Bob Avakian on the New Situation and the "War on Terrorism"

Excerpts from Bob Avakian Speaks Out

Revolutionary Worker #1165, September 1, 2002, posted at

A crucial point to emphasize is the imperialists have set things in motion that can't be easily reversed, and may not be easily controlled. And we can say with a great deal of certainty that at the end of all this --whenever and however what has been set in motion is finally resolved -- things are bound to be and will be vastly different, not only internationally, but also within what has been the United States. Whether in a very terrible way, or in a very positive way in terms of the advance of the proletarian revolution worldwide, and perhaps even getting to the point where power is seized by the masses of the people in the U.S. itself -- things will be radically different and the America we have known will not exist in the same way anymore.

Bob Avakian: "The New Situation andThe Great Challenges"

We must bring forward the vision of a movement against the war acts and repression of `our own' U.S. government that is so powerful that it cannot be hidden from the masses of people all over the world -- including in the countries and areas that are targets of U.S. imperialist aggression and are, justifiably, "hotbeds" of hatred "against America."

Imagine, what it would (and will) mean to those millions and millions of people when they see hundreds of thousands and ultimately millions of people in America itself, taking on the aggression (and repression) of their own government and standing with the people of the world against all that this government stands for and is doing and enforcing in the world. Imagine the questions that will raise in those people's minds, the "dialogue" (even if indirect) it will give rise to, among people all over the world with people in the U.S. itself.

Imagine the inspiration it will provide and the potential realignment it will contribute to -- with ordinary people worldwide finding common cause against the oppressors and bullies of the world, first and above all the rulers of America -- who, it will be more and more clear, do not speak and act in the interests, or in the name of large, and growing, numbers of American people themselves....

Bob Avakian, Fall 2001, cited in "The New Situation and The Great Challenges"

Over the last two months, the Revolutionary Worker has featured a wide-ranging interview and exchange between Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and Carl Dix, national spokesperson of the RCP -- "Bob Avakian Speaks Out, Interviewed by Carl Dix: On War and Revolution, On Being a Revolutionary and Changing the World." This week, as the anniversary of September 11 approaches, we interrupt the flow of publication to reprint excerpts from Part 1 of this interview: The New Situation-- The "War on Terrorism."

The interview is posted at, and Part 10 will appear in our next issue.

Carl Dix: We're facing a very serious situation. I mean the U.S. government has unleashed a "War on Terrorism," it's rained death and destruction on the people of Afghanistan; they've already sent troops to the Philippines and to Yemen as part of this war on terrorism; they're threatening next to attack Iraq, Iran and North Korea, and along with this they've brought down a virtually unprecedented repressive clampdown. I know you touched on some of these in the supplement, the Revolutionary Worker magazine supplement, that came out a bit ago, ("The New Situation and The Great Challenges") but I wonder if you'd speak again to some aspects of that situation?

Bob Avakian: ...I think one of the most important things to recognize is what they're doing with what we call a whole juggernaut--a whole rolling force of war and repression--is not in response to what happened, or not essentially in response to what happened, on September 11, despite the fact that they seized on that situation to proclaim this "War on Terrorism." But the fact is that, for example, if you look at Iraq, which you just mentioned, there has been no serious effort even to establish that Iraq was somehow involved in or behind what happened on September 11, and the fact is with whatever they may try to do to cook up some kind of conspiracy theory involving Iraq and so on, they have been talking about the need to "take out" Saddam Hussein long before September 11, and since September 11 they've been talking about taking out Saddam Hussein in a context different than claiming that he's behind the September 11 attacks. In other words, they basically have said, we have to get him out of there. Partly they claim it's on the basis that he's trying to develop weapons of mass destruction, when as we know they themselves are the ones who developed these on a much more massive scale and have used them--the atomic bombs in World War 2 in Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan.

So, they partly brought that forward as a pretext, but really the essential thing is they've been saying for a while and now they're saying in a more accentuated way that they can't leave him in there. It's like good Mafia gangsters, which they are on a massive and worldwide scale. You can't leave somebody standing who stood up to you, even to the degree that Saddam Hussein did at the time of the Gulf War when he refused to take their orders at that time--not that Saddam Hussein is somebody that we would support or someone who represents the interests of the people, but he's someone who, compared to the monsters that they (the U.S. imperialists) are, is a pittance, is a small-time oppressor, compared to the worldwide oppressors that they are.

But the point is that what they are doing is not primarily or essentially in response to September 11 but is part of a whole program they have--what we call their wild ambitions for recasting the whole world and taking down the Iraqi regime as one part of that. Threatening other regimes like Iran and North Korea is part of that. Trying to force even other imperialists and powerful states like Russia or other imperialists in Europe or Japan to fall in line with the new restructured way in which the sole superpower in the world, the U.S., is going to be running roughshod over everything else, even more--this is all at the essence of what they're doing....

Clearly this is more than retaliating for September 11. Certainly it has nothing to do with bringing justice for the people who were killed on September 11. It has to do with their own needs and interests and designs as an imperialist power, which is seeking to follow up on its political victory in the Cold War to further recast the world under its domination....

CD: Colin Powell visited Nepal recently and while he was there he talked about supporting the Nepalese regime against the People's War being led by the Maoist party there and in saying that he said this is exactly the kind of thing that we're dealing with, with this war on terrorism against these kind of movements. And I wonder if you'd speak to the significance of gathering that into the mix of the war on terrorism.

BA: Yeah (laughs), I read about that and the first thing that struck me was, "Who the fuck is Colin Powell to come 10,000 miles away and tell people in the country of Nepal that the masses of people don't have a right to rise up against the oppressive regime and fight the enforcers of that regime--the police and armed forces of the Nepali regime-- in order to win their liberation, to cast off the centuries-long conditions of oppression and exploitation. I mean that's one of the poorest countries in the world and the people are suffering terribly and this is clearly a movement of the people of Nepal. It has arisen among and has a tremendous base of support literally among millions of people in Nepal. Nobody can even deny that. Yet here comes Colin Powell, and the articles I read on this never bothered to explain how the hell he got the right to have anything to say about it in the first place.

Obviously his so-called right derives from their position as imperialist overlords who are going to issue orders to everybody in the world. And again, we see that this so-called war on terrorism is just a cover for pursuing their imperialist interests, because this People's War is being led by the Maoist party, and Nepal, as you referred to, has nothing to do with September 11, again. It has nothing to do with terrorism, by any objective definition. It is not a war that's aimed against civilians to achieve political objectives, and in fact, if you apply that criterion, the biggest terrorists in the world by far, far and away, are the U.S. imperialists themselves....

CD: Going along with some of the global moves that they're making is also the heightened repression right here in this country, and again, they've moved very quickly to implant a repressive clampdown post-September 11, but even some of the things that they've imposed were things that they had in the works, and when you look at the Patriot Act, they were things they were trying to push through prior to September 11, as well as some things that were more newly pushed forward in their program following September 11--we're talking about the round-ups of Muslim, Arab and South Asian immigrants, the detention of more than 1,000 and hundreds of them still remain in jail, and they have been able to tie virtually nobody to anything that went down around September 11. So how are people to understand that? How should we look at that?

BA: Again, I think going back to what we were saying earlier that September 11 was an event that they did have to respond to--assuming that they themselves weren't behind it. As the statement of the Com- mittee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement pointed out--this is something I keep coming back to because I think it really captures something important--in the murky world of intelligence, where duplicity is the currency, it may be impossible to know exactly who was involved in September 11.

Who is Osama bin Laden? Historically, he was tied with the U.S., and now they say he's turned against the U.S. Maybe that's so but it's not clear what all the different arrangements are and what all the different links and ties are between different intelligence agencies--U.S., Israeli or whatever--but let's assume that there was actually an attack that went down from forces not directly connected to these intelligence sources that killed thousands of civilians in the U.S. Well, whatever the U.S. knew about it in advance or whatever different forces linked up with U.S. institutions may or may not have known about it, the fact is they did have to respond. Again, like Mafia monsters on a worldwide scale, they can't let something like that go on and appear vulnerable. They don't give a damn about the people who died there. The only thing they care about is that they can't have it seem as though they can't maintain order in their own country.

So they don't give a damn about the people that died and they're doing monstrous things in the name of the people that died. But clearly the main thing that's going on is that they had a program that they were already moving to implement on a certain level, and now they've seized on this situation that was created by September 11 to pull out the throttle full scale and try to ram this through, in a big way. That's why we call it a juggernaut, and it does include their whole open-ended war internationally, but it must also be accompanied by this kind of heightened repression you're talking about within the U.S. because you can't go and wage open-ended war like this and not have a lot of repressive mechanisms already being implemented and much more machinery ready to bring into play, especially when this kind of thing starts to get out of hand and there's a lot of resistance, and there's what they call "blow back" internationally or even within the U.S. itself. Things could get very much out of hand by what they're unleashing and the very things that they're bringing into being. So they need repression now and they also need to prepare for even further heightening that repression as things go down the road.

It's very clear that they're creating, openly declaring, an open, unlimited war and they're creating a situation of a country that is more or less permanently at war--that's a permanent feature of the U.S. now. And then what has to go along with that is a lot of police-state repression and a whole repressive and intimidating atmosphere, because you can't carry out the one without carrying out the other. These things are of a piece for the reasons that I've said, and so clearly a lot of this has to do with their imperial aims and ambitions that were already in play--things they were doing in the region around Afghanistan in terms of the oil and the pipelines for the oil. This has been analyzed in our newspaper, the Revolutionary Worker, and people should check that out, but it's clear that in terms of the contention between different--not only corporations but imperialist states--over control of that oil...Russia's in the picture, you know, Germany's in the background. There's the question of other countries like Japan that are very dependent on foreign sources of oil and the Persian Gulf--and now these areas not in Afghanistan but near Afghanistan through which this pipeline would have to carry the oil.

All this is part of what's been in motion well before September 11. They were working with the Taliban for a while in connection with this. Then they figured the Taliban, (a) couldn't stabilize things as well as they needed them to, and (b) were not as important to their whole scheme of things when they started working with some of these other regimes that were formerly part of the Soviet empire in Central Asia....

So it's a shifting alliance that they're using. When someone or some force is useful to them, then they make use of them, and when things shift, they just toss them aside or trample on them. That's what they did with Saddam Hussein, whom they helped arm and turn against Iran in a war and they kept that war going to weaken both sides. It's the kind of thing they do all the time....And this whole thing about, "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists" is obviously meant to intimidate and stifle even questioning, let alone dissent and resistance.

CD: One thing that the Party's been engaged in that I've actually personally been a part of is taking out to people the need to build much more significant resistance to the horrors that are being perpetrated in our name, so to speak, by the U.S. government, and in doing that we've met a positive response among a number of people who do in fact agree that much more significant resistance is necessary. We've also run into some questions.... One thing that we've encountered from people, including people who are opposed to the things that are being done, both around the world and in this country, is that "Right now isn't the time to try to really build opposition, particularly on the front of the war--that what you can do right now is do education around it, that maybe you could take on some aspects of the repression, but that the war itself has got too much support right now to directly try to build opposition to it." I wonder if you could speak to that?

BA: Well, I think first of all, on the last thing that you mentioned, it is very important obviously to build opposition to the repression within the U.S., and various forces including our Party have been actively involved and continue to be actively involved in building and broadening and deepening that resistance. And there are in fact some people, sections of people in the U.S., who are more opposed at this point to a lot of the repression and the attacks on Constitutional rights, and attacks on immigrants and these various things that are done with the round-ups of people from Arab countries and countries where Islam is the major religion, and so on. So it's very important that this be united with and built on, first of all.

But as for the negative point that it's not possible to build opposition to the war now...what are the consequences of not building opposition now? Again, we've spoken to some of that, and I think it's very important to continue to go back to that and deepen that. What's going to be the result if they're able to roll ahead with this juggernaut internationally? And is it in fact going to be easier to oppose them if they continue to go down that road, more or less unopposed, or if the opposition is not built powerfully? It's a rhetorical question. It answers itself. If you think about it, it's going to be much more difficult either in terms of opposing the war or in terms of opposing the repression within the U.S., if they are allowed to go largely unopposed or at least if powerful opposition is not built or if the beginnings of that are not brought into being now. So that's on the negative side.

On the positive side, as I pointed to, the more that we build, bring forward opposition now, the more that the many people out there--and we know from our work among different sections of the masses, whether it's in the housing projects or the garment centers, or whether it's among students or other sections of the people, we know there's broad questioning and opposition, and the more that an actual organized resistance is developed out there, the more it's gonna call forth these people. Education is very important, but education divorced from actually engaging in resistance to this is not going to carry people very far and it's going to leave them in the position of feeling cowed and intimidated and feeling isolated. But an open manifestation of opposition-- which includes obviously a big component of educating people about what's really going on in order to enable them to fully understand it and be unleashed to act around it--is very important, but not as a substitute for, or in opposition to, calling forth massive opposition.

And I think it's very important that when you look at--this is the experience that we've had for example from Vietnam. It's also, as people have pointed out, the experience in the early civil rights movement. It's wrong to look at what line-up the ruling class, with all of its organs of power and public opinion and influence, is able to create at any given time and look at that as if that's the limits of what you can do. The point I'm making is that our objective has to be to transform the political terrain and transform the outlook of many, many people on it and therefore the way they act in relation to it....

So the question is not "What's the political terrain like at a given time and what is the alignment, so to speak, and what people think about this war and are doing about it now," but "What's the potential?" What are the ways in which that can be--the current terrain and the climate and the political alignment and the forces who are active can be--radically changed? And that begins with people who have an understanding of the need to resist, rallying together as forcefully as possible, bringing forward open manifestations of opposition as some are already doing, but also bringing that together on an even more powerful level and putting it out openly, and openly taking a stance, as we've said, "No, Not In Our Name"--we're going to stand up and oppose this. We're going to draw a line and say that this cannot be done in our name and in fact we don't accept it being done at all, and we're going to rally forth the opposition to it and we're going to change people's minds through education but also through mobilizing people openly to oppose this so that people can see that there are other people out there who are opposing it.

And everybody knows that one of the best forms of education is when people do manifest around something and then the other people say, "Well, why are they doing that? What's motivating them? Why don't they go along? What is it that they think they know that I'm not learning?" I mean, not everybody thinks that but increasing numbers of people, the more you see people out opposing them, the more you're open to education. Whereas before that you may not be that interested in or inclined toward the educational work that people are trying to do to show you why you should oppose it. Now, again, educational work is important and can win over some people, but that happens on a much broader scale when people see broad and determined opposition out there which stakes out a clear and firm political position of opposition and says, "This must not go down. We must oppose this. It cannot be done in our name. It cannot be done at all and we intend to stop it." And if people who have a history of, and have won a certain amount of deserved respect for their positions of opposing injustice and imperialist marauding around the world and warfare around the world, and people who are respected for the integrity they've shown, the work they've done in various spheres, rally together and openly put out this kind of a stance, then this creates (or strengthens) the basis and creates a lot more space for a lot more people to question and also to be more inclined toward opposing, or more open to learning about why they should oppose and then actually moving to active opposition.

CD: One particular thing that people raise in reference to that is that the people in this country feel that their safety is at issue and with people feeling like that, you're really going to alienate them if you're out there opposing the war, or opposing some of the things that the government is doing in the name of protecting the safety of those people. So I wonder what you think about that?

BA: Well, first of all, for a moment to use the kind of language that Bush and the rest like to use, this is a kind of bargain with the devil. If you want to talk about who are the real evildoers in the world, it's U.S. imperialism, on a massive and monstrous scale, and you're making a Faustian...a bargain with the devil, a Faustian bargain, here to say, "I don't care what you do to the rest of the people in the world, I don't care what you've already done to them, I don't care what you do to reinforce and expand and deepen what you're doing to the people of the world, you can unleash any horrors on them and reinforce the horrors they're already going through and increase them and all the rest, as long as I'm safe." So...let's recognize that for what it is.

Second of all, it's grabbing hold of and embracing a dynamic that isn't even going to lead to even your own safety, because as Mao said, "Where there's oppression there's resistance." What, after all, called forth these events of September 11? Whatever Osama bin Laden is, and even accepting the fact that there are some of these reactionary, religious fundamentalist forces out there who are going to pursue their own objectives regardless of what other forces in the world do, the fact is that there is massive hatred for the U.S. government in particular around the world, and for what the U.S. does around the world. This is a fact and it's not a superficial thing. It's not just a whim on the part of people or some propaganda that's gotten them angry at the U.S. It's the result of repeated experience of what the U.S. government is already doing around the world, and it creates the basis for people to want to strike back. is a question of what forms and under what banner, what program people are mobilized under to struggle against this, whether it's a positive one or whether it's just another reactionary form like whatever's represented by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, for example. But the more that they...this has already brought forth what's been happening in the world, including September 11, and to intensify this and expand it in the world is going to call forth more of the same, all over the world and very likely within the U.S. itself....

CD: So, what kind of movement is it going to take to take on and beat back this juggernaut of war and repression that's been unleashed on the people of the world?

BA: Well, I think we've been talking about elements of that, and you've been talking about some of your experience in building that movement. It's got to be one that unites (we've discussed this somewhat already) people as broadly as possible and brings forward all the many people who are even just questioning or have concerns now and brings them forward to active opposition, and it has to be one that makes room and gives rise to many diverse forms of struggle and mobilization in opposition to this juggernaut around many different aspects of it-- obviously the war, but also the attacks within the U.S. on immigrants, the profiling of people from Arab and Islamic countries, the attacks on people's rights within the U.S., the heightening repression. It has to include all those fronts and it has to unite people of a broad diversity around--in opposition to--all this, and into the various fronts of it. And it has to include unity- struggle- unity among its ranks about what are the key things to be taking up at any given time and how to mobilize people around them, but it also has to have a very clear basis of unity that draws the lines correctly so that the greatest number of people can be potentially mobilized--not so that it appeals to the greatest number right now, but so that it provides the basis to mobilize and win over and activate the broadest number of people to (as I was just speaking to) actually direct their spearhead of struggle against the U.S. government and the U.S. imperialists--or however people conceive of it and call it, but the U.S. government in its whole warfare, open-ended warfare, and its whole juggernaut of war and repression....

And this movement will contain many diverse streams, many different kinds of activities, many different opinions and points of view about many questions, including the ultimate solution to all this, as well as obviously healthy contention and struggle and debate and engagement and dialogue about all these questions and also about how to build this movement most effectively and how to deal with different questions that arise in the course of building this movement. But it's got to be a vibrant movement that has this potential to unite people very broadly and call forth people. At the same time, it has to have a clear-cut stand and particularly this is important for people in the U.S. The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center were not done in the name of the American people. What the U.S. government has done in response is being done in the name of the American people, so that emphasizes all the more where the people in the U.S. have to direct their energy and their struggle in terms of who has to be the target politically of that struggle... where the spearhead of that struggle has to be directed against--along with the fact that the U.S. government is in reality the major perpetrator of oppression and devastation and destruction of the environment and of people throughout the world.

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