Revolution #158, March 8, 2009

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA

Please note: this page is intended for quick printing of the entire issue. Some of the links may not work when clicked, and some images may be missing. Please go to the article's permalink if you require working links and images.

Revolution #158, March 8, 2009

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


Download printable pamphlet version (PDF)

Spin the globe. Anywhere you look women are being held down and slammed backwards.

From China…

Where baby boys are greeted by gatherings of celebration and joy.  Girl babies, by the way, bring condolences and often turn up in garbage dumps amidst mounds of stinking refuse… 1

To El Salvador…

Where women are arrested out of hospital emergency rooms if they are suspected of having had an abortion, and where their medical records have been seized by the state and even their uteruses have been used as evidence to imprison them. 2


From Bangkok and Bangalore and Moldova...

Where literally millions of young women are either kidnapped, or sold by their starving families, or lured with the promises of employment and then sold across borders into a sex-slave trade on a scale never seen before in history…

To China, Vietnam and Silicon Valley, USA…

Where the labor of women in the network of global sweatshops powered the last two decades of capitalist expansion…and where these same women now return home, empty-handed and used up, cast off in the capitalist crisis.


From the pockets of privilege in the suburbs…

Where middle-class girls must navigate a lifetime of mutually exclusive messages —to be sexy but to guard their “purity,” to climb the corporate ladder but to remember that the most meaningful thing they can ever do is be a mother who puts her family before all else—and where in some places a biblically rooted virginity cult has been built up, with fathers giving their daughters “purity rings” and millions taking “abstinence pledges”; and where teenage women cut and starve themselves in epidemic proportions.

To the desperate streets of the inner city…

Where among the most oppressed, a generation has been brought up in a culture that derides women as “bitches” and “ho’s,” openly exalts pimps and violence against women; where despite its boasts of “great freedoms,” the United States imprisons one-third of all women in the world who are in prison 3 ; where teenage women are led to believe that their only worth and meaning in life lies in having a child, and then they are forced to endure poverty and humiliation, and often to take desperate and degrading measures to feed their children; and where women from Mexico and other parts of Latin America risk rape, or starvation in the desert, to make it to “El Norte” so they can work endless hours to support their family back home, often being pressured into sex by immigration agents, bosses and other men who know they are vulnerable without papers.


From the war-torn lands…

Where in the Congo, as in Bosnia before it, the rape of women has been a systematic part of a civil war and where tens of thousands of women and young girls have been so brutally raped that their insides are torn apart and they can no longer hold their bladders or bowels. 4

To the hearth of the family…

Whether in the U.S., where a woman is beaten by her partner every 15 seconds and three women are killed every day by possessive lovers and abusive husbands 5 …or in parts of Africa, where tradition dictates that families mutilate their own children, cutting off the genitals of pre-pubescent girls to blunt for life sexual sensation and “prepare” them for the position of a “proper and loyal wife,” never tempted to stray from her husband…or India, where hundreds, perhaps thousands, of wives are set on fire and murdered each year by husbands or in-laws once the dowry (the money paid to the groom’s family) has been paid…or all over the world, where under the sway of religious fundamentalism and backward social relations, women are killed by brothers and fathers if they “bring shame” on the family.


From the “sacred vows”…

When the “queen for a day,” bride dressed in “virginal white” ritual of the wedding day—now built up into lunatic proportions in countries like the U.S.—marks the passage of a woman into what is all too often a lifetime of domestic drudgery and subordination, whether or not she also works outside the home and very often even if she has an advanced education and a position in a prestigious profession.

To the “sacred texts”…

Which in every major religion enshrine the subjugation of women through myth (Eve causing “the fall of man”), through code (the Qur’an and Shariah law of Islam that value a woman’s testimony as half that of a man and authorize a man to beat and whip his wife to keep her obedient to him), and through prayer (the Jewish prayer of a man that thanks God he was not born a woman).


From the cradles…

In which no sooner is the girl-child born than she is set on a course which—in spite of the claims that, in “modern” countries like the USA, there are no limits on what girls can become—will in reality be marked by the many limitations, and degradations, imposed by society on girls and women.

To “old age”…

Where the older woman is, more often than not, cast off, disrespected, forgotten, ridiculed and devalued…

To the grave...

Women die unnecessarily: in childbirth, in unsafe abortions, denied healthcare, and without food or clean water. Women die violently: at the hands of their husbands and brothers, and fathers and in-laws, and conquering soldiers and pimps. Women die unvalued: ground up and uncounted in the most dangerous work places and war zones and nameless streets.


The fabric of women’s oppression is carved deeply into the calloused hands of women in the sweatshops of China and Honduras. It is draped over the faces of young women in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. It is stripped off the bodies of girls of Moldova and Bangkok who are put up for sale in brothels worldwide, and it is worn like a prize by pre-teens in the U.S. and Europe who are taught to dress and move like sex objects long before they understand what sex even is. This fabric ropes back into history, it winds its way around the globe, braided into all the dominant religions and “moral codes” and woven into every aspect of human societies. It is a heavy veil that casts the darkness of humanity’s first oppressive divisions over the lives, the dreams, and the prospects of every corner of humanity in the 21st century.

To live like this on this planet in the 21st century cannot be justified and should not be accepted. None of this can be tolerated or excused away with counsel of patience..


Women need emancipation. Women need liberation from thousands of years of tradition’s chains. This is a declaration that stands on the clear recognition that for humanity as a whole to advance, half of humanity must be lifted from centuries of being condemned to being the property of men and pitilessly exploited, demeaned and degraded in a thousand ways.

Women are not breeders. Women are not lesser beings. Women are not objects created for the sexual pleasure of men. Women are human beings capable of participating fully and equally in every realm of human endeavor. When women are held down, all of humanity is held back. Women must win liberation, and they can only be liberated through the revolutionary transformation of the world and the emancipation of all of humanity, and through being a powerful motive force in that revolution.

At a time when many proclaim that finding “common ground” with religious fundamentalists is necessary, or even desirable, this declaration does not accept and will not compromise with women’s enslavement. This declaration has no patience for those who tell us to “be realistic” when what they mean is to tinker around within the horrible confines of the world as it is. This declaration calls out the moral and ideological bankruptcy of those who claim the mantle of women’s advance but mean only “getting in” on the world as it is—waging what can only be a losing and perverse battle for the “right” of women to have an equal share in running an empire, exploiting others, or even down to the humiliating level of owning and marketing their own bodies as sexual commodities.

When so few will dare, this declaration is calling for something unseen in generations: an uncompromising outpouring of women and men the world over who refuse to see women oppressed, beaten, imprisoned, insulted, raped, abused, harassed, exploited, murdered, spat upon, thrown acid at, groped, shamed and systematically diminished.

This declaration calls for a revolution—a revolution that takes the full emancipation of women as a cornerstone. A revolution that unleashes the fury of women as a mighty force, and that grasps how central this question is to uprooting and abolishing all exploitation, oppression and degrading social relations, and the ideas that go along with them, among human beings as a whole, all over the world.

This declaration is a communist declaration, summoning a revolutionary movement of emancipators of humanity.

This, and nothing less, is the challenge before us.


Growing up in any society, it is easy to think that the way we live, the assumptions we operate with, and the everyday relations we are used to, are just “natural” or even, as we are often told, that they are ordained by some god or other supernatural beings or forces. Probably nowhere does this apply more than in the way people think about and experience the family as well as the relations between men and women.

But there IS NO unchanging, and unchangeable, natural order—god given or biological. The history of the family, like “human nature” itself, has been one of continuous transformation.

Most early human societies traced the lineage of children through mothers. While these societies maintained a division of labor between men and women, largely based on women’s role in childbirth and the necessity of prolonged nursing at that time, they did not institutionalize relations of oppression or domination between men and women. It was only with the development of society’s ability to produce a surplus above what was necessary for mere survival, and the rise of private property on that foundation, that people were divided into exploiter and exploited, and a state arose to enforce the domination of one class over another. Bound up with that very development was the further transformation of the original division of labor by sex into an oppressive relation of male domination over women.

You cannot break all the chains, except one.  You cannot say you want to be free of exploitation and oppression, except you want to keep the oppression of women by men.   You can’t say you want to liberate humanity yet keep one half of the people enslaved to the other half.   The oppression of women is completely bound up with the division of society into masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited, and the ending of all such conditions is impossible without the complete liberation of women.   All this is why women have a tremendous role to play not only in making revolution but in making sure there is all-the-way revolution. The fury of women can and must be fully unleashed as a mighty force for proletarian revolution.

Bob Avakian, Chairman of the
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

Families, and the institution of marriage, emerged first not as a romantic- partnering of male and female and a place to nurture and care for children—but as an economic and social unit that cemented relations of wealth and power within a society as well as lines of inheritance through which to maintain the accumulated wealth and power, or lack thereof, from one generation to the next. The root of the word “family” reveals a great deal about its original function. It comes from the Latin word “familia” (meaning “a household of slaves”) used in ancient Rome to refer to the male-headed household in which not only slaves and servants but also wives and children were counted as the man’s property, over which he held the power of life and death.

Ever since private ownership of socially produced wealth emerged, and along with that, class divisions among people—divisions based on different people’s differing roles in producing that wealth and the corresponding larger or smaller share of wealth they received—women were expected to guard their virginity before marriage and then become mothers who unquestioningly subordinated and channeled their hopes and dreams into satisfying the husband and bringing up his children. Women who failed or refused to do so have been regarded as “whores” or in some other way demeaned and persecuted, subjected to scorn and often to violence, and deemed useful only as objects of sexual gratification and plunder—or cast out altogether. Through a variety of cultures, time periods and religious myths—from the biblical figures of the Virgin Mary and Jezebel to “pop icons” like Britney Spears and her tabloid-covered transition from girlhood innocence to despised seductress—these two models, of “chaste woman” and “whore,” have endured (and at times been perversely combined, as in the image of the “virgin whore”—a “temptress” always just beyond reach—created by the molders of “mass culture” in countries like the U.S.). From today’s religious assault on abortion and birth control to the worldwide networks of sex slavery and prostitution, these two models continue to mangle the lives of billions on this planet—and poison the atmosphere in which every male and female relate.

In this way, for thousands of years, generation after generation of women and girls—that is, HALF OF HUMANITY—have had their humanity and potential squandered and suffocated, and their spirits and lives mutilated. They have been reduced to nothing more than their biological ability to bear children and their usefulness to men.

This is the real root of the family which is held up as the most important building block of society. This is why the reality of family life becomes, for so many women, a prison filled with cruel mockery of the love, compassion and support they originally sought in it. This is why, even where people do come together based on genuine bonds of love and a true desire for equality and respect, the way the family and society is structured—as part of the overall relations of domination, exploitation and oppression that prevail in every part of the world today—so often thrusts people into roles they promised themselves they would never take up. All this is why the family, for so many women as well as children, is the site of crushing and demeaning horrors.

These brutalities and constraints of the family are not betrayals of a romantic, loving and cherished institution. They are its actual roots—and its continuing role in societies today, whether “backward” or “modern”—spilling out and contorting even the best intentions of people.

The earliest division of society into exploiters and exploited—with some people being captured and enslaved by others—was bound up with the emergence of oppressive relations between men and women. (Taking women as “prizes of war” and maintaining them as concubines—sex slaves—played a significant part in the emergence of master-slave relations. This is enshrined—and indeed celebrated—in the “sacred texts” of major religions, such as the “Judeo-Christian” scriptures and the Qur’an of Islam.) Since the time of ancient slave societies, where the economy was based on agriculture and/or the husbandry of herds, having a lot of children was important to the male landowners and property owners, as a source of workers—tilling the land, or tending to the herds—and, in the case of males, a source of warriors, carrying out raids and battles against rival tribes and villages, or fighting wars against rival empires. The essential role of the family, and in particular the woman (wife and mother) within the family, was to provide the male head of the household with children and to rear them to in turn fulfill their “proper” roles, according to the division of labor in society, including that between men and women; to maintain and perpetuate the existing property relations, in which a man’s children, as well as his wife, were his property—all this enforced by law or at least by the prevailing traditions, customs and codes. The family thus served as a basic “cell” of the larger society, which was crucial in reproducing not only the population of that society but also its dominant social relations (including ownership, or non-ownership, of property), relations of inequality and exploitation.

Where industrialization and capitalism have replaced agriculture and herding as the main basis of the economy, the family has continued to be a key “cell” of society—playing an essential part in maintaining and reproducing the relations of exploitation and oppression that are characteristic of capitalism. Capitalism is a form of society in which the necessities of life, and goods and services in general, are produced and exchanged as commodities—things to be bought and sold. In this society, the ability to work (labor power) itself becomes a commodity: this ability to work, where work can be found, is sold to an employer (capitalist), to use for his benefit, in exchange for a wage or salary.

Capitalists are caught up in, and cannot escape, cut-throat competition with other capitalists, driven by the necessity to expand or die. It is through the process of employing the labor power of others (who own no capital) that capitalists seek to constantly increase their store of capital. And while capitalism requires, and provides for, various strata of people who serve it and its political system, and others whose roles are necessary for (or, in any case, are compatible with) the overall maintenance and continuance of capitalist society, some of whom are well paid, at bottom it is by more extensively and intensively driving those who carry out the actual process of production, more ruthlessly exploiting these workers (proletarians), that the capitalists seek to constantly increase their store of capital—and if they do not do this on the necessary scale, they run the risk of going under. In return for this, those they exploit in this way receive a wage just sufficient for their survival, to keep them in a condition where they can continue to work—and to be exploited—and to raise new generations who will be in the same position. This is the fundamental momentum and logic of capitalism. At times—in accordance with the requirements of capital accumulation, and driven by the dynamics and dictates of this process—capitalists will lay off part of their work force, while more intensely exploiting those who remain. Or they will close down whole facilities and move their capital into spheres of the economy, or geographic areas or regions, or parts of the world, where people are more vulnerable to exploitation and the prospects of “profitable investment” seem greater.

Today, more than ever, all this takes place on a global scale, with the most desperately poor and pitilessly exploited victims of capitalism largely in the Third World of Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. But even within a country like the U.S., there are masses of impoverished and bitterly exploited and oppressed people, numbering in the tens of millions.

Within the basic relations of capitalism, overwhelmingly the wage or salary of the employees is “funneled” through the institution of the family: It is through the family that the necessities and requirements of life are met (to the degree they can be) and that new generations are raised, reproducing once again not just the population but the prevailing relations, of inequality and exploitation, in the society as a whole. And within the confines of capitalism, even where many women may have jobs, earning a wage or salary themselves, women in their masses still cannot escape the larger divisions in society, including the oppressive division of labor between men and women, in which women continue to have the primary responsibility for the rearing of children (and as the main care-givers of family members of all ages) and are evaluated essentially in terms of their usefulness to men, as mothers and wives and objects of sexual gratification. These relations have been inherited from thousands of years of patriarchal (male-dominated) society and are reinforced not only by powerful tradition but also by the very workings and effects of capitalism, in which everything—even marital relations and sexual relations—are fundamentally relations of property and the exchange of commodities, and through which overall it is one side, the male side, that continues to dominate. Even leaving aside the crude expressions of this, in such things as “pre-nuptial agreements,” how many marriages, or other intimate relations between men and women in this society, do not involve, on the part of the man, the demand for sex (as well as the maintenance of the household and the rearing of his children) in exchange for his “being a provider” (and maybe “helping out around the house” once in a while); and, on the part of the woman, the surrender of sex (and other “services” for the man) in exchange for financial security (or simply survival)?

Why is it that prostitution is a common feature in every society which is founded on exploitation and which, as a key part of that, incorporates the relations and traditions of patriarchy and male domination? Why is pornography, along with prostitution, and all the degradation of women this involves, so widespread in a country like the U.S.? Why is there the “double standard” in which a female who has sex with many different people is vilified as a “slut” while a male who does so is celebrated as a “stud”? This is an extension of the basic property relations between men and women, and in particular the marriage relations through which men in general seek to control the sexual activity of their wives, but at the same time seek—and feel “entitled” to—sexual gratification, and if they believe that sex with their wives is no longer satisfying, they often do not try to deal with this by striving for a more loving relationship and caring intimacy with their wives but instead feel driven, and enabled and empowered, to turn to other women for gratification, including in the form of prostitution and/or pornography. Or, men avoid or delay marriage—and the “complications” and “restrictions” it theoretically imposes on them, including the “obligations” of monogamy—and they seek instead, or for a time, to find sexual gratification without obligations, in casual encounters and through pornography and/or prostitution. And why are there women available to be used, and abused, through prostitution and pornography? Because, as a result of the fundamental nature, and the essential workings, of a system based on the drive of capitalists to constantly accumulate more capital, through the exploitation of masses of people who own no capital—and with all the oppressive relations that are bound up with this, especially the structures and ideological influences of patriarchy and male domination—there are large numbers of women who are poor, desperate, powerless and vulnerable, who can be trapped, tricked, coerced, kidnapped, beaten, injected with drugs and in other ways forced into selling their bodies, and because the dominant culture in capitalist countries promotes, at every turn, the idea that women’s bodies are commodities, and conditions and encourages not only men but women themselves to view them and use them as such. In today’s world, this is a worldwide phenomenon, with millions and millions of women, and even young girls, ensnared and brutalized in the international sex trade and the “sex industry,” which is a source of billions of dollars of profit and capital.

Along with all this, there are the far-too-common incidents, in a country like the U.S., where a woman attempts to break away from an abusive husband or boyfriend, only to be stalked, or even killed, by him—her children sometimes murdered along with her. This, too, is an expression, in extreme form, of relations and traditions in which a woman and children are the property of the man; it is the outgrowth of the mentality that if he can no longer have this property, then nobody will! This is the same basic mentality, and reflects the same kind of oppressive relations, as when, in other cultures, an unmarried woman or girl is murdered, often by male members of her own family, because she has “lost her virginity” and so—even if this is the result of rape—she has thereby been devalued as property which her family, and her father in particular, is counting on exchanging in marriage arrangements.

The point of all this is not that it is fundamentally the “fault” of men, or that “men are the enemy.” Rather, what this reflects and reveals is that the relations among human beings, which have developed over thousands of years—since the time that private ownership of land (and other means of production) and the division of society into exploiters and exploited emerged—have been, and remain, grounded in oppression...that capitalism is the latest, and a highly developed, embodiment of these oppressive relations...that overthrowing capitalism, and overturning, uprooting and completely abolishing all such relations, everywhere in the world, is in the interests of the vast majority of human beings, men as well as women...and that the emancipation of women is, and must be, both a crucial goal and a decisive part of the struggle to finally abolish all such oppressive relations.

Capitalism, especially as it has increasingly developed as a worldwide system of capitalist imperialism, has incorporated, within its overall process of accumulation of wealth and capital, many relations of exploitation and oppression that predate capitalism. Especially in the vast Third World, this involves the oppression of women in forms which are loudly denounced by the defenders of “modern,” “enlightened” and “democratic” capitalism—at the same time as this “modern,” “enlightened,” “democratic” capitalism thrives upon, and could not do without, these very forms of oppression, and which it therefore works to maintain in the “backward” parts of the world it dominates and exploits, along with maintaining the particular modes of exploitation and oppression, including the oppression of women, which are deeply woven into the fabric of these capitalist countries themselves. The extreme impoverishment and degradation of masses of people, throughout the sprawling slums and the vast countrysides of the Third World, are a lifeblood for the vampire system that is capitalist imperialism. These masses are a seemingly endless source of desperate, more easily exploitable and, in the eyes of the exploiters, “disposable” human beings—to be used, and used up, when it is profitable and cast aside when other sources of exploitation seem more profitable. And within all this, the exploitation and oppression of women is indispensable for imperialist capital—as a source of “cheap labor” themselves and for the bearing, and rearing, of new generations of “cheap labor.” This, at base, is why “democratic” and “enlightened” capitalist imperialism works not to eliminate, but rather to perpetuate, not only “modern” but also “medieval” forms of women’s oppression.

In sum: “Modern” capitalist society—or in reality the global system of capitalist imperialism—has inherited the oppression of women from past societies out of which capitalism has emerged, and while changing some of the forms in which this oppression takes place, it has not eliminated, and cannot eliminate, this oppression; it has incorporated pre-capitalist forms of this oppression, in various parts of the world, particularly the Third World, into its overall, worldwide system of exploitation and oppression; and it perpetuates all this through the fundamental relations, the ongoing process of accumulation and the overall functioning of this capitalist-imperialist system itself.


There is no longer the need for women’s role in society to be dictated by their biological role in childbearing. There is no longer the need for humanity to be hemmed in by patriarchal traditions and oppressive religious morality. Today, this is as insane, as it is cruel, as it is utterly unnecessary.

For the first time in human history, it is possible not only to dream about, but to bring into being, a world that is no longer marked by the subjugation of half of humanity. Today it is possible to break the chains that bind women as well as to dig up and overcome the very divisions into classes and the corresponding traditions that entrench and enforce women’s oppression.

Capitalism, with its development of technology, transportation, communication and massive means of socialized production, has created the material basis for all of humanity to live in collective abundance—if these means of production are wrenched out of the hands of the capitalist ruling class and put in the service of humanity, and if all the relations between people and all traditional ideas are also radically transformed.

This requires revolution. That is, the overthrow of this system and the capitalist-imperialist class that embodies and runs it—and the establishment of a new revolutionary state power.

As the Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA explains:

“This new revolutionary power must, and would, immediately strip the capitalist-imperialist class of its property and power. It would immediately set about meeting the most pressing needs of the people and solving what up to now have seemed the most ‘intractable’ problems. And it would do all this to serve, and as part of, something larger: a world revolution, leading to the all-around emancipation of humanity. This new power, a socialist state rooted in the conscious activity of tens of millions of people, would embark on a series of further struggles to dig up the very roots of exploitation and oppression in every sphere, from production to social institutions to ideas, in a process full of monumental challenges and real vitality and diversity.” 6

And, in line with everything we have emphasized here, this historic transformation of society, and indeed the world as a whole, would have as one of its cornerstones—as a fundamental and decisive goal, and driving force—the struggle for the complete emancipation of women.


Today the history of communist revolution has been buried and heaped with scorn. It has been deemed a “failed project” by the so-called champions of progress.

But if any system should be evaluated as a monumental failure—for the way it squanders and plunders humanity as a whole as well as women in particular—that system is capitalism. As we have seen, capitalism has not freed women, it has merely taken the age-old oppression of women and updated it and integrated it into the most violent, most oppressive, most massively immiserating form of human organization this planet has ever seen. And every day it spreads its reach, grinds up the lives and bodies of millions, and casts them into oblivion like so much human waste—leaving no part of the globe untouched.

Despite the reality of these horrors—and the fact that they are the inevitable products of the outmoded system we now live under—we find the utter collapse and capitulation to “the limits of the possible” on the part of those who once proclaimed the banner of the liberation of women.

At a time when the basic right to control when and whether to bear a child hangs by a thread, when abortion and even birth control are under fire, the “feminist” movement can rarely even bring itself to utter the word abortion and concedes, wrongly and outrageously, that there is something morally wrong with it. Such “feminists” have forgotten, or turned away from, the essential truth that women who have been denied the right and ability to decide themselves if and when to bear children, who do not have even that measure of control over their own bodies, have been reduced to a position that is tantamount to slavery.

At a time of massive food-crises, all-around economic crisis and imperialist wars that steal lives by the millions, when the need is greater and more urgent than ever to bring about a radically different world where humanity is unchained as a whole, these “feminist leaders” aim no higher than the fight for individual women to be able to “get in on” the perks that go with being on the top of the dog-eat-dog heap. Even those who dedicate themselves to improving the lot of the most oppressed and poor women around the globe do so with their hopes and efforts still tethered to the current oppressive order, a truly hopeless and demoralizing task.


To understand these lowered sights, it is necessary to speak to some of the advances as well as shortcomings of the movement for women’s liberation that, to a very significant degree, reshaped the culture of the U.S. in the 1960s and ’70s, as well as some key developments since then.

First of all and most importantly, this was a tremendously positive struggle!

It is hard for people who didn’t live in those times to understand how truly horrific things were for women in the ’50s in the U.S. Behind the romanticized “Father Knows Best” portrayals of domestic bliss, women led lives of suffocation and brutality. Millions were driven into deep depression and isolated insanity. Their social interaction was, to a large degree, restricted to their children, and their horizons were supposed to be no higher than “Good Housekeeping.” Abortion and birth control (or at least many forms of birth control) were illegal in many states—there was no general right in the country to birth control or to abortion. Women were barred from many forms of employment, married women had little or no control over property and finances independently of their husbands, and in most states husbands had the legal right to rape their wives.

It is a very good thing for all people that this was forcefully challenged in the ’60s and ’70s! It was a very good thing that women lifted their heads and demanded equality. Inspired by the Black liberation struggle and utilizing “speak bitterness” sessions like the ones that had been held among peasants rising up in revolutionary China, women formed consciousness-raising groups that broke down their isolation. They gained the strength and support to leave abusive marriages and to set new standards of what partnerships should be. They entered school and all spheres of work in growing numbers. They challenged the mores that stifled human relations, exploring—and challenging stigmas on—women’s sexuality. Very importantly, they fought for—and won—the right to abortion! Men, too, began to change, a great many transforming their attitudes and beginning to see the struggle for women’s emancipation as key to any struggle for a better world. All this fueled and was given further initiative by changes taking place in the structure of the U.S. and global economies which drew more women out of the homes and into the workforce.

This also took place against a backdrop of revolutionary upsurges all over the world. It was a time of major social upheaval, tremendous ideological ferment, and daring self-sacrifice and struggle. In the U.S., a generation became deeply disaffected over—and many troops rebelled against—the Vietnam War; the Black liberation struggle shook the country to its foundations; and the culture was filled with defiance and soaring dreams of a different world.

But, even from its inception, two different streams contended within the women’s movement. One stream was bourgeois feminism; it isolated the question of women’s status from other forms of oppression and fought merely for reforms and for women’s right to equality within the world as it currently exists. The other, far more radical stream, with revolutionaries at its core, had a basic sense that the emancipation of women was bound up with freeing humanity from oppression and exploitation of every kind—and, at the same time, grasped that no real progress could come about if women were maintained in a subordinate situation.

Unfortunately, the revolutionary upsurge of that time crested before revolution had been made. Here it must be emphasized that by revolution we don’t mean merely a major change in attitudes or significant social upheaval. Revolution refers to the overthrow of one class by another and to the establishment of a new state power with radically new relations of production and overall relations between people. Instead, the capitalist system—its economic base and its social fabric, enforced by its machinery of power and violence—remained intact, so it was impossible to follow through on, or even to maintain, much of what had been gained.

Very quickly, and really coalescing under the presidency of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, a backlash was unleashed against everything positive that had been accomplished. Many who had once aspired to remake the whole world began adjusting their dreams downward. Throughout society and around the world the initiative was reversed. For the rulers of the U.S., the reassertion of the “traditional family” and “family values” became an indispensable part of not only reasserting patriarchy but also stitching back together the reactionary fabric of society that had been significantly frayed.

Christian fascists were given powerful backing by ruling class forces and unleashed—under this banner of “family values”—to hound and harass women who sought abortions. They have gone so far as to blow up clinics and even murder doctors. They have pushed the shame and ignorance of “abstinence only” into the public schools, and have assaulted the teaching of the scientific fact of evolution. They have worked to strip away the rights won by gay people and to re-legitimize bigoted homophobia. Perversely, this assertion of religion and patriarchy even became a way of bringing many who were deeply disaffected and still bitterly oppressed into their reactionary fold.

In the face of this backlash—together with the ebbing of revolutionary movements and of the orientation of fighting for change through mass independent political action of the people—the stream of bourgeois feminism came to be identified as the only outlet for those concerned about the unequal and oppressed status of women, even as this bourgeois feminism more and more tied and subordinated itself to the ruling class, and the Democratic Party in particular.

This absorption of the “official women’s movement” into the Democratic Party, and its utter subordination to the confines of electoral politics, has done incalculable damage. For over two decades now this “feminist movement” has encouraged and influenced progressive people to accommodate to a dynamic where yesterday’s outrage becomes today’s “compromise position” and tomorrow’s limits of what can be imagined. The defensiveness and cravenness of this “movement” in the face of the Christian fascists in particular—its refusal to really battle them on the morality of abortion, to take one concentrated example—has contributed to the disorientation of two generations of young women, and men as well.

These developments in the 1980s—and in particular this reactionary backlash against women, worldwide—led to the situation described 20 years ago by the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Bob Avakian, which in many ways rings out even more powerfully today:

“The whole question of the position and role of women in society is more and more acutely posing itself in today’s extreme circumstances… It is not conceivable that all this will find any resolution other than in the most radical terms… The question yet to be determined is: will it be a radical reactionary or a radical revolutionary resolution, will it mean the reinforcing of the chains of enslavement or the shattering of the most decisive links in those chains and the opening up of the possibility of realizing the complete elimination of all forms of such enslavement?” (Bullets, From the Writings, Speeches, And Interviews of Bob Avakian, RCP Publications, 1985, p. 183)

With all this at stake, it is necessary to examine and expose some false paths and dead ends that stand in the way of emancipation.




Most obscene among these wrong views are those who sing the praises of U.S. imperialist democracy as the best of all possible societies and who even go so far as to champion the U.S. military as a force that can liberate women. They point to the unbearable horrors of Islamic fundamentalism, where women are stoned to death and kept locked in their homes, and under the head-to-toe covering of a burkha, as “proof” of the superiority of the “American way of life.” And they point to the ascendancy of women like Hillary Clinton—who as Secretary of State gets to be part of the U.S. apparatus of massive plunder, death and destruction—as a great stride towards the realization of women’s equality.

In reality, there is no “choice” for women—or for humanity more broadly—between U.S. imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism. Not only are women subjugated and oppressed in the imperialist countries, there is also the marked phenomenon of the rise in the U.S. of Christian fascists who are every bit as reactionary, misogynist, and “medieval” as any Islamic cleric, and who are fanatical advocates and fighters for what is in fact the most oppressive force in the world today: U.S. imperialism.

Further, liberation for women can never be delivered through the guns and boots and warships of an imperialist army. A recent statement from the March 8 Women’s Organization (Iran-Afghanistan) drives this home very powerfully:

“U.S. imperialism invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in the name of a ‘war against terror’ and the ‘liberation of women.’ It ended up pouring terror on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq and reinforcing all patriarchal, tribal, and religious authorities. Before the U.S. occupation of Iraq women had more equal status. They could move around in cities freely without the Islamic hejab [head covering].”

Today, under U.S. occupation in Basra, Iraq the price to hire someone to carry out an “honor killing” against one’s wife or daughter is a mere $100.7

While they may appear very different, the burkha enforced by fanatical Islamic fundamentalism, on the one hand, and the “thong,” widely advertised and promoted as “sexy underwear” for women, in “modern” capitalist society, on the other hand, are both hideous symbols and embodiments of the degradation of women. The fundamental thing they have in common is that they are both manifestations of a world marked by horrendous forms of oppression, both “traditional” and “modern”—a world dominated overall by capitalist imperialism—a world that needs to be turned upside down and radically transformed.

As Bob Avakian has pointed out in speaking to a phenomenon that is increasingly shaping the lives of many millions around the world:

“What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these ‘outmodeds,’ you end up strengthening both.”

Between these two “outmodeds” it is the imperialist ruling classes, and that of the U.S. in particular, which have, by far, done the most harm to humanity and pose the greatest threats. In fact, imperialist domination itself in the Middle East, Indonesia, and elsewhere—along with the massive disruption and dislocation that this domination causes, and the corruption, venality and vicious repression characteristic of the local governments that are dependent on and serve imperialism—gives great fuel to the fire of Islamic fundamentalism as a response to all this, although a reactionary one. Anyone who uses their feminist credentials to legitimate any part of the U.S.’s savage imperialist aggression is morally bankrupt. If they are able to do this while managing to maintain the self-delusion that those who are really calling the shots give a damn what they think, they may well have crossed over to the realm of the criminally insane.

What is urgently needed is to bring forward another way—a way that opposes BOTH of these reactionary and outmoded forces. And the more this kind of movement and powerful resistance is brought forward in the U.S., the more it will give air to breathe and initiative to genuine revolutionaries in parts of the world that are quite righteously hotbeds of hatred against U.S. imperialism.

And what is needed, above all, is a revolution, to sweep away capitalism-imperialism, and all reactionary and outmoded systems and relations...all the ways in which half of humanity is held down, demeaned, plundered and despoiled by the other half…and all the ways in which the masses of humanity are enslaved and oppressed by a rotten and murderous system, ruled over by a relative handful of ruthless exploiters.

As we have discussed, capitalism, especially in this era of highly globalized capitalist imperialism, is a worldwide system of exploitation. “Modern” and “democratic” capitalism, as it takes expression in countries like the U.S., both itself embodies, and indeed rests on, exploitation, domination, subordination, degradation and alienation of masses of people, right within its own borders, and is inseparable from, and once again rests on, even more extreme forms of all this in other parts of the world, particularly the Third World. Any attempt to “reform” or “perfect” the more “modern” and “democratic” forms of this, within the imperialist “homeland,” will fail to uproot, or to fundamentally change, relations of oppression “at home.” Even worse, it will lead—in fact if not always in intent—to a perverse attempt to join in the plunder of the rest of the world, to, “at best,” bargain for improvement in the situation of some of the oppressed and discriminated against in the imperialist country itself, in exchange for supporting the imperialist rulers in their drive to fortify and expand their empire of exploitation and plunder. It will not only fail to bring liberation to women, and other oppressed people, anywhere—it will lead to being complicit with the unspeakable crimes of this system, and/or to disillusionment and demoralization. The reason for this is, once again, simple and basic: This capitalist-imperialist system is founded and rooted in relations of exploitation and oppression, and cannot do without such relations, both more “traditional” and more “modern.” It does not hold the potential for abolishing all this, but is the main source of it, and the main engine driving and enforcing it, in today’s world.



After three decades of assault by religious fascists and a ruling class seeking to bring back traditional morality, the “women’s movement” has increasingly accommodated to a whole cult around motherhood. These bourgeois feminists have become defensive about abortion and many have even begun casting the next “wave” of feminism as a fight for the “rights of mothers.”

But, although there are more than a few instances in which some women—particularly women who are poor and/or part of oppressed minorities—are tricked, or forced, into sterilization, and otherwise deprived of the ability to have children—and this, too, must be vigorously opposed and fought against—the main problem in the world today, in terms of the oppression of women in particular, is hardly that women’s right to have children is under assault. Millions upon millions of women are being forced into motherhood against their will all the time! It is the right of women to be fully emancipated human beings that is in danger of being buried.

Fighting for “the right of women to be respected as mothers” is NOT the same as fighting for women to be full and equal human beings. Until you break with the notion that women’s essential role is as breeders of children—and especially if you yourself champion this idea—even with the best intentions, you will only end up reinforcing the very horrors and outrages against women and children you were motivated to put an end to.

There is nothing “sacred” about motherhood. Women’s biological role in having children, of necessity, shaped the earliest divisions of labor in human societies where people largely lived hand-to-mouth. Then, for thousands of years in different forms of class society, this division of labor was turned into a relationship of oppression and subjugation, enforced by families, by customs, and by the state. It was backed up by religious superstition and the ideology of male supremacy. But today, we are long past the time when women’s biological role in child-birth has to be a defining part of their lives or of the role of women in society more broadly. This is a very good thing!

It is not any more “natural” for women to be involved in child-rearing than men. It just seems that way because of how societies have been organized for thousands of years—and how people are relentlessly indoctrinated from birth. It is not the case that the only—or the best—way for children to grow and flourish is in atomized family units with women as the primary care-giver. Positive bonds between humans are not formed through genes or through hormones. They are formed through caring and closeness, listening and empathy, teaching as well as learning, and from sharing struggle and joy and pain and humor and the process of discovery. All of these are—or can be—qualities of human beings generally, and should not be the exclusive province—or duty—of just one sex.

When the banner of motherhood is being raised as the “next wave” of feminism, it is time to say: enough! This may be dressed up in the likes of Michelle Obama, a high-powered role model career woman who insists she “puts her kids first.” Or it may come in the form of the fictional character in the blockbuster film Juno, about a high school girl who is upheld for sassily choosing to have a baby—rather than an abortion—and then is further portrayed as a heroine for giving this baby to a woman who feels she will remain forever unfulfilled if she cannot become a mother. The message is constantly being driven home: motherhood is the essence, the defining and crowning achievement of being a woman. This is just the same old crap—a slightly new twist on the stifling life of the 1950s, somewhat “updated” but still constituting the same overall reactionary package.

It is long past time that a new standard be set. It is impossible to uphold the role of mother as the defining and most elevated status for women without everything that goes along with that, including the imprisonment of women to their biology, to child-rearing, to subordination to men, and to male-supremacist judgment and blame. Anyone who genuinely seeks the emancipation of women—and of humanity as a whole—has to decisively break with the cult of motherhood. Women are human beings, capable of equality with men and full participation in every sphere of society, and they should be valued and find their own identity as such.

Once again, the right, and the freedom, for a woman to decide when, or if, to have children—and whether or not to marry—and breaking out of the suffocating confines of identifying the purpose and worth of a woman in terms of her being a wife, and mother, is crucial to emancipating women from a status that in many ways is equivalent to that of slaves, and to envisioning, and realizing, a radically different world and much better future for women and for humanity as a whole.



There is a widespread belief—one that is constantly hammered at by spokespeople and various assorted “role models” for the ruling class, beginning with Barack Obama himself—that oppressed people right now need “intact, father-headed family units.” We addressed this in our Party’s statement “The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of This System, and the Revolution We Need” (Revolution Special Issue #144, available at

“While there has been a tremendous breakdown of Black families in the last several decades, that too has stemmed from the workings of this system, which has cast many Black men to the margins of society, with nearly a million of them in prison as you read this. The economic basis for ‘stable, two-parent’ families has been undercut. You could have every Black father actively involved in the care of every Black child, and the fact would still remain: this system has no future for millions and millions of these youth, with or without fathers present.

“If you really think that the ‘stable, two-parent’ family will solve the problem, take a look back to the years of KKK terror, lynchings and Jim Crow segregation in the South. Back then the great majority of Black families were traditional two-parent families. But that did not and could not prevent the devastating effects of white supremacy and capitalist exploitation and oppression.

“But there is an even deeper problem with this non-explanation: it directs oppressed people towards an outlook that will strengthen the chains of oppression and lead away from liberation...'Restoring the man to the head of the family’ covers over the reality of what that means for the woman—which is exactly being treated like a slave, whether a ‘favored’ one or one who is beaten, abused, betrayed, molested, and raped within the ‘holy confines’ of the family (which is all too often how it really goes down). When you get right down to it, this ‘rightful role of the man’ bullshit is just the talk and mentality of a wannabe slave master. And all this other talk from the street of ‘ho’s and bitches’…all this hatred of gay people, with the talk of ‘faggots,’ the persecution, and the actual beat-downs and even killings of anyone whose sexual feelings differ from ‘the norm’all that stuff, too, is the same messed-up, destructive mentality.

“We don’t need this—and it will never lead to liberation and a better world!! While the communist revolution will immediately remove the obstacles that society has placed in the way of forming Black families, it will NOT do this on the basis of the traditional relations and ideas that dominate families in capitalist society, but on the basis of equality and mutual love and respect—and of looking outward toward transforming all of society, including unleashing the full participation of women in every sphere. Black men, and other men, don’t need to ‘get in’ on their ‘right’ to assert domination in the family over women and children—they need to rise up together with women in equality as part of emancipating all of humanity.

“And Black children don’t need ‘male role models’they need an end to the crippling conditions that hem them in at every point. They need revolution, and they need revolutionary role models,women no less than men.They need to see men and women who model the mutual respect and equality that reflects the world we are fighting for: a whole new liberated world where girls grow up strong and without fear of being raped, degraded or abused, where no child is ever deemed ‘illegitimate,’ and where men—like everyone else—find their worth in contributing to the betterment of all of humanity through the revolutionary transformation of all society rather than by getting in on even a little of the oppression of this nightmare world.”



One of the great things about the struggles of the 1960s and ’70s was the way that they challenged the stigma and shame that hung over women’s sexuality. The “sexual revolution,” as it has been called, had many positive aspects—fostering healthy openness about women’s sexuality, women’s bodies, homosexuality, and even the right for women to openly enjoy sex and explore one’s sexuality without being demeaned for it.

At the same time, this was taking place in a larger context of patriarchy and capitalist commodification of everything, including sexuality. As a result, much of this was twisted and contorted into slightly dressed up forms of age-old male supremacy. Pornography became rampant and took on a new air of “respectability,” even as it became more violent, demeaning and sadistic. Instead of fighting to get rid of sexual objectification and intimate relations of use and abuse altogether, some fought for women’s “right” to get in on this as well. Those who opposed this were deemed “uptight,” “prudish” and “puritanical.”

Today, guys from elite colleges to urban junior high schools openly proclaim the code of “bros before ho’s.” Girls learn early that if they don’t want to be sidelined from their peers they have to find their place in a landscape of casual hook-ups and “meaningless” blow-jobs (always on his terms). Never far beneath the surface is the reality that women who do not “voluntarily” participate frequently find themselves being coerced or outright forced to do so, often discovering degrading pictures or videos of themselves being circulated and laughed over on camera phones and Facebook.

While boys who participate in this are slapped on the back, or at least excused (“You know, boys will be boys”), girls are shamed, isolated and made to feel worthless. This shame is viciously fueled, and then preyed upon, by Christian fundamentalists who preach that girls’ value is reducible to their virginity and insist that fathers be even more strictly controlling and watchful.

Then there is the seemingly more sophisticated, but very confused, “post-feminist” generation, reared on Sex in the City-style “female accomplishment” and female bonding. But the idea that buying obscenely expensive shoes, fucking big-time financial charlatans, and obsessing endlessly about it with your so-called “girlfriends” is somehow “empowering women” would just be frankly embarrassing—if it weren’t so poisonous. All this is doing is setting young women’s sights on being empty and narrow, self-absorbed and essentially complacent with the world as it is, not the least of which is their own subordinated position as women.

Even those who—for a time—are able to convince themselves that this “choice” is somehow empowering can only do so by accepting the terms that demean themselves and other women in a male-supremacist set-up. And even deeper, you don’t get the “right to be sexy” or to be the “owner of your own body as a sexual commodity” without a world that gives rise to the notion that women should be evaluated by their bodies and sexual attractiveness—and that world thrives on and mandates the shipment of women in droves across borders as human chattel, into brothels and “comfort stations” for U.S. troops, and as mail-order brides. No one should want to make peace with, or find their way in, that.

Along with these debased notions of “empowerment,” the illusion is widely promoted that, in countries like the U.S., women—and in particular women who are white and middle class—now have “no limits and no restrictions” on what they can become, when in reality their prospects, as well as their aspirations, are conditioned and ultimately confined within the prevailing relations of this society. For the women—and there are more than a few, especially among young women—who get caught up in such illusions, in many, many cases this leads once again to disillusionment, demoralization and depression, when their aspirations and “dreams” cannot be realized...or when, in any case, their hopes and dreams run up against the reality that the U.S. remains a society marked by patriarchy and male domination, and by the many ways in which women, as well as others, are “devalued” and degraded in a society like this...all of which surrounds women—not only the poorest but even more privileged women—on every side and penetrates into their most personal and intimate relations.


The false paths and dead-ends we have examined are worse than useless. They not only fall short of what the times demand and the potential that exists now for genuine emancipation—they lead away from the real solution. They lead people to think narrowly, as individuals looking out only for themselves, and hemmed in by the horrible boundaries of today’s reality.

Capitalism has not brought the emancipation of women, nor can it. Capitalism has merely changed the forms in which women are oppressed and has masked the structural nature of this by allowing women, like men, to see themselves as isolated individuals—thereby obscuring the systemic and systematic subjugation they, and others who are oppressed, face. While the fight for equality for women is an absolutely essential part of liberating women, by itself it is not nearly radical enough. If the fight for equality is restricted to the narrow horizons of the capitalist world, and if the system of capitalism itself is left intact, women can become, “at best,” the “owners” of themselves as commodities, or they can gain control over others, treating them in effect as commodities—but they can never break out of the narrow and constricting confines of this exploitative set-up.

In many ways, and particularly for men, the woman question and whether you seek to completely abolish or to preserve the existing property and social relations and corresponding ideology that enslave women (or maybe “just a little bit” of them) is a touchstone question among the oppressed themselves. It is a dividing line between “wanting in” and really “wanting out”: between fighting to end all oppression and exploitation—and the very division of society into classes—and seeking in the final analysis to get your part in this.

Bob Avakian, Chairman of the
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

In fact, as we have explained, the oppression of women arose alongside the first division of humanity into classes. While capitalism cannot free women, it has created the basis for a revolution that can finally put an end not just to this or that form of oppression or exploitation, but to exploitation and oppression as a whole. But in order to do this, this revolution must take up, as a key and central component, the emancipation of women.

This revolution and this future is possible. And it is the vision of this world that must guide us today—both in where we are aiming to go and in how we live and relate throughout the struggle to get there.

This means that today we must fight to break down every barrier to women’s full emancipation in every realm of society and their full participation in every aspect of the struggle to transform society. This means waging the struggle to transform all relations between women and men, to bring forward an atmosphere that not only is supportive of women’s defiance and impatience for full emancipation, but that actually sharpens and welcomes that impatience as a force that can move all of us forward. This means men have to change their attitudes—now, not sometime later in the future—so that they are fighting for a world truly worth living in and creating the best atmosphere for women to be fully unleashed in this struggle today.


Imagine if the pent-up anger, as well as the creativity and yearning for a different way of living, that burns inside women were unleashed and given conscious direction; if it became fuel in not only challenging any and every form of women’s oppression but in contributing to the development and revolutionization of society and the world as a whole.

Imagine if half of humanity were no longer forced to live with the ever-present knowledge that at any time of day or night, in their own homes or on the street, they could be attacked and raped—by conquering soldiers, predatory strangers, and most often by their own so-called “lovers.” Imagine what it would feel like if women could walk the earth truly free of that kind of fear.

It’s not just a dream—it is possible.

Imagine if never again did a woman know what it was to sell her body as a desperate last resort to feed herself or her children, or in any other way have her sexuality forced or coerced.

Imagine, instead, if sexuality and intimacy became for everyone something only engaged in when it was free and voluntary and on the basis of mutual respect, equality and a shared desire. Imagine young people growing up with the education and support they need to explore healthy relationships and sex when they are ready, unburdened by physical danger or unnecessary emotional harm.

It’s not just a dream—it is possible.

Think what it means that today for men there is no insult that hits harder than being called a “pussy” or a “fag.” Now, imagine a day when people look back at today’s restrictive notions of gender—of what it is to be a “man” and what it is to be a “woman”—as mind-boggling absurdities of humanity’s oppressive past.

Imagine a society in which women were not evaluated on the basis of physical beauty standards, their human worth and potential reduced to one or another body part—but instead were related to as human beings, in the fullest sense.

Imagine if abortion and birth control were available to all women at all times without stigma or apology. Imagine if everyone learned the science surrounding women’s biology—as well as science and the scientific method more broadly—so that never again could so-called “holy men” prey on people’s ignorance to heap the weight of tradition, the shackles of forced motherhood, and the suffocation of shame on women for exercising these most fundamental rights.

It’s not just a dream—it is possible—and it is urgently crying out to be done.

But imagine more than this.

Imagine if all this were insisted on and given guidance and resources by a new revolutionary state and its communist leadership. Now imagine, if in that context and on that foundation, a whole process were unleashed in which debate and dissent were actually encouraged throughout society. Where those who were impatient at the rate of change were not suppressed, but given a platform to criticize and the reins to experiment. Imagine if people from all parts of society and different backgrounds were working together to spring into the air, and to radically change, all of human relations established through thousands of years of tradition’s chains.

Imagine if, instead of being a place where people’s need for love and compassion is so often frustrated and even mocked, families themselves were undergoing a radical transformation. Imagine marriages and partnerships forged on a truly voluntary basis in a context where love, respect, compassion and equality were increasingly characterizing the way people related throughout society. Imagine if people had privacy and ease of mind within their homes, but if, at the same time, everyone knew that if they experienced abuse or other forms of degradation they would be supported by society and its institutions if they came forward to expose it, struggle against it, or leave.

Imagine if people were aiming to go even further, developing new forms of community and ways in which people sustained each other, and mutually flourished together, that were increasingly breaking down and creating the basis to finally transcend the institution of family based on the narrow—and narrowing—ties of biological kinship.

Imagine if, as a transition to that, in diverse ways, from among different communities and in their interrelations, society as a whole—both men and women—began taking responsibility for and finding joy in the rearing of new generations. Children would no longer be the property of their parents—neither expected to fulfill their parents’ dreams nor lacking options because of their parents’ hardships—and the idea of “illegitimacy” would again go out of existence and be regarded as the outmoded and outrageous notion it is. Imagine a whole new generation reared with play that no longer inculcated young minds with notions of boys being better than girls or one people better than another. Imagine each new generation coming up instilled with the ethos of a new society that prioritized the common good while unleashing critical thinking, creativity and individual expression.

Imagine a society where creative energies were no longer channeled into ever-descending new ways to demean women and accentuate oppressive social divisions, but instead, without the restrictions of gender or other unequal and oppressive social divisions, people broadly were brought into the process of creating art that uplifts people, challenges them to think critically, and expands their horizons. Imagine boys and men not mired in stupid and exploitative “guy culture,” no longer influenced by a lifetime of bombardment with images of women’s bodies, half-naked and half-starved, used to sell everything from consumer goods to ideology and wars—boys and men able instead to relate to women as equal human beings. Imagine the flowering of this radically new and liberating culture-–founded on equality and mutual respect between men and women and between different cultures and peoples, teeming with diversity, and filled with fun as well as seriousness, meaning as well as humor, critical thought as well as exploration and beauty.

Imagine how all this would create a whole different atmosphere in which people would encounter each other and relate. Imagine the conversations it would give rise to and the new thinking it would generate. Imagine if, as one young woman said after having her horizons expanded by stepping into the revolutionary movement, “you walked into coffee shops and overheard young women talking about philosophy and how to solve humanity’s biggest problems instead of the size of their butts.” Imagine how this would help fuel and give initiative to, and interact positively with, innovations in the sciences and sports, education and philosophy, and all the other realms of human activity and thought.

Imagine if outbreaks of struggle against vestiges of the oppression of women—even where they ran up against or “disrupted” other important efforts to solve real social needs—were not squashed down or suppressed, but drawn forward, given life and enabled to play a key part in the process of changing the world. If leadership were given so that these challenges, too, became part of learning more deeply about the social transformations that were needed and how the needs of society could be met in new ways, ways that are in line with and a living advance towards the ultimate aim of a communist world, free of all forms of oppression and exploitation.

Utopian? Not in the least.

All of this is not only possible, but tremendous accomplishments in this direction were actually made in the first stage of communist revolution. This was especially true in China from 1949-1976, under the leadership of Mao Tsetung. There, it took less than a decade for prostitution to disappear as a social phenomenon, and for women to be able to walk alone at night in major cities like Shanghai without fear. The common saying, among peasant men, that, “A wife married is like a pony bought—I’ll ride her and whip her as I please”—was replaced with a new motto, “Women hold up half the sky!” Many of the things that had kept women locked in their homes—like childcare, cooking, and laundry—were taken up in new collective forms. Women joined in productive labor, took up affairs of state, entered the military, attended school, and became leaders of the revolutionary party. Men, too, began to change and to relate to women in a new way—working alongside women in the public arenas and transforming the domestic sphere to share childcare and housework based on equality.

Very importantly, the arts, and the culture overall, were radically transformed so that a whole generation of girls and young women grew up with heroes who were strong and confident women, and it never occurred to them that they couldn’t do what boys do. To take one concentrated example: before the revolution came to power, the practice of “foot binding”—breaking the bones and then binding the feet of young girls, so that they could hardly walk, in the name of “sexual attractiveness”—was widespread, and it had lasted for hundreds of years. Not only did the Chinese revolution put an end to this cruel practice, but within two decades women in Chinese ballet defied tradition to portray revolutionary fighters and soldiers—and made breakthroughs in creating new forms of athleticism for women and new aesthetics in ballet, and in art and culture overall!

Women’s oppression was not, of course, completely eliminated. Thousands of years of oppressive relations do not vanish overnight—indeed, it takes a dogged fight, even after the seizure of power, to dig up these birthmarks of the old society. Every advance described here only came about through sharp struggle, involving tens and hundreds of millions of women, and men. But the most remarkable thing is how much was accomplished and how quickly things did begin to change, in radically new ways. State power was in the hands of the masses and the revolutionary leadership of society gave backing and initiative to those making advances, and then battled to spread these advances throughout society.

It is true that the revolution in China was reversed, and capitalism was restored after the death of Mao Tsetung in 1976 (coming on top of the restoration of capitalism in the formerly socialist Soviet Union, two decades before that). And, as an essential part of this restoration of capitalism, the oppression of women—including not only systematic discrimination against and demeaning of women, but widespread prostitution and the killing of girl babies, in line with the prevailing situation where females were once again valued less than males—has been revived with a vengeance. In Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, a Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA 8 , we have analyzed the reasons for this reversal of socialism and the lessons that must be drawn from this bitter setback—but also from the tremendous achievements of the revolution and the experience of socialism in China (as well as the broader experience of the revolutionary communist movement as a whole, internationally and historically), all of which is crucial in order to once again forge ahead, make new breakthroughs, and do even better, on the road of revolution and communism. Here, what is important to emphasize is that the reality of what was achieved, in the relatively brief period of socialism, in China (as well as other important, even though not as far-reaching, advances in the Soviet Union, when it was socialist) points very powerfully to the potential for the final realization of the emancipation of women, and of humanity overall, from all of tradition’s chains, all exploitative and oppressive relations, and the ways of thinking that go along with, and reinforce, such relations.

Through summing up and analyzing the tremendous accomplishments as well as the shortcomings in conception, method and practice of these first revolutions, together with broader explorations in other fields, Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, has forged a new synthesis on revolution and communism.  There has never been a stream of human thought or endeavor that has been more radical when it comes to the emancipation of women than that of communism; and never has communism been more far-seeing and radical and scientific than with its development through the leadership of Bob Avakian.

In regard to the struggle to overturn the rule of capitalism-imperialism, and then to advance, in the new society, on the socialist road toward the final goal of a communist world, Bob Avakian has given emphasis to an even greater role for struggle in the realm of ideology. He has stressed the need for vibrancy and ferment generally in society, as well as the need for continual interchange between economic and political transformations being carried out and debates raging in the spheres of science and philosophy and the arts. He has recognized the necessity for even more ways to be undertaken to break down barriers to the participation in all realms of society, and the struggle to change society, by people who have previously been locked out of intellectual work. And, as a key part of this new synthesis, he has insisted on an orientation of recognizing the positive role of the ongoing struggle to uproot fully all vestiges of women’s oppression (as well as other remnants of oppressive society) in the overall process of revolutionizing all of human relations and thinking, and how this must be embraced by the revolutionary leadership and unleashed as part of preventing any “settling in” rather than forging forward in the struggle towards communism. Avakian has emphasized the need for the structures of this oppression, and the means to overcome it, to be analyzed more deeply—including through further scientific summation of the experience of past revolutionary societies—and resistance to this oppression to be taken up in practice even more powerfully, all the way through the revolutionary struggle, not just after but also before the seizure of state power, starting now.

And, all throughout his role as the leader of the RCP, he has insisted that the revolutionary movement today be a living manifestation of the new social relations between men and women and a new morality that fosters mutual respect and equality. As he put it, nearly three decades ago now:

“In many ways, and particularly for men, the woman question and whether you seek to completely abolish or to preserve the existing property and social relations and corresponding ideology that enslave women (or maybe ‘just a little bit’ of them) is a touchstone question among the oppressed themselves. It is a dividing line between ‘wanting in’ and really ‘wanting out’: between fighting to end all oppression and exploitationand the very division of society into classes—and seeking in the final analysis to get your part in this.” (A Horrible End, or An End To The Horror?, RCP Publications, 1984, pp. 140 – 141)



There is an untapped well of anger that burns within women all over the planet.

Bringing this to the surface, unleashing this fury, and tempering it as a mighty force for an actual revolution...

Taking up the fight for women’s liberation as an essential part of the emancipation of humanity as a whole...

Building powerful and uncompromising resistance to every assault on women today...

Modeling a whole different and emancipatory morality, rooted in the goal, and struggle, to uproot all forms of exploitation and oppression…

Digging into and taking up the radical and truly liberating science of communism, which has been advanced by this Party and its leader, Bob Avakian...

All this is the responsibilityand the opportunityof everyone who craves a different world.

We are living in a time of great danger—a time when the lives of women the planet over are under unrelenting assault. We are also living at the first time in human history when it is possible to not only dream but fight to realize a whole new world where all of humanity can flourish; to lift, finally and once and for all, the veil and heavy weight of women’s oppression and bring about a liberating new day, for people everywhere.

To quote once again the Constitution of our Party:

“There is no greater cause, no greater purpose to which to dedicate our lives.”



1 Eric Baculinao, “China grapples with legacy of its ‘missing girls,’” MSNBC, September 14, 2004 [back]

2 Jack Hitt, “Pro-Life Nation,” New York Times Magazine, April 9, 2006 [back]

3 Roy Walmsley, “World Female Imprisonment List,” (King’s College London, 2006) [back]

4War Against Women: The Use Of Rape As A Weapon In Congo’s Civil War,” 60 Minutes, August 17, 2008; “Gang Rape, Torture and Enslavement of Muslim Women Charged in ICTY’s First Indictment Dealing Specifically With Sexual Offences,” ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) press release, June 27, 1996 [back]

5Stop Violence Against Women Campaign,” Amnesty International USA
According to “Intimate Homicide Victims by Gender,” (U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1,181 women in the U.S. were victims of “intimate homicide” in 2005.That works to about three per day. [back]

6 Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, RCP Publications, 2008, p. 3. Available online at [back]

7 Afif Sarhan, “Hitmen charge $100 a victim as Basra honour killings rise,” Guardian, November 20, 2008 [back]

8 Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, a Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, RCP Publications, 2008. Available online at [back]

Send us your comments.

Revolution #158, March 8, 2009

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

To Our Readers:

Let’s Shake Things Up With This Path-Breaking Declaration!

After you’ve checked out this special two-week issue of Revolution—“A Declaration: For Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity”—catch your breath and then get started making bold and creative plans—commensurate with this path-breaking Declaration. It exposes in a compelling way the oppression of women in class society and goes beyond that as it develops and deepens existing communist theory and theoretical analysis as to where this oppression comes from, why it exists and what we have to do to get rid of it and all oppression as we emancipate all humanity. It lays bare the paltry programs and moral and ideological bankruptcy of those who claim the mantle of women’s advance but only mean getting in on the world as it is. It presents a vision of what socialism and communism could be like, building on and going beyond the experience in socialist societies so far. There really has never been anything like this Declaration!

This needs to get into the hands of anyone who gives a damn about the oppression of women. To young women and men on high school and college campuses across the country, progressive professors, international student groups, projects in the inner cities, progressive suburbs, immigrants and immigrant organizations, masses from Harlem to Oakland, anti-war organizations, gay and lesbian groups, prominent cultural and intellectual figures—all these, and many, many more.

We need to have thought-provoking discussions and debates in classrooms, in living rooms, at conferences, on the street, at Revolution Books, at International Women’s Day events, at Starbucks and at McDonald’s in neighborhoods.

This Declaration can serve to shake people loose from their pre-conceived notions, challenge some deeply held ideas which are narrowing their visions, and liberate their thinking. This Declaration can inspire and bring forward a whole new generation who are looking for another way. But it can do all of this only if it gets into people’s hands—men as well as women.

People will agree, welcoming this, and disagree, perhaps rather vehemently. We want to wade into the much-needed debate. We want the hardest questions and the most probing inquiries.

And then when you do all of this, write in to the paper to let us know what you are learning, what people are saying, where and how it is getting out into society.

Let’s go out and shake things up!


Send us your comments.

Revolution #158, March 8, 2009

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

Available in Spanish!


¡FUERA CON TODOS LOS DIOSES! Desencadenando la mente y cambiando radicalmente el mundo


AWAY WITH ALL GODS! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World

Bob Avakian

About the Book

Is believing in gods actually harmful? How has Christianity for centuries served as an ideology of conquest and subjugation? Why is the “Bible Belt” in the U.S. also the “lynching belt”? Why is there a rise of religious fundamentalism throughout the world? In the intensifying conflict between U.S. imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism, is the only choice to take one side or the other? Why is patriarchy and the oppression of women foundational to so many religions? Can people be good without god? These are just some of the questions explored in this provocative work by Bob Avakian.

Bringing a unique revolutionary communist voice to the current discourse about god, atheism and morality, Avakian demystifies religious belief and examines how, even in its most progressive interpretations, religion stands in the way of the emancipation of humanity. A thread deeply woven throughout Away With All Gods! is the need to fully rupture with all forms of superstition, and to take up instead a truly scientific approach to understanding and transforming reality.

Whether you believe in god, or are an agnostic or an atheist, Bob Avakian will challenge you with his powerful critique of long-established traditions and his liberating vision of a radically different world.

* * * * *

Let’s get our hands on this book by Bob Avakian, to enrich our hermeneutic thinking and to shed light in these dark times of brutal capitalism. Bob Avakian’s book is a book whose truth will make us freer.”

—Dr. Fausto Trejo F. ,
Psychiatrist and psychotherapist. Former professor of Psychiatry at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma del Estado de México. Former Director of the Department of Vocational Guidance at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional in Mexico.

* * * * *

Forceful, scathing, and timely. While I did not personally agree with everything Bob Avakian has to say in this book, I found his arguments cogently articulated and provocatively put forth. Angry, humorous, provocative, and hopeful in equal measure, this was an enjoyable and engaging read.”

—Phil Zuckerman,
Associate Professor of Sociology, Pitzer College

* * * * *

“…necessary, critical and timely…”

—John Hutnyk, Professor,
Academic Director, Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London

Paperback: $12.95

RCP Publications
Box 3486, Merchandise Mart
Chicago, Illinois 60654-0486 USA

Send us your comments.

Revolution #158, March 8, 2009

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

Celebrate Resistance and Internationalism—

International Women’s Day, March 8

Los Angeles 

Saturday, March 7
Celebrate Resistance and Internationalism, International Women’s Day

1 pm • Rally and March
Rally at Pico & Westwood Blvd. and march along Westwood Blvd. (West LA)

5 pm • Rally and Torchlight March
Rally at Wilshire & Westwood Blvd. and torchlight march through Westwood Village (West LA)

The International Women’s Day Coalition, LA, 2009.  Contact the coalition by phone at 323.490.2647, email, or

Sunday, March 8, 2 pm
“Women Hold Up Half the Sky—Only Communist Revolution Can Emancipate Women!” a presentation by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
At Cal State University LA, University-Student Union Theatre
$10 donation. No one turned away for lack of funds. Childcare provided by advance request.
Sponsored by Libros Revolución, 312 W 8th St., Los Angeles, 213.488.1303,

New York City

March 8, Sunday, 1:30 pm     Chelsea Studios, 151 W. 26th St.
International Women’s Day Celebration, answering the call from the March 8 Women’s Organization (Iran-Afghanistan): “Revolutionary Women Cry Out: Revolution Is the Way Out for Humanity”

Speakers: Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution; Bai Di, professor, Drew University; and others TBA

Dramatic Readings: From the Middle East and the West—past, present, future…

Reception at Revolution Books, 4 pm, across the street


March 8, Sunday, 5 pm
International Women’s Day Celebration. Join us for a discussion on “A Declaration: For Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of all Humanity” and dinner at 5 pm. (Location TBA)

For info: Revolution Books,
1103 N Ashland Ave., 773.489.0930,,


March 14, Saturday
A day of resistance and internationalism, in solidarity with actions called by women from Iran and Afghanistan. Plans include a march and speak out, getting on the radio, speaking in classes, and more. For info: Cleveland Revolution Books, 2804 Mayfield Rd. at Coventry, Cleveland Heights, 216.932.2543,


International Women’s Day programs will also be held at Revolution Books stores in Atlanta, Boston/Cambridge, and Honolulu.



Send us your comments.

Revolution #158, March 8, 2009

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

Revolution received this communication from PRLF:

Urgent Request from Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF)

Letters like the one below arrive at the PRLF mailbox every day, revealing what a difference Revolution newspaper makes to subscribers in prison. Those who have been cast off and written off by this system are lifting their heads, seeking to understand the world, sharing the newspaper and literature with other prisoners, and engaging with their cellmates, loved ones and the readers of this paper about what a profoundly different future could and should be. On average, each paper is read by a minimum of 5 prisoners.  One ex-prisoner described the experience when the highly censored Revolution newspaper would slip through—“Word would spread and it was like Christmas. Everyone would gather around and the reading and debating would begin. 

Currently, 783 prisoner subscriptions come due by March 31 at a cost of $20,000. Previous contributors and new ones have stepped up to donate, thus allowing us to renew subs expiring in January and February. But there is an urgent need to raise $20,000 in the next month. A few PRLF supporters have written to express regret that, in today’s economic climate, they can’t afford to give as much as they hoped. These are real contradictions and we appreciate people’s understanding of how critical this newspaper is to those locked away from the world. PRLF encourages everyone to dig deep and also to spread the word to family and friends about why they support PRLF and encourage them to do the same. $350 will renew 10 subscriptions, and 7 people donating $10 each can ensure that two prisoners receive the paper for another year. 

PRLF is a project of the International Humanities Center, a non-profit public charity, exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code ( To contribute to PRLF, checks should be made payable to IHCenter/PRLF and mailed to:

International Humanities Center  
860 Via de le Paz, Suite B-1
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund
1321 N. Milwaukee, #407
Chicago, IL 60622


This letter is addressed to Revolution Books Chicago and was forwarded to PRLF:

Prisoner Writes on Revolution Issue on Darwin Day

Feb. 10, 2009

Greetings: I am writing to you from a Texas prison. I am a reader of the newspaper Revolution. It is a good paper and I make a point out of getting it into the hands of as many prisoners as possible. I was extremely interested to read in the latest issue that I have (#154) that Feb. 12th is Darwin Day 2009. Never before have I heard of anything like this and I think it is great. There is so much that I am in full agreement with in the call put out in the paper. 

I agree with Darwin that, “There is grandeur in this view of life”—much more grandeur and meaning than in a creationist mythology. People in here often ask me how, as an atheist, I maintain “hope” and a positive outlook. I respond by turning the question around—How do you do that if you believe in a god? If there was a god he/she is either a maniac dictator, or completely indifferent. Either way, it’s not a very hopeful situation. I find more comfort in the random factors and the algorithms of nature, it leaves almost unlimited possibilities.

But, I am not writing this letter to share my philosophical ideas with you. I am writing to ask for your help. I would really like to get a copy of the book “The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What’s Real and Why it Matters” by Ardea Skybreak. You would be amazed to see the amount of creationist (Biblical of course) “literature” that is pumped into the Texas prisons. There are even free creation classes taught by religious volunteers, but we’ve got to pay $180.00 to take a college biology course. Speaking of college, I am in a Cultural Anthropology class where the teacher is claiming that objective science and the various creation stories are just different routes to knowledge. I would like to have the Skybreak book to be able to combat this relativism, to share with fellow prisoners, and to get a solid understanding of evolution myself. Can you help? I cannot afford to pay for the books and I am asking you to donate it to me if possible. I assure you, it will reach the hands and minds of many other prisoners. We would really appreciate your help.

I look forward to hearing from you. Keep up the good work.


Send us your comments.

Revolution #158, March 8, 2009

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

Letter from a reader on the PRLF fund-raiser

In the so-called post-racial society today in the USA one in nine young black men between the ages of 20 and 34 are incarcerated.

In this so-called best and freest country in the World the USA incarcerates more of its people than any other country on the planet—not just proportionally but in absolute terms.

As we mark International Women’s Day this March—the USA imprisons one third of all the women in the world who are in prison.

On March 15th a special fund-raising performance for the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund is being held in New York City. “An afternoon with Lynne Stewart and Ralph Poynter” will feature music, poetry and actors performing some of the letters that prisoners write regularly to Revolution.  It is taking place at 2pm at The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center, formerly the Audubon Ballroom, at 3940 Broadway.

Tax-deductible donations can be made to PRLF.  It is a project of the International Humanities Center, a non-profit public charity, exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code.  To make tax deductible contributions, checks should be made payable to IHCenter/PRLF and mailed to: International Humanities Center, 860 Via de La Paz, Suite B-1, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272.

Non tax-deductible contributions can be mailed to PRLF, 1327 N Milwaukee #407, Chicago, IL 60622.

The $35 price of admission will cover the cost of one of the over 800 subscriptions that go to prisoners each year.  Those subscriptions run out every year at the end of March and $20,000 needs to be raised to renew them and to fill the subscriptions of prisoners who are presently on a wait list.  This fundraising event can both help meet this deeply-felt need coming from those looking for revolution in some of America’s deepest hell holes as well as contributing to putting Revolution on the map for millions who have not yet seen it and extending its reach and readership among all kinds of people in New York City.  A movement needs to get kicked off here of people sponsoring subscriptions and multiple subscriptions. Institutions and organizations can agree to sponsor subscriptions. People can pool money at their office, in their schools, in the projects and apartment buildings where they live in.  People can commit to providing subscriptions and then get others to match this.  Money for subscriptions can be raised by holding bake sales and flea markets and putting contribution jars in restaurants, clubs and barbershops.

The invitation to the event is available at  The event is being supported by those joining Lynne Stewart and Ralph Poynter in this effort—that list includes Father Luis Barrios, Father Lawrence Lucas, Marie Runyon, Juanita Young, Reverend Earl Kooperkamp, and Nicholas Heyward, Sr., to be joined soon by many others. There is also a statement from Lynne Stewart.  Many of the letters that have been sent to Revolution from prisoners are also available and should be used broadly among those being invited to this important event.  The event can be publicized by groups and individuals emailing the invitation, this article and materials from the PRLF to their own lists and posting on Facebook and MySpace pages.

Lynne Stewart and Ralph Poynter, special hosts of the event, have a particular interest in helping to establish 200 new subscriptions to women in prison—a rapidly  expanding section of the US prison population.  Reaching women in prison who are often invisible and forgotten is brought into focus by the letters that are sent in to the PRLF.  As one woman who wrote to Revolution newspaper put it, "I’m writing to you about your campaign to furnish Revolution newspaper subscriptions to prisoners. I think that is a wonderful idea and I pledge $25.00 per month for the next twelve months to the campaign. I am a woman. About eight years ago I was locked up in two federal institutions in Florida for nearly three years… In prison people are constantly inundated with the messages they are all messed up, that the decisions they made in their lives led them to these tragic circumstances and that if they had behaved better they wouldn’t be in this situation. Well, I for one realize that the reasons many people are incarcerated is because they have learned their world outlook from the media, the schools and the society overall, that promotes look out for number one and get money and material possessions however you can and it doesn’t matter who it hurts. Most of the women are there for offenses dealing with drugs or taking money in one way or the other. Unfortunately many of these women are locked up and separated from their children because of their involvement with the men in their lives. Also most of the women were foster children or were molested and/or abused in their developing years...I learned of this by reading the revolutionary press.

In a society that has criminalized those that the cold calculations of exploitation have no use for, and that has incarcerated and warehoused generations of especially Black and Latino youth in conditions that dehumanize and crush the human spirit, it is exceptionally inspiring to read the letters from Prisoners who get these subscriptions.  From the isolation of super max sites to the county jails in Texas, New York and California where young people in the prime of their life have been buried alive in overcrowded cell blocks—people are raising their heads to become emancipators of humanity and to contribute in the ways they can to bringing forward a revolutionary people inside and outside the prison walls.

Revolution newspaper is a lifeline to a far better world—a lifeline that gets passed in dog-eared copies hand to hand from one prisoner to another as people get their hands on the liberating world outlook and scientific method of communism. To those who say the people are too fucked up to make a revolution—these letters give just a first glint of the potential of people who have been cast down but who know the system is very fucked up and are looking for the possibility of a different one. Through the pages of Revolution people get connected with a revolutionary movement that has a real strategy for making revolution.  Through these pages people are finding the leadership of Bob Avakian—learning to think scientifically, learning to analyze events, ideology, politics, religion, sports, culture and more from the standpoint of the class that has the interest, the mission and the capacity to liberate all of humanity from the epoch of exploitation and oppression. As a recipient of a subscription from the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund puts it “How wonderful! It’s so amazing to see furrowed brows and hear perplexed discussion and debate over the tier, as captives begin to call into question why things really are the way they are; how exactly we’ve been inculcated and indoctrinated by our oppressor to see the world and our place in it a certain way (the way they’d like, that keeps us oppressed and exploited!); and how our captivity and the repressive measures of the bourgeois state apparatus is all a part of the workings of the system.”

A reader from New York

Send us your comments.

Revolution #158, March 8, 2009

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

Ward Churchill Lawsuit Against University of Colorado Begins March 9th

The jury trial for Ward Churchill’s lawsuit against the University of Colorado (CU) is scheduled to begin in Denver District Court on March 9th. Churchill was a tenured professor and chairman of the ethnic studies department at CU-Boulder when he was fired by the CU Board of Regents in July, 2007, supposedly for research misconduct. The lawsuit charges that Churchill was in fact fired in retaliation for writing a controversial essay about the 9/11 attacks.

As readers of Revolution are aware, this case began in early 2005 when Ward Churchill was the target of a highly orchestrated, nationwide political witch-hunt by two powerful Republican governors and other politicians and right-wing forces after an essay he’d written shortly after 9/11 came to light. In that piece Churchill described the attack on the World Trade Center as an example of “chickens coming home to roost,” and compared the business operatives working in the WTC serving “America’s global financial empire” to “little Eichmanns.” 1

Right away Bill Owens, Republican governor of Colorado at the time, called for the University to fire Churchill because of these remarks. And the university conducted an investigation to see if Churchill should be fired—or jailed—for what he’d written. Concluding that his writings were protected speech, the university switched tactics and announced that Churchill would be investigated for academic misconduct instead.

The administration pulled together a collection of old charges and disputes made over the years about minor elements of Churchill’s large body of work, and claimed they amounted to serious academic misconduct. Despite the fact that it was clear the only reason Churchill was being investigated was because of his political statements, a faculty committee agreed to do the dirty work of carrying out an academic inquisition. Their findings of “research misconduct,” which have been called a sham by those who have taken the time to study them, were used by the University President and Board of Regents as a pretext for a blatantly political firing. [For more on the history of this case, see Revolution Issue #92, and Issue #98].

Natsu Saito, Professor of Law and wife of Churchill, wrote in a November, 2008 update: “This is a classic ‘pretext’ case in which CU has come up with claims of ‘research misconduct’ to fire Ward for speech protected by the First Amendment.  Simply put:

  1. CU never would have investigated but for Ward's "controversial" speech;
  2. CU didn't have any actual complaints, so they solicited and invented them;
  3. the evidence didn't support CU's findings; and
  4. even if the allegations were true, they aren't things tenured professors ever get fired for... except in politically motivated cases.”

In preparation for the trial, Churchill’s attorney David Lane questioned ex-governor Owens in a deposition released February 5th. In it Owens admits that he told the University to fire Churchill because of the content of the essay. And he also admits that if they HAD fired him for that reason it would have violated Churchill’s free-speech rights. But according to Owens, the university “didn’t follow my advice and, in fact, chose to ignore it.” Therefore, Owens claims, even though the University went ahead and fired him, using the pretext of academic misconduct, there’s no basis to say as Churchill does that he was fired because of “pressure from the top.” 2

Students Build Support on Campus

Student organizations on the Boulder campus have been organizing support and raising funds for Churchill’s upcoming lawsuit. And they are calling for students and other supporters to come to the opening day of the trial. On March 3rd members of Students for True Academic Freedom (STAF) erected a 3-foot-by-3-foot cage labeled “Free Speech,” and took turns making their case for Professor Churchill from inside the cage.

STAF and two other student groups—Student Environmental Action Coalition and 180 Degree Shift at the 11th Hour—have also organized an event for March 5th , “Forbidden Education and the Rise of Neo-McCarthyism.” The event will feature William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago; and activist and author Derrick Jensen. Ayers was the repeated target of right wing forces, including vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, during the recent election campaign. Churchill will join them for a question-and-answer session.

Aaron Smith, member of STAF and recent CU graduate, told the Rocky Mountain News “What we’re trying to show with this event is that Ward Churchill is not alone in this… These speakers are going to put (Churchill’s) case into the political context of an attack on academic freedom on a national scale.” 3 In an act that shows the University is not yet finished trying to intimidate those who defy them, they have told the students they are being charged $3,000 for the cost of providing “security” for their program.

Centerpiece of a Much Broader Assault

The attack on Churchill has been the centerpiece of a much broader assault on critical thinking and dissent in academia by right wing media mouth-pieces, and by self-appointed academic censors, out to intimidate and silence especially scholars whose research questions and challenges official myths about this country’s history, and its role in the world. Churchill’s scholarship has done both—bringing to light the genocide of the Native people by the European settlers; and exposing the repression against domestic political opponents during the height of the 60s.

In the update referred to above, Professor Saito wrote: “Why fight this particular injustice? We're doing it because Ward has become a symbol of what academic freedom and the right to political dissent mean in this country, in these times… every week we hear of professors being fired, or intimidated into changing what they teach.  And students who believe everything they hear on the TV ‘news.’  For real change to happen, the next generation will have to know how to think critically.  That won't happen—regardless of who's in the White House—unless we defend the First Amendment in practice, not just in theory. The chilling effect of CU's actions are very real.  If rightwing forces don't encounter resistance to this firing, they will consider it license to constrict freedom of expression even more.”

From the very beginning Churchill has refused to back down in the face of open intimidation and vicious and ugly threats, and attempts to destroy his academic career and his reputation. His courageous and determined stand has inspired many others—faculty and scholars and students—to do the same. Many more people—faculty and students and from all arenas of society—need to condemn this whole railroad and join the battle to support Churchill, and the universities as places where critical thinking and dissent are valued and encouraged.



1 Adolf Eichmann was a Nazi, put in charge of the trains that carried Jews to the death camps in Poland during WW II. After the war he was captured in Argentina, brought to Israel for trial, and executed. [back]

2 “Ward Churchill, Bill Owens tangle again,” Lynn Bartels, Rocky Mountain News, 2/6/09 [back]

3 “Bill Ayers coming to CU to defend Ward Churchill,” Lance Vaillancourt, Rocky Mountain News, 2/20/09 [back]

Send us your comments.

Revolution #158, March 8, 2009

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

From a reader:

Breaking Out of “Me and Mine”

I wanted to share an interesting exchange I had taking out Revolution newspaper and building for the March 1 event in Chicago, Making Revolution in the USA, that underscores the importance of struggling with people to take responsibility for the world as it is and being part of a revolutionary movement really working at making revolution.

A few of us were out in Englewood, one of the most oppressed neighborhoods in the city with a sound truck and Revolution. We talked with one guy who lives in the neighborhood and he got a copy of Revolution. We were struggling with him to come to the event on March 1. He agreed things were fucked up in the world and that there needed to be real change, but that he had to focus on his family, going to school and the betterment of himself. I argued this was bullshit—look at the world around us, it's crying out for revolution, for communism and he needs to lift his head up out of himself and deal with this. He asked me what neighborhood I was coming from—as if to argue I had no right to speak.

I asked him why that was a relevant question and his answer was that it's enough of a struggle for him just to walk through these streets every day. I joined this sharply—think about what the youth have to walk through in Gaza—under fire from U.S.-backed Israeli bombs where frankly, the youth are lucky to reach his age. I don't give a shit what neighborhood you're living in, all of us have a responsibility to those people and the people of the world to make revolution and get rid of this system—which is not in our interests here and definitely not in the interests of those youth in Gaza. He stared at me for a second and answered, "Oh shit, I hadn’t thought of that. Do you have a card? You just really challenged me. Can I talk to y’all more sometime?"

He took a small stack of flyers and I gave him a way to reach us and got his address so we could stop by. Someone stopped by his house and made an appointment to talk further, and he kept emphasizing how much he wanted to talk more.

This is just one opening, but I thought it was a good example of someone responding positively to the necessary struggle for people to break out of “me and mine” and lift their heads up to think about and take responsibility for revolution.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #158, March 8, 2009

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

From Revolution readers:

Taking Revolution to the Rio Grande

Recently a small crew of REVOLUTION activists made a weekend trip to the U.S. Mexico border at the southern tip of Texas, to bring word of the paper’s new Bold Initiative and hook people into the beginnings of a revolutionary movement. For all of us this was pretty much “new ground.” We expected from the beginning that we would be doing a lot of investigation and learning. What is the social and political reality in an area considered by the ruling class to be such a strategic weak point that thousands of troops have been stationed here for over a decade? How do people see what is shaping up in the world? And what about the need and possibility for revolution—communist revolution?

A lot was revealed in the course of 36 hours—about the fragility of the relationship between a 3rd world country and an Imperialist power; the limited expectations among many we spoke with about what Obama’s promise of “change” would bring to their lives, but on the other hand the heavy weight of religion and beliefs that god is the only solution to the world’s problems; the very proletarian and impoverished base of the population, side by side with newly built malls running alongside Hwy 83; the awareness and deep concern of many we met in this isolated, militarized zone for the events going on in Gaza and Iraq; and above all, the need for a revolutionary communist trend to reach and begin to take hold in this area.

Somewhere south of Kingsville in the long stretch of highway leading into the Rio Grande Valley, one enters a zone of military occupation. It was not obvious to us at first, arriving in the early hours of the morning. But a brief breakfast orientation by some one with history and family here began to paint a picture of life in the shadow of an intensifying “War on Terror,” which is really a war on the people.

This is a place where long time residents proudly call themselves Mexican, but getting a job means constantly being pitted against newer immigrants. Youth are pressured by poverty to join the army or even the border patrol. On the other hand for some one without their papers “in order,” a moment’s indiscretion or a desperate family situation can lead to losing everything, whether they have been here 3 hours or 30 years.

None of this is new. But the War on Terror definitely has brought some changes to this area:

Like a 15-foot-high wall cutting back and forth along the north edge of the Rio Bravo, through people’s back yards, seizing ranch land and a whole section of the University of Texas at Brownsville campus. People who have been allowed to keep their homes within the border wall corridor have to show ID, and not infrequently have trouble coming and going when they make a trip to the store.

There’s the much increased activity of the ICE office right on UTB campus, and the Homeland Security detention center next door where at night one can see 100’s of immigrants being off-loaded from Wackenhut buses into darkened buildings, in preparation for deportation.

There’s the fact that now five federal agencies patrol a six square block area around the Brownsville bus depot where migrant workers from Matamorros, Reynosa and further south enter the U.S. to work the fields or on some contract construction project.

Another thing stood out, though it may not be so new—down here people don’t use the phone to talk about revolution and communism.

The Economy

The U.S. has never put much into developing the infrastructure of its few large border cities, even in the wake of NAFTA. In stark contrast to the small, struggling dry-goods stores along Brownsville ’s main street and the scattered warehouses leading into Reynosa is the world-class robo-cop apparatus of surveillance at the “ International Bridge ” south of McAllen. Even the EPA and park services have been brought into this act, establishing an “environmentally protected” area along the river that subjects people to arrest for simply being near the shore.

It’s not clear how much these increasing mechanisms of control and repression have, by themselves, cut against the plans of capital for economic growth mapped out in the various “Free Trade” agreements. But like Ray Lotta’s recent articles in REVOLUTION point out, the anarchy of super globalized production facilitated by agreements like NAFTA, and driven by the law of maximizing profit, is a key element of the current world economic crisis. This crisis is playing out in very concrete terms along the U.S./Mexico border. We need to do more investigation, but in the short time we were here there were indications. Vendors at the “Pulgas,” i.e. flea markets, we visited, talked about how people had no money, have had no money for months, and that in Mexico it is much worse. Young people worried that there were just no jobs.


So it was into this atmosphere that we brought REVOLUTION , setting up our colorful 5-foot display on the newspaper’s Bold Initiative when we could, winning a Pulga manager to allow it even as migra vans patrolled the area, running into people from both sides of the border who were drawn to revolution. As could be expected, we got a whole range of responses. More than a few caught the phrase “voice of the revolutionary communist party” and walked on by. Others were heard whispering to one another that “these people are talking about communism.”

A young revolutionary-minded activist whose first contact with the party had been over the Internet, ran with us for a while, and got a taste of taking out the paper. He’s fed up with reformist schemes and action going nowhere, sees Obama as just another ruling class politician, and has been attracted to the RCP’s stand on the need for revolutionary change.

We met a Tejano who wanted to talk to us about the battle against the border wall. To him this is the new Berlin wall and he compares what’s happening here to what Hitler did. These days every time he takes a day trip to Matamorros the authorities pull him aside to check his papers coming back in. He understands it as racism, but knows something more is afoot. He has seen “snow birds”—older couples, white folks from the north who spend the winter months down here—taken into the border patrol offices for questioning when they can’t produce a passport. He sees breaking through in the media as a critical element in this struggle, and wants to hook REVOLUTION up with some of his contacts in the Mexican press. Picked up a copy of the new RCP Constitution too. He is trying to understand the differences between the various opposition political groups he has come into contact with.

Some of the strongest reactions from youth were against the ongoing wars, and in particular the massacre in Palestine. A college student waited while his parents checked out the paper and threw in a few coins, and then let them go ahead so he could talk with us a minute. He’s on the Internet all the time looking at “this kind of stuff.” He was checking out the conspiracy theory sites, but couldn’t figure out why people in power would want war and more war. A 10 year old from Reynosa dug out his own money for the paper, saying that what was happening in Gaza was horrible. In fact, for people of all ages, the wars were a frequent motivation for checking out the paper. They hated the destruction and more deprivation and poverty when there was already so much of it in the world.

Religion has a heavy hold here, limiting people’s thinking about resistance and revolution. But we also found that the more we put forward our worldview, the tighter things got. A young mother responded to our agitation by talking about “End Times.” We let her know we didn’t believe in any god, but rather a material universe we could know—and change. She started digging in her purse to contribute $5. Seems like she has been looking for answers in many directions, and open to learning more from us.

A vendor at one of the Pulgas expressed deep anger at the poverty she sees around her, especially in Mexico, saying that some kind of rebellion is inevitable, but at the same time insisting that the only hope could be found in god. She respected the revolutionary leaders of old, but said that today all of them sell out. We brought out the new RCP Manifesto, and won her to get it based on its analysis of what has been holding back the revolutionary movement, and because the new conception of a revolutionary society challenged her view of what’s possible.

Towards evening we got back to our friend who’d gone out earlier in the day, and dug into his questions. Over a late dinner we talked about everything from the contradictory political and social relations along the border to what he thought a revolution would look like to what Communism has achieved in the world. One interesting point he was working around in his head was what he saw as a link between the deep religious beliefs of people here, their national pride as Mexicanos, and what he sees as a tendency to “respect authority.”

He questioned why it’s more important to defend Bob Avakian than any one else in the revolutionary movement. He had been reading over the RCP’s new Manifesto, so we got into Bob Avakian’s work in scientifically analyzing the experience of humanity’s struggle over the last 150 years to bring into being another kind of society—the real successes and the tremendous challenges that we all face in carrying the struggle forward—and the New Synthesis, the new conception of communism, that has come from that work. We need this kind of leader today, just like people 50 years ago needed Mao Tsetung.

It was a good back and forth in which we all learned something.  After that he wanted to hear a cut from the DVD on revolution here in the U.S. And was really enthused about corresponding with the paper about some of the struggles going on there in the RGV.

No doubt we will be back this way, and next time more prepared—with a plan to draw on a sense among lots of people here that we need a world without borders, and to connect them to this revolutionary internationalist trend.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #158, March 8, 2009

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

Death by Police Taser

From a reader

Millions of people were stunned and outraged by the videos that showed Oakland BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) cop Johannes Mehserle draw his gun and kill Oscar Grant. Mehserle quit his job 7 days after the killing to avoid giving any statement about what happened or why he did it. Now Mehserle’s lawyers are working hard to offer a plausible explanation to exonerate the cop for the killing. They say that contrary to what people might think,  Mehserle had “no criminal intent” when he fired his gun into Grant’s back at point-blank range. They back up this outrageous statement by explaining their theory that this cop “may have mistakenly deployed his pistol rather than his taser” and did not mean to kill Oscar. He just meant to tase him.

Meanwhile, a little more than a month after Oscar Grant was killed in Oakland, another young man was killed by police taser, 40 miles away in San Jose. His name was Richard Lua, and police killed him in front of his own garage, during a “routine patrol.” Police murder has become so “routine” that many times an explanation is offered only as an afterthought. Like Oscar Grant, Richard Lua leaves behind a young daughter and a grieving, outraged family.

Taser use is so routine in San Jose that Lua’s is the 6th death by police taser there just since 2005. Death by police taser is on the increase, and in California these deaths are not even counted as part of the state attorney general’s official tally of “police involved homicides,” which numbers over 100 every year. Neither are deaths from police chokeholds or from asphyxiation through being maced or hog-tied. All of these weapons and methods are part of an ugly panorama of police brutality that is entrenched and endemic and an indispensable part of the function of police in this society.

Amnesty International reported in 2004 that the organization was “concerned by the growing number of fatalities involving police tasers. Since 2001, more than 70 people are reported to have died in the USA and Canada after being struck by M26 or X26 tasers, with the numbers rising each year.” In 2005, the ACLU issued a report saying that “Since 1999, at least 148 people in the United States and Canada have died after encounters with police who shocked them with Tasers.” A website put up by family and friends of Richard Bagnell, a Canadian man who died after being tasered, now lists 397 people killed in North America. And at least 8 people have been killed by tasers in only the first two months of 2009.

Ev’ry time I hear the crack of the whip
My blood runs cold
I remember on the slave ship
How they brutalized our very souls

          —Bob Marley, “Slave Driver”

Tasers have replaced the slave driver’s whip and the prison guard’s cattle prod as one of the high-tech control device used by more than 12,000 police departments and in prisons worldwide.

Taser International claims that its products are a less lethal weapon than guns or even batons, and that tasers are "changing the world and saving lives everyday."  But the new tasers deliver a staggering 50,000 volts of electricity. These electro-shock weapons can be used in “stun mode” or with darts. When in “dart” mode, the shocks cause total “momentary neuro-muscular incapacitation” (source: University of California, San Francisco press release), while the stun mode inflicts intense localized pain. Tasers are used extensively around the world, including  in Iraq, most notoriously by the same U.S. military brigade accused of "sadistic, blatant and wanton" abuse in Abu Ghraib.

Along with guns, sticks, pepper spray and the choke-hold, tasers are part of an arsenal of weapons employed against the people to inflict terror and pain and even death.  And, unlike firing his gun, in most places a cop needs only the slightest excuse to justify using his taser.

In the U.S., far from being used only on supposedly “violent suspects” the Amnesty International study says that tasers are often used against "passive resisters"—people who refuse to comply with police commands but do not interfere with an officer and pose no physical threat. Police use tasers on people who “mouth off,” or people who are distressed or mentally ill and who are not suspected of a crime. Amnesty reported that “at least 1,000 U.S. jails and prisons have adopted the new generation M26 or X26 Tasers, where they are deployed in both dart projectile and stun mode.” Amnesty documents cases of pregnant women having miscarriages after being tasered.


In 2006 millions of people reacted with shock at a brutal taser attack on a student in the UCLA library, but a less-known outrage is that there are hundreds of reported cases where cops have used taser guns on children. In Arizona a 13 year old was tased for throwing a book in a public library. In another Arizona case, a 9-year-old runaway girl who was sitting in the back of a police car, handcuffed, was tased because she was "screaming, kicking and flailing, and would not listen." Would not listen? The youngest reported victim of police tasing was in Miami, a boy who was only 6 years old. He was in the vice principal’s office where he had broken a picture frame, and was waving a piece of glass around. His outraged mother told CNN, "If there's three officers, it's nothing to tell a 6‑year‑old holding a glass, if you feel threatened, 'Hey, here's a piece of candy, hey, here's a toy. Let the glass go."

Taser Confusion

While some media have jumped on the taser confusion bandwagon and trotted out various “experts” to talk about how stressed out Mehserle must have been to mistake a taser for his gun, others have ridiculed this idea as preposterous and marshalled the cold facts. The X26 taser issued to BART cops is a plastic device that weighs only 7 ounces. The Sig Sauer that Mehserle shot Grant with is made of metal, weighing 30 ounces unloaded—more than 4 times as much as the taser. The taser was holstered on the opposite side as Mehserle’s gun, and looks and feels completely different.

But another question needs to be asked. Before he was shot, Oscar Grant was detained, lying on his stomach, with his hands behind his back and with an officer’s foot on his neck. What excuse was there to even tase the 22 year old? Perhaps Officer Mehserle only meant to torture him?

The ACLU and Amnesty International are not alone in condemning tasers. In 2007 the U.N. Committee Against Torture said the use of tasers could constitute a form of torture. This cruel punishment, a brutality carried out by police for the slightest offense, without charges or trial, is increasingly a part of American injustice and part of an international epidemic of state-sponsored violence and murder.

The outcome of the murder trial of Mehserle has great significance.  If the cop happens to “mistake” his gun for a taser and kills that person, and if this cop is then judged in court to be devoid of “criminal intent,” then what is to stop any cop from killing anyone at any time for any reason? If intending to use an electro-shock weapon on a person lying face down with his hands behind his back can be categorized as following correct police procedure, then it will exonerate police brutality. What kind of legal precedent will that set and how much of this can people tolerate?  Enough is enough.



“UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Excessive and lethal force? Amnesty International’s concerns about deaths and ill-treatment involving police use of tasers,” Amnesty International report, November 2004

“UN Compares Tasers to Torture,” CBS News, November 26, 2007

“Unregulated Use of Taser Stun Guns Threatens Lives, ACLU of Northern California Study Finds,” ACLU press release, 10/6/05

San Jose Mercury, 2/2/09, 2/3/09

“Did BART cop who killed Oscar Grant mistake gun for Taser? Plan 9 from BART police,” by Junya, San Francisco Bay View, January 6, 2009

“398+ Dead After Taser Use,” April 6, 2008,‑follows‑are‑names‑where‑known.html


Send us your comments.

Revolution #158, March 8, 2009

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

Letter from a Reader:

Suffering of Iraqi Widows: A Powerful Testament to Avakian’s “Two Outmodeds” Point

In analyzing the global conflict between U.S. imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism—and the horrific consequences of that conflict for the masses all over the world—Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, has repeatedly spoken to the utter moral bankruptcy of each of these forces, and the need to bring forward an emancipating revolutionary communist force that powerfully rejects both pathways. Here is how Bob Avakian has characterized the relationship between imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism:

What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these ‘outmodeds,’ you end up strengthening both."  (From Bob Avakian’s talk “Why We’re In the Situation We’re In Today… And What To Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need For Revolution”)

Recent news reports about the misery of widows in Iraq offer a vivid, living illustration of Avakian’s point.  For instance, in a February 22 front-page New York Times article—“Iraq’s War Widows Face Dire Need With Little Aid”—reporter Timothy Williams writes that there are an estimated 740,000 widows in Iraq. 740,000 widows. To put that number in perspective, this would mean the number of widows in Iraq is higher than the total population of all but 16 U.S. cities. Or, another way to think about that statistic: Williams also reported that 1 in 11 Iraqi women between the ages of 15 and 80 is a widow.

These figures are plenty infuriating and astonishing, but they may in fact be far lower than the actual number of widows in Iraq: In April 2006, IRIN—a publication of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs—cited an estimate by the Iraqi government’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs that put the number of Iraqi widows at more than 8 million.

Obviously, not all of these women’s husbands were victims of the U.S. war and occupation that began in 2003, but many of them clearly were; that same IRIN article from April 26, 2006 reported that the war widowed more than 90 Iraqi women every day. And in May 2008, the USA Today cited the estimate of Narmeen Othman, Iraq’s minister of women’s affairs, that more than 70,000 Iraqi women had been widowed since the start of the war.

Williams’ New York Times piece began by describing the circumstances of Nacham Jaleel Kadim, a 23-year-old Iraqi woman whose twin sisters were killed as they attempted to flee Falluja in 2004; the Times article doesn’t say this, but given that Falluja was under siege by U.S. forces in 2004, it was almost certainly the U.S. military who killed her sisters. Kadim later lost her husband to a car bomb, and her five-month-old child to an explosive device.

And now, nearly six years after the U.S. “liberated” Iraq, Kadim lives in a trailer park for war widows, along with her daughters, in one of the most impoverished sections of Baghdad. 

The article goes on to describe scenes of war widows begging in the streets of Baghdad for food, blankets, and money, picking through mounds of garbage, and living in parks and even gas station bathrooms.

So it is clear what one of these two outmodeds—U.S. imperialism—has brought to the women of Iraq: death—to themselves and their loved ones— poverty, and misery.

And U.S. imperialism has brought something else to Iraqi women: the hell of Islamic fundamentalism.  The U.S.-sponsored Iraqi Constitution passed in 2005 officially makes Iraq an Islamic theocracy.  Article 2 of that Constitution states that “Islam is the official religion of the State and it is a fundamental source of legislation,” and that “ No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established..”

So what life choices does the other outmoded—Islamic fundamentalism—offer the women of Iraq? Well, as the Times article details, one “option” available to them includes becoming concubines.

“Officials at social services agencies tell of widows coerced into ‘temporary marriages’—relationships sanctioned by Shiite tradition, often based on sex, which can last from an hour to years—to get financial help from government, religious, or tribal leaders.”

Other widely offered options for Iraqi widows, according to the Times article, include becoming prostitutes, or suicide bombers. 

Reading this, the question that screams from the pages is: What kind of fucking world is this? What kind of planet, where one outmoded force massacres women’s loved ones and leaves them destitute, and the other outmoded force offers women no future other than becoming sex slaves or strapping explosives to their chests?

The fact that such a damning—if inadvertent—indictment of the imperialist system leaps forth from just one article in the New York Times underscores at least two things: First, that—as Lenin said—the need for communism truly does spring from every pore of society; even unwilling pores like the bourgeois press.

And secondly, that the courageous call put forth by the March 8 Women’s Organization (Iran-Afghanistan)—emphasizing the need for revolutionary communist resistance to both U.S. imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism—could not be more timely, just as solidarity actions planned on March 8 in Los Angeles and throughout the U.S. could not be more critical.

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

What Humanity Needs
From Ike to Mao and Beyond

Send us your comments.

Revolution #158, March 8, 2009

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


Turtles Can Fly

by a Reader

Turtles Can Fly is a film by Bahman Ghobadi available on DVD. Ghobadi is the same director who gave us another thought provoking film in A Time for Drunken Horses.

Turtles Can Fly is a wonderful, riveting and deeply moving story.

It takes place on the Turkish-Iraqi border on the eve on the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. The Kurdish children are the main characters—their personalities, their very, very dangerous work and play.

Everyone is trying to get news of the impending U.S. invasion. At the same time people do not know but are struggling to understand “what is the U.S.A.?”

The main character is this 14 year old kid everyone calls Satellite (played by Soran Ebrahim). He’s the eyes and ears of all the villagers in this area, the eyes and ears to the world outside of their village—the eyes and ears to the invasion. He is the one that everyone relies on to understand what they should do when the U.S. invades.

Through his interactions with some of the children who have directly experienced the horrors of war at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s army—through the life threatening work they all must do to live and give cohesion to their lives—he slowly begins to get a clearer understanding of what the U.S. invasion will mean…then it occurs.

Satellite is one of the few real actors in the film. The movie is all the stronger because the cast of hundreds are the people themselves. In watching this you immediately identify with these children. Their lives, their story, their humor and their humanity—in the midst of a situation truly not fit for children and other living things.

Satellite’s name is a metaphor for the story. He has the skills that he picked up from his father, he is able to install an antenna and is technically savvy. The story unfolds through him and three orphans he meets from another village, especially Agrin—a little girl who captures your attention from the very opening scene—her standing on the edge of a cliff, taking off and leaving her shoes behind—and then you learn all that led up to that precipice.

This movie is a must see.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #158, March 8, 2009

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

From Revolution Readers:

La tamaliza audaz—The Bold “Tamaliza”

This letter from Revolution readers was originally in Spanish

After we read “A Bold Initiative” (the article that came out in Revolución on November 16, 2008) that announced the REVOLUCIÓN initiative, we were filled with enthusiasm for raising funds to contribute to it. We were inspired by the part that talks about how it will broaden who the paper reaches: “Tomorrow, Revolution will be distributed in many more sections of society…reaching and affecting tens of thousands.” We decided that since the xmas holidays were coming we could sell tamales, “we should have a Revolución tamaliza [tamale fest]!”

Since there are a lot of different tastes, we thought we should make pork, chicken, cheese with chile strips, sweet ones and even vegetarian tamales. We were going to need: masa, corn husks, chicken, cheese, California chile, chile de árbol (small but very hot!), garlic, onion and other vegetables. Right away we went to the masses to solicit their help and talk to them about this bold initiative. One person who works in a grocery warehouse—and who buys the paper regularly—donated $50, he wants the paper to be distributed broadly and was very glad that we were so enthusiastic about raising funds. His brother sold us the vegetables at a good price—almost free. Another person who works in a poultry store got us very cheap chicken and several other people (two teams of four) that read the paper helped to make tamales, one woman even missed a day of work so that she could fill the orders that we had gotten.

We made up a form so that people could make orders and in that way know that the money is going to Revolución: a dozen for $20, ½ dozen for $10 and singles for $2. The bookstore Libros Revolución helped us in our efforts, they sent the order form out by e-mail and some people picked up their tamales there. We got a lot of orders! Some wanted tamales for their office parties, others for their students, or to share with their loved ones. All in all we sold 400 tamales and collected $530.

Making vegetarian tamales was a challenge, because to make them we had to break with old tamale traditions. In other words, we had to change the recipe—normally the masa is ground together with lard (that comes from animal fat)—and so we couldn’t claim to have a vegetarian tamale if we made it that way—it’s like telling a vegetarian to just eat the vegetables from the beef soup, or just take the pepperoni off the pizza. So we had to get masa made with vegetable oil, not with lard. It was a new thing. The masa came out ok but we definitely have to figure out the filling better. It was a learning experience, but with the suggestions of others we’ll make a better one—we’ll end up with some fucking good vegetarian tamales!

Even after xmas we kept on getting orders from people who wanted tamales for New Year’s. This effort filled us with enthusiasm and motivation to keep on raising funds, involving more and more people, including we want to have a class to train people to make tamales. We have pledged to do one activity a month—it could be tamale sales, or maybe corn on the cob or chiles rellenos, all to promote the newspaper and waking up the interest in other people in that way, always talking about the importance of what we are contributing to—developing a revolutionary movement with the newspaper as the hub and pivot.

Send us your comments.