Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA

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Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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This special issue of Revolution focuses on the environmental emergency that now faces humanity and earth's ecosystems. This emergency has many dimensions:

These environmental problems affect each other, and are already causing certain ecosystems—the complex webs of interacting and interrelating life—to collapse.

It is as if life on earth is being ravaged by a cancer—something that is growing and totally out of control, something eating up life which the body is powerless to defeat.

If we don't hurry up and protect and preserve fast-vanishing natural ecosystems around the world, we will very likely witness before too long an unprecedented series of domino effects—a qualitative unraveling and degeneration of the natural world on this planet.

This environmental crisis is already causing wide-scale misery for humanity. But we must confront the full reality—humanity is already well on the way to making this planet literally uninhabitable. Ardea Skybreak has written that "it is definitely conceivable that the physical and biological conditions necessary for human life to continue on this planet could be destroyed by how human beings interact with the environment (even without something like nuclear war). The necessary conditions for human life include not just such things as the appropriate quality of air and water, but also the right quantity and quality of sufficiently diverse habitats and sufficiently diverse species interpenetrating in an overall 'mix' within which humans can continue to live." (The Science of Evolution and The Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters, Insight Press, 2006, p. 32)

But we can do something. People are acting on this now—they are sounding the alarm, they are demonstrating, they are resisting with real determination, they are doing important research, they are thinking through alternate ways of doing things, and they are carrying forward important projects.

These actions are crucial. But ultimately our actions must actually correspond to a true understanding of the causes of the problem, and to the real solution to it.

In this issue of Revolution we are going to show:

Read this issue. Engage it. Use it as a powerful tool to awaken people and spread the word. Get it out far and wide—taking it into classrooms and into the streets and communities. Take it to those places where people are fighting the power against these crimes, and spread it as you unite with their struggle. Organize discussions of it. Get into forums and roundtables with scientists, activists, and others. Let us know what you think of it, and what others think of it. And as you do all this, check out and get with the movement for revolution that we are building.

The environment and human destiny itself is being taken to the brink of disaster.

All this because of the dictates of this system—because of its stranglehold on humanity. All this while technology and wealth exist on a scale and in forms never before imagined—technology and wealth produced by millions, billions, throughout the world who are nameless and faceless to the powers that be—technology and wealth that could and should be a resource belonging to humanity as a whole and used to meet the needs of people everywhere for a decent and ever-enriched material, intellectual and cultural life.

From: The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have—A Message, And A Call, From The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

Send us your comments.

Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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The Dimensions of the Environmental Emergency

Snapshots of a Planet in Peril

Humanity and earth's ecosystems face an environmental emergency. But that phrase doesn't capture the scope of what we face.

Let's imagine we are circling our planet by satellite—and then can zoom down to the earth's surface to see the situation on the ground.

First we come to the outskirts of Accra, the capital of Ghana in West Africa. There we see children as young as five years old playing. But when we look closer, we see that their "playground" consists of vast piles of abandoned computers—what is called "e-waste." We see them breaking up the computers and burning off foam. And when we ask, they tell us that they aren't playing at all—they are salvaging metals to sell, in order to survive.

The computers were shipped from the U.S., Europe and Japan—as "donations." But these donations are actually useless. Still worse, they are filled with lead, cadmium, organic chemicals and other materials that cause cancer, and that damage brain and reproductive development. These "donations" poison these kids, and when the rains come, washing the toxins into the rivers and lagoons, they poison life there too.

We get back in the satellite and move to the Amazon rainforest in northern Ecuador in South America. From above we see views of beautiful forest. Once on the ground, the lovely vistas give way to oozing pits of poisonous waste water. The rivers and streams are black with oil. People come out of their huts to tell us about many of their loved ones who are dead, or dying, from cancer. They cry about their children with leukemia and birth defects. Here, in Oriente, an area the size of Rhode Island, Texaco Oil has created one of the worst environmental disasters in human history. Texaco spilled and dumped 17 million gallons of crude oil and billions of gallons of toxic waste water into the rivers and rainforest. The people you meet live in these rainforests. They are members of six indigenous tribes, 30,000 people, that depend on it for life.

Now Chevron Oil Co. has bought out Texaco. Chevron tries to brand itself as "eco-friendly." But Chevron is fighting in court to avoid responsibility for the devastation of the environment, and the hundreds of deaths, they have caused.


The eminent climate scientist James Hansen has warned, "Our home planet is now dangerously near a 'tipping point' environment far outside the range that has been experienced by humanity. There will be no return within the lifetime of any generation that can be imagined, and the trip will exterminate a large fraction of species on the planet.... We must move onto a new energy direction within a decade to have a good chance to avoid setting in motion unstoppable climate change with irreversible effects."

Next, we fly to the North Pole. From the air, amazing ice sheets seem to stretch endlessly. But if we could compare them with 30 years ago, we would see that during the late summer they are smaller by about the size of California and Texas combined. They are melting away as the planet warms. The sea ice also melts earlier now, making it harder for polar bears that hunt from the ice to find food at critical times. Bears are powerful swimmers, but now some are drowning, because they have to swim greater distances between floating ice floes to hunt. And it's not just the bears—the entire Arctic ecosystem is threatened by global warming. What's more, the melt of the Arctic will cause dangerous feedbacks, warming the planet even more.

We go to the South Pole. There we find that huge ice sheets have already broken up in the Antarctic Peninsula. A scientist stationed in Antarctica talks to us about the extreme but richly abundant ecosystem there, and then takes us on a tour where we see penguins, seals, whales, fish and many birds. She explains that these animals face present and larger future threats from two big changes: first, because the sea ice is melting; and second, because the numbers of small shrimp-like animals called krill are declining. Many animals depend on the vast amounts of krill to eat for survival. Krill form the base of the Antarctic food chain, but now their numbers are dropping. Global warming is melting sea ice containing algae that krill eat, and krill are also targeted by industrial fishing for food for fish farms and other uses. The further decline of krill would not only affect Antarctica, but marine ecosystems far beyond.

We fly from the Antarctic northeast to the island nations of Indonesia and Malaysia. We encounter amazing tropical rainforests but we also see forests on fire. As we get closer to the ground we make out huge swaths of land where the forests have been wiped out—with only some stumps remaining. In others, there are vast miles of palm tree plantations; such plantations seriously reduce biological diversity in favor of the single plant being cultivated.

Arriving in the forested region of Borneo, we come into a world alive with amazing plants and animals—beautiful orchids and other flowering plants, birds of many kinds. We meet an activist on the ground who has been part of blocking the destruction of the forests by developers. His eyes come alive as he describes the immense variety of creatures the forest still holds, including apes, tigers, amphibians, reptiles and even elephants. But he becomes visibly upset as he explains that all this rich life is rapidly being exterminated as the forests are being destroyed. Three-quarters of Indonesia's once immense forests are already gone. If things are not stopped quickly, he says, this vast rich ecosystem will be no more—all these animals and plants gone—with consequences for all of us.

We keep flying over the planet, coming to the Khosi river that flows through Nepal and India. As we arrive, farmers show us their former farmland. Now the land is covered in six feet of sand after massive floods that killed 1,500 people and displaced three million. Now nothing grows. And there are worse droughts in some regions, more torrential monsoon rains in others, as the climate changes. The farmers say they don't know what they will do to survive.

And then, finally, we arrive at our last stop—New Orleans. We walk through the 9th ward, where most of the people who lived here are either poor, Black, or both. We can't believe it, but so many houses have been simply razed or are still lying in ruins—five years after being destroyed by the massive hurricane Katrina. These neighborhoods have been abandoned by a government and an economic system that does not provide for people's needs. The people in New Orleans show us pictures of their loved ones who died, abandoned in their homes, and tell us about how the police and soldiers came at them with guns, when they needed help. Katrina was a monster—fueled by warmer waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Katrina is a sign of things to come—the type of more powerful hurricanes and storms that are likely already occurring and will become more common as warming of the planet proceeds.

The Larger Picture: The Destruction of the Ecosystems

These snapshots demonstrate the emergency, but now let's look at the entire picture.

Many of Earth's ecosystems—its complex webs of life—are being undermined, compromised and even destroyed. By ecosystem we mean the way in which all the living organisms in any area—the plants, animals, and micro-organisms like bacteria—interact with one another, and with the topographical area (the features of the land—rivers, mountains, desert, etc.)— in a complex web of life. These organisms are interdependent and interact with each other. If you "pull one thread in the fabric"—that is, if one or more key species are destroyed—you may very well unravel the whole thing.

How bad is this ecosystem crisis? The UN's Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report of 2005 estimated that two-thirds of the "services provided by nature to humankind are found to be in decline worldwide." This means that the things we depend on from nature for life—the production of food and water and many medicines, the air we breathe, the control of climate and disease, the supply of nutrients and pollination of crops, and cultural and recreational benefits—are being used up and degraded.

But how can this be so? When we go into nature or watch nature shows on television, in many ways things may seem the same as they always have been. And in fact there are still large swaths of the world with awe-inspiring natural wonder and rich diversity of life. But when we pull back the lens to see the whole view, and when we look under the surface at the changes that are actually happening to the environment, a staggering and extremely frightening picture emerges.

Consider these basic facts:

It's important to note that in all the above examples, the environmental devastation is overwhelmingly concentrated in the areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America. This is not just an accident, or bad luck. These nations have been dominated by the U.S., Japan and the European powers for centuries. Today, this means that the imperialist powers consume a hugely disproportional share of the world's resources—and that the oppressed nations bear a terribly disproportional share of the brunt and burden of the environmental crisis.


Add up enough ecosystem collapses in local or regional scales and you can have collapse of the global ecosystem.

Governments have talked about this being a problem, as they did recently at the Copenhagen climate talks last December. But instead of taking action to solve this, they have actually increased the burning of fossil fuels, and increased the hunt for the coal and "dirty oil" that are the most dangerous polluters. These modern-day Neros are fiddling while the whole planet burns!

The eminent climate scientist James Hansen has warned, "Our home planet is now dangerously near a 'tipping point'... an environment far outside the range that has been experienced by humanity. There will be no return within the lifetime of any generation that can be imagined, and the trip will exterminate a large fraction of species on the planet.... We must move onto a new energy direction within a decade to have a good chance to avoid setting in motion unstoppable climate change with irreversible effects."

There are differences from region to region in how the environmental emergency is developing, with some regions affected more than others. But the crisis is real, global and advancing.

The Extinction Crisis and Ecosystem Collapse



[in order of appearance in the text]

The following are brief explanations of some of the terms used in this issue of Revolution:

Ecosystem: An ecosystem is a system that includes all the living organisms (the plants, animals and micro-organisms like bacteria) in an area, as well as its physical environment (the climate, land, waters, etc.). Organisms in any given ecosystem are interdependent and interact with each other.

Ecology: The branch of biology which investigates the interactions of organisms with one another and with their physical environments, and the larger patterns and dynamics of whole ecosystems.

Habitat: The location and features of the area in which an organism lives. For instance, many rattlesnakes live in a desert habitat.

Imperialism: Imperialism is the globally integrated system of capitalist production and exploitation, and political power relations, that emerged in the late 19th century. Imperialism means the domination of economic life by huge blocs of capital, where massive monopolies and gigantic banks are intertwined; the concentration of capital in a handful of wealthy countries (the U.S., the European powers, Japan, etc.) and the super-exploitation by that capital of the people of the impoverished world (Asia, Africa, Latin America) and the domination of those nations through war, occupation and colonial or neocolonial political control; and rivalry between the imperialist powers themselves, often leading to war or other forms of deadly competition.

Capitalism: A system of economic relations, and the political power that defends and extends those relations, which is based on the private ownership and control of socially worked means of production (the resources, factories, farms, laboratories, etc. through which society creates things to meet its needs). This system rests on the exploitation of those who own no such means by those who do, and the appropriation of the wealth produced thereby. This system of production is driven forward through the competition between competing owners of capital, leading to anarchic, unplanned expansion.

Tipping point: A point when the momentum for change becomes unstoppable. Tipping points in the warming of the earth refer to unstoppable climate impacts, irreversible on a practical timescale, such as the disintegration of large ice sheets, extermination of animal and plant species, and regional climate disruptions.

Global climate change: Changes in climate that may occur on a timescale of years and decades or over centuries, affecting earth as a whole. While climate changes vary from region to region, global climate change involves changes in average global temperature on land and in the ocean; regional temperature changes; changes in global rainfall patterns, storm intensities or frequencies; changes in ocean currents, ocean level, wind and weather patterns, etc. Climate varies naturally according to many factors but on earth today climate change is happening much more quickly than most natural variation or past climate change in earth's history and is primarily the result of human activity. It is mainly caused by the warming of the planet from the build-up of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor and others). This buildup has begun over the last 200 years with capitalist production and is now accelerating, as a result of burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), as well as deforestation, and other causes.

Species: A basic unit of biological classification, involving a group of organisms that have common characteristics and that are generally capable of interbreeding (mating with one another) and producing viable offspring (young which will be able to survive and reproduce). To qualify as a species, a group of organisms has to be reproductively incompatible with all other species.

Organism: An individual living thing that can react to stimuli, reproduce, grow, and maintain a stable internal environment. It can be a virus, bacterium, protist, fungus, plant or an animal.

Biodiversity: The existence of a wide range, a large diversity, of different types of plant and animal life in a given place at a given time.

Today, more than 3,000 species a year are going extinct and this could reach tens of thousands per year. In Africa the lion population has decreased from 200,000 to 20,000 just over the past 30 years. Chimpanzees and gorillas, humanity's most closely related cousins, are facing threats of extinction—totally going out of existence. They are being hunted as "bush meat," their forest habitats wiped out, and they are dying of disease. In the world's oceans, about 90% of the populations of the world's predatory fish (such as tuna and swordfish) are gone, depleted through overfishing.

As bad as this is, this picture doesn't capture the deep threat to earth's biodiversity from many factors, and the degree to which entire ecosystems are being radically altered and in some cases already vanishing from the earth. There is real danger of a cascade of negative effects being set in motion that can affect the global health of the whole planet. Add up enough ecosystem collapses in local or regional scales and you can have collapse of the global ecosystem. To repeat: add up enough ecosystem collapses in local or regional scales and you can have collapse of the global ecosystem.

Today in the oceans, nearly all of the big fish, mammals and turtles, as well as many birds and other species—are being pushed toward extinction. Why? On the one hand, because capitalist companies trawl the bottoms of the oceans with huge nets. This trawling takes too many fish, and destroys their habitat (the environment in which they can live); but this is the most profitable way to do this for the capitalists, so that is how it's done. On the other hand, these species are threatened by the overall pollution and climate change—which, as we'll show in this issue, is brought on by the heedlessness of capitalist production more generally.

These changes in the oceans are widespread and a big problem. In some cases human activity has wiped out predators at the top of the food chain. With the predators gone, some species that they fed on expand out of all proportion and decimate other species they eat lower down the food chain. In other cases, such as in estuaries, pollution and overfishing have decreased oysters and other filter feeders. The problem is that in a healthy estuary, filter feeders keep algae and bacteria in check and without them, these organisms grow without limit, polluting waters and beaches with slime and toxins.

Entire ecosystems in the oceans are threatened and in some regions, already collapsing. Coral reefs are of particular importance. According to a recent article by Brian Skoloff, "Death of Coral Reefs Could Devastate Nations," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) says that 27 percent of the world's reefs are already gone and if things continue as they are, another two-thirds will disappear by 2032. Coral reefs are being degraded because of pollution and development of coastlines, overfishing and bad fishing practices. These factors are increasingly interacting with warmer ocean waters from global warming to kill off the algae that live inside coral and feed them, causing the corals themselves to turn white and die.

Skoloff says, "Coral reefs are part of the foundation of the ocean food chain. Nearly half the fish the world eats make their homes around them. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide—by some estimates, 1 billion across Asia alone—depend on them for their food and their livelihoods." Carl Gustaf Lundin of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature says the death of coral reefs would mean "Whole nations will be threatened in terms of their existence."

Kent Carpenter, a professor at Old Dominion who directed a worldwide census of marine species, said that if global warming continues unchecked, all corals could be extinct within 100 years. Carpenter said, "You could argue that a complete collapse of the marine ecosystem would be one of the consequences of losing corals.... You're going to have a tremendous cascade effect for all life in the oceans."

Similar things are happening on land. The rainforests of Asia, Africa and South America contain multitudes of species. Many of these species are not yet even known to the scientific community. But forests are being cut down and burned, threatening great extinctions of species and collapse of these rich ecosystems.

The Catastrophic Danger of Global Warming

Rainforests not only contain the greatest diversity of species, they also take large amounts of carbon dioxide, which is causing global warming, out of the air. In turn rainforests give off vast amounts of oxygen that organisms need to breathe. Rainforests have been called "the lungs of the planet." Cutting and burning rainforests releases tremendous amounts of more carbon into the atmosphere, further increasing the planet's warming.


Species in ecosystems have been compared to rivets in an airplane wing. Take out one and it's not necessarily much of a problem (unless it's some type of central or controlling bolt), but remove a few more and the wing weakens and goes out of whack. A few more, and the entire structure collapses... Humans depend on functioning living ecosystems for our own survival. Ecosystem collapse could eventually threaten human existence itself.

We have to confront this reality.

Rainforests affect climate. They take up water from the ground and use it to grow, then give off vast quantities of water vapor. The Amazon rainforest, the largest remaining expanse of tropical forest on the planet, has a tremendous impact on weather. The Amazon rainforest interacts with trade winds, forming weather systems that affect large regions and regulating ocean temperatures. But about one-fifth of the Amazon has been completely destroyed and more than 20% more has been damaged by logging. In some recent years with the planet warming, drought has hit the Amazon and there is real fear that more years of drought with increased climate change can cause a tipping point where the Amazon begins to die off, even being turned eventually into grassland or desert.

This deforestation and the burning of oil, coal and gas (known as fossil fuels) is causing the earth to warm. The burning of these fuels, and the cutting and burning of forests, releases carbon dioxide, which is the main "greenhouse gas." The build-up of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is warming the planet which is causing the climate to change. Polar ice and glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate. Whole island nations and coastlines where hundreds of millions of people live could be threatened in coming decades by rising oceans from melting of glaciers and ice sheets. The average temperatures on the planet as a whole are rising with some regions—especially concentrated in the oppressed regions of Asia, Africa and Latin America—affected more than others. Eleven of the past 14 years are the warmest ever recorded. There is evidence that climate extremes—more devastating floods in some regions, severe droughts in others, heat waves and more powerful hurricanes in certain regions—are already occurring and global climate models predict these things will become much worse as the planet continues to warm.

Climate is a key factor affecting ecosystems, including whether a particular plant or animal can live in a particular place. As the planet warms, many species are moving toward the poles and to higher elevations where they can survive. In the polar regions, species have nowhere colder to go. In "normal" periods, climate usually changes over thousands and even millions of years—and species can adapt. But now, Anthony Barnosky, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology says, human-caused climate change "is racing faster than it ever has during the evolution of living species and ecosystems—many species simply aren't biologically capable of adjusting their geographic range at the speed they would need to in order to survive."

And on top of this, when many species respond by changing their range, they run smack into cities and development where they can't survive and can't travel through. The natural ranges of species have been fragmented and even eradicated by urban development, sprawl, and other destruction of natural habitat. Often, there is no more habitat to even migrate to. Climate change combined with habitat destruction means a double whammy threatening not just species but whole ecosystems. Barnosky says, "As a result, whole communities and ecosystems may fail to operate as they have evolved to do over thousands, even millions, of years."

Ecosystem Collapse, and the Consequences for Our Future

Ecosystems are made up of complex webs of interacting and interrelating life. Extinction of key species, such as krill in Antarctica, wolves or other top predators, or groups of species, can cause whole ecosystems to be fundamentally transformed, or even to "unravel" in highly destructive ways. Species in ecosystems have been compared to rivets in an airplane wing. Take out one and it's not necessarily much of a problem (unless it's some type of central or controlling bolt), but remove a few more and the wing weakens and goes out of whack. A few more, and the entire structure collapses.

Some very important ecosystems—including rainforests and coral reefs that contain the richest life on earth, but also others—are being outright devastated and in some cases, already collapsing or being eliminated altogether. Others, such as the Arctic, are being severely affected. Ecosystems blend into, interact with and can tremendously impact each other, affecting the entire global ecosystem. Humans depend on functioning living ecosystems for our own survival.

We have to confront this reality. Taking out individual species and groups of species can unravel ecosystems, and ecosystem collapses can cascade like dominoes. Now many factors, with climate change being the leading edge, are coming together to confront us with the threat of not only massive extinction of species, but collapse of some ecosystems and the threat of a cascading impact on the earth's global ecosystem and the transformation to a different kind of planet that potentially could even threaten human existence. We can't predict all of the pathways and outcomes, but this is the trajectory we are already on and it must be stopped.

Scientists and organizations devoted to the preservation of nature have been studying all this and coming up with many possible solutions, many things to do to preserve species, to preserve cores of wilderness and corridors for species to migrate and move through, new technologies that could be sustainable and even ways to "sequester" carbon dioxide—to take it out of the atmosphere and help reverse climate change. Many others are actively fighting development and environmental destruction. Some important initiatives have already been taken that are having positive effects showing the potential to save nature. But many efforts and avenues are being frustrated by the workings of the system. Much, much more needs to be done, can be done, cries out to be done.


Send us your comments.

Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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Biodiversity, Wilderness and Nature

Why does it matter that species are destroyed on the scale mentioned in this issue of Revolution? Why does preserving biodiversity and wilderness matter?

First, species that exist are the product of millions of years of evolution. There is a certain amazing beauty to each one—to how it lives and relates to other species, and to the ways in which each evolved. But once destroyed, species are gone forever. It isn't the case that humans, even if power is seized out of the hands of the capitalists, would be able to recreate biodiversity that is already gone. Certainly, species do go out of existence in the course of the evolution of life. But the destruction of species being caused by capitalism's anarchic plunder is far greater than normal rates. It's difficult to exactly measure these rates, but best scientific estimates are that extinction rates today are from 100 to 1,000 times the normal "background" rate. And this is a crime that must be stopped.

Second, nature and wilderness have great importance in relation to real human needs—to experience and explore the relatively unknown, to experience adventure and solitude. Nature and wilderness open us up to a certain kind of beauty, and a certain kind of awe and wonder. There is great joy in experiencing nature and the wild as it is, unchanged by human development. To lose this is to diminish what it can mean to be human.

Third, humanity is part of nature—and we rely on nature for our very life.

Humans are the product of natural evolution. We are part of and linked to all other living things in a real sense. All species originate as evolutionary modifications of pre-existing ancestor species, so all living species are related to each other, through a succession of shared ancestors. And our own human species is related, by different degrees of kinship, to all other species on the planet—whether the blades of grass and fruit trees, the polar bear, the smallest insect, or your family's cat.

The natural world is made up of ecosystems—webs of life interacting with each other and their physical environment as a unit. Destruction of species, particularly key species, or groups of species, affect other species and can even cause unraveling of an entire ecosystem's life. We don't always know what threads when pulled might cause that unraveling.

One good example of this interconnectedness in ecosystems that biologists have discovered is the part played by predator species—such as the wolf in the Yellowstone National Park region. Wolves in this area were wiped out but now have been re-introduced. Studies have shown that wolves in effect regulate the entire ecosystem. The reintroduction of the wolf is keeping down the deer and elk populations that were overgrazing certain trees. Elk are now also staying away from grazing trees along streams because they are vulnerable to wolves in these areas. The elk not grazing as much by streams has caused the western aspen tree, which was almost eliminated, to come back. The aspen's regrowth is providing more shade, making healthier river systems and better conditions for fish to thrive. Other species in turn eat fish to live. The importance of predator species at the top of the food chain in keeping a healthy and relatively balanced ecosystem has been found in many other ecosystems—including in the oceans where big negative changes have resulted from the elimination of predators by overfishing and hunting. Killing off top predators can in effect throw an entire ecosystem out of whack and make it vulnerable to degradation and even collapse.

One important area of scientific study and conservation work by biologists and others today is efforts to "rewild" the world. This involves efforts to overcome the destruction and fragmentation of natural wild habitat through development and other means, by linking up and preserving cores of natural wilderness and corridors for wildlife to move through so they can survive and flourish. These are very important efforts to protect our natural world.

We humans on this planet must realize that we depend on and rely on nature for our survival. The physical environment and its interaction with living organisms is the basis for human life—generating plants and animals for food, rain and thus fresh water to drink, materials for shelter, medicines for many diseases and illnesses, trees and plants that take carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen for us to breathe, etc. Without vibrant, functioning natural ecosystems—humanity will not be long for this world. Make no mistake, destruction and collapse of whole ecosystems can transform our planet to one that could become unlivable for humans, even with all our potential to adapt.

And this is what's at stake in the environmental emergency facing us today.

The environmental emergency is driven by capitalism's logic that nature is just an instrument that fuels growth—a logic that commodifies nature (turns nature into an object to buy and sell). This outlook is horrifically destructive and also leaves humanity impoverished in a moral sense. In contrast, a communist approach to nature sees humanity as becoming the guardians of the natural world and preserving the wild. It's based on a scientific approach to understanding all of reality. It fosters an appreciation for the natural world, a joy in the wonder of it, a love for the beauty of it, a marveling at the complexity of it, and an eagerness to learn from all it can teach us.

But this approach is not simply better in a moral sense. This is the approach humanity needs to transform our relationship to nature—to be able to survive and live together with nature on this planet as part of a future communist world.


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Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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Something Deeper at Work...

Why Capitalism Cannot Solve the Environmental Emergency

What Is the Cause of the Emergency?

Why is the natural environment being destroyed?

Is it simple greed of corporations? Ignorance? "Human nature"? Science itself?

In December of 2009, the governments of the earth assembled in Copenhagen, Denmark. They promised to create an agreement that would at least begin to slow down climate change. But instead of a serious scientific convocation followed by meaningful steps to address the emergency, the world got something quite different. The great powers, with the U.S. dominating the rest, were contending with each other over climate issues. These biggest polluters in the world, and the U.S. alone is responsible for more than a quarter of all carbon emissions in the atmosphere, used the climate negotiations to gain strategic advantage over each other and to strong-arm the poor countries, which are also the most vulnerable to the effects of global climate change. Protesters—some of whom have dedicated their lives to saving the planet—were locked out, often arrested, and sometimes beaten by police. The end result: a promise that did nothing to stop climate change and was worse than meaningless.

What happened? Are these powers just too ignorant, arrogant and corrupt to accomplish what was needed?

Or is there something deeper at work?

Cancerous Growth, Crippling Integration

To answer this, we need to come to grips with the economic and political system that we live under: capitalism. We have to examine the economic relations at the foundation of this society, and the institutions and ideas which have grown up on and reinforce that foundation.


To capital, nature is either something to be seized and plundered, or a gift to be taken for granted, exploited and poured into profit-based commodity production.

Capitalism has led to the fastest growth in productivity of human labor in human history. But this growth has been based on the more intense exploitation of world humanity and the more savage plunder of the planet. Unparalleled growth has carried with it unparalleled destruction. Capitalism arose on a foundation of the "African holocaust"—the enslavement and murder of over 11 million African people—and the genocide of the Native American peoples, through conquest, disease and working them to death in the silver mines. Capitalism thrived on the exploitation of children and immigrants, and brought with it devastating depressions and two world wars. Today, in its phase of capitalism-imperialism, it carries out and/or sponsors terrible genocidal invasions and wars against people in Africa, Asia and Latin America. And now capitalism is causing environmental destruction that endangers human existence itself.

Capitalism has integrated the whole world. But this integration is horrifically unequal. This is a world divided up by a handful of wealthier countries which dominate the rest of the world. The relative prosperity in the imperialist powers—prosperity which cannot hide the exploitation and poverty of millions in the "developed world"—exists in relation to the bitterest immiseration in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Imperialist powers like the U.S., Japan and the European nations parasitically feed off the peoples of the rest of the planet. The imperialists achieve control over the resources of the whole world through investments, trade agreements, control of technology and dominance of markets. They gorge themselves on these resources—and then they shift back the pollution that they cause into the very nations which they oppress and plunder. Different countries and different peoples face this crisis in radically unequal ways, and those who live in the imperialist countries often don't even know how bad the crisis really is.

Let's look at a few examples of how this comes down:

And this terrible plunder of the earth's environment and its people, and the unequal and oppressive way this comes down, is defended and reinforced by brutal military power—especially that of the U.S. military (which, as it turns out, just happens to be the single biggest institutional consumer of oil in the world. (See "A Dirty Little Secret of Capitalism: The U.S. Military Is One of the World's Largest Polluters.")

Capitalism Is a System: What That Means

But still—is there something intrinsic to capitalism, something built into the way it works, that has generated this?

Any society is a system. That means that it operates according to certain rules, like a game. If the rules are violated, the system doesn't work. Think about the rules of basketball, or soccer. When the players go on the court, they can't just do whatever they want. If a basketball player should decide to kick the ball, as you do in soccer, because it seems the best way to get it downcourt, she'd be penalized. If she kept doing it, she'd be thrown out of the game. So you need to understand the rules. And you need to understand whether you can make the game work by modifying the rules, or whether you need to be playing a different game altogether.

The same is true with the system of capitalism. Yes, there are individual capitalists and corporations who have created the crisis. But we need to understand if there is something about the rules of that game that have led to this crisis. We need to understand whether we can deal with this crisis by working within the rules of capitalism, including perhaps modifying those rules—or whether capitalism itself must go. The future of life itself depends on our getting this right.

The fundamental point is this: capitalism as a system cannot deal with the environment in a sustainable and rational way—even if an individual capitalist, or group of capitalists, sincerely wanted to. Capitalism cannot cope with the many-sided effects of its own production. Capitalism cannot plan for future generations.

Why? Because capitalists, or blocs of capital, confront one another as competitors; sometimes they cooperate but at bottom each must be ready to seize on any advantage, to undercut their competition, lest their competition undercut them and drive them under. This basic underlying dynamic is what drives the actions of individual capitalists; and it is what lay behind the failure of the major powers to agree on any meaningful action at the recent Copenhagen conference on climate change.

Capitalist Rule Number One: Everything Is a Commodity and Everything Must Be Done for Profit

Capitalism approaches everything as a commodity. A commodity is anything that is produced in order to be exchanged, to be sold. Now to be exchanged—for someone to buy it—the commodity must be useful. In previous societies, people would produce for their own direct use and then supplement this by exchanging some of what they produced for goods that they needed. In today's capitalist society virtually everything is produced in order to be sold to others—to be exchanged—and this almost universal dominance of commodity production and exchange marks off capitalism from previous forms of society. But there is something else, as well, at the heart of capitalism: the measure and motivation of all production is profit.

With capitalism, the mentality of viewing everything as a commodity and a potential source of profit penetrates into everything—into how people look at other people, how they look at themselves and, yes, how they see nature too. To capital, nature is either something to be seized and plundered, or a gift to be taken for granted, exploited and poured into profit-based commodity production. Even environmental disasters are seen first and foremost as "opportunities for profit"—as we see today with the melting of the polar ice caps due to relentless burning of fossil fuels. This is a terrible loss and tragedy, and puts all kinds of life—including human life—in acute danger. But for the capitalists of the U.S., Canada, Norway and Russia it is a call to maneuver to exploit the potentially rich reserves of new fossil fuels being opened up in the increasingly ice-free Barents and Arctic Seas. Global warming simply opens up new ground perversely, for capitalism to take "advantage" of—and take that warming to an even more horrible level.

Capitalist Rule Number Two: Production Is Privately Owned and Driven Forward by the Commandment "Expand or Die"

Capitalist production is by its nature private. The economy is fragmented into separate and competing units of capitalist control and ownership. Each unit of capital must fight others for market share, and to cheapen costs, in order to stay alive. To the extent that agreements are concluded, these either take the form of alliances in a larger battle, or temporary truces. Thus, each capitalist or bloc of capital must follow one basic commandment: expand, or die.


The fundamental point is this: capitalism as a system cannot deal with the environment in a sustainable and rational way—even if an individual capitalist, or group of capitalists, sincerely wanted to.

Each unit is fundamentally concerned with itself, with its own operations—with "realizing its investment" in the form of profit and expansion. An individual capitalist who opens a steel mill will subject the cost and efficiency of that steel mill to strict accounting. But what happens outside of that—for instance, what that steel mill's pollution does to the air—is not "on its ledger." When capitalist interests cut down rainforests in Indonesia for timber and then grow trees producing palm oil for biofuels, neither the massive amount of carbon released into the atmosphere nor the destruction of the habitat of the orangutan and Sumatran tiger even enter into the calculations.

To mainstream economics, tigers and apes (or air and water) are simply "externalities." What this means is that environmental damages and the exhaustibility of resources don't get counted. The extinction of entire species, the birth defects and diseases that ruin the lives of small children—these are "external" to capitalism's account books. In the Niger Delta in West Africa, Shell Oil has caused tremendous pollution to the soil and water in extracting oil. And the burning of that oil adds to greenhouse gases left for future generations to deal with. But none of these effects are part of Shell's economic bookkeeping. Each unit of capital looks at what lies outside itself as a "free ride."

Due to its privately owned and controlled character, and flowing from the life-and-death competition between different capitals, there can be no conscious, society-wide coordination of production. There can be no long-term planning to take into account ecological impacts, or relations. The impact of its growth on the ecology of rainforests or oceans is not considered. Or whenever reforms are passed that seek to restrain them, capital is driven to seek to defeat or get around them. The horizons of capitalism tend to be short term because it must seek returns on its investment quickly. Consequences in 10, 20, 30 years don't matter.

When the capitalists at Texaco, as we discussed above, poisoned the waters of the people in Ecuador, it wasn't just greed (though the greed was monstrous); they feared that if they didn't take all the profit that they could they would be driven under by some other capitalist, somewhere else, who would cut costs to the bone.

Capitalist Rule Number Three: Capitalism Today Proceeds through Imperialist Domination of Oppressed Nations and Strategic Rivalry between Imperialist Powers

By the mid-1800s capitalism began to burst its bounds. Capital stretched deeper into Asia, Africa and Latin America, investing in these countries and increasingly dominating their political and social structures—whether through outright colonialism or the more indirect domination of neocolonialism carried out through "native elites." The imperialist powers carried out wars and invasions with a staggering and awful toll—hundreds of thousands murdered in the U.S. invasion of the Philippines, in the French subjugation of Algeria, or in the British repressions of resistance in India; in the Belgian Congo alone, an estimated 10 million people (half the population) was destroyed through murder, starvation, exhaustion, exposure, disease and a plummeting birth rate during Belgium's horrific rule.

Like gangsters carving up turf and then violently clashing with each other, these capitalist powers would go to war with each other over the division of the planet. This caused World War 1 and was also the principal cause of World War 2. This drove the U.S. to threaten the use of nuclear weapons—which themselves could easily end human life on this planet—against what used to be the Soviet Union. Ultimately, U.S. military superiority both spurred on the collapse of their Soviet rivals and led to the era of U.S.-dominated globalization. But this rivalry itself continually recurs and takes new forms—and this rivalry played out at Copenhagen and prevented any significant agreement.

As we have shown in our article on the dimensions of the crisis, this terrible global inequality finds concentrated expression in the environmental emergency humanity now faces. The people in these oppressed nations find their waters and air utterly befouled, their agriculture devastated, their lands robbed of fertility; they find that their children face birth defects and a blighted future on a scale people in the imperialist countries can barely imagine; they find themselves driven by starvation and want into making the situation they face even worse—driven to clearing rainforests, or poaching in jungles. They awake each morning on a planet where the continued burning of fossil fuels puts the very existence of the island nations of the Pacific, as well as heavily populated low-lying countries like Bangladesh, in grave doubt; indeed, it is just a matter of time, on the current course, before these lands are inundated.

Six Reasons Why Laws Passed by the Government Will Not Even Begin to Solve this Problem

"Okay," some will say, "the capitalists will do bad things if left on their own. But there is a whole history of laws that restrain their actions, and these laws often work. Why can't we work for more and better reforms?"

As evidence for this, people point to certain "environmental successes" under the current system—for example, the international agreement cutting chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) that were damaging the ozone layer; some cuts in production of acid rain in the United States; the cleaning up of various bodies of water such as Lake Erie; the Clean Air Act; and others.

Well, what about this? It's true there have been rules and regulations passed that have resulted in some curbing of environmental destruction and better standards in certain situations. Yet a closer examination reveals just how badly such efforts fall short of solving the problem.

  1. First off, the degree to which problems are addressed has to do with how central they are to profit-making and the entire functioning of the capitalist country. It is quite different for certain companies to switch from CFC's to other substances (the switch that has resulted in leveling off of the destruction of the ozone layer) than it is for whole countries to switch off of fossil fuel energy use. The first affects a relatively small sector of companies; the second is foundational to the economies of capitalist countries and in particular to the domination of the U.S. over the entire world.
  2. Certain "gains" in cleaning up of water and air within the U.S. remain within an overall picture of continuing environmental destruction. While air quality in the U.S. has improved to a degree in certain areas, after 38 years of the Clean Air Act, one out of three people in the U.S. still live in counties with air pollution levels that exceed EPA standards. One in five live in areas with unhealthy year-round levels of particulate pollution, like soot. And note well: these dangers are more concentrated for oppressed nationality (i.e., Black, Latino, Native American and other "people of color") and poor people.
    Or let's look at efforts to clean the water. After 30 years of EPA standards, the EPA said in 2002 that more than a third of rivers and half of lakes surveyed didn't meet pollution standards. Many fish, mammals, reptiles, flowering plants and amphibians are either imperiled or vulnerable to extinction in the U.S. And if anything, larger amounts of toxic chemicals—pesticides, insecticides, etc. are being released into the environment.
    This also holds true for schemes like "cap and trade," which envisions a trade between capitalist enterprises in licenses to pollute. The most ardent defenders of this point to the Clean Air Act and similar reforms discussed above as positive examples. Some of them even concede that such an act would be more complex, more open to financial speculation and the various forms of corruption and fraud that go with that, and at the same time very unlikely to even pass into law at this point in the U.S. (see, for example, "Building A Green Economy," Paul Krugman, New York Times Magazine, April 11, 2010, for a defense of cap and trade). Given all that, there is no reason to invest any more hope in this scheme than in the others, and every reason to expose it for the dangerous fraud that it is. In fact, detailed and blistering exposures of cap and trade in particular have been done by Mark Schapiro in the February 2010 Harper's, "Conning the Climate: Inside the carbon-trading shell game," and James Hansen, "Cap and Fade," New York Times, December 7, 2009. Schapiro in particular, after going deeply into both the theory and the actual practice of this scheme as it has been done in Europe, concludes that cap and trade is "an elaborate shell game, a disappearing act that nicely serves the immediate interests of the world's governments but fails to meet the challenges of our looming environmental crisis."
  3. Whatever "greening" of the imperialist countries takes place occurs on the basis of the continuing ravaging and destruction by international capital of the oppressed countries. Rainforest destruction, toxic spills, etc., continue unabated in the countries where capital has no need for any "standards," and this is a tremendous advantage to profitability. Thus, so long as we are inside the framework of imperialism, "greening" within the U.S. or Europe will be "paid for" by the exploitation of the oppressed countries and the lack of outlay for environmental protections there. 77% of the world's resources are consumed by 20% of the world's people. While in America people shower, wash and mainly freely drink (relatively) clean water (using 176 gallons per day on average), an average African lives on 5-6 gallons per day. This is about the same amount as 2-4 toilet flushes in the U.S.
  4. Any environmental standards or regulations are always short term, subject to reversal if necessities of capital change. It is not just that individual blocs of finance capital and corporations are all tied into the government—though they are. Even more fundamentally, the "rules" of capitalism are relentless and much more powerful than any short-term environmental protections.
    James Speth, an environmentalist who actually spent years working in the highest reaches of the UN and the U.S. government on environmental issues, notes that whatever partial gains there have been such as on ozone or acid rain, "the threatening global trends highlighted a quarter century ago continue to this day and have become more serious and intractable." "As a result, the climate convention is not protecting climate, the biodiversity convention is not protecting biodiversity, the desertification convention is not preventing desertification, and even the older and stronger Convention on the Law of the Sea is not protecting fisheries. The same can be said for the extensive international discussions on world forests, which never have reached the point of convention."
  5. Major political figures who operate within the framework of capitalism must ultimately enforce the interests of capital. Many people acknowledge that the Bush regime opened up massive destruction of the environment and undermining of standards. But Obamawho campaigned as an "environmentalist"has announced plans to pursue offshore drilling, nuclear power, and so-called "clean coal."
  6. Even more basically, especially when confronted with the immense environmental dangers the world is facing, what is needed is nothing less than putting the needs of humanity and the environment first, and unleashing the creativity and initiative of masses of people is actually what is neededand no, that can't happen under this system! Look at any natural disasterbe it Hurricane Katrina or the earthquake in Haitiand the first thing these capitalist-imperialists do is to send in troops to clamp down on the people and put a stop to/sabotage the self-organized efforts of the masses to deal with the emergency. Capitalism can't confront this problem and mobilize humanity to deal with it because any such mobilization could undercut its necessity to defend the "sanctity of private property" and to maintain masses of people in a suppressed and subordinate position. The interests of the capitalist class and the interests of humanity as a whole are in antagonism.

"From the standpoint of higher economic forms [socialism and communism], private ownership of the globe by single individuals will appear quite as absurd as private ownership of one human by another. Even a whole society, a nation, or even all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not the owners of the earth. They are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and must hand it down to future generations in an improved state."

—Karl Marx

To sum up: any environmental laws passed by governments under capitalism will always be limited, partial, under constant assault, and overwhelmingly confined to the rich countries while pollution and destruction continue unabated in the poor countries. And as people spend their efforts and energies in fruitlessly and harmlessly "working through the system," that very same system will generate even more devastating environmental problems.

Making Important Efforts—But Running into Obstacles

This is not to say that people are not taking important steps right now to combat environmental destruction. They are, and these efforts should be supported. For example, biologists and others have developed very important initiatives to preserve natural systems and prevent ecosystem collapse in diverse ecosystems in many regions around the globe. Some of these efforts involve very imaginative thinking to "rewild the world" by linking together natural ecosystems into larger cores of wilderness and to develop natural corridors in particulararound and over roads or other developmentso that in particular top "apex" predator species that regulate whole ecosystems can travel to expand their range, migrate, etc. Some initiatives have met with some successfor instance, efforts to reintroduce wolves to the Yellowstone National Park area and to build corridors across busy highways have already had a positive impact. In other regions, however, these efforts run into tremendous difficultyfrustrated by big capitalist and other narrow interests, and also in many cases, by countries. For instance, efforts to develop corridors for top predators in the Mexico/U.S. border region have been prevented by U.S. Homeland Security building of border walls and fences.

In order for initiatives like this to really succeed in preserving critical ecosystems on the truly large scale needed, there is a need for bold initiatives that would often cross national boundaries and bring together unprecedented international cooperation among scientists and the people living in this region. Such efforts would need to overcome the ways the current system drives masses of people into cutting forests and poaching endangered species just to survive. These conservation efforts are extremely important but they are frustrated by the current capitalist relations. The new socialist system will be able to unleash such crucial initiatives.

Four Reasons Why "Green Technology" Is NOT the Answer


Actually saving the earth cannot be done within the framework of capitalism. It cannot be done by entrusting the fate of life on this planet to those whose only qualification is their history as the chief despoilers of that life. This may be a hard truth to face—but face it one must. A whole new way must be found.

Some argue that the development of new "green technologies" under the current system can be the solution for the climate crisis. The thinking goes that more current "clean" technologieslike use of water power, wind and solar for energy, and development of new technologieswould be the magic bullet to solve the climate problem, for instance. The trick, they say, is to make these technologies profitable enough to attract the capitalists into investing in themor else, get the governments to subsidize them.

Let's look closer at this solution.

  1. First of all, because of all the "rules" we have spoken to, capitalists are driven to do what they calculate will be most profitable. And the current energy system of extracting oil, coal and gas is tremendously profitable. This is why it is the overwhelmingly dominant form of energy use in the world, despite the fact that it is both unsustainable and tremendously destructive, and is now fueling potentially catastrophic climate change. Companies and countries must try to dig and drill for every last bit of fossil fuels because if they don't, some other competitor will grab it up and drive them under. Even if the U.S. were to launch a major project to develop green technologies and subsidize them, these subsidies would still have to come, in the form of tax moneys, from the overall profits generated by capital. Other countriesincluding some that rely on their own advantage in resources in fossil fuel productionwould see an opening and use the cheaper energy as a wedge to undercut U.S. economic dominance and the political and military power that is tied to it.
  2. Second, tremendous resources, infrastructure and knowledge are invested in fossil fuel production already. Again according to capitalism's "rules," all this investment has to be recouped. But if fossil fuel energy is no longer to be used, how will that happen? Going along with that, switching into "green tech" would itself require a huge outlay of capital. So it's not so easy under capitalism to just break out of this fossil fuel dependence, to switch to green technologies that may not hold as much promise of profit-making. This is reflected in the actual investments into fossil fuel technologies from major energy companieswhich, contrary to the gauzy ads on public broadcasting TV, continue to dwarf by many times the investment in "green tech." Indeed, as oil companies speak of "green technology" they are drilling deeper offshore in West Africaand along with that, the U.S. government is propping up and reinforcing corrupt ruling cliques in that region and have even instituted a special U.S. military "African command" (AFRICOM) there.
  3. Third, let's suppose that it turns out that "green tech" could not, in the foreseeable future, produce energy more cheaply than burning fossil fuels. In a socialist or communist society a shift from burning fossil fuels to green tech could be made even despite that possibility because the needs of humanity and sustainability of natural systems would be the prime basis for decision making (even though cost would have to be taken into account). In addition, the state would be able to shift the surplus produced by society quickly into different sectors of the economy, according to greater social need. But this isn't possible under capitalism, the reign of private ownership and control.
    Unless somehow people were prevented from extracting and burning fossil fuels, capital will flow into that economic path "naturally" because it would be cheaper and bring a higher return on investment. And if this was strictly outlawed in some fashion, even then production and sale of fossil fuels would still go on through the black market and the use of bribery, behind the backs of any law or environmental regulation. This is already the case today with logging of rainforests—officially banned in Indonesia, for example, but still going on—and also the shipping of toxic electronic waste from rich to poor countries, which is shipped under the cover of "donations" of computer equipment—despite being outlawed by international declarations and agreements.
  4. Fourth, and even more fundamentally, technology exists and can only be used by one economic system or another—and if that system is capitalism, any new technology will and can only be used within the framework of capitalism's "rules" and its power relations. To follow this through, let's assume the wildest dreams of "green tech" do come true—that scientists made great new breakthroughs and found ways to produce vast amounts of energy in cheap new ways that do not produce greenhouse gases.

What would happen under this system? Immediately various monopolies and blocs of capital—the only groupings under this system capable of organizing the mass production and distribution of this new energy—would battle over who would patent it, who would own it, who would profit from it. Those who won the battle would seek to charge as much as they could to make the most profit. The various machines and raw materials needed to produce this energy would be obtained by finding the places where all this could be produced most cheaply, by people working for low wages under very oppressive working conditions. And there would be a battle between capitalist powers leading to wars and interventions—for, just like oil, whoever could control this technology could control and dominate the world. Moreover, what is to prevent the capitalists from using green technology to make things like weapons of mass destruction? (Is it surprising to learn that the Pentagon is very interested in green technology?)

So even if somehow, in the wildest dreams of "green tech," this led to more seriously addressing the climate crisis—and all our previous arguments show why this is, to put it mildly, highly unlikely—all this would still take place within a capitalist system, that in myriad other ways would be polluting and degrading nature and also oppressing the world's people.

Yes, we desperately need green technologies that can sustainably produce energy without destroying the environment by warming the planet. But these can only be of help in a totally different social system, geared to deploying technology for the good of the peopleand NOT utilizing it with no other consideration than increasing profit. Actually saving the earth cannot be done within the framework of capitalism. It cannot be done by entrusting the fate of life on this planet to those whose only qualification is their history as the chief despoilers of that life. This may be a hard truth to facebut face it one must. A whole new way must be found.


Green Tech and the Story of Biofuels

The development of biofuels today is a living example of what happens when new "cleaner" energy sources are developed under capitalist relations. With the promise of profit from producing more "environmentally friendly" fuels to replace oil and gas, capital was sunk into agricultural production of crops that could be turned into ethanol, biodiesel fuel, etc. When this turned out to be very profitable, capital flowed into production of such crops and away from food production. This flow of capital into crop production for biofuels was a major factor triggering food shortages and skyrocketing corn and grain prices. This hit poor countries with devastating force, since they depend so much on the world market for grains and other food needs. So "green" fuel crop development caused people in poor countries worldwide to starve. This is a tremendous indictment revealing the bankruptcy of this system.

And more, biofuel crops, such as oil palm trees, are being grown in countries like Indonesia by destroying the rainforests to clear land. This is releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide. (see "Plunder of the rainforests in Indonesia"). So, growing biofuel crops to "cut greenhouse gases" ends up causing even more build-up of greenhouse gases. Why? Because all this takes place under the rules of capitalist commodity production.

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Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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A Dirty Little Secret of Capitalism: The U.S. Military Is One of the World's Largest Polluters

The U.S. military is not only the main enforcer of the system that is plundering the earth's environment and its people—it is also the single largest institutional consumer of oil in the world. And the U.S. military and its global operations are a major source of carbon dioxide emissions contributing to global climate change.

Estimates are that as of 2004, the U.S. military consumed 144 million barrels of oil a year—or 395,000 barrels per day. Fifty percent of the Pentagon's energy consumption is accounted for by jet fuel—one of the single most carbon polluting fuels in existence. Many of its vehicles consume so much fuel their consumption is measured in gallons burned per minute instead of miles per hour. The B1-B Lancer bomber, for example, burns 59 gallons a minute. The Abrams tank meanwhile goes ½ mile on a gallon of fuel. The U.S. soldier is the most gas guzzling, carbon polluting, environment destroying combatant in the history of warfare. A report from Oil Change International found that the carbon emissions produced by the military from the war in Iraq alone "equals the emissions from putting 25 million more cars on the road in the U.S. this year... If the war was ranked as a country in terms of emissions, it would emit more carbon dioxide each year than 139 of the world's nations do annually."

But now the military has been announcing how they are "going green". And the reality is that the defense department is developing and using some renewable power. The twist is what this renewable power is used for. One sharp example—the U.S. Navy base torture center in Guantánamo is powered by a wind/diesel plant. So while prisoners are locked away indefinitely without charge and tortured, the military carrying out the torture is using "green technology."

The military motivation for "going green" is to cut dependency on "foreign oil" and to prepare for the danger of dwindling oil reserves in the future. At the same time, because biofuels haven't proved practical for powering its war fighting machines, the military is moving to rely more on synfuels—that is, synthetic fuels made from coal, oil shale and biomass. These are dirty fuels, producing more carbon than regular oil and gas. Claiming to "go green" (to defend U.S. interests), the U.S. military is a major source of climate change while warring on the planet—in part fueled by the drive to dominate and exploit the world's fossil fuel energy reserves.

In addition to carbon emissions, the U.S. military is also one of the world's major sources of other kinds of pollution and toxic waste. U.S. military bases, in the U.S. and especially worldwide, have spilled, dumped and left a toxic mess of petroleum products, solvents, chemical defoliants and heavy metals contaminating the soil, groundwater and waterways. In the U.S. as of 2004, 10% of "superfund" sites (the most polluted sites needing clean-up) were created by the military.

U.S. wars, invasions, and weapons testing sites have wreaked much worse havoc. They have caused untold devastation to people and the environment over decades. This includes the results from America dropping two atomic bombing on Japan—bombs which poisoned the people and countryside with radiation, in addition to killing over 100,000 people. During its war against Vietnam, they sprayed "agent orange" on the trees in the countryside to remove "the cover" of the guerrilla soldiers—this resulted in 400,000 [!] deaths and disabilities, and 500,000 children born with birth defects. More recently, U.S. use of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques for target practice contaminated the soils and seas, and its illegal use of depleted uranium weapons in both wars against Iraq caused cancer rates and birth defects to skyrocket there.

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Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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The Plunder of the Rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia

"Borneo rainforests are one of the wonders of the natural world. They support at least 15,000 plant species, including more than 2,500 kinds of orchids.... There are flowers as big as deck chairs, one of the world's largest butterflies, pygmy elephants, flying snakes, huge crocodiles, rhinoceros hornbills, a true rhinoceros so rare that there are just a few dozen left in the wild, and the orangutans."

"Among the Great Apes:
Adventures on the Trail of our Closest Relatives"—Paul Raffaele

The last great tropical rainforests on earth lie along the equator—in the Amazon region of South America, and Asia and Africa. They are quickly disappearing—being logged off for timber, cleared and burned to grow soy beans, cattle, coffee, and palm oil—products to be sold on the international market.

Indonesia, a land of 17,000 islands in Asia, has 10% of the world's remaining tropical rainforest. The Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo (divided between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei) are lands of immense natural richness and biodiversity. They're home of many unique species such as the Sumatran tiger, forest elephants, and the last remaining home of the orangutan—Asia's only great ape. Indonesian biodiversity is so rich that it contains 10-16% of the world's flowering plants, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians despite having only 1.3% of the world's land surface. But this rich diversity of species is being threatened, as the land is plundered by logging for timber, and cleared for palm oil plantations. Almost three-quarters of Indonesia's original forest is already gone. According to the United Nations Environmental Project (UNEP), at current rates of destruction, almost all of Indonesia's forests will be gone by 2022.

Deforestation has driven Sumatran tigers almost to the point of extinction—only 400 or so remain in the wild. On Borneo, orangutans are endangered and on Sumatra, they are critically endangered. The forests orangutans live in are being wiped out and fragmented, often replaced by vast expanses of single crop oil palm trees. Orangs are being divided up by forest loss into smaller groups where it's much harder for populations to interbreed. In 1997-98, massive forest fires on Borneo burned millions of acres, engulfing neighboring countries in polluting smoke. Palm oil growers intentionally set the great majority of these fires, to clear land. In the process, they exterminated as much as 1/3 of Borneo's orangutan population—tens of thousands of animals. (Oil for Ape Scandal). At current rates of elimination, it is predicted orangs could go extinct within a decade. When they are gone, they will never be coming back.

Orangutans evolved in connection with living in the trees. They are incredibly agile swinging from branch to branch in the rainforest, but clumsy and fairly immobile on the ground. As their habitat is destroyed, these endangered apes are increasingly forced out of the forest onto the ground on palm tree plantations where they are often hunted and killed as "pests," or captured and sold into the pet trade.

If the plunder of Asia's rainforests was only causing ecological disaster by eliminating biodiversity and wondrous species, that would be bad enough. But the cutting and burning down of forests is also a major contributor to global warming. It's been estimated that rainforest destruction in the world may contribute as much as 20% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. And rainforest destruction in Indonesia now releases so much carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air that the country is the 3rd largest emitter of CO2 in the world behind China and the U.S. Palm oil tree plantations are being developed with no regard for consequences to nature. Now palm plantations are even targeting peat lands—lands extremely rich in carbon bound up in roots and soil. The drying, draining and burning of these lands is particularly dangerous because of the great quantities of carbon that will be released.

Major multinational businesses and banks of most of the imperialist world—from Switzerland, Britain, the U.S., China and others are directly financing and profiting from sales of products based on rainforest destruction. And even more deeply, the role of the U.S. military and government, and the major financial institutions it controls, the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF), lie at the heart of what set into motion and what is still driving rainforest destruction.

It was the U.S. government and U.S. military that trained top sections of the Indonesian military and backed the dictator Suharto in seizing power in Indonesia from nationalists in 1965. The CIA supplied lists of Indonesian Communists to Suharto's military to be rounded up. The U.S backed and hailed Suharto as he systematically killed between 250-750,000 leftists in setting up a brutal dictatorship. The IMF stabilized Suharto's rule with a $51 million loan and promoted polices and development prying Indonesia open to foreign capital. Under Suharto the destruction of rainforest for rubber plantations, mining, timber interests and palm oil sped ahead. Often Suharto's own family and cronies benefited richly as well. During this time, Suharto's military drowned East Timor in blood. They killed over 200,000 people to put down an independence struggle and turned East Timor into what its people called "the biggest prison island in the world." All this could never have occurred without the support of the U.S., who saw Indonesia as a bulwark for its interests in a strategic part of the world.

Indonesia was trumpeted by the imperialist powers as being a key part of the "Asian miracle" until the Asian economy crashed in 1997. The World Bank admitted this "miracle" for Indonesia, had been the result of a strategy where Indonesia's forests were treated "as an asset to be liquidated to support (its) growth strategy, establishing Indonesia as a world leader in the export of tropical forest products." After the crash, Suharto was eventually forced from power and the U.S and IMF imposed new "austerity measures" forcing the Indonesian government to cut social programs and open Indonesia up even more to foreign investment. U.S., IMF and World Bank loans and bailouts dictated that Indonesia produce more crops for export—timber, paper pulp and palm oil, as the "way out" of the financial crisis.

Today, Malaysia and Indonesia produce at least 75% of the world's palm oil and are competing to out-produce each other. Palm oil is used in everything from ice cream, to cosmetics, to margarine. And palm oil tree plantations are now the leading cause of rainforest destruction. Financing for these plantations comes from many sources, including the Asian Development Bank, several British and Swiss Banks, etc. And it is capitalist multinationals like Unilever, Nestlé, Proctor & Gamble, along with rich Indonesian interests, that profit from palm oil production.

Now, especially with rainforest destruction and climate change in the spotlight, it is common for these companies and imperialist financial groups to speak of "responsible" palm oil development and to bring forward programs they claim will "save the rainforests." But looking underneath the hype reveals that "green" and capitalism just cannot go together. Instead, rainforests, as the World Bank admitted, continue to be just "assets to be liquidated." For example, the World Bank touts its "strategic framework" for protecting rainforests and combating climate change. But an internal WB audit showed the Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) has been fueling rainforest destruction—financing palm oil plantations with $200 million dollars despite being aware there were big dangers to the environment.

Palm oil is also used as a biofuel to replace oil and gas, with the logic that biofuels will be "cleaner" and not produce large amounts of carbon dioxide when burned. In the name of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the European Union directed European countries to have 10% of transport fuel supplied by biofuels by 2020. But much of this will come from palm oil which is readily available and relatively inexpensive. And as we've shown, palm oil production itself is fueling climate change by destroying the rainforests with total disregard for the consequences, releasing tremendous quantities of carbon dioxide.

The destruction of rainforests, the annihilation of precious forest life and the massive release of carbon dioxide that results raise again the high stakes of the environmental emergency we face.

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Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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Communism and Ecology: How Revolution Opens the Way for Humanity to Confront the Environmental Crisis and to Become the Caretakers of the Planet

The only viable way to deal with the crisis of the environment is revolution. The recent message and call from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have, puts it this way:

It is this system that has got us in the situation we're in today, and keeps us there. And it is through revolution to get rid of this system that we ourselves can bring a much better system into being. The ultimate goal of this revolution is communism: A world where people work and struggle together for the common good...Where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings...Where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world.

In a country like the USA, socialist revolution is the first step in getting to, and struggling for, a communist world. The new state power of socialism is radically different from that of capitalism. It unfolds its priorities from the needs of humanity overall. Socialist society is organized around the principle of people working cooperatively and struggling for the common good. In a socialist economy, ownership and control of production is socialized through the socialist state. The means of creating wealth are placed in the service of society and humanity.

Under socialism, the rules of commodity production—of profit first, of expand or die—no longer set the terms and framework for what is possible and desirable to produce. This will be an incredibly liberating step. For the first time, it becomes possible to organize and coordinate production in a planned and rational way. It becomes possible to interact with the environment in a sustainable way. For the first time, the creativity of masses of people can be fully unleashed, with steps taken to open up the sphere of scientific understanding to all of society, while giving much greater, and more meaningful, scope to professional scientific endeavor. But, as this special issue has been emphasizing, humanity is facing an environmental catastrophe in the making. Time is running out.

Any new socialist society must, as a crucial priority, set out to protect and preserve a variety of ecosystems in order to prevent widespread environmental collapse and to ensure the well-being of the planet for future generations. Socialist society will promote deep understanding of people's connection to nature and their responsibility to the planet.

The Real History of Socialist Revolution

In the contemporary world, there are no socialist countries. Socialism did exist in the Soviet Union in the years 1917-1956, and in China in the years 1949-1976. In 1976, after the death of Mao and the subsequent arrests of those closest to him in a military coup, socialism was reversed and capitalism was restored—even though some of the outer trappings of socialism have been retained.


Under capitalism, social production and economic calculation are governed by profit. Under socialism, this will no longer be the case. A socialist society and economy will be consciously working to promote and advance the world revolution towards a communist world. Economic decision-making and accounting will be governed by planned and rational production—and by the deployment of society's skills, resources, and capabilities—to serve what is useful and important for the betterment of world humanity.

But prior to that coup, and especially during the Cultural Revolution, socialist China accomplished extraordinary things. Life expectancy doubled between 1949 and 1976: from 32 years to 65 years. This was a society that put enormous focus on issues of gender equality, popularizing the slogan "women hold up half the sky." Maoist China pioneered a model of balanced and self-reliant growth that provided food security. Industrial output grew by some 10 percent a year during the decade of the Cultural Revolution. Uniquely, socialist China's industrialization was not at one and the same time a process of massive and uncontrolled urbanization.

In terms of China's environmental orientation when it was a genuine socialist society (not the China of today): it undertook large-scale expansion of forests in the rural areas to prevent soil erosion; it invested in extensive water conservancy projects; and it encouraged wide use of indigenous bacterial fertilizers and microbe insecticides in farming. The recycling of waste by industry was a major feature of China's socialist economy. And one of the most significant breakthroughs in economic-environmental management was the development of "area planning": in addition to industrial plans, society was also carrying out all-around planning at the local and area levels that evaluated community and social impacts of economic growth.

There are positive lessons here. Still, these first socialist societies, including China, did not adequately grasp the importance of protecting the planet's ecosystems. And since the time of these revolutions and their defeat, the degradation of critical ecosystems is reaching dangerous tipping points.

We Need A Truly Radical Approach

So we need a truly radical approach for developing a socialist society that is ecologically sustainable... a society that fosters an appreciation of the wonder and diversity of nature... and, critically, a society committed to saving this planet and making it habitable for human beings. Such an approach is possible.

On the one hand, scientists and others around the world have decades of experience, going back to the 1960s, studying environmental matters. They actually already know a lot about what needs to be done to reverse these destructive trends and prevent critical damage to the environment of this planet as a whole. And some important initiatives are being taken to protect ecosystems—like coral reefs. There is growing use of and experimentation with renewable sources of energy.

Yet and still, this is not happening on a large enough scale for it to be meaningful over the long term. Scientists and others keep hitting walls in trying to do what needs to be done. That is, they run smack up against the profit-above-all relations that dominate economic and social life on the planet and that constrain humanity from acting in the way it must to preserve the planet.

But the fact remains: conservationists and other scientists have long known much of what needs to be done, even as there are always new theories and debates about the scope and solutions to the environmental emergency. So this is one positive factor for coping with the environmental crisis in a new society.

On the other hand, there is a new breakthrough in understanding that can enable humanity to make the kind of liberating and multifaceted socialist revolution needed in today's world. This is Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism. Avakian has built on the achievements of past revolutions, while critically sifting through and going beyond them in important ways; on that basis, he has synthesized a vision of socialism as a truly vibrant and transformative society. This new synthesis also provides the necessary orientation for spreading and promoting the world revolution.

Socialist revolution does not promise a utopia. Any new socialist society will face enormous challenges, pressures, and contradictions. There is the very gravity of the environmental emergency. A revolution will liberate people and unlock technical and scientific potential from the fetters of the capitalist system of ownership and profit. But revolution will also be wrenching. The imperialists will stop at nothing to preserve their rule; they will cause great destruction and dislocation. And any revolution that comes to power will, for some time, have to confront still considerable swaths of a hostile imperialist-capitalist world.

At the same time, the new society will face counter-revolutionary attempts from overthrown exploiters, as well as from some forces in power who would bring back capitalism. And socialist society will be riven with social divisions and backward ideas inherited from exploiting-class society. To make revolution, and keep it going forward, requires the leadership of a vanguard, communist party. The new leadership faces a monumentally complex task of both holding onto power, and making it a power worth holding onto—one that draws ever increasing masses of people into the administration of society, one leading a society full of ferment and vitality, one that is actually moving toward the goal of eliminating all class divisions and exploitative production relations, all oppressive social relations and institutions, and all the ideas that reflect them, and on that basis eliminating the state itself and the very need for any institutionalized leadership.

This is the historic challenge: to make revolution in this heartland of imperialism, to come out of what will be a convulsive struggle for power with the political and moral will, and continue to forge the will, so that the new socialist state and society can truly be a beacon—for the emancipation of humanity and for the preservation of the planet.

Socialist Society and Socialist Plannning


The new society will face great needs of reconstruction and of meeting the material and cultural requirements of the great majority of society, especially those who had been on the bottom and suffered enormously in the old society. There will be acute short-term necessity—not least, to provide shelter, food, and health care.

Such needs cannot be met by disregarding long-term effects on ecosystems. And in the name of "urgency," it will be easy to fall back on old ways of doing things. These kinds of contradictions have to be analyzed and acted on—on the basis of a vision of a truly liberating and ecologically sustainable society and world.

Under capitalism, social production and economic calculation are governed by profit. Under socialism, this will no longer be the case. A socialist society and economy will be consciously working to promote and advance the world revolution towards a communist world. Economic decision-making and accounting will be governed by planned and rational production—and by the deployment of society's skills, resources, and capabilities—to serve what is useful and important for the betterment of world humanity.

As a point of orientation, socialist society has to be proceeding, first and foremost, from the long-term interests of humanity and the planet. Preserving and protecting ecosystems requires "taking the long view"—looking ahead over many decades and generations. This is something that capitalist society, with its "get-rich-quick" mode of operating and the necessity imposed by expand-or-die competition, cannot do—and which has led to the situation we are now facing.

By contrast, socialism makes it possible to take such a "long view." It allows for a whole new philosophy and way of doing things. To give some examples:

But centralization has to be combined with extensive decentralization: with local management, with grassroots initiative, with all kinds of incredible experimentation and discovery throughout society. All of this has to be summed up and learned from. There have to be all kinds of flows of information and experience. This is part of the dynamism of socialist society.

Planning With All of Society—And All of Life—In Mind

In the discussion of capitalism and the environment in this special issue, the concept of "externalities" was introduced. This refers to the fact that any given economic enterprise or sector of production has impacts, beyond its own operations, on the larger economy and society. Under capitalism, individual capitalists do not take into account these larger environmental and societal costs, of their activities, like pollution (and thus make society and future generations pay).

In a genuine socialist economy, the larger costs and benefits of economic activity must become the concern of society as a whole. On the one hand, at the highest planning levels, there must be deep and ongoing analysis of the problems and contradictions thrown up by economic development. On the other hand, all units and levels of society must function with a sense of larger social and global responsibility. And the socialist state must marshal the know-how and resolve of people to analyze and solve new problems and challenges presenting themselves to society and world humanity.

How would an interconnected economy and society function and make crucial decisions affecting all-around development in this model?

It will be very important at local levels for people to be rethinking and reconfiguring various aspects of the organization and processes of production, transport, and so forth. There will be both the technical capacity and social need to be developing alternative energy projects, innovating truly "green" industrial forms. There will be knowledge of conditions and the capability to mobilize to solve major problems. But activities at this level will still have broader economic and environmental effects. A local water conservancy project, for instance, will influence regional water balances and may create new strains on other users of water. Recycling may address some problems at local levels but not be sufficient to deal with longer-term problems of global warming.

There would be a spontaneous tendency for local units to decide issues of development based on their existing endowments of resources (material and social) and their own priorities. Some units will be better off and stronger than others and may seek to preserve these advantages. You need some centralized form, a national plan, with the scope and breadth of vision to coordinate and link different levels of society in a way that contributes to all-around societal development—and to consciously link all that to the larger goal of emancipating world humanity.

Large-scale operation and centralized coordination is needed to give coherence and direction to the numerous aspects of a just and rationally organized economic system—whether we are talking about regional and national transport, basic energy and the transitions away from fossil fuel, or the input-output requirements of industry.

Moreover, while any genuine socialist society would strive for the maximum participation in every sphere, will policies on overcoming racism, patriarchy and aiding revolution internationally be mainly subject to the moods of people in any given autonomous unit at any given time? Or what about the environment itself—isn't the sustainable development of the world, and the preservation of large parts of it in more or less pristine form, going to require coordination on a whole new scale?

The frame of reference of a socialist society is not its own development as an end in itself. The point of departure must be this: how can the development of the socialist economy be shaped, and how can this society function, so that it benefits the entire planet, doing all it can to advance the world revolution—while this society is also meeting the urgent needs of people and contributing to their all-around development.

Centralization carries with it real dangers of remote and out-of-touch decision-making that cuts against the long-term task of overcoming the separation of leaders and led. This too must be a problem that is put before socialist society. And it is critical that the role of decentralized decision-making and responsibility, and all kinds of initiatives from the grassroots, be enhanced at every stage to the greatest degree possible, within this overall framework.

Socialist planning—with centralization that concentrates the direction that society needs to go in, and decentralization that maximizes the scope of decisions being taken collectively at the local levels within the overall central plan—is a way to guide development in accordance with conscious revolutionary goals. And the most fundamental goal is the achievement of a world without classes. Socialist planning is, at the same time, a vast learning process.

Bob Avakian's New Synthesis Opens New Possibilities

A new socialist state power must concentrate the highest interests of revolution and the emancipation of humanity. This power must be used to radically remake society; and the masses of people must be increasingly drawn into the actual exercise of this power and the administration of new institutions of governance.

But this cannot happen without the leadership of a revolutionary party. This leadership must lead in identifying and solving key contradictions in creating a rational, socially just, and environmentally sustainable economy. And this must be a process of leading and learning—learning from all directions and quarters, from all perspectives, from all criticisms.

As part of the new synthesis, Bob Avakian has focused on the "unresolved contradictions" that will teem in socialist society. There are still tremendous social struggles and ideological battles to wage to overcome patriarchy and the legacy of the oppression of minority nationalities...still-existing social differences between professionals and intellectuals and those who are mainly working with their hands...still the need to use money...still gaps in development between regions. There will be tensions between centralization and decentralization in a planned socialist economy.

All of this will bring forward questioning, will bring forward new ideas, protest, dissatisfaction, struggle, and even upheavals. Is this a good or a bad thing? Avakian sees this as a driving force for continuing the revolution.

The new society will have to handle great contradictions. For instance:

Such needs cannot be met by disregarding long-term effects on ecosystems. And in the name of "urgency," it will be easy to fall back on old ways of doing things. These kinds of contradictions have to be analyzed and acted on—on the basis of a vision of a truly liberating and ecologically sustainable society and world.

So one of the biggest challenges of socialist society will be to balance long- and short-term requirements.

What is urgent? What is socially just? It will be necessary to phase in and phase out particular technologies, products, forms of transport, and so forth. How quickly can transitions from environmentally damaging production and energy systems be effected?

All of this will be a matter of continual concern and learning. And all this will also become questions of the class struggle in socialist society—because there will be political and social forces seeking to act on all these contradictions and requirements in a way that leads back to capitalism.

How will this learning and transformation go on? How will it be led? In speaking to this truly pivotal question, Avakian's new synthesis is innovative, illuminating—and absolutely necessary.

Socialist State Power and the Unfettering of Science

A critical element of this new synthesis of communism is the importance it attaches to intellectual, scientific, and cultural ferment in socialist society. Science must be freed from all the institutional fetters and constraints of capitalism—in how capitalism limits and distorts scientific inquiry owing to commercial-corporate considerations and the role of a military serving the interests of global empire.

On the one hand, socialist society will need to mobilize scientists, engineers, and other specialists to work on pressing environmental problems. There will be a need to organize great efforts and enormously focused projects to address the kind of calamitous situation we face. A socialist society, freed from the dictates of profit and private control, will be able to prepare for and confront natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes and droughts, whose dangers and effects will require concerted and society-wide efforts and mobilization among professionals and basic people. It will be able to bring this capacity to bear on helping people in other parts of the world to deal with such natural disasters, like earthquakes.


Science will be popularized in society.  The great debates among climate and environmental scientists—about how to solve the problem of global warming, about its scale, and how it is developing—these debates, these discussions, these insights will be popularized and taken up in society. Socialist society must be promoting understanding and debate worldwide.

On the other hand, society and humanity will also require far-ranging research, new thinking, and experimentation that will not be so directly related to focused projects within the socialist society. There must be room in socialist society for scientists to pursue questions that are not directly applicable to solving immediate problems—and this experimentation must also be supported and funded. Again, science must be unfettered.

And science must be uncloistered. There is the knowledge that comes from basic people in workplaces and communities. There is the knowledge that comes from basic people around the world—from farmers, fisherfolk, and people in pollution-impacted communities. Socialist society must be promoting all kinds of cross-pollination of understanding and experience: meteorologists and engineers exchanging knowledge about the sciences and scientific method with basic people getting into science, while professionals will be learning from the insights, experience, and aspirations of basic people.

Science will be popularized in society. For instance, the great debates among climate and environmental scientists—about how to solve the problem of global warming, about its scale, and how it is developing—these debates, these discussions, these insights will be popularized and taken up in society. Socialist society must be promoting understanding and debate worldwide.

Socialist society, through the socialist state led by a vanguard party, will need to establish priorities in development: in reconfiguring industry, in allocating funds and materials and protecting natural resources.

As mentioned, socialism will have to meet the great and immediate needs of the masses of people; at the same time that it has to be developing an economy that is no longer based on fossil fuels. That is going to require extraordinary innovation and extraordinary effort. It is going to require a correct understanding of priority and how to mobilize and unleash people to address these problems.

Socialist State Power and the Role of Dissent, Debate and Initiative "From Below"

But these policies, and indeed the very direction of society, all of this must be debated out broadly in socialist society. And, again, the unresolved contradictions of socialist society will give rise to controversy and struggle. This is a source of dynamism in socialist society.

Specifically with regard to the environment, Bob Avakian has given the example of Arundhati Roy. She is the novelist and social activist who has been in the forefront of struggles against the construction of environmentally destructive dams in India. Hydro-power is a renewable source of energy. But it is not always and everywhere a good thing. Will Arundhati Roy and people like her still be able to protest under socialism?

Avakian has emphasized that socialism must be a society where dissent is not only allowed but encouraged and valued. And people like Arundhati Roy must also be looked to—in order to help develop solutions to these very deep and serious environmental problems, even as there will be ideological struggle over issues of socialism, communism and where humanity is headed and needs to go. While the former capitalist exploiters will not be allowed rights to organize for their return, opposition among the broadest masses to various policies and even to socialism itself will not be suppressed—it will be debated and struggled over—as long as that opposition does not take the form of organized attempts to overthrow the socialist state.

There will also be initiatives "from below"—initiatives and projects which bubble up from different parts of society which are not directly led or inspired by the party, but which the party will need to learn from and give leadership to, as part of a very broad and encompassing process of moving forward.

This is all part of the process of getting at the truth of society and the world, of promoting critical thinking in socialist society, and enabling the masses to more deeply understand and more profoundly transform the world. And this will get very tense and wild at times, including protests and upheavals that can destabilize society. But all this is part of the process of getting to communism: maximum elasticity and experimentation—without losing power, without losing the revolution and everything it means for world humanity. You need visionary communist leadership, a solid core, as Avakian calls it, to lead this complex process forward.

With this understanding of socialism, it becomes clearer why the masses of people are the single greatest resource. And with all their creative energy, knowledge, and concern, the people can be mobilized to struggle out, to argue and debate, and work together to figure out how to build a society that truly emancipates humanity and that is working urgently to save the planet for current and future generations.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development

The following are some key principles of socialist sustainable development, which appeared as part of the special issue of Revolution newspaper on the environment (Issue #199, 4/18/10, These principles, though not exhaustive, concentrate an orientation that enables socialist society to begin to tackle the environmental emergency with a global and internationalist perspective. In putting these principles before people today, we hope to open up debate and discussion that can contribute towards raising understanding of what we are confronting—and raise sights about the viability and desirability of communist revolution.

A. The International Dimension and Internationalism

The socialist state must use its strengths and resources to promote revolution. The new socialist state must be a "base area" for the world revolution. The emancipation of humanity demands this. The preservation of the planet demands this: for humanity to deal with the environmental crisis on the requisite scale and with the requisite urgency requires a totally different economic and social system and set of values. That requires socialist revolution and the spread of that revolution.

The new socialist society will put the interests of the preservation of the ecosystems of the entire planet above its own national development. It will encourage and give scientific, technical, and organizational backing for bold international initiatives to prevent widespread ecosystem collapse of coral reefs, rainforests, critical savanna regions, etc.

The new society will share scientific knowledge and technology with the rest of the world. It will contribute research to aid other parts of the world in dealing with various aspects of the environmental emergency—for instance, helping populations in low-lying poor countries deal with rising sea levels and flooding resulting from climate change.

Such initiatives will require unprecedented planet-wide cooperation of scientists and others, engagement of diverse populations and systems of governance, and the involvement of local communities. And the socialist state will seek to learn from the experiences, insights, and struggles of people around the world.

But for such initiatives to be truly effective and take hold over the long term, more of the world will have to break out of the capitalist stranglehold. Capitalist growth and development lead to massive environmental degradation. In the face of economic dislocation and societal breakdown, impoverished and desperate populations in vast parts of the world resort to environmentally destructive activities in order to survive. Civil wars fanned by the imperialists ravage land and water resources.

All of this emphasizes, again, why the new society must spread socialist revolution as far and wide as possible—and as fast as possible.

In its international relations, the new socialist society cannot be based on exploitation and plunder.

A revolution in the former United States will put an end to the pollution-intensive, cheap-labor, global manufacturing grids of production. The structure of production and the resource base of a new socialist economy will no longer rely on labor and materials from other countries—like cheap parts from hellish factories in Mexico and inflows of oil from abroad. The new society will provide technical and financial assistance for helping to clean up environmental damage in other parts of the world caused by the energy and mining operations, agribusiness and forestry, and industrial activities, as well as the export and dumping of toxic waste, of the former U.S. empire.

The new socialist state will immediately dismantle all military bases and occupations. It will vastly downsize the military industry and begin to convert huge components for productive, social use.

B. Consciously Planning and Regulating Growth; Protecting and Preserving a Variety of Ecosystems to Prevent Environmental Collapse and to Ensure the Health of the Planet for Future Generations

In place of the blind and environmentally reckless expansion of capitalism, a socialist sustainable economy will seek planned, regulated growth informed by:

This overall orientation will not only influence the specific mix of what is produced and how it is produced in the new socialist society. This orientation will influence levels of output, including decisions to consciously restrict or cut growth in particular sectors contributing to climate change and straining the planet's ecosystems, and curbing the use of certain resources that are dwindling.

C. Transforming the Structure of Industrial Production, Agriculture, and Transport

The new socialist society will set out to transform the environmentally destructive structure and functioning of today's imperialist economy: 

D. A Different Kind of City and Social Fabric

Given their privileged position in the global division of labor, the imperialist countries have evolved in a certain way. Their economies, and where people work and live, depend on high levels of mobility, the automobile complex, and long-distance, energy-intensive supply chains.

The system of production in a sustainable socialist economy cannot be focused on this kind of supply and delivery system. It must aim towards a system of interchanges within local and regional economies functioning as part of a unified socialist economy.

Cities must become more sustainable—more capable of producing more to meet basic needs and requirements, including efforts to develop local urban food production. The huge and wasteful consumption of energy associated with the parasitic commercialization of the contemporary city—office structures serving global financial invest-ments, advertising, insurance, etc.—will be transformed. The kind of intensive and speculative commercial and residential development encroaching on "green spaces" in the areas outside of cities, in suburbs and "exurbs," will be put a stop to. 

Economic-social planning will strive to connect work that is meaningful and creative with people's sense of community—and forge new relations between work and where people live. Planning will seek to create a new kind of "social space" in the cities, where people can interact, organize politically, create and enjoy culture, and relax. At the same time, planning must seek to break down the distinctions between the cities and the outlying suburban and rural areas—and find new ways to integrate the economic and social activities of these adjoining regions.

E. Struggling Against Consumerism

A sustainable socialist economy in the former United States will strive to produce a rational variety of consumer goods. But this will not be the same "consumer society" (it would take the resources of almost five earths if the rest of the world had the same ecological footprint of the average person in the United States).

The "convenience" of having Indonesian workers cater to the athletic clothing needs, or peasants and plantation workers in Kenya and Jamaica catering to the upscale coffee sensibilities of people in this society—that will be no more. The "convenience" of the "Wal-Mart price," based on super-exploitation and environmental damage abroad, will be no more (and Wal-Mart will be no more).

Consumer goods must be functional and durable (not the "used once and thrown away" of today). Society will pay attention to changing demand, taste, and aesthetic. But there will not be the same obsession with private consumption, with the need to define yourself on the basis of what and how much individuals own and consume. This will be a matter of education and ideological struggle in society.

With the transformation of social life—with the creation of more "social space" allowing for richer and more meaningful connectedness among people—new values can take hold. With people gaining greater awareness of humanity's connectedness to nature, and of the ecological cost that imperialist "consumerism" has exacted, attitudes can change.

F. Valuing the Planet, Becoming Caretakers of the Planet

There is an ecological imperative for us to care about and value the planet. We depend for our survival on the natural world, from green plants that produce oxygen to other living species that provide food and medicine; we cannot live without fresh water, nutrient-rich soils, and clean air. At the same time, we are linked with the natural world: through complex evolutionary chains and through networks of ecosystems that provide flows of energy for life to maintain itself. 

There is a moral imperative to care about and value the planet. We must strive to become the stewards of the planet: protectors and enhancers of the natural world of which we are part, and with which we are always interacting and transforming. Knowing more about our connections with the natural world and our responsibilities to it also enriches us as human beings.

There is an urgent time line to act: if we do not protect and preserve fast-vanishing natural ecosystems around the world, if we do not move to stem climate change, this planet could very well become uninhabitable for billions of people, and possibly all of humanity.


This is our orientation. Revolution makes it possible to live lives worthy of human beings and to protect the environment. It is why socialist revolution, and the creation of a new socialist state in one or several countries, would have an incredible effect on the world. The establishment of even one new socialist state—especially in a significant country, in terms of geography and population—would dramatically change political alignments in the world. It would give hope and inspiration to people throughout the world. This heightens our determination to make that revolution and to call on others to join and contribute to this most vital undertaking.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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National Campus Speaking Tour:

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

a talk by Sunsara Taylor

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.

LA • April 8 • Thursday • 7pm
La Kretz Hall Auditorium, UCLA. (Doors open and photo display at 6:30 pm.) Sponsored by Critical Thinking at UCLA; Academic Advancement Program (AAP), UCLA; and Revolution Books/Libros Revolución.
for information: 310-210-6012

Honolulu • April 13 • Tuesday • 7 pm
UH-Manoa, Architecture Auditorium
Sponsored by Revolution Books
contact: 808-944-3106

More dates upcoming.
To bring Sunsara to your campus, Contact:
Find Sunsara Taylor on YouTube and Facebook.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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

Editors' Note: The following are points made by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, in a recent exchange with other comrades. This has been edited for publication here.

One of the more important statements in the Manifesto from our Party (Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage) is the quote from Marx: "Once the inner connection is grasped, all theoretical belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions breaks down before their collapse in practice." This is not just a matter of abstract theory—it has a broader effect. That belief weighs heavily on people who don't like the way things are—they are weighed down by a belief in the "permanent necessity of existing conditions." Over and over we are confronted by the fact that people can't see beyond the way things are now.

This has to do with the importance of constantly wrangling with what a revolutionary situation would look like and how a revolution could actually be made. There is a point in "Out Into the World—As A Vanguard of the Future" on grappling with what a revolutionary situation would look like.1 We need to give people a really living sense of what we mean by "hastening while awaiting" the emergence of a revolutionary situation. And this is linked to the point that what we're doing is building a movement for revolution and letting people know what we think that revolution would look like.

This question of belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions—and the inability to see beyond those conditions—came up with World Can't Wait when people would ask: "What good would it do to drive out the Bush Regime?" Well, think of the pyramid dynamic2 in that light: what would the Democrats have had to do if there were a million people demanding "Drive out the Bush Regime"? If there were millions even today insisting in the streets that the Democrats not "bow down" to what is represented by the Republicans, even that would change the dynamic; the Democrats would have to make tactical adjustments to deal with this, and the adjustments would create more necessity and more freedom for the revolutionaries to deal with. We have to break people out of the belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions.

This has to do with the idea of putting out a constitution for the future socialist state.3 It has to do with the Raymond Lotta speech.4 We are precisely taking on, in many different dimensions, this belief in the permanent necessity of the existing conditions. This also happens with initiatives among the proletariat and other basic people that project an alternate authority while challenging illegitimate and abusive actions of the current authority. And so is what we're doing with the woman question, and morality and culture—because what we're doing with popularizing and actually creating a movement where people live our morality is nothing less than projecting an alternate authority in the realm of ideology. All of these initiatives are saying that the world does not have to be this way; they are all different avenues of bringing people to grapple with the reality that the world really does NOT have to be this way.

We ARE Building a Movement for Revolution

A big part of transforming the people is, yes, a different consciousness and morality, but also people seeing the breakdown in their own understanding of the "permanent necessity of existing conditions" and the possibility of a whole different thing. This is related again to how we talk to people: we ARE BUILDING a movement for revolution—not asking them: "Would it be a good idea to have a revolution?"—after which they give all the reasons why it wouldn't, or why we can't, and that sets the tone and conditions for what follows. No, we don't ignore those questions—we talk with people about them, but by saying, "okay, those are points and we have thought about them and have answers we can get into—but we ARE BUILDING a movement for revolution and this is what that revolution will look like, and this is how everything we are doing is contributing to this revolution."

That Marx statement is very profound—and not just for the intellectuals. Just because "all theoretical belief" is used, we could make the mistake of thinking it only applies to people who grapple with high levels of theory. But in today's world, this belief (that the world cannot be fundamentally changed) has "filtered down" and is one of the main things that weighs on people. So this is a thread that has to come through much more in terms of this campaign that we're waging this year to really change the whole trajectory of things, now, very radically, focused on the message and call issued by our Party, "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have."5 It is nowhere near the case that the basic spirit, substance and sense of what Marx is getting at there guides what we're doing now. And this is one of the biggest weights on people. There are ways in practice as well as theory that we have to begin to break down the belief in this "permanent necessity," as well as battling over whose morality is attracting people.

This has everything to do with the "hastening while awaiting" point. If you conceive of revolution as someday the world is somehow going to be radically different and at that point we will do something to radically change, that won't happen—but that's not what we're doing. We have to elevate our sights and lead consistently with the understanding that the world does NOT have to be this way, and we ARE building a movement for revolution. This is not put forward, at least not in any consistent and compelling way, to the advanced around us at this point—whose number is still too small—this is not what's coming through to them. The whole thing about "revolution is real"—revolution made palpable—this is bound up with everything I'm talking about here. Actually building a movement for revolution and bringing that to the fore.

What follows that quote from Marx is that he brought to light not only the inner connections of capitalism itself, but its inner connection with other systems and showed on that basis that there was no necessity for capitalism or any other systems of exploitation. He showed that this is an historically evolved system. Marx made the point that bourgeois theorists will talk about all kinds of changes in capitalist relations, but always with the assumption that those relations are the highest and final end point of human development. But it's not the only way, especially in today's world, to do things—there's a much better way. This is the point that's made in the "Revolution" speech on the DVD, about how we can do all this complicated production without the imperialists, and do it better.6

But everything you say gets filtered through the existing production relations and superstructure that arises on this economic base. Look at the experience of the person who wrote the newspaper on the "Imagine" section of the talk on revolution: because they didn't first see it in the context of the whole speech, they understood it as just another "politician's promise." Then they saw the whole speech all the way through, and it clicked in a whole different way with them.7

All this has everything to do with whether we're building a movement for revolution and a radically different society, or whether we're just puttering around. We're not going to get there if this orientation doesn't infuse and inform everything we're doing. Then you get the phenomenon where people newly coming into this run into opposition and fall away, and while there are problems with our comrades taking an "all-or-nothing" approach with such people, this point I'm making here is even more essential.8 In fact the actual breakdown of the existing system is impossible in practice if it has not been done first in theory, that is to say, in the understanding of many people. This has to much more consistently come through, in everything we do—not just in speeches or articles, but in the whole ensemble of the work we do, this is what we should bring forward to people: There IS NO permanent necessity for the existing conditions.

There will never be an attempt at revolution, a real attempt, if you are not constantly grappling with what that might look like when, with the necessary qualitative changes and leaps in the objective situation, what is talked about in "On the Possibility"9 would be real. You cannot transform things through this capitalist economic base in a progressive way; if you want to "get beyond General Motors" you will have to do away with the existing state power. I'm not saying we should give a speech to this effect all the time, but this should infuse and guide what we're doing, and what we bring to people.

Then, when you do have a significant core that no longer believes in the permanent necessity of these conditions, they can do much better in going back and forth with broader masses. They can make clear to people who do come forward that, yes, you will get a lot of opposition out there, but that's just because there's a superstructure (there is a whole apparatus for "molding public opinion" and shaping "popular culture") which influences people to think that there's no other way to live than this—and in actual fact that's just not the case.

This is what it means to build a movement FOR REVOLUTION. Yes, fight the power, but this is the "for revolution" part.10 We should be going to people like I said: "We are building this movement for revolution and you should be part of this, but we're not having a poll as to whether people think it's possible...we have plenty to say about that...but we are in the meantime building this."

Emancipators of Humanity

What is the actual new synthesis?11 The heart of it is solid core and elasticity. At a talk I gave, years ago now, someone asked: "How would you do better than the Soviet Union or China under Mao?" One of the things I said to him is: "I don't believe in tailing people because they're oppressed—we need emancipators of humanity." When you are in a qualitatively different situation than what we have now—when the present system has been swept aside and the new, socialist system has been brought into being—there would have to be an army, as the backbone of an actual state, that enforces the new system, and that army would be made up of very basic people in large part. But we have to train them to understand that, as part of that, they are going to have to be out there protecting the rights of people who oppose this new system, and they are going to have to defend the right of these people to raise this opposition, while at the same time they would also have to stop people who really are making attempts to smash the state power we have. I said that this will be a struggle with masses, but we have to bring forward on every level people who have this kind of understanding of what we're doing. The Constitution of the new, socialist system is going to enumerate the rights of people, and this state apparatus is going to protect people's rights who don't agree, so long as they don't actively and concretely organize to overthrow that state apparatus. That is where the Lenin point comes in: As long as there are classes, one class is going to dictate, and "better me than you"—that is, better the dictatorship of the proletariat than the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (capitalist class).

But what is that dictatorship of the proletariat? BOTH aspects of this are important—solid core and elasticity. There would not be a General Motors in socialist society, and there would also not be an FBI or an LAPD. Those kinds of institutions would be abolished and—unless they agreed to abolish themselves voluntarily—they would have to be forcefully abolished under a future dictatorship of the proletariat. Maybe they would be given 24 hours to disband!...but disbanded they would have to be. There would be revolutionary institutions in place of those old, oppressive and reactionary institutions...and, yes, that is what we're building for—aiming for the time when there is a qualitative change in the objective situation, when a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people in the millions and millions have been brought into being. And when that revolution is made, when a new, revolutionary state power is brought into being, there would not just be a new army, but that new army would be guided by very different principles. There would be a culture in that army, but it definitely would not be (as in the hymn of the imperialist Marine Corps): "From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli"—that's just not going to be what guides the new state apparatus! No more General Motors and no more Marines. The principles we're talking about here, and the reason we're going out to win people to be emancipators of humanity, is that they're going to be the actual backbone of the new state.

This has everything to do with the "permanent necessity" point. It has to do with "human nature," and the fact that, just as there is no "permanent necessity" for the existing conditions, there is also no "unchanging and unchangeable human nature."

People say: "You mean to tell me that these youth running around selling drugs and killing each other, and caught up in all kinds of other stuff, can be a backbone of this revolutionary state power in the future?" Yes—but not as they are now, and not without struggle. They weren't always selling drugs and killing each other, and the rest of it—and they don't have to be into all that in the future. Ask yourself: how does it happen that you go from beautiful children to supposedly "irredeemable monsters" in a few years? It's because of the system, and what it does to people—not because of "unchanging and unchangeable human nature."

We're talking about a whole different and better way that we can bring into being...if we win.

Yes, we are talking about conditions that don't yet exist now, and our enemies can intentionally take things out of context and misconstrue it. So we had better learn how to talk about this well, because people do need to grapple with the possibility of these future conditions as part of having this vision out there. Let's inspire people—let's have a lot of expressions of a radically different culture, and let's write some new hymns for people—ones with a radically different message than that of a marauding, murderous, invading and occupying imperialist force—"From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli"...NO. How are people being led and inspired to live and to die? We have to say to those who want a new world but who don't want—or don't understand the need for—the whole thing of fostering and protecting and listening to dissent: "If you want a new world where children are not killed by police and where all these other outrages don't happen, then we have to be down for this whole thing. We should not want these outrages to happen to any group of people. Our aim should be a radically different world, where all that has been buried in the past."

1. This refers to the following passage from "Out Into the World—As a Vanguard of the Future," a talk by Bob Avakian in 2008:

"Next, I want to turn to what could be called: more on—more work to be done on—a revolutionary situation (with its various components), particularly in a country like this. What I'm getting at here is the importance of continually wrangling with the questions: What would such a revolutionary situation actually look like? What could it emerge out of? What factors could come together to establish the necessary basis for such a revolutionary situation?

"It is very important to be continually returning to and wrangling with such questions. At the same time, it is also important to emphasize that this must not be approached in an idealist fashion—conjuring up a scenario and then seeking to impose this, in an apriorist manner, on reality. Rather, it is a matter and a need of constantly probing, digging beneath the surface to identify trends and forces, within a particular country and in the overall world situation, that could become part of, or contribute to, the 'mix' of a revolutionary situation; and it is important to do that in advance not only of the actual emergence of a revolutionary situation, but well before the specific features of that situation become immediately and obviously apparent. Well before that, and repeatedly, it is necessary to be grappling, in the realm of strategic conception once again, with both the objective and subjective aspects of such a revolutionary situation: with how objective factors could conceivably come together to provide the objective elements of a revolutionary situation and what position would the vanguard of the revolution have to be in, in terms of its influence as well as its organized ties with different sections of the masses, in order to seize on such a situation—and what the vanguard would have to do in such a situation to bring about its full ripening and to then lead people, in their millions, to wage the actual struggle for the seizure of power. This is another expression of theory, or strategic conception, 'running ahead' of practice. But, at the same time, it would be necessary and important to keep in mind and maintain the recognition of a decisive principle that Lenin stressed—that, in the event itself, life is much richer than its anticipation in conception and, in this sense, as Lenin emphasized, theory is gray while the tree of life is green—and accordingly, as real-life contradictions continue to unfold—including through the role of accident and contingency, in dialectical relation with necessity and causality—it is necessary to be continually returning to and grappling anew with the conception of what a revolutionary situation would look like and what demands its development would place on the subjective factor (the vanguard party).

"It is not idle speculation—nor, again, idealist apriorism—that is being called for, but a continual wrangling with what, after all, we are trying to get to, in terms of the first great leap, getting over the first great hump, and how that informs and influences what we are doing now, even while our work in this period is qualitatively different than the work revolutionaries would be doing once a revolutionary situation actually emerged. This is another way of saying: what is the living link here?—in this case particularly on the level of strategic conception and its relation to practice at any given time.

"And it can also be emphasized, and must be emphasized, that not to grapple with this, in the way I've been speaking of this here, is another form of tailing spontaneity and will lead in the direction of 'gradualism'—or, to put it simply, revisionism—and of accommodation and capitulation to the world the way it is, as it's dominated and ruled by imperialism and reactionary classes." [back]

2. For a discussion of the pyramid dynamic, see Bob Avakian's most recent talk, "Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution" at—in particular, the section "The Continuing Relevance and Importance of the 'Pyramid Analysis'" under "I. Once More on the Coming Civil War...and Repolarization for Revolution." [back]

3. Bob Avakian has recently raised the idea, among Party leadership, of having some comrades in the Party write a constitution of a future socialist state, as a way to give substance and life to how the new synthesis would apply to actually governing a society that would be both a radically new system itself and at the same time a society in transition to communism. [back]

4. This refers to Raymond Lotta's speech "Everything You've Been Told About Communism Is Wrong—Capitalism Is a Failure, Revolution Is the Solution!" given on college campuses in 2009-2010. [back]

5. See Revolution, #170, July 19, 2009, for this message and call. That issue also contains an editorial laying out the campaign's aims:

"First, we intend to really put revolution out there in this society, so that millions of people here and around the world come to know about THIS revolution.

"Second, we intend to make Bob Avakian, the Chairman of our Party and leader of the revolution, a 'household word'—someone known throughout society, with growing numbers checking out, getting into and supporting his work, his thinking and his leadership.

"And third, as laid out in Chairman Avakian's recent talk Ruminations and Wranglings, we aim to draw forward a core of 'people who see it as their mission, and are guided by the Party's vision and line, to go out and actually fight for this line, win people to it, organize them into the revolutionary movement and struggle for them to become communists and then to join the Party once they've made that leap to being communists.'" [back]

6. This refers to a passage in the speech Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, where Bob Avakian states: "Capitalism, especially now that it has reached the stage of imperialism, controls, dominates, manipulates and mangles the lives of people all over the world. Many times you hear these imperialists and their mouthpieces say things like this, 'well you say we're exploiting people. But without us there'd be no jobs.' They come out with this especially when it comes to light that they are paying people something like a few cents an hour in countries all over the Third World. No. The truth is, without these imperialists, there would still be people capable of working, people capable of planning and running an economy. There would still be natural resources and potential wealth for the people in those countries, when they take control over their societies and remake them in a radical way through revolution. But then, what there would be, is no capital, no capitalism, no imperialism, exploiting and robbing the people and plundering their countries. And the masses of people everywhere in the world would be much better off. You cannot make this system into something else than what it is. So long as it rules, so long as it is in effect, everything that it does, all the ways it makes people suffer all over the world, will continue and will only get worse. Because that's the only way this system can operate." [back]

7. The reference here is to a letter from a reader published in Revolution #190, "The Revolution Talk: 'A Precious, Rare, and Enormous Tool.'" [back]

8. The "all-or-nothing" approach being criticized here is one that demands a high level of activity and commitment from anyone who shows interest in revolution, communism and the Party, rather than finding the ways for people to check things out and participate at a level corresponding to their actual understanding of the world and their sense of how to change this at any given time, "giving them air to breathe" and room to learn through their own experience, while at the same time struggling with them over these questions—struggle which is carried out in a living, non-dogmatic way, encompassing both learning and leading. [back]

9. The reference here is to "On the Possibility of Revolution," which originally appeared in Revolution #102 and is included in the Revolution pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation (May 1, 2008), pp. 80-89. [back]

10. The formulation "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" embodies a basic part of the Party's strategic approach for building a revolutionary movement. For a discussion of this formulation, see Bob Avakian's talk "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity," in particular "Part 2: Everything We're Doing Is About Revolution." [back]

11. Substantive discussions of the new synthesis can be found in "Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: WHAT IS BOB AVAKIAN'S NEW SYNTHESIS?" (a talk given in spring 2008 and available online at and in a section from Bob Avakian's talk "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity," which can be found in PDF format at Go to for more works by Bob Avakian. [back]

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Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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Some Observations on the Culture Wars:
Textbooks, Movies, Sham Shakespearean Tragedies and Crude Lies

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

On the Texas Textbook Battles

I recently read a very significant article in the New York Times (Thursday, March 11, 2010), "Texas Conservatives Seek Deeper Stamp on Texts." And ABC news also did a feature story on this subject. What is involved are moves by Texas "conservatives" to change social studies curriculum to make it (even more) overtly reactionary. A driving force among these "conservatives" is a "young earth creationist" who actually insists, despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary, that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old! You really have to read this article to see what lengths, or extremes, this is going to. To give a further "taste," these "conservatives" are insisting on including, in textbooks, the words of Jefferson Davis, head of the slave-owning Confederacy in the Civil War, side by side with quotes from Abraham Lincoln. Their aim is not to expose and condemn Jefferson Davis but rather to lend status and respectability to what he represented. "Fascist" is certainly not too strong a word to describe these "conservative" forces.

As the word "Deeper" in the title of the Times article suggests, Texas is already a major "trend-setter" for public school textbooks in the U.S.  It is striking that, among other things, these "conservatives" not only want to more thoroughly reverse the verdicts of the 1960s about the U.S. and its role in the world, including as the influence of these verdicts gets reflected—even though in a watered-down way—in school curriculum, but they also want to reverse the verdict on the Civil War—treating the Confederate slave system as deserving of legitimacy and respect! This is a salient illustration of the point that is made by citing the observations of Hubert Locke in "Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution," and more generally the analysis (in that talk and elsewhere) about "the coming civil war"—about the current polarization, within the ruling class as well as in American society more broadly, and the challenges of repolarization...for revolution.1

What a world! What a system and what a ruling class where "young earth creationists" and other reactionary cretins are allowed to have a major impact in influencing what is taught in the public schools—and apparently no higher political (ruling class) authority is willing or able to step in and declare, and act decisively to effect, that this cannot and will not be allowed, that it is simply impermissible for dangerous lunacy like this to be promoted as public policy and for people who promote such lunacy to sit on influential decision-making bodies.

All this provides yet another profound illustration of the fact that this ruling class has objectively forfeited any right to rule and to determine the direction of society—and to significantly influence the course of the world and the fate of humanity overall.

Note that an "overhaul" of public education is clearly a major objective of the Obama administration (see, for example, the front-page article in the New York Times, Sunday, March 14, 2010, "Obama Proposes Sweeping Change in Education Law," referring specifically to No Child Left Behind). But I see no evidence that Obama, et al., are gearing up for battle against these Christian (and other) Fascists around the issues I have pointed to here.

* * *

Adding to this Texas Textbook outrage is an article by Sam Tanenhaus in the New York Times, on the front page of the "Week in Review" section (Sunday, March 21, 2010), "In Texas Curriculum Fight, Identity Politics Leans Right." This piece enshrines and in effect celebrates relativism and identity politics—specifically in relation to this Texas Textbook outrage. It does this as an expression of the interests not of the petit bourgeois democratic intellectual but of the bourgeois ruling class of the U.S., in the framework of the specific historical development of the capitalist-imperialist system in this country, with its "peculiar institution" of slavery, and everything that has flowed from—or developed as a consequence of—that, down to the present. Here again, you really have to read this article to see how grotesque it is. As a basic way of exposing what it is putting forward, this question can be posed:

Is opposing, or on the other hand actually upholding, slavery—and other egregious injustices perpetrated as part of the development of the dominant system in this country—really just a matter of different "narratives"? Or is there not, in fact, objective reality and truth and a basis for clear-cut moral certitude in relation to these things?

A related, and very important point is this:

For humanity to advance beyond a state in which "might makes right"—and where things ultimately come down to raw power relations—will require, as a fundamental element in this advance, an approach to understanding things (an epistemology) which recognizes that reality and truth are objective and do not vary in accordance with, nor depend on, different "narratives" and how much "authority" an idea (or "narrative") may have behind it, or how much power and force can be wielded on behalf of any particular idea or "narrative," at any given point.

The Movies/the "Oscars"/the Sphere of Culture

Check out the opinion piece by Ross Douthat, "Hollywood's Political Fictions," (New York Times, Monday, March 15, 2010). This piece is itself a grotesque example of political fiction—or, more baldly put, the lie that the invasion of Iraq was not rationalized by lies of the first order but rather resulted from a much more complex and nuanced process, a real Shakespearean tragedy, wherein "even many of the invasion's opponents" believed that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), and that this posed "a real danger to world peace." Here we see, once again, reality turned on its head, so that truth is reduced to indecipherable murkiness, while lies become...well, something that any decent person (even opponents of the invasion of Iraq) could actually have believed. To restore some clarity, let's turn things rightside up, and review some essential facts. The truth is that, by the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there were very clear indications and mounting evidence that there were no WMDs in Iraq, that Bush, et al., were determined to go to war in any case, and that they went to war precisely when ongoing investigation, by UN inspectors, was heading in the direction of revealing that there were no WMDs. The lies involved the insistence, by Bush, and other key officials in the Bush regime, that it was a fact that there were such WMDs—lies which they persisted in repeating, even as there was mounting evidence that there were no WMDs.

The kind of "rhetorical gymnastics" that Douthat engages in is a shame-faced variation of the apologias for the imperialists. When they are not only caught committing war crimes—and the invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well as many things done as part of this invasion and occupation, certainly do constitute war crimes on the part of the U.S. imperialists and their military—but, on top of that, when the rationalizations for these war crimes are shown to be outright lies, all of a sudden their stock in trade, essentially comic book depictions of good and evil with which they normally bombard us—"good guys" and "bad guys"—are replaced, especially when speaking to more "sophisticated" audiences, by ersatz existentialism about complexity and nuance!

A particular target of this piece by Douthat is the movie The Green Zone, which he lambastes in these terms: "[I]t refuses to stare real tragedy in the face, preferring the comfort of a 'Bush lied, people died' reductionism"!!

Never mind that "Bush lied, people died" is very much to the point, and captures much of the essence of the matter. No, insists Douthat, it is more meaningful to indulge in empty references to "real tragedy" in a way that avoids and evades the truth. And—surprise, surprise—one of Douthat's main devices is to contrast The Green Zone with... (you'll know if you've been paying attention these days...) The Hurt Locker. Here is Douthat again:

"Such glib scapegoating [as in The Green Zone] looks particularly lame in the wake of last week's triumph for The Hurt Locker, the first major movie to paint the Iraq War in shades of gray. But The Hurt Locker, of course, was largely apolitical. Throw politics into the mix, and there seems to be no escaping the cliches and simplifications that mar [movies like The Green Zone, and other films about the Iraq war that Douthat deems insufficiently 'gray']."

In fact, Douthat—and the ruling class for whom people like Douthat are shills—may well be concerned that the opposite is the case: that, with the attractive force of Matt Damon, and the "Bourne" movies with which he is associated, The Green Zone might undercut, for a significant and somewhat diverse audience, the effect that The Hurt Locker (and the awarding of "Oscars" to it, and its director) were intended to have. That The Green Zone could draw too much attention back to the matter of WMDs, and more specifically the lies about WMDs that were wielded to rationalize the invasion of Iraq. And that this would undermine the attempts to say, "Whatever the reasons were for getting into this war, we are there now and we just have to make the best of it" (a line pushed not only by the "neo-cons" but also by the likes of Obama) and the related attempts to focus attention on the hardships, and the supposed heroism, of the American forces of invasion and occupation, as part of the effort to engender sympathy and support for them—and, by extension, support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well as the other wars the U.S. imperialists are waging, or are increasingly involving themselves in, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, and elsewhere.

Every part of the above passage from Douthat's piece—and indeed the piece as a whole—is itself a rather crude (not at all "gray") distortion, where it is not an outright lie. And here, once again, we find the typical "logic" of the camp followers of the imperialist ruling class. When things in the realm of culture run counter to the interests of the imperialist ruling class, the accusation is frequently made that this is a matter of "injecting politics" and of doing so in an inappropriate and crude way (this applies not only to works of art but other dimensions of culture as well, such as sports—think of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Summer Olympics2). On the other hand, anything which upholds or serves the imperialist interests of this ruling class is not condemned as "political" but treated as just conveying "common sense" or "what everybody knows" or what any honest and decent person would believe and be motivated by, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

While I have not seen The Hurt Locker nor The Green Zone (although, given the content of the attacks on it, by Douthat and others, I am anxious to see the latter, as soon as I am in a position to do so), I have read a number of articles, in various publications, about both movies, and it is clear from this, as well as from watching the Academy Awards, what the essential difference is between them: The Green Zone (with whatever limitations we might recognize in it) runs counter to the "official narrative" about the basis on which the Iraq invasion was carried out—a narrative that has, at least in some circumstances, undergone a transmutation from "it is a certainty that Saddam Hussein has WMDs and is still trying to hide them, and this poses a grave danger that cannot be allowed to continue," to Douthat-style hand-wringing about the Shakespearean tragedy of it all—whereas The Hurt Locker reinforces this "official narrative," even if perhaps somewhat subtly, and therefore all the more insidiously, through portraying the supposed "courage" and righteousness of the invading and occupying U.S. forces and, by extension at least, the "justness" of the invasion and occupation themselves. This is made all the more clear by the remarks of the director of The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow, in receiving the Academy Awards for best picture and best director—most pointedly Bigelow's statement, referring explicitly to the U.S. troops in Iraq as well as Afghanistan: They are there for us, and we are here for them.

Once again, when the imperialists are caught in the commission of war crimes—and lies to rationalize those war crimes—perhaps it is not surprising that the "color" of the apologias, particularly those aimed at more "sophisticated" audiences, changes from "purple" declamations about "good guys" and "bad guys" to "gray" dissertations about the murky complexity of it all—a murkiness through which, however, the essential courage and righteousness of "our side" somehow shines through.

As I previously wrote to some people: It certainly seems that influential forces (within and very likely beyond the Academy) were at work to have The Hurt Locker prevail over Avatar—to have the message associated with The Hurt Locker (especially as that was conveyed by the director of that movie) drown out the message of Avatar—to have "support the troops" rewarded, in opposition to what is conveyed through Avatar, where a military clearly recognizable as representative of the brute and plundering force of an invading and occupying imperialism is soundly and righteously defeated, not by other reactionary and oppressive forces but by the waging of a people's war.

1. Dr. Hubert Locke's speech, "Reflections on Pacific School of Religion's Response to the Religious Right" appeared in Revolution #32 (January 29, 2006). "Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution" can be found in its entirety at and was serialized in Revolution issues #184-197 (November 29, 2009-April 4, 2010). The reference to Dr. Locke's speech is in the fourth part of "Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution," Revolution #187 (December 27, 2009). [back]

2. See "1968 Olympics: Striking a Blow for Freedom, The Courageous Story of Tommie Smith and John Carlos," Revolution #136, July 20, 2008. [back]

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Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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On the Critical Crossroads in the Nepal Revolution, and the Urgent Need for a Real Rupture with Revisionism

Observations by a Supporter of that Revolution
From a Communist Internationalist Perspective

Editors' Note: In Nepal, beginning on May First major demonstrations of Maoists (Unified Communist Party of Nepal [Maoist]) and their supporters have taken place centered in Katmandu in support of the demand that the current Prime Minister step down. A general strike lasting six days halted commerce, shut down schools and businesses and blocked transportation, and was then called off. The question of who is going to be in charge of the government is still sharply posed as the deadline for writing a new constitution, May 28, is fast approaching.  There is no prospect of a new constitution being agreed upon in that timeframe, and a new people's movement has been called by the Maoist leadership in an attempt to put pressure on the other political parties to let them take the reins of government. Forces on all sides are tensely anticipating what will happen. It is not clear what the outcome of this contestation of strength will be in the coming days.  This article, "On the Critical Crossroads in the Nepal Revolution, and the Urgent Need for a Real Rupture with Revisionism," was written before these latest developments, but it remains extremely relevant to this current juncture when the UCPN(M) will be weighing what course to take.

In studying important sections of a recent Resolution of the Central Committee of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)—UCPN(M)*—I was struck by the argument in this CC Resolution that, in the particular circumstances of Nepal, where the current political and governmental process, including the writing of a new Constitution, have resulted from the people's war and the mass movement against the monarchy that was led by the UCPN(M), this process is now favorable to the UCPN(M) and the revolution, and is unfavorable to the reactionaries. In fact this document (CC Resolution) goes so far as to argue that the reactionaries cannot achieve their objectives through this process while (it seems this Resolution is saying) the UCPN(M) and the revolutionary forces can do so.

Thus—to give this argument its "very best" interpretation—by persevering in this process, and further establishing itself as the most consistent representative and fighter for a Constitution that embodies the interests of the people (and supposedly the content of the new-democratic revolution), as well as for civilian supremacy over the military and for national sovereignty, the UCPN(M) will be able to outmaneuver the reactionaries, including the reactionary forces at the head of the army (Nepalese Army), and in the event of a reactionary armed revolt and/or attack from foreign interventionists (in particular India), the UCPN(M) will be able to split the Nepalese Army, winning over at least much of its ranks (including those that have been integrated into it from the People's Liberation Army [PLA], assuming that integration proceeds) while at the same time rallying a broad united front in society, to carry the new-democratic revolution forward to victory, laying the basis for advancing on the socialist road.

Again, this is giving this argument its "very best" interpretation. But, even doing so, it must be said that this whole outlook and approach is full of, and in fact is based on, classical revisionist illusions.  As a basic point of method, it ignores (or discounts) the general dialectical materialist understanding that things can, and often do, turn into their opposite—and specifically how this has frequently occurred when revolutionary forces have been drawn into the dynamics of electoral/constitutional processes, without smashing and dismantling the old, reactionary state, and the whole way in which the dynamics of such a process sap and rob the revolutionary forces of their initiative and strength. (My sense of this has been reinforced by reading some analysis, done in the service of imperialist strategic thinking, on how to derail and ultimately defeat people's wars in the Third World—and in particular the emphasis such analysis gives to the importance precisely of drawing the erstwhile armed insurgents into the electoral-constitutional framework and dynamics.) 

Even if it were to be the case, in the specific conditions of Nepal today, that the reactionaries became restless and impatient with the course of things—even if they felt that the continuation of things in the current governmental/constitutional framework were not leading things in a direction favorable to them, and therefore they had to bring an end to this process through some kind of coup/military action (which has happened in situations of this kind when other parties have proceeded on a course similar to that now being taken by the UCPN(M))—it seems unfortunately clear that the orientation and approach of the UCPN(M) would leave them without any real means of dealing with this, and that the outcome would be one where they would be smashed and decimated.

This whole orientation and approach of the UCPN(M)—again, even giving this its "very best" interpretation—ignores (or discounts, in the name of the particular and supposedly unique circumstances of the situation in Nepal), a vast amount of historical experience where attempts at this kind of (revisionist) strategy have led to disastrous results for the revolutionary forces.  Indonesia in 1965—where a numerically strong and politically influential Communist Party was essentially annihilated by a reactionary onslaught, carried out by the Indonesian army with the direction of the American CIA, in which somewhere between half a million and a million people were massacred—is perhaps the most devastating, but by no means the only, such instance.

It seems clear that, in the situation of Nepal now, it is correct to seek to rally broad forces against foreign interference and the potential of foreign intervention, and it is even correct to make serious attempts, as a subordinate TACTIC, to split the reactionary forces, including the reactionary army; but to raise this—and the latter in particular (splitting and winning over sections of the reactionary army)—to the level of a STRATEGY is completely erroneous, and very seriously courts disaster.  One need only ask:  What if these attempts (to split the reactionary army, etc.) fail, while one has made one's whole approach dependent on this...then what?  And it does seem very clear that there is no other dimension in which real and serious preparations are being made by the UCPN(M) for an actual showdown with the armed forces of reaction.  Mass and militant mobilization of youth, in the urban as well as rural areas, for example, could be an important element of an overall strategy for actually carrying the revolution forward, and preparing for the decisive showdown with the armed forces of reaction; but this in itself is not, and cannot be, a substitute for, or the essential means to, wield an organized and disciplined force that can meet and defeat the armed forces of reaction, domestic and very possibly foreign as well.

In short, all this—the overall orientation and approach being carried out by the UCPN(M), even giving this its "very best" interpretation—still falls within the category of seeking to "finesse," rather than to fully confront, and transform through the necessary struggle, very real and daunting contradictions.  This approach of the UCPN(M) much more embodies the potential for disaster than any prospect of successfully completing the new-democratic revolution, through smashing and dismantling the still-existing reactionary state and establishing a new, revolutionary state.

What makes things even worse is that the UCPN(M)—and, it seems, unfortunately, all its various factions, including even those which have been, in varying degrees, in opposition to the revisionist line of the Party's leadership—appear to be trapped within, and obstinately determined to remain within, the circular revisionist logic which characterizes the thinking of the UCPN(M) leadership.  And this leads to the dismissal of any essential challenge to this whole orientation and approach—even criticism raised from a revolutionary-communist perspective is discounted on the basis that it is just resorting to and regurgitating general principles (with which everyone agrees, of course!) while ignoring the particular and even unique circumstances that obtain in Nepal.  This facile dismissal of criticism that should actually be seriously engaged, and in fact united with and acted on, is an expression of all too familiar empiricism and pragmatism, as well as nationalism.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the prospect that even forces within the UCPN(M) which are themselves critical of the dominant line and leadership of that Party, will actually seriously rethink, and then break with and mount real opposition to, this whole course—the prospect that such forces will, in a timely way in the critical circumstances, recognize the validity of, and act in accordance with, the revolutionary-communist critique that has been repeatedly made of this whole orientation and approach, including through speaking to the essential particularities of the current situation—this prospect seems increasingly bleak.  The likelihood looms, and is growing, that the most compelling refutation of the revisionist line will turn out to be the practical reality of a disaster for the revolution and, in one form or another, destruction of the revolutionary forces (their full and final degeneration into revisionism and/or their physical decimation at the hands of the reactionaries), which this revisionist line is actually leading toward.

Nevertheless—and in fact precisely because this latter prospect, of devastating defeat, with its attendant demoralization and disorientation, not only for genuine revolutionaries but also for masses of people, in that country but also well beyond, is increasingly and ever more acutely posing itself—it remains crucial to wrestle with the question of how a decisive altering of this course, a real rupturing with revisionism, might be effected. As has been repeatedly, and very rightly, emphasized: In the current circumstances and given the current trajectory of things in Nepal, the real meaning and content of internationalist support is not acting as cheerleaders while the revolution is increasingly derailed onto a course heading toward a cliff and into the abyss, but instead a sharp and substantive criticism of this course, pointing to the urgently needed rupture back onto the revolutionary road. 

Such criticism has been made, repeatedly.  The question is now acutely posed: Will those who genuinely want to see the revolution in Nepal advance, rather than being decisively defeated, and who still might be able to fight effectively for the needed ruptures—will they finally take to heart this criticism and take up the substance of what it is raising, before it is too late?

* Resolution of the Central Committee of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), "Present Situation and Historical Task of the Proletariat" (2009).  [back]


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Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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Spreading Revolution and Communism

A Communist, a Scientist, and a Priest Sat Down to Discuss...Morality to Change the World

On Friday, April 16 at the University of Chicago, a panel featuring Sunsara Taylor (writer for Revolution newspaper), PZ Myers (biology professor at University of Minnesota Morris and author of the most widely read science blog, Pharyngula) and Bob Bossie, SJC, (member of the International Catholic Order of Priests of the Sacred Heart & activist with 8th Day Center for Justice in Chicago) spoke to an audience of around 175 people, largely students. The panel was moderated by Ted Jennings of the Chicago Theological Seminary, and the event was co-sponsored by that organization, the University of Chicago Secular Student Alliance, Revolution Books, the 8th Day Center for Justice, and the UC Philosophy Club.

A representative of the UC Secular Student Alliance welcomed the audience, noting that this was one of the most important discussions we can be having in the world today. This sense was reflected in the comments of the speakers and moderator, as well as a large section of the audience who brought serious urgency to changing the world in fundamental ways—including because of the environmental and economic crises. Some were doing serious soul-searching to figure out how to live their lives, and questioning what sacrifices they were willing to make for the betterment of humanity. Many of those who attended were fans of PZ Myers and his blog, and various kinds of atheists, agnostics, skeptics and humanists. Others were groupings or individual secular or atheist students, including from other campuses who heard about the panel online on various atheist blogs or Facebook. Some felt less urgency for social change but are working to develop a rational worldview and a personal code of ethics for how to be a good person and relate to other humans in a cooperative, respectful way. There were progressive religious people anxious to find areas of overlap and channels for meaningful exchange with progressive secular people. There were activists and people from various social movements. And there were people who have heard about the revolution, or been checking it out, who came to hear the exchange.

The three questions around which the presentations of the panelists revolved were:

  1. Can religion, science or communism provide a morality to change the world?
  2. Are they complementary, conflictual or mutually exclusive of one another?
  3. How will we motivate people, and with what moral paradigm to change the world?

There were some questions about human nature, how to change the world in general and some challenges to the role of religion, the Catholic Church and belief in God coming from the audience. A lot of people seemed surprised by Bob Bossie, who responded to a question from Ted Jennings about what kind of timeline was needed for fundamental change by joking, how about a week? He then went on to say that he wasn't joking and that there was a serious question of what was urgently needed in the world and how people had to ask themselves, and that he constantly asks himself, what are you willing to sacrifice, what are you willing to do for this change? It's one thing to volunteer for a week or two, or donate to something or whatever, but really how are you going to live your life? And many of the questions went to Sunsara Taylor and revolved around communism and revolution—what about people who disagree with you, if you have a centralized government making all the decisions, how will we know they'll be the right decisions, haven't vanguard parties just led to something worse, yes there were advances made for bringing women into the workforce in the Soviet Union but then there was a whole emphasis to them on becoming mothers to serve the revolution.

Feedback surveys were given to the audience, and many dozens were filled out, which offers a lot to learn from. There were criticisms from every side. A number of people were taken aback by the honesty of the panel and the way they had such divergent viewpoints but came together around the need for real change. The panel and Q&A went over two and a half hours, and very few people left early. There was a real feeling in the air that there was something going on here, refreshing and new, and very sorely needed.

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Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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A Prisoner Writes on the Impact of the Ban On Revolution

"This Is A Fight We Must Not Concede..."

We received the following letter from a reader in prison:

To Whom It May Concern:

I'm writing to lend my support to the Pelican Bay prisoners out in California. Being that I have been held hostage in a supermax facility for three years now, I can completely empathize with the comrade in the article that stated: "I have been getting Revolution newspaper for about 8 years now and can't imagine being in this dungeon without it."

From my own personal experience on such units—since first being confined to one in 2000, there's only two alternatives that ensues from being incarcerated in a cell up to 23 hours a day, without any real meaningful human contact. You either internalize your predicament by allowing your impotence and the correctional officers' constant repression and dehumanization to turn you into a walking time bomb of anger and bitterness; OR you can decide to search out those elusive answers to this biggest question in life. How did I even get in this predicament in the first place? And why am I even angry with life?—and most of the time have had disdain and contempt for it? Why is the world so fucked?—and will it always be this way? Is this how things will always be, or is there another more meaningful path for my life to take? And why does it seem that God never hears my prayers and appears to be omni-presently indifferent to the plight of "the least of these"? Is there even a God to call upon, or are we the only recourse to our own collective salvation?

Once one chooses this second alternative while on these supermax facilities and actively utilize their time painstakingly attempting to answer these questions and others, then they stand a good chance of maintaining their sanity and possibly even becoming politically conscious revolutionaries, that will one day be integral to the proletarian revolution. But even if one chooses this path, where will one go to find those answers except by coming across individuals and institutions that have already discovered them? In my case, there hasn't been any other institution out there that has raised my consciousness on a number of levels more than the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). I'm sure that I am not alone in that regard.

Nevertheless, for every person like me, there's many more who have never been introduced to this second path, and instead, have been consumed by their anger, bitterness, self-hatred, and then leave these circumstances many times worse than they arrived. I'm sure most of those who can be classified in this category—if they haven't succumbed to psychotropic medication, suicide, or forfeited all ambition—have returned to their communities to commit even more heinous crimes of predation. There's no statistics to substantiate this claim that I know of, but I think there's good reason for that. If there were, opponents of supermax facilities would have a good argument against these "domestic Guantanamo Bays."

Nevertheless, my point is that with every setback, there's always a dialectical opportunity for advancement and progress. to become its principal manifestation once again. In a particular sense, anybody that finds themselves in a supermax unit or incarcerated period, has the potential and possibility to answer those BIG QUESTIONS of life, and subsequently come to understand the need for communist revolution. Many of us in here have dedicated ourselves to making this particular population our focal point, while down, just like the comrades on the outside focuses primarily on the communities they're engaged with on a daily basis. In order for us to reach as many as possible, though, we need tools such as the Revolution and other revolutionary literature that the RCP provides for us. Just like in the case of medicine, if one wants to build the strongest immunity against the dog-eat-dog bourgeois mentality that permeates our communities, then we have to inoculate all populations with the most resistant drug of rebelliousness, communist rebelliousness. By changing the particular, the individual who's incarcerated—we only enhance our chances of prevailing on the universal level, the communist revolution. There is an inseparable dialectical unity in this regard.

To fail to recognize this, or treat it dismissively, we stand to lose many more generations to the bourgeoisie's prison industrial complex. Like all industries, the prison industrial complex specializes in the production and reproduction of individuals who will leave prison, only to be a hindrance to the proletarian revolution. Therefore, we either allow the bourgeoisie state's apparatus to continually undermine our ultimate revolutionary aim indirectly, by reproducing cancerous personalities and proclivities within our communities, or we counteract this indirect assault by continually inculcating a proletarian consciousness within a population, which I believe will play an integral part in the communist struggle, movement, and in the final analysis, in us achieving our objective.

In Bob Avakian's autobiography From Ike To Mao, he included an analysis of Lenin that we should never lose sight of:

Lenin insisted that the economic struggle of the workers is important but not the heart and pivot of work to build a revolutionary movement among the proletariat. In What Is To Be Done? Lenin emphasized the crucial role of genuine, revolutionary class consciousness and how the workers could only develop this consciousness by having their attention centered on all the events going on in society and in the world, among all different classes, strata and groups, and by learning to evaluate these events from a communist standpoint and no other. Lenin emphasized that communists have to expose all the ways in which different issues and events in society affect these different classes and strata, and how in turn these classes and strata respond to them, in a fundamental sense, in accordance with their interests. (Bob Avakian, p. 375)

I think this ban on the Revolution newspaper at Pelican Bay State Prison, presents us with a pivotal opportunity to raise the consciousness of the masses and the prison population to this contradiction of bourgeoisie society, in regards to the emptiness of what we grew up believing about the "freedom of speech" and "the sacredness" of the First Amendment. Obviously, the "freedom of speech" and the First Amendment only seem to apply when that speech doesn't come with a concrete materialist analysis of the bourgeoisie state, its prison industrial complex, its baseless imperialist wars, its racist and sexist divisions of control, its lies about evolution, atheism, global warming, etc. If this isn't the true reason why they're banning the Revolution newspaper at Pelican Bay, then what is that reason? And if it is, as Lenin said, bringing this contradiction of interest out to the people will only raise the consciousness of the people to recognize where their true interest lies—either with the proletarian revolution or with their false bourgeoisie hope of "change that only a fool can believe in."

Right now, we're being assaulted by the bourgeoisie state and they're waiting to see what our response will be. Are we going to capitulate? If so, they'll end up banning the Revolution not only in California, but in all states, including the prison I reside at now. And if they succeed in doing so, what will be the impact of it upon the proletarian revolution, on our community's ability to rid itself of criminal mind-sets, or that individual like me, who may never become politically conscious now while incarcerated? This is a fight that we must not concede to the enemy. We must prevail! Our future depends upon it! We must fight this ban on all fronts: in the streets, in the courts, and in the media. As Frantz Fanon once said in The Wretched of the Earth, "Every generation out of relative obscurity must discover its mission—fulfill it or betray it."

Frederick Engels' answer to that, still remains true today: "To accomplish this act of universal emancipation is the historical mission of the modern proletariat." (Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, p. 13) We all know what our generation's mission is, so now it's up to us to fulfill it. All tactical battles that we succeed in, will eventually culminate to us being victorious in our proletarian war of global emancipation.

In Solidarity, XXXXX

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Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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I am not ashamed

by Jamilah Hoffman

The following is a poem written and performed by Jamilah Hoffman at the Creative Women Unite International Women's Day cultural event in Houston, March 8, 2010.

This poem is dedicated to Sakia Gunn, who at 15 was going home with a group of girlfriends when a couple of guys started to harass them. She told the guys to leave them alone, that they were lesbians and not interested. They got into a fight and Sakia was stabbed and killed. This poem is for her.

I Am Not Ashamed
My body is a battleground
A constant fight occurs between
What is true
And this system.
I wear self-inflicted scars
Like medals of honor
For I have survived the battle of mis-placed anger.
But it remains to be seen,
Who will win the war?

I linger in the mirror
Not in a shameless space of vanity
But rather out of defiance.
The audacity of believing I belong.
But I have to be careful,
You see,
Defiant women often make people uncomfortable,
Afraid, even.
When all I want to do is walk down the street with my head held high.
This has become a political statement:
I am not ashamed.

I am not ashamed to believe the world can be much better than what it is now
I am not ashamed to be a revolutionary
Color me a communist, I am not ashamed
I am not ashamed to live outside the boundaries of the now
And I'm not ashamed
To want to live in a world
Where little girls have the chance to grow up to be women.

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Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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International Women's Day Atlanta 2010

We received the following report from Atlanta:

On Monday evening, March 8, at a coffee house in a part of town called the West End, Revolution Books sponsored an IWD program with the theme of "Break the Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women As a Mighty Force for Revolution," with a special dedication to those on the front lines in Iran.

The reason we had the IWD program in this area is not only because Revolution newspaper has had an ongoing presence in the West End, which is a Black community and commercial district in the area around the Atlanta University Center, but also because in the last month, Georgia Right to Life in coordination with other anti-abortion organizations has rolled out an outrageous, vicious anti-abortion billboard campaign focused in this area. The billboards, 80 of them, feature a picture of the face of a cute Black baby with the caption "Endangered Species," and the website Their website argues that abortion providers have conspired to exterminate the Black race, with the evidence being that many abortion clinics are located in inner-city areas. There is also an accompanying bill in the Georgia legislature, which is trying to make it a felony for abortion providers or medical personnel who are found guilty of "coercing a woman to abort her fetus based on the fetus' race or sex," under the guise of anti-discrimination! Having an International Women's Day program in the midst of the mix going on in the West End was an important political intervention.

The coffee house was packed with most coming for the program itself, but once the program began, even those who just came by to chill were attentive to the speakers. The first speaker was a Women's Studies professor at Spelman College, a women's college that is part of the Atlanta University Center HBCU complex. She spoke on women in resistance, and spoke a great deal on how even in the movements for liberation women have been relegated to subordinate positions.  The next person spoke on behalf of Revolution Books, speaking on the liberation of women and all of humanity, bringing to life many points from A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity, the special issue of Revolution newspaper.  And the last speaker was an Iranian woman who, up until a few months ago, was a journalist in Iran covering the resistance and the central role of women in the resistance. She had been arrested by the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), detained for forty days and tortured during that time. She was recently able to get out of the country with the help of the United Nations. Her presentation was translated from Farsi. She spoke on how women are very active in the resistance, and that one of the acts of resistance is refusing to wear their hijabs or veils. She spoke about how in the past, during the revolution and afterwards, women thought that their position in society would change, but with the IRI coming to power it put women back into the most oppressive conditions—and this time around it is being talked about broadly that women are not going to stop fighting until their oppression is finally broken.

There was open discussion after the presentations, and many people were very interested in getting a deeper understanding of the struggle going on in Iran. There was further exploration of the strategy behind the anti-abortion billboard campaign and getting a deeper grasp for the need of abortion as central to women's liberation. After the program ended a good majority of the people stayed to continue the discussion informally. During that time a woman came up to the speaker for Revolution Books to say that she was very happy that the discussion of abortion came up, because she needed to get one and the conversation strengthened her resolve.

Earlier that day, led by a banner that said, "International Women's Day March 8, Break the Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women As a Mighty Force for Revolution" a contingent of seven people circulated through the downtown Atlanta area during lunch hour. Equipped with a bullhorn, we stopped at several corners and agitated about it being International Women's Day, what the day signifies, what horrors women face on a daily basis, and calling for people to join the revolution to get to a world where half of humanity will not be considered the possession of the other half. We also brought along two enlarged posters, one of Bob Avakian's quote with the pictures that were in the centerfold of the International Women's Day issue of Revolution, and another past centerfold from Revolution called "A Fetus Is Not A Baby! Abortion on Demand Without Apology!" illustrating the science that shows that fetuses are not children. Our agitation had some real impact.

Several people would stop and listen attentively to what we were saying, and many others shouted out comments as they walked by, mostly positive, or stopped to talk with us. One woman who stopped said that she agreed with what we were saying, because she had been in an abusive situation and got out of it, and so can other women. Her view was that it was an individual choice, and we got into the point made in the Declaration that if this is happening on epidemic levels, it is not an individual choice but systemic. Another woman stopped and asked if the woman on the bullhorn could relay something for her: "Tell people there are millions of Preciouses in the world."

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Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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Anti-Abortion thug found NOT GUILTY in Ohio

In Akron, it's legal to assault someone who stands up for a woman's right to choose

by a staff member of Revolution Books in Cleveland

On July 18, 2009, Charles Wright, a long time women's rights advocate, was assaulted outside of a women's clinic that does abortions, the Akron Women's Medical Center. He and others were defending women trying to get into the clinic, from the verbal and physical harassment of anti-abortion lunatics. At one point, Charles was punched so hard in the head by an anti that he crashed to the ground, and was rendered unconscious. Charles was rushed to the hospital by ambulance, where doctors discovered that he had 6 broken ribs. He spent 2 days in the hospital, was in intense pain for weeks, and ended up with a hospital bill totaling $38,000. [Read on-line about Akron Women's Medical Center]

After months of delay, the thug, Nathan Chesley, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault. In fact, it was Chesley himself that called the cops and make an audio taped confession! In addition, there was a video tape of the entire incident that was confiscated from the anti's, clearly showing what happened.

But on March 24, 2010, after a couple days of trial, the jury found Chesley NOT GUILTY of aggravated assault!! There was shock and horror among the pro-choice forces in Akron. Every person I talked to in the Akron pro-choice community are saying that they don't ever want to go back to the clinic. They are afraid this verdict will actually escalate the harassment and violence they've been subject to for years. In fact one person wrote in an email, "I fear because of this NOT Guilty verdict in Akron, doctors, clinic workers, and volunteers will be at risk."

A pro-choice person wrote on Facebook: "In Akron Ohio, it is legal to beat a person unconscious on clinic property, as long as they are defending the legal right of a woman to choose. Now the anti-choice zealots have permission to beat the crap out of us. And Charles is in fear for his life... He knows he is not afforded the protection of a citizen of this country. Is it because he was defending women? Is it because Charles is gay? Both? I am angry, I am sick, and I am afraid."

And there is reason to be afraid. After the verdict, there was a slew of letters posted on the Akron Beacon Journal website, many of them from antis. And they were vicious. In addition to the comments themselves, many of the avatars on the postings displayed guns, rifles, and target symbols. And some of the names that go along with the anti-abortion venom are "tiller killer" and "angry white."

Some of the fascist comments: "A win for the good guys." "The violence that goes on in the clinic, the snuffing out of innocent life,—that is the real issue. And, do not give me the tired line of this is a woman's right to do whatever she wants to her body ... We ALL know in our hearts that the murdering of innocent life is wrong and we (our nation) will and is being judged by this. Violence outside or inside the clinic is not right. However, to compare a few broken ribs with the countless number (millions) of babies murdered in the USA every year is appaulling."

Who are these anti-abortion lunatics? Some of the most aggressive are part of a group called the "Jericho Riders," a motorcycle ministry that is hooked up with, among others, the "Christian Minutemen." These kinds of forces, and many more, are part of a wave of fascist reaction, that have been in the field around abortion and homosexuality for a while, and now being expanded by the new wave of "Tea Party" protestors.

As was written in Revolution recently, "The extreme nature of the situation is reflected in, and revealed by the extreme remaking of U.S. society called for by the section of the ruling class identified with the Republican Party.

"To them, church and the family—and traditional fundamentalist Christian religion and draconian, repressive family values—must assume a radically greater role in the functioning of society. God, guns (in the hands of racists, anti-immigrant vigilantes, and fascists), and religion are asserted with a vengeance." from "The Battle Over the Healthcare Bill... The Fascist Reaction... and the Potential for REAL Revolution." (Revolution #197)

And how did this thug, Chesley, get acquitted? There is lots of debate by pro-choice people over this. The political climate, mentioned above, certainly had an influence on the jury. But it was also the case, as Bob Avakian describes in the DVD, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, of the prosecutors all of a sudden forgetting how to prosecute! They had Chesley's taped audio confession to cops... but didn't use it in trial! The prosecutor, Chad Vanorman, initially wasn't even going to put Charles on the stand to tell what happened to him! There were many other witnesses that were subpoenaed to testify, and were never called, including two clinic employees. The prosecutor didn't take on the ideological arguments of the "defense," letting most of it go without objection. And during the jury deliberations, Vanorman told Charles (who is also a well known atheist) that he is a Christian and that Charles should read the Bible!

So what now? The fascist lunatics are all puffed up. The pro-choice forces have been temporarily set back. The Akron folks are really scared, including one woman who feels really guilty about being scared! At the same time, they are outraged and angry at the verdict, but don't know what to do. They don't know who to blame, and they don't understand how a thing like this can happen "in a democracy." They feel very alone and isolated. I've listened to the fear and outrage, and at the same time struggled for the understanding that the source of this is the system. We urgently need revolution. We need to find the ways to fight back now—to Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution—to liberate women and all humanity.

One Akron woman I talked to had traveled to Wichita, Kansas to defend the clinic of Dr. LeRoy Carhart. She had already been in touch with World Can't Wait about the outrageous trial verdict. We grappled with how to respond to this challenging situation, and we've begun to strategize with others about how to take this on.

This whole situation brought home the words of Bob Avakian: "There may be a need, and in fact almost certainly will be a need, for conscious revolutionary forces to take the lead in opposing certain fascist initiatives which take form, to a significant degree at least, as attacks on bourgeois-democratic rights and norms and, in certain cases perhaps, even some figures identified with bourgeois democracy and liberalism; but, let me underline, this must be done not by way of promoting and defending bourgeois democracy and bourgeois-democratic political leaders, but instead radically recasting this and directing it against the whole system of bourgeois rule, that is bourgeois dictatorship (which is what is actually embodied in the dominant political structures in this country) and the capitalist-imperialist system this enforces." ("Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution," available at

Send us your comments.

Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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Statement by Carl Dix:

12 Iraqi Civilians Murdered By U.S. Troops Firing From Apache Helicopter


The video recently released by WikiLeaks cries out for a response of outrage and condemnation. This video shows U.S. forces in Iraq launching an unprovoked assault from an Apache helicopter on a group of Arab men in July, 2007. After the attack one of the men tries to crawl to safety, and the helicopter fires at him again! Then a van pulls up and tries to pick up the dead and wounded, and the helicopter fires a missile at it, killing and wounding more people, including two children! U.S. ground troops arrive and pick up the children to take them to a hospital. The helicopter relays orders to leave the children to be picked up by Iraqi police, if they survive till the Iraqi police arrive. In all, 12 people die in this murderous assault.

The initial U.S. response to complaints over this assault was: "There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in a fire fight with hostile forces." "The actions of the soldiers were in accordance with the rules of engagement." And "No innocent civilians were killed on our part deliberately. Our forces took great pains to prevent that. We did everything we could to help them. We don't know how the children were hurt." These are all lies aimed at keeping those who did not witness the assault in the dark about what really happened.

Two of the men attacked were carrying cameras and none carried weapons of any kind. No one took any hostile action against the U.S. forces, even after the unprovoked assault. The soldiers in the helicopter acknowledged that the people in the van were picking up bodies right before they hit the van with a missile. And in the video you can clearly see the children in the van before the helicopter fired at it.

This was mass murder carried out at a safe distance, firing at people who were in no way threatening the U.S. forces. And the soldiers were calm and upbeat as they went about this murderous deed in a callous and uncaring way. They lie that the men have weapons and have fired at them and joke as they kill people for no good reason! Another thing that stands out is how eager they are to kill. They plead several times, "Let us shoot," as they await the OK to kill the defenseless people below them. When someone in the helicopter says they have wounded children, another soldier replies, "It's their fault for bringing their kids to a battle!"

The statement that the troops' actions were in accordance with the rules of engagement only serves to underscore that the war in Iraq Afghanistan are unjust and immoral. As does the reported response to the leaking of the video. Craig Considine writes that a secret report from the Army Counterintelligence Center, also leaked by WikiLeaks, says "WikiLeaks represents a potential force protection, counterintelligence, operational security and information security threat to the U.S. Army." This report also suggests that those responsible for leaking this report be hunted down and prosecuted.

As a Vietnam era veteran and war resister from inside the U.S. military, this assault brought back bitter memories. Of the My Lai massacre. Of U.S. warplanes bombing irrigation facilities in farming areas and dropping napalm on defenseless villagers. Of earlier cover ups and lying justifications. Of attempts to prosecute those who exposed war crimes, not those who ordered them or carried them out.

None of this—the murderous assault or the official response should surprise anyone. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are unjust, immoral wars, wars in which whole cities like Falluja have been flattened, in which wedding parties have been bombed at least six times! And the U.S. has perpetrated war crimes like these since its very beginning, a beginning which has at its foundation genocide against the native inhabitants and theft of their land. This is why the Revolutionary Communist Party says in its Statement, The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have that this capitalist-imperialist system "brings horror upon horror, a nightmare seemingly without end, for the vast majority of humanity...wars, invasions and occupations...assassinations and massacres...planes, missiles, tanks and troops of the USA bombarding people in faraway lands while they sleep in their homes or go about their daily lives, blasting their little children to pieces, cutting down men and women in the prime of life, or in old age..."

Everyone with an ounce of conscience needs to think about this latest outrage perpetrated by this rotten system. Think about the 12 people killed in this unprovoked, murderous assault. Think about the two children who were severely wounded. Think about the sense of loss this caused for their loved ones and friends. Think about all this, and respond to it with outrage and condemnation, and with a sense of urgency.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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From A World to Win News Service

Operation Green Hunt: India's state terror

April 5, 2010. A World to Win News Service. Indian authorities have reported that the anti-Maoist military offensive called Operation Green Hunt has suffered significant blows. On April 3 guerrillas killed at least 10 policemen and injured 10 more in a landmine attack on a police bus in the eastern state of Orissa. On April 5, in Dantewada district in the state of Chhattisgarh, they first ambushed soldiers carrying out a jungle patrol and then ambushed a second unit sent to rescue the first. As we go to press, fighting is reported to be continuing. India's Home Minister P. Chidambaram said, "Something has gone very wrong. They seem to have walked into a trap set by the [Maoists] and casualties are quite high"— the security forces are said to have lost 72 soldiers. Soutik Biswas, reporting from Delhi for BBC, describes the attack as "a blow to the government" and concludes that "the government is in for a long and difficult war."

In late 2009, with an array of military forces, hi-tech support and utmost cruelty, the government of India launched Operation Green Hunt. India is economically on the move and its rulers are eager to upgrade their partnership with global imperialism. They cannot tolerate the fact that large swaths of the country are no longer under their control, and are determined to crush anything that stands in their way, especially the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the masses hungry for radical change who make up the army they lead.

This unprecedented internal military offensive is taking place in the forests and hills that are the homeland of many different Adivasi tribes in the central and eastern Indian states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal. Indian and international corporations are itching to tear up these lands to get their hands on the riches that lies under them, minerals like bauxite, coal and iron ore. The forests are a source of livelihood for the Adivasis, but to be able to use them they have had to struggle against the forest police, local police and vigilante groups like the Salwa Judum who destroy their crops, steal their farm animals, rape the women and kill young and old alike.

Since the early 1990s through an economic liberalization fostered by the then finance minister Manmohan Singh (now prime minister), India has been on a fast track to playing a more major role in the global economy. In the process the contrast between the fabulously rich and the desperately poor has widened tremendously. In between, a growing middle class of call center agents, IT specialists, market research company employees, etc., has grown to 200 million. India has been welcomed into the fraternity of global nuclear powers on signing a joint nuclear treaty with the U.S. in 2008. The economic growth rate has been around 8 percent for a number of years and the country's elite is bursting with self-confidence in their ability and desire to exploit superprofits from the productive forces—the enormous pool of cheap labor and land and mineral resources. There has been no trickle-down to the bottom rungs of society. Instead the situation for about half of India's people has become worse since liberalization.

One such group of exploiting capitalists are the Tatas. The Tata family owns the sixth largest steel company in the world and some of its companies are located on the edges of the tribal areas. Tata has lined up a number of "greenfield" projects in and outside of India to expand their steel production by millions of tons. A greenfield project is one built where nothing has been constructed before, so the land is cheap and there is no need to remodel or demolish any existing structures or pay other large expenses. Tata has already signed agreements with the government to build industrial sites on tribal lands in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

Operation Green Hunt's precursor was the Salwa Judum, vigilante militias funded by the governing parties and local state governments. The leaking of a draft government report stating that Salwa Judum was first funded by Tata and Essor Steel created an outburst in the press; that part was subsequently edited out of the final version. Salwa Judum recruited those local people who could be bought to work as bullies and informers, sometimes offering free mobile phones in exchange for information. For those they couldn't buy, they exercised a reign of terror. The official figure of emptied villages in Chhattisgarh is 644. Thousands of villagers were murdered. Thousands were arbitrarily arrested and left rotting in jail. Over 300,000 people were displaced. In attempting to separate the people from the CPI (Maoist), nearly 50,000 were forced to live in Vietnam-style strategic hamlets. Villagers who did not move into the hamlets were considered Maoists by the authorities. Independent journalists and intellectuals who tried to report on these atrocities were beaten, jailed or otherwise prevented from investigating Salwa Judum's actions.

During this same period Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared the CPI (Maoist) the "gravest internal security threat" to India. The "land to the tiller" views of CPI (Maoist) are in contradiction to India's rising capitalist development at its most competitive and cutthroat. As a CPI (Maoist) cadre told the activist and author Arundhati Roy, "They want to crush us, not only because of the minerals, but because we are offering the world an alternative model."

Some accounts of life under the shadow of Salwa Judum

The following are soundbites from a major article by Roy called "Walking with the Comrades." (Easily located online, the article gives her views on the situation among the tribals and the history of CPI [Maoist]both the advances, setbacks and necessary retreats forced on them by the stateas told to her by various members and supporters.) They are accounts from women who are part of Krantikari Adivasi Mahila Sangathan, a mass organization led by CPI (Maoist) that claims a membership of 90,000 women. The KAMS takes up issues like forced marriages, bigamy, domestic violence and the need to break with traditional tribal thinking that oppresses women. When the men are taken away, these women also go en masse to the jails and sometimes succeed in getting them released.

"As police repression has grown in Bastar, the women of KAMS have become a formidable force and rally in their hundreds, sometimes thousands, to physically confront the police. The very fact that the KAMS exists has radically changed traditional attitudes and eased many of the traditional forms of discrimination against women. For many young women, joining the party, in particular the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army, became a way of escaping the suffocation of their own society. Comrade Sushila, a senior officer of KAMS, talks about the Salwa Judum's rage against KAMS women. She says one of their slogans was Hum Do Bibi layenge! Layenge! (We will have two wives! We will!) A lot of the rape and bestial sexual mutilation was directed at members of the KAMS. Many young women who witnessed the savagery then joined the PLGA and now women make up 45 percent of its cadre. Comrade Narmada sends for some of them and they join us in a while.

"Comrade Rinki has very short hair. A bob-cut as they say in Gondi (language). It's brave of her, because here, 'bob-cut' means 'Maoist.' For the police that's more than enough evidence to warrant summary execution. Comrade Rinki's village, Korma, was attacked by the Naga Battalion and the Salwa Judum in 2005. At that time Rinki was part of the village militia. So were her friends Lukki and Sukki, who were also members of the KAMS. After burning the village, the Naga battalion caught Lukki and Sukki and one other girl, gang raped and killed them. 'They raped them on the grass,' Rinki says, 'but after it was over there was no grass left.' It's been years now, the Naga Battalion has gone, but the police still come. 'They come whenever they need women, or chickens.'

"Ajitha has a bob-cut too. The Judum came to Korseel, her village, and killed three people by drowning them in a nallah [stream or canal]. Ajitha was with the [guerrilla] militia, and followed the Judum at a distance to a place close to the village called Paral Nar Todak. She watched them rape six women and shoot a man in his throat.

"Sumitra tells the story of two of her friends, Telam Parvati and Kamla, who worked with KAMS. Telam Parvati was from Polekaya village in South Bastar. Like everyone else from there, she too watched the Salwa Judum burn her village. She then joined the PLGA and went to work in the Keshkal ghats [an area in Chhattisgarh]. In 2009 she and Kamla had just finished organizing the March 8 Women's Day celebrations in the area. They were together in a little hut just outside a village called Vadgo. The police surrounded the hut at night and began to fire. Kamla fired back, but she was killed. Parvati escaped, but was found and killed the next day.

"Comrade Laxmi, who is a beautiful girl with a long plait, tells me she watched the Judum burn thirty houses in her village Jojor. 'We had no weapons then,' she says, 'we could do nothing, but watch.' She joined the PLGA soon after. Laxmi was one of the 150 guerrillas who walked through the jungle for three and a half months in 2008, to Nayagarh in Orissa, to raid a police armoury from where they captured 1,200 rifles and 200,000 rounds of ammunition."

The Adivasis, with the PLGA led by the CPI (Maoist), succeeded in putting up stiff and effective resistance to the Salwa Judum.

Over the last year in Lalgarh, in the state of West Bengal, an important movement arose against police repression and a major corporate development project planned by the state government. Unnerved by their tenacious resistance, the government meted out terrible atrocities to the tribals. Consequently over a 1,000 villages formed People's Committees against Police Atrocities (PCPA). They demanded that the officials responsible for the atrocities be punished. They threw out the existing administrative structure, and started constructing a new society, building roads, digging wells, distributing land and creating collective agricultural formations. They started schools, built clinics, and invited doctors and nurses from outside. They are trying to build a self-reliant economy and develop a collective agriculture. The Maoists played a leading role in this from the beginning.

The struggle in Lalgarh gained support from many progressive forces throughout the country and internationally. It demonstrated that the Salwa Judum was insufficient to drive the tribals off their land. As a repressive force, it was inadequate for the task.

Enter Operation Green Hunt

With Operation Green Hunt the burning, killing, looting, torturing and raping has increased exponentially. Unlike Salwa Judum this operation is coordinated by the central government, which predicts a long and bloody war until the tribal area is "sanitized" and the Naxalites (as the government calls the Maoists) defeated. More than 100,000 military and paramilitary troops are being sent into the Adivasi areas. The plan is for the occupiers to gradually spread from one "sanitized" area to another. Twenty Warfare Training Schools are being built in India. Mahmohan Singh recently spent $18 billion in the U.S. to buy huge amounts of military supplies and munitions, including the latest state-of-the-art global positioning systems and night-vision-capable automatic rifles. Drones are being provided by Israel. And the Israeli Mossad is training Indian police as snipers. Media reports suggest that their mission is to assassinate leaders of the CPI (Maoist) and the mass movement.

According to numerous well-documented reports from sources not necessarily friendly to CPI (Maoist), 30 to 40 tribal people are being killed each week in the Adivasi belt. In Goompad village, Chhattisgarh, witnesses who reported a police massacre were disappeared. (, February 24, 2010). On February 22, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) murdered one such leader, Sri Lalmohan Tudu, the elected president of the People's Committee against Police Atrocities, and two other people in Lalgarh. Conflicting police versions emerged about how Tudu died. One said he was killed while attacking a police camp, another that he was with a Maoist squad and was apprehended in a CRPF raid. Eyewitness accounts say he was killed near his home and his body was dragged into the paddy fields nearby.

Tudu was one of the main representatives of the PCPA in negotiations with officials of the state government. At no time was he accused of being a Maoist. According to Tudu's wife, the authorities "had been hunting him since last June. He tried to come to the house that day but he was kidnapped that night. We heard gunshots and feared the worst. We never found out what had happened until the next morning when we heard his body was in the morgue." A member of a democratic rights organization said there is a shoot-on-sight order against the Maoists but "nobody knows what a Maoist is. Police say everybody is a Maoist." The villagers say, "In the eyes of the police, the cows and chickens are Maoist." (World News, March 8, 2010)

The military has set up camps in the forests and along streams and ponds. They have closed schools and taken school buildings for their own use. They have cordoned off the area around the forests, preventing the Adivasis from getting food and marketable items that allow them to earn a livelihood and access to water. And they are trying to prevent the Maoists from merging with and being nourished by the masses of Adivasis.

One-third of the world's poor

Although the statistics vary, by most accounts one-third of the world's poor lives in India. The World Bank says 42 percent of India's 1.2 billion people live on $1.25 per day. A United Nations study says 72 percent live on $2 or less a day. And an Indian government report from the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector says that 70 percent of Indians live on half a dollar a day. (Reuters, August 10, 2007) Tribals, lower castes and Muslims are especially numerous among those desperately poor sections of the people, working and living under conditions as bad or worse as any in the world. The global market is moving into the center of many people's lives in a new way, with devastating effects even among the somewhat better off parts of rural India. For instance, the government and international organizations have pressured Indian farmers to plant crops to compete on the global market. Unable to pay their debts when prices slumped or bad weather conditions destroyed their crops, thousands of them have found no way out but suicide.

Dr. Binayak Sen, internationally renowned for the voluntary health clinic for the rural poor in Chhattisgarh he has run since 1981 and a human rights activist, recently lectured a university crowd on "Violence and justice in our times," describing how Operation Green Hunt is worsening health conditions for an already undernourished population. He said that over 50 percent of tribals have a body mass index of 18.5. According to the standards set by the Health Organization, this means that the population is in a state of famine. Dr. Sen was recently released after two years in a Chhattisgarh prison on charges of "treason and waging war against the state." He was accused of passing a letter from a Maoist prisoner he had been treating medically in jail to someone on the outside. After an international outcry, he was released on bail. (March 14, 2010, Indian Express) During Arundhati Roy's "Walk with the Comrades," one of the very few doctors in a camp visited by her expressed a similarly dire view. Many diseases that result from long term anemia are on the rise, in addition to the "usual" diseases like malaria that are preventable or can be attended to if you have access to medicines.

The grim life-and-death character of what Operation Green Hunt (OGH) means to millions of tribals in India's heartland is not lost on many thinking individuals, irrespective of their views on Maoism. Until recently such wide-scale military mobilizations were reserved for India's war with Pakistan over Kashmir or against the secessionist movements in the eastern part of the country. A movement against OGH is gaining momentum in many parts of India, despite the risk of being tarred with the "terrorist" brush or labeled a Maoist by the Indian government. This opposition and resistance comes from a wide-ranging political spectrum. OGH has created significant polarization in society. Within this, there are contrasting views.

Some oppositional voices focus on the fundamental violation of human rights underway to further the interests of India's corporate elite, Tata, Essor and Vedanta, who have made several billion-dollar deals with the government to plunder the riches in the hills and forests occupied by the Adivasis in the areas "infested" by the Maoists. Some understand why the Maoists, with their different view of how the world can be, represent an attractive force to the Adivasis. Despite its regional and global ambitions the Indian state fails to provide public services like health care and education, minimal employment, safe drinking water, food, seed plant credits or even law and order for the Adivasis and the rest of the "poorest of the poor." Instead the state has served them daily humiliation, oppression and superexploitation.

An article in Frontline magazine, no friend of the Maoists, wrote the following: "[T]he state has lost legitimacy in tribal India. It is laughable to claim that its project of militarily overpowering the Maoists has popular support. Its police force is inefficient, corrupt, trigger-happy and anti-poor. The State represents little more than predatory, rape-and-run industrial groups, besides super-corrupt Ministers (like Madhu Koda who allegedly amassed wealth equivalent to a fourth of Jharkhand's tax revenue in three years). It is no accident that the Centre [India's central government] has intervened to assert its full coercive power in an area that contains much of India's immense mineral and forest wealth, now under transfer to private capital. If the operation continues, the civilian death toll is liable to rise from several hundred to several thousand a year, as had happened in Argentina and Peru, where 50,000 to 100,000 people 'disappeared' in decades-long counter-insurgency operations." (Frontline, Issue 6, March 13-26, 2010)

Others contend that the masses are caught between "two fires," the Maoist army and the state military apparatus. In India this idea is called the "sandwich theory." It claims to see the armed might of the state and forces for revolution as equally bad. They object to the "war on the people" and say the line between civilian and military targets is being blurred, as though it would be okay to hunt down the revolutionary Maoists. Some uphold the use of Greyhounds, an elite anti-Naxal force who will be marauding in the jungles, specializing in guerrilla tactics to counter those of the Maoists. This view does not correspond to reality, because the violence of the state whose armed forces rain terror on the masses in order to maintain the exploiters' rule is not the same as the liberatory violence of the oppressed rising up.

In a very different sense, the masses of Adivasis are caught between two fires: that of the enemy directed against the revolution and the fire of everyday exploitation and oppression. When they understand the interconnectedness of that, they come to learn that revolution is the only way out.

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 #199, April 18, 2010

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Readers Respond...

  Previous Posts:
    March 28, 2010
    Readers Respond to Revolution's
      Coverage on the Environment
      (January 17, 2010)

    December 20, 2009
    November 15, 2009
    September 6, 2009
    June 28, 2009
    May 24, 2009
    February 1, 2009
    December 6, 2008

We received the following comments online:

Comment on the article: "NYPD in the Classrooms: Turning Schools into Prisons in the Name of 'Safety'"

I really appreciated your work in disseminating the story about police harassment in NYC schools. I believe that focusing on clear objectives and getting out information to people who have simple common sense is our best tool create a better society for all people. Keep it up.


Two comments on the article: "Pelican Bay State Prison, CA and Menard Prison, IL: Overturn the Ban of Revolution Newspaper!"

I was extremely struck by the following statement...

"I am...offended by their notion that they are 'cultivators' of my mind, that they 'water' my mind with their approved books and approved reading and I will 'grow' to be an 'approved crop' instead of a weed."

I don't think I have ever really, truly, analyzed the internal situations a prisoner must go through. All I can recall from movies I've watched or books I've read or even through other people is that in prison one of the major concerns are your cellmates turning their back on you, or the fear of dropping a bar of soap in the shower, and having to stick with people of the same race, or being the notorious "pipe carrier." After having read this powerful article, I am certain I will never look at the prison system with clouded eyes again.


When I was in the Ohio pen in Columbus, Oh, I received the Revolutionary Worker at that time, and it helped me get through all those years in the Ohio prison system. End the ban.


Two comments on the article: "The Harm of The Hurt Locker"

First, I want to note that I thoroughly enjoy perusing each edition of Revolution as soon as they are published online. This being said, I do have a bone to pick with Annie Day's recent article, "The Harm of The Hurt Locker."

The intent of the movie's message can be seen in the Chris Hedges quote that it begins with: "...war forms its own culture. The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug...".  Over the course of the rest of the movie, no real attempt was made by the director to delineate the "good guys" from the "bad guys" as pertaining to the cause of the war. Rather, she focused on the effects of war on the soldiers who fight it, with the conclusion that it is intoxicating. This is made clear in the scenes in which Renner can't get comfortable without the bomb suit helmet on, when he gets in the shower with his uniform still on, and ultimately when he redeploys after calling combat the only thing he loves and lives for. The director then proceeded to throw the shit and muck of the conflict in Iraq into the audience's face with scenes of death, destruction, and insanity. She then goes on to show that despite such devastation, war is addicting to our men and women and to our Western imperialist concepts.

By the end of the movie, Mackie's character admits that he has had enough of this war bullshit and realizes that the war is all just a big fuck-up and wants out.

Admittedly, the film was Eurocentric at times and did have you rooting for the Americans, but it did show some of the Iraqi plight. While definitely not enough, there was still some effort shown.

My verdict on The Hurt Locker: a Hollywood-esque creation that has pro-American tendencies, but still manages to get across the message of war being a drug that is abused by imperialism and our youth.


Dear Annie Day:

Your article, "The Harm of The Hurt Locker," is extraordinary. Thank you thank you for publishing this. May I copy it and send it to many people and/or organizations as long as I credit you?

Thank you,


Comment on the article: "Battle Over Abortion Raging In Mexico"

The forces for legalizing abortion should use the shit that is going down in the catholic church right now (from the pope down) to show the people the contradictions in the infallible catholic church.


You have very insightful, straightforward articles about revolution and change, which I wholly agree with, even though I am not a Communist. But more people desperately need that "flame."

I could particularly relate to the recent article on the pornification of prisons since I had just seen an episode of Oprah where she talked with a porn star as if it was any other discussion. I'm glad to see articles like this that are discussing problems head-on instead of dancing around them like there's nothing wrong. Typical American: "Oh, no, there's nothing wrong with it! What are you talking about??????"

A very interesting excerpt: "As most of you know by now, I have been state raised by cold steel & concrete since I was 13 years old. I'm 31 now. I can remember when I first entered juvenile prison, some of the officers would bring in porn movies for us to watch depending on how we 'behaved.' If we were really 'good' which I never was according to their standards, the institution would bring in a bus load of girls in from the female institution & organize dances."

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Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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What Is Communist Revolution?

It is this system that has got us in the situation we're in today, and keeps us there. And it is through revolution to get rid of this system that we ourselves can bring a much better system into being. The ultimate goal of this revolution is communism: A world where people work and struggle together for the common good...Where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings...Where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world.
This revolution is both necessary and possible.

From: The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have
A Message, And A Call,
From The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

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Revolution #199, April 18, 2010

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

Who Is Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party?

In Bob Avakian, the Chairman of our Party, we have the kind of rare and precious leader who does not come along very often. A leader who has given his heart, and all his knowledge, skills and abilities to serving the cause of revolution and the emancipation of humanity. Bob Avakian came alive as a revolutionary in the 1960s—taking part in the great movements of those days, and especially working and struggling closely with the most advanced revolutionary force in the U.S. at that time, the Black Panther Party. Since then, and while many others have given up, Bob Avakian has worked and struggled tirelessly to find the way to go forward, having learned crucial lessons and built lasting organization that could continue the struggle, and aim to take it higher, while uniting with the same struggle throughout the world. He has kept on developing the theory and strategy for making revolution. He played the key role in founding our Party in 1975, and since then he has continued the battle to keep the Party on the revolutionary road, to carry out work with a strong revolutionary orientation. He has deeply studied the experience of revolution—the shortcomings as well as the great achievements—and many different fields of human endeavor, through history and throughout the world—and he has brought the science and method of revolution to a whole new level, so that we can not only fight but really fight to win. Bob Avakian has developed the scientific theory and strategic orientation for how to actually make the kind of revolution we need, and he is leading our Party as an advanced force of this revolution. He is a great champion and a great resource for people here, and indeed people all over the world. The possibility for revolution, right here, and for the advance of the revolution everywhere, is greatly heightened because of Bob Avakian and the leadership he is providing. And it is up to us to get with this find out more about Bob Avakian and the Party he learn from his scientific method and approach to changing the build this revolutionary movement with our Party at the defend this leadership as the precious thing it is...and, at the same time, to bring our own experience and understanding to help strengthen the process of revolution and enable the leadership we have to keep on learning more and leading even better.

From: The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have
A Message, And A Call,
From The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

Send us your comments.