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Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Photo: Special to revcom.us
Kick off this summer with the most meaningful thing you can do, with the revolutionary élan and joy that comes from radically changing the world—with others like you, in a process of learning and discovery as we do this: Taking revolution and Bob Avakian, BA, to the people in an atmosphere of charged political ferment, and questioning.
Let’s look at what has led into this summer. Youths cast out by the system defiantly rebelling against police murders, in Ferguson, in Madison, and in Baltimore. High school and college students joined by others occupying streets, freeways, and bridges in outbreaks of mass resistance, bringing a halt to business as usual. This is sparking bigger questions and discussions not only about what is understood as “the system,” but also the history and place of Black people in this society. Thinking has been shaken loose, and there is a lot roiling under the surface. This moment holds tremendous potential towards hastening a time when revolutionary change is much more the order of the day.
The powers-that-be are responding, with not only a lot of “talk” and minor reforms, but intense repression and charity programs, all the while firmly affirming and supporting the police. THEY HAVE NO ANSWER, not only to the police murder of mainly Black and Latino youths—but also to the continuing degradation of women, the wars of empire, global warming, and the criminalization of immigrants.
The plain scientific fact is that it does NOT need to be this way, and a radically different world—without all these horrors and this madness—is possible through communist revolution. This is what is fundamentally represented by BA, Bob Avakian, his leadership and his vision, based on a scientific approach to what underlies all these horrors, the problem, and what it will take to get beyond it, and how to get there, the solution. This changes how people look at what is tolerable, and what is needed right now, including righteously and defiantly standing up, rebelling, and organizing in various ways to fight the power.
If you don’t know about BA, the most scientific and radical of thinkers and leaders, learn more. Start with REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN. This is the title and theme of the historic Dialogue between the revolutionary Christian Cornel West and the revolutionary communist Bob Avakian that took place at the Riverside Church in New York City last November, attended by 1,900+ people from all walks of life, and also the title of the film of this Dialogue—now available online at revcom.us and on DVD. We also recommend the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian. Many other works and talks of Bob Avakian can be found at revcom.us.
Even as you are learning, and thinking about this, agreeing, disagreeing, provoked, and challenged by what BA says, if you feel this—BA and his vision—needs to be out there, sparking discussion and debate about revolution and a radically different world, JOIN US to raise funds and project this everywhere, BA Everywhere, an actual campaign of the same name, to achieve this objective. Imagine the Difference ... This could be part of changing everything, like the beginning of the 1960s, but more scientific, radical, and emancipating in vision.
Link up with the Revolutionary Summer Solstice, the Weekend of June 20-21, the start of what could be a potentially “long, hot, summer” politically in this country. Different cities have diverse plans, and you should be part of shaping this, with your suggestions and ideas on places to go and things to do. Common threads of the vision and plans are:
* Crews rolling with T-shirts of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! in outdoor parks, basketball courts, concerts, and cultural institutions. Wearing, selling, and fundraising for it. With a revolutionary élan, even as many wearing these shirts are in the process of grappling with what this revolution is all about.
* Fundraising for, publicizing, showing, and distributing REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN. Scenes of people gathering around large projections on walls to watch excerpts from the film, or at a rec center in the projects, all the while raising money so that word can spread, and discussing and debating what they saw. Tens of thousands of palm cards for the film distributed, and posters everywhere, “saturating” key neighborhoods, making an unmistakable presence and compelling people to check it out. For it matters, for the world and for humanity.
A common theme in the responses of those who have watched the Dialogue has been hope, the raising of sights on a scientific foundation—not only about what BA represents in the “way out” of all this madness and horror, but also in the kind of movement envisioned that has BA and Cornel West, with their differences, but with mutual respect, united in their concern for those who are “the least among us.” A woman in West Baltimore watching the Dialogue was reported to be “‘worried’ because she felt so good. She felt so full of hope.” Commenting on the Dialogue, Ardea Skybreak has said: “It was like there was magic in the air. It was one of the most hopeful things that I’ve seen in a very long time. ... I felt like I was able to see a great demonstration of morality and conscience applied to dealing with the problems of humanity—that both speakers stood out this way...”
* Celebratory and fundraising dinners for the BA Everywhere campaign, where people get together to break bread, watch excerpts of the film, share their experiences through the weekend, and watch and listen to music and cultural performances. A community and culture more in line with the world we are trying to bring into being, without all the oppressive and exploitative relations, especially what has become the all too common standard in the revolting popular culture of degrading women.
There are tens, if not hundreds, of thousands across this country who are searching for answers, open to radical questioning and radical change, looking for leadership, but who don’t yet know about BA.
With revolutionary energy and enthusiasm, rolling in the streets wearing the T-shirts of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, showing and watching BA in Dialogue with Cornel West, with hundreds of youths and thousands of others, on large screens or small portable DVD players, raising sights and provoking debate, fundraising from pennies to hundreds of dollars, forging community as we break bread together―this is how we are going to start changing this.
What is needed is YOU! There is a place for you, depending on how you’d like to contribute.
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
Updated June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On July 1st, as abortion clinics are forced to close in Texas and Tennessee and when new unprecedented new abortion restrictions go into effect in Kansas... Join in defiant protest.
We will stand, side by side, carrying the faces of women who died from lack of safe, legal abortion. We will read their stories. We will wear faux bloody pants, representing the women who lost their lives, and those who will die, as a result of the escalating assault on this basic right. We will RAISE HELL and demand that women be treated as full human beings!
Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!
Forced Motherhood is Female Enslavement!
New York City
6pm - Union Square
Speak-out & Die-in
5pm - Westlake Park
Protest "Hollywood Women's Center"
12 noon - 862 N Vermont Ave
Protest - 1pm
Archdiocese of San Francisco
1 Peter Yorke Way
Protest. Gather at 4:30
Congress & San Jacinto in Downtown Houston
Noon, Protest at St. John's Cathedral
E. 9th & Superior
March through downtown to other sites that
represent the oppression of women!
Seattle, April 2014.
July 2014, Abortion Rights Freedom Riders in front of Harris County Republican Headquarters in Houston, TX.
Photos: Special to revcom.us/Revolution
Stop Patriarchy, the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women, is calling for national actions on July 1st to protest new abortion restrictions scheduled to go into effect in Kansas and Tennessee that day.
June 9, a Federal Court upheld the Texas anti-abortion law HB2 which means that all but 8 clinics in the huge state of Texas will be forced to close. On July 1st, new restrictions on abortion are scheduled to go into effect in Kansas and Tennessee.
These laws are part of a national onslaught against abortion rights and birth control. Over 330 restrictions have been introduced nationwide already this year! This CANNOT be tolerated if women are going to be treated as FULL HUMAN BEINGS! These laws will have devastating effects on the lives of women across the country, and especially in the deep South, where new restrictions have forced many abortion clinics to close. These unprecedented attacks on abortion rights, whether they come down in Kansas, Ohio, Tennessee or wherever, are attacks on ALL WOMEN. None of these laws have anything to do with "life." They are about slamming women back to the Dark Ages, reducing them to mere breeders.
On July 1st, as many as half the abortion clinics in Tennessee are expected to close due to new restrictions which will require abortion facilities to meet the same physical standards as a mini-emergency room (even though early abortion is an extremely simple, outpatient procedure).
The new Kansas law sets a dangerous precedent by banning the most common and safe procedure for performing an abortion after the first trimester of pregnancy. The effect is devastating when a woman needs a second trimester abortion and is denied. Now in 2015, starting but not ending in Kansas, the next stage of banning a medical best practice for abortion has been signed into law. If best practices for doctors in giving women the choice to decide what to do with their futures can be banned at earlier and earlier points in the pregnancy, the legal right to a safe abortion is a formality, not a reality.
Everyone who cares about women's lives must take a stand. Take to the streets July 1. PROTEST!
FORCED MOTHERHOOD IS FEMALE ENSLAVEMENT!
ABORTION ON DEMAND AND WITHOUT APOLOGY!
Contact to get involved:
Did you know...
Abortion rights are in a state of unprecedented emergency!
It is urgent that everyone act now to stop this war on women. Forcing women to have children against their will is a form of enslavement.
Right now, in 2015...
The right to abortion — a simple, safe, and responsible choice — is being eradicated, lied about, and stigmatized.
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
Appeals Court Judges' Message to Millions of Immigrants:
June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Young Mexican boy watches Border Patrol on New Mexico side of border fence. AP photo
On Tuesday, May 26, a three-judge federal appeals court panel in New Orleans agreed to continue to block implementation of President Obama’s executive action on immigration issued in November 2014. Obama’s order—Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA—would allow between 4 to 5 million parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents to put off deportation and receive temporary work permits, in exchange for “coming out of the shadows” and registering with the government. By upholding the stay issued in February 2015 by a federal district judge in Brownsville, Texas, these judges are telling millions of immigrant families there will be no relief from the constant fear and dread that at any time, for something as minor as a traffic ticket, their lives can be devastated—tearing parents, grandparents, children, and relatives from each other through forced deportation.
The lawsuit against Obama’s immigration order was filed on behalf of 26 states, including Texas. Fifteen other states, including California, had filed briefs arguing on behalf of Obama’s executive action. But the appeals court judges ruled that every state must comply with their order not to go ahead with implementation of DAPA. The judges’ decision to uphold the injunction by the district court judge said they were “compelled” by the lawsuit’s claim that the states would suffer “harm” if the executive order went ahead, pointing to the cost of providing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. They also were “compelled” by the argument in the lawsuit that granting “lawful presence” to a group of people here illegally went beyond Obama’s executive discretion—that this issue had to go before Congress.
It cannot be forgotten that despite Obama’s words and promises, he has presided over more deportations, by far, than any president in U.S. history. He has bragged about continuing to flood military, police, and legal forces to an already heavily militarized U.S./Mexico border. And he’s done nothing to counter the racist immigrant baiting and demonization coming from an increasingly reactionary right-wing opposition.
While Obama's proposed DAPA program would give a temporary reprieve to millions who are forced to live in the shadows, under constant fear, there is no promise that they won’t be deported in the future. But the decision by the appeals court judges, as well as the legal action taken by those states fighting to have DAPA defeated, will be horrific to the lives of millions of immigrants; it is completely unjust, and must be resisted. And this fight must be waged in the context of the overall struggle against the demonization, criminalization, and deportations of immigrants and the militarization of the border.
As we wrote following the district judge’s order in February:
After Obama’s executive order last November, countless people had held out hope that years of hard work, living under the endless threat of deportation, and pervasive repression and discrimination would come to an end for them with DAPA. Now a rug has been pulled from under their feet. Many people had publicly announced they are in the country without papers and were going to apply for DAPA—meaning they have bravely declared themselves to be “illegal” and put themselves in the glare of a public spotlight expecting a temporary reprieve. But now that hope has been snatched away. ["Lives of Millions of Immigrants Hang in the Balance with Federal Judge’s Order"]
Reaction: Swift, and Angry
Reaction to the ruling was swift, and in many cases angry, especially from those who have been leading the most determined actions and protests against deportations in recent years. Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of NDLON (National Day Laborer’s Organizing Network), issued a statement that said in part:
Immigrants detained and being prepared for deportation to Mexico. AP photo
While not unexpected, the decision today is a wakeup call for immigrants who thought that relief would be handed down from above. It will not. Both the laws on the books and the application of those laws by the Obama Administration are unjust... Millions of immigrants living and working in the U.S. are being systematically deprived of rights afforded to previous generations, and the only way forward is on the same path that got us here... we must continue to organize and demand nothing less than full equality.
At the same time, the movement Not One More Deportation, on the day of the ruling released statements issued by leaders of their local groups in Phoenix; Philadelphia; Seattle; Atlanta; Los Angeles; Orange County, Calif.; and New Orleans saying in part, “Once more the so-called judicial system has failed to deliver justice. We cannot count on the same government that oppresses us to deliver justice for us...."
Increasing Struggle at the Top over Immigration
The most likely outcome at this point is that Obama’s executive order, once expected to be implemented by now, is all but dead in the water. The Justice Department says it will give up trying to get the stay lifted and will not take it to the Supreme Court, a decision sharply criticized by some pro-immigrant rights groups. Instead, the Justice Department will argue against the challenge to the executive order in the 5th District Court that begins oral arguments in July. But legal experts expect that a final settlement, even if the executive order is ruled legal, will come so close to the 2016 presidential elections that there will be too little time, and too much controversy, to go ahead.
All of this points to the increasing concern, controversy, and battling among the rulers of this system over what to do about the more than 10 million immigrants in this country illegally. As we have written, Obama has been “moving to break a deadlock within the ruling class over how best to repress, monitor and control the most heavily exploited and among the potentially most politically volatile sections of immigrants. Different sections of the U.S. rulers have been locked in a bitter, protracted conflict over policy towards immigrants and immigration that centers on how to best protect and extend the interests of the capitalist-imperialist system they all represent, while sustaining deep exploitation of immigrant workers.”(See "Obama’s Immigration Moves – and the Need for Increased Resistance")
Points of Orientation
Bob Avakian, "Why do people come here from all over the world?"
Further vicious attacks by this system on immigrants are sure to come. The deportations, the militarization of the border, the jailing even of children, the horrendous conditions in the immigration prisons, and the police murders, will continue. And the contention within the ruling class over the best way to control and exploit them will intensify even further. At this moment, these points of orientation are more important than ever:
STOP the Demonization, Criminalization, and Deportation of Immigrants and the Militarization of the Border!
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
To all those who are reading this—our fundraising drive is underway. And we continue to put before you the urgent fundraising challenge to put RCP Publications on higher ground. Meeting this challenge depends on YOU.
Think about the significance of what this is all about: RCP Publications is the main way that people connect with the work and leadership of Bob Avakian, including BAsics (which is a free ebook at revcom.us), and the films BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, and REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN. RCP Publications is the publisher of revcom.us/Revolution newspaper, which each and every week and day to day “brings alive a scientific analysis of major events in society and the world—why they are happening, how different events and developments relate to each other, how all this relates to the system we live under, where people’s interests lie in relation to all this, how revolution is in fact the solution to all this and what the goals of that revolution are, how different viewpoints and programs relate, positively or negatively, to the revolution that is needed, and how people can move, and are moving, to build toward that revolution.”
RCP Publications—and especially revcom.us—is the means to connect the people who are working in every corner of society with each other, magnifying and amplifying the efforts of people in different corners of society to act together to fight the power and to join together in a powerful movement for revolution. As that statement goes on to say: Revcom.us/Revolution “is the guide, the pivot, the crucial tool in drawing forward, orienting, training, and organizing thousands, and influencing millions—fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution—hastening and preparing for the time when we can go for the whole thing, with a real chance to win.”
And in that light, it is at revcom.us—and in the pages of our paper—that the voices of those locked up in the hellholes of America reach tens of thousands here and around the world. It is at revcom.us—and in the pages of the paper—that the real story of Baltimore and Cleveland can be found. It is at revcom.us—and in the pages of the paper—that people can learn how to scientifically view developments in the world—like the moves of ISIS or Saudi Arabia’s bombing of Yemen. Or what is happening in the cultural arena—or in the realm of science.
People from all corners of society and coming from a wide range of views are donating as they question why we are in the situation we are in, what is the source of the outrages that happen every day—from the murder of Black and Latino people, to the abuse and denial of rights to women, to the source of oppression the world over (see testimonials). People across the country are recognizing the importance of this publisher being out in the world as they question: Is there a road forward out of this? This website addresses all these questions from a communist point of view.
But much more is needed. The works we publish from BA and the Revolutionary Communist Party and revcom.us need to be accessible to and touch far more people—everyone who is raising their head at this moment in time needs to know that there is a way to put an end to the horrific conditions and degradation people in this country and this world struggle with every day just to survive and live another day. And more, as they confront the world as it is, what we publish is a key element in wrestling with what is the actual source of the problems—and what is the solution. Broadly in society, people from all walks of life need to be discussing and debating these questions.
Starting from the great challenges humanity faces, in that light grasping the importance of RCP Publications means facing necessity. Continuing to publish these works and maintain revcom.us requires financial support. RCP Publications depends on donations and sustainers from its readers to continue to meet its overhead and to expand its reach. The time to donate is now!
RCP Publications and revcom.us are at a critical juncture. Times are changing... and there is a rapidly growing and ever greater urgency for the works from RCP Publications, especially the works by BA, and revcom.us to be out there, reaching into every corner of society and the world, and to everybody who is rebelling against and questioning the ways things are, and looking for a way out of the madness.
Right now, do three things:
At the present time, RCP Publications cannot accept any contributions or gifts from readers who reside outside the borders of the United States.
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
by Raymond Lotta | June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The 2015 World Voices Festival sponsored by PEN, the international organization of writers, was the occasion of a sharp and high-profile intellectual controversy this May. The debate was triggered by the PEN American Center’s decision to bestow its annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award on Charlie Hebdo. This is the Paris-based journal that lampoons politicians and religious authority and beliefs. In early January, Charlie Hebdo’s editorial director and 11 staff members were murdered by two Islamic fundamentalist gunmen. This was in apparent retaliation for cartoons poking fun at the prophet Muhammad.
The decision to honor Charlie Hebdo prompted more than 200 prominent writers, including Junot Diaz, Wallace Shawn, Francine Prose, Deborah Eisenberg, Eve Ensler, and Peter Carey, to issue a letter of protest and to boycott the award dinner. They argued that cartoons and satire directed at Islamic religious belief reinforce the subordination of the Muslim minority in France:
It is clear and inarguable that the murder of a dozen people in the Charlie Hebdo offices is sickening and tragic. What is neither clear nor inarguable is the decision to confer an award for courageous freedom of expression [on Charlie Hebdo].... To the section of the French population that is already marginalized, embattled, and victimized, a population that is shaped by the legacy of France’s various colonial enterprises, and that contains a large percentage of devout Muslims, Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons of the Prophet must be seen as being intended to cause further humiliation and suffering.1
I attended the conference. I spoke and argued both with supporters and with opponents of the award for Charlie Hebdo. Big questions about the state of the world and the responsibility of engaged artists and intellectuals were getting focused up. But I must also say that the terms of debate were highly problematic. What was so acutely missing was the truly liberatory alternative to this world of misery. Consequently, people, despite the better intentions of many, become locked into different sides of an intolerable status quo.
One side—the perspective of the protest statement—expressed righteous concern for those subjugated and humiliated by colonialism and subjected to imperialist repression, vilification, and reactionary attack. But the statement, specifically the passage that I have excerpted above, winds up conciliating religion and retrograde values by implying that there is a necessary equivalence between critiquing religious beliefs and humiliating the oppressed who hold those beliefs.
The other side to the debate wanted to celebrate and defend the iconoclastic thinking of journalists and artists like Charlie Hebdo. But there is an underlying reality to be confronted and reckoned with. It is precisely imperial global domination and a monstrous, integrated global system of exploitation that makes it possible for the West to have some (highly circumscribed) zones of critical and unconventional thinking for the few... at the cost of grinding up the lives of the vast majority on this planet. And some of the supporters of the award for Charlie Hebdo sidestep the fact that the rulers of the West are carrying out war crimes and tightening the chains of oppression and repression in the name of protecting “expressive terrain.”
In this regard, I must single out Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of the PEN American Center. Nossel was the public face, if you will, of the award going to Charlie Hebdo. Nossel had been a deputy Assistant Secretary of State under Hillary Clinton. A staunch advocate of the U.S. war on Afghanistan, she has been a leading proponent of so-called “smart power” (the idea that the U.S. empire should make use of cultural-intellectual and diplomatic resources as well as the military and brutal client regimes). It is a sorry commentary—it is inexcusable—that an organization opposing persecution of writers and standing for international cooperation would have this imperialist ideologue and operative as its executive director.
Now I am not in a position to make an all-sided evaluation of the content and role of Charlie Hebdo. But two principles are quite important in sorting through the issues of the PEN debate:
First: Intellectuals and artists, including comic artists, should have a basic orientation of standing with the people, not the powers-that-be—whether it be the Black youths rising up in Baltimore, women (and men) in India taking to the streets against a culture of rape, or migrants demanding that they be treated as human beings. Yes, there is certainly a place for irreverence and sharp humor, but no quarter can be given to racist, chauvinist, and sexist jokes that in fact reflect and reinforce structures of exploitation and oppression—and artists and comics should not engage in such humor but rather oppose it.
Intellectuals and artists should mercilessly condemn everything that is backward and oppressive. They should foster critical thinking about society and the world. And they should uphold, even with criticism, everything that is liberatory—that contributes to getting to a world without oppression and in which humanity could truly flourish.
There is an important priority in calling out the powers-that-be, the powers “on high,” and the crimes of the imperialist system. But artists and intellectuals also have an important responsibility of criticizing and challenging thinking and values that chain people, even those on the “bottom,” to the status quo.
Second: Attempts by the state or by organized movements backed by states or non-state power structures, or even by movements not connected with the state, to suppress artists—whether through forbidding them outlets and through blacklisting, imprisonment, physical attack, or even murder—must be opposed. And where artists, thinkers, and writers come under attack for challenging oppressive social structures and ideas—they must be vigorously defended.
Let me home in on a particularly contentious question at the PEN conference: the fact that Charlie Hebdo was not just lambasting religion but a religion, Islam, embraced by large sections of an oppressed and beleaguered immigrant population (though I must inject here that there is no population in which everyone hews to a particular religious belief).
It is certainly true that many of the oppressed gravitate to religion to give meaning and hope to their lives. But it is very wrong and harmful to posit as a principle that one must therefore desist from or temper criticism of religion and of backward ideas, like male chauvinism and anti-gay attitudes, among the masses in order to stand with and not belittle the oppressed.
To begin with, religion is an ideological chain. It is untrue: god does not exist. Religion arose in a specific historical context, and its creation myths and morality are bound up with the history and survival needs of particular peoples at a particular stage of societal development. Religion is based on an unscientific world outlook, on superstition and faith. Religion is a fetter on the ability of the masses of people to understand the world as it really is, and to act in their highest interests and the interests of world humanity to radically transform the world and put an end to all exploitation and oppression.
But there is something else. To attack religious beliefs or religious icons is NOT the same as attacking those who hold those beliefs. Indeed, there is a role—including for artists and writers in particular—in both standing with oppressed people in a fundamental sense AND leading them to see how such beliefs buttress oppressive orders and relations of various kinds... and to break with them.
The debate at PEN between those supporting the award for Charlie Hebdo and those opposing it has a broader historical and global context. In today’s world, the clash between Western imperialism and its bourgeois democracy, on the one hand, and Islamic fundamentalism and its appeal to tradition, on the other—this is profoundly shaping world events, as well as people’s sense of what is possible and desirable.
Bringing Foward Another Way is an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in 2006. It is must reading for a serious understanding of what the U.S. "war on terror" is really about and how to bring forward a positive force in the world in opposition to both Western imperialism and Islamic Jihad.Download PDF
Many progressive people, including at the PEN conference, are caught on the horns of these two oppressive ways of thinking and of organizing society—even though most do not see things in those terms. But think about it...
Imperialism spreads its exploiting tentacles, uproots people from the land, and destroys long-standing ways of life. We are talking about literally billions of people whose lives are dominated, ground up, and often outright destroyed by the economic and social relations of this system and its machinery of drones, soldiers, and cops who enforce these relations.
Islam and traditional values seem to offer an antidote to the incredible churning of lives. But there is nothing progressive in the fundamentalist vision—not least in relation to the emancipation of women and critical thinking. For all its claims to being an alternative to Western imperialism, Islamic fundamentalism is deeply rooted in the same horizons of exploitation and domination. Yet and still, a significant section of intellectuals and artists is loath to criticize Islamic fundamentalism—some because they think it is not “their place” to challenge anything that great numbers of the oppressed believe, others because they mistakenly see in fundamentalist Islam something in positive opposition to Western domination.
Meanwhile, the imperialists parade as champions of free expression, tolerance, dissent. But where is the “freedom of expression” for the child picking his way through a garbage dump in a Third World mega-city? Where is the right to dissent for the young women slaving away in the prison-like factory compounds of export-processing zones?
And within the imperialist heartlands, the fist of bourgeois dictatorship is used against dissent: ubiquitous spying by government agencies and police forces on basic dissent (like antiwar activity); the unforgiving onslaught of the late 1960s and early 1970s against the Black Panther Party and other Black revolutionaries (some of whom are still in prison 40 years later); the unrelenting persecution of whistle-blowers; or the jail sentences meted out to students in California for peacefully blocking traffic to protest police murder (while police who carry out murder go free).
At the core of Western society, with its carapace of bourgeois democracy, is capitalist-imperialist exploitation, savage inequalities, and worldwide plunder. Yet, some progressive artists and intellectuals see in Western institutions (and military interventions) a last line of defense of enlightened values.
So here you have imperialism and fundamentalism setting certain ideological and political terms in the world today. And people get caught in a deadly dynamic.
Again, think about how things have played out over the last 15 years. Following 9/11, the U.S. launches mass-murderous wars of empire against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq—propelling more into the clutches of Islamic fundamentalism. Then the assaults by fundamentalists on unconventional journalists like Charlie Hebdo, or the beheadings carried out by ISIS, provide fuel and cover for the rulers of the West to carry out more drone wars abroad, more repression against immigrants and those who oppose the rulers’ program, and more spying and surveillance at home under the rubric of combating Islamic fanaticism.2
Look at the awful turn of events in Egypt. Many of the young people who had so heroically taken to the streets to face down and oust the U.S.-backed Mubarak regime were, just some 18 months later, supporting a U.S.-backed coup against the oppressive government of the Muslim Brotherhood. Or consider the ideological manacles that lead some to merge bourgeois democracy with Islamic fundamentalism: extolling the “choice” of some women to cover their faces, to enshroud their humanity, in the name of the assertion of “identity.” This is madness.
Bob Avakian has analyzed the global dynamic at work:
What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these “outmodeds,” you end up strengthening both....
[A]t the same time we do have to be clear about which of these “historically outmodeds” has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the historically outmoded strata of the imperialist system, and in particular the U.S. imperialists.3
BUT the choice does not in fact come down to either a world dominated by imperialism, with its profit-above-all economics based on exploitation, and its mechanisms of bourgeois democracy that work quite well in exacting control and subordination—or to a world in which Islamic fundamentalism is institutionalized as the governing ideology and way of life on large swaths of the planet.
Let me pose it this way: Why are these two outmoded ways of organizing society and thinking just that... “outmoded”? Because a more advanced mode of social organization—without scarcity, without exploitation and oppression, and without social antagonism—is possible.
A global community of humanity, of diverse and unique individuals cooperating and doing their best to contribute their ideas and actions to a better world and protecting the planet, is achievable. This is the worldwide communist revolution to rupture with all traditional property relations and with all traditional ideas, and to emancipate all of humanity.
Rather obviously, this is not what most people think (or think “they know”). But it is no wonder why. There is, in contemporary society, a pervasive ruling narrative about communism: that communism is “an impossible utopia that can only turn into ‘totalitarian’ nightmare,” that any attempt to go beyond capitalism is a crime “against human nature.” And people are bombarded ceaselessly with lies and distortions about the communist project and its history.
But the truth is that the first socialist revolutions—the Soviet Union 1917-1956 and China 1949-1976—led by genuine revolutionary communists, were breakthroughs towards emancipation. These were the first and inspiring attempts to build societies free from exploitation and oppression. And they accomplished amazing things against incredible odds.4
Bob Avakian has deeply examined this momentous experience and taken communism to a higher, more emancipatory level. He has brought forward the understanding and framework for a society and world in which the basic needs of humanity can be met and in which the great social divides can be overcome. A society where there is a far greater role than was the case in the previous socialist experience for intellectual ferment, dissent, and all kinds of experimentation, cultural and otherwise. Where there is debate, including the role for debates like this one, involving all of society—for the purpose of enabling people to more deeply understand the world and transform it in a positive direction.
There IS another way. It is the new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian. It is viable... it is visionary... it is more needed than ever. A radically different and better world is possible: free of all relations of exploitation and domination; without the ignorance, values, and suppression that reinforce and go along with those relations; and without the destructive, killing antagonisms that mark our world today.
Ardea Skybreak has put it this way:
Bob Avakian makes very deep and insightful analyses of all of that: why you need a revolution; what is the possibility for a revolution; what is the basis—on what basis, even in a powerful imperialist country like the United States, with all its military and stuff, is it actually possible; and, if you succeed in seizing power, then how do you build a society that was worth fighting for, that you’d want to live in, as opposed to yet another bad system. All of that is in BA’s work.5
To those in PEN, and to artists and intellectuals more widely, who agonize about the massive suffering in the world and the future of humanity: Why not examine your assumptions about where all the misery on this planet comes from, how it can be changed, and what is and is not desirable in achieving that? And as a first and crucial step: Why not explore and dig into the work that Bob Avakian has actually been doing on these problems for 40 years?
Truly, the people and the planet need another way. This is no abstraction. Each and every day, 17,000 children die of preventable disease and malnutrition. The Mediterranean is littered with the corpses of immigrants fleeing lands impoverished and turned into killing grounds by imperialism. Here in the “belly of the beast,” a whole generation of Black and Latino youth is deemed disposable: locked out of work, warehoused into prison, brutalized and murdered by the police in the streets. Across the planet lives and spirits are crushed, the creative potential of humanity shackled. While the machinery of imperialism hums in the background... while the planet itself is being destroyed.
Anyone unreconciled to this world of misery should want to engage with the new synthesis of communism. To know about it but refuse to engage with it is unconscionable.
The stakes could not be higher: the world as it is, or the way out and the way forward.
1. The statement by the protesting writers can be read at The Intercept website: “204 Pen Writers (Thus Far) Have Objected to the Charlie Hebdo Award—Not Just 6” [back]
In early May, a right-wing, anti-Muslim group held a “cartoon contest” in Garland, Texas. The idea was to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment through racist depictions of the prophet Muhammad. As this Garland, Texas, gathering opened, two gunmen showed up but were intercepted and killed. If press reports are to be believed, the would-be assailants had connections to jihadist movements, although this has not been fully established.
The Garland cartoon festival was the handiwork of a racist, pro-imperialist, anti-immigrant group operating from a perspective that the “civilized” West, and America in particular, is under siege from Islamic fanatics and that America must do any and all things to stop this. This and other such gatherings fit squarely with the agenda of the U.S.’s war on the world. Further, this train of events—the reactionary “cartoon contest” and the apparent plans by the two gunmen, possibly jihadi-influenced, to stop it through murder—is very much bound up with the dynamic of the contention between the “two outmodeds.”
Any attempts by the U.S. imperialists to use such incidents as rationales to carry out further repression in the U.S. and retaliation abroad must be opposed. And whatever the background and motivations of the gunmen, the resort to coercion, violence, and murder to oppose ideas is completely unacceptable. [back]
4. To learn about the historical experience of the Russian and Chinese revolutions, their overwhelmingly positive achievements and also their secondary problems and shortcomings, see You Don’t Know What You Think You “Know” About the Communist Revolution and The REAL Path To Emancipation: It’s History and Our Future. Interview with Raymond Lotta. [back]
5. Science and Revolution: On the Importance of Science, The Application of Science to Society, The New Synthesis of Communism and the Leadership of Bob Avakian: An Interview With Ardea Skybreak [back]
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
Letter from a reader
June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I really appreciated the short report “Chicago Sox Park: Taking a message to the Family Day baseball game” on the revcom.us website recently. In particular, that the people who were part of this outing acted on their understanding that it is “... important—to take this message out to this mainly white, middle of the road crowd.” More of this type of activity should go on.
The terrain we’re working on is changing rapidly. A highly contested and bitterly fought societal polarization has been shaping up around murder by police. This impacts all of society, creating possibilities for new synergies among different sections of people, and within different struggles. The need and the possibilities for radical change seem more realizable to more people.
Even more, as the article “High Stakes in Baltimore” concluded: “We NEED a revolution, we need to get organized for an ACTUAL revolution. What the masses have done in Baltimore has increased the possibility of that... and increased the challenges that revolutionaries must recognize and meet to actually move closer to being able to make that revolution.”
There is new necessity―and new freedom to act on that necessity—for the revolutionaries. And it must be acted on, urgently, as part of “hastening while awaiting” the emergence of a revolutionary situation.
The letter makes the point that Sox fans “are not widely regarded as a progressive bunch.” The same could probably be said for baseball fans generally (although it would be wrong to be mechanical and one dimensional in our understanding of this—for one example, many immigrants from countries like the Dominican Republic and Mexico are avid baseball fans).
But here’s something to think about—if tens of millions of “baseball fans” (using this phrase as a metaphor for white middle strata people not usually associated with “progressive” causes) aren’t won to participation in, active support for, or friendly neutrality towards the movement for revolution—the revolution can not win. As the Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party states, “In order to win, the party will have to unite millions and tens of millions of people—and a vast array of political and social forces, with diverse viewpoints—to actively take part in and support the revolution....”
Its well worth giving some serious thought to what that “vast array” of forces holding diverse viewpoints could look like. It is also worth thinking about where the “millions and tens of millions” holding these viewpoints live.
Many of them live in the suburbs. Suburban America has become a more complicated place in the last 20 years or so. Many basic masses live in suburbs, as do people of many nationalities, including immigrants of different strata. Bob Avakian has deeply addressed some key contradictions among these suburban strata—among the youth and among women, for example.
But still, the potential solid base for a revolution is mainly concentrated in the inner city cores. And the potential social base for counter revolution exists, in large part anyway, in suburbs and “exurbs.”
In his work “Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, but Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon” (Birds/Crocodiles for short), BA describes a fascist outlook that “today rather acutely stand[s] out” and is a “major expression of ‘suburbanism,’ and in particular significant right-wing social and political expressions of this.” BA describes “suburbanism” as “part of this whole [fascist] package” and goes on to say that a big part of that is “racism—and a certain self-righteous viciousness founded on parasitism.”
This ugly situation didn’t just develop on its own, or because white people are inherently racist and backward. Along with the workings of this system, the ruling class of capitalist-imperialists has done and continues to do a lot, practically and in the realm of ideology, to foster all sorts of backwardness and narrow mindedness among middle strata people. We can see that all around us today.
But, as BA argues in “Birds/Crocodiles,” this reactionary “suburbanism” can change quickly among many people, especially youth, as a rebellious and revolutionary spirit takes root and reverberates throughout society. As he wrote in that work, “[T] here is both a great need, and a real possibility and potential, for a rebellion, particularly of youth, in opposition to all this—especially to the right-wing expressions of this but also more generally to the assumptions and dynamics, the motivations and ethos, at the core of ‘suburbanism’....”
Maximizing this possibility is a crucial part of preparing the ground for revolution. There is an important ideological component to this today. It is very positive, for example, that many middle class white people in the Baltimore area and elsewhere have joined in the fight to stop murder by police. New synergies that build off and strengthen each other, and the potential for new alliances, can be seen. All this should be consciously worked on and taken to its utmost at any time by the revolutionaries.
Maximizing this potential, including in its organized expressions, are also crucial for actually making and winning a revolution. If the areas most solidly for revolution are able to be easily surrounded and suppressed by the “baseball fans in the suburbs” in a future situation—one qualitatively different from today—that would not bode well for the revolution. The movement for revolution has to work on this contradiction, now, as part of fighting to create more favorable conditions for revolution.
Working with this understanding is also an expression of what the movement for revolution is all about—the emancipation of humanity, not “the last shall be first”, seeking revenge, or any other petty motive.
Revolution—actual, real revolution, is in the interests of the majority of people in this country, whether they now know that or not.
Right now society is boiling with conflict about the epidemic of police murder and brutality, and mass incarceration of Black and Latino youth. A profound polarization—a big division in society has developed. Uprisings among the oppressed have compelled broad numbers of people, including many thousands of white middle class people, to confront not just police brutality, but the ideology of white supremacy.
On the other side, defenders of this system, which has white supremacy woven into its every aspect, have been staging police rallies and protests and demanding unconditional support. And yes, there have been surges of gun sales in the suburbs.
Communists, acting with basic masses and others in taking out revolutionary politics into this mix, have the potential to make a huge difference now, and aiming towards the future. Things won’t just “fall our way”—but things can begun to be realigned more favorably for revolution, through intensely sharp struggle.
This brings me to my last point in this brief letter. The revolutionaries have to FIGHT for this. Just putting a line out there won’t do. Building a revolutionary pole of attraction mainly in the urban cores but felt throughout all of society changes things broadly for many people. But for that to strengthen and grow, it must be fought for tooth and nail among all sections of people, every step (and leap) of the way.
Revolution, nothing less, must be the foundation, starting point, and “glue” of how the movement for revolution approaches people in these middle strata. Lifting people's sights to make them aware of the real possibilities for radical change. Bringing BAsics, the Dialogue between Bob Avakian and Cornel West, Revolution, and other material on the revcom.us website to them. Expecting and welcoming controversy and fierce struggle, including vehement opposition; but also expecting the message of revolution to connect and resonate, to “sink in,” with growing numbers of people.
The example of the young guy in Chicago who challenged the revolutionaries by asking where the pictures of cops were on the Stolen Lives banner, and how the revolutionary responded, has to go on... on a much larger scale.
In “Birds/Crocodiles,” BA talks about how youth who had been raised as conservative Republicans became “radicalized” within a short time during the upheavals of the 1960s. We have to fight for similar transformations today among sections of youth and other “baseball fans.” And we are in a much better position to achieve that today, because of the work done by BA and the existence of a revolutionary vanguard, the RCP.
Fighting to maximize the influence and organized development of the movement for revolution among the middle strata, including the “suburbanites,” is not an abstract question, it is not something that can be put off until “we’ve made more advances in the cities.” This is a life and death matter that urgently needs to be worked on, now.
So, these are some initial thoughts prompted by an important and instructive initial experience.
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Days of torrential rain caused massive flooding and significant loss of life in Texas, Oklahoma, and northern Mexico last week. The rain was a natural, and not unexpected, disaster. In fact, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, “The state of Texas leads the country most every year in flood-related deaths and property damage. Texas actually holds half of the 12 world records for rainfall in 48 hours or less.”
But the damage and death caused by the rain were worsened by the irrational, chaotic, destructive growth of freeways, shopping malls, and housing subdivisions that has spread across much of Texas. Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas are now the 4th, 7th, and 9th largest cities in the country. Four of the 10 fastest growing counties in the U.S. are in Texas.
This unplanned, twisted growth has been justified and amplified by a “free market fundamentalist” ideology that enshrines private property and is fueled by anti-scientific contempt for any environmental concern. The result has been bayous canalized (dredged and modified for navigation), wetlands contorted into suburban sprawls, forests uprooted, endless prairies transformed into expanses of concrete, and seemingly bottomless aquifers drained—all in the name of “progress.”
The extent to which climate change and untrammeled “growth” contributed to the current ongoing catastrophe in Texas can't be precisely determined. But Katherine Hayhoe, a climate change researcher at Texas Tech University, wrote that the mad rush of construction is “increasing flood risk at a time when ... the risk of heavy downpours is also on the rise.” And Andrew Revkin wrote of the destruction in Texas in his New York Times “Dot Earth” blog that “what’s vividly clear is the extreme vulnerability created by the continuing development pulse in some of the state’s most hazardous places.”
Do you know anyone else—any person or organization—that has managed to bring forth an actual PLAN for a radically different society, in all its dimensions, and a CONSTITUTION to codify all this? — A different world IS possible — Check out and order online the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).
Contrast all this madness with the approach to sustainable development in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal):
A socialist economy operates according to principles of “socialist sustainable development.” It takes the “long view” of what is needed to benefit humanity and the planet. It organizes and regulates production and growth on the basis of awareness of natural limits and the interconnected web of ecosystems. It emphasizes safe and renewable sources of energy.
And in that context,
Land, waters, forests, minerals, and other natural resources are protected and managed as “public goods.” They fall within the scope of public-state ownership. Socialist-state ownership recognizes its responsibility to preserve the “commons”—the atmosphere, oceans, wildlife, and so forth—for all of humanity and for the future.
That kind of planning and development is impossible under a system where “the market” drives development, but it IS POSSIBLE in a revolutionary society.
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
Oakland Clamps Down on Street Protests
June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Oakland, California Mayor Libby Schaaf, who came into office at the start of this year, has implemented a repressive new policy banning nighttime street marches. An Oakland police advisory says “unpermitted marches in the street after sundown are not allowed,” and demonstrators can only march on sidewalks after dark. Oakland has been a center of protest and resistance for years. The nighttime street march ban, disguised as stopping “vandalism,” is an outrageous attempt to suppress the struggle against police brutality and to criminalize protest and restrict the rights of the people more generally, at this urgent moment when there could be a “long hot summer” politically around the country.
Schaaf had campaigned for mayor in part by saying she would put an end to “violence” in Oakland street protests. In the aftermath of protests in Oakland upholding the uprising in Baltimore and supporting the movement against police murder, major mainstream media had demanded a clampdown in Oakland. Of course, Schaaf and the media were not talking about violence of the police—like the vicious attack on Occupy protesters in 2011, or the daily brutalization of Black and Latino people.
Schaaf’s new ban was first implemented on Thursday, May 21, when all around the country, #SayHerName actions took to the streets to protest police violence against Black women and transgender people. In Oakland, several hundred people gathered at 14th and Broadway near Oakland City Hall for a march, sponsored by the Anti-Police Terror Project, to the Oakland Police Department headquarters. As the sun went down, police announced that the demonstration was “unpermitted,” threatened protesters with arrest, and forced the march onto the sidewalk.
Oakland police have a long and ugly history of police brutality and murder against the people, and a history of extreme brutality against political protest as well. In the police assault on Occupy protesters mentioned above, Iraq War vet Scott Olsen was seriously injured when he was hit on the head with a police bean bag projectile, and he was later awarded a $4.5 million judgment.
Intervention by federal courts and continued protest led to a situation in which the official crowd control policy in Oakland has been that marches without permits after dark are allowed. Rachel Lederman, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild who had helped develop that policy, told the press, “A local government can impose a reasonable time, manner, and place restriction on speech, but the Oakland crowd control policy specifically states that OPD will facilitate marches in the street regardless of whether a permit has be obtained as long as it’s feasible to do so.”
Lederman said it is unconstitutional for the city to prohibit nighttime street marches: “The reasonableness is determined by what’s actually happening there. You can’t ban street marches at night because on some past occasions some people broke windows. That’s completely unconstitutional.” (“Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf Institutes Ban on Street Protests,” East Bay Express, May 22, 2015)
Schaaf’s new policies are an attack on the people’s basic rights. The National Lawyers Guild in San Francisco (NLGSF) condemned this new policy and said that they would challenge it as unconstitutional. A statement from the group said: “The NLGSF believes such preemptive restrictions on protest are both unconstitutional, and in violation of OPD’s own Crowd Control Policy... There is no legitimate justification for such a limitation, and the unlawful policy change being implemented by Mayor Libby Schaaf serves little purpose but to suppress free speech.”
A demonstration to defy the ban on nighttime protest was called on Saturday, May 23, along the same route as the #SayHerName protest. This was also the day that a judge cleared Cleveland cop Michael Brelo of all charges in the outrageous murder of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, unarmed Black people whose car was shot at 137 times by the police—and this was part of why people came out on short notice. After about 150 demonstrators marched in the streets to the police headquarters in defiance of the ban, marchers faced a line of riot-clad Oakland Police, Alameda County Sheriffs and California Highway Patrol who declared the protest illegal and threatened the protesters with arrest and the use of “chemical agents.” “Our streets, all night!” the crowd chanted in reply. After a tense confrontation, people began to sit down in the streets to challenge the legitimacy of the nighttime curfew, and people began to shout out the names of Black women and men who have been murdered by the police.
The East Bay Express reported the police used tear gas and flashbang grenades against protesters who remained in the streets. Forty-seven people were detained and cited (including members of the Revolution Club) and five others were taken into custody.
The following evening, Sunday, May 24, an interfaith grouping of religious people led a rally and march to continue drawing attention to state violence against Black women, and to challenge the arrests that had come the night before and the ongoing curfew. About 200 people took to the streets and marched after sundown. The march was again surrounded by large numbers of riot-clad police. This time, probably because of the political breadth of the religious forces who had called the march, the group was able to march to the police station, hold a speak-out, and then march back to Oscar Grant Plaza at 14th and Broadway. Back at the Plaza, organizers spoke of the significance of having been in the streets in face of the curfew and talked about how people need to continue to build this movement against police murder and in opposition to the repressive restrictions in Oakland.
While some protesters began to leave, it was clear that many still wanted to stay in the streets and continue to make their voices heard. Another march of about 100 people began. With the police continuing to surround and intimidate the march, the group wound its way around a few blocks, and ended up back at the main downtown intersection. People were herded onto the sidewalks but began marching across the streets, completely legally and even in line with the extremely repressive new Oakland rules, crossing the street only during green lights. In this context, five people were violently snatched by police and arrested, including Revolution Club members who were singled out by the police and targeted for arrest. Some were simply standing on the sidewalk when arrested. One of the Revolution Club members was charged with a completely bogus charge of resisting arrest and held on $15,000 bail.
The singling out of the Revolution Club members underscores the completely reactionary and repressive actions of the authorities in Oakland. These arrests, as well as the crude and unconstitutional implementation of the new protest policies in Oakland, are a response to the new situation emerging in Baltimore, Cleveland, and across the country. As the police continue to brutalize, incarcerate, and steal the lives of our youth and others, those who stand up against this are criminalized. It’s a crucial part of the struggle to expose this and rally people broadly throughout society to turn back this assault.
Fighting Oppression Is Not a Crime! Amnesty for All Protesters Against Police Terror!
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
Updated June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Police attack protesters Saturday, May 23 outside Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland after a judge let the only cop charged in the police murder of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams go free. Photo: special to revcom.us.
From the moment Michael Brelo, a Cleveland cop, was pronounced not guilty on May 23 there have been outbreaks of protest in Cleveland. Brelo was one of about 100 Cleveland area cops who, on November 29, 2012, chased and fired 137 shots into a car murdering two unarmed Black people—Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams (See “137 Shots—The Whole Damned System Is Guilty! Cleveland Judge Lets Cop Involved in Murder of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams Walk!” a statement by Carl Dix).
Protesting outside the NBA playoffs, Cleveland, May 24, 2015
Immediately after the verdict was announced, there were angry confrontations between protesters and police at the courthouse, and several protesters were arrested. Also, shortly after the verdict, protesters blocked traffic on a major freeway.
Two hundred people gathered at the recreation center where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was murdered by police six months ago speaking outrage and chanting “No justice, no peace.”
In the evening, protesters marching in Cleveland were repeatedly attacked by police in riot gear in Cleveland’s upscale district near the baseball stadium – Quicken Loans Arena (see video at Cleveland.com).
There were over 70 arrests throughout the first day of protests. Most of those arrested have been arraigned, and many pled not guilty.
On Sunday, May 24, over a dozen protesters marched in front of the playoff game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks chanting “Indict, convict, send the killer cops to jail/The whole damn system is guilty as hell.” Hundreds of people going to the game took notice, many giving thumbs up or fists in the air, and a few joined the protest.
Then people blocked the intersection in front of the arena for 2 hours. A couple young Black women who joined the action and said, “We been looking for the protest, this verdict is so wrong, they think they can kill Black people and get away with it.”
May 25, 2015: As many as 200 people marched through housing projects and past schools in Cleveland, blocking streets, demanding justice. Image from video used with permission from Ed Sweeney.
On Monday, May 25, a couple dozen people gathered at a rally called by Cleveland Revolution Books at the Zelma George Rec Center. Four hours later, marching through housing projects, chanting, getting out Carl Dix’ statement and the statement from the Cleveland Branch of the Revolutionary Communist Party, the crowd grew to two hundred. People came out of their houses, youth joined on bikes in an angry, boisterous expression of outrage. People chanted “Fists up, fight back!” “Drop the charges,” and “Indict, convict, send the killer cops to jail, the whole damn system is guilty as hell!” and “137 shots, how you justify that?!”
Getting out the Statement by Carl Dix, Cleveland, May 25, 2015.
An organizer from Revolution Books told Revolution that many people had been waiting for a chance to make a statement, and were challenged to get into the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and get with what Bob Avakian has brought forward.
Housing Project police harassed people throughout the afternoon, claiming they were concerned with the “safety” of the young people who joined – to which people responded, “What about Tamir Rice?” People refused to back down, blocking streets with their bikes.
The organizer from Revolution Books reported that people were raising a need to reach out and draw in people beyond the projects, and that is a challenge to solve. This evening, a protest has been called by religious forces. The struggle continues!
Marching through Cleveland, 5/25, demanding no charges against arrested protesters and justice for Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. Vine used with permission @edscle.
Tuesday, May 26...
Over 500 people of different nationalities from 40 church congregations in the Cleveland area marched through downtown to City Hall in protest of the not-guilty verdict. People loudly chanted, “We can't wait," calling out the injustices in the prison system and the racism among police. The Greater Cleveland Congregations, an interfaith advocacy group, delivered a letter to the prosecutor urging police reforms. A woman in the march said, “The march was important because we have to keep confronting the authorities. They don’t want to do anything, and we have to keep bothering them. And the diversity of people and religions was good.”
Weekend of May 29 - 31
On Friday, May 29, 15 people rallied in a poor area of Cleveland including several of the young people arrested on Saturday, May 25, when the not guilty verdict on cop Brelo came down. It was lively, with posters, chants, and lots of exchanges with people going by. People got out the Stolen Lives posters, revolution kits, and Revolution papers to cars and people coming from their apartments, and raised almost $50 for materials. The crew then went to where Al Sharpton was speaking to continue to spread the word and distribute the Carl Dix statement and the local RCP statement.
The next day there was a small march through a busy area of the Black community. From the minute people went into the street, horns blew, fists went up, and people grabbed the Stolen Lives posters and gave money. People disrupted traffic and cars were backed up, which only drew more attention to the call to STOP POLICE MURDER, as people saw the posters and heard the loud chants, like “Indict, Convict, Send the Killer Cops to Jail. The whole damn system is guilty as hell!” Hearing and seeing the big Stolen Lives posters, a shoe repair shop owner called people over to get posters to put up in his window.
Sunday May 31
Some 40 people, mostly Black, marched through East Cleveland, an extremely poor Black community, in rain and cold. The chant, "Indict, convict send the killer to jail/The whole damn system is guilty!" rang out loud and clear. As we came to the place where Malissa and Timothy were legally lynched, balloons were released to remember and honor them. The march was organized by Cleveland Renaissance, a movement of young people and by "my loud radio" a network radio and was joined by the movement for revolution. We blocked an intersection and marched to where Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, unarmed and Black, were murdered with 137 shots by 13 pigs. As the protest broke up, a young Black woman said, " I felt I had to be here. We need answers to the current system, which will not bring justice. We can't let this die down."
The struggle continues!
Follow developments at revcom.us.
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On May 26, a legal settlement was announced between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the City of Cleveland. This agreement, called a consent decree, stems from a DOJ report released last December that found a pattern of unconstitutional, abusive and improper practices by the Cleveland Police Department.
The city’s mayor, Frank Jackson, said he hoped the agreement would calm tensions. News of this consent decree came only three days after a judge delivered a not guilty verdict in the case of Michael Brelo, the Cleveland cop, who fired 49 shots into the car of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, and protests against this outrageous decision. The city is also waiting to hear whether any cops will be indicted for the November 13, 2014 killing of Tanisha Anderson, who suffered from schizophrenia, and the November 22, 2014 police killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
The agreement allows the city to take specific actions without admitting fault or guilt for the situation that led to the lawsuit, and a time frame will be negotiated in which the consent decree has to be carried out.
The 105-page agreement is being hailed as a “blueprint” for overhauling policies that “promote excessive force, demanding more accountability and transparency from the police when justifying use of force” and “mending a frayed relationship between police and the community.” [Cleveland.com]
But three things need to be said about what this consent decree is really about, which will be discussed in this article.
1. NONE of what’s in the DOJ report would be coming out if the people had not REFUSED to accept these instances of police murder and brutality—in Cleveland and around the country; if there had not been powerful protests against police murder and brutality in Cleveland and in cities throughout the U.S.
2. This so-called blueprint doesn’t come close to addressing—much less actually providing a real way to stop—police murder and brutality. It should tell you something right away that the DOJ report actually states, “We are making no finding regarding racial profiling” and that there is NO mention at all in the consent decree of racial profiling.
3. These kind of consent decrees—which are being done between the DOJ and many other police departments around the country—are meant to deliver the message that the people should stop protesting, leave things to the government and put their faith in dead-end reforms that amount to trying to get the plantation owners’ slave-catchers to stop chasing down and brutalizing escaping slaves.
Many people are seriously questioning the legitimacy of the police and the whole INjustice system, which lets killer cops off time after time. The DOJ findings of abuse by police departments and the consent decrees are meant to restore credibility and legitimacy to the police departments and the system as a whole—while perhaps making a few changes, but keeping the essential repressive apparatus intact.
The DOJ report on the Cleveland Police Department, issued on December 4, 2014, based on an examination of nearly 600 use-of-force incidents from 2010 to 2013, says it found what it calls “systemic deficiencies and practices” and “insufficient accountability, inadequate training, ineffective policies, and inadequate engagement with the community.”
Translated into REAL life, what this actually reflects is a sliver of truth about the fact that there is systematic police MURDER, BRUTALITY, unjustified stops, arrests and the wanton violation of people’s Constitutional and human rights. There are pages and pages of examples of cops pulling their guns on people, firing at people, beating people, tasing people—many times for no reason at all—sometimes purely as retaliatory punishment, because the person had talked back or tried to run away and many times when people were already handcuffed.
The 105-page consent decree purportedly addresses these abuses with guidelines and measures the Cleveland Police Department will have to follow. The settlement bans pistol-whipping people; firing warning shots; using force against people for talking back or as punishment for running away; using unnecessary and excessive deadly force on people who are already handcuffed, including tasers and chemical sprays; and using excessive force against persons who are mentally ill or in crisis.
First of all, it is obscene and says something about the totally illegitimate nature of the police that these things are a routinely done by the police and that they have to be told they cannot do these things—many which are already explicitly illegal.
Second, it is an outrage that the U.S. Department of Injustice—which has been presiding over all these crimes—tells these local police departments they can’t break the law and violate people’s Constitutional rights, and then calls this “progress” and “reform.”
There are about a dozen city police departments that have entered into consent decrees with the U.S. Department of Justice since the federal agency created its first in 1997 (to monitor the Pittsburgh police).
But what effect has this actually had on even slowing down the number of shootings and killings by police of unarmed people? What effect has it had on killer cops going free? There have been thousands of fatal shootings at the hands of police since 2005 and only 54 officers have even been charged. And most of these were cleared or acquitted in the cases that have been resolved. (See "Thousands Dying as Killer Cops Go Free")
Take the example of the consent decree between the U.S. government and the LAPD signed in 2001. In 1999, officers assigned to the LAPD's Rampart Division were implicated in all kinds of crimes against the people, found to go back decades—including false arrests, illegal searches and seizures, physical abuse of suspects, evidence tampering and perjury. The very legitimacy of the cops was seriously eroded. The federal officials launched an investigation and threatened to sue the city for complete control of the LAPD unless a consent decree was signed. The agreement eventually agreed upon required the LAPD to adopt reforms similar to what’s in the Cleveland agreement. Over the years LAPD officials called to be let out of the agreement, arguing that they were already doing everything called for AND that they needed the freedom to run on their own without federal oversight. In May 2013, in a brief three-line order, a U.S. district judge lifted the consent decree on the LAPD, saying it had fully complied with the agreement.
Does anyone think that this consent decree put even a tap on the brakes to stop LAPD cops from murdering and brutalizing people? In fact, at least 230 people have been killed by the LAPD since January 1, 2000.
Even as federal reports on police abuse and consent decrees are being issued, the U.S. government is not only NOT doing anything about the fact that killer cops are getting away with murdering unarmed people time after time. It is upholding this. In a single week the system let killer cops go free in Cleveland (Brelo); Grapevine, Texas; and St. Louis, Missouri; the Supreme Court ruled in a case of a woman in San Francisco that cops cannot be sued for shooting at severely mentally disabled people who allegedly "threaten violence." (See “In One Week: Murdering Police Go Free All Over the USA: Murder and Abuse by Police Must Stop”)
In 2004, the Cleveland Police Department submitted to a previous DOJ consent decree—agreeing to a list of reforms, including a ban on shooting at moving vehicles ”unless there is imminent danger of death or serious injury.” The agreement lasted one year then expired. Maybe we should ask Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, who were chased by 100+ Cleveland area police,13 of whom then shot 137 bullets into their car, what effect such reports and consent decrees have had on stopping police murder. But we can’t ask them because they are dead.
The truth of the matter is the U.S. government won’t and can’t do anything to put a stop to police murder. These killer, brutalizing cops ARE doing their job, the job this system needs them to do—to maintain social control, especially among a section of Black and Latino youth whom this system has no future for and greatly fears as a potentially volatile social force. The people must continue the struggle against police murder, taking to the streets, determined in our demand: Indict, Convict, Send the Killer Cops to Jail! The Whole Damn System Is Guilty as Hell!
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We received this report:
Carl Dix, Kwame Alston, Marlene Kanmogne, Tawanda Jones, and Adam Jackson.
Baltimore, May 28—Thirty to 40 people came to the forum sponsored by Revolution newspaper/revcom.us: “Uprising in Baltimore: Our Fight Has Just Begun—Where Do We Go From Here?” The forum was at the First Unitarian Church, which proudly displays a large “Black Lives Matter” banner at the front entrance; the minister, Rev. David Carl Olson, who has played a significant role in bringing religious forces into the battle against police terror, gave a powerful introduction. Carl Dix, co-founder of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and a representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party, had called for this event and was the featured speaker at the forum, which brought together a broad range of experience and views within the movement against murder by police.
Other speakers were Adam Jackson, founder and CEO of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle and a prominent member of the Baltimore United for Change coalition, who spoke on the relationship between public policy and grassroots organizing; Kwame Alston of the Black Student Union at Johns Hopkins University, and Marlene Kanmogne of the African Student Association at the same university, who both spoke on the experience of Black students at their school and other colleges mobilizing students into the battle for justice in the days following the uprising; and Tawanda Jones, activist and sister of Tyrone West, an African-American man murdered by police in 2013, who spoke on the battle for justice for her brother and for all those murdered by police.
Carl Dix brought it all together, exposing the role of the capitalist-imperialist system in the continuing murder by police and other horrors people face, and the fact that there is a way out through revolution, nothing less. He raised people’s sights, pointing to a world where these horrors would truly be no more, and talked about how with a new revolutionary political power, those entrusted with the people’s security would sooner risk their own lives than endanger anyone. And he challenged the speakers and the audience to step up the struggle against police terror and bring the resistance to a higher level.
There was a wide-ranging discussion, with some people pointing to the grotesque inequality of the inferior schools and resources in African-American communities. Some questioned how valuable the uprising has been in the struggle for justice. Others strongly upheld it, and there was general agreement that this movement cannot stop now, both in Baltimore and nationally. A member of the Revolution Club spoke to their work now in building for an actual revolution and waging the battle to STOP murder by police. There was a call for July 2, when the cops responsible for the murder of Freddie Gray will be arraigned, to be a day to mobilize people to carry forward the fight to actually convict and send the killer cops to jail. This will be in the face of the Fraternal Order of Police, who are expected to mobilize their social base that day to demand that the charges be dropped, who have declared the powerful outpourings in the streets to be a “lynch mob,” and who have called for a special prosecutor.
Even with some deep differences expressed among the speakers, there was unity around the great need to bring the struggle against police terror to a higher level through this summer and into the fall. There were also some very positive developments as a result of this forum and the people coming together. For a number of people, this was their first time meeting the movement for revolution, and many said it would not be their last. Some religious forces who came, along with aiming to strengthen the mobilization of the religious community in the fight against murder by police, began to make plans around organizing a citywide screening of REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN. A locally prominent Black blues singer announced that she wants to organize a fundraiser for the revolution, even as she asserted her differences. Coming off this forum, there will be a lot to follow up on and work through, to make sure this summer really is the “long hot summer” politically that it needs to be.
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
BAsics in B'More
May 18, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
“I’ve been reading that book [BAsics]. I’m somewhere in the middle of the book now. And I understand that something has to be done. I understand that it’s not a racial thing; it’s not a religious thing. As a human being our human rights are being violated on various different levels. I understand that we have to combine forces in different walks of life in order to get this thing done. Am I willing to do that? Yes, I am. ... Like you said, we live in a world that can be a better place. The way things are, you know it should be better. And we can change that. We can change that. And I believe, whatever has to be done, whether it be sacrifice, whether it be just bringing it to the table, whether it be discussion or whatever level, it’s just necessary. ’Cause what am I gonna do, just be here and wait for my expiration date? No. Cause then life would be in vain. I am gonna finish BAsics. It has my attention.”
—From interview with middle-aged man who met with the revolution in Baltimore
We need urgent funds for hundreds of copies of the book, BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, to be shipped to Baltimore, and to be subsidized for those who most need it but have scarce resources to afford the full price. There are reports of youth collecting money from friends and neighbors to get a copy, others of people working through the book, as in the quote above from an interview to be published in Revolution. But this is just a glimpse of what is possible, and we need a lot more...
In the wake of the uprising in Baltimore, there is a different mood in the air.
Youth and others, cast out by the system, dehumanized and degraded by the police every day, in conditions of abject poverty and systemic neglect—have, with the uprising and the rebellion, with defiance and courage, raised their heads and raised their sights. With things and thinking shaken loose, there are controversies and debates, and many are seriously questioning the way things are, and considering and grappling with possibilities of something different.
In the midst of this ferment, revolutionaries and others are in Baltimore stepping forth with BA, Bob Avakian, the leader of the revolution—through his works, leading with the film of the Dialogue with Cornel West, available online, and BAsics, a book of quotations from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, including the actual reading of quotes in response to peoples questions.
Concrete questions are getting asked, posed, and discussed. There is a pace, scope, and real seriousness not characteristic of normal times. They include: what is the role and essential function of the police; why do immigrants come here from all over the world; how should we look at the role of women in society; what is the role of elected officials and our democratic rights; what is the real problem underlying both the poverty and the role of the police;—and what is the solution to all this madness; if you say revolution is the answer, then what is the actual strategy for a revolution; what is the role and content of leadership; what comes after the revolution?
For many, BAsics has come alive and is in demand as the handbook for revolution—with answers, and solutions: answering in basic terms the questions posed above, sparking further questions, and providing people with a scientific understanding of the world and society, how it could be radically different through revolution—and the role of people in this process, in knowing and changing the world, in living lives with a morality corresponding to the world that needs to and can be brought into being.
We need you—to donate funds and contribute generously, to take this call to your friends, and do everything possible so that many more people can get BAsics.
As people raise their sights, and ask questions that have everything to do with whether humanity can be free of this madness wrought by the system—it is our responsibility, collectively, to make sure they are able to access the most scientific and liberating answers that exist, the most honest and straight-up truth of why things are the way they are and a liberating vision of how the world could be, meeting BA through this, and changing how they understand the world and themselves in the process.
Donations and checks can be made to:
RCP Publications, Attention: BAsics in B’More
PO BOX 3486, Merchandise Mart
Chicago IL 60654
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
May 25, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I have said that every person should have a copy of BAsics. It is a handbook that is truth in words to this system of oppression from the very first chapter and the very first line ["There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth."], and it goes even deeper the more you deeply read into this very important and informative writings from the talks of Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party. It has brought me to really see the world, and all of its conditions in stark reality of the capitalist/imperialist that the problems of police brutality, murder, and the prison industrial complex, and all of the degradations and horrors against humanity, that is going on here and around the world. Most importantly, there is a strategy and solution to these horrible conditions that has a great potential that has been inspired from someone that has never given up the fight for emancipation, and has inspired me through his talks and writings that I should not give up in this fight for humanity. I have known that the world is a horror, but in BA, I know that there is a solution that is worth working towards and is worth fighting for. Although I got introduced to Bob Avakian from his recording of "All Played Out", I was taken in by how it struck a nerve of truth and real talk about this repressed system, and that what lead me to learn more and to be a part of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and what it really means to be a emancipator of humanity. As the back of the book says, "you can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics." I recommend to others to get with BA and look deeper into BAsics, the works, writing, and the man, and if you hunger and want to see a whole different world, and dare to hope that it is possible, then this is the handbook that can open the path toward a new and better world, to be challenged, inspired, and liberated, that a revolution is possible, and is needed, with the ultimate goal of emancipation of all humanity free of exploitation and oppression through communism. I think it is imperative that those that are looking for not just answers, but real answers and real talk, get with BA, and get into BAsics, and get with the revolution. I will be sending a pledging $25 dollars for the cause, and I urge others to make a pledge to donate to get a copy of BAsics into every home, and in the hands of those who want to see a real change, and to get with BA and dig deeper to learn what is needed and what is possible.
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We greatly appreciate receiving these letters from prisoners and encourage prisoners to keep sending us correspondence. The views expressed by the writers of these letters are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.
Greetings from Behind the Texas Barbwire fence and the 23/24 Hour Locked Steel Door. I really appreciate all that hard work you all put into keeping us informed on the Big Issues that are happening out in that crazy world. Every time I see a Revolution shirt or Banner with Revolution stamped on it coming out in other newspapers I feel a sense of Pride cause you are Always at Ground Zero with Comrades fist pumping the air for Justice and Fair Treatment for Humans. Cause at the end of the day that’s what we are. Not an Animal Hunted down by the power of the law. Thank you for such a great job you have always done in keeping us behind this fence informed on current issues that are Happening around the USA and the Rest of the World. Keep Revolution stomping the Grounds of that unjust world.
[from a federal prison]
I’m writing to let you know that I haven’t been receiving the newspaper. The last issue I received was April 5, 2015... I’ve been in the SHU here at XYZ, and it’s the only newspaper that we could rely on for the truth. So we are eagerly awaiting the next issue.
I’m also interested in becoming more active politically to link the struggles on the outside with ours in here. Specifically I’m interested in starting a study group that uses the Revolution newspaper and Bob Avakian’s speeches. I’ve been paying attention to the activities of our comrades with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. And I must be truthful, but it appears like our comrades on the outside are more active than us in here. That needs to change....
I’ve had the pleasure of reading the March 8, 2015 issue of Revolution & not only was i impress by what i read but also inspired by the insight given on the new movement taken shape & growing against amerikkka’s wickedness. Having spent the last twenty one years trapped here within the racist state of indiana prison industrial complex, i have first hand experience with the criminal injustice system & can testify to the effects of New Jim Crow. i’ve also been bless to have readed Bob Avakian BAsics & agree with the conclusion on the reality of amerikkka. i consider myself a New African therefore i relate 100% to the need for a radical change. Therefore i’ve taken up the challenge & reached out to you to share the knowledge of my experience & hopefully establish a nature of exchange which will help in my personal growth & commitment to the movement.
In your article, “To my brothers and sisters locked down behind the walls,” you spoken on the missed opportunity to include those of us currently being held within amerikkka’s prisons in the growing movement that has re-emerge in the wake of injustice murders of our brothers & sisters at the hands of the pigs (police). Like you i too believe those of us currently incarcerated can add a strong powerful voice to what is happen out there on the streets of Ferguson, New York, Boston & every other urban poor community of color throughout amerikkka. Many of us have been deeply transformed by our experiences going up against amerikkka’s criminal injustice system. Within the belly of the beast we have gain the necessary level of consciousness which enables us to see clearly the root cause of the problems affecting our communities & although i have never been a member of any street organizations, do to my circumstances for the past twenty odd years, i’ve had daily interactions with many who are. Such close contact has allowed me to develop a deep understanding of how most of these organizations work & their members think. Like most of us who’ve grown up under the oppression of amerikkkan society they have a deep sense of frustration at having been locked out of the “amerikkkan dream.” That frustration eventually boil over & lacking the proper understanding of the cause of their suffering or consciousness of self, they have embrace the mind set of self destruction the powers-that-be has purposely set out there for them to latch on to. Locked out of main stream amerikkka & the constant targets of the prison industrial complex as a means of cheap labor, the youth of our communities have become fed up with anything which doesn’t fit into their need to “get it” by any means. Yet they are slowly coming to realize that no matter how much material wealth they acquire they’ll still always be just “another nigger” in the eyes of amerikkka who still refuse to accept our humanity & right to live for the purpose of determining Our own destiny.
Yet having become drunk with a sense of absolute power over the people, amerikkka has pushed the people a little too far. Seeing the rampant brutality being inflicted on Black & Brown people by the pigs who seem to have been allowed to murder us with impunity, Our youth has decided to rise up & proclaim that their lives does indeed matter. They have taken to the streets & confronted the very pigs who police Our communities with such a heavy hand & demanded that their humanity be recognized & respected. With history as Our guide, We are indeed bless with an opportunity to build a movement based on the legacies of Malcolm X, Huey Newton, George Jackson, Fred Hampton, Marcus Garvey, John Brown & Nat Turner, who were willing to sacrifice their lives to achieve liberation for the oppress of amerikkka. With the countless uprisings of the past nine months a time has never been more perfect for us to nurture the seed of revolution.
Power to the People!
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
CHECK IT OUT
June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
Revolution Books Chicago recently screened the film Vessel and in light of the ongoing war on women’s right to control their reproduction, I highly recommend screening and discussing it, right now!
This documentary takes you on board as Women on Waves take to the high seas to bring women the knowledge and tools to help them exercise this “most basic right” to control when and if they have children. The project started as the brainchild of a Dutch doctor who was appalled by the situation women faced in countries where (unlike the Netherlands) abortion is illegal. She applied her experience on a Greenpeace ship to organize a crew of (mainly) women to outfit an onboard clinic to provide medical abortions to women on the high seas. A medical abortion is a safe non-surgical abortion in which drugs (misoprostol) are used to abort. The film itself explains the science and availability of the pills that are needed to safely medically abort.
Ships have always been symbols of male freedom, but here it is women at the helm, reaching out to women everywhere, with men often pitching in. You see for yourself the worldwide reality of patriarchy as anti-abortion crowds are organized to intimidate and prevent the ship from entering or docking at ports, and even prime ministers take to the airwaves to threaten the ship. We also hear directly from women in country after country, in Europe and Africa and South America, how they attempt to abort using unsafe, often deadly, methods when science is suppressed and abortion outlawed.
In every country they visit, the Women on Waves connect with local women and men to teach, organize, and publicly challenge the patriarchal status quo with courage and humor, leaving behind grassroots organizations that in turn reach out to women in other countries. Despite winning many awards (including a Special Jury Award for Political Courage at SXSW Film Festival), this high-quality film has gotten almost no distribution in the U.S.
At our discussion, many questions were raised about whether abortion is a necessary evil or a positive right of women to determine their own future. Is a fetus in fact a baby? We walked through the science using the centerfold from Revolution newspaper “A Fetus Is Not a Baby,” so be sure to have that on hand for your screening.
Stop Patriarchy is calling for nationwide actions on July 1, when even more draconian restrictions on abortion access go into effect: “These unprecedented attacks on abortion rights, whether they come down in Kansas, Ohio, Tennessee or wherever, are attacks on ALL WOMEN. None of these laws have anything to do with ‘life.’ They are about slamming women back to the Dark Ages, reducing them to mere breeders.” The film Vessel brings all of that to life, dramatically and powerfully, and it shows what courage and standing up for principle can accomplish. We need more of both!
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a member of the NYC Revolution Club and Stop Patriarchy:
Nirbhaya, the Hindi word for “fearless,” is the name they gave to this woman. Jyoti Singh Pandey was her real name, and she was a young woman, viciously beaten and gang-raped on a bus in Delhi, India, in 2012. Jyoti died two weeks later as a result of her injuries. This brutal act of violence sparked national and international outcry. The women of India rose up defiantly, pouring into the streets, facing water cannons. They were finally unleashing their pent-up fury, which they were always taught to swallow, to ignore, that it had no place in their society. All of this was the inspiration for the play, titled Nirbhaya.
From the moment it starts, the play demands the audience's attention. The set, with just a few pieces positioned to resemble a bus, dim lighting, and fog constantly seeping in, invites you to step into the world each of six women creates with her story. One after another, these six women share their stories, beginning and ending with Jyoti’s. Every single story involves horrific acts of violence inflicted on these women by men. They are all true stories, the actual stories of the actors who portray them.
One woman grew up seeing her father as the most powerful man in the world; a man who would constantly remind her that he controlled every aspect of her life, with his constant beatings. When she was young, she developed a love of acting, and when she got her first job as a teenager she had to kiss a young man on stage. When her father got word of this, he stormed into the theater, viciously beat her, and attempted to cut off her lips. Not long after, she was forced into an arranged marriage, and was constantly raped and beaten by her husband. She gave birth to two children, a girl and a boy, and when the rape and the beatings by her husband became too much, she escaped but was only allowed to bring one child with her. She chose her daughter, knowing if she did not her daughter would have the same fate. Another story involves a woman whose husband set her on fire, nearly killing her and destroying the skin on her face and body, and then stole her son, who she has not seen in decades. She remains tormented every day by her own reflection in the mirror and the loss of her son. Another story involves a woman who grew up in relative privilege. She lived on her own in Canada, but was violently beaten and raped by a man who broke into her home one night, an experience which still haunts her.
I went in knowing what this play was about, but nothing could have prepared me for the heaviness of it all, and the way it would have an impact on me. I went with a crew of people, from all walks of life. All of us, different ages ranging from 16 years old to 65 years old, different nationalities, and various gender expressions. We were also all freedom fighters in our own right, many of us members of the Revolution Club and/or Stop Patriarchy, with different levels of experience in relation to that. So going into this, we already had a certain level of outrage and awareness that violence against women is a global epidemic. But again, nothing could have prepared us for this play; the way it confronted us with this reality.
Coming out of it, we all had a very hard time expressing how we felt. Many of us had been sobbing throughout almost the entirety of the play. The first thing out of my mouth was, “We cannot make revolution fast enough.” And it’s not like I don’t always have this burning passion to make revolution to emancipate ALL of humanity, but sometimes as you constantly are going out fighting the power in various ways, digging into theory, and sometimes even with all of that going on, you can take for granted that what we are talking about affects REAL people, now. What we understand to be true, this global epidemic of violence against women, is really coming down on women and girls every single day, in so many terrible forms. We HAVE to fight to end all forms of oppression. Real people’s lives depend on it.
What also really struck me was the power of these women, telling their stories, night after night after night. How did they find the strength to do this!? It is incredible, the potential of human beings to rise above, to get through horrible experiences, and share those experiences with others, especially if they feel that something positive can come out of it. And there are SO many women out there who have these stories, and have this fury, just waiting to be unleashed. And it NEEDS to be unleashed, as a mighty force for revolution, to break ALL the chains that bind humanity.
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Demonstrations against police murder on April 14 marked a new beginning for the struggle against this outrage. This is crucially important, for without mass struggle there can be no progress whatsoever and the powers-that-be will just hammer people into the ground. Further these demonstrations had important potential significance for revolution—for finally getting free of a society in which murder by police continues to go on daily and more, and people continue to be oppressed more generally... a society in which the lives of Black and other oppressed people are treated as if they do not matter. A14 was a great day, a great beginning—and now the challenge is to learn the lessons and take it further. Following are some thoughts from a reader.
From a reader:
Clearly all the outrage that was unleashed last fall around the non-indictments of the murderers of Michael Brown and then Eric Garner, which tapped into decades of repressed rage about an epidemic of police violence, receded just below the surface in recent months, and then was pushed back up and out into the world on April 14, across the country. Just like it is unlikely that the murder of Eric Garner would have received such attention if the people in Ferguson, Missouri, some of the most targeted people in the country, did not stand up and fight back in such a determined way and with such moral certitude, it’s difficult to say if the murders of Walter Scott and Freddie Gray would have triggered mass outpourings if it weren’t for a new climate where so many people are refusing the rationalizing and misdirection coming from the top.
I think #ShutDownA14 got bigger than a lot of people working on it expected, if what we were using to gauge the potential was just what we were hearing from the people we were talking to. It wasn’t clear how many people would participate, and there were a lot of times where we tried to involve people on the level of organizing and taking responsibility that did not work out like we had hoped. Most of us in the Revolution Club locally were having trouble, in the days leading up to A14, seeing how it could have a huge impact on society, from where we were standing and from what we understood about what was happening in other places, too.
UC students at Berkeley blocking Sather Gate, the main entrance to campus. Photo: Melanie Jaycee_Instagram
For one thing, this was another lesson in understanding what it means to be working on a social fault line. A hundred Cal students blocking Sather Gate, and thousands shutting down the Brooklyn Bridge, can seem like it came out of nowhere, when it came very concretely out of all the years of oppression, the recent change in mood around what people should learn to accept versus fight like hell, and the work of revolutionaries who understand the potential of all this and find the epidemic of police brutality unacceptable and unnecessary.
One thing that was said by a Black man in his 30s at a Revolution Club meeting after A14, was, “I’ve been waiting since November for this to happen.” I heard similar sentiments from high schoolers, many of whom did not participate in the protests last fall and winter, but wanted to now. Some of them were frustrated that it seemed like all the fighting stopped; whether they had been part of it or not, they wanted to see it continue. This was also true on college campuses, and part of both the challenge and the possibility of re-seizing the initiative at this moment.
The battle for summation of those protests sparked by Ferguson last summer was a key part of this whole last period. What was said just before A14, about the polarization between those who support the police and those who stand with the oppressed, and the polarization, among those who want to see police brutality ended, between outrage and conciliation, manifested repeatedly in the time leading up to this day through a conflicted view of what happened last year—what was the main character of those protests, what potential do they reveal, what difference did it make, why did the relentlessness of it all recede, and why it matters that this fight not subside in this moment but go to a whole other level. Just like a lot of people who wanted to see this make a comeback and go further, a lot of those same people thought the protesting either did not have the desired effect (concrete “justice” rulings), or just gave up or lacked the determination to continue, or thought that the movement was torn apart from the inside -- people just could not unite or some “violent” people ruined it for everyone else. This represented a contradiction between people’s higher aspirations for ending police brutality and a willingness to go along with it, accepting the stories told by the ruling class and reactionaries about what is desirable / possible / necessary. The same people were beginning to see the illegitimacy of the police and the system they enforce.
Throughout the whole time building for A14, it was a huge struggle to get people to apply what they had learned last year to a new situation that in most ways is even more favorable for people to join this fight and take it higher. Students saw, many for the first time, the repressive and violent way the police come down on people who are fighting back, which both pushed the urgency of why we need resistance and revolution and struck a blow to the cops' perceived legitimacy, but also had a chilling effect where students in particular had a sobering view of what they are risking by doing the right thing -- injury, death, felony charges, prison time, etc.
Method and morality were important elements in the whole process. A lot of this was concentrated by the approach taken with the Stolen Lives poster. This was a way to make good on meeting the need to go much more broadly and involve people of conscience on different levels (including the social media campaign and the hashtag, which went crazy within 24 hours of A14).
The approach was to confront people with reality, set terms based on what is actually happening with the police killing people with impunity, and urge their participation in changing history, on the basis that this is morally reprehensible and what people do can make a difference. There was a level on which this was low-risk, and there was a level on which it was actually a pretty strong statement, and when considering people’s relationship to their social media, definitely not without risk. They are taking sides in public, in front of their friends, prospective employers, colleagues and classmates, etc.
It is really important to get people to where they are deciding what they do is based on the need and the possibility, instead of some other reason. After the students at one college left our first meeting, they did try to talk about walking out to some of the people they knew, and were mainly asked who was behind the action and using that as their criteria for whether they should act. One student organizer was asked several times, is revcom.us involved? To which she replied that she didn’t know. One of the people she talked to said, “I’m so sick of those people. I was out with my Black queer friend and they actually told her she needed to act on April 14,” and on and on about what gives them the right, don’t they think she already knows, blah, blah, blah. The students who were trying to push for A14 exchanged glances, discussed it later with each other, working out how wrong that attitude is, but did not challenge this person on the spot. My impression is that this kind of thing happened quite a bit and took the wind out of their sails in a way. What they did not condemn at any point was the idea that direct experience / identity provides a kind of authority that is unquestionable, even when a person is using it to justify doing nothing in the face of a genocide. Because that is something they don’t fully disagree with, and neither of them is Black, so it paralyzes them in a way.
This particular approach obviously does not always take training, and it’s different for different people, how naturally it can come. When some students did walk out, there was one professor (Black and female) who canceled all her classes for the day and joined them on the lawn. Out there, they were mainly making signs for the protest, but not drawing any attention to themselves, except this professor. She went to students walking by, saying, “Why aren’t you here? You don’t have class, I canceled it.” And at least one student response was, “I just saw mainly white people, so I didn’t bother,” to which this professor came back, “Really? That should mean you come over twice as fast.” Ha! This was her own way of challenging her students around their criteria for what they are going to participate in, based on what’s actually needed or something else.
I think going out there with these students trying to do this kind of thing is key, so they can see the approach modeled. It helps to have a form like the centerfold, but being able to wield it in a way that is not defensive is something that can take some training and modeling, maybe especially in the case of raging identity politics that most students do not know how to combat. In retrospect, while I had thought that these students declined my on-the-ground support out of confidence, now I can see that they knew that if I was there it would have stirred some shit up in a way they really didn’t want to. They saw it like everyone at school agrees with the need to end police brutality, and while we did talk about why this would be hard and the struggle and challenge the situation calls for, I’m sure that they thought there was an easier way.
This is not exactly the same but related to the response from college students and others at a showing of the clips from the Dialogue before the film premiered, which was also part of building for A14 and learning what people were thinking, and battling for summation of the fall and assessing what is needed now. There was an overwhelming unity with Cornel West’s diagnosis of a culture that hardens people’s hearts as robbing people of the “raw material that movements are made of.” This unity, however, was contextualized by a hope that there was some other way to bring about the changes that are needed other than to throw everything into disarray through determined protest, people in the streets, shutting things down, the repression that follows, the ways in which the media can mischaracterize what the movement is doing, etc.
This is a question of “isn’t there some other way?” that will continue to emerge that we can answer, because there is a system, and a ruling class, and a whole history of resistance and revolution, that there is not a way to rely on the avenues and instruments of a state that is driven to commit crimes against humanity to put an end to those crimes. Similarly, we are not going to change people’s minds from relying on the system to doing what needs to be done without stepping on some proverbial toes. Is there any other way? Well, no, because the dominant narrative has been constructed by the ruling class, that the police and the system are legitimate and that this whole horror is something we need to either accept or go through their official channels to change. So no, there are no shortcuts around re-polarization or mass resistance.
The participation of high schoolers in the protests in this area was a huge source of inspiration to people of all ages, and the most surprising if we were expecting the turnout to directly affect “our work” versus a larger potential based on the fault line itself. Over a dozen different high schools were represented in Oakland, and bigger groups of kids from a smaller number of schools in SF (I think). Many teenagers spoke at the rally and inside City Hall in Oakland, and it was clear that they took this seriously, and some of them were doing it in the face of real consequences from their parents or their schools.
I talked to a group of six students from one high school before the rally began who were so excited to be there. One of them told me, “We have been in this super-strict school system for six years, and there are so many rules. They are all about the rules. And we have been following the rules our whole lives. Today was the first time we ever broke the rules, we walked out, because this is too important.” Minutes later their principal showed up to demand that they go back to school or be suspended. One of them told the principal, “You don’t know what it’s like to be us” and made a whole argument about how the principal is ignoring the fact that these students have to live in fear of being killed or having loved ones killed by the police. The march soon took a detour to go to that school, pound on the walls and chant and sticker, to support those students and have their backs for taking that risk and doing the right things.
I talked with two groups totaling fifty 10th grade students in San Francisco (each about 1/3 Black, Latino, and white) the day before and the day of A14 and showed them the video of the murder of Walter Scott, a mock report from NBC called “What if there had been no video?” which showed in a disturbing way how so many news reports on police murder are just regurgitated lies from police reports which blame the victim and show the cops as having “done all they could” when nothing could be further from the truth; a clip from Cal Berkeley speak-out with Laurie Valdez talking about what her family has been through since the police murder of her husband, and finally the video call to action for A14. These kids, many of whom had been critical of the protests last fall, were ecstatic to hear that this wasn’t over, and overwhelmingly were enraged by the Walter Scott story, sort of mind blown by seeing that mock report and realizing how often this happens and how it is shaping public opinion while the cops get a way with murder, and were moved to tears by Laurie’s story. One student is a teenager whose cousin was murdered by police and added facts from his experience on how excessive the violence is, and how dishonest police are at every stage in the process, supporting what Laurie was saying. Another student vocalized what I’m sure a lot of students were thinking, where after every video and discussion of it, she was voicing such contempt for the police, at the same time she was weighing what the consequences would be from the school and her mom if she went to the demonstration. The conflict became more and more unbalanced in the direction of this is so fucked up, nothing is more important than fighting this shit. Then finally when the call to action video ended with the video of Eric Garner, with the unnervingly loud reading of his last words, she said, “Fuck it. Fuck this. I’m going. This has to stop.” She and about 100 others from all grades walked out 20 minutes later. Many of them went to the demo in SF, spoke out, occupied city hall, chalked up the police station, and so on. Some of the 12th graders from this same school went straight to another high school and fliered there to bring others. They were kicked out by the principal and returned anyway, made a big scene, and drew a small number of students from that school into the protest.
One thing that really stood out to this group after participating were how many young people were there. There was a kid they thought must have been 10 years old, getting up in the face of the cops, pointing to himself, saying, “This is what a victim of police brutality look like! I’m a Latino kid! I have no gun! Do you want to kill me now?” They were very moved by his courageous and defiant truth-telling. Another thing that stood out was a story a woman told about being raped by a cop. There was a lot of shock for them involved in hearing that. It was another level of realizing the illegitimacy of the police. Also it was an opportunity to talk about the system that is deeper than racism. We talked also about the rate of police violence against the mentally ill, how this system sees some people as totally useless, property or a threat, and one part of that being white supremacy, but that is not confined to race and includes patriarchy and seeing people who are not profitable as expendable. This was an important thing for them that I totally had not addressed directly with them in this whole process other than in the abstract, but hearing that woman’s story at the protest made them question things and opened up the conversation and the outrage on a whole other level. They were also very inspired to hear and see all the kids on the Brooklyn Bridge and feel part of something much bigger than what they did locally, which they were feeling pretty damn good about anyway. Questions of “What’s the next thing?” were also common in this group.
There was a group of Latino middle school students who came out and did not go to school that day because they were sure that the school would send a van to round them up and return them. One of these students had a mom who was very supportive, and when the school called her in a kind of a panic, she said, “Thanks for letting me know” and hung up while the school was trying to find out more about where he could be! This kid was sure that the school used their wi fi network to find out which students were involved in the protests or in conversation with the students who were absent that day, though it’s unclear how and if that’s what happened. Heavy if it did happen, and heavy that he was sure that they would do that if they could. He also said he returned to school a hero. He had been frustrated with his friends who didn’t seem to think going to protest that day was worth the risk, and the next day at school all his friends could say was that they saw him on the news, what a badass he was, and when is this happening again? Can we come next time? Not only did his school not say anything to him about the absence, but he also learned that one of his teachers was especially supportive, proud of him, and could possibly support this whole movement in a number of ways if presented with the possibility.
In the meeting where we heard these stories, in San Francisco, which drew about 20 people, there was also a cry for “What’s next?” One young Latino man who came said he watched his dad get shot by the cops in their car in Florida when he was 12 years old. The cop was convicted but he was not satisfied with that. He said, “It doesn’t bring my dad back. And they keep doing it to more people.” He thought there was something specific about police in Florida, but having moved to California just a few months ago, was shocked and dismayed to see that this even happens in California. A woman who came to this meeting is the girlfriend of an immigrant man who was just shot by the cops a month or so ago, and she among others at that meeting were already referring to themselves as members of the Revolution Club, and wanting to know and work on “what’s next.”
At another post-A14 meeting, instead of focusing on what happened and what’s next, the people who came mainly wanted to talk about what was the way out, and it was a whole conversation about revolution versus reform. It was similar in the sense of two newer people expressing “I’m with you now” in relationship to the Revolution Club. The conversation was complicated and very interesting.
In the course of this, it seems like we ran into every kind of argument for conciliation, along with so much evidence that so many people are in fact thinking differently since the fall about the police and what they represent. It was kind of maddening at times, to be honest! That all these people had their minds changed last fall but were arguing against the effectiveness of doing the thing that obviously was very effective when it came to shifting the way they themselves and society at large sees who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, which is such a key part of re-polarizing, resisting, weakening the rulers, and strengthening the revolution.
At the same time, it is unavoidable that this was a big “first time” protest that was defiant and had a real impact. So many kids glowing with pride, taking risks, voicing outrage, drawing pigs in chalk on the police station, jumping up on the desks in multiple city halls, truly interrupting routine and taking personal risks and feeling strengthened by their peers around them that were acting in righteous and determined ways that they had trouble imagining the day before. It was also hugely inspiring to at least thousands of people, as evidenced by individual responses, media coverage, and social media response. This was a big deal for teenagers across the country, and maybe even internationally.
There were also some important connections that were made, building on what happened in the fall, between struggles against state violence in different countries. The surviving students from the Ayotzinapa massacre in Mexico supported actions at UC Berkeley and made powerful statements that the police acting this way with impunity has to be stopped everywhere, and that it’s inspiring to see people in the U.S. fighting against how that manifests here. A journalist who spoke at UC Berkeley gave total support to A14. She said in her talk, the more people see that the answers will not come from the people on top, the better. She said it is not just a question of solidarity among struggles, it is the same struggle (referring to what is happening in Palestine and what is happening here, the struggles against state repression in a system for profit). In Oakland, someone brought a huge banner that said, “FROM FERGUSON TO PALESTINE, BLACK AND ARAB LIVES MATTER.” All this is pretty great, and goes up against all the identity politics and divisive shit that can be poison for a movement like this one.
I wonder why this went down the way that it did, in relationship with what to do next to build this fight, push at this crack, and build the movement for revolution, too. I wonder how much the blatant murder and the released video of Walter Scott had to do with who came out that day. I wonder how much impact the campus work had and how much impact the social media campaign had, as well as why the social media stuff rocketed off the charts just one day before the protests. Obviously Ferguson and everything that happened last year had a lot to do with even the response to Walter Scott, and what was accomplished on A14 too.
The main point is that what is needed hasn’t changed, and the potential for it hasn’t changed, even if it does not look on the surface like a lot of people are throwing into this right now (which was true). However, something did actually happen “between now and then” which was this video of Walter Scott. It made me wonder how much of what happened had much at all to do with what we were doing on the campuses up until then.
I am thoroughly convinced that the kind of speak-outs that happened in NYC and Berkeley with the family members of the victims of police brutality, student activists, and revolutionaries, is a very important thing to keep doing and pushing and bringing people into and publishing and sharing and spreading and getting different people to participate in, support, and relate to. It was very much like the “People’s Hearings” that put the anti-abortion movement and the system on trial through the stories of the people most affected by that oppression. Just in the same way that those hearings drew a line in the sand, so did those speak-outs— in the same spirit of the Stolen Lives centerfolds: Here is reality. What side are you on? Although I still don’t know if very many people at all saw those events, and I wonder how we could maybe get some of them to people with influence or enormous social media followings because it is like a rallying cry, it makes some things unavoidable, it unmasks the horrors, it models determined resistance and a refusal to accept these atrocities, it rips the legitimacy off of this system, and it puts the onus on all of us to fight to stop this. I know these stories reached further than the attendance, by being shown in classrooms, and also being wielded by people working on pulling other people into this. Members of the Revolution Club, as well as students at Sather Gate, were telling these stories in argument as to why we need to stop business as usual, and why more people should throw into putting an end to police murder. These are so powerful I just really want to find the ways to keep doing them, and to get to the kinds of people who can help make them really widespread.
I’m also not sure exactly what was the impact of the Dialogue that Cornel West and Bob Avakian had during this time, though I know to whatever extent it was used in conjunction with a call to action for A14 it was effective. There were also things about the premiere of the film that showed how much these questions are on people’s minds or they want them to be. The fact that the ticket website sent a mass email about a bunch of different things and about a dozen people showed up in Berkeley at that premiere just based on that generic announcement from the ticket company -- the kind of email a lot of people don’t even read -- says something. And the conversation that was opened up about what way forward for the struggle against police brutality that was a result of people watching those clips is undeniable -- it has the potential to raise the level of the conversation and open up much-needed debate over what humanity needs.
What I am sure of is that more is possible than before, like we stuck a jam in the door that was opened last year through all that resistance. I think it’s important that defiant action continue, along with organizing and fundraising. We should not wait long before provoking and leading many other kinds of actions, bringing leaders out of this, in this spirit of shutting things down and demanding and END to police murder, and forcing society to confront the reality and gravity of the situation, as well as inspire people to act on the basis that the moment is urgent, and they can be part of changing everything.
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
From Bay Area comrades, May 23, 2015
June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Michael Lange in Oakland, California on May 20 at the age of 66. Michael was a multi-talented African-American actor, director, musician, and professor at San Jose State University. He was a scholar of the history of African-American rebellion and his knowledge came to life in his art. As an actor, Michael was best known for his portrayal of Malcolm X, in over 500 performances nationwide. His favorite role was performing Malcolm’s speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet.” He wrote, acted in, produced and directed plays in the S.F. Bay Area, and was working on a manuscript for a play about Nat Turner. He also had traveled throughout the country interviewing people whose loved ones were incarcerated.
We knew him as a friend and a revolutionary minded artist, who supported the popularization and promotion of Bob Avakian’s work and the movement for revolution. We first met Michael while he was performing his one-man show as Malcolm X. We were not only struck by the passion that he brought to the portrayal, but the fact that he really looked like Malcolm. As we got to know him, we understood that he was not just playing Malcolm, but “feeling” him. He had a deep respect and love for Malcolm.
In 2005, Bob Avakian’s memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond, My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, was published. We took it to Michael for a read and told him of our plans to have a major book release celebration in Berkeley, at the very Jr. High School that BA attended. Would he like to be part of the celebrations? Not only did Michael agree to read a selection of the book at the event, but agreed to be one of the host committee for the celebration.
After the memoir’s debut celebration, C-SPAN’s Book TV aired a program featuring the memoir. Part of the televised video included Michael quoting from “The Ballot or the Bullet” and reading a section about Malcolm X's influence on Avakian and Avakian's comments on Malcolm X's assassination. Michael was one of the first notable figures to join “Engage! A Committee To Project and Protect the Voice of Bob Avakian” and played an advisory role and brought together some other African-American artists and intellectuals in discussions and debate over his works.
He was an accomplished guitarist and once played and sang at a New Year's Fundraising event for BA Everywhere. For an “Anti 4th of July” celebration at Revolution Books, he did a powerful reading of Frederick Douglass', “What to the American slave is your 4th of July?”
We had a rich exchange of in-person dialogues and correspondences with him. To give a sense of his thoughts, here are some excerpts:
On the events of the police murders across this nation, especially after the murder of Oscar Grant a few years ago, he wrote, “It demonstrates that the 'system' is out of balance, and that something big is wrong with it, and perhaps that is the way 'they' want it to be. We can do better than this. Oscar lost his life so that we could see what we are dealing with. And the look in the eyes of these youth said it all: 'we are fed up with this system, we want justice. Enough is enough.'”
Like many others, Michael had contradictory views about communism and revolution. He thought communism was a good idea, but had many questions about whether a revolution was possible and how it could come about. He also wanted to know concretely how a new society could be built—what were the concrete steps that would have to be taken to solve the problems facing the people, for example, how would you get hospitals set up to meet people’s basic needs? When he heard about the publication of the RCP’s Constitution for The New Socialist Republic in North American (Draft Proposal) he wrote:
“I look forward to reading Avakian's latest work on Communism, whether it is an antiquated term or is it a vanguard of the future. This is one of the areas of concern that I have had, probably because of the history of the word 'communism', its meaning in a democratic society, particularly during the 50's and 60's.”
Although he wasn’t as actively involved in recent years, he continued to pay attention to Avakian’s work. About Bob Avakian’s writings, he said, “I generally agree with most of what he has communicated—he has the ability to put it into lay terms which is quite powerful given all of the 'doublespeak' that is out there to confuse the masses.”
Michael was not afraid to speak out against injustice. He was a deep thinker and had a concern for the future of humanity. He was particularly concerned about the future of the youth, and the need for a new culture to be modeled among them, up against the dominant dog-eat-dog, me-first mentality. He had a very big heart. He devoted himself to making the world a better place. He was a kind and thoughtful person and for all of this, we will really miss him.
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
When the U.S. invades or attacks a country, it often says it’s to “protect human rights.” When it wages war, the U.S. claims to avoid civilian casualties at all costs. You’d think cluster bombs wouldn’t be anywhere in this picture, because cluster bombs are barbaric weapons designed to indiscriminately kill or maim lots of people.
Victims of cluster bombs in Afghanistan and Ethiopia demanding a ban on cluster bombs, May 2008, outside an international conference on cluster bombs in Dublin, Ireland. Photo: Flickr/pxkls
One cluster bomb sprays dozens, even hundreds, of small lethal bombs across a large area, sometimes the size of a football field. According to Legacies of War, “More than 98 percent of known cluster bomb victims are civilians and 40 percent are children, who are drawn to the small, toy-like metal objects.” (legaciesofwar.org, “Cluster Bomb Fact Sheet”) During the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the United Nations estimated that up to 40 percent of Israeli cluster bomblets failed to explode on impact, and years later they pose a dangerous threat to children and others (BBC, November 22, 2006).
The use and distribution of cluster bombs is banned by 107 countries. But two countries where cluster bombs are not banned are the United States and Saudi Arabia (Israel, Russia, and China have also refused to ban cluster bombs).
Did you know that the U.S. has manufactured and supplied Saudi Arabia with cluster bombs? Or that Saudi Arabia has dropped cluster bombs at least twice this year in Yemen, from U.S.-supplied planes? Did you know that in 2009, the U.S. Navy fired cruise missiles with cluster bombs and killed dozens of civilians in Yemen? Did you know that during its 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. used 13,000 cluster bombs containing two million bomblets?
And the U.S. has a long history of terrorizing and murdering children and others with cluster bombs. As part of the U.S. wars against the peoples of Indochina in the 1960s and ’70s, from 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped over two million tons of ordnance over Laos in 580,000 bombing missions—the equivalent of one planeload every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years. At least 270 million cluster bomblets were dropped as part of the bombing campaign.
So tell us again—who is the great protector of human rights in the world?
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
From A World To Win News Service
June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
May 25, 2015. A World to Win News Service. Last year we constantly heard about the spread of Ebola, how deadly it was and how thousands were killed by this virus. As the rate of its spread decreased and the disease was contained in Europe and the U.S., Ebola has almost disappeared from the media. But this deadly virus is still killing people in West Africa, with a spike of 35 new cases a week in Guinea and Sierra Leone during May.
Ebola was first discovered in 1976 in the Nzara region of Sudan and Yambuku, a village on the banks of the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The disease was generally confined to people living in tropical forests in Central and West Africa. It is extremely deadly, especially given the current circumstances in this region. In several of the 24 outbreaks over the last four decades, nearly 90 percent of those infected with this disease died. In 2000, in Uganda, half of the 425 people infected with Ebola died. In the recent epidemic in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, that rate has been around 70 percent. More than 11,000 deaths from Ebola have been recorded since March 2014, according to WHO (World Health Organisation).
Ebola is one of a number of animal diseases that at some point begin to affect humans. Changes in the natural environment, in the way people live and the interaction between the two, as well as inevitable virus mutations, are major factors in the appearance of new diseases and how they become disastrous. For example, today's dangerous new variants of bird flu and swine flu emerged and spread to people under specific conditions of how these animals are raised and sold, along with other factors.
It is believed that fruit bats are the natural "reservoir" of the Ebola virus; that is, they can carry it without getting sick themselves. It is transmitted by body fluids. Human beings can be infected either by direct contact with bats or by eating animals that have swallowed fruit contaminated by bats, or by contact with fluids from other humans, living or dead. What most of the world's cultures consider a decent burial for a loved one can be a death sentence for the family of an Ebola victim or others who handle the corpse. Until recently it was thought that the disease mainly broke out among people who ate so-called "bush" meat, such as chimpanzees and other jungle animals. Outbreaks ended quickly because they affected isolated populations where everyone soon died or developed an immunity. Western authorities considered it more a medical curiosity than a danger to their interests. The latest epidemic is believed to have started when a child was infected while playing inside a hollow tree trunk used by bats. This child, his parents and most of his relatives died.
Health worker washing his hands with chlorinated water Freetown. Sierra Leone, 2014. Photo: AP
Distributing food in Sierra Leone. Photo: AP
It is lopsided and destructive development under the imperialist system and its global market that is pushing people in West Africa to seek their livelihoods deeper and deeper in shrinking forests. Poverty is one reason why people living on the periphery of these tropical forests eat bush meat, an important source of protein. In fact, poverty and other effects of the world system are important elements making people vulnerable to this deadly virus.
The peoples of Central and West Africa are among the poorest on the planet. Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia—the focal point of the latest Ebola outbreak—are ranked 161, 176 and 181, respectively, on the poverty scale. In Sierra Leone, 80 percent of the people do not have access to basic sanitation and clean drinking water. With an income often no more than $1.50 a day, they can't afford electricity or to purchase much food other than what they grow.
The distribution of health care, like any other basic necessity, is extremely lopsided in today's world. When it comes to health care personnel, scientific research, medication, medical facilities, etc., people in countries like Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia inhabit a different universe than people in the imperialist countries, even though they live in the same world and under the same global economic system. Average health care spending per person in Sierra Leone is $96 per year, Liberia $65 and in the U.S. $8,895. These figures do not fully reflect the magnitude of the disparity, since the differences between living standards and life expectancies are also determined by food intake, personal hygiene and other factors.
But the problem is not that these countries lack resources. It is just the opposite: their resources bring them misery. For 400 years Europeans considered the people themselves a natural resource to be looted. This region was the main exit point for an uncountable number of slaves taken to the Americas by Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, British and other traders who purchased people kidnapped throughout West Africa, from the coast deep into the interior. Europeans did not invent the practice of slavery in the region, but they turned it into a commerce in human beings on a mass scale never before seen in human history. The devastating effects of that are felt in Africa today, not to mention among the descendants of the slaves themselves.
Further, the wealth produced by the slave trade and the slaves themselves is one of the main reasons why Europe and North America were able to develop into the powers they are today, in a world divided into imperialist countries and the countries they dominate economically, politically and very often militarily. Centuries of colonialism and neo-colonialism under the British (Sierra Leone), French (Guinea) and the U.S. (Liberia) shaped these countries and societies.
The potential agricultural wealth of these countries has been squandered by focusing resources in growing coffee for the international market while subsistence agriculture provides less and less for people to eat. Logging—again driven by the international market—makes the land unable to support animals and people, and has been a factor in the scourge of new diseases. That market's hunger for diamonds, gold and minerals such as bauxite (from which aluminium is made) and coltan (essential for manufacturing mobile phones) fueled the civil wars that ravaged Sierra Leone and Liberia until a decade ago. Guinea, with no such wars and massive mineral exports, is no better off.
Health care facilities in these countries have been deteriorating, not getting better. "Structural adjustment" policies imposed by the IMF and World Bank have resulted in cutbacks and deterioration in health care systems throughout much of Africa, including relatively better-off West African countries like Ghana and Ivory Coast. There have been similar cutbacks in funding for the WHO's work in Africa. According to a report by Doctors Without Borders, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have almost no medical facilities to confront contagious diseases. There is no new recruitment of health personnel. Wages are low and often not even paid. Consequently, health workers in these countries are forced to seek work in other fields or abroad. Before the latest Ebola outbreak, Liberia had 60 medical doctors and Sierra Leone 130. According to WHO, in 2004 these countries had only one medical professional for every 10,000 people. Now this situation is five times worse—one medical professional for every 50,000 people.
At the height of Ebola casualties, the infectious disease specialist Jeremy Farr, head of the Wellcome Trust, one of the world's leading medical research charities, wrote in the Toronto Star, "Imagine if you take a region of Canada, America, Europe, and you had 450 people dying of a viral haemorrhagic fever. It would just be unacceptable—and it's unacceptable in West Africa." In 2009, when a researcher was accidentally infected by Ebola, Canada provided an experimental vaccine on an emergency basis to save just this one person. "We moved heaven and earth to help a German lab technician. Why is it different because this is West Africa?" (Cited in "The Political Economy of Ebola," Leigh Phillips, Jacobin, one of the sources drawn on for this article.)
One important reason is that producing Ebola vaccine is not profitable, because the outbreaks tend to not last very long and the casualties are much lower than malaria (300,000 a year) or tuberculosis (600,000 a year). In a piece in the Independent, John Ashton, head of an independent United Kingdom body of specialists known as the Faculty of Public Health, lambasted "the scandal of the lack of willingness of the pharmaceutical industry to invest in research to produce vaccines—something they refuse to do because the numbers involved are, in their eyes, so small and don't justify investment. This is the moral bankruptcy of capitalism acting in the absence of an ethical and social framework. We must respond to this emergency as if it was in Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster."
Yet there is no sign of an ethical response a year after the current outbreak, despite the outcry from people who care. In fact, as WHO head Margaret Chan said, "Ebola emerged nearly four decades ago. Why are clinicians still empty-handed, with no vaccines and no cure? Because Ebola has historically been confined to poor African nations. The R&D [research and development] incentive is virtually non-existent. A profit-driven industry does not invest in products for markets that cannot pay." In a world system where the scramble for profit determines everything, this system is unable to unleash humanity's abilities to fight natural and other disasters. Ebola is not an African problem.
As WHO said, "the Ebola epidemic ravaging parts of West Africa is the most severe public health emergency seen in modern times. Never before in recorded history has a biosafety level four pathogen [the most dangerous germs] infected so many people so quickly, over such a broad geographical area, for so long." In the face of criticism of WHO for its ineffective response to the Ebola outbreak, which WHO officials attributed to severe cutbacks in funding for its work in Africa, the "international community" (the 193 WHO member states) decided to give the international agency $100 million to organize a team to deal with future health emergencies, Ebola outbreaks included. By comparison, constructing a single hospital in Europe or North America can easily cost a billion dollars.
From all these we can conclude that what lies behind the ravages of Ebola is more horrifying than Ebola itself—the state of countries ruined by years of wars, destruction, hunger, poverty, oppression and exploitation. These and all the miseries of the people on this side of the world are the result of direct and indirect imperialist rule and the policies of imperialist institutions, the blind working of the international market to which all countries are subjected, and the puppet and despotic regimes in power in these countries as a result of imperialist domination. All these factors created the fertile ground for the Ebola virus to proliferate.
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 #389 June 1, 2015
May 25, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This week the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) has reportedly made big gains, capturing the cities of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria. This has intensified the debate among the U.S. rulers over how to respond. There are other rapidly evolving crises and clashes across the region. In this light:
Some key things revolutionaries and opponents of oppression need to understand and act on:
1. ISIS and U.S. imperialism are both utterly reactionary forces which have nothing to offer humanity and have caused horrific suffering, oppression, and death—the U.S. by far the lion’s share. Supporting either strengthens both.
2. The growth of ISIS and other reactionary Islamist forces shows, yet again, that nothing good comes from U.S. wars and occupations. The U.S. rulers claim they are fighting to liberate downtrodden peoples so they can determine their own futures. This is a lie. “The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy, but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.” (BAsics 1:3)
3. Communist revolution is the only way out of this madness, and it is urgent to make revolution in this country at the soonest possible moment and to fight for revolution everywhere by spreading Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism, encapsulated in COMMUNISM: THE BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, (available in seven languages), and revcom.us worldwide to bring forward another liberating pole for humanity.
4. Revolution is possible. Developments in the Middle East and elsewhere show that the U.S. rulers are not all powerful. Their grand designs have backfired and they’re in deep trouble and have no solutions to the horrors they’ve created.
5. Their troubles are not OUR troubles—they are the troubles of mass murdering oppressors and we shouldn’t side with any faction of the ruling class in their arguments over how to maintain their global power and system of exploitation and plunder.
6. Instead, their crises and defeats must be seen as an exposure of the bankruptcy of their system and an opportunity to accelerate work for an actual revolution: “Prepare the ground, prepare the people, and prepare the vanguard—get ready for a time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win.” (See “On the Strategy for Revolution“ by the RCP).
7. These preparations must include opposing the crimes of imperialism, oppressive powers, Islamic fundamentalists and all reactionary forces, but most especially the towering crimes of our rulers here in the U.S.: Stop Wars of Empire, Armies of Occupation, and Crimes Against Humanity!
8. This also means repudiating their poisonous ideology of America #1 and only American lives count and putting world humanity first. “American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People’s Lives.” (BAsics 5:7)
“Internationalism—the whole world comes first.” (BAsics 5:8)
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Baltimore, Saturday, May 30—Today, a motley crew of 100-150 cops and close associates staged a "Blue Lives Matter" rally in front of City Hall. It was a grotesque scene, not only openly opposing the whole movement for justice for Freddie Gray and the national actions against murder by police, but an almost exclusively whites-only look and feel of a Klan rally without the sheets, exemplified by a man sporting a shirt saying "Operation Blue Thunder—On Time, On Target, Never Quit."
People from the Revolution Club and Baltimore Bloc and others burst onto the scene, stirring intense yelling matches. The basic demand, "Indict, Convict, Send the Killer Cops to Jail. The Whole Damn System Is Guilty as Hell" rang out. Tawanda Jones, sister of Tyrone West, killed by Baltimore police in 2013, led the chant, "We won't stop till killer cops are in cell blocks." A number of people passing by joined in.
Exposing this ugly spectacle posed a dilemma for the Baltimore police who are fond of claiming "no white supremacy being enforced here, see we have a Black police chief and a lot of Black cops"—so suddenly 50 on-duty cops were sent in to "separate" the Blue Lives Matter white supremacists from the angry protesters.
A much larger mobilization needs to happen on July 2 when the cops accused in connection with the murder of Freddie Gray are arraigned. Supporters of the killer cops are expected to be there in force, including many off-duty cops. Those standing for an end to murder by police need to be there and drown out their reactionary shit.
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
June 3, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On Tuesday, May 26, in NYC, 80 people met at the Union Theological Seminary at the invitation of Dr. Cornel West and Carl Dix to discuss a proposal for a national march against. police terror on October 24, 2015, in New York City. This Strategy Session was attended by families of victims of murder by police, high school and college students, religious leaders, representatives from a number of justice-based organizations and unions, and numerous activists. After wide ranging discussion, this session called for Saturday, October 24, to be a day when hundreds of thousands of people converge in Central Park, NYC, for Rise Up October to STOP Police Terror.
Imagine hundreds of thousands of people gathering; young people tired of being treated like criminals, guilty until proven innocent if they can survive to prove their innocence, students who refuse to stand aside while these horrors are inflicted on others, family members of people killed by the police, religious leaders and their congregations, contingents from labor unions; people of all races and nationalities, people active in the struggle against injustice on many different fronts – all coming together to deliver an unmistakable message – that murder by police and the whole genocidal program targeting Black and Latino people in this country – must STOP! (See video presentations made at the session by Carl Dix (above right) and Cornel West (below right) that lay out in some detail what’s at stake, why this national march is needed and what it aims to accomplish. We urge everyone to view them and spread them.)
There is a great need for such a march. The authorities have doubled down on unleashing the police to get away with murdering people. And there is great potential to mobilize the kind of defiant and massive march needed to deliver the message that there is a growing force in society that refuses to accept these horrors in silence. Beginning with the response to the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson and escalating up to today, thousands have taken to the streets in cities all across the country. People need to continue protesting every time the police gun down or brutalize someone. But we need to take this resistance higher. We need to bring this resistance together into a massive nationwide outpouring – and October 24 is the day to do that, and NYC is the place for it.
A CALL for Rise Up October has been issued. A follow up meeting in NYC has been set for June 30. At this meeting hundreds of people need to be organized into the framework for working to bring first tens and then hundreds of thousands of people into this mobilization And you need to become part of this effort.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO MAKE OCTOBER 24 AS POWERFUL AS POSSIBLE:
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
Letter from a reader
June 3, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A month after Long Beach, California police murdered Hector Morejon ("Another Police Killing of an Unarmed Youth in Los Angeles County—WTF!!" April 28, 2015), they shot and killed 20-year-old Feras Morad, who was also unarmed. Feras went to study and hang out with some friends, became unstable, jumped out a window, and was cut by the broken glass. When the cops showed up, they tasered and shot him as his friends yelled out that he was unarmed.
Ghada Morad, Feras' sister, said the family was not notified about Feras' death until two days later, when they called his friends, who told them what had happened. She told CBS News Los Angeles, "I am so angry no words can explain what I'm feeling."
CBS News reported that his family said that Feras went to Long Beach to study for a debate. He ingested [hallucinogenic] mushrooms, which they say was out of character, and he had a bad reaction and jumped out of a second story window. Hurt and bleeding in an alley, his friends say they called 911 for help.
One of his friends told ABC 7 News in Los Angeles that "He [Feras] was in a state of utter distress —like he didn't know where he was and he kept moving towards and wasn't responding to the officer. The officer used the Taser, but it didn't hit or wasn't effective." His friend said that the cop shot Morad, despite their pleas. "We were saying, Don't shoot! Don't shoot, he's not armed!" Feras was shirtless and covered in blood and obviously very hurt.... What they (the cops) resorted to (shooting and killing him), this is not the type of help he needed."
Morad was a nationally ranked debate competitor, who was enrolled at a local junior college with a 3.9 GPA. One of his friends told The Long Beach Press Telegram that Morad "aspired to become a lawyer.... He got in to UCLA and UC Berkeley but decided to enroll as a transfer student to Cal State Long Beach to save money."
The Press Telegram reported that "Morad qualified for and competed in the 2015 Phi Rho Pi National Forensic Organization parliamentary debate. Morad left the debate with gold honors — the highest level possible, according to the organization's records online."
Feras' sister and friends have started a "Justice For Feras Morad" Facebook page that states that he was unarmed and in desperate need of medical attention. A post on the Facebook page says, "The Long Beach Police Department wants you to forget that Feras was already injured when he was shot. The LBPD wants you to forget the officer in question and forgo the pursuit of justice. The LBPD wants to ignore that they didn't tell the Morad family about his death until days later. The LBPD wants you to forget that Feras had a future that was unjustly taken from him. Don't let that happen."
If you're thinking that there seems to be more killings of people by the cops, you're not imagining things. Almost every week, there is a person killed or brutalized by the pigs in the Southern California area.
The Washington Post just published a report that since the beginning of the year, police are shooting and killing people at a rate of over two a day, a total of 385 people in the first five months of this year. Yes, that is correct—on average, two people are shot and killed by the fucking pigs every fucking day in this country! According to police accounts, 43% of those who were killed did not have a gun and 20% did not have what is considered a lethal weapon (gun, knife, car, or other), and the vast majority who did not have guns and did not have a lethal weapon were Black and Latino. At the same time, only three of those pigs are facing criminal charges. Further, murders like that of Freddie Gray in Baltimore are not included as one of the 385 because he was not killed by the cops shooting him. So, if you include killings while in police custody, the number is greater than 385 in a five month period. (See "Fatal police shootings in 2015 approaching 400 nationwide", Washington Post, May 30, 2015.)
How many more before we put a stop to this? How many more lives of our youth are going to be taken from us? How many more of these beautiful children are going to have their futures ended by the cops in this country? We have to say not one more, and we have to act on what Carl Dix said in his statement, Murder By Police Should Not Be Tolerated:
Today in America, police murder people and get away with no punishment. This happens again and again and again. But something new has also begun to happen, and people have risen up against this, in the tens of thousands, across the country. The outpourings of resistance to this wanton police murder have been beautiful, powerful, and very necessary. Our movement of resistance must broaden, becoming even more diverse, and its determination to stop police murder must be strengthened and deepened. It must continue and escalate until these horrors are really ended.
When police murder people as they did with Eric Garner and Michael Brown, it is unlawful, illegitimate and should not be tolerated in any society that anyone would want to live in.
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
From the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, Southern California
June 3, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On Wednesday, May 27, Feras Morad, 20 years old, unarmed, was shot and killed by Long Beach police. Feras was a champion debater. He was a student at Moorpark College who planned to transfer to Cal State Long Beach. He wanted to become a lawyer.
Feras reportedly had a bad reaction to hallucinogenic mushrooms while with friends in Long Beach. He jumped out of a second-story apartment window. Cut, bleeding, in desperate need of medical attention, Feras encountered an officer who had been called to help him. Instead, the cop executed him.
A correspondent for Revolution newspaper spoke with someone who saw the murder. Here is part of what they said:
His hands were in the air like this! He was unarmed. He had no shirt. No shoes. He was wounded. Delirious. He was high on something. .... That child did not need to die. And I hope that cop sees that kid's face for the rest of his life. Because he is a murderer. I can't close my eyes without seeing him. I threw up. I sobbed. I sobbed so much the neighbors thought I knew the kid. I didn't know the kid. I just saw a child get murdered.
How many times have police wantonly killed someone they were called to help? This is part of the nationwide epidemic of murder by police. IT MUST STOP!
Family and friends are holding a candlelight vigil to celebrate Feras' life Wednesday night at 8 pm, at Warner Center Park in Woodland Hills (5800 Topanga Canyon Blvd). Join us in solidarity with them.
Thursday, June 4, demand Justice for Feras! at a protest and march to the Long Beach police station called for by Justice for Feras Morad. Join the protest at Lincoln Park in downtown Long Beach. Meet at the Blue Tarp in Lincoln Park at 4 pm. (Lincoln Park is at Pacific Ave. and West Broadway in Long Beach, a 2 minute walk from the downtown Long Beach Blue Line stop.)
Meet up with Stop Mass Incarceration at First Friday at Bixby Knolls in Long Beach. This Friday, June 5th, we'll be gathering up from 6:30 to 7 at Bixby Road and Atlantic, and rolling until 9.
Get Organized to STOP Murder by Police!
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
by Sunsara Taylor | June 3, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
If you are one of the millions and millions of people, especially men, who regularly watch porn, I strongly recommend you click on something else today: the new documentary, Hot Girls Wanted, which was released to Netflix on May 21, produced by Rashida Jones, and directed by Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus. Of course, it’s much better if you don’t watch porn—but either way I strongly recommend this film.
In less than an hour and a half, you will be introduced to just a few of the real human beings whose lives are turned upside down and hollowed out by the porn industry. You will meet young women who start out bright and full of life, excitement, and ambition. They are fed up with the stultifying life of their hometowns and are looking for adventure. They’ve been sold the idea that being wanted as a sex object is “empowering” and want to cash in on their youth and inexperience. And, for a short while, they are able to hold together the collective delusion that, packed into a generic five-bedroom house in Miami owned by their “talent-agent”/pimp, they are calling the shots and living the lives they’ve always wanted.
There is a reason, however, that most young women who enter pornography don’t stay for more than a month or maybe three. Many don’t make it past their first shoot.
One young woman is hired for a series called, Virgin Manipulations. She plays an unwilling virgin who is preyed upon by a trusted older friend of the family. “Here’s the key point,” a voice tells her from off screen as she is about to shoot the scene, “You’re never like fully engaged into it.” Another young woman is filmed in a series called, Latina Abuse. A man spits in her face, chokes and slaps her, and aggressively forces his penis and huge dildos down her throat with the aim of making her vomit. The camera zooms in to capture the trauma and tears pouring from her eyes and you can hear her gagging violently. When she finally pukes, she is forced to lick it up out of a dog food bowl, all the while bearing unending and grotesque racist and woman-hating insults.
Typically, once their innocence and naïveté has been extinguished, they are no longer cast as virgins and can only keep working if they go along with ever more extreme brutality and humiliation.
The film treads lightly in these scenes, showing enough to force the viewer to confront the actual content of this porn, but never using these scenes to “titillate” the viewer. When the film shows nudity and degrading sex acts, you experience them from the point of view of the young woman who is acting them out. As the days and weeks go on, the trauma and degradation of it all begins to bubble up through their own words, in their eyes, and in the pall that falls over their collective living space and banter.
A statistic appears on the screen, “In 2014 abuse porn websites averaged over 60 million combined hits per month. More hits than nfl.com, nba.com, hotwire.com, cbs.com, fortune.com, disney.com, and nbcnews.com.” Another informs us that “teen” is the most commonly searched word in all of Internet porn.
A question that the film never asks, but that viewers really should, is: WHY is there such a market for this kind of predatory abuse and degradation of women? What kind of society is this where millions and millions of men are daily visiting websites to watch women be abused, violated, insulted, spit on, choked, tortured, and humiliated through sex and in other ways? And what does the mainstreaming of this kind of abuse do to further normalize this hatred against women, to socialize men and even very young boys to see women as objects to be used and abused for sexual pleasure? Is this the only way the world can be, and is it a world that anyone should want to live in?
It is very important that this film humanizes and makes audible the voices of the young women who are preyed upon by the porn industry. But it is also important to pull the lens back even further—to examine not only these women’s lives and choices, but even more fundamentally what gives rise to a world where these are the choices available to women in the first place.
Bob Avakian, the leader who has developed a whole new synthesis of communist revolution, which includes the most radical and thorough-going approach to the full liberation of women, has emphasized:
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.
Getting into all of what it means to make a revolution aiming for communism, and why that is the only real and lasting way to liberate women, goes beyond the scope of this article. But there is work you can—and should—get into. I recommend starting with Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution and A Declaration: For Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of all Humanity
The point is, it is completely unacceptable that thousands of teenage girls and young women are degraded and abused by the porn industry every single year. It is unacceptable that this is just a fraction of the violence and humiliation, the torture and sexual brutality that is inflicted on millions of women and very young girls every single year world-wide in the sex “industry.” It is also entirely unnecessary.
By bringing viewers face to face with just a tiny—but extremely powerful—fraction of this unnecessary oppression, Hot Girls Wanted, makes an important contribution. Take the time to check it out. If you are someone who watches porn, now is the time to stop. And for everyone who wants to see an end to this disgusting and damaging culture of rape and pornography, of woman-hating and sexualized degradation, now is the time to rise up and fight! Get involved today with the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women.
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
June 5, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On June 2, Boston police and FBI shot and killed a 26-year-old Black Muslim man, Usaamah Abdullah Rahim. Police say that they stopped him at a bus stop at 7:00 a.m. in front of a CVS drug store in order to question him. The police claim that Rahim refused to talk with them (which would have been perfectly legal on Rahim’s part), that he pulled a knife and began advancing on them, and that they had no alternative but to kill him. Immediately, based solely on government sources, the media not only slavishly reported the story along the lines put forth by the police, they began to trumpet claims from the agencies involved that Rahim was actually preparing to carry out an attack on police inspired by ISIS, the utterly reactionary Islamic fundamentalist group now waging war in Iraq and Syria against U.S.-backed forces. In the midst of the media barrage on this, here are some important points of orientation to keep in mind:
And as part of this, people very broadly within the imperialist countries must be won to aim their principal struggle against the imperialists themselves and not allow themselves to be taken “under the wing” of the biggest oppressors in the world.
Revolution #389 June 1, 2015
June 5, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We received this summer plan from Stop Patriarchy, the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women.
Everywhere you turn, women are disrespected, degraded, and anti-woman attitudes are the norm. Already this year, more than 330 restrictions on abortion have been introduced across the country; 50 have become law. Without the right to abortion, women cannot decide for themselves what their lives will be. Women's dreams and humanity are crushed through being forced into motherhood against their will. Meanwhile, pornography has become increasingly more mainstream, and the culture “pornified,” even as pornography has become more violent, degrading and hateful towards women. This is NOT society becoming more “comfortable with sex,” it is society becoming saturated with the sexualized hatred of women. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people who do not conform to the patriarchal gender and sexual “norms” are discriminated against in law and bullied in the culture. This must STOP! Women are not bitches, hos, punching bags, sex objects, or breeders, women ARE FULL HUMAN BEINGS. STOP the Patriarchal Degradation, Dehumanization, and Subjugation of All Women Everywhere, and All Oppression Based on Gender or Sexual Orientation!
Join with Stop Patriarchy this summer to take this message everywhere—deep into the communities of the oppressed, out to concerts and festivals, and right up in the face of the biggest women-haters. Through everything, we will get out tens of thousands of copies of the Stop Patriarchy Call to Action . Through street theater, defiant “social interventions” (taking banners and stickers boldly out to crowds wherever they gather), and “pop-up protests” at porn stores, fascist churches, and such, join in making it known far and wide: The days are over when we are just going to sit back and take all this patriarchal shit!
Roll with us this summer. Start a chapter where you are. There are a myriad of ways to fight, and you are NEEDED.
Weekend of June 27-28: Go out to Pride activities all weekend long, including the Dyke Marches. Bring out the message of Stop Patriarchy, stickers and palm-cards to build for the July 1st protest against all Christian fascist, theocratic intrusion on women's right to abortion and LGBT rights.
On July 1st a new anti-abortion law goes into effect in Kansas, which bans one of the safest and most common procedures for second trimester abortions. This is a very dangerous new line of attack which has already been picked up and copied in four other states; Oklahoma has also passed it into law. Also on July 1st, a new abortion restriction goes into effect in Tennessee that threatens to close half of the state's abortion clinics, leaving it with only four. Everyone across the country must stand up against the devastating impact these laws will have on women in Kansas and Tennessee. Even more fundamentally, we must recognize that these are part of a nationwide war on abortion rights everywhere. These attacks must be denounced by people all across this country. At the same time, we will be poised to respond to an upcoming Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage (expected by June 26), should that ruling restrict this basic right. Wherever you are, hold a protest, speak-out and/or die-in to say: Abortion On Demand and Without Apology! Forced Motherhood is Female Enslavement! WE SAY NO MORE! End ALL Forms of Theocratic Bigotry! Read the call for protest here.
Stop Patriarchy has been inspired by the fierce resistance and uprising of people across the country against murder by police, particularly the defiant youth in Baltimore. This past May 20th, we were proud to collaborate with One Billion Rising, the African American Policy Forum, Stop Mass Incarceration Network, the families of many women murdered by police, and many others to lift up the names of Black women who have been murdered by police. By mobilizing to Baltimore, Stop Patriarchy will further bring the message of all the way women's liberation to those who have been lifting their heads and fighting back and join ourselves more fully with the righteous struggle to end murder by police—fighting to take people from fighters on one front to fighters on all fronts against oppression. [Dates to be announced.] We call on everyone who cannot make it to Baltimore to seize the time to take the fight for women's liberation into and connect up with the communities of the oppressed everywhere.
The Deep South is where the battle around abortion rights is particularly acute, and where lack of access disproportionately affects Black and poverty-stricken women. In the entire state of Mississippi, there is only one abortion clinic left! This clinic is a last refuge for women for hundreds of miles throughout the state who find themselves pregnant but do not want to have a child. It is also the target of unrelenting Christian fascist harassment, legal attacks, and threats of closure. It is currently only able to stay open because of a temporary court order which is blocking a law that would close it down. Stop Patriarchy has partnered with this clinic repeatedly in recent years and is calling on people from across the country and from various organizations to join them in a 7-10 day mobilization to build support in Jackson for Abortion On Demand and Without Apology and against all forms of female enslavement. We plan to go out into the neighborhoods and draw people into this. Also, this will be a key training ground for new organizers to then take this fight back out all across this country.
Students have always played a major role in every successful movement for radical social change and this is urgently needed now in the fight for the full liberation of women. However, these days the campuses are filled with a paralyzing relativism and unending rationalizations for why porn and the sex “industry” are “empowering” for women. At the same time, people are increasingly defensive and apologetic about abortion. It’s time to cut through the bullshit! The sex industry is about oppression, not about “empowerment.” And forcing women to have children against their will is a form of enslavement, straight up! It’s time to stand up and say NO MORE. Women are not bitches, hos, punching bags, sex objects, or breeders. Women are FULL HUMAN BEINGS! This September, on college campuses and high schools across the country, join in a National Student Day of Action to END THE ENSLAVEMENT AND DEGRADATION OF WOMEN IN EVERY FORM!
One of the most meaningful ways you can contribute to ending the enslavement and degradation of women is to donate today to fund this essential work. Tens of thousands of dollars are required to print thousands of stickers, t-shirts, palm-cards, banners, and other materials, to support activists from around the country converging in Jackson, Mississippi for over a week, to maintain the StopPatriarchy.org website and email lists, to rent meeting spaces and more. By giving generously today, and/or becoming a regular monthly sustainer of Stop Patriarchy, you not only make this essential work possible, you join a vibrant and liberating community of others who are determined to bring about a better world for women and LGBT people everywhere.