcerated people in a country, creating this sense of comfort and hopelessness. However, these rights ARE under attack! I think that with the attitude our generation has, exacerbated by a false sense of comfort, sense of hopelessness, combined with the fact that people my age have not grown up around a positive image of abortion, can make the future look incredibly grave at times. But, it DOESN’T have to be like this!!
The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride: Ground Zero Texas is the means to channel the fury and anger felt by women nationwide; it is the means to galvanize the masses to fight for something bigger than themselves which will impact women years from now—either because of our efforts or inaction. I want to be a part of this channeling and this shift away from the status quo, a part of this greater movement to change history. I want to be a part of a movement that highlights women’s courage, power, and strengths, and the courage, power, and strength of ALL people. I want to be a part of a movement that tells women that they no longer have to be SILENT, SHAMED, and BEATEN; that they can take a stand, and that they possess the ability, along with many other people, to change the trajectory of history. For the first time in a long time I feel incredibly hopeful, full of excitement, and like I’m living for a purpose. I’ve always wanted to be a part of something bigger than me to ensure that even if I don’t know a person, I have the power to help change their reality for the better. The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride: Ground Zero Texas is giving me that opportunity and for that I feel truly grateful.
We have the chance to turn the tide and teach young women the importance of their bodies and teach them scientific facts about their bodies. Don’t you want to live in a world where you have control over when, and whether, you reproduce? A few people I knew in college had abortions and it became gossip. “Did you hear that so-and-so had an abortion?” Sadly, I think this is a reflection of the stigma and shame around not only abortion but around women making their own sexual choices. I want to live in a world where people champion women for making that kind of responsible decision. I want to live in a world where these women are deemed courageous, and smart, and full human beings; in a world where abortion clinics are never under siege.
If, however, a world like this comes to fruition we must not stop there and relax in our wins. Working towards social justice means having the drive and passion to continue to educate and fight for a change of mind and change of heart, and most importantly a change in how people navigate the social world or ACT on what they know. It means cultivating a movement of young leaders who are certain the next generation will inherit a better world. This will take dedication, courage, and sacrifice, but with a team of support anything is possible. So, millennials, will you join me and the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride to make this world possible?! This is something YOU CAN DO!, YOU CAN BE A PART OF!, and FOR A GREATER PURPOSE!
Revolution #347 August 3, 2014
Police Murder of Eric Garner
July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
“How Do We Stop This? How Do We Stop This?” The words, filled with anger, hurt, and deep questioning, were repeated by a close relative of Eric Garner as people gathered July 23 on the sidewalk outside the church in Brooklyn, New York City, where hundreds had come to view Eric’s body and attend his funeral service.
Six days earlier, July 17, the NYPD had murdered Eric, a 43-year-old Black man, in broad daylight on Staten Island. Caught on videotape in horrifying detail—the cop put Eric in a chokehold and took him down, continuing the chokehold as more cops jumped on Eric, and then the same cop smashed his face to the concrete—all without any resistance from him. His last cries: “I can’t breathe... I can’t breathe... I can’t breathe.” The cops, and medics on the scene several minutes later, did nothing but poke at his body. A second video shows the cop who choked Eric chatting casually, and then waving to the camera as Eric’s body is taken away. Millions all over this country and the world have watched this police murder.
Eric Garner’s murder hit people who knew and loved him hard. This was a brother people called “a teddy bear,” “a sweet, sweet man,” “a gentle giant.” A big guy who didn’t use his size to bully others, but instead was known as a peacemaker, putting himself at risk to step in and break up or prevent fights, which is what he was doing just before the police came and snatched his life away.
Eric’s life and death captured so much about the experience of whole sections of Black and Latino people—pushed to the economic margins of society, “suspects” when they leave their “own” neighborhoods, under siege when they stay there; given no means to make a living within the “legitimate” economy, and then constantly dogged, harassed, and dehumanized by the police—and really by the whole society and culture of the U.S.—for trying to scrape by as best they can.
Eric Garner supplemented his wife’s income to raise six kids by selling loosies (single cigarettes)—like so many others who have to struggle to make a few dollars to make ends meet. Eric had told his son the night before his death how proud he was that he would be the first in the family to go to college.
A middle-aged man sitting in Tompkinsville Park, near where Eric was killed, agonized over the situation of so many grown men like Eric. He talked with a Revolution correspondent about the economy of loosies: “That’s ’cause a lot of people can’t afford a whole pack of cigarettes, but they’re on their way to work and they come up with 50 cents to buy one.”
Then people are harassed and degraded for living any way they can. A young guy from Harlem who is a frequent visitor to the neighborhood said the way the police treat people here is even worse than what goes on in Harlem. One person who knew Eric Garner said that the police “definitely targeted him.” A longtime friend of Eric’s said, “I seen them jacking him up seven times, I seen the judge cut him loose seven times. But these fucking pigs here, they got tired of seeing him... You know how he [Eric] said: ‘This ends today’? Well they also said, ‘You gotta go today.’”
Eric Garner reportedly had been arrested 30 times in his life, for petty shit like selling cigarettes or for nothing at all. He had filed a handwritten lawsuit in federal court against harassment that included, according to his suit, being subjected to a rectal exam right out on the street.
Eric told his attorneys that he wasn’t pleading out to any of these charges, he was innocent and he wanted to go to court. In New York City (and in most major cities), over 90 percent of charges never go to trial. There is great pressure from the entire justice system, including many defense lawyers, to accept a plea bargain (plead guilty) whether you did the crime or not. If you don’t accept the plea, you are liable to be held in Rikers Island jail for a long time waiting for trial with bail you can’t make—losing your job if you have one, cut off from family and those who need you—and then you might get a trial judge who gives you a worse sentence anyway. So deciding not to plead out your case and go to trial takes a lot of determination.
In the video you see Eric putting his hands out, palms up in a gesture that he is not attacking anyone. He insists that he is not doing anything wrong and says, calmly but defiantly, “This ends today!” That defiance was intolerable to the police. Six cops were on the scene, including a sergeant who took part or stood by as Eric was beaten down and left to die on the sidewalk. There were EMTs who either failed or were prevented from doing the most basic things like CPR to save his life.
One guy said: “The police are the enforcers, they don’t care about anything, and if you don’t do exactly what they tell you to do, they will beat you, beat you down, even kill you.” Eric’s mom said: “It’s just a lack of humanity, that’s what it was. He was nothing to them, but he was our people.”
It is all of this and more that has brought people out into the streets, again and again. On Staten Island two days after the murder, 300-400 people, including a lot of youths, took to the streets, marching to the police precinct with the chant “I Can’t Breathe.” When a “community leader” told the crowd that all police were not the problem, he was roundly booed.
Two days later, July 21, hundreds more gathered at Tompkinsville Park, and a planned vigil turned into another march to the precinct demanding justice, denouncing the racist murder as the lynching of a Black man. A crew of people from the Revolution Club in Harlem and from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) joined in to denounce this lynching by the police. They got out Revolution newspaper and the SMIN pamphlet calling for a powerful national Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation in October. People spoke bitterly about the ever-present police brutality they are subjected to. A young woman said her 14-year-old brother had been badly beaten up by the same cop who choked Eric to death... the day before the killing! Another showed a photo of the beaten face of her son. There were many more stories like this.
For most this was their first encounter with Revolution newspaper and their first time learning about revolutionary leader Bob Avakian. A Latina showed her friends a vivid picture from Revolution of children coming across the U.S.-Mexico border—facing La Migra (border police) and being put into concentration camps—and said, “See, this is what the police are doing on the border.”
On July 24, some 500 people from Staten Island and the broader NYC area went to Eric’s funeral. Among them were many of his extended family and scores of people who knew him as a man who “loved people”—in the words of a homeless man who said he hung out with Eric because he could talk with him, people “felt safe with him.” Parents of people murdered by the police over the years and decades came, including Iris Baez, whose oldest son, Anthony, was killed in a police chokehold in 1994, and Nicole Paultre Bell, whose fiancee, Sean Bell, was killed on their wedding day in a hail of 50 police bullets.
People were hurt and angry—and became even more angry at the heavy police presence at the funeral. A couple of older women shouted at the police lined up across the street, “Murderers... you should be wearing KKK hoods.” People pointed at police on rooftops near the church and once again the chant went up, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” A cop ordered a revolutionary, who had been speaking to the crowd, to move away. “What are you going to do... choke me?” the revolutionary responded. Immediately, two middle-aged Black women stepped defiantly in front of the cops to take a stack of leaflets with the statement by Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party against the police murder of Eric Garner. Others followed their lead, “Yeah, give me some too, fuck them.” The police retreated.
Controversy roiled. Some spoke bitterly about Black people’s history in America: slavery, lynching under Jim Crow segregation, and today’s brutal mass incarceration and police lynchings. Others attempted to shut down the expressions of outrage and people connecting with the movement for revolution.
The two sides of the controversy were drawn out: On one side the police and the system that had murdered Eric Garner, and those who wanted the masses to be quiet—and on the other side, everybody with an ounce of justice in their hearts and who wanted to tell the world “THIS MUST STOP! This nightmare must end.” People were visibly moved, and began to weigh where they themselves and others stood in relationship to that divide. Some stepped up to take more fliers, to help hold the SMIN banner, and to hook up with the Month of Resistance and with the revolution.
On the eve of another major protest, a revolutionary communist was out in the neighborhood talking to guys who knew and loved Eric. An older Black guy said that even though he didn’t live in the neighborhood anymore, he was going to be there “every night, until those cops go to jail.” He wanted the revolutionaries to be clear that this fight for justice for Eric was real. Small groups of people wrangled over how to understand what is happening to Black people, and what will solve it.
As the statement from the NYC Branch of the RCP on the police murder of Eric Garner says, the fight for justice has to become part of something bigger, part of preparing for revolution.
Revolution #347 August 3, 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 #347 August 3, 2014
July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revolution newspaper/periódico Revolución and revcom.us, the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, invites you to become part of a crucial endeavor: the Revolution STOP Mass Incarceration Project.
This project will dig deep to get into the reality of what Michelle Alexander has called the New Jim Crow. Through path-breaking research, exclusive interviews, photos and artwork, bringing together different people with expertise and experience—we will show what mass incarceration and all its consequences means for millions and millions of people in this country. In all kinds of creative ways we will give voice to the victims of mass incarceration and also spread the sentiments of all those who want to put an end to this horror.
The United States of America is an INCARCERATION NATION. More than 2 million people, of all nationalities languish in prison—ten times the number 50 years ago. The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s prison population!
As the Call for a Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation! says:
“October, 2014, must be a month that makes clear that thousands and thousands are willing to stand up and speak out today and to awaken and rally forth millions. It must be the beginning of the end of the mass incarceration in the U.S.” [go to www.stopmassincarceration.net for more info]
Too many people accept the system’s false justifications for mass incarceration: the people themselves are to blame, the youth have just made “bad choices,” the “war on drugs” is about stopping crime—when in fact mass incarceration is the leading edge of a whole genocidal program aimed at millions of Black and Latino people in this country for whom this system has no future.
As part of building for the October Month of Resistance and in an ongoing way, the Revolution STOP Mass Incarceration Project aims to be a part of documenting and exposing mass incarceration and CHANGING the thinking of millions of people around this issue—so they can have their eyes opened to the reality of this situation and feel morally compelled to act against this great injustice.
There are all kinds of ways people can contribute their ideas, energy, creativity and skills to this project and there is a place for everyone and every schedule. The only requirement is that you want to put a STOP to mass incarceration.
Contact info: 773-318-4572 firstname.lastname@example.org
Revolution #347 August 3, 2014
July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In October 2014, our resistance to mass incarceration must reverberate across the country and around the world. There must be powerful demonstrations nationwide on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Throughout October there must be panels and symposiums on campuses and in neighborhoods; major concerts and other cultural expressions; ferment in the faith communities, and more—all aimed at taking the movement to STOP mass incarceration to a much higher level. October 2014 must be a month that makes clear that thousands and thousands are willing to stand up and speak out today and to awaken and rally forth millions. It must be the beginning of the end of the mass incarceration in the U.S. (from the Call for the October 2014 Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation).
Kick-off meetings are happening in several cities to bring people together to work on a local, regional and national level to carry out this vision and plan—to bring into being cores of people to make this month a time when people start to look at mass incarceration differently and act on it differently. This must be a month that begins to concretely reverse this whole genocidal program and direction, a month that marks the beginning of the end of mass incarceration.
All those who have been affected personally and all those who can no longer live with these horrors must be in the house.
New York City & Northeast Regional Organizing Launch of October Month of Resistance
Saturday, August 2, 2014
12 noon – 4 pm
St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church
263 West 86th Street, New York, NY 10024
[Enter through the ramped entrance on 86th Street, Take the 1 train to the 86th Street Stop]
Let people know you will be in the house at email@example.com. If you are anywhere in the Northeast or East Coast from Virginia to Maine and you want these outrages stopped, you should be at this meeting!
Saturday, August 2, 2014
12:00 noon – 4 pm
United University Church
817 W 34th St, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Information on conferences in Chicago, Cleveland and other areas to be announced.
Go to stopmassincarceration.net for updates and more information.