Revolution #024, November 27, 2005

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Iraq: Turmoil Among the Warmakers, Challenge For the People

Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

Shortly after September 11, 2001, Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, spoke soberly to the efforts that had been launched by the imperialist ruling class to "reshuffle the deck" of world power in the wake of 911 and to radically remake U.S. society itself.1 He went deeply into the ramifications of the imperialists’ "wild ambitions," while speaking to the ways in which the things they were launching could cause them real problems.

"All of this," he said, "comes together and mixes wildly--that’s why I call it a cauldron of contradictions--to produce a lot of potential for things to go in many different directions and even to get out of their control."

The recent intense conflicts within the U.S. ruling class point sharply to that potential--and underscore the challenge facing people opposed to imperialism.

The Cauldron Simmers

The war in Iraq, to understate the case, is not going well for the U.S. imperialists. The resistance to the U.S. occupation within Iraq has spread and grown more capable. The conflicts between the many different political, ethnic and class forces within Iraq show little sign of resolution, and the puppet Iraqi army is still not able to fight on its own. In response, the U.S. has escalated its tactics of wholesale terror directed against the Sunni Muslim population as a whole, which is the main (though not the only) base of the insurgency. Making all this worse--from the imperialist standpoint, that is--is the increasingly widespread and sharp sentiment against the war within the U.S. itself. And interplaying with that is a growing disaffection and anger within the army itself.

All this is causing intense concern within the U.S. ruling class. To get a sense of what is bothering some of these forces, it is worth quoting at some length the editorial "A Timetable for Mr. Bush" that appeared in the New York Times

"The ultimate Iraqi nightmare, which continually seems to be drawing closer, is a violent fracturing of the country in which the Kurdish north and Arab Shiite southeast break away, leaving the west, dominated by Arab Sunnis, an impoverished no man’s land and a breeding ground for international terrorism. . .

The consequences of such a breakup would be endless and awful: civil war, the persecution of minority populations in the new states, an alliance between the Shiites and Iran, and a complete breakdown of American moral and military influence in the Middle East. [emphasis added]"

Please note and note well that nowhere in this editorial does the Times even profess to be bothered by the wholesale slaughter that continues to be carried out against the Iraqi population, the ongoing torture, the recent revelations of the criminal use of white phosphorus against civilians, and all the rest of the horror that goes with imposing tighter U.S. domination. No, what has them bothered is the breakdown of "American moral [sic] and military influence."

Faced with the intensifying discontent and anger among the people and the restiveness within the ruling class, Bush has gone on the offensive. He has forcefully reasserted his "vision" of a world dominated by the U.S. and, in particular, a Middle East radically transformed in such a way so as to deepen and ensure that domination. [See Revolution # 22, "Bush Calls for Endless Borderless War Without Limits," for an in-depth analysis of Bush’s speeches in this period.] And he has increasingly accused the opposition of encouraging "the enemy" and demoralizing the troops.

In giving these speeches mainly on military bases and to military families, Bush is trying to do three things. First, he is attempting to firm up his base in the army; second, he is trying to win back sections of the American people by waving the banner of "supporting the troops"; and third, he is signaling to other forces within the ruling class that he does have a base in the army, and that he will not hesitate to use it should it come to that. That in itself is very heavy, and a sign of how deep the contradictions run.

Nonetheless, contradictions within the ruling class have continued to simmer. Much of this has been taking the form of Democratic congressmen raising questions about the intelligence that was used to justify the U.S. invasion. Last week, the Senate passed a resolution that called for regular progress reports on Iraq from the Administration and a "period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty." Neither the criticism of pre-war intelligence handling nor the call for progress reports got to the heart of the question: that of the war itself and its utterly unjust and immoral nature. And neither track exposed how the U.S. forces are escalating their savagery in the face of the stubborn resistance. But while this was mainly posturing--both Republicans and Democrats attempting to look like they were "doing something" in the face of an increasingly acute crisis, while essentially keeping things going on the same track--there was a secondary element within it of expressing concern that things were spinning out of control.

The Crack Widens

But even that small crack could not be tolerated by the Bush Regime, lest it begin to widen beyond the intent of even the Democratic politicians. So Bush, Cheney and their minions continued on the counteroffensive in a series of speeches that not only defended the war, but attacked any criticism at all as undermining the troops and "emboldening the enemy."

Then John Murtha, a very right-wing Democratic congressman with ties to the military, put forward a resolution for U.S. withdrawal in six months. Murtha framed his move entirely in terms of the toll that the war was taking on the army: "The threat by terrorism is real, but we have other threats that cannot be ignored. We must prepare to face all these threats. . . The future of our military is at risk. Our military and our families are stretched thin. . . Many say the Army is broken." That is a rather sharp statement! Murtha went on to say that his "most important point" was that "incidents have increased from 150 a week to over 700 in the last year. Instead of attacks going down over a time when we had additional more troops, attacks have grown dramatically. Since... Abu Ghraib, American casualties have doubled."

All this was made more significant by who Murtha is and who he speaks for. According to David Gergen, a former adviser to four different presidents, Murtha is "very close to a lot of generals in the army. . . and when he speaks many think they are hearing the voice of those generals." Murtha, in other words, is a gung-ho servant of imperialism who serves as a mouthpiece for some forces in the army. He backed the war from the beginning and is only now criticizing it on the basis that it has been and is being poorly led, and damaging larger imperialist interests in general, and the stability and effectiveness of the army in particular.

The regime hit back hard. The House Republican leadership then took Murtha’s proposal, changed it to call for immediate withdrawal, and put it on the floor for an immediate vote. This was extremely unusual--bills are supposed to go through hearings in sub-committee and committee before coming on to the floor. Murtha likely counted on that, and may have mainly intended to use the bill to argue for changes in how the troops were deployed, equipped, and so on. There is a whole school of thought, which includes many leading Democrats as well as the influential Arizona Republican (and war criminal) John McCain, that calls for more troops to "do the job right."2

But the Bush crew, and the Republicans more broadly, sensing that the dynamics were going against them, tried to turn this against their critics by demanding that people either vote for immediate withdrawal or not. One Republican Congressman said essentially that now other politicians are not going to be able to say they were misled, or continue to criticize--they had to go on record, and if they voted for the war, they basically had to shut up.

The House then voted down the resolution to withdraw by 403 to 3--with even Murtha voting against it!

Think about it: 403 to 3. What the hell kind of "opposition" is that?

Their Interests--And Ours

Friday’s vote made very clear there is no real sentiment in the ruling class for an immediate end to the war. There is no dispute over militarily dominating Iraq and the Middle East more broadly; rather there is a dispute over how to best do that. This is not an argument between those for imperialism and those against it. This is nothing but slaveholders arguing how best to maintain and expand slavery; nothing but mass murderers, torturers and war criminals arguing over "the right mix" of each.

Right now Bush’s main critics within the ruling class are arguing, from different angles, that he a) put more focus on more effective military domination of Iraq, b) more forcefully and attentively restructure the Iraqi puppet government, and c) more effectively mystify and mislead the American people into backing, or at least tolerating, the war. This is why McCain reiterated his call for more troops in Iraq, in a very highly publicized recent speech; this is why the Times editorial called for Bush to "set clear goals" for the Iraqi government to get into firmer control, and made a number of concrete proposals as to what the Iraqi government must do to that end; this is why even pro-war politicians and columnists complain that Bush is "not communicating well." But the overarching ruling class consensus right now is that there is no alternative--again, from the vantage point of imperialism--to the continued military occupation and domination of Iraq, despite the risks and real costs to their interests, as pointed to by people like Murtha.

Yet immediate withdrawal is the only just thing, the only thing in accord not only with the interests of the great majority of people in both Iraq and the U.S., but increasingly with their sentiments. Friday’s Lou Dobbs show on CNN ran a poll of its viewers--and Lou Dobbs is far from liberal--on what the U.S. should do in Iraq. Dobbs said that they had an overwhelming response and that 11% voted to do whatever was necessary to win, 2% voted to "stay the course," and 87% voted for immediate withdrawal! Lou Dobbs, of course, can rig his polls any way he likes--and polls in general are set up to create, rather than reflect, public opinion--but that kind of number at minimum amounts to someone like Dobbs raising very serious concern that "the public is being lost." It also poses a huge opportunity--and, as we shall speak to, a very significant challenge--to those who are burning to change this society in a progressive direction.

So the top Democrats speak out against Bush "around the edges," for two reasons. First, they do hope to influence the policy. Second, they need to convince people that they, the Democratic leaders, are doing the most that is reasonable to oppose the war.

Bob Avakian has compared the ruling forces in society to a pyramid, with the top Republicans and Democrats contending at the apex.

"Who are the people that [the Democrats] try to appeal to–not that the Democrats represent their interests, but who are the people that the Democrats try to appeal to at the base, on the other side of this pyramid, so to speak? All the people who stand for progressive kinds of things, all the people who are oppressed in this society. For the Democrats, a big part of their role is to keep all those people confined within the bourgeois, the mainstream, electoral process. . . and to get them back into it when they have drifted away from--or broken out of--that framework. Because . . . [the Democrats] just sell out these people every time--because they don’t represent their interests. They represent the interests of the system and of its ruling class. But they have a certain role of always trying to get people who are oppressed, alienated and angry back into the elections. You know: "Come on in, come on in–it’s not as bad as you think, you can vote, it’s OK." This is one of the main roles they play. But the thing about them is that they are very afraid of calling into the streets this base of people that they appeal to, to vote for them. The last thing in the world they want to do is to call these masses of people into the streets to protest or to battle against this right-wing force that’s being built up.3"

Right now, there are intense pressures pulling on the pyramid. On the one hand, there are sharpening differences within the ruling class over how best to deal with real difficulties in carrying through their murderous imperialist war. On the other, there is the widening gulf between the Democratic Party leadership, which supports the war (as evidenced by the 403-3 vote), and the people they claim to lead (and are supposed to corral), who grow more sharply opposed to the war by the day.

So the top Democrats speak out against Bush "around the edges," for two reasons. First, they do hope to influence the policy. Second, they need to convince people that they, the Democratic leaders, are doing the most that is reasonable to oppose the war.

But that is a lie. The Democratic leaders are not doing the most that can be done to oppose the war; again, the vast majority support the continued occupation of Iraq. They are in fact working to demobilize and detour the real opposition to the war and keep it confined within very limited terms; they want to blunt the demand for immediate withdrawal into a plea for some phased withdrawal that couldn’t even begin until imperialist interests are secured. They aim to keep things politically under control, while the imperialists maneuver and bludgeon their way through a situation that grows more difficult and dangerous for them by the day.

Two Contending Dynamics

The Democratic politicians aim to divert the growing sentiment to END the war NOW and to constrain the limits of the debate and blunt the edge of people’s anger. They, and their supporters, pose lining up behind them against action from below demanding an end to the war, and to the whole program of which it is a part. Yet it is only mass struggle, on its own terms, that can compel progressive change.

There is a bitter lesson here in the 2004 elections. There had been a huge antiwar groundswell both before the war and then at the Republican Convention in August. But people were persuaded to pour that energy into backing Kerry--Kerry who, while posing as the "moderate alternative" to Bush, nevertheless firmly supported the war and played up his military qualifications as potential "commander-in-chief." The dynamic set in where people essentially abandoned the stands they held most essential--including their opposition to the war--in the name of being realistic and reasonable.

That was, and is, a deadly dynamic.

We need to bring a whole different dynamic into play, particularly as the "election season" begins to gear up. We need a dynamic where the people who OPPOSE the war, along with people who oppose all the other depradations of the Bush Regime and the whole fascist direction of society, act in their own interests and for their own demands, in a mass political way. We need a dynamic where the people against this regime, by dint of their numbers and determination, compel every other force in society to respond to them. This in fact is the only "realistic and reasonable" course--that is, if you wish to change the reality of a war without end, borders or limits, and an increasingly fascist social order at home that corresponds to and reinforces that.

We should learn from the way that both the Bush regime and the Democrats, in their different ways, are showing fear in the face of the alienation of the people and even within parts of the army itself. Why are they scrambling? Why are they lashing out, both at the people and at each other? What are they scared of? Well, they are scared of many things right now, but not the least of their fears is the anger and resistance of the people they rule right here. They are scared that we will realize our own potential power-- if and as we dare to get out from under their control, and take mass independent political action, in our own interests and, more than that, in the interests of the world’s people. They are scared that people, in the words of the Call to drive out the Bush regime, will "refuse to be ruled in this way."

The question right now is not whether to vote or not. It is whether to rely on voting, or instead to pour your energies into winning over and rallying millions to their true interests, channeling their discontent into a course that will not once again betray them, but will result in really changing the direction of society and the course of history. It is whether to seize politically on the cracks that are beginning to appear and, through mass independent political action from below, open them up into a whole different future, or whether to allow ourselves to be gathered back into the fold and reduced to another passive "pressure group," as the authors of this war figure out how to patch up those cracks and continue their reign of white phosphorus and secret torture cells.

Very immediately, the urgent challenge is to throw in everything to mount massively powerful protests at the time of Bush’s State of the Union address in January, forcefully demanding that Bush himself step down and take his regime and his whole program--including this brutal and reactionary war--with him. Protests massive enough, and determined enough, to make nothing less than this the central political question in the country.

We must meet this challenge.


1. "The New Situation and the Great Challenges," by Bob Avakian, at

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2. This would almost certainly require a reimposition of the draft, which Murtha, by the way, supports but which would almost surely intensify the opposition to the war among the people.

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3. "The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era", p. 3.

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The Lies and theTruth About the U.S. War on Iraq

Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

Facing growing criticism about the Iraq war from high-level politicians as well as from the public (a just-released Zogby poll found that 53 percent of people surveyed favored impeachment if Bush lied about the reasons for going to war with Iraq), the Bush regime has been snarling back. Vice President Cheney said that the charge that the Bush administration "purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city" and called the charges "cynical and pernicious falsehoods." In a press conference in South Korea, Bush backed Cheney and called critics of the war "irresponsible."

Let's get down on the ground. Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the regime did not "mislead" about the reasons for going to war: THEY LIED!

They lied. They know they lied. And now these liars are lying about having lied.

These lies--and the war they led to--have had horrific consequences. More than 100,000 Iraqis have been killed, and a whole country has been devastated. Rampant torture is being carried out by the U.S. forces and the regime that the U.S. put in place in Iraq. More than 2,000 U.S. soldiers have died in this unjust war of conquest.

Millions of people around the world are aware of the central lie that Bush & Co. used as justification for the war: that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat with his weapons of mass destrucion. And everybody knows what happened after the U.S. invasion: No such weapons of mass destruction were found.

Let's review their lies--and the truth--more closely. Note that most of the evidence exposing these lies of the Bush regime were on public record before they launched the war on Iraq. (A caveat--these are just some of the lies that the Bush regime told leading up to the March 2003 launch of the war against Iraq.)

Nuclear Weapons

The Lie. Sept. 7, 2002, Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair claimed that a new report from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed Iraq was "six months away" from building a nuclear weapon. Bush, in his January 28, 2003 State of the Union speech shortly before the start of the war, said Iraq's government had "an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb."

The Truth. There was no new IAEA report. After UN inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq in 1998, IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei said: "There are no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of weapon-usable nuclear material of any practical significance." (October 1998 report to UN Security Council) Just before the U.S. invasion, ElBaradei told the UN Security Council: "After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq." (March 7, 2003)


The Lie. Despite the ElBaradei statement, the U.S. government claimed it had proof of a nuclear "revival" in Iraq: purchases of uranium and some aluminum tubes for the gas centrifuges that refine bomb materials. Bush, in his State of the Union speech, Jan. 28, 2003 uttered the now-infamous 16 words: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

The Truth. Bush was referring to the west African country of Niger. Career U.S. diplomat Joseph Wilson was sent by the U.S. government to Niger in February 2002 to investigate the claim of Iraqi uranium "yellow cake" purchases. He reported to his superiors (including Vice President Cheney) that "it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place." When Wilson made his finding public in a NY Times Op-Ed piece in July 2003, the Bush White House (including the recently indicted Cheney aide "Scooter" Libby) mobilized to protect their lies and discredit Wilson, including by revealing the name of Wilson's wife, a covert CIA agent, to journalists.


The Lie. Bush, January 2003 State of the Union: "Our intelligence sources tell us that [Hussein] has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production."

The Truth. Former U.S. weapons inspector David Albright said that "people who understood gas centrifuges almost uniformly felt that these tubes were not specific to gas centrifuge" for production of enriched uranium. (CBS60 Minutes, Dec. 8, 2002)

Washington Post reported: "Significantly, there is no evidence so far that Iraq sought other materials required for centrifuges, such as motors, metal caps and special magnets, U.S. and international officials said." (Jan. 23, 2002)

Biological and Chemical Weapons

The Lie. George Bush, Jan. 7, 2003: "Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent ... upward of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents ... materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin."

Bush's then-Secretary of State Colin Powell told the UN, "There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce many, many more." (Feb. 5, 2003)

The Truth. Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector summed up a year and half before the war: "Under the most stringent on-site inspection regime in the history of arms control, Iraq's biological weapons programs were dismantled, destroyed or rendered harmless during the course of hundreds of no-notice inspections. The major biological weapons production facility--al Hakum, which was responsible for producing Iraq's anthrax--was blown up by high explosive charges and all its equipment destroyed. Other biological facilities met the same fate if it was found that they had, at any time, been used for research and development of biological weapons... No evidence of anthrax or any other biological agent was discovered. While it was impossible to verify that all of Iraq's biological capability had been destroyed, the UN never once found evidence that Iraq had either retained biological weapons or associated production equipment, or was continuing work in the field." (Guardian, Oct. 19, 2001)


The Lie. Colin Powell at the UN, Feb. 5, 2003: "We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails. The trucks and train cars are easily moved and are designed to evade detection by inspectors. In a matter of months, they can produce a quantity of biological poison equal to the entire amount that Iraq claimed to have produced in the years prior to the [1991] Gulf War."

The Truth. Before the war, UN inspectors investigated several U.S. "tips" about "mobile labs"--but they turned out to be food-testing trucks. Raymond Zilinskas, microbiologist and former UN weapons inspector, said the whole idea of mobile labs producing bio-weapons was " far-fetched," since the Iraqis wouldn't have been able to dispose of the large quantities of highly toxic waste. (Washington Post, Feb. 6, 2003)

Weapons Delivery

The Lie. George Bush, Oct. 7, 2002: "We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical and biological weapons across broad areas. We are concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using UAVs for missions targeting the United States."Bush also claimed, "Of course, sophisticated delivery systems are not required for a chemical or biological attack--all that might be required are a small container and one terrorist or Iraqi intelligence operative to deliver it."

The Truth. Military use of biological agents like anthrax or chemical agents require means of dispersal to reach large numbers of people. The 2001 anthrax incident in the U.S. shows that small containers of such weapons have very localized health effects. Moreover, the U.S. is many thousands of miles from Iraq. None of Iraq's missiles or drones could travel more than a few hundred miles. No Scud missiles and no biological or warheads with such agents have been found so far since the war.

Inventing Iraqi Links to al-Qaida and 9/11

The Lie. NY Times, Sept. 27, 2002: "Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today that American intelligence had bulletproof evidence of links between al-Qaida and the government of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.".

NY Times (Oct. 11, 2001) reported that intelligence officials from Jordan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia do not believe there is any serious Hussein-bin Laden connection.

On Sept. 11 itself, top Bush officials decided to use the airliner attacks to justify war with Iraq. "CBS News has learned that barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq--even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks." (Sept. 4, 2002) In October 2002, the NY Times reported that Rumsfeld created a Pentagon operation "to search for information on Iraq's hostile intentions or links to terrorists"--despite CIA reports saying there were none. Shortly afterward, Rumsfeld announced that he had "solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al-Qaida members" (Seymour Hersh, May 28, 2003). Soon other officials of the U.S. government were presenting what he said as "evidence."


The Lie. Shortly after Sept. 11 CNN reported: "U.S. officials revealed Thursday that Mohammed Atta--one of the suspected suicide hijackers--had two meetings, not one, with Iraqi intelligence officers in Prague, Czech Republic. The first meeting was in June 2000 and the second one was in April 2001, sources said. In both cases Atta met in Prague with Iraqi intelligence officers operating under cover as diplomats." (Oct. 11, 2001) U.S. intelligence supposedly got this information from Czech intelligence agencies.

The Truth. A year later, the New York Times reported (Oct. 21, 2002): "The Czech President, Vaclav Havel, has quietly told the White House he has concluded that there is no evidence to confirm earlier reports that Mohammed Atta, the leader of the Sept. 11 attacks, met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague just months before the attacks on New York and Washington, according to Czech officials.... Czech security officials also say that they have never seen any other evidence that Iraqi intelligence officers stationed in Prague were involved in terrorist activities."

Excerpt from "From Ike to Mao and Beyond - My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist"

"Your Sons and Your Daughters..."

Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

The following is an excerpt from Chapter Six, "Your Sons and Your Daughters...," in Bob Avakian's memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond - My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist. In excerpts from this chapter run in Revolution #20 and #23, Avakian describes his involvement in the Free Speech Movement and the influence of Mario Savio, along with the impact of the assassination of Malcolm X, the War in Vietnam, and beginning to get deeper into the upsurge of the sixties.

In this installment, we jump back to the beginning of Chapter Six.

My family and all my friends and I were still holding our breath, because you don’t know -- twice before I’d been through a situation where things were going well with low dosages of cortisone, and then the symptoms of kidney disease would reappear. So there was the possibility of a relapse now that I was completely off the cortisone. But that summer brought a lot of big changes in my life.

I had been nominated by some of my English professors to be part of an undergraduate honors seminar on John Milton, the English poet who wrote Paradise Lost (and Paradise Regained), over the summer. There were about ten of us in the seminar, which was taught by Stanley Fish, a big Milton hotshot who was only a few years older than we were -- I think he was 24 at the time. He’s now a big figure in academic and intellectual circles more generally in the U.S., and I’ve written a few things recently commenting on some of his books. At that time, I hadn’t heard of him but I was into English literature, I was still trying to write poetry, and this sounded like an exciting thing to do. So when they asked me, I said sure.

We met for a number of weeks, five days a week for several hours, and it turned out to be a fun seminar. One time Professor Fish brought in this guest lecturer who talked about a certain aspect of Milton’s work, and I was wearing my dark glasses in the classroom. While he was talking he kept pausing and looking at me, and finally he just couldn’t take it any longer -- he turned to me and said, "Why is it that you’re wearing shades in this class?" And I don’t know why, but for some reason I had an answer ready, and I responded without even hesitating: "Plato has written that the eyes are the window to the soul, and I don’t want anybody peering into my soul." Even that guest lecturer couldn’t help cracking up at that point.

Opening Up

I met Liz in this seminar, and she had a big influence on me. I was already anxious to be more involved in political affairs, and she came from a progressive family -- her parents had been sympathizers of the old Communist Party. She told stories about how people she knew had to bury their Marxist books during the McCarthy period. She had a radicalizing effect on me, to put it that way -- for instance, I was drawn to the Free Speech Movement (FSM) when it broke out that fall, but she had a big influence in getting me more deeply involved in it.

I was going through a lot of changes in a kind of a telescoped way, the way you do when big, world events happen one after the other. There had been the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and then a couple of years after that the Chinese exploded an atomic bomb. I remember walking with somebody after we’d gone to a civil rights demonstration in the Bay Area against one of these local businesses that wouldn’t hire Black people, and there was this BIG headline in the local newspaper: "Chinese Explode Atomic Bomb." I turned to the person next to me, who was more radical than me at that time, and I said, "Man, that’s scary, that’s bad." And he said, "No, I think it’s a good thing." I said: "Why? That Mao, he’s crazy, it’s not good for him to have the atomic bomb." And he answered, "No, it’s a good thing, because it could mean the U.S. won’t be able to fuck with China so easily." I still was not by any means a communist and, as reflected in the comment I made about Mao at that time, I still accepted a lot of the anti-communist propaganda and bullshit. But I was open. The prejudices I had were clashing up against somebody else who had a different understanding and was challenging me -- that kind of thing was repeatedly happening. So, when he said this, it wasn’t like I just dismissed it. I didn’t say, "Oh I see" and just agree with him, but on the other hand, it became one of those things circulating in your mind.

This was when the U.S. was escalating the war in Vietnam, in the period of 1964 and ’65. I hadn’t yet made up my mind about Vietnam, even at that point. In fact, during the Free Speech Movement there were some people in leadership of that movement, including Mario Savio, who were making statements against the Vietnam War. And I wasn’t sure that I liked that -- I was still wrestling with questions about the Vietnam War, and I felt this should not be a dividing line, or a necessary point of unity, in the FSM. But all these things are clashing in your mind in times like that.

Torn by Kennedy and the Democrats

Just to backtrack for a minute, the Kennedy assassination was a perfect example of the contradictoriness of my thinking. I came to class at the university that day and everybody was stunned and saddened that Kennedy had been assassinated -- they were all openly grieving. And I remember one of the women in one of my classes got mad at me because I was sort of aloof and not expressing any emotion. But then, as it sunk in, believe it or not, I actually wrote a poem memorializing Kennedy a few weeks after that. I sort of felt like Phil Ochs at that time, who talked about his Marxist friends being unable to understand how he could write a positive song about Kennedy -- and about how that’s why he couldn’t be a Marxist. And that kind of speaks to where I was at, at the time.

My father was part of the Democratic Party. Toward the end of his life, he became more alienated from the whole system and more outraged about the injustices in the U.S. and what the U.S. is doing around the world -- but for much of his life he was a real liberal Democrat. In fact, he had been offered a position in the Kennedy administration, but he turned it down because I was in the Bay Area and too sick to move, and he didn’t want to be separated from me while I was sick. My parents, of course, were very upset about the Kennedy assassination, and in fact I think my dad went to a meeting and read this poem that I wrote memorializing Kennedy.

This kind of contradictory thinking that characterized my parents, and myself, at that time, is fairly common among progressive people. You see a lot of the injustices and what we sometimes call the "running sores" of the whole society and the way in which it grinds up people, and you see ways in which the people presiding over the society are responsible for this. But you still carry along the illusion and have the hope that they can be brought to their senses, that they can be made to see that this is wrong, and -- since they’re in a position to do something about it -- you want to believe that they will do something about it, if they can just somehow be made to see what’s wrong. That’s an illusion that is often difficult to shed; it takes a lot for people to fully cast that off, and that was true for me too.

Into the Student Life

At this point, in 1964, I was finally able to leave home. Since I had been cut off from a lot of social experiences, I wanted to go live in the dorms, even though I was by then in my third year of classes. But there was still a question of whether my health requirements would allow that. Among other things, I had this very strict diet, where literally every day I was calculating how many milligrams of sodium I could eat, and things like that. Finally I had a discussion with my doctor and he said, "You know you’re probably at the point where if you’re just careful about what you eat, if you don’t eat salty foods and don’t add any salt to anything, you’ll probably be all right in the dorms." That was the big hang-up about living in the dorms at that time: I had enough strength, but there was also the question of diet, because something that threw my system off could give me a severe setback.

This friend of mine from high school named Tom was living in the dorms, and we got it arranged so that he and I could be roommates, which made it easier for me. That was a very important step for me at that time, given how dependent I’d been forced to be. Even though I loved my family, I wanted to be taking steps to be on my own more.

While the dorms, obviously, have their limitations, this was a positive experience for me under the circumstances. Mainly people go in the dorm when they first come into the university, and then move on -- but since I hadn’t been able to do that, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit for the short time that I was there. Tom, my roommate, was a progressive guy and also a big sports fanatic like me. This was a time when even life in the dorms was beginning to be affected by the big changes sweeping through society and the world. That kind of ferment was finding expression throughout university life.

At that time I still physically bore the scars of being sick and I was also struggling to overcome them psychologically. My friends used to talk me into going to parties, and my love for singing provided a way for me to sort of break out of my shell socially. I’m not exactly even sure why or how I got the nerve to do this, but when I’d go to the parties -- and I didn’t have to get drunk or high to do this, either -- often at a break I would just start singing. I would sing R&B songs or Motown or whatever. I even did this in the dorms. We had four dorms together in a group where everyone ate at the same cafeteria, and at the big meal on Sunday they used to have a microphone for people to make announcements. So one Sunday at the urging and daring of my friends, and somewhat on my own initiative as well, I actually got up and just took hold of the mike and started singing this Mary Wells song that I loved, "Bye, Bye Baby" -- and the whole place just responded. So that became a Sunday institution during the time I was in the dorm.

Dylan and "Beatlemania"

I remember also when the Beatles first came to the U.S. It was a big deal. They were on one of those shows like The Ed Sullivan Show, and everybody in the dorms gathered around the TV to watch the Beatles -- except for me and Tom, who really didn’t like or care about the Beatles that much and were also making a statement that we had other kinds of music we were into and we weren’t going to get caught up with the herd. In retrospect, I’ve sometimes said, in explaining how I really didn’t get Jimi Hendrix at the time, that some of the influences I had from high school -- the friends I had, and the musical interests -- had given me almost a "narrow nationalist" view: "Jimi Hendrix, what’s he doing playing all this psychedelic white hippie stuff?" I’ve since come to understand how narrow that was, how I failed to appreciate something that was new and breaking with some conventions and molds, and I’ve tried to learn from that, not just about music but more generally.

But even recognizing that narrowness, there was something that I still think was valid in how Tom and I were making a statement: "What’s the big deal about these English white boys coming here and singing rhythm-and-blues?" I remember a friend of mine telling a story about a track meet in L.A. that took place during this time, and how Mick Jagger was staying in the same hotel as some of the athletes in the meet. At one point a number of them surrounded Mick Jagger and said, "Oh, you’re supposed to be a big singer," and they started singing all these different doo-wop and rhythm-and-blues songs, and challenging him: "Let’s hear you sing this one, let’s hear you sing that one." And I cracked up when I heard that -- I thought it was a great story. So, in sort of the same -spirit, Tom and I were not gonna become part of Beatlemania. Later on, I came to appreciate especially John Lennon a lot, in a different way -- especially for his political and social views, but even musically. But back then, we were not gonna get swept up in "Beatlemania."

Bob Dylan was another story altogether. There was this one guy at Cal who used to sing the whole repertoire of Bob Dylan music, and he had the Bob Dylan look as well. I’m sure there was this kind of phenomenon all over the country, and I’m also sure that this kind of "imitation" was exactly the kind of thing Bob Dylan didn’t like, but this guy had the harmonica and the guitar and everything, and that’s actually where I first started hearing some Dylan songs. Then, as I got more political, I really got into Dylan. I remember in particular the album The Times They Are A-Changin’. They were changing, and this brought a lot of generational conflicts.

One time, when we were together with my parents somewhere, Liz and I put that song on the record player and played it very loudly, sort of right up in their face: "Come mothers and fathers throughout the land, and don’t criticize what you can’t understand..." So, even though I -didn’t want to have anything to do with the Beatles, there was a way in which Bob Dylan spoke for the whole social and political upheaval that was occurring, especially for a lot of youth out of the middle class, but not only for them. A lot of his early songs had to do with the civil rights struggle, outrages like the one captured so powerfully in "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," about the killing of a Black maid by this rich young white planter in Baltimore. And the poetry of Dylan also captured me -- because I was into poetry, and the poetry of his songs just really drew me. I didn’t see him as a white boy who was just mimicking other people’s music. I looked at him as a poet-musician and somewhat a voice of a generation who was speaking to a lot of things at a point where "The Times They Are A-Changin’."

Next week: New People, New Influences; Malcolm X; and Straddling Two Worlds

From A World To Win News Service:

France: Repression -- and Support for the Rebels

Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

November 14 2005. A World to Win News Service. After 18 nights of burning cars and skirmishing with police, and a few head-on clashes as well, only one thing can be safely predicted: France is not about to go back to the way it was before.

The revolt broke out October 27, when the police chased two teenagers, Bouna Traore and Zyed Benna, into an electrical power substation and let them be electrocuted. Since then it has flared and ebbed and sometimes flared again in many localities in the Paris region and spread to more than 40 cities and towns around the country. One of the most worrisome incidents for the authorities occurred November 12 in Lyon, the third largest city. Youth from the cités (public housing estates or projects) converged on the historic city center, Place Bellecour, a major upscale shopping area. They fought the police who had been concentrated there to keep them out and burned some stores and stalls. That night also saw fighting in nearby Saint-Etienne, Toulouse in southwest France and Strasbourg in the east.

The authorities say the revolt is dying out, but they are not acting like they expect it to go away. A bill authorizing a 90-day extension of the current temporary state of emergency was sent to Parliament November 14. The law dates back to 1955, when it was intended to stop the anti-colonial uprising in Algeria, then legally a part of France. It was used in France itself in 1961 to repress the movement against the colonial war that began with that uprising. On October 17, 1961 in Paris, many thousands of Algerian immigrants defied the curfew and ban on demonstrations declared under that law and staged a march in support of the national liberation war in. The police were given the order to break up the march and chase down and punish those who had dared leave their homes. It was open season on Algerians. Hundreds of men, women and children were beaten and stomped to death and dumped into the Seine River that night.

Now this same law is being used again, for the first time in France since those days, against the children and grandchildren of those who were killed or injured or rounded up and held in camps, as well as against other people of immigrant descent and in general all of the inhabitants of the cités that replaced the shantytowns of the 1950s and `60s. The curfew is not countrywide, but is being applied in potential hotspots. Under the law, local authorities can restrict people's movements as they see fit. In some urban areas, youth under 16 or 18 are officially banned from the streets after 10 or 11 pm. There are unofficial curfews in many more places against all youth. Police order even elderly people to get off the street.

In a few places, a total lockdown has been declared. For instance, in the suburban town of Evreux north of Paris, the police set up a perimeter surrounding an entire cité of 18,000 people, called La Madeleine. The CRS riot police literally locked the gates to La Madeleine and let no one in or out between 10 pm and 5 the next morning, except for medical emergencies and to go to work. No one was even allowed to walk their dog or come out to smoke a cigarette in front of the buildings. A helicopter painted the sides of the buildings and the sidewalks with searchlights. The same procedure was imposed the following night.

There are a great many cités where the cops avoid entering at night, even in normal times. Now, sometimes the youth throw stones and Molotov cocktails at police and then run to take refuge in an apartment tower. Even if the police chase them inside, people often open their doors to the youth to give them refuge. Support for the youth is far from universal and the tactic of burning cars not always welcome, but in taking measures against whole housing complexes and inflicting collective punishment, the government is helping to make it clear that the target is not just the youth but a whole section of the people, which has helped swing people to the youth's side.

So far, the main public expressions of sympathy for the rebel youth have come from sports figures. A few middle class people have taken action. All demonstrations and unauthorized public gatherings were forbidden in Paris during the weekend. Yet three or more did take place there, including in the overwhelmingly white Left Bank (scene of historic battles between students and police in May 1968) and other very crowded tourist areas. The initiative to defy the ban and call for people to take to the streets to support the youth came from Act Up, the anti-AIDS civil disobedience organization. Housing activists, anti-racist campaigners, supporters of Palestine and others also took part in instant and necessarily brief illegal assemblies up to a thousand strong on teeming street corners, despite the extremely heavy police presence and the strong possibility of injury and arrest.

At the same time, despite gangs of police stationed at every suburban train station and all the main city terminals to keep youth from breaking out of the ghettos, huge numbers of youth from the working-class suburbs and all over flooded into central Paris that Saturday afternoon to enjoy the strength of their numbers and the difficulties of the police to tear gas and beat people indiscriminately there. These dynamic and fluid situations seemed to keep the police somewhat off balance. Central Paris has rarely been so packed, so tense and, for many youth, so much fun, although the situation never quite slipped out of police control. This is exactly the kind of volatile situation the authorities don't want, but the kind of steps necessary to prevent this could cast the shadow of repression on people of all classes and establish a very different kind of climate in the capital.

It is very likely that the curfews and the ban on assemblies will be a central issue in the days to come, because to the extent they are imposed they represent an escalation and broadening of the attacks on the people.

Another central issue is Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy's threat that all arrested immigrants will be kicked out of France if they had no papers or even if they do. Legal experts and human rights campaigner said this would be illegal under French and European Union laws forbidding collective punishment and punishment without due process. But instead of backing up, Sarkozy announced that 120 people would be deported starting November 14 anyway. Such threats do have a dissuasive affect, since deportations are imposed often on people who have lived almost all their lives in France and even those born there who haven't been given citizenship. But while Sarkozy is trying to polarize much of the middle classes against the cité youth, this polarization could go either way. Mass deportations of foreigners have had a particularly bad name in this country since the Nazi occupation. Further, the youth are overwhelming French, not immigrants. Many people recognize this as an attempt to change the subject and paint this rebellion as something other than it really is, a revolt by a section of the French working class. Sarkozy's provocations might help make the stakes of this situation clearer to more middle class forces and help create conditions for them to rally to the support of the rebel youth.

France: "Young Rebels, People Around the World are Watching You and Supporting You!"

Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

November 14, 2005. A World to Win News Service. French youth, especially lower working class youth of immigrant origin and others who feel imprisoned in the country's public housing towers, have been rebelling since the police deliberately let two such young men die October 27. Shortly before this outbreak, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy used the deliberately nasty and provocative word "racaille" (rabble or low-class scum) to describe the youth of the country's cités (housing estates or projects) and vowed he was going to "clean them out with a high-pressure hose". The following is an English translation of a leaflet by the World People's Resistance Movement-France ( that is being distributed in the cités and elsewhere in France.

This is addressed to you, youth of the cités, all of you whom Sarkozy calls racaille, and to others in France as well, especially those who are listening to you.

Some people say you are going "too far." How far is "too far" in responding to the state's top cop when he announces his intention to "clean out with a high-pressure hose" a whole section of the people?

This is addressed to you, the children of immigrant workers and the lower section of workers of all nationalities, especially the people of the cites,whose fathers carried concrete sacks to build the France we know today and whose mothers' tireless mops and brooms kept this country clean. This is addressed to you who are called "hoodlums" no matter what you do, whether working or kept out of work, and either way condemned to a life not much better than that of your parents, who endured so much hardship and humiliation in the hope that you would have it better.

We salute you who will never be content with the best the system has to offer you - like Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's plan to allow you to leave school at 14 and work as "apprentices" for practically nothing in jobs no one wants. That would only officialize what exists today, when middle school, for most kids, is not a place for advancement but a place of selection, where 14-year-olds are told their dreams are over? How far is "too far" in demanding that people be treated like human beings and allowed to develop all that they are capable of, individually and collectively?

The truth is that France has seen far too many years of "calm" in the face of injustice and the kind of "peace" that comes from the oppressed accepting their fate. What's so good about quietly accepting the kind of life imposed on the great majority of people in France? The whole "political class" (ruling class and politicians) breathes easily when youth fight one another or take drugs and sink into hopelessness. In this rebellion the youth for the most part have not deliberately targeted ordinary people in the cités or anywhere else. Right now violence among the people is at a low point and the spirit of the youth is soaring. Youth are in revolt - not mindlessly or aimlessly, as official society charges, but against a very clear target, Sarkozy and the state he represents, the police and anything seen as representative of the prevailing social order. They are punching holes in the prison walls, bringing the whole country fresh air.

The youth deserve the support of all those who are crushed by the system and its republic, all those who tolerate the life they are given only because they see no alternative. This government has launched attack after attack on many sections of the people, including immigrants, the unemployed, strikers and many others. There has been opposition, but not strong and bold enough. By standing up against the way things are and those who enforce this order, the youth show their potential as a revolutionary force in society if they stand together with all the people who hate that order - all the exploited, those determined to end the oppression of women, those who truly hate the Iraq war and other imperialist crimes in the world and who really want to save the earth from the profit system. The youth are creating the conditions for a different kind of thinking, where people don't accept things as they are, in France and the world, and a social movement different to any that we have seen here in a long time. People all over the world are watching and finding encouragement for their own struggles to liberate themselves.

Not only Sarkozy, and not only the government, but the whole state and political class considers what the youth are doing a "disaster" and an intolerable challenge. They have declared curfews in a few places and imposed undeclared curfews against men young and not so young in whole towns and departements. They are issuing all kinds of threats against the people while hoping that rubber bullets ("flash balls"), the clubs of the CRS riot police and the threat of mass deportations will be enough to make the youth lose heart. At the same time, they are educating the youth and everyone with eyes to see in a basic truth: the French republic is, in the end, a dictatorship that rests on the clubs of the police and ultimately, if necessary, on the guns of the army. France is run by those who own everything, the big capitalist class. They have the final say about everything, and in the end none of the people have any rights that can't be taken away.

To all of you others who share so much of what these youth feel, the working people of all nationalities and people of all walks of life, right now is the time to stand up for them and stop the government's attempts to encircle these youth with a reactionary consensus. Speak out for the youth and the justice of their cause - stop the government's attempts to crush them. Further, many millions of people in France will not tolerate mass deportations of people to punish them for rebelling. The government must not be allowed to carry through on this threat. Finally, wouldn't it be fine if the "high-pressure hose" of the people's anger cleaned out Sarkozy and all he has come to represent right now!

North, south, east, west, unite the people's struggles!

The Alito Application...And the Silence of the Democrats

Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

A society where people accused of a crime have no right to a lawyer, and are never told that they can refuse to be questioned and interrogated by police. A society where women have no right to birth control or abortion. Where Mexican-Americans can be blocked from juries, where students are officially organized to pray in public schools, where schools and universities are "whites only" and Black people are systematically excluded from voting or having their votes count the same as whites.

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito thinks society never should have moved away from that! No wonder raving Christian Fascists like James Dobson (the man who said that he doesn’t just want to take America back to "Happy Days"--he wants to go all the way back to the Plymouth Rock) are ecstatic about this man's nomination.

The Washington Times released a job application Alito wrote to work for then-president Reagan's Attorney General in which Alito stated that he does not believe there is a constitutional right to abortion, a position that obviously is in direct conflict with Roe v. Wade. (A brief that Alito later wrote stated that

"[T]he textual, historical and doctrinal basis of [Roe v. Wade] is so far flawed that this Court should overrule it and return the law to the condition in which it was before that case was decided.")

In this application, Alito also stated that

"In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment."

What are those "Warren Court decisions" that Alito was so outraged by? They established things that most people consider to be basic rights--read on:

"Criminal procedure"

"You have the right to remain silent," is the legacy of the famous 1966 Miranda case, where a young Mexican immigrant was arrested and coerced into confession. The Warren Court ruled in Miranda v. Arizona that a suspect had to be informed that they had a right to remain silent, and to be warned that any statements they did make would be used against them in court.

"You have the right to an attorney." The Warren Court ruled in the Gideon case (made famous by the book Gideon's Trumpet) that state courts are required by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution to provide lawyers for defendants in criminal cases unable to afford their own attorneys.

"The Establishment Clause"

In Engel v. Vitale, the Warren Court ruled that the section of the First Amendment that states that "Congress shall make no law respecting establishment of religion ..." meant that government shouldn't coerce students to pray in public schools. They struck down a "voluntary" prayer that began each school day: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen."


Warren Court decisions, in 1962 and 1964, ruled against the practice where Congressional and Senate districts were fixed so that small numbers of mainly conservative, often rural white voters had their own districts, while much larger numbers of people (usually in urban areas) were crammed into other districts - essentially giving people in these conservative, rural districts more votes per person. These rigged, white-get-more-votes congressional districts were part of denying Black people the right to vote.

Other decisions associated with the Warren Court include...

  • The 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut legalized birth control.
  • The 1954 Hernandez case allowed Mexican-Americans to serve on juries.
  • Mapp v. Ohio (1961) and Katz v. United States (1967) outlawed the use of illegally obtained or wiretapped information as evidence in court.
  • And probably most famous: the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling is the case that ended official, formal segregation in public schools!
  • Every one of these legal "rights" is violated all the time. For example, Miranda has been attacked and dismantled in post-9/11 America. But to officially, legally and permanently reverse all of those things is a very different thing altogether--and this is exactly what Alito described as his goal and motivation!

    Alito has not said whether his disagreement with the Warren Court extends to Brown (integrated schools) or Griswold (legalized birth control). Alito's supporters say only that the 1985 job application was so long ago it is unfair to hold him to what he wrote. But Alito has not said that he now disagrees with what he wrote on the application....


    So where are the declarations from the Democrats or "moderates" in congress that these "turn the clock back to the '50s" positions are totally unacceptable for someone on the Supreme Court? Where are the pledges to filibuster to the end to stop this nomination?

    Senator Kennedy has "grave doubts" and "unanswered questions."

    The battle that must be waged over the whole direction of society--as revealed by Alito application--is one that we will have to fight for ourselves, like the future depends on it. And it does.

    More Voices from Nov. 2

    Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

    The following are two statements that were read at World Can't Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime--the first in Seattle, and the second in Detroit.

    Statement from Jim McDermott, U.S. Congressman from Washington

    To participants in the World Can't Wait actions today:

    You are giving voice to your outrage about how the American people have been misled into the war in Iraq.

    You are giving voice to your anguish at the deaths of our soldiers and thousands of Iraqis.

    You have counted the cost of war to our country: we can't afford to wait to feed, clothe, shelter and educate our own people.

    You are protesting because the "No Child Left Behind Act" was supposed to mean academic opportunity. Instead we find that it permits military recruiters to get private student information.

    You, not the government, should make the decision about whether you want to explore a military career.

    Your actions today will help every high school student in America understand that they have to act to keep their personal contact information private.

    Your action today puts our government on notice that it is accountable to you.

    It's your future, and I hope you will continue to work to make it better.

    Statement from Rev. Harry T. Cook, Episcopal priest, St. Andrews Church in Clawson, Michigan, author and former editor of the Detroit Free Press

    The words "faith" and "belief" have together become a corrupting and dangerous influence in the world. An imam, a would-be suicide bomber, a pope, a President of the United States--each is permitted to defend his choices by appealing to "faith," the validity of which one cannot determine and to "belief," which one is supposed to tolerate rather than challenge under the rubric of "everyone is entitled to his own opinion."

    By faith, the Crusades were undertaken; to defend belief, so-called heretics were incinerated; on faith, some people still believe Earth is but 6,000 years old and those who teach otherwise are anathema; for faith, 19 believers in Islam drove with murderous intent large aircraft into skyscrapers and a government building. In each and every case, the particular article of faith or tenet of belief is placed beyond empirical testing and open discussion. Warrant for trust in such articles and tenets springs from so-called sacred texts, the contents of which are also supposed to be beyond ordinary textual investigation, and which are to be taken as the express law and will of whatever god is imagined therein. "It says in the Bible," "It says in the Koran": these are the justifications given for so much of what the Scots poet Robert Burns called "man's inhumanity to man."

    What is called for in the 21st Century is courage, not faith; knowledge, not belief. Courage is that which enables a person to seek for and deal with what is real, rather than what is imagined or wished for. Knowledge is that which is arrived at by observation and rationalized experience. Courage to seek and accept knowledge rather than relying upon blind belief in what some religious or political authority claims to be true is the key to establishing a just society.

    It is an act of courage to face life knowing that one's light, one's truth, and one's strength are within one's own self and, because we are not unconnected in this world, in others. Such qualities do not repose in some unseen deity which may or may not be caring of our welfare. It is an act of courage to declare something to be factual because it fits with the known facts. It was an act of courage for Charles Darwin to have observed the fauna of Galápagos Islands with no agenda other than finding out about it. It was an act of courage, not faith, that prompted Darwin to publish his all-important Theory of Natural Selection which, when married to genetics, has become the baseline of modern medicine.

    The courage to search for and act upon knowledge regardless of sectarian demands will be what saves America from becoming a theocracy. History bears witness to the fact that widespread reliance upon faith in unseen deities or systems based upon appeal to deities and their alleged laws, always mediated by a ruling hierarchy and defended by personal preference, leads inexorably to theocracy, meaning government by ruthlessly applied central authority and suppression of dissent. It also goes by another name: fascism.

    Uncritical tolerance of faith and belief systems will lead us there. A faith-belief-based system--a religion, in other words--must be judged on the behavior of its adherents toward others, and by no other standard. Where religion is used, especially in league with government, to restrict human rights, to bless unjust war, to maintain class supremacy, theocracy has come into its own. This must be resisted.

    Interview with L.A. High School Student

    "We're Not Gonna Stop Until Bush Steps Down"

    Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

    On November 2, thousands of high school students from over 30 schools in Los Angeles walked out of school and hit the streets in response to the call: "The World Can't Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime!" Many of the students joined with others from throughout the L.A. area in convergences along Wilshire Blvd. and in Westwood. The students often acted in the face of officials who locked down schools and threatened serious punishment. One student organizer, Geovany Serrano, was grabbed by school police, pepper-sprayed, and arrested for handing out flyers and organizing at Belmont High. He is now under house arrest.

    Revolution interviewed a student organizer at Los Angeles High School, where almost the whole school walked out. The students at L.A. High are mainly from Black and Latino proletarian backgrounds.

    Revolution: What happened at L.A. H.S.?

    L.A. High student: We got out flyers and the stickers were really crucial. The stickers were all over the school--they were on the lockers, people were wearing them. People had them on their backpacks. . .

    The administration was making P.A. announcements every day for a week warning students that if they walked out they would get tickets and get suspended and all these threats to get people scared about walking out. I was so mad. I thought about leaving the school and just going over to Wilshire and Crenshaw. I thought about it--and I said to myself that I couldnt let these people get away with it. . .

    At first there were just a couple of people looking at us. Then more people started to gather. It started with two, then there were five, and then 20, and all of a sudden there was a mass of people gathering at that little gate. The principal and some other administrators came out and they were talking on another bullhorn and warning the students.

    Another student told me that then, finally, they opened the gates because people were throwing stuff at the principal. People were so mad and so mad at the fact they were not letting them walk out.

    My school is basically a jail, literally. We have no windows in the main building. None of the doors or the gates were open. It was really hard to get out. The only way to get out was through the front entrance and that was protected by security. The school had more security on that day because they knew people wanted to walk out. . .

    About 700 or 800, I would say, walked out. There werent really people left in school. . .

    When we were walking the streets were just filled with students. We were like three or four blocks long--city blocks. Those are pretty long. The police were there. They were supposedly there to escort us. At first they did and they closed the streets--major streets--in order for us to get through.

    We were chanting all the way "The world cant wait--drive out the Bush regime!" It was great! It was four city blocks! I think everyone in that crowd felt great, like we can really make a change if we continue this and every single high school walks out demanding that he [Bush] step down. We marched for like two miles. No one left the crowd and took the bus to go somewhere else.

    When we got to Crenshaw and Wilshire there were people there already. I loved the expression on their faces. I loved the expression on the faces of the adults when they saw all these youth come out--not just at that corner, but at the rally in Westwood, too . . .

    The police, once we got to the corner, got really heavy. There was a helicopter on top of us, and there was about 40 or 50 police officers on their motorcycles. They were parked right in front of us and they were parked on the side of us. That was really intimidating to some students. . .

    Revolution: Earlier you said that you feel that its "our responsibility" to take this up. What do you mean?

    L.A. High student: Well, I kept stressing that this is our right, but not just that. This is our responsibility. Take a look at the times that were living in right now. These are very very dangerous times. We have this capitalist society that we live in, but not only that. We have a capitalist society being run by these Christian fundamentalists that want to turn this country into a theocracy. . .

    Look at what happened in Katrina. They have a genocidal plan in store for Black people, poor people basically. I think Katrina really showed us the social and racial discrimination thats going on and characterizes this country as a whole.

    We are youth and we have to take this up because we dont see any Democrats doing anything. The so-called liberals arent doing anything at all to stop this regime. If we dont do anything this is going to end really bad. Thats what will happen if we dont do anything at all.

    I say our responsibility because if we dont act right now, it will be too late tomorrow. If we dont act now it will definitely be too late two years from now. I dont know if we are even going to be able to do this in a couple of years. The whole Bush regime is out to remake society. . .

    I mean they [the Bush regime] are legalizing torture. Theyre actually preventing women [from having abortions] and telling them that they are going to go back to being incubators. Were going back to the Stone Ages here.

    Theyre even attacking the fundamental things of the Constitution--and what its "supposed to" mean. Theyre out to remake society and remake the Constitution. Weve had problems with the system before, but this is different. This is more dangerous because theres this group of Christian fundamentalists running things.

    Revolution: Youve mentioned that you've participated in a walkout before. You went from being a participant to being someone who led their school in the biggest walkout in L.A. How have you changed?

    L.A. High student: Ive changed a lot actually. Ive changed the way I think--everything. I had to change myself and step back to look at life--and what I am doing to make this a better world. . . . I had to step back and look at myself. I changed my ideologies and I changed my perspective of the world and how things are being run in this country.

    Ive always tried to keep up with things that are going on, but since I joined the World Cant Wait and became an organizer I started to read more about whats going on. Now Im using more critical thinking to analyze things. I have to think of what can actually be done to change the times that were living in. I want to get rid of this regime, but by myself I cant do that. We need masses. I think thats what the World Cant Wait is about--its about getting the masses to get rid of this regime.

    Revolution: What has been your experience struggling with students and winning them over to take this up?

    L.A. High student: There are some people who are against you and think that things are fine how they are and that you should just leave it alone. I think that you have to make people realize whats going on. You have to show people the gruesome pictures of whats happening in Iraq and what happened in Katrina--only someone who has no heart and doesnt care about other people can look away from the people who are going through all of this. We have to explain to people whats going on and answer their questions. . .

    I think the biggest thing has been people asking, if we do succeed in driving out Bush from power--what happens after? At first I asked myself that too.

    But to just think about what it would mean to get him out--what would that mean for the whole world and the society. After that, we would have an organization thats so well organized. Were making people aware and making people see that we have the power to change things. This is huge.

    November 2 was great, but its not over. This is the beginning of the end, like the Call said. Were not gonna stop until Bush steps down. And after that we still have to continue and try to make society better. The world cant wait until this is a better society. A lot of people are sick and tired of how things are going.

    There are other questions [people have] too. Like Geovany, look at what theyre doing to him, theyre trying to make an example out of him and make an excuse in order to tell the students that if they do the same thing [organize to drive out Bush] the same thing is going to happen to them or worse, like end up in jail. This is a message to the students and a message to the parents. . .

    There are some students who say that they dont want to get into this because they dont want to put themselves in danger. But Ive told them "screw that!" If they are going to give us a ticket or suspend us, then fine. Com'on, try to give it to us--what we are doing is fighting for our future.

    Im fighting to change things. I dont like to live like this. We have to do something about this. We have to go against things that are wrong. We have to keep taking this up and we have to keep at the forefront of this whole movement. If the students are crushed then the movement will be crushed--I would hate to see that happen.

    On November 2nd, I saw so many people like me that were out there. People who were screaming [to the Bush regime] we dont want you, we dont need you, STEP DOWN! Before I used to go to sleep wondering if I was the only one who thinks like this. If it was just me and the other organizers that are around. After the 2nd what keeps me awake is that there are so many of us that want to make a change.

    College Campuses:
    Liberal Enclaves or Centers of Resistance?

    Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

    The following is excerpted from an article by Allen Lang on the worldcan' website .

    Thoughts on Nov. 2nd and immediate, major steps to transform college campuses into centers for Driving the Bush Regime from power.

    November 2nd marked a real launch in a society-wide movement to drive out the Bush Regime and ushered in the opening round of a two-sided fight for the future. Thousands of High School youth defied heavy suppression to take the streets in protest and at least 50 College campuses took part in the first major step in a movement to drive out the Bush regime. However, driving out a regime in the most powerful country in the world is an unprecedented goal not to be taken lightly and it is hard to see this happening without the Campuses shaking things up a lot more in society. So while putting this positive major step in the forefront, there are some real leaps we need to make in this rapidly changing world whose future will be decided by how we decide to act (or not act)...

    A decisive question confronting many student organizers is a common scenario of: you've distributed boxes and boxes of World Can't Wait Calls; you've called up all the people on your contact list; you've caused a stir dramatizing Guantánamo torture victims; you've spoken (or busted in) in front of students in classrooms--and not everyone agreed with you but most did. So where was the critical mass on the 2nd? Simply tossing it up to apathy oversteps a big part of the picture...

    Every day, we need to challenge people by stepping to them with the truth that they cannot find comfort or common ground with some Democratic savior. There is no referee. "We don't have to do anything because Bush is on his way out anyway" is (a) not true and (b) paralyzing.

    In a general sense, the America we knew before 9/11 is never coming back. That is for real and people have to be acting with that understanding...

    Basically, will a generation of college students be trained to perfect the workings of this Regime's death machine or will they act with the spirit of Mario Savio's call to put their bodies upon the gears and wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and make it STOP?...

    What To Do Now

    Through the twists and turns in our next steps it will be decisive in whether or not we direct everything we do toward driving out this regime, making the World Can't Wait Call central to all of our work and recognizing the major step we took on Nov. 2nd and that we are in a different place. To bring forward a generation to walk out of school because they saw the entire planet was hanging in the balance and will be plunged into darkness unless we drive this regime from power, speaks volumes to what we set in motion on Nov. 2nd and the potential for the politics of the Call to connect up with millions of youth throughout society. To bring forward the broad spectrum of people represented on Nov. 2nd solely around driving out a regime can mark a turning point in history if we make good on what we set out to do.

    There are still millions of youth who don't know that this movement exists, and that it is the only thing that can meet the enormity of the challenge before us. We can't leave one stone unturned in saturating the campuses right off of the 2nd. For the people who heard about or were around for Nov. 2nd they need to be barraged with BUSH STEP DOWN everywhere they go on campus...

    To College Students: Make Your Winter Break Matter

    Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

    "For the College students who have been actively organizing on their Campus or are outraged by the Bush Regime's relentless drive to transform society in a fascist way- come to New York City and Washington D.C. during your Winter Break. We face a future of horrors under this regime and you should be one of the dozens of students who volunteers out of the National Office and mobilizing on the ground in D.C. When Bush stands in front of the world to deliver his State of the Union Address he must be drowned out with an undeniable voice heard around the world of: STEP DOWN, STEP DOWN! BUSH MUST GO! DRIVE OUT THE BUSH REGIME!...

    "Young people should do some thinking in these times about what their place is in the larger world and how that relates to changing it. There is something to be learned from the experience of college kids dropping out in their thousands in the 1960s out of disgust at the way this country and the world were being run, shifting their priorities to make changing the world be the main thing in their lives. There is both a defiance and a freedom that students our age tend to have, and this needs to be uncorked and allowed to contribute to truly beautiful and urgently needed things. Its time for young people to step up to the plate and throw in on making the demand 'BUSH: STEP DOWN and Take Your Whole Program with you!' something that can't be ignored in this country. Spend part of your winter in NYC and D.C. to help make it happen.

    "The Future is at hand.
    What are you gonna do?"

    Contact: youth_students@worldcan'

    What's More Important Than School?

    Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

    On November 2, students walking out of school all over the country were detained, slapped with truancy charges, transferred out of their schools, held behind padlocked doors, suspended, physically assaulted, and even forced to climb over barbed wire -- all in attempts to prevent them from taking part in the events to drive out the Bush regime. In some cases, administrators even told them that this was for their own good! Nothing was supposedly more important for their future than the lectures and tests they would be getting that day in school.

    Meanwhile, on October 28 in Chicago, thousands of kids ditched school to attend the parade to honor the World Series champion White Sox. The Chicago Tribune reported that “teachers and principals played along, letting students skip out early or not show up at all.” The public schools' spokesman approved, saying it was up to individual principals to allow students to dump school. And the Tribune itself called the White Sox parade a celebration “so historic, so mind-bogglingly important, that it trumped anything they could learn in class.”

    They can't have it both ways! If that goes for a fucking baseball championship... it goes a MILLION times more for taking history in your hands, fighting for the future, and having the courage to walk out of school to drive out the Bush regime!

    The Battle for Student Political Expression!

    Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

    Youth performing political street theater exposing torture are jumped on, handcuffed, and arrested at Hunter College in New York City. Oakland high school students are forced to climb over barbed wire fences to leave school to demonstrate to drive out the Bush Regime. At UC Berkeley, home of the Free Speech Movement, activists are banned from campus for protesting against one of the authors of legal documents promoting torture. In Los Angeles, where the school district put out a memo telling administrators not to stop students from leaving school, students had to fight through threats, security guards, and locked doors, and one student activist is under house arrest for passing out flyers for November 2nd.

    We can't accept the authorities banning students' protest! These are our youth. They have the right to fight for their future. Are we going to wait until we get to the situation depicted in the movie White Rose --where students under Hitler got executed for passing out protest leaflets? This is a big fight right now, in society. In the weeks to come Revolution will be spotlighting and focusing on ways people are fighting this--this is a crucial battle. Send us reports on the battle, and watch these pages for news on this fight.

    L.A. Lawyers Call for Defense of Student Protestors

    Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

    A press conference was held in front of the L.A. Unified School District on Nov. 15 to salute the students who walked out on Nov. 2 and to defend their right to protest. The following are excerpts from statements made at the press conference by two lawyers from the World Can't Wait Legal Action Committee.

    Aaron Laub:

    "Fifty percent of the students in the L.A. Unified School district drop out. But the ones that are here today and the ones who protested on November 2 are not part of that 50%. They’re part of the 50% whose circumstances have not driven them out of school, whose alienation has not reached the level where they have no hope in remaining in school. These are the students who are hoping to participate in society.

    "In protesting they are carrying out an honorable tradition in America, one of standing up against those injustices that cannot be remedied without protest. I did it when I was a high school student--as many of you can see that was many decades ago--and others are doing it today. The reason why many of us are doing this today is because any time there is protest there is repression. It comes in many forms and usually it requires that lawyers participate and help those who are practicing their rights to free speech. That’s what we’re doing and that’s what we’re hoping other lawyers will do. This is a call to all those in the legal community to contact the World Can’t Wait and state that you want to help those who have the courage to stand up for what they believe to be right."

    Susan Basko:

    "The United States Supreme Court has stated in a very famous case that students do not leave their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door. Students have a right to have political opinions and to voice those political opinions. Students have a right to pass out flyers with a political theme and a right to voice their opinions and to participate in protests . . .

    "Geovany was passing out flyers. He was arrested and pepper sprayed. He’s under house arrest. He cannot leave his home, unless to go to school. He has an ankle bracelet that monitors where he is. His phone is under phone surveillance--in other words his phone is being tapped. This type of repression is not acceptable to the people who are in the lawyers committee for the World Can’t Wait. We welcome anyone who is being repressed to get in touch with us. We are hoping that the school district will transfer Geovany back into his school and he can go to the school where he belongs in. He’s a good student and is well liked. We’re looking forward to them agreeing with this."

    Slaving for Halliburton in New Orleans

    Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

    After Hurricane Katrina, George Bush announced the creation of a "Gulf opportunity zone" to "rebuild" the Gulf Coast. Many of the companies getting hundreds of millions in contracts in New Orleans--like Halliburton--are also profiting off the death and misery in Iraq. (See Revolution #15, "Pigs Rush to the Trough" and "Bush’s Plan for New Orleans: Turning Devastation into Profit)

    Last week Revolution reported that "entire housing projects in New Orleans have been vacated, and entire blocks are covered with debris and garbage as if the hurricane happened yesterday. House after remaining house has an X across the front, indicating that they've been declared no longer habitable. And as is becoming increasingly evident, the authorities have no intention of building housing for the people."

    While thousands of poor and Black people in New Orleans continue to suffer in horrific conditions, without running water, living in the stench of mold, flooding, and toxic chemicals, corporations like Halliburton subsidiary KBR, Bechtel and others are cashing in on open-ended, no-bid reconstruction contracts. According to a representative of the Laborers International Union, copies of the contracts arent even being shown to Congress because of "national security concerns."

    Bush changed federal laws and rules to allow contracted companies to pay workers below prevailing wage rates and hire undocumented immigrants. (The administration has since been forced to reverse these changes, but the original moves have already allowed massive profiteering.)

    An article by Robert Lovato of ("Gulf Coast Slaves") has revealed that subcontractors for KBR are employing hundreds of immigrants, many from Mexico, under slave-like conditions for contracted repair of military facilities in the Gulf.

    On Oct. 11, Bush spoke at the Belle Chasse Naval Base near New Orleans. At this same base, hundreds of immigrants were working without pay, later to be kicked off the base and left to sleep on the streets of New Orleans. They werent even paid for three weeks of work. One worker, Arnulfo Martinez, said, "They gave us two meals a day and sometimes only one."

    An immigrant rights group has filed complaints with the Department of Labor on behalf of Arnulfo and 73 other workers owed more than $56,000 by a North Carolina job broker hired by KBR subcontractor United Disaster Relief.

    Another KBR subcontractor, BE&K, was the subject of a Senate hearing in October because they fired 75 local Belle Chasse workers who were paid typically $22 an hour and hired immigrants for the same jobs for $8 to $14. Felipe Reyes of Linares, Nuevo Leon, Mexico said he was promised by the CEO of KBR subcontractor DRS Cosmotech that "wed live in a hotel or a house." Instead, "we lived in tents and only had hot water that smelled like petroleum."

    According to Lovato,

    "The city of Belle Chasse has been identified in recent years as one of the most toxically polluted areas in the entire region, with several major energy companies operating there. A wide range of advocacy groups have warned about serious health risks facing Katrina cleanup workers."

    Reyes said, "They didn't want to pay us for two weeks of work. So we stopped working. We started a huelga [strike] on the base." Reyes and other workers say they were only paid part of what they were owed.

    Another immigrant worker hired by the same job broker as Arnulfo Martinez to work on a different KBR project said,

    "They were going to pay seven dollars an hour, and the food was going to be free, and rent, but they gave us nothing. They weren't feeding us. We ate cookies for five days. Cookies, nothing else."

    Lovato says he was taken to "squalid trailer parks" by Victoria Cintra, the Gulf Coast outreach organizer for Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance,

    " like the one at Arlington Heights in Gulfport--where up to 19 unpaid, unfed, and undocumented KBR site workers inhabited a single trailer for $70 per person, per week. Workers there and on the bases complained of suffering from diarrhea, sprained ankles, cuts and bruises, and other injuries sustained on the KBR sites--where they received no medical assistance, despite being close to medical facilities on the same bases they were cleaning and helping rebuild."

    Cintra, who has since seen a small tent city of homeless immigrants spring up in the yard of her church Gulfport, said "This is evil on top of evil on top of evil." And she said, "the Bush administration and Halliburton have opened up a Pandora's box that's not going to close now."

    Desperate Nepal Workers in the U.S. Warzone: Lied To, Ripped Off, and Worked Like Slaves in Iraq

    Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

    19-year-old Ramesh Khadka's family took out a loan of more than $2,000 in the belief that his son would become a cook in Jordan. But instead, Ramesh became one of 12 Nepalese workers who were executed by Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq on August 31, 2004. The Morning Star Company, a Jordan-based services firm, had contracted Ramesh and the others for jobs. The grisly murder of the men, shown on videotape, led to investigations that revealed a whole illicit pipeline of cheap foreign labor that is part of the U.S. war in Iraq.

    Private military companies (PMCs) contribute as much as 20 percent of the total U.S.-led occupation force, and at least 35 PMCs have contracts in Iraq--employing at least 5,000 heavily armed foreign mercenaries and over 20,000 Iraqis. Another 10,000 to 15,000 people, hired from all over the world, provide military logistical support such as driving, maintenance, training, communications, and intelligence-gathering. The largest contractor is... you guessed it, Halliburton.

    The US government outsources to Halliburton's KBR, which outsources to 200 subcontractors, which recruit thousands of workers from impoverished countries. This multi-layered system cuts costs and creates walls of deniability for the US government and Halliburton. US law calls for sanctions against countries that engage in human trafficking but in September 2005, Bush, citing Kuwait's and Saudi Arabia's efforts in the "Global War on Terror," waived the sanctions against them

    The pay for such workers ranges from $65 to $112 weekly. In Nepal the per capita (average per person) annual income is about $270! The Nepalese government relies on an estimated $1 billion sent home each year by citizens working overseas.

    A recent two-part investigative series in the Chicago Tribune (Cam Simpson and Aamer Madhani, October 9-10, 2005) explained how a village agent recruited twelve Nepalese men and turned them over to a broker who sent them to Amman, Jordan. It was only then that some of them learned they were really destined for Iraq. While being transported to an American air base northwest of Baghdad in an unprotected van, they were kidnapped and killed.

    When the Nepalese men realized they were about to be shipped to their likely deaths in Iraq, many called their families in a panic, desperate to go home. The Jordanian brokers were demanding they surrender two months' pay as a fee and accept less than half the salary they were promised in Nepal. Their families, who had borrowed money to pay a Nepalese broker $3,500 for each man, could not pay the ransom the contractors demanded, and told them they had to go to work in Iraq to cover the loans.

    Slave Labor Camp Conditions

    David Pinney from CorpWatch has written about the conditions of these workers ("Using Asias Poor to Build U.S. bases in Iraq", October 3, 2005). He says, "Third Country Nationals (TCNs) frequently sleep in crowded trailers and wait outside in line in 100-degree-plus heat to eat 'slop.' Many are said to lack adequate medical care and put in hard labor seven days a week, ten hours or more a day, for little or no overtime pay. Few receive proper workplace safety equipment or adequate protection from incoming mortars and rockets. When frequent gunfire, rockets, and mortar shell from the ongoing conflict hits the sprawling military camps, American contractors slip on helmets and bulletproof vests, but TCNs are frequently shielded only by the shirts on their backs and the flimsy trailers they sleep in."

    One former KBR supervisor, Sharon Reynolds, who spent 11 months in Iraq, says one time the TCNs didnt get paid for four months, didnt get sick pay or proper shoes and clothing. She said, "It looked like a concentration camp."

    Ramil Autencio, signed with MGM Worldwide Manpower and General Services in the Philippines. Autencio thought he was going to work at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Kuwait for $450 a month. But he ended up in Iraq working 11 hours a day moving boulders to fortify the U.S. camps, first at camp Anaconda and then at Tikrit. Autencio says, "We ate when the Americans had leftovers from their meals. If not, we didnt eat at all." In February 2004, Autencio escaped with dozens of others.

    In May of 2005 the BBC reported that around 300 Filipino workers went on strike at a U.S. military base in Baghdad, protesting their working conditions. They were joined by 500 other workers from India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal to protest working conditions and pay.

    Preying on Desperate Lives

    Contractors and recruiters prey upon poor peasants and workers in Nepal who are desperate and have no way to support their families. And this cold-blooded business in the trafficking of human labor is huge. In August 2004, when the 12 Nepalese workers were kidnapped and executed, the Kathmandu Post reported that thousands of Nepalese had been entering Iraq via Kuwait, Jordan and UAE, that 17,000 Nepalese workers were already in Iraq and 35,000 others were waiting to go.

    In the video footage sent by the men's kidnappers to Nepals Foreign Ministry, eight of the men blamed the contracting agency for deceiving them about where they were going. When news that the men had been executed reached Nepal, people took to the streets in rage. Rioters attacked the offices of Qatar Airways, Gulf Air and other airlines that transport workers overseas. Looters attacked the headquarters of Moon Light--the labor contractor--and 350 other agencies were also attacked.

    The dead men's families each received about $14,000 from the Nepalese government--much of which they had to use to cover the loans taken out to pay the job brokers.


    The Maoist People's War in Nepal now controls 80 percent of the countryside. In the revolutionary stronghold of Rolpa, the guerrillas have mobilized tens of thousands of people to build a much-needed roadway, to be known as Martyrs Highway. Various bourgeois journalists have cynically said this is nothing but forced labor. They can't comprehend how people would walk for days to do volunteer work and that some people would do this, even though the road is not even routed through their village. And they have no understanding of how for poor peasants living in extremely backward conditions, such a road is so important. Meanwhile, in Iraq, thousands of Nepalese workers are experiencing real slave labor conditions--laboring under vicious conditions for the U.S. occupation forces.

    Set the Record Straight Tour Hits UCLA and UC Berkeley

    Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

    In October, the Set the Record Straight project hit the University of California-Berkeley and UCLA campuses. This was the first round of Raymond Lottas national campus speaking tour: Socialism is Much Better Than Capitalism, and Communism Will Be a Far Better World. The political and ideological climate cries out for this project. Here we are: unjust war in Iraq and the "normalization" of torture, half the planet living on less than $2 a day, strangulation of the Earths ecosystem, natural disasters like tsunamis and hurricanes that become social disasters. These are the workings and outcomes of world capitalism. Growing numbers of people are concerned about the state of the world and the fate of the planet. Do things have to be this way?

    No, they don't. There is an alternative. Not some wishful ideal but a real world alternative: socialism and communism. The socialist revolutions in the Soviet Union (1917-56) and China (1949-76) accomplished great and unprecedented things. They opened liberating vistas that humanity can build on.

    But people are bombarded with the message that "socialism has failed" and that capitalism is the "best of all possible worlds, the only possible world, and you might as well accept it." The drumbeat is unrelenting: "sure, capitalism may do terrible things, but if you try to organize society in a fundamentally different way, its going to lead to a totalitarian nightmare."

    For a whole generation of young people, this is basically what they've heard about socialism. Peoples sights are low and kept low. Its as though a ceiling were placed atop their heads: "socialism, you don't want to go there." Even intellectuals shaped by the 1960s radical ferment have become deeply influenced by this "conventional wisdom." Thirty years ago, the charge that communism and Nazi-ism are equivalent would have been sharply contested; today, it gets over much more. And then you have this sordid character assassination, the book, Mao: The Unknown Story, getting massively promoted, with idiotic lies that Mao was worse than Hitler!

    The Set the Record Straight project aims to turn this ideological onslaught against communism into a two-sided debate about communisms past and communisms future.

    Getting the Message Out

    Raymond Lottas current speaking tour is part of meeting this challenge. He sets forth the communist vision of a world without classes and any kind of oppression. He puts before people the actual historical record of socialist revolution in the Soviet Union and Maoist China. His speech rescues from distortion and slander what these revolutions were setting out to do, what they accomplished, and what lessons they hold for today.

    Lotta talks about how Mao learned from the overall positive Soviet experience, summed up shortcomings and errors, and opened new paths for going further and doing better in making revolution. And how Lotta talks about Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, is summing up this whole "first wave" of socialist revolutions and bringing forward a vibrant vision of socialism and communism that corresponds to the highest interests and aspirations of oppressed humanity and where human society can actually go.


    At UCLA, Raymond Lottas talk was co-sponsored by the Chicana/o Studies Department, the Ralph Bunche Center for African American Studies, and the Cultural Affairs Commission.

    An ad for the speech ran in the campus newspaper. There was massive leafleting with a "pop quiz" produced by Set the Record Straight (see The quiz tests peoples knowledge about social and economic change in Maoist China. Many students (and professors too) find out how little they actually know about the great things socialist China accomplished under Mao. Here they are told that Mao cared nothing about human lifebut life expectancy doubled, from 32 to 65 years during the Maoist era. Its said that Mao didn't care about education but literacy in fact vaulted from 20 percent to close to 80 percent.

    The publicity and leafleting for the UCLA program stirred a lot of discussion about what communism is, whether people by nature are greedy, what kind of intellectual life would exist in socialist society. Set the Record Straight seeks to promote exactly this kind of broad, ideological debate.

    The campus reactionaries took notice and alarm. They harassed students receiving Set the Record Straight leaflets. On the day of the speech, the campus Republicans wrote an anticommunist rant in The Daily Bruin of UCLA attacking the speech and the two departments sponsoring it: "these two centers [must] either regain a sense of legitimacy, or risk being replaced by departments that do not dedicate themselves to historical revisionism and ideological hegemony." Set the Record Straight replied in The Daily Bruin, pointing out that these threats are part of a "concerted, reactionary assault on academia to muzzle critical thought and dissent in the university."

    Amidst this controversy, some 80 people came out to hear Lotta. Most were undergraduates, and many from Chicana/o studies. Important questions were raised by the audience, including: do communists think the goal of revolution justifies any means -- no, the means must be consistent with and help actualize the goal; what about the treatment of artists and policies towards Western culture in Maoist China; how might the family change under socialism; will people still have their own homes; how will political opposition be treated under socialism? One student commented that she really liked how Lotta exposed the lies and methodology underlying the bogus charges that Mao and Stalin were responsible for 100 million deaths.

    Berkeley: Ideological Battle Over Mao

    In the last month, the University of California, Berkeley has been the scene of ideological battle over Mao and the socialist experience in China.

    On October 19, Raymond Lotta spoke, sponsored by the African American Studies Department. 120 people attended. For many of the students, this was their first exposure to a systematic presentation of the aims and accomplishments of the Soviet and Chinese revolutions. One student remarked that she had never before heard anything positive about the Cultural Revolution--and the speech helped her see that during the Cultural Revolution people were involved in political debate and political struggle over real issues.

    Meanwhile, the School of Journalism has been sponsoring events attacking Mao and the Cultural Revolution. On November 7, they brought in Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, authors of Mao: The Unknown Story. Their book is a vicious tirade against Mao, the Chinese revolution, and communism. Its interesting: the bourgeoisie keeps saying, "communism is dead," but if it is, why do they work so hard at trying to kill it?

    Mao: The Unknown Story is having a very negative effect in society. Its lies and methodology must be aggressively exposed and refuted, and Set the Record Straight has issued a statement on the book (see

    People going into the Chang/Halliday book program at Berkeley were leafleted with this critique and the "pop quiz." There was considerable interest in both. Part of the reason is that the book is so extreme in its vilification of Mao that even people who have differences with Mao are raising questions about the book and are open to critical commentary.

    During the question-and-answer, one person drew applause when he said that the authors single out Mao for using violence, but look at what the U.S. is doing in Iraq and around the world. About a third of the audience consisted of Chinese and Chinese-Americans; clearly, many were disturbed by the authors total negation of Mao and the Chinese revolution. Supporters of Revolution Books raised points about Maoist Chinas tremendous achievements in health care and combating the oppression of women. Not one favorable comment was raised from the audience about the book. After the formal program ended, discussion continued.

    The interest and controversy generated by the Set the Record Straight events at Berkeley and UCLA, and the publication of Chang and Hallidays attack on Mao, underscore the urgent need and great potential for Set the Record Straight. It has to reach many more campuses, publications, and arenas of society.

    As Set the Record Straight puts it, a real conversation and debate about the real experience of socialism is needed in order to point the way to a far better future for humanity.

    Coming soon! Socialism is Much Better Than Capitalism, and Communism Will Be a Far Better World.

    Revolution will begin a serialization of this speech by Raymond Lotta.

    Torture Realities

    Revolution #024, November 27, 2005, posted at

    On Nov. 7, George Bush told the world with a straight face, "We don't torture." But the reality of ongoing and rampant torture by the U.S. continues to spill out on every front.

    A story in Time magazine Nov. 14 reported on the torture murder of an Iraqi "ghost detainee" by the CIA at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The man, Manadel al Jamadi, died of blunt force injuries and asphyxiation. Manadel was trussed up with his arms behind him, a sandbag put over his head. He was beaten until "blood gushed from his mouth and nose like a faucet had turned on," according to the story. To cover up this brutal killing, blood was mopped up with chlorine before the scene could be investigated.

    And an interview by "Democracy Now" on Nov. 16 with former U.S. military interrogator Tony Lagouranis further reveals the extent of torture and other war crimes by the U.S. Lagouranis is speaking out now to try to rectify what he did and witnessed. He apologized to the people of Iraq and called on GIs to not do what "everybody else is doing," but to follow their conscience.

    Lagouranis was in Iraq at Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities from 2003-2005. Despite U.S. claims about stopping torture in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2003, Lagouranis reveals torture of detainees continued and is routine. At a U.S. army detention facility in Mosul, Lagouranis interrogated prisoners who were placed in shipping containers, kept up all night with music and strobe lights, and put in painful stress positions. Guards would then have dogs bark and jump on them. The dogs were muzzled, but the prisoners wouldnt know they werent going to be bitten because they were blindfolded.

    Military interrogators routinely induced hypothermia to break prisoners down for "intel." Prisoners were kept outside in polyester jumpsuits in wet and freezing cold conditions. Lagouranis said Navy SEALS would interrogate people after putting them in ice water to lower their body temperature--taking their temperature with a rectal thermometer so they wouldnt die.

    At a prison in North Babel near Baghdad, Lagouranis saw many prisoners brought in by marine units after being tortured in their own homes. Prisoners had been kicked and beaten--some had their bones broken, including by blunt ends of axes smashing their feet.

    Lagouranis was sent in to Fallujah to search dead Iraqis after the U.S. destroyed the city and its remaining people. He saw 500 corpses, what he called "a small number" of the total killed. Of these, only 20 percent were found with weapons. There were many women, children, and elderly. Lagouranis said he didnt know how many people the U.S. had killed in Fallujah, but the number he heard marines talking about was 10,000.

    After a while Lagouranis began to realize the U.S. was overwhelmingly detaining and torturing people who didnt even have anything to do with the insurgency. People were being hurled into this hellish world of detention and torture, and lies created to justify it all to report high numbers of "terrorists captured." He filed complaints to higher officials in the military at various times and places but none of them were acted on.

    If this is the experience of just one military interrogator, what does this show about the level of torture and war crimes being carried out in Iraq and elsewhere by this government?