Time for Courage
Stop Massive U.S. Surveillance!

June 30, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us



The following is a transcript of the speech given by Andy Zee, spokesperson for Revolution Books, New York City, at the program “WE WILL NOT BE COMPLICIT” at Cooper Union in New York City on June 19, 2013, shortly after the revelations of massive U.S. government surveillance:


Almost 11 years ago many of us gathered in this very hall for the “Not In Our Name Evening of Conscience” against the crimes begun by the Bush regime. We vowed, “Let it not be said that people in the United States did nothing when their government declared a war without limit and instituted stark new measures of repression... President Bush has declared: ‘you're either with us or against us.’ Here is our answer: We refuse to allow you to speak for all the American people. We will not give up our right to question. We will not hand over our consciences in return for a hollow promise of safety.”

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Andy Zee at Cooper Union June 19, 2013

Those words bite deep today as the war crimes of the Bush regime have been codified, carried forward, and taken to even more obscene criminal levels by the Obama regime, which has arrogated to itself the right to be judge, jury, and executioner. They have dramatically expanded a vengeful police state that viciously targets whistleblowers who have acted on their consciences to expose injustice. Obama has wielded the Espionage Act of 1917 more than all other administrations combined. Bradley Manning, after months of torture, is caught in a trial with huge stakes that is unbelievably Alice in Wonderland. Julian Assange is surrounded and confined in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London; and Edward Snowden is in hiding1 while continuing to bravely speak truth, such as when he exposed with apt ridicule the NSA rationale for massive surveillance of everyone by sharply posing: “So we can potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own police?

Cooper Union June 19, 2013, Dennis Loo at "We Will Not Be Complicit"

Edward Snowden’s actions reveal not just the vast repressive technology, but also the power even a single person acting on their conscience can have to challenge and change the whole political landscape. The reality is that this system which daily grinds up humanity from the killing fields of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the death trap factories of Bangladesh, depends on people. People are the system’s Achilles’ heel. We here have the responsibility to awaken and arouse that latent power of the people as we confront not only authority but the thinking of the people that justifies great crimes in the name of protecting privilege—that cripples the conscience and political sights of those who could and should be part of changing the world.

We can and must do much, yet we can only do so by truthfully challenging the thinking of many people in this country. Helping people break free from a framework that leads to complicity with war crimes and to passively accept a massive government dragnet program directed against everyone—total surveillance—in the hands of a government that has repeatedly shown that their repressive power will only be used against the interests of the people.

You can always rely on [New York Times columnist] Thomas Friedman to articulate a viewpoint that at one and the same time offers his advice to those who rule on how to best package and carry out their crimes while offering an alluring self-centered pragmatic rationale to liberals and progressives to go along with the program. Friedman excitedly picked up on an awful blog post written by David Simon, creator of The Wire—a show which did some good exposure of the War on Drugs as a war on the people. Bill Keller, of the Times, was so pleased with Friedman he repeated the argument in an op-ed a few days later. Their argument is a rationale for complicity. Before getting into this, I must appreciate not only Glenn Greenwald’s exposure of the NSA revelations, but his comment: "If they started a club called Liberal Pundits to Defend the National Security State, no auditorium in the country would be large enough to accommodate them.”

Friedman writes; “Yes, I worry about potential government abuse of privacy from a program designed to prevent another 9/11—abuse that, so far, does not appear to have happened. But I worry even more about another 9/11.” After which he goes on to argue why the massive spy program is not nearly so bad as what might happen to his way of life if there is another 9/11. He concludes: “Imagine how many real restrictions to our beautiful open society we would tolerate if there were another attack on the scale of 9/11. Pardon me if I blow that whistle.”

Well, fuck you, Friedman. The only talk of pardons we should have is for Bradley Manning, and for the millions of Black and Latino youth grabbed up off the streets or in the hallways of the housing projects in this country who are incarcerated or under the control of the prison system in the tens of millions, all in the name of a war on drugs. For three decades this has been nothing short of a slow genocidal war on sections of the people who the system can no longer exploit profitably and who are feared by those in power for their potentially radicalizing effect on the rest of society. Friedman’s beautiful way of life does not exist for Black, Latino, immigrant, poor, women victimized by a culture of rape and denial of basic reproductive rights.

I say face that reality and act accordingly, or become a part of it. That’s the choice.

The logic that defends the War on Terror is no different than the logic that defends the War on Drugs—because in its essence the War on Terror is a war to defend and spread empire. What the U.S. is doing overseas, what it does here at home is about that—nothing else, nothing less. Empire is just a grandiose word to describe the exploitation of people and the planet.

On the face of it, isn’t it a peculiar brand of INSANITY to argue that to protect “our beautiful” freedom and way of life we have to spy on EVERYONE? Just who is going to carry out this benign surveillance for our own good? The FBI, which spied on Martin Luther King—hounding him, attempting to blackmail him, or to drive him to suicide? The FBI that set up and murdered members of the Black Panther Party and others in the ’60s and which never stopped disrupting all kinds of social justice movements through ’80s and ’90s down to today? Trust the CIA/NSA? The blood of people from Guatemala, to Indonesia, to Yemen and Somalia runs deep and wide and is ignored at the price of complicity here and unspeakable horror in countries the world over.

Friedman’s logic is nothing more than brocade on what Obama argues. Obama seeks to rope in progressive “rational” people to empathize with “his” dilemma as the way to convince them to identify with the imperial death machine that is this country. Enough already of Obama’s Hamlet act of agonizing over kill lists every Tuesday, of making the difficult choices between privacy and security. The punch-in-the-gut line of Obama’s fairy tale deception, which people said they would never accept from Bush, is: “Trust Me.”

Trust who? The Democratic Party is a party of war criminals no less than the Republicans. Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s Secretary of State, answered point blank that the sanctions against Iraq that resulted in the deaths of a half million children during the 1990s was, she said: “WORTH IT.” If any other leader said this in any other country—people would recognize this for the advocacy of genocide that it is. Such war crimes are not incidental or exceptional in the history and the workings of this system, capitalism-imperialism, which requires ever wider and more competitive exploitation of people and the planet. From the founding genocide against the native people here, to the enslavement of Africans, to the support for the genocide against the Palestinian people, to the one million killed in Indonesia in the 1960s with active CIA involvement, this is the essential nature of what the U.S. is and does. No oversight can or will regulate that. The driving force of competitive global capitalism is what regulates what any government that enforces this system does and will do.

The heart of the argument [made by the rulers of the U.S. in the wake] of 9/11 is that the only choice we have is between Islamic fundamentalism or worldwide capitalism. This is the America first logic of the War on Terror that has resulted, in just Iraq, in more than 100,000 killed outright, the hundreds of thousands maimed and sickened; and the millions that have been displaced from their homes. This is the logic, this is the morality, of empire.

There is a deadly dynamic in the world today that we can and must break out of. Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has described it:

“What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these ‘outmodeds,’ you end up strengthening both.”

He has emphasized that we must recognize that it is the historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, and in particular the U.S. imperialists, that has done the most damage.

There are reactionary, Islamic jihadist forces that pose a threat to the interests of imperialism in strategic parts of the world. And these forces do carry out actions that target innocent civilians. But the U.S. rulers are not waging this "war on terror"—however it is branded or rebranded—to "save lives." The rise of Islamic jihadist forces is in the main a product of and reaction to the workings of imperialism: to the ways imperialism has uprooted and devastated the lives and livelihoods of millions; to how imperialism has propped up vicious regimes (like Mubarak in Egypt); and to how it has literally sponsored the rise of these jihadist forces when that served the perceived interests of U.S. imperialism (as in Afghanistan, where the U.S. backed and funded Islamic fundamentalists going up against the Soviet Union). When a child in Pakistan hears a whirring buzz overhead and fears that she will be the next kid blown to bits . . . that serves to recruit more jihadists, and the cycle goes on and on.

The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the RCP is written with the future in mind. It is intended to set forth a basic model, and fundamental principles and guidelines, for the nature and functioning of a vastly different society and government than now exists: the New Socialist Republic in North America, a socialist state which would embody, institutionalize and promote radically different relations and values among people; a socialist state whose final and fundamental aim would be to achieve, together with the revolutionary struggle throughout the world, the emancipation of humanity as a whole and the opening of a whole new epoch in human history–communism–with the final abolition of all exploitative and oppressive relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise.

Read the entire Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the RCP at revcom.us/rcp.

But, these two outmodeds must not be, and are not the only choice in the world today. There is indeed a whole other way the world could be through revolution, a revolution for a radically new state power that is concentrated in this Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) that I urge you to check out—where the right to speech, assembly and dissent is far beyond any constitution that has been promulgated anywhere before as part of a radically new state where people could flourish and would be empowered and backed up to abolish all forms of oppression and exploitation around the world, moving forward to a time when state structures as we now know them would no longer be necessary.

I do not have time to get into this here, but I extend an invitation to you to be true to and carry through acting on the principles that motivated you to come out tonight, and if this leads you to come to see that the source of the problem and its solution lies in revolution and communism, do not turn away because it takes you out of your comfort zone, challenges your cherished beliefs, or because of prejudice and anti-communist slander. Instead, learn more—go to REVCOM.US or stop by Revolution Books—while we act together to stop this madness.

These are not just good ideas that could never be. Do not be cowed by our relatively small numbers today. We are acting on big things—the surveillance, the hunger strike at Guantánamo, the continuing wars—that at certain moments, depending on what we and people like us actually do, can move the world. In just the last few weeks, from 50 people defying a bulldozer in Taksim Square in Istanbul, to still growing protest in Brazil, to the stand of Edward Snowden which brought us here tonight, we can see how acts of conscience in the interests of the people can at certain junctures, galvanize and move millions to think and to act differently. Those who rule this empire do not have things all sewn up. Their whole system is riven with problems for which they have no answers that would be in the actual interests of humanity.

For us, for the people of the world, we have to start by confronting the world as it actually is. Our morality and our actions must be grounded in reality which stands in sharp contrast to the spreading of illusions and the self-serving immorality of those who rule and their defenders like Thomas Friedman. Bob Avakian has put it like this:

“There is a place where epistemology and morality meet. There is a place where you have to stand and say: It is not acceptable to refuse to look at something—or to refuse to believe something—because it makes you uncomfortable. And: It is not acceptable to believe something just because it makes you feel comfortable.”

This evening we are standing with Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, Lynne Stewart2 and with the millions of people around the world who yearn for a world where they could be free of the terror and misery in which the outmoded systems of the world keep them confined. Let’s go forward from here and resist together the unconscionable outrages and crimes that are brought down on the people while we learn and struggle with each other over the causes of all this and the solutions. The hour is late. But, there is time for courage and conviction. It’s time to act.



1. Since this speech was given, the U.S. government has charged Edward Snowden with three felonies, including two under the Espionage Act. According to court documents, Snowden is charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person. See the statement from The World Can't Wait, “Indict the Criminals Responsible for Government Spying, Hands Off Edward Snowden,” at worldcantwait.net. The statement begins, “For his courageous and principled action in revealing vast, unlawful surveillance by the United States, we defend Edward Snowden and call on others to join us in opposing the U.S. government’s plans to gain custody of him, try him and imprison him on espionage charges. We join a large section of the U.S. population—and billions worldwide—in outrage at the unconstitutional, illegitimate surveillance of whole populations by the U.S. which has been covered up and lied about for years.” [back]

2. Lynne Stewart, a well-known people’s lawyer, has devoted her life to defending oppressed people, people who resisted injustice, and people whose criminal defense other lawyers wouldn't touch. In 2010 she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly aiding a terrorist—“aid” that consisted of releasing a public statement by her client. Stewart, now 73, was battling breast cancer at the time of her imprisonment. Her sentencing prevented surgery that she already had scheduled. Her federal imprisonment in Texas delayed the needed surgery for 18 months and her cancer has now reached Stage Four. [back]


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