Revolution #172, August 9, 2009

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA

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Revolution #172, August 9, 2009

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In the Wake of the Arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The Cover-up and the Backlash

by Alan Goodman

On July 16, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., one of the most recognized African-American intellectuals and personalities in America, was arrested because he objected angrily to being accused of breaking into his own home. Professor Gates was handcuffed at his home, jailed, and only released after the intervention of his attorney, Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree.

Gates’ arrest, and ensuing comments by Barack Obama that racial profiling is “just a fact,” set off a furious barrage of attacks from the powers that be on any attempt to call out the arrest of Henry Louis Gates as exactly what it was: a message to everyone that no matter how far you make it in America, by the system’s standards Black people still are required to “know their place.”

The backlash and the aftershocks continue.

Not a Misunderstanding… A Message

Barack Obama had Gates, and the arresting officer—James Crowley—to the White House for “beers.” It was a move calculated to frame the Gates Affair as if it was a matter of a couple dudes getting into a shoving match on the basketball court. Never-mind that the reality was that the armed might of the system confronted Henry Louis Gates at his own home, in the form of police with guns and handcuffs, and locked him in jail.

And never-mind that this application of the armed might of the system was intended to send a message that is enforced by police and other institutions of power in this country every day—that no matter how much a Black person “succeeds,” even by the system’s terms, he is still subject to racist abuse any time, anywhere.

In light of all the bullshit, it is necessary to once again, sort out truth from lies, reality from bullshit, and right from wrong. Last week in Revolution, we documented in detail how the arrest of Professor Gates was in retaliation for, according to the police report, accusing the arresting officer of racial bias, and doing so loudly and in public. That is of course not illegal, much less wrong (see “The Arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: What do they call a Black man with a PhD? RACIST OUTRAGE in Massachusetts,” by Alan Goodman, Revolution #171, August 2, 2009). This is the basic fact, and reality, of the case.

New evidence—which has been covered up, turned upside down, and obfuscated in the mainstream media—has emerged as to the racist nature of the initial confrontation. The police report from Crowley claimed that the woman who called 911 told him that her “suspicions were aroused” by the activity of “what appeared to be two black males with backpacks on the porch of [Gates’ home].” [emphasis added] In fact, this woman’s 911 call—which has now been released and is available on YouTube—reveals that she identified the people at Gates’ home as one man who “looked kind of Hispanic but I’m not really sure,” and that she “didn’t see what [the second man] looked like at all.”

The 911 call contradicted Crowley’s police report on nearly all the essential facts that supposedly justified the investigation of Gates in the first place. But instead of investigating what that was all about, the mainstream media came up with a bizarre spin on these revelations: the story all over the news became accusations that the 911 caller was vilified unjustly as a racist by Gates’ supporters on blogs, and that this supposedly showed how his supporters were imagining racism in the whole incident, and unfairly branding nice white people as racists.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media somehow, en masse, forgot to ask an obvious question posed by these revelations that goes to the heart of the incident: Why would Crowley claim in his report that the 911 caller reported two suspicious Black men with backpacks, when in fact the caller said that one of the men might have looked Hispanic, that she didn’t see the other one? Why would he claim that the witness said the men had backpacks, when she said they had suitcases? And why did he not acknowledge that she couldn’t tell if the men involved were using a key to enter the house?

The mainstream media, again en masse, also somehow forgot to ask the next obvious question: Did Crowley lie about all the basic facts of the 911 call in order to justify racist police harassment backed up by an arrest? After all, according to the 911 call, there was no basis for Crowley to be looking for Black suspects on the scene in the first place.

There are also new revelations that shed further light on the sequence of events leading to, and reason for the arrest of Professor Gates. As we reported last week, very shortly after arriving on the scene, it was clear to the arresting cop that Professor Gates was in his own home, that he had been falsely accused of breaking into his own home, and that no crime had been committed. But then, instead of an apology, Crowley escalated the situation. The police report states: “Upon learning that Gates was affiliated with Harvard, I radioed and requested the presence of the Harvard University Police.” In other words, after Crowley—by his own account—determined who Gates was, and that no crime was being committed, he called in more police.

Since the release of that police report, new police radio transmissions have been released revealing that Crowley called for more Cambridge cops as well, and why: “I’m up with a gentleman says he resides here, but was uncooperative.” And Crowley adds, “But keep the cars coming.”

As documented in Revolution last week, the Gates arrest was hardly the action of a single cop, but involved calls to the Harvard Police Department, additional police from the Cambridge Police Department, and by the time of the arrest itself, it had to have been clear to the police that they were arresting a renowned and famous African-American professor at his own home.

This was not a “misunderstanding” between two men, one doing his job, the other losing his cool. It was a conscious, systematic “message,” backed up by police with guns, handcuffs, and jail cells, that no Black man in America, no matter how successful by the system’s own standards, is immune to the “unwritten code” that Black people have to bow and scrape when confronted unjustly by a police officer.

The Cop’s Email

Two questions:

1) Just how thoroughly is it inculcated into the minds of police officers in the United States that their societal role involves, indeed requires, abusing Black people?

2) Just how emboldened and legitimized do KKK-style racists feel these days?

An email from Boston police officer Justin Barrett sheds light on the answer to those two questions. It reads, in part: “[I]f I was the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC [pepper spray] deserving of his belligerent non-compliance.” The email also used the racist phrase “jungle monkey” two other times.

It would be sufficiently beyond outrageous, and an indictment of the mentality and culture of the armed enforcers of this system, if this active-duty Boston cop (and National Guardsman) had emailed these racist threats and rants to one of his racist police buddies. But just how confident he was that he was thinking and doing what he was supposed to think and do is indicated by the fact that Barrett sent this racist email to a Boston Globe columnist! Yvonne Abraham had criticized the arrest of Gates as “dunderheaded,” and along with Barrett’s bile, received scores of racist emails in response to her column.

The Gates Affair has revealed and ripped open, once again, profound and explosive contradictions at the heart of U.S. society. How those contradictions get settled remains unwritten.

Everyone who opposes racism, and the oppression of Black people, should refuse to tolerate the arrest of Henry Louis Gates. Spread the coverage at to bring out the truth behind the arrest and its aftermath, and build resistance and opposition to both the cover-up of what this arrest represents, and the racist backlash.

See also: “Systemic Racial Profiling… And A System of Oppression

Send us your comments.

Revolution #172, August 9, 2009

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On the Importance of Marxist Materialism, Communism as a Science, Meaningful Revolutionary Work, and a Life with Meaning
Part 8

By Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

[Editors’ note: The following is the eighth excerpt from the text of a talk by Bob Avakian, earlier this year, which is being serialized in Revolution, beginning with issue #163. Parts 1-7 appeared in issues #163, #164, #165, #166, #167, #169, and #171. Part 8, along with Parts 6 and 7, are from the section titled “The Social Basis for Revolution.” The text of the talk has been edited and footnotes have been added for publication. The entire talk can be found online at]

Winning people to be communists, emancipators of humanity

In light of that, I want to speak once again to the crucial importance of bringing forward and continually strengthening the communist solid core of, in turn, a broader revolutionary movement—a movement aiming for revolution and nothing less. This stresses once again the great importance of struggling to win people to the whole orientation of being emancipators of humanity, in opposition to notions of revenge—"the last shall be first, and the first shall be last"; "this is my chance to have a go at being in the top position," and so on—which is, to a large degree, the spontaneous way in which people see the question of change in society, when and insofar as they think about this. So there has to be a struggle for people to break out of, to rupture with, that outlook, and to become emancipators of humanity—to be striving consciously for the abolition of not just this or that particular oppressive relation, and not just a change of place within the framework of oppression and exploitation, but the abolition of all oppression and exploitation throughout the world.

This underlines why it is so crucial to pay so much attention, now, to questions of the communist outlook, orientation and aims, in contrast to outlooks and programs representing the interests and aspirations of other classes, and particularly in contrast to the outlook and interests of the bourgeoisie and to what is concentrated in the phrase "bourgeois right": the notion of "right" (or rights) within the framework of bourgeois society, a society dominated by an exploiting class, a society founded on, embodying and enforcing relations of exploitation. There is a crucial importance to this if there is ever going to really be a revolution and if that revolution is actually going to lead to a radically new world.

At the same time, while it is important to wage this struggle among basic masses—the exploited proletarians and others held down at the base of society—there is also the crucial importance of winning over a section of intellectuals—and, more broadly speaking, educated youth—to the vision but also the actual goal of communism. Repeatedly, we see that the strivings of youth for a better world, even to the degree that they do get spontaneously expressed, become diverted, and perverted, degraded and vitiated by the ruling class. And, again, Obama's role is a concentrated example of that. We see a lot of youth today, for example, rallying to Obama's broad call to do "service" to the country in one form or another—not simply military service, but even service in other ways—in education or in terms of the infrastructure or other needs of the country, as these are perceived and framed by the ruling class that Obama is a representative of and serves. What Obama is calling for is service to imperialism—to the bloody system which crushes, degrades and brutalizes, and literally slaughters millions of people, year after year, decade after decade, in the service of exploitation, and to reinforce oppressive relations, including those between oppressor and oppressed nations and peoples, and the oppression of women.

There is, with Obama, this whole echo today of John Kennedy's [speaking in New England accent]: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Obama is very consciously echoing this with his call to service. And, as an article in issue number 153 of Revolution pointed out, this is being directed, distorted and perverted toward service to U.S. imperialism. This is something people learned back in the 1960s. One very significant manifestation of this occurred with people who went into the Peace Corps and then found out what imperialism was actually doing and what they were being directed and led to do as part of an imperialist agency—and who then came back and formed groups like Returned Volunteers, which were explicitly anti-imperialist. They learned in those times, in a situation where people were rising up against imperialism around the world, what the actual relations were that they were being called on to give service to, by being part of imperialist agencies like the Peace Corps. They learned that things like the Peace Corps were an "adjunct" to, and part of the same overall apparatus as, the U.S. military, the CIA, and other instruments of violent, life-crushing imperialist domination and exploitation—and they rebelled against that. This underscores how crucial it is that people break out of the imperialist-constructed framework in which they are conditioned to see the possibility of making contributions to a better world: the ways in which that is distorted and perverted to the literally bloodthirsty aims of imperialism—yes, as represented by Obama, no less than Clinton, no less than "W" Bush, and all the others.

At the same time, we see how in the world today there is the growing phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism, an outmoded world-view, representing outmoded relations, highly oppressive relations, including the enslavement of women in many different forms. People are drawn to that because they see it as a force actually opposing the dominant imperialist powers of the West (however they understand that), represented above all by the U.S. In this connection it is worth recalling again the comment made by a bourgeois observer about people in England who carried out what were objectively acts of terrorism there, on the basis of being influenced by this Islamic fundamentalist ideology. He noted that a generation ago these people, or many of them, would have been Maoists. Now, as I've stressed before, the point is most decidedly not that Maoists carry out the same kind of tactics as Islamic fundamentalists—clearly communists have a very different world outlook and different fundamental objectives and, flowing from that, very different tactics—but the essential point here is that a few decades ago, in circumstances where, in the world overall, revolutionary communism had a much more powerful impact and influence, such people, or many of them, would have been in a radically different and much better place, being drawn to a radically different and truly liberating world outlook and a whole different strategy for changing the world that relies upon and draws forward the masses of people, women no less than men, and aims to uproot all relations of exploitation and oppression, and doesn't seek to terrorize sections of the people into accepting a new form of oppression, or a slightly altered form of oppression.

In this context it is also worth recalling a front page article in the New York Times, on December 24 of last year (2008), where it quotes a youth in a Middle Eastern country, saying that the Islamic fundamentalist movement is for youth like him what Pan-Arabism was for his parents' generation.

This general phenomenon is something that I've pointed to and analyzed in some depth in the book Away With All Gods!—Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World. But one thing that was not sufficiently spoken to there (I have spoken to this elsewhere but I actually wish I had spoken to it more in that book...but I'll speak to it here [laughs]) is that, besides the phenomenon of masses of poor people from the countryside—peasants and so on—being uprooted and thrown into the urban areas, and in particular the shantytowns, in countries throughout the Third World, there is also the phenomenon of educated youth who are, however, educated (as one bourgeois commentator put it) on a certain narrow foundation: people who go to college to become engineers or technicians or similar occupations, but find their aspirations for that thwarted by the corruption of the governments in those countries (this is how many of these youth spontaneously see this), but fundamentally by the fact that the economy of those countries and their role within the overall framework of imperialism cannot provide an outlet for these aspirations—to put it simply, cannot provide enough positions and jobs for people who do get the education and training in these spheres. This is one of the sources that is feeding organized Islamic fundamentalist trends and movements within many of these countries. And this is feeding Islamic fundamentalism—and other religious fundamentalism—in today's world more broadly.

In opposition to this, there is a need to much more broadly and deeply capture the imagination of people generally, basic masses but also educated youth—to inspire them with the vision of communism and win them to its truly liberating outlook and goals, win them to truly be emancipators of humanity seeking to abolish all shackles, mental as well as economic, social and political, that hold down the masses of people—as a key part of building the overall movement for revolution, toward the final aim of a communist world. This is an extremely important point, and something I'll come back to: the attractiveness of what is represented by communism, and the need to much more boldly and vigorously put this forward and fight for it among educated youth, as well as among basic masses, and other sections of the people.

To be continued

Send us your comments.

Revolution #172, August 9, 2009

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by Larry Everest

The biggest political crisis in Iran since the 1978-79 revolution that overthrew the U.S. lackey, the Shah, and brought the Islamic Republic and clerical theocracy to power continues to unfold. Divisions at the top of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) are sharpening. Rage at Iran’s rulers is deepening, not ebbing, fueled in part by new revelations of official brutality and murder. And thousands continue to courageously defy brutal state repression to go into the streets as well as speak out in other ways against the regime.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Israeli rulers (whose actions, including sanctions, covert operations, threats of war, and Obama’s diplomatic and propaganda initiatives, contributed to this unexpected crisis), are openly evaluating what impact recent developments will have on their efforts to contain and weaken Iran as a regional power and obstacle to their own imperialist hegemony. Against this backdrop, their talk of “crippling sanctions” and possible military attack is growing louder.

Mourning Neda Agha-Soltan

The latest outpouring of opposition took place on Thursday, July 30, when thousands (some estimated tens of thousands) tried to gather at the gravesite of Neda Agha-Soltan in Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery in Tehran to mark the 40th day since her murder by the IRI in defiance of a government ban on protests. Neda had become a worldwide symbol of the uprising—and the regime’s murderous brutality. When mourners attempted to gather, they were attacked by the regime’s police and paramilitary forces, sprayed with tear gas, and clubbed. Protesters, whose chants included “death to the dictator,” “this government is dead,” and “Neda lives! [Iranian President] Ahmadinejad is dead!” reportedly tried to regroup and march through Tehran. Large crowds also gathered in central and northern Tehran, and they too were attacked by police. The New York Times called it “some of the largest and most violent street clashes in weeks.” (Democracy Now! and NYT, July 31, 2009)

There are calls for more demonstrations in coming days and weeks, including a call circulating for everyone in Tehran to come into the streets—and for no one to stay home—on Wednesday, August 5, to protest Ahmadinejad’s swearing in.

(For more coverage of the Iranian people’s uprising, see “Live from Iran: Excerpts from A World To Win News Service Coverage,” Revolution #171, August 2, 2009,‑en.html.)

Iran’s Dungeons of Torture and Murder

In recent days there have been new revelations about the IRI’s vicious attempt to crush the people’s uprising with torture and murder. These revelations have poured fuel on the flames of mass outrage against the Islamic Republic but also provide a very stark exposure of the horrors of religious fundamentalism in power.

Accounts of the widespread abuse of arrested protesters in Iran’s jails have come forward—and been spread on the web—thanks to the courage of friends, relatives, and former prisoners. The New York Times reports on several online posts:

“We were all standing so close to each other that no one could move. The plainclothes guards came into the room and broke all the light bulbs, and in the pitch dark started beating us, whoever they could.” By morning, at least four detainees were dead, he added.

“In another account posted online, a former detainee describes being made to lie facedown on the floor of a police station bathroom, where an officer would step on his neck and force him to lick the toilet bowl as the officer cursed reformist politicians.

“A woman described having her hair pulled as interrogators demanded that she confess to having sex with political figures. When she was finally released, she was forced—like many others—to sign a paper saying she had never been mistreated.”

Others describe fingernails being pulled out. Hospital officials have reported evidence of over 100 deaths since June 12. And more and more families are receiving the battered corpses of their loved ones.

(“Reports of Prison Abuse and Deaths Anger Iranians,” New York Times, July 28, 2009. For more exposure of prison brutality, see From Iran: “Urgent call to defend arrested youth from torture and ‘disappearance’” (July 6, 2009. A World to Win News Service), issued July 3 by the Iranian student newsletter Bazr ( and; and A World to Win News Service, July 13, 2009, “Tehran doctor: ‘The authorities are covering up the number of dead,’” Revolution #170, July 19, 2009 at

Unprecedented Crisis of Legitimacy and A Leap in Revolutionary Sentiments

The immediate trigger for this crisis was the apparent rigging of the June 12 presidential election which returned current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office. This seemingly stolen election sprung from bitter factional infighting at the highest levels of the clerical/Islamist establishment over how to best preserve their reactionary theocratic rule. And the election theft and these fissures in Iran’s ruling structure opened the door for a mass outpouring by millions of Iranians, the likes of which hasn’t been seen for 30 years, both immediately before and especially after the stolen election.

While this uprising was initially sparked by the stolen election, and encompasses many different viewpoints (including many who—at least for now—follow the more liberal of the Iranian theocrats and hope that the Islamic Republic can be reformed for the better), at a deeper level, it reflects the profound hatred significant sections of Iranian society have for the stifling, oppressive character of life under Islamic theocratic rule, anger which is deepening with each outrage committed by the IRI to maintain its grip on political power. This in turn has intensified the divisions at the top of the Islamic state, and clerical infighting has then created new opportunities for expressions of mass anger and discontent. All of this has radically changed Iran’s political terrain, compared to even a few months ago. Maj. Gen. Ali Jafari, the head of the regime’s Revolutionary Guards, talked of needing to unleash his troops “to quell a spiraling unrest.” (Roger Cohen, New York Review of Books, August 13, 2009)

“An analytical declaration on the present crisis and the tasks of revolutionary communists” by the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) dated June 28, 2009 calls the situation, “an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy for the Islamic Republic of Iran and a leap in revolutionary sentiments among the masses of people.”

“It was clear from the beginning that we were going to face an intense situation with the presidential election,” the document states. “But nobody imagined the extent of its dimensions or the degree of bloodiness.” (A World to Win News Service, July 27, 2009)

(See also V.T., “Response To Election Fraud Reveals Deep Schisms in Iranian Ruling Circle and Broad Based Profound Hatred of the Regime—UPRISING IN IRAN,” at‑en.html; and Larry Everest, “Roots of the Iranian Uprising: A Society Drowning in Corruption, Destruction, Superstition, Dark Religious Ignorance, Drug Addiction and Prostitution,” Revolution #169, June 28, 2009,‑en.html)

Iran’s Rulers: Unable to Rule in the Old Way

The fractures within Iran’s ruling class—both those between the “reformist” wing and those currently in control of the state, as well as among those currently in power—have continued to intensify despite the efforts of Supreme Leader Khamenei, President Ahmadinejad, and their allies to quash dissent and opposition.

Some examples give a flavor of the breadth and intensity of these disputes. On July 17, former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the founding members of the Islamic Republic and a major godfather-type figure in Iran who backed Mir Hossein Mousavi in the June 12 election, condemned Ahmadinejad’s (and implicitly Khamenei’s) leadership, calling the situation a “crisis” and warning that the ruling class could “collapse” if steps weren’t taken to bridge the growing gap between ruled and rulers.

Two days later former President Khatami called for a referendum which would basically overturn the results of the election. The next day Supreme Leader Khamenei counter-attacked, warning the critics to be careful and—sounding like the Bush regime’s Ari Fleischer—to watch what they said.

This was followed by an open letter from 70 leading opposition movement figures condemning the government’s crackdown for being “illegal, immoral” and using “irreligious methods,” while demanding the release of those arrested. Revelations of prison abuse have also sparked bitter recriminations among Iran’s rulers.

There are also growing fractures among the so-called “conservatives” now currently in power. Ahmadinejad was forced by Khameini to rescind his pick for First Vice President, Esfiander Rahim Mashaei. Ahmadinejad then turned around and made Mashaei his top aide, causing an uproar in right-wing circles and leading to speculation that Ahmadinejad may not serve out his term.

The CPI-MLM calls the situation “an unprecedented split among the rulers on top (an expression of the fact that they can no longer rule in the same way as in the past),” intensified over the past several years: “The continual economic crisis, the deep dissatisfaction regarding the regime among various classes and strata of the people and U.S. imperialism’s pressure on the IRI were the most important factors intensifying the regime’s international contradictions.” (Statement of June 28)

Their differences are over how to best preserve the Islamic Republic. “One faction believes that the whole system will fall apart without some reform in the IRI’s ruling structures. The other fears that such reforms would trigger the regime’s collapse,” the CPI-MLM states. (Four days before the election, Yadollah Javani, head of the Revolutionary Guard political office, warned that if Mousavi or others wanted a velvet revolution, it would be “quashed before it is born.” (Roger Cohen, New York Review of Books, August 13, 2009)

And, at least for the present, all the IRI’s leading political figures and factions—including those who have condemned the June 12 election—are working furiously to direct that discontent toward maintaining and strengthening—not weakening, much less overthrowing—the Islamic Republic.

Obama and U.S. Imperialism—No Friends of the Iranian People

In the midst of this crisis, what is the U.S. and its partner in the region, Israel, up to?

The Islamic fundamentalist rulers of Iran have for some time been clashing with the U.S. and its allies in the region. The IRI has sought to strengthen their position in a situation where the U.S. has faced difficulties and a knot of contradictions. For the U.S. the existence of this Islamic regime and what it is doing poses an obstacle and threat to unfettered U.S. domination and hegemony in the Middle East.

At root, this is contention taking place—within the framework of imperialist relations—between two historically outmoded, reactionary strata, both of which are exploiters and oppressors. One of these outmoded strata exists among colonized and oppressed peoples—and the other “outmoded” is the ruling strata of the imperialist system. The country of Iran remains in the grip of the world capitalist-imperialist system. The objective of the Iranian ruling class is not to break free of the world imperialist system. The maneuverings and moves of the Iranian ruling class, including up against the U.S., are aimed at advancing the interests and ambitions of the regime within the confines of the imperialist system. It is this system that lies at the root of the oppression of the Iranian people.

Today, even while offering some expressions of support and concern, the U.S. rulers have never publicly questioned or condemned the results of the June 12 election, and have made clear their continued willingness to deal with the butchers of the IRI. This points to the fact that U.S. actions are guided by imperialist interests, in particular its perceived need to contain and if need be cripple or bring down the IRI in order to roll back its regional influence, prevent it from further developing its nuclear energy program, deal a blow to anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism globally and strengthen U.S. regional hegemony. The issue of liberating the Iranian people is not part of this agenda.

In this atmosphere of tension and uncertainty, there are alarming signs that stepped-up imperialist intervention and aggression, and possibly military attacks against Iran, are becoming more likely. Vice President Joe Biden recently commented that it’s Israel’s sovereign right to bomb Iran to prevent it from becoming a nuclear power (and there’s still no firm evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons). Former UN Ambassador and Bush official John Bolton writes (“It’s Crunch Time for Israel On Iran,” Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2009) that Israel will likely strike Iran by December if the nuclear issue isn’t resolved: “absent Israeli action, prepare for a nuclear Iran.” Neocon Senator Joe Lieberman recently stated that a military strike is the “only” option if sanctions don’t force Iran to give up its nuclear program. (WashingtonTV, July 31, 2009)

Obama seemed to contradict this position the day after Biden spoke—stating he wanted the issue solved “in a peaceful way,” and just this past week top U.S. officials—Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones—met with Israeli officials to discuss Iran.

The well-connected Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports (July 31) that while Gates told the Israelis that the U.S. “red light” against attacking Iran (something top Israeli officials have repeatedly threatened) still stood, “the Americans—influenced by the Iranian regime’s conduct toward the post‑election unrest that began in early June—are for the first time showing more understanding for Israel’s view of events. The United States is more skeptical than before about the likelihood that a diplomatic dialogue, or even harsh sanctions should that option fail, will dissuade the Iranians from their goal.” Iran has so far not responded officially to Obama’s offer of talks, and the U.S. and its allies are reportedly stepping up their timetable for an Iranian reply—now demanding one in September.

Haaretz also notes that these talks took place just after the completion of a joint American-Israeli exercise at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base. Dubbed Red Flag, it included training for in-flight refueling of Israeli jets by American airplanes, and “the participation of a squadron of Israeli F-16i (“Storm”) jets, the new model that will bear the brunt of long‑range target attacks should the need arise.” (See also Air Force News Today, July 22, 2009,

(Haaretz also notes that while there may be differences between Israel and the Obama administration on Iran, strategic cooperation continues: “Though it seems the red light on an Israeli attack still stands, the recurrent warnings by Israel’s prime and defense ministers about all options being on the table actually serve American interests: They allow Obama to wave the Israeli stick at the Iranians as part of his effort to get the Iranians to agree to a dialogue, and possibly even to concessions.”)

“Let’s Go Iranian”

Given imperialism’s historical and present-day domination of Iran (even as the particular forms it has taken have gone through various changes), and ongoing U.S., Israeli and European intervention in and threats against Iran, it’s imperative that people in this country both support the just struggle of the Iranian people and oppose all the moves by our own rulers to maintain their suffocating and deadly grip on Iran and the region.

The heroic struggle of millions has not only changed the political landscape in Iran, it is also reverberating globally. This is what one New York high school teacher posted at Huffington Post (on Nico Pitney’s blog, posted July 20, 2009):

“I teach at a NYC high school, and recently one student stood up to our very intimidating principal, (something that almost never happens). When he did not get permission for what he intended to do, another student said ‘Let’s go iranian on him.’ By that he meant organize a protest. And so now they ‘IRAN’ anything they want to change. So it has become a verb now and to ‘Iran’ the situation is to stand up to authority, well at least here in this corner of the universe. And it is a huge bonus for me because I cannot usually get them to even pay attention to another part of the world.

“Point being, even these students who get very small amounts of news equate ‘Iranian’ with bravery and I completely agree, and wish I had that kind of intestinal fortitude. You have our greatest admiration and respect!”

Send us your comments.

Revolution #172, August 9, 2009

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We Are Being Lied To About the REAL Cause of Africa’s Oppression and Suffering

In a speech delivered in Ghana, Barack Obama talked about disease and conflict ravaging Africa. Then he said:

“It is easy to point fingers, and to pin the blame for these problems on others. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense bred conflict, and the West has often approached Africa as a patron, rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants.” (July 11, 2009)

In actual fact, “the West” – European countries and the U.S. – have a long colonial past and neo-colonial present in Africa. And for centuries, and today, what this has meant for people throughout the African continent is economic destruction, poverty and misery.

The history of the Congo is only one example of this:


From the end of the 19th century through the turn of the 20th century, King Leopold II of Belgium ran the so-called Congo Free State as his private property, amassing an enormous fortune by turning most adult males into slaves to collect wild rubber and ivory from the jungle. The women and children were held hostages—their hands, noses and ears often chopped off when the men in their families did not meet their rubber quota or failed to return. For over 23 years, Leopold’s army forced hundreds of thousands of slaves to work in killing conditions where many died from exhaustion. Some 20 slave uprisings were put down with extreme bloodthirstiness. After the Belgians discovered gold in 1903, they worked thousands to death in gold mines. It has been estimated that about 10 million people out of a population of 20 million lost their lives under King Leopold’s barbarous rule.


In 1960, the Congo gained formal independence from Belgium. Patrice Lumumba, a popular nationalist leader and critic of colonialism, became the country’s first elected prime minister. The imperial powers who had dominated the Congo set out to remove Lumumba from power. The CIA worked to destabilize the country and recruit pro-U.S. forces within the army and government, including Joseph Mobutu. Mobutu, who had been a colonel in the Belgian colonial army, was later put in power. A memo by Allen Dulles, Director of the CIA, stated that Lumumba’s “removal must be an urgent and prime objective.” Mobutu staged a coup d’état and shortly afterwards, on October 10, Lumumba was arrested. After escaping and then being recaptured by Mobutu’s men, Lumumba was beaten, tortured and executed. It is now known that U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower ordered the assassination of Lumumba during a White House national security meeting in August 1960, less than two months after the Congo became independent. Just days before Lumumba was arrested, the Belgian Minister for African Affairs sent a cable to Katanga’s capital calling for the “definitive elimination” of Lumumba.


After the murder of Lumumba, Joseph Mobutu came to power with the help of U.S.-supplied arms and money. The country’s name was changed to Zaire and became a U.S. neo-colony—a legally independent state dependent on and dominated by U.S. imperialism. U.S. companies began plundering the country’s wealth anew, while Mobutu enriched himself to the tune of $5 billion. The country became a mainstay of U.S. interests in the region. The regime’s security apparatus used torture and murder to crush attempts at building rebel movements among the people over almost four decades until he was overthrown in 1997 by Laurent Kabila, a former supporter of Lumumba and guerrilla commander in the mid-1960s.


Coltan is a composite mineral used to make micro circuits for cell phones and other handheld electronic devices. Coltan brings huge profits to companies like Sony, Motorola, Ericsson, Nokia, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, Dell, Intel and IBM. The Congo holds 80 percent of the world’s coltan reserves. Coltan is mined in the Congo by super-exploited workers and in some instances slave labor. Think about the hundreds of millions of people around the world who are walking around with blood-soaked coltan in their cell phones and Sony Playstations.

   photo copyright keith harmon snow

Civil war in the 1990s in the Congo was fueled and financed by competing foreign powers, using local mercenary and government armies in which rape was a common weapon of domination and control. This cost the lives of over 5 million people—making it the deadliest conflict worldwide since World War 2. Competition over coltan perpetuated the civil war with fierce fighting between different groups over access to the mines in concession areas and trade or smuggling routes, as well as control over the mine workers, their work camps, and the “right” to extort protection money from the workers and prostitutes based in and around the camps.

Today there is a new scramble for great power control over the vast resources in Africa, including copper, cobalt, and titanium. In West Africa, the U.S., Western Europe and China are vying for control over oil resources and the U.S. has established a new Africa military command.

The horrible situation of war and poverty in Africa is actively shaped by the colonial past AND further heightened by the imperialist present. Obama’s argument that the West is not responsible for today’s poverty and wars is a lie!

The ruling powers in Africa—whether “democratically elected,” forcibly installed, or coming to power through coups—are all regimes dependent on and serving one or several imperialist powers. And imperialism uses these corrupt thieves and tyrants to extract untold wealth and riches, leaving behind unimaginable suffering.

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

Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA


Resources used for this centerfold include:

King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonia Africa. Adam Hochschild. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin. 1999.

King Leopold’s Ghost. Film by Pippa Scott, with Don Cheadle, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell. DVD released from Direct Cinema Limited, January 2009.

"Understanding the Global Economic Crisis: System Failure and the Need for Revolution," presentation by Maoist political economist Raymond Lotta at Revolution Bookstore, New York City, March 29, 2009. Audio file available for download from

“Millions Die Amid Neocolonial Plunder: The Agony of the Congo.” A World to Win News Service, Aug. 21, 2005. Available online at

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Revolution #172, August 9, 2009

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From Ike to Mao:

A Layman’s Assessment of Bob Avakian’s Revolutionary Odyssey

Revolution received the following review of From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, A Memoir by Bob Avakian from a reader:

What do you want to be when you grow up? Such is the perennial question posed to each generation. In a child’s world the answers are usually simple and predictable: fireman, bus driver, movie star, doctor, sports hero, revolutionary communist. Huh?!? Well, it is unlikely that being a revolutionary when he grew up was the first thing that sprang to Marx’s mind. And it certainly did not for Bob Avakian, Chair of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Avakian’s fascinating autobiography From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist reveals the complexity of a human being seeking to change the world while interpreting life’s deepest meanings and contradictions in revolutionary terms.

If you want to understand the most important questions from a radical perspective about how humans might live, there are many books within the socialist canon to which students must devote time and energy. Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Mao are obvious primary sources, but they can pose significant challenges to those not versed in philosophical thought or in the spirit of the times in which their ideas emerged. Marx’s style can be especially abstruse without interpretation and annotation regarding the surrounding currents. Avakian’s work is accessible to moderns because he has studied and synthesized much revolutionary thought, and his experience is attuned to contemporary generations. What’s more, he is a communist practitioner continuing to call forth a strong revolutionary movement and not just an armchair theorist.

If you want to understand revolutionary communist thinking and specifically Avakian’s thought, or you are a regular reader of Revolution newspaper, Ike to Mao is the book you must read. If you’re just learning about revolution, this book serves as a good point of embarkation. Here is the development of modern revolutionary thought leading to a new synthesis. How did it all start and where did it all come from? Why did it come about? Why is the hope of revolution still present and desired in these extremely bleak, neo-conservative times? How does revolution make sense in a world dominated by global, neoliberal, free-market capitalism? Is it even possible or is it just a fantasy, a pipe dream? These are all hard hitting questions this book attempts to answer.

Without trying to romanticize the author or the movement, Ike to Mao is a dense work, and it contains contradictions Avakian and his sympathizers must wrestle with. Dispelling all the unfortunate myths many hold about communism and its adherents, it may be assuredly said that communists are passionate people with a firm sense of justice and fair play. They are hardly the wild-eyed monsters resistant to ideas, fun, pleasure and life’s myriad possibilities that popular media has portrayed them to be. Nor are they the utopian romantic ideologues steeped in dreamy reverie of a past that has never existed or is hardly possible.

Communism does not equate to or advocate totalitarian dictatorship, nor is it an inevitable metamorphosis with eternal recurrence. Communists desire a world emancipated from suffering and oppressive slave/master relations without the necessity of being dour or ascetic. Their dictatorship is that of the proletariat, not the ruling elite. The approach is from the bottom, not the top. Interestingly, Avakian exudes a pronounced American quality in his love for sports, specifically basketball, as well his admiration for doo-wop and the music of Black Americans. He’s really a neighborhood kid, the boy next door, but with wide-reaching and humane ideals that are never compromised throughout his life.

We all are well familiar with stories of so-called radicals and revolutionaries from the romanticized ’60s who ultimately ‘sold out’ to new age remedies, bourgeois roads to reform and mutual fund portfolios. We read the writings of former lefties and even Marxists, only to shake our heads at how they fell into the slimy pit of ’90s greed-is-good capitalism and the now euphoric Obamamania with all its nonsense about America taking the ‘socialist’ road. It’s easy to slide into comfortable patterns and clichés and to surrender to the path of least resistance. Changing the world is not an easy thing. One cannot help admire Avakian and his steadfastness to what revolution might do to change the world. Theologian Cornel West calls him communism’s ‘long-distance runner,’ never succumbing to the seduction of McWorld with its neoliberal commodification of virtually every aspect of life. So far, at least, and unlike Che Guevara, Benetton has not decaled Avakian’s silhouette on its t-shirts.

To be sure, there are many setbacks and disillusionments along the way, including failed marriages and relationships. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to live in another country cut off from family, friends and loved ones or not to be able to be at the bedside of your ailing sister or dying parents. Yet Avakian’s book is testimony to a lonely life of scaling the mountaintop of human freedom. This is the price one pays for immersing oneself in revolution and for believing in ideals that one would be willing to live and die for. Perhaps many would ask why anyone would choose such an onerous path. I would venture to say that for someone who would tread the high and arduous road of emancipating society and bringing about sweeping social change, such a person must be unable and unwilling to imagine living any other type of life. There are easier, though not necessarily better ways to live. To me, Avakian’s life represents a higher calling; certainly much higher than serving an ethereal god.

I don’t think I could personally endure all the disillusionments, not just with society at large who may not understand or wish to adopt the revolutionary line, but with fellow communists and revolutionaries who copped out or gave in to the status quo or some sort of mealy-mouthed, liberal reformism. But it is this stubborn and steadfast belief in the party and its accomplishments that has forged Bob Avakian’s New Synthesis as well as the recent Ruminations and Wranglings,which explicitly spell out how the party should act and what it must do to further the cause of human emancipation and an entirely different world based on a new set of societal and economic relations. For me, at least, I don’t think I could understand these complex points very well without having a general sense of the thought and the person behind all this. Ike to Mao is the primer to understanding what the party can and must do to move forward to bring about a better world.

Read Ike to Mao, not only to better understand Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party, but to laugh and cry with the hopes and struggles of an individual who never gave up his ideals no matter how tough the times became. Critics may call Avakian and others like him fools, but what good would the world be without more fools like him? The last chapter and its final words cementing his beliefs are especially moving. While reading them I happened to be listening to a recording of Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4, The Inextinguishable. In the words of the composer, the work was written to express the ‘elemental will of life,’ even in the face of mass destruction that occurred during WW I, the time the symphony was completed. I would encourage anyone to listen to the final moments of this amazing musical composition while reading the last chapter of Avakian. All that is felt and thought about life in the most fundamental sense of the word, combined with the forces of aspiration and yearning, which are ‘inextinguishable,’ are what both the composer and the author have tried to present.

M. B. H.
June–July 2009

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Revolution #172, August 9, 2009

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The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have

A Thought on the Campaign

Along with inviting people to, and actually persevering to get them to come to, things like programs at the bookstores, it is very important to get people involved “where they are”—in their neighborhoods, through the social ties they have, etc. With growing numbers of people doing even little things—like finding places to have DVD showings in the neighborhood, or inviting the revolutionaries to their house to talk to their friends about this campaign, or baking goods or in some other way contributing to raising funds, or joining in with distribution of the statement, even for an hour at first—in all these ways, and other ways that can be found and developed, together with masses in the areas where the statement is being distributed, there can begin to develop a sense that there is a movement—a movement for revolution—that is growing and beginning to take root, in the neighborhoods and other places people get together, and people can actually see, and feel, the beginning shoots and growth of this movement.

This, together with seeing the revolutionaries continuing to come back—as is pledged at the end of the statement—as well as people getting a sense that this is taking place not just where they are but in all different parts of their city, and in other cities around the country, will give people more of a living sense of this movement, and of their own role in being part of it (which will, in turn, make them feel more encouraged to make the effort to go to things like bookstore programs in a different part of town, or even across town...where they will “mix” with others doing the same, and still more will feel like they are part of a movement, which both has roots in neighborhoods like theirs, etc., but also has a presence in many places, among different kinds of people).

This kind of dynamic is an essential element in really building the kind of movement that is needed, and to draw increasing numbers of people, including from the basic masses in particular (but, again, from other strata as well) into that movement. And, of course, in fundamental ideological and political terms, all this must be founded in, and continually regrounded in, a revolutionary communist understanding and line, which is concentrated in a very significant way in the statement, serving as the pivot of the campaign as a whole.

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Revolution #172, August 9, 2009

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Observations on Taking the Message Out in Harlem

July 20, 2009


I had an opportunity to be out this past Saturday at the Harlem Book Fair with Revolution Books.  Blue skies, hot sun, and a lot of opportunity to meet and talk with people —  hooking them up with the message and call from the RCP: “The Revolution We Need and The Leadership We Have.” 

Not surprisingly, there was enormous excitement in the wake of the sold out Dialogue between Cornel West and Carl Dix on the “Ascendency of Obama . . . and the Continued Need for Resistance and Liberation.”   People wanted to find out when they could get a DVD of the event.   Several people said:  finally someone spoke to what they’d been thinking and feeling about Obama — that the people have been anaesthetized while the same disastrous oppression continues.  For others, Carl Dix’s revolutionary analysis and program gave them a new lifeline.  They wanted to know more about Carl and his leader Bob Avakian.   Scores more told of not being able to get tickets and listening on WBAI.  All this indicated the beginning of cracking open a more radical and revolutionary discourse, and it evidenced the increased profile of Carl Dix, revolution, and the RCP.

This set the stage for the current special issue of Revolution Newspaper, the RCP’s major new statement which aims to put the whole thing before millions of people – straight talk about this revolution and the leadership we have.    Connecting people with this statement, spreading it everywhere is crucial to beginning a whole new stage of revolution, here and around the world.

I want to share a few observations about how the revolutionaries did getting this out.  The Revolution Books table looked sharp, big signs, flags, and a tent.  At 3:30 PM the Revolutionary Summer Youth Project marched through Harlem Book Fair – the multi-national crew with their revolutionary chants and style turned heads and opened eyes.   This was all to the good – signaling that the revolution and the revolutionaries were here.

Yet, lots of people gathered around the store table all day, not enough them left on a mission, as the statement puts it, to

“spread the word to every corner of this country…giving people the means to become part of this revolutionary movement, and organizing into this movement everyone who wants to make a contribution to it, who wants to work and fight, to struggle and sacrifice, not to keep this nightmare of a world going as it is but to bring a better world into being.”

All too often, it was easy to get into lots of discussion about people’s dissatisfaction with and/or questions about Obama.   Yes, this is a crucial part of the political terrain — and revolutionaries need to engage it, it was the subject  of the Cornel West / Carl Dix Dialogue — but, how are we going to stop the wars, the lock up of our youth, the degradation and brutalization of women, the destruction of the planet?  What is really going to open people’s understanding of the basis, possibility and the means to bring into being a whole other world?  The statement brings home that “it is this system that has got us in the situation we're in today, and keeps us there. And it is through revolution to get rid of this system that we ourselves can bring a much better system into being.”   That takes leadership, really good revolutionary leadership.   This is what this statement brings to people.  If the revolutionaries are focusing the majority of their efforts on critiquing Obama, they are failing to bring people the news that they need.  

This statement changes that — and revolutionaries need to change with it.   Out at the Harlem Book Fair, most people had never heard of Bob Avakian.   When we got right into it  – who Avakian is and what a difference his leadership means for the prospects of revolution, here and around the world — it was a whole different ball game. This opened up serious and deep discussion about the revolution we need, it’s communist goals and the strategy to get there.  There is a crucial method to the statement – unfolding the need for revolution out of the horrific conditions and the system that gives rise to them, but this must not become a detour, or way station, to never bringing forward the leadership we have.  There is not “one way” to bring out the content of this path breaking statement.   However, at least on this first day, I observed that when we got right to the reality that there is an incredible revolutionary leadership in Bob Avakian, and a Party that this bringing this to the people, then the seriousness, urgency and possibility of revolution opened up in new ways for people.   That conversation provoked those who were ready and wanted to engage this, to buy Bob Avakian’s DVD: “Revolution Why It’s Necessary; Why It’s Possible; What It’s All About” along with a 10 Week subscription to Revolution Newspaper.

Finally, we did not make the case for why spreading this statement everywhere is pivotal to forging a new revolutionary movement.   For one example, the Revolution Books table did not have pre-prepared bundles ready for people to distribute themselves.  There is every basis for people, especially youth, to be spreading this revolutionary message as they are learning about the revolution.  The wider the word gets out, the more “revolution” is on people’s lips, circulating in their thoughts... the more people are asking about and learning about Bob Avakian and his leadership ... the more youth and others begin to take up this revolution themselves, ready to fight to bring this new future into being... then, a new revolutionary movement will be taking root and contending with and influencing the whole political landscape.  Then, people's horizons will open -- on a whole other level -- to a future worth fighting for.

Andy Zee

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What Humanity Needs
From Ike to Mao and Beyond

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Revolution #172, August 9, 2009

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A Reporter’s Notebook

“All That Has Been Hidden”

Ignorance and lowered sights are two pervasive elements of the objective situation that we, as revolutionary communists, have to transform in a major way. This has been quite apparent during my recent experiences taking out, and talking to the masses about, the need for revolution and communism and the importance of Bob Avakian’s leadership.

Looking back over notes from conversations I’ve had during the past two to three weeks, it really jumps out that people from different backgrounds and strata have been systematically denied a basic understanding of what is meant by revolution, socialism and communism; of the nature of the U.S., and the role it plays around the world; of the fact that we live under a capitalist-imperialist system, and the implications of that for humanity. Related to that, the basic questions at the heart of the RCP’s new statement, “The Revolution We Need…The Leadership We Have”—why the world is the way it is, and what must be done to radically change it—are questions many people have not even thought about; at least not in any in-depth, conscious way. In short, many people have accepted the bourgeoisie’s verdict on the first wave of socialism and communism, without even realizing it.

At the same time, within some of these conversations—including with many of the same people who lacked a basic understanding of revolution and communism— there was also a sense of dissatisfaction and anguish, in some cases profound, with the world as it is. So, perhaps we could also say: Many people yearn for socialism and communism, without even realizing it.

What I’ve written below constitutes snapshots, rather than a complete image, of some of the conversations that I’ve had with masses of different strata, during the past two to three weeks. I hope these snapshots will help bring the points I am making to life¼

* * * * *

“We need to make a change,” an older Black man tells me, as he stands on a street corner in a predominantly Black neighborhood. “How it’s gonna take place, I don’t know.”

As we speak, a revolutionary youth is agitating from a flatbed truck, in front of a banner that reads, “Humanity needs revolution and communism.”

I ask the man what he thinks of this banner, and he replies that he really isn’t sure what we mean by communism. I lay out our vision of that, and he asks, “Who would take over?”

So I lay that out for him as well. “That sounds good,” he says. But a moment later in the course of conversation, he adds, “I’ve given up on serious revolution in America.”

Why? I ask. “I read a lot of history of these movements,” he replies.

That night, a group of revolutionaries are making a scene in a public square, with red flags, banners, and the newspaper, and agitating on a bullhorn. I ask a young man who is watching what he thinks about about our presence. “I’m all about what you guys are doing,” he says.

When I ask him specifically about communism, however, he answers with a familiar refrain. “It’s a great idea that’ll never work,” he said.

I ask how he would define communism. “Basically, putting everybody on the same level,” he says. “Treating everybody equally.”

The problem, this young man offers, is that under communism, there will just be too many people who are going to want more. At least somewhat paradoxically, he also opines that under communism, people will get lazy, because they will lack the motivation to work harder and “do better.” Towards the end of the conversation, the man tells me that he is working as a full-time sales supervisor in order to pay for college; he offers this as an example of how capitalism motivates people to work hard “to make ourselves better.”

A little later that night, I talk to Jonathan, a man from Guatemala. Jonathan tells us that if we are really serious about spreading revolution and communism, we should go to Miami; if the U.S. is really so bad, and communism is so great, he asks, then how come so many people are fleeing Cuba to get to the United States? In the course of our discussion, he also cites North Korea, China, and Russia as examples of communist states. He says that, under communism, one does not have the right to say anything bad about the government. At one point, as we are talking about the history of China under Mao, I mention that life expectancy had doubled from 1949 to 1976, from 32 to 64. “That’s just a flat-out lie,” he responds.

Eventually, I ask Jonathan what had compelled him to get a copy of Revolution, given that he clearly disagrees with what we were putting forth. “I’m just curious to see this in your own words,” he says.

Fast-forward to the following weekend. “The Revolution We Need¼The Leadership We Have” is a few days off the presses, and a group of us are taking it out in a predominantly Latino neighborhood. Revolutionaries are going through the streets on a sound truck, with the banner and copies of the new statement. I follow in their wake, trying to gather impressions.

Cesar, a 43-year-old man, starts by conveying the thoughts of the man sitting next to him, with whom he had just been talking about us. But given his tone, and the content of what he’s saying, it’s clear that Cesar agrees with what the man had been articulating. “He’s saying, ‘If you don’t like it here, get the fuck out’” Cesar says. “You couldn’t do what you’re doing in China.”

Or, if “getting the fuck out” doesn’t strike our fancy, Cesar suggests perhaps we should run for office.

“There’s plenty of shit I don’t like in this country,” Cesar says. “But what the fuck I’m gonna do?”

Cesar goes on to say that, as a convicted felon, he can’t find a job. “Me personally,” he says, “I feel powerless.” As we’re talking, Cesar volunteers that he is not college educated.

I show him the pictures of the centerfold from the new statement. Seeing the picture of the prisoner being tortured at Guantanamo, Cesar asks if I really mean to tell him that prison guards in the U.S. don’t take inmates out of their cells at 3 am and brutalize them? But then, as we discuss the statement and the pictures further, he adds, “Yeah, but you know what? I’m not driving a fucking plane into a building.”

Cesar then goes on to complain about how immigrants are taking all the good restaurant jobs; it used to be, he said, that you could get $16 or $17 an hour for those jobs. I ask him why he thinks immigrants come here to begin with.

“Because,” Cesar replied, “it’s shit over there.”

Contradictions, anyone?

The next few people I talk to are more enthusiastic about our presence.

“I actually think it’s kind of cool,” Kathleen, a 19-year-old student of color, tells me. She says she is really upset with our government, and mentions reading a recent issue of Revolution about Obama’s decision to block the torture photos.

“If we’re a democracy,” Kathleen asks, “aren’t we supposed to know what’s going on?”

I ask Kathleen what comes to mind when she hears the words “socialism” and “communism.”

“When I hear those words, I think about government system. I think about¼” She pauses for awhile. “I think about ideals, I would say theories,” Kathleen continued. “I don’t know what’s a perfect system. I don’t know what’s a good system.”

The next person I talk to is Mike, a 29-year-old Lebanese store owner. The discussion starts slowly. “Actually, I don’t know,” Mike says when I show him the statement and centerfold photos.

But then I mention the wars for empire. “That’s what happened to my country,” Mike says.

It turns out that Mike lost two cousins—one of whose wife and two children also died—in Israel’s 2006 massacre of Lebanon. I tell Mike that what happened to his family was a crime against humanity, and that we are fighting to get to a world where such crimes do not happen.

Mike compares Israel’s assault on Lebanon to the U.S. war in Iraq. “We kill people for no reason,” Mike says. “For the oil.”

Mike says he feels that Israel’s slaughter of Lebanon was motivated by an effort to seize land. However, he expresses confidence that, having lost that 2006 war, Israel will not attempt another war. “They’re not going to try and fight again with my country,” Mike says.

I ask Mike why he thought the United States supported everything that Israel did. “I have no idea about that one,” Mike said.

I asked Mike what the word “revolution” meant to him. “It means a lot to me,” Mike said. “It happened to me when I was in my country.”

Then, I asked Mike if he thought we needed a revolution. “Of course!” he says.

What about a communist revolution? I asked. “That’s good too, yeah,” he says.

Why? “I see now, all the Arabic countries, we got a problem,” he says. “We fighting for no reason, you understand.”

I explain the party’s strategy of winning over millions to see the need for revolution.

“Of course, yeah,” Mike says. “More than that! Especially in America. Because here, they don’t believe it. You go to the Arab people, everybody believes it.”

I get more specific with our vision of communist revolution. “Right, yeah,” Mike said.

One obstacle in my conversation with Mike—which I ran into with several other conversations as well—is that it was difficult to get him to actually engage, and comment on, the statement, the photos, and our overall vision of revolution and communism. At times, even people who have seemed friendly in an overall way have offered non-response responses along the lines of “Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Right”. In fact, Mike’s “Yeah, that’s good too,” response to my asking his thoughts about communism was similar to a woman I spoke to in Harlem who greeted my descriptions of the history of previous revolutionary societies by saying, “I know. I know.” I finally said to her, “Do you really know? Or are you just saying that?”

It would be worth reflecting further on why many of those who are not necessarily unsympathetic to what we are putting out there react in this way. Is our agitation not reaching deep enough and drawing people out sufficiently? Are we speaking too fast, and—rather than giving people a second to process what we are saying and respond—are we rushing to fill the silence? Is it that revolution and communism are so far outside the terms in which people have previously been thinking that, at least initially, it doesn’t even compute to people what we are saying? Some combination of the above? I think this point would be worth reflecting on further in a collective way.

Damien, a 37-year-old Black filmmaker, has a similar reaction to Kathleen upon seeing a crew of revolutionary communists rolling through the streets. “It was kind of cool,” Damien says. “You don’t see that often. It’s not a very popular ideology.”

However, as with the many other people described so far, his vision of revolution and communism was limited and vague. “I think of Cuba, Che Guevara, stuff I’ve read,” Damien said.

He also expressed pessimism about the possibility of a communist revolution in the United States. “That means a lot of change people would not be willing to make,” Damien says. “Especially in this society. I don’t think this society would accept it.”

When I ask Damien if he thinks we need a new system, he says, “We need something in the middle,” clarifying that he means in the middle of socialism and the “free market.”

I show Damien the centerfold and ask what he thinks about it. “I’m not for the capitalist system,” he replies. “This is what it leads to.”

Towards the end of the conversation, Damien tells me that he wants to make socially conscious films; that there is not enough socially conscious film and hip-hop.

The next conversation, with Sherry and Kendall—two Black women who appear to be in their 30s or 40s—is similar to my back-and-forth with Mike: It starts slowly, and then gets really interesting really fast. Sherry says that she couldn’t tell what the revolutionary youth who passed by were saying, because they were talking in Spanish; and Kendall says that she hadn’t been paying attention.

I start to get into the centerfold and the pictures with them. Sherry wants to know if we are addressing the prevalence of illegal guns, and the fact that youth are killing each other. Then, her attention focuses on the photo of a white cop brutalizing a young black man in West Virginia. “We know what’s going on in West Virginia,” Sherry says. She talks about seeing the police jump out of vans to stop and frisk youth, and ask for their identification.

“This basically is here in this neighborhood,” Sherry says of the photo from Martinsburg, West Virginia.

She adds that she trains her 17-year-old son in how to deal with the police.

A few moments later, Sherry is talking again about violence amongst the youth. She recalls being at a party recently. “The hatred among each other—certain kids, it’s crazy,” Sherry says. “You could just feel it.”

I pose to Sherry the question of what youth in this society have to live for. “You know what it is, it’s fear,” Sherry says. “Fear of everything.” She says that the youth in our society lack jobs, and lack “nourishment” to show them something different.

Kendall chimes in that she used to live in another neighborhood, but moved away because of people shooting in her building. In the course of further discussion, Kendall says that the community needs more people and more organizations fighting for it, instead of the police coming to harass people.

I ask Sherry what she thinks when I say the words “socialism” and “communism”.

“It means the world coming together as one,” Sherry says, “and respecting each other’s choices.”

As I speak about the connections between what the imperialist system does in the U.S., and what it does around the world, I once again grab Sherry’s attention: as I speak to her about the pervasiveness of homelessness, even in this country, Sherry jumps in.

“I talk about this all the time,” she says. “It’s ridiculous.”

As the conversation ends, Sherry says she will be bringing some of her youth to the program on “The Revolution We Need…The Leadership We Have”—I am fairly sure she was referring to the youth she works with, not her own kids.

“They need some revolution,” Sherry says.

I tell her to bring a whole bunch of people to the event.

“Honey, I got you!” Sherry exclaims.

My last conversation of the day is with Basilio, a 36-year-old manager of a cell phone store . He has a very different reaction than Sherry upon seeing the picture of the young Black man in Martinsburg, West Virginia with his face pressed into the pavement.

“He probably did something he wasn’t supposed to be doing,” Basilio says.

Basilio has a similarly reactionary take on the U.S. wars for empire; if the U.S. did not have troops in the Middle East, Basilio says, then people there would kill Americans. I ask him why he thinks the U.S. operates so many military bases, and has troops stationed, all over the globe.

“Just holding things down from other countries doing things they’re not supposed to be doing,” Basilio says.

Referring to the 8-year-old girl working in the battery factory in Bangladesh, Basilio says it is “sad.”

However, Basilio gives voice to individualism and American chauvinism, even in relation to that photo. “Before I think of poverty somewhere else,” he says, “I think of poverty here. Where I’m at.”

He mentions seeing homeless people in a nearby bus station.

When I argue that everything shown in the centerfold photos comes from a common system that violently subjugates people for profit, Basilio says, “That’s true.”

I ask Basilio what he thinks about socialism and communism. “Wow,” he says. “To be honest with you, it’s just tough out here any old way. With or without that.”

I tell Basilio that what is depicted in the centerfold photos is not just “sad”; it’s also completely unnecessary. It would be easy to meet people’s basic needs, I say, if society were organized differently.

“That’s true,” he answers. “But unfortunately, it doesn’t go like that.”

Towards the end of the conversation, I again ask Basilio what he thinks of when I say “socialism” and “communism.”

“I don’t think of nothing,” he says. “I just live. I don’t even pay no mind to things like that. I’m just trying to survive my own self.”

I close by asking him what he would think if we could do something to change the world. “Well, that would be good,” he says. “That would be excellent.”


Again, these are only brief excerpts from the many conversations I have had with the masses during the past few weeks. One point I am trying to drive home is that, from the standpoint of building this revolutionary movement around the leadership we have, it’s critical to remember just how much the liberating experience of past revolutions, and past socialist societies, has been hidden from people of all strata. In addition to the fact that tens of millions of oppressed people in this country are systematically denied access to education, and to the truth, the ignorance I encountered is also a reflection of the fact that the bourgeoisie and its institutions—most notably its media and its educational system—have tried their hardest to ideologize revolution and communism off the scene. And, to a significant degree, in the short run, they have succeeded.

Furthermore, while many of the people I talked to had some sense of the injustices and outrages that this system produces—and were genuinely disturbed or angered by these outrages— they lacked an in-depth grasp of why these things happened, or how they were connected. This is a reflection of the ways in which the nature and workings of this system have also been hidden from people.

Lowered sights (“We need something in the middle”; “I don’t think of nothing) is, in turn, a phenomenon that stems very naturally from a lack of understanding that the world doesn’t have to be the way it is, and that it has—in fact—been radically different before.

It is not enough for us simply to be aware of these facts; rather, this understanding must be actively incorporated into all of the revolutionary work that we do. In taking out the need for revolution, and the leadership we have in Avakian, we have to constantly remind ourselves of everything that has been hidden from the masses, and everything that has been distorted. And, proceeding from this recognition, we have to be as specific and as substantive as possible in laying out exactly what kind of revolution we are talking about, what socialism and communism mean, what the tremendous achievements of past socialist societies were, and what the content and vital importance of Avakian’s leadership is.

In the process, we should learn, and take inspiration, from Avakian’s statement about the life and death of Willie “Mobile” Shaw—and from Shaw’s defining qualities. In that regard, this sentence, in particular, stands out: “Willie never turned his back on the people who had not yet come to the see the world as he had come to see it—as it really is; he never gave up on winning them to the fight for a radically different and much better world.


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Revolution #172, August 9, 2009

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Taking Out: “The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have.”

In issue 170 of Revolution, we published a message and call from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA: THE REVOLUTION WE NEED...THE LEADERSHIP WE HAVE.

Since then, revolutionaries have hit the streets across the country, taking this statement into the neighborhoods and out to high schools, to concerts and gathering spots. Getting thousands of copies of this statement into people’s hands. Many people, all over the country, have taken multiple copies to distribute in different parts of town (and made down payments on those copies) or to sell in their stores. The DVD Revolution: Why It’s Possible, Why It’s Necessary and What It’s All About is getting into people’s hands – and a movement of showings is beginning.

This all-out effort is the beginning of something new, something that has never been done before in this country. People have been challenged to join this revolutionary movement in a multitude of ways...and be part of initiating a whole new stage of revolution to emancipate humanity, here and around the world.

There has been an unleashing of broad debate and controversy as the revolutionaries have boldly taken this message and call into the world, on the streets and in smaller gatherings – and people are being challenged to wake up and shake off the ways the system puts on us...drawing forth people’s aspirations for a different – and better world. And this has kicked off wide-ranging debate and controversy. Is this a system we live under – and what are the workings of that system? What is the revolution we are talking about? Do we need revolution and do we need to build a movement for revolution now...who needs to join that movement...and what are the many different forms of participation that are needed?

In this Spreading Revolution and Communism forum, we are publishing some of the first letters summing up this beginning experience.  We urge everyone to correspond with Revolution, as this revolutionary movement spreads to cities and areas all over this country, in big ways and small.  If you join one of the revolutionary crews that are taking out the message and call...if you host a showing of the DVD...if you organize a bake sale or barbeque to raise funds for projects that advance the revolution...or bring together people to sit down with the revolutionaries to discuss the statement, write to Revolution. All our readers need to read about and get a living sense of how this movement they are a part of is taking root and growing – and all the ways in which people from all corners of society can join and contribute to it. Important breakthroughs and lessons learned, and urgent questions that come up as we take out this message and call – and how people are answering them need to be reported. This will be a process which is full of contradiction and struggle. These exchanges online and in the pages of our paper will contribute to quickly building on and multiplying our advances and overcoming our mistakes and shortcomings.  This is experience which we should learn from and which should spur us on to reach out and spread the word even further, to give, as the statement says, “people the means to become part of this revolutionary movement, and organizing into this movement everyone who wants to make a contribution to it, who wants to work and fight, to struggle and sacrifice, not to keep this nightmare of a world going as it is but to bring a better world into being.”

There are several ways to send correspondence to the paper: 1) Email your correspondence to; 2) Go online to Click on the box that says “Send Us Your Comments.” Enter text in the “Comment” section and click on “Send Comment”; and 3) Send by regular mail to RCP Publications, PO Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654.

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Revolution #172, August 9, 2009

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Obama in Cairo:

A Speech of Lies to Enforce a SYSTEM of Oppression

Part 3

by Toby O’Ryan

The following is the third excerpt from an article which is being serialized in Revolution, on Barack Obama’s June 5 speech at Cairo University in Egypt. The first excerpt, appearing in issue #168, included the sections “The Muslim World” and “Crude Stereotype or Dead-On Characterization?” The second excerpt, appearing in issue #169, included the sections “Defending – and Extending – American Wars,” Justifying Israeli Domination,” and “Pimping off of – and Viciously Distorting – the History of Black People in the U.S.” The full article is available online at

Iran and Nukes

Obama next moves to address the question of “rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.” In his typically euphemistic fashion, Obama owns up that “the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government.” Well, actually the U.S. didn’t just play a role—it godfathered and engineered the 1953 coup against the elected prime minister Mossadegh. It replaced him with the brutal Shah of Iran, who was supported and armed by the U.S. for the next 25 years until being finally overthrown in 1978. Obama somehow forgets to mention the tens of thousands who died as a result of this “role-playing” he alludes to. Instead, he deploys his favorite tactic of “even-handedness” to equate 25 years of vicious oppression and murder to the seizure of the U.S. embassy by students and the taking of several dozen U.S. hostages in the process.

He expresses “understanding” for “those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not.” This vague circumlocution, or double-talk, is meant to avoid mentioning that Israel has somewhere between 100 and 300 nuclear weapons and that the U.S. itself, of course, has several thousand, but that it is Iran—which has NO nuclear weapons—which is being threatened with war for refusing to put its nuclear power program under the control of the United Nations and, through that, the U.S. Obama does not mention that Iran is even today being attacked and subverted by U.S. “Special Forces” within its borders—a program begun by Bush and continued by Obama.

We will not here attempt to analyze the further twists and turns in U.S. tactics toward Iran, other than to note that Obama’s vocal “hand of unity” has thus far been accompanied by the same iron fist in practice associated with Bush (for background, see “An Assessment of the Momentum Towards War Between the United States and Iran: Causes and Potential
Ramifications; Preliminary Findings by a Working Group
,” at

The “Two Outmodeds”  and the Emancipation of Women

Obama goes on to cover democracy, religious freedom, women’s rights and economic development and opportunity, before finally ending with a call to trust America and a final crescendo of religious flourishes and outright god-mongering. While this article will not attempt to address each of these topics in turn, they all could—and eventually should—be given the same sort of analysis that we have to the beginning and more central points of his speech.

We do, however, want to refer our readers to “A Declaration: For Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity,” by the RCP,USA, which appeared in issue 158 of Revolution, and in particular the section “U.S. Imperialism and Islamic Fundamentalism: A ‘Lose/Lose’ Choice and Deadly Trap.” Here we will quote at length from that Declaration, which stands as a telling and important refutation not only of Obama’s distortions on the topic of “women’s rights” but, in many ways, his speech as a whole.

“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.”

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Revolution #172, August 9, 2009

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Systemic Racial Profiling… And A System of Oppression

Among those who oppose discrimination and racial profiling of African-Americans, some argue that focusing on an incident involving Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a prominent Harvard professor, detracts from confronting the real issues involved in opposing racism.

A case in point is an Op-Ed piece that appeared in the New York Times, entitled, “Obama, Gates and the American Black Man,” by Glenn C. Loury (July 25, 2009). Loury’s piece correctly criticizes Obama for “lecturing the black community on the need for better family values” while “he barely uttered a word about the ways in which public policies—policies over which he might exert no small influence—have resulted in the hyper-incarceration of poor black men.”

And Loury argues: “Overrepresentation of blacks among lawbreakers is the result as much as it is the cause of our overrepresentation among the imprisoned—a fact about which the conventional racial narrative has too little to say. Nevertheless, this is a principal source of the tension in interactions between the police and black men like me.”

But then, Loury writes with regard to the arrest of Henry Louis Gates: “Certainly, the contretemps [a contretemps is an event that happens, but is out of step with the times] shed no relevant light on the plight of the millions of black men on society’s margins who bear the brunt of police scrutiny and government-sanctioned coercion.”

The Gates Affair, however, is not a “contretemps.” It is not an incongruous throwback to another era. It is stark reflection of the actual present day reality, including what is behind the “plight of millions of black men on society’s margins who bear the brunt of police scrutiny and government-sanctioned coercion.”

It is true that a section of Black people have been allowed into positions that were denied to Black people for centuries, and some have achieved some privileges in this society. Even in a period when inner-city African-American youth have faced lives of increasing desperation, incarceration and death, the number of PhDs awarded to Black people increased from 787 in 1987 to 1,688 in 2005.

But there are three salient points here:

One is that the percentage of PhD graduates in 2005 who were Black was 6.4% while Black people comprise 13% of the population—Black people still graduate with PhDs at about half the rate of whites. And Black people remain almost completely excluded from access to PhDs in math and physics (source: Harpers Index cited at

Second, what Malcolm X said about what they call a Black man with a PhD is still true. As we reported in Revolution last week, Professor Gates was not the first Harvard professor subjected to racist police abuse—in 2004, Dr. Allen Counter, who has taught neuroscience at Harvard for 28 years, was stopped on campus by two Harvard police officers who accused him of being a robbery suspect, and threatened to arrest him when he could not produce identification.

And most fundamentally, while some doors have opened for Black people, this has gone hand in hand with conditions getting WORSE for millions of Black people in this so-called “post-racial” society. Marc Mauer, of The Sentencing Project—which analyzes trends in incarceration—told the Christian Science Monitor in 2003, “For the generation of black children today, there’s almost an inevitable aspect of going to prison.”

Black people in America, as a people, face systematic oppression in all kinds of forms. And poor Black people, concentrated in the inner-cities, face particularly brutal, violent oppression on a daily basis. But pitting the struggle against the oppression of Black people of different classes and strata against the fight against the extreme oppression of the masses of Black people is missing the point and does real damage. Both of these crimes flow from the capitalist, white supremacist system in America and both can only be overcome by making revolution.

Loury decries what he calls an “all-too-familiar narrative: ‘Here we are, 45 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with a black man in the White House. And yet, it is still the case that a distinguished Harvard professor, standing on his own front step, can be treated like a common criminal simply because he’s black. Obviously it is way too soon to declare that we have entered a post-racial era ....’”

But a distinguished Harvard professor, standing on his own front step, was treated as a common criminal. Yes, because he’s Black. In a society where one in every nine young Black men is in prison, it is obscene to declare this is a “post-racial era.”

The Role of Police

At the same time that Loury speaks out against police abuse against Black people, he also writes: “[W]hile I have had my ‘problems’ with the police, when I consider the realities of contemporary society I have to acknowledge that they have a tough and often thankless job to do. The institutions I am wont to denounce—the police, courts and prisons—are the principal means by which we as a nation have chosen, through our politics, to deal with the antisocial behaviors of our fellow citizens.”

That is a dangerously wrong understanding of the actual role of police. The role of the police, the courts, and the other institutions of this capitalist state is not an expression of the will of the people, and the police are not out on the streets with guns to deal with “antisocial behaviors of our fellow citizens.” The police enforce—at gunpoint—social relations essential to the functioning of the capitalist system. As we go to press, news sources in Detroit are reporting that police shot a 78-year-old man who refused to be evicted from his apartment near downtown Detroit (as we go to press, the police have not released the identity of the man, and he is hospitalized).

This man was not shot because he was “anti-social” (a neighbor told TV station WWJ, “from what I know, when I’ve seen the guy, he’s always laughing, he’s jolly, he laughs and talks with everyone”). He was shot by the Detroit police because this capitalist system would unravel if people who need housing but cannot pay their rent or mortgage were allowed to live in their homes and not get thrown out on the street.

And just as police enforce the property relations of capitalism, they enforce the social relations that allow this system to function. And those social relations include, foundationally, the subjugation of the vast majority of Black people—of different classes and strata—as a people.

What Is the Problem?

Loury, and others who oppose racism, but who object to focusing attention on Gates’ arrest as a distraction from the struggle that needs to be waged miss what the Gates arrest reveals about how broad, how sweeping, how systemic the subjugation of Black people is. And how profoundly racism is embedded into the very essence of everything America is about. There is no way that, under this system, Black people can achieve real equality.

Pitting the oppression of Black people—as a whole—against the extreme oppression and greater suffering faced by the masses of poor Black people—and diminishing the importance of the Gates Affair because Professor Gates is relatively well off and has a lot of recognition… whatever the intentions, leads to an ideological dead end.

“The First Shall Be Last and the Last Shall Be First”…
Or the Emancipation of Humanity?

There seems to be much confusion, including on the streets of the inner cities, over how to understand the controversy around the Gates arrest. Outrage against Gates’ treatment is in some cases blunted by resentment of Gates’ relatively privileged position. One Black man in Boston, for example, told Revolution distributors, “Now Gates knows a little bit of what it feels like to be a Black man in this country.”

In this light, the special issue of Revolution, “The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need,” deserves to be studied deeply and circulated widely. (Revolution #144, October 5, 2008)

As the issue explains: “[W]hile the revolution must address and heal the many scars of the past, it must aim higher than ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first,’ or higher even than ‘equality’—it must aim to get past the conditions where there is a ‘first’ and a ‘last’ and where people measure their situation against that of other people. This revolution’s aim must be a truly communist society in which a guiding principle would be ‘from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.’”

And, that special issue of Revolution goes on to explain: “If the revolution does not set its sights to these goals and these heights, then things will turn back to one form of exploitation or another, and the outmoded and oppressive institutions that go with exploitation will regenerate. The nightmare will continue.”

Humanity needs revolution and communism. It needs emancipators of humanity, who, from that perspective inspire and lead people to take on every instance of oppression and injustice, from the perspective of fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.

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Revolution #172, August 9, 2009

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“Driving While Black” in Bellaire, Texas

Robbie Tolan, 23 years old, lives with his parents in Bellaire, a well-off, predominantly white suburb of Houston. Robbie had hopes of playing major league baseball. He was a member of a conference-winning college team, and he’d played in the Washington Nationals farm system. His father, Bobby Tolan, was a successful pro player for 14 years, playing with the World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals in 1967 and the Cincinnati Reds and other teams in the 1970s.

But all that did not stop this young Black man from being profiled as a “criminal”—in his own driveway—and being shot by a cop.

About 2 a.m. on December 31, 2008, Robbie Tolan and his cousin Anthony Cooper were returning home in Robbie’s SUV after a late-night meal. The police claim that Officer John Edwards ran the SUV’s license plate info, and the car came back as stolen. In a segment of the February 17, 2009 episode of his HBO show Real Sports, Bryant Gumble reported on what happened next:

Officer Edwards called for back up and Sgt. Jeffery Cotton arrived on the scene. The two officers confronted Robbie Tolan and Anthony Cooper as they were approaching the front door of their home. “There was no, ‘this is the police’ or nothing. Just emerges from the dark.” said Robbie Tolan. “The gun, flashlight pointed at me and my cousin, ‘Get down on the ground.’” Robbie and Anthony were both lying on the ground when Marian and Bobby Tolan heard the commotion and came outside. “And I said, ‘this is my house my car, my son, my nephew. It’s not stolen,’” said Bobby Tolan. The Tolans then say that Sgt. Cotton pushed Mrs. Tolan against the garage door. At that point, Robbie reared up off the ground and said: “Get your fucking hands off my mom!” Sgt. Cotton then turned and fired his gun hitting Robbie Tolan in the chest. “The guy never said a word,” said Marian Tolan. “He never said, ‘shut up,’ he never said ‘get down’ or ‘stay down.’ He never said a word, he picked his gun, he took his gun and he just shot him.”

Cotton was suspended from the force and was indicted in April for aggravated assault, but he still walks free. The Bellaire police, outrageously, deny that they are guilty of racial profiling. But as Gumble pointed out, the facts reveal a very different picture:

Bellaire has a population of almost 16,000 and is less than one percent black. However, in 2007, 22 percent of the motorists given traffic tickets in Bellaire were black and 39 percent of the motorists who were stopped and searched were black, according to data collected by the Bellaire Police Department. In 2005, black drivers in Bellaire were almost 12 times more likely to be pulled over and asked for a consent search than whites.

The transcript of the Real Sports report (Episode 143) can be found online at:

Robbie Tolan survived the shooting seven months ago. But his dream of playing pro ball has been shattered. Parts of the police bullet are still in his liver. This is the first baseball season he can remember spending as a spectator, not as a player on the field. “I’m trying to get back in the swing of things,” he says, “but I can’t throw without pain.”

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Revolution #172, August 9, 2009

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From A World to Win News Service

The U.S. hand behind the coup in Honduras

July 27, 2009. A World to Win News Service. The first of the  following two  articles is excerpted from a text by Eva Golinger that first appeared on her blog on July 15. Golinger, a Venezuelan-American attorney from New York, has written several books on U.S. intervention against the Chávez regime in Venezuela, most recently Bush vs. Chávez: Washington’s War on Venezuela (2007, Monthly Review Press). We have excerpted her brief outline of the arguments given in the full text, posted in English and Spanish on “Postcards from the Revolution.” The second article is excerpted from a piece by Linda Cooper and James Hodge first published July 14 in the U.S. newspaper National Catholic Reporter. The full articles were also reprinted on the Web site of the U.S. magazine Monthly Review.

Washington & the coup in Honduras

No one doubts that the fingerprints of Washington are all over the coup d’état against President Manuel Zelaya that began last June 28. Many analysts, writers, activists and even presidents, have denounced this role. Nevertheless, the majority coincide in excusing the Obama Administration from any responsibility in the Honduran coup, blaming instead the lingering remains of the Bush-Cheney era and the war hawks that still pace the halls of the White House. The evidence demonstrates that while it is certain that the "usual suspects" who perpetrate coups and destabilization activities in Latin America are involved, ample proof exists confirming the direct role of the new administration in Washington in the Honduran coup.

U.S. continues to train Honduran soldiers

A controversial facility at Ft. Benning, Georgia—formerly known as the U.S. Army's School of the Americas [SOA]—is still training Honduran officers despite claims by the Obama administration that it cut military ties to Honduras after its president was overthrown June 28, National Catholic Reporter has learned.

A day after an SOA-trained army general ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya at gunpoint, President Barack Obama stated that "the coup was not legal" and that Zelaya remained "the democratically elected president."

The Foreign Operations Appropriations Act requires that U.S. military aid and training be suspended when a country undergoes a military coup, and the Obama administration has indicated those steps have been taken.

However, Lee Rials, public affairs officer for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, the successor of SOA, confirmed Monday that Honduran officers are still being trained at the school.

The school trained 431 Honduran officers from 2001 to 2008, and some 88 were projected for this year, said Rials, who couldn't provide their names.

The general who overthrew Zelaya—Romeo Orlando Vásquez Velásquez—is a two-time graduate of SOA, which critics have nicknamed the "School of Coups" because it trained so many coup leaders, including two other Honduran graduates, General Juan Melgar Castro and General Policarpo Paz García. Vasquez is not the only SOA graduate linked to the current coup or employed by the de facto government. Others are [a descriptive list of two generals and three colonels follows].

The ongoing training of Hondurans at Fort Benning is not the only evidence of unbroken U.S.-Honduran military ties since the coup.

Another piece was discovered by Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois, the founder of SOA Watch, while on a fact-finding mission to Honduras last week. [SOAW, which has organized several actions against the U.S. Army School of the Americas, held a protest against American intervention in Honduras at the U.S. Army Southern Command headquarters in Florida July 25—see]

Bourgeois—accompanied by two lawyers, Kent Spriggs and Dan Kovalik—visited the Soto Cano/Palmerola Air Base northwest of Tegucigalpa, where the U.S. Southern Command's Joint Task Force-Bravo is stationed.

"Helicopters were flying all around, and we spoke with the U.S. official on duty, a Sergeant Reyes" about the U.S.-Honduran relationship, Bourgeois said. "We asked him if anything had changed since the coup and he said no, nothing."

A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.

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Revolution #172, August 9, 2009

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Cheers to Bob Herbert

Cheers to New York Times columnist Bob Herbert for his July 31 piece, “Anger Has Its Place,” about the controversy around the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“The charge:” writes Herbert, was “angry while black.”

And Herbert points out that yelling at a cop “is not an offense for which you are supposed to be arrested.”

Herbert writes: “[S]o far exactly the wrong lessons are being drawn from [the Gates arrest]—especially for black people. The message that has gone out to the public is that powerful African-American leaders like Mr. Gates and President Obama will be very publicly slapped down for speaking up and speaking out about police misbehavior, and that the proper response if you think you are being unfairly targeted by the police because of your race is to chill.

“I have nothing but contempt for that message.”

And Herbert writes, “[T]he most important lesson to be drawn from this case” is that “Black people are constantly being stopped, searched, harassed, publicly humiliated, assaulted, arrested and sometimes killed by police officers in this country for no good reason.”

Journalists, academics, intellectuals, and others of all nationalities should learn from Bob Herbert’s example—take a firm stand and speak out in a strong voice against the outrageous, racist arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and the systematic oppression of Black people in America.

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Revolution #172, August 9, 2009

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West and Dix Open Up the Dialogue:

A Great Night in Harlem

The Ascendancy of Obama...and the continued Need for Resistance and Liberation: a Dialogue between Cornel West & Carl Dix." This program was presented by Revolution Books on July 14, 2009. It was held at the Harlem Stage of Aaron Davis Hall in New York to an overfilled crowd of 650 with a couple hundred turned away. This is a rough cut of the video without the audience Q&A. To contribute or volunteer to produce a full length quality DVD, contact Revolution Books, 212.691.3345 or

On July 14, 650 people filled a Harlem auditorium completely, and an overflow crowd of at least 100 more gathered on the streets outside, to hear, "The Ascendancy of Obama… and the Continued Need for Resistance and Liberation: A Dialogue Between Cornel West and Carl Dix."

In his promo video for the event—which has now been viewed more than 3,000 times on YouTube—Dix, a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, set unmistakably clear terms:

If you're somebody who doesn't want to hear straight talk on these questions, I suggest that you just stay your ass at home on July 14, and I feel sorry for you. But if you're somebody who's concerned about the state of humanity… if you hate the fact that these wars for empire continue whether it's Bush or Obama in the White House... if you feel it in your gut every time that you hear that the police have killed another unarmed Black or Latino youth and gotten away with it… if it really bothers you that women in this so-called "best of all possible societies" face violence and sexual assault in horrific numbers… and you wonder what, if anything, can be done to deal with these and other problems that people face, then you need to be out on July 14, and you need to spread the word and challenge others to be there as well. It's that important.

In the days and weeks leading up to July 14, the Revolutionary Youth Summer Project—a collective of 20 young people from across the country who have arrived in New York City to build a revolutionary communist movement—had done extensive outreach in Harlem to mobilize people for the event. The team took to the streets with sound trucks, banners, red flags, and plenty of newspapers and leaflets, as well as a portable DVD player with which to show the YouTube video. In their chants and agitation, the youth emphasized that Obama was a representative of the same imperialist system that has always committed brutal crimes around the globe, and that people should therefore not support Obama. One chant went: "Barack Obama is part of the system/commander in chief of imperialism/fuck that shit, no more confusion/what we need is revolution!"

Some people, like a young Black man visiting from Atlanta, dug this message: "That's all I needed to hear!" he exclaimed enthusiastically, when one youth told him that Obama's presidency was nothing to celebrate. Others did not like what the young revolutionaries had to say, and suggested that they take their message "downtown," or "to Long Island." Some were just taken aback. "Say that again!" a young woman of color exclaimed, after one of the youth repeated the statement from Dix's video that those who felt Obama's election constituted a revolution had "lost their muthafucking minds." Her tone seemed to be partly a challenge (as in "I dare you to say that again!") and partly a sincere desire to hear the statement repeated.

Heading into the program, then, it was clear that Dix's message—as well as the event it was promoting—had a powerful polarizing impact: it had the potential to push away those unwilling to question what Obama's presidency really represents for the people of the world, to draw forward those who were willing to engage this question, and to compel people in both camps to take note that new terms were being boldly thrust onto the scene.

Hundreds Take a Clear Stand

With their presence at the Harlem Stage of City College's Aaron Davis Hall, the hundreds who turned out—whether or not they had literally seen the video clip—embraced the spirit of Dix's challenge: Yes, they did want to hear the truth about Obama, and the crimes of their government. And no, they did not wish to accept the world as it is as tolerable.

Conversations with a handful of people in the building's lobby, before the dialogue began, suggested an atmosphere of excitement, curiosity, and anticipation.

Christianne, a 26-year-old waitress, said she had found out about the program during a recent visit to Union Square, during which she encountered volunteers with the Revolutionary Youth Summer Project.

"In talking about what I see wrong with the world, and what I'd like to see happen, and my inability to come up with a solution, this seemed right up my alley," Christianne said. She added that she had watched Dix's three-minute video in Union Square.

Christianne said that she wasn't going into the event with particular questions in mind, nor expectations of specific issues on which Dix or West would speak.

"I'm just going to see what piques my curiosity," Christianne said.

Sara, a 31-year-old white school teacher in the Bronx, said it was West who had drawn her to the event; she said she wasn't familiar with Dix at all. Sara described West as a "smart" and "provocative" speaker. Asked what she thought about the event's title, Sara replied, "I find it intriguing," and indicated she wasn't completely sure what it meant; she suspected its implication was, " [We have a] Black leader, but that doesn't mean we stop fighting."

Inside the auditorium, Bob Marley's "Emancipation Song" played as the beginning of the program drew near. Its opening lyrics—"Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery/none but ourselves can free our minds"—were quite fitting for a night in which one central theme expressed from the stage was that the people must take the responsibility of resistance into their own hands; that it is wholly unacceptable to be suckered into complicity with the crimes of our government simply because a Black president is now presiding over those crimes.

Shortly after 7 pm, Sunsara Taylor—a writer for Revolution newspaper, and one of the two moderators for the evening—stepped to the podium. She noted, to applause from the audience, that the event was being broadcast live on local progressive radio station WBAI, before promising an informative and thought-provoking discussion.

"We're in for a journey this evening," she said, as she introduced her co-moderator, the longtime radical journalist Herb Boyd.

"Welcome to City College," Boyd began. "Welcome to Harlem. Welcome to the revolution."

Boyd suggested that the theme of the evening's program was quite relevant to the history of Black experience in America.

"Resistance and liberation—those have always been operative words in the African-American canon and lexicon," Boyd said, adding that Dix and West were well qualified to address those topics. At that point, the two featured speakers walked onto the stage, hand in hand, to loud applause; some members of the audience rose to their feet.

Dix Lays Bare the Imperialist System… And Obama's Rebranding of It

Dix was the first to speak, and as was the case with his YouTube video, he wasted little time establishing clear terms of discourse. "What we're doing tonight is important," Dix began. "We're not gonna pretend Afghanistan is the good war."

The crowd responded with delayed, yet sustained, applause.

"We're not going to give Obama a pass for his Cosbyesque attack on poor Black people," he continued. "What we are going to do is get at reality as it actually is, and as it needs to be transformed."

And with that, a critical conversation happening virtually nowhere else was underway.

In the first part of Dix's speech, he laid out his analysis of the euphoric reaction to Obama's election, and contrasted that with what Obama's victory actually means for Black people and the people of the planet more broadly. Dix alluded to his "lost their muthafucking minds" statement from the YouTube video. At the Harlem Stage, Dix made clear that he stood by that assessment, but added that he wanted to address the underlying reasons why so many people were euphoric. Traveling with his family to the eastern shore of Maryland, which he described as "Mississippi further up north," Dix had to watch his 40-year-old father be addressed as "boy" by a white teenager. He witnessed the city of Baltimore close down its swimming pool, rather than integrate it.

"I know about the white supremacy of this setup," Dix said, "so I understand why people seeing a Black person elected president would get swept up." However, Dix added that while he understood the excitement over Obama's victory, he "did not and do not share it."

Obama's victory, Dix said, was serving to conceal the essence of this system of imperialism and the crimes it commits, and to solicit acquiescence to the system's crimes from people who would not have accepted them under any other president. As an example, he referred to Obama's recent speech in Ghana, during which the president demanded that African people and nations assume responsibility for rectifying their suffering. In so doing, Dix pointed out, Obama sought to mask the legacy of slave ships, the brutality of European colonists, the manner in which imperialism has consistently plundered Africa, and the murderous proxy wars carried out by the U.S. and other imperialist nations; the message Obama delivered, Dix said, was that the real cause of the plight of African peoples was that their governments were corrupt.

"This is a concentration of the role that he's playing," Dix said of Obama's speech.

The next section of Dix's presentation focused on the status of youth under imperialism, and the implications of Obama's presidency for those youth. Dix took on the commonly-expressed sentiment that, even if Obama himself does not represent anything good, at least having a Black man in the White House will inspire Black youth to achieve. In actuality, Dix said, Obama's victory will only suck youth into supporting a system that has condemned them to failure; the real doors that will open to these youth, Dix said, are the doors to the military recruiting centers, the jails, and the courthouses. On top of that, Obama attacks the oppressed youth and blames them for their conditions.

"It was bullshit when Cosby said it, and it's bullshit now," Dix said, to applause.

The final part of Dix's speech focused on what humanity needs to get beyond a system that thrives on torture and wars for empire, spawns massive disease and starvation, ravages the environment, violently subjugates women, and offers millions of youth no better fate than death or jail: revolution. Drawing on the RCP's new statement, "The Revolution We Need, the Leadership We Have," Dix told the crowd that the system of imperialism needs to be swept off the planet, with imperialist institutions replaced by revolutionary institutions. He explained that in past revolutionary societies, such as China under the leadership of Mao Tsetung, monumental and previously unthinkable advances had been achieved quickly under the guidance of a state that served the people; for instance, China went from a society where prostitution was pervasive to one in which the practice had basically been eliminated, and from a country where hundreds of millions were addicted to opium to one in which there were essentially no addicts. Dix went on to say: "Now revolutionary power in China was overthrown when Mao Tsetung died. But Bob Avakian has taken up the understanding that Mao developed and led the Chinese revolution on the basis of and developed it even further and that puts us in position to not only make revolution again but go farther and do even better with it the next time."

Similarly, Dix said, youth in modern imperialist societies who were immersed in the poisons of gangs, drugs, and religion need to be challenged to instead devote their lives to revolution, changing themselves in the process.

Dix finished by quoting the late Oscar Brown's poignant poem, "The Children of Children," and asking: "What is going to be our answer to the children of children all over the world?"

West Makes an Electrifying Appeal for Resistance

While he clearly did not share Dix's revolutionary communist perspective, West united with the need for resistance and repeatedly commended Dix for being a powerful voice for the oppressed who was willing to sacrifice his life to fulfill that role. "I am here," West said, "because at this particular historical juncture, we have got to create a space for principled criticisms of the Obama administration."

During an electrifying speech that often moved the audience to loud applause, as well as to appreciative laughter, West applauded Dix for driving home the message that humanity's goal should not be to place a Black man at the head of an empire that continues to heap horrific suffering on the vast majority of people of color.

West then walked the crowd through the process, and reasoning, behind his own decision to become a "critical supporter" of Obama's campaign. West joked that when he saw Newsweek heavily promoting Obama early in his campaign, "my suspicion was not just doubled, it was cubed." He then described speaking to Obama on the phone, and asking him if he would be true to the spirit of political activists such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Phil Berrigan. "I'll do the best I can," West quoted Obama as saying.

During his presentation, and then during the Q and A ,West argued that his concern for the world's oppressed compelled him to support Obama; he presented his decision as a tactical choice motivated by a desire to fend off the forces of fascism embodied in the McCain/Palin ticket and to end the age of Reagan-style conservatism. At one point, West argued that if McCain and Palin had emerged victorious, the dialogue he and Dix were having might not have been possible.

West mused that when Obama won the election, he was "relatively content," rather than euphoric. He added that the same factor that motivated him to support Obama—West's concern for the fate of humanity's downtrodden—moved him to be immediately critical of Obama after the election. For instance, West angrily ran down the list of Obama's team of economic advisers.

"Here comes Larry Summers!" West said. "Here comes Robert Rubin and his crew!" West contrasted Obama's $700 billion bailout to banks with his demand that the impoverished "pull themselves up by the bootstraps." And he condemned Obama's foreign policy team as a crew of "recycled neo-imperialists," as well as Obama's silence in the face of Israel's massacre in Gaza.

One of the more stirring moments of the program came when West, after alluding to the vicious FBI and CIA repression of resistance and revolutionary movements in the 1960s, sarcastically acknowledged the likely presence of federal agents in the room—"We know the CIA and FBI are here; we welcome you," he said, to thunderous applause and laughter—and then proceeded to put them on notice that the people in the room would continue to resist the crimes of their government, and to hold the government accountable for these crimes, and would not be deterred.

This was the sort of bold, unapologetic seizing of the political and ideological offensive that can give heart and courage to many people.

"We end with a call to action," West concluded, praising the young faces in the front row who were part of the Revolutionary Youth Summer Project. "You have to make reform and revolution a way of life."

The Q and A: Points of Unity, Divergence Become Clearer

After West concluded, Taylor returned to the podium, and said, "If you can believe this, now it's going to get really interesting."

She was right. During the Q and A from the moderators, and then the audience, both the unity and differences between Dix and West came into sharper focus. Taylor began by asking each speaker to describe his views on democracy, given that each of them had spoken of America's foundation of wars, slavery, and genocide. West stated very bluntly that, while he agreed that the U.S. was an empire, he believed in the "expansion of forms of democracy within the capitalist project," while Dix referenced Bob Avakian's three sentences on democracy in arguing that speaking about democracy in a society divided into classes was "meaningless and worse," and that the key questions that must be posed are which class is ruling, and whether the democracy it employs reinforces, or works to eliminate, class divisions.

"America was founded on slavery and genocide," Dix said, "but it was also democratic."

He went on to point out that American democracy was based, from its origins, on the violent exclusion of entire groups of people, and that it was on that basis that democracy was extended to one particular group—white men. He also reminded the audience that the American form of government involves dictatorship, not just democracy: when did the American people get to vote on ending the wars in the Middle East? he asked. Dix further stated that the goal of revolutionaries was not to "perfect" the system of U.S. imperialism, which commits crimes all over the world; it was to end that system.

Two of the five questions from the audience focused on the relationship between individuals transforming themselves and the overall transformation of society. The answers to these questions brought out further differences in the viewpoints of Dix and West. In response to an evacuee from New Orleans who argued that "revolution takes place internally," West largely agreed: After saying that talk of revolutionary overthrowing was "not my language," West added, "First and foremost, we have to muster the courage to bear witness to the system of evils inside of us."

Dix, on the other hand, essentially argued that West had the relationship between societal and individual change reversed: "It is through the course of resistance that we will change," Dix said. To illustrate the point, Dix drew on his own personal experience as a war resister who served time in Leavenworth prison rather than serve the imperialist army in Vietnam. When he was drafted, he faced a series of choices: He could serve in Vietnam; he could flee to Canada; or he could stay in the U.S. and be part of the resistance. He chose the latter course of action, which then set him on a radical (and eventually revolutionary) pathway.

The next question, asked by a young Black woman, was simple but profound: "How do you resist?" Within both Dix and West's responses was a sense that the decision to resist could come about in many different ways, and take many different forms. Dix said that the specific event which fills an individual with a strong sense of injustice and compels them to act politically could be a global issue, like the U.S. wars for empire, or it could be something more local and immediate, like seeing police harassing youth on the corner. As an individual resists, Dix said, their eyes start to open, and they realize that the atrocities against which they are acting are not isolated acts, but rather systemic. Dix said his orientation was to resist on the basis of putting forth that revolution was the solution to the particular problems being fought, and to unite with others who were genuine about resistance even if they did not agree with that view.

West drew an analogy between becoming involved in resistance and falling in love: As one enters into either process, an old part of them dies and a new part of them is born. West said that people can resist in a lot of ways, including through art; he cited Nina Simone's use of song and Talib Kweli's use of hip-hop as forms of fighting the power.

Towards the end of the program, there were two moments that exemplified the spirit of unity amidst struggle (friendly struggle with one another, and fierce struggle against the status quo), and the spirit of lively exchange, that characterized the evening. First, Dix broke out into a rendition of the Isley Brothers' version of "Ohio," with the opening lines: "Tin soldiers and Nixon's comin'/We're finally on our own/ This summer I hear the drummin'/ Four dead in Ohio/Gotta get down to it. Soldiers are gunning us down. Should have been done long ago."

The audience clapped in rhythm along with Dix, and cheered when he finished. West leaned over and embraced him.

"That was one of my favorite performances of my lifetime," a young white woman would say after the event. "And I'm 22 years old."

A moment later, West said that the reason he reads the works of Bob Avakian and wrestles with him is not because he is a communist but, "He is a certain kind of human being who has raised his voice and in his project that includes communism, I see some character, I see some quality of service to the poor, I see those who are concerned to sacrifice, I see a willingness to wrestle with deep issues that the mainstream does not want to wrestle with, including mainstream intellectuals."

While it is, of course, crucial to win as many people as possible over to the need for communist revolution—and the need to take up Avakian and his work on that basis—it is also crucial to building a revolutionary movement that broad sections of people, including those who are not communists, support, engage, and defend Avakian. The fact that West, a prominent and influential Black intellectual, made the public statement that he did, even though it will likely make him the target of unprincipled attacks from reactionaries and some "progressives" alike, is a big deal, and potentially an important opening in creating a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization of Avakian and his work.

Clyde Young on the Critical Role of Revolutionary Theory

In between questions from the moderators and the audience, Clyde Young of the Revolutionary Communist Party delivered a moving and convincing argument for the critical importance of revolutionary theory in general, and Revolution newspaper in particular. Young's speech was in tune with one of the major lessons of the program overall, which is that one of the first and most important steps in building revolution—or even mass resistance—is widely spreading the understanding of what fundamental change really means, and what it will require.

Since the event was a fundraiser for not only Revolution Books, but also the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF), Young placed particular emphasis on the impact that spreading revolutionary consciousness can have within the nation's penitentiaries.

Young recalled digging into the works of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, and immersing himself in revolutionary theory, while serving a 17-year prison sentence. At the time, he said, Revolution newspaper did not exist, so he had to break down and interpret works like the Communist Manifesto on his own. "Today," Young said, "Revolution is a lifeline for many, many prisoners behind walls."

Young told the crowd that Revolution newspaper frequently received letters from prisoners who were wrestling with the works of Avakian, and of the party in general. And he said that the paper had the potential to powerfully transform people, and the way they viewed the world; forging unity, rather than needless division, among different sections of the oppressed.

"Just changing the color of the president won't get the job done," Young said. "What we have to do is change the world. But to change the world, we have to understand it."

At the close of his presentation, Young informed the crowd that the newspaper subscriptions of 400 prisoners were due to expire after the month. He asked if anyone in the crowd was willing to donate $500. One person raised their hand to indicate they would be willing if two others stepped forward as well. Huge applause emanated from the crowd when the third and final donor stepped forward.

Young then asked if anyone were willing to donate $100, in order to buy three subscriptions for prisoners: at least two people stepped forward.

The Crowd Leaves Feeling Fired Up

After the program ended, it was clear that people of many different strata and perspectives had been energized, inspired, and stimulated by the event; they had been provoked to think about new questions, and about old questions in new ways. Audience members expressed appreciation that they had the opportunity to hear frank, critical discussion of Obama and his presidency, in addition to blunt exposure of the reality that his ascendancy had not altered the imperialist system or halted its crimes.

"It was amazing!" a middle-aged white woman said of the program. (She seemed anxious to get where she was going, and efforts to have an extended conversation with her were unfortunately unsuccessful.)

"I'm new to this," she continued. "I'm not a revolutionary. I'm not a communist. I found them [the speakers] both very articulate and very real and true. I was surprised how much I agreed with them."

Asked to elaborate on why she said she was "surprised," the woman responded, "I'm a very centrist kind of person."

A young Black bank employee who was born and raised in Newark, and who described himself as a "freethinker," was very enthusiastic about both speakers. "It's so appropriate, what they're saying in terms of our view of Obama," he said, "the euphoria of a Black man in the White House, but the bottom line is he presides over a very racistand oppressive system."

"I thought the discussion was relevant in terms of creating that space to talk about Obama," another young Black man said. "Not the person, but Obama the president and what it means to the revolution or class struggles or different issues we're facing now. It's definitely timely, since Obama's been in office for more than six months now. It's good to have people who are out there thinking critically about how is Obama being the first African-American president going to address the issues that are systematic within the United States and capitalism."

He added that he was unfamiliar with Carl Dix before the event, and said he very much enjoyed hearing a person of color put forth a communist viewpoint. "I think I never really thought of the communist party as being relevant in American politics, to be honest with you," the man said. "I had nothing to disagree with them, it just seems like a relic of the past. It's kind of refreshing to see that there are people who are trying to create a paradigm shift, essentially, and not just look within the system and try to tinker with things within the system, but really say the system is inherently structured to perpetrate everything we are against."

Jenny, a 51-year-old white artist from England, said she wished she had heard more clashes between the speakers. "I thought they were being more careful of each other," Jenny said. She said she was quite familiar with both Dix and West going into the event, and that she knew they differed over the question of revolution; she felt that difference had been muted during the event.

"I suppose the main thing they were trying to focus on was Obama," Jenny said, "and I think it was useful that they did that for a lot of people."

Jenny agreed with the speakers that Obama's presidency was sucking many people into supporting the crimes of this government, and constituted a significant obstacle from the standpoint of building resistance to these crimes. However, she said that she viewed revolution as impossible.

"Why?" she was asked.

"Because I'm a pessimist," she said, with a laugh.

Asked to explain that sentiment further, Jenny replied, "The U.S. and the whole system that it perpetuates, I don't believe it's possible to end it the way you guys think it could be ended."

"Why?" Jenny was asked again.

"It's too powerful," Jenny replied.

Jose, a 21-year-old Latino student at Baruch College, said the roughly two-and-a-half hour event had held his attention the entire time.

"It was very stimulating and thought-provoking in the exchange of views that was shared by the audience, and of course Cornel West and Carl Dix," Jose said.

Jose, too, said he was already quite familiar with West—but not Dix—heading into the program. "But I'll start looking into him after the show," Jose added.

Asked what he thought of the speakers (particularly Dix, since he was far less aware of him going in), Jose said he was struck by Dix's emphasis on the need to radically change ideas and institutions, rather than simply looking to politicians to bring change.

"His point of view on society, and his approach to society, is new to me," Jose said.

However, echoing a comment made by the freethinker from Newark, Jose added that he still wasn't clear about what ultimate solution Dix was advocating. "I didn't understand what type of revolution he wanted to bring," Jose said, wondering if Dix envisioned means such as protest or civil disobedience as vehicles to implement radical change.

After the RCP's revolutionary strategy was explained to him—“hastening while awaiting" a revolutionary situation by working now to win millions of people over to understanding that the atrocities committed against the people of this planet stem from a common system, and that revolution is required to overcome that system, thereby laying the foundation for the people to actually make revolution when there is a crisis in the system—Jose said that he had more clarity on the question.

The young white woman who had raved about Dix's impromptu singing performance was equally thrilled about the event as a whole. "It was exhilarating," she said. "It was awesome. I got chills so many times just listening to people speak with so much passion about things that they really believe in. To hear other people say that they would die for something that they believe in, and to be talking about a poor working class, is a conversation that most people don't even consider because they don't belong to it. And I feel like I very much belong to it."

A few moments later, she spoke powerfully to the impact a program like this can have on those in attendance, and those who learn about the event after the fact.

"I think that for people to be talking about this stuff," she said, "versus all the trivial, superficial shit that goes on in everyone's daily lives—to find other people who want to have a conversation that's meaningful—is refreshing.”

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