Revolution #96, July 22, 2007

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Revolution #96, July 22, 2007

The Imperialist Debate Over Iraq: How to Best Maintain a Ruthless, Unjust Empire

by Larry Everest

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

Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP,USA

The debate within the U.S. ruling class over how to deal with the war in Iraq heated up this past week—without resolution. The Democrats introduced measures in both the House and Senate calling for scaling back U.S. troop levels, but neither passed with enough votes to override a veto by Bush. Four more proposals are being considered in Congress. Even leading Republican senators are calling for a re-evaluation of the U.S. Iraq strategy. In response, Bush aggressively counter-attacked—demanding that Congress shut up and fund the war. “I don’t think Congress ought to be running the war,” he declared. “I think they ought to be funding the troops.”

This is an argument among imperialists over the strategy and tactics of empire: how to deal with a deteriorating situation in Iraq, and still be able to confront other enemies in the region and keep control of the region as a whole. Bush argues that any retreat in Iraq would gravely weaken the U.S. position in the region. The Democrats counter that Bush’s Iraq strategy has failed and has instead weakened the U.S. grip on a region that is home to over 60% of the world’s energy resources and crucial to U.S. global hegemony. Their argument is that therefore, the U.S. must scale back in Iraq in order to confront an even bigger enemy in Iran and to preserve its grip on the region overall.

In short, both sides in this debate are reactionary, and neither represents the interests of the people. This underscores how crucial it is that another force emerges: a force from outside the halls of power fighting for humanity and determined to halt the unjust and immoral aggression in Iraq, an aggression that has already caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and that threatens to continue without end and spread to other countries.

“Surging” Toward Catastrophe

This debate wasn’t expected to take place until September, when U.S. Commander Gen. David Petraeus is due to report on the state of the U.S. “surge.” But events in Iraq aren’t waiting for September. The U.S. has been “surging” for months. Yet a new government report acknowledged that the Iraqi regime (implanted and imposed by the U.S.) has met only 8 of the 18 “benchmarks” demanded by the U.S., benchmarks aimed at creating a stable, unified client regime which could suppress anti-U.S. resistance and sectarian violence.

Sunni and Shiite factions remain deadlocked over how to share power. And it recently came out that a full year ago, CIA chief Michael Hayden warned that “the inability of the [Iraqi] government to govern seems irreversible.” Hayden said he didn’t see “any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around....The [Iraqi] government is unable to govern.” (Washington Post, 7/12/07)

Partly as a result of these failures, other contradictions the U.S. faces across the whole region are intensifying. For instance, another intelligence report finds that Al Qaeda and anti-U.S. Islamism is gaining strength across the Muslim world.

So a defeat of enormous, perhaps historic, proportions (a “geopolitical calamity,” Henry Kissinger has called it) is looming larger and larger for the U.S. rulers. This is what is driving the debate in Washington—not concern for the peoples of Iraq and the Middle East. And what makes the debate within the establishment so fractious and intense is that the stakes for them are enormous, yet their options are very limited. The outcome in Iraq will likely have major, possibly unprecedented, consequences for their global power and the very functioning of the political and economic system they rule over. Yet in terms of how the U.S. ruling class perceives their imperialist interests, none of their choices are good, and any could potentially boomerang even more resoundingly than what has already happened with the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Decoding Bush’s Speech: Bald-Faced Lies and Imperialist Truth

Bush’s belligerent July 12 press conference was a mixture of bald-faced lies and distortions mixed with revelations of the actual stakes for the imperialists.

Yet Bush’s lies were largely ignored in the mainstream press. For instance, when Bush was asked if he had regrets about launching the war in Iraq, he said he had been “hoping to resolve the issue diplomatically” but Saddam Hussein “chose the course” to war when he failed to disclose his weapons and disarm. In fact, Saddam Hussein did let inspectors in. He had disarmed. That’s why the U.S. didn’t find any weapons of mass destruction—after having lied about the Iraqi “threat” for months leading up to the war.

Bush said that leaving Iraq could lead to “mass killings on a horrific scale.” But he failed to mention that mass killings are already going on in Iraq on a horrific scale—many of them carried out by the U.S. military. Just days earlier, a damning exposure of atrocities by U.S. military forces in Iraq was published in The Nation. Based on interviews with dozens of Iraq combat vets, “The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness,” by Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian ( paints a picture of widespread abuse and murder of Iraqi men, women, and children by U.S. forces. Bush said nothing of these mass killings—nor did the Democrats, nor did the mainstream press.

Mixed in with such lies were revelations of how much the imperialists have riding in Iraq, and the possible consequences for them and their empire. Bush put the war in a regional context, and implicitly threatened Iran, saying: “The fight in Iraq is part of a broader struggle that's unfolding across the region… the same regime in Iran that is pursuing nuclear weapons and threatening to wipe Israel off the map is also providing sophisticated IEDs [improvised explosive devices] to extremists in Iraq who are using them to kill American soldiers. The same Hezbollah terrorists who are waging war against the forces of democracy in Lebanon are training extremists to do the same against coalition forces in Iraq. The same Syrian regime that provides support and sanctuary for Islamic Jihad and Hamas has refused to close its airport in Damascus to suicide bombers headed to Iraq. All these extremist groups would be emboldened by a precipitous American withdrawal, which would confuse and frighten friends and allies in the region.”

All these are real concerns for the U.S. rulers. Dominance in the Middle East, often enforced via Israel and reactionary Arab client regimes, has been a pillar of their global power for decades. Now the debacle in Iraq has fueled anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism, a force which is reactionary and offers no hope for the peoples of the region, but which also threatens to unravel the U.S. grip on the whole region. It was not without reason that Iraq's foreign minister, warned that if the U.S. withdraws, “The dangers could be a civil war, dividing the country, regional wars and the collapse of the state.” Washington Post columnist David Ignatius worried: “The violence that is destroying Iraq could spread throughout the region—an inferno stretching across Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria, and even Egypt and Saudi Arabia—with devastating consequences for global security.” (WP 7/12)

The U.S. rulers don’t oppose Islamic fundamentalism because it’s reactionary or because it interferes with the U.S. “bringing democracy” to the Middle East. The U.S. has never brought self-determination to the region or respected the sovereignty of the countries there. It’s brought imperialism and domination, which has in many ways reinforced Islamic fundamentalism. Now the U.S. is violently attempting to impose its domination even more directly, and this has, in turn, further fueled Islamic fundamentalism. What the people—in the region and globally—need is not either of these outmoded forces, but an entirely different alternative standing for liberation from all forms of oppression—which millions yearn for.

What Are the Democrats’ Concerns?

Those who cling to the hope that the Democrats stand for something better than Bush really should listen to what the Democrats are actually saying and watch what the Democrats are actually doing. The Democrats' words and actions make it clear that their problem with Bush isn’t that he’s persisting in a criminal war—it’s that the war is failing at the goal of defeating the forces threatening U.S. domination in the Middle East—and in fact, in many ways is making things even worse in terms of the U.S. imperialists’ interests.

In a recent interview on the Charlie Rose show (6/14/07), former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski argued that Bush has “shot America's credibility to hell” and said: “He [Bush] has undermined America's legitimacy to the degree that today, for most people in the world, the symbol of America is not the Statue of Liberty, but Guantánamo. And he has destroyed respect, or even fear of our military power.”

If the U.S. juggernaut was rolling merrily along and Iraq was well on its way to becoming a stable U.S. neo-colony with permanent military bases, a government subservient to the U.S., with an economy wide open to U.S. capital, the U.S. political establishment—Democrats and Republicans both—would be raising champagne toasts to Bush and singing praises to his leadership, while dividing their time between debating which country in the Middle East to attack next and conniving to get in on the looting of Iraq.

But this hasn’t happened. In fact, as things have turned out, continuing the war in Iraq now could seriously undermine strategic goals and interests of U.S. imperialism. And this is what is fueling the current debate in the U.S. ruling class.

Senator Ted Kennedy put it, “The American people have lost faith in the president’s competence in managing the war…at every critical step, the administration has promised calm, but there is no calm.” So now the Democrats want to reconfigure the U.S.’s Iraq strategy in order to better confront Islamic fundamentalism and other threats to the U.S. stranglehold on the Middle East—Iran in particular.

First, the proposal by Democratic Senators Carl Levin and Jack Reed would start withdrawing some U.S. combat forces within three months, and end combat by April 2008, but would leave permanent military bases and thousands of troops in Iraq indefinitely—supposedly to conduct counter-terrorism, train the Iraqi security forces, and protect U.S. infrastructure.

Second, this proposal is part of a bill proposing a staggering $649 billion for the U.S. military—and no one is opposing this huge sum being spent on armed aggression and threats to maintain the U.S. global empire all in the name of waging the “war on terror.” Democrat John Edwards—who is portrayed as being an “anti-war” Democratic presidential candidate, said, “We need a real strategy against terrorism, like the one I have offered. We need to take Al Qaeda in Iraq as seriously as we take terrorism anywhere. As president, I will apply the full extent of our security apparatus to protect our vital interests, to take measures to root out terrorist cells, and to strike swiftly and strongly against those who would do us harm.”

Third, like Bush, the Democrats are increasingly focusing their fire on Iran, and laying the groundwork for a possible military attack. Pro-war Democrat and columnist Thomas Friedman stated that a major reason for wanting to withdraw troops from Iraq was so that the U.S. would be in a better position to attack Iran! He said: “[W]e will restore our deterrence with Iran. Tehran will no longer be able to bleed us through its proxies in Iraq, and we will be much freer to hit Iran—should we ever need to—once we’re out.” (New York Times, 7/11/07)

And while Congress was debating the war in Iraq, there was no debate over threatening Iran. On July 12, the Senate voted 97-0 to censure Iran for what it claimed was complicity in killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq. This very ominous move comes after more than a year of preparations for a possible war on Iran that has included military preparations, covert operations aimed at destabilizing the Iranian government, a concerted campaign to economically and politically isolate Iran’s Islamic Republic, and a propaganda offensive blaming Iran for U.S. losses in Iraq and for supposedly pursuing nuclear weapons. And “regime change” in Iran does seem to be a goal of the Democratic presidential candidates and other major Democratic figures—even those who think it would be a dangerous and disastrous move.

No Core Capable of Opposing Bush

For all the criticism, debate, votes, and complaining, no group has yet emerged within the establishment capable of stopping the Bush regime—in part because even Bush’s Democratic Party critics share many of his concerns and objectives. And their “anti-war” rhetoric is aimed, in part, at mollifying their base of support, which has turned against the war. They fear the mass anger, upheaval, and resistance that could possibly burst through any fissure. They do not want people in the streets. They fear this—and this getting out of control—more than they fear the consequences of the direction things are going.

A Washington Post analysis titled “As the War Debate Heats Up, Stagnant Air Is in the Forecast” offers a sober reality check for those who think (or wish) that Bush is “over,” and just a lame-duck president without any power: “Yet no matter how battered he seems, no matter how unpopular he may be in the polls, President Bush still holds the commanding position in his showdown with Congress over Iraq. Even with Republican defections, as votes in both houses made clear this week, opponents do not have anywhere near the veto-proof majorities needed to wrest leadership of the war. The almost-certain result, according to strategists in both parties, will be at least two more months of anger and posturing but no change in direction.” (7/13/07)

The Democrats rode a wave of disillusionment over the war into Congressional power. Bush’s insistence on continuing the war in the face of last November’s vote has deepened anti-Bush anger. Recent U.S. polls show that 45 percent of the people want Bush impeached and 54 percent want Cheney impeached. At the same time, the Democrats’ failure to halt the war has also angered and disillusioned millions who had supported them. One poll found that only 13 percent approved of the actions of the Democratic-controlled Congress.

There is a great disconnect today between the desires of millions and what the leaders in the government are doing. Millions badly want to see this whole regime brought to a halt and the war ended. Yet the Democrats they voted for not only refuse to impeach Bush and Cheney from office, but “rule it off the table,” and meanwhile carry out what amount to worthless charades around the war.

This poses both a huge challenge and a huge opportunity for those who see how bad the situation is—in Iraq, in the torture chambers, and on so many other fronts. How are we going to act on this “disconnect” and turn dissatisfaction with both Bush and the Democrats into massive political action and resistance that can force the rulers to alter their course? The World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime provides such a vehicle, including with their “Declare Yourself: Wear Orange” campaign. On July 27 this campaign will be launched for people across the country to wear orange—to declare themselves against “unjust war, more lying, more spying and more torture” and the whole Bush agenda. Those who want to see the Bush-Cheney cabal removed from power, their nightmarish program repudiated, and the war ended should “Declare Themselves” and take this campaign out broadly.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #96, July 22, 2007

Part 13

Editors' Note: The following are excerpts from an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in the fall of last year (2006). This is the 13th in a series of excerpts we will be running in Revolution. Subheads and footnotes have been added for publication here. The entire talk is available online at

The "Two Maximizings" in the Development of the Revolutionary Movement—Among the Basic Masses, Among the Middle Strata

Moving ahead then from that foundation, I want to talk a little bit about the "two maximizings" and the decisive role overall of the first. To very quickly paraphrase here, this ("two maximizings") refers to developing a politicized atmosphere and a revolutionary current—and in particular a growing pole of people partisan to communism and to the Party—among the proletariat and basic masses; and developing essentially the same thing among the middle strata. And then there is the need to develop the "positive synergy" between these "two maximizings"; or, to put it another way (in more "classical communist terms"), the dialectical relation—the mutual interaction and reinforcement—between the two, in a positive way.

You are not going to bring forward a revolutionary force and a communist movement among the basic masses, on anything like the scale that is necessary, and potentially realizable, without there being the development of political ferment and political resistance broadly—and, yes, the development of a revolutionary and communist current—among the middle strata. In the absence of that, the basic masses are going to say to you—and they're going to have a point—that "we'll never get anywhere, we're going to be surrounded, everybody's going to oppose us, and we're just going to be viciously crushed once again." On the other hand, you can't hinge the development of a revolutionary force and a communist movement among the basic masses, and in society in general, on developments among even the progressive section of the middle strata or among the middle strata more broadly. That's not mainly where it's going to come out of. So we have to get the dialectics of this correctly.

We saw some of the positive development (and "synergy") that I'm talking about in the 1960s, for example. Why did the '60s become "the '60s"? It's because, in addition to all the ferment that was largely centered among the middle strata—the youth counter-culture and the anti-Vietnam War movement, and so on—there were masses of people, Black people and others, at the base of society who were expressing in very powerful ways: we refuse to live this way anymore. And, largely as a result of this powerful impulse, things developed beyond the confines in which various reformists and bourgeois forces were trying to contain them; things quite broadly found a revolutionary expression, in a general sense. And this, overall and in a political and ideological sense, lit a fire under all the other different strata in society. In terms of what was going on in U.S. society itself—and in the context of the whole world situation, including the heroic resistance of the Vietnamese people to U.S. aggression as well as the Cultural Revolution in China—it was that upsurge "from the base," more than any other factor in American society, which gave the defining character to what "the '60s" became in the U.S. Not the distorted character that is attributed to it now, especially by the ruling class and mainstream media, etc., but its actual, extremely positive, radical, and revolutionary character.

I remember seeing a Peter Sellers movie in the early '70s, I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (if I remember correctly, Alice B. Toklas was credited with coming up with a recipe for "grass" brownies). The movie was about this character, played by Peter Sellers, who was a typical middle class guy, a lawyer who kept getting to the altar to get married and then running away and dropping out. He had a younger brother who was a hippie who had already dropped out, and (to make a long story short) at one point this younger brother takes the Peter Sellers character to a "head shop"—they're looking around, and the hippie younger brother finds a copy of Mao's Little Red Book and says: "Oh, you've gotta have one of these. Everybody's gotta have one of these." That scene did actually characterize the times. It was not the way they portray it now. After a certain point—this was very positive, and we must not allow it to be summed up as negative—the revolutionary forces and, in a general sense, a revolutionary culture, had the initiative among very broad sections of society. And there are important lessons in that, in terms of developing the "two maximizings," and their "positive synergy" today.

Emancipators of Humanity

Essential in this—the principal aspect of this, in an overall sense—is bringing forward increasing numbers of the proletariat and basic masses, bringing forward growing waves of people from among the proletariat and basic masses as emancipators of humanity who are viewing things from that perspective. Revolutionary masses who are taking up the communist outlook and method and are learning to view the reactions and responses and the characteristics of different classes and strata from the point of view of "how do we get to a whole different world?"—and not from the point of view of "how does that affect me, or how does that make me feel?" That's what it means to rise to the level of being emancipators of humanity. It means you see beyond the shortcomings and limitations of these different strata—speaking of the middle strata in particular—and you see the necessity and the challenge of winning them, through a whole complex process, to be on the side of, or at least to a stance of friendly neutrality toward, revolution, preparing the ground politically for, and helping to hasten the time when a revolutionary situation comes into being.

If we don't bring forward a section of the proletariat and basic masses—or growing sections, wave after wave of people-–who are consciously motivated as emancipators of humanity, we have no chance for anything good to come out of all this. This definitely does not mean that it's unimportant to work among the middle strata, even with all their limitations. Believe me, the proletariat and basic masses have all kinds of problems and limitations too. The point is that they occupy a different position in society and are propelled toward different things. But here, again, there is the essential question of where they are going to be led, what they are going to be led to do—because, on their own and even with a certain gravitation toward radical solutions, this will not take the fully positive expression it needs, it will not go where it needs to go, without leadership—communist leadership.

And this responsibility falls to us—to those of us, drawn from many different strata in society, who at any given time have taken up the standpoint that corresponds to the fundamental interests of the proletariat, as a class—the outlook and method, and the cause and program, of revolutionary communism. It falls to us to in fact be the vanguard of the proletariat in that sense. If we don't do that, if we shirk or shrink from the responsibility to do that, how are the masses going to understand their own role as the emancipators of humanity? How are they going to be able to see beyond all the difficulties and the tremendous weight on them and the ways in which they're pulled down and pulled toward other things, which do not correspond to their own fundamental interests and the larger interests of humanity? How are they going to be able to realize their potential as the emancipators of humanity if we aren't very clear and firm about this (while also, on the basis of firmness, having flexibility, on the basis of solid core having elasticity)?

Send us your comments.

Revolution #96, July 22, 2007

Free the Jena Six

Jim Crow Injustice in Jena, Louisiana

by Alice Woodward

7 Talks by BOB AVAKIAN, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

#6 Conservatism, Christian Fundamentalism, Liberalism and Paternalism…Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton…Not All “Right” but All Wrong!

Download audio files online at and

The story of the Jena Six began on September 1, 2006 -- a hot late summer day, in the southern town of Jena, Louisiana. Bryant Purvis, a Black high school student, asked permission to sit beneath the shade tree known as the “white tree,” in front of the town’s high school. It was unspoken law that this shady area was for whites only during school breaks. The vice principal said nothing was stopping anyone. So Black students sat underneath the tree, challenging the established authority of segregation and racism.

The next day, hanging from the tree, were three ropes, in school colors, each tied to make a noose. The events set in motion by those nooses led to a schoolyard fight. And that fight led to the conviction, on June 28, 2007, of a Black student at Jena High School for charges that can bring up to 22 years in prison. Mychal Bell, a 16-year-old sophomore football star at the time he was arrested, was convicted by an all-white jury, without a single witness being called on his behalf. The remaining five Black students still face serious charges stemming from the fight, their lawyers and parents estimate they will go to trial this fall.

While this particular story begins in September of last year, the background story goes way back. In a previous article in Revolution, I used the “white tree” of Jena as a metaphor for all the racism, and systematic oppression of Black people, which dates back to the founding of this country. Right now, that is what is being enforced with the persecution of these young Black men.

* * *

The town of Jena, like rural and urban areas throughout this country, is a segregated place. In an article called, “Racism Goes on Trial Again in America's Deep South,” the British newspaper The Observer (Sunday, May 20, 2007) described: “Jena's major industry is growing and marketing junk pine. Walk down the usually deserted main street and you will not find many Black employees. [Caseptla] Bailey, 56, is a former air force officer and holder of a business management degree. ‘I couldn't even get a job in Jena as a bank teller,’ she said. ‘Look at the banks and the best white-collar jobs and you'll see only white and red necks in those collars.’” The local barber is still a white-only business, they have never cut the hair of a Black person.

I spoke with Mychal Bell’s father, Marcus Jones, by phone, and he gave me a picture of how this breaks down in the Jena schools: “Young white kids, most of them don’t have contact with Black people until they get to high school. They got a school, their junior high here, what they call Fellowship, and another school called Nebo—a little neighborhood that is part of Jena—they got an elementary school—a junior high school, or a middle school—one or the other. Those schools are being funded by government funds, but no Black kids go there.

“They don’t have contact, any interaction with Black kids until they get to high school. When white kids leave their school, and get to high school here, this is their first time ever playing ball with Black kids, being in classroom with Black kids, talking to Black kids, if they even talk to them, which I doubt.”

I mentioned to Marcus Jones that I had recently seen the movie Remember the Titans (about the integration of a school and its football team in 1971 in Virginia), and that the situation he was describing reminded me of scenes in the beginning of that movie. He kind of laughed, and said, “Some of that Titan’s stuff is not too far from this.”

Protesting the Noose Incident

In response to the noose incident, several Black students, among them star players on the football team, spontaneously staged a sit-in and protest, under the tree. The principal reacted by bringing in the white district attorney, Reed Walters, and 10 local police officers to an all-school assembly. Marcus Jones described the assembly:

“At any activity done in the auditorium—anything—Blacks sit on one side, whites on the other side, okay? The DA tells the principal to call the students in the auditorium. They get in there. The DA tells the Black students, he's looking directly at the Black students—remember, whites on one side, Blacks on the other side—he's looking directly at the Black students. He told them to keep their mouths shut about the boys hanging their nooses up. If he hears anything else about it, he can make their lives go away with the stroke of his pen.”

DA Walters concluded that the students should “work it out on their own.” Police officers roamed the halls of the school that week, and tensions simmered throughout the fall semester.

In November, as football season came to a close, the main school building was mysteriously burned down. In the wake of this, tensions erupted in a weekend of whites lashing out to enforce white supremacy in Jena.

On a Friday night, Robert Bailey, a 17-year-old Black student and football player, was invited to a dance at the “Fair Barn,” a hall considered to be “white.” When he walked in, without warning he was punched in the face, knocked on the ground and attacked by a group of white youth. Only one of the white youth was arrested—he was ultimately given probation and asked to apologize.

The night after that, a 22-year-old white man, along with two friends, pulled a gun on Bailey and two of his friends at a local gas station. The Black youths wrestled the gun from him to prevent him from using it. They were arrested and charged with theft, and the white man went free. The following Monday students returned to school. It was then that a fight broke out that sent one white student to the hospital. He was treated, released, and seen at a social event that evening. In contrast to how the authorities handled the assault on Robert Bailey by white students – where one white student got probation and apologized – for this incident, six Black students face serious criminal charges and decades in jail.

Marcus Jones told me what happened: “The next day, when they get back to school, the Barker boy called one of them a ‘nigger.’ We have a statement from a white kid, saying that he was right there when he called him ‘nigger boy’ or something like that. They charged them with second-degree attempted murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree attempted murder. Alright, the boy was knocked unconscious. But by the time they called for the medic to get there, he was walking. They took him to the hospital. He don’t stay in there probably no more than an hour, tops. They released him, parents come to the hospital to get him, everything, took like a whole hour. Later on that evening, they held the ring ceremony, you know where they get their rings—he comes up there all fine and dandy. He had a little black eye, little bruise on his lip, you know, but he wasn’t nowhere close to no death. He laughed and talked with everyone up there, and everything.”

Justin Barker was allegedly knocked down, punched, and kicked by a number of Black students. In December of 2006 six Black students—Robert Bailey Junior, Theo Shaw, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, Mychal Bell, and a still unidentified minor, allegedly the attackers of Justin Barker—were arrested, charged with attempted second degree manslaughter, and expelled from school.

The outrageously high bail ranged from $70,000-$138,000, leaving most of them stuck in jail for months. Mychal was 16 years old at the time he was arrested, the judge removed him from the juvenile facilities and brought him to the Jena Parish jail to charge him as an adult.

A Jim Crow Trial

What kind of trial did Mychal Bell get in the town of Jena, Louisiana?

Without any explanation, both of Mychal Bell’s parents were put on the “witness list” and therefore were not allowed into the courtroom. They were never called to testify, but they were not allowed to go into the trial. In this way those in charge of this courtroom prevented Mychal Bell's parents from attending the trial of their own son.

Mychal was judged by an all-white jury, in a courtroom run by a white judge. Whites sat with Justin Barker and his white lawyer on one side. Blacks sat with defendant Mychal Bell, who was represented by a court-appointed attorney.

The prosecutor called 16 witnesses, mostly white students. The court-appointed defense attorney called none. Barker’s attorney argued that Bell’s tennis shoes on his feet were a “dangerous weapon.”

The trial was so outrageous that when a Louisiana TV station polled viewers, 62% said that Mychal Bell was not getting a fair trial.

Mychal Bell was convicted of two felonies: aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated second-degree battery. Mychal faces up to 22 years in prison for a schoolyard fight. Compare this to the white students who attacked Robert Bailey at the Fair Barn and have been allowed to go free with barely a slap on the wrist.

The threat of a similar so-called trial hangs over the heads of the other accused Black students.

Marcus Jones said, “Now remember, who created this atmosphere of this Black and white stuff? The DA done that. ’Cause when he let those boys get away with hanging those nooses, and when they had the fight with the Barker boy, he was telling them, ‘Listen, you niggers, don’t put your hands on nobody white. If you do, I’m gonna show you. I’ll put charges on those boys.’ And lately he was saying, ‘It’s alright for those whites to do what they want to do, because I ain’t going to do nothing to them.’ Black kids see he didn’t do nothing to them about the noose incident, you know? So he’s the one that created all this racial tension here, you see. He let one race slide. But you’re going to try to enforce the law on another race.”

In an interview from an upcoming documentary that aired on Democracy Now (7/10/07), Marcus Jones showed for the camera the stack of college scholarship offers his son Mychal had received to play football at many different schools. Marcus Jones commented solemnly, “One of the best lessons that my son could learn, that’s one of the best lessons, to know what it is to be Black now, ya know, if this don’t teach him what it is to be Black now, I don’t know what will. He’s 17 now, he’s got a lot of life ahead of him. The day he sets foot out of jail, I’m going to tell him again, you know what it is to be Black now, here it is.”

Free the Jena Six!

In scenes from the documentary aired on Democracy Now, Caseptla Bailey, the mother of Robert Bailey, who also awaits his trial remarked, “They want to take these kids, my son as well as all these other children, lock them up and throw away the key, that’s a tradition, for Black males, so they want to keep that tradition going because they want to keep institutionalized slavery alive and well.”

In the face of this heart wrenching and outrageous reality, a battle is being fought to defend the Jena Six. Family, friends, and supporters of the young men are protesting and struggling. The Black community in Jena and people from across Louisiana and Texas have come together to support the Jena 6 and fight the injustice of their trials. People have put their lives on hold, and churches have opened their doors.

Marcus Jones told me, “I’m still in need of a lawyer for my son and one more of the kids. So we opened up a defense account for trying to get some good legal representation. Because my son was really just sold out by the court-appointed lawyer. Oh man, that’s so devastating. So now we’re just trying to generate some money to get good legal representation.”

All those who oppose racism, all those who watched in horror or themselves lived through the reality of Hurricane Katrina, all those who joined the debate around the Imus incident in opposition to racism and oppression, and those who have watched with horror as the clock was turned back 50 years by a Supreme Court ruling, undermining and doing away with what little rights were given by Brown v. Board of Education should join in demanding the charges be dropped against all of the Jena 6, and that Mychal Bell’s conviction be reversed!

Send us your comments.

Revolution #96, July 22, 2007

Reader Criticizes Revolution Article on Elections

We received the following letter of criticism from a reader of the article, “Elections: The Hype and the Reality,” in Revolution #68.

February, 2007.

Dear Revolution,

Greetings! I’m a regular reader and supporter of Revolution. I have always enjoyed reading coverage and analysis in your newspaper about events in the world and in this country. And I have found Chairman Bob Avakian’s works printed in your newspaper very inspiring while at the same time very thought-provoking.

I know you welcome readers’ response and that is what motivates me in writing this letter. I have some questions that I wanted to raise to you about the article, “Elections: The Hype and the Reality” in issue #68 (November 5, 2006). When the article first appeared, I thought it was a fine effort (and an ambitious attempt, given the short length of the article itself) to expose bourgeois elections and contrast them with the role of elections under socialism envisioned by Bob Avakian’s pathbreaking new synthesis. Then a friend of mine, who also reads your paper regularly, raised to me that he didn’t quite like this article because of the “leading” role of the party under socialism described and emphasized in the article (and in particular, the next-to-last paragraph of that article). At first I treated his criticism not seriously, thinking that my friend didn’t like the article because he still has a lot of illusions in bourgeois democracy. But his criticism kept coming back to my mind, especially during the time (near the end of last year) when your newspaper was running a series of essays and talks from Bob Avakian on issues and contradictions involved in the socialist transition to communism. After studying that series and re-reading the article in question, “Elections: The Hype and the Reality,” I have come to the conclusion that there were merits in my friend’s criticism of that article. I myself also had some serious questions about the article and I wanted to raise my concerns to you in this letter.

In an overall sense, my concern is that the article, in a condensed way, presented a vision of socialist transformation as a process that is somewhat orderly and neat and kind of linear. And this vision is quite different from the vision of a wrenching process full of struggle and wrangling that is envisioned by Avakian in his article “Role of Dissent in a Vibrant Society” (issue #72) and his other writings. While it’s true that “the proletariat needs to be firmly in control of the state” throughout the process, as the “Election” article said and as Avakian points out in his writings on the new synthesis, the way the “Election” article came off, to me, is rather, the party should be firmly and tightly in control of everything. (I believe this was the impression my friend got and prompted his criticism of the article.) While the word “ferment” is used in the article, the article as a whole did not reflect the spirit of ferment. While the article said correctly that the process should be led by the revolutionary communist vanguard party, my concern is that people reading the article would not get the sense of the following passage by Bob Avakian in his article, “A Materialist Understanding of the State and Its Relation to the Underlying Economic Base”:

“And we’ve also learned from experience that it is easy to veer in the direction of all solid core and a linear view of how you advance toward communism, how you carry forward the socialist transition: linear in the sense that everything is extended out as a line from the party--it’s the party leading the masses to do this, the party leading the masses to do that. Yes, in an overall sense, it is necessary for the party to lead the masses, as long as there is a need for a vanguard party; but it is a very complex and contradictory process that I think we have to envision and that is envisioned in this new synthesis, which has to do with unleashing a lot of mass upheaval, turmoil, tumult, debate, dissent, and thrashing it through among and together with the masses, in order for the masses, in growing numbers, to synthesize what’s true and correct and revolutionary out of all that. And yes, on that basis, to suppress what actually needs to be suppressed, but also to carry forward what needs to be carried forward, and to deal correctly, at any point, with the two different contradictions (contradictions among the people and contradictions between the people and the enemy). This is a different way, a not so linear way. It’s not like you’re fly-fishing and throwing a line out--it’s much more ‘throwing out’ a process that goes in many different directions and then working through, together with the masses, to synthesize it, without letting go of the core of everything. And that’s the very difficult part, to do that without letting go of the core of everything.”

And that is the point of “going to the brink of being drawn and quartered.” which is emphasized a lot in Avakian’s writings on the new synthesis. But I don’t think the “Election” article brought forward that sense and spirit at all. In fact, I think the vision that Avakian criticizes at the beginning of the passage quoted above is the vision the “Election” article ended up presenting.

As far as the question of “contested elections” is concerned, I think the “Election” article gives a too neat and simplistic, kind of a “text-book” view about these contested elections under socialism. How to make sure--in a world likely still dominated by powerful hostile reactionary states--that necessary state secrets will not be disclosed to imperialists and other enemies of the socialist state while these contested elections and public debates in relation to them are held? How will the socialist state in this context handle correctly the contradictions between the people and enemy and contradictions among people? Thinking about all these complex contradictions and the kind of tumultuous situation these contested elections will give rise to would underscore the difficulty and the need of “going to the brink of being drawn and quartered.” But I don’t get this kind of sense from reading that particular part of the “Election” article where contested elections were addressed. (I also have a related question: can the question of contested elections be fully discussed without mentioning the role of laws and constitution in the way that Bob Avakian envisions--for example, in his article, “A Materialist Understanding of the State and its Relation to the Underlying Economic Base”? Just discussing the role of contested elections without describing how the laws and the constitution work in broad strokes--would that give people a wrong impression that these contested elections are just a way to “set up” opponents of the socialist government for later prosecution?)

My second criticism/concern about the “Election” article is that the discussion mostly left out the middle class and intellectuals in a socialist society, an important section of society that the proletariat has to live with and transform. The masses talked about in the article are clearly the working people. The only mentions in the article of the middle strata were two sentences: “a relatively small section of society do intellectual work and are trained to work with ideas,” and, “other sections of society will be in a better position and more trained to engage in political discourse.” What about these people? How are they going to be transformed in the whole process, including in the contested elections? How can their important contributions to society be fully unleashed? Leaving the middle strata and intellectuals out gives people an impression of socialism being a society of “class against class”--simply a contradiction between the proletariat vs the “old exploiters but also new exploiters generated by the remaining inequalities in society.” This misses the whole thrust made by Bob Avakian in his various articles about the new synthesis, including importantly, the article (in issue #67), “The Revolution We Are About Should Not Only Encompass But Welcome the Arundhati Roys of the World.” How to handle correctly the sentiments and opinions of the Arundhati Roys of the world in socialism? How to welcome them and their opinions and criticisms in the whole process, even with all their cantankerousness, so that the humanity can go to the “4 alls” and beyond? What is required in doing so, epistemologically, ideologically, and politically? If one considers all what is said in the “Arundhati Roys” article by Avakian, one would get a sense of the crucial need of (and the difficulty involved in) maintaining the orientation of being willing to go to the brink of being drawn and quartered. I’m not saying all of the above has to be addressed in one article, but the problem I have with the “Election” article is that it did not even include this important section of society--its contributions and its transformation--when it discussed the process of socialism and the role of contested election. And that, in my opinion, is one reason why the article gave an orderly, neat and linear view of the process of the socialist transformation.

Chairman Bob Avakian’s new synthesis is indeed a very radical re-envisioning of socialism and communism. It’s something I am grappling with a lot and I hope many, many readers are doing the same because I think the future of humanity depends on it. Through this letter and by raising my concerns and criticisms of your “Election: The Hype and the Reality” article, I wanted to share with you my grappling with his new synthesis.

A reader

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Revolution #96, July 22, 2007

The Editors Respond

From the editors of Revolution newspaper in response to the criticism of the article “Elections: The Hype and the Reality”

We agree with this criticism. Building socialism with the goal of a classless, communist world requires proletarian state power and leadership. But not the kind of state power and leadership described in the article “Elections: Hype and Reality.”

Our article actually put forward a wrong model, one that is very different from what is referred to by the reader and is discussed in the writings and talks of Bob Avakian. It looked at the difficult contradictions involved in leading the masses and adopted a wrong answer to those contradictions--a top down, linear view where the party thinks it knows everything and is “firmly in control.” In this model, elections could actually end up being a way for oppositional forces--and many others, for that matter--to be suppressed, despite whatever “good intentions” the revolutionary regime might start out with.

Also, as the letter points out, this article had a wrong approach towards the middle class and intellectuals under socialism. The article did not appreciate the objective role of intellectuals in society and the need to fully bring those who work with ideas into the whole process of transforming and revolutionizing society. The view that such forces in society are a “problem” that must be subjected to “firm control”--which is how the article portrays this contradiction--does NOT at all proceed from the goal of emancipating all of humanity.

An important goal of socialism is to continually narrow the gap between mental and manual labor--transforming the situation where whole sections of society are locked out of the realm of “working with ideas.” The situation must be changed where such divisions provide the material basis for intellectual elitism, privilege, and notions of ideas as private property--and where such thinking, in turn, reinforces the gap between mental and manual labor. At the same time, there is a particular and important way that intellectuals and intellectual ferment can really contribute to the dynamic wrangling that needs to characterize socialist society overall. Among intellectuals there is a very positive tendency to look at things in new ways, to question the status quo, and to pursue creative and fresh approaches to problems. This must be fully appreciated, given scope, and developed in socialist society as an essential part of the search for truth and knowing and changing the world. And you want to give space and scope to intellectuals, artists, and scientists, and unite with and lead them to contribute to building a new society.

Overall, the essential picture that emerges from that article is of a socialist society where the only real political life is a kind of official politics that comes directly from the party. And if people want to participate in political life, that's how they'll do it…and “get educated” in the process. But socialism has to be far wilder and far better than that! It has been in the past and must be even more so, to a qualitatively greater degree, in the future.

How Will the Party Lead?

Yes, the revolutionary party definitely does have to lead, and this role must be institutionalized in the constitution. To abandon that principle would mean throwing away everything that had been won through the struggle and sacrifice of millions and handing it back to old and new exploiters. But then the crucial question is how will the party exercise that leading role--toward what ends, and through what means? And how, through a whole process, will the party itself continue to be revolutionized, and also promote a whole process through which the masses come into increasingly direct involvement in 'affairs of state…and the transformation of the world’? How will the party, and increasing numbers of masses, come to more deeply understand the world, and sort out right from wrong? The struggle in the realm of ideas over what is true is crucial to transforming the world, and this struggle must be as vigorous and involving as possible. In this context, elections and other forms where views are openly contested and debated are essential--as are the right to protest, to strike, to publish, to hold meetings, and to speak out, etc.--if a socialist society is actually to be a transition to communism, where people are consciously and voluntarily transforming the world and themselves in the process.

The question really is whether or not you’re going to have a society in which the role of the masses is still mainly reduced to working and producing wealth (with perhaps some more resources devoted to their social welfare). Or whether you’re going to have a truly liberating society in which the masses of people are increasingly and ever more fully participating in the whole process of understanding the world, figuring out the direction of society, and thrashing out how to transform not only the economy, but culture, philosophy, science, and every other realm of life. Socialist society must be characterized by the back-and-forth dialectic of people transforming their world outlook as they in turn change the world around them.

But the world portrayed in the article we wrote is not a society conducive to people understanding the world in all its complexity and then acting on that understanding to emancipate all of humanity; because of that, it is not a world anyone would want to live in, either.

The article failed to step back and look at things from the framework of some key questions: First of all, how does the proletariat, led by its party, firmly hold onto power--and make it a power worth holding onto, one that will carry forward socialist transformation of every sphere and move society toward communism? How does the new state power defend itself, in a revolutionary way, against overthrown exploiters who want to get back on top and imperialist attacks, while carrying forward the transformations to a communist world and the necessary upheaval that will involve? How do the masses increasingly get drawn into this revolutionary process of building socialist society as a transition to communism? What are the contradictions involved in moving society forward, through tumultuous, back-and-forth struggle, in the direction of achieving a classless society where the need for the state will have been surpassed, and the state itself will have been abolished, together with oppressive and antagonistic divisions among the people? And then how do we examine everything-- including the role of elections--in this light?

Instead, the approach of the article was basically: “This is something that will pose a ‘problem’--i.e., the masses will want elections and this could get messy, so we have to tightly control things, even while we talk about ferment and dissent.”

The article quotes Bob Avakian--but it does not proceed from his overall method and approach, and vision, on this whole question, which pivots on the concept of “solid core with a lot of elasticity”; hence the quotes end up out of context and gutted of meaning. In Bob Avakian’s re-envisioned conception of socialism, “elasticity” includes many different forms of creativity, initiative, unconventional thinking, and dissent. And on the basis of a solid core which has as its point of departure the goal of communism and classless society, and in that context firmly holding onto state power to serve that goal--this elasticity must not only be allowed, but encouraged, welcomed, and fully unleashed. This is a vision of a very vibrant society in which there is broad wrangling over all kinds of questions--a society more wild and more filled with ferment and dissent than what has existed in previous socialist societies.

So what does this mean in terms of the real contradictions posed by having elections in a socialist society?

In approaching this, it remains a cardinal principle that the proletariat cannot share power with other classes ; in any state, either one class or another will exercise power and transform society in accordance with the underlying economic and social relations characteristic of its kind of society. This has real concrete meaning under socialism--to take two crucial examples, the army and the top courts will be particularly responsible to the party. At the same time, there will be a constitution and laws, which will provide the context for how this leadership is exercised; and, as Bob Avakian has emphasized, while in an overall sense the army and the courts must be accountable to and led by the party, they must also be accountable to and in conformity with the constitution and the laws; and the party cannot--and must not attempt to--"step outside" of or violate the Constitution and the laws, in its leadership of the army and the courts, or in any aspect of its leadership. And Avakian has also argued that there should be a distinction between the key levers of state power, such as the courts and the army, and ‘the broader institutions and functions of government in socialist society, including decision-making bodies, a legislature of some kind more or less, as well as centralized institutions that can effect the carrying out of decisions or an executive of some kind.”* Avakian poses this in relation to the need--while maintaining firm control of the state through the leadership of the party--for the masses to be “increasingly drawn, not only into the exercise of state power, but also into other forms, other aspects of the governing and administration of society, and the law-making of society; and how can the political process that goes on in socialist society, on the basis of the firm control by the proletariat over the state as exercised in a concentrated way through the leadership of its party--how on that basis can the political process lead to, or contribute to, the kind of ferment that I’ve been talking about as an essential element of what needs to go on in socialist society, including the emphasis on the importance of dissent?” And, in this excerpt from this pathbreaking larger work, he proposes having part of the selection process of people to legislative bodies in local areas, and even on the national level, open to contestation.

Under socialism, the masses must not only have the right to demonstrate, criticize, and raise disagreements with official policy or even with the leading ideology--but this must actually be encouraged and promoted as a crucial and necessary part of the process of broad debate and struggle which must go on in order for the party, together with the masses, to more deeply know and change the world. And in this light, elections are one way to provide the kind of grand, societal wide contention that is needed to struggle over and actually figure out what direction to go in, what policies to implement, and what kind of leadership is needed.

Elections under Socialism: Real Stakes, Not a Mere Formality

Elections under socialism will not be a mere formality or some kind of gimmick to make people feel like they have a say in things. It is NOT the case that the party already “knows everything” and so it just has to “educate and bring the masses along.”

“We’re all going to be in this together,” and the party has to both lead the masses, while learning from them, and learn while leading. And it has to be recognized that, while in an overall way, applying the communist world outlook and method enables one to get more deeply at the truth in a fundamental and all-around sense, this doesn’t mean that at any given time the party will know the truth of something.

Again, the fundamental socialist nature of society (including its socialist economic base, the main organs of state power, the key institutions) cannot and will not be “put up for grabs”; these will be encoded in the constitution of socialist society. But elections will include real contesting of views between different candidates, and real mass, public discussion, wrangling and debate over the most acute, contentious, and visionary questions facing society, some of which will be concentrated as clashes over concrete economic, political, and social policies. Those running in these elections must be provided financing and access to the media and a real chance to argue for their views.

Having elections with real contestation under socialism is not risk-free; there are high stakes. Masses can be mobilized around wrong policies, with real consequences; and if these policies should become law and become part of a whole direction undermining the fundamental character and direction of society, the ways will have to be found to wage struggle to keep society moving in a socialist direction--including, if revolutionaries think that the whole socialist character and direction of society is being reversed, all-out cultural revolutions. But not to have such contestation runs the much greater risk of turning into a power that is not going to communism and is not worth defending. This whole process of elasticity on the basis of a solid core is crucial because if you don’t have this--more generally throughout society and as applied to elections--you won’t actually get the kind of rich ferment, dissent, controversy, and debate that is absolutely necessary for the masses, together with the party, to sort out the truth of things and to figure out, step-by-step, what is needed at any given point to move things in the direction of achieving a communist, classless world. In such a wild and woolly process, the party isn’t going to win every debate (and when it is wrong it shouldn’t!). But it should learn from every debate and become better able to lead the whole process forward.

In all this, you have to make a distinction between people who are actually involved in attempting to overthrow the socialist government and those forces and people who are not, but are speaking out against and may even be organizing political opposition to the government or may even be voicing opposition to the whole socialist system but are not involved in actual organized attempts to overthrow it. This is difficult and challenging to do, but it must be done and done well--both keeping a firm grip on the state power and preventing counter-revolution, but also maintaining the necessary “elasticity” and fostering a situation in which there is “air to breathe” in society to the maximum degree possible. The constitution and the laws will reflect, at any given time, the basis and direction of the new socialist society. And attempts to overthrow the government would be against the law. State power and the socialist nature of society (as a transition to a classless, liberated world) will not be “up for grabs.” But there is a whole range of questions that will have to be continuously examined, thought through, discussed and debated, including ones that touch on the very nature of socialist society. This is why not only will dissent, criticism, and sharply critical--even fundamental--political opposition NOT be against the law; it will be fostered. Under socialism there must be--and people must really feel that there is--room to disagree with those in authority. And there have to be the resources and ways that people can express such views.

Dissent will be something seen as crucial to the whole political process in socialist society. And being a vanguard leadership under socialism will mean leading and unleashing vigorous struggle, knowing that this could--and in fact should-- get very messy, complicated, and risky.

There is an important epistemological method here. First of all, criticisms that people raise at any given time might be correct. And even if oppositional forces are overwhelmingly wrong, they might have some elements of truth that are important to learn from.

If all kinds of clashing views are not brought into the broad debate and struggle in society, you won’t get the kind of rich process that is actually necessary to get at the truth of things. And it is extremely important that the advocates of various positions, especially those with disagreements and criticisms of the government, be given the opportunity to fully present their arguments. Only in this way can the party, together with the masses, be able to really sort out, weigh, and come to the most correct understanding of the issues at hand. And without such a process, you won’t actually be building socialism in which the masses of people are increasingly brought into the process of figuring out what’s true and correct and how to keep revolutionizing society toward communism.

And what kind of society will you have if it is one where opposition is simply shut down and suppressed? First of all, society will not benefit from the positive side of dissent, opposition, real debate, and the broadest airing of different views. And such a society will pretty quickly become a society where no one wants to live--where there is an increasingly suffocating atmosphere and the masses of people are not increasingly involved in the process of consciously transforming every aspect of society.

These are the kind of real complex and dangerous contradictions that the dictatorship of the proletariat would face. This is what it actually means to take things to “the brink of being drawn and quartered”--where you actually risk losing power, but you still go forward despite that risk, because this is the kind of society and process necessary to get to communism.

It will take visionary leadership to navigate the complex challenges of building socialism in this way--the only way in which socialism can actually be built--a society where there is widespread debate, dissent and opposition; a society where there is creativity and experimentation, and tremendous upheaval in which people are striking out in many diverse directions. This is the kind of society we want and we need to get to the goal of communism, to a society free of classes, to a world of freely associating human beings.


* See Bob Avakian, “A Materialist Understanding of The State and Its Relation to the Underlying Economic Base,” Part 2, Revolution #74; part of the larger work Views On Socialism and Communism: A Radically New Kind of State, A Radically Different and Far Greater Vision of Freedom  [back]

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Revolution #96, July 22, 2007

The Role of Elections Under Socialism

The following excerpt is from the article “Elections: The Hype And the Reality” ( Revolution #68, November 5, 2006) This is the article criticized in the letter "Reader Criticizes Revolution Article on Elections" (Revolution #96, July 22, 2007).

We have discussed how the “will of the people” cannot be expressed through elections in capitalist society. For the interests of the people to define the direction of society, there needs to be a whole different kind of system where the masses of people rule—the dictatorship of the proletariat, where society is not driven by capital's pursuit of profit. This is socialism.

Can there be lively debate, discussion and participation in the political life of society by the broad masses under the dictatorship of the proletariat? Not only can there be, but there must be. Within that, elections can play a role, though not the decisive role.

To understand why this is true requires breaking out of the framework of bourgeois democracy—where political participation in society is by and large limited to, and measured by voting and getting behind certain bourgeois politicians. As we have seen, elections under capitalism are not the means through which basic decisions are made and serve to legitimize the system and the policies of the ruling class. So how would all this be different under socialism, under the dictatorship of the proletariat?

Under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, politics and in particular elections serve to pacify the masses and maintain the overall status quo of class society. But under the dictatorship of the proletariat, political institutions and the overall political life of society (including any role that elections might play) aim to lead and unleash the masses to change the status quo, to continually revolutionize society.

This has everything to do with the very character of socialist society as a transition to a communist world where the “four alls” have been achieved: the abolition of all class distinctions; the abolition of all the production relations on which those class distinctions rest; the abolition of all the social relations corresponding to those production relations; and the revolutionization of all the ideas corresponding to those social relations.

For a pathbreaking view of democracy and dictatorship in socialist society people should read and seriously study Bob Avakian’s talk, Views on Socialism and Communism: A Radically New Kind of State, A Radically Different and Far Greater Vision of Freedom [available for download at].This is a sweeping and mind-expanding vision of socialist society—learning from, building on, and in critical ways advancing beyond the great achievements, as well as weaknesses, of the building of socialism in the Soviet Union and China.

Here, we can only touch on the important dynamic under socialism, of the masses being constantly and more fully drawn into the running of and the transforming of society—and how there is a very important epistemological dimension (pertaining to the theory of knowledge) that interpenetrates with the political aspect of things.

In capitalist society, the masses of people are not allowed to participate in the running of society. And especially for the proletariat, conditions of life—for example, lack of education, poverty, working long hours to survive, etc.—make it extremely difficult for people to be politically active.

Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, the masses will have the right to fully participate in the political life. Their lives will no longer be controlled, mangled, and ruined by capitalist exploitation. And with the leadership of the vanguard party, the masses will be able to immediately and then, in waves, increasingly transform society—narrowing differences, for example, between mental and manual labor, men and women, or white people and oppressed nationalities. But to the extent that such differences remain, they will still present real obstacles to the masses fully participating in the intellectual and political and life of society. To take one example, socialist society will “inherit” the situation where a relatively small section of society do intellectual work and are trained to work with ideas, while the masses of people do manual work.

Another great challenge faced by socialism is the fact that for some time, a large part of the population still has to spend most of the time working to produce the requirements of society. This limits their ability to participate fully in all the different spheres in society. Other sections of society will be in a better position and more trained to engage in political discourse. For both these reasons, simply throwing every question in society “up for grabs” in an election would throw the door wide open to the restoration of the old society based on exploitation.

Under socialism, there will be class forces in society—both the old exploiters but also new exploiters generated by the remaining inequalities in society—that will be actively working to sabotage the building of socialism, to overthrow the government and restore capitalism. And for some time, socialist societies will very likely be surrounded and threatened with invasion and subversion by remaining powerful capitalist countries. Defending socialist society from such enemies will be a life-or-death challenge. In that context, simply throwing the fate of society open to the result of an “anything goes” election, or putting socialism up for a vote, would betray the revolution.

The proletariat needs to be firmly in control of the state. But within this framework, there has to be an ongoing process, led by the revolutionary communist vanguard party, in which the masses are increasingly able to know the world, to understand the complexity of things, to figure out right from wrong, truth from lies, etc.—in order to be able to actually run society and transform it toward the goal of communism. This will involve the masses increasingly participating in the exercise of state power, as well as other aspects of administering and governing society. And this underscores the importance of an overall atmosphere of intellectual ferment, debate in socialist society—where critical and creative thinking and dissent make for a more vibrant society where the masses are consciously participating in knowing and changing the world. In that context, some contested elections, as one part of the process of selecting government leaders, could contribute to helping the masses of people sort out different agendas, including through critically listening to positions that are opposed to the revolutionary regime, and that are articulated directly by opponents of the socialist government. Contested elections can be part of subjecting different elements of the socialist society to necessary critical examination. All this can further strengthen the people's ability to lead society towards the abolition of the four alls.

Elections, like everything else in class society, are conditioned and shaped by the fundamental class relations that exist. And under socialism, elections will reflect and serve the exercise of political power by the proletariat, with the role of the vanguard party leading the masses to understand and transform all of society as part of bringing about a communist world.

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Revolution #96, July 22, 2007

Segregation Then…
And Now—
This System Cannot and Will Not Bring About Equality

This is text from a photo spread in Revolution. A photo-slideshow will be posted online later in the week

Segregated drinking fountains in the County Courthouse, Albany, Georgia.. [Photo: Danny Lyon]

Demonstration at an “allwhite” swimming pool in Cairo, Illinois, 1962. [Photo: Danny Lyon]

White supremacy is built into the very foundation of the American capitalist system. After the period of Reconstruction, the oppression of Black people was forcefully reasserted through Jim Crow segregation. American schools and every part of society were, especially but not only in the South, segregated by law and by lynch mobs. The Supreme Court had declared in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision that this kind of segregation was consistent with the U.S. Constitution. By law, Black people were forced into substandard and dehumanizing schools, housing, and jobs. And many decades after slavery ended, up through the 1940s, KKK mobs held mass public rallies, burned crosses, dragged Black families out of their houses, and tortured and murdered people—enforcing a system of sharecropping—near-slavery.

In the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Supreme Court held that attempts to label segregated education as “separate but equal” were fraudulent and violated the Constitution. It called for schools to be integrated “with all deliberate speed,” setting off massive changes in the United States. People around the country (and around the world) watched as courageous Black students defied howling mobs, racist politicians, and vicious police who sought to bar their entry into schools. But it quickly became clear that simply ending the “separate but equal” standard in education would not bring about any real changes. White supremacy was too deeply embedded in every aspect of American society.

Despite two decades of courageous struggle, where many gave their lives, only a dent was made in the societal patterns of school segregation. By the 1970s, the system had unleashed the “backlash.” For the past 30 years or so, what gains were made in the struggle to integrate schools, and society as a whole, have been under attack— often in the form of claims that whatever small progress was made in remedying still-overwhelming and pervasive segregation constitutes “reverse discrimination.”The workings of the system has laid waste to the communities with concentrations of Black people. Jails have been built, not schools, and an entire generation has been criminalized. Today education is more segregated than in 1968. The four states with the most segregated schools are New York, Michigan, Illinois, and California. In New York, far from the “deep South,” only one Black student in seven goes to a non-segregated school. Race affects everything in this society, cutting across economic lines, and impacting everything from what happens when your car is pulled over by the police to what kind of medical care you get, to where you can live.

The proletariat is the only class that can and will end segregation. The ruling class today and their capitalist system could never fully desegregate society and do away with national oppression even if they wanted to. In contrast, the proletariat—and a future socialist society in which it would rule—would have no interest whatsoever in maintaining this set up. The Draft Programme of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA states that in the future socialist society, “Segregation in neighborhoods, schools, and the like will be banned and integration promoted. Racist/segregationist groups will be broken up, and those like the KKK and Nazis who have initiated attacks on oppressed nationalities will be immediately and mercilessly crushed.” And it goes on to explain: “As opposed to the way in which capitalism enforces systematic discrimination and essentially closes off whole spheres of society to the oppressed nationalities, the new proletarian state will provide the resources, support, and leadership required to overcome all inequalities between nationalities and all barriers to full and equal participation in every sphere and on all levels of society.”

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Revolution #96, July 22, 2007

New Campaign Launched by World Can't Wait

Declare Yourself: Wear Orange!

Revolution obtained the following information from the website of World Can't Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime (









Over the past 7 years the Bush Presidency has given itself the right to invade countries that pose no threat to us, to carry out indefinite detentions and abrogate habeas corpus, to torture people, to spy on tens of millions of Americans without warrant, and when caught, brazenly declare that they will continue to do so, to use hundreds of signing statements, to declare themselves above the law and above scrutiny, to trample civil rights, to deny the dire threat of global warming, to suppress science.

But what is even worse, the "watchdog" media and the "loyal opposition" have allowed Bush and Cheney to get away with it! This must not be allowed to stand. We cannot allow ourselves to go down in history as looking the other way while tyranny, torture and war crimes were being committed in our names and in front of the whole world.

It is up to the people to stop this.

If you can’t bear to hear the phrases "WAR ON TERROR" or "9-11" invoked one more time to justify more unjust war, more lying, more spying and more torture, Declare yourself.

If you are someone that cannot get over bloated black bodies floating through New Orleans, Declare yourself.

If you can no longer live a normal life knowing that people are being disappeared into secret torture chambers, Declare yourself.

If you are repulsed by the scapegoating, intolerance & bigotry being unleashed and propagated by the powerful to persecute the most vulnerable, Declare yourself.

If you cherish the ideal of men and women being equal & refuse to return to the days where a woman can be forced to have a baby she does not want, Declare yourself.

If you believe in the separation of Church and State, Declare yourself.

If you are someone who is exhilarated by humanity’s capacity to discover and understand the wonders of the natural universe, Declare yourself.

If you believe that truth matters, Declare yourself.

If you have simply had enough of waiting for politicians to do right, or hoping that someone else would act first then… Declare yourself.

Your time has come to make a statement reverberating every place you go and with every person you meet.

Your time has come to be the symbol of a conscience that will not back down and will not go away.

A single person stepping forward can make a huge difference. Then picture hundreds…turning to thousands… then millions, refusing to turn their heads, to sell their souls, to accept endless war in a world without hope.

With each new burst of orange our current will grow, with every person drawn into its wake we gain momentum. What is now latent must be made manifest until we cannot be ignored, until the world and the war criminals in Washington read the writing on the wall:


"Wear orange. Put orange everywhere. Those who have been clad in orange, tortured, and detained without recourse will not be alone."

Friday, July 27 will be the nation-wide launch of "Declare Yourself: Wear Orange." Organize public gatherings, concerts, etc. and distribute orange bandanas all day.

For more information contact World Can't Wait at:
305 W. Broadway, #185
New York, NY 10013

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Revolution #96, July 22, 2007

Former Surgeon General Exposes Suppression of Science by the Bush Regime

Bush’s New Nominee for Surgeon General: James Holsinger, Anti-Gay Bigot

Bush’s appointee as the new Surgeon General is Dr. James Holsinger. Among Holsinger’s “qualifications” for the position of “America’s doctor”: he authored a 1991 paper for a committee of the United Methodist Church studying homosexuality titled “The Paraphysiology of Male Homosexuality.”

Based on a profound understanding of plumbing and its relation to human sexuality, Holsinger wrote in his paper that “the logical complementarity of the human sexes has been so recognized in our culture that it has entered our vocabulary in the form of naming various pipe fittings either the male fitting or the female fitting depending upon which one interlocks within the other. When the complementarity of the sexes is breached, injuries and diseases may occur.”

According to Rev. J. Phillip Wogaman, the main writer for the United Methodist Church committee, when Holsinger discerned the committee was preparing a statement that would "recognize the moral dignity of gay and lesbian life as practice without promiscuity," he angrily resigned from the committee.

Holsinger also sits on the United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council. In 2005 he supported a minister who refused to let a gay man join his congregation. He also argued that a lesbian minister should be removed because church doctrine deems the practice of homosexuality to be “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Holsinger, who is supported by Christian fascist forces like Focus on the Family, is a founder of the Hope Springs Community Church. The church practices what it calls “reparative therapy” to those who “no longer wish to be gay.” “We see that as a question not of orientation but of lifestyle,” said the church’s pastor, Rev. David Calhoun.

This ex-gay “conversion” therapy practiced by Holsinger’s church, and supported by Holsinger, has been denounced by every major medical group that has studied the question, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association. Many consider it medical malpractice. According to Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, this type of “therapy” is “nothing short of torture of gay and lesbian people.”

Holsinger’s appointment is being opposed by the Human Rights Campaign, the National Organization of Women, the American Public Health Association, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and others.

"Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried.” The speaker is former Surgeon General Richard Carmona who, on July 10, testified about the degree to which the Bush administration has suppressed science in the name of theology, ideology, and politics.

Carmona, who was the Surgeon General under George W. Bush from 2002 until 2006, told a House of Representatives committee, “There is nothing worse than ignoring science, or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds. The job of Surgeon General is to be the doctor of the nation, not the doctor of a political party.”

Carmona described attending a meeting of top officials, shortly after his confirmation in which the subject of global warming was discussed. The officials concluded that global warming was a liberal cause and they dismissed it, he said. “And I said to myself, ‘I realize why I’ve been invited. They want me to discuss the science because they obviously don’t understand the science.’ I was never invited back,” Carmona said.

Carmona told the House committee that the Bush administration stifled his attempts to address issues of sex education. He said that scientific studies show that the most effective approach includes a discussion of contraceptives. “However,” Carmona said, “there was already a policy in place that did not want to hear the science but wanted to preach abstinence only, but I felt that was scientifically incorrect.”

When research with stem cells became a focus of debate, Dr. Carmona said he proposed that his office offer guidance “so that we can have, if you will, informed consent.” “I was told to stand down and not speak about it,” he said. “It was removed from my speeches.”

A critical issue in all of this is the role of science and the scientific method in U.S. society today. Two worldviews are being sharply posed against each other in many ways. On one side is a biblically based view, with its blind faith and obedience to sacred scriptures. On the other is the scientific method of exploration and investigation. Capitalist society is rooted in exploitation and oppression and in turn produces and promotes all kinds of ignorance and superstition about why things are the way they are. But today in the U.S., with Bush and everything he stands for (including his close ties to Christian fascists) driving the overall the ruling class agenda, science itself is under attack. People are being robbed of the very possibility of being able to understand and change the world in all its awe and wonder.

Lives at Stake

The issues being raised by Carmona are public health concerns that are literally life and death issues affecting millions of people.

In Bush’s abstinence-only policy, youth are not taught about the use of condoms but only told that they shouldn’t have sex until marriage. This policy, based on Christian fundamentalist beliefs about sexuality and sin, has contributed to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. The Department of Health and Human Services deleted from its web site scientific health information that conflicted with the administration's "abstinence-only" approach to sex education. The Bush administration has gone as far as demanding that programs in Africa that receive U.S. government funds designated for AIDS treatment adopt a similar abstinence-only approach. This has intensified the spread of AIDS in Africa, where the disease is taking a horrific toll.

Bush’s stem cell policies hold back research that could potentially find cures to diseases that kill millions and millions of people. But this research is being suppressed because Christian fundamentalists think that it is “murdering babies” to use a few cells in a Petri dish in critical research.

Carmona testified to other instances in which the administration silenced him from speaking out on scientific issues:

Some of the things Carmona was asked to do were crassly partisan. He said papers or speeches would not be approved unless they mentioned President Bush or the accomplishments of the Bush regime three times on every page. Government officials discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because of the charitable organization’s longtime ties to a “prominent family,” presumably the Kennedys.

Two other former Surgeons General testified at the hearing. They described ways in which they came under political pressure on scientific matters during their terms. C. Everett Koop, who served during the Reagan and the first Bush administration, testified that Reagan, “was pressed to fire me every day. You will recall that most of his cabinet believed that would be appropriate because of my description of the manner of transmission of AIDS and the belief among some at the time that those who had AIDS deserved what they got.” He said that he thought that speaking out about AIDS cost him a nomination to be Secretary of Health and Human Services in the first Bush administration.

David Satcher, who served under Clinton (after Jocelyn Elders was fired for talking about human sexuality), told the Committee that he was told to release a major report on Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior as a journal article rather than a Surgeon General’s Report because administration officials didn’t want a report that dealt with sex coming out during the controversy about Clinton and Monica Lewinski. Satcher also told the Committee that the Clinton administration rejected funding needle exchange programs for addicts even after numerous studies which found that the programs prevent the spread of diseases like AIDS and Hepatitis C while not increasing drug use. While this testimony showed how capitalist relations continually interfere with unfettered scientific inquiry no matter who is in office, the hearing also revealed the degree to which the Bush administration represents an unprecedented leap in the suppression of science in the name of fundamentalist religion, mean-spirited politics, and corporate profits. As Carmona told the Committee, he spoke with other Surgeons General who all said that “they had never seen Washington, DC so partisan or a new Surgeon General so politically challenged and marginalized as during my tenure.”

Suppressing Scientific Understanding with Christian Fundamentalism

The testimony of Carmona, chilling as it is, represents only a small part of the actions of the Bush regime to suppress scientific inquiry. For example, James Hansen, head of the NASA department studying global climate change, was prevented from speaking out on global warming. His reports were edited, and his press releases had to be approved by the White House.

Political operatives in the administration refused to fund research grants that mentioned such words as homosexuality, drug abuse, or AIDS.

Christian fundamentalists whose views have no basis in science have been named to major governmental scientific commission. For example, Leon Kass serves on the President’s Council on Bioethics and was its chair from 2002–2005. Kass has attacked birth control, saying that a women’s destiny is to have children. He attacks homosexuality as “one of the sexual abominations of Leviticus.” Kass has also written essays that target what he sees as major societal problems such as the public licking of ice cream cones. Another member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, Robert George, supports laws that would criminalize homosexuality, adultery, and fornication outside of marriage. Two prominent scientists, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. William May were fired from the same advisory panel in 2004. Dr. Blackburn wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that she believed they were removed from the panel because of their support of stem cell research and that her opinion, which represents the consensus of the scientific community, was censored from the panels official report.

Joseph McIlhaney, a member and former co-chair of the President’s Advisory Council on AIDS, has said that “condoms are not a reliable defense against today’s epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases and has authored a pamphlet titled “Why Condoms Aren’t Safe.” While opposing condoms, McIlhaney argues that AIDS can be spread by sweat and tears.

Sitting on the FDA’s Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs is David Hager, a Kentucky gynecologist and Christian book author who refuses to prescribe IUDs to his patients and, according to Time magazine, to prescribe any contraception to unmarried women. According to the Washington Post, Hager was influential in persuading the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to deny non-prescription status to Plan B, the morning after pill.

The recent testimony by Surgeon General Carmona reveals how far Bush and his regime have taken us toward a new dark ages.

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Revolution #96, July 22, 2007

Chilean Activist and Others Rounded Up in ICE Raid on Amtrak Train

On July 6, agents of Homeland Security’s Immigration Control Enforcement (ICE) went down the aisles of an Amtrak train near Rochester, NY, checking the documents of people who they profiled as immigrants. The ICE agents pulled off the train 35 people who were unable to provide proof of citizenship or legal residency and took them to jail. This was a shocking example of an increasingly common outrage--immigrants being terrorized by ICE raids where they live and work, and while traveling in cars and on public transportation.

Among those detained on July 6 was Victor Toro, a Chilean exile and political activist. Toro is known by thousands for his decades of struggle in revolutionary and progressive movements, originally in Chile and now in the U.S. Toro was detained as he was returning to New York from a national immigrants rights conference in California. His arrest has raised concern among many that he might have been targeted for his activism and beliefs. His detention was reported twice on the front page of New York’s El Diario/La Prensa newspaper and was also covered by the New York Times, New York Post, and other media.

Victor Toro and others pulled out from the train were taken to a county jail. He told supporters who had gathered in the Bronx after his release, “When I was in jail, on the first day they put us in these orange jumpsuits like what you have seen so many times in that Guantánamo concentration camp. That for sure brought out a ton of memories, seeing so many Asian brothers, Mexican brothers, and all our brothers who come here without documents, dressed in that same color… My first response was great anger. Everyone has seen the…prisoners in Guantánamo in those horrible clothes, their feet and hands tied, almost falling over. That’s the first response, and it makes you think. But as the days pass, you realize that all of them are dressed in orange.”

In an interview in El Diario/La Prensa, Toro also said, “Those orange jumpsuits are horrible and cause terror. I will not forget their inscription: ‘Cayuga County.’ I felt the same humiliation as the prisoners in Guantánamo, and also it made me recall when I was a political prisoner of the military dictatorship in Chile.”

Victor Toro and his wife Nieves Ayress were among the many thousands of Chileans who were arrested and tortured by the Pinochet regime, which seized power through a U.S.-backed coup on September 11, 1973 (what writer Ariel Dorfman and others call “the other September 11”). Many thousands were outright murdered or disappeared by Pinochet and Co. When the fascist generals took over radio stations and announced their coup, they identified Toro by name as one of the people most wanted “dead or alive.”

In the late 1970s Toro and Ayress were able to escape from Chile. In 1984 they made the dangerous crossing into the U.S. without papers and settled in the South Bronx. Soon after that, the Chilean government declared Toro to be legally “dead,” complicating his ability to obtain legal status.

Toro and Ayress breathed new political life into a devastated part of the South Bronx. They founded the cultural/political center Vamos a La Peña, which hosted and supported many progressive causes for many years. (The center had to close last year but hopes to re-open.) In October 1996, La Peña was one of the initiators and organizers of the first national immigrants’ rights marches in Washington, D.C. La Peña was the organizing center for many powerful International Women’s Day gatherings. Victor Toro was among the first to sign the World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime Call and mobilized for the November 2, 2005 launch of this movement.

Toro told his supporters after his release from jail, “There is an economic and political counterrevolutionary and ultra-reactionary current that borders on fascism. This is what now characterizes all of the political decisions in the U.S. As a result we pay the price with a shift toward the right, war in Afghanistan, war in Iraq, arrogant and criminal interventions and bombings in various countries. But in opposition to this there is a resistance, men and women who are willing to not back down in the face of all of the tremendous oppression that we have been subjected to in recent years, and this resistance is felt in many places.”

When Toro was detained, his supporters quickly swung into action, raising $5,000 so he could get quickly released on bail. He now awaits a deportation hearing. A demand for political asylum in the U.S. has been filed.

Victor Toro pointed to the larger implications of the ICE raids and other intensifying attacks against immigrants: “If you check out almost all the different versions and different [immigration] bills that are being presented and that the Congress and Senators have failed to pass, of course they affect those without papers. But they also affect society overall. They are more than immigration laws. They are laws that affect national security, that mean more police in every city, walls on the Mexican border, more soldiers--that is, they mean greater restrictions on political life, more restrictions of human rights and civil rights.”

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Revolution #96, July 22, 2007

West Memphis, Arkansas: Police Killing of 12-Year-Old DeAunta Terrell Farrow

DeAunta Farrow

On October 22:
No More Stolen Lives—Wear Black to Protest Police Brutality

From the Call for Oct. 22, 2007: “October 22nd has come to be recognized as a concentrated day of resistance -- a national day when people all over the country, in different cities and through different means of expression, come together to STOP police violence, repression, and the criminalization of a generation. The nationwide epidemic of police brutality and repression is hidden from many people who would be outraged if they knew what was happening. We must resist the onslaught of police abuse as we work in many different ways to drag this truth out into the light of day. Our resistance will give others courage.”

To contact the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and Criminalization of a Generation:
October 22nd Coalition
P.O. Box 2627
New York, N.Y. 10009

Known affectionately as “Tae Tae,” DeAunta Terrell Farrow was 12 years old and had just graduated from the sixth grade. His hopes and dreams, his life were abruptly ended with two police bullets on the evening of June 22. While out walking with his 14-year-old cousin, DeAunta was gunned down by West Memphis Police Officer Erik Sammis.

Sammis says he was on a stakeout when he and another officer confronted someone who appeared to be carrying a gun. When “the suspect” didn't drop the weapon, Sammis said he feared for his life and opened fire. Only then, he says, did he realize that the “gun” was a toy gun and that he had just shot and killed a 12-year-old child.

How many times have we heard this story—which ends with the death of an innocent Black person?

Family members and others who were eyewitnesses say DeAunta Farrow was gunned down without cause. They say DeAunta and his cousin Unseld Nash, Jr. had walked a few blocks from DeAunta's home to the nearby Steeplechase Apartments where Unseld lived. The two kids made a stop at the gas station/market, picked up a pop and chips and continued down the street. DeAunta's older brother, already at Steeplechase, was keeping an eye on the two boys as they approached. After Unseld and DeAunta turned up the street leading to the apartment, two undercover police officers suddenly appeared from behind a dumpster. And within moments DeAunta was lying on the ground, shot twice by one of the officers. Some witnesses said they heard the cop shout a warning. Some didn't. Some said DeAunta had a toy gun. Others say all DeAunta had was a pop and a bag of chips. Everyone agrees that DeAunta presented no threat.

The shooting of DeAunta Farrow struck a raw nerve in West Memphis' Black community. Children step forward one at a time to announce, "I am DeAunta Farrow" during the latest of the many vigils held near where DeAunta died. The spot is marked with balloons, cards and a growing pile of toys and stuffed animals placed by friends and strangers alike. Four days after the shooting, hundreds packed a police commission meeting at City Hall, demanding answers from police officials—and getting none. 1,500 people turned out at DeAunta Farrow's funeral on July 1, where Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy.

The police department and the city's mayor have not only defended but praised the cop who shot DeAunta Farrow. And meanwhile, they have attacked those who are speaking out against the murder and demanding justice.

The police insist that DeAunta Farrow had a toy gun and made a "gesture"—as if this would in any way justify Sammis pulling the trigger twice on a 12-year-old standing no more than 20 feet away. Those who are questioning the police are being accused of making a "rush to judgment." And Sammis has denounced Black ministers who have spoken out as "'so-called' Reverends and Pastors" who "don't want to know the truth" and "only want reason to riot and promote rage."

The killing of DeAunta Farrow has shone a spotlight on police brutality against Black people in West Memphis City. Young Black men stopped and questioned for what amounts to walking while Black. Black kids being put onto the hot hoods of police cars for an extended time during searches. Homes raided and doors kicked in—based on wrong information.

As it turns out Sammis, who Police Chief Paudert says is "one of the best Special Response Team commanders I've ever seen in my career," has a history of brutality. In his ten years on the force: Sammis once let his police dog maul a man so severely he required 75 stitches. Sammis used a taser on a man who was known as the town's local and harmless eccentric. Sammis and some other cops broke into an elderly couple's home that was erroneously targeted in a "meth" raid. The cops handcuffed an 80-year-old man on the floor. While moonlighting as a security guard, Sammis and some other officers attacked an entire family, macing the son, slugging the mother in the jaw and breaking the father's wrist.


"If there's four African-Americans in a car, they stop it."

Pastor Stephen Chitman, Arkansas-Democrat Gazette

"I was a young man out in the yard of my parents' house… [Something happened up the street, and police came into the neighborhood.] I turned to go back into my parents' house, and an officer pointed a gun at me and told me that he would shoot my black ass—that's his words—if I took another step away from him."

Marco McClendon, West Memphis City Councilman, about a personal encounter with police, Arkansas-Democrat Gazette

"In general, the Black men are harassed for basically no reason."

Lorraine Robinson, Black Councilwoman in West Memphis City, speaking to Revolution

In many ways, the killing of DeAunta Farrow reflects much that is wrong in West Memphis—just how deeply rooted the oppression of Black people is in America and how the role of the police is to protect and keep intact the unjust and racist status quo.

This city of 28,000 sits just west across the Mississippi from its much larger sister city in Tennessee. West Memphis is predominately Black, and 6 out of 10 on the city council are Black. But Councilwoman Lorraine Robinson told Revolution that most of the cops are white, most of the employees at city hall and heads of city administrative departments are white, and most of the faces in the downtown businesses and banks are white. "Some jobs are for white people, some jobs are for Black people—that's the mentality for West Memphis," she said.

A generation after the civil rights struggles, segregation, open racism, and discrimination remain the currency. The area where DeAunta Farrow lived on the predominately Black northeast side of town used to be off limits for Black people. This was a place where there was a time when the police could arrest a Black person for violating the system of legal segregation that once ruled throughout the South. Today, according to Lorraine Robinson, the public schools are as segregated they were decades ago. She said that white families still living in the northeast side of West Memphis drive their children across town to attend the two remaining predominately white schools. And police still treat Black people like dirt.


When hundreds of people came to a meeting at city hall on June 26 to demand answers about the shooting of DeAunta Farrow, the city's response was to station state police, highway patrolmen, and city police in and around city hall. Though the meeting room was packed and sweltering, Mayor Johnson refused to turn the air conditioning on. Though people couldn't hear what was being said, the mics were kept off. A white city councilwoman complained about Black people being too close to her, saying, “I'm not going to be in a meeting if they have to stand around me.” A white police officer told Lorraine Robinson she would have to move out of her seat where the mayor and police officials, all white, were sitting. Robinson said when this happened her mind immediately flashed back to her childhood days in Jim Crow Arkansas: “When we wanted a cool drink of water we would drink out of a fountain marked colored—with rusty water dripping down—next to the clean white fountain. I remembered going to the doctors office and the sign said colored office. Getting on the bus to Memphis, even though there were seats open we had to go to the back of the bus. When that officer said that about moving out of my seat I remembered all of that.”

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Revolution #96, July 22, 2007

If You Believe…

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8 x 11 pdf (174K)
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Revolution #96, July 22, 2007


In last week’s issue of Revolution (#95), page 5, the caption for the top photo should have read: “Protesters take over a tank during the mass upsurge against the Shah, 1978.”


Also in issue #95, page 11, the photo should have been credited to Sandra Luna.

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