Revolution #032, January 29, 2006, posted at

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The Summons of History

Revolution #032, January 29, 2006, posted at

Something new is struggling to be born: a movement, encompassing more people every hour, with the potential to drive out this regime and turn the tide of history. It is still way too scattered right now; it must be transformed, very quickly, into an active and dynamic and much more organized force that can actually challenge the Bush regime’s right to rule and can politically force Bush to step down. But this can be done. The basis to do so exists and grows stronger each day. And it must be done. The consequences of failure are too dire.

It is up to us--including you, reading this paper--to make it happen.

You could see both the basis and the dire need for this last weekend, as the international commission convened in New York to judge whether the Bush administration is guilty of crimes against humanity. While the verdicts will not come in until February 2, the coverage in this issue of our paper makes a horrific and compelling case. The media coverage leading up to the Tribunal and the attendance at it--along with the publication that same week of the Human Rights Watch report condemning torture by the U.S. as "a deliberate policy choice"--showed a growing willingness among people to hear and speak the truth about the crimes being committed in their names.

And you could see the basis--and, yes, the urgent need--for this in the increasing outcry last week against the Bush regime’s domestic fascism. It is not all the time that a former vice-president comes out and accuses the sitting president of serious and persistent law-breaking, of putting the Constitution itself in danger, as Al Gore did in his speech on Martin Luther King day. The next day the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sued the administration for its widespread illegal wiretapping--with the ACLU suit including former allies and advisers of Bush on Iraq. These cracks at the top create a potential fissure through which the discontent that is seething among ordinary people can crack and find expression. And that has begun to happen, in exciting ways--ways we will speak to shortly. While the liberal establishment overall has tried to pooh-pooh and contain these developments, even with the Gore speech, there is increasing fury from those they purport to lead over their capitulation.

The regime responded with a typically gangster-like counter-offensive. Bush spokesman Scott McLellan went after first Gore and then Human Rights Watch. Thursday saw the Bush Justice Department simultaneously justify the illegal spy program and sue Google for millions of its users’ search queries. On Friday, Bush’s top political advisor Karl Rove re-emerged from his hole to viciously attack those who’ve opposed the war, the wiretapping, or the reactionary restructuring of the courts. And throughout, in the background, beat the ever-louder and ever-more-ominous "discussion" of military action against Iran.

In other words, the Bush regime is not at all backing down; they are going on the counter-offensive. They plan to use the State of the Union address to definitively re-seize the political initiative. They aim to further silence the opposition from the top Democrats and to demoralize the millions that hate them. Given that their flagrantly illegal doings have been exposed, they aim to essentially ratify their fascist program through a big fanfare for the State of the Union and a declaration that the American people approve. If they succeed, it would be very, very bad. And they will get away with this, unless the anger and discontent in society is mobilized against it. Only such a mobilization--powerful outpourings on the night of Bush’s State of the Union in cities all over the country, followed by a massive demonstration in D.C. on February 4 demanding that Bush step down--could change the ominous direction of events. Failing that, who will challenge Bush and his crew?

Do You Dare To Change History?

That leads to those of you now reading this. Some of you will be clicking on this on the evening of the Monday the 24th. Others will pick up this paper during the week preceding the State of the Union, or will bring it home with you from the demonstrations on the evening of the 31st itself. But for all of us, this question is posed: do we dare to change history??

And we CAN do it. If the past two months have made increasingly clear that we are up against a fascist sea-change with this administration, the past two weeks in particular have shown in practice that we are not doomed to choose between the Bush regime and an opposition with little appetite for the kind of fight that’s needed right now. The turnout for and participation in the Tribunal sessions were one big indication. The ways that people respond now to the World Can’t Wait Call is another: the people who read it carefully, read it twice, and then sign, along with those who read it once and jump to sign it. The big response to the new "Bush Step Down" ads in the New York Times and on Air America is yet another. The sprouting of chapters in different parts of the country is a fourth; the turnout and character of World Can’t Wait programs at Grand Lake Theater in Oakland and Steppenwolf in Chicago a fifth; the reaction to World Can’t Wait speakers a sixth; and on it goes. Even the polls on cable television, one of them in response to the World Can’t Wait ad in the Times, reflect this.

But again--all this both has to spiral to another level and has to take much more organized form very quickly. The millions who are seething must not only be reached--and they must be--but they must also be given the framework through which they can put their energies and creativity to work.

That takes imagination and it takes work and it takes struggling with people. As Bob Avakian put it in these pages two weeks ago, "This is not a matter of throwing out a fishing line in a pool stocked with trout--all you have to do is put the bait out and everybody comes to it, to use an odious analogy. This is a matter of struggling with people, in a good way, to win them to rupture out of the killing confines of the dominant political framework and dynamics, and take independent historical political action on a massive scale."

This is a time when people must surge forward to make things happen, and we have to struggle with people and with ourselves to rise to the challenge being posed by history. To those who are already active, you must raise your level of activity; you especially must figure out the ways to reach out to, make room for, mobilize, and unleash those who are agonizing about the situation. To those not yet active, you must become so: your anger and passion, your ideas and creativity, your ties and skills must become part of a rolling social movement that makes January 31 a huge "drown out" of the Bush State of the Union and then brings forth an even more powerful and more massive repudiation of that regime on February 4 in Washington.

There will not necessarily be more favorable odds later; there may well not be another chance. Right now there is a certain crossroads. Things can go one way or another. If there is not a massive repudiation of what has already come out--and doubtless, this is just the tip of the iceberg--then this will become the "de facto" new norm. Silence and passivity will become, despite anyone’s intentions and private opinions, approval. And Bush will have succeeded in making his crimes and his power grabs accepted as somehow "legitimate." History has seen this movie before, and it is not one you want to watch again.

Whether a different road can be opened, whether a clearing can be hacked out, depends on you. Staying on the sidelines is a road to the death camps. As the World Can’t Wait site said last week, changing history is not a spectator sport.

Working Together, Standing Together, and Fighting to Win

The coalition now coming together is varied and diverse, and grows more so every day. In just the past week members of Congress, prominent artists, and other major public figures have signed on to the call. There has been the participation in the Bush Tribunal of a former general, an ex-ambassador and a one-time CIA analyst. These are very important and favorable developments, and another powerful basis to actually make the leap to the needed mobilizations. Any movement with aims as ambitious as this one will necessarily encompass a wide range of people, including people in--or formerly in--the government itself. This movement has to have room for everyone who wants to see Bush step down; it needs an atmosphere where a broad range of people can take initiative and debate a wide range of ideas. And this expansion has to be done in a way that will keep to the grounding vision of the movement’s Call and keep the movement’s eyes firmly fixed on its goal of forcing Bush to step down . . . and to take his program with him.

The road will be rough and bumpy and twisting. The people running this regime are vicious. They will do everything they can to keep a grip on power. They and their camp followers will lie. They will slander. They will attack and divide. And they will do worse; for all the piety they parade, they have the ethics of brownshirts.

But this is the only thing worth doing. And we, all of us in this movement, can deal with what they throw at us. We can keep our compass, we can maintain our unity and purpose. There is a righteousness to what we’re doing. We are taking responsibility to not only stand up against a very vicious form of oppression, but to mobilize others--tens of thousands now, eventually millions--to do so as well. To resist, and to change the direction of society, and to do it in the interests of hundreds of millions in this society, and billions worldwide. The ousting of this regime is a goal worth fighting for with all you’ve got, and a fight we have to win.

Bush must step down. And, to make that happen, you must step forward.

On the Dual Significance of Al Gore’s Speech

Al Gore’s speech on the Martin Luther King holiday was very significant. He condemned some of the Bush regime’s "repeated and persistent law-breaking" and warned that the radical changes being put in place by Bush run the risk of becoming "a permanent part of the system." Referring to Bush’s outrageous claims to legality for all this, Gore raised the big question: "If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can’t he do?" Despite attempts to bury it, the speech objectively forced the issue further into society and made space for others to express and act on their anger, thereby making an overall important contribution.

But Gore put this in a certain framework, conditioned and constrained by what he views as the larger interests of imperialism (see "Al Gore's Warning,", for a fuller analysis of this speech). For instance, he upheld the so-called "war on terror" and left untouched major parts of the Bush agenda.

Ruling class figures like Gore will inevitably be part of the whole swirl and ferment that will go into driving out the Bush regime. At the same time, Gore--or people like him--will attempt to limit the movement to curbing some of the "excesses of the regime" while leaving it in place, and will try simultaneously to both utilize and contain the anger and initiative of the people to that end.

The stakes in this are high. In our view, the movement to drive out this regime must unite very broadly around the basic objective of forcing Bush to step down. In doing so, it will influence and bring into motion all kinds of forces. But if the leadership of the movement were to fall into the hands of people like Al Gore, the movement would tend to capitulate and shrink from the necessary struggles. It would put the preservation of the imperialist status quo over the need to oust this regime. AND if and as Bush steps down--and that will be a tremendous and joyous moment--people like Gore would try to utilize a Bush impeachment or resignation to more effectively pursue imperialist interests--including the domination of other countries and the suppression of dissent and resistance at home--and would attempt to quickly stuff the people back into a box and foreclose further change. And that’s no good.

So there should be and needs to be ongoing debate and struggle over the direction of this movement and beyond. Those who are determined to not only drive out the regime but to end all the abuses indicted in the Call must both unite very broadly around forcing Bush to step down, while winning more and more people to understand the dimensions and deep danger of the overall Bush program so that the movement can continue to go forward as things develop.

Beyond that, those who see the imperialist system itself as the root cause, and the Bush regime as a grotesque and particularly dangerous expression of this--as we do--must creatively connect that understanding with the growing numbers of people coming forward, explaining the underlying dynamics of imperialism that have brought us to this pass, and putting forward the revolutionary solution of socialism that can bring in a whole better society.

The dynamic tension involved in this--the back-and-forth and twists and turns, in a situation involving tens of millions of people newly flooding into political life and activity--is a big part of the process.

[Return to article]

Showbiz Tonight Viewers Want Celebrities to Bash Bush

The evening after the World Can’t Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime appeared in the New York Times, CNN Headline News’ Showbiz Tonight opened with clips of Ed Asner and Harry Belafonte--signers of the World Can’t Wait Call, and an interview Sunsara Taylor, an initiator of the Call (a link to the video is at

Showbiz Tonight then put on three pro-Bush people going on and on about how the involvement of Hollywood stars in World Can’t Wait just shows how out of touch Hollywood is with supposedly "everyday Americans." And Showbiz Tonight invited viewers to go online and vote on the loaded question: "Celebrities bashing President Bush: Are they out of line?"

The result? A solid majority (57%) of viewers said NO!

So, there you have it. The "everyday Americans" have spoken. They want their celebrities bashing Bush!

[Return to article]

Send us your comments.


Reform or Revolution

Questions of Orientation, Questions of Morality

Revolution #032, January 29, 2006, posted at

Editors Note: The following is an excerpt from a talk given by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, to a group of Party members and supporters in 2005. It has been edited for publication here.

Now, when you come up against the great gulf that often, and even generally, exists between the conditions and the suffering of the masses of people, on the one hand, and what you are able to do about that at any given point—when you run up against that repeatedly, everyone feels a definite pull which expresses itself in moral terms: how can you stand by and not do something about what's happening to the masses of people? As I have said a number of times, I have enormous respect for people who do things like volunteer for Doctors Without Borders. But the fact is that while they're doing what they're doing, and even with the good they do, this is being engulfed and overwhelmed by a tsunami of suffering (metaphorically speaking and sometimes literally) that's brought forth by larger objective forces.

When I was younger, I considered being a doctor or a lawyer, not to make money and get on the golf course, but because I knew there were many people who needed good medical care and people who were victimized by the so-called legal system who could use an advocate who really would be an advocate and a fighter for them. But at a certain point I came to understand that, while I would be helping a few people, and even if I threw myself into it, much greater numbers of people would find themselves in the position of needing these services—far beyond what I, and others, could do to help them—and it would just be perpetuated forever, and the conditions would get worse. And once you understand this, you can't look yourself in the mirror and do anything less than what you understand, if you're going to be consistent and follow through on your own principles.

So, yes, there's a moral dimension here. How can you sit by and watch people die of diseases that are preventable, not just in the Third World, but right down the street from you? How can you "sit by"? How can you not immediately try to do something about that? But moralities are a reflection of class outlooks, ultimately. They are a reflection of your understanding of reality, which takes a class expression in class society, in an ultimate and fundamental sense. And there is a morality that corresponds not to reformism and seeking merely to mitigate the conditions and the suffering of masses of people—not merely to addressing some, and only some, of the symptoms of that suffering—but to uprooting and abolishing the causes of that suffering. This morality corresponds to a revolutionary understanding, that we cannot eliminate the suffering of the masses, and in fact it's only going to get worse, as long as this capitalist-imperialist system remains.

This doesn't mean that it is unimportant to address particular abuses, or that mass resistance to particular forms of oppression is not important. Far from it. The basic point that Marx emphasized is profoundly true: If the masses don't fight back and resist their oppression, even short of revolution, they will be crushed and reduced to a broken mass and will be incapable of rising up for any higher thing. But, as a fundamental point of orientation, we have to grasp firmly the truth that, despite the best and most heroic and self-sacrificing efforts, it is not possible, within the framework of this system, even to really alleviate, let alone eliminate, the suffering and the causes of the suffering of the masses of people. And our morality has to flow from that.

Let me give you an analogy. Let's say you went back several centuries, somewhat like Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Let's say in this case you went back to the time of the plagues in Europe that wiped out huge swaths of the population. And the most people knew to do then was to try to quarantine and stay away from people infected with the plague. Then, looking at all these people dying of the plague, if you were a good-hearted person perhaps you would take wet towels and put them on the foreheads of the people who were dying, or take some other steps to try to minimize their suffering to some degree. And maybe you would do what you could to keep the disease from spreading. But let's say that, as a person from the present time, you know that the plague could actually be cured, fairly easily, with antibiotics, if they were administered in time. And, further extending and elaborating the analogy, let's imagine that somehow there were antibiotics back in that time—of course, in reality antibiotics did not exist and the scientific understanding had not been developed to produce antibiotics until more recent times, but let's say that somehow these antibiotics also existed back then: let's put into our scenario some other people who had also gone back in time from the present age and had taken with them a big stash of antibiotics, which could prevent the millions of deaths that were caused by the plague several centuries ago. But these other time-travelers were monopolizing the ownership of these antibiotics and had organized and paid an armed force of thugs to guard this stash of antibiotics, and were refusing to distribute any of these antibiotics unless they could profit from it, by charging a price that most of the people could not afford.

Now, knowing this, which way would people be better served: by continuing to put towels on the foreheads of the fevered people, or by organizing people to storm the compound where the antibiotics were being hoarded, seize the antibiotics and distribute them among the people?

This is, by analogy, the essential difference between reform and revolution. And our morality flows from our understanding of this. Yes, it's very hard to see masses of people suffer and not be able to put a stop to this suffering, right at the time; and, yes, we should organize the masses to fight back against their oppression and the ways in which this system causes them to suffer; but if we really understand where "the antibiotics" are and who's hoarding and monopolizing them and turning them into machinery for profit, into capital, and what it is that's preventing the masses of people from getting to those antibiotics, then our responsibility is to lead the masses to rise up and seize those things and distribute them among themselves.

Now, let me emphasize again: I can and do admire the morality of people who want to alleviate suffering (and who may not see beyond that). We should in no way denigrate or put down these people—people who do things like put water in the desert for immigrants crossing from Mexico—we should admire them and we should unite with them. But that cannot provide the fundamental solution to that particular problem, of the suffering of these immigrants and what drives them to leave their homelands in the first place, nor can it eliminate all the other ways in which masses of people, throughout the world, are oppressed and caused to suffer. Or, again, while I admire the people who volunteer with things like Doctors Without Borders, if they were to say, "this is the most anybody can do, there's nothing more you can do," we would have to engage in principled but very sharp struggle with them, even while uniting with them and admiring their spirit, because it is objectively not true that this is all that can, or should, be done—and it is harmful to the masses of people to say that this is all that can be done.

In fundamental and strategic terms, it is necessary to choose where the weight and the essence of your efforts is going to go: into fighting the effects and the symptoms, or getting to the cause and uprooting and getting rid of that cause? And that's why you become a revolutionary—when you realize that you have to seek the full solution to this, or else the suffering is going to continue, and get worse. That's one of the main things that impels people toward revolution, even before they understand, scientifically, all the complexity of what revolution means and what it requires. And, as you become a communist and you increasingly look at the whole world, and not just the part of the world that you are immediately situated in, you see that the whole world has to change, that all oppression and exploitation has to be uprooted, everywhere, so that it can no longer exist anywhere.

So we have to be on a mission to liberate those antibiotics, and not get diverted into thinking that the most and the highest good we can do is trying to lessen the misery, to mitigate the symptoms, rather than getting to the cause and bringing about a real and lasting cure. The question of reform vs. revolution is not some petty notion of "our thing" vs. somebody's else's "thing"—it is a matter of what is really required to eliminate the horrendous suffering to which the great majority of humanity is subjected, day after day, and what kind of world is possible.

Nor are we revolutionaries because it's a "fashionable" thing to do—right now, in fact, it's not very fashionable at all. Back in the '60s, among certain sections of the people, Black people and others, being a revolutionary was a "legitimate avocation": What do you do? I'm a doctor. What do you do? I'm a basketball player. What do you do? I'm a revolutionary. Legitimate avocation. I was talking to another veteran comrade about this, and they pointed out that, in a certain sense, it was easier in those days to be a revolutionary because you had a lot of "social approbation"— there was a lot of approval coming from significant sections of society for being a revolutionary. Right now you don't get that much "social approbation" for being a revolutionary, and in particular a revolutionary communist. [laughter] "What the fuck, you crazy?!" [laughter] That's a lot of what you get, as you know. Or you get more theoretically developed arguments about why it's hopeless or a bad idea, or a disaster, or a nightmare. Well, we aren't doing this because we're seeking social approbation. It's good in one sense if you have that—in the sense that it reflects favorable elements in society, in terms of how people are viewing the question of radical change—but we're not doing what we're doing in order to get "social approbation," and we're not relying on such "social approbation" for what we're doing. If there isn't "social approbation," we have to create it—not so people will "approve" of what we're doing, in some more narrow or personal sense, but because we need to transform people's understanding of reality and therefore the way they act in terms of transforming reality.

So this is a fundamental question of orientation, but that orientation is not just: revolution, it's more righteous. "Reform, that sounds kind of paltry; revolutionary, that's more righteous." [laughter] No, that's not the heart of the matter. It's very righteous to be in Doctors Without Borders. But the essential thing is that revolution corresponds to reality, it corresponds to what's needed to resolve the contradictions that have been spoken to repeatedly in this talk—the fundamental contradiction of capitalism and other contradictions bound up with that, and all the effects of this in the world—to resolve these contradictions in the interests of the masses of people. That's why we're revolutionaries—and a certain kind of revolutionaries—communist revolutionaries. Because that's the only kind of revolution that can do what needs to be done, what cries out to be done. So what we do has to proceed from that, in terms of our fundamental orientation.

Send us your comments.


"A Leap of Faith" and a Leap to Rational Knowledge: Two Very Different Kinds of Leaps, Two Radically Different Worldviews and Methods

Part 3: The Big Bang, Evolution, and Revolution

Revolution #032, January 29, 2006, posted at

This is the final part of a 3-part series. Part 1, "Religion Is Religion, Communism Is Scientific," appeared in Revolution #28. Part 2, "The Leap from Perceptual to Rational Knowledge," appeared in issue #31. This series was originally published in Revolution #10 as one article, available online at

The article was written by Bob Avakian in response to a letter that was sent to him that attacked communism and argued against the scientific viewpoint and method, insisting that atheism is just another form of religion. Chairman Avakian addresses a number of points in that letter but focuses on the fundamental difference between a communist and scientific outlook and method on the one hand and, on the other hand, a religious worldview which relies on "leaps of faith."

Organize discussions groups at your school, neighborhood, and workplace to study and wrangle over this crucial article! Send in your comments and questions – online at or by regular mail to RCP Publications (P.O. Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654-0486).

Let's return to a core argument of this letter, as expressed in the part I quoted above.1 Let's take what has been said here—contrasting the scientific method with a religious worldview, and contrasting in particular the leap from perceptual to rational knowledge with "leaps of faith"—and apply this to examples the writer of this letter emphasizes: evolution and the Big Bang. It is a fact that evolution and the Big Bang have in common that they are scientific theories that provide explanation for fundamental aspects of the development of the known universe (the universe that is known to human beings) and of our earth and the living things, including human beings, on this earth. (In very basic terms, the Big Bang theory says that the universe, as we know it today, including our earth, originated with a cataclysmic [sudden and violent] explosion of matter billions of years ago.) At the same time, while there is substantial scientific evidence supporting the theory of the Big Bang, the theory of evolution is even more firmly established and has been confirmed by over 150 years of scientific testing and review, since the time that Charles Darwin first systematized the theory of evolution in the 19th century. This includes the understanding that human beings evolved out of a long succession of life-forms that have evolved over several billion years, and it includes clear evidence that human beings and the great apes are closely related biologically, and that in fact they shared common ancestor species from which they diverged along separate evolutionary paths only a few million years ago. The very important series The Science of Evolution, by Ardea Skybreak, which appeared in our Party's newspaper (and which I understand will be published in the not-too-distant future as a book by Insight Press), provides a thorough explanation of the theory of evolution and how it has been demonstrated—repeatedly, from many different directions, and by the application of the scientific method in many different fields—to be true; how continuing scientific investigation and summation, from many different fields of science (including genetics as well as the fossil record and many other "fields of scientific inquiry") continue to validate and provide further evidence for evolution; how there has not ever been a single scientific discovery or verified fact which in any way would disprove evolution or call it into question; how, in sum, evolution is one of the most well-established and fundamental theories in all of science, one of the most fundamental components of a true understanding of reality. And The Science of Evolution also thoroughly exposes and refutes attempts by religious fundamentalists and some others to call evolution into question or to challenge its fundamental truths, through putting forward literal Biblical "Creationism" or "more sophisticated" distortions of reality, such as "Intelligent Design," which is in fact another variant of "Creationism."

With this in mind, let's look at the claim by the writer of this letter that evolution, no less than the Big Bang, is "just as much a leap of faith as the biblical version of creation." From all that has been said so far, it should be clear that this statement is utterly and completely false. Evolution has been shown to be true and has been continually further verified, by application of the scientific method — which, again, involves definite leaps from perceptual to rational knowledge but involves nothing of a "leap of faith." In fact, "leaps of faith" are alien to, and are in direct conflict with and violation of, the scientific method—and if it can be shown that, as opposed to a logical leap from perceptual to rational knowledge, a scientific theory actually involved "a leap of faith" which by definition could not be substantiated, or even tested, by scientific methods, that theory would immediately be understood to be invalid according to the standards of science and the scientific method. There are no "leaps of faith" in the scientific method, and there is no "leap of faith" in the theory of evolution; its findings and the means by which they have been arrived at (and are continually being further verified and validated), are in direct opposition to "leaps of faith" and to the notion of an understanding of reality that relies on such "leaps of faith" and on "faith" as some kind of means for arriving at the truth about reality. Therefore, when I (and, more significantly for this discussion, the overwhelming, overwhelming majority of scientists in the field of biology and more generally people in the scientific community) declare, without hesitation, that "Evolution is a fact!"—this may annoy the writer of this letter and upset his religious prejudices, but that does not make it any less true that evolution is, indeed, a fact.

And by now it should also be clear what is fundamentally wrong with the comment by the writer of this letter that, "since no one was there to record the Big Bang, it too is just as much a leap of faith as the biblical version of creation." While (at least to my understanding) the Big Bang, as a scientific theory, is not as well substantiated and verified as evolution—and while there is definitely much more to be learned about the origins and developments of the universe (or perhaps many different universes), and people in the field of physics (or other sciences) would be the first to say this—it is not at all the case that the theory of the Big Bang is just as much a matter of a "leap of religious faith" as the myth of biblical creation. First of all, the story of creation, as told in the book of Genesis in the Bible, is simply wrong—it is clearly contradicted by many scientifically established facts in many particular details and in its overall presentation—not the least of which is the fact that it can be shown, scientifically, that the earth is billions of years old, not a few thousand years old, that the earth revolves around the sun, and that many other forms of plant and animal species existed long before human beings first appeared on earth. In opposition to this biblical creation myth, while (again, to my understanding) the Big Bang theory has not been as thoroughly verified by scientific methods as evolution has, it is certainly not the case that the Big Bang theory is, at this point at least, contradicted, in its main features, by scientific understanding and by results arrived at through the scientific method—as, again, is definitely the case with the biblically based myth of creation.

It is of course true that no human being was around at the time of the Big Bang. But this does not invalidate the Big Bang theory or reduce it to "an article of faith" like the biblically based myth of creation. Human beings come to know many things about reality which we do not directly experience or witness. The Big Bang theory has in fact been formulated and developed through a process (which is ongoing) of proceeding from things that have already been clearly established and demonstrated, from many directions, to be true, and "putting these things together" to draw a conclusion about the larger reality that these things are part of. In other words, there is indeed a leap involved here—but, once again, it is not a "leap of faith," or anything like it, but a leap from evidence to a conclusion about what the evidence shows to be true.

In short, in developing the Big Bang theory, scientists in the fields of astronomy and physics, and other fields, have proceeded from what they do know—what has been scientifically established and tested and verified—about the universe to draw further inferences and conclusions about the universe, including its origins. And at every stage in the development of this scientific theory (as in all scientific theories), these inferences and conclusions have to be, and are, subjected to further testing in reality before they can be raised to the level of a verified theory and gain general acceptance. The Big Bang theory is a work in progress, but it is not idle speculation: the very questions it poses and explores, the research it stimulates, and the concrete facts it has so far helped to uncover are based on previously accumulated scientific evidence about reality. And this once again marks a profound difference between the scientific method and "religious faith"—since the latter, by definition, does not draw its conclusions, or make its assertions, based on a scientific investigation of and summation of actual reality and cannot, by definition, be tested by scientific methods. In contrast to the biblical creation story of the origin of the universe, the fact is that the Big Bang theory is being continually subjected to further scientific "probing" and analysis. Even though it is true that no human being was present at the time that scientists have calculated that the Big Bang occurred (about 15 billion years ago) the development of new technology—including more powerful telescopes and related instruments, which can be sent into space to record things—has enabled scientists to learn much more about what happened at a time which was shortly after the time when the Big Bang is believed to have occurred, at a point in space far from where our earth now exists. ("Shortly" in this context means something like a billion years, which is not that great a time span in the context of the universe and its development. The reason that scientists are able, in this way, to "see far into the past" in the universe's development has to do with the relation between time and space. Since things that are observed by human beings—directly or with the aid of telescopes and similar instruments—are "transmitted" to us through the medium of light, and at the speed of light, things that occurred long ago but also a long distance from the observer take a long time to reach the observer, even though the speed of light is very fast compared to other everyday movements we are familiar with. For example, if you are in a thunderstorm, you will see a lightning bolt before you hear the thunder connected with it, even though the two actually are part of one phenomenon and actually occurred at the same time. The reason you see the lightning first is that lightning travels at the speed of light, which is much faster than the speed of sound which brings the noise of the thunder.)

What scientists have learned through this "looking back in time," getting ever closer to the time when the Big Bang is believed to have occurred, has tended to substantiate (to back up and further confirm) the Big Bang theory, even while it has raised new questions relating to all this. But once more the crucial fact here, in relation to what is raised by the writer of this letter—and, more importantly, in relation to fundamental questions concerning what is truth and how human beings arrive at knowledge of the truth, and test that knowledge—is that in no way does this increasing knowledge relating to the origins of the known universe have anything to do with the application of religious principles or "leaps of faith." In fact, once again this increasing knowledge—arrived at through scientific methods and logical leaps from perceptual to rational knowledge that are consistent with and part of the scientific method—is in contradiction to,and refutes the biblically based myth of creation, further providing evidence that it is exactly that: a myth, invented several thousand years ago, by human beings who lacked knowledge of how the universe (as we know it), the earth, and the living things on the earth (including human beings) actually came into being.


Knowing about actual reality—and continually learning more about it—is vitally important for humanity and its future; it is vitally important not only for people in the sciences and the academic world but for the brutally oppressed and exploited people of the earth, who must and can be the backbone and driving force of a revolution to throw off and put an end to all forms of exploitation and oppression, throughout the globe—to be the emancipators not only of themselves but ultimately of all humanity. Confronting reality as it actually is—and as it is changing and developing—and understanding the underlying and driving forces in this, is crucial in order to play a decisive and leading role in bringing about this revolution and ushering in a whole new era in human history, which will shatter and remove forever not only the material chains—the economic, social and political shackles of exploitation and oppression—that enslave people in today's world but also the mental chains, the ways of thinking and the culture, that correspond to and reinforce those material chains. In the "Communist Manifesto," Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, who founded the communist movement over 150 years ago, declared that the communist revolution, and its emancipating principles, methods, and aims, involves a "radical rupture" not only with the traditional property relations that enslave people, in one form or another, but also a radical rupture with all traditional ideas that reflect and reinforce those traditional property relations.

The struggle in the realm of epistemology —the theory of knowledge and how it is acquired by people, the theory of what is true and how people come to know the truth—is a crucial arena in the overall battle for the emancipation of the oppressed and exploited majority of humanity, and ultimately of humanity as a whole. Grasping the defining characteristics and the importance of the scientific method—and, most of all, the most consistent, systematic and comprehensive scientific approach to reality, the communist world outlook and method, which can embrace without replacing or suffocating the many fields of human knowledge and endeavor and can give expression to the richest process of learning about reality and transforming it in the interests of humanity—is of vital importance for this emancipatory struggle. Understanding the profound difference between the attempt to impose "faith-based" notions on reality and, in opposition to that, pursuing a scientific understanding of reality, including of religion and its origins and effects—understanding the radical difference between "leaps of faith" and the ongoing acquisition of knowledge through continual leaps from perceptual knowledge to rational knowledge—this is a crucial part of carrying forward the struggle to achieve the two radical ruptures that mark the communist revolution as the leap to a whole new, liberating era in human history.


1.The quote from the letter is cited in Part 1 of this series.

[Return to article]

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Tribunal Indicts Bush

Jan. 20-22: International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration

Revolution #032, January 29, 2006, posted at

Hundreds of people came together in New York City on the weekend of January 20-22 for a historic tribunal indicting the Bush administration for crimes against humanity. This extraordinary event opened Friday evening at the Riverside Church, where Harry Belafonte gave a riveting speech that brought the audience to their feet.

Among the witnesses and experts giving testimony about Bush's crimes were Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, former head of the Abu Ghraib prison; Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan; Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector; Alan Berkman, physician and professor of public health at Columbia University, and Larry McBride, who was left to drown in a New Orleans prison when Katrina struck. The participation of people like this underscored the far-reaching significance and impact of the Bush Crimes Tribunal.

A week earlier, a delegation from the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration delivered a set of indictments at the White House gates. The International Commission has brought five indictments against the Bush regime:

  1. Wars of Aggression
  2. Torture and Indefinite Detention
  3. Destruction of the Global Environment
  4. Attacks on Global Public Health
  5. Hurricane Katrina

The first session of the Tribunal, in October 2005, heard searing testimony on each of these indictments--and the second and concluding session on Jan. 20-22 continued this crucial work. The presentation of the verdicts will take place in Washington, DC on February 2.

As this session of the Tribunal began, Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights sharply laid out the aims of the Tribunal, and the urgency of the times: "We are putting the Bush administration on trial. We investigate in order to expose. We document in order to indict. We arouse consciousness in order to create mass resistance. We want this trial to be a step in the building of mass resistance to war, to torture, to the destruction of our earth and its people. It's a serious moment. Our country and our world are tipping--tipping toward permanent war, the end of human rights, and the impoverishment and death of millions. We still have a chance, an opportunity to stop this slide into chaos. But it is up to us. We must not sit with our arms folded. We must be as radical as the reality we are facing. The witnesses you will hear over the next few days are the truth-tellers--the witnesses to the carnage this country and this administration has wrought. This truth challenges us all to act."

In this issue, Revolution newspaper is presenting brief excerpts from several of the Tribunal witnesses. We will have further reportage and interviews from the Tribunal in future issues.

For complete information on the sessions of the Tribunal and the judges and participants, as well as updates on the work of the Bush Crimes Commission, go online to

Dr. Alan Berkman, physician and professor of public health at Columbia University:

It's actually almost exactly the 25th anniversary since AIDS was first recognized in Los Angeles in 1981. Since that time, more than 20 million people have died as a result of AIDS. There are currently believed to be about 41 million people infected and alive at this point, with HIV. Over three million people died last year of AIDS. That means that every day, 9,000 people die of AIDS. Most of those deaths are preventable, are treatable, can at least be postponed, if not cured. Two thousand of those people every day are children under the age of 15...

I will maintain that the Bush administration's economic policies, as administered both directly through bilateral programs but also through the IMF and World Trade Organization, have heightened global inequality, that global inequality drives health disparity. And then its ideologically driven prevention agenda has in fact accounted for millions of deaths in the five years since he took power. That when I talk about the ideologically driven prevention agenda, you may have heard that the core of that agenda is to say that people should be abstinent until marriage, after marriage they should be faithful to their partners, and that condoms should be reserved for prostitutes. And they impose this on other countries through the incredible power that they have and wealth that they supply. This is particularly dangerous, obviously, for women in many places, who may have little or no control over their own bodies and reproductive lives. In fact, in many countries in Africa, marriage is one of the greatest risk factors for HIV acquisition. In addition, is the policy that persisted through many U.S. administrations, refusing to fund needle exchange programs for those people who have injection-drug-using habits, which is known to prevent the spread of HIV--which is being used by countries around the world. The United States has taken, under the Bush administration, to exporting that policy, to try to reverse the policy of the United Nations and of other countries, who in fact have to date supported needle exchange programs and harm reduction programs. And again, we're talking about millions of people who've been exposed to HIV through contaminated needles.

Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan:

Sixty percent of the population of Uzbekistan are, in effect, slaves in the cotton industry, something that should resonate in this country and this building. They can't leave the state cotton farms. Cotton workers are paid just under two dollars a month, seven cents a working day, for which they work twelve-hour days in the cotton fields, six days a week. And the profits from this industry, which is entirely state-owned and which is only traded by the state trading company, sold on the international market, and the profits go to the president, his family, and their regime...

There's no freedom in that country. There's no freedom of assembly. There's no freedom of religion. There's no freedom of speech. There's absolutely no free media. There's no opposition allowed. One in eight people are employed by the police or secret police, formally employed by the secret police to keep an eye on their neighbors. A high proportion of arrestees are terrorized or coerced into working as informers. And it's a country that practices torture on an industrial scale. In November 2002, a United Nations investigation into torture in Uzbekistan concluded that torture was widespread and systemic in the country. Thousands of people are tortured in Uzbekistan every year. By this, I mean rape, rape with objects like broken bottles. I mean beatings. I mean smashing of limbs... These people were tortured to say that they, and any other Uzbek who showed any sign of dissent or disagreement with their regime, were members of al Qaeda, and allied with Osama bin Laden. That came up again and again and again, in this intelligence. And we could tell in the British Embassy that this was simply nonsense. It was accepted by the CIA. But it was untrue...

To get at the oil and gas, the decision was made to go with the torture. To go with Karamov [the dictator of Uzbekistan]. And to justify that, they needed false intelligence from those torture chambers. The false intelligence gave a picture of the war on terror as a reason for their involvement. Whereas the real reason for involvement is on the screen behind me [a letter from Enron to George W. Bush]. It was the hard-headed pursuit of commercial interests, from big business close to the president.

If we're supporting a regime like that, is it any wonder some Muslims come to hate us? No, it's no wonder at all. And my charge before this commission is not only that the CIA knowingly and openly uses information got from torture, this administration has introduced a dehumanization of our Muslim brothers and sisters--which means that anything done to them doesn't count. And that is a step on the road to the ultimate evil. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is I believe where we are.

Daphne Wysham, Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies, Sustainable Energy & Economy Network:

I wanted to bring to your atttention the censorship of climate science, because it is in my mind some of the most damning evidence we have today that the Bush White House is deliberately targeting information policymakers have on climate change in an effort to protect some of the most powerful industries on the planet, namely the oil, gas, and coal industries -- while harming some of the poorest people globally due to climate change. This is what we know. Until June 2005, the former oil industry lawyer and lobbyist from the American Petroleum Institute by the name of Phillip Cooney, was chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. On June 8, 2005, The New York Times, through whistle-blower Rick Pilz, exposed Cooney as the primary censor of climate change policy documents at the highest levels of government. Two days later, Cooney resigned. In three more days, he was back in the saddle at ExxonMobil's lobbying firm. The government accountablity project which represented Pilz summarizes that Cooney's secret mission was to censor and rewrite climate science reports about what the federal government has learned on climate change. Unsurprisingly, his edits of hundreds of pages of reports to Congress routinely downplayed human impacts on global warming and the implications of climate change for society, while exaggerating uncertainty and suggesting that much of the science was controversial. Rick Pilz was a senior official in the Climate Change Science Program. He resigned because, in a nutshell, Bush political appointees had turned the White House scientific base for environmental advocacy into a propaganda machine for the oil industry, with taxpayers footing the bill. The cornerstone of the political disinformation campaign under Bush was embedded in the strategy of replacing career professional government scientists with political appointees. Virtually everything had to be cleared through Cooney. Here are some of their abuses of power. Everything published by the government, including outside research by internationally recognized experts, had to be read, approved, and adopted by the political staff. The administration cancelled normal professional standards of "lead author independence" which means the scientists who researched and wrote the study no longer had the right to approve or even see changes that were made by political appointees or lobbyists for the oil industry, before publication of their research. Cooney and his staff's edits were pervasive with 100 to 450 changes per report, and shameless. Among the topics the government doesn't want you to know about are the national and regional impacts from climate changes, consequences like glacial melting and floods. Actual problem solving was set back at least 10 years.

Harry Belafonte:

It is important when all the instruments of government collapse, we go in the final hour, to the most important line of battle: the people themselves. The people of this nation, I think, and I know it, are awake, and are being more awakened every day. They are hearing, and sensing, the danger that sits on the horizon. Looking at the international oppressions that we are a part of, looking at how we have violated international humanity and law, one day this tribunal I hope, will reach out, and in its investigation look at the oppression and illegal experiences people in this nation are experiencing themselves.

On 9/11, we were all stunned by the tragic events that took place when the Twin Towers collapsed, and this terrorism was put upon our people... And we said they were terrorists, and we should hunt them down and bring them to justice. Tell me where for you does the line blur, when a nation as powerful as this, the most powerful in the history of human existence, and those who have dubiously come to power and who are reigning over the world and this nation, when they lie and mislead the citizens of this country, when they put before us fear and then govern by terrorism -- where does the line blur for you, when our sons and daughters are sent to die in foreign battlefields, each day we claim the lives of tens and thousands of innocent men, women, and children, in other places? Where for you does terrorism end and where does it begin, and who are the terrorists? ( applause)

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, former commander at Abu Ghraib prison:

Q: What did [the] photographs that you saw for the first time on January 23 depict?

JK: The first one I saw was the pile of naked detainees, stacked together, and all you could see was their butts, excuse me for saying this, but all you could see was their butts and their balls, stacked on top of each other. And the smiling faces of two [MPs], behind them. Cigarettes dangling out of their mouths. That was the first one. If they meant that for shock value, they achieved that. Because I could not believe what I was looking at. Most of these photographs have been published with the exception of one, so I'm not speaking of anything you haven't seen. One was a long angle shot of a cell block where there was a man putting naked detainees in a configuration. I asked what about everyone else in the photograph, because they’re certainly not all MPs? And the commander of the CID [Criminal Investigation Division] said to me, you’re right, Ma'am. They’re military intelligence soldiers, there’s a medic in there, and civilians. I said, What are the translators doing in the cell block? Because they were not allowed. And he said, Oh, they’re not translators, Ma'am. Those are contract interrogators...

I asked some generic questions: I heard some reference to photographs. Do you know anything about photographs? No. Nothing about photographs. I did go to Cellblock 1A. I spoke to the sergeant there and he said, Ma'am, I don’t know. I don’t work here, but they told me to come over here because I worked here before. I said: Where are your logs, let me see if I can try to put this together? And he said, We don’t have any logs, they took everything, so we started a new one. And I said, any files, memorandums? And he said, The only memorandum is the one that's posted out here--it was posted on a pole, in the cellblock. Right outside this little admin office that they were using.

Q: What did that memorandum say?

JK The memorandum said that it was an approval of harsher interrogation techniques.

Q: And who had signed that memorandum?

JK:That memorandum was signed by the Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld.

Q: And what kinds of techniques were authorized in that memorandum, signed by Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense.

JK: It was one page, and he authorized sleep deprivation, stress positions, meal disruption--serving their meals late, not serving a meal. Leaving the lights on all night while playing loud music. Issuing insults or criticism of their religion, their culture, their beliefs.

Q: And was there a note in his handwriting on the side?

JK: Yes, in the margin on the lefthand side.

Q: And what did that say?

JK: It said, "Make sure this happens!!" With two exclamation points. And it was written alongside of the list of the interrogation techniques.

Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector:

Hussein Kamel, son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, was former director of the Military Industrial Commission during the mid to late 1980s. As such he was the man responsible for the development and implementation of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. He was a gentleman who was in possession of the totality of knowledge necessary to make one capable of speaking authoritatively on Iraq weapons of mass destruction programs. He defected in August 1995. I need to point out that I led the investigation into Hussein Kamel's defection. Therefore I am singularly qualified to talk about not only his defection but also the results of his defection...

Dick Cheney said because of Hussein Kamel's defection the United Nations, indeed the United States, received evidence that Iraq was actively reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. This, of course, served as the foundation of the case the Bush administration was articulating to the Congress, the United States, and indeed the rest of the world--that Iraq had viable ongoing WMD capability. Dick Cheney was lying. Dick Cheney knew that he was lying. And this is one of the harshest indictments one can make against a government official of the United States of America. This is a civil crime, not necessarily a war crime. To lie in the conduct of official duties is a felony that I think Dick Cheney and others should be held accountable to. But it is evidence that the Bush administration willfully exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq's WMDs, thereby negating any case they might make about the existence of a clear and present threat that warranted pre-emptive attack.

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Global Nightmare, Imperialist System

Revolution #032, January 29, 2006, posted at

This is the text-only from a photo spread in Revolution. Get a copy of this issue of the newspaper to see the powerful images in this article.

  • Torture in Abu Ghraib
  • Devastation and death in Iraq
  • Destruction of the planet
  • A growing AIDS pandemic
  • Women denied the right to abortion
  • Thousands left to die and suffer in New Orleans
  • Crimes of the Bush Regime
  • Crimes of the imperialist system


Bush is not the first U.S. president to launch an imperialist war or occupy another country in the name of democracy, or justify it with one lie after another. But in an effort to expand and fortify U.S. imperialism in the face of new challenges--Bush's new post-9/11 "doctrine" takes U.S. invasion, occupation, unjust arrest and detention, and torture to whole new levels.


The Bush Regime’s murderous racism in the face of Hurricane Katrina is a continuation of a whole legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and "separate but UNequal"--a whole history of the oppression of African Americans as a people. People with high links in the Bush administration – including William Bennett and even Bush's mother – made comments in the wake of Katrina that were openly racist and in Bennett's case, had a genocidal edge.


The courts, including the Supreme Court, are being packed with fascist judges who find legal justification for war and torture. Rightwing Christians who don’t believe in the separation of church and state are a powerful force in government policy from the White House on down. There are relentless efforts to outlaw abortion, demonize gay people and deny them equal rights. The Bush administration celebrates ignorance--suppressing scientific findings on global warming, stopping stem cell research, promoting creationist "intelligent design" and denying the science of evolution.


Bush’s horror show of crimes against the people is a product of this system.

The "normal workings" of imperialism are a nightmare for the majority of people on this planet: murderous wars, corrupt governments, brutal armies and police, poverty, exploitation, sweatshops and child labor, starvation, and the denial of the most basic means to survive.

A handful of highly developed capitalist countries violently subordinate whole peoples and nations to the relentless drive for profit--oppressing millions and fighting among themselves for superiority and domination. Bush is a creature from this lagoon.


The Bush Regime is an intense concentration of the system--extremely vicious and dangerous. The whole direction Bush is taking the future of the planet must be repudiated, fought, and STOPPED!


To fundamentally uproot the causes of these crimes against humanity it will take proletarian revolution. It will take socialism leading to a communist world to liberate the planet and get rid of class society and all exploitation and oppression.

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Socialism Is Much Better Than Capitalism and Communism Will Be a Far Better World
Part 8: Mao's Advance — Breaking with the Soviet Model

Revolution #032, January 29, 2006, posted at

Editor's note: Revolution is serializing the speech "Socialism Is Much Better Than Capitalism, and Communism Will Be A Far Better World" by Raymond Lotta.

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Communism and Socialism
Part 3: The Bolsheviks Lead a Revolution That Shakes the World
Part 4: The Soviet Experiment: The Social Revolution Ushered in by Proletarian Power
Part 5: The Soviet Experiment: Building the World's First Socialist Economy
Part 6: The Soviet Experiment: World War 2 and Its Aftermath
Part 7: Mao's Breakthrough — The Revolution Comes to Power

Lotta is on a national speaking tour as part of the Set the Record Straight project. Information on upcoming speaking dates and related materials are available at www.

Mao Zedong aimed to create a socialist economy based on social cooperation and social ownership:

  • An economy that would meet the material and social needs of the people.
  • An economy that would solve China's historic problem of endemic hunger, malnutrition, and recurrent famine.
  • An economy that would foster mutually supportive relations between industry and agriculture, instead of soaking resources from the countryside.
  • An economy that would contribute to reducing and ultimately overcoming the gaps between city and countryside, and regional inequalities.
  • An economy that relied on and promoted the collective understanding and the collective mastery of the masses over the processes of production.
  • An economy that could stand up to imperialist attack.

Such an economy would not--and could not--be dependent on imperialism for loans or aid, or answer to the demands of the capitalist world market.

The Maoist revolution set out to develop an educational system that would serve the broad needs of the population and contribute to revolutionizing society. It set out to develop a new culture and to combat the old ways of thinking.

All this was led by communist ideology, by the goal of reaching communism: a society without classes and any form of oppression.

A new state power based on the worker-peasant alliance made it possible to move decisively to change the terrible conditions that had existed.

The scourge of opium addiction was wiped out through mass treatment and education. Mass campaigns were launched to clean up the cities. Cholera and other epidemic diseases were eliminated or brought under control. New factories and housing for workers went up. Hospitals and medical schools were constructed. By 1965, China had trained 200,000 regular doctors.

A new countrywide educational system was created. Mass literacy campaigns were launched--and by the end of the 1950s most peasants had acquired a basic reading knowledge.

Breaking with the Soviet Model

These were incredible achievements. But there was struggle within the Communist Party over the path forward. One of the biggest issues was how to develop and modernize the economy.

One section of leaders of the Communist Party advocated a program of rapid industrialization. Their approach was to concentrate resources on big and modern factories and advanced technology. They wanted to build up the urban areas. Development, in their eyes, would then trickle down to the countryside. These leaders said that you needed a big centralized planning apparatus in order to run the economy and that you needed to train vast armies of experts and specialists to staff the new economy and administrative organs. They argued that the way to motivate people and the staff of enterprises was to rely on wide wage differentials and financial incentives.

This program reflected the influence of the Soviet Union, which was very strong in China in the 1950s. But Mao saw problems with this model--both as it was practiced in the Soviet Union and as it was being applied in China in the 1950s. This path of development elevated technique and expertise over the conscious initiative and activism of the masses. He rejected the model of subordinating agriculture to serve urban-based industrialization. And if China was going to be able to withstand imperialist attack and invasion, it had to decentralize industry and not concentrate development in the vulnerable cities and coastal areas.

Mao was striving to forge a different road of economic and social development. Another way of putting this is that after countrywide victory in 1949, Mao was struggling against two legacies. First and foremost, he was struggling against the legacy and continuing pressure and influence of capitalism and Western imperialism. Second, he was breaking with the Soviet developmental legacy.

Part 9: The Great Leap Forward
"The Great Leap is often vilified as an irrational utopian experiment. But it made enormous economic and political sense…from the standpoint of liberating people and productive capabilities."

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Ceasefire Ends

People's Liberation Army Launches Offensive Throughout Nepal

Revolution #032, January 29, 2006, posted at

On January 2, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) announced the end of a four-month-long unilateral ceasefire. That same day guerrilla military actions by the People's Liberation Army took place throughout the country, including bomb explosions in several cities and attacks on Royal Army vehicles. This was followed by major coordinated armed battles in many parts of Nepal, including near Kathmandu at key entry points into the capital city.

This was the beginning of an offensive captured in the slogan "Stand on the backbone and hit the head" – where the state’s "backbone" is represented by the major highways and suburbs and "hitting on the head" means striking at the strategic weak link of the enemy in the capital and headquarters.

Describing one major clash, the World to Win News Service reported: "In the two-day battle at Chitrya Bhanjayang, the Royal Army lost 22 soldiers, including an officer, and the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) lost nine fighters. In the Dhangarhi attack, the PLA engaged the Royal Army at several different locations in the area while launching a centralized raid on the district headquarters. The revolutionaries destroyed the offices of the Chief District Officer, the district jail, and several other government facilities."

A year ago, King Gyanendra dissolved the parliament, banned political activity, arrested hundreds of political opponents, and instituted widespread censorship. Now, on February 8, he is planning to stage a farce of municipal elections to cover up his autocracy. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has said it will disrupt the elections and the anti-monarchy coalition of seven parliamentary parties is boycotting the voting.

The parliamentary parties announced a mass protest for Friday, January 20. In an attempt to crush all opposition the government instituted a night curfew in Kathmandu on January 17. Then the day before the planned demonstration, over 100 political leaders and human rights activists were arrested, many in early morning raids. A top government official said they had orders to arrest 200 people and that 22 security teams had been mobilized. A daytime 8 a.m.-6 p.m. curfew was announced for Friday and government employees were told to get to their offices early.

Starting Monday, January 16, all political demonstrations have been banned and public buses are prohibited from carrying protesters into Kathmandu. The day before the planned Friday demonstration, Internet services and both land line and mobile phone services were severed.

Reporters Without Borders has voiced outrage over Gyanendra’s persecution of the media and reports that the government of Nepal is responsible for half the number of reported acts of state censorship in the world in 2005. According to RWB, at least 425 journalists were arrested, attacked, or threatened last year in Nepal. And Human Rights Organization Nepal (HURON) reports that 599 people have been disappeared by Gyanendra's regime.

Over the January 21-22 weekend, people defied the ban on demonstrations in Kathmandu. Protestors hurled bricks and stones at the police -- who fired tear gas into crowds, beat people and arrested hundreds. Clashes continue between the Royal Nepal Army and Maoist guerrillas, including in areas close to the capital city. On Sunday, January 22, in Western Nepal, a battle lasted for three hours after rebels attacked security personnel who were trying to clear road blockades placed by the Maoists.

Dispatches From the People’s War in Nepal by Li Onesto

(Pluto Press and Insight Press, 2005)

In 1999, Li Onesto traveled deep into the guerrilla zones of Nepal where a Maoist revolution has been raging since 1996. Allowed unprecedented access, she interviewed political leaders, guerrilla fighters, villagers in areas under Maoist control, and relatives of those killed by government forces. Illustrated with photographs, Dispatches provides a vivid picture of the new people’s governments and courts, the redistribution of land, new cultural and social practices, and the emergence of a new outlook among the people.

Dispatches is available from:

Pluto Press, 345 Archway Road, London N6 5AA,

University of Michigan Press, 839 Greene Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48106,

Insight Press, 4064 N. Lincoln Avenue, #264 Chicago, IL 60618, and Revolution Books stores and outlets.

Go to for photos, articles, reviews, and speaking engagements.

Contact Li Onesto at:

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Slumber Party with the Democrats!

Revolution #032, January 29, 2006, posted at

On January 31, President George W. Bush will deliver his State of the Union speech. Thousands and thousands will be in the streets that night, answering the call from World Can't Wait to demand "Bush Step Down." But not everyone agrees that the looming theocracy merits a strong response. On their national website, the Democratic Party is calling for State of the Union house parties — where people sit and watch Bush on TV, followed by Virginia Governor Tim Kaine’s response and a conference call with leading Democrats. Democratic Chairman Howard Dean will even attend at least one of the parties. These events are described by the Democrats as a "vital part of our rapid response operation." While we have yet to determine its authenticity, we are reprinting below an official looking invitation that showed up in our mailbox.

Incensed over the revelation that for years Bush was engaged in illegal spying?
Sickened by the death toll from a war and occupation built on lies?
Does the thought of a looming theocracy send a chill down your spine?

Well, if heading out into the streets when Bush delivers his State of the Union speech and protesting like your life depended on it just isn't your cup of tea, then we've got just what you need!

Slumber Party with the Democrats!


Hi, I'm Howard Dean, Democratic Party Chairman, taking a break from supporting the U.S. war effort to personally invite you to attend a State of the Union house party and become a vital part of our "Rapid Response Operation."

Stay upbeat! Watch a video! Tell Bush jokes! Listen attentively to leading Democrats who will lull you to restful sleep!

I’m Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi from California, I suspected government spying years ago but kept my mouth shut!

I'm Harry Reid, Senator for Nevada, I fold like a cheap suit every time there's a chance to stand up to Bush!

I'm Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia, I support a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

As the big party day draws near, you will receive the latest information and research about the president's speech so you and your guests are prepared to respond immediately. You can mark each new presidential lie on a bingo card and win a prize! Toss marshmallows at the TV! Listen attentively to more leading Democrats who will lull you to even more restful sleep!

The Democratic Party understands that many of you might be concerned that a simple slumber party may not be enough to deter Bush. Let us allay those fears. With our strategy of nationwide house parties on January 31, we can meet Bush's lies with even more powerful complaints. Respond to his ongoing crimes with inventive party games. And counter each and every step to institute a bible-based police state by planning to have an even more super party next year!

Remember. Why join with thousands of others demanding that Bush Step Down and participate in messy, disruptive, activities that could even possibly upset the status quo – when you have the incredible opportunity to simply do nothing in the quiet comfort and privacy of your own home! We know which option we like. How about you?

This invitation is brought to you by the DEMOCRATIC PARTY:
Rolling Over and Playing Dead Never Felt Better!

Send us your comments.


Jan. 16 — Chicago Steppenwolf Theatre

When in the Course of Human Events: Creative Disobedience and Why the World Can't Wait

Revolution #032, January 29, 2006, posted at

January 16, a provocative evening of theater was held at the Chicago Steppenwolf Theatre. The benefit for World Can't Wait was titled: "When in the Course of Human Events: Creative Disobedience and Why the World Can't Wait." All 300 seats were filled and another 200 people had to be turned away. A reading of these words from playwright Tony Kushner set the tone for the evening: "...I choose to believe I'm a part of the beginning of something. I do not believe we have no ability to turn back this terror."

Powerful slides introduced the different performances. Photos of death and destruction in Iraq, U.S. soldiers, Afghanistan, people stranded in New Orleans, anti-war marches. The room erupted in applause with the picture of Cindy Sheehan.

Among the highlights of the evening: Mike Nussbaum reading Mark Twain on why he is an anti-imperialist. Harold Pinter's play on the mindset of US torturers. A scene from a Naomi Wallace's play about an Iraqi soldier confronting the US war machine. A reading of George Bernard Shaw's "Man and Superman." Chuck Smith, playwright and director at the Goodman Theater, reading William Faulkner about the role of artists in historic times. Mary Ann Thebus reading former US diplomat Ann Wright’s description of how she disrupted Condoleezza Rice's appearance before the Senate. A reading of the testimony of Houston bus driver Abigail Bayer about how the military prevented her and other drivers from rescuing victims of Hurricane Katrina. And Studs Terkel who ended the program and brought people to their feet with a powerful reading of the poem "Gone Away Blues" by Thomas McGrath.

"When in the Course of Human Events" was arranged and directed by Anna Shapiro and produced by Martha Lavey, artistic director of Steppenwolf, Sheldon Patinkin, and Joann Shapiro.

Anna Shapiro told Revolution, "I decided to do this because the state of the world concerns me. I am deeply troubled by the policies of the current administration and I actually would like to see them thrown out of there..." Anish Jethmalani, the actor who played an Iraqi soldier in the performance from Naomi Wallace's play "The Retreating World," said, "We were trying to raise questions, motivate people to think, and mobilize them to make a choice." And actor Paul Adelstein, who performed in a scene from Harold Pinter's play, "The New World Order" told Revolution: "The world isn't waiting. It's becoming more polarized, more dangerous, more uninhabitable to its residents. The damage being done by the current administration is going to be felt for a long, long time. The quicker we are to stand up and be heard the better--even if it's just to let the world know that this administration does NOT speak/act on behalf of all the citizens of this country."

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Religious Voice Against Christian Fascism

Reflections on Pacific School of Religion's Response to the Religious Right

Revolution #032, January 29, 2006, posted at

As part of the analysis and exposure of the growing and powerful Christian fascist movement in this country, Revolution is highlighting the voices of religious thinkers and writers as well as clergy people who are sounding the alarm on this danger. The views expressed by these religious people are, of course, their own, and they are not responsible for the views expressed elsewhere in Revolution and on our website.

The following is the text of a talk given by Dr. Hubert Locke at the Pacific School of Religion (PSR) in Berkeley on May 17, 2005. Dr. Locke is a former trustee and acting president of PSR and former dean of the Daniel J. Evans Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington. The talk is reprinted here with the permission of Dr. Locke.

I'm always delighted by the opportunity to come and visit my dear friends at PSR but I'm a bit uneasy about what I have been asked to do at the outset of this important meeting. A meditation, by definition, is expected to be thoughtful and reflective; it should be a calm and dispassionate discourse that helps set the mood and atmosphere for whatever is to follow. I hope what follows is thoughtful but I have to forewarn you that it is neither calm nor dispassionate, for I am persuaded we face in our country a movement that is trying its best to hijack this nation in the name of a set of ideals and values it claims to be Christian but which, on examination, are the very antithesis of the Gospel that our Lord preached and by which we, as Jesus' disciples, are challenged to live our lives in the world. If this movement is successful--if it is not stopped in its tracks--it will transform the United States into a political and cultural nightmare that not only turns its back on two hundred years of American history, it will be also one that leaves this nation unrecognizable from all that we have been and all that we might aspire to be as a democratic society.

For me at least, this is the only way to interpret the current campaign by the religious right--an assault on the nation's courts and its judges, an assault on the Constitutional principle of the separation of church and state, an attack on science and its place in the modern world, and an assault on the ideas of tolerance and pluralism in American life. Only a year ago, we thought we were confronting a movement fixated on the issues of abortion and homosexuality as litmus tests of whether one subscribed to moral values in our national life. These turn out to be only the hot-button topics that are used to rally the troops; what is at stake and where the battlelines are now being drawn today are over a wider set of issues and processes far more intrinsic to the way in which this nation conducts its business and makes its policy decisions. The not-so-subtle assault on the principle of the separation of church and state, for example, is an attempt to impose a notion of theocratic rule on this country that died with the Puritan colonists. The attack on the nation's judiciary that takes the form of a crude attempt to pack the courts with jurists who support the right-wing agenda seeks to wipe out any legal opposition to the decrees of state legislatures and a Congress that the religious right believes it has firmly under its sway. And when the president of the National Religious Broadcasters declares "Today, the calls for diversity and multiculturalism are nothing more than thinly-veiled attacks on anyone willing, desirous, or compelled to proclaim Christian truths," his is a thinly-veiled cry to return to a set of ideals and values that this nation demolished when the South lost the Civil War.

The current issue of Harper's magazine describes on its cover what it terms "The Christian Right's War on America." That may be hyperbolic for some but to the extent that it serves as a wake-up call to the rest of the Christian community, I find it wholly appropriate. Let me risk what some might find even greater exaggeration by a reference--not a comparison, mind you, but a reference--to what, for me, has always been the classic modern clash between Christianity and the modern state.

In the aftermath of World War I, the people of three European nations--Italy, Germany and Spain--turned to fascism as a political creed and proceeded to catapult into power governments which promoted fascistic ideals--that peculiar set of notions which manage to combine the interests of unfettered capitalism with excessive nationalism and a totalitarian view of the role of the state that can enforce its will on the populace. In all three countries but particularly in Germany which, unlike Italy and Spain, had more than a single religious tradition among its populace, the church found itself riven by two, diametrically opposed views. One view held that it was the duty of the church to support and uphold the policies of the state which, in turn, would be expected to advance the principles and beliefs of the church; the other that insisted the church owes its allegiance to a different and higher power--one that sits in judgment on the state and on any government that would presume to be a political manifestation of the Divine will.

Because of the cataclysmic devastation that the fascist government of Germany wrought on the world, our attention has tended--and rightly so--to focus on the twelve-year period that it was in power. During that period, James Luther Adams--one of the revered theologians of my generation who taught at Chicago and Harvard--went to Germany as was then the tradition among all newly-minted PhDs where he pursued post-doctoral studies. Adams saw the clash of the church with German fascism first-hand. A quarter-century ago, as he watched the emergence of the religious right in this country as a political force dedicated to "taking back the nation for God," Adams said to his students that they would find themselves having to fight "the Christian fascists" in this nation. He warned that the American fascists would not come wearing swastikas and brown shirts. The American variety, he said, would come carrying crosses and chanting the Pledge of Allegiance.

We should make no mistake about what is at stake in this battle with the religious right. It is not happenstance that it is a movement that draws its strength and finds its support principally in the so-called heartland of the nation and especially in its southern precincts. This is the portion of the United States that has never been comfortable with post-WWII America. The brief period of normalcy after the war was followed within a decade by a pent-up and long overdue racial revolution that overturned centuries of culture and tradition, especially in the South. The disillusionment, two decades later, with an unpopular war in southeast Asia shook the foundations of traditional/conventional patriotism in American life; it was followed in the next decade by a sexual revolution that upset deeply entrenched views among this portion of the American populace about the subordinate place of women in society and the non-place of gay and lesbian persons in American life. These political and social and cultural defeats have now erupted into a pitched battle to turn back the clock on the last half-century and return America to its pre-war purity. It is not without significance that teaching creationism in the schools, for example, is such a prominent part of the religious right agenda. That was a battle the right lost in the mid-1920s but it is not one that the right ever acknowledged losing--just as some die-hards have never acknowledged losing the Civil War. Consequently, the restoration the religious right seeks is one that would recapture a way of life that disappeared in this nation a half-century ago.

Were all this only a battle for the hearts and minds of the American people, we could wade into the conflict with a great deal less concern, confident that good sense and human decency would ultimately triumph over ignorance and bigotry. But this is a battle for power--it's about seizing the reins of government, manipulating the courts and judicial decisions, controlling the media, and making incursions into every possible corner of our private lives and relationships, so that what the religious right perceives as the will of God will reign in America.

Our discussion this afternoon and evening, as I understand it, is to determine how this school responds to this situation. It is a discussion that is, thank God, beginning to occur across the country but it is one which has a special compelling urgency for this school. There are at least two reasons for that urgency. In Germany, when the National Socialists came to power and the noise of fascism began to echo throughout the country, the response of the churches came mainly from the pulpits. Here and there, individual theologians spoke out, offering guidance to church councils and synods but by and large the theological faculties were silent, as were the voices of the professoriate in general. That's the first reason why it is important that the seminary be heard early and clearly in this struggle. What is needed is clear theological reflection, theological argumentation, theological challenges to what I believe are the false doctrines, in some instances, and the rank heresies, in others, of the religious right. Those reflections, arguments, and challenges can come best from the theological faculties who can help preachers, parsons and the laity in the mainline Christian community gird themselves for the struggle before us.

Second, this school has staked out for itself a special place in the effort to aid and encourage a religious understanding and embracement of gay and lesbian members in our society. It is, to my knowledge, the only theological institution that has taken up this special challenge and task. The importance of that task has taken on an heightened significance in this larger struggle that I've just tried to describe, and James Luther Adams offers us a poignant reminder of why this is so. Let me cite the last paragraphs of the Harper's article:

Adams had watched American intellectuals and industrialists flirt with fascism in the 1930s. Mussolini's "Corporatism," which created an unchecked industrial and business aristocracy, had appealed to many at the time as an effective counterweight to the New Deal. In 1934, Fortune magazine lavished praise on the Italian dictator for his defanging of labor unions and his empowerment of industrialists at the expense of workers. Then as now, Adams said, too many liberals failed to understand the power and allure of evil, and when the radical Christians came, these people would undoubtedly play by the old, polite rules of democracy long after those in power had begun to dismantle the democratic state. Adams had watched German academics fall silent or conform. He knew how desperately people want to believe the comfortable lies told by totalitarian movements, how easily those lies lull moderates into passivity.

Adams told us to watch closely the Christian right's persecution of homosexuals and lesbians. Hitler, he reminded us, promised to restore moral values not long after he took power in 1933, then imposed a ban on all homosexual and lesbian organizations and publications. Then came raids on the places where homosexuals gathered, culminating on May 6, 1933, with the ransacking of the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin. Twelve thousand volumes from the institute's library were tossed into a public bonfire. Homosexuals and lesbians, Adams said, would be the first "deviants" singled out by the Christian right. We would be the next.

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Al Gore's Warning

Revolution #32, January 29, 2006, posted at

Speaking on Martin Luther King's birthday, at a program sponsored by groups ranging from a liberal civil liberties attorneys group to a conservative libertarian group, former vice president (and the guy from whom Bush stole the 2000 election) Al Gore issued some very sobering warnings about where this country is headed. Those warnings were met with smug arrogance by the regime, and silence by the Democrats, even while Gore's speech set off a stir broadly in society, with blogs and break-rooms buzzing over what Gore let out of the bag.

Bush claims that he's only spying on people who have gotten phone calls from al-Qaida. Gore - who knows what he's talking about - said that the government "is eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens." And that the executive branch (the White House) "has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress to prevent such abuses."

And Gore referred to the fact that "for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period. The FBI privately called King the 'most dangerous and effective negro (sic) leader in the country' and vowed to 'take him off his pedestal'. The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide. This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder."

"The Cycle May Not Repeat Itself"

Gore laid out, in rather stark terms, a list of draconian moves by the Bush Regime, including:

"The President claims that he can imprison American citizens indefinitely for the rest of their lives without an arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, and without informing their families that they have been imprisoned.

"At the same time, the Executive Branch has claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture in a pattern that has now been documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.

"Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive Branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated. In the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, investigators who documented the pattern of torture estimated that more than 90 percent of the victims were innocent of any charges."


"The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap individuals in foreign countries and deliver them for imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for torture."

After discussing events in US history like the detention of Japanese Americans in World War II, and repression against the movement against the War in Vietnam, Gore said that, "[I]n each of these cases, when the conflict and turmoil subsided, the country recovered its equilibrium and absorbed the lessons learned in a recurring cycle of excess and regret. There are reasons for concern this time around that conditions may be changing and that the cycle may not repeat itself."

Gore pointed to "The slow and steady accumulation of presidential power," combined with the fact that "we are told by the Administration that the war footing upon which he has tried to place the country is going to 'last for the rest of our lives.' " And , "[T]he advances in eavesdropping and surveillance technologies with their capacity to sweep up and analyze enormous quantities of information and to mine it for intelligence."

Gore poses a fourth reason to believe that the self-correcting mechanisms he believes normally operate may not be operating now: "This Administration has come to power in the thrall of a legal theory that aims to convince us that this excessive concentration of presidential authority is exactly what our Constitution intended."

We should listen carefully to Gore's warning: "If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?"

"Can't Touch That" and "Don't Go There"

The response of the Democrats and ruling class liberals to Gore's speech was basically "can't touch that." The New York Times, which bills itself as "the newspaper of record" normally reprints major speeches by people on Gore's level, but in this case The Times downplayed the speech and did not print a transcript.

When asked about Gore's remarks by PBS' Jim Lehrer, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said, "I have the greatest respect for Al Gore, but I won't direct my remarks about Al Gore." And when Lehrer followed up by asking if impeachment proceedings should be considered, Reid said, "I think it's way, way too early for that."

"Way, way too early" to talk about impeachment?! To quote probably more than one comment heard on the street recently, "What the hell do you have to do to get impeached around here?" Lehrer - in his role as an "impartial adviser" on intra-ruling class disputes and in preserving the credibility of the system had to ask Reid, "Well, then if the hearings aren't -- are there any alternatives to that? I mean, what do you and the Democrats, or anybody else who is opposed to what the president is doing, what are you going to do about it?"

Bush's press flak, Scott McClellan, accused Gore of hypocrisy because under the Clinton administration, McClellan said that a CIA officer being investigated for spying had his home broken into. Gore replied that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allowed for such searches at the time, and was amended to prohibit them. And, he also raised an important point - that by invoking the "they broke the law so why can't we?" argument, the Bush regime, "ironically demonstrates another reason why we must be so vigilant about their brazen disregard for the law. If unchecked, their behavior would serve as a precedent to encourage future presidents to claim these same powers, which many legal experts in both parties believe are clearly illegal."

Making the Case

In making the "hypocrisy" charge, McClellan was making the point to Gore beyond the specific claim that the Clinton/Gore administration spied on someone. The other message here was: Hey - don't forget, you are one of us. Which does put a crimp on what Gore is inclined to say, and what he can say.

Gore is, after all, still speaking from within the US imperialist ruling class. His exposure was framed early in his speech:

"The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all too real. There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.

"Where we disagree is that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government to protect Americans from terrorism. In fact, doing so makes us weaker and more vulnerable."

As this newspaper has pointed out and argued in many articles, the so-called "war on terror" is actually a war for unchallenged U.S. domination of the planet, even while it is now taking the form of conflict between the US and Islamic fundamentalist forces, and is focused on the Middle East.

Gore, for instance, calls the Vietnam war, and the war on Iraq "colossal mistakes." In fact, those wars were not mistakes, they were wrong - unjust wars driven by the essential nature of imperialism.

And, when he speaks of democracy, Gore upholds "Athens and the Roman Republic upon whose designs our founders drew heavily." Athens was a Greek slave society. The Roman Republic was a slave society as well. When the Roman Republic defeated rival Carthage (a rival city-state), they looted and then burned Carthage to the ground, even, according to legend, sowing salt into the fields so that nothing could ever be grown there. The surviving inhabitants of Carthage were sold into slavery.

This paper repeatedly prints and encourages readers to dig into three sentences from RCP Chairman Bob Avakian that cut the heart of upholding of democracy in the abstract:

"In a world marked by profound class divisions and social inequality, to talk about 'democracy'--without talking about the class nature of that democracy and which class it serves--is meaningless, and worse. So long as society is divided into classes, there can be no 'democracy for all': one class or another will rule, and it will uphold and promote that kind of democracy which serves its interests and goals. The question is: which class will rule and whether its rule, and its system of democracy, will serve the continuation, or the eventual abolition, of class divisions and the corresponding relations of exploitation, oppression and inequality."

Despite all that, the news is that speaking from within the ruling class, Gore's speech just taken on its own indicts the Bush regime for: systematic torture ("the Executive Branch has claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture ") and murder ("Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive Branch interrogators"), of innocent people ("more than 90 percent of the victims were innocent of any charges."). For spying on "huge numbers" of people in this country - spying reminiscent of the FBI's operation against Martin Luther King. And that there is good reason to think the direction things are heading is worse, and is not going to get corrected by normal workings of the system.

Gore's speech should serve as a wake up call to all about just how extreme things have gotten, and how dangerous a direction things are heading.

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The "Anti-Torture" Law That Legalizes Torture

Revolution Online, January 18, 2006, posted at

Guantánamo 4 Years Later

Juma Muhammad Al-Dossaria, a Bahraini national, was one of the first detainees to be transferred to Guatanamo Bay in January 2002. He is currently among scores of men who have been on a hunger strike protesting conditions at Guantánamo. Quoted in a January 10 2006 press release from Amnesty International, Juma Muhammad recounts new testimony of treatment he experienced in US custody. The following is when he was held in Afghanistan just prior to being shipped to Guantánamo:

I was moved to the camp clinic because of the terrible state of my health. They would take me for investigation which were mostly held at night; they would beat me severely and tell me to confess that I was a terrorist!! Once, from the excessive and severe beatings, one of my foot shackles broke. Once, they poured hot liquid on my head and the investigator stubbed his cigarette out on my foot. I said to him "why are you treating me like this?" He then took a cigarette and stubbed it out on my right wrist and said, "in the name of Christ and the Cross I am doing this".

After telling this and other testimony of torture and abuse to his lawyer a soldier approached Juma Muhammad and said "it’s best that you forget everything that’s happened to you and don’t mention it again to anyone if you want to stay safe."

The McCain/Graham-Levin Amendment Legalizes Torture

In December the infamous McCain "anti-torture" amendment was signed in to law as part of a Defense Appropriations bill. But in reality "anti-torture" amendment and the negotiations behind it - ends up legalizing torture – including setting new legal precedent. It not only makes it more possible for the US to utilize torture – it insures prisoners at Guantánamo have no habeas rights – the right to come before a court to determine the lawfulness of their imprisonment.

In the media John McCain was painted as standing up to Bush and bringing "reason" to the issue of torture. While McCain has voiced differences with the Bush Administration on torture, when the amendment was finally signed into law what was brought to light was the unity McCain ultimately has with the Bush torture program. As previously pointed out in Revolution, "McCain and Bush announced that they made a deal that gave both of them what they wanted: torture without worry about prosecution, and with deniability."

How has this "anti-torture" legislation legalized torture?

First "the administration has failed to lay out clear - and acceptable – standards of what constitutes torture and CID (cruel inhumane and degrading treatment). …Administration officials continue to refuse to state that water-boarding constitutes torture," Human Right Watch (HRW) told Revolution. Water-boarding is a torture technique which simulates an execution by drowning, and often ends up doing just that. The victim is held down with cellophane wrapped on their face, while water is poured over the mouth triggering an unavoidably and often painful gag reflex. There are other methods such as sensory deprivation, psychological torture, freezing, sleep deprivation and more, designed to drive people insane if not kill them outright.

Just after Bush announced his deal with McCain, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made it crystal clear that the administration would define torture any way it liked. "He said on CNN that torture meant the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental harm, and repeated the word 'severe' twice," cites CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

Second, again according to HRW, "The legislation containing the McCain Amendment…includes another provision – the Graham-Levin Amendment – that would deny the five hundred-some detainees in Guantánamo Bay the ability to bring legal action seeking relief from the use of torture or cruel and inhumane treatment. And it implicitly authorizes the Department of Defense to consider evidence obtained through torture or other inhumane treatment in assessing the status of detainees held in Guantánamo Bay." HRW also points out that "…this would be the first time in American history that Congress has effectively permitted the use of evidence obtained through torture."

Third, before the bill was signed two other provisions were added, one which basically gives military personnel accused of torture the right to say they were "just following orders" and the other which extended this defense to the CIA. According to Legal Professor and former Justice Department Lawyer, Marty Lederman,"The idea…was to make sure that CIA interrogators would not be civilly liable, or criminally culpable, if they reasonably relied on the Attorney General's [Alberto Gonzales] certification that a particular technique is lawful."

There are other "loopholes" for example the fact that according to amendment guidelines, interrogations are to come from the Army Field Manual. Yet the New York Times reported on December that the Army Field Manual has been reissued for the first time in 13 years, with ten pages of classified provisions on interrogation techniques.

Looking more deeply at all this, it becomes clear that the "anti-torture" legislation was really a sophisticated way of legitimating and legalizing torture in essence – while appearing to do just the opposite. Those who held out hope for McCain should take a deep lesson – that when you rely on these people to solve problems, the problems only intensify and multiply.

Signing Statement

After agreeing to the McCain-Graham-Levin Amendment, which in effect legalized torture, Bush issued a signing statement – a statement declaring how he "interprets the law." Bush wrote that:

"The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act [supposed ban on torture], relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power,"

TRANSLATION: I have the constitutional RIGHT as COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF to order all the torture I want – DON’T GET IN MY WAY!

Bush has declared – and acted on – an unprecedentedly expansive definition of ‘the constitutional authority of the President’. These definitions of executive power have been argued in numerous memos written post 9/11 by a small handful of administration lawyers, including John Yoo (who has public argued the Presidents constitutional right to torture suspects children). And now the wiretap scandal has exposed that Bush has ordered the NSA to spy on millions of Americans – and arrogated to himself the right to break the law! His use of the signing statement in relation to the torture law is more of the same, taken to outrageous lengths.

According, a legal news site, "in striking contrast to his predecessors, President Bush issued at least 435 signing statements in his first term alone – which is almost equal to the total number of such signing statements by ALL his predecessors. And, in these statements and in his executive orders, Bush used the term ‘unitary executive’ 95 times."

(Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito was one of the inventors of the modern use of the "signing statement" mechanism as a means to increase the president’s power. Working under Reagan Administration attorney general, Edwin Meese, in 1986 Alito wrote that, "our primary objective is to ensure that presidential signing statements assume their rightful place in the interpretation of legislation. . . This would ‘increase the power of the executive to shape the law.’")

How officially recognized the legal theory behind unitary executive and signing statements is has become a moving target. But the logic is that the President as Commander in Chief, can define the law for people he has authority over, including the CIA and the armed forces and consistent with the ‘constitutional limitation on judicial power’ – the courts can’t say shit to him. All while Bush, and his administration, continue to bomb, torture and wiretap the people of the world – daring anyone to get in his way.

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