Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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Revolution is NOT a Tea Party!

You've seen them all summer long.

The angry mobs in Arizona, overwhelmingly white, threatening immigrants—and sometimes carrying out their threats. The ones in New York City, and in many much smaller towns, demonstrating—and, again, threatening violence—against the right of Muslims to have places of worship and painting all Muslims as "enemies" in the so-called "war on terror." They call civil rights groups racists—while they themselves post vicious racist "jokes" on their web sites, and make openly racist slurs against Obama. And there they were again, last Saturday in DC, rallying at the behest of the reactionary Fox News broadcaster Glenn Beck, in a show of "Christian soldier" piety—to anoint their vicious edge with holy water and to "sanctify" the blood-soaked U.S. military in particular.

This is the Tea Party movement and their allies. They clothe themselves in the symbols and rhetoric of the 1776 American revolution. But beneath the costume of that previous revolution beats the heart of 21st-century counter-revolution—an American fascist movement.

Once Upon a Time in America

The original Tea Party took place in 1773. People in Boston rebelled against a tax imposed by the King of Britain, who ruled people in America as his colonial subjects. They threw imported British tea into the Boston harbor. This act has been handed down in a mix of history and myth as one of the key acts leading to the American revolution.

The American Revolution of 1776 was an actual revolution. One form of government—separate colonies ruled by a king—was overthrown. In its place another form of government, in which the colonies were unified into a new nation and the rulers were elected, was put in place. In the old order, one class ruled over another by virtue of their inherited position, supposedly ordained by god. In the new order, declared the revolutionaries of those times, all men would be free from birth to pursue "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and government would reflect "the consent of the governed" through elections of representatives.

But while claiming to recognize no social divisions, in actual fact the U.S. Constitution set up a form of rule in which certain social divisions would not only arise and grow, but would inevitably be deepened. The revolution itself was fought by many different kinds of people, but it was led by the representatives of the two main classes in the colonies—the slave owners, who commanded vast plantations worked by kidnaped African slaves, and the rising capitalist class of merchants and small manufacturers, located mainly in the North. The new Constitution enabled these two classes to set up and develop an economic framework in which they could accumulate wealth on the backs of the slaves and the workers. It enabled them to continue to exterminate the original Native American Indian inhabitants of these lands. It let them pull together a national market out of the original disunified colonies. And—very critically—it provided a political framework in which the representatives of these two classes could make the basic decisions about the direction of the country, setting the terms for  all the other classes (which also included small farmers, individual small craftsmen, and others) while working out differences among themselves. Where necessary, these dominant classes used the tools of dictatorship—the executive, the armies, prisons, and courts—to enforce their will, suppressing rebellions of small farmers and slaves, and waging wars against Native Americans.

It was not that these original revolutionaries were tricksters or hypocrites. At least some actually believed that they were abolishing social divisions. But they could see no further than the horizons of the newly rising capitalist class and could only myopically confuse the interests of this class with those of humanity as a whole. (See the accompanying box by one of the founders of scientific communism, Frederick Engels, for a powerful explanation of this.)


The great men who in France were clearing men's minds for the coming revolution acted in an extremely revolutionary way themselves. They recognized no external authority of any kind. Religion, conceptions of nature, society, political systems—everything was subjected to the most unsparing criticism: everything had to justify its existence before the judgment-seat of reason or give up existence. The reasoning intellect became the sole measure of everything. It was the time when, as Hegel says, the world was stood on its head, first in the sense that the human head and the principles arrived at by its thinking claimed to be the basis of all human action and association; but then later also in the wider sense that the reality which was in contradiction with these principles was, in fact, turned upside down. Every previous form of society and state, every old traditional notion was flung into the lumber-room as irrational; the world had hitherto allowed itself to be led solely by prejudice; everything in the past deserved only pity and contempt. The light of day, the realm of reason, now appeared for the first time; henceforth superstition, injustice, privilege and oppression were to be superseded by eternal truth, eternal justice, equality based on nature, and the inalienable rights of man.

We know today that this realm of reason was nothing more than the idealized realm of the bourgeoisie; that eternal justice found its realization in bourgeois justice; that equality reduced itself to bourgeois equality before the law; that bourgeois property was proclaimed as one of the most essential rights of man; and that the government of reason, Rousseau's social contract, came into being, and could only come into being, as a bourgeois democratic republic. The great thinkers of the eighteenth century were no more able than their predecessors to go beyond the limits imposed on them by their own epoch.

—Frederick Engels
From "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific"

As time went on, the U.S. Constitution enabled the capitalist mode of production to grow stronger. Industrial production in particular began to grow by leaps. By the 1850s, the Constitutional framework forged by the original compromise between slave owner and capitalist could no longer hold. The further expansion of capitalism came into conflict with the continued existence of slavery (which was also trying to expand), and the result was the Civil War. It was this war which finally completed the bourgeois revolution by ending legal slavery.

The Essential Inequality and Oppression Beneath the Appearance of Equality

So, yes, this revolution did accomplish something, for its time: It threw off the hereditary divisions of society, and created a framework in which the productive powers of society could, for a time, move forward. But that new framework—in which all men were declared to be equal—concealed the most profound inequality and oppression. These inequalities and disparities, this polarization between wealth and poverty, between power and powerlessness, were not "imperfections"; they were and are built into the heart of the capitalist system, which the Constitution was set up to extend and protect. Capitalism cannot function without a basic difference between those who own or control the means of producing wealth (the capitalists) and those who have no such means and must therefore work for the capitalist owning class. The processes of capitalism itself—where, through competition, some capitalists wipe out others in the race to expand, and thereby grow ever bigger—cannot help but widen the gap in wealth and power over time. And built into American capitalism—as crucial support structures and sources of strength for the system—were and are the ongoing oppression of Black people, Native Americans, and other oppressed nationalities, as well as the pitiless subjugation of women to men. By 1900, capitalism had developed into an imperialist system that reached across the globe, dominating and plundering whole nations and people on every continent, with the U.S. government murdering millions and millions in the service of that plunder.

By that point, capitalist relations had long since become a fetter on the development of society's productive forces—of the raw materials, technology, and, most of all, people. Today the glaring examples abound: Millions are forced to remain idle, increasingly driven to despair, homelessness and desperation, while people's needs for nutritious food, decent housing, good health care, schools, etc. grow increasingly acute. The expand-or-die rules of capitalism lead to environmental disaster—whether in dramatic instances like the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, or the slow-motion but even more devastating disaster of global climate change—which calls into question the continued existence of human life itself. Left with no future, people on the bottom of society—especially the youth—lash out at one another, or are gunned down by police with no provocation. Wars, driven by the needs of capitalist-imperialist empire, incinerate the lives of millions. Step back for a minute, and look at the organized insanity that they call American civilization!

No, the time of the 1776 revolution—and the time of the social system it midwifed, capitalism—has long since passed. Indeed, the continued existence of that system that can now do nothing but keep humanity chained in the circles of capitalist hell—one round after another of war and crisis, environmental destruction, and enforced ignorance engulfing the planet. To invoke the rhetoric and symbols and ideas of that revolution would mean at best to advocate an impossible return to a past ideal whose limitations have long since been exposed. It would mean pretending not to see the horrors that this system did produce, had to produce, and will continue to produce—so long as it is able to perpetuate itself.

Using the Revolutionary Clothes of the Past to Mask the Fascism of the Future

Yet this is the revolution that the Tea Party followers and its ideologues, like Glenn Beck, constantly harken back to and harp on. But the costumes of what was a bourgeois-democratic revolution—with all its limitations—235 years ago serve to clothe a counter-revolutionary fascist movement today. This movement contains different, overlapping, and sometimes contradictory trends within it. But in terms of overall thrust, it represents a fascist attempt to go back and reinforce the very worst institutions of America—institutions and traditions like white supremacy and male domination that were battered, though unfortunately not destroyed, in the 1960s. On top of that, they aim to add some new grotesque ones besides, including a sharp edge of religious hatred and intolerance against Muslims. The massive rally recently organized by Glenn Beck was thick with religion and the notion that America should be a Christian country—something that was actually NOT part of the first American revolution, but which the organizers of today's fascist movement feel that they badly need as a new social norm. And it was equally saturated with a worship of the military—another institution which a section of the ruling class wants to project as the moral paragon, or role model, for society as a whole.

The rights which were won through bitter struggle and sacrifice—including the very basic rights of African-Americans and other oppressed nationalities, and women to at least formal legal equality—are now to be suppressed as "special privileges." Things that were progressive at the time of the new Constitution—the separation of church and state, or some of the rights promised (though in practice limited and truncated) in the Bill of Rights—are now to be cast aside, in fact if not fully in name.

This Tea Party movement has mushroomed in a period where the living standards and very livelihoods of millions of people have come under attack. The worst of this has, consistent with American history and the present-day social and economic structure of the system, been visited on the masses of poor, including the masses of African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, immigrants, and many, many white proletarians (whites who own little or no property and must seek work to live). At the same time, many of those now in the Tea Party, and to whom the Tea Party hopes to appeal, are also suffering.

The main social base of this Tea Party movement—that is, their main well of support—are small business people (though it also includes reactionary white workers). These are the contractors, the franchise owners, the small shopkeepers, the petty landlords, and so on, who own some small portion of capital and employ a relative handful of people. They scrimp and battle, constantly in danger of going under, but they still dream of "making it big." This class has been conditioned, both by education and the way they perceive their material position, to fear and to want to repress those "below" them, and to simultaneously resent but worship those who have made it to the top and now dominate them. Of course, many in these strata—and even more among the sections of the middle class who are teachers, professionals, intellectuals, etc.—either do not go along with or actively reject this kind of fascist stuff. But those drawn to the likes of Beck, Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party have been taught to think that they are special and deserving, simply because of their white skin, or having been born in America, or being male.

Today, they have been told to direct their hatred not against the rulers of this country, whose military aggression has incurred the anger of the world, but against Muslims who dare to practice their religion in this country—especially, but not only, if those Muslims question the U.S. policies in the Middle East and Central Asia. They have been told that "some undeserving people"—and if you probe for even a few seconds, you find out very quickly that these are well-understood code words for "Black people and immigrants"—are being given handouts with their "tax dollars." Today, this hatred is focused on Obama, because as an African-American president he makes a ready target for those who have been saturated with the social relations and assumptions of white supremacy their whole lives and who thus deeply feel that this is, and should be, a "white man's country"—with a white president; but they are in no way resisting this system that Obama heads.1

Here a word on Obama is necessary. While his presidency is cast as utterly illegitimate by the Tea Party movement, Obama in fact shares the same essential objectives. These objectives can be summarized as the maintenance and expansion of the U.S. domination and plunder of the world. In some key aspects—for instance, the drastic mutilation of due process under the law, or the projection of U.S. military violence all over the world, and especially the Middle East—there is virtually no difference. Where Obama and his opposite numbers on the top of society DO differ is over what will be necessary to maintain political stability and cultural cohesion "in the home base" of imperialism. Both understand that the U.S. is going through a period of transition, and that this contains the potential for great upheaval. Obama, and the forces who are grouped around and rule through him, favors a less openly repressive regime and some concessions to cultural diversity; those ruling class forces who brought forward and utilize the Tea Party movement believe that only an extremely repressive movement rooted in open white supremacy and traditional religion can accomplish what is required by 21st-century U.S. imperialism. Obama, representing a section of the ruling class which may fear fascism but greatly prefers it to real revolution or the radical ferment out of which such a revolutionary movement can further grow, plays the role of pacifying and paralyzing those who should be resisting the Tea Party movement.

To be very clear: This Tea Party movement does NOT represent the fundamental interests of the middle-class people who now flock to it. Those heading up, or in other ways leading, the Tea Party—Dick Armey, a former Republican congressional power, or Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee—and the billionaires funding it are not against "elites." They are in fact part of the "elite"—that is to say, the capitalist-imperialist ruling class. They have conjured up this movement, and now lead it, as part of pursuing their program for ensuring U.S. world dominance and maintaining a stable heartland for that domination in times of great social stress and possible upheaval.

The Tea Party movement will of course deny it from now to next year, but it is in fact fighting for fascism, a much more openly repressive and reactionary form of capitalist-imperialist dictatorship/democracy. This fascism will not mainly come to America with the swastika, but with the cross and the flag. The Tea Party movement is not rebelling against the system; it is a product and tool of the system.

They invoke the idea of restoring the values of the first American revolution at a time when, again, the dead-end horrific essential character of those ideals has long since been proven. They argue to go back to the past—when a far better future is possible. In the name of a revolution over two centuries ago, they mobilize people to prevent the revolution that humanity urgently needs now.

This is not revolution; this is counter-revolution.

A Real Revolution

There actually IS a better future possible. This future requires a revolution—a REAL revolution.

The Message and Call of the RCP, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," lays out the character and goals of this revolution 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.  

The communist revolution comes to power in a society rife with social inequalities and social divisions. But, unlike the bourgeois revolution of 1776, the communist revolution does not just declare these divisions to be irrelevant—it recognizes them, precisely in order to overcome them.2

Yes, things really ARE desperate; yes, the America you knew—or thought you knew—is transitioning into something different. Yes, there is, definitely, potential for great upheaval in all this. And yes, the stakes are very, very high. Which future will it be? The intolerable status quo? An equally nightmarish trip back to the worst of the past, and then some? Or a revolution that really can pose a way out of the impasse at which we find ourselves?

The time is now for a real alternative to all this madness. If the Tea Party and what it is about sickens you, you cannot stay on the sidelines. Nor can you hope that the Democrats—who share the essence of the Tea Party's reactionary program and have no appetite to openly take them on—will "do something." As for those caught up in the Tea Party, it is only through building a REAL revolutionary alternative that any of them could be won to break with the shameful shit which they are now wallowing in, and covering themselves with. And the actual fact is that the world we are fighting for is one in which they could find a far better place than the world we now live in.

There is a REAL revolution to be made, and a new world to bring into being. There is a campaign right now to make that revolution, and its leadership, known in every corner of this country, and all over the world. (See "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have") The emergence of movements like the Tea Party show that heavy things are on the horizon; the question is whether out of those heavy things there will be a revolutionary force that would be able to wrench that new future into being, and bring something not only better but truly great out of the heavy transitions, and possible upheaval, that loom. And that depends on all of us.

1. See "Glenn Beck, the 'Founding Fathers'...and A REAL Radical Alternative," Revolution #210, August 29, 2010, for more on the racist character of the Tea Party movement. [back]

2. How a revolution would overcome these social antagonisms and divisions—including the aims, governmental structures, and policies of a new revolutionary state power in a country like this—will be gone into in great depth in the "Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)," to be published this fall. [back]


Genocide and Slavery:
The Twin Foundation Stones of "The American Way of Life"

It must be emphasized—since this again is being covered up, for different purposes, by both the Tea Party types and, from a different angle with different purposes, Obama himself—that the exploitation of the slaves was one of history's towering crimes.1 More than two million Africans died during the hellish voyage from their homes to the Americas. At least 800,000 more died in the port cities of Africa, locked down in prisons awaiting shipment. The ongoing exploitation of slavery itself—over the course of 250 years!—was enforced by torture, mutilation, and murder. It involved the destruction of the languages, customs, and beliefs of the millions of Africans who were kidnaped. Families were torn apart, with children or spouses sold to new owners who were far away—and this was not just in the original kidnaping, but continued until the Civil War. And this crime forms one of the two foundation stones of America's great wealth and power—with the other one being the equally criminal, equally horrific, equally fiendish genocide committed against the Native American Indians to enable the wholesale, repeated, relentless and, yes, still ongoing theft of their land.

These were not just blemishes that the "founding fathers" somehow overlooked, or didn't quite get around to dealing with; nor were they "sins" for which America has long since "atoned" (as some speakers at Glenn Beck's rally claimed). Again, these twin oppressions formed the foundation of America's great power. And today these oppressive relations remain at the heart of U.S. society, even as the forms have changed in important respects. Just a few of the many consequences can be found, for instance, in the huge disparities in family wealth and employment between white people and Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and other oppressed nationalities. You can also see these consequences in the prisons or in the sub-standard, prison-like schools in which all too many descendants of America's original victims are today confined. You can find it in the spheres of health care, housing, employment, and culture, where this vicious discrimination not only endures but—especially in "hard times" like today—is intensified.

1. Obama has recognized the fact of slavery and its long and continuing influence, but only to play this down and maintain that this question was gradually being solved through the framework of the Constitution, even while he may, at times, recognize what he considers to be "remnants" of discrimination; this was the meaning of his speech on race at Philadelphia in 2008. See "Response to Obama's Speech 'On Race': Slavery, Capitalism, and the 'Perfect Union,'" Parts I and II, Revolution #125, April 6, 2008, and #127, April 20, 2008. [back]


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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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From Ike to Mao and Beyond
My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist
A Memoir by Bob Avakian

from Chapter Four: High School

Basketball, Football...and Larger Forces

At that time, the basketball coach at Berkeley High, Sid Scott, was a Christian fundamentalist. He was always lecturing the players about religion. He was also a big racist. Every year when I was in high school, and even before I got there, the starting team would always be three Black players and two white. My friends and I used to always talk and argue about why this was, because while sometimes there were white guys who should have been on the starting five, a lot of times you could easily see there were five Black players who should have started, or at least four. I thought that this coach's thinking went along the lines that if he had four Black players and one white on the floor, the four Black players would freeze out the white guy, so then they wouldn't all play together — even though, of course, this was ridiculous. And if he had five Black guys out there, he figured all the discipline on the team would break and it would just be an undisciplined mess — also ridiculous. And he couldn't have less than three Black players because it would be so outrageous, given who was on the team and how good different players were. This is how I used to analyze this.

But when I would discuss this with a lot of my Black friends, including ones on the basketball team, they would explain to me very patiently, "Look, man, it's not just Sid Scott, it's the alumni and all that kind of shit from the school, people who have more authority around the school, they don't want an all-Black team out there. So this coach, yeah, he's a racist dog and all that, but it's not just him." And then I would argue, "No it's him, he's a racist dog." And, of course, they were much more right than I was.

My friends and I would go to each other's houses, stay overnight at each other's houses, and we'd talk about this kind of stuff all the time — especially the more the civil rights movement was picking up and the more this carried over into all kinds of ways in which people were saying what had been on their minds for a long time but were now expressing much more openly and assertively. One time, when I was a senior in high school, our school got to play in a night football game. Now, we didn't get to play many night games. They would always be afraid there'd be a riot at the game, because of the "nature of our student body." I think this was the only night game we ever played. We went on a bus trip to Vallejo, which is maybe 20, 25 miles from Berkeley, and the bus ride took about an hour.

During that time and on the way back after the game I was sitting with some Black friends of mine on the football team, and we got into this whole deep conversation about why is there so much racism in this country, why is there so much prejudice and where does it come from, and can it ever change, and how could it change? This was mainly them talking and me listening. And I remember that very, very deeply — I learned a lot more in that one hour than I learned in hours of classroom time, even from some of the better teachers. Things like that discussion went on all the time, on one level or another, but this bus ride was kind of a concentrated opportunity to get into all this. A lot of times when we were riding to games we'd just talk about bullshit, the way kids do. But sometimes, it would get into heavy things like this, and there was something about this being a special occasion, this night game — we were traveling through the dark, and somehow this lent itself to more serious conversation.

Dating...and Larger Forces

I was not part of the social life that a lot of people with whom I'd gone to junior high were part of. There were girls who actually liked me, but they would say things like, "You know I like you but I can't go out with you because you hang around with all these Black people," and things like that. And that instantly made me not want to go out with them anyway. There were things that were explicitly said like that, and then sometimes you could just tell the deal by the way people acted. And all this was being shaped by the larger things going on in society and the world. Whom you were even attracted to and whom you were interested in going out with, whom you were interested in as a girlfriend, and whom you wanted to be friends with — this was being shaped, or heavily influenced, by these larger things going on.

There were taboos. You didn't date "interracially." You didn't do that. There were a few kids in my class who did, and they took a lot of shit for it. In my senior year, there was one girl that I was very fond of, who was in glee club with me, and we went out for a little while. She was actually the head of the one Black social club in the school. Now it was a rule that every social club had to invite at least the president of every other social club to whatever function they had. So she was invited to a New Year's Eve dance sponsored by one of these white social clubs, and she asked me to be her date for that. I said sure, 'cause we liked each other. So we went, along with another couple, two Black friends of hers. Of course, there's this whole tradition that on New Year's Eve you give your date a big kiss when it strikes midnight. So, at the dance there was all this tension because we were there and we were dancing together the whole night, and hanging out together, just like any other couple would. Except . . . I could tell as it got to be 11:00, 11:15, closer and closer to midnight, this palpable tension was in the air: "What's gonna happen when midnight comes?" When midnight came, she and I gave each other the biggest imaginable kiss — both because we really liked each other, but we also really wanted to make these people eat it. So we had a great time doing that! But it was a big deal. The tension there was very real.

Of course, I got called things like "nigger lover" and I didn't get invited to join these social clubs — which was nothing, because I wouldn't have wanted to do that anyway. But whatever ways in which I was "ostracized" and "outcast" among the mainstream whites was really nothing compared to what my Black friends went through. From the time I was a junior in high school, there were four of us who hung out together: Matthew, Joel, Hemby, and me — two of us white, two of us Black. We were always hanging out together. One time Matthew, who was Black, really had a crush on this one white girl; he wanted to ask her out and finally he worked up his courage and asked her out. And she told him, "Well, you know, I'd like to go out with you, but my parents and my friends . . . " and all this kind of shit. That was much more painful than anything that happened to me — it was very painful for me, being his friend, and it was the kind of thing that I know left a deep scar in Matthew. It was just horrible and excruciating, and the scars of that were much deeper than anything that happened to me.

Street Corner Symphonies

I had this friend Sam. Actually I knew him before high school, because I went to a church in Berkeley where his father worked as the custodian and he would come around and help his father sometimes. Then, when I went to high school, he was a little bit ahead of me but we became friends and then we became part of a singing group.

Sam had this one characteristic: when he was eating, he didn't want anybody to say anything to him. It was just leave him alone and let him eat. I don't care who it was or what the circumstances were. That was just Sam, you just knew you should stay away from him then, because he didn't want to talk, he wanted to eat. So one day, I had forgotten to bring my lunch money, and I was really hungry by lunch. I couldn't pay for anything in the cafeteria or the snack shack, or anything. I was walking all around looking for some friend to loan me some money. So first I went over to Sam and I knew that I was violating his big rule, but I couldn't help it. I went over and I said, "Sam." "Leave me alone, man, leave me alone." I said "Sam, I'm really hungry." "Leave me alone, I'm eating lunch." So I just finally gave up there, but I started walking all around looking for someone to loan me some money or give me something to eat or something.

Finally, I saw this guy who had a plateful of food. What particularly stuck out to me was that he had two pieces of cornbread on his tray. And that just seemed so unfair, because I was so hungry and he had not one, but two pieces of cornbread! I just sat down at the table, across from him, and stared for a long time at his plate. He kept looking at me, like "what's this motherfucker staring at me for?" I just kept staring at his tray. And finally I said, "Hey man, can I have one of your pieces of cornbread?" "No, man, get the fuck out of here." I said, "Please man, I'm really hungry, I forgot my lunch money. Can I please have a piece of cornbread?" "No man, get the fuck out of here." I don't know what came over me — maybe it was just the hunger — but without thinking, I reached over and grabbed one of the pieces of cornbread. He kicked his chair back, jumped up and got ready to fight. So I didn't have any choice, I jumped up too. He stared at me for a long time — a long time. And then he finally said, "Aw man, go ahead." So I took the piece of cornbread. Then after that, Sam, who had looked up from his eating long enough to see all this, came over to me — again it was one of these things — and he said, "Man, that was Leo Wofford, you don't know what you just got away with." But I was just so hungry, and I guess Leo figured, "oh this crazy white boy, he must really be hungry," so he just let it go.

To be continued

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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Spread Bob Avakian's Memoir Far and Wide!

Revolution is running a series of excerpts from Bob Avakian's memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist. Previous excerpts appeared in issues #208, #209, and #210 and we continue the series here.

From the description of the book: "Bob Avakian has written a memoir containing three unique but interwoven stories. The first tells of a white middle-class kid growing up in '50s America who goes to an integrated high school and has his world turned around; the second of a young man who overcomes a near-fatal disease and jumps with both feet into the heady swirl of Berkeley in the '60s; and the third of a radical activist who matures into a tempered revolutionary communist leader. If you think about the past or if you urgently care about the future ... if you want to hear a unique voice of utter realism and deep humanity ... and if you dare to have your assumptions challenged and your stereotypes overturned ... then you won't want to miss this book."

We're running these excerpts to encourage everybody to take the memoir out broadly, as part of what they do all the time, and to introduce many more people to Bob Avakian. The memoir gives a real sense of why the Message and Call of the campaign "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" says of Avakian: "He is a great champion and a great resource for people here, and indeed people all over the world."

Some ways to get the memoir out:


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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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Revolutionary Strategy

Some Principles for Building A Movement for Revolution

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

At every point, we must be searching out the key concentrations of social contradictions and the methods and forms which can strengthen the political consciousness of the masses, as well as their fighting capacity and organization in carrying out political resistance against the crimes of this system; which can increasingly bring the necessity, and the possibility, of a radically different world to life for growing numbers of people; and which can strengthen the understanding and determination of the advanced, revolutionary-minded masses in particular to take up our strategic objectives not merely as far-off and essentially abstract goals (or ideals) but as things to be actively striven for and built toward.

The objective and orientation must be to carry out work which, together with the development of the objective situation, can transform the political terrain, so that the legitimacy of the established order, and the right and ability of the ruling class to rule, is called into question, in an acute and active sense, throughout society; so that resistance to this system becomes increasingly broad, deep and determined; so that the "pole" and the organized vanguard force of revolutionary communism is greatly strengthened; and so that, at the decisive time, this advanced force is able to lead the struggle of millions, and tens of millions, to make revolution.



Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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Art Murmur

Art Murmur happens the first Friday of the month in an area of the city where many new galleries are popping up to show the work of young artists. Several streets are blocked off and a number of small crafts and food booths are set up, with a small area in the middle of the block reserved for bands to play.

The day we went the crowd was an interesting mix of artists and people plugged into the art scene, mingling with middle class people and Black people from the area. We estimated there were about 400 people who had passed through, checking out the galleries and hanging out in the street.

We started by saturating the area with a lot of the BA image cards. Almost everyone took one and when some of them asked who it was we told them that was what they needed to find out. When people got the cards, you could see them turning them over, obviously looking for a clue about what it was all about and then often looking kind of quizzical. When one guy asked who it was he was told, "You'll find out" and he said, "Good, I love surprises." After thoroughly saturating the crowd with the image card, we set up a table at a good location right near one of the venues with a big enlargement of the image along with a 3'x4' poster with the blurb from the memoir describing BA and the Cornel West quote. We had some of the key BA books on the table and some of us went back out in the crowd with the Message and Call, telling people we had the answer to the question and talking about the revolution we need and the leadership we have with BA. Several people checked out the enlargement of the image and the quote at the table, noted that the image was the same as the one on the card, and stopped by to look at the statement and literature to find out more. The fact that the card did not have text on it definitely intrigued people and opened the door to more engagement, particularly around the role of leadership.

We ran into several people who had heard of Avakian. A couple people said they had heard about Avakian from coming to the bookstore. Another said that he had seen something about the Revolution talk online ("Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About"), possibly on YouTube. None of them had previously known what BA looked like. One older Black guy who had heard of Avakian from the store came over to the table to check out the Memoir because he wanted to see something about BA's life—how serious about revolution was he? He didn't get the book but got a Rev talk card to check him out online.

An interesting exchange happened when two women came up holding the cards. They said okay, what is this all about? After explaining that Bob Avakian was the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, one of the women said "we're not into communism" and started to leave. But her friend wanted to hear what we were saying. We had some discussion and when she left, the two women were heard debating communism.

We ran into one guy who said he had the poster of the image in his house right now. He had seen a display of 35 in another city and really liked it. Since there were so many, he thought it would be okay to take one, so he brought it back home. He only found out who it was when he ran into us that evening.

One guy was skeptical about promoting a leader and said you might need to have a revolution, but if you have one leader, then you'll end up with the same problems you have now. There was back and forth about why you need leadership to make revolution and what Avakian has brought forward. There was debate with some anarchists who said they agreed with a lot of what we say that the problem is capitalism, but they don't agree with having leadership. A few people were intrigued by what we were saying and said they would check out the Rev talk or look up Avakian. Several people raised the human nature question and were provoked by the point that people tolerated the horrors in the world in large part because they had been told that revolution and a radically different, communist world were impossible. We told them we were getting a million of these flyers out to put communism and revolution on the map and acquainting people with this leader who had not only answered crucial questions that made this revolution possible, but was leading a movement for that revolution right now.

One of the vendors said that she had gotten the Statement at a demonstration in another part of the city—that it was "so right on" and that this was what we needed to do—build a movement for revolution. She said that she was very concerned about many of the things that the Statement addressed and felt like it was true that it was a system that had to be overthrown. Another young crafts guy who posted up the Statement at his booth said that he wasn't sure about communism but definitely felt that this was more and more a fascist state. He was quite shocked by Obama and said he was very interested in checking out BA online, especially the Rev talk to see if he thought it would really be possible to make a revolution in the U.S.

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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This Week:

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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A Report from a Campus on Getting Out the Message and Call

Our overall goal for this campus is 4,000. Today we got out over 1,000 at the campus.

In the neighborhood where the Revolution Books is—middle class people, artists, Black youth—we went out for an hour in the evening. The crowd was somewhat more sparse than we were hoping for, but we had some good interaction and debate going with youth in the area. Not able to get students to take bundles on the spot, but some youth in a band from a nearby town made plans to friend the bookstore on Facebook, and follow up with thoughts, questions and plans to get materials out in their area. 200 were distributed here.

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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The Revolution Summer @ the Hip Hop Festival & World Cup Party

When you came around the corner to the hip hop festival, it was difficult to miss the red flags and Revolution talk banner popping out right in the front. A crowd of mostly Black but also many white and some Latino, a whole range of ages, but including groups of young middle school and high school students, and groups of friends in their twenties, were coming to check out this festival that featured De La Soul and both new and old school hip hop.

We were something really dynamic and attractive and different, electrifying the scene. At the table people handed out postcards for our upcoming screening in the park of the Revolution talk, while all throughout the crowd we got out 800 of the multi-colored cards with the image of BA on them. You might have seen it placed along the route coming into the festival, and then had it placed in your hand throughout the day. People asked, "Who is that?!" and when we responded, "Bob Avakian, the leader of the revolution," the most common response was "what revolution?" So we had a lot of work to do in putting revolution on the map. People would come up to the table and want to talk more; it was a really receptive crowd. One person asked, "Well, what is the ultimate goal? And we pointed to the description in the Message and Call, "The ultimate goal of this revolution..." People especially wanted to talk about what exactly we were talking about when we said communism, and did we mean like Cuba or like Stalin. And people wanted to talk about whether there was something innate in human beings that means you cannot get to the kind of society that's talked about in the Message and Call. Whether it be "sin" or selfishness, this was a big question. We encouraged people to go online to and to come this Thursday to a special outdoor screening of the film of Bob Avakian's historic speech. People were really drawn to and some actually bought Away with All Gods! and Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones, as well as the t-shirt that says, "the system has no future for the youth... the revolution does."

The table itself developed throughout the day, right off the bat we were thinking about how to involve people in this whole revolution summer, we made a big sign inviting people to run with us, listing what we were doing and when for the next week. At the table people were encouraged to give their information and subscribe to Revolution newspaper.

As the afternoon progressed we summed up that we had to more bring out our response to the injustice of the verdict of involuntary manslaughter for the cop that murdered 22-year-old Oscar Grant, and we had to compel others there to actually voice the outrage and become part of the struggle against this and the movement for revolution. We made a sign about it, and chalked on the street in front of our table, saying "Involuntary Manslaughter: Not Acceptable!" and "The Whole Damn System Is Guilty." We also had the poster from the 4th of July with the Frederick Douglass quote and we put that out, and we opened up the current issue of Revolution to the article on Oscar Grant, and we had the statement from the Berkeley Revolution Books for people to read at the table.

Throughout the day we interacted with a lot of the artists at the festival hanging out near the backstage, putting to the artists that people should speak from the stage about the verdict for the killer of Oscar Grant, and bring the revolutionaries on stage to speak to this in a way only they can and bring out to the festival that there's a movement for revolution and a leader. A lot of the artists were really receptive to this. One young hip hop artist in particular really agreed. We said it would be a different festival and it would really matter, if people heard from the artists and the revolutionaries about this injustice and that there is a movement for revolution to get rid of the system and a leadership right now. He had been feeling really angry about the verdict and said if he hadn't already performed he would have for sure let us come up with him and say something. We strategized about who might be up for this and he took some materials back to try and talk to people. We need to do a lot more of this kind of interacting with the artists at the festivals too.

We decided to really go all out to make an impact as people were leaving, because while we had created a lot of intrigue throughout the concert, and a whole revolutionary scene at the table, we hadn't yet made a broad impact. So we got in position to get out the Message and Call and postcards for the screening in the park as people flooded out of the concert. There were thousands of people coming out and we stood up on a chair holding the Message and Call and agitating, "You came and heard some beats, now come and get some truth. This is not the best of all possible worlds, and we don't have to live this way." We spoke about the injustice of the verdict of involuntary manslaughter when everyone saw the video of 22-year-old Oscar Grant being murdered. We talked about how when we have state power there will be no more murdering cops, and how we're building a movement right now to get rid of the whole system, and there's a leader, Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, that has reenvisioned revolution and communism. People came out of the crowd and grabbed up fliers. There was also a lot of response about the verdict, several people said things like "That's bullshit" and "It should have been murder."

We distributed 900 of the BA image card, 500 of the Message and Call, and 1,500 of the postcards for Thursday's screening.

Sunday we went out to the park to distribute the Message and Call and the postcard for Thursday in a major way, and to tell people about the leader of the revolution, with the idea that people would come through and see the image of BA on postcards being passed out and then later they would see live, a clip of the Revolution talk previewed up on a wall in the park as thousands of people streamed out.

There's an art to the image card of BA, and there's also an art to sharpening things up and putting front and center the other future that's possible and the need for revolution, by actually finding ways to bring the leadership of BA, as concentrated in this talk, to people on the street. That's what this projection is doing. Flash Previews are what we've been calling them.

There's a really interesting example of this from the hip hop festival, just to jump back for a minute. In the scene at the end of the festival a young Black guy came up to us, "Man, I just found out about Bob Avakian this week," he says. Then goes on to describe how he saw a comment on Facebook where Avakian was mentioned and he looked up who he was and watched some of his speech on line... and then watched some more, and then kept watching and watching. He was so impressed with how deep BA is, how much he knows, and concluded that he was really getting into him. We made sure to get this guy's contact information to talk more.

So when we got to the Okay Africa concert celebrating the World Cup, we came across several people who said they saw us the day before at the hip hop festival, who came up and asked who that was on our shirts because they had gotten a card with this face on it. One person said, you're in my neighborhood all the time, you guys must be working hard this summer because I see you everywhere. A couple people even said they had seen us at the U.S. Social Forum.

We persevered in having a whole scene which was very hard to ignore and that you probably wouldn't have missed if you came out of this exit. All along one of the walkways leading up to it there were copies of the Message and Call pinned to the fence, and people getting out materials. Then when you came to the exit, as thousands and thousands of people flowed out in a few minutes they saw us standing up above the crowd reading the call and telling people, "Okay, people all over the world have seen some incredible soccer over the past few weeks, they've also seen a lot of hype about South Africa being a country of wealth, prosperity and equality for all when in reality brutal segregation still exists and the majority, just like the majority around the planet, live on less than $2 a day. This is unnecessary and the people of South Africa and the world need a revolution. We're building a movement for revolution right here, right now, and we have a leader."

There were a lot of people who out of the crowd would ask, "Who's your leader?" and we would say, "Bob Avakian!" And this was really a controversy, one woman said, "I already have my way of changing the world, why are you coming and telling me how to do it?" But other people were really curious. Three middle school students, 13 years old, came up and listened to us for a long time and asked us who our leader was, they asked us where we meet, and how they could be a part of this, they thought it was really "cool." We told them about discussions at Revolution Books and about how we are going to the Warped Tour and they said, "We'll be there" and they took some postcards to help get out. Some people would come up and ask us for the image card, they'd say, "Let me get a yellow one," or if they got something else from us, "Do you have any more with the two faces? I want one of those." At the hip hop festival a tattoo artist told us it was pretty amazing, and coming from a visual artist we took it as quite a compliment. Half way through what we were doing at the park, a young European immigrant in his 20s sat down and read most of the Message and Call, then he very passionately told us that he really wanted to be right there doing what we were doing, he wanted to, but he just felt it was a pipe dream, it's not possible, people are too happy just consuming in this country. We had to tell him, a couple different times in a couple different ways, "You don't understand. You don't actually know about the possibility for a revolution, if you haven't really engaged what Bob Avakian is saying." He was really challenged and excited by the brief conversation and he bought a copy of Revolution newspaper and gave us his information; we really encouraged him to come to watch the Revolution speech in the park on Thursday and he was excited to hear from us and talk more.

At the World Cup celebration quantitatively we distributed more. 2,200 copies of the Message and Call, 400-500 copies of the image card, and several hundred copies of the screening-in-the-park postcard. We are wrestling with how to make an impact with a small group when you have thousands and thousands of people. We got out more materials when we didn't have 2-3 people tied down with the table. Sometimes it's good to have a table and sometimes we need "all hands on deck" to really reach a lot of people very quickly and saturate. There are a lot of ideas cooking about having big visuals and a variety bringing out the horrors but also the heights of where we are going, and more theatrical ways of doing this, as well as concrete ways to fund-raise (!) And bring people into the revolution on the spot.

Overall there was a lot of struggle to accomplish what we did, and a lot more we could have done, yet we made a beginning that was an electrifying current at the summer concerts. This happened through people taking a lot of initiative and thinking about and taking responsibility for things they hadn't previously, like how to bring people into this revolution, how to saturate, and how to not just be a presence but really impact the whole thing, challenge people's assumptions and change the terms of debate.

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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Needed: $10,000 for Publication
Coming soon from the Revolutionary Communist Party:


(Draft Proposal)

The RCP, USA announces with great enthusiasm the upcoming publication of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).

This Constitution will be a historic and visionary model of the future revolutionary socialist society and government. At the same time, it will give people a very concrete sense of how the new power would be constituted and exercised in the new society. People will get a feel, and an in-depth understanding, of how that new, revolutionary state power could work to truly usher in a new world, a world in which people would want to live and could flourish.

This document will speak to all who burn with the desire for a different world—and society. But it will also speak to the even greater numbers who today don't even allow themselves to hope that society could actually be different. It will speak to those who seethe about, and chafe at, and sometimes rebel against the horrors of today... who would jump at the chance for a better way... but who despair that real change could come about or, if such change did happen, that the new power could stay on the road to emancipation.

Serious, substantive engagement with the content of this Constitution should, and will, go on in many forums and through many avenues. There should be, and will be, discussion and debate as broadly as possible about the model it puts forward. The draft proposal for the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America will provide a vision to lift people's sights—and a goal to be actively and concretely struggled for. It will give proof that things don't have to be this way... and that a whole different, and better, world is possible. It should, and will, spark all-round social debate and ferment over how we live today, and how we could live tomorrow. As such, the work of boldly getting this vision and model of the future socialist society out into society now will be a critical part of hastening, while awaiting, a revolutionary situation.

This Constitution will be published simultaneously in Spanish and English. For the initial printing and promotion of this historic document, $10,000 must be raised very quickly. Creative ways can and should be found to raise money for this publication. Thinking and preparation should begin now to organize a range of fundraising activities, large and small. Groups can work together to make joint contributions and there must be individual contributions of all sizes from everyone who sees the value and importance of this draft proposal being out in the world at this critical time in world history.

As the day nears for the release of the Constitution, anticipation should build... and plans will need to be made to get it out in society in a big way. We should begin thinking, even now, about who should get this historic document, devising many ways to get this into their hands. The time is now for people to begin to plan on ways to make this a big deal in their communities, or schools, or scenes—and beyond that, in the national arena of public opinion. Big, ambitious ideas are not only welcome, they are urgently needed.

But most immediately, we should be spreading the word about the upcoming release of this Constitution—and raising the necessary funds for its publication. Readers should write to Revolution with ideas for maximizing the impact of this document—and how to reach out to all corners of society. And look to this paper for more news and guidance.  

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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Statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party, Los Angeles Branch


For several days and nights, the people of Pico Union have been in the streets demanding justice for Manuel Jaminez Xum (Manuel Jaminez).  The outpouring of righteous anger over his murder by LAPD is telling the world Basta Ya! No More!  This determined resistance has inspired people everywhere.

Manuel Jaminez was 37 years old, an immigrant from Guatemala known by many people in the neighborhood.  Like so many others, he left his two young children and wife to come to El Norte in search of the American dream, only to find the reality of the American nightmare.

The cold-blooded murder of Manuel Jaminez by the LAPD on Sunday, the complete disregard for his life by cops who shot him in the head only 40 seconds after they confronted him, is a screaming injustice.  Adding further insult, they left his body in a pool of his blood on the sidewalk for 4 hours.  Like a dog.

It was such a total outrage that - this time - people would not allow it to go down quietly and unanswered.  Immediately, crowds surrounded the killer cops and chanted "Asesinos!"

There is a sense broadly that the police murder of Manuel Jaminez is part of the epidemic of police brutality, especially aimed at Black and Latino people all across this country - from Harlem to Pico Union to Oakland.  There is a sense that this is part of the fascist atmosphere and attacks against immigrants unleashed by laws like Arizona's SB1070.

In a climate where immigrants are demonized, denied basic human rights, dragged away and deported at any moment, brutalized by sadistic border patrol agents, attacked by a fascist anti-immigrant movement, viciously exploited at every turn – the protests in the streets demanding justice speaks for millions and is a breath of fresh air. 

In the past few days, the people have repeatedly and bravely gone into the streets demanding justice and to say that the police do not have the right and legitimacy to come into the neighborhood and assassinate someone like Manuel.  People have refused to be silenced in the face of lies and threats from the authorities, from the police chief to the mayor to their riot cops.  People are refusing to accept this crime committed by the LAPD.  The lies and threats cannot cover up the truth that they all knew their killer cop, Frank Hernandez, had a long and ugly history of brutalizing people, shooting two other people before this. 

This complete disregard for Manuel's life is not an isolated incident.  This whole system acts as if the life of ordinary people such as Manuel is not even worth the bullet that killed him.  Their whole damn system is guilty.  As it says in the Message and Call from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have":

It is a system of capitalism-imperialism...a system in which U.S. imperialism is the most monstrous, most oppressive superpower...a system driven by a relentless chase after profit, which brings horror upon horror, a nightmare seemingly without end, for the vast majority of humanity: poverty and squalor...torture and rape...while here in the USA itself the police harass, brutalize and murder youth in the streets of the inner cities—over and over again—and then they spit out their maddening insults, insisting that this is "justified," as if these youth are not human beings, have no right to live, deserve no respect and no future.

The continued upsurge of resistance in Pico Union to demand justice for Manuel Jaminez - to demand a stop to police brutality and murder, to demand to be treated as human beings - has brought hope to millions.  It is a hope that the world can be different, that the people do not have to accept being constantly abused and degraded by this whole system and their enforcers like the LAPD and ICE.  It is a hope that a better world is possible.  From the RCP's Message and Call "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have":

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

The recent protests in the streets of Pico-Union have answered, YES!

Justice for Manuel Jaminez!
Indict and Jail the killer cops! 
Drop the charges on all protesters!
No raids or deportations!

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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How Would a Revolutionary Socialist Society Deal With the Global Environmental Crisis?

The following are excerpts from two articles in the special Revolution issue on the environment (#199, April 18, 2010) that discuss how a revolutionary socialist society would actually act as custodians of nature, rather than its plunderers. Other articles in the special issue examine the dimensions of the crisis and how the source of the problem is the capitalist system. The articles and the issue as a whole are available online at

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

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.

From "Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development:"

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:

The issue #199, published April 18, 2010, includes:

  • The Dimensions of the Environmental Emergency
    • Biodiversity, Wilderness and Nature
  • Something Deeper at Work... Why Capitalism Cannot Solve the Environmental Emergency
    • A Dirty Little Secret of Capitalism: The U.S. Military Is One of the World's Largest Polluters
    • The Plunder of the Rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia
  • Communism and Ecology: How Revolution Opens the Way for Humanity to Confront the Environmental Crisis and Become Caretakers of the Planet
  • Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development
  • Emergency: The Ecosystems of Our Planet—and the Life They Support (Including Us!)—Are in Grave Danger (a color photo spread)

Available online at

Get the print issue at local Revolution bookstores or from
RCP Publications at PO Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654,, 773-227-4066.

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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Lawsuit Challenges President's Authority to Assassinate U.S. Citizens

A quick, one question current events quiz:

What do you call a country where the head of state can order the assassination of a citizen, with no arrest warrant, no formal charges, no trial, and no appeals process, far afield from any military conflict? And where such an order occasions little public outcry?

  1. A country on a dangerous trajectory towards a police state.
  2. A country where a large section of the citizenry has been dangerously deluded into thinking that "shoot first, ask questions later" responses to alleged terrorist threats from Islamic fundamentalists are moral, and making them safer.
  3. A country where the "loyal opposition" party that claimed to stand for the rule of law is outdoing the fascists they promised to clean up after.
  4. The United States of America, 2010.
  5. All of the above.

The answer: e.

On August 30, the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sued President Barack Obama along with the heads of the U.S. Department of Defense and the CIA, opposing "the executive's asserted authority to carry out 'targeted killings' of U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism far from any field of armed conflict." Specifically, the lawsuit asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to stop Obama and the CIA from assassinating Anwar al-Aulaqi, who currently lives in Yemen. The ACLU and CCR are representing al-Aulaqi's father.

Mainstream media coverage of the assassination order and the lawsuit has ignored or sloughed off what should be obvious and fundamental issues of constitutional rights. It is, for example, supposed to violate the U.S. Constitution for the government to deprive an individual of his or her life without arrest and trial. The fact that this assassination order is not the cause for widespread outrage is in itself a shocking statement on the situation for civil liberties.

The ACLU/CCR lawsuit is based on the fact that, in early 2010, several newspapers reported that U.S. government officials had confirmed Anwar Al-Aulaqi's placement on government kill lists. There is no official statement from any U.S. government official on this, nor any challengeable explanation for why the U.S. government has decreed it can and will assassinate al-Aulaqi.

The role of justifying the assassination order is being played by people identified in the media as former government and CIA officials and "terrorism experts," who claim the government has evidence of connections between al-Aulaqi and people who have been accused of planning terrorist acts. But overwhelmingly these accusations in the press are that people who have been charged with attempting or planning terrorist acts were influenced politically by al-Aulaqi's sermons and Internet postings. In short, that al-Aulaqi committed thought crimes—for which he is being targeted for assassination without trial. A major story on the lawsuit in USA Today, for example, was characterized by assertions that al-Aulaqi's "sermons explain to potential followers why the West is evil and are pocked with references to pop culture given in disarming American English." It must be noted that the standards of linkage that are alleged here between on-air and Internet propaganda, and violent attacks on civilians, are never invoked to bring criminal charges (much less to issue assassination orders) against U.S. public figures, including radio and TV personalities who create an atmosphere where their right-wing listeners murder abortion doctors or carry out other fascist attacks on people.

And in any case, if the government has evidence of criminal activity, why are they not bringing formal criminal charges?

To those who feel queasy about "their government" assassinating U.S. citizens without arrest or trial, but who can sleep at night because this is all being overseen by Barack Obama.... Or to those who "feel bad" about the state of civil liberties but justify this as keeping them safe, four questions must be posed:

  1. Do you understand the legal implications of establishing a legal precedent that the President of the United States can order the assassination of any U.S. citizen, on his say-so, without arrest or trial? Such precedents are often established in the cases of people associated with, or supposedly associated with bad things, but then they apply to everyone.
  2. What is the morality of assassinating people without arrest or trial to "keep Americans safe"? And what kind of a world does that lead to?
  3. How will extra-judicial, illegal assassinations of people associated with Islamic fundamentalism, far outside of any venue that could be considered a "war zone," dampen the vicious cycle of McWorld vs. Jihad? Won't they, in fact, spiral that dynamic to new, and worse levels?
  4. Now that you know this is what "your government" is doing in your name, how can you stay silent? What are you going to do to politically resist?


Stop thinking like Americans!
Start thinking about humanity!

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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From A World to Win News Service

Drowning Pakistan: What It Means for the People and Who Is Responsible

August 30, 2010. A World to Win News Service. "When the water came, we moved our women and children to high ground. Three of my daughters stayed behind to help the men pack up whatever belongings we could carry with us... within minutes, the current got too strong and the waters rose head high." This is how a villager from Sardaryab, a village in northwest Pakistan, lost two of his daughters ages 16 and 17. He was only able to save his youngest daughter. "Their bodies were found three days later, dumped on the bank by receding waters about 6 kilometers down the river."

Omar, another villager, describes the events in his village this way: "We could see the water rising across the entire area between my village and the river. At first we thought it was rain water, but it continued to rise," he says. Everybody rushed to the nearby railway track which is on high ground. But Omar was slightly late.

"Three of our women were swept off their feet. We saved two of them, but the third, my brother's wife, was lost. We found her body two days later." (BBC, August 5, 2010)

This is the kind of story that Pakistani families who lost their loved ones or their home or what little belongings they had gathered over their entire lifetimes would tell you. Millions had to leave the land they had worked on to go to a supposedly safer place or a refugee camp.

The flood began in late July in mountainous northwest Pakistan when exceptionally heavy monsoon rains caused the upper reaches of the Indus River to burst out of its banks.

It is reported that at least 1,600 people have been killed. An estimated six million are homeless. Some 17-20 million of Pakistan's 166 million people are said to have been directly affected, and 6 million are in urgent need of food. Tens of thousands of villages have been under water for days or even weeks and the process is still continuing. The rivers cutting through the middle of the country from north to south are beginning to recede as the surge empties into the Arabian Sea, but it is expected to be another week or two before they return to normal—and even then, in some places floodwater will be trapped and remain for some time. (See map at:

These numbers alone are not enough to convey all the dimensions of the human catastrophe. What we have seen and heard is only the beginning for the disaster millions face. Livestock is an important source of income, but countless cattle have perished in the floods. By late August, about 14 percent of the country's arable land was damaged, according to the UN World Food Programme. Even many people whose fields could be replanted have lost their grain stores, and now lack both food and seeds for the next crop after the monsoon. For a large percentage of those who survive the flood, surviving its aftermath will be no less of a challenge. The impact of this loss will be strongly felt by the Pakistani masses for years or even decades to come.

Dr. Marie Lall says, "This was not one cataclysmic event, but one which grew over three weeks. The fact that 25 percent of the country was or is under water is not understood. The low numbers of dead, relatively speaking, mask the disaster on the ground. The crisis has destroyed crops, killed livestock and damaged homes and infrastructure. Food prices are through the roof and there won't be a normal harvest. It will get worse. Farmers will starve." (BBC, August 21, 2010)

It is reported that of at least 6 million people left homeless, less than 10 percent are in the camps set up in the provinces. The camps consists of tents for six to seven people, without any sort of sanitation or health facilities. Another aspect of the disaster is waterborne diseases. The UN has said that millions of children in Pakistan are at risk. Sindh Province officials said that out of the millions displaced, a quarter are suffering from some sort of flood-related illness.

The lack of sanitation and the malnutrition that will follow the flood might well increase the number of victims for some time to come.

Those who no longer have a home are living alongside elevated roads with the few belongings they might have saved. Cities such as Sukkur located on the banks of the Indus have become like large refugee camps as increasing numbers of people seek shelter there.

At the same time, people already living in camps for displaced persons, like the 40,000 Afghan refugees living in Azakhel, on the banks of the Kabul and Swat Rivers in northwestern Pakistan, have been forced to flee yet again.

Who Is Responsible?

What made the flood so ruthless and why have 20 million mainly poor Pakistanis had to suffer so much?

Without the annual monsoon rains, agriculture in much of Asia and South Asia would not be so productive. Yet monsoon floods are often deadly and destructive. This year the rains produced particularly dangerous flooding in China, Korea and the South Asian subcontinent.

Monsoons are caused by temperature differences between land and sea. During summer when it is hot, the flat terrain of Tibet warms up the surrounding air and the hot air rises, drawing in moist air from the sea. This moist air also warms up and rises. As it cools in the higher atmosphere, the moisture condenses into rain.

According to the BBC weather center the existence "of more spiraling air in the upper atmosphere sucks in more moist air, causing larger clouds and more intense rainfall... This year's kink meant more moist air than usual was sucked up. The effect passed in days, but the extra rain at the start of the season caused severe floods." (BBC, August 16, 2010)

The Indus, almost 32,000 kilometers long, is one of the world's greatest rivers. Its valley is one of the places where human beings first gave up their nomadic ways and began to raise livestock and crops. Today, it is home to 100 million people, who rely on the river for drinking water and irrigation. Flooding is no stranger to those whose families have lived here for centuries, but this year saw torrents unmatched in recent history.

A Plundered Country on a Plundered Planet

There is credible evidence that global warming could be responsible for these stronger floods. "Professor Martin Gibling of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, a river expert who has worked in the region, thinks that changes in the strength of the monsoon caused by climate change may be to blame. He explains: 'Monsoon intensity is somewhat sensitive to the surface temperature of the Indian Ocean.' During times of cooler climate, less moisture is picked up from the ocean, the monsoon weakens, and the Indus River flow is reduced." (BBC Science and Environment, August 13, 2010)

Today, sea temperatures are increasing.

Stefan Rahmstorf, Professor of Physics of the Oceans at Potsdam University in Germany, argues that extreme rainfall events will become more frequent and intense in a warmer climate.

"For each degree Celsius of warming, 7 percent more water is available to rain down from saturated air masses. Drought risk also increases with warming: even where rainfall does not decline, increased evaporation dries out the soils."

He warns that extreme weather-related events are already occurring after a global temperature rise of only 0.8 C. "With weak action, like that promised by governments in Copenhagen last December, we will be on course for 3-4 C of global warming. This is bound to outstrip the ability of many societies and ecosystems to adapt. And, with no action at all, the planet could even heat up by 5-7 C by the end of this century—and more thereafter. Knowingly marching down that road would be insane." (Guardian, August 16, 2010)

But while global warming may be to blame for the worst-ever flood in Pakistan, it alone cannot be held responsible for so much human suffering.

There is also the question of how rivers are managed in order to prevent such disasters. For example, some rich countries reduce the risk of flood by building embankments as barriers along the vulnerable parts of rivers to reduce the chances of their bursting their banks in extreme floods. Such a system might or might not work for the Indus River, but today's authorities in Pakistan (and India), like the British colonialists before independence in 1947, have done nothing serious to prevent such possible disasters. Basic facilities such as a system of dams to capture monsoon rains and glacial runoff are totally lacking. There is no flood warning system.

Lack of a proper drainage system or in most areas any at all is another contributing factor. The Pakistani masses, especially in the poor areas, have to deal with water overflows even when there is only a couple of hours of heavy rain. In such cases the death of a dozen people is not unusual. The water often covers the streets and alleys for days or even weeks, providing conditions for the proliferation of insects, including malaria-bearing mosquitoes.

Further, the Indus is choked with sediment eroding off the Himalayas. Little has been done to clear its bed or at least reduce the amount of sediment build-up at critical points to allow its waters a swift route to the sea, so that they don't back up so much.

Another problem that has made the situation worse is deforestation. Tree roots help protect the land around the headwaters from being washed into the streams and rivers. But over the past half century, more sediment has been flushed down the rivers as forests have been cut down.

Deforestation of the northwestern part of the country and along the Indus River has been very good business for legal and illegal gangs that have made billions of rupees each year from selling the timber over the last few decades. "One of the most powerful and ruthless organizations within Pakistan, the timber mafia engages in illegal logging... the group's connection to politicians at the local and federal level has been commented on in the media for years. The constant warnings about the timber mafia almost always include mention of the increased susceptibility of de-forested regions to flooding, landslides and soil erosion." (Guardian, comment by Kamila Shamsie, August 5, 2010)

It is impossible that the extensive deforestation operations in the northwestern part of the country could have taken place without the support or at least assent of the Pakistani army, whose forces are concentrated there partly as a consequence of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. The army is by far Pakistan's strongest economic institution and the core of its ruling class, as well as the heart of the state.

Class Rule and Foreign Domination

Amidst this disaster, when the authorities did act in the name of flood management, their class interests have led them to make matters worse for the people in many instances. The army, big landowners and local and national authorities are often the same people, or of the same family, and at any rate tied together by common interests.

When the floods began in the northwest (what has been recently renamed Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province), they struck with little forewarning. But it took days and weeks for the full force of the flood to move downriver. This time was not used to warn the people and along with them organize preventative or other measures. Instead, when troops were deployed, it was sometimes secretly because they did not want people to know what they were doing. In Punjab Province, a traditional floodplain crisscrossed by dams, canals and sluices, there have been reports that landlords and the army chose which barrages to blow up and which land to flood based on who owned the fields and the location of army bases. (New York Times, August 23, 2010)

The young Pakistani novelist Ali Sethi witnessed an incident in which Sindh Province landowners and the army decided to deliberately dig a hole in a highway embankment. They flooded an adjoining area in neighboring ethnically-oppressed Baluchistan under three meters of water. The writer was advised not to expose this incident to avoid the wrath of the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, the country's most powerful organization. The deliberate inundation of Baluchistan saved the rice fields of a Sindh big landowner/politician and a military air base on the Sindh side. That facility is home to a fleet of U.S.-supplied F-16 fighter jets. Local people also believe that it houses some of the widely-hated American drones responsible for many civilian deaths in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

As Sethi wrote, Pakistan "is a place where peasants drown in rice fields they don't own, where mud-and-brick villages are submerged to save slightly less expendable towns, and where dying villages stand next to airbases housing the most sophisticated jets in the world." Behind the Pakistani military that rules Pakistan, he points out, stand its "American financiers." (International Herald Tribune, August 25, 2010).

The Government's Role and People's Protests

After this disaster, like after previous ones, the authorities were largely useless in helping flood victims. While millions of people were fleeing their homes and villages, the leaders of Pakistan were running around excitedly using the opportunity to beg for donations from the rich imperialist countries. But this did not and could not do much to help the people. Apart from when journalists and their cameras were present, the people were mainly left on their own to deal with the flood and its consequences. The lack of action only added to the people's anger and frustration.

Some analysts have warned that Pakistan's government could face social unrest similar to that after 1971 when "authorities responded slowly to a devastating cyclone. A secessionist movement in East Pakistan capitalized on public anger to successfully fight for independence as Bangladesh... although secession was not solely due to the devastation of Cyclone Bhola. With the flooding, loss and suffering we are currently witnessing in the subcontinent, we must keep in mind that Pakistan is as volatile and precarious now as it was 40 years ago." (Delwar Hussain, Guardian, August 15, 2010)

What the authorities have been telling the flood victims is that they should just be patient and wait for the water level to go down so that they can go back to their homes. There have been numerous reports of anger and protests by groups of people frustrated by the lack of government action. For example:

"Dozens of men and a few women tried to block five lanes of traffic outside Sukkur, in the southern province of Sindh, today. Villagers set fire to straw and threatened approaching motorists with sticks." One protester said, "We left our homes with nothing and now we're here with no clothes, no food and our children are living beside the road."

"Last night, hundreds of villagers in the Punjab, the country's most populous and worst-hit province, burned tires and chanted 'down with the government.' 'We are dying of hunger here. No one has showed up to comfort us,' said Hafiz Shabbir, a protester in Kot Addu." (Guardian, August 16, 2010)

"On our return trip to the northwest, the two main roads were blocked again. This time it was angry residents protesting against a power cut that was in its third day... 'We keep calling the government and their line is busy, busy,' shouted one protester, as black plumes of smoke rose from burning tires."

"A resident from Nowshera, Fazal Karim frustrated by the government inaction, said: 'I've been asking people to take off their shirts and hold a [shirtless] protest.'" (BBC, August 20, 2010)

Why Can't More Help Come?

A victim told BBC, "We called the government and asked them for help. They said they had no facilities in our area, no helicopters or people who could assist them." A Pakistani lawyer from the flooded town Nowshera put it ironically: "We have an atom bomb, but we have no helicopters and boats for rescue, no machinery to clear the roads and build temporary bridges quickly."  (BBC, August 5 and 9, 2010)

Is it true that there were no resources available?

The Pakistani army, the world's seventh biggest, numbers 650,000. Pakistan army spokesman General Athar Abbas told BBC August 20, that it had deployed 60,000 troops for relief operations, and even that relatively small number might be an exaggeration. He also said that the Pakistani military only had 45 helicopters. Yet there is an enormous concentration of U.S. and NATO (especially UK) aircraft a short flight across the border in Afghanistan, including Huey transport helicopters and other planes that would be particularly useful for civilian emergency operations. General Abbas said that the U.S. military had sent 15 helicopters. On August 30, a month after the flood began, the U.S. Defense Department Web site bragged that this number was going to be upped... to 19. 

The problem is not a lack of resources, but that the interests of those who control them and the whole imperialist system are in antagonistic contradiction to the interests of the masses of people everywhere.

The U.S.—and its junior partner in crime, the Pakistani military—might as well just come out and admit that their arms and technology exist to oppress the people and that they don't give a damn what happens to millions of poor and common people in Pakistan—except insofar as "instability" threatens their interests.

What Happens When "Help" Does Arrive?

In the cases where some emergency supplies are distributed, if they are not just carelessly and inhumanly tossed down on refugees from the sky, they are often distributed outside a politician's house by their aids or by policemen who arbitrarily decide who should get help and who should not, a scene that could drive the people to extreme anger.

Another flood victim Karm Khan said, "For three days I have waited here from dawn till dusk, but haven't received a single grain of wheat. They only give it to their potential voters." (BBC, August 5, 2010)

In general, the nature of "foreign aid" is that even when it does not actually harm the people by wiping out their livelihoods and in other ways, it can do very little to help the masses. In this case we see yet another example of how the goal of imperialist "aid" is to increase their influence in the affected countries and strengthen their local brokers rather than helping the people. The U.S. provides billions of dollars in foreign aid—to the Pakistani army.

Right now, millions of flood victims in Pakistan, are fighting to survive. They—and everyone—will judge what the rulers of this world do to help save their lives.

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

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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Views of those who contribute to "Bear Witness" are their own and they are not responsible for views expressed elsewhere in this newspaper.

The following was submitted to Bear Witness...

Getting a Piece of the Proverbial Pie While Dragged into the NYPD DragNet

I was 22 and full of hope about my future. As a recent graduate from Howard University and a NY Teaching Fellow, enrolled in City College, I thought Harlem was the best place to start my adult life, filled with express trains and crosstown buses to whiz me to masters classes and leisurely destinations on time and in style. In fact I would often sing the jingle of the Jeffersons' "Moving on Up," the lyrical apex of black assimilation, while moving to Harlem soon after Bill Clinton did, into one of the first renovated "luxury" rentals on 129th and Malcolm X Blvd (or Lenox Ave). Kitten heels and keyless entry, walking through a faux marble foyer with a chandelier and a smiling doorman was a good balance for a hard day's work as a literacy teacher for special education students in the Bronx.

One night in August of 2002, on the eve of the MTV Awards show, my friend and I got invited to an "industry party," but of course with a Cinderella caveat—chariot—"free before 12." We got dressed up and were very excited. We packed our little purses with lipsticks, perfumes and IDs. However, in an effort to prevent mice, despite the rush, I insisted on taking out the trash before heading downtown. Since the building was "new," it did not install a trash receptacle so I had to put the trash in the garbage can at the corner of 129th and Lenox. My friend realized that she forgot her cell phone so she went back inside and I waited for her at the corner. She soon came back out and we walked down Lenox looking nice and smelling fresh. We chatted about typical 20-something fodder and also our life goals as educators. Suddenly we were startled in mid girl-talk by something we were not expecting. Something very scary for two young girls to witness at 10:37 pm in a less crime ridden, slightly gentrified Harlem. An unmarked navy blue van drove down 127th Street and pulled up in front of us on the sidewalk, preventing us from even being able to walk any further.

Needless to say, we were startled, confused and scared. We didn't and couldn't see who was in the van or why they were driving so erratically. Were they gangsters, kidnappers, pimps? We didn't know. Then the doors began to slide open and we saw at least four men inside. Men dressed in dark colors in a dark van with dark windows as we walked down dark streets on our way to a nightclub. Great! What would I tell my mother? What would I tell my fellowship, students, friends, etc.

Was my life going to end at the hands of these men?

"We need to see your ID. You were walking out of a building known for suspicious drug activity." Oh, and so the plot thickens. We saw their little computers, two-way radios and padded bosoms due to bulletproof vests. "Are you from the NYPD?" "Yes, and let's see some ID." "But why officers, we were not doing anything wrong?" By this time my friend began to get very angry. "Ain't gotta do nothing, for what, why, you can't force me, my cousin is a cop, what precinct are you from, I'm about to call my cousin, I can't believe this, just because some white people move up here, all of a sudden, I can be stopped at random, for what, what did I do? I give you my ID and you run my name through the system? Does my name stay in that system? I'm calling". "Ma'am, you could make this easy or hard. If you don't give us your ID now, we will take you down to the precinct and it will take a much longer time." "We saw you two ladies doing something suspicious, you walked out, walked back in and you waited at the corner. This building is known for drugs, please show us ID." "But sir, I am a teacher, it's a new building, I am the first tenant, that building was abandoned for ten years, there's no way for it to have drug activity if I'm the only tenant. She went back inside to get her cell phone. We didn't do anything wrong, we are grad students."

Throughout this entire exchange we were getting wet while standing outside in the cold rain while they were inside their warm and dry van. Armed with quotas and intimidation, they had all the power and we were ripe with angst. Our blood was boiling while they remained cool and calculated. We were in a crisis while they were simply "doing their job."

Out of sheer frustration and need to get out of the rain, I gave them my ID. I wanted to get on a train and go away, anywhere at this point, maybe not even the club anymore. I felt violated and despite my education, I couldn't navigate this labyrinth of legal lies.

My friend was still in a self-imposed stalemate. She refused to show ID and also refused to get into the van. Neither option seemed palatable so we continued to stand outside in the rain as she became more irate. Perhaps in an attempt to divide and conquer, the cops told me I was "free to go," however, I was not going to leave my friend in this predicament. After about five minutes of waiting for her fury fueled flurry of phone calls to be returned in vain, she relinquished all hopes of winning this American Revolution and gave them her ID. After about three minutes of running her name through the "system" she was also told "You are free to go".

Free. This word is often bandied around when discussing the beauty of being in America and being an American. Many of our most cherished name brands use some notion of "America, land of the free and home of the brave" in their brand strategy to conjure up notions of patriotism to "the great U.S.A." and their brand by default. AmWay (American Way), American Eagle, American Express, Bank of America, American Apparel, etc. to name a few. Yes, you are free to spend your money on clothes, save your money in a bank or watch movies like Independence Day. But there are some more fundamental "freedoms" that are being eroded or violated on a daily basis. Unfortunately despite being a teacher and researcher with degrees and honors, my "freedom" was not honored. As Martin Luther King stated in his oft romanticized "I Have a Dream Speech":

" is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds.'"

Perhaps my 2002 escapade was a "freedom" overdraft and showing my ID was the fee. But I suspect this incident continued to shape me eight years later into an elementary teacher, unafraid to discuss social justice issues with young students in urban areas and craft artistic yet potent political responses to the status quo.

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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"Reading the letters is powerful; hearing the letters is spectacular"

We received this from the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund

On Tuesday, August 31, 50 people attended a benefit for the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund, featuring dramatic readings of letters from prisoners, at the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago. About 40 of the 50 people were new to PRLF. They included an incoming freshmen class of 25 from DePaul University in Chicago, an African-American woman student at a theological seminary, and students and staff from the University of Chicago. The key force behind the event was a summer intern for PRLF, a student at the University of Chicago; she mobilized several of her friends in the spoken word community.

The power of the dramatic readings was astonishing. The young artists poured heart and soul into the readings, which were organized around the theme, "Prisons as Universities of Revolution." As one woman in attendance said, "Reading the letters is powerful; hearing the letters is spectacular." And the audience was rapt—no one was texting or email checking. The readings ended with a video of Joe Veale doing his letter, "Prisons as Universities of Revolution." When Joe describes the laughter across the cellblock at what it meant for inmates, the "worst of the worst," to be debating Plato, the audience laughed at the irony. Through Joe's moving fundraising pitch and another one by the Director of PRLF, Mike Holman, $515 was raised for the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund towards renewing subscriptions and fulfilling requests for subs.

The Director of PRLF addressed the situation with Gregory Koger, the PRLF volunteer and videographer who was convicted of misdemeanors for cell-phone-taping a speech by Sunsara Taylor. Gregory had his bond revoked, is in jail, and will be sentenced on September 8.

The Director's comments included: "Gregory, once tagged as one of the 'worst of the worst,' met Revolution through PRLF while in prison. Starting in prison and continuing after his parole, to today, he took up the broader questions in the world and became a revolutionary, educating and transforming himself, as he describes, into an emancipator of humanity. He must not be imprisoned again, he must be released. He SHOULD be widely invited to speak about his transformation, so others can learn from him.

"The rulers are trying to tell the masses who dare raise their heads to look to a better world, 'don't even think about it, we will smash you down if you do.' We visited Gregory in Cook County Jail yesterday.... He told us to tell you all today that sometimes when you are fighting the system, you get locked up. You have to keep fighting the system. And those on the outside have to keep fighting the system, including for those who can't physically be present. And to all his supporters, he sends his thanks and love."

One young man, on reading one of the flyers about Gregory, came up before the program and said, "This is outrageous. What can I do about this?"

Several people at the event volunteered to work with PRLF. The script of the event will be posted at

Send us your comments.

Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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A Grave Injustice Has Been Perpetrated...

Free Gregory! No Jail Time!

A grave injustice has been perpetrated! In an outrageous trial, for "crimes" that never happened, a young man who came out of prison and took up revolutionary politics was convicted in a Skokie, Illinois, court on August 26 of three totally trumped-up criminal misdemeanor charges of trespass, simple battery (on a cop) and resisting arrest. In an additional outrage, instead of allowing Gregory to remain out of jail on bond pending a sentencing hearing, the judge revoked his bond and he was taken directly from the courthouse to jail. The sentencing hearing is September 8, where he faces as many as three years in jail. This railroad must be stopped!


Gregory being arrested for videotaping Sunsara Taylor at the Ethical Humanist Society, November 2009.

Gregory is a young man who came through hard times, who got caught up in the life that so many youth get caught up in and went to prison. But during his time in prison, and after his release, he began to question the nature of the system that put him and millions of others behind bars. He began to read Revolution newspaper in prison. He broke with the dog-eat-dog outlook. And, as he put it in a statement he issued before his trial, "Besides studying broadly and reading as much as I could get my hands on while I was locked up, I also began to develop as a writer." Several of his writings were published and he earned a paralegal diploma while personally litigating a federal civil rights lawsuit challenging prison policies. And, as he put it in the statement, "Now my life is dedicated to the struggle to end all exploitation and oppression and getting to a world where people contribute what they can to society and get back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings."

Changing the Rules in the Middle of the Game

This all began when Gregory videotaped a brief statement by Sunsara Taylor at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) in Skokie last November. Gregory committed no crime; he damaged no property; he hurt no one. In fact, HE was brutalized and maced by the police.

The prosecutor said in her opening statement: "...this is a simple case. We have a person unwilling to comply with a reasonable request. Had he kept his camera off, we would not be here today." That was not the case. Any reasonable, thinking person would ask: "What kind of system of 'justice' sends a person to jail for turning on a camera?!!" Nothing about this case was simple—or just.

The day before trial the defense turned over a copy of Gregory's video, which clearly showed no one told him not to enter the premises. Nor did anyone tell him at any time while that video camera was recording that he must leave or he would be arrested, which is part of the requirements of the trespassing law. In the face of the video evidence, the prosecution simply rewrote their case! On the day the trial opened—and in the face of strenuous objections from the defense—the prosecution was allowed by the judge to revise key allegations on which the battery and resisting charges that had been filed last November were based.

The battery charge was now specified as intentionally making "physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature" and not "bodily harm." The prosecution falsely claimed Gregory intentionally put his hands on Officer Bello's chest and pushed him back an inch, which they then claimed constituted battery.And they changed the time and place at which the supposed battery occurred. The prosecution set the bar as low as they could because there was no evidence of any harm done to the cop and certainly no medical evidence. In fact, Officer Mendoza, the other cop who testified, was standing within inches of Gregory when he supposedly committed this "battery" and yet failed to mention it in his testimony! This charge was put on Gregory not only to justify the beating the cops gave him but to hang him with a "violent" crime.

The changes in the allegations of the resisting charge were equally egregious. First, the prosecution's story as to which officer was involved changed at the last minute from Officer Bello to an Officer Mendoza. If such resistance actually happened, how did it magically change from one cop to the other between November and August? And how was this particular offense completely overlooked until more than nine months after it supposedly occurred? And second, the prosecution stated a different location where this supposed "resisting" occurred. It now took place outside the auditorium and not inside it.

The judge refused to allow the original police report to be used by the defense to challenge the blatant inconsistencies in the prosecution witnesses' changing stories. Then, after the judge made all these rulings in favor of the prosecution—and refused the defense request for time to prepare to defend Gregory against the changed story and allegation—the trial began. This is the much vaunted American justice system in action—if the defendant presents hard evidence proving his innocence and revealing the state's claims to be false, the state is allowed to change their story to try to convict the defendant!

The Illinois trespass law states that you must be ordered to leave, and then you must show your intent to remain after you have been given notice to leave. On the video Bello is clearly heard asking Gregory in a loud voice only to "step outside." And an eyewitness who sat right next to Gregory testified on the stand that she did not hear Bello order Gregory to leave or say anything about trespassing. The prosecutor predicated the trespass case on the testimony of one cop, Bello, who had been hired by the EHSC for that morning. He claimed that he whispered to Gregory to stop filming or he would be arrested. How convenient! The only evidence the prosecution presented was the claim of a whispered command that supposedly only the defendant and the cop could hear. So Bello moved the time and place of his supposed order to leave to when there was no one in whispered earshot and there is no video footage, so that it is the word of the cop against Gregory.

Together with this paper-thin lie, the prosecution in the final closing argument to the jury distorted the legal definition of "trespassing," equating it with breaking any rules of the property owner. The legal "logic" supposedly being that if a property owner says put down the camera and the person doesn't comply, they are trespassing. Again, this is not the legal definition of trespassing in Illinois, which requires that you must be ordered to leave and then show your intent to remain after being given notice to leave. When the defense objected to this mis-statement of the law, it was overruled.

Charging the Victim of Police Brutality


Prisoners at Cook County Jail respond to a demonstration demanding "No Jail Time" for videographer Gregory who was hauled to jail without bond immediately after a completely unjust and outrageous verdict, August 26.

Photos given to the prosecution by the defense ahead of trial, as required, showed Gregory being brutalized by the police. The prosecution went on the offensive with these pictures, putting their own twisted spin on them to tell the jury that what they were seeing was evidence of wrongdoing by the defendant, not by the police.

Charging the victim of police brutality with resisting arrest and battery on a police officer is a police practice so common it has a name, "cover charges." (Cover charges are charges the police press when they need legal justification to "cover" their brutality. [See]) In one photo, Gregory's shirt is seen hanging in shreds, exposing lacerations on his trunk. But according to the prosecutor this was not because the police were violently grabbing and pulling on him, but because he was violently resisting! Another photo showed four to five big cops on top of Gregory... but this wasn't massive overkill by the cops... no, it was interpreted by the prosecutors and their witnesses as the force needed to subdue the 140 pound, 5'6'' defendant. Bello, the cop who maced Gregory, readily admitted Gregory had contusions and lacerations and needed medical care, but the prosecutor argued Gregory did it to himself!

In an hour and a half, the verdict was returned of guilty on all charges—a completely unjust and outrageous verdict.

Retaliation for Radical Transformation

After the verdict, the prosecutor demanded revocation of bail on the basis that Gregory had spent years in prison for crimes stemming from when he was young. The defense attorney protested immediately, but the judge cut him off, agreed with the prosecution and further escalated the vindictive persecution by revoking bail because of the jury's guilty verdict on three misdemeanors.


Protest against the outrageous trial and conviction of videographer Gregory, August 26.

This is highly unusual at the misdemeanor level, especially because the defendant never violated his bond before trial. Gregory is employed and obviously has strong roots in the community, since the courtroom was packed every day, with a line waiting to get in.

Many who have heard of this case, its outcome and the revocation of bail for these misdemeanors ask: Why was Gregory ever charged? Why did this ever get to trial, how could the jury find him guilty, and how could the judge revoke his bail for such minor charges? They say there must be more to it. And there is.

More than one person has pointed out that Jon Burge, the notorious Chicago police detective who tortured many people and sent them to prison and death row based on false coerced confessions, and who was finally convicted this spring—30 years later—of felony lying to a federal agent, is out on bail until his November sentencing.

By contrast: A young man wrenches himself out of the dog-eat-dog mentality and life into which this system drives so many. In the bowels of the U.S. prison system he questions, he studies, he begins to understand, and live a life based on the fact that, as he put it, "the basis exists to emancipate all of humanity from the oppressive relations of class society, and unleash people to flourish in ways undreamed of under the confines of this capitalist system." But for Gregory, the person who has inspired many other people with his moral, ethical, and political transformation, the prosecutor and the judge took the extraordinary step of revoking his bail before sentencing.

Due Process or Political Suppression?

The judge stated in the beginning of the trial that "politics are not at all the issue in this arrest..." but politics are the issue—not only in the arrest but throughout this whole vindictive railroad. A major escalation of the railroad against Gregory came in April, a week after Gregory's defense committee sponsored a showingof the documentary Disturbing the Universe, about William Kunstler at Northwestern University. Emily Kunstler, one of the filmmakers; Thomas Geoghegan, labor lawyer and author; Gregory's lawyer, Scott Frankel; and Gregory appeared on a panel together. This was the first time since his arrest that Gregory spoke publicly, describing his past as a prisoner and how he had transformed through his contact with the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund and Revolution newspaper. He denounced the ban of Revolution newspaper in California prisons and spoke about how important this newspaper was to him and why the authorities are trying to stop it. This theme of transformation resonated with the North Shore and Northwestern student audience and signaled to the broader world that connections and support for this revolutionary ex-prisoner were being developed among sections of the people who normally are inundated with messages that prisoners are "incorrigible predators" and "the worst of the worst."

This developing broad support was seized on by the prosecution: one week later the state struck back with a vengeance. At what was supposed to be a routine status hearing to set a trial date, the prosecution gave notice that they were filing a contempt petition against Gregory because of his defense committee's website, which talked about his case. The prosecution petition itself was blatantly political—pages and pages of printouts of the defense committee website, including publicity for the Kunstler movie event and other events with speakers like Bill Ayers, Marc Falkoff, and Sunsara Taylor. The judge threatened the defense attorney with disbarment because his name appeared on the website (as Gregory's attorney!). At a later hearing the contempt charge was defeated, but that judge took the opportunity to rail that "you are not going to turn my courtroom into a circus" and to warn Gregory that having a defense committee to support him was going to "harm" his case—an unmistakable threat to back off the political struggle—while asserting at the same time "this is not political, there are no martyrs here." Not only did Gregory not repudiate his revolutionary politics or the support of the defense committee, but the committee continued to expand their outreach and held another event in June with a panel of Bill Ayers, Cindy Sheehan, and Sunsara Taylor.

One of the big claims of America is its so-called freedoms—in this country, there is supposedly no political suppression. To cover up what is actually a political trial, criminal charges are brought to suppress political views and movements; political acts are depicted as criminal acts and then at trial, the actual events are twisted to fit this framework. The judge made a big show about being supposedly "fair and just." But make no mistake, this is political suppression, pure and simple. The system has bared its teeth.

And this system has a particular necessity to "make an example" of people like Gregory, who have come out of the prison system and have come to understand the nature of this system and to work for revolution. From the point of view of a system of oppression and exploitation that has no future for millions but its hell-hole penitentiaries, such an example is something to put a stop to. But for the very same reason, people from all walks of life must refuse to let this system get away with this attack.

The outrageous verdict and revocation of bond for misdemeanors has brought many new people into support. Indymedia's recent national article after the trial identified this case as a "cause célèbre, in Chicago and nationally." One lawyer contributed $300 with a statement to Gregory that all kinds of people who Gregory doesn't even know support him. The defense committee has received written statements from many people whose lives have been touched by Gregory, urging the judge to free him.

A petition has been launched online to tell the court that Gregory should get no jail time and he must be released on bond immediately. This can be signed at and spread through emails, lists, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and more. If you are in the Chicago area, come to the sentencing on Wednesday, September 8 at 9:30 am at Cook County Courthouse, 5600 W. Old Orchard Road, Skokie. And get in touch with the Ad Hoc Committee for Reason at to find out more ways to help overturn this completely unjust conviction. Funds are urgently needed to appeal this outrageous conviction and denial of bond. Checks can be sent to attorney Scott Frankel, 77 W. Washington, Suite 1720, Chicago, IL 60602. (Please mark "Gregory's appeal" in the memo line.)

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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Videographer writes from jail

August 29, 2010

I want to express my most sincere and heartfelt thanks for the outpouring of love and support in the face of this political attack.

Although it pains me to be locked up in the hellholes of America's racist gulag once again, I now have the opportunity to bring revolution and communism to the youth and others locked down here with me in the Cook County Jail.

Despite the attempts of those in power in the ruling class to break my spirit, this political prosecution has only served to strengthen my determination to sweep this horrendous capitalist system of exploitation and oppression from the face of the earth and liberate all of humanity.

Revolutionary Love,


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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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Innocent Videographer Sentenced to 300 Days in Cook County Jail

This statement was issued by Friends and Supporters of Gregory Koger

Today, September 8, 2010, in Skokie IL, the judge sentenced Gregory Koger to 300 days in Cook County jail.  She did this in the face of 7 character witnesses (including a college professor, a former assistant state's attorney, a Catholic priest, a University of Chicago student Gregory mentored, and his employer, an attorney) and 25 written personal testimonials from a wide array of people, including former Ethical Humanist Society members.  These were all moving tributes to Gregory's character, his transformation from a troubled youth, his morality and his devotion to bettering humanity.   These statements painted a picture of a human being who had touched many lives and inspired people. They and the almost 1,000 signatories and comments on a petition called on the judge to not give Gregory jail time.
Supporters who overflowed the courtroom were outraged when the judge threw the book at Gregory for misdemeanor convictions for taking pictures with an iPhone. Probation is the default sentence for all misdemeanors.
The prosecution presented no witnesses. They entered only documentation of two prior convictions. The judge took this up with a vengeance, saying that Gregory had demonstrated his "volatile nature." She even went so far as to claim he endangered every person in the Ethical Humanist Society auditorium. This was extraordinary since there was no testimony claiming this during the trial. The judge delivered a tirade to Koger which included stating, "you absolutely deserve the maximum ..." 
The defense committee for Gregory stated in a press release, "After the hearing people gathered outside to denounce the sentencing. People who had witnessed the arrest spoke about how outraged they were that Gregory was even arrested in the first place, much less face real jail time."
We are determined to not let this outrage stand. Many more people need to hear about it and raise their voices in protest.
What you can do:

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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Special Issue of Revolution on Israel

A special issue of Revolution on the nature and role of Israel is in the works. It will give students on college campuses—along with a broader audience—a vivid and rigorously documented picture of Israel's crimes against the Palestinians and reveal the role of Israel around the world. It will speak directly and honestly to the toughest questions students and others have.

The special issue will present a compelling analysis of Israel as a creature of imperialism—especially U.S. imperialism. People will come away with a profound sense of the terrible consequences of the State of Israel for the people of the Middle East, and beyond that, for humanity as a whole. In the course of this, they will be challenged to see and act on the need for revolution with the fundamental and ultimate aim of communism throughout the world, to emancipate all humanity from systems and relations based on exploitation and oppression.

In the wake of this special issue of Revolution, there will be a teach-in presenting the analysis of the special issue, along with speakers from other perspectives exposing the nature and role of Israel.

This special issue of Revolution on Israel, along with the teach-in, will be a big deal. We'll aim to saturate selected campuses with this issue, and the whole package will be impossible to ignore on many campuses this fall. Work on these related projects has begun. The aim is to radically transform the situation where far too few people know about Israel's crimes around the world, and even fewer make the connections between those crimes and the U.S.

If you feel the need to expose Israel and its crimes, and radically change the terms of debate in society, we're calling on you to take part in this project. We have substantial thinking on what needs to be addressed, and we want your ideas as well. Contribute photos, artwork, research, fact-checking, translation, and in other ways by emailing us at People who feel the importance of this project can email to arrange to send donations, and to organize fundraising salons and other fundraising events.

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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Read and Spread Revolution Newspaper

We have a strategy—and our newspaper is, as "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" statement says, "the foundation, guideline, and organizational scaffolding for [the] whole process" of carrying out that strategy. This is the paper that cuts to the bone to tell you WHY things are happening... to show you HOW it doesn't have to be this way... and to give you the ways to ACT to change it. It is a call to action and a means of struggle. It is, and has to be much more, the scaffolding on which this movement is built, where those who are getting into it and following it can wrangle in its pages and on its website with how we can better build this movement. It is a guideline where today thousands, but soon tens of thousands and eventually millions, all over the place, stay connected and learn to act in a powerful and united way. It is the foundation where those who read it learn about the larger goals of revolution and communism and come to see the ways in which the struggles of today are connected to those larger goals... where they come to grasp the scientific communist outlook through its application to all the many particular events and outrages and developments in society... and where they get organizationally linked up to this revolution.

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Revolution #211, September 12, 2010

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SUSTAIN Revolution financially each month!

Revolution newspaper is the foundation, guideline, and organizational scaffolding for the movement we are building for revolution. Stop and think about it—how essential is that?! But the reality is that this newspaper will not fill this need without more people becoming regular monthly sustainers. Sign up yourself to contribute regularly. And then, wherever you are—at a protest, a concert, selling Revolution, at FaceBook... or just hanging out—struggle with people, including people you just met, to sustain Revolution regularly. Once a week, check yourself: How is this going? How many new sustainers did you sign up?

To sustain Revolution: click the "Sustain/Donate" link at or send a regular amount at the beginning of each month to RCP Publications, P.O. Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654.

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Revolution #211, September 12, 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 #211, September 12, 2010

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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

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