Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA

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Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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Judge Orders Change of Venue in Oscar Grant Case

Outrageous... and Unjust!

On Friday, October 16, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson ruled that the Oscar Grant trial would not take place in Alameda County where Oakland is located and where Oscar Grant was shot and killed on January 1, 2009 by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer Johannes Mehserle. Mehserle has been charged with murder. The Judge has now ruled that the venue (location) of the Oscar Grant trial has to be changed because Mehserle could not get a "fair trial" in Alameda County.

This is outrageous and unjust!

A History of Venue Changes to Prevent Justice

How many change-of-venue motions by defendants were granted in California during the entire year of 2008? None! And the legal trend is away from granting them (according to news reports and the Alameda County District Attorney's motion opposing the venue change). Yet in this case, an exception was made.

Asking for a change of venue has been used repeatedly to acquit cops who've committed the most heinous crimes. And when these motions are granted, it usually means searching for a rural or suburban venue where a lot of people don't believe a cop would murder a Black man in cold blood and for no reason in front of witnesses, as happened to Oscar Grant.

Two examples:

The police who killed Amadou Diallo in the Bronx in 1999 when he reached for his wallet were acquitted after the trial was moved to Albany in upstate New York, where people are more predisposed—due to their life experiences—to accept police lies than in New York City.

The Los Angeles police who were videotaped beating Rodney King were acquitted in their first trial, in 1992, when that trial was moved to suburban—and largely white—Simi Valley. The court's decision to move the Rodney King trial out of Los Angeles (and the legal arguments it included) were repeatedly cited by Mehserle's lawyer and the judge to move the Oscar Grant case.

Does Life Experience with Police Murder Cut Against Justice for Murdering Police?

In the course of arguing for a change of venue, and in a motion that overall covered up and distorted reality, Mehserle's lawyers presented some revealing truths in their change of venue motion. Mehserle's motion states:

"...there can be no doubt that police officers shoot and kill black citizens of this county at a proportion far higher than their proportion of the population... it is impossible to dispute the impression left by the numbers, an impression held by significant numbers of potential jurors in this County: if you're a black person in Alameda County, it's dangerous to deal with the police." (p. 62 of Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion for Change of Venue)

The motion then cites damning statistics:  " this county blacks are the targets of police homicides determined to be justifiable at a rate about three times that of their proportion of the population. There were forty-eight such killings between 1999 and 2008 and African Americans were the targets of some 41% of these homicides, though they make up only about 13.5% of the population of the County." (Motion, p. 8) Further, "between 2004 and 2008, there were 45 police shootings in Oakland alone. Although blacks make up about a third of Oakland's population, they were the targets in 85 percent of the shootings." (Motion p. 8, 9, italics in the original)

But Mehserle's lawyers presented this as evidence for why the trial should be moved to a community where people are ignorant of this reality, and where their ideas about police and what they do are more conditioned by cop shows and mainstream media distortions. The underlying logic is that a "fair trial" of a police officer requires a jury, or a community and a trial environment, that is predisposed to look upon the police favorably, and doesn't have the experience or sophistication or ability to think critically to be skeptical of police.

And the judge ruled Mehserle could not get a fair trial in Alameda County, in part, because a survey presented by Mehserle's lawyers claimed that "70% of potential jurors have prejudged defendant's guilt or innocence already." Yet even according to this survey less than half the people questioned felt that Mehserle was guilty.

Humanizing the Victim: A Reason to Move a Trial?

In "The Status of the Victim" section of his ruling, the judge states that as a result of publicity, Oscar Grant "has been personified, humanized and cast in a sympathetic light since his death." He concludes that these circumstances "favor changing venue."

Stop and think about that. In this era of so-called "victims' rights," victims of at least certain kinds of crimes are routinely "personified, humanized and cast in a sympathetic light." Yet in this case a whole different set of rules has been invoked, so that, bizarrely, the fact that the victim of a horrible crime has been recognized as a human being is invoked as a reason why the man who killed him cannot get a fair trial in the county where the crime took place.

Prosecutors Forget How to Prosecute

When have you ever heard of a criminal case, at any stage of trial, where the defense presents thousands of pages of evidence while the prosecution presents almost none? In this case, the District Attorney's office—the prosecution—did formally oppose the change of venue motion, but it did not vigorously fight this and in many ways paved the way for the judge's decision.

For instance, the judge noted in his ruling that "massive documentary exhibits were admitted into evidence at this hearing," And, he acknowledged, "Almost all of the evidence offered and admitted in this hearing was produced by the defense."

What would it have meant for a prosecutor in this case to actively oppose the change of venue? The prosecution would have to argue that people in the inner cities do live under systemic police terror, and that people who experience this would make them better judges of the evidence in this case. And that is something that no prosecutor in this system could or would do.

This, too, is part of a pattern. Repeatedly, when it is actually a cop on trial, the prosecutors act like they forgot how to prosecute. They present weak cases, cross-examine with kid gloves, and generally accept the terms of the cop's defense lawyers.

Does protest prevent justice? Or is protest the only thing that has brought a chance for justice?

The judge's main argument for moving the Oscar Grant trial is that there's been too much protest. In his ruling, he states: "This intense political activity and local turmoil that is now, and has been, an ever-present part of this case, is a factor weighing very heavily in favor of a venue change."

He added: "These jurors will be exposed to protestors' angry demand for 'justice for Oscar Grant' each time they go in and out of the courthouse, a constant reminder of the impending civil unrest. These jurors also likely will be concerned about the real possibility of more riots and violence depending on the verdict they choose. Under these circumstances, there is a reasonable probability that defendant cannot get a fair trial. This situation is the present reality."

First point: Protest is not illegal. People should protest terrible crimes and injustice. Second, point: Protest is the only reason why there is a chance for justice for Oscar Grant. The fact that protest, and fighting for justice for victims of police murder justifies moving a trial, that itself is a revealing exposure of the nature of this system, and its legal system.

Between 2004 and 2008, there were 45 "officer-involved shootings" by Oakland cops—80 percent of those shot were Black men. None were prosecuted or disciplined in any way. In the last 15 years, there have been over 2,000 police killings in the U.S.—yet there were only six cases in which murder charges were filed against police, and none resulted in convictions.

The trial of Johannes Mehserle is, according to his lawyers, the first trial of a police officer for a murder committed while on duty in the history of California. This is a searing exposure of how the system protects murdering cops—hundreds of people have been killed by cops in California, and not a single murder trial until now.

What was the difference in this case? And why is there a chance of justice? Only because people first defied police intimidation and threats to record the murder on their cell phones, and then because people persisted in courageously going into the streets to demand justice in the face of police brutality and arrests.

Again, where does everyday, ongoing, pervasive violence and intimidation come from for youth like Oscar Grant in this society? What violent force has already tried to terrorize witnesses in this case by trying to seize people's cell phones who recorded the killing, and attacking and arresting people who have been in the streets demanding justice? The protestors who fought for justice for Oscar Grant have had to go up against the "threat of violence" by the police. People who testify against the police do so at great risk.

* * *

Under capitalism, the law protects exploitation, and all the social relations in this society. In theory, the law—unjust as it is—is enforced equally; both the rich and the poor are prohibited from stealing a loaf of bread to feed their hungry children. But in reality, not only is the law unjust, enforcement of the law is wildly skewed when the interests of the system are at stake.

In justifying his change of venue ruling, the judge in this case wrote: "Defendant's status as a police officer is a factor that weighs heavily in favor of a venue change..." In other words: a special set of rules applies to killer cops.

The only reason that there is a chance for justice for Oscar Grant is that there has been protest and public outrage. And the only hope that there will be justice in this case is ongoing and more protest and outrage. And that anger, that outrage, and that courageous protest can become part of building up a revolutionary movement to bring to an end the system that routinely murders young Black and Latino men with impunity.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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The Horror of the Richmond Gang Rape . . . And Making the Connections

Saturday night, October 24. A 15-year-old woman goes to a homecoming dance in Richmond, California. It should be a time for her to cut loose, have fun, and enjoy the company of friends. Her girlfriend said she was looking forward to it for weeks. "When we walked in the dance together she said, 'I can't wait to get my dance on!'" In any sane society, the worst fear on her mind should be a bit of teenage awkwardness.

But an occasion that should have been joyous turns quickly into a horrific nightmare. A male "friend" invites her to hang out with a group behind the school. There, for more than two hours, she is beaten and raped by more than 10 men. In the course of this assault, her attackers violate her with what has been reported to be a "foreign object."

As the young woman's humanity is viciously and violently robbed from her, a crowd gathers—not to interfere and stop this crime against humanity—but to laugh and take cell phone pictures.

By the time somebody finally comes to the young woman's aid, she has been left semi-conscious underneath a bench. She is air-lifted by helicopter to the hospital, in critical condition.

To everyone reading this: Stop for a minute. Close your eyes—actually do it—and try to imagine what this young woman went through. Actually imagine the indescribable physical pain, the mental and emotional torture, she was forced to endure. Imagine her desperation and terror as she hoped with every fiber in her being that somebody—anybody—would come and save her from this nightmare. Imagine the humiliation of knowing that a crowd of people was gathering around to enjoy the "spectacle" of your destruction, taking photographs. Imagine hearing the taunting laughter of your attackers and the gathered crowd.

After imagining all this, open your eyes again. Reflect on this fact: many people in our society, in the wake of this brutal gang rape, are actually saying the young woman asked for this—that she brought it upon herself. That she shouldn't have been out alone.

Now, ask yourself these questions: What human being on this planet would ever wish such a horror upon themselves? And what kind of society are we living in if a young woman cannot go to a school dance or hang out by herself without fear of being subjected to the most brutal crimes imaginable?

Think about it: if somebody is attacked because of their race, sexual orientation or ethnicity, this is classified (by any decent person at least) as a hate crime—and it absolutely should be classified that way. Yet somehow, the most horrific crime can be committed against a woman and it is either labeled as her fault or laughed off as "boys being boys."

Enough! What happened to this young woman is a hate crime and a crime against humanity. But it is not enough to leave it there. Hard questions have to be asked about a society where this kind of thing goes on—and not just in this one instance either, but in every city, suburb and small town of this country.


Let's ask ourselves: is there a connection between what happened behind a high school dance in Richmond and a multi-billion-dollar pornography industry—one that purveys images of increasing violence, cruelty and inhumanity and whose largest single audience is men under 20? Is there a connection between what happened in the dirt and leaves on a dark night in California and a society in which virtually every religion divides the female half of humanity into madonnas and whores—and which all devalue women in relation to men? Is there a connection between the horror behind the gym and a culture where young women are pressured to market themselves as sexual objects and to see their self-worth in this light and where those young women who are curious about sex are derided and defamed as sluts—while guys who see women as so many conquests to notch upon their belts are celebrated as studs? Where the media seize with glee on every mishap or misstep in the life of a Britney Spears or a Whitney Houston or a Lindsay Lohan to engage in shaming rituals that are as barbaric as they are high-tech, mercilessly spreading images of these women when they are caught at their most vulnerable moments? Where the "guardians of morality" slam and slander those women who would control their reproduction as callous and selfish "baby-killers" and devalue those women who choose not to have children at all? Where one in three women who join the U.S. military will be sexually assaulted or raped by their "fellow soldiers," as part of a broader horror. Where every day in America, more than 600 women are raped or sexually assaulted, and nothing serious is undertaken to stop this?

And more than that—is there a connection between all that and a system that feeds off that morality, that rears young men in it in the sports teams of high school, that reinforces it in its laws and political campaigns, that fosters it in its armed forces as a key part of conditioning its young male soldiers to kill without conscience, and that uses that morality and conditioning to sell us everything from the cars we drive to the beer we drink?

If there was nothing else wrong with this system than the horror of what happened in Richmond, California, with its deep roots and its twisted branches, then that alone would be more than enough reason for revolution!

And in fact it will take nothing short of fundamental social change—nothing short of a revolution—to stop this kind of horror.

False Paths... and a Real Answer

But this is not what is being raised, or even allowed onto the air, by the wise men and women of the media. They make a big show of deploring the rape, even as they seize on it to promote an agenda of even more repression, even more policing, even more surveillance. Let's leave aside the fact that the very police they would have people rely on are notorious for exploiting and, yes, raping vulnerable women whom they happen upon.1 Just think about the fact that the places in society that are most "secured"—the prisons—are precisely the places where rape is most widespread. Is that what we—what you—really want? A society even more policified, even more resembling the prisons that have sprung up like mushrooms over the past three decades? A society where more repressive force—repressive force, mind you, that is directed and managed from the very ruling institutions that have not just allowed but encouraged the oppressive relations and ideas to fester and grow and strangle people in the first place—is the answer to everything?

For the mouthpieces running their stuff on cable TV—these very same people who whip up the mass media shaming rituals of prominent women described above, who do everything they can to turn the people into this society into a nation of paparazzi2 and lynch-mob spectators, who hush up these kinds of outrageous crimes when committed by their "security forces"—for these people to even speak on this question, let alone pontificate 24 hours a day on it, is the height of hypocrisy. They have no right to speak—and the alternatives they propose will succeed only in getting people caught deeper into the quicksand that is rapidly dragging everybody under.

Let's talk about a real alternative.

Revolution—real revolution—has taken huge steps toward doing away with rape, as part of an entire orientation of overcoming the oppression of women—of truly enabling women to be full actors in society, free of tradition's chains, and the violence that enforces those chains. Such a revolution sets about dismantling all the institutions, all the ways from the most societal to the most intimate, that hold women down, that humiliate and degrade and debase and violently—yes violently—suppress their very humanity. We have talked about that at length in "A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity" we published last March. Getting into this Declaration—and getting it out—should be a high priority of anyone seriously agonizing over the gang rape in Richmond.

Even before revolution can be made we need to be about beginning to change this NOW, as part of showing people that a whole different way can be brought in... as part of raising people's sights to what could be possible if we had power... and as part of giving heart and backing to those who do hate this kind of thing. This can only be done by people. People who are willing to take a stand when shit like this goes down... people who are coming from a different morality about relations between men and women and who challenge and stand up against the ugly shit wherever and whenever it manifests, from the horrific to the seemingly small... people who see everything they do as part of building a different culture and a different ethos, straight up against the dominant relations and ideas of society, and as part of bringing in a whole different world, and who do everything they can to live according to those ethics.

It is in the back-and-forth process of standing up against the crimes of the system, and of struggling with the people who live in and get caught up in that system's values to rupture with that degradation—with both of those carried through as part of contributing to making revolution and bringing in a whole different way—that the groundwork for a real fundamental change in society can be laid.

If you are one of those people who are willing to stand up to the madness now... or if you want to be one of those people... then we need to talk.

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

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

Excerpt from "A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity," Revolution #158, March 8, 2009, available online at and at Revolution Books stores around the country.

1. In one recent example, two NYPD cops were indicted this April on charges of raping an intoxicated woman who they had "escorted home." [back]

2. Parasitical photographers who specialize in catching celebrities in compromising moments. [back]

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Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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This Is What U.S. Democracy—And Dictatorship—Look Like...

Three Sentences On Democracy by Bob Avakian, Chairman, Revolutionary Communist Party, USA:

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

You saw the essence of democracy and the tools of dictatorship when thousands of people gathered in Pittsburgh on September 24 and 25 of this year to confront the G20 (representatives of the world's largest economies).

In the halls of the G20, representatives of global capitalism-imperialism democratically discussed, debated, and made decisions on how to exploit the people of the world, and destroy the environment.

In the streets, protesters had the "choice" of being channeled into times, places and marches that the powers-that-be deemed non-threatening, or facing brutal repression. Protesters along with journalists, medical personnel, and people going to school or work, were attacked by thousands of police—beaten by police batons, sprayed with smoke bombs, shot with pepper ball guns and "bean bags" filled with rubber pellets, and tear-gassed. Protesters were subjected to ear-splitting noise from a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) "sound cannon"—a new and gruesome anti-people weapon rolled out with a vengeance against protesters. Protest permits were denied or revoked, protests were infiltrated by police spies and provocateurs, and some 200 people were arrested.

This is bourgeois democracy, and bourgeois dictatorship. In this society, the dictatorship of the capitalist class violently suppresses any real challenge to its rule, and beyond that, suppresses—through its monopoly of the mass media, through censorship, blacklisting, arrests, and more—all kinds of protest and critical thinking. This is true within the borders of the USA, and is carried out with even more open viciousness around the globe. Democracy in this system is part of the same package—conditioned by and serving capitalism-imperialism.

Real revolution brings into being a completely different kind of dictatorship and a completely different kind of democracy. The message and call from the Revolutionary Communist Party describes this: "This system needs to be swept aside...its crimes against humanity stopped cold...its institutions dismantled, and replaced by ones that empower people to build a new society free of exploitation and oppression." The new revolutionary state "would act to prevent the return of the former exploiters, and resist the attacks of imperialism."

And at the same time, a revolution would enable the masses of people to immediately, and increasingly enter into debating, struggling over, and solving the problems of changing the world. And this will include promoting dissent. Socialist societies, especially China during the Cultural Revolution, unleashed the masses of people in their millions to do this in a way no capitalist society ever has come close to. And, as the Constitution of the RCP, USA explains, Bob Avakian's new synthesis "envisions that, along with building on previous socialist forms of involving the masses in the administration of society and exercising power, a much greater degree of ferment and dissent should characterize socialist society than previously—not only because it is important for there to be real liveliness, but to serve a process of involving the broadest masses in the deepest possible wrangling with issues, in order to get at the truth more fully and to advance the masses' understanding, involvement and capacity to enter into, and transform, all spheres of society."

The Message and Call from the Revolutionary Communist Party, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," and the Constitution of the RCP,USA are both available at

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Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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The NYPD—Securing the City for Whom?

It is both outrageous and very disappointing that a recent book, Securing the City: Inside America's Best Counterterror Force—the NYPD, written by Newsweek reporter Christopher Dickey—a book which clearly discloses the thinking and workings of the police-state set-up of the New York Police Department (NYPD) and presents the NYPD as "model" for other police agencies to emulate– was met with nary a word of controversy or debate.

Basic summary of book

In Securing the City: Inside America's Best Counterterror Force—the NYPD (Simon and Schuster 2009), Christopher Dickey illustrates the strategy and approach of the NYPD in developing a doctrine and operation for pre-emptive police repression, utilizing extensive global and domestic intelligence gathering (with a special relation with the CIA), supposedly in order to protect New York City from another 9/11 type attack, as part of the so-called "war on terror." This book details operational approaches which have been developed to circumvent the basic constitutional protections of the First Amendment (related to speech and religion) and the Fourth Amendment (related to government search, seizure and surveillance). This book outlines the ways in which the NYPD in a very calculated way has developed a modus operandi designed to undermine the "due process of law" generally, and the legal threshold standards in relation to "probable cause" (enough factual evidence to indicate that a crime has been committed). It details how the NYPD has developed methods and resources to surveil, infiltrate and recruit among members of so-called "incipient terrorist cells" where there have been no laws broken, nor a clear basis established for "probable cause" to launch such investigations, but where nonetheless the NYPD thinks such groups or individuals may be headed towards trouble of one type or another. The cases which have been brought to court have been based on the testimony of police agents and informants, who, in most cases, planned and instigated the very "plots" which were the basis for these so-called "terrorists" to be arrested (see below for one case history). Further, these same methods of intelligence, infiltration and disruption were used by the NYPD against domestic dissidents in relation to the 2004 Republican National Convention: Using the "war on terror" as a pretext, the NYPD requested and was granted carte blanche powers to surveil and investigate protestors and protest groups without "probable cause," sending undercover agents across the country to spy on and infiltrate protest planning activities. At the time of the convention, the NYPD preemptively rounded up and incarcerated over 1,800 peaceful protestors, many without "probable cause."

While it is beyond the scope of this article to go very deeply into this, among other things, all of these measures represent a very significant leap in the integration of national and international intelligence and police agencies, and this includes the CIA, which heretofore was supposedly barred by law from spying within the U.S. on U.S. citizens or working with and carrying out common investigations and police actions with local law enforcement.

This book reveals how the government, in relation to the necessity it faces in carrying out its war for empire, is adopting ever more openly fascist and police state measures, undermining de facto (in fact, even if not yet codified in law) basic tenets of supposedly guaranteed constitutional rights. It is also a story of an ever more pliable population which, in various ways, has bought into and is becoming ever more complicit with the imperialists' logic rationalizing their war for empire and the accompanying fascist measures of oppression and repression.

NYPD Intelligence Division—An Apparatus of Police-State Repression

In November of 2001, NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly recruited David Cohen to head up the NYPD Intelligence Division. Cohen was a former CIA agent who in the 1980s had been selected by Robert Gates (then deputy director of the CIA, later director of the CIA and now Secretary of Defense) to run the national collection program inside the U.S. (a program which included debriefing U.S. citizens who traveled to other countries and recruiting people from other countries who were in the U.S. to spy on their own countries). In the '90s he was the head of the CIA's Office of Global Issues and then the Directorate of Operations (which includes clandestine operations). This was the same "Directorate" which in the 1980s had been responsible for organizing and financing (with money the CIA generated from the drug trade) "Contra" death squads, a force employed by the U.S. to defeat the Nicaraguan rebels and which was responsible for massive terror and horrible atrocities against the people of Nicaragua. In his tenure as head of this "Directorate," Cohen was responsible for efforts to covertly overthrow Saddam Hussein. (See "The Spy" and "The Dark Side" chapters in Dickey's book.)

Under Cohen, the NYPD established a relationship with the CIA whereby a CIA agent was assigned to work under Cohen at the NYPD. This was not a former CIA agent, but a person currently in the employ of the CIA. This agent provided the NYPD Intelligence Division with CIA intelligence reports from all over the world, especially the interrogations of the thousands of prisoners swept up by U.S. military and intelligence forces all over the world and locked away in U.S. prison chambers all over the world—and this included interrogations of those tortured. [Dickey, pp. 73-74] Further, as part of this international dimension of NYPD intelligence, Cohen sent NYPD intelligence officers to cities all over the world to work on the street level with other cops and intelligence agencies investigating terrorism in different countries. (Dickey, pp. 15-17)

Cohen and the NYPD (including its counter-terror bureau) set out to develop a sophisticated spy network with tentacles stretching throughout New York City (and beyond). This massive apparatus consists of hundreds of cops and civilian analysts in the Intelligence Division and the counter-terror bureau. The Intelligence Division alone has 600 people, and includes people recruited from academia. Their analysts develop threat analysis and work closely with the cops on the streets who use various techniques to spy among the masses of all nationalities. The NYPD claims more linguists than either the CIA or the FBI. To give one example, according to Dickey, in 2006 the FBI had 33 agents with "some proficiency" in Arabic, while the NYPD had twice this number of officers who were "fluent" in Arabic. (Dickey, pp. 141-150)

The NYPD has long been notorious for its routine brutalizing and terrorizing of the masses, especially Black and Latino youth; for its torture of those in custody like Abner Louima; and for its bloody record of police murders, including Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell.  That the NYPD has now teamed up with the CIA, with its own documented history of committing atrocities against humanity, is a sinister development indeed. This sharply poses the question to reflect on: What is the relationship between the agencies like the CIA, the NYPD, and police agencies in general and the need and requirements of a capitalist/imperialist U.S. in its war for empire, and related to this, its need to control its own population ever more ruthlessly?

Case Study—Thwarting of So-Called "Terrorist Plot"

While this book covers the time period since September 11, 2001, there is no recounting of any actual major terror plots which were uncovered or thwarted by the NYPD intelligence unit during that entire time. One case study which is cited is that of two young Muslims in the Bay Ridge neighborhood in Brooklyn. What happened in that case is very revealing:

 The Intelligence Division pulled a cop who was born in Bangladesh out of the training academy and sent him into Bay Ridge to spy on the people and look for potential terrorists. Later a paid informant (paid $100,000), who was born in Egypt, was also sent in. These NYPD spies cultivated relationships with two young Muslims, both of whom showed anger at U.S. crimes in Iraq, and who were especially seething with the exposures of the torture and inhumanity at Abu Ghraib. The paid informant actually played the role of a provocateur, instigating and encouraging these two youth in a plan to bomb the Herald Square subway station. The paid informant told the youth he had connections with a non-existent group ("The Brotherhood") in upstate New York who could help in providing supplies and expertise (of which these two youth had none). In other words, before contact with this police provocateur, there was no probable cause for investigation, infiltration, or surveillance, let alone arrest of these youth. Like many people in this country and throughout the world, these youth were justifiably angry at the crimes committed by the U.S., and they were vociferous in their condemnation and general proclamations of wanting revenge against the U.S. for these crimes. That is, according to the account in the book, their behavior, before the police intervened and started the police orchestrated conspiracy, was one of the types of speech which is supposedly protected by the First Amendment.

Not only did these youth have no experience, but it was clear (from the taped conversations from the provocateur's wire) that they did not want to kill people and at one point even tried to back out of taking part in the plan at all—one of the youth even spoke of having to get his mother's permission—but were challenged by the police provocateur to continue. The provocateur employed psychological manipulation and coercion to get the youth to continue with this "plan" and "conspiracy", and finally, two days before the Republican National Convention in August of 2004, the NYPD arrested the two youth.

What amounts to a U.S. government sponsored and manufactured terror plot (the main glue of the so-called conspiracy was the police agent) was used not only to "herald" the supposed prowess of the NYPD anti-terror units, but also to reinforce the propaganda narrative driven by the NYPD (and others) about the so-called "homegrown terrorism" threat.

Again, something to reflect on: If we were talking about countries such as Russia, China or Iran, most people would be in immediate agreement that such an apparatus carrying out these types of spying and frame-ups of citizens represents some form of a police state—but too many people do not, or will not, see or call it this when the exact same repression occurs here in the U.S.

Demagoguery, instrumentalism and deception...the way in which the "war on terror" is used to build up instruments of repression—case study: 2004 Republican National Convention

In early 2003, the NYPD Intelligence unit set up a special Republican National Convention (RNC) unit. This unit sent undercover police operatives to other states (in addition to New York) to secretly join and spy on various groups planning to come to New York City for the 2004 Republican National Convention to protest the crimes of the Bush regime. However, in order to do this the NYPD had to deal with legal restrictions which had been put on them in response to outrageous and illegal spying undertaken by NYPD "red squads" in the 1960s. In September of 2002 the NYPD went to court to overturn these restrictions, known as the Handschu guidelines. NYPD Intelligence Division chief David Cohen filed an affidavit which stated that:"given the range of activities that may be engaged in by the members of a sleeper cell in the long period of preparation for an act of terror, the entire resources of the NYPD must be available to conduct investigations into political activity and intelligence-related issues."(Dickey, p. 186) The court agreed, striking down the Handschu guidelines, and stating that the NYPD could conduct "investigations" based on post-9/11 federal guidelines (put in place by the Patriot Act), which had significantly lowered the necessary probable cause threshold for carrying out investigations, i.e. spying on those who expose, resist and protest against government crimes.

This represents a major undermining of a basic constitutional protection: "probable cause" is a major doctrine of U.S. law which states that 1) such intrusion into the rights of a citizen must be based on actual specific and verifiable facts or evidence which indicates that a crime has been committed (not a based on a "hunch" that one may be committed); and 2) law enforcement must take such evidence before a court and get permission, in some form, to carry out such an investigation, including spying, searching a person or a person's property, or making arrests. In this case, the NYPD requested, and a court granted, permission to broadly go out and spy on citizens, not because of any specific factual evidence that any of the various groups in the 14 states may be preparing to commit a crime, but solely based on these groups and individuals political views and orientation. It would be correct to point out that such constitutional rights are violated every day, most notably in the urban centers of this country where the youth of those nationalities oppressed by the government are routinely stopped and searched at the mere whim of any local cop, and routinely beaten for no reason at all (except to "keep them in terror and in their place") and hundreds and hundreds have been unjustifiably murdered by police (who are never punished, but in fact often promoted for these homicides). Nevertheless, this undermining of "probable cause" in this manner does represent a more generalized and open rupture with certain legal norms, and this is significant as it represents a significant move in the direction of making illegal those who, in fundamental ways, question and resist the direction and legitimacy of the imperialist/capitalist empire and its state structure.

With this court decision, the NYPD Intelligence Division sent its spies to at least 13 other states (besides New York), and Montreal, Canada. Using a court decision which was based on an argument for preventing "acts of terror", the NYPD spies infiltrated peaceful protest groups all over the country.1 This is an Orwellian-type conflation of protected speech with terrorism. It cannot be allowed to become a new norm where protected speech, or genuine liberation struggles of the people, are slandered as "terrorist."

Further, the NYPD carried out preemptive mass arrests, rounded up over 1,800 people at the Republican National Convention, and kept many of these for one or two days (to prevent them from returning to the demonstrations) in a run down and unsanitary structure on Pier 57, which came to be called "Guantánamo on the Hudson" by some in the mainstream, bourgeois media. Note: 90% of the cases were thrown out by the courts or dismissed by the district attorney.

(The repressive and police-state laws passed since 9/11, laws which use the pretext of the danger of terrorism to repress and unjustly and harshly persecute those who dissent and protest, were also used against organizers of protests against the 2008 Republican National Convention in 2008 in Minneapolis/St. Paul.2]

In their own words...

What truly stands out in this book is how calculating the NYPD Intelligence Division (and Ray Kelly, NYPD Police Commissioner) were in fashioning this police-state apparatus precisely in order to undermine basic norms which have been established in this country in regards to the rule of the due process of law. "Due process of law" refers to the legal requirement in the U.S. that no person shall "be deprived of life, liberty or property without the due process of law." This is a formal overarching doctrine of U.S. law enshrined in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. A basic thread running through the whole book is how the NYPD has forged a "new model for domestic intelligence gathering." The basic argument underlying this "new model" is that the police, FBI, etc. should not have to follow any due process of the law; they should be free to range among the people and make their own analysis of what may or may not be potential threats and then act accordingly.

This basic argument is concentrated in the 2007 congressional testimony by Larry Sanchez, who was the CIA liaison to the NYPD and an assistant commissioner in the NYPD. This is recounted in Dickey's book (pp. 236-239). In testimony explaining how the NYPD justifies its disregard for "due process," Sanchez talks about patterns of behavior "that most people would say would be non-criminal, would be innocuous," that might be regarded as "protected by the First and Fourth Amendments rights"—but which in the eyes of the NYPD might really be "potential precursors of terrorism."... "New York City of course has created its own methods to understand them better, to be able to identify them and to be able to make judgment calls if these are things that we need to worry about. a more closed forum could go into a lot more detail, Senators...." Sanchez also reveals the NYPD's practice of arresting people on bogus charges for the purposes of coercing them into becoming informers. Speaking of the constitutional constraints on the FBI, Sanchez says, "They're going to have a heck of a harder time... [when the actions observed might not reach] a standard of criminality that you need if your prime objective is you're going to lock them up." Dickey characterizes the implications of Sanchez' testimony: "If need be, you can nail a guy for sitting on two seats [in a subway]. You identify a potential informer and you put it to him that he has a choice of incarceration or cooperation, and there's a good chance he'll choose the latter."

Dickey interviews an FBI agent who complains about the NYPD's methods: "They do stuff that would get us arrested." This agent complains how the NYPD intelligence unit operates outside of the regulations and laws imposed on the Feds. According to this FBI agent, "The constitution applies to everyone. The First Amendment guaranteeing free speech and religion and the Fourth Amendment protecting against unreasonable search and seizure still apply to anyone who carries a badge." The agent further gripes about how the NYPD had penetrated groups in all parts of the country, including putting tracers on individuals' cars and tracking them by helicopter—without warrants. (Dickey, pp. 157-159) [A note here: the book makes clear that there are tensions between the NYPD and FBI which mainly, it seems, may be related to "turf" battles, and these tensions may have been why this FBI agent was making these charges. But, it should be clear that the FBI itself has an infamous history, including in the present, of doing exactly the same things the agent is complaining that the NYPD does.]

Securing the City for What and for Whom...

In reporting all of this, Dickey proceeds from the perspective that the U.S. war for empire should be viewed as a "war on terror" and that this war poses challenges for how the government protects the people from terrorism; and flowing from this, the thesis is put forward that in order to protect the population from terrorism, it is necessary to undermine certain basic constitutional norms and to institute more police-state fascist laws and methods of "policing." This basic viewpoint is put forward even as the author has some criticisms on how the "global war on terror" had been waged by the Bush regime in that it has "helped inspire a violent loathing for Americans around the world."

To untangle the web of deceit and illusions bound up with this viewpoint, let's start by ripping apart some of its fundamental aspects. First, this "war on terror" is actually a war for empire. While started in this form under Bush/Cheney, this is still going on under Obama, even if the "war on terror" label is not trumpeted in the same way. There is a tremendous amount of demagoguery (manipulation of public opinion through fear mongering) and instrumentalism around this; that is the threat of terrorist attacks is being used to justify every new military action or move to increase repression within the U.S. or to explain why the Bush-era crimes like indefinite detention, torture, Guantánamo, domestic spying programs, etc. must be continued. At the same time it is important to understand that the phenomena of Islamic Fundamentalism does in fact pose real obstacles to the strategic objectives of the U.S., and in this sense there is very serious contention between these forces and the U.S.3 "But, in essential terms, this 'war on terror' is an imperialist program which, among other things, is aimed at blotting out and turning the attention of people, even people who should know better, away from reckoning with the profound inequalities and oppressive relations that exist within different societies but especially on a world scale, under the domination of the imperialist system and in particular U.S. imperialism, which boasts of being 'the world's only superpower' and is determined to maintain all this." (Bob Avakian, Bringing Forward Another Way, RCP Publications, 2997, p. 13)

Second, we should have no illusions that any of these police-state measures are done out of concern for the safety of the people in New York City. To whatever the extent that the government is concerned with its citizens being killed or cities attacked by terrorism, this is fundamentally related to issues of losing the allegiance of the population and the fact that it does not want to disrupt the basic workings of the system. New York City plays a crucial role as a major financial, political, cultural and media citadel within the U.S. empire, and it has a huge strategic significance for the workings and image of U.S. imperialism. It is this which is being protected by the NYPD (and security apparatus more generally)—not the people of the city.

Third, for those agonizing over whether we are living in times where constitutional protections and civil rights need to be restricted for the sake of security, it is important to understand that when the NYPD uses the Patriot Act to do away with "probable cause" limitations on spying and infiltrating resisters in this country; when it labels those who oppose and resist the government as "terrorists" and on that basis goes after protests and rebellions; when it frames-up young Muslims who speak out against the crimes of the U.S. and does the same thing to resisters and protestors within the U.S.; when it preemptively arrests almost two thousand protestors who oppose the direction and policies of the Bush regime—all of this is to protect its system from various forms of resistance and rebellion from within. We have to be clear on this: these rights are not being taken away in the interests of the security of the people; they are being stripped away as part of strengthening the repressive apparatus of the state in order to weaken our ability to oppose the crimes being committed (in this country and around the world) by this government, in any meaningful way; and to undercut the ability to fight such increasing repression. In fact these are illusory rights in the sense that a state which exists to serve and reinforce capitalism/imperialism will, if necessary, ultimately, in one form or another, formally or de facto, abolish such rights, or make illegal the forms of resistance which may have relied on those rights as an underlying foundation to fight the system.4 And this basic truth has been illustrated many times over in the history of this country.

Even while proceeding from the viewpoint of the interests of the system, the book Securing the City: Inside America's Best Counterterror Force—the NYPD is well worth studying, both as a source of living exposure of the actual workings of this system and to gain a deeper, scientific understanding of the challenges faced by those (coming from various viewpoints and programs) who have the heart and determination to resist the crimes of this system and the horrible hopelessness that this system represents for the masses of humanity.

Part 2 will appear in Revolution #184

1. These states, as cited on page 186 of Dickey's book, were California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas, and Washington. D.C. [back]

2. "Fighting Against Criminalization of Protest: The Political Persecution of the RNC 8," Revolution #157, February 22, 2009. [back]

3. These Islamic Fundamentalist forces do use terrorist methods and tactics, and do target civilians. Further, it must be recognized that the social formations represented by these Islamic Fundamentalist forces embody outmoded and reactionary class forces and ideological programs which are not in the interests of humanity, and to the extent that these forces are in control of a society this represents a complete nightmare for humanity. At the same time, it also must be recognized that the United States, historically and in the "war on terror" has committed crimes on a far greater scale and is by far the greater danger to humanity than are the theocratic fundamentalist forces in the world... but to be clear, both are complete nightmares for all of humanity. For an in depth discussion of these questions, it is necessary and important to study Bob Avakian's Bringing Forward Another Way. Read the whole thing, but particularly relevant sections are "The 'War on Terror': What Is Really Going On and Why" and "Rejecting—and Breaking Out of—the Framework of the 'War on Terror.'" [back]

4. See Bob Avakian's Bringing Forward Another Way, "Attacks on Foundational Things in the History of the U.S." [back]

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Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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NYPD Raids Home of Anti-Police Brutality Activist Juanita Young—Again

From a reader:

Shortly after 6 a.m. on October 27, just five days after this year's National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, the NYPD raided the home of Juanita Young—again. For those who don't know, one of Juanita's son's, Malcolm Ferguson, was killed by police on March 1, 2000. Since that day, Juanita has been a major activist in the fight against police brutality and to expose the stolen lives—thousands killed by law enforcement across this country.

This past August, police raided her home and beat and arrested her son, JJ, and a number of other family and friends who were in the apartment (see report online at This did not stop her from helping to organize and take part in this year's National Day of Protest.

Now the police have raided her home a second time in a couple of months, this time arresting another son, Buddy. What the cops did was totally illegal, according to their own laws. They tried to break open the door and to climb through the bedroom window. When the door was opened, they searched the apartment with guns drawn and waved a gun in Juanita's face, refusing to even show the warrant for an alleged missed court date. Buddy was held for two days and released, the misdemeanor charge resolved.


The following is a statement from Juanita Young after this latest raid:

October 29, 2009

Statement From Juanita Young

By now most of you have heard details of the latest attack on my family by police officers assigned to the 43rd Precinct. It is important that you hear, first-hand, how this continued and escalating harassment is impacting me. Though I have been diligently fighting against police brutality for nine years, this most recent string of attacks—three incidences in as many months—has left me shaken to the core.

Not only have my rights been violated in the most blatant ways, but I feel physically and psychologically terrorized. I fear for my safety, my very life, and the lives of my children and grandchildren. We are not safe. And, at this point, I am unconvinced that relocation will make us any safer. The reality is painfully, frightening clear: I am a target.

I appreciate outpouring of support that's come from so many places—California, Seattle, Detroit and of course, my home, NYC. It makes me feel good knowing people see that my struggle is a universal struggle for peace and justice. This is not just about me. This is about the rights of every citizen to live safely in their community, with a police force that works with families not against them.

I will take appropriate action with the Civilian Complaint Review Board. And I need you to write, call, march, protest in whatever way that you can to show your outrage.

Yours in Solidarity,

Juanita Young

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Revolution #182, November 8, 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 #182, November 8, 2009

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The Ray Lotta Campus Tour:



  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"

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Revolution #182, November 8, 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

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Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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Who is Raymond Lotta?

Raymond Lotta is a revolutionary intellectual. He takes as his foundation Bob Avakian's new synthesis and has written extensively on China during and after the Cultural Revolution and played a major role in elucidating the actual thinking of Mao and the so-called Gang of Four that supported Mao. He also played a major role in working to expose the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and China, including through written work and mass public debate. He has, through the Setting the Record Straight project which he leads, fought to spread the truth—and refute the lies—about the experience of the communist revolution in the Soviet Union between 1917 and 1956 and China between 1949 and 1976. Most recently, he co-authored "Alain Badiou's 'Politics of Emancipation': A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World" (

Lotta has also done major work on political economy, including America in Decline (Banner Press, 1984) and "Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry," a four-part series published in this newspaper in July and August 2008. A recent speech—"Understanding the Global Economic Crisis: System Failure and the Need for Revolution"—can be heard at

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Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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The Raymond Lotta Campus Tour

Reporter's Notebook:

Editor's note: The first two stops on Raymond Lotta's tour, "Everything You've Been Told About Communism Is Wrong—CAPITALISM IS A FAILURE, REVOLUTION IS THE SOLUTION," were at UC Berkeley on October 8, and at NYU in New York City on October 26. Each program was attended by some 200 people, mostly college students. The following is compiled from the notes of several Revolution correspondents at the NYU event—the names of interviewees have been changed to protect their privacy.

Students pick up their tickets with all kinds of expectations. They reflect the state of campuses today—where a communist and revolutionary alternative is essentially not a factor in the campus scene, and where debate has not yet been cracked open on socialism and communism. And they reflect some beginning cracks in that wall—intrigue... guarded openness... in some cases urgent interest in hearing an argument that something more radical than the current set of "choices" is necessary and possible. Nobody is "typical." Everyone has a perspective, questions of their own. And they will all react to the event in different ways.

Two young women in line heard about the event at a class on socialist theory at NYU. A young anarchist heard about the event at a presentation by Slavoj Žižek. The title of the event is a provocation... and an attraction. One NYU student says it is "inflammatory," but "it got me here." A Latin American studies teacher said the email invitation seemed "challenging and counter-intuitive." One student who started checking out communism in high school says she "definitely agrees" that capitalism is a failure. But, "I'm not so sure," she says, about revolution being the solution, "I'm just interested to see what they mean by revolution." Her biggest question going in? "How they expect communism to be different from the times countries have tried it and it's failed... like in Russia." Although, she poses, "Maybe this is just a reflection of what I've been told... 'communism is a good idea, it might be different in practice.'" "Honestly," she confides, "I'm a little worried that it's going to be an extreme, scary communist person," but she's also expecting a new viewpoint not offered in school.

Everyone at the event is here with their own expectations, and will have their own surprises and reactions.

* * *

After Raymond Lotta's presentation, nearly half of the time for the event is devoted to questions and arguments from the audience:

Does communism subsume women's liberation and racism? Or does it only open the way to solving these questions?

Isn't greed part of human nature? Greed and war have been part of societies from the beginning of time. Greed has been a mainstay of everyone's culture. And wasn't greed responsible for the overthrow of communism?

I'm interested in poverty and the eradication of poverty. Jeffrey Sachs and Fareed Zakaria cite capitalist economic reforms as the solution—these are academics who pursue no imperialist agenda. Haven't 100 million people in China moved out of poverty thanks to the economic reforms? And how would communism actually lift people out of poverty?

Didn't the Cultural Revolution under Mao kill a million people in Tibet and destroy 6,000 monasteries? And you can give this lecture about communism at a university in the U.S., but what do you think would be the result if you gave a talk about democracy in Beijing?

I'm a white, heterosexual male born into an affluent household. I also know that the clothes I wear contribute to exploitation, and the same with the food I eat. And that it is not acceptable to do nothing about all that. Further, when people say that there is no value whatsoever in communism, that strikes me as wrong. But when you dismiss capitalism out of hand, aren't you doing the same thing?

How would the revolution you are talking about deal with religion?

You say that you want debate—but would people be allowed to not just debate, but to overthrow communism in a revolutionary society?

The exchange is substantial, passionate and intense... and spills out into the packed lobby...

* * *

Navigating through the knots of people in the lobby is tapping into a river of feelings, questions, ideas, and arguments. A young Black woman is in the midst of an intense conversation. She is overheard telling a friend, "I agree that capitalism is the source of some problems, but is it the source of problems?"

Allie had gotten a flyer, and then invited Terry to come. In the lobby afterwards, Terry says that communism is something people don't even think about. "They accept authority as truth, instead of taking truth as authority." What surprised Allie most about Raymond Lotta's presentation? "Just the total and complete way that capitalism skews everyone's perception of communism, just the fact that it's not talked about," by people who "have an agenda." Like many in the audience, Allie wants to learn more about the claims that Mao killed "a million" Tibetans, and plans to do some research on this.

Wayne and Jerry, in their early 20s, are rushing out. Homework to do? In any event, they take time to share their thoughts. Wayne says Raymond Lotta was "pretty enlightening." The best moment? "Probably when he showed that quote and then the source of that quote from Mao." (During his presentation, Lotta had projected three influential claims about Mao, and refuted them, including through exposing the supposed sources of these claims and distorted nature of widely disseminated quotes.) What are they inspired to learn more about? Wayne says "more about what the Tibet guy was saying." Jerry: "The positive elements of the Cultural Revolution in China."

The very outrageousness, and reasonableness, of what they heard provokes people. Roslyn says, "There are changes that need to be made, and need to be made on a communist track—I do believe that completely. I couldn't agree with everything Lotta said, but I do appreciate at least the introduction of ideas and the fact that he is trying to create more of a dialogue with people that oppose those ideas who would usually just shut it down."

Ben, an NYU student, thinks carefully before answering questions. The biggest surprise of the evening, for him? "Learning about the successes in China. You always hear that socialism is 'a good idea, but it won't work in practice.'" He said Raymond Lotta was "very smart," but he wished "he would slow down and explain more of the terms he was using."

Ben wants to follow up on Lotta's response to the question about greed, and how human nature will transform under socialism. "When you make a revolution and begin the transformation from capitalism, how long does it take for people to abandon greed? Is it a couple generations? Or much longer?" He said that the main thing he got from the presentation of Bob Avakian's new synthesis is that "Truth has to withstand questioning. Questioning is necessary or people can never really understand things."

Alejandro is studying web design. He has his own ideas of how he would stage Lotta's presentation: "If you want to have communism 2.0 [Alejandro's term], the presentation should have been more interactive" with people posting questions from their seats during it (questions were collected on index cards from people who preferred that, but Alejandro argues for real-time digital interaction). He has been to China for web design work and says that "what you see on the outside"—he describes the glitter and economic growth—"and what is going on, on the inside"—he refers to the poverty and inequality—"are completely different." Alejandro is sorting out whether or not China is socialist, capitalist, or some combination. Before the presentation, he says he "thought Deng Xiaoping was continuing what Mao was doing, even if just part. I thought he was like Stalin—trying to continue Lenin even if he just did that in part." Most surprising in the presentation, for him, was that "Deng wanted to end the Cultural Revolution." He thinks Bob Avakian's new synthesis seems "really interesting. I'm going to go online and check this out."

Jay and Nick are first-year NYU students who heard about the event in their microeconomics class. Nick says his overall impression of the evening is that "this is a good idea, but I'd have to see it in action."

Jay said that he came because Lotta promised to "take on all opinions, which is cool" and that he liked the Q&A section best. Jay argues that Marx said capitalism and capitalist development laid the basis for socialism. How could Lotta "dismiss capitalism as a complete failure where Marx saw capitalism as a prerequisite for socialism." Jay says that while he understood Lotta as arguing that a formal rise in income among the peasants might be overridden by things like ending socialized medicine and other social services, still "there is no way a rise in income can't help people." And even if this meant a temporary decline in living standards, it was putting people "on track to move to incomes of $5,000 a year, and then to the living standards we have." He argues, "Sweatshops give people incomes, and without that there is no hope. This is an essential stage of development; the U.S. had terrible sweatshops earlier in its development."

Jay is driven by a desire to end poverty. As he talks, he reflects new thinking and questions. His biggest surprise of the evening—hearing about the "economic and living standards advances" China made under socialism in the Mao years. Of Avakian's new synthesis, Jay says "He wants economic reforms without repression, but such a radical revolution—can you say this will foster creative freedom?" He thinks Lotta was "very intelligent but not as open to capitalism as he wants us to be to communism." Then again, he thinks out loud, "In a way I'm glad he was not a moderate or we wouldn't have been so engaged."

Claudia is a senior at NYU, studying digital communications in media, and cultural contextualization in media focusing on Black and Latino issues. She is not personally into traditional, organized religion, and is more attracted to American and African indigenous religious thought. She agrees "with part of what [Lotta] was saying, about how religion is very separatist and has historically been the root of many oppressive campaigns." But, she thinks that "you can't deny people the opportunity to embark on their religion because it's so ingrained in our culture." Lotta, she felt, "did touch on this." She feels that "you have to find a way to educate, and maybe not push the issue of what is scientifically incorrect about religion, but more kind of pushing the issue of acceptance, and tolerance amongst the religious groups." She thinks the event was "a very informative and dense presentation. I think it was so good how much information he was able to provide, and it's definitely motivating me to learn more about the subject of communism as well as the different issues he touched on in Tibet and China, because my familiarity with communism, or socialist efforts, is more about communism in Latin America and Cuba, so this gave me an alternative perspective to that."

Roslyn is a 23-year-old woman who dropped out of college in the South a couple of years ago. Sick of life in a southern suburb, she moved to NYC a year and a half ago and pays her bills now by tending bar. How did she get to this event? "Maybe it's fate," she says, "because I was just walking down the street and this guy gave me a flyer about it. Something inside of me wanted to come."

She reflects on the evolution in her own thinking about what the world could and should be. "When I was 17 or 18, I really thought about this stuff, the fabric of society. But since then my thinking has been distorted by the media, and basically things that have been put in power by the people in power to distract people from change. Because people in power don't want change." Especially, she says, for women, "the whole distraction is being sexy, how you look, being an image that is perfect to guys—it's really saying your whole worth is how you look, and how you act towards men, not who you are as a person."

Roslyn bounces off the presentation with energy and urgency. "The whole thing about communism in general is the free thinking of ideas and change, and I think change definitely has to happen. A hundred percent. If it doesn't, we're doomed to be miserable. I think most people, even if they are rich and affluent, are miserable deep down inside. Because they see human suffering, and I think the majority of people do want people to be happy.

"I had the view that most people have, that 'it's good on paper, but it can't actually happen.' I think that is laziness. I would be interested to know how communism would tackle murder... stuff like that. What I got from this was not only a talk about communism, but a talk about change, which I think is the most important. I'm not a communist now from seeing one speech. I don't know if it's the right thing. But I think that what he's talking about is the exchange of ideals—and ideas. And I think what he said about religion as a shackle, I think it has been used by big government, to those people, especially to poor people, as another ball and chain, and I think that we have to overcome it somehow."

* * *

Repeated announcements that it is closing time finally get everyone cleared out of the lobby, and into the night... still buzzing.

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Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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Thoughts on the Raymond Lotta Tour: Going All Out and, Yes, Making This A Very Big Deal Indeed

We are now midway through the Raymond Lotta speaking tour. Lotta has spoken to audiences of a little over 200 at University of California at Berkeley and New York University (NYU), a majority of them students. Two more engagements remain, the UCLA this Tuesday and then at the University of Chicago on November 11; additionally, there is the potentially very significant symposium on China's Cultural Revolution at Berkeley next weekend. It is with the spirit of marshaling the lessons learned thus far to maximize these last engagements—and, more important, the overall impact and import of the tour as a whole—that we are contributing this initial summation to "Spreading Revolution and Communism."

It's important to return to the editorials announcing this tour—"Bringing Revolution to the Campuses—A Strategic Mission of Any Revolution Worth Making" (issue 174) and "The Raymond Lotta Campus Tour: A Very Big Deal Indeed" (issue 177)—in assessing these initial results, and planning for the rest of this tour. The latter editorial opened with an unvarnished assessment of the state of the campuses: a real communist and revolutionary alternative is essentially not contending—anywhere. Yet the campus is critical to making revolution in the larger society. On the basis of that understanding, and of the larger urgent stakes we face, we set out to make this Raymond Lotta campus tour a means to "crack open mass debate and ferment on the campuses on the questions of socialism and communism."

At the same time, there is an important relation between this tour and the overall objectives of the campaign around "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have." This campaign aims to really put revolution—THIS revolution—before millions; to make Bob Avakian a household word; and to draw forward a core, even if relatively small at first, on a mission to fight for this line and make it a reality. Changing the overall atmosphere on campus, and beginning to draw forth a number of students as part of that core, contributes to that in a necessary and powerful way.

Those working to build this Tour need to constantly step back to those strategic goals as the framework for what they are doing. In that light, we cannot look at the different stops of this Tour as more or less "self-contained events." The effort at each campus has to build on and amplify what's gone before, and those working to make these events "a very big deal" on a particular campus have to understand it as important, yes, for the scene on a given campus—but even more so for the impact that it can have more broadly. The "very big deal" editorial made the point that we are aiming for a "mix of ferment, mass debate and intellectual excitement that is simmering and bubbling...and where that situation, even on several campuses to begin with, spreads to other campuses and to society as a whole. We're aiming at getting a whole different dynamic going, on campus and in society overall."

By this point, as we have gotten a deeper sense of the trends and currents in students' thinking, we've developed different materials. In addition to the quiz on the history of communist revolution with which we began this, there has been the open letter to the liberal anti-communist NYU professor Tony Judt from Raymond Lotta; Sunsara Taylor's open letter to students at NYU (now also up on Youtube); an unpublished op-ed piece written for the student paper by an NYU student; a new flyer that speaks more directly to the concerns of students and gives a sense of the questions that will be addressed and argued out; etc.

There has also been some debate sparked: initial coverage in the campus paper at NYU, followed by an all-out op-ed attack on Lotta's speech, and Lotta's response to that attack. But these should not be seen as particular to NYU; they should be utilized on every other campus—they are all very relevant. They don't have to be "replicated;" Tony Judt, for instance, in many ways stands as a symbol of the liberal anticommunist professor, and the letter to him can, with an introduction, be used with many professors and intellectuals, wherever they teach or work. This letter to Tony Judt in a very powerful way poses the provocative challenge called for in our editorials; it needs to get out there.

Similarly, students at every campus will be able to see themselves in the open letter/youtube by Sunsara Taylor ("The Furthest Thing From Your Minds"). And the controversy generated by the Lotta speech at NYU—the attack and reply—should be seen as part of the controversy we are trying to build nationally, not as an isolated thing.

To be sure, it would be very good if students and professors at other schools join the fray with their own e-mails, letters, youtubes, etc. It would be excellent if there were point-counterpoint debates at these universities, either leading up to or in the wake of the speech. Those building the tour at UCLA and University of Chicago (and in a different way, people working on the symposium on the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution coming up at Berkeley) will be learning new things, and should definitely both write to this site and rush into print otherwise. But materials like the ones mentioned here actually reflect some of what has been learned thus far, and really should be widely and very vigorously used, now. 

The more that we learn about, reflect on and more deeply understand the ideological terrain, and the more that we effectively speak to the questions on that terrain, the deeper will be the engagement with students. This can be seen in the questions from the NYU event, which are now part of the main flyer. But to do this well, we need to do more than just stand out in the plaza flyering, or even giving announcements in classes. We need to become much more part of the feel and flow of campus life—going to movies on campus, to club meetings, to programs, and not just flyer but stay to listen, learn and wrangle. Sometimes, it's important to just listen and ask questions. At other times, you will be able to make connections between the content of the event you are at and the overall campaign around this tour. The point is to become more a part of things, while still bringing this unique thing we are bringing—this speech, and everything that goes with it.

There are people interested in this—this we have found. But sometimes those working to build the tour end up asking too much of people who are in fact just getting acquainted with these ideas—and as a result it begins to feel like too much of an all-or-nothing proposition to them, and they drop away. Conversely, all too often we have stepped over ways that people can contribute, even if they are beginning or modest ways, because they don't fit in to what we think we need to do (or really do need to do). It is a challenge—and one we have to do much better at—to enable and facilitate the means for increasing numbers of people to be involved in the campaign in ways that correspond to their level of understanding and unity at any given time. And yes, there should be struggle with people (and not only [or mainly] over how much time they will devote to this or how far "out front" they will get on this); but this should take place in an atmosphere where they have room and "air" to learn and where, through their own experience, combined with good leadership on our part, they can deepen their understanding and commitment. On this point in particular, those of us building the tour need to devote much more systematic attention at doing better. Right now, this requires special focus.

Here we want to turn to what should be another major component of this: the leadership of Bob Avakian. When you take the measure of the heavy odds we are facing, and when you turn to draw up a list of what the people have going for them in the face of that, the very first thing on that list is Avakian's leadership—what he's brought forward in the realm of theory, how he leads this party politically, and what he models in regard to method and personal example. The DVD of his major speech Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, And What It's All About, as well as his memoir From Ike To Mao...And Beyond should get out much more broadly onto the campuses, in different ways. The fact that this DVD is now on the net should be made widely known. At the same time, there is tremendous potential importance for Avakian's book Observations On Art And Culture, Science and Philosophy to make a big impact on campus and among intellectuals more generally.

Another important element in this whole mix: Raymond Lotta himself actually is a "very big deal." Working in the framework developed by Avakian, Lotta combines a unique and far-ranging scope of knowledge on the history of socialist revolution with a very good understanding of Bob Avakian's new synthesis of the communist project; that is to say, what has been accomplished (and the facts about what are the real, as opposed to invented, errors), as well as how humanity can do better the next time that there is a successful communist revolution. In line with this, we should be looking for openings in the media for Raymond Lotta as part of this tour, and we should understand that there are more than a few professors who can be won to recommending this speech to their students (as has already been shown to be the case, even in a beginning way).

One real weakness thus far has been use of the net. We have only begun to break this onto Facebook, for instance. Nor have we really penetrated the blogosphere. We need to learn in this realm, and draw people forward who can teach us...and who, on their own, can be unleashed to spread this, in different ways.

A critical arena for advance: fund-raising. For example, there are plenty of professors who complain a lot about the state of today's student body. Okay, they may have a point. But they also have a responsibility: what are they going to do about it? Are they going to support a tour that is actually beginning to crack open the atmosphere, to get out the truth, to generate debate and controversy and bring in some oxygen? Whether they agree with everything Raymond Lotta says or not, are they going to back up someone with the courage to go against the accepted wisdom, to live a life of rigor and honesty and revolutionary commitment, and set that kind of example? Well, not if we don't challenge them to! And the flip side is that people can feel very happy and unleashed to participate in supporting the revolution in this extremely important way. Every group of people working on this tour should be setting goals, and developing projects, to raise funds.

In all of this, people should be creative and innovative. Develop—and send in—your experiences with street theater, talks in classrooms or at big meetings, use of materials already developed and ideas for new materials. There are only a few weeks left, at this point—but there are plenty of "very big deals" that have happened that have come from nowhere, in less time than that. There are very real ways in which this idea—communist revolution, at a time when people yearn for something different but have, in very real ways, been kept away from this powerful idea and any real knowledge of this amazing historical experience—can connect in different ways and on different levels with many, many more people. There is a very great necessity to connect it, in all those ways and on all those levels.

It is up to us to do the hard thinking, the scientific summation, the creative and daring innovation and the hard (but imaginative) work to make it happen. The revolutionary movement can be in a significantly better place by December—depending on what we do.


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Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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Art and Politics, Lived Experience, Legacies of Liberation
A three-day symposium November 6-8, 2009 UC Berkeley

FEW EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY are more deserving of rediscovery than China's Cultural Revolution of 1966-76.  Few have so challenged traditional notions of what human society can be.  Few have been as distorted and demonized.

Want to know what revolutionary socialism was really like?  From people who lived it.... and loved it?

Hear from youth who went to the countryside to work and learn from the peasants....artists who set out to create revolutionary art....women who struggled against feudal tradition....people who look back at this period as some of the best years of their lives.  And learn from scholars whose work brings to life a crucial and vital legacy of liberation.


Lincoln Cushing: Historian and archivist of social and political graphics, co-author, Chinese Posters: Art from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

Bai Di:  Director of Chinese and Asian Studies, Drew University; co-editor, Some of Us: Chinese Women Growing Up During the Mao Era

Dongping Han:  Professor of History, Warren Wilson College; author, The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village; farmer and manager of a collective village factory during the Cultural Revolution

Raymond Lotta:  Set the Record Straight Project; Maoist political economist; writer for Revolution newspaper; editor, Maoist Economics and the Revolutionary Road to Communism

Ann Tompkins:  Lived and worked in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution; co-author, Chinese Posters: Art from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

Ban Wang:  Professor of Chinese Literature and Culture, Stanford University, author, Illuminations from the Past: Trauma, Memory, and History in Modern China (Cultural Memory in the Present)

Robert Weil:  Senior Fellow at the Oakland Institute, author, Red Cat, White Cat: China and the Contradictions of "Market Socialism"

Sponsored by Revolution Books.  Co-sponsored by Set the Record Straight Project* and UC student club Friends of Revolution Books    

*   A program of International Humanities Center, a nonprofit organization under Section 501(c)(3).

Full schedule available at  For more information call: 510-848-1196 

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Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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From A World to Win News Service

Indian and international intellectuals issue "Statement against Government of India's planned military offensive in adivasi-populated regions"

October 19, 2009. A World to Win News Service. The Indian government has announced that it is preparing a large-scale military offensive against areas in eastern and central India where adivasi (tribal) people and others have risen up under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Sanhati (, which describes itself as "a collective of activists/academics who have been working in solidarity with peoples' movements in India by providing information and analysis," drafted and circulated the following statement signed by many prominent Indian and international intellectuals demanding that the government offensive not take place. Dated October 12, the statement (and background note) reflects the views of that collective.

Background Note:

It has been widely reported in the press that the Indian government is planning an unprecedented military offensive against alleged Maoist rebels, using paramilitary and counter-insurgency forces, possibly the Indian Armed Forces and even the Indian Air Force. This military operation is going to be carried out in the forested and semi-forested rural areas of the states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Maharashtra, populated mainly by the tribal (indigenous) people of India. Reportedly, the offensive has been planned in consultation with U.S. counter-insurgency agencies.


To Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister, Government of India, South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi, India-110 011.

We are deeply concerned by the Indian government's plans for launching an unprecedented military offensive by army and paramilitary forces in the adivasi (indigenous people)-populated regions of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Orissa and West Bengal states. The stated objective of the offensive is to "liberate" these areas from the influence of Maoist rebels. Such a military campaign will endanger the lives and livelihoods of millions of the poorest people living in those areas, resulting in massive displacement, destitution and human rights violation of ordinary citizens.

To hunt down the poorest of Indian citizens in the name of trying to curb the shadow of an insurgency is both counter-productive and vicious. The ongoing campaigns by paramilitary forces, buttressed by anti-rebel militias, organized and funded by government agencies, have already created a civil war like situation in some parts of Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, with hundreds killed and thousands displaced. The proposed armed offensive will not only aggravate the poverty, hunger, humiliation and insecurity of the adivasi people, but also spread it over a larger region.

Grinding poverty and abysmal living conditions that has been the lot of India's adivasi population has been complemented by increasing state violence since the neoliberal turn in the policy framework of the Indian state in the early 1990s. Whatever little access the poor had to forests, land, rivers, common pastures, village tanks and other common property resources has come under increasing attack by the Indian state in the guise of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and other "development" projects related to mining, industrial development, Information Technology parks, etc.

The geographical terrain, where the government's military offensive is planned to be carried out, is very rich in natural resources like minerals, forest wealth and water, and has been the target of large scale appropriation by several corporations. The desperate resistance of the local indigenous people against their displacement and dispossession has in many cases prevented the government-backed corporations from making inroads into these areas.

We fear that the government's offensive is also an attempt to crush such popular resistances in order to facilitate the entry and operation of these corporations and to pave the way for unbridled exploitation of the natural resources and the people of these regions. It is the widening levels of disparity and the continuing problems of social deprivation and structural violence, and the state repression on the non-violent resistance of the poor and marginalized against their dispossession, which gives rise to social anger and unrest and takes the form of political violence by the poor. Instead of addressing the source of the problem, the Indian state has decided to launch a military offensive to deal with this problem: kill the poor and not the poverty, seems to be the implicit slogan of the Indian government.

We feel that it would deliver a crippling blow to Indian democracy if the government tries to subjugate its own people militarily without addressing their grievances. Even as the short-term military success of such a venture is very doubtful, enormous misery for the common people is not in doubt, as has been witnessed in the case of numerous insurgent movements in the world. We urge the Indian government to immediately withdraw the armed forces and stop all plans for carrying out such military operations that has the potential for triggering a civil war which will inflict widespread misery on the poorest and most vulnerable section of the Indian population and clear the way for the plundering of their resources by corporations. We call upon all democratic-minded people to join us in this appeal.

National signatories

Arundhati Roy, author and activist, India; Amit Bhaduri, Professor Emeritus, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, JNU [Delhi]; Sandeep Pandey, social activist, N.A.P.M., India; Manoranjan Mohanty, Durgabai Deshmukh Professor of Social Development; Colin Gonzalves, Supreme Court Advocate; Arundhati Dhuru, activist, N.A.P.M.; Swapna Banerjee-Guha, Department of Geography, University of Mumbai; Anand Patwardhan, film maker; Dipankar Bhattachararya, General Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation; Bernard D'Mello, Associate Editor, Economic and Political Weekly, India; Dr Vandana Shiva, philosopher, writer, environmental activist; Amit Bhattacharyya, Professor, Department of History, Jadavpur University, Kolkata; Paromita Vohra, Devi Pictures; Sunil Shanbag, theatre director; and 126 more people.

International signatories

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, M.I.T.; David Harvey, Professor of Anthropology, The C.U.N.Y. Graduate Center; Michael Lebowitz, Director, Program in Transformative Practice and Human Development, Centro Internacional Mirana, Venezuela; John Bellamy Foster, editor of Monthly Review and Professor of Sociology, University of Oregon; Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Professor, Columbia University; James C. Scott, Professor of Political Science, Yale University; Michael Watts, Professor of Geography and Development Studies, University of California Berkeley, Mahmood Mamdani, Professor of Government, Columbia University; Mira Nair, Filmmaker, Mirabai Films, USA; Howard Zinn, historian, playwright, and social activist, USA; and 158 more people.

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

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Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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Sunsara Taylor Speaks in Illinois

Support Grows in the Face of a Shameful "Disinvitation"

Sunsara Taylor rallied support for her challenge to the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) and its shameful disinvitation to speak on "Morality Without Gods" at their Sunday gathering November 1. As reported in Revolution #181 (November 1, 2009), "Sunsara Taylor Challenges... A Shameful 'Disinvitation,'" this situation erupted when forces with a clear political agenda within EHSC manipulated the Program Committee to reverse its earlier decision to invite her to speak. This decision was then officially sanctioned by their Board of Trustees in a hastily called special meeting. Ms. Taylor was informed in writing that the Board is apologetic for how the situation was handled, but that nevertheless, their decision to prevent her from speaking stands.

In an open letter dated October 29 addressed To Everyone Concerned About Critical Thought and the State of the World, Sunsara Taylor wrote:

"Something very wrong is afoot among those one would expect to be among the greatest champions of critical thought and open exchange. On October 19, 2009, the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) rescinded their long-standing invitation for me to speak to their Society's weekly gathering on November 1, 2009."

After explaining how the Program Committee of EHSC had acted completely in opposition to their own stated principles and by gross distortion and misrepresentation of her views to sell this decision to the Board of Trustees and broader membership, her letter goes on to say:

"It matters little whether the broader membership sanctioned this dis-invitation due to blatant anti-communism or 'merely' out of the desire to 'preserve the unity' of the Society; the effect and the precedent remain the same. All too often these days, great moral wrongs are allowed to sit, and capitulation on matters of principle is excused in the name of 'not disrupting unity' or that it is simply 'too much work' to go up against the forces arrayed against what is just.

"This calls to mind the line from Yeats, 'The worst are filled with passionate intensity, but the best lack all conviction.' Those times when it is most difficult to stand up for principle, those times when standing up for principle requires going against the grain and sometimes even sacrifice, are precisely the times when it is most required and can make the greatest difference. These days, there is all too much self-censorship and acquiescence to the curtailment of unconventional discourse in academic and intellectual life, in political discourse, and on matters of morality and ethics. The decision of the Society must be seen in the context of, and as contributing to, this broader chill and this is why it is unacceptable." The full text of Sunsara Taylor's October 29 open letter can be read online at

Statements of strong support for Sunsara Taylor and in opposition to her being disinvited have come in from a number of different people, many of whom have appeared on panels where there was lively dialogue and debate on this very topic, "Morality Without Gods." These statements express outrage at this decision and respect for the contribution she is making to opening up the discourse in society. These statements are posted at and should be made broadly available.

The critically acclaimed "The Best Church of God" of Chicago, upon hearing of this disinvitation, immediately invited Taylor to be part of their final performance this year, on Sunday November 8, 1 pm, at the Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway, Chicago Illinois.

Follow their example, and invite Sunsara Taylor to speak.

Update: On Saturday, October 31, around 50 people came to the EHSC to hear Taylor speak at the previously scheduled workshop on the "The Liberation of Women and the Emancipation of All Humanity." About half of these were members of the EHSC, the rest interested persons who wanted to hear Sunsara speak on this topic. Before getting into the workshop, she made a statement to those in attendance making clear her views on what is represented by this disinvitation to speak to their Sunday program. These remarks can be seen on YouTube ( Look for a report later this week at on what happens on Sunday, November 1, at EHSC.


Norm R. Allen Jr., Charles W. Belser, Bob Bossie, SCJ, Laura Flanders, Chris Hedges, George Francis Kane, Esther Kaplan, Dennis Loo, Ph.D., Prof. Taigen Dan Leighton, Hemant Mehta, Mark Crispin Miller,
Massimo Pigliucci, Peter Phillips, Jeff Sharlet, Cindy Sheehan,
Darren Stephens, Dr. Michael R. Williams, Laura X.

For the complete list, visit:

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Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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News Flash:

EHSC Calls Police Against Videographer

On Sunday, November 1, plainclothes and uniformed police who had been called in earlier by officials of the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) dragged out, maced and arrested a man for videotaping Sunsara Taylor as she stood near her seat and made a statement before the start of that morning's program about the shameful cancellation of her long planned talk to EHSC that day on the topic "Morality Without Gods."

The shocking incident took place at the insistence of the president of EHSC. About 40 people witnessed the videographer being brutalized by the police in the foyer of the facility. An attorney demanded that the police stop brutalizing him when five officers piled on him as he lay face down on the floor. Six police cars arrived within minutes.

The day before, during a workshop on the same premises which the president and other Board members of the EHS were at, Sunsara explained very clearly that she would be attending the opening of the EHS's Sunday gathering and giving the EHS the opportunity to do the right thing and allow her talk to go forward, up until the last minute. If the EHS still refused to let her give her talk, she explained that she would leave and give her talk in "exile" at the nearby home of one of the EHS members. [This statement can be viewed on youtube:]

In her brief statement at the EHS on Sunday morning, Sunsara Taylor challenged the very wrong decision to cancel her speaking engagement and pointed out how this is contributing to a chilling atmosphere in society as a whole and has happened all too frequently to people who challenge the dominant narrative (like Ward Churchill, Norman Finkelstein and the screenwriter of Milk who was recently "disinvited" from Hope College, etc.). Taylor stated that while the group had the "bureaucratic right" to disinvite her, it didn't make it any more "right" than the voters in California passing Prop 8. She also invited those who wanted to hear her speak to come to her "talk in exile" at the home of a member of the EHSC.

At no point during her brief statement was Sunsara asked to stop speaking or to leave the premises. And at no point was anyone who was there to support her, including the photographer, asked to leave. It is telling that the only person singled out by the police, at the request of the president of the Society, was the man documenting what Sunsara was saying.

The videographer was simply trying to document and guard the truth of what Sunsara was saying in her brief statement. Sunsara's words had been grossly distorted and taken out of context by some members of the EHSC who were the driving forces behind canceling her speech.

What kind of ethics and morals is the EHSC upholding and modeling through the great lengths it has gone to in suppressing Sunsara Taylor's talk on "Morality Without Gods"? A number of their own members expressed disagreement with the cancellation and a number of prominent people from around the country wrote statements in support of Sunsara's speaking and called on EHSC to rectify its wrong-headed decision. Instead, the Board fortified and increasingly defended its decision and created an atmosphere of anti-communist hysteria, fear and rumor-mongering that had no relationship to reality.

The EHS had no legitimate basis to feel the police needed to be there in the first place, except for the rumors and hysteria that they themselves had created. Then, by choosing to set the police upon the person filming they went after the one person who was documenting the truth of Sunsara's words and the fact that Sunsara and others there to support her were acting in no way to disrupt the replacement talk the EHS had planned.

What kind of Ethical Humanist group would create a situation that led directly to the brutal arrest of someone simply for filming Sunsara giving a statement at that point with simply a cell phone? In their zeal to suppress Taylor they went repeatedly against the stated purpose of the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago which includes "the supreme aim of human life is working to create a more humane society...Our commitment is to the worth and dignity of the individual and to treating each human being so as to bring out the best in her or him."

This attack was in stark contrast to the day before at the EHSC where Sunsara led a well-attended and lively discussion with much audience participation on Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of Humanity. This whole program was videotaped by the same volunteer photographer.

To call upon the EHSC to drop charges against the photographer and to continue to express their disagreement with their decision to dis-invite Sunsara Taylor contact: office@ethicalhuman.org847-677-3334.

To find out how to make contributions to the legal defense, contact:

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Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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An Open Letter from Sunsara Taylor Protesting the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago Decision to Cancel Her Talk

October 29, 2009

To Everyone Concerned About Critical Thought and the State of the World:

Something very wrong is afoot among those one would expect to be among the greatest champions of critical thought and open exchange. On October 19, 2009, the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) rescinded their long-standing invitation for me to speak to their Society's weekly gathering on November 1, 2009.

I had been invited to speak on the topic of "Morality Without Gods" back in July and I accepted this invitation in good faith. I arranged to be in Chicago to give this talk because I believe it is of the utmost importance to open up discussion of the questions thrown up by the moral crisis of our times and because I believe I have a valuable contribution to make to this discussion. As testified to by the statements below, this is a view that is shared by many who have heard me speak, shared a platform with me, and who have interviewed me, whether they agree with all of my views or not.

EHSC's decision to dis-invite me was based on gross mischaracterizations and distortions of my character and of the content of my intended talk. It was pushed through in contradiction to the Society's own stated principles and in an atmosphere where fear and anti-communism were being aggressively stoked by some members of their Program Committee.

Their decision to dis-invite me is wrong. It is not in keeping with EHSC's avowed principles, i.e. "We value the importance of living an ethical, responsible, and joyful life. We promote intellectual, philosophical, and artistic freedom, avoiding dogma and rigid creed." (from "Who We Are-What We Value" mission statement of EHSC). And, this decision contributes very negatively to the current chill on intellectual and political discourse that challenges the status quo in the academy, the media, and beyond.

I have heard many reports of fear-mongering and anti-communist hysteria being whipped up among members in regards to the alleged harm I could bring to EHSC if allowed to speak. None of this was ever addressed to me in an open or aboveboard way. Rather, the Committee has repeatedly implied that there was something in the content of my proposed talk that was either different than what they had invited me to speak on or beyond the pale of reasonable discourse for their Society. However, the theme of my talk is precisely in keeping with the original theme they invited me to speak on ("Morality Without Gods"). [see my submitted description below]

The only time anyone from the EHSC Program Committee cited anything objectionable in my proposed talk, it was complete distortion and defamation. On October 21, 2009, I wrote to the Program Committee, setting the record straight and documenting just some of this. Here is an excerpt of that letter from me:

In any case, I feel it necessary to set the record straight. Kashyap [of the EHS Program Committee] wrote:

"On the first point, we are an inclusive humanist group. A talk that dwells on 'Christian fascists' and characterizes the leading moral problems facing the U.S. as depending critically on 'an influx of immigrants from around the world, [and] the entering of women into the workforce in the last generation' is not what we were expecting."

In fact, the description of my presentation clearly says we live in a time of moral crisis because "the stability and way of life of millions of people are being disrupted by the effects of imperialist globalization." I give examples of these huge fast-paced changes and instability in people's lives here and around the world as part of what is giving impetus to a resurgence of reactionary fundamentalist religion as people seek something solid, familiar and absolute in a time of such upheaval and change. Kashyap has pulled a snippet of my talk description out of context to imply that I blame society's moral crisis on immigrants and women joining the work force when my actual meaning was clearly just the opposite, including to counter the scapegoating and backlash that a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism engenders against these sections of our population.

Is there any who can read such a gross mischaracterization and inversion of the content of my planned talk and believe this dis-invitation was based on sound principle?

Instead of responding to any of the key matters of fact and principle addressed in my above quoted letter, or offering any honest objection to the actual content of my planned talk, the wrong decision to dis-invite me was then compounded and fortified. On Monday, October 26th, the Society as a whole allowed the Board of Trustees to shamefully reaffirm this decision on the same wrong basis in a hurriedly called meeting.

It matters little whether the broader membership sanctioned this dis-invitation due to blatant anti-communism or "merely" out of the desire to "preserve the unity" of the Society; the effect and the precedent remain the same. All too often these days, great moral wrongs are allowed to sit, and capitulation on matters of principle is excused in the name of "not disrupting unity" or that it is simply "too much work" to go up against the forces arrayed against what is just.

This calls to mind the line from Yeats, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity."1 Those times when it is most difficult to stand up for principle, those times when standing up for principle requires going against the grain and sometimes even sacrifice, are precisely the times when it is most required and can make the greatest difference. These days, there is all too much self-censorship and acquiescence to the curtailment of unconventional discourse in academic and intellectual life, in political discourse, and on matters of morality and ethics. The decision of the Society must be seen in the context of, and as contributing to, this broader chill and this is why it is unacceptable.

In their most recent letter to me, the Board of Trustees of EHSC wrongly invokes all sorts of procedural "rights" of their committee rather than addressing the content of my objections to their decision.

They write, "We do not censor programs, and it is clear to our members that speakers do not necessarily reflect the view of our Society. We do, however, have the right to choose the speakers who speak and the topics of their presentations. We have a Program Committee that conducts a process to determine the speakers and topics for our Sunday."

However, it was not I who went to the Program Committee and insisted that they allow me to speak; they approached me. After conducting their established process, they invited me and published my name as an upcoming speaker in their October newsletter.

Further, the fact that it is the bureaucratic "right" of the Board of Trustees to reach the decision to dis-invite me does not make that decision morally right, any more than the "right" of California voters to ban gay marriage through made that decision morally or ethically defensible.

All suggestions on the part of EHSC Board or Program Committee, as made in their October 28th letter to me, that I would somehow endanger the "safe, peaceful, engaging" atmosphere of their Sunday program is merely further character slander. This behavior from any organization is shameful, but coming from a group that avows itself to be rooted in ethics and humanism it is disgraceful.

If the Society continues to proceed in this fashion and does not reverse its decision to dis-invite, it would be more appropriate to rename itself the "Un-Ethical Society for Anti-Humanism."

In their October 28 letter, the Board of Trustees apologized for "any acrimony between the Ethical Humanist Society and [myself] that has transpired recently."

However, the conflict that has arisen between EHSC and myself was never about feelings of "acrimony" but of profound matters of principle and ethics. I protest and condemn in the strongest terms their decision not out of feelings of personal acrimony or a sense of pride, but out of a firm commitment to matters of ethics and principle. Indeed, I do not believe I would be worthy of any platform to speak on matters of ethics or morality if I did not strongly object and condemn and call out such shameful behavior on the part of any organization.

I intend to fulfill my commitment to all who want to hear me speak. I will lead a workshop on the theme of "The Liberation of Women and the Emancipation of All Humanity" on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2-4:00 p.m. at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago, 7574 N. Lincoln Avenue in Skokie. Further, I will be available and prepared to speak to all and any willing to hear the content of my originally scheduled talk, "Morality Without Gods," on Sunday, November 1st.

I believe this is the only ethical thing to do.

Sunsara Taylor



We live in a time of moral crises. These crises are NOT, as the Christian fascists like to constantly insist, because of "abortionists, the ACLU, homosexuals, and science instructors who teach evolution." These crises exist because the stability and way of life of millions of people are being disrupted by the effects of imperialist globalization. Around the world: massive global migrations, the rise of a transnational sex slave trade consuming millions of young women and girls, the wars and widespread use of torture by the U.S., and the increased disparity between the obscenely wealthy and the billions who have been cast into desperation, poverty and disease with no hope of a decent life. Here in the U.S.: the loss of millions of stable middle class jobs, an influx of immigrants from around the world, the entering of women into the work force in the last generation, and the development of a violent and bigoted movement with Christian fundamentalism woven into its core.

Why have these changes led to a resurgence of reactionary fundamentalist religion here and all over the world?

How do we counter that with a secular morality of our own?

Sunsara has traveled the country and reported on the rise of Christian fascism. She has also written and spoken about the ways that U.S. imperialist wars and aggression and reactionary Islamic fundamentalism have reinforced each other, even while opposing each other. In this work she has drawn on the framework and themes developed by Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, including in his pathbreaking book, Away with All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World. In this talk, Taylor will bring alive many of the themes spoken to by Avakian in Away With All Gods to answer these questions and to explore communist morality as a real and viable alternative: a morality rooted in, and serving as a guide to get to, a world without men oppressing women, without a handful accumulating vast wealth at the expense of the many, without white people lording it over people of color, without one country trying to run the whole globe, and a world where critical thought and the scientific pursuit of the truth, as well as artistic and intellectual ferment and the flourishing of individuality, are fostered.

1. "The Second Coming," by W.B. Yeats. [back]

Send us your comments.

Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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[Letter sent to EHSC]

To whom it may concern:

I write to express my great surprise, and disapproval, on learning that the EHSC has decided to rescind its speaking invitation to Sunsara Taylor.

While certain of her arguments may well be controversial, that is no reason whatsoever to decide against allowing her to make them publicly, under your auspices: on the contrary. It is because her arguments are challenging that she should be allowed to go ahead and make them, as originally planned—allowing others there to challenge them in turn, if those others should be so inclined.

Please reconsider your decision, which does just not reflect badly on your organization, but, if allowed to stand, will represent yet one more victory for "safe" opinion over full and vigorous debate.

Mark Crispin Miller

Professor of Media, Culture and Communication, New York University

October 24, 2009



I debated Sunsara in New York City on the topic of atheism and religion. We stand on separate sides, I as a seminary graduate and believer, she as a committed atheist. Sunsara was serious, respectful and thoughtful in our debate. Her voice helped two communities that often do not come together find common ground and further mutual respect.

Chris Hedges
Pulitzer prize-winning journalist & author of War Is A Force Which Gives Us Meaning
Senior fellow at The Nation Institute
Anschutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University

Oct. 17, 2009



Sunsara is a well-known speaker on a variety of issues. If you haven't seen her, I urge you to go on YouTube now. Yes, she may take stances you disagree with. But on the topic of morality without god, I would hope the society and Sunsara share viewpoints. That's what she is talking about and no doubt she'll do a great job of it. If you have concerns on her other stances, i feel they are irrelevant in this matter.

Hemant Mehta
Chair of the Secular Student Alliance Board of Directors*

Oct. 16, 2009


I hear tell that some persons are opposed to Sunsara Taylor's upcoming presentation. You may recall, I was on the program with her at Colombia College and I was surprised at the response she engendered among the several hundred young people present. I know that her presentation will add much to the conversation of your group. I believe that we should welcome opposing points of view because it is out of such interaction that we may find our way as a human community.

Bob Bossie, SCJ
Catholic order of Priests of the Sacred Heart
staff member, 8th Day Center for Justice, Chicago

Oct. 16, 2009



I have had formal and informal debates with Sunsara Taylor, and — despite our disagreements on politics and philosophy—I have always found her a thoughtful voice of reason and an engaging public presence. She brings a different point of view to the conversation, and we need desperately different points of view to have a vibrant democracy

Massimo Pigliucci
Professor of Ecology and Evolution at State University of NY Stonybrook
Chair of Dept. of Philosophy—Lehman College

Oct. 17, 2009



As someone who's reported extensively on the Christian right, I've shared the podium with Sunsara on a number of panels and events, and I've also watched her hold her own on late night political talk shows. Sunsara is consistently open and frank about her convictions; she forthrightly and thoughtfully engages in political arguments and brings energy and passion to any discussion. Moreover, at this time of economic crisis, when many Americans are dumbfounded to hear that Wall Street is already in recovery while they suffer joblessness and foreclosure, Sunsara's critique of capitalism strikes me as an especially important perspective to have aired.

Esther Kaplan
Investigative Editor, The Nation Institute

Oct. 17, 2009


Project Censored at Sonoma State University has hosted Sunsara Taylor on two occasions and both times her talks were intellectual, stimulating and of significant importance to social justice both in the US and the world. I highly recommend her presentations as positive support for academic freedom and human equality.

Peter Phillips
Professor Sociology, Sonoma State University
President, Media Freedom Foundation*

Oct. 16, 2009



To Whom It May Concern,

It seems strange, not to mention sad, that one would have to begin any letter in this day and age with the following declaration: I am not now nor ever have been a member of any communist party. I say this because my expression of disappointment in the Ethical Humanists Society for canceling a scheduled talk by Sunsara Taylor of the Revolutionary Communist Party is not in any way linked to agreement with all of her political views (or, for that matter, her perspective on religion). None of that should matter. Your organization invited Taylor to speak. Taylor in no way tries to hide her views. It's simply inappropriate and unethical to rescind your invitation. The honest thing to do, of course, is to engage her; to disagree with her; to argue with her. Not to cancel her.

I happen to disagree with Taylor 's use of the term "Christian fascists." I've said as much to her. I understand that she's not using the term to cover all Christians. But I don't think it's accurate in almost any instance. So we have a point of disagreement, which has led to fruitful conversations. Likewise her Maoism; I don't share it. But in public events and in private conversation, I've learned from our disagreements.

I do share with Taylor a concern about the influence of fundamentalism and a conviction that it is ultimately at odds with basic social justice. But I'd be writing this same letter if, say, I heard that Pat Robertson had been invited to speak and then canceled. Ethical Humanists, especially, should adhere to a standard of transparency and open dialogue.


Jeff Sharlet
Visiting Research Scholar, New York University
Contributing Editor, Harper's
Author, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power



I was very disappointed to read that the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago has announced the cancellation of a presentation by Sunsara Taylor on the topic "Morality Without Gods." Since I conducted an hour-long interview with Ms. Taylor in April for Atheist Talk Radio in Minnesota , I am familiar with her views on a variety of topics of interest to humanists. I know her to be not only extremely articulate and well-read, but also civil in discussions with people of opposing views. She remarked during my interview with her that she is pleased when someone points out her errors, because if she is wrong about something she wants to know it.

I think that is model of critical thinking that should be honored by humanists. Yet too often atheist and humanist organizations are justifiably criticized as ideological appendages of the Democratic Party. While humanism should provide a common home to a wide variety of godless ethical reasoning, too often it merely parades the platitudes of American liberalism as universal values.

Have you presented other speakers who analyze morality as a product of class division, or describe a revolutionary morality that might emerge from the very practical struggle against all forms exploitation? Surely it is a topic of interest to a community of godless, secular ethics. If the Ethical Humanist Society cancels Sunsara Taylor's presentation it will be difficult to understand as anything but censorship of a minority position within the humanist community.

George Francis Kane
Public Relations Officer for the Minnesota Atheists*

Oct. 25, 2009



Sunsara's smart, energetic and she's always gathering information from where the action is. Does she have an opinion? Sure but an exchange of views is what we believe in, right? I've featured her on my tv and radio programs on many occasions and always find her contributions valuable to the mix.

Laura Flanders
Host of GRIT TV on Free Speech TV



October 25, 2009

I have shared a podium with Sunsara Taylor several times and heard her speak many more times, in person, on TV, and online at YouTube. She is a dynamic, articulate, principled, passionate, lively, and important voice for reason, fresh and historically informed revolutionary ideas, and atheism.

I am surprised, based on the letter that you sent her disinviting her to speak at your November 1 event, that her description of her intended talk could have been so thoroughly misunderstood. I have presented at Humanist conferences myself in the past and found the gatherings to be stimulating and generous in spirit.

You write: "[W]e are an inclusive humanist group. A talk that dwells on 'Christian fascists' and characterizes the leading moral problems facing the U.S. as depending critically on 'an influx of immigrants from around the world, [and] the entering of women into the workforce in the last generation' is not what we were expecting.

"Second, instead we had been hoping that you could help us think about how moral, ethical behavior need not depend on a theistic outlook."

It is clear not only from what she submitted as a description and also her very well-documented record, readily available as a speaker and writer in numerous fora, that she would in fact be speaking precisely to the questions you requested that she address and doing so in the most inclusive of ways, reaching out to those who approach the question very differently from her.

Sunsara in her description of her upcoming talk said: "We live in a time of moral crises. These crises are NOT, as the Christian fascists like to constantly insist, because of 'abortionists, the ACLU, homosexuals, and science instructors who teach evolution.' These crises exist because the stability and way of life of millions of people are being disrupted by the effects of imperialist globalization."

Ms. Taylor is here contextualizing why we are in the midst of moral crises in this country. It sets the foundation upon which she will address the questions you wanted her to address. You asked that she help you "think about how moral, ethical behavior need not depend on a theistic outlook." That is exactly what she intends to do.

I would be shocked if you did not rescind this extraordinary attempt to withdraw your invitation of July to have her speak. It would set an exceedingly bad example both for your organization and for the broader society. Now more than ever reasoned dialogue and lively exchanges of ideas are called for.


Dennis Loo, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology, CalPoly Ponoma
Co-editor of Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney
Winner of the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award, the Nation Magazine's Most Valuable Crusade Award
and Project Censored Award
National Steering Committee Member of the World Can't Wait



To Whom It May Concern:

I have seen many of the emails regarding the controversy your organization has been in over Sunsara Taylor. It is ironic that an organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of critical thinking would be involved in such a controversy.

In 1989, FREE INQUIRY had a debate in the pages of its journal on libertarianism versus socialism. We have printed the writings of postmodernists, theists, and others with whom we disagree. That is why it is hard to understand why some members of your organization do not want Ms. Taylor to present her views to your group. Humanists and Ethical Culturists are supposed to be about unfettered free inquiry, if nothing else.

There are many different conceptions of humanism. Indeed, some people speak of "humanisms" just as some feminists speak of "feminisms." It is a mistake for anyone to believe that they have the one and only true conception of humanism.

Over the years, I have met people that believe that true humanism inevitably leads one to embrace socialism and reject capitalism. I have heard other humanists say that all humanists must reject socialism and embrace capitalism. I know of one humanist that defines humanism so cleverly that only anarchists can be said to be true humanists. (Surprise! He's an anarchist.)

All of these people are misguided. True humanists, Ethical Culturists, etc. should be primarily concerned with testing their ideas, listening to others, and learning to value the opinions of those with whom they disagree. Otherwise, why not just be religious?

By now it should be absolutely clear that your organization should allow Ms. Taylor to address your members. Please do the right thing.


Norm R. Allen Jr.
Executive Director
African Americans for Humanism*



To Whom it May Concern:

Have we become so polarized in this society that we cannot respectfully listen to opposing viewpoints, especially ones that are as well informed and presented as Sunsara Taylor's are? I have heard Ms. Taylor on this subject, and as a matter of fact have added my own perspective to hers.

I can guarantee you that Ms. Taylor's presentation will be informative and will spark a much needed dialogue and give every one who attends much needed food for thought.


Cindy Sheehan
Mother of Casey Sheehan, KIA in Iraq on April 04, 2004

October 16, 2009



Dear Sir or Madam,

I've heard that, incredibly, you're considering rescinding an invitation to have Sunsara Taylor speak.

I had the opportunity to meet Sunsara Taylor when she appeared as part of our parody church show, "The Best Church of God." The show, which has been repeatedly acclaimed by critics, was graced with her presence, intelligence and good humor last spring. While I don't necessarily agree with every single aspect of Ms. Sunsara's politics, I was very, very impressed with her intelligence, sense of fair play and attractive and positive demeanor. Our "church" pretends to ally itself with the most extreme of conservative views, and she rebutted our nonsensical (yet Biblically "sound" arguments) brilliantly, with a serious recitation of facts but also with tremendous good humor. Our audience enjoyed themselves thoroughly, not only because of our comedy skills, but also because they saw a lively, well-thought-out and entertaining exchange of ideas from every onstage.

It dishonors your entire organization by rescinding Ms. Taylor's invitation to speak, you are not only doing a disservice to your cause and your organization, you are denying the public and your members the opportunity to hear from one of the most intelligent, dynamic and original voices in the country today. Please do not make that mistake! Allow Sunsara Taylor to speak on November 1st.


Darren Stephens
"Pastor Dave Shepherd" of The Best Church of God
Chicago, Illinois



To Whom it Concerns,

I am writing to express my strong support for allowing Sunsara Taylor to speak as scheduled at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago meeting November 1st. Sunsara Taylor has valuable, intelligent perspectives to share on ethical issues and severe challenges that face our world today, and her speech should be welcomed, not censored.

Please allow a diversity of helpful perspectives to inform your program.


Prof. Taigen Dan Leighton
Theology Department,

Loyola University Chicago
Oct. 26, 2009




I was shocked to learn that a group of people at EHSC have waged an unprecedented effort to rescind your fine organization's invitation to Sunsara taylor to speak on "Morality Without Gods." It is a disappointing surprise to find that some in the EHSC are wallowing in the irrational fear and hatred whipped up by Joe McCarthy and other right-wing lunatics in the 1950's and '60s and the resurgence of this nonsense by the ghoulish remains of the Republican Party in response to the election of America's first black president.

As you know, the author, entertainer and great American secular humanist Steve Allen was a victim of America 's right-wing hysteria during the dark days of blacklisting. Steve, who was honorary chairman of my campaign committee when I was a Democratic party candidate for the California State Senate, had been hurt so badly he went to great lengths to assure that he would never again be labeled a "communist," "communist sympathizer" or "pinko" by those vicious, un-American people who had brought him down decades earlier. In this respect, he was like a shell-shocked soldier. Even so, he had a strong commitment to free speech, free discussion and free exchange of all points of view. I think Steve would be as shocked and disappointed as I am today to learn of your decision to prevent your membership from hearing Sunsara Taylor.

My first encounter with Ms. Taylor was at the atheist conference in Burbank early this month where she revealed what a beautifully gifted orator she is. I was impressed with the depth of her knowledge and her ability to excite and energize her audience. Her speech was as entertaining as it was informative and the audience loved her. I met and talked with her afterwards and I am convinced she is a brilliant, sensible, responsible and informed person. I cannot imagine how ignorant, fearful or hateful anyone would have to be to want to prevent others from hearing this intelligent, well-informed and articulate woman.

As I am sure you are aware, our nation is burdened with ignorant people who will not accept evolution no matter what, who still believe that the sun orbits the earth; who claim the world is only 6,000 years old; who think, "English was good enough for Jesus, so it's good enough for me;" who want the "government to stop messing with Medicare;" and who cannot explain the differences between capitalism, socialism, communism, our democratic republic, or even the differences between the state of New Mexico and the nation of Mexico. Denying the free exchange of ideas is what caused this sorry condition.

I am hopeful that you will reject the decision by the small minority of people in your organization who want to prevent Sunsara Taylor from sharing her knowledge with your full membership. I am hopeful that you will reject the efforts of those who still channel the ghost of Joe McCarthy and affirm the critical thinking and intellectual openness the EHSC is known for by re-inviting Sunsara Taylor to speak. Please don't cave in under the objections of the few who value ignorance over knowledge.

Thank you for considering my request,

Charles W. Belser
Author of Larry the Penguin Searches for the Meaning of Life



Ms. Taylor brings a perspective to the arena of ideas which aids one's critical thinking ability. While one may or may not agree with Ms. Taylor's views, she passionately presents her ideas and thoughts. Her presentation helped to spark a spirited debate on our campus. Our students benefited from the debate. One should always be open to listen to divergent thoughts because it helps to test and strengthen our own points of view.

Dr. Michael R. Williams
Director, Black Studies Program*
Cleveland State University



Oct. 26, 2009

To whom it may concern at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago re the Workshop this Saturday and Sunday morning talk;

Reading the twisted and backward representation of Sunsara Taylor's presentation sent me into waves of outrage and nausea, which were only stopped upon reading the numerous letters written in her support. It is those letters that gave me some hope for our country which seemed on a slippery slope due to your actions.

As a humanist, the outrage that a humanist society which purports to be based on reason denying any person a place to speak I was reminded of a Thomas Jefferson quote I took as a motto as a child:

"I have sworn, upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against any form of tyranny over the mind of man. "

Censoring the presentation of Sunsara Taylor is just such a tyranny, one that all freethinking people should decry. And especially at this time in history when critical minds are under siege in academia and women's bodies are under siege from the society at large. Her workshop on the Emancipation of Women and the Liberation of all human beings, is necessary. I happen to believe that the only way towards such liberation is through women's liberation, and I would be curious to know what you and Ms Taylor would have to say.

A discussion of Morality without Gods is simply key, especially when it comes from such an engaging speaker as Sunsara Taylor. Thomas Jefferson was speaking ironically about that altar, as I hope you know.

The Society should immediately extend its invitation to speak and its apologies to Sunsara Taylor, and to the rest of us. I was in the Free Speech Movement 45 years ago this Fall, and have been involved in its reunion Conferences. You should know that our student body representatives to our top committees had people for Goldwater and Ayn Rand to people way left of Sunsara Taylor. That is the point of free speech. As adults you should do no less.

I can also say as a nationally recognized speaker for 3 decades that no one cancelled my talks without proper payment of my fees and out of pocket expenses and profuse apologies. It happened twice, once because I was preempted by Charles and Diana of England when touring Canada and the American group really could not help the situation. It was not pre-censorship of the content of what I had to say, and believe me it was controversial in its day!

Sincerely yours, and I expect a reply

— Laura X, founder/director of the former
National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape
Women's History Library, Berkeley , CA



Only a fool would argue that people can't be moral without a belief in God, and only a fool would believe that people who do believe in God can't be moral and challenge global capitalism in all its perversity.

Rabbi Michael Lerner
Editor of Tikkun and Chair
with Sister Joan Chittister of the interfaith Network of Spiritual
Progressives (NSP)


* for identification purposes only

Send us your comments.

Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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October 20, 2009

To the Program Committee, Members, & Friends of EHSC from Sunsara Taylor

Last July I was extended an invitation by the Ethical Humanist Society of Greater Chicago to speak on the topic of "Morality Without Gods." I accepted this invitation in good faith, arranged my schedule to be in Chicago on November 1st, and I plan to honor my commitment to speak on November 1, 2009, 10:30 am at the Ethical Humanist Society of Greater Chicago, 7574 N. Lincoln Ave., Skokie, IL.

Sunday night, October 18, less than two weeks before the program, I received an email letter from Anil Kashyap notifying me that some in the program committee are trying to cancel my talk.

I am appalled at the discourtesy of this, especially from a society centered around ethics. Never in my years of public speaking has anyone canceled a scheduled talk.

I have spoken on these same issues—of morality without gods and morality to change the world—to very diverse audiences in many different venues and forums. My talks have been sponsored by university departments such as the Center for the Study of Religion at UCLA, the Humanities Department at Columbia College [Chicago], the African American Studies Department at Cleveland State; by secular student groups at schools such as New York University, Stanford, and Georgia State; by bookstores, high school assemblies, conferences such as the Atheist Alliance International Conference. I have spoken on my own as well as on panels with scientists, priests, Buddhists, Ayn Rand Objectivists, Black liberation theologists, and more. Many of my audiences include biblical literalists and because I posit a morality that speaks to their concerns and I have strategic confidence in their ability to change, if presented with the truth, we can have a positive engagement.

Again, the Ethical Humanist Society of Greater Chicago is the first to have some individuals try to cancel a speaking engagement.

This attempt to cancel my talk has clearly been driven by political and ideological disagreements with me by some on the EHSC program committee. This is shameful for any organization, but coming from an organization that prides itself on ethical action and promoting intellectual, philosophical and artistic freedom it is all the more disturbing.

The letter from Anil Kashyap that justifies his decision to attempt to cancel contains gross mischaracterizations of my views. If for no other reason, this alone would be reason enough why people in EHSC should have the opportunity to hear my views and analysis without a distorting lens. It certainly makes me wonder, did any of these individuals even listen to any parts of my talks or writings which are available on line before trying to cancel this presentation?

In any case, I feel it necessary to set the record straight. Kashyap wrote:

"On the first point, we are an inclusive humanist group. A talk that dwells on 'Christian fascists' and characterizes the leading moral problems facing the U.S. as depending critically on "an influx of immigrants from around the world, [and] the entering of women into the workforce in the last generation" is not what we were expecting."

In fact, the description of my presentation clearly says we live in a time of moral crisis because "the stability and way of life of millions of people are being disrupted by the effects of imperialist globalization." I give examples of these huge fast-paced changes and instability in people's lives here and around the world as part of what is giving impetus to a resurgence of reactionary fundamentalist religion as people seek something solid, familiar and absolute in a time of such upheaval and change. Kashyap has pulled a snippet of my talk description out of context to imply that I blame society's moral crisis on immigrants and women joining the work force when my actual meaning was clearly just the opposite, including to counter the scapegoating and backlash that a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism engenders against these sections of our population.

Kashyap then objects to my use of the term "Christian fascism" as if this reflects some kind of blind rejection of all religious people on my part. Quite the contrary, using those two words together is precisely a way of specifying that I am NOT referring to all Christians. My use of the words "Christian fascism" is well considered, though it hardly seems that remarkable when describing far right-wing Christian dominionists who murder abortion providers and impede women's access to birth control, apply biblical literalist interpretations to their excoriation of gay people, speak of illegal wars of aggression as god-ordained crusades, deny the solid scientific fact of evolution, and wish to impose Old Testament Mosaic rule as the law of the land. Further, I am hardly alone in describing this phenomenon this way.

If anyone in the Society has sincere doubts as to whether this description fits, please attend my talk as I have reported live from some of the hottest flashpoints of the Christian fascist offensives in this country for years—from Terri Schiavo's hospice to stadiums filled with Christian youth being trained as shock troops by Bush appointees and Navy SEALS to Dr. George Tiller's besieged clinic and funeral and beyond.

The description of my talk clearly states that I will explore countering this with a secular morality. My views on this are informed by my experience and study of how society could be organized differently, by a vision of a world without oppression, mass ignorance, or exploitation, and by a communist morality "rooted in and serving to get to a world without men oppressing women, without a handful accumulating vast wealth at the expense of the many, without white people lording it over people of color, without one country trying to run the whole globe, and a world where critical thought and the scientific pursuit of truth, as well as artistic and intellectual ferment and the flourishing of individuality, are fostered."

This is the farthest thing from the bigoted anti-immigrant, anti-woman picture Prof. Kashyap implies as a reason for prohibiting this talk.

As a second reason to try and cancel my talk, Prof. Kashyap writes

"Second, instead we had been hoping that you could help us think about how moral, ethical behavior need not depend on a theistic outlook. We did not anticipate that a discussion of this question would look anything like the description you sent. I understand that you have thought further about the talk and not seen any obvious way to adjust it while staying true to your beliefs."

In fact, the title and focus of my presentation is "Morality Without Gods." Clearly this is about morality that does not depend on a theistic outlook.

Prof. Kashyap is not correct in saying that I was unwilling or unable to adjust what my talk was about.

In exchanges with other members of the program committee over my talk we discussed whether the focus of my presentation could be shifted to "human nature" but then agreed to stick with the original title on Morality without Gods. In the course of this we clarified that this was not a talk on the topic of Revolution and Communism. As I wrote committee members:

"Obviously, while focusing on morality without gods, human nature will come up, it would be wrong to bill something as covering BOTH with real substance. So, I went back to what we had originally arranged—and this title 'Morality Without Gods' is exactly that, a talk about morality without gods (not about communist revolution)."

"The only reference to communism in the description is in regards to my orientation—not in terms of what I am explicating in this discussion."

At the very last minute, on the basis of these and quite a few other mischaracterizations of the facts, on the basis of fear that was whipped up on an unprincipled basis about my presentation and the supposed harm it would cause EHSC, some people have tried to cancel the speaking engagement. This is not an ethical way to handle disagreements.

This leads me to conclude that what this is really about is that some people don't want aired certain views with which they disagree, and they are doing everything they can to suppress those views.

In my experience, and exactly because we live in a time of moral crisis where religious fundamentalism is on the rise, people do hunger for discussions of morality that explore both broader themes as well as how they apply in this particularly acute historical juncture and how we shall live morally in it.

I find it hard to believe that the majority membership of the Ethical Humanist Society of Greater Chicago finds this "uninteresting" or finds the suppression of this conversation tolerable. And I certainly doubt they care for contributing to the broader chill in society, the atmosphere where critical thinking, dissent, and thinking outside the dominant narrative is marginalized and suppressed.

Prof. Kashyap's letter states:

"In light of all this, our committee does not want to proceed with this presentation. I understand you have many groups who wish to hear you speak. It makes no sense to bring you to speak to an audience who will not be interested or enthusiastic. (I gather that others in the society were trying to set up a workshop but, as far as I can tell, no one had signed up for that either.)"

In fact, there are people at EHSC and others from the broader community who have expressed interest in this program on Morality Without Gods and are enthusiastic about it, once they have seen the description of what it will be. Based on my experience with such a wide range of other audiences, I expect it will be lively and invigorating, with lots of different views, disagreements and depth to the engagement. Those who are truly not interested can stay home, sleep through that part of the Sunday platform, read a book, or plug their ears if they wish. Those who vehemently disagree can come and say why. But it is not right to keep others from being part of this—and not right to treat a speaker with such disrespect, either. I hope everyone, including Professor Kashyap, will come and raise their toughest questions. That I welcome and look forward to.

The Saturday workshop on "The Liberation of Women and the Emancipation of Humanity" is going forward as planned (2 pm to 4 pm, at the Ethical Humanist Society, 7574 N. Lincoln Ave, Skokie). The letter is correct in stating that this is being organized by others (outside the program committee); it is not correct in implying there is no interest. I encourage everyone to join me.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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Taking Revolution to the High Schools

We received the following correspondence:

When we first got the special high school issue of Revolution we made plans to go out to two high schools and a middle school. Doing this we would let hundreds of youth know about this Revolution and the leadership of Bob Avakian.

There is one particular experience that was really important and made a big impression on the high school students.

We focused on one high school in an area we had been aiming to saturate with the RCP statement "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have." This high school is in a poor proletarian neighborhood with people from all over the world.  In one apartment complex in the area we had found 9 different languages from around the world, from almost every continent. Over 30 languages are reportedly spoken at the school itself.  This international scene is mixed with lower and deeper sections of the proletariat from this country, including Black kids, and Latino kids whose parents came to the U.S. from Mexico and Central America. 

We went out one day with a good sized youth crew to make a big splash at this school -- all wearing our Revolution T's, and holding large visuals.  As school got out and students began streaming from the doors down the sidewalk we pulled out our bullhorn. One of us started agitating, drawing from the article, "Young Brothers and Sisters." Many students began walking up right away to see what was going on.  Some youth began to stop and listen, drawn to what we were saying. Some asked what this was about, though we were also having a hard time getting most to engage more deeply on the spot.  A few told us about how they didn't like that there was hunger, or that there was homelessness, or poverty, or the attacks on immigrants and black people. Others didn't know what to say when we asked them questions about the world and changing it, except, "it's bad" and "things should change."

As we began to gather a crowd of about 15 youth that were all standing around listening or engaging with one of our team, the cops rolled up from across the street, telling us that we couldn't use the bullhorn.  Our agitators put down the bullhorn but continued to speak out  at the top of their lungs: "Look these pigs are trying to shut us down, but we're not backing our shit down and we're not going away!" They spoke from the Party statement about how the time can be long past when these pigs do this and get away with it -- exposing why the cops do this as the brutal enforcers of this system and how they don't want the youth getting into revolution, they don't want people to be able to change the world. Some of the kids really dug this -- cheering and raising their fists.

Many of the kids responded to the article in the high school issue exposing how the police think – " they have the authority to do whatever they want." One Latino kid told us about how a cop had slammed his face into a steering wheel, knocking his braces off. Another young black man told us about how his uncle had been a Black Panther and had been shot down by the cops.  There were many stories of how the cops followed them home, bossed them around at school, constant harassment.

As we wound down and the students began to leave we started summing up.  We found that we had gotten out over 100 copies of the special student issue in addition to the 500 or so copies of the short version of "The Revolution we Need... The Leadership We Have" we had been getting out for the last week at the high school. One student had gotten a bundle to get out to his friends and several had gotten stacks of fliers to get out inside the school. When we called people back we found that most of people we were able to reach had read at least part of the issue and thought it was important.


When we went back several days later we ran into a really interesting scene.  A couple of young women came up and gave us hugs and said to their friends, "We love these guys!" They told us that the next day everyone had been talking about us, "The Communists." Some of the youth as they would leave would raise a fist out the bus window and some cars honked at our banner, "Revolution: Hope of the Hopeless."  One young woman, who was there with her friends, told us "I wish you were my teacher." 

In these engagements with these high schoolers, we learned  more about their experiences in this society, ranging from the police and their own stories of being brutalized to a young woman saying how she hated how guys would whistle at her and treat her like an object. People wanted to know, what does capitalism have to do with how women get treated? We used the section in the Party statement on the leadership we have in Bob Avakian. Almost none of the youth had ever heard anything about this revolution or this leadership. Some kids were interested that Bob Avakian had worked closely with the Panthers -- what had he done and what was that about? Overall, these youth wanted to see a better world, they were tired of living this way.

But along with all of this appreciation and obvious attraction to this revolution some of the controversy also got to come out much more.  Some really young kids that had heard our agitation from the last time had heard us talk about Obama and as they went by on their bikes chanted "Obama! Obama! Obama!" and one took a copy of the special issue saying that he was going to rip it up.  Another group thought that we were McCain supporters and refused to talk to us.  This time the cops and school security mainly stayed on the other side of the street.  One time one cop came by and said that they had gotten some complaint calls from parents about what their kids had brought home so, "you should watch who you harass."  We continued engaging with students and getting out literature and the cop went back to the other side of the street, watching us.

Overall, we found that it is really necessary to be struggling hard to be drawing out the youth and their thinking.  They are not used to and really don't expect to be asked what they think about the world, much less what kind of world do they want to live in.  Like it says in the statement "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," "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!" But in order to even begin to really get a sense of what these students thought, to draw out their advanced sentiments, we had to give them a sense that we were for real and that the revolution is here. We are going back to this school and are going to keep digging in to draw people into taking up this revolution in all kinds of different ways.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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Check It Out! Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

This powerful novel begins with Little Bee's voice: "Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl. Everyone would be pleased to see me coming. Maybe I would visit with you for the weekend and then suddenly, because I am fickle like that, I would visit with the man from the corner shop instead—but you would not be sad because you would be eating a cinnamon bun, or drinking a cold Coca-Cola from the can, and you would never think of me again. We would be happy, like lovers who met on holiday and forgot each other's names."

As the story opens, Little Bee is a 14-year-old Nigerian girl. She barely escapes a massacre in her village carried out by paramilitary gangs who are employed by the multinational oil companies like Shell and Chevron, which control the economy of much of the oil-producing regions of the Niger Delta. (This is where Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed—murdered—in 1995 for leading the movement to oppose the oil companies' war on the people.)

"A pound coin can go wherever it thinks it will be safest. It can cross deserts and oceans and leave the sound of gunfire and the bitter smell of burning thatch behind.... How I would love to be a British pound. A pound is free to travel to safety, and we are free to watch it go. This is the human triumph. This is called, globalization. A girl like me gets stopped at immigration, but a pound can leap the turnstyles, and dodge the tackles of those big men with their uniform caps, and jump straight into a waiting airport taxi. Where to, sir? Western Civilization, my good man, and make it snappy."—Little Bee

Alternating with the voice of Sarah, the white Londoner whose life intersects with Little Bee's on a beach in Nigeria, we follow Little Bee as she sneaks aboard a ship to London and is handed over to the immigration authorities. The story that unfolds—beginning with the two years Little Bee is imprisoned in an immigration detention center—is a searing condemnation of the brutality of globalization and its real toll in human lives and suffering, and the immorality of a capitalist-imperialist system that profits off of this suffering and whose citizens are mostly ignorant or indifferent to the plight of the refugees who live, hidden in broad daylight, among them. Through the events in this story, Sarah transforms and comes to Little Bee's aid when she appears on Sarah's doorstep in the summer of 2007.

This story is told with great humor, in the midst of great tragedy. All summer Sarah's four-year-old son, Charlie, will not remove his Batman costume, and Little Bee, who learned to speak "the Queen's English" in the immigration center, bonds with Charlie: she can relate to Charlie's fixation on being someone else. They play together in the garden, "killing baddies" with Charlie's imaginary bat weapons. Little Bee works through her encounters with the strange circumstances of suburban London by imagining how she would explain it to "the girls from back home," wryly contrasting daily life in the village to what she is now experiencing.

Beneath the important political themes of Little Bee, there is a deep investigation of what it means to make choices, to live your life as a moral human being, in the context of a world where humanity is being dragged down by the dominant economic system of imperialism. It asks two questions of the reader, and they are not resolved in the novel:

Is it moral to give "ten percent" toward lessening the suffering of humanity? Sarah muses that she's only given ten percent to save Little Bee, and her boyfriend Lawrence argues that she's done enough: "Ten percent buys you a stable world to get on with your life in. Here, safe in the West. That's the way to think of it. If everyone gave ten percent, we wouldn't need to give asylum." Sarah answers: "Isn't it sad, growing up? You start off like my Charlie. You start off thinking you can kill all the baddies and save the world. Then you get a little bit older, maybe Little Bee's age, and you realize that some of the world's badness is inside you, that maybe you're a part of it. And then you get a little older still, and a bit more comfortable, and you start wondering whether that badness you've seen in yourself is really all that bad at all. You start talking about ten percent."

This novel is worth a read, and a re-read, for anyone who cares about the future of humanity.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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'If Revolution Could Get Into More Prisons'... A Cultural Benefit for the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF)

On Sunday, October 18, a group of Bay Area teachers, in conjunction with Revolution Books, presented a cultural benefit for the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF). Forty-five people, including people from the community, activists, teachers, youth, an owner of a prominent art gallery, a lawyer, musicians and poets, came together in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, at La Placita Building, a café & network of shops, in a free-flowing afternoon of poetry, spoken word, music, and food from around the world.

Reiko, from Revolution Books in Berkeley, spoke about how important the PRLF is to prisoners around the country, and what a tremendous need there is now to fill requests from prisoners, especially for subscriptions to Revolution newspaper. She introduced Eddie Zheng, one of the MC's for the event, recently released from prison, who spent 21 years behind bars, including a year in immigration detention. Eddie spoke eloquently about how important it was for him to have a sub to Revolution newspaper in prison and how he passed it around: "When I was inside, they hunger for knowledge and anything that can transform their mindset." Eddie is also an accomplished poet and created the first poetry slam inside San Quentin. He read a couple of poems from an anthology of Asian prisoners he edited, "Other, an Asian-Pacific Islander Prisoners' Anthology." One of the poems, from a Laotian immigrant prisoner about how he was opening his eyes to what America was really all about, had a strong edge to it: "We all fight all that is red, white, and blue." Eddie and the poems he read had a huge impact as the audience saw and felt the experience of prisoners and how important revolutionary literature could be in changing their lives.

"Rage," a song written and performed by one of the musicians, was a fiery indictment of how the system treats people, from everyday life to Guantanamo: "Are we, the people, to blame?/When will you stop, Sam, pulling my chain? I got rage!" That got the audience fired up!

A highlight of the program, the reading of letters from prisoners, was accompanied by music specially written and arranged for the letters by the musicians. A Latina high school student, a retired teacher, and Eddie Zheng read letters from prisoners which moved and inspired everyone very deeply. Another powerful event of the day was "Prisons as Universities of Revolution" a DVD of Joe Veale, an RCP supporter who recounted the importance of his experience in prison reading many books as well as revolutionary literature, including the writings of Bob Avakian. The DVD of Joe Veale, which received an enthusiastic response, presents a vivid, living example of how reading revolutionary literature in prison can transform one's understanding and outlook, and issued a powerful challenge to support the Prisoner's Revolutionary Literature Fund.

The DVD was followed by a rousing fundraising pitch, delivered by a retired teacher who currently works as mentor for new teachers. In her speech, which is reprinted at the end of this piece, the retired teacher is inspired by the example of a woman prisoner who herself, FROM INSIDE PRISON, was donating $25 a month to the PRLF. The teacher was also very moved by the DVD of Joe Veale: "As a teacher I was thrilled to hear about the 23 year-old Joe Veale and his 19 year-old cell-mate who had a study group. They were critiquing Plato and deciding which of the revolutionary Chinese leaders were really communist and really revolutionary. Joe Veale spoke to the teacher in me. As someone who understands the power of revolutionary literature, he urges us to give generously to the PRLF...join me in my $35 contribution which will reach a woman prisoner and 20 of her colleagues for a year." An African American community college instructor issued a challenge: He would donate $3500 if his donation could be matched. This inspired people in the audience—two teachers pledged the equivalent of 10 subs each. Several other people donated and pledged after that, including a proletarian woman from the neighborhood who was so moved that she pledged $25 a month. And some youth, new to political activity, made plans to combine resources to raise funds.

Another dynamic part of the program was the performance of PO Poets/ Poetas Pobres, a bilingual group of poets and spoken word artists connected to POOR Magazine/ Prensa POBRE. They performed material with an international dimension, reflecting oppression and resistance along the border, the struggle of the homeless—particularly homeless mothers and families—and the experience of incarcerated mothers. The audience gave them a rousing ovation.

After an announcement about the upcoming October 22nd protest against police brutality, the culmination of the day was a reading of a powerful, defiant poem by a young woman recalling in vivid detail, from the point of view of the victims, the police murders of Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Jody Woodfox, Andrew Maupin and Mark Garcia. She has been reading this poem out on the streets and receiving a great response; this was also true of the audience at La Placita, who was filled with righteous anger, an appreciation of the truth and a call to action by her poem and its last line: "I am Oscar Grant, I am Sean Bell...I am all those fallen souls on the street."

A few days later, the teachers who organized the event got together to sum up the benefit and figure out how to make good on the pledges; we talked about how people could have house meetings using videos like Joe Veale's, host a party with music, maybe an event at a club, an art show or a poetry reading and other ideas that could all be connected to raising funds for the PRLF. And with the holidays coming up, we felt this was a good time of the year to be planning these kind of activities. We also decided to form an ongoing network to support the PRLF, and to put out a newsletter

For more info/contact in the SF Bay Area:

To Contact the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund directly:



Wow! The power of tools of transformation.

As the woman prisoner said [in the letter I read from earlier], part of the misery of incarceration is the complete control the oppressors have over the type of media and information you are exposed to; she decided to do something about this. She is donating $25 per month to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) for subscriptions for women. Right now only 1% of the PRLF subs are for women. You and I need to do something about that.

As a teacher, I was thrilled to hear about the 23 year-old Joe Veale and his 19 year-old cell mate who had a study group. They were critiquing Plato and deciding which of the revolutionary Chinese leaders were really communist and really revolutionary.

Joe Veale spoke to the teacher in me. As someone who understands the power of revolutionary literature, he urges us to give generously to the PRLF. There is a backlog of over 150 prisoners waiting to receive Revolution newspaper or other revolutionary literature. The woman prisoner said that 50% of her fellow prisoners were Latina—we can send Revolution in Spanish.

$515 will put 15 copies of Revolution in the hands of prisoners. But wait, each newspaper is read by as many as 20 people, so that means you will really possibly reach 300 prisoners—every week. $250 will buy 10 copies of "Away With All Gods," by Bob Avakian and 10 copies of "The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creation," by Ardea Skybreak. $175 will potentially reach 5X20 prisoners weekly. Join me in my $35 contribution—I am on a very limited income—which will reach a woman prisoner and possibly 20 of her colleagues for a year.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #182, November 8, 2009

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From a Reader:

This is a poem I wrote in memory of some of the stolen lives due to police brutality:

Jan 1, 2009. It's new years and I guess everyone should be celebrating but I am laying face down on the ground. I can taste the concrete, rock, spit, and urine. Treating me as if I was an animal. Shit I think even animals have more rights than me. At least people fight for them while I get neglected because of the color of my skin. I am handcuffed and that might as well have been the rope over my neck cause this is lynching. I'm not even resisting. His knee is on my head and I'm choking on my blood. Why are there two cops on me?

Lord forgive me for I have sinned I was born with darker pigmentation than these pigs. Now I am a victim of the swine, but these pigs are much more deadly and their target is us.  I was shot point blank at the BART station. I didn't even get to see my killer, coward, cause he shot me in the back. I guess they are the only ones celebrating now. All I wanted to do is go home to my family, to my wife, and my child. Cold blooded murder. My life was stolen. I AM OSCAR GRANT!

Jul 25 2008 Oakland. Why is he stopping me? My instinct is to run. My heart is pulsing heavy. I'm scared. I was right to run because he is a murderer! He was acquitted last year from killing another man on Jan 1 2008, but remains a cop. Just another fucking trigger happy pig. I stop to pull out He shot me eight times in the back. No more need to sugarcoat this epidemic of police brutality. It's our extermination. My life was stolen. I AM JODY WOODFOX! I AM ANDREW MOPPIN!

Nov 26, 2006  New York. I could be the happiest man on the planet about to embark into my new life with my fiancée and daughter. Tomorrow is my wedding day, but never realized this is my last second. I got into the car and I accidentally hit the car next to me. They surround my car, but I didn't know who they were. Undercover cops. I am unarmed please don't shoot.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. Just another victim the irony is the police murdered my brother, too. 22,23,24,25,26,27. Cock back and reload, it's not over, bullet shells after bullet shells hitting the earth are symphonies, the national anthem for the police. My overflowing blood is worse than when the levees broke. I'm leaving my wife at the altar, but it wasn't my choice. I'm sorry. 45,46,47,48,49,50. 50 SHOTS LATER. I'm only a memory in the distant winds howling. Officers were acquitted. My life was stolen. I AM SEAN BELL!

April 6, 1996 SF. I have been robbed! Help! Help! I was robbed! The only help that I received was pepper spray in my face. It burns. You cannot even see the tears running down my face cause of the acid in my eyes. Why are they handcuffing me? I was robbed. He shoved my face into the ground, the blood is oozing out of my mouth, as if the sewers are over flowing from a storm the garbage overflowed. The police's garbage is revealed. He's foot is on my back, you can hear the cracks, his imprint my back so that I will never forgot who killed me while I'm watching from the skies. I never received immediate medical attention and I died on the way to the hospital after 35 minutes when it only takes 3, suffocating off my own spit, vomit, and blood. My life was stolen. I AM MARK GARCIA!

Police brutality is the swine disease going around our inner cities and taking over. See, this is our own version of the holocaust. This is genocide. Just because we have a black president does not change anything. It didn't change when we had the first black cop, it didn't change when we had the first black DA, it didn't change when we had the first black judge, and it is not going to change now! The system has not changed. See, we still have cold-blooded murders and cold-blooded cover-ups.

See, we're conditioned to dread our own skin. Driving while black. Talking while brown. Breathing while poor. It's never ending. My fears one on top of another. Excessive force is just another word sorry, my bad. Next time I won't shove your face into the ground and shoot bullets after bullets, but there isn't a next time, so it doesn't matter. I'M SEAN BELL, I'M JODY WOODFOX, I'M ANDREW MOPPIN, I'M MARK GARCIA, I'M OSCAR GRANT. And our lives were stolen. I am all those falling souls from the streets.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #182, November 8, 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

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