Revolution#117, January 27, 2008

January 31: A Time To Act

With Bush so widely despised, and with the Republicans in seeming disarray, day in day out you hear the authoritative voices of the talking heads of TV saying, “Calm down and don’t worry, Bush is over and done with.” And a lot of people do assume there is no way the present course can continue, and attach a lot of hope and expectations to the promises of change coming from the Democratic candidates.

Never mind that, hidden in the fog of wall-to-wall election coverage, Bush again tried to provoke an incident with Iran and fabricated evidence that could justify a war. Never mind that the regime still has a full year to push through more repressive legislation—like the new cyber initiative being called for by the director of National Intelligence that will allow the government to examine the content of any e-mail, file transfer or Web search. Never mind that the laws legalizing torture and overturning habeas corpus sit there on the books, unchallenged. Never mind the Klan in Jena, the Minutemen on the border, the torturers in Guantánamo, and the anti-choice majority on the Supreme Court. It’s all gonna go away soon.

But passively counting down the days ’til Bush’s term ends is not going to bring change that’s any good, folks—and it’s not going to bring an end to all the things people find so intolerable about the Bush regime. Bush and Cheney still have their ruthless hands on the levers of power, and are working those levers. They are nailing what they already did into place, and planning yet more. And the direction they have set things in with seven years of Democratic Party complicity is not easily reversed.

And a lot of people on some level know that. This winter’s movies and songs leave a record of the bitterness that is palpable after seven years of the Bush regime. The recent revelation that the CIA destroyed evidence of torture—and the indications that this was ordered by the highest offices in the land—won’t go away, even as it rumbles around in the bowels of Congressional proceedings, “investigated” by some of the very people, including top Democrats, who okayed it. This explosive revelation, like others, has the potential to bring down the Bush/Cheney presidency for the commission of high crimes; but whether or not that happens depends in large part on whether public repudiation succeeds in rising to the level where torture can no longer go on being committed in our name.

World Can’t Wait’s call for a day of No Business as Usual on January 31 takes place in this context. It can and must give expression to the urgent need for mass protest and resistance and do this up against the only story now being allowed in the media—the election frenzy that will supposedly change everything. The 31st stands out on this stupefying terrain as a pole of clarification—building on World Can’t Wait’s call to drive out the Bush regime, it puts forward again the horrors and atrocities still being committed by “your government” and states clearly the people’s huge responsibility in this light. And it stands out as a pole of attraction—a way to draw forward and galvanize all those agonizing and who sense the future cannot be left to politics as usual. The articles in this issue and last on the January 11 actions to close Guantánamo, which included mass wearing of orange as well as other actions against the regime, show the potential especially coming from the youth to bust out of the framework of paralysis and acceptance.

But What About the Elections?

In this election season—the earliest ever—lies an acute awareness on the part of the people who rule this country that there is a reservoir of restlessness and deep discontent among the people. The early and endless elections are attempts to sidetrack and politically contain that discontent lest it well up and become galvanized into the kind of political outpouring that threatens their ability to carry on with the brutal business of empire.

No Democratic candidate deemed viable by the media opposes the fundamental assumptions of Bush’s “war on terror.” Saddled with a war that has become one of the worst debacles in U.S. history—there is no easy resolution if you are an imperialist who one way or another has to maintain supremacy in the Middle East as foundational to maintaining an unchallenged empire. Even if they are “on record” as having opposed it before it happened, none of these candidates are for ending the war and occupation now. None of the Democratic frontrunners responded to the National Intelligence Estimate report that stated Iran was not making nuclear weapons by taking the option of bombing Iran “off the table.” None of them responded to the most recent CIA torture revelations by demanding an immediate repeal of the Military Commissions Act, which legitimized and legalized torture and set up a system of kangaroo courts for detainees.

Edwards may promise to pull all the troops out of combat and leave no permanent bases in Iraq—but his plan sits on the premise of pulling back in Iraq, but not pulling out of the region. He proposes basing troops that can be deployed as a quick-strike force in Kuwait and attempting to get NATO to play a bigger role in the rest of the war and occupation. Obama, for his part, has already made quite clear he would be willing to invade Pakistan and is urging stepping up the war in Afghanistan. And insofar as the “war on terror” goes, Hillary Clinton is just Cheney in a pantsuit.

The comprehensive nature of what has been concentrated in the Bush agenda—and the lasting implications of it—is still very little understood. The Call of World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime describes this as a fascist direction: it is an agenda that is bound up with endless war and torture; with the gutting of habeas corpus and the right to trial; with attacks on dissent and critical thinking and a many-sided assault on science and evolution; with the assertion of religion into public policy and patriarchal control over women’s reproductive lives. All that is not easily reversed—and the political terms of the ’08 elections are manufacturing consensus and consent for a continuation of this, and NOT putting a stop to and reversing all of that. And it is no mystery why this is happening—it is because these politicians work within a system that rests on the exploitation of literally billions of people around the world and within the U.S. If they were to take up policies that posed an obstacle to that system they would either be blackballed or else made into “object lessons”—set up to lose in order to show people why they must accept the terms, and the premises, put forth from on high. By the time someone rises to the top of such a system, they almost instinctively see their interests in terms of what serves the defense and extension of the imperialist system. If they have youthful histories of activism of one sort or another—as Clinton and Obama claim—these just become “back stories” that let them show how realistic they’ve “grown” and that can also allow people who still hope for real change to deceive themselves as to what these candidates will actually do.

In short, these candidates do not have the same interests or want the same things that the vast majority of people who will vote for them want. And if they did, they either would not be allowed to run or would be given the “Simon Cowell” American Idol treatment—as the media did to Mike Gravel, who mainly seemed to campaign to expose the warmongering character of his own Democratic comrades, and soon got denied a platform.

January 31—Act

It’s time to wake people up to grab hold of and remember what it is that they’ve been agonizing over and have found so intolerable these last seven years. It’s time to confront that the seemingly easier road of hoping that some politician will take care of the state of things for you is a dead end—that they will not do so in any way you want them to. It’s time for millions to act on what they almost certainly, on one level, know already—that what is seemingly safer is ineffective in making anything about the world safe from the kind of criminal mayhem now being committed in our name. There will be no change—at least change that is meaningful and positive for humanity—without taking courageous stands and engaging in mass political resistance. Real change comes from the mass initiative of ordinary people who accept the responsibility for taking the direction of history into their own hands.

Right now people in Iraq, in Iran, in Pakistan and all around the world are looking to the people of this country to see if the separation that people the world over have made since the 1960s—between the people and the U.S. government—is still valid. On January 11 people all over the world demanded that the U.S. shut down its torture center in Guantánamo. In the U.S. scores of people got arrested in protest, and high school students in several cities took initiative to politicize their fellow students. Teenagers and young revolutionaries embraced the polarization that resulted when other students tried to shout them down with chants of “USA! USA!” and openly supported torture. The vast majority of students did not know what waterboarding is or that it’s still being committed in secret prisons around the world; and when they found out, most were appalled. Hundreds of youth wore orange—and the actions of students who care about the world and its affairs lifted the lid off and opened up needed space for all those who care and want to be empowered to make history—to have a say in the kind of future they will have to live. And while the media in this country mainly censored news of the January 11 protests, people around the world heard about it.

This was a beginning. It must be taken further.

World Can’t Wait activists sometimes say, “It’s either up to those who rule or up to you—it’s time to choose!” This is true. And there are, to say it once again, high stakes. Continued paralysis and/or reliance on the Democrats will do nothing to halt the fascist direction of things, and the real and truly horrific crimes being committed—and justified, and established as the new normalcy—on the daily.

On the other hand, if the seeds of January 11 are nurtured quickly and if other people are reached, if a mass movement could begin to take shape—ranging in commitment from wearing orange every day, or institutions flying orange NO TORTURE banners, to acts daring to politically challenge “business as usual”—this could begin to change the dynamic in important ways. It could create more favorable conditions for further resistance to the crimes of this system. A visible outpouring could echo around the world, giving the lie in practice to the idea that the only choice is between U.S. imperialist rule and Islamic fundamentalism. And, from our communist standpoint, a major upsurge against the regime could create more favorable possibilities to repolarize society for revolution. January 31 can serve, if people throw their intelligence, imagination, and efforts into it, as an important step toward all that.

The January 31 Call to Action appears on the World Can’t Wait website at

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