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Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
The new synthesis of communism brought forward by Bob Avakian, on the basis of 40 years of revolutionary work, represents a qualitative advance in the scientific approach to making revolution and emancipating humanity. It provides the foundation and point of departure for a new stage of communist revolution that is urgently needed in the world today.
Where there is oppression, there will be resistance—the masses of people will continually rise up against their conditions of oppression and those who enforce this oppression. But, without the necessary scientific theory and leadership, the struggle of the oppressed will be contained, and remain confined, within the system which is the source of oppression, and the horrors to which the masses are subjected will go on, and on. The new synthesis and the leadership of Bob Avakian represents and embodies the scientific understanding and approach the masses of the oppressed need to make the revolution they need—a revolution whose ultimate goal is a communist world—to emancipate themselves and ultimately humanity as a whole.
As Bob Avakian himself has emphasized, the new synthesis:
represents and embodies a qualitative resolution of a critical contradiction that has existed within communism in its development up to this point, between its fundamentally scientific method and approach, and aspects of communism which have run counter to this.
What is most fundamental and essential in the new synthesis is the further development and synthesis of communism as a scientific method and approach, and the more consistent application of this scientific method and approach to reality in general and in particular the revolutionary struggle to overturn and uproot all systems and relations of exploitation and oppression and advance to a communist world. This method and approach underlies and informs all the core elements and essential components of this new synthesis.
As with all scientific approaches to understanding and transforming reality, communism must continue to develop, and it has undergone a qualitative development with the new synthesis, which is a leap beyond, and in some important ways a rupture with, what has gone before. Recognizing this is the essential dividing line today between genuine revolutionary communists and those who may profess to be for communism and revolution, but who in fact are not. Just as, in 1975, being a communist meant being a follower of Mao and the path that he had forged, so today being a communist means following Bob Avakian and the new path that he has forged.
As a leader, Bob Avakian embodies a rare combination: someone who has been able to develop scientific theory on a world-class level, while at the same time having a deep understanding of and visceral connection with the most oppressed, and a highly developed ability to “break down” complex theory and make it accessible to the masses of people.
BA provides strategic and tactical leadership, in an ongoing way, for the revolutionary struggle, in all its crucial dimensions, and he has greatly developed the science and art of communist leadership.
As BA himself has put it:
Leadership—and in particular communist leadership—is, as I have been speaking to, concentrated in line. This does not simply mean line as theoretical abstractions, although such abstractions, especially insofar as they do correctly reflect reality and its motion and development, are extremely important. But in an all-around sense, it is a matter of leadership as expressed in the ability to continually make essentially correct theoretical abstractions; to formulate, to wield, and to lead others to take up and act on—and to themselves take initiative in wielding—the outlook and method, and the strategy, program, and policies, necessary to radically transform the world through revolution toward the final aim of communism, and through this process to continually enable others one is leading to themselves increasingly develop their ability to do all this. This is the essence of communist leadership.
The methods and approach of BA’s new synthesis of communism make possible the kind of leadership which, far from stifling the initiative of others, can and does unleash people’s initiative and creativity on a broad scale and in unprecedented ways.
All those who strive for a world free of slavery, in any form, should become followers of BA and take up the new synthesis of communism, and on that basis become leaders themselves in the revolutionary struggle to emancipate humanity.
The fact that there is, in the world today, a revolutionary leader of the caliber of Bob Avakian, and that there is now a new synthesis of communism, is a tremendous thing for the masses of oppressed people and for the cause of human emancipation.
Bringing the content and role of BA’s leadership to millions, making it a point of reference and an increasingly powerful pole of attraction in society, is essential to the whole revolutionary process. As a concentrated expression of the strategic approach to building a movement for revolution, with the Party as its leading core, our Party has brought forward the slogans: “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution” and “Prepare the ground, prepare the people, and prepare the vanguard—get ready for the time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win.” This means exposing the oppressive and exploitative nature of the capitalist-imperialist system and the fact that its underlying and defining contradictions, which are the basis of this exploitation and oppression, can only be resolved through revolution; it means mobilizing people to take on the most egregious abuses of the system, while bringing out the need for revolution to finally put an end to these abuses; accumulating forces for revolution all along the way; it means seizing on moments when the contradictions of this system find expression in sharp crisis, in order to make crucial breakthroughs to hasten the emergence of a revolutionary situation—a situation in which there is a deep crisis in the whole system and millions of people are oriented, organized, and determined to put everything on the line to bring about the overthrow of this system and its replacement with a radically different system.
In this overall process, the most important thing we need to be doing, everywhere we go and in everything we do, is promoting and popularizing the leadership of BA and the new synthesis of communism that he has brought forward. This is the first mainstay of our Party’s work, which provides the framework and context for the Party’s work as a whole. It is the leading edge of the entire ensemble of revolutionary work and struggle undertaken by our Party.
The main vehicle through which the Party leads the ongoing ideological and political work of preparing for revolution is its website, REVCOM.US—the “second mainstay” of our Party’s work.
The website provides ongoing orientation and leadership, both long-range and “in the moment.” It encompasses the key works of Bob Avakian, as well as the newspaper of the Party, REVOLUTION. It analyzes world events and brings out the underlying dynamics and contradictions in those events, how they are grounded in the fundamental nature and dynamics of the capitalist-imperialist system and how they relate to the struggle to overthrow and move beyond this system; it includes reports on the Party’s work in mass struggles around major social contradictions, key Party documents and articles on the importance of building the Party as the leading core of the revolution that is needed. Within this website, the newspaper plays a particular role.
As BA has put it:
WWW.REVCOM.US/REVOLUTION NEWSPAPER 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. 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.
This website is already powerful—but REVCOM.US must truly become a website that reaches and speaks to millions, providing guidance to them in understanding and moving to radically transform the world, as well as providing leadership to those already won to or drawn toward revolution.
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America is the concretization of the decades of work by BA, an inspiring application of the new synthesis of communism he has brought forward.
This Constitution, which was adopted by the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, in 2010, is a blueprint for the new socialist society, beginning with Day One and stretching into the transition to a world without classes and class distinctions, a world without oppression and the destructive divisions and antagonisms between people.
This landmark work for the cause of human emancipation was written by—and could only have been written by—Bob Avakian. It is a simple fact that, in the world today, no other individual, or collective of people, would have been capable of producing such a comprehensive, visionary, and at the same time concrete, framework and guide for a radically new and emancipatory society. This is a powerful illustration of what is special and unique about BA and his leadership—and the tremendous importance of this for the masses of people of the world.
Bob Avakian is Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Like all Party members, he is subordinate to the collectivity of the Party overall, even as he has been elected by the Central Committee to lead the Party. At the same time, as the initiator and architect of a new synthesis of communism, he is also objectively “greater than” the Party. It is crucial that our Party be grounded in and proceed on the basis of Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism. This must be at the heart of the life and work of the RCP, USA, and it puts a special responsibility on Party members and supporters to deeply engage with and widely promote the new synthesis and BA himself, spreading this and fighting for it to take root, against all contending trends, in every corner of the globe; and to imbue in people very broadly a sense of responsibility to defend BA and ensure his ability to continue to make the fullest possible contributions to the cause of revolution and the emancipation of humanity.
As BA has said:
There is an urgent need for this new synthesis to be taken up, broadly, in this society and in the world as a whole: everywhere people are questioning why things are the way they are, and whether a different world is possible; everywhere people are talking about “revolution” but have no real understanding of what revolution means, no scientific approach to analyzing and dealing with what they are up against and what needs to be done; everywhere people are rising up in rebellion but are hemmed in, let down and left to the mercy of murderous oppressors, or misled onto paths which only reinforce, often with barbaric brutality, the enslaving chains of tradition; everywhere people need a way out of their desperate conditions, but do not see the source of their suffering and the path forward out of the darkness.
In sum, while he remains part of and subordinate to the overall collectivity of the Party, BA is greater than the Party, and this character of “greater than” is the principal aspect of the relationship. As we have emphasized, the leadership of BA and the new synthesis of communism that he has brought forward provides the theoretical framework, the scientific method and approach for a whole new stage of communist revolution, not just in this country but in the world as a whole.
Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
Updated February 5, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
...an important meeting to discuss six historic resolutions from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. These resolutions come at a time when the oppression faced by billions of people is increasingly unbearable, when resistance is flaring up, but when the need is acutely posed for leadership which genuinely enables people to understand the causes of that oppression and to act to uproot and transform it.
Revolutionary communism is the scientific understanding of the kind of radically different and radically better world that IS possible and how to get there. These resolutions focus on the leap in that scientific understanding that has been forged by Bob Avakian and on the overall leadership he provides and models—and what that means for humanity.
This January and February, the Party will hold meetings to discuss the content of these resolutions. Be sure to come. Be part of digging into what these resolutions mean and help figure out how to spread their message further.
Important Meetings on the Six Resolutions
of the Central Committee of the
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Sunday, January 31, 1:00-6:00 p.m.
The Gold Room
Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Center
34 West 134th Street • Harlem, NY
Directions: from the 135th St stop on the 2-3 line, walk one block east on 135th St to Lenox Terrace Place, turn right and the street dead ends on the Center. Gold Room is on the lower level, accessible by stairs or elevator. For people driving: Lenox Terrace Place is between Fifth Avenue and Malcolm X Blvd (Lenox Ave) and is accessible only from 135th St.
Saturday, February 6th, 2:00-5:00 p.m.
Revolution Books, 1158 Mass Ave,
Cambridge, MA 02138
Parking meters are in operation until 8 p.m.
Revolution Books is reserving a space in the building to have this discussion—so it is important to be on time.
Saturday, Feb. 6, 1:00-5:30 p.m.
Trinity Episcopal Church, Parish Hall
125 East 26th Street
For more information: Call 773-489-0930
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, February 6, 1:00-6:00 p.m.
Live Oak Park Recreation Center, 1301 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley
More info: 510-848-1196 or email@example.com
Saturday, February 6, 2-7 pm
Peace Center West, 3916 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230
On Sepulveda, south of Venice Blvd. From the 405 Freeway: take the Venice Blvd. exit, turn right on Sawtelle, right on Venice and right on Sepulveda. The Peace Center is on the east side. Parking available in back of the building.
For more information: 323.463.3500 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, February 6, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
SHAPE Community Center Harambee Building
3903 Almeda, Houston 77004
For more information call 832.865.0408 or email email@example.com
Saturday, February 6, 1:00 p.m.
89 S. Washington (1/2 block of 1st Avenue in Pioneer Square)
Saturday, February 6, 1-5 p.m.
Langston Hughes Library, 10200 Superior Avenue, Cleveland
Sunday, February 7, 1-5:30 pm
Little 5 Points Arts and Community Center
1083 Austin Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30307.
Top Floor, Room 202 Parking in rear. Wheelchair accessible.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org (770) 861-3339
Sunday, February 7, 1:00 pm
Traffic Jam & Snug
511 W. Canfield
Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
A Call from Carl Dix and Sunsara Taylor:
If you are serious about changing the world and want to know what a REAL revolution is
Campus Tour, Winter-Spring 2016
Updated April 25, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This world cries out for radical change.
Life is a nightmare for billions around the world. Millions cast off their lands by war, poverty, and environmental devastation. Risking their lives for a different future, only to be further hounded and demonized. Vast sections of humanity trapped in the vise of Western-backed regimes and Islamic fascism. Women in the third world confronting choices of slaving in a sweatshop or selling sex. Being a woman or gay or just “different” too often the cause for being abused and degraded. Being Black or Latino in this society too often the cause for being killed by the police and the system ruling it “justifiable homicide.” Yawning gulfs of inequality and a bleak future of environmental catastrophe.
A radically different and far better world is possible—getting rid of this madness and horror, and getting beyond a world of oppression, exploitation, and domination. This will take an Actual Revolution.
“Revolution” and “socialism" are in the air, promised through the ease of a ballot or a $10 online donation to an electoral campaign. But a real revolution—one that aims to change the world—is radically different and, yes, more demanding. A real revolution requires a scientific understanding of society and how to radically change it. That science has been qualitatively developed by the revolutionary leader, Bob Avakian. We're coming to your campus to get into this with you.
A real revolution requires organization. We're coming to your campus to invite you to be a part of the movement for revolution.
A real revolution must aim to emancipate all of humanity—not just reforming but getting rid of this monstrosity of a system of capitalism-imperialism, and replacing it with a radically different economic, political, and social system, a genuine socialist society aiming for a world without social divides and exploitation and oppression, a genuinely communist world.
This is a complex process. How do we even identify and understand the real source of the problems we face, and the real way out of this? What about the oppression of Black people, of women, of immigrants—and how does that relate to the history of this country, the nature of this system—and can we get beyond this? What can we learn from past attempts to make revolution and radically change society—positively and negatively? How do we unleash the conscious initiative and creativity of millions to make history—especially when this system keeps us divided, and blind to its dynamics and workings?
There’s answers to these questions, but you’re gonna have to dig. We’re on tour to engage you on these answers, and to get into—and to recruit you into—the actual revolution.
The leader of this revolution is Bob Avakian, BA.
BA is the architect of a whole new framework of human emancipation, the new synthesis of communism. This is based on more than 40 years of work, drawing from both past revolutionary experiences and theory, and from science, history, culture, and politics. He has qualitatively advanced the science of communism, applying a thoroughly scientific method and approach to the dynamics of society and its transformation. He has developed the strategy and theory for revolution in this current era, including in a country like the U.S. He has developed a concrete and viable vision for what comes after the revolution, in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.
As a leader, BA embodies a rare combination: someone who has been able to develop scientific theory on a world-class level, while at the same time having a deep understanding of and visceral connection with the most oppressed, and a highly developed ability to “break down” complex theory and make it accessible to the masses of people.
What we say will challenge you. We’re going to go against a lot of what you have been taught to think is true... it will not be comfortable. But if you are serious about really changing this world, you have a responsibility to check us out... to BE challenged.
At the same time, even as we wrangle, we want to involve you in fighting the power today, in struggles we call the 5 STOPS—to STOP mass incarceration and police brutality, to STOP the oppression and degradation of women, to STOP the wars carried out by the government, to STOP the wanton environmental destruction, and to STOP the heartless attacks on immigrants.
There is the science, the strategy, and the leadership for an Actual Revolution. What is needed is you. We are coming to your campus so that together we can find the ways for you to be a part of the movement for a real revolution.
There will never be a revolution without students playing a crucial role. All of you, in one way or another, are figuring out the world and weighing what your lives will, or should, be about. What you learn and what you do matters greatly—today, and for a future where humanity could really flourish.
Carl Dix is a courageous freedom fighter from the 1960s who went on to become a revolutionary fighter and a communist. Dix spent two years in military prison for refusing to fight in the unjust Vietnam War. He emerged unrepentant and went on to become a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), USA, dedicating his life to the emancipation of all humanity. Today, Carl is a follower of and advocate for Bob Avakian, his leadership and his visionary new synthesis of communism. Carl Dix and Cornel West co-founded the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN), and Rise Up October that brought thousands into the streets in New York City demanding a stop to police terror.
Sunsara Taylor is an ardent follower of Bob Avakian, a fighter for his leadership and the new synthesis of communism he has brought forward, and a revolutionary communist. She writes for Revolution newspaper (www.revcom.us). As part of preparing for revolution, she has led resistance to this system's imperialist wars of aggression, against police terror and mass incarceration, against religious fundamentalism, and against all forms of the enslavement and degradation of women. Taylor is the key initiator of End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women (StopPatriarchy.org), uniting people from diverse political perspectives to stand up against the war on women, including the Abortion Rights Freedom Rides across the U.S.
Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
February 1, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Protest at Flint City Hall, April 25, 2015. (Photo: Sam Owens/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP)
For almost 21 months the State of Michigan has been poisoning the people of Flint, Michigan with water contaminated with lead—a toxin that causes permanent and irreversible damage to the nervous systems of children. Almost from the beginning, officials KNEW the water was toxic. But they covered it up, lied to people, doctored tests and attacked those trying to sound the alarm. And the people of Flint are STILL being poisoned today and as the scandal unfolds new revelations shine a sharper light on how the poisoning of the people in this majority Black and overwhelmingly poor city was conscious and callous government policy.
In the face of all kinds of outrage, government officials are trying to defuse the situation by “being transparent.” One of the emails recently released by Governor Rick Snyder referred to a resident whose son had elevated levels of lead in his blood. In January 2015 a state nurse told her, “It is just a few IQ points. ... It is not the end of the world.” So, did the governor or any other official express outrage at the utter contempt and callous attitude this showed toward the victims being poisoned? To the parents whose children now faced permanent brain damage? NO. In fact this attitude of “who cares about these people” has characterized the whole way government officials have treated this crisis all along, up to today.
For many decades Flint was a center of the auto industry, once a pillar of U.S. capitalism. Hundreds of thousands of people came here to work in the factories—including Black people, driven from their land in the South and fleeing the horror of Jim Crow. Year in and year out their labor produced billions of dollars in profits for the auto companies and the system as a whole. But the workings of capitalism, the drive for higher profits, led to these factories closing and moving in order to exploit desperately poor people in the Third World. General Motors once employed 80,000 people in Flint. Today it employs 5,000. The same system that squeezed so much wealth out of the people of Flint now has no use for them. Flint is now a city where 41 percent of the people live below the poverty line and over 60 percent receive food stamps. And the majority Black population is subjected to even more extreme conditions of poverty.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a Flint pediatrician who led a team that exposed how children were being poisoned and then courageously went up against officials who mocked and attacked her, said: “If you were to put something in a population to keep them down for a generation and generations to come, it would be lead.”
Lead is a toxin that attacks every organ and system in the human body, particularly the nervous system. It is especially harmful to fetuses and to children, causing premature and low-weight births, irritability, weight loss, lethargy, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems, among other symptoms. Any amount of lead in the body is harmful.
Flint, MI, residents at a January 14 protest in Lansing, MI. More than 150 people demanded answers and called for the Michigan governor to resign following the government's role in the huge water crisis. (AP photo)
From very early on, the government knew there were dangerous levels of toxins in the water, poisoning people, but they covered it up. The lead poisoning of people in Flint began in April 2014, when the city switched from the Detroit water system to temporarily using the notoriously polluted Flint River as the water source. Filthy, foul tasting water poured into the houses in Flint and people started getting rashes, their hair fell out, children lost weight and developed anemia. [see “Flint, Michigan: The Poisonous System Behind the Water Crisis” at http://revcom.us/a/422/flint-michigan-the-poisonous-system-behind-the-water-crisis-en.html]
In October 2014, GM told the city it would stop using the water in one of its plants because it was corroding their engine parts. So authorities knew the water was highly dangerous but continued to insist the water was safe for human beings! January 2015, a University of Michigan report found high levels of lead in drinking fountains. In June 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wrote a memo raising “major concern” about lead levels in the water.
In September 2015, tests from Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s team found that the number of children with dangerously high lead levels in their blood had doubled in the past year. There was mounting evidence that people in Flint were being poisoned every single day. But the government continued to cover up and deny this—and mocked and attacked people demanding something be done.
Only recently, in mid January, in the face of protests and unable to deny the truth any longer, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder asked Obama to declare the water crisis in Flint a federal disaster. And now, the powers that be are trying to do damage control. Federal and State monies are being pledged to provide bottled water and filters (which in many cases will not actually get rid of the toxins), and nurses to assist the children who have been permanently injured. But even as these very minimal measures are being taken—more evidence keeps coming out about the criminal and conscious nature of how the government has been poisoning the people of Flint.
For instance, as early as February of 2015, water at the home of one Flint resident showed 104 parts per billion (ppb) of lead—seven times the 15 ppb level that the EPA determines to be acceptable. (In reality, most experts agree that there is no “safe level” of lead in human drinking water.) In March they tested the house again and the level had gone up almost 400 percent, to 397 ppb. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) ordered more testing, but designed the testing process to conceal the rising lead levels. How did they do that?
The reason lead was showing up in tap water, and the reason levels were rising from month to month, is because the lead was coming from the pipes themselves. Flint River water has some lead, but the main problem is that the water is highly corrosive (19 times as corrosive as Lake Huron water). Many pipes, especially older ones, are made from, and/or soldered with, lead. Those pipes were lined so the lead would not get in the water, but the corrosive river water eats away the lining and leaches the lead into the tap water. That is why the levels rise—the more the pipes corrode, the more lead they release.
When the state tested the water they did two things. First, they told people to run the water for a while before collecting samples—this flushes much of the free lead out of the water, providing a lower lead reading on the sample. The other thing they did was that they would test the homes of people that did not have lead pipes at all (and who therefore had zero lead readings) and average those results together with people who did have lead pipes. This would be like a football team reporting on the rate of concussions, but including the members of the marching band in the study—obviously that will bring down the average rate of concussions dramatically.
Having blood drawn to test for lead, a toxin that attacks every organ and system in the human body, particularly the nervous system. Any amount of lead in the body is harmful. (Photo: Conor Ralph/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP)
The State used similarly dishonest methods to test for lead levels in children. Even a few weeks ago they claimed that “only” 200 children had high lead levels. But as Dr. Hanna-Attisha pointed out, they had actually tested only a small number of children to begin with, and they ignored and covered up the fact that while lead only stays in the blood stream—and therefore only shows up on tests—for a short period of time, the damage it does is permanent.
Using this unscientific method they came up with levels that fell below the EPA’s “acceptable” level of 15 ppb. But even with their tests, it was notable that lead levels doubled—from 6 ppb to almost 12 ppb—in just the first few months of using Flint River water.
Then starting in January of 2015, the state began providing bottled water to the Michigan State Office Building in Flint, explicitly because they knew that Flint city water was not drinkable. Yet at the same time, they were issuing reassurances to the public that the water was “safe to drink” (Flint city press release, April 2014). In March 2015, the city hired an outside consultant, Veolia, which declared that the city’s water met state and federal standard, without even reporting on what the lead levels were.
In another example of their shameless contempt for the lives of the masses, when—after covering it up for nearly 18 months—they did begin to warn people, they did so only in English. Flint has a substantial community of people who speak only Spanish, and Flint has no Spanish-language media, so most of these people were not informed that their water was dangerous.
As one man in Flint put it, “Somebody needs to go to jail for this, man. They’re poisoning an entire community. A generation of kids will never recover from this. And it’s all just to save a few dollars. They played a game of chess with our lives and we lost.”
In October the State agreed to switch Flint back to using water from Lake Huron, but the damage was already done. Damage to the almost 100,000 people of Flint, especially the thousands of children who potentially now have irreversible brain damage. And damage to the water system itself—even with the clean water from Lake Huron, the now-corroded pipes of Flint continue to leach lead into the tap water. In late December further testing of Flint tap water showed lead levels on average of 150 ppb—10 times the EPA acceptable level—and levels in some homes of 4,000 ppb—250 times the “safe” level.
For almost two years the authorities KNEW what was going on and tried to cover it up. What does this say about the attitude and the conscious policies of the government institutions? Why after all these years does systematic oppression of Black people not only continue, but now intensify as the situation grows more polarized and for increasing millions of people more desperate? This is conscious policy. They treated people as less than human, worse than dogs.
This system has a genocidal program for Black people in this country which includes mass incarceration, police murder and brutality. And this is what’s behind conscious murderous policies like how the powers-that-be refused to do anything about the poisoning of the people in Flint—a majority Black city—even though they knew about it.
From the beginning and on up to today, the water crisis in Flint has revealed a system that is criminal and illegitimate at its core; that has no regard for the lives of people; that is carrying out a genocidal program against Black people in this country—and that is causing tremendous suffering all over the globe. This is a toxic, criminal system that needs to be gotten rid of through revolution, nothing less.
Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
February 1, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A wave of heroin addiction is sweeping broad sections of the population of the United States. Rates for drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin doubled for Black and Latino people from 2000 to 2013. In that same period, heroin deaths for 18 to 44-year-old white people increased six-fold, including in suburbs and small towns.
Why this explosion of heroin use, including particularly among white youth? Early in the HBO documentary Heroin: Cape Cod, a young white person in that Massachusetts resort community describes what drove them to heroin addiction: “There’s really nothing to do, like at all. Like you either work and you’re normal, or you do drugs.” The documentary depicts how women are driven to prostitution and other awful, degrading things to pay for their habit. Parents of addicts are at their resources and wits ends. And people are dying in record numbers.
In an article in the New Yorker, Mark Sullivan, a professor of psychiatry, describes what one of his colleagues calls “terribly-sad-life syndrome”: “These patients are at a dead end, life has stymied them, they are hurting,” he said. “They want to be numb.”
This horrible explosion of heroin addiction and death, and what it says about life in America, is a searing indictment of this society and the whole system that underlies it.
Now, ruling class representatives who have long championed criminalizing drug addiction and a draconian “war on drugs,” like Chris Christie are talking about “we need to start talking about [drug addiction] like an illness, not like some moral failure.” (Washington Post 6/3/15) Donald Trump took a quick pause from non-stop fascist rants against every exploited, victimized and oppressed section of people here and around the world to say about people using drugs, “We are going to help the people that have the problem and try to get them off.”
These crocodile tears and promises of “help” won’t, and couldn’t, speak to the profound despair among huge sections of people in this society that drive them to numb the pain of daily life with drugs.
And... as meaningless as these promises of “concern” from the powers-that-be are, they are also in night-and-day contrast to the genocidal ways this system historically, and today seizes on the horror of drug addiction to demonize, terrorize, and systematically kill Black and Brown people in the guise of a “war on drugs.”
* * *
Until 2010, mandatory prison sentences for possession of one gram of crack cocaine were the same as for possession of one hundred grams of powder cocaine—a disparity of 100-to-1. There has never been any evidence that crack is more harmful than powdered coke, but crack cocaine is distributed mainly among impoverished Black and Latino people. The horrific disproportionality in sentencing laws has been a vehicle to channel Black and Latino people into prison, tear apart families, ruin lives, and permanently stamp people with the brand of “ex-cons.” And for all the hype from the Obama administration about addressing this outrage, today the federal sentencing disparity is still 18-to-1.
Mass incarceration—over two million people locked up in America’s prisons—vastly disproportionally wreaks havoc and misery among Black people. Black people comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, and are consistently documented by the U.S. government studies to use drugs at similar rates to the population as a whole. But Black people comprise nearly 40 percent of those incarcerated in state or federal prisons for drug law violations.
The crack cocaine epidemic has been used to demonize Black people. Crack cocaine users are portrayed as “super-predators.” Children of women suffering from crack addiction are dehumanized as “crack babies” (despite studies that determined there are no statistically significant differences in the long-term health and life outcomes between full-term babies exposed to cocaine as fetuses, and those who were not).
For decades, a so-called “war on drugs” has sent an occupying army into Black and Latino communities. Scenes like the one early in the movie Straight Outta Compton—where a tank-like battering ram tears the front off a house, terrorizing an entire neighborhood—were everyday life.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton decided to continue a ban on federal funds for needle-exchange programs (this was an administration in which Hillary Clinton was very involved in setting domestic policies). Clinton did this in the face of numerous studies that determined that those programs prevent the spread of horrific diseases like AIDS and hepatitis C while not increasing drug use. The federal ban was overturned in 2009, but needle exchanges are still illegal in over a dozen states, and there are killing inequalities in who does and does not have access to them. A 2011 study revealed that needle exchange programs serving people of color are more than three times as likely to report frequent client arrest traveling to or from the exchange, and almost four times more likely to report illegal syringe confiscation by police. [See “The roles of law, client race and program visibility in shaping police interference with the operation of U.S. syringe exchange programs,” 2011.]
These are government policies that purposely and consciously condemn people to die from secondary diseases spread through shared needles—including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C. This is really nothing more than biological warfare—nothing more than withholding life-saving measures from people with the most obscene excuses.
And so lives are ruined and people die terrible deaths—people from among sections of society who had been enslaved, bought and sold to build up the great wealth of the United States, viciously exploited, and for whom this system now has no use. People who, in the twisted values of capitalism, are seen thru the warped lens of “if they die, so much the better.”
* * *
Demonizing Black and Latino victims of drug addition... Sending them to jail with sentences many times harsher than those given to white people using a slightly different form of the same drug... using the plague of drug addiction to unleash a reign of terror and death by police to rampage through these communities like U.S. troops in Vietnam or Iraq... Purposely denying life-saving needle exchanges and other resources with the knowledge this was sentencing people to horrible deaths by AIDs and hep C.
This not just racism or discrimination—it goes way beyond that, into using government policy to incarcerate, infect with disease and kill people of a dis-favored group. In other words, genocide.
* * *
The GENOCIDAL implications of all the differential policies towards victims of drug addiction highlight the need for this rotten system to be brought down at the earliest possible moment and replaced with a society on the road to eliminating all oppression, and overcoming the terrible legacy of oppression and savage inequalities as a key part of the work in doing that— creating a society in which people will NOT need to make themselves numb just to survive.
The whole way millions and millions of people in this “greatest country in the world” have been ground up and had their lives ruined through the one-two punch of drug addiction and the vicious persecution for being victims of drug addiction—among all sections of people—is a damning indictment of the nature of this system.
Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
February 1, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Tahrir Square, Cairo, February 11, 2011. AP photos
In the winter of 2011, five years ago, the people of Egypt rose up in rebellion against decades of brutally oppressive rule by the Mubarak regime—a regime backed by and playing a key role in preserving the interests of the U.S. Empire. On February 11 of that year, Mubarak was driven from office. On that day, Bob Avakian issued a critically important message, “EGYPT 2011: MILLIONS HAVE HEROICALLY STOOD UP... THE FUTURE REMAINS TO BE WRITTEN.” Links to the message in English, Spanish, Arabic, German and French including printable PDFs are at revcom.us/avakian/Egypt/.
That message by BA bears restudy and new initiatives to get it circulated in the Middle East and beyond. Also, I have a specific suggestion for programs at Revolution Books stores, and other places where the movement for revolution gathers. That is, that they show the film The Square, which documents the activity of radicals within the uprising in Cairo (Revolution ran a “Check It Out“ for that film when it came out). And after the showing, and having people read BA’s message, have discussions of what would be the tasks of a vanguard party in a situation like that; again—utilizing BA’s statement as a basis for that discussion.
Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
From A World To Win News Service
February 1, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
January 25, 2016. A World to Win News Service. In examining the development of the flower export industry (a major driver of Kenya’s economy), the results of the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting held in Nairobi last November, and the actual lives of people working in that industry, the following three texts shed light on the workings and consequences of the domination of the world’s economy and peoples by the monopoly capitalist ruling classes headquartered in a handful of imperialist countries. The first is from an article by Yash Tandon, a Ugandan professor, political activist, and prominent public intellectual, which first appeared in Pambazuka News (see pambazuka.org, December 15, 2015, for the full article and footnotes). It was written on the eve of the 10th Ministerial Meeting of the WTO held in Nairobi. The second text, by A World to Win News Service (AWTWNS), examines the results of that meeting. The third article, from the February 18, 2008 AWTWNS, was written during a period of extreme violence among Kenya’s numerous ethnic groups unleashed by the main rival presidential candidates in the December 2007 general elections.
A Kenyan farmer shouts his opposition to the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, December 2015. This meeting essentially rubber-stamped the dominant position of imperialist countries over world trade, which is a key part of how the advanced monopoly-capitalist countries dominate Africa and other countries throughout the world. AP photo
Lake Naivasha is less than an hour’s drive from Nairobi. At 1,884 metres, it is in a complex geological combination of volcanic rocks and sedimentary deposits. It is fed by the perennial Malewa and Gilgil rivers at the highest elevation of the Rift Valley. When you get there, it is like paradise—or used to be. The first time I went there as a young man was in 1957. I was spellbound by its beauty—lush banks adorned with yellow acacia; in the clean waters you could see thousands of various kinds of fish, and yes, hippos; looking up at the skies you could see thousands of birds, including the pink-plumaged flamingo migrating from Lake Nakuru, and multi-coloured butterflies. The lake provided livelihood to thousands of fisher folk, and water for the farming community.
Some 50 years later, in 2009, I went back to the lake. I was dismayed, in fact depressed. The lake and its surroundings were unrecognisable. I saw roses and giant-sized greenhouses everywhere—but no butterflies, no birds, and practically no fish. All this sacrifice in the name of “development.” The lake and its surroundings were transformed into a hellhole. Develop we must, of course, but at what cost?
The “free trade” growth model is based on the assumption that “the market” promoted by “free trade” is the most efficient way to allocate the world’s resources. Each country must seek to specialise in the production of goods and services in which it is most competitive.
But “free trade” is a fiction. It has never existed even during the much acclaimed British mercantile period in the nineteenth century. The country that first challenged this fiction was the United States soon after its independence from England in 1776. “We don’t want to grow cotton and tobacco forever, and import your manufactured products,” the Americans told the English. “We too wish to industrialise.” Between 1820 and 1870 (within 50 years) the United States put up barriers against imports from England and went through its own industrial revolution.
Africa has been “independent” now for nearly 60 years, and it still exports coffee, cotton, and flowers and imports practically everything else—including agricultural products. You can buy frozen chicken legs and baked beans from Europe in the big stores of Nairobi. These massively subsidised products compete against Kenyan producers who are denied subsidies by the rules of the WTO. This is an asymmetrical war between European corporations and Kenyan small farmers. It is the same with the rest of Africa. It is immoral. Under the UN conventions on human rights, it is also illegal.
Some 15 years ago, flowers were produced by hundreds of small producers, providing livelihood for thousands in their extended families. Now they are produced by a handful of multinationals. Here is the boast of one of them, Magana Flowers Kenya Ltd.:
“Established in 1994 we have blossomed into Kenya’s largest floricultural ventures. We export approximately twenty four million roses a year to importers in Switzerland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom, Russia, Japan, Australia and the Middle East. Head-quartered in Nairobi, Magana Flowers Kenya Limited employs a highly trained workforce of 600 individuals who facilitate all phases of rose bush growth and development. Staff members foster seedlings, develop strategic planting improvement techniques and monitor plant growth and constantly check for the presence of viruses and insects. The company utilizes the latest pest control and soil management techniques to produce healthy colourful roses that are shipped to importers within 48 hours of being harvested. We additionally develop new variety of roses by conducting research. Orchestrating the production of healthy, vigorous and disease resistant roses, we also carefully develop feeding schedules to determine which plant foods produce the most beautiful and long lasting blooms. This is why we are the home of the best quality cut rose flowers in Africa.”
Into this already very fragile socio-ecological condition, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has made questionable investments. AGRA is funded by the Rockefeller and Gates foundations. It claims that it is helping Africa to grow high standard exportable food crops and flowers to help Kenya’s development. It employs certified agro-chemical crops under multi-genome patents.
Those who own the farms in Naivasha as well as middle agencies engaged in buying and selling, shipping, storing, insuring and transporting flowers make enormous profits, but the direct producers—the wage workers—get very little. The multinationals also outsource growing of flowers to small African farmers, where they live off-site in squalid and fragile ecological conditions. They grow buttonhole carnations and red roses for the Valentine’s Day lovers in Europe, but themselves... they live from hand to mouth.
The flower industry was the main reason why Kenya signed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union in September 2014... under pressure from the Kenyan Flower Council (KFC). In an interview, the CEO of KFC, Jane Ngige, defined its mission thus: “To promote economic, social and political interests of the floriculture industry through active participation in the determination and implementation of policies.” As of October 2015, KFC had a producer membership of 94 farms, and associate membership of 62 members—these provide farm inputs and allied services representing major cut flower auctions and distributors in UK, Holland, Switzerland, and Germany.
But whilst the Kenya government has surrendered to Europe, the ordinary citizens are fighting back. In 2007, the Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum (KSSFF) filed a case against their government, arguing that EPAs would put at risk the livelihoods of millions of ordinary farmers. On 30 October, 2013, the High Court of Kenya ruled in KSSFF’s favour. The court directed the Kenya government to establish a mechanism for involving stakeholders (including small-scale farmers) in the on-going EPA negotiations, and to encourage public debate on this matter.
That was the last heard of the court judgment.
Picking roses at a flower farm in Naivasha, Kenya. Fifteen years ago, flowers were produced by hundreds of small producers, providing livelihood for thousands in their extended families. Now they are produced by a handful of multinationals. AP photo
The flower industry draws water out of Lake Naivasha on an average of approximately 20,000 cubic metres a day. The lake is dying. Officially 130 square kilometres, it shrank in 2006 to about 75 per cent of its 1982 size. The papyrus swamps that were the breeding grounds for fish had almost dried up. Thousands of peasant producers and fisher folk had been alienated from their
means of survival. People were facing severe problems of food and water insecurity. Effectively, Kenya exports water to Europe as the water-bearing flowers from Lake Naivasha fly to Amsterdam. If this is not the “Empire of the Absurd,” what is?
In 2013 Kenya exported 124,858 tonnes of flowers valued at around 507 million U.S. dollars. In 2014 it raked in around $600 million. The WTO congratulated Kenya for finally finding an appropriate niche in the “global value chain.” Development theory apologists say this is fine; all the Kenya government needs to do now is to tax the rich and distribute the wealth to the poor. Another theatre of the absurd. Who is kidding whom?
The inequality ratio—measured by the so-called Gini coefficient (calculated using consumption expenditure per capita)—is worsening in Kenya. The rich are getting richer, the poor poorer. The statistics do not tell the whole story. Go to Nairobi and witness for yourself the condition of the “precariat”—the proletarianised working classes without life predictability or basic security.
As dignitaries from the Empire and the neo-colonies assemble in Nairobi on 15-18 December for the WTO’s 10th Ministerial Meeting, the precariat will be shunted off to shanty townships on the periphery of Nairobi.
According to the British dailies the Independent and Guardian, as well as authors critical of highly unequal international trade agreements, the December 2015 WTO ministerial meeting essentially rubber-stamped the already overwhelmingly dominant position of imperialist countries over world trade. The U.S. WTO representative argued that “times have changed” and the 164 countries, many grumbling, followed the U.S. and the EU plans to end the Doha Development Agenda. Commonly known as the Doha Rounds (initiated in Doha, Qatar), this was a platform opened in 2001 purportedly to negotiate better terms for agricultural trade for countries in the global South.
The recent Nairobi meeting also agreed to continue to exempt some exports from so-called “Least Developed Countries” from duty and quota restrictions, but this doesn’t include textiles, which constitute more than 90 percent of these exports. As for agriculture, the meeting supposedly eliminated export subsidies and other forms of “export promotion,” like subsidized export financing and exports in the name of “food aid,” which the U.S. in particular is renowned for practising. These subsidies have been under fire as a blatantly unfair advantage to rich countries. Export subsidies further distort trade by undercutting markets in importing countries through offsetting some export costs, in turn lowering the price of products from the EU and the U.S. in foreign markets. But on this key issue too, “poor countries walked out empty-handed,” as one Kenyan newspaper commented. While the EU had already agreed to stop subsidising its exports, the U.S. resisted these trade restrictions and the new agreement reportedly really only “put a cap on current practices” within agricultural trade, rather than eliminate the imperialist countries’ export subsidies altogether.
Inequalities go way beyond imperialist control over market access for agricultural products, however. These countries continually refine their relationship of domination of poorer countries through skewing competition in their favour in numerous ways, another topic on the table in Nairobi. Consider too the lack of adequate roads, storage facilities and export infrastructure, together with increasing land grabs by foreign investors as well as the international web of finance and debt choking most African countries. Then add in the interlinking dependencies in other sectors that the continent is locked into, although this varies from country to country. So-called “fair trade” is an integral part of the means by which the advanced monopoly-capitalist countries and the imperialist world market dominate Africa and other countries throughout the world.
The world’s media, including the Nairobi Standard in one of its February 14 columns, breathed a sigh of relief supposedly on behalf of the nation that Kenyan roses would make it to European markets and flower shops in time for that crucial holiday invented to turn love into lots of money.
Now imagine you’re an ordinary flower farm worker at one of these lucrative horticultural industries that line the pockets of rich white settler and Kenyan entrepreneurs who have set up shop around Lake Naivasha, situated only two hours from Nairobi in the Rift Valley. You have noticed that somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 people like you, most of them landless from other rural areas, but a few from the slums and settlements around towns, picked up and moved to the area with the promise of jobs. They are from many different ethnic origins and geographical areas but until last month, this didn’t matter much—you all were poor and exploited by the same owners.
Those who actually got hired in one of the several flower farms circling the lake may be housed in shack settlements, or in the rows and rows of concrete slab company housing right outside the workplace. Others wait in a day labour line across from the farms hoping to make some temporary cash. Some set up market stalls or sell small pyramids of tomatoes, onions, potatoes and other local produce along the road by the vast greenhouses. You didn’t know you’d be working with toxic pesticides and fertilizers all day long without protection. But thousands of others are unemployed and have no income at all, waiting to take your place if you leave.
About 60 percent of Kenya’s flowers come from Lake Naivasha, traditionally a resort area for wealthy white settlers and home to several hotels and restaurants, tucked away from the poor and medium-sized dusty town of Naivasha. Signs bear the names of Dutch, British and Kenyan-owned companies like Sher, Wildlife, Homegrown, and Kingfisher. Lake Naivasha is one of the larger freshwater lakes but is rapidly being turned into a cesspool for the flower industry. The flower farms are draining the lake, pumping freshwater into the greenhouses while returning the chemical-filled waste water through a ditch. Plant life has all but ceased to exist. Fish and bird species are threatened. The public has no access to the lake and to the water because it is all privately owned. They must line up for the few communal taps in the area, which never are sufficient for the local population’s needs.
But over the past month, since the big demonstrations in Nairobi, the violence spread to Naivasha. You have seen some of your co-workers attacked and chased away by people of ethnic groups different from theirs. You have seen the owners of the farms and white landowners in the area whisked away from the danger and violence in private airplanes and lorries. You couldn’t believe your eyes when you saw people of various origins forced to run into the Naivasha prison to try to escape marauding crowds of local (Kikuyu) gangs, some appearing to be escorted by the police, who shoot at those who venture out of the prison. You have seen people hacked to death with machetes. The bloodshed has torn the workforce apart and some people who haven’t been driven to other areas of Kenya are still staying away out of fear. You yourself are of mixed parents and afraid to speak anything but the main language of that region in public. You don’t know what happened to your Luo neighbours and to the Kalenjin woman married to a Kikuyu who worked next to you clipping roses.
But what do you see in the week leading up to February 14? Your white bosses and Kenyan managers are mobilizing everyone to come back to work on the grounds that “It’s safe.” They need to prepare the shipments of roses for the one holiday that generates nearly half of their profit in a given year, and they want you to work even longer days than you already do. All around you there is fear, trauma and tragedy from the events of the past month. There is no “protection” and the situation is anything but safe for ordinary Kenyans like you. There is no transport available for refugees, to carry home the dead for burial, or to bring in food. Your husband can’t get to the funeral of his uncle, killed in the communal fighting. But there are lots of trucks parked outside today. You discover your bosses have hired the police to protect the lorry convoys full of roses headed to Nairobi airport. You make a point of stabbing your flesh with one of the thorns as the rose is packed for Europe and watch the blood drip down the stem and into the valentine box.
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 #424 February 1, 2016
February 1, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In March 2003, the U.S. launched an invasion of Iraq, followed by eight-and-a-half years of war and occupation, leading to huge horrors: more than one million Iraqis dead, 4.5 million displaced from their homes, and the strengthening of reactionary Islamic fundamentalism, including ISIS. Top figures of the U.S. government—from President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to key cabinet, military, and intelligence officials—had justified the invasion as necessary to stop Iraq’s Saddam Hussein regime and its “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD)—nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Even after the whole world saw, soon after the U.S. invasion, that Iraq in fact had no WMD, the official story from many ruling class voices has been that there was an “intelligence failure” that accounts for the glaring contrast between the claims and the reality about Iraqi WMD, or that they were “misled” into supporting the invasion.
Now, a secret U.S. intelligence document from a few months before the Iraq invasion has been revealed, shedding even more light on the fact that this was not a case of an “intelligence failure.” Bush officials deliberately lied to pave the way for war—with major media deeply complicit in this campaign and top Democrats also taking part in the deceit.
In September 2002, Rumsfeld sent a memo to the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS, high-level officers from the U.S. military who advise the Secretary of Defense), saying, “Please take a look at this material as to what we don’t know about WMD [in Iraq]. It is big.” Rumsfeld was referring to a report from the Joint Chiefs’ director of intelligence, which basically said there was little actual evidence about Saddam Hussein’s alleged WMD. The JCS report said, for example, “Our assessments rely heavily on analytic assumption and judgment rather than hard evidence. The evidentiary base is particularly sparse for Iraqi nuclear programs.”
The report had a similar conclusion about chemical weapons, saying that the Iraqis “lack the precursors for sustained nerve agent production” and “we cannot confirm the identity of any Iraqi sites that produce final chemical agent.” And about biological weapons: “We cannot confirm the identity of any Iraqi facilities that produce, test, fill, or store biological weapons.”
Just a month before the JCS intelligence report, Cheney had declared, “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” Did the lack of evidence discussed in the JCS report cause the Bush regime to slow down or back away from their campaign for war on Iraq based on alleged WMD? From looking at what actually happened, it’s clear they did the opposite.
Just a month after Rumsfeld’s note to the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Bush declared publicly that Iraq “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.”
The mainstream media was mobilized to play their part. A major front-page article by Judith Miller in the New York Times on Sunday, September 8—three days after Rumsfeld’s memo—was headlined “U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts” and warned of “Iraq’s push to improve and expand Baghdad’s chemical and biological arsenals,” which “have brought Iraq and the United States to the brink of war.” The Times piece cited “anonymous” Bush administration officials and defectors from the Saddam Hussein regime as sources. This was a blatant example of how the media under this system works: top government officials provide the “spin” they want out in the public, and their propaganda instruments—posing as “objective” media—report this as “news.”
Following the Times front-page piece, top Bush officials—Cheney, Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice—appeared on the major TV network Sunday news shows to talk up the Iraq WMD “threat.” Rice cited the Times story to issue an ominous warning: “The first sign of a ‘smoking gun’ [for Iraqi WMD] ... may be a mushroom cloud.”
In February 2003, shortly before the invasion, Colin Powell appeared at the UN to declare, “The facts and Iraq’s behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction.” He held up a fake vial of poison anthrax to dramatize the U.S. claims about Saddam Hussein’s biological weapons and waved around documents he said contained “proof” of Iraq’s WMD programs.
Top leaders of the Democratic Party were part of pushing the WMD hype. Hillary Clinton, for one, claimed, “If left unchecked Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capability to wage biological and chemical warfare and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.”
Based on the WMD lies—and other outright lies, like the claim that Saddam Hussein was linked with the 9/11 attacks—the U.S. invaded Iraq, starting with the massive “Shock and Awe” bombing that terrorized Baghdad, a city of seven million people. The U.S. overthrew the Hussein regime—and then occupied the country for the next eight-and-a-half years.
The newly revealed document shows the U.S. intelligence actually pointed to the real situation—that Saddam Hussein had no WMD. But the U.S. rulers went ahead with the war, driven by the aims and needs of their empire. In the years before the September 11, 2001 attacks, powerful forces in the U.S. ruling class were pushing for major moves internationally in response to rising challenges to the empire: to defeat anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalist forces, overthrow states (like Iraq’s Hussein regime) not fully under U.S. control, and restructure the entire Middle East/Central Asia regions in line with U.S. imperialist interests. The key figures in the Bush regime saw the 9/11 attacks as an opportunity to jump start the plans for a greater empire. Just hours after the hijacked jets crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld told aides, “Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related [to the attacks] and not.” Afghanistan was the first target in this war for empire. But they already had Iraq in their crosshairs—and facts that ran counter to their WMD justification were not going to deter their agenda.
The reality that the U.S. imperialists have run into big problems with their plans for the region does not make the 2003 invasion any less immoral and criminal. And the lies behind the Iraq War are part of a whole history of U.S. lies to justify wars and military interventions, from the early days of the empire continuing to today.
Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
By Larry Everest | February 1, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The rulers of the U.S. empire are once again facing new difficulties and challenges in the greater Middle East region. Once again they feel compelled to escalate their military intervention—even though their own aggression contributed in a major way to the difficulties they now face, and even as they have few good options and no certain path to victory. Their invasions and bombing campaigns create incredible suffering for the masses of people—something hardly ever discussed in the ruling class’ media. And their invasions exacerbate the global clash between Western imperialism and reactionary Islamic Jihad.
This time it’s in Libya, an oil-rich North African country strategically located on the Mediterranean Sea.
On January 22, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford Jr., stated that the U.S. military was “looking to take decisive military action” against the reactionary jihadist Islamic State, or ISIS, which is now operating and gaining strength in Libya, which is in a state of political chaos without a functioning central government or military command. ISIS now has an estimated 3,000 fighters there, and controls the city of Surt (which lies between Libya’s two largest cities, Tripoli and Benghazi) and 150 miles of Mediterranean coastline.
The exact scope of this “third front” in the war against ISIS (after Iraq and Syria) is not yet clear, but the New York Times reports that for the past year U.S. Special Operations forces have been trying to build alliances with Libyan militias, and that airstrikes and commando raids could start within weeks. (NYT, 11/22)
The U.S. is jumping into Libya at the same time it’s escalating its war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The military is reportedly demanding hundreds more U.S. and allied “trainers, advisers and commandos” on top of the 3,700 U.S. troops already in Iraq. Meanwhile, the U.S. is planning to build a network of military bases “in Africa, Southwest Asia and the Middle East to aid operations against the Islamic State.” This includes new “hubs” in Africa where thousands of U.S. forces are already operating. (New York Times, Jan 29 and Dec 10)
In February 2011, in the context of the “Arab Spring” uprisings in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, sections of Libyan society rose up against Muammar Qadaffi’s oppressive, 42-year-long rule. The Qadaffi regime attempted to violently suppress the protests. The European rulers along with the U.S. saw an opportunity to advance their interests in a region where Western imperialism is under all kinds of pressure and face all kinds of challenges from rivals and ISIS. So under the banner of “humanitarian intervention” to protect Libyan civilians the U.S. and its European allies unleashed a bombing campaign and other operations that led to the fall of the Qadaffi regime by August, 2011. In reality, the U.S. and its allies were waging a war for regime change. For them the Libyan uprising presented the need and opportunity to, as Raymond Lotta analyzed, create an “entirely new neocolonial regime... one that would be a more pliant tool of Western interests.” (For a fuller discussion of the factors behind the decision by the U.S. and European powers to bring down the Qadaffi regime, see “Revolution Interviews Raymond Lotta: The Events in Libya in Historical Perspective... Muammar Qaddafi in Class Perspective... The Question of Leadership in Communist Perspective“).
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
Since Qadaffi’s overthrow, there has been no functioning government in Libya. Instead the country remains split between different reactionary factions—including some 1,700 armed groups and militias—operating in different parts of Libya and fighting each other for turf. Over 4,600 people have been killed in armed clashes in the last two years alone! .
Nearly 2.44 million people—a third of Libya’s population—have been impacted by these reactionary conflicts. There are now shortages of food, water, and electricity. People often can’t get medicines, public services or medical care—even though in the summer of 2015 the UN estimated that 2.5 million Libyans needed health care and some 400,000 needed food aid.
This nightmare has driven nearly a half a million Libyans from their homes—forcing people to live in “unfinished buildings, garages, collective shelters or public spaces.” (“Regrets of a Revolution? Libya After Qaddafi,” Sept. 29, 2015, Frontline).
In 2011, exposing the suffering of the Libyan people served U.S. interests, so the imperialist media daily stoked outrage and indignation over Qadaffi’s crimes and Libya’s humanitarian situation—even warning a “genocide” could take place. Now the people of Libya are suffering a humanitarian disaster of enormous proportions, and the U.S. and it’s European allies are the main factor behind that. More often than not, the rulers of the U.S. invoke or even recognize humanitarian disasters only to serve their imperialist agenda.
Libya’s fragmentation and the expansion of ISIS and other jihadist forces has created even greater and more dangerous challenges for the U.S. and Europe than the 2011 Libyan uprising.
U.S. officials warn that ISIS is trying to consolidate and expand its base area in Libya, and link up with other Islamist and jihadist forces now operating across Africa, including in Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Chad, Sudan and Somalia. “Their threat has grown as Libya—with its ungoverned spaces, oil, ports, and proximity to Europe and the Middle East—becomes a budding hub of operations for both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State to reach deeper into Africa,” the New York Times reports. (Jan. 1) “Libya could present the West with challenges equal to those an American-led coalition faces in fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.” (NYT Jan. 26).
This could accelerate the unraveling of the U.S. dominated order in Africa and the Middle East, where states including Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Mali, and Chad are fragmenting, and threatening to engulf their neighbors, including key U.S. allies like Turkey and Jordan. This, together with the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen and the spread of jihadist forces across the region has the potential to unravel the basic fabric of U.S. and Western imperialist domination of these regions, which has been and remains key to their global power. It has created openings for other reactionary powers to challenge the U.S.
So the U.S. rulers feel compelled to act, and say their new military campaign is aimed at preventing ISIS from consolidating its foothold in Libya and putting a “firewall” between it and other African countries. They do so even realizing the danger their actions will lead to new dangers. The invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq failed and then in Libya overthrowing a government through airpower and covert operations, in hopes of cobbling together a new regime of local pro-imperialist forces, has backfired as well.
So escalating in Libya is a big gamble for the U.S. that could create new problems and difficulties. The New York Times calls the move “deeply troubling,” warning that “Libya’s neighbors are all too weak or unstable to lead or even host a military intervention, and editorializing “A new military intervention in Libya would represent a significant progression of a war that could easily spread to other countries on the continent.”
People need to confront the reality that imperialism’s needs and goals are to dominate and exploit countries like Libya, no matter how much imperialist commanders-in-chief like Obama yammer about democracy and liberating people. And people need to confront the reality—proven by the last 14 years of war—that supporting either imperialism or jihad strengthens both and there’s an urgent need to bring forward another, emancipating path.
All this is why it is urgent now to organize visible resistance to any new war in Libya, to dig deeply into why the U.S. is endlessly waging wars, to face the horrors this has created for hundreds of millions in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa, and get seriously into the liberating communist revolution brought forward and being led by Bob Avakian—BA!
In short, there is a need for people in the U.S. to visibly and energetically oppose the crimes of “our own” rulers—in this case any new war in Libya in the name of combating “terrorism.” And, for a radically positive and liberating alternative to both Western imperialism and reactionary Islamic Jihad to get on the map, around the world.
As we wrote previously in these pages:
“The U.S. and these other imperialists aren’t waging war to “stop terrorism.” They’re conducting wars, military interventions, and maneuvering diplomatically to preserve the system of global capitalist exploitation that they dominate, a system which grinds up, crushes, uproots, and casts off literally billions of people. So when the U.S. acts, they act in order to destroy whatever they happen to feel is in the way of their domination and/or to set up or protect oppressive relations and oppressive regimes which maintain this whole system—including Islamic fundamentalist forces when that serves their purposes....
“Imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism are NOT the only alternatives today. There actually is a viable chance to make revolution and bring into being a radically different, liberating society based on Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism. This revolution will come out of the existing contradictions of the system AND the work of revolutionaries now. This revolution is the ONLY source of real hope in the terrible situation confronting humanity now.
“Strengthening imperialism—the very system responsible for the vast majority of the suffering and destruction on Earth today—including by supporting its wars and military machine—is only going to perpetuate this misery....
“We do all this as part of getting to a whole better world—and right now, in this country, preparing the ground, preparing the people, and preparing the vanguard—getting ready for the time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win. (See “Why We Should NOT Root for Our Own Rulers... And Why It’s Better If They LOSE Their Wars,” Revolution, November 30, 2015)
Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
Washington, DC & San Francisco:
January 25, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Defending abortion rights at the Supreme Court, Washington, DC, January 22, 2016. Photo: Revolution/revcom.us
Sunsara Taylor speaking at the protest at the Supreme Court building.
Bloody pants and chains symbolize women who die or are enslaved when safe legal abortion is not available. Photo: Revolution/revcom.us
Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, protesting at the Supreme Court. Photo: StopPatriarchy.org
Sunsara Taylor with image of Bob Avakian—total revolution against all oppression. Photo: Revolution/revcom.us
January 22 marked the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Before Roe v. Wade, thousands of women in the U.S. were seriously injured or died each year from unsafe illegal abortions. Countless others were forced to bear children they did not want. Roe v. Wade was decided in the context of a tenacious fight by women and others during the social upheaval of the 1960s and early 1970s—as well as the huge economic and social changes affecting the family and the role of women. Ever since, there has been a mounting assault on the right to abortion, spearheaded by Christian fascists and including widespread violence and terror against abortion providers, along with court decisions and state laws placing increasing restrictions on abortion. Each year woman-hating anti-abortion forces mobilize to protest at the Supreme Court. In 2015, and again this year, they were confronted and opposed by defiant people in cities around the country including Washington, DC; San Francisco; Chicago and Austin, TX. Many were organized by Stop Patriarchy, who staged street theater on campuses in New York City and DC to mobilize youth, and there were pro-choice activists from a range of perspectives. The National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority and other groups sent representatives to be present and speak out.
Warning; you are blocking this demonstration. This demonstrates is blocking women's rights! pic.twitter.com/TkEks8i0nR— Stop Patriarchy (@StopPatriarchy) January 22, 2016
Police: "Warning, you are blocking this demonstration." Protesters: "This demonstration is blocking women's rights!"
Sunsara Taylor leads people singing Glory Hallelujah (There Is No God) . Video: StopPatriarchy.org
January 23, San Francisco: Protesters defiantly marched alongside the "Walk for Life," repeatedly confronting the march chanting "Forced Motherhood Is Female Enslavement," and "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology." They were harassed by a huge mobilization of San Francisco police. Photo: Revolution/revcom.us
Two hundred people, overwhelmingly youth, confronted the anti-abortion march in San Francisco. They included students from UC Berkeley, Mills College, City College of San Francisco, San Francisco State, UCLA, and area high schools as well as activists—revolutionary communists, radical feminists—and others. Photo: Revolution/revcom.us
San Francisco, January 23.
Pro-choice demonstrators face down “March for Life” in Chicago.
Photo: Gretchen Rachel Hammond
January 17, 2016: Neither bitter subzero wind chills nor hoards of anti-abortion fanatics, clutching rosaries and photos of bloody fetuses, could dampen the spirits or quell the voices of 200 defiant counter-protesters in front of the federal courthouse, as they faced down the so-called March for "Life," who were amassing across the street. Loud chants rang out across Dearborn Street: "Two, Four, Six, Eight, Abortion Rights in Every State!" and "Pro-Life, Your Name's a Lie, You Don't Care if Women Die!" The counter-protesters—mainly young women, joined by young men and a smattering of older people—had great determination to drown out the anti-abortion rally.
On January 24, two dozen people called together by Stop Patriarchy rallied in Austin, Texas, and confronted thousands of church members who came from across the state in buses. The crew included revolutionary communists, students from the University of Texas and Prairie View A&M University, and some youth who heard about the protest only a day before.
Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
February 1, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This disaster has the fingerprints of the entire system all over it. It shows again that this system is incapable of protecting human health and life and the environment, because it’s not set up and structured to do this but instead is based on private interests and control, profitability, and competition.
(Orpheus Reed, “Porter Ranch Gas Disaster and the Poisonous Lies of the System,” January 18, 2016, at revcom.us)
More than 150 people, nearly all from Porter Ranch, came to hear and protest what they already knew was going to be a kick in the teeth to their number one demand: that the entire Aliso Canyon storage fields be shut down. AP photo
The last of three public hearings held by the Southern California Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) took place Saturday, January 23, at a Hilton Hotel 10 miles from Porter Ranch—the well-to-do community located just below Southern California Gas Company’s (SOCAL) Aliso Canyon gas storage fields in LA’s San Fernando Valley. For the past several months, massive amounts of natural gas have been spewing into the air from a broken gas well.
More than 150 people, nearly all from Porter Ranch, came to hear and protest what they already knew was going to be a kick in the teeth to their number one demand: that the entire Aliso Canyon storage fields be shut down.
Before the meeting, dozens of supporters had stood outside the Hilton with signs, shouting “Shut. It. Down. Now.” But the “abatement order” that had already been agreed to by SOCAL, and was going to be approved at the end of the “hearing,” only calls for shutting down the one well that is leaking, leaving the other 115 wells in the Aliso Canyon field operating. Many of these wells are over 60 years old, corroded, and used in a very risky way by SOCAL gas. When the rest of the wells were inspected after the leak was made public, 15 other wells were found leaking smaller amounts of methane.
The mood at the meeting was serious, tense, and emotional. Many were holding identical signs to Shut It Down Now, repeatedly raising them when people expressed their anger. One woman came with her son and held her hand-made sign everywhere she went for the next six hours: “Stop the Lies, Lies, Lies.” The stories people told us, and the panel of five administrative law judges, were very disturbing.
While the official story is that the leak, the largest natural gas leak in history, began on October 23, people told us of symptoms they had had for months earlier, but had no idea where they were coming from, including headaches, nose bleeds, shortage of breath, vomiting, and fatigue. A woman who has lived there for 49 years said: “We actually had symptoms first; we didn’t know what was causing them; we didn’t make the connection because we hadn’t heard anything about it. I was really concerned with my dad, because of what was going on with his chest, and his heart. I had unusual nose bleeds; and we were all fatigued. There were so many things, but we couldn’t connect the dots until after we found out there was a problem.”
A man from South Asia told the panel, as though describing the cautionary “canary in the coal mine,” about the 40 to 50 hummingbirds in his back yard and finding two or three a day dead on the ground until there were no more: “We have not lived in the house in six weeks. All I’m asking is that something has to be done, that we do not go through this again. We are literally being gassed to death. We would like to breathe air that we cannot smell. That is not too much to ask, is it?”
SOCAL has been assuring everyone that there won’t be any long-term effects from inhaling methane. But there is cancer-causing benzene being released as well. And the long-term effects are not known for mercaptan, the chemical added to make the methane easier to detect, which is what is making people so ill. More than 3,000 families have relocated from Porter Ranch to hotels or temporary houses, and another 2,000 are on the waiting list, more than 60 percent of the entire community.
This Revolution special issue focuses on the environmental emergency that now faces humanity and Earth's ecosystems. In this issue we show:
A 12-year-old boy who is still going to school in Porter Ranch told us: “At times it stinks, like rotten eggs. I get headaches, and I start to sneeze a lot. And when I go to school I can still smell it. And during P.E. I can’t really do as well as usual. My friends at school talk about it; we say they should shut it down. But I heard that the nozzle; they didn’t fix it back then, so they can’t shut it down.”
We were interrupted by his mother, who had come out soon after people began telling their stories to the panel: “I had to come outside, I was getting very emotional. It’s such a scary thing for a mom; and a human. And I’m just shocked that more people aren’t aware of it; it’s going on all over the country and the world, and that’s just terrifying.” She described someone who was found passed out in their garage, lying on the floor. After she relocated to Santa Clarita, the family started feeling better right away. But she still, nervously, drops her son back at his school in Porter Ranch every morning; she has already paid for the school and can’t get her money back.
Copies of the SCAQMD abatement order were there for people at the hearing. Two things stand out about the order: First, that SCAQMD’s answer to the demand of the people of Porter Ranch to shut down the gas field was No! The other is that what they are requiring of SoCal Gas is basically that they monitor the emissions around the facility, check the wells to be sure they aren’t leaking, and look into the long-range impact of breathing the gas! Why is it that only after 60 years in which the wells have been in operation, and decades since they have been breaking down, does it takes a monumental disaster to decide they need to be monitored?
When the panel voted to approve their abatement order, the audience booed the decision. “Shame on you,” one man shouted. A woman yelled, “Move them into the area so they can breathe the air.” And another ran from the room in tears: “I don’t want to get cancer and die.”
* * *
The Aliso Canyon storage fields are an emergency threat to humans. But that’s not how the capitalist system calculates needs and priorities. Aliso Canyon is the largest natural gas storage facility in the western U.S. Oil and gas, fossil fuels that are a huge factor in the environmental emergency and the climate change crisis, are tremendously profitable. Control of the world’s supply and distribution of oil and gas are critical to gaining advantage in the rivalries between global powers, and what the U.S. rulers of this system call “energy self-sufficiency” gives them great advantage. And so the damning testimony at the meeting from people whose lives have been made hellish by the leaks, and who live in the shadow of even greater disaster, was overruled by the needs of the system.
The whole day people’s sense of betrayal was palpable; a feeling of being lied to, and being powerless in the face of much larger forces. We found a lot of openness to a different perspective. More than half left with a copy of the Revolution article on Porter Ranch; and those we spoke with were introduced to and many got copies of Revolution #420, announcing Bob Avakian’s new presentation. A few we spoke with were already familiar with the newspaper, and with BA.
But this required challenging people to step back from a narrow framework, and an individualistic perspective; wanting to believe this was an aberration, a local problem, with a solution within their reach as individuals, or a single community; as opposed to a crisis affecting the planet, and humanity, connected with the other horrors this system is bringing down on the majority of humanity, which will take an actual communist revolution to tackle. A few of those we spoke with, who had already been putting this disaster in the context of the global environmental emergency, and a sense that capitalism was at the root of it, were surprised that there was such a movement, with a leader with such a developed analysis of the problem and the solution, and were open to learning more about it.
Protesters from the “We Are Seneca Lake” movement in upstate New York, in solidarity with the people of Porter Ranch 2,600 miles away. Photo: wearesenecalake.com
Seven protesters, part of the We Are Seneca Lake movement in upstate New York, were arrested in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience on January 18, the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s birthday, in solidarity with the people of Porter Ranch, 2,600 miles away. The protesters, coming from six different counties, held a banner across the roadway leading to old salt mines on the banks of Seneca Lake—one of New York’s five Finger Lakes—“SENECA LAKE TO PORTER RANCH—GAS STORAGE COURTS DISASTER—#SHUT IT ALL DOWN.”
Two years ago the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved an expansion project by the Crestwood Midstream company to turn the salt mines next to Seneca Lake into the largest storage facility for methane and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) in the Northeast, and one of the largest in the country. The We Are Seneca Lake movement was formed at that time to prevent this expansion and the potential for catastrophic accidents such as the one now taking place in Porter Ranch, as well as the risk of salinization of Seneca Lake, which is the source of water for 100,000 people.
The founder of We Are Seneca Lake—Sandra Steingraber, a Distinguished Scholar in Residence in the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Ithaca College—delivered a message to the people of Porter Ranch during the protest—“Seneca Lake Stands with Porter Ranch: Shut It All Down!”—which said in part:
In the last 16 months, there have been 460 arrests on this strip of pavement for civil disobedience in objection to the expansion of underground gas storage in old salt mines on the banks of our beautiful lake. Some of us have gone to jail.
Today, we affirm our network of mutuality with people who live three time zones away in a California community called Porter Ranch....
We know it’s the biggest gas leak in U.S. history. We know it’s an official state of emergency. We know there is no end in sight and there is no clear way to fix it....
Seneca Lake and Porter Ranch are tied in a single garment of destiny. What affects you directly today could affect us directly tomorrow. We look at the myriad injustices that you are now compelled to endure, and we see our own future.... We Are Seneca Lake and we join you in saying, “Shut it all down!”
(Read the entire statement here.)
Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA:
April 25, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors note: We are re-posting important writings from Bob Avakian on the Oppression of Black People and the Struggle to End All Oppression compiled in 2007, which are of continuing relevance.
Introduction from the Sept. 2007 posting of these articles:
Earlier this year, Revolution published a series of excerpts from writings and talks by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, dealing with the bitter reality—and the fundamental source—of the oppression of Black people throughout the history of the U.S., from the days of slavery down to the present time, and pointing to the revolutionary road to ending this oppression, and all forms of oppression and exploitation. Those excerpts were selected for publication for Black History Month, but of course they have great relevance and importance in an ongoing way for the struggle of oppressed people, and the future of humanity as a whole, here and throughout the world.
In this issue of Revolution, we are running two of the excerpts from that series. (The entire series is available online at revcom.us/blackhistorymonth)
We urge our readers to not only dig into the excerpts (and the specific works that are referred to in these excerpts) but to more fully engage the body of work of Bob Avakian. In particular we want to call attention to the DVD of the talk by Bob Avakian, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, which opens with a penetrating, powerful exposure of the crimes of this system against Black people throughout the history of the United States, and shows how all this—and the many other outrages and injustices that people suffer everyday in this society, and in all parts of the world—are rooted in the very nature of the capitalist-imperialist system and can only be abolished through a revolution whose ultimate aim is to sweep away capitalism-imperialism and bring into being a communist world, free of relations of master and slave, in any form. And the 7 Talks, given last year by Chairman Avakian, along with the Q&A and Closing Remarks that follow those Talks, speak in a rich diversity of ways to these and other fundamental questions, including why we're in the situation we're in today and how this relates to the historic challenge of emancipating all humanity from the chains of oppression and exploitation.
These 7 Talks and the Q&A and Closing Remarks are available online at revcom.us.
The following is an excerpt from comments by Bob Avakian in response to a question that was part of the Question and Answer Session following the 7 Talks. (In a few places things have been added, in brackets within the text, for clarity.)
Question: In your talks one of the threads among many is about the oppression of Black people being a foundational part of the way this society formed, the economic base, and the whole way this country developed: the things you have written and talked about—slavery and democracy and the New Deal and the Great Society programs, the conscious policies and the southern politicians.
Your talk on Minstrelsy and how the NBA is an extension of that was very heavy. [Editors' note: The talk referred to here is titled "The NBA: Marketing the Minstrel Show and Serving the Big Gangsters." The audio file of the talk is available online at bobavakian.net or revcom.us.] I am trying to understand this more because it is so intertwined with the society. Related to this is the point about the struggle of Black people being an Achilles heel for the system. Can you comment further.
Bob Avakian: Well, you know, de Tocqueville [19th century French historian and writer, Alexis de Tocqueville], when he came to the U.S. and wrote his book based on his journeys in the U.S. a couple of centuries ago, talked about all the great attributes of democracy in this country, the "enterprise" of the people both in the general sense and in the particular sense of money-making—a lot of the sort of peculiar, but in his view largely positive, characteristics of people in this society. But one thing he said, speaking of the Achilles heel: there is one big fly in the ointment—the whole phenomenon of slavery which could yet be the undoing of this whole thing.
Things have changed a lot over the past two centuries in terms of the composition of the population, in terms of the composition of the proletariat, in terms of the character and "anatomy" of the proletariat—who's in it and where they are working and what their situation is, different strata and stratification within the proletariat, differentiation within the proletariat… The rolling on of the capitalist accumulation process and conscious policy leads to where a lot of Black people are forced out of these positions: the de-industrialization of the urban areas that is now such a marked phenomenon. There is a book by this guy Thomas Sugrue called The Origins of the Urban Crisis where he actually focuses on Detroit, which is a big industrial center where a lot of Black people worked in these big auto plants, like River Rouge and these other big plants. He talks about how the de-industrialization of the inner cities, especially for Black people, began as early as the late 1950s.
But then, you know, capitalism still has its needs internationally and within the U.S., so it brings in these waves of immigrants and exploits them and rewrites or blots out history and turns people against each other. It doesn't tell these immigrants, who see a lot of Black people who've been pushed out of these jobs and are hanging on the corner, "By the way, those people went through this whole process a couple of generations ago; now we've got them in a different position and we're bringing you in so we can exploit you because the dynamics have gone that kind of way and we've developed policy in relation to that." No, they don't tell them that.
Look, let's face it. There are certain things about Black people that a lot of employers don't like these days. There's a lot of defiance. Even though people are desperate economically there's also a certain defiance that's developed historically. It doesn't mean people don't want to work. Someone referred to how you go for a job and there are 500 people applying for the job and you have to try to sell yourself better than the other 499. Every time in a major city when they build a new hotel and announce jobs, thousands of people line up including a lot of Black people, so let's put this in its proper perspective. But there is a certain attitude among the [Black] youth a lot, having watched, for example, older generations going to work and doing all this stuff for "chump change," and getting nowhere with it, and then being flushed out of it…there is a certain "fuck that, I'm not doing that." That doesn't make them so pliant necessarily for capitalist exploitation. So that enters into the picture too. They've had a longer experience here. That doesn't mean they "don't want to work" but there is a certain attitude there, not taking a certain amount of shit. That's still there. Some of it's been beaten down temporarily, but there's still a lot of it there…
And let's face it, you go several generations where a majority of people in some inner city neighborhoods have never had a job, it has an effect. Not because they "didn't want to work" but because this is the workings of capitalism, working on them.
So all these things play into it too.
This is the complexity—we have to understand the complexity of even the proletariat today. That's why I always talk about mobilizing all positive factors. That defiance is a positive factor, even though it comes along with some things that are not so positive, some lack of discipline and other things—even people's conditions are so chaotic it's hard for them to get organized sometimes. These are the realities. The bourgeoisie imposes shit on people, then they attribute the effects of the conditions they have imposed on people—they say that's the result of inherent faults in the people…
So a lot of these questions are very tricky, we have to be very scientific about this. But it's a very complex thing where there are a lot of positive qualities mixed in with negative qualities and we have to learn how to mobilize and synthesize all the positive qualities and use those to overcome the negative ones that exist.
When you work regularly and you're caught up in this "work ethic" and you work hard all the time, even though you are viciously exploited, that has a conservatizing influence also. Everybody who's been in this, who's had any experience with that, knows and is familiar with that.
So you can just look at that negative aspect—or you can look at the positive aspect and try to figure out how to mobilize it toward our objectives.
With all that, with all this system has subjected Black people to, and yes, with the growth of a Black middle class more extensively and its [the system's] attempts to use sections of that Black middle class for not only conservative [purposes] but even to mobilize it even as a reactionary social base, especially through the instrument of religion and Christian fascism, it does remain a fact that this system is fundamentally in conflict with the basic interests even of the Black middle class strata and certainly of the masses of proletarians and other impoverished and exploited and oppressed millions of Black people in the inner cities. It cannot do away with the oppression of these masses of people—and even of the middle strata.
You know it's still true what Malcolm X said 40 years ago: "What do they call a Black man with a PhD? A nigger." This is still America. That's why the phenomenon of "Driving While Black" doesn't just apply to people who are poor. In fact, in some ways, in the eyes of white supremacist police and enforcers of the system, having a better car, if you're in the middle class, is a provocation: "Look at that uppity nigger, driving that BMW in here." That's an invitation to be pulled over and minimally harassed.
This is built into this system and they do not have any answer to this other than to mislead people, to subject them to conditions of insult and oppression and to brutalize them as necessary to enforce all that. Even programs that have genocidal implications. When you're already imprisoning a huge section of Black people in the country, there's a logic and it's being formulated now in beginning ways consciously as policy that's being articulated; there's a logic that, "Why should we spend all this money housing all these people who are harmful to society in a prison?" Pat Robertson openly talked about the implications: "Let's get a different penal system and kill off a lot of these people. Let's publicly flog people who commit minor crimes"—this is literally what he said—"and let's kill the ones who put a 'stain' on society."
So there are genocidal implications to this too. They don't have an answer to this, they have a people [Black people], of tens of millions now—they don't have an answer, even for the middle class, that can get rid of all this oppression and all this daily insult. And that's part of a bigger mix, within the proletariat and more broadly in society, but it is an explosive contradiction for them [the ruling class]. That's why it keeps exploding, it's dry timber lying around—whenever a match hits it, it goes up. Or not whenever, but often.
Because there is accumulation of these daily outrages and insults, and finally—it's interesting—you take the 1992 rebellion. I've spoken to this before. Why did that break out the way it did? Not just because of a cumulative, day after day adding up of insult and injury but—here's an interesting thing to understand, an important thing to understand–-it's because expectations were raised and then smashed. There's nothing particularly unique about the Rodney King phenomenon, nothing at all—except it got caught on videotape. And then the masses of people, Black people and others, but particularly Black people, felt, "Now we're finally gonna see something happen here, because finally we caught these motherfuckers! Somebody was there with a videotape! This goes on all the time and they always excuse it or just deny that it happened—but here it is, and they can't deny it and can't excuse it."
I remember hearing stories about how the youth would go up to Westwood by the UCLA campus and go out in the street and taunt the police: "What are you gonna do now, motherfucker, we got you on tape now." [ Laughter]
And then they had the trial and what happened? They said, "Well, who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes? Yes, there's that beating on the tape, but don't you see how Rodney King is `controlling the situation?' All he has to do is lie there and they'll stop beating him." Of course, when he did lie there, they didn't stop beating him.
[Then] they went to Ronald Reagan land, Simi Valley, and got a jury out of a neighborhood that a lot of cops live in.
By the way, one of the reasons that OJ Simpson did get acquitted, whether he actually committed this crime or not, is because of the rebellion, just to show the interconnection of things. Because they didn't dare do in that trial what they did in the Rodney King trial and move it out of the inner city to a suburban area where they could get a more favorable jury. They ended up with a jury from the inner city. And here's what infuriated a lot of people, by the way, just as long as we're going at it. I know I'm not supposed to talk so long [ laughter]—I'll try to be brief on this point and bring it to a conclusion. They got a jury that infuriated a lot of people by doing what jurors are supposed to do: They listened to the evidence and said, "Well, there's reasonable doubt here—clearly the prosecution has fabricated evidence and we have perjury on the part of some of its key witnesses, so there is reasonable doubt." What an outrage! But they wouldn't have had a jury that even did that—it's not, by the way, for good or for ill, that Black juries won't convict Black people of crimes, they do it all the time—but in this case they did what they were supposed to do, according to the legal procedures, and that became a big outrage.
But that would have never happened had it not been for the rebellion. They would have had the trial somewhere else. So sometimes the masses lose sight of even their own accomplishments. It's not that OJ Simpson is such a great guy or that I know he's innocent—or guilty for that matter. But it was a verdict that did correspond to what the verdict should have been, and it never would have happened had it not been for the rebellion.
But why did the rebellion happen? Because expectations were raised and then dashed and smashed. That became just too much. "Even when we've caught you motherfuckers on tape, you still gonna go ahead and do what you do. Well, fuck you."
This is after years of accumulation of outrage and insult… Not that we want to just tail behind all these things—even while we uphold them firmly. I meant everything I said in the statement I issued at the time about what a beautiful thing this [rebellion] was. But it's not what we need to get rid of the daily insults and outrages. We need a revolutionary movement.
And it's not that this movement could be or should be limited to Black people. But there will never be a revolutionary movement in this country that doesn't fully unleash and give expression to the sometimes openly expressed, sometimes expressed in partial ways, sometimes expressed in wrong ways, but deeply, deeply felt desire to be rid of these long centuries of oppression. There's never gonna be a revolution in this country, and there never should be, that doesn't make that one key foundation of what it's all about. Even while it's not limited to that and we can't think this is the same as the 1960s, even in terms of the position of Black people and what spontaneously that leads them to do, or just romanticize something like the [1992 Los Angeles] rebellion and think that's enough. We have to build a revolutionary movement and take it where it needs to go.
And when the time is right and we can bring a revolutionary people of millions onto the stage, we have to go for power—state power—so we can change all these things and get rid of all this and move beyond all this: not just the oppression of Black people but that [as one of] the key things.
We have an answer for this that the bourgeoisie does not and cannot. And this has to be brought home to people—not just to Black people but to all oppressed and exploited people and to the broad people of all strata as a crucial part of our revolution.
First of all, we have to recognize the material reality of this. And then act on it. [ Applause]
(originally published in the Revolutionary Worker [now Revolution] #894, February 16, 1997)
This system has decisively and fundamentally failed—betrayed—Black people at crucial turning points in its history. And in particular we can identify two crucial turning points after slavery was defeated in the Civil War.
In the period after the Civil War, during the very short-lived experience of Reconstruction—this was a period that lasted really for only about ten years, more or less from 1867 to 1877—the federal army, the Union army, remained in the South after the war as the enforcers of very real and significant reforms that were carried out, both in the economic base and in the political superstructure.
Today you see the Spike Lee films, and they have a reference to "forty acres and a mule"—this was the promise of land (and the basic means to work the land) that was made to Black people during the Civil War. Land ownership was at that time crucial for Black people to have as some kind of economic "anchor" and basis for them to resist being forced back into conditions of virtual if not literal slavery, of serf-like oppression, on the southern plantations.
Along with "forty acres and a mule," other economic and political rights were promised to Black people. And in fact during the brief period of Reconstruction, while the full promise of these rights was never realized, there were significant changes and improvements in the lives of Black people in the South. The right to vote and to hold office, and some of the other Constitutional rights that are supposed to apply to the citizens of the U.S., were partly, if not fully, realized by former slaves during Reconstruction. And in fact some Black people were elected to high office, though never the highest office of governor, in a number of southern states.
This was very sharply contradictory. The armed force of the state, as embodied in the federal army, was never consistently applied to guarantee these rights, and in fact it was often used to suppress popular struggles aimed at realizing these rights. But there was a kind of a bourgeois-democratic upsurge in the South during this period, and it not only involved the masses of Black people but also many poor white people and even some middle class white people in the South. During these ten years of Reconstruction, with all the sharp contradictions involved, there was a real upsurge and sort of flowering of bourgeois-democratic reforms. This was not the proletarian revolution, but at that time it was very significant.
In 1877, all this was reversed and betrayed. The bourgeoisie had gotten what it needed out of this situation: it had consolidated its hold over the country as a whole; it had consolidated its dominant position economically and politically within the South as well as the North and West.
Many of the old plantation owners were now beginning to move back in and take control of their own plantations, now involving exploitation in basically a feudal (or semi-feudal) form, and millions of Black people in particular were forced into sharecropping and similar relations of exploitation and were reduced to a serf-like condition, which was enforced by a whole system of legal and extra-legal terror. At the same time, banking and other capital from the North had bought into much of the southern economy and was intermingled with the plantation system, as well as other facets of the southern economy, on many different levels. So this whole bourgeois-democratic upsurge that marked Reconstruction was beginning to be a serious threat to the bourgeoisie, as well as to the southern planters. The northern-based capitalists had less and less interest in protecting, or even tolerating, this upsurge. They certainly didn't want to see it continue to grow and perhaps get out of their control more fully.
So in 1877 something very dramatic happened. The federal army was withdrawn from the South and the masses of Black people were stripped of even the partial economic and political gains they had made and were subjugated in the most brutal ways and once again chained to the plantations, only now essentially in peonage instead of outright slavery. And the federal troops that were withdrawn from the South were immediately used in two ways: one, to crush major strikes of what at that time was essentially a white labor movement; and two, to carry further the genocide against the Indians and to finish the job of driving those who survived into these concentration camps of poverty called "reservations" and force them to stay there. Here, once again, we see a very dramatic example of how the ruling class divided and conquered different groups of people it oppressed. And one of the sharpest examples, and real tragedies, of this is how some Black people became Buffalo soldiers fighting the Indians at the very time that Reconstruction was being betrayed.
But the larger point I am emphasizing is that here was a situation involving a major turning point in U.S. history where the question was posed very decisively: Can Black people and will Black people actually be "absorbed," or integrated, or assimilated into this society on a basis of equality? Will not only slavery, but the after-effects of slavery, be systematically addressed, attacked and uprooted…or not? And the answer came thunderously through—NO!—this will not be done. And there was a material reason for that: it could not be done by the bourgeoisie without tearing to shreds their whole system.
Instead they re-chained Black people—not in literal chains, but in economic chains of debt and other forms of economic exploitation and chains of both legal and extra-legal oppression and terror. So this was one major turning point where the system fundamentally failed and betrayed Black people. And everyone, not only Black people, but proletarians of all nationalities and the masses of people broadly, should understand this very clearly—with a dialectical and historical materialist stand, method and viewpoint.
The other crucial turning point in which the system once again failed and betrayed Black people was in the period after World War 2, with the upsurge of the Civil Rights Movement. Here was a situation where changes in the world economy and world "geopolitics," as well as changes within the U.S. economy, brought about a very dramatic and rapid upheaval in the situation of millions of Black people.
Everybody knows about the mass migrations of Black people from the southern plantations, particularly during and especially after World War 2. During the 1950s and 1960s, millions of Black people moved from southern plantations to the urban areas, particularly of the North but also in the South. And as we pointed out in Cold Truth Liberating Truth, the very system which first held Black people in literal enslavement, and then held them in serf-like exploitation in sharecropping and other forms—the same ruling class for whom this was profitable because of the particularities of the bourgeois mode of production in the U.S.—this same system and ruling class turned around after World War 2 and drove them off the land, with no consideration for all the labor that they'd put into this land, and everything they'd produced out of it.
Now today you hear all this shit attacking affirmative action—"Well, it's not fair, my child went and took an SAT and got a high score but then they lost out in getting admitted to the college of their choice, because some Black person with a lower SAT score got admitted, blah, blah, blah." When I hear this kind of ignorant railing and whining I am reminded of something I saw on a videotape of the PBS series "The Promised Land," which focused on the migration of Black people from Mississippi to Chicago and their experiences in both the North and the South.
This series told the story in general historical terms—examining the social phenomenon I'm talking about, the mass migration of Black people to the North after World War 2. It focused on people who migrated from Mississippi to Chicago—this mass migration also led people to Detroit, to Cleveland, and so on. But it also portrayed this history in personal terms. Several people were interviewed and recounted stories that showed how and why they left the South and what they encountered in the North. And the story one Black man told really struck me, particularly in light of all this nonsense being whipped up against affirmative action.
This man talked about the way the sharecropping system worked. Not only was there the "normal" and ongoing exploitation of the sharecroppers, but they were swindled on top of that. Under the sharecropping system, the land would be owned by The Man, and he would advance you the seed and the other things you need to plant and harvest for that year. Everything was basically owned by him, including the land the sharecropper lived on and farmed—and at the end of the year there'd be an accounting. You would turn over the harvest to him, and then you'd get back a certain amount. In this case it was sort of modified sharecropping, where you wouldn't get your payment "in kind," that is, in the very things you had grown and produced, but you'd get it back in the form of money. That's the way the sharecropping system worked in the southern U.S. at the time, and from this you can see why you just couldn't get up and leave if you were dissatisfied and felt exploited and cheated—you were in debt from the beginning to the end of the year. You were always in debt.
So, not only was there this ongoing exploitation that was built into, institutionalized and legitimized in the sharecropping system as such, but there was also outright swindling. After all, the same Man who owned everything, also kept the books—and he also owned the store when you had to buy everything and so on. And he was always cheating the sharecroppers, on top of exploiting them viciously in the first place.
Now one year later, the father of the man telling this story, after having worked all year, went in on the day of accounting and asked for his money for the year. And the plantation Man cheated him. He inflated the cost of everything—all the farm supplies and the food and clothes for the family he had forced the family to buy from him. And then he said, "Here's what you're owed now." It was a ridiculously miserable little sum. The Black sharecropper had been swindled on top of exploited. But, that wasn't all. The Man then told him, "Yes, this is how much you're owed, but I can't pay you this year, because I'm using it to send my son to college." Now if that ain't affirmative action for white supremacy, I don't know what it is! And the sharecropper who had been cheated, on top of swindled, on top of exploited, said, "You mean to tell me I worked all this time trying to feed my children and put shoes on their feet, and now you tell me I can't even do that because you're going to send your son to college with the money that I'm supposed to have earned out of doing all this."
So, I don't want to hear any more of this shit about affirmative action being an unfair advantage for the oppressed.
But getting back to the period of the Civil Rights upsurge, beginning in the mid-'50s and on into the '60s. Once more there is a crucial turning point. We had slavery and we had Reconstruction and that was betrayed. Then there was the whole serf-like, sharecropping plantation system that followed after slavery, with the KKK and all the rest of that terror. But in the '50s and '60s something new was coming on the agenda—the question of real equality and equal rights for everybody, and abolishing this segregation and Jim Crow and all this discrimination.
That's the demand that was being raised at that time—that's the question that was "up" at that time. And what happened? Well, certain formal aspects of Jim Crow laws and outright legal segregation, certain overt "apartheid" principles that denied Black people even formal equality under the law, where the word of a Black person was not equal to that of a white person in legal proceedings, and so on—these things were abolished.
But the question only has to be asked, in order to answer itself: Was anything approximating full equality realized by Black people—did the system open up and make this a reality?
NO! Despite all the tremendous and heroic struggle and sacrifice by masses of Black people (and others who supported them) in this period, the answer was still NO!
Once more the system that for centuries had chained them to the southern plantations, now kicked them off the land because of the changes in southern farming and the U.S. economy overall, together with changes in world economics and geopolitics.
For this system, this massive Black farm labor was no longer necessary, as such, but had become superfluous. So millions of Black people went into the cities, where they were segregated and super-exploited in the lowest sections of the proletariat.
Another dimension of this situation was brought out very powerfully in a speech by Carl Dix, where he talks about his own experience working in a steel mill in the Baltimore area. When he got hired on there, he was immediately shunted right into the shit job in the foundry where all the Black workers were concentrated. And he was talking to this older Black worker—here's another story that shines some light on this affirmative action question and so-called "reverse discrimination!"—and this older Black worker told Carl about how he'd been there 25 years and was still stuck in this same miserable department, with the hardest work and the lowest wages and the least security, even though he had his 25 years seniority. And he further went on to tell Carl about how he had trained all these white people that came in, who then on the basis of the training he gave them were promoted and got these higher paying and more skilled jobs; yet he never got out of that lousy department. Now, if that ain't affirmative action for white supremacy, what is it?! So, I don't want to hear, once again, any more of this reactionary assault on affirmative action, because we're the longest way from having equality, to say nothing of unfair advantage for the oppressed, whatever that would mean.
The fact is, as Cold Truth Liberating Truth puts it, discrimination is not working "in reverse"; it is working in the same direction, the same ways it has always worked throughout the history of the U.S.: to promote and enforce white supremacy and male supremacy.
Now, looking at this in broad historical terms. Here were these major turning points—after the Civil War and then again after World War 2, with Reconstruction and then with the Civil Rights Movement—where the question was sharply, directly, and decisively posed: will the system give everybody equal rights? And the system answered NO! It was not simply a matter that the ruling class would not do this, but more profoundly it was the fact that they could not. They could not because it would have torn up their whole system, it would have undermined their whole economic base and their whole superstructure to do this.
Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
From the Stop Mass Incarceration Network:
Updated February 1, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
New York City, Rescheduled to February 6, 12 pm-8 pm
Project Reach, 39 Eldridge Street, 4th floor, between Hester & Canal
Facebook Event Page
Los Angeles, Saturday, January 30, 2 pm
Echo Park United Methodist Church, 1226 N. Alvarado Street
San Francisco Bay Area, Sunday, January 31, 2 pm-5 pm
2501 Harrison Street @ 28th Street, Oakland
Charlotte, NC, Southeast Regional conference January 31 1:00 pm - 6:00 pm
UNC Charlotte Student Activity Center (SACS) 3rd Floor Salon
The conference is co-sponsored by: Safe Coalition NC, the student chapter of the NAACP, Stop Mass Incarceration Network NC
Chicago Midwest Regional Conference Saturday January 23, 12 noon to 6:00 pm Trinity Episcopal Church, 125 East 26th St., Chicago, IL 60616
See "Stop Mass Incarceration Network Midwest Regional Conference" for a report back from the Chicago conference.
Rise Up! Get Organized to STOP Police Terror and Mass Incarceration!
COME TO REGIONAL CONFERENCES OF THE STOP MASS INCARCERATION NETWORK & BE PART OF BUILDING THE ORGANIZATION AND FORGING THE PLANS TO TAKE THE MOVEMENT OF RESISTANCE TO POLICE TERROR TO A HIGHER LEVEL!
Police continue to murder people all across the country without letup and the whole system continues to go into motion to exonerate these killer cops. The more the truth of how widespread this horror is gets brought out into the open, the more it calls into question the whole way this system carries out policing and law enforcement. The horror of police getting away with murder concentrates the genocidal assault of mass incarceration, police terror and the criminalization of whole sections of people. All this is illegitimate and unacceptable. It must be STOPPED! Stopping this is going to take a movement of mass, defiant and determined resistance, one that ultimately numbers in the millions.
Rise Up October contributed significantly to building this kind of movement, impacting society in a major way, shining a spotlight on police terror in the U.S. Quentin Tarantino spoke the truth at Rise Up October and didn’t back down when police unions across the country went on a rampage with threats targeting him. People stepped out to support Tarantino and his exposure of murders done by police spread the reverberations of Rise Up October nationally and internationally. The storm of protests that followed the release of the videos of police murdering people in Chicago point to what needs to be done—People taking to the streets and defiantly calling for these horrors to STOP! This has forced the authorities there to defend the legitimacy of their system and its brutality. We need to make these regional conferences a big step toward forging the kind of resistance that can call into question the whole criminal “injustice” system in this country.
In the 1960s, massive movements of resistance developed opposing the oppression of Black people, the war in Vietnam, the oppression of women, etc. A key element in the rise of those movements were students throwing themselves into the struggles on these fronts. The same needs to happen today to make the movement to STOP police terror powerful enough to end this horror. The struggles against racism that erupted on the campus of the University of Missouri and swept all across the country shows the potential for this happening. We have to take the campuses by storm, enlisting students in the fight to stop murder by police.
Our regional conferences will bring together the forces who want to act to STOP police terror. A key focus has to be everyone who participated in RiseUpOctober (RUO) and everyone who was impacted by it. The conferences will put before people the need to take the movement to STOP police terror to a higher level and that taking this struggle to the campuses is a key part of doing that. AND the conferences will forge the organization and make the plans, including fundraising plans, to take these critical steps. This means forming SMIN chapters on campuses, joining SMIN chapters where they exist or, in the case of organizations, affiliating with SMIN.
Each conference will develop a plan for the No More Stolen Lives tour in their area which will include the following elements. (See accompanying letter on the tour.)
* who will be on the tour,
* what campuses the tour will go to,
* other events that can be done as part of this tour (speaking in communities, at religious institutions, media, etc.),
* how these tours will be led,
* how to generate the funds needed to make these tours happen, and
* how to leave organization in the wake of the tour—SMIN chapters formed on campuses, people joining SMIN chapters where they already exist and organizations affiliating with SMIN.
The conferences will also make beginning plans for the National Student Strike/Day of Action in April and determine how to build up to making that as powerful as possible.
Each conference also has to assess the situation in their region to determine what struggles need to be taken up as part of taking the movement of resistance to police terror to a higher level.
And each conference will develop plans to raise the funds necessary to make all this happen and form a working group to spearhead the fundraising efforts and coordinate with the national office to make this happen.
Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
Updated January 30, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
More than 80 people came together at the Midwest Regional Conference of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) on January 23. They made plans and took steps to get organized to take the resistance to STOP police terror to a higher level as part of nationwide efforts focused on the No More Stolen Lives tour on key campuses and a National Student Strike against Police Terror in April. Plans were also made for a powerful day of resistance in Chicago on March 2 that draws the line: Stolen Lives Families Demand Justice, STOP POLICE MURDER—WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? Indict ALL the Killer Cops and Everybody Who Covers Up Their Crimes.
The national SMIN call for regional conferences painted the picture of why we must act in the face of the attempts by the powers that be to suppress the movement to stop police terror: “Police continue to murder people all across the country without letup, and the whole system continues to go into gear to exonerate these killer cops. The more the truth of how widespread this horror is gets brought out in the open, the more it calls into question the whole way this system carries out policing and law enforcement. The horror of police getting away with murder concentrates the genocidal assault of mass incarceration, police terror and the criminalization of whole sections of people. All this is illegitimate and unacceptable. It must be STOPPED! Stopping this is going to take a movement of mass, defiant and determined resistance, one that ultimately numbers in the millions.”
More than 30 people drove in from St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, Waukegan, Illinois, and Madison, Wisconsin, and one person flew in from Florida. There were 18 family members of 13 loved ones killed by police, four from Chicago and 14 from other cities, who have been fighting for justice for their own—some for years and years, and for all the victims of police murder. They gave a powerful and moving picture at the beginning of the conference of the human loss and devastation caused by police murder and a living testimony that these are not “isolated incidents.” There was a strong voice from family members that THIS MUST STOP and that it will take nationwide determined resistance among broad sections of the people to stop it. This was echoed by a heartfelt positive response from the audience that included members of the Revolution Clubs from Cleveland and Chicago, people who participated in RiseUpOctober, and those who have been part of the upsurge of protests in Chicago and Cleveland. Well over half the crowd was African-American, including people from the most oppressed neighborhoods, as well as middle class people.
The keynote speaker was Carl Dix from the Revolutionary Communist Party and co-initiator of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and RiseUpOctober. (See video of the speech on this page.) He spoke to the emergency situation we are in where police terror is the spearhead of the genocidal assault on Black and Latino people that includes mass incarceration of more than two million, the criminalization of youth, and even the poisoned water in Flint, Michigan. He exposed the situation in Chicago after the Laquan McDonald video was released, how the people poured into the streets, and how the authorities, chiefly Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who seemed to have it so together have been scrambling to try to deal with the crisis of legitimacy by promising a few reforms as more and more of their crimes and cover-ups come out. (See coverage at revcom.us: The Police Murder of Laquan McDonald in Chicago and the Coverup—The Whole Damn System Is Guilty as Hell!) Dix spoke of the youths to whom the system has denied any decent education or jobs or future, and who are pushed by this situation to fight each other, and then the authorities use that to justify using the police as an occupying army.
There is an answer to all this, Dix said. The only real chance, not only for our youth but for billions of oppressed people around the world, lies in revolution, communist revolution, as envisioned by Bob Avakian (BA), the leader of the revolution, who has deeply examined the biggest questions facing humanity of how we can actually take on this system and make a revolution to free humanity. Dix said, “If you like the work that I've done, who do you think led us to take up this fight? BA.” He said that BA has given his heart to the people, and challenged people to get into BA’s new major work, The Science, the Strategy, the Leadership for an Actual Revolution, and a Radically New Society on the Road to Real Emancipation.
Carl Dix then put forward the national plans for a No More Stolen Lives tour on campuses and a National Student Strike against Police Terror in April, plus a powerful day of “No Business as Usual as Long as Murdering Police Walk Free” in Chicago: STOP POLICE MURDER—WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? And Indict ALL the Killer Cops and Everybody Who Covers Up Their Crimes. He said, “There is a place for everyone in this fight against police terror: religious people and atheists, communists and nationalists, young and old. The only test is: DO YOU WANT TO SEE POLICE MURDER END?”
Work groups made plans for the national No More Stolen Lives tour and the National Student Strike, focused on campuses in Chicago and other places in the Midwest, and for fundraising and social media for the tour. The Stolen Lives families were a strong moral force at the conference, as they were at RiseUpOctober, in bringing out the reality of the epidemic of police murder and why everybody must stand up against it. A number of family members volunteered to be part of the national tour and will play a crucial role.
Some key schools to focus on for the tour were identified, and people volunteered to go to students and professors on those campuses. A sharp contradiction at the conference was that the student presence was very weak. There is great need to immediately transform this situation by reaching out to and struggling with students to oppose police terror and pose why “Which Side Are You On?” needs to be a sharp dividing line on campuses, and on the role students must play in standing up to stop police terror. This tour must shake things up on the campuses, and far beyond that, to build resistance at other campuses and much broader into society so that nobody can stand aside from taking a stand.
Some of the discussion and contention among groups at the conference was over why the focus of the national plans for the tour and strike is to STOP POLICE TERROR—what is the urgency of that question as the spear point of genocidal attacks on Black and Latino people affecting all of society versus why not make the focus school closings and cuts, or violence among the people? Why make colleges the main focus of the tour and not high schools? Should the tour go to campuses where most of the students are white? How can it be a major galvanizing factor in building for a nationwide student strike against police murder in April?
People enthusiastically volunteered to make this happen in cities in the whole region. The fundraising and social media group planned for an online campaign to raise funds specifically for the regional No More Stolen Lives tour, reaching out broadly with what this tour is about and what the money will specifically fund, such as travel expenses for speakers and materials. People shared local fundraising experiences and there also were plans for local fundraising projects.
The second session at the conference took up two things: 1) building ongoing organization for local and campus SMIN chapters, as well as regional and national SMIN chapters, and 2) plans for powerful actions in Chicago on March 2. The group on organization discussed the question of why it is necessary to form SMIN chapters, and what's the relationship between SMIN and the revolution. There was a need to make clear what the mission of SMIN chapters is, and the basic guidelines for what to do to get organized and recognized as a chapter.
The conference decided to make Wednesday, March 2, a powerful day of resistance in Chicago in answer to the attempts by the powers that be to suffocate the anger and resistance of the people through repression and false promises. We have to say “NO, WE WILL NOT GET USED TO POLICE TERROR, WE ARE NOT WAITING FOR REFORMS.” There was some controversy about disrupting the routines of those impacted by the Day of Resistance. Most people agreed that this is an urgent situation and the line needs to be sharply drawn for everybody from all ages and all walks of life—city, suburbs, and beyond to take a stand to STOP POLICE MURDER—WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? Indict ALL the Killer Cops and Everybody Who Covers Up Their Crimes. The whole system is guilty.
This day will have two major actions:
To learn more about the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and get involved, go to stopmassincarceration.net.
Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
February 1, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Photo: Special to revcom.us/Revolution
Noche Diaz entered Manhattan Criminal Court January 27 facing four criminal charges and several violations arising from New York City protests in August and November 2014 in response to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Noche could have been sent to Rikers Island—the huge NYC prison notorious for brutal treatment of prisoners—for up to two years if convicted.
Noche and supporters from the Revolution Club, the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, and other organizations were ready for a trial. Instead, the district attorney dropped all the criminal charges and Noche pleaded guilty to one violation.
When the judge asked him if he wished to speak before sentencing, Noche took the courtroom back to the time in 2014 when cries for justice ringing out from Ferguson shook the earth. He was surrounded by extra court officers gathered behind as he faced the judge, the prosecutors staring at him.
Noche spoke in a loud, clear, firm voice as the full courtroom got quiet: “We have seen dragged into the light a bloody epidemic of police, all over this country, carrying out murder after murder, especially of Black people, Latinos, Native Americans, and other oppressed people. Yet over this same period of time, we still see, all across the land, prosecutors and courts and grand juries refuse to even bring charges or put on trial, let alone convict, the police who carry out this murder.”
His allocution (formal statement by a defendant before a court) lasted several minutes, as people awaiting appearances—almost completely Black and Latino—were murmuring, snapping, yelling “yeah!” As Noche finished, the judge asked, somewhat incredulously, “You’re saying you did not commit a crime?” He replied, “I did not commit a crime. I committed the violation of blocking traffic!”
Applause and some laughter rang out. Although court officers jumped to tell the crowd to be quiet, there was jubilation in the air. Noche would not have to go through a trial, and he had made a defiant statement. People in the room said they had never heard anything like this before in court and felt Noche was speaking for them in calling out police terror and mass incarceration.
Outside the court later, Noche read his allocution. He spoke of others around the country and in the crowd facing trials for protests during #RiseUpOctober and said that “nothing for the oppressed has ever been won without struggle, and that struggle has always had to come up against attacks from the authorities who carry out that oppression. To advance and win anything, that repression is going to have to be met, and more, to actually win anything and put an end to it, people are going to need revolutionary leaders who bring them a real way out. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since I got connected up with Bob Avakian and the science, the strategy, and leadership for an actual revolution to bring this system down... and to replace this system with something that’s emancipatory for people.” He invited everyone to come Sunday, January 31, to the important meeting on the Six Resolutions of the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Noche was sentenced to 10 days of community service, with no criminal record. For days before this victory, supporters had been writing and calling the district attorney, demanding that the charges be dropped. Many pointed out that the NYPD cop who killed Eric Garner in 2014 has not done a minute in jail, having not even been charged, while Noche has been arrested twice in nonviolent protests against the killing of Garner and Mike Brown.
Noche and supporters outside the court. Photo: Special to revcom.us/Revolution
This outpouring from supporters—including clergy, academics and professionals as well as activists—was part of a struggle lasting 17 months. When thousands of dollars were required to bail him out after the November 2014 arrest, people ran to ATMs to quickly donate enough to keep the court from transferring him to the dangerous jail at Rikers Island. Many showed up for court appearances, signed petitions, and invited Noche to speak as part of politically defending him.
The legal battle went through some twists. As it is a defendant’s right to know what evidence the state has against him, Noche’s lawyers filed motions for discovery, seeking to expose what surveillance by the NYPD or other law enforcement had been carried out on Noche and the political movement to stop police terror. In response, the city quietly dropped some of the charges against Noche, but brought new charges, saying eight months after the fact that he had touched a cop. But they never did answer the discovery motion. Particularly after TheIntercept.com published NYPD documents in August 2015 showing surveillance of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, it is outrageous that the city, up until the day the trial was scheduled, refused to reveal this information.
January 27, 2016
Looking back to the time of my arrest, August 2014, something very old was giving birth to something new. Michael Brown was another unarmed Black youth gunned down by this system’s authorities, another addition to the body count in the centuries old oppression of Black people in America. But the defiant rebellion of the youth, which would catch fire across the land, ushered in new waves of resistance to this oppression not seen in far too long.
The cries for justice ringing out from a little town called Ferguson shook the earth. It was the responsibility of every person with a moral conscience and heart for justice to make sure they knew their cries were heard. And since this time, we have seen dragged into the light a bloody epidemic of police, all over this country, carrying out murder after murder, especially of Black people, Latinos, Native Americans, and other oppressed people. Yet over this same period of time, we still see, all across the land, prosecutors and courts and grand juries refuse to even bring charges or put on trial, let alone convict, the police who carry out this murder—all while people who protest these injustices face charges and are accused of all sorts of crimes.
I COMMITTED NO CRIME. What I DID do, going back to August 14, 2014, is attend a vigil for Michael Brown. I took silence to defiance when I led a march of hundreds, which became nearly 2,000, into the streets and straight to the heart of Times Square. The normal hustle and bustle which usually marks the passage of “business as usual” was punctuated when I, along with those 2,000 or so, filled the streets of Times Square and brought traffic to a halt, thus blocking traffic.
At this point the judge interjected: “Are you saying you did not commit a crime?”
Noche replied: “I did not commit a crime, I committed the violation of blocking traffic!”
Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
From a member of the Atlanta Revolution Club:
February 1, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On January 21, the cop who killed Anthony Hill last March in DeKalb County outside Atlanta was indicted for murder. First, some background: In March of last year, the Atlanta Revolution Club wrote to Revolution newspaper to report on the murder of Anthony Hill by DeKalb County police in a city just east of Atlanta:
On Monday, March 9, Anthony Hill, a 27-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by white DeKalb County (in the Atlanta metro area) police officer Robert Olsen. Hill, known by his friends as Tony, was met by police after a neighbor reported that he was walking around the apartment complex naked and confused. Rather than trying to help him, the pig fired two shots into Tony’s chest, leaving him on the ground naked for over an hour as friends and neighbors begged them to cover his body as the children got off their school buses. The cop claimed that Tony “lunged” at him, leading him to shoot Tony dead—however, even the DeKalb County Chief of Police had to admit that Tony was unarmed. The cop was carrying a Taser and pepper spray, but instead chose to reach for his gun and take Tony’s life. (from “DeKalb County, Georgia: Anger at Police Murder of Unarmed Anthony Hill: It’s Time to Stand Up!”)
DeKalb County protest against police killing of Anthony Hill, March 14, 2015. (Photo: Special to revcom.us)
The day after Anthony Hill’s murder, the Revolution Club went out to the apartment complex where Anthony was killed. Immediately we met dozens of youths, parents, and neighbors outraged by his murder and burning to do anything to get justice for Tony. That night, we led an impromptu march through the neighborhood, which spawned a much larger and defiant protest that weekend. More than 150 people from all walks of life gathered at the apartment complex and then took over the busy street outside the complex, shutting it down for hours. Six people, including several members of the Revolution Club, were arrested. (Read more about the protest here and the legal victory of the protesters arrested here.)
Over the past year, revolutionaries, as well as other activists, have organized protests and engaged in acts of resistance, demanding justice for Anthony Hill and the many others (more than 1,200 people in the U.S. in 2015 alone (http://killedbypolice.net/) murdered by police. Some of the actions included a powerful protest called by Stop Mass Incarceration Network in the streets of downtown Atlanta and on the Georgia State University campus with a performance by Janelle Monáe and Wondaland with families whose loved ones were murdered by police. Local Black Lives Matter activists also interrupted a speech by Hillary Clinton at the Atlanta University Center and brought Anthony Hill’s name to the fore.
In November, we again wrote to Revolution about the outrageous “recommendations” delivered by a civil grand jury regarding the murders of Anthony Hill and Kevin Davis: “The grand jury’s recommendations were: NO charges for the cop that murdered Kevin Davis, and a ‘more thorough interview’ with Anthony Hill’s killer before deciding whether or not to press charges.” (“Don’t Let Them Get Away With Murder: Georgia Grand Jury Issues Recommendations for the Cops that Killed Anthony Hill and Kevin Davis”)
Stop Mass Incarceration Network Atlanta issued a petition denouncing the grand jury’s recommendations, demanding that District Attorney Robert James indict the killer cops.
As the grand jury began its meeting in January, dozens of local activists, including Anthony Hill’s girlfriend, braved three days of cold rain setting up an encampment outside the courthouse to demand an indictment. Then on Thursday, January 21, it happened: Robert Olsen, the cop who killed Anthony Hill, was indicted on six counts, including felony murder. Olsen was arrested and released on $110,200 bond.
Following the indictment, Anthony Hill’s family’s lawyer said that “this is a day in history,” referring to the scarcity of cops indicted for shootings in Georgia (and nationally, as well). Since 2010, there have been at least 184 fatal shootings of civilians by police in Georgia. In nearly half of these cases, the person shot by police was either unarmed or shot in the back. Over a third of those killed were shot in their own home or the home of a loved one, often after a call for help. Out of those 184 killings, only one cop has been indicted (the cop shot a man in the back of the head)—however, the district attorney in the case persuaded the judge to drop the charges the next day! (http://investigations.myajc.com/overtheline/ga-police-shootings/)
Let’s be clear about the indictment of Robert Olsen: what persuaded D.A. Robert James to pursue charges against the killer cop and proclaim “I am no longer neutral. I’ve become an advocate” is not an uncovering of new facts. Anthony Hill was naked, obviously unarmed, and suffering from a mental episode (the 911 caller requested medical attention for Anthony, but instead the call was dispatched as a “suspicious” person)—those are not new facts. The fact that Olsen had a number of options other than killing Anthony Hill is not a new revelation to anyone—let alone the district attorney.
The righteous resistance that erupted immediately after Anthony’s killing coupled with protests and rebellions in cities around the country—people saying NO MORE! to this shit—refusing to let the cops murder with impunity, led to the indictment. Mass resistance is what compelled the system to charge the killer cop. And now the resistance must escalate to a higher level—that is what it is going to take to MAKE them CONVICT Anthony’s killer.
Now is the time to act to build this resistance and strengthen the movement to STOP MURDER BY POLICE nationally. I encourage everyone reading this to get in touch with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (go to stopmassincarceration.net) and find a way to contribute all that you can. As I write this, we are preparing to travel from Atlanta to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Southeastern regional conference called for by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. We invite anyone who wants justice for those whose lives have been stolen by the police to join us in demanding MURDER BY POLICE MUST STOP! Which Side Are You On?
Revolution #424 February 1, 2016
February 1, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
On Thursday, January 21, a federal judge ruled that a cop be dropped from the civil lawsuit of the murder of Cedrick Chatman, who was shot and killed by the Chicago police in January 2013 (see “Police Murder of Cedrick Chatman Approved by Chicago Powers: This Cannot Go Down! This Cannot Go On!” at revcom.us). The video of the shooting was only recently publicly released, on January 13 of this year, and showed Chatman running away when he was cold-bloodedly shot in the back by Kevin Fry. Officer Lou Toth was Fry’s partner at the scene. District Judge Robert Gettleman ruled that Toth should not be a part of the lawsuit because he didn’t fire his weapon and, according to police reports, did not actually see Fry fatally shoot Chatman.
My question is: Toth may not have pulled the trigger, but does that mean he is innocent?
He may not have pulled the trigger, but Toth did draw his gun out, a point that the lawyer for Chatman’s family’s argued was totally unnecessary as the cops approached the car Chatman was in. The judge disagreed. In other words, as in so many cases like these when it comes to Black and Brown people, it is entirely proper for cops to come out guns drawn, to be ready to “shoot first and ask questions later.” This isn’t use of force as a last resort and doing everything you can to apprehend the person before you use deadly force.
He may not have pulled the trigger, but Toth was the one who put the handcuffs on Chatman, and the video shows a gruesome image of Toth standing with one foot on Chatman’s back as he lay dying, conjuring up images of the stance that big-game hunters pose for photos after a successful kill. He didn’t come to Chatman’s aid, get down on his knees to see how he was doing. And although it was clear that the young man was not going anywhere, Toth saw fit to keep one foot on him. However, that image did capture very accurately the mindset of the cops and gets at their real role in society—Black young men in this country are, in a real sense, their prey.
Toth may not have pulled the trigger, but did he see anything wrong with Fry pulling the trigger? Did he go on record, like Lorenzo Davis, the former IPRA (Independent Police Review Authority) investigator, did, and say that this was an unnecessary use of a firearm? Of course not—or he himself might have been fired as Davis was. But more than that, as far as the cops are concerned, there is no such thing as an “unnecessary use of a firearm” when all the cops have to say is that their life is in danger to justify murder. There is no “good cop” here. He was a willing participant and in fact his testimony is critical to Fry’s case, because Toth claimed that Chatman “made a move to his right” which backs up Fry’s claim that he feared for his life because it appeared to him that Chatman was turning to shoot him, even though later it turned out that the only thing Chatman had in his hand was an iPhone box.
Toth may not have pulled the trigger, but he is complicit in a cover-up of murder in the Chatman case, which, it has become all too clear in recent months, is the standard operating procedure for the CPD. The testimony of both Fry and Toth actually changed in the civil lawsuit. In the original police report, Toth and Fry testified that they both saw Chatman reach for something before Chatman jumped out of the car, and that they yelled to each other that the young man had something in his hand—but in the lawsuit they said under oath that they never saw Chatman reach for anything, and they never said a word to each other before Fry pulled the trigger.
The videos showing the killing of Cedrick Chatman only recently were forced out into light because of the people’s outrage over police murders of Darius Pinex, Laquan McDonald, Quintonio LeGrier, Bettie Jones, and others. The authorities fear what would happen if they did not voluntarily release it, and risking that in doing so now, they could fool people into thinking that now there were real changes in the police department towards being more transparent, and try to get people to think that they should regain their faith in the CPD and the whole machinery of injustice in a continually developing situation that is challenging the legitimacy of the whole system. Brian Coffman, the attorney for the Chatman family, remarked that the city was “really trying to control the message,” and observed, “The City of Chicago has had not only the last month and a half, they’ve had over the last two and a half years to be transparent in this case.”
No, Toth and all the other people representing institutions that have participated in covering up and justifying Chatman’s murder, none of them actually pulled the trigger. The former superintendent and IPRA found the killing justified (after firing Davis!), and the district attorney who is now under fire in the Laquan McDonald case refused to prosecute. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel argued for months that releasing the Chatman videos would “inflame the public” (No Shit!) and used the now-discredited claim that doing so would jeopardize a fair trial in the family’s lawsuit. And now, it seems, a U.S. district judge has joined in the chorus by dropping Toth from the civil lawsuit.
What came to my mind in this latest development in the Chatman case, as well as in the killing of Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, and so many others, is this:
INDICT, CONVICT, SEND THE KILLER COPS TO JAIL!
THE WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM IS GUILTY AS HELL!
THIS CANNOT GO DOWN! THIS CANNOT GO ON!