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Revolution #425 February 8, 2016
February 8, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Well, a few months after the switch, we had already noticed rashes on my kids’ arms, their backs, my face. And they were different, because you couldn’t put any kind of lotion or cream on it without it burning. It felt like straight-out chemical burns. And every once in a while, our water would turn bright blue or yellow, and we had no idea why. They kept telling us that the water was fine...
—Melissa Mays, Flint resident, water-safety activist
(Democracy Now!, December 17, 2015)
If you were to put something in a population to keep them down for generation and generations to come, it would be lead. It’s a well-known, potent neurotoxin. There’s tons of evidence on what lead does to a child, and it is one of the most damning things that you can do to a population. It drops your IQ, it affects your behavior, it’s been linked to criminality, it has multigenerational impacts. There is no safe level of lead in a child.
—Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha,
Flint pediatrician who spearheaded lead-testing of Flint children.
Protesting outside of City Hall, January 8, 2016 (AP photo)
Young Black man who spent time in Flint’s prison: You think people in prison are getting bottled water? You have to put on an orange suit to really understand. You are forced to drink that lead filled water; you are exposed to peeling paint with lead. You go in on something like retail fraud, waiting for a hearing, spend a year in there, and come out completely changed. Your brains don’t work, losing hair, rashes. And you get out and your kids who were nice kids are lashing out and angry. (interviewed by Revolution)
Environmental Activist Erin Brockovich: I can tell you that Flint, Michigan is the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “I can tell you for certain that this is a national crisis that we are not getting ready to face. The crisis is already here. Even since Flint has hit the national stage, we’ve found out that Sebring, Ohio has the same problem.... The same thing is happening in Louisiana. (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)
Filmmaker Michael Moore: This is a racial killing. Flint MI is 60% black. When u knowingly poison a black city, u r committing a version of genocide. (Twitter)
Joyce Zhu, a doctoral student at Virginia Tech University, who went to collect samples at a Flint hospital: When I turned on the tap, you see this corrosive, reddish, brownish tap water... It’s that moment that made it so real.... I grew up in Singapore, where clean water, you take it for granted so much.” (New York Times)
A Flint resident: Water is one thing we need to live, as people, as human beings! (Interviewed by Revolution)
February 3, 2016. Flint, Michigan residents on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing about the water in Flint. This woman is holding a bottle of tap water in one hand, and hair she says is from the drain in her shower in the other. (AP photo)
For more than 18 months (starting in April 2014), the state of Michigan poisoned the people of Flint, Michigan, with drinking water contaminated with lead (as well as other contaminants). Lead is a well-known neurotoxin that injures anyone exposed to it, and in particular causes permanent and irreversible brain damage to children. Lead levels in the tap water of some Flint homes are at twice the level of lead that is considered “toxic waste”—and this is the water that about 100,000 people, including 30,000 children, were forced to drink.
For 16 months, the state consciously covered this up—doctoring tests, slandering critics, and lying to people, telling them everything was all right.
Finally, starting in October 2015, in the face of angry protests by residents and of doctors and scientists who amassed damning evidence of this mass poisoning, officials could no longer ignore the crisis completely. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder began limited distribution of bottled water and filters, the city “advised” pregnant women and small children not to drink unfiltered tap water. Later they would admit that it was unsafe for anyone to drink or even wash with or bathe in it.
On January 14, 2016, Snyder wrote to President Obama asking him to declare a federal disaster and to provide almost $100 million for short-term emergency measures like providing residents of Flint with bottled water and water filters, and for additional nurses to provide care for injured children. Obama declared a federal emergency, authorizing FEMA aid efforts and pledging only $5 million in aid but declined to declare this a “major disaster,” which would provide more aid for a longer time. And none of this changes the permanent damage done to the children and people of Flint, and as of now, the water of Flint STILL has dangerously high levels of lead.
As this article goes to press, Congressional Democrats proposed allocating $600 million, which, if that amount gets through, would be enough to begin the absolutely necessary and urgent work of replacing all the service pipes in the Flint water system which are currently leaching lead into people’s tap water. But within days, as Republicans acted to block that, the Democrats were already slashing their proposal in half, and it is not at all clear that even the reduced amount will pass.
People ask: What happened!? How could this happen? And how could it go on for so long without anyone doing anything about it?
For most of the 20th century, Flint was a booming center of the auto industry that was once a pillar of U.S. capitalism. Hundreds of thousands of people moved there from farms and sharecroppers’ plots in Appalachia, the South, and other parts of the U.S., as well as impoverished immigrants from Europe and elsewhere, to work in the many auto plants. In particular, Black people being driven from the land and fleeing Jim Crow in the South went to Flint and other industrial cities in the North.
Year in and year out, their labor produced billions of dollars in profits for the auto giants and the system as a whole—in the early ’70s General Motors’ (GM) corporate profits were about $2 billion a year.
But when global political and technological changes created the freedom—and the competitive necessity—to exploit desperately poor people in the Third World, most of the Flint operations were shut down. In the early ’70s GM employed 80,000 people there—over 10 percent of its worldwide workforce. Today it employs about 5,000, less than 2.5 percent of its global labor force.
In Flint, unemployment skyrocketed, the population dropped by half, the city tax base deteriorated, infrastructure crumbled, and crime rates soared.
The same system that squeezed so much wealth out of the people of Flint for half a century now has no use for them. Starting in 2011, the state actually took over the city government so that it could impose severe “cost-cutting measures” without any “interference” from residents. To get an idea of the viciousness of these cuts, consider this—the entire Flint school system, with 30,000 students, has exactly one school nurse.
In the logic of this system, which views everything from the standpoint of profitability and the “efficiency of capital,” why should the state be “burdened” with maintaining a decent life for people who it can no longer exploit?
So in April 2014, in order to save one to two million dollars a year, the state’s city manager switched Flint from the Detroit water system, which provided good water from Lake Huron, to temporarily using the Flint River as the water source. People in Flint were alarmed―the Flint River was an industrial dump for decades and notoriously polluted. Their protests were ignored.
Almost immediately, water came out of taps filthy and tasting foul. People were getting rashes, their hair was falling out, children were losing weight, developing anemia. Residents showed up en masse at city council meetings, bringing jugs of the vile water, but were assured it was “safe.” The then-mayor even pulled the stunt of drinking a cup of it on TV, as if the fact that he didn’t die on the spot somehow “proved” that the water was safe.
Think what it says about how this system looks at poor white and Black people, that when the authorities saw and smelled the foul swill coming out of people’s taps, and heard stories of sudden unexplained illnesses, their response was basically “stop your whining and drink it”!
And on a global scale, there are billions of people for whom capitalism-imperialism has no use except and unless they can be exploited in sweatshops, mines, or plantations. They work dangerous, unhealthy jobs, or survive by picking through garbage dumps and sleeping on the streets. And everywhere they are poisoned because of the workings of a system in which human life is worth nothing—from harmful chemicals at workplaces, pollutants in the air and water systems, pesticides in the fields, and other toxins that cause immediate and long-term harm and suffering.
Black people, driven from their land in the South, fleeing the horrors of Jim Crow terror, worked the lowest paying, most dangerous jobs in the Flint auto plants. They were “last hired and first fired.” And today they are the hardest hit as those jobs have moved to other parts of the country and around the world, in search of the more viciously exploitable people.
Today 41 percent of people in Flint live below the poverty line and over 60 percent receive food stamps. And for the Black majority things are even worse, with higher unemployment, worse jobs, and worse housing, making the water crisis even harder to deal with. In Flint, as well as Detroit, the government has instituted particularly vicious cuts to essential services.
And nationwide, a genocidal agenda is in effect for Black people, with mass incarceration, police murder and brutality at the cutting edge. A system built in large part on the most vicious exploitation of Black people now finds millions of people for whom it has no use. All this is a critical dimension of what’s behind the poisoning of water in Flint, and the system’s callous response.
Lead poisoning from water and paint is epidemic in the United States and extreme in the Black community. A government study revealed that between 1999 and 2004, Black children were nearly three times more likely than white children to have highly elevated blood-lead levels, the type of lead poisoning where the most damaging health outcomes occur. In fact Freddie Gray, the unarmed man brutally murdered by Baltimore police on April 12, 2015, grew up in a neighborhood where more than three percent of children younger than six had high lead levels in their blood. And Freddie Gray himself was a victim of lead poisoning that may well have contributed to learning disabilities.
Who can look at this and not see the genocidal dimension and intentions?
We now know what was happening. Flint River water is highly corrosive—19 times as corrosive as Lake Huron water. Although it is possible to treat such water to make it safe, that would have cost about $36,000 a year and once again, the state thought that spending money on safe water for the people of Flint was a waste of money.
Many water systems, including Flint’s, use lead pipes and/or lead-soldered pipes. (This is itself a scandalous exposure of capitalism, since people have known for more than 50 years that even small amounts of lead are toxic.) These pipes are coated to keep the lead from getting into the water, but the corrosive river water damaged the pipes so that the lead began leaching in. The longer the water flowed, the more the pipes were damaged, the higher the lead levels soared.
But this truth was denied by those in authority. Every time evidence emerged that the water was dangerous, the state not only covered it up, they mocked and attacked those who exposed it.
A few months after the switch, GM told the city that one of its plants in Flint would stop using city water because it was corroding their engine parts! In spite of this, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) publicly insisted the water, unsafe for steel, was fine for human beings. At the same time, the state quietly allocated $400,000 to GM so it could pipe clean water into their plant.
In January 2015, the University of Michigan at Flint reported they had found high levels of lead in some of their drinking fountains. Partly in response to this, the state of Michigan spent thousands of dollars to have water coolers with clean water installed in the State Office Building in Flint... but continued to tell people in Flint that the water was fine.
In February 2015, testing done at the home of Lee Anne Walters showed lead levels of 104 parts per billion (ppb)—seven times the level that the federal Environmental Protection Agency considers acceptable. (In reality, experts agree that there is no “safe” level of lead in human drinking water.) Walters contacted Miguel Del Toral, an EPA expert, who discussed the results with others at the EPA.
Toral was alarmed not just by the high reading at Walters’ home, but by the fact that the state was using testing methods—in direct violation of EPA standards—which were guaranteed to give readings that were far lower than the actual lead levels in the tap water. Toral wrote that “I’m worried that the whole town may have much higher lead levels” than what the state was saying publicly. Toral’s memo was suppressed by the EPA—instead of making it public, or even just sending it to the MDEQ, EPA officials decided to have “behind-the-scenes” discussions of the issue, which would go on for another seven months while residents of Flint were being told their water was fine. The one action EPA did take was to order Toral not to have any more contact with Lee Anne Walters or other water activists.
“Behind-the-scenes” state officials displayed their utter contempt for the people of Flint. Angry residents were referred to as “hysterical,” activist groups were “anti-everything.” One email released by Governor Snyder’s office discusses a woman who says that a state nurse told her—in regard to her son having clinical lead poisoning—that “It is just a few IQ points.... It is not the end of the world.”
In March further testing of Walters’ home showed levels of 397 ppb, triple what it was in February. In response the authorities told her the problem was her home plumbing (which turned out to be a lie) and hooked up a garden hose from her neighbor’s house to provide her with “clean” water. At the same time a consultant group hired by the city issued a public report stating that Flint water met federal and state standards... without even giving a figure on lead levels.
As activists and ordinary people continued to protest and raise hell, sympathetic doctors and scientists started to get involved.
In September 2015, scientists and graduate students from Virginia Tech (VT) who specialize in lead testing released findings from tests in hundreds of Flint homes showing elevated lead levels. Readings varied from home to home depending on how much lead was in their service pipes to begin with and how badly the pipes had corroded, but in some cases lead levels were 13,000 ppb—almost 900 times higher than the EPA’s “safe” level.
These Virginia Tech scientists have been involved in exposing high lead levels in water systems around the country—in fact, what is happening in Flint is in many ways just the tip of the iceberg of a national lead poisoning crisis. This crisis is driven by the fact that for several decades the rulers of the U.S. have been cutting back on repairing and upgrading infrastructure like roads and bridges, water systems, and electrical grids so that they could keep taxes low. This was in turn driven by increasing competitiveness in the “globalized” world economy, where major blocs of capital are battling it out for domination—and for survival—against other big capitals.
The VT scientists are among many who have been sounding the alarm about the grave dangers involved in this. Rather than learning from their expertise—not to mention appreciating their courage—the MDEQ responded to the VT report on Flint by saying that these scientists specialized in “looking for high lead problems” across the country—meaning that these experts had also found high lead levels in a number of other cities around the U.S. “They pull that rabbit out of the hat everywhere they go. Nobody should be surprised when the rabbit comes out of the hat, even if they can’t figure out how it’s done.” (Michigan Live, “Flint Water Crisis: Key Figures,” November 11, 2015)
But this was no magic trick. Both scientific data and the experience of thousands of people proved that Flint water was not only unsafe to drink, but even to bathe or to wash dishes or clothes. The only thing it was safe for was flushing toilets!
The VT report was quickly followed by one from Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a local pediatrician, who led a team of people to test children and found that the number with dangerously high lead levels in their blood had doubled in the past year, and had tripled in some neighborhoods. The authorities mocked her study as well, claiming that they had more reliable data. (Months later the state would admit that Dr. Attisha’s figures were accurate.)
Flint residents at a January 14, 2016 protest in Lansing, Michigan. (AP photo)
Finally in October 2015―over a year after residents first raised the alarm―the state acknowledged that there might be some problem, and told people not to drink Flint water unless it was filtered or tested. But even then, THE STATE TOOK ONLY PALTRY MEASURES TO PROVIDE PEOPLE WITH FILTERS OR BOTTLED WATER.
Through all of this, many ordinary people, activists, and churches launched crowdsourcing campaigns to fund free water distribution, and to help in other ways. Celebrities donated hundreds of thousands of dollars. Inner city youth from Chicago loaded up vans and drove to Flint to help. But the authorities who actually caused the problem did almost nothing, besides coming up with outrageous excuses for their criminality.
At the top levels, the city emergency manager, state officials, the governor, and the EPA are all pointing fingers at each other, when in fact they are all plainly complicit in this massive crime. Another tack is to argue about what was required under the letter of the law and what exactly were the applicable standards, in order to make this an issue of “confusion” rather than a conscious disregard for the lives of the people. For instance, the Detroit Free Press characterized officials from the MDEQ as saying that the kind of testing that would have revealed the lead contamination “isn’t required under federal drinking-water rules and has never been done in Michigan. What’s more,” MDEQ argued, “the Flint River water, treated in the city’s plant, was already approved as a backup supply in case of interrupted service from Detroit.”
In other words, faced with massive evidence that people were being poisoned, the authorities focused on proving that this contamination was legal under this system, and not on the fact that it was profoundly damaging thousands of lives.
What kind of system is unable to provide something as basic as safe drinking water to its own population? What can you say about a system, possessing wealth undreamed of by empires of old, which poisons children as a cost-cutting measure, and then takes such pitiful measures when their crimes are exposed? And what do you do with a system that cannot shut up about how great and powerful it is, but that lies and urges people to continue drinking poison in order to try to preserve people’s belief in their legitimacy? This is a system that needs to be gotten rid of through revolution, nothing less.
Revolution #425 February 8, 2016
February 8, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
“To the world, I am an attorney who had an abortion, and, to myself, I am an attorney because I had an abortion.” These are the words from one of the 113 women in the legal profession who are part of an amicus brief1 in a major case having to do with abortion, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (formerly v. Cole), that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 2. (An amicus brief is a “friend of the court” document where those who are not part of a case can make a presentation for one side of the case.) The women give moving testimonies about having had abortions and the huge difference it made in their lives.
The amicus brief was put together by lawyers from the law firm Paul, Weiss working with the Center for Reproductive Rights. According to a January 26 Washington Post column by Ruth Marcus, the authors of the brief at first thought that gathering the testimonies would be difficult because only retired lawyers or those working for “liberal-leaning groups” would want to go public, “fearful of offending partners or clients.” Instead, the lawyers behind the brief found that they “were just overwhelmed, not just by the number but by the breadth.” The women who stepped forward to be part of the brief are from all portions of the legal profession, including those who currently are or formerly were judges, criminal defense attorneys, legal organization attorneys, attorneys for universities, corporate attorneys, law professors, private law firm attorneys, law students, government and court attorneys, and more. The names of the 113 women along with their professional titles are in the appendix at the end of the amicus brief.
At a time when the right to abortion is under vicious attack, including from those in positions of authority and power, and even any talk about having an abortion is being shunted off to the shadows of society, the public stand taken by these women lawyers about their own abortions and on the need to defend the right to abortion is very bold and positive.
The Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole case is about an anti-abortion law in Texas, which has been at the forefront of eliminating abortion health clinics. An earlier Texas anti-abortion law three years ago forced the closure of 41 abortion clinics, leaving only 19 open in this large state. The Texas law (HB2) that is now being considered by the Supreme Court, passed a year ago, does two things. First, it requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital—which is difficult because many hospitals are reluctant to grant admitting privileges to abortion doctors because of religious or other reasons. Second, the law requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as outpatient surgery centers. Doing upgrades to meet those standards can cost $1 million or more—but the fact is that this requirement is completely unjustified because it is very rare for there to be any medical complications in abortions being done at health clinics. The clinics being targeted do not have those types of funds, which means 10 of the remaining 19 clinics will have to close, including the one in El Paso and the one on the Texas-Mexico border. This would leave the clinic in San Antonio as the closest abortion clinic in the state for those who live in west and southwest Texas.
Last June, the law was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Texas. Then in July, it was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court until it could rule on it—and this is the case the Supreme Court will hear in March.
Here are just some of the testimonies from the women in the amicus brief:
I am the daughter of a teenage mother who is the daughter of a teenage mother. I had an abortion when I was 16 years old and living in rural Oregon. I believe that access to a safe, legal abortion broke the familial cycle of teenage parenthood and allowed me to not only escape a very unhealthy, emotional[ly] abusive teenage relationship but to graduate from an elite college, work for one of the nation’s most storied civil rights organizations, and go on to graduate from the University of Michigan Law School... I often tell people—and I believe it to be true—that access to a safe, legal abortion saved my life. If I had not had an abortion, I would have never been able to graduate high school, go to college, [or] escape my high-poverty rural county in Oregon.
As a young African-American woman, growing up in the Bronx, New York—one of the poorest counties in our country—the ability to decide for myself whether I would become a teenage mother was very empowering. It is at least in part because of that decision that I was able to complete high school and college and fulfill my childhood goal of becoming a lawyer. America cannot be the land of equality and opportunity for all if we simultaneously place unreasonable limits on a person’s ability to choose how they achieve their version of those ideals.
Had I not had an abortion, it is entirely possible that I would not have been able to finish law school—I might not have even been able to manage starting law school. I likely would have lived with my mother for a time and found a way to support my unexpected family. And then—I have no idea. What did happen was law school, law firm, two excellent in house counsel jobs, two children, marriage, three step-children, six grandchildren...
Within days of accepting a full fellowship to law school, where I aspired to study women’s human rights law, I discovered I was pregnant. My plan at the time was to move from Texas to New York, where my then-fiancé and I would pursue graduate programs. A pregnancy would have made that impossible.... I know that my having had access to a safe, early abortion has not only permitted me to become the first person in my family to practice law, it has had a direct impact on individual women and on women’s equality through my work. My story is just one of many that show that when women have the power to decide when they are ready to parent, they have the power to achieve their goals, and even change the world.
I had an abortion at age 35, when I had an unplanned pregnancy with a man who had become emotionally abusive. Being able to choose the father of my children and knowing how important a safe and loving home is to children, I chose to have an abortion.... was firm in my belief that my happiness and that of any family I would start begins with the stability of my relationship with a partner. I also knew that the best chance a woman has to keep a successful career and to be a mother is to have an amazing partner. I eventually found that man and married him at age 42. We are blessed with two amazing sons. I went on to become general counsel of an international energy consulting firm, where I still work today, and know that my family and career would not have been as joyful and successful had I not had the option to choose when to start a family.
Everyone needs to hear these women’s stories—and they should be spread far and wide in taking the fight for women’s right to abortion to all corners of this country, and not just to the Supreme Court.
As Sunsara Taylor has forcefully argued: “We cannot defeat this war on women by relying on the structures of this system—their elections, politicians, the Democratic Party, or the courts. These are all part of a system that needs patriarchy, and they repeatedly compromise with and cede the moral high ground to the fascists—talking about how abortion is a tragedy or should be rare, as if there is something wrong with abortion. Never calling out these fascists for the woman-haters they are or challenging their fascist biblical literalism. Relying on them is how we’ve gotten into this mess, where yesterday’s outrage over and over again becomes today’s compromise position and tomorrow’s limit of what can be imagined. We need to get OUT of this dynamic. We must change the terms—saying and acting on what no politician will say: Forced motherhood is female enslavement.” (“Talk by Sunsara Taylor: Confronting the Abortion Rights Emergency—Fighting for Complete Liberation”)
There is an urgent need for a major outpouring throughout society to beat back the war on women and defend the right to abortion.
Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!
Stop the Patriarchal Degradation, Dehumanization, and Subjugation of All Women Everywhere, and All Oppression Based on Gender or Sexual Orientation!
1. The brief with the 113 women legal professionals is titled, “Janice MacAvoy, Janie Schulman, and Over 110 Other Women in the Legal Profession Who Have Exercised Their Constitutional Right to an Abortion.” It can be found along with the other 42 amicus briefs in support of Whole Woman’s Health at Center for Reproductive Rights Amicus Briefs in Support of Whole Woman’s Health. The 43 amicus briefs are from medical experts, scientific studies, legal experts, physicians who have performed abortions, women who have had abortions, government agencies, Republican officials, religious leaders, economists, and historians. [back]
Revolution #425 February 8, 2016
From A World to Win News Service:
February 8, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
February 1, 2016. A World to Win News Service. The following is from Aurora Roja, the website of the Revolutionary Communist Organization (OCR), Mexico (aurora-roja.blogspot.com).
Pope Francis will land in Mexico on February 12. He will talk with family members of the disappeared, indigenous people and others whose lives have been made hell by the workings of the capitalist-imperialist system ruling the world. He will express his sympathy for the poor, condemn some injustices, criticize “consumerism” and “throw-away society,” and maybe the “lack of political will” of the rulers, but he will not condemn the system that causes all this suffering. He will also speak with [Mexican President] Enrique Peña Nieto, the Catholic hierarchy, and other powerful men. Jorge Bergoglio [the Pope’s real name] realizes that the legitimacy of the Mexican state is in crisis. He knows about the murder and disappearance of the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college students and tens of thousands more, the other massacres committed and covered up by state security forces, the crushing poverty faced by the majority of people, and the state’s shameless corruption and complicity with organized crime and the almost total impunity enjoyed by the criminal police, armed forces, and civilian authorities. The pope will try to channel people’s exasperation and anger into a dead end. He will preach social peace and reconciliation between the oppressors and oppressed. He will condemn the revolutionary struggle that is required to put an end to the present system and all the unnecessary suffering it causes.
Francis has been entrusted with the job of giving the Catholic Church a new face. Why? Because today’s world, with all its intolerable injustices and degradation, its unnecessary poverty and death, is in crisis, and because of the climate crisis endangering the ecosystems that sustain life on Earth. Under these conditions the Church needs to adopt a more “compassionate” discourse in addressing the dispossessed, so that it can recover its influence over them. Among the reasons for the Church’s weakened hold on people are the Vatican’s protection of child molester priests, bishops, and papal nuncios; the Vatican Bank scandal and the Church’s general siding with the powerful and abandonment of the poor; and the Dark Ages morality it seeks to impose, reducing women to wombs and demonizing any sexuality whose purpose is pleasure, intimacy, and love instead of reproduction.
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“Forever and ever” the Church and its doctrine have propagated superstition, ignorance, obsequiousness to power; the domination of men over women and whites over the other so-called “races,” and the owning classes over the propertyless. Pope Francis is trying to modernize the Church’s image without changing the essential nature of its ideology and mission.
Let’s look at the two-faced “new face” of the Vatican:
1. Blessing the genocide of indigenous peoples: In speaking about the Conquest [the Spanish Conquest of the Americas], Francis said, “There were abundant sins, and for them I ask forgiveness, yet where there was sin there grace abounded all the more.” The conquest and colonialization of the Americas’ first peoples were not “sins against god” but a physical and cultural genocide that eliminated more than 95 percent of the original population to serve the interests of the European powers and incipient capitalism. According to the pope, this genocide was mainly a good thing because “grace abounded” thanks to “the priests and bishops who firmly opposed the logic of the sword with the strength of the cross.” In reality, both the sword and the cross were essential weapons to make the original peoples submit to the rule of the Spanish monarchy and the pope’s authority.
In Michoacan [a state in western Mexico with a large indigenous population], Francis will try to identify himself with “Tata Vasco” (“Papa” Vasco de Quiroga, the first bishop in Michoacan), and in Chiapas [a state in southern Mexico, also with many indigenous people, as well as descendants of Africans] with Bartolome de las Casas [the state’s first bishop]. Both men criticized the enslavement of the indigenous people (although de las Casas defended slavery for Africans) and ended up finding favor with the Spanish kings when they began to seek less bloody ways to suppress the people, since Spanish massacres were producing much resistance to “evangelization.” When Francis went to the U.S., he declared Junipero Serra a saint. Serra was a priest who wielded the cross and sword to enslave indigenous people in the mines of South America and the “missions” on the West Coast of what is now the United States. The mission system led to the death of more than 60,000 American Indians from 1769 to 1821. The enormous wealth squeezed out of the blood and bones of millions of indigenous and black people provided a large part of the foundation on which capitalism went on to dominate the world.
2. Enslaving women and demonizing lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people (LGBT): The Catholic Church is a pillar of patriarchy and the domination of men over women. It opposes the right to divorce, contraception and abortion, and preaches that a women’s “vocation” is to be a mother and serve her family. Pope Francis said, “I like to describe the feminine dimension of the Church as a welcoming womb that regenerates life.” He summed up the role of women with four verbs: “Desire, give birth, raise and let go.” For many centuries this doctrine has condemned millions of women to remain in abusive marriages, sometimes until they are killed by the husband to whom the Bible sentences them to obedience. It has condemned millions of women to forced motherhood or death for lack of safe and legal abortion, and to carry a burden of guilt if they work outside the home, want to control their own reproduction, decide not to have children, and struggle to be respected as equal human beings and for their full participation in society. Speaking of women, Pope Francis said, “There is only one model for you, Mary. She who was faithful, who did not understand what was happening to her but obeyed.” These words echo misogynist verses from the Bible, such as “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.”
During the period of this year, Francis offered “forgiveness” to women who “repent” for the “sin” of abortion. This supposed “mercy” is a way to reassert domination over women who have the audacity to insist that only they, and not the state nor the Church nor anyone else, have the right to decide whether or not they will have a child. In many countries the Church continues to impose laws that criminalize abortion and lead to the death or imprisonment of many women who have abortions (even including miscarriages). This has already been done in 18 states in Mexico. The purpose is not to “protect life” but rather to make women submit to male authority, which is a foundational aspect of every society based on exploitation.
The pope will also offer his “compassion” to LGBT people, who also have no reason to ask for “forgiveness.” On the contrary, the Catholic Church should renounce its narrow-minded vision that considers that any sexual relationship whose purpose is not to make a woman pregnant is a “sin.” This supposedly compassionate pope claims that the legalization of gay marriage is “the work of the devil.”
3. The pope on the “dirty war” in Argentina and the subjugation of the poor: Francis claims that he struggles for “justice” for the poor. His real position regarding the oppressed was revealed in 1983 in Argentina, when fascist generals backed by the United States staged a coup and kidnapped, tortured, and “disappeared” as many as 30,000 people. Some Catholic priests and even bishops opposed the fascist regime; which murdered a hundred priests, nuns, and other clergy, including a bishop, Enrique Angelelli. Jorge Bergoglio, now the pope and a cardinal at that time, ordered his priests to stop supporting the antifascist resistance and even stop working in the shanty towns because the men in power then considered such activity “subversive.” Bergoglio was complicit in the arrest, torture, and disappearance of dissident clergy and lent the fascist generals legitimacy by appearing in public and celebrating mass with them. The pope limits his “compassion” to those among the poor who accept the system that oppresses them.
4. Trying to fool people about global warming: In his encyclical “Laudato Si,” Francis exposes many aspects of the climate crisis. He acknowledges global warming and criticizes the “inaction” of governments and the powerful, but he does not expose the exploitative capitalist system that is destroying the Earth. He only denounces “human activity” in general, humanity’s “sin,” and the “excesses and injustices” committed by the system. Furthermore, the pope praises the agreements reached at the international climate conference in Paris (COP21). This despite the fact that all the agreed-upon targets for greenhouse gas reductions were voluntary, and even if they were carried out (which is not likely) these emissions would still lead to a temperature increase of at least 3º C, twice what most scientists consider the upper limit if catastrophe is to be avoided. Along with U.S. President Barack Obama, Mexican President Peña Nieto, and other representatives of the capitalist order, the pope’s aim is to make it look like the climate crisis is under control and misdirect people’s growing discontent and consternation about the future of the planet into channels that reinforce the system that caused this problem.
5. Continuing to protect clerical child molesters: The pope likes to talk about “zero tolerance” for priests who sexually abuse minors, but in practice he continues covering up these crimes. The case of the pope’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Josef Wesolowski, shines a bright light on this hypocrisy. Wesolowski was accused of pederasty in dozens of cases and was about to be arrested when Francis ordered that he be sneaked out of the country and secretly brought back to the Vatican, where he was protected against extradition. Later, on the eve of his trial by a Church tribunal, he was found dead in his Vatican apartment.
6. Contributing to the genocidal AIDS/HIV epidemic: Pope Francis brought his “compassion” to Uganda, where he embraced and kissed HIV-positive children, all the while reaffirming the Church’s prohibition of the use of condoms, which could save hundreds of thousands of human lives. He said that because people die of many causes, it’s pointless to argue about “this strip of plastic.” What can be said about a morality that demands the prohibition of contraceptives instead of saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people?
Let’s struggle for a radically different morality and a much better world
Instead of the ignorant and deadly morality to which humanity is subjected, we need an approach and a morality that corresponds to reality and contributes to the emancipation of humanity. As Bob Avakian pointed out (BAsics, 4:17): “The notion of a god, or gods, was created by humanity, in its infancy, out of ignorance. This has been perpetuated by ruling classes, for thousands of years since then, to serve their interests in exploiting and dominating the majority of people and keeping them enslaved to ignorance and irrationality. Bringing about a new, and far better, world and future for humanity means overthrowing such exploiting classes and breaking free of and leaving behind forever such enslaving ignorance and irrationality.”
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 #425 February 8, 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 #425 February 8, 2016
February 8, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
It recently has come out in the news that the Chicago police officer Robert Rialmo, who shot and killed 19-year-old Quintonio Legrier and 55-year-old Bettie Jones in late December of 2015, is suing Legrier's estate. (See “Double Murder by Chicago Police: ‘When is this going to end?’“ at revcom.us.) Joel Brodsky, the lawyer for the murdering cop, said that the suit will be filed on the grounds of “assault and emotional distress”—TO THE COP!
Say what!?! This is like a Gestapo agent suing Anne Frank for how traumatic it was to send her to her death in a concentration camp.
“Adding insult to injury” doesn’t even describe how despicable this action is. The words of Rialmo's attorney are beyond disgusting: “Something that bothers Officer Rialmo and myself about the way this is going is the family filed the lawsuit before the funeral. It seems like people believe now that if you have a family member killed by a police officer it’s the functional equivalent of winning the lottery.... ever since the City of Chicago paid $5 million to the McDonald family that seems to be the attitude and it’s just crazy.” The fact that the pig attorney has the nerve to say this while attacking the family of someone the cops just killed shows how unrepentant the police are of their murderous ways.
Put yourself in the shoes of Antonio Legrier and Janet Cooksey, Quintonio’s father and mother: first the cop murders your son, then that same cop sues for your dead son’s assets. Cooksey was rightly outraged, saying, “You took my best friend and my only son, and you say you gonna sue?”
Let’s be crystal clear: It was Rialmo who committed deadly assault when he shot Quintonio Legrier seven times and Bettie Jones three times as they stood inside the doorway of their house on the West Side of Chicago. Larry Rogers Jr., the attorney representing the Jones family, said the officer was about 20 feet away when he opened fire, based on the fact that shell casings were found 25 feet from the front door. There was no reason why they had to die. Bullets were also found in the walls of the home, showing that the shots fired by Rialmo also risked the lives of family and others inside. But Rialmo didn’t care. The emotion that describes more accurately how he acted: cold-blooded indifference for the lives of everyone in the household. The claim of “assault and emotional distress” is just another way of saying that Rialmo supposedly “feared for his life,” a now standard argument that police in every city use to justify murder, backed up by the law.
It was not this Chicago cop who suffered emotional distress as he went about this heartless business, but all those within range of his gun that day and family and friends of these two human beings whose lives have been taken from us. We can only guess what emotional distress was felt by Quintonio Legrier and Bettie Jones in the moments before Rialmo opened fire. But we do know the emotional stress suffered by Bettie’s daughter Latisha, when she came to the doorway to aid her mother and the cops threatened to shoot her as well! And we do know the emotional distress the death of their son has caused Janet Cooksey and Antonio Legrier, now only compounded by this outrageous and ugly retaliatory lawsuit.
This is the real emotional stress that every Black and Brown person feels in this “best of all possible worlds” when they come face to face with and have to deal with the police, and the realization that in the next moment they could be shot and killed for no reason. What kind of a system is it where the reality is that a whole section of society lives under a death sentence? What kind of a system is it where a cop can commit murder and then demand money from the family of the one he has murdered?
This Cannot Go Down Like This! This Cannot Go On!
Police Murder and Terror Must Stop!
Indict ALL the Killer Cops and Everybody Who Covers Up Their Crimes!
The Whole Damn System Is Guilty as Hell!
Revolution #425 February 8, 2016
Carl Dix On:
February 8, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On January 23, 2016 Carl Dix delivered an important address, “We’re in a Genocidal Emergency and We Gotta Stop It,” to the Stop Mass Incarceration Midwest Regional Conference. As part of the speech he announced important new initiatives in building off of Rise Up October. One of these is the call for a Major Day of Resistance to Stop Police Terror Chicago on Wednesday, March 2. (See accompanying call.) Another is the national call for No More Stolen Lives Tour to reach out to campuses all over the country. Below Carl outlines the strategic importance of the No More Stolen Lives Tour:
Now this No More Stolen Lives Tour is something that’s gonna take activists, family members of people murdered by the police, students, and voices of conscience, especially to college campuses throughout the region, including here in Chicago and some of the surrounding areas as well.
The aim of this tour is to issue a broad challenge to the students to join the movement to stop police terror. This is an important strategic step that our movement has got to take. Any movement fighting for fundamental change on major social issues has to have broad numbers of students on the front lines of their fight.
Family members of those killed by police. New York City, October 22, 2015. Photo: Phil Buehler
Look, when you’re talking about students you’re talking about a group of people for whom what’s right and what’s wrong is a big question. They haven’t yet learned that they just have to accept this shit that’s coming down and “well, that’s just the way it is... ain’t nothing you can do about it.” And I hope they never learn that lesson because once you learn that lesson, then you give up. And we don’t want ’em giving up.
We saw this in the 1960s when students joined the struggle against Jim Crow segregation and lynch mob terror, and against the Vietnam War. They transformed those struggles and contributed mightily to forging the kind of movement that rocked this system back on its heels. And we’ve seen beginning stirrings of that. I went down to Missouri University, Mizzou, while that was going on and it was something! Because I’ve been around a while. I remember the 1960s, and while there were some athletes that did some powerful things back then, I don’t recall any whole football team standing up and saying: we are going on strike unless there’s some justice around something. [Applause]
Poster for No More Stolen Lives tour at Loyola University, Chicago.
We’ve gotta tap into that spirit, but we’ve gotta take it farther... This tour is going to spread the message to students everywhere: Stop Police Terror! It will make the reality of the widespread systemic nature of the horror of murder by police much more clearly known. And it will deliver a moral challenge to everybody: Which Side Are You On? And getting many of them on the side of fighting to stop this. And we’ll call on students to form chapters of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network on their campuses and to affiliate existing campus organizations with Stop Mass Incarceration Network that are already active around this fight or want to join in the fight.
Now the family members of police murder victims: there’s an important role that you all can play on this tour. Because look, you all didn’t elect to become family members of people murdered by police—this was something that was enforced on you. But then, by standing up, by dealing with not only the murder of your loved one, but the demonization of your loved one and all the attacks that come down on you by speaking out about what happened to you, it brings to life for many more people the devastation that murder by police can have. And makes clear that these aren’t isolated instances—that it’s happening to many, many people. So your determination can underscore the moral challenge that this has to stop and the challenge for people to join in stopping it, that this tour is going to be moving to deal.
These and other initiatives were only one part of a powerful speech in which he denounced the genocidal character of the police terror, addressed the crisis that is shaking Chicago in response to the police murders and cover-ups perpetrated by the authorities, and spoke directly to how this fight needs to be taken up as part of building a movement for an ACTUAL revolution to get free from this and all the other horrors this system brings down on the people here and all over the world. Below is a short excerpt from this portion of the speech:
We gotta talk about something real. And the real chance of a future for our youth lies in revolution. [Applause] Revolution, that’s what the real hope of the future is, not only for our youth but for countless millions of exploited and oppressed people all over the world. It’s the way to end all the horrors that this system enforces—the savage oppression of Black people; the attacks coming down on women, including trying to take from them the right to choose to have an abortion; the way that fools like Donald Trump demonize immigrants while Obama carries out massive raids and deportations on our immigrant sisters and brothers; the wars for empire; the devastation of the environment of the planet we live on—we can end all these horrors, sisters and brothers, and it will take revolution, communist revolution to do that.
Now Bob Avakian, the leader that I follow, has re-envisioned how to make this kind of revolution, taking what was positive and liberating from the previous revolutions and developing a much more scientific understanding of how we can actually make revolution and emancipate humanity.
Now look, when I talk about revolution I know that there’s a lot of folks that think: well we can’t make revolution because the system is too powerful. Well, let me tell you about that. Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has looked at this problem scientifically. He sees the power of this system but he also sees its vulnerabilities. And he’s developed a method to identify the cracks in the system’s power and a strategy to build a movement for revolution that can work on these cracks, breaking them wider open and creating the potential for us to break through on it. He’s led our Party in developing a strategy that can actually overthrow this system and make revolution when the time is right.
LISTEN TO CARL DIX’S 35-MINUTE SPEECH IN FULL.
Revolution #425 February 8, 2016
From Stop Mass Incarceration Network:
February 8, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
What is happening in Chicago is a concentration of what is going on across the country, a national emergency: where police terror is the spearhead of a genocidal assault on Black and Latino people. Police continue to murder people without letup and the whole damn system goes into gear to exonerate these killer cops. THIS MUST STOP NOW.
In Chicago tremendous outrage has erupted over the video of the police execution of Laquan McDonald, and what has come to light in similar cases, as well as the lies and cover-up by all the institutions of Injustice, from the police to the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), to the state’s attorney, mayor, and more. This has caused a crisis to erupt where large sections of people find this intolerable.
Since the Laquan video was released, thousands of people have poured out into the streets in weeks of protests. Yet the police continue to murder, and the very powers-that-be who covered up for the murdering cops are stalling for time, working to suppress and diffuse the outrage and protest by promising “investigations” and “reforms,” for example getting more tasers. No! We cannot let them get away with this; we will not get used to police terror. We are not waiting for reforms. Stopping police murder is going to take a movement of mass, defiant and determined resistance. Our simple demands are: STOP POLICE MURDER! WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? and Indict All the Murdering Cops and All Those Who Are Part of the Cover-ups and Send Them All to Jail!
Therefore, we call for a powerful day of resistance against police murder, Wednesday, March 2, with two major actions:
March 2, 12 noon-2 pm
“Stolen Lives” Families Demand Justice
Thompson Center (State of Illinois Building), Clark and Randolph
Many families whose loved ones were murdered by police will gather with others to dramatically bring to life the humanity of those whose lives were stolen by law enforcement through reading the names, testimony, art and song. They will demand justice and call on everyone to join them in standing up to STOP POLICE MURDER, and for the indictment of all the murdering cops and those who covered up for them. All Stolen Lives families are invited.
March 2, 3-6 pm
No Business as Usual as Long as Murdering Police Walk Free
Protests will disrupt the evening rush hour, meet-up place downtown (to be announced)
This action will be announced publicly well in advance, it will be controversial. It is meant to draw the line to challenge people from all walks of life—from the people most under the terror of the police, to people from the suburbs who feel this outrage is intolerable—to take a stand: POLICE MURDER MUST STOP! WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? There is no neutral. We cannot allow the police to continue to murder with impunity and get away with it with the approval and complicity of the institutions of so-called “justice.” Indict All the Murdering Cops and All Those Who Are Part of the Cover-ups and Send Them All to Jail!
Everyone who is opposed to police murder can find a way to be part of this protest. People will gather at a central location downtown beginning at 3 pm. There will be one group of volunteers who will take nonviolent direct action to disrupt rush hour. Hundreds of other people who choose not to take part in nonviolent civil disobedience are needed to protest in support of and in conjunction with those who do.
Organize groups now from your high school, colleges, faith community, workplaces, neighborhoods to flood into downtown Chicago on March 2 from 3 to 6 pm. Resistance must intensify and broaden to one where many, many more people from all sections of society must take a stand. No one with a beating heart should stand aside.
P.O. Box 941 Knickerbocker Station, New York, NY 10002-0900
Revolution #425 February 8, 2016
February 8, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Child laborer in Dhaka, Bangladesh, breaks open batteries.
Halfway across the world from Flint, Michigan, in a small city called Kabwe in Zambia, a country in southern Africa, people are being poisoned by lead that, for decades, was spewed out without pollution controls by a smelter. The factory was run by capitalists who left when it was no longer profitable, without any regard for the lives of the people. Cleaning up the lead poison would have cut into profits, so it didn’t happen. Health officials who measured blood levels of lead in the children of Kabwe found the levels too high to be measured by their instruments.
And that goes on all across the globe. Hundreds of millions of people, especially in the poorest regions of the world, are poisoned because of the workings of a system in which human life is worth nothing—from harmful chemicals at workplaces, pollutants in the air and water systems, pesticides in the fields, and other toxins that cause immediate and long-term harm and suffering. Estimates are that lead poisoning alone kills over 140,000 people a year worldwide.
Children are the most vulnerable. In India, three out of four children living in high-traffic areas show dangerously high levels of lead in blood because of fumes from cars running on leaded gasoline. Many children get exposed to poison at work—there are more than 350 million child laborers in the world, including millions forced into modern-day slavery. In the huge slums of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, children have to scavenge garbage dumps in order to survive—exposed to medical waste, pesticides, and dangerous chemicals from batteries and other discarded material.
The system of capitalism-imperialism is a global system, it’s a MASS MURDERING SYSTEM... and it poisons people around the world.
Revolution #425 February 8, 2016
February 8, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
January 23—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
There was a flurry of publicity in the mainstream media on Tuesday, February 2, as LA County district and California state’s attorneys practically tripped over each other to suddenly announce that they were each bringing charges against Southern California Gas Company (SOCAL)—well over three months since the start of the worst natural gas disaster in this country’s history. The massive leak from a blown-out natural gas well at their Aliso Canyon storage facility near the community of Porter Ranch in LA’s San Fernando Valley has already driven over 80,000 metric tons of methane into the atmosphere since its start. And the most optimistic estimates are that the company will not be able to cap the well till the end of February.
More than half of the 30,000 residents of the middle class community of Porter Ranch have been forced to relocate after experiencing headaches, nosebleeds, vomiting, and difficulty breathing; and two schools have had to be closed. This leak is also a massive climate disaster, because methane, the main component of natural gas, is an extremely potent greenhouse gas causing global warming. (See previous article at revcom.us, “Porter Ranch Gas Disaster and the Poisonous Lies of the System.”)
The number one demand of the people of Porter Ranch, and those supporting their struggle, has been “Shut. It. All. Down. Now.” The district attorney’s news release about the charges against SOCAL made it clear they have no intention of meeting that demand: “We will do everything we can as prosecutors to help ensure that the Aliso Canyon facility is brought into compliance.”
"Not Fit Caretakers of the Earth," a clip from the film Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian. Learn more about BA here
Whether intentional or not, the timing of the announcements on the SOCAL charges overshadowed the announcement of another legal action—the first wrongful death lawsuit related to the gas disaster, filed on behalf of the family of 79-year-old Zelda Rothman, a longtime resident of Porter Ranch. The suit accuses SOCAL of exacerbating her already fragile health, caused by lung cancer, leading to her premature death. The suit charges that the contaminated air forced her to use an oxygen tank 24 hours a day, which weakened her health and hastened her death. Her son told the LA Daily News that he pursued the lawsuit because his mother told him she was certain she would be among the first of many casualties as a result of this gas leak.
The lawyer for the family of Zelda Rothman said in a statement: “Southern California Gas Company’s decision to operate its inherently dangerous gas storage operation next to 30,000 residents of Porter Ranch without taking all reasonable steps necessary to prevent catastrophic gas leaks is unconscionable.”
Outrageously, this unfolding catastrophe could have been stopped very quickly. In 1979, SOCAL removed, and did not replace, a broken safety valve that would have stopped the leak. But SOCAL is driven by the greater laws of capitalism. So for them, the concern for the delay that would have been caused to the operation of just one of 115 wells at this facility while a replacement part could be found was the top priority—while the potential danger to the people of the surrounding area and to the global environment as well did not figure into their calculations.
And further, consistent with the workings of this capitalist system, the largest natural gas storage facility in the western United States—which is 60 years old and known to have numerous corroding and leaking wells—has been free to operate without any serious ongoing oversight or continuous inspections and monitoring of the facility and the environment around it by any government agency, at any level.
In fact, according to a Reuters report: “SOCAL warned state utility regulators in 2014 of ‘major failures’ without a rate hike to pay for comprehensive inspections of 229 storage wells. Twenty-six of its wells were ‘high risk’ and should be abandoned—even though they complied with state regulations.” In other words, long before the disaster, SOCAL knew the wells were dangerous and that there could be a major disaster.
And this is not a problem just with SOCAL. The fact is that across the country there is practically no oversight of 400 similar underground gas storage facilities in 30 U.S. states. How is this possible? The view of the government has been that self-regulation by the utility companies is sufficient. A spokesperson for California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources said, “Regardless of the regulations, it’s in an operator’s interest not to have leaks, because that means they’re losing their product.”
What are the actual charges against SOCAL? LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey—infamous for not finding a single case of murder by police in the county worthy of prosecution—filed three misdemeanor counts for “failing to immediately report the gas leak at its Aliso Canyon facility to the proper state authorities” and one misdemeanor count for discharging air contaminants. In regard to the first charge, many Porter Ranch residents have said their symptoms began occurring over the summer, months before the official announcement from the gas company that a massive leak was taking place. But county prosecutors appear to have accepted SOCAL’s claim that the leak began on October 23, and only “accuses” them of waiting three days (!) to notify state authorities.
If found guilty, the company would have to pay $25,000 per day for three days of allegedly failing to report, or $75,000; and $1,000 for each day the gas leak continues, which according to current predictions would amount to another $125,000 or so—a total of $200,000, a puny amount for SOCAL. The state lawsuit alleges that SOCAL violated state health and safety laws by not promptly controlling the leak, which continues to be out of control. The financial liability attached to this lawsuit has yet to be made public.
And so the deep concerns of people whose lives have been made hellish by the gas leaks, and who live in the shadow of possibly even greater disaster, have been and continue to be overruled by the needs of the capitalist system.
As Bob Avakian points out:
This system and those who rule over it are not capable of carrying out economic development to meet the needs of the people now, while balancing that with the needs of future generations and requirements of safeguarding the environment. They care nothing for the rich diversity of the earth and its species, for the treasures this contains, except when and where they can turn this into profit for themselves....These people are not fit to be the caretakers of the earth.
Revolution #425 February 8, 2016
February 8, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
Charly Leundeu Keunang, the 43-year-old homeless man known as “Brother Africa” on downtown LA’s Skid Row, was murdered in cold blood by the LAPD on March 1 last year. A cellphone video of the murder was taken by a bystander. When that video was posted online, millions of people viewed it, all around the world. They saw the LAPD roust a man out of his tent on Skid Row, use a 50,000-volt taser on him and, when he reacts to being electrically shocked, shoot him six times. The autopsy revealed two of the six shots were “contact gunshot wounds,” indicating that one of the cops held Brother Africa down and pressed his gun against the Africa’s chest and pulled the trigger. Other cops also opened fire. Plain and simple, there can be no debate on this issue of murder: this was a horrific and unjustifiable execution of an unarmed homeless immigrant from Cameroon, a country in Central Africa.
On February 2, the LA Police Commission ruled this police murder “justifiable.” The LAPD, Inspector General, and the LA Police Commission say video from body cameras worn by police show the shooting was “in policy.” The LAPD won’t release this video to the public. But several journalists have been able to view the body camera video. One journalist, Jeff Sharlet, said, “As a journalist, I’m not supposed to take sides in LAPD killing of Charly Keunang. To hell with that. I’ve seen the body cams. Facts are facts.” Sharlet also said, “This is not a matter of interpretation: LAPD Chief Charlie Beck is lying about the killing of Charly Keunang.” The attorney for the Keunang family said in reaction to the LA Police Commission ruling, “This was a cover-up, not a police investigation.”
Not too long after the LAPD murder of Brother Africa, in early May another Black, unarmed homeless man, Brendon Glenn, was shot in the back by an LAPD cop in Venice. This was another murder in cold blood, and the LAPD is hiding video footage of Brendon Glenn’s murder too.
These two unarmed homeless people murdered by the LAPD are two of 1,136 people killed by police in the U.S. in 2015. This genocidal rampage is happening in the face of nationwide protests to stop murder by police over the past year and one-half, an upsurge this country hasn’t seen for a long time. This system and its police have “doubled down”—continuing to kill people in large numbers and, over and over again, letting cops go scot-free when they do.
The ruling on Brother Africa—deeming such a blatant murder, caught on video seen by millions, of a homeless man as “justified”—delivers a specific message: a green light for the police to brutalize and kill more homeless people, in Los Angeles and across the country. There have already been many homeless people killed by police. Some we never hear about. For example, few know about the San Diego police gunning down the homeless, mentally ill Afghan immigrant Fridoon Rawshan Nehad last year. That murder was also caught on video, and a judge ruled it “justifiable.”
Consider how the police brutalize and even murder homeless people and others who should be treated with compassion and given medical care. Then consider these words from Bob Avakian, writing about Tyisha Miller, a 19-year-old African-American woman shot dead by Riverside, California, police in 1998. Miller had been passed out in her car as a result of a seizure, when police claimed that she suddenly awoke and had a gun; they fired 23 times at her, hitting her at least 12 times, and murdered her.
If you can’t handle this situation differently than this, then get the fuck out of the way. Not only out of the way of this situation, but get off the earth. Get out of the way of the masses of people. Because, you know, we could have handled this situation any number of ways that would have resulted in a much better outcome. And frankly, if we had state power and we were faced with a similar situation, we would sooner have one of our own people’s police killed than go wantonly murder one of the masses. That’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re actually trying to be a servant of the people. You go there and you put your own life on the line, rather than just wantonly murder one of the people. Fuck all this “serve and protect” bullshit! If they were there to serve and protect, they would have found any way but the way they did it to handle this scene. They could have and would have found a solution that was much better than this. This is the way the proletariat, when it’s been in power has handled—and would again handle—this kind of thing, valuing the lives of the masses of people. As opposed to the bourgeoisie in power, where the role of their police is to terrorize the masses, including wantonly murdering them, murdering them without provocation, without necessity, because exactly the more arbitrary the terror is, the more broadly it affects the masses. And that’s one of the reasons why they like to engage in, and have as one of their main functions to engage in, wanton and arbitrary terror against the masses of people.