Revolution #123 March 16, 2008

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Revolution #123, March 16,2008

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Obama: A New Day for Black People... Or a New Face on the Same Set-up?

There’s a lot of people right now excited about the fact that Barack Obama could be the first Black president. People hope that if he becomes president, there could be someone in the White House who will bring about real change—including ending the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and doing something about the destruction of the environment, the horrific oppression of Black people and other minority nationalities, the Gestapo round-ups of immigrants, and the attacks on fundamental rights.

But those getting behind Obama have to really examine what his candidacy actually represents and what Obama would, could (and couldn’t) do if he becomes president. And then they have to ask themselves if this is the kind of “change” that is really needed to address all the things they are concerned about. And what will it mean to put all your hopes and energies into getting him elected?

Obama’s Position on National Oppression

In his book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama acknowledges there is racial inequality in the United States. But he argues that racism and national oppression are decreasing—which is NOT true. He says that maybe some measures that target racism and white supremacy are necessary, like affirmative action. But he argues that measures that fundamentally challenge and target national oppression are counter-productive. In the course of chastising a Black legislator who, according to Obama, focuses too much on the oppression of Black people, he writes: “Rightly or wrongly, white guilt has largely exhausted itself in America; even the most fair minded of whites, those who would genuinely like to see racial inequality ended and poverty relieved, tend to push back against the suggestions of racial victimization—or race-specific claims based on the history of racial discrimination in this country.” (Audacity, p. 247) Obama argues that "a rising tide lifting minority boats has certainly held true in the past" (p. 246) and offers what commentators have called a post-racial politics—which means he does all he can to avoid even talking about race in his campaign.

Let’s break down how this is actually at play in the Obama campaign and what this means.

Obama acknowledges that “The basic enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, the injustice that still exists within our criminal justice system, the disparity in terms of how people are treated in this country continues.” But, he says, “It has gotten better. And we should never deny that it’s gotten better.” (Selma speech, 3/5/07)

But things haven’t gotten better for Black people in this country. They have gotten worse. The net worth of an average white family is more than ten times the net worth of an average Black family. $67,000 compared to $6,166 (National Urban League Report: The State of Black America 2005). This is the same as the ratio in 1990. The rate of incarceration for Black men has risen to the point where today one in nine Black men aged 25 to 29 is in jail or prison. In 2003 Black infant mortality (the number of babies who die before their first birthday) was 13.6 per 1,000 births—almost 2.5 times higher than the rate of 5.7 for whites ( Public schools are becoming more racially segregated (Civil Rights Project UCLA) and this is likely to accelerate with the 2007 Supreme Court decision that reversed Brown v. Board of Education.

And it is a big lie to say, as Obama writes, that “This pattern—of a rising tide lifting minority boats—has certainly held true in the past.” Bullshit. What about New Orleans after Katrina? $116 million from FEMA was spent on restoring the New Orleans Superdome and $60 million on restoring the Morial Convention Center, and $37 million was spent on building a new parking garage for luxury cruise boats leaving the port of New Orleans. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands live in toxic trailers with little hope of returning to the city, hospitals and schools are unopened years later, while the city bulldozes public housing to make sure that poor Black people cannot return.

Hurricane Katrina (and all that has happened since) has revealed two basic facts. First, that there is a large section of Black people still bitterly oppressed and impoverished by the very workings of the system. Second, that these basic workings of the system are reinforced and intensified by conscious government policy with genocidal implications.

Obama sharply criticized the Bush administration for abandoning tens of thousands in New Orleans. But he made clear that, in his view, what happened with Katrina had nothing to do with the oppression of Black people as a people: “I appeared on the Sunday morning news shows rejecting the notion that the administration had acted slowly because Katrina’s victims were black—‘the incompetence was color-blind,’ I said...” (Audacity, p. 229-230).

There were people of all different nationalities in New Orleans who were abandoned by the government after Katrina. But when Obama denies the Bush regime was racist in its response to Katrina, he is not “transcending divisions.” He is covering up the fact that what has happened in New Orleans is a concentration of the oppression of Black people that is built into the very foundation of this country.

We are not, as the Obama campaign makes it seem, “all in this together.” Black people are not the beneficiaries of some kind of trickle-down prosperity in which what’s good for America is good for everyone, rich and poor, Black and white. It is a vicious lie to say, as Obama does, that “There is no white America, there is no black America...” This basically denies that Black people still face systemic discrimination.

The problem is not polarization, but the current polarization. What we need is repolarization—for revolution. And unity among the people of all nationalities—unity on the basis that Obama is describing is and can only be unity on a reactionary basis and serve reactionary/ imperialist aims and interests. What’s good for America is not good for the masses of people. We don’t need to unite behind America; we need to unite and fight for the interests of the people of the world and against the interests of the U.S. rulers. This is a class society where one class profits off of another. Inside the U.S. and around the world, the superexploitation and oppression of the Black and other oppressed nationality masses is crucial to the continued operation of capitalism-imperialism.

This country was founded on slavery and genocide, and these played a decisive role in building up the wealth of this country. Even after slavery was formally ended, the oppression of Black people played a crucial economic role both in the North and the South. Today, Black people are locked in a caste-like system which is built into the operation of capitalism in this county. Political and social relations of white supremacy are built into the system at every level and are reinforced by and reinforce the economic relations.

You can’t go up against racism and national oppression in this country without challenging white supremacy. And challenging white supremacy means upsetting white people who think racism and national oppression is in their interest. People of European descent in the U.S., even those who are poor, powerless, and exploited—still share the status of being “white” in America, with everything that means. But it actually is in the most fundamental interests of the vast majority of people, including the majority of white people, to live in a society free of white supremacy, inequality, and all other oppression. But this kind of unity cannot be built without challenging white people to take a stand against the oppression of Black people. This is something Barack Obama does not do as a presidential candidate. And this is something he will not and cannot do if he gets to the White House—because this would mean tearing apart the foundations of the very system the presidency serves.

The Logic and the Workings of Obama’s “Post-racial” Politics

A recent article in the New York Times (“Seeking Unity, Obama Feels the Pull of Racial Divide” 2/12/2008) reveals the logic of Obama’s “post-racial” politics—and where this will lead.

The article discusses the tension in the Obama campaign as it has attempted to appeal to white voters while drawing in and maintaining the Black vote. The article shows how it is part of Obama’s strategy to speak as little as possible about racial issues (in order to appeal to whites), while, when it comes to Black people, “appealing to the pride they feel in his candidacy,” as Obama’s chief strategist David Axelrod put it. In other words Obama is consciously NOT making racism and the oppression of Black people (let alone calling for an end to this) an issue in his campaign.

The article reveals how Obama has tried to steer clear of speaking to primarily Black audiences. It tells how Obama asked his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, not to appear with him when he announced his candidacy. Rolling Stone quotes Wright including in his list of essential facts about the United States: “Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run!” and “We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns and the training of professional KILLERS...” THIS TRUTH is what Obama wants to distance himself from.

Obama did speak out against the outrageous charges being brought against the Jena 6 (the Black youth in Jena, Louisiana who are being prosecuted for standing up against the hanging of nooses and white supremacy). But he did this quietly, and covered over the real issue—that racism and national oppression is alive and well—by saying that this “isn’t a matter of black and white. It’s a matter of right and wrong.”

Some people, particularly among the Black middle class, but also more broadly, argue that Obama’s strategy is necessary. They say Obama can’t take a strong stand in calling out the history and present-day reality of white supremacy in the U.S. because that would alienate white people he needs to vote for him in order to win the election.

But wait a minute! Where does this whole logic lead? If this is what’s determining what he says and does now, why would it be any different if he became president?

“Well,” the argument goes, “he just needs to do this to get elected, then after he’s elected he’ll be able to take a stand.” But this is delusion and self-delusion. And why should people think that a candidate who has accommodated himself to the interests of the system all during the campaign would all of a sudden do something different? Whoever runs for the Democrats is going to be “moved” to the right again and again in the course of fighting against McCain to win the presidency. After Obama (or Hillary) has accommodated, conciliated, and trimmed their sails to get elected, wouldn’t they be obligated to act upon this “mandate”? And if a new president took any actions which went up against the interests of the ruling class, then the powers that be would have him or her removed, through political scandal or through other means.

Obama has already shown, many times, that he puts the stability of the current political system ABOVE the rights of Black people. Obama’s first official act after being elected to the Senate was to refuse to stand with the Congressional Black Caucus in opposition to Ohio’s nullification of hundreds of thousands of Black votes. In doing so, Obama puts the interests of the ruling class and the stability of the system ahead of the rights of hundreds of thousands of Black voters because challenging the votes in Ohio would have destabilized the system and that is something that Obama, as a representative of that class, is unwilling to do.

Worse Than Nothing

“Maybe he won’t be able to do that much,” the argument continues, “but certainly he won’t be any worse than any of the others and the mere fact that he is Black will inspire people with hope and break down some barriers for Black people. And he’s drawing so many people into politics…”

But Obama as president would be a new face on the same imperialist empire. And this would be like the story of Little Red Riding Hood where the wolf disguises himself as Grandmother: “All the better to eat you with, my dear.”

After the mass upsurges in the 1960s and early 1970s when Black people rebelled against their oppression, there was a concerted effort to calm things down, quell people’s anger, and restore faith in the system. One way the system tried to do this was by allowing some “Black faces in high places.” But what good did this do for the people? Look at the history of the Black mayors in America presiding over deepening poverty, deteriorating conditions, and cutbacks in social services. What about people like Wilson Goode, the Black mayor of Philadelphia, who signed off on the bombing of a Black neighborhood there in 1985 which took the lives of 11 people, five of them children, and destroyed 61 homes? What about Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice and Clarence Thomas? And has having Black cops really made a difference in terms of the epidemic of police murders?

Some argue: “But, won’t Obama, or some other Democrat, be better than a Republican? Isn’t it our responsibility to vote and support the candidate that will kill a few thousand less people in Iraq?” NO! Channeling one’s energy into electing a Democrat will, despite one’s intentions, result in political paralysis or worse than paralysis. It will only strengthen the so-called “mandate” that any president will have in carrying out the crimes of this system. The framework of politics of the “possible” means accommodating ourselves to the politics of horrors.

Obama is training people to think in terms of patriotism and “the greatness of America” when this is being used as a rallying cry for war. But what people need to do is to start from the interests of the people of the world—which are in fundamental antagonism to the interests of U.S. imperialism.

Obama wants people to accommodate to racism and national oppression. But what is needed is uncompromising struggle against white supremacy and the systematic oppression of Black people.

And let’s go back to the basic question of why Obama is even being considered a legitimate candidate. Some people think it’s a “sign of progress” that a Black man can even get so close to becoming president. But Obama’s candidacy is a reflection of the fact that there is an even more urgent need for the ruling class in this country to confine and channel people’s anger, desire, political activity, and hopes into the process of acceptable mainstream electoral politics. Under the Bush regime, millions have increasingly felt disaffected from the system and are losing their “faith” in the government. There has been tremendous outrage at the outright assault on Constitutional rights and norms. In such times, people can “lose their allegiance” and look for more radical ways to bring about change. And this presents the ruling class with even more necessity to bring people back “into the fold,” under control and corralled into the acceptable confines of politics that doesn’t really challenge—and in fact strengthens—this whole setup. And Obama is the man who is playing that role right now.

This is what’s behind the argumentfrom a ruling class perspective by the conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan in a recent issue of The Atlantic on why people should support Obama for president. Sullivan says: “If you believe that America’s current crisis is not a deep one, if you think that pragmatism alone will be enough to navigate a world on the verge of even more religious warfare, if you believe that today’s ideological polarization is not dangerous, and that what appears dark today is an illusion fostered by the lingering trauma of the Bush presidency, then the argument for Obama is not that strong.” Sullivan continues: “But if you sense, as I do, that greater danger lies ahead, and that our divisions and recent history have combined to make the American polity and constitutional order increasingly vulnerable, then the calculus of risk changes.” (“Goodbye to All That: Why Obama Matters,” December 2007)

Obama pulls people into working within the system when what is needed is for the people to see that the real problems they are concerned about—like unjust war, poverty, racism, all kinds of inequality, etc.—stem from the very nature of this system. This whole system of U.S. capitalism—which Obama wants to be president and commander-in-chief of—is based on private property, exploitation, and the oppression of people. Humanity needs revolution and communism. And right now people do not need deadly illusions and demoralizing false hopes. They do not need to have their energy channeled into the dead end of the whole election process. Instead, people need a real understanding of the problem and the solution, and a revolutionary movement.

For those who have been swept up in “Obama-mania,” really confronting what he represents and what it will (and won’t) mean if he becomes president may be like awakening from a pleasant dream to an unpleasant reality. But hopes and dreams, if we really have a chance to bring them into being, have to be based on reality.

People should dream about change and how the world could be different. But the “change” that Obama promises is really just sugar coating on a system that is a nightmare for the overwhelming majority of people in the world. And what good is a “growing grassroots movement” where people are energized, active, and feeling hopeful, if that grassroots movement ends up giving a mandate to a new face (that has the chance of being more effective) for the same oppressive empire?


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Revolution #123, March 16,2008

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Defining the Issue as
“National Security” and Patriotism

While many people may want the terms of the presidential election to be about getting the U.S. out of the war on Iraq, the whole election setup is setting very different terms for all who enter into the electoral pathway. In the last few weeks the election has focused on who will be the best commander-in-chief for the “War on Terror,” and who will be the best person to protect, represent for, and advance the interests of the U.S. empire in the world today.

Throughout the campaign so far there has been a continual “undercurrent” of attacks on Obama—including widely distributed internet slanders that he is a Muslim fundamentalist. But after Obama swept 11 straight primaries and emerged as the front runner, the attacks went mainstream. Fox News and others made a big issue out of the fact that Obama doesn’t wear an American flag lapel pin all the time—generally a required symbol for any credible candidate. A photo got circulated from an old issue of Time magazine showing Obama not holding his hand over his heart while the national anthem played—while Hillary Clinton stood next to him with her hand patriotically over her heart. Obama’s wife, Michelle, was attacked for telling a crowd that she’s really proud of her country for the first time in her adult life.

This took a further leap when Hillary Clinton began charging that Obama was being soft on the so-called “war on terror.” She declared that only she is enough of a hawk to go nose to nose with McCain since the election “will be about national security.” She ran ominous ads warning that unlike Obama, she is “ready to lead in a dangerous world” at “3 AM.” Speaking in Waco, Texas, with more than two dozen military veterans and flag officers lined up behind her (get the message?), Clinton invoked McCain’s rhetoric attacking Obama for being “missing in action” during security deliberations in the Senate.

And how did Obama “counter” all this? By insisting that he had as much “love for this country” as anyone.

Who Needs Patriotism? And Who Doesn’t?

Here’s the truth about American patriotism: There is nothing good aboutAmerican patriotism. Whether patriotism is interpreted as “my country right or wrong,” or “my country, love it and change it,” patriotism only means something in the context of aligning with the interests of the rulers of the United States against those of the people of the world. Otherwise, what’s the point? Just say you are for justice. Or just say you are against oppression. But when you frame your position, whatever it is, in the American flag you’re aligning yourself on the wrong side of the biggest problems the world faces.

From “the halls of Montezuma” (when the U.S. Marines invaded Mexico to defend the interests of U.S. oil companies) to the “shores of Tripoli” (when the U.S. Navy enforced the right of U.S. commerce—including slave trade—off the shores of North Africa), this country has been and is a capitalist (now imperialist) nation that exploits and oppresses the people of the world. The “American way of life” was built in large part on the near-genocide of Native Americans and slavery. The vast gap between the wealth of countries like the United States, and the killing poverty and oppression in most of the world, cannot be resolved in a good way starting from “what’s good for America” or trying to make the USA “a force for good in the world.” And if your starting point is “American patriotism” in any form, including “America’s national security interests,” you’re setting yourself up to be maneuvered into supporting whatever wars of aggression the rulers of this country wage to enforce the position of the U.S. over the rest of the world.

The overwhelming majority of people in this country have fundamentally different interests than those of the rulers of this country. Internationalism is a much more lofty and inspiring framework from which to measure what we are aiming for. And shouldn’t this be the standard by which we judge those we look to as leaders?

Send us your comments.

Revolution #123, March 16, 2008

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Revolution Books/Libros Revolución presents:

Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism:


Presentation followed by discussion

(see below for locations and dates)

ON A PLANET WHERE BILLIONS LIVE A DAY AWAY FROM STARVATION... where the lives of millions of children are cut short by curable diseases... where brutal wars grind on in Iraq and Afghanistan and hellholes like Guantánamo stay “open for business”...where nooses spring up like weeds, immigrants are hunted and the availability of abortion is rapidly disappearing...
where youth are treated as either criminals or commodities...and where all this is totally UNNECESSARY—the world badly needs revolution.

Revolutionary state power will set about ending these horrors and meeting the pressing needs of the people. But a truly emancipatory socialism must do more than that. It must lay the basis, and take concrete steps, toward a society where people consciously change the world and themselves, in a society of freely associating human beings and where the need for any kind of state has been surpassed.

In that light, Bob Avakian has done path-breaking work to go beyond even the best of the previous socialist societies and re-envisioned a socialism that is both visionary and viable. His “new synthesis” has tackled a whole realm of questions, including:

Come hear the presentation and wrangle over all this.

Bob Avakian is the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. And he is more than that: he’s an innovative and critical thinker who has taken Marxism to a new place; he’s a provocative commentator on everything from basketball to religion, doo-wop music to science; and he’s a pit-bull fighter against oppression who’s kept both his solemn sense of purpose and his irrepressible sense of humor.

Bob Avakian will not be in attendance at this event.

Saturday, March 22nd • 1 to 5 pm

University Center*
525 S. State Street
At State & Congress
Red line to Harrison stop, then walk 1 block north.
Brown, Pink, Orange lines to Library stop, then walk 1 block east, 1 block south

Simultaneous Spanish interpretation will be available

Venue is accessible
Parking/ride sharing – call for information

For further information:

*This program is not sponsored by or affiliated with University Center

Los Angeles
Saturday, March 22nd • 1 to 5 pm

The New LATC
514 S. Spring Street
One block east of Broadway
in downtown LA between 5th & 6th

Simultaneous Spanish translation will be available

$10 sliding scale admission
For reservations and further information:
Download PDF flyer for Los Angeles event

SF/Bay Area
Saturday, March 22nd • 2 pm

Black Repertory Theater
3201 Adeline St, Berkeley
1 block south of Ashby BART

Spanish translation will be available

$10 sliding scale admission
For further information: 510-848-1196 /
Download PDF flyer for Berkeley event



Send us your comments.

Revolution #123, March 16,2008

Current Issue  |   Previous Issues  |   Bob Avakian  |   RCP  |   Topics  |   Contact Us

The following information is from the World Can’t Wait website

The World Can’t Wait
Drive Out the Bush Regime!

MOBILIZE March 19 Wednesday

In Washington D.C.
Lafayette Park
1:30 pm

Too Many Years of a Criminal Regime!
5 Years of Illegitimate War! End It!
Drive the War Criminals from Office!

On March 19, World Can’t Wait, along with other organizations, plans to disrupt business as usual in Washington, D.C. Come to the home of the criminals!

Gather in Lafayette Park at 1:30 pm with people in a sea of orange jumpsuits, in solidarity with and representing those that are being tortured in Guantánamo Bay Prison, Abu Ghraib, Bagram in Afghanistan, and CIA “black sites” around the globe. A demonstration showing that waterboarding IS torture, is planned directly in front of the residence of the biggest war criminal in history. Join in acts of creative non-violent civil resistance!

The Park will become a rallying point for those determined to put an end to this illegitimate and immoral war, and who demand justice by driving the war criminals from office now, not waiting until 2009! We are done with secret renditions, spying on people, lying to the public, using hundreds of signing statements to disobey laws, rounding up immigrants and detaining them in facilities still being built. We mean it!

Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War will congregate at approximately 3:30 pm at the White House and we will be there to join and support their actions at the scene of the crime. At sundown prepare to witness the film exposing the ultimate crimes committed by this regime at Lafayette Square Park: The Bush Crimes Commission film! []

Visit and for info about daytime events in D.C.

Winter Soldier Investigation. From March 13-16th, U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will testify to what is really happening day in and day out, on the ground in these occupations. Winter Soldier will be held at the National Labor College, Silver Spring, MD. Audio and video of panels can be viewed live online.

March 19 Events Around the Country

Mass Non-Violent Civil Resistance
64 Shattuck Square (near Berkeley BART).
Join us afterwards in San Francisco at ANSWER Coalition Rally & March.
Gather at 5 pm, Civic Center (Polk & Grove Streets)

Chicago 6 pm

Rally at Federal Plaza (Adams & Dearborn)

March 20 – “Convergence” at 5 pm at the Federal Plaza.
Sponsored by Chicago’s 5th Year Anti-War Coalition

Los Angeles 4 pm

WCW, ANSWER and others will protest at Hollywood
Armed Forces Recruitment Center, 7080 Hollywood Blvd. (at La Brea)


Auburn, AL 5-6 pm

Vigil, Toomer’s Corner (N. College and Magnolia Ave.)
6-7 pm Potluck at the AUUF
7-9 pm Film No End in Sight. Sponsored by the Alliance for Peace & Justice,

Providence, RI 4 pm - 5:30 pm

Meet in Burnside Park (Exchange Street and Kennedy Plaza) for march

5 pm Rally at the State House.

Seattle, WA 2 am - 12 noon

Non-violent resistance aimed at shutting down military recruitment centers around the city.

2 pm  Press conference, Fisher Plaza (140 4th Ave N)

Tacoma, WA (March 15) 12:30 pm

Military Recruitment Center at the Tacoma Mall

Waikiki, Hawai`i (March 15) 5 pm

Meet in front of the Honolulu Zoo (corner of Kalakaua/Kapahulu)
for march

Cleveland, OH  (March 20) 4 - 6 pm

Rally & march from the Soldiers & Sailors Monument
(Cleveland Public Square-Ontario St. & Superior Ave.)

Check online at for more info and updates.

World Can’t Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime! / 866-973-4463

Send us your comments.

Revolution #123, March 16,2008

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Anatomy of an Imperialist Fabrication:
Iran’s “Provocation” in the Gulf

by Larry Everest

Remember the big to-do the U.S. government and capitalist media made in early January about Iranian speedboats supposedly “confronting” and threatening U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf? The incident that Bush condemned as a “provocative act” creating a “dangerous situation”? 

It quickly turned out that the whole thing was at most a minor—if not completely routine—encounter that was deliberately blown all out of proportion by the U.S. government—including through outright fabrication. This incident may have faded from the headlines, but it remains part of the broad narrative which the U.S. rulers are relentlessly promoting (and creating): Iran is a dangerous country run by reckless madmen, which may have to be dealt with by force. Digging into what actually happened shows how the rulers and their media concoct storylines to further their aggressive, imperialist agenda—in this case in the Middle East.

This “story” first hit on Monday, January 7, when a Pentagon spokesperson said there’d been a very serious provocation by Iran in the Persian Gulf’s Straits of Hormuz. Five Iranian speedboats had supposedly come at three U.S. warships (on a routine patrol) in a “reckless and dangerous” manner. The boats purportedly dropped boxes into the water that could have been filled with “explosives.” Meanwhile, an Iranian was supposedly heard on the radio warning, “I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes.” The Pentagon claimed that the U.S. ships were so concerned that they were a “heartbeat” from firing in self-defense.

This storyline quickly blared across TV networks, radio news, and newspaper headlines. On January 7 NBC reported: “U.S.: Iran Boats Harassed Warships.” The next day, the Washington Post’s headline read: “In ‘Serious’ Provocation, Iranian Boats Charge U.S. Navy Ships.” The New York Times followed suit with “Iranian Boats Confront U.S. In Persian Gulf.” TV and cable news were even more unrestrained—the tone of Fox News coverage in particular gave the impression that the U.S. had been attacked by Iran.

Top administration officials quickly amplified this storyline. Bush called it “a dangerous situation” and “a provocative act.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “Iran should not engage in such provocations,” and issued a warning: “The U.S. is going to defend its interests. It’s going to defend its allies.”

Iranian officials insisted nothing extraordinary had taken place: “That is something normal that takes place every now and then for each party, and it (the problem) is settled after identification of the two parties.” This version of events—which has held up far better to scrutiny than the U.S. claims—was largely buried or treated with suspicion by the U.S. media and never set the tone for the coverage.

As the Bush regime’s rhetoric escalated, its story was collapsing point by point.

• Sequence of Events Reveals Exaggeration & Lies. The Gulf incident had actually taken place early Sunday, January 6, Washington time. But, as Gareth Porter reports, “no information was released to the public about the incident for more than 24 hours, indicating that it was not viewed initially as being very urgent” and “not that different from many others in the Gulf over more than a decade.” For instance, a December 19 encounter in which a U.S. ship did fire a warning shot at a small Iranian boat barely made any ripple in the media. (AP, 1/11/08)

The Navy released the first account of the incident early in the morning on January 7, but treated it as a relatively routine encounter. According to Porter, “Following standard procedures, [USS] Hopper issued warnings, attempted to establish communications with the small boats, and conducted evasive maneuvering.” There was no mention of radio threats, dangerous objects dropped in the water, or the U.S. vessels being on the verge of firing. Those claims were first raised at the briefing later that day by Bryan Whitman, in charge of Pentagon media relations. Then, on January 9, the Pentagon released a Navy video supposedly corroborating the Pentagon’s claims, which included audio of someone saying, “I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes.” 

Porter reports that the decision on the content of Whitman’s press briefing and the video released “was made by top officials of the Defense Department.” In other words, it was a political decision based on U.S. imperialists’ objectives.

• The Audio Fabrication. It was soon shown that the most provocative part of the “incident”—the audio threats—had actually been recorded separately and spliced into the video footage by the Pentagon. The recording didn’t have any of the background—or “ambient”—noise that would have accompanied a radio transmission from a speeding boat. And the audio came over a radio channel known for “chatter” and verbal taunts for years.

An Iranian writing on the Huffington Post wrote about the supposed audio threat on the Pentagon video: “the person speaking doesn’t have an Iranian accent and moreover, sounds more like Boris Karloff in a horror movie than a sailor in the elite branch of Iran’s military.” A former Navy officer blogged on The New York Times (1/10): “All ships at sea use a common UHF frequency, Channel 16, also known as ‘bridge-to-bridge’ radio.... But over in the Gulf, Ch. 16 is like a bad CB radio. Everybody and their brother is on it; chattering away....esp. in that section of the Gulf, slurs/threats/chatter/etc. is commonplace.”

Damning questions were raised so quickly that the Navy was forced to admit that it couldn’t verify who was actually making the “threats” or whether they were connected to the Iranian speedboats: “It could have been a threat aimed at some other nation or a myriad of other things.”

• The U.S.’s Own Video Disproved Its Story. The video released by the Pentagon—which showed some four minutes of a 20-30 minute incident—did not show any “boxes” in the water, nor did it show Iranian ships approaching any closer to the U.S. ships than 100 yards, much less “making a run on U.S. ships,” as CBS had reported. Gareth Porter reports, however, that “The only boat that was close enough to be visible to the U.S. ships was unarmed, as an enlarged photo of the boat from the navy video clearly shows.”

Meanwhile, an Iranian video released the day after the Pentagon version showed an uncontested, routine interaction, without any provocation. The radio recording Iran released also pointed to a routine interchange: “‘Coalition warship number 73, this is an Iranian navy patrol boat,’ a man’s voice said in heavily accented English. ‘This is coalition warship number 73 operating in international waters,’ an American voice replied.” (AP 1/11)

• The Evaporating “Threat.” By January 11, these exposures had forced the Pentagon to backpedal from its initial story. “‘No one in the military has said that the transmission emanated from those boats,’ said [Pentagon spokesman Geoff] Morrell,” Porter reports. “The commanding officer of the guided missile cruiser Port Royal, Capt. David Adler, dismissed the Pentagon’s story that he had felt threatened by the dropping of white boxes in the water....Adler said, ‘I saw them float by. They didn’t look threatening to me.’”

These revelations show that the Bush regime deliberately concocted a narrative of the events in the Persian Gulf in order to build its so-called “case” that Iran is a dangerous, irrational country, run by reckless madmen who are capable of provoking war. The unstated conclusion that people are supposed to get from this story is that the U.S. may well have to resort to military force to stop Iran.

The major U.S. media has continued to cooperate fully with all this. Even those media outlets which exposed some holes in the U.S. story never “connected the dots” and showed that the whole Pentagon narrative had been fabricated. And one question which was NEVER raised by the bourgeois media was: who is really threatening whom? What gives the U.S. the “right” to station its heavily armed warships 20-30 miles off Iran’s coast? What would the U.S. response be if Iranian warships sailed that close to the U.S.?

Buried in one Washington Post story was the following: “The U.S. presence in the Gulf’s international waters is a sensitive issue in Iran because the USS Vincennes, another Aegis cruiser, shot down an Iranian passenger plane in 1988, killing all 290 people on board. The United States at first contended that it was a warplane and then said that it was outside the civilian air corridor and did not respond to radio calls. Both were untrue, and the radio calls were made on military frequencies to which the airliner did not have access.”

But such facts appearing in the media are isolated, secondary exceptions to what the U.S. has done many times before and is doing in relationship to Iran: shameless lying and manufacturing “provocations” and “threats” in order to justify imperialist aggression.

At the January 10 Republican presidential debate, the moderators asked every candidate about the “confrontation” in the Gulf and if they thought the Navy commander on the scene acted forcefully enough or whether he should have opened fire on the Iranians. Only libertarian Ron Paul even raised questions about what had actually taken place. And none of the Democratic contenders have questioned the Pentagon’s version of events—much less exposed the U.S.’s provocations against Iran.

So Iran’s “reckless” actions in the Gulf have now become part of the “common wisdom,” the accepted “documented record.” And meanwhile, the U.S. is also creating a hyped, if not fabricated, “documented record” concerning Iran’s nuclear program. The National Intelligence Estimate released by the U.S. last December said that while Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program now, it did have one until 2003. The claim that Iran had a nuclear weapons program can hardly be taken at face value, coming from the same “intelligence community” that produced the hoax about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction.” But the supposed “fact” that Iran was trying to develop nukes (and that it might resume the program) is now part of justifying more sanctions and continuing threats by the U.S.

Iran continues to be in the U.S. crosshairs. And such concocted stories aren’t harmless—they are part of the groundwork of lies the U.S. would use to try and justify an attack on Iran. The U.S. rulers are playing with the lives of many thousands—perhaps millions. Their provocations have the potential to spin beyond their control and end up triggering war, whether intended or not.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #123, March 16,2008

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935 Documented Lies Leading to Iraq invasion

Shortly after the “incident” in the Hormuz Straits, the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism released a study documenting 935 “false statements” made by Bush officials about Iraq in the two years leading up to the March 2003 invasion. According to the study, “The War Card—Orchestrated Deception on the Path to War” (, Bush and other top officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them, or that Iraq had links to al Qaeda—or both. These were deliberate lies. Bush led the way with 259 lies, 231 of which were about WMD in Iraq (there were none).

“War Card” notes that these “false statements” were not random misstatements but “methodically propagated” as part of an “orchestrated campaign.” The study concluded, “The cumulative effect of these false statements—amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts—was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war.”

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Revolution #123, March 16, 2008

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Away With All Gods!

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Revolution #123, March 16,2008

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The Growing Nightmare for Immigrants in Arizona

Four students from a Phoenix high school who were picked up by immigration authorities while on a school trip to Niagara Falls and threatened with deportation. [Photo: AP]

Maricopa County, Arizona: A pregnant teenager is held captive in a house, along with more than 50 other immigrants. They are locked in rooms with no furniture and jugs of human waste. When her family in Mexico doesn’t immediately pay the thousands of dollars demanded, she is dragged into a bathroom. Her young husband hears her screaming as she is beaten for a half hour. She miscarries, and her bloody clothing is left lying on the floor.

Yet she and every other person in the house are subject to felony charges under Arizona law, of “conspiring with themselves” to smuggle themselves across the border. Some are arrested—all are deported. This is just one peek into the nightmare for immigrants in Maricopa County which has escalated dramatically recently, one which has arisen out of the complex and underlying dynamics of this system.

Immigrants in Maricopa County describe being so terrorized that they are afraid to leave their homes. In a recent article, Phoenix New Times interviewed a number of immigrants, including Daniela, who came to the U.S. 13 years ago.

Daniela doesn’t go more than three blocks from her house, and then only to her children’s elementary school. She never drives—the chance of being pulled over for driving while brown is too great.  She never walks alone—if she’s picked up, no one will know what happened. She has very few friends—thanks to the atmosphere of immigrant bashing and the “Illegal Immigrant Hotline,” anyone she meets might turn her in. She can’t shop—the sheriff has officers at Food City. She can’t call the police if she witnesses a crime—they’ll ask about her status and she’ll be deported. Her children can’t sleep through the night—they have nightmares about their parents being disappeared.

This is the situation for hundreds of thousands throughout the county—and not just for immigrants but all brown-skinned people. They are literally being forced into the shadows, into their homes, away from even each other. Attendance at predominantly immigrant churches is down by as much as a third, as parishioners are too afraid to come.

Along with the legislative assaults, police raids and vigilante violence, there has also been a significant increase in crimes against immigrants. Just as in the South (and beyond), there was no crime that couldn’t be committed without impunity against a Black person, the system has created “open season” conditions for anyone who wants to prey on immigrants.

In the last few years, Arizona has passed a series of steadily more draconian laws targeting immigrants. A ballot measure, reinforced by the State Senate, denied bail for undocumented immigrants accused of serious crimes. Another mandated English as the official language. A statute made it a crime to transport, harbor, or hire undocumented immigrants. And a law supposedly designed to target “coyotes” who bring immigrants into the U.S. has been interpreted to mean than any undocumented immigrant is guilty of conspiring to smuggle themselves, a class-four felony. (Other states have been following Arizona’s lead. For example, Oklahoma passed a law denying bail to undocumented immigrants, and Colorado, Nebraska, and Idaho are considering similar legislation.)

These laws, and the widespread promotion of hatred against immigrants, have steadily tightened a noose around immigrants in Arizona and have provided a legal foundation for an assault on immigrant communities.

Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio accosts people arrested in Phoenix accused of being illegal immigrants. [Photo: AP]

In Arizona’s Maricopa County, a racist campaign of terror is being spearheaded by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas. Arpaio is infamous for his policies of humiliating prisoners and suspects. He has institutionalized racial profiling on a massive scale and unleashed a crackdown in which anyone looking “illegal”—whether food vendors, college students, or day laborers—is subject to being stopped and subjected to racist insults and demands to produce proof of citizenship. If detained, they face tremendous pressure to sign a plea deal and accept deportation.

Thomas was elected on a platform of vehement anti-immigration. One of his first acts after taking office was to announce he wouldn’t prosecute a racist vigilante who held seven Mexican migrants hostage at gunpoint at a rest stop. Invoking truly Nazi-like rhetoric designed to declare some people non-humans, he has said that the U.S. “is tolerating a sub-class of people.”

The Fair and Legal Employment Act

On top of all this, on February 7, a federal judge upheld Arizona’s Fair and Legal Employment Act—a law that prohibits employers from hiring undocumented immigrants, and will suspend an employer’s business license on the first offense and will revoke it on the second. The Arizona law requires employers to check the eligibility of anyone applying for a job with the E-Verify database, an experimental and temporary federal database that is known for its high error rate.

This law affects the estimated 500,000 or more undocumented immigrants that make up 9-12 percent of the workforce in the state of Arizona, mostly in service, construction, and landscaping, according to Arizona State University. The law also requires the Attorney General or local county attorneys to investigate all complaints about unauthorized workers. It represents a leap in the systematic clampdown on and persecution of immigrants in this country.

Governor of Arizona Janet Napolitano, the “moderate” Democrat who signed the law, said she thinks that the law could result in a business “death penalty”—however, she said it was better than an “even more draconian” ballot initiative that might be introduced if nothing is done to enforce the immigration laws. And, having signed the law, she’s now enforcing this draconian law. Arizona officials were mandated to comply with this anti-immigrant work enforcement law, the largest and strictest in the country, on March 1. County Attorney Thomas has promised to aggressively enforce the law, even saying that he believes the law can be enforced retroactively.

Employers have already begun laying off immigrant workers, and this has had repercussions throughout their communities. Local restaurants and shops have closed down because there are not enough customers. Schools, apartment complexes, and neighborhoods have seen large numbers of Latino families moving out of the state. One elementary school in west Phoenix has reported that enrollment has declined by 525.

Contradictions at the Top—Need for Breakthroughs from Below

Businesses and organizations like the state Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Contractors Association, the AZ Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Arizona Landscape Contractors Association are strongly opposed to the Fair and Legal Employment Act. They argue that the law will mean that Arizona will be shooting itself in the foot by driving out immigrants who are so critical to the economy. The Wall Street Journal recently quoted University of Arizona immigration expert Judith Gans as stating, “Getting rid of [undocumented] workers means that we are deciding as a matter of policy to shrink the economy.”

When all is said and done, the capitalists need the immigrants—both to keep the U.S. economy profitable and because the money they send home helps to maintain stability within Mexico. This fundamental necessity conflicts with the need to maintain and strengthen the “glue” of nativist anti-immigrant chauvinism—a key part of keeping U.S. society intact.

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department members at a news conference called by Sheriff Joe Arpaio announcing the kick off of enforcing the new immigration law. [Photo: AP]

There is an intense contradiction for the U.S. ruling class. On the one hand, they need to superexploit undocumented immigrants. On the other hand, they need to strengthen the whole cohering structure of society—to “keep it all together” and keep their setup intact. And then, there are contradictions within the ruling class on how to manage all this, and those contradictions are getting played out in different ways. Last summer, Congress failed to pass highly repressive immigration “reform” legislation pushed by Bush. That legislation would have increased the militarization of the border, set up a “guest worker” program to keep immigrant workers in slave-like conditions, and set up a “legalization” system—the main element of which would be to force undocumented immigrants to register with the government. Reactionary opposition to the bill in the ruling class stopped its passage, accompanied by a frenzy of attacks on immigrants. Since then, attacks on immigrants have intensified. On the federal level, border militarization is moving ahead. Waves of factory raids by armed agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are spreading terror in immigrant communities. And then, on the local level, cities across the country are passing laws to drive undocumented workers out by punishing those who employ or rent to them. And the new levels of repression being implemented in Arizona are breaking new ground in all this.

The nightmare for immigrants in Maricopa County illustrates the kind of society we are living in, and the kind we are moving toward—one where people are increasingly terrorized, hunted down, separated from their kids, and deported—just because they have no official documents.

In this situation, all sections of the people, including the proletarians of all nationalities, urgently need to wage political struggle to beat back these escalating attacks on immigrants, with an eye towards greater upheaval to come, including potentially revolutionary upheaval.

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Revolution #123, March 16, 2008

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Hook up with the revolution

Coming Events at Revolution Books

New York

9 West 19th St. (btwn 5th and 6th Aves)

March 11, Tuesday, 7 pm
In the Wake of Sunday's Major Presentation on Bob Avakian's Synthesis More Discussion, with focus on the experience of the Soviet and Chinese Revolutions With Raymond Lotta

March 12, Wednesday, 7 pm
Join Revolution Books in celebrating International Women's Day
You are invited to an event of celebration and solidarity with the courageous Iranian women who refuse to accept the deadly anti-woman “choices” of either the Islamic Republic of Iran or war and domination by U.S. imperialism in the name of “liberation.”

March 13 , Thursday, 7pm
Author Chris Finan
Reading and signing his book From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act

March 20, Thursday, 6:30 pm
Revolution Books Hosts NY National Organization for Women
A forum of women writers/activists
(check back for further details)

March 22, Saturday, 9pm
“Myself” and his band the X Patriots [rescheduled]
Sponsored by Revolution Books and the Downtown Revolution Club


1103 N. Ashland Avenue

March 22, Saturday, 1-5 pm
Revolution Books presents:
Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: WHAT IS BOB AVAKIAN’S NEW SYNTHESIS?
Presentation followed by discussion
University Center* 525 S. State Street (State & Congress)  
Red line to Harrison. Walk 1 block north. Brown, Pink, Orange lines to Library stop. Walk 1 block east, 1 block south Simultaneous Spanish interpretation will be available
*This program is not sponsored by or affiliated with University Center

March 12, Wednesday, 7 pm
Set the Record Straight discussion will kick off by showing an excerpt from the model opera “White Haired Girl.” We'll discuss what was women's oppression in China before the revolution, what changes occurred for women during socialism, and compare this to after the defeat of the revolution.


2425 Channing Way near Telegraph Ave

March 22, Saturday, 1-5 pm
Revolution Books presents:
Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: WHAT IS BOB AVAKIAN’S NEW SYNTHESIS?
Presentation followed by discussion
Black Repertory Theater 3201 Adeline St, Berkeley
1 block south of Ashby BART
Spanish translation available
$10 sliding scale admission

March 11, Tuesday, 7 pm
Science of Evolution discussion: Creationism’s new wrapper won’t fool us: Intelligent design theory is still just religion – it’s not science – and it’s still wrong!

March 12, Wednesday, 7 pm
Author Peter Phillips of Project Censored discusses Censored 2008: The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2006-2007

March 13, Thursday, 7 pm
Revolution newspaper discussion

March 27, Thursday 7pm
Revolution Newspaper Discussion

Los Angeles

Libros Revolución
312 West 8th Street  213-488-1303

March 22, Saturday, 1-5 pm
Revolution Books presents:
Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: WHAT IS BOB AVAKIAN’S NEW SYNTHESIS?
Presentation followed by discussion
The New LATC 514 S. Spring Street
Spanish translation will be available
$10 sliding scale admission

March 11, Tuesday, 7 pm
Spanish language showing and discussion of Bob Avakian's DVD “Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About,” focus on sections      "A world of rape and sexual assault",  "'Traditional values'—tradition' s chains" and "Change for women in a new society?" from the Q&A.

March 12, Wednesday, 7:30 pm
Concluding bilingual discussion of Ardea Skybreak's The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism will include a look at the ideas and methods of creationists.  Reading: Chapter 8.  Available in Spanish at

March 15, Saturday, 5 pm
Cinema Revolución - screening and discussion of Brian De Palma's powerful film “Redacted” about the rape and murder of 14-year old Iraqi girl and other family members by U.S. soldiers.  See Redacted...and Banned, Revolution Issue #111.

March 16, "SECULAR SUNDAY," 4 pm
Join us for a free-wheeling discussion on what's wrong with religion.  Recommended reading: excerpts from Bob Avakian's soon-to-be published new book Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, Issue Nos. 103 ( and 104 ( of Revolution newspaper.


2626 South King Street

Every Monday, 6:15 pm
Reading circle/discussion of the current installment of Bob Avakian’s series, “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity”

March 20, Thursday, 6 pm
Book Release Party: Potluck supper * Reading * Booksigning
Guam activist and author Julian Aguon will read from "What We Bury at Night; Disposable Humanity", his recently released book describing present day realities of the U.S.-Micronesia relationship from the eyes of those most affected.

March 30, Sunday, 3pm
Showing of:  "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial"
This NOVA program on the Kitzmiller v Dover School District Court trial provides a crash course on questions like:  "What is evolution?" and "Does Intelligent Design qualify as science?"


2804 Mayfield Rd (at Coventry)
Cleveland Heights  216-932-2543
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 3-8 pm 

March 22, Saturday
Attend major program in Chicago: "Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: What IS Bob Avakian's New Synthesis?" Presentation followed by discussion. Contact us for travel info.

March 15, Saturday, 6-9 pm
Time to Celebrate!   Party to toast the achievements and conclusion of Revolution Newspaper’s Expansion & Fund Drive.
Join in sharing the fund drive’s successes, challenges, lessons and future visions.
Latin American Music by Graciela, Felipe & Patricia; Refreshments.

March 17, Monday 7 pm
Discussion of  "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" (Part II). Enriched What is To Be Done-ism (issue #113).


1833 Nagle Place

Announcing a New Revolution Books in Seattle!
Join us in making plans for a major revitalization and expansion in our new location. Contact us to get involved.

March 15, Saturday, 7 pm
Film Showing: Redacted
Controversial docudrama about the war in Iraq written and directed by Brian De Palma

March 16, Sunday. 2:30 pm
Reading and discussion of this week's Revolution newspaper

Dates to be announced
Group outings to Bring Revolution to the Movies! Hook up with people from Revolution Books to see and discuss great and controversial movies and get out Revolution Newspaper, orange ribbons, flyers, etc to other movie-goers. Upcoming movies to see are Chicago 10, Taxi to the Dark Side, and Battle in Seattle.

In April, date to be announced
Author event with Mike Palecek on his new books, Cost of Freedom and Iowa Terror.


406 W.Willis
(between Cass &2nd, south of Forest)

Every Sunday, 4 pm
Discussions of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity—Part 2: Everything We’re Doing Is About Revolution” by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA


1158 Mass Ave, 2nd Floor, Cambridge  

March 17, Monday, 6:30 pm
"Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" Part 2.
Building the Party."From the point of view of the necessity, and the strategic objective, of revolution, the most important form of organization of the masses is the Party itself, as the vanguard of the broader revolutionary masses."


4 Corners Market of the Earth
Little 5 Points, 1087 Euclid Avenue
404-577-4656 & 770-861-3339

Open Wednesdays & Fridays 4 pm - 7 pm,
Saturdays 2 pm - 7 pm 

March 16, Sunday, 3:30 pm
Our weekly discussions of "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" by Bob Avakian will resume. Focus this week: “Marxism as a Science—Refuting Karl Popper,” based on excerpts in Revolution newspaper issues 110 and 111.
Meet at the bookstore inside 4 Corners Market

March 23, Sunday, 3:30 pm
Fourth in a series of discussions of "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" by Bob Avakian.

March 30, Sunday, 3:30 pm
Fifth in a series of discussions of "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" by Bob Avakian.


Send us your comments.

Revolution #123, March 16,2008

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Revolution's response appears below this correspondence.

Letter from Reader:

Revolutionaries Should Support Bourgeois Democracy Over Islamism, and Support Anyone Who Opposes Genocide

Revolution received this letter from a prisoner:

I would like to receive the Revolution paper if one can be spared for a poor prisoner? Having said that I would [like] to touch on a number of issues that I feel aren’t analyzed correctly by the U.S. Left. I do so briefly but would like your opinion without undue rhetoric please.

My first concern is where we as socialists and communists should stand in relation to so-called “Islamist” states and the pursuit of these through the use of terrorist tactics. As I ask you this question, I’m reminded of how Marx viewed religion. And ask you to please make no attempt to sugarcoat what is essentially an oppressive, reactionary ideology which by everything it teaches (with few exceptions) stands in the way of progress.

While the Revolution is honest enough to say Islamists are reactionary, I still get a sense that you prefer Islamic rule in places like Afghanistan, Somalia or the Sudan if it means the alternative is a war by the West (the U.S., Britain, etc.) to bring democracy to these countries.

Given the ruthless way in which this would oppress women and end many civil rights for people in general, I question how the Left could possibly take such a position. As flawed as bourgeois democracy is, I’d much rather live here than any Islamist society. And it’s doubtful that any one would say we have less freedom or rights than so called Muslim nations do.

Be that as it may, I don’t see the left making the distinction in this regard clear in dealing with Islamist struggles or their neo-fascist strategy around the world.

By contrast however even the Revolution does not hesitate to run stories which characterize the Christians in the U.S. as “fascist theocrats” (see Revolution January 7, 2007 page 4, “Scientists Debate Science and Religion”) and do so despite the fact that the religious right in the U.S. isn’t using any of the violence employed by fascists in the Islamist world. Car bombs, suicide bombs, killing in mass of religious rivals or women who don’t wear veils, etc.

In my view at least one can be against bourgeois democracy yet prefer it over a neo-fascist Islamist form of government. This of course doesn’t mean you don’t want to end it at some point to implement a proletarian one-party state. On the contrary, it merely means one represents progress over the other, and you’re smart enough to know it.

I personally felt relieved when the U.S. overthrew the Taliban and Al Qaeda. I would have felt the same no matter who accomplished that feat, and my reasons for saying so are listed above.

What I do not understand is how the Left could feel any different knowing it restored some freedom and liberty to Afghan women and others in general.

We can go on and on about oil and world domination, etc. But one need not condone the latter as exploitation of a country’s resources by the U.S., Russia, China, etc. to advocate an end to Islamic rule by neo-fascists.

I wanted to go on to address the issue of genocide and how it’s dealt with by the left. But I’m a little tired right now. Briefly, however, I think as a matter of principle that any revolutionary should support anyone who opposes it. I’d even go so far as to say that the U.S. government should have intervened to stop the slaughter in Rwanda or other countries such as the Sudan (Darfur).

When the lives of hundreds of thousands or even millions are at risk, I could care less about economic systems or political characterizations (bourgeois democracy, etc.). What’s vitally important and was completely disregarded by everyone in W.W. II is that we prevent genocide based upon race, religion or ethnic persuasion. At times I can see how this would ally us on the left with the government, and at other times pit us squarely against it.

Nevertheless in cases like Darfur, etc. I don’t see the Left taking a principled stand on such issues. All I read about is U.S. or British war moves in a country, or how they seek to exploit it, etc.

All that’s fine but what about the fucking genocide people? If these countries intervene to end that where do you stand? With the people committing the genocide or those who want to stop it?

In closing I should add that your position on Iran baffles me. I remember when the Revolutionary Worker [former name of Revolution—eds.] was banned in Iran, and its distribution centers shut down by the Islamist clerics. (The paper ran stories with pictures of the “Revolutionary guards” trashing its newsstands.)

How the hell could you possibly care if that country’s government is topped or replaced by a democracy? At least under a democracy you’d be able to peddle your paper and express opposition to neo-fascists under Islam!

If you want to print this along with a response in the Revolution—feel free.


Sincerely, XX


Imperialist Intervention is the Problem, Not the Solution

by a Revolution writing group

In responding, we’ll focus on two connected and basic arguments made in the letter: 1) That “As flawed as bourgeois democracy is,” it is better than life in an Islamist country; and 2) At times, “the left” should support U.S. invasions, for example in Afghanistan or Darfur.

 In speaking to this, we need to take a serious and honest look at what bourgeois democracy in the United States is really all about. And, related to that, we need to really understand and deal with what kind of world is enforced by U.S. invasions around the world.

The Essence of U.S. Democracy

The letter writer argues that, “As flawed as bourgeois democracy is, I’d much rather live here than any Islamist society.”

But the operative word in “bourgeois democracy” is bourgeois. Democracy is the form through which the bourgeoisie exercises dictatorship over everyone else. That is because, in any society, the political setup will only function if it serves the economic system it sits on top of.

This capitalist-imperialist system is built on exploitation of the people of the whole world. If the political system got in the way of that process, the whole system would break down. What if, for example, “the people decided” they didn’t want to invade a country to enforce the subordination of that country to imperialism? The whole world order that the United States sits on top of would unravel in a way that would be intolerable to the ongoing functioning of imperialist exploitation. We saw this bourgeois democracy in operation with the Iraq war: Millions here and around the world went into the streets to oppose the invasion of Iraq, but they were ignored, suppressed, and overruled because the bourgeois ruling class deemed that invasion to be in the essential interests of their empire.

The real nature of bourgeois democracy is demonstrated whenever there is any real challenge to the whole exploitive and oppressive setup. During the 1960s, for example, undercover government agents, false criminal charges, and outright murder were used to suppress the Black Panther Party, the American Indian Movement, and other radicals and revolutionaries. And today, the president of the United States can put anyone behind bars without charges or anything close to a credible trial. If you step out of line, you find that American bourgeois democracy has a very short leash. Again, the essence of bourgeois democracy is that it is a form of dictatorship, by which the ruling capitalist-imperialist class rules over people, and violently imposes that rule.

The “right to gripe”—such as it is today—in the United States is possible because the rulers of this country, normally, oversee a relatively stable society based on plundering the world. And that relationship is enforced with its troops and nukes.

What the U.S. Brings to the World

Whether their target has been a rival empire, an oppositional regime, or a popular liberation movement, often as not the U.S. imperialists have wrapped their invasions, coups, occupations, and torture chambers in the banner of “freedom,” “human rights,” and/or “democracy.” But behind such rhetoric, these invasions have been about neo-colonial domination and plunder. For example, at the turn of the 20th century, the U.S. demonstrated “support” for the Filipino people’s liberation struggle against their Spanish colonizers by conquering the Philippines for themselves—using water torture, massacres, and concentration camps, and leaving one million Filipinos dead.

The writer argues, “When the lives of hundreds of thousands or even millions are at risk, I could care less about economic systems or political characterizations (bourgeois democracy, etc.).” But why are those hundreds of thousands or millions of lives at risk? What is the source of their suffering?  And how do we put an end to it? That suffering—which is real!—cannot be stopped without understanding and acting on the fact that it is rooted in the economic systems people live under.

People’s conditions do not exist apart from, and are ultimately determined by, the economic system they live in. Relations between people arise on the foundation of an economic system. Economic systems mean something, and imperialism means vicious superexploitation. The economies of countries dominated by imperialism are twisted and warped so that entire nations can be ground up to feed imperialism’s insatiable hunger for profit. That process is backed up by U.S. military action—whether in the form of mercenary armies, client dictators, or  direct U.S. military intervention. And the capitalist-imperialist economic system gets reflected in, and reinforced by, ideas, customs, and so on—like the oppression of women and the promotion of religion. 

When people do rebel against oppression, or even try to implement reforms that do not conform to the interests of imperialism—what happens? History is full of blood-soaked U.S. operations to crush forces that present obstacles to U.S. exploitation. To take just one example: The nationalist Mossadegh government in Iran tried to nationalize foreign oil companies in the early 1950s. It was overthrown by the CIA and replaced by the brutal dictatorship of the Shah of Iran in 1953. The U.S.-backed Shah tortured and executed many revolutionaries. Yes, communists, their organizations, and even their ideas (including, as the reader notes, distribution of this newspaper) have been viciously suppressed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. But it was also the case that revolutionary communists were tortured and killed under the U.S.-backed Shah.

This is a grotesquely lopsided world, where a handful of advanced imperialists control, dominate, and live off poor and oppressed countries in the Third World. The U.S. is currently trying to hammer into place its unchallengeable superpower status on top of all this. Anything that strengthens U.S. domination in one country, where the U.S. is able to invade, wage war on, intervene, etc. only strengthens its position overall in the world.

The Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism

In this context, how do we understand the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and Jihadist movements in the world today? And where do we line up when U.S. imperialism invades and occupies countries, claiming to bring “liberation” to people who are the victims of repressive Islamic fundamentalism?

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism is in part a direct consequence of the workings of U.S. imperialism. Imperialism is tearing up the status quo in the Middle East in ways that are very disruptive to people’s lives. Uprooting people from the land—so-called modernization—has driven massive migration to the cities. With that, traditional ways that people have lived for thousands of years are broken down. As it tears up traditional social relations, imperialism allies with and uses reactionary feudal class forces to maintain its control over oppressed nations. Thus, even as it imposes “modernization,” even where that includes a thin layer of bourgeois democracy, at the same time imperialism reinforces oppressive feudal tribal structures, feudal economic relations in the countryside, and backward feudal customs (including the severe oppression of women).

U.S. imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism oppose each other, but they strengthen each other at the same time. The more that U.S. imperialism bombs villages, supports Israeli assaults on the Palestinians and Lebanon, and occupies Iraq and Afghanistan, the more people tend to rally around these reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces. These forces rail against the massive dislocations of people and their culture. They claim that the answer to all the suffering imperialism brings is to return to and strengthen fundamentalist, traditional ways. Those are the very traditional ways (oppressive feudal relations) that the letter writer abhors. The Islamic fundamentalists are indeed a dead-end “alternative” to imperialism. So, we do not “prefer” either Islamic fundamentalist rule or U.S. imperialist rule in countries like Afghanistan. In fact, when you support one against the other, you contribute to the whole terrible situation where too many people see McWorld and Jihad as the only possible “alternatives.” And you end up strengthening the hand of both.

A Case In Point: What the U.S. Has Brought to Afghanistan

The letter writer says that the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 “restored some freedom and liberty to Afghan women and others in general.”

Let’s step back a moment: U.S. intervention in Afghanistan decades ago helped plunge Afghani women into the Taliban’s fundamentalist hell in the first place. Even before the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion into Afghanistan, the U.S. financed and supported the most reactionary theocratic forces in Afghanistan. For their own reasons, the Soviets (at the time an imperialist power in worldwide contention with the U.S.) and their so-called “Marxist” client regime promoted land distribution and a certain amount of rights for women. Meanwhile, pro-U.S. theocrats like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar won notoriety for throwing acid in the faces of uncovered women. These U.S.-backed forces fought the Soviets, but they also attacked revolutionary opposition to the Soviet occupation—including killing Afghan Maoists. The U.S. funneled billions to these so-called “freedom fighters” in a war that left a million Afghanis dead and eventually led to the ascension of the extreme fundamentalist Taliban after the defeat of the Soviet occupiers.

And what about now? Under U.S. occupation, Afghanistan’s Islamic Republic combines Islamic law with some trappings of bourgeois democracy. Women can go to work—yet in much of the country, they are still compelled to cover themselves completely. Women are “free” to vote and be elected—but if they speak out too much, also “free” to be expelled from parliament by the drug lords and fundamentalist warlords who dominate the government. Women are still imprisoned and even stoned to death for adultery, based on the say-so of their husbands or other men. Women face a much greater risk of rape and kidnapping now than before. Prostitution has increased tremendously, and forced marriage remains the standard. Increasing numbers of women are seeing suicide as the only choice. In Afghanistan, the U.S. occupation has not only not meant liberation, but the way in which it has ruled and oppressed the people has given great impetus to the Islamic fundamentalist forces who oppose it.

U.S. Intervention Makes Things Worse for People

 Some people who might agree with much or all of what we have written so far argue that perhaps, somewhere, somehow, in the midst of some terrible situation like Darfur, that a U.S. imperialist military invasion would help people.

If the U.S. invaded Darfur, or anywhere else, under the pretext of stopping genocide, the result would be to make things worse there—and even more fundamentally to strengthen their chokehold on the people of the world.

U.S. imperialism (including through the UN) has a long record of using intervention in the name of humanitarianism to tighten the chains of oppression in oppressed nations. For example, in 2004, U.S. Marines supposedly invaded Haiti for humanitarian reasons. There was a “humanitarian crisis” in Haiti. But first of all, that crisis was rooted in the imperialist oppression of the country. And then, what did the Marines do? They kidnapped and exiled the elected President, Jean Bertrand Aristide, who the U.S. saw as an obstacle to efficient imperialist plunder. And they have themselves committed massacres, blasting away at Haitian people the way U.S. troops do on the streets of Baghdad.

The terrible slaughters that have erupted over the past years in Africa and elsewhere are direct and indirect products of imperialism. Colonialism and imperialism came to Africa in the form of some of the most horrific slaughters and genocide in human history. Belgium, for example, sucked over a billion dollars out of the Congo, killing as many as eight to ten million Africans. Today, the “civil wars” and massacres in Africa are shaped by, and in many cases directly serving, contention between various imperialist powers and companies over control of natural resources like diamonds, oil, or strategic minerals. The armed forces carrying out these slaughters get their arms from, are backed by, and in the service of one capitalist or another. In other cases, episodes of terrible killing in Africa are related to the legacy of colonialism, and present-day neocolonialism, and the ways that imperialist powers manipulate people in divide-and-rule schemes.

Even beyond the immediate effects of a U.S. incursion into any particular country, in an overall and fundamental way such intervention makes things worse for people of the world. The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq is a case in point. Remember, this too was sold (along with the lies about WMDs) as a “humanitarian mission” to rescue people from an oppressive dictator. People in Iraq are now suffering in horrible ways under the U.S. occupation that “liberated” them. And, the U.S. occupation of Iraq serves the preservation and expansion of U.S. domination of the region and the world.

A Real Liberating Way Forward

Of all the monumental problems that people living in the oppressed nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America face, the most crucial one is the lack of political power to bring about the necessary radical changes in the economic and social relations. That certainly won’t be solved by adding more imperialist poison to the wounds—but it can change with a New Democratic Revolution.

A New Democratic Revolution—where a communist party leads the proletariat and a broad alliance of oppressed classes to take power—makes it possible for people in the Third World to take the first great step to address and solve the pressing needs they face. With that power comes the ability to rip control of the economy out of the hands of the imperialists. With that power, rural peasants can be liberated from semi-feudal relations, through the seizure and redistribution of land that is controlled by big landowners and capitalists tied to the imperialist dominators. New Democratic Revolution can begin to uproot the soil underlying ethnic divisions that have been manipulated by imperialism and their lackeys. Oppression of women can finally be shattered because the feudal forces and their imperialist patrons, who maintained social control with these relations, will no longer hold power. And speaking of Marx’s point about religion’s chains, the New Democratic Revolution will unleash struggle to overthrow those chains as well.

The goal of a New Democratic Revolution is to continue on to socialism as part of the global struggle against all forms of oppression and exploitation and ultimately a communist world.


The people of the world do not need for people in this country (much less the revolutionaries!) to demand or be a cheering section for the U.S. imposing its will around the world. What they need is to see a much more visible, broad, and powerful movement of political resistance to the crimes being committed by “our” government, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere. And, we need to put our efforts towards building a revolutionary movement in this country, not helping “our” rulers further extend their power.

The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.

Bob Avakian

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Revolution #123, March 16,2008

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A Raucous High School Darwin Day: “Where’s the Proof?”

by a reader

I had the opportunity to celebrate Darwin Day by doing a presentation on evolution to an assembly of about 70 students, mostly Black and Latino, at a proletarian high school. Most of the students at this alternative school have had trouble at other schools, and this may be their last chance to get any kind of education at all.

I tried to capture some of the awe and wonder that Darwin himself appreciated in the natural world and in the process of evolution, and of which these students were most likely deprived. The PowerPoint presentation consisted of photographs and illustrations drawing mainly from ideas based on the photo section of Ardea Skybreak’s book The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters. Questions from the students started to fly almost right from the beginning. This was not an orderly affair. It was raucous and rather contentious at times. And it was a lot of fun!

It’s impossible to capture fully the whole scene as it erupted, but I thought I’d share just a little of the flavor of what went on.

“How many of you have gone to the doctor and got antibiotics? And why does the doctor tell you to take all of them even if you start to feel better?” “So they can make more money,” one student replied. Everyone should know why finishing their antibiotics is important, so I explained how bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics. If you don’t take all of them, and some of the bacteria survive, these bacteria then become resistant to (unaffected by) that antibiotic. This is a big problem because those bacteria pass along to their descendants the ability to survive antibiotic treatment, thus producing whole strains of super bacteria. This is just a small example of evolution in action today. The science of evolution is not only something that is necessary to understand and explore the past, but is foundational for much of modern science, including medicine.

Things got really lively when I brought out how evolution was “descent with modification” and that all life on the planet started with a common ancestor and diversified through entirely natural processes with no need for a guiding hand of an unseen creator. One of the young men asked if I believed in god. When I replied that there wasn’t a god, he just shook his head. He explained that on a recent school field trip he had heard a talk by Dr. Johanson (the renowned paleontologist who discovered the fossil “Lucy”) and Johanson didn’t believe in god; then he went to his church school and “they say it’s god not science, and now you say there’s no god... I don’t know what to think!” putting his head in his hands. A couple of comments among the students were along the lines of “you’re going to hell,” or “he didn’t say that!” I went on to explain that humans invented religion as a way to explain things that they didn’t understand and that the Bible and the Koran ask that you accept things on faith, whereas science examines the real material world and is based on evidence.

Well, this led to a young woman asking a string of questions: “You say it’s not the Bible but evidence, where’s the evidence?” “Are scientists 100% sure of the Big Bang or global warming?”

One slide showed examples of the great diversity of life and a quote from Skybreak’s book—“How can we explain the great diversity of life on this planet? How can we know where humans came from? The answer lies in the science of evolution.” I asked the group to look at the photographs and say which kinds of life were related. “The whale and the star fish”... “The human and the ape”... “None of them”... “They’re all related!”

“Meet your ancestor!” I said, as a photo of fossil micro-bacteria from 3.5 billion years ago appeared on the wall. “What is that?” “We came from that?!” “Where’s the proof?” One way we know that all life came from a common ancestor is that all life on earth is made up of the same basic genetic raw material and no living thing uses any other kind of genetic material and process of replication. I described the environment at the time of the first micro-bacteria and how life on the planet has constantly changed and continues to change. And as part of that process of change there have been periods of mass extinction that paved the way for a greater flourishing of life.

Of course, the evolution of life is not pre-determined and some pretty amazing things have happened along the way. For instance, land life came from the sea (fish to amphibians) and continued to evolve, and then one form of land life (the whales’ ancestors) went from land back into the sea.

The students really were intrigued with the photos of the Tiktaalik fossil and an artist’s representation of what it might have looked like. (Tiktaalik is the first “transitional” fossil discovered of a creature that came from the water onto land some 375 million years ago.) “If it (Tiktaalik) came out of the water, how did it breathe? Fish breathe in the water, but they can’t breathe on land; and things on land can’t breathe in the water... are there fish with lungs?” “What caused Tiktaalik to leave the water?” I recounted the description by Neil Shubin (co-discoverer of Tiktaalik and author of Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body) of how the Tiktaalik fossils were found in what was an ancient sea where the fish were 16 feet long: “And you know how the saying goes—‘the big fish eat the little fish’...well that’s the way it was. So what kind of evolution would allow this species to survive? Grow bigger, get some kind of armor or shell, or get the hell out of the water!” Everyone was laughing at that, including the teachers.

One series of photos illustrated how evolutionary adaptation accounts for a large part of the diversity of life on the planet. The first picture was of a wolf chasing a snow hare (“That rabbit’s running for its life!”). What advantage does its white color give the hare (“To hide in the snow.”), and what would happen if it had a dark colored or a mixed color (“It would be eaten!”)? I spoke about how white hares might have evolved from hares of different colors as well as white, and the predator/prey relation as one of the things that drives adaptation. Many of the students were really drawn to photos of a walking stick and a leaf mantis, commenting on how much these insects looked like sticks or like leaves. It was pretty clear that they had never seen such things.

Next up was a photo of an embryo, which was large enough to fill the whole slide, and it drew quite a bit of attention. After describing that an embryo is the earliest stage of development of an organism, and pointing out the gill slits and tail, I asked what living thing is this the embryo of? “A cat.” “No, it’s not a cat.” “It’s a lizard...I’m sure it’s a lizard.” Eventually someone said, “it’s a human!” (But I think he thought it was a trick question.) I then explained what the gill slits and tail developed into in humans, and put up pictures of embryos of other animals, showing how similar the embryos are to each other at that stage of development. Evolution explains why this is so—because all living things come from a common ancestor.

What about humans? Where did we come from? I used an illustration of a branching “tree of life” for the primate line, showing how monkeys, lemurs, apes, and humans, etc., had a common ancestor, and in particular how closely related humans and chimpanzees are (photos of chimp/human skeletons; chimps using sticks for tools). One of the questions that was posed was that if humans evolved from apes, why are there still apes?

Finally we talked about what made humans uniquely human. As Ardea Skybreak writes, “We think, wonder, converse with each other—including about the distant past and the far horizons of the future.” We got into how biologically speaking there are no races—we are one species across the planet. And that all we humans have is each other, and that we matter to each other—and that with a scientific understanding of the world, it’s up to us to make the world a better place.

At the end, the young woman who was demanding proof for everything returned to the question of global warming and whether it was true or not. Is it possible for humans to go extinct and how would that happen? And if humans blew each other up or were wiped out by bacteria, and if all that was left was bacteria, would life evolve the same way where there would be new humans?

One of the teachers was challenged by the presentation. He confided that he believes in a creator, however it was good to open up the dialogue we can have. One of the questions he has is how did life come out of nothing? Another teacher was excited that the seeds about evolution had been planted among the students so that they know that there’s a scientific explanation for life, in contrast to the creationism which they’re heavily influenced by.

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