Pope Francis Blesses the “Land of the Free”:
Genocide, Slavery, and the Golden Rule

September 28, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Pope Francis opened his speech to the Congress saluting the United States as the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”


by Bob Avakian, Chairman,
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Summer 2015

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The land of the free? The United States is a country built on slavery. It is a country that imprisons more people than any country in the world, by far. A country where 11 million people—people who pick the crops that feed people and build the skyscrapers that tower over cities—have no rights at all and are persecuted as “illegals.” A country where the right of a woman to decide for herself whether or not to bear a child is hanging by a thread or non-existent. A country where LGBT youth are stigmatized, condemned as “sinners,” and driven in to suicide in intolerable numbers.

The home of the brave? The United States is a country built on lands in large part seized through genocide carried out by the likes of the canonized priest Junipero Serra. Genocide carried out—despite heroic resistance—by those with guns, germs, and steel against peoples who did not have those weapons. This is a country that today carries out unjust wars around the world in service of empire—usually by dropping bombs from high in the sky, firing missiles from thousands of miles away, or through hired proxies. This is country where any heavily armed police officer can invoke racist “fear” of Black people to murder them in cold blood.

And the pope ended his speech with “God bless America.”

In between, the pope called on Congress to “avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.” He called for “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (even as he snuck an attack on abortion and birth control into the mix). He reminded Congress that most Americans are children of immigrants. And he called for a “battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.” And sent a message that if people accept the framework—the current world order—and work for modest reform, the Church will support you.

But just how far can you go taking on environmental deterioration, vicious attacks on immigrants, poverty, and new forms of slavery when your starting point is accepting the United States as the “land of the free?”

This was a pivotal moral theme in his speech, both through examples and explicitly: Pope Francis admonished, “Let us remember the Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ This rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated.”

Here’s the problem with the Golden Rule: The oppressors cannot and will not apply it, and the oppressed can never end oppression by following it.

The oppressors can never be convinced, or even pressured, cajoled, or shamed into following the Golden Rule because they are playing by a different set of rules—the rules of capitalism. When the owners of a factory move it to a place where they can more viciously exploit people, they are driven by the expand-or-die logic of capitalism. If Apple doesn’t build smart phones in Chinese sweatshops where people throw themselves off the roof in protest and despair over prison-like conditions, Samsung will. These capitalists cannot, by their nature, proceed from treating their workers the way they want to be treated. If they did, they’d go under in a minute in the dog-eat-dog world of capitalist competition.

Or, to take another example, as the terrible impact of global climate change makes parts of the formerly frozen Arctic accessible to global shipping, gas extraction, and military contention among rival powers, the rulers of the U.S., China, Russia, and European nations cannot treat each other in ways they want to be treated. And when they sign treaties and agreements, those agreements are governed by the same rules. The rules in effect are not the Golden Rule but the dog-eat-dog logic of capitalism-imperialism. The rulers of different countries cannot graciously hold the door open for their rivals to go first and hope to be treated the same way. They cannot act this way or they will be knocked down and another empire will climb up the ladder of global domination.

So the Golden Rule never has, never will, and cannot apply to the rulers of this system, who are nothing but soulless embodiments of the logic of capitalism.

And the Golden Rule should not be a standard for the oppressed!

Yes, among the people, we should not be looking to get over on others who are oppressed and exploited. Men should not be dominating women. Whites should not buy into racism but instead should fight white supremacy. People should respect, not persecute those who are just different...

But that’s different than saying the oppressed and freedom loving people of the world should do unto the powers-that-be only what people would want the powers-that-be to do to them. That is a logic, or “rule,” that leaves the global system that continuously generates horrors for the people of the world, and has no serious answers to brutal poverty, unjust wars, environmental destruction, oppression of whole peoples, oppression of women, and a million other unnecessary horrors fundamentally in place, even if here or there the system makes some concessions—concessions that are usually taken back at first opportunity.

Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism puts great emphasis on the need for the oppressed to become nothing less than emancipators of humanity:

The communist revolution is not about revenge, or ‘the last shall be first, and the first shall be last,’ but is about emancipating humanity, ending all exploitation and oppression throughout the world.

Real liberation—revolution—requires a totally different morality than the “Golden Rule” and an entirely different system than capitalism. It requires that the oppressed go up against the oppressors, and do exactly what the oppressors do not want to have done to them: Bring about an end to the whole system of exploitation through total revolution.



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