Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA

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Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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Egypt Erupts!

Editors' note: As we go to press, events in Egypt are developing rapidly. Go to for updates.

A massive and courageous uprising has erupted throughout Egypt—the most populous Arab country—with the youth at the forefront. What direction this will ultimately go, and how far, is to be determined. But this uprising already has been—and even more could be—an important element in shaking up the whole reactionary world order—giving oxygen to all those who hunger for liberation or are even dissatisfied with the way things are.

Fury: Broad and Deep

For three long, terrible decades, the Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt imposed "stability" through what human rights groups have described in terms like "Egypt's torture epidemic" directed at all kinds of opponents of the regime—and especially since the 1990s at "secular and leftist dissidents"—as well as "large numbers of ordinary citizens." (Human Rights Watch, 2004)

But within a span of only about a week, protests emerged and then developed into a nationwide uprising involving broad swaths of society which defied tear gas, clubs and guns, and demanded an end to the regime.

The immediate chain of events began elsewhere in the Arab world. On December 17, 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old Tunisian street merchant, set himself on fire to protest police confiscating his fruits and vegetables. His act touched a nerve throughout Tunisia—a North African country (like Egypt) wracked by rising prices of basic survival goods and widespread unemployment. Escalating confrontations between people and the regime of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali were violently suppressed, but waves of protest, repression, and more protest drove Ben Ali from the country on January 14. Protests continue in Tunisia as people demand all authorities connected to the Ben Ali regime must get out of the government. (See "The good news from Tunisia," A World to Win News Service.)

The fall of Ben Ali's brutal regime had an electrifying effect throughout the Arab world. Protests broke out throughout Algeria where, during four days of protest in early January, hundreds of people had been injured by police and at least three killed. Large-scale protests have broken out in Yemen as well—the poorest country in the region.

On January 25, Egyptian activists, organizing mostly online, seized the date of an official commemoration of the police forces. A call circulated on Facebook for a "Day of Revolution against Torture, Poverty, Corruption and Unemployment" was signed by 100,000 people, with a stated goal to "end the silence and the submissiveness regarding what is happening in our country." Thousands marched through Cairo, heading towards the offices of the ruling National Democratic Party, as well as the Foreign Ministry and the state television. Similar protests took place in towns across the country. When police fired tear gas and water cannons, demonstrators demanded "Down with Mubarak!"

Other protests on January 25 took place in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, the Nile Delta cities of Mansoura and Tanta and in the southern cities of Aswan and Assiut.

As the uprising spread, repression escalated, and in response, more protest erupted. Authorities fired tear gas and shot rubber bullets, and shut off access to Internet and text messaging services. An article in the British newspaper the Guardian reported that even before that happened, anonymous leaflets advised people to spread organizing materials "by email and photocopy, but not to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which are being monitored by the security forces." ("Egypt Protest Leaflets Distributed in Cairo Give Blueprint for Mass Action," UK Guardian, January 29, 2011)

In the days following January 25, protesters clashed with police in Cairo slums and in the center of the city where museums, tourist hotels, government offices and foreign embassies are located (this is the district where many of the televised protests took place). Some government and police offices were occupied or burned. Al Jazeera reported that police killed at least three protesters when they tried to storm the hated Interior Ministry—home of the repressive apparatus. The Foreign Ministry, notorious for upholding and promoting Egypt's collaboration with Israel, including in the inhumane blockade of Gaza, was also a focus of protests.

In Mahalla al-Kobra, the center of Egypt's textile industry, riot police fired tear gas at protesting stone-throwing workers. Conflict has been particularly fierce in the city of Suez where Egypt's burgeoning sweatshop economy is centered—Al Jazeera reported that 11 people were killed by police there, and 170 injured.

In the sparsely populated but vast and strategic Sinai desert bordering the Gaza region of Palestine and Israel, hundreds of Bedouin tribes people and police exchanged live gunfire.

Large sections of more privileged sectors of Egyptian society have joined the protests. Al Jazeera reported that lawyers took to the streets in Alexandria and the Nile Delta town of Toukh, north of Cairo. Jack Shenker, an Egypt correspondent for the Guardian, told Democracy Now! that the street protests include"middle-class people who are generally enjoying quite a comfortable standard of living... They've got a lot to lose, and yet they're still being motivated to come out, to be beaten, to be hit by water cannons, to be carried off into the desert [where Egyptian police make a practice of dumping seized and brutalized protesters]." (Jack Shenker on Egypt Protests: "Fear Barrier Seems to Have Been Broken," Democracy Now, January 27, 2011)

Speaking of the mood and significance of all this, one correspondent wrote, "As police stations and ministry of interior installations continue to burn through the night in many of Egypt's cities, the Arab World is waking up to a new dawn. In more than 18 years of living in Cairo, I have never felt the sense of cautious hope that exists in Egypt now, particularly among young men and women who feel that for the first time in their lives they may actually be able to determine their own destinies." ("Egyptian Youth And New Dawn Hopes," by Firas Al-Atraqchi, Al Jazeera, January 29, 2011)

Mubarak Maneuvers

On Friday, January 28, after three days of upheaval, Mubarak took to the airwaves to attempt to strike a conciliatory tone. He sacked his cabinet (a move he has done in the past) but refused to step down. He defended the massive violent suppression of protests by claiming, "the way police forces dealt with our youth" was "taking initiative to protect them ... before those protests turned into riots that threaten the system and obstruct the daily life of citizens." He promised "more speed in halting unemployment and enhancing living conditions, fighting poverty and standing firmly against corruption." But his essential message was an ominous threat to "defend Egypt's safety and stability."

As the uprising has spread, forces who at first stood on the sidelines, ranging from the banned but large Islamist Muslim Brotherhood to former UN weapons inspector Mohamed El-Baradei entered the fray, joining the protests.

And as we go to press, the Egyptian army has been deployed in the streets, and the situation remains extremely tense throughout Egypt.

A Society With No Future for Youth

The median age in Egypt is 24, with a third of the population under the age of 15. Young people, even those with the means to higher education, see no future for themselves. According to the World Bank, the highest rate of unemployment in the country is among college graduates. Visitors to Egypt frequently find themselves surprised to find the young man selling phone cards on the streets or the young woman behind the desk at a tourist hotel holds an advanced degree from a European university.

And this situation is framed by a society wracked with poverty. While a small elite tied to the regime lives in luxury, official government figures put Egypt's poverty rate in 2010 at 23.4 percent, up from 20 percent the previous year. At the same time, people have been hit with skyrocketing food prices. In the last six months, the price of tomatoes (an essential part of Egyptian meals) has jumped six-fold. Meat and poultry prices have doubled.

In smog-choked Cairo—home to eight million Egyptians—five million people live in sprawling slums, often without access to basic services like clean water, sanitation and electricity.

The U.S. Role & the Israel Connection

Just after Mubarak's speech was denounced throughout Egyptian society as empty promises and ominous threats, U.S. President Obama took to the airwaves to say he had just gotten off the phone with Mubarak. Obama's speech seemed formulated to appear to sympathize with the Egyptian people, while attempting to create a pathway to credibility for the regime, and positioning the U.S. to have credibility and room to maneuver if Mubarak is driven from office.

Obama framed his comments by noting the U.S.'s "close partnership with Egypt...including working together to advance a more peaceful region." That "close partnership" was forged when Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the "Camp David Agreement" in 1978, under the sponsorship of the U.S. That treaty marked a major turning point in the Middle East—basically guaranteeing Israel would not face off militarily against the most populous country in the Middle East in return for the U.S. cementing the Sadat (and later Mubarak) regime into power with enormous amounts of military aid.

The Camp David agreement provided invaluable freedom for Israel to continue and intensify the oppression of the Palestinian people, and to serve the interests of U.S. imperialism in the region. (For background on Israel and its role in the region and the world, see "Bastion of Enlightenment or Enforcer for Imperialism: The Case of Israel.") In short, it was a shameful, indeed, criminal betrayal of the Palestinian people—one whose spirit and direction Mubarak has continued and deepened.

In both its ensnarement in the economic tentacles of global capitalism, and its political and military role as a regional bulwark of Western and especially U.S. interests, Egypt is an oppressed nation in which U.S. imperialism ultimately and sometimes very directly determines the relations and lives of the people. Over the past two decades, Egypt has been the second largest recipient of U.S. military "aid," much of which goes to the military, or is channeled into buying the loyalty of a section of the corrupt elite. Egypt's economic "development"—the sweatshops of Suez, the tourist-based economy, and the operation and functioning of the strategic Suez Canal—are driven by capital from foreign imperialists. And Egypt's political and military role in collaborating with Israel and its suppression of the Palestinians is dictated by the interests of U.S. imperialism.

The chains of imperialist domination can only be ruptured by breaking Egypt out of the whole global network and system of imperialism. This requires, and can be carried out, through a new-democratic revolution, which is the first stage of proletarian-led socialist revolution in an oppressed nation, and part of the world communist revolution aimed at ending all oppression and exploitation worldwide.

Great Potential ... Great Challenges

A new generation of Arab youth has announced that it is fed up and ready to die to make a change in how society is governed. Quite naturally there are many different ideas among them as to what kind of change is needed. That's a very good thing! A whole process has just begun, through which people begin to learn about the world as they transform it.

There are many dangerous pitfalls to traverse on the road to come...but just what has happened thus far—this courageous standing up on a mass scale—is a major accomplishment and major development in its own right.

Real revolutions—profound and foundational changes in the essential nature of a society—do not arise spontaneously from uprisings (see sidebar: "A Profound Lesson...And A Deep Challenge"). But the kind of upsurge rocking Egypt, and spreading throughout the Arab world, can be a major ingredient in sparking revolutionary sentiments and strengthening the impulse toward revolutionary organization.

A challenge has been issued by the courageous youth of Egypt. Everyone who wants to see another way brought forward in this world of oppression is called upon to support them politically. One important way is to get this issue of Revolution out broadly in society—so people can learn the truth about what is really going on. It would be a serious mistake to underestimate how something like this is changing the thinking of people, even within the U.S., who up to yesterday thought any real change was impossible.

This is also a moment to distribute and promote Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, widely—to let people know, both from that part of the world as well as everyone else whose ears have been perked up to hear the sounds of liberation, that the only, very possible and profoundly liberating, answer to this madness is the communist revolution and to let them know what communist revolution actually is.

From demonstrations against U.S. attempts to suppress the uprising in Egypt, to forums—formal ones or street-corner gatherings—there is an opening to reach out to people with the real solution to all this, even as we unite with people to resist U.S. and Israeli attempts to prop up Mubarak and/or in other ways sidetrack and/or repress the struggle. There is a moment to reach out extremely broadly to those who are inspired by this upsurge—to hear their sentiments, to learn from their experience and how they are seeing things, and to let them know about and connect them with the movement for the complete emancipation of humanity from all chains of oppression—the movement for revolution and communism.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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From A World To Win News Service

"We want our Egypt, not Mubarak"

Revolution newspaper received the following article from A World to Win News Service, which we think will be of interest to our readers.

1 February 2011. A World to Win News Service. Whether or not Hosni Mubarak's reign will come to an end is no longer the question. How he goes, and what this transition leads to, is what is being fought out.

As men and women dressed in business suits as well as torn sandals jubilantly swelled the size of the demonstrations by a hundred-fold in a week, many people thought that the "march of a million" February 1 would end in victory. They thought Mubarak would go, the tanks would leave the streets and the country would be theirs.

What American and European governments consider most important is what they call an "orderly transition." When the Egyptian president announced that he will stay in office until his term expires in September, he argued that the only choice was a transition under him or "chaos." Some Egyptians were swayed by Mubarak's argument. Die-hard regime supporters were emboldened by U.S. President Barack Obama's failure to call for Mubarak to step down immediately.

But "order" is not the main priority of many of the millions who have been demanding "Mubarak out!" They took Mubarak's speech as a gesture of defiance and contempt for the people. They were infuriated by his vow to remain on Egyptian soil to the end of his days. At the massive gatherings in Cairo and Alexandria, he had already been hung in effigy.

It might seem simple for the U.S. to just dump a hated, discredited and isolated autocrat. The fact that the U.S. has so stubbornly resisted that step so far is a sign that things are not so simple, even if the U.S. does end up taking that route.

It must have been infuriating for Egyptians to hear Secretary of State Hillary Clinton argue on January 31 that the U.S. can't tell Mubarak to go because that is up to Egyptians to decide. It is the Egyptian army that has kept Mubarak in power, and it is the U.S., to a large degree, that tells that army what to do.

In late January, as the revolt mounted, the head of the Egyptian armed forces and his staff were conferring with the American government and military in Washington. If they had been told that Mubarak must go immediately—as happened with the Shah of Iran in 1979 and may have been the case with the Ben Ali regime in French-dominated and less strategically important Tunisia—then one way or another Mubarak would have been gone. Even if the U.S. dumps him now, events have already proved that this has not been the U.S.'s preferred outcome.

No matter what changes the U.S. ends up having to accept, it will do its best to minimize the role of the people and avoid encouraging their movement. That is one important reason why the U.S. has preferred that Mubarak be allowed a dignified exit and not be seen as driven out by "the street," with what that might mean for other U.S.-dependent Arab regimes. But above all it wants to make sure that whether or not Mubarak is able to preside over the transition, the regime he built and led remains as intact as possible.

The army: not neutral

While Obama's support for Mubarak was qualified and not necessarily permanent, he was effusive in his praise for the Egyptian army and the way it has handled the protest movement.

During the upsurge before February 1, the police had been unable to stop the demonstrators, although they killed hundreds and badly hurt many more. In many cases people attacked the police and put them on the run. Armored cars were pulled down and burned in Cairo and Alexandria. In several cities police stations were assaulted and destroyed. A wave of looting seems to have been largely the work of the police themselves.

People organized neighborhood roadblocks and crudely armed groups to protect lives and property. They also organized to protect themselves against provocateurs, clean up the streets and preserve public sanitation and pass out tea and food in Cairo's Tahrir (Liberation) Square, a highly symbolic location named after the 1952 army coup that brought down the British-controlled monarchy, as well as in front of the main mosque in Alexandria. They proudly explained to reporters that the square and the country now belonged to them.

But the army remained omnipresent, demonstrating its power. It lined Cairo's avenues and bridges with armored vehicles and massed about a hundred new U.S.-supplied tanks around the square. To prevent people from converging on the capital and Alexandria, it cut off the roads and public transportation linking Cairo and other major cities with the provincial towns. Soldiers searched people as they entered the rally and checked IDs. Helicopters filmed the crowds from above. American and French-made fighter planes buzzed Tahrir Square. The military erected a protective wall around Mubarak's residence.

Keeping order while the people want to overthrow the regime is not a neutral act. After Mubarak's non-resignation speech, many protesters suddenly feared that if he wasn't going to resign after all, they might be hunted and punished.

Whose army is it?

If it is true, as some reporters surmise, that the U.S. told the Egyptian military at Tahrir Square that it should refrain from a "Tienanmen" solution, when the Chinese government gunned down a square full of protesters, it is not because anyone in the Obama administration or Washington's corridors of power cares more about Egyptian lives than American interests, but because if the army does open fire on demonstrators in a sustained way—rather than firing into the air, as it has done sporadically so far—the situation may spin even further out of control politically.

The U.S. financed, armed and trained these armed forces and has paid close attention to their military and political training. It is the biggest Arab army and the tenth biggest in the world. Its intelligence service reaches into every corner of society and its prisons and torture chambers are among the world's most fearsome. It would be hard to exaggerate the ties between these armed forces and the U.S. Almost all of U.S. financial aid to Egypt, 1.3 out of 1.5 billion dollars a year, goes to the military. Over the past decades the only country anywhere to receive more American aid has been Israel.

The army is not only the ultimate protector of the state, it is also Egypt's single most powerful economic force. It owns a network of factories, hotels, real estate and other businesses. Further, retired generals run many state-owned enterprises, such as the textile mills that have historically been core components of the country's export-oriented economy, along with the state-run petroleum industry. This makes the army a partner as well as a political and military enabler of Egypt's domination by foreign capital and the imperialist world market.

There are undoubtedly real differences between the wealthy, modernized army and Egypt's petty criminal police who pick the people's pockets for bribes. The police, not the army, have been in charge of street-level repression for decades, and that has had an effect on how the army is seen. It was no accident that the first minister Mubarak threw overboard in an attempt to appease the people was his hated Minister of the Interior.

Further, the armed forces have been able to preserve something of a nationalist aura because of their role in the struggle against British domination, from overthrowing the monarchy to defending Egypt against the 1956 British-French-Israeli invasion when Egypt nationalized the formerly British-controlled Suez Canal. It is also highly regarded for defending the country against the 1967 Israeli invasion that seized Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, and its military successes in the 1973 war with Israel which eventually led to Egypt's getting the Sinai back. Many people, it seems, are also confused by the fact that the army is made up of conscripts.

But the army and the police may be playing the kind of "good cop, bad cop" division of labor familiar around the world. What is probably most fundamental in the unfounded hopes that the army will "support the people" against Mubarak is that the people understand very well what it would mean if the army does not.

Mubarak and the army

Mubarak responded to the revolt against him by making the head of intelligence his vice-president—his first vice president and therefore official successor if Mubarak resigns. Omar Suleiman has been in charge of repression for decades and makes frequent trips to Washington and Tel Aviv. A U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks says that he is one of the Egyptian officials most trusted by the U.S. government. Mubarak made the current air force chief Ahmad Shafiq his prime minister. He also met with his regional military commanders.

Although Mubarak, like his predecessors Gamal Nasser and Anwar Sadat, is a product of the armed forces, until now there has been at least the claim of a separation between the military and the government. Top officers, for instance, were not allowed to be members of Mubarak's party, and most of his recent (and now ex-) ministers have been civilian businessmen and so-called "technocrats." This moving of the army into the center of the government has two aims: to overrule the people's movement and keep Mubarak on top as long as possible, and to ensure that if the autocrat does go down the military will preserve regime continuity. This seems to reflect the U.S.'s dual tactics in this situation.

But even the militarization of Mubarak's government, while meant to be a show of strength, has had negative political effects in identifying the military with U.S./Mubarak rule and widening the target of the people's anger. Chants have arisen demanding the departure of the generals as well as Mubarak himself, all of them seen as U.S. puppets by some people. They are disgusted by the fact that Suleiman, Mubarak's chief negotiator and collaborator with Israel, is now calling for opposition parties to negotiate with him.

The things they do can undo them

One of the most important lessons to be learned from the sudden new situation in Egypt and throughout the Middle East is that the very things that the U.S. has done to keep the region under its heel have created huge problems for continuing American domination.

In addition to the U.S.'s dilemma concerning Mubarak's personal future, the other clearest case of this contradiction is the role of Israel as a factor for regional instability. As a settler state and the only society in the region the U.S. can count on, American domination of the region would be much more difficult without this highly militarized outpost. The current situation in the Arab world highlights Israel's centrality to the U.S., even while it also highlights the problems Israel creates for the U.S.-led empire.

In addition to burning down the 15-story headquarters of Mubarak's political party and attacking the Ministry of the Interior, crowds have besieged and assaulted the Foreign Ministry building. People throughout the Middle East hate what Israel does to the Palestinians, and solidarity with Palestine has been a feature of the upsurges in Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan (half of whose population is Palestinian). Such openly "police state" regimes and monarchies are not only U.S. client states in a general sense, they are bulwarks against the Palestinians and pro-Palestinian sentiments among their own people. For example, the Mubarak regime has worked with Israel in the lockdown of the people of Gaza and attempts to control Palestinian politics.

Obama's Secretary of State says she is worried that what follows Mubarak may be "not democratic." This is generally taken to express a fear that Mubarak's downfall might favor the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood, historically the father of modern Sunni Islamic fundamentalism and "political Islam" in general. That is one possibility. Even though Islamic fundamentalism does not seek to break with the imperialist world market and the economic and social relations that market imposes, still the Islamicist movement threatens to disrupt the status quo, the present configuration of the Middle East on which U.S. domination depends. But as we've seen in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, as bad as the rise of Islamism can be for the interests of the American empire, it is also a disaster for the people.

In the past the U.S. and Israel helped build up the Brotherhood in order to undermine more radical secular movements. To this day the relations between the Mubarak government and the Brotherhood are complicated and sometimes ambiguous. The Brotherhood has been allowed to hold seats in parliament until recently and stills operates semi-openly, even while officially illegal and often repressed. Suleiman has been both Mubarak's chief of anti-fundamentalist operations and a man said to enjoy the respect of Islamic forces. The regime cracked down at least as hard, if not harder, on shoots of the leftist secular opposition, such as appeared in opposition to the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Brotherhood, for its part, stayed out of the current revolt until it seemed on the verge of victory, and even now insists that it wants to play a subordinate role and not seek power—for now. Yet the U.S.'s stubbornness in clinging to Mubarak and its determination to continue humiliating the Egyptian people even after Mubarak, the vacillating role of some secular forces and the identification of the regime with Israel are all factors that could prove favorable to expanding the influence of the Islamic movement, especially (but not only) in the absence of a revolutionary alternative.

Can the U.S. be a force for democracy?

It would be funny if it weren't so criminal to hear the U.S. talk about the need for "free, fair and credible elections" in Egypt now, since only a few months ago, in November 2010, when Mubarak held parliamentary elections that were anything but what these words describe, the whole Western political establishment went along with them. And when Obama talks about "shared values" between the U.S. and Egypt, it should be remembered that what the U.S. has long shared with Mubarak are not only the tear gas canisters, bullets and tanks used to repress the Egyptian people but also the regime's torture chambers. Since 1995, on orders from Secretary of State Clinton's husband, President Bill Clinton, the U.S. has been turning over its captives to the Mubarak regime for torture in a CIA "rendition" programme.

How could it be otherwise, when the interests of the U.S. and its European allies require dominating countries like Egypt by any means possible? The monopoly capitalist countries cannot act otherwise because their position in the world (including major sources of their wealth and their success in rivalry with each other) is based on the financial and political subjugation of the vast majority of the world's people. Within this division of the world, the U.S. has its own particular national interests and neocolonies.

Therefore the basic interests of the imperialist ruling classes, including that of the U.S. (and not just the government under any particular president or prime minister) are in opposition to the democratic demands of the people in the countries they dominate, for political rights and especially the equality of nations and the right of self-determination for oppressed nations. In general imperialism tends to deny or limit the kind of bourgeois-democratic forms of rule (equal rights for all, especially as manifested in elections) that have generally marked monopoly capitalist rule in the imperialist home countries, where the whole purpose of such structures is to preserve the system and smooth functioning of what is, in essence, the dictatorship of the monopoly capitalist class. For instance, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair now admits that his government took part in the invasion of Iraq against the will of the British people. As we have seen in the U.S., UK and other rich countries lately, even there these rights and basic structures can be modified or abandoned when the rule and interests of monopoly capitalism require that.

It's true that the U.S. has been worried about the narrow social base of its client regimes in the Middle East, and now that a crisis has broken out it will put some reforms into motion. It is telling that such wishes did not become a priority for the U.S. in Egypt until the people pushed the Mubarak regime to the edge of a cliff. As the leading American imperialist political counselor Robert D. Kaplan wrote about Tunisia, "In terms of American interests and regional peace, there is plenty of peril in democracy. It was not democrats, but Arab autocrats, Anwar Sadat [Mubarak's predecessor] of Egypt and [former] King Hussein of Jordan, who made peace with Israel. An autocrat firmly in charge can make concessions more easily than a weak, elected leader... In fact, do we really want a relatively enlightened leader like King Abdullah in Jordan undermined by widespread street demonstrations? We should be careful what we wish for in the Middle East." (The New York Times, January 22, 2011)

Washington may sometimes desire that its client regimes could enjoy more stability by being less openly autocratic, but it is the maintenance of client or otherwise pliable regimes that is the U.S.'s basic aim. All talk about elections and "democracy" is subordinate to those interests. Lebanon is the only Arab country that can be reasonably described as having an elected government. Yet this month when Hezbollah was able to play the decisive role in naming a new prime minister by entirely legal and constitutional means, the U.S. became enraged and determined to punish the country. When Hamas (closely tied to the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt) won elections in Gaza, the U.S. and its allies cried "terrorism" and have supported Israel's collective punishment of the Gaza people for their impudence. In a different kind of example, Turkey, whose governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) is a close ally of Washington, has not gone along with Israeli massacres to the degree required by Obama and U.S. interests.

Denial of democracy and democratic illusions

Yet the fact that people's democratic demands are thwarted in the countries oppressed by imperialism is both a source of instability and rebellion, and of illusions among the people. The U.S. and its allies will do their best to limit the achievements of popular movements to reforms, especially some sorts of elections and rights, however limited they must be to preserve imperialist domination. In Egypt, we can be sure that whatever such reforms do occur will be meant to rob the people of their greatest achievement so far, their leap from enforced political passivity to single-minded determination to bring about real change.

The problem for Egypt as for the whole third world is not just the political structures imposed by imperialism, but the whole economic and social structure of society on which the political institutions are based. The Egyptian people's humiliation and misery has deepened as the country has become more fully integrated into the world market over the past decade. Even the country's relatively high economic growth rate, while winning the praise of the IMF and other imperialist institutions, has brought more hardship for the majority.

No regime can oppose imperialism in any long-term and consistent way unless it breaks free of dependency on the imperialist world market in the organization of its economy as well as in the political sphere. This means a revolution that is not bourgeois-democratic, or in other words not aimed at achieving equal rights within the overall imperialist world order, which is generally impossible for structurally oppressed and dependent countries, but what Mao Tsetung called a New Democratic Revolution, a revolution to break the chains of feudalism and imperialist-dependent capitalism that make a country susceptible to foreign political subjugation.

Instead of becoming more and more entangled in imperialist globalization, which relies on local reactionary classes to impose a political rule that favors the country's subordination to global capital and lopsided development, New Democracy is a transition to a whole new system, socialism, that can break with world capitalism, a revolution in alliance with the world's peoples whose ultimate goal is the defeat of the world capitalist system and its replacement by a world without imperialism or classes, a world of freely associating human beings, communism.

As Egyptians tell anyone who will listen, the demands now uniting the people against Mubarak are an expression of a burning determination to have their own country back. That is what the U.S. cannot agree to, no matter how much it might have to adjust its actions to further its interests in the complex context of what is possible and not just what Washington might want.

The idea of an Egypt without Mubarak is as exhilarating to the Egyptian people as it is frightening for those who run the U.S. and all the regimes through which the U.S. dominates the region. The result has been a fierce tug of war between the Egyptian people and the U.S. that is likely to have far-reaching consequences for the Egyptian people, the region and the U.S.

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

Send us your comments.

Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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From a Reader:

Report from Chicago Demo in Support of Egypt Uprising

Revolution newspaper received the following letter from some readers in Chicago:

January 29, Chicago IL: From 500 to 1,000 people or more crowded onto the sidewalk in front of the Egyptian Consulate in support of the uprising in Egypt and the wave of protest through Tunisia and other Arab countries. The demonstration mainly took the form of an extended picket line, though often the high-spirited crowd was so tight that no one was able to move.

People bussed or drove themselves and friends from many areas a distance from Chicago—areas such as Urbana in southern Illinois, Bridgeview and Southwest Chicago, Naperville, and as far away as Indiana and Wisconsin and Iowa. There was a mix of international people—of course from Egypt—but also from the Sudan, Tunisia, Palestine, Syria, Iran, Pakistan and Ireland with people writing on their faces "I am Egyptian."

The crowd was overwhelmingly Arab. It was over half youth, with a mix of students and leftist groups. Egyptian flags were everywhere—they were being passed out by organizers of the protest. Many people were brought to the protest through outreach on Facebook, media alerts, and some from the mosques. A number of the busses were organized from area mosques and a significant percentage, if not the majority, of the Arab women present wore head scarves. In comparison to protests that have been held here in solidarity with Palestine, there were many new faces at this picket line and rally—while crews of students and youth that come out to rallies in support of Palestine were also visibly present.

The leading political slogan was "Mubarak must go NOW!!" and the political struggle was overwhelmingly viewed as "Democracy vs. Dictatorship." This was on the pre-printed signs provided by organizers and taken up by the crowd. There was an infectious sentiment of joy in standing up for a new day for Egypt—and an expectation that this new day wasn't far off. People chanted, "Brick by brick, wall by wall—we will see Mubarak fall!!" Emotions were intense. Older Egyptian men in their 40s and 50s had tears in their eyes.

Some of the people we talked to expressed anger over the horrors of the economic situation and the corruption of the Mubarak government. There was a distinct Pan-Arab nationalist influence throughout the protest. Some people expressed the sentiment that this revolution was not just for Egyptians; that protests started in Tunisia, then broke out in Egypt, and that this movement was for everyone. This was expressed by several of the young speakers from the stage. Many of the people we talked to did not make the connection between the role of U.S. imperialism and the support it has given Mubarak. There was more talk of corruption and government repression by the Mubarak regime.

Egyptians living here in the U.S. from various organizations came forward in this wave of opposition to Mubarak and the current regime. There was the Egyptian Americans for Democracy, the Egyptian-American Society, the Young Egyptians Society and the Urbana Egyptian Community Organization. There was also a representative from a group called "The Tunisian Community Organization." One of the speakers was Dr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, who recently published a book on the Bush regime and torture (Institutionalization of Torture Under the Bush Administration) and is the President of the Egyptian-American Society. A message from the Director of the Chicago Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which he had dictated from the streets of Cairo, was read. More than a dozen groups spoke at the rally. There was a large turnout of younger Arab people at the protest and many of the speakers and spokespeople for the organizations were in their twenties.

A crew of us got out 120 copies of the special issue of Revolution containing Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (issue #143, September 21, 2008, also available as a pamphlet); 280 pluggers for the Constitution For The New Socialist Republic In North America (Draft Proposal); and 120 copies of the broadsheet The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have—A Message, And A Call, From The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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The "Grand"—And Deadly—Illusion

"The army is with us!"

When a struggle gets to the point where state power itself comes into play, this cry almost always goes up among the people. Usually this happens when things are on a precipice, when things feel far out on a limb: the old power no longer has enough legitimacy to rule, but those forces who want really fundamental change lack the understanding, organization, and/or support to take power themselves. Meanwhile, the army senses, or is told, that the old governing force has outlived its usefulness to the actual powers-that-be. At that point, some "hero" from the army emerges who claims to listen to the people. And the people then flock under his wing.

It is not hard to see why this sentiment would spontaneously emerge. It is very hard for the people, even a revolutionary people, to overcome the violent repressive force of an army—even a poorly organized one, let alone a modern, fully equipped one. It would be easier if the army, or a section of the army, would "come over" to the people's side. Even more to the point, people do not spontaneously understand the real nature of things, they do not spontaneously penetrate beneath the appearance of things to get to their essence. Thus, if the army has not previously been used against the people, or if someone emerges from the army promising to make reforms, and people do not have a scientific understanding, then they will fall into this trap.

But what IS the reality? What IS the essence of the matter? Armies are not neutral instruments. Armies are not machines that can be wielded equally well by everyone. Armies arose when society became divided into exploiter and exploited, in order to enforce that division and to enforce the will of the exploiters. Armies are created by certain classes, and they enforce the interests of those classes. In fact, in any and every system, the army is the chief institution through which the ruling class enforces its will. In modern society, armies do not and cannot represent the nation as a whole—they represent those classes who control the nation. In the Middle East, those classes are the imperialist powers of the West, along with the reactionary classes (the bureaucrat-capitalists, those who are based in feudal or semi-feudal exploitation of the peasants, etc.).

Very often, the army—even armies supposedly "forged in democratic or nationalist traditions"—will be directly unleashed against the people. This is what happened in Chile in 1973, where the Chilean army working under the baton of the American government and CIA staged a coup and murdered tens of thousands. It is what happened in Indonesia in 1965, where the army—again working under the baton of the CIA—staged a coup and in this case killed between half a million and a million people. And it has happened elsewhere as well. This lesson must be fully absorbed—it has literally been paid for in blood.

How then on some occasions does it happen that the army does not immediately crush the people?

At times the U.S. itself will counsel the army in a particular country to "pull back"—but this is usually a signal that the imperialists want to maneuver within the situation and do not want to risk at that time a full-out challenge to what is the pillar of ruling class rule.

Sometimes, army officers in the oppressed nations will stage a coup that displeases, or seems to displease, the rulers of the U.S. But even in these cases, the army does not act "above classes" or "for the people" or "for the nation"—no, for all the populist rhetoric and even, sometimes, the railing against imperialism, at bottom the army in these cases represents the interests of bourgeois class forces which feel held down by the current arrangement with the imperialists in their country, and who hunger for a bigger share in the exploitation of the people. Those among the people who swing behind the army in the hopes that it will represent the masses will soon find it instead representing one or another section of those who aim to exploit and oppress the masses. And sooner or later the "army heroes" of yesterday will come to terms with the same imperialist masters whose oppression drove people into rebellion in the first place. Conclusion? There can be no real liberation without the decisive defeat, and dismantling, of the stranglehold of political and ultimately military power that is exercised by the ruling class and its replacement with a new, revolutionary state power.

It is imperative that people cast away illusions, especially about something as central to the fate of their struggle as this. It is imperative that those who are getting into the struggle now do a "crash course" in the science of communism, which alone lays bare the real dynamics and motive forces of society—why things are the way they are, and how they can change. And there is no better place to start than the talk by Bob Avakian now being serialized in this paper and up on our website—Birds Cannot Give Birth To Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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A Profound Lesson...And A Deep Challenge

When a people endure oppression for years...and when those years stretch into decades, and even can begin to feel as if their righteous anger and aspirations are being held back by a terrible dam. This dam contains, blocks up and suppresses the currents that could lead to resistance and rebellion, the currents of change. And then the dam begins to seem eternal... and it begins to seem as if there are no currents...and it begins to seem as if there is no anger at all among the people, other than the anger that gets turned against each other and oneself. Change—positive change, at least—seems impossible.

But one day—suddenly—the dam breaks, and out come the floodwaters. Yesterday it seemed impossible. Today it seems to have been inevitable.

A man in Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi, having been abused by the police and having sought redress from one level of government after another, has enough. He feels that life is no longer worth living...or rather, he becomes convinced that the best way and the only way to live is to give his life in protest. He burns himself to death. And this action touches a chord that sounds throughout his city, his country, and then entire region. The downturned eyes of yesterday are—for now—replaced by faces that look at one another in solidarity and struggle and determination, and millions dare to brave the threat of death to say that WE CANNOT LIVE IN THIS WAY!

Such things have happened throughout history, and they will continue to happen. And very often they seem to come out of nowhere. When crises like this erupt, people question what they used to accept; they resist what they used to endure.

This is a profound lesson of what is now going on in Egypt and across the Middle East.

But then the question arises: will these waves and currents, in all their variety and fantastic complexity, give rise to a movement that can actually emancipate the people? Or will a new "dam" be put in place?

At times like these, revolutionary communists must bend every effort to reach out to and connect those who have been awakened. They must unite with them in resistance. They must expose the underlying dynamics that put the oppressive system in place and maintained it, and show the motive forces for changing it. But as they do this they must also, and above all, bring these essential truths to people:

With the dawn of the communist revolution, it finally became possible for people to not only struggle, but to actually set out on the road to full emancipation from all oppressive relations.

But this requires a leadership, a party, that is actively preparing the masses and itself for just such an opening... a party that is doing all it can to not only prepare for such an opening but to hasten it, through strengthening 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.

Where such a party exists, it must be wholeheartedly supported and built. Where it does not exist, the situation urgently requires that it be brought into being.

This is the profound challenge posed by events.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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Translate the Manifesto into Arabic and Other Languages

Communism: the Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA has been released in English, Spanish, Turkish and Farsi. The Manifesto needs to be gotten out as broadly as possible, including to those who speak Arabic and other languages.

Millions of people are driven to the U.S. by the very workings of U.S. imperialism. Distributing this Manifesto far and wide in this country can serve as an avenue to reach out with this Manifesto to all corners of the world. At the same time, there are millions of people who need to have access to this Manifesto who do not read the languages it has been published in to date. We need this Manifesto to be made available to those millions who speak other languages.

We are calling on people who have the ability to translate into these languages and more (from either English or Spanish) to step forward and step up to meet this pressing need for translations that can reach all those who need to know there is new stage of communism. We envision a movement of people working to produce high quality accurate translations in many languages which can then be distributed all around the world on the Internet and in print.

Anyone who wants to contribute to this should write us, send us drafts of your translations, and ideas on how you can assist in getting the Manifesto translated and out into the world.

Send translations or offers to assist with translation to
RCP Publications, Box 3486 Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654 or

Send us your comments.

Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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Discussion on the Constitution For The New Socialist Republic In North America (Draft Proposal)

Prisoners Debate the Section "Minority and Formerly Oppressed Nationalities"

The following letter was forwarded to Revolution from Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund

Dear PRLF,

I received the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) and was happy to dig in to this much needed document! Being that many throughout America speak of revolution it is amazing that such a constitution hasn't come out sooner.

I had a chance to read this document as well as go over certain portions with my study group here in my housing section. Although for the most part all agreed on the majority of its points, the Latino prisoners were in disagreement with two points in the Constitution. The Black and Asian prisoners agreed with it pretty much as a whole and I read and re-read, trying to find a way that these two points may have been misinterpreted. However, unfortunately I disagree as well.

The Section in question is Article II Section 3, "minority and formerly oppressed nationalities." Although subsection A. (2) African-Americans is correct in stating in part ... "There shall be the right of African-Americans to self-determination, up to and including the right to secede from the New Socialist Republic in North America," this guarantee for self determination is crucial in forging a revolutionary society.

The Leninist principle of oppressed nationalities to self determination is certainly an essential aspect for any socialist party and a party that goes without this aspect is a doomed party at its inception, for the basis for revolution is liberty at its core.

The section on African Americans was right on. In contrast, subsection B (2) Mexican-Americans, was a surprise, to hold back on the correct stance given the African Americans to self determination. The section on Mexican-Americans states in part "...there should be established, within parts of this region, a country that is separate from both Mexico and the New Socialist Republic in North America, shall be taken up by the government of the New Socialist Republic in North America..." The freedom guaranteed to the African Americans on voting via the legislature, etc. to secede is withheld in the section for the Mexican Americans.

It seems Mexican Americans, or rather their right to self determination and to secede if the people feel to do so, is left to the government of the New Socialist Republic to decide, rather than the Mexican people themselves as was provided to the African Americans. I have never read RCP's line on this issue of Africans have the right to vote for secession but Mexicans and Native Americans don't. This stance saddened me, as there is no way to justify this uneven lopsided treatment of the oppressed in this country. It should be the right of all to self determination, if we are talking historically for purposes of determining the history of oppression.

Mexicans and Native Americans have been on this continent for thousands of years, and have not only been hunted down and endured genocide but ancestral land theft, rape and pillage for over 500 years. If we are deciding this issue numerically, determining the largest groups needing areas geographically, it's a known fact that in a few decades Latinos will be the largest oppressed group in America, and who knows the number in 100 years.

I think such determinations are incorrect and believe all oppressed nations have the right to self determination. I also believe just because of the historical role of oppression for Mexicans or the numbers, that Mexicans should get no better treatment or rights in the New Socialist Republic. I also believe their treatment/rights should be no worse. We've discussed and debated this issue here and the consensus was that Mexicans must not be a major voting bloc in RCP because it's difficult to see such a vital issue as self determination not being vital enough to correct.


The issue concerning giving portions of the Southwest back to Mexico or establishing an autonomous region or a separate government is another topic of discussion in my study group. First we must look to the political nature of Mexico. Currently we can all agree that Mexico is not a socialist country. On the contrary, it is a corrupt and parasitic entity with decades of repression and stomping on the rights of all Mexican citizens, along with seeking to "play master" to the indigenous peasants in the countryside. Thus to give back portions of the Southwest would only be giving Mexico more people to exploit.

There should, if the Mexican and Latino nations feel, be a secession of the Southwest that would serve as a base area for other liberation struggles worldwide, but particularly in Latin America where most of what is today's U.S. Southwest peoples derive. Of course if the Mexican people feel that they would rather join the New Socialist Republic, so be it, but this should be decided by the Mexican people via legislative vote as was offered to the African American people, as should be also provided to the Native Americans.

The Native Americans have been corralled in concentration camp reservations, but in all actuality, the Mexicans, African Americans, RCP and everyone else, is standing on Native land. We should not attempt to determine what they should do; rather, give them the same opportunity to secede if they so wish, as well as the Mexicans. This is a serious issue and certainly a dividing line, as I found by discussion with other Latino prisoners.

How can we ask people to support the revolution or support RCP and possibly face horrors or death only to find after victory that, while other oppressed nationalities are voting and obtaining their own country, that for other oppressed nationalities we must see what the Executive Council says about whether those who fought and perhaps died in struggle can be liberated.

I have tried to find a way to see it differently but any way I look at it I see you can't allow African Americans the right to secede but not Mexican Americans or Native Americans. I see no reason why RCP could not have gone across the board with Blacks, Mexicans, and Natives having equality in determining their future.

I would like to hear RCP's response on this issue. It is one many people (prisoners included) spend their waking hours struggling for and devoting their efforts into to obtain such self determination in a future society and taking paths that hopefully lead to a vanguard that ensures such liberation.

With nothing to lose and a world to win,

P.S. Please thank those who donated for me to receive the Constitution.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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Discussion on the Constitution For The New Socialist Republic In North America (Draft Proposal)

A Pledge for the New Constitution

Enclosed please find a money order for the pledge of myself and my partner for Revolution newspaper in the amount of $75 for the month of December 2010.

Also enclosed is a money order for the amount of $50 to go towards the cost of a pledge for the New Constitution (part of a pledge of $250—with $50 remaining in the commitment). It is really exciting to see the New Constitution out there pointing the way towards how a future can be much different and much better for all of humanity. Given that, the powers that be in ALL of the imperialist and reactionary countries, led by the big mafioso, the rulers of the USA, are foaming at the mouth with rage over WikiLeaks and the crimes of this system that it exposes, the New Constitution and Revolution newspaper are all that much more important. They seek to silence WikiLeaks and punish or even assassinate Julian Assange for pulling back the curtain of secrecy and revealing the truth, exposes what we are really living under a cold, heartless, DICTATORSHIP of the BOURGEOISIE. This is a dictatorship where torture and death of millions and millions of people mean nothing—it is all part of doing business. (and for those people who delude themselves and say that they want to make sure that women are not abused and raped—ask—well look at what the U.S. military has been doing to the women of Iraq and Afghanistan for years under occupation. Look at what women in the U.S. military are subjected to. Look at Haiti, the Congo, the U.S. and so many other countries on a daily basis! No! These criminals have no right to talk about their "concern" for women. For them, it is just another commodity to use and toss away.

Well, it does NOT have to be this way—WE DO NOT have to live this way. So it is in this spirit that these pledges are being forwarded to Revolution newspaper—so that we can fight for a world that we all want to live in.

In Unity-Struggle-Unity and
Fight the Power, and Transform the People,
for Revolution!

Send us your comments.

Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics:

A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World

Monday, April 11, Harlem Stage

Ensuring BAsics can play the role it needs to: $60,000 goal!

A goal of raising $60,000 has been set to help create a society-wide impact with the new book BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian.  $30,000 is for printing and promotion of the book itself.  Another $30,000 is needed for the April 11, 2011 program at the Harlem Stage in New York, "On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World".

Take up the "BAsics Challenge" yourself and get the Challenge and this week's centerfold to others.  Write Revolution Newspaper about your ideas for contributing to this goal, and about what happens.

To donate toward the publication of the book, checks or money orders should be made out to RCP Publications, with a notation that they are for "BAsics."  Mail them to: RCP Publications, P.O. Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654.

To donate toward the event "On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World," you can go to the Revolution Books website, and please include a notation that it is for the "BAsics event." If you want to purchase a ticket, please note that clearly. $100 tickets can be reserved now.

BAsics is a book of quotations and short essays from Bob Avakian being released in March 2011. Take a look at the Table of Contents – and think about the great need for this book to get out broadly in society.

Avakian has a unique voice – a rare combination of an unsparing critique of the history and current direction of American society with a sweeping view of world history and the potential for humanity. And Bob Avakian is more than that – he is the leader of a party and a movement aiming to make revolution, actively working today to change the "political terrain," to prepare the sentiments among millions and to organize the forces that could actually lead a revolution, when the possibility opens up. He is someone, in the words of Cornel West, who "is a long distance runner in the freedom struggle against imperialism, racism and capitalism."

All that taken together means that the occasion of the release of this book will be a special and significant opportunity to bring people together from different arenas and perspectives in a cultural celebration of revolution and the vision of a whole new world.

Such an event could change today's atmosphere, even perhaps dramatically... in an atmosphere that definitely needs changing! We are in a stifling and dark political moment, but at the same time there is a widespread – if latent – desire for another world and another way. This is particularly true for a generation of youth who have no visible options besides criminalization or commodification, many of whom are right now living and dying for bullshit and worse.

BAsics can play a unique role in changing that, inspiring people to lift their heads, look critically at the world around them and live a life of meaning – a life fueled by the hope and daring inspired by engaging real revolutionary ideas and envisioning a new world.

The event on April 11, on the occasion of the release of BAsics, will bring together artists, intellectuals, people from the community and the youth from different perspectives and different strata in a major celebration whose impact could go far beyond the walls of Harlem Stage in New York City. The program will include different kinds of musical performances and poetry readings, along with a visual arts component (either from the stage or an installation in the lobby). There will be readings of letters from prisoners who read Revolution newspaper. These are powerful examples of the transformative impact of people in the darkest dungeons responding to ideas of revolution and the work of Avakian with broadness of mind, heart and passion. These will be interspersed with people's own reflections (from the stage or via video) of what it means to celebrate revolution and the vision of a new world, and readings of quotes from BAsics.

This is something that can truly puncture the suffocating atmosphere and impact the societal discourse with Avakian's words, and with a major celebration of revolution and the vision of a new world.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian


Supplement: Reform or Revolution
Questions of Orientation,
Questions of Morality
Supplement: Three Alternative Worlds
Supplement: On the Strategy for Revolution
Supplement: "A Leap of Faith" and a Leap
to Rational Knowledge:
Two Very Different Kinds of Leaps,
Two Radically Different Worldviews and Methods
Supplement: Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right
Supplement: The Revolutionary Potential of the Masses
and the Responsibility of the Vanguard

Send us your comments.

Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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From a Reader:

The BAsics Challenge

Ensuring BAsics can play the role it needs to: $60,000 goal!

A goal of raising $60,000 has been set to help create a society-wide impact with the new book BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian.  $30,000 is for printing and promotion of the book itself.  Another $30,000 is needed for the April 11, 2011 program at the Harlem Stage in New York, "On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World".

Take up the "BAsics Challenge" yourself and get the Challenge and this week's centerfold to others.  Write Revolution Newspaper about your ideas for contributing to this goal, and about what happens.

To donate toward the publication of the book, checks or money orders should be made out to RCP Publications, with a notation that they are for "BAsics."  Mail them to: RCP Publications, P.O. Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654.

To donate toward the event "On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World," you can go to the Revolution Books website, and please include a notation that it is for the "BAsics event." If you want to purchase a ticket, please note that clearly. $100 tickets can be reserved now.

I am writing in to express one main point: I am VERY excited about the upcoming release of BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian. And I am VERY excited about the society-wide impact that BAsics can have. Bob Avakian's leadership and understanding of the world has radically transformed my own understanding and view of the world, and what kind of world I think is possible. I feel extremely lucky to have been able to make that transformation, and I feel an urgent desire and responsibility to do everything I can to enable many others to transform.

As I've gone from an Obama supporter to someone who has come to understand what Obama is really about, and what real change is about, I've had Avakian's leadership to guide me along the way. Even as I came to understand more fully the true nature of the Democrats and lost any desire to vote for them, I still struggled to fully understand the role of elections. I remember thinking "OK, obviously Obama is bad, but wouldn't someone like Sarah Palin be even worse?" Then I read "Bush I... Bush II... and Things Going to Extremes," from The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era, in which Avakian recounts agonizing over whether, in the particular circumstances of the 2004 presidential election, it would be better if Bush lost. Avakian describes ultimately coming to the conclusion: "They [Kerry and Bush] are both worse." Reading that formulation really helped me understand the actual dynamics at play in bourgeois elections; this was a big rupture point for me in terms of how I saw the whole electoral process, or electoral ruse as I've come to understand. And that's just one of many, many examples of when Avakian's words really deepened my grasp of the way things are, and lifted my imagination toward the way things could be in a radically different society.

Not having lived through the '60s, I was never able to see firsthand the impact that Mao's Red Book had throughout all strata in society. But even as someone born decades later, I've always known what the Red Book was, even back when I was an Obama supporter—a hallmark of how iconic that book became. I feel very excited thinking about BAsics being able to break out broadly throughout society in a similar way, especially since Avakian has built on and made significant leaps beyond Mao in terms of the science of communism and what it means to be a revolutionary.

Making Avakian's leadership known broadly, and really accomplishing the goal of making him a "household name," is a crucial part of transforming the current political polarization, putting revolution and communism on the map in a big way in this society and ultimately initiating a new stage of communism in the world. I'm extremely excited to think about the role that BAsics can play in all of this.

As I've thought about my own experiences and ruptures, imagining what it would be like to have this multiplied by the thousands, or even millions, I felt even more steadfast in wanting to contribute to ensuring that BAsics is able to play the role that it can and needs to play. That's why I've decided to donate $200 toward the publication and promotion of BAsics. That's a lot of money for me, but I know that it will take much more than that to really get BAsics out there broadly. So I wanted to do more. I wanted to find other people who would be able to match my donation, but I wasn't quite sure how to do that. That's when I remembered all my friends who are fellow readers of Revolution newspaper. So I decided to bring the challenge here, right to the pages of Revolution.

This is the challenge: Let's really kick off the fundraising for BAsics in a big way! I challenge 10 other people to match my $200 donation by February 15! For those who are not able to contribute $200, you can and should still be part of this challenge: Donate what you can, but do so generously! Everyone's contributions add up, and we can raise at least $2,000 by February 15.

Donating is easy. Just make out a check or money order to RCP Publications and send it to:
P.O. Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654

Be sure to include a note that you are donating as part of The BAsics Challenge. If you want to donate in cash, just take it in to your local bookstore (see p. 15) and let people there know that you are contributing as part of The BAsics Challenge.

Let's really take to heart the title of the "Revolutionary Resolution" in issue #221 of Revolution: "It Is Not Enough to 'Do Good' in a Bad World...We Must Bring Into Being a Whole Better World." BAsics can play a huge role in bringing that whole better world into being. So let's step up to The BAsics Challenge!

Editors' note: Revolution will update readers on the results of The BAsics Challenge after February 15.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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Update: The Net Widens in Federal Grand Jury in Chicago

Fishing Expedition against Antiwar and International Solidarity Activists Escalates! Subpoenas Increase to 23!

There have been dramatic new developments in the government's attacks on antiwar and international solidarity activists. September 2010 saw FBI raids on the homes and offices of activists in the Twin Cities in Minnesota and in Chicago. Grand jury subpoenas were issued to 14 people active in the antiwar movement and in building solidarity with the struggles of the Palestinian and Colombian people. The government's rubric for these attacks on political activists is an investigation into so-called "material support for foreign terrorist organizations." This is a pretext for a broad and sweeping attempt at political suppression aimed at people who are exposing and opposing the crimes committed by the U.S. in different parts of the world.

In addition to the 14 people who were issued grand jury subpoenas in September, nine more people in Chicago were subpoenaed at the end of 2010, and some were ordered to appear on January 25, 2011. This latest round of subpoenas appears to focus on activists involved in the movement for solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people.

One of the newly subpoenaed activists is Maureen Murphy, an organizer with the Palestine Solidarity Group and also the managing editor of the Electronic Intifada website. Another person who had been ordered to appear in January is Sarah Smith, a young Jewish woman from Chicago who traveled with a delegation to Israel and the occupied territories of Palestine along with two friends who were brought up in Chicago, but are of Palestinian descent. These two Palestinian friends have also been subpoenaed.

At a December 22 press conference Michael Deutsch, a prominent Chicago attorney who has spent decades opposing the improper use of the grand jury as an instrument of political repression, called attention to the fact that this has become the most sweeping grand jury investigation aimed at political activists he has witnessed in 40 years. Deutsch based this conclusion on both the numbers of people who've been subpoenaed as well as the breadth and content of what is being gone after by the U.S. Attorney in this case.

All Subpoenaed Witnesses Refuse to Participate in Fishing Expedition

The 14 people who were issued grand jury subpoenas in September informed the U.S. Attorney's office, through their attorneys, that they were asserting their right to remain silent and would not testify before the grand jury. The U.S. Attorney's office responded by withdrawing all those subpoenas, but said nothing about their future intentions. Then, in early November, the U.S. Attorney notified attorneys that three women from Minneapolis (who were among the original 14 who declined to appear) were now being issued new subpoenas to appear before the grand jury.

But this was just the beginning. Throughout November and December, at the direction of the U.S. Attorney, FBI agents delivered a whole new round of subpoenas to nine more people. Some were ordered to appear to testify before the Chicago grand jury on January 25, 2011.

Attorneys for all of the newly subpoenaed activists have now informed the U.S. Attorney that they too are asserting their right to remain silent. The Committee to Stop FBI Repression initiated a call for protest rallies at federal buildings and FBI offices across the country on that date to oppose and resist the issuance of these subpoenas and the grand jury witch hunt. [See article online for more coverage of these demonstrations.]

The three women activists in Minneapolis who were re-issued subpoenas are continuing to refuse to testify before the grand jury or cooperate with the U.S. Attorney. The government could force on them a "limited immunity" from prosecution. Under current law this essentially wipes away their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. When people are given "limited immunity" and then refuse to testify, they can be immediately jailed (without a trial) and held in jail for the life of the grand jury, which can be months—or even years. The government has historically used grand juries not only to go on political witch hunts, but as a means of punishing those who defy their orders to testify.

A Very Serious Attack

The government's pretext for the raids, subpoenas and federal grand jury witch hunt is an investigation into so-called "material support for foreign terrorist organizations. (FTO's)."

The definition of "material support" is being stretched very broadly by the U.S. Supreme Court.1 Even former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has said that the work of his organization, the Carter Center, is threatened by a recent Supreme Court decision. Carter wondered if he could be prosecuted for monitoring elections in Lebanon, since one of the parties in the elections was a group designated as a FTO. In an interview with Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights on the Law and Disorder radio show, Deutsch explained that the government's attack is on "protected political work on behalf of solidarity with Palestine or Colombia... We're dealing with advocacy and associations. Despite Holder v. The Humanitarian Law Project we believe that it's totally a violation of the First Amendment and a violation of people's political rights that's going on here."

Not a single person has been charged with any crime over these past months of raids and subpoenas. Add to this the fact that activists have recently revealed that prosecutors conducting the grand jury investigation confirmed the involvement of at least one undercover law enforcement agent who spent two and a half years infiltrating the Anti-War Committee in Minneapolis and then later joined Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO).

Jess Sundin, of Minnesota, said in a January 12 press statement that the agent who infiltrated the Anti-War Committee since 2008 had access to their activities, office, bookkeeping records, etc. Sundin makes the point: "Even after two and a half years of this full access, there are no charges against anyone. Instead, nearly two dozen people are being dragged through an intimidating grand jury process, a fishing expedition. If there were truly criminal activity happening here, Agent 'Sullivan' would have known all about it. The only crimes committed here were the abuses of our rights carried out by 'Karen Sullivan' herself." Sundin's home was raided last September.

A Repressive Witch Hunt Widens

During the initial FBI raids huge amounts of political and personal material, cell phones, computers, and contact lists were scooped up indiscriminately. At least one of those whose house was searched said that FBI lists of things seized from her home included items she knows were not in her home. People have been cornered in their homes and offices by agents armed with grand jury subpoenas. These agents have tried unsuccessfully to badger and intimidate people into talking with them.

In the latest round of subpoenas, nothing is said about why people who have received them are being compelled to appear, what laws are involved, what they are being commanded to testify about, or anything else. People are just ordered to appear. This is in itself very unusual.

In the interview on the Law and Disorder radio show Michael Deutsch spoke to the significance of this:

"Well, unlike the first series of subpoenas which did ask for documents to be produced, these subpoenas only talk about coming to testify and it seems to me what's going on now [is]...they are trying to gather information. So it's particularly a fishing expedition in terms of gathering information about people's political work and association.... [They do not] say what it's about. [They] just say you're subpoenaed to appear before a Grand Jury, January 25. [They don't] even say the statute which they are investigating."

Later in the interview Deutsch drew attention to the blatant trampling on the Constitutional rights connected with this witch hunt:

"'s totally a violation of the First Amendment and a violation of people's political rights what's going on here. One of the things I would mention is that one of the U.S. attorneys said, 'Oh, you know these Freedom Road people [members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization] are Marxists-Leninists. They call each other comrade and they want to overthrow the U.S. government.' This is kind of the underlying tenor of their whole prosecution—to go after people and this organization because of their political ideology.... I've been through all this Grand Jury stuff and this attack. I've never seen something that's so ideological on its face and so broad."

These Attacks Must Be Defeated

As it was analyzed in an earlier article in this newspaper, "In the Age of Obama, Criminalizing Political Opposition to U.S. Aggression and the FBI raids on Anti-war Activists":

There is an irony that all this is being done by the administration of the "constitutional scholar" President, Barack Obama. But the irony is not that the President "forgot" what he once taught at the University of Chicago. It is that many allowed themselves to believe that the wrappings he came in made him fundamentally different than Bush. These raids show the reality of how this system works —no matter who runs it at any given time. When the political representatives of this imperialist system deem it necessary to use the tools of dictatorship—their political police, courts and prisons, in this case—they will not hesitate to violate the democratic precepts marked down in their Constitution....

The cold truth is this: The ruling class, and Obama, do not let rights supposedly guaranteed by law get in the way of what they perceive to be the interests of [U.S.] imperialism. But this does NOT mean that people should not fight for these rights. Far from it. What it does show is that we must struggle all the harder and without illusions against this repression, exposing both the cruel nature of the policies these raids are enforcing (and the interests behind those policies), and the ways in which these raids are totally illegitimate—a violation not only of fundamental rights and of fundamental beliefs of many, many people as to what is just, but of the actual laws as written.

Protests erupted last September when people in 60 cities across the country showed up in front of FBI headquarters and federal buildings in emergency protest rallies. Since then there have been rallies and many other forms of protest nationwide, including statements from progressive religious groups and union resolutions—all condemning the grand jury investigation. The Chicago Teachers Union recently passed such a resolution. Nationwide protests were held on January 25 to coincide with the date those subpoenaed were ordered to appear before the grand jury. This attack by the government must be defeated. The stakes in this are indeed very high.

1. See the article "Holder v Humanitarian Law Project: A Supremely Bad Supreme Court Decision," Revolution #221, October 15, 2010, which discusses the draconian court decision that upheld and strengthened a federal statute granting the government expanded powers to ban and punish what it—the government—deems or defines to be material aid to foreign terrorist organizations. [back]

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Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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January 25 Protests Against the Grand Jury Witchhunt

On January 25, protests against the Chicago federal grand jury witch hunt were held in 50 cities from Tuscon, Arizona and Dallas, Texas to Asheville, N.C., Rochester, N.Y., and as far away as Kiev in Ukraine, according to online reports. The largest demonstrations were in Minneapolis and Chicago where activists have been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury.

In Chicago several hundred demonstrators protested outside the Dirksen Federal Building where nine people were scheduled to appear before the grand jury after receiving subpoenas last December. This brings to 23 the number of people who have been subpoenaed. Among these nine are six Palestinians, and all nine are Palestinian solidarity activists. Maureen Murphy, the editor of the online journal The Electronic Intifada and one of those subpoenaed, read a statement for the group that stated, "We will not participate in this fishing expedition."

There were no new developments reported at the demonstration in the legal situations of those subpoenaed.

The Chicago demonstration was also addressed by Sarah Smith and union representatives from the SEIU and Chicago Teachers' Union, as well as longtime Puerto Rican activists who in the past have been the targets of grand jury repressive persecutions. Palestinian and Puerto Rican youth joined the rally.

In Minnesota, the Anti-War Committee reports that more than 150 people gathered to show solidarity with those ordered to appear on January 25 in Chicago. Jess Sundin, whose home was raided in September, spoke to the fact that all 23 people subpoenaed have stated their intention to not cooperate with the grand jury: "We will not do anything to help with the prosecution of fellow activists for violations of an unjust law—the law banning what they call 'material support to foreign terrorist organizations.' This law criminalizes simple acts of solidarity that should be protected by our constitutional rights to freedom of association, speech, travel and dissent. These freedoms are also protected under international law." (Quoted in online accounts of the Minnesota demonstration.)

There were reports of intimidation and harassment of demonstrators in some cities. In Chicago, the press conference was booted out of the official press briefing area inside the federal building—an act that one mainstream media cameraman said he had never seen before. Activists in other cities reported obvious monitoring, including an online account that in Memphis, three FBI/JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force) agents showed up at the office of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center to supposedly "let them know there was going to be 'antiwar activity' going on." The agents left after it was pointed out to them that it was Mid-South Peace and Justice Center's event! Later two Memphis participants were sought for bench warrants by local sheriffs, with one subjected to a search of every room with guns drawn.

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Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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Defend Dr. Frances Fox Piven!

After more than a year of sustained vilification of and emotional provocations against Frances Fox Piven by Fox News commentator and Tea Party hero Glenn Beck, Dr. Piven has become the target of very serious, and very vicious, threats against her life.

"ONE SHOT... ONE KILL!"... "Why is this woman still alive?" "Maybe they should burst through the front door of this arrogant elitist and slit the hateful cow's throat." These were among dozens of open threats to Dr. Piven's life that were allowed to sit for weeks on Glenn Beck's website, The Blaze. Meanwhile, Glenn Beck has only continued to fuel the invective atmosphere of violent anger against Piven through his ongoing distortion of her work and his open mockery of those who have expressed concern for her safety.

This situation is extremely serious. It fits exactly into the pattern of high-level demonization of progressive individuals that has led to the assassination of numerous abortion providers, the endangerment of the lives and destruction of the careers of countless progressive academics, the growing violence against Democratic Party officials, and the chilling of progressive and radical political discourse and political activism much more broadly.

It is important that numerous prominent individuals and highly regarded organizations have stepped forward to hold Fox News and Glenn Beck responsible for, and to denounce and demand the end of, the danger they have put Dr. Piven in. This positive development must be built upon, with many more individuals, institutions and organizations joining together to have Dr. Piven's back and to draw a firm line of distinction between debate and engagement, even vigorous criticism or the insistence that individuals accused of serious crimes against humanity be tried and held to account, and an atmosphere of personal demonization and invective aimed at putting someone in danger of illegitimate and/or extralegal persecution or assassination.

Who is Frances Fox Piven?

As a basic rule, it is imperative that whenever someone is targeted by someone like Beck (or Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly, or numerous others), by other "more liberal" major media, or by the government outright, that no one simply accept the way that person's views or activities are characterized by those vilifying them. By Googling Frances Fox Piven's name and taking some time to read her views as put forward in her own words, one will both gain a much deeper sense of just how dishonest the methods of people like Beck are and will help set a standard so that attacks from fascists provoke people to engage the ideas and people who are under attack, rather than distancing themselves and assisting in their silencing.

Frances Fox Piven is a professor of political science and sociology at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York and former President of the American Sociological Association. She is highly regarded for her scholarship on welfare and the poor as well as on the impact of social movements; and she is widely recognized for utilizing her standing and reputation as a voice of conscience and for mobilizing people to act against poverty and against political repression. Piven was also a very early and consistent opponent of the U.S.'s unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Glenn Beck's alternate universe, Frances Fox Piven is a violent "enemy" of ordinary Americans who, together with her late husband and colleague Richard Cloward, is somehow responsible not only for the recent economic collapse, but for the supposed infiltration of the administration of Barack Obama with "revolutionaries," as well as an accelerating push from outside the administration to "flood the system with impossible demands so that the system will collapse and a new one can form." Beck sometimes "substantiates" his claims by plucking out of context certain phrases and concepts of Piven's (many of which had to do with her encouragement to the poor and disenfranchised to mobilize politically to demand their rights), completely distorting them, and pairing them with images, implications, and motivations that are wholly of his own making. Other times, Beck doesn't even bother with these contortions, simply referring to Piven as "one of the nine most dangerous people in the world."  As the New York Times recently put it, Piven's "name has become a kind of shorthand for 'enemy' on Mr. Beck's Fox News Channel program, which is watched by more than 2 million people, and on one of his websites, The Blaze."  ("Spotlight From Glenn Beck Brings a CUNY Professor Threats," New York Times, January 21, 2011)

Through both distorting and exaggerating the influence of this alleged "Piven-Cloward strategy," Beck accomplishes at least two things.

On one level, Beck is working to undermine the legitimacy of the Obama presidency by painting Obama as either a conscious agent of radical socialist transformation of America or at minimum an unwitting stooge of this "socialist" take-over. This is an utterly ridiculous claim: Barack Obama is the extremely conscious executive presiding over the world's most powerful and vicious capitalist-imperialist empire. Everything Obama does—from waging war on people in Afghanistan and other countries, to the U.S. where the Obama Justice Department is ordering FBI raids on the houses of those who dissent from those wars, to his machinations with the economy and health care—is calculated to defend and extend the interests of the U.S. capitalist-imperialist class. There is nothing socialist or communist about Barack Obama. But Obama, on the one hand, and forces represented by Beck on the other, have some very sharp differences over how to do that, and this accounts for Beck's attacks on Obama as "socialist" or "communist." There is, in other words, method to the seeming madness.

On another level, by singling out an individual like Piven (or others before her) Beck is whipping into a frenzy, training and increasingly unleashing a fascist social base to take into their own hands the silencing of those who would challenge the injustices, crimes and oppression intrinsic to American capitalism. This must be taken very seriously indeed.

Even where these kinds of vicious and sustained attacks on individuals do not result in actual assassination, they create an atmosphere in which it is difficult in the extreme—if not completely impossible—for those targeted to continue their lives and their work. We have witnessed this in the way that Ward Churchill was targeted and illegitimately driven from academia and in the way Bill Ayers and Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Van Jones were turned into political caricatures and pariahs. All of these individuals have received death threats and for each of them this danger is still real; but even if this doesn't happen the message has been sent not only to them but to millions of others. Watch what you say. Watch who you associate with. If you step out of line, if you speak unpopular truths, if you associate with others who challenge the status quo, this could happen to you.

The Need to Defend Piven and Widen Political Discourse and Resistance

Against this rising tide of threats and invective, it is extremely important that people are pushing back. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued a letter, sent by its Legal Director Bill Quigley and Executive Director Vince Warren, to Fox News president Roger Ailes insisting that CCR is a vigorous defender of the right to free speech but that there is no place for the "intentional repetition of provocative, incendiary, emotional misinformation and falsehoods [that place that person] in actual physical danger of a violent response." They ask Ailes to "stop the Fox and Beck generated threats on Professor Piven." (CCR Press Release, January 20, 2011) The American Sociological Association (ASA) issued a statement that read, in part, "Scholars of [Piven's] caliber, intellectuals of her stature, and especially those who tackle social conflicts and contradictions, mass movements and political action, should stimulate equal levels of serious challenge and creative dialogue. Being called by Glenn Beck one of the 'nine most dangerous people in the world,' and an 'enemy of the Constitution' is not a credible challenge; it is plain demagoguery." (ASA Press Release, January 24, 2011)

At the heart of this and in the face of extreme pressure, Frances Fox Piven has insisted that she will not be intimidated or silenced. As she put it in an interview with The Nation, "They're trying to shut the left up and make them hide. So, I think that every bit of public outrage we can muster against them is useful... I'd like more and more re-assertion of the politics being attacked... We need to stop letting the right peel us off." (The Nation, January 25, 2011)

Indeed, if Piven and others who are targeted are allowed to be isolated, demonized and silenced—and worse—it would not only be a grave loss of an important and bold voice of conscience but would only encourage the fascists to target another and yet another, all the while deepening the freeze that is growing over political discourse and essential political resistance.

Instead, we must seize on this moment and the beginning momentum to rally together against this attack. We must not only find the ways to insist that the hateful personal vilification and provocations towards violence against Piven and others cease, we must find the ways to lend practical support to those who are made to feel unsafe in their homes, at their jobs, and throughout their lives for their progressive or radical political views. We must insist on, and find the ways to make real, the ability of those who are so-targeted to not only be safe but to have the ease of mind and functioning necessary to continue their work. Through doing this we must embolden others to know that if they raise their heads to question, to speak out, and to resist they will not be alone. We must insist that—living as we do in a nation that is inflicting murderous and unjust wars around the world, under a system that is causing irreparable harm to the environment itself, in a country where one in eight Black men in their 20s are incarcerated and one in four women are raped or sexually assaulted—it is not only our right, it is our responsibility to look deeply into the causes of all these nightmares, to engage with dissident and radical thinkers, and to dream and work to make real a radically different future than what exists today.

Finally, we must understand that defending those under fascist and illegitimate governmental attack is not a distraction from our struggle to bring a better world into being, it is a living part of how we will get there and of the kind of world we want to achieve.

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Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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Revolution Interview with Investigative Journalist Andy Worthington

The Outrage of the Bush-Obama Military Commissions

According to recent news reports, the Obama administration is getting ready to conduct a new series of Military Commissions trials for a number of prisoners being held at the U.S. torture camp at Guantánamo. These Military Commissions, begun under George W. Bush, basically deprive defendants of all rights, and have been part of the whole new level of fascistic repressive measures since 9/11. Revolution talked about the background and the new developments around the Military Commissions with Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the U.S.). His website is


The Revolution Interview is a special feature of Revolution to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own, and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.


Revolution: Before we get into the new developments, can you give us some background on the Military Commissions—what they are, their beginnings?

Andy Worthington: What they are, is a specific type of military trial that has been used throughout American history. It was most recently used in the Second World War, in the cases of certain Nazi saboteurs. And when the Bush administration was fishing around for new ways to deal with people it had captured, in the early days of the "war on terror," then it came across the Military Commissions, specifically as they were used in the Second World War. These were established through a "military order," which was passed with virtually no oversight from anyone, signed by President Bush on November 13, 2001.

The background story to that is that it was essentially hustled through a couple of departments in the White House without anybody really seeing what was going on. Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell later said that he'd not even heard about this, that he saw it on TV. This was essentially the document that established the notion of "enemy combatants" and said these guys can only be tried by Military Commissions, and evidence that would not be permitted in normal courts will be able to be used. I think what was obvious from that document to people who were looking closely was that it was an attempt to set up show trials that would be able to draw on evidence derived from torture and then execute people the administration said were guilty.

It then took quite a while for the administration to be able to put the trials in place. Even before anything had gotten going, in 2003 and 2004, a number of prosecutors resigned because they realized this was a bent system. During 2004 and the following year, 10 people were charged. There were various pretrial hearings that were held, but they were all shambolic. Pretty much everything that has ever taken place in a Military Commission hearing as part of the "war on terror" has been shambolic because the rules are so ill-defined, there are so many holes in all the procedures. And this went on until June 2006 when the Supreme Court ruled that the military commissions were illegal. They actually ruled that they contravened the Military Code of Justice and the Geneva Conventions.

So having been thrown out, the Bush administration then went to Congress to revise them. And in that amended form, they have had a second phase of activity. I think it's quite important to note that at this point, Congress invented war crimes that were tryable by Military Commission. So although the initial idea of having Military Commissions for alleged terror suspects came from Dick Cheney and his chief legal advisor, David Addington, when it was revised by Congress, Congress specifically attempted to make war crimes out of crimes that are not recognized as war crimes, such as "murder by an unprivileged belligerent."

So at the start of 2007 the Military Commissions were back. From then until the end of the Bush administration, they again stumbled on from one disaster to another. Twenty-eight men were put forward for trials by Military Commissions, but only three ever went to trial. The first of those cases was David Hicks, the Australian, and a plea deal had been arranged between Dick Cheney and Prime Minister John Howard of Australia. Hicks had been picked up on the radar in Australia—there was a movement around the injustices against him. So there was a deal that was struck that was supposed to help get John Howard reelected. It failed. But Hicks was "encouraged" to file for a plea deal, whereby he spent another six months in prison back in Australia, in exchange for admitting to "material support for terrorism"—which is one of the key ingredients in federal court terrorism prosecutions, but is one of the invented "war crimes." It's not traditionally been viewed as a war crime.

The second case in the summer of 2007 was Salim Hamdan, who was one of a number of drivers who worked for Osama bin Laden, a Yemeni who had taken the job for money. The military jury in his case threw out the conspiracy charge, correctly understanding that one of the many guys who drove bin Laden around wasn't privy to any secrets, although they did find him guilty of "material support for terrorism." The jury gave him a five and a half year sentence but the judge back-dated that to the time of his capture. He was a free man five months after that.

The only other case under Bush—the week before the presidential election in November 2008—was Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, a Yemeni who had made a propaganda video for al-Qaida, which he admitted to. Al-Bahlul refused to take part in the process at all. As a result he was not represented legally, because lawyers are not allowed to represent an unwilling client, and even though the military was pushing his lawyer to do so, he refused to take part. So they had a trial for a week, which was a completely one-sided trial because he refused to mount a defense at all. And at the end of that, almost on the eve of the presidential elections, he was found guilty and sentenced to life—in Guantánamo, which he is serving. So that is the background under Bush.

Revolution: Stepping back a little, looking at the Military Commissions under Bush, wasn't this a significant departure from the legal "norms" in the U.S.? In the history of the U.S., there have been many instances of politically motivated cases and injustices, especially involving people who those in power see as threats, or oppressed people on a daily basis. But still, the Military Commissions represented a major leap in repressive measures—in throwing out basic rights, allowing torture, and so on.

Andy Worthington: Well when they were brought back by Congress, there was an attempt by Congress to say that the use of torture wouldn't be allowed. The fundamental problem with the Military Commissions is that terrorism is a crime, but the Bush administration, and now the Obama administration, were trying to prosecute people in military settings for crimes, which they were trying to turn into war crimes. And that's the fundamental misconception about the whole thing, why it doesn't fit together.

Revolution: Barack Obama campaigned with pledges to shut Guantánamo down and stop the Military Commissions, among other promises. So what has happened under Obama?

Andy Worthington: He suspended the Military Commissions on his first day in office in order to review them, and on his second day in office he also issued executive orders that promised to close Guantánamo within a year, upheld the absolute ban on torture, and promised humane interrogations of detainees in the future. However, in May 2009, he delivered a major national security speech at the National Archives, where he put Military Commissions back on the table. He also put the indefinite detention without charge or trial of some prisoners back on the table as well. And all the dreams and hopes that he was going to either charge or release prisoners, and if charged, try them in federal courts began to unravel at that point. So that's a simple answer, that on May 2009 he was told, or persuaded to change his mind.

Revolution: So what about these recent reports that Obama is planning to ramp up the Military Commissions again?

Andy Worthington: What's happened under President Obama is that very little was happening for the first 18 months—there were hearings still going on, but the plan was that the administration wanted to have both federal court trials and Military Commissions. In May 2009 the administration moved one man from Guantánamo, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani to the U.S. mainland (and he was sentenced to life without parole in federal court last week). However, in November 2009, when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused in involvement in the 9/11 attacks would be brought to the U.S. mainland to face trial, the backlash against that meant that the administration shelved its plan.

That refusal to follow through on its initial statement meant that it gave Congress time to pass a law prohibiting it, which is what lawmakers did just before Christmas, when they passed legislation preventing President Obama from bringing prisoners to the U.S. mainland to face trial. So Obama's only option is Military Commissions, but their history, under Obama, has not been better than it was under Bush. Last summer, when I think they had been hoping that federal courts and Military Commissions would be coexisting, they reached the trial phase of Ibrahim al-Qosi, another peripheral figure in the al-Qaida picture, really, a man who from what I can see sometimes was a cook in the compound that was sometimes used by Osama bin Laden. So, you know, pretty tangential to everything. When the administration was faced with the prospect of actually going ahead with a trial, it pushed for a plea deal instead. We don't officially know how long he's going to serve but the rumor is that he'll serve two more years and then go back to Sudan.

And in autumn there was the trial of Omar Khadr, the former child prisoner from Canada, who also accepted a plea deal. And he's apparently serving eight years, one more year in Guantánamo and seven in Canada. That was a total disgrace because he was a child when he was captured after a battle in Afghanistan.

Revolution: He was also tortured in Bagram prison in Afghanistan and threatened with rape...

Andy Worthington: Absolutely. Was tortured. Was never treated as a juvenile prisoner should be treated according to the UN Conventions on the rights of a child in war time—which the U.S. signed after his capture, signed in January 2003, and which require the rehabilitation rather than punishment of juveniles who are under 18 when the alleged crime took place. Plus Khadr had to confess to invented war crimes, that he was an "alien unprivileged enemy belligerent" who was not allowed to be in a combat situation with U.S. forces. It was "illegal" for him to do so. That's just a complete disgrace. But, unperturbed [laughs] the administration has now announced—it hasn't been officially announced, but it has been indicated that they're revving up to hold more trials by Military Commissions at Guantánamo. There are four guys we've been told about, who are likely the ones who are going to be put on trial.

Revolution: One of them is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and it has been openly acknowledged that he is one of the detainees that the U.S. tortured with waterboarding. And one of the outrageous things about the Military Commissions is that so-called evidence obtained under torture and hearsay evidence can be used against the defendant, who has no way of challenging them.

Andy Worthington: Yeah, absolutely. And the administration has tried to fudge this. When in November 2009 Holder announced the apparently imminent prosecution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men, he also said that the Military Commissions are officially back, and here are five guys that we're going to put on trial, and he tried to distinguish between the two systems by saying Military Commissions are more connected with activities that took place in the military context, claiming that, in al-Nashiri's case, which allegedly involved the attack on the USS Cole [in 2000], was a military target, whereas they were saying 9/11 was a civilian target. I don't think that really stands up to scrutiny because as you've indicated, what lies behind this are issues of evidence. And what they've actually done is decide what they think they can get away with in whatever forum. And it's part of the reason that, the more confident they are, then they'll go for a federal court trial, where torture evidence is definitely excluded, and hearsay evidence isn't going to wash. They've got more leeway in the Military Commissions.

And of course, beyond the federal courts and the Military Commissions, there is a third category of people—those they want to hold indefinitely without charge or trial, because they have said: we think these people are too dangerous, but we don't even have the evidence that would stand up in a Military Commission—i.e., they really don't have anything resembling evidence at all. So it would all have to be hearsay. And yes, it's troubling that they rely on hearsay because it's so much tied in with the torture program, essentially. Not just the "high-value detainee" program and extraordinary renditions and CIA secret prisons where torture was clearly central, but the fact is that torture permeates so much of the way in which the men were held and interrogated in Afghanistan before they went to Guantánamo. So in Kandahar and primarily in Bagram, as in Guantánamo itself, where there was a regime in place, certainly for two years, that was a version of the torture program that had been used by the CIA in their secret prisons. It didn't involve waterboarding, but it did involve torture.

Revolution: How many prisoners are there currently at Guantánamo, and what are their conditions of imprisonment?

Andy Worthington: There are 173 men being held at Guantánamo. In general, conditions improved under Obama. This doesn't apply to all of them. There are still some men held in solitary. In general though, they have been allowed to mingle more and to have some recreational facilities. Although recently we've heard from prisoners, who have unclassified phone calls with their lawyers, that there's something going on there, that they're actually moving people back into spending more time in isolation. But there has been in general an improvement, which I think has indicated that they're in it for the long haul.

After all, Guantánamo's purpose as an interrogation center is long gone. That was the whole point, really, about what the Bush administration wanted, was to hold people outside the law, so that it could do whatever it wanted to do to them, to get what it described as "actionable intelligence." It wasn't concerned with what the hell it was going to do with these people, and it wasn't concerned with prosecution. It was about intelligence. And sadly what happened was that when people didn't tell them what they thought they should be telling them, whether that was because they were withholding it or they were completely wrong people, then they introduced torture, having fooled themselves into thinking that torture was going to be a good way of getting the truth. But it doesn't necessarily get you anything even resembling the truth, or you can't separate the truth from fiction. You end up accusing someone falsely, kicking so many doors down in the middle of the night, and dragging off to dungeons other people whose name was divulged because someone's been tortured, not because they did anything. That web of where torture leads is absolutely horrible.

Revolution: There are still U.S. prisons, in Afghanistan for example, where people are still being held in conditions of torture...

Andy Worthington: There's the prison in Bagram. There are persistent stories of a secret prison that is part of Bagram. And I think it's very credible that, although there has been in general an effort to learn from a lot of the mistakes of the Bush administration, operationally there are certainly people who find it useful to have some leeway in how people can be treated. And I think more fundamentally the problem that is demonstrated by Afghanistan is that Bagram, which is the main prison for the ongoing U.S. operations in Afghanistan, is not a place that has been returned to the rule of the Geneva Conventions. It's a place where people are held for a significant amount of time without any adequate screening to determine whether they should be there and then are given a review which actually resembles the review process at Guantánamo, which the Supreme Court found inadequate in 2008. The military is not operating according to the Geneva Conventions. That's the kind of major change that happened, I think, that hasn't been addressed.

The more disturbing aspect is that around the edges of this amended military detention scenario are people that are kept off the books for a while completely so that they can be leaned on a bit. We're dealing definitely with torture. All the stories demonstrate that we're dealing with torture. The magic word for most people with torture is: were they waterboarded. Well that's not the issue here, really. It's people that have been subjected to prolonged solitary confinement and sleep deprivation, for example. That's a form of torture.

Revolution: Are there any other points about these reports of new Military Commission hearings we should be aware of?

Andy Worthington: What we know is that the administration initiated a Task Force when Obama came into office. They spent a year going through all the Guantánamo cases, deciding what to do with them. This involved officials and lawyers from government departments and agencies—I describe them as pretty sober set of career officials—who carefully went through what information they could about the men held to decide what should be done with them. Now I have a problem with that because there's already a legal process underway, which is their habeas corpus decisions. President Obama had set up essentially a kind of executive parallel review process. So I have a problem with that anyway, but this is their basis for deciding what to do with the men held.

And they said, of the 173 men held—and bear in mind three of the ones are held because of the results of their Military Commissions—they want to put 33 men on trial. They want to hold 48 indefinitely without charge or trial. And the rest ought to be released. And so clearly, there's a big problem—89 men recommended for release who are still held. Another big problem—48 men held indefinitely without charge or trial because any evidence against them you can't use, so it's not evidence. And that's a fundamental problem. Thirty-three men are supposed to be put on trial. So are they going to give up on holding federal court trials? Are they possibly going to, as has been suggested, use Justice Department funds to bypass Congressional ban on bringing prisoners to the U.S. mainland using the Defense budget and put them on trial?

The trial of Ghailani, which resulted in a jury convicting him of only one count out of 285, was portrayed by the supporters of the Military Commissions as a failure. I mean, if you have not been paying attention, you could think that the man was acquitted. He wasn't. That one charge carried a maximum of life without parole. And last week the judge sentenced him to life without parole. That also proved to Obama's critics that the federal courts are a safe venue for prosecuting terrorists. I think it's easy to say that actually it also demonstrated federal court trials are too successful because they deliver punitive sentences. Because if you survey the whole landscape of terrorism-related offenses prosecuted in federal courts, there are very, very worrying sentences being handed down for people doing virtually nothing, receiving enormous sentences.

But if they want to proceed with these trials, of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for example, and the four other men in a venue that will be internationally recognized, if they want to attempt to draw a line under the whole of this "war on terror," which started because of 9/11, and here are the guys who are supposed to have done the whole thing—are they going to do that? Or are they going to accept that, no it's too unpopular to do that, just leave them in Guantánamo, and we'll start picking away at people, one by one, and put them on trial in Military Commissions and see if that works? I don't quite know which course of action they're going to take. But first of all they're going to have to get through the trials of the men they've put forward.

We've spoken about al-Nashiri. But another of the three other men they've put forward—Ahmed al-Darbi, picked up in Azerbaijan—seems to also have a history that's replete with torture, particularly in Bagram, probably in the secret part of Bagram that was running under the Bush administration. One of them, to me, is completely pointless—a minor insurgent, if anything, in Afghanistan, an Afghan named Obaidullah. What on earth is going on here, with an attempt to prosecute him? We'll have to see how it goes. My feeling is that they will carry on trying to secure plea deals in these Military Commission trials, as it's the only venue where they can do trials at all at the moment. And it may be that, if you look on average at how the Commissions have worked out, they're actually working out better for the prisoners in terms of getting out of Guantánamo than any other way.

Revolution: Aside from the individual cases of these prisoners, there is the overall moral and legal implications of the continuing existence of Guantánamo, of indefinite detentions, and so on.

Andy Worthington: I don't know how it's possible to shift the discussion to where it should be. But all of this, whatever Obama has tried to do the last few years, has really failed to shift the structure of detention, from what was so falsely established by the Bush administration. This is a new kind of thing in history. We're not dealing with soldiers. We're not dealing with criminals. We're dealing with a new category of human beings who don't deserve to have any rights, the "enemy combatant." Now Obama dropped that terminology. But when they want to put the people in Guantánamo on trial in Military Commissions as we saw with Omar Khadr, they have to be declared by a judge to be "alien unprivileged enemy belligerents," which they think is more in spirit with the Geneva Conventions. But again, it's a legacy of this fundamental problem that hasn't been addressed, which is, there is not a third category of prisoners, there are only two types of people that you hold. They are either criminal suspects and you put them on trial—speedily, I believe, is an important aspect of that—or they're prisoners of war, they're soldiers who you've captured in wartime, whether they're wearing a regular uniform or not, and that's it.

There's an enormous resistance to going back to the world that existed before 9/11 in that sense. The Bush position is ferociously defended by numerous Republicans now. But it's also essentially, fundamentally defended by the Obama administration as well, however much they may try to dance around that—and if challenged, they would probably talk about how this isn't about projecting into the future, this is a legacy problem they're trying to deal with, and under the terms of this legacy problem, that detention situation exists. They could redefine people as prisoners of war protected by the Geneva Convention. Then we could all be debating about how long the war lasts and how long it's appropriate to hold these men.

So it's a disastrous confusion, really, the position we're in now, with all these different factions fighting their own corners, and the people in Guantánamo ultimately being the losers. If they're cleared for release, they're not going anywhere. If they were recommended to be put forward for trial, then one avenue for trial has been cut off, the other one doesn't look promising. Then behind that are men to be held indefinitely without charges or trial, which was exactly what the Bush administration intended in the first place. And however that's dressed up, that's not fundamentally any different either.

I hope that at some point we will be able to push the debate onto these issues of scrapping the whole terminology that underpins detentions in the war on terror and get back to an understanding that people are either criminals or soldiers, and that's the end of the story.

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Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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a spoken word piece from Bob Avakian

We are excited to announce the upcoming online release of Bob Avakian's "All Played Out," a powerful spoken word poem. Avakian's heart and soul, outrage and humor, poetic spirit, and confidence in the masses to make revolution—transform the planet and themselves—comes out in this challenging declaration that the world really doesn't have to be this way, and we can make and live in a radically different and better world.

On January 25 be challenged and inspired.

YOU are needed to spread this!


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Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

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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 #224, February 6, 2011

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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 #224, February 6, 2011

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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 #224, February 6, 2011

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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 #224, February 6, 2011

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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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