Revolution #344, July 6, 2014 (

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

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Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Obama to Immigrant Children: Detention, Deportations, Ripping Apart Families

June 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Elva Marroquin left her impoverished Guatemalan home, traveling to El Norte to live and work in California. But she had to leave her children, 10-year-old Angel and seven-year-old Dulce, behind. Finally she saved enough money to have the two children try to make the perilous journey across Mexico to the U.S. hoping that her family would finally be united and stable. Angel and Dulce left their home over a month ago in the hopes of reaching their mother. But they were taken into custody by the Border Patrol immediately after crossing the Rio Grande into Texas. The children called her two weeks ago—they were tired, frightened, and hungry. Marroquin told a reporter "My children were heartbroken, sad, tearful, crying beyond comparison, begging me to take them out of there. Their begging was so distressing because I couldn't run to get them." Elva Marroquin still doesn't know when that will be, or what the fate of her children will be if and when her family finally reunites.

Young boy in detention cell in Nogales, Arizona. Photo: AP

Another woman, from El Salvador, told CNN how her 12-year-old son Henry and nine-year-old daughter Estefania left El Salvador in December with their grandmother. A grandmother took them to the Rio Grande and paid thousands of dollars to a coyote (smuggler) in the hope that he could get them safely across the river. In January the woman, who lives in California, received a call from Henry, who was in the custody of an immigration official somewhere in Texas. The official allowed the mother to speak with her son. "All I told my son is to calm down, that everything will be okay. Then the call got cut off, and they didn't call me back." She said she doesn't know the whereabouts or well-being of her children.

Imagine thousands of people like Elva Marroquin, agonizing over the fate of their children in the custody of U.S. immigration officials. Then you will begin to have a picture of the horrible and infuriating crisis unfolding on the U.S.-Mexico border.

As accounts of this situation make it into the news, many people in this country have been shocked at the sights of so many desperate, exhausted children, and tried to find ways to provide them with life's basic needs and a warm embrace. In contrast to this, the powers-that-be have greeted them with cruelty and repression. Warehoused for days in filthy and crowded detention centers designed to hold adults for short periods; locked in windowless corridors without seats; sleeping in shifts on concrete floors and sharing portable toilets with dozens of others in the same area they all eat; put on buses in the middle of the night and hours later dumped off at bus stations in cities they are completely unfamiliar with across the Southwest.

An inspection of a Texas detention center concluded "children in this area sat, slept and ate on the floor with no cots in temperatures that reached 100 degrees."

The United States government and its system of capitalism-imperialism are inflicting great crimes upon the people of Central America, especially the children. 52,000 immigrant children trying to enter the U.S., many escaping extreme poverty, repression, and gang conflicts, and trying to reunite with their families, have been taken into custody in the first eight months of this fiscal year, and the numbers grow daily. 39,000 or so mothers and children have crossed the border in the last few months. Another 90,000 women and children are expected to cross the border in the next few months.

The migration of tens of thousands of impoverished, desperate children has triggered what Barack Obama and other political leaders have had to admit is a humanitarian crisis. This crisis engulfs South Texas and is sending shockwaves through the entire Southwestern U.S., echoing into Mexico and beyond. But these ruling class figures—of all stripes—are not taking responsibility for this crisis. Instead, they are blaming, persecuting, and clamping down on the victims of the workings of their system that have driven people to the desperate measure of sending their unaccompanied children on a perilous trek to what they hope will be safety.

Expediting and Concentrating Repression

On Tuesday, June 24, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson presented to Congress the Obama administration's "13 point plan" as its comprehensive response to this crisis. Johnson told Congress the U.S. is "taking no lawful option off the table."

A centerpiece of the Obama/Johnson plan is sending more Border Patrol agents to South Texas, and leaving open the option to send hundreds more. It also calls for more detention centers, more "processing centers" for youth apprehended by the Border Patrol, additional legal staffing, and more Spanish-speaking employees to be sent to South Texas. The purpose of all this is to "create more detention space for families caught at the border and to accelerate cases through immigration courts, hoping to stem a growing tide of migration from Central America."

As part of this, a new center has been set up to detain 700 people, adults and children, at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico. One of Johnson's top assistants said that the Obama administration is "actively pursuing additional capacity" for detention. Johnson also has announced plans to begin using electronic tracking bracelets on children and others detained by the Border Patrol.

Obama supporters in Congress have argued that measures such as ankle bracelets on children are "humane and cost effective." Congressman Henry Cuellar, who is from the border town of Laredo, Texas, said the administration is setting up a "one stop shop" along the border "where the departments of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Justice would work jointly to process, adjudicate and, if warranted, remove the immigrants quickly."

The federal government is temporarily re-assigning immigration judges, attorneys, and asylum officials to the Rio Grande Valley. They are part of the Obama administration's plan to be able to hear many more cases right in the Valley area, and deport people from there before they get further into the U.S. interior. Adults from Central America who are caught by the Border Patrol are usually put into an "expedited removal" process, which means the government doesn't have to bring them before a judge before deporting them.

The same "expedited" process of deportation is used for children from Central America caught and detained with their parents. But the government is prohibited by federal law from fast-tracking the deportation of unaccompanied children. This legal prohibition contributed to the almost unbelievably malicious practice of loading children detained in South Texas onto buses and dropping them off at public bus stops in distant cities, especially Phoenix, Arizona.

13 Points of Repression

At the same time, Jeh Johnson was announcing the 13-point Obama program, Vice President Joe Biden made a blitz series of arm-twisting visits to the presidents of Mexico and Central America. Biden had three goals for his trip: compelling Mexico to detain and deport many more of the Central Americans attempting to cross Mexico and reach the U.S.; initiating a massive publicity campaign in Central America that would "fight the widespread belief in Central America that children and families will be allowed to stay in the U.S."; offering money to the three Central American countries for "youth outreach centers" supposedly intended to "reduce gang membership," but more to the repressive point, for the "expedited prosecution" of alleged gang members.

Anthony Wayne, U.S. ambassador to Mexico, summed up the overall message of Biden's trip: "All who enter the United States without proper immigration status are subject to deportation proceedings." In an interview on June 27, Obama himself made this explicitly clear, while once again expressing his phony humanitarian concern for the children, and directing the blame for the children's dire situation away from the system he heads. He told ABC News that "our message absolutely is don't send your children unaccompanied on trains or through a bunch of smugglers. That is our direct message to families in Central America. Do not send your children to the borders. If they do make it, they'll be sent back. More importantly, they may not make it."

Busloads of people are being forcibly returned by Mexico to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador every day. Hundreds more arrive daily at an airport outside the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, deported from the U.S. A June 26 report in the San Antonio Express-News described how the day before, "13 buses from Mexico were scheduled to arrive in San Pedro, [the country's] second largest city and near the Guatemalan border. For the past week or so, about 500 people a day are deported from Mexico back to the Honduran city. A Honduran official said we've never experienced anything like this before."

Much attention in the U.S. has focused on the supposedly widespread belief in Central America that children and women who enter the U.S. will be given "permisos" (permits) and be able to stay. In fact, radio, television, and newspaper outlets in Mexico and Central America have been flooded with dire warnings that people should not attempt to go to the U.S. Christina Gonzalez, a reporter for the Fox News station in Los Angeles, said: "I don't see anywhere any report telling people to send their kids over. Quite the opposite, they are warning people not to do so, it is not a good idea."

Cruel Repression

Rick Perry, the Christian fascist governor of Texas, has authorized $1.3 million a week for the rest of 2014 to send Texas Rangers and other law enforcement to the border to "combat the flood of illegal immigrants into the state in the absence of adequate federal resources to secure the border." John Boehner, the leading Republican in Congress, has called for the National Guard to be deployed along the border; Dan Patrick, another powerful Christian fascist from Texas, recently told the big lie that immigrant children are bringing "third world diseases" into Texas, and demanded more "boots on the ground" to deal with the situation.

Leading Democrats share the same basic goals: stopping the flow of Central American children into the U.S. and sending the overwhelming majority of the immigrants back to their homelands. Hillary Clinton, after expressing what she characterized as her "concerns" for the children, in a recent interview concluded that "we have to send a clear message: just because your child crosses the border, that doesn't mean your child gets to stay."

For the capitalist-imperialist system and its political representatives, there is no easy resolution to this crisis. A cornerstone of U.S. imperialism's dominant status in the world is its brutal exploitation and vicious repression in countries to its south; essential to the profitable functioning of this system is the wealth it extracts from millions of immigrants, legal and "illegal," in the U.S. This country lashes out at and has continually suppressed thousands of children; yet seeks to present itself to the world as the champion of democracy and the downtrodden of the world.

The crisis gripping Central America and Mexico and pulsing into the U.S. is deep. The fevered efforts by the ruling class to somehow contain and suppress this crisis reflect real concern that it could spin out of their control and become something much more damaging to their interests—to their system; and their differences over how best to contain this crisis could burst into even sharper conflict among them.

All this poses sharp challenges to people building the movement for revolution, and for anyone who wants an end to a world where anyone suffers as the children of Central America have. As we wrote in last week's Revolution:

"The suffering these children are enduring is a tragedy and a catastrophe. And unnecessary! It is a product—in many different ways—of the capitalist-imperialist system. And it is a burning testament to the need to make revolution as soon as possible, and put an end to the system that perpetrates such abominations....

"All the youths and children who make it to the U.S. must be treated humanely and compassionately; whenever possible, they must be reunited with family members as soon as possible. They must be given all necessary medical treatment, and put in a caring, loving environment. They must be provided with education, and they must never be deported."





Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Mississippi Freedom Summer—Deep and Important Lessons

June 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


To the editor:

On Tuesday, June 24, PBS showed a special film on Mississippi Freedom Summer, by Stanley Nelson. (See: "Interview with Filmmaker Stanley Nelson: Freedom Summer.") I was emotionally moved and intellectually provoked, in many ways and on many levels, as I watched this film, and afterward. The film captures the richness and contradictoriness of that experience. Everybody should see it—let the whole thing wash over you, in all its dimensions. And there would be much to write (and much that has been written), in another context, on the whole movement of that time—its strengths and weaknesses, the ways in which people saw what they were up against and what they thought would solve things, why and how the system of segregation arose after the Civil War and its connection to the growth of capitalism-imperialism. Much of that should be gotten into. But now, at a time when the movement for revolution, and the Party at its core, is attempting to make an urgent leap in societal impact, I feel compelled to try to draw out and underline what struck me as some points that might have some particular bearing on today's juncture—even as the goals, means and terms of Mississippi Freedom Summer were particular to that time and place.

Freedom Summer: Racial Oppression and Voter Suppression

The film explains how a small core from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had moved into Mississippi to register voters. At that point, less than seven percent of Black people in Mississippi were allowed to vote; and this was one extreme aspect of an entire system of segregation and terror that WAS Mississippi society at that time. One powerful element of this film is the way in which people who were brought up in Mississippi talk about how the system of white supremacy was drummed into people in virtually every social interaction with white people. Those who fought any form of this ran into extreme repression—people were brutally beaten, jailed, driven from their jobs and homes, and very often killed in Mississippi in the early 1960s for getting active in this struggle. Medgar Evers, the head of the NAACP in the state, was assassinated in his driveway in June 1963. And yet, while this repression was known and felt to be an outrage among many Black people and a section of white college youth, it did not really hit the whole society. The heroic people working in Mississippi were making some progress but overall could neither make the system budge nor rally the masses on a large scale, and were straight-up being murdered in their efforts.

In 1964, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) invited 800 students, mainly white, to Mississippi as part of the resistance to the terror and segregation against Black people. On the basis of good orientation, these students played a critical role in drawing the attention of the world to the outrages in Mississippi. At the same time, they gave encouragement to the people. Even more important, the masses in Mississippi, the students who came down, and the whole society learned a tremendous amount about the nature of this system. Above, a classroom in a Freedom School set up by SNCC and the volunteers. Photo: AP

The film outlines a struggle within SNCC over what to do about this. A proposal was made to bring 1,000 college students down to register people to vote—to both have an impact on the masses in Mississippi but even more so to affect the terms in the entire society. The thinking was that those many people coming to Mississippi (including the fact that most of them would be white) would force things to a whole other level, where millions of people throughout the U.S. and the world would be compelled to pay attention. Within SNCC, many of the seasoned grassroots organizers opposed this move—they argued that the hundreds of college students (again, mainly white) would have no idea of how to work with people coming from a totally different background, they could undo much of what had been painstakingly built up by the SNCC cadre, and so on. But others in SNCC argued that only a bold move like this would actually have the potential to compel the attention of the whole society and thereby change the terms. At one point in the film, Charlie Cobb—one of the core SNCC people who initially, at least, opposed the move—tells of being confronted by Fannie Lou Hamer, the courageous Mississippi woman who had endured blacklisting, beatings and threats for daring to resist the segregationist system. She went up to Cobb, as he tells it, and asks him why he's opposing these people coming—"Well, Charlie," she says, "I was glad when you came—what's the problem with more people coming down?" In the event, it was very important that SNCC provided leadership and orientation for the volunteers, which included significant struggle with them; and the lines of leadership were clear. On that basis, the volunteers fanned out across the state and, as it turned out, the coming of the volunteers, combined with other factors, did take things to another level. The point: There are no "outsiders" in the battle against oppression; and sometimes "outsiders" are needed to compel attention to a heavy "local" situation.

Very shortly, the powers-that-be in Mississippi made clear their response. As the main corps of the students were literally getting on the buses to come south, vigilantes working in tandem with the police kidnapped and murdered three of the SNCC organizers—James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, who were core SNCC organizers, and Andrew Goodman, who was one of the first wave of students. The bodies were hidden and that uncertainty almost made the terror worse. But the students came anyway. The movie brings out very strongly the kinds of terror that they faced—which was essentially a taste of what Black people in Mississippi faced all the time if they dared resist, and much of the time even if they didn't.1 But the student volunteers held firm; and this, no doubt had an important influence on the people they were trying to reach. The point: Serious struggle is met with bitter repression and people must hold firm to advance in the face of that.

This outrage put Michael Schwerner's wife—who was also a core organizer—under a spotlight. Even while bearing the terrible uncertainty about the three missing volunteers, including her husband, and at the same time the grief of basically knowing what had happened, Rita Schwerner understood that much was demanded of her. She tells in the movie how Lyndon Johnson, the president at the time, tried to position himself as "sympathetic"—she wasn't having it, and instead took advantage of the White House visit to demand that they make a serious effort to find out what happened and catch the killers. The film literally plays tapes of Johnson complaining about Rita Schwerner's attitude to J. Edgar Hoover, the vicious head of the FBI—you hear both how callous these two are and how fearful they are of Rita Schwerner and how she makes them look. Then, when the official news came that the bodies had been found, she refused to give the press the story they wanted of the "grieving, crying widow" or the "poor little white girl," and instead fought to keep things focused on what was being done to those who stood up in Mississippi and those who organized them to do so. The point: At every step, no matter how heavy the pressure, you have to fight to set the REAL terms of things.

Another important aspect of this movie: the ways in which the students transform the people they encounter, and the way that they in turn are transformed. For all the culture clash and awkwardness and, no doubt, insensitivity, a real bond is forged. The students bring something different. To the Black masses in Mississippi, they represent both the fact that there are people who support them and are willing to put things on the line for them and that there is a whole different way the world might be. The film lets you see this in people who were young people and even children back then talking about the long-lasting impact of the freedom schools that SNCC and the student volunteers set up that summer, or of just the human contact with people. And the interviews with those who were students also show people who were changed in profound and lifelong ways by the experience. Point: The cauldron of struggle, including the ways in which people from different backgrounds are brought together and learn how to stand firm as one against the enemy while they mix and mesh, and the new community that is forged through that, can profoundly transform people.

I also want to call attention to the powerful and moving speech given by Dave Dennis at the memorial for James Chaney. As Chaney's younger brother Ben is crying over the loss of his brother, Dennis—who had been told to "keep people calm"—could no longer take it. You see him directly challenge the masses, at the funeral and more broadly: "Don't bow down any more!" he says. "STAND UP!"2 The struggle that DID go on between the SNCC members and the masses broadly was a very important and usually little-noted dimension of this whole experience; here I want to strongly recommend the memoir of Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi, a Black woman who grew up there in the 1950s, joined the struggle, and who examines some of the ways this went down and how it felt. The film also gives emphasis to the important point that the SNCC core and the new students also had to be good at listening. Point: Leaders have to both listen AND they have to dare to lead, and sometimes that means sharp struggle with the masses.

At the same time, ways were found for all different kinds of participation to take place, and for people to “move through” a process. The Mississippi Summer Project, when you think about it, wasn’t huge; counting the SNCC people already there, it probably numbered less than 1,000 people. But the organizers found lots of ways for people to participate. There were the volunteers themselves, and the fund-raising that went into the whole project—which is a way for a lot of people beyond the core to contribute to changing the world. In Mississippi itself, there weren’t huge marches, and the film describes how for most of the summer only 10 or 12 people would come to “mass meetings,” and very few people were ready to take the step to go down to the registrar and put themselves on the line in that way. But all that summer grassroots people would house volunteers; they would send their children to freedom schools, and sometimes go themselves; they participated in the process of choosing the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party slate for the convention. Artists would give concerts, and—while this particular element is not in the film—there were also demonstrations in some northern cities against the federal inaction on the murders of the civil rights workers. All the while, in different ways, things built. Then the film describes how at the very end of the summer things “took” and there was a leap and you had 50 or 60 or 70 people turning out every night to mass meetings. But this element of mass participation, in many different forms, from the beginning was crucial to what were really a relative handful impacting millions.

SNCC organized people to go to the Democratic National Convention to demand to be seated as the lawful Mississippi delegation, due to the terror that the regular Democratic Party enforced against Black people. They pointed to the illegitimacy of the regular Mississippi Democratic Party. They fought to get their story out, and refused a paltry compromise that the Democrats and the mainstream civil rights movement tried to force on them. Fannie Lou Hamer, above, was a sharecropper who stood up against beatings and blacklistings and threats on her life to become a mass leader. Photo: Library of Congress

And, in fact, the whole Freedom Summer effort did focus everyone's eyes on Mississippi. This bold move DID have societal impact. Things came to a head at the Democratic National Convention at the end of the summer. The SNCC people formed an alternate slate of delegates to the convention, under the name of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). They argued that since the regular Mississippi slate was the product of a system which did not allow Black people to vote, it was unconstitutional; they would insist that an integrated delegation, chosen in a process in which everyone had the right to vote, should be seated instead. Johnson, the president, made a number of crude attempts to take the focus away from this; but the insistence of the MFDP on justice and on righteously telling the truth forced these moves to essentially backfire. Fannie Lou Hamer—who had grown up as a sharecropper and come forward from among the masses as a mass leader and testified at the convention—made an extremely powerful impact on people all over the world, refusing to be impressed by or to back down to those in power who were working on her to compromise, keeping in mind who and what she was representing, as she saw it.

In the face of this—and again, the movie utilizes tape recordings that Johnson himself made—Johnson coordinated different allies (including Black elected officials and the established civil rights leaders) to bring pressure to bear on the MFDP, and especially on the delegates from other states who were sympathetic to them and the United Auto Workers union lawyer who had been helping them, to cave in. And you also get to hear him telling the people he is deploying to pretend as if this was their own idea. It is very clear—on any issue of significance, the ruling class rules, using everything they have to enforce their will.

Yet at the same time, they are NOT all-powerful. Yes, these forces headed by Johnson defeated the particular challenge—but the way in which these pigs did it, and the fact that the MFDP and SNCC held firm in refusing the compromise that they had been offered, ended up as a strategic political defeat for the ruling class. Many, many students and Black people became much more radical as a result of this betrayal, and not just those who were on the scene. The Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, which arose several months later, is unimaginable without Freedom Summer—not only because some of the key organizers had been tempered in that, but even more due to the ways in which the thinking of millions had been broadly influenced, and transformed, even in beginning ways, through all that. In fact, it is very telling that Johnson at one point has what amounts to a nervous breakdown for several days over this and is clearly very panicked about the challenge that has been brought against him—again, you hear this in his own words (and you also hear Johnson's bone-deep racism come out as well—in fact, another strength of the film is how powerfully it draws out how this society was saturated, from top to bottom, with racism—something that has not fundamentally changed since 1964). Point: The rulers of this society are NOT all-powerful; they do not have everything under their control, especially when people refuse to bow down to them.

A whole section of people and leaders were radicalized by the 1964 experience. Three months later at Berkeley, students who had been in Mississippi led the Free Speech Movement, which marked a leap in the student movement at that time. Stokely Carmichael was one of the SNCC leaders who went on to play an important role in the Black liberation struggle that rocked the U.S. in the latter part of the '60s.

Above: University of California, Berkeley students at a Free Speech Movement protest in 1964. FSM spokesman Mario Savio is in the foreground facing the camera. Photo: AP

Below: Stokely Carmichael, 1966. Photo: AP

Finally, the film shows—in part—what came out of Freedom Summer. And here is where there is a particular weakness, even as there are still lessons to draw. In the end, the ruling class was forced to make concessions—in fact, a year later the Voting Rights Act was passed (this came after still more struggle that focused world attention on the situation in the U.S.). The film makes the point at the end, as sort of a conclusion, that Mississippi later had the highest number of Black elected officials of any state. But while it is important to bring out the ways in which people's struggle led to some not insignificant change, the film does NOT bring out that the conditions of Black people in Mississippi today remain horrific in fundamental ways and in many dimensions—i.e., that voting within the confines of this system did NOT lead to the kind of basic change needed by the masses in Mississippi and that in significant respects things are worse. Focusing on the election of Black officials objectively ends up obscuring and cutting against that point. In doing this, the film reflects in part both the limitations of the movement at the time and the related fact that the movement was still struggling for some basic bourgeois-democratic rights.

At the same time, on the other side, the point is also made at the very end, right before that “concluding sentence,” that many in SNCC, to paraphrase Bob Avakian, followed their convictions out to their logical conclusions, refusing to stop fighting and questioning so long as the outrage that drove them into action persisted. These forces began to turn to much more radical solutions. Stokely Carmichael from SNCC, who later became a revolutionary and a lifelong opponent of U.S. imperialism, is seen very militantly leading a Mississippi crowd in chanting "Black Power!"—which at the time had an extremely radical and militant social content, and was posed in direct opposition to the mainstream of the "civil rights movement." SNCC in fact had run up against the limits of the road that they had taken; and one section (which included Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, and others) went on to play an important role in further radicalizing the movement, and American society, over the next several years.

Lenny Wolff


1. Dave Dennis, a core SNCC organizer at the time, has made the point elsewhere that, “During the time they were looking for the bodies of Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman, they found other bodies throughout the state. They found torsos in the Mississippi River, they found people who were buried, they even found a few bodies of people on the side of roads. As soon as it was determined that these bodies were not the three missing workers, or one of the three, those deaths were forgotten. That’s what we were talking about in terms of what the Freedom Summer was all about, in terms of why it was necessary to bring that attention there. Because people forgot, and if it had just been blacks there, they would have forgotten again. It would just have been three black people missing.” (See Voices of Freedom, the book compiled from the documentary Eyes on the Prize, p. 194) [back]

2. A longer part of this speech is captured in the documentary 1964, also well worth watching. [back]





Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Summer 2014

BA Everywhere... Imagine the Difference It Could Make!

June 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


This summer the BA Everywhere campaign is planning to make big advances in impacting society—changing how people think about the world—why it is the way it is, and how it could be radically transformed through revolution—with crucial steps towards millions of people knowing that there is a way out of the horror and madness of today. This summer, hundreds and then thousands of people need to become a part of raising the big funds necessary so that this is known in every corner of society.

Taking out the "1000 Years-$1000" challenge to relatives of prisoners and ex-prisoners. Photos: Special to Revolution

Look around... talk to people... check out the news... the world is in great turmoil... people agonize about the state of their lives, the state of the world, even the planet’s survival. Lives are stolen by the millions—in wars, in people fleeing desperately across militarized borders, in the prisons. Dreams are thwarted and crushed. People’s anger at the brutality, degradation, and profound alienation that so many feel, gets taken out against each other and themselves. There is profound discontent that seethes beneath the surface.

Yet, people don’t understand the root cause of why the world is the way it is, and that a radically different way the world could be is possible. They have deep questions—questions they often haven’t even allowed themselves to ask. When confronted with what is to be done about the state of the world, people hit an ideological block. This can, and must, change.

The BA Everywhere campaign is about making that change. People need to know about the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian (BA) and engage the work he has done. Nobody speaks to the questions confronting humanity like BA. He has analyzed in a more scientific way the problem humanity confronts in the capitalist-imperialist system, he’s broken this down so people can understand this and work with the framework he has developed. Even more fundamentally, he has charted the way forward, forging a viable vision and framework for a radically better world. BA has developed a new synthesis of communism that provides a deep scientific understanding of the methods, goals, strategy, and plan for making revolution and creating a far better society, leading to the emancipation of humanity. And he leads a party, the RCP, USA, that is building a movement for revolution here and now.

This must be a summer and accelerating into the fall when BA and what he has brought forward becomes known by millions of people. A time when thousands, then tens of thousands, not only hear about BA, but engage his work: reading, watching, discussing, debating, and going out to friends, relatives and colleagues with what they learn. A time when, as people talk about how bad things are, others will say: “Have you checked out BA and the Party and movement for revolution he leads?” A time when throughout the country, people are familiar with who BA is and have a basic sense of what he stands for—and this becomes a reference point when people talk about what is to be done about the big questions of the state of the world. And, as a part of this, a growing section of people is connecting with the Party and the movement for revolution.

For this to really be—to make BA known on a huge scale—requires serious money, and that takes lots of people raising funds from thousands more people. Raising funds is being serious, and it’s making a difference—by those who do the asking and by those who donate.

The campaign kicks into a higher gear at picnics across the country on the July 4th weekend with the words of the escaped slave and freedom fighter Frederick Douglass: What To a Slave Is Your Fourth Of July?” And, answers with a theme for the summer: “We Refuse to Accept Slavery in Any Form!”

The BA Everywhere campaign is crucial, as the leading edge of a whole ensemble of revolutionary work, to changing blocs of people’s thinking to where the possibility of ending all forms of slavery would be possible. Breaking through the ways that people’s thinking is trapped within the confines of what is—that this dog-eat-dog system is the best and only way the world could be... and consciously or unconsciously accepting the verdict from those who rule or defend this capitalist-imperialist system that the communist revolutions of the 20th century were a failure.

The BA Everywhere campaign is bringing something different: a deep understanding of why the world is the way it is—the problem; and that there is another way the world could be through revolution as concentrated in the new synthesis of communism developed by BA—the solution. Bob Avakian and the BA Everywhere campaign are about this: problem and solution—nothing less. If this is made known in all corners of society, that would change the face of everything—with the biggest questions and biggest dreams for the future being debated and setting terms.

To get to that point means lots of people joining the campaign. Summer 2014 must see the BA Everywhere campaign going out to the people in a bold, mass way, stirring things up—as the leading edge of a whole ensemble of revolutionary work that’s “Fighting the Power, and Transforming the People, for Revolution,” inviting and involving people in spreading BA and raising funds to do so on an ever greater scale and unleashing a society-wide ideological struggle over what’s the problem and the revolutionary solution. BA Everywhere committees should be growing: canvassing, reaching out and raising funds, building community in the parks, housing projects, summer festivals. To realize the ambitious vision for this summer and fall will mean working with people... having lots of entry-level ways that many people can join... providing people with a vision and plan—an approach that revolutionaries call “Grasp Revolution, Promote Production”*—and breaking down the ways for people to be a part of making this real. The campaign should be out among the people – raising sights and giving them the opportunity to learn about and contribute to something that could make a tremendous difference for humanity.

Running through everything this summer is the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! This mind-blowing talk is 6+ hours that can change how people see the world and what they do with the rest of their lives.

BA says in the film, “Those this system has cast off, those it has treated as less than human, can be the backbone and driving force of a fight to not only end their own oppression, but to finally end all oppression, and emancipate all of humanity.” This speaks to a big part of the heart of another theme for this summer, “Revolution in the City”—reaching out to and challenging especially the youth in the crosshairs of this system. Making this a summer where BA Everywhere is the leading edge of the whole ensemble of work that is preparing today for revolution. Where, when people are organizing for the October Month of Resistance against mass incarceration and fighting back against this, they are finding out about BA Everywhere. Where, when people are organizing for the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride and fighting back against the attacks on women, they are finding out about BA Everywhere. Where, when people are organizing for the massive Climate March at the UN in New York on September 20-21, 2014, and fighting back to save the environment, they are finding out about BA Everywhere. Where, when people come together at concerts and festivals that inspire and bring people together, they are finding out about BA Everywhere.

In the context of the overall BA Everywhere campaign, there are several focuses. Each of these focuses should serve to project BA and the campaign as a whole far and wide, and should raise significant funds for the projects themselves, and for the campaign as a whole.

An important objective and focus of the BA Everywhere campaign, especially in August, should be inspiring and organizing people of all strata to join in taking BA Everywhere out to the campuses at the start of the semester. And there should be a special focus on organizing a significant Revolution—Nothing Less! Contingent—with scores of people, especially youth wearing the T-shirts—at the September 20-21 “A Call to Arms: An Invitation to Demand Action on Climate Change” demonstration in NYC coinciding with the UN Climate Summit 2014. Indeed, throughout August the campaign should be bringing to people why and how only revolution could begin to really tackle the problem of a sustainable planet.

Each of these component focuses should serve to strengthen the whole of the BA Everywhere campaign—getting out broadly; going deeply into problem and solution with people and sparking lively debate; and involving many people, getting them organized into committees and with the national campaign to raise the big funds that are necessary to make a big impact with BA on the whole of the country.


* See Bob Avakian’s “Grasp Revolution, Promote Production—Questions of Outlook and Method, Some Points on the New Situation.” [back]




Revolution #344 July 6, 2014




Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Challenge from a Former Prisoner:

Stop Doing What the System Wants Us to Do—And Get with BA and the Movement for Revolution

June 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


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I want to stand with the people who are standing up to the NYPD pig invasion and occupation of Black and Latino neighborhoods in Harlem. This system cannot be allowed to just come into neighborhoods and round up our youth in the name of stopping crime and get away with it. That is how the Nazis started going after Jewish communities in Germany. A slow genocide is being carried out. It is that serious. The people from the different neighborhoods who are unifying and fighting against this outrage are fighting for all of us. I stand with them.

To the youth who are the targets:

This system has no future for you! It treats you like garbage and it needs you to believe that is what you are and for you to treat each other that way. Some of you who were swept up in the raids are fighting each other in jail. WHY? The system needs for you to hurt each other and to hate each other. Why do what they want you to do?

I had that same rage in me. I was ready to smash in somebody's face for a few dollars, or because they were from some other block and feel little remorse. I saw no hope and hated everything but what I should have been hating—the system that caused all this suffering. This set up was stealing my humanity and making me into a monster. I was doing things that hurt the people not the system, and was programmed for prison or death from the time I was a child. Some of you are into that same shit now and you got to get out of it. Not just for yourselves and your families, but for humanity! You got to find the ways to unite against this system and stop being played by it. It's time to stop doing what they want us to do.

Start thinking a different way. The philosophy of "If it ain't about money, it ain't about nothing" is the way of thinking of the people who rule over us. That is the way of thinking of the capitalists and the police and courts that back them up. To die for a piece of real-estate that ain't yours—a fucking city block, hurting each other—for what? And then to take pride in being used this way, in acting in this way, is really messed up. Stop it! We have to start thinking in a different way.

I was you. I'm a former gangster youth and believe me I've probably done every stupid thing you've done and more. When I was your age, and doing a long bid, somebody handed me a book one day and told me to read it. I didn't like to read then but read it anyway. The book was Soledad Brother by revolutionary prisoner George Jackson. I didn't know that people like George Jackson existed. Somebody who had come up like me, being told by the system that he was a criminal and an animal and believing it. But George Jackson transformed. He went from criminal to revolutionary and a fighter for the people. My eyes began to open. I began to change. I came to hate this capitalist system and what it had done, not just to me and people like me, but to people worldwide. The more I learned the more I hated this system and the more I wanted to be part of ending it. I became a revolutionary.

Get with BA

Today I am appealing to you brothers to stop the bullshit and get with Bob Avakian and the movement for revolution. BA is the leader of the RCP, the Revolutionary Communist Party. He has the strategy for how to make revolution. I did not know how different the world could be if we get rid of this system until I started to get down with the work BA is doing. Nobody has to be treated as less than human or be made to feel that way. We can learn to understand the truth about why things are the way they are and how we can change them by using the scientific approach to everything. Bob Avakian's works is like a flashlight to find our way out of this fucking darkness they got us in. I'm telling you like someone once told me, read this book, BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, and it can change how you see everything. Read From Ike to Mao and Beyond, and watch BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Read the books and watch the video all the way through. You don't like to read—do it anyway!

BA ain't playing! He is not talking about people holding hands waiting for some savior. He's talking about getting ready for the time when we can throw down, millions of us, and defeat this system and make a better world for humanity. I went from being a hard core criminal; from wanting to be John Dillinger, to becoming one of the emancipators of humanity. We need a lot more emancipators!

"1,000 Years–$1,000 for BA Everywhere"

I am raising a dollar for every year I was in prison for the "1,000 Years–$1,000 for BA Everywhere" campaign. That money is going toward getting the word out about BA into the prisons, and neighborhoods, into the colleges, and high schools, everywhere. This has to get out there to stand up to the lie that we have to accept this living hell, that we are to blame for how messed up things are or it's human nature. Or that the system is too powerful to be defeated. All lies! People need to know that—the youth need to know that—NOW!

A call to former prisoners:

All the former prisoners who read this—raise a dollar for every year you were behind bars and contribute that to the BA Everywhere campaign. Ask everybody you know to participate. Let's start getting more into BA ourselves and working together to connect this young generation with the leader who knows how to get out of this hellhole we all live in.

To all the rest of you:

Match the money we raise for BA Everywhere.





Revolution #344 July 6, 2014




Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

The Mass Initiatives and Their Relation to Our Strategic Objectives

by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party

May 19, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |



Editors' Note: The following are part of observations that were made by Bob Avakian, and were originally distributed within the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) at the beginning of 2012. This is being published now as the first part of the serialization of these observations. These observations were originally made at a time when the "Occupy" movement was having a significant—and overall positive—impact, but was also increasingly running up against the repressive force of the state, as well as its own limitations. While this was an important particular aspect of the overall situation at that time, and this is reflected in these observations by BA, these observations are speaking more broadly to the situation and challenges facing the RCP and the communist movement in the world as a whole. For this reason—and because these observations continue to have relevance and importance in that light—the decision has been made to publish these observations. Also included, as an addendum at the end, is a more recent document, "Basic Orientation Regarding the Two Mass Initiatives (and the Overall Ensemble of Revolutionary Work)," written by Bob Avakian and distributed within the RCP earlier this year (2014). Some editing has been done, and footnotes have been added, in preparing this for publication.



We have to resituate the two initiatives—against mass incarceration, and against the degradation of women—in the context of the larger approach and objectives embodied in the Campaign as a whole that we are carrying out, with its three objectives: really putting revolution and communism on the map; making BA a household name and what BA represents a subject of substantive discussion and debate throughout society; and bringing forward waves of new initiators of the communist revolution. At the same time, we need to keep in mind that while these mass initiatives are part of an overall strategic approach or ensemble, they are not gimmicks to achieve the goals of the Campaign. There are two "mirror opposite" errors: the economism of "the movement is everything, the final aim nothing," divorcing these initiatives from larger strategic objectives (and slicing further down within that, reducing mass incarceration to STOP Stop & Frisk, for example); or not really building these initiatives as truly mass movements and struggles.

These mass initiatives are part of a strategic approach, but they also have relative identity themselves. They are real struggles that we are taking up—real outrages and concentrations of key social contradictions. And Marx's point applies to both—if these are not resisted, the masses will be degraded into broken wretches, incapable of rising up for anything greater. Think about that report summarizing a wild discussion with basic masses about the oppression and degradation of women—and all the backward shit that came out from those very oppressed masses, including women, about the degradation of women, rationalizing and even in some ways getting into this. And these are not the most backward masses—in fact, in some ways these masses are advanced. It is not just a matter of the degradation of masses who are directly oppressed by this, but the dragging down of the masses as a whole. And the same applies to mass incarceration. It is not just that it's hard for masses of inner city youth to rise up in these conditions—including the aspect of self-degradation when they are cast into these conditions—but also the effects in society as a whole. These are egregious outrages, acute concentrations of major social contradictions, and masses do need to rise up against them. People of all strata have to be won to take this up. "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" has to be going forward rather than people being dragged down by these things.

And, without any hyperbole, we should recognize and present to people what really is involved in these concentrations of social contradictions. It is a form of slow genocide, what is happening with mass incarceration. That is not hyperbole. The degradation of women that's involved in both of these expressions—pornography and the Christian Fascist-spearheaded offensive on forced child-bearing—that's not hyperbole either. Forced child-bearing—denying the right to abortion, as well as to birth control—is slavery. There needs to be a truly mass struggle that's called forth in society against these things.

We're not going to overturn and eliminate national oppression and the oppression of women within the present system. But we're not Trotskyites with "transitional demands," aimed at tricking people into fighting the system over certain demands, and then, when they realize that they can't win those demands under this system, they supposedly become convinced of the need for some other system (whatever that means in the minds of Trotskyites). But this doesn't mean that there can't be real mass struggle developed and that the political and ideological terms can't be changed around these outrages, that the masses can't be transformed in their understanding; and it doesn't mean you can't put the ruling class back on its heels on these things. If we are correctly working in relation to this—if we are approaching all this with the understanding and orientation that this is all part of building a movement for revolution and these contradictions can only be fully and finally resolved by revolution, even as people should not now just take this and not fight it—then people, rather than being demoralized, can advance.

So, two points: One, what is involved with these mass initiatives are real battles in their own right that have to be built to change the terrain ideologically and politically, in terms of who has the initiative on this and how the masses are being transformed; and two, there is the question of how these link to the whole oppressive system and to making revolution.

These mass initiatives have to be taken up, on our part, in the framework of "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution"; we have to constantly raise things back up to that vantage point and framework. At the same time, while we are coming from that framework and approach things from that perspective, these DO have to be taken on as real questions, real concentrations of major social contradictions. These outrages are NOT tolerable, and a mass struggle in many different forms has to be undertaken on the basis that they are not tolerable. Masses of people should not be forced, tricked and misled into putting up with this. If we don't approach this with this orientation, it will just be "let's get a few things going," and nothing will change.

That's why I keep going back to the paragraph in the Badiou polemic1 on the machinery of capitalism-imperialism humming in the background: "And [with reformism] the world stays fundamentally unchanged. Capitalism-imperialism continues humming in the 'background,' crushing lives and destroying spirits in its meat-grinder of exploitation. And the horrors continue unabated." That captures very powerfully the difference between reform and revolution. That basic point of orientation has to infuse how we take up both of these initiatives and how we handle the relation between them and the overall strategic objectives we have to keep clearly in mind and be guided by.

We should look at each of these mass initiatives in its own right, but not lose track of bedrock principles relating to the full picture, the overall strategic situation. And we need to go to people with a compelling argument for why these outrages are intolerable and mass struggle must be built against them. If you don't give people a feeling of what an intolerable outrage they are, you won't call forth the felt compulsion to struggle against them; but if you just do that and don't give them the full picture, they will be demoralized by the difficulties and twists and turns in the struggle, and/or misled and co-opted by other forces which will not lead things in the direction they need to go, even in terms of really building mass struggle against these outrages, let alone in terms of the fundamental solution. If you get something going, then other forces come in; if we don't bring in the larger picture, then it gets led back under the wing of the bourgeoisie, it gets sidetracked and dissipated and/or crushed.


To emphasize it again: These outrages—mass incarceration and the degradation of women—need to be fought, and we can change the terrain around these things. "Occupy" hasn't "won" anything, but it has contributed in a significant way to changing the political terrain. These mass initiatives have, if anything, even more potential to do that. These outrages really are as egregious, and as integral to this system, as we say they are. At the same time, I agree (with the point raised by another leading comrade) that a key goal of the work of our comrades in these initiatives should be driving people to the two mainstays of our ongoing work.2

We are still not thinking big enough in terms of these initiatives. With mass incarceration, we are talking about millions of people affected by this, and whole generations of inner city youth. On the one hand, there has been, since the time of the 1960s, the raising of significant Black middle strata—although their position is still precarious. On the other hand, this—mass incarceration—concentrates what this system has done to the masses of Black people in the inner cities. It is no better than Jim Crow. And don't think that—during the time of Jim Crow segregation and Ku Klux Klan terror—they didn't have all kinds of rationalizations about how this was necessary and even good. This is a big deal, mass incarceration. With the woman question, we're talking about the oppression and degradation of half the human race.

These are outrages around which really mass struggle has to be called forth. We need to constantly return to that. And then, in turn, on a more fundamental level, we are taking this up because these are two very key concentrations of what this system is all about and part of the whole larger picture of what this system is all about—which is why this system needs to be swept away. That's how we are coming at these initiatives, that's why we are working to make revolution, and why we're driving people to the two mainstays. Without revolution, egregious oppression, in many forms, will remain. And the world will get worse—there are the wars and torture, poverty and starvation, the brutal repression of people, the devastation of the environment. All this is rooted in the same system. And that's why you have to get into the question of what our Party is all about. We cannot mishandle this either way—either in effect treating these initiatives like gimmicks, around which we are not really intending to change anything, or treating them as things unto themselves. Many other people can and should be involved in these mass initiatives, for a diversity of reasons, but our orientation has to be: "We're going to change the whole society around these things as part of laying the groundwork and building up the basis for going for the whole thing." If you don't set out to change the society around these things, you're not taking up these initiatives correctly. There's a difference between saying you're going to eliminate all these outrages short of revolution, and saying you're going to change the whole society, that is, the whole political terrain, in relation to them-—the first is not true, the second better be. And then there is the fundamental point of how our work in relation to all this is laying the groundwork and building up the basis for revolution.

Changing society around these things, while it is not the same thing, and should not be confused with, making revolution, is nevertheless a real objective that has to be approached and fought for—but, on our part, fought for as an important part of building up the basis for and building up the movement and accumulating forces for revolution, and bringing something better into being. This is what we have to be constantly regrounding our own people in, and this is what the responsible Party collectivities should be constantly bringing it back to: how are we doing at handling these different aspects and their correct relation?


On the question of transformation of people vs. the notion of unchanging human nature. We have repeatedly—and for very good reason—emphasized the point that the problem is not human nature, the problem is the nature of the system. There is an analogy here to what is said in Part 2 of "Birds/Crocodiles"3: how do people get out of the self-degradation, which IS real? Particularly in regard to inner city youth, there is this notion, which is widespread, including among the basic masses, that "they're all messed up." What is actually wrong with where many of these youth are at right now—the shit they have gotten pulled into—will not be changed by telling them not to wear baggy pants, to pull up their pants and get respectable. No, through sharp struggle against what's holding them down, and especially as they see the prospect of a whole different world, and that becomes real and viable to them, they CAN transform themselves—but that is the ONLY way this can happen on a mass scale. The only way that will change for the better. Once again, we need to be bold with that.

In regard to what these two initiatives are dealing with, there is an element of self-degradation involved on the part of masses. But how you are gonna deal with that? This is the only way it's gonna change—through building mass resistance against these outrages and, on our part in particular, waging struggle to win people to revolution. In other words, "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution." As has been emphasized, 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. Second, if people feel for whatever reasons they want to choose to harm themselves and others, we're going to struggle with them but not blame them—we're going to show them the source of all this, and call on them to struggle against it.4 There is no other way, besides "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" that this will change for the better in any fundamental sense.


A point on how people with the responsibility of representing publicly for our Party and its line present themselves vis-à-vis BA. We do not want "preliminary mantras" (or "mantras" of any kind) "in praise of BA." We are not, and we should not come off as if we were, some kind of religious cult which has to begin everything we say by praising our "god." What we want, what we need, is to bring out in a living way where we are coming from. The point is that we have a Party that stands on the basis of certain fundamental things. We should present this well. We should, in essential terms, put this forward: We have a Party that bases itself on communism as it's been brought forward to a new synthesis by BA, a Party that is led by BA. We should do this in a living way, as opposed to religious-like "mantras."

This should not be difficult at all. This should just be presented naturally—in a matter of fact, and at the same time compelling, way. It should be put forward boldly, and with the essential substance—and if people don't like that... boxing gloves—ideological struggle. But we should not come off as if there is, or there has to be, some kind of religious "mantra" involved. We shouldn't let petit bourgeois ways of thinking, with their prejudice against leaders, or at least communist leaders in particular, set the terms for what we do. But we also shouldn't actually turn into a cult, and tactically we should take into account how things affect people.

Where is all this proceeding from and where does it all have to go? How do you convey that, and not something else—how do you present that in the best way—given the particularity of the audience and the particularity of the circumstance? There needs to be a further leap in terms of how this is presented, with substance, in a living and compelling way—not only by a few people but by our people as whole.

If we are talking about someone like Sunsara Taylor, or Andy Zee, or Carl Dix, or Raymond Lotta, for example, what's the correct synthesis? People should get a living sense that these people are coming from a certain place—with substance, and liveliness—they are not at all a bunch of automatons. If our people clearly come through as basing themselves on a developed line, the new synthesis, and the leadership of BA, and at the same time it comes through that they are lively and creative people, and so on—that's what we need. Here are people basing themselves on this line and leadership and, wow, they can really think on their feet and have a lot to say—that's what should come through, that's what's gonna build up the whole thing.

Both of these things have to come through very prominently: 1, people are coming from the new synthesis of communism and the leadership of BA—that's the foundation; and 2, what they have to say and the way they present it is very provocative and illuminating—they don't fit the stereotype of a dogmatic communist, they're not cultists, etc., but people who are lively, creative and critical thinkers, with a scientific method and approach. And, in an overall way, it should come through that one flows from the other (that 2 flows from 1) in a fundamental sense. That is the right synthesis—there shouldn't be even a hint of defensiveness in all this, but there does need to be the right synthesis—and that will help drive people to the mainstays.

It should come across: The essential reason this person (an ST, AZ, CD, RL, etc.) is cool is because they've come to this understanding and orientation, this communism; it has a specific content in the world today and they're part of or related to a Party that has as its basis the new synthesis of communism and the leadership that's provided by BA. This embodies a synthesis of two things, which should be mutually reinforcing, in a positive way: the particular person with their own experiences, positive qualities, their own way of going after things, as one aspect, which is real; and the foundation and leadership that gives this the character that it has in its most fundamental aspect.


All this goes back to the interconnection (the dialectical relation) between the fact that what we're all about is revolution and communism, and that the new synthesis and the leadership that has brought this forward is crucial in relation to that. In ultimate and fundamental terms, the reason people get exercised about my role and leadership has to do with the reality that we're actually working to make revolution, with the final goal of a communist world. The terrain today is not what it was in the early 1970s, when there was a big struggle over what's real communism. The reason that people are so put off today is that they're not for revolution and not for communism—or they haven't been won to that yet. You can't understand why you should give so much importance to one person, unless you understand what it is that needs to be done—that you need a revolution, and what kind of revolution—and what the role of this person is in relation to that.

This relates to what is concentrated in Chapter 6 of BAsics,5 on revolutionary responsibility and leadership and the role of outstanding individual leaders, in relation to the challenge of making revolution and advancing toward the final goal of communism. Back in the day, from the time of the late 1960s, we'd argue: there is no such thing as being a communist without being a Maoist. Communism has developed—if you're not with Mao, you're not a communist.

Today, communism has advanced again, through the new synthesis. It is, and it should be, very easy, not at all hard, to present that, and argue for it, with substance and in a living and compelling way. Even with people, or at least honest people, who may not agree with you, who may not see or agree that communist revolution is what is needed—even with people like that, to present things in these terms is better. Whether someone agrees or disagrees with you, you get to the real question: whether you should be for communism or not, whether or not there should be revolution aiming for communism. Those are the fundamental terms we want to get to. The boxing gloves should be put on essentially to struggle around that. Problem-solution. It is simple if you're coming from that—if you present things in a living way and get into the role of leadership and individual leaders, and specifically myself, in that context, it makes sense, it puts things on the right terms, provides the right framework for struggling over things.

To go back to the two mass initiatives—and this applies to all that we do—in our approach we can't allow these things to be separated off from communism and what that means. If the mass initiatives become things unto themselves, then they will not actually be built as powerfully, in a mass way, as they can be and need to be, and they definitely will not contribute to building the movement for revolution, in the way they can and should. If we do our work correctly, in relation to these mass initiatives—and overall—growing numbers of people will begin to see the need for revolution and the need for communism. In the final analysis, if people do not get won to the need for revolution and communism, we're not going to get anywhere and the masses are not going to get out from under all the many different ways in which they are oppressed, exploited, and degraded.

People are not going to really understand and appreciate our Party and my role in particular if they're not being won in the direction of seeing that we need a revolution and it's got to be a communist revolution. We have to do all our work in a way that brings that forward. The reason for promoting and popularizing BA and the new synthesis is that this is what is needed to deal with the problems of the world and the solution to them. This relates to the "Because" formulation that our Party has brought forward as a concentrated statement on this question: "Because of BA and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal."

Let's get back to the basic question: what is the significance of this for humanity? People don't have to live this way. Here's what communism is about, and here, in the new synthesis, is another leap to it. People are living in ways that are horrible, and here's a way that they don't have to. Not that it's going to be easy, and not that people won't have to make sacrifices, but we don't have to live this way. Why can't people get excited about that? I can understand why certain people attack and don't want it. But why cannot people who are straining for a different way get excited? We ought to be able to convey this in a living way: this is where we're coming from, this is why we're taking up this mass initiative, as well as other important things we're doing, and this is why we're part of an organized vanguard force, or with that vanguard force, that is fighting to make this a reality, and to bring forward others to make it a reality. It's that that people ought to be deeply with and passionate for, and on fire to present to many others; and that should come across as really exciting to people. Not because you're some kind of "mentally deranged cult member," but because people could live in a much better way than this cesspool that they're chaining people in. If you're a Party member or a supporter really partisan to the Party, you ought to radiate this—not in a religious "beatific" way, but with living passion, because this is really the scientifically grounded understanding of what is, and what could be, and how to bridge the gap between the one and the other.

If that is what people are grounded in, we won't have these recurrent problems of going off track on this and even getting defensive when there is no reason to be defensive. This is what should infuse the Party and everybody around it. Yes, what we're setting out to do is very tough—but there is something to be very passionate around here.

As our Party's Manifesto6 puts it, there has been this long night, since the emergence of class divisions among human beings, and everything bound up with that. We don't want to go back to early communal society, which had real problems. But there has been a long night since then of enslavement and exploitation and oppression. And it can end. It could end badly or it could end well and go to a whole different, much better thing. And that's what we're fighting for here—and it is a fight. If you come into contact with people who have a sense that the world can go a whole different, much better way—that should be exciting.


In terms of these mass initiatives, once again, it is a matter of transforming societal terms around this and really mobilizing masses to battle back, politically, against certain concentrated forms of oppression. There is a need for massive struggle to do this—to change the terms, the thinking of people, and to really affect who has the initiative, politically and ideologically. At the same time, in terms of our orientation and approach, we have to do all of this, out of the gate and consistently, as part of building the movement for revolution. We need to be constantly regrounded in that synthesis—of really building struggle around these mass initiatives, against these concentrated outrages, on a truly mass scale, and at the same time doing this as part of building the movement for revolution. This orientation, on the part of our comrades involved in these initiatives, and of our Party as a whole, needs to be consistently applied, modeled, and fought for by people who have responsibility for providing leadership, in regard to these initiatives and overall, and this should be basically and increasingly setting the terms and the orientation for people who are around us and are being more and more drawn to our line. We need to change society on these questions—in terms of the major social contradictions that these initiatives are addressing—as part of building up the basis to make a fundamental change in the whole society and make a qualitative leap in terms of fully uprooting the different forms of oppression, in this society and ultimately throughout the world.

With regard to these mass initiatives, we have to be constantly paying attention to making sure that these things are both staying on track and getting somewhere. There really does have to be mass struggle against these outrages. These things are intolerable. And they are objectively intolerable to millions and millions of people. These are assaults on the masses which are against their interests, and masses can be won to see the intolerability of this and therefore feel compelled by that understanding to act. We have to win them to that and give expression to that. We have to mean what we say—these things are intolerable—and we have to take them on and mobilize broad masses of people who feel that they are intolerable and want to act because of that. And, in terms of our fundamental orientation, we approach all this—and we present all this to other people—as part of our work to build the basis for the revolution that is needed.


More on the role of the website/newspaper and polemics. The website/newspaper needs to be a key tool to take on the lines that have to be taken on, and it needs to model how to do that. That's how my statement on "Occupy"7 should be seen—as a tool for people to use to go out and unite, and struggle, with people. Unite—and struggle.

We do need people to get deeply into things like "Birds/Crocodiles," with all the complexity that involves. Not everything should be "quick and concise." The Badiou polemic, the polemic against Popper in Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity8—those things are very good, and very important. More and more people should be introduced to things of that kind, and led to "work their way through" them. That is very important, it is essential. But we also need—and the website/newspaper should be a key source and model for—punchy, quick and concise polemics. Let's encourage people to use the website/newspaper in this way: "I ran into this, and I don't know how to answer it." Utilize the website/newspaper to answer it, and move the process along. We need to model and lead in making this happen and come alive. And if we do that, people will want to use the website/newspaper in that way. If we can't answer stuff that people run into, then we should just fold up and go away. But we CAN answer it—and we should—with the website/newspaper a key resource and tool for doing that.





Basic Orientation Regarding the Two Mass Initiatives (and the Overall Ensemble of Revolutionary Work)

Grappling with questions of theory and line (including policy for particular initiatives, etc.) is of course necessary and important, and has a definite role to play in the overall process of making revolution. BUT IT IS ALSO IMPORTANT TO EMPHASIZE THIS: Let's not overcomplicate matters—causing things to go off course and be stuck in paralysis, when there is a pressing need for things to move forward, and advances and breakthroughs to be made, in actually building these two mass initiatives, as mass movements/mass struggles, and pushing forward the ensemble of our revolutionary work as a whole, with BA Everywhere as its leading edge. The basic orientation that needs to be taken up—and actively applied—with regard to the two mass initiatives (as well as BA Everywhere and the ensemble overall), should be very clear. We need radical simplicity here and now, not overcomplication of what should be very clear.

What follows is the basic orientation for what is to be done with regard to the two mass initiatives and the ensemble overall, and basic guidelines for proceeding now to do it.

There is a profound basis in the objective world—in the contradictions of this system and how they find expression continually—for these mass initiatives (and the ensemble overall). And there is a definite and powerful basis in the subjective factor—that is, in the actual line of our Party—our line overall and specifically in relation to these mass initiatives (and the ensemble as a whole).

Who should be part of these mass initiatives—whom should we be working to involve in them? Everyone who agrees—or can be won to see—that what these mass initiatives are taking up (in essence: mass incarceration and everything bound up with that; and the degradation of women, particularly as focused now around the attacks on the right to abortion, and even birth control, and pornography and the sexual degradation of women) is intolerable, and must be fought against. This should mean that, in the very near future, hundreds are actively involved, in an ongoing way, in building these initiatives, with the aim of involving thousands and ultimately millions in various ways and on various levels. The situation and atmosphere need to be created in which people broadly who meet this criterion (of who should be involved) will recognize and feel that there is an important place and role for them in these mass initiatives, and the practical means must be developed to enable them to be actively involved and make real contributions to the initiatives.

At the same time, WE, as revolutionary communists (and those who are in basic agreement with us on this), should be putting forward, in relation to these mass initiatives, as well as in an overall way, that these and other outrages which in fact constitute concentrations of major social contradictions, are rooted in the basic nature and dynamics of this system, and they can only be finally and fully ended, and a radically different and much better society and world brought into being, through communist revolution, proceeding on the basis of the new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward through the work done by BA over many decades.

Through this ongoing process, and through correctly handling the contradictions (dialectical relations) that will be involved, in an overall way both the mass initiatives—as truly mass initiatives, involving growing numbers of people who are, at any given time, coming from different perspectives but are all in basic unity with the understanding that these outrages are intolerable and must be fought—and the movement for revolution, and the Party as its leading core, should grow and gain strength.

VERY IMPORTANTLY: We should certainly include ourselves among those who are in fact outraged by these outrages and feel deeply that they are intolerable and must be fought. The fact that we—as revolutionary communists, with a grounding in the scientific outlook, method and approach of communism (dialectical materialism), and its development through the new synthesis—understand that these outrages (and the many others we recognize as flowing from the fundamental nature and dynamics of this system) can only be finally and fully ended through communist revolution, and ultimately the achievement of a communist world, should make us even more—and certainly not less—outraged about all this and determined to fight it, now and in an ongoing way! This should come through in everything we do. And, as a matter of fact, a very important part of what we should be doing is (as another leading comrade put it) ORGANIZING AND MOBILIZING THE ANGER OF THE PEOPLE. In relation to that, as well as overall, we need to be consistently working—in the correct ways—to make all this serve the building of the movement for revolution, and the Party as its leading core.

And what about BA Everywhere—whom should we be working to involve in that? Everyone who agrees—or can be won to see—that it is very important that what is represented by BA/the new synthesis become a major point of reference, and subject of discussion and debate, throughout society, can and should be involved in and contribute, in various ways, to BA Everywhere. At the same time, those of us who are revolutionary communists, basing ourselves on the new synthesis, should be consistently setting forth, boldly and compellingly, our understanding of the importance of BA Everywhere, and its role as the leading edge of an overall ensemble of revolutionary work, and should be working consistently to build the movement for revolution, and to win growing numbers of people to agreement with what is actually the line of our Party, and to join the Party on that basis. In dialectical relation with that, the number of people who are, in various ways, involved in and contributing to BA Everywhere should also be continually growing—including many people who are not (or not yet) won to full agreement with what is represented by BA/the new synthesis of communism, but are in agreement that this, and the big questions it raises, should be broadly known, and actively discussed and debated, throughout society.

The important thing now is to have a grounding in this basic understanding, and to implement this, actually building the mass initiatives as truly and increasingly mass initiatives—and building BA Everywhere in the ways and on the level it needs to be built, to truly have major societal impact—all as part of an overall ensemble, whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

As has been emphasized, in proceeding to actually carry this forward, various contradictions, including ones which are complicated and difficult, will have to be confronted and correctly handled, and there will be a need, and a role, for continually returning to the basic grounding and guidelines that have been provided—and undoubtedly further guidelines that will need to be developed as things go forward, proceeding from the basic grounding spoken to here. But, to emphasize it again: The basic grounding and guidelines are there, to proceed to actually build these mass initiatives as truly mass movements/mass struggles around these crucial faultlines—involving growing numbers of people, with diverse viewpoints but all in unity that the outrages these mass initiatives are taking up are intolerable and must be fought—and to build BA Everywhere on the correct basis, while WE (and those who agree with us on this at any given time) work, in the correct ways, to have all this contribute to building the overall movement for revolution, and the Party as its leading core—learning and deepening our understanding and our ability to handle the contradictions that have to be confronted and struggled through, AS WE GO FORWARD.

In conclusion, let me return to where I started and give this emphasis yet again: As a basic point of orientation, and especially now: We must not get mired in overcomplication and paralysis. Again, radical simplicity. Grappling with questions of line and theory, and developing conceptions, plans, etc., are necessary and important; however, this must not be allowed to become, or be turned into, yet further, self-imposed, obstacles. Right now we need conception and plans that in fact facilitate—provide means and vehicles for—the carrying out of the line on the two mass initiatives (and the overall ensemble, with BA Everywhere the leading edge) in an active way, from here forward. On the basis of what I have written above here, and what it concentrates, and continually returning to and deepening this, AS WE GO FORWARD... LET'S GET OUT THERE, NOW, AND DO WHAT NEEDS—WHAT CRIES OUT—TO BE DONE!!


1. "Alain Badiou's 'Politics of Emancipation': A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World," by Raymond Lotta, Nayi Duniya, and K. J. A., Demarcations: A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic, Issue Number 1, Summer-Fall 2009 [back]

2. These two mainstays are the promotion and popularization of the leadership of Bob Avakian (BA) and the new synthesis of communism he has brought forward; and the website newspaper. [back]

3. Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon (2010-2011) [back]

4. This is spoken to in an article by Bob Avakian: "On Choices...and Radical Changes," Revolution #254, December 25, 2011:

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. [back]

5. BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, RCP Publications, 2011. The title of Chapter 6 is "Revolutionary Responsibility and Leadership." [back]

6. Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, September 2008 (RCP Publications, 2009) [back]

7. "A Reflection on the 'Occupy' Movement: An Inspiring Beginning...and the Need to Go Further," by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Revolution #250, November 13, 2011 [back]

8. Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity:  Part 1: "Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right"; Part 2: "Everything We're Doing Is About Revolution", Revolution, October 2007-February 2008. Also included in Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, 2008. "Marxism as a Science—Refuting Karl Popper" is in Part 1 of Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity. It begins on page 18 of the pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation. [back]





Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Freedom and Necessity, and Proceeding from a Strategic Standpoint: Some Thoughts on Methods and Leadership

by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party

May 26, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |



Editors' Note: The following is a part of some observations that were made by Bob Avakian, and were originally distributed within the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP) at the beginning of 2012. This is being published now as the second installment of the serialization of these observations. The first installment of this series, "The Mass Initiatives and Their Relation to Our Strategic Objectives," was published online May 19, 2014 and is being serialized in the print edition of Revolution, beginning with issue #339 (May 25, 2014). These observations were originally made at a time when the "Occupy" movement was having a significant—and overall positive—impact but was also increasingly running up against the repressive force of the state, as well as its own limitations. While this was an important particular aspect of the overall situation at that time, and this is reflected in these observations by BA, these observations are speaking more broadly to the overall situation and challenges facing the RCP and the communist movement in the world as a whole. For this reason—and because these observations continue to have relevance and importance in that light—the decision has been made to publish these observations. Some editing has been done, and footnotes have been added, in preparing this for publication.



A big and recurrent problem has to do with the relation between freedom and necessity. Historically, there have been difficulties with this in the communist movement and in our own Party. On another level, this is manifested in relation to "Occupy" and what it is up against. It has come up against necessity, particularly in the form of repression by the bourgeois state, and there is the phenomenon among many of not seeing any way to forge any freedom out of this—and, instead, they are trying to find some way to work within the necessity that's been imposed that they don't see any way of breaking through on. That is objectively what is going on to a significant degree.

Returning to our Party, if you have a successful program like 411 (the April 11, 2011 program on the occasion of the publication of BAsics1) even the very real advance represented by this program creates new necessity for you. All of a sudden, here you have some people come forward that have made a commitment on a certain level, and you have to allow for the fact that they're in the picture now, in terms of what to do to build on and go forward from this. But you will run into problems if you don't see that the freedom in this situation lies in grasping the principal aspect of this contradiction, and then going to work on things from there. The principal aspect is that there WAS a solid core that did cohere that program and give a central expression to what that program was about; but in going forward from there, you have to go back and have further rounds of discussion and struggle with people based on continuing to put forward the solid core, and developing elasticity on that basis.

But there is a recurrent tendency: instead of seeing the freedom, one gets weighed down by the necessity. When you have made advances, and when the situation is overall more advanced, more people take seriously and care what you say, and that brings new necessity. The constant pull is a pull to determinism—to being afraid of losing advances that have been made. Do you play to win or play not to lose? In the name of playing to win you can play recklessly—but the far bigger erroneous tendency is that people get a lead and they get conservative and they lose. People start protecting what they have and get afraid to risk that to make further advances, and therefore they begin throwing away what they've achieved.

Okay, we have new necessity—how did we get to this point? We confronted necessity and transformed it. Did everybody immediately say "great!" when we contacted them to get involved with that 411 program? No, of course not, we had to struggle to transform necessity into freedom. Then you get new necessity. So why, in that situation—or any other situation where advances have been made—should we stop the approach of transforming necessity into freedom? In going forward to build off what has been achieved, you have to recognize that the achievements themselves bring new necessity; you have to be anticipating that and working to lay the basis to transform new necessity into new freedom (which will itself involve necessity).

Another important factor contributing to the tendency to bow down to necessity is losing sight of the larger objective that this is all part of. There is not going to be a seizure of state power on the basis of what was achieved through the 411 program. As positive as that was, it was only a small building block of what needs to happen. If you keep that in mind, you have more of a basis to be less determinist in the next round of things, because you know we have to get to a whole other place. If you lose sight of that, the pull to play not to lose becomes stronger, because you see things in narrower terms. Things have to go a lot further than any particular event, or any particular movement or struggle, so how do we get things to go further? Proceeding on that basis, you are better able to handle the solid core/elasticity dialectic. This involves a combination of the freedom/necessity dialectic with whether we are really continually going back to the largest strategic perspective and looking at things in regard to that, and figuring out how to struggle through to transform necessity into freedom and make things go further to advance toward the goal it all has to contribute to.

In order to lead and not continually be pulled off the track and not be pulled down, these are key questions of ideology and methodology, as well as political orientation in terms of what we're aiming for. If you see particular things as "things unto themselves," you are going to have a tendency to go off to the right and get conservative (this could conceivably cause you to go off in a "left" direction, but that is less likely) because you're gonna lose sight of the larger reason why things have to be ruptured from the present level they've achieved to something larger.

Where does freedom come from? It comes from a correct analysis of objective reality and its contradictory character. And that has a material basis. We don't have spontaneity going for us, but we do have reality, in the most fundamental terms, going for us. Therein lies a lot of our freedom—grasping that. Here I think of a recent comment by the actor Johnny Depp about Marlon Brando. Brando, he said, had "the great gift of not caring." In other words, he didn't care about, he wasn't weighed down by, what other people thought of his acting and how they thought he should approach it. There is an analogy here, to keeping the larger picture constantly in view. I think, for example, of the 1977 Central Committee, where the struggle with the Mensheviks in our Party came to a head—concentrated over the question of how to assess and what stand to take in relation to what was in fact the revisionist coup in China, following the death of Mao in 1976. This is spoken to in my memoir.2 In that situation, a lot of freedom came from recognizing that, even if the battle was not won at that Central Committee meeting, those of us fighting for the revolutionary line, and opposing the revisionist coup, could not lose, because in any case we had to take the stand of opposing that coup and fighting to win as many people as possible to that stand, even if that meant splitting the Party, or having to leave the Party and fighting to form a new one. The question of the revisionist coup in China was that kind of a cardinal question, on which there could be no compromise. And while that presented us with a lot of necessity, it also embodied a definite freedom. Why? Because, those of us upholding and fighting for the revolutionary line, and opposing the revisionist coup, were coming from an understanding of the deeper reality and the bigger stakes than simply what happened at that Central Committee meeting, or even what happened with regard to our Party, as it had been up to that point. One way or another, that Party was going to be qualitatively different coming out of that Central Committee meeting—either strengthened as a revolutionary communist vanguard, or dragged down into revisionist betrayal. Understanding the stakes in those terms, and proceeding from the larger strategic standpoint that the Party had to really be a revolutionary communist vanguard, or if instead it became an instrument of revisionism then it wasn't worth preserving and remaining in—and something new would have to be brought into being, to reconstitute the remaining revolutionary forces—that provided the basis to not bow down to necessity.

Our thinking and approach should not be shaped by the immediate thing before us. Why can we wage struggle—dare to wage struggle—with people, including people with whom we have had a certain level of unity? Because we are waging struggle for a bigger thing, AND we know that this is grounded in a deeper material reality. And while things may be tougher in the short run, reality is what it is—and that will assert itself. We can't be governed and determined, constrained and confined, by the ups and downs of the mass movement, or of any particular struggle or initiative, or by the "chops and changes" of the situation at any given time. We have to take these things into account, but we can't bow down to them in a determinist fashion. We have to proceed from a scientific, dialectical materialist, analysis and synthesis of the deeper reality, and its contradictory dynamics.

Freedom lies in grasping, in this way, the material basis for what we are setting out to do, strategically. Grasping that, and proceeding from the larger perspective corresponding to that, enables you to wrench freedom out of necessity, because you are looking at things from where you fundamentally and ultimately need to get to, proceeding from a scientific, materialist and dialectical, assessment of reality, particularly the deeper and driving mainsprings and dynamics of that reality.


Not recognizing that reality is constantly changing AND that there are other class forces out there in the world which are working on people in various ways, directly and indirectly, will cause you to go off track and lose your bearings. People who have united and worked with us will often then come under attack as a result of having taken the step to work with us. Or they get a sense that taking another forward step in uniting with us could jeopardize their career, or make it more difficult for them to achieve certain short-term objectives they may have. To fail to take this into account amounts to ignoring the fact that there is a larger and continually changing reality out there that is also acting on and influencing other people.

The masses do know a lot about reality, and we need to learn from that, but they're not going to tell us about the deeper mainsprings of reality and where that reality can go and needs to go. When we go out among the basic masses, they can tell us a lot about what we're up against—among the masses, as well as with the authorities—and how things work. That can and should enrich our understanding of reality—but if you think that whether something is true or not depends on whether masses say it's good or bad, you will get into a lot of trouble and become disoriented. People keep getting away from the point—and we need to keep drawing people back to the point—that what the masses think is part of objective reality, but it does not determine objective reality. Rather than going up and down with the mood of the masses, we have to be proceeding with a deeper, and more strategic, scientific approach and method. What have certain opportunists and counter-revolutionaries attacked us for—what has been one of their main lines of attack? A whole pragmatic thing that our line "hasn't worked and won't work." That begs the question of what "working" means. Our line has "worked" to maintain a revolutionary communist party over a whole period in which there have been major setbacks for the communist movement in the world as a whole, and conditions for building a revolutionary movement, with such a revolutionary communist party at the core, have been very difficult, particularly in a country like this. Has it "worked" to give us a big mass base during a period when that wasn't possible on the right basis, on a basis that would actually be leading toward the revolution that is needed? No. Of course, the point is not simply to remain as a party and to "stay in the game." The point is to work, actively, to build a movement for revolution; to influence and change the "political terrain" in a way more favorable to revolution; to accumulate increasing forces for revolution; to prepare for—to hasten while awaiting—the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people, whenever that is brought into being. But doing that, and evaluating how we are doing in relation to that, involves and requires the application of scientific communism, and not pragmatism and empiricism.

At the same time, we also have to combat a tendency to have a superficial, and fundamentally wrong, view that what we are basing ourselves on is ideas abstracted from reality—as if we, with our set of ideas, can see that other sets of ideas are not the same as our set of ideas, and therefore they are wrong. That kind of approach explains why, as indicated in a report on a discussion of the Badiou polemic,3 people in our own ranks can say things like: "Why would anybody be attracted to the Badiou line?" That reflects an approach of not really looking at things in terms of what social position and aspirations might the Badiou line express, and therefore not recognizing that there might be a significant attraction, particularly among certain social strata within the "middle class," to ideas of this kind. This is not thinking like a materialist and not proceeding from our strategic standpoint and the recognition that this strategic standpoint flows from a scientific analysis and synthesis of a deeper material reality. Why would people in "Occupy" be pulled toward doing something that (to refer to Badiou's orientation) is "at a distance from the state"? Because they've run right up against the state—and their response to that is significantly conditioned by their social position, and correspondingly their spontaneous aspirations, and a spontaneous orientation that corresponds to those aspirations.

Failing to see this—or to really take it into account, proceeding from a scientific materialist approach—has to do with why in some cases we don't write with the audience in mind: don't proceed with a sense of where the audience, for example the audience for our website/newspaper, is "at," what at least many of them don't understand or aren't familiar with, how they spontaneously see the events and questions we are addressing, and therefore how we have to approach things in order to address these contradictions in the best way to move people from where they are in the direction of where they need to go, with regard to their thinking and their felt need to act. This happens when and to the degree that we are not really thinking about transforming people and dealing with the contradictions that weigh upon them and push them in certain directions—including ignorance in some cases, as well as spontaneous aspirations, inclinations, and prejudices—but rather approach all this as just a matter of presenting our set of ideas. We have to consistently approach things with our scientific materialist standpoint and method: that we are seeking to understand reality, as it actually is—in its contradictory nature, and as it is actually moving and changing—in order to be able to transform material reality in a certain way, and that we have to be constantly seeking to learn more and more about reality. We have to consistently come at all this from the framework of our scientifically grounded strategic objectives, as opposed to viewing it through the tunnel of this or that particular thing.

The essence of the problem is whether we're proceeding in a materialist and dialectical way, and whether we're really working and struggling to transform the necessity—which is posed by the actual reality and its changingness—into freedom, by recognizing where the pathway lies for doing that. If your framework is too narrow, you are not going to see the pathways for freedom correctly. If you are looking at only a corner of the world, and viewing things just through that prism, then you're not going to see how you're going to be able to change the world in the way it needs to be changed.


Especially in the context of the acute challenges facing our Party (and, more broadly, the international communist movement as whole), and in terms specifically of the role of people with leadership responsibility in our Party, an important part of the objective reality we have to know about is the Party itself. If people with leadership responsibility don't have a good sense of the work of the Party, the "ideological state" of the Party, and so on, then we have problems. A question: What percentage of the people in the Party really understand Marx's point about the shopkeeper and the democratic intellectual? Do we know the answer to that? We need to know the answers to those kinds of things. What is the ideological state of the Party?—that is also part of the objective reality we have to know.

Even with very real and significant positive developments, the objective situation we are confronting remains difficult. It is no doubt wearing on people that we are having difficulty breaking through in qualitative terms, and that our movement is continuing to suffer losses in the world. This is the objective reality and the dynamic we have to confront, and transform, and if we don't break through—if we think we can just go along and do a few good things—we're going to be seriously set back. Plus there are people out there—including opportunists and counter-revolutionaries—who are trying to destroy us. Those opportunists and counter-revolutionaries are, in a basic sense, motivated by the same kinds of petit bourgeois viewpoints and aspirations as someone like Badiou—except that theirs is a virulent variation of this that wants to destroy us, because these are people whose particular petit bourgeois aspirations depend on our not being there and not constituting a standing alternative to—and in fact a standing indictment of—what they're about, and not about. If, as is the case with these opportunists and counter-revolutionaries, what you do is in fact predicated on the view that you can't—or really that you shouldn't—change things in any fundamental way, but you want to pretend you are for that, then you will feel compelled to destroy a force that says you can and is actively working to do it.

In a basic sense, the world outlook of at least many of these opportunists and counter-revolutionaries is not different than a lot of other viewpoints that have sway among sections of the petite bourgeoisie. It is just that their particular form of capital—in pretending to be for some kind of social change, while not really believing in or working for a truly radical change—is invested in trying to build themselves up as what amounts to a "perpetual left opposition" within the existing system, and this involves animus, extreme hostility, toward us and a necessity to see us fail and to no longer exist as what we objectively are, even with all our shortcomings and difficulties: a revolutionary communist vanguard. Other people among the petite bourgeoisie, even where they may have certain views in common with these opportunists and counter-revolutionaries, don't have the same "investment" and thus not the same animus toward us. This is why, as the Chinese Communist Party pointed out in its polemics with the Soviet revisionists back in the 1960s, it is possible to unite with many people who are not communists but also don't pretend to be communists, while unity with revisionists (phony communists) is impossible.

So this is what we're up against—this is the objective situation, in its various dimensions, that we have to confront and transform—and we have to make real breakthroughs and advances, not just in some long-term sense but in more immediate terms. The objective situation, even if and as it could become more favorable, in strategic terms, would also involve the heightening of negative aspects, including the prospect of heightened repression and increasing attacks on us of various kinds and from various quarters. We cannot afford to be passive, or to just go along in a routine way, or even just "do a few good things." We need to transform the situation, qualitatively, wave after wave, to where on a whole other level growing numbers of people are won to this—including new and fresh people, particularly (though not only) youth, who have the advantage of youth to go out and work and struggle, tirelessly and with great energy and initiative, for this.

This is a materialist assessment. You can get absorbed in what we're doing at any given time and lose sight of the larger picture—both the positive elements that are emerging and developing, even if in a contradictory and still fragile way, as well as the negative elements—and you can lose sight of the bigger strategic orientation in which all this has to be viewed and approached.
To meet the very real and acute challenges we face requires "playing the piano" well—handling well the dialectical relation of things, and in particular the relation between principal and decisive things, on the one hand, and secondary things—correctly dealing with the question of "props on the stage," and solid core/elasticity: handling well the relation between things that require finely tuned and calibrated attention, and those things to which such detailed attention not only cannot but should not be paid. It requires keeping in mind that reality is constantly changing and that, with regard to "key links" and key "props on the stage," this is not a static matter, but something that may undergo change—what is a "key link" or a key "prop on the stage," requiring continual and finely calibrated attention, today, may not be that tomorrow—and other things may come to occupy that kind of role and require that kind of attention.

This is a key part of the challenge: constantly investigating and interrogating reality, to see what in fact should be the main theme on the piano at a given time, and how you let the fingers play the other parts without paying the same level of finely tuned attention to that (to continue, and perhaps torture, this metaphor of "playing the piano"). You have to know if you're dealing with something that would have a decisive outcome on a whole process—or even on the overall strategic process of revolution. This constantly poses AND re-poses itself—what we need to concentrate on really knowing and giving concentrated direction to, as opposed to what we do not need to pay so much attention to (or perhaps can even be relatively ignorant of) at any given time. This changes all the time. It is not just a matter of reality shifting in a general sense, but the ways in which things get posed in a concentrated and decisive way repeatedly shift.


We do have to pay significant attention to "Set The Record Straight" (STRS). The questions that STRS is addressing are coming more to the fore now, because there is more upheaval and resistance, more questioning and searching for an alternative, for another way. We need to be speaking to this in a consistent and compelling way—working to turn the negative view that far too many people have, and which generally prevails, regarding the history of the communist movement and socialist society, into something positive. The fact that many people are raising their heads and thinking about big things creates more favorable conditions for doing this—but it requires work and struggle.

I noted in a report that a basic person who has been around us, and generally supportive, for some time now has changed his thinking radically on Stalin: kind of "flipping" from really one-sidedly opposing Stalin (he had been influenced by the ISO) to thinking—once he understood, on the basis of reading Conquer the World?4 the necessity that Stalin was facing—that Stalin really had no alternative other than to do what he did. That, too, is wrong; and it is not what is said in Conquer the World? We need to win people to the correct synthesis on this—and to the new synthesis of communism overall.

But it is a bedrock fact that, in general and as an overall and at this point overwhelming phenomenon, people don't have even an inkling of a materialist understanding of things like this. What was Stalin actually up against, and how did he do at dealing with this—evaluated from a materialist standpoint and in accordance with the strategic orientation of advancing toward communism? People's prejudices are striking. Many people talk glibly about Stalin, and Mao, repeating slanders about how they "killed millions of their own people" without having actually looked into this in any serious way. And many of the same people will refer to the Bible as a moral authority! Well, the fact is that the Bible is full of figures who insist on slaughtering many, many people, often in the most wanton ways, and committing other truly horrendous and grotesque acts—and these people are upheld as positive figures, even icons—people like Moses, for example.

Moving closer to the present time, and looking at this country, how many people were killed through the Civil War? A great, great number. And it could be said that Lincoln was ultimately responsible for this. Why did Lincoln do this—why did he wage war against the Confederacy, instead of just letting it secede? His essential and basic reason was not to end slavery—Lincoln himself made that clear. It was because the Confederate forces were trying to break up the Union—the United States of America—and that, Lincoln insisted, could not be allowed, even if huge numbers of people had to be killed in a war to prevent it. As it turned out, this war could not be won—by the Union—without emancipating the slaves of the Confederacy and allowing them to fight on the Union side, a fight in which many of these emancipated slaves died. Should we condemn Lincoln as a mass murderer?

We are still not materialist enough when we are hit with stuff like this. And we need to be.

We have to confront, understand and transform material reality. We have to proceed as dialectical materialists, not as sectarian keepers of a "temple of secret knowledge." It will not do to dismiss Badiou, or similar types, as "Kautskyite," as someone did recently in a discussion. We have to have substance—and present it in a living way. What would our answer be to someone who says, "I don't know who Kautsky is and what he was about, so that doesn't mean anything to me"? By contrast, the actual polemic against Badiou is very substantive, thoroughly dissecting the Badiou line and its bankruptcy. The recent Raymond Lotta polemic against Žižek5 is also a positive example and model—it has substance and a good method. We have to do the work to actually understand different aspects of reality, and to win people to understand it correctly. We—our Party collectively and comrades in the Party—also have to make use of, wield effectively, the work that has been done. A lot of work has been done through STRS. A lot of work has been done in relation to many other dimensions of reality, in the present era and historically. We must not squander this work either—we have to immerse ourselves in what it has brought to light and wield this in a living and compelling way.


Comrades in the Party and people around us should be demanding answers from us. People should be going into their Party units and saying, "this came up, and I don't know how to answer it"—demanding collectivity and leadership in dealing with this. Where is the percolation? There is not nearly enough. But instead of bemoaning the fact that there is not enough of this, we need to find out why and do something about it. The "tone" for the whole Party gets set by leadership. Leadership IS decisive. Yes, the masses make history—but even with good aspirations, if they don't have the necessary leadership, they can't make history in the way they need to, in accordance with their own fundamental interests. Leadership is of decisive importance in all this, including within the Party, and we do have to lead on the basis of being materialists and scientists, and lead with an understanding of where we are in the process, the process of confronting and transforming the objective situation, the necessity we face, in its many different significant manifestations—and specifically the acute challenges we face now.

Where are we at in this process now, and how does that relate to what we're all about? We need to consistently keep that in mind, in order to determine how to play the piano well and to lead overall. This means constantly interrogating reality, being in touch with and learning more deeply about and keeping pace with key aspects of reality, and their changingness, in the various aspects of the objective situation, and in regard to the subjective factor (the Party itself), in order to correctly lead. If we just make a list of what we're doing, or supposed to be doing, at any given time, and try to lead that as best we can, that's not gonna cut it. We have to pay attention to important particular aspects of things—but we have to view and approach all this with a grounding in an understanding of the deeper material reality, and its contradictoriness and changingness, correctly comprehending and handling the relation between necessity and freedom, and proceeding fundamentally from the plane of our strategic revolutionary objectives.

On any and all levels of the Party, in any Party collectivity, everyone is supposed to speak up and say if something is right or wrong; it doesn't matter where it's coming from. Of course this needs to be done through the right channels, and in the right spirit. And it is true, it is a key aspect of democratic centralism, both epistemologically as well as organizationally, that the higher up the "chain" you go, the more basis there is, and the more responsibility there is, for grappling with and concentrating what is being learned, through the work of the Party overall and from other sources. That is one side of the picture, and it is important. But, at the same time, just because there are people who have more and higher level leadership responsibility, doesn't mean that other people aren't responsible. Everybody, on every level of the Party, has responsibility for the line of the Party and the direction of its work in carrying out that line, even as that gets expressed through a division of labor and through the channels of the Party, which are not simply "horizontal" (involving people on the same level of collectivity and responsibility) but are also "vertical" (involving a chain of knowledge and of command, from lower to higher levels, and back down again). But, again, in terms of fundamental orientation, everyone has responsibility for the revolution and for the line and role of the Party which must be the leading core of that revolutionary process. And everyone should be striving to take as much responsibility as they can, and to contribute as much as they can, in ways consistent with the democratic centralist principles of the Party and the structures and processes of the Party which give expression to those principles. In a way consistent with this, we need a great deal of, and continually increasing, initiative and percolation, throughout the Party, on all levels and in the back and forth process which gives life to the Party's chain of knowledge and of command.
Wield, model and insist. Wield the line of the a model of grasping and wielding this line...and insist that this line, and no other, be carried out, through the application of democratic centralism, in both its epistemological and organizational dimensions. And approach all this as an ongoing, living process.


1. BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, RCP Publications, 2011 [back]

2. From Ike to Mao and Beyond—My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, A Memoir by Bob Avakian, Insight Press, 2005

3. "Alain Badiou's 'Politics of Emancipation': A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World,"
by Raymond Lotta, Nayi Duniya, and K. J. A., Demarcations: A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic, Issue Number 1, Summer-Fall 2009 [back]

4. Conquer the World? The International Proletariat Must and Will, by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, published as No. 50 of Revolution magazine, RCP Publications, 1981 [back]

5. "Vilifying Communism and Accommodating Imperialism: The Sham and Shame of Slavoj Žižek's 'Honest Pessimism,'" by Raymond Lotta, Revolution #256, January 15, 2012 [back]





Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Putting on Our Boxing Gloves—and Other Key Methods, Principles and Objectives

by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party

June 2, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Editors' Note: The following is a part of some observations that were made by Bob Avakian, and were originally distributed within the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP) at the beginning of 2012. This is being published now as the third installment of the serialization of these observations. The first installment of this series, "The Mass Initiatives and Their Relation to Our Strategic Objectives," was published online May 19, 2014 and is serialized in the print edition of Revolution, beginning with issue #339 (May 25, 2014). The second installment, "Freedom and Necessity, and Proceeding from a Strategic Standpoint: Some Thoughts on Methods and Leadership," was published online May 26, 2014. These observations were originally made at a time when the "Occupy" movement was having a significant—and overall positive—impact but was also increasingly running up against the repressive force of the state, as well as its own limitations. While this was an important particular aspect of the overall situation at that time, and this is reflected in these observations by BA, these observations are speaking more broadly to the overall situation and challenges facing the RCP and the communist movement in the world as a whole. For this reason—and because these observations continue to have relevance and importance in that light—the decision has been made to publish these observations. Some editing has been done, and footnotes have been added, in preparing this for publication.


We have to start by returning to the reality that the international communist movement, and our Party specifically, is faced with the rather acute contradiction that we must make significant, qualitative breakthroughs and advances, in the near future, or we will be seriously set back, or even face the danger of being rendered "out of the game" for a certain historical period. And the consequences of that for the communist movement and ultimately the masses of the world are very, very heavy. This is another way of formulating—and underlining the importance of—what is said in the Manifesto from our Party,1 regarding the crossroads facing communists today: vanguard of the future, or residue of the past. We have to soberly and scientifically reground ourselves in this, and deepen our grounding in how all this has to be approached. It is not that there are no favorable objective developments, and no prospects for making the needed breakthroughs and advances—but the point is that the basis must be seized and new, more favorable conditions created through struggle, in order to actually make these breakthroughs and advances.

This calls to mind a comment from another leading person: In this context where there are more contradictory but overall favorable developments happening, in particular mass upsurge and the sharpening of the objective situation overall, if we don't go forward, then we'll go significantly backward. If we take this seriously and recognize in fact the acute contradiction we are confronting, then we will see that we do not have infinite time to make the necessary breakthroughs. And, while there should not be any panic in this regard, there most definitely needs to be a sense of urgency. This orientation has to form an important part of the grounding for everything we do.

We Need Revolution—Anything Else, in the Final Analysis, Is Bullshit

We are doing some positive things with BAsics,2 for example, and some comrades have gathered people around them on this basis—although this, too, is contradictory. And the events, the dialogues, involving Carl Dix and Cornel West have been very positive—drawing large numbers of people and having a significant impact. There are the two mass initiatives—against mass incarceration, and pornography and patriarchy—and masses have come forward around those initiatives. Some of the advanced people closely around the Party are continuing to advance. All that is on the one side. But then there is what we could call "what is objective to us, department one" and "what is objective to us, department two" that we have to deal with—the second "what is objective to us" being the opportunist and counter-revolutionary attacks on us.

In regard to this "objective to us, two" factor, we are not correctly recognizing, let alone dealing with this. And how we understand and approach this has everything to do with fundamental principles concentrated in the "as long as" point (in essence: as long as what we are actually about is revolution and communism, it should be easy to correctly appreciate and promote BA and the new synthesis he has brought forward). What is concentrated in that "as long as" point has to do with our whole core message—you could rephrase it as that core message and the "because" statement3: the fundamental fact that what we're about is radically transforming the world through revolution and the seizure of power, with the dictatorship of the proletariat as the transition to communism, and how BA/the new synthesis relates to all that, is crucial for all that.

There is the first quote in Chapter 3 of BAsics, which begins: "Let's get down to basics. We need a revolution. Anything else, in the final analysis, is bullshit."

We don't proceed enough from the understanding that anything else, in fundamental terms, is bullshit. I took note of a report about a youth who worked with us closely for a while in "Occupy" but lately has been pulled toward anarchism and influenced by opportunist and counter-revolutionary shit. This happens all too often: people come around us and get close—or, in some cases, youth in particular have been recruited, but on the wrong basis and with a heavy influence of a revisionist line, and then some quit and pull away from us—in some instances going over to the camp of counter-revolution. This is both a result of objective factors—including what I'm calling "objective factor, two"—and is a result of revisionist lines and influences within our own Party and how, consequently, we work with people. This reminds me of how Lenin said that, in the revolutionary movement of his time, anarchism was to a significant degree payment for the sins of revisionism within the ranks of the communists—this revisionism, gutting the revolutionary heart out of communism, made it easier for anarchism to appeal to some people. But, speaking of our situation specifically, it is a combination of remaining revisionist influences on our part and the pull of objective factors. This involves the influence of what exists and predominates in society and the world as a whole, under the rule of the imperialists—including, as a very significant factor, the reality and continuing effects of the reversal of socialism and the restoration of capitalism first in the Soviet Union and then in China. But it also involves the role of opportunists and outright counter-revolutionaries.

You can see this reflected in some reports on work with students. People are initially attracted to what we're about, in a general and basic sense, and then they begin to get a fuller sense of what we're about, and everything this involves—and the heaviness hits them. They get introduced to BAsics and they are drawn to what it concentrates, but then they come up against everything this involves, and many back away, at least in the short run. We should understand that this is part of the process. We shouldn't get freaked out. We should remain firmly grounded in our scientific materialist understanding of the whole process, and maintain the orientation of struggling this through with people. But we also have to understand that what happens is not just that people come forward, come up against the heaviness of it, come up against the difficulties in taking this out, and then they back away. In the age of the Internet, there's an analogy between people who defect from our camp, so to speak, and the Christian Fascists in society at large. If the Christian Fascists were just scattered, just a bunch of scattered individuals, they'd be a problem—but nothing like the problem they are, where they are given a coherent and organized expression and powerful backing by sections of the ruling class. The analogy is that when people drop away there is a place where they can go where they will get a coherent counter-revolutionary program that is directly in opposition to us and is determined to viciously attack, undermine and if possible destroy us.

It is time for us to put on our boxing gloves. We have to realize that this process involving counter-revolutionary attacks on us is not going to go away—we have to incorporate in our approach the understanding that this is objective to us, is a significant part of the objective obstacles we face. The conscious opportunist and counter-revolutionary forces—which are objective to us—this is part of the terrain we have to reckon with and deal with correctly. And we are not really doing this the way we need to.

Not that this should be our main thing. But if we don't incorporate this understanding and deal with this—recognize that this is a real part of the "encirclement" we're dealing with: people and forces which have a passionate, active orientation of trying to destroy us and keep people from joining up with us—then we are going to pay a heavy price for failing to recognize and deal with this. If it weren't for the Internet, it wouldn't be the same thing, although it would still be a problem on a certain level. But there IS the Internet, and the Internet provides a means whereby people who really represent nothing—or at least nothing positive, in terms of actually opposing and going up against this horrific system, and offering any kind of real alternative to it—can magnify their influence, especially in today's putrid cultural atmosphere, and especially if they engage in "snarky" attacks against those who are seriously going up against this system and actually working for revolution. Yes, this is part of the process; but dealing with this, in the way it needs to be dealt with, is OUR part of the process. We have to take on this opportunist and counter-revolutionary garbage—with the right approach, flowing from and consistent with our fundamental revolutionary communist orientation and objectives. And this means we need a lot more "down on the ground"—and, yes, "up on the mountain" at the same time—ideological struggle and polemics to hit at this crap and expose it for its utter bankruptcy and its role in aiding the ruling class in maintaining this oppressive system. And, overall, we have to hit hard, in polemicizing against and exposing things that help to keep the masses in an enslaved and degraded situation.

For literally more than 10 years we said, let's write something on the Illuminati, and nothing appeared. That can't continue.4 I noted that someone who was drawn to us but then got pulled by slanders as well as spontaneous petit bourgeois thinking, read a statement by some anarchists and said: "This is the greatest statement I have read." We should get hold of that statement and polemicize against it, including in our paper. Let's dissect a statement like that and tear it apart. Because this matters—it is actually of profound importance in relation to the fundamental interests of the masses of people—which road leads to actual emancipation, and which to a dead end, or worse. We have to learn how to do quick, short and concise, hard-hitting polemics. The Badiou polemic5 is great, very powerful. It is a living and compelling application of the new synthesis of communism. But we can't approach everything as if we're writing the Badiou polemic. This gets back to the basic point: everything else, in the final analysis, really is bullshit. But we don't proceed that way, from that basic understanding—or at least we certainly don't do so consistently. We are too afraid to be sharp. Yes, we need to do this in a principled and lofty way—but sharply.

Ignorance and Arrogance—Answering This with Science and Substance

I am sorry but the culture that has been "imbibed" to a significant degree by this younger generation is very bad. Many of them are arrogant—frankly on the basis of very little substance. Not all, but far too many, have the ignorance/arrogance thing that Mark Twain talked about, when he said: What you need to get along in America is the perfect combination of ignorance and arrogance. They don't ask questions, they just make assertions. And I get the definite sense that we don't respond strongly ourselves—and, in fact, we are still often defensive in the face of this stuff, when there is absolutely no good reason to be defensive. The point—at least with people who are not conscious and dedicated opportunists and counter-revolutionaries—is not to "demolish" them, but there is definitely a role and value to administering a good "shock" to them, through sharp ideological struggle.

When people say stuff that reflects ignorance—like someone at a protest who demanded: why isn't Bob Avakian out here among the masses who are protesting?—our people don't respond the way they should. They should be ready to say: "Even assuming BA wanted to come here, it would be extremely irresponsible for our Party to allow him to do that." And then, in basic terms, they should explain why. How about wielding my memoir6 when someone says, "Why isn't BA out here"? There is a whole history of activism, as well as revolutionary leadership, there. And let's get into the substance of what communist leadership actually is, and what role I play in relation to that.

All this backward stuff comes from the fact that people are not really talking about changing the world in a fundamental way—or they haven't really thought about and grappled with what that really means. We shouldn't just let that go and be liberal. There is a time and a place to be sharp, to draw the lines sharply. If people don't like it, TOUGH. In one report I read, someone was complaining that Raymond Lotta was being sharp. That's part of waging the struggle for people. That's part of why I responded the way I did to hearing about a religious person attacking Mao as well as Stalin for "killing their own people." Along with refuting this, we should put back to such people: How about Moses? How about all that monstrous shit in the Bible—mass rape and slaughter, including the killing of babies, which is ordained and commanded by the Bible's god and that god's representatives like Moses? Even with people with whom we should be and need to be uniting, when they come up with rank shit, we need to call it out and hit back, ideologically. Let's put on our boxing gloves—get ready for some ideological battle here.

Someone else (a person from the "Occupy" movement) is quoted in a report as saying, "Well, I've been thinking about these big questions all my life, so what's so special about BA?" Okay, then, here are some questions:

Being defensive in the face of a comment like that?—you've got to be kidding me! There is not enough in our paper of: "Here's the reality and here's bullshit"—and if people don't like it, tough.

If that guy says my statement ("Reflection") on "Occupy" is the last straw—good. [This refers to someone who had been, or who had appeared to be, coming close to the RCP, but then went to join the camp of counter-revolution.] That is a reflection of the fact that my statement didn't just tail "Occupy," but went into things that needed to be gone into and hit at things that needed to be hit. That statement didn't say anything like "Occupy" is all fucked up; it recognized the positive side of "Occupy," and got into the material contradictions that are involved and laid out what we need.7

Is it true, or not true, that fundamentally everything else is bullshit? There are real tactical problems, and necessary tactical considerations, in putting forward the need for revolution and what revolution is actually all about and requires. But we have to talk about what revolution really means—we have to find the best and most mature ways to get across the essential point that revolution means overthrowing capitalism and replacing it with socialism (and then continuing on the socialist road toward the final goal of communism). We do have to take tactical concerns seriously into account, but we can't let tactical problems set the fundamental terms. And we have to tell people that anything else in the final analysis is bullshit, as it says in BAsics. And then the next paragraph in BAsics (3:1) "rounds things out," making clear that it is necessary and important to wage struggles against particular outrages and injustices of this system—and, in doing so, to unite with people who do not, at that point, agree with the need for revolution—while we act on the scientific understanding that all these outrages can only be fully and finally eliminated through revolution, aiming toward the final goal of communism throughout the world. Is that true or not? Or is that just our "narrative"? Our "mantra"? "Our thing" that we're feebly trying to impose on reality?

What is the problem in the world? What is the solution? We need to keep going back to that, and then get into the role that different people and social forces play in relation to that. We let these other people set the terms too much, instead of bringing them back to the real terms. What are the terms here? You want to say we don't need leadership?—let's talk about what you're going to encounter if you are really trying to fundamentally change the world, and what you need to do that. And if you have someone who has in reality emerged as a leader on another level than the rest of those around, you should celebrate it—it is precious, if your goal is really the emancipation of the masses of oppressed humanity, and ultimately humanity as a whole.

The problem is that, with people we encounter, and where they're coming from spontaneously, we're not talking about the same project. I am not upset that youth we encounter, who are newly awakening in mass movements, see things in ways that reflect a lot of spontaneous misunderstanding—but what are WE saying and doing about this? The point is not to club people over the head or swear at them. The point is, what do WE really understand, and point toward, about what is fundamentally needed? It is important whether people in the Party are actually (re)reading the Badiou polemic. There are real and important reasons why studying that was called for in the midst of this upsurge, with "Occupy" and some other things. The Badiou polemic continues to be highly relevant, and it is very substantial.

We can't put out every slanderous fire. But we have to have the right orientation and approach. There are positive things developing, objectively and through work we are doing, but they're not going to go anywhere good with a wrong orientation. We can't afford another rerun of the movie "The Movement Is Everything, the Final Aim Nothing"—where it's worse than just a rerun because, among other things, you're going to have people going to the camp of counter-revolution. I don't want to see that kind of rerun, or any rerun, of "The Movement Is Everything, the Final Aim Nothing."

The "to the masses" orientation has to apply to the Party and Party units as a whole—but also to more than just the units. We have to look at the whole thing. The Party leadership, and certainly those people with particular responsibility for speaking for the Party and being propagators of the new synthesis and the leadership of BA, have to put on their boxing gloves. The real issue got focused in a program/debate between Bernard Harcourt and Raymond Lotta—and I was glad to see the issue get joined in that way: Is being a permanent opposition within the existing system all you can do, while the machinery hums in the background, crushing lives and destroying spirits, to paraphrase the Badiou polemic?

Speaking of "Occupy," there's still a lot of American national chauvinism in the "Occupy" thing—some more conscious and some less. When we came forward in the '60s, one of the reasons we weren't arrogant in the way still too many youth today are, including many in the movements of today, is that you had a sense of your responsibility to the people of the world—you felt that responsibility. "Look at Vietnam, what they're doing in our name." This point that Raymond Lotta brought out about communizing the spoils of imperialism—how that's what anarchism ultimately amounts to—is very important. And that's what "Occupy" would represent, even in its most radical expression, left on its own terms and taken to its logical conclusion: more economic equity in the framework of being good patriotic Americans. Should we just whisper about this among ourselves, or should we take this out there to people?

We're not getting up in the morning itching for battle ideologically. We go out with our basic toolkit of revolutionary materials, and that's fine, that's important—but we have to be itching for ideological battle. Not sectarian diatribes—and that should be stopped if it starts. Leading people should be modeling this. Unity-struggle-unity. Advance through struggle—uniting with people, but advancing THROUGH STRUGGLE. We should be itching for ideological battle—we should be looking for people to join this with. The problems with this are related to why our own people don't take out the Cultural Revolution in our Party8—don't bring this up with people and get into it with them. If this is going to happen—if it's going to be done right, the way it should be—it's going to have to happen by Party leadership actually leading it and modeling it. If something happens that's important, call something at the bookstore and talk about this. If opportunists and counter-revolutionaries are running shit and confusing people, get people together and expose the bankruptcy of these people—set the terms the way they should be set, with the focus on the problem and the solution.

I was reading a report about the ISO9—people pulled to that trend canceling out on meeting with us because they're pulled by the shit that ISO puts out. We should be having things at the bookstores. Don't overcomplicate things—get right into it: what the deal is with this ISO, and why it won't lead anywhere good. What is this "S"—this "socialism"—they have in their name: what does that actually mean, and how do they say it will get brought about? Let's dissect this and expose what it really represents, and where it will lead—and won't lead. Or what the deal is with anarchism and why it just reinforces the existing system. If we can't do this, and do it well, we should learn how to—QUICKLY. And we should model that from the top. Don't answer rumors and slander with rumors and slander—don't descend to addressing things on that level and on those terms—answer it with substance, speaking to essential questions regarding problem and solution. This is not a matter of "sectarian squabbles"—and it should not be allowed to become that, or to be treated as that. This is nothing less than a matter of the fundamental needs and interests of the masses of oppressed people in the world, and ultimately humanity as a whole.

State Power: in Whose Interests, for What Objectives?

There should be a combative atmosphere in a good sense. We actually believe BAsics 3:1, and we know what the content of that revolution is. "Dictatorship of the proletariat" is not an unfortunate phrase (as the opportunist Kautsky once said as part of his attacks on Lenin). The dictatorship of the proletariat is a fucking good thing. Do you want to keep having vicious police repressing, brutalizing, and murdering masses of people—or a state power in the interests of masses of people and backing them up in overcoming exploitation and oppression? Why in the world would you be defensive? Yes, there have been some problems in how the dictatorship of the proletariat has been exercised in the experience of socialist society so far—but, mainly, there have been some really great things. I certainly don't feel apologetic about that. It's time we stop any defensiveness now. You're not going to get anywhere good without the DOP. All these contradictions you can't solve now—divisions among the masses, etc.—you won't solve them within the confines of this system, and you won't solve this without the DOP. These are simple, basic facts—and anything else, fundamentally and in the final analysis, is bullshit. Let's talk about that.

We cannot afford another round of squandering things and squandering people. If we do that, we are going to be much further behind. Part of the backdrop for the backward lines that some comrades are running into and tailing is also people getting demoralized about the "Occupy" thing. People are finding out even that's not so easy. First, "oh it's great..." But then there's state power that you have to go up against. State power exercised on behalf of the "one percent." They don't give a fuck about you—other than to stop you. If you persist in getting in their way, they'll do a lot more. Some of us have been through that—and if you're new to this, you need to learn about that, too. If people are not learning that, and we are not challenging them in order for them to learn what they need to learn, that's on us.

Overcoming Obstacles, Making Breakthroughs and Accumulating Forces for Revolution

All this relates to how we view this fundraising campaign—this massive fundraising campaign to project BA Everywhere, to have that actually create societal impact, raise the level of discussion and debate throughout society about the state of the world and what can and should be done about that. It has everything to do with whether this campaign is really going to be what it needs to be—or falls short. We are not really going to succeed with this, and we are not going to make the critical breakthroughs overall that we need to make, unless leading people model this and lead with this, and insist that people do this—applying democratic centralism. If you get a report that speaks about a lot of problems comrades are encountering—and maybe also reflects problems with how these comrades are dealing with this, ways they are being pulled by spontaneity and tailing wrong lines—you deal with those contradictions and have people learn from how you deal with it.

Even small things can't be squandered. This whole situation we face can't be turned around by just winning and recruiting twos and twos. But we can't squander that either. We have to be thinking in terms of winning and recruiting masses, in waves. If we're not thinking in terms of masses, we won't even get twos and twos. But we also can't step over the twos and twos. Some people will go backward, and some will even go into the camp of counter-revolution—but we have to be winning and recruiting people, in growing numbers, and in waves.

We have to look at comrades' situation on different levels, and take tactical things seriously into account, but we cannot let that fundamentally set the terms as to whether people are being unleashed and utilized in the correct way. We cannot keep this knowledge we have about the history of our project, about the DOP and what the transition to communism has to be about—we can't keep that bottled up among a few people. We have to mobilize all positive factors and the synergy between them, to get this line out there, contending in a big way.

In carrying out ideological struggle—particularly when people are influenced by and caught up in bullshit—we have to strongly insist: that's not the question, here's the question. Whatever it is—dredging up and regurgitating unprincipled attacks against the Party and its leadership, or in talking about what's wrong with society—an important part of struggling with people is constantly recasting the terms: "that's not the question, this is the question." And then you have to back it up, with substance. But we do have people to back it up, and others should learn from them how to do it. We are perfectly willing to argue with you all day if you're principled and serious but not convinced—fine, we'll talk with you and struggle with you all day... unless you're not principled and not serious.

We cannot do things to organize people for revolution, and accumulate forces for revolution, on the wrong basis, where the wrong terms are being set. Not only do you lose people, you lose at least some to the camp of counter-revolution. When we do things on the wrong basis, we go backward and hurt ourselves. We have to have a core that's really won to what this is all about—including people who may not be quite ready for the next leap to join the Party, but are really close, and are being struggled with to make that further, crucial leap. That is the struggle with them: are they going to go forward to that? You can have your electrons around that solid core, but the electrons can't be the nucleus.

Really Being in It "For the Long Haul"

What HAVE we been working for, for nearly 50 years? What have we been learning through all this? Does everyone have to repeat the mistakes of the past? Do people in these movements today really think nobody ever tried this before? In the past upsurges, we didn't succeed in getting all the way to revolution—that's what remains to be done—and you don't have to repeat every lack of knowledge and mistake that we made. And, yes, we're here to teach you what we've learned. And not just in terms of this or that practical aspect of a particular movement, but in relation to the broader questions and the fundamental interests of humanity.

I read a comment by someone involved in the "Occupy" movement in NY—saying that the problem with the '60s was that people gave up, "but we're in it for the long haul." That's still the ignorance/arrogance thing. It goes along with the culture of tabloids, of short attention spans, and of solipsism and individualism. Do you really think there weren't many people in the '60s who were very dedicated and went up against a lot, and made many sacrifices, for a number of years, really trying to bring about radical change? Do you really think nobody has been in this for the real "long haul," and that nobody has learned anything in the process? There is too much of people proceeding from subjectivity—from how they see something from a limited perspective, or even how it "makes them feel." For example, whether we need leadership doesn't turn on the personal experience you've had, or "how it makes you feel." The question is what the masses of people are going through, and what's the solution to that? Is there an answer? What does the answer consist in? How it makes you feel is definitely not the question—how it makes you feel depends on what you understand. What is needed is not these tendencies of empiricism and individuals proceeding from their subjective impressions. No, we need a scientific method and approach—the scientific method and approach of communism, as it has been further developed through the new synthesis.

Critical Thinking and Discipline—A Unity of Opposites—A Scientific Approach to Understanding and Changing the World

In terms of the communist vanguard, democratic centralism is not just a matter of discipline in an organizational sense, but a matter of how you actually come to know and transform the world in the most profound ways in the interests of humanity. You don't get a better understanding of reality if everyone in a party goes off in their own direction. There is an important lesson relating to this in my memoir, regarding the struggle with the Mensheviks within our Party who tried to take our Party into the swamp—supporting the revisionist coup in China after the death of Mao in 1976 and arguing for a whole revisionist line—and why it was important to apply d.c., even in the face of factionalizing by those Mensheviks. People should review and reflect on that experience and how it is summarized in the memoir. We definitely need lots of initiative and creative and critical thinking, within the right overall collective framework and with the right spirit and orientation. But you won't learn more all on your own, and you definitely don't learn more by having factions within a party. Factions among the communists (or alleged communists) of Lenin's time were a remnant of social democracy, which led to the collapse of the Second International of supposed socialist and communist parties. Having factions was a part of that social democracy—in reality a form of bourgeois democracy, in the name of "socialism"—which actually rendered support to the existing imperialist system, in opposition to real revolution and communism. The Bolsheviks breaking with and moving against that was part of rupturing with everything that led to the collapse of the Second International, the degeneration by almost every one of its parties into open support for "their" imperialists in the context of World War 1.

Can prohibiting factions be misused to suppress initiative and the necessary lively atmosphere and ferment within the Party? Of course. But the possibility of its being misused does not change the fact that it is correct, and is essential, not to have factions. It is correct and essential, not just in terms of organizational functioning and discipline, but even more fundamentally in terms of epistemology and epistemological discipline, in terms of increasingly gaining a correct understanding of reality and moving to radically transform it in the direction of communism.

The "Party-State Paradigm" Is Much Better Than the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie, and Much Better Than the Prejudices of the Petite Bourgeoisie

We are not going to make it if we continue to have too much of a revolving door—where people come around us and become supportive, but then they are pulled away, and in some cases even turned against us, and we don't correctly recognize, and counter this, winning people over more deeply through really joining struggle with them. We will never make it, if we don't get down in the trenches ideologically and have a hunger for ideological struggle. Really, we don't think we can take on anarchism? Come on. You just have to ask a few questions. We can't answer the weak shit the anarchists put forward? Come on!

Who shot Lenin in the early years of the Soviet republic, seriously wounding him while attempting to assassinate him? It was forces that were essentially anarchist. Why did they do that? Because Lenin approached things from the largest perspective, proceeding from the interests of the proletariat as a class, in the most fundamental sense, and he understood what would happen if you allowed the terms of things to be set by workers in this or that factory, or a particular group of peasants, or the sailors on a ship, acting on the basis of their more particular and narrow interests. He understood that, if you proceeded in that way, different sections of the masses would be pitted against each other, in opposition to their most fundamental interests, socialism would be undermined and destroyed, and things would be dragged back to the anarchy of capitalist production and capitalist competition, and the overall dynamics of the capitalist system, with all its horrors.

Anarchism is an outlook representative of the petite bourgeoisie—and it will not and cannot lead to a radical rupture with and advance beyond capitalism, beyond the anarchistic dynamics of commodity production and exchange.10 There is much in the Badiou polemic that is very relevant in this regard.

As opposed to what people like Badiou try to argue, the "party-state paradigm"—state power, the dictatorship of the proletariat, led by a communist vanguard—is a very good, very necessary thing, so long as the line of that vanguard is correct. And you have to use that state power, to keep the revolution and to continue the revolution. Do we think the whole petite bourgeoisie in socialist society will just be wildly in favor of carrying forward revolutionary transformation in that society, that there won't be any opposition among them? As long as there is the material basis for the petite bourgeoisie to exist, including in socialist society, there will be manifestations of the assertion of the outlook and aspirations of the petite bourgeoisie. I think of students at a university in Canada who, during the high tide of the 1960s, staged a march under the banner: "as the future managerial class, we demand our rights." You're going to get that—whether expressed that crudely or not. You think that outlook doesn't exist in the "Occupy" thing? And, while this outlook basically corresponds to the material position and corresponding aspirations of the petite bourgeoisie, it's not only among the petite bourgeoisie itself that petit bourgeois ways of thinking exist—this kind of thinking exists among basic people too. The idea that we should tail this in any way is ridiculous and should be solidly combated and overcome.

Of course, the point is not that the petite bourgeoisie is the same, or should be treated in the same way, as the big bourgeoisie—the class that dominates ownership of the means of production and exercises dictatorship in capitalist society. The orientation is not that, in socialist society, dictatorship should be exercised over the petite bourgeoisie. In strategic terms, the point is, as Lenin put it, to live with and transform the petite bourgeoisie, through the course of the socialist transition to communism; and the relations involved are fundamentally non-antagonistic. But the terms cannot be set by an orientation that corresponds to the social position and spontaneous aspirations of the petite bourgeoisie, or there will be no revolution, no socialism, and no transition to communism.

My "Reflection" on "Occupy" welcomed "Occupy," but then went into the depth and complexity of the contradictions involved and what needs to happen if you don't want to maintain a society and a world marked by profound inequalities, oppression and exploitation—if you don't want people to continue suffering needlessly in this world.

Leading People, Comparing and Contrasting Revolution and Bullshit

We really have to come out strongly on this. We have to sharpen up this orientation. And we have to use this website and newspaper of ours, for many things—but including quick, concise, and sharp polemics. "What's wrong with Slavoj Žižek?"—that is, what's wrong with his viewpoint? What about Gramsci? Can't we do a few paragraphs on Althusser? Is it so hard? Can't we do simple things that provoke people, in the good sense? Can't we do that? And people do learn by comparing and contrasting. They learn by doing, but also by compare/contrast. We're cheating people and cheating ourselves by not struggling with them and joining the questions with them that are of objective importance—questions that they are often raising in somewhat distorted form (not always, but often). This is not surprising, because how they see things, spontaneously, is refracted through the predominant bourgeois outlook in society. Even people who are not consciously doing so, but are more spontaneously doing so, still represent the outlook and aspirations of classes other than the proletariat when they open their mouths to speak. The fact that you, in "Occupy," are discovering that it's much harder than you thought: ask yourself WHY it's much harder than you thought it was. It's not just that you are confronted by a wall of police. Why are they there, and why are they acting the way they do? And why does Mayor Bloomberg call them out and you can't? There are bigger, more powerful social forces at work, and underneath those forces are dynamics—the fundamental dynamics of this system—that even they don't control. Can't we get into joining these kinds of things with people? How to wield spokespeople and leadership to do this?—we have to pay systematic attention to that. We need to become good at quickly developing the forms for doing this. If five or 10 show up for a meeting or discussion, then give them something, some basic substance, to take out and join with others.

Without this basic orientation and approach, there won't be a real fundraising battle. We won't get where we need to go unless these questions are being fought through on the correct basis. There will be funds raised, but there will be no massive, multi-faceted fundraising campaign unless we lead with this orientation. Not only with the masses, but if you go to people who do have real money and you tail, you won't get anywhere. We need to put it to these people, straight up, and struggle on this basis: If you give your money to something like Obama, and not to this BA Everywhere fundraising campaign, it will have bad results and bad consequences for the masses of people and for humanity. We need a revolution, a communist revolution, and what you think you know about this is NOT true.

We can't let "Stalin and Mao were mass murderers" just go down. More than a few people sit in a privileged position in this country, with the "luxury" of accepting "verdicts" on crucial things without really bothering to learn the truth about them, because people have been slaughtered on a massive scale—in reality, and without hyperbole, their lives have been snuffed out in the tens and hundreds of millions—by the rulers of this country and the workings of their system, all over the world. People just can't get away with accepting the slanders about communism and refusing to face the real, truly monstrous crimes of this system. There are tactics and tact in struggling with people—but strategically we cannot let this go down. We can't let people go on talking about how Qadaffi (or whoever is identified as the villain of the moment) is somehow the worst person in the world. Can we talk about reality? We need to join these things with people—from a lofty and principled position, and with substance, but sharply.

If we don't do this, we are going to go backward and toward the abyss. Some of what I am talking about can happen right away, including with the website and newspaper. Can't we back our shit up?

Simplicity and Complexity—Handling This Contradiction Correctly

BAsics is very important—a very valuable tool—and we need to be wielding it in even greater ways. But it is a distillation of much bigger things. Do we think Marx is obsolete? No, there is much to learn, much of importance, in studying Marx. In speaking of the shopkeeper and the democratic intellectual, for example, Marx points out that they are driven to the same problems and solutions—not just the solutions. There is a lot to learn from repeatedly going back to this. There is great importance to correctly, scientifically understanding, and presenting, the problem—to setting the terms on the right, scientifically grounded basis.

On Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy.11 This is on a high level of theoretical abstraction, even while efforts were made to break that down as much as possible, without "dumbing it down." It is an important work and definitely serves a very important purpose. But we need to take the line that's in there and go with it—popularize it, without distorting it or watering it down. And we need things besides that work which deal with the same basic subjects. There is a need for things that are shorter, hard-hitting—boom boom. We should correctly understand and deal with, and not mis-handle, the simplicity-complexity contradiction. Dealing with the complexity of things is necessary, and very important—and we should struggle with people when they want things to be too simple, oversimplified, when they don't want to do the work you have to do to really understand and therefore be able to transform the world in the way it needs to be transformed. But we also need forms for boiling things down to their essence—things that are simple in that sense. If someone wants to say, "It's more complex than that," we can speak to the complexity, and we do speak to it.

We definitely should not do what opportunists do, where they vulgarize things, including by chopping up and distorting the statements of people they disagree with, in an unprincipled, instrumentalist way. But we shouldn't overburden ourselves with the complexity of things. There is a trend like that—to overburden ourselves with attempts to deal with complexity, to where we mumble and then don't get to the point. We don't want simplicity in the sense of vulgarizing and taking cheap shots—but in the sense of really getting to the essence in a concise and basic way. There is a point to boiling the complex down to the simple and basic, so long as it is accurate.

You want the masses to learn?—let them see someone doing this. That's one of the main ways masses learn. Training them involves letting them see how it's done. Let them see the confrontation of opposing views. When we had the struggle vs. the Bundists (nationalist opportunists, posturing as communists), way back in the day, a few of us wrote things and everyone grappled with them. And people learned a lot.

"There Is Nothing There"

In my memoir, there is a part that talks about this guy, Robere, who was a dogmatist who intimidated a lot of people, back in the day, by spouting from memory passages from Mao and Lenin, and so on. He created this "larger than life" image around himself. But some of us knew enough to recognize that rote recitation of "classics"—in the manner of a religious zealot repeating scripture—did not mean that there was a lot of substance, or a correct method for that matter. Then, one time, he got up and spoke at some demonstration at a courthouse, and in listening to him it struck me: "there is nothing there"—no real substance behind the supposedly intimidating front. And there is nothing there with these other lines, as far as problem/solution. This is an important point of orientation. Robere wasn't speaking to reality, and wasn't correctly dealing with it, and he had no "solution" other than dogma.

In short, with these opportunist forces: strategically, there's nothing there. And especially when you get to solution, there's nothing there. Now, it's different with someone like a Chomsky, or Arundhati Roy. There is much they do that is positive. In contrast with opportunists and counter-revolutionaries, their orientation and intent is to proceed in a principled way, and they do a lot of good work particularly in exposing many crimes of oppressive forces throughout the world, with a lot of focus on bringing to light the crimes of U.S. and western imperialism. But, in fundamental terms, and particularly when it comes to the solution, there is nothing there—no real orientation or program that can actually lead to a radically different world. With the opportunists and counter-revolutionaries, there is nothing there at all—that is, they have nothing positive to offer—they can only do damage. And we do have something—there is something here—because we are dealing with reality, that's what we're grappling with, scientifically, and struggling to transform. We have learned a lot in this way, and of course we have much more to learn—but we have a foundation to learn a lot more as we go forward.

Combating Opportunism and Counter-Revolution: A Necessary Part of Making Revolution

It is not a matter of preoccupation with opportunists and counter-revolutionaries. But we do have to take into account, and actively counter, the one thing they can do: cause real damage through their counter-revolutionary activity. They are profiting from the larger putrid culture that still holds sway to far too great a degree, and profiting from the fact that they are not seeking to really go up against the powers-that-be, but in fact can and do act in ways that not only don't threaten but that actually serve those powers. We do have to actively take on the harm they are able to do, with their counter-revolutionary activity, particularly with today's technology and in the context of today's putrid culture. We have to take that shit on sharply and powerfully, even while not becoming overly preoccupied with it, in order to counter—and to provide a positive, substantive and uplifting alternative to—their opportunist and counter-revolutionary garbage. Again, the point is not to answer them on their terms, getting dragged down into the gutter—the point is to answer with substance, and by focusing things on the fundamental questions related to problem and solution, to what is needed to actually transform the world in an emancipatory way.

The "advanced" who, in today's situation, are simply "immune" to this all this "stuff out there" simply don't exist—or are very few. People come forward the way they come forward—this is part of the objective reality we're dealing with—and people running into, and even being influenced by, opportunist and counter-revolutionary shit is part of the objective reality we have to become better at recognizing and dealing with—struggling effectively to bring more and more people through it. Too often our response to this kind of stuff is watered down and namby-pamby. Again, we need to answer this with substance—but not in a way that is merely academic and educational, in the wrong sense. There is a battle to be waged. Part of the struggle we need to wage, an important part, is over the question: what matters, and what should we focus on and get into? Is it tabloidism, gossip, rumor-mongering and slander—or lines? Of course it should be lines, and where they will lead. We have to fight for people—which means fighting with people, ideologically—in order to make breakthroughs.

The fact that some people get drawn forward and then get turned away because we are "making too much of BA" isn't happening in a vacuum—or simply because of the influence of the ruling class and the dominant institutions and what prevails in society generally. Opportunists and counter-revolutionaries are telling them shit. They work on people that we draw forward. "Work on" doesn't really get it. Often they descend on people, including through the Internet. Some of this is studied counter-revolution. To use a metaphor, if people are sitting in the bushes and taking potshots at you, and you ignore it because you don't want to be dragged down to a petty level, or into the gutter, then you are making a mistake—you have to deal with it, without allowing yourself to get dragged down. If we don't sharply deal with this, shame on us. Not to answer it on its terms, but by pointing out the bankruptcy of this—and, in some cases, the outright piggery as well as the ideological and political bankruptcy.

I recently read again our response to Mike Ely's "Nine Letters." That response is quite good.12 In particular I was struck by the exposure and refutation of Ely's rank relativism and agnosticism—his attempt to undermine the understanding that, while there are of course things human beings cannot know with certainty at any given time, on the other hand there is much human knowledge that has a well-founded and well-established basis in reality and can be judged to be true, with a great deal of certainty, and does not simply have a tenuous link to reality, to use Ely's formulation. As part of our response, since Ely had invoked—and in fact had crudely distorted—Mao in an attempt to buttress Ely's agnosticism and relativism, the following was posed, pointedly, to Ely: Does he think that dialectical and historical materialism, the need for revolution and the seizure of state power, the DOP and socialism as a transition to communism, and the continuation of classes and class struggle in socialist society—do these have a tenuous link to reality? And would Mao agree? There is no good answer to that, if you are proceeding according to the opportunist "logic" of Mike Ely. He has also never been held to account on his shit with Nepal—tailing all the revisionism there and attacking us for not tailing it. Apparently, being an opportunist and a counter-revolutionary means never having to be accountable for anything—so long as you attack what is genuinely revolutionary and communist, you can get a "pass" from some people for just about anything you say and do. When he first quit the Party, Ely's opportunism and his attacks on me and the Party were mainly rationalization for giving up—for capitulating to imperialism and everything that represents—while putting up a shabby pretense of still being some kind of "communist" or "revolutionary." But here something Lenin pointed to is very relevant. It is one thing to make a mistake, Lenin said (although capitulating to imperialism, turning your back on and attacking what actually represents revolution and communism—even stooping so low as to appeal to ignorant and crude prejudice against communism and communist organization, invoking the specter of "thought control" within the RCP, and so on... garbage literally on the level of a J. Edgar Hoover—is more than a mere mistake; but to continue with Lenin's essential point) if a mistake is persisted in—and if "profound justifications" are sought for this—then this can become something truly monstrous. This is the basic process that has taken place with Ely.

Again, the point is not to have a disproportionate preoccupation with these opportunists and counter-revolutionaries, but to take seriously the fact that they can, and do, cause real harm, especially in today's situation and with the putrid culture that prevails, including far too much among people who claim to be some kind of opposition. It is part of the process that some people who are initially drawn toward us—especially if they are worked, and struggled, with well—will continue to make leaps forward, while some others will fall back after a certain point. But, if things are dividing out the wrong way with this, something is wrong. Part of the problem is that we don't join these issues sharply enough with people. Too often there is too much of trying to evade or finesse things, rather than getting into the essential questions frontally and sharply. Our sharp edge should not be dulled.

When people come around, and then they begin to get a sense of how big what we're talking about is—how hard and complex, and how much up against what most people think, as well as being up against the state—they discover this, and they come to a juncture. Now you're in a different stage with people than when they first came around. The questions are not simply the same as when they first came around, first got on the escalator. And the things that are pulling them down, pulling them away from this, are not just the objective things that come from the bourgeoisie and its ruling institutions and ideas—what also pulls on them is what these other forces are saying, what they are saying about our Party and BA and the whole communist project, really. These forces do fight for their line—such as it is. We certainly cannot afford not to fight for ours. To really counter their shit, we need to get, deeply and sharply, into what the differences are—the real and substantial differences that matter—and why this is right and these other people are wrong: why there really is "nothing there," when it comes to an analysis of the fundamental problem and the solution, why in fact everything else is bullshit.

As you learn more about the actual process of building a movement for revolution, and carrying out that revolution when the conditions for that emerge, the more complicated and difficult it seems, particularly as you first come to grips with these contradictions. But the fact is that actually making revolution involves and requires consistently applying a scientific method and approach to identify and analyze, and to develop the means to radically transform, the contradictions that are bound up with this process. We have gone to work, in a substantial way, on these problems—and we have more work to do to solve these problems as we go forward. We have a foundation, and there is a need for new people to join in and help do the further work that is needed. And the truth is, nobody else has anything underneath what they're talking about, because it doesn't correspond to reality. This point needs to be driven home.

This has to be very sharp. In the current situation, and in terms of the forces coming forward in the movements of today, we are dealing to a very large degree with forces representing the petite bourgeoisie. Something like "Occupy," while it has attracted and drawn in some people from the basic masses, is largely and essentially a movement of the petite bourgeoisie, and you are going to get lines, tendencies, and pulls characteristic of the petite bourgeoisie—coming at things from a different point of view than that which represents the interests of the proletariat, in the most fundamental sense. Approaching this scientifically, we can see that this is what we're dealing with, in terms of things like "Occupy"—even with its very definite positive aspects. We had better understand that and struggle accordingly. And, again, this way of thinking is not limited to just the petite bourgeoisie itself—it exists more broadly in society. Add to that the fact that people actually know very little about communism and its history—and most of what they think they know is wrong. With all this in mind, it should stand out very prominently what is profoundly wrong with the idea that we should tail this, rather than waging principled but fierce struggle, ideologically, with what is wrong—with what represents a misguided, unscientific sense of the problem and solution.

Yes, we should discuss and wrangle with people over questions like what direction movements that arise, like "Occupy," should take, as such. That is part of our responsibility, even an important part, but it is not our main responsibility. Our main and essential responsibility is building a movement for revolution—and we have to approach everything from the fundamental perspective of how it relates to that.

The problem that some of our comrades have, in relation to movements like "Occupy," stems to a significant degree from the fact that they are not proceeding systematically from an understanding that there is not an antagonism but there is a real contradiction between what's represented by things like "Occupy" and where things need to go. There needs to be unity/struggle/unity to resolve contradictions among the people—but if we are not proceeding from the correct foundation and the correct, scientifically based understanding, we will not have a real chance of correctly handling the very real contradictions and the unity/struggle/unity dialectic.

The Problem and the Solution

Problem/solution. Problem/solution. Problem/solution. Everything revolves around problem-solution: what the fundamental problem in the world is, and what the solution is. In a fundamental sense, this includes me and my role. The emphasis we give to my leadership, and what it has brought forward and concentrates, has real meaning and great importance—but only in the context of problem-solution. It is not simply an appendage or addendum or footnote to that—but it IS in that context.

This applies also to polemics—in an overall and fundamental sense, they should focus on and continually ground things in the problem/solution.

Keep in mind: "there is nothing there." Polemics should focus to a large degree on the fact that what is represented by these various other forces—and in particular organized opportunist and counter-revolutionary forces—will not lead to anything good and is actually working against what is needed.

Three Quick Points

One: There is the phenomenon that when you are drawn to our Party and what it represents, and then you step out with this, people representing the disaffected but self-absorbed petite bourgeoisie bray and bark. This is fundamentally how we have to understand these attacks—and, in a living way, explain it to others, including those who come in for such braying and barking.

Two: Every time we tail, we kick ourselves in the teeth and get seriously set back.

Three: We are for revolution and communism. You opportunists don't like it because, in reality—in terms of the content of what you put forward—you want to make this system "work"; your vision and aspirations actually do not extend beyond the narrow horizon of this system, to paraphrase Marx. Let's recast the terms to what they actually are. Our Party, and in a concentrated way BA, represents the leadership that is needed and the struggle for revolution, and the state, the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is the necessary outcome of that struggle— and in turn is a transition to the final goal of a communist world. That is why people, and in particular those who constitute political and literary representatives of the petite bourgeoisie, react the way they do. They want to make this system "work," at least for themselves. That's not what we're about.

We should take a lesson from the experience in the Bay Area with the group STORM some years back. Unfortunately, there was a marked tendency on the part of comrades there to be intimidated by STORM, because these comrades were approaching things incorrectly, looking too much at surface phenomena and not grounding themselves in the deeper dynamics of things. STORM seemed to be a "going thing," for a while, and was wielding nationalist identity politics as a weapon, while putting up some kind of a pretense of being Marxist, or in some way against the system. But where is STORM now? And where are the people who were put forward as its leading lights—someone like Van Jones—what's the deal with him now?! Openly working for this system. Which is a kind of leap, but a leap that, in a real sense, is an extension of the outlook and approach of something like STORM. This is not a matter of "personal traits," but of line—of outlook and method, and the strategic orientation flowing from that. Of course, so long as there are class distinctions, and so long in particular as there are people constituting the political and literary representatives of the petite bourgeoisie, including among the oppressed nationalities, there will continue to be different incarnations of the kind of phenomenon that STORM represented. But lessons should be drawn from the experience with STORM—and the fact that STORM itself is now defunct!

Short-Term Advances and the Fundamental Goal of Revolution: Correctly Handling a Real Contradiction

Apparently Chris Hedges declared that "Occupy" is "too big to fail." This is simply wrong. "Occupy," as such, will have a certain life—and, as I put it in my "Reflection" on "Occupy," it can make a significant contribution to the revolution that is needed, IF the revolutionary communists approach this correctly. "Occupy" itself will have a certain life and, as has already happened, it will face a series of challenges; and how those challenges are dealt with will have a major role in determining what course it takes and whether and in what ways it can continue to have a mainly positive impact. Right now this is concentrated in whether there will be a powerful challenge to the concentrated move by the ruling class to suppress and disperse "Occupy." There are important things that we can and should seek to do in relation to that, but the most important thing that we should be doing is accumulating forces for revolution, in relation to this movement and in other ways as well. If we don't really and deeply grasp this, and act on it, then not only "Occupy" but our Party, too, will either go out of existence or be absorbed into the political scenery of bourgeois society, to paraphrase the recent polemic against Slavoj Žižek13.

Can anyone claim that they've never been influenced by the line that something good has happened, so let's not spoil it by bringing in the solid core, by bringing alive the need for revolution and the final goal of communism? No it happens—but we have to be very attuned to that, recognizing and struggling against that.

We have to think about different ways of working with the advanced around us—to struggle things through and make some much-needed advances in bringing forward new forces, new initiators of the new stage of the communist movement—accumulating forces for revolution and recruiting more of the advanced into the Party. We need to make breakthroughs in all three objectives of the overall Campaign we are carrying out: really putting revolution and communism on the map; making BA a household name and what BA represents a subject of substantive discussion and debate throughout society; and bringing forward waves of new initiators of the communist revolution. This—and in particular the third objective—requires winning people to be really partisan for and then fully committed to THIS. We have to get more and more people to the point where they want to go out and take on the braying hounds. Let's instill that Black Panther Party spirit from back in the day. The BPP members really believed they were the vanguard, and they didn't want to hear any shit from you about how they weren't. We need much more of that basic spirit. The point is not to attack people, but to have a spirit of itching for ideological struggle.

We need to unleash and marshal the people who feel that way—give them substance, and get them out there fighting for this.

We don't think enough in terms of fighting for people who are being influenced toward wrong lines. Let's go up against the spontaneity—let's put on our boxing gloves. Let's jump into ideological contention, spoiling for a fight. If you are a leading person, take some others, including advanced masses, with you when you do this. Take these masses coming around with you. Engage these other lines. Call them out: "You don't even know what the problem is, let alone the solution." Then get into the substance. We have a developed line with a lot of substance. But you have to fight for it. If you want to win masses you have to fight, and you have to take masses with you so they see the contending lines and which ones have substance and are based on reality, and which ones don't and aren't.

Some Basic Questions

How do we make sure that people go out in the right way to do revolutionary work? One of the advantages of BAsics is that this book lets you do good work. But, as we've seen, you can do work with BAsics with a wrong line seriously contending in that work. BAsics is not some kind of inoculation against the wrong line—it's a factor that creates more favorable conditions for work to be done correctly. With many people we need to figure out how to simplify things without being reckless, and get people into the mix and swirl of what's going on these days.

Let's pose a series of very basic questions. Do you think that this outrage of police brutality is going to be eliminated with a few sit-ins? If not, is that tolerable? And if not, further, what is it going to take to get rid of this outrage? Do you think this is the only outrage of this system, and how are all those other outrages going to get dealt with? How does what we are doing fit into a revolutionary movement to get rid of this whole thing? This resistance is great as a beginning and part of what needs to happen—but not so great as just a thing in itself and unto itself. Bring people back to what they know, and have a basis for knowing.

Do you really think that "Occupy" just growing and growing is going to solve everything we're about? People in the Party and close to us know the answers, and "forget" them. We have to constantly bring them back to what they know. There are line questions and the pull of spontaneity.

In situations where there are increased numbers of masses awakening and in motion politically, and we are working to relate to that, what we say matters more. And the more it matters, the greater the pull to tone it down. When you introduce something like my "Occupy" statement, it breaks up some of the unity that exists, even as it has the potential to unite people on a higher level. It is the same thing with regard to STOP "Stop & Frisk." Is it a static linear thing of more and more unity—or is it unity-divide-more unity, through junctures and struggles? Comrades, and in particular comrades with leadership responsibility, know the answers. So why does it happen that people lose sight of this and tend to tail? One, the pull of "the movement is everything, the final aim nothing"—and part of you is pulled toward thinking that revolution and communism is not viable, or is in some abstract realm, unrelated to what is going on now. And two, the pull to thinking: bringing this in is going to disrupt the unity we've forged, when we've got something good going here. This has to be fought through, in repeated rounds of struggle. Comrades need to see their responsibilities above all as communists, and not as people dealing in a particular realm.

We should use the website and newspaper to model things. Even a short piece, like the one I wrote on "The American Enterprise,"14 can concentrate a lot. If someone raises the present Constitution of the USA, we can respond by saying things like, "that belongs in the museum"—as opposed to an academic argument. The effect of a punchy response like that is to change the terms to more what they should be. And then you get further into the substance. That Constitution represents the past, here's what we need for the future—and point to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)15. Use the website and newspaper to model things like that. They should have some more in-depth analysis, but there is also a definite need for a lot of shorter, biting stuff.

Leading Consistently with the Correct Method and Approach

We have to consistently lead with the correct line, and most fundamentally the correct, scientific method and approach. That has to be what we're striving for. That's the standard we have to set and aim for—nothing less. And, even as we are persevering to make breakthroughs in things we have identified as crucial, we need to keep looking afresh at things, and not fall into ruts and routines. We have to adhere to certain fundamental matters of principle and keep our eye on the prize of decisive objectives, while looking at things anew repeatedly.

We do have to get more focused in what we do and how we wield our forces, but the principal and decisive thing is leading with the correct line, and then how to get the correct combinations and synergies. We don't want to just judiciously wield our forces—we want, we need, to grow. We want more people to carry out the correct line and not some other line. Attention needs to be paid to how to lead that and effect the right combinations and synergies to make that happen. Think about the effect of a leading person going with a comrade in the work and doing the work correctly and fighting it through and summing it up with them. And we should involve advanced masses where that's appropriate. Masses learn by seeing things done correctly and seeing them in contention with other things. There are people who can do this right, and do it really well, but there are still too few—we need to wield them correctly and combine them, correctly, with basic Party members and people who are coming forward, so others can learn and develop.

How do we wield the strengths we have and the strengths of people around us in the best possible combinations and synergies, and get into the real-world places where this can go on? We can't just bring masses to our bookstores—we have to do that, but we also have to go TO the masses. This goes along with simplify, simplify, simplify. Radical simplicity. Get people together in groups and go places with somebody who's gonna set the terms in the right way.

A Final Point: On Unity and Struggle

Because I have given so much emphasis to the confrontation of opposing lines where the contradiction is in fact antagonistic—dealing with opportunists and counter-revolutionaries—I don't want to underplay the importance of non-antagonistic struggle, struggle with people with whom it is also correct to seek unity, even while carrying out ideological struggle over big questions and matters of principle. The difference is that there are many people who disagree with us, who are objectively representatives of an incorrect outlook, which ultimately leads things away from where they need to go, but they haven't made themselves in effect an appendage of the ruling class. They are not setting out to destroy our Party. And they are not framing their disagreements with us in the guise of "revolution" or "communism." This relates to why the Chinese Communist Party made clear, in its polemics against the Soviet revisionists in the 1960s, that unity with many forces who do not claim to be communists is possible, but there can be no unity with revisionists—phony communists who distort and oppose the revolutionary core of communism, while attacking those who uphold and act on the basis of real, revolutionary communism.

The emphasis on the need to hit back, with substance, ideologically, against the opportunist and counter-revolutionary forces that do make it their business to wage unprincipled attacks against our Party and BA—this should not lead to ignoring or undermining the importance of engagement and carrying forward the unity/struggle/unity process with what are objectively non-antagonistic representatives of other classes and strata. That remains very important.


1. Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, September 2008 (RCP Publications, 2009) [back]

2. BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, RCP Publications, 2011 [back]

3. The "because" statement refers to the following:

Because of Bob Avakian and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal. [back]

4. After BA made these observations, Revolution/ published "The 'Illuminati' Is a Myth! Wake Up and Deal With the REAL Problem!," #272. June 17, 2012. [back]

5. "Alain Badiou's 'Politics of Emancipation': A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World," by Raymond Lotta, Nayi Duniya, and K. J. A., Demarcations: A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic, Issue Number 1, Summer-Fall 2009 [back]

6. From Ike to Mao and Beyond—My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, a memoir by Bob Avakian, Insight Press, 2005 [back]

7. "A Reflection on the 'Occupy' Movement: An Inspiring Beginning...and the Need to Go Further," by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Revolution #250, November 13, 2011 [back]

8. For a discussion of the Cultural Revolution in the RCP, see Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Part VI, "A Cultural Revolution Within the RCP," begins on page 34 of the pamphlet. [back]

9. International Socialist Organization [back]

10. For an analysis of the driving force of anarchy as the most essential expression of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism, see "On the 'Driving Force of Anarchy' and the Dynamics of Change—A Sharp Debate and Urgent Polemic: The Struggle for a Radically Different World and the Struggle for a Scientific Approach to Reality," by Raymond Lotta, Revolution, November 4, 2013. [back]

11. Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, RCP Publications, 2008 [back]

12. "Stuck in the 'Awful Capitalist Present' or Forging a Path to the Communist Future? A Response to Mike Ely's Nine Letters," by a writing group in the RCP, 2008 [back]

13. "Vilifying Communism and Accommodating Imperialism: The Sham and Shame of Slavoj Žižek's 'Honest Pessimism,'" by Raymond Lotta, Revolution #256, January 15, 2012 [back]

14. "The American Enterprise—Property and Slavery: Peculiar Notions of 'Freedom' and Profound Contradictions," by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Revolution #252, December 11, 2011 [back]

15. Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), RCP Publications, 2010 [back]




Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

The Assassination Memo:
Ominous Implications and an Embattled Empire

June 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

In 2011, a U.S. drone assassinated Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen in Yemen. Portions of a Justice Department memo providing legal cover for that illegal assassination were released to the public on June 21.

I'm not a legal expert, but I've read the memo and commentaries from a range of experts and analysts, and it is clear that the implications of the legal rationale in this memo are chilling, ominous, and outrageous.

And here's something else: This memo represents and reflects the outlook, and morality of the rulers of an empire who look out at a world they dominate—a world of vicious exploitation, ruthless oppression, and cutthroat contention with rivals of all kinds—and declare their “right” to kill anyone, anywhere, perceived to be a potential threat.


In the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, here are the uncontested facts:


After the illegal assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki by the CIA, a CIA drone also killed Anwar al-Awlaki's son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, also a U.S. citizen. There has never been any claim by anyone that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki had anything to do with al-Qaeda. He was a 16-year-old boy who hadn't seen his father in two years, eating dinner by an open fire along the side of a road when an American drone came out of the sky and fired the missiles that killed him and his companions. A spokesman for Obama justified the murder of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki in this exchange with reporter Sierra Adamson:

Adamson: ...It's an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial. And, he's underage. He's a minor.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don't think becoming an al-Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.

Murdering a 16-year-old boy is justified because of alleged crimes of his father! Such is the depraved morality of those who rule this country. As the band "War" put it: "I hear you're working for the CIA, they wouldn't have you in the Mafia."


In response to legal challenges by the New York Times, the ACLU, and in relation to infighting within the ruling class over how (not whether) to maintain the U.S. empire while maintaining the credibility of its vaunted "freedom and democracy," Barack Obama's White House authorized the release of the memo providing legal cover for the murder of Anwar al-Awlaki.

The U.S. has declared its right to launch drone attacks around the world in other countries, including against forces who are not in conflict with the U.S. itself, without regard to how many innocent civilians they kill. (See "Murder by Drone.") But the Justice Department memo had to break new (il)legal ground because it is explicitly illegal for a U.S. citizen to kill another U.S. citizen outside the United States under the Murder of United States Nationals Act of 1991.

In the George W. Bush era, the White House assigned its "legal" team that included John Yoo to concoct justifications for torture. Obama's team also started from an illegal objective and pieced together a rationale to justify it. In this case, murder.

That justification is both contorted and dangerous.

The New York Times called the legal arguments in the memo "a slapdash pastiche of legal theories—some based on obscure interpretations of British and Israeli law—that was clearly tailored to the desired result." (A "pastiche" is a hodgepodge. The editorial appeared June 23).

Among the twisted legal rationales in the memo is an extensive argument that violating laws is not a crime if carried out in the process of executing "public authority." The memo invokes examples like speeding laws not being applicable to police in chases, or to fire trucks on their way to a fire. Invoking "public authority" in this way is such an absurdly broad interpretation that it would justify anything, anywhere—and that is exactly the point of the memo.

And, in fact, the U.S. launched an assassination attempt on Anwar al-Awlaki in December 2009, even before the White House came up with a supposed legal cover for this attempt. So the Justice Department memo was, in effect, an after-the-fact legal cover for a previous illegal assassination attempt.


But the memo is not just bullshit, it is much worse.

The memo invokes the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) law, passed three days after 9/11, to a level of trumping any supposed civil liberties. The AUMF authorizes the President of the United States to deploy "United States Armed Forces" in order "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."

Two things to be said on that:

  1. The law is wildly broad and could be (and is being!) interpreted to allow the President of the United States to carry out all kinds of actions, anywhere against a wide range of forces and people.
  2. Ominous, fascist, and open-ended as that law is, no evidence has been presented in any court that Anwar al-Awlaki was in violation of it.

The Justice Department memo cites supposed evidence against Anwar al-Awlaki, but that "evidence" has been redacted (blacked out) in the version of the memo released to the public. To quote from the memo: "We need not attempt here to identify the minimum conditions that might establish a public authority justification for that operation."

Legal analyst Kevin Jon Heller has been a critic of the administration's justification for the killing of al-Awlaki. Before the (redacted) memo was made public, he wrote "[W]e need to constantly remind people that the criminal law is not optional, not something that can be cast aside every time the government decides it is too limiting." And on release of the memo he wrote, "[L]et's call killing al-Awlaki what it still is, even after the memo—murder."


The memo acknowledges (only to dismiss) the fact that international law—the Geneva Conventions—prohibits "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds," with respect to persons "taking no active part in the hostilities" in a war.

But for the authors of the memo, and those for whom they are contorting the law, such rules don't suit the needs of the empire right now. A major element of the memo involves justifying the doctrine of the rulers of the U.S. that "war" is anything they say it is, and that "military combatants" are anyone, anywhere in the world who they target.

The memo acknowledges that Yemen, where Anwar al-Awlaki was assassinated, is "far from the most active theater of combat between the United States and al-Qaida." And the authors feel compelled to acknowledge what has been conventional legal theory (which the memo describes as the views of "some commentators") that "States are permitted to attack only civilians who directly participate in hostilities" (page 24)."

The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the RCP is written with the future in mind. It is intended to set forth a basic model, and fundamental principles and guidelines, for the nature and functioning of a vastly different society and government than now exists: the New Socialist Republic in North America, a socialist state which would embody, institutionalize and promote radically different relations and values among people; a socialist state whose final and fundamental aim would be to achieve, together with the revolutionary struggle throughout the world, the emancipation of humanity as a whole and the opening of a whole new epoch in human history–communism–with the final abolition of all exploitative and oppressive relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise.

Read the entire Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the RCP at

But the memo dismisses this basic concept of international law: "[W]e do not think this is the proper understanding of the laws of war in a non-international armed conflict." In other words, the White House is claiming that borders and theaters of war are irrelevant in defining where someone can be killed. The memo repeatedly uses wording that conflates and interchangeably refers to armed forces actually engaged in military conflict with "members of an enemy organization" (emphasis added). This erasing of the distinction between armed forces engaged in warfare against the U.S. on the one hand, and non-military, civilian activity by someone who the U.S. decrees is part of an enemy organization has extremely ominous implications.

The rulers of the U.S. are confronting challenges from forces who oppose them who engage in unconventional forms of combat. Those actions include a whole range of tactics that are in line with the non-revolutionary and reactionary agendas of these forces. Those are emphatically not tactics that genuinely revolutionary forces would use!

But a) the crimes carried out by, or even imagined by these forces are dwarfed by those of the U.S. empire, which is built on genocidal slaughter from Hiroshima to Indonesia to Guatemala; and b) in taking on these threats, the rulers of the U.S. are essentially justifying the widest range of their own current and future war crimes, against all kinds of forces who express views in opposition to the crimes of the U.S. ruling class.


I mentioned in the opening of this letter that the unprecedented declaration of the right—and need—to kill anyone anywhere is not an indication that the rulers of this country have things under control. Just the opposite. Which emphasizes the urgency of bringing forward the real revolutionary alternative.

It's critical that people speak up and oppose the whole logic and immorality of the Obama assassination memo. And, be made aware of, engage with, and take up a real alternative: The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) renounces aggression around the world for empire. And it guarantees by far the greatest protection for dissent and civil liberties in human history, in the context of unleashing all positive factors to get to a world beyond exploitation and oppression of any kind.


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Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Iraq Background: What’s Behind the Escalating Sectarian War and U.S. Intervention?  Where Could It Go? Where Do Our Interests Lie?

By Larry Everest | June 26, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


The June 10 collapse of Iraqi government forces in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and the city’s fall to the reactionary Islamic jihadists of the ISIL and other Sunni forces, stunned the Iraqi government, the U.S. rulers, and other regional and global powers, setting off alarm bells in capitals around the world.

Since then, the situation has evolved very quickly. Jihadists and other Sunni forces have rapidly extended their control of north and west Iraq, including taking control of Iraq’s border with Syria and perhaps Jordan, and moving to within 40 miles of Baghdad. There are reports that ISIL and Sunni fighters may have taken over Iraq’s largest oil refinery. So far, the Iraqi government, headed by Nouri al-Maliki, has been unable to mount a counter-offensive, and there are deep fissures among Iraq’s ruling parties. The Obama administration is furiously working to craft a response and prevent the fall of Baghdad, including deploying military forces to the region. Iran is stepping up its presence in Iraq, and other regional states, including Saudi Arabia, are also reacting to protect their own interests. .

It’s impossible to predict where this is all going, but it could develop into a major turning point—fracturing or breaking national boundaries and ruling structures which have existed for nearly 100 years, since World War 1. These structures and relations have been key components of 70 years of U.S. domination of the Middle East, which has been crucial to the functioning and power of U.S. imperialism globally and domestically.

1. How Did We Get Here? Not Essentially Bush or Stupidity, But the Dynamics and Necessities of Imperialism!

People need to understand some key truths about the current crisis in Iraq.

It isn’t simply the “fault” or “stupidity” of Bush, Cheney and the “neocons,” as some argue. If this were the case it might be fairly easy for the U.S. to extricate itself. But it’s not. This crisis is rooted in the dynamics of capitalism-imperialism, the history of its domination of the Middle East, and the actions the U.S. rulers have felt compelled to take to maintain that dominance.

Imperialism has colonized, dominated, strangled, twisted and suffocated the Middle East for over 100 years. After World War 2 ended in 1945, the U.S. became the dominant imperial overlord. During these decades, the U.S. worked to basically put the whole region on lockdown: overall integrating the core pillars of the traditional social order—feudal, tribal, and patriarchal relations, including the prominent role of Islam and the clerical establishment—into the forms through which it dominated and exploited the region. This meant backing up or installing kings, military juntas, and tyrants, while arming and training their secret police and torturers. Nationalists, revolutionaries, and especially communists were ruthlessly suppressed. Israel has been America’s local enforcer, ethnically cleansing the indigenous Palestinian population and waging war on its neighbors. During its post-World War 2 reign, the U.S. has marauded all over the world, for instance sponsoring death squads that murdered hundreds of thousands in Central America during the 1980s alone. Yet over the last 30 years or so, there’s nowhere it has waged so many wars and military interventions as the Middle East. And both Democrats and Republicans have supported all of this!

Why? Because this was—and is!— a key strategic, military and economic crossroads linking Europe, Asia, and Africa, and home to roughly 60 percent of the world’s energy reserves. (While technological changes like fracking are shifting the global energy landscape, the Middle East still accounts for a third of global oil production, more than any other region.

The issue here is not simply or mainly U.S. oil consumption. Control of this global oil spigot has been called the “greatest strategic prize” in history by various imperialists because it’s been essential to the profitable functioning of U.S. capital, to its global economic and military dominance, and to its leverage over other powers . Hence no disruption of this setup was to be tolerated.

But by the dawn of the new millennium, tensions and contradictions were cracking the edifice of U.S. control. The 1979 Iranian revolution ended up bringing Islamic fundamentalists to power. The 1979-1988 war in Afghanistan, fueled by U.S., Pakistani, and Saudi Arabian support for anti-Soviet Islamist fighters, spawned organized jihadists hostile to both the former Soviet Union and to the West and its regional clients.

The 1989-1991 collapse of the Soviet Union (by then an imperialist power1) was a geopolitical earthquake that shifted the whole global terrain, ushering in what the Revolutionary Communist Party has identified as a “period of major transition with the potential for great upheaval.” The savaging of Iraq during the 1991 U.S. war and then 13 years of sanctions sent tremors throughout the region, yet did not take down the Hussein regime. This and Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians stirred anger and discontent across the region. Through all this, Middle Eastern oil and natural gas have created enormous, obscene wealth for imperialism and its local collaborators, while most of the region’s 300-400 million people remained impoverished and oppressed. At the same time, capitalist globalization has torn up traditional ways of survival and socialization, and propelled millions from the countryside into sprawling urban cities and slums.

These developments occurred in the wake of the 1976 overthrow of socialism and the restoration of capitalism in China following Mao's death. This had profound ideological and political reverberations worldwide, including creating a void of genuine opposition to imperialism. This also strengthened the Islamic fundamentalist current, which by the century's turn was becoming a serious challenge to U.S. interests in the Middle East and Central Asia.

So in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, the imperialists felt it was necessary to radically restructure the region. As Bush later summed up, "Years of pursuing stability to promote peace had left us with neither." They also felt they had the freedom to pursue their grand ambitions because the U.S. was then unquestionably the world's dominant power.

So they launched a "global war on terror." This was, in reality, a war for greater empire that aimed to defeat anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism, take down regimes that stood in the U.S.'s path, and economically, politically, and socially transform the whole region. They called this "draining the swamp"— drying up the roots and sources of the growing strength of Islamist opposition. All this was part of a larger strategy of preventing any other powers from rising to challenge the U.S., globally or regionally, locking in American hegemony for decades to come. In short, they aimed to create an unchallenged and unchallengeable empire.

This "war on terror" started in Afghanistan in October 2001, but shifted quickly to Iraq with the March 2003 invasion. The Bush regime considered Iraq key to advancing all of its objectives. They envisioned transforming it into a new kind of neo-colony in the region—more open to global capital, especially its oil sector, as well as a U.S.-led "democratic" pole and military platform. A central objective: weakening if not overthrowing the Islamic Republic of Iran, which the U.S. considered one of the prime sources of Islamist opposition regionally. Taking down the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein was also seen as dealing a death blow to Arab nationalism and what remained of Russian regional influence.

Such a vision required clearing the ground, so to speak, and this is what the Bush team did—shattering and disbanding the Baathist Army, privatizing the economy, and then purging the state of all former Baathists, which ended up gutting much of the Iraqi state and barring many Sunnis (who'd had the predominant role in Iraqi government society since the country's founding by the British in 1921) from having any meaningful future. These moves were seen as necessary and logical as part of the larger strategy the U.S. was pursuing.

The leading lights of the U.S. ruling class pretty much all supported the overarching objectives of the "war on terror," including the Democratic Party (and yes, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry)! That's why we shouldn't call these "wars for oil" or "Bush's war"—we should call them imperialist wars, because that's what they are.

But things did not go according to plan. U.S. planners imagined they could airlift a gang of puppet exiles into Baghdad and that they, together with the comprador Kurdish leadership (which had been in control of northeast Iraq since the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War), would form the core of a new U.S.-dominated "democracy." But these exiles had little popular support and no organization on the ground, and the U.S. quickly realized they couldn't cohere a nationwide government. Meanwhile an armed Baathist and Sunni Islamist resistance was emerging. So the U.S. was forced to turn to a number of different, and often contending, Shi'a religious parties, most with long-standing ties to Iran, along with the Kurdish leadership and some Sunnis to form a government.2 The outcome was the replacement of an essentially secular and nationalist neocolonial state with an Islamic state constructed along sectarian lines, dominated by religious Shi'as and also subordinate to imperialism.

The U.S.'s grand plans were made all the more difficult to achieve by the fact it was doing transformation "on the cheap"—with relatively few troops. Why? In part because their strategy was to move on to the next target, not get bogged down.

But bogged down they got, by an armed anti-U.S. resistance that included tribal, nationalist and jihadist Sunnis, as well as some Shi'a militias. This conflict evolved by 2006 into a savage sectarian civil war with the Iraqi government, backed by the U.S., utilizing death squads, torture chambers, and the sectarian 'cleansing' of many Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad. After peaking around 2008, fighting between the Iraqi government forces and Sunni jihadists and other Sunni forces in northwest Iraq has escalated sharply since 2013.

These events jolted the region. They strengthened the oppressive Shi'a regime in Iran and threatened to undercut pro-U.S. Sunni tyrannies like Saudi Arabia. This shift in the balance of forces has provoked a regional battle—sometimes open, often hidden—between the Saudis and other Gulf states backing Sunni forces, and Iran backing Shi'a forces.

As this was taking place, other developments in the region were both increasing mass suffering and shaking ruling structures. Drought created by global warming has hammered the region's agriculture. The global food and financial crises of 2008-2009 hit hard. This was the terrain out of which the "Arab Spring" exploded, increasing the fragility of the regional order, which the U.S. then exacerbated by first promising "democracy," and then supporting coups overthrowing elected Islamists, for instance in Egypt.

Syria has become a focal point—and nodal point—of these contradictions and a major factor in the crisis in Iraq today. In March 2011, in the wake of uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, tens of thousands of Syrians rose up against the oppressive Assad regime, which responded brutally. Since then, the battle in Syria has devolved into a nightmarish civil war dominated by reactionaries on both sides: Assad, backed by Iran and Russia on one side, and anti-Assad forces, dominated by reactionary Sunni Jihadists, as well as forces backed by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and other powers on the other. The Syrian people's suffering has been unimaginable, with some 160,000 killed, and at least 2.5 million forced to flee their homes. This is a major crime of U.S. imperialism, which has both stoked the carnage, and—along with all that's been described above—added jet fuel to reactionary Islamic Jihadism, giving it big openings in which to organize, grow, and become battle-hardened.

This whole history—from 1945 to the current day—shows that the interests of U.S. imperialism—what the rulers call "American interests"—are NOT in the interests of humanity, including those who happen to live within the borders of the U.S. The rulers' actions have led to terrible suffering and oppression for millions, decade after decade. Their interests are against the interests of the people—in the Middle East, here and around the world. Why should anyone think anything good can come from further U.S. intervention and domination?

Those in power understand that they must "never let them see you sweat," in other words never reveal their fears and vulnerabilities to those they oppress and rule over. Yet the events unfolding before our eyes show that the system of imperialism is full of contradictions and its rulers are not all knowing3 and not all powerful. Their "war on terror" has failed to achieve its objectives; it was designed to strengthen U.S. imperialism, instead it's created new problems and difficulties, not just in the Middle East but globally as well.

2. They can't leave...and they have no good options.

Obama's aim has been to maintain overall U.S. dominance in the Middle East-Central Asian regions, while extricating it from direct, on-the-ground wars there. One element: combating "terrorism" via drone strikes and special forces operations, as well as utilizing mercenaries and local reactionary allies. In some instances, this has meant inciting and manipulating sectarian violence—even as that can get out of their control. The Obama team—and there are sharp divisions within the U.S. ruling class over global strategy—has been driven to take these steps by the tremendous costs and ultimate failures of U.S. ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as their need to focus on repelling growing challenges from Russia and China—sharply posed in Ukraine and the South China Sea respectively—as well as other powers. Hence, Obama's stated goal of a "pivot to Asia."

However, in light of the threat to the Iraqi state, the U.S. rulers feel they have little choice, given the threat posed by ISIL to the regional order, but to send advisors, warships, and intelligence assets to prevent the reactionary Maliki regime from collapsing, even as they are maneuvering to forge a government more to their liking, and to prevent increased Iranian influence. But this choice is also full of dangers and uncertainties. For instance, the Iraqi army may be too rotten to successfully prop up. Another possible problem, the Maliki government seems to be counting on rallying the Shi'a population for a holy war against the Sunnis, and this could turn into a horrific, U.S.-supported bloodbath, further stoking Sunni Jihadism and shaking Sunni states. Then there's Iran. While it has been an enormous problem for the U.S. and its key ally Israel, the U.S. seems to be exploring at least a tactical alliance with Iran to save the Iraq state, but this too could end up strengthening Iran in the longer term.4

The U.S. rulers feel they must keep their grip on the region, including to contend with other powers globally. Yet their focus on the region has also given openings to these rivals. And now, it's possible that the U.S. will get sucked more directly back into the cauldron of the Middle East—even as Obama understands how perilous this could be.

The U.S.'s goal in all this is to attempt to protect the region's oppressive ruling forces and its subordination to imperialism. In other words, whatever particular tack the U.S. takes, its actions will only bring more horrors for the people.

3. These events have the potential to turn into major crises, forcing the imperialists to act in ways that are very risky for their power and legitimacy.

Revolution's editorial "Summer 2014: Making Advances...Toward Revolution" pointed out:

Even as this is being written, there is dramatic change going on—and the potential for much greater change. The nexus of Iraq, Syria, and Iran is in deep crisis... Ukraine... Egypt... who can say what may happen? Revolutionaries have to be preparing people even now to distinguish the interests of the people of the world from those of the imperialists.

The crisis in Iraq is one example, and it prompted some actual truth-telling from the rulers.

New York Times columnist David Brooks told PBS Newshour (6/13) that the ISIL-led offensive in Iraq is:

[A] gigantic problem. The idea—and this has been talked about by experts the last couple of years in particular—that it just becomes one big war, that the borders get erased, that the Sunni-Shiite splits—people are watching this—the Sunni-Shiite splits transcend borders and spread all over the region...Then you have regional powers. You got Turkey. You got the Saudis, the Iranians. Everyone's getting involved. And I just—what I read, what I hear from the people who really are experts, it's World War I. It's really a very perilous, extremely perilous situation.

Take Jordan, which is very important for the defense and stability of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Jordan is a small, relatively weak monarchy, with a majority Palestinian population bordering Syria, Iraq, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. It's now under enormous stress from the flood of refugees from first Iraq and now Syria, as well as the global economic downturn. And it's being targeted by ISIL and other Jihadists who now reportedly control its border with Iraq. And then there's Saudi Arabia, long the world's leading oil producer. While the Kingdom has aided jihadist forces to advance its own interests, these Islamist forces are also vehemently opposed to the "corrupt" Saudi monarchy. The destabilization of Jordan or Saudi Arabia would send shockwaves globally and could prompt massive U.S. and/or Israeli military responses, further throwing the region into turmoil.

4. There is a way out—revolution!

All these contradictions in the Middle East are interacting with other contradictions—globally and within the U.S.

The situation is very urgent—pregnant with possibilities and potential openings to hasten the advent of revolution, but also big challenges for the revolutionaries and grave dangers for the people. Things can happen very quickly. So it's urgent, as Revolution put it, that "We have to be alive to the world, and ready to respond in a heartbeat":

As Revolution editorialized:

Prepare the ground, prepare the people, and prepare the vanguard—get ready for the time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win.


1. In the mid-1950s, socialism was overthrown and replaced by a form of state capitalism, although the Soviet rulers continued to operate under the banner of “communism.” See You Don't Know What You Think You "Know" About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future. [back]

2. Sunnis and Kurds each comprise about 20 percent of Iraq's population, with Shi'as making up the remaining 60 percent. [back]

3. In his memoir Duty, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates writes that the U.S. nearly always begins wars "profoundly ignorant about our adversaries and about the situation on the ground," and acknowledges the U.S. went into Iraq and Afghanistan "oblivious to how little we knew." pp 589-90 [back]

4. Analyzing the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the world's major powers over its nuclear program and the evolution of U.S. strategy toward Iran overall is beyond the scope of this article. However, in light of the extreme necessities they face, some sections of the U.S. ruling class seem to be exploring the possibility of a major shift in approach to Iran, including forging a new relationship, even alliance, with the Islamic Republic, while serving the reactionary interests of both states (including by maintaining the U.S. dominated regional order). I hope to speak to this in future articles. [back]




Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

This call appeared on the Stop Mass Incarceration Network website:

A Call for a Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation!

April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


For 2 generations, Black and Latina/Latino youth in the U.S. have been shipped off to prison in numbers never before seen anywhere in the world at any time. More than 2 million people, of all nationalities languish in prison—ten times the number 50 years ago. The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prison population! More than 60% of those in U.S. prisons are Black or Latina/o. 32% of Black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are in prison or on parole or probation on any given day. More than 80,000 people in prison are held in solitary confinement under conditions that fit the international definition of torture.

The incarceration of women has increased by 800% over the last 30 years. They, along with those whose sexual orientation is not “mainstream” or who are gender non-conforming—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex prisoners—face extremely harsh and abusive treatment in prison, including widespread rape. Alongside this has risen a massive program of criminally prosecuting undocumented immigrants, essentially hidden from public view. As a result of the devastation of their homelands, these immigrants have been driven to this country to work without papers, and today they are being criminalized. The U.S. chastises other countries for human rights violations, yet it enmeshes the lives of tens of millions of people in its criminal “injustice” system. The courts, cops, prisons and La Migra all play a part in enforcing mass incarceration. There are genocidal aspects and a genocidal logic to this program, and it has been gathering momentum. All this is intolerable, and, if it isn’t stopped, it will get much worse!

Mass incarceration has grown beside the criminalization of whole peoples; a situation in which every African-American or Latina/o is a permanent suspect—treated as guilty until proven innocent by police and racist vigilantes, if they can survive to prove their innocence. This is especially concentrated among the youth, starting with cops in schools, arresting children for things that used to mean a visit to the principal’s office at worse, putting youth on a trajectory from school to prison. Black and Latina/o youth have a target on their backs in this society. Literally tens of millions of lives have been scarred and worse—both the direct victims and their families and communities. People who heroically resisted these and other injustices have been imprisoned, some of them for decades. These political prisoners must be freed.

The malignancy of mass incarceration did not arise from a sudden epidemic of crime. Nor did it result from people making poor personal choices. Instead it arose from cold political calculations made in response to the massive and heroic struggle for the rights of Black and other minority peoples that took place in the 1960’s and 70’s, and in response to the enormous economic and social changes brought about by globalized production. This cancer of mass incarceration has been, from the beginning, nothing but a new Jim Crow in place of the old one. Like the old Jim Crow, it drew on, fed off and reinforced the deep-seated roots of the racism that grew up with slavery. Like the old Jim Crow, it has been, from the beginning, unjustifiable, utterly immoral and thoroughly illegitimate.

This must stop—NOW! Not the next generation, not in ten years, not any time off in some promised future that never seems to come. NOW!

But it will not stop unless and until millions of people, of all nationalities, stand up and say NO MORE, in unmistakable terms. The history of this and every other country shows that without struggle, there can be no positive change; but with struggle this kind of change becomes possible.

It is not enough to oppose this in the privacy of your own conscience or the company of like-minded people. It is not enough to curse this out, but then tell yourself nothing can be done. If you live your life under this threat, you MUST act. If you understand how wrong this is and how much it devastates the lives of so many millions, you MUST act.

NOW is the time to act. People are beginning to awaken and stir. Resistance has begun: Heroic hunger strikes by people in prisons and detention centers and outpourings in response to murders by police and racist vigilantes. Prisoners in solitary confinement in California declared a cessation of racial hostilities as Black, Latino and white prisoners came together to resist the torture of solitary confinement. All this must be taken to a much higher level. We call for a massive Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration in October of this year; a Month that can impact all of society; one that can open the eyes of millions of people to the need to end this new Jim Crow.

In October, 2014, our resistance to mass incarceration must reverberate across the country and around the world. There must be powerful demonstrations nationwide on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Throughout October there must be panels and symposiums on campuses and in neighborhoods; major concerts and other cultural expressions; ferment in the 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 the mass incarceration in the U.S. To that end:


Initial Signatories include:

Stop Mass Incarceration Network
Cornel West, author, educator, voice of conscience
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party
Noam Chomsky, Professor (ret.), MIT*
Marjorie Cohn, Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Robin D.G. Kelley, Distinguished Professor of History, UCLA*
Carl Hart, Professor, Author of "High Price"
Colin Dayan, Professor, Vanderbilt University
Henry A. Giroux, McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest
Efia Nwangaza, Malcolm X Center/Radio Station WMXP*
Ulis C. Williams, Olympic Gold Medalist, 4 x 400m Relay, 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo
Aleta Alston-Toure, New Jim Crow Movement/Free Marissa Now*
Pam Africa, International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal
Cephus "Uncle Bobby" Johnson - uncle of Oscar Grant, killed by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
     Police New Years Day, 2009
Stephen Rohde, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP)*
Debra Sweet, Director, World Can't Wait
Medea Benjamin, Co-founder, CODEPINK*
John L. Burris, lawyer
Marilyn S. McMahon, California Prison Focus*
Juanita Young, mother of Malcolm Ferguson - killed in 2000 by NYPD
Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez - killed in 1994 by NYPD
Dionne Smith Downs and Carey Downs, parents of James Earl Rivera Jr. - killed in 2010
     by Stockton Police
Collette Flanagan, Founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, mother of Clinton Allen - killed
     by Dallas Police in 2013
Gloria Leiva, mother of Dante Pomar - killed in 2004 by NYPD
Gilda Baker, Mother of Diallo Neal, Killed by California Highway Patrol in 2005
Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., son of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. - killed by White Plains (NY)
     Police, 2013
Miles Solay, OuterNational
Denis O'Hearn, Professor of Sociology, Binghamton University and author of Nothing but
     an Unfinished Song: Bobby Sands, the Irish Hunger Striker Who Ignited a Generation

Blase Bonpane, Ph.D. Director, Office of the Americas*
Marie Martin, retired nurse and teacher, relative in solitary confinement in CA prison
Margarita McAuliffe, Founder, Texas Moms United For Domestic Peace*
F. Luis Barrios, professor, John Jay College, IFCO - Pastors for Peace
Cynthia McKinney
Jim Vrettos, professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice*
Marvin X, poet, playwright, essayist, Black Bird Press News*
Rev. Jerome McCorry, The Adam Project*
Rev. Stephen A. Phelps, former Interim Senior Minister, The Riverside Church* New York
Rev. Frank Wulf, United University Church*
Ray Hill, 30 years Producer and Host of "The Prison Show", KPFT, Houston, TX
Obidike Kamau, 15 years Host and Producer, "Self-Determination", KPFT 90.1 FM, Houston, TX
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor *Tikkun: a quarterly Jewish and Interfaith Critique of Politics,
     Culture and Society*
Dahlia Wasfi M.D.
Rev. Richard Meri Ka Ra Byrd, KRST Unity Center*
Rev. Darrel Meyers, Minister (ret.) Presbyterian Church (USA)*
Dorsey O. Blake, Presiding Minister of the Church of All Peoples*
Mary Ratcliff, Editor, San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper*
Grace Dyrness, ICUJP*
Jim Lafferty, Executive Director, Los Angeles Chapter, National Lawyers Guild
Rafael C. Angulo, USC School of Social Work*
Rael Nidess M.D.
Dread Scott, Artist
Manuel Olivera, Actor
Alaudin Ullah, Actor
Elizabeth Forsythe Haily, novelist and playwright, ICUJP*
Lynne Stewart & Ralph Poynter
Mike Holman, Executive Director, Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund*
Andres Thomas Conteris, Nonviolence International*
Dr. James Cockroft, Ph.D
Rev. Jerald Stinson, Interfaith Communities United For Justice and Peace*
King Downing, Human Rights-Racial Justice Center*
Iskander Kourkjian-Mowad, #Justice4Cecily*
Afua Ampoma, Recovering and Rebuilding, Inc.
"Cye" Harold Sheppard Jr., Advancing the Ancester Coalition (ATAC)*
Vernellia R. Randall, Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Dayton
Paul Von Blum, Senior Lecturer, African-American and Communication Studies, UCLA*
David B. Rankin, Esq., Rankin and Taylor*
Tarak Kauff, Veterans For Peace* National Board Member
Bonnie Kerness, American Friends Service Committee,* Newark NJ
Mary Phillips, Lehman College*, Bronx NY
Erin Adair, Oberlin Abolition Network*, Oberlin
Amanda Morales, Welfare Warriors*
Milwaukee; People's Organization for Progress, New York Chapter
Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice
Justice For Families, Portland, OR
Global Kindness Revolution and Sagewriters
Racial Justice Now!

*for identification purposes only






Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Understanding Genocide, Black People, and Capitalist Accumulation

June 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


The following paper was contributed by a reader of Revolution.

The Stop Mass Incarceration Network has a slogan: Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide.

This is not hyperbole—this is scientifically true, this reflects reality. And it is important that people see why this is happening and what it reveals about U.S. society to be able to understand what is the problem AND its solution.

So the purpose of this paper is to get into this question of why and how in fact there is a program of genocide against Black people in America today—and what this has to do with the nature of the capitalist system we live under.

What is Genocide?

The first question we need to ask is, what is genocide?

The basic description of what constitutes genocide is conveyed in two key documents. The first one, Raphael Lemkin’s book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, published in 1944, introduced the concept of (and the very word) genocide. One summary of this book said:

“Genocide was the coordinated and planned annihilation of a national, religious, or racial group by a variety of actions aimed at undermining the foundations essential to the survival of the group as a group. Lemkin conceived of genocide as a ‘composite of different acts of persecution or destruction.’ His definition included attacks on political and social institutions, culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of the group. Even non-lethal acts that undermined the liberty, dignity, and personal security of members of a group constituted genocide if they contributed to weakening of the viability of the group.” (See: A summary in Chalk and Jonassohn, The History and Sociology of Genocide: Analyses and Case Studies, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992, pp. 8-9).

Here, the most important point is where it says “undermining the foundations essential to the survival of the group.” By “foundations” the authors are referring to the economic, social, and cultural institutions and activities that a people depend on in order to survive and thrive. This is what Lemkin in his original presentation described as “a composite of different acts of persecution or destruction...contribut[ing] to the weakening of the viability of the group.”

The second document that gives a good description of genocide is the United Nations' Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948. The description here, adopted by the UN, says: “Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such: a) Killing members of the group; b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Here the crux of the matter is the combination of acts and policies causing serious physical and mental harm to members of the group, and the deliberate imposition on the group of “conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

POINT ONE: There IS a Genocidal Program in the U.S.

So now, looking at these descriptions of key elements of genocide, we can examine how these do in fact describe the thrust of a program organized and executed by the U.S. imperialist state and directed at Black people in the United States—a whole process that has led to a situation where today more than 2.2 million people are in prison in the U.S.—the majority Black and Latino.

This program has existed as part of the overall national oppression of Black people in the United States and it has reinforced and intensified this oppression. Point 2 of this article will explore the reasons behind this whole program and how it reflects the very nature and necessary workings of the capitalist system. But first, let’s look at how this program has in fact developed with a genocidal thrust and effect.

It began in the early 1970s and has pivoted on the war on drugs; the mass incarceration of Black and Latino youth; and police repression, brutality, and murder—which all developed and took leaps over the last several decades. For example, in 1980 about a half million people were in jail in the United States. By 2006, that number was 2.3 million with this explosion of mass incarceration having a particularly devastating effect on Black and Latino communities.

Michelle Alexander makes a very important point with regard to this in her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. She emphasizes that mass incarceration—and we shouldn’t lose sight of the mass dimensions of this—involves both the criminal justice system AND all that goes together with this: its laws, rules, policies, customs, etc. And all these things affect the “conditions of life” of those who are labeled criminals, felons, prisoners, etc.


In other words, it is not just that a huge population of Black men (and women) have and are serving a certain amount of time in prison. There is also the label of “criminal” that whole groupings of people are given. There has been the “criminalization of generations” of Black and Latino youth. And for those who have been to prison there is the added pariah status of “ex-con,” “ex-offender,” “someone who has a record.” One could accurately say that the way Black men who get out of prison are labeled and treated is a modern-day equivalent of the way the Nazis forced the Jews to wear the “yellow badge” as they, first, marked Jews off as a “dangerous” and “undesirable” section of the population, then, later, rounded them up, put them into concentration camps, and then exterminated them. If you are Black and “have a record,” you face incredible barriers and discrimination in employment, housing, etc. This targeting of Black people in society, especially the youth, is part of a whole “architecture,” a whole program of social control, discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt.

Think about this: A genocidal program needs to create broad public opinion to justify the attacks on the section of the population it is targeting. So, for example, getting middle class people as well as people in the Black community itself to think that the Black youth are “criminals who are hopeless and have no one to blame but themselves” has been an important ideological component of justifying the war on drugs and mass incarceration. And this also lays the basis for the system to get people in society to accept future and even more genocidal attacks against Black people, especially the youth.


Social Control and Destruction

This program of the “war on drugs,” mass incarceration, and the devastation/decimation of communities is linked to the larger dynamics of accumulation (more about this in Point 2). It has developed through and been presided over by every U.S. president starting with Nixon, including Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and Obama. It is the result of a conscious policy on the part of the U.S. ruling class, with very conscious aims.

This has been and is a program that is not just making life difficult for Black people. It IS the continuation and the intensification of the savage oppression of Black people. But it is not just this. This is a qualitative development in the oppression of Black people. It is a program to both control Black people, especially the youth, AND to prevent any resistance— or indeed the emergence of a movement for revolution among them.

There is a machinery of social control and an economic dynamic that, taken together, are destroying life chances and the viable survival of a people.

So, to go back to the substantive meaning of the term genocide: the capitalist-imperialist state is inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the destruction of a people in whole or in part. This genocidal program is not at this stage taking the form of mass extermination—as when Nazi Germany murdered six million Jews in the early 1940s, or when the Ottoman-Turkish empire set out to kill off the Armenian population in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But:

1) There is a program of social control and an economic dynamic that together, right now are undermining the conditions of viable survival of Black people, and

2) This program can go in the direction of extermination. An important talk from the Revolutionary Communist Party, “Where We Are in the Revolution,” identifies three stages of genocide historically: demonization, containment, and extermination. The first two of these stages are fully in effect in the U.S. And to restate and reemphasize: the U.S. imperialist state, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, has organized and has been carrying out this program. There is the real potential for extermination: in relation to further developments in society and the world, and also in relation to moves by Christian fascist elements, including and especially right inside the government. (For more on the Christian fascist program, see BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!)

POINT TWO: The Accumulation of Capital and the Creation of a “Surplus” Population

So, now that we’ve explored the question of WHY it is true and scientific to say there’s a genocidal program aimed at Black people in the United States, let’s step back and look at what’s behind this program—WHY it came about and what it has to do with the very nature and workings of the capitalist system.

Black people have increasingly become a “surplus” population in relation to the profitable functioning of U.S. capitalism-imperialism.

Just look at Detroit, a city with a largely Black population. For decades this was a place where tens of thousands of Black people had relatively stable, decent-paying jobs—even if they still faced systematic and intense discrimination, not just on the job but in every other facet of life. But almost all of the big auto plants in Detroit eventually closed because it was more profitable to move these factories—first to non-urban areas in the U.S., then across the border to Mexico, and then overseas to countries in Asia where wages are far lower than in the United States. These are the dynamics of capitalism, where different capitalists are locked in rivalry and competition with each other—always searching for the highest profit and therefore looking for cheaper sources of labor, cheaper ways of producing profit. In 2009 the unemployment rate in Detroit peaked at close to 25 percent. Today it's close to 18 percent. For the youth, it's more than 50 percent. (See "The System Killing Detroit" at

This de-industrialization in America has happened all over the U.S., leading to a situation where Black people are no longer needed in the same way as they had been in the past in relation to the requirements of U.S. capitalism-imperialism.

The fact is: this system of capitalism-imperialism has NO FUTURE for Black youth, and this situation is becoming even more intense through the further workings of the system itself.

A vicious fairy tale is promoted by this system that capitalism is the best of all possible worlds and that the more it develops, the stronger it gets, the more money it generates, the more technology it develops—that all the people will benefit from this. But the situation of Black people in America underscores just how much this is a vicious lie.

Let’s look at some of the ways the very workings of capitalism/imperialism have led and continue to lead to a situation where Black people, especially the youth, have become for the system a “surplus population,”—left with no jobs, no social services, the worst education and health care, as they are subjected to a genocidal program.

1. Globalization. More and more, U.S. capitalism-imperialism involves capital investments overseas and the outsourcing of production to other countries, like capitalist China, where the costs of production, especially wages, are extremely low. Trade and finance have also become more and more global. Just think about all the big companies that produce your clothes, your phones, computers, cars, etc.—there’s a good chance they are very “international”—in terms of where their products are produced, as well as where they have their financial offices and operations.

This globalization is driven by the competitive quest for profitability. It is much more profitable, for example, to set up a garment sweatshop in a country where there is child labor, or in a country like Bangladesh where you can pay workers 21 cents an hour.

This globalization has resulted in widespread deindustrialization in major metropolitan areas of the U.S. (as we looked at with Detroit). As late as 1970, 60-70 percent of Blacks employed in metropolitan areas were working in blue-collar jobs. But for the most part, these jobs no longer exist.

2. The suburbanization of industrial production. Some industry has relocated to the suburbs. But these jobs are generally not within access to public transportation, locking out many Black and poor people.

3. The “high-tech” economy.

4. Imperialism producing and feasting on migrant labor.

This increases the size and adds to pressures on the total number of people in the U.S. who are going in and out of having jobs (what Marx called the “reserve army of labor”).

What this means is that there are more and more people competing for the lower-end, low-paying jobs. And this contributes to a situation where more young Black men are suffering long-term employment, sometimes dropping out of even looking for a job.

5. The savage assault on social spending. The 1980s and 1990s saw massive cutbacks in welfare, cutbacks in spending on public education and urban social programs, etc. Reagan callously decreed social cuts. Bill Clinton triumphantly proclaimed “ending welfare as we know it.”

As globalization has deepened and accelerated, competition has intensified among the capitalist-imperialist countries in the world economy. This has led to a “leaner and meaner” capitalism, with severe controls on and cuts in social spending, especially in the cities—schools closing down, fewer health clinics, social services cut, etc.

This has had massive effects on the Black community: More stresses on families scraping to survive, more people being driven into the “illegal economy,” more poverty and homelessness.

As this is being written in late June 2014, households in Detroit that are more than $150 behind in their water bills (overwhelmingly Black households) are being threatened with cut-off of water! This is austerity taken to a new level—the denial of the basic human right to water. It is part of and accelerating a larger genocidal program.

6. A horrible mix: mass incarceration and welfare cuts.

On the one hand, there have been the cuts in welfare and the establishment of “workfare”—which means more people, especially women, have to work in demeaning, low-paying shit jobs in order to get financial assistance. On the other hand, there is an increasingly huge and desperate population of ex-prisoners stigmatized as “people with a record” who face extreme caste-like discrimination and can’t get jobs or only the lowest paying jobs.

By 2000, 1 of out of every 3 young Black men without work was in prison or jail. This is the vicious cycle produced by the capitalist-imperialist system.

An academic study of Black communities in Chicago provides an important look at the effects of mass incarceration on employment at a time of increasing cutbacks in social spending1. It found that:

7. The “Great Recession of 2008-2009.”


The exploitation of the African-American people—first as slaves, then as sharecroppers, and in the 20th century as a section of super-exploited workers—has been essential to the establishment, functioning, and development of U.S. capitalism-imperialism. But major changes have taken place.

Black people are no longer serving the needs and profitable functioning of capital in the same way as before. They are no longer inserted into the larger economic structures in the same way as before. The system has increasingly turned African-Americans into a “surplus” population.

This was not the product of a grand plan. It is the product of the expand-or-die workings of capital in the U.S. and on a world scale—this anarchic, competitive drive of capital interacting with the historical and continuing oppression of Black people in the U.S. And there have been conscious policies with very conscious aims on the part of the U.S. ruling class which have enforced and deepened this oppression.

But this “surplus” population is a population that the U.S. ruling class recognizes as a potentially explosive and revolutionary one. From the standpoint of the ruling class, it is a population to be policed, criminalized, and broken. Which brings us back to the discussion of genocide and Black people: a machinery of social control and an economic dynamic that, taken together, are destroying life chances and the viable survival of a people.


1. Jamie Peck and Nik Theodore, “Carceral Chicago: Making the Ex-offender Employability Crisis,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, June 2008 [back]

2. Thomas Shapiro, The Roots of the Widening Racial Wealth Gap: Explaining the Black-White Economic Divide, (Waltham, Mass.: Institute on Assets and Social Policy, 2013). [back]




Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

From A World to Win News Service:

Oppose all the reactionary efforts to take advantage of this situation and instead use it to build a revolutionary movement

June 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


June 24, 2014. A World to Win News Service. The following is excerpted and edited from a statement by the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist -Maoist) posted in mid-June.

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) is another government very worried by the advance of ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria]. The Baghdad regime has very close relations with the IRI. Iranian political and military experts played an important role in training the present Iraqi army, at least its Shia sections. After the ISIS attack on Mosul, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, the notoriously bloodthirsty General Qasem Soleimani, went to Baghdad to protect the capital with 150 military "experts" and 1,000 troops.

Ever since the formation of ISIS, the IRI has called them "Takfiris" [Muslims who label other Muslims infidels], and ever since the crisis in Syria, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have fought them. IRI leaders say that ISIS is a Saudi creation for confronting Iran. Iranian military forces are on alert in the western part of the country and in Iranian Kurdistan, and flights to Iraq, including of Iranian pilgrims, have stopped. The ISIS attacks have added a new contradiction to all the others among the Islamic Republic rulers: should the IRI use the Revolutionary Guards to go all out militarily against ISIS, or help Iraq in a more limited fashion? Should the IRI continue supporting the Nouri al-Maliki regime or abandon it?

Because of these internal contradictions, different IRI leaders have different positions. But on the whole, the IRI is using this to declare cooperation with the U.S. in dirty regional wars. On the anniversary of his election, President Hassan Rouhani cried, "We are fighting world terrorism!" On June 14, he declared, "If the IRI sees U.S. military action against ISIS, some kind of collaboration between both countries can be envisaged." At the same time as he is yelling about "terrorism", a very severe state terrorism is on the march inside Iran itself, as the regime continues to suppress oppressed nationalities and religious minorities. In the past few days, two Arab activists were executed and 57 Kurdish youth accused of collaborating with Salafi [Sunni fundamentalist] and Kurdish political forces were brought before the courts.

Of course, in the case of further intervention by the IRI in Iraq, we must expect a reaction from ISIS supporters in the Sunni and border areas of Iran like Baluchistan and elsewhere. The irony is that the first ones to proclaim a religious regime in recent history are now proclaiming their opposition to other reactionary forces, who, like the IRI, also want to establish the rule of Allah on earth.

Reactionary forces in the Middle East and Africa whether Shia, Sunni or Salafi, have raised the banner of Islam to attain power and share in the exploitation and plunder of the people along with the imperialist powers. In this endeavor they will commit any crime necessary. The Islamic ideology is an extremely reactionary and anti-people ideology and social program, and the growth of Islamic fundamentalism is the outcome of imperialist capitalism's vicious crimes and its functioning in the world. The dire economic and social consequences have brought about horrors for millions in the peripheral countries, including in the Middle East and North Africa, and resulted in the formation of Islamic fundamentalist movements there. Islamism is a reactionary movement with no perspective other than the continuation of capitalist relations and poverty, misery, ignorance, superstition, patriarchy and misogyny for the workers and toilers in these countries.

Even though the consequences of a military engagement in a region brimming with contradictions and instability are not clear for the theocratic rulers of Iran, in the mid, long or even short term, the necessity to maintain a system which to its core is totally dependent and reliant on the world capitalist imperialist system forces the IRI in that direction. Any defeat in this engagement would worsen the IRI's own political, economic and ideological crisis, including the contradictions among the rulers themselves. Nevertheless, regime leaders view entering this regional war as an opportunity to safeguard their system. They see the necessity of playing a dangerous and multi-sided game, striving to become the main ally of the imperialist powers in the region and challenging the Islamist fighters of al-Qaeda and the paramilitary forces dependent on Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc., even if the grenade might explode in their own hands. The situation in the Middle East is such that the ruling regimes can only gain credit with the imperialists through such measures. Almost no state can stay away from these contradictions and conflicts

Various forces in the Iranian opposition have had different positions on the situation. Right after the ISIS offensive, Mojahedin Khalq [an Iranian organization often described as "Marxist Islamic" that fought the Iranian regime] told Al Jazeera TV news that the city of Mosul was under the control of Iraqi revolutionaries and tribes. That a force like the Mojahedin in the region would start to support and even work with ISIS is not extraordinary.

In a leaflet on the first day of the crisis, Komala Zahmatkeshan [a largely Kurdish Iranian party that calls itself "Marxist-Leninist"] said that the Iraqi Kurdish government should "bring back the regions cut off from Kurdistan into the arms of the Kurdish Autonomous Region to protect them from against ISIS" and that all the political forces of Iraqi Kurdistan should unite with that government in that. Komala also said, "We declare our support for the Kurdish Autonomous Region government to protect the people of Iraqi Kurdistan and are ready for collaboration in any way possible to protect this historical experience from the danger of terrorists and racists."

Such declarations on the part of nationalist and pro-imperialist forces like the Komala are not new. For a long time this party sang the old hymn of siding with whatever reactionary forces are in power. One day they unite with Ahmed Chalabi and imperialists against Saddam, and the next, despite their intentions, with Nouri al-Maliki and the IRI under the pretext of defending the Kurdish Autonomous Region. Even when they themselves are not in power, the class nature of such forces is obvious. These are mainly looking for a place and their part in the oppressive world and a share in exploitative relations.

Such forces are looking for a middle road out of this mess but again and again fall into the trap of trying to choose between bad and worse, going along with one set of the reactionary imperialist or Islamic fundamentalist forces and reactionary states in the region.

During the first imperialist world war, Lenin was the only one who opposed a similar stand taken by the strong Social Democratic parties of the time, and exposed the reactionary nature of that imperialist war. He said the real nature of this war must be exposed and the sophistry and patriotic warmongering of the imperialist ruling classes in promoting the war should be ruthlessly exposed. Today also, communist and revolutionary forces must expose the nature of all the reactionary forces and states, whether ruling or outside the state, under the orders of the U.S. or any other imperialists, and caution that any attempt to get close to these reactionary powers or groups on either side of the equation will only reinforce the slave chains on the region's people.

The reason that young people of different nationalities are fighting under the black banners of ISIS, the Taliban or other Islamists in the region is not only because the states of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya and Egypt, etc., are unjust and corrupt. It is also because there is no communist alternative on the scene. A communist alternative—if it has a clear understanding of the political situation in the region and the world and the complex contradictions among various reactionary and bourgeois and pro-imperialist forces—can show a path to a real socialist revolution, for the revolutionary overthrow of all these states and the elimination of imperialist influence in the region, in unity with the international proletariat. This lack is sorely felt in the region. As long as such a force and communist pole is not formed in the region and the world, forces like ISIS will have the possibility and opportunity to mobilize masses of people, including workers and toilers. The genuine communist and revolutionary forces, even when they are a very small minority, should not leave people to choose between bad and worse and not fall into that themselves.

The task of all progressive (let alone communists) individuals and groups is to take a position against the IRI's participation in the war in Iraq or anywhere else, and encourage the people to hate this reactionary "mission" that would serve the world imperialist system.

We need to expose the hypocrisy of the IRI's security, military and ideological leaders who want to portray the despicable act of sending the Revolutionary Guards to fight in a reactionary war as in the "national interest" and meant to "make Iran secure" and justify it this way. People should know that the ISIS and the IRI share a common nature. The crimes of the IRI against Arab people in [the Iranian province of] Khuzestan should be exposed. Many Arab youth are going down the wrong road of serving the Salafis in opposition to the IRI. These youth and all the people, whether Kurds, Arabs, Fars, Turks or Turkmens, should know that the people's road is not that of any of these reactionaries, whether the IRI or its Sunni rivals.

Shortsighted horizons, whether religious, national or regional, can only bring misery for the majority of the people. The people should see beyond national, regional, religious, racial and sexual/gender divisions and understand the broader horizon of internationalist unity based on class interests. The workers and worker activists in particular should take a position against the anti-Sunni and anti-Arab propaganda and "national" bigotry coming from Iran's security and military mouthpieces. Let us not forget the Iran-Iraq war, when hundreds of thousands of youth were sent to walk through mine fields in a reactionary war, and the toilers of Iran and Iraq were forced to kill each other and be killed to strengthen Saddam and Khomeini's thrones.

Amidst all this, women should be in the forefront in taking a position against the military adventurism of the IRI, because in a war between the Islamic reactionaries of Iran and the Islamic reactionaries of Iraq or anywhere else, women will be the first victims.

It is necessary that revolutionary and communist forces both expose the nature of ISIS and other fundamentalist Islamic forces in the region, and expose and oppose the IRI regime and its willingness to unite with U.S. imperialism and intervention and expansionism in Iraq, Syria and other places. The regime should not be allowed to strengthen its ties with the imperialists by fanning the flames of war between Shiite and Sunni and posing as "anti-extremists" to expand its own influence in the region. The regime should not be allowed to hide behind the dark face of the ISIS reactionaries, or to use them to prettify its own ugly and suppressive face in the eyes of the various sections of the people. It should not be allowed to take advantage of Sunni fundamentalism to suppress the protests of oppressed people in Iran like Arabs and Baluchis.

This is the same regime that within its own borders still enforces vicious laws like the stoning of women, that from every pulpit preaches religion, ignorance and superstition, and that regularly unleashes their morals patrol against women.

We should expose the real reactionary nature of these horrible wars. The people of Iraq in the past decades have had a taste of imperialist and reactionary politics. Millions of Iraqi children have been the victims of imperialist sanctions. Millions of Iraqis have been driven into the diaspora. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi workers and toilers have died or been injured, and many lost their lives in the dungeons of Abu Ghraib. Today, the Iraqi people must not let new and old criminals in whatever guise once again run the show.

The political structures in the region put in place after WW1 and WW2 under the patronage of the Western imperialists led by the U.S. are falling apart, and the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have accelerated this process. The imperialists and their local states such as Iraq and even Iran are unable to deal with this situation. The cockiness of their armies and governments is empty. They are weakened by their internal contradictions, and this creates important opportunities for revolutionary communist forces to organize against all this oppression and exploitation amidst masses who are sick of the situation, and to start a movement for revolution—a revolution that destroys these states and instead establishes new socialist states.


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 #344 July 6, 2014

Reactionary Islamic Fundamentalism and the ISIL (or ISIS)

by Larry Everest | June 26, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Islamic fundamentalism is a political, religious-ideological movement and trend, with different branches, variations, and organizational expressions, that is spreading across North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia in particular, but also globally. 

Islamic fundamentalism or Islamism’s ideological and political program is completely reactionary and against the interests of the people, especially the oppressed for whom these forces often claim to speak, no matter what country or region to which it is applied.  These forces aim to forcibly impose religion, in particular a fundamentalist or absolutist, literalist interpretation of the Koran and Sharia law (the body of religious rulings made by Islamic clerics), on society as its governing law and ideology—in short by creating a theocracy and obliterating any separation of church and state. 

This means imposing and violently enforcing patriarchal, separate and unequal laws for women, including forced veiling, forced control by male family members, and denial of equal legal rights.  It includes society-wide indoctrination in religious obscurantism and discrimination and often attacks on other religions or non-believers.  It means defending feudal and capitalist private property and exploitation.  And the Islamists’ methods often reflect their reactionary ideology and program, including targeting and murdering non-combatants, terrorizing whole populations, and sanctioning severe corporal punishment or death for infractions of Islamic law. 

This movement is an expression of the class and social interests of reactionary and outmoded bourgeois and feudal social forces in countries dominated by imperialism, which have come into conflict with or been undercut by imperialism.  However, their goal is not a fundamental break with imperialism, instead their aim is to advance their vision and interests within a capitalist-imperialist world. 

While the “modern” roots of this Islamic fundamentalist political trend go back to the 1920s, it has gained traction in large part because of the enormous suffering and oppression imperialism has inflicted on people in the oppressed (or Third World) countries, and the enormous social, cultural, and demographic dislocations this has led to.  By the late 1970s, anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism began to emerge as a powerful current in the wake of the 1976 defeat of communism in China, the 1979 Iranian revolution, and the 1979-1988 war in Afghanistan. 

The group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL—the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) is part of this overall trend.  It is very important to understand that these are not nationalist forces, operating under the cloak of religion.  ISIL is a jihadist group, committed to holy or religious war across national boundaries.  Recruiting fighters from around the world, its  program is not forming a Sunni-dominated state in Iraq, but an Islamic caliphate first encompassing the entire area from Iraq, across Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean, and then expanding to other countries having a predominantly Muslim population.

None of this is to say—or imply—that all Muslims or everyone living in the Middle East or Central Asia is an Islamic fundamentalist, or that Islamic fundamentalism is part of the “identity” of the peoples in these regions.  Nor does it mean that Islam is “inherently violent,” or any more reactionary than literal or absolutist interpretations of Christianity or Judaism.  And none of this justifies the targeting, persecution, harassment, and repression of Muslims in the imperialist countries.

5. Communism and Religion: Getting Up and Getting Free—Making Revolution to Change the Real World, Not Relying on "Things Unseen"

Track 1, Track 2,
Track 3 , Track 4

However, it is very important to face the reality that Islamic fundamentalism is the increasingly dominant pole of opposition to the U.S. and the status quo across the arc from Morocco in North Africa, through the Middle East to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that this is a nightmare for the people which must be recognized.  Pretending that what is going on in the Middle East has nothing to do with religion or Islam, or that in countries like Iraq nationalist forces are really driving and cohering the anti-U.S., anti-Maliki opposition, or that Islamic fundamentalism is simply a creation of the U.S. and the CIA, is illusory and extremely harmful. 




Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Unity March in Harlem:

Together Against Police Assault on Black and Latino People

June 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

New York City, June 22—People from three neighborhoods in west Harlem that were assaulted by a massive, military-style police raid earlier this month marched in a show of unity and a call for unity among the people in fighting against these attacks. On June 4 a NYPD army of 400 decked out in body armor and supported by helicopters tore through two public housing projects, Grant and Manhattanville Houses, and the Manhattan Avenue neighborhood. (See"“NYPD Raids in Harlem: ‘They want to stop this whole generation’")

New York City, June 22—People from three neighborhoods in west Harlem that were assaulted by a massive, military-style police raid earlier this month marched in a show of unity and a call for unity among the people in fighting against these attacks.
Photo: Special to Revolution

The young men swept up in the raids are being held at Rikers Island, a massive prison complex in the middle of the East River. Some of the youths from the neighborhoods targeted in the raids have been fighting each other, with the encouragement of authorities.

There is a tremendous desire among many, especially among some of the family members, for this fighting among to stop and for people to come together to fight these attacks.

Young women from one of the neighborhoods called for the unity march, and it was taken up by people in all three areas. The day before the march, a man whose stepsons had been arrested during the raids went to the “rival” projects with a team selling Revolution newspaper. He talked to people there about “coming together to support the kids.” The march was announced over the loudspeaker at a basketball tournament. Three former prisoners talked about why things are the way they are, if a revolution could actually happen, and what role the youth would have to play.

On June 22, the march stepped off with 15 people, nearly all women, led by the Revolution Club. Two young women from the neighborhood carried a bright green banner that said “Manhattan Avenue, Grant and Manhattanville Houses—TOGETHER Against Police Assault on Black and Latino People, Especially Our Youth! No More!” The women took up a chant—”What’s the commotion? What’s the noise? Drop the charges! Free our boys!” They carried signs that compared the NYPD with slave catchers and also carried the Stop Mass Incarceration Network target poster popularized in the protests on the anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s murder. The group marched to an area just outside the projects 10 blocks away. There the march was joined by people from the two housing projects, by Stop Mass Incarceration Network activists, a student from Columbia University, and revolutionaries.

The group, now with nearly 30 people, set off on a spirited march through the two huge high-rise “rival” housing complexes. Some people joined in along the way. One woman who joined the march said that she had heard about the march from her son, imprisoned at Rikers Island. People took posters and bought Revolution newspaper.

The march stopped to rally on a basketball court where young men and boys were playing ball. Four teenage boys stood shoulder to shoulder on the outskirts of the gathering and listened intently as women spoke about how the police had broken down doors, pointed guns at their children, tore up furniture, dragged people from their beds. They listened along with many others on the court as the Revolution Club called on them to get with the revolution. For two blocks, a group of 10- and 11-year-olds from two neighborhoods took up leading the chants over the microphone at the head of the march.  





Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Albuquerque, New Mexico:

The Dogs Are Still in the Street... And So Are the People

June 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

On June 21, 500 people took to the streets of Albuquerque, New Mexico, to protest continuing police violence in that city. The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has shot at 40 people since 2010—36 have been hit by police bullets and 26 people have died from these police shootings.

The June 21 protest comes three months after the shooting of James Boyd, a homeless man executed in cold blood by the APD, in the Sandia Mountain foothills of Albuquerque. Hundreds of thousands of people have viewed the APD's military-style execution of Boyd on YouTube.

Photo: Burque Media


Leading into this recent protest, a new video of the police murder of Boyd has come out. This video clearly shows the grotesque police murder of a 38-year-old man with mental illness. Boyd, who was seeking some solitude in the mountains and not bothering a soul when he was confronted by the APD, was cut down in premeditated fashion: the video shows Boyd turning to pick up his belongings to leave with police when a police stun-grenade is fired. Then Boyd is shot three times in the back with a high power rifle. The police video then shows Boyd on his stomach and on the ground, wheezing for breath as officers sic a dog on his legs and fire beanbag rounds at him. The Office of the Medical Investigator confirmed on May 29 that Boyd was shot in the back. Boyd also suffered several blunt-force injuries, contusions and abrasions on his buttock and right leg, some of which were "consistent with injuries produced by a dog."

Two protests within two weeks after Boyd's murder by police rocked Albuquerque and sent shock waves nationally, including the March 30 protest of 1,000 people who took the streets of Albuquerque in a combative 10-hour protest in the face of hundreds of riot police.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has been sent in to try to cool things out, to try to demobilize the people and delude them into thinking the Feds will enforce reforms on the APD... so people should now go home and stop protesting. On April 10, the DOJ reported their findings of a civil investigation into the APD. The DOJ report says the APD engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force. But that hasn't stopped the APD from killing Alfred Redwine, Mary Hawkes, Armand Martin, and Ralph Chavez, one right after the other, since the James Boyd murder on March 16.

Photo: David Correia

On May 5, angry demonstrators crowded an Albuquerque city council meeting and took over council chambers to protest APD police shootings. News of this city council "takeover" made national and international news. Then, on Monday, June 2, more than two dozen demonstrators stormed the mayor's office and held a sit-in in the lobby before tactical police moved in to arrest protesters. For more than an hour demonstrators sat in the mayor's office while one protester chained herself to a stand holding a piece of Southwest pottery, stunning city officials who quickly put City Hall on lockdown. The demonstration ended with the arrests of 13 people charged with criminal trespass, unlawful assembly, and interfering with a public official or staff. One person, University of New Mexico assistant professor David Correia, was charged with a felony for allegedly pushing a member of the mayor's security detail. In reality, some protesters, including family members who'd lost loved ones to police murder, were brutalized during their arrests, including Nora Tachias Anaya, a longtime anti-police-brutality activist in Albuquerque. (The APD 20 killed Nora Anaya's nephew, George Levi Tachias, years ago.)

Photo: Burque Media

At the June 21 march and rally of 500 people, the chant went up: "They say 'justified'! We say 'homicide'!" The day featured a "people's trial" of the city's police chief, Gordon Eden. The marchers also a held a "die-in" with participants holding mock tombstones for those shot dead.

The Call for an October Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation was spread amongst the participants, with new people joining this crucial national initiative in Albuquerque. Revolution newspaper got out in both English and Spanish editions, including to people who'd never seen Revolution before. It is especially timely that a revolutionary communist analysis and solution is in this mix. There is serious wrestling and debate over what is the actual problem, over critical questions like the essential nature of the police and the U.S. Department of Justice, and over is there truly a solution that could lead to actually stopping these outrageous crimes and murders by police, finally and for good. Is a better world really possible and what will it take to get there?

The dogs are still in the streets, and so are the people... Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution!




Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Emergency in Texas!

Join with the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride: Ground Zero Texas

June 16, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Texas is the second most populous state in the country with more than 26 million people. In 2011, Texas had 46 freestanding abortion clinics. By September, it could have as few as six left!

This is an emergency. When women cannot access safe and affordable abortion, their lives are foreclosed by forced motherhood. Or they are driven to risk their lives by seeking illegal abortions. Before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in 1973, it is estimated that thousands of women died each year from botched illegal abortions. Already, especially in the Rio Grande Valley near the U.S.-Mexico border, where there is a high concentration of poor and immigrant women, women are resorting to desperate and dangerous measures to self-induce abortions.

On August 4, in Austin, Texas, a trial begins in a lawsuit that challenges one part of the law House Bill 2 (HB2) that has driven these clinic closures. The law's requirement that abortion clinics meet the same standards as Ambulatory Surgery Centers is medically completely unnecessary and—like the other parts of HB2—was designed to shut down clinics. If this lawsuit is unsuccessful, this law could close all but six remaining abortion clinics in Texas on September 1.

This must not be allowed!

NOW is the time for mass public outpourings of resistance. Through massive resistance, we must create a political situation where the courts and politicians fear that any negative ruling will not only inflame resistance, defiance, and protest, but will also call into question the very legitimacy of a system that would force women to have children against their will. Look at how the right to abortion was won in the first place.

At stake is not just the future for Texas women, but for women across this country.

What is happening in Texas is just the front end of a battering ram against women's right to abortion nationwide. Hundreds of anti-abortion restrictions have been passed at the state level in the last three years. Dozens and dozens of clinics have been forced to close—in Alabama, Arizona, Michigan, Virginia, Ohio and beyond. The last abortion clinic in Mississippi remains open only because of a temporary ruling from a judge. The political and legal precedent in Texas will influence the course of similar laws in other states.

Join with Stop Patriarchy (End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women) this summer for the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride: Ground Zero Texas!

August 1 into September, volunteers from around the country will travel to Texas to stand up against these attacks: building mass protest and resistance, staging determined acts of resistance, confronting the anti-abortion forces and institutions, and caravanning down to the Rio Grande Valley. More plans to be announced soon. Volunteers needed now.

Contact: StopPatriarchy(at)

Go to:







Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Supreme Court Greenlights Cruel Hateful Intimidation of Women

by Mary Lou Greenberg | June 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


In its decision Thursday banning sidewalk buffer zones outside abortion clinics—areas around clinic entrances where anti-abortion protesters are not allowed—the Supreme Court of the U.S. said that these zones impeded the rights of those who wish to “engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations with women about various alternatives.”

There’s much more to say about this decision, but for now, let me describe some of the “caring, consensual conversations” outside the abortion clinic where I escort clients down the sidewalk to the entrance every Saturday:

“Caring person” in loud-conversation voice: “Don’t murder your baby!”

Client heading toward the clinic door shielded by escorts: “I don’t want to talk to you.”

Another “caring person” in louder voice: “You’re already a mother! You’ll be the mother of a dead baby if you go in there!”

Client walking faster, guided by escorts: “Go Away!”

“Caring” preacher person at the top of his lungs a few feet from the entrance: “You’ll burn in hell if you go in there!”

Another “caring person” in loud “conversation” with a woman going into the clinic with two small children: "Don’t let your mommy murder your baby sister/brother!”

And yet another, to a man walking in with his partner: “Be a man! Protect your seed!”

And the personal advice given by another: “You’ll get breast cancer/commit suicide/never get pregnant again if you go in there!”

It’s cruel, hateful, lying speech designed to intimidate and shame women out of having abortions. Now, further picture all this coming from the mouths of people who, with sneers and glares, try and corner women against a car or an outside wall... or push their way in front of women as they approach the clinic entrance for their appointments, forcing them to fear for their physical safety... or stand three feet from the entrance with a video camera trying to catch every face, every entrance.

Let’s be clear: this decision is not about “free speech.” It officially sanctions and gives the anti-abortion fundamentalist fascists free reign to intimidate and harass women at close range as they try to enter clinics. And while the above examples are of physically aggressive, mostly male protestors, I’ve seen a sweet little grandmother-type—which the Supreme Court decision supposedly was about—grab the arm of a woman entering the clinic and try to forcibly pull her away.




Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Three Lessons on the Anniversary of Wendy Davis's Filibuster of Anti-Abortion Restrictions

by Sunsara Taylor | June 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


In many cities across Texas, celebrations are being organized on July 25 to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Wendy Davis's filibuster of the anti-abortion bill SB5. The following are three points for everyone reflecting on this anniversary.

1. There are tens of thousands of people in Texas, as well as even more across the country as a whole, who can be mobilized to stand up and fight for abortion rights. In the days preceding and then throughout Davis's filibuster, many thousands of people flooded into the Texas capitol to speak publicly of their abortions, to voice their anger at the proposal to take this right away from huge numbers of women, to scream and yell and disrupt business as usual, and even to get arrested on behalf of protecting women's right to abortion. This is an indication of the depth, breadth and ferocity of the reservoir of potential fighters not only for women's full reproductive freedom but also for the full liberation of women against all forms of degradation, violence, discrimination, sexual assault, and enslavement.

2. The fact that, despite this outpouring of opposition, the government went ahead and passed these draconian anti-woman, anti-abortion restrictions, that many abortion clinics have been forced to close, and that all but six remaining clinics are set to close on September 1 just shows that while the battle must rage in many spheres, relying on the official structures and channels of politics can only lead to disaster. For the last 40 years, the battle over abortion has repeatedly moved further and further to the right so that consistently yesterday's outrage becomes today's compromise position and tomorrow's limit of what can be imagined. This has gone on not only in Texas, but across the country. As the entire spectrum of official politics moves further and further to the right, this direction cannot be reversed simply by strengthening the “left end” of that spectrum. It is necessary to step outside of these official channels and fight against this whole direction.

3. Now is the time for everyone who does not want to see women reduced to breeders and forced to have children against their will to stand up and join in mass, independent, political resistance. Through our actions and our uncompromising truth-telling, we must set different terms throughout society—making clear to everyone that the fight over abortion has never been about babies and has always been about whether women will be enslaved to their reproduction or treated as full human beings. NOW is the time to step forward—by ourselves if we must and together where we can—to declare boldly: Abortion on Demand and Without Apology! Forced Motherhood Is Female Enslavement! One critical effort underway is the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride: Ground Zero Texas which is coming in August and into September. I invite and urge everyone to get involved with this effort, on the ground in Texas and as a “virtual Freedom Rider” from anywhere in the country. Together we must create a political situation where the courts and the powers that be are worried about massive levels of protest, militant non-violent resistance, and massive disaffection should they rule negatively. This is critical for the women in Texas and as a key front in reversing this deadly trajectory nationwide. Everyone has a role to play and the future of women as a whole is at stake!

Sunsara Taylor is a writer for Revolution newspaper ( and initiator of End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women (





Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Why Texas is Ground Zero of the Abortion Rights Emergency

June 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


In 2011, there were 46 abortion clinics in Texas.1 In March 2014, there were 25 open abortion clinics in Texas.2 There are now even fewer.3

On August 4 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin, a trial will begin challenging Texas House Bill 2. Unless this law is overturned, by September 1, the number of abortion clinics could be down to 6, due to the law's restriction that abortion facilities must meet the standards required for ambulatory surgical centers.4

House Bill 2 is the most comprehensive anti-abortion law to date. It attacks the right to abortion in four ways: it requires that abortion providers have admitting privilege at hospitals within 30 miles of the abortion clinic in which they provide abortions; it requires that abortion clinics meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers: it bans abortions after 20 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest: and it requires that abortion providers must adhere to the Food and Drug Administration's approved protocol when administering medication abortion pills.

The last two abortion clinics in the Rio Grande Valley—one of the most impoverished areas of the country, along the border between the U.S. and Mexico—were forced to close because of the hospital admitting privileges restriction of House Bill 2.5 Women in the Rio Grande Valley currently have no access to safe, legal abortions. The closest alternative abortion clinic is currently in Corpus Christi, over 150 miles away from the Rio Grande Valley. However, because this clinic does not meet the standards for an ambulatory surgical center, it also faces closure in September. The next closest abortion clinic would be 230 miles away in San Antonio.

Many women in the Rio Grande Valley are uninsured and cannot afford to travel the distance to the next nearest abortion clinic in Corpus Christi. Few women have access to transportation and others have work visas that restrict how many miles they can travel and lack the right paperwork to cross the immigration checkpoints on highways that run throughout the state.6

A critical situation also exists in West Texas, in and around El Paso.

In 2011, 93% of Texas counties had no abortion clinic and 35% of women living in Texas resided in these counties. 89% of U.S. counties had no abortion clinic and 38% of women in the U.S. lived in these counties, resulting in many women having to travel outside their county to obtain an abortion.7 Due to the 205 abortion restrictions passed at the state level between 2011-2013—comprising more restrictions than in the entire previous decade—the situation today is even worse!8

In 2014, a majority of women in the U.S. live in a state where abortion is stigmatized by targeted restrictions against abortion providers, restrictions on insurance coverage of abortion, banning abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and restrictions on medication abortion.9

Public funding for abortions in Texas up until 20 weeks of pregnancy is only available in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment.10

Eleven states, including Texas, mandate that counseling be provided in person and that the counseling occur before the waiting period prior to being allowed to receive an abortion begins, thereby requiring two separate trips to the abortion facility.11

Women in Texas are required to receive in-person state-directed "counseling" on the false link between abortion and breast cancer, so-called "fetal pain," and the "negative psychological effects" of abortion, the primary purpose of which is to stigmatize abortion and shame women. Women in Texas must then wait 24 hours after counseling before the abortion procedure is provided.12

In Texas, women are required to undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion and the abortion provider is required to show and describe the ultrasound image to the woman seeking an abortion procedure.13

Beginning September 1, 2014—unless House Bill 2 is decided to be unconstitutional—women in Texas will be required to take medication in front of a doctor at an outpatient surgical center. Coupled with the requirements in Texas that women seeking abortion must view a sonogram 24 hours before the abortion procedure, women will have to make four visits to the same provider to get a pill-induced abortion.


1. Jones RK and Kooistra, K., Abortion Incidence and Access to Services in the United States, 2008, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2011, 43(1). [back]

2. [back]

3. Ibid. [back]

4. [back]

5. and [back]

6. [back]

7. Jones RK and Kooistra, K., Abortion Incidence and Access to Services in the United States, 2008, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2011, 43(1). [back]

8. [back]

9. Ibid. [back]

10. and [back]

11. [back]

12. [back]

13. [back]




Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Report from Revolution Club Summer in Los Angeles

Out to a Neighborhood Hit by Massive Police Raid

June 26, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From Revolution Club, Los Angeles

Revolution Club Summer is a project in Los Angeles bringing revolutionary-minded youth from across the area to spend the summer living and running with each other, together with more experienced revolutionaries, to make big advances in building the movement for revolution—especially in oppressed areas and among the youth. On our first day, an invading army of 1,300 LAPD and FBI pigs carried out a massive raid in South Central, busting into homes, sticking high-powered rifles in people’s faces, forcing elderly women out into the street in their bedclothes, and arresting Black men young and old. They arrested at least 50 people, devastating a whole community whose fathers and sons, dear friends and lovers were snatched away in an instant.

We headed out to one of the neighborhoods of the raid, with the understanding that was in the recent editorial, “We cannot build a revolutionary movement off to the side of what is going on in society—that just won’t cut it. Revolutions are built by going into the heart of the most intense contradictions in society, leading people to stand up and politically battle back against that... putting that resistance in the context of a way and a strategy to change the whole world through revolution... and leading people to change themselves as they change the world.” (“Summer 2014: Making Advances...Toward Revolution”)

Under this system of capitalism, so many in this society and so much of humanity are forced to endure great hardship and suffering, exploitation, injustice and brutality, while wars and the ongoing destruction of the natural environment threaten the very future of humanity. This short statement outlines the strategy for revolution—the first step to end this horror.
Read more

One man whose friend was arrested in the raid told us his own story of having his life ripped apart by an arbitrary arrest just a few years ago. He spoke bitterly about how he was stopped by the police in front of a friend’s house, told to get on the ground, and when he didn’t comply, was beaten to the ground and arrested. While he was in handcuffs, the police kept saying “stop resisting.” He was charged with six felonies and couldn’t believe the judge didn’t throw it all out instantly. He hired a lawyer and still had to plea to one charge—the lawyer told him, if you go in front of a jury they will assume you’re guilty, a Black man in South Central who the police are saying did all these things. Because of all this, he lost his job and his family, and after a couple months in jail is still now on probation. He repeated this story over and over again during the discussion, while his friends nodded and added in details. But that isn’t all. The same cop driving down the block another day stopped and called him over to ask a standard question they use to fuck with people, “are you on probation?” To which he answered bitterly, “You know I’m on probation, you put me there.” The cop threatened to arrest him again.

As he was telling this story, he was also making the point that there’s nothing we can do about what is being done. He said his refusal to get down on the ground was an attempt to not just accept what the police do, but look what happened. He said when he went to jail and told people there what had happened, they asked him, was it worth it? And the fact that the same police hold out the possibility of sending him back to jail at any time is only further illustration that you have no choice but to accept it. His friend standing next to him said, with a lot of emotion, “We want to say, ‘We are human. We have rights,’ but we can’t even do that.”

The two were part of a larger group of Black men of varying ages we talked deeply with, about their life experiences and about revolution. It was wide-ranging and with a lot of struggle, including over identity politics and the oppression of women, and especially in relation to the need and possibility of revolution and getting into BA. A big part of the struggle was about whether there is anything we can do to politically fight back against what is happening to people and whether the revolution that’s needed could really be possible. It was an exchange where we all had an important impact on each other.

One member of the Revolution Club Summer summed up, “These people live in the midst of the oppression we are standing up against. They realize the system is ineffective, but they feel voiceless. One of the men we spoke to resorted to the same response no matter how many points we tried to make: ‘We’ve been fighting... it’s impossible... there’s nothing we can do.’ It’s no wonder they feel this way. They all look for justice in a system which, as one young man we spoke to said, ‘uses justice to mask brutality.’ This is why BA’s works need to be spread around urgently—to show people that the real problem is the system as a whole and the real solution is revolution.”

Since then, we’ve kept returning to the neighborhood most affected by the raids even while we’ve been out canvassing in another neighborhood with a focus on BA Everywhere as well as joining a Revolution Books discussion of BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less!, and jumping into a Stop Mass Incarceration Network demonstration at the federal detention center to resist the inhumane detentions, criminalization, and threats of deportation of the thousands of Central American children being rounded up in Texas.

We decided to do a street-corner protest on Saturday afternoon, even though it wasn’t clear whether anyone we’d talked with was convinced it would be worth it to come out to it. A woman we talked with, whose home was one of those raided, said she was too angry to come. We tried to draw out what she meant by that and told her the point is not for people to calm down, that her anger is righteous. She said they don’t give a fuck what we do, and we told her that we are not trying to convince those in power to listen, we are exposing their whole thing as illegitimate as part of how we transform people’s thinking, build up our resistance, and have all this be part of building a movement for revolution to get rid of this system and bring into being a whole new world. She said she couldn’t do it, the hurt was too raw.

Nobody we’d met previously came out to be part of it, but being at that intersection with signs demanding a stop to the raids, the slogan “We Refuse to Accept Slavery in Any Form,” and centerfolds from Revolution newspaper, drew people forward in very important ways. A woman who had just minutes earlier been stopped by the police and almost arrested for drinking a beer outside broke down crying as she talked about how people there are treated by the police. Most people passing in cars just looked or checked it out, but several honked their horns, and some had clearly emotional responses—one car with several Black youth pulled across lanes of traffic to stop and connect, in another a man leaned halfway out of the window to shout out, “I’m with you!” An older woman walked up asking for materials and wanting to know how she could take part. She suggested a petition that she and others could pass through the neighborhood to present when the men go to court.

We think the woman’s suggestion is important, and overall we are working to organize people we’re meeting into the revolution, getting into the strategy for revolution and enabling people to see how they can act to have societal impact now as part of fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution. The concrete ways in which we are working on this and working to involve the masses include: building the October Month of Resistance to mass incarceration, popularizing the People’s Neighborhood Patrols, distributing whistles as a form of organized mass resistance to police brutality, introducing people to the work of BA and getting into the BA Everywhere fundraising campaign including building the anti-4th of July picnic, and selling and popularizing Revolution newspaper and





Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Letter from a Reader:

Racism, Gay Bashing, Nazism, the World Cup, and the "Beautiful Game" of Soccer

June 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Before the World Cup began in Brazil, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff pledged a "World Cup without racism" because, as she put it, "It is unacceptable that Brazil, the country with the largest black population after Nigeria, has racism issues." But further, racism is deeply embedded in the game of soccer throughout the world.

It didn't take long for Rousseff's pledge to be violated. In Germany's second match of the World Cup, against Ghana, a number of Germans showed up in "black face," with some wearing black afro wigs. A couple of Germans in "black face" crudely scribbled "Ghana" on their shirts. It was reported that at least eight people wore "black face" at that match and that many other white people lined up to have their pictures taken with these racists. It was also reported that some German fans were yelling "monkey" at the Ghanian players. Despite the fact that many people were outraged by this show of hate and racism and called for the expulsion of these fans, FIFA (International Federation of Association Football), the world governing body of soccer, did nothing and they failed to act on the patches they had World Cup players wear on their jerseys that said, "Say No to Racism."

Then we had another form of hate at the World Cup when the Mexican fans began chanting "¡EHHH...PUTO!" during goal and corner kicks. This chant was heard during the matches Mexico played against Brazil and Cameroon. "Puto" is a word that has been given a male gender from the word "puta" that translates to "bitch" and "whore." The male version of this word translates as "faggot" and is aimed at gay men and promotes homophobia, machismo, and misogyny. Once again FIFA gave lip service to this in promising an investigation, but then concluded that the chant "is not considered insulting in this specific context." You say what? This is a word that even the Mexican government has denounced, and FIFA says it is fine to use it? Fuck that shit! (See "Neo-Nazi Banners, Blackface, and Homophobic Chants: World Cup Fans Behaving Badly," by Sam Brodey, Mother Jones, June, 24, 2014.)

Revolution has written about homophobia in U.S. football. What was written about U.S. football can be said about homophobia in the world's game of football—soccer, that the atmosphere for gay people in soccer is just as hateful and toxic as the atmosphere for gay players in American football. SB Nation's Outsports has written about this where they told about a gay German player whose teammates waited to shower until after he left the locker room. (See "FIFA's failure to punish homophobia and racism among other things make soccer the harshest of sports," by, June 20 2014.)

These racist and homophobic acts went unreported in the U.S. mainstream press and can only be found in the press of other countries and some lesser-known and underground U.S. publications. The only things people in the U.S. know about the World Cup are the sanitized coverage by ESPN and the U.S. press falling all over itself over the U.S. soccer team.

The press spent hours covering the incident at the World Cup when Luis Suárez of Uruguay bit Giorgio Chiellini in the match against Italy. We found out that Suárez had bitten two other players and had head-butted a referee in the club matches he has played in and has received suspensions for those acts. FIFA did suspend him for this most recent biting incident. But we did not learn that Suárez racially taunted Patrice Evra, a black French player, during a Premier League club match in England where Suárez appeared to commit an intentional foul by kicking Evra. A few minutes later, Evra, speaking Spanish, asked Suárez, "Why did you kick me?" Suárez replied, "Because you are black." Evra told Suárez to "shut up," and then Suárez said, "I don't speak to blacks." Evra then threatened to punch Suárez, and Suárez responded in Spanish in a way that could be understood as, ""Bring it on, blackie" or "do it, blackie" or "go ahead, blackie." Suárez was suspended for several matches by FIFA for his racist taunts towards Evra.

People watching the World Cup may have noticed that there are black players on every European national team that most would think would not have any black players. I'm not going to get into all the reasons why there are black players on the European teams, but do want to get into the racism aimed at these black players, not only from opposing fans, but also from their own fans.

Italy's Mario Balotelli reacts to the multiple instances of racism he faced at the World Cup.
Photo: AP/Antonio Calanni

Mario Balotelli is a black Italian soccer player. He was born of Ghanian parents in southern Italy. Italy does not allow for birth citizenship. You have to have at least one Italian parent to be a citizen if you are born in the country. Balotelli was adopted and raised by Italian parents, and he became an Italian citizen by applying for citizenship after he was 18 years old. Despite calling himself Balotelli, the last name on his identity card is "Barwuah," the name of his birth family. He is the best player on the Italian team, but Italian fans commonly shout at matches he plays in, "There are no black Italians." Silvio Berlusconi's (the former Prime Minister of Italy) brother Paolo, the vice president of AC Milan, Balotelli's soccer team since 2013, recently referred to him as "our little family nigger." At matches in Italy, Balotelli has monkey noises made at him, and the racists throw bananas at him on and off the field. In a pre-World Cup match, Croatian fans chanted monkey sounds at him and a banana was tossed on the pitch (field) at him. In response to all this, Balotelli defiantly stated, "Racism is unacceptable to me, I cannot bear it," and "If someone throws a banana at me in the street, I will go to prison because I will kill him."

After Balotelli's Italian team was eliminated from this year's World Cup, an Italian attacked Balotelli on Instagram with "Mario do you know what the matter is? You're not Italian at all... quit it." Mario responded with a tweet of his own, "I'm Mario Balotelli, I'm 23 and I didn't choose to be Italian. I really wanted it because I was born in ITALY and I've always lived in ITALY." And referring to the fact that he did not play well in the final match of the World Cup, he tweeted, "This World Cup meant a lot to me and I'm sad, angry and disappointed with myself."

Balotelli has found anti-racist, white allies on the Italian soccer team. Star midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who will most likely retire after this World Cup, came to Mario's defense by saying, "We need Mario Balotelli. I'm not sure he really appreciates it yet, but he's a special kind of medicine, an antidote to the potentially lethal poison of the racist you find in Italian grounds." (For more on Mario Balotelli and black players in European soccer, see, "The Italian Exception" by Sean Wilsey, The New Yorker, June 24, 2014, and "Mario Balotelli and the New Europe" by Laurent Dubois, June 26, 2012, at

Almost all the black players who play on European national teams and those from Africa who play on European club teams have recounted similar incidents that Mario Balotelli has faced—racist chants, monkey calls, bananas thrown at them, and few of them have found ways to combat these racist attacks.

In 2013, Kevin-Prince Boateng, who is Ghanian and plays on the Ghana World Cup team, kicked the ball in the stands at the Italian fans who were making monkey chants. He then took off his jersey and led his AC Milan team, which included two other Africans, off the field and they failed to return, thus ending the match, when the authorities were unable to stop the racist chanting. Boateng, whose brother plays on the German national team in this year's World Cup, said that if he heard any racist chants during the World Cup, he would, again, lead his team off the field.

The huge resurgence of Nazism in Europe has also erupted into soccer matches with the fans carrying large swastika flags and chanting Nazi chants. This affected this year's World Cup when Croatian soccer player Josip Šimunić was suspended from the World Cup because he led Nazi chants at a match in Croatia. The chant, "For the homeland—Ready," was the country's national slogan during Nazi rule in the early 1940s. In Poland, soccer fans have chanted "Jews to the gas" at opposing teams.

So there you have it. Don't just get carried away with only paying attention to what is happening between the two teams on the pitch in the World Cup. Be aware of all the ugliness that is deeply embedded in the world's "beautiful game" of soccer, and think about how in the future we can end this ugliness once and for all while retaining the beauty.





Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Attention Readers:

Mark Your Calendar & Make Plans for the September Climate-Change Protests

June 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Important protests and events will draw huge crowds at the UN Climate Summit 2014 which takes place in New York City this September. The movement for revolution, with the Party at its core, must be reaching broadly out to those involved in these movements and demonstrations, in many different ways...with its full program...with the elements of its ensemble of revolutionary work...and also by bringing forward those from among the basic people who have been brought forward into the movement for revolution over the summer to be part of, and positively influence, what is shaping up to be an extremely important struggle around the environment.

Of great importance over the summer, as momentum builds, will be challenging people to follow where their convictions lead them, and offering an open stimulating atmosphere in which to wrangle that out. Begin now to plan bookstore forums, especially in New York, Berkeley and Seattle, stretching from July through September, and let's have a real process of discovery at all the stores. Be part of the activities taking shape all over building for this. Get people percolating and thinking about this.

More to come.





Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Southern California Protests:

"We Say No More—Let Our Children Go!"

June 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a Reader:

On Thursday and Friday, June 26 and 27, the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, along with Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, Vamos Unidos, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, and the LA Revolution Club, had two "We Say No More—Let Our Children Go" emergency protests to stop the incarceration, deportation, and inhumane treatment of thousands of children from Central America by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Thursday's protest occurred at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Los Angeles, and Friday's at the Ventura Naval Base in Port Hueneme, CA, where hundreds of Central American children are in military prison camp conditions after being flown there from Texas by U.S. authorities. Our demands included: All the youths and children who make it to the U.S. must be treated humanely and compassionately. Whenever possible, they must be reunited with family members as soon as possible. These children must be given all necessary medical treatment and put in a caring, loving environment. They must be provided with education, and they must never be deported.

On numerous news interviews we have been exposing why these children and others are fleeing Central America—where they have been trapped in conditions that offer no future, no prospect of a decent life—and the historical and present-day role of U.S. imperialism in creating and enforcing these horrific conditions of violence and exploitation in these countries. Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, where the great majority of this recent mass migration of refugee children are from, are among the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.

The Thursday, June 26 event featured a lively march from MDC to Union Station—the main railway station in Los Angeles, California and the largest railroad passenger terminal in the western United States—and a "lightning rally and march" through Union Station, where hundreds of travelers heard chants of “Dejalos niños libres” and “They're Rounding Up Our Youth, Let Our Children Go, They're Criminalizing Our Youth, Let Our Children Go!" From there the march proceeded to Plaza Olvera, an open market which attracts people from around the world, including immigrants from Mexico and Central America. The call for the October 2014 Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration was handed out, and Revolution newspaper got into the hands of travelers at Union Station and people visiting Plaza Olvera.

Then on Friday, June 27, Stop Mass Incarceration Network and Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional traveled to Ventura Naval Base where up to 575 child refugees from Central America are now in detention. Ventura Naval Base is one of three military bases in California, Oklahoma, and Texas incarcerating these refugee children. Protesters chanted “Let Our Children Go!” as they marched up closer to the gates of the base—where they were met by military police who threatened them with arrests if they stepped over the “blue line.” Up to now, very few reporters and photographers have been allowed to report and inspect these children's conditions of confinement at the Ventura Naval Base or at many of the other locations in the Southwest U.S. where these children are incarcerated.

A June 18 LA Times article revealed overcrowded, unsanitary conditions seen at the detention centers: "...Facing growing controversy over reports of crowded and unsanitary conditions, Border Patrol officials on Wednesday provided the first limited public access to the two facilities, allowing reporters on brief, controlled tours for glimpses of children and a few mothers detained there at the end of their often long journeys from places as far away as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador." Reporting on detention centers in Nogales, Arizona and Brownsville, Texas, the LA Times said neither they nor other news agencies were allowed to interview youths or adults held at the stations, nor could they talk to Border Patrol or Federal Emergency Management Agency staffers. A single photographer-videographer was allowed to share images captured at each station. "Immigrant youths covered the dirty concrete floors of the Border Patrol holding cells here, sprawled shoulder to shoulder and draped in grubby Red Cross blankets, enveloped in a haze of sweat and body odor...," the LA Times wrote. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, which filed a complaint two weeks ago with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, called conditions at the detention stations “inhumane and inadequate.”

A number of Spanish-language TV news stations, Fox 11 LA News, and Pacifica KPFK radio news reported on the Stop Mass Incarceration Network-initiated Ventura Naval Base protest.




Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Vision for July 4th picnics—
What to the Slave is Your Fourth of July? 
We Refuse to Accept Slavery In Any Form!

July 1, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


The BA Everywhere Campaign solicited this correpondence as a the guide to tenor and tone, as well as to give a sense of the basic content of the Anti-July 4th Picnics it is sponsoring around the country.

I'm real excited about the upcoming anti-July 4th picnics and wanted to share some further thinking about the character of the picnics themselves.

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First, we really shouldn't underestimate who we should be reaching out to to let them know this picnic is happening.  The theme for the picnics: “What to the Slave is Your Fourth of July?  We refuse to accept slavery in any form ” can attract a wide range of people who want to come together with others but bristle at all the patriotic, my-country-first bullshit that is bound up in what is celebrated on July 4th.  I was just talking with an prominent person in the entertainment industry and invited them, they said, “oh, I was wondering what I was going to do on July 4th.”  I don't want to repeat the previous articles about who should come to this except to underscore the wide, wide potential to bring people together around this theme—introducing people to BA Everywhere and the whole movement for revolution.

In terms of the day itself, this should have all the defiance and all of the joy of the revolution we are fighting to bring into being.  This revolution is about overturning everything degrading and decrepit, exploitative and oppressive about how people are forced to live today... it's about bringing into being a radically different, and far better, world.  There's joy in understanding the problem that is behind all the misery people are forced to live today and there is joy in engaging and finding out about the solution in revolution and the new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward by Bob Avakian.  I don't want to make light of the seriousness of this revolution... but there is also great joy in contributing to the emancipation of humanity.  Even if you're not all convinced of the need or possibility of revolution... there is joy in the engagement.

Download PDF of leaflet for July 4th.

The centerpiece of the day will be a clip from Avakian's 2003 talk, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About that quotes the famous Frederick Douglass speech, “What to the slave is your Fourth of July?” and we also want to show a clip from BA's more recent speech, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—Nothing Less!   The picnic is being hosted by the BA Everywhere Committee and we really want to involve people in this incredibly important campaign—both on the spot, but also leaving inspired to take this up themselves.  Someone is going to give a brief rap on what this campaign is and some of the different elements of it. 

We're going to have a couple people read one or two of the letters from prisoners about the 1,000 years/$1,000 for BA Everywhere campaign along with a reading of BAsics 3:16 and talk briefly about what this is and how people there can take part—matching the funds being donated by prisoners, ex-prisoners and their loved ones but also working to reach many others, their friends and family, their churches, legal associations etc.  This is something that should be involving many, many hundreds and reaching tens of thousands through the summer and how we break this down at this picnic could be really key in people seeing what difference this can make, and the role they have to play.

Also, we're going to ask someone to talk about this t-shirt campaign—why they wear the shirt, and why funds should be raised to get this shirt worn as a symbol of defiance all over and then coming together at key junctures throughout this summer.  We're also working now to get someone to film testimonials that were called for in Revolution newspaper at the picnic.  We are talking with people we want to ask to make these statements to come with some thinking ahead of time of what they want to say.

We are also going to ask some folks active with the movement to stop mass incarceration to speak briefly about the October Month of Resistance and what people can do for this to really reverberate throughout all of society... starting now.  And we're asking someone else to talk about the movement to end pornography and patriarchy: the enslavement and degradation of women and in particular, their call for a Texas Abor tion Rights Freedom Ride through August and early September.  People from all across the country need to get down to Texas to fight the emergency situation around abortion and for those who can't go, there are many things people can do to be part of this life or death struggle, including spreading the word and raising the demand: Abortion on Demand and Without Apology!  At the J-4 picnic, the MC might also read BAsics 3:22 and let people know about the plans for a “You Can’t Break All the Chains, but One” Day in early August as part of BA Everywhere.

The day may also include someone reading a poem or performing their music, but in any case, we want the program to be tight and lively—really giving people a feel for the significance of Avakian's voice and what difference it can make for this to be known and engaged throughout society AND all the ways they can be part of this even as they're working through a process of engagement themselves.  (Or you could play a clip from Stepping Into the Future... Abiodun Oyewole's poem, “America is a Terrorist” is very fitting for the day.)

I know there's going to be great food—as part of building for the day, organizers are asking people from different parts of the world to make a dish from where they're from and we are reaching out to restaurants to donate food.  There will of course be a grill and hoping to count on a few expert barbecuers.  Someone else is making a mix of upbeat music from all over the world—new and old—that is part of fostering to a radical culture of revolt against this revolting culture.  We also want to leave a lot of time for people to hang out and get into the big questions in addition to playing games.  We're bringing a couple decks of cards, a basketball and a soccer ball along with kids’ games like red light/green light or tag.

Along with a simple Revolution Books table, we want to have a whole bunch of palm cards with BAsics quotes for people to leave with—to be spreading around wherever they go as part of influencing and changing the terrain.  We're also working now to bring some empty “revolutionary change” jars so people can leave there with simple forms of mass fundraising for BA Everywhere they can be part of.  And we're sure there are other simple things people will want to do like house parties or bake sales if we let them know why they matter and what they're a part of changing.

Revolution Books is putting together a simple flyer with a calendar of key nodal points for the rest of July including the screenings of Revolution—Nothing Less! and other times and places people can connect up with the revolution (weekly hook-up times in a neighborhood, farmers’ market or in front of the local jail), and a BA Everywhere committee dinner at the end of the month (the Committee just announced they're going to have these dinners monthly instead of meetings, they're a much more fun way to bring people together and get organized).

From my experience, these kinds of social gatherings have a big impact on people—where they get to hear from and meet all different kinds of people and break down barriers among different nationalities or break down the isolation that so many in our society feel.  And as it put it in the original flyer for this event: “ will be able to actively engage with why we need a revolution, with what BA has brought forward in relation to that, and with how we actually prepare the ground, prepare the people and prepare the vanguard TO get ready for the time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win.”

They are incredibly fun, exciting and inspiring.  Inspiring because people get to lift their heads and in this kind of social way, feel the possibility of a whole different world, see others from different backgrounds and perspectives getting serious about this revolution... and being inspired and challenged to do the same.  And it can make a big difference for this summer of Revolution In the City if we have lots of simple ways for people to contribute to the revolution in the weeks ahead.

The more we think about what the day itself needs to look like... the more we should be fueled to really go all out now to get the word out to everyone we can to be there.  The many who have met this revolution before... and the many, many who haven't but need to.





Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Supreme Court Brings Back the 1950s, Allows Corporations to Deny Birth Control Coverage

By Sunsara Taylor | July 1, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


On Monday, June 30, the Supreme Court granted the right of for-profit corporations to deny birth control coverage to women, and opened the door to even more dramatic and far-reaching imposition of religious bigotry in the name of “religious freedom.”

Starting today women across this country can be denied the ability to safely and affordably prevent unplanned pregnancies because of the Dark Ages religious beliefs of their employers. This will make birth control prohibitively expensive for huge numbers of women at a time when access to abortion is undergoing record and ominous restrictions. This comes just days after the Supreme Court struck down a “buffer zone” law in Massachusetts that had prevented anti-abortion fanatics from approaching women within 35 feet of the entrance to an abortion clinic. That law was passed in the context of hateful and vicious harassment hurled at women and staff entering abortion clinics, and was enacted in the immediate wake of the murder of two women working at abortion clinics in Massachusetts in 1994 in order to increase the physical safety of abortion providers.

Taken together, these Supreme Court rulings dramatically accelerate the violent momentum in this country that is slamming women back to the 1950s—to a time when birth control was unavailable to most women, when abortion was illegal, and when millions and millions of women had their lives foreclosed by forced motherhood.

One of the most outrageous and illegitimate dimensions of Monday's ruling is the way it rested on the substitution of religious dogma for science. The Hobby Lobby, a chain store owned by Christian fascists who have placed full-page ads in local newspapers promoting Christian holidays (in opposition to the supposed secular assault on religion) and who are planning to open a Bible Museum near the National Mall in Washington, DC in 2017, argued that IUDs (intrauterine devices) and the morning after pill are forms of abortion and therefore including coverage of them in the insurance plans they provide for their employees violates their religious beliefs.

The reality is that abortion actually ought to be covered by all health insurance policies because it is absolutely necessary for women to be able to decide for themselves when and whether to bear children. With this ruling the Supreme Court opened the door even wider to imposing religious dogma on people and society even in the face of evidence and science.

Further, as noted even by the dissenting opinion of the court, this decision can be used as a precedent to impose even vaster religious dogma on people throughout this country in the name of “religious freedom.” As dissenting Justice Ginsberg noted, the logic of this decision “extends to corporations of any size, public or private,” and that corporations could now object to “health coverage of vaccines, or paying the minimum wage, or according women equal pay for substantially similar work.” Ginsberg went on to note that as recently as 1966 the owner of Piggie Market Enterprises appealed to the court to defend his “right” to refuse to serve Black people based on his religious beliefs opposing racial integration, and that as recently as 1985 a closely held for-profit health club chain appealed to the court to defend their “right” to refuse to hire an “individual living with but not married to a person of the opposite sex,” “a young, single woman working without her father’s consent or a married woman working without her husband’s consent,” and any person “antagonistic to the Bible,” including “fornicators and homosexuals.” While these two cases were denied at the time, the logic of Monday's ruling opens the door to these kinds of arguments to be entertained, and even upheld, in the future.

NEW from Bob Avakian:

Break ALL the Chains!

Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution

Sampler Edition

Break ALL the Chains!

Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution

What does it say about a country when its highest court gives credence and the backing of the state to this kind of outrageous religious bigotry and the denial of science? What does it say about this country's view of half of humanity that one of the most basic and fundamental rights of women—the right to decide for themselves when and whether to have children—is being snatched away through street-level harassment, state-by-state laws, and Supreme Court rulings?

The fact that in 2014 the Supreme Court is aggressively taking part in the systematic assault to slam women back to the horrors of the 1950s and the enslavement of forced motherhood reveals yet again the complete illegitimacy of the system of capitalism-imperialism that rules over us. It reveals the fundamental and urgent need for people to get busy preparing the ground, preparing the people, and preparing the vanguard party for the time when millions can be led to go all out to seize power through revolution. And it reveals the urgent need for millions and millions of people in this country to wake up and confront the sober reality that—at this moment of unprecedented assault on women's basic right to abortion and even birth control—there will be no protection from the courts. Instead, we must cast off illusions and mount massive, widespread, political resistance and struggle to defend women's rights to birth control and abortion as part of the fight for the full liberation of women.




Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

In the Wake of the Deaths of Three Israeli Teenagers: A Wave of Death and Terror Against Palestinians

By Alan Goodman | Updated July 6, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


On June 12, one of a group of three Israeli teenagers called a police emergency hotline from his cell phone. He left a message: "I've been kidnapped." The message did not identify or describe the kidnappers. News accounts describe the tone of the message as calm. In fact, authorities initially took the call for a prank. According to police and media accounts, voices in Hebrew and Arabic and an Israeli radio station can be heard in the background of the phone call, and a sound authorities say is a gunshot is heard. On June 30, bodies of the three were found buried near the West Bank town of Hebron.

The disappearance of these three Israeli teenagers, and the discovery of their bodies, has been seized on by Israel to unleash a ferocious wave of terror and death, along with a campaign to turn reality upside down and portray Israelis as collective victims of Arab terror. And a lynch mob atmosphere in Israel led to the kidnapping, torture, and murder of a Palestinian youth. That act set off fierce clashes between protesting Palestinian youth and Israeli forces of repression—clashes that are intensifying as this article is being written, with reports emerging that Israeli troops are using live ammunition against unarmed protesters.

After the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, Palestinian youth use rocks and stones to fight the Israeli Army in Shuafat, East Jerusalem, on July 2, 2014. Photo:

The killings, and the way the incident has been used by Israel, take place in the context of an increase in global outrage and protest over Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people—at a time of ongoing Israeli missile attacks on the Gaza region of Palestine. And all this is happening in the context of complex, convulsive conflicts involving global powers and smaller-scale reactionaries that threaten to spin out of control in the region and beyond.


There is, to date, no substantial public evidence as to who kidnapped and killed the three Israeli teenagers. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared "Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay." (Hamas is an Islamic fundamentalist group that controls the Gaza region of Palestine, which is separated from the West Bank by Israel.) Hamas generally takes public credit for operations it launches and has not done so in this case. The New York Times reported that "Israeli authorities acknowledge that [the suspects] might have been a rogue cell operating without orders from the Hamas leadership."

In the spirit of 'who cares about evidence, they're terrorists,' U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared, "As we gather this information, we reiterate our position that Hamas is a terrorist organization known for its attacks on innocent civilians and which has used kidnapping in the past."

After the disappearance of the teenagers, Israeli military imposed a total crackdown in the West Bank—kicking down doors, searching homes, provoking outrage and protest. Even before the bodies of the teenagers were found, Israeli troops had murdered five Palestinians in suppressing those protests. The murder of these Palestinian youth by Israeli troops hardly made it into news accounts in The West.

Israeli soldiers in the Palestinian City of Jenin on the West Bank, July 2, 2014. PHOTO: AP

Israeli soldiers in the Palestinian City of Jenin on the West Bank, July 2, 2014. Reports are emerging that Israeli troops are using live ammunition against unarmed protesters. Photo: AP

After the bodies of the three teenagers were found, Netanyahu declared the Israelis "were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by wild beasts." On cue, Zionists rallied in Jerusalem chanting "death to the Arabs." And on July 2, the body of 17-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was found burned and with signs of torture. Mainstream media in Israel are quoting witnesses who say surveillance footage shows what appear to be Israelis forcing Abu Khdeir into their car in front of a supermarket before speeding off.

The Jerusalem police chief called on Palestinians to "exercise restraint, refrain from reaching conclusions and wait for new developments in the investigation." Israel's minister of internal security, Yitzhak Aharonovich said "There are many possibilities [for the death of Mohammed Abu Khdeir], criminal and nationalistic, and everything is being examined in a responsible manner."

Israeli media is reporting that police in East Jerusalem are refusing to release security camera footage that could shed light on the kidnapping, and that the victim's father was held by police for a day.

After the discovery of the burned, tortured body of Mohmmad Abu Khdeir, there was no massive military assault on Zionist communities by the Israeli military. No suspects in this killing have had their homes blown up by the authorities before they were charged or convicted of any crime (as did happen to the home of a suspect in the kidnapping of the Israeli teens). No Zionist organizations that might have influenced, or been associated with the killers of this youth have been branded as terrorist organizations and subjected to threats to their leaders. No Israeli leaders have called those who murdered, and apparently tortured this youth, and those who instigated and created the conditions that set them loose "wild beasts."

What is going on at this moment in Israel is the reality of an Apartheid state, where the indigenous population, as a whole, is dehumanized and subject to constant terror to enforce the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine.








Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Sunsara Taylor on Abortion Rights Freedom Ride

July 4, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Sunsara Taylor calls on people to join with the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride.  

We encourage everyone holding 4th of July picnics to show this and to sign people up to get involved in this on the spot: recording their own messages of support, donating to the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride (, signing up to go travel to Texas, sending in their testimony, and many other ways.  Seize the time at these picnics to step up people's involvement in this critical fight. 






Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Leave Those Children Alone!

Welcome, Support Families Fleeing "Made in USA" Poverty and Violence in Central America!

July 4, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


On July 1, a mob of American flag-waving thugs chanting "USA" blocked three busloads of immigrants who were being transported, in custody, by the Border Patrol to a detention facility in Murrieta, California—about 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles. The detainees were primarily children accompanied by mothers or fathers. They were to be processed at the Murrieta facility described by a Murrieta city councilman as "a jailhouse." According to some news reports, the detainees were eventually supposed to be united with family throughout the country.

Those blocking the buses on July 1 were confronted by courageous people from the community, including Mexican-Americans who shouted, "Our people cook your food" and a man who told the media, "It doesn’t matter where a child is from. He deserves respect and help because he’s a child." As this is written on July 4, reports indicate that the majority of those now gathering at the point where buses were blocked are supporters of immigrants’ rights who, as one put it, are out "to counter the overwhelming racism and xenophobia that we've seen here the last few days."

As two sides shape up in this confrontation, three things must be said:

1. The mob in Murrieta blocking buses and their kind are no different than White Citizens’ Councils and KKKers and lynch mobs in Mississippi who terrorized Black people and their supporters fighting for basic rights. And they have the backing (and are being instigated by) powerful forces in the ruling class. In the tradition of white supremacist local officials in the South during the Civil Rights era who had close connections with local KKK terrorists and White Citizens’ Councils (a network of white supremacist organizations centered mainly in the South), Murrieta city officials whipped up an atmosphere of immigrant-hating terror, and announced the details of the schedule for the transport of immigrants.

2. At a news conference, in public statements, and at the city's website, officials posted notices creating an atmosphere that these children and their parents were vicious criminals endangering the city. The city's website includes postings along the lines of "How do you know an immigrant does not have a criminal background?" If anyone wants to talk about vicious and dangerous criminals or a "criminal background" here, they should start with the massive, horrific crimes the U.S. has committed and is committing in Central America—driving people from their homelands in a desperate search for peace and survival. Throughout Central America, people labor for sub-survival wages on plantations owned by U.S. agribusiness and in sweatshops making clothes for export to the U.S. For a century, and in an especially vicious way during the 1980s, the U.S. waged or orchestrated genocidal wars in Central American countries to suppress rebellions. In just one country, in three years, a U.S.-backed regime in Guatemala destroyed 626 villages, killed or “disappeared” more than 200,000 people—mostly indigenous Mayan people—and displaced an additional 1.5 million people, about a fifth of the entire population. This crime and many others have created a situation in Central America today of poverty and desperation.

3. The children and their families on these buses must be greeted with care and compassion. No deportations! These refugees should be able to live safe and decent lives in the United States.





Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Reporter’s Notebook from July 4th in Murrieta, California:

Outrage and Anger Confronts Patriotic Thugs and Bigots at Immigrant Detention Center

July 6, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


People came to the immigration detention center in Murrieta from all over Southern California and beyond on the 4th of July to insist that the children with and without parents flooding across the border in Texas be treated humanely, with care and concern, and not as animals or criminals. And they came to challenge and confront the reactionaries whose ugly anti-immigrant xenophobia and pro-USA chauvinism has been given center stage in the national—and international—news all week.

On July 4th, supporters of immigrants rights faced off with reactionary thugs in Murrieta, CA, where days earlier, a bus with parents and children from Central America had been blocked by a mob chanting "USA" and waving American flags.  Photo: AP

In the midmorning these patriotic yahoos with their huge American flags found themselves outnumbered, and were forced to move to the sidelines by a loud, raucous, defiant protest that gave voice to the people who came together from a wide variety of perspectives who opposed them. There were dozens of young people from pro-immigrant organizations from Long Beach, the Inland Empire (Riverside, San Bernardino, and the High Desert), and Los Angeles, one group carrying a banner saying “Not 1 More Deportation.” The Inland Empire group said they were talking to ICE and Homeland Security and were arranging transitional housing for the families and children after they are processed, while still facing deportation.

There was a group of 10 people from Los Angeles who carried American flags that were torn into shreds. They told Revolution:

We’re trying to bring out that humanity is more important than any sort of borders that are put on this earth, and that people are free to move, especially when the country that is perpetuating most of the economic inequality through NAFTA, through... the funding of drug cartels in those countries is actually criminalizing people for trying to flee those areas.

When asked about their flags they said:

There’s an article that came out in the Onion that said the U.S. flag is responsible for 143 million deaths, so it’s been recalled. I agree. When you hold up a flag that represents chauvinism for the sake of protecting capitalism, imperialism, and oppression, it should be burned. It’s just like the swastika, it should be burned. When you put children into military bases, detention centers, your flag deserves to be burned. And there shouldn’t be flags; we should just be able to identify ourselves as human beings. One of the most important things is that these children get care... they are refugees. (At one point an American flag was burned.)

A dozen or more Aztec dancers came from Los Angeles; they did native Indian dances in their beautiful costumes in a circle to the beat of loud drums for hours. Activists and organizers came from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network with signs and large banners, one calling for the October Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. And there was a sizeable group representing the movement for revolution, some making the trip from the San Francisco Bay Area, wearing their Revolution—Nothing Less! and BA (Bob Avakian) image T-shirts, with bullhorns and banners, and lots of Revolution newspapers.

At the same time there were many, many others who came just on their own, often in ones and twos—not responding to an official call to be there—but feeling compelled by their humanity to take action and not let these racists take center stage. A high school student, dressed in white, told Revolution she had set up an event page on Facebook calling on friends to come dressed in white, and to march silently from the Wal-Mart a half mile away to the detention center. Though she was only familiar with a couple of her new “virtual” friends, 30 people showed up for the July 4th march!

A number of people from Murrieta came to oppose the racists. Two sisters from Murrieta—one in high school, the other in college with a young daughter—came together, carrying two handmade signs that each said: “Our Land Is Your Land. Bienvenidos!” over a rippling American flag. They had first come to the detention center on Tuesday after hearing that anti-immigrant forces were out there.

We wanted to come down here and support the immigrants and like show them that we DO care that they’re here and we want to support them now that they are here. We’re just trying to be a different voice. Today there’s lots of supporters, but when we came here on Tuesday we were one of the very few that were supporting them. We were disgusted with all of the hate, and we wanted them to know that Murrieta is not all so hateful and that we do support them. They’re humans also, and they deserve respect and we value them just as equals.

On Tuesday it was brutal. Even we were called racist things; people were telling us to go back to Mexico. [Their ancestors were Pima Indians.] I had my child with me and people were telling me that they are paying for my child; that I’m using up all these resources, which is not true. But they were being just as hateful as they could to anyone who was here; it was disturbing.

There were people who felt motivated for patriotic reasons to oppose these anti-immigrant reactionaries. And a staunch Obama supporter carrying a large flag with the map of the earth came from San Diego to support the immigrants. The many handmade signs expressed this diversity of sentiments:

The reactionaries repeatedly tried to push up against the pro-immigrant protesters, causing repeated clashes. The revolutionaries led the demonstration in a chant that shut them up for a minute: “English Only, Whites Only: What’s the Fucking Difference?” They led people to chant: “We say no more; Let our children go!”; and “Stop Thinking like Americans; Start Thinking about Humanity!” And “Somos todos ilegales.” They did call-and-response “mic checks” that the Occupy movement made popular. One mic check covered the demands that have appeared in Revolution newspaper for the last two weeks:

All the youths and children who make it to the U.S. must be treated humanely and compassionately; whenever possible, they must be reunited with family members as soon as possible. They must be given all necessary medical treatment, and put in a caring, loving environment. They must be provided with education, and they must never be deported.

And they did mic checks of BAsics quotes; “No more generations of our youth...” (1:13); “I’m a self-made man...” (1:16); and “Why do people come here...” (BAsics 1:14).

While this intense standoff went on most of the day, it seemed that few people left for that reason.

The gang of anti-immigrant bigots grew in numbers. At one point, there were something like 150 people on each side in the confrontation. And as this happened, the bigots got more belligerent. They chanted “USA, USA, USA” with a vengeance. And when they got in people’s faces they were disgusting. Afterwards, some of the Latina and Latino youth, and youth generally, said they had never encountered such blatant, ugly racism in their lives.

It was crazy, all these racists. You had people almost punching other people in the face. They came up telling us to go back to our country, and physically attacking us. They told us we are the ones who bring drugs to America; we bring violence to America. They called us “anchor babies.” “Your parents came over here, popped you out, and now we’re paying for you.” “You’re taking our jobs.”

More than one person compared this lynch mob to the racist white mobs in Mississippi during the battles for desegregation. But they weren’t all white. There were a few Latinos and Black people among them. Some of them tried to claim they supported legal immigration. And that “this is a nation of laws.” “We need to take care of the people in our country who need help first. Let’s take care of our own country first. Then help other countries.” But even among this mob, a few grew uncomfortable with the blatant racism, and were challenged to think about the crimes committed by the U.S. in Central America that have created the conditions that are forcing people to leave these countries.

The article, “Leave Those Children Alone! Welcome, Support Families Fleeing ‘Made in USA’ Poverty and Violence in Central America!” is right in saying:

The mob in Murrieta blocking buses and their kind are no different than White Citizens’ Councils and KKKers and lynch mobs in Mississippi who terrorized Black people and their supporters fighting for basic rights. And they have the backing (and are being instigated by) powerful forces in the ruling class.”

The whole experience left the people who stood up to the anti-immigrant hatred very unsettled. Where is it coming from? Why is it so virulent? Why weren’t more people out here standing against these racists? And people were drawn to more deeply think about why all of this is taking place—why these children and families are coming here; and why are they being treated like animals?

At least half of the demonstrators supporting the immigrants left with copies of Revolution. There, and at, they will find answers to those questions, and ways to act that will deal with the heart of the problem.




Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

Interview with Joey Johnson:

25 Years After Supreme Court Decision on Flag Burning

The American Flag Is Still “Toxic”

July 6, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Editors’ note: June 2014 was the 25th anniversary of Texas v. Johnson, the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that determined that burning the American flag in protest is a form of symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Gregory “Joey” Johnson was the defendant in the case. Revolution newspaper had a chance to talk to Joey.


Revolution: Joey, could you describe for our readers how the flag-burning case Texas v. Johnson came about, including for many younger readers who perhaps were not yet born when it happened?

Joey Johnson: It began in Dallas, Texas, in 1984 at the Republican National Convention when Ronald Reagan was being renominated for his second term. Reagan was the first president, after the end of the Vietnam War,  to vociferously, unapologetically, and crudely reassert “America #1!” And a whole expressed theme of that convention was America’s post-Vietnam “patriotic renewal” and “bringing back America prouder, stronger and greater.”

Attorney William Kunstler (right) and Joey Johnson (second from right) in front of U.S. Supreme Court during arguments presented in a historic legal and political battle to defend the right to burn the American flag. Photo: AP

Tens of millions in U.S. society had gotten disgusted with those values during the 1960s. A lot of great things happened in the 1960s, but we did not actually make revolution, we didn’t seize power from the capitalist-imperialist system. So over time that system worked to “rehabilitate” the public to its patriotic empire-saluting bullshit. And it was after Reagan’s military invasion into Grenada, overthrowing the government there, the U.S. backing for death-squad governments in El Salvador and Guatemala, and the backing of the Contra “freedom fighter” mercenaries massacring villagers in Nicaragua. And we are talking about hundreds of thousands of people murdered in these U.S.-backed wars.

So the Republican Convention had Dallas laid out like a modern Nazi rally, with American flags lining the streets and this theme of toxic American chauvinism. Some of us from around the country made the trek to Dallas—supporters of the RCP and a lot of different youth, some anarchists and a lot of other youth who just really hated Reagan. We went there to counter all this USA #1 shit and stand with the people of the world. By the way, we had also protested at the convention of the other imperialist party, the Democrats, earlier in the summer.

I just want to tell young Revolution readers that back then, as now, one of the biggest strengths of the RCP was internationalism—the whole world comes first—and that message was brought into the Dallas protests.

Our protest in Dallas was raucous and defiant, a “War Chest Tour” that marched by all these corporate headquarters where we agitated, exposing the links between these corporations and U.S. imperialism’s plunder in the Third World, its backing for Apartheid in South Africa, military contractors, what have you. And then we burned the American flag in front of the convention center. That was a real juxtaposition of red, white, and blue chauvinism and in defiance against that, our standing with the people of the world. And the police arrested about a hundred people. A few of us got heavier charges, including the flag-burning charge. A few months later I went on trial and was convicted and sentenced to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. I remember the prosecutor telling the jury they needed to load up on me, and make an example of me: If you come to Dallas and burn the flag, you’re going to pay.

They took me right to jail after the trial, but there were people outraged about my conviction as well, and they helped post an appeal bond. And we launched what turned into an almost five-year campaign to overturn my conviction. It started out as “Free Joey!” in Texas and there were some rallies and protests and a Statement of Outrage that was signed by a lot of folks from different walks of life. I remember the great musician Fela Kuti came through Texas and played a show in Austin and he signed the statement demanding the conviction be overturned!

Revolution: Could you talk about what happened when the case got to the U.S. Supreme Court?

Joey Johnson: Well, to begin with, just to be clear, I was not then, nor am I now, in awe of the U.S. Supreme Court. I believed then and now that the U.S. Supreme Court is a highly political body of the U.S. ruling class, where these supremacists of the U.S. ruling class sort out big political and business questions for the capitalist-imperialist system. That is why they can take the exact same issues of law and decide them one way at one point in time and another way at another point in time based fundamentally on the needs of the system, and this is true on everything from slavery to abortion to “free speech” cases. So anyway, my point is I did not ask to go to the Supreme Court, I was dragged there.

There is a whole other way society can be that is in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), which is based on Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism. And that constitution renounces wars for plunder and empire, and values and promotes dissent as part of the process of continually revolutionizing society and moving towards communism.

But this was a battle where some powerful forces in the U.S. ruling elite selected my case, in a situation where they could have just let it be. I had won my case in the Texas Court of Appeals, but instead they took the case, and we analyzed at the time that it was very likely that they wanted to reverse the Texas court decision. I had to expose how the State of Texas and the government more generally was violating its own proclamations about “freedom of speech” by suppressing and criminalizing speech, or what is called “symbolic speech,” that challenges all the patriotic indoctrination that everybody gets in this country.

So there was a whole legal battle and briefs that had to be prepared and I was very fortunate because the great 1960s radical attorney William Kunstler represented me along with the Center for Constitutional Rights. There is a documentary that has come out in recent years, William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, that I really encourage people to see.

Revolution: So this was both a legal and a political battle?

Joey Johnson: Right. When you come under attack politically, you can’t just fight in the courtroom, you have to fight there, but even more importantly we have to go out into society and take to the masses of people what the stakes are and what the government is out to suppress.

And that is what the RCP struggled to do in Texas v. Johnson and it meant being all the way out there exposing the flag as a symbol of American imperialism, and the need for revolution to sweep this system away, and standing with the people of the world against this empire, and real communism as the way forward, and at the same time focusing things up on what the real dividing line of the case was: forced patriotism. That if the government was allowed to criminalize expressions of contempt for the flag it is a form of compulsory patriotism.

And actually the case and our work around it and other developments in society and the world set off a huge and polarizing debate in society. I recall at the beginning of the case, the author Salman Rushdie was given a fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini for committing “blasphemy” against Islam for his novel Satanic Verses. And the Texas statute I was prosecuted under was “desecration of a venerated object,” which treats the flag as a religious icon, so a lot of people made the observation that the government was trying to imprison me for blasphemy of the flag. Then very soon after that, Dread Scott, a revolutionary artist then in Chicago, did an incredible installation piece, “What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag?” that included an American flag on the floor that you could stand on as you wrote your comments about the flag. And this caused a huge controversy in Chicago, with reactionary veterans’ organizations marching on the museum where the exhibit was and threatening Dread. But also veterans who hated the government for the crimes it sent them to do in Vietnam and elsewhere were supporting us. And prisoners were writing moving statements of support. So it was important that we were out in society, speaking at rallies, and colleges and law schools, inner-city and suburban high schools, being interviewed on TV and talk radio shows. Things were going to another level.

Revolution: Then there was a whole range of civil liberty and civil rights organizations that got involved, right?

Joey Johnson: That’s right. The ACLU and others submitted what are called amicus briefs (legal briefs where they argued why the outcome of the case should come out in our favor) to the Supreme Court. And a number of very prominent artists—including Jasper Johns—also submitted an amicus brief that included full color plates of their art along with legal arguments that if the case was decided against me, then their art could also be prosecuted. So the whole debate was more societal and more two-sided.

Again, we were fighting in the legal arena and out in society. And then there were developments in the world too that I believe impacted on the debate going on, including the whole thing of the collapse of these phony communist regimes in Eastern Europe that was going on in 1989, as well as the Tiananmen Square massacre that happened in revisionist phony communist China in early June 1989, just a couple weeks before the decision in my case. And I think a situation developed where the ruling elite in this country was politically, and this is reflected in the legal opinions, in dilemma; how were they going to continue to promote “political dissidents” in those countries while they were attempting to jail one here?

You know, Bob Avakian emphasizes “hastening while awaiting” strategically in terms of revolution. I think this has applications to particular battles. Because you don’t know ahead of time how things are going to turn out. And you don’t know how much “favorable conditions can be created through struggle.”

On the day of the Supreme Court hearing we had a protest in front of the Supreme Court before and after the oral arguments. A whole wide range of folks spoke and we had all these posters that showed different places in the world, like Panama and Nicaragua and South Korea, Peru, Iran, the Philippines, Egypt, and on and on, where masses had burned the flag of the American empire to show their outrage with the latest coup or invasion committed by U.S. imperialism in their countries. And then that evening there was an intense debate with several hundred students at American University. I knew it was not just a legal case, we were representing for all those around the world oppressed by the empire that flag symbolizes.

Revolution: What was it like a few months later when you won the case?

Joey Johnson: It was pretty wild. It was definitely cause to celebrate that the government was not able to criminalize public expressions of contempt for their symbol. They had to back the fuck up from forced patriotism. However, powerful forces in the ruling elite didn’t accept the ruling, right up to then President George Bush, Sr., who called for a constitutional amendment to the First Amendment to ban flag burning, and then Congress tried for a new federal law, which we also defied, resulting in a whole second round in the Supreme Court with more defendants, including Dread Scott and a Vietnam veteran who defied the law.

Revolution: So what do you think now, 25 years later?

Joey Johnson: I think Texas v. Johnson was an important victory for the people. And because of that, it is one of those things the powers-that-be want the masses of people to have political amnesia about. It is inconvenient history. All they want people here and around the world to see is some wholesome (in reality toxic) red, white, and blue patriotism commercial. This imperialist system, this empire that the American flag represents, is horrible.

Look at all the countries the U.S. military has invaded, occupied, destabilized, organized coups in, you name it in just the last 25 years. It is a long list. And most recently in Iraq there is Obama’s and the media machine’s propaganda displacing responsibility for the horrific suffering in Iraq onto the Iraqi people themselves, saying “We’ve done so much for them” after this system upended the whole of Iraq, did multiple blitzkrieg invasions against it, shock and awe, tortured Iraqis in Abu Ghraib, did sanctions, you name it, more than a million Iraqis dead, and millions more injured and refugees. And again, more of the amnesia and training people to look at the world through “America first” chauvinistic lenses. Let alone what U.S. imperialism has done to other countries in the region and all the blood on the U.S.’s hands.

And meanwhile they are trying to train people in this country to be blind to all that. Or to be defensive, don’t open your mouth against all this or you are “hurting the troops.” So the empire is hiding behind the troops. So we need to be exposing that as well as challenging the troops about what they are being used for.

So we really do need to stand up against all this as an important part of fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution. Because really, aren’t people sick of looking at the world through the lens of “our national interests”? That is disgusting. It is archaic! Look at how interconnected and interdependent the world is today. And yet there is this capitalist narrow-mindedness. Well, the RCP says, “Stop thinking like an American, start thinking about humanity!” And really there are billions of people around the planet who hate U.S. imperialism, and there are tens of millions of people in this country who are ashamed of and in no way want to be associated with the outrages and crimes that the U.S. commits in the world, and there is the basis to win over tens of millions more people in this country to this stand! Because we really don’t have to live in the world as it is today. There really is a basis to live in a world where humanity and preserving the planet comes first.





Revolution #344 July 6, 2014

“Let Our Children Go” Demonstration at Downtown San Francisco ICE Building

July 6, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


On Monday, June 30, over 60 people demonstrated in front of the ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Office in downtown San Francisco. There was a visible contingent of Department of Homeland Security cops guarding the entrance while demonstrators lined up along the sidewalk. This demonstration was called by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network Bay Area (SMIN) to oppose the U.S. actions of incarcerating (and deporting) refugee children and mothers who’ve recently crossed the border, desperately escaping the hell that the U.S. has been part of creating in their home countries (especially Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala). Many have been suffering in crowded concentration camp-like conditions in Texas.

Large banners reading “Let Our Children Go” and “No More Deportations” were displayed at the side of the building as several speakers (mostly women) came to the bullhorn, calling attention to the torturous conditions that these children are being subjected to in these military prison camps.

Rev. Deborah Lee spoke for the Interfaith Council for Immigrant Rights. Debra Sweet spoke for World Cant Wait, which had also endorsed the demonstration. There were important statements from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network calling for a month of actions in October “in resistance to mass incarceration, police terror, repression and the criminalization of a generation.” Other groups participating and/or endorsing were Veterans for Peace, Radical Women, School of the Americas Watch (Hayward), Southern Alameda Peace and Justice Coalition, and Causa Justa/Just Cause.

There were women from Mujeres Unidas y Activas, which has been prominent in Oakland not only in fighting attacks against immigrants, but also taking part in such actions as Trayvon Martin Day. Four women from La Colectiva de Mujeres, a day-laborers organization. spoke some bitter reality to what Obama’s “immigration reform” is all about. One woman said, “We live in constant terror from this system. American Dream??? Minimum wage in Mexico is $7 a day, and in El Salvador it’s $4 a day! We came here just to eat a meal and live!”

The demonstration was covered by a mainstream TV as well as Spanish language media such as Telemundo, Univision, and papers such as El Tecolote.