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Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
Editor’s note: September 9, 2016 marks 40 years since the death of Mao Zedong. We are republishing the following, which was originally published on www.revcom.us in May 2016. And we urge our readers to read and study the new book by Bob Avakian, THE NEW COMMUNISM.
May 9, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
May 2016 marks 50 years since Mao Zedong launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China. The Cultural Revolution was a breakthrough in dealing with a world historic problem of communist revolution—how to prevent counterrevolution under socialism, in a way that enables the masses of people to play a decisive role in revolutionizing all of society and transforming their thinking and values in the process. Mao, for the first time in history, had analyzed that class struggle between the bourgeoisie and proletariat continues under socialism; that this struggle is focused around whether to advance further on the socialist road toward communism or to revert to capitalism; and that the main force of the bourgeoisie is concentrated in the Communist Party itself. And in the Cultural Revolution, he found a way to lead masses to act to deal with that.
As the Revolutionary Communist Party’s Manifesto, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, puts it:
[I]t is hard to overstate the importance of this theoretical analysis by Mao—which cleared up a great deal of confusion as to whether, and why, there was a danger of capitalist restoration in socialist society, and which provided fundamental guidance in mobilizing masses to advance on the socialist road in opposition to revisionist forces whose orientation and actions were leading precisely toward such a capitalist restoration. The Cultural Revolution in China was the living embodiment of such a mass revolutionary mobilization, in which tens and hundreds of millions of people debated and struggled over questions bearing decisively on the direction of society and of the world revolution. For ten years, this mass upsurge succeeded in holding back, and putting on the defensive, the forces of capitalist restoration, including high officials in the Chinese Communist Party such as Deng Xiaoping. But shortly after the death of Mao in 1976, those forces—headed, ultimately, and for a time from the background, by Deng Xiaoping—succeeded in carrying out a coup—wielding the army and other organs of the state to suppress revolutionaries, killing many, many thousands, and imprisoning many more—and proceeded to restore capitalism in China. This was, unfortunately, a living demonstration of the very danger that Mao had so sharply pointed to, and whose basis he had so penetratingly analyzed.
The Cultural Revolution, 50 years later, still inspires anybody who aspires to a liberating society. At the same time, it still infuriates the representatives of the old order and all who fear the upheaval involved in actually ridding the world of exploitation and oppression. Already, there have been publications, symposiums, programs, etc. attacking the Cultural Revolution with gross distortions and lies, and we anticipate more over the coming year. OK, then, bring it on! Let them do their worst. We look forward to meeting the challenge head on and turning these attacks around, using the controversy to draw new people into the process of seeing for themselves what the evidence actually is and what it means.
Starting this week and over the course of the coming months, revcom.us will be getting into this. We will be doing this from the standpoint of Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism. When the Cultural Revolution was reversed and socialist society overthrown, Bob Avakian (BA) stepped up to fill a great need, bringing scientific clarity to this historical juncture: upholding the great accomplishments of Mao and the revolution in China, while digging deeply into the experience of the first stage of communist revolution. In doing so, he has summed up the great achievements and he has summed up the errors, even significant ones, in these first attempts at truly emancipating humanity. The new synthesis of communism includes breakthroughs in understanding the dynamics of socialism as a transition to communism, internationalism, and strategy for revolution; most essentially, it is a breakthrough in the scientific method and approach to reality and to revolution in particular. As the 2016 Resolutions of the Central Committee of the RCP, USA put it, this 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.”
In this issue, as part of launching this offensive on the Cultural Revolution, we are including several pieces:
No Wonder They Slander Communism, by Bob Avakian
Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
by Bob Avakian | November 18, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism, An Interview with Bob Avakian by A. Brooks.
If you step back and think about it, no wonder they slander communism so much. If you presided over a system that has such glaring, howling contradictions and disparities in terms of how people lived, a system which denied a decent life to the majority of humanity, and weighed them down with tremendous oppression and superstition and ignorance, while a relative handful in a few countries lived a life of unbelievable luxury—but, more than just luxury, they continued to accumulate capital while they fought with each other over who would beat out the other through this exploitation and accumulation of capital—if you stood back and looked at that... Imagine if you said to somebody: go to a drawing board and draw up the way you think the world should be. And imagine if somebody went to the drawing board and painted a picture of the way the world is now, and they said: this is the way the world should be. I mean, there would be tremendous howls coming from all quarters of humanity, saying: What the fuck— that's the way you think the world should be, with these tremendous disparities and people, little children, dying of cholera and malnutrition and other things that could be prevented easily, while a small number battle each other to accumulate more and more wealth from the suffering of this mass of humanity—that's what you think?!
Anybody who would actually draw that up on a board should actually be—and would probably be—rightly accused of criminal insanity. And yet, here's a class of people, the capitalist-imperialist class, that presides exactly over a world that way, and argues it's the best of all possible worlds. The only reason that people don't—masses of people don't, right at this time—say, "this is criminal insanity" is because they've been propagandized and conditioned to believe that, in fact, this is the only possible way, and that the radical alternative to it that does exist, namely communism, has somehow been a horror and a disaster. And it's not hard to see why the ruling class of capitalist-imperialists would employ a lot of people to propagate that idea everywhere they could. If you presided over such a criminally insane system, you would undoubtedly do the same.
The entire interview is available here.
Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
May 9, 2016, originally published February 19, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors’ Note: In this issue we are reprinting part of an interview with Bob Avakian, this one conducted in 2004. It originally aired on Michael Slate’s Beneath the Surface show on KPFK radio in Los Angeles, on July 29, 2005. In publishing it here, some editing has been done, particularly for clarity. In some places brief explanatory passages have been added within brackets. Subheads have also been added.
MS: Let’s dig into the Cultural Revolution [in China, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s]. You led communists around the world in fighting to understand what the significance of the Cultural Revolution was, and to uphold it as a dividing line question, and to see it as the highest point of class struggle in human history, the greatest height the class struggle’s gotten to in human history. That’s not exactly—in terms of conventional wisdom today, that’s not exactly what you find on the bookstore shelf. You can find 70 books about how—and you can hear people who are 32 years old talking about how—the Cultural Revolution destroyed their careers, and they had remarkable careers when they were like two years old. But it’s had an impact on people. It’s had a big impact on people.
You had musicians who once were major supporters of the Cultural Revolution who now listen to these stories from people, from artists coming out of China, for instance, and saying, “I was misled. I didn’t understand everything that went on because I didn’t understand the suffering that people have.” Or you have these popular cultural forms, The Red Violin, for god’s sake: a movie that had nothing to do with China, but there was this one scene in it where they had to show the Red Guards banging down doors and pulling people out of their houses, searching for this red violin that they needed to smash. And it was this symbol of artistic freedom and creativity.
Or you had Farewell My Concubine, which was a big, big movie among—I know a lot of my friends, a lot of artists and intellectuals who went to see that film two, three times, and really looked at it as a sign of what was wrong, and how the Cultural Revolution was not an advance for humanity, but something that was actually part of suppression, and particularly suppression of intellectuals and artists.
I wanted to ask you about that—let’s talk a little about the question of intellectual freedom. And I think it’s tied up with the question of dissent, but we can get into that separately. But I think actually this idea of—what you’ve been saying all along, and one of the reasons I asked you about this question about the Party and everything else in terms of people starting to settle in, and that kind of thing—is that you had talked earlier about the need for really just a totally, tremendously creative surge among the people and in the Party and among communists, this constant creative application, and then that Marxism itself is a science that actually, in a living form, really does do that. When you were saying that, I was just thinking, you know, it’s so refreshing to hear this thing because it invigorates you with a sense of like, you know, [what] our science really is—it unleashes the greatest creativity, when you grasp it, it unleashes the greatest creativity possible.
Street scene in China before the revolution
But there’s this common, or this conventional wisdom that actually—here’s this crucial development in the class struggle, this crucial development of the science of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, and yet it’s portrayed as this sort of thing that was the suppression of artistic and intellectual freedom.
BA: Well, once again, I hate to sound like a broken record, but this is a complex question and a complex problem that the Cultural Revolution was seeking to address, and was addressing. And once more you have to situate this in what was occurring in the development of the Chinese Revolution, and not come at it from the way all too many people do in this society. They don’t understand the actual dynamics—why these revolutions were necessary in the first place, what they arose out of, and what were the contradictions they faced when they emerged. And some people have some sense of, OK in China people were poor. If you have read those Pearl Buck novels, you know, people of our generation, where you get a sense about the terrible life of the peasants, and you can understand why people would want to cast off that oppression, and so on. But a lot of people are even ignorant of that, especially now. They have no real sense of what China was like, and why a revolution was needed, and how that revolution had to take place.
Foot binding was the custom of breaking the arch of the foot and the toes of a young girl (between the ages of two and six) and then binding each foot painfully tight to prevent further growth. This was practiced mainly among the wealthier classes. The tiny narrow feet were considered beautiful and to make a woman's movements more feminine and dainty.
Bound feet rendered women dependent on their families, particularly the men in their families. When the revolution succeeded in 1949 and the new society was established, foot binding was outlawed as a step towards liberating women.
So that’s one problem. But not only did they have to overcome the whole daunting prospect, or reality rather, of imperialist domination and carving up China, but they also had a whole history of feudalism, of massive exploitation of the peasantry and hundreds of years—or thousands of years, actually—in which the great majority of people were just desperately impoverished and exploited. And they were coming from a society which, because it was dominated by imperialism, and because of the remaining feudalism, was not advanced technologically, or was technologically advanced [only] in a few enclaves. But then the vast part of the country and the people who lived in it were mired in a lot of enforced backwardness.
So you’re coming from that, and you’re trying to make leaps in terms of overcoming the poverty and the oppression of the masses of people. And you come to power, in 1949, and right away, within a year, you’re thrust into a war with the U.S. in Korea—a war in which MacArthur is saying: let’s take the war to China. That was his big dispute with Truman. Let’s take the war to China. Let’s go right to China and cross the border. Not just go near the border, but go across the border, and roll back the Chinese revolution.1
And so right away, you barely have time to celebrate and consolidate your victory, and you’re thrust into this battle with this powerful imperialist force right at your doorstep, literally. And then you fight the U.S. to a standstill, and in effect defeat it—because, in terms of its objectives in Korea, once the U.S. entered the war, they were thwarted in those, in large part because of the involvement of the Chinese in that [war].
So here you are. Now you’re trying to take this country that’s poor and backward, has been dominated by imperialism—you have the situation where [there was] the famous sign in a park in Shanghai, “No dogs or Chinese allowed.” This is just a stark way of expressing what their life was like, even in the urban areas, even if you were among the more educated classes, for example. So what you were referring to earlier—a lot of people did either go back to China [after the victory of the revolution in 1949], or a lot of people in China, intellectuals and others, were very enthusiastic about the new society that was being brought into being, because it was going to overcome this whole situation where China was held down and carved up by different imperialists and the Chinese people and the Chinese nation was going to be able to stand up on its feet and not be run roughshod over and lorded over by these foreign powers, and so on.
But within that there’s also a contradiction, that a lot of people are—it’s sort of captured in Mao’s thing that “Only socialism can save China.” What I’m trying to get at—this is a contradictory statement actually, because he’s saying that without taking the socialist road, China cannot get out from underneath the poverty and the domination by imperialism, and so that’s the only road for China. Which means that a lot of people—the reason I say it’s contradictory is it means a lot of people who were not really won to the communist vision will support the revolution and will even support going on the socialist road because it is true that objectively there’s no other way that the backwardness and domination by imperialism can be ended.
On the one side, there’s obviously a positive aspect to that. You get a lot of people, including in the more bourgeois strata, who are enthusiastic about the socialist road because it does represent the way out for China. But, on the other side of it, they’re coming at it from more like a nationalist point of view, or a more bourgeois point of view. They want China to take its rightful place in the world—and they don’t want it to be stepped on by foreigners, and so on—which is certainly legitimate, and something you can unite with. But it’s contradictory.
And that phenomenon existed, not only outside the Party, but to a very large degree inside the Party in China. A lot of people joined the Communist Party in China for those kinds of reasons. And they had not necessarily become fully, ideologically communists in their outlook, and really being guided by the whole idea of getting to a communist world—and internationalism, of doing it as part of the whole world revolution and sacrificing for that world revolution when necessary—but more from the point of view: this is the only way China can stand on its feet and take its rightful place in the world. Well, a lot of those people were in the Party for a long time. A lot of them were veterans of the Long March and made heroic sacrifices, but never really ruptured completely to the communist viewpoint, which certainly encompasses the idea that China should throw off foreign domination and the poverty and backwardness of the countryside and feudalism, but is much more than that, and it goes way beyond that.
So this is one of the problems, the contradictions that were existing within and characterizing the struggle within the Chinese Communist Party right from the beginning. And then there’s a whole other dimension to it, which is that everybody has the birthmarks of the womb they emerge out of, so to speak. And that was true of China in terms of the world and of the Chinese Revolution. The new society emerged out of the old one in China, and carried the birthmarks of that, the inequalities and so on.
BA continues: But it was true in another important dimension, too, which is that the Chinese Revolution was made as part of the international communist movement, in which the Soviet Union was the model of how you made revolution and how you build socialism. Well, it’s interesting—here’s another contradiction: Mao broke with part of that. In order to make the revolution in China, they had to break with the Soviet model, which was the idea that you centered in the cities, based in the working class, and took power in the cities and then you spread it to the countryside.
The Chinese approach to it that Mao forged, after a lot of defeats and some serious setbacks and bloodshed and bloodbaths that they suffered trying to do it in the cities and being crushed by the forces of the central government, or Chiang Kai-shek’s forces,2 was to finally do it the opposite way—to say we have to come from the countryside: because it’s a backward country, we can start up guerrilla war in the countryside, where most of the people live, and advance to finally taking the cities. So that was the opposite of how they did it in Russia. Now, it’s true that in Russia the majority of people lived in the countryside, but it was a different kind of society than China. And they didn’t really have the possibility of waging guerrilla warfare from the countryside in Russia the same way that they did in China. So right there, Mao had to break with the Soviet model and forge a new model of how you make revolution in China and in countries more generally like China.
But then, when they got to actually—OK, here we are, we’re in power, now we’re going to build socialism—the Soviet Union existed, it was offering them a certain amount of support and material assistance in doing it. And they didn’t have any other model. And they didn’t right away recognize that the model of the Soviet Union first of all had problems in it anyway, and second of all wasn’t necessarily suited to the concrete conditions of China. So the emphasis the Soviet Union under Stalin put on developing heavy industry, you know, to the disadvantage of agriculture and so on, was an even bigger problem for China than it was in the Soviet Union, although it caused real problems there.3 So at a certain point, Mao once again, as he did in making the revolution in the first place, comes up against the realization, after maybe a decade or so of experience in trying to build socialism in China, that this Soviet model has a lot of problems with it. You know, its over-emphasis on heavy industry. That’s not the way we’re going to actually get the peasantry to be on the socialist road, by sacrificing everything just to one-sidedly develop heavy industry, and so on.
Communal dining room in a people's commune during the Great Leap Forward, 1959. People's communes were a new thing that, under communist leadership, brought together millions of peasants to collectively work the land and transform relations between and among people.
So Mao was trying to break out of this model. And that’s really what the much-maligned Great Leap Forward was about.4 Plus the Soviets, once Mao did try to break out of this model and not be under the wing of the Soviets, turned against him, supported people in the Chinese Party who wanted, if not to overthrow him, then force him to go back under the Soviet model and Soviet domination, in effect, and [the Soviets] pulled out their assistance, their blueprints, their technical aid, and so on, right when the Chinese are trying to make a leap in their economy.
So Mao is trying to forge this road in China for socialism, just as he did before, for the road for actually getting power. Now they have power. He’s trying to forge a different road for socialism. But he’s up against not only the Soviet Union but a significant section of the Chinese Party. On the one hand, a lot of them really didn’t break out of the—as Marx said, they really didn’t get beyond the horizon of bourgeois right. They really were still thinking in terms of just—as Deng Xiaoping openly implemented after he came to power—how do we make China a powerful country, even if it means doing it with capitalism? And they weren’t really thinking about how to get to communism as part of the whole world struggle. So you have that phenomenon. And then you have the phenomenon that a lot of the people, to the degree that they are trying to build socialism, are doing it with the Soviet model, and with the methods the Soviet Union used (which we talked about somewhat) as the way you go about doing this. And Mao is trying to figure out how to break out of this, and how to actually have a socialism that much more brings the masses consciously into the process. Mao criticized Stalin, for example, when, in the early ’60s, he was commenting on some of Stalin’s writings about socialism—he said Stalin talks too much about technique and technical things and not enough about the masses; and he talks too much about the cadre and the administrators, and the technical personnel, and not the masses and not enough about consciousness.
So in those ways, too, he was trying to fight for a different model of socialism that would really bring the masses much more consciously into the process. And then, on top of that, the educational system, the culture—all that superstructure, as we describe it—was really unchanged from the old society. A lot of people, even in the Communist Party, didn’t see the problem with the traditional Chinese culture, even though it had a feudal content to it, to a very significant degree, and even though it sort of uncritically repeated or adopted things that came from these imperialist countries that had dominated China. So Mao was saying: how do we break out of this mold that’s not really going to lead us to where we need to go in terms of building socialism in China?
He’s up against people who are not really that much motivated by transforming the whole society, you know, in terms of getting rid of all the unequal relations and oppressive divisions, but just want to build up a powerful country. He’s up against people who, to the degree they even do think about that, are thinking of it in the terms of what the Soviet Union under Stalin had done (and the Soviet Union under Khrushchev5 was modifying but still carrying forward some aspects of it in terms of this way to build the economy). And he’s up against a whole culture and superstructure that’s still reinforcing the old relations from the past. And he tries various methods.
I’m saying “Mao.” It’s not just him all by himself, but to a significant degree, to be honest, it was him by himself. Because not that many other people in the leadership of the Party even recognized these contradictions and saw that it was going to take them somewhere other than [where] they wanted to go, and ultimately back to a form of capitalism. So to a significant degree, although there were some few others in the leadership, mainly there weren’t. It was mainly Mao who was the one who was saying: We have to break through and do something different here.
And he tried things like initiating socialist education movements, that through the channels of the Party would raise the sights of the Party members and the masses more broadly as to why they needed to build socialism in China, and what that meant, and what that had to do with transforming the economic relations of people in production, and the social relations between men and women and various other important social inequalities that needed to be overcome, and the political structures and the culture. But that only got so far, and really didn’t get to the heart or the root of the problem: that there were all these forces taking China back toward capitalism, even if in a slightly different form, a combination of copying what was done in the imperialist countries, and what had been done in the Soviet Union—which, in the conditions of China, repeating that would have led back to capitalism, as Mao was increasingly recognizing.
University students in Peking posting big character posters, a form of mass democracy through which the people could express their views on major economic, social, political and cultural issues.
So all this is the backdrop—the reason I’m going into this much detail—this is the backdrop for why the Cultural Revolution was necessary. And Mao said, at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution: we tried various ways to solve this problem, that we were being taken back down the road to capitalism. I mean, the Soviet system—part of Mao’s criticism was it also involved things like one-man management in the factories, instead of really bringing the workers increasingly into administrative and other, similar tasks, and into the development of technology, and the planning of technology, the planning of production. They just basically froze in place the old relations, within the framework of state ownership, and they basically reproduced the same relations in that framework. That was a big problem with the Soviet model of socialism. Mao was increasingly recognizing this. And they [the Soviets] were doing other things that are familiar in capitalist society, like motivating people with piecework and bonuses, rather than trying to motivate them ideologically to want to raise production in order to advance the revolution in China and support the revolution worldwide.
So Mao’s saying: We have to sweep away this stuff, but we’ve tried doing it through the channels of the Party, through things like socialist education movements, and they haven’t really worked, because the way the Party is structured and the way that the leadership of the Party—most of the leadership of the Party conceives of socialism just in a way that’s actually going to lead away from socialism. So if we just do it through the channels of the Party, it’s just going to end up going nowhere, or end up ironically reinforcing what we’ve already got. We need something radically different to rupture out of this—to transform what’s going on in the economy, to transform what’s going on in terms of how the actual decision-making goes on in the society, transform the culture and the thinking of the people. So this is finally—Mao said finally we found the form in the Cultural Revolution, a form through which, as he put it, the masses could expose and criticize our dark aspect, our negative side, in a mass way and from below.
BA continues: And that’s really what they were setting out to do with the Cultural Revolution, which is—the reason I’m going into all of this background is that Mao was trying [to deal with] a really tremendously challenging, difficult thing: to rupture them off one road, really, onto another. Even though the society was still, in an overall sense, socialist, it was very rapidly heading back to capitalism because of all the pulls I’m talking about. And Mao recognized: unless we rupture it somewhere else, the process of attrition, almost, is going to wear us down back to the capitalist road.
So all that is what he was really setting out to do, and he recognized that in doing this, you can’t rely on the same channels of the Party that are sort of sclerotic and frozen in these old ways of seeing what this is all about, with this bourgeois idea of just getting China to be a powerful country playing its own rightful role in the world—and, to the degree that anybody thinks about socialism, it’s the Soviet model, which has a lot of things in it that are actually carryovers from capitalism.
So you’re not just going to be able to go through the channels of the Party to solve this problem, Mao recognized. So we have to have some upheaval that comes, as he said, from below, and in a mass way. And that’s where the whole phenomenon of the youth—who are often the force that’s willing to criticize and challenge everything, and is not just stuck in convention. They were unleashed—you know, the Red Guards—to actually challenge this whole direction, including to challenge the Party leaders and Party structures that were the machinery for carrying things in this direction that Mao recognized would go back to capitalism, for all the combination of reasons that I’m discussing. So that’s really what they were trying to accomplish, and they were trying to make changes in the way society was administered, to draw the masses in; changes in how, for example, health care was done so that it wasn’t only for the city and only for the better-off strata, but was spread out to the countryside where the masses had never had health care. All these were issues that were bitterly fought out in the Cultural Revolution.
And the culture began to put the masses of people—but, more importantly, revolutionary content—onto the stage, instead of old feudal themes, and emperors and various upper-class figures like that as the heroes.
BA continues: So this was what they set out to do. And I think a lot of these horror stories that we hear about from the Cultural Revolution—I think that there’s some reality to what people describe—there were excesses. But they [these horror stories] also reflect a very myopic view where a small, more privileged section of society raises its concerns and needs above the larger thing that was happening to the masses of people in the society as a whole. I mean, I’ve made this analogy. Some people complain: well, intellectuals were made to go to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution; but nobody ever asked the peasants, who made up 80 or 90 percent of the population, whether they wanted to be in the countryside. It was just assumed they would be there, producing the food and the materials for clothes and so on, while other people were in the cities, having a more privileged existence, especially if they were from these strata other than the proletariat.
So that’s one side of the picture. I think that there were excesses. I mean, Mao commented on a peasant rebellion that he went to investigate in China during the 1920s, at the beginning of the revolutionary process, and he made this statement: the peasants are rising up, challenging all the old authorities and overthrowing them, and some people are saying, oh, it’s terrible, it’s going too far. And he said: look, we basically can either try to get to the head of this and lead it, we can stand to the side and gesticulate at it and criticize it, or we can try to stand in the way and stop it. And he also, along with that, said: if wrongs are going to be righted, there will inevitably be excesses, when the masses rise up to right wrongs, or else the wrongs cannot be righted. If you start pouring cold water and criticizing and trying to tamp things down as soon as there are any excesses, then things never get out of acceptable bounds—and if things don’t get out of acceptable bounds, fundamental changes don’t come about. So the same thing applied in the Cultural Revolution.
There were excesses. Mao said to Edgar Snow, when he was interviewed by him in 1971, that he was very disappointed by some of the excesses that occurred and some of the ways in which people carried out struggle in unprincipled ways. And he was very disappointed that there was factionalism that developed among the Red Guards, instead of uniting people broadly around the broad themes of the Cultural Revolution as I’ve tried to outline them. They got into factional disputes and began to actually war with each other. Sometimes literally with arms over which was the one that was the only revolutionary force and all the others were counter-revolutionary. So you know, while he was disappointed and even expressed his disappointment with some of this, he also recognized that the same principles were at work—that if there weren’t a mass upheaval, you were not going to be able to rupture things off the road they were on, and they would very quickly go back to capitalism, for all the reasons I’ve been trying to point to. But if you did have a mass upsurge, you would have excesses. And then Mao tried to move to correct these excesses.
But it’s not possible—first of all, this isn’t like the caricature they paint, like one person sits here and stage-manages the whole thing and literally presses buttons and controls [everything]. The thing is a mass upsurge. It was a revolutionary struggle. I mean, they did overthrow the established leadership of the city of Shanghai through a million people rising up, and replaced it with a revolutionary headquarters, a revolutionary committee, which brought to the fore and incorporated a lot of the masses who’d risen up in these Red Guard groups, including not just students, but workers in the city, and peasants from the countryside around Shanghai. So it was a real revolution—and real revolutions are not neat and clean.
A women's brigade in a commune pauses to read a big character poster, an announcement in 1969 about the 9th Party Congress, summing up the lessons up to that point of the Cultural Revolution.
They did issue directives that tried to give general guidelines to the struggle—including narrowing the scope of the people that were identified as enemies to a small handful of people in the Party who, as Mao put it, were people in authority taking the capitalist road; that among the intellectuals and in academia, they should draw distinctions between a handful of bourgeois academic tyrants who were trying to lord it over people and impose the old feudal and bourgeois standards, and a larger number of intellectuals who were trained in the old society and had a lot of the outlook from that society, but were people that were friends of the revolution and should be won over, even if there were contradictions there. So Mao put out guidelines to try to deal with his understanding that there would inevitably be excesses.
But it was a massive thing of hundreds of millions of people. And a lot of people jumped into it, and some people deliberately carried it to excess in order to sabotage it. People who were at the top who wanted to deflect the struggle away from themselves and what policies and lines they represented would foment factionalism and would carry things to excess deliberately, in order to discredit it, so that then they could step in and say: see it’s all gotten out of hand, we have to put a stop to it.
So this is all the complexity of that. And I have no doubt that there were people who were wrongly victimized in the Cultural Revolution. It’s almost inevitable in this kind of thing. Which doesn’t mean it’s fine, it’s OK. As I said, Mao was upset about some of these things. But, on another level, if you’re going to have a mass revolution to rupture the society more fully onto the socialist road and prevent capitalism—which is what they did—and even to completely restructure and revolutionize the Party in the course of that—which they also did. They basically suspended the Party and disbanded and then reorganized it on the basis of the masses being involved in criticizing Party members, and even having mass criticism meetings where the Party would be reconstituted, as part of mass meetings where the masses would raise criticisms of the Party and evaluate Party members. This was an unprecedented thing in any society, obviously, but including in socialist society. And a lot of errors were made. So that’s one dimension to it.
The Red Detachment of Women (1964) was one of the most popular model revolutionary operas created during the Cultural Revolution in China. Combining beautiful, stirring music with incredible and innovative ballet—the story takes place in the 1930s during the war of liberation. A young woman slave escapes a brutal landlord and joins a women's detachment of the Red Army. During the Cultural Revolution, the masses of people—but, more importantly, revolutionary content—were projected onto the stage, instead of old feudal themes, and emperors and various upper-class figures like that as the heroes.Works like The Red Detachment of Women were part of developing a new art and culture in socialist society–as part of revolutionizing all of society.
BA continues: Another dimension is, I do think there were some errors of conception and methodology on the part of the people leading this—maybe Mao to some degree, but especially people like Chiang Ching and others who put a tremendous amount of effort into bringing forward these advanced model revolutionary cultural works, which were really world-class achievements in revolutionary content, but also in artistic quality: the ballets, and the Peking operas and so on. But who also I think, had certain tendencies toward rigidity and dogmatism, and who didn’t understand fully the distinction between what goes into, of necessity, creating model cultural works, and what should be broader artistic expression, which might take a lot of diverse forms, and not only could not be, but should not be supervised in the same way and to the same finely-calibrated degree as was necessary in order to bring forward these completely unprecedented model cultural works.
And there needed to be more of a dialectical understanding, I think—and this is tentative thinking on my part, because I haven’t investigated this fully and a lot more needs to be learned, so I want to emphasize that—but I have a tendency to think that there needed to be a better dialectical understanding of the dialectical relation between some works that were led and directed in a very finely detailed and calibrated way from the highest levels, mobilizing artists in that process, and other things where you gave a lot more expression to a lot more creativity and experimentation, and you let a lot of that go on, and then you sifted through it and saw what was coming forward that was positive, and learning from different attempts in which people were struggling to bring forward something new that would actually have a revolutionary content, or even that wouldn’t but needed to nevertheless be part of the mix so that people could learn from and criticize various things and decide what it was they wanted to uphold and popularize and what they didn’t. So I think there’s more to be learned there.
I also think there was a third dimension to this. There was an element, even in Mao—and I’ve criticized this, you know, it’s controversial, but I’m criticizing something that [has been pointed to] in various things I’ve written or talks I’ve given, in particular one called Conquer the World?6—that there was a tendency, even in Mao, toward a certain amount of nationalism. And I think this carried over into some of the ways in which intellectuals and artists who had been trained in and were influenced by or had an interest in Western culture—there was somewhat of a sectarian attitude toward some of that. You know, Mao had this slogan: we should make the past serve the present and foreign things serve China. Well, in my opinion, that—particularly the second part of that—is not exactly the right way to pose it. It’s not a matter of China and foreign things, it’s a matter of—whether from another country, or from China, or whatever country art comes from—what is its objective content? Is it mainly progressive or is it mainly reactionary? Is it revolutionary or counter-revolutionary? Does it help propel things in the direction of transforming society toward communism or does it help pull things back and pose obstacles to that? And I think that formulation, even the formulation of “foreign things serve China”—while it has something correct about it, in not rejecting everything foreign, let me put it that way—has an aspect of not being quite correct and being influenced by a certain amount of nationalism, rather than a fully internationalist view [with regard to] even the question of culture.
MS: That even led to some of the bizarre thing around jazz, right?
BA: Yeah, jazz and rock ’n’ roll. They didn’t understand the positive aspect of that. Of course, there’s a lot of garbage in rock ’n’ roll in particular. They didn’t really understand what jazz was as a phenomenon in the U.S., and they just—they negated it one-sidedly. And they also one-sidedly negated rock ’n’ roll, which in a lot of ways had a very positive thrust at that time, in the ’60s, the late ’60s in the U.S. It had a lot of rebellious spirit and even some more consciously revolutionary works of art were coming forward, even with their limitations. So I think what was bound up with that was also part of what I think got involved in the way some intellectuals in China, particularly those maybe who had more inclinations toward and interest in Western culture, got turned into enemies or got persecuted in ways they should not have.
Factory revolutionary committee members meet with workers.
But this is tentative thinking on my part. We need to investigate it more fully. What I was trying to do, though, was to give the backdrop for why this Cultural Revolution was necessary in the first place, and what they were trying to accomplish with it, and why that was not only legitimate, but necessary and tremendously important and why and how it brought forward all these new things. It did bring forward new revolutionary culture. It did spread health care to the countryside. It did involve masses of people who’d never been involved in science before, in scientific experimentation and investigation, and even scientific theory together with scientists, and the same kinds of transformations in education, the same kinds of transformations in the workplace, where they broke down one-man management and they actually started having administrators and managers and technicians getting involved part of the time—not on a fully equal basis, but part of the time—in productive labor, and having some of the production workers getting involved in those other spheres and having, instead of one-man management, a revolutionary committee that drew in significant representatives of the workers as well as of management or more full-time management and technical personnel and Party cadre.
So there were tremendous accomplishments, including in the sphere of art, including in the sphere of education, including in the whole intellectual sphere broadly speaking. I mean, I read articles from that time in China about physics, theoretical physics, wrestling with the nature of matter and the whole—how to understand the question of motion of matter in different forms that it could assume, not just in everyday things but on a more theoretical physics construct.
So there were a lot of tremendous things that were brought forward. This was not a time when the lights went out intellectually. However, there were shortcomings, and I do believe there were some people who were wrongly persecuted in the course of this; and that, I think, gets mixed into the equation, too.
Artwork created by peasants during the Cultural Revolution.
MS: I want to roll on with this. Before I get into the question of actually pursuing more of this question of intellectual and artistic freedom and dissent as a necessity in the future society, I wanted to get into a couple of things about the role of artists in particular. You know, it’s interesting because, 10 years ago, Haile Gerima—I interviewed Haile Gerima, the filmmaker who made Sankofa, Bush Mama. He’s an Ethiopian filmmaker, but he’s been here a long time. He’s kind of been steeped, he’s very schooled in revolutionary theory around the world. And he was influenced a lot by the Cultural Revolution. And one of the things he had, he advanced this idea that the role of the artist in socialist society is to constantly—I’m trying to remember how he actually put it, but it’s to always be opposing the ruling apparatus. He looked at it: the Cultural Revolution went so far but not far enough because this didn’t actually break out that way—that the artists, they stopped short of that.
And then more recently I had the opportunity to interview and spend some time with Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the Kenyan writer, and he has a couple of things that he advances around the nature of art and the relationship between the artist and the state in any society. And one of the things that he talks about is that there’s a conservative part of the state, in that it’s always trying to save itself and preserve its rule and preserve itself, and then that art actually—he says that art, on the other hand, is something that’s always changing. You know, it’s always that—art differs from that, in that it’s always trying to grasp things in their changingness. It’s based on how things are developing, how things are moving and what’s essential and not always what exactly is. And so he sees these two things as being in contradiction to one another, and he says that the artist actually should always be a constant questioner of the state. The artist has a role—his view of the artist in society is that the artist has the role of asking more questions than they do of providing answers, and that’s something that he feels should be enshrined in any society. And I was wondering how that would fit in with your view of socialism and the role of art and the question of artistic freedom and dissent.
BA: Well, I think from what you’re describing and characterizing, briefly quoting, I think there’s an aspect of truth to that, but it’s one-sided, it’s only one side of the picture. About 15 years ago I gave a talk called “The End of a Stage, the Beginning of a New Stage,7 ” basically summing up, with the restoration of capitalism in China following the same unfortunate outcome as the Soviet Union, that we had come to the end of a certain stage beginning with the Paris Commune, more or less, and ending with the Chinese Revolution being reversed and capitalism being restored there. And now we had to regroup and sum up deeply the lessons, positive and negative, of that and go forward in a new set of circumstances where there were no more socialist countries temporarily. And, at the end of that [talk], one of the things that I tried to set forth was certain principles that I thought should be applied by a Party in leading a socialist society. And one of those was that it should be a Party in power and a vanguard of struggle against those parts of power that are standing in the way of the continuation of the revolution. And I actually think that’s a more correct way, a more correct context, or analogy, for how to evaluate the role of art in particular in a socialist society. In other words, by analogy, I think art should not just criticize that [socialist] state, it should criticize those things in the society—including in the state, including in the Party, including in the leadership—that actually represent what’s old and needs to be moved beyond. Not necessarily what is classically capitalist but what has turned from being an advance into an obstacle—because everything, including socialism, does advance through stages and by digging more deeply into the soil the old is rooted in and uprooting it more fully. So things that were advances at one point can turn into obstacles or even things that would take things back, if persisted in.
COMMUNISM: THE BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE
A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
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So I think art needs to criticize all those things. But I think it also needs to uphold—and even, yes, to extol and to popularize—those things that do represent the way forward, including those things about the state. The state in socialist society is not the same as the state in capitalist society. It’s the state that, in its main aspects—so long as it’s really a socialist society—represents the interests of the masses of people, makes it possible for them, provides the framework within which, they can continue the revolution and be defended against enemies, both within the country and the imperialists and other forces who would attack and try to drown that new society in blood from the outside. So the state has a different character, and as long as its main aspect is doing those things—is actually representing rule by the proletariat in which the proletariat and broad masses of people are increasingly themselves consciously involved in the decision-making process and in developing policies for continuing the revolution—wherever that remains the main aspect, those things should be supported and even extolled. But even within that, even where that is the case, there will be many ways in which there will be not only mistakes made but things which have come to be obstacles, ways in which in the policies of the government, and the policies of the Party, and the actions of the state, [there are] things that actually go against the interests of the masses of people—not just in a narrow sense, but in the most fundamental sense even, in terms of advancing to communism—and that actually pose obstacles. And those things should be criticized.
And I do think there is a truth to the idea that artists tend to bring forward new things—although that’s not uniformly true. Some artists—the same old thing over and over, you know, very formulaic—and especially those whose content seeks to reinforce or restore the old, it often isn’t that innovative. Sometimes even that is good [artistically]; often it isn’t. But I do think there is some truth that there is a character of a lot of art that it’s very innovative and it tends to shake things up and come at things from new angles and pose problems in a different way or actually bring to light problems that haven’t been recognized in other spheres or by people who are more directly responsible for things, or by people who are more directly involved in the politics of a society. And I think there should be a lot of freedom for the artists to do that. But I also think part of their responsibility, and part of what they should take on, is to look to those things that are—that do embody the interests of people—including the state. And they should popularize and uphold that, because there are going to be plenty of people wanting to drag down and destroy that state. But I think there’s not a clear enough understanding of the fundamental distinction—even with all the contradictions involved that I’ve been trying to speak to—the fundamental distinction between a proletarian state, a state in socialist society, and a bourgeois state which is there for the oppression of the masses and to reinforce the conditions in which they’re exploited, as the whole foundation of this society, and [which] viciously attacks any attempt to rebel against, let alone to overthrow, that whole system.
So I think there is importance to drawing a distinction—and then, once you recognize that fundamental distinction, then once again, as we say, divide the socialist state into two. What parts of it are power that embodies and represents the interests of the masses in making revolution and continuing toward communism, and what parts have grown old or stand in the way of that continuation? Extol the one, popularize the one; and criticize and mobilize people, encourage people to struggle against the other.
MS: One of the things that sets you against a lot of the past experience of socialist societies, of Marxist thinkers and whatnot, is the point about not just allowing dissent, not just allowing this kind of breadth of exploration among people who work with ideas and among artists and whatnot, but actually talking about the necessity of that to exist. Why do you think that that’s necessary and not just something to be tolerated?
BA: Well, I’m currently wrestling with the question of how you can have that within the Party, and the relation between having that inside the Party and in the society at large, and how you do that without losing the essential core of what you need to hold onto in order to actually have state power when you get it, and in order to actually go on toward communism, rather than getting dragged back into capitalism. So that, to me—that’s something I’m grappling with a lot. It’s a very difficult contradiction.
But to go directly to your question: I think the reason you need it is because if people are going to be fully emancipated—you know, Marx said that the communist revolution involves a transition to what we Maoists have come to call, by shorthand, the “4 Alls.” He said: it’s the transition to the abolition of all class distinctions (or I think literally he said, “class distinctions generally,” but it’s the same thing) and to the abolition of all the relations of production, all the economic relations on which those class distinctions rest; the transformation or abolition of all the old social relations that correspond to those production relations—like oppressive relations between men and women, for example—and the revolutionizing of all the ideas that correspond to those social relations. So if you look at those “4 Alls,” as we call them, and the objective is to get to those “4 Alls,” then that can only be done by masses of people in growing numbers consciously undertaking the task of knowing and changing the world as it actually is, as it’s actually moving and developing and as it actually can be transformed in their interests. So if that’s the way you understand what you’re after and how fundamentally that’s going to be brought about—and not by a few people gathering everybody in formation and marching them in a straight road forward in very tight ranks—then you understand that a lot is going to go into that process. The socialism that I envision, and even in a certain way the Party that I envision, is one that’s full of a lot of turmoil, one that would give the leaders of it a tremendous headache, because you would have all kinds of stuff flying in all kinds of directions while you’re trying to hold the core of all that together and not give up everything.
I had a discussion with a spoken-word artist and poet, and I was trying to describe these things I’m characterizing here—what I’m grappling with as it applies to the arts and lots of other things—and he finally said to me, and I thought it was a very good insight: he said, it sounds to me like what you’re talking about is a solid core with a lot of elasticity. I said yeah, well, that’s very good—because he put together in one formulation a lot of what I was wrestling with.
But it is—how do you keep that solid core so you don’t lose the revolution? Let me be blunt. You need a vanguard, you need a Party to lead a revolution and to be at the core of a new society. When we get there, we’re not going to hand power back and we’re not going to put power up for grabs or even up for election. We’re not going to have elections to decide whether we should go back to the old society. In my view that should be institutionalized in a constitution. In other words, the constitution will establish: this is a socialist society going toward communism. Will establish what the role of the Party is in relation to that, and will establish what the rights of the masses of people [are] and what the role of the masses of people is in fundamentally carrying that out—including, as I see it, having some elections on local levels and some aspects of elections from local levels to a national level, which are contested elections within that framework of going forward through socialism to communism and having spelled out, in some fundamental terms (not in every detail), what that basically means and doesn’t mean, in a constitution, in laws, that the masses of people increasingly themselves are formulating and deciding on.8
But we’re not going to just say: “OK, we’ll have socialism and then we’ll give it back to them [the capitalists] and see if the people want it [socialism] again. If you do that, you might as well not bother to make a revolution. Because think about everything we were talking about earlier, and everything you have to go up against—if you’re going to have an attitude like that, you don’t have any business putting yourself forward to lead anything, because you’re not serious. To make a revolution is a wrenching process, and to continue on the road forward toward communism and to support the world revolution in the face of everything that will get thrown at you is going to be an extremely arduous and wrenching process, and you have to have a core of people who understands that, even as that core is constantly being expanded. I’ve set forth—when I say “set forth,” I don’t mean to make it sound like a proclamation, this is what I’m thinking about, this is what I’m wrestling with—that there’s four things that this core has to accomplish, four objectives. You have to maintain power, at the same time as you make that worth maintaining. And the four objectives I’m talking about are:
One, that core has to hang on to power and lead the masses of people to not be dragged back to the old society—not hang on all by itself, but it has to be determined to hang on to power and mobilize the forces in society that could be won at any given time to seeing that you have to hang on to power and hang on to the revolutionary direction forward.
Two, it has to be constantly expanding the ranks of that core, so you’re not just talking about the same relative few—even if you’re talking about hundreds of thousands or millions, the same relatively small section of the population relative to say a country like this. But is it constantly expanding, constantly in waves drawing in broader ranks to be part of that core of this process?
Three, that it is guided constantly by the objective of eventually moving to where you don’t need that core anymore, because the distinctions that make it necessary have been overcome.
And four, that at every point along the way there’s the maximum elasticity that you can have without destroying that core.
So this is what I am wrestling with in terms of this process. And to me this the furthest thing from everybody marching forward in tight formation, although there are times when you have to do that—when you’re directly under military attack, you have to tighten your ranks up. But, in general, I see it as a very wild and woolly process, if you will, where people are going in different directions and the responsibility of the leadership, of this leading core, is to try, as I put it before, to get your arms around all that—in the sense of an embrace, not in the sense of squeezing it and suffocating it—keeping it going toward where it needs to go and drawing more and more people into the process of doing that.
So seen in that way, this is a very tumultuous thing. And I think there’s even a way in which the Party has to be like that. That this principle of “solid core with a lot of elasticity” has to apply even within the Party, because I’ve been wrestling with the question: can you really have ferment, intellectual ferment, artistic creativity and ferment and experimentation in a society, in a socialist society at large, if you don’t have it within the Party that’s at the core of it? I don’t think you can. If the Party doesn’t have that, then it’s gonna suffocate it in the society. It’s going to be too much uniformity coming from the Party, which has a lot of influence, and so it’s going to tend to stifle and suppress that [creativity and ferment]. So how do you have a solid core and elasticity even within the Party in general, over policy but also as applied to the arts and to the intellectual sphere in the broadest sense, and so on? And, to draw an analogy from physics here, even a solid core—you know, everything is contradiction and whatever level you go to it’s contradiction—so a solid core is solid in one sense, but within it, it also has elasticity. Because if everything is packed together too tightly in your core, so to speak—to continue to torture this metaphor—but if it’s all packed together too tightly in the core, then you don’t have any life in there, so you can’t have the elasticity.
So I see this as a very moving, tumultuous thing. On the one hand, we’re not giving power back and we’re not putting that up even for a vote—and, on the other hand, we’re also not all marching everybody straight down the road, but we’re having all kinds of tumultuous struggle, including within that people who want to go back to capitalism throwing their ideas into the ring. While we supervise the overthrown exploiters and curtail their political activity, and while people who have been demonstrated—through legal processes shown—to be active counter-revolutionaries, in the sense of their actually taking up concrete acts of sabotage, or what we would now call “terrorism,” against the new society (blowing up things, assassinating people, or actively, not in some vague sense, but actively plotting to do that), that’s one thing. I think you need a constitution, laws and procedures to deal with those people. But beyond that, in the realm of ideas, even people who argue that capitalism is better than socialism—those ideas need to be in circulation, and people who want to defend those ideas have to be able to do so, so that the masses of people can sort this out.
And we have to defeat them in the realm of ideas as well as in practice. Right now, we do that all the time. Our attitude now is somebody wants to defend capitalism—bring on all comers, let’s have a debate. We can’t get these [bleep] to debate us! That’s what’s frustrating to us. So my attitude is: yes, things are changed [once you get to socialist society]; there is a new set of circumstances; we are going to be at the core of leading the masses of people. That’s our responsibility. But we shouldn’t be any less anxious to have those debates and to thrash those things out, and to get many more people in them. Why should we fear that then in a way that we don’t now? We welcome it now, so why shouldn’t we welcome it [then]?
I will tell you that, as I envision this, it gives me a headache because I can see how hard it would be to keep all this going in the forward direction it needs to go. But if you aren’t willing to risk that, then I don’t think we can get where we need to go.
1. The Korean War began June 25, 1950 and ended July 27, 1953. General Douglas MacArthur led the United Nations Command in the Korean War from 1950 to 1951. U.S. President Harry S. Truman removed him from command in April 1951. [back]
2. Chiang Kai-shek was a U.S.-backed general who led the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) against the communist revolutionary forces beginning in approximately 1927. The war for liberation went through different and often complex stages, and finally ended in victory on October 1, 1949. [back]
3. See “On Communism, Leadership, Stalin, and the Experience of Socialist Society,” an excerpt from an interview Michael Slate conducted with Bob Avakian in 2005. The excerpt was published in Revolution #168, June 21, 2009, revcom.us/avakian/on_communism-en.html. [back]
5. Nikita Khrushchev was head of state in the Soviet Union from 1956, when capitalism was restored, until 1964. [back]
8. In this connection, see Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, RCP Publications, 2010. See revcom.us/socialistconstitution/. [back]
Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
You Don't Know What You Think You "Know" About...
May 9, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors' note: This interview and "The REAL History of Communism" timeline have been updated from the versions that originally appeared at revcom.us, to be consistent with the new expanded eBook version. The eBook is available from Insight Press. The following excerpt includes Chapters 4 and 5 of the interview.
To read the entire special issue of Revolution, click:
The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future.
Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
November 18, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Some people reading this interview may be saying to themselves: "Ok, Raymond Lotta says these socialist societies were incredibly liberating, and that all these amazing things happened. But my teacher... my textbook... that magazine article I read... my friend whose family is from Russia... everything I have ever learned or heard about these societies... says that they were nightmares. How do we know who's telling the truth? Why should I believe Raymond Lotta?"
Special Edition of Revolution:
Read it online at revcom.us or get it in print from your local Revolution newspaper distributor.
In response, two quick points must be made right away:
First, it's not a question of what Raymond Lotta says vs. what your teacher, or textbook, or friend, or magazine article says. There are not two, or three, or four different competing "versions" of reality; there is one reality. In other words: Either something is true, or it's not. Either something is in line with reality, or it isn't. Either something happened, or it didn't.
Second, here's how you definitely don't decide what's true: By looking at what most people think. Very often what most people think is wrong! For example: At different points in the history of the world, most people thought that the earth was flat... that the sun revolved around the earth... and that slavery was completely natural and acceptable... and most people today still think that god created human beings and all life on earth. 0 for 4!
But then this leads to the question: How do we tell what is really true, and who is really telling the truth about communism?
The short answer to this question is: Be scientific. Examine the evidence, and examine the methods and criteria being applied.
More specifically: Examine the evidence being offered, and criteria and methods being applied, in this interview with Raymond Lotta to argue that the past experience of the communist revolution was principally emancipatory... and compare and contrast this with the evidence (or lack thereof) being offered, and criteria and methods being applied, by those who tell you communism was a nightmare.
There is a basic question that you should ask yourself again and again as you read this interview and compare it to everything you've heard and been told and will again encounter about communism: Who is proceeding scientifically here, and who is not?
Now, what does it mean to be scientific, or to proceed scientifically? And why is this important? Being scientific means starting from, and consistently returning to, reality. It means doing that as opposed to starting from conventional wisdom, what one wants to be true, what one subjectively "feels," or one's prejudices and preconceptions about what is true.
As Bob Avakian has put it:
Let's not mystify science. Science means that you probe and investigate reality, by carrying out experiments, by accumulating data, and so on; and then, proceeding from that reality and applying the methods and logic of rational thought, you struggle to identify the patterns in the data, etc. you've gathered about reality. If you're approaching it correctly, you're struggling to arrive at a correct synthesis of the reality you've investigated. And then you measure your conclusions against objective reality to determine if they are in correspondence with it, if what they sum up and predict about reality is confirmed in reality. That's the way breakthroughs in science have been made—whether it's in the realm of biology, like the understanding of evolution, or whether it's things about the origins of the universe (or the known universe), like the Big Bang Theory, or whatever. That's the process that goes on, and the question is: is it scientific? That is, does it, in its main and essential lines, correspond to reality?
—From What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism, An Interview with Bob Avakian by A. Brooks
And why is it so important to be scientific? Because this is the only way to actually get to reality and to continue learning more about reality. To return to the examples given earlier: where would we be if Copernicus and Galileo, or Darwin, or the Abolitionists who fought against slavery, proceeded from "what everybody knows," or decided that no one could really say what was true, or what was right and wrong, that there was no objective reality but simply "different versions" of that reality, or that truth depended on one's individual perspective?
Now, to be clear, the point is not that if someone is applying a scientific method—and the communist method of dialectical materialism in particular—that automatically means everything that person says about communism is true, or that everything anti-communists say is not true. In fact, at the heart of the new synthesis of communism brought forward by Bob Avakian is an understanding that while the communist outlook and method represents the most systematic, comprehensive, and consistent means of arriving at the truth, this does not mean that communists have a monopoly on the truth, or that those who are not applying this outlook and method are incapable of discovering important truths. Rather, with anything that anyone says, the test should be: Does this, in fact, correspond to reality?
But it is also the case that with this interview, as is the case with literally anything that one reads about any topic, everyone who reads this is not going to be able to independently verify every single statement made or fact cited. And if you just look things up for yourself, without an eye towards all the points being made above, you are—to be blunt—going to run across a lot of lies and bullshit and unsubstantiated garbage about communism and not know what to make of it.
So, again, as you are reading this interview with Raymond Lotta and comparing it to everything you've been told about communism, consider the question: Who is proceeding scientifically here? And who is not?
Let's compare and contrast how Raymond Lotta discusses the Great Leap Forward in revolutionary China with how a recent New York Times article—which is representative of the standard anti-communist account of this experience—approaches the Great Leap Forward.
If you read how Raymond Lotta talks about the Great Leap Forward in this interview, you will notice that he consistently applies the method of proceeding from, confronting and probing reality, and the complexity and contradiction within that reality. He starts by talking about the context—the situation within China and the world as a whole—in which the Great Leap Forward was launched. He addresses the challenges Mao and the Chinese revolution were faced with, and the problems and obstacles they were trying to solve and overcome. He addresses the basic question of why Mao initiated the Great Leap Forward and what its goals were. He speaks to what the Great Leap Forward accomplished. And he does not shy away from, but rather directly engages and refutes, the anti-communist accusations that "Mao was responsible for tens of millions of deaths" through the Great Leap Forward, illuminating where these charges and figures come from and exposing how anti-communists both inflate the numbers of deaths and also treat the deaths that did occur as people "killed by Mao." And in terms of the massive food crisis that hit China, Lotta does not attempt to cover up or shy away from this, instead explaining the various actual causes of this food crisis, the mistakes that the Chinese leadership made, and the ways that this leadership learned from and corrected these mistakes. And the basic criteria Lotta is applying to evaluate all of this is: To what degree were the Chinese communists seeking to—and to what degree did they—advance in the direction of overcoming all exploitation and oppression and the ways of thinking that go along with that?
It is very instructive to compare and contrast how Lotta approaches the Great Leap Forward in this interview with how it is approached in the New York Times article, "Milder Accounts of Hardships Under Mao Arise as His Birthday Nears" (October 16, 2013). In contrast to the interview with Raymond Lotta, which is consistently proceeding from, probing, and synthesizing the lessons of reality, the Times piece is proceeding from and returning to what "everybody knows."
The tone for this article is set in its opening sentence, which claims: "The famine that gripped China from 1958 to 1962 is widely judged to be the deadliest in recorded history, killing 20 to 30 million people or more, and is one of the defining calamities of Mao Zedong's rule." Right there, you have a combination of at least three standard anti-communist methods in a single sentence. 1) Toss out a huge number of deaths without offering any actual evidence for the claim, which the Times never does in the article. 2) Be sure to blame those deaths on communist leaders—again, evidence not included. 3) Use phrases like "widely judged" to convey the impression that "everybody knows" the above two points to be true, thereby freeing you of the burden of having to offer any evidence.
From there, in addition to putting forward snarky, distorted, and crude misrepresentations of what the Great Leap Forward was seeking to accomplish and the reasons it was launched—read how Raymond Lotta explains this in the interview, and then compare it to the Times' characterization—the basic method of the Times article is to lean on the "everybody knows" crutch over and over again, instead of offering any evidence or reality-based analysis to support its claims. For instance, the article refers to a mathematician, Sun Jingxian, whom the article says "asserts that most of the apparent deaths were a mirage of chaotic statistics: people moved from villages and were presumed dead, because they failed to register in their new homes." But the article never even attempts to show why what Sun says is inaccurate! Similarly, the Times refers to a book by Yang Songlin, whom the Times identifies as a "former official," who argues that the numbers of deaths in the Great Leap Forward have been severely inflated, and that the deaths that did occur were caused mainly by "bad weather, not bad policies." But again, there is not even an attempt by the Times to show why what Yang says is not true.
We are not commenting one way or another here on Sun Jingxian and Yang Songlin, or their specific claims and methods. Rather, we are pointing to the Times' methods here, which is to start with what "everybody knows," and then measure everything else against that, rather than actually probing and investigating reality and using that as the yardstick to measure what is true.
The method, and message, of the Times article is clear: When it comes to negative things about communism, if someone said it, it must be true. If someone didn't say it, say it now. And if it can be claimed that lots of people say it—well, all the better!
Pieces like this article, which again is one of many examples that could be given, train people to think that Mao sat around and said: "Hmm, how can I implement a policy that will cause the most people to starve?" Among the things you would never know from these anti-communist slanders and methods is that there was mass starvation and mass inequalities in China before the Chinese revolution; that Mao launched the Great Leap Forward with the aims of overcoming mass starvation and inequalities, radically transforming social and economic relations, and developing the Chinese economy in a way that would reduce, not widen, the gap between the cities and the countryside; that within 20 years of the Chinese revolution, everyone in China indeed had enough food to eat; and that the deaths that occurred in China during the Great Leap Forward were principally caused by a massive famine that gripped China as a result of the floods and drought that affected over half of its agricultural land, by hardships caused by the Soviet withdrawal of aid to China, and by mistakes that the Chinese leadership made in that context—NOT by some insane and evil plot by Mao to starve people!
Again, compare all this—and many other examples you will unfortunately encounter of anti-communist methods and accounts—to the evidence that Raymond Lotta presents and the methods and criteria that he applies, in this section of the interview, and in fact throughout the interview.
Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
Department of Mistakenly Plundered Archives
May 9, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following is the transcript of an address from Broadshtick McFarcemore given at last month’s Harvard symposium on the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution in China. The Cultural Revolution was launched by Mao in 1966 against those in power who were determined to turn China back into a capitalist country—as they actually did after Mao died. Still, scholars in the decades since have labored mightily to bring to light how actually horrible the rule of Mao was. McFarcemore, who publishes nearly every issue, it sometimes seems, in the New York Review of Books, stands out in the field. Here is the verbatim presentation by McFarcemore given last month.
MC: Distinguished scholars, students, let me present the pre-eminent scholar at Harvard in the field of China studies, Mr. Broadshtick McFarcemore. [Great applause.]
McFarcemore: We’ve all known about Mao Zedong’s truly great crimes. His leadership of a revolution to do away with the centuries of backwardness and poverty, in which tens of millions routinely suffered starvation and disease, certainly ranks high among history’s horrors. After all, this revolution threatened the ability of the Western democracies and Japan to actually keep developing China in the rational direction that they had been. Oh yes, a few wars here and there, tens of millions of Chinese slaughtered—but these were minor flaws in an otherwise benevolent process. And beyond that, Mao developed a military doctrine and strategy in that so-called war of liberation which was used by other people who called themselves “oppressed” to break free of the very selfless and benevolent colonial rule of the West over the vast majority of the world. (Yes, I know that resources were plundered under colonialism and tens of millions perished in war and famine but, again, my friends—what about the suffering of the West in this process?)
Mao’s leadership in building socialism in China, which led to a doubling of the life expectancy in that country in 25 years, went up against the wise counsel of both the U.S. and the Soviet Union, which of course had only China’s interests at heart but were then forced by Mao to resort to sabotage, blockade, and threats of war to stop his plans. But perhaps Mao’s worst crime was leading millions and millions of people in a Cultural Revolution to actually prevent the seizure of power by those sensible leaders within the Chinese party who have now restored capitalism there and made it possible for at least a tiny minority to grow extremely rich and to experience the great benefits of capitalist development.
Now despite knowledge of these terrible crimes of Mao, too many people around the world still defend him. But last year, due to heroic work of scholars searching through archives in China, we learned of a crime planned by Mao so vast as to truly dwarf any of his other infamies. Through documents and the testimony of those who knew Mao, we have discovered that Mao had actually planned the invasion of entire other continents in the name of China’s destiny. He planned to wipe out the tens of millions of inhabitants of these continents through a combination of warfare and disease and to seize their lands forever. Then, on top of that, Mao planned to import tens of millions of Africans to work as literal slaves to develop the continents.
But that’s not all. Mao actually had a plan to hold the descendants of these slaves in bondage for 10 generations, draining their labor in unbelievably horrible conditions, and using violence, rape, mutilation, torture, and—where he felt it was needed—murder, to prevent them from rising up. Further, once these slaves had served their purposes, their descendants would be confined in isolated neighborhoods and often put into concentration camp-like prisons, by the millions. To those of you who doubt this evidence, we learned this from those who knew Mao or who at least say they met him or who, at the very least, in some cases, are highly reliable people whose cousin once talked to someone who told him that he saw Mao in a parade.
Boggle the mind though it may, this fiend further planned to use the wealth thereby ripped from these slaves to build China into an extremely powerful country, bragging that there would be a “Chinese century” in which China would enforce its rule through wars, invasions, and intimidation, and through using that military aggression to secure economic domination of the resources and labor of many other countries—indeed, so these archives tell us, domination over the vast majority of countries and nations throughout the world. Mao said that even if numerous wars against these smaller and weaker countries were necessary, and even if these wars killed hundreds of thousands and in some cases several millions of the people of these countries, including children, “it would”—in the words of Mao’s foreign minister—“be worth it.” In fact, Mao called for building the most massive nuclear arsenal in the world and claimed that China must be willing to threaten others with this arsenal and even risk the annihilation of the whole planet through nuclear war if their will were to be challenged. And this doesn’t even mention Mao’s plans to become the world’s biggest despoiler of the environment and to even have some of his main spokespeople deny there even was a problem.
Think of it! Has there ever been a more monstrous oppressor than this? Surely, anyone who could even dream of planning such a mind-numbing and shameful litany of horrors, let alone try to do it, is the worst... [looking offstage to emcee frantically signaling] what? You say my paper got switched? That these were not Mao’s plans but the actual reality of... where? Where?!?
Oh my goodness.
[Turning to audience.] Errrr... never mind.
Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
May 9, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors’ note: The 50th anniversary of the Chinese Cultural Revolution begins on May 16. The Chinese revolution came to power in 1949 and brought about immense and liberatory changes. But by the mid-1960s, the revolution was facing the danger of being reversed. In 1966, Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution to prevent the restoration of capitalism and to carry the revolution forward. On the occasion of the anniversary, the bourgeois rulers, reactionaries, and ideologues of the status quo will be stepping up their ideological offensive. The mainstream media are now beginning to pump out vicious anticommunist distortion—and so, too, in the universities. The recent program at the New School in New York City was an opening shot to spread lies and misrepresentations. But it became a two-sided affair!
From a member of the Revolution Club New York City:
This May 16 marks the 50th anniversary of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution initiated by Mao Zedong and led by Mao and the revolutionary forces within the Communist Party of China. The New School in NYC held a program to mark this anniversary, with Professor Xu Youyu, a University in Exile Scholar at The New School for Social Research. Over 200 people attended. Prof. Xu Youyu is a former Red Guard (one of the youths who were mobilized during the Cultural Revolution in China) and so-called “expert of the Cultural Revolution.” The professor essentially came to denounce the Cultural Revolution, give his personal perspective on it, and to promote “constitutional democracy” as the ultimate solution to what he described as the “the horrors of communism.”
I went to the program along with Raymond Lotta and a couple of others to set the record straight.
Raymond Lotta Sets the Record Straight on the 50th Anniversary of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, The New School, New York City, May 2, 2016
Prof. Xu Youyu opened his presentation with the “HORROR” of the universities during the Cultural Revolution abolishing the entrance exams! He complained that life experience, including manual labor, was taken into account instead of just tests! The fact that the professor found this horrifying should have immediately tipped the audience off that this guy was summing some things up based only on his personal experience, his personal gripes, and frustrations. I mean, why else would anyone see this change as a negative thing!? For hundreds of years peasants had been denied education. They lived in conditions of horrific poverty, with young daughters being sold by their families in order to feed the remaining children, no access to health care, etc. During the Cultural Revolution it was recognized that there were still vast sections of the country that needed to be brought into things. Peasants and other poor and oppressed people were now being given an education, being exposed to a new liberating culture and new ideas, and overall they were being brought into the process of remaking society in extremely important and meaningful ways. The speaker acknowledged none of this.
The presentation continued to give a totally ahistorical perspective on the entire Cultural Revolution. Stats were given as to the “injuries, deaths, persecutions,” and images were shown of people who had been beaten up or publicly shamed; all without any context. The speaker gave no sense of what this revolution was all for, what the actual goals were, what caused the violence, if the violence and repression was actually the main character of things or not, whether the Party was actually calling for this or whether it was a result of some people using the revolution to take out revenge on others.
Another indication of the speaker’s personal frustrations was how he presented the whole campaign that sent students into the countryside to learn from and bring the revolution to the peasants. He explained how frustrating it was for him that the students and youth were able to ride the public transportation for free to go to the countryside because it caused such terrible traffic... GIVE ME A BREAK! This was something called for by Mao and the Party as part of bridging the gap between those who worked with their backs and those who worked with ideas; to bring much needed education and health care to the isolated countryside. And this was part of a whole revolution aimed at transforming world outlook and to enable the masses of people to more deeply and scientifically understand society and the world (an extremely important element of things, which the speaker failed to mention) and, yes, that needed to include the peasants in the countryside as well!
Thank goodness Raymond Lotta was in the audience to spit some truth! He spoke from the floor during the Q&A and immediately called out this anticommunist slander for what it was. He went on to say what the Cultural Revolution actually was—a real revolution within the revolution aimed at defeating new capitalist forces from taking things backwards, and continuing on the socialist road towards communism; how it involved hundreds of millions of people; and how it was one of the most liberating times in human history. He went on to ask why the professor had not addressed what the actual aims and objectives of the Cultural Revolution were and why he had “completely obliterated the accomplishments of the Cultural Revolution,” including by denying that it had succeeded for 10 years in preventing the restoration of capitalism—which is what happened after Mao’s death. Most of the audience didn’t even realize that China today, with all its vast networks of sweatshops and poverty alongside pockets of obscene “development” and wealth for a few, was the result of the overthrow of socialism and the reversal of everything Mao fought for. Raymond let people know that Bob Avakian has summed up and built on this revolutionary experience and forged a new synthesis of communism because the world still cries out for revolution. And he challenged the room to put the historical experience in perspective and pointed out that during the same period that Mao was leading the liberating Cultural Revolution to continue to overcome oppression and exploitation, the United States was carrying out a genocidal war that killed two million in Vietnam.
What was the response from the professor? He essentially sidestepped the substance of what Raymond raised, instead arguing that because he had been there personally, he knew best and that all that really mattered was his own personal experience.
In summing up the whole presentation, including the Q&A, the lack of a scientific method in approaching any of these questions really stood out. It is so incredibly irresponsible to look at a period in human history like this, where millions of people were making revolution and transforming all of society, and sum it up based on individual experience, or just personal opinions. There is too much at stake. It was good that quite a few people came up to talk to Raymond and others of us after the program. People have been lied to and they need to know the truth.
Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
How Trump Agitated for the Railroad of the—Innocent!—Central Park 5
May 9, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Today, Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president. Twenty-seven years ago, he was the chief agitator for a “legal” lynch mob.
On April 19, 1989, a white woman jogger was the victim of a vicious assault in Central Park. She was raped and brutalized so severely that she was in a coma for 12 days. It was a sickening crime in a country where a woman is raped every two minutes—about 80 percent of the time by someone the victim knows, often an intimate partner.
But the authorities’ response had nothing to do with stopping any of that. New York City police interrogated Black and Latino youths they had taken into custody that night for other incidents. They threatened them, lied to them, beat them, and deprived them of sleep, food, or contact with their parents or lawyers. Eventually several of the youths—as young as 14, traumatized, and just wanting to be able to go home to their parents —"confessed." These youths quickly renounced those coerced confessions. In spite of that, in spite of the lack of physical evidence of their involvement in this crime, and in spite of the fact that substantial physical evidence pointed to someone else, five of them were quickly convicted, sentenced, and jailed. They became known as the Central Park 5.
In 2002, another man, a convicted serial rapist linked to the crime by substantial DNA evidence, confessed to being the sole attacker. After years of protest and struggle, and as the evidence used to convict them was exposed as lies concocted by the authorities, the New York District Attorney cleared the Central Park 5 of all charges. By that time, they had served their unjust sentences—40 years in all.
Two weeks after the attack, before any of the young men had even been tried, Donald Trump ran full-page ads in New York City newspapers headlined “Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police.” (New York State did not and does not have a death penalty.) The ads set off an explosion of racist frenzy throughout society, with toxic lies portraying youths of color as “roving bands of wild criminals [who] roam our neighborhoods dispensing their own vicious brand of twisted hatred on whomever they encounter.” [emphasis in the original]
This ad was a modern-day version of those that appeared in newspapers in the days of the old Jim Crow. Ads that would portray a Black man who somehow offended white supremacy, or did nothing at all, as a demon, and announce the time and place where he was to be lynched.
Donald Trump was a lynch mob master then. And he still is. Only now he has been put on the biggest stage to incite real “twisted hatred” on a global and not a neighborhood scale: against viciously exploited and hunted Mexican immigrants; against demonized and terrorized Muslims; against women; and to threaten “worse than water boarding” against children of those whom this Nazi “suspects” might be “terrorists.” And, oh, yes, this is the fascist who brags about the way that Black protesters at his rallies are harassed and beaten by those he whips up... and who somehow takes nearly a week to “disavow” the endorsement of a leader of the KKK.
We know what that shit says about Donald Chump. But what does it say about a system that tells you that Donald Trump, a modern-day lynch mob-inciting, foaming-at-the-mouth white supremacist fiend, is a legitimate candidate for president? And what does it say about a system’s media that first builds him up and then, even when they “criticize” him, can’t quite bring themselves to say the main truth: that this ghoul is nothing but a white supremacist demagogue?
It says it’s a racist system and it needs to be gone.
Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
May 9, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
American Crime is a regular feature of revcom.us. Each installment will focus on one of the 100 worst crimes committed by the U.S. rulers—out of countless bloody crimes they have carried out against people around the world, from the founding of the U.S. to the present day.
Above: Osage Avenue burns after Philadelphia police dropped bomb on MOVE house. May 13, 1985. 11 people died and 61 homes burned down.
Right: As the neighborhood burned, hundreds gathered in the street, indicting the police and chanting "Murderers! Murderers!"
THE CRIME: 5:35 am, May 13, 1985. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor aims his bullhorn at the house at 6221 Osage Avenue and declares: “Attention MOVE! This is America.”
Seven adults and six children, members of the MOVE organization, were in their home. Outside, hundreds of heavily armed police and city officials surrounded them.
Fifteen minutes later the police assault began. Explosives blew holes in the side of the house and tear gas was pumped in; fire hoses streamed water onto the roof. Police opened fire with over 8,000 rounds from handguns, Uzis, and anti-tank weapons. There was no solid evidence that the people inside ever fired a shot.
When the occupants still did not come out, a police helicopter hovered over the roof and dropped a powerful bomb. The roof burst into flames so hot that homes across the street ignited. Flames raced downward through the MOVE house toward the people huddled in the basement. The fire trucks on hand did nothing to stop the fire, which then quickly spread to the surrounding homes.
The MOVE house became an unbearable hell of intense heat, fire, tear gas. and smoke. Some residents burst outside, but were met by police gunfire and either killed or forced back into the flames, to be burned alive.
By the end, five children ages 9 to 14 were murdered by the police, as were six adults, their bodies mostly in pieces. Sixty-one homes were burned; 250 people rendered homeless. The one adult who survived—Ramona Africa—was arrested and served seven years in jail. The one child survivor was torn from those who love him and put in foster care.
THE CRIMINALS AND CO-CONSPIRATORS: Mayor Wilson Goode, the first Black mayor of Philadelphia, authorized and oversaw the massacre, along with other city leaders, which included former generals, and FBI agents.
The Philadelphia Police Department carried it out.
The FBI took part in the months of planning that went into this atrocity, and provided the city with the military-grade C-4 explosives for the bomb and other heavy weaponry.
The news media collaborated, before and after the crime, in painting MOVE as “dangerous terrorists” who left the authorities “no choice” except a full-scale military assault.
Dozens of political leaders, including U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III, defended and praised Mayor Goode for his handling of the assault. Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates called Goode a “hero.” Not a single major political leader—Democrat or Republican, Black or white—denounced it.
THE ALIBI: Philadelphia authorities claimed that MOVE was a violent terrorist organization, holding a peaceful neighborhood hostage. The city claimed that it “just wanted to protect the neighborhood,” and that MOVE was digging a network of tunnels, building a weapons stockpile and plotting a major incident, perhaps a hostage taking. They further claimed that MOVE “wanted a violent confrontation” and the city was just responding to that threat. According to then-district attorney Ed Rendell, “These are people who essentially committed suicide, and murdered their own children.”
THE ACTUAL MOTIVE: MOVE was a Black radical organization formed in the early 1970s that refused to respect present-day America and its prevailing values. It exposed the rulers of this society for the liars, racists and murderers they are, denounced their brutal police, and talked about “revolution.”
MOVE thought of revolution as changing people’s thinking and behavior, not overthrowing the whole system, and MOVE’s political actions were peaceful. But when MOVE members were threatened and confronted by the authorities, they did not back down. The rulers of this system considered this to be intolerable, especially coming just a few years after the U.S. had been rocked by mass rebellions of Black people.
Over a year before the May 13 attack, city authorities began meeting and planning how to put a stop to MOVE once and for all—these plans included building models of the MOVE house and practicing exploding it!
Mayor Goode said: “If I had to make the decision all over again, knowing what I know now, I would make the same decision because I think we cannot permit any terrorist group, any revolutionary group in this city, to hold a whole neighborhood or a whole city hostage. And we have to send that message out loud and clear, over and over again...” (Emphasis added.) Never mind the fact that the most common definition of terrorism is the murder of innocent civilians for a political purpose—and that MOVE never did anything remotely resembling that, while Goode committed exactly that crime in his bombing.
Addendum: Repeat Offenders
The MOVE massacre is not the first time this system has bombed and burned out rebellious Black people.
In June 1921, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a white mob attempting to lynch a Black prisoner was stopped, partly by Black residents armed with shotguns. In response, white supremacists went on a rampage. A mob of over 1,000—and including police—stormed the Greenwood area, at that time known as the “Negro Wall Street” because of its vibrant Black-owned economy. Looting, burning, and shooting people, the mob met fierce resistance from armed Blacks. The police commandeered a half-dozen small planes, supposedly to provide surveillance for their attack, though many reported that the planes also dropped explosive and incendiary devices on the Black community.
By the time it was over, up to 100 Black people had been murdered, and perhaps two dozen of their white attackers killed. The population of Greenwood had been rounded up by police and forced into detention centers. The whole neighborhood, including 1,256 homes, had been burned to the ground; only a few buildings survived.
Taken in by an unending media and police campaign against MOVE and shocked by the scale of violence unleashed against MOVE, too many people stood by paralyzed and did not rise up in response. A "Draw the Line" statement, initiated by Carl Dix and others, was signed by more than 100 prominent Black figures and others denouncing the collusion of Black elected officials in the repression of the Black community.
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Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
Updated August 1, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Scroll down for earlier entries.
July 20, 2016. Charles Kinsey, a behavior therapist was bringing back a young autistic man who had wandered away from his group home. Cops arrive, point their guns at Kinsey and order him to lie on his back with his hands up. Kinsey complies. The autistic man is sitting next to him and Kinsey shouts, “All he has is a toy truck. A toy truck. I am a behavior therapist at a group home,” and, “There is no need for firearms.” The pigs shoot Kinsey—who is still on his back and hands in the air—in the leg, then rush over and handcuff both Kinsey and the young autistic man. What kind of sick, depraved racist shoots a Black man who lies down on his back, puts his hands up in the air and makes it very clear that he is a professional, caring for an autistic young man?
Here’s what Bob Avakian said in 2002, responding to the murder by police of the unarmed and unconscious young woman Tyisha Miller in Riverside, California:
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.
Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
Department of "Man Bites Dog"
May 9, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In February, a homeless man in Rome, Italy, was sentenced to six months in jail and fined $114 for shoplifting $4.70 worth of cheese and sausage. Italy’s highest court of appeals then threw out the conviction, saying that stealing small amounts of food in the face of the essential need for nourishment does not constitute a crime.
It’s been said that “it ain’t news if a dog bites a man. But if a man bites a dog, it’s BIG news” because it’s SO unusual. This story hit headlines in countries all over the world and became a “man bites dog” story exactly because it is extremely RARE that a court says it should NOT be a crime when a poor person takes something necessary for survival. MOST OF THE TIME, hungry people who steal food are arrested, convicted and go to jail.
In the U.S., people get locked up all the time for stealing food. In 1995, under the “3 strikes” sentencing laws, 27-year-old Jerry Dewayne Williams in Los Angeles was given 25 years to life for stealing a slice of pizza. In 2013, a jury in Waco, Texas, took two minutes to convict 43-year-old Willie Smith Ward for stealing a rack of ribs and gave him 50 years in prison—which means if he serves his whole sentence for the “crime” of stealing food, he will get out when he’s 93 years old. Last year, Raynette Turner, a mother of eight, died in a Mount Vernon, New York, jail cell after being arrested for allegedly shoplifting crab legs from a grocery store. Think for a minute about those “crimes” and those “sentences” and how this is multiplied over and over and over. The court’s decision in Italy really IS the exception that proves the rule, the one-in-a-million. And let us note that the articles about this case made the point that the court’s decision was not binding and did not set a precedent.
But there’s a deeper lesson here, on why this is such a glaring exception. Bob Avakian has pointed out:
One example that I’ve cited before...is the question of the “right to eat.” Or why, in reality, under this system, there is not a “right to eat.” Now, people can proclaim the “right to eat,” but there is no such right with the workings of this system. You cannot actually implement that as a right, given the dynamics of capitalism and the way in which, as we’ve seen illustrated very dramatically of late, it creates unemployment. It creates and maintains massive impoverishment. (To a certain extent, even while there is significant poverty in the imperialist countries, that is to some degree offset and masked by the extent of parasitism there; imperialism “feeds off” the extreme exploitation of people in the Third World in particular, and some of the “spoils” from this “filter down” in significant ways to the middle strata especially. But, if you look at the world as a whole, capitalism creates and maintains tremendous impoverishment.)
Get into BAsics, the handbook for the revolution.
Many, many people cannot find enough to eat and cannot eat in a way that enables them to be healthy—and in general they cannot maintain conditions that enable them to be healthy. So even right down to something as basic as “the right to eat”—people don’t have that right under capitalism. If you were to declare it as a right, and people were to act on this and simply started going to where the food is sold as commodities and declaring “we have a more fundamental right than your right to distribute things as commodities and to accumulate capital—we have a right to eat”—and if they started taking the food, well then we know what would happen, and what has happened whenever people do this: “looters, shoot them down in the street.”
Enough food is actually produced in the world to feed everyone. But some 21,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, with children dying most often. In 2013, there were 161 million children under five years old whose growth had been stunted because of malnutrition. In the past two years, 795 million people, or one out of every nine people who live on this planet, suffered from chronic undernourishment.
So just imagine if hungry people took the words from this Italian court seriously. What if lots of people just went out one night to the supermarket and took what they needed so their kids could get one healthy meal? What if they didn’t do it for just one night, but for a whole month? What would happen to those stores? And what would happen if this were done not just in one city, but all over the world?
Well, to finish this thought experiment we have to look at how food ends up in the stores to begin with. As Bob Avakian has discussed, in order for something to get produced under capitalism, even for social needs like food, clothing, and shelter there has to be a “preliminary transformation into capital.” So let’s look at what this means. There has to be an investment of money in a way that turns that investment into capital. So for example, if a particular capitalist wants to make bread to sell, he’s got to take money, (perhaps with a loan from a bank) and invest this in the raw materials that go into the bread, like flour, sugar, oil, etc. He’s got to invest in the factory building, the ovens, the packaging materials, the trucks for transportation. And most importantly, if he doesn’t do this all himself, he has to hire workers—he has to invest in the purchase, the control, and the use of labor power (of people whose work adds value to all this). The capitalist is not primarily motivated by feeding the hungry, but by the objective need to make a profit and accumulate more capital. He has to stay afloat, while at the same time competing with many other capitalists also making bread and trying to accumulate more profit by gaining a bigger share of the market. These are the driving dynamics of this system, to which the capitalists themselves are subject.
So what happens if instead of the bread getting sold, hungry people “exercise” a “right to eat” and just take it? The capitalist won’t make a profit and possibly won’t even recoup the initial investment he put in to make the bread. And if this keeps happening, he won’t be able to pay back loans to the bank, he won’t have funds for further investment to produce more bread, he won’t be able to pay his rent or his workers. He will go out of business. And if hungry people go into stores and take bread and other food without paying for it, not just one day and not just in one city or country, then supermarkets will go out of business, producers of food will go out of business, and a very basic part of the capitalist economy (the production of food) will start falling apart, drastically affecting the whole capitalist system.
There is already enough food being produced to provide everyone on the planet with a healthy diet. The only reason people are going hungry and dying of starvation is because of this capitalist mode of production.
In contrast, a socialist society has a radically different economy, free of the constraints of having to produce everything through the preliminary transformation into capital. With this, it aims primarily to meet the social needs of all the people, in line with and as part of getting rid of all relations of exploitation and emancipating all of humanity. This does not mean that there would not be a need to figure out how to do this in a way that did not plunder the planet and to substantially remake how agriculture is done in order to feed everyone. Nor does it mean that care would not have to be taken to figure out adjustments in other parts of the economy, so that people could really HAVE this right—so that the necessities of life would be available to all. But it could be done—and all this has not just been outlined but gone into in some depth in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.
So think again of those 21,000 people who will die today of hunger or hunger-related causes. Think again of how most of these are children. Think again of 161 million children whose growth will be stunted from malnutrition—picture just one of them as she goes to bed hungry tonight. Then think about how the only thing making that happen is this system and how this could be eradicated through communist revolution.
What are you gonna do?
Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
May 2, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We want to call our readers’ attention to two significant statements released on the occasion of May 1 this year—one from the Communist Party of Iran, Marxist-Leninist-Maoist (CPI-MLM) and one from Grupo Comunista Revolucionario de Colombia (GCR). Both groups comment on the crossroads now facing communists and revolutionaries all over the world, and both underline the importance of revolutionaries taking up the new synthesis of communism, developed by Bob Avakian. Rather than attempt to summarize them here, we strongly urge our readers to go over them in their entirety.
These statements should give further impetus to every revolutionary communist in every part of the globe to take up this new synthesis of communism, and to be part of what is called for in BA’s seminal new work The Science, The Strategy, The Leadership for An Actual Revolution, And A Radically New Society on the Road to Real Emancipation:
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.
Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
Declaration of Grupo Comunista Revolucionario de Colombia, May 1, 2016:
May 2, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The world as such is intolerable, it is suffocating.
It is a world in which the capacity to feed all human beings coexists disgracefully with more than a billion people who “live” with chronic malnutrition, and literally every five seconds a person dies of hunger!...
It is a world in which they justify wars of aggression in country after country, torture and massacres, with a morality that values the lives of people in Western countries (and of white people, men, the rich) over the lives of everyone else...
It is a world in which millions of people are forced to risk their lives, driven from their homes by reactionary wars and plunder and other problems caused by the system that rules over them...
It is a world in which the oppressed are rounded up wherever they go, running the risk of an early death, a life foreclosed and ruined, insulted at every turn and even murdered, simply due to who they are...
It is a world where everything (including people, especially women and children) becomes an object to be bought and sold...
It is a world where women face a daily onslaught of harassment, discrimination, oppression and hidden or open and even physical and lethal brutal aggression...
It is a world of outrageous political and legal attacks and vicious intimidation against LGBT people...
It is a world in which, due to the environmental emergency, the future of life on this planet is uncertain...
It is a world ruled by a system that snuffs out spirits, and degrades the people stripping them of their status of full human beings...
And although material resources, knowledge and people exist that could make another way of life possible for all of humanity, they are fettered and then used to suck people into more ignorance, superstition and misery.
Yes, it is true that exploitation and oppression breed resistance. Around the world again and again signs of discontent and outbreaks of fury burst forth. It is commonplace that a deep sentiment arises that there should be a better way to organize human society, that another, different world must be and is possible. But without a scientific approach, method and leadership, in general that sentiment is channeled into dead ends, and the masses continue to be subjected to endless horrors.
Today’s world is a horror, not because of human nature but the functioning of the system. There is no permanent necessity for the state of affairs that exists. The world does not have to be this way. There is a way out, communist revolution.
Those who want to create this completely different world immediately confront two things. On the one hand, the repressive forces of the power structure that are used against any challenge to its authority and, on the other hand, there is also contestation in the realm of ideas.
Let us do both: fight the power structure; and debate and wrangle with the most advanced, radical and revolutionary ideas of these times. All in the midst of developing a new revolutionary movement and upsurge, that go further than even the best of the past.
There is debate in society over whether another world is really possible or not, and over what kind of world we want: Is there a way to actually change how people have to live? Instead of changing the various ways in which people suffer oppression, what would it take to eliminate oppression concretely and completely?
In general, there are struggles in the realms of morality, science, religion and worldview; over the question of compromise or resistance; on how to understand and evaluate the first stage of communist revolutions and on many other fronts.
But the most important struggle in the realm of ideas today focuses on the kind of change we need, the theory that can guide this change and the leadership to bring about this radical transformation. There is no other way around it: a revolution, a communist revolution, is still needed.
A real revolution is the only way to end the source of the problem, end the capitalist-imperialist system that dominates the world. The imperialist powers like the United States, the European powers, Russia and China are at the top of this system and dominate countries like Colombia. Of course the capitalist-imperialist system is not all-powerful. There are crises and cracks in the walls of this system. And therein lies the material basis for possibilities of making revolution.
The world capitalist system is no mystery, it can be known and understood. Karl Marx, 150 years ago, laid the foundations for a new science and revealed the secrets of the system’s functioning and how to overthrow it through a new kind of revolution, the communist revolution. Since then, the communists along with millions of proletarians and other oppressed masses throughout the world have tried to continue on this revolutionary path and have changed the history of humanity forever, although they suffered bitter defeats.
The Paris Commune was a first attempt, drowned in blood by the repressive forces of the system after two months. Marx, along with Friedrich Engels, synthesized this short but valuable experience and conceived the kind of state needed for the communist revolution: the dictatorship of the proletariat.
On the basis of Marx’s theory and approach, revolutionary efforts to transform the world began. In the twentieth century there were two great socialist revolutions with great achievements and experiences for humanity, first in the Russian Revolution of 1917 under the leadership of Lenin and later the Chinese Revolution in 1949 under the leadership of Mao Tsetung.
With their theoretical developments and advances in the science of Marxism, Lenin and Mao were able to lead the class struggle, amid tremendous difficulties, to victory in order to immediately take to new heights the difficult process of uprooting the old and building a new economic base and political and cultural superstructure for the new society. They undertook what Marx called the great ruptures with traditional property relations and with the traditional ideas produced and conditioned by them.
However, the Soviet Revolution in Russia was defeated in the mid-1950s and the Chinese Revolution was defeated in late 1976. In both cases a new bourgeoisie that emerged within the party and the socialist state seized power and undertook the restoration of capitalism, although they continued to use the label “socialist.”
In grappling with how to understand the reasons for and preventing the restoration of capitalism, Mao developed the science of Marxism, and to that end he proposed and led a “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” The Cultural Revolution was not able to prevent restoration, and after a coup d’état, the “capitalist roaders” seized power and helped imperialism turn China into the “sweatshop” of the world. This brought to an end the first stage of communist revolutions in the history of humanity.
A wave of counterrevolution broke out. And among the oppressed masses, reactionary political movements took hold in many places. But important revolutionary wars led by Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties also made significant advances that inspired revolutionaries and masses of people worldwide. However, those heroic struggles came up against the reality of the great changes in the world and the limitations and distortions of the theory. And the science of communism demanded a new leap even more. A new framework was needed to lay the basis for a truly new stage of communist revolution.
The communist movement faced a real crossroads. With the false verdicts of the reactionaries and the reformists, the liberating history and experience of communism were being discarded in the revolutionary movement, among the bulk of the previously-progressive intelligentsia and among the masses in general, taking up the tattered flags of bourgeois democracy instead. On the other hand a smaller section clung dogmatically and religiously to the revolutionary experience and theory of the first stage of the revolution, including its errors and limitations.
It should be said that many of the prevailing errors in the international communist movement do not come from Marx, Lenin and Mao, who struggled against many of them. However, elements of these incorrect tendencies existed in their own thinking that were then taken up by one or another section of the communist movement and developed into fully developed lines.
But besides the dead ends of the dogmatic trend and the bourgeois-democratic trend (both increasingly becoming residues of the past), there were those who fought to stay on course and clear the revolutionary way forward. The theoretical and practical developments of the communist movement have been rescued and enriched in vision and clarity by another leap in the science of communism. A new leap whereby it is possible to understand much better than before the functioning of the current system and how to free ourselves from it.
This great breakthrough has not been easy. It has taken decades of painstaking scientific work of analysis of the many aspects of the experience of the first stage of revolution, synthesizing its lessons. It has made it possible to recognize and criticize many errors (although the accomplishments were principal) of this first stage of revolution. Ruptures have been recognized and made with various misconceptions in the body of the science of communism developed by Marx, Lenin and Mao, and all the correct parts in this body (which are principal) have been synthesized and reconfigured at new heights.
This new leap in the science of communism has been the product of the theoretical work and the revolutionary leadership of Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and the greatest revolutionary of our time. Avakian has not just stayed the course but has produced a whole body of work with a new synthesis of communism: a new level of freedom with which we can interact with the necessity that we now face and transform it in a revolutionary way. Facing up to the necessity—that is, reality and what we are up against—is the basis for achieving freedom—that is, the capacity to transform that reality (based on understanding it).
Facing reality, as it really is, sounds easy but it is not. It is neither automatic nor “natural,” and therefore requires scientific approach and method. The scientific approach and method of communism has been rescued, given a new foundation and enriched by Bob Avakian, who has identified and engaged the thorniest problems facing revolutionaries. In this process, he has revolutionized communism even more, not only by identifying and breaking with aspects of it that were not scientific but by putting all of communism on a more scientific basis.
Therefore, the essence of the new synthesis is the further development and synthesis of communism as scientific method and approach, and the more systematic application of this scientific method and approach to reality in general and in particular to the revolutionary struggle to overthrow and uproot all systems and relations of exploitation and oppression and advance to a communist world.
As with all advances in all science, these do not easily break new ground. Within the Grupo Comunista Revolucionario itself, a serious struggle has been necessary to understand it, take it up and get bearings with it in order to advance the revolution in Colombia as part of the world revolution, which requires above all building the party required to lead it.
And a central focus of today’s genuine communist revolutionaries, in the midst of the actual process of building the genuine communist party, is working to root the new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian in the revolutionary movement, and among the masses of people as part of building a movement for revolution under the leadership of such a party. All those who really are concerned about the situation in the world and yearn for real change must engage and fight for this new synthesis.
Humanity needs revolution and the new synthesis of communism of Bob Avakian!
Revolution, nothing less!
Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist)—May Day 2016:
May 2, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Living in today’s world is suffocating and unbearable. Just look at refugees fleeing war-torn countries and miserable poverty only to be drowned in the seas while all the giant ships and equipment produced by the work of the same people, by our collective work world-wide, stand still, doing nothing and just watching them go under! And those who do not drown have to face barbed wire, gangster laws, and the law enforcement of reactionary capitalist imperialist states. Is not this enough to want to bury this imperialist capitalist system and their states and laws and law enforcements? Yes, it is!
We produce more food than the earth’s seven billion people need. But millions are dying of hunger and malnutrition. We have produced science that enables us to go back in time more than one billion years to understand our cosmos but children in Africa, Asia and Latin America are dying of preventable diseases and the propaganda and educational machine of the capitalists injects ignorance of all types into the minds of people in every corner of the world. Racists, bigots and religious obscurantists present themselves as poor peoples’ “leaders”! In how many ways can they commit horrors against humanity? There is no question that this world HAS TO CHANGE. But how? This is the most important question facing humanity.
The source of the problem is the imperialist capitalist system which dominates the world and leads and deploys all sorts of reactionary state powers—including those such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, etc. The great imperialist powers such as the US, European states, China and Russia are sitting at the top of this dung heap. This system must be taken down and a fundamentally different world must replace it. But how and in what way?
The world capitalist system is not all-powerful, it is not a sealed secret never to be known or understood. More than 150 years ago, Karl Marx revealed the secrets of its workings and the way to undo it through a new kind of revolution which is called a COMMUNIST REVOLUTION. Since Marx’s time we, the revolutionary communists along with millions of proletarians and oppressed masses of the world, have tried to go forward on this path and have changed the history of human society forever, but we have also been bitterly defeated.
The Paris Commune of 1871 was the very first attempt to do this. But it did not last long enough and it was drowned in blood by the bourgeois state and its military. Marx, and his lifelong comrade Engels, summed up this short but very important experience and drew an overall picture of the kind of state which would be needed to carry through the communist revolution: the dictatorship of the proletariat. Based on Marx’s revolutionary and scientific theory and approach, a revolutionary effort for changing the world began. The twentieth century witnessed two great socialist revolutions with tremendous achievements and experiences for humanity on its march to bury capitalism. It happened first in Russia with the October revolution in 1917 under Lenin’s leadership and then in China with another October revolution in 1949 under Mao’s leadership. Lenin and Mao, with their theoretical breakthroughs and advances of the science of Marxism, were able to navigate class struggle through tremendous odds and uncharted waters to victory and began the tortuous process of uprooting the old and building the new economic base and political and cultural superstructure of the new society. This was the beginning of what Marx called rupturing from the traditional relations of ownership and traditional ideas which are produced and conditioned by them.
The revolutions in Russia and China lasted longer than the Paris Commune but not long enough. The revolution in the Soviet Union was defeated in the mid-1950s, capitalism was restored and a new bourgeoisie that had grown within the socialist state and the Communist Party came to power. The socialist revolution in China continued until 1976. Mao developed the science of Marxism through solving the riddle of why under socialism a capitalist restoration occurs, and how it should be prevented. A second revolution was carried out in Socialist China in order to prevent restoration: the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” But this too failed to prevent capitalist restoration. Following the death of Mao in 1976, capitalist-roaders carried out a coup and seized power. With the assistance of the imperialists they turned China into the biggest and most miserable capitalist sweatshop of the world. In this way the first wave of communist revolution in human history came to an end.
An era of counter-revolution ensued throughout the world.
Instead of revolutionary communist and emancipatory movements, reactionary political movements became popular among desperate and deprived masses. For example, the Iranian revolution of 1979 turned into a counter-revolution when the Islamic fundamentalists seized power.
Not long after this, Soviet Social imperialism, which in contention with the US-led Western imperialist bloc had taken the world to the brink of a nuclear war, faced internal crisis and collapsed. This was used by the international bourgeoisie to claim the so-called “death of communism.” But the USSR was merely another capitalist imperialist state which for historical reasons had kept a socialist mask even after capitalism had been restored in the mid-1950s in the previously Soviet socialist country. After the collapse of the USSR, an era of capitalist “globalisation” gave new life to capitalist greed, wars of aggression, racism, rape of women, infanticide and genocide. Today we can clearly see that if a second wave of communist revolution does not begin, this nightmare of capitalism will continue its destructive existence. But what do we need to initiate this new wave and from where?
There is resistance and struggle throughout the world against all kinds of oppression that the capitalist system doles out to people. Yes, people fight back, but they fight back while having the same illusions the system has produced and trained them with. Many people fight back while holding the religious illusion of taming the wild forces of capitalism by going backwards. Many fight back while maintaining illusions about the possibility of reforming capitalism. We can see it in the Syriza and Podemos movements in Europe. Sadly the only emancipatory vision, programme and movement which is revolutionary communism is absent from the scene and this is the most tragic aspect of the present situation. The emancipatory history and experience of communism are buried. And when you do not know your liberatory history and the tools it has honed, it is like you have been born yesterday. A mere baby facing a vicious and experienced enemy!
But this history and its achievements have been saved for us and rendered much richer in vision and clarity, through another exhilarating leap in the science of communism. With this leap in the science of communism we can understand the workings of capitalism and how this system can be undone through revolution, much better than before. This new leap in our science of revolution has not come easily. In a four decade-long period, very hard scientific work went into dissecting every layer of the experience of the first wave of communist revolution and synthesizing its lessons in order to start the second stage or wave. Many errors of the first stage were identified and criticized. Many wrong understandings in the body of communist science as developed by Marx, Lenin and Mao were dug out, and its mainly correct body was synthesized to a higher level, making it a very sharp and more correct explanation of the complicated world that we have to change. It has also produced a very clear and correct understanding of the tortuous path that we have to open up in order to change the world.
This new leap in the science of communism is called the New Synthesis of Communism and this hard work has been carried out by the greatest revolutionary of our time: Bob Avakian. This is the most important and the most urgent message that we want to bring to you on this May Day: to be sure, this exhilarating scientific production stands in the same rank as Marx’s work. It gives humanity a framework to begin the second stage of communist revolution and rise to the challenge of the most urgent need of all humanity: getting rid of capitalism in every corner of the world.
Relying only on our hatred of the suffering of billions of people and all kinds of ugly things that capitalism produces we cannot overthrow it and change the world. We have to get hold of comrade Avakian’s works, just as all revolutionaries back in the 1960s did with the works of Marx, Lenin and Mao. That old stage of science of communism has now divided into two, and a more correct and thus a more revolutionary understanding has come out of its womb.
It is not possible to summarize a whole science and the road map for communist revolution in a May Day message. But through this message, we urgently call upon all those who yearn and need to make a real revolution and radically change the world for the better, to immediately plunge into this scientific work and road map of the new wave of communist revolution. This is the microscope and telescope of a real (and not phony) revolution. To fully abolish capitalism and class-divided society throughout the world is a difficult task to fulfill, and without applying the New Synthesis of Communism we will not be able to take even one step in the right direction and all of our tremendous struggles and sacrifices all over the world will be derailed and exhausted by powerful forces of the system. We have no time to waste! This is our message for a Red May Day!
Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist)
—May Day 2016
Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
May 9, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On May 1, a coordinated labor strike began involving prisoners in as many as five Alabama prisons. A communication released by the striking prisoners said:
Let us be clear, this is not just about the deplorable conditions of confinement, but more so about the 13th Amendment, the Alabama Constitution of 1901, and the Statutory Laws discriminatorily enacted from both. The laws that create and maintain the denial of our Human Rights and perpetuation of our Economical Exploitation. From Wrongful Convictions, Exceedingly Excessive sentences and Mandatory Life without Parole, Alabama's prisons are literally Warehouses of Men stacked on top of one another, and due to an Arbitrary and Biased Parole Board System, thousands of Men eligible to be released are stopped up in a broken and dangerous system.
Kinetik, Dhati, and Brother M, three prisoners in solitary confinement, and members of the Free Alabama Movement (a “National Movement Against Mass Incarceration and Prison Slavery”), helped organize the strike, which began at Alabama’s Holman, Staton, and Elmore Correctional Facilities. Prisoners at St. Clair, Donaldson, and other correctional facilities also plan to join the strike, which is planned for up to 30 days. Kinetik told Solitary Watch, “We will no longer contribute to our own oppression... We will no longer continue to work for free and be treated like this.”
Prisoners report that in retaliation, guards have been giving them smaller meal portions, putting pressure on them through forced malnourishment. And, in an act of collective punishment, the entire population of Alabama’s striking prisons—including the general prison population—has been placed on “lockdown with limited inmate movement.”
Prisoners are paid 17 to 30 cents an hour to do different jobs, some that generate revenue for the prison from for-profit companies. Prisoners describe inhumane conditions: lack of access to reading material, dangerous living conditions, tainted food and water, negligent treatment of prisoners in solitary, and poor health services. At Holman, prisoners make license plates and sew sheets and pillowcases for the state’s prisons. Elmore prison has a canning and recycling plant and St. Clair contains a vehicle restoration and chemical plant that, according to the Free Alabama Movement, produces more than $25 million worth of chemicals a year. In their statement the striking prisoners liken their conditions to slavery saying, “In theory, the 13th Amendment put an end to and forever abolished slavery, at least that is what we’ve been taught in schools. However, in actual practice, the 13th Amendment merely changed the name, method and rationale for keeping African Americans in a state of perpetual servitude. As the 13th Amendment explicitly permits ‘Involuntary Servitude’— an euphemism for Slavery—as punishment for ‘duly convicted criminals.’”
Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
May 9, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a Revolution Club member:
Despite the fact that fetuses don’t feel pain, Utah now requires women having abortions later than 20 weeks into the pregnancy have anesthesia administered to the fetus. The governor who signed the bill into law, who claims to be “adamantly pro-life,” is adding a dangerous, medically unnecessary element to the relatively simple procedure of abortion at that stage. This is happening in the midst of an avalanche of bans on abortion earlier and earlier in the pregnancy, making abortions difficult to impossible to obtain, and further reinforcing the notion that a fetus is a baby, and a woman’s life is expendable outside of her ability to reproduce. This law and those like it bend public opinion toward the false notion that a fetus is a small and vulnerable person, which it is NOT, and a woman’s body is merely a vessel for its passage, which it is NOT.
* Fetuses are not babies, abortion is not murder, and women are not incubators. For more on this, see previously published revcom.us articles: “What is an Abortion and Why Women Must Have the Right to Choose...” and “A Fetus Cannot Feel Pain, but a Woman Denied the Right to Abortion Suffers Intolerable Pain.”
Last week, the Alabama Senate approved a bill that would prevent abortion clinics located within 2,000 feet of a K-8 public school from opening, or renewing their license when it expires, as if abortion is something immoral that endangers children. Similar laws are used for liquor stores. Abortion clinics are much-needed health clinics, which specifically help women gain some control over their lives! Because of this bill approved last week, the existence of Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives—the last fully functioning, “up-to-code” abortion clinic in Alabama—is threatened. In fact, this bill’s only immediate effect will be to shut down the last clinic in the state, the only one that has managed to comply with all the current regulations, including millions of dollars of renovations necessary to meet other, equally unnecessary, legal mandates.
Last fall, 11 people were shot and three killed at an attack on a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs. The gunman clearly said in court that this was about “saving babies,” and again, the terror against abortion providers and women was violently reasserted. Among others, Washington, DC, doctor Diane Horvath-Cosper spoke out in the face of that, telling MSNBC that she was not deterred. Soon after, people at the highest levels of the hospital she works at called her in and told her not to talk to the press like that; they didn’t want to attract attention to the fact that the hospital provided abortions. Now, the doctor has filed a civil rights suit against the hospital. Dr. Horvath-Cosper said, “Our silence has never and will never protect us. Patients deserve better than shame and secrecy,” and she is right. Policies like this reflect a deadly logic. It doesn’t take a history degree to know what happens when the truth tellers are told to stay silent while fascists and fanatics speak freely. This is a losing dynamic, and especially unacceptable when real women’s lives and futures are at stake.
As Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, has said:
Unbelievable as it may seem, in the 21st century there are still people—including people in positions of power and authority—who are determined to force women to bear children, regardless of the situation, the feelings, and the better judgment of those women themselves. That is a way of enslaving women to the dictates of an oppressive male supremacist, patriarchal system; and that is what the cruel fanatics who are determined to deny women the right to abortion are really all about.
This rotten system does not deserve to run its shit on people one day longer! Get with the revolution, and fight for a radically different society. Find out about that society here: Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.
For more on the most radical revolution the world has ever seen, see Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution.
Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
May 9, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Daniel Berrigan is arrested for civil disobedience outside the U.S. Mission to the UN, 2006. Photo: Thomas Good / NLN
Catholic priest, author, poet, playwright, teacher, and courageous resister Father Daniel J. Berrigan died on Saturday, April 30, at the age of 94.
Dan Berrigan was a person of conscience who consistently opposed U.S. wars, what he called “American military imperialism,” and other forms of oppression, in word and deed, who stood by his principles at real personal cost, and who never capitulated to the empire.
Berrigan’s opposition to America’s crimes was rooted in his radical interpretation of Catholic doctrine and morality. This framework propelled him to stand with the people and oppose oppression on many fronts, even while it negatively influenced other positions, like his opposition to abortion.
Two actions in particular capture Berrigan’s defiance, courage, and radical spirit—qualities urgently needed today—and inspired many, many others to resist.
On May 17, 1968, Dan Berrigan, his brother Philip (also at that time a Catholic priest, who died in 2002) and seven other Catholic activists entered the Catonsville, Maryland, draft board, grabbed over 300 files, took them outside, and burned them with homemade napalm. Their goal was to stop the draft, stop America’s widespread criminal use of napalm against the Vietnamese people, and stop the war. “Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children,” Dan Berrigan wrote in a statement from the group.
The action was inspired partly by Berrigan’s trip to North Vietnam where he spent nights in shelters “under the bombs of your own country.” And it was a direct moral challenge to the U.S. population and religious establishment: “We confront the Catholic Church, other Christian bodies and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country’s crimes.”
Berrigan became the poet/public voice of what became known as the Catonsville Nine, whose bold, defiant act helped inspire more than 100 similar anti-draft actions and broader, deeper resistance to the war. He also became one of the leaders of what the New York Times called the “Roman Catholic ‘new left,’ articulating a view that racism and poverty, militarism and capitalist greed were interconnected pieces of the same big problem: an unjust society.”
The Berrigan brothers were arrested and convicted in 1970. They turned their trial into an indictment of the Vietnam War and then refused to go to prison, instead going underground to spread the resistance (Dan Berrigan becoming the first Catholic priest on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list). They were later caught and imprisoned for over a year.
While Berrigan was a proponent of nonviolent resistance, during the height of the revolutionary upsurge of the 1960s he refused to equate the armed resistance and struggle of the Vietnamese people and the Black Panther Party with the violence of the oppressors:
I have a great fear of American violence, not only out there in the military and diplomacy, economics, in industry and advertising, but also in here, in me, close among us. On the other hand, I must say, I have very little fear, from first hand experience of the Vietcong or Panthers. (I hate to use the word violence), for their acts coming from the proximate threat of extinction, from being immediately put on the front lines.
Dan Berrigan had nearly died in prison, and, according to his niece Frida Berrigan, could have rested on his “laurels” as one of the “heroes of the peace movement” or spent his life as a writer or teacher. Instead, he continued putting himself on the line to resist U.S. crimes.
In 1980, the Berrigan brothers and six other activists broke into a General Electric nuclear missile plant in Pennsylvania, took hammers to nose cones of nuclear warheads and soaked them in blood. They became known as the Plowshares Eight, helping launch the anti-nuclear weapons Plowshares movement.
Dan Berrigan and the Plowshares activists faced heavy charges—more than 10 different felonies and misdemeanors. Berrigan again used the trial to indict the U.S., calling its nukes “the hammers of hell ... that will break the world to bits,” and condemning the court for refusing to “call them by their right name, which is murder, death, genocide, the end of the world.” He demanded people in the U.S. not turn away but take responsibility to “disarm” these nukes.
Dan Berrigan never stopped resisting and was arrested many times. He protested the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the 1998 Kosovo War, the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and 2003 invasion of Iraq. He denounced Israel for “militarism” and the “domestic repressions” of Palestinians. In 2011, he took part in Occupy Wall Street.
In 2007, Berrigan joined over 250 others, including prominent artists, intellectuals and activists, in signing the very important statement titled “Dangerous Times Demand Courageous Voices. Bob Avakian Is Such a Voice.” The statement, published by Engage! A Committee to Project and Protect the Voice of Bob Avakian in the New York Review of Books, read in part:
Bob Avakian combines an unsparing critique of the history and current direction of American society with a sweeping view of world history and the potential for humanity. He has brought forth a fresh, relevant and compelling approach to Marxism, deeply analyzing the history of the Communist movement and the socialist revolutions and upholds their achievements. At the same time, he honestly confronts and criticizes what he views as their shortcomings, opening up new paths of inquiry in the process and initiating dialogue with people who hold a wide range of views. He’s addressing the burning problems before society from a unique vantage point, and we consider his revolutionary analysis and solutions to be an important and necessary part of the ferment and discourse required in this society and the world in this dark time. While those of us signing this statement do not necessarily agree with all of his views, we have come away from encounters with Avakian provoked and enriched in our own thinking, and we invite others to hear and engage that voice....
Thus, in addition to calling on people to engage with the thoughts of Bob Avakian, and bring them into what needs to be a rich and diverse dialogue, we are also serving notice to this government that we intend to defend his right to freely advocate and organize for his views, and to engage broadly with people about those views.
(Full statement here.)
When he turned 80, Berrigan said he’d stop resisting “The day after I’m embalmed, that’s when I’ll give it up.” He remained true to those words until he died.
While revolutionary communists had differences with Father Berrigan over religion, patriarchy, and, most fundamentally, on the need for and road to human emancipation, we can nonetheless appreciate and uphold the life of conscience he lived and the important contributions he made. At this perilous hour for humanity, there is much that can be learned, including by the new generation, from Dan Berrigan’s life and example.
Revolution #438 May 9, 2016
From A World to Win News Service
May 9, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
May 2, 2016. A World to Win News Service. The al-Quds hospital was one of the very few remaining in Aleppo, Syria and the only one with facilities and personnel to treat children. It was hit by one or more air strikes on the night of April 27. Video from a surveillance camera in a hospital corridor shows Dr Muhammad Waseem Moaz, said to be the leading and perhaps last paediatrician in the city, closing a door, adjusting his hospital scrubs and stepping toward the emergency room just as an explosion blows in the front door and the walls and ceiling collapse. He and at least 26 other staff and patients were killed in the attack on this hospital supported by the international medical volunteer organization Medécins Sans Frontiѐres (MSF—Doctors Without Borders).
Two other hospitals in the Aleppo area were hit the same day, also in air strikes carried out by the Bashar al-Assad government, according to the New York Times. An Al Jazeera military analyst stated it is standard procedure, in these kinds of wars against insurgents, to hit vital civilian facilities, in order to terrorize and drive out the civilian population and isolate opposition fighters. But such acts are supposedly illegal under international law, specifically the Geneva Conventions that define the “rules of war.”
In short, the attack on the al-Quds hospital was criminal, a war crime to be unequivocally condemned and the people behind it brought to justice. Few would believe it was an accident, because it fit an established pattern and served identifiable goals.
Yet what about the U.S. attack on a Médecins Sans Frontiѐres hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, last October? Cannon fire and strafing killed 42 people, including three children and 14 medical staff, and injured dozens more. Patients burned alive in their beds. Surviving medics had to operate on the wounded, including each other, on a desktop standing amid the rubble.
The U.S. refused to allow an independent international body established by the Geneva Conventions to investigate. Instead, the Pentagon investigated itself, concluding, in a report released April 29, 2016 that the “tragic strike” was “unintentional,” caused by a series of human errors and “equipment failures.”
These are the undisputed facts about the Kunduz hospital attack:
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, as MSF spokespeople pressed hard on the U.S. government for an explanation, the Pentagon had little to say. They let stand an Afghan government claim that Taliban fighters had taken over the hospital and were using it as a base against attacking government forces. There was an implication—and still is, in the latest Pentagon report—that the gunship was defending American soldiers, or at least that the U.S. military thought that was the case. There were, it turns out, no U.S. ground troops in the area, and no arms in the hospital, although the medical staff quite correctly refuses to distinguish among those who come for help. But even if the military’s alleged fears were true, and even if they attacked the hospital by mistake, MSF has clearly stated that the intense and prolonged attack was on a densely populated area and should never have taken place no matter what.
Citing the haste with which the aircraft took off, the failure of communications and targeting systems and the crew’s disorientation, the U.S. announced it would include reprimands in the files of unnamed soldiers and officers, but that there would be no courts-martial because no crime was committed—not murder (premeditated killing), not manslaughter (killing without seeking to do so) and not even criminal negligence. A driver whose headlights failed and became disoriented and then, instead of stopping, ran into a school bus would not get off so lightly. In short, as MSF points out, the U.S. is saying that such things are the inevitable cost of war, just collateral damage.
This conclusion is more than an exoneration for the soldiers and officers involved, which would be bad enough. It is a self-exoneration of the whole U.S. military chain of command and the government headed by that military’s commander in chief, Barack Obama.
It is a “rule of war” that commanders are responsible for the actions of their troops. What’s more, Obama, through his silence in public and his obvious, if never publicly spoken, approval of the Pentagon cover-up, could be held criminally responsible before and after the fact, if the same rules were applied to the U.S. as to countries and armies the U.S. and its allies and friends have defeated, from Germany and Japan in World War 2 to Serbia and African countries today.
But the “cost of war” point has to be addressed. Is this war itself right or wrong? This the basic question. Underlying the Pentagon’s argument is the claim that because it is right for the U.S. to wage this war, its cost has to be accepted. MSF and other volunteers don’t address the question, and yet it is the heart of the matter.
What is the U.S. fighting for in Afghanistan? The U.S. supported Islamists when that seemed to suit American interests (grabbing Afghanistan from its Soviet rivals). Then the U.S. gave the Pakistani secret services the green light to bring the Taliban to power, although that turned out to be problematic for the U.S. Now Washington is sending troops and gunships to save the Kabul government—the Islamist government it installed—from other Islamists.
When the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the pretext was to protect “American lives” from Islamic fundamentalist attacks and “liberate” the Afghan people. What we have seen since then is that Western invasions, occupations and other crimes provide the conditions for Islamism to flourish. Further, the idea that “American lives” are worth more than those of anyone else, including children murdered by U.S. forces and/or U.S.-supplied weapons and munitions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine and elsewhere, is a keystone in the imperialist ideology that justifies such crimes and turns ordinary people into accomplices.
Why is Obama presiding over the bombing of hospitals? To defend his “legacy,” as the man behind the “surge” that saw Afghanistan overrun by U.S. troops—and that breathed new life into the Taliban, the president who still keeps 10,000 U.S. soldiers and 3,000 other NATO troops there today? If Obama ever intended to end that war, or U.S. aggression in general, as some people fooled themselves into believing, why the surge, and why the continuing insistence that U.S. troops cannot leave until American interests are secured?
The purpose of a war determines the way it is fought. A war of liberation has to rally the people; it has nothing to rely on but the active participation of increasing numbers of the masses of people. Not only would it not target civilians, it would fight in a way meant to minimize harm to the people whose interests it serves, even at risk to its own forces. A reactionary war such as that waged by the U.S.-led occupiers in Afghanistan—and the Islamist opposition—necessarily takes all Afghans as potential targets because the interests behind it are completely opposed to the interests of the people.
The Kunduz hospital attack, and the continuing occupation it serves, are driven by the same geopolitical interests that led the U.S. to invade Afghanistan in the first place: to dominate a key region and keep out its rivals. These crimes are part of trying to hold on to global domination in a worldwide system of exploitation and oppression presided over by the political representatives of finance capital headquartered in a handful of countries.
Heroic volunteers are going to have to try to save children and other civilians burned alive again and again, until that imperialist system is brought down.