Revolution #325, December 22, 2013 (

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

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Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

A World of Savage Inequality:

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


This world we live in is (to borrow a phrase from author Jonathan Kozol) one of savage inequalities. In the shadow of New York City’s gleaming skyscrapers, nearly half the population lives at or below the poverty line, with tens of thousands of homeless people living on the streets or in squalid, dangerous, vermin-infested “shelters.”

On the other side of the globe, the lives of tens of millions of black South Africans are in many ways no better than they were under apartheid—without access to jobs, or education, slaving in the mines or as maids.

And this is all part of a world where the lives of the majority of humanity are a living hell. Numbers don’t begin to tell the story, but one in three women alive today—1 billion women—will be raped or assaulted in their lifetimes. Ten million children die needlessly each year from preventable causes. Millions of people live in terror of drone attacks, billions are spied on, and the planet faces an environmental emergency.

All this is enforced with savage violence and repression. The heroic hunger strike that involved, at times, over 30,000 prisoners in California shined a light on the psychological and physical torture of endless solitary confinement. In New York City, the demand to end apartheid-style “stop-and-frisk” has been met with the appointment of a police chief with a resume of overseeing thuggish brutality against Blacks and Latinos. An abandoned Detroit takes on the feel of a concentration camp for hundreds of thousands of people.

All this is justified with lies: That billions of people have no access to clean water, or millions are locked in jails because they made “bad choices.” That all of this is the will of an imaginary (and sadistic) god, or an eternal “human nature.” That the best one can do about all this is to pass out a little charity. And, the biggest lie of all—that any alternative to capitalism is off limits—that “communism was tried and failed.”

Under California's three-strikes law, Donald Jones, 42, was sentenced to 76 years to life after being convicted of having a stolen lawnmower and an illegal knife when on parole in 1996. Photo: AP

In the face of the great divisions in the world, and all that lies behind them, both those who catch the most intense kind of hell every day, and those not so directly in the crosshairs of oppression and repression, need to make common cause to say NO MORE. The world does not have to be like this. There is very developed theory and a vision for a radically new society in Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism—a world without exploitation and oppression of any kind, and a strategy to make that a reality. People need to know about this.

At a time of year when people reflect on the state of humanity and their relationship to it, make, or step up, your commitment to refuse to accept all this. Two things you can do right now that will actually contribute to REAL change: First: learn more about and get with Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism and his leadership of a movement for revolution. Donate generously, and raise big money to get BA Everywhere—from the prison cells to the suburbs and beyond. Second: read, spread, and financially sustain Revolution and—where tens of thousands of people around the world connect with this movement for revolution.

Write us with your thoughts and your experiences:

Donate to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund

In the hellhole prisons of AmeriKKKa, home to over two million people, prisoners—who society calls the "worst of the worst" or "irredeemable"—are standing up and resisting the inhuman conditions in which they are enslaved. And, as they do, they are going through transformation in how they understand the world and their role in changing it.

This past summer, 30,000 prisoners in California asserted their humanity by starting a hunger strike against the torture of long-term solitary confinement. Earlier, a group of prisoners had issued an inspiring statement calling for unity and a halt to hostilities between people of different nationalities in the prisons. After 60 days, the prisoners collectively decided to suspend the hunger strike—but the struggle to end torture continues. Other hunger strikes and political struggles against the dehumanization of American prisons have occurred in other states in recent years.

Within this emerging new generation of rebellious slaves is a significant section of prisoners across the country who are looking for a deeper understanding of why this world is a horror, how we can get out of it, and what it means to be human—and are engaging with the challenging vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world presented in the weekly Revolution newspaper, in BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, and in other revolutionary literature sent to them by the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund. Bob Avakian, BA, is the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, and his BAsics is a handbook for revolutionaries in this time, speaking powerfully to the big questions of revolution and human emancipation.

From the notorious "Special Housing Unit" (SHU) at Pelican Bay in Northern California to the notorious Texas prison system to Sing Sing in New York and across the country, the PRLF sends approximately 800 English and Spanish subscriptions of Revolution and has sent over 1,200 copies of BAsics so far to prisoners in 43 states and the District of Columbia.

YOU play a vital role in the PRLF not only continuing this vital work but expanding it to many, many more prisoners (see poem).

DONATE: The existing Revolution subscriptions for prisoners cost $28,000/year. Each copy of BAsics costs $10. Imagine if the PRLF could significantly increase the number of Revolution subscriptions and copies of BAsics making their way to prisoners.




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Revolutionary Voices from Inside the Prison Walls

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


The following are two of the many letters the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) receives regularly from those behind prison walls. publishes selected letters from prisoners, and prisoner letters are also available at the PRLF website (


Spreading BA's Vision and Image as Far as Possible


B.A.'s Basics 1:13 should be Given an Award for The Quote of the Year. It does'nt MATTER How many Times I READ It, It always Does Something for me. Bob Avakian Is Saying "NO MORE Of THE BullSHIT", and I am Definitely Riding With Him. If you consider yourself To Be A "REAL" Individual, WHO IS conscious of the Games that are Being played by the Ruling Class of this System, Then I know you feel the Same as I Do. We Say NO MORE, NO MORE, NO-Mutha-fuc'n-MORE!! We Are Tired of Being trapped In this vicious cycle. We Are Tired of Not Living lives Worthy of Human Beings. We Are TIRED of Not MATTERING. Bob Avakian Teaches us that there IS No Permanent Necessity, AND that things Don't Have to Be this way. To me, this is the "Reallest" Shit In the WORLD. I feel IT IS my Duty to SPREAD B.A.'s Image and Vision as far as I possibly Can. Hastening WHILE I WAIT!!! And I AM Calling ON All "Real" Individuals WHO ARE AWARE To Do the Same. We've gotta assist the masses of people that Have Been Conditioned by the Ruling Class, With making the Necessary leaps and Ruptures with their Current views and outlooks about life. We, THE People, Are experiencing the worst case of StockHolmes Syndrome Known to MAN. Because Clearly "THEY" Don't Give a fuck about us, but we continue to fall for their Bullshit. Today We Say NO MORE!! Thank You

Prisoner from Midwest, 7/4/2012


People Who Got Caught Up in Terrible Things Are Capable of Great Things

[from a prisoner, 12/11/2011]

How are you doing out there? Well as for me trying to get by and taking one day at a time before I come home. Well I've been doing a lot of reading and studying and I read "The Revolutionary Potential of the Masses and the Responsibility of the Vanguard" [This is the supplement to Chapter 6 of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian.] and now I understand what you are doing and talking about and here I was thinking you lost faith in me. But all the time you are putting all your faith in me. To become a better man and into a revolutionary. The part I really enjoy reading was on page 199 where it talks about "there are plenty of people pandering to them and using them in various ways and feeling sorry for them. I hate the way the masses of people suffer, but I don't feel sorry for them. They have the potential to remake the world, and we have to struggle like hell with them to see that." And that's the same way you think of us. Then on page 200 I really do feel like he is talking about me because I do have limitation and shortcoming as the result of living and struggling to survive under this system. and I was denied education that I really need it but access to knowledge about many spheres. hell I don't even know what a sphere is, but I will be looking it up, and at one time I didn't know how to read, but by me coming to jail and picking up books and just reading on my own that how I learn like way spell. And yes I was illiterate and in many ways I am still illiterate. but I am trying to overcome that and my eye was closed on most the things until I met you and you showed me the way to Bob Avakian. So people out there try to fake it and to make it but not me. Don't get me wrong sometime its hard to study thing about the revolution because I don't understand the words I be reading and thats what makes me want to give up. But I do want to become the emancipators of humanity. and then to act in accordance with that potential and Bob said best on page 202 where he including me by saying someone who got caught up in terrible things. They are also capable of great things. I in my past I did go down the wrong road. but now I got a family that love me for how I am not for what I did in the past and in that way made me change. its just I still have to finish my past mistake and get off parole and then I can move on. but while I am doing that. I can start by learning new things and start being a man and help others. well my pen ran out and I don't have a pencil so I will write back soon and tell you more.




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

South Africa: What Changed... and What Did NOT Change

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Why, with all the sacrifice and courage involved in the struggle against apartheid, has there been so little change in the basic terrible conditions for the great majority of black people in South Africa? The reason is not that things can’t fundamentally change. The reason is not that humanity is stuck with this world of exploitation, oppression and environmental disaster. But there are urgent and critical lessons that must be drawn from that experience in these times when millions of people are up against the question: can things really change?

Apartheid was a system instituted by the descendants of white European invaders to keep the land and resources in the hands of a few rich owners and the country under control of U.S. imperialism. Millions of black Africans suffered a grinding, horrific, hideously unequal existence, full of deprivation and misery.

Communal tap for drinking water in Soweto, 2005. Photo: flickr/SuSanA Secretariat

Between 1990 and 1994, open apartheid was eliminated. But today the land and the valuable resources in and under the land have remained in the hands of rich white owners and imperialists who together still hold the real power in South Africa, even though members of the African National Congress (ANC) may be elected to the presidency and even though there is a now a black elite that shares in this plunder. The conditions of the masses of people, of African people in that country, farmers deprived of land or forced to remain on dirt poor land, miners and millions living in urban slums and shantytowns without any jobs at all—their conditions have remained the same or have even gotten worse. Violence against women and against immigrants runs rampant. Ten years ago, the Indian author Arundhati Roy said that the new regime had “increased ... the hideous disparities between the rich and the poor. More than a million people have lost their jobs.... Ten million South Africans, almost a quarter of the population, have been disconnected from water and electricity. Two million have been evicted from their homes. Meanwhile, a small white minority that has been historically privileged by centuries of brutal exploitation is more secure than ever before.... It’s apartheid with a clean conscience. And it goes by the name of democracy.”

The same essential facts hold today, as shown, for example, in the article “How Mandela Shifted Views on Freedom of Markets,” by Andrew Ross Sorkin, in the New York Times Business Section of December 9, 2013. Sorkin details how Mandela had first promised, on leaving prison, that “the nationalization of the mines, banks, and monopoly industries is the policy of the A.N.C., and a change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable.” But then Mandela was “persuaded” at an annual conference in Davos, Switzerland, where major politicians and financial capitalists gather each year, to change his views.

According to the Sorkin article, it was the leaders of China and Vietnam who convinced him. If so, that is only fitting—as these leaders, like the Communist Party of South Africa with whom Mandela was at least aligned, were and are revisionist: that is, political forces which claim the title of “communist” and “revolutionary” but who in fact use that as credibility and legitimacy to accommodate with and carry out capitalism. In any event, Mandela led the ANC to dispense with its promises of nationalization, such as they were, and even further opened South Africa to imperialism.

Since then the gap between white and black South Africans has actually grown. The number of people living beneath the poverty line of $2 a day has hovered near or over 50 percent for the past 20 years. Official unemployment is 25 percent, and for young black African men the official figure is close to 50 percent (and it is very likely that these are underestimates). The wage gap is just as high as ever—$1,900 a month for whites, $250 a month for blacks. And this reckoning of the gap does not even count the class of capitalists, landowners, and financiers who suck up vast amounts of money through investment.

Bob Avakian has said this: “...Revolution means nothing less than the defeat and dismantling of the existing, oppressive state, serving the capitalist-imperialist system—and in particular its institutions of organized violence and repression, including its armed forces, police, courts, prisons, bureaucracies and administrative power—and the replacement of those reactionary institutions, those concentrations of reactionary coercion and violence, with revolutionary organs of political power, and other revolutionary institutions and governmental structures,...”—in a way that involves millions of people who are “conscious of the need for revolutionary change and determined to fight for it.” [from BAsics 3:3] While there were millions who were revolutionary-minded in South Africa in the 1980s, the leadership was in fact not really revolutionary. So revolution—real revolution—did not happen in South Africa, nor was it actually even attempted.

And until there is real revolution, underneath all the gauzy inspirational stories, and behind the black faces in high places, duly voted for in the ritualized elections that stamp oppression as legitimate in today’s world, you will, again, have nothing but “apartheid with a clean conscience that goes by the name of democracy.”


South Africa


A black shantytown under the apartheid regime. Huge numbers were crammed into vast over- crowded settlements well away from the heart of the cities. Geographical isolation was enforced so the oppressed masses could be politically and militarily controlled by the apartheid regime. Housing was a mix of barracks-style blocks built by the government, and shacks pieced together from tin, wood, cardboard and other materials. Substandard schools, unpaved streets, no sidewalks, no electricity, no plumbing were the norm. And the shantytowns were a scene of constant police harassment and brutality, as well as a growing radical and revolutionary ferment among the people. Photo: AP


Soweto shantytown, 2009—15 years after the fall of apartheid, 70 to 80 percent of farmland was still in the hands of the white elite, and survival in the rural areas was ever harder. 61 percent of the population was now urban, and 33 percent lived in "informal settlements" without electricity, sanitation services, sewers and water. Today's overall squatter population is estimated at around 10 million. The African National Congress government says it has built 2.8 million new housing units, but it is basically continuing the housing program of apartheid, keeping the masses of oppressed black people in overcrowded, heavily policed settlements, a safe distance from the gleaming city centers that it showcases to the world. The new housing—called "kennels," or "tin can towns," by the people—are at best concrete versions of the apartheid shantytowns. Up to seven people live in a 180-square-foot concrete box with a corrugated tin roof; seven families may share access to a single bathroom, and transportation to jobs and shops is non-existent. Photo: AP




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

From A World to Win News Service

The Legacy of Nelson Mandela and the ANC’s Non-Revolutionary Road

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


A World to Win News Service, December 10, 2013—”The road of racial rainbows and imaginary class harmony without mobilizing the people to get rid of the existing state and uproot the underlying system and its relations appealed to many, especially the middle classes among the oppressed: it is an easier road than revolution. But the problem is, as the bitter experience of South Africa of the recent past 20 years has shown once again, it is entirely illusory—and imaginary.” (from AWTWNS March 15, 2010, “Two decades after Mandela’s release—20 years of freedom in South Africa?”)

* * * * *

Since his death on December 6 at age 95, people the world over are paying tribute to Nelson Mandela, to the man who spent long years in the apartheid regime’s prisons as part of the righteous struggle against settler colonialism and who went on to become the first black president of South Africa. Many people are celebrating Mandela’s life because they believe he staunchly opposed injustice and is a symbol to the oppressed. Other people may not necessarily know, or agree with what the world’s leaders are tirelessly praising him for: this boils down to Mandela’s historic role in defusing the revolutionary situation and stopping the high tide of the struggle of the black majority that tore down the apartheid regime at the end of the 1980s and might have gone much further. The mainstream media salutes Mandela’s consistent fight against the oppression of apartheid, often reducing this to racism, but their acclaims focus on the message of his extending the hand of tolerance and forgiveness to the oppressors, as he and Reverend Desmond Tutu put it so frequently.

In 1994 when he took over as head of state, Mandela announced, “Never, never and never again will this beautiful land experience the oppression of one by another.” The media have tried to conflate the history of the struggle of the people and its various political organizations with Mandela’s own personal trajectory and political vision of change that he led the ANC [African National Congress] to implement. This was a vision of embracing capitalism while promising the people that the ANC could and would reform it in the interests of eliminating the poverty, inequalities, degradation and injustices in so many domains that they suffered under apartheid. So one of the serious questions about Mandela’s legacy is, how is it possible to embrace capitalism and all that goes with it and never again experience oppression?

The non-revolutionary road of partial, peaceful reforms and cooperation with the existing state apparatus that the ANC followed, under Mandela’s leadership at the beginning of its mandate, was in large part based on preserving much of the old system as a whole and the relations between people rooted in centuries of land dispossession and the ideology of white supremacy, in the exploitation of the black majority and subservience to foreign capital and imperialism. This was a road that not only has not liberated people and has not unleashed their potential to transform society, but one that has actually increased the gap between rich and poor and sharpened forms of oppression while the new rulers continue to try to stifle the struggle of the people that has accelerated in all sectors of society as frustration has steadily grown over the past 20 years of ANC rule. “We are tired of waiting,” one hears frequently in the streets and fields of South Africa, and “what good did the vote do us if we continue to live like this?”

The South African people had huge expectations from the fall of apartheid. The ANC and forces supporting it knew this and much of their appeal to the black population before and after the first democratic elections was founded upon a mountain of promises not just for services and houses, but for freedom and radical social change under a black government. Mandela—along with many others—played a decisive role in convincing the people that their struggle was no longer necessary, that they should put down their weapons and anger and forgive the oppressor in the name of the greater public good, social peace and racial harmony.

It is not that the ANC led by Mandela betrayed its own political outlook and program—which never had the goal of making revolution, despite the occasional media accolades about Mandela the revolutionary. In fact the ANC delivered more or less what its 1955 Freedom Charter and its 1994 Reconstruction & Development Programme (RDP) always promoted—power sharing and social democratic reforms with lots of unrealizable anti-system garnish. (Nationalization of key industries was always a point of internal differences and subject to compromise.) However, Mandela and the ANC cloaked the appeal of a black takeover of political power in talk of liberation: this was the betrayal of the people who fought in such large numbers over decades to overthrow the apartheid system and for a society that did away with all the misery, oppression and racial degradation. Many within this politically aroused generation saw this as a movement for truly revolutionary change.

Other political forces fiercely condemned the ANC’s reformist Freedom Charter. Yet as intense as the polemics were and as heroic as the sacrifices and struggle of the people to bring down apartheid, a solid revolutionary organization and leadership did not develop in a way that could challenge the solution that the powers-that-be had decided: to “bank on”—the conciliation of Mandela as a well-known freedom fighter and political prisoner together with the reform objectives of the ANC. The ANC and Mandela also always conceived of the very limited armed struggle they organized and carried out in the early 1960s as primarily a bargaining lever in achieving these aims, not as part of building up a mass revolutionary base to bring down and uproot the system.

Many political forces contributed to bringing theory to and mobilizing the people and some with far more radical theories recognized the need for revolution and fought for it. A range of political organizations the regime had banned emerged or re-emerged, seeking a way out, with different views on what national liberation and changing society required, and providing leadership to different sections and strata of the anti-apartheid struggle. Among these were Pan-Africanists who split from the ANC, Marxist-Leninists closer to Mao’s revolutionary China, various workerist groupings and later those connected to black consciousness developed by Steve Biko. Although it aimed to do away with apartheid rule, this broader movement of forces, including ANC organizations, was also an intense political laboratory of contending lines and visions about how to do that, sometimes involving sharp clashes among the masses, and sometimes fomented by the regime and vigilante traditionalist groups it armed (see A World to Win magazine1995/20 for background).

However, while the factors for a revolutionary situation were sharpening and converging in a very explosive and powerful way, the crucially needed leadership that could develop it towards a revolutionary goal was lacking. The loss of socialist China and its support of revolutionary national liberation movements as it turned into a bastion of state capitalism in the late 1970s was one of the unfavorable factors for a genuine revolutionary leadership emerging. The apartheid enemy played a major role in this and paid a great deal of attention to stopping the development of revolutionary forces by assassinating leaders, torturing and arresting many thousands of activists and general intimidation, within the general lockdown that apartheid meant for the people—restrictions on movements, on assembly; on access to “inflammatory” and revolutionary literature and protest culture. Suffering in these hellholes was a fate the brutal settler colonialist regime meted out to thousands of political prisoners of varying political tendencies who opposed it, many of whom either gave up a large part of their life there, or died in detention. In the face of all this the people resisted and this resistance—paradoxically—is often identified with the imprisoned Mandela and ANC leaders in exile, although the ANC historically represented only one part of it; nor did the ANC develop a strong presence and organization in the vast rural areas of South Africa, by its own admission, all of which was more a reflection of their reformist perspective than their size or potential influence.

Why Mandela Was Chosen in a Revolutionary Crisis

People around the world were inspired by the rising resistance to the hated apartheid state, as a new generation of high school students refusing to be taught in Afrikaans, seen as the language of the oppressor, courageously took to the streets in the 1976 Soweto Rebellion. Their fearless confrontations with the state’s violent machine spread to and increasingly drew in broader sections of the people, including workers and older generations, unleashing a storm of struggle that lasted over a decade, with ups and downs. By the early and mid-1980s apartheid society was out of the rulers’ control. Despite minor reforms and heavy repression, massive arrests and killings, particularly in the burning townships where most black people in the urban areas lived and fought pitched battles with police, the mass struggle became unstoppable. People refused to live in the old way and the state could not rule in the old way.

The apartheid regime alternated between a few further reforms and even harsher repression to try to crush the unprecedented social upsurge and attenuate the mammoth political and economic crisis that began to have international repercussions, greater economic consequences and to raise fears about further escalation into a civil war between whites and blacks. But it is important to remember as the world’s leaders give unending tribute to a peaceful transition, that the period leading up to negotiations was extremely bloody and deadly for black South Africans: in addition to the thousands who lost their lives in the 1980s, at least 13,000 more blacks were killed in the early 1990s alone, after negotiations began.

The apartheid rulers, together with Western states that in the main had continued to support and do business with them throughout the period of white supremacist rule, sought a compromise solution. Mandela began to negotiate in secret with the apartheid state from his house arrest at a Cape Town minimum security prison as early as 1986. For both the local rulers and their imperialist western partners he came to represent the best option to alleviate the crisis and especially to prevent the revolutionary situation from developing into an outright movement to tear apart the state and its reactionary authority. FW DeKlerk of the ruling National Party was brought in as the last apartheid president at the height of the state’s political and social crisis in 1989. Not only did Mandela agree to share a Nobel peace prize in 1993 with DeKlerk, and retrospectively winning the peace prize can be seen as very likely a part of the negotiations process. But as part of being democratically elected as head of state, Mandela also agreed to share political rule in 1994 in a National Unity Government together with the National Party that had been the executors and executioners of apartheid, responsible for so much of the people’s suffering and injustice. The masses of people are still bearing the brunt of the effects of this strategy of Mandela and the ANC. This negotiated transition was a carefully organized plan aimed at “laying to rest” Africa’s explosive and ‘last independence struggle’ against settler colonial rule.

The ANC, like the South African Communist Party, were supporters of the 1950s and ‘60s Soviet model of liberation in the colonies without thoroughgoing revolution. In turn the Soviet Union had promoted both Mandela and the ANC internationally through pro-Soviet governments like Cuba and Libya as well as extensive networks in the anti-apartheid movement in many countries. Changes in the international situation, notably the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s and the end of the “Cold War” also became key factors in the organization of ending apartheid rule. Since the ANC’s previous alliance with the Soviet Union then assumed much less importance in an increasingly unipolar world centered around U.S. imperialism, two things happened: the apartheid rulers’ role in opposing the Soviet bloc in Africa suddenly became essentially irrelevant and secondly, western governments made overtures to woo the then politically orphaned ANC and its principal political figure, Mandela in particular, for a compromise solution to the political crisis.

In life as well as in death Mandela was turned into an iconic figure. The international movement against the hated apartheid system and in support of the oppressed black masses was a broad and important public-opinion creating factor bringing additional pressure on the regime and their western government backers (that included the U.S., Britain, Germany, Japan, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, Israel among others). Older generations remember not only product boycotts, the refusal of artists to perform in South Africa, demonstrations against Western universities and corporations that invested in the apartheid economy, as well as the broader movement for sanctions. This movement also encompassed different political understandings of the system that gave rise to and underlay apartheid. But on the whole it helped politically train a generation of people in the ugly and criminal nature of colonialism (and the role of imperialist states propping it up) and what the apartheid regime’s fist continued to reserve for black South Africans for decades after formal independence had been won or granted in most of the rest of Africa. After a series of bitter struggles and wars of independence, some militarily successful, this was a period in which national liberation leaders were not able to resist the grip of imperialist aid and domination, so South Africa was a key test—for both sides.

What About the Argument That the ANC’s Troubles and Continuing Inequalities Today Are not Mandela’s Doing?

Mandela’s death does call for looking at the situation in South Africa that he left behind (analyzed in some detail in the March 15 AWTWNS article) and his role in helping to shape it. The South African state did gradually change character beginning in 1994 under shared ANC-NP rule and it lifted formal apartheid laws that helped structure the previous state. Since then further reforms have taken place, a democratic Constitution was debated and written, if difficult to implement, and important incremental changes have occurred, particularly for the emerging black middle class. In some poor areas the small “RDP houses” have been built and electrified and water pipes installed where there were none. The nature of the democracy the ANC has been able to bring to South Africa, aside from formal open elections, continues to be a hot topic almost everywhere.

As regards one of the main feats attributed to Mandela—building a “rainbow nation with racial harmony”—it should be stressed that this evokes different things to different social classes. Among the still poorer sections of people it is an idea that is widely made fun of or hated. People see well-off blacks in the government, but they feel their chances of getting out of their own situation are few or non-existent. Racial discrimination is still plain to see and feel in every sphere, even if it is legally abolished. White supremacy is also alive and well in South Africa, albeit in mutated forms, sometimes subtle, sometimes as openly crass and racist as under apartheid. Racial unity among the oppressed in South Africa and those who will struggle on their side must be built on the basis of opposing this system, not by reconciling with it and succumbing to the divisions it reinforces among the people.

The racially based division of the land was a central anchor of the apartheid social order and this remains true in the current social order too, with modifications. This is about both the apartheid social engineering between the “white areas” and the Bantustans “reserved” for the rural black population on the one hand, and about who owns and controls the land on the other. These two features still shape how especially rural society is organized and the choices that blacks have. ANC policies and neoliberal (more market, supposedly less state interference) capitalism have strengthened and concentrated private landholding primarily among whites, particularly on the commercial farms. These capitalist farms produce more and more for export rather than local food needs and are more and more tied into global financialization. For most black people seeking land they previously had no right to own or occupy, except in the reserves, the ANC’s very stingy land reform has merely rubbed salt in an open wound. White landowners also have strongly resisted it. So trying to seriously uproot the old land ownership system flies in the face of the ANC’s capitalist route—already visible in the 1994 RDP of Mandela’s time in power. And the old master and servant relations between boss and farm tenants—while somewhat modernized with wages and minimally applied labor laws on some white farms—still underpin much of the oppressive situation this very poor section of the South African people face, and the capitalist “modernization” aspects have in many ways intensified exploitation in agriculture.

One of the main aspects we might add to the situation since the article in 2010 that explains the ways in which the economic and social situation have been governed, is that dissatisfaction with the politics and the outcome of the ANC’s , and Mandela’s, program has markedly increased. This has been reflected in social struggles in many different sectors from civil service, to farm workers to continued service delivery protests in many areas, struggles over school closings and the poor quality of education in black schools, and many others. When a mass movement of miners striking over wages in the Northwest platinum belt in August 2011 dared to go against the ANC-led trade union and carry out wildcat actions against the Lonmin Mining company, the ANC state shot down 35 of them in cold blood, unleashing a torrent of political fury and debate over the nature of this ANC state protecting capitalist interests, both foreign and local. Cyril Ramaphosa, the main emcee at the Mandela memorial on December 10, is the very same man who sits on the board of this imperialist mining company. Serving also as the ANC’s deputy president, he had great difficulty explaining why and how the democratic ANC-led state carried out this massacre. In 1999 Mandela backed Ramaphosa, a former ANC union leader who has since turned billionaire, in his unsuccessful bid to be the ANC’s presidential candidate (see AWTWNS November 5, 2012).


In many other ways the ANC’s image of an organization standing for liberation has long worn off among those who hoped it would do something different running the state. In addition, numerous internal conflicts are wracking the ANC, while it struggles to preserve its hold over both the black masses who have lost faith in its promises and over the capitalist plantation it manages for big capital, much of it foreign. Even some of those who have remained loyal to the ANC did not sign up for this nightmare, much less the masses of people who fought and died for national liberation.

But it is important not to shy away from the truth that whatever the intentions, this was the road that Mandela led the ANC to take—not by himself, but not separate from it either, as many commentators are trying to skillfully spare him from in their eulogies. There was no revolution in South Africa. This is most what the powers-that-be are celebrating about Mandela’s contribution to the struggle against apartheid. The “historic compromise” and all that led up to it was intended to prevent a revolution from developing, to extinguish the fires of mass struggle and to substitute false promises of equality for the people’s real hopes and expectations that radical change was within reach, as the apartheid rulers’ crisis came to a head and their hold crumbled over the reactionary society they led.

Is this what Mandela and the ANC intended when they organized protests in the 1950s against carrying passbooks and started an intermittent armed struggle that never really took hold inside the country? Yes and no. Much of the current mess in South Africa is undoubtedly not what Mandela wanted and like others he is often pardoned for holding illusions that a third path of “humanitarian” capitalism was possible.

Is it Mandela’s fault that things turned out this way? Not single-handedly but in the end he was thrust forward as the first “post-independence” black president signalling the end of formal apartheid and thus became a leader: so he will inevitably be evaluated by past and present history in terms of what he did, thought and what he did not do or try to do. It is his political vision and program as part of the ANC that are decisive. His personal leadership contributed significantly to suppressing the massive people’s uprising in order to broker a political agreement acceptable to his enemies; this was part and parcel of the ANC’s programme that in no way challenged imperialism’s grip on the country and the world. Indeed instead it helped to strengthen it, in the process helping the country to assume a position of dominance within the African continent as a whole. The negative example of bowing down and giving up when the oppressors were weakened and “on the run” that Mandela and the ANC also set for the millions of oppressed people around the world—who deeply hoped that liberation rather than accommodation would be the result of this colonial conflict—was also not a minor political and ideological achievement for the imperialists. For Mandela to establish a false social peace and to put a new spin and face on the old state that sits atop a stifling, exploitative system did not offer any kind of solution for the oppressed. For the people of South Africa, this situation remains a prison that must be broken out of and it requires conscious revolutionary leadership with the aim and vision of a completely different society to do so. Many in South Africa are looking for just such a way out.

* * * * * 

The following article from AWTWNS March 15, 2010 is reprinted below because it provides much of the background material for understanding the situation in South Africa since the fall of apartheid.

Two Decades After Mandela’s Release— 20 Years of Freedom in South Africa?

March 15, 2010. A World to Win News Service. The world watched elatedly 20 years ago as Nelson Mandela was finally freed from 27 years in South African jails in February 1990, so hated was the apartheid regime and all the injustice it stood for. Mandela, as one of the world’s longest-held political prisoners had become a sort of living legend. Apartheid’s jails regorged with thousands of political prisoners from the decades of struggle against apartheid representing different organizations and different perspectives. Many fighters, leaders and soldiers died in detainment or were hanged in police stations, thrown out of upper-story windows and never saw a wigged white apartheid judge go through the motions of a trial. Treason was a common charge. And the masses of South African people had made enormous and heroic sacrifices during the struggle and periods of upsurge over the previous decades. Although Mandela’s enemies secretly began negotiations with him in 1988,1 it was never a secret that their releasing political leaders and unbanning opposition groups in 1990 was a calculated step in the dismantling of apartheid and reorganization of political rule in South Africa.

At the end of the 1980s the apartheid system of enforced racial segregation and oppression in which the black majority (including people of Indian and mixed race origin) was legally forbidden the most elementary rights was rotting at the seams under the combined weight of major social, political, and economic crisis. It was a revolutionary situation, which the white settler regime fully realized as it could no longer contain the political upsurge that had been shaking the country in waves since 1976 and reached a peak in the mid-1980s. Despite police invasion of the townships where most blacks lived, these became bases to stage different forms of struggle. Youth, students and workers, including foreign migrant workers, organized mass boycotts, stay-aways (from school, businesses and work), strikes, fighting with police and then funeral marches after people were gunned down. In the rural areas too, where most Africans were forced to live in phony ethnic-based reserves, people rioted against the despised bantustan authorities and their vigilante squads, fought for better land and resisted forced removals as part of apartheid’s territorial consolidation. While vast sections of blacks were mobilized in one form or another to fight white rule, many thousands were also actively involved in organizations fighting for national liberation and revolution, and passionately debating the future.

President P.W. Botha’s counter-revolutionary strategy, combining some reforms and modest social welfare with divide-and-conquer tactics among the anti-apartheid forces, utterly failed to stabilize the situation. The situation was so out of control by 1986 that the apartheid government declared emergency rule with curfews and a doubled police force that occupied the exploding townships. In the late 1980s four to five thousand people were killed. Every funeral was turned into another round of struggle. The intensity of the upsurge led the regime to ban 31 black political organizations in 1988, provoking the creation of numerous new local committees to carry on. The struggle remained at a high level into 1990.

The apartheid rulers, advised by the West, sought Nelson Mandela’s help to end the crisis and smother the escalating revolutionary movement by lending credibility to a negotiated settlement with anti-apartheid organizations. They were able to buy precious time while they reorganized South Africa’s political rule in ways that did not fundamentally change the socio-economic system it served and the country’s role as powerhouse of Africa and guardian of imperialist interests in the region.

As it was designed to, the negotiated compromise in South Africa had a terrible effect, helping to snuff out the revolutionary aspirations of the millions of people who, at the cost of great sacrifice including their lives, threatened to pull down the regime in order to end white rule and all the vicious oppression and suffering it represented. This immense opportunity and revolutionary potential was channelled into voting for one of 19 candidates with Mandela representing the ANC (African National Congress) that had been groomed to share state power with the slightly reformed National Party—the same reactionary party that had presided over formal apartheid for nearly 50 years. It was called a Government of National Unity. Having the right to vote for the first time in history, naturally the majority of Black people turned out in record numbers to elect the popular former political prisoner Nelson Mandela with hopes that the ANC would be able to deliver on its promises of liberation, returning the land to blacks, and doing away with the inequalities and bitter subjugation they had endured for so long.

How did a so-called national liberation organization led by Mandela succeed in drowning this revolutionary process? How did it become such a willing tool of the ruling classes?

ANC’s Politics—a History of Talking Liberation While Betraying the People’s Interests

Mandela had been widely promoted worldwide, partly through the movements and networks linked to the Soviet Union of the 1960s through the mid-1980s, as a particularly prominent symbol of freedom, in fact far beyond his direct political role or influence and those of the ANC inside the country.

The ANC didn’t become “turncoats” once in power, as some people argue with nostalgia for the days of struggle against apartheid, its precious service to the ruling classes flowed logically, if sometimes indirectly from its politics. The ANC was not a revolutionary national liberation organization. Its politics and programs have never been based on thoroughgoing liberation for the people of South Africa: not on the proletariat and oppressed seizing power and leading a genuine national (or new) democratic revolution, not on breaking with the stranglehold of the imperialist system, and not on a vision of a communist future. The revisionists of the South African Communist Party (SACP), active in the politics, leadership and organization of the ANC, were closely connected to the Soviet-led bloc of social-imperialists for decades. For them, socialism and the notion of “people’s power” meant taking over and reforming the old existing state. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the new unipolar world order, the ANC was quickly wooed from the wing of the Soviet revisionist umbrella to the western neoliberal imperialist agenda and bourgeois democracy: an ensemble of formal political rights while reinforcing the capitalist ownership and production system. In other words in 1994, the ANC carried out more or less the agenda they had always promoted, wrapped in a light national liberation cover. And that is why the bourgeoisie in South Africa and western citadels sought their complicity.

The ANC’s limited vision in its 1955 Freedom Charter, still a reference point today, was inspired by notions of classic bourgeois equality from the U.S. Constitution. It also called for partial nationalization of some industries and banks and sharing the country’s land and wealth. The ANC promoted occasional non-violent mass campaigns, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi (such as those against the pass books restricting black people’s movements) and later limited armed actions organised outside the country as a means of pressuring the apartheid rulers rather than mobilising the people to overthrow them.

In a country where black workers were oppressed in all spheres of society and paid a fraction of the wages whites earned, the SACP/ANC argued for “unity of the working class” between the black proletarians and more privileged whites who were a key part of the apartheid regime’s reactionary social base. They were unable to seriously address, much less solve the central national question—rooted in the white settlers’ subjugation of African people—and its ongoing repercussions, which together with the pivotal problem of the colonial land theft and freedom from foreign (imperialist) domination were at the heart of demands for national liberation. This was one reason the revolutionary nationalists of the Pan African Congress broke away from the ANC in 1959 with a more radical programme. In the 1970s under the guidance of Steve Biko the Black Consciousness movement emerged and played the crucial role in the famous Soweto rebellion in 1976 that unleashed a wave of popular upsurges over the next 15 years, involving a range of political forces, from trade unions to township initiatives, and rural areas.

Disgusted with what they considered to be the sell-out politics of the ANC in particular, small more revolutionary offshoots of these (black and Pan-Africanist nationalist) currents were influenced by revolutionary China and Mao Tsetung’s teachings and sought to challenge the whole system while seeking revolutionary theory and analysis to guide them. In the political landscape of the 1980s, national liberation and overthrowing apartheid rule were on the minds of hundreds of thousands of people. Within and among the anti-apartheid movements, the labor unions and the schools and universities, different radical views and programmes contended over how to bring about revolutionary change. But a genuine revolutionary party based on a scientific ideology with a communist line and leadership unfortunately never materialized in the course of this high tide of struggle, for a number of reasons. In addition to the impact of continued repression, the state’s assassination of leaders who did emerge, as well as the revolutionary forces not anchoring themselves firmly enough in the contradictions of the imperialist system as a whole as well as the highest ideological understanding of that time, the powerful effect of the ruling class ending formal apartheid and derailing the struggle towards electoral compromise cannot be underestimated.

1994: Negotiating to Share Political Power Within the Old State

Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, along with other political prisoners, and the unbanning of numerous political organizations were key steps in launching the negotiations process for multi-party elections and the gargantuan effort to draw a large section of the black liberation movement, including many of its radically-minded intellectuals, into that process. Mandela called on the people to stop their struggle, lay down their arms, to “bury the past, extend a hand.” (Some examples of Mandela’s class collaboration are more or less accurately portrayed in the beginning of the 2009 movie Invictus, as he soughtto override mistrust among ANC employees faced with sharing the state with their previous enemies. One scene in particular depicts Mandela welcoming the same special branch security officers into his personal bodyguard who had actively hunted down and killed anti-apartheid activists.)

Heavily financed and counselled from the West, the ANC and its sister organisations, trade unions, and the SACP set about communicating the message that antagonistic struggle was no longer necessary: a peaceful electoral path would solve South Africa’s tremendous problems, if blacks—the ANC—joined the government and worked from within to change the nature of the state. Aiming to gain some seats at the tables of political power as they existed with a big boost from the more liberal sections of the white capitalist class directly tied to imperialism and the imperialists themselves, who were actively working for a transition on terms favorable to their continued domination of South Africa, the ANC willingly became a political instrument of these classes and interests they had ostensibly opposed for decades. Worse, much of the ANC’s own complete surrender to this plan took the form of being soldiers in the battle to politically disarm and actively demobilize broad sections of the movement against the regime at a very crucial point in history while helping convince leaders with whom it had long-standing disagreements—whose rank and file had shed blood over—to join in the negotiations project.

Mandela and prominent clergy like Desmond Tutu lead the way to these “talks about talks,” as they were dubbed. Given the sharp tensions over different programs and struggle against the non-revolutionary politics of the ANC, naturally disputes and misgivings arose among the various participating liberation groups, including the PAC, Azapo, left ANC splinter groups, Trotskyist circles inside and outside of the ANC and others, some temporarily pulling out or arguing for interim “guarantees” such as a Constituent Assembly. But the “miracle” the bourgeoisie and its international partners achieved was to bring most of these black political leaders into the same tent of compromise. If successful, the U.S. imperialists were eager to apply this model to other conflict-ridden states and former colonies that needed to be politically stabilised as post WW2 arrangements increasingly were becoming outmoded. An important component of the model was to build up the black middle and better-off classes that had a material stake in the system and to appeal to those who aspired to be part of the elite. In turn they would help continue to persuade the country’s majority poor population they didn’t need to overthrow capitalism, but must instead “take part” in developing it, which required making peace with those at the top—both black and white.

One of the other great myths about the South African transition was that it was peaceful. The negotiated agreement was cemented in a combination of talks AND violence. When the international bourgeois press crows that “civil war was avoided” it means that there was no open “race war” between white extremist groups—which were more or less neutralized and pulled into the political compromise as well—and the black masses. In reality, the world witnessed a very bloody process of apartheid moulting to shared political rule in the early 1990s in which over 13 thousand black lives were lost. Open fighting repeatedly broke out or was orchestrated between the ANC or other political organizations and the right-wing Zulu nationalists of Gatsha Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party and its paramilitary forces, supported by police and security forces or by conservative white groups threatening to destabilise elections. In addition, sharp contradictions over the political differences between the moderate United Democratic Front, the ANC and its more rebellious youth base on the one hand, and Azapo and other political groupings in and around the black consciousness movements and PAC on the other hand, often took a violent form. Thirdly, state violence to repress the rising struggle of the people (portrayed from the perspective of the future in the “science fiction” film District 9 as an armed onslaught against the masses of alien “prawns”) was in fact a daily reality in the townships and resulted in several massacres after 1990 from Bisho in the Ciskei to Sebokeng in Gauteng.

The road of racial rainbows and imaginary class harmony without mobilizing the people to get rid of the existing state and uproot the underlying system and relations appealed to many, especially the middle classes among the oppressed: it is an easier road than revolution. But the problem is, as the bitter experience of South Africa of the recent past 20 years has shown once again, it is entirely illusory—and imaginary.

In reality, the society is nearly as segregated as ever—minus the legal apartheid scaffolding supporting it. Despite a rising and very visible black middle class, inequalities between rich and poor have actually increased. New political freedoms, while greater than under white rule, are mainly channelled into pressuring the ANC in government for more service delivery and exercizing a vote to keep them in power. Twenty years ago, a whole generation was ready to tear up the place for something new, different and truly liberating.

At the same time, many people’s experience had taught them to distrust the negotiated outcome and they were (and still are) bitterly angry at being dragged into this deception—trading the masses’ revolutionary struggle in for the chance to vote for a black government that, despite its populist promises, is in fact governed by the needs and requirements of the global capitalist-imperialist system that such posturing serves. Struggles continued to erupt against the ANC’s betrayal of the people but the giant tide to become citizens in a liberal democracy had a powerfully debilitating effect, as it was intended to, polarizing things in a very unfavorable way for revolution.

ANC’s 1994 Program: Neo-liberalism and Bourgeois Equality Promoted with Populism

The post-election state was composed of a Government of National Unity between the National Party headed by the pre-1994 president Frederick DeKlerk and Nelson Mandela for the ANC from 1994 to1996. ANC leader Thabo Mbeki was elected in 1999 and again in 2004. However, a major split in the party occurred after the national ANC congress replaced Mbeki with Jacob Zuma as head of the organization in late 2007. In an unprecedented move, Mbeki resigned early from the South African presidency in September 2008 because of this factional friction within the ANC and charges (later overturned) that he had interfered with Zuma′s prosecution,2 leaving a hiatus until Zuma won the top job in April 2009. Mbeki’s supporters formed a new party called the Congress of People (COPE) in December 2008, which other South African liberal opposition parties welcomed as it was seen as weakening the ANC’s near electoral monopoly of black voters.

Despite secondary political differences among these three ANC presidents, corresponding to divergent views within the party over how best to carry out its goals, the ANC’s common basic program and approach help explain how in an intense period of revolutionary turmoil the party was able to sound credible to a politically conscious and aroused black population wanting to turn the system upside down that was responsible for the unrelenting oppression and harsh injustices of apartheid.

Four essential features stand out in the ANC’s political strategy and propaganda3:

First, the appeal of immediate democratic rights (dispensed by a black government) in a very undemocratic society colonised by white settlers. This included “equality before the law and equal protection” under the law for everyone, freedom from discrimination and servitude and full dignity and respect as citizens. The new Bill of Rights removes the countless restrictions from apartheid and accords the right to vote, to assemble, to move about freely, as well as the right to religion and political expression and so forth.

The Bill of Rights itself is very democratic in content and an important basis for any transitional society. However, cast through the ANC’s politics, in truth this appeal reflects the narrowing down of people’s dreams of liberation to western-style formal democracy and illusions that the new citizens, as individuals, were acquiring political power through the ballot box. The government did open up public debate over key issues in many areas, but dissent and protest tended to be either handled in a paternalistic way or oriented towards official (ANC-related) channels and organizations. The ANC constantly stressed the importance of people’s participation through assembles, conferences and public discussion in reform processes that were essentially decided by the recomposed state and such participation certainly did not affect important structural changes or fundamental transformations. And, like in other formal liberal democracies, this freedom of expression does not permit any serious challenge to how society is organised and to which class holds political power.

As if to underscore this latter point, while a side aspect involved loosening the grip of police repression against political opponents, the main security apparatuses of the murderous apartheid system have only been slightly reorganized and former members of the various liberation armies had to renounce their past to receive demobilisation money or to be integrated into the reactionary South African army.

Secondly, the ANC promised to deliver miraculous social development to address the needs of the deprived and expectant black population, using its liberation struggle credentials and critique of colonialism and apartheid crimes. These promises included full employment, radical redistribution of the land within a few years, education, healthcare, electricity, food security and housing for all, a major programme of social assistance and much more.

This was a social democratic vision, and only moderately redistributive, not a socialist one. The ANC promised to fight from within its position in the joint state for a program of social reforms that corresponded to illusions the ANC itself fostered—that the system it inherited and presided over, if properly guided in a “humanitarian” or “pro-people” manner, could produce and deliver the things the people desperately needed and desired. This essential lie that the system could (and would) be reformed in the interests of the “poorest of the poor”, as the ANC liked to put it in 1994, with a liberatory quality of life and changed social relations between people, was recycled in 2009 as the [myth of the] “developmental state.”4

This illusion relied on a third and crucial feature: that the existing economic set-up need only be “adjusted” and future national growth that would eventually finance social development necessarily depended on further integration into the world imperialist system, international markets and attracting foreign investment. Part of the demagogic appeal, especially to the aspiring middle classes, included passing anti-trust laws, which would break up the giant white conglomerates dominating the economy and open up vast opportunities for black entrepreneurs. The true freedom to compete in a truly free market, open to all races.

The neoliberal macro-economic plan put into effect (called Growth, Employment and Redistribution—GEAR) moved away from the uncompetitive apartheid-era centralization of state enterprises to more classic liberalisation and producing for export. This involved freeing up capital for financial speculation and deregulating investment, privatising public services with the idea of stimulating the creation of black-owned businesses, jobs and a bigger tax base. How this capital accumulation (and profit) could be achieved without intensifying the conditions of super-exploitation of black South African masses, national oppression, low-paid labor and remaining pre-capitalist forms of oppression was not explained by ANC and neoliberal theoreticians. Many people nonetheless understood that its parasitic capitalist and market essence was not likely to bring the social changes promised5 and GEAR became a key focus of protest over the following years, even within the ANC’s own political alliance, particularly by the trade union confederation, COSATU. While critical of this policy, the SACP never broke ranks over this decisive question of the economy, instead defending their right to democratically debate it under ANC leadership. A large handful of huge conglomerates continue to control the national stock exchange while sub-companies and black director and management positions were created.

The fourth aspect was an appeal to civil peace, stabilization and national reconciliation.

Translated practically, this meant forging reactionary unity with the bourgeois classes and the imperialists the people had been courageously fighting against for so long. And at the heart, it was closely connected to smothering and denying the central importance of the national question that is objectively a major faultline in South African society. The very rotten structures and social relations of apartheid that were bursting to be overthrown were literally built and enshrined on the basis of brutal national oppression, deeply embedded in all aspects of the social fabric. Rather than uprooting the causes and basis of this oppression, the ANC has called for “improving race relations,” eliminating formal racial discrimination and especially empowering blacks without taking away anything from whites, who still live in a privileged and relatively separate European-like world. Government leaders routinely denounce outward expressions of continued white supremacy or turn extreme cases over to languish in the courts. To blacks the ANC sent the message that now the problem is economic inequality, so they should “be patient, you’ll get yours,” “after all, changes take a long time given our past,” and, “now that we’re in power the colonial problem is history.”

After over 20,000 people and groups provided testimony of the violence they suffered under apartheid before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in 1995, the few perpetrators of these crimes from the police and the state who came forward to confess were pardoned. Neither this attempt to impose reconciliation nor the attempt to equate violence by the oppressed with the violence of the oppressor went down well with the people—another very bitter pill the ANC-led state shamefully and willingly shoved down the throats of the black population in the name of civil peace and “moving on.”

“Empowerment” and Enrichment of a Few...

20 years of freedom? This depends on who you ask. If you circulate in the cities and countryside of South Africa, you are likely to hear, “well, we are free to vote, but little has changed for us under a black government; we are tired of waiting”; surprisingly in 2009, many added, “I’ve voted twice and I don’t even know if I’m going to bother this time— what good does it do?”

Mandela and DeKlerk were rewarded with a joint Nobel peace prize in 1993 and their several-year political union, while far from harmonious, accomplished its goal of joint rule to stabilize the country politically—at least temporarily. The neoliberal macro-economic policies put into effect under their watch were able to at first improve sluggish growth, which has since slowed considerably. Financialization of the economy has given the wealthy few trading on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange a new lease on life and strengthened the rand, South Africa’s currency. The Black Economic Empowerment scheme set up to promote black entrepreneurship has successfully made a small class of people obscenely rich, who have become shareholders in the largest companies, as well as CEOs in some cases, or who secured tenders through political connections to the ANC top brass. And many of the ANC leaders themselves have not bothered to conceal their “nouveau riche” status, showing up at rallies in Mercedez-Benz and the latest bling. In addition, previously suppressed under apartheid, a much larger urban black middle class has emerged in South Africa, filling a demand for professionals, managers, computer engineers and technicians as well as numerous retailers.

However, the main picture shows a much bigger gap between rich and poor in the past 20 years, giving South Africa one of the highest inequality indexes in the world today. The poorest sections of the black majority, whose position initially improved some percentage points, have become poorer. The number of South Africans living on $1 a day more than doubled between 1996 and 2005 and over one third of the population now live on less than $2 per day. In the rural areas (40-45% of the population) closer to 70% of black households live in real poverty, over half of whom are headed by women. Although some people with access to land can grow some of their own food, especially the staple maize crop, rural land-based livelihoods have been battered down by a century of white monopoly of farmland, which post-1994 land reform has done very little to change. In addition, while a new minimum wage was introduced several years ago, it is not enforced in much of the white commercial farm areas, where oppressive often pre-capitalist social relations mixed with South Africa’s lowest wages still prevail.

To offset growing poverty, the government has greatly expanded its system of social assistance in the past few years and nearly a quarter of South Africans receive some kind of grant, particularly in the form of child protection. Housing, electricity and services have all been improved in the past 20 years, but the privatisation of many public services has made them unaffordable to many. Hosting the World Cup has required enormous outlays to build the necessary sports facilities and infrastructure.

Another big issue is jobs. Over one million jobs have been lost in the past decade under ANC rule, particularly in mining and manufacturing. Unemployment officially stands at 22%, some figures report 40% and studies have put it at nearly 70% in the rural areas. Part of the dispute comes from the fact that sections of the huge informal economy in South Africa are not counted, such as the large numbers of petty traders selling a tiny pile of onions or overripe bananas on the street, so common throughout the third world. Each year the ANC government sets new targets for creating jobs.

South Africa’s social situation is little better. Deeply entrenched segregation means that schools, transportation and housing, like all spheres of society, remain for the most part physically and racially separate by neighbourhood, town, even while a few mixed middle and upper middle class areas have developed in and around large cities like Johannesburg. Less than 1/5 of the population can afford medical plans and private sector health services, so the demand for free healthcare for all that has been on the agenda since 1994 is a central one. Some 5.7 million people are infected with HIV/AIDs and in 2007 nearly 1000 people died each day from it, Mbeki’s policy banning anti-retrovirals in public health institutions undoubtedly fuelling these numbers.

With a few exceptions, whites drive their own cars and don′t mix with the millions of black township residents who travel long distances between home and jobs in the city with the parallel “black” collective taxi-vans. Schools have officially been reclassified and some fees eliminated, but the old divisions persist between good white (now mixed) schools and those in the black townships and poor rural areas. The former white elite universities are more integrated but often black students can’t afford to stay past the first year or two.

Crime is a constant preoccupation as South Africa has one of the highest rates of murder and rape in the world. White and affluent mixed neighbourhoods are increasingly separated off from the real world behind closed gates. In front of each house in middle class areas with lawns and flowering trees, a private security guard sits on a chair, and—at first glance striking to the foreign visitor—almost all individual private homes in such areas are surrounded by high walls. The symbolic barbed wire of apartheid—to keep black people out—is still visible everywhere. In reality, most crime targets poor people and the dense labyrinths of dimly-lit township alleyways are a nightmare for women after dark. The ANC’s response has not been to mobilize people to change the underlying conditions for all this, but to focus on common criminals. The U.S. magazine Time, recently featuring Zuma on its cover, approvingly refers to what is commonly seen as his “shoot-to-kill” policy.

Since the “democratic rainbow miracle” has intensified poverty and class differences and since white supremacy has hardly disappeared, struggles have regularly broken out over a broad range of social issues. While these protests are mostly tolerated, the ANC has renewed its populism in order to narrow down political frustration directed at the system—and to deflect criticism away from themselves, who are presiding over that system—towards service delivery problems that take “more time and money.” Although reluctant to criticize the ANC “comrades” for some time, over the past decade some of South Africa’s active social movements have been challenging ANC policies and political will to bring about the changes they call for. By way of example, protests have included food riots, struggle over prepaid electricity power meters in the townships, and over housing by shack dwellers in Durban as well as protests over unemployment, the slowness of land reform along with a spate of strikes over pay, including by public sector workers and even pro-ANC labor unions. Campuses blew up in 2008 over the outrageous racist incident at the Free State University when white students urinated in food they served to black housekeepers at their dorm.6

Even if over 50% live in poverty in South Africa, it is still the continent’s “richest” country and continues to attract large numbers of immigrants. The urban housing crisis and massive joblessness have also fed into uglier expressions of the contradictions among the people such as the xenophobic attacks in May 2008 that resulted in 62 deaths, renewed on a smaller scale in several areas of the country since that time, in which poor slum dwellers (along with some gang-organized activity) targeted Zimbabweans, Nigerians, Malawians and other foreigners living in South Africa. This polarized the masses in a very bad way, rather than focusing anger at the system and the ANC government, which did not hesitate to send in humvees and troops to keep order, reminiscent of scenes of brutal police repression under apartheid. White farmers have also participated in the anti-immigrant hunt, alternately “hiring” Zimbabweans who have crossed the border looking for work and literally chasing them back to Zimbabwe with armed private patrols and dogs.

Patriarchy Rules...

The press has focused on Zuma’s headline-grabbing “unpresidential” polygamy and his seeming inability to keep his trousers on. The ANC recently told him to “zip it up” and to publicly apologise for fathering a 19th child, this time with the daughter of the World Cup local organizing committee chair (who he since agreed to take as a fourth wife through customary marriage). In the wake of his falling out with the Mbeki forces in the party over corruption charges and political rivalry, Zuma has tried to boost ANC popularity through reviving Zulu nationalism and stressing his modest origins, while denouncing the new COPE split-off party as a “rich man’s club.” His supporters wear in-your-face T-shirts saying “I’m 100% Zulu” to underscore the fact that Mandela’s and Mbeki’s ethnic Xhosa-speaking social base is no longer in charge. Zuma’s open defense of reactionary patriarchal traditions and rape as “Zulu cultural obligations,” however, is really only a different form of the patriarchy and tribalism characteristic of Mandela and his “royal” line, or Mbeki’s paternalistic “defence” of African knowledge and culture while denying pregnant women infected with HIV/AIDs access to anti-retroviral drugs.7 (And, as might be expected from its cultural level, still vocal white supremacists retaliate by attacking Zuma’s behavior towards women with the worst of racial slurs.)

Zuma portrays himself as a “man of the people” who knows poverty and doesn’t need Mbeki’s refined English accent nor foreign law degrees to deliver what the people need. He constantly invokes the “comrades” and the ANC’s credentials in the struggle against apartheid, but has no reservations in appealing to foreign investors in the next sentence or calling for the return of the death penalty. The British bourgeois press has expressed faith that his left populism is merely “talk,” while he can be counted on to pursue Mbeki’s “conservative financial” policies and govern “from the right.”

Relations with the imperialists are not without contradiction, but overall South Africa has won their approval, even earning a seat at the G20. The ANC’s role of political fireman goes hand in hand with its leading position as the organiser of imperialist-dominated development in the continent, with a particular strength in the southern African subcontinent.

Building a Revolutionary Movement

South Africa’s ruling class has been able to make noticeable changes from apartheid society within the narrow confines of a stunted bourgeois democracy built upon an economic system in which the majority is frozen at the bottom even while small social strata within the black population are enriched. While the underpinnings of this stiflingly oppressive system are essentially the same, a different political configuration rules over it today, with the pretentious claim to have “built the foundation of a new society by enshrining the basic human and democratic rights of all in the country’s constitution.” (ANC 2009 Election Manifesto)

Reportedly the party’s 2009 election slogan “Working together we can do more” was frequently “doctored” on city walls with additions like “evictions,” “exploitation” and “corruption.”

South Africa is bursting with social contradictions that capitalism can and will never solve. Revolution is needed as much as ever, along with a communist line and organization to lead it, mobilizing the favorable factors for the development of a thoroughgoing revolutionary movement. Despite some of the negative deadening effects of the ANC’s populism and the seduction of hoping to buy into capitalism’s very selective fruits, as well as sharpening divisions among the vast numbers of people for whom those fruits are more or less permanently forbidden, there are also many positive factors. The society is highly polarized racially and socially and extremely politicized with constantly contending views and different forms of struggle erupting. This is linked to a powerful and bitter history of struggle against apartheid, which included a large section of the older generations fighting for national liberation, many of whom are completely disillusioned with the ANC. Along with the unresolved land question that has clearly illustrated the continued weight of white minority control over agricultural land 15 years after land reform was introduced, and the still pervasive and explosive national question, the continued workings of the capitalist system itself continue to grind down the black majority and offer little future for younger generations. Spontaneously these factors will continue to force people to struggle but in the current reformist headlock of the ANC, will lead to little more than pressuring the government for more welfare and service delivery as it already promises. Yet many people yearn for something entirely different—liberation and the new society they didn’t get. And new generations are coming up against similar obstacles as before, as nationalist views are resurrected with varying degrees of militancy to try to answer the dilemmas posed by the ANCs 20-year demonstration that its politics and ideology have nothing to do with genuine liberation.

For those who are looking, the mask has long slipped off the ANC’s social democracy. In a world whose emperors declare this deceptive goal to be the highest we can reach for, those who wish to accelerate revolutionary change must ask the hard questions: what kind of revolutionary process is needed to thoroughly uproot and transform the old as well as the more “modern” oppressive social relations? How is national liberation linked to a vision of going further to create a whole different society, not based on either colonial or capitalist relations dependent on and still heavily shaped by imperialism? A starting point for rebuilding a revolutionary movement.


1. According to the British Guardian newspaper (9/2/2008), his successor Thabo Mbeki also met secretly in exile with the NP government as early as 1986. [back]

2. Mbeki dismissed Zuma as Deputy President in mid-2005, who was closely associated with fraud and corruption charges stemming from a $5 billion arms deal with the French. He allegedly received thousands of dollars in kickbacks, for which his financial adviser was jailed in 2005. Prosecutors finally dropped the case in April 2009, two weeks before the vote. [back]

3. See the ANC’s 1994 Reconstruction & Development Programme and its 2009 Election Manifesto. [back]

4. An example from the 2009 Election Manifesto doublespeak: “We must ensure that the mandates of development finance institutions are clear and truly developmental and that their programs contribute to decent work outcomes, achievement of our developmental needs and sustainable livelihoods.” [back]

5. Other aspects of the ANC’s program, like the remarkably paltry market-based land reform, also failed to pacify the black population and continue to fuel social tensions, the subject of a future article. [back]

6. In the interests of “reconciliation on a divided campus,” the university allowed them to resume their studies a year later. [back]

7. Although portrayed internationally as simplistically opposing science, Mbeki’s refusal to respond seriously to the rapidly escalating AIDs crisis in South Africa (with disastrous consequences and 600,000 deaths in 2006) was grounded in his moral stance against what he called “global apartheid”; he opposed portraying Africans as ignorant victims of a western disease, forced to buy expensive western drugs and argued that AIDs was linked to poverty rather than its viral origins. [back]


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




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Bringing Alive What It Would Mean To Be Free

Stepping into the Future Premiere Celebration in Harlem 

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


After Stepping Into the Future in Harlem, December 7, performers speak with people in the audience.

Saturday night, December 7, at the MIST Harlem Cinema, 125 people gathered with great anticipation to celebrate and view the premiere of Stepping into the Future: On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsicsA Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World, the documentary of the extraordinary April 11, 2011 event marking the publication of the book BAsics by Bob Avakian.

Annie Day, co-director

People experienced the heart and soul of the film, featuring beautiful art and performances and commentary inspired by Bob Avakian's vision and work—bringing alive revolution and the kind of liberated society that could come into being for humanity. In her remarks after the screening, Annie Day, the producer of the April 11 event, said, “What we saw in this film tonight—the diversity of voices, the ferment and creativity that can get kicked off, all coming together from different perspectives but united around the need to wrangle with, to engage and to envision, to be inspired by, the vision of a whole new world... What we saw in this film tonight is a sense of a whole new society, whole new ways of relating. How many times do you see people of different age ranges, different nationalities, different musical genres, who are actually coming together to be about something different?—to be about, as Aladdin says in the film, not just the bling-bling, not just about myself above all else, but to be about something bigger than themselves. That’s just a taste of what humanity could actually live by.”

Maggie Brown, performer

It was an evening of what Cornel West called in the film "revolutionary joy." People were talking with each other about things that mattered. People were bouncing off the film—the art, the artists, and BA.  A Black woman artist said:  “I was thinking ‘this could be a real blueprint.’ But who wants to do the work? Bob Avakian did the work that nobody wants to do. We have all these dreams and goals and visions of a new world—everybody does dream, everybody who has a pure heart does dream of a beautiful world. But we’re always taught: ‘You gotta DIE and go to HEAVEN for all that,’ so you know... But he’s talkin’ about having it here.”

Matthew Shipp, performer

There was excitement in the air from the moment people started coming into the film center—all ages, all nationalities, gathering around the book tables, in the lobby and in the bar before the event began, engaged in animated discussions: Many of the artists who performed at the April 11 event and who appeared in the film were there, one even coming from the Midwest on donated frequent flyer miles... A former prisoner who had to duck out early to meet a homeless shelter curfew... A Somali-born woman from Brooklyn who had received a palm card while shopping in Harlem that day and arrived at the theater 90 minutes early to await the event... An artist and his friend who had to walk over 40 blocks on a very cold night... People who had driven for several hours... Parents of young victims of police brutality... A number of present or recent college students who relate to the cultural scene, several not yet familiar with Bob Avakian.

Andy Zee, co-director, with Abiodun Oyewole and Maggie Brown, performers

A significant section of the audience was from Harlem and the Bronx, due to the efforts of many people. Some people had donated tickets (which cost $20) so that no one would be unable to come due to lack of funds. A half-hour before the event, people out on the street doing last minute publicity with posters and palm cards ran into a Harlem woman with her three grandchildren who said, "That's where we're going too. We'll help you." The kids eagerly threw in, and the little boy, who turned 10 years old that night, ran into the shops announcing, "This is what I'm doing on my birthday!" and asking them to put a Stepping into the Future poster in their window. (Several parents brought children of all ages, knowing childcare would be available—but wanted them to experience this event... and even many of the younger children were very absorbed and got a lot out of it.) One of the musicians who came to perform at the event went out with postcards in Harlem in the hour before it began, connecting with and inviting people they knew.

William Parker, performer

Leading up to the movie screening, the celebration featured live performances of four artists who had been on stage at the original April 2011 event and are interviewed in the film. Jazz pianist Matthew Shipp and bassist William Parker did a beautiful and complex duet. Abiodun Oyewole of the Last Poets performed the poem he read at the original event, "Rain of Terror." Looking out at the audience before he started, Abiodun captured much of the sentiment in the room: "Wow, in the middle of Harlem on a December night. This is outrageous. I kind of think we might have a revolution after all!"

Maggie Brown, daughter of the famous singer Oscar Brown, Jr., also evoked the sense of possibility in the air. She did a beautiful rendition of a song she sang in the film, a song that Nina Simone made famous in the '60s, "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free." In Nina Simone’s version you can hear and feel the yearning for a world so different from what we live in now, a world that it seemed could only be imagined. Maggie Brown’s version shared that, but she also altered the last verse subtly to say “I’ll sing because I’m free and you would sing along with me. We’d sing, we’d sing, we’d sing...” as the music faded out. Dreams were beginning to feel more real.

One of the performers present, actor and storyteller Aladdin, described the scene after the live performances, as the film started: “The lights go out and there’s silence, and you could feel the anticipation. And half of the audience is like ‘What is this, what’s going on?’... And then once the event [film] begins and you see the conversations juxtaposed with the performances, there’s a sort of a rhythm, it’s like going to a concert, and the audience was in sync with the tone and the cadence of the movie.”

The film was inspiring and intriguing. It captures the spirit of that April 2011 night that former Black Panther Richard Brown describes as “magical.” Annie Day, the producer of the April 2011 event, ties together the film with descriptions of BA’s work and reflections on how it inspired the extraordinary evening. You see clips of beautiful music by jazz musicians, hip-hop artists, singers, and dancers bringing the audience to their feet, interspersed with readings and commentary from artists, actors, and revolutionaries on how the world could be different, the impact on them of engaging with Avakian’s vision and works, quotes from BAsics, and historical footage of BA’s revolutionary leadership over four decades plus.

People at the premiere were deeply involved in the movie, shouting their appreciation for different artists and murmuring approval of key points made in the archival clips of BA and by others in the movie. After the film, there was a Q&A with co-directors Annie Day and Andy Zee.

Then nearly everyone stayed for a reception where folks who had never met each other gathered around to eat and converse over the biggest questions facing humanity and their deepest feelings about what it means to live under this system, how it got this way, how it could be different and how people can get into this revolution. The room was living and breathing with what the movement for revolution makes real, now, and what kind of new society it is building toward bringing into being. A college student said, “It’s a very positive, high feeling in terms of what it would mean for this to be more and more the culture that we live in.”

Many expressed great hope at seeing and hearing artists and people of many different ages and nationalities coming together and forming a community aiming for a better world, inspired by the vision and leadership of Avakian. A woman in her 20s spoke to how great it was that there were “young kids here, and older people too.” Another woman talked about all the friends she had made. One young woman who brought her two young children said: “I absolutely loved the documentary. I never heard of Bob Avakian [before.]... We’re made to believe that this way of life is the way they have taught us to be, but it’s not like that. I was amazed to see so many people on film who had the same mindset that I have.” At one table a 40-ish Black filmmaker and a 20-something white woman who had never met wrangled about what revolution really means—is it just a change of ideas, or the overthrow of the whole economic, political and social structure... and is such a revolution possible. At least two youngsters circled through the crowd collecting autographs in their copies of BAsics from all the people there who had been in the film.

A recurring theme was how surprised and deeply moved people were by the liberating vision of communism that BA was bringing forward, and the fact that there was a leader working on this way out. This came from different people who themselves were coming from many different perspectives, from a 12-year old girl thinking about what she should do with her life to a middle-aged Black man who identified himself as a capitalist, who wasn’t sure capitalism is really the problem but wanted to hear the plan for solving the horrors confronting the majority of people on the globe. One Black teenager said: “I felt like I was part of a big change. I feel like it was really extraordinary to see that there are people who care and are standing up for us. I think this will change the world a lot. It’s not just for America, it’s for everywhere. In a place like in India there won’t be child brides, communism [will be] so strong that everybody will work together, so there won’t be a higher person, we won’t need that, because everybody will work together and make our world better together.”

People were challenged to be part of the campaign to make BA known everywhere by raising the major funds that can accomplish this. One of the performers in the film commented after the event, “I think that there's wealthy people with a lot of money who are really not happy with how things are and want to see something else and this could be something they are willing to put their money into just to see where it'll go, even if they're not sure...and they say this is something that deserves getting a chance. Because really that's what we need, a chance.”

A group of people from Harlem organizing a bake sale to raise funds for BA Everywhere took orders for pies and cookies, raising $225 on the spot, and distributed a statement one woman wrote about why they are doing this (see box).

The musician William Parker, who had performed at the April 11, 2011 event and at the event this night, said, "I thought the film was great. It had good rhythm, message. The music and feeling was strong. Everyone should be playing it at high schools, colleges. It has to come above ground.” One ex-prisoner said, "This movement is about science. It's coming from an intelligent place," and called his friends in California to tell them to go to the showing in Los Angeles (on the following Wednesday, December 11). People left feeling changed and inspired to have been part of the audience celebrating this premiere showing and wanting to see the film and BA's work known much more widely.


The premiere celebration for the film in Los Angeles took place on December 11: West Coast Premiere of Stepping into the Future: On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics—A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Charity and Aid Can't Solve Humanity's Problems – We Need Real Revolution and BA Everywhere!

December 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Letter from a reader,

Recently, a powerful film was screened in one of the wealthiest communities near where I live. The film not only exposed many of the horrific conditions faced by the masses of poor in a particular Third World country, but also revealed how many of the most heralded efforts which claimed to be about alleviating this poverty actually made things worse. The film was followed by a panel discussion with people who have been very outspoken in their insistence that people who are seeking to do good in the world look honestly at what effect their efforts are really having and that people consider the need for new approaches.

Several of us who have been working on the campaign to raise significant funds for the BA Everywhere – Imagine the Difference It Can Make! campaign recognized that this would be a very important place to be. As positive as it is that such a film was made, and as important as it is that an impressive group of concerned people were coming together to examine its implications, without the new understanding that BA (Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA) has brought forward about the need and possibility for a re-envisioned, viable and tremendously desirable and liberating communist revolution, people would be left without a way out of the very horrors they were shining a light on. The truth is that even the best of people's efforts to alleviate these problems short of revolution will end up not only failing to keep pace with the rate at which these horrors are generated by the system of capitalism-imperialism, ultimately this failure will serve to reinforce the notion that the problems are just too intractable to be solved. We felt a real responsibility and saw an opportunity to bring what BA is about into this event, and to seek out people who could be won to sit down and consider making a serious contribution to the BA Everywhere campaign.

Before going, we wrestled with the orientation laid out in the November 27th editorial "BA Everywhere—Imagine the Difference it Could Make! Why and how it is key to changing the world—to making revolution." Through this, we recognized a certain wrong tendency in our work up until then to proceed too much from the "difference it can make in the atmosphere of society" in a way that was rather detached from what BA is actually about, rather than proceeding from the reality that the world is truly a horror for humanity and does not have to be this way and BA and his new synthesis offer the way out and unfolding the difference having BA known throughout society would make on that foundation. As the editorial speaks to, the problem in the world is capitalism-imperialism and the solution is BA's new synthesis of revolution and communism. This has to be fought out among ever-growing sections of people and, in the course of fighting that out and on that foundation, many people need to be won – and can be won – to see the tremendous importance of contributing financially and in other ways to getting BA Everywhere. They don't have to be won over to everything BA has brought forth to contribute significantly, but they have to be wrangling with what BA is actually about and what difference it would make for BA and the substance and method of his work to be very broadly known and debated. Really being steeped in the approach of the editorial overall was the key in enabling us to argue compellingly (with substance, clarity and passion) for BA and for BA Everywhere in the event as a whole and with key individuals afterwards.

As stated above, the film brought alive not only the unbearable poverty in a particular Third World country, it also revealed how many of the "solutions" people have looked to only make things worse. The film didn't root this poverty, or the harm done by the "solutions" attempted, in the nature of the system of capitalism-imperialism. In fact, on its own terms the film would lead people to a very different sense of the source of the problem. But, the reality that was revealed was powerful and undeniable and the whole thing was extremely favorable for us to speak about the real source and the real solution to the horrors being portrayed.

Its worth mentioning that we had to consult each other in the midst of the film precisely over how to understand some of the strengths and weaknesses of the film and how to enter into the dialogue that would follow. As the limitations of the film were becoming more clear, one of us began trying to figure out how to expose why its diagnosis was wrong. Someone else argued, though, that we shouldn't let the film's secondary weaknesses set the terms of our thinking or comments. They argued that the film was mainly revealing something very damning of the system and that we should build on that while overall proceeding from the fact that the world does not have to be this way and because of BA and his new synthesis of communist revolution there is a way out. They weren't arguing that we avoid struggling over wrong ideas, but that we must proceed from the vantage point that we ARE building a movement for revolution and call forth what was positive and struggle over what was negative in relationship to that.

This was important and clarified and simplified our approach. Rather than getting sunk into trying to unravel every point in the film, or in feeling overwhelmed because we were not all experts in the particular focus of the film, all of us felt absolutely qualified and confident to speak to the biggest thing posed by the reality concentrated in the film and the larger reality all of that is part of: the fact that there is an aching need around the globe for the way out that has been forged by BA and that people everywhere need to know about this.

By the time the panel opened up for questions and one of us was called on, several people had made criticisms of capitalism but had explicitly stopped short of calling for an end to capitalism. Our friend began her comments by saying straight up, "Hi, my name is so-in-so, and I AM calling for an end to capitalism!" She indicated that she wanted to ask a question about aid and charity but first wanted to build upon what was revealed in the film and some of the things being discussed. She pointed to capitalism-imperialism as the source of these problems and said that there is no way to solve these problems without real revolution. She argued that the tremendous and unnecessary suffering they had just witnessed underscores why it is so important for everyone in this room to know about Bob Avakian, the revolutionary leader who has developed a new synthesis of revolution and communism and a real way out of all this madness and horror. She said, "Come talk to me when this is over or go to to learn more about him and this movement for revolution." She insisted, "What we just watched is just a microcosm of what is going on in all kinds of other countries all over the world," and one panelist nodded in recognition of this truth. Our friend circled back and argued that the problem of aid and charity not serving to lift people out of poverty is not due to poor administration, but that it is yet another element of the imperialist domination of oppressed countries. One big role imperialist NGOs and charities play is to stabilize and pacify people who otherwise might rise up in rebellion or even revolution. She asked the panelists what they thought of this.

Several panelists really appreciated the question and one responded that they often feel a tension between wanting to see the "bleeding staunched," but also knowing that such bare-minimal assistance seems to retard the development of the kind of social eruptions that might lead to more lasting or fundamental change. They made clear they hoped that such social eruptions would be non-violent and they had a different sense of what they wanted a revolution to look like, but they were open-ended and clear that all this is something they are genuinely torn up about.

Several people raised questions about which charities might be reliably trusted and what might bring lasting change. The question of whether capitalism was the problem was hanging in the air along with the idea of BA and real revolution, but people were still mainly trying to approach the problem from the realm of trying to figure out how to make charity and other aid work. Still, the question of the role of capitalism and whether it was part of the real problem kept surfacing. Eventually a woman said, "Look, if you want sustainable solutions you need to create jobs and we may not like the big corporations but you have to look at what works." She accused people of basically being blinded by their privilege of living in a First World country and said this is why we were all missing how even sweatshop jobs can be a life-saving improvement. She quoted Nicholas Kristof, a prominent op-ed columnist for the New York Times, who has said that, "The only thing worse than working in a sweatshop is not working in a sweatshop."

This was so outrageous that one of our group blurted out that that whole notion was "obscene." He raised his hand and was visibly itching to get into the conversation. First, though, the mic was brought to a woman from the country the film had focused on. She spoke movingly and bitterly about how the U.S. had destroyed the subsistence economy of her people through their "aid." For generations her family had lived off the land, but now she has to send money back so her family doesn't go hungry. All this sharpened up the stakes and deepened people's sense of the problem with Kristof's approach.

Our friend kept his hand vigorously in the air and, because of this and because the question had become more urgent off the last woman's life-story, he was called on. He spoke unsparingly about how it is true that under the system of global imperialism the only choice for billions of women and young girls is to work in a sweatshop or to work in a brothel. But, he insisted, it is obscene to look at that and then conclude that we should therefore uphold sweatshops. "No! The whole point is, this whole system is bankrupt and we need a revolution and a socialist system." He spoke about how in oppressed countries this is a revolution with two major dimensions: that of driving out imperialism and that of carrying out a social revolution setting up a socialist society and how BA's new synthesis is the framework for all of this in the world today. The choice really must NOT be between sweatshops and brothels, but between all this madness and the world that is possible through real communist revolution.

In the middle of his comments, the woman who likes Kristof started yelling about how she's been to many Third World countries and seen first hand what people need. She was vehement that she was acting out of concern to promote Kristof and sweatshops and was indignant at being challenged. Yet, our friend did not back up – he actually bounced off what she was saying to deepen his indictment of capital-imperialism, and of the U.S. in particular. He laid bare the real nature of the U.S. as an imperialist power. He spoke with great passion and substance, but also in very basic and clear terms.

It was obvious that our two interventions in this discussion were outside the normal decorum of the Q&As that follow there (and most places). While people often differ with each other, they don't usually openly polemicize and they don't do it with the full weight of humanity's future invested in the arguments. Also, they don't typically challenge the panel and the audience with the fact that there is a solution, especially one brought forward by an individual revolutionary communist leader like BA, and that everyone has a responsibility to engage it. It was clear that some people were growing uncomfortable with this.

But we didn't go to the event to appeal to where people were at, we went to tell the truth about the problem and solution confronting humanity and to move people to get further into and to contribute to BA Everywhere. We were not tone-deaf to the particularity of the event and the questions it was posing, but we pulled back the lens on those particularities so that people were able to see things more fully. And, as we did, the truth we brought out connected deeply with people's concerns for humanity and it began to answer the things posed powerfully by the film that no one could deny. Just as it was clear that some in the audience were uncomfortable with the way we had sharpened things up, it was also clear that most people couldn't dismiss what we had said. And more than a few were positively intrigued and even quite attracted. There were several who nodded in agreement as we spoke both times and the challenge we had put before people influenced the terms for the rest of the discussion. More people spoke about the negative role of the U.S. in the country which had been portrayed, someone brought in the history of genocide this country carried out against the Native Americans, and someone who wasn't sure about revolution felt they had to begin their statement by saying, "Now, I am not a fan of capitalism, but..." Folks in the room would point or nod at us when something being said by someone else reinforced the basic arguments we had made.

When the event was over, we divided up our efforts. One person went out broadly to everyone with palm-cards and the special issue of Revolution featuring the interview with Raymond Lotta about the history and future of communism. A couple of us focused on setting up meetings about BA Everywhere with people we had identified as important. As we approached one of the panelists, someone was saying to them how important it is that they have been challenging people to look soberly at the real harm done by many forms of aid. Interestingly, they responded back, "Yes, and now I am being challenged to go even further." One of the panelists approached the one of us who had argued against Kristof and enthusiastically thanked him for not only taking him on, but refusing to back down when the woman began arguing. One of us also spoke to the person who runs the venue, learning more about the work they do and sharing the film, Stepping Into the Future. Altogether, on the foundation of the editorial mentioned above, we had a real impact on the terms of discussion, we were able to introduce everyone in a beginning way to Bob Avakian, and it was clear that some people in the room were challenged in a positive way about how they are thinking about these questions. We were also able to get a commitment from someone to meet with us to consider contributing significant funds to the BA Everywhere campaign so that this kind of debate and wrangling can be opened up on a much greater scale throughout all of society.




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Talking with a Professor About Mandela, History of Communist Revolution, and Donating to BA Everywhere

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader—drawn from some experience in taking out BA Everywhere to university professors:

Recently we had the opportunity to discuss the campaign to raise big funds to get BA Everywhere with a professor we have known and worked closely with over a number of years and who reads Revolution regularly. We had sent a letter and materials from the Bob Avakian Institute, along with a CD of Bob Avakian being interviewed by Cornel West.

The professor had read that morning the article "On the Death of Nelson Mandela." It wasn't quite fireworks, but the professor was animated and immediately said he'd read that article and that he felt the piece "minimized the courage and heroism of Mandela," and he was provoked by, and disagreed with, how the article painted a completely bad picture of the current situation in South Africa, especially because it completely left out the progress made through elections in South Africa, how much a step forward that was.

He referenced a recent commentary "The Character of Nelson Mandela" by Max Boot, an author and military historian. He said Boot is a conservative, but his article has important points about the progress made by South Africa because of Mandela (Boot's piece says, for example, "But the largest part of the explanation for why South Africa is light years ahead of most African nations—why, for all its struggles with high unemployment, crime, corruption and other woes, it is freer and more prosperous than most of its neighbors—is the character of Nelson Mandela..."—and this contrasts with the Revolution article's picture of today's South Africa, which as the professor put it "emphasizes the negative but not the positive.")

Calmly, we drew from the five points in the Revolution article and answered him. About the need to "confront the reality of the path Mandela charted..." and the situation for the people of South African today as one of the world's most unequal societies in the grip of global capitalism-imperialism, the extreme poverty, the attacks of immigrant workers, the horrific situation for women with the highest rate of rape in the world.

With regard to conservative Max Boot, we said his piece actually underscores the point in the article "and should be a tip off"—that Mandela is being praised not because he fought apartheid, but because he was a conciliator with the apartheid forces and played a role in helping dismantle apartheid in a way that reinforced the oppression of the black and other non-white people of South Africa, and maintained imperialist domination. We made the point you can see fleetingly in the movie The Butler where Ronald Reagan staunchly supported apartheid.

There was some debate we had on the role of elections right here as the professor put this forward as a major advance for the South African people and we walked through what happened there in the wake of the collapse of the social-imperialist Soviet Union, which gave the U.S. more freedom to repackage the forms of oppression in South Africa. We discussed that there will be future articles at exploring all this more deeply (and there are articles from that time we encouraged him to explore, such as Raymond Lotta's article in the late 1980s on the political economy of apartheid.

On elections, we brought up the current assault on Black people in the U.S. including the recent evisceration of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court—how this is a reassertion of white supremacy, but at the same time—let's right here get into the need for some sophistication on the question of elections and the fact they are a means through which the ruling class demobilizes the masses of people and enforces the continued functioning and rule of capitalism-imperialism.

Anyway, without going on too long here on this opening debate, we took out the new Revolution newspaper on "The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation" and simply said the South African people could have had and rightly deserved this—a real revolution and a new state power that uproots all exploitation and oppression... but ended up with the horrors of today because a revolution did not get made.

We talked about this last point in the article on Mandela about how the demoralization as a result of no fundamental change having taken place in the situation for the masses of black people in South Africa is the worst thing of all, and how all this underscores why we are here today to talk with you. We need a revolution, and nothing less. The professor said he appreciated the sweep with which we came at this and will consider our points, and we moved forward.

He said he read the entire Revolution newspaper on the history and future of communism over Thanksgiving. His copy was all marked up. He laid out some things he had questions about, for example he thought the interview treated the avant-garde movement in the Soviet Union as though it was the only place in the world that was happening, but said that isn't right as it was happening in Germany and some other European countries. What I thought the article was emphasizing was the significance of this cultural experimentation going on with the backing and encouragement of the new state power.

He said he would like to personally thank Raymond Lotta for the interview, which he thought was quite unique, as he said that he'd never read anything that had such "amazing sweep" from the Paris Commune to now. He was impressed. We set up to interview him in more depth later this week about his take on this special issue of the newspaper.

Then he said he'd just gone to a reading that morning featuring a new book by a Chinese scholar. He said it looked well researched, with "oral histories" and "archival evidence" on the Great Leap Forward. And, as he put it: "She just destroyed Mao" and showed how his policies during the Great Leap Forward were responsible for immense suffering and millions of deaths.

So we said the question is what is true. And he said "I agree." And we said, well, no, not so fast: the question is what is actually true... not how many books are written opposing Mao and the revolution in China and communism, or whether the person is Chinese etc.—the question is what is actually true, and what is important is the method that gets you to those truths. Again, he said, "I agree." So we asked, "What did she say about the land reform right after the 1949 revolution, where some 300 million peasants in a mass movement from below led by the communist party expropriated cultivated land from the exploiting classes?" He said she didn't say anything about that.

We asked how could she not talk about this, as it led to the Great Leap Forward? What did she say about what was happening with uprooting women's oppression at that time? What about the devastation after the war of liberation that also was setting the context right in the period leading into the Great Leap Forward? Anyway, we went back and forth, if briefly about this and we didn't talk, at this time, about the Great Leap Forward in detail... We will hear his thoughts on what is in the interview when we get back together next week, but said we want to emphasize what is conventional wisdom is not always true and in this case of the Great Leap Forward is wrong, not true and we all agreed to restudy the interview before we meet so our get together can be as rich as possible.

So, with these themes as introductions we spoke to how a revolution and a new revolutionary state power are possible because of the work of Bob Avakian. We briefly touched on the work BA has done to show that there is no such thing as human nature; that a system lies foundationally as the source of the world's problems; how BA has spent decades scientifically summing up the experiences of socialist societies in the first stage of proletarian revolution, the overwhelming achievements and the shortcomings, and building on this has scientifically brought forward a new model of socialism on its way to communism.

And that Bob Avakian has brought forward a strategy to make revolution to get to that society, and that Bob Avakian's new synthesis needs to be known by, and engaged by, many, many tens of millions of people here and all over the world—and this will make a profound difference as people engage, grapple with and bounce off a deeply radical alternative to the way things are that is viable and possible. We told him that we wanted to discuss with him the importance of supporting the BA Everywhere campaign and also talked about the international significance of the website and Revolution newspaper.

He said he appreciated what we were saying, however he feels the RCP and BA "only deals with the misery index and not with the progress index" and that is why he is for "gradualism" and not a revolution. He explained in some areas of the world there is an expanding middle class...

It wasn't that he felt BA or the Party didn't put forward what it is we can build after a revolution (only talking about what needs to be torn down but not built up), but that BA and the Party deemphasized areas of progress short of revolution.

We answered him by challenging the view that the world is flat, a popular conception concentrated in a book Thomas Friedman. We discussed enclave development in the 3rd world, for example India, while the vast hundreds of millions live in squalor. How imperialist capital is accumulated through exploitation of 3rd world countries by imperialist countries.

We then spent some time on BA's work on a new socialist society and asked him to think about the potential of individuals and of society when we could make real leaps in breaking down the division between mental and manual labor—but that that is going to take a revolution.

We asked for $500 to support BAE and the movement for revolution, and expressed what difference it would make. He said he would give $250 in January, and we discussed that being very important and that it would make a difference in this world.

He said yes, and said he is looking into other political formations to look for where he believes the right thing to do is, and put forward there is an economist, Richard Wolff who talks about some socialism and some capitalism. We actually had a laugh, because we took the words "Richard Wolff" out of his mouth.

We said there is a part in the new interview with Ray Lotta on Marx's summation of the Commune in Paris in 1871, and how he summed up from that experience that the revolution can't just lay hold of the ready made state machinery but must smash and dismantle the reactionary organs of state power of the exploiting classes and forge new instruments of revolutionary state power. That is science, we argued. We need a revolution—not workers' control of this or that factory somehow evolving into socialism, which as Marx summed up, isn't possible and won't happen. We need an actual revolution and nothing less. We decided to continue our discussion next week.





Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

$1000 Challenge from a Neighborhood Revolution Club

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


This letter was written by a young Latina who is part of a neighborhood Revolution Club

During the month of December we set a goal to fundraise $1000 for the BA Everywhere campaign. We have been doing a number of things to raise those $1000. From selling chocolates, making tamales, to hosting a community picnic. We have been working together with all kinds of people from different backgrounds. We all see the importance in this campaign, this leader and of course this Revolution! There is a big importance in this BA Everywhere campaign whose goal is to get this leader, vision and body of work into every corner of society.

Just think about all the horrors that are happening in the world today. Not only to a small section of people but to the majority of humanity who are kept in the shadows, believing it's their own fault that they are in that situation, not knowing it's a system behind all these horrors and suffering. From the oppression of black people, mass incarceration, the oppression of women, the attacks on abortion rights, the persecution of immigrants, families torn apart! These are just some of the many crimes that are done to humanity. And even if you are not one of the millions being affected by all this, you are still living in the same world where all this is being done!

And the real question is, are you okay going about your life knowing all this is happening? Or will you do something about getting rid of all these horrors. And what can you do? DONATE!

Imagine the difference this can make. If Bob Avakian was everywhere in this society. People reading BAsics, the handbook to Revolution. Prisoners, those who are labeled as the worst of the worst! Imagine those prisoners learning why they are in prison and what is the REAL problem, that they are not the problem but actually they can be part of the backbone of this Revolution! Imagine people watching BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less!, the film of a talk given by BA which opens people's eyes to how this society works, that it's not our fault, it is not human nature but a system. Or the film Stepping into the Future, having this beautiful film playing in movie theaters all across the world. People seeing that there is actually a possibility of a different world. Seeing a whole different culture, how wonderful and uplifting it would be. Think about the difference all that would make. All of this changed my life! And made me think about what I wanted my life to be about which is changing the world and I know BA has changed many people's lives and what their lives are about.

So, this is a challenge to everyone that reads this. Pull out a blank check and match our $1000. I want to challenge 10 people to write a $1000 check and together we can fundraise over $10,000 for this campaign. Think of the importance and huge difference this would make!





Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Letter from a Black Woman in Her 50s

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


In order to raise the consciousness and reach the minds of the masses of people, it is necessary to fund the printed materials, films, vans, and any and all mediums through which the revolutionary new synthesis of communism led by Bob Avakian will be distributed throughout the various communities in which our party is working.

I would like to encourage each and every one of us who wishes to see a new world vision to contribute to the noble cause by selling candy. Candy? Chocolate has proven to be a surefire way of garnering funds on an individual level.

No contribution is too great or too small. I first came up with the idea of selling chocolate candy by taking a walk down memory lane. When I was a girl (many moons ago), I would wait for the holiday season to begin by purchasing a $1.00 bar of "World's Finest Candy."

The parochial schools would sell them to garner cash for their school materials, and the Girl Scouts would sell them to finance our camping excursions.

We can feel a part of a great progressive movement by donating a small amount of time to fundraising by selling this fine candy. I would like to encourage each member or supporter of this movement to think about how you can actively contribute to a better way of life by giving of your time, money, and or physical efforts through even the tiniest efforts of fundraising.

Each and every one of us can let our creative juices flow by either selling dinners, candy, water, etc. or whatever means you can think of to raise capital for our political party to make this scientific dream become more of a tangible reality when we contribute money to the cause.

The "World's Finest" candies sell themselves, and at a $1.00 bargain price per bar they move quickly. It is so easy to bring a box of chocolates to our jobs, our stores, and the neighbors in our respective communities that selling can be done with little or no extra effort on our part.

No job is too small and no contribution is too little when we have everything to gain and nothing to lose but our current way of life. Whatever ways you can conceive of to contribute financially will be appreciated and welcomed. Nothing can beat the accomplished feeling of donating and earning cash dollars to change the current pathetic state of our world.

The personal satisfaction that I derived from turning in this money was actually more than any offering or tithe that I ever gave to a church. Join with me in raising dollars to change the state of our current systems of failed governments. Just knowing that I've made a small contribution to end capitalism-imperialism helps me sleep easier and deeper at night.





Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Thoughts Provoked by Hastening While Awaiting—Not Bowing Down to Necessity

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

A couple of thoughts provoked by study of the six paragraphs that begin Bob Avakian's Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity Part 2—that is, the section Hastening while awaiting—not bowing down to necessity. This passage was recently highlighted in the Bob Avakian section of the website, calling it to your readers’ attention. Thinking about this in connection to the RCP’s statement “On the Strategy for Revolution,” I was impelled to find and re-read “‘Crises in Physics,’ Crises in Philosophy and Politics” by Bob Avakian. Having done so, I think it’s quite relevant, stimulating, and worthy of returning to in this light.

First I was struck by the analogy made in relation to the current crisis (in particular, the end of the world’s first stage of communist revolution with the 1976 coup ending socialism in China) to Lenin’s political battles AND further, his polemical development of scientific thinking in the wake of the defeat of the 1905 revolution in Russia.1 The ways in which these crises, lines, and methods of thinking are posed today, their analogous stakes, AND the further development of scientific communist thinking in relation to reality and its transformation—all this is very sharply and clearly drawn in this “‘Crises in Physics,’ Crises in Philosophy and Politics” article, which is related in some ways to the very foundational “six paragraphs” from Making/Emancipating.2

A scientific understanding of contradiction is extremely important; and this “Crises...” piece—including in the contributions made by Ardea Skybreak that are referenced in this “Crises” article—about reality, contradiction, matter in motion and change—takes this further. And that is a real necessity. This includes points that go beyond an earlier, and to some degree mechanical, understanding of contradiction (i.e., “one divides into two”—though that’s not to be entirely discarded)—with new understanding of internal contradiction concentrated in unevenness...and borders/boundaries. It is crucial to grasp—and wrangle with—the fact that unevenness is the basis in reality through which change occurs—a dialectical materialist point of method which people need to understand, grasp, and continually apply: it’s essential—an essential scientific strength—in working for the change humanity needs.

This article also intersects with those “six paragraphs” reprinted and highlighted recently in Revolution newspaper from Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity Part 2 in discussing the relationship of universal and particular. To quote a bit from “Crises...”:

It is important to understand that what is involved in this—the dialectical relation between the universal and particular, and the different levels on which this can be expressed—is not simply the “interaction” of different particular forms of matter (or levels of matter), which should be conceived of as simply “external” to each other and “separated” in some absolute sense. No—while each particular form, and level, of matter (in motion) does have discrete existence, and identity, as such (some defining characteristics or internal coherence), at the same time this is relative, and not absolute. Accordingly, a particular form of matter may not only “interact with” another distinct form of matter, but may also be integrated, along with that other form of matter, into another entity at a different level of the organization of matter....

It did strike me that this is quite relevant grounding for a deeper understanding of the unity and purpose of various forms of revolutionary work, political and theoretical, that a revolutionary party is undertaking at any given time. For instance, why BA Everywhere is the leading edge of a whole ensemble of revolutionary work the Party is doing now and how this ensemble is an application of the Party’s strategy for revolution.

I think this article “Crises...”, shedding light on the Party’s strategy and ensemble of revolutionary work, can be an additional tool in needed transformations and, as part of that, it is definitely one good piece for our work on the transfer of the allegiance (away from “adjusting” this horrible world... to the need, basis, and work for a real revolution) of a section of the intellectuals—including in working scientifically on the relativism and agnosticism which plagues people’s thinking.

Another thought about revolutionary situations and the approach to scientific wrangling with this and actually hastening while awaiting a revolutionary situation:

To advocate for a point made in Bob Avakian’s article “There IS NO ‘Permanent Necessity’ for Things to Be This Way—A Radically Different and Better World CAN Be Brought Into Being Through Revolution”: it is important for people now to be grappling with the potential contours of the emergence of a revolutionary situation, and how both the objective conditions and subjective factors (the conscious actions of people) could conceivably come together—and what the vanguard party would need to prepare for—and to do—in such a situation to bring about the full ripening of that revolutionary situation in order to lead people in their millions to wage an actual struggle for power when the time is right. This article sheds light on why it’s important to do that well in advance of the specific features of this situation becoming obviously apparent.

NOT to be grappling with this is another form of tailing spontaneity and is also a method that leads to just essentially “waiting” within existing conditions and betrays the very purpose of being a vanguard party. Now the wrangling being called for is not idle speculation or imposing our wishes or precepts upon reality, but to be really probing and digging deeply beneath the surface to identify factors (objective and subjective) that could be part of the mix of a revolutionary situation, and what needs to be done to be a force that’s actually working to hasten toward that.

To quote from Hastening while awaiting—not bowing down to necessity (from Part 2 of Making/Emancipating):

Revolution is not made by “formulas,” or by acting in accordance with stereotypical notions and preconceptions—it is a much more living, rich and complex process than that. But it is an essential characteristic of revisionism (phony communism which has replaced a revolutionary orientation with a gradualist, and ultimately reformist one) to decide and declare that until some deus ex machina—some god-like EXTERNAL FACTOR—intervenes, there can be no essential change in the objective conditions and the most we can do, at any point, is to accept the given framework and work within it, rather than (as we have very correctly formulated it) constantly straining against the limits of the objective framework and seeking to transform the objective conditions to the maximum degree possible at any given time, always being tense to the possibility of different things coming together which bring about (or make possible the bringing about of) an actual qualitative rupture and leap in the objective situation.

So that is a point of basic orientation in terms of applying materialism, and dialectics, in hastening while awaiting the emergence of a revolutionary situation....

Also in this light, I’ve been thinking about Lenin, in his time, in relation to this. In particular at the time of World War 1 and Kerensky’s rise to power in Russia after the overthrow of the Tsar in February 1917—and what Lenin saw beneath the surface and thus the real potential for a revolutionary situation and what needed to be contrast to all the revisionist, gradualist/mechanical and stagist determinism that was afoot including in his own Party. Lenin’s very different method and approach to the actual reality and potential at that juncture made all the difference in the bringing into being the actual communist revolution of October 1917. And, analogously at THIS current time, what is needed is the scientific method and approach brought forward by Bob Avakian that is now there to apply, livingly, to actually bring fully into being a new stage of communist revolution.

No, we are not now in a revolutionary situation, but—as one among many aspects of taking up this method and approach—if our Party on all levels and increasing numbers of masses are not grappling with what the contours of a revolutionary situation might be in the way called for in “No Permanent Necessity...”...and IF we don’t have a Party at the core of a revolutionary movement that is living in the methodology concentrated in the six paragraphs from Part II of Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity and making the connection of this method to the Party’s strategy for revolution and actively applying it, then we are not really hastening while awaiting a revolutionary situation, nor preparing minds and organizing forces... for revolution.


1. In 1908, Lenin wrote Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, a scathing critique of the philosophical and political opportunists who rallied around the thinking of Ernst Mach, an Austrian physicist and philosopher. Machism was a form of idealism linked to the positivist/pragmatist trend in philosophy. Machists ridiculed materialism—the recognition that matter exists outside of experience and knowledge. They held that the real world consisted only of sensations—of things that exist only as they are realized in our knowledge of them and which have no existence outside our knowledge of them. This great struggle in philosophy was due both to recent discoveries in science, among which was the discovery that the atom could be divided into different parts. These discoveries brought about a crisis in physics that went along with a crisis in Marxism which was brought about by the defeat of the 1905 revolution—a period of vicious repression and lull in the movement in Russia and a period of regrouping and reconstituting the shattered revolutionary party in Russia. This was also a period of desertion from the revolution of formerly revolutionary intellectuals. This and the development of capitalism into imperialism strengthened revisionism and created real necessity for Lenin to advance philosophy and dialectical materialism. In particular, Lenin critiqued the mechanical materialism that existed in the understanding of science and of Marxism—mechanical materialism that was incapable of grasping reality as it is and degenerated into idealism and defeatism. This struggle was crucial to laying the ideological and political foundations for the successful revolution in Russia in 1917. [back]

2. Bob Avakian’s talk Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity appears in Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, May 1, 2008, and is also available online at (Part 1) and (Part 2). [back]




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

The System Killing Detroit

by Li Onesto | December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


When a judge ruled on December 3 that Detroit could not pay its debts, the place best known for making cars and soul music became the largest U.S. city to declare bankruptcy. The judge also decided that as part of restructuring its debt, Detroit could cut pensions, affecting some 23,000 retired municipal workers.

The judge declared that with his ruling, Detroit now has an "opportunity for a fresh start." But the people living in Detroit are already suffering from unemployment, poverty, cutbacks, and lack of social services, and all signs point to things only getting worse.

Vacant stores in Detroit, 2011. Typical scene throughout the city today. Photo: AP

In 1950, Detroit was the fifth largest city in the U.S., with 1.85 million people. Today Detroit's population of only 700,000 continues to shrink. Eighty-five percent of the people living here are African-American. An estimated 1 in 3 people live in poverty with more than half the children impoverished. This is the poorest large city in America. Many neighborhoods have simply been abandoned by the government. Anyone driving through large parts of Detroit can testify to the stark landscape, how it brings to mind an almost post-war scenario: whole blocks with only one or two occupied houses, vast areas where no one lives—vacant, overgrown with weeds, big school buildings with broken windows, empty and decaying.

The city estimates 78,000 "abandoned and blighted" structures, roughly one-fifth of Detroit's housing in an area of 139 square miles—big enough to fit Manhattan, Boston and San Francisco. Twenty-two percent of the city's industrial zoned land is vacant; 36 percent of commercial land is vacant. For every 100 residents, there are only 27 jobs. Official unemployment is 18 percent—twice the state level. Among Black people, especially the youth, official unemployment is over 30 percent, but even city officials say it is actually closer to 50 percent.

Many residents don't even have access to basic things needed to live day-to-day. People wait two to three hours for the bus. There are no large chain grocery stores within city limits. More than half the parks have closed in the last five years. Forty percent of the streetlights don't work. Only a third of the city ambulances function. In large parts of the city many public schools have shut down and there are no essential services like transportation, fresh water, gas, electricity, and emergency services.

Speaking to the current conditions in the city, one resident said, "As an oppressed 24-year-old Black woman, sometimes I feel like I am an endangered species."

All kinds of "explanations" are being given for the financial collapse of Detroit. Some touch on part of the picture, talking about the loss of tens of thousands of jobs when the auto plants shut down. Most lead in the wrong direction—pointing to things like corruption, incompetent officials, and "greedy corporations." And racists are spewing all kinds of poison which in essence says that this just goes to show how a city "run by Black people is bound to fail."

But to really understand what's going on in Detroit today, you have to look back at how the economic and political workings of capitalism have shaped this city for many decades.

There are intersecting dynamics that have come to a head here, resulting in an extreme economic, political and social crisis in Detroit. There is the dynamic of the intense and systematic national oppression that Black people have faced since they began coming to the city from the South in the early 1900s. There are the major changes and transformations associated with globalization that have impacted the auto industry—the traditional heart of employment and a primary source of city tax revenues. And there are the effects of the global-economic crisis of 2008 and its continuing fallout on the finances of cities like Detroit.

This is obviously a big topic. But these are the things that need to be explored if one is to understand the situation in Detroit. The following is a beginning outline of these points.

Apartheid Detroit

You can't discuss the crisis in Detroit without talking about the fact that this is a city that today is more than 80 percent Black, and about the oppression of African-Americans since they began coming to Detroit almost 100 years ago.

The Great Migration of Black people from the South in the early 1900s profoundly changed the economy and social structure of many northern cities, including Detroit. When Detroit became the center of the automobile industry tens of thousands came looking for jobs, including Black people from the South. In 1915 fewer than 6,000 Black people lived in Detroit; five years later there were 40,000 African Americans in the city. The total population nearly doubled every 10 years for the next four decades, making it the fastest growing city in the world. By 1950 nearly two million people lived in Detroit, more than 16 percent of them African Americans.

Black people came looking for a better life—not only for employment, but also for an escape from the humiliation of Jim Crow and the constant threat of the lynching tree. But it is no exaggeration to say that what they ended up with was an apartheid-like set-up backed by laws, police and vigilante violence—all of which echoes up through today.

The Ku Klux Klan sent their first recruiter to Detroit in 1921 and by 1924 had signed up 35,000 members.

Black people in Detroit, as an unofficial rule, were only allowed to live in a 60-square-block area on the city's lower east side that became known as "Black Bottom." And if they tried to move into a white neighborhood, they were met with violence.

In 1925, a Black doctor, Ossian Sweet, and his family moved into a home on Detroit's east side. A mob of hundreds of angry whites gathered in front of the house, throwing rocks and shouting racist threats. Someone from the house fired into the crowd, injuring one man and killing another. The person accused of this was acquitted, but the incident demonstrated the danger Black people faced if they tried to resist the systematic discrimination they faced in housing—as well as in other things such as employment and education.

Detroit, 1943: A white racist mob attacks a Black man who had already been shot by someone in the mob during anti-Black rioting. Photo: AP

White real estate agents refused to show Black families properties outside the Black Bottom neighborhood. And then, starting in 1924, associations of real estate agents actually barred members from selling houses in white neighborhoods to Black customers and imposed sanctions on those who broke this rule. Banks and insurance companies also restricted access to home and business mortgages as well as home improvement loans for Black people in Detroit. (See Arc of Justice, by Kevin Boyle, 2004, p.145)

After World War 2, the development of suburbanism was a major feature of the U.S. landscape and was underwritten and fostered through conscious government policies. In Detroit this contributed to further racial segregation. As Thomas J. Sugrue wrote:

"New expressways accelerated the process of suburbanization. New housing developments for both blue and white collar workers sprung up virtually overnight in what had been rural areas on the outskirts of the metropolis. The largest blue-collar suburb (and soon the third largest municipality in the state) was Warren. A community of truck farms before World War II, by 1960, it was home to over 150,000 people who lived on streets lined with block after block of little ranch houses and Cape Cods. Warren and suburban Macomb County (of which it was a part) became a Mecca for blue-collar whites fleeing the city. White-collar workers also filled up new subdivisions as quickly as they could be built in the city's northern and western suburbs. Wetlands and farmlands alike became seas of green lawns, divided by ribbons of tarmac. By 1960, more whites in metropolitan Detroit lived in the suburbs than in the city (though very few blacks did—because real estate agents refused to sell to them and they faced intense hostility and often violence when they tried to cross suburban boundaries)." (From Motor City to Motor Metropolis: How the Automobile Industry Reshaped Urban America)

Black people were prevented from buying affordable houses in these all-white suburbs. Meanwhile, whites benefited from big homeownership subsidies through the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration.

In 1945 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a case in which a Black family had bought a house with a "restrictive covenant" that barred "people of the Negro or Mongolian Race" from occupying the property. After the Court ruled that such a covenant could not be enforced by the state, real estate brokers and developers in Detroit encouraged the formation of "neighborhood improvement associations" to enforce the longstanding rules of segregation.

Between 1943 and 1965, Detroit whites founded at least 192 neighborhood organizations throughout the city. Their rhetoric echoed the KKK—referring to the "white race" and speaking of "we the white people." (See The Origins of the Urban Crisis—Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit, by Thomas J. Sugrue, 1996, p. 212)

In the years after World War 2, such groups instigated over 200 incidents of harassment, mass demonstration, picketing, effigy burning, window breaking, arson, vandalism, and physical attacks against Black homeowners to try to keep them out of white neighborhoods. (See Heather Ann Thompson, Whose Detroit? Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City, 2001, p.14)

This continued for decades. For example, Sugrue describes what happened when Easby Wilson, a Black auto worker, tried to move into a predominantly white neighborhood in 1955. This incident was typical during this time:

"White members of the Cadillac Improvement Association approached the Wilsons and demanded that they sell the house. That evening, someone threw a stone through the bathroom window. For two straight nights, the phone rang with angry, anonymous calls. On Friday, after dinner, a small crowd gathered on Riopelle Street in front of the Wilsons' house. They were soon joined by more than four hundred picketing and chanting whites, summoned by young boys who rode their bikes up and down the street, blowing whistles. The crowd drew together a cross-section of neighborhood residents: as Mrs. Wilson reported, 'it was children; it was old people; it was teen-agers; in fact all ages were there.' Demonstrators screamed epithets. 'You'd better go back where you belong!' shouted an angry neighbor. A rock shattered the dining room window." (Sugrue, p. 232)

The attacks continued over the next two months, sometimes while police sat in their cars nearby. Eventually the Wilsons moved and years later, in 1960, only 2.9 percent of the neighborhood's residents were Black.

Detroit, September, 1971: After two Black youth were shot by Detroit police, and on top of the murder of revolutonary prisoner George Jackson and the Attica prison rebellion, thousands of people held a "State of Emergency" rally in downtown Detroit. Photo: AP

In 1963, white neighborhood groups proposed a "Homeowners' Rights Ordinance" to preserve their "right" to segregate neighborhoods and their right to discriminate in real estate sales. After this was defeated, there were 25 cross burnings in 1965 alone.

Slow Genocide Today

So what about after the Civil Rights Movement? And what about today? Do Black people in Detroit still face an apartheid-like situation?

In 1986, then mayor of Detroit, Coleman Young, said something that shines a light not only on the situation then, but what exists even more intensely today:

Controversy over a law in Dearborn, a white suburb Detroit, that barred "outsiders" from its parks had brought to the surface intense racial tension. In the midst of all this, Young denounced more restrictive gun control measures that had been proposed for Detroit, including collecting guns from the public. He said:

''I'll be damned if I'm going to let them collect guns in the city of Detroit while we're surrounded by hostile suburbs and the whole rest of the state who have guns, where you have vigilantes, practicing Ku Klux Klan in the wilderness with automatic weapons.''

Attorneys for Dearborn argued the law was not discriminatory in intent because it had been approved by voters, "whose motivation could not be determined." And when it came right down to it, they argued that Dearborn residents basically just had the right to say who could use their parks—just like they had the right to keep Black people from moving into their neighborhoods or going to their schools.

Other suburbs around Detroit had been able to avoid the charges of open discrimination by simply building physical barricades and requiring residents to show ID cards to enter (like gated communities). In the suburb of Grosse Pointe Park officials proposed cul-de-sacs and walls—that supposedly were to ease traffic and prevent flooding. But clearly these were a way to "keep out Black people," to enforce what amounted to apartheid rules.

Think about this situation 27 years ago and then think about Amerikkka today:

2010: Detroit police raid a house in the middle of the night and kill seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, sleeping on the couch with her grandmother, and now, in 2013, a judge declares a mistrial in the trial of the only cop to be charged for the murder. 2012: Trayvon Martin is gunned down by a racist vigilante for the "crime" of being young and Black—and the system lets the killer go free. 2013: a 19-year-old Black woman, Renisha McBride, gets in a car accident and looks for help in the white Detroit suburb of Dearborn Heights, but instead of finding aid is treated like a suspect, shot in the head and killed.

But it is not just this, and it is not just Detroit. There is what Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA has called a slow genocide of Black people in this country—that can easily become a fast genocide.

You've got some 2.3 million people in prison, the majority Black and Latino, subjected to horrible conditions, many doing long sentences for minor drug crimes. You've got a pipeline leading to this warehousing in prison that includes official policies like gang injunctions, the NYPD's stop-and-frisk and inner-city schools that treat a whole generation of youth like potential criminals—guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence. And there are tens of millions of Black people, who when they get out of prison are then branded with a badge of deprivation and shame, denied jobs, access to public housing, government benefits, the right to vote and more. All this due to the conscious policies of the U.S. ruling class.

As Carl Dix says, "If things are allowed to continue on this trajectory, the reality of millions of the oppressed penned up in the ghettos and barrios without opportunity or hope will intensify. Going in and out of jail will remain a rite of passage for millions of oppressed youth, many of whom already look to their immediate future and can see nothing more than prison or death. This is slow genocide and, given the sharp divisions in the ruling class and the building up and unleashing of outright fascist forces, it could easily become fast genocide."

Indeed, the kind of vigilantes and KKKers with automatic weapons who were practicing in the Detroit suburbs in the 1980s are alive and active in the USA today. Just check out the activity and rhetoric of the NRA. But even more significantly, there is a section of the ruling class that represents a rightwing, fascistic program that gives ideological leadership, backing, and encouragement to the ground soldiers who are clutching their guns in the suburbs and doing "survivalist training" in the woods. Just listen to Tea Party leaders like Texas Senator Ted Cruz who openly praised former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, who was a racist, woman-hating, gay-hating, reactionary fascist.

Dynamics of Capitalism

At one point Detroit was a place where you could come into town, walk to a factory door and you might get a job on the spot. At its peak the River Rouge auto plant alone employed 90,000 workers. This was a city where for many decades Black people could get a relatively good-paying job—even if it was lower-paying and worse than what white workers got.

But the number of manufacturing jobs in Detroit fell from 296,000 in 1950 to just 27,000 in 2011. Today there are only two auto factories left in Detroit, employing fewer than 10,000 workers. And other businesses that thrived off the auto industry, like restaurants, parts suppliers and financial services have also suffered. In 2009 the unemployment rate in Detroit peaked at close to 25 percent. Today it's close to 18 percent. For the youth, it's more than 50 percent. So what happened?

Abandoned Packard Plant on Detroit's east side. Photo: AP

Almost all of the big auto plants in Detroit eventually closed down because it was more profitable to move these jobs—first to rural areas in the U.S., then across the border to Mexico, and then overseas to places like Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. This is the dynamics of capitalism, where different capitalists are locked in rivalry and competition with each other—always searching for the highest profit, and therefore looking for cheaper sources of labor, cheaper ways of producing profit.

This law of capitalism led to so many jobs leaving Detroit, and then more particularly, over the last 15 or so years, U.S. imperialism has forged a globally integrated cheap-labor manufacturing economy with huge labor reserves from China, India, and other parts of the Third World. And these larger workings of global capitalism-imperialism have deeply impacted Detroit as well, leading to further de-industrialization and loss of jobs. In 1992 the big Chrysler plant moved, and overnight 4,500 people were left unemployed.

For Black people, getting a job in Detroit has always meant having to penetrate a thick blanket of racial discrimination—even if this was a city where lots of Black people could get not only factory jobs but also jobs as city employees and some could even make it into the midde class.

Black workers, as Thomas Sugrue puts it, got "the meanest and dirtiest jobs" and sometimes they were simply denied jobs outright. A Black worker would respond to a job posting and be told the job was already taken, even though it was not. Blacks were not allowed to apply for certain types of highly skilled jobs. Sugrue notes, "Labor markets were also structured by workers' culture, attitudes, customs, and work rules. When workers formed a sense of 'brotherhood' on the shop floor, they often defined it through the pratice of racial and gender exclusion." And if anyone is wondering what "a sense of brotherhood" meant, there is this story: In 1943, the Packard Motor Car Company promoted three Black men to work next to whites on their assembly lines. In response, 25,000 whites walked off the job. This was three weeks before violence broke out between Blacks and whites in which, over the course of three days, 34 people were killed. Twenty-five of those who died were Black, 17 of them killed by the police. Over 400 were injured in the three days.

Before the state of Michigan passed a Fair Employment Practices Law in 1955, private employment agencies regularly listed racial preferences in job listings.

A woman described what it was like to work in the auto plants in the early 1970s, following the 1967 Detroit Rebellion when Black people rose up for five days against their oppressive conditions of life. She said the factories hired many Black workers, including people without much education, and later more women began to be hired as well. Then hiring essentially stopped for about 10 years and when it picked up again the hiring was noticeably different. She said it was more white—50 percent as opposed to around 20 percent white in the 1970s, people with education and longer work experience. She herself at one point worked in a printing company in downtown Detroit and said, "They did not advertise job openings in the Detroit papers. Instead, they would place ads for job openings in the papers for the all-white far northern or western suburbs." She also recalled how one Black autoworker tried to apply to one of the plants and even though he had been in the union for many years, was required to take a psychological profile test that included questions about how he felt about the government.

Bailout for Imperialism

On top of the built-in dynamics of capitalism, bleeding the city of jobs, the financial crisis/recession, starting in 2007 resulted in the further de-industrialization of Detroit, along with many other cities. Then there was the sudden jolt in 2009 when the U.S. government bailed out the U.S. auto industry.

In January 2009, the federal government used $25 billion to rescue two of the Big Three auto companies, General Motors and Chrysler. Some might think the U.S. government bailout of the U.S. auto industry would have helped Detroit. But again, the anarchy of capitalism—the laws dictating how things work under this system, along with conscious policies framed to a great degree by Detroit being an overwhelmingly Black city—led to a situation where a relative "recovery" of the U.S. auto industry did NOT mean a "recovery" for Detroit, but instead meant utter bankruptcy.

The days where the success of the U.S. auto industry is tied up with the health and fate of Detroit have ended. And this too is because of the larger, global dynamics of capitalism-imperialism.

There has been an increasing "disconnect" in which Detroit has been disproportionately dependent on the auto industry. But the forces determining change in the U.S. auto industry are coming from the larger world arena, not by what is happening in Detroit. Indeed, the 2009 restructuring and bailout of the auto industry has been calibrated not on the needs of Detroit, but on the overall needs of U.S. imperialism and global competitiveness.

To begin with, the decision by the U.S. government to bail out the U.S. auto industry was based on the larger needs of U.S. imperialism.

The effect of this bailout has been a "leaner and meaner" industry achieved through the shutting down of plants, layoffs, decreased wages, cuts in workers' benefits, and a two-tier wage system for auto workers where new workers are given half the wages of previously hired workers. And it has meant moving operations out of Detroit to countries like China where costs are lower and production is therefore more profitable. For example, GM increased its manufacturing capacity in China by 55 percent since the 2009 bailout.

The 2009 bailout helped save what little industry still remains in the city—two manufacturing plants and General Motors' world headquarters. But this is also not just about the loss of jobs. It also has to do with the tax revenue all this provided to the city of Detroit.

The basic rule of capitalism, of "profit in command," also applies in terms of taxes, pensions and what the city government has and has not been able to do in the face of this crisis.

In his talk, "Why We're in the Situation We're In Today..." Bob Avakian talks about how some people pose the question, why can't the government identify social needs, get revenue and apply that to the problem?

The fact is government can get money from borrowing, but that has to be repaid with interest, so that doesn't generate more money. The government can sell bonds—but those too usually have to be repaid with interest. So ultimately in order to raise revenue that is larger than what it already has, the government has to do it through taxes. It does this both through taxing private citizens and also through taxing corporations.

Under capitalism, this amount of taxes is going to depend on the profitability of capital investment. So when the auto industry was huge and doing well in Detroit, the revenues to the city from the Big Three auto companies, as well as all the other companies and services associated with the auto industry, were relatively large—at least large enough to sustain minimal, if not adequate, social services and the city's basic infrastructure (like water, electricity and public transportation) that people need. The fact that tens of thousands of peope in Detroit were working meant that they were all paying taxes. But as all this has fallen apart—as the auto industry has left the city, as the jobs have left, as hundreds of thousands of people have left the city, this has had a huge negative impact on the city's ability to generate revenue. As Bob Avakian points out, even the limits and the context and the confines within which the government can address social needs in an ultimate and fundamental sense, depends on the profitability of capitalism in an overall sense.

So now there is a situation where people living in Detroit have no jobs, the city isn't providing them with basic services, and Detroit is literally decaying before people's eyes.

And what has this system done in the face of this dire situation for the people?

Protest by high school students in Detroit over chronic shortage of books, poor sanitation and a uniform requirement, 2006. Police arrested 32 students. Photo: AP

Those who rule over this system haven't declared an emergency and said we have to do something right away to help people out. In fact just the opposite has happened. People have been hit with even MORE hardship with cutbacks in education, health care, social services and basic necessities of life. Thousands of people who have been working all their life for the city government, people who counted on retirement with a pension they could live on, are now facing severe cuts in their pensions that will have a devastating impact on their ability to survive. And the bankruptcy ruling by the judge giving Detroit the right to cut people's pensions was also written as a precedent for city and state governments across the country. In fact, only hours later, the Illinois legislature voted in favor of a pension "reform" that drastically cuts the retirement income of Illinois state workers.


The crisis in Detroit—the dire situation for the people living there and the system's "solution"– is further exposure of the fact that capitalism cannot, by its very nature, meet the needs of the people.

Capitalism is insane, inhumane and viciously exploitative. While the rulers and defenders of the USA crow about "democracy" and the "land of the free," this system destroys the lives and spirits of millions of people here around the world on a daily, hourly pace. Its very foundations have been intertwined since the beginning, with the enslavement of African people and the continuing systematic oppression of African-Americans. And all this has come together like an economic/political/ideological hurricane that has left the people of Detroit suffering, and many of the Black people of Detroit who make up most of the city, living in conditions that have much in common with a South African bantustan under apartheid.

The financial collapse in Detroit was not the result, fundamentally, of the greed of corporations, the corruption of officials, or the ineptitude of politicians. The "dying" of the city—with its shrinking population, abandoned buildings, lack of basic services, and increasingly desperately poor people—is not the result of "bad decisions" and "lack of will" on the part of government or citizens. All this is due to the playing out of the economic, political and social dynamics of this system of capitalism that have been going on in Detroit for decades. All this is NOT something that this system can "fix." Cities all across the U.S. are right behind Detroit, facing similar situations because the same dynamics of capitalism intersecting with the oppression of Black and Latino people (in many cases) have been and will continue to be at work. All this is yet another example of why we need a whole new system, not based on profit, but on the needs of people, with the goal of emancipating all of humanity.




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Cheers to the Equal Justice Initiative Campaign in Montgomery

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Ceremony to unveil one of the markers, outside the EJI building. Photo:

Cheers to the Equal Justice Initiative for launching a campaign to post signs in the city of Montgomery, Alabama identifying locations where the slave trade was conducted in that city, as part of the brutal slave society that characterized the South before the Civil War. One sign says: “Warehouses used in the slave trade. There were more than 20,000 slaves in Montgomery, more than in New Orleans or Natchez, Mississippi, and Montgomery played a major role in the slave trade, with slave pens and depots for the sale or transfer of slaves to the plantations of the region.” Bryan Stevenson, the director of this project, made clear the reason for doing this: “If you don’t understand slavery you can’t possibly understand the civil rights movement and you certainly can’t understand the Civil War.” According to the New York Times, Equal Justice Initiative is also researching sites where lynchings of Black people took place, and plan to post signs at those sites as well. For the next phases, Stevenson is "considering ways to explore publicly the psychological consequences of the Jim Crow South, especially among those who experienced it, and then to focus on what he sees as an extension of this long history"—the mass incarceration of Black people today.

To learn more about this campaign, go to the Equal Justice Initiative website at




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Reader Responds to “The Shutdown...” Article

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Editor’s note: The following are excerpts from a reader’s correspondence responding to the Revolution article “The Shutdown, the Showdown, and the Urgent Need to Repolarize... for Revolution.” (see We are posting this as part of the important, ongoing discussion of the current situation and encourage our readers to write with their thoughts, including on this and subsequent articles, as well as responding to this correspondence.


From a reader:

This article [“The Shutdown, the Showdown, and the Urgent Need to Repolarize for Revolution”] is one of the most powerful articles ever to appear on Not only is it informative in the most scientific sense of the word, it is incredibly USEFUL. I have gotten it into the hands of every progressive-minded person I can, and urge them to dig in and deepen their understanding of “the situation and its underlying dynamics,” and especially wrangle over the article’s points on what is to be done about all this. The fact that differences within the ruling class are not static but in motion is crucial, especially at a time when the Christian fascist movement is, as we say, busting a move.

What disturbs me terribly, however, is not anything that is in the article, but one thing that is not in it, what I believe is a serious error of omission. In delineating the key characteristics of American fascism circa 2013, the article does not include its deadly homophobic agenda. I search the article for any mention of this particular issue and I don’t find it. I think it’s wrong to assume that denial of same-sex rights, not to mention the prospect of pogroms and outright murder of homosexuals, are “included” within the article’s otherwise comprehensive points about subordination of women, abortion rights and traditional patriarchal relations in society.

The Christian fascists’ agenda re LGBT people has its own dynamic. It is so crucial to their outlook and plan to establish a theocracy that the leap to outright civil war or other major rupture with the status quo we have now could very well flow from how this contradiction plays out. Just as with abortion, it is one of their most uncompromising “lines in the sand.”

As the powerful April 2013 article upholding same-sex marriage rights put it: “There are conflicts within the ruling class of the U.S. over how to handle this. Some sections of the ruling class (more or less associated with the Republican Party) argue that a brutal enforcement of ‘traditional values’ is the only way to maintain the system in times of great social and economic turmoil. Within that mix, the head of the Christian fascist Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, told a right-wing talk show host that ‘I think you could see a social and cultural revolution if the Court goes too far on this.’ By ‘revolution,’ Perkins and others of his ilk mean violent fascist repression in one form or another.”

The Republican Party has written denial of same-sex rights into its program, and while there are some adjustments and compromises being made in the wake of widespread and growing support among the masses for same-sex equality, the Christian fascists have not changed their agenda on this question one bit. Just look at their activities outside the U.S., in Africa for example. Uganda’s homophobia is their pride and joy. Recently, they’re embracing and endorsing Russia’s prohibitions against same-sex relations. If the Christian fascists face difficulties right now in pushing overtly for outright genocide against homosexuals in the U.S. as they do in the Third World, that doesn’t mean they no longer have that arrow in their quiver.

As a revolutionary communist who happens to be gay, I realize I am opening myself up to the criticism of “identity politics” in writing these remarks, as if my motivation here is to assert some personal agenda over the interests of the revolution as a whole. I don’t think that criticism will stand. And I also don’t think specific mention of this contradiction in outlining the key battle points of the rising fascist movement is just adding another “laundry list” issue. “We can’t mention every single issue in every single article,” would go the criticism. I think the issue of same-sex oppression is on a par with the battles around the subordination of women, immigration reform, racial discrimination, creationism and global climate change in terms of its real potential to ignite an explosion in the developing dynamic. It’s no accident that in Germany the Nazis had an Office to Combat Homosexuality & Abortion.

I will end with this key quote from BAsics 3:25: “This is a contradiction which, in the society overall, is ‘out of the closet.’ It could be forced back into the closet, and underground, with not only the stronger assertion of the kind of fascist movement that is being supported and fostered by powerful ruling class forces in this period, but with the actual assumption of a fascist form of bourgeois dictatorship. But the struggle against the oppression of gay people is not going to be easily suppressed. We should understand the potential of this as well, and the need to relate correctly to this, to foster the further development of its positive potential and its contribution to the movement for revolution.”




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Mr. "Stop-and-Frisk" Bratton as New York's Police Commissioner—Same Thing, Different Package

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Amidst widespread outrage and protest against stop-and-frisk, incoming New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is giving lip service to reforming stop-and-frisk. But his answer to those who are fighting to end stop-and-frisk is to bring in "reformer" William J. Bratton, who has publicly stated that "any police department in America that tries to function without some form of 'stop-and-frisk,' or whatever terminology they use, is doomed to failure."

For Bratton, "It's a basic, fundamental tool of police work in the whole country. If you do away with stop-and-frisk, this city will go down the chute as fast as anything you can imagine." ("New York City's Top Cop Stands by Stop and Frisk Policy", Cynthia Fagen on, December 6, 2013)

Bratton was head of the NYC Transit Police from 1990-1992 under Mayor David Dinkins. He was New York Police Chief under Rudolph "Adolph" Giuliani from 1994-1996. And he was police chief in Los Angeles from 2002-2009.

Under Dinkins, Bratton instituted a "zero tolerance" pro-active policy for the transit police, where the transit police targeted Black and Latino youth for arrest for minor offenses that had never been enforced or which had been enforced with ticketing, not arrests. Bratton left the Transit Police in 1992 to become Police Commissioner in Boston.  

He returned in 1994, when mayor Rudy Giuliani appointed him head of the entire NYPD. In that post he instituted aggressive police attacks on Black and Latino communities in the form of arrests for things like school truancy (he brags in his book Turnaround that he rounded up so many youth "we had to set up 'catchment' areas in school auditoriums and gymnasiums"). He initiated the stop-and-frisk program . Under Bratton, the pretenses for arrests grew more and more disconnected from any real criminal activity at all.

The Reality of Stop-and-Frisk

Revolution has written extensively about stop-and-frisk and the struggle by the people in New York who demand the end to this police tactic of racially profiling people and stopping them for no other cause than they "look or move like a criminal." What Bratton instituted in New York in the 1990s has, today, brought the horror of a police pogrom against Blacks and Latinos in the city. Li Onesto, writing in Revolution (#299, March 31, 2013), put it this way:

"More than 1.6 million people live in Manhattan, New York. If every single one of these people were detained and harassed, had their pockets gone through and were humiliated.... if all these people had this done to them not only once, but three times... this would be the number of stop-and-frisks carried out by the NYPD since 2004: FIVE MILLION in the last nine years. And it's not just the sheer number that is such an outrage:

Bratton's Real Track Record in LA

When Bratton became chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, he inherited a system of gang injunctions that was started under LAPD Chief Daryl Gates in the latter part of the 1980s. Bratton used these gang injunctions as a way to institute his "zero tolerance" policing in Los Angeles. The gang injunctions became a more palatable way to round up Black and Latino youth and incarcerate them because it was presented as dealing with gangs that were seen as the main problem on the streets of Los Angeles, not only by those who rule the city but also by broad sections of people.

The accompanying hype was to blame the gangs, and not the system that created the gangs—the system that flooded the ghettos of Los Angeles with crack cocaine, failed to provide a decent education, and had no prospects of gainful employment for Black and Latino youth. It is beyond the scope of this article to outline what this meant for thousands of people, but all our readers need to look at the reality of what was happening. Carl Dix from the Revolutionary Communist Party has made the point:

"This horrific racially targeted massive incarceration is a consequence of not having made revolution in the '60s. The revolutionary upheaval of that period rocked the ruling class back on its heels, but it didn't seize power from them. Having ridden those storms out, and conscious of the role the uprisings of Black people played in spearheading that and their potential for sparking future upheaval, the ruling class has moved to viciously suppress that potential before it can manifest itself—counter-insurgency before the insurgency.

"If things are allowed to continue on this trajectory, the reality of millions of the oppressed penned up in the ghettos and barrios without opportunity or hope will intensify. Going in and out of jail will remain a rite of passage for millions of oppressed youth, many of whom already look to their immediate future and can see nothing more than prison or death. This is slow genocide and, given the sharp divisions in the ruling class and the building up and unleashing of outright fascist forces, it could easily become fast genocide." (Revolution #242, August 14, 2011)

In LA, in the name of "community based policing and protecting the community from the gangs," whole communities were targeted by the police in the name of stopping the gangs—with thousands, especially Black and Latino youth, stopped. It was all combined with meetings with church and community leaders to enlist their support and the insistence that the pigs get out of their cars and make a show of treating people with respect.

But what was the reality of Bratton's program?

The gang injunctions and how the LAPD enforced them fit how Bratton viewed them as "some form of 'stop-and-frisk.'" The cops would set up in public places like parks and target people as gang members and then arrest them. They would make broad sweeps into neighborhoods, going to residences that they have labeled as "gang houses" and rounding up people at these residences as well as making sweeps in all the streets while they are going to houses. Gang injunctions gave the police broad authority to label anyone as a gang member without any evidence to that fact. An example was the injunction against the Grape Street Gang that identified 16 people as gang members, but Bratton's police force indiscriminately upped that to 240 names in 2006. ("Policing Gangs in LA: A Critical Look at Gang Injunctions and Community-Policing," by Andy Garofalo, The Subaltern, November 22, 2011.)

The cops used the gang injunctions to harass Black and Latino youth in huge sections of the city where there are now 44 separate gang injunctions. It became a crime for two or more youth to congregate in any outside area. Once someone is swept up under the gang injunction they face a "Contempt of Court" charge, which is punishable by six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. This has created militarized zones in these neighborhoods where youth have become afraid to go outside, and it has primed the pipeline to prison and mass incarceration.

Bratton also worked to hire more minority nationalities to the LAPD in the name of reforming the LAPD. But ask yourself: given the whole set-up of laws, courts, and so forth, does changing the skin color of the LAPD really mean anything? Whatever their nationality, the forces of the LAPD are carrying out the enforcement of laws and policies which suppress vast numbers of minority youth and result in the mass incarceration of thousands.

Again, let's look at the reality of what has happened.

William Bratton pushed to the limits a system of gang injunctions in Los Angeles that targeted Black and Latino youth.

As LA police chief, Bratton presided over the police department that rioted on May Day 2007 in MacArthur Park against people protesting for immigrant rights, where 600 cops indiscriminately fired rubber bullets into a large crowd, injuring many. Photo: AP

He presided over the LA police department that rioted on May Day 2007 in MacArthur Park against people protesting for immigrant rights, where 600 cops indiscriminately fired rubber bullets into a large crowd, injuring many. Racial profiling was a standard practice of the LAPD under Bratton.

In a study done on police stops in Los Angeles for the year 2004, it was found that 80 percent of those who were stopped were Black and Latino. In this one-year period of 2004 over 100,000 Black people were stopped in a city with a Black population of slightly over 300,000. ("A Study of Racially Disparate Outcomes in the Los Angeles Police Department" by Ian Ayres and Jonathan Borowsky, prepared for ACLU of Southern California, October 2008.) Further, by 2008, the total number of pedestrian and motor stops in Los Angeles had increased to 875,204, almost to the levels of Stop and Frisk in New York. ("Policing Los Angeles Under a Consent Decree: The Dynamics of Change at the LAPD," by Christopher Stone, Todd Foglesong, and Christine Cole, Harvard Kennedy School, May 2009)

"Reform" = Brutality and Murder

The legacy of Bratton's "reformed" LAPD is that they are nothing more than a bunch of brutalizing and murdering thugs. Between 2007 and 2011, police in LA County killed 159 people. They murdered 23-year-old Kennedy Garcia as he lay prone on the ground on his stomach with his hands cuffed behind his back. Dontaze Storey was killed after he had five bullets pumped into him by LAPD and when the cops attempted to put Dontaze in a body bag, paramedics noticed he was still alive!

LAPD murdered 37-year-old Manuel Jamines in cold blood by shooting him in the head twice only 40 seconds after they confronted him. The cops handcuffed his lifeless corpse and threw a white sheet over it. An LAPD SWAT team murdered 19-month-old Suzie Marie Pena and her 34-year-old father, Jose Raul Pena, who was holding Suzie during a two-and-a-half-hour standoff with police. 27-year-old Steven Washington, a Black man with autism, was just walking down the street when police driving near him heard a noise and responded by shooting and killing Steven.

During the Christopher Dorner manhunt, the LAPD opened fire on a pick up truck (that did not match the description of the pickup that Dorner was driving) wounding two Latinas—a 47-year-old woman and her 71-year-old mother. (Dorner, an ex-LA cop, was a murder suspect. See "The Dorner Controversy Continues," Revolution #296, February 24, 2013.)

And in a vicious and brutal show of force against Occupy LA, the Los Angeles police shot rubber bullets, beat, and arrested people as the Occupiers and others were writing and drawing with chalk at the monthly Downtown LA Art Walk.

The Role of Police

As NY Police Commissioner Bratton will continue the tradition of "Stop-and-Frisk" or "whatever terminology" he and de Blasio want to use. Again, let's be clear about the role of the police. As Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has stated:

"The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and the order that enforces all this oppression and madness." (BAsics 1:24)





Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

A Revolution Club Discussion on the Special Issue on the History of Communist Revolution

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

The other day I got together with a newly forming Revolution Club in an oppressed area to talk about the special issue of Revolution: You Don't Know What You Think You "Know" About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future. This was a small grouping of Black and Latino people of different ages. Some people felt more comfortable talking in a group than others, but all were part of the discussion, and most had read some of the special issue. We opened up the discussion asking if there was any one part people read they wanted to discuss, or if there were things they've heard about the history of the communist revolution when they've been out talking to people that they hadn't known how to answer and wanted to learn about.

One young person said she had been out at a concert promoting the special issue and a drunk guy came up to her and told her people had starved to death in the Soviet Union during socialism. So, she wanted to find out about that. Right away, one of the other people in the discussion responded, "People were starving before they made revolution, that's why they made the revolution!"

Before getting further into this, the conversation turned briefly to some things on people's minds about the police. One person talked about how upset she was about finding out how much police presence there is inside high schools and wants to wage a fight to get them out. Another woman described the police presence at a nearby university, and we all talked together about the role of the police and how they enforce divisions between people, including acting in a way that teaches students who come from a more privileged background to hate and fear those on the bottom of society, and especially for white people to look at Black and Latino people as dangerous criminals.

In returning to the special issue we decided to start by reading the part of the interview with Raymond Lotta, "Radical Changes: Minority Nationalities," in contrast to the kind of situation we were just discussing. In this section we went through the meaning of some of the words some people were unfamiliar with: Bolshevik, autonomy, chauvinism. None of the people in the discussion had known before reading this issue that there were oppressed nationalities in Russia, and especially so many of them! They were struck with the contrast of how in the USSR (Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics) people were being led to struggle against "great-Russian chauvinism," while in the U.S. the Klan was marching in Washington, D.C. in full regalia.

Reading this section led to a short discussion of anti-Semitism—because working to do away with this was an important part of what was happening in the Soviet Union. One older Black woman wanted to know what were the origins of anti-Semitism and as a Christian whose father was a pastor was kind of horrified to come to the recognition that much of this comes from the Biblical portrayal of Jews as the Christ-killers. She had once traveled to Germany and talked about what it was like to visit Auschwitz—one of the concentration camps. Other people in the discussion didn't really know anything about what happened in Nazi Germany, so she explained how Jews were put in these concentration camps, tortured, and killed there in gas chambers. She said the feeling of walking into a place like that makes you think about how people could do this to other human beings. This was something we returned to later in a different way: the question of whether human beings can be different and whether or not there is a human nature that causes people to treat each other with such cruelty. The discussion about Nazi Germany was also a stark contrast to what we were reading about what had been happening in the Soviet Union, and I pointed out that the first people the Nazis went after in Germany, even before the Jews, were the communists: the force that could have actually led people to rise up against and defeat the Nazis.

When we got back into reading the interview, we read the parts on "Constructing a Socialist Economy," "Struggle in the Countryside," and "Changing Circumstances and Changing Thinking," to address the question raised about people starving.

When we read the part about collectivization of agriculture, people wanted to talk more about what was the struggle over this: who were the kulaks and where did the opposition to collectivization come from. I explained, drawing from the article, that the kulaks were the rich peasants, who owned land and were more privileged. Collectivization meant taking away some of that land and privilege so that more land was in the hands of the people collectively to be worked on to meet the needs of the society collectively (so that there would NOT be people starving!). The kulaks didn't want their land taken away and thus opposed and resisted collectivization. The woman who had traveled to Germany said, "I could see why they would feel that way," even though she didn't think it was good they were opposing collectivization. She went on to say that she thinks it might be a characteristic of human nature to feel that way. I said it's not true that it's part of human nature for people to want more than others around them. She said she didn't think it was "wanting more than others," but resenting other people getting something they didn't work for, when you did work for it, that is human nature. And she was raising all this from the standpoint of trying to imagine a future world where these kinds of relations are no longer in place, and having a hard time doing so.

The young woman who had asked about people starving said that these ideas come from how we have been trained in this society, how we are taught to think about things. I agreed and went on to talk about how this kind of thinking is also generated from the way capitalist society works. I gave a hypothetical example of two business owners who want to fairly treat their workers and agree with each other to do that, not to try to get extra profit for themselves. But then, there's somebody else somewhere else in the world, (because it is a global system of capitalism) or even some other part of the country, that starts producing the same thing and paying the workers less so they can make the product cheaper. When that product starts taking over the market, the two business owners then are forced to cheapen their product or else they will eventually go out of business. This drive to compete comes out of how capitalism works, and colors everything in this society, is promoted in the culture and in society in general, and becomes the way people interact in all relations, even the most intimate, for example looking at other people for what you can get out of using them, or women competing and fighting each other over a man.

The woman who said she thought it might be human nature said she could see this about capitalism, but has such a hard time envisioning anything else because she's lived in this capitalist system so long. This brought us back to the interview, about the way people's thinking needs to change to build a new society. We looked at how the other problem with collectivization in the Soviet Union was that the work hadn't been done ideologically, to transform people's thinking, and this was brought home by the quote from Mao: "What good is state ownership of factories, warehouses, if cooperative values are not being forged?" When the woman who had been asking about all this brought up how people don't think this way, a young guy in the discussion answered that we have to struggle with them, to transform their thinking.

The discussion of the special issue wrapped up on that point, with people being appreciative of talking about this together and being able to learn from each other, and then had some discussion about the BA Everywhere campaign, planning fundraising activities and future discussions.




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Check It Out: The Unbelievers

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader

I want to make Revolution readers aware of a documentary film called The Unbelievers. To quote from the movie's website (

"The Unbelievers" follows renowned scientists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss across the globe as they speak publicly about the importance of science and reason in the modern world—encouraging others to cast off antiquated religious and politically motivated approaches toward important current issues.

The film includes interviews with celebrities and other influential people who support the work of these controversial speakers...

Early in the film, the question is posed: what is more important— to explain science or destroy religion? I won't "spoil" the answer(s) but you get a sense of the approach and attitude of the speakers from that. The celebrities in the film and their perspectives include some surprises.

Especially in these days of enforced ignorance and obscurantism (something the film addresses on some levels) it was very refreshing to hear that discussion, as part of an unflinching promotion of evolution and an exchange over where the universe as we know it, and human beings, came from. I didn't follow all of, or necessarily agree with everything that the featured scientists had to say about the nature of matter in the context of understanding the Big Bang Theory and the origins of the universe, or their specific perspectives on elements of the process through which evolution has developed. I'll be going back to my copy of "The Science of Evolution and The Myth of Creationism, Knowing What's Real—and Why it Matters" by Ardea Skybreak as well as restudying Bob Avakian's piece "'Crises in Physics,' Crises in Philosophy and Politics," with some new questions and perspectives in mind.

The Unbelievers is running now in New York City but you can find out about showings in your area at the film's website. I encourage readers to think about ways to connect the movement for revolution with the audiences that will be attracted to this film. The film itself only very tangentially addresses the ways in which the current oppressive world order enforces, and is reinforced by religion and ignorance. But I'll bet some people who see it will be attracted to a perspective that does address that, and will be attracted to a perspective that appreciates how a fully scientific understanding of the world is essential for the real revolutionary change. So be sure to bring Revolution newspaper and BA Everywhere fundraising materials to the screenings.




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Brutality in the Dungeons of Los Angeles—This Must Be Stopped!

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

Eighteen current and former Los Angeles County Sheriffs were arrested recently under federal charges for brutally beating inmates and visitors in the Los Angeles jail. The LA Sheriff’s Department patrols a huge section of Los Angeles County and runs an enormous jail system—it is the fourth largest police department in the U.S. after New York City Chicago and Los Angeles police departments.

The viciousness of these beatings cannot be understated. A deputy who trains recruits in the jail forced these recruits to beat up prisoners, including beating up a mentally ill inmate. Inmates were struck, kicked, and pepper-sprayed “to teach them a lesson” when it was judged by the deputies that the inmate had been “disrespectful” to another jailer.

Relatives visiting an inmate were subjected to similar beatings. Los Angeles Times reported that “Three visitors were taken to a deputy break room, which could not be seen by the public, and beaten” by the sheriffs. Deputies were reprimanded “for not using force on visitors” who failed to show respect to the jailers. One of those visitors, Gabriel Carillo, who was visiting his brother, had his arm broken by the sheriffs while he was handcuffed. Carillo filed charges, but the prosecutors dropped the case. When he heard about the arrests of the deputies, Carillo said, “I feel like now people are starting to believe the cops aren’t always telling the truth. Don’t just take their word because they have a badge. Look at the facts.”

The sheriffs disappeared one inmate when they found out that this inmate was an FBI informant against the sheriffs. In what they called “Operation Pandora’s Box,” the sheriffs moved this informant to another location and identified him only as “AB.” The sheriffs then altered their records, stating that this person had been released, while continuing to isolate him. They refused to let any other law enforcement meet with this prisoner. The Los Angeles Times on December 12 reported that “Sheriff Lee Baca played a significant role in how his department handled” this inmate.

In another incident, an Austrian consulate official, when visiting an Austrian inmate, was arrested and handcuffed despite not committing any crime and despite the fact that foreign diplomatic officials are supposed to be immune from prosecution due to their legal status in the country.

Other charges against the sheriffs include “conspiracy to obstruct justice, making false statements, and civil rights violations.” After they carried out beatings, the sheriffs discussed how to keep their stories straight and conspired together in writing reports that falsely accused the beating victims of assaulting sheriffs.

The sheriffs tried to intimidate those who were investigating them. In one incident, when an FBI agent, who had been working on this case, came outside of her home, she was approached by two sheriffs and falsely told that a warrant was being prepared for her arrest. They also intimidated and harassed whistleblowers in the department.

In response to all of this, Sheriff Lee Baca said that “99% of our employees are on the right track.” Baca got it right: these thugs are all on the “track” of doing what pigs do—which is to “serve and protect” the system of capitalism-imperialism that rules over people, with all their brutality and murder.

Hector Villagra, the Executive Director of the ACLU in Southern California said that the federal indictments against the current and former sheriffs “suggest the entire tree may be rotten.” An LA Times editorial stated, “Any inclination to pass off more than two years of news reports and official probes detailing inmate beatings as simply the result of a few rogue deputies should be shelved.”

The latest charges come on the heels of two other major investigations into the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

In the Lancaster-Palmdale area, 70 miles north of the city of Los Angeles, the LA sheriffs have been targeting Black people who live in public housing—stopping them, seizing their property, using force against them. Two-thirds of Palmdale residents are Black and Latino. The sheriffs have been racially profiling and stopping people and then doing what is now being called “unjustified back seat detentions”—detaining people in the back seat of a patrol car for minor offenses, which is unconstitutional according to the 4th Amendment. According to an article on, “In one instance, a domestic violence victim was placed in a patrol car, which agitated the suspect and led to both a physical struggle between the man and deputies and the victim getting pepper-sprayed because she also grew upset.”

The other investigation is into a clique within the sheriff’s department called the Jump Out Boys. This is a gang of sheriffs, part of the elite gang unit, who get invited to be in the clique because they gain “more respect after being involved in a shooting.” LA Times columnist Steve Lopez reported that a former sheriff stated that this “badge of honor” was won by “Deputies (who) were breaking bones purposely in order to get a tattoo that gave them member ship in a guard subculture of thugs...”

The Jump Out Boys is just one of a number of racist cliques in the LA Sheriff Department. Other cop gangs have been called the 3000 Boys, 2000 Boys, the Grim Reapers, Little Devils, Regulators and Vikings, and they have been active in creating an atmosphere of killings, beatings, falsifying reports, and perjury in order to cover up their illegitimate conduct. One cop gang—the Lynwood Vikings, “has been known as a ‘neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang,’” according to the LA Times.

The LA Weekly reported that the 3000 Boys has been assigned the duty to do an “internal” investigation on the Lynwood Viking sheriff’s gang! This is like the fox guarding the chicken coop.

Those of us who are out on the streets of Los Angeles in the Black and Latino communities, building the movement for revolution, are getting a sense of a real clampdown going on in those communities, and what the LA Sheriffs are doing is one part of this—killing, beating, arresting, and jailing a whole section of the population. The prisons and jails of this country are filled to the brim with Blacks and Latinos, both men and women and particularly youth. The California prisoner hunger strike this summer exposed the torture of solitary confinement going on in the prisons, but this torture and brutality exists in the county and city jails too. People need to take a stand against this mass incarceration, brutality and torture. From the jails of Los Angeles to the prisons in New York and across the U.S., this shit has got to be stopped!




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

New Retaliation Targets California Prisoner Hunger Strikers

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

On September 5, after 60 days on hunger strike, prisoners in CA collectively decided to suspend their action which demanded an end to solitary confinement torture in prisons in California and throughout the U.S. At least 30,000 people in 24 California prisons participated at the outset of the hunger strike, and 40 people went without solid food for 8 ½ weeks. Thousands of prisoners supported or took part on and off during the two month period.

Since the suspension of the hunger strike, the prisoners who were involved have been targeted for vicious retaliation by the prison authorities. According to reports from Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, every person who participated in the strike has received a serious Rules Violation Report (a "115 write up"), accusing him of committing a serious rules violation. 

This is a serious development, as a "115 write-up" can extend a prisoner's prison time or their period of solitary confinement by months or years and can be a basis for denying parole. It affects the nature of a prisoner's imprisonment. And, if these Rules Violations Reports are considered "gang related," the results can be used to "validate" a prisoner as a "gang member" or a "gang associate"—which can then be used to move prisoners into the Security Housing Units (SHUs) or be the pretext upon which people are kept in the SHU for longer periods of time. 

Prisoners in the SHUs live in 8' x 10' concrete boxes, with no opportunity to breathe fresh air, feel the sun, see the moon or the stars, or hear birds sing. Thousands have suffered under these conditions of sensory deprivation and state-sponsored psychological torture for years and decades. More than 500 prisoners serving indeterminate SHU terms have spent more than 10 years in the SHU at the Pelican Bay prison, more than 200 have spent 15 years or longer, and 78 people have spent over 20 years in these conditions.

As of this writing 3,880 people in California are in SHUs and over 6,700 people are isolated in Administrative Segregation Units (ASUs), which in some cases can be even more extreme than SHUs. In other words over 10,000 people in California prisons are held in conditions that fit the international definition of torture.  80,000 are held in solitary confinement throughout the U.S.

There are reports that the authorities who have been issuing the Rules Violation Reports against prisoners involved in the hunger strike are trying to intimidate them in order to prevent them from appealing these outrageous actions.

Moreover, disciplinary reports have been filed against a group of prisoners at Pelican Bay known as the Short Corridor Collective (sometimes also called the Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement) who authored the Agreement to End Racial Group Hostilities in 2012. This was an inspiring and historic statement that called for people of different nationalities in the prisons to unite, and to "stop the violence between us that only divides us, weakens us and hurts us." In a November 2013 letter, the Short Corridor Collective called for a campaign to step up the promotion of the Agreement to End Racial Group Hostilities "in prisons and in our communities."

Now these prisoners are being disciplined, labeled "prison gang" members who are "using their influence," and being targeted because they collectively discussed, forged agreement on and authored this Agreement in an effort to cease hostilities between all racial groups in all California prisons as well as county jails. This only goes to prove precisely what the prisoners have stated, which gave rise to the Agreement to End Racial Group Hostilities in the first place: that the prison system itself pits racial groups against each other... that the whole setup in the prisons serves to foster and enforce the ways and thinking bound up with people and different nationalities being played against each other. After thousands stood up together and said NO! to the criminal torture of long-term isolation, the prisoners are now being retaliated against and in fact being criminalized by the prison system for daring to act collectively and transcend the divisions and racial conflicts the prisons officials and guards actively foment.


This summer's hunger strike was the third hunger strike by California prisoners in two years. The strikes have had five core demands decided upon by prisoners, centering on ending solitary confinement torture – specifically the conditions in the SHUs where prisoners suspected of "gang affiliation" have been housed (without any due process) for indeterminate terms until they either complete their sentences, "debrief" (snitch) on others, or die.

These hunger strikes are truly acts of heroism and resistance taken under extraordinarily harsh and challenging circumstances, and the hunger strikers have exhibited an inspiring "largeness of mind" in their initiation of this movement. Hunger striking prisoners have made crystal clear they were putting their lives on the line to not only abolish the solitary torture they themselves confront, but so tens of thousands throughout the U.S. and future generations would not have to endure such medieval torment.

In a recent correspondence, the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective state how, as their collective unity grew stronger, they began "discussing the manipulative tactics employed by the fascist element within the CDC (California Department of Corrections) ranks, elements that are strongly rooted here at Pelican Bay... how the guards pit racial groups against each other to the point where 'lock down' is the common state of affairs in California prisons." The Short Corridor Collective and a Representative Body at Pelican Bay called for all prisoners to cease hostilities between racial groups in all California prisons as well as county jails beginning October 10, 2012—this is the Agreement to End Racial Group Hostilities mentioned earlier.

During the summer 2013 hunger strike, prison officials reacted savagely and with cold-blooded vengeance, targeting in a myriad of ways the prisoners who were on strike. In the media, the CDCR head Jeffrey Beard systematically spread disinformation about the hunger strike being a "gang power-play," in order to cover up the actual torture the CDCR inflicts on prisoners. Many hunger strikers were taken from their SHU cells and placed in Administrative Segregation ("the hole") with ice cold air blasting on them 24/7. Prisoners' cells were ransacked. Some had their property seized, and prison authorities confiscated any type of canteen items, like Kool Aid packets (which contain glucose), that could help the hunger strikers with sustenance; medicine was withheld from prisoners who have chronic illnesses.

At one point during the hunger strike confidential legal material was confiscated from some of those on strike at Pelican Bay, and an important legal representative was banned from the prison, in an effort to isolate the prisoners. In addition to Pelican Bay, in prisons like Corcoran State Prison, hunger strike participants had sandbags and mattresses placed at their doors to reinforce, psychologically, the feeling of being isolated. Prisons were also given a green light to force-feed hunger striking prisoners—which is a gross violation of human rights (a tactic that the U.S. military carries out against prisoners on hunger strike at the Guantanamo torture/detention camp). At Corcoran, one prisoner, Billy Sell, allegedly hung himself and died after being on the hunger strike for 13 days.


The vindictive punitive measures against the prisoners in California—who acted courageously and went on a hunger strike to assert their humanity and to shine a light on the torture they are subjected to—are totally outrageous. National and international attention must be forced on this repression, and a broad, determined movement needs to be built to condemn and oppose it—and this must become part of the overall campaign to stop the torture of solitary confinement in the U.S. prisons.





Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Guantánamo at 12: Shut It Down NOW!

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


This November marked 12 years since the U.S. first opened its torture/detention camp at its Guantánamo military base in Cuba. Earlier this year, most of the 164 men still imprisoned by the U.S. at Guantánamo joined in a sustained hunger strike which began in February 2013 and continued after Barack Obama promised in May, more than four years after his first promise, to take action to close the prison. (See "Hunger Strike at Guantánamo Bay: 'Respect us or kill us'" and "Guantánamo: The Hunger Strike and the Hellhole of Made-in-America Torture" here at

This is the reality for the people held at Guantánamo: isolation cells; frequent genital searches designed to humiliate; removal of personal papers; and most of all, denial of hope of ever leaving, even for the majority who have been “cleared” for release for years. There are 82 such prisoners who have been "cleared" but continue to be held, and some 45 who have been told they will be held indefinitely without charge, not as prisoners of war but in legal limbo. The remaining prisoners may face military commission trials designed to cover up the torture inflicted on them, depriving them of any rights they might have formally had in regular U.S. courts.

Concern is growing among those opposed to Guantánamo that prisoners weakened from the prolonged hunger strikes and the authorities' abuse will die. Shaker Aamer, a former British resident who has been imprisoned at Guantánamo for 11 years even though he was "cleared" for release in 2007, has led hunger strikes and spoken out many times for the rights of the prisoners. A November feature titled “Inside Guantánamo” on the CBS show 60 Minutes captured Aamer's voice, unidentified, shouting to anchor Leslie Stahl, “Please, we are tired. Either you leave us to die in peace—or either tell the world the truth. Let the world hear what’s happening.”

In August, British musician PJ Harvey released a new song, “Shaker Aamer,” for free downloads. The lyrics, based on his letters, read in part: "No water for three days./I cannot sleep, or stay awake./Four months hunger strike./Am I dead, or am I alive?/With metal tubes we are force fed./I honestly wish I was dead./Strapped in the restraining chair./Shaker Aamer, your friend."

Aamer told his attorney in early December that the hunger strike is on again, with 29 prisoners striking and 19 being force-fed. At the same time, the U.S. military, which controls the prison, has announced that it will “no longer” release information on the hunger strike, or on how many prisoners are being force-fed.

Only four prisoners have been released since Obama's speech in May. Two of them, citizens of Algeria, had long opposed being sent back to the country which each had left years ago, because of credible fear of repression by the Islamic fundamentalist government. One of these men, Djamel Ameziane, sought to join relatives in Canada where he had applied for residence; the country of Luxembourg offered to take him. But the U.S. government forced him back to Algeria, where he is being held under detention. The Center for Constitutional Rights, whose attorneys represent him, organized protests at the Algerian embassy and Mission to the United Nations, demanding his rights be respected and his safety protected.

A week-long solidarity fast in Washington, DC will begin January 6. On Saturday, January 11, Amnesty International, Code Pink, National Religious Coalition Against Torture, Witness Against Torture, and World Can't Wait will hold a mass protest at the White House demanding that Obama close Guantánamo.

UK-based investigative journalist Andy Worthington, who has closely covered Guantánamo, and Debra Sweet, director of World Wan't Wait, will be on a Close Guantánamo NOW Tour from January 9 to 17, which is scheduled to go to New York City, Washington, DC, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego. They will be speaking on "How & Why the U.S. Has Kept This Illegal Prison Open for 12 Years, and Our Responsibility to Close It." Go to to learn more about the tour and other protests against Guantánamo.




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Letter from a reader: Discussing “Could We Really Win...Really?”

December 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


I wanted to share with your readers some recent experience in discussing BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live at our local Revolution Books.   I’m mainly focusing on one discussion of one particular section of the DVD—“Could We Really Win...Really?”  This, of course, is an extremely important part of the speech—for unless and until there is a real revolution, then the horrors that are exposed in this film will go on, and the real possibilities for a future in which humanity actually flourishes will not be realized.  Such a revolution does critically involve the defeat and dismantling of the oppressive state power of the ruling class, at a point when the conditions for doing that have been brought into being—with those conditions including a deep-going crisis, owing fundamentally to the nature and workings of the system itself,  the emergence of a revolutionary people numbering in their millions and millions willing and determined to fight for revolutionary change, and the leadership of a revolutionary communist vanguard. [For more on how to hasten the development of such a situation, which does not currently exist, see the RCP,USA’s “On The Strategy for Revolution.”

But before getting into this discussion, I’m going to give a little background.  Going into this discussion, we had been summing up tendencies to be a bit too unfocused in our discussions.  Often, we would play whatever part of the film we were going to discuss that night, then the leader of the discussion would make a few points, and then the floor was thrown open.  A pattern developed in which one or two or more of the newer people at the session might raise some general questions pertaining to revolution that they had been thinking about going into the session, and then the more experienced people would attempt to answer these.  Sometimes these answers “bounced off” the speech, so to speak, with those who were answered drawing on their general knowledge and understanding, often losing sight of the specific points and examples in the film itself.  And sometimes the discussions were a bit unfocused and diffuse.  Too often people were not really being led to dig into the rich content of the speech. 

To be clear, it’s not that you should never have sessions where people come new to REVOLUTION–NOTHING LESS and respond with all the bottled up sentiments, ideas, aspirations and questions that this film can unleash.  In fact, we should have such sessions, and more of them.  But the point of these sessions scheduled in the bookstore was to actually walk through the rich unfolding of the speech itself, and that was getting lost sight of.

With that in mind, we began to change the way we led these discussions.  When we began the discussion of the part of the DVD that focused on hastening while awaiting a revolutionary situation (the last section of disk 2 and the first section of disk 3), the discussion leader made clear that there were certain questions he was prioritizing, and that he wanted people to “get inside of” rather than “bounce off” the speech in their discussion (that is, to really examine the examples being used, the way the arguments were being unfolded and, most of all, the method and approach being employed by BA).  While wider-ranging questions from newer people were fine and overall welcome, he would take these “off-line” at the end of the discussion, more informally, so that the focus could be on the actual content of the film.  And this was held to, gently but firmly when necessary.

The discussion leader also began taking a more “forward-leaning” approach to the discussion—not only posing some key questions and focuses at the beginning, but returning people to these when things drifted, posing further questions to those who spoke from the floor, etc.  After a while, we noticed that the informal discussions after things broke up were sometimes more lively and cut more deeply into how people were really seeing things and what they were experiencing and learning in trying to apply the line; so we began to just have a brief discussion involving “the whole room” at the beginning (sometimes there are several dozen people at these sessions), after the film was shown, to set a framework, and then broke down into smaller groups—and this led to much richer discussions, with many more people involved in the wrangling.  At times, we came together at the end to sum up the key points that had emerged. 

This strengthened the “solid core” of the process.  The discussion leader took more initiative to set terms and guide the discussion, and to keep bringing it back to the actual material in the film, and this actually enriched the “elasticity” of it all—that is, the ways in which many more people were able to dig into this and bring their questions, their experience, and their observations and ideas to bear on things in a way that further illuminated and enriched what they had just seen (and thus to return to the material later on a deeper basis).

The serious discussion of the material on “hastening while awaiting the development of a revolutionary situation” proved necessary to lay a good foundation to really dig into the section on “Could We Really Win... Really?”  In this case, because it is so important to be clear on what is—and what is not—being said in this section, we changed the format.  First off, we went back and played the  section entitled “A Revolutionary Situation...The Role of Youth...& How to Work Today So That There is a Revolutionary Force When That Time Comes” prior to getting into this section on “Could We...”—just so that everyone was clear that we were going to be talking about a situation that is much different than what we face today, one we are striving to bring into being and prepare for (even as much of what would lead to such a situation would happen independently of “our will”).  Just to be clear here—and in the discussion we returned to this point repeatedly in getting into the answers on different questions pertaining to “Could We Really Win... Really?”—such a revolutionary situation would be marked by a deep crisis in the ruling class and structures of government, where the very measures they took to get out of that crisis would deepen it... a general feeling among very broad sections of people that the proposals being put forward by reformers were bankrupt and did not measure up... and a revolutionary people involving millions of all strata, but especially the bedrock base for revolution who catch hell every day... and support and at least “friendly neutrality” from large sections of “the middle.”  One thing that defines a revolutionary situation is that masses of people, in their millions, would be ready to sacrifice everything to make revolution; were that to be the case, they would need to have an understanding of how to meet and defeat the violent repressive forces of the established order.

It was also important that people understood what we were, and were not, talking about in the largest sense.  While this was in fact made clear at the session, it might be good in doing this again to explicitly ground things in BAsics 3:3.

Then, the discussion leader explained that this session would be structured more as a q and a; this was precisely because it was important that things not be posed or discussed in such a way that enemies of the revolution could twist and distort what was being said and discussed, and because people aren’t that versed in this topic, and there was a need to dig into all this with a lot of guidance. 

We began the session by reading “Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution,” a very important piece to which BA refers in his speech.  In fact, copies of this had been given to everyone who came, but we still decided to read it aloud as well and underline some of the points. The discussion leader then pointed out that we had both a legal and moral right to study and discuss such questions that could emerge in a future situation and, more than that, a responsibility to do so.  While revolutionary work today must focus on raising political and ideological consciousness of the masses and developing massive political resistance, there is indeed a parallel track on which people should be studying and thinking about the issues and questions that would be posed when and if the situation did take a dramatic turn.  The discussion leader returned to points in REVOLUTION–NOTHING LESS on how the fates of hundreds of millions and ultimately billions rested on this, and the need to proceed in a serious manner befitting that responsibility.  He talked about how people should—in keeping with what is true—make clear in their questions that we were not talking about today’s situation, and he did so himself in his answers. 

Then he said that he would pose the first question, since a lot of people had it and it would be better to just simply pose it and answer it than either have someone do it in a way that might be distorted, or else just not have it come up.  Simply put, why is it wrong to just “get it on” right now?  And the discussion leader then mainly drew from the speech itself to answer this, while also referring people to pages 86-87 of the pamphlet REVOLUTION AND COMMUNISM: A FOUNDATION AND STRATEGIC ORIENTATION, within the article entitled “On the Possibility of Revolution.”

This got things rolling on what turned out to be a deep and lively session.  In the main, people’s questions related to what was in the material in the speech.  In the few cases where they didn’t, the leader either found a way to relate it to key points in the speech, or else just said that we would not be getting into that question tonight, as we were going to focus on really digging into the important material in the speech itself.

Some of the questions that came up included:

There were other questions besides, but these were some of the key ones.  People would often bring up how they understood it, or where they had points of unclarity or questions.  Sometimes, the person leading would find it necessary to rephrase the question so as to make clear that we were, in fact, discussing something that would not be correct to try to do today, but which in a future situation—one in which there were a revolutionary people numbering in the millions and a whole revolutionary situation had emerged—would be necessary in order to meet and defeat the violent repressive forces of the other side.  The leader of the discussion was also prepared to say that on some questions he would have to think further and return to the material before answering.

Overwhelmingly, the answers drew from material and concepts that were in this section of the filmed speech.  Some of the concepts that would be applicable were such a future situation to develop, included Mao’s concept that “you fight your way, we’ll fight our way,” and what that was based on; the fact that the other side would almost certainly try to bring down very heavy destruction against the revolution and in fact would be forced ultimately to rely on their ability to wreak destruction, but that they themselves also had weaknesses—not the least of which was the way in which their way of fighting could tend to alienate masses, if the revolutionaries were clear in their program and if their way of fighting reflected the principles and values upon which they (the revolutionaries) were based, and thus how those weaknesses could be exploited by a genuine revolutionary force; how the greatest potential strength of the revolutionaries would lie in their ability to draw on the support of the people in many different ways (the point made in the speech drawing on Mao’s analogy to the revolutionaries being “like fish in the sea” of the masses; how strategic centralization and tactical decentralization pointed again to the need for ideological cohesion among the forces of revolution.  This latter point also led into the crucial importance of the party, and one based on and wielding the concept of “solid core, with a lot of elasticity.”

In all, we did get quite a bit into this realm of doctrine and principles in its own right.  I won’t try to recount all that here, other than to say that there is quite a lot of content packed into this fairly short section of the speech.  At the same time, one very important point that kept coming up was how everything we do today has to be done with the possibility of such a future situation emerging in mind.  In other words, it would be necessary in such a future situation for revolutionary forces to have support all over, not just in the central cities, precisely in order to avoid getting confined to and pulverized within the cities; but unless political and ideological work is carried out now to reach out to those areas and develop not only political influence but also organized political ties, the forces of revolution would be coming from much further behind than would be desirable and the odds against success would be greatly increased

Getting into all these points gave people a deeper grasp of what was being said in the speech.  I think this session enabled them to return to both the speech and to works like “On the Possibility...” and “Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon” so that they would be able to “mine more” from these works, as they pertain to this arena.  This sesssion also drove home in a deeper way the importance of ideology AND, very centrally, the importance of building the Party NOW that is based on that ideology.  Indeed, this theme of the importance of building the Party—including carrying forward the Cultural Revolution in our Party, especially around method and approach, as an urgent necessity—kept “unavoidably” coming up.

In sum, this was an important beginning in giving orientation on the importance of getting into these questions and guidance on how to get into them in a way that both maximizes the possibility of avoiding distortion by those who would like nothing better than a pretext with which to repress the movement for revolution and sets a framework for people to pursue further study and reflection in this arena.




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Why I'm A Godless Communist and Why You Should Be One Too!

A Report on Talking to Students at a Small Midwestern College about Casting Off Religion, Liberating Women, and Emancipating Humanity

By Sunsara Taylor | December 19, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


I recently had the chance to speak at a very small college in a very small town (under 8,000 people) in the Midwest. I was invited by the secular student group. They explained that they had done several events in the past that were very good, but also a little "safe" in the sense that they focused on people's stories of how they personally became atheists, or focused on the basis for ethics and morality without god. As important as these themes are, they hadn't yet brought a speaker who argued directly that religion is harmful and certainly not one who connected up the fight for atheism with the fight to fully liberate women and to make the kind of communist revolution that can emancipate humanity. They were excited to expose students to a more radical perspective and I was very excited to speak to and learn from these students and others. The title of my talk was "Why I Am A Godless Communist and Why You Should Be One Too! Sunsara Taylor speaks on Casting Off Religion, Liberating Women and Emancipating Humanity."

I spoke about how I became an atheist and then a communist and the ways that patriarchy (the domination of women by men) is woven into Christianity as well as every other major religion in the world today. I got into many of the other harms of religion, both the specific harmful content of biblical morality as well as the way it trains people to not think critically, and I argued for science, a scientific approach to knowing and changing the world. Throughout my speech I drew heavily from, and cited the works of, Bob Avakian, especially his book, AWAY WITH ALL GODS! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World. I also argued for the new synthesis of communist revolution that has been developed by Bob Avakian. I ended my talk by speaking about communist morality and quoting from one of my favorite quotes (5:23) from Bob Avakian's book, BAsics:

"If you have had a chance to see the world as it really is, there are profoundly different roads you can take with your life. You can just get into the dog-eat-dog, and most likely get swallowed up by that while trying to get ahead in it. You can put your snout into the trough and try to scarf up as much as you can, while scrambling desperately to get more than others. Or you can try to do something that would change the whole direction of society and the whole way the world is. When you put those things alongside each other, which one has any meaning, which one really contributes to anything worthwhile? Your life is going to be about something—or it's going to be about nothing. And there is nothing greater your life can be about than contributing whatever you can to the revolutionary transformation of society and the world, to put an end to all systems and relations of oppression and exploitation and all the unnecessary suffering and destruction that goes along with them. I have learned that more and more deeply through all the twists and turns and even the great setbacks, as well as the great achievements, of the communist revolution so far, in what are really still its early stages historically."

Even though it was a rather small grouping of students and professors who had gathered, it was very exciting to be able to share all of this with them and what I really want to share with readers of Revolution is some of the richness of the exchanges that followed my speech.

Most, if not everyone, who attended were atheists. But, like me, most of them grew up Christian and most of them grew up in extremely conservative small towns or small cities in the Midwest. Like me, several of them had never met an atheist (or at least never met someone who admitted to being an atheist) until they were in college. Many of them were very concerned about sexism and the religious attacks on women's rights to abortion and birth control and quite a few of them were critical of other aspects of this system's crimes against the people. But none of them had heard of Bob Avakian or thought a whole lot about what a real communist revolution would look like in the world today.

During the question and answer session that followed my speech, the first question was from a young professor who grew up surrounded by extreme right-wing fundamentalism. He cited the atheist author Sam Harris as having argued that there is no point in making logical arguments to people who are trapped in a religious fundamentalist thinking because that framework makes them "immune" to logic. He expressed frustration at how he has provided ample facts and irrefutable evidence in his many arguments with fundamentalists only to watch this be disregarded and cast aside because the fundamentalists were proceeding based on blind faith and religious fervor. He noted favorably that he had watched the youtubes of my appearances on Bill O'Reilly's show over the years and wanted to know why I thought it was worth it to argue with people who were very closed in their thinking and whether I thought this could be effective.

I responded that Sam Harris has a point; it is true that religion, and fundamentalist religion in particular, trains people to disregard the facts and logic when it conflicts with what they are told is the "literal word of god." But I argued that Sam Harris is leaving something very critical out. The subtitle of Bob Avakian's book on religion is "Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World" for a reason. It is impossible to change the world without changing people's thinking and their modes of thinking, and it is impossible to fully change people's thinking in a truly mass way without bringing in the stakes for humanity and without actually fighting to transform the horrific and empty conditions of life that make people seek the false comfort of religion. I argued, as Avakian does, that we have to hit hard at the foundations of religion and force people to confront the contradictions between the core of their religious beliefs, on the one hand, and reality and what most people think is moral and good, on the other.

I said I always get a kick out of it when atheists will ridicule the Bible in the face of fundamentalists by saying things like, "Isn't that a poly-cotton blend you are wearing? Looks like you are a sinner!" (Leviticus 19:19 condemns wearing fabrics woven from two different materials.) However, whether someone wears a "blended fabric" really doesn't have any real social significance and so it is unlikely to be important enough to cause someone to question things they have been indoctrinated in for their entire lives. It is better to cite the Biblical commandments to do things like stone women if they are not virgins when they get married (Deuteronomy 22:14-21), to kill children if they are disobedient to their parents, to whip slaves (Luke 12:47—cited very powerfully in the new film 12 Years A Slave), or the many instances in which the Bible contradicts itself and where Jesus is shown to be completely ignorant of basic science or even his own scripture (see AWAY WITH ALL GODS!). These are things where the immorality and errors in the Bible have enormous stakes.

It is not that everyone will be convinced to let go of their belief in the Bible and god because these outrageous commandments of the Bible are pointed out to them. Some will reveal that they are willing to go along with truly fascist and horrific crimes. But others will be forced up against the contradictions in their own thinking that they have probably always pushed aside and never directly looked at: the contradiction between what they and many people think is right and what the Bible commands. These foundations of religious belief must be relentlessly hammered at, sharpening up the contradiction between what people think and reality, as well as the contradictions within people's thinking. It is in this way that we can fracture the foundations of many people's closed systems of religious thought and repolarize and transform the thinking of blocs of people. If we go at it in this kind of way, even the people who more openly own up to the horrific passages of the Bible (and other religious belief), or who make illogical contortions in order to both deny passages of the Bible and insist that the entire Bible is the literal word of god, will be part of what helps highlight to others what is wrong with their mode of thinking.

The second question was from a young woman who is pro-choice, but had never heard abortion spoken of as something positive, "Isn't there a limit, though, on when a woman should be able to get an abortion? Is it always a good thing?" I spoke to why abortion is a very positive thing on several levels. First, scientifically fetuses are not people and abortion is not murder. There is nothing wrong with it. But, if you treat a fetus like a person you have to treat the woman as less than human, as just an incubator or vessel. While there are sometimes circumstances which are tragic or sad that contribute to the need for the abortion, that doesn't mean that the abortion is tragic or sad. For example, if a woman gets pregnant from being raped, it is the rape that is the crime. The ability to get an abortion so that she is not forced to bear the child of her rapist is profoundly positive and liberating. If a woman wants a child but experiences medical complications during pregnancy, it is the medical complications which are tragic. The ability to get an abortion to ensure her safety and eliminate unnecessary suffering is profoundly positive and liberating. And beyond all that, most women who get abortions later in pregnancy either wanted to have a child and discovered that there were untenable complications, or they are women or girls who could not find an abortion earlier in pregnancy either because of the cost, the restrictions, the stigma, or the outright ignorance about their bodies. Women will always need abortion to be available at every point in pregnancy and this should be available on demand and without apology. The young woman nodded approvingly as I walked this through.

Next, a young guy asked, "What exactly do you mean by revolution?" People throw the word "revolution" around so much and mean so many different things by it. I specified that when I used the word I didn't just mean a lot of social upheaval or a change in attitudes, but, as Bob Avakian puts it in BAsics, "...Revolution means nothing less than the defeat and dismantling of the existing, oppressive state, serving the capitalist-imperialist system—and in particular its institutions of organized violence and repression, including its armed forces, police, courts, prisons, bureaucracies and administrative power—and the replacement of those reactionary institutions, those concentrations of reactionary coercion and violence, with revolutionary organs of political power, and other revolutionary institutions and governmental structures, whose basis has been laid through the whole process of building the movement for revolution, and then carrying out the seizure of power, when the conditions for that have been brought into being—which in a country like the U.S. would require a qualitative change in the objective situation, resulting in a deep-going crisis in society, and the emergence of a revolutionary people in the millions and millions, who have the leadership of a revolutionary communist vanguard and are conscious of the need for revolutionary change and determined to fight for it..." [from BAsics 3:3] . This definitely clarified for him and others what exactly I was referring to. It also opened up a whole new round of discussion. A senior who is studying environmental science argued for pacifism (non-violence) as the only way that positive change could come about. She argued that the problem with violence, and the problem with communism, has been the outlook that "the ends justify the means." In this way, she argued, violence is allowed to consume the very liberating goals people may have started out fighting for.

I began my response by making clear that I respect many people who have stood up to injustice motivated by pacifism, some of them sacrificing tremendously, and that if she is serious about this outlook that she should politically resist the most vicious and massive organs of violence in the world, the military, police forces, and other organs of imperialist state power. If she follows through on her convictions in this regard, we will find ourselves shoulder to shoulder on many occasions. At the same time, however, it is necessary to take apart whether or not pacifism is a viable approach to emancipating humanity. I also differentiated between oppressive violence and liberating violence, for example the oppressive violence of a rapist is extremely different from the liberating violence of someone fighting off her rapist, even if it requires injuring him.

I made very clear that we are not currently in a revolutionary situation and as such, it would be not only wrong but harmful for individuals or groups to engage in isolated acts of violence; this would only serve to get people crushed and spread demoralization. Instead, there is tremendous need for—and a strategy developed as a key dimension of Bob Avakian's new synthesis and as a foundation of the line of the Revolutionary Communist Party—preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution, for hastening while awaiting the development of a revolutionary crisis. A key part of this is the approach of fighting the power and transforming the people for revolution. However, when there is an all-out revolutionary crisis—when the ruling class is deeply divided and fighting amongst themselves, when millions and millions see the existing order as completely illegitimate, and when there exists a far-sighted vanguard party with deep ties to the masses and a winning strategy—it would be necessary for the masses of people to defeat and dismantle the old order and its organs of massive, oppressive, violence (its courts, police forces, military, prisons, etc.).

While she quickly agreed that there are forms of violence that can be liberating, she limited this to what she described as "self-defense," asserting that in any situation of war the role of violence just takes over and becomes a corrupting force both to those carrying it out and to the goals they began by proclaiming and aiming to fight for. I argued that communists, and this is something that has been fiercely fought for by Bob Avakian, must utilize means that are consistent with their ends. In the kind of all-out crisis that makes revolution possible, including the existence of a revolutionary people numbering in their millions, this would necessarily include revolutionary warfare or else the massive violence and death that this system enforces on the planet every single day will go on without relent. But, even in these circumstances, the way in which revolutionary forces fight would be guided by a liberating morality and vision of the society it they are striving to bring into being.

I gave examples of how the People's Army during the Chinese Communist Revolution had rules of discipline that included things like never stealing a needle or a piece of thread from the masses of people, never raping or abusing women, and that the gun should be guided by politics (as opposed to politics being guided by the gun). I acknowledged that during this young woman's lifetime there haven't been very many wars fought on a revolutionary and liberatory basis, but gave the example of the Vietnamese National Liberation fighters, during the U.S. war on Vietnam. They did political education with many of the soldiers they captured, especially African American troops, and actually influenced the thinking of many of the soldiers right within the military they were simultaneously, of profound necessity, fighting to defeat militarily. And I used an example that Avakian uses in his talk, Revolution: Why It's Necessary; Why It's Possible; What It's All About, from the movie Spartacus. During that slave rebellion, Spartacus led the slaves to use violence to get free. But after they won their freedom, Spartacus stopped the former slaves from torturing their former captors, arguing that by doing so the freed slaves would simply turn into the very thing they had been fighting against. This was another example of the difference between the liberating violence that was necessary to get free, and the oppressive violence of torturing people at any time or for any reason.

The young woman and I went back and forth several times over this question and I won't recount all of it here. But, as we spoke, part of what became clear is that she really didn't see that we live in a system and that there is a state that includes massive organs of violence that defend and enforce (and can only defend and enforce) the existing way of life with all its profound exploitation, unnecessary death and suffering, and destruction of the planet. At one point she argued that everyone as individuals should just stop being violent, including people in the military or police, and that this would be the way to change the world. I argued that that notion was fanciful and out of line with the reality of what the state is. The U.S. military, for instance, is not just a collection of people. It is an institution that acts on behalf of and in the service of the U.S.'s system of capitalism-imperialism and global domination. I walked through the reality that there is not only incredible indoctrination and orders given to ensure the troops carrying out violence in the interests of the system, but there are punishments enforced against people should they refuse.

But I also suggested that we see if others wanted to comment either on the same topic or on a different topic. Off of this, another young professor posed that perhaps in the course of an actual revolution there would be sections of the military and the police forces who would lay down their arms and either be won over to the revolution or at least won not to repress it. Several other hands had gone up, so before I responded to him I called on others.

A young woman began by saying that she knows several people who have gone into the military recently and that when they came home after basic training the things they told her really upset her. "One of them was made to do a practice raid during training where they were told to go into a building and kill everyone in it, including the children!" Off of this, someone else in the room piped up, "Yeah, I don't think they are all going to be won to put down their arms."

Another young woman then raised her hand and somewhat hesitantly began to share something she seemed not to have told all that many people. Her friend's mom used to be a cop in a pretty large Midwestern city and had told her some stories of what it was like, "She said that sometimes, if the police shot someone accidentally or, like, during a chase, and if it turned out that the person wasn't armed, sometimes the cops would just put a gun down near the dead body so that it looked like they had killed the person in self-defense." Her friend's mom hadn't lasted long as a cop and was troubled to this day by the things that she had seen.

I was extremely struck by the two examples that had been brought forward. This was very different than what I had initially anticipated from both of the students when they started their comments by detailing their personal connections to either military or police officers. Their comments served to underscore the reality that both the military and police forces are institutions that serve a certain function and that individuals within them are molded to carry out that overall function, or else punished or driven out. I spoke to this a bit more fully, but then returned to the woman who first raised the question of pacifism. I posed that while I disagreed on a deep scientific basis with the viewpoint of pacifism, I was not at all arguing that the dangers she was posing—of lofty goals being consumed and undermined by the means that people might take up to fight for them—was not real. There are millions and millions of people for whom life every day is a bitter and living hell and who would, if there were an actual revolutionary uprising, form the backbone of the revolutionary fighters. In an actual revolution, there would be strong impulses towards revenge and there would be the unleashing of tremendous pent-up and justified anger. I spoke of the millions locked in prisons, others terrorized by police and locked in desperate poverty in the ghettoes and barrios, women who have been brutalized and terrorized by men their whole lives, and more. If there is not a far-sighted revolutionary vanguard party that can lead this and give it direction, and if that party is not building up growing ranks of revolutionary people and broadly popularizing and repolarizing all of society around its revolutionary aims, methods, and goals, starting now and all the way leading up to such a revolutionary crisis then it is very difficult to conceive of such an uprising going anywhere positive. I spoke to the importance of bringing forward emancipators of humanity and of the aim of the movement for revolution today being bringing forward hundreds who are influencing thousands today and preparing to lead millions when the all-out struggle for power is the order of the day. I spoke of the way this goes on through the work to popularize Bob Avakian, through the distribution of Revolution newspaper and its website, and through the ongoing approach of fighting the power and transforming the people for revolution.

She, and others, got the sense that the Revolutionary Communist Party doesn't dismiss the very real contradictions involved in making revolution. On the other hand, this got her thinking even more deeply about the contradictions involved and she asked, as the final question of the official program, whether it really is possible to have the oppressed of this society make a revolution that aims at emancipation, given that the people who are the most in need of revolution have also been the most systematically uneducated. Wouldn't they just "lash out"? She was giving voice to a very big concern and fear that keeps many people from among the middle strata, even many very progressive people who have deep criticisms of this system and deep sympathies with the oppressed, from even considering real revolution.

I spoke a bit more about the RCP's statement on the strategy for revolution and then shared some of the examples of the work that the Party is doing now among the most oppressed, including the efforts to get Revolution newspaper into the prisons and the incredible impact this has had. But I also told the truth, that the impact is still far, far too embryonic and needs to be going on on a qualitatively greater scale. There are enormous and urgent stakes to this. So, I put the challenge back to her and to everyone in the audience that she and others need to be part of making this go on on a qualitatively greater scale and with enormously greater impact. We can see in microcosm the difference it makes to get BA (Bob Avakian) and the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, Revolution newspaper (, out very broadly among the oppressed and among others. But this needs to go on all throughout society. It needs to be unavoidable in the ghettoes and barrios as well as the suburbs and the college campuses, in the prisons and in the media and arts, among all strata and every nationality, and people—even people like themselves who are just hearing about this for the first time and just beginning to check this out themselves—have a responsibility not only to get into this, but to help spread it through their own efforts as well as through contributing to the major campaign underway to raise major funds to get BA Everywhere.

We had gone well beyond the time officially allotted for the event and no one had gotten up to leave. I thanked the organizers again for bringing me out and everyone for coming and listening so intently and engaging so seriously and let everyone know I would stick around to speak informally with anyone who wanted to. Most people headed out pretty quickly, but not before thanking me briefly or making some small comment. One young professor said simply, "I had never heard of Bob Avakian before, but I am definitely going to read some of him now." A few students stuck around and after talking for a while we all decided to go to a local coffee shop where we joked and had a lot of fun and continued to dig into these and other crucial questions of philosophy, morality, communism's history and future, and the fate of humanity.




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

The Days Between Christmas And New Years—When Many Decide On Who and What They Will Contribute To

December 20, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


We recently had a conversation with friends who know more about professional fundraising and we found out some important information which, if reframed by our overall goals of radically changing the world and raising big money to get Bob Avakian’s works and vision out into every corner of society, could make a big difference in whether we are able to meet our goals.

This has to do with fighting through all the way to the end of the year to ask people to make donations.  

It is true that more than 50% of all charitable contributions are made during the last two months of the year.  This is even more true during the LAST WEEK of the year, when a very big percentage of those donations are actually made. 

This is a time when people are taking stock of a lot of different things.  Yes there are the financial considerations—people figuring out what they have available to give.  (For the wealthy they often get early annual reports from their accountants on how much they should donate.)  And of course it is the last week they can qualify for potential tax write-offs.  But there are also more ideological reasons involved. The current editorial, “A World of Savage Inequality: NO MORE,” could not have put it better.  "It is a time when people reflect on the state of humanity and their relationship to it."  It is a time when they are looking at all that happened in the past year, and thinking about what the future will bring and what their lives will be all about.   And think about what a year it has been—with Trayvon Martin, Stop and Frisk, police and stand your ground murders—the way that the lives of black and brown youth count for nothing under this system.  Think about the massive assaults on abortion rights in the midst of an unprecedented and global war on women, the UN and other scientific reports on the global warming and the crises in the environment—and how it was even possible in a world where satellites track weather for football games, that 6,000 died in the Philippines for lack of warning and shelter.  The world does not have to be this way and people can make a contribution to change it all.  

We talked about sending everyone we have approached—and people newly met—with this important editorial, calling on them to make a donation that will make all the difference in the world—and making this a part of how people will end their year.  

The very last week of the year is when much of what is raised is actually sent in.   It is a time when people make those decisions.

And don’t forget, for those who want to make a tax-deductible donation, the Prisoner’s Revolutionary Literature Fund can accept your donation.   Go to their website at and you can accomplish this online.




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

West Coast Premiere Celebration of Stepping into the Future: On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics—A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World

December 21, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


On Wednesday, December 11, Stepping into the Future: On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics—A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World premiered at the Laemmle Theater in Santa Monica, California. The Laemmle is one of a chain of theaters in Southern California that show independent and art films.

Co-director Annie Day and Amina, performer, at the Los Angeles Premiere Celebration of Stepping Into The Future

Co-director Annie Day and Amina, performer, at the Los Angeles Premiere Celebration of Stepping Into The Future. Photo: Special to Revolution

About 80 people came to the premiere from across the city. It was a diverse and multinational crowd: some came from South Central, some who are familiar with the movement for revolution, and there were a number of people who heard about it on KPFK radio. KPFK was the media sponsor of the event, and in the days running up to it there were regular PSAs played on air. Also, Annie Day, the film's co-director, and two participants, singer Maggie Brown and Richard Brown, a former member of the Black Panther Party, were interviewed on The Michael Slate Show on KPFK a few days before.

The evening began with a trailer announcing the showing of a second section of the DVD BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less! Bob Avakian Live on the campus of UCLA on January 9, 2014. Then Annie Day introduced the film.

A section of the audience was learning for the first time about the work of Bob Avakian and the movement for revolution he leads. For some, the fact that the documentary of this inspiring cultural event so boldly gives expression to the impact of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian and his overall leadership and body of work, was challenging, eye-opening, and a little unnerving. Others came out deeply impacted and inspired to learn more about Bob Avakian, get their hands on BAsics, and make plans to show the film to others. One supporter left discussing plans to show the film at his Unitarian Church.

All this was reflected in some of the questions posed during the Q&A with Annie Day and Amina (a young revolutionary who is in the film). A couple of people raised big disagreements with the need for revolution and communism, and had questions about the new synthesis of communism that BA has developed. A couple of others wanted to express their appreciation for the film, for BA's work, and for the hope and inspiration they feel is concentrated in this film.

After the Q&A, there was a small reception where people stayed talking for some time after. There was deep discussion about the importance of BAsics, the kind of cultural revolt that's needed in the world today, and debates about why this system can't be reformed and the need for revolutionary leadership. Some people got further organized to take up the BA Everywhere fundraising campaign to project BA throughout society.


Interviews after the film:

A writer for a small city newspaper said:

I want to see the film again, because there's a lot to it; there's a lot going on. I liked the film, I liked the idea of keeping an open mind about other possibilities and considering ways to make the planet a better place, a more livable place. To ease suffering, if not eradicate it, is completely possible. These are very appealing ideas to me. And I'm very open-minded, very open to considering different ways of bringing about these changes. It made me want to know more, watching the film. To get a copy of the book BAsics, it made me want to get more involved. So if that was one of the purposes of the film, it definitely succeeded.

He said he enjoyed especially listening to the jazz musicians and the poetry. When asked what he thought about the title of the film, in particular the relationship between the book BAsics and the evening it inspired, he said:

Well, I think the ideas in the book itself can serve as a map toward a new future; toward a new way of living; toward a new view of how things could be.... And again, the whole thing made me want to hear more. Everything, I thought, was very compelling, very worthwhile, and piqued my curiosity. And again, it inspired me to want to find out more.


One person who was seeing the film for the second time said:

It's refreshing to hear people talk about humanity, and the world, and not look at things just from this country, and that is wonderful.... This country is based on the exploitation of millions of people around the world. Even if you weren't a person that is defined as a communist in that film, they really got that. And that I think is really great, very uplifting; you can see that, you can hear it.


A woman originally from Ireland said when she heard about the film on the radio, she said to herself: "Oh, revolution. I want to start one." Overall she liked the film but had criticism.

"But" she said, "I liked the spirit of it. And that's what carries things." She knew nothing about BA or his body of work and could be described as someone who "doesn't know what she thinks she 'knows' about the communist revolution," to quote from the recent title of the special issue of Revolution newspaper on the history and future of communist revolution.

She said communism "was a wonderful idea way, way back, but... it really doesn't work." She's convinced "it's gonna be a combination," and agreed with someone on CNN who said "there's good capitalism and bad capitalism. There's good socialism and bad socialism." She was encouraged to go to the Revolution Books table and get that special issue of Revolution: "You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future."


Three friends came together, two in their early 20s and the third, a little older, had urged them to come. One said, "We all have common interests in political movements, and things like that." Only the one who invited them knew of Bob Avakian before the premiere. He said he had heard the interview with BA done by Michael Slate on KPFK. He downloaded all five parts and listened to it a few times. "I thought it was great. I really like everything, everything he has to say."

The other two made the following comments about the film:

It's a good model for just displaying the power of the movement, and just to be able to bring different types of people together; showing that there's commonality in all different kinds of people; and it's nice to be able to see them all come together and not have stereotypes being put out; it's different, hopeful, I would say.

Revolution and poverty aren't something discussed a lot in the mainstream. You can't walk up to someone and have a conversation about that. And so this kind of lets you know that there are other people who are sharing the same thought, the same frame of mind. It's uplifting and informative at the same time.

It's comforting to know that you're not crazy, you're not alone in these thoughts... I think the night, the bringing together of all the different artists, from different backgrounds, it kinda showed that there's like a metaphor, that there's room for everybody on the stage. There's enough on the planet for everybody; we can all share, and get along and have a good time.

Later in the discussion, this same person was reflecting on the challenge of bringing this to people who are "still indoctrinated to believe the things that they learned in school." In talking about this, he said:

I thought the other thing, like when I bring up revolution, like they brought out in the documentary, "what difference does it make, it's never going to happen." And the prisoners brought up the example of the doctor [from BA's memoir, From Ike to Mao, and Beyond]; and it's such a simple analogy, but you never hear that; sit there and think about it. And that's something I could use now to help.

The older person familiar with BA added:

And at the same time it's a documentary that like someone would say, "Oh, I'm not communist, but I share a lot of the same visions as them." I think that should be a lot more common. Even if there are different parties, different beliefs, you should still have an openness, you should still feel for other people around the world, even if they come from different backgrounds, whatever, they're still human.

Asked if they were going to get BAsics, one said: I'm actually gonna get two; one for my friend.



Permalink: of-u-s-drone-strikes-en.html

Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

The Continuing Terror of U.S. Drone Strikes

December 21, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


On December 20, the New York Times reported from Yemen: "A hail of missiles slammed into a convoy of trucks on a remote desert road, killing at least 12 people....this time the trucks were part of a wedding procession, making the customary journey from the groom's house to the house of the bride. The Dec. 12 strike by the Pentagon, launched from an American base in Djibouti, killed at least a half-dozen innocent people, according to a number of tribal leaders and witnesses, and provoked a storm of outrage in the country. It also illuminated the reality behind the talk surrounding the Obama administration's new drone policy, which was announced with fanfare seven months ago."

From Pakistan to Yemen, tens of millions of people live in daily danger of terrorist attack—from U.S. drones. Surveillance and attack drones hover over villages constantly, creating an atmosphere of never-ending tension and fear. They strike seemingly at random—assassinating those targeted by NSA and CIA "intelligence" as threats to the U.S. empire in one form or another, but also wiping out wedding parties, and blowing up homes with women and children. Follow-up strikes are consciously planned to assassinate medical and emergency first responders. Amnesty International reports that "According to NGO and Pakistan government sources the USA has launched some 330 to 374 drone strikes in Pakistan between 2004 and September 2013...according to these sources, between 400 and 900 civilians have been killed in these attacks and at least 600 people seriously injured."

In the wake of global condemnation and some (but nowhere near enough) exposure and protest in the U.S., Obama claimed (with fanfare) in May of 2013 that he has put in place new policies that the U.S. will only use drones to assassinate people who are a "continuing and imminent threat to the American people." And he will only launch drone strokes when there is a "near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured."

To date, no U.S official has made a case in public that the people targeted in the strike on the wedding party in Yemen posed a threat to any Americans, and the Yemeni press has unambiguously documented that at least many of the victims on were not even intended targets.

As Larry Everest wrote in Revolution: "What kind of empire and global order is it that depends on violence to preserve such oppression and suffering? That murders 68-year-old grandmothers, blowing them to pieces as they tend their small fields, and then attacking their children and grandchildren when they try to help? Or that massacres chromite miners, landless farmers, and near-penniless drivers? What is legitimate about trying to violently preserve a world in which millions upon millions are forced to live in destitution and fear, now, in the 21st century? Yet this is, at bottom, what the 'war on terror' is about.

"Why should anyone accept U.S. drone strikes, Obama's lies, and most fundamentally, this kind of world?" (The Illegality, Illegitimacy & Immorality of U.S. Drone Strikes, available at




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Letter from a reader on the recent budget "compromise"

December 21, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Dear Revolution,

Ok, let me get this straight. The extreme right/tea party wing of the Republican Party forces a partial shutdown of the government this past October 1, causing great suffering and uncertainty especially among those most impoverished already. The shutdown lasts for 16 days. Afterward the media and pundits declare that it was a disaster for the Republicans. Some progressives feel that the Democrats are finally standing up and getting some "backbone."

Then, after the dust has settled, on December 10, the Republicans and Democrats announce they've agreed on a "compromise" budget agreement to avoid another government shutdown (which it may or may not do). It's widely hailed as a victory for "civility" and "sanity." But it turns out this "compromise" the Democrats agreed to includes cutting 1.3 million people off unemployment, many of whom may end up homeless, starving or both. The issue of restoring vicious cuts to food stamps (which is taking place as the stock market hits record highs) isn't even part of the budget negotiations. Is this what the capitalist-imperialist system calls "civil"?

Then, it turns out that the Republicans, who supposedly lost the last shutdown, actually set (one analyst said "dictated") the terms and framework of the compromise: "fiscal responsibility" and budget cuts. "When it comes to policy, it is still the Republicans—that is, the tea party, the GOP's new beating heart—who are still largely setting the agenda," the right-wing National Review noted after the shutdown ("Republicans Lost the Shutdown Battle, but They're Winning the Fiscal War," October 19, 2013) "[T]he tea partiers have made the sequester and debt-ceiling fights the new normal in Washington...Indeed, going back to 2010, when the GOP took control of the House, nearly everything has gone or more less the Republicans' way on fiscal issues."

This brought me back to the point made in the first of the 7 Talks by Bob Avakian, "Why We're in the Situation We're in Today... And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution," and the analysis in the Revolution article "The Shutdown, the Showdown, and the Urgent Need To Repolarize... for Revolution":  even as there are intense and potentially volatile conflicts within the ruling class, the core dynamics of the capitalist-imperialist system, and the economic-political necessities it now faces make it very difficult for the Democrats to come up with an alternative to the hard-edged right (for instance, reviving the "New Deal" of the 1930s or the "Great Society" of the 1960s). Both the Democrats and Republicans are operating on the terrain of lean, mean global imperialism, hence both are compelled to deal with the economic-fiscal contradictions the system they represent faces (which are real and not just a question of greed or corruption). Talking about "fiscal responsibility" is a euphemism; if they spoke honestly (and scientifically), they'd say they're trying to figure out how to meet "the ruthless necessities and requirements of capitalist-imperialist accumulation and strategic rivalry, while still maintaining our system's legitimacy in the eyes of those we rule over."

So all this is to say – listen to and promote the 7 Talks and read (or re-read) and spread "The Shutdown, the Showdown, and the Urgent Need To Repolarize... for Revolution" and "The Shutdown Aftermath... and the REAL Choice We Face." More jolts and crises are ahead!




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Reader writes on Shining Light of Revolution into Prisons

December 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Dear Revolution,

I've been thinking—at this time of year—about how important it is that the work of the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) be supported. PRLF gets BAsics from the talks and writings of Bob Avakianwhich I consider to be the handbook for revolution, and Revolution newspaper into prisons, and connects people locked up in America's hellish prisons with an understanding of how to bring about a whole different world—one free of exploitation and oppression of any kind.

As a poem printed in this issue of Revolution puts it: these prisoners "turn to you—to give them a light. DONATE TO PRLF".

For millions in America's inner cities, a big part of the holiday season means piling onto busses or trains, or driving—even hundreds of miles to desolate places—to visit incarcerated loved ones. Over two million people are packed into U.S. prisons, almost half of them Black or Latino, in conditions that evoke the holds of the ships in which kidnapped Africans were originally brought to these shores as slaves. Conditions in solitary confinement units meet every objective definition of torture. Thousands serve "life without parole"—a slow death sentence—for committing nonviolent crimes, or no crime at all.

Along with so many others, I've gone through the degradation and dehumanization they put you through just to visit a family member in jail. It's all set up to make a statement that "people locked up here are worse than nothing, and you are too." Think about what it means in this nation of prisons for a child's connection with a father or mother to be holding up a hand to a thick glass plate.

The searing impact of this slow genocide extends far beyond the prison walls. In great expanses of abandoned and locked-down inner cities—from Oakland to the Bronx, from Detroit to New Orleans—going to prison is the expectation and rite of passage for youth. And the desperate culture produced and enforced in the prisons casts a deadly shadow over the lives of millions and millions.

But, as BA says in BAsics 3:16, "those the system has counted as nothing can count for a great deal." They can become part of the backbone of actual emancipators of humanity. But that requires real revolutionary sustenance!

Through sending revolutionary literature to prisoners in 41 states, PRLF connects prisoners with that revolutionary sustenance. The literature PRLF sends to prisoners gives them the means to engage with the method and approach, and the vision and plan to really change the world that is Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism.

Over the past year, we've seen a truly heroic hunger strike in the California prisons against solitary confinement, and an inspiring movement for peace among the different races in the prison system. Readers of Revolution—especially at—can connect with correspondence from prisoners who receive PRLF materials, and are engaged in broad and deep discussion and transformation around a wide range of questions about the world, especially those connected with building a movement for revolution and a whole new world. You do get a feel in all this for "fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution" coming to life. Check out the links to several of those that I'm including with this letter.

But right now, PRLF can't even fill the requests it gets from prisoners for literature! This holiday season we have to change that.

PRLF is an educational literature fund that fills requests from U.S. prisoners for revolutionary literature. It is a sponsored project of Global Exchange, a 501 c3 nonprofit international human rights organization. At this time of year, when people reflect on the world and their responsibility to change it, (and when some people decide where to make tax-deductible contributions), this is a time to make a donation that will contribute to something REAL. Not band-aids on the cancer of exploitation and oppression, but enabling a section of people cast off by society to transform themselves and the world—to rise to the challenge posed in BAsics 3:16 to "Become a part of the human saviors of humanity: the gravediggers of this system and the bearers of the future communist society."

According to their website, the main requests received by PRLF from those behind bars are for subsidized subscriptions in Spanish and English to the weekly newspaper Revolution, and for BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian—a book of quotations and short essays that speaks powerfully to questions of revolution and human emancipation. PRLF has sent 2,000 copies of BAsics to readers in prison.

But there is so much more PRLF must do in its work to shine the light of revolution behind prison walls. Let's step up ourselves, and challenge everyone to help meet this great need. Think about what you can do, or what people you know can do. A donation of $10—raised by a couple of homeless people from what they get for turning in cans and bottles at a recycling center—can pay for a copy of BAsics that is probably going to be studied late into the night, discussed in the prison yard, and maybe spread outside the walls—something positive coming out of prison. College students who raise $350 selling brownies at the midnight movies can pay for ten recent unfilled Revolution subscription requests from prisoners in North Carolina. Envision the impact of each of those copies shared from cell to cell. A contribution from a professor of $500 can cover the cost of 50 copies of BAsics for prisoners in California. A donation of $1,015 will renew subscriptions for 29 subscribers in Florida, and one of $1,400 will pay for 40 recent unfilled Revolution subscription requests from prisoners in California.

BA needs to be everywhere, including in the hands of those locked down in America's prisons!

You can find out more at, where you can make regular or tax-deductible donations. Or make checks payable to "PRLF". Make tax-deductible checks payable to "Global Exchange/PRLF" and send checks and correspondence to: PRLF, 1321 N. Milwaukee Ave, #407, Chicago, IL 60622.





Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Contribute to The Bob Avakian Institute before the year's end... Contribute to what's needed for a whole new world

December 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


As 2013 comes to a close, many are considering how to contribute to something that can make a real difference in a world of great turmoil. They need to know about The Bob Avakian Institute—an Institute whose mission is to preserve, project, and promote the works and vision of the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian with the aim of reaching the broadest possible audience.

Akin to Karl Marx, Avakian's pathbreaking body of work represents a revolution in human thought. He has brought forward an extensive and provocative body of work developed over decades, and yet far too few people know about him and his thinking and revolutionary vision. The Bob Avakian Institute aims to change this—promoting broad social engagement with Avakian and his body of work. To accomplish its mission, The BA Institute aims to facilitate fund-raising among different strata of people, ranging from individuals who are more partisan to those who may have differences with BA's thinking yet still think it very important for BA's voice to enter into the public discourse.

In the short time it has been in existence, the Institute has been a major funder of the BAsics Bus Tours which reached out to thousands in the southern part of the U.S. and the New York/New Jersey area. And very significantly, in 2013 the Institute was the producer of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—Nothing Less! Bob Avakian Live. This was all done on a shoestring budget. Imagine what can be accomplished with more financial support for its work.

Through contributing to The Bob Avakian Institute people can have a significant impact on two levels:

First, through enabling the Institute to more fully carry out its vital mission, which at this time overlaps with and plays a vital role in raising funds to spread BA Everywhere.

Second, donors to the Institute are helping to build a platform from which the Institute can expand and grow long-term. An Institute of this nature initiating and coordinating a wide variety of different projects magnifies each separate project's social impact today and looking to the future. Asking donors to consider contributing to The BA Institute is a very positive opportunity to introduce them to Bob Avakian, what he represents and his works, and it is an opportunity to acquaint them with the formation of The Bob Avakian Institute and its mission and to forge an ongoing and lasting relationship between donors and the Institute.

If you are reflecting on what the future holds and hoping things could be a whole different way, contribute to making known the potential for a future where humanity could flourish... contribute to The Bob Avakian Institute.

To donate to The Bob Avakian Institute go to:




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Ishmael Reed's "The President of the Cool" Is Really the Precedent of the Fool... Or Perhaps an Audition to be the Empire's Resident Tool

by Sunsara Taylor | December 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


It is foolish to mistake style for substance. When this is done not merely by mistake, but on purpose, and further, when this is done in the service of the most vicious and murderous empire in all the history of the world, this is an act in the service of that empire. In other words, to do so is to act as the empire's tool.

Unfortunately, if perhaps unsurprisingly, this is exactly what Ishmael Reed has done in his December 18, 2013 New York Times op-ed entitled "The President of the Cool."

In this piece, written after Reed saw Obama make an appearance at the San Francisco Jazz Center last month, Reed bends over backwards to bestow upon Obama some of the outward style of Cool Jazz in order to defend Obama against growing criticisms for his many crimes against the people. Reed writes, "Like the president, cool musicians carried themselves with a regal bearing. Some members of the generation before them had to engage in minstrel-like antics to make a living. Cool musicians demanded respect, and when attacked didn't blow up, but, like the president, responded stoically." Reed musters his credentials as the poet laureate of the new San Francisco Jazz Center and his association with "the Cool" to bolster his seeming authority in making this comparison.

But whatever superficial similarities Reed may be able to string together between Obama and jazz, regardless of Obama's own professions of appreciation for jazz, and despite the shameful number of jazz musicians who have cheered the election of the first Black president and performed for Obama, there is nothing "cool" about Obama.

Jazz grew out of the tortured experience of Black people and their centuries of bitter oppression in AmeriKKKa. Cool jazz included musicians like Billie Holiday, whose haunting renditions of "Strange Fruit" scathingly indicted an era of lynchings of Black people and, together with other jazz musicians of her time, powerfully presaged the Civil Rights movement.

Obama, on the other hand, is the eager commander-in-chief of AmeriKKKa and all of its vicious crimes—including those against Black people. The murderous facts and crimes against humanity speak for themselves. Obama has:

Is that "cool"?

Is that "cool"?

Is that "cool"?

Is that "cool"?

Is that "cool"?

Is that "cool"?

Is that "cool"?

Is that "cool"?

And for those who have been squinting hard enough to willfully blind themselves to all of this in order to focus merely on the fact that he is the first Black president, Obama has presided over the most massive—both numerically and percentage-wise—and punitive program of incarceration in the world; a program of incarceration that amounts to a slow genocide against Black and Latino people.

What the fuck is "cool" about any of that?

But Reed doesn't stop at lauding the War-Criminal-In-Chief. He continues to act the fool by ridiculing those who are actually standing up with courage and conviction against Obama's crimes. After equating being "hot" with being "corny" and "square," Reed derides the protesters who had gathered when Obama appeared at the San Francisco Jazz Center. Reed writes, "Outside, though, it was hot. Demonstrators against everything from military drones to energy pipelines greeted the president's entourage when it arrived."

Excuse me, Mr. Reed? You wouldn't even be where you are if people hadn't stood up against AmeriKKKa's crimes in the face of great risk and ridicule! It is those protesters outside, not you on the inside, who are true to that legacy. Are you really so eager for a place at the Empire's Table, for an invite to attend an Event with the President, that you shamefully ridicule those who are righteously doing today what you lack the moral principle to do?

To all this I can only respond: Far from making the case that Obama is "The President of the Cool," you have demonstrated the Precedent of the Fool and acted like the Empire's Resident Tool.




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

An observation by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party

December 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


The crude and venomous rantings of Phil Robertson, "patriarch" of the "Duck Dynasty," show once again how, especially in the U.S., Christian fundamentalism is closely bound up with racism, slavery and Jim Crow (old and new), anti-gay hatred, "traditional" oppression of women, and in general a thoroughly outmoded, all-around reactionary worldview and values. Robertson's invocation of Biblical scripture, as justification for vicious oppression, is yet another vivid illustration of the fact that "The Bible, taken literally, is a horror."




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Prisoners Write on the Importance of PRLF Donations

January 1, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Two recent letters from prisoners point to how crucial donations to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund are:

"Thanks to your donations, I've been able to transform myself from a gang member to a revolutionary..."

Revolutionary greetings!

I'll like to say thanks a lot to all the "PRLF" donors. Thank you for paying for my education. In essence that's what you're doing with your donations. Thanks to your donations, I've been able to start learning about the rapacious economic system (capitalism) that dominates every aspect of our lives. I've been able to learn that under capitalism, society is divided into different classes—between those who can only live by selling their labor to the highest bidder, (and only as long as their labor is producing profits to capitalist) and those who live by exploiting the labor of others; between oppressed and oppressor. And consequently, under capitalism, there can never be democracy or justice for all. I've been also able to learn that such social relations were not created by nature, but were created and are enforced, by the capitalist class.

And most importantly, I've been able to learn that a whole different and better world is possible; that capitalism can be overthrown through revolution. Thanks to your donations, I've been able to transform myself from a gang member to a revolutionary; from a homophobic and machista, to a progressive thinker; from having a defeatist mentality: "there isn't anything I can do, things are never going to change"; to having a radical mentality: Knowing that I can make a difference; that we are all worthy of a decent life—demanding a better life for everybody, and willing to fight for it!

And thanks to your donations, I've been able to liberate other people, (by sharing the literature that your donations enable me to receive) and I'm fairly confident that it'll have a snowball effect. I would like to end this letter by encouraging people to keep making donations to "PRLF," or to start, if you haven't yet. Your donations are helping us (prisoners) break the mental shackles, that have been placed there by this capitalist/imperialist ran system.

In Solidarity, Prisoner from California


"...not only have books opened my mind but let me see a better and more wonderful world can be born."


Dear Donaters,

Hello there. My name is XXX and Im a 22 year old Mexican. I've been incarcerated since the age of 15. It seems like from the begining of my life I was destined to hardship. At 1 years old my dad died, wich left my mother with 5 kids to raise. At 1 I was tooken away and placed in foster home. At 9 I came back to live with my mom. With only gangs and strife all around were else was I to flock? At 15 I got sent to prison.

Ever since my life has been not only up-lifted but great! Your probably thinking what the... but through my incarceration not only have I found my-self but I realized what my life was to consist of. Enough of this monotomy of working 8 to 5 job, being a part to the genocide of my own people, degrade my wommin, ancestry and most of all, took the deliberate act that my life is not mines, it [belongs to] the people that suffer, they people that are in such a state of distitute that they can only resist so much.

Me, I've come to this realization by reading books and more, my First experience of communist literature was with the Revolutionary Communist Party and the books [that I got] through PRLF. Like a man coming out of the cave for the first time, my eyes read every word, my mind was not only shocked but my life changed. It changed in that through the power of words, I came to know a sickness and given a blue-print on how to cure what is really a epademic.

But as a donater can contribute to what cause they choose, you by donating to cause of humanity help oppressed all over. For by educating one person, that person in turn is not limited to who can they educate back and therefore having a ripple affect. So not only have books opened my mind but let me see a better and more wonderful world can be born. From the depths of my crying heart thank you for your contribution to the cause.

—Prisoner in California


Donate to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund

$10 pays for a copy of BAsics.

$35 pays for a one one-year Revolution subscription for a prisoner.

$50 pays for current requests for BAsics from prisoners in New York.

$100 pays for current requests for BAsics from prisoners in Texas.

$350 pays for 10 recent unfilled Revolution subscription requests from prisoners in North Carolina!

$500 pays for 50 copies of BAsics for 50 new subscribers in California

$1,015 will renew subscriptions for 29 subscribers in Florida

$1,400 pays for 40 recent unfilled Revolution subscription requests from prisoners in California!

Regular and tax-deductible donations can be made at

Make checks payable to "PRLF". Make tax-deductible checks payable to "Global Exchange/PRLF" and send checks and correspondence to:

PRLF, 1321 N. Milwaukee Ave, #407, Chicago, IL 60622


In the hellhole prisons of AmeriKKKa, home to over two million people, prisoners—who society calls the "worst of the worst" or "irredeemable"—are standing up and resisting the inhuman conditions in which they are enslaved. And, as they do, they are going through transformation in how they understand the world and their role in changing it.

This past summer, 30,000 prisoners in California asserted their humanity by starting a hunger strike against the torture of long-term solitary confinement. Earlier, a group of prisoners had issued an inspiring statement calling for unity and a halt to hostilities between people of different nationalities in the prisons. After 60 days, the prisoners collectively decided to suspend the hunger strike—but the struggle to end torture continues. Other hunger strikes and political struggles against the dehumanization of American prisons have occurred in other states in recent years.

Within this emerging new generation of rebellious slaves is a significant section of prisoners across the country who are looking for a deeper understanding of why this world is a horror, how we can get out of it, and what it means to be human—and are engaging with the challenging vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world presented in the weekly Revolution newspaper, in BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, and in other revolutionary literature sent to them by the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund. Bob Avakian, BA, is the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, and his BAsics is a handbook for revolutionaries in this time, speaking powerfully to the big questions of revolution and human emancipation.

From the notorious "Special Housing Unit" (SHU) at Pelican Bay in Northern California to the notorious Texas prison system to Sing Sing in New York and across the country, the PRLF sends approximately 800 English and Spanish subscriptions of Revolution and has sent over 1,200 copies of BAsics so far to prisoners in 43 states and the District of Columbia.

YOU play a vital role in the PRLF not only continuing this vital work but expanding it to many, many more prisoners (see poem).

DONATE: The existing Revolution subscriptions for prisoners cost $28,000/year. Each copy of BAsics costs $10. Imagine if the PRLF could significantly increase the number of Revolution subscriptions and copies of BAsics making their way to prisoners.




Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Cheers for Trayvon Martin Nativity Scene

January 2, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

Trayvon Martin Nativity Scene, Claremont, CA 2013

Trayvon Martin Nativity Scene, Claremont, CA 2013

Photos: Special to Revolution

Cheers to the United Methodist Church of Claremont, California, who included a bleeding Trayvon Martin in their yearly Christmas nativity scene. In the past the scene has depicted Mary and Joseph as a homeless couple, as Mexicans stopped by the U.S.-Mexico border fence, as Iraq War refugees, and as Mary, by herself, as a Black woman in prison with her baby. In an interview with the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Sharon Rhodes-Wickett, the church’s lead pastor said, “I found this year’s (nativity scene) hard to look at, a young man who’s shot and bleeding to death. But even though I’m uncomfortable with it, that’s the point.”

This scene is coming from the perspective of religious forces with their solution for achieving “social justice.” This is a very good thing they have done, and it should make everyone want to seek out why Trayvon Martin was killed. And this search should lead to how the real solution to ending this madness—of Black and Latino youth being gunned down in the streets by cops and racist vigilantes—is revolution.





Revolution #325 December 22, 2013

Ring in the New Year with BA Everywhere!

January 2, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Happy New Year! 

On the first minute of the new year, Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA—BA—sent out a message of revolution, and ended with a challenge.

Let's begin meeting that challenge, now. 

First, let's listen again to, reflect on, and discuss this message.

Then let's start the new year by making a renewed effort to carry forward the nationwide campaign of BA Everywhere—raising funds from people of all walks of life to make Bob Avakian and the new synthesis of communism that he has brought forward a major question in society, a real pole contending against all the dead ends and non-solutions out there.

Let's spread BA's New Year's message through the internet, sent out to all friends old and new, including those who don't already agree, with a renewed challenge for the funding that can truly begin to make BA a household word in society.

When we get out in the streets this week, let's have the audio ringing on street corners. Let's take the time to listen to it with people around kitchen tables and community centers... and let's make sure the printed statement is coursing through the neighborhoods and busy streets, posted up in dorm rooms and passed out at the bus stops where students begin to return to college.

This should all be done as BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! is sold far and wide, along with BAsics.

In all of this—we should continue to find ways, new and old, to involve more and more people in ever broader fund-raising. Let's give people an opportunity to contribute to letting the whole world know that there is a way out of the madness of this system and a real potential for a radically new and better world. Learn from what is on the website, and contribute your experience to meeting this goal and building this movement for revolution.