Revolution #335, April 13, 2014 (

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

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Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

New UN Climate Panel Report:

This Criminal System Is Destroying Our Planet!

By Orpheus Reed | April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


On March 31 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report on the dangers of climate change, “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.” This IPCC report is the second piece of its current report—the fifth assessment report published over the last 25 years.

With each report, the warnings of this panel get more alarming, the dangers clearer and the stakes higher. The 2014 report establishes that climate science as a whole has concluded that climate change is not a far off, abstract danger but is already impacting “natural and human systems on all continents and across the ocean.” The negative effects of climate change are hitting especially hard at the poor people and poor countries on this planet, who have done the least to cause the problem. It makes very clear that unless there are dramatic changes that happen very soon, there will be devastating and possibly even catastrophic impacts on the natural world and on human life from the warming of the planet and climate change.

For 25 years, the IPCC has warned the world of the danger to the climate. Despite all of these warnings, and against the opinions of 97 percent of the world’s climatologists and a growing mountain of shocking and extremely frightening studies done by smaller scientific teams (more later), nothing that matters a damn has been done by the world’s ruling powers to stop or even address this roaring emergency. We are truly on course for a climate and humanitarian disaster, and we must move now to change this course before it’s too late.

What the IPCC Summary for Policymakers Highlights

The impacts climate change is already causing in the world:

The increasing  impacts and risks to come as climate change advances:

The IPCC report also addresses possible ways to adapt to the transformations climate change is causing—things like ways to prevent the worst of storm surges from powerful hurricanes, flooding, etc. Such “adaptation,” to the extent it was attempted, would be highly unequal, given the huge gap between have and have-not countries in the world. But even more fundamentally, what is clear from this report as well as the picture from climate science in general is that no amount of adaptation can deal with the truly horrific impacts to come. What is needed are massive emergency efforts right now to STOP the emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels and other causes, and to transform the entire energy foundation of human society. Reversing the environmental crisis requires revolution, and the battle now to STOP the devastation of the environment can and should contribute to and be increasingly linked to the overall movement for revolution. The conclusion one must make based on this report is one of a particularly horrific future for the vast majority of humanity—the poor and dispossessed in the oppressed countries of the world—already facing  extreme struggles to eat, sometimes starving, suffering from disease and lack of clean water, health care, etc. All of this will be made unimaginably and likely even catastrophically worse if the current trajectory of the warming planet continues.

The IPCC Consensus and the Actual State of Things

Thousands of scientists from over 100 countries contribute to the IPCC reports. So the reports represent the overwhelming consensus of the world’s climate scientists based on a thorough review of scientific studies that have been peer-reviewed and published, from many converging streams of evidence. Because of the consensus—everyone has to agree on the final conclusions written in the report—these reports end up being a kind of “lowest common denominator” in describing impacts and dangers. Past IPCC reports have in certain respects underestimated the speed and level of climate impacts, particularly the speed of melting of Arctic ice. Climate scientists such as Michael Mann and Stefan Rahmstorf have pointed out that the IPCC represents an important consensus of climate reality and prediction but, if anything, tends to underestimate the level of future temperature and sea level rise. In an important interview with Michael Slate on KPFK, Mann talks about what the current report shows and comments on how striking it is that despite this built-in conservative pull, the report draws such stark conclusions.

Unfortunately, as stark as the reality the IPCC demonstrates is, the actual level of danger the world faces is very likely worse. This is especially so because of the reality that as the climate warms to certain levels, new dangerous processes can be unleashed that cause even greater and sometimes qualitatively more warming.  The melting of permafrost and frozen methane in the oceans and the melting of polar ice are examples of these “positive” feedbacks that, when they certain levels, can reinforce warming further and can even cause  larger qualitative changes to a different state—climate tipping points.

In 2012, climate blogger Joe Romm, a climate scientist and senior fellow at Center for American Progress, put together a summary of conclusions of many of the latest peer-reviewed scientific climate studies. In looking into just a few of these, the conclusions are beyond hair-raising.

Here are just a few things these studies found:

A flock of geese fly past a smokestack at the Jeffery Energy Center coal power plant near Emmett, Kansas. Photo: AP

Yet none of the evidence pointing to a catastrophic future if things continue as they are, is stopping the continual pumping out of greenhouse gases. Levels of carbon dioxide have already climbed to over 400 parts per million—levels not seen in all of human history. Not only are greenhouse gases continuing to build up, the rate of their build-up has increased! Instead of stopping this, the ruling classes of the dominant capitalist powers, who have a stranglehold on the world’s economy and political power, only accelerate the emergency.

It must be confronted by humanity that the stakes of this are, quite possibly, whether we as humans will be able to survive on this planet and whether most of the world's species will also be driven out of existence.  The trajectory we are on is one of catastrophic and horrific changes, changes that are accelerating and picking up momentum in ways we never would have imagined 20 or maybe even 10 years ago. But now these changes are upon us and threaten to spiral completely out of control.

When the IPCC report came out, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, “The costs of inaction are catastrophic.” Yet he represents the world power most responsible historically for the build-up of CO2. Barack Obama vows to “act if Congress won’t” on climate change while building the U.S. up to be the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas, and among the world leaders in coal production and export—the very materials whose burning is bringing this catastrophe. The U.S. and all the other capitalist powers wring their hands over the danger while they continue to be compelled by their system’s laws to race to find and burn even more destructive unconventional fossil fuels in their mind-numbing battle to outpace each other. All of this is beyond hypocrisy and cynicism—this is systemic, sickening destruction of everything.

The release of this report has provoked widespread expressions of concern and outrage—for millions, it has been a wake up and shake up call. And it should be. But far more people need to be woken up and shaken up! Given this I have some questions for people. Is what’s realistic to bury your head in the sand or only let in as much of the actual reality as you “can handle”? Is what’s realistic to expect that these capitalist criminals who are destroying the entire world and threatening to take us out of existence, are capable of stopping this? Or is what’s realistic to wake up and realize we need dramatic transformations that can only come from an actual revolution and a new socialist system—based on people being caretakers of the Earth and being mobilized to move heaven and earth to combat environmental disaster? This is our only real hope. Whether or not people agree with that, we have to come together, awaken humanity, and fight to stop these criminals from potentially taking us and most of our natural world out of existence.






Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

The Human Costs of Climate Change

April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Past reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have focused on the negative effects of climate change on the Earth and the natural world. One of the key “take home messages” from the latest IPCC report is the immense impact of climate change on human beings—now and even more so in the coming decades. As we emphasized in the special issue of Revolution, State of EMERGENCY! The Plunder of Our Planet, The Environmental Catastrophe & The Real Revolutionary Solution, the health, well-being, and even continued existence of humanity is linked to and dependent on healthy, vibrant, and intact natural ecosystems.

If the build up of greenhouse gases continues on its current course, the IPCC report warns, everyone on the planet will be affected—but the impact on the majority of world humanity living in the poor countries of Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, will be devastating.

Let’s look at, and really think about what climate change is causing for people in the world right now, and what the future will look like for human beings if this is not combatted and things turned around.

More Severe and Destructive Weather

In 2010, one of the hottest summers on record caused higher temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean, fueling torrential monsoons. In Pakistan these intense storms brought unprecedented flooding, an estimated one-fifth of the entire country was under water. Thousands of people were swept into the flood waters to drown and 15 million were displaced from their homes. That same summer, Russia suffered the worst heat wave in recorded history, killing thousands and sparking massive wildfires that burned entire villages to the ground. Last year Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda hit the Philippines with wind speeds that were the highest ever recorded in human history. Its power was likely enhanced by the warming oceans and its storm surge was made worse by already heightened sea levels from global warming. More than 10 thousand people were killed and whole villages were swallowed up by the ocean. Think about Bangladesh, where rains and storm surges from powerful cyclones have already caused massive flooding of large parts of the country, spreading death and destruction. Think about Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

Now think about a future world where these kinds of storms, already fueled by the warming planet, are made even more intense and more frequent.

Effects on Availability of Basic Human Necessities

What will the IPCC predictions of the future really mean for basic survival? Basic necessities of life—food, clean air, clean water, etc.—will be harder to procure, possibly unattainable for growing numbers of people. Fish that whole nations rely on for survival will be vastly depleted, possibly many species gone. This means growing suffering and starvation for untold numbers of people. There will be more deaths from heat waves. Killing droughts in certain regions will become “the new normal” and increasing suffering and death caused in some regions by powerful storms, more intense rainfall, flooding along rivers and for whole island nations and along coastlines. All of this, already terrible, will take place on a vastly larger, horrific global scale—and again, all this will hit Third World countries hardest.

All the people who have the worst conditions already, the least protection in terms of housing, health services, food safety, infrastructure, personal security, and community services will suffer on a much higher level. Worsening climate change will affect the whole fabric of human society—exacerbating displacement and forced migrations of large numbers of people, conflicts and wars between different sections of people, battles over shrinking resources. The disproportionate effect between countries will also be disproportionate inside all countries—the poor will suffer the most in urban and rural areas all over the planet.

Danger of Tipping Points

With the “business as usual” predicted global mean temperature rise of four degrees C or more—the IPCC Summary report says the risks include “severe and widespread impact on unique and threatened systems, substantial species extinction, large risks to global and regional food security, and the combination of high temperature and humidity compromising normal human activities, including growing food or working outdoors in some areas for parts of the year.” It continues to say that with rising temperatures, there is the uncertain but real risk of crossing multiple tipping points (thresholds for abrupt and irreversible change) “in the earth system or in interlinked human and natural systems.”

In a piece written for Australia’s The Conversation, IPCC contributors Colin Butler, Helen Louise Berry, and Anthony McMichael say, "Human-driven climate change poses a great threat, unprecedented in type and scale, to well-being, health and perhaps even to human survival."

There is growing opinion in scientific circles that the four degrees C (seven degrees F) or higher temperature rise predicted under the current emissions trajectory could be incompatible with the continued existence of human civilization.

At the time of the Warsaw UN Climate Talks in December 2013, Alice Bows and Kevin Anderson, climatologists with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester, England, said that a predicted global temperature rise of 4 degrees C would mean the hottest days on earth would be 6-12 degrees C (11-22 degrees F) hotter. This would cause large-scale sea level rises and huge drops in production of food crops. Dr. Bows said, "Those sorts of things would be absolutely devastating—they would be catastrophic.... There's a widespread view that four degrees could be incompatible with organized global community and would inevitably lead to conflict and disruption and could potentially be beyond adaptation. Ecosystems are already being threatened—at four degrees we have irreversible impacts on ecosystems."

Think about this: the climate crisis has been brought on principally by the economic patterns of functioning of the richest capitalist countries that dominate the planet. This is who is responsible for the vast majority of the greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere, and who is continuing to do this despite the incredible threat. But who suffers the most are the people who have done the least to create this problem. This is a tremendous indictment of the system of capitalism-imperialism and the way it twists and perverts human life and well-being in the current world, and in the way it threatens the very survival of all of us.

We face perhaps the most daunting threat ever in human history—possibly to the continued existence of human civilization and humanity itself, and the entire natural balance of world ecosystems.




Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

From The Michael Slate Show: Scientist Michael Mann on the New Climate Report: “This is a threat to us... here and now”

April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Dr. Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University and director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center was interviewed on April 4 on The Michael Slate Show on KPFK Pacifica radio station about the recently released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The following is a transcript of that interview.


Michael Slate: The last report from the IPCC came out seven years ago. Now there’s a new one. What’s changed since then and where are things at now?

Michael Mann: Well it’s really striking when you read this latest impacts report. There are three different parts of the IPCC report: the basic scientific evidence that came out just this last fall; this latest report is on the impacts of climate change, adaption, vulnerability; and next month they will be reporting on the final installment, and that’s on mitigation solutions, what we can do to mitigate the problem of climate change. This latest impacts report was striking, and really just how stark, the stark nature of the terms in which it is laid out. This is a very conservative report by its nature, because this is a consensus of literally hundreds of leading scientists around the world. And so the report reflects almost a lowest common denominator of what all of the scientists can agree upon. In that sense, it’s remarkable that the report states the threat in as stark terms as it does. Basically, what this latest report makes clear, if there were any question, is that climate change is not just some abstract, far off, existential threat. It’s not just something that is going to impact polar bears in the Arctic decades from now. It’s something that’s impacting us here and now negatively. And in a sense, we are the polar bear. We are seeing the negative impacts of climate change, whether you are talking about issues of food and fresh water availability, whether you’re talking about availability of land, whether you’re talking about human health, whether you’re talking about the health of our economy, whether you’re talking about issues of conflict and national security, which after all, are a consequence of competition for available resources. And what the report makes very clear is that if we continue on the road that we’re on right now with ongoing fossil fuel burning, we will see diminished food, water and land and greater competition for diminishing resources among a growing global population. And that’s a perfect prescription for issues of conflict, for basically a national security calamity.

So the IPCC makes quite clear in this latest report that climate change is a big problem. It’s not just that we know that we’re warming the planet, that it’s caused by human activity, the fossil fuel burning and other activities raising greenhouse gas concentration—there is now an established consensus among the world’s scientists that this is a threat to us now, here and now.

Michael Slate: Yeah, that actually came across very clear, and I think it’s something that... one, is that consistently over the years, it’s been consistent like, well yeah, they’re warning us now, but really, what’s the rush, we actually can do something about this. I wanted to ask you about this, it’s bugging the hell out of me, the idea that, talking about climate change, about the temperature rising, change from 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, this span—is that happening now? Is that what’s happening? And what does it mean if it does?

The melting of the Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park, Montana. The top photo was taken about 1940, the bottom was taken in 2004. Photo: AP

Michael Mann: Yeah, so we’ve already warmed up, we’ve warmed up the planet just under one degree Celsius, about a degree and a half Fahrenheit so far. It turns out; we are already committed to at least another half degree Celsius, almost another degree Fahrenheit. That’s just because of the greenhouse gases we’ve already emitted into the atmosphere. They will continue to warm the planet for decades, even if we were to stop fossil fuel burning cold turkey right now. We would still see the planet warm for decades into the future, just because of the inertia of the climate system. The oceans continue to absorb some of the heat that we’ve already put into the atmosphere from increased greenhouse gases. So we’re already committed to probably the better part of 2 degree Celsius, a degree and a half Celsius minimum. And what the science tells us is that if we continue business as usual fossil fuel burning for another decade or so, we will almost certainly commit to more than 2 degrees Celsius warming, more than 3 and a half degrees Fahrenheit warming. And that’s an important number because that’s actually the threshold that many organizations and scientists who look at the impacts of climate change will tell you, that 2 degrees Celsius threshold, is where we really start to see some of the most damaging and potentially irreversible impacts of climate change. Again, whether we’re talking about food, water, land, health—across the board, the health of ecosystems, every aspect of our lives, we will see increasingly negative impacts. And so there’s an urgency to this problem unlike anything we’ve seen before. If we don’t act now we likely commit to at least 2 degrees Celsius. If we continue with business as usual, if we just continue to burn fossil fuels without any effort to regulate carbon emissions, to lower our carbon footprints, then what the report tells us is that we could see as much as 4 or 5 degrees Celsius, 7, 8, 9 degrees Fahrenheit warming of the globe by the end of the century. And as my colleague James Hansen, the former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies once put it, if we warm the planet that much, it’ll be a different planet. It won’t be the planet that we grew up on. We will be leaving a fundamentally degraded planet behind for our children and grandchildren.

Michael Slate: One of the things you keep pointing to is the idea, or the fact, well there’s two things. The fact that this is actually on the map now. It’s actually concretely happening now in terms of climate change. And I wanted to talk about that, and in relation to, that both what’s happening with food, for instance in the vast majority of the world, which is a constant question. You could see the famines that exist in all parts of Africa and other places. If you’ve traveled through the Third World at all you have some understanding of how desperate some people are for the barest minimum diet. And you guys have been saying this is going to have terrible an impact on crop yield and food. Let’s explain that.

Michael Mann: That’s one of the tragedies here, that in fact the worst impacts, and the impacts that are going to come the soonest, are going to be felt in the developing world, precisely those areas in the tropics where you have nations who are currently struggling to meet their needs when it comes to fresh water and food. That’s actually where climate change initially is going to hit hardest. And some of that is based on really fundamental science. If you warm temperatures even a little bit in the tropics, we know that you see very large decreases, very substantial decreases in the productivity of basic cereal crops. And that’s simply because those crops are already growing at the limit of temperatures, the warmest temperatures they can grow at. And if you warm even a little bit you see sharp drop offs in agricultural yields. And so ironically and tragically, those nations that are least able right now to meet their food needs, we will see the largest decreases. Now we used to think, as recent as the last IPCC report, if you read the chapter on agriculture in the impacts part of the last IPCC report, there was language that suggested that we could actually see increases in agricultural yields in some extra-tropical regions, like the United States, North America, Europe, other areas at higher latitudes. The idea being that you get longer growing seasons in a warmer planet. Winter is shorter, the growing season is longer, and all else being equal, that would seem to imply increased agricultural yields. But something we’ve seen over the past few summers in particular is that any theoretical increase in yields that might result from longer growing seasons appears to be getting completely wiped out by increasingly extreme weather events—more widespread and pronounced drought, over large parts of the U.S., like we’ve seen in recent summers in Texas and Oklahoma. In summer 2011, Texas, their agriculture was devastated. They lost 25 percent of their livestock because of the record 2011 drought. Two summers ago we saw record drought and heat over a large part of our breadbasket and agricultural yields were decimated. And so we now think that even extra-tropical regions where we thought maybe we could see an increase in agricultural yields, even here we will see decreases. And that’s why this latest report comes to a much starker conclusion when it comes to food, our ability to meet our food needs. And again what we’re talking about is a growing global population. And in the face of diminishing food and freshwater, that’s a calamity in the making.

Michael Slate: There’s a point here that gets repeated in the report. I think it’s important for people to understand what’s meant by this. It keeps talking about adaptation and adapting in relation to this. Can you explain what’s going on there? And then I have a follow-up question.

Michael Mann: Sure thing. So our presidential science advisor, John Holdren, who’s a leading scientist, he’s been a very effective spokesperson for this issue in the current administration, I think he once framed the problem best when he said that how we’re going to deal with climate change is going to be a combination of three things. It’ll be some combination of adaptation, of mitigation, and of suffering. And it’s up to us to decide what is an acceptable combination. Now we are already seeing the suffering. There’s a certain amount of climate change that’s already locked in. It’s already happened and there’s more that’s in the pipeline. And what that means is that there’s already some suffering and there’ll be more suffering in the future. It means that we already have to begin adapting, whether we’re talking about building up our coastal defenses against sea level rise and increasingly devastating hurricanes, whether we’re talking about adapting agricultural practices in the face of warming temperatures, worse drought, on down the list. There are a whole bunch of things that we need to start doing to build the adaptive capacity, to deal with some of what’s already in the pipeline and is coming. But, the fact is that if you look at sort of those business as usual projections, if we continue on the course that we’re on, by the end of the century we are talking about changes in climate that are so unprecedented that there’s no amount of adaptation that will basically maintain any degree of resilience in the face of the impacts on food, and water and health and our economy. So the bottom line is, if you look at the projected impacts of this latest report, one comes to the conclusion that adaptation is not going to be adequate. We need to do a certain amount of adaptation no matter what. Because there’s a certain amount of climate change that’s already locked in. But the fact is that there’s a whole lot of other climate change that we can still prevent. And we need to engage in those actions necessary to prevent that. And that means reducing our carbon emissions. That means putting a price on the emission of carbons so that the marketplace will internalize the very real damages that climate change is already doing across the board.

Michael Slate: I was going to ask you, is there a point, is there a tipping point where adapting is clearly impossible, and you spoke to that. It seems to me there’s a dynamic that gets set in motion as well, which would both limit effective responses like, saying effective response would be adapting. But also adds a whole new dimension. I was reading somewhere about the melting Arctic that uncovers organic material that was there, frozen over before civilization began, that is suddenly laid bare and begins to rot and release all kinds of greenhouse gases and just compounds things a tremendous amount. That seems to be something people don’t often talk about, what gets unleashed in the sense of a dynamic that actually gets unleashed to take over.

Michael Mann: Yeah, absolutely. We sometimes call these positive feedbacks although that can be a misleading term to a lay audience that isn’t familiar with the sort of the lexicon of the science. It almost sounds good, “positive feedback,” you know, you get positive feedback from your boss for doing a good job. It’s not a good thing. What it means is that it’s a vicious cycle. It means it’s an aggravating response. And one of the feedbacks we worry about are these so-called carbon cycle feedbacks. And what that means in this case is, as you allude to, if you warm the soils, if you melt the permafrost in the Arctic, well it turns out there’s a whole lot of methane that’s currently locked up in that permafrost. There’s also a lot of methane that is locked up in sort of a crystalline form, solid form, in the continental shelves. And as we warm the planet, as we warm the oceans, and as we warm the permafrost, there’s the potential to destabilize all of that methane that’s currently locked up. Now methane, it turns out is an even more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 [Carbon Dioxide]. So if that kicks in, if we start to see those methane feedbacks kick in, then it means we suddenly get even more warming. And that’s not currently really taken into account because it’s too uncertain. We don’t know how to include it in the models because we don’t know exactly how much of that methane is unstable and could be released with even a modest amount of additional warming. So the great example of uncertainty despite what you might hear from critics—and you hear people say, well there’s uncertainty in the science, so why should we take these precautions that could damage the economy? Well, actually inaction is likely to damage the economy a whole lot more. But the fact is that uncertainty doesn’t weigh in our favor. In many respects the uncertainties are such that the problem could end up being a whole lot worse than we currently project. And here’s one good example of that—Arctic sea ice. Right now we are seeing a precipitous decline in the amount of ice that’s left in the Arctic at the end of the summer to the point where if we follow the current trend, within a couple of decades we will have ice-free conditions in the Arctic by the end of the summer. The models say we shouldn’t be there for decades, for fifty years or so. So we are already several decades ahead of schedule in terms of how fast that sea ice is diminishing, and with that decreased sea ice means a fundamental change in the Arctic ecosystems, it means a threat to the animals that rely on that environment, which of course includes the polar bear, walruses... what it means is that we are losing an entire ecosystem. We are losing a unique ecosystem, the Arctic ecosystem, that will not be replaced. What’s the value of the Arctic ecosystem? What’s the value of the Gulf of Mexico? These are the questions we should be asking as we continue to engage in very dangerous drilling of fossil fuel sources and the continued worsening of the climate change problem that’s resulting from that.

Michael Slate: All right Dr. Michael Mann, unfortunately we’ve run out of time but thank you very much for joining us today.

Michael Mann: Thank you, it was a pleasure.




Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

BA Everywhere: April 2014

Climate Change and Changing the Whole Political Atmosphere

April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


This is a moment when, if you have your eyes open to the world, the stark reality of the wanton destruction of the planet—its air, water, climate, and all the forms of life that inhabit it—stands out as so big, so criminal, so outrageously dangerous, that you just want to scream. Such is the case with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report issued during the last week of March (see "New UN Climate Panel Report: This Criminal System Is Destroying Our Planet!"). Wrap your mind around global warming—what it means right now and where it is leading: food and water crises, the drowning of entire island nations and of once fertile deltas that are home to hundreds of millions of people; millions and millions of people with no locally available drinkable water; massive food scarcity pitting regions of people against each other; major coastal cities in the developed world such as New York, Miami, Boston facing rising oceans that will make disasters like the flooded subways of NYC during Hurricane Sandy or the submerged Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, the norm. All while the rich biodiversity of the planet may be irreversibly endangered with increasing numbers of species becoming extinct and the natural environment being destroyed at staggering rates.

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Scientists have sounded the alarm. Students and concerned people have been speaking out and protesting. Hundreds have been committing civil disobedience—getting arrested trying to put a halt to fracking, to tar sands oil production and its associated pipelines, to name just a couple of the battles that people have been taking up to prevent the destruction of one or another part of our environment. With the UN report now public, the stakes are sharply defined. Climate change that is now causing great harm is moving in increasingly devastating ways toward great catastrophe. And there will be no break from this destructive course, unless there is a radically different approach—a fundamental change away from this profit-driven capitalist-imperialist system whose lifeline is fossil fuels—a radically different system and society that could unleash and unfetter the creativity and conscious activism of hundreds of millions of people to tackle this life-and-death problem for the Earth.

Right now, tens of thousands of people of all ages are being awakened, with many here in the U.S. and around the world acting in different ways to protect the environment. Millions more have their attention on this right now. April 22 is Earth Day—a day when for several decades people have gathered in different ways to take up issues of ecology and the environment. This year, the stakes and necessity of doing so are underlined throughout the world.

All those who recognize the urgency, who are now committing time and money to address saving the environment, need to be able to learn about, discuss, and debate the revolutionary solution to this and all the other forms of suffering that this system brings down on people—a way forward for humanity that is concentrated in the new synthesis of communism developed by the revolutionary leader, Bob Avakian—BA. It is this terrain—with these literally life-and-death questions for the future of the planet at stake—that the multifaceted mass fundraising campaign, BA Everywhere, needs to impact this month.

BA has developed a vision and framework for a radically new state power that will unleash the collective creativity of the people to overcome all forms of oppression and exploitation and will have, as a fundamental principle governing the development of the economy, "protecting, preserving, and enhancing the ecosystems and biodiversity of the planet for current and future generations."1 This requires revolution. And BA has developed a strategy for this revolution.

All of the people whose eyes are being opened, who are outraged at the lack of any serious comprehensive action by those who rule this profit-driven system that could really save the planet, need to be given an opportunity to donate financially and contribute in other ways to getting BA, and the revolutionary vision and strategy he has brought forward, known throughout society.

This is a moment, a month, to reach out to scientists, teachers, environmentalists, students, and many more with the full vision and understanding of the system that underlies all the problems humanity faces, with the liberating way forward, and to find the ways to involve them in the BA Everywhere campaign. BA begins his message on New Year's Day 2014 with this:

"We need a new world, a radically different world.

"Look at the world today. Destruction of the environment. Youth in the inner cities robbed of a future, 'presumed guilty' for being Black or Brown, hounded and shot down by police, incarcerated in huge numbers. Women raped, battered and murdered, denied their basic humanity and their full potential as human beings. People scorned, bullied, brutalized for being gay, or just being 'different.' Millions of children dying every year from starvation and disease. Immigrants driven from their homelands, forced into the shadows, exploited, deported, ripped away from their children. Slaughter and enslavement in the name of one god or another. Wars, torture, and massive government spying.

"Things are this way because of the system that rules over us and declares its 'special right' to rule the world. A system like this is a system that no one should put up with or go along with. It needs to be swept off the face of the earth. And it can be."

And BA has developed a vision and viable framework for this new society. Building on the overwhelmingly liberating experiences of the first socialist revolutions while learning deeply from their shortcomings, he has brought forward a new synthesis of communism that charts a path so that revolutions in the 21st century can do even better. The new socialist state would be working to overcome and dig up the roots of all the forms of exploitation and savage inequality that people suffer today; where no more would wars of plunder and subjugation of nations and cultures be aimed at the people of the world; and where a new constitution would require safeguarding the environment. This would be carried forward in a legal framework and societal atmosphere that gives great scope to intellectual work, ferment, and dissent so that people from every section of society, including those formerly locked out of the realms of intellectual (and scientific) life could consciously and collectively strive for a world where all humanity could flourish.

People concerned about the future of sustainable life on this planet need to know about this. With life hanging in the balance, doesn't this radical way out need to be discussed and debated everywhere? People can be won to see and to donate funds so that this can happen on a societal level.

And there is a lot to get into about why and how a total revolution is necessary for there to be a sustainable future. Capitalism cannot and will not reverse global warming or save the planet. The relentless drive to maximize profits—each capitalist up against competing capitalists, driven by the imperative to expand or die—is the underlying dynamic that prevents the capitalists and their governments from taking any meaningful action on climate change for fear of losing advantage and being wiped out.

In a new revolutionary socialist society, the economy will be governed by planned and rational production—and by the deployment of society's skills, resources, and capabilities—to serve what is useful and important for the betterment of world humanity including protecting the rich biodiversity and sustainability of the Earth.

This month BA Everywhere is calling for all who want to see this society-wide conversation about problem and solution to go out and meet all kinds of people who are concerned about the environment and to set up appointments, hold impromptu discussions (on campuses, in neighborhoods, or at lunch at work), and involve them in the campaign, donating and raising funds and raising consciousness. So that people are finding out about Bob Avakian, digging into what he has brought forward, learning about what the first socialist revolutions in the 20th century were about, and especially digging into the vision and strategy for fundamental change today that BA has developed. There should be lots of lively struggle over what is the root cause of all of this and why revolution is the solution.

The BA Everywhere campaign should be stepping to people with an appreciation of the work and concern people have for saving the planet and all its species, going into the deep roots of why this system does what it does and how revolution could change all that—comparing and contrasting, even struggling at times quite sharply, for why a revolutionary socialist society moving towards a communist world could really save the planet. Many taking up the campaign may not themselves know that much about the science of this yet, but still could watch the clip from BA's 2003 Revolution talk, "Not fit caretakers of the earth," and get into what he is saying there together with the people they are meeting with. And, we can also bring people the special issue of Revolution, State of EMERGENCY! The Plunder of Our Planet, The Environmental Catastrophe & The Real Revolutionary Solution, as well as the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), so that people can get into this themselves.

This should be a month where the campaign is sitting down with many, many people asking them to donate. There should be a sense of urgent mission to really reach out to the science departments at universities, to high school science teachers, to the board members and people active in local and national environmental organizations, nature conservancies, natural history museums, to bring them the full picture of the BA Everywhere campaign and to give them an opportunity to make a real difference by contributing so that this is known everywhere.

At the same time, these are not the only people and places that the campaign should reach this month. BA Everywhere is the leading edge of an entire movement for revolution—a whole strategic process through which people from a wide range of experiences and struggles are coming to understand the problem and solution and are being organized in different dimensions of the movement for revolution with the Party being built as its leading core. The environmental thematic focus of the campaign this month, the urgency of the UN report, and Earth Day on April 22 provide an important opportunity to deepen the understanding of the whole movement for revolution and the diverse breadth of people it impacts, of the necessity of revolution to quite literally save the planet—how the new society and state brought into being through revolution would deal with meeting the needs of humanity, overcoming all the inequalities, in a way that sustains and protects the environment and all the Earth's species. Making these connections will ideologically strengthen the movement for revolution and in turn change how people more broadly are thinking. At the same time, this should inspire people to become even more committed to raising the funds needed so that BA becomes a household word.

To sum up a few points for the campaign this month: The urgency of the rapidly developing environmental crisis, especially climate change, gives rise to great necessity as well as opens opportunities to reach out to and raise funds from a whole section of people who are on the front lines of and/or are deeply concerned about the environment, so that the vision and strategy for a whole new society is known and debated through people finding out about and digging into BA and his work. This involves the BA Everywhere campaign and the movement for revolution as a whole not just making plans for Earth Day on April 22, but getting out all month with the campaign—and not only among those who are active around environmental issues, but among all who are acting to resist the crimes of this system in various ways. BA Everywhere committees and everyone else who wants to take this up should send in their plans this week to

At the same time, there should be exciting plans to make an impact at the diversity of events on Earth Day as well as on campuses and in neighborhoods on that day. Right now, while funds overwhelmingly should be raised for the BA Everywhere campaign overall, with funds going to one of the three entities listed on the donate page of the website, BAE committees should go to a few donors to raise specific funds for printing materials and other expenses that will be incurred on and around Earth Day.

This system is destroying the Earth and the rich diversity of life that inhabits it. This is a crime of towering proportions. There is another way: revolution to bring into being a new society and world that truly emancipates humanity and that can unleash the creativity of millions to work together to urgently save the planet. Raising funds for and bringing to people the work and vision of BA is a key part of bringing that world into being.

The action—and the inaction—of those who rule this system in pursuit of accumulating more and more profit is devastating the Earth. It is up to us to change the whole system through a liberating revolution. To open up this potential requires, as a leading and pivotal step, building the movement for revolution now, involving lots of people in raising funds to change the whole political atmosphere, so that broadly people are discussing and debating really fundamental questions of why the world is the way it is and how it can be fundamentally changed. Getting BA Everywhere opens this potential.


1. From the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), 2010, published by the RCP, USA. Page 79. [back]




Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

National Meeting Held for October Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration

April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


April 3-4, New York City. A national meeting was held to strategize for the October Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration. Carl Dix and Cornel West, who had called for the meeting, gave opening talks on the first day.

Ninety people came together from all over the country to discuss how to make October 2014 a month of powerful resistance that encompasses thousands taking to the streets in many cities on the October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation; a major concert and other cultural expressions; panels and symposiums on campuses and in communities; sermons in churches, mosques, and synagogues, and more—a month that takes the movement of resistance to mass incarceration to a whole new level. People came from Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Dallas, and New York, as well as from North and South Carolina; Dayton, Ohio; Stockton, California; and Jacksonville, Florida.

There was a great mix of people, old and young, of different nationalities, from many different walks of life: immigrants involved in the struggle to stop deportations and in support of the hunger strikes at detention centers; professors, social workers, and retired nurses; Black youth who are criminalized and brutalized by this system; parents whose children have been murdered by the police; ministers, high school teachers and college students; people working in the legal system and in the media; those who have loved ones in prison as well as former prisoners, including those who have experienced the terror of solitary confinement. Pam Africa talked about the ongoing struggle to free political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal and upcoming events around his 60th birthday, linking this with the overall struggle against mass incarceration.

A major item on the agenda was to discuss the draft of a Call/Mission Statement for the Month of Resistance. Lively discussion with lots of participation resulted in many suggestions to the draft that have now been sent to the interim steering committee to be finalized. Working groups also met to hammer out concrete plans for October including fundraising; media, including getting out the voices of prisoners; faith communities; campuses; immigrant-related incarceration; artists and performers, and more. will post the Call/Mission Statement soon. will have ongoing coverage and plans for—and how you can get involved in—the October Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration.




Revolution #335 April 13, 2014


Abortion Rights Emergency!
National Speak-outs/Webcast and PROTESTS

April 11 & 12th

April 4, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Abortion rights are in a state of emergency, and headed for disaster.  Already, women in this country who cannot access safe abortions are attempting to self-abort by inserting sharp objects in their vaginas, taking pills, asking their boyfriends to beat them up, and more. Others are being forced to bear children they do not want.  This is the future for women everywhere if this war on women is not massively resisted and defeated.


 Forcing women to have children against their will is a form of enslavement. Abortion On Demand and Without Apology.


Friday April 11, 7-9:30pm EDT
Abortion Rights Emergency WEBCAST

Host a viewing party and tune in wherever you are!

Go to

In New York City: Attend live at Advent Lutheran Church, 93rd & Broadway

We will bring alive women's stories—before the Roe v. Wade decision making most abortions legal and today, the struggles of those who risk their lives to provide abortions, and the full anti-woman program driving the war on women.

Speakers include:

Dr. Willie Parker, award-winning doctor at the last abortion clinic in Mississippi

Sunsara Taylor, writer for newspaper, leader of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, and initiator of

Merle Hoffman, CEO of Choices Women's Medical Center, which has provided abortions and other health services to women since 1971

Donna Schaper, Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church, on her own abortion and why we must defend this right

Marge Piercy, poet, novelist, memoirist, via video message: "It was a time when falling in love could get you killed."

Bill Baird, reproductive rights pioneer who was jailed eight times in five states in the 1960s for lecturing on abortion and birth control

David Gunn, Jr., son of first abortion doctor to be assassinated, via video message


Testimony from:

Susan Cahill, owner of the Montana abortion clinic that was destroyed and closed on March 3, 2013 about how this is an attack on all women

Dr. Susan Robinson, One of the only four doctors in the U.S. who openly provide late-term abortions; featured in the acclaimed documentary After Tiller

True stories of illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade

More to be announced.


Saturday, April 12th: PROTEST!

Join in protests in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, and beyond or PLAN YOUR OWN NOW.


Hold silent protests at institutions behind this war on women: Crisis Pregnancy Centers (anti-abortion fake “clinics”), headquarters of GOP or Democrats who've opposed abortion, churches that mobilize anti-abortion protesters at clinics, etc. Raise bloody coat-hangers (representing the fate of women when abortion is illegal) and shackles (representing female enslavement). After an hour of silent protest, break the shackles and pledge to resist until we defeat and reverse these attacks and win Abortion On Demand and Without Apology and the full liberation of women.

This war on women will not go away on its own and will not be stopped by politicians or the courts. We must take responsibility for defeating these attacks—the lives of women depend on what we do.

The Blood of Women Is On Their Hands!

Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!




 * Wire coat hangers were used by many women as an instrument to self-abort when abortion was illegal. 5,000+ women in the U.S. are estimated to have died every year from illegal, unsafe abortions before Roe v. Wade legalized abortions.


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Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

Interview with Sunsara Taylor

"The right to abortion is hanging by a thread"

April 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Going into the April 11-12 Emergency Actions for Abortion Rights, Revolution had the opportunity to interview Sunsara Taylor about the attacks on the right to abortion and the need to fight to turn the situation around. The following is an excerpt from that interview.


Revolution: Sunsara, can you describe briefly the situation right now around the right to abortion and the attacks on that right.

Sunsara Taylor: Right now in this country, it is no exaggeration to say that the right to abortion is hanging by a thread. In many places it’s out of the reach of women’s ability to access safely or affordably or at all. And the momentum and the trajectory of the restrictions, of the stigma, of the laws that have been passed are such that the closure of clinics, the closure of access, the terror against abortion providers is escalating. And the future for all women’s ability to access abortion is really being determined right now, it’s really at stake.  In the last three years there have been 203 restrictions on abortion, and it’s actually such a big number that I think people hear it and they get a little numb. Because it’s almost every week you hear about a new restriction. But think about it—203 laws have been passed, they’ve been introduced to the state congresses and legislatures, they’ve been voted on, and they’ve been given the official weight of law behind them. This has caused dozens of clinic closures in Arizona, in Texas, in Alabama, in Ohio, in Michigan, in Virginia, and really all across the country. And what this means is that women are not able to... they find out that they’re pregnant...they’re young, or they’re whatever age... they find out that they’re pregnant, if they don’t want to have a child they’re faced with a really, really difficult situation. Many of these women, they can’t afford to travel.

If you’re living in the Rio Grande region of Texas where they just closed down all the last abortion clinics, this is a very impoverished region. About half a million people live in las colonias, right along the border. These are places without running water, without electricity—people cannot afford to travel hundreds of miles to the nearest abortion clinic. And many of them have no legal papers, so they can’t travel anyhow because there are checkpoints. So we’re in a situation where you find out that you’re pregnant down there... a lot of these women are already risking their lives to self-induce abortions. We’ve heard stories of women asking their boyfriends to beat them up, of ingesting drugs they don’t know what they’ll do to their bodies or their health. We’ve seen stories of women using sharp objects to try to self-induce abortions. This was already happening when the clinics were there because of the levels of poverty and stigma. But now those clinics are gone. And frankly it’s the future for women across this country if there is not a massive, massive outpouring of resistance and fighting this in many different ways and stopping this attack and reversing this attack. So I think it would be very, very hard to overstate the level of the emergency right now.

Revolution: What you’re describing is also a state of terror that’s being imposed on women. I don’t know if you want to speak some about that— when people are doing those kinds of things to their bodies so that they don’t have to become a mother against their will.

Sunsara Taylor: You know, I recently spoke with Marge Piercy, who is a great novelist and poet, and she shared in a video message, which we’ll be playing in the upcoming days of action for abortion rights, what it was like to live and grow up as a young woman before Roe v. Wade. And she talked about when she was 18 and got pregnant and didn’t have a way to get a safe abortion and self-induced an abortion and almost bled to death. She told me about her best friend who died when she was 24 from an illegal abortion. And she said—it was very, very chilling and very true—those days were a living hell for women. It was a time when falling in love could kill you. And I think, you know, we look out at the world, and in this country people sometimes they look at a country like Afghanistan where a young girl who falls in love with somebody from the wrong tribe if it’s not approved by her parents will be arrested, will be stoned to death if she’s not a virgin. All of this stuff that goes on, the honor killings— and think: “Oh, how horrific, those young girls, they don’t even have the ability... besides all the enslavement and the shrouding of women and the imprisonment of women, all the different forms of violence, they don’t even have the ability to do something as innocent and beautiful as falling in love.” And it’s no different, what’s happening already right here with young women in these rural areas, and in the inner cities too. We’ve heard these stories from Detroit.

And I think people have to put themselves there. Another thing that Marge Piercy described is she said, you know—and I think she was right—she said that the attacks on abortion and reproductive rights and the forces driving them really are fighting for women to be turned back into slaves. And I think that people have to understand that when women don’t have the ability to decide for themselves when and whether they’re going to have a child, they don’t have the ability to make that decision freely, then they really are... their lives are foreclosed, their lives are enslaved. The idea that becoming pregnant—your whole life could be ended for you—either because you lose your life trying to self-abort or because literally you’re forced and saddled to have a child you don’t want, you’re not able to care for, or you just have other plans in life. The idea that women’s lives and women’s contributions to society, women’s personal preferences of what they do with their lives don’t matter because really what matters is that they are vessels for child-bearing. That’s the future that’s being hammered into place. And that’s, I think, the terror that you’re describing, that you’re asking about. I think that’s very real, the idea that every single month, if your period is late you see your life flash before your eyes.  That’s the situation already for far too many women and that’s a situation that, I think, a lot of older women remember and a lot of younger women don’t have any idea about. And that’s gotta change. Because that’s the future if there’s not a major, major fight right now to turn this around.

Revolution: So, what is the state of the fight around this? Can you tell us about that?

Sunsara Taylor: I think most people in this country, including millions and millions of people who actually don’t want to see women forced back into the back alleys or forced to have children against their will—I think most people are profoundly ignorant of how extreme the situation is. I think most people don’t know.  And correspondingly, most people are not acting in the way that is commensurate with this situation.  There was a clinic that was destroyed in Montana on March 3rd—it was broken into and destroyed from top to bottom, every piece of medical equipment, every piece of plumbing, pictures on the walls, pictures of the family of the clinic owner, the patients’ files— everything was utterly destroyed and the clinic was put out of business indefinitely. And Susan Cahill who’s been running the clinic—she’s been firebombed, she had a law passed to stop her from providing abortions, her life has been in danger, and they bought her out of her last clinic to try to shut her down—she had just opened a new one and then they destroyed it. This is the equivalent of a church, a Black church being bombed in the Civil Rights era or even more recently. It’s an act of hate and terror against... as the clinic owner, Susan Cahill rightly put it, this was an attack on her, but this was an attack on all women. And this really has to be seen, and an atmosphere has been created and it’s been given a green light frankly by the fact that it’s not been covered in the media, that politicians haven’t been denouncing this, that other forces have not been mobilizing massive outpourings of support and outrage against this. It’s giving a green light to this kind of terror and an atmosphere where people are set up to be killed and driven out of business and where women’s lives are then foreclosed for lack of access to abortion.  So I just wanted to add that to the situation that we face.

And so this is just one example of how people have been kept ignorant about the situation, how extreme the situation is. And so I think most people have no idea and many, many of those—even if they don’t understand the full extremes of this, they have some sense... even among those who are very, very alarmed, and I think there are tens of thousands... actually I think there are millions of people who are very alarmed, even if they don’t have the full sense of the scope of the attacks. I think there are millions who are deeply alarmed and deeply disturbed and really worried about this. Among them, I think there is a lot of paralysis and a lot of fear and not having a clear sense of how to fight this.  That’s something that we in the movement for revolution and people involved with us in Stop Patriarchy are fighting to actually provide a vehicle for people to act. We’ve actually had a situation where most people are ignorant, among those who are aware and are alarmed; they are largely still acting in a way that is not going to stop this direction. And so that’s something that has begun to change in some beginning ways. I mean I have to say that there have been some very important efforts—last summer, Stop Patriarchy did the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Hundreds and hundreds of people across the country supported this, joined in this, held rallies, where people took it upon themselves... and the message that we’ve been sending is that we have to rely on ourselves.

If we want to stop this we actually have to fight this. We have to go out into the streets, we have to tell the truth, we have to talk about women’s right to abortion, we have tell the truth of the stakes of women’s lives. And we have to not just do it because we’re calibrating based on how we think this would help support this or that bill or this or that restriction getting defeated, but actually going and changing the terms throughout society and calling forth millions of people to fight. Because there are very entrenched forces in this country determined to take away this right, very entrenched forces, and the dynamics of capitalism in this country at this time are actually favoring that trajectory at this time.  It’s going to take a big fight for people to turn that around.  And so it was very important that people stepped out with this Freedom Ride last summer. And there’ve been other ways that people have begun to... there’s been more people seeing the need to tell the stories about abortion and to challenge the stigma that’s sitting on abortion. But still there’s not enough understanding of the need and not enough of people stepping out and acting in mass public resistance that really relies on ourselves and calls forward thousands and millions of other people... and actually goes and fights And this is another thing that’s not been happening: a fight to change people’s minds around abortion and to change their understanding of what this fight is about.  Because most people still think that this is a fight about babies. They still think that abortion... they frankly mostly think that it’s easy to access, it’s maybe too easy to access, and that it’s really a bad thing. They don’t have any idea of this point that I’ve made before, but that I was citing from Marge Piercy: that this is actually about the enslavement of women.  People don’t know that and that’s something we have to fight to change people’s understanding of.





Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

Abortion Rights Are in a State of Emergency

Fact Sheet

April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Did you know?

Abortion rights are in a state of emergency, and headed for disaster. 

Abortion rights in this country hang by a thread.  It is urgent that everyone act now to stop this war on women. Forcing women to have children against their will is a form of enslavement.  Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!


Women across the country who cannot access safe abortions are attempting to self-abort by inserting sharp objects up their vaginas, taking pills, asking their boyfriends to beat them up, throwing themselves down the stairs, overdosing, and more. Of those who do not die, many are forced to give birth to unwanted children and are trapped in abusive relationships and/or driven (deeper) into poverty.  Others are forced to carry the pregnancy to term only to be separated from a baby they cannot care for.  This is the future for all women if this war on women is not massively resisted and defeated!


Hillary Clinton: “I for one, respect those who believe that there are no circumstances under which any abortions should ever be available.”

Wendy Davis: “I would have and could have voted to allow [a 20-week ban on abortion] to go through, if I felt like we had tightly defined the ability for a woman and a doctor to be making this decision together...”

...and Obama has repeatedly said he supports restrictions on abortion and “respects the views” of and seeks “common ground” with those who will not be satisfied until all abortions are illegal.


There can be no “common ground” with those who are fighting for female enslavement.  The fight over abortion has never been about babies, it has always been about control over women.

For far too long, pro-choice people have hoped that the Democrats or the courts would somehow stop this fascist assault on women.  Too many people have remained passive, or funneled all their energies into supporting politicians who have openly promised to seek “common ground” with forces who are fighting for female enslavement.  This is unacceptable.  Seeking “common ground” has really meant ceding ground to this whole onslaught.  Very much owing to this wrong approach of relying on official politics, for decades we have watched as yesterday's outrage became today's “compromise position” and tomorrow's limit of what can be imagined. 

In reality, the future is up to us! This whole direction must be uncompromisingly resisted and defeated!  This requires changing the terms by telling the truth:  Fetuses are NOT babies.  Abortion is NOT murder.  Women are NOT incubators.  Women need:  Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!  And it requires going out into the streets and waging massive, public, uncompromising, political resistance.  We must rely on ourselves – and mobilize the outrage of others – to STOP THIS WAR.



Fact sheet created by

Sources cited







Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

Emergency Actions to Stop the War on Women
April 11-12

March 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


bloody coat hangerInfo on areas participating in emergency actions on April 11 and 12

Contact about organizing in your area!

New York City:

Friday, April 11
7-9:30 pm:
The Blood of Women Is On Their Hands - Abortion on Demand & Without Apology!
Advent Lutheran Church
Corner of 93rd & Broadway [#1,2,3 to 96th St.]
We will bring alive women's stories--before Roe and today, the struggles of those who risk their lives to provide abortions, and the full anti-woman program driving this war. This event will be webcast. Contact to get sign-on information.

Saturday, April 12
2:00 pm: Assemble and orientation at NW corner of 49th St. & Fifth Avenue
3:00 pm: Procession to St. Patrick's Cathedral
People wearing all white will raise bloody coat-hangers representing the women who die when abortion is unavailable. Others all in black will hold pictures, names and statistics of women who have died already. Everyone will wear shackles. After one hour of silent protest, people will break the shackles, and pledge to resist and call on others to join in mass resistance to defeat this war.

Los Angeles:

Friday, April 11
7 pm: United University Church, University of Southern California Campus, 817 West 34th Street, Los Angeles
Speak out to tell the truth about what is at stake for women with abortion rights, bringing alive the dangers and risks to women's lives when abortion is illegal, upholding the heroism of the providers and calling on others to step up with them and exposing the full dimensions of the anti-woman agenda of the anti-abortion movement.

Saturday, April 12
1-2 pm:
Santa Monica Pier and Ocean Blvd.
2-3 pm: March from Santa Monica Pier through 3rd St. Promenade

San Francisco

Friday, April 11
7 pm:
Spotlight on the Abortion Rights Emergency
Women's Building
3543 18th Street [Off Valencia]

Saturday, April 12
4:00 pm: Preparation and orientation at Washington Square Park, San Francisco
4:30 pm: Procession & assemble at Saints Peter and Paul Church [666 Filbert St]
Saints Peter and Paul Church is the home parish for the anti-abortion Walk for "Life" 2014 - we will raise bloody coat hangers as a sharp reminder of the women who die when abortion is illegal, as Saturday mass begins.


Friday, April 11
7 pm:
Revolution Books (89 S Washington St in Pioneer Square, 1/2 block west off 1st Ave)

Saturday, April 12
12 noon:
Gather outside Swedish Hospital on Madison (corner of Madison St & Summit Ave)
March and Assemble at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle (710 9th Ave)
Why we're starting at Swedish Hospital and ending at the Catholic Archdiocese:
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain are spearheading attacks on abortion, birth control and LGBT rights. Swedish is part of a nationwide Catholic takeover of secular hospitals that are now governed by "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services" enforced by local bishops. The Directives prohibit doctors and health care professionals from providing abortion and birth control even when the woman's health or life is in danger.




Revolution #335 April 13, 2014


Raymond Lotta:

You Don't Know What You Think You "Know" About...

The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future

Now Available as an Expanded eBook!

Updated May 1, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |



The REAL History of Communist Revolution

A Unique Resource

Special Offer for Month of May:

PDF version discount—99¢
Go to
eBook available at and other retailers. Order information at

Raymond Lotta’s research and argumentation, particularly about the Russian revolution and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, demonstrate forcefully once again that a better world for humanity is indeed possible. Anybody who does not want to witness the slow but sure destruction of our environment, and our humanity as well should find inspiration from Lotta’s book.

—Dongping Han, author of The Unknown Cultural Revolution:
Life and Change in a Chinese Village


Everything you “know” about the revolution is untrue. You need to surf the first wave and get on board for the next rising tide. Lotta offers a book that sets sail towards that horizon with unflinching commitment to the better future that we need.

—John Hutnyk, author of Pantomime Terror: Music and Politics
and Bad Marxism: Capitalism and Cultural Studies




Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

Particle Fever—Must-See Science Documentary Film

April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

Three cheers for Particle Fever, the science documentary that opened in theaters across the country in March. Particle Fever is at once a spectacular presentation of the world's largest science experiment, a window into the lives of working scientists and what motivates them, and a subatomic thriller with a climactic ending.

The subject of the film is the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the elusive Higgs boson particle. But you don't have to know a boson from a bison to get immersed in this scientific detective story. The infectious enthusiasm of the scientists who propel the story will draw you in and make you want to know more.

The Large Hadron Collider, called the "LHC" throughout the film, is a circular particle accelerator 17 miles in circumference, built underground near Geneva, Switzerland. It is so large that parts of it are actually under two different countries (France and Switzerland). It cost about $5 billion to build and has a staff of 10,000 engineers and scientists.

Over the years, nuclear physicists have found a surprising number of "basic particles"—subatomic particles that seem to be the fundamental building blocks of all matter. And rather quickly scientists saw how these particles could be arranged in a table according to similarities (or opposites) of their basic properties. This schema is called the "Standard Model."

If there is one thing that scientists hate, it's a pattern with a missing component—a hole in the plan. And that's just what physicists found with their Standard Model of fundamental particles. There was a missing particle needed to fill out the table. The particle was informally named the "Higgs boson" after British physicist Peter Higgs who, in 1964, first suggested its existence. Scientists theorized that the reason the particle had not been seen up until now was that it was very massive.

When physicists talk about massive, they are not talking about being big. For physicists, the mass of a particle is its ability to resist any change in its motion. You have to apply more force to accelerate a massive particle. At the same time, mass and energy are two forms of matter, so that mass can be changed into energy (as when an atomic bomb explodes) and energy can be used to create particles (which is what can happen when scientists slam particles moving at near the speed of light into each other). It takes a great deal of energy to create a massive particle.

Particle Fever tells the story beginning in 2008 of the quest for the Higgs particle through the activities of six scientists working on the problem. What makes this fun is that the six are divided into three theoretical physicists and three experimental physicists. The theorists sit around in offices scribbling on chalkboards; the experimentalists wear hard hats and sit at control panels or climb down into the bowels of the LHC to tinker with its innards. It is also important that two of the six are women, smashing the stereotype that women scientists are always biologists while only men can do physics.

Right at the beginning of the film, the narrator, Johns Hopkins physicist David Kaplan, answers a fundamental question from the audience: "What are the practical results of this work? What of value will we get from all this money and effort?" Kaplan responds, "Maybe nothing, other than understanding everything." This sets the tone for the whole film. These scientists appreciate the importance of humans understanding the material world, even when there is no immediate or specific impact on our day-to-day lives.

The film then jumps to clips from American TV newscasts showing a couple of troglodytes in the U.S. Congress voting down money for a similar collider in the U.S. One literally states that finding out the basic laws of the universe is way down on his list of priorities. Kaplan observes: "I watch our political leaders on television, and I think, wow, truth has zero social capital." But he adds that at the LHC, "Here's a bunch of people that are in pursuit of something so pure. We are not going to get famous or rich, but we all feel great when we know something that's true."

If there is one thing that annoys the scientists in this film, it's having the Higgs boson referred to in the media as "the God particle." This sobriquet panders to the prejudice that anything really, really basic must be connected to a god in some way. It's not.

The fun part of the movie is watching the scientists at work and at play. There is no dress code and they all walk around carrying their laptops, showing each other their screens. As big moments approach (for example, the day when the LHC was first turned on), they get positively giddy. As one young woman scientist observed, they are like a bunch of six-year-olds whose birthday is next week!

And when they are not working we see them jogging, cycling, playing table tennis, partying with physics raps (I kid you not), playing the piano, or doing physics tricks for their children (don't miss the glass full of water upside-down trick).

There is also the friendly banter between the theorists and the experimentalists. At one point, an experimentalist tells one of the filmmakers, "Don't listen to the theorists!" And when the LHC has a massive accident shortly after it starts up, we eavesdrop on a group of LHC scientists trying to figure out how to do damage control with the media.

The drama plays out as the power of the machine is progressively cranked up. It has two beams of protons whizzing around the 17-mile track, guided by superconducting electromagnets cooled by liquid helium. The idea is to take two beams traveling in opposite directions and smash them into each other. Only in this way will enough energy be brought to bear in one tiny spot to generate the elusive Higgs boson—if it exists. Giant detectors five stories high then try to record all the subatomic junk flying out from these collisions.

ATLAS is one of the seven particle detector experiments constructed at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a particle collider in Switzerland. ATLAS is 46 metres long (about 150 feet) 25 metres (82 feet) in diameter, and weighs about 7716 tons, making it the largest detector ever built at a particle collider.

When proton beams produced by the Large Hadron Collider interact in the center of the detector, a variety of different particles with a broad range of energies are produced.

Particle detectors must be built to detect particles, their masses, momentum, energies, lifetime, charges, and nuclear spins.

They are designed in layers made up of detectors of different types, each of which is designed to observe specific types of particles.

The various traces that particles leave in each layer of the detector allow for effective particle identification and accurate measurements of energy and momentum.

Photo: courtesy of PF Productions


No one knows what will happen, what will be found. At a minimum they hope to see the Higgs particle (which itself will decay into other particles in a fraction of a second). If it is found, a big question is: What will its mass be? There are two competing theories. Maybe the mass will be relatively low, which is more in line with Standard Model predictions. But then maybe the mass will be much higher, which some scientists think is more compatible with a multiple universe scheme, in which particular physical constants (like the mass of the Higgs boson) are just an accident of the universe we happen to live in.

More exciting still would be the discovery of other new particles, hitherto unknown and unpredicted. A big puzzle for physicists is the existence of "dark matter"—matter whose gravitational effects are seen by astronomers but examples of which have never been found.

Particle Fever builds to a climax around the announcement of first confirmed results about the Higgs particle. There have been two competing teams working with two different particle detectors. Will either or both have evidence of the new particle? And if both do, will they come up with the same value for its mass?

On the big day in July 2012, hundreds of scientists jam the hall to hear the announced results. Others who can't get in are clustered around laptops in adjoining hallways and around the world. The climax of this science thriller is, what else, two PowerPoint presentations on a giant screen!

Both teams have conclusive evidence of a new particle with the predicted characteristics of the Higgs boson. And both come up with the same value for its mass. Peter Higgs, now retired, is in the hall and gets a standing ovation from the audience.

The day was a triumph for science and human understanding of the real world around us. Scientists from over 100 different countries, including ones whose governments are hostile to each other, transcended the vicious divisions of an imperialist-dominated world to expand our knowledge of the universe and uphold the importance of truth.

Edited by Oscar winner Walter Murch, the film is positively beautiful. Oh, and about whether the mass of Higgs boson is high or low, you wouldn't want us to spoil that for you. Go see Particle Fever!




Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

Albuquerque: Police Execute Homeless Man for Illegal Camping

April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Cold-blooded murder under the color of authority—that's what is made unmistakably clear if you watch the YouTube video of the killing of a homeless man by the police in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The video of the March 16 incident, taken from a cop's helmet camera, shows a group of cops surrounding 38-year-old James Boyd in the Sandia foothills area of the city. The confrontation had begun a couple of hours earlier when the police approached Boyd to arrest him for illegal camping. The video shows Boyd picking up his belongings, apparently complying with the police orders. One cop is heard saying, "I can keep you safe." But then a cop immediately says, "Do it," and a police flash-bang grenade explodes near Boyd. As Boyd turns his back, two of the cops fire six rounds from their assault rifles, and Boyd falls to the ground. Boyd lies face down on the ground—he's still alive, but he's not moving at all and is pleading with the cops to not hurt him further. But the cops fire beanbags and Tasers at his back and sic a police dog to tear at him.

James Boyd died of his injuries the next day.

When this video was posted on YouTube by a local TV station, there was broad outrage. The video has been viewed nearly a million times. There had already been rising anger at the string of deadly shootings by the Albuquerque police, who have killed 23 people by gunfire and wounded 14 others, just since 2010 .

The first victim in the serial police shootings in Albuquerque from 2010 to today was an Iraq war veteran, Kenneth Ellis III, who was reportedly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Ellis was outside a convenience store, holding a gun to his own head, when he was gunned down by an officer. A judge in a civil lawsuit ruled that Ellis was posing no threat to anyone, except to himself, when he was killed.

The murder of James Boyd sparked a righteous protest by hundreds of people who marched and rallied in the streets of Albuquerque from noon to midnight on Sunday, March 30. An Associated Press [AP] news report quoted a 23-year-old protester as being "fed up" with the way the police treat people: "It has reached a boiling point, and people just can't take it anymore." Another protester held up a sign reading "APD: Dressed To Kill," referring to the Albuquerque Police Department, and said, "That's what the police force is about."

The protest involved different groups and included families of some of the people killed by the Albuquerque police. According to the Albuquerque Journal, "Marchers took over much of Downtown and the university area during a daylong demonstration... The march along Central boiled over at several points, with protesters ignoring police commands to disperse and having a standoff with officers in riot gear." AP reported, "The protesters repeatedly marched the 2 miles from downtown Albuquerque to the University of New Mexico, holding signs protesting recent police shootings and often snarling traffic." At one point, the marchers disrupted traffic on Interstate 25. As the protest continued into the evening, riot police used tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowds.

Boyd apparently had a history of mental illness and run-ins with the police. According to the New Mexico Public Defender Department, almost 75 percent of people shot by the Albuquerque police in 2010 and 2011 suffered from mental illnesses. And the pattern is similar across the U.S.—an April 1, 2014 New York Times article cited an estimate based on informal studies and accounts that "half the number of people shot and killed by the police have mental health problems."

The way that cops so often treat people with mental illnesses as dangerous "criminals"—instead of approaching them with compassion and genuine interest in helping them out—is a concentration of the role of the police under this system of capitalism. Their role is not to actually serve the people, but to serve the interests of the system of exploitation and oppression that rules over the people. And as Bob Avakian has pointed out, under a different system, a revolutionary state power, "...we would sooner have one of our own people's police killed than go wantonly murder one of the masses." (See BAsics 2:16)

When the video of James Boyd's killing became public, the police chief immediately declared that the officers had acted with "restraint" and that the shooting was justified because Boyd had "threatened" a K-9 (police dog) officer, who supposedly had no firearms, with knives. A bunch of cops, armed with rifles and other weapons, corner a man who at most has knives... and they're the ones that feel "threatened"? Anyone who honestly looks at the video of the shooting can see how this justification turns reality completely on its head.

Faced with broad outrage at the killing and at the police chief's justification, the mayor said the chief "shouldn't have said that," and promised to "thoroughly and comprehensively go through the process." This is a bad movie we've seen over and over again, all over the country: When the authorities can't immediately close the books on a police shooting as "justified," there are promises of "investigations," which in the vast majority of cases end up with the same result. The Albuquerque police have already been under federal Department of Justice investigation because of the 37 shootings since 2010. Whatever the particular results of these investigations, they will not change the basic nature of the police under this system as a force that stands in antagonistic relation to the people.

Across the U.S., youth of color, people in the oppressed neighborhoods, the homeless, and others are treated like criminals, brutalized, and killed by the system's armed enforcers—and this reactionary violence is declared "justified" by those in authority. We must act to resist and stop this intolerable injustice.




Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

From A World to Win News Service

Nixon, Kissinger and Bangladesh: Blood on Their Hands

by Susannah York | March 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


The Blood Telegram—Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide (Alfred Knopf, 2013) by Princeton University professor Gary J. Bass unearths the sinister role played by then President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1971 during Pakistan's nine-month slaughter of Bengali people in what was then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. According to diverse sources, hundreds of thousands and maybe as many as three million people were killed. About 10 million refugees, mostly Hindu, fled to India, only to be kept in desperate camps where people died of starvation, lack of clean water and preventable diseases.

The Blood Telegram is an engrossing and revealing blow-by-blow account of the cynical—in fact criminal—diplomacy, as well as the often vicious back-biting and backstabbing, among the various actors: Nixon, Kissinger, Pakistan's ruling general Agha Yahya Khan, India's leader Indira Gandhi and other Indian government officials, U.S. State Department figures and those representing the U.S. in Pakistan and India like Archer Blood. Author Bass combed through thousands of pages of recently declassified material from the Nixon Library, the National Archives of Washington and archives in India, interviews with White House staff, diplomats and Indian generals and previously unlistened-to and rather sordid White House tapes. Almost every paragraph of his book is footnoted, with 2,600 footnotes in total.

The book is up close and personal, revealing the immorality and baseness of especially Nixon and Kissinger, who knowingly and regularly lied to the public, the U.S. Congress and other governments and broke the laws they claimed to represent during the civil war between East and West Pakistan.

The American consul general in Dhaka, Archer Blood, sent many warnings of an impending bloodbath, saying that there was no chance of Pakistan holding together. Nixon's response was, "I feel that anything that can be done to maintain Pakistan as a viable country is extremely important." Kissinger commented, "Why should we say anything [to Yahya] that would discourage force [in East Pakistan]?"

Some Background

Map of South Asia

When India won its independence from Britain in 1947, Britain took advantage of divisions it had helped fan and other factors to split its former colony into two states based on religion, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and primarily Hindu India. With the partition, as many as two million people died and 15 million refugees defined by their religious affiliations fled the land they had lived on for generations and flooded across each other's borders (Hindus living in Pakistan relocated to India and Muslims in India to Pakistan) to regions completely foreign to them.

This odd geographical creation born of contending reactionary interests combined different ethnic groups in both East and West Pakistan. There were Pashtuns, Punjabis and Baluchis in Western Pakistan who were mainly Muslim. East Pakistan was comprised of Bengalis and Biharis, a Muslim majority and sizeable Hindu minority. The partition of the British colony left both India and Pakistan devastated, claiming many lives in riots, rapes, murders and looting. This was the original crime that set the stage for the horrendous events of 1971.

The difference between East and West Pakistan was more than distance, the 1,500 kilometers of Indian territory that separated them. West Pakistan was economically much better off, contained the central government, the military institutions and tried to make Urdu the country's official language. East Pakistanis were majority Muslim and mainly spoke and saw themselves as Bengali. Urdu-speaking Bihari Muslims who moved to the East after partition were an exception. East Pakistanis were looked down upon by West Pakistanis. West Pakistan was only 25 million compared to 57 million East Pakistanis. From the beginning the question of the country's official language was an issue of great protest.

With independence from Britain, people in East Pakistan were initially loyal to the government in West Pakistan, but gradually felt that British colonialism had been replaced by West Pakistani domination. The West was suspicious of Bengalis and the Hindu minority in East Pakistan and saw them as pro-Indian. By 1958, the Pakistani generals imposed martial law in East Pakistan, banned political parties and made it impossible for Bengalis to voice their grievances.

Demands for more autonomy in the east were a constant. After two decades of statehood, opposition grew and many student and worker demonstrations pressed for autonomy. Facing a serious crisis of legitimacy, elections were finally granted by West Pakistan's military ruler, General Yahya.

The disastrous November 1970 Bhola Cyclone struck East Pakistan and the results fuelled outrage against West Pakistan. The devastation took the lives of 500,000 people in the low-lying area of East Pakistan. One witness recounted how after the 250 kilometre-an-hour winds, there was nothing to see but bodies of people and cattle strewn over the land. Some had been hurled 10 metres high into trees or out into the sea. Seen from a helicopter, the area hit by the storm looked like "a huge chocolate pudding dotted with raisins''—on closer view the awful realization was that the "raisins" were dead bodies.

President Nixon meets with President of Pakistan Yahya Khan. 1970. Photo: National Archives and Records Service

After the cyclone, General Yahya visited the area but was unmoved by the suffering and devastation. The almost total lack of support from the West Pakistani-based government created further enmity among East Pakistanis who endured this crisis. This helped lay the groundwork for the rebellion that was soon to take place. When elections finally did occur, Mujibur Rahman's Awami League in East Pakistan campaigned on promises of more autonomy so that East Pakistan could determine its own trade terms, issue its own currency and create a militia. General Yahya refused to accept the parliamentary majority won through the Awami League's landslide victory.

The U.S. consul general Blood, inspired by some of the Bengali nationalist outpourings in the street, believed that his government should intervene to prevent a massacre and hoped for a political solution. Talks were going on between the Eastern and Western politicians. Blood thought that Yahya was stalling until more of his army could be brought into East Pakistan. Blood sent repeated descriptions of the military build-up and the impending crisis, calling for the U.S. to intervene against it, all of which Nixon and Kissinger continued to ignore. Ships brim-full of armaments were unloaded in the port city of Chittagong despite efforts at a blockade by outraged Bengalis. On 25 March 1971 serious shooting began. There were major explosions throughout the city of Dhaka, and columns of troops marched through the city, with U.S.-supplied tanks in the lead. The civil war had begun.

The Blood Telegram

Two weeks into the slaughter in East Pakistan, angered over the silence by Nixon and Kissinger, Blood sent a five-page telegram signed by him and most of his staff denouncing the policy of the U.S. as "moral bankruptcy" for condoning the atrocities (which he called genocide because the killings were mainly against Hindu Bengalis) and the suppression of the election results, and the U.S.'s continued support and arming of General Yahya.

Bangladeshi massacre: Students, covering their faces from the stench of decaying bodies, uncover a mass grave containing the dead bodies of fellow students and professors near Dhaka, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Dec. 1971. Photo: AP

The Blood telegram's content soon became public and gained credibility in various government circles. But Nixon and Kissinger were determined to continue supporting Yahya. Pakistan was already the recipient of billions of dollars worth of jets, bombers, armored tanks and military vehicles from the U.S. Seen as a traitor by Nixon and Kissinger, Blood was sacked and given a desk job in Washington.

Nixon rationalized what he deceitfully called U.S. non-action by comparing the situation in East Pakistan to the slaughter of Biafrans when they tried to secede from Nigeria in 1967-70, saying it would be hypocritical to intervene in Pakistan's internal affairs when the U.S. had done nothing in Biafra. Kissinger also tried to portray American policy as one of non-intervention. As the killings became more exposed, Congress imposed a ban on U.S. supplies of arms and military parts for Pakistan. To sidestep the law, Nixon and Kissinger quietly arranged with King Hussein of Jordan and the Shah of Iran for these countries to serve as conduits for American weapons and planes to the Pakistani military, with private assurances that there would be no penalty for breaking the ban. The Congressional ban on weapons shipments served as a smokescreen to hide what was really happening.

By late June, a New York Times reporter based in South Asia estimated that 200,000 people had died in East Pakistan and 154,000 refugees were fleeing daily. Meanwhile Nixon insisted that Yahya was a good friend and a decent man doing "a difficult job trying to hold those two parts of the country separated by thousands of miles and keep them together... it was wrong to assume that the U.S. should go around telling other countries how to arrange their political affairs."

Relations between Pakistan and India were already bitter since independence and the resulting partition. India had its own cold and calculating strategic concerns. It was engaged in a struggle with Pakistan over Indian efforts to annex Kashmir. Bass says that Indira Gandhi was concerned that rebellion in East Pakistan would encourage revolt in her own restive population due to the tremendous poverty of the people and their movements against the government. She also feared it might provide an opening for the Maoist Naxalite revolutionary movement then raging in the Indian state of West Bengal and elsewhere. Bass condemns her "lack of concern for human rights". This human rights prism prevents him from seeing Gandhi as the leader of a comprador (imperialist-dependent) exploiting class in league with the Soviet Union, which, despite its retention of some features of socialism—a planned economy and state ownership—had restored capitalism, become an imperialist superpower and was contending with the U.S. for world domination.

When East Pakistani refugees fleeing the massacres started pouring over the Indian border, Indira Gandhi tried to seize the moral high ground. Her government spoke emotionally about the millions of refugees. But privately it worried that the exiles might be revolutionaries and might not return to their own country. Among many in her government there was a clamour for war. Publicly Gandhi claimed India had no intention to go to war, but began training those East Pakistanis who wanted to take up arms—the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army), initially under Indian leadership but eventually breaking out of its clutches. When she asked her generals how long it would take for the Indian army to be ready for war, they replied six months and began preparations.

Public diplomacy and much covert arm-twisting and threats took place between the U.S. and India. Both insisted that they were giving no support to the two sides in the war but behind the scenes they were not only preparing for all-out war between India and Pakistan but also trying to draw in China and the Soviet Union to take part on their respective sides. For reasons we will mention shortly, Kissinger secretly went to China to set up a meeting for Nixon with Mao Tsetung. While there, he called on the Chinese government, which considered Pakistan an ally against the Soviet Union and India (China and India had already engaged in armed conflicts twice), to send soldiers to the Chinese-Indian border and make trouble for India on its northern border should India go to war with Pakistan. Some Indian officials, on the other hand, were looking to the Soviet Union for military aid in case of an attack by China. And while preparing for war with Pakistan, Gandhi wanted to be sure that it looked like India was helping the Bengalis flee the massacres carried out by the West Pakistani army.

By the end of November a border clash and air battle took place, with Pakistan and India each blaming the other. From then on, the Indian Army launched increasing ground attacks into East Pakistan, denying it at the same time. On 3 December, Pakistan launched air strikes on India's major airfields in the north, in the states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. This gave Gandhi the excuse she wanted to launch a full-scale attack on Pakistan. The Indian army advanced quickly to capture Dhaka in the east. In a bitter rage, Nixon ordered a stop to all U.S. aid to India, branding the war Indian aggression. Kissinger called it "Indian-Soviet collusion, raping a friend of ours". Defeated, the Pakistani army signed a peace treaty on 16 December, ending the war and creating a new state, Bangladesh. A rapid growth of revolutionary communist forces occurred, along with a wide following among the masses and the development of some liberated areas outside the control of the various reactionary armies. (The complexity of what happened in Bangladesh during this period is not addressed in this review).

It is important that Bass's book has thoroughly exposed the little-known (outside South Asia) role played by Nixon and Kissinger in the Bangladesh war. By focusing on this particular event, he provides an eye-opening view of the sordid relations between reactionary governments that go on behind the scenes in the complex development of crises often of their creation and usually sealed from public view.

In an earlier book Bass argued for the need for humanitarian intervention to prevent or stop mass slaughters whenever they take place in the world. In The Blood Telegram, Bass argues they should have intervened to prevent the killing but instead pursued the policies they did for two reasons, the long-standing U.S. alliance with Pakistan and Nixon's personal friendship with its dictator General Yahya, and desire to not jeopardize Yahya's role in facilitating Nixon's hoped-for visit to China, seen as a major Cold War coup by Nixon and Kissinger.

But the book is missing a world context and leaves the U.S. government's pursuit of its national interests off the hook. Perhaps exceptional in their open baseness, still Nixon and Kissinger were not just two individuals. They were complicit in and facilitated the murder of East Pakistanis not mainly because of their subjective desires or personal immorality but the global interests that they were serving. They were leading representatives of the interests of an imperialist ruling class, the monopoly capitalists who rule the U.S. which before and since those events, have a long history of maintaining and seeking to expand a world empire of exploitation and oppression.

Bass's book calls Nixon and Kissinger's Bangladesh policy one of the worst crimes of the twentieth century and proves his point in great detail. Yet he ignores some of the evidence he himself brings to light, and especially the conclusions that this evidence objectively points to. In his preface he says that Nixon and Kissinger's "support of a military dictatorship engaged in mass murder is a reminder of what the world can easily look like without any concern for the pain of distant strangers." Yet while it is true that Nixon and Kissinger had no concern for Bangladeshi lives, they were extremely concerned about American imperialist interests. U.S. covert support for West Pakistan, on the one hand, and its public refusal to intervene to stop West Pakistan's slaughter in Bangladesh, on the other, were two sides of the same coin: the interests of maintaining and expanding the American empire in the face of Soviet rivalry for world domination.

The U.S. allied with Yahya's regime because the U.S. ruling class considered Pakistan a reliable ally in their efforts to "contain" (surround) the Soviet Union and counter Soviet-backed India. Nixon and Kissinger's pursuit of talks with China were based not only or even mainly on their personal ambitions but because of the same need for empire.

Bass wants to show that the U.S. should have intervened in Bangladesh on the side of human rights, and that Nixon and Kissinger's greatest crime was not allowing that to happen. He does not fully understand that intervention by the U.S. historically has only been and can only be for its own strategic interests and not for any humanitarian needs. Arguments about intervention or interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign state have always been decided on the basis of the long and sometimes short-term goals of U.S. empire and not on moral grounds. In fact, as Bass documents extensively, in Bangladesh in 1971 Nixon and Kissinger did intervene, on the side that in their view best represented the global interests of the U.S.

The Importance of the Cold War

While nodding to the importance of the Cold War, Bass underestimates the collusion and especially contention between the U.S. and the Soviet Union as driving world events at the time. After World War 2, the Cold War went through many different phases. By the mid 1950's the Soviet Union was socialist in words, but in reality capitalist and imperialist. U.S.-Soviet contention over spheres of influence in Asia, Africa and Latin America led to a nuclear arms race and the increasing possibility of nuclear war.

Ironically, Nixon had been personally identified with the U.S. attempt to strangle the Chinese revolution early on, but, with the development of world events, he and Kissinger came to see the opening of channels with China as a strategic move in advancing American Cold War contention and shoring up of spheres of influence. At that time China, which was still a socialist country, was adopting certain tactical measures, including an "opening to the West," as part of dealing with the very real threat of attack on China by the Soviet Union. Formerly socialist allies, China had exposed the Soviet Union for becoming capitalist. There were intense skirmishes on the Chinese/Soviet border. Nixon and Kissinger understood this tension and thought by pursuing relations with China, they could have a tactical alliance with China against the Soviet Union.

The 1971 massacres and the 10 million refugees took place during a time when Nixon was propagating his "madman theory", by which the world was supposed to understand that he was insane enough to unleash nuclear weapons. Nixon and Kissinger threatened to use them against the Vietnamese. But the Vietnamese liberation struggle and other factors eventually forced Nixon to sign a peace accord. In 1973, the same Nixon/Kissinger government that publicly argued against intervention in Bangladesh organized a military coup against the elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile, seen as a threat to American interests to some degree because of U.S. fears that it would advance Soviet political influence in Latin America and elsewhere. Those events were fuelled by U.S.-Soviet Cold War contention. With the fall of the Berlin wall, the Cold War ended in a U.S. triumph. U.S. strategic goals were then to dismantle the Soviet bloc and establish itself as the sole superpower.

Don't Forget History

Beginning long before the Cold War and throughout the history of the United States, invasions, massacres, occupations, military coups, the use of nuclear weapons on civilian populations (in 1945) and threats to use them against many other countries, and the propping up of death squads and tyrants, have all been part of the fabric and historical foundation of the U.S. empire.

Over the almost 70 years following World War 2 the U.S. wantonly snuffed out millions and millions of lives—overwhelmingly civilians—often to terrorize and crush whole populations. It killed some three million with conventional weapons in South-east Asia during the Vietnam War, more than 500,000 through its backing and organizing of death squads in Central America in the 1980s, not to mention a continuation of such crimes when the Cold War no longer provided an excuse, such as the more than 500,000 Iraqis—mainly children—during the 1990s via the imposition of crippling economic sanctions, and the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. The interests of humanity and the lives of billions of people were nothing compared to considerations of empire.

What happened in Pakistan in 1971 is part of this, not a Nixon/Kissinger aberration. Nixon (who after his death has been somewhat exonerated by public opinion makers) and Kissinger (who despite his crimes is still highly regarded in imperialist circles) based all their actions principally on the basis of protection and expansion of U.S. empire and its spheres of influence.

Pakistan—a Tinderbox Made in the U.S.A.

Pakistan itself is an example of how the U.S. has used whole countries for its own interests and strategic objectives. For decades the U.S. saw it as a counterweight to India, which was allied with the Soviet Union. For much of its existence Pakistan has been ruled by military juntas that fostered Islamization as a foundation of their legitimacy, as a tool of state, and a means of suffocating the masses. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in the 1980s the U.S. stepped up military and economic support to Pakistan in order to aid Islamist opposition to the Soviets. Later the U.S. backed the Pakistani ISI (intelligence services) in helping bring the Taliban to power, which Pakistan saw as a way to ensure that Afghanistan stayed under its influence, instead of falling under that of India. Again, crimes lay the basis for more crimes.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. switched to cultivating India as its main ally in the region, causing increased rivalry between India and Pakistan. In the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan the U.S. drove the Taliban and other Islamists out of Afghanistan and into Pakistan and then further ignited hatred in both Afghanistan and Pakistan by its mass bombings of civilians and overall brutality of its occupation—illegally detaining and torturing both Pakistanis and Afghanis, using drone strikes and other military operations which kill many civilians.

Intervention by imperialist powers and other reactionary states, no matter in what guise, must be understood in this way. Intervention by the U.S. or any imperialist power will never bring about anything good. When thinking about Ukraine or Syria, people should remember what the U.S. did in Bangladesh.


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 #335 April 13, 2014

The High Price of Capitalist Calculation:
Washington State Mudslide Kills 30

April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


"Robin Youngblood was sitting in the living room with her friend, Jetty Dooper, when they heard a crack. 'All of a sudden there was a wall of mud' about 25 feet high, she said. 'Then it hit and we were rolling. The house was in sticks. We were buried under things, and we dug ourselves out.'"

"'In three seconds, everything got washed away,' said Paulo de Oliveira of Lynnwood, who was driving on Highway 530. 'Darkness covering the whole roadway and one house right in the middle of the street.'"

(Seattle Times, March 22. Other quotes in this piece are from the Seattle Times unless otherwise indicated.)

It was late Saturday morning on March 22 in the town of Oso, Washington, in a small community on the south side of the Stillaguamish River, a beautiful spot where young families had bought homes with bright dreams of their lives before them, and where people in their 50s and 60s who had worked hard their whole lives, sought to carve out a peaceful retirement in a place of natural beauty. It was mostly low-income people who were drawn to relatively affordable prices—the average home cost $164,000. (The 2010 national average, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was $272,900.)

March 2014: site of the horrific mudslide near Oso, Washington killing at least 30 people, as the search continues for other victims. Photo: AP

Then, without warning, the side of the hill on the north side of the river gave way, sending tons of mud across the river, across a state highway, and destroying 49 homes on the other side. The debris field from the slide is one square mile and as high as 80 feet in places. The slide moved at estimated speeds of up to 100 mph. People sitting literally side by side one moment, were in the next swept apart and away from each other by mountains of mud and debris. Cars, houses and everything in the path of the slide were crushed and pulverized. A survivor said the first sound was of "trees snapping and cracking ... like Godzilla going through the woods." And then of voices crying out for help, and a baby crying.

Neighbors rushed to the area to rescue who they could amidst mud 20 feet deep and capable of pulling people under like quicksand. An infant was saved, and his mother and some others. Fire departments, police, and volunteers poured in from the surrounding areas.

But there were relatively few rescues, and by the next day there were no more voices to be heard from the giant mud field. One rescuer found his own front door, but his home, his wife, and his child were gone. At least 30 people were dead, 13 are still missing. A community has been destroyed, dreams and lives shattered like the trees that were crushed by the descending slide.

Since the slide, loggers, firefighters, and others from the local area and beyond have engaged in a heroic effort under very difficult and unsafe conditions to first save and now recover people buried under the mud. There is deep sadness about neighbors, friends, and family lost. People have come together in this area and beyond to console and help out in a heartbreaking situation.

A Disaster Foretold...

"This was a completely unforeseen slide. This came out of nowhere."So spoke John Pennington, the director, since 2006, of the Snohomish County Emergency Department. Every word of this is a bald-faced lie.

There had been frequent slides on this hillside over the past 60 years, including a massive one in 1967, and a partial collapse in 2006. In fact, slides had been so regular on this hill over at least the last 65 years that it even had a nickname, "the Hazel landslide." Because of this history, there were numerous geological reports on future slide potential, which repeatedly and consistently said the potential for a major slide was great.

In 1999, a report to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by Daniel J. Miller a geomorphologist (a field that studies how land is shaped and predicts how it will change) and Lynn Rogers Miller warned of "the potential for a large catastrophic failure." After the March 22 slide, Daniel Miller said that "We've known it would happen at some point, we just didn't know when... Frankly, I was shocked that the county permitted any building across from the river."

This was not an isolated case, but one of many. As recently as 2010, Snohomish County commissioned a report to determine how many homes in the county were in danger from landslides. According to the Seattle Times, in that report "the hillside along the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, outside the small community of Oso, was one of those highlighted as most dangerous." The report was completed by Tetra Tech, a California-based engineering and architecture firm. Rob Flaner, a Tetra Tech program manager and one of the report's primary authors, said bluntly, "For someone to say that this plan did not warn that this was a risk is a falsity."

In fact, the danger was so well known to the authorities that in 2004, Snohomish County discussed a plan to buy out the homes in the slide danger zone. Officials wrote at the time that the costs "would be significant, but would remove the risk to human life and structures." But they did not carry out any buy-out plan. In fact, six homes were permitted and built in the danger zone after this. Eight people in those homes, including four children, are dead, or missing and presumed dead.

Were the Residents Warned?

Apparently undeterred by the fact that he had already claimed that no one, and certainly no government officials, knew about the danger of slides, John Pennington then turned right around and said that the government did know, and warned people, but that the problem was the residents. According to Pennington, the people knew, they were warned, but they refused to take the warning seriously:

"This entire year we have pushed message after message that there's a high risk of landslides. The dangers and risks are known."

"We've done everything we could to protect them..." (USA Today, March 26 & 27)

Here it is important to note a bit of trickery: Of course people "knew" that there was a danger of landslides—the history of bigger slides, and numerous small slides that occurred over the years, were a topic of discussion and concern among residents. But what they did not know, and what could not be known, was the danger of catastrophic slides. Residents lived across the river from the hillside, and no past slides had come close to reaching that area. Nor had there been any deaths from landslides in the area in the past. So "common knowledge" gave people a false sense of security that only science could dispel. Pennington's comments play on the difference between what people thought they knew, on the surface of things, and what was actually known, on a scientific basis, about the dangers.

It is the warning of "catastrophic" slides that was so important in the various geological reports submitted to the authorities (none of which, apparently, were disputed by other scientists) and that is what was kept hidden from the residents—in fact, people were repeatedly told that the area was safe, and that the government was doing engineering work to make it safer.

Surviving long-time residents are furious about this, and emphatic that they were not told about it. "If I'd known it was dangerous, I would have moved in a heartbeat," said Dale Dunshee, who sold his property before the slide. Davis Hargrave, a retired architect who lost dozens of neighbors in the slide said that, "We are not a bunch of stupid people ignoring warnings.... We all make risk assessments every day of our lives. But you cannot make a risk assessment on information you do not have."

The Role of Logging

Even though there was scientific information about the potential danger, which the authorities knew about, there was no effort, and in a more basic sense, no mechanism to do anything about it. In fact, the actions taken by officials led to things that may have made the situation worse by authorizing clear-cutting of timber on the plateau above the area.

The role of logging in causing or accelerating landslides is not simple. Landslides happen in nature—they do not necessarily need human interference. It is possible that the Oso slide would have happened no matter what, and it is not definitively established so far that the logging made the landslide potential worse in this case.

But a major thing that precipitates landslides on slopes is when the soil becomes too laden with water; the soil becomes both heavier and looser and can then slide off the rock bed underneath it. When there are trees at the top of the hill, they absorb water, preventing it from running off into the soil. Instead, more of the water is dissipated into the trees' leaf systems, from which it can evaporate. Once full-grown trees are cut, it takes decades for them to grow back, even if timber companies replant, which they do not always do.

Lee Benda, a University of Washington geologist, reported that harvesting of timber can increase soil water "on the order of 20 to 35 percent," and he observed that all past Oso landslides had occurred within five to 10 years of timber harvests on the plateau above.

So when Summit Timber applied to harvest trees in 1988, Paul Kennard, a geomorphologist for the Tulalip Tribes that live in the area, warned regulators that harvesting holds "the potential for a massive and catastrophic failure of the entire hillside." A stop-work order was issued, and a Summit Timber representative wrote the Department of Natural Resources complaining that $750,000 to $1 million worth of timber was at stake, and implying that the real concern was not landslides but rather some nefarious environmentalist agenda.

Ultimately Summit Timber scaled back their logging in the area, expressing their own concerns about the risks to the slope, but in 2004, property owner Grandy Lake applied for a permit to clear a 15-acre tract near the plateau's edge, which was approved with some restrictions. Two years later there was a partial slide. By 2011 they had cleared 20 percent of the trees on the plateau. Now, the 2014 slide has taken the rest of the hillside, right up to the triangle of land clear-cut by Grandy Lake. It is generally acknowledged that unusually heavy rains this year helped create the conditions for the slide, but a mature forest at the top would have significantly lessened the impact of these rains.

Logging is not—as it is sometimes portrayed in the media—a bunch of rugged men carving out a living on their own in the wilderness. Logging is a big industry in the Northwest U.S., and is bound up with the ruling capitalist class as a whole. Many logging companies are part of larger multinationals, or are owned by holding companies or investment banks on Wall Street or other financial centers. They are very powerful politically in the area. Paul Kennard noted that the state rarely objected to proposed timber harvests, and residents of the area point to vast swaths of clear-cutting which leads to countless environmental problems beyond the Oso landslide.

Fighting the timber companies, according to Kennard, is like "David and Goliath, but you don't have the slingshot."

What Kind of a System Is This?

There is a lot of very justified outrage among people in the Northwest about the shocking disregard for lives and well-being of the people, the way in which these were disregarded in favor of timber interests, real estate interests, or even petty political calculation. However, much of this outrage does not go deep enough to the workings of the system, and remains on the level of anger at the personal greed, corruption, dishonesty and cowardice of various officials and companies.

Yes, what top-level people who were more "in the know" did was unforgivable. But the more fundamental question to ask is: What kind of system is it where, in reality, the interests of the people are not the starting point, and the environment is treated as only something to be used and despoiled for profit? This is a system where there is no interest in and no essential mechanism for warning people of dangers like this landslide, for connecting them with the science they need to be forewarned, and for protecting their lives and well-being. A system whose very nature and dynamics crush people's lives in many different ways. This is a system in which a small owning-class of capitalist-imperialists controls the economic lifelines and resources of society. It is a system where profit rules. It is a system where state power is used to preserve and extend global exploitation and misery, and to suppress resistance.

That is capitalism, and it is that system and its ordinary workings, more even than the mud, trees, and river waters, that came crashing down on the people in Oso on March 22, 2014.




Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

Interview with Carl Dix

Mass Incarceration and Criminalization of Youth in Amerikkka—and the Vision for October Month of Resistance

April 2, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |



Revolution recently caught up with Carl Dix, from the Revolutionary Communist Party and an initiator of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, after what was a very intense month of February—a month in which there was the mistrial of the racist murderer Michael Dunn and the failure of the courts to convict him for the killing of Jordan Davis; demonstrations and other forms of resistance that took place on the anniversary of the murder of Trayvon Martin, which also took in Jordan Davis this year; and then Obama's speech on February 27, setting forth a program which he claimed would deal with the situation facing Black and Latino youth. Short excerpts have appeared in previous issues of Revolution. Here is the fuller interview, which has been edited for publication.

The interview began with a discussion of the mistrial of Michael Dunn in Florida. Dunn murdered Jordan Davis in cold blood and was tried, but not convicted of this murder.


Carl Dix: On the trial of Dunn for the murder of Jordan Davis, this came down to Amerikkka (and I spell it with KKK) declaring once again that Black people have no rights that white people are bound to respect. If you look at this case and the trial on this case, you have some teenagers playing their music loud in a car. You have a guy pulling into the gas station, doesn’t like the music, tells them to turn it down. They won’t, there’s an argument back and forth, but the kids are going to listen to their music. And it was Black youth listening to rap music and the guy who wanted it turned down was a white guy who thought that music was crap and thug music, and he pulls out his gun and begins to fire at them, and continues firing after their car has pulled away and is driving off at high speed trying to save their lives. Then this guy gets put on trial for this and claims self-defense. He comes up with an imaginary weapon—a shotgun that no other person on the scene had seen and has never been found—and tears up over having to drive from the scene of this killing to his hotel so that his dog could relieve his bladder, but very coldly and without emotion talks about killing a young Black man. And stripped down to its essence, his testimony was a call for white supremacists to come forward and have his back, that he was striking a blow for “embattled” white people in this society and he should be supported for that, that these Black people are getting out of their place and white people need to start killing some of them to get them to change their behavior. And what I’m saying here is what he actually wrote letters to his family members from jail and what he said in phone calls from jail. The prosecution had the transcripts of those phone calls and those letters—and didn’t bring any of that into court, and I’m going to come back to that in a minute. But this is what happened and you get a jury that can’t convict this guy for murder. This was the system declaring that Black life has no value. And you put this on top of the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman and the refusal of the system to convict Zimmerman for it and you see that there’s a message: Black youth have a target on their backs, a target that any cop and now any white racist could use for target practice, claim self-defense and expect to be vindicated in doing that.

This is unacceptable. This is a declaration that people cannot allow to be made without a response being mounted to it. Because, look, there’s youth who know that this target’s on their backs, that they could have a confrontation with a cop or with a white racist and end up dead. There are parents who give their children guidance: this is what you must do and this is what you must not do if you meet up with a police officer. Now that guidance has to extend to: you’re running into a white guy, you have to watch it, you have to do this, you have to not do that. Knowing all the while that no matter how good that guidance is, no matter how well their children follow that guidance, it may mean nothing in one of these confrontations. Because look at Jordan Davis, look at Trayvon Martin, look at Amadou Diallo, look at Sean Bell and many other names that I could talk about—Jonathan Ferrell1 down in North Carolina. What did they do wrong? Where did they act in ways that brought this on them? It came down to being Black or Latino and in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It’s unacceptable that whether people live and how they live can be determined by the color of their skin—this is something that must not be accepted. That’s why when I issued the statement right after the verdict in the Jordan Davis case, I said: this shows us again why we need a revolution, why we have to get rid of this system. Because you’re talking about brutality and oppression that has been built into the fabric of this Amerikkkan capitalist system from the very beginning. And there’s a lot of questioning out there among people about why does this happen, where does this come from, and what, if anything, can be done about it? And that’s a discussion that needs to be unleashed very broadly in society and we gotta be right in the middle of it, bringing out why does it happen, where does it come from, and how it flows from the very operation of this system.

Because when you look at the history of Black people in this country it has always been a thing of being integrated into and ground up under the process of the production of profit in this country. In the beginning it was enslavement and being worked from “can’t see in the morning to can’t see at night,” producing tobacco and then cotton and getting nothing for doing that—just enough to keep you going so you could come back out to the fields and work the next day. And then you had a whole system of laws, institutions to enforce those laws, and customs and the way that things were to keep that in place and to mobilize all of white society as part of keeping that in effect. Slavery was ended post-Civil War, but you still had Jim Crow segregation, people largely on the same plantations where they’d been enslaved, but now they were sharecroppers producing often the same crops and being robbed for it by the plantation owners who may have enslaved them previously. This is what people were dealing with. And a whole system of Jim Crow laws, tradition, custom, to enforce it, and again white society was mobilized to do that. Because you had the sheriffs who could arrest people for vagrancy which came down to being in the wrong place at the wrong time with no white man to speak for you. And then you could be imprisoned and leased out where you were worked as a slave—slavery by another name is what it came down to. If you were deemed to be out of your place by the white mob, you could be lynched. If you were a Black person in an area where a white mob, decided that some Black guy had gotten out of his place, you could be lynched because the record of lynching in this country records all of these incidents—where they couldn’t find the person they were looking for so they grabbed some other people, where someone spoke out against the lynching and then got lynched themselves. This all went on.

The forms have changed once more. It became a thing not of sharecroppers on the plantation but Black people being drawn into the cities to work in the factories. But again, what did that come down to? The bottom tier of those workforces, working some of the hardest, most dangerous jobs, getting paid the least. This is something that I actually know something about because I worked in a steel mill. And you go into the steel mill and there was a Black labor gang where the people in that labor gang could work all of the jobs in the place and even often trained the young guys coming in—and they told me about how white guys would come into the plant and they would get trained on the jobs that paid more, were cleaner and not as dangerous, but the Black workers could not move up to take any of those jobs. Also I know about it because I got scars from having worked there when I got burned nearly to death in that plant. So this is the kind of thing that people moved into as they got off the plantations. So it was not easy street, it was still on the bottom, being viciously exploited.

But even now there’s been a further development of that. The process of production has been internationalized so those jobs are no longer available for people in the inner cities. And what it is, is that right now large numbers of youth cannot be profitably exploited by capitalism-imperialism at this point. And what those youth face is no future within this system, there’s no way for them to legitimately survive and raise families. And the response of the authorities has been one of criminalizing these youth—that’s where that target that I talked about earlier comes from. These youth are treated as permanent suspects, guilty until proven innocent if they can survive to prove their innocence. So that’s what we’re up against right now, and we’re talking, again, about horrific oppression that is built into the fabric of this capitalist system. This is oppression that can’t be reformed away; it can’t be tweaked out of existence. It’s really going to take revolution—and nothing less—to get rid of it once and for all.

Now, I mentioned some things which I do want to go back to. Because Angela Corey, whose office prosecuted George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin and couldn’t get a conviction, also did the case of Jordan Davis and she was unable to get a conviction on murder. And this office did have these vicious racist statements from Michael Dunn that bore pretty much directly on what he actually did, like why people need to start killing these Black thugs and get them to change their behavior. He said this repeatedly over the phone, in writing—the prosecution had it and made no attempt to bring that in. They didn’t even bring it in to impeach his credibility when he said: I have never had racist sentiments. This was part of his testimony. This is the guy who said white people need to start killing Black people to get them to change their behavior. The prosecution made no attempt to bring that in, and it’s not that Angela Corey’s office is just plain incompetent. It’s that in cases like these where it is George Zimmerman on trial for criminalizing and murdering Trayvon Martin, a young Black man, or Michael Dunn on trial for criminalizing and murdering Jordan Davis, a young Black man—they “forget” how to prosecute.

But when it comes to running Black and Latino people into jail in all kinds of cases and like that, there’s no forgetfulness there. Corey’s office is very efficient at doing that. I met people... there’s one family of a 12-year-old who Corey attempted to get sent up for life—not until he became an adult, but for the rest of his life. She didn’t fully get that, but she got decades on him. Another case where a youth was charged with having carried out a robbery with a BB gun—he goes to school one morning and the cops come into the school and arrest him with no warrant. Their evidence is that there is a phone that he may have had access to that has something to do with this robbery, but the access that he had was the same access that a number of other people in the school had. They hold him, interrogate him for 24 hours, and force a confession out of him. This youth is now doing 49 years in prison. So what you have is you have an office that is very good at imprisoning Black and Latino people but forgets how to do it when it’s somebody going up for crimes committed against Black and Latino people.

February 26 National Day of Outrage and Remembrance for Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis

Revolution: You went to Jacksonville on February 26 along with Juanita Young, the mother of Malcolm Ferguson who was murdered by New York City police. After the mistrial of Michael Dunn, the Stop Mass Incarceration Network added Jordan Davis to its call for that day. Could you speak to how you saw that and what you thought needed to be done in the face of that, why you and Juanita Young went to Jacksonville, and some of what you learned?

Carl Dix: The Stop Mass Incarceration Network issued a call for a nationwide day of outrage and remembrance around Trayvon Martin on February 26 because that was two years since he was murdered by George Zimmerman. And when the trial of the killer of Jordan Davis ended—the Stop Mass Incarceration Network decided to add Jordan Davis to that day of outrage and remembrance. And this was actually very important because there was a lot of questioning about: is there anything we can do about this? We marched when Trayvon’s killer was exonerated and then here we have it happening again. The system refuses to convict a murderer. And some people were even thinking and voicing that maybe we just have to get used to this, we have to accept this. And it was very important that a call went out: No, we must not accept this and cannot accept this and we don’t have to either. And the call from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network was for: Hoodies Up on February 26! Reports on what happened on the 26th are still coming in. And one place that I really suggest people go is they go to the website—because that’s a site where you can find out not only what happened on February 26 but what’s happening.... with the movement for revolution, that is very needed that we in the Revolutionary Communist Party are forging, what that’s doing, what’s happening in this movement of resistance to mass incarceration, what’s happening in the movement of resistance to the attacks on women in this society, and everything. And you can get guidance for how to do that, and you can also find out about the leadership we have for this revolution in Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party. And part of why we don’t have to accept it is because revolution is not only needed but it’s possible, and its possibility is greatly enhanced by the work that Avakian’s doing. And people need to check that out, engage it, get into it, and spread the word to others around it.

  • Los Angeles, California, February 26, 2014
  • Oakland, California, February 26, 2014
  • Seattle, Washington, February 26, 2014
  • Atlanta, Georgia, February 26, 2014
  • Times Square, New York, February 26, 2014
  • Cleveland, Ohio, February 26, 2014
  • Houston, Texas, February 26, 2014
  • Chicago, Illinois, February 26, 2014
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Revolution: I want to ask you a little bit more about the 26th. I think it would be good to talk about what would have happened if SMIN had not called what it did call and what effect that would have had, so people can appreciate the impact their actions have. And to talk some... did this reach into the media? Did it have an impact?

Carl Dix: There was a sentiment of: can we do anything about this? Not that people felt that it was anything less than a horrible outrage, but a sense of maybe we can’t do anything. And it was very important that that sense was gone against, that sense was engaged and struggled over. And we began to notice it very sharply right after the verdict came down. I remember being in Harlem and encountering some youth who listened to me speak—people had read my statement, and I got up and I spoke and expounded on some things. And they listened intently, but then when we approached them and asked them for their thoughts one of them said, “I have no thoughts.” And then the other said, “I’ve got a lot of thoughts, but it wouldn’t make any difference if I told you about them. It would just make me madder, and what could we do about it anyway?” And we realized we had to get into it with these two young people, and they ended up taking material to go into their school and to mobilize people, getting that it would make a difference if they remain silent in the sense of hammering in that assessment—nothing we can do, we just gotta roll with this stuff. But it makes a difference the other way if people like them—they and people like them—begin to act, begin to counter that sentiment, begin to say “no we don’t have to accept this.” And begin to grapple with this question of revolution and what kind of world could be brought into being—is that possible and what does that mean that people like them need to do? Which they were taking a beginning step of by getting Revolution newspaper and taking some of the palm cards around the National Day of Outrage and Remembrance, that they were actually beginning to engage that and step into it.

And this had to be spread societywide because while we had to engage it on the streets with people, we also had to get it out there to reach people that we won’t be able to run into on the street. And we worked at getting it out through social media, on Facebook, tweeting about it, spreading the word. And it did have impact because right now we know of 18 cities—including something came in last night, this morning, that it happened in Birmingham on the 26th—that people took up the Hoodies Up! call. It happened in the areas where the Stop Mass Incarceration Network already has some organization, or beginning organization. And that was important. People in the Oakland area did a rally at Fruitvale Station, the scene of the murder of Oscar Grant by a cop on New Year’s Day of 2009. People acted in Chicago, in New York. But also we began to find out that there were places were the Stop Mass Incarceration Network had no contact with people who heard about this call for the Hoodie Day and did something. There were people in a sorority in Houston. People at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee organized an event which they posted at SMIN's website and which got covered in the media there. But there were also media things like Bethune Cookman, which is a historically Black college in Florida—some students there did a vigil. This began to be taken up more broadly, and what it does speak to and address is that there was a feeling that something needed to be done. There was anger about this, a feeling something needed to be done, but that anger had to be tapped into and mobilized and organized. And that was the role that the call from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network took up and acted on and brought forth a response, and a response that... it was on BET that afternoon that this was happening and that organizers were calling for it to happen across the country. There was some newspaper that has a regional spread in the South—not a Black newspaper—a more mainstream one, had something about it and talked about the Bethune Cookman vigil. But then I saw the same write-up without the Bethune Cookman vigil somewhere in Louisiana.

So the word began to be spread, people took this up, and it was very important that in the face of... coming off of the anger people have, but also in the face of questioning if there was anything that expressing this anger could do, any role it could play, it was very important. Because when people look back at the Trayvon Martin murder and the exoneration of the killer, it made a very big difference that people took to the street, and took to the street in significant numbers—not large enough, but in significant numbers. I guess there were thousands of people who marched into Times Square in New York, people in Los Angeles who blocked traffic on an interstate—things like that happening all across the country. And it does make a difference if these are met with determined response. Because if they’re not, there’s a message involved in this: a message of the criminalization of these youth, permanent suspects, targets on their backs, no rights that white people are bound to respect—all of this is being declared. And if that becomes something that people accept as just the way things are, it is not only going to continue to happen but it is going to escalate, it is going to get even worse. Because there is really a call for the white supremacists, fascist foot soldiers, to come forward and play a role in enforcing this putting of the oppressed back in their places. And that’s all a part of the mix that’s going on right now.

Revolution: Also there was coverage on the Essence magazine website, NBC News had it on its site, Democracy Now! had some very good coverage on its site. It was very important that people understand. I’m just seconding and filling out some things. I also noted that the cast of the classic play about an African-American family in a racist neighborhood in Chicago, Raisin in the Sun, which was a play from the early 1960s that’s now being revived on Broadway, did something in solidarity with Trayvon Martin and in remembrance of the day. Were there other cultural expressions that you know of?  

Carl Dix: That was actually an important arena in which things happened because you think back to... as motion developed around Trayvon Martin’s murder you had things like professional basketball players wearing hoodies, the Miami Heat doing a team picture in hoodies, Amar’e Stoudemire of the NY Knicks putting on his hoodie as he’s out going through the practice line shooting lay-ups and stuff. So that was an important expression, and for the cast of Raisin in the Sun to take a stand in solidarity.

Revolution: Dwayne Wade was behind a lot of that, wasn’t he?

Carl Dix: Dwayne Wade was at the heart of the Miami Heat taking a stand, he brought the whole team onto doing it. The cast of Raisin in the Sun—that’s actually pretty significant when you look at what that play is about, going back to the 1960s and the question of Black people trying to move into a white neighborhood and what they ran into. And then today looking at what Black people are running into, and the cast wanting to make a statement around that has some special significance. There also were 10-minute plays—six 10-minute plays—that were put on at the National Black Theater in Harlem earlier in February under the theme of Trayvon, Race and Privilege. It was actually seven playwrights because one of the plays was a collaboration—these seven playwrights all went at the question of Trayvon’s murder, the criminalization of Black youth, from different angles – some going more directly for the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin confrontation, others taking up things like police murder of Black youth. One play even went at this from the perspective of humor to underscore this thing of Black youth are being criminalized in this society. I thought that the plays—and by design—were trying to go at: this is a question that people have to look at, this is something that people gotta deal with. And I went to the opening and closing—I think there were five or six performances up in Harlem at the National Black Theater—and each time it was basically overflow crowds. The ushers were going around: “If you’ve got a seat next to you, raise your hand”—trying to fill in all the seats. And there were still people standing in the back.  

And almost everybody stayed around for the discussions that they had afterward, and there was a lot of questioning of where is this coming from, why does this happen, and what if anything can we do about it? Including some questioning of, is this basically our fault? Do we have to get our young people to pull their pants up, take off the hoodies and start wearing vests or sweaters or something like that? Is that the way to deal with this? Or is this something that is being done to Black people and being done to Black youth? And who or what is behind it? And there was really lively discussion, including with the participation of revolutionary communists who were bringing out there is a system behind this. Because, look, if the youth stop sagging their pants, are the cops going to be less unleashed to brutalize and murder them? Is the court system going to be less operated in a way that targets them? Is the fact that Black people are not... the capitalist system has no way to profitably exploit most of these Black youth (and Latino youth, for that matter) that are growing up in the inner cities of this country—is that going to be changed? No, it’s not. 

And in fact there is a positive side to the fact that Black youth, Latino youth, are not disposed toward accepting the bullshit that is being brought down on them. And in relation to that I think back to the 1960s, and so do the people who run this country—that it was very important that a section, particularly of Black youth, were not disposed to take this bullshit, and that there were leaders like Malcolm X, say, who was a nationalist, but one who called out the system and sided with and stood with those youth who did not want to take this bullshit. And that was very important in pulling the covers off of Amerikkka and exposing what this country was about and bringing forward others to join in the struggle, and he spearheaded a broader revolutionary movement to rock the system back on its heels. And frankly it’s a positive thing that there are youth today who don’t want to take the bullshit. Now that’s gotta be led, that’s gotta be given guidance, the youth have gotta be struggled with to get out of shit that they’re in right now, and get with the revolution. But that spirit of not taking this shit is something that they can and must bring into the movement for revolution—so that’s a positive thing.

What the Murders of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis Mean—And Must Come to Mean

Revolution: This was something of a watershed event, the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman and then Zimmerman’s acquittal, and then coming on top of that, the mistrial of Michael Dunn for the murder of Jordan Davis. What does it mean to people and what must it come to mean?  

Carl Dix: I made the point about how this is a declaration that Black people have no rights that white people are bound to respect. People themselves are looking at historical analogies in relation to this. Because the “no rights that white people are bound to respect” is drawn from the 1857 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case. It was a guy who escaped from slavery and who was brought into court in order to try to bring him back, and the Supreme Court ruled: hey, you got no rights, you’re property, you don’t really exist. And this has been a statement and a social relation that has continued to exist in this country. When Trayvon was murdered, and again when Jordan was murdered—and in each case the killer was not convicted. There were people talking about: I don’t want to be here 50 years from now talking to my children or my grandchildren about another Black youth that’s been murdered and nothing is done. And they’re thinking back to Emmett Till who was lynched in the 1950s by two white men because he supposedly whistled at a white woman. And they got put on trial before an all-white jury that within an hour found them not guilty, and then they sold their story about lynching this Black youth to a national magazine. But that’s how bold they were about it—they sold the story to this national magazine about how they had committed this horrific crime. And people are looking back and saying: Why does this keep happening? And I don’t want to be doing this 50 more years down the road. So it was a moment when a lot does get concentrated. Are they going to continue to be allowed to get away with this? 

It is very important and it was very important that in our coverage in Revolution newspaper coming off of the murder of Trayvon and the exoneration of his murderer that we said they must not be allowed to get away with this and they cannot be allowed. This has to actually become a period where people look back and say: boy, a lot of people started along the path to coming to understand that this system is just no damn good, it is illegitimate, and it’s gotta be gotten rid of, and it’s going to take revolution—nothing less to do that. And that’s a message that needs to go out to people. It has to go out in a much broader way, in an escalated way, because this is what people need to be engaging, grappling with, and it’s what they need to be getting with. And this was the message that some of us revolutionaries were bringing out at the talkbacks after those Trayvon plays, and we gotta project this through society. Because that is what needs to happen off of this. We are talking about vicious oppression that’s built into the fabric of this system, and people hate this—a lot of anger—and not only among the people who directly suffer it. Because after the Trayvon verdict there were large numbers of white people who came out to these demonstrations and who were saying: I don’t want to live in a society where this happens, where whether somebody lives or dies is determined by the color of their skin. 

And it’s important to tap into that anger and that sentiment and give it forms of expression because there’s another side that comes out in relation to that. There’s a way in which the powers-that-be can’t help but recognize the sentiment that’s developing among people and they take steps to misdirect it, to try to channel it back into the system. Like on the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington last year there was a lot of talk about: we need a new Civil Rights movement, we need to get activated in trying to get more reforms of the way the system works and to try to hang onto some of the reforms that were being taken back that we thought had been won in the past. Because voting rights are under assault all across the country—which was an important battle in the 1960s. Not because you can vote your way to freedom, but it is an expression of how people are viewed in society if the color of their skin, whether they’re Black or Latino, or other things can be used as reasons to deny them the right to vote. So there’s a lot of effort being made to channel people back into the system, and it’s very important that the actual reality be brought out. We’re talking about mass incarceration and the criminal injustice system. This is not a system that is basically working and there are a few excesses that need to be reformed or tweaked. It is institutions that have been unleashed to target people—that’s a key part of the program of suppression, targeting Black and Latino people...and that it needs to be fought, it needs to be stopped, and to get rid of it once and for all is going to take revolution—nothing less.

Revolution: It seemed that in the summer, if I remember correctly, at first Obama was not even trying to speak to this, and at a certain point, after people had done the actions at Times Square, after they had seized the I-10 freeway in Los Angeles, after even some people who used to be called Uncle Toms actually spoke out in dismay and anger. Only at that point was Obama compelled to try to step to the head of this and rein things in. 

Carl Dix: The Black president has been something that has been deployed as part of trying to bring people back into the killing confines of this system, and even back to his initial election and the way in which it drew people in. That was an important thing because I remember a lot of his supporters were themselves beginning to chafe at his silence in the wake of the verdict around Travyon. And he did come out with a statement trying to situate himself in relation to the growing anger that was developing. I think it was the thing he said about if he had a son he would look like Trayvon, and then he said a little bit later: Trayvon was me a few decades ago, that could have been me. And then he tied that to his overall approach to this question which consistently comes down to blaming the masses of oppressed people for what the system does to oppress them, and proposing some surface reforms and tweaks that aren’t going to get at the heart of the problem.  

Going to the Scene of the Murder of Jordan Davis

Revolution: I want to get to that in a minute. But first, I do want to hear a little bit more about the delegation made up of you and Juanita Young, who is the mother of Malcolm Ferguson who was murdered by New York City police in the year 2000 and who herself has been a very important and consistent fighter against all police murder and all police brutality. If you could talk a little bit about why you went to Jacksonville, why you thought it was important to go, what you learned, what people did there, and how you would answer people who would say the problem is with Florida and Florida’s extreme racism. 

Carl Dix: We decided to do the delegation down to Jacksonville because Jacksonville was the scene of the crime. It was where Jordan Davis had been murdered and where the mistrial of his murderer occurred, where the system refused to convict the murderer for an open and naked murder. So we felt it was important to help bring national attention and bring some people from the movement of resistance to mass incarceration and all its consequences down to Jacksonville. And people down there really welcomed the fact that we came down. They were like: we gotta delegation coming down from New York! They knew about me because Cornel West and I had done the video calling for February 26th to happen, and it turned out they had played the video for a lot of people. So they welcomed the fact that we were going down and in fact when I spoke at the rally there were people like: “Oh, that’s the guy from the video! I didn’t know he was coming.” And people really warmed to that. 

Fifty people came out and pretty much the overwhelming majority of them were people who had directly felt the lash of the criminal injustice system. There were about eight family members of a guy who had been killed by the police in front of the home he had grown up in, while his mother, his two children, two nieces and a nephew watched. They brutally beat him, stopped, went back to their car and put on gloves for some reason, came back, beat him some more, and then shot him. And all this happened while his family and more than a dozen other people watched. These cops have not in any way been punished for this.

Then there were a number of people who had family members who were in prison, and some of them were doing one-family campaigns to try to expose what had happened. And one of the families had gone so far as to look at the procedures and policies of the prosecutor’s office in dealing with juveniles because there are really a lot of juveniles who get sentences that amount to spending the rest of your life in prison. They tried to give a 12-year-old natural life without parole for a crime he committed as a 12-year-old. A 17-year-old has gotten 49 years for a robbery committed with a BB gun that there was very little evidence tying him to, but the cops arrested him in school one morning with no warrant, interrogated him for 24 hours with no legal representation or parent, and forced a confession out of him. This family has documented 89 violations of the prosecutor’s office policies. And the prosecutor’s office response is: we do that all the time. They didn’t deny it, didn’t say you’re wrong, they said we do that all the time. Think of all of the people who have been run through it, and especially all the juveniles—because this man was a juvenile. So all of this goes on. There were people like that, several families like that. 

And a number of formerly incarcerated people who are coming out of having been in jail and feeling like... one man told me: I gotta give back because, look, I did what they got me for, I was dealing. I gotta give back because I feel like I was poisoning my community before but now I want to be part of... well, he actually put it like this. He said: “Revolution is like a tsunami, and I want to be a part of bringing that tsunami into being so that it can clean away everything that’s holding people back.” And then as we talked about it, he was like: “I’m not clear about how this happens.” I said, “Well, there’s something to that analogy but you gotta really focus on: it can look like a tsunami, but if there’s not a core of people working to bring it into being, working to contribute to creating the conditions through which that revolutionary upsurge and wave happens and can give it leadership to make sure that it does go in the direction that it can and needs to go in terms of sweeping away the old structure and bringing in a totally different and far better way for people to live.” And he said: “Yeah, that’s the thing I’ve been trying to think about. How do you do that? Is that how it happens?” And then we zeroed in on BA Speaks: REVOLUTION– NOTHING LESS! as something he and others need to get into. 

And then people marched to prosecutor Angela Corey’s office and it was very spirited. I mean, people really wanted to get down to that office to display their determination for this to stop. One thing that got raised to me quite a bit was that Florida is different, and some of you don’t know how it is. And, look, Florida is a concentration of the way the criminal injustice system in this country has been unleashed to beat people down, lock them up, and lock them away, including locking them away for horrific periods of time. When they dedicated the new courthouse Angela Corey made a speech along with some other public figures, and she said: “I want to give a million years of jail time in this new courthouse.” This is what she said publicly on the dedication of this building. So it does reflect some of this concentration of it. And there is an old South aspect of it in the way that it targets Black people as well as a new South aspect because there’s also the rounding up of immigrants and the processing of them for deportation. So there is something about Florida. And if Nina Simone redid her song, which she can’t do since she’s passed away, but if Nina Simone’s song “Mississippi, Goddamn!” was redone you’d probably want to add a Florida, Goddamn! stanza or two to it. But it really is a concentration of what happens all across the country. Because I was talking with people about how there’s been exposure of, in Brooklyn, the prosecutor’s office has... this one cop in particular, there’s dozens of cases where he used the same informant to convict people. And this guy gets fed the information: here’s the story. He gets brought into court, testifies to it, people get sent away. And it finally got broken in the case of this guy named Ranta, but then it turns out there are dozens of cases where this same informant is the only evidence that put people away for decades. So now they’ve got dozens of cases that they’re trying to figure out: Do we have to let all of these people out, is there any way we can keep it together and keep them in? 

So this kind of stuff happens all across the country, but there is a certain concentration in Florida. Because one thing is the case of Marissa Alexander, the Black woman who fired a warning shot when she was being confronted by her ex who had beaten her previously and was threatening to kill her. At that point she got a gun, fired a warning shot, and chased him off. She ended up being charged with aggravated assault against him and convicted and sent away for 20 years and the court ruled that Stand Your Ground in her case did not apply. And it was Angela Corey’s office that was prosecuting this case too. That conviction ended up being overturned and she now has a new trial coming up in July, but along with overturning the conviction, the appeals court ruled that she has to face three charges of aggravated assault because there were two children in the house and if she gets convicted on all of them they have to be served consecutively, consecutive 20 year sentences. So in other words, she’s now facing 60 years. This is the approach that Angela Corey’s office takes.  So there is something about Florida, but it is a concentration of things that happen all across the country. 

It is really a horrific miscarriage of justice. I mean, a woman who has been beaten by her ex a number of times, and that’s part of why he’s an ex, defends herself, but doesn’t kill the person, decides it’s just enough to fire the warning shot and that’ll send him off. And it worked. So she didn’t kill the person who was threatening her, but she was being threatened and defending her life and she gets taken into court and there’s no Stand Your Ground that’s applicable there, and not even... because there’s a basic right to self-defense in the legal system in this country. That gets thrown away too. And that’s what’s going down, and it is very important that this case be fought through and that Marissa not be sent back to jail. This would be a tremendous outrage if she got sent back to jail. 

Obama's Poisonous "My Brother's Keeper" Initiative

Revolution: You’ve also talked about how Obama began to change up a little bit some of the way he was presenting things, and felt he had to, right after the... not after the verdict on George Zimmerman but after the response from masses of people to the verdict on Zimmerman. 

Carl Dix: Actually it turned out that February 26 was also the day that Obama held a meeting in the White House and then the next day made a public announcement of an initiative that he’s launching called My Brother’s Keeper. It’s an initiative to bring private foundations and companies into contributing money to set up programs to mentor Black youth and to try to save some of them from the things that await them out in the streets. Look, it was not accidental—the timing of that, that the meeting happened on the 26th, the anniversary of the murder of Trayvon Martin. And in fact, he had the parents of both Trayvon and Jordan Davis at this meeting and at the public announcement the next day, along with a number of other people that pointed to exactly what this thing was about. And this initiative is pure poison. In a certain sense, it was a really ugly display. Because you got the guy who presides over the system that is criminalizing these young people, that’s warehousing people in prison, that’s treating formerly incarcerated people like less than full citizens, and he starts off his talk about America’s a place where you can make it if you try hard. Bullshit! America is a place where people who work the hardest... who worked harder than the enslaved Africans? And who got less for it? You know, the wealth and power of this country can all be taken back to the dragging of African people here in slave chains and the theft of the land from the native inhabitants. And that is where America came from, that’s what it grew up on, so don’t tell me about America’s a place where if you try hard you can make it. That is exactly not real, that’s exactly not true. Then he goes on to say, well, let’s not talk about what the problem is, let’s just grab a hold of what works and go with that. Well, he actually identifies a problem, but in talking about not talking about what the problem is, he doesn’t want people getting into and looking at the fact that this is something that the system is doing to people. But he brings forward an assessment of the problem, and that is that the problem is people and their lack of personal responsibility. And particularly it’s Black men not playing their role in society: fathering children but not being there in the family for them, not helping to raise their children, not playing the role of a man in society. And, again, turning reality on its head, blaming people being oppressed for what the system is doing to oppress them, and then bringing forward a prescription for change that is not going to address that oppression but actually tighten it up. 

And there are a couple of things I gotta get into off of this. One is Obama says: I’m doing this to strengthen America. I think back to the 1960s and one of the sharp questions around which people contended and struggled quite a bit is: Is this a movement... coming from the movement of Black people and then being taken up by others... is ours a movement to get our place in America, get our seats at the table? Or is America not only our problem, but the world’s problem? And what came forth in the 1960s was a very powerful section of the movement that was saying the problem is America. And we see our struggle in alliance with people around the world who are fighting against America. I think about some of the people in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee who were down South, dealing with lynch mob terror and all of that, working with Black people down there to register to vote and to do other things, who were also saying hell no, we won’t go to Vietnam and beginning to identify with the Vietnamese people in their struggle against U.S. imperialism. I think of the Black Panther Party putting out a call that Black soldiers should not go to Vietnam and fight for the U.S., that our fight was against U.S. imperialism. And all of that, which I remember very vividly personally because I had to grapple with all of that when I got my orders to go to Vietnam after I got drafted in the 1960s. And sentiment like that was a part of what led me to refuse to go to Vietnam.

So I’m thinking: Obama is doing this to strengthen America. I say to people being ground down by this system: You don’t want to get drawn into strengthening America because America is what’s grinding you and people all around the world like you down. And where you need to be standing is: How do we all get out from under America by making revolution and getting rid of American imperialism and all the imperialisms in the world? You can’t go with: We gotta strengthen our oppressor and that somehow that’s in the interests of people in this country or anywhere else in the world. That was one thing that really struck me about it. 

Another thing is you’re supposed to be trying to do something to help Black men who are in bad situations in this country—well, who does Obama bring to this goddamned meeting? He brings and honors Michael Bloomberg, former New York mayor, Mr. Stop-and-Frisk. Bloomberg did a lot around the situation of young Black men—he unleashed his police force to stop-and-frisk them in numbers that ended up that they were stopping and frisking more Black men between the ages of 15 and 24 than there were in New York City. Which means some of them would get stopped and frisked numerous times by the cops This is somebody who you’re going to buddy up with and partner up with to do something about the situation of young Black men? It ain’t going to be something good if you’re doing it with Michael Bloomberg. 

Obama also brings there Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News fascist commentator. He calls himself the first two, but I had to add that last point to get to the reality of what this man stands for. And this is a guy who had been recently talking about: well, look, the problem with Black people... one of the things he’s saying right now is the problem with Black people is rap music and you gotta do something about those rappers because that’s a disease that is poisoning America. But he also talks about the problem with Black people is that you’ve got all of these women who are having children out of wedlock and that that is what’s devastating Black America and it’s dragging the whole country down—so you gotta do something about that. 

This brings me to another thing that hits me about Obama’s initiative, what was missing from what he said: We’re going to do something about what’s happening to Black men and it’s kinda like, Black women, they’re kinda okay. Maybe some problems there, but they’re kinda okay, we just have to do something about the situation that Black men face. And again, that is not the reality. It is not the reality that Black women are doing okay and we just have to do something in relation to the men. Because when you look at what’s happening in this country, you look at waves of evictions of families that are headed by single women—it happened in the wake of the economic meltdown of 2007 and 2008. This is women and their children being set out on the street because of developments in the overall economy that stripped away from them any way that they had to survive and keep the family together. This is going on. You’ve got cuts in the food stamp program, which again is hitting very hard at women and their children and women who have the main responsibility to see to it that the children are fed. That’s leading to spreading hunger in this country. You even have things like breast cancer... you know, like 20 years ago the rate at which women died from breast cancer was relatively even. But the rate that Black women die from breast cancer has skyrocketed over the past 20 years. You have situations where Black women are dying one-and-a-half and two times as often as white women of this disease. 

And then there was just an article in Revolution newspaper about the prison in Alabama, I think it’s called Tutwiler. And what it displayed was a report that had come from the federal government about the widespread... it’s a women’s prison... the widespread instances of rape of the prisoners by male guards. The article just provided a snapshot, but that snapshot was horrific. It was that guards just forced themselves on women. Then guards do things like: You want some toilet paper? You want a tampon? Then you gotta have sex with me. And it is becoming a thing where that’s how you operate in the prison. I mean... toilet paper, tampons—we’re not talking about people trying to do outlandish shit, it’s just basic necessities. But the way that you get that basic necessity is that you allow this fucking pig to force himself on you. This is the situation that people are being put in, and it took me back to slavery and the way in which if you were a female who was enslaved on the plantation, any white man with ties to the plantation could rape you because you were not a human being that any transgressions could be committed against. The only problem you might run into is if some white man with higher status on the plantation decided he wanted to be the exclusive one to rape that female slave—that’s the only way you run into any problem. And those conditions are being repeated today, and frankly it is a form of enslavement, and some of the things that are coming down on it. So this is going on. 

Well, if you begin to talk about incarceration, you can’t leave women out of that conversation. One, because the fastest growing segment of people in prison is Black women—that’s actually the fastest growing segment. So you gotta have that in there. There are fewer women in prison than men, fewer Black women in prison than Black men—that is true. But the fastest growing segment is Black women. But even more important than that, when you send someone to jail, the whole family is doing time. So you send a man to jail—there are children tied to that, there are partners and spouses tied to that, or people are working together to try to raise children. There are mothers tied to that, and that whole family has their life enmeshed in the criminal justice system. You’re like: Can we go and visit and sometimes it’s a long trip? So, can we make that long trip, do we have the money to make that long trip? The phone call... you get robbed by the phone companies on that. So it does come down to talking about can we relate to the brother who’s in prison or do we pay the electric bill? These kinds of questions get thrown up before people. So you can’t separate that out and say you’re going to deal with it and say I’m going to deal with Black men and what they’re up against but the women have no relation to that.

Now, part of what is posed here [by Obama] is a prescription of: strengthen male right and kind of like the Black man has to much more become the figure who’s in control of the women and children. This is a prescription that’s being put forward in this. And it’s something that’s actually been argued for—you could take this back to the Moynihan report back in the 1960s, I believe, or 1970s—I forget exactly when. But Senator Moynihan said that the single most important factor in the problems in the Black community was the Black family being pulled apart and there no longer being men in the house and that’s the thing that you gotta deal with.

And then you’ve had like... George W. Bush used to like to push this thing of: we’re going to get people married. All of this ignores the larger forces that are at work here—the way in which the process of production has become globalized and there is not a role for increasingly large numbers of Black and Latino people to be profitably exploited in that process of production. And that’s the backdrop against which two-parent families aren’t being formed in large numbers among Black people. That’s what’s going on but the way it’s being addressed is this thing about: we gotta get the men to man up and to play their responsibility, be the father in the house, the head of the household. And it is really calling for a strengthened patriarchy: male domination within Black families. That to me is part of what ties into this thing of leaving the women out of it—that it is asserting that that needs to happen and that that’s a development that needs to go down.

Now, in relation to Obama’s initiative, there’s been a lot of criticism of it. But a lot of the criticism misses the point. Because one of the things often said is that it’s too little and it’s too late. People look at the figure of $200 million [for the initiative] and talk about how much goes into the military budget, how five times that amount is going to Ukraine, and all this kinda stuff. Not enough and why didn’t you do this sooner? Well, that doesn’t get to the heart of it because what is actually at issue... and they also raise the thing about why is it private and not the government doing something. That doesn’t actually get to the heart of it because what this is, is an attempt to get in front of some things. It is in part a response to that anger that came out around Trayvon, that was still there around Jordan Davis, and saying: we’re dealing with it, don’t worry. We’ve got a program for it, we’ve got a plan—and trying to suck people in behind that approach and that plan. And that we can bring a few more people through the meatgrinder—because that’s what’s in operation in Black communities and Latino communities across the country, a grinder that is breaking the bodies and crushing the spirits of countless millions of people. And this is an approach that says: Well. maybe we can bring a few more people through that grinder. And that’s the way that this initiative is going to work. And to talk about it as too little and too late misses that it is actually aimed at keeping the operation of that meat grinder going.

We Need Revolutionary Role Models, Female and Male

Revolution: I want to go back to this point you were making about how Obama’s speech on February 26th actually representing a proposal for strengthening patriarchy. In Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution, Bob Avakian says, look, this is a very complex question. BA does two things: first he draws on that book Rebirth of a Nation, and the point that’s made in there is that Booker T. Washington was bringing forward in the late 1890s and early 1900s this notion of accommodation to the system coupled with a big emphasis on male right within the Black family and it’s very conservative, patriarchal, heavy religious; and that, on the contrary, Ida B. Wells was the first real anti-lynching activist. And that these were two trends. So one point is that if you’ve got 900,000 African-American men in prison, it’s not a mystery where the father is. I’d like to hear a little bit more on Obama’s speech—the problem he was actually implicitly pointing to and the solution he was proposing.  

Carl Dix: That’s important to get back to because I talked about how Obama began with: if you work hard you can make it, if you try in America, but he also ended up on what has become for him his kind of signature punch line of “No Excuses”—no excuses for Black people who don’t succeed in America, and pretty explicitly saying: don’t use racism as an excuse. Let’s actually get down to it: there is brutal and vicious oppression coming down on people, and it’s coming down on people because of the system that he’s presiding over. And he’s saying: look, the system will beat you down, will grind you up, but no excuses—if you don’t succeed it is your own fucking fault. That is what objectively is being said in coming down on this. Because he’s talking about these absent dads. Well, I’ll tell you where a whole lot of them are: 900,000 of them are in prison. And hundreds of thousands are in prison for things like simple drug possession—that’s what that comes down to. And your system and the way that it operates has historically, since the 1970s, been using wars on drugs that have targeted Black people, that have led to the criminalization of Black youth, led to a reality where Black people use drugs pretty much in relation to their proportion of the population—not excessively in relation to whites. But then when you look at who gets arrested for drug use—that is disproportionately Black people. And then when you look at who gets convicted—that’s even more disproportionately Black people.

So it is the system and the way in which it works, its very operation, and the conscious policies of the ruling class—that Obama is the main spokesperson for, by the way—that has created a situation where a lot of these dads are absent not by choice. And then he’s going to beat down: well, we gotta do something about these dead-beat dads. No, we gotta do something about the system that is creating this. And in relation to that, it ain’t that we need people to man up, and we don’t need the men to step forward and play their traditional role in society being the head of the household and a role model for their children. What we need are not male role models, but revolutionary role models, female and male—people standing up and saying no more to the brutality and oppression and degradation that this system is bringing down.

And not just on Black people but on people of all nationalities here in this country and around the world. Saying no more to that and connecting with a movement for revolution, a movement that is aiming to end all of the horrors that this system inflicts on people, the violence against women, the attack on their rights, including their rights to abortion and even birth control now. A movement of revolution that will end the horror of the attacks on the very environment of the planet, the massive government spying, the wars for empire, the drone strikes, and all of the rest. That’s what’s actually needed and that actually needs to be brought forward in opposition to this Brother’s Keeper program, and an understanding that what it’s about is actually strengthening and tightening the oppression and exploitation that comes down, not only on Black people—definitely on Black people, but also people around the world of all nationalities. 

Two Different Outlooks, Two Different Programs

Revolution: I was talking to some people recently and they were talking about this point in the World Can’t Wait call about “that which you do not resist you will be forced to accept.” They were saying that’s a certain thing that’s going on with these police murders—that there’s a certain way that it becomes the new normalcy, the new terms of things. And that’s part of this question of the month of resistance too—that we actually have to change the terms in society. And then the other point we were talking about is we have to go for what people are thinking: "I gotta get mine and take care of myself"—to "we gotta free the people from this system."  

There’s the stark the reality of these two sets of parents of the murdered children (Trayvon and Jordan) being at the Obama speech on February 26th. They played by the rules. There’s also an ideological and even physical enlistment of Black men as enforcers of the status quo. If I remember right, there was a line in the speech like: nothing keeps a kid in line like a father. Ross Douthat actually has this article where he says if you want to do something about inequality you have to restore male right, you have stop the abortions, and stop the birth control and give men an incentive to stay at home where they can be dominant. He literally put that in the New York Times.  

Could you say a little more about both the problem and the solution? And also talk about how you see this and its relation to the Stop Mass Incarceration Network? How is that in opposition, in distinction, to Obama? 

Carl Dix: That’s a good question and important contrast to make because Obama’s speech is really training people what to think and how to think, how to look at this problem of mass incarceration and all of that. This is not a quote, but here’s the message: “Look, maybe there’s some excesses, but what we’re really dealing with here is people’s behavior problems, that people are not taking responsibility for their lives, and especially Black men are not taking responsibility for their lives.” And Obama says this is the problem that we’re trying to deal with, and our solution is to encourage and give some assistance to these men to step up and play their role in society, which needs to be the traditional male role of head of the family and keeping the women and children in line and in check, and that this is the solution and that if this step is taken it will strengthen America. And I’ve already talked about how you need to look at America and that it is not something that the oppressed need to step up and help strengthen, but in fact they need to be part of a revolution aimed at getting rid of American imperialism. But [what Obama said] is what’s being put forward as a solution.

And the other thing about how people should think about this is that, look, some people have made it through—and Obama had these guys from Chicago as an example of people who have made it through the minefield that the system puts out there in front of them and forces people to go through, and that if more Black men were doing it right, then a few more of them would make it through. And from that the way you’re supposed to look at it is: okay, let’s see if I can get me and mine through, if a few more of us can make it, and in particular can I make it, can those that are close to me and that I care about make it? And, see, this is entirely the upside-down wrong way to look at it. Because you have a system that is grinding people up, it’s breaking bodies and crushing spirits, and it is no solution if you can maneuver a few bodies through that crushing and grinding that’s being inflicted on people. In fact, what’s needed is people saying: no more of this, people standing up and resisting what’s being brought down. 

And that is exactly what the Stop Mass Incarceration Network is aiming to do through this call for a Month of Resistance in October. Because more people are recognizing mass incarceration as a problem, they’re seeing it: this is not good. People who are having it done to them, who are caught up in the criminal injustice system, but also people who don’t directly suffer that but who are seeing what’s going on and saying: I don’t want to stand aside, I need to be involved in trying to do something about it. That’s a good development but it’s got to go much farther. People have to be more clearly exposed to the horrible outrages that are being committed on this front, people need to begin to see that this amounts to a slow genocide that has tens of millions of people enmeshed in its web and they need to be moved to the point of standing up and joining an effort to stop it. Millions of people need to be exposed to this reality and many, many of them, thousands of them, have to be moved to being part of standing up and stopping it.

And that’s what the Network has in mind with this call. And that’s why Cornel West and I issued this call for the Network that there needs to be a month of resistance, a month that will include coordinated national demonstrations nationwide on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation, and something that has thousands of people out on that day. There needs to be a major concert that will have people sitting up and taking notice when they see who’s performing together and that they’re all performing around condemning, calling out, and acting to stop mass incarceration. A statement issued by and signed by well-known and prominent people being published in major publications around the country, panels and symposiums on college campuses, expressions of opposition and resistance to mass incarceration in religious circles—all that and more.

All of it is not worked out yet—we’ve got a basic vision and we’re going to be getting people together and meeting and strategizing over fleshing out that vision and hammering out a plan to build up from now to October. But that’s what it needs to bring forward–it needs to bring forward a sense of standing together and saying No More to these horrors that are being brought down and having a view of not: how do me and mine navigate through all the obstacles that are put in the path of Black people trying to make it in this society, but a view of how do we break through these structures—what do we have to do to get rid of these structures that are holding people back? And, look, what that comes down to is understanding that this stuff is built into the fabric and framework of this system and that it will take revolution–nothing less to end not only it but all of the horrors that this system is bringing down on people here and around the world.

April Strategizing Meeting

Revolution:  So Carl, tell me, you and Cornel West and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network have called a meeting in early April, and I’ve heard you say other meetings, besides, but this meeting in early April—who should be at this meeting? 

Carl Dix: Well, here’s the deal. The Stop Mass Incarceration Network has looked at the situation and seen a need for a major effort to take the level of resistance to mass incarceration to a new level, a new height, involving thousands of people, as a springboard to ultimately enlist millions in this movement, and that we’re going to work to do that through this month of resistance in October. And we’re taking the responsibility to initiate this and to lead it forward. And Cornel West and I issued the call for this meeting, and we want to bring together people who seriously want to take this movement of resistance to a higher level and be a part of working to do that, fleshing out a vision for it and developing a plan.

And there’s really a lot of people who need to be involved in this process. One, there needs to be young people involved, college students need to be involved in this from the beginning, at the meeting, contributing their understanding, their experience, and then leaving the meeting on a mission to spread the call for October and to build resistance up to October as part of what’s being done in this. High school students should be there with the same thing, bringing their experience into it, and [inaudible] out of it, ready to spread that in all the ways that they would want to do that–armbands days, hoodie days, days when people do stuff on social media, spreading pictures of themselves wearing armbands and hoodies on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and all like that.

Generally people who are catching hell on this front need to be represented, and in addition to the young people there needs to be family members of people in prison, who played an important role during the California prison hunger strike—they need to be in this meeting. Family members of police murder victims, formerly incarcerated people—all of them need to be bringing their understanding, their experience into this meeting and being part of hammering out the vision for this and spreading it throughout society. We need to have religious leaders and lay people in this meeting bringing their own stance on this, their moral opposition to this, helping to hammer out the vision, and then figuring out the ways that this gets expressed powerfully in religious institutions. It’s gotta be nationwide right from the beginning, people from different parts of the country who’ve come into New York for this [meeting] so that we come out of the meeting with a framework that is in position to operate and spread this nationwide. People who are grappling with the problem of the immigration raids that tear families apart and disappear people–they need to be a part of this, because this has everything to do with the incarceration that’s going down in this society. They need to be there, they need to be in position to spread this and spread it nationwide. Legal people need to be involved in this meeting, people whose arena is the arts and culture need to be involved in this meeting.

Everybody’s bringing their experience, their understanding of this and then being in the position to pivot back and out and spread that throughout society and in the arenas that they function in. And in some of these different arenas that I’ve just talked about, prominent people, people whose voices have impact societywide. Some of them need to be in the room for this meeting, people who can reach people throughout society when they speak up and stand up around a question, people who can play an important role in raising the kind of funds that’s going to be needed. Because it’s going to take a lot of money just to hold this meeting to get this process started which will then pale [compared to] the amount of money that will need to be raised to carry it through to the end. And we gotta have from the beginning people who have the connections and the experience in terms of doing that. 

And I guess the other thing I want to say about who needs to be in the room is that Cornel West and I were talking in the last couple of days about this, and we issued a letter. And that letter basically says, look, if you’re a young person, Black or Latino, who’s tired of wearing a target on your back—you need to be involved in this effort and you need to think about coming to this meeting. If you’re a parent who is tired of living in fear every time your children leave the house in the morning as to whether they’ll make it back safely, if you’re somebody who doesn’t experience this but you’re aware of it going down and you hate it and want to see something done about it, well, you’re the kind of person who needs to be involved in this effort. You need to think about coming to this meeting. This is a meeting to get together people who are serious about it, want to do something to stop it, and see this vision of a month of resistance in October that takes the movement of resistance to a whole new level and that makes this something that millions of people in this society are seeing as a horrific problem and they’re seeing determined resistance to it that involves thousands. If you want to bring that vision into being and make it real, you need to be at this meeting. 

On Choices

Revolution: A lot of people say to you, though, that you criticize Obama for saying “no excuses,” but you’re just making... you know, look, people make bad choices. And you’re just making excuses for those people. Don’t people have to make better choices? What do you say to that? 

Carl Dix: Well, I think there are two things I want to say to that. The first is that Obama and people like him make all kinds of excuses for this goddamned system and the shit that it does to people. And that’s the first thing that people who want to pose this question of excuses and choices need to get to. But then here’s the other thing. On the choices that the masses of people make and how to look at that, for me the best way to express it is to read this quote from Bob Avakian: “On Choices... and Radical Changes”:

First people don’t make choices in a vacuum. They do it in the context of the social relations they’re enmeshed in and the options they have within those relations—which are not of their own choosing. They confront those relations, they don’t choose them. 

Two, if people feel for whatever reasons that they want to choose to harm themselves and others, we’re going to struggle with them–but we’re not going to blame them. We’re going to show them the source of all this in the system, and call on them to struggle against that system, and transform themselves in the process. Just because a youth “chooses” to sell drugs, or a woman “chooses” to commodify herself sexually, doesn’t mean that they chose to have those choices.  And there is no other way besides fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution that all this will change for the better. Blaming the masses for bad choices just reinforces the conditions that they are oppressed by.

In sum, people do make choices—but they make them enmeshed and confined within social relations that are not of their choosing. We have to bring into being different social relations and conditions so that masses of people can act differently and relate differently to each other. Fundamentally, that takes a revolution which is aiming for communism.  

And again, that’s a quote from Bob Avakian. 

International Calculations of the U.S. Rulers

Revolution: Earlier you mentioned that Obama had said in his speech that when we strengthen young Black men, we strengthen America. Do you feel that there’s any international calculations that are involved in initiatives like this or in a lot of the lip service that’s being paid, for instance, to changing the sentencing laws?

Carl Dix: Look, the U.S. goes around the world lecturing countries on violations of human rights, uses human rights as a justification for intervening, invading, enforcing its will all around the world. And, as it became in the 1960s, it is a question they encounter and run into as they’re doing all of this... that people point to: well, look at what you guys are doing. Look at the fact that your country has 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent, proportionally, of people in prison. Look at the racial disparity of who’s in prison, which is the greatest disparity racial-wise when you look at the numbers of Black and Latino people who make up the prison population–it’s the greatest racial disparity around the world, according to recent studies. So this is something that they do run into and this pulls the covers off of any legitimacy they might have in talking about: well, this country is a human rights violator or that country is a human rights violator. Because it gets pointed to: Well, what is the U.S. doing? The United States is torturing 80,000 people in prison, holding them in long-term solitary confinement 23+ hours a day, confined to very small spaces, denying people any human contact while they’re held in solitary confinement, no visits from family members, not even allowing them to have contact, to meet with their lawyers, putting them in solitary confinement arbitrarily with no process through which they could challenge their being placed in that confinement–and doing it for indeterminate periods of time. There are people who have been in solitary confinement for four decades in prisons across the country. And scientific studies have found that confinement in these conditions for more than a few weeks can drive people insane. Yet there are people who have spent decades under these conditions. And the U.S. refuses to recognize these international studies and the designation of long-term solitary confinement as a form of torture. But that’s what’s going on. 

In relation to that, you’re getting Obama speaking out about how we have to do something about the incarceration rate, we have to do something about the way in which it targets Black people, other oppressed people. You’ve got the U.S. attorney general talking about it too. And that’s all designed to, again, speak to the international sense of the U.S. as a human rights violator and a country that is carrying out horrific abuses on sections of its own population, and also to lure people back into the folds of the channels of the system here in this country.

But then when you get down to the reality... I think they commuted the sentences of eight people who were in jail for the rest of their lives for possession of banned substances. But then there are thousands of other people in that situation who recently became part of a class-action suit to get their sentences reduced because there was a 100 to 1 ratio for sentencing, which means 5 grams of crack cocaine got you the same penalty as 500 grams of powder cocaine. Well, they reduced that disparity to 18 to 1. Still a disparity that has no scientific, medical, or legal basis—but they reduced it to 18 to 1. And that 18 to 1 reduction means that there are thousands of people in prison who if they were sentenced under that instead of 100 to 1, their sentences would be over and they should be released. And that was the basic premise of this class-action suit that thousands of people in prison were part of, and they did not get out because Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department went into court and blocked it. What they did is they blocked the actual court case and then Obama said there needs to be legislation to address this problem, which means Congress will have to pass a bill to make this happen. And Congress these days does not pass very many bills and is highly unlikely to pass such a bill. So effectively they have blocked these people from being released from prison. 

What's Happening with Black Students

Revolution: One of the ironies that people have commented on in the speech was that Obama is doing this in the wake of the anniversary of the murder of Trayvon Martin and he’s proposing these solutions to this problem that is an internationally recognized outrage. And yet the very solutions he’s proposing of strengthening fatherhood—in both the cases of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis... this young man who was killed was living with his father and was in high school and “playing by the rules.” And I wonder if you could comment on that and then also what’s going on right now with Black college students. It seems like there’s important beginnings of protest in different arenas but there’s also this... what part of the protest is being driven by is that there seems to be an actual way in which over the last decade Black students, Black college students, are being pushed out of the major schools. 

Carl Dix: There is this thing that, well, the problem is that people aren’t acting right, they’re not playing by the rules, they’re not living their lives in ways that would allow them to make it in this society. And then you look at what’s being proposed in this Obama initiative and then you look at the situation of Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin. The problem wasn’t that there was no father in their lives. I mean, Trayvon Martin was with his father when he was murdered by George Zimmerman. Jordan Davis’s father was in his life—it wasn’t a thing of there was an absent dad and a wayward youth. Both of them were in high school, on a track to graduate, and Trayvon was an athlete—he played football on the high school football team. So you got people who were playing by the rules, who were doing things right and none of that saved them when they encountered the racists who took their lives. 

And that’s something that extends way beyond that because you posed the question about Black college students. And one thing that is happening, well, there’s actually two things that are happening and they kind of come together. One thing that’s happening is that throughout the country policies are being enacted on the state level to end programs that attempted to deal with the numerical disparity between Black students and others on college campuses. Affirmative action programs, recruitment programs—all of those things are being cut away. And students have responded very sharply at some colleges about that: at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Black students at UCLA—at both of those schools students have done videos about how the numbers of Black students are being drastically cut. And I think one of them talked about: we’re an endangered species on this campus. And that’s the part about official policies... while they’re saying you gotta work hard, you gotta go to school in order to make it in this society, official policies are being enacted that are undercutting the ability of Black students to actually do that. So that’s something that’s happening. 

And then at the same time, and as part of this, there’s been an unleashing of just naked white supremacy on these campuses. You see things like the University of Mississippi which was actually integrated in my lifetime. James Meredith was the first Black student to go there and there’s a statue in his honor on the campus. Well, a lynching noose and a confederate flag were hung on that statue recently. There’s been all kinds of instances of white fraternities and white sororities having parties and other social gatherings that revel in racist stereotypes of Black people or Latinos. Like a ghetto party where people are encouraged to bring watermelons and dress “street” and do this kind of stuff. And then a Mexican party where they base it on stereotypes of Mexicans and Chicanos. And all of this is really being unleashed. So it’s both cleansing the universities of Black students but also creating an atmosphere. An atmosphere is being unleashed and is flowering that is a pretty hostile scene for people to be in. And at UCLA law school a student who spoke to some of this began to get racist emails, and then a couple of students just posed for a picture and put it up online: “Stop being a sensitive nigger.” This was what one of the students had written on their T-shirt in a social media message that they sent to this Black woman student who had said that Black students on this campus are under attack.

This is what’s happening, and we really have to look at this. I spoke to the thing of the system offering no future and I focused on the fact that large sections of the oppressed cannot be profitably exploited by the system. But here you have people who are working to try to get through that, following the rules, doing what you’re supposed to be doing. And what they’re finding is that for them the future that’s being offered is: You can take that route, but we’re going to put obstacles in your path, we’re going to make it hard for you to get into college, we’re going to obliterate the programs earlier that were trying to deal with the fact that it was hard for Black students to get into college. And a hostile atmosphere is going to be what’s awaiting you. And it really does come down to: You can try to work your way into this system, it’s going to be hard, you’re going to have to go over a lot of obstacles, and if you make it through those obstacles you’re going to get a lot of shit and you just have to take it. And there is a growing mood among the students that they won’t take this and that’s important. It’s gotta spread, it’s gotta be taken up much more. And it’s gotta be linked in with what faces the oppressed overall because Black students have historically played an important role in struggles in this country.

You look back to the 1960s and a lot of the important developments–whether that was the movement in the South with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, students and Black students played an important role in that. Also when you come down to something like the Black Panther Party—Huey [Newton] and Bobby [Seale] got together at a college in Oakland and formed the Black Panther Party. So Black students have an important role to play and can help to bring to the movement of Black people more of an understanding of the history. But also because they’ve been introduced more to grappling with and dealing with ideas, they could be grappling with how do we get out of this and bring to people some of that understanding and help to inject that into the developing movement of resistance. And that’s something that needs to be gone at and worked on and expanded because this question of no future is not just something that people who are dropping out of school are up against; but also people who are fighting their way into college trying to make it, are up against the same kind of thing of what future are they being offered. And it’s one that is horrific and they need to reject and stand with people who are fighting for a different future, a future that really can only be brought into being through revolution. 

There’s other very important things that have happened, both in terms of attacks but also responding to them. San Jose State comes to mind. There was a really horrific racial incident there where a Black student had a noose put around his neck, was referred to as “three-fifths.” But then there was a broad outpouring on the campus condemning this, calling it out and one that has continued and is continuing right now as we’re talking about it. Also I need to bring in that there were students at Brown University who, when the university invited Ray Kelly, who was at the time police chief of the New York Police Department to speak–students mobilized and refused to let him speak and said that: no, we’re not going to have this guy who presides over a police department that is intensely criminalizing Black and Latino people... no, we don’t want him to come up here and spread his poison. And they wouldn’t let him speak and they stood firm in that in opposition. People were like, this view is not one that we want to hear expressed here. 

And this is real important and it is something... I pointed to the fact that on a number of campuses things were done around February 26th and that’s an important development. And things like that, and these incidents and the response to them that I’ve been talking about, need to be built on and spread. Because one of the things that has to happen is that these campuses have to be an arena where there is condemnation of and resistance to the slow genocide of mass incarceration. And that’s really gotta be widespread come October. It’s gotta be built now, resistance has gotta be manifested beginning now, and by October it’s gotta be very widespread and part of the leap in the level of resistance to the horror of mass incarceration. And that’s something that the Stop Mass Incarceration Network is approaching and I’m approaching as well. 

The Plan for Month of Resistance

Revolution: The plan for October—what’s this actually going to do and how’s it going to be different from other things that you’ve been part of calling? You are one of the originators of October 22nd. You, along with Cornel West, led the sit-ins against the stop-and-frisk practices in New York which played a very important role in forcing that into the open and de-legitimizing that. What’s going to be different about this and what challenges do you see here? What effect are you aiming for? 

Carl Dix: The effect that we’re aiming for is a month that puts the horrors of mass incarceration, but also the determined resistance to it, out front for millions of people in this society. We have to have it that people broadly are seeing exposure and condemnation of some of these horrors and seeing a development, and a leap in the development, of a movement of resistance to that in a way that poses for many more people: Do I need to be a part of this resistance? And on the basis of doing that, thousands enlisting in a movement that has to ultimately involve millions of people when you look at the actual depth of what we’re talking about–the fact that tens of millions of people are living lives enmeshed in the criminal injustice system of this country. So that’s what we have to be aiming for and what makes this effort different and this not just a wish that we’d like to see accomplished. It has got to be taking an approach of enlisting people who seriously want to see this movement developed into becoming the force that initiates and takes up building this effort–starting now. And in relation to that, we’re holding strategizing meetings in the near future where the people who see the need for this can be brought together to hammer out and scrap over: Is this the vision? Does it need to be encompassed? Is it missing some things? Are there some places where it goes off? And what kind of plan can make this happen? Because we’ve worked on a basic vision and we feel like it encompasses some of the things that need to happen in October but we can’t do it all. We gotta bring together people who can both flesh out that vision but also make that vision real, people who can pivot this into various arenas: students who can spread this throughout the campus; people who are in position to spread this in the cultural arena and to bring forward various expressions in October, not just the concert that I talked about, but various expressions in that arena in October; people who can take this among lawyers, among religious forces, among intellectuals; people who can play that role. And we’ve gotta actually enlist those people at the start, being part of the grouping of people, part of the “we” who are gonna make this happen. 

Acting on Your Principles

Revolution: What if somebody says to you—and I know they do: "But Carl, I don’t agree with your full program of revolution and if I work with you I might get in trouble." You told me somebody said to you, “You’re trying to make me lose my job.” What do you say to those people? 

Carl Dix: Well, I say to those people, “Look, revolution is what’s needed to deal with this once and for all, and I’m with the Revolutionary Communist Party that’s building a movement for revolution to make that happen. And as part of that I am fighting against these injustices. Now, how you have to look at it is: I want you to engage what I have to say about revolution, but I also want you to look at these horrific injustices. And can you stand aside and let this continue to go down? Or do you need to step up and be part of doing this–and doing it as you are, where you’re coming from? And we can work together and fight over that, fight against these injustices, while we continue to dig into where do they come from and what’s needed to end them once and for all. And, yeah, you might be putting something on the line.” I’m not sure that the person who was saying it was actually going to get fired if he connected up with me, but people do have to put something on the line. And there’s not a guarantee that stuff like that would not happen to this person or others, as well as there are other ways that they come back at people. They come back at people... I mean, I mentioned earlier that Juanita Young had gone down to Florida with me, and she has been standing up and fighting for justice for her murdered son, Malcolm Ferguson, but also for all of the people who’ve been victimized by brutal murdering police all around the country. And she has come under attack around that. And her stand is actually very important for people to look at because she realized very early that they’re coming at me because I’m standing up and fighting for justice. And we in the Revolutionary Communist Party and other forces involved in October 22nd and other people who stood for justice stood with her in this and had her back in this. But she actually played a very important role in saying: I’m not going to roll over, I’m not going to stop the fight for justice–because this is right, this is what I need to be doing. And more people need to follow that example, to look at what’s right and what’s wrong and take a stand around that and not be backing away from that because of the fact that something’s gotta be put on the line, you could come under attack. And also not back away because: oh, I could run into some trouble because I’m working with revolutionaries. The point is more like you gotta go as far as your principles will carry you, and your principles should carry you to stand against this injustice–that that is a responsibility that people do in fact have.  

This process of standing up and fighting injustice and then being attacked for it is actually part of the process you gotta go through, and the approach to it has gotta be that when they come at people for standing up and come at the movement for standing up, we have to come back with more initiative, more resistance, and more determined resistance, and use that to bring other people in—to show people what is actually at issue here and to strip bare the legitimacy of this setup. Because when you look at some of what they have done, a setup like this is illegitimate. And that’s something that needs to be brought out to people and made clear. 

An example of that process was the campaign of civil disobedience against stop-and-frisk that the Stop Mass Incarceration Network launched back in 2011. Because we did several civil disobedience actions and dozens of people were arrested. Then we fought through on the trials around that, and they offered an ACD [adjournment in contemplation of dismissal] and we’ll make this go away, but dozens of people refused to accept that, went into court. And actually went into court based upon: We stood up because this policy, this approach of criminalizing the youth was illegitimate and unjust and needed to be fought. And that was the basis on which we went into court—not like: oh, we didn’t do it, cut us some slack. But we were right and the system was wrong on this, and it was correct and right and just—and we did that through a series of trials. And it was very important in terms of carrying forward a fight that the initial civil disobedience actions began. Not just we did our thing, they came at us, now let’s just figure out how to minimize the punishment and go on to something else—but to actually continue the fight around that, and to continue to bring forward the exposure and the opposition to stop-and-frisk that this was begun upon. And also to bring forward, on my part, where this was coming from and how this was a part of the system operating to control and hem in a section of people whose response it fears in the situation, in relation to Black and Latino youth and the conditions that are being enforced on those sections of society, and remembering what Black youth did in the 1960s and wanting to get ahead of the curve on that—in effect a counterinsurgency before the insurgency can be unleashed.  

The Role of Prisoners

Revolution: Carl, there’s about 2.3 million people in prison in the U.S. and there’s hundreds of thousands more that in the course of a year pass through the concentration camps for undocumented workers. How can they become part of the build-up leading into the month of October? 

Carl Dix: There have been the very powerful hunger strikes that were launched by prisoners in California against the torture of long-term solitary confinement. The summer of last year they launched a hunger strike that involved 30,000 people in the California prisons. There are other hunger strikes that have gone on. There’s one right now in Illinois—I believe it’s in Menard Prison that’s going on right now.

So there have been important expressions from inside the prisons that have inspired us, but there also have been people in prison who have added their voices to the exposure of both the conditions in prison and the conditions that lead people to end up in prison and going in and out of prison–and to where understanding where this comes from and what needs to be done about it. And there’ve been important writings from prisoners that have been in the pages of Revolution newspaper and people can actually find some of these writings by going to the website Because that has been a source of inspiration in terms of looking at it—because here you have people who are locked away, people who have been condemned as the worst of the worst, some of them who are not only standing up and asserting their humanity and resisting what’s being done to them but who are also grappling with why this is happening, where it’s coming from, and what needs to be done about it. And they’re engaging the advanced understanding that Bob Avakian has brought forward about where this is coming from and what needs to be done about it, and even reinvigorating and re-synthesizing the understanding of revolution and communism that contributes to the ability of people to go farther and do better the next time revolution is made and power is in the hands of the people.

And you’ve got people in prison who are grappling with this, who are dealing with this, and it reminds me of the time that I spent in prison back in the 1960s when I refused to go to Vietnam. And one of the things that was going on there was it was a place where people were grappling with revolutionary theory, including people who learned to read through that grappling, people who were not literate when they went into prison, but actually became literate through grappling with revolutionary theory. 

People from inside prison can speak in a very direct way to what broad sections of people in this society are up against: the criminalization that people encounter, the conditions that get enforced. But also they could speak to their aspirations for a better world, and in that way they are.... this is through the actions of the people in California, now in Illinois, took to reassert their humanity... they’re also doing that and it becomes something that can impact society and begin to be a thing of bringing to people an understanding that that’s who’s in prison–human beings who were facing and are facing horrific conditions, but striving for a different kind of future. And in that way, I think, that can help people who don’t have that direct experience get kind of an understanding of what things in this society are really like and to understand more the outrage of the mass incarceration and everything that leads into it and all of its consequences and be strengthened in their determination to join the fight around this.

So I think that people in prison have a very important role to play. And again, I just want to go back to: you can get some of these writings and some of the developments in different prisons around the country by going to the website And if you do it, you’ll be rewarded because I find it a continuing source of inspiration. 

Important Developments in Culture

Revolution: Throughout this, you’ve been mentioning culture and there have been some positive developments, both around incarceration itself and then around the oppression of Black and other minority people in this country. 

Carl Dix: This is an arena where some very good things have developed. I’ve got movies on my mind because of the Oscars. But you look at some of the movies that have come out—12 Years a Slave gets the best picture Oscar. And it’s historical but you can go from that history to the current day conditions and a lot of people have made that connection. I’ve run into that in discussions with people and things that they want to get into. But this is also the year that Fruitvale Station, the movie about the police murder of Oscar Grant, was in the movies and widely seen, and involved a number of significant people in the film industry, from new and rising people, but then also veterans like Forest Whitaker were involved in the production of that movie. So you have those kinds of expressions. You have the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, which is set in prison. You’ve got the people who are in prison being brought to life and actually seeing what kind of situations lead people to end up in prison, what they’re grappling with while they’re in prison.

All of these are taking people who are often unseen and kind of cast to the margins of society and even demonized when people do get their attention on them–and their humanity is being brought out. Oscar Grant was not just a statistic; he was a young man grappling with what young Black people have to grapple with in society but with hopes and dreams for a future. His life gets snuffed out by a cop who gets off with a slap on the wrist, and that gets dramatized and put on screen and watched by millions of people. Orange Is the New Black is showing women in prison.

So this is actually doing a lot to bring to life these horrors and this injustice that I’ve been talking about. I believe I talked about the plays about Trayvon. Let me just go back to that because one thing about it is they were commissioned by some people in Black theater and done first here in New York City, but they’re traveling across the country. A very significant theater, the Goodman Theater in Chicago, is going to be the site of performances there. It’s going to Los Angeles and to Washington, D.C. and that means that in those areas these questions concentrated in the murder of Trayvon and taken into the arts through these plays–people are going to experience them. And if it’s anything like here in New York, there’s going to be hundreds of people who get to directly experience it. And then that sparks off conversation, discussion about what’s going to be concentrated in these movies about the criminalization of Black youth and where does it come from, and what can and must be done about it.

So this is an important arena where things are happening but it’s gotta go way beyond this. There’s gotta be a leap beyond it, just like the movement of resistance to mass incarceration has to leap beyond it. And that’s gotta be a part of what the month of resistance in October accomplishes. One thing about it is when we saw the Trayvon plays here, the playwrights were all there on the last day and I got to talk with six of the seven of them. They were all very invested in doing this, they really wanted to do these plays around Trayvon, and they felt it was important that their art be involved in addressing it, and they wanted to know what people thought about it, how it was impacting the way people think, what they’re thinking about, how they think. So they wanted to get into discussion with us. And they wanted to stay in touch when they heard we were working on this. 

If you happen to be in Chicago, LA, Washington, D.C., you should check these things out. If you’re involved in the movement for revolution you should go to these plays with the message of that movement that things don’t have to be this way, that through revolution we could end these horrors and bring into being a totally different and far better world, and that we’ve got the leadership for this in Bob Avakian and the work that he’s doing, and the Revolutionary Communist Party which is at the core of the movement for revolution that we’re building. We’ve got a strategy and a plan for carrying this out. People need to encounter that. And if you go to these plays you’ll probably find an audience that is grappling with why are we in this mess and how do we get out.

We’re working to see if some of the playwrights, some of the actors, want to come to the strategizing meeting, want to be a part of doing that, and want to think about should there be expressions in their realm of the arts as part of the month of October. Because that’s an important part of what we need to do in relation to this, to reach out to and involve people in all different arenas. We’re trying to figure out like, one, is this what needs need to done? And if it is what needs to be done, how can have societal-wide impact? We need to do a whole lot of that before October for it to be the kind of month that it needs to be, one that changes the way that millions of people look at the reality of mass incarceration and all its consequences. 

Revolution: There should be religious people, religious congregations, atheists—everybody’s gotta be expressing themselves on this question—No! This must stop. And then there’s a lot of different arguments about what’s going to stop it, what caused it in the first place. But this whole thing has got to stop because it’s inhumane and illegitimate. Not because it’s a waste of money. Massive things in the schools, armband days, hoodie days, expressions on the Internet. And when you have works of art that are reaching millions of people and they’re learning to empathize with people who have been demonized, that is not only very good, it’s very important for the chances for revolution. This mass incarceration is done very consciously to isolate the people who do catch the hardest hell and are the social base for revolution.

Carl Dix: An important strategic dimension of something, a work of art like Orange Is the New Black—it’s about people in prison. And one thing that this society has done is that it has worked to demonize and dehumanize the people that it locks away in prison, that they deserve to be there, that they are the worst of the worst, and that locking them up is what’s required. And locking them up in huge and horrific numbers is required to keep society safe, and that’s the way that people are trained to think about this and look at it. Then you have something like Orange Is the New Black that takes the people in prison, puts them and their lives on screen as they actually were and are, and you get to meet these people, you get to see people who are trying to do something, trying to better their lives, but get caught up in different things. But they’re human beings that end up in there, including some that you’re kind of like: they really don’t belong there, this is unfair. And even people who, okay, well, they did something, but they’re still human beings. So that’s actually working to recapture and bring to people the humanity of people who’ve been declared non-human and deserving of whatever happens to them. And when you think about the process of making revolution in a country like this, a very important role has gotta be played by people who catch hell every day, people on the bottom of society, beat down by this society, who are among the people who are the most demonized and dehumanized. And this goes back to the criminalization of Black and Latino people, especially the youth, that has gone on.

So works of art that capture and bring to society the humanity of people on the bottom of society, people who catch all the hell in society, play an important role in opening things up for the possibility of alliances, people coming together from different backgrounds in society. It makes a key section of people, from the perspective of making revolution, human beings whose situation is something that people should care about, be concerned about, and want to act around. And it opens it up for people to stand together—not only to resist injustice but as the source of that injustice and the solution that’s brought to people, it opens it up for the kind of unity needed to make revolution in a country like this.

So that means it’s important strategically that there are works of art like this and actually that this flowers more, that things like this develop much more. And that’s an important role that the month of resistance in October can contribute to by bringing forward and flowering expressions in the realm of culture around mass incarceration and its consequences, taking the lives of people who’ve been criminalized and warehoused in prison, people who’ve been subjected to the immigration raids that tear families apart and disappear people, taking those lives and making them something that the humanity of the people who’ve been hit by all of this can be much more broadly seen in society. It can open up the possibility, like I said, for heightened and more determined resistance, and also as people get to the source and solution of these problems, open it up for the kind of unity needed for revolution.  


1. Last September, 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell wrecked his car in a one-vehicle accident. He knocked on doors seeking help; a white woman called the police saying that a Black man was trying to break into her house. When Charlotte, North Carolina police arrived they shot him 10 times, dead in the street, as he approached their car with his hands open. [back]





Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

March 2014. The Crisis in Venezuela: Points of Orientation

Updated April 4, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Since early February, anti-government protests have rocked parts of Caracas and other cities in Venezuela. The U.S. media has portrayed the protests as a "popular" outpouring—of the middle classes, students, and others rejecting the economic policies and "iron-fisted" rule of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro. In reality, reactionary forces are mobilizing students and professionals around a pro-U.S. platform and under the banner of putting an end to what they claim is "socialist tyranny."

Nicolás Maduro was elected president after the former president, Hugo Chavez, died in 2013. Chavez in the early 2000s became a thorn in the side of U.S. imperialism when he imposed restrictions on U.S. and other imperialist oil companies (that had long profited from Venezuela's oil resources) and adopted a foreign policy that included close relations with Cuba. He demanded a larger share of oil earnings for Venezuela. The Chavez government also greatly expanded certain social welfare programs. These policies angered the U.S. imperialists who have never relented in trying to destabilize and overturn the regime.

Chavez and what he called the "Bolivarian revolution" attracted considerable support from progressive people around the world. But this was NOT a genuine revolution.

Today, Venezuela is in deep economic crisis. And the government is carrying out harsh repression.

Considerable confusion exists among progressive people over how to sum up these events. Some people are drawn to supporting the Venezuelan government. Many others think like actor Jared Leto, who said when he accepted his Oscar recently: "To all the dreamers out there around the world watching this tonight, in places like the Ukraine and Venezuela, I want to say we are here, and as you struggle to make your dreams happen, to live the impossible, we're thinking of you". But these are not dreams to embrace. Nor is the current regime socialist or a model for liberation.

The following are some Points of Orientation, to help set a basic framework for understanding and bringing a proletarian internationalist outlook to bear on the situation in Venezuela.

1. The recent street protests in Venezuela are not a progressive outpouring. Reactionary forces are operating in and through key institutions of Venezuelan society—business councils, the media, U.S.-financed foundations, educational facilities—to shape the direction, demands, and social content of the protests. Their goal is to bring Venezuela more tightly under the thumb of U.S. imperialism and to allow the traditional elites to have a freer hand in administering society. These forces have been built up in various ways by U.S. imperialism. There are different currents in opposition to the government and not everyone involved in these protests is reactionary. But it is these pro-U.S. forces who are principally driving the agenda.

2. The sharpening situation in Venezuela is shaped by a dynamic between the contradictions of the Chavez program and the moves of U.S. imperialism. There is a real economic and political crisis in Venezuela. Consumer prices, including for basic necessities, have skyrocketed and there are food shortages. Some sections of the middle classes have seen a sudden decline in their traditional living standards. Unemployment is high. Crime is rampant. With protests mounting, the Maduro government is now straining to maintain itself in power and resorting to extreme repression.

On the one hand, there are these growing difficulties for the Chavez-Maduro model of development—which is based on the expectation of ever-growing oil revenues to support social programs for the poor and to buy "social peace" from the middle classes by allowing high levels of consumer imports, cheap gasoline, etc. On the other hand, pro-U.S. forces are taking advantage of discontent and making bolder moves against the regime. And U.S. imperialism is maneuvering in all this to advance its strategic interests.

3. The government of Nicolás Maduro, who followed Hugo Chavez as president of Venezuela, is not revolutionary. Venezuela is a society that remains subordinate to imperialism, profit, and exploitation. As Revolution pointed out last year in an article about Hugo Chavez:

"A real revolution in an oppressed Third World country like Venezuela requires a two-fold break. There must be a radical break with the political economy of imperialism. And there must be a radical social revolution, a radical break with traditional relations and ideas. This was neither the program nor outlook of Hugo Chavez. Venezuela remained dependent for revenues on the world oil economy, which is dominated by imperialism. It remained dependent on the world market, which is dominated by imperialist agri-business, for its food. Under Chavez, there was improvement in literacy and health care, but there was no fundamental change in the class and social structure of society. Agriculture is still dominated by an oligarchy of rich landowners. In the cities, the poor remain locked into slums. Women remain subordinated and degraded. Abortion is banned in Venezuela." [see: "On Hugo Chavez: Four Points of Orientation", March 6, 2013]

Today, Nicolás Maduro is continuing the program and outlook of Hugo Chavez and the bourgeois nationalist class forces this represents. This is NOT a society on a path leading to any kind of liberation for the people.

4. What is needed in Venezuela is a real revolution. The Maduro regime has the support of sections of the poor. But it cannot speak to their highest interests for emancipation. Nor can it offer a way for the broad middle strata to achieve a life of purpose and make a contribution towards the all-around transformation of society, for the betterment of humanity. There has been no radical and thoroughgoing change in the economics, the power relations, and the values and culture of society.

A revolution is not about creating a welfare state that "takes care of people"—while the basic system of production and the old social relations remain intact. Revolution is about uprooting all exploitation and oppression...empowering the masses of people to change the world and to change themselves...and doing all this as part of advancing the world communist revolution to emancipate all of humanity.

5. No to U.S. imperialism. For over 100 years, the U.S. has been the main imperialist dominator of Venezuela. The U.S has regarded Venezuela under Chavez and now Maduro as disruptive to its designs for global supremacy. In 2002, the U.S. supported an attempted coup of Chavez's government, and the U.S. is maneuvering within the current situation to weaken Maduro's presidency. People throughout the world, and especially people in the U.S., need to be absolutely clear and resolute: the U.S. has no right whatsoever to interfere in any way in the affairs of Venezuela.


We encourage readers to study Bob Avakian's essay "Three Alternative Worlds" to get a concise, scientific grounding in the difference between genuine socialism and what exists in countries like Venezuela, Cuba, or North Korea ["Three Alternative Worlds," December 3, 2006.] Bob Avakian has brought forward a new synthesis that sums up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, he has brought forward a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world. For a brief, and also a fuller, explanation of this new synthesis, go to





Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

Check It Out:

Gaza Writes Back—Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine

By Alan Goodman | April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine is a remarkable collection of short fiction. The book was released on the fifth anniversary of Israel’s massive assault on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009—a massacre that killed over a thousand people, destroyed schools, hospitals, and homes, and left a million and a half people locked down in a devastated land, subjected to a vicious blockade that reduced the caloric intake of the Palestinian people in Gaza to subsistence levels. In the aftermath of the massacre, Israel, with the complicity of the Egyptian regime and with the backing of the U.S., tightened the choke-hold on the people of Gaza, substantially cutting off connections with the outside world. (For background on Israel and the oppression of the Palestinian people, including in Gaza, see the special issue of Revolution: The Case of Israel: Bastion of Enlightenment or Enforcer for Imperialism?)

Editor and contributor Refaat Alareer writes in the introduction, “Gaza Writes Back comes to resist Israel’s attempts to murder these emerging voices, to squander the suffering of martyrs, to bleach the blood, to dam the tears, and to smother the screams.” And the authors see their writing as part of forging a culture of resistance.

 Half of the stories started out as assignments in a Creative Writing or Fiction course Refaat Alareer teaches in Gaza. He encouraged the young contributors to write fiction stories in order to universalize the pain, outrage, and defiance they have experienced and felt. At the same time, these authors draw deeply on personal experiences. At an event promoting the book at Revolution Books in New York City, Yousef Aljamal, author of the story “Omar X,” read from his story, and also told the true story of his older brother Omar, killed by Israeli troops.

Another important dimension to Gaza Writes Back is the participation of women writers and the portrayal of women in Gaza. A majority of the authors are women. Refaat Alareer notes, “[T]his young wave of female short story writers comes to continue the struggle and at the same time revolutionize it, adding their own sensibility and their own worldview. It is also notable that the women portrayed in the stories are powerful, independent, intellectual, and proactive. Their role is no longer restricted to giving birth to freedom fighters, they are the freedom fighters. How similar or dissimilar they are and what major concerns these young women voice in their stories should be left to researchers, academics, and reviewers to discuss.”

I asked Rawan Yaghi about what went into drawing on her life experiences in writing about the horror of being subjected to an Israeli bombing attack. She spoke about how every time she recounts the story she contributed, she re-lives the pain of what she writes about. But that these stories are not “hers,” they belong to the people they describe. And she talked about how not keeping this all to herself is part of resisting. The courage of all these authors is inspiring.

The stories in Gaza Writes Back have universality in the sense of conveying life in Gaza. And they have universality beyond that. As I read stories of people prevented from leaving Gaza to attend funerals of their loved ones, youth subject to being shot as a “suspect” for simply being defiant, or people denied medical care available to those in the world outside the walls of Gaza, I thought of how these stories, and the oppression and struggle of the Palestinian people, connect with and concentrate the lives of so many in this world of savage inequality and vicious oppression. And why the cause of the liberation of Palestine resonates so strongly with oppressed and justice-loving people everywhere, despite the ferocious efforts of the powers-that-be in this country to dehumanize and demonize the people of Palestine.

The event at Revolution Books in New York City was part of a nationwide tour of bookstores, campuses, and activist groups. You can find events (or contact the organizers to schedule one) at the publisher’s website:




Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

“The energy of hate in that place was palpable...”

Susan Cahill speaks out after the destruction of her Montana family clinic, which provided abortions

March 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


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


On March 3, All Families Healthcare, a clinic that provides abortions in Montana, was so severely vandalized that it has been forced to close down indefinitely. This took place against a backdrop of the most relentless escalation of restrictions against abortion and clinic closures since Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion 41 years ago. Across the country, the right and ability to access abortion hangs by a thread. Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution newspaper ( and initiator of End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women (, spoke with Susan Cahill, the owner and advanced-level clinician who provided abortions and other services at the family clinic.

In this interview, Susan Cahill provides the larger picture of what it means to take the responsibility to provide women with abortions, the threats and violence as well as legal attacks and demonization as well as the gratitude and support; she reveals the depth of her own commitment to women and what it would mean if abortion was no longer available; and she explores and shares her thinking about how we have ended up in the situation where this right is being taken away and some of the elements necessary to turn the tide.

Sunsara Taylor: First, I really want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. When I first heard about the vandalism that happened at your clinic I was incensed. I’m outraged about this and a lot of people are, but a lot of people actually have no idea what happened at all. And even those who have heard about it, the headline said that your clinic was “vandalized” and that can conjure up the image of some kids playing a prank. So, I wonder if you can start by just talking about what happened.

All Families Healthcare Clinic after being severely vandalized March 3. Photo courtesy of Steve Martinez.

Susan Cahill: Yes, and I’m actually going to go back just a little bit. All Families Healthcare is my business which I started at a different location 6½ years ago and I was very happy there. But I was renting and [not long ago] my landlord at the time said that he was running into some financial problems and he was going to sell the business. He asked me if I wanted to buy the building but it was an older home, which was great because I liked the cozy atmosphere of it, but I didn’t really want to take on that big a project at this time in my life as far as the building and it needed a lot of work so I said no. You know, I may be retiring in a couple of years. So I didn’t think it would sell right away because of all that and because of what he was asking for it, but it did. And when it did, I turned to my secretary/receptionist and said, “An anti-choice person bought this building, I bet you anything.” So I asked my landlord if I could stay there and they said no they were going to use the building and I had to get out.

So I had to turn inward and decide whether or not I was going to try to find another place ’cause it’s not easy for me, because I do abortions, to find a place to rent. But I did. So I got out of there and in minus 15 degrees with a huge amount of help from very dear friends who moved my office to this new location.

And after spending a lot of money and time fixing it up, new paint, cabinets, lots of stuff... I moved in on the weekend before the 11th of February, started seeing patients on the 11th of February.

There’s a lot of things to do when you move a medical office. Lots. So just getting everything organized, remembering where you put new stuff after 6½ years of being in a different place. We were just starting to feel like we were getting settled. It looked really nice. The sun was coming out again and it wasn’t minus 15 anymore and I had almost finished the security system. I had cameras in but this was a new system that was wireless and the person on Monday the 3rd of March said to me, “Tomorrow, I will finish it.” I said “great,” because the next day the 40 Days for Life [40 days of protest and prayers outside the doors of abortion clinics across the country] was going to start and I wanted it up for that.

So that was what happened on Monday. I remember actually walking around after everybody had left thinking, “We did a really good job with this new place.” I was really happy with it. The next morning I was getting ready to go to work and my secretary/receptionist comes in before me and she went in to go to the back door and saw that the glass had been broken and it was obviously broken into. She smartly did not walk in. She walked to where the landlord was, who’s a lawyer and said, “We’ve been broken into, we need to call the police.” Then she called me and by the time I got there the police would not allow us to go in. The FBI was there and actually—this was a Tuesday—we didn’t get to see the damage until Wednesday afternoon.

During that time they spent all day and all night there as well, and the police kept telling me, “This is really very destroyed. I need you to get prepared for this.” They asked me if I wanted to watch the videos of it first before we walked in, but that whole thing made me so anxious. I said, “No, I just want to get in there.”

So, by Wednesday afternoon they finally let me in after doing all their investigation and... it’s really hard to... in fact... every time I think about it I start crying because it’s really, it’s really very difficult to understand the devastation that was there. And everything kept running through my mind, I mean it was only three weeks ago that all of my dearest friends and colleagues helped me create this space and now it was completely vanda... completely destroyed.

And the energy of hate in that place was palpable because not only did this person take meticulous care to damage every possible [medical and structural thing] you can imagine, but on top of that broke... I mean, you know I have prints and paintings and things through the years that represent important things for me that I put up... They were totally destroyed. As well as my, you know, pictures of my family... where holes [were stabbed] in their faces... Everything.

And then every piece of medical equipment was destroyed in some manner or the other. He had put iodine and sprayed it all over everything... He took the fire extinguisher and sprayed the dust... I mean we’re still dealing with this in the little room that we have now, trying to get our charts in order, every time you pull a chart, you know [the] smell comes again... I go to sleep with that in my nose.

So it was complete devastation... They pulled my plants from their roots and besides that he went downstairs in the basement and completely destroyed the heating and plumbing as well. So it was not mere vandalism and it certainly wasn’t [random]. It was an attack on me, there was absolutely no doubt about that.

Sunsara Taylor: I'm glad that you went back and told the story from earlier because that is more than I had realized. I read a quote I was going to ask you about later, but it just comes right to the fore of my mind as I'm hearing you describe this. In a letter that you sent to a newspaper, you said this is an attack on you but it is an attack on all women. I wonder if you could explain why you said that and how you mean that.

Susan Cahill: Well, let me just connect another dot here before I respond to that. So, I wanted to find out who bought the building I was in for 6½ years and my landlord would not tell me. Finally, a lawyer found out from the county and it was a man and wife. The woman is the ex-director for a crisis pregnancy center, Hope Pregnancy Ministries. So they bought the building purely to get me out of business, knowing that it would be hard for me to find another place.

At the time, it was claimed that they were going to use the building. Well, the building is up for lease now. No one's in it. Then because that didn't work [to put me out of business] and I found another place, the son of the woman who started Hope Pregnancy Ministries is the one who completely destroyed my clinic and the painful thing for me is that the physician for this Hope Pregnancy Ministries... where you can get, you know, free ultrasounds from a place called Clear Choice which has "Pregnant Scared?" on their billboards... but over the course of the time Clear Choice has referred patients to me, women who—against all of the harassment trying to convince them otherwise—have said, "No I need to terminate this pregnancy." And I've even heard a few patients say, "They said, 'You will get good care with Susan.'"

So I have felt that we have had some understanding. You know, its respect for differences and hopefully respect for women's choices. So that was my made-up belief system, apparently. And the physician who was connected to [Hope Pregnancy Ministries] over the course of the years has been very considerate of me. We exchange patients. When I had hip surgery, he came in to see how I was doing. So I felt like this is the belief system that I hold dear, which is that we respect each other's differences in life. So when this happened, not only did I take it so personally because it was, but I looked at all the women in my community who we both had taken care of, and this was such an attack on them because, it's like, "We're telling you what you're going to do. You are no longer an individual who needs and has to make choices in their life sometimes that are different from the ones that I think you should make... We are going to stop you from being able to do that. We don't respect your decisions making."

And this is not just women. It's families. It's people. I mean, life is hard. People need choices.
I have to say, I was thinking about your organization name, Stop Patriarchy, and I thought, you know, I think it's "stop misogyny" because, the women... it was the mother... it was the son of a mother who did this... and it was the woman whose executive director who got stuck... and they are also misogynistic. They have bought into this belief that women can't make... that women are less than and are just whatever vessels or whatever... or when did it become that an embryo was more important than a breathing human being, you know?

Sunsara Taylor: Well, I really agree with you. Patriarchy encompasses an ideology as well as the structures... and I agree that women can enforce that, they can take up the ideology of male supremacy and misogyny, just as much as men can. On Democracy Now! you said a lot of people, because abortion is legal, they don't understand that we are actively losing this right. Also, that you remember what it was like before Roe v. Wade. Could you talk some about that?

Susan Cahill: You know, I was born in 1950, so I grew up when it was illegal. Interestingly, I actually was born on International Women's Day, March 8, and I was delivered by...

Sunsara Taylor: Oh, Happy Birthday!

Susan Cahill: [Laughs.] Yeah, thank you. An 82-year-old female physician who, in 1950 was a rarity to say the least! She was on a program a couple days after delivering me and it was entitled, "Life begins at 80," so I think the stars were aligned in some respect, you know, for better or worse.
But, just with this shadow of understanding that the rarity of having a female physician in the first place, and then growing up and my own sensitivities around the fact that I remember having male doctors. You know, I was hippie generation, so when I wanted to get birth control there was one physician at the university who would do that and he was a dirty old man.

I remember that when I got examined, quote unquote, so that I could get birth control pills, he asked me about how I liked sex. I remember this and it just stuck in my mind as I grew and had a broader understanding of what all this meant. So I went through that... and I went through the time when we believed and understood that we were sexual human beings... understanding the philosophy of that and understanding the responsibility. As I grew older and got interested in medicine and what that meant in order for us to feel that way, we needed to also take care of our reproduction in a healthy way.

So I went through all that and I remember when Roe was passed—because that was in '73 and I went to PA [physician assistant] school in '74 and from '74 to '76—the universities and the hospitals were teaching medical people how to do abortions, which doesn't even happen anymore. You have to ask now, and it's hard to find a place that will teach you. So I remember this whole time and to me it was an absolute given. I mean, it was like, "Of course we need this, there is no doubt." But now, these generations have passed and it is legal... but there's something missing in our brains around how important this is to stay safe and legal... and I think it's like the old, "You have to remember your history otherwise you'll repeat it," and I think that's what's happening here.

Sunsara Taylor: Several generations now have never heard anybody speak positively about abortion.

Susan Cahill: That's an interesting thought. I mean, I'll tell you another story when you're finished.
Sunsara Taylor: I was just going to say that last summer when we did the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, we travelled, I mean, the entire country and we had these bright, bright, bright beautiful orange signs that you cannot miss that say, "Abortion on demand and without apology." And over and over again, some people were confused, "Wait a second, are you for it or against it?" I mean, the sign could not be more clear. But people have never heard the word "abortion" without it being condemned. They've heard "choice." They've heard "privacy." They've heard "safe, legal, rare." But they've never heard somebody say look this is a very positive and liberating thing for women to be able to make conscious decisions about when and whether they will have children. So it underscored to me how much there has been a far too one-sided battle in the last 40 years against women's right to abortion, legally, extra-legally, as well as in the in the realm of culture and morality. So, this is something that I think, in addition to people taking it for granted as something legal, there's also a lot of defensiveness and shame that is misplaced around abortion. But you were going to tell a story...

Susan Cahill: Well, I'll tell you the story, but I totally agree with you about that. And I confront that every day when women call up and, because I'm a family practice office... That's my way of saying this is just another medical procedure. I take care of sore throats, I take care of babies, I take care of the elderly, I take care of women's reproductive needs, including when they get pregnant and find that they can't keep the pregnancy, or if they get pregnant and want to keep the pregnancy. Then I am joyful for them, refer them because I don't do obstetrics because I don't have privileges at the hospital because I am a physician's assistant.

To me, you fit this in. You know when I was working with Dr. Armstrong [the doctor who Susan Cahill worked with for many years at a family practice that provided abortions], you fit this in. You have vasectomies, you have whatever. I mean, it is part of life. I think marginalizing the whole abortion thing was the biggest mistake after it became legal... putting it in clinics where that's all they did. I think that was mistake number one and if I was queen for a day I would, and I said this in my letter, I would have particularly physicians and other medical people whose concentration is on women's health to learn first trimester abortions.

We have made it so safe since '73 when it was legalized. And I've gone through that whole thing, so I know from the hard time to the easy time, it's a five-minute procedure. It's a very simple procedure. A shot of penicillin or a tonsillectomy is a heck of a lot more dangerous. And yet, because it's been stigmatized, OBGYN doctors don't want to have anything to do with [abortions].
I think women should go [to their physicians] and say, "How come you don't you do this? What kind of a women's doctor are you?" You know?

And, women should be able to say "abortion." But, women will call up to me and they'll say, "Um, um, um, well I want to make an appointment." And I'd say, "OK, what kind of an appointment do you want?" "Well, um... um..." Well, we all know. They can't say it so often. So, I say it. It's like with anything, we can't say "penis," we can't say "vagina." I had a patient whose mother called me up when her daughter was 10 saying something was the matter with her "toe-toe," which I knew right away. So she comes in and my medical assistant gets her ready by taking her shoes off and I went back to her and I said, "Why's her shoes off?" She goes, "Because she said there's something the matter with her toe." I said, "No, there's something the matter with her 'toe-toe.'" And then, I said, "First of all, we're going to talk about what this word really is." So it is a problem, you're right. And, I don't know exactly what the answer is, except I do think part of the problem was marginalizing this whole thing in the beginning and if we could in anyway [reverse that]... And now there's medication abortion, so it's even easier if you wanted that...

Sunsara Taylor: You were going to tell a story as well.

Susan Cahill: Oh, I was going to tell you a story, which was... I had thought you were going to say that you met women who talked about their experiences having an abortion and that it was not all great. I also believe most of the time in my office, certainly sometimes this is a crisis for a woman, but sometimes it's easier for them to decide. Sometimes it's personally harder, but I try to make it not... I don't want to make it a big ordeal because I believe that it's disrespectful. I mean, I certainly do everything. I do the counseling. I have a master's in social work on purpose. But, besides that I'm not going to question women a million times for her decision. I have too much respect for the fact they know what they're doing. So that also has got to stop, frankly.

I mean, I think we've got to make it a little bit simpler for women to go in and say, "I'm pregnant and I don't want to be." You know? You certainly want to know, make sure they're not being forced into something they don't want to do, that's very important, but it doesn't take too long to figure that one out, frankly. You just do it and you say, "I'll see ya in two weeks to make sure you're OK," you know, whatever.

So, this young woman came in. She's 16 at the time and we had a parental notice hanging around which I think we've gotten rid of now... it said "15 and under" but she thought she needed her mother to come in, so her mother came in. Her mother was obviously chemically dependent and was screaming and cursing at the time. This young woman was much more mature than her mother and was very clear about her decision. Really, she allowed her mother to be who she was but after her mother left, she apologized for her mother.

We thought from the date that she was farther along than she actually was, and by the time I got dealt with her mother and her mother left and then I took care of the other patients it was after five... So, I said, "You're not as far along and if you're OK with just the two of us doing this now we will." She said, "I would like that," so we did it and then I took her home.

And I remember a couple of things about it because she was trying to get her GED. She was working. Her mother was down in the basement of this house, the boyfriend's mother was in the center of the house and she and the boyfriend were living in the upstairs attic. That's how it was and she had this little sweatshirt and it was pretty cold out and I had just got a new car with heated seats, which I never had before. I started the car before she got in because I noticed she didn't have much on. And she's sitting there yacking away at me and then she stops and she goes, "Oh, heated seats!" You know, it was so sweet. So I drove her home and she's talking and she stops and she starts to open the door and she turns to me and she says, "Can I give you a hug? You did a really great thing for me today." That's the stuff that makes me, first of all it breaks my heart, but also it makes me proud. But it also makes me know how important this is. That's what I was going to tell you, and for her this was a very good experience, and the right thing.

Sunsara Taylor: You gave her her life back.

Susan Cahill: Right.

Sunsara Taylor: You spoke before about reducing women to vessels and breeders. I think a lot of people don't understand that when women don't have access to abortion when they need it, their lives are foreclosed. That's it for them, you're 16, you end up with a kid, that's your entire life. It has been forcibly changed in a way that is just unconscionable, and it's society imposing that. And what you do, what the providers do across this country, is enable women to have their lives back. But also, reducing women to vessels is actually the aim[both laugh in recognition], that's actually their aim, of this movement. It's never been about babies, it's never been about life, it's always been about control over women, it's pretty clear because they don't support birth control either.

Susan Cahill: Right.

Sunsara Taylor: That was a great story. And I agree with you that other physicians should provide this service, but I also think that everybody in this country right now needs to get off the sidelines and be part of fighting to defend abortion rights and to defeat the war on women. So I think it's important for people to understand the full dimension. This recent destruction of your clinic is not the first targeting, extreme violence that you've experienced. Your clinic was firebombed in the '90s and you also experienced legal attacks. And, while there is a distinction between that kind of extra-legal attack and legal attacks, it's not necessarily the most important distinction because both are completely illegitimate in terms of what they mean for women. So, I wonder if you could just paint a little bit of a picture of what it's been like to be providing abortions in this climate for the last two decades.

Susan Cahill: Well, after the legal attack was settled and the anti-choice group, you know, they're always needling, needling, needling, needling... so they went to county trying to arrest Dr. Armstrong for doing second trimesters in the clinic, and me for doing first trimesters at all. And just, to go back again, when I went to school and I was looking to come to Montana, I was in New York, and I wrote, and I was looking for my final elective in Montana because I wanted to come here for romance reasons...

I didn't know where Montana was on the map actually, but [laughs] Dr. Armstrong, who was also originally from New York, had vowed that when it became legal, if it became legal, that he would incorporate [abortions] into his family practice, because he saw women die every day in New York City of illegal abortions.

And so, by the time I wrote to see if I could come out there and I described all the things that I had learned, one of which was abortion, he grabbed me because he had so many requests for abortions that he didn't have enough time for his regular family practice. He needed help, so I did my final elective with him and that's how that started. So, I was doing them all that time and then physician assistants were just, you know, getting more and more known [in medicine in general] and there was a medical practice act that said that physicians could delegate authority to any professional they feel has been trained adequately to do that.

So, that's how I was working doing first trimester abortions. Then, when I became licensed in '83, I had worked already six or seven years doing abortions, and he told this moving story at the board of medical examiners, to make sure that they were ok with me doing them and it was passed without any question.

The anti-choice people then started looking at the fact that there was the Roe v. Wade thing, which says only physicians can do abortions. That was said because, first of all there were no advanced level clinicians doing anything in '73, they were just staring to come out, nobody knew anything about them, so they weren't going to say "medical professionals," because they didn't know anything other than physicians that could do physician-type of work, so that's why Roe v. Wade was stated that way. But they, the anti-choice people, took that and said, "She's not a physician, she can't be doing them, so arrest her." And the same goes with... there was a law in the books about physicians doing second trimesters in the hospital.

So we got legal advice and it turned into a two-year legal battle. And it would get... they would say I couldn't do them and then I could do them and then I couldn't do them and then I could do them, back and forth for two years, and finally won, I think it was in '97 that I won. And then the Montana Supreme Court just basically said that medical professionals who are well trained can do this. It was a big deal. At one point patients would come and say, "But I want you to do it," and I would have to say to them, "I can't, I can't do it."

Sunsara Taylor: Mhmm.

Susan Cahill: I went through the whole counseling, I explained the procedure, but Dr. Armstrong would have to come in and do it, you know, so that went back and forth for two years. So there was that, and of course, stuff in the paper, and you know, it was another one of those things that you just kind of slog through.

Sunsara Taylor: You become medical professional because you want to serve your patients...

Susan Cahill: Right.

Sunsara Taylor: And here you have to go through years of legal battle just to do your job. It's a huge cost to pay, not everybody would persevere and fight that through.

Susan Cahill: Right. Dr. Armstrong was the one who was instrumental in helping me do that. He was determined. He was a very determined person and very clear. And he's another one of those people who knows exactly what it would mean if this wasn't legal, because he's seen it. You know, and that's why I said the people who know about what it would be, what it was like when it was illegal, are disappearing, they're dying, they're retiring and they're dying.

Sunsara Taylor: Yeah.

Susan Cahill: It's a concern, and I feel right at the precipice of that right now, you know.

Sunsara Taylor: And then your clinic was also, or I guess Dr. Armstrong's clinic, you two were working together.

Susan Cahill: Firebombed.

Sunsara Taylor: Yeah, go ahead and talk about that.

Susan Cahill: It took us five months to rebuild. Well, that was early in the morning, three o'clock in the morning, you know, and interestingly, the man who lives next to me is the fire chief. I even heard his car leave, but that was not uncommon. They got there right away, but it destroyed the front office and it took us five months to rebuild and then we had to find another place and that was the first scary thing. Again, we persevered and we talked about the same things that I'm talking about now. The same things, and that's very painful to me. We started something called the Safe Place Project and the community was behind it, about, "This can not happen in our community." And it didn't for twenty years. Now it's back again. It's just non-stop and quite honestly it's very shocking to me that we're still fighting this. From my perspective growing up and seeing and saying, "Yes of course, of course we need this right." I mean, yes, of course. And, "Oh we got it, oh good, that battle's won." You know? No.

Sunsara Taylor: Mhmm.

Susan Cahill: It hasn't been won and it's going backwards, it's absolutely going backwards. You know, Texas has all these awful laws passed that were passed even against popular opinion, heh.

Sunsara Taylor: Yeah, yeah, this is not acceptable this situation. We are, like you said, on a precipice, not just you personally at a precipice, but in this country access is being closed down, women's lives right now are being foreclosed. There are women undergoing dangerous self-... attempts to self-induce abortion is very widespread, much more than people understand. People are going to have fight this. Go out on the streets and speak out about this, raise their voices, resist, and refuse to allow this to happen, really refuse to allow for this happen. And change the atmosphere and the climate, and that is something I feel very strongly is not, it is not the responsibility of those who already put their lives on the line for decades to do that alone. It's unacceptable that people like yourself are—I know you described everybody who helped you open the new clinic, you mentioned that young woman who gave you a hug, I'm sure that is manifold—but it's too much that providers are left by themselves to face the real consequences of this, it's going to take the toll on all women if there's not a change very soon. I want to ask you... Go ahead.

Susan Cahill: I think the other thing that needs to change is that, and I don't know how we're going to do this, but the rhetoric of "murderer," that an abortion provider is a "murderer"...

Sunsara Taylor: Oh, yes.

Susan Cahill: Has absolutely got to not be allowed, because for me, the difference between the firebombing in the '90s and now is that then the guy was from some other state and he did that to three abortion clinics before he was caught and in jail for seven years. But today, this was a fellow in my own community. And, done by people in my own community is scarier to me. And he had a semi-automatic rifle in his car. He was armed at the time. And I thought this morning just, the unfortunate part... it might not have been so unfortunate that my alarm system wasn't totally set up because it's possible that if he could not commit to destroying my clinic, that he would have then decided to destroy me. And that's a scary, scary thought for me.

Sunsara Taylor: Yeah, that's a horrible thought, and I don't think that's an unreasonable thought. And I am reminded of something I read about the rise of the Nazis. How a lot of people were very alarmed by Kristallnacht2and all the thuggish violence against Jews, but then when anti-Jewish laws were passed and S.S. were posted outside Jewish businesses, for example, and people accepted that more easily because it had the veneer of legality and so-called "legitimacy" in that sense. But, in reality, the anti-Jewish laws turned out to be much, much more deadly. And I think there's an analogy with to abortion today, "Sure, there's legal restrictions, but there's not the same level of violence as say in the '90s." But, they... first of all, they don't understand the level of violence that's going still going on, and secondly, those restrictions are having a much greater effect shutting down abortion—and in a much more lasting, much harder-to-reverse kind of way. Plus, and this relates to your point on rhetoric, there's a connection between the atmosphere that allows those legal restrictions... with major officials in the country talking about abortion as "murder," as a "holocaust," as blood on the providers' hands, and you have Fox News, when they used to talk about "Dr. Tiller the Baby Killer"... all of this creates an atmosphere where unstable people or fanatical people, indoctrinated people feel that they're justified in quote, unquote, "taking God's work into their own hands," or acting "on behalf of the unborn," or however they understand it. You can't separate the motivation of individuals to carry out this kind of violence from the overall atmosphere and legal framework that's being hammered into place. And both are harmful, I realize that's not really a question [both laugh], but I wanted to appreciate and kind of build on your point about the rhetoric, it's very deadly.

Susan Cahill: It's extremely deadly... There is a woman who did a documentary on the Holocaust... She also was the woman who interviewed me because I got an award on Lifetime TV for being a "risk-taker"... and that thick glass award on my desk was also totally destroyed... But, this woman did a documentary talking about the Hungarians and it was so moving about how they kept watching the Nazis and doing all these little things, and saying, "Oh well, it's just this isolated thing... Oh well, it's not going to happen to us... Oh well... Oh well..." Until it did. And it's just the palpable understanding of the deeper thing, how the people who want to do the destruction do it in a very systematic way that makes people have amnesia around what's happening... or just not take it seriously. Not thinking it's that important. And it is. All of these things. So, I don't know what is going to happen in my community right now. It's going to be an interesting thing. I just talked with a man yesterday who said, "Whatever you need, I will be there for you, I will protect you, I know martial arts... and, I don't agree with what you are doing, but I know who you are and this is wrong, and it is wrong in our community and we can't have it." And a lot of people are saying that, so, we'll see what happens.

I have a certain amount of faith, maybe it will happen here. Interestingly, the physician for the Crisis Pregnancy Center, I wrote him a letter and he called me last night. My letter basically said, I identified that your executive director bought my old clinic to get me out of work and when that didn't work the woman who started that, her son totally destroyed my clinic and my livelihood and everything I have ever worked for. And you have irreparably damaged our relationship and blah, blah, blah... and on your website you have, "In the spirit of Jesus," and I said, "This is not the spirit of Jesus." I said, "I am a victim, but so is Zachary, because Zachary was born in innocence and love and he was taught to hate." [Zachary is the son of the founder of Hope Pregnancy Ministries. He has been arrested and charged for vandalizing Susan Cahill's clinic.] And I said, "This is not the spirit of Jesus, this is the spirit Jesus was preaching against." He called me up and he said, "You're right. I want you to be OK with me talking to my colleagues..." So, I don't know what is going to happen with that. But part of me hopes something out of this will be good.

Sunsara Taylor: Let me as you a final question, and then invite you for any final reflections you want to add. Can you talk about what now, the phones are operating at your office, but what are women in your region of Montana facing if they do need abortion care?

Susan Cahill: For people in Kalispell, the closest place is Missoula, which is a two-and-a-half hour drive. Great clinic, but they right now are going to be inundated with women because there was a clinic in Livingston that was closed also, so they were already getting those women and now they will get my patients. They are a bigger clinic. They also cost more because they are a bigger clinic because they have to pay for all that. That's another thing, with my office, I had me and two employees and I tried to keep things reasonable because I also think abortion needs to be reasonable financially for women. So, they are going to cost more, they have to go farther. They only do them a couple days a week. The other thing that I always offered intermixed with my other patients.

But besides all that, we also have the Blackfeet Reservation. These people don't have a lot of money, very often. They had to drive an hour and a half to me. I often give them... they often come without gas money by the time they make it here, without gas money, without food money. So, I have donations that I give them. Now, these people are going to have to go to Missoula.... It's pathetic! Frankly, it's more than pathetic, but that is one of the things it is. It's a disgrace! Just that alone, women should say, WHAT? WHAT!? Men can go anywhere he wants to get whatever the frick he wants, you know? [Both laugh.]

Sunsara Taylor: Is there anything else you want to add?

Susan Cahill: It can go on and on and on, frankly, about what I want to add depending on what I think about at the time. But, I want people to be angr... You know...

Sunsara Taylor: I want them to be angry, it's OK, you can say that.

Susan Cahill: I want them to be angry, but I want their anger to come out in constructive ways...

Sunsara Taylor: Yes.

Susan Cahill: And I think it's going to take a lot of different ways in order to do that. I've had this fund set up for me, which is fabulous, and the money has gotten much more than was originally asked for. And thinking about what I want to do with part of that money in the most constructive way I can to help the movement... I need to talk to the groups that are all working towards better access and think about where we can work most constructively with that. And I don't know what that is yet. But I will continue to talk and think and work at it. And I think all of us who have come together thinking about it, we need to talk about what we can do here...

And one of the things we can do is get access to reproductive health in the schools again. This whole abstinence-only thing... is so ludicrous! No! No! Because we know, in all the other western countries that have comprehensive reproductive healthcare, they're abortions and need for abortions are a lot less. We know that. I mean, that's one way. But, these battles...

I really think that the younger generation, we need their help. We need their help.

Sunsara Taylor: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk.



1. “Crisis pregnancy centers" are fake clinics run by people who are anti-abortion. They lure unsuspecting women in by providing pregnancy tests and in the guise of giving "medical advice," they actually give women wrong and distorted information to scare or shame them into not having abortions. - ST [back]

2. November 9-10, 1938, Nazis led mobs to attack Jewish-owned businesses, homes, and synagogues throughout Germany and parts of Austria. Close to 100 Jews were killed that night, which came to be known as Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, because of the shards of broken glass all over the streets in its aftermath. [back]




Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

The Boston Women's Conference: What Interests Are Served by Trying to Shut Down Revolution

Updated April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader

In the midst of the reactionary onslaught against abortion rights, and the war on women more generally, people gathered in Boston at the end of March for a conference on the "revolutionary moment in the women's liberation movement" in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Hundreds of people came. The conference should have been an opportunity to debate different ideas on what women face today, and to discuss and struggle over what critical lessons can be learned from the past, where do we need to go in the future, and how do we carve out the pathways to get there. And it could have been not only an important site of vigorous discussion and ferment, but a critical springboard to action.

Yet, despite the fact that there were people there who were anxious for that kind of conference, some people tried to prevent a woman who has both strongly put forward revolution and the emancipation of women as a key part of that revolution AND who has stood at the forefront of the struggle to defend abortion rights—Sunsara Taylor—from putting forward revolution. At different points she found her mic cut off and was told from the podium to stop speaking when she tried to put forward the solution of revolution, or to bring forward the importance of the struggle to defend abortion in that context. Someone else at one point was denied even the right to speak at all for "being associated" with Sunsara Taylor, and this outrage was only overcome when another person at the conference got up and criticized this suppression and then turned over her time at the mic to this revolutionary. All this took place in the context of materials promoting BA Everywhere being distributed to attendees at the conference. In addition to the suppression of Sunsara Taylor, some people were promoting vicious lies and an undercurrent of unacceptable hostility toward Bob Avakian that were way out of the bounds of principled expressions of political differences.

To be clear, Taylor and the other revolutionaries did NOT back down in the face of this, and some people were drawn to what they had to say—much literature got out, and 50 copies of the RCP's A Declaration for Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity were sold. But what could have and should have been a full-throated discussion of serious questions, open to a whole range of points of view, was truncated and an overall bad atmosphere created. This went on despite the fact that everything that Taylor and others were raising was quite integral to the announced thrust and breadth of discussion to be undertaken by the conference and was being raised in the scientific spirit of struggling over the character of reality and the rich back-and-forth that goes along with that.

How did any of this serve to advance the dialogue—and yes, the very badly needed debate—over the character of the problems facing women, the source of those problems, the methodology that is needed to understand them, and their solution?

It did not.

In addition, despite an opening speech by a famous woman novelist and poet that in part focused powerfully on abortion, virtually no emphasis was given at the conference to actually figuring out HOW to fight to defend abortion rights—rights which are right now under unprecedented and extremely sharp attacks that amount to an emergency. Indeed, there was one small workshop on abortion at the conference, and this focused mainly on the struggle in the '60s and '70s. How did this lack of resolve at a critical moment—and again, the attempted silencing of someone who has undeniably stood at both the literal and figurative front lines of this struggle—serve to advance the struggle against the very real and immediate attacks against women and for their emancipation?

It did not.

To be part of such an attempted silencing is outrageous and indefensible.

To fail to fight against the attacks on women, as they are coming down today, is utterly unconscionable.

Some of those responsible for these attacks seemed to view the conference as a way to burnish the legacy of the radical women's movement of the late '60s/early '70s, and their role in particular, as a means to advance their organizational interests; evidently, the understanding and approach Taylor was advocating for—an approach that poses building on that legacy but taking it further and with a different synthesis—is perceived as a threat to that. Others, more prominently featured, put forward a fairly naked defense of working within the system for reforms and a blatant misrepresentation of the role played by more revolutionary currents "back in the day." Here, too, it is clear that a voice who can show the harm of restricting one's efforts to working within the system and who can put forward a different view of the problem and solution, cannot be tolerated by apologists for reformism. The proponents of both of these currents apparently felt unable to contend with the ideas of Sunsara Taylor and the women and men of End Pornography and Patriarchy about those and other burning questions, so rather than discuss and debate those questions openly, they attempted to "enforce their narrative" by silencing them. Yet this is not a matter of "competing narratives"; it is a question of the source of and solution to the increasingly dire situation faced by hundreds of millions here, and billions around the world.

Thus, the final question that begs to be asked is this: What exactly were these people defending with this attempted censorship? And where in all this were the interests of the masses of women, and of humanity as a whole?

With all its great accomplishments and breakthroughs, which definitely must be upheld and even more importantly learned from and built off of, with all its inspiring moral, intellectual, and physical heroism and courage, the most salient fact about the women's movement of the 1960s/'70s and the movement overall is that we did not go far enough back then... we did not make revolution. Billions pay the price for that every day. It is urgent that we go forward now and go much further. As part of that, the movement we need now must be one based on principled debate over reality and how to transform it, coupled with a determination to take on the most serious attacks on women and defeat those attacks and outrages.




Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

From The Michael Slate Show:

Interview with Documentary Filmmaker Hubert Sauper

April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Hubert Sauper's 2004 film, Darwin's Nightmare, was nominated for an Academy Award. In the following interview on The Michael Slate Show, which aired on KPFK Pacifica radio on March 14 and March 21, Sauper discusses his latest work, We Come As Friends.


Michael Slate: Why don't you give people a synopsis of the film itself.

Hubert Sauper: All right. That's a hard one. I've been working for six years on this film called We Come as Friends, and if you want me to resumé it into one or two lines, it's an attempt—I tried to condense a very complicated issue into a movie. Of course, it's my work as a filmmaker, and that is to try to figure out what is the pathology of colonialism. It's hard to explain in a quick way, but there's something kind of encrypted in our veins, almost, that we, say the Western culture, like we Europeans—I'm a European—have been overthrowing civilizations, killing millions of people in the world. And as we did, like, annihilate, as you say, annihilate civilizations over the centuries, in the Americas, in Africa, in Asia, we always had to come up with a narrative that kind of excuses us from doing this. And of course the narrative was supported by Christianity. We, the Europeans, we always had to come up with a way to explain to ourselves that we are actually good people while we are killing everyone else on the other side of the world.

Michael Slate: Pretty big job.

Hubert Sauper: It's a complicated thing. But because it's kind of a part of our civilization, it is very refined. If you want to stretch the argument, it's a bit of a stretched metaphor, but I can say, I think, on your radio station is when you imagine an individual who's a murderer, or is a pedophile, let's say a pedophile, and he goes home and he spends a lot of money to sponsor an orphanage. He insists to all his friends how much he loves children. So there is something so pathological in his behavior, or her behavior, and I think in the collective way our civilization suffers from the same schizophrenia.

And I think it's a fact, and I think it's something we have to kind of come to terms with, or fight against. But we can only fight against it if we are ready to see it as a problem. I think it's a collective problem.

So the movie We Come as Friends is basically a very straightforward documentary film, which is set in the South Sudan and in Sudan, at the very moment when Sudan, the biggest country of Africa, was split into two pieces. And that was a very crucial moment in history because the division of cultures and countries and nations was a crucial method, a crucial tool of colonialism. So the European colonialists came to Africa a bit over 100 years ago and cut it into 50 or something, 52 pieces called nations now. It's called divide and rule, basically. The more you divide, let's say intact kingdoms, the easier it is to rule those kingdoms. And sometimes the borders which have been made in colonial times were also actually containing tribes into one nation which were already at war, which is also a problem. And then it's also easier to rule this new-formed nation.

So the Sudan was basically the last episode of a long, long tradition of division of Africa. And the interesting thing is, of course, that while it is happening, the narrative which we got in America or in Europe or even China was that this country has to be split in two pieces because they are so different. The North is Arabic, the South is Christian. They don't get along. They should all have a separate country and then everyone is going to be happy and it's going to be peaceful.

Of course, it's not true that everyone was Christian in the South. It's also true a lot of Christians were in the North. It's clear that the problem between the North and the South was not religious. It was basically a problem that was created by powerful people who wanted the division, and who wanted the division to basically divide the wealth of the country, and mainly it is the oil in the Sudan. But at stake is also the water of the Nile. The Nile River flows straight from the south to North Sudan, and then on to Egypt. There's an unbelievable amount of gold and silver and uranium and you name it, and a lot of arable land. So, it's a very stretched thing to say, but in some way, the Sudan was split into two hemispheres, and I would say into a Chinese hemisphere and an American hemisphere. So China and America basically cut this country into two. This is, of course, a simplified way to say it, but there's something to it. And what was not said during this division of the Sudan, what was not mentioned, is that everyone was speaking about the new nation going to be born, and people are going to be happy and they're all the same. But no one really talked about the fact that there's a new border created, which is what? Some 2,000 miles long. And typically in Africa, borders are not a very safe place to be. So if you happen to live near that new border, you're potentially in very bad shape. There's a good chance your children are going to die from some kind of violent action.

Michael Slate: Part of this thing, even with the borders—as you're saying, they created these two hemispheres, the Chinese and the American. It's really interesting because there is this point that throughout Africa, it is true that the borders of African nations, they didn't match a lot of times, they didn't match—any way, shape, or form they didn't match anything to do with a lot of what the tribal areas were, and you have tribes split down the middle. They basically were lines that were drawn in the earth around whatever you can hold with a gun, whatever you can defend, the imperial powers, whatever you can defend, you can have. So it's true, these borders were very artificial in a sense, but then they also became battle lines and continue to be like that.

Trailer for We Come as Friends, Hubert Sauper's new film.

One of the things I wanted to ask—you've done a few other films, a couple of those films at least I know of are from Africa, Kisangani Diary and Darwin's Nightmare. And you can talk about that if you want. The question I was going to raise to you was, so this will be your third film on Africa. And is there a development? Is there a reason why you keep coming back to Africa, and is there a development and a progression to what you're doing with your films on Africa?

Hubert Sauper: One of the reasons why I'm interested in Africa is of course because I'm a European, and Europe has a very, very connected history with Africa. It is completely connected. For example, exactly a century ago, the First World War started, to the month almost, a century ago. And that war, the First World War, was basically a colonial war. The problem was that the German Empire at the time, the British Empire, the French Empire, and the Russian Empire, were coming to a point, after having developed very high industries, they came to a point that they kind of realized that they're going to need a lot of resources in the future, a lot of workforce, a lot of like slave workforce from abroad. And each empire was kind of imagining there's going to be a shortcoming for someone, right? So, of course, the trigger of the First World War was the killing of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, but the mood that came up to it was a colonial dispute, basically—which is not really written in the history books very much. [Laughs.] And then, you know, 20-what years later, the Nazis was a consequence of it, so the colonial history and Europe is so interconnected.

By the way, one of the scenes in my film, We Come as Friends, takes place in a place called Fashoda, which was basically the epicenter of the collision of the two big empires in the late 1800s. In 1898, there was Britain and France when they clashed into each other, basically, in the small fishing village on the Nile. And that fishing village was on the crossroads between the two imperial axes. The British already had, like, colonized the north of Africa, the Nile, Egypt, and also the south, South Africa, together with the Dutch, the Boers. And they were obsessed by connecting those two points in Africa, so basically connecting the north to the south, the Nile to the Cape.

The French had a similar obsession. The French had colonized West Africa, most of all Senegal and surrounding countries. And they had military outposts in Djibouti on the Indian Ocean. So the French were obsessed to connect these two points and make a big imperial unity from east to west. And obviously the two interests would cross somewhere. And they figured out they were basically drawing two lines across the continent. And the two lines were meeting precisely in the South Sudan, on the Nile, in a little place called Fashoda. So the two, extremely, at the time, nationalistic nations, empires, extremely fascist, I would almost say, and extremely racist—they were driven by racism—those two nations were racing for Fashoda, like in 1968, the race for the moon between the Soviets and America, right? Same story. They were racing with a very big investment, with big armies across the continent of Africa. Both armies—the French went up the Congo with a steamboat. They dismantled the steamboat. Months and months, thousands of porters, of course slave porters from local people, were carrying the machines. Of course not the French: the French were even carried themselves by locals.

And the British were racing up the Nile from the south. The French were faster and they took this little town called Fashoda. The British came a few months later and were militarily superior, and they put up their flag also in Fashoda and it came to a crazy crisis, called the Fashoda Crisis, in 1898, where both empires were at the brink of a world war, which is 1898, 16 years before the actual world war.

So Britain and France almost went to war in Europe over the crisis at Fashoda. And the crisis kind of ended with the fact that the French gave up the Sudan. And this is the reason why in Sudan, people speak now English. This is why Kenya is English-speaking, and Tanzania. Basically the whole of East Africa is now English-speaking, because of Fashoda.

In exchange, the British said, well, that was nice of you to leave East Africa to us, and we will give you, to the French, in exchange, Morocco. So Morocco became a little cadeau, a little present, a French colony—to the detriment of the Germans, because the Germans also wanted Morocco. It's just crazy this whole story. And it ended up triggering the First World War.

Michael Slate: So understanding this is what's driven you to make these films?

Hubert Sauper: No. It's like, this is a story. The thing is that history is extremely complicated, and history is basically not what happened, but what is being told. This is history. What is the narrative? And I think it's important not only what is being told, but how it's being told. And documentary cinema is an amazingly effective tool to tell stories. Because you not only have information, you have as an audience the feeling to encounter people. If the film is made well, you kind of feel you're there, you are in front of these people. You get scared, you get intrigued, you're confused. I think, as a documentary filmmaker, it's, at least for me, I think it's very important to recreate passion that you live as a filmmaker. It's not that I go to Africa and then I come back and I'm going to tell you what the truth is, or what the facts are. The facts are being transported by CNN and the BBC. But still, of course, a documentary film is factual. People are real people. No one is an actor. People say what they really think is the truth.

Village, South Sudan, from the film We Come as Friends

But a lot of things in documentary films have to be read in the second and third degree. For example, if an officer of the UN shows you a plastic model of the future of the South Sudan, it looks like a little Disneyland or something. And he insists on and on and on how beautiful the future will be, and how great it will be. And the more he insists, of course, you as a spectator in the cinema would sit back and say, wait a minute, what is he trying to tell me, right? But I'm not going to be over-voicing this as a filmmaker. I'm not going to say, look, he's a liar or something. I just let people speak. And sometimes, you know, so to say, I give them enough rope so they can hang themselves with their arguments, which I think—of course, I have clear opinions as in some way also a political activist. But I think the efficiency of a documentary film like this is not what you see and hear, but what you feel and what you understand between the lines sometimes.

Michael Slate: I want to come back to that, because it's something I do want to explore a bit. But I have to ask you too, before we get too far into it and lose this—your perspective from the film is shaped in a very unique way, in a plane that I wouldn't sit in, even if it was on the ground. I was scared of it. Talk about how you made this film.

Hubert Sauper: When you start a documentary film project, it's really a big chunk of life. And one of the biggest questions you ask yourself is, what am I doing? Why am I doing this? And how am I doing this? And how is my access to the places and the people I want to film? So the normal procedure would be like you call people. You say, can I go film you? You apply. You call to authorities, you apply for visas, and you go through embassies. Let's say you want to shoot, as a documentary filmmaker, in a Chinese oil field in the middle of a war zone in central Africa. You may as well take like 15 years to get permission, right? And you may never get it.

So one way to find access is a certain form of anarchy. So we built actually a small flying machine [laughs], as you said, like a flying lawnmower, basically, which is named Sputnik. Sputnik's the Russian word for companion. And it's a tiny machine, but it actually has a very powerful engine and has very big wings. And big wings means that you can't fly very fast, but you won't die if you ditch it into a bush, and you can land on a little strip of field, a football field or a country road or something, which we did.

Then we went from France all the way down to North Africa, along the Nile to Sudan, and literally fell from the sky into military camps, into Chinese oil fields, into UN camps. And we were facing very amazing astonishment every time, of course—people were asking, "Where the hell do you come from?" And in some cases, we really had to land because we needed fuel and food and we needed to sleep somewhere. But sometimes we kind of used it as a Trojan Horse. We fell from the sky, and we said, look, we need your help. So we were taken in and we were treated nicely and we connected to people very easily, because this flying machine looks so ridiculously small and inoffensive that people took pity on us, too. So they said, you guys, it's good that you're still alive. Come and have dinner with us. And then some guys wanted to go for a ride, so we took them for a ride just to connect. Some people wanted to see their house from above, so we'd go for a little ride. And then in exchange they would tell us about their lives.

Above: Sputnik, the small flying machine that filmmaker Hubert Sauper and his friend built and then used to fly from France to Sudan and into the military camps, Chinese oil fields, and UN camps.

How this kind of filmmaking works is, I was in this tiny airplane with my great friend Barney Broomfield, and we were literally and figuratively high. This little airplane was our kind of LSD. We were in it, and we were so happy to be up, and we were so happy to have escaped from the military every time. And we experienced this extreme place and this extreme way of living—we were in extreme situations—in a very passionate way. And we had a lot of fun. We were laughing our asses off sometimes, just the way—how ridiculous we were ourselves in pilot shirts, how crazy everything got and how we just escaped in the last moment from another dangerous situation. And we were so passionate about the beauty of the people we met and how amazingly great their analyses are sometimes. Sometimes very poor people will tell you something so smart and so strikingly beautiful.

And we, Barney and I, we experienced that really as a team. It's like, did you just see what I saw? Or, did you see how beautiful this old woman just looked at us? Or something, whatever. And because we kind of shared this passion, we could also make these kinds of images passionately. And then it's in images, if you want it or not, it's like a magical thing. Then you as a viewer in the cinema, you get struck by that same lightning, if things go right.

We did something which was not in the movie, actually. We were constantly filming and editing our own trip, and we had a little projector that we projected the film that we had made so far on the white canvas of the plane. And so we kind of organized cinema evenings, sometimes where people would see themselves with what we just shot that afternoon. And kids would scream. There would be an amazing, amazing atmosphere.

So we were almost like a wandering circus, you know, a flying circus or something, you know. And that gave us a special position. People then after a few days knew we were the crazy guys with the little airplane and they came along—all these scenes actually we had shot and I had planned to include into the film, our trip and our mishaps, and our problems with the military, which were very, very often. The military, they don't usually like clowns with a little airplane looking from the sky with cameras. It's a menace. It's a threat.

Michael Slate: Which brings up the point about the military uniforms you were wearing.

Hubert Sauper: I'll say that in a second. But what I was going to say is like all these things that we the Westerners bring a nice little film to these people—I didn't want to include it in the film, because I didn't want to be one of these "good people" that bring food, the good white person who does all these nice things and makes change, and so I, myself, I'm a bit in the film. But more, I'm like a lost figure, a figure like somebody who's kind of overwhelmed by what he sees, which was also the case, you know.

So you see me in a few cases in the film, but not necessarily in the position of somebody who is superior or who brings biscuits for the children in Sudan.

But, as you said, the uniforms—in our flying tin can, we landed—I was held for a month in Libya, which was still then, was still Gaddafi's. I just was this traveling guy and I was wearing T-shirts and blue jeans. And later on, the same thing happened in Egypt. I was treated—honestly, I was treated like shit, because they said your permissions are not good enough. Your plane doesn't have the right insurance for our country, whatever. There's always something. I had to go to the ministry of defense in Egypt, which is a very awkward place to be as a flying clown. And so I was handed from one general to another, and they all wanted to check me out, and they thought I was Mossad [Israel's spy agency] or CIA. So I had to insist I was not CIA, and of course they didn't believe me, so they didn't want to let me go. And when they did let me go, I was like flying a couple hundred miles, and got to the next airstrip and they said you're grounded again, another week of delay.

So it was really, really hard. Until I kind of understood that when you deal with these uniformed people, you kind of have to become one of them. So we started wearing pilots' uniforms. I had four stripes on my shoulders. And I kind of mutated into a captain. Honestly. Which is in itself a very colonial thing, uniforms. So I kind of mutated into a colonial person. From then on the journey was much easier. And then we came to an airstrip, and then I didn't talk to little soldiers any more. I just asked, "Where is your commander?" The commander came up and saluted us and was very happy to greet us, and it was very formal suddenly. We, of course, we were laughing hard. It's just so ridiculous.

Michael Slate: I read somewhere that at least in the early stages of entering into this film you had recommended to some people that they read King Leopold's Ghost, to get some sense of what you were trying to do. Talk about that a little.

Hubert Sauper: Well, King Leopold's Ghost is one of the most beautiful books about the devastation of colonialism. It was written by a friend of mine, Adam Hochschild, who is an amazing scholar. Well, in the title, it already kind of emerges that it's not about King Leopold, which was the Belgian king who owned the Congo, which was like 20 times bigger than Belgium, or a hundred times bigger or something. He owned it. He had never been there. And why the title is so good, that it's King Leopold's Ghost, is because this is exactly what I said before. It's the pathology of wanting to dominate something you don't even know on the other side of the world, and to submit and subdue and slowly assimilate, and then militarize and exploit and kill.

King Leopold killed indirectly 10 million people. Ten million people. Which was by then, Adam Hochschild said it was about half the population of the Congo. And it happened in the dark. Because not many people had video cameras at the time. Nobody had little airplanes to look from the sky. Nobody had access to these places. It's a very, very sinister history. And the scary part of it is, this history is not over. It is not over.

One thing we shouldn't forget is when the Europeans colonized basically the whole planet, with guns and germs, and diseases they would carry—the smallpox and the flu—into the Americas, and Indians would die from I don't know what. So the diseases would always work in favor of the colonizers. Except in the center of Africa. The center of Africa, which means basically south of the Sudan, and east of Congo, is the very core of Africa. In that place, the diseases worked in favor of the locals. Because the colonizers, the Boers, the whites, would come, and they would die from malaria. The locals wouldn't. The cows of the British settlers would die from tsetse fly or I don't know what, and the cows of the locals would not die.

So the reason why east of the Congo and south of Sudan was not colonized has no other reason, I think, than diseases. It was just too wild for Europeans to get there. And now, with the big jumbo jets, with billions of dollars, and with air conditioned cabins of the UN camp, and with very high-end medical equipment, we can do it. It seems almost like the whole planet decides to crack down on the last people who are kind of still free from our way of living. And it's almost like we're obsessed by something under our skin. We have to kill off the last witnesses of human beings who remind us what we were once, maybe. I don't know what it is. There's something really, really perverse in it.

Michael Slate: You talk about the pathology of colonialism. How do you see that in relation to the existence of a worldwide imperialist system that enforces economic and social relations that are geared toward doing anything at all to get profit? That's the key motive. I traveled a lot through different parts of Africa over the last couple decades, and you could see. You see the things. Yes, you could step back and say, first impression, it's a pathology. But that pathology is rooted in something bigger. And that's what's always gotten me, is understanding that there was something much bigger that was determining, for instance, why in Namibia there was an extinction of the Herero people. There was genocide against the Herero people.

Hubert Sauper: Yes, the Germans.

Michael Slate: And it was all driven by this need for profit. Because if they don't do it, somebody else is going to come in and get it.

Topossa children, from We Come as Friends.

Hubert Sauper: It's a very difficult question. Why did the Germans go after these people in Namibia? Why? Was it only profit? Or was it some kind of collective brain damage or something? The Germans said, well, those guys are the others, or they called them the Negroes by then, in German, the negers, so they had to be hunted down. Maybe it's a psychosis. It's not only, I think, a drive for profit. It's a subconscious madness, I think, also. Also—not only, of course, but also. I don't know the story of Namibia well, but maybe these tribes were in a place where the Germans would have found gold or something. I don't know precisely where.

Michael Slate: You can look at Kenya. I remember a friend who was born in Kenya, and eventually had to leave. But he used to tell me about the British having "skeet shooting" contests, but they would shoot people. And the aristocrats, the landed gentry, would stand around and they would whip the Africans to force them to run into the field, and then they would shoot them like they were skeet. And when you think about that, it wasn't just this sickness they had, but there was a whole view, all the social relations, a whole view that they have of African people. It's rooted in and impacts this point about profit. But it's also rooted in there. Because they enslave people. They dehumanize them. And then anything they do to them, working them to death. Working them until they drop dead and then bringing a thousand more. It's rooted in something much bigger than just a screwed-up brain.

Hubert Sauper: It's really hard to tell. What I do know is that now, let's say a hundred years on, from that story you're just referring to, of course nobody on the planet really would say I want to shoot people in Africa. Most people would say we should help, save them, support them. But the scary thing is that as we say that we want to support them, we also destroy them. That is the scary part. Because what I saw very clearly in the East Congo and in the South Sudan, is that a lot of people were very, very capable of feeding themselves, very easily. They have gardens; they have cows; they have fruit. Until somebody comes along and says like, all the young guys who are strong, come with me, get a gun, we're going to go after the other tribe, because they want to claim the contracts for oil. And the guys who are fighting, they don't even know what oil is at that point. They don't even know how to shoot. They don't know how to wear a uniform. They just want to have a life. They just want to live.

But the guys who come, let's say the warlords, they know how to wear uniforms because they were growing up in missionary schools. And they developed over generations a very deep-rooted disgust for people who are not yet close to Jesus, or close to Allah, or whatever. I'm saying this because the Muslim colonialism is just the same. If you see it from the perspective of a central African village, if foreigners come, with the Bible or the Koran, it's like absolutely no difference for them. It's like, they're foreigners. They speak a language you don't understand. They wear clothes. They tell you what to do. They tell you, you have to march in step. They tell you, you have to sit quietly, you have to listen when somebody prays. All the spirits and all these beautiful things that you until now thought was a kind of religion is no longer valid. Now we have a different kind of god. It's one god, and so on and so forth. Only that is so violent, what I'm saying. This African elite, which is either indoctrinated by Mohammed or by Christ, whatever, want to do everything they can to assimilate the not-yet-assimilated people to god or Mohammed. So it's a very scary thing.

Michael Slate: You were just talking about the need to assimilate people. And when you think about what we've been talking about, forces coming in, colonial and now neocolonial forces, which is a little bit different from colonial forces because they set up these puppets that you're talking about, the elite in these various countries. And then it all seems like, "They do it to themselves. It's their own people that are screwing them up." When you look at it, you had some really amazing images and I'm going to talk about the way you did this a little later. But there were some images that you had in there, where you didn't have to tell a verbal story. Where you put your camera, as you said in the beginning of this interview, and you let people speak, and the things that were brought out there. There's some... I really want to talk about—the religion aspect of things, because that was so damn powerful. There were a lot of manifestations of it, but one that really stood out for me, it was like—you heard that saying, I think, that when the colonizers first came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. And real fast, it turned around and they had the land and we had the Bible.

Hubert Sauper: The woman you're referring to is a South Sudanese person. Her name is Celestine. She lives in Memphis, Tennessee. She had to run away from civil war 16 years ago or 17 years ago, and ran with six children. Now they're growing up in Memphis, Tennessee. By the time I shot the movie We Come as Friends in South Sudan, she also had just come back to South Sudan. She kind of found me in a cafe. I was really tired and she said, "Do you coffee? Do you need to talk?" basically. And then she told me her story and I was recording it, and then she said what you were just referring to.

Michael Slate: The other aspect of this, and again, this is another place where you put this in your film, and it concentrated some of that thing about "they had the Bible and we had the land, now they have the land and we have the Bible."

Hubert Sauper: Yeah. She says the British came with the Bible in one hand and the gun in the other hand and took all our resources.

Michael Slate: Exactly. And then you have this scene, modern day. You have this scene where this guy, this missionary I imagine it is, he's sitting there with his family, and they live behind a cyclone fence enclosure. And the people are going, "But this is where we used to go! This is where our goats eat." And the guy looked at them and with the most arrogant and enraging face, went, "Not any more." And that was something I thought you really captured well.

Hubert Sauper: That's of course a psychological problem that Europeans and Americans have. It's the idea that we're entitled to all the richness we have. We're entitled. It's an emotion of entitlement. So you go to Africa. You go to a place you've never been in your life, and you feel like you're entitled to have a nice big house, on the nicest spot, with a good view, with access to water, and that's it. Because why not? Because I'm the white guy, so why should I not have it?

So that is our pathological view of things. I don't think we're necessarily entitled to metaphorically suck the blood out of Africa. If you think of some of the scenes in We Come as Friends, there's this famous railroad that was made by the British to push into the center of the Sudan to overthrow the Mahdist Regime by then. Because once you had a train, you could bring soldiers on land, and material. But of course the railroad wasn't only built to bring the soldiers into the continent, but to bring out all the resources. In that case the British were taking out coltan from the Sudan and agricultural goods, and now actually this train is running for the Chinese, and actually as you see it in the movie, which is not explained in the movie, but it's bringing oil out of the Sudan, to Port Sudan and then on to China.

So if you look at the map of Africa, Africa was colonized, of course, on the coasts. On the south and the east were the British. Then the Portuguese and the French in the west. And it was also colonized from Muslim countries in East Africa. And very slowly only, the colonizers would push into the center of Africa. And one of the things, which is like now 120 years back, was to push railroads into the center of Africa. Of course, the idea, or the pretext, was, say, we'll make a railroad from the Indian Ocean to Lake Victoria, which is in the center of Africa, to bring the word of god, to bring all these beautiful goods we have, to bring civilization, to bring doctors—to bring civilization, and to bring light. That's what they said. By the way, many flags in Africa, you find a star in it. The star is always what represents the light into the darkness. And these railroads, which were like needles into the continent, were actually not made to bring all these things. They were made to suck out all the resources. And that's as simple as that. It's really metaphorically, it's really like a needle that penetrates your arm and sucks your blood out.

So it's a metaphor. But there is the core of the problem. The core of the problem is, what is the narrative? What do you explain, right? And the narrative is our narrative. It's the Western narrative. We are explaining history, and not the Maasais. The Maasais, actually, by the way, when the first train was built into East Africa, it was referred to as the "lunatic express." It was built by Indian workers, from India, brought by the British because they were a specialized workforce. A lot of them died as they were building this railroad. And this train that was going into the East African beautiful landscape, the Serengeti and this amazing landscape, was referred to as the "Iron Serpent," or something, or the "Iron Dragon," or something really menacing and threatening for the locals, for the Maasai. I think it was called the "Serpent," or maybe the "Serpent of Steel." It was something really scary for the people there. Those were the steam machines that came in. The same in America, right? In America it happened even longer before. Actually not so much before.

Michael Slate: But the thing, too, even when you're talking about this and the railroads. I know the Portuguese were big on this, too. And when you look at what happened in Africa, and especially in the 1970s, when China was a revolutionary country, a socialist country, and they started to actually change the railroads, the way they built the TanZam Railway, which would for the first time give countries closer to the center of Africa a route to get to the seacoast, so they could actually bring their products out. But in all the colonial countries, in all the neocolonial powers, all of it was, the railroad all ran east to west and west to east. They all ran that way. They didn't go and feed the people who were living throughout in all the other areas north and south.

Hubert Sauper: No, they were going to the ports.

Michael Slate: Exactly. One of the things I wanted to ask you, continuing this thing about the images. You have a couple of images. You spoke to the one about the Chinese, and China being a capitalist country which everyone can see, in terms of the bloodthirsty pillaging of the world. And you have a tremendous image in there where these guys, these Chinese oil workers, I guess, are in this  . And no comment. You just have them, they're playing pool and they're drinking and they're air-conditioned. And you've just come, you've brought your camera from outside in, and you see all the devastation people are living in outside, and then you see these guys there in a bulletproof [bunker]. And there's so much concentrated in that image. And I wanted to ask you again about the power of image in your work. Because without saying anything, you continually bring people in.

Hubert Sauper: Well, before you can create a movie like this, you kind of have to experience these contrasts in a very passionate way. I'm here at the Sundance Film Festival, and I could—I can actually. I can represent the Sundance Film Festival also in a very passionate way. With all its contradictions. Like we're in a hotel now, and in front of the hotel there's this big flame, like burning into the sky, I don't know for what. And it's contributing to global warming or something. You can see contradictions everywhere. And of course in central Africa, contradictions are so great, and so amazing. And once you live it and kind of feel it, it's very easy to represent it as a filmmaker. And of course, what you refer to is cinema art, it's montage. It's like, what image do you cut after the other, you know. Sometimes it's very simple. And sometimes it's like alchemy. It's like a cocktail that kind of blows your mind. It's like a good poem, like one word, and then another word, another word, and suddenly it strikes your heart. It's just three words. And you don't know what it is. It is what it is. It's art.

And the same way with images, right? Filmmaking is a very long process. It's a very, very long process. I just spent like, two years nothing but editing this film. But full on. I'm not doing any job next to it. I'm not seeing many people. I'm just working like a crazy man for two years. And every edit you see, every image you see after the next, is the outcome of hundreds of hours of images that could also have come just after that, whatever, pool table. So it's really a crazy process, you know.

Michael Slate: Why do you think it has that power, the images that you've chosen? It's interesting because we're watching it, and we can see and it impacts us the way you want it to impact us, actually. But it's very interesting because we're not aware of the fact that you had hundreds of images before and after, and you spent two years painstakingly working on those to create this. What do you look for that actually gives so much power to an image?

Hubert Sauper: It's very hard to explain what it is. It is a complicated and enigmatic process, making films. Or like composing music also, or making good radio shows, the same thing.

Michael Slate: It's a little easier. [Laughing.]

Hubert Sauper: You choose out of a hundred filmmakers who are you going to talk to? You create the right environment. You sit down. The energy you kind of send out to sit with me and talk to me is what you hear on the radio. People cannot see you, but I can see you. And my voice is your face. Same thing as a filmmaker. You are part of reality and you play with a lot of these energies, basically. You create, in a way, being in a room with somebody, whoever it is, it's a president of a country or a street child in Africa or a UN humanitarian worker. You create some kind of atmosphere. You create an atmosphere of trust or of curiosity. A lot of times it's curiosity. People are intrigued. Who are those guys with these little cameras and this little airplane. And we were intrigued in their environment. So a lot of what you see in the film is the reflection of astonishment and passionate kind of experience. Honestly, a lot of scenes in this film especially, more than other films, I was really shooting as a first-hand experience.

So things that happen in front of the camera are things that I had never seen before, I would never have expected would happen. Sometimes small things—this woman who sings the song "My Land." You could play it on the radio if you want. Sometimes I wake up in the morning in this straw hut in a village and I hear screaming people. They're screaming and I think something terrifying had happened. They were basically preparing a funeral for someone who had been shot that very night. And it becomes a scene and I'm just filming the scene, and as I film it, I'm with an open mouth behind the camera and I go, "What the hell is happening? This is crazy," what I'm just seeing. But I still am conscious that I'm a filmmaker and I have to make sure it's on focus and the camera at least has battery in it and it's running at least. Sometimes it's shaky because you can feel it. Like I was totally not prepared to film it, and five minutes before I was fast asleep, five meters away. So all these things, I think they transcend, you can feel it in the audience, you know.

That's a magical thing. I think you can even feel when the camera shakes at a certain time, that it kind of shakes your soul sometimes.

Michael Slate: You've taken us through this progression of images and contradictions and all these other things. And when you talk about that scene of the shooting and what not, after somebody'd been killed, I remember it was just like you're there. That's the point, is that you're sitting in this whole thing. You're just sitting in this whole—this collage has actually ended up being this point where you're in the middle of this terrible, terrible predicament, this situation, and not just the immediate thing around the shooting, but then again, in a weird way you also kind of step back because you the audience is actually able to step back a little bit and you're able to say, wait a minute and tie it together with bigger things. Because very closely related to that is the stuff that you had referred to earlier, about the do-good, entrepreneurial, we're here to help the African people get a better life. And it ends up being the people with the electric company, the people swindling the people out of the land, and Hillary Clinton. Let's talk about that a little.

Hubert Sauper: Well, actually, it's a funny thing you said, that different people can have different shortcuts in their brains. And one of the things, when we came to this very, very remote place, near Kapoeta, where people are living a very, very traditional way. The USAID is opening a power plant, and insisting that electricity is really what those barefoot people need. And I thought honestly they did not need electricity. What they needed was to have a quiet life, to be able to live in peace, not have trucks running up and down, not have somebody taking their land away, whatever. But when the ambassador was insisting so many times, "We're bringing light," you know, this metaphor which is very colonial by the way, suddenly it struck me, electricity, you can make electric chairs. You can kill people. And of course nobody talks about electric chairs. But of course, electric chairs are going to be eventually installed in these places and people are going to be electrocuted with electricity, or else you couldn't have killed them. Anyway, you were talking about Hillary Clinton.

Michael Slate: She had a classic statement in the film, right?

Hubert Sauper: She said some amazing things, you know, which I found from TV. A TV was running in this cafe. I kind of knew the show was on and Hillary Clinton—actually it was a TV that ran in loops. So I saw it and I kind of waited until it's coming back. What did she say? She said that "We don't want a new colonialism in Africa." Basically, without saying it, referring to the Chinese. Of course, she didn't say we want the Chinese out or something. But I remember when this show was on, there was quite some press on the Internet—that's how actually I also probably found it—that the Chinese were protesting against what she said. Like they didn't want to be the colonialists.

But I think she also said when people come to Africa, and I think people she's referring to are investors, not people like you and I. The people she was referring to are people who come to invest. "When people come to Africa, we want them to do well, but also we want them to do good." So that contains a craziness within itself.

Michael Slate: Especially because she said, you can make a lot of profit in Africa.

Hubert Sauper: Well, I think someone else said that. This other person who said this was probably referring to what he heard of Hillary Clinton. It's kind of a parrot effect. Somebody says something which is close to mad, and then everyone repeats it and suddenly it becomes accepted and fine to say, right?

Michael Slate: The sentence I remember is the thing, because we were talking about it earlier this morning, the thing about her saying that she sees Africa as the bread basket of the world. And of course she hopes that Africans will benefit from this. And meanwhile, if you have any connection with the world today, you're thinking about the fact that so many millions of African people and African children die of starvation every year, that the famines that happen all the time—and I had seen a famine in Ethiopia and saw people pecking at the ground, and their skin's so stretched over their bones they look like chickens, and they're pecking at the ground trying to get rice. You could see the kind of interplay there, like then it was the Soviets and the U.S.

Hubert Sauper: While there was famine in the Sudan a few years back when the biggest operation I think in the history of humanitarian operations called Lifeline Sudan, at the very moment when this happens, the Sudan itself exported food, exported sugar to Saudi Arabia for currency. And the Sudanese government needed the currency to buy Mercedes Benzes and airplanes and air-conditioned offices and go shopping in London. That's a fact. Ethiopia is quite an extreme example too. Ethiopia is exporting food. Ethiopia is now producing, I think, a lot of biofuel also. Also, at the same time, in Ethiopia, people are still very, very poor. But also, a lot of people are very rich now in Ethiopia. And there's something we shouldn't forget.

It's that, like, what we refer to as just north-south, let's say polarity of richness and poor people, it doesn't really match anymore. It's like the First World has its outposts everywhere in the world now. So in every poor country in the world, you can go to a Hilton Hotel, check in, pay $300 a night, have a massage and sushi at night. In the poorest countries of the world. So within these poor places, there are islands of extreme wealth. And the other way around. Within, let's say what we refer to as rich countries—I live in Paris, and down in my street, people sleep in the streets, in the Gare du Nord. People freeze to death in the winter. It's cold in my neighborhood, in Paris. And so on and so forth. So the Third World, what is referred as Third World and First World, is no longer necessarily a geographic notion.

Michael Slate: There's a point to the fact that a lot of the things that exist—there's a connection between what goes on in the imperialist countries and those islands of extreme wealth in the oppressed countries, oppressed nations. Because oftentimes, what that's concentrated on is, one, to enable the people from the imperialist countries to come in and set up their shop there, to base themselves there. But it also serves the ruling class in that other country that can then rule over the vast majority. And the thing is, in both cases that you mention, whether it's France or the U.S. and the gigantic amounts of wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, and then the massive suffering of so many—same thing multiplied over and over again in these various so-called Third World countries.

One thing I wanted to bring up because it gets back again to this pathology or system, because, in Ethiopia, one of the things that happened in Ethiopia during the famine, was that they had—Ethiopia once had the hardiest strain of wheat you could find anywhere in the world. And the U.S. came in and they engaged in a lot of genetic engineering. They said we're going to make it even stronger. It'll be able to withstand all this stuff. So they did that. They screwed around with all the Ethiopian wheat. And then, when they developed this strain of wheat, they took all the seeds and they put it in the seed bank in Rome. So the Ethiopians were left with two things.

Hubert Sauper: To buy it.

Michael Slate: But they couldn't buy it because they couldn't afford it. So what happened is they were left there. They no longer had any wheat. It was all dying off. Why? Because of desertification, tied indirectly to the impoverishment due to imperialism. So you had this whole interlocking and downpressing thing that was constantly in operation. And that's one of the things that I get, and it comes back to this power of image, because as you presented all this, you concentrated a lot of that history, but also the present-day reality for people. It was very heavy, when you would go from the Europeans and the Americans and what they're living in, and the Chinese. And then you would show the garbage pits that people were living in, or that one scene about, this is where we bury our dead. We're not supposed to live here. But that dichotomy, those two opposing things.

Hubert Sauper: Dialectic, yeah?

Michael Slate: Yeah, yeah.

Hubert Sauper: I have to say one thing. It is in a way very easy to juxtaposition misery and wealth. It's actually very easy. You take a camera and you film a trash can, and then you film somebody on a very beautiful dining table, you cut it together and it's a contrast and people are scandalized about it. I was not pushing that button the way I could have. I filmed a lot of things. I filmed children eating rotten noodles out of a trash can which was just behind the UN camp, with worms, and it was so scary, it was so terrifying. But I did not put it in the movie. Because it would have kind of diverted the argument of the movie. It's almost like porn. It's like what do you want to show? What do you want to do? And it's like, on itself would have taken away the attention of the viewer of the more subtle and more important narrative of my film.

I didn't film in hospitals, or lepers, or I didn't film burnt corpses, which I saw, of course. If you spend so much time in a place, in war, you see very terrifying things. But I didn't film it. The only thing I did was I took some footage from a soldier because I thought it was very important to kind of make a point that there is actually war. It's not like just on the radio. And then I cut to a swimming pool, which is the very day when I shot that swimming pool. Nobody knows that, and it doesn't really matter. But it matters to me because I remember it was the very moment when the war in this oilfield called Heglig—it was I think the last days of March 2012. And that very day I was trying to find one of the ministers in South Sudan. And I couldn't find him because he was in some reunion. The cabinet had agreed to start that war and to transgress the border to North Sudan, and many thousands of people died, and eventually nobody talked about it anymore because actually it was—the army had to pull back and it was—no one talked about it anymore, suddenly like two weeks later.

I know at this very moment of the attack, this burning oilfield and these dead bodies were filmed live by the soldiers. This happened synchronized with the moment that I was in the swimming pool, in the capital of Juba, filming investors having a cocktail. Including myself. I was in the same swimming pool. And I actually jumped in that swimming pool, and I was just like one of them, you know. I was not in the war zone. And nobody shot me, so I was here to talk to you now. But this is the crazy irony of these realities, you know? In a documentary film you can represent them in a way that gives you kind of an electric shock as a viewer, too. Which is fantastic. I'm happy it works.

Michael Slate:  One last question. Nina Simone's song, "Wild is the Wind." Why did you decide to use it in this film?

Hubert Sauper: Well, why not? I read today in the New York Times—they wrote about my film. Did you read that? It's funny that you ask this question, because there's a very good article about We Come as Friends, in the New York Times, yesterday, I think, and there's a line saying, why did the filmmaker use this American jazz in the Sudan or something? That's kind of a misstep, you know. And it's funny. It made me laugh. Because the whole concept of this kind of documentary film is you kind of make an agreement with the audience. The agreement is, what you see is real. How it is presented is very formulated. It's a form of documentary film, and it's very extreme. So a lot of things you see have to be—you as an audience have to be very strongly engaged intellectually, and you have to be able to read a lot of things in a second and third and fourth degree. So why did I use Nina Simone? It wasn't Nina Simone singing. It was a friend of mine called Malia, who's a beautiful singer. She's from Mali. Called Malia and she's from Mali. She has the voice of an angel and I knew her and I was asking her to record two songs for me, for the film. One is "Wild is the Wind," and one is "Tomorrow Is My Turn," which is at the end of the film.

By the way, I gave her a picture of the little boy at the beginning of the film, and I said, you're going to sing for this little boy in the studio. And she sang it for him, which gave her I think some extra energy. But the choice of why am I using jazz music there? I can't tell you. It's because I think it has to be. It could not not be. It wouldn't be my film if it weren't.




Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

From readers in Seattle:

April 5 UPDATE from outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington

April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Support continues outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, where immigrants went on a hunger strike on March 7 of this year to protest their conditions. On Saturday, April 5, several hundred people responded to a call for a mass demonstration to make known the situation of the immigrant hunger strikers. A message from the detainees was read to the demonstrators: April 5 is the start of a renewed hunger strike!

Sound recordings made by lawyers of the detainees were played at the demonstration. One was the voice of a woman prisoner who said that women have also been in the hunger strike, and "conditions are not fit for dogs...great suffering in here...thanks for support!" There also were speakers from families of detainees. The wife of Ramone Mendoza Pascual said, "Ramone was sitting in a parked car and they gave him a DWI. Our three children and I are all alone outside. I saw him and he has lost so much weight. He will continue the hunger strike." Ramone's arrest has led to him being in various jails and detention with no clear end, and seeing the bad conditions and threat of deportation that all were living under, he joined the hunger strike as a way to fight against injustice.

Other testimony revealed how the prison is divided into small "pods" to keep communication limited, and new pods have been created for solitary confinement. Due to efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union, 20 men have been released from solitary. These 20 had been tricked when guards came and asked if anyone wanted to come and speak about detention conditions. They volunteered and were then handcuffed, surrounded by officers in riot gear, and taken to solitary confinement! Four to five prisoners remain in solitary, and solitary is threatened for prisoners participating in the renewed hunger strike.

Revolutionaries at the demonstration were getting out the statement, in Spanish and English, by Carl Dix in Revolution newspaper, "Detained Immigrants Launch Hunger Strike: Support Detainees Putting Their Lives on the Line" and were talking to people about the causes of all this, how millions are driven to the U.S. by the devastation of their homelands by the U.S.-dominated global economy, and how once here they are cast down to the bottom tier of the economy and forced to exist in the margins of society without rights, under constant threat of being deported. Also distributed was the latest copy of Revolution with the March 15 interview with Maru Mora Villalpando of Latino Advocacy.

There were many Latinos at the demonstration, family and friends of detainees as well as activists. Also present were a large number of concerned people from the general population, including many young people. One young woman said, "I think citizenship is for everyone. Also health care, education, everything." A middle-age man said, "We should go to that gate [where detainees are taken inside] and lock it!" There was a general sense of injustice at the huge wave of deportations under Obama. Also apparent was a growing awareness of how solitary confinement is used as a form of torture and control.

We will support and bear witness to the renewed hunger strike that started today. These prisoners are putting their health and their lives on the line.





Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

A Salon on BAsics 4:10

April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

I and some revolutionary friends recently held a salon to take up the "food for thought" that BA calls for in the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! (RNL). In the chapter about the Rosetta Stone of communism and communist leadership, BA reads quote 4:10 from BAsics and asks "is this true, and if so why." Here's the quote:

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

In talking this over, it got clearer that this isn’t just going up against how the system trains people to think (that the idea with the strongest force backing it up should be accepted as valid, instead of whether it can be shown to correspond to objective reality, which exists as it does regardless of what anyone thinks), but this quote focuses up an important way that the new synthesis of communism BA has forged represents an actual further rupture in communist understanding, a rupture with trends in even the best of the communist experience so far. Some examples that were part of this discussion were the ideas that held sway in China, when it was a revolutionary socialist country, of "class background" (that the class your family came from could decide if your ideas are correct) and "class truth" (that ideas belong to a specific class, and correct ideas must belong to the proletariat). Related to that we talked about the example from the chapter of RNL that we just watched about the gap in ability between a woman from the projects in Harlem and people with college education and intellectual training, the gap that just having equal time on the mic does not overcome. What is true does not get decided by what class the speaker is from, and what is true is also not decided, in this case, by how educated the speaker is. The real truth of an idea depends on how accurately it describes what objectively exists. And as BA is arguing in this chapter of RNL, the key—the decoder—is science, particularly communist science, and communist leadership. This is the key that enables masses of people, including that woman from the projects, to really participate in evaluating what is true and what to do about it.

At one point one person posed the question of why is it that other epistemologies, that don’t base themselves on recognizing that there is objective truth, would not be able to get to a society that is really past “might makes right.” And again we talked about "is this true, and if so, why?" Why can't you overcome the 4 Alls and get to communism without this approach of recognizing that reality is objective regardless of the force of any narrative? What if it’s the communists who have the most authority and force to their arguments. Would this quote still be true?

One example I've been thinking about since this discussion was when someone brought up there would likely be times in the course of making revolution, including where the revolution has won power and is struggling to go forward, when communists would have to get up and struggle with an angry crowd about why something they are strongly swayed by is not objectively true. As part of struggling that through we'd have to bring not only evidence of our argument to win people over, but be consciously working on this as part of training people, leading them, to themselves be better able to evaluate what is true and how to act on this. Without this, you may make some progress in revolution for a time, but it will run into limits and get turned back since people generally wouldn’t be able to figure out which argument on how to go forward is correct, and the numbers of those who are working to lead won’t be able to grow. And for that matter the communists won’t learn from their mistakes, either. In the course of revolution, not only does the science itself need to continually get deepened, but the world we're understanding and transforming doesn't stay the same either. The key thing is communist science—and communist leadership, without which communist science won't develop and won't increasingly take hold among people, in opposition to other ways of understanding the world, as the world itself changes and contradictions go through dramatic changes and give rise to dramatically new contradictions.

One person brought up that many people involved in the Occupy movement thought they were going up against might makes right, but objectively they were not. They thought that everyone having an equal say is the way to get at truth. But you need leadership to do this, you need that Rosetta Stone. Even in communism there would be unevenness, it's not the case that everyone would think the same or have the same abilities. But there would be a basic approach among everyone that there is objective reality that is not determined by the force of some argument or what authority is behind it. If that wasn't true it couldn't yet be communism, which is a society where humanity is consciously changing itself and the world, the real world. When this is generally true, the struggle among people will have an amazingly different character to it than how this plays out today.




Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

Southern California

RAYMOND LOTTA speaks on his new eBook:

You Don’t Know What You Think You “Know” About...
The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path To Emancipation: Its History And Our Future

April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Tues., April 8, 7 PM at Revolution Books
5726 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles
$10 at the door

People need to know the truth about communism. And they need to hear Raymond Lotta:

But people have been systematically lied to about communism. The rulers who preside over the capitalist-imperialist system, along with their ideologues and the media, have slandered and vilified it. While those who defend communism are given no space to reply.

Raymond Lotta will be speaking about his soon-to-be-available e-Book. This is the real history of the incredible breakthroughs of the Paris Commune of 1871, of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917-56, of the Chinese revolution of 1949-76. There is nothing like this—a provocative, inspiring, and fact-filled analysis of the first stage of communist revolution: the first attempts in modern history to create societies free from exploitation and oppression.

How did the lives of women radically change? How did revolution attack the oppression of minority nationalities? How did the Russian and Chinese revolutions develop economies that operated in a whole different way: to serve the needs of the people? What was the Cultural Revolution in China really about and why was it the most radical and emancipating episode in human history? Lotta will open your eyes to the amazing things these revolutions accomplished against incredible odds.

And Lotta will also speak about why these revolutions were ultimately defeated, the problems and shortcomings of these first socialist revolutions--and how, on the basis of the new synthesis of communism of Bob Avakian, humanity can go further and do better in a new stage of revolution.

Come hear Raymond Lotta. Bring your questions. Bring your deepest concerns. All this matters a great deal. If what Lotta is saying is right, than everything changes in terms of what is possible for humanity.

(Text above is from the Set the Record Straight Project at REVCOM.US and THISISCOMMUNISM.ORG)



Third UCLA screening and discussion of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live
Thursday, April 10th, 5:30 to 8:30PM, U C L A DeNeve Plaza Room.
Co-sponsored by UCLA's Academic Advancement Program, Office of Residential Life, and Revolution Books.


Download fliers:

8.5x11" Black & White
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Revolution Books

A bookstore at the center of building a movement for revolution (323) 463 - 3500
Located west of Wilton, east of Hollywood Blvd. 101 exit, 3 blks west of Hollywood/Western Red Line station




Revolution #335 April 13, 2014

Carl Dix and Cornel West on the October Month of Resistance and the Need to Act Against Mass Incarceration

April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


On April 3-4, people came from around the country to a meeting in New York City to strategize for the October 2014 Month of Resistance against mass incarceration. Carl Dix and Cornel West, who had called for this meeting, gave the opening talks to the meeting. The following are their remarks, which have been slightly edited for publication.


Carl Dix

Why did I join with Cornel to propose a Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration in October 2014?

Carl Dix, April 3, 2014

Carl Dix. Photo: Special to Revolution

There are the horrific numbers of people suffering under mass incarceration—2.2 million in prison; not counting more than 30,000 immigrants held in detention centers every day; 80,000 people held under the torture of solitary confinement; 5 million formerly incarcerated people who are treated like less than full human beings even after serving their sentences. All this horror casts a shadow on the lives of tens of millions more people.

Some of these people are migrant workers driven to this country by the way the U.S. dominates their homelands, people who have built new lives in this country over years and even decades who are being held in conditions in detention centers so severe that many have put their lives on the line, going on hunger strikes to demand better conditions and an end to the deportations. Others of them are women, which is the fastest growing section of the prison population in this country, like the women in the Tutwiler prison in Alabama. Women who are held in conditions so foul that these sisters have to submit to sexual assault by the guards in order to get basic necessitates like toilet paper and tampons. Others of them are men who are imprisoned, held under miserable conditions. These conditions are so bad that there are a number of prisons around the country right now where people are on hunger strike, like Menard in Illinois; another prison in Georgia where people are on hunger strike dealing with horrible food and brutality. And in the prison in Georgia, these brothers in jail, they’re also being hit with sexual assault.

And that’s not all. There is a long and growing list of people who have been murdered by police in this country. And I could go on and on cause I see some people here who have lived that reality. Nicholas Heyward Sr., his son, Nicholas Heyward Jr., 13-years-old, gunned down by a cop when he was playing with a toy gun. Malcolm Ferguson, his mother Juanita Young is up here in the front row. Malcolm was shot down by an NYPD officer. Cephus Johnson, Uncle Bobby, his nephew Oscar Grant, gunned down on a transit platform in Oakland, California. Other people like Sean Bell. It’s happening all over the country. There is too long a list to run it all down.

In just this past year, because this is something that really struck me—in fact, maybe in less than a year—there have been three cases where young men were handcuffed in the back of police cars after having been searched by the police with their arms handcuffed behind them, the police found no weapon on them. These men ended up shot through the head dead. And in each case the police reported these brothers shot themselves. Think about this. The cop checked them, frisked them, searched them and handcuffed them behind themselves. Then they shot themselves in the head. And in explaining this and justifying it, the cops in the second case said, “Well, we know this is possible because it happened in that city.” And the cops in the third case said, “Well, of course this is possible, it happened there and there.” So in other words, they tell a lie and then they recycled that lie back to justify the murders they have carried out.

And it’s even more than that. You can talk about Andy Lopez, a 13-year-old in California. Again a 13-year-old with a toy gun, gunned down by police.

And earlier this month—I just saw the video of this yesterday. I heard about it but I was like, I’ve seen too many killings by the police, I don’t really need to see another one. James Boyd in Albuquerque, New Mexico—a homeless man camping just out in the open. Cops come on him, there’s a stand-off, they want to take him away. They say like he’s having mental problems and all like this. But I watched this video and at some point he’s like, OK, I’m coming with you, let me get my things.  And he turns his back and bends down to pick up his stuff and that’s when they started shooting. He’s laying down there motionless, they’re saying, “Drop that knife, drop that knife.” And he’s saying, “Don’t hurt me anymore,” and, “I can’t move.” And then the cops keep saying, “Drop the knife,” and then they start shooting again. Then they let loose the dog to tear at his flesh. Then they come up and handcuff him. This man dies. This is what they’re doing to us.

See and then we have to talk about Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride. We gotta talk about this because it underscores an ugly reality here in this country. A reality that Black and Latino people are treated like permanent suspects – guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence. And unfortunately, all too often they are not allowed to survive to prove their innocence.

This is what we’re talking about. This is what we’re dealing with. This is what many of you have come from all over the country to deal with.... And there’s me—I did some time too—it was a while ago, about 40 years or so. And it was time that I am glad I did because they told me to go to Vietnam and kill some Vietnamese for them. And I had to figure out, am I gonna go kill people for this country? And I am very glad that I did not [applause] because I did not want to become a mindless killer for this system. So that’s why I say that time was time well spent.

But we know what it’s like. Some of us spent some time in solitary confinement. We got an idea of what it’s like, what kind of treatment they put down on us. And we know the importance of building a fight to stop it.

So why is all this happening? That’s a part of why we need a Month of Resistance. But there’s more. Why is all this happening? And the backdrop for mass incarceration and all its consequences is the way that whole generations of youth are growing up in inner cities that have no access to work; no legitimate ways to survive and raise families; inner cities where the educational system has been geared to fail our youth.

The horrors of mass incarceration have been brought on by the very way this capitalist system operates. Beginning in the 1960's, globalized production shifted production to other parts of the world, leaving people in the inner cities without access to work. People are taught to think they own the jobs in this country. Looking at it like that keeps you thinking you're at odds with workers in other lands, workers who are being subjected to vicious exploitation. At the same time, the rulers of this country adopted policies and enacted laws to control the people left living in those miserable conditions by this disappearance of work.

Here is a basic point—and we can discuss this further, but I think this is a basic point. We cannot rely on the powers-that-be to deal with this problem. If we sit back and let them deal with it, if we limit ourselves to asking them to deal with it, we ain’t going to get nothing done.

Look, I know Obama has been talking about mass incarceration. I know he let a few people out of jail in January. I know that this is going on. But I also understand why it’s going on. That’s happening because they know that people are beginning to question what’s happening with the criminal injustice system in this country. Questioning the unfairness of it. And also then questioning the legitimacy of a set-up that does those things to people. And because the United States values being able to call itself the “leader of the free world,” they can’t allow their legitimacy to get pulled away from them. So they’re trying to feed illusions, trying to give people the mistaken sense that they’re working on the problem and that all we have to do is get behind them

Now in saying this, I’m not saying our Month of Resistance should take a position on Obama, either for or against him. Our Month of Resistance is about mass incarceration and that it needs to stop. But I had to say that.

Now what is it going to take to end mass incarceration? And I have an answer to that question on two levels. One level is mass determined resistance and the Month of Resistance has gotta be that in spades and I’ll come back to that.

But I gotta answer on another level too. And that is that it’s gonna take revolution, nothing less—to end mass incarceration once and for all and end all the other horrors that this system inflicts on people—whether that’s attacks on the rights of women, whether that’s government spying, drone missile strikes, the destruction of the environment and more—it’s gonna take revolution, nothing less to do that, to end all of that because these horrors are built into the fabric of this system. So we gotta see that and understand that.

Now, when I talk about revolution, I don’t mean running out there now doing some crazy stuff. I mean mobilizing people numbering in their millions to resist the attacks of the system and spreading the understanding that the system is the problem and revolution is the solution. And I mean unleashing that revolutionary people when the time is right to meet and defeat the system’s attempts at violent suppression of that resistance, and then going on to build a new society with totally different economic and social relations—a society that is in transition to a world where the horrors of today are no more. No more power and wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. No more whites lording it over Black people and other people of color. No more men dominating women. And no more one country running the whole world.

Now, I know revolution can seem like climbing a steep mountain, with no path that seems to be there to get up the mountain—something that looks like it can’t happen. But that’s not true. Revolution has been made before and we also have something important in the case of going up the mountain today. And that is someone who has done the work to chart a path up this mountain. That somebody is Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party. A man who has studied previous revolutionary societies, identifying what they did right but also where they made errors and fell short. And through that he’s figured out a path to go through. Now revolution is not going to be an easy walk up a wide path. We still got work to do to hack out a path up this mountain. But we got guidance for hacking out that path. And what I will say to people is that if you don’t know Bob Avakian, talk to me about this. That’s not what we’re going to be dealing with mainly today. We’re going to be talking about mass incarceration and how we’re going to stop it. But talk to me and I can introduce you to him. Like I have a CD here of an interview with Bob Avakian done by Cornel West—you might want to check it out and listen to it.

Now, I know for a lot of people revolution might be a lot to swallow. But we can talk about that. Some people want to cling to the hope that the system can be transformed into something that works for the people. We can discuss that. But we have to discuss it while we are fighting together to end mass incarceration cause that’s what we really need to do, sisters and brothers.

And in approaching this, we gotta go at it like everybody who sees mass incarceration as a problem, everybody who understands the horrors being inflicted on people needs to be a part of this fight. And we need to take the responsibility to mobilize people to do this. And this Month of Resistance in October to mass incarceration, police terror, repression and the criminalization of a generation is the way to do that.

When the brother got killed in Albuquerque, the homeless man, who got murdered by the police—hundreds of people came out in anger around the police. And that was inspiring. But think of the impact of demonstrations in cities around the country—some even more powerful and bigger than the one in Albuquerque on October 22, 2014, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Students doing a teach-in or a panel on their campus around mass incarceration, that’s a good thing. But think of hundreds of such teach-ins and panels happening in October. I want to draw on the vision of the Month of Resistance that’s in the draft call that I hope everyone here has gotten a copy of all. It says: “October, 2014, must be a month of powerful demonstrations nationwide on October 22; major concerts and other cultural expressions in October; panels and symposiums on campuses and in neighborhoods; ferment in faith communities and more – all aimed at taking the movement to STOP mass incarceration to a much higher level. October, 2014, must be a month that makes clear that thousands and thousands are willing to stand up and speak out today and to awaken and rally forth millions. It must be the beginning of the end of mass incarceration in the U.S.” That’s from the draft call that I’ve circulated that we’ll talk about later.

Imagine the impact all this will have on the thinking of millions of people, letting those who suffer mass incarceration know that there are people who will join them if they stand up and resist it and opening the eyes of those who don’t suffer it to all what’s being inflicted on tens of millions of people in this society and challenging them to join us in resisting it.

This can be done, and it must be done. Those outrages that I talked about at the beginning of my talk, they have been going on and continuing to happen again and again and again. And again, drawing on from our draft call, is this something we want to gradually work on over the next 50 years? So that our grandchildren are telling their children about somebody else that got murdered like Trayvon did. Like I was trying to explain to my grandchild about Emmett Till, 50 years ago, something that happened way before she was born. We got to stop that. That’s a responsibility that we have to take on ourselves.

And let me just speak a little bit about the responsibility we have to see ourselves taking. I just read a book about the 1960s. And one thing that it talked about was some of the sessions of the activists of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Stokley Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Ella Baker, some other people—some of the sessions that they had. See and they had to assess what’s happening with this Jim Crow segregation and lynch mob terror—why is it happening and what do we need to do about it. And then when they came up with something, it wasn’t like they were just talking shop and they weren’t going to do anything. It wasn’t like they were coming up with something for somebody else to do. They were coming up with planning that they were then going to take up and themselves lead in carrying out.

And that’s what we have to do here today. We have to look at this problem. We have to assess it and we have to develop a vision and a plan for taking it on and changing that fight. And then once we do that here today and then tomorrow, we gotta go to people and we have to say to them—if you are horrified by the notion that the color of a person’s skin could determine whether they live and how they live. If you are sickened by the fact that the families of migrant workers have to live in fear that one of their members being snatched away, not knowing where they’ve been taken to, not knowing whether they will find out that they have been deported halfway around the world, put under conditions that are inhumane. If this and all these other horrors that I’ve talked about earlier bother you, then you need to be a part of this Month of Resistance. If your eyes are open to this problem and you got an ounce of justice in your heart, you need to be part of mobilizing people to stand up, beginning now and building up to October when we manifest a kind of resistance that can take this whole movement to a whole new level. That’s the responsibility that we’re shouldering today, sisters and brothers. And look, I am confident that we can shoulder this.

Cornel and I was just talking about the strategy session that we did before we started the civil disobedience campaign around stop-and-frisk. And it was like 7 or 8 of us. And some of the folks wasn’t really sure, but we came up with something and then we said let’s go out and do it. And we said, even if it’s just me and him, we’re gonna go out and do it.

In developing that, we are on to a burning problem in society and we were proposing a plan of action to take that on. And by spreading that, we were able to bring many more people into in. And I mean, we got a lot more than seven or eight people here today. We come from all across the country and we are on to a burning problem in society. So let’s take up discussion of this problem and forging of a solution, and then let’s spread this throughout society and let’s bring forward resistance that could change everything around mass incarceration. Thank you brothers and sisters.


Cornel West

I want to just salute each and every one for being here. You are in the right place at the right time. We’re here why? We’re here because we love the brothers and sisters, especially the young brothers and sisters. The police may shoot them down, the criminal justice system may criminalize them. We want them to know we care, that we love them, we target them, and we zero in on them. I want to be very upfront about that. When Brother Carl and I focused in on stop-and-frisk, when the police dragged us in put us in jail, our last words were, we want the young folk to know that somebody cares.

Cornel West, March

Cornel West. Photo: Special to Revolution

And when you really love folks, you can’t stand the fact that they’re being treated unjustly. You loathe the fact that they’re being treated unfairly and if you don’t do something to rock the boat or cry out. And that’s the fire that we need because we’re living in an Ice Age still with too much indifference and callousness toward our brothers and sisters, of whatever color, but especially the chocolate ones, especially the Black and brown and red ones in our nation so deeply shaped by the legacy of white supremacy.

Now anytime I get a chance to work with brother Carl Dix, I get fired up. I get fired up...

W.E.B. DuBois raised four questions in 1957—he was 89-years-old...he'd been fighting for freedom for most of his life. The first question: how does integrity face oppression? You can’t talk about struggle for justice unless you’re dealing with folks with integrity, I didn’t say purity but integrity, but I didn't say cupidity. I didn’t say love of money. I didn’t say banality. I didn’t say selling your soul for a mess of pottage. We live in an age of the sell-out when it comes to too many of our leaders—don't want to tell the truth...don't want to take a risk, all they want to do is go on television like a peacock. No, this is for folks on the ground. This is for folks in the love business. This is for folks willing to go to jail if they have to, or put a smile on your face.

Now I’m a revolutionary Christian, he’s a revolutionary communist. We overlap. We don't agree on everything. But one thing we're willing to do is hit the street, go to jail, tell the truth, in the name of something bigger. You may be a Christian, you may be a Buddhist, you may be an atheist, you may be an agnostic. The question is what kind of integrity do you have?

The second question: What does honesty do in the face of deception? Because we live in an age of monstrous mendacity. Lies everywhere. Hyper-hypocrisy. Folks doing one thing and moving in another direction. What does honesty do in the face of deception?

And then: What does decency do in the face of insult? I come from a Black people who have been terrorized and traumatized and stigmatized for 400 years and yet we still emerge, our backs straight, willing to be honest and decent and preserve integrity and something that’s deep, not just political, it's moral, and for me it’s spiritual. What kind of person would I be with my brothers and sisters shot down like a dog? I won’t be like the dog but the dog is not going to get away with it. They're going to be accountable, they're going to be responsible, they're going to be culpable or the rocks are going to cry out.

And that last question: What does virtue do in the face of brute force? These are DuBois's four questions.

As we move in the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and generate more fire, we’re going to keep the focus on integrity, honesty, decency, and virtue in the face of brute force, of terror, of horror.

Why? Because we take the higher moral ground, even as we hit the ground in our attempt to keep the police accountable, politicians accountable, and tell the truth about the crime against humanity which is the New Jim Crow. And the criminal justice system in America is itself criminal.

“Oh, Brother West, you sound like you’re anti-American.” No. I’m anti-injustice in America. And I’m not ashamed of it. And I’m mindful of Brother Martin when they put him in that paddy wagon in the dark with a German shepherd. Drove around for four-and-a-half hours and took him down to Reidsville Prison in Tattnall County in gut bucket Jim Crow Georgia, 26 and a half years old. Brother Andy Young tells me that when he got out of the paddy wagon, six hours, just him and the German shepherd in the dark, look like he had a nervous breakdown, but he had one sentence in his lips, and he said what? “This is the cross we must bear for the freedom of our people.”

That’s what love is. That’s the caravan of love that the Isley Brothers sang about. That’s the love train that the O’Jays sang about. That’s the love train that Curtis Mayfield had in mind when he sang “People get ready, don’t need no ticket, just get on board.” When you get on board, you better be willing to pay a cost. You better be willing to cut against the grain. You better be willing to have some non-conformity and shatter the cowardice and the complacency and the complicity that we see too often in our society.

How do we keep the love train alive? More than justice is what love looks like in public, just like tenderness is what love feels like in private. We believe in being tender with one another and gentle with one another and sweet with one another as we are militant in telling the truth about the lies and crimes of the police, of the State Department, the Pentagon, the U.S. government, the Wall Street crimes. We know there are folk on Wall Street right now who ought to be in the prison system. Crimes were committed, insider trade and market manipulation. But they sipping tea in the White House. They sipping tea in City Hall. We can mention names. That’s not our focus today. Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase. What’s the name of his bank?

I was at Howard University on Sunday. They asked me to preach. I preached on the Kingdom of God is not a brand. That the cause of the beloved community is not a commercial. That the freedom struggle is not an advertisement, it’s a way of life. And Howard University had just given him [Jamie Dimon] an honorary degree just a few days day before... They let me show up a few days later. And I said, he’s a criminal, "Oh, Brother West you got hate in your soul." No I hate the deed, don’t get it twisted. I hate the action. I hate the choices that they make. I’m not in the hate business. I love Jamal and Latisha. I love Juanita. I love Juan. I love the least of these, the prisoners... That’s the tradition I come out of. I just want to be honest about it because all of us should be honest with one another as we coalesce, even given whatever disagreement we may have when it comes to religion and other things. That’s all right. We got a long tradition that goes all the way back even before the slave ship, of coalescing, in the name of something bigger than them. And that’s the reason why I’m here.

I want to apologize, I have to pick up my precious daughter, she’s getting out of school...  But I wouldn’t want to be any other place than right here, right now. Cause I want you to know that Brother Carl and I, we’re in it, just like the stop-and-frisk, all the way through. And I’ve already had a chance to talk to some of you...

I want to give salute to each and every one of you. And I want to make the connections here. We have to keep in mind that we’re living under a neo-liberal, capitalist and imperialist regime. What I mean by that is the three major tendencies on the globe is to financialize, privatize and militarize. That’s why 42 percent of the profits in America go to the banks... That’s why one percent of the population got 95 percent of the income over the last four years. Under Obama—because he's been a Wall Street president. He bailed out Wall Street, didn't bail out Main Street—$790 billion dollars just for a few banks. Homeowners got zero. Detroit's dangling, just need 18 billion. They wrote a check for billions for the Ukraine in the last few days. Lets you know what their priorities are.

Oh yes. He's a Wall Street drone, national surveillance... I called George Bush a war criminal with 45 drones. And you know I call Obama a war criminal with 421 drones. I gotta be morally consistent. Gotta tell the truth across the board. Not a question of your pigmentation, even though black is beautiful. I gotta be honest about that. But I want to know about your integrity, your honesty, your decency. That’s what I’m talking about... That’s the folk that I’m going to throw down with. Why? Because like this brother, Carl Dix. He raise up in the morning, thinking about, reflecting on, strategizing how can poor and working people be free and the people needing dignity, being treated the way they are. I know that and I know that’s true for each and every one of you.

So now I do sit down briefly and then make my way to catch my daughter so she’s not sitting there all by herself wondering, "Daddy are you at one of those meetings again? You’ve only been at it for 40 years, how come your cause is not won? Is it a lost cause or what?” Oh honey, I want you to know you come from a great people tied to a noble cause and it might not be winning at the moment, just keep track of it but as long as we’re committed we’re on the way, we're on the way.