Revolution #267, May 1, 2012

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

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Revolution #267, May 1, 2012




Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

Celebrate May 1st 2012
BA Everywhere—Imagine the Difference It Could Make

May Day is the revolutionary holiday when people come together all over this tortured planet and declare their determination to fight for a world fit for human beings, a world free of all forms of exploitation and oppression, without slavery in any form.

This May 1 takes place at a time when people have begun to raise their heads—the upheavals in the Arab nations, the Occupy movements, and now what has been unearthed by the murder of Trayvon Martin—but the revolutionary communist vision, movement and leadership of Bob Avakian is still not widely known. The BA Everywhere campaign is a very dynamic initiative to change all that, to make the vision and works of BA a powerful material force in the world—and we are aiming to make a major advance forward in this campaign to raise big money to get BA into all corners of society in the four days from April 28 to May 1. People are raising their heads in struggle—and they badly need the communist vision and strategy, and the leadership of BA and the Revolutionary Communist Party.

During these four days, on the holiday on which people all over the world celebrate revolution, we're going to get the most thoroughly internationalist vision and leadership that exists out to thousands, and actively engage hundreds and hundreds in learning about it and wrangling with it. BA has built on the internationalist foundations laid by Karl Marx and, based on the experience of the first wave of communist revolutions and continued wrangling with new developments in the world, strengthened those foundations and taken that understanding further. The quotes in this issue give a sense of that. Let's get these quotes way out there—and get into them yourselves. And go deeper into the readings from which they are drawn.

May Day 2012

Let's get all this out to hundreds and thousands of people who've never heard of this on April 28. That day, boldly decorated car caravans will travel through large metropolitan areas and smaller cities. When they stop, teams of people will pour out, holding mini-rallies on street corners... spreading the word about BA, selling BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, and distributing this special edition of Revolution newspaper. And raising money! April 29, lively celebrations filled with culture will draw together lots of people and raise even more money.

A key focus throughout these four days: raising funds for the BAsics Bus Tour. Buses with eye-catching decorations tour the country. On board... a crew alive with revolution and a vision of a new world—and on a mission to spread BA's voice to those hungry for it in outlying areas. Reaching youth and people of all ages who are fighting the power. Going to places where outrages are going down. Going to the inner cities and out to college campuses. Getting out BAsics, showing the film of Bob Avakian's talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About in community centers and out in the open.

After its recent successful pilot launch in California, the BAsics bus is going to take it higher. In the coming months, BAsics buses will spread out to different parts of the country. Beginning in Atlanta in early May, a bus will head out and roll into the thick of the struggle in a particularly hot area in this country. Let's maximize the electrifying impact this tour can have. Aim now to raise the full $20,000 needed to put the BAsics bus on the road again.

May Day will be in the air this year when the Occupy movement re-mounts the stage with protests refusing to accept the world as it is. On May 1, rally and march with internationalist contingents in the protests called for by Occupy and join in strengthening the struggle against those who would suppress this movement. Join in spirited contingents drawn from those fighting against mass incarceration and the new Jim Crow; fighting for immigrant rights; struggling against U.S. intervention around the world; working to save the planet; demanding a stop to the global war on women—all marching together with revolutionaries who are working to build a movement for revolution and are bringing Avakian's vision and revolutionary strategy for a radically new society and world into the struggles and discourse today.

Building for Four Defiant Days

Leading into these days, let's renew our relationships with everyone we've been in touch with during this past year—and let's get them into this holiday celebration! Everyone we know should buy tickets and come to the fundraising get-togethers on April 29... and be part of building a real revolutionary community. Everyone we know should have a chance to contribute to the April 28 car caravans and street-corner mini-rallies. Everyone we know should know that people will be standing up again around Occupy on May 1 and that there will be an internationalist contingent that they can be part of.

Let's really involve people in every way they can in making May 1 itself a day of revolutionary internationalism—through building and strengthening the Occupy demonstrations; marching in internationalist contingents, and getting out Revolution and other forms of revolutionary ideas in those demos, even as we are uniting with people there to fight the power... through talking in classes and using the internationalist quotes from BA to do that... through posting those quotes in different places all over... through tweeting them or Facebooking them, etc.

A critical, vital point in all this: Way too often those at the core of this movement give people the materials of our movement, but don't give them ways for sustained involvement that takes into account the demands of their lives but also enables them to see how they can be part of building the movement for revolution now. This Thursday (April 26), a card will be posted at with the ways that you can build the movement for revolution. Everyone who is taking up this campaign should get this card out very broadly, but even more than that—we should, all of us, be thinking of how we are going to give the people we are meeting ways they can contribute to this movement... ways to be part of the thousands who are reaching and influencing millions in a revolutionary direction.

Let's set goals—for the distribution of this special issue of Revolution newspaper, for the number of Revolution talk DVD's and BAsics we sell, for the amount of money to be raised—very importantly—the number of people we raise that money from... and let's make sure these goals amount to a leap past what we have done before, and will put our movement in a much stronger place as we prepare to go much further in this campaign in the next three months.

Connect With This Campaign

Whatever you can do and wherever you are, you can make your time, effort and energies count! Your creativity, participation and support is needed to make a truly big difference in the world right now.

If you are reading this paper for the first time—or if you are a regular reader—make a financial contribution to BA Everywhere. That's the first step. And on the occasion of May Day 2012, connect up with this campaign to raise big money at your local Revolution bookstore, or at, or write to RCP Publications, PO Box 3486 Merchandise Mart, Chicago, Illinois 60654. Let's work together to spread the word about BA and to raise funds.

If you hunger for a world free of oppression, then you have a stake in getting BA Everywhere. If you are sick about the direction this society is taking and hate the way the powers-that-be are trying to shut down critical thinking, and... if you feel that thousands and millions need to be debating the big questions of what kind of society is possible and how society should be organized, you need to make this campaign your own. Be part of changing the atmosphere, bringing the fresh wind of the possibility of a whole new world, attracting people's deep hopes for humanity and outrage at the world as it is... stirring up controversy, deep engagement, and critical thinking. Join with others and involve people in different ways in the mass campaign: BA Everywhere! Imagine the Difference It Could Make! This is needed now more than ever, and if this is accomplished, it will make a very big difference.

To Donate to BA Everywhere, click here:




Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

Plans for Four Defiant Days, April 28-May 1


New York

April 29, Sunday, 2 - 6 p.m.
Celebration and Rally. Come to Marcus Garvey Park. Richard Rogers Amphitheatre. Speakers, lively discussion, spoken word, food and more. Bring a dish to share or $10 donation in advance. For more information: or, 718-664-4164.

Join with people across the country. Decorated truck & foot caravan in upper Manhattan putting Bob Avakian, his work and vision of a different world, before thousands. Bring drums, whistles, your voice.
11:30am, 181st St. & St. Nicholas, Washington Heights, NY (A Train to 181st St. & Fort Washington), then 2:30 p.m., 125th St. & Amsterdam, Harlem, NY (1 Train to 125th St. & Broadway)


Los Angeles

April 29, Sunday, 2 - 6 p.m.
Panel discussion on the anniversary of the LA Rebellion, at Revolution Books, "It's Right to Rebel Against Injustice" with Erin Aubry Kaplan (author of Black Talk, Blue Thoughts, and Walking the Color Line : Dispatches from a Black Journalista), Michael Slate (writer for Revolution and KPFK radio host), and Frank Stoltze (reporter at KPCC). $10 donation.

April 29, Sunday, 7 p.m.
BA Everywhere Fundraising Concert "It's Right to Rebel Against Injustice" with Outernational; other performers to be announced. $20. Fais Do-Do, 5253 W Adams Blvd., L.A., CA 90016 (Special offer: panel discussion and concert: $25).



Saturday April 28
Car Caravan to West Side and South Side
Leave from Revolution Books at 12:15 p.m.
Meet at Revolution Books at 11:30 a.m. We will be leaving at 12:15 p.m., headed to the heart of the Westside at Madison and Pulaski. We will have a mini-rally in the area of Madison and Pulaski at 1:00 p.m. From there we will snake through the city to Hyde Park and the University of Chicago.
We will be spreading the word about BA, selling BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, and distributing this special edition of Revolution newspaper. And raising money!
Call the volunteer coordinator 312-860-8167 for an update on our location if you wish to join along the route.

Sunday, April 29,  6 p.m.
Fundraising Dinner to Celebrate May Day and A Different and Far Better Future
Union Star M.B. Church, 3915 W Chicago Ave, $10 donation
Food, Music, Spoken word and more.
Join us as we celebrate the campaign to project BA, his voice and his work way out into society—far beyond what it is today. Be part of this fundraising campaign and be part of an evening that unleashes and develops imagination, defiance, and community.

May 1st 2012
Join the INTERNATIONALIST Contingent in the May 1 Occupy and Immigrant Rights Rally and March
11 a.m.—Join us near the corner of Washington & Ashland. Look for the big Red Flag
12 noon Rally at Union Park
1501 W Randolph St Chicago
1 p.m. March to Federal Plaza



April 29, Sunday, 6 - 7:30 p.m.
The BAsics Bus Tour is going to hit the road again. After its successful pilot launch in California, the BAsics bus is going to take it higher. It's leaving from Atlanta in early May and we need you to help raise the $20,000 needed. Join us for conversation, food and phone-banking as we gather to raise funds together for the BAsics Bus Tour. Place TBA. Check for details.



Wednesday, April 25:
Come into Revolution Books anytime between 3 - 8 p.m. to pick up copies of the special May Day issue of Revolution newspaper, and get tickets for the May Day fundraising BBQ. 
Saturday, April 28, 11 a.m.:
Car Caravan! Meet up at 11 a.m. at W. 65th, between Clark and Storer—in the parking lot of the old Kmart. We will be boldly decorating cars for a city-wide car caravan to get out BA Everywhere! Some of the stops will be at Occupy downtown and the rally to Stop the War on Women in University Circle, and neighborhoods around the city. We want to seize on every opportunity to put BA, his works and vision, before thousands, raise money for BA Everywhere! and distribute BAsics broadly around the city. 
Sunday, April 29, 3 - 7 p.m.:
May Day fundraising BBQ and celebration, 3 - 7 p.m. At Rockefeller Park Lagoon Shelter, on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, between Wade Park Ave & E. 105. Good food and lively discussion will go together with clips from BA’s talk Revolution, Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, music, spoken word—including BA’s “All Played Out”—and more. Tickets are $10 for individuals and $20 for families.  Tickets available at Revolution Books or from your Revolution distributor. Be there for the announcement of summer plans to make new advances in BA Everywhere.
Monday, April 30, 3 p.m.:
3 p.m. at Revolution Books—Banner-making for an internationalist contingent the next day at Occupy's May 1st rallies and marches. We'll also be doing phone banking to fundraise for BA Everywhere!
Tuesday, May 1:
A Day of Fighting the Power and Transforming the People for Revolution!  Gather at Occupy site on Public Square for May 1st rally and be part of the Internationalist contingent.



Saturday, April 28—Austin Tx
Noon, Meet up at the Kerbey Lane Café, 2606 Guadalupe St, to promote BA Everywhere and raise money for the BAsics bus tour along the Guadalupe strip at UT
Join with us in distributing Revolution and putting Bob Avakian, his work and vision of a different world, without the oppression of women, before all those fighting against the war against women's right to reproductive health care.
7 p.m.:  Get-together at the Spiderhouse Café:   2908 Fruth St., Austin 78705 (a few blocks north of UT campus):  Discuss the big questions, and bring your thinking about and contributions to the bus tour

Sunday, April 29—Houston
6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.  May Day Fundraising Potluck Dinner & Celebration @ 2805 Witchita, Houston, TX  77004 (a block north of Southmore, between Delano and Ennis)
Bring a dish. $ 10.00 Donation requested. Celebration and fundraiser for the  BAsics Bus Tour 

Tuesday, May 1: MAY DAY!
Join in organizing Internationalist Contingents at the following May First events under the slogan:  INTERNATIONALISM: THE WHOLE WORLD COMES FIRST
7 a.m.:  Occupy Houston March and Rally in Downtown Houston. Gather at Eleanor Tinsley Park on Allen Parkway
8 a.m.—March to City Hall.
5pm—Houston United March and Rally for Immigrant and Worker Rights. Gather at 5900 Bellaire Blvd. and march to Bayland Park for rally. 





Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

Damián García ¡Presente!

Damian GarciaApril 22 marks 32 years since Damián García was murdered while building for May 1st, 1980 in a L.A. housing project, as a police agent stood nearby. Damián’s killer declared, “You hate the government, I am the government, your flag is red, mine is red, white and blue.” Just a month before this towering injustice, Damián had climbed on top of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, tore down the U.S. and Texas flags, raised the red flag of revolution and internationalism. The Alamo is a hated symbol of the war on Mexico and the theft of its land, which was a key part of the expansion of the U.S. and its development into an imperialist power. The assassination of Damián García was not only an attack on the Revolutionary Communist Party and the building for revolutionary May Day 1980 in particular, but also for that inspiring internationalist act at the Alamo.





Revolution #267 May 1, 2012


A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

Manifesto - English

Table of Contents

I.     The Long Darkness—and the Historic Breakthrough

II.   The First Stage of Communist Revolution

III. The End of a Stage—And What Conclusions Should, and Should Not, Be Drawn from this Historical Experience

IV.   The New Challenges, and the New Synthesis

V.    Communism at a Crossroads: Vanguard of the Future, or Residue of the Past?

VI.   A Cultural Revolution Within the RCP

VII. Conclusion: A Challenge and a Call

Available in English, Spanish, Turkish, Farsi, and now in German from RCP Publications, P.O. Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654. $5 + $1 shipping. A draft translation into Arabic is now available online at

We envision a movement of people working to produce high-quality accurate translations in many languages which can then be distributed around the world on the Internet and in print. We invite your comments. Send them to RCP Publications, Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654 or




Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

May Day 2012

We are presenting on these pages a selection of quotes from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, that focus on the questions of internationalism and communist revolution as a worldwide process. These quotes from BAsics draw from more than 30 years of work by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. BAsics addresses a wide range of questions on revolution and human emancipation and is a handbook for a new wave of revolutionaries.
Posters available in PDF for download: p5 | p6-7 | p8-9 | p10-11 | p12

BAsics 5:8

Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First!

Bullets, From the Writings, Speeches, & Interviews of Bob Avakian,
Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA,

BAsics 2:3

Now let’s imagine, let’s step out of this world that they keep us chained in. And let’s imagine what this future can and will be like.

When we finally get to the final goal of communism, there won’t be the relations of exploitation and oppression that are so commonplace and that mark all of society today and that we are told over and over again are just the natural order of things and the way things have to be. As Karl Marx pointed out, the communist revolution leads to what we Maoists call the “4 Alls”—that is, the abolition of all class differences among people. The abolition or the end to all the production or economic relations underlying these class differences and divisions among people. The ending of all the social relations that go along with these economic or production relations. Oppressive relations between men and women, between different nationalities, between people of different parts of the world, all that will be put an end to and moved beyond. And finally, the revolutionizing of all the ideas that go along with this whole way, this whole capitalist system, these whole social relations. In place of this, what will be the guiding principles in society consciously and voluntarily taken up by people...not forced on them, but consciously and voluntarily taken up as the basis for having abolished exploitation, oppression and inequality? In its place will be collective and cooperative principles aiming for the common good and at the same time, within that, individuals and individuality flourishing in a way that has never been possible before.

Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About,
a film of a talk by Bob Avakian,
excerpt transcribed in Revolution #176, September 13, 2009

BAsics 3:8

The interests, objectives, and grand designs of the imperialists are not our interests—they are not the interests of the great majority of people in the U.S. nor of the overwhelming majority of people in the world as a whole. And the difficulties the imperialists have gotten themselves into in pursuit of these interests must be seen, and responded to, not from the point of view of the imperialists and their interests, but from the point of view of the great majority of humanity and the basic and urgent need of humanity for a different and better world, for another way.

Bringing Forward Another Way, Revolution #83, March 25, 2007

BAsics 1:3

The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.

Revolution #43, April 16, 2006

BAsics 1:5

It is not uncommon to hear these days, from government officials and others, that only 1 percent of the population is in the U.S. military but that this 1 percent is fighting for the freedom of the other 99 percent. The truth, however, is this: That 1 percent, in the military, is in reality fighting for the other 1 percent: the big capitalist-imperialists who run this country—who control the economy, the political system, the military, the media, and the other key institutions—and who dominate large parts of the world, wreaking havoc and causing great suffering for literally billions of people. It is the “freedom” of these capitalist-imperialists—their freedom to exploit, oppress, and plunder—that this 1 percent in the military is actually killing and sometimes dying for.

Revolution #220, December 19, 2010

BAsics 1:31

If you can conceive of a world without America—without everything America stands for and everything it does in the world—then you’ve already taken great strides and begun to get at least a glimpse of a whole new world. If you can envision a world without any imperialism, exploitation, oppression—and the whole philosophy that rationalizes it—a world without division into classes or even different nations, and all the narrow-minded, selfish, outmoded ideas that uphold this; if you can envision all this, then you have the basis for proletarian internationalism. And once you have raised your sights to all this, how could you not feel compelled to take an active part in the world historic struggle to realize it; why would you want to lower your sights to anything less?

Revolution #169, June 28, 2009
(quote originally published 1985)

BAsics 2:12

The achievement of [the necessary conditions for communism] must take place on a world scale, through a long and tortuous process of revolutionary transformation in which there will be uneven development, the seizure of power in different countries at different times, and a complex dialectical interplay between the revolutionary struggles and the revolutionization of society in these different countries...[a dialectical relation] in which the world arena is fundamentally and ultimately decisive while the mutually interacting and mutually supporting struggles of the proletarians in different countries constitute the key link in fundamentally changing the world as a whole.

Originally appeared in Phony Communism Is Dead...Long Live Real Communism! 1992
(Second Edition, 2004). Cited in “Revolution and A Radically New World:
Contending ‘Universalisms’ and Communist Internationalism,”
#157, February 22, 2009

BAsics 1:14

Now I can just hear these reactionary fools saying, “Well, Bob, answer me this. If this country is so terrible, why do people come here from all over the world? Why are so many people trying to get in, not get out?”...Why? I’ll tell you why. Because you have fucked up the rest of the world even worse than what you have done in this country. You have made it impossible for many people to live in their own countries as part of gaining your riches and power.

Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible,
What It’s All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian

BAsics 1:29

This system and those who rule over it are not capable of carrying out economic development to meet the needs of the people now, while balancing that with the needs of future generations and requirements of safeguarding the environment. They care nothing for the rich diversity of the earth and its species, for the treasures this contains, except when and where they can turn this into profit for themselves....These people are not fit to be the caretakers of the earth.

Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible,
What It’s All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian

BAsics 3:20

There is nothing sacred to us about the USA, as it is presently constituted, or about the borders of the U.S. as they are presently constituted. Quite the opposite.

Revolution #84, April 8, 2007 (quote originally published 1982)

Excerpt from “A Statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party: On the Strategy for Revolution”

For those who have hungered for, who have dreamed of, a whole different world, without the madness and torment of what this system brings every day...those who have dared to hope that such a world could be possible...and even those who, up to now, would like to see this, but have accepted that this could never happen...there is a place and a role, a need and a means, for thousands now and ultimately millions to contribute to building this movement for revolution, in many different ways, big and small—with ideas and with practical involvement, with support, and with questions and criticisms. Get together with our Party, learn more about this movement and become a part of it as you learn, acting in unity with others in this country, and throughout the world, aiming for the very challenging but tremendously inspiring and liberating—and, yes, possible—goal of emancipating all of humanity through revolution and advancing to a communist world, free of exploitation and oppression.

This statement was written on the basis of drawing from key strategic principles set forth in
publications of the Revolutionary Communist Party—and in particular the works of Bob Avakian.
The entire statement is published in BAsics.





Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

20th Anniversary of the Los Angeles Rebellion

It’s Right to Rebel Against Injustice!

Twenty years ago, April 29, 1992, the city of Los Angeles, the second largest city in the country, erupted in rebellion. Black people, joined by Latinos and people of many nationalities and coming from many different backgrounds, poured into the streets and refused to silently accept the unjust verdict which had just been rendered in the trial of the cops who brutalized Rodney King. The major news anchors in the country sat tight-lipped and nervous while walls of fire raged on the screens behind them. People were shown dancing in the light of those flames, venting their anger, fighting the police whenever and wherever they encountered them.

At some point in the first ferocious hours of the uprising, the authorities decided to pull back many of their armed enforcers from the city’s neighborhoods, concentrating instead on protecting the key centers of power and wealth. As that first day rolled over into three days, the powers mobilized the largest domestic military occupation since the 1960s. Still, people moved with pride and their eyes shined with a mixture of rage and ferocious joy, a joy rooted in the idea that it’s right to rebel against injustice! And the 1992 LA Rebellion became the largest urban rebellion in U.S. history.

The Day the Sky Cracked Open

On April 29, 1992, it seemed like almost everyone in Los Angeles—along with many, many others around the country—were holding their breath.

Fourteen months earlier, Rodney King, a young Black man, had been pulled over for speeding. Twenty Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and Highway Patrol officers flooded the scene as a police helicopter circled overhead. In the ensuing minutes, at least seven LAPD cops mercilessly beat and Tasered King, crushing the bones in his face, breaking his teeth and ankle, and causing numerous lacerations and internal injuries. Other cops stood around laughing, egging their fellow pigs on, while still others sent racist radio messages to other cops. When they finally took King to the hospital, the officers openly joked and bragged about the beating.

Unknown to the cops, a resident across the street videotaped the whole savage assault, which was subsequently played over and over on the news. National and even international outrage spread.

The LAPD and its then-Chief Daryl Gates lashed back, mounting a massive media campaign to criminalize King and somehow justify the beating. They claimed King was on PCP (tests proved negative). They argued that the videotape didn’t show the whole incident, that King attacked them. But the anger was so widespread that prosecutors eventually charged four of the cops with excessive force to try to contain things.

Then, as the trial approached, a judge moved the case from downtown LA to the overwhelmingly white suburb of Simi Valley where many cops and ex-cops lived. Still, people were guardedly hopeful. THIS time the police brutality was caught on tape. THIS time what Black people knew happens all the time was documented and broadcast for the whole world to see. THIS time with the reality of what it means to be Black in America out there for all to see, millions felt the jury had no choice but to convict. Finally, there would be some justice delivered.

At 3:15 pm on April 29,1992, the jury decision was announced on live TV: “Not guilty... Not guilty... Not guilty” over and over again. Not a single officer was convicted of any crime!

People’s Anger Explodes

The verdicts were met with shock and disbelief, but also a deep anger. A young Black woman in the Crenshaw district described an empty, hollow feeling and a pain that went from the top of her head to the tip of her toes. In the Nickerson Gardens housing project a young Black man said, “It was almost like somebody took a shotgun and blew a hole through you but there was no blood and you was just sitting up there with a hole and you could see life going out of you.” Some of those considered the “hardest” people in the projects were standing out on the sports field with tears of rage coming down their faces.

Within less than an hour, people were gathering on street corners, outside stores, in front yards all over the city. Some had homemade signs, others simply screamed out their denunciation of the acquittals. Shouts of “No Justice, No Peace” and “Fuck tha Police” filled the air.

Hundreds and hundreds spontaneously gathered downtown in front of LAPD headquarters. A traffic booth in the parking lot went up in flames. Local news pictured glass doors and windows being smashed as cops in riot gear lined the inside of the building. At one point demonstrators tore down a U.S. flag and set it on fire. News reports said that cars were flipped over and torched, including at least one police car. The crowd surged through the downtown area, attacking symbols of power from City Hall, to the courthouses, to the LA Times building.

Over the next several days, the media reported that crowds attacked the Military Induction Center in the Crenshaw district, that the DMV building in Long Beach was torched, and that there was a firebombing of the probation office in Compton. Police set up concrete barricades surrounding many stations.

Florence and Normandie

Some of the earliest and fiercest fighting broke out at the intersection of Florence and Normandie in South Central LA. Dozens of angry people had come to the area after hearing about the verdicts. Cops reported that they were met with hostile looks and shouts almost as soon as the verdicts were announced.

Twenty to 30 cops came into the area, brutally assaulting several youth and busting anyone who spoke out. By this time the crowd had grown to 100. The cops, outnumbered, drew their batons. Reports said that rocks, bricks and bottles began to rain down on the cops. Within minutes they broke ranks, scrambled into their cars and retreated.

Once the police had been run out of the area, people took their protest to the main intersection. Shops were broken into and set on fire. People began to lash out at white, Latino and Asian people driving through the intersection, including the televised attack on white truck driver Reginald Denny that the authorities later seized on to try to deliver the verdict that the rebellion was nothing but senseless and criminal, and characterized by violence aimed at innocent people.

Before long the live TV coverage of the scene at Florence and Normandie, combined with thick columns of smoke visible for miles, helped spark outbreaks elsewhere.

A Multinational Rebellion

Much of the initial action was in heavily Black areas in South Central. A veteran of the 1965 Watts Rebellion described driving through whole neighborhoods that were “on the verge.” A young sister talked about how this was the first time in her life she was proud to be Black. But as the upsurge spread, it created a huge opening through which the suppressed anger of many nationalities burst forth and a deep, palpable and almost universal rage swept through the communities of the oppressed.

Latinos in huge numbers joined the upsurge. This was especially true in areas like the Pico-Union district west of downtown and parts of Hollywood with heavy concentrations of immigrants from Mexico and Central America. Tens of thousands swept into the streets and up against the authorities. Crowds mocked the cops and immigration police wherever they gathered. TV news showed store windows being smashed, buildings being set aflame, and people taking everything from kids’ shoes to Pampers to furniture.

There were reports of white and Asian youth joining in as well, often together with the Black and Latino masses.

Overcoming Divisions Among the People

As the rebellion unfolded, the mainstream press worked to whip up antagonisms between different nationalities, painting the whole rebellion as a “race riot” of Blacks against Latinos, whites, and especially Korean store owners.

It is true that many of the small liquor and convenience stores looted and burned in South Central and in the Pico-Union/Hollywood areas were owned by Koreans, and many Korean people wrongly stood with the system instead of the people. Long-standing divisions between Blacks and Latino immigrants were (and are) consciously promoted by different powers-that-be. Mouthpieces for the system worked to channel the people’s anger over being locked down in ghettos with no jobs, over racist discrimination and daily deprivation, and over being criminalized as a people and being set against other peoples and nationalities.

But what stood out is how people of different nationalities and races overcame these conflicts in the midst of the rebellion, how they stopped blaming and fighting each other—and how they came together in resistance to this system. A middle-aged Black man’s face lit up as he talked about the rebellion. “I felt the same way all our people felt when we blew up. Equality wasn’t in my favor for a long time now. Look, we are tired of this. People all over felt the same way in their hearts. Not only people in LA, but people all over the country. Not only people of color, but a lot of white people too.”

The graffiti on the walls told much of the story—”Bloods + Crips + Mexicans,” “4/30/92 Together Forever,” “Rodney King No Mas,” and later “Yankee Go Home.” In the midst of this, the idea of revolution was in the air—and was warmly received. “Revolución es la Solución! Revolution is the Hope of the Hopeless” appeared on the walls.

There were reports of Black youth coming into the mainly Latino immigrant neighborhood of Pico Union, opening up storefronts, and calling on the Latino people to take what they needed. And one of the most under-reported incidents during the rebellion was a demonstration of 300 to 400 Korean-American students outside City Hall demanding the resignation of then-LAPD Chief Gates and the federal prosecution of the cops who beat Rodney King.

The rebellion also drew support from many middle class and better-off sections of society. Filmmakers, actors, musicians, professors, playwrights and poets spoke out in support of the people and against the verdicts. Hundreds of UCLA students rallied on campus in support of the rebellion and many made their way downtown and to the neighborhoods to stand with the people.

Gang Truce

Just before the rebellion erupted, a truce was worked out by warring gangs of Bloods and Crips. The truce suspended more than a decade of brutal and senseless fighting and killing among the people. A new situation was established and it gave strength to the rebellion, especially in Watts.

For years the cops complained about “gang violence” and used it as justification to carry out wholesale attacks on Black and Latino youth. Now that the youth were beginning to overcome their differences and to think about fighting against their common oppression instead of each other, the authorities moved hard to shut the truce down. There were hundreds of unity meetings and parties in the weeks after the rebellion, and each one was attacked and broken up by the pigs.

Extent of the Rebellion

By the time the rebellion peaked, hundreds of thousands had taken part, predominantly people from impoverished Black and Latino communities. Black and other oppressed people and a wide range of others rose up in 79 other U.S. cities, inspired by the people in LA. And the rebellion was greeted with tremendous enthusiasm and excitement by people around the world.

The rebellion was finally put down, but only with the help of more than 20,000 armed enforcers of law and order. It was one of the largest military forces ever marshaled in the U.S. against a domestic uprising. There were 5,000 LA cops; 9,975 National Guard troops; 3,313 federal military troops; 2,323 Highway Patrol officers; and 1,950 federal agents from the FBI, ATF, the Bureau of Prisons, immigration police and Border Patrol.

Fifty-three people were killed, mostly Blacks and Latinos. The police admitted killing 11 of them but the actual number murdered by cops, vigilantes or other reactionaries is probably much higher. People like Cesar Aguilar, who was held in a mass arrest and then shot in the back because he refused to lower his head, or DeAndre Harrison, Anthony Taylor and Dennis Jackson shot by police in the Nickerson Gardens housing project. Or Louis Watson, an 18-year-old Black graffiti artist shot by an “unknown gunman” as he stood in a store window passing out food to people in the street. More than 12,500 people were arrested, and 1,500 immigrants were turned over to immigration police.

Struggling to Sum Up the Rebellion

In the aftermath, one of the main ways the authorities tried to go after the rebellion was the prosecution of the LA4—four young Black men charged with the attack on white truck driver Reginald Denny at Florence and Normandie. While the judge, prosecutor and mainstream media tried to railroad them to prison, the jury would not go along and delivered not guilty verdicts on nearly all of the charges. In a heroic development, when Denny himself took the stand he called for no jail time and expressed some real understanding of what led to the rebellion. The Los Angeles Times quoted Denny: “Everyone needs respect.... And as soon as you take a group of people, and put them on a shelf and say they don’t count. Let me tell you, they count in a big way.... It’s hard saying what those guys have gone through." The RCP joined with a wide range of people to mount a campaign to defend the LA 4. “Free the LA4+! Defend the Los Angeles Rebellion!” and “No More Racist Pig Brutality!” were two of the slogans.

Yes, people made mistakes during the outbreak and some went after the wrong targets in the course of the rebellion. These kinds of errors are bound to happen whenever there is a major social upheaval. But the overwhelming aspect was that people saw the system let the cops off scot-free and they rebelled!

As Bob Avakian said in a statement on the LA Rebellion shortly after it broke out: “This Rebellion was the most beautiful, the most heroic, and the most powerful action by the masses of people in the U.S. for years and years. It sent shockwaves throughout the U.S. and around the world, striking fear and panic into the oppressors and causing the hearts of oppressed people everywhere to beat faster with joy and hope.” (Excerpt from a statement by Bob Avakian “Revolutionary Greetings to All the Sisters and Brothers Who Have Risen Up in Righteous Rebellion in L.A.!”)

What Created the Conditions for the Uprising?

The authorities say that “the people only hurt themselves by destroying their own communities.” One Black man at the time spoke to this directly, “They all talking about how could we just go and destroy the communities we live in. Well, to me it’s more like these are the communities we are dying in and that’s why we have to destroy them.”

The rebellion came after decades of suffering and impoverishment. Dozens of factories had closed down and moved overseas, leaving tens of thousands unemployed. And it went far beyond economic devastation.

In 1987, the LAPD announced “Operation Hammer,” an all-out assault on Black and Latino youth in the name of a “war on gangs and drugs.” There were more than 50,000 arrests in three years. On a single weekend in 1988, the cops arrested 1,453 people. Only 60 of those were for felonies; charges were filed in only 32 cases. One notorious incident was when 88 cops ransacked two apartment buildings in South Central, taking sledge hammers to TVs and toilets, destroying clothing and furniture, spray painting the walls with “LAPD Rules” and leaving the apartments uninhabitable.

The acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King was the match, but decades of oppression and suffering was the tinder that fueled the explosion.

It’s Right to Rebel Against Injustice

Benefit Concert On the Occasion of the
20th Anniversary of the L.A. Rebellion

It's Right to Rebel Against Injustice!
Sunday, April 29, 7 pm, $15
Fais Do-Do, 5253 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles

• Outernational • Funeral Party • Others TBA

Sponsored by Revolution Books/Libros Revolución
Discount tickets available.
323-463-3500 •

Benefit for BA Everywhere! Imagine the Difference It Could Make, a campaign projecting Bob Avakian's works and vision of revolution and human emancipation into every corner of society and radically changing the atmosphere.
On the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the L.A. Rebellion
It's Right to Rebel Against Injustice!

SUNDAY, April 29, 2 pm
At Revolution Books/Libros Revolucíon, $10
5726 Hollywood Blvd. @ Wilton, Los Angeles

A Panel Discussion with:
*ERIN AUBRY KAPLAN, author of Black Talk, Blue Thoughts, and Walking the Color Line. She has covered Black issues as a journalist for 20 years, including nine years as a staff writer for the LA Weekly, and two years as a weekly op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

*MICHAEL SLATE, author of "Shockwaves" and "Aftershocks"—an unparalleled coverage of the 1992 L.A. Rebellion. He is a regular contributor to Revolution newspaper, and the host of The Michael Slate Show on KPFK.

*FRANK STOLTZE, an award-winning radio journalist who covered the L.A. rebellion from the streets, former news director at KPFK, and currently news reporter at KPCC.

*Possible additional panelists TBA.

Sponsored by Revolution Books/Libros Revolución. For more info: 323.463.3500.
RevolutionBooksLa@gmail •

Twenty years after the LA Rebellion, the system's “official verdict” is that this was at best a tragic and costly mistake and at worst an orgy of violence pitting one nationality against another, fueled by people who just saw this as their chance to “get some” for themselves. We’re told that the “national dialogue” should be centered on how we can prevent another “LA Riot” from happening.

But rebellion was an entirely appropriate response! That’s just a fact. It punched a hole in the mythology that this is “the greatest country in the world” and let light shine in on the reality. If people don’t fight back against the brutality and degradation they are continually subjected to and the system that spawns them, nothing will ever change. And because they rose in rebellion, the have-nots on the bottom of society put their message out in a way no one could ignore.

The rebellion showed the tremendous strength of the oppressed when they rise up against their oppression. It forged real multinational unity—as well as unity across class lines—as Blacks, Latinos, Asians and white people came together to fight injustice. And as people fought, big questions about the cause of all the suffering, how to end it and what kind of world do people need were discussed and debated in ways that hadn’t happened in decades.

And just think what it would be like if the LA Rebellion had not happened—if people had quietly accepted the verdicts or just had some safe, business-as-usual protest. The repercussions of that would have been terrible—crushing the spirit of the people and strengthening the system. Instead, it established a new pride and dignity among the people.

Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution

The anniversary of the1992 LA Rebellion is something that oppressed people everywhere, and all those who stand against injustice, should celebrate. It was a righteous uprising against a terrible, degrading and dehumanizing situation. This kind of spirit and refusal to go along with the continuing crimes of the system is exactly what is needed today.

This world is a horror, but it does not have to be this way. Another world is possible. If you really want to change things—if you want to finally do away once and for all with the outrages like the murder of Trayvon Martin, or the systematic incarceration of millions or any of a thousand other outrages that go on each and every day under this system—you have to get rid of the system itself, through revolution, here and wherever this system stretches its tentacles and is in force all over the world.

And revolution is possible... and, as the Message and Call from the RCP “The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have” says: “ IS the time to be WORKING FOR REVOLUTION—to be stepping up resistance while building a movement for revolution—to prepare for the time when it WILL be possible to go all out to seize the power.” (Revolution #170, July 19, 2009)

Times of unrest and rebellion among the people who most of the time feel powerless to struggle against the thousands of ways this system oppresses people are times when people can see things in another way. The nature of this system is more clearly revealed, its legitimacy can get called even more sharply into question—and the possibility of a whole different and better way becomes real in new ways. These are times when leaps can be made in building up the movement and organized forces for revolution.  




Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

Bob Avakian and the New Synthesis of Communism: The International Dimension

The following is from a speech given at various locations around the country in the spring of 2008, titled "Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: WHAT IS BOB AVAKIAN'S NEW SYNTHESIS?" It has been slightly edited for publication.

Now again, I need to give a little background. Marx and Engels called on the workers of the world to unite. The material basis for that call was that capitalism had not only ushered in the epoch of modern nations and nation-states but the existence of the world market; and that the proletariat was a single international class and had to transcend the division into nations, as well as classes, in order to reach a world without antagonisms between peoples.

By the late 1800s monopoly had come to dominate the advanced capitalist countries, and banking and industrial capital had merged into huge financial blocs; these nations had begun exporting not just goods, but capital itself to the less developed nations. They were building factories and railroads in those countries and drawing them into "modern life" in a new way. Competition among the great powers for spheres of influence intensified, as did militarism and war to back that up; and all this has continued and intensified down to today, through the two world wars—which together took over 60 million lives!—and then the triumph of the U.S. in the so-called Cold War against the Soviet Union. Production today is more than ever international in character; but ownership, control and organization of capital is still rooted in separate, and contending, nations—and these nations are still basically divided into oppressed and oppressor.

Oppressor nations like the U.S. don't just plunder oppressed nations like Mexico. Instead, the entire economy of an oppressed nation is tightly integrated into the imperialist accumulation process on a subordinate basis—warped and disarticulated to serve that process. Crises now find expression as intense geopolitical conflicts over redivision of the world between the imperialist powers, conflicts that can erupt, and have at times erupted, into conflagrations—as they did in the two world wars. These wars posed heightened opportunities for revolution... though if you were empiricist or positivist, it appeared to be the opposite, since at the outset of World War 1, for instance, the whole movement, with the notable exception of the Bolsheviks led by Lenin and a few other forces, collapsed into betrayal.

At the same time, these wars performed the function of "classical crises" under capitalism: the destruction of the old framework of accumulation, which had become too fettering, and the forging of a new one. Avakian led in deepening Lenin's analysis of imperialism and this too ruptured with what had become the dominant line in the communist movement—a view that imperialism was in a general crisis and was headed straight to collapse.

Based on this, Avakian developed the principle that the class struggle in any particular country was more determined on the international plane than by the unfolding of contradictions within a given country somehow outside of, or divorced from, that context. The revolutionary situation that enabled Lenin to lead the Bolsheviks to seize power arose out of an international conjuncture of world war that radically affected the situation in Russia and enabled a breakthrough to be made; Lenin's internationalism and his qualitatively deeper grasp of materialism and dialectics enabled him to see this possibility when, initially at least, everyone else in the leadership opposed the idea of going for revolution. Similarly, the Chinese Revolution occurred in a specific international context of World War 2 and invasion from Japan.

Now you can pervert this to mean that you can't do anything if the international "balance of forces" is unfavorable. That's not true—and revolution, or even revolutionary attempts, within specific countries can radically affect that balance of forces. But you are playing in an international arena, and you have to understand the dynamics on that level; the "whole" of the imperialist system is greater than the sum of the separate nations that make up its individual parts.

So you can't understand it from "my country out"—and doing it that way is another example of positivism, by the way. And you can't see internationalism as something that you "extend" to other countries; the whole world has to be your point of departure. You have to come at revolution in "your" country as your share of the world revolution. Communists do NOT represent this or that nation; we're (supposed to be) about eliminating all nations, even as we know we're going to have to "work through" a world where there will be nations for a long time yet to come, even socialist nations, and where there will have to be a whole period of first achieving equality between nations in order to transcend them. But through that whole period, the communist movement has to keep its "eyes on the prize" of a world community of humanity, and relate everything it does to that.

Ironically, if you do come at it from "my country out" you will miss the real possibilities of revolution in the particular country in which you happen to be located. You won't see how unexpected upheaval in this or that part of the world, or this or that aspect of the system can afford openings that can be seized upon. You'll be mentally landlocked, so to speak, in nationalism, and you won't even see the basis to wage a successful struggle for national liberation. And that landlock has been part of what's led to conservatism and, even worse, capitulation in times of great danger... but, yes, times in which there has also been great potential for revolutionary advance.

This whole wrong approach was consolidated in the context of a situation in which the Soviet Union came into being encircled by antagonistic imperialist powers attempting to strangle it, climaxing in the Nazi attack which took over 20 million Soviet lives. Defending the first socialist state was a real necessity. But this defense existed in contradiction with—in relation to—the necessity to advance revolution in other countries at the same time. In failing to recognize or denying the existence of this contradiction, the Soviet Union all too often sacrificed, or tried to sacrifice, the revolutionary struggle in these countries to its own defense. And this same blind spot sort of persisted, frankly, in Mao even as Mao was overwhelmingly internationalist in his basic orientation. If you don't recognize this as a contradiction, and if you don't come from the foundational fact that imperialism has integrated the entire world into one and that the revolutionary process is an integrated, worldwide process—even as different countries have their own discrete, if interrelated, revolutions—you won't have a chance of solving this.

Avakian was far from facile or scholastic in his criticism; he insisted on a full appreciation of what the socialist states actually faced. But on that basis, he delved into what they thought they were doing and why, and made a searching criticism of their theoretical understanding.

As part of that, Bob Avakian developed the principle that the proletariat in power must "put the advance of the world revolution above everything, even above the advance of the revolution in the particular country—build the socialist state as above all a base area for the world revolution." He also very importantly formulated the principle that revolutionaries have to at one and the same time seek to make the greatest advances possible in building the revolutionary movement and preparing for a revolutionary situation in all countries, while also being alert "to particular situations which at any given point become concentration points of world contradictions and potential weak links...and where therefore the attention and the energy of the proletariat internationally should be especially concentrated." Here I will refer people to several works in which this is deeply gone into—Conquer the World? The International Proletariat Must and Will and Advancing the World Revolutionary Movement: Questions of Strategic Orientation.

Beyond that, Avakian upheld and deepened Lenin's understanding that the division of the world between imperialist powers and oppressed nations had given rise within the imperialist powers to a section of the working class, and an even bigger section of the middle class, that not only benefitted materially from the parasitism and plunder of imperialism, but came to politically identify with their imperialist masters. He followed out Lenin's point on the need to therefore base yourself among those sections of the masses that did not benefit so much or were, in any case, more inclined to oppose imperialism. And this means that communists have to be willing to be unpopular and to go against the tides of national chauvinism within the imperialist countries—whether it take the form of really nasty outbreaks or pogroms, or the equally murderous form of passive complicity.




Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism

An Interview with Bob Avakian


Click here to download in PDF.





Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

Taking to the Streets on April 19: NO to Mass Incarceration!

On April 19, in cities around the country, people took to the streets to BREAK THE SILENCE in response to the reality that "Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide." What is the significance of these actions? And why do many more people need to join this movement?

The U.S. has the highest rate of imprisonment of any country on earth: 2.4 million people in jail or prison, almost one person per 100. Nearly five million more under "supervised control"—on probation or parole. Black and Latino people, who are 30 percent of the U.S. population, are over 60 percent of those in prison. One in nine young Black men are in prison. Twenty-nine percent of Black men will be imprisoned at some point in their lives. In New York City, nearly 700,000 people were subjected to stop-and-frisk by the NYPD last year—87 percent were Black and Latino. More than 90 percent of them were not even alleged to be doing something wrong when the police stopped them.

For decades now, the U.S. government has waged a "war on drugs"—really a war on the people—and hundreds of thousands have been jailed for simple possession. A whole section of society, for whom this capitalist system cannot provide any real future, has been demonized and criminalized. The criminal INjustice system treats the youth as "suspects," guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence; racial profiling is routinely carried out by the police and anti-gang injunctions target Black and Latino youth. And those who get out of prison are denied job opportunities, access to public housing, food stamps, government loans for education, the right to vote, and more.

This amounts to nothing less than slow genocide—that could easily become fast genocide.

This must be opposed with determined resistance. As Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party has written:

"People have to change their thinking about incarceration—millions no longer accepting the justifications for this and millions of the oppressed also breaking with thinking there's nothing to be done about it and/or it's really their own fault.... But this can't be accomplished by exposure alone, or by a focus on exposure around how unjust this is. Much more exposure is needed... the key to changing people's thinking about incarceration comes down to unleashing and guiding a mass movement that engages in determined resistance to the outrage of mass incarceration. This movement needs to be aimed at making this a dividing line question in society, one that everybody has to look at, re-evaluate and develop an opinion and a stand on."

Speaking Bitterness

On April 19, people stepped forward to speak bitterness about what mass incarceration means for those behind bars, their friends and families—and about those who are brutalized and murdered by the police.

In Chicago, Gloria Pinex, the mother of 28-year-old Darius Pinex, murdered by the Chicago police in January 2011 (by the same cop who murdered Flint Farmer six months later)¸ spoke of her other sons, one just released from prison and another who had a felony weapon charge for carrying a screwdriver. She said, "I am not going away. I'm not afraid." In Houston, a Black woman talked about being in jail, her two brothers serving time, and a woman in prison for killing a man who had raped her. In Los Angeles, Revolution interviewed a Black man whose son is finishing a 19-year sentence for being the lookout in a robbery and has been in solitary confinement in California's infamous system of Security Housing Units (SHUs). In Seattle, a Native woman whose nephew was found dead in juvenile detention talked about how she worries for the lives of her sons on almost a daily basis. One former prisoner who was in San Quentin talked about how the guards pit people against each other and try to categorize people into rival gangs based on where they are from. At a speakout to build for April 19 at Skyline College in San Francisco, speakers included Cephus Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant who was murdered by BART cops in 2009, and Denika Chatman, whose son Kenneth Harding was shot eight times in the back after being chased by SFPD over a $2 bus fare. And many others then stepped forward to speak about their own experiences of being profiled, routinely disrespected, and sweated by cops.

In Harlem thousands were challenged to join the movement to end mass incarceration and to sign the "We Say No More" statement. One young man said, "I'm very aware that there's a New Jim Crow! We have to fight it!" After two hours, 160 people from Harlem had put their names on the statement.

Elaine Brower, from World Can't Wait and Military Families Speak Out, spoke at the rally in New York, describing herself as someone who lives in a white neighborhood in Staten Island. She said, "We are the freedom fighters. We are the new resistance and we have to keep going... I think of my brothers and sisters in the inner cities who suffer, who can't even go out of their apartment building. When I was in Queens, locked up there, I met women, they were in their bathrobes and slippers and pajamas because all they did was walk out on their stoop to have a cigarette and the police asked them for ID and they didn't have ID, so they arrested them. Since when do we have to have ID to stand in front of your apartment building to have a cigarette? What is this turning into, Nazi Germany?"

In Atlanta, a Black woman came up and said, "I know, I'm locked up myself," and then explained that she and several other women were out on work furlough for the day, and were getting on the bus to return to their lock-up transitional center for the night. She pulled back her sweater to show us the "Department of Corrections" shirt she was wearing. At another point a young white man introduced himself on the "people's mic" with his inmate ID number and said he had spent a year and a half in a juvenile jail for possession of marijuana. Throughout the afternoon, many people told stories of their own or their loved ones' experiences with the prison system.

A correspondent from North Carolina wrote: "People engaged in a way we had never experienced before, openly speaking bitterness about racism and the prison system. A mother spoke about the profiling that goes on in public housing and the fear she has for the safety of her children. A homeless man talked about how hard it was to get a job after getting out of prison. A young woman spoke about how scared she was because she had just been sentenced to prison for six months and was worried about her child. An older man talked about the racism he's encountered in his lifetime, and broke into tears. Another man said that 'even if you did good in prison, you'll never get a job again.' A high school student spoke about missing his father, who had been sent to prison in Arizona because the Hawai`i prisons are overcrowded.... An overwhelming number of people we met had family members or friends in prison and many were eager to tell their stories."

Just a Beginning—Many More Must Join

In New York, Revolution interviewed some of the new "Freedom Fighters"—arrested at non-violent civil disobedience actions against stop-and-frisk at police precincts last fall and winter—who spoke at the rally.

Randy Credico, political comedian, activist, and former director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, said, "It's really encouraging to see so many young people. That's the most encouraging thing to see, so many young people. Cause I can go home at night, and I'm wiped, and I'm not worried about being stopped and frisked. But these guys are hassled all the time. So they're really putting their life on the line. And it's really a very encouraging movement, that there's really something happening. And I am really proud, and I'm happy, or flattered to have been part of the beginning of this movement six months ago. We've made so much headway that this is now becoming an issue in the mayor's race. Everyone's talking about stop-and-frisk.... Where we were back then, it was a secret that everyone was just going along with. Now, the significance five and a half months later is tremendous. The gains, that's what's significant. I see it, by all of the news coverage, it's become the mainstream story, they can't ignore this any more."

Father Luis Barrios, associate professor in psychology and ethnic studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, and associate priest at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Manhattan, said, "The significance of what we're doing here today, one is that we're breaking the silence. The system really likes, and enjoys, and gets a lot of benefits when issues are invisible.... So this is a good beginning. We're breaking the silence. Stop and Frisk is a symptom of something bigger. This mass prison incarceration they like to do. Because after the Civil Rights Movement, you don't see that sign any more, that Blacks are not welcome, Latinos are not welcome. But there are all the ways to say you are not welcome, how to isolate you, how to disempower you, and incarceration is one. So we are denouncing this. But we also help people to understand, this goes beyond race. Race matters. But we are also saying class matters, gender matters when it comes to dealing with the issue of mass incarceration."

April 19 was a measure of the progress of this new movement against mass incarceration—eight cities participated with gatherings from 20 in Atlanta, to 60 in New York, to 100 in Los Angeles—and demonstrates how this is just a beginning AND how there is much potential for this movement to grow. There is a big gap between the numbers of people who came out and the vast numbers of people affected by mass incarceration as heard in the bitterness spoken out by the people. This anger, which represents the sentiments of millions of people, recently came to the surface with the murder of Trayvon Martin. And there is work to be done, with real potential, to close this gap and bring many more people into this fight to end mass incarceration.

In New York, Carl Dix spoke of the need for many more people to step forward and get organized and get involved:

"If we're gonna stand by and let them target Black and Latino youth, strip them of their rights, send them on a pipeline into prison, we're not going to be able to do anything about this system. We need to leave here on a journey going against the injustice that this society brings down, and today in particular, we're talking about mass incarceration. Let's fight together against this injustice and let's go as far as our principles will take us and then let's learn from each other and exchange as we carry out that fight. I went through a process like that about 40 years ago, and it led me to becoming a revolutionary and a communist. Don't put an upper lid on how far you can go, go as far as your principles can take you. Continue to learn about why this stuff happens, why it's coming down, and what we need to do to stop it."




Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

April 19 Reports: Day to Break the Silence—Say NO to Mass Incarceration!

Revolution received the following reports on April 19 actions to end mass incarceration.

New York City

New York City April 19, 2012 End Mass Encarceration
April 19, New York City - Photo: Special to Revolution

A very spirited crowd of 60 people rallied in front of the downtown headquarters of the NYPD—calling out the murder and brutality of the police, exposing how the official policy of stop-and-frisk serves as a pipeline to prison, and calling for an end to mass incarceration. (At the same time, another action was taking place uptown in Harlem.)

Several of those who spoke had been "Freedom Fighters"—those who had been arrested last fall and winter at police precincts carrying out non-violent civil disobedience protesting the stop-and-frisk policy. These included: Father Luis Barrios, associate professor of psychology and ethnic studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and associate priest at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Manhattan; Randy Credico, political comedian, activist and former director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice; Carl Dix, from the Revolutionary Communist Party; Debra Sweet, World Can't Wait; and Elaine Brower, World Can't Wait and Military Families Speak Out. Others also stepped up to testify about the brutality and murder of the police and the importance of the struggle to end mass incarceration.

The crowd included people from different walks of life—those who have or have had loved ones in prison; people who came to talk about how they or people in their family had been brutalized by the police; activists around police murder; youth and students; teachers and other professionals. Two older white women came from New Jersey¸ one of them a retired hairdresser, who got a flier for the protest in Central Park. They said they came because as one of them said, "This is something that affects everyone and there's lots of people in jail who don't belong there." They said they were new to this group but, "We're here to protest and build up the group and to just keep on going until some change is made."

During the march, there was lots of interaction with people along the route and more than 100 copies of Revolution were sold. At Union Square others joined the protest and gathered around for another rally and others stepped up to the mic to speak out and call for an end to mass incarceration.

Harlem, New York

The thousands who traverse the plaza around the Harlem State Office Building in the center of Harlem were challenged by an agitator on a milk crate painting a picture of why Silence + Mass Incarceration = Genocide and reading quotes from BAsics. A huge enlargement of the poster-style front page of Revolution #264 "Trayvon Martin—A Modern American Lynching" with the words "Black and Latino youth have been marked as a 'generation of suspects' to be murdered or jailed. We say NO MORE!" was at the corner and people were asked to sign the "We Say No More" statement. We found its message spoke deeply to people in Harlem. Many expressed that they know that the murder of Trayvon is just the latest incident, that there is no justice, and that they don't know what to do. Upon hearing the statement, it was striking the number of people who turned around, shaking their head in vigorous agreement, sometimes standing in line to sign it. Several people said that they'd "been looking for something like this." As one young man said, "I'm very aware that there's a New Jim Crow! We have to fight it!" By the end of two hours, 160 people from Harlem had put their names on the statement.

Carl Dix will speak in Harlem on mass incarceration next week and there was great interest in this. Over half of the signers said they would like us to contact them and most of these bought Revolution. A woman who had read the last two issues of Revolution said that she didn't agree with us on the god question but that we were the only ones speaking the truth about these issues. One man who had just been out of jail for a few months said that "even after paying your debt to society" the system treated you "as if you are stained." He said that he was very heartened to see how people were beginning to speak out.

In the morning at the high schools, we had passed out a quiz: "What do you know about mass incarceration?" which included info about the afternoon event. Some of these kids swung past in the afternoon. Since the murder of Trayvon Martin there has been a change of mood among high school and middle school youth. They feel this murder as an assault on them. They discuss the murder of Emmett Till not as something that happened in the distant past, but as part of the ugly history that is still being lived today, with great knowledge of detail. One 13-year-old said with outrage and determination in his voice as he signed the statement: "What do I think? I think that it's a terrible thing to live in a country where I face being killed every day and that there is no place that I can feel safe." It is clear that a lot of discussion is going on in school classrooms. A number of teachers very eagerly signed the statement and asked to be contacted. A couple of times teachers shepherding dozens of elementary or middle school students grabbed up leaflets and passed them out to the class themselves, and signed the statement.

There was one brother who joined in with us after spending some time listening to the agitation and reading BAsics. He said that BAsics had spoken to him with its clarity and passion. He said he'd joined us because he could see we were determined to struggle and felt compelled to take part. He said that he can understand in his heart how people are feeling: "Some people can't do that because they've been damaged so bad. Once you've given up, you're lost." He is firmly convinced that revolution is needed. He spoke of years spent in prison, and having seen so many friends lose their lives to the crack epidemic that was part of the system's assault on the Black community in the '80s.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles April 19 Stop Mass Encarceration
April 19, Los Angeles - Photo: Special to Revolution

In downtown Los Angeles, about 100 people gathered in Pershing Square to protest mass incarceration. There were men and women of all ages and nationalities, from high school youth to veterans of the 1960s. Some are active in the Occupy movement; others heard about the protest at church or in school. There were friends and relatives of people incarcerated, and those formerly incarcerated themselves.

One Black man, who'd gotten a flyer at a program featuring Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, said he had to come; his son was finishing a 19-year sentence (originally 26 years) he'd been given at age 16 for involvement in a robbery; a horror that included several stretches of a year at a time in solitary confinement in California's infamous system of Security Housing Units (SHUs). He said he felt honored to be there, and took part from beginning to end. Another Black man, age 30, managed to survive a 13-year sentence and was now working for a program that helped other former prisoners. He'd gotten a text about the protest and said he had to come.

After a brief rally, the demonstrators began marching to the nearby Civic Center, where government institutions that create and contribute to the huge California prison population are located. There were stops at the Criminal Courts Building, the federal detention center where immigrant prisoners are held, and a final rally at LAPD headquarters. Speakers included Rev. Richard Meri Ka Ra of the KRST Unity Center of African Spirituality, who also MC'ed the rally; a young speaker who has been involved in Occupy Everywhere (formerly, Occupy LA); Clyde Young, revolutionary communist and former prisoner; and Kendra Castañeda, whose husband is permanently incarcerated in one of the California SHUs.

California State University, Northridge Teach-in

On Tuesday, April 17, close to 90 people, overwhelmingly students, attended a teach-in on the campus of California State University, Northridge (CSUN), organized by the newly formed Stop Mass Incarceration Network at CSUN, made up largely of students in the Pan African Studies Department. The speakers came from a wide range of experiences and perspectives in bringing to the audience an understanding of the great crime of mass incarceration, and the need to stop it.

Professor David Horne, from the Pan African Studies Department at CSUN, situated mass incarceration in the history of slavery and then Jim Crow, talked about the role of overcharging; the criminalization of drug users who should be given medical help; and spoke to the fact that both Black and Latino youth have been and are being criminalized.

Professor Kelly Lytle Hernandez, professor of history at UCLA, drew on the work she has done in writing MIGRA!: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol, and Amnesty or Abolition? Felons, Illegals, and America's Unfinished Abolition Movement in speaking to the history of the criminalization of immigrants, and Latinos generally.

Belinda Ramos gave a moving account of what it means to have a son who was sentenced as a juvenile to 53 years to life.

And Clyde Young, a revolutionary communist and former prisoner, spoke powerfully of the connection between the murder of Trayvon Martin and the crime of mass incarceration. He talked about the urgency of building a mass movement to stop mass incarceration, pointing to the April 19 National Day of Resistance. And he argued that it will take a revolution to put an end to this, and the many other horrors whose root cause is the system of capitalism-imperialism.

A week earlier, CSUN students had written a letter to students across the country, saying in part: "As Students, we have a civic duty to stand against these kinds of injustices and step out in Resistance to Mass Incarceration! We would like to invite you to join scores of campuses nationwide on April 19 by holding rallies, teach-ins, walk-outs, sit-ins, or marching out into the community, to say that we are tired of being demonized and being treated like criminals."

San Francisco

San Francisco April 19, 2012 Stop Mass Encarceration
April 19, San Francisco - Photo: Special to Revolution

"There has never been an event like this at Skyline College. People have never opened up their feelings and experiences like they did today."

That's how one person summed up the very moving April 18 speakout on mass incarceration, organized to build for April 19. About 60 students at this junior college south of San Francisco gathered to hear about the dimensions and consequences of mass incarceration—and as they did, a number were moved to speak out about their own bitter experience. The rally, organized by two professors, was opened by Joey Johnson, a Revolution newspaper reporter fresh back from the Trayvon Martin protests in Sanford, Florida. Cephus Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant, then passionately condemned the institutionalized white supremacy that "legitimizes" racial profiling, and how this leads to mass incarceration and the epidemic of police murders of Black and Latino youth. He described how this ideology even found its way into his thinking: after his son received his teaching credential, he announced he planned to teach in inner-city schools in Chicago. "Why do you want to do that? You have a good education, don't you want to make money?"

Denika Chatman gave angry and visceral testimony to just one of the crimes of this system: the murder of her son Kenneth Harding—shot eight times in the back by the SFPD and allowed to "bleed out" after being chased by police over a $2 bus fare. Kenneth's uncle invoked his loss and the murders of Oscar, Trayvon and countless others to argue for the urgency of building the movement to Stop Mass Incarceration, and called for people to come out on April 19.

Students were challenged to step up to the mic. At first, no one stepped forward. Then one young Black woman came up and told the families how much she felt for them, and then added that as a mother of two young children, she was terrified for their lives. Her words were the crack in the dam of outrage and bitterness. Student after student told their stories, vented their feelings—police stops, profiling, just routine disrespect and "sweating" by cops.

One Latina student talked about how her son had been in and out of juvenile detention—where he was told he'd never amount to anything—who, in spite of all that, is about to graduate from college. But then last month, her husband, who is on parole and who has been labeled a "gang member," was seen by his probation officer in the "wrong neighborhood," while paying a utility bill. He was arrested and is now in back in prison. She said there is nothing that could keep her away from the next day's Stop Mass Incarceration rally. Many others pledged to come and stayed around at the end to make signs for the rally.

Revolution newspapers were grabbed up and copies of BAsics were sold. The MC read the quote ending with "no more of this, I say" and encouraged people that if they hate this shit and want to get out from under all this they need to get to know Bob Avakian.

The April 19 rally was held in downtown San Francisco—in front of the state government building, where numerous protests against California's notorious prison system and in support of prison hunger strikers have been held. About 50 people came out, including members of the religious community, longtime activists, urban youth and students—including a group of eight or so middle school students who had come on a field trip from out of state to study Occupy Oakland. They energetically joined the rally and the march through the Civic Center and then down Market Street. Some were seriously scanning through their copies of Revolution. One bought a copy of BAsics.

Speakers included Joey Johnson, Cephus Johnson, retired teacher, Jerry Elster, who works with All of Us or None, a retired government worker whose son is in prison, Brother Daniel from the Nation of Islam, a young rapper from Berkeley, and many others who wanted to speak bitterness. At one point, a young Black man from a local junior college who was videotaping the rally stepped forward to say a few words about being harassed and disrespected by the police. He later said it was the first time he had ever spoken out like that. "For a moment, I felt a bit of dignity. It's rare for a person like me to have that."


In Seattle, a small but significant gathering of people participated in the National Day to Stop Mass Incarceration by speaking out and holding placards in front of the King County Jail. Protesters included a broad array of people—people who have been in prison or had family members in prison, occupiers, those who worked in social services, anti-police brutality activists and revolutionaries. We read the "No More Generations of Our Youth" quote from Bob Avakian and it was electrifying. There was a Native woman whose nephew was found dead in juvenile detention. She worries for the lives of her sons on almost a daily basis. She held a sign that read "Mass Incarceration + Silence = Slow Genocide" and wanted to make sure every single car passing by saw it. Another white woman who was invited by somebody who had been participating in the Trayvon Martin protests said that her husband is Black and even though he has a good job, he is still treated like a criminal. He was arrested because a co-worker felt threatened by him. She works with "at risk youth" and is sick and tired of visiting them in jail because they have been racially profiled. One Latino former prisoner who said he had in San Quentin talked about how the guards pit people against each other and try to categorize people into rival gangs based on where they are from.

Blacks and Latinos make up only about 16 percent of the population in Seattle and it was shocking to see the largest concentrations of minorities around the jail. People going into the jail were very happy to see us. One woman, two of whose sons have been in prison, got two Trayvon Martin buttons and two Revolution newspapers; one for herself and one for her other son. Another woman visiting her son said that she was so happy to see us, her son was in jail but she didn't really know why. Her son has eye problems and they authorities had been denying him treatment. She said she had been praying for "something like this," referring to the campaign to stop mass incarceration and wanted to know when we were going to be out there next. Discussions broke out about Occupy Wall Street, where the source of mass incarceration comes from, the ugliness of the justice system and the need for revolution. People were talking at the end about how to mobilize people in their circles, friends and family members and co-workers and having a regular presence outside the jail.


A spirited protest, march, and speakout took place in Houston, beginning at an intersection where a housing project, Texas Southern University, and an inner-city high school come together.

A number of residents of the housing project participated in a previous speakout on the April 10 Day of Outrage around Trayvon Martin, and several of them built for the April 19 activities in various ways. People from Occupy Houston played a prominent role in the afternoon's protests, and a professor of Mexican-American studies, who had shown Carl Dix's speech on mass incarceration in his class, spoke in Spanish and led the group in chanting "mass incarceration + silence = genocide."

A Black woman spoke to the reality of mass incarceration for the masses when she related that two of her brothers were serving time, and that she had also spent time in jail. People were very moved when she spoke of a woman who went to prison for killing a man who had raped her. A number of students from the university as well as residents of the community engaged with the protest and hundreds of flyers got out as well as copies of Revolution. The day ended with a march to a police substation located nearby.


About 20 people gathered and several more joined in on the spot for a roaming speakout and street theater in downtown Atlanta during rush hour. Seven people donned orange prison-style jumpsuits with placards hanging from their necks "mug shot" style—but instead of numbers they read "Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide," "Stop Racial Profiling," "2.5 million in prison." This was a vivid and dramatic focal point of the action, grabbing the attention of hundreds of people downtown, with a determined spirit to break the silence and call for an end to mass incarceration. Engaging people coming in and out of the main train station, at several packed bus stops, and in the main plaza at Georgia State University, two things stood out: 1) how much this issue connected deeply with people and how many people welcomed the call to break the silence on it; and 2) how "locked down" and repressive the atmosphere is even out on the streets, as we were harassed by the police at every point, and people gathering to hear what we had to say were repeatedly told by the police to "keep moving."

At one crowded bus stop, as we were chanting "We Say No to the New Jim Crow," a Black woman came up and said "I know, I'm locked up myself." Then she explained that she and several other women waiting for the bus were out on work furlough for the day and getting on the bus to return to their lock-up transitional center for the night. She pulled back her sweater to show us the "Department of Corrections" shirt she was wearing. At another point a young white man introduced himself on the "people's mic" with his inmate ID number and said he had spent a year and a half in a juvenile jail for possession of marijuana. Throughout the afternoon, many people told us stories of their own or their loved ones' experiences with the prison system.

At Georgia State, we did a flash mob action where everyone froze in silence for three minutes, then broke out in a chant. Several students clapped, others came up to express their appreciation and to find out more about what we were saying about mass incarceration.

Although we were a small group, we interacted with real impact on many people and got a deeper sense of the scope and depth of the outrage of mass incarceration and the potential for massive resistance to stop it.


April 19, Chicago - Photo: Special to Revolution

About 50 people took to the streets of downtown Chicago to answer the call for April 19 to initiate a movement to end mass incarceration and to break the silence. Saving Our Sons Ministries, Inc. brought several carloads of mainly youth to represent and speak out against mass incarceration and youth being murdered by the police, infusing the action with an energy that stopped passersby in their tracks. A youth from the suburbs saw the demo and joined on the spot. Supporters of prisoners from TAMMS (a maximum security prison in Illinois that is at the heart of a controversy because the governor of the state has suggested it be closed for financial reasons) came with signs: Close down TAMMS, Solitary is Torture.

Two women gave Bear Witness testimony from the stage. One was Gloria Pinex, mother of 28-year-old, Darius Pinex, murdered by the Chicago police in January 2011 by the same cop who murdered Flint Farmer exactly six months later. She spoke of another son who had just been released from prison and a third son who had a felony weapon charge for carrying a screwdriver. She told the crowd, "I am not going away. I'm not afraid." The grandmother of a 13-year-old shot by the Chicago police last summer told the crowd she was a former addict who had turned her life around and she was standing up to stop the biggest gang in Chicago—the Chicago Police Department. Her message of transformation and fearlessness resonated.

A spoken word artist shared his vision, poetically breaking down imperialism, the systemic oppression of Black people from the schools to the prisons—more Black men in shackles than in 1861.

An enlarged copy of the statement "We Say No More—The killing of Trayvon Martin and 2.4 million in prison make clear that there is a whole generation of Black and Latino youth who have been marked and treated as a 'generation of suspects' to be murdered and jailed". This is not an issue for Black people alone but for all who care about justice; it is not a random tragedy. "We Say NO MORE" was signed by 57 people.

Other diverse actions took place. Some of the people working on the campaign for Justice for Rekia Boyd organized for people to attend the Chicago Police Board hearing which was taking place on April 19. They agreed that the murder of Rekia by an off-duty police officer and the offhand declaration of that murder as justified was part of the whole culture of criminalization of Black youth that is fundamental to mass incarceration. So attending the Police Board hearing and insisting on Justice for Rekia was one of the actions for the day of action against mass incarceration.

North Carolina

April 19, North Carolina
April 19, North Carolina - Photo: Special to Revolution

A few of us went to a busy downtown bus transfer point to sell the latest issue of Revolution, and to stand in solidarity with the National Day of Action Against Mass Incarceration. As soon as we got there a young woman saw the large Trayvon Martin poster and stopped to talk about his case. When she heard about the day of action against mass incarceration she said she had some friends who would be happy this was happening, and went to find them. She returned with three more people who helped hold banners and took pictures for their website. With higher visibility, more people snatched up leaflets and stopped to talk.

People engaged in a way we had never experienced before, openly speaking bitterness about racism and the prison system. A mother spoke about the profiling that goes on in public housing and the fear she has for the safety of her children. A homeless man talked about how hard it was to get a job after getting out of prison. A young woman spoke about how scared she was because she had just been sentenced to prison for six months and was worried about her child. An older man talked about the racism he's encountered in his lifetime, and broke into tears. Another man said that "even if you did good in prison, you'll never get a job again." A high school student spoke about missing his father, who had been sent to prison in Arizona because the Hawai`i prisons are overcrowded. Another youth said he'd gotten Revolution once in the past and liked it, but then hasn't seen it. He was happy to learn he could get a free subscription online. An overwhelming number of people we met had family members or friends in prison and many were eager to tell their stories.

When we left we summed up that the Trayvon Martin case and mass incarceration had tapped into a reservoir of anger about racism and the prison system we'd never heard before.





Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

“We Say NO MORE”

The following statement is being circulated for signatures and to influence broad public opinion:

“We Say NO MORE”

The killing of Trayvon Martin and 2.4 million in prison make clear that there is a whole generation of Black and Latino youth who have been marked and treated as a “generation of suspects” to be murdered and jailed. This is not an issue for Black people alone but for all who care about justice; it is not a random tragedy. We say NO MORE!

Initial Signatories

Charles Alexander, director of the Academic Advancement Program at UCLA
Rene Auberjonois, actor
Eleanor J. Bader, freelance journalist
Dan Barker, co-president, Freedom From Religion Foundation
Kathleen Barry, author Unmaking War, Remaking Men
Missy Comley Beattie, peace and justice activist, Counterpunch contributor
Robert Bossie, SJC 8th Day Center for Justice
Herb Boyd, author/activist/journalist/teacher
Elizabeth Cook, activist in New Orleans
Chris Crutcher, author: Whale Talk, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, Deadline
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Niles Eldredge, Curator Emeritus, American Museum of Natural History
Eve Ensler, Tony Award winning playwright, performer, activist, founder of V-DAY
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president, Freedom From Religion Foundation
Frances Goldin
Kathleen Hanna, musician
Chris Hedges, author, War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning
Merle Hoffman, founder, president and CEO of Choices Women's Medical Center
Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys
Sikivu Hutchinson, editor,,  Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars
C. Clark Kissinger, Revolution Books, NYC
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun and chair of the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives
Dennis Loo, author, Globalization and the Demolition of Society
Robert Meeropol, Rosenberg Fund for Children
Leo Mintek, Outernational
Tom Morello, The Nightwatchman
Cindy Sheehan, peace and justice activist
Dr. Donald Smith, past president of the National Alliance of Black School Educators
Sunsara Taylor, Revolution newspaper
Cornel West
David Zeiger, filmmaker, director of Sir! No Sir!

Organizational and institutional affiliation provided for identification purposes only.

To add your name, contact

You may include an affiliation or how you want to be described.




Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

From Behind Bars: "Go All In" in the Fight to Stop Mass Incarceration

The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund received the following letter from a prisoner in the Midwest:

April 10th, Tuesday 2012

To Whom This May Concern,

I'm writing to respond to the March 25th, 2012, article in the paper (NO. 263) titled "Raise the Fight to Stop Mass Incarceration to a New Level." This particular article and call comes at no better time than NOW; and I fully attach my unconditional support behind it. I'm not sure how many readers are fully cognizant of the historic importance of this determined campaign by the Party to "go all in" (to use a poker expression for a moment), but I am. By writing this letter to the Revolution, it's my hope that others will come to recognize the same significance of this stage in our development of a movement for revolution and why it's necessary to make this particular issue a principal focal point as we ultimately strive to resolve the FUNDAMENTAL CONTRADICTION of this decadent system: where "[y]ou have highly socialized production, but very privatized appropriation by a small class of people called capitalists." (BAsics 3:5) As that particular quote goes on to state:

But in that contradiction lies the basis for the overthrow of the system, as that class that carries out socialized production becomes conscious of this contradiction and of all of its consequences, and rises up and rallies its allies, as it is led by a vanguard party that brings it the consciousness to do this, and it eventually overthrows the system and resolves this contradiction through a whole long complex process whereby, step by step, it socializes the appropriation of what is socially produced and distributes it increasingly according to the needs of the people, not according to the dictates of the accumulation of private capital. (p.75)

While the above quote illustrates what's ultimately the fundamental contradiction of this system and how it will ultimately be resolved, there's always two or more contradictions at any given time that's always driving the resolution and/or mitigation of this fundamental contradiction forward which we refer to as the principle contradiction—which itself varies according to the changing objective conditions in society at any given moment. BA touches on this in his statement on "Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution" in which he states in part:

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.

This statement is not found in every Revolution paper just because it sounds good or because it's a "great ideal," but it's in every one because there's a real material basis to that statement, since it reflects the ever-changing dynamics in society itself as new contradictions take front stage while older ones are either resolved or partially mitigated.

To return to the Party's call to "Raise the Fight to Stop Mass Incarceration to a New Level," is comparable in many ways to the '50's and '60's being a time when the social movements in this country were struggling to put an end to the Old Jim Crow racial caste system in America. The main difference between what some of those movements represented such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) headed by Martin Luther King and movements like the Black Panther Party, was that while the former saw the resolution of this contradiction through a reformist lens, the latter saw it only being resolved through revolution. Of the two orientations, the RCP represents the latter strategy as well today, as it confronts "The New Jim Crow" system which Michelle Alexander eloquently sheds light upon in her book of the same name.

Due to the unfortunate circumstances of the modern-day lynching of Trayvon Martin, I see not only a historic parallel between the lynching of Emmet Till back in 1955, but I also see how it embodies the social awakening to action, which Rosa Park's refusal to give up her seat to a white man in that same year (1955) caused. Both this incident and the Party's call to abolition the New Jim Crow—which its announcement to "Raise the Fight to Stop Mass Incarceration to New Level" really represents—are a part of the same principle contradiction at this given time. As Michelle Alexander explains in her book The New Jim Crow to even "look like" a criminal (as Trayvon Martin was racially profiled as being)—which nine times out of ten, is code word for being young, Black or Latino, and male—is enough to forever be marginalized or even murdered under this New Jim Crow Era that thrives off of the so-called "War on Drugs" and its policy of mass incarceration. Without analyzing the Trayvon Martin incident from under this lens, it's impossible to fully apprehend the racial dynamics at play (consciously or unconsciously) which caused Zimmerman to only see a "suspicious person" (read: criminal) underneath that hoodie that day.

Today a criminal freed from prison has scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a freed slave or a black person living "free" in Mississippi at the height of Jim Crow. Those released from prison or parole can be stopped and searched by the police for any reason—or no reason at all—and returned to prison for the most minor of infractions, such as failing to attend a meeting with a parole officer. Even when released from the system's formal control, the stigma of criminality lingers. Police supervision, monitoring, and harassment are facts of life not only for all those labeled criminals, but for all those who "look like" criminals. Lynch mobs may be long gone, but the threat of police violence is ever present. A wrong move or sudden gesture could mean massive retaliation by the police. A wallet could be mistaken for a gun. The "whites only" signs may be gone, but new signs have gone up—notices placed in job applications, rental agreements, loan applications, forms for welfare benefits, school applications, and petitions for licenses, informing the general public that "felons" are not wanted here. A criminal record today authorizes precisely the forms of discrimination we supposedly left behind—discrimination in employment, housing, education, public benefits, and jury service. Those labeled criminals can even be denied the right to vote. ([The New Jim Crow] p. 141—my emphasis)

Although George Zimmerman may have only been a wanna-be "Robo Cop," again the fact remains that the "suspiciousness" that Zimmerman saw in Trayvon, was the type of "suspiciousness" that every Black and Latino youth or young adult faces every day within this New Jim [Crow] Era. The only way to uproot this predicament is to continually "Raise the Fight to Stop Mass Incarceration to a New Level," with the ultimate aim to "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution."

With that said, I believe that as we strive to develop and build this campaign against mass incarceration, that we should utilize this important book by Michelle Alexander as an integral teaching tool and rallying point. I think every Revolution bookstore, for instance, should dedicate at least a day each week to discuss and engage it in the same way that BAsics or the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) is. I believe such an approach will deepen and widen the campaign to stop mass incarceration with an informed commitment—something of which I'm sure Carl Dix has already begun to do as he presses ahead with this facet of the movement; and I applaud him for doing so. I just believe this needs to be repeated and deepen on a wider scale, if it hasn't already.

Lastly, I would also suggest trying to enlist Michelle Alexander herself at one of these talks or conferences, while taping it and using it as an informative D.V.D. for the overall movement. I really believe giving her a platform and a wider audience to appeal to will be key in bridging the gap and forming alliances between various social movements, that's placed stopping mass incarceration as an agenda and focal point.

I'm going to close now, but I just want to convey how inspired I am as I've watched the grassroots activism that has been unleashed of lately, from the Occupy Wall Street movement to the social movement in the making behind the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. There's no doubt in my mind, that the confluence of these two movements—along with the campaign to end mass incarceration—has the potential of ushering in a new level of political consciousness and activism that will ultimately end in the proletariat finally resolving the FUNDAMENTAL CONTRADICTION of this decadent system, which I spoke to earlier. It's with this ultimate objective in mind, that gives me a real "audacity of hope" this election season, since I've been able to see for the first time "a real change I can believe in"—and not one that's nothing, but a bourgeois democratic illusion.

Again, I hope this letter helps enable others to see the historic importance of the RCP's call to "Raise the Fight to Stop Mass Incarceration to a New Level." It's really the principal contradiction at this given moment, that we can't afford to overlook and [not] confront.

In Solidarity,






Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

End Pornography and Patriarchy:
The Enslavement and Degradation of Women!

Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!

Fight for the Emancipation of Women All Over the World!

New York Protest for International Women's Day 2012
New York Protest for International Women's Day 2012

We are told that “equality for women has been won” and that “there are no limits to what girls can achieve.” BULLSHIT!

Every 15 seconds a woman is beaten. Every day three to four women are killed by their partners. One out of four female college students will be raped or sexually assaulted while in college.

In recent years, pornography has become increasingly violent, cruel, degrading towards women; women are referred to as “cumdumpsters” and “fuckbuckets”; the “money shot” (ejaculation in a woman’s face) is standard; humiliating cruelty—like violent “ass-to-mouth” penetration—is normalized, and racist bigotry is sexualized. Meanwhile, the broader culture has been pornified: pole dancing is taught at gyms, “sexting” is a national phenomenon among teens and the strip club is the accepted backdrop to “male bonding.” All this is tied in with, and reinforces, the trafficking of millions of women and girls as literal chattel in the international sex industry.

This is NOT society becoming more comfortable with sex. This is society becoming saturated with the sexualized degradation of women. If you can’t imagine sex without porn, you’re fucked.

At the same time, a Christian fundamentalist-driven assault is imperiling abortion, birth control, real sex education and women’s lives. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people who do not conform to traditional patriarchal gender and sexual norms are demonized and threatened. Abortion doctors are killed. Women who seek abortions—or even birth control—are stigmatized. 2011 saw the largest spate of legal restrictions on abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973.


Fetuses are not babies. Women are not incubators. Abortion is not murder.

Women are not objects. Women are not things to be used for the sexual pleasure of men NOR are they breeders of children. WOMEN ARE HUMAN BEINGS CAPABLE OF FULL EQUALITY IN EVERY REALM!

It is long past time that this new generation stand up, reject, and RESIST this culture of rape and pornography; this culture that labels women “selfish” if they choose not to become mothers; this culture that reduces women and girls to sexualized objects while denying their full multi-dimensional humanity (including their right—as one essential part of this—to explore their sexuality without shame or stigma); this culture that demonizes and bullies LGBT people.

Our purpose is NOT to lobby for new legislation to ban pornography (“decency laws” have always served to further repress homosexuality, boundary-challenging art and scientific sex education). We oppose the criminalization of women in the sex industry. Our mission is to challenge the new generation in particular to wage fierce cultural and political resistance to wake others up and to bring forward a new culture that celebrates the full equality and liberation of women.

Contact with your questions, comments, ideas, and interest in getting involved. Get flyers to hand out, bring a speaker to your campus, ask your toughest questions. The future of women depends on YOU!  

Check out the conversation going on on Sunsara Taylor’s blog at





Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

You Want to Change the World?
Sustain Revolution Newspaper!

From a reader:

I read the call for sustainers in the last issue and want to share some thoughts on why people should sustain Revolution, and struggle with others to do so.

This is a world of horrors. Mass incarceration in U.S. prisons is part of a slow genocide that could become a fast genocide. Abortion, and even birth control, are under fierce attack with the aim of enslaving women as forced child-bearers. Moves towards an attack on Iran by the U.S. and Israel hang over the heads of the people of the region and beyond. The danger to the environment is ominous and unchecked...

Revolution is the ONLY newspaper 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. In ways no other media does, this paper challenges people who are awakening to find ways to break through the intimidating repression that keeps people down, and leads people to take that on. It calls on people to get out of the framework of just tinkering around the edges of this system, or looking for an alternative space within it, and to begin taking responsibility for the biggest questions of the revolution.

Revolution is a key way that people can keep up with new works from Bob Avakian and connect with his leadership.

Revolution is where people can find out what’s going on with the BA Everywhere campaign, which is "challenging the conventional wisdom that this capitalist system is the best humanity can do—and bringing to life the reality that with the new synthesis of communism brought forward by BA, there is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the leadership that is needed for the struggle toward that goal."

As the RCP’s Statement, "On the Strategy for Revolution" (Revolution #226, March 6, 2011) says—this paper "is the key instrument in developing an organized political network, among the most oppressed and other sections of the people, which can have a growing impact on the political scene and the society (and the world) as a whole, building up the forces of revolution and influencing ever broader numbers of people....It provides a foundation and a means for extending the 'reach' of the revolutionary movement and building up bases for this movement..."

You want to change the world? How could any real change take place without Revolution newspaper coming out regularly, filling requests for subs in the prisons, getting widely publicized and promoted, and developing a web presence that matches its message?

It is on us to make that possible.  


Donate to and regularly sustain Revolution. By doing this, you will play a critical role in enabling this paper to connect its message to tens of thousands more, and ultimately—as things go through great shifts and changes—millions.

Donate generously, and donate every month. Subscribe to Revolution and read it each week. Join the movement. Be part of fighting for a different future.

To become a sustainer, to subscribe,
or to donate:




Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

Tips and Details for Phone Banking to Raise $20,000 for the Next Leg of the BAsics Bus Tour,
Part of
BA Everywhere! Imagine the Difference It Will Make!

This accompanies the BusTour-ScriptFlowChart.doc

The phone script shouldn't be read word for word but is the orientation for the phone banking. People should familiarize themselves with this so they can give a good sense of this without reading the script word for word.  It may also be good to reread, and keep handy, the first editorial in Revolution newspaper on BA Everywhere mass fundraising campaign (found at the top of and in Revolution #249).

Five tips for phone banking:

  1. Assign a team captain.
  2. Set a goal for money you will raise.
  3. Practice the script together before you start calling. Speak clearly and slowly enough to be understood.
  4. After about 30-45 minutes (a little ways in), it would be good to stop and check in with each other to see how it's going, sum up along the way.
  5. Make a plan for follow-up of the calls that need it; as well as follow-up in getting the donations.




RV and travel expenses:
[RV, gas, food, and lodging]
Promotional materials:
[projector, sound, and printed materials]
Volunteers travel:
[books, pamphlets]



What happened during the pilot launch of the tour:

"A successful pilot launch of this tour was done in California in February. It spent two weeks going from southern to northern California, reaching tens of thousands of people from diverse areas, and introducing them to BAsics. They spent time on college campuses, homeless encampments, high schools, a swap meet and more. They had discussions at local bookstores and were invited into people's homes to have deep and wide ranging discussions about Avakian's work and what's concentrated in BAsics – the essential questions of revolution and human emancipation. This time around, they'll also be joining with those fighting the power and engaging in debate and discussion with people who agree, disagree, or who just want to find out more. The crew on this tour will be learning from people and giving them an opportunity to be part of the campaign to get out BA Everywhere. And all this together can reverberate back into the world at large, taking all this even higher."

How can people donate:

Contribute generously towards the $20,000 needed, and as part of this, contribute airfare miles or credits. Online donations with a credit card can be made at Checks or money orders can be made payable to The Bob Avakian Institute or The BA Institute and mailed to 1016 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60607. Right now, contributions can only be solicited and accepted from residents of the following states: California, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, New York, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Wyoming. If you are interested but in a different state or want to contribute online, contributions can be made payable to RCP Publications at or sent to PO Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654. Please be aware that The Bob Avakian Institute is not tax exempt and donations made to it are not tax deductible.

OR you can arrange to have someone pick up their cash donation, or they can drop it off at Revolution Books.

The whole tour will cost at least $20,000, which breaks down to $1,400 to sponsor a volunteer. 

If someone declines, we should find out why. You might be able to explore other things they might be able to do, like CONTRIBUTING AIRLINE MILES, following the tour and helping to build support in other ways. 

If they say they do not have money right now, let them know they can give as little as $10 and that will make a big difference. They can also make in-kind contributions of air miles or credits.

If someone says yes, thank them. Also, ask if they have friends who might also be interested. Or if there are other ways they can help.

If they want to think about it, ask them when you can call them back.

In all this, the more concrete you both are in this conversation, the more real your plan and their commitment becomes. Also make sure you share the plan to raise the money: nights that we are phone banking, the Kick-Off event for the bus tour at Revolution Books on Friday, May 18, where they can follow the bus tour (at, and other events to keep in touch with the bus during its trip. Do they have any ideas of how they can contribute or participate? You'll need a schedule of the local plans, with a list of ways they can contribute and where to connect. You may also want to email them this as a follow up off the call.

[Depending on how much time they have in the call, you may also want to learn what they're thinking about the big events in the world overall...]

A good goal for the phone calls is to end the conversation with a plan, and make sure we follow up with people around the results.


Other specifics:

If people want to know the exact route of the tour, let them know it's still being determined but that it's heading out from Atlanta and "going right into the thick of the struggle in a particularly hot area in this country." They should make sure to sign up for Revolution newspaper for updates and check in regularly at

If someone wants to learn more, we recommend making use of the short film Next Stop... Revolution. They can find this on youtube by searching the title. This conveys powerfully what it can open up to project Avakian's revolutionary vision and works into society. Also, they can check out the reports and photos from the pilot launch of the bus tour at If they're not familiar with Avakian, we recommend sending them links to clips from Avakian's Revolution talk – perhaps the "Emmett Till, Jim Crow... Black People Lived Under a Death Sentence" and one of the "Imagine a New Society" clips. These can be found at

Quotes about the tour which you can feel free to draw on:

"[The BAsics bus tour] cut through people's daily existence of whatever sort of thing they were thinking about. It's not like people didn't have opinions on things. But...this was something they'd never seen before, an RV fully decorated with BAsics, the front and back covers in English and Spanish. You had music, you had these multicultural people stepping off these buses and very alive with revolution, alive with a vision of a new world... It was something unexpected, it was something very new, but it was also something very welcome."
a young tour participant

"Questions get raised every day about stuff like this but people don't talk about it."
a city college student in Fresno

"A man from Mexico City who had bought Lo BAsico...commented on the sections that impressed him: about religion, seizing power, and learning about the experience of socialism. 'These are big solutions to big problems.' He said we needed to reach out more to youth, to the schools, that this book 'has to be brought to people around the world.'"
from a report from the tour volunteers

"When the bus rolls down the street, heads turn. One woman said, it 'stopped me in my tracks!'"
report from tour volunteers in Riverside, CA

Volunteer details:

- Volunteer to join the tour. If they are interested in this, make sure you note this, and if they're in the city you're calling from, maybe set up a time to talk with them more or let someone you're working with know they were interested.

- Volunteer! All kinds of assistance is needed from wherever people are at and with whatever time they can contribute: help with press work and internet promotions (both urgently needed now), video editing (for short videos from the tour while it's on the road), and more. If they are interested, again take note of this and let them know someone will get back to them, or they can write directly to




Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

Budget for Bus Tour Kicking Off from Atlanta in Mid-May


RV and travel expenses:
[RV, gas, food, and lodging]
Promotional materials:
[projector, sound, and printed materials]
Volunteers travel:
[books, pamphlets]




Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

BAsics Bus Tour Fund Letter


NOTE: Wherever this fundraising letter is issued from or to, follow these guidelines for where the contribution can be solicited and contributed from: Online donations with a credit card can be made at Checks or money orders can be made payable to The Bob Avakian Institute or The BA Institute and mailed to 1016 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60607. Right now, contributions can only be solicited and accepted from residents of the following states: California, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, New York, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Wyoming. Please be aware that The Bob Avakian Institute is not tax exempt and donations made to it are not tax deductible. If you are interested but in a different state or want to contribute online, contributions can be made payable to RCP Publications at or sent to PO Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654.




Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

What People Are Saying About the BAsics Bus Tour


"Greetings from New York City. When I first heard about the BAsics Bus Tour I was immediately reminded of the Freedom Riders who traveled boldly and courageously into the belly of the beast, the Deep South, some forty years ago. Their mission was to desegregate interstate bus travel. Today, 40+ years later, the Bus Tour's goals are more far-reaching – to question and to confront the existing system of capitalism and imperialism. The good news is that the tour is providing the answers and solutions to all of this through the works of Bob Avakian."

Professor at an inner-city school, NYC


"[I am giving to the BAsics bus tour] because you have to start with the youth and because numbers count. It matters that many youth from many backgrounds, especially Black youth, learn about and participate in the bus tour. In 1970, when I was in the fourth grade, my brother was sent off to Vietnam; a kid, barely 10 years old, in my class was using heroin; and I just refused to say the pledge of allegiance. The whole class refused... The school said, 'Ok, this kid is going against the grain' and they took me out of class. This revolution can inspire youth to go against the grain, to go against the conventional wisdom, and not just accept everything and never speak out – thinking this is just the way life is. I want the bus tour to be a success. Even Malcolm X needed this kind of inspiration. I look forward to hearing reports about the bus tour and strongly encourage others to donate as I am."

A barber in Harlem


"A bus tour through the south bringing revolution and communism?  Do you realize how historic this is? I hope to fuck you are filming this, and if you're not, you are depriving generations of chronicling an historic event... Taking it to the people. This is such a great idea. The imagery of a BAsics bus in the parking lot of a shopping mall or a school or neighborhood or any area of congregation or just motoring along a highway to spread the word is visionary."

A media studies professor


"Capitalism has proven itself not only to fail people in the U.S., but to fail people EVERYWHERE! The system has failed us, from poor families struggling to survive in the ghettos, to LGBT adolescents struggling with basic acceptance and equality, to workers trying to keep their right to a fair wage and collective bargaining, to ordinary citizens struggling for human rights. If a system fails and doesn't govern or work for the good of the people, then it needs to be replaced. It has lost its legitimacy by not working for the common good. There is a better way, and it is coming."

A young man who came into a Revolution Books to contribute $50
after receiving a phone call about the BAsics bus tour


"It is crucially important, at this terrible time in our history, to reach out to citizens whose access to discussion of alternatives to the political and economic chaos in which we live is very limited. The BAsics bus tour is a brave attempt to help remedy this situation. The participants have my respect, admiration, and wishes for success."

A university professor, NYC


"The BAsics bus tour adds an important dimension to the national and international mobilization that the Occupy Movement has inspired. In these times of increasing and outrageous disparities of wealth and power, it is vital that all progressive voices are heard. This tour represents a crucial part of the continuing dialogue about the need for truly structural change in America and throughout the world."

Paul Von Blum, Senior Lecturer, African American Studies, UCLA




Revolution #267 May 1, 2012

Check It Out

Brian Greene on the Nature of Science

From a reader

The Hidden Realty: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos is Brian Greene's third book. Greene has become our most important popularizer of contemporary physics. He takes cutting edge questions that are usually understood only by trained scientists and makes them accessible to a much broader audience. His first book introduced string theory to a popular audience and his second book took on the nature of space. This third book is about the idea of multiple universes, an idea that has gotten a lot of media play and has been the subject of a NOVA special. But the book is more than that. In it, Greene devotes a whole chapter to the question of "what is science." Greene writes from a very nuanced perspective, and gets into some big questions of epistemology and the scientific method.

The book is structured around the various ways in which the idea that there could be more than one universe comes up in modern physics and he uses the generic term "multiverse" to refer to any concept of multiple universes.1 He explores nine different lines of theoretical inquiry that point to the possible existence of multiple universes. But he stops along the way to ask a very important question: If alternate or additional universes exist beyond our own, is there any way to establish even the plausibility of their actual existence? And if not and additional universes are completely inaccessible to us, is this really science?

Greene addresses this question in a chapter entitled "Science and the Multiverse: On Inference, Explanation, and Prediction." In a footnote at the beginning of this chapter he lays out his philosophical approach to science:

"Because there are differing perspectives regarding the role of scientific theory in the quest to understand nature, the points I'm making are subject to a range of interpretations. Two prominent positions are realists [also known as materialists—ed.], who hold that mathematical theories can provide direct insight into the nature of reality, and instrumentalists [also known as positivists—ed.], who believe that theory provides a means for predicting what our measuring devices should register but tells us nothing about an underlying reality. Over decades of exacting argument, philosophers of science have developed numerous refinements of these and related positions. As no doubt is clear, my perspective, and the approach I take in this book, is decidedly in the realist camp. This chapter in particular, examining the scientific validity of certain types of theories, and assessing what those theories might imply for the nature of reality, is one in which various philosophical orientations would approach the topic with considerable differences."

The first section of this important chapter is entitled "The Soul of Science." In it he addresses the question of whether the notion of a multiverse is testable or falsifiable.2 Right off, he states that the answer to both these questions is "no." Here one might think "end of story." If a theory about the material world can neither be verified nor shown to be false, how could this be science?

But that's not the end of the story. Greene continues: "Where you come down on the multiverse also depends on your view of science's core mandate. General summaries often emphasize that science is about finding regularities in the workings of the universe, explaining how the regularities both illuminate and reflect underlying laws of nature, and testing the purported laws by making predictions that can be verified or refuted through further observation. Reasonable though the description may be, it glosses over the fact that the actual process of science is a much messier business, one in which asking the right questions is often as important as finding and testing the proposed answers. And the questions aren't floating in some pre-existing realm in which the role of science is to pick them off, one by one. Instead, today's questions are very often shaped by yesterday's insights. Breakthroughs generally answer some questions but then give rise to a host of others that previously could not be imagined. In judging any development, including multiverse theories, we must take account not only of its capacity for revealing hidden truths but also of its impact on the questions we are led to address. The impact, that is, on the very practice of science. As will become clear, multiverse theories have the capacity to reshape some of the deepest questions scientists have wrestled with for decades. That prospect invigorates some and infuriates others."

I think this is a very important insight: the importance to science of being led to ask the right questions, informed by "yesterday's insights," even if the theory doing the leading ultimately turns out to be wrong.

In another part of this chapter, Greene asks: can it be scientifically justifiable to invoke unobservable universes? In response to this question, he cites a series of examples where science has come to rely on features of the real world, even if they are inaccessible to our direct observation. For example, the curvature of space-time is not directly accessible to our senses, but the predictions of general relativity are quite accurate. In quantum mechanics, the wave equations that are relied upon are unobservable. There are black holes that we cannot see into. Objects that are more than 20 billion light years away cannot be seen because their light could not have reached us in the time since the big bang. But science considers all these to be just as real as things that are tangible to our senses. Thus, he concludes, "a theory's success can be used as an after-the-fact justification for its basic architecture, even when that architecture remains beyond our ability to access directly."

From this he concludes: "So for confidence in a theory to grow we don't require that all of its features be verifiable; a robust and varied assortment of confirmed predictions is enough.... In principle, then—and make no mistake, my point here is one of principle—the mere invocation of inaccessible universes does not consign a proposal to stand outside science."

Again, an important methodological point: Greene is saying, "don't be so quick to reject an idea whose components are not immediately accessible." Or, as he says in the concluding chapter: "I find it parochial to bound our thinking by the arbitrary limits imposed by where we are, when we are, and who we are. Reality transcends these limits, so it's to be expected that sooner or later the search for deep truths will too."

Thus he takes up yet another question: "If the universes constituting a multiverse are inaccessible, can they nevertheless meaningfully contribute to making predictions?" Here he points out that some multiverse theories, while not saying anything about our universe in particular, do make statistical predictions about their range of universes. Suppose a particular theory predicts the existence of certain property in all universes. Then this theory is potentially falsifiable; the property might not be found in our universe, thus falsifying the theory. And if the property is found, then it gives us some reason to believe that the theory might be true.

There is one other interesting question that he raises in this chapter: "Can a multiverse provide explanatory power of which we'd otherwise be deprived?" Here Greene points out that most physics theories give very precise verifiable predictions. If multiverse theories never provide such precise predictions, but rather tell us something like "a certain phenomenon is highly likely," is that still science? Greene says he used to think not, but has gradually changed his mind on this.

At the end of the book, Greene takes up yet another interesting question: "In the absence of compelling experimental or observational results, deciding which mathematics should be taken seriously is as much art as it is science. . . . monumental upheavals in physics have emerged time and again from vigorously following mathematics' lead." This question is quite relevant because most of the multiverse theories emerge from the mathematical implications of existing or proposed theories of matter, space and time.

It is actually true that numerous major discoveries have been made by "following the math"; looking at some seemingly impossible conclusion of existing theories. James Clerk Maxwell's equations pointed to a constant speed of light as seen by all observers, a conclusion that made no sense if light was a wave in some physical "aether." Yet it was verified in practice and finally explained by Albert Einstein. Paul Dirac's mathematical description of the electron led to the discovery of the positron because his equation worked equally well with either a positive or negative charge for the particle. Black holes were a mathematical consequence of Einstein's theory of relativity, but even he didn't believe in them, not taking his own theory seriously enough. So Greene's challenge here is to "follow the math"—but as far as the truth of any new theory is concerned, "[o]nly one standard is relevant: a proposal's ability to explain or predict experimental data and astronomical observations." It has to be testable and verifiable in the real world.

Greene concludes his book on the possibility of multiple universes as follows: "I don't know if this is how things will turn out. No one does. But it's only through fearless engagement that we can learn our own limits. It's only through the rational pursuit of theories, even those that whisk us into strange and unfamiliar domains, that we stand a chance of revealing the expanse of reality."

1. The word universe usually means "everything that exists." The idea of multiple universes is the idea that separate physical realms could exist, each with its own possibly different laws of nature. In the "multiverse" scenario, if intelligent life existed in any one of the separate universes, it would see its own universe as encompassing "everything that exists." [back]

2. To be falsifiable means that the potential exists to prove the theory to be false. The falsifiability criterion means that if a theory is really scientific, then it can be tested in reality to see if its features and predictions are true or not. See the discussion of Karl Popper and the falsifiability criterion in "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" by Bob Avakian. [back]