Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA

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Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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From A World To Win News Service:

Iran February 11 Protests: A Report

We received the following from A World to Win News Service:

February 15, 2010. A World to Win News Service. With the approach of February 11, the anniversary of the Iranian people's uprising in 1979 (when the rule of the Shah and the monarchy as a political system was ended and the Islamists came to power), people were eager to wage another round of battle and show their hatred for the Islamic regime. Expectations were heightened by the experience of the protests on Ashura (December 26), when the people were able to take the initiative through radical and inspiring struggle. But any idea that the path of development would continue in the straight line and that the regime would be driven to the verge of collapse proved incorrect.

On February 11, people determined to protest came out in different cities and regions. Since there was no pre-agreed assembly point in Tehran, anti-regime protestors gathered at 10 main locations. Despite the draconian military force they found there waiting for them, thousands of youth were not deterred and continued their protests, chanting slogans against the regime. Most of the protestors were trying to get to Azadi (Freedom) Square, where the regime was holding its own reactionary celebration, but the security forces had blocked all the access streets except the one that the government-organized march was passing through. The security forces were concentrated on that street. Their advance preparations to keep it under control included installing loudspeakers along the route so as to be able to drown out unauthorized chanting. Thousands of security officers had been stationed in the square since the day before.

This made it very difficult for protestors to reach the square in any organized fashion. Those who did manage to get through the square were scattered and lost amid the crowd brought by the government. However, foreign journalists spotted some brave enough to shout "Down with the dictator" under these circumstances. (Los Angeles Times, February 12; The New York Times, February 14).

In many other parts of Tehran, youths came out in small groups, but these groups were not able to hook up with one another. They chanted anti-regime slogans and clashed with the Basiji (militia members). Their slogans differed from place to place. In some locations people's chants were in support of the Green leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi and followed the slogans they had suggested, such as the demand for a "referendum." In other places slogans warned the Green leaders against any compromise with the regime. For instance, although it loses its rhythm in translation, one slogan was "We did not give our martyrs in order to compromise, and praise a murderer leader."

This was a clear reference to Mousavi and Karoubi statements after the Ashura demonstration in which they recognized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's legitimacy as the Leader. Although the Green leaders later tried to justify their statements and spin them as though they hadn't meant what they said, people had taken a note.

People also chanted, "Free all political prisoners." Slogans such as "Death to the dictator" and others against Khamenei were common everywhere. In some demonstrations, "Down with the Islamic Republic" and "Independence, Freedom, Iranian Republic" were also chanted, despite the fierce opposition to these slogans by the Green leaders.

Protestors tore down the big portraits of Khamenei and ripped them into pieces. Many people deliberately walked on them. According to other sources, protestors tore down portraits of Ahmadinejad and Khomeini (BBC-Farsi website, February 12). Despite all the reinforcements the regime could muster, protestors were able to seize at least one Basiji's motorcycle and set it on fire. It was reported that there were clashes in dozens of locations in Tehran, including Vali Asr Square and Sadeghi Square where Karoubi started his own march. Youth who could not get into Azadi Square turned the underground trains and the buses into moving demonstrations, continually chanting slogans like "Death to the dictator" with few objections from passengers, who often cooperated with the youth.

Many observers noted that the brutality of the uniformed and plainclothes security forces was worse than at any other time since the beginning of the current wave of protests in June. The brutal beating of one man whom the security forces had stripped naked was caught by a protestor's camera and posted on YouTube. The regime said it had arrested dozens of protestors. There are unconfirmed reports that a woman was killed.

Reports also indicate that despite the threats by Islamic Republic officials and security force commanders, people came out to protest and show their determination in other main cities such as Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad and Ahvaz. Footage of what seems to have been serious fighting in Isfahan was posted on the Web.

Despite the fact that the regime is at its weakest point in the last 31 years, in terms of internal unity, popular support, the economy, corruption and many other aspects, it has not lost all its powers. It has kept all of its firepower and intends to show that it is not in a mood to back down.

In fact, after the shock of the Ashura protests last December, the regime came to the conclusion that the existing level of threats and brutality—including murder, imprisonment, torture, and rape—was not enough to crush the people's determination. When people chanted, "Cannon, tanks and Basiji are no longer effective," they really meant it. So in desperation the regime decided to show off its remaining strengths leading up to and on February 11. It qualitatively increased the level of suppression and repression, and it showed that it still can mobilize people. In this way it sought to demoralize the people or at least the Green leaders, and this time not lose the initiative.

Thousands of people were arrested and charged with involvement in the Ashura protests. In addition, there have been arrests of hundreds if not thousands of student activists, women activists, worker activists, many journalists not in full agreement with the government and many lawyers and human rights people. The regime put a lot of pressure on the Kurdistan region and arrested many activists there who were taken to an unknown location.

Two young prisoners were executed in Tehran in early February. Arrested before the first June 2009 demonstrations, they were accused of membership in a monarchist organization that no one had heard of before, and whose existence was widely questioned. Many of the arrested have been sentenced to long prison terms for doing nothing, or just for taking part in a demonstration—in one man's case because he had honked his car horn in support of marchers. Top officials of the reformist faction also were sentenced to long imprisonment. Some of them are in their 70s and suffer from cancer or heart problems that have worsened in prison. Among them are Ibrahim Yazdi (the Islamic Republic's first foreign minister), Mohammad Maleki (the first head of Tehran University after the revolution) and Behzad Nabavi, who previously held several high-level jobs in the Islamic regime, including a ministerial position. The regime has refused to allow them visitors or even reveal where they are being held.

While stepping up the repression, the government forces also did all they could to mobilize people from all over the country, no easy job for a hated and isolated regime. They used their country's money and resources to incite and even bribe people to attend Ahmadinejad's speech in Azadi Square. The regime spent 300 billion Touman (equivalent to 300 million dollars) on this event, according to Mohsen Sazegara, a defected regime official speaking on Voice of America's Persian TV on February 14.

First of all there were the thousands of trusted men on the regime's payroll whose job includes being present to cheer for top officials. They usually travel with Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to other cities when they go to speak, and they participate in Friday Prayers. In addition, the regime organized people in remote towns and villages and used hundreds or maybe thousands of buses to transfer them to Tehran in that day. They were promised good food, and cameras showed cake and food parcels being distributed among the participants. Apart from those who were doing their job and hardcore Islamic Republic supporters, many of the participants were in a far less combative mood than the protestors a few blocks away who were engaged in fierce fighting with security forces. For them this was a picnic, a day off from work, a free ride to Tehran and free food and snacks. They could spend the day with family, away from home and above all avoid the risk of losing their job.

An eight-minute amateur video on YouTube reflects the mood of the regime's event. Despite all its preparations, still the regime was apprehensive. Scaffolding was used to divide the crowd into many different sections. Yet with all this, during Ahmadinejad's speech chants of "Down with the dictator!" could be heard from among the crowd. It was even said that the regime's TV stopped broadcasting his speech earlier than expected, maybe because of this.

The regime invested a great deal financially and militarily to achieve the political results that it sought: the appearance of legitimacy. They have already started a campaign to exaggerate the results, boasting that five million people took part in Tehran. In contrast, some foreign media (for instance, The New York Times, February 14) noted that the square was significantly less full than previous years, despite the combination of threats and bribes, and several informed Iranian sources gave estimates of hundreds of thousands. These seem to be confirmed by broadcast photos. The reality is that the regime's count of supporters at Azadi Square was as fake as number of votes Ahmadinejad claimed were cast for him in the June presidential election.

But even so, the people and the revolutionary forces should look at reality and correctly assess the weaknesses and strength of the enemy as well as their own.

What the regime did was not from a position of strength but of weakness and fear of the people's movement. But given the offensive character of the people's protests on Ashura, it was certainly not correct to think that the Islamic regime would remain passive and idly wait for another attack. The Islamic regime not only carried out extensive militarily preparations, it also tried to outmaneuver the people and regain the initiative. For example, when the people went to the usual gathering points they found out that those locations had already been occupied by thousands of Basiji and security forces. It was also not correct to assume that the regime had reached its limits and was on the verge of collapse. It is true that the Islamic regime has become more unpopular and isolated than ever. But it still holds political power, and it has a huge army and the money of a nation to spend for its own interests. The Islamic regime will resist until the last moment and it is not in a mood to back down.

Looking at the people's side, it is true that a popular mass movement exists and the vast majority of the people hate the Islamic regime, its leaders and its principles. That is an important strength of the people's movement. The protest of tens of thousands of Iranian people on February 11 is a great achievement in the face of such repression and considering that they had either no leadership or the leadership of the Green leaders who continuously worked to limit the people's initiative. The fact that the protests happened anyway shows the determination of a section of the people.

However, it was not possible under such circumstances for the people to gain the initiative. It is true that the people's movement has been growing in number and in quality in the last few months and has taken on dangerous dimensions for the ruling power. But that doesn't necessarily mean the movement will continue to grow and develop spontaneously, and that the reactionary ruling power will not be able to seize back the initiative. The fighting people have to see the weaknesses of the movement and try their best to remedy them and develop the movement into a stronger movement.

One of the movement's most important weaknesses is that so many people still go along with the Green leaders and their line. Even among the people who have no faith in the Green leaders, many have various reasons to justify supporting them anyway. Some say yes to the Greens just in order to say no to Ahmadinejad and Khamenei. Some believe they should stay united under the leadership of the Greens because they are the only ones who can unite the people in this situation, or because they do not want to divide the movement. Some people believe they should fight the ruling power step by step, isolating and getting rid of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad first. While there are some points to be seriously considered in some of these reasons, none are enough to justify support for the Green leaders. The Green leaders are part of the Islamic Republic; they say they are "proud" of that. They have repeatedly emphasized their commitment to the Islamic Republic and its principles. Their past confirms that as well. In one way or other they took part in stealing the people's revolution and suppressing the people and their achievements, and the massacre of the political prisoners throughout the 1980s, including the 1987 mass executions. This has to be kept in mind when they say they want to go back to the Islamic regime's founding principles under Khomeini.

The Iranian people are engaging in a serious battle with a brutal regime armed to teeth. The "silent" and "non-violent" movement propagated by reformist and pro-imperialist circles cannot topple it. On the contrary it will buy time until it gets the opportunity to crush the movement.

Revolutionary tactics and strategy are needed to overthrow the Islamic Republic and replace it with a system that really relies on the people and works for the people. A system that does not dictate religion and its grip on the people but keeps religion out of the state, a system where women are not discriminated against and humiliated, a system where national minorities are not oppressed and students are not suppressed, a system that opposes imperialism in reality and does not just pretend to be anti-imperialist while being highly dependent on the imperialist world market. To overthrow the Islamic Republic and achieve freedom and independence, the people must be organized and seriously engage in an uncompromising revolutionary war with a brutal and armed enemy. That is only possible under the leadership of conscious proletarian party armed with the scientific ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.

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

Send us your comments.

Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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From A World To Win News Service:

Communist Party of Iran (MLM): "Prepare to bury the Islamic Republic!"

From the editors of Revolution: We thought this would be of interest to readers:

February 8, 2010. A World to Win News Service. Following are excerpts from a leaflet by the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) of Iran. Dated February 5, it was put out on the occasion of the 31st anniversary of the people's uprising that toppled the Shah in 1979.

As millions of Iranian people all over the country await February 11, their hearts are beating hard. Brave women and men are planning to turn that date into a decisive day. The enemy is also planning to stay in the field and not lose its perilous balance. The chants of "Down with the Islamic Republic of Iran!" will come from the heart and find echo in other hearts.

Over the last eight months the Iranian people's anti-regime movement has significantly inspired the people of the Middle East and other parts of the world. They too are enthusiastically looking forward to February 11. The Western imperialists and Russia and China who are all as reactionary as the Islamic Republic are already speculating about "Iran after February 11" and expressing their concern about the "future of the Middle East and Iran"—which means concern about their interests in Iran and the Middle East!

This year February 11 comes after the Ashura demonstrations [December 26] that were a turning point for the anti-regime movement. In the Ashura demonstrations the people crossed the red lines drawn and imposed by Mousavi, Karoubi and other "Green" movement heads by chanting "Death to the Leader" [Ayatollah Khamenei] and trampling on the religious character of Ashura. Those protests dealt a grave blow to the Islamic fundamentalist leaders that were imposed on our people from 1979, and announced their regime's end. This event terrified the "Leader" (of Islamic Republic) and those around him and provoked them to desperately look for absurd ways to avoid losing all their authority. Even Mousavi and Karoubi referred to the "anti-system" people with fear and once again stressed their loyalty to the Islamic Republic system. They went so far as to recognize the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad's presidency, and offered a new round of negotiations and mediation between the two factions as a "way out of the crisis." But it is too late. The people who have come to fully experience and grasp the antagonistic nature of the Islamic Republic cannot be dragged to the compromise table.

To stay in power, the ruling clique has no option other than to continue its suppression. But for political reasons it is not able to utilize all of its firepower. The dynamics of the situation are such that more suppression will give rise to a more militant and determined people, as well as costing the regime more of its base and support. On the one hand the leaders of the Islamic Republic's reformist faction do not want the Islamic regime to be overthrown under any circumstances. That is why they are showing their willingness to compromise. On the other, they realize that if they do not adapt themselves to this new situation, they can expect a dark future. After the Ashura demonstrations, European states that have had 31 years of nearly uninterrupted relations with the Islamic Republic have come to the conclusion that the Islamic regime will not last long. So they have started to change their foreign policy. All the power centers on a world scale are contending and arguing among themselves about how to determine the future. Each seeks to have the maximum influence on Iran's future. But the most important is that they know that now more than ever, in the complicated situation of this region developments in Iran will have an impact on the Middle Eastern countries and can make a mess of their plans and calculations.

The overthrow of the Islamic Republic is objectively on the agenda. But there is a bigger question that has not yet been resolved and which our party should put on the agenda of the veteran militants and the new generation: what is to be done in order not to repeat the bitter experience of 31 years ago? At that time millions of workers, intellectuals, peasants and the people of the oppressed nationalities (Kurds, Turkmen, Azari, Arabs and Baluchis) came together in a movement that overthrew the despotic monarchy. But the Islamic fundamentalist forces under Khomeini stole the leadership of the revolution. The world's capitalist powers headed by the U.S. quickly opened the way for Islamic fundamentalists to seize power so as to prevent the people's movement from developing a goal beyond opposing the monarchy and under the leadership of revolutionary communists shutting down the functioning of the whole system of oppression and exploitation.

The revolution was defeated. A religious autocracy replaced the despotic monarchy.

The same danger is threatening the people's movement once again. Whether or not there is a repeat of that experience or other bitter experiences such as the constitutional revolution (1908) and the CIA-backed Shah's coup (1953) depends on whether or not a communist pole will be constructed in the people's movement, one with a clear and transparent programme for the future of our society (i.e. the class and socio-economic character of the future state), by a communist party that is not a remnant of the communist movement of the past but a vanguard of the future. A party that in conjunction with the people's struggle will lead it and pave the way for the violent overthrow of the exploiter class. This February 11 should be the beginning of a revolution with clear answers to these three principal questions: What do we want? How can it be achieved? Under what kind of leadership can it be achieved?

To form such a pole the current people's movement should become increasingly conscious. Our slogans and our demands should be a guideline for the overthrow of the Islamic republic, and they should reflect the future society—a society that has qualitatively different characteristics than the present one. Our methods of struggle should exhibit the seriousness and acuteness of class antagonism. The reformist faction of the regime and the intellectuals who support them warn the youth against non-peaceful forms of struggles and preach against the "disadvantages" of armed struggle. However, these hypocrites are well aware that the Islamic Republic system is protected by a military armed to the teeth and the criminal and horrifying security forces, and these reformists themselves are counting on the influence they have in the Pasdaran corps and army and other security forces.

The reformist factions, like all the reactionary rulers, see themselves as the only legitimate possessors of the right to hold and use arms, just as they see their own political power as the only legitimate one. But the interests of the majority of the people depend on whether the most oppressed people will be in the front lines and become the main forces of revolution and under a communist leadership seize political power —and based on that create a society that will be in the service of the majority of the people and controlled by the people.

It is not possible for "peaceful" forms of struggle to snatch political power from the grip of those whose deep economic interests are protected by arms and military forces. It is only through revolutionary war that people can shatter the military forces of the enemy and win political power. Preparation is required for launching a revolutionary war, and a section of advanced people should be conscious of its necessity and organize their force in this direction.

Turning the street battles into organized and planned battles is an important step towards such preparations. Shattering the Evin prison gates, punishing the regime's mercenaries in the streets and neighborhoods, the achievement of demands such as "Free the political prisoners" and "Abolish the compulsory hijab" [head covering] are all part of the struggle to overthrow this regime. In these battles masses will learn how to respond to the unjust violence with a just and uncompromising struggle, how to refuse to tolerate that violence and humiliation, and taste real life and its meaningful struggle.

This regime will be overthrown but it will resist until the last moment. So we should be prepared for the bloodshed by these criminals. That means the youth should be prepared to defend their people and their freedom by tooth and nail.

We should not let the regime's mercenaries easily attack the people. We should not let these mercenaries kidnap youth from their houses or break into university dormitories and execute people in their medieval dungeons. We should not let them hang our youth, in public or in hidden places. We should not let them stone any more women to death. We should not allow their ears and eyes [intelligence services, basiji militia and snitches] rule in our living and work places.

In other words, we have to win our freedom and what belongs to us with our own hands, either with the gun or the fist.

The process of this regime's fall has already begun. Their horrifying regime was born on February 11 (22 of Bahman 1357) 1979. Let February 11, 2010 be the beginning of its death.

Let's chant the slogan "Down with the Islamic Republic" and spread it far and wide all over the country. We should work so that the workers—men and women—pour out of factories and poor suburbs and join the crowds of the people and strengthen the waves of the people's resistance and struggle. Let our communist youth with their bright red flags be the harbingers of a new future, a new political, economic and social system that carries the banner of the emancipation of the whole of humanity.

We cannot let the Green leaders chart the future or set its horizons. Otherwise, as over the last 31 years they will use deception and hypocrisy to strengthen the pillars that the Islamic Republic rests on.

The Islamic Republic's machine, with its prisons, torture and execution, has been continuously grinding up the communists, freedom fighters, and striking workers, the youth who are frustrated by the lack of the work and a future and women who dare to refuse to wear the chains of slavery. But at last the streams of rage and hatred against all this oppression and injustice are turning into a storm that is going to bury the Islamic Republic forever.

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

Send us your comments.

Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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International Women's Day 2010

Break the Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women As a Mighty Force for REVOLUTION

When so few dare...

The following has been issued by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA:

On International Women's Day we are taking to the streets to call for something sorely needed and unseen in generations: an uncompromising outpouring of fury and resistance from women and men who want to see women, the world over, lifted from centuries of being condemned to being treated as the possessions of men.

March 8 is special this year. This year we are honored to stand together with and affirm our sisters and brothers in Iran who for the last year have heroically defied batons, bullets, harsh prisons and now hanging. In a society where women are denied basic rights—where a woman who doesn't cover her hair faces jail and up to 80 lashes, and where it is still legal for a woman found guilty of adultery to be stoned to death—a new generation of young women are joining their brothers in the streets, with many of them confidently throwing off their head coverings and demanding an end to the theocratic regime.


Because in the 21st century women are still being stoned to death for sleeping with the wrong man—at the same time that women by the tens of millions are being forced by the workings of capitalism-imperialism into prostitution in a globalized "sex industry."

Because slavery—both literal and in barely disguised form—has made a worldwide comeback, with young girls abducted and offered up from desperately impoverished villages and mega-cities of the oppressed nations of the globe and transported across borders.

Because we live in a capitalist culture where women are devalued and reduced to disembodied breasts and bottoms—advertised at every turn as objects that exist for the sexual gratification of men. Because sexuality and human intimacy have been twisted into being just another commodity: a thing to be bought and sold and exploited in the marketplace, instead of a way to express love and as a source of mutual pleasure.

Because some women are defined and confined by the role of mother and denied full participation in the wider world, while other women—again mainly from the impoverished and oppressed nations of this globe—must leave their children for years to work in the rich nations and send home badly needed money for their family's survival.

Because of all this and so much more, we need a revolution. And we are building a movement for revolution.

When a young girl growing up in this culture cuts herself, starves herself or hates herself, and when this goes on in epidemic proportions—it's not merely a personal problem.

When a woman cannot walk the street anywhere on this planet for fear of rape—this is not merely a personal problem.

When a woman is denied reproductive freedom—when she cannot get a condom in Africa, an abortion in Latin America or birth control from a pharmacist in the United States who subscribes to a cruel Christian fascist morality, the problem is global and systemic.

These horrors that happen by the billion are not because of the "bad choices" of individuals—they happen because of backward institutions propped up by an outmoded economic and political system. This must go.

When half of humanity is held down—all of humanity is held back. It is long past time for people to wake up—it's time to refuse to accept this as the natural order of things. There is no biological, god-given or man-made reason for things to remain this way—these days must be gone and they can be.

Imagine for a moment women being treated like human beings—not lesser, not inferior but as full human beings capable of participating fully and equally in every realm of human endeavor. This is real and possible. But because the oppression of women is bound so deeply into the fabric of society here and around the world... because it is so intricately and intimately bound together with all the other forms of oppression in capitalist society... it will take a total revolution—communist revolution—to liberate women.

The Revolutionary Communist Party is building a movement for revolution. Never has revolutionary communism been more radical and scientific and viable than with its advance and development through the leadership of Bob Avakian. This is a communism that builds on the extremely significant (and suppressed) achievements of the past revolutionary movements and societies, while critically examining their shortcomings in conception and practice; this is a communism that on that basis is bringing forward radically new insights and pathways for change. Avakian's far-seeing new synthesis of communism takes the full emancipation of women as a cornerstone for a revolution that is serious about uprooting and abolishing all exploitation, oppression and the degrading social relations and ideas that go along with this—here and all over the world—and it does this in whole new ways.

In this revolution the defiance and impatience women feel is welcomed and sustained as a mighty force that can move us all forward in the fight to emancipate all humanity. In this revolution, women and men are transforming themselves as part of fighting for a world worth living in. This revolution is real and it's creating the kind of ethos, culture, and communist morality for women to be fully unleashed, not some time later, but in this struggle today.

March 8th March! Assemble that day1 and bring with you examples of and symbols of the kind of oppression that squanders and suffocates the spirits and lives of women and say "NO MORE."

1. Go online at or call your local Revolution Books (page 15) for information on actions on March 8, as well as other programs and other manifestations of International Women's Day celebrations. [back]

The revolutionary movement today must be a living manifestation of the new social relations between men and women and a new morality that fosters mutual respect and equality. As Bob Avakian has put it:

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


Send us your comments.

Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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Reflections on the First Round of the Raymond Lotta Campus Speaking Tour

Breaking Open the "Communism Debate"

by Raymond Lotta

A highly unusual scene took place last November at the University of Chicago.  320 people, the vast majority undergraduate students, crowded into a lecture hall to hear—and debate—a speaker that most had never heard of two weeks earlier on a topic we are constantly told is no longer on the map.

I was the speaker.

The topic? "Everything You've Been Told About Communism Is Wrong: Capitalism Is A Failure, Revolution Is The Solution." This was part of a national campus tour that began in the fall and is going to continue—and heighten—over the next few months.

I'll come back to what transpired that night in Hyde Park a little later. But first I want to say a little about WHY this tour now—the need it's seeking to fill, and the larger objectives it's part of.

To speak bluntly, the intellectual and ideological climate in the universities today is marked by a paucity of radical discourse, radical ferment, and revolutionary imagination. This is a big problem in society. And it poses a serious challenge. The fact is that if there is to be a revolution in this society, indeed if there is to be any degree of serious resistance and ferment that challenges the status quo, the question of a radically different world needs to be broadly taken up and debated by students and intellectuals, and that debate in turn needs to bubble up into society.

Here we are. Clearly this is a world that cries out for radical change. The world is a horror: the escalating U.S. war for greater empire...the penning of over a million African-Americans into the prisons of this country...the degradation that confronts women everywhere...the accelerating environmental emergency. But the question is posed: is revolution possible, or even desirable?

Since the defeat of socialism and restoration of capitalism in China following Mao's death in 1976 (a counterrevolution obscured by the fact that China's current leaders call themselves communist)—the imperialists have passed up no opportunity to attack and smother communism. "Revolution...don't go'll end up devouring yourselves." The message is that the best you can do is to tinker on the edges of the system.

This ideological assault on communism exacts a heavy toll. Most students know little if anything about communism, and most of what they do know, or think they know, is wrong. Professors who at one time would have (rightly) dismissed studies by reactionary scholars that ritualistically demonize Stalin as cold war hackery now uncritically accept their premises and conclusions. The dreaming of the young generation is shackled.

This is the milieu that this tour is entering into...and seeking to radically change.

Where I'm Coming From


Who Has Been Coming Out to Debate Communism?

The Raymond Lotta campus tour events have drawn an interesting cross section of students. At NYU and even more so at the University of Chicago, the controversy and turnouts began to approach a certain threshold where the tour was starting to have a larger campus-wide impact. Who has been coming out so far?

* There have been the defenders of capitalism. In some cases, these were libertarian types with strong anticommunist views. In other cases, these were people who felt that a "pure capitalism," not the really existing capitalism of the world, offered the greatest benefits of individual initiative and reward.

This sort of "utopian capitalism" has real influence, even as capitalism is in crisis. It is a view of capitalism that separates profit from its source, exploitation. In part, the reason for this is obvious: it is what the reigning orthodoxy promotes. At the same time, this notion of an "ideal capitalism" flourishes in an atmosphere where there is not at this time widespread, visceral hatred, among significant sections of students, for the crimes of capitalism and the U.S. empire.

Overlapping with this grouping were the committed opponents of communism, including people coming out to raise charges of mass murder. Some were quite puffed up and vociferous. But this was all part of the mix...yes, I was taking on all comers.

* There was a section of students who wanted to hear whether and how a compelling case could be made for socialism and communism—and if that case could stand up to scrutiny and question. These students were motivated by a certain intellectual curiosity but also by a sense of larger social injustice.

Many of these students wanted to test their own and received ideas...and see my ideas and convictions put to the test. They felt the weight of an oppressive status quo, but some of them felt that it was just as wrong to indict capitalism as a system as it was to totally dismiss socialism—maybe there could be some "blend" of the two. Some of these people were receptive to what I was bringing out about human potential and the possibility of a different world—but they were also struggling not to let go of much of what I was challenging in their thinking.

One student wrote on a questionnaire: "If all your facts and predictions are true, I think I agree with you. But I am wary of human nature, practicality." That seemed to express a strong sentiment in the audience.

* There was a smaller grouping of students who had anticapitalist and radical inclinations, and who came with substantive and heartfelt questions about making revolution and creating a new society. Some were influenced by different trends of socialist, Marxist, and anarchist thought. Some were influenced by different strands of radical social theory taught by certain professors.

Many of these students are intrigued by a coherent and spirited defense of the past, present, and future of the communist project. They do not want to embrace what is wrong masquerading as what it is right...and they do not want to accept the world as it is.

Several of these students said they agreed very much with what I was putting forward about revolution but could not see how we could motivate people who seem so complacent. How do you change people's consciousness and their priorities? We got into revolutionary strategy. At NYU, there were questions about socialism and women's liberation and about religious belief and the struggle around religion in socialist society.

At UC, when I started talking about Avakian, some in the audience began googling his name. A student came up afterward and asked, "If I am going to read one thing by Bob Avakian so I can learn more about the new synthesis, what would it be?" Clearly, the talk and debate piqued interest in Bob Avakian.

I base my work on Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism. Avakian has deeply summed up the Bolshevik and Chinese revolutions—their overwhelming achievements as well as their problems and limitations—and firmly grounds himself in the stream of thought and revolutionary practice that stretches from Marx through Lenin to Mao. At the same time, he's introduced some very new—some radically new—dimensions to communist methodology and to the understanding of the character of the socialist transition period, the basis and practice of communist internationalism, and revolutionary strategy.

The speech I've been giving does two main things: I'm bringing to students a vital historical understanding of the experience of socialist revolution in the 20th century that punctures the official verdicts on communism as a "failed utopian project" that can only lead to "totalitarian nightmare." I do so with facts and analysis and showing that these verdicts rest on misrepresentations, distortions, and lies.

Second, I am introducing students and intellectuals to Bob Avakian's vision of a vibrant and emancipatory communism. The idea here is to bring something new and radical on to the campus scene, begin to change the situation in a few key places, and do all this as part of an effort to popularize revolution—communist revolution—in society more broadly.

A Harbinger

As I said earlier, that beginning was most vividly in evidence at the University of Chicago. Some 320 students came out—it was standing room only—to hear my presentation. People had found out about the event through leaflets, posters, a newspaper announcement, sidewalk graffiti, and word of mouth.

I had issued a challenge, and it struck a chord of interest and curiosity, and outrage as well. Could I really defend communism? Was I serious about "taking on all comers," as I had promised?

The audience was engaged. People posed deep questions about the division of labor in society, and asked how a socialist economy would perform better than capitalism. Someone else asked: Will the right decisions about environmentally sustainable technology be made—and will they be made in the right ways, not just arbitrarily decided? He was skeptical and aggressively grilled me...and, I must say, very much on point. Bob Avakian's new synthesis speaks in depth to real questions and concerns that people have about socialism—and this is the framework out of which I am responding to such concerns and criticisms.

Someone stood up and charged that Mao was responsible for 30 million needless deaths during the collectivization and social upsurge of the Great Leap Forward. I argued the falsity of the number, the statistical methods and political agenda behind these numbers, and got into the actual policies guiding the experience of the Great Leap Forward. People were checking facts and statistics on Blackberries and computers.

There came a certain moment of reckoning. A woman argued that the policy of sending professionals and doctors to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution was unfair and heartless, especially to their families. She received some applause. I said this was not a correct characterization of a very important social initiative to overcome the division between the cities and countryside, but also argued that social compulsion is not in and of itself a bad thing. There was derision from some in the audience. I went on. Legal segregation in the U.S., for instance, could not be ended without certain policies backed by the force of law and the power of the state—though, I further explained, you cannot rely on social compulsion to fundamentally change the world and people's thinking. This prompted reflection and a kind of reset in mood and thinking among others in the audience.

The campus newspaper, The Chicago Maroon, began its front-page account of the event this way: "In a talk that was part history and part sociology class, scholar and activist Raymond Lotta spoke to a packed room advocating the return of communism to the intellectual agenda." They were right. I am trying to put communism back on the agenda, but this is no mere academic dispute.

At the heart of this debate is the question of human possibility: how the first wave of socialist revolutions marked a historic breakthrough for humanity in creating societies free from exploitation and oppression, and how the world we live in can be transformed into something radically different and liberating, where human beings can flourish.

There is a lesson here: coexisting with the fact that people do not know anything about communism is a certain openness to engaging on this—exactly because it has been ruled so off the agenda.

A few days after the program, I talked with a grad student and acquaintance of mine at UC. He told me that he had been rather doubtful that this kind of event could take place at the University of Chicago. He was thrilled by the interest and controversy the program ignited: "I guess this sort of thing happened in the 1960s"—and then, pausing for a moment, added, "well maybe not like this." He was also right.

This was a presentation and debate about communism...straight up. Students were discussing and debating not just the history of communism but communism in its most developed, scientific form: Avakian's new synthesis.

Exposing Shoddy Scholarship

The event at the University of Chicago was a real success and important beginning, but our plan now is not to replicate it but to build on this experience, and take it higher. We are aiming to ultimately change the discourse of the whole society, and we are doing this with a keen sense of urgency. But precisely in order to take this further, I want to draw out a few key things we've been learning.

One thing that stands out about the tour is just how eye-opening it is, especially for students, to find out what even "state of the art" scholarship gets away with when it comes to communism—and I'm speaking of major matters of analysis and documentation. Students are incredulous to find out that, as we argue, they are systematically lied to about the history of communism. Some are indignant that we could suggest that they were being "intellectually taken." This is a dynamic factor, a source of controversy and debate, feeding into the programs.

In my speech, I give examples of this shoddy scholarship. To take one. In the book Mao: The Unknown Story, considered to be an authoritative biography of Mao, the authors claim that Mao was so maniacally bent on building China into an industrial superpower that he was prepared to throw away the lives of literally hundreds of millions. They quote a section of a speech by Mao in which he talks about huge numbers of likely deaths. But I carefully demonstrate (and this can be seen on YouTube) how this quote is torn totally out of context, and that Mao is actually saying precisely the opposite of what the authors allege.

I also point to an egregious instance of intellectual chicanery by Harvard scholar Roderick MacFarquhar in his massive and "authoritative" book on the Cultural Revolution. For now, I can only indicate that this drew an audible collective gasp from the audience. Rather than go into that here (and this will be going up on YouTube), let me say that I will be speaking at Harvard this spring. And let me say further: if Roderick MacFarquhar would like to defend his scholarship, or debate me on any other point of fact or analysis, I would be more than happy to change my speaking engagement to an equal-time debate with MacFarquhar. (I'll return to this point on debate a little later in this piece.)

This unmasking of the methods of such noted "China experts" and "China scholars" shakes people up. Students begin to see just how pervasive these misrepresentations are, and this awareness begins to raise questions about the seemingly solid edifice of anticommunist summation. New questions are thrown up about the search for the truth and critical thinking, about who has right (the facts and accurate understanding) on their side, and who has institutional might on their side (and how that influences what is deemed to be "right").

People also began to appreciate and become more open to the new information that I am communicating about what actually happened during the Cultural Revolution, why it was the most liberating episode in human history, and what its problems were.

A Vibrant and Serious Debate

But there is something else as well. People coming out to these programs are holding me accountable to the same standards of truth that I emphasize are so lacking in the mainstream academia when it comes to the question of communism. And so the discussions rolled on at the NYU program: what actually took place in Tibet during the Cultural Revolution? If temples were in fact destroyed, then who was responsible, why did it happen, and was this Mao's policy?

This kind of sharp interrogation is a good thing. It contributes to putting the debate that is needed on solid ground. And if people can show that my arguments are wrong, then fine, this is what we communists methodologically value: we need to get at the truth if we are going to deeply understand and radically change the world.

If we are going to change the situation on campuses, this can only happen through the most robust debate and controversy. We are telling people: if you are seriously concerned about the state of the world, you need to bring your toughest and most vexing questions to these programs. And to those who want to defend the system, we are telling them: we will take on your arguments.

It means a lot when people can engage, and see others engage, on these questions, in a no-holds-barred way. It means a lot when fervent advocates of neoliberal capitalism are being challenged by me, and challenging me, in a setting where the core question is: is a radically different world possible?

At NYU and the University of Chicago, two op-ed pieces in the campus and community papers attacked my speech. Both excoriated me for ignoring "Stalin's crimes" and "Stalin's victims." I responded with op-eds in the same papers directly taking on their charges. I discussed the challenges facing the Russian Revolution and what was going on during the 1930s. And I offered substantive, non-sensationalistic evaluation of Stalin and his errors. Think about it: in the campus papers of two major academic institutions, a two-sided debate about the history of communism. This is something new, but this has to break out into wider streams of intellectual discourse.

Who Has Been Coming Out—And Who Has NOT Been

In the accompanying sidebar, I go into some depth into the different trends of thought that have been in evidence during these speeches and the debates that have followed. Briefly this has encompassed defenders of capitalism and, with some overlap, committed opponents of communism; students who want to hear whether a compelling case can be made for socialism and communism; and a small section of more radical students who had very serious questions about whether revolution could be made and a radically better society actually brought into being.

But while students have responded to the challenge the tour has put out, liberal ideologues of anticommunism have largely stayed away. They have not felt compelled to come out to debate and defend their positions. This is a weakness. If this tour is going to substantially impact the intellectual terrain, it must involve various forms of direct and open intellectual-ideological engagement with these ideologues and their defenders.

We made a start at NYU. I issued an open letter to Tony Judt, the prominent public intellectual and avatar of liberal anticommunism. Judt equates communism with Nazism. He propounds the view that communism is a "closed and totalizing" system of thought intent on "solving the problems of mankind in one stroke"—leading to "moral disaster."

Calling this out, I wrote: "You are wrong, you are spreading lies, you don't know what you are talking about, and you are causing great harm." But I also emphasized that Bob Avakian's new synthesis recognizes the indispensable role of intellectual ferment in socialist society. Indeed, socialism must be a place where a Tony Judt can and must have the ability to articulate and disseminate his views, and where these views will be debated. And I invited Judt to attend the NYU program.

A few progressive professors commented on my letter. One supported my issuing it, saying that in his estimation and experience, Judt plays a very reactionary ideological role. Another scholar welcomed the letter, suggesting it would contribute to building the tour on his campus. But, he added, he could not personally circulate my letter unless it originated from some academic source or site not directly associated with the tour. Overall, the responses I was getting indicated that people appreciated the fact that I was stepping out on these questions, but also seemed to be signaling that this takes a lot of intellectual courage.

Clearly, this liberal anticommunism constrains and constricts intellectual-political discourse. And, just as clearly, it has gone uncontested for too long.

A Challenge

So I will not only reiterate my challenge to MacFarquhar (or to anyone who wishes to defend MacFarquhar), but I will also guarantee that this spring I will, on every campus that I speak at, do all I can to pose this challenge to these anticommunists provocatively enough that, in the words of the boxing maxim, "they can run but they can't hide."

But to do this, I am also asking those of you who have significant differences with the communist project—or who even disagree vehemently with us—but who nonetheless see the great importance of discourse between committed opponents who can bring substance to bear in a debate... I am asking you to help in bringing positive moral compulsion on anticommunist intellectuals to actually argue out their position with someone who can take them on.

One thing my tour thus far proves: there are students there who do want to hear about alternatives to the current order of the world. They deserve to hear those ideas argued out by their best defenders and fiercest opponents. And they—and the discourse of all of society—are cheated when such debate does not occur.

With this in mind, I am calling on students, professors, and scholars to contribute ideas and energy, and to contact me, so that this crucial debate that I am opening up can happen on the scale it must and promote the kind of ferment that is so sorely needed.

Raymond Lotta is a revolutionary intellectual who takes Bob Avakian's new synthesis as his foundation. He has written and lectured extensively on issues of the world economy, the experience of socialist revolution in the 20th century, especially the Cultural Revolution in China, and communist revolution in today's world.

Spread the Word and Help Crack Open the Debate: Raymond Lotta Tour to Hit Columbia and Harvard Campuses this Spring

Raymond Lotta's speaking tour, "Everything You've Been Told About Communism Is Wrong: Capitalism Is A Failure, Revolution Is The Solution," will be coming to Columbia and Harvard universities this spring.

At these programs Lotta gives a dynamic presentation, followed by a no-holds-barred dialogue and debate. As part of the tour, Raymond Lotta will also be speaking in the media...writing op-ed pieces... creating YouTube segments taking on prominent liberal anticommunist ideologues...meeting with students and professors.

This tour has already revealed enormous potential—and it needs to go to a whole new level. People should be getting the word out about the Columbia and Harvard programs in creative ways. And funds are needed to build and spread the tour. This is something very new on the scene, and it requires broad support and assistance.

  • Informational and promotional material will become available at
  • Donations can be sent, and checks made out to, Raymond Lotta LLC, 315 Flatbush Ave., #319, Brooklyn, NY 11217.
  • To bring Raymond Lotta to your campus, write

Send us your comments.

Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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[Editors' note: The following is the tenth in a series of excerpts from the text of a talk by Bob Avakian in Fall 2009, which is being serialized in Revolution. The first nine excerpts appeared in Revolution #184-192. The entire talk can be found online at]

III. The New Synthesis and the Woman Question: The Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution—Further Leaps and Radical Ruptures

Here again, I want to emphasize the point with which I began this talk as a whole: Much of this I am still working on and grappling with myself, and much of what follows will be more in the nature of a scaffolding than a fully elaborated discussion. So while what follows will include points of basic orientation and analysis, which I feel are important to be firmly taking hold of and acting on, to a significant degree the purpose and aim here is to offer some food for thought and sense of direction, while at the same time promoting, and provoking, further wrangling with these decisive questions.

The question of the status—the oppression and the struggle for the liberation—of women is objectively coming to the forefront in today's world and posing itself ever more profoundly and acutely. This fact is being recognized and spoken to by a number of people representing very different class viewpoints, but who remain within the framework of a world of imperialist domination, class division, ruthless exploitation and oppressive social divisions and relations. We see this, for example, in the book which I referred to earlier by Michelle Goldberg (The Means of Reproduction) as well as in a major article in the New York Times Magazine and a new book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (see "The Women's Crusade," in the New York Times Magazine, August 23, 2009, an essay adapted from the book by Kristof and WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009).

Here is a point worth reflecting on, which has been raised by another leading comrade in our party: This focus on the status of women, particularly in the Third World, is being raised by these various bourgeois-democratic forces, both out of a genuine belief that this is an outrage which must be addressed—while approaching this entirely from within the framework of bourgeois and imperialist-dominated relations—and out of a sense that this is one key way to go after, undermine and eventually defeat radical Islam. In other words, an aspect of this is how it is part of a strategic approach on behalf of one historically "outmoded"—imperialist ruling strata—in opposition to another historically "outmoded"—reactionary Islamic fundamentalism.

So in this context, as well as in the larger, world-historic context of the communist revolution, there is a profound and pressing need for those representing the emancipatory goals of the communist revolution, with its final aim of the abolition of all class divisions and all relations of exploitation and oppression, to make further leaps and ruptures in our understanding of and approach to the woman question, in theory and in practice—in the realm of ideological and political line, and mobilizing mass struggle based on that line—in accordance with the pivotal and decisive role this question objectively occupies, not only in terms of ending the millennia of subjugation and degradation of half of humanity, but also the way in which this is integrally and indispensably bound up with the emancipation of humanity as a whole and the advance to a whole new era in human history with the achievement of communism throughout the world.

In this light and from this perspective, I want to offer some thinking on key aspects of how this challenge is presenting itself and on the necessary work and struggle to achieve the leaps and ruptures that are objectively and indeed urgently called for.

The Oppression of Women and the "Two Outmodeds"

To begin with, the oppression of women is a decisive dimension of what Marx referred to as the enslaving subordination of people to the division of labor, which has been a phenomenon ever since class divisions—and, along with them, the oppression of women—emerged in human society, and which must be overcome in order to advance to communism.

Now, as far back as Red Papers 3,1 published by the Revolutionary Union (the forerunner of our party) about 40 years ago now, this point—how the oppression of women is a decisive dimension of the enslaving division of labor in society—was made. But Red Papers 3, and our thinking at that time overall, was not only undeveloped in general and specifically on the woman question, but it was also significantly influenced by economism (and by related trends which also ultimately amounted to seeking reforms within the existing system and ran counter to a truly revolutionary communism), and this had its effects, as I will discuss through the course of the remaining part of this talk.

In today's world, with regard to the woman question we see again the relevance of the "two historically outmodeds." In A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity, published by our party earlier this year (2009), the following is cited:

What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these "outmodeds," you end up strengthening both.2

That Declaration immediately goes on to emphasize the point that:

Between these two "outmodeds" it is the imperialist ruling classes, and that of the U.S. in particular, which have, by far, done the most harm to humanity and pose the greatest threats. In fact, imperialist domination itself in the Middle East, Indonesia, and elsewhere—along with the massive disruption and dislocation that this domination causes, and the corruption, venality and vicious repression characteristic of the local governments that are dependent on and serve imperialism—gives great fuel to the fire of Islamic fundamentalism as a response to all this, although a reactionary one.

This brings into relief the way in which the other "outmoded"—that is, medieval forms of the oppression of women by Islamic fundamentalists and others in parts of the Third World—is being utilized by those who, at least objectively, side with the imperialist "outmoded" and attempt to prettify—and in some aspects even to promote—the "modern" forms of the oppression of women that are more common in the imperialist countries, and to divert attention and struggle around the oppression of women into a framework that reinforces the imperialist system, which is in reality the main and most fundamental force perpetuating oppression, including of the most horrific kinds, in all parts of the world.

This puts into the appropriate perspective the role being played, at least objectively, by people like Goldberg and Kristof and WuDunn, with the analysis they are propagating, and the programs they are promoting, as supposed answers to the oppression of women. Even if we allow that they are genuinely outraged by many manifestations of this oppression, they are still leading everything back into the very framework of the system which is fundamentally the cause of all this.

The following, also from A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity, powerfully refutes the attempt to portray the imperialist "outmoded"—or, more specifically, the "modern" and "liberal" variations of this "outmoded"—as the standard bearer of the liberation of women:

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

The burkha and the thong—hideous embodiments of the degradation of women

To cite another important passage from this Declaration:

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

Now, in addition to the obvious and egregious manifestations of the oppression of women, not only in the Third World, but also in the U.S. itself—the widespread rape and brutality and degradation that are part of the social relations and the prevailing culture which are promoted in this society and all over the world—it is important to focus on some particular aspects of how the woman question is actually posed in the U.S. today, while situating this in the context of significant changes that have taken place over a few decades.

As we know, women have entered in very large numbers into the work force in the U.S. in this period. In fact, recently it has been pointed out that, if present trends continue, it will very soon be the case that women will actually outnumber men in the work force in the U.S., which is obviously a very significant development. This is a result of changes in the economy (the U.S. economy, in the context of the overall world economy) which have both made possible and necessary this drawing of women into employment in large numbers; and this also plays a part in "stabilizing" U.S. society through the development and furthering of a certain middle class standard of living and "lifestyle" which is only possible to maintain, for significant numbers of people in the U.S. today, through women as well as men working. This involves a very great change from the era of the Mad Men on TV, for example (the early 1960s), where the women were in the home and one man working in a middle class position was able to supply this kind of standard of living and lifestyle for the family as a whole. But changes that have taken place have resulted in a situation where it is only possible to maintain this status and this standard of living and lifestyle through the women working as well as the men. This is a very significant development.

And, of course, this did not happen automatically as a result of developments and changes in the economy, but also occurred as a result of concessions wrung and changes brought about through the whole upsurge of the '60s and, in particular, the movement for women's liberation which developed through the 1960s and into the 1970s. These two factors together—changes in the economy and struggle brought forth through the movement of the 1960s, and in particular the women's liberation movement—have led to significant changes in the status of women in many different dimensions, including in the sphere of work, even while women continue to be discriminated against systematically in work, including in pay and opportunities for advancement and so on—the "glass ceiling" still exists.3

But, as we emphasized, even while there is a need, on the part of the ruling class, to promote and foster a significant "middle class" as a force of stability and, in very important ways, of conservatism, there is also a pressing need of this system to maintain traditional relations—particularly as these are concentrated in the patriarchal family and the position and role of women in society overall. And, in this situation, the changes to which I have referred here are clashing sharply against the extremely aggressive attempts of the Christian Fascists and other openly reactionary forces to more firmly assert and enforce tradition's chains, particularly as applied to women—to openly, overtly chain women in a subordinate and oppressed condition, relying heavily on biblical tradition as the ideological basis for this (as is discussed, for example, in Away With All Gods!).

What I pointed out, speaking over 20 years ago now to the situation in the U.S., remains profoundly true and of pivotal importance in terms of the fundamental direction of society and, indeed, the world overall. I wrote then: "The whole question of the position and role of women in society is more and more acutely posing itself in today's extreme circumstances." This was in the context, back in the 1980s, where there was in reality a growing danger of world war—those are the particular extreme circumstances that were being referred to in this statement—but today there are different particular extreme circumstances and real crisis that exists, and this statement, concerning the acute terms in which the position and role of women is posing itself, continues to have profound meaning now. As that statement goes on to emphasize:

It is not conceivable that all this will find any resolution other than in the most radical terms.... The question yet to be determined is: will it be a radical reactionary or a radical revolutionary resolution, will it mean the reinforcing of the chains of enslavement or the shattering of the most decisive links in those chains and the opening up of the possibility of realizing the complete elimination of all forms of such enslavement?

1. The Red Papers 3, Women Fight for Liberation, was published in 1970 by the Bay Area Revolutionary Union. It is currently out of print. [back]

2. Here the Declaration is quoting a statement that originally appeared in Bob Avakian's talk "Why We're in the Situation We're In Today... And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution." This talk is available online at [back]

3. While, to a significant degree, the dramatic rise in female employment in the U.S. in the last several decades has involved women in the professions and families of "middle class status," broadly defined, there has also been a marked increase in the number of working class and poor women who are employed outside the home—and all this has been accompanied by a major influx of immigrant women working in low-wage jobs, as well as those trapped in illicit enterprises, such as prostitution. Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy, edited with an introduction by Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild (Holt Paperbacks, 2002), examines the phenomenon of the feminization of migrant labor, "legal" and "illegal," on a global scale in the last few decades—especially that involving the typical pattern of migration from poor to rich countries—and shines a light on important aspects of how this serves to perpetuate the imperialist system and the "lifestyles" of those in more privileged positions within the imperialist citadels, such as the U.S., a parasitism which, to no small degree, requires the hardships and often brutal exploitation—including outright slavery, particularly in the case of many trapped in the "sex industry"—endured by millions and millions of these women migrant workers. [back]

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Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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From March 8 Women's Organization (Iran-Afghanistan)

March in Support of Women Warriors in Streets of Tehran

Let us celebrate the International Women's Day 2010 in solidarity with Iranian women who in the last 8 months have been braving street battles with the Police force and militia thugs of the Islamic Republic of Iran – one of the most brutal women hating regimes on the planet Earth. Many have been arrested, injured and even killed in these street battles and others have been picked up by the security forces in their work place, class rooms and university dormitories. These women who dare death need nothing less than the complete overthrow of the IRI – and this is a growing sentiment. And in doing this they need the internationalist support and love of their sisters – and their brothers – around the world. If they achieve this, it will be a new day for women in the Middle East and a victory for women's liberation movement and for ending all oppression in the world.

Islamic Republic regime came into being 31 years ago as a result of defeat of Iranian people's anti-monarchical revolution. The revolution was aborted when reactionary Islamic fundamentalists headed by Ayatollah Khomeini seized the leadership of the masses and used their energy and sacrifices to establish a reactionary theocratic state. The U.S. and other Western powers opened the way for Islamic fundamentalists to seize power. Less than a month after seizure of power, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a decree declaring Hejab a compulsory outfit for women. Tens of thousands of women took to the streets of Tehran in what is come to be known as: 5 days uprising. They fought and chanted: We Did Not Make Revolution to Go Backwards. This uprising was a call to all other strata of people to wake up. But most people did not see the truth that women's oppression is a decisive feature of all reactionary states and social systems and women's liberation is a determining feature of any real revolution. Our society paid dearly for this ignorance.

Now women of Iran are back on the offensive. Their fearless struggles in the streets of Tehran have elated and inspired many people around the world. But the road ahead is full of pitfalls and dangers. The political danger is that women are fighting heroically against guardians of this reactionary law and order but most of them are not armed with an understanding of what it takes to be liberated. Even their most basic demands have gotten lost in the midst of a general movement which itself is suffering from the same malaise.

One of the big hurdles in the way of women's liberation movement is the reactionary Green leadership headed by Mussavi. This leadership is working to confine people's aspirations and movement to "reforming" the IRI. It preaches to people that the epoch of radical change (revolutions) has finished and it is the epoch of extremely gradual change – ie, people first should sacrifice their lives to put these people into office and trust them to gradually improve the system. These leaders preach that the people should treat the Basiji Militia and Pasdaran Guards with love and compassion when attacked by them – which for women means to treat their rapists with love and compassion even while being raped. They preach to people not to get organized, instead come to street protests when the Green headquarters calls them to and come as individuals – just like going to the ballot box of one man one vote! They warn against debating different programs and roads for future society among people and promise that the sea of difference which exists between their agenda and the will of people will be dealt with later through "really free voting processes." The fact that the Green leadership has suppressed and called off any demand or slogan in support of abolition of compulsory Hejab and anti-women Sharia inspired Constitution and Penal codes is a strong sign of their reactionary nature and agenda. Mussavi himself was prime minister in the first decade of IRI and worked whole heartedly to enforce inferior status of women under the IRI. Mussavi's program and motto, as he himself has announced repeatedly is: "Islamic Republic – not a word more and not a word less." But the Islamic Republic that he embraces so lovingly is a reactionary system based on subordination of women to men, covering women from head to toe is the linchpin of its moral tenets, and stoning those women who court the "wrong" men is a guarantor of its "social coherence." Those who do not want to uphold such a reactionary social system must do away with the Green leadership too. Let us not forget that the "Campaign of One Million Signature" and its affiliates are acting as the arm of the Green leadership within the women's movement.

Different arrays of reactionary forces are bent to crush and snuff out once again the Iranian women's struggle for freedom and equality. This must not be allowed. A different way, a revolutionary road must be opened up. Revolutionary women think hard about these things and call upon women and other strata of people to adopt clear and unambiguous revolutionary perspective and warn that without this our sacrifices will become assets for another set of reactionaries in order to re-establish this system and even worse.

It is not just the national reactionary political forces who are jockeying to use people's anger and resistance towards their own agenda. The big powers in the world are doing their utmost in order to prevent this upheaval from striking at them and their interests. The U.S. ruling factions are debating actively how to utilize the present upheaval in Iran in order to advance their imperialist interests in Iran and the Middle East.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is the most reactionary oppressive state that the women of Iran have experienced. But the imperialist ruling classes of the U.S. who have been ravaging the peoples of the Middle East with bloody ruthless wars of conquest and plunder are no better and their attempts to justify their crimes in the Middle East with hypocritical words about liberation of women is disgusting. They equally benefit from the oppression of women in the U.S. and around the world. In fact this oppression is built into their world capitalist system. U.S. imperialism invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in the name of a "war against terror" and the "liberation of women." It ended up pouring terror on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq and reinforcing all patriarchal, tribal, and religious authorities. In most Gulf States in the Middle East which are run by U.S. imperialism (and their Islamic Sheiks), women are even deprived of driving. What CNN ads about the fantasy islands of Dubai do not inform you of is that part and parcel of this big world casino-real estate market involves trading young girls from Iran, Iraq, the Philippines, Afghanistan, etc. as prostitutes. The invasion and occupation of Iraq have fueled this slave trade across Middle East.

In our countries of Iran and Afghanistan and in the Middle East overall, Islamic fundamentalist forces claim to be an alternative to the world capitalist imperialist system. But Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East share the basic principles of the imperialist capitalist system, among which are sacred private property laws and women's oppression along with using organized ignorance.

Women's oppression has everything to do with the oppressive and outmoded political, economic, social and belief systems which dominate our countries and the world. Women's overall conditions in societies across the world can only be defined as modern-day slavery. This is not in spite of the way overall human society is organized today across the world, but rather because of it. Women's oppression is inscribed in every cell of our present social systems – be it societies ruled by Islamic fundamentalist forces or imperialists. Misogyny and women's slavery, poverty, homophobia, racial and gender apartheid, child labor, religious slave mindedness, wars, holocausts and genocides are continuously produced by this system.

This system destroys us in a variety of ways. And once we rebel, its executioners suppress us and then show us the magic ballot box which supposedly holds the key to our emancipation. They tell us we should hinge our hopes on their democracy and that we should help boost their capitalist markets because these are supposedly the apex of human achievement. But capitalism has reached the apex of its rotten existence. It offers absolutely no way of reforming or moderating its dreadful way of life. This system will not go away on its own accord. It must be pushed out of existence by conscious people. We declare, if this system lives longer, it will tighten its noose around our necks and the lives of majority of the people of the world will become even more horrendous and amongst them, as usual, women will receive most of the brunt.

We have been fighting against our imposed inferiority and subordinate position for decades. Through the ups and downs of this battle we have better grasped the nature of the class systems that perpetuate our oppression. We have come to know that we must fight in an organized way. We have come to know better that having a crystal clear and uncompromising perspective for our battle is vital, because otherwise our fighting energy would be diverted in false directions such as a simple restructuring of women's oppression and keeping the system intact. We can not allow ourselves to be duped by false promises and false roads. Revolution is our only way out. Women have the most to gain from revolution.

Common oppression makes the women of the world a vast and powerful army of the wretched of the earth who have nothing to lose and a world to win. Women's oppression is international and the struggle to uproot it can and must have an internationalist character.

We are approaching March 8, which is a day of struggle against women's oppression and a reminder to everybody that our movement for uprooting women's oppression has a say on all kinds of oppression that the system metes out to different parts of humanity.

Let us celebrate IWD 2010 in the U.S. and around the world with this conviction and help women warriors in Iran to win their battle at this stage which is overthrowing the IRI and seizing their freedom and equality with their own struggle in unity with all other oppressed people in Iran.

Let us unite and decide to be clarion call of revolution in this age of amazing affluence and rampant cruelty, discrimination, injustice, destruction. Let us dare to break our chains and be emancipators of humanity.

March 8 Women's Organization (Iran-Afghanistan)
March 2010

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Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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"...I can't overstate the potential power the Revolution DVD is capable of unleashing"

To the Editors of Revolution:

I work for and am also a client of a loose network of resource providers that is supposed to serve homeless and lower class heroin addicts "seeking recovery." My position is as an advocate, so I hear first hand, every day of rips and tatters in the so-called safety net that poor, mainly Black and Hispanic, people tend to fall or get pushed through more than others—usually landing in some jail cell.

Anyway, I asked another client and co-worker if I could show the Revolution DVD—parts of it—at his crib where lots of people where I work as well as people from the local rock-and-roll scene (a number of us are in local bands) congregate. So he said "maybe 10 minutes" he could probably tolerate and "if anyone visiting complains we'll just take it off." So we put on the part that starts right after the rap about religion on DVD #2.

We watched Part 2 until the end. In that time a couple of people came by and the dude who was going to listen "maybe 10 minutes" was hushing people up to listen to the DVD when they came in.

"Put the next one on!" So we watched about 45 minutes of DVD 3, during which time another musician came in. We started talking about outbreaks in the early '70s—people in the streets, many flags on fire, etc. He bought a paper with coverage of the global warming summit. I asked my friend how he liked the DVD and he said "Great! I'm into this. I have some questions. He (Bob Avakian) seems like a good guy. I am definitely with you on the goal of overthrowing the capitalist government but I don't know if communism is the way."

I was emboldened by the DVD and I said straight-up: "Well, that's what I want to persuade you to believe in—that communist revolution is the only way to get at the source of the problem." He didn't have to think about it long and said "ok, I'll be devil's advocate." Then we went back to the DVD for a while. Finally it got late and people had to get to wherever they had to be for the night but we were in agreement that the DVD really made us think about things like the Republicans and Democrats and the pyramid of power and how the voting scam fed into that dynamic and we were also in agreement the chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party has thought about this deeper than anyone we could think of. There was a lot of "It's good but don't call it communism" as well as "How could we ever beat them with all of their weapons and everything at their disposal?"

There were some very tough questions that compelled me to invite them to think, along with me and the RCP, to figure out the truth of how we see the world and the way to proceed. Just that little bit of bringing things in an epistemological direction got my friend, along with other things thinking about the need to take up the dialectical materialism in the DVD. Anyway, we all benefited from watching this and talking with each other and we hope to have another day soon of watching more.

I think it is great to promote this DVD and the parts of it that are on the website. I mean, especially at this time I can see people are seeming to really want to know of some workable alternative to this dominant system we're trying to help bring down. But there was a widespread sense (in this small group) that there needed to be some concrete plan for "taking power" and it showed me at least—that a lot of people don't have a sense about how huge our base really has to be. All of us in this group of people have had to "think outside the law" to survive at different times in life, so that habit of thinking of "a small group or gang is who we can rely on" is prevalent and deep it seems.

In short, I really got a sense of how much better we're going to have to get at analyzing the particulars as people bring them up—from our communist perspective, but most importantly this whole experience has had the effect of taking my understanding to a much higher level than it was previously to watching the Revolution DVD. I get the urgency. I get that this isn't a revolutionary situation at this time. And I get that there is tons and tons to do and prepare for to maximize the possibilities that we can help lead the vast masses to consciously take up this struggle in this way and really pull off a genuine revolutionary rupture from capitalism and imperialism.

The possibilities of making this long shot—if we do make it, the possibility we could end oppression that is at the heart of this system are too wild and liberating to disregard just because it seems like it is too complex or monumental to lead people in a successful communist revolution here in this home of U.S. imperialism. So I can't overstate the potential power the Revolution DVD is capable of unleashing. Anyone serious about revolution needs to study all the ideas put forth and then to share and promote the DVD in many ways to many people.

To bring this to a close, I have to say I was encouraged by the solid unity that everyone in this group that watched the DVD has with the RCP about the need and urgency to go all the way and overthrow this system of U.S. capitalism/imperialism. But there did seem to be kind of a vacuum shortly after this viewing and discussion, lasting about a week after the viewing. It's like we all got initially excited but almost none of us have maintained that and those of us who have maintained it have to figure out how to bring people back to where they want to talk about what they liked in the DVD and to review new parts they missed the first time. This is a real challenge.

The result of this, for me, has been to recognize that if the kind of revolution the world so desperately needs is actually going to even have a chance of happening, we've got to figure out a way—given the objective material circumstances of our lives and how much time we can put together for the study that needs to happen. There is so much to do... "the hour is getting late."

A reader

Join special efforts to spread Bob Avakian's Revolution talk during Black History Month:

New clips from Bob Avakian's talk, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About are now posted online at and These focus on the history and present day reality of the oppression of Black people, and the kind of revolution it will take to liberate Black people, as a part of emancipating all of humanity. This is an important opportunity to introduce people broadly to Bob Avakian and all the answers posed in this powerful talk concentrating "the revolution we need and the leadership we have." Everyone who wants to see this out there should begin now making plans to get these clips online—to campus list-servs, via email to Black studies or history profs, think about teachers you know who are in relevant academic associations, etc. Also, these should go out online to education and cultural blogs, and all over Facebook—talk with individuals you know about posting these on their FB pages every week or getting them out on other online social networks. Funds need to be raised for focused advertising.

Along with these online efforts, February 22-28 will be a week of concentrated on-the-ground promotion. There are stickers and postcards available online along with one-page sheets utilizing quotes from the talk itself. These are particularly powerful as these quotes concentrate powerful truths that can stop people in their tracks, provoke them to look at something in a new and different way and may inspire people to go check out the full talk. Finally, there will be a new flyer available about these clips for Black History Month this week at and This week of focused on-the-ground promotion will build off other efforts at saturating areas with revolutionary materials but should focus on high schools and colleges. People should make plans and begin outreach now. There are all kinds of ways people can be involved but they need to be brought in on these plans right away. Contact student groups (in particular, though not only, Black student unions that will probably be very active during this month), professors and teachers you know or want to get to know about this. There are community groups and charter schools that would also want to schedule someone to come in, play a clip and open up discussion on these urgent questions.

The REVOLUTION is real. Watch it. Spread it.,

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Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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Song for Haiti

That's our blood down there
on Tap Taps, pink, yellow, green
That's our blood down there
on lilting music laced with screams
That's our blood down there
on sneakers sticking out of piled roof beams
That's our blood down there
on workers entombed with their machines
That's our blood down there
on the stench of burning flesh and gasoline
That's our blood down there
on statues of Toussaint and Dessalines
That's our blood down there
on children under guns of the marines
That's our blood down there
in Haiti, Iraq or New Orleans
That's our blood down there
on the Empire's lies and schemes
That's our blood down there
we must not give up our dreams
of revolution,
a world fit for human beings.
That's our blood down there
on the palm trees and the sea.
Sa se san nou anba-a*
in the name of humanity.

This poem was sent to Revolution by a reader

* "That's our blood down there" in Kreyol.

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Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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Sustain Revolution... Build the Movement for Revolution

Consider, seriously, the difference it makes that we have Revolution newspaper...

In the wake of the terrible earthquake in Haiti, will the great outpouring of concern and support for the Haitian people be channeled into a PR campaign, and moves to "create stability" for the very forces of global exploitation that were responsible for so much unnecessary death and suffering? Will the oppressed themselves see the dark forces behind the torment the people of Haiti are going through as the work of a supernatural "devil?" Or...

Through the exposure and analysis in Revolution—will people searching for answers be exposed to and challenged to look at how capitalism-imperialism created and is right now reinforcing the conditions responsible for so much unnecessary suffering? And, come to see, and act on the understanding that this system stands in the way of the interests of humanity?

With disenchantment with Obama emerging in the midst of continuing and even escalating war, repression, and economic crisis—will all that discontent be funneled into wishing, hoping and praying for the system and Obama to follow through with promises of "change," or that the powers-that-be will come up with someone else to inspire "hope for change?" Or...

Will people learn, in the pages of Revolution,the TRUTH about the Obama phenomenon, which means the TRUTH about America—about the system at the foundation of this society, about what it does and must do, in order to maintain itself, here and around the world—about the system of which he is now chief executive? And on that basis, be filled with an irresistible urge to oppose and resist terrible crimes being carried out in their name around the world.

With police brutality and murder unabated in this so-called "post-racial" Obama era, will the system get away with killing with impunity in the inner cities, the ghettos and barrios? Will the people themselves be paralyzed with confusion over the causes of crime and violence among the people? Or...

Will the crimes of the system, and their causes, be exposed? In the past year, Revolution has shined a light on police brutality and killings from New York City to Rockford, Illinois, to Oakland, and is giving voice to the voiceless who are being called on to Bear Witness in the pages of this paper. Revolution is part of inspiring to fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.

In today's world will "choices" for women remain defined as between brutal religious fundamentalist suppression (of all stripes) on the one hand, or having their bodies turned into commodities for exploitation by men on the other? Or...

Will the foundational connections between the oppression of women and all oppression and exploitation be unveiled, and people challenged to fight for another waya radically liberating revolutionary way? A critical tool for doing that is the special issue of Revolution, "A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity."

And in a cold climate of lowered sights and visions, will the imposed and widely internalized verdict that dog-eat-dog exploitation and greed are "human nature," and the best humanity can do reign supreme? Or...

In important ways through the print and online presence of Revolution, will thousands, tens of thousand of people, especially youth, get a sense there is another way, a truly emancipatory way besides the dead-end alternatives presented to them? Will it make a difference if people are exposed to the most advanced theory pointing the way to take the experiences of previous revolutions even higher—to Bob Avakian's new synthesis, that builds on the achievements of past revolutions even as it takes things further in crucial respects? And if a core of people get with a new stage of the world communist revolution, inspired by radical reenvisioning of communism by Bob Avakian?

REVOLUTION newspaper is a communist newspaper, exposing the utter worthlessness of the current system of imperialism from a thousand angles, and showing the possibility of a better world—of a revolution—and how to get there. But it is more: it is also the "better part" of building a revolutionary movement—spreading truth in preparation for revolution, and serving as the organizing hub for the revolutionary movement.

Whether Revolution continues to play this role depends on you. Here's the situation: Major fundraising projects make particular projects—like sending reporters to Haiti, or on the Gaza Freedom March—possible. Income from paper sales covers printing and shipping the print edition. But we rely on what is currently a too small group of sustainers to cover overhead ranging from our online presence, to phones and office rent, to salary for reporters.

Soon, sustaining regularly through online PayPal or credit card payments will be more easily accessible through But right now, you can sustain Revolution on a regular basis by sending checks or money orders monthly, or quarterly, with "sustainer" in the memo field, to: RCP Publications, PO Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654.

Will this make a difference?
Potentially, all the difference in the world.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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National Campus Speaking Tour by Sunsara Taylor:

From the Burkha to the Thong:
Everything Must, and Can, Change—WE NEED TOTAL REVOLUTION!

If you are a woman, your body is a battleground. Spin the globe. Anywhere you look women are being held down and slammed backwards, objectified and degraded. On campuses nationwide, Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution newspaper, will make the case for why there is no biological, god-given, or man made reason why things have to remain this way—and how this can change through revolution and through a movement for revolution starting now.

Tuesday – February 23 – 7-9:30 pm
Cantor Film Center – NYU – 36 East 8th Street, Manhattan
Tickets: $10-20, free for students with I.D.
Sponsored by Revolution Books. Info: 212-691-3345

Wednesday – March 3 – 7-9:30 pm
Assembly Hall of the International House, University of Chicago
1414 E. 59th Street, Chicago
Tickets: $10, free for students with I.D.
Sponsored by Revolution Books Chicago. Info: 773.489.0930

Monday – March 15 – 4-6:30 pm
UC Berkeley
Info at Berkeley Revolution Books: (510) 848-1196

Contact: for other tour dates.
Find Sunsara Taylor on YouTube and Facebook.

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Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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Olympics Resistance in Vancouver

Significant protests are planned in opposition to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The protests are being coordinated by the Olympic Resistance Network (ORN), made up of 50 activist and social service organizations. ORN's website says, "We call on all anti-capitalist, indigenous, housing rights, labour, migrant justice, environmental, anti-war, community-loving, anti-poverty, civil libertarian, and anti-colonial activists to come together to confront this two week circus and the oppression it represents."

Organizers marched on the opening ceremonies of the Winter Games on Friday, February 12 to "Take Back Our City." Then on February 13, there was a "Heart Attack: Street March to Clog the Arteries of Capitalism." A tent city for the homeless and other actions are also planned.

The Olympics protests are exposing as a lie Canada's claims of "color blindness" and "lack of colonial history." One poster from ORN says, "The Olympics are supposed to be about 'peace and cooperation.' Canada is occupying, at war with, and allowing torture in Afghanistan." The central organizing slogan of the protests is "No Olympics on Stolen Native Land." Organizers and native groups point out that according to Canadian law, treaties were required before any trade of indigenous peoples' land or settlement on that land could occur. In British Columbia, virtually no treaties were ever signed, so this land still legally belongs to the native peoples. There are struggles across British Columbia by indigenous groups opposing building and expansion of ski resorts. And in the Vancouver area, there have been protests against a new four-lane highway linking Vancouver to the ski areas of Whistler that wiped out trees and hillsides, logging of mountain areas, and other infrastructure development for the games.

Protesters are also targeting the homelessness and recent attacks on the homeless by authorities. British Columbia has the highest poverty rates in Canada. Estimates are 3,000 homeless sleep on Vancouver's streets. 32 percent are indigenous people. Since Vancouver's bid for the Olympics in 2003, the homeless population has tripled. Leading up to the games, authorities have been trying to sweep homeless people off the streets, especially in the downtown area near where the opening ceremonies were held. Police have given out 2,000 tickets to homeless people for petty infractions and put up 1,000 surveillance cameras.

Canada sees the Olympics as an opportunity to promote "national pride." The New York Times reported that the Canadian government has put $118 million toward the "Top Secret Project" run by an organization called "Own the Podium" to enhance the performance of Canadian athletes and fund scientists studying ways for the Canadian team to gain technological advantages. For the first time, Canadian athletes are going to be paid for every medal they win—a gold brings you $20,000.

Canada is also using the Olympics to build its economic investments and power. Olympics infrastructure development for the building of highways, port development, etc. is linked to expansion of mining, logging, oil and gas extraction, and tourism, as well as international trade. Billions have been spent for this, and there is broad opposition to money being spent for capitalist and corporate profiteering instead of for things ordinary people need. Major corporate sponsors of the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) include large investors in the environmentally destructive extraction of dirty oil in Alberta's tar sand, like Royal Bank of Canada, and other major capitalist conglomerates like Petro-Canada, GE, Dow Chemical and Coca Cola.

While the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has claimed they will be "measured" in response to protests, Canada and BC have actually put major efforts into confining and suppressing protest, exposing the reality of the dictatorship at the heart of "Western democracy." Canada has spent $1 billion for security, including mobilizing 16,000 police under the direction of the "Vancouver Integrated Security Unit." This unit has "visited" dozens of anti-Olympics activists in an effort to intimidate them. The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has spoken out to expose police plans to corral protesters into protest pens which police call "free speech zones." In the days before the games, downtown Vancouver resembled a militarized zone with police everywhere, chain link fences blocking off parts of the city, and helicopters and jets buzzing overhead.

Government authorities have tried to stifle any voices that might be critical of the Olympics. It took a legal challenge from the BCCLA to make Vancouver authorities change by-laws they had adopted that would have prevented anti-Olympics signs from being shown or carried. Canadian border authorities have in recent days prevented two U.S. activists from entering Canada. Border police also stopped Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, who was going into Canada on a book tour, questioning her about whether she intended to speak critically about the Olympics or VANOC and demanding to examine her computer and notes to find out her plans. Brad Cran, a noted poet in Vancouver, dropped out of participating in cultural events in connection with the games, in part because VANOC is trying to impose a "muzzle clause" that tells artists involved in the events to refrain from making "negative or derogatory remarks" about VANOC or the Olympics.

What's shaping up in Vancouver is a confrontation between powerful capitalist interests and those who hate the oppression in this world and don't benefit from it. These protests deserve broad support.  

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Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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"In a country where torture has been legitimized..."

The NYPD Beating and Rape of Michael Mineo

The trial of three New York cops charged in relation to the brutal beating and rape of Michael Mineo is expected to go to the jurors the week of February 15.

The trial has been intense. When defense attorneys attempted repeatedly during cross-examination to smear and intimidate Mineo and question his credibility, he refused to back down, in the same way that he has stood defiant during the 16 months since the police raped him. When a defense lawyer asked Mineo why he had spoken to the media if, as he testified, he had been embarrassed by the incident, Mineo replied it was because he refused to let the rape be "sweeped under the carpet, like everything else the police do."

Here's what the NYPD and its legal retainers have been trying to sweep under the carpet: On October 15, 2008, 24-year-old Michael Mineo was on his way to work at a Brooklyn tattoo parlor, smoking a pot-laced cigar stub. When cops approached him, he swallowed the "clip" and, as things escalated and arrest seemed imminent, Michael Mineo, in part because he was on probation, ran for it, down into a nearby subway station. There, he was cornered, tackled, beaten and handcuffed while face down by several cops. Then, Mineo testified, while one cop held his shoulders and another his feet, a third pulled down his pants.

Mineo continued, "I felt a hard object being forced into my crack. It was pain. I was disoriented. I saw a white light.... It was one, two, three, then it stopped for a second, then I felt it go in, penetrate." The penetrating object was a retractable baton wielded by one of the cops, Richard Kern, who has been charged with felony aggravated assault and faces up to 30 years in jail.

Moments after the attack, Mineo asked the cops if they had put something in his rectum. "You liked it, you fa**t" said another of the indicted cops, Alex Cruz. When Mineo reached his handcuffed hands down under his boxer shorts, he found blood, which he showed to the cops. Shortly after, they offered Mineo a deal—along with a threat. "Look, you help me out, I help you out," Mineo said Kern told him. "If we let you go, you can't go to a precinct or a hospital. But if you do, we have your address. We'll put a felony on you."

But Mineo would not be bribed into silence. A friend took him to Brookdale Hospital, where he spent four days in excruciating pain and began to speak out. On his first day there, the hospital called the Brooklyn DA's office and said a patient appeared to have been sodomized by the police.

As word began to get out via the media, NYPD brass claimed civilian witnesses at the scene did not support Mineo's contention he had been raped. But that was a lie, as has been made clear at the trial, where witnesses testified they saw Mineo held down, his pants lowered, and heard him scream that he was being violated.

Further, one cop at the scene has come forward, breaking the infamous "blue wall of silence," to corroborate civilian witnesses' testimony. Transit Bureau officer Ken Maloney testified he watched as Richard Kern jabbed a baton between Michael Mineo's buttocks, and heard Mineo moan and complain that someone had shoved a walkie-talkie inside him. Maloney also said he saw blood on Mineo's hand. At the time of the incident, Maloney didn't try to stop the cops from raping Mineo or try to help him. Maloney said he eventually came forward because he thought the police investigation was focusing on the wrong cop, Cruz, and not on the cop who used the baton, Kern. Whatever Maloney's motives might have been, the fact remains that his testimony, along with that of civilian witnesses, is highly damaging.

Faced with this evidence and more—including a DNA expert's testimony that blood found on Kern's baton could very well be Michael Mineo's—defense attorneys have tried to turn the tables by focusing on Mineo's substantial rap sheet and membership in the Crips gang. They have also portrayed him as an opportunist whose real interest is in the civil lawsuit he has filed against the city, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. "This is your payday, isn't it?" one defense lawyer asked. Michael Mineo replied: "Even if they gave me a billion dollars, it wouldn't make up for what they did to me."

But the existence of a mountain of evidence against the three cops in no way guarantees justice will be served. In 2006, there was a mountain of evidence against the cops who murdered an unarmed Sean Bell in a hail of 50 bullets. But those cops walked free. In 1999, an unarmed Amadou Diallo died in a hail of 41 bullets while reaching into his pocket to show his ID. But those cops walked free. As a reader of Revolution wrote to the newspaper shortly after the Michael Mineo rape had come to light, "the black-robed branch of the capitalist state has covered the tracks and set free the murderers-in-blue who they recognize as the front line defenders of their whole system." (Revolution online, December 29, 2008, at

As the reader also brought out: "Kern and his crew must have just assumed that in a city like this, in a country where torture of 'the bad guys' has been legitimized and made legal to the point where people barely talk about it anymore, that he could just stop hiding it altogether and carry out his crimes in the middle of a crowd.

"What this shows us is not the aberrant act of a deranged individual, but the increasingly virulent culture of brutality, rape, torture and murder that prevails among the enforcers of capitalist order, and their rational confidence that the courts will back them up no matter what they do. It shows us, in other words, the REALITY of state violence against the people, and the need to further tear the mask of legitimacy from these enforcers and the system they represent."

Even under this system's own laws, the penalty for having marijuana and/or running away is not RAPE. And this brutality on the part of the police should never be accepted. As the statement "The Revolution We Need... the Leadership We Have" from the Revolutionary Communist Party says so powerfully: "The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness...those days must be GONE. And they CAN be."

Send us your comments.

Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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Surge of Violence: U.S. Launches Massive Offensive in Southern Afghanistan

by Larry Everest

On Saturday, February 13, the U.S. and its allies launched their largest military offensive in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion in 2001. Some 6,000 U.S. and Afghan government forces moved—on foot and in the air—toward Marjah, a town of 80,000 located in Helmund province in southern Afghanistan, bordering Pakistan. This assault is part of a larger offensive involving 15,000 U.S., British, Canadian, Danish, Estonian, and Afghan government troops. It's the opening salvo of Barack Obama's new war strategy and 30,000-troop escalation, which he announced in December.

The U.S. claims it's doing everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, but in the first several days of the offensive at least 19 civilians were killed, including 12 whose home was hit by a U.S. missile. Ten were from the same family; six were children. Initially, the U.S.-NATO forces claimed that a missile had missed its target by 300 yards. Two days later, NATO changed its story, saying the missile had not misfired and that there had been Taliban fighters in or near the house. As this was taking place, five more civilians were killed and two others injured by a U.S. air strike in neighboring Kandahar province.  The U.S. also claims to have killed 120 Taliban fighters, many who may turn out to be civilians. ("NATO says its rockets killed 12 Afghan civilians," Reuters, 2/14; "Missile that killed Afghan civilians not faulty: NATO," Reuters, 2/16; PBS Newshour, 2/18)

There are conflicting reports concerning how many residents of Marjah fled their homes before the offensive, but it may be as many as 4,000. And those remaining in their homes could be trapped indoors or caught in house-to-house searches or fighting. They could face U.S. troops kicking in their doors, or suffer from lack of access to food, water, and medicine. The Italian NGO Emergency has stated that 22 patients were not able to reach the closest hospital in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, because of military checkpoints and blockades. Six died because their evacuations were hindered. NGO Emergency denounced what it called "severe war crimes" by U.S. forces. (Democracy Now!, 2/16, 2/17)

One Marjah resident evacuated his family because he feared "the worst attack ever... Always when they storm a village the foreign troops never care about civilian casualties at all. And at the end of the day they report the deaths of women and children as the deaths of Taliban." ("Thousands of Civilians Flee Afghan Region as Nato Plans Onslaught," Guardian/UK, 2/6)

Since news from Marjah comes either directly from U.S.-NATO military forces or from bourgeois reporters embedded with the military, it's possible that the level of death and injury is far higher than what is being reported. And the nightmares may be just beginning for the people of Marjah and southern Afghanistan. The U.S. has encountered significant resistance and has called in helicopter gunships for support. House-to-house clearing operations, fighting, and the blockade of Marjah may go on for weeks.  And there are reports that the next U.S. target will be the much larger city of Kandahar. All this points to the likelihood of many more dead or injured, and much more deprivation and suffering. (Washington Post and LA Times, 2/17)

Background to the Offensive

The U.S. has been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan (and increasingly in Pakistan) for the last eight years. The Taliban are reactionary Islamic fundamentalists who enforced barbaric social relations and punishments—especially on women—and caused horrific suffering when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

The U.S., Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia had built and organized the Taliban and other fundamentalist or jihadist forces during the 1980s to fight the Soviet Union—which had become an imperialist power and was occupying Afghanistan. It succeeded: the Soviets were defeated and forced to withdraw in 1989. Two years later, in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, giving the U.S. imperialists an historic victory and radically altering the world's political and ideological terrain. Ironically, over the following decade the clash between U.S. imperialism and Islamic fundamentalist forces—previously fighting together against the Soviet Union—grew in scope and intensity. Many factors were involved. Islamists were emboldened by the Soviet defeat, while increasingly angered by the U.S. and its Middle East allies. After the Soviet withdrawal, the U.S. rulers turned their attention elsewhere, abandoning their former allies to wage a bloody civil war for control of Afghanistan. Israel's vicious suppression of the Palestinian people; the U.S.'s 1991 invasion and destruction of Iraq; and the basing of massive U.S. military forces in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states all helped fuel anti-U.S., pro-Islamist sentiment.

Meanwhile, deeper American economic and social penetration of the region modernized certain aspects of the societies there, while undercutting traditional relations; this also stoked religious fundamentalist anger and opposition. Taken together, all this led to the beginning of open conflict between the U.S. and Islamist forces, who began carrying out guerrilla operations against the U.S. in the region.

(It is also the case, although beyond the scope of this article, to fully explore the defeat of the first wave of communist revolutions following the 1976 death of Mao Tsetung, and the subsequent restoration of capitalism in China. This was followed by the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union—at the time an imperialist power masquerading as a socialist state. These developments had a major impact on the global political and ideological terrain and provided an opening for reactionary Islamist forces to lead opposition to the U.S.)

By 1996, the Pakistani government had helped install the Taliban in Afghanistan to both stabilize the country under extremely repressive Islamic rule, and to use it as a counterweight to Indian ambitions in Afghanistan and the region. The U.S. attempted to build a relationship with the Taliban regime in order to advance its regional objectives, but didn't succeed. A consensus was emerging in the U.S. ruling class—which was solidified by 9/11—that Islamic fundamentalism was becoming a prime obstacle to U.S. objectives. The U.S. rulers concluded that it would need to be defeated, and that a radical restructuring of the whole region was needed to undercut these forces and secure U.S. hegemony. In October 2001, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban as part of an overall plan to achieve these objectives.

Since 2001, the reactionary brutality of the U.S. "war on terror" and its Afghan occupation has fueled Islamic fundamentalism across the region, including a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan. Many there have been driven to oppose the U.S. occupiers and their client Karzai regime, or to tolerate or support the Taliban.

U.S. forces have killed thousands of Afghans,and detained, imprisoned and tortured many more. The U.S. installed a hated cabal of reactionary warlords and power brokers who prey on the Afghan people and whose power is based on preserving feudal and patriarchal social and economic relations, and Islamic strictures, particularly toward women (which differ very little from those enforced under Taliban rule). So, after eight years of occupation, life remains a horror for the people: life expectancy has fallen to 43.1 years, adult literacy has dropped to 23.5 percent, and one of every three children under five is now malnourished.

Eighty-seven percent of Afghan women suffer abuse in their homes, honor killings and rape are on the rise, and the vast majority of women remain enslaved in their homes—under the control of male relatives. Last year the U.S.-installed Karzai government passed a law governing Afghanistan's Shi'a population (10-15 percent of the total) giving men the right to starve their wives if they refused the husband's demands for sex.  The law also forces Shi'a women to obtain their husband's consent to leave their homes—"except in extreme circumstances." ("As Obama Sends More Troops...Afghanistan: Lackies of U.S. Legalize Marital Rape and Other Anti-Women Laws," Revolution, April 19, 2009,; "Afghan Husbands Win Right to Starve Wives," New York Times, 8/17/09)

So today, the Taliban reportedly have a strong presence in Marjah, Helmund province and neighboring Kandahar province. These provinces border Pakistan, whose government has, at least until now, allowed the Taliban to have a safe haven from which to operate. (The Pakistani government has supported the Taliban to advance its own interests in Afghanistan and the region, and its covert support has also been key to the Taliban resurgence.) Meanwhile the authority and control of the pro-U.S. Afghan government headed by President Hamid Karzai has been largely absent in this region. The Marjah offensive is part of a larger offensive, expected to take several months, which is aimed at taking control of a 200-mile arc encompassing the main cities in Helmund and Kandahar, and driving the Taliban out of their main base areas. (And this particular offensive is part of a broader escalation of the war Obama has ordered, including in neighboring Pakistan.)   

The U.S. is waging a propaganda offensive to portray its military operation as a just and humane effort to help the people of Helmund. The U.S. military insists it is doing all it can to avoid civilian casualties, including limiting air and missile strikes. Over the past several weeks, U.S. forces met with tribal elders, warned people of the coming offensive, and told them to stay in their homes to avoid casualties. The U.S.-NATO forces say they have stockpiled food and other supplies for those who flee Marjah as well as those who stay—to be delivered as soon as the fighting ends. Afghan government and police forces are reportedly poised to take control and remain permanently to maintain the peace and deliver needed services. U.S. officials say that the presence of thousands of Afghan troops shows that this offensive—which they've named "Moshtarak" or "Together"—isn't aimed at strengthening a foreign occupation, but helping Afghans run their own country. The U.S. military is reportedly even providing medical aid to wounded Taliban fighters.  "We don't want Falluja," said U.S. Commanding General McChrystal, referring to the Iraqi city the U.S. conquered in 2004 by reducing much of it to rubble and causing enormous death and suffering. "Falluja is not the model." (New York Times, 2/13)

An Unjust, Imperialist Offensive

If the U.S. military is trying to avoid civilian casualties, while supplying food, medicine and other aid to the people of Marjah, it's not out of humanitarian concern for the Afghan people. It's because the Pentagon has reportedly summed up that massive civilian casualties—like those caused by bombing Afghan wedding parties—and indifference to the lives of the people have made it harder for the U.S. to defeat the Taliban and control the country. And no matter what strategy the U.S. comes up with, it will not change the unjust, imperialist nature of the U.S. war and occupation or the reactionary character of the U.S. military. And these realities dictate that the U.S. must and will rely primarily on overwhelming military force, and that many innocents will inevitably be massacred even if the Pentagon tries to more precisely control its violence.

The U.S. is compelled to rely on its technological advantages—including massive firepower and air power—which will inevitably bring death from a distance, and death from above. The U.S. is an occupying army fighting for reactionary aims with a fundamentally antagonistic relationship to the Afghan people. So it cannot rely on—or trust—them; instead it is operating in a sea of well-founded suspicion, distrust, resentment and hatred (no matter what villagers may say when interviewed by U.S. reporters or military officials). So the U.S. military will inevitably kill and brutalize people—even as they realize that such crimes may backfire. 

Two recent news stories illustrate the U.S.'s ongoing reliance on brute military force, as well as the savage violence it's carrying out. First, the U.S. now has 400 military camps, outposts and bases across Afghanistan, while the Afghan military has 300 (many built by the U.S.). (Nick Turse, "The 700 Military Bases of Afghanistan—Black Sites in the Empire of Bases,", 2/10; Democracy Now!, 2/12)

Second, journalist Anand Gopal paints a chilling picture of the secret war being waged against the Afghan people. U.S. forces are staging "night raids" and breaking into Afghan homes, seizing suspects, and then taking them to one of these hundreds of bases or secret prisons in Afghanistan where they are often tortured, abused, and sometimes disappeared:

"It was the 19th of November 2009, at 3:15 am. A loud blast awoke the villagers of a leafy neighborhood outside Ghazni city, a town of ancient provenance in the country's south. A team of U.S. soldiers burst through the front gate of the home of Majidullah Qarar, the spokesman for the Minister of Agriculture. Qarar was in Kabul at the time, but his relatives were home, four of whom were sleeping in the family's one-room guesthouse. One of them, Hamidullah, who sold carrots at the local bazaar, ran towards the door of the guesthouse. He was immediately shot, but managed to crawl back inside, leaving a trail of blood behind him. Then Azim, a baker, darted towards his injured cousin. He, too, was shot and crumpled to the floor. The fallen men cried out to the two relatives remaining in the room, but they—both children—refused to move, glued to their beds in silent horror.

"The foreign soldiers... [t]hey threw clothes on the floor, smashed dinner plates, and forced open closets. Finally, they found the man they were looking for: Habib-ur-Rahman, a computer programmer and government employee. They took the barefoot Rahman and a cousin of his to a helicopter some distance away and transported them to a small American base in a neighboring province for interrogation. After two days, U.S. forces released Rahman's cousin. But Rahman has not been seen or heard from since.... Of the 24 former detainees interviewed for this story, 17 claim to have been abused at or en route to these sites." (Anand Gopal, "America's Secret Afghan Prisons," The Nation, 2/15)

And these are only glimpses of the horrific violence Barack Obama and the U.S. military are inflicting on the Afghan people.

U.S. "Success"—A Nightmare for the Afghan People

The stated goal of this operation is to put the Karzai government in charge of Helmund and Kandahar provinces and to strengthen its military forces overall. But what is the Karzai government: a reactionary gang of warlords, drug dealers, mass murderers and rapists. Afghanistan's current rulers were put in power by the U.S. to serve U.S. interests, and they remain completely dependent on and subservient to the U.S. The Karzai regime has been running Afghanistan for the past eight years and has done nothing but exploit and oppress the Afghan people—including by maintaining the suffocating and oppressive religious strictures and social relations that imprison Afghan women. While the U.S. claims the Taliban is behind Afghanistan's rising drug trade (Afghanistan produces over 90 percent of the world's opium and heroin), Karzai and his allies in the Afghan government are responsible for most of it, with likely U.S. complicity if not direct aid. For instance, the New York Times reports that President Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is a major drug dealer—and also on the CIA's payroll. ("Brother of Afghan Leader Said to Be Paid by C.I.A.," 10/27/09)

The Karzai regime's Afghan troops may end up occupying and controlling Helmund province. But contrary to U.S. claims, this would not represent a step toward national independence from foreign imperialist domination. Nor would it be a step toward uprooting the sources of poverty and oppression in Afghanistan. The Karzai regime and its military have been put in place and built up as a national "face" for U.S. imperialist dominance, and to further U.S. objectives in the region—not to represent the interests of the Afghan people.

"The Afghan police force is particularly feared by Afghan civilians who view it as corrupt and liable to use violence against people passing through its checkpoints," writes journalist Patrick Cockburn. "Its men have been frequently accused of the homosexual rape of boys, a tradition which has tended to alienate villagers whose sons have been violated and lead them to support the Taliban." ("The Assault on Marjah," Counterpunch, 2/15)

(Building up a local, pro-imperialist and reactionary military is a key element in U.S. neo-colonial control of many countries around the world. It's the purpose of institutions like the notorious School of the Americas—where the U.S. military and CIA train pro-U.S. Latin American leaders and military officers in the tactics and strategy of controlling their populations—including through bloodbaths and torture.)

Extending the control of the Afghan government could also heighten longstanding ethnic rivalries and oppression in Afghanistan (which is one contradiction driving the ongoing war), including leading to revenge killings in Pashtun areas like Helmund and Kandahar, where the Taliban draw most of their support. While Pashtuns make up 42 percent of the Afghan population, they comprise less than 30 percent of the Afghan army, while Tajiks (25 percent of the population) dominate the Afghan military and comprise 41 percent of its forces. ("A Code for Ethnic Cleansing in Afghanistan?" Counterpunch, 2/15)

U.S. objectives in this offensive also point to the reactionary character of its occupation and goals in Afghanistan. "We are trying to take away any [Taliban] hope of victory," General McChrystal has stated. This, according to the New York Times, "would set the stage for a political settlement that General McChrystal believes is the only way the war will end." By political settlement, McChrystal means cutting deals with Taliban elements who break ties with global jihadists and bringing them into the government.  If one's goal was liberating the Afghan people, how could one see any role whatsoever for pro-capitalist, Islamic fundamentalist oppressors like the Taliban? ("Afghan Offensive Is New War Model," New York Times, 2/13)

Time to Take Off the Obama Blinders

The Marjah offensive is being used by the U.S. government and the bourgeois media to increase support for Obama's Afghan escalation (which former Vice President Dick Cheney "wholeheartedly" supports). But people need to take off the blinders and face the fact that while Obama may have changed some U.S. tactics and rhetoric, he's unleashing just as much—and in some cases more—horror and violence on Afghanistan and the world as George Bush and Dick Cheney did.

People also need to face the fact that this is being driven by the urgent necessities and challenges facing the U.S. rulers in maintaining and strengthening their global dominance—which is what shapes what Bush did, what Obama is doing, and what any U.S. president does. As the Financial Times recently noted, "It is a measure of the gravity of the situation in Afghanistan that a four-star general who led a clandestine project to remove insurgent leaders in Iraq is now speaking so openly about talking to the Taliban." ("Race against time for Nato strategy," 1/24) 

The U.S. position in Afghanistan is precarious. The war has bled into neighboring Pakistan, a key U.S. ally, which now faces its own growing Islamist insurgency and other deep and volatile internal and external contradictions. And the U.S. is facing real obstacles and challenges to its dominance in the Middle East (such as Iran) as well as globally. It is responding to these challenges by escalating its violence against the people.

All this shows that the U.S. is about dominating the world—not doing anything good for it. It shows that this domination is based on extreme and massive violence.  And it shows that these crimes can only be ended by getting to their source or roots: the system of capitalism-imperialism itself, and overthrowing that system through revolution and bringing a new system into being that does not rest on exploitation and oppression. This is something we'll be digging into in relation to Afghanistan in coming weeks.

Anyone who cares about the people of Afghanistan—and the world—should actively and vigorously oppose the U.S. offensive and escalation in Afghanistan—and other U.S. threats around the world. 


Go to World Can't Wait's website——for how to oppose U.S. wars and torture, including the upcoming and very important demonstrations against the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, taking place on or near the anniversary of the March 20, 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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An Historic Contradiction: Fundamentally Changing the World Without "Turning Out the Lights"

Recently Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, drew attention to the following contradiction and then invited some people associated with or with responsibility in regard to the Party to respond with their thinking on this contradiction. Avakian wrote the following:

"In the polemic against Alain Badiou's political philosophy in the online theoretical journal Demarcations, the following concise indictment is made of Badiou's ultimate reformism, and of reformism in general:

'And the world stays fundamentally unchanged. Capitalism-imperialism continues humming in the 'background,' crushing lives and destroying spirits in its meat-grinder of exploitation. And the horrors continue unabated.'

"This is our standing and powerful refutation of every other trend in the world. On the other hand, the way that a lot of people look at what we're about—and not entirely without justification—is: 'Here come the communists, turn out the lights, the party's over.'

"All this embodies a real, and profound, contradiction that we must continue to wrestle with."


The next issue of our paper will be an online issue that runs the responses to Avakian's invitation.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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From A World To Win News Service:

India: Bengali People's March editor dies in custody

We received the following from A World to Win News Service:

February 8, 2010. A World to Win News Service. Swapan Dasgupta, 59, the editor of the Bengali edition of the monthly publication People's March, died while in custody at the SSKM Hospital in Kolkata after his arrest and imprisonment October 6, 2009. He had been interrogated by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and police Special Branch. Already ill from asthma, Dasgupta underwent severe mental and physical torture and was refused proper medical treatment. (Times of India, 3 February 2010) By the time he was hospitalized December 17, his condition had become critical. He died on February 3.

The police knew Dasgupta had done nothing illegal, but they held him anyway and let him die. West Bengal is the state in India where the Lalgarh uprising of tribal people has taken place. Never a revolutionary party, the Communist Party Marxist that governs the state of West Bengal has gone after the tribals and their Maoist leadership with the vengeance called for by the central Indian government.

An anonymous senior CID official said: "We interrogated him for several days. But we did not find anything substantial to book him under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (the law used by the Indian state to ban the Communist Party of India [Maoist]). In the case diary, it was mentioned that he used to publish a banned magazine and also published an exclusive interview of elusive Maoist leader Kishenji and PCAPA chief Chhatradhar Mahato (one of the leaders of the Lalgarh Adivasi movement). But it was not something unique to his publication, as several newspapers also published such interviews and articles. No charges were proved against him and we did not get any evidence against him to submit the chargesheet." The commissioner of police said Dasgupta had several other charges pending against him but those charges had not been actually filed. Human rights activists have protested this death, calling for the withdrawal of UAPA.

The Indian Press & Registration Appellate Board (PRAB) lifted the ban on the central edition of People's March on August 7, 2009. The editor of this English-language edition based in the state of Kerala, P. Govindan Kutty, was kept in prison for 21 months. As a consequence of this legal decision, he was released in September 2009—two months before Dasgupta's arrest.

This criminal death occurs in a larger context. Over the last few months the Indian government has initiated a military assault of 100,000 troops, using high-tech intelligence, helicopters and drones. This so-called Operation Green Hunt is focused in the eastern and central regions of India (Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra). This is the area where, since the 1970s, the CPI (Maoist) has been leading the masses of the most poor and downtrodden to fight for a different kind of society where they no longer have to tolerate theft of their lands, starvation conditions, rape, torture and humiliation at the hands of the police, other authorities and high castes.

Despite government efforts to suppress news of Operation Green Hunt and any opposition to it, widespread anger has been rising all over India. Intellectuals, authors, filmmakers, academics, lawyers, doctors and other professionals have joined mass gatherings and rallies to raise their voice in protest and to defend the just cause of the oppressed tribal people in India. People who want to report on what is happening are being thwarted and intimidated in every way possible by the authorities.

The following paragraph is from Outlook India, February 1, 2010: "In Narayanpatna, Orissa, an all-women's team out to investigate last November's killing of two adivasi leaders in police firing was first attacked inside a police station and then on the road. The attackers were plainclothesmen and civilians who were later 'dispersed' by policemen. In Chhattisgarh, the police have set up an obstacle course for teams trying to reach the Maoist heartland of Bastar. On December 14, they seized the vehicles of an all-women team, citing irregularities in the drivers' documents. When the women tried to go ahead by bus, the police warned the bus drivers not to carry them. All this was to 'save' them, the women were told. The police let them have a taste though—a mob punctured the tires of the bus in which the team was returning. Professor Nandini Sundar of Delhi, a petitioner in the Supreme Court against the government-backed Salwa Judum [a government-organized counter-revolutionary militia], was stalked by the police, turned away by hotels and hounded by Bastar's unique tribal Special Police Officers in the hostel she stayed the night. She, too, had to return without reaching her destination. Only Medha Patkar managed to breach, briefly, the police's 'No Entry' sign, but not before her team was attacked with eggs by Salwa Judum tribals on Dantewada's main road as police stood by, watching."

In another area, journalists trying to reach the area of Operation Green Hunt were finally able to get into the region only after local residents gave them a motorcycle with no license plates so that the police could not trace it back to the owners. (see, among other reports, "Mao and the Motorcycle Diaries,"

The recently-formed International Campaign Against War on the People of India reports, "Already more than one hundred tribal people have been killed in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand as part of this brutal war, 'Operation Green Hunt'. Several thousand tribal people have been tortured, maimed, and pushed out of their villages, women raped, houses burnt and villages burnt to ashes. Though the Government of India unofficially imposed a censor on media to publish reports from the killing fields, democratic journalists, and civil rights bodies have been making efforts to bring the facts of this war out for the public." (See for more information)

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 #193, February 21, 2010

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Iran: It's Right to Rebel Against Reactionaries

Background to the Uprising

by Larry Everest

Iran's 1979 Revolution—A Just and Mighty Uprising Against a Hated Tyrant and Foreign Domination

This month marks the 31st anniversary of the 1978-1979 revolution in Iran. Millions of Iranians, from all walks of life, rose up to overthrow their king, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The Shah was hated because he was a ruthless tyrant who enforced U.S. domination of Iran.

Iran is a large country located at one of the world's most central military and economic crossroads. It has vast oil resources. In 1953, the U.S. CIA put the Shah back in power to prevent Iranians from taking control of their oil and destiny. The U.S. organized the Shah's secret police—SAVAK—which he used to brutally suppress any opposition.  In 1976, Amnesty International reported that the Shah's regime had the "highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts and a history of torture which is beyond belief. No country in the world has a worse record in human rights than Iran." Revolutionaries and communists were especially targeted.

Under the Shah, Iran was built up to serve U.S. imperialist interests. It was a source of oil. Its economy was opened up to U.S. investment and trade and shaped to serve global capitalism. And the Shah spent billions turning Iran into a U.S.-directed military outpost. Foreign banks and corporations, and the Shah and a small clique of Iranian capitalists around him accumulated billions exploiting Iran's labor, markets, and resources. Yet tens of millions of Iranians remained locked in oppression and poverty. Millions of peasants were landless or forced to toil for bare existence. Many were driven into sprawling urban shantytowns without water, sewage, or electricity. Sixty percent of Iranians remained illiterate, life expectancy was 50 years, and 139 of every 1,000 children died in their first year. In the capital Tehran, modern Pepsi, Coke, and Canada Dry bottling plants were built while shanty dwellers were forced to drink from open sewers.

All this led millions of workers, peasants, women, students, intellectuals, and middle- as well as upper-class Iranians to grow to hate the Shah, and then get drawn into the revolution. The Shah tried to drown the uprising in blood, and thousands were attacked, beaten, even shot down in cold blood. But this backfired. It deepened people's hatred and contempt for the Shah and fueled the revolution that overthrew him.

The Revolution and Dreams of Liberation Are Hijacked by Islamic Theocrats

The people's dreams for liberation turned bitter when the revolution was hijacked by Islamic theocrats led by Ayatollah Khomeini. During the revolution, these clerics posed as opponents of tyranny and foreign domination. They claimed they represented the revolutionary people's highest aspirations—for liberation, political freedom, a better life, and an end to suffering.

In fact, these religious leaders opposed the Shah because they felt he was undermining Islam, traditional feudal social relations, and the role of the clergy by too closely linking Iran to the U.S. and foreign capital.  So they joined and worked to lead the revolution in order to reassert and strengthen Islam's grip on Iran by instituting Ayatollah Khomeini's vision of an Islamic theocracy ruled by clerics. Islam and Iran's Islamic clerical establishment and institutions have historically been key pillars of Iran's oppressive ruling structure. This is why they did not suffer the kind of vicious repression under the Shah that was the fate of radicals, revolutionary nationalists, communists, and others. So the religious forces around Khomeini came into the revolution with a lot of power, organization, and social influence. When it became clear the Shah's rule was crumbling, the U.S. and its allies saw Khomeini as their best chance for preserving U.S. influence and preventing the revolution from becoming more radical. There were revolutionary communist forces in Iran who were trying to lead the revolution in a liberating direction—including many students abroad who courageously dropped everything to return to Iran to join the struggle. However, these forces were unable to prevent the Khomeini forces from seizing power after the Shah's regime fell and then hijacking the revolution.

After the Shah's regime fell in February 1979, millions of Iranians wanted the revolution to continue. Yet after Khomeini and the clerics took over and founded the Islamic Republic of Iran, they moved to violently crush their opponents—especially radicals and communists—and monopolize all political power.  The new regime quickly re-imposed reactionary religious laws, ideology, and morality, especially the total subordination of women to men at every level of society. On March 8, 1979, tens of thousands of women and their supporters protested new laws forcing women to wear the veil. They were violently attacked by regime thugs and police. The new regime forcibly maintained the oppression of nationalities like the Kurds. While refusing to continue the Shah's role as a direct U.S. outpost in the region, the Islamic Republic did continue Iran's economic subordination to global capitalism overall.

The Islamic fundamentalist regime jailed tens of thousands of opponents. In the summer of 1988 alone, thousands of political prisoners, including many communists, were executed after trials lasting only a few minutes. To this day, the Islamic Republic remains a brutal and reactionary dictatorship that denies the Iranian people their most basic rights. "A religious autocracy replaced the despotic monarchy," the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) (CPI (MLM)) sums up.

The Current Uprising in Iran is a Just Struggle Against an Oppressive Theocracy

The largest anti-government uprising since the 1979 revolution has been rocking Iran since the presidential election in June 2009. People hoped Mir-Hossein Mousavi would defeat incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and bring real change. When Ahmadinejad was quickly declared the winner, millions thought the election—and their votes—had been stolen. People felt insulted and outraged, and hundreds of thousands—especially youth, students and women—took to the streets.

Since June, the uprising has developed in waves, periods of seeming calm giving way to new upsurges. The people have faced all manner of threats, intimidation and violent repression, only to come to the street again—even more defiant and courageous. Many have become increasingly bold and combative. And many have become radicalized—some coming to reject the program of Mousavi and the "green wave" for preserving the Islamic Republic. The demands of the uprising have not mainly been framed in terms of choosing one form of oppression or another, but demanding something radically different. "Death to dictatorship" hundreds of thousands have demanded, and even "Down with the Supreme Leader."

Anyone hungering for a radically different world cannot help feel their heart soar at the sight of hundreds of thousands—sometimes millions—of Iranians rising up, defying chains, knives, clubs, prison, torture, and bullets to take on their oppressors. At a time when far, far too many crimes and outrages are tolerated, the Iranian people are crying "No more!" And Iranian women are rising against a violent patriarchy and showing the world that they are not lesser beings than men, but equals in every respect, and that they're a mighty force for liberation—and revolution.  All this is much needed, and very inspiring—and challenging—for anyone on the planet with a thirst for justice and liberation.

The election protests have sharpened and given vent to decades of discontent and alienation over the suffocating, dead-end and dark-ages Islamic Republic, and a society the Communist Party of Iran (MLM) says is "drowning in corruption, destruction, superstition, dark religious ignorance, drug addiction and prostitution." (CPI (MLM) communiqué no 6: "People Beware! Mousavi is not your brother and he is not on your side!") Protestors have chanted, "Down with dictatorship," "Freedom of thought," "Freedom or death," and demanded an end to press, artistic, and intellectual censorship and suppression. Many Iranian women, and increasingly men, are defiantly opposing the Islamic theocracy's medieval sexual taboos and gender codes. Many Iranians are angry about economic deprivation and poverty.

The response to the protests by the Islamic Republic, President Ahmadinejad, and its "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Khamenei has been brutal and deadly. Peaceful street demonstrations have been attacked with clubs and teargas, or broken up with motorcycle charges. Over 100 have been shot in cold blood. Thousands have been arrested. Many have been tortured, raped or murdered while in prison. Recently the regime hung people for protesting. This naked repression has crystallized the regime's savageness for millions, and fueled and radicalized the protests. Many are now chanting, "Death to the oppressor whether Shah or Supreme Leader"—something unthinkable a year ago.

Barack Obama and the U.S. establishment have condemned the Islamic Republic's repression. And they claim America supports the Iranian people. It is not surprising that the U.S. rulers are trying to take advantage of the upheaval to advance their own agenda: to weaken or topple the Islamic Republic in order to gain a firmer imperialist grip on Iran and the Middle East. But the maneuvering of the U.S. rulers does not make the Iranian people's struggle any less just.

Revolutionary Communists in Iran Work for a Real Revolution

Over 100 years of Iranian history, and especially the 31-year history of the Islamic Republic of Iran, show that it will take a real revolution to liberate the people of Iran. A revolution that overthrows religious rule. A revolution that breaks Iran out of the stranglehold of capitalist-imperialist domination. A revolution that uproots all forms of feudalism and traditional relations, including the barbaric treatment of women. A revolution that is part of a global communist revolution to emancipate all humanity. And a revolution led, as the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) states, "by a communist party that is not a remnant of the communist movement of the past but a vanguard of the future."

The uprising in Iran shows the potential for a real revolution. The CPI (MLM) is actively working for just such a revolution, working within this volatile and rapidly evolving situation to bring forward a new, revolutionary path in opposition to both imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism:

"Why can't we make sacrifices for much higher and loftier goals? Why not struggle for a fundamentally different society and future? A society free of all oppression and exploitation. A society where everyone shares and cooperates. Where the equality of women and men is a fundamental and self-evident principle. Where the beautiful scenes of collaboration, mutual help, and consideration we are witnessing in our common battles today would be institutionalized. A society that is rid of boredom and stagnation, and always lively and active."

Today's struggle and the work of Iranian communists have enormous importance for the liberation of Iran—and the planet. There's potential here to break out of the current political dynamic, shaped by the temporary defeat and the end of the first stage of the communist revolution, and by the clash between imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism. And a real revolutionary uprising in Iran could lift people's sights and dreams, and shatter the notion that there's no real alternative to the world as it is, and that revolution is unrealistic.

Anyone who wants a whole different world should support the struggle of the Iranian people, and the work of Iran's revolutionary communists.


Recent communiques and leaflets from the CPI (MLM) can be found on our website at:;; and See also, (in Farsi)

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Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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Response to Online Comment on Haiti:

The Why Behind Poverty and Corruption in Haiti

by Li Onesto

Revolution received the following comment online about the article: "Why So Many People Died in the Earthquake... And Why the U.S. Can Do No Good in Haiti."

Your comments are typical of those who are blind because they refuse to see. The United States donated more than 600 million dollars to Haiti's relief, whereas China, the world's second largest economy donated less than seven million. France, the former colonial owner of Haiti donated less than 19 million. The United States role was heroic and any unbiased opinion would have indicated such. This death toll rests squarely upon the shoulders of the Haitian government which has squandered 4.7 billion dollars in aid over the past 18 years, money that should have gone to the development of Haiti's infrastructure, rather than to the crooked politicians who rule Haiti with an iron fist which has left 80 percent of its people in poverty, poverty, by the way, which causes them to flee—to the United States.

The following response is by the author of the article:


This comment concentrates a lot of what has been in the mainstream media explaining "why Haiti is so poor" and the arguments here are important to address.

As of February 12, the U.S. has pledged $538,343,899 in aid to Haiti (see And yes, this is more than what China ($9,713,535) and France ($33,912,657) have donated. But meanwhile the U.S. spends over $340 million a day on the war in Iraq. But the main issue here isn't about amounts of aid.

The heart of the reader's argument is that a corrupt Haitian government, not the U.S., is to blame for the poverty and lack of infrastructure that led to such a high death toll in the earthquake. And extending this logic, one could argue that even if the U.S. and other countries give Haiti more money, it will just be squandered and, tragically, the Haitian people will remain poor.

In fact, this is a coherent and persuasive argument—IF you only look perceptually at the situation in Haiti. Because in fact, corrupt and reactionary governments in Haiti have stolen money that could have been used to feed people or build infrastructure.

But to really understand why Haiti is poor... to understand where the corruption comes from... you have to go beyond perceptual reality. You have to step back and look at what defines the character of these corrupt governments. You have to look at why the economy and infrastructure remains underdeveloped. You have to recognize that the biggest and most determining factor in all this is the domination of Haiti by U.S. imperialism.

Take, for example, Baby Doc (Jean Claude) Duvalier—the brutal and corrupt dictator who ruled Haiti from 1971 to 1986. He stole millions and lived in luxury while the Haitian people remained impoverished.

But there is a reason someone like Baby Doc comes to power in a country like Haiti. And it has everything to do with the role they play in serving and facilitating U.S. domination.

Here's a question: Why have so many of the Third World countries dominated by U.S. imperialism been ruled over by corrupt and brutal governments? Is this just a coincidence? Or is there a pattern here?

Rulers like Baby Doc are thoroughly corrupt. But their corruption comes from and is possible because they are propped up by the United States. This corruption is a component part of the functioning of such pro-U.S. dictators. The U.S. supports these dictators because they serve to keep their countries subordinate and subservient  to the interests of U.S. imperialism. And another pattern should be noted: when such rulers no longer serve this purpose, the U.S. lets them go, or even facilitates their demise—and then targets them for their brutality and corruption!

To understand this pattern we need a class analysis: Corrupt dictators like Baby Doc are part of a ruling elite, a class that is completely dependent on foreign capitalism. They are part of a tiny stratum of a wealthy ruling class, linked with landed property, domestic capitalism, export and import businesses, etc. They (and the governments they oversee) have a co-dependent relationship with imperialism. But this is not an equal relationship. It is based on U.S. domination—where the interests of foreign profit-making investments set the terms. Where profit and geo-strategic concerns of empire come before addressing things like poverty. Where the economy is distorted to meet the needs of imperialism. (See "Truth Amidst the Rubble in Haiti: The U.S. Is the Problem, Not the Solution," by Li Onesto, at

Rulers like Baby Doc represent the interests of the wealthy elites and they serve the interests of foreign capital. They unleash their police and armies to keep the masses down, to crush rebellions, and create favorable conditions for foreign capital. And they themselves profit and prosper off all this. They steal millions, skimming off the top, spreading the corruption around to other functionaries who serve this whole set-up of U.S. domination. A lot of their wealth comes from the fact that they control state institutions. They are in a position to loot the national treasury, profit from contracts and taxes. But they are in this position to begin with because of their relationship to, and the role they play vis-a-vis, U.S. imperialism.

In other words, yes, there is corruption. But this corruption isn't the reason Haiti is poor and underdeveloped. This corruption is the outgrowth of U.S. domination—which IS the real reason Haiti is poor and underdeveloped.

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Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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After the Earthquake

Taking Revolution to the NY Haitian Community

We received the following correspondence from a reader/distributor of Revolution in New York:

We confront an enormous internationalist responsibility: New York City has the largest Haitian community in the United States. Many people here are deeply affected by events in Haiti, frantic to learn which of their friends and relatives have died, frantic to get aid and support to those who need it.

We have been making special efforts to get Revolution out in the Haitian community—getting out the paper's exposure of the whole history of U.S. domination in Haiti and the crimes being carried out by the United States against the Haitian people right now in the wake of the earthquake.

Initially we went out with a flyer of the Statement, "The Haitian People Need Emergency Assistance—NOT Suppression and Further Domination," issued by the editors of Revolution. We quickly got out 1,500 copies and sparked tremendous discussion and debate. Among some there was a pitting of fighting to gather needed food, medicine and other donations to send to Haiti against the need to examine the larger political questions. This Statement opened doors for people to do both. It became a point of reference, debate and discussion as activists gathered to organize how to respond to this, culminating in a demonstration at the U.S. Mission to the UN and a march to Grand Central Station.

Then Revolution newspaper posted a powerful and eye-catching centerfold: "The U.S. in Haiti: A Century of Domination," and we tried to figure out how to get it in the hands of many. A plan was developed and after consulting with Revolution newspaper we printed up a special, four-page, emergency broadsheet, with a graphic-rich version of the Statement on the front and the centerfold of the history of U.S. domination in Haiti (Revolution #190, January 31, 2009) on pages two and three and an ad and information about Revolution on the back. We printed 5,000 copies.

Some people eagerly donated for the printing of this, and many more donated generously when we took it out on the streets. In three days, virtually all the copies got out, the largest portion being in the Haitian/Caribbean community, and donations were gathered in the course of mass distribution. We collected not only enough to pay for the printing but another $528 for further expanding the reach and coverage of Revolution around this crisis. Many who donated responded to the call for them to take quantities, often 3-10 copies, to get out to others.

Initially, when we were approaching people, a number would turn their heads saying "I have already given" at their church, community group, etc. Some indicated they had been "warned" about hustlers getting money from people and it never reaching Haiti. But even more, over that first week, when we had gone out with the Statement, certain terms had been set in the media, etc. that individual donations was the main way people should respond. We attempted to break through this on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we took a different approach, often saying from the beginning: "Tens of thousands of people did not have to die from this earthquake, if the richest country in the world—the U.S.—had promptly sent food, rescue and medical teams. And people are still dying unnecessarily because much of the aid faces U.S. government interference in getting to the people. This is not only a tragedy of enormous proportions, it is a towering crime against the Haitian people!"

When this sort of approach was used from the beginning, people opened up, grabbing the broadsheets and often donating $1, $5, and sometimes $10 or $20 for the broadsheet and Revolution newspaper's coverage of the crisis in Haiti. There were a few people who still expressed gratitude for what they think the U.S. is doing in Haiti, but overwhelmingly, there was impatience and some real and growing anger over the time it took to get aid to people—over the U.S. actually obstructing aid coming in and over U.S. priorities. "Security"—as one person put it, "What do they mean 'security'? How can they be thinking about that now??!!" Different examples were brought up by people: "The U.S. stopped France from bringing in aid, they stopped Doctors without Borders." Expanding on a point in the Statement, a number of people brought up how they had heard that other countries, hardly as wealthy as the U.S., were getting aid and medical teams in far sooner than the U.S., and were then being hindered by the United States who had taken over the airport in Port-au-Prince.

On Sunday, we reached people as they came out of church services. Many we spoke to talked of loved ones who have died in the last week or that they still do not know the fate of their relatives. Some, too upset to talk much, warmly received the broadsheet and donated for it, some taking extras. And it was striking how strongly Spanish-speakers we encountered felt about what happened, wanting to express their support for the Haitian people and their anger at the U.S. role in Haiti.

Both in the Haitian/Caribbean community and in Harlem, comparisons to how the U.S. government treated the people of New Orleans and what is happening now in Haiti struck a very strong chord in people. And just like in New Orleans, in the media, the victims are being painted as criminals and looters. We pointed out that the towering crime here was that tens of thousands have died unnecessarily, because of the actions and inaction of the U.S. government and that is the "crime" here. And we would open the centerfold on "The U.S. in Haiti: A Century of Domination" and say, you want to talk about looting, the U.S. has been looting and dogging the people of Haiti for over 100 years. Many, especially Haitians, indicated that they were familiar with some of this, but there was widespread appreciation that it had been pulled together now in this bold form, confirming what they feel and know, to put out more broadly.

Increasingly, we got better at contrasting the horrors of what the U.S. is doing now in Haiti to how a revolutionary society would handle this completely differently. And this really was something that people wanted to dig into, often getting cards on the Bob Avakian Revolution on-line talk. We need to develop this point more as we go out further—digging into the substance of how a new revolutionary society will be different, drawing on the "Imagine" section of the Revolution Talk. And also talking more about the kind of re-envisioned socialism and communism that Bob Avakian is talking about—including the need to have our feet firmly planted in internationalism and how a revolution in the U.S. would quickly put an end to the kind of domination the U.S. carries out in Haiti and much of the rest of the world.


New York also has the largest Dominican community in the U.S. And there has been a tremendous outpouring of solidarity and support for the Haitian people, both in the Dominican Republic and in the Dominican community, with many churches and community groups involved. Several regular readers of Revolution played a major role in gathering food aid and were in the Dominican Republic and then Haiti, "escorting" it across the border from the Dominican Republic to insure that it got to progressive groupings in Haiti.

Meanwhile, there was a small but important gathering of radical forces in the Dominican community in Washington Heights, with invited speakers from the Haitian community. There was powerful exposure, both by speakers and people from the audience, of U.S. imperialism's crimes in Haiti, and plans were made for joint actions built in both the Dominican and Haitian communities against the actions of the U.S. and other powers for further domination and occupation of Haiti.

As the program was about to end, a young Dominican who was videotaping the event, interrupted to make a powerful denunciation of U.S. imperialism's crimes against the Haitian people, heavily drawing on information in the Revolution centerfold on 100 years of the U.S. in Haiti—which he had bought and read before the event began.

Circulating before and after program, many copies of the newspaper got out, along with palm cards on Bob Avakian's Revolution online talk. We also got out five Spanish and one English copy of the RCP's Manifesto, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage and a number of other people told us they would check it out at

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Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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Gaza Freedom March: A Call to the World

Part III: Coming from All Kinds of Places

by Alan Goodman

At precisely 10 am on December 31, 2009, a dozen or so "tourists" moved swiftly into eight lanes of traffic in the middle of a main thoroughfare through the center of Cairo, Egypt. Hundreds of signs in English and Arabic emerged from suitcases and backpacks: "End the Siege!" "Free Gaza!" This was the signal. Within seconds, hundreds of other "tourists" poured into the streets to join them—the Gaza Freedom March was on!

Egyptian security forces, with plainclothes thugs in the lead, kicked, punched, shoved, tossed, and beat the protesters—who sat down, linked arms, threw themselves on top of their comrades to protect them, and struggled to hold their position. Security forces finally managed to push the protesters to the sidewalk, where they were surrounded and detained by phalanxes of riot police for seven hours. The Gaza Freedom March, which was already front-page news in Egypt and the Middle East, became a living call to the world: Free Gaza!

This is the story of how the Gaza Freedom March came to be. Why it took place in Cairo, instead of Gaza, Palestine as intended. Who were the people who came from around the world to be part of it? And what light the whole experience sheds on the urgent and vital stakes of breaking the siege of Gaza, and the struggle for freedom for the Palestinian people.

People came to the Gaza Freedom March from around the world. The French contingent included a number of Arabic speaking immigrants. Members of the 10-person delegation from the European micro-state of Liechtenstein (total national population 35,000) distinguished themselves by slipping past Egyptian authorities to reach the resort town of Al Arish, near the Gaza border, where they were detained by Egyptian authorities under virtual house arrest.

Several hundred people came from the U.S. and Canada. Others came from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malta, Mauritius, Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, England, Scotland, and Venezuela.

They came with all kinds of backgrounds, experiences, and political and philosophical views.

Coming from All Kinds of Places...

Emily is a PhD candidate from Boston. She spoke passionately about learning about "the number of babies that are born blue right now in Gaza because of the nitrate levels in the waters." She explained: "During Operation Cast Lead, water and sanitation systems [in Gaza] were completely destroyed. The materials for reconstruction are at the borders, but they are not allowed in. So nitrate levels in Gaza are 30 times world health standards, and babies are being born blue because of the nitrate levels—blue and dead."

Dennis from Arizona stood out with his ever-present cowboy hat. He celebrated his 68th birthday in Cairo for the GFM; the Israeli-orchestrated massacres of Palestinians in the Lebanese refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla in '82 had a big impact on him becoming active in support of the Palestinians.

A number of youth living in North America or Europe, but from Middle Eastern backgrounds, were on the march. One woman told me about being the only person in her Texas high school who didn't support Israel's war on Lebanon in 2006. Her involvement in the Gaza Freedom March was covered in mainstream media in Dallas-Ft. Worth. One man in his early 20s told me: "I am Palestinian and the cause has always been important to me. My parents raised us to be activists and knowledgeable about what is going on." He visited Palestine twice growing up, and said visiting the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza "was brutal and quite a life changing experience. I vowed to go back."

People on the Gaza Freedom March were provoked to look into the situation of the Palestinian people by teachers, or influential opinion makers. I spoke with a few college students who had been exposed to an understanding of the Palestinian people through teachers in high school.

Others learned about Palestine through pretty mainstream avenues. Joel, a recent college graduate living in New York City, told me he had been "apolitical" until last year's Israeli attack on Gaza. "I've always been taught that this conflict is misdefined and incomprehensible." Right after Israel's attack, he read Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, where he said he learned that "The Israelis are encroaching on other people's land and are attempting to steal it. They've engaged in policies since the foundation of their state to take away land from the indigenous people." Joel said, "There are a lot of parallels that have been drawn in my mind to how America has been founded by taking land away from the indigenous Native Americans that lived in America. So, on a basic moral level, creating your nation by taking other people's land seems very wrong to me. "

I talked to a woman from Japan who went through a process of having her consciousness raised when she was approached to help translate the book Dissent: Voices of Conscience, by Ann Wright—one of the organizers of the Gaza Freedom March. After that experience, she found herself organizing a speaking tour opposing the Iraq war by Ann Wright in the U.S. colony of Guam and many Japanese cities.

There were people on the March from every possible slice of the spectrum of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religious views (along with other trends including Buddhism). Muslims I spoke with from North America and Europe ranged theologically from those who had a liberal interpretation of the Qur'an (Koran), to others who held a literal interpretation of the Qur'an. Jewish people on the GFM included both those motivated by their religious beliefs, and secular activists for whom the Jewish connection is more cultural than religious. They shared a compulsion to not allow the Holocaust to be invoked to justify the oppression of Palestinians. There was also an international contingent of ultra-orthodox Hassidic Jews whose opposition to Zionism is rooted in a literal interpretation of the Torah.

A striking phenomenon in this mix was how many people cited their interpretations of Christianity as the motivation for being on the march.

Linda, from Canada told me, "I grew up in a Christian home... and I grew up with the idea that Israel was right, that this was the chosen people idea. And I never questioned it. I didn't investigate it because I didn't think it warranted investigation. It was right, period." She was encouraged by a friend to do online research into the situation of the Palestinians, and the nature of Israel. She told me, "As I was doing this research, as I was getting actual information and understanding and facts, as a Christian, I can't find myself having been facilitating the suffering and torment of people, the murder of people. That is in complete, complete violation with my faith."

Alice, from the D.C. area, learned about the situation of the Palestinians two years ago when she heard Bishop Desmond Tutu speak in Boston. She told me, "I think it's important that Palestinians know that there are Christians who care about them, not only Muslims."

I spoke with a number of participants in the GFM who were academics and felt drawn to put their bodies on the line for the ideas they engage with. Maia is a teacher/writer/dancer-aerialist in her 30s. She studies radical movements in South Asia, and felt "As a scholar... it's very important to resist not just in theory but in practice; not just intellectually but physically." Diane, a feminist professor, saw "a parallel between what is going on in Gaza, and what is going on with indigenous people around the world." And she told me that "as a Black woman I needed to get down with this issue to figure this out, to see what's going on. Communities of color should be concerned about the Palestinians."

...Going Through All Kinds of Changes

People on the Gaza Freedom March found themselves up against fierce resistance from the powers-that-be, and took risks in Cairo they hadn't expected to take in a police state. Diane told me, "I mean, my god, I was sleeping in this room in a hostel, and outside the room were these strange men in the hallway smoking cigarettes and looking at television. And we came to find out that they were the police!" She said the experience of the march "was a life changing experience," and that "it just seems as though the situation propelled you into things you (normally) wouldn't do."

For many, that included being open to radical new ideas.

People were questioning assumptions they brought to Cairo. A student from the U.S. posed, "Why are we supporting countries in the Middle East that commit human rights abuses that violate international law?" Another noted that it seemed outside the U.S., "We are looked at as war mongers and nothing else." In some ways, people were gravitating towards breaking out of the framework of looking at the world as Americans, even as they still used the first-person pronoun "we" when talking about the United States (or Canada, or Europe). "What is it with the United States?" an older woman asked me one day. "Why are we always in bed with these repressive regimes?"

I have a vivid image, as I reflect back on our time in Egypt, of being holed up in a restaurant with a steaming plate of koshery—a popular dish in Cairo comprised of spaghetti noodles, macaroni noodles, lentils, chick peas, a sprinkling of fried onions, and hot sauce. I was chowing down on a big bowl of this dish with a woman in her 40s from Washington State, while we were evading the Egyptian police and summing up our time in Cairo. She was livid, furious, and railing at the repression we faced, but the terms of her outrage were that her "tax dollars" were being used to fund the Egyptian security forces who were pushing us around and not allowing people to protest.

She was insistent that the minute she got back to the States she was going to give her senator a piece of her mind. I heard her out, all the while cringing inside as I envisioned all that righteous anger dissipated into lobbying a congressman. After a while, I just had to interrupt and ask whether, after all we'd been through, she ever considered the possibility that her senator, and the whole setup he was a part of, were part of the problem, not the solution? She paused and took a breath. I wasn't sure if she was offended... or thinking. "Yes," she said, "I have." Which opened the door to being introduced to the need for, and possibility of, a whole different kind of system and government that was about getting rid of, not enforcing and reinforcing oppression and exploitation around the world.

Many people on the GFM were intrigued by the perspective of Revolution newspaper on events they were a part of, as well as on other things. People I hadn't met would come up to me and comment on things they read at One prominent theologian came up to me after I did a short report on who I was at one of the morning orientation meetings, and asked how he could learn more about our prison readership and the impact we were having in prisons.

During another meal, this one at a more upscale restaurant, someone asked what Revolution newspaper was all about? I said that the short answer was that we are part of getting the world communist revolution back on the map, of initiating the next stage of that revolution. There was a moment of somewhat awkward silence at the large table as people looked at each other. The first person who spoke was a woman in her 70s who had immigrated to the U.S. many years ago. She said, with a rather sober tone, "An admirable goal." This and similar moments provided opportunities to introduce people to the Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, to explain the role of Revolution newspaper in preparing for revolution, and to introduce people to Bob Avakian, the leader of the RCP, and his new synthesis1.

One impact of putting this on the table was, in many cases, opening up discussion, and debate about the possibility of a radical force emerging in the world opposed to imperialism and all its horrors, but also not within the oppressive framework of Jihadist Islamic fundamentalism.

* * *

So many different channels led people to the Gaza Freedom March. If you looked at the process of people becoming politically conscious and active, and taking tremendous risks for a just cause, in some kind of linear mechanical way ("when things get really really bad, everyone will rise up together"), you would never predict an Emily... a Linda ... a Dennis... a Diane... or my friend from Washington State. But the egregiousness of the oppression of the Palestinian people, and the really horrific things that Israel is doing, moved these "ordinary people" to step out. They went up against repression, peer pressure, and often the wishes and advice of family and friends. They acted with courage, determination, and creativity.

In reflecting on all these people, the changes they went through, and the exchanges I had with them, I thought back to the experience of the 1960s, when many of my generation worked with what at the time were the equivalent of NGOs (like the Peace Corps), or who entered the civil rights movement with goals of making America "live up to its ideals." We were compelled to check out radical politics in response to great events in the world (like the Vietnam war), and because of the work of revolutionaries. And then we were—in many cases—ushered through the door to the revolution with the assistance of a policeman's baton.


Many of those participating in the Gaza Freedom March had their convictions, and determination to break the siege of Gaza strengthened through experiences they had in Gaza, in the West Bank, and among Palestinians in Israel. In the next installment of this series, I'll share some of those stories, the powerful impact they had on those involved, and explore what those experiences reveal about the nature of the state of Israel, and the oppression of the Palestinian people.

Bring Alan Goodman to present a slideshow report-back from the Gaza Freedom March to your group, student organization, church, mosque, synagogue or temple. Contact Alan at

* Watch video clips from Alan Goodman's report-back from the Gaza Freedom March at

* Watch the speech by Alan Goodman at the Emergency Town Hall Meeting on Gaza, New York City, January 13, 2009

* Watch an Interview with Alan Goodman outside the Holocaust Museum in Manhattan: "After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel."

1. Avakian describes the new synthesis this way: "This new synthesis involves a recasting and recombining of the positive aspects of the experience so far of the communist movement and of socialist society, while learning from the negative aspects of this experience, in the philosophical and ideological as well as the political dimensions, so as to have a more deeply and firmly rooted scientific orientation, method and approach with regard not only to making revolution and seizing power but then, yes, to meeting the material requirements of society and the needs of the masses of people, in an increasingly expanding way, in socialist society—overcoming the deep scars of the past and continuing the revolutionary transformation of society, while at the same time actively supporting the world revolutionary struggle and acting on the recognition that the world arena and the world struggle are most fundamental and important, in an overall sense—together with opening up qualitatively more space to give expression to the intellectual and cultural needs of the people, broadly understood, and enabling a more diverse and rich process of exploration and experimentation in the realms of science, art and culture, and intellectual life overall, with increasing scope for the contention of different ideas and schools of thought and for individual initiative and creativity and protection of individual rights, including space for individuals to interact in "civil society" independently of the state—all within an overall cooperative and collective framework and at the same time as state power is maintained and further developed as a revolutionary state power serving the interests of the proletarian revolution, in the particular country and worldwide, with this state being the leading and central element in the economy and in the overall direction of society, while the state itself is being continually transformed into something radically different from all previous states, as a crucial part of the advance toward the eventual abolition of the state with the achievement of communism on a world scale."[back]

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Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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The Cruel Death of Boubacar Bah

Documents released to the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act, regarding detainee deaths in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, have recently revealed further information about the death of Boubacar Bah, reported on November 15, 2009 in Revolution #183. "Conditions in ICE Detention Centers... A Death Sentence for Over 100 Immigrants." The documents provide a shocking glimpse into the mindset and commonplace brutality of immigrant detention centers. In reading the documents, it is clear ICE's concern is with covering up and avoiding public knowledge of what goes on in the detention centers, which are inhumane and cause extreme suffering of those detained..

After Boubacar Bah fell in the bathroom of the Elizabeth Detention Center, an immigration jail in New Jersey, in February 2007, he began vomiting and screaming and clutching at the guards. Instead of recognizing what medical experts said were "textbook signs of intracranial bleeding" medical personnel had him thrown into isolation for "acting out." After 15 hours, Mr. Bah was transported in a coma to the hospital where he was rushed into emergency brain surgery. But it was too late and he remained in a vegetative state until he died—with a detention center guard stationed outside his door.

Punishment—and in some cases death—instead of treatment for a medical condition emerges as a pattern seen again and again in documents or personal accounts of medical treatment in detention centers. The patient is accused of "faking it," often brutalized by guards, slapped into restraints and thrown into isolation for "observation." Medications are routinely denied or dosages cut to save costs. One document listed the amount of money ICE saved by denying medication for HIV, tuberculosis, hypertension, diabetes, paranoid schizophrenia and other serious chronic diseases. Doctors who have examined a patient and ordered further treatment or tests can be overruled by off-site nurses who don't have access to the full medical chart, but work for ICE. The "medical mission" of ICE is "treatment pending deportation" and medical personnel are trained to view medical care as a "favor" that the immigrant would not receive in their home country.

As former Secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush, Michael Chertoff, put it in an interview in the New York Times in August 2008, when asked about the need for mandatory standards for health care in immigration detention: "We want to provide good care but we're not trying to create a health care system for people. The idea actually is to move people out very quickly and deport them back home." If you combine that with ICE's record of outrageous and cruel neglect of medical care, what results is at least a de facto (in fact, if not in official policy) process of pressuring detainees to give up their hearing before a judge and sign voluntary departure forms in order to get medical care.

Typically, the public is only informed of a detainee death or suicide due to the efforts of the victim's companion detainees who contact the family or the lawyer. A detainee, distraught over Mr. Bah's treatment, called an immigration lawyer. The lawyer contacted the New York Times, which called ICE public affairs to investigate and was told that information about a detainee was not available without the alien registration number. The released documents show the public affairs officer's first duty was to stall the press—thus the lie about needing the "alien registration number." He immediately filled out a "critical incident report" to be filed in case of an emergency and transmitted to superiors that the press had called. An immediate flurry of damage control documentation and urgent e-mail "strategy sessions" was triggered.

It is instructive to see how the documents are progressively cleansed of all evidence of the culpability of the ICE officials and medical personnel and guards at the detention center. In the original report about Boubacar Bah's treatment, an ICE official told the warden at the Elizabeth facility that there had been a series of obvious errors and that the facility would soon be inspected by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). But by the time of Mr. Bah's death, ICE documents stated he had died of an unfortunate accident and pre-existing conditions, through no fault of ICE personnel. The facility was never inspected.

The actual number of detainee deaths in ICE custody is a closely guarded secret. At present there have been 107 known deaths since 2003. (The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union obtained this figure from ICE under the Freedom of Information Act). ICE previously kept no central list of deaths and is not required to report deaths to any central authority. As Chertoff cold-bloodedly commented in the same NYT interview, "whether it's a state prison, federal prison, you're going to get a certain number of deaths." In 2004, the ACLU attempted to document the number, and the press began to investigate and write about the horrific medical abuses in detention. Finally Congress demanded from ICE a list of deaths.

In August 2009, the Obama administration refused a petition by lawyers and former inmates of immigrant detention to make legally enforceable rules against mistreatment of detainees, including medical mistreatment. The administration argued that "rule-making would be laborious, time-consuming and less flexible" than an overhaul of the system. It was argued that a problem with the system was that ICE was not exercising its oversight functions. In October it was announced that the sprawling detention system, made up of 400 jails across the country, some county-owned and others privately owned, would be further centralized under ICE control and oversight. The released documents reveal high-placed ICE officials are very aware of cases of medical abuse and brutality and use their oversight and control to cleanse the files of traces of such information and to protect the detention centers from the media.

Immigrant deaths in detention have been a closely guarded secret that has slowly begun to reach the public, despite the efforts of ICE to distort the circumstances and details. Since 2003, the year ICE was put under the jurisdiction of Homeland Security, the recorded number of deaths is now 107, according to figures obtained from ICE. But given that ICE has a record of covering up and minimizing medical neglect and abuse, the actual number may be higher. And these figures—as critics of ICE have pointed out—do not include people released just before they die so as not to be included in the tally of people who died in ICE detention.

The person named by Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, to head up an overhaul of ICE detention policies quit and released a report quite critical of the detention system. Since that time, the New York Times reported a new director has been appointed, Nina Dozoretz. Her qualifications are very revealing: she has a long-time career as a public health official in ICE and has received awards for her cost-cutting efforts in the area of immigrant health. She was an active participant in the "strategy sessions" over the best way to handle press inquiries into the death of Boubacar Bah.

* * *

Boubacar Bah came to the United States many years ago from Guinea to work as a tailor. He was accused of overstaying a tourist visa. For that, he died a tortuous, unnecessary death in a cruel ICE detention center. His death is emblematic of the barbaric, inhumane treatment of immigrants in ICE custody. This situation is a shameful outrage, and a crime against humanity that must be exposed, opposed, and resisted.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe Benefit Film Showing for Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund and Revolution Books Chicago

We received the following correspondence:

On Saturday, January 23, 200 people packed a sold-out showing of William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe at the Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago that was a benefit for the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund and Revolution Books Chicago. It was hosted by several prominent people in Chicago: Educator Bill Ayers and lawyer Bernardine Dohrn; Taigen Dan Leighton, Zen teacher and activist; Warren Leming, artist/activist; Denis Mueller, documentary filmmaker of many radical films, including Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train; Jed Stone, criminal defense and anti-death penalty attorney, and Dr. Quentin Young, head of Physicians for a National Health Program.

The multinational, multigenerational audience included activists, artists, attorneys, professors and students, and many '60s people who knew or remembered William Kunstler from his work as a lawyer on the famous Chicago 8 trial of antiwar activists charged with conspiracy for protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention.

The film is very powerful. It tells the story of William Kunstler's life, how he changed from an average, suburban New York lawyer to a crusader for justice and the rights of the oppressed, taking on the cases of many who were fighting to change society, from the Chicago 8 to the inmates who took over Attica prison to the American Indian Movement who stood up to the federal government at Wounded Knee to the notorious "flag burning" case of Joey Johnson, a supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Party. It includes interviews with people influenced and transformed by contact with Kunstler—from a prison guard at Attica to a juror in the Chicago 8 trial to Yusef Salaam, one of the victims of the witch hunt and wrongful conviction in the infamous Central Park jogger case. A powerful thread throughout the film is the image of Michaelangelo's statue of David, just as he is contemplating whether to throw the rock at Goliath or just quietly walk away, and its relevance today. And the film takes you on the moving journey of the filmmakers, Kunstler's daughters, Emily and Sarah, as they struggled to understand and came to deeply appreciate the importance of the stand and work of their father. (See Revolution interview with Emily and Sarah Kunstler at

Emily and Sarah answered questions at a lively Q&A, where the questions ranged from artistic choices made by the filmmakers to personal questions about growing up with a controversial father and questions about how they saw the relevance of their father's life to the current world situation. In the Q&A they made a very explicit call for more people to confront the "Goliath" of the injustices of the system as their father had.

Seventy-five or so people stayed for a reception and mingled and talked for nearly an hour after the Q&A. The event raised $1,300 for the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund and Revolution Books Chicago.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

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Jumpstarting Discussion on "From the Burkha to the Thong": A Lesson in Experimental Street Theater

We received the following correspondence:

Sunsara Taylor's national campus speaking tour, "From the Burkha to the Thong: Everything Must, And Can, Change. We Need Total Revolution" was announced this week. Monday afternoon we were out on campus shaking things up. The idea was to use dramatic street theater to present the burkha and thong as emblems of two bad options for women, break open the conversation around women's oppression, and spread the word about Sunsara Taylor coming to speak. To get this started, I enlisted a friend of mine, a Black poet who welcomes controversy and breaking of taboos, and also has a lot of hatred for what happens to women in this society. I had workshopped a script with some friends and we rehearsed for about an hour or so—then went to try it out.

If you were one of about 100 students sitting in the cafeteria at lunch, this is what you saw:

From one side of the room, suddenly, a woman in a full Afghani-style burkha walked out into the center of the room, and, suddenly, another woman, dressed as if she was headed for a nightclub, came towards her holding a red thong in her hand. They walked towards one another and stopped in the center of the room dramatically stomping and freezing as if they were in a standoff.

The bustling noisy cafeteria hushed. The two women looked at one another, almost curiously. Then after maybe 15 seconds, they spoke. The woman with the thong said, "Where you come from women are shrouded and bought and sold into marriage." The woman in the burkha replied "Yes, but in your society you are harassed and disrespected. I have respect."

"Well I may be disrespected by some, but I have the power to entice men with my sexuality—in your society women are stoned to death for falling in love," the woman with the thong replied.

"Yes, that is true, but in your society people think love is violence and domination—women are the playthings of men and think they can be empowered within that. Even little girls wear thongs."

"Yes that's true, but in your society little girls are married to 40-year-old men and they aren't allowed to read and write."

"Yes but in your society fathers give their daughters purity rings and are taught their wedding will be the most important day of their lives. What's the difference?"

Both women then turned to people in the cafeteria posing, "Why are we living this way!?!?" The burkha and the thong were thrown off onto the ground and it was announced "From the burkha to the thong, everything must, and can, change! We need total revolution! Come hear Sunsara Taylor's talk on campus February 23. There's a whole other way the world could be!"

To our surprise, several people in the room, both men and women, erupted in cheering and applause. We went over and talked with them afterwards. One guy said it was shocking to see these two images juxtaposed. He had never thought about it in this way, but it got at something. We told the students more about Sunsara Taylor's speaking tour. We spoke of how all over the world women are oppressed, including in this country where people claim we have gotten beyond this. That Sunsara Taylor is a revolutionary communist that is going to be speaking about this and how things can begin to be transformed right now with a movement for women's liberation and how it will take a revolution to do away with this as part of emancipating all humanity. Women especially were really nodding their heads, and said "Good Luck" and "Thank you for doing this." But it wasn't only the women, and we made the point to guys that they should be part of this too. Many gave their emails to get the details about the event and how they could be involved.

After each skit we went around asking people what went through their minds when they saw this. My friend the poet was at first very surprised at how quiet and repressive the atmosphere was on campus, but she was also surprised at how "nice" the students were and how much they wanted to talk about things. She would go off and get into her own conversations and then bring me over at the end to talk about Sunsara Taylor's speaking tour and to connect with people.

She and I also talked along the way. You see, she herself hates the oppression of women yet at the same time would actually agree with her character in the skit that you can be empowered by your sexuality. So we talked, about what it means to be a woman in this world, about why you can't "play the game" and not "get played" and what it means to play others anyway. She wondered why people were so cruel to one another and so lonely. Can you really be whatever you want to be if you put your mind to it? Why do women want to have big breasts and big butts, and find themselves unendingly preoccupied with this? And if becoming the dominator or dominated in a sexual relationship is not desirable or arousing than what is?

One thing which we predicted before doing this theater is that presenting these very dramatic strong images that are challenging people around this particular question, you will get a lot of different things coming out and coming at you. This proved to be very true. As we finished one performance amidst the applause someone blurted out at us, "Now, make out!"

At first we started talking with the people who appreciated the skit and wanted to know what it was about. A student came up to us and suggested that we also talk with people who had a negative response to the skit, gesturing to the guy that made the misogynist comment. She volunteered to go talk to him and say what she thought, so we all went together. She said his comment was not a good thing because people have this idea of two women kissing as something to please men, not the women, and to say they should do that when they are trying to make a point is downgrading what they're trying to do and it's not right. He disagreed and said some women do like it, so we got into this—about why women like it and whether or not they "like it," how this is part of all women not being treated as whole human beings but as the playthings of men, and that there are so many ways that women are told this every single day, and it should not be this way, that we should live in a society where a woman can walk down the street naked and not be afraid of being harassed, but in this society every single night going home you have to look over your shoulder. There were two other women sitting with this guy and this struck a nerve in one who replied, "I know! I am SO SICK OF THIS!!" And an outpouring of stories about being demeaned, hit on and gawked at as an object came pouring out. This is exactly the kind of thing that needs to start happening on campuses across the country as people hear about Sunsara Taylor's speaking tour. No more of those who are fed up and angry sitting silent and afraid, while those who would uphold and argue for the degradation of women are emboldened. We are changing things now!

We met all kinds of people who were thinking about these kinds of questions and want to be a part of making this tour happen. We met students involved in four different women's organizations on campus and one invited us to their meeting later that evening where she talked about the experience of witnessing the street theater and let us make an announcement. We got people's email addresses again and they shared some ideas they had about doing street theater around domestic violence. We also met students who told us about professors they thought would love what we are doing and maybe invite us to their classes.

Creative promotions of this speaking tour can be experimented with and developed in different ways—you don't have to be a poet or an actor. We did this on the sidewalk during class change but instead of a theatrical scene it was more of an art installation. A person was dressed in all black wearing a thong outside her clothes and the other in the Afghani-burkha. Each character held a sign that said "OBJECT" and faced each other, looking at one another as if they were looking in the mirror. We had fliers quoting from the Declaration for Women's Liberation and The Emancipation of All Humanity and the details for Sunsara Taylor's speaking tour in our hands. People could see us coming down the block, thousands of students saw this during a busy class change. People took fliers from our hands; some commented, in different ways supportive that this was being called out. They said about the burkha and the thong: "same thing", "you got me, I'll check it out", and "Amen."

This street theater is something that anyone can do to help make Sunsara Taylor's speaking tour and what is so powerfully concentrated in its title, a widely known and talked about happening—a very big deal on campus!

Send us your comments.