Posted on Revolution Online, January 31, 2007
Resistance, Revolution, and What Should — and Should Not — Be Supported
[Editors' Note: The following, which originally appeared in Revolution #45 (May 1, 2006), is from the conclusion of “Elections, Democracy and Dictatorship, Resistance and Revolution,” a talk given by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, in 2004, before the elections that year. It has been edited for publication here, and in a few places brief explanatory comments have been inserted within brackets. The audio file of the entire talk is available on bobavakian.net and revcom.us.]
“People in the military need to be told the truth, just like everybody else does.”
Let's talk about the relation between the struggle now and the revolutionary goal. One of these right-wing groups tied to the Republican Party attacked me for, among other things, being the author of the following, which is part of the “Three Main Points” that appears in every issue of our weekly newspaper, the Revolutionary Worker [now Revolution ]: “The whole system we now live under is based on exploitation, here and all over the world. It is completely worthless and no basic change for the better can come about until this system is overthrown.”
Well, let me say that I will readily and proudly stand up for that statement and everything it embodies. I will do so because it is true , and because it is crucial that this truth be put forward broadly and boldly. And while clearly recognizing and having no illusions about the fact that an attack of this kind, for making a statement like this, is very serious, especially in the circumstances we are now facing, and that attacks like this must be taken seriously, indeed, and must be effectively answered and turned back against the attackers; while having all that clearly in mind, let me also say that, in a strategic sense, I am glad to be attacked in this way by these kinds of forces.
To paraphrase a well-known statement by Mao Tsetung, this kind of attack shows that this statement from the “Three Main Points” in our newspaper has hit upon a profound reality and fundamental truth that these reactionaries do not want brought to light. But the fact that this statement is true, that no basic change for the better can come about until this system is overthrown, does not mean that there is no use, no good purpose and that nothing can be achieved in building resistance to this system now and in fighting against particular outrages and injustices of this system. On the contrary , it is crucial to build such resistance, as powerfully as possible, especially around the major ways in which this system and those who rule it are moving to attack and oppress masses of people here and throughout the world. What a recognition of the truth of this statement should lead us to is an understanding of the need to build all resistance to this system with the revolutionary goal in mind and in a way that builds toward and advances things as far as possible, as fast as possible, toward that goal of revolution.
In this context, I want to speak, before ending, to a controversy which has arisen within the broad movement of opposition to the imperialist wars of this system, and in particular the war against Iraq. This controversy centers around the slogan “Support the Troops” and whether or not it is correct to raise this as part of opposition to the wars in which these troops are involved.
I want to speak, briefly, to the importance of this, and the political and ideological struggle that has gone on around this, and needs to go on around this, both in relation to more immediate objectives, that is, opposing the continuing occupation of Iraq, as well as the imperial wars of this system in general; but also in terms of the strategic perspective of making revolution.
Now, some people have raised: we should support the troops, but not the war. Well, to show why I believe this doesn't make any sense, you only have to say: if you support people, you have to support what they're doing. If you don't support what they're doing, you shouldn't support them. To illustrate this even more graphically, suppose you came upon a gang rape and you found this woman in this desperate situation fighting back, but being jumped on by a number of guys. Would you raise the slogan, “support the rapists, not the rape”? Obviously not. If what people are doing is wrong, murderous, against the interests of the people, you cannot support that and you cannot support them. You support them if and when and in the ways in which they resist and rise up against that. But you do not raise the slogan, “support the troops not the war,” any more than you would raise, “support the rapist, not the rape.”
This is, both literally as well as metaphorically, what these U.S. troops are doing in Iraq and elsewhere — rape and plunder in the service of a system that lives and thrives off plunder and exploitation. That should not be supported — and they should not be supported while that is what they are doing. We have to understand, these are the armed forces of a system of worldwide exploitation and plunder. They do not fight for “their country,” except in the sense that “their country” means this system and its ruling class of capitalists-imperialists. That they do fight for, whether they are aware or not that this is what they are fighting for.
Still less do they fight for the rights and freedom of the people, here or anywhere else. Really, think about it — and I've had lots of experience arguing with soldiers going all the way back to the Vietnam War. And I can tell you from my own experience the answer is: this doesn't happen. But ask yourself, how many within the U.S. armed forces say to themselves as they are going off to the theaters of war, or especially as they are about to enter battle: “I am doing this so those fucking hippies and other protesters can have the right to demonstrate against what I am doing”? Come on.
And despite what they are conditioned to fall back on, when the reality of what they are doing begins to rip through the lies with which they are indoctrinated, these troops are not actually fighting for their buddies, including those who have been wounded or killed in battle. What and whom you are fighting for is an objective thing, not a subjective matter of what anyone thinks they are fighting for.
You can see this, for example, by analogy in the whole struggle around the Confederate flag. A lot of these white people in the South say, “well, that flag doesn't stand for slavery and oppression, that just stands for Southern heritage.” Well, what is your fucking heritage? Your heritage is inseparable from and is founded on slavery and oppression and the Ku Klux Klan. That is your Southern heritage. There could be no South and no Southern heritage without it.
And the same applies here. You are fighting for a system of imperialism, whether you recognize it or not. And, of course, they try to do everything they can to prevent you from recognizing it. And we have to ask: how do these troops get where they are, to fight where they're fighting? Who organizes and determines the mission they are fighting for? Did they and their buddies somehow catch a plane all on their own and fly to Afghanistan or Iraq or wherever else they are sent? Did they make the decision to have the war and then determine how and with what weapons and so on to fight it? Come on.
Can you imagine a couple of guys get together and say, “Hey, dude, let's get a map. Greenland, OK! Let's go fight. Excellent, dude.” I mean that's not the way soldiers end up in theaters of war. “Let's raise some money from our friends so we can get a plane ticket and go fight a war somewhere. Let's go down to the Navy surplus store and buy some weapons to fight it with.” That's not how it happens. They are trained, indoctrinated, organized and commanded to fight in certain ways for objectives which they may or may not realize or be aware of.
Look, for example, at the Iraqi prison torture scandal. We all know, I think most people here at least know, that this is not unique. It's coming out now that it's very widespread, and not just in Iraq. Even Al Gore said that this stuff is a result of Bush and the rest declaring the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war and on human rights to be invalid and irrelevant in this context — or “quaint,” as one of Bush's legal advisers [now Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales] put it.
But more than that, this is what the U.S. military has done all over the world. They are an army of conquest, seeking to impose an oppressive rule on people all over the world. Check out the beginning of the Marine Corps hymn. I'm not going to sing it. But “from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.” Where the fuck are the halls of Montezuma and Tripoli? I'll give you a hint, they're not in the U.S.
Imagine if Qaddafi had developed a hymn that said: “from the shores of Florida to the low lands of Ontario, we will fight our nation's battle.” Can you imagine the uproar about that?!
But this Marine Corps hymn and what they boast about tells you they're an invading army of conquest and plunder enforcing a system of worldwide exploitation. And in order to do that, when you're objectively in a position of oppressing the people whose countries you're invading and occupying, and when you have the whole culture that exists in this country [the U.S.], including around women, you are going to do the kind of things that these U.S. troops did in Iraq, in Abu Ghraib and other places; and in Afghanistan; and in Guantanamo. And you're going to especially do it when you're commanded to do so and the whole force of the military is behind it.
Recently, the newspaper the Toledo Blade did a series of exposures about atrocities committed by U.S. troops in Vietnam: cutting off the ears of women, old women, old men and children and wearing them as trophies of war and committing other mutilations and atrocities. This is still coming out, 30 years later. And everywhere in the world that the U.S. military is stationed, it turns whole sections of the surrounding area into brothels for U.S. troops. This is a reflection of the nature of this army and of the nature of the system for which it is fighting and which it is seeking to enforce.
So then we have to ask a question — since they [U.S. troops] are always conditioned to talk about the “bad guys” — “we're the `good guys' going off to get the `bad guys.'” It's that cop mentality. And we know that these abuses in the prisons in Iraq are not different than the abuses in the prisons in the U.S. I was reading an article by Mumia Abu-Jamal [a famous political prisoner, a supporter of the “Move” organization and a former member of the Black Panther Party, who has been on death row for over 20 years] pointing out that one of the people working in the prisons in Iraq was from the prison he's now in, in Pennsylvania. This kind of abuse is an integral part of this system. This system cannot do what it does, and cannot have its enforcers enforce what it is, without doing these things constantly.
So the question is: who, then, are the good guys and the bad guys?
It is necessary to confront these troops with this fundamental truth. It is necessary to create a situation in which, in fact, they do not have, and are increasingly aware that they do not have, the support of the people for what they are doing and what they represent. This is of great importance in building resistance to particular wars. It was extremely important in resisting the war in Vietnam. As a result of the work of antiwar forces and resistance within the military itself, there were more than 100 newspapers, radical newspapers within the military, coffee houses set up outside many military bases, and many soldiers were influenced to turn against what they were being ordered and trained to do.
I remember there was a survey in the late '60s taken by the Army itself about which political leaders in society members of the U.S. armed forces looked to at that point. And among the Black soldiers — but this also had support more broadly in the military — leaders of the Black Panther Party scored higher than any official of the U.S. government. Now, that is a very important thing and a very favorable development, in terms of resisting a particular war but also thinking more strategically, beyond that, in terms of revolution.
I'm not advocating that anybody do anything in this regard, but you think about a situation that moves toward increased resistance, in the face of everything that's at stake now, moves even beyond that toward revolution: well, then the military in this country is going to be called out to engage in bloody suppression against what would be going on by way of resistance, and especially revolution, when things get to the point where the ruling class feels threatened. And the kind of developments that went on in the Vietnam War [the resistance against that war] would need to go on, on a much bigger scale, in the face of all this. Not that that would solve all the problems of revolution, but it could be one very important factor.
So, people in the military need to be told the truth, just like everybody else does. We did that in the struggle against the Vietnam War. I remember being in Berkeley at an antiwar table, day after day, arguing with soldiers who would come. They'd come on leave, you know, they'd come as they were about ready to ship out to Vietnam. We got in arguments, one after the other, and we told them the blunt truth about what they were doing and why it was wrong. And this had a good effect — sometimes immediately, but more over a period of time — not just what we did in Berkeley, but what people were doing overall. And this is a question of strategic significance, both in relation to building resistance, but also in thinking about revolution.
So I've gone on a long time and now I am going to conclude. And in doing so, let me repeat the first and include also the rest of the “Three Main Points” that appear in our newspaper:
1. The whole system we live under is based on exploitation, here and all over the world. It is completely worthless and no basic change for the better can come about until this system is overthrown.
2. Many different groups will protest and rebel against things this system does, and these protests and rebellions should be supported and strengthened. Yet it is only those with nothing to lose but their chains who can be the backbone of a struggle to actually overthrow this system and create a new system that will put an end to exploitation and help pave the way to a whole new world.
3. Such a revolutionary struggle is possible. There is a political Party that can lead such a struggle, a political Party that speaks and acts for those with nothing to lose but their chains, the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
This Party has the vision, the program, the leadership and the organizational principles to unite those who must be united and enable them to do what must be done. There is a challenge for all those who would like to see such a revolution, those with a burning desire to see a drastic change for the better, all those who dare to dream and to act to bring about a completely new and better world: Support this Party, join this Party, spread its message and its organized strength, and prepare the ground for a revolutionary rising that has a solid basis and real chance of winning.
We don't have to live this way, in a world like this. Another world IS possible. Despite the difficult and painful pangs of birth, a new world is in birth. Let's do everything we can to hasten this new world into being.
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