Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA

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Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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Behind the "Debate" Over Afghanistan: Suffering, Death, and the Needs of Empire

by Larry Everest

October 7 marked the eighth year of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, making it one of the longest wars in U.S. history, and the end is nowhere in sight. Instead, today the imperialists are facing mounting difficulties and staring into the abyss of possible defeat.

A report by the U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, states "the overall situation is deteriorating" and warns of possible "failure." According to McChrystal, the insurgency is "resilient and growing," while the U.S. and its puppet Afghan government face "a crisis of confidence among Afghans...that undermines our credibility and emboldens the insurgents." The Taliban are now thought to be active in over 80 percent of the country, and NBC News reported they may now be stronger than they were before U.S. forces overthrew them in October 2001.

In this context, a major debate has emerged in the White House and the ruling class. The U.S. commanding general in Afghanistan is calling for as many as 80,000 more troops. At the same time, other ruling class forces like Vice President Biden are reported to oppose sending more troops to Afghanistan.

While the debate is out in the open, the real terms of it are not. The reality is that this debate has nothing to do with ending the war in Afghanistan. On BOTH sides, and in all shades in between, the argument is over HOW to advance U.S. strategic interests. Any discussion of the U.S. pulling out of Afghanistan altogether is being ruled out of order. And the results, whichever side wins out, are going to bring more misery and death to the people who live in this region of the world.

People are being told to choose between one of the two sides in this debate. But this is a "debate" over how to best project and defend the interests of the U.S. empire. The actual interests of the people—of the region, and the world (including people in this country), lie completely outside those terms. There is another choice...a choice which corresponds to the interests of the vast majority of people on the planet. It is standing up to and against any further U.S. action in that region of the world, and in that way, helping bring onto the world stage another way—a force opposed to both U.S. imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism.

The Ruling Class Debate: Framed by the Interests of Empire

First, this is not a debate between "hawks" and "doves," between those who want more war and those who want less (or no) war.

McChrystal and his supporters argue that the situation demands more U.S. troops—up to 80,000—on top of the 68,000 already there. They want to pursue a new counter-insurgency strategy of clearing the Taliban from territory it controls, and holding those areas and preventing attacks, while new governing structures can be built up. And they think this must be done quickly: "Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months)—while Afghan security capacity matures—risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible," McChrystal's report states.

Others in and outside the administration (reportedly including Biden) agree on the need to maintain current U.S. troop levels to prevent a Taliban victory and destroy the Jihadist forces, but oppose a massive troop buildup. Given the Taliban's roots among the people in Afghanistan and the lack of credibility of the Karzai regime, they feel that completely defeating the Taliban and building a stable central state is either impossible or far too costly economically, politically and militarily. But more, they argue the emphasis should be to launch more attacks on Al Qaeda (which is hiding out in Pakistan), mainly by drones and missiles, and making the stabilization of Pakistan—whose state some feel is in danger of collapse—the U.S.'s top strategic concern. They see Al Qaeda and the "extremist fundamentalists" as the main problem, and propose that some of the "more moderate" Taliban could be split off and integrated into a U.S.-dominated regime. Rather than spreading U.S. troops around the country to defeat the Taliban, they say the U.S. should put more effort into training the Afghan troops to back up and secure the regime installed by the U.S. A big troop buildup, they argue, could backfire—generating even more opposition to the U.S., while being extremely costly, with little chance of succeeding in creating a legitimate and stable pro-U.S. Afghan government. And the problem they see is that all this could take the U.S. focus off Pakistan, where they say it needs to be, overstretch the U.S. military, and weaken U.S. imperialism globally and in the region.

In short, McChrystal's "option A" calls for more death and destruction wreaked on the Afghan people from the ground, along with more forcefully trying to control life in Afghanistan (including at the village level), and strengthening the Afghan state, through economic aid, bolstering its military and police and other measures. Biden's "option B" would bring more death and destruction from the air, escalate the expansion of the war into Pakistan, strengthen the reactionary Afghan army and police, while leaving the majority of Afghans (who live in the countryside) to the mercies of the Taliban and local warlords.

So this debate isn't over ending the war vs. continuing it, or how to best improve or save Afghan lives. Neither side questions America's right to dominate and decide the future of the people in this region of the world or any other. It's over how to best wage the war to achieve U.S. imperial objectives.

The Strategic Stakes of the War

Ending the war and leaving Afghanistan is off the table, as Obama's press secretary Robert Gibbs made clear (October 5, 2009): "The President was exceedingly clear that no part of the conversation on—no part of the conversation involved was leaving Afghanistan. That's not something that has ever been entertained.... I don't think we have the option to leave."

Barack Obama has insisted on having a thorough debate within his administration over which military and political strategy the U.S. should follow in Afghanistan. Obama has not yet announced his decision, but he has said before that Afghanistan is a war the U.S. "must win."

The stakes for the imperialists are extremely high in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and defeat or retreat would seriously weaken the whole U.S. empire on a number of different levels. First, Afghanistan and Pakistan are located in the middle of Central Asia, one of the most strategically important regions in the world. Central Asia and the Middle East together contain 80 percent of the world's oil and natural gas. With demand for energy outstripping supplies, competition for control of energy sources and the energy pipelines that criss-cross Central Asia has been heating up among the U.S., Russia, China and others. Whoever controls global energy supplies can exert enormous influence over the whole world economy and any country that depends on oil and natural gas.

Beyond this, dominance in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia has enormous political and military significance, and is a linchpin in the current world order with U.S. imperialism as the sole superpower.

Any retreat or defeat in Afghanistan would weaken U.S. global credibility—the sense that it is militarily unchallengeable. It would undermine support in the U.S. for other wars, invasions and occupations. And it could weaken the NATO military alliance, which the U.S. is counting on for more support, not less.

U.S. Imperialism and Islamic Fundamentalism—Mutually Reinforcing

Afghanistan and Pakistan are currently focal points in the clash between U.S. imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism.

The U.S. occupation has not, and cannot end religious fundamentalism, or the oppression of women in Afghanistan. Instead, the U.S. occupation is fueling Islamic fundamentalism in general and the Taliban in particular in many ways and on many levels. This deadly dynamic between these two reactionary and historically outmoded strata—the imperialists on the one hand and the Islamic fundamentalists on the other—continues, and continues to intensify.

The reality is this: If you support either force in this conflict between imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism you are reinforcing both. People must refuse to be locked into—and must actually break with—the framework of picking between these two reactionary paths and strata. And particularly for those who live in the U.S., what is needed is for people to STAND UP in massive numbers and resist and oppose the crimes being committed by the U.S. imperialists—in your name. Turning a blind eye to—or justifying—what the U.S. is doing only serves to give the U.S. more freedom to carry out these crimes and only intensifies the confrontation.

First, much as it is covered up, these Islamic fundamentalists—and the crimes they commit—have been engendered and built up by the imperialist system itself. For example, the imperialists directly supported these forces during the 1980's when the U.S., Pakistan and Saudi Arabia organized and funded the Jihadist movement and Osama bin Laden to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Beyond that imperialism in its drive for profit has created a situation where millions have been uprooted from their homes and lives, and suffer daily as a result of the workings of the imperialist system. In the midst of great physical and social dislocation and extreme poverty brought on by imperialism, people turn to organized reactionary Islamic fundamentalists who claim to have a "way to fight" the forces that have made people's lives a living hell—even though Islamic fundamentalism is not any kind of positive alternative to imperialism, and does not seek in any way to break the chains that enslave the people of oppressed countries within the networks of global imperialism.

With regard to Afghanistan in particular, let's take a look at the last eight years. Working hand in glove with the thoroughly corrupt and reactionary U.S.-installed regime of Hamid Karzai, the U.S. has (to one degree or another) been pursuing a strategy of preventing a Taliban takeover, promoting economic development, training Afghan forces, and facilitating reconciliation. The results have been enormous violence inflicted on the Afghan people, including torture, imprisonment, maiming, and death, deepening impoverishment, hunger and starvation—all of which have worked to drive people into the arms of the Taliban.

And neither "side" in the current debate in the White House will change any of that.

Under Biden's "lighter footprint" option, there would be more strikes from the air, like the one that killed nearly 100 recently near Kunduz, when 500 desperately poor people surrounded two tanker trucks in hopes of getting free fuel, only to see loved ones consumed in a flaming inferno after U.S. planes bombed the tankers. U.S. airstrikes and the Pakistan army's offensive in northwest Pakistan have driven over three million from their homes; this too would accelerate under Biden's plan.

And what of McChrystal's counterinsurgency plan that would put tens of thousands more U.S. troops on the ground and attempt to win over and "protect" the Afghan people? This would also accelerate the killing and brutalization of the Afghan people, it would just do it on ground level. A recent Frontline (PBS) documentary, "Obama's War," which followed a group of Marines implementing this new boots on the ground, hold territory, defeat the Taliban approach in Helmand Province, provided a glimpse into what this strategy means.

While military commanders talk about this new approach as if it were a humanitarian mission, the encounters filmed by Frontline showed an occupying military force targeting a population it considered a likely or potential enemy. U.S. soldiers operated like police in the inner cities of this country—stopping and frisking a group of Afghan men and warning them not to stuff anything in their shirts or try and run—that this might "look suspicious" with the obvious implication that it might lead to being killed by the U.S. A Marine officer tries to get information from local villagers, then gets angry and warns them if they don't answer he'll think they aren't "co-operating" or they're helping the Taliban. Meanwhile firefights are going on daily. (And such suspicions can get Afghans killed or sent to Baghram and other U.S. torture centers where over 15,000 Afghans are now locked up without any due process or basic rights.)

The actions of the brutal, corrupt and oppressive Afghan government put in power by the U.S.—and which is like a mafia or warlord state—is also driving people toward the Taliban. This is a government headed by President Hamid Karzai—hand-picked by the U.S.—who recently presided over an election in which nearly one-third of the ballots cast for him were fraudulent. One of Karzai's chief allies and backers is Gen. Abdul Dostum, a northern warlord responsible for massacring some 2,000 prisoners of war in 2001 by stuffing them into boxcars and suffocating them to death. Dostum has kidnapped and tortured political opponents, and during the 1980s played a prominent role in assassinating revolutionary Maoists.

This is the government that Biden wants to keep in place (with more training for police and military) and that McChrystal wants to strengthen even more. Again, the humanity and lives of the Afghan people are not part of the calculations.

What the U.S. Brings to Afghanistan

The truth is that the U.S. acts to strengthen relations of exploitation and imperialist dominance, and it imposes political structures (whether the forms are more democratic or less) that enforce those relations. This includes preserving and incorporating the traditional and feudal social and economic relations that are the basis for the profound impoverishment of the Afghan people, as well as for religious fundamentalism.

This is a big reason that life remains a horror for the Afghan people. Since 2003, life expectancy has fallen to 43.1 years, and adult literacy has fallen to 23.5 percent. Up to 70% of Afghanistan's estimated 26.6 million people are considered food-insecure by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which reports millions have recently been pushed into high-risk food-insecurity because of high food prices. One of every three Afghan children under five is malnourished, and in 2005 (the last year for which estimates are available), the average Afghan earned roughly $271 a year—less than $1 a day, and 42 percent of the people exist on less than $14 a month.

The following, from an interview with a displaced civilian, reveals what this means for the people of Afghanistan:

[translated] If it wasn't for the war, I would want to go back. If there was freedom, I want to go back. Why am I here? Now there is war and bombardment, and I can't go back. Before, I was a farmer, but I can't go back. I was growing wheat and poppy and corn, melons. I was taking care of the children. But right now I can't do anything. Look, they are barefoot in this cold weather. I don't have anything. I am very poor. They are standing in the water barefoot. I am scared they will die. Then what can I do? One of my daughters is dead. She died, and they will die, too. This child, I can sell her, but nobody will buy her. What can I do? I can sell her, but nobody wants her. What can I do? For God's sake, I want to sell this child, but nobody wants her. What can I do? I have nothing. I am poor. I don't have any blankets, I don't have any shawls, I don't have any clothes. There is no food that I can put in her mouth. For God's sake, I am poor. Otherwise, I wouldn't give her for one million. I know nobody wants to sell their daughter, but I have to. She is innocent, but I am poor. I have nothing.

(From Robert Greenwald's new film, Rethink Afghanistan at Also excerpted with transcript on Democracy Now!, October. 2, 2009)

Continuing U.S. domination of this country also means empowering reactionary warlords, religious figures, tribal chiefs, and power brokers who enforce religious fundamentalism and patriarchy. After eight years of U.S. occupation, 87 percent of Afghan women suffer abuse in their homes, honor killings and rape are on the rise, and the vast majority of women remain enslaved in their homes—under the control of male relatives. Meanwhile, an Afghan woman dies in childbirth every 30 minutes. "The human rights situation in Afghanistan is getting worse not better," one UN official recently declared.

The U.S. can and will bring nothing good in Afghanistan. Its actions will bring down increased suffering and misery to the Afghan people, and with every village that is bombed, with every Afghani who is tortured, Islamic fundamentalism will be fueled. And the dynamic goes on and gets worse.

Supporting any ongoing U.S. occupation—whether the McChyrstal plan or what Biden is proposing—is immoral and wrong. It does great harm to the people. This is true not only because of what the U.S. has done and will do in Afghanistan, but because legitimizing the Afghan war and occupation also legitimizes U.S. military interventions and the U.S. empire overall. The U.S. is a far, far greater danger to the planet than the Taliban—which does not have thousands of nuclear warheads and a massive, globe-straddling military machine, does not have a stranglehold on the global economy that enforces hunger on a billion people, and is not the force driving global environmental destruction. And imperialism is primarily what has driven the revival and spread of reactionary Islamic fundamentalism. Supporting either one strengthens both, when what the world really needs is to bring forward a whole other way.

People here do have an enormous responsibility to the people of Afghanistan—and the world—to oppose the crimes of U.S. imperialism. The rulers of this country should be held accountable for their ongoing crimes against the people of Afghanistan and the whole region by building mass political resistance against their wars of empire, breaking their "America first" ideological hold on people, and politically and ideologically weakening the U.S.'s ability to maraud around the world—and continue to wage war in Afghanistan.


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Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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To the Brave Resisters of October 22nd

In Oakland, California, police murdered Oscar Grant on New Year's Day—they executed him point blank in front of hundreds of witnesses while he lay on a train platform, totally restrained by a cop. Chicago police murdered Corey Harris—a 17-year-old high school student, athlete, and father—who was killed as he ran from a fight on the first day of school this year by an as-yet-unnamed policeman. In Rockford, Illinois, a 23-year-old Black man, Mark Anthony Barmore, was shot in the back on August 24 by two white cops inside a daycare center in front of 10-12 horrified children as he lay on the floor.

And over and over again, the murders are covered up—how many times have police claims that "he had a gun" turned out to be a comb... a cell phone... or nothing?

This must STOP.

We have covered these outrages, and countless other ones, in many issues of Revolution. Taken together, they add up to an undeniable point: people in this society—and especially Black and Latino people—are kept in line by brutal, murderous force.

Every young Black or Latino man in America who steps outside his door enters a world where a death sentence is waiting to be executed against him. In this issue of Revolution you will read how on August 8, 33-year-old Ezequiel "Tito" Jacobo was killed by LA County sheriffs. For what? Suspected parole violation.

America, which endlessly brags of its so-called freedom, actually leads the world in one category: its rate of imprisonment, and the sheer numbers of those it holds in cages. America, which endlessly talks of "the human spirit," actually has taken an entire generation of youth and treats them, from the time they start school, as criminals. And this is especially so, once again, in regard to the Black and Latino communities.

Police violence enforces the functioning of the capitalist system—if you don't make your mortgage or rent payment, the police and sheriffs are there with guns to put you out on the street. That in itself is an outrage.

But it is not just that the police enforce the unjust laws of this system—police constantly and routinely violate the system's own laws and Constitution to keep people under its thumb. In the first six months of this year, the New York Police Department stopped hundreds of thousands of people—overwhelmingly young Black and Latino men, and locked them into police criminal databases—even though the vast majority of these youth were not even charged with committing a crime.

Unrestrained, massive, outrageous police violence has become the norm for how America deals with political protesters who refuse to quietly file into and out of isolated "protest pens."  When thousands of courageous, mostly young people gathered in Pittsburgh on September 24 and 25 of this year to confront the G20 (representatives of the world's largest economies) they were assaulted by police riot squads, their permits to protest were denied or revoked, and they were infiltrated by police spies and provocateurs. Hundreds of protesters—along with people just trying to go to work or school—were gassed, beaten, and arrested. Last year, before the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Minneapolis, the "RNC 8" were hit with four serious felony conspiracy charges, including "Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism," before any protest took place (they still face trial).

Enough Is Enough!

There is no reason why people should have to live, and die, like this. Revolution wholeheartedly unites with the efforts of people from a broad spectrum of political beliefs to say on October 22nd that THIS MUST STOP. We salute you, and we call on people to work with us, with the requisite urgency, toward what is put forward in the Message and Call from the Revolutionary Communist Party, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" (Revolution #170, July 19, 2009):

"The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness...those days must be GONE. And they CAN be." (The entire Message and Call is at

As part of making that happen, we again encourage readers to Bear Witness—to send us your testimony about police abuse, brutality, and murder (see "BEAR WITNESS!").

Finally, we call on all the courageous protesters out on October 22nd to grapple with the point made in that same RCP's Message and Call:

"Look at what this system is doing to youth right here in the USA. For millions in the inner cities, if they are not killed at an early age, their likely future is prison (nearly 1 in 8 young Black men is incarcerated, the prisons are overflowing with Blacks and Latinos, and this country has the highest rate of incarceration of women in the world). This system has robbed so many youth of the chance for a decent life and has got far too many living, dying and killing for nothing—nothing good—nothing more than messing up people and murdering each other on the streets of the cities here...or joining the military, being trained to be murderers on a mass scale, massacring people in countries across the globe. A system which offers millions and millions of youth no greater purpose, no better fate, than crime and punishment, or to become a mindless killing machine for the system itself—that alone is reason enough to sweep this system from the face of the earth!"

The RCP's Message and Call concludes:

"We mean what we say, and we will not back off or turn our backs on what we have started, on the people who need this revolution. We will keep coming back and digging in, to strengthen this movement for revolution, to build up the bases, spread the influence and organize the forces we need to make revolution. We will not be scared off, backed down or driven away.



"As our Party's Constitution says: 'The emancipation of all humanity: this, and nothing less than this, is our goal. There is no greater cause, no greater purpose to which to dedicate our lives.'"


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Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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Statement by Revolution Club, Bay Area


FLASH: On October 16th, a Judge in Oakland, CA granted a change of venue motion by Johannes Mehserle, to move his murder trial out of Oakland. Mehserle is the BART policeman who shot and killed Oscar Grant in front of hundreds of shocked and outraged BART riders, several of whom captured the killing on video. Following is a statement by the Revolution Club, Bay Area.

October 17, 2009


This is an outrage! First, the system murders Oscar Grant in cold blood. Now it may be getting ready to let killer cop Johannes Mehserle walk free, and paint another police murder as some kind of innocent mistake.

Yesterday a judge in Oakland decided he agreed with the killer's attorney—that Mehserle couldn't get a fair trial in Oakland so it had to be moved.

We've seen this movie before—over and over. We saw it in 1999 when the system moved the trial of the cops who shot Amadou Diallo 19 times just for reaching for his wallet from the Bronx to upstate New York and got an acquittal. And we saw it before then when the system moved the trial of the cops caught on videotape beating Rodney King from LA to Simi Valley—another acquittal.

We're not buying it, and we're not going along with it. Enough is enough!

Why does the judge say Mehserle can't get a fair trial in Alameda County? Because too many people in Oakland have heard about the case, too many feel Oscar Grant was murdered, too many are angry about it, and too many have protested.

Well, shouldn't people know about a cold-blooded murder? Why shouldn't they be angry about it? And why shouldn't they protest it? And why should people who care about the truth—and know how the police treat Black people—be excluded from the courtroom?

The protests were righteous and, in fact, we need MORE of them.

The only thing this judge proved is that the whole damn system is guilty—and that we need a revolution and a whole new system.

Like the statement The Revolution We Need…The Leadership We Have says:

"The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness...those days must be GONE. And they CAN be."

October 22nd is the National Day of Protest to STOP Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. The judge's decision is an outrage and October 22nd is an opportunity to give voice to this outrage and organize to finally put an END to the epidemic of police brutality and murder. FIGHT BACK! WEAR BLACK!

Revolution Club, Bay Area

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Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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On the Tragic Death of Derrion Albert:

The Youth Need a Real Future and the Real Truth – Not the Hell That They Live In and the Crocodile Tears, Lies and Poisonous Bullshit That Is Being Pumped at Them!

By now, many people have seen the video of the September 24 beating death of Derrion Albert in Chicago. The violent scene of a big fight among high school students lasts only a few minutes. You see people running every which way. You see a couple of kids fall to the ground after being hit on the head with big planks of wood. Derrion Albert, a senior honor student, is one of them. He gets kicked and stomped as he lays on the ground. You see him trying to get up. Then the next second, his body goes lifeless. You hear someone screaming, "Get up, get up." People rush over to try and help. But it's too late.

Another terrible, tragic death. Another young life, cut down, cut short.

Over a thousand people attended Derrion's funeral. Friends, families, many others heartsick and outraged.

In the wake of this senseless death, people are agonizing. Why did Derrion Albert have to die? How did things get to such a hellish situation? Kids killing each other over nothing. Playgrounds becoming battlefields. Teenage dreams turned into gunfire nightmares.

Among many there's a feeling of desperation and despair that comes from knowing it's your neighbors and fellow students doing this to each other. It seems like an endless spiral with no way out. But let's be clear on where we have to put the blame for such tragedy.

As a statement issued after the death of Derrion Albert said:

"It is terrible that the youth are driven to kill each other. It is terrible and a crime of this system that they internalize the message they get every day through the worthless schools and degrading conditions and brutalizing cops—the message that this system has no future for them and that they don't even deserve a future—and then they act it out against each other."

So this is the first thing we need to get clear on. That it is not the people, but the system that is to blame for the kind of violence that goes on among the youth. And by correctly identifying the real problem, we can get to the real solution to all this madness.

We need a complete change. We need to get rid of this capitalist-imperialist system with its economic and social relations that endlessly set people against each other in a million and one ways. We need to get rid of this system with all its institutions that promote a dog-eat-dog poisonous mentality that perfectly mirrors how this system works. Things really don't have to be this way! A communist revolution would get rid of this sick system. It would organize and mobilize the people to build a whole new socialist society, a society that would really appreciate and tap into the energy of the youth. A society where the creativity, daring, and critical spirit of the youth would be unleashed—along with the rest of the people—to build a whole new and emancipating society.

This is the truth of what it will take to end the horrible violence among the people. And we need to be working right now to build a movement that can bring about this revolutionary solution.

But every day—and especially in the wake of something like the death of Derrion Albert, the so-called "answers" and "solutions" we get from the spokespeople for the system are precisely the opposite of what is needed.

Using Tragedy to Bring Down More Repression

The powers-that-be have jumped all over this tragedy—using it to blame the people and justify bringing down even more repression on the people. We got Eric Holder, head of the U.S. Justice Department; Arne Duncan, head of the U.S. Department of Education; and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. We got the media. And we got people like Jesse Jackson. All speaking out in the wake of this terrible incident. And what is the message from all these people?

One way or another, they all blame the people and demand that more repressive power be brought down on the youth.

Mayor Daley has called for more police in the schools. And if you want to know what this will mean watch the video of the police in a suburban school outside of Chicago beating down 15-year-old Marshawn Pitts. Go to to see how Pitts—who is a special needs student—was brutally attacked, slammed into a locker, and then wrestled to the floor by several men. And what is the "crime" Marshawn Pitts committed to deserve this? He broke the school dress code by not having his shirt tucked in!

The Chicago police are already repressing the people big time in Black and Latino neighborhoods. Now, in the wake of Derrion Albert's death, curfew enforcement has been increased and 50 cops have been added to the city's Mobile Strike Force, bringing the unit's strength to 150. This special police unit, which focuses on gangs and guns, was part of the city's "surge" in 2008 that left 12 shot and 6 dead by the police in a three-week period. This is the cold, murderous reality of what it means to bring more police into the schools and community.

And there is a bitter irony that these calls for more police in the schools and neighborhoods come at a time when the authorities are covering up the police murder of Corey Harris, who was a star athlete at Dyett High School. Corey Harris was unarmed when he was murdered in cold blood, shot in the back by a Chicago cop. The media have been silent about the fact that now, one month after Corey's death, his family's lawyers have still not been told the name of the cop who shot him in the back. And there has been total media silence about this fact. (See "This Time It's Chicago: Once Again—Cops Murder Unarmed Black Youth," Revolution #178, October 4, 2009.)

Blaming the People for the System's Crimes

In October, Obama's Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, came to Chicago and addressed the question of violence among the youth. He said, "Somehow many of our young people have lost faith in the future. They've been denied love, support and guidance and have grown up believing that their life is not worth anything—so no one else's life is worth anything either."

Again, when you strip away the crocodile tears of fake concern, what do you get? Yet another official telling us the people themselves are to blame for the horrible situation this system puts us in. The problem, we are told, is the parents, teachers, the kids themselves. But to Mr. Arne Duncan and anyone else with similar counsel, we say: You want to talk about why youth have lost faith in the future? This capitalist-imperialist system denies the masses of young people any kind of meaningful future. And it has brought about the economic and social conditions that give rise to violence among the youth. And the oppression of Black people is built into the very foundation and fiber of this system. As the RCP's statement, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" describes this stark reality:

"For millions in the inner cities, if they are not killed at an early age, their likely future is prison. This system has robbed so many youth of the chance for a decent life and has got far too many living, dying, and killing for nothing—nothing good—nothing more than messing up people and murdering each other on the streets of the cities here...or joining the military, being trained to be murderers on a mass scale, massacring people in countries across the globe. A system which offers millions of youth no greater purpose, no better fate, than crime and punishment, or to become a mindless killing machine for the system itself—that alone is reason enough to sweep this system from the face of the earth!" (Revolution #170, July 19, 2009)

Mr. Duncan went on to say: "We must teach them that violence doesn't solve anything and that respect for others is the foundation of a safe and healthy society." Again, Mr Duncan, it is YOUR VIOLENT SYSTEM that has taught the youth that violence is the solution. It is this system that disrespects the youth and denies them their humanity. The police occupy their communities, they humiliate, degrade, and brutalize the youth on a daily basis. Go to cities and towns across the USA and ask the youth how they are treated by the police. You will hear stories over and over again of being unjustly stopped, frisked, beaten down, and killed. Parents live in terror, worried about what will happen to their kids if they are stopped by the police for hanging out, walking down the street or just "breathing while Black."

And what about how the violence of this system that perpetrates war on people all over the world? That offers up youth as cannon fodder to die so that the U.S. can dominate and profit off of huge swaths of the world? What about your system, Mr. Duncan, that is pulverizing whole villages with bombs from miles above, raiding the homes of Iraqis and people of Afghanistan and terrorizing them in much the same way the police kick in doors here in the ghettos and barrios? And aren't you the same Arne Duncan who was the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools until January, who turned more public high schools into military academies than any other city? Yes you are. So don't lecture us about violence.

Duncan keeps wagging his finger of blame at the people saying, "It's much deeper than that. It's about our values. It's about who we are as a society."

Yes, it is in fact about values, Mr. Duncan. The values of YOUR system: That the youth have no right to a job, or a decent education, or even a roof over their head. That armed police enforcers can slap the youth around, humiliate them, and even shoot them in the back. That the courts and all the other government institutions should unleash, back up, defend police brutality and murder.

And then when the youth internalize all this and act this out on each other, you use that to further repress and criminalize them.

This system pits people against each other in so many ways. It puts people in a situation where, in order to survive, people do really bad things to each other and to themselves. And it is the system that gives rise to and reinforces the cold-hearted mentality of "eat or be eaten" and "look out for number one." Just think about it—isn't this the logic and outlook of the capitalist system where survival, profit, and success comes from exploiting and oppressing others?

Yes, the youth do need a new morality. But not your capitalist, dog-eat-dog morality with a dab of sanctimony on top. They need an emancipatory morality. The morality of a totally different kind of system, one where there are no exploiters ruling over and dominating others, where humanity works cooperatively for the good of all, and the morality corresponding to that calls on people to look to serve the highest interests of global humanity, and not "me, my neighborhood or my group."

Yes, the people do need to change, but they are only going to transform themselves, in a liberating way in the process of confronting the actual source of the problem and by radically changing their conditions. We don't need "anger management." We need to direct the anger, alienation and rebelliousness of the youth into a real struggle against the system and for revolution.

This system offers the youth no future, no meaningful life, nothing to live for: But the revolution does.

Stop the Madness of Killing Each Other & Start Fighting the Power!

Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.

See "False Paths and Dead Ends: Why the 'Stop the Violence' Can't Work" in "The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need," Revolution #144, October 5, 2008 and "The Plague of Violence Among the People and the Real SolutionThe Plague of Violence Among the People and the Real Solution," Revolution online edition, September 8, 2008.

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Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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Chicago: "Justice for Corey Harris!"

On October 17, more than 100 people gathered on short notice in the park where Corey Harris used to play basketball, to demand justice for Corey and to build for the October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation. Among those in the crowd were youths from various high schools on Chicago's south side. Corey Harris's friends and relatives spoke about what Corey had meant to them and demanded that the cop who killed Corey on September 11 be locked up. A number of the speakers reminded people to be sure to wear black on October 22nd and to come out to the protest that day. Corey's aunt led people in chanting "Indict, convict, send the killer cop to jail! The whole damned system is guilty as hell!" Bright green stickers saying "Justice for Corey Harris" and "Danger: Police in Area" were everywhere.

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Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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Pigs Demand That People Inform – While They Cover Up Their Own Crimes

Mayor Daley and the Chicago Police Department have decried the silence from the youth and their refusal to turn in names to the police of people who were involved in the fight (under the circumstances, a form of resistance against the constant police repression). CNN even did a special report about youth not snitching. It is really a sick joke that the police are going after the students for not snitching, when the police themselves completely uphold the Blue Wall of Silence in protecting brutal and murdering police. In case after sordid case, the police have refused to break ranks against their fellow marauders and murderers. And when someone has, other police have visited retribution on them. And the legal process itself is set up to PROTECT the cop when police kill, a secret investigation takes place by the so-called Independent Police Review Authority that conceals the name of the murdering cop until the investigation is over. The killer cop who shot Corey Harris in the back after school is still unnamed and unindicted.  There is no official or media hue and cry over this.  There is no official call to root out the violence of the police. There is no call to wipe out the "culture of violence" and "code of silence" among the police, and for them to start turning in each other for their crimes. Why? Because this is an acceptable and necessary part of running a system that has no place or future for whole sections of the people. They are serving and protecting the interests of this capitalist system, that is their job.

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Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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On the 150th Anniversary of the Anti-Slavery Attack on Harper's Ferry, Virginia

The Heroic Legacy of John Brown

October 16 marks the 150th anniversary of John Brown's daring and heroic raid on the U.S. arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. Brown led a force of 21 men. They aimed to seize arms and distribute them to the slaves, and then go to the mountains to wage guerrilla war against slavery in the southern U.S. Brown's force quickly seized the arsenal but were unable to break out. However, they then defended the arsenal for over two days against a force of 800 militia and were only finally defeated and captured by a detachment of U.S. Marines.

The Harper's Ferry raid did not come out of nowhere. By the time of the raid, U.S. society had long been simmering. The capitalists—based in the northern U.S.—were increasingly coming into conflict with the southern slave-holders on a range of economic and political issues, and the slave-holding class felt that their system was under attack. Serious political crises would periodically erupt, followed by compromise, followed by still more crises. Slave revolts and the systematic widespread escape of slaves through the "underground railroad" went on, as did severe repression against the slaves and the abolitionists (those who favored the abolition of slavery). There was widespread anti-slavery agitation by people like Frederick Douglass, the famous escaped slave. By 1859, the situation had become extremely intense—but there was still no major political figure of any established party, including Abraham Lincoln, who called for abolition of slavery in the South. It was in this situation that Brown put his plan in motion.

John Brown was driven by a bitter hatred of slavery. But he was also inspired by a firm belief in the humanity and absolute equality of the enslaved Black masses, and in their capacity to free themselves, once they saw an opening and a way to do so. In both of these convictions—and in his unquenchable desire to end slavery as soon as possible—John Brown was far in advance of the vast majority of white abolitionists of his time. Brown fought slavery for many years, only to see the laws become ever more restrictive and the conditions of the slaves grow ever worse. He came to believe—correctly, as it turned out—that slavery would only be destroyed through armed struggle.

John Brown's raid was initially condemned in both the North and South, and he was very quickly tried and sentenced to death. But Brown used his trial to put forward his anti-slavery views in a compelling way, and that, along with courage, made a strong impression. By the time of his execution, not even seven weeks after the raid, things had begun to change. In the North, the previously wavering and mostly conciliatory abolitionist movement, as well as broader masses of white people who for one reason or another opposed slavery, finally began to galvanize. This was especially so after Henry David Thoreau, a major poet and intellectual of the time, dared to step out in the midst of the anti-John Brown hysteria and declare that Brown's raid had been a blow for justice.

In the South, the slaveholders went into a frenzy of lynching and murder. But despite the severe repression, slave revolts spread through the South, particularly in the months after the government executed Brown and his comrades. In one revolt in Texas, in July 1860, slaves were alleged to have set a series of fires in a number of Texas towns; 10 whites and at least 65 Blacks were killed in the revolt and its aftermath, when white Texans went on a rampage of torture and lynching to "extract confessions." Many of the accused slaves refused to confess or implicate others and went to their deaths silent in the face of hideous tortures.

Just 18 months after Brown's raid, the first shots of the Civil War were fired. As the Union soldiers marched off to war, they sang that "John Brown's body lies a-moldering in his grave, but his soul is marching on." But even with the Civil War underway, the northern capitalists, as represented by Lincoln, still refused to free the slaves! It wasn't until 1863 that Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation which finally, after 250 years of horror, freed the slaves. A few months later, Lincoln—again under pressure "from below," and forced by the need to more decisively confront and attack the South—allowed Black people to join the Union Army. The former slaves, as well as those who had won their freedom before the war, enlisted in massive numbers and played a major role in defeating the slave-holding class.

Anyone truly opposed to injustice should celebrate John Brown's life and courageous example.

(For more on the importance of slavery in the formation of the U.S. and the great struggle to abolish it, as well as the centuries-long battle against the oppression of Black people, see "The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System, and The Revolution We Need," a special issue of Revolution. We hope to print a longer historical essay on John Brown in the coming weeks.)

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Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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October 11 March for Equality

Tens of Thousands Take to the DC Streets for Gay Rights

Washington, DC, October 11—Many tens of thousands took to the streets of the U.S. capital to demand "equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states"—including marriage rights. People came from all over the East Coast and many other places, some traveling hundreds or thousands of miles. Among the marchers were veterans of the gay rights movement. But what was notable was the huge presence of young people, many who were at their first big protest. There were contingents from many different colleges and universities, as well as students and youth who came on their own or with small groups of friends. There was an air of determination among those in DC on this day to resist the unjust situation facing LGBT people—and also a sense of celebration at being part of this very significant outpouring.

After a march that stretched for miles, people rallied in front of the Capitol. Among those speaking and performing were: Julian Bond, current chairman of the NAACP; Dustin Lance Black, screenwriter for the film Milk; spoken word artist Staceyann Chin; Judy Shepard, whose son Matthew was beaten to death in 1998 because he was gay; and the cast of the Broadway musical Hair (see Li Onesto slide show below), who canceled a matinee performance to attend the march. Cleve Jones, longtime gay activist who played a leading role in organizing the march, declared at the rally: "A free and equal people do not tolerate prioritization of their rights. They do not accept compromises. They do not accept delays. And when we see leaders and those who represent us saying 'you must wait again,' we say No! No! No longer will we wait!" 

View photos by Li Onesto - slideshow

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Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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Shine the Light of Revolution Behind the Prison Walls

Shine The Light

Dark are the cells where the locked-down young men
face chains and fists and the ear-pounding din,
where minds fight the madness in slavery pens
and there is no light – no, there is no light.

Cold are the jails where the women on ice –
pressed in by the walls to pay a blood price –
resist, all alone, the heart-crushing vise
and there is no light – no, there is no light.  

Hidden in hells of America's shame
Their skin's their sentence, their tongue is their crime –
while Moloch* lays siege to their souls and their names –
but there is no light – no, there is no light.

The sun has gone down, and chill is the night –
Now they turn to you: will there be a light?


Toby O'Ryan


The above poem was inspired by letters from prisoners to REVOLUTION on how much the paper, and in particular the writings of Bob Avakian, mean to them – and especially by the fact that there are still scores of prisoners who cannot receive REVOLUTION because the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund lacks the necessary funds for their subscriptions.

*Moloch – a legendary god in the Old Testament who demanded the sacrifice of children, he was later used as a symbol of the American system in Allen Ginsberg's classic poem, "Howl."

* * * * *

Coming soon in early November...

Special Issue of Revolution on Prisons and Prisoners

To our readers:

Watch out and prepare for the upcoming issue of Revolution focused on prisons and prisoners. In a recent letter addressed to "my sisters and brothers behind the prison walls," Joe Veale wrote:

"The revolution needs YOU. Needs you to consciously and actively join the struggle to initiate a new wave of communist revolution in the world that is being led by Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party…" (See online at

We call on our readers, including those in prisons, to start thinking about and stategizing with others about how to get the special issue out far and wide—inside and outside the prisons. Prisoners: send in correspondence for printing in Revolution, posted online at, and/or read aloud in classrooms, on the streets, and elsewhere. And, very importantly, raise funds for the printing and distribution of this issue.

* * * * *

Donate to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund

The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) is an educational literature fund that fills requests from U.S. prisoners for revolutionary literature. The main requests received by PRLF from those behind bars are for complementary subscriptions in Spanish and English to the weekly newspaper Revolution* and for revolutionary and other books, including ones highlighted in the newspaper. Through providing this literature, PRLF provides an educational opportunity for prisoners to engage with world events and key political, cultural, and philosophical questions of the day from a unique revolutionary perspective, including discussions of morality, religion, science, and the arts. Every week prisoners can delve into the urgent and lively news and debate about unfolding political and social struggles, and can critically think about and dissect the current state of society as well as search for an alternative.

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

International Humanities Center
860 Via de la Paz, Suite B-1
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272


Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund
1321 N. Milwaukee, #407
Chicago, IL 60622

To volunteer or reach PRLF, please write us at the Chicago address, call us at 773-960-6952, or e-mail us at

*published by RCP Publications (



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Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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Tell us your story about police abuse.

If the police have... sweated you at school
dogged you in the streets
hit on you or otherwise sexually harassed you, or
... if the police have racially profiled, threatened, tasered or brutalized you or any member of your family...

Write to us!!! Tell us your story.

Revolution c/o RCP Publications,
Box 3486, Merchandise Mart,
Chicago, IL 60654-0486


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Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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The Killing Grounds of Los Angeles County

"Growing up with the sheriffs, boy it's tough. They get you once, they get you twice, it's all over from there. They know your name, they never forget your face. They'll ride you until you get a record. That's the way they are….

"It was a vendetta. The cop hated him. Tito gave that guy a run for his money a couple weeks in a row. He ran from him, 'cause he was on parole, yes he was on parole... but it's no reason to kill the man. He was on parole for drugs. Who isn't on parole for drugs? He killed him because he hated him, he killed Tito because he was going to get away again. He was going to run, there's a way down the back side, he was going to get away again, and he didn't want that to happen, so he killed him."

—Friend of 33-year-old Ezequiel "Tito" Jacobo, killed by sheriffs in Carson, California, on August 8, 2009

Scottsdale Estates is a housing project in Carson, south of LA, tucked off of Avalon Blvd. It was a warm Saturday afternoon the day Tito was killed. People had pulled out their barbeques and were hanging out in the park inside the complex. The LA County sheriffs came through earlier in the day fucking with people in the park, giving out loitering tickets to people barbequing. Tito was sitting with friends in someone's garage when the sheriffs pulled up. He was on parole and he ran from them. One of the sheriffs shot him in the back as he ran, then kept shooting while he was on the ground, executing Tito in front of his friends and the neighborhood kids.

A few days after Tito's execution, 50 people marched to Carson City Hall from where he was killed. They were headed to the city hall meeting, but stood outside speaking bitterness on the lawn in front after the meeting was abruptly cancelled. Armed sheriffs in riot gear guarded the sheriffs station next door and sheriff cars sped up and down the street, stopping cars that honked in support of the march. When a witness to the murder was almost arrested, marchers stopped and confronted the sheriffs until they let him go.

Tito's murder was not an aberration. In the last three months at least ten Black and Latino people have been killed just by sheriffs and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Killing Spree by Sheriffs and LAPD

In July, August, and September of this year, the LA sheriffs and LAPD went on a killing spree:

July 5, 16-year-old Avery Cody, Jr. was shot and killed by sheriffs in Compton.

July 10, 22-year-old Woodrow Player III was shot in the back and killed by sheriffs in Athens.

August 6, 19-year-old Jessie Long was shot and killed by LAPD in South Central.

August 7, 23-year-old Guillermo Saucedo was shot and killed by sheriffs in Lynwood.

August 8, 33-year-old Ezequiel "Tito" Jacobo was shot and killed by sheriffs in Carson.

August 9, 37-year-old Oran Eugene Douglas III was shot and killed by LAPD in South Central.

Last year, Inglewood, California, police shot and killed four Black and Latino men in four months:  Michael Byoune, an unarmed 19-year-old who was out at a burger restaurant with his friends; Ruben Walton Ortega, an unarmed 23-year-old who they shot five times in an alley; Kevin Wicks, a well-respected post office worker who they shot when they mistakenly went to his house on a call, pounded on his door in the middle of the night and he answered with a gun in his hand; and Eddie Felix Franco, an unarmed homeless man they shot 47 times on a street corner in the middle of the day.

Then in May of this year, Inglewood police murdered 31-year-old Marcus Smith, shooting and killing him at a family party when they showed up in response to a call of a fight.  The police said Marcus shot at them and they shot in self-defense.  Witnesses say Marcus didn't even have a gun in his hand and the cop who was shot in the leg was hit by one of the bullets coming from the other cops.  Angry friends and relatives at the party who saw the shooting were beaten and handcuffed.  The independent autopsy report showed 17 bullets in Marcus's back.

After the four murders last year, there were protests and marches and calls for investigations.  Four investigations were started, including an investigation of the policies and procedures of the Inglewood Police Department by the Department of Justice.  Yet none of the murdering cops were taken off the streets.  One of the cops who shot Michael Byoune killed Kevin Wicks a month later.  Another Inglewood cop, Zerai Massey, killed an unarmed youth in 2007, shot Eddie Felix Franco last year, and then killed Marcus Smith this May.  Now the Office of Independent Review has released a report of their investigation and the city is refusing to publicly release it, claiming "attorney-client privilege."

September 14, 36-year-old Darrick Collins was walking with a friend in the driveway of his cousin's house when a sheriffs' car pulled around the corner, looking for two robbery suspects. Darrick started to walk back towards the house. The sheriffs pulled into the driveway and when Darrick didn't stop, they started shooting. He was shot once in the back of the neck and twice in the side. The sheriffs have admitted that Darrick was unarmed and was not the robbery suspect they were looking for. In the wake of Darrick Collins' murder, family members and activists filled the city hall meeting demanding the truth be told about Darrick's murder, and demanding justice.

September 19, 17-year-old Travion Richard was shot and killed by LA County sheriffs in Lynwood. Travion's family organized a march from their church down Alameda Blvd. to the notorious Lynwood Sheriffs Station (which used to have within it an organized white supremacist gang called the Vikings). Some people defiantly held up in front of the sheriff cars handmade signs of a human figure as target practice with the words "New Target Shoot Kill" and red paint splashing out from heads and chests—the victims of murders by police. Along the march route, the friends and family of Travion, all Black, reached out to Latino families who were walking and driving by, making the connections that the police are murdering their children too—and many of the Latino families responded with sympathy, some sharing stories about their encounters with the police.

September 20, the day after Travion was killed, sheriffs shot and killed 27-year-old Felipe Valdovinos in Compton and 24-year-old Leopoldo Huizar in Norwalk.

The murders were given justifications, repeated in the news. The most common being the claim that the police feared for their life when the victim supposedly pointed a gun at them at some point in the pursuit, or tried to wrestle a cop's gun away, or the standard fallback claim that the victim was "reaching for their waistband." And then the police justify these killings by pointing to arrest records and parole status.

Under this system's own laws, things like running away from police or most violations of the law are supposedly not punishable by the death penalty—let alone execution on the spot, with no trial. But not a single cop has been charged with a crime or removed from the police force or punished in any way. In fact, the opposite is true. In the same time period of this killing spree, a lawsuit against the cops who shot to death two-year-old Suzi Pena and her father was thrown out of court while the LAPD SWAT team was presented with awards for their "heroism" in this case. The fact that the police are basically given free rein to do this exposes the actual role of the state machinery, including the police.

Shot In the Back...

People are angry about these murders, and there has been important resistance in response to some of them. But there's still confusion about why this is happening, and what's behind it.

Here's some facts. Darrick Collins, Tito Jacobo and Woodrow Player III were shot in the back—and repeatedly—while running away and unarmed. Eyewitnesses to the murders of Tito Jacobo and Woodrow Player III back this up and media accounts of the murders of all three tell the same story. Clearly they were not advancing on or threatening the police in any manner.

Under the system's own laws, police are not supposed to execute people, shooting them repeatedly in the back, when the victim poses no threat to them. So, what has been the system's response to this illegal wave of killings? There were no arrests of the murdering police. There were no firings of the murdering police. There were no statements about rogue cops being out of control. And no apologies. Sheriff Lee Baca said that he would convene a special panel of his "top shooting experts" to look into shootings by the sheriffs and the tactics used in these confrontations. Baca also stated he would speed up the investigative process in sheriff-involved shootings.

Back in the days of Jim Crow in the South, it was technically illegal for the KKK to lynch Black people. But the authorities—from local cracker cops to the FBI and the Justice Department—turned a blind eye to these lynchings even when they were announced in advance in the news. Illegal or not, lynch-mob terror kept everything and everyone locked down into what the system considered their "proper place" in this society. Every Black person was a potential target and grew up with that fear of never knowing if you might be the next one grabbed off the street or out of your house.

Today it is the police, patrolling neighborhoods, hounding Black and Latino youth from the time they can walk. And even though it is supposed to be illegal for them to murder people for no reason, they do it over and over, and with impunity.

Ten police killings, at least, in three months, and nobody facing criminal charges. That is not an aberration—a "few bad apples"—or a few racist, sadistic pigs. These are actions of an armed force of the state, whose role is to serve and protect a system—the system of capitalism-imperialism—and to sow an atmosphere of terror among the oppressed, especially the youth.

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Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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An Open Letter from Raymond Lotta to Tony Judt and the NYU Community on the Responsibility of Intellectuals to the Truth... Including and Especially the Truth About Communism

Tony Judt is a well-known professor at New York University. This is an open letter addressed to him by Raymond Lotta.

This letter was written before I had learned of Tony Judt's health condition. His difficult situation is saddening and of great concern. At the same time, the debate around the ideas that he stands for remains an urgent one.

I invite members of the NYU community to a talk I will be giving on October 26 at 7:00 p.m. at the Cantor Film Center titled "Everything You Have Been Told About Communism Is Wrong." I will be deconstructing the core lies spread about communism and surveying communism's real past, real lessons, and real prospects for the future.

I address this letter to Professor Judt in particular because in the past period he has contributed towards opening up intellectual discourse and critical thinking in certain arenas, including about Zionism.

But I also address this letter to Tony Judt because he has at the same time been doing the opposite. When it comes to the signal political breakthrough of the 20th century—that the "wretched of the earth" rose up and made revolutions in the Soviet Union (1917-56) and China (1949-1976) that represented the first and historic steps towards creating a communist world without exploitation and oppression—when it comes to this most important question, Professor Judt has actually contributed to the perpetuation of ignorance. He has contributed to the grave constriction of critical thinking and critical inquiry by repeating and reinforcing "official verdicts" and hackneyed distortions about communism.

In his 1998 commentary on The Black Book of Communism, Judt asserts: "Communism and Nazism are, and always were, morally indistinguishable." Under both regimes, Judt argues, "whole categories of people, real or imagined…were exterminated not for anything they had done, but just for being who they were." To which I can only respond: you are wrong, you are spreading lies, you don't know what you are talking about, and you are causing great harm.

One of the authors of the anticommunist The Black Book who subsequently dissociated himself from the Introduction to the text told Le Monde: "death camps did not exist in the Soviet Union," and "the more you compare communism and nazism, the more the differences are obvious."

Tony Judt seeks to buttress his case that communism has been a political failure and moral disaster with the outrageous assertion that "the facts and figures [in The Black Book]…are irrefutable." But such "facts and figures" ostensibly documenting communism's "crimes" can be readily refuted. The only problem is that no one is allowed to seriously do so in the public square. Such is the weight and influence of the institutionalized conventional wisdom about communism.

I intend to crack open debate and change this situation with my talk at NYU, as well as  through other events. I will show that this received wisdom is built on lies and misrepresentations about the aims and methods of communist revolution, and about the actual historical-social conditions they faced and sought to transform. I will show how humanity made unprecedented leaps in moving beyond the "long dark night" of exploitative and class-divided society.

The stakes of this discussion are very high. These spurious verdicts about communism lower sights and constrain discourse and exploration about how the world could be radically different. In short, these verdicts reinforce the oppressive status quo and its conventional wisdom that the best we can do is tinker around the edges of contemporary capitalism.

Tony Judt's account of communism as a closed and totalizing system of thought intent, as he says, on "solving the problems of mankind in one stroke" is not only a grotesque and pedestrian distortion. It also effaces the reality that the communist project is a developing one that has learned from previous experience and mistakes in conception and practice. In fact, as I will show in my talk, Mao Tsetung effected a major rupture with Stalin's approach to building a socialist economy and confronting counter-revolution. Mao developed new understanding for continuing a revolution that seeks to change people's material circumstances, along with their thinking and values, through their ever-more conscious activism.

But my talk will not confine itself to a defense of the past. Most importantly, I will be discussing the new synthesis of communism brought forward by Bob Avakian. Yes, revolutionary power must be held on to: a new state power and the overall leadership of a vanguard party are indispensable. But leadership must be exercised in ways that are, in certain important and crucial respects, different from how this was understood and practiced in the past. This new synthesis recognizes the indispensable role of intellectual ferment and dissent in socialist society. Indeed, socialism must be a place where a Tony Judt can and must have the ability to articulate and disseminate his views, and where there will be great debate about these views as part of the struggle to understand and change the world.

Again, I extend an invitation to all of you to attend my talk.

To anyone seriously concerned about the state of the need to come and bring your toughest questions.

To the many students at NYU who want to dedicate their lives in one form or another to the betterment of humanity but who have never heard a coherent and spirited defense of the past, present, and future of the communist project…you need to come.

To those who want to defend this system…you need to be there too, because I am taking on all comers.

Raymond Lotta


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Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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  2. The Raymond Lotta Campus Tour:
    A Very Big Deal Indeed!
  3. Who is Raymond Lotta?
  4. Think you know about communism and capitalism? Then take this quiz...and think again.
  5. Raymond Lotta Kicks Off Speaking Tour with Special Webcast Event
  6. Excerpt from Webcast: Health Care Under Capitalism, Health Care Under Socialism
  7. An Open Letter from Raymond Lotta to Tony Judt and the NYU Community on the Responsibility of Intellectuals to the Truth... Including and Especially the Truth About Communism

Posters and pluggers

  1. Tour poster (9/28/09)
  2. Tour poster (10/4/09)
  3. PDF of leaflet - Berkeley event
  4. PDF of leaflet - Box for local event information
  5. Spread the word about Raymond Lotta's Webcast at Michael Moore's new film, "Capitalism: A Love Story"
    Download and pass out this plugger at theaters

From "Spreading Revolution and Communism"

  1. Making Revolution and Communism – and the Raymond Lotta Speaking Tour – a Really Big Deal on Campus
  2. Response of Some High School Students on Watching Raymond Lotta Youtube


  1. Check it out!
  2. YouTube "The Rape of the Congo & Your Cell"
  3. September 29, Tuesday, 7:30 pm EDT
    Live Webcast With Raymond Lotta
    "Behind the World Economic Crisis: System Failure & the Need for Revolution"

Send us your comments.

Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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The Ray Lotta Campus Tour:


UC Berkeley
Thursday, October 8, 2009
4:00 pm - 6:30 pm

Lipman Room, 8th floor of Barrows Hall on the UC Berkeley campus
(Barrow Lane & Eshleman Road)
Contact Revolution Books Berkeley

NYU, New York City
Monday, October 26, 2009
7:00 pm - 9:30 pm

Cantor Film Center- NYU
36 E. 8th Street, NYC
Contact Revolution Books NYC

UCLA, Los Angeles
Tuesday, November 3,
7 pm

Broad Art Center at UCLA,
Room 2160 E,
240 Charles E. Young Drive
(Park in Lot # 3 on north campus)
For more information
Contact Libros Revolucion

University of Chicago
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
7:00 pm

Kent Hall, Room 107
1020 E. 58th Street (On the quad)
Contact Revolution Books

For tour info contact

Send us your comments.

Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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From A World to Win News Service

If They Can't Save This Fish, Don't Trust Them With the Planet!

October 12, 2009. A World to Win News Service. People who are looking to the upcoming Copenhagen Climate Change Conference or some other international body of today's capitalist states to save the planet should consider the death sentence the European Union may have just issued for the Atlantic bluefin tuna.

The Atlantic used to be full of bluefin, but they only bred in the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean. Now, with their numbers greatly depleted, the Mediterranean has become critical for their survival as a species. Yet the European Union has refused to back a plan to cut the yearly bluefin catch to a level where they could escape extinction.

The bluefin tuna is one of the most magnificent of the world's fishes. (The tuna most people eat from cans is a different species.) Because of their unique metabolism, muscular structure and almost perfect hydrodynamic shape, they can push their great size (up to four meters [13 feet] long, and weighing as much as three-quarters of a ton) from one end of the Atlantic to the other, cruising at several kilometers an hour with bursts of up to 80 kph [49.7 mph], and diving half a kilometer [1,640 feet] deep. The ancient Greeks and Romans considered them beautiful and fascinating. Since then they were considered good for nothing but sport fishing until only a few decades ago, when the global market got hold of them. Now just one can be sold at the price of an ordinary car, and a big one at the price of a Rolls Royce.

High in a healthy kind of fat, many people believe that their red meat tastes particularly delicious raw. But don't blame anyone's ancestral tastes for the popularity that may prove to be fatal for this species. Noble Japanese used to agree with their American counterparts that this fish was not fit for their consumption. The market demand for them has been socially determined, involving, it is true, the fact that people can acquire a love for their flavor, but also the bluefin's iconic brand status as one of the world's most prestigious foods amid the boom in luxury consumption in the home countries of the imperialist (monopoly capitalist) world economy. In fact, the development of the productive forces played a more decisive role in developing today's taste for open-ocean fish than any age-old cravings, since it was only with the spread of household refrigerators in rich post-war Japan and elsewhere that the common people could eat much raw fish at all. Modern fishing equipment and refrigerator ships made it highly profitable to catch and transport bluefin tuna by industrial methods and in industrial quantities. With these conditions met, the market manufactured the popularity of this commodity by introducing it to sushi or sashimi (Japanese-style raw fish dishes) menus that, thanks to their profitability, have taken the better-off countries by storm.

Today, with the number of full-sized adult bluefin greatly reduced in the Mediterranean, fish crews generally catch them while they are young and small, and then put them in ocean pens to fatten them for a few months before driving a nail into their brains and selling them on ice. For some years the idea was promoted that this kind of capital-intensive fish farming could save the species, but in fact it made the problem worse, because the number of fish left to grow to reproductive age has dropped drastically and the bluefin has not bred in captivity.

The numbers are so clear that you'd almost think that they alone would settle the argument. The quota for the world's total bluefin catch was 22,000 tons this year. The real amount taken in is thought to be two or three times as much, because there's not much checking-up on catches declared by registered fishing vessels, and illegal fishing by unauthorized boats is rampant. If the quota were set at 15,000 tons and enforced for a sufficient length of time so that the fish population could recover, then according to the prominent fish NGO [non-governmental organization] Oceana, about 45,000 tons of bluefin could be harvested every year indefinitely. That would be a sustainable level, and is about the amount of bluefin regularly taken in a decade ago.

Yet the EU refused to back a proposal that the international body in charge of such things set the quota at that sustainable level.

That body is the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), nicknamed, by the exceedingly pro-business publication The Economist, "the International Conspiracy to Catch All Tuna" (October 30, 2008) because it really represents the global fishing industry countries. The EU itself split right down the line you'd expect: the tuna-catching countries along the Mediterranean took a stand for the freedom to fish (including France, whose President Nicolas Sarkozy had recently made a speech posing as the tuna's new best friend), while countries like Germany and the UK, whose waters have been emptied of bluefin, were in favor of the new quotas.

This is not just the result of pressure from commercial fishing companies, although there's plenty of that. The nature of capital and the workings of the market, above and beyond anyone's will, is the deeper explanation.

First of all, there's the question of timeline: bluefin live for decades and may not be able to reproduce until the age of eight or more; right now they are often caught when only a year or two old. So rebuilding the stock would take some time. Secondly, because there's so much money to be made in cheating, quotas might not be enforceable. This factor interpenetrates with another one: capital is nationally rooted, and every government would be under pressure to look the other way and let their fishing fleets do as well as those of the next coastal country. Maybe only a total ban, including on marketing bluefin, would work. Long-term reduced quotas would be very good for fishing, but the question of "saving the fishing industry" is not a question of saving some abstract industry. The undeniable fact is that today's fishing companies would be thinned and shrink at best, and the capital invested in them might never be recovered.

Thirdly, for capitalist production such questions are considered "externals": the cost to society and the planet of not reducing fishing quotas—or of not preventing other kinds of damage to the environment—is enormous, but that cost is not necessarily borne by any individual capitalist or capital formation. From the point of view of profits for fishing companies and the banks that finance them, and the various national monopoly capitalist economies in which this industry operates (injecting the capital obtained by profitable fishing into the larger circuits of capital by purchasing boats and other equipment, etc.), the most rational thing is to fish bluefin until there are no more.

This short-sighted approach is insane even from the point of view of capitalist profit in the long term, let alone the interests of the people and the planet. The Sunken Billions project of the World Bank and the UN's FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] points out that the more capital invested in fishing, the more fish are caught and the less fish stock is left, requiring even more capital (more boats fishing for longer periods, etc.) to catch them and reducing the overall profitability of the industry, although they fail to point out that this does not necessarily apply to the profit of any particular company, which can thrive by swallowing competitors. "If fish world stocks were rebuilt, the current marine fisheries catch could be achieved with approximately half of the current global fishing effort," the report concludes. In fact, one reason why the fishing companies require government subsidies to keep up their profitability is because there is too much capital invested in fishing. (Other reasons include global warming, a problem not unrelated to the dictates of profitability and the market.)

Ocean fish are part of the productive forces, like land, raw materials, machinery and technology, and people and their skills, that produce wealth. They have the unusual particularity of being the common property of mankind (sometimes called "the commons"), just as land once was before the development of class society and especially capitalism.

Fish have the potential to be an enormously important source of high-protein nourishment for humanity, and for its pleasure as well. But "the commons" and even more the collective labor of people all over the world cannot be used for the benefit of humanity and its planet as long as the monopoly capitalist system based on private profit prevails and the monopoly capitalist class holds political power.

The problem lies in what capitalism requires—what capital itself requires, which is antagonistic to the interests of humanity and the planet. The governments must respond to the dictates of profit or economic chaos will result. The politicians who represent capital may or may not want to save the bluefin but there are far more powerful forces at work than their individual consciences. Even where laws have been passed to save locally beloved species by restricting catches (eels in Holland, king salmon in Alaska—both, significantly, involving low-capital fishing), the international character of fish lifecycles and the overall environmental effects of capitalism and the global market have limited the success of such efforts.

As Karl Marx's close collaborator Frederick Engels wrote in Dialectics of Nature, "Let us not flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first...

"And, in fact, with every day that passes we are acquiring a better understanding of these laws [of nature] and getting to perceive both the more immediate and the more remote consequences of our interference with the traditional course of nature. In particular, after the mighty advances made by the natural sciences in the present century, we are more than ever in a position to realize, and hence to control, also the more remote natural consequences of at least our day-to-day production activities. But the more this progresses the more will men not only feel but also know their oneness with nature...

"[B]y long and often cruel experience and by collecting and analysing historical material, we are gradually learning to get a clear view of the indirect, more remote social effects of our production activity, and so are afforded an opportunity to control and regulate these effects as well.

"This regulation, however, requires something more than mere knowledge. It requires a complete revolution in our hitherto existing mode of production [capitalism] , and simultaneously a revolution in our whole contemporary social order."

When it comes to something as complex, long-term and truly global as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and beginning to deal seriously with the threat of global warming, then the fate of the bluefin, which, after all, is just a fish, should serve as a warning.

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.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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Connecting Revolution with Abortion Clinic Defense

Dear Revolution,

Starting in mid-September, there was a call from forces in the religious right for "40 Days of Life"—focused on 40 days of praying and demonstrating against abortion clinics. It's a national effort with different cities targeted across the country, probably 50 places on their map. They've got a website: In our city they seemed to be focusing on a family planning clinic in the heart of the city that has been a major target for some years, but we also found they had a big presence at a Planned Parenthood clinic in an outlying suburb. Revolution Books got an email from a group called Radical Women, announcing that they planned to form a picket line at the central city clinic on one of the weekends. I attended, and so did two students from my college class. Most of the picketers on our side all seemed to be with Radical Women and ISO.

A woman (who doesn't seem to be with either of those groups) found out about the campaign and she's been organizing clinic escorts to counter the antis, setting up her own website called She and her friend, plus several other women, donned the "Clinic Escort" shirts and escorted women entering and leaving the clinic. I had on my Revolution T-shirt and my sign was the front page of the newspaper with Dr. Tiller on it and "Fetuses are not babies" written next to it.

I got out four copies of Revolution with the article on the murder of Dr.Tiller. I also got out one copy of the issue with the centerfold on "Fetuses Are Not Babies" to a student from Iran. She said four of her friends inside of Iran have recently had abortions, which are illegal, but doctors do them anyway. The woman who organized the Clinic Defense had been a student at Vassar and was a clinic escort there, and she is familiar with the paper. One of the women from Radical Women told me I should bring the centerfold of "Fetuses Are Not Babies" because she thought that was great. Another said she was in Jacksonville with Sunsara Taylor.

The anti-abortionists had between 10-30 people that came and went through the day, and our side had a similar number—sometimes they outnumbered us and vice-versa. They knelt and prayed, sang hymns, and some aggressively tried to get through our lines. There seemed to be at least two different groups of them. About 5-10 were young immigrants, who both prayed and tried to distribute literature. Others were mainly older whites, and one of them was identified as having been at a demonstration called by the anti-immigrant and racist Minutemen.

A couple of the women were very aggressive and tried to break our lines to get at the women coming out of the clinic. They called the cops on us three times, saying we were trying to coerce a 14-year-old into having an abortion and accusing us of pushing them. A student and I worked to help block the antis with our signs as the woman and escorts walked past. A young Latina anti got so frustrated with not being able to hand out literature she took a swipe at the student, but the student ducked and wasn't hit.

About 10 students in a class I am in have signed up to be part of this. One of the young men is very enthusiastic and is taking the lead to organize Students for Critical Thinking on campus. He wants to do outreach on campus and is doing the paper work to get a book table to sell used books to raise money for Libros Revolución bookstore. Everyone has gotten the paper. Most of them have seen the centerfold "Fetuses Are Not Babies" and someone will download it to make a poster for the demonstration this Saturday which is supposed to be the largest demonstration of the 40-day campaign. I read the centerfold out loud to some of the students and we had a discussion about this and there were questions about when does a fetus feel pain and when a fetus becomes a baby.

Two people are going to the Planned Parenthood clinic in the outlying suburb, and others have signed up to be clinic escorts and/or demonstrate on Saturday. As we were leaving campus after class, one of the men saw there was a table on campus that was promoting the "40 Days" campaign and anti-abortion. He called me and three of us made quick signs and went out there next to them with signs and doing some chants. After about 20 minutes the antis said they had to leave because they only had the table until 6:30—saying "you didn't make us leave, we had planned to leave now anyway."

As they were leaving they said they were students at the school and have formed a student organization around this. They were all young Latinos—two women and a man. They wanted to talk to us and have a "reasonable discussion," and we did for a brief time. The students were both really excited about having taken them on and didn't back down or feel intimidated. The antis were pretty persistent in countering the slogan—A Fetus Is Not a Baby. This is their main premise, and my sign got a lot of reaction from the antis last week.

The other side is clearly going on the offensive around this issue, and the Town Hall meetings around the country have probably emboldened a lot of these people. I've signed up to get daily reports from the "40days4life" website where they talk about all the successes they have had—a woman deciding not to have an abortion, a clinic worker quitting, etc.

It was an opportunity to promote Sunsara Taylor's upcoming talk in our city. I've encouraged them to go online to see her on YouTube and then meet her in person. I've contacted people from the Away With All Gods! discussion groups that were formed in past semesters and am trying to get some of the women's organizations in the city to attend—one of them sent out the notice of Sunsara's talk to their email list, saying it looked really interesting and encouraging people to attend.

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Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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Carl Dix Campus Tour Kicks Off at Atlanta University Center

"From Buffalo Soldier to Revolutionary Communist"

From readers in Atlanta:

October 1 was a seemingly normal Thursday night at Clark Atlanta University [Clark AU], a campus in the complex of Historically Black Colleges in Atlanta that includes Spelman College and Morehouse College. It was Homecoming Week, with a hip-hop concert in the stadium and students gearing up for parties and the football game on the weekend. But something quite unique also took place that night on campus in the Thomas Cole Science and Research Center Auditorium—the kickoff event of Carl Dix's campus speaking tour, "From Buffalo Soldier to Revolutionary Communist."

Announcement flyers were leafleted broadly at Clark AU and the adjacent campuses for several weeks, along with the statement "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have." Professors from a number of campuses and departments, including History, Political Science, Philosophy, Religion, Women's Studies, Psychology, Media and English, had encouraged their students to attend, with some inviting Carl Dix into their classrooms in the days leading up to the event.

Carl Dix was also on the airwaves in Atlanta, including an interview on Clark AU's TV station and engaging with various radio audiences in promoting the tour—six shows on community radio station WRFG, with focuses ranging from revolutionary Black nationalism to the labor movement, LGBTQI [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning and Intersex] to metaphysics to progressive news. WRFG also played an hour of the July 14, 2009 Cornel West/Carl Dix dialogue in Harlem during the prior week. Carl Dix was also interviewed on Derrick Boazman's Too Much Truth talk show on a mainstream Black radio station with a huge audience throughout the metro area. (Derrick Boazman is a very popular radio personality, community activist and former Atlanta City Councilperson.)

Another factor creating a buzz for the tour was an event held the week before at Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta, where 80 people packed a meeting room to watch the DVD of the Cornel West/Carl Dix dialogue.

The speaking event was hosted by the Political Science Department at Clark AU, and co-sponsored by the Ma'at chapter of the Groove Phi Groove fraternity at Morehouse. The president of the chapter, Cory Farmer, co-moderated and greeted the crowd of 125 people by saying, "The Ma'at chapter stood in solidarity with the RCP on this because I feel as though a lot of times within our campus environment revolutionary discourse is shunned, and me being a representative of an organization that likes to challenge all the hegemony of all of these forces working against us, I feel this would be a good time to come together and look at the different possibilities we have for our future."

The crowd was predominantly students, from Clark, Spelman and Morehouse, as well as some from Georgia State. Several professors attended, and a good number of people came from the broader community, directly off of the radio interviews. While the auditorium was not totally packed as had been hoped, a number of people, including professors, commented that it was a great turnout for an event like this on campus, and more than they expected.

Carl Dix gave a half-hour presentation, followed by an hour and a half of Q&A with the audience. He started by explaining what the title of his presentation was all about, breaking down the myth that being a Buffalo Soldier was something to be proud of. When Black soldiers fought in the Civil War to end slavery, that was a great thing in the interests of Black people and humanity, but when they stayed on in the military and were sent to fight in the "Indian Wars" in the West, they had no business killing other oppressed people for the system—and that is exactly the same thing that the U.S. government wanted him to do when they drafted him to fight in Vietnam. He told his compelling story of how he came to the decision to refuse to go to Vietnam, and how he spent his tour in Leavenworth military prison. He said that taking this step was what eventually led him to becoming a revolutionary and a communist, a path he is still on today. He talked about how his story is applicable right now, with the wars for empire the U.S. is fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Obama's appeal to Black youth to fight in these wars—that it was wrong to fight in the war for empire in Vietnam, and it is wrong today. He went on to talk about the need for revolution to get rid of the system that exploits and oppresses the great majority of humanity, and what the revolutions in Russia and China accomplished. He introduced the audience to Bob Avakian's path-breaking work on communism, the need to build a revolutionary movement now with an expanding core, and the importance of resistance, and particularly making a leap in resistance against police brutality on October 22. He wound it up by pointing to the crucial role of intellectuals and the need to break open the discourse and ferment on the campuses, to spark critical thinking throughout society about the state of the world and the needs of humanity.

The Q&A

The Q&A was both deep and wide-ranging. People spoke from the mic and submitted written questions on cards, and there were far too many to cover. The first question was from a Spelman student who wanted to know, "Would communism create a classless society? I learned in a college course that it is theoretically possible to eliminate race if classes were abolished. What are your thoughts on how economic factors play a role in racial and cultural separation and how people might respond when faced with a new social order?" Another questioner said that while he was for revolution, his understanding of past revolutions was that the rich had to be coerced to give their property to the poor because they wouldn't do it voluntarily, and in a country like the U.S., with such a large section of privileged people, how would that work? To illustrate his point, he asked the audience, "How many people have cars?" Lots of people raised their hands, and then he asked, "How many of you would give up your car to help people out?" and, to his surprise, just as many people raised their hands! He responded by saying, "Wow, that is a lot more people than I expected." Carl Dix then got into why so many people have cars, that widespread mass transit is not profitable under this system, despite the destruction to the environment. People clapped. He explained that the approach of the revolution wouldn't be to just take cars away, but to put to the people the question of how to protect the environment and deal with the transportation system in that context.

One of the written questions asked, "The USA looks like they are gearing up to strike Iran, with the same premise they had in Iraq, (WMD,s Global threat), how can we combat this?" Others included: "What role would spirituality play in the revolution?" "The word communism has a very strong connotation outside of its definition. Is calling the revolution a communist one going to impact the general understanding of what the revolution really is about?" "Why should Black people be a part of another movement? Like the women's movement and the voting rights movement, Black people's numbers were used until the majority got what they wanted and Blacks were again left marginalized." A student dressed in military fatigues argued that it was important for Black people to be represented at all levels in the U.S. military to establish legitimacy of Black people in society. A middle-aged Black woman asked if the revolution was only seeking oppressed Black people, because she was a successful small businesswoman and wanted to know if there was a place for her in the revolution. And an intense small debate broke out outside the auditorium as people were leaving, on Cuba's role in Africa vs. China's role under Mao.

Continuing the Dialogue

At the close of the event, people surrounded Carl Dix to meet him, introduce themselves and continue the dialogue. On the way out, many commented that this type of event was greatly needed and should be spread. Several groups of students expressed that "We came here because our professor offered us extra credit, and we thought it was going to be boring, but it actually was really good and interesting." Others said that Carl Dix's perspective was totally new to them, and they learned a lot with new information they had never heard before. Some older people who had come from hearing about it on the radio said they agreed with most of what Carl Dix had to say, were impressed that there were so many students there and glad the students were exposed to these ideas, but dismayed by the low level of understanding among the students.

A striking aspect of the launching of this speaking tour was the openness and support among professors. With varying levels of personal agreement or disagreement with Carl Dix's message, many showed enthusiasm for this kind of discourse and took initiative in the interest of providing students an opportunity to be exposed to an ideology that challenges their basic assumptions. As one professor who attended the event put it afterward, "This is exactly what the university experience should be providing for students. We should be bringing world-class physicists to campus, as well as world-class revolutionaries, like Carl Dix."

Send us your comments.

Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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From A World to Win News Service

Legal victory for Jose-Maria Sison

October 12, 2009. A World to Win News Service. Jose Maria Sison, founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), won an important legal victory when the European Court of First Instance ruled that the European Union (EU) must remove his name from its so-called terrorist list.

He was placed on this list in 2002 under pressure from the U.S., the former colonial owner and still overseer of the Philippines, and at the instigation of Holland, where he has lived in exile for two decades. Last year the Dutch courts rebuffed repeated attempts by the country's prosecution office to bring him to trial for murder in connection with the armed struggle led by the CPP-led New People's Army in the Philippines, and earlier this year the case was dropped, but the Dutch government and the EU Council have not ceased their attempts to persecute him.

This EU court ruling will bring a restoration of Sison's rights to travel, work or receive a pension, use a bank account, receive housing and health benefits, and apply for asylum. He can sue the state for the moral and other damages suffered because of the blacklisting.

He announced in an October 1 press statement that this decision would allow him "to act freely and fruitfully as the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and not be persecuted and placed under duress." Those negotiations have been suspended.

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.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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Eyewitness Account of anti-G20 Protests

This letter is from an Army vet from Pittsburgh who was at several protests against the G20. Here he is telling what happened in Oakland, Pennsylvania, the night of September 24:

About the heavily televised events from the protests and attacks on Thursday, September 24th in Oakland on the University of Pittsburgh campus. If you go on to YouTube there are videos of this that have gotten thousands of hits. There were at least 300 police dressed in full riot gear and batons. There were also armored vehicles. There were probably about 400 or so protesters. We were less then a half mile away from where the world leaders were having their meeting. The crowd was chanting various things such as, "this is what democracy looks like." Sometimes they would just say "Here we go Steelers here we go." There was a guy standing 2 feet away from me being completely harmless just minding his own business. The police snuck up on him, wrestled him down and arrested him for no apparent reason. I asked the people standing there, "What did he do?" They said, "Nothing."

Then the crowd started chanting, "Let him go, let him go, let him go." Then there were some people from India I think. They brought drums and bells. They started playing and everyone formed a circle and a whole bunch of people started dancing. Everyone was having fun and the crowd was really peaceful. Then out of nowhere for no apparent reason a loud cold, mechanical robotic voice repeatedly started saying, "This is considered an unlawful assembly. Disperse immediately, if you do not disperse you may be arrested or brought down by other means." We knew what the cops meant, namely tear gas rubber bullets and beaten with clubs. Instantly everyone panicked. People were yelling screaming and running. I started to walk away. They shot a tear gas canister out of a cannon. I watched it flying through the air, then I thought, wooo it's coming right at me. It's a good thing I saw it and got out of the way or it would have hit me. Then they chased us out of the park and down the street. They were arresting as many people as they possibly could. Many people did nothing violent but got arrested for simply being there. Eventually, they stopped chasing us and just formed a barricade in the street. Many of us used that time to exercise our first amendment rights. I started screaming, "that was weak, that was weak." Then I turned around. I saw 2 undercover police snuck up on some guy, chased him down and tackled him and arrested him. There were 2 side streets there. That's when I realized that I was surrounded from all 4 sides. That's when I realized that I would be next if I didn't get out quickly. I ran right past the undercover police, but luckily they were too busy arresting that other guy to notice me. Somehow, I managed to get home without getting arrested. The next day I saw this old guy that was at the protest with me. His whole face was black and blue and swollen. The police messed him up bad but he went to the protest the next day anyway. That night a lot of Pitt students got arrested because the police ran all the way up into the building where their dorm rooms were. This was at least a quarter of a mile away from where the original protests were. They were already off the streets and just trying to get home and out of Dodge. I guess this would be considered a police state type of incident. Let's just hope this was an isolated incident and not the start of something bigger.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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Chicago Benefit Supports Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund

Scores of people of varied nationalities, ages and backgrounds, packed the performance space at Boocoo Cultural Center and Café in Evanston, Illinois, Sunday night, October 11 for a benefit for the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund. Middle class folks from Evanston mixed it up with families from the Southside of Chicago, including the family of Corey Harris, the 17-year-old baseball and basketball star at Dyett High School who was shot in the back and killed by an off-duty Chicago cop on September 11. People from the theater world; musicians and friends from the jazz and hip-hop scenes joined a variety of activists, including revolutionary communists.

A former prisoner, whose prison term included six years in segregation, was co-emcee. He first met Revolution newspaper through PRLF while in prison. He described his transformation to the crowd.

World class jazz by Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls started the evening with a hauntingly beautiful and appropriate song for Ken Saro-Wiwa, the writer and activist murdered by the Nigerian government. Rebel Souls were later joined by hip-hop star Diverse.

The readings of letters from prisoners to the PRLF were the highlight of the evening. Professional actors who volunteered their time and efforts were Corey Cantrell, Yadira Correa, Mildred Langford, Ernest Perry, David Shapiro and Austin Talley. The readings were directed by Joann Shapiro. Their readings brought down the house; their insightful interpretations "found the place of truth" in the letters, as one of the readers said.

The majority of readers were recruited by other actors, with the excerpts of letters from prisoners that's on the PRLF website as the only organizing material. Most of those who read at the benefit knew they wanted to be part of this before they ever talked directly with an organizer. Many of them cited the prisoners' optimism in those letters as a major reason, the exuberance of the prisoner who is "just amazed at the whole realm of science…" motivated one reader.

One of the readers also found the letters "very personal, but with a broad political and social perspective. Their focus is on the world, they're finding their voices. They're optimistic about their situation."

The first excerpt of the evening set the tone. It was from "one of the exiles currently here at the East Block unit of San Quentin's Death Row… I am writing with extended appreciation for the boundless energy and creativity displayed through your zeal in looking out for the fellahs, we the condemned Exiles whose plight within the CIS is much like—to borrow a phrase from Comrade Bell—Sisyphus in Hell without hope of a brighter future. I would like to extend my status as a subscriber to your anti-imperialist, culturally informed newspaper—Revolution…. With strength and solidarity.

After the readings, one of the performers said, "I can't IMAGINE the weight on his shoulders!" Another said "imagine, 'strength' in that situation."

A supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Party followed this with a powerful fundraising call, reminding the audience of what it means for the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund to be able to renew subscriptions to prisoners and expand their reach to include skyrocketing populations of women and Latino prisoners. He challenged people at the benefit to "send a message" by contributing generously. The estimated total amount raised and pledged is close to, but not yet at, the $3500 goal.

Broad publicity had some unexpected benefits. An immigrant from the east coast, who read about the benefit in Revolution, called and said he would start sending money to PRLF. He described his internal debate about donating: he has to be careful because the U.S. government can do bad things to people, especially immigrants, for no valid reason. But the prison system is diabolical, it doesn't prepare prisoners for their release, and really, slavery hasn't been ended, it goes on in the prison system all the time. He likes Revolution's articles on police brutality and immigrants, and decided that donating money was the compelling need over his concerns about himself.

A prominent minister in the area initially declined to be part of this benefit. About a month later, PRLF got an unsolicited call from him, informing them that he was making a donation to the benefit.

PRLF's status as a project of the 501(c)(3) International Humanities Center made a huge difference. The city of Evanston posted three PRLF-made banners in prominent locations, including in the middle of downtown and at the one high school in the area, about this benefit. An acclaimed soul-food restaurant donated red beans and rice and corn muffins for everyone because "important people are going to be there," but PRLF's 501(c)(3) status, and the event's local angle, gave him more ability to justify it.

The "local" angle was another major positive factor for this. The Evanston Round Table, which is distributed free to every household in Evanston, ran a letter to the editor from an Evanstonian organizing the benefit. The Evanston Sentinel, the local Black newspaper, ran a story, as did the online Evanston Arts Buzz. The Daily Northwestern [student newspaper at Northwestern University] sent a reporter and ran an article about it afterwards. Many people in Evanston said "your publicity is everywhere."

Much remains to be done. We are continuing our fundraising for thousands more dollars to renew 800+ subscriptions by the end of the year, to fill 180 requests for new subscriptions and numerous books. Donations are still needed and yours will make a real difference. Go to to donate or for more information.

We're following up the benefit with a mass PRLF meeting, as we try to consolidate some of these advances. We're seeking people to transcribe handwritten letters from prisoners into electronic formats, translate prisoners' letters from Spanish to English, fight censorship against Revolution newspaper, and sustain PRLF financially.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

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Inaugural issue now online!


A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic

Demarcations: A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic seeks to set forth, defend, and further advance the theoretical framework for the beginning of a new stage of communist revolution in the contemporary world. This journal will promote the perspectives of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.

Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement. Without drawing sharp dividing lines between communism as a living, critical, and developing science serving the emancipation of humanity, on the one hand, and other perspectives, paths, and programs that cannot lead to emancipation, on the other—whether openly reformist or claiming the mantle or moniker of "communism"—without making such demarcations, it will not be possible to achieve the requisite understanding and clarity to radically change the world. Demarcations will contribute to achieving that clarity.

In the wrangling spirit of Marxism, Demarcations will also delve into questions and challenges posed by major changes in the world today. The last quarter-century has seen intensified globalization, growing urbanization and shantytown-ization in the Third World, the rise of religious fundamentalism, shifting alignments in the world imperialist system, and the acceleration of environmental degradation. Demarcations will examine such changes, the discourses that have grown up in connection with them, and the ideological, political, and strategic implications of such developments for communist revolution. Demarcations will also undertake theoretical explorations of issues of art, science, and culture.

The inaugural issue of Demarcations opens with an extensive original polemic against the political philosophy and thought of Alain Badiou.

Issue Number 1, Summer-Fall 2009

Send us your comments.

Revolution #180, October 25, 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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