Revolution #119 February 10, 2008

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Revolution #119, February 10, 2008

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Celebrate Darwin Day February 12

Charles Darwin about 1860

Darwin Day, February 12 each year, is an international celebration of the birthday of Charles Darwin, who first developed the modern scientific theory of the evolution of life.

What would the world be like today without Darwin and the science of evolution?

It is no exaggeration to say that this world would be a much more terrible and impoverished place—in every dimension. There would be no modern medicine—no way to know that we could use tissue from animals sharing a common ancestry to fix a failing human heart valve. No chance to stop infections that evolve and grow resistant to treatments, or discover cures for viruses like AIDS. Moreover, we’d be deprived of the wonderment and exhilaration from learning how the natural world actually works. Conversely, because Darwin did make this contribution, his work also served to strengthen the scientific method and its role in modern society. And that is very important.

There is beauty as well as usefulness to the truth that Darwin discovered. As Darwin himself put it poetically in the conclusion of On the Origin of Species, the path-breaking book which first put forward his theory: “It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us…. There is grandeur in this view of life....”

Evolution is true. There is evidence of it everywhere (and nobody has ever found evidence to disprove it). To take just one example, the book The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism—Knowing What’s Real and Why it Matters by Ardea Skybreak explores the evolution of whales: First, the earliest ancestors of all animal life on land evolved from fish and developed the capacity to walk on land, and then one branch of those animals, the ancestors of whales, over many generations, evolved to live in the sea again. From the sea, and then, many millions of years later, back into the sea! That’s why examining the skeleton of a baleen whale reveals the remnants of hipbones that once supported legs!

An 1888 illustration of a whale skeleton showing the remnants of hipbones (c).  

Evolution shows that—starting from simple forms of life—all living things transformed out of other living things in a tremendous branching tree, including humans and all their mental capacities. This has been firmly established by scientists from many different fields coming at this from different angles. And all this happened without any overall preset direction, let alone being orchestrated by a (non-existent) god (what kind of an inept god would create a whale with tiny skeletal hips?). The changes in life forms are driven by naturally occurring variations (changes) in the genes that make up living things. And many of those changes are then “sorted out” through natural selection, as different plants and animals confront and either survive, or die off, in constantly changing environments.

As Ardea Skybreak put it: “Everyone needs to understand the basic facts of evolution as well as the essentials of the scientific method.…When people are deprived of a scientific approach to reality as a whole, they are robbed of both a full appreciation of the beauty and richness of the natural world and the means to understand the dynamics of change not only in nature but in human society as well.” (The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism—Knowing What’s Real and Why it Matters, p. viii)

* * *

During its rise to power, the capitalist class generally supported science in opposition to the Catholic Church and the established ruling feudal system that was behind it. The powerful productive forces that capitalism brought into being could never have developed without a leap in science, and the scientific method. But the rising bourgeoisie (the capitalist class) never supported a thoroughly scientific outlook. It warped science to serve its system—both through the rule of profit and the demand for ever-greater weapons to serve that rule. And, once it came to power, it required religion to console and stupefy the masses.

Today, with people agonizing about the future and feeling alienated and isolated, the core of the U.S. ruling class supports the most backward and outright obscurantist religious fundamentalism as a way to channel this anxiety into hard-core support for the system. And it supports this fundamentalism against science. Bush himself states that “the jury is still out” on evolution. Research into realms ranging from global warming to preventing the spread of AIDS to stem cell research for cures to tragic diseases is suppressed because it conflicts with political programs and ways of thinking that are integral to keeping people ignorant and enslaved.

As part of this war on science, the theory of evolution is suppressed, banned, distorted, and just not taught. Recently, an administrator in the Texas school system was forced to resign simply for forwarding an e-mail announcing a speech by a prominent scholar on evolution!

There is battle raging in society over epistemology—that is, over the nature of truth and how people come to know the truth. Is this to be done by seeking the real material causes of things in reality? Or, instead of that, by turning off critical thinking and seeking answers from some supernatural being that doesn’t even exist? Darwin Day contributes at this important time to supporting the understanding that we can and must know how the world changes through developing and testing theories in relation to the evidence of the real, material world.

There’s another dimension as well.  An important aim of the communist revolution is to “free the spirit from its cell,” as the song the Internationale says. That is to say, to liberate people’s minds from the chains of ignorance and traditional ways of thinking—including the shackles of religious belief in non-existent supernatural powers (gods). These “old ideas”  both justify oppression and foster a dog-eat-dog mentality, and also keep people from understanding, appreciating, and being inspired by the real world. In the case of religion, these ideas ultimately justify “the way things are” (“render unto Caesar”) and instill passivity and ignorance in people (“God works in mysterious ways”). Firmly grasping science, in all its rigor and wonder, is essential to the crucial rupture with that kind of thinking.

Correspondingly, in a revolutionary socialist society—and on a whole other level when humanity reaches the goal of worldwide communism—the method of scientific discovery will be taught in schools and promoted throughout society. Science, and a scientific worldview, will be made the common province of all society—including those who have up to now been locked out of that. Scientific research—including scientific inquiry that does not promise any particular immediate practical benefit, as well as research that is directed to the most pressing problems of the masses—will be unleashed on a level far beyond anything humanity has seen. Previous socialist societies have accomplished great things in this—and overcoming weaknesses and tendencies to narrow this sphere in those revolutions is a critical element of Bob Avakian’s re-envisioning of communism.

Finally, if we are to bring forward a real revolutionary movement, then it must involve people engaging in science and the scientific method. If we don’t understand the world as it really is— its underlying dynamics and driving forces, including as a key part of that where the possibility for big revolutionary changes can come from and how to seize on such potential opportunities—then we won’t be able to change it in the direction that it needs to go for humanity. Making that change—making revolution—will take millions struggling to figure out and grasp the truth and moving to act on it, decisively—not only from among the intellectuals, but also and especially from the brutally oppressed and exploited people who must and can be the backbone force of a revolution to throw off and put an end to all forms of exploitation throughout the globe. To emancipate humanity, we must emancipate our minds.

In this spirit, and from this perspective, we encourage all our readers to find and attend Darwin Day events, and to engage Darwin’s work in this annual celebration of a wonderful breakthrough in human understanding.

A list of Darwin Day events is available at There are events all over the world—from Spain to Australia to Bangladesh. In San Francisco, people are being invited to an Evolutionpalooza to celebrate Darwin Day with your fellow primates; Darwin’s Bulldogs are gathering in Grayslake, Illinois; and a whole week of programs at Indiana State University includes “The Adventures of Darwin’s Chihuahua.” In the U.S. hundreds of religious congregations are planning to join in, with talks and sermons upholding evolution on Evolution Weekend, February 9 and 10. (

Send us your comments.

Revolution #119, February 10, 2008

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The Mess in Iraq, the Threat of War on Iran, and the Challenges This Poses

by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

Editors’ Note: The following is the seventh in Part 2 of a series of excerpts from a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, last year (2007). This has been edited for publication and footnotes have been added. These excerpts are being published in two parts. Part 1 is available in its entirety, as one document, online at, and has been serialized in (the print version of) Revolution (see issues #105, Oct. 21; #106, Oct. 28; #107, Nov. 4; #108, Nov. 11; #109, Nov. 18; #110, Nov. 25; #111, Dec. 9; and #112, Dec. 16, 2007). Part 2 is also available, as one document, at

The Mess in Iraq, the Threat of War on Iran, and the Challenges This Poses

I have spoken in other talks, including Bringing Forward Another Way1 , about what a mess, what a real debacle, the Iraq war has turned out to be for the U.S. ruling class. It is striking that more than one person, speaking from the perspective of that ruling class, has talked in terms of the invasion and occupation of Iraq representing the worst policy decision that’s been made in the history of the country. That’s quite a statement! You have people like Zbigniew Brzezinski (National Security Advisor in the Carter administration and one of the main architects of the U.S. policy of backing the Islamic fundamentalist Mujahadeen in Afghanistan in fighting against Soviet occupation in the 1980s) talking in these terms. At the same time, to give us a sober sense of things (I didn’t see this, but someone told me about it), Brzezinski was on the Charlie Rose program, with Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft (former high officials in the Nixon and Ford and the Bush I administrations, respectively) and apparently at one point, after talking about what a debacle Iraq was, and what a disaster it would be to get into a war with Iran, Brzezinski apparently said that, if a situation had developed with the U.S. like happened with the British sailors who were taken prisoner by Iran, then Bush would almost certainly have had to go to war with Iran—and, said Brzezinski, I would have supported him.

So this should be something sobering for us to learn from, in terms of how the ruling class looks at its interests, even amidst these tremendously intense contradictions. But that doesn’t mean that there is an easy resolution of all this for them. Without elaborating further, I’ll just refer to what’s been said previously and analyzed in our newspaper, and in Bringing Forward Another Way and elsewhere, about what is represented by this debacle in Iraq for the ruling class.

Iran: the prospect of regime change and the possibility of war

And then there is the possibility looming of war with Iran. Scott Ritter’s latest book, Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change, is very interesting. It has its own particularities, and ultimately it is coming from the point of view of this system and a section of people who identify with this system. It has some particular analyses relating to Israel which I don’t have time to get into in any depth here but which are somewhat striking: You can see the specter emerging of the position that Israel is maybe not such a friend of the U.S., and specifically that Israel may drag the U.S. into a war with Iran, which would be very much against the interests of the U.S., in Ritter’s view. Ritter even goes pretty far in the direction of saying that people who are calling for war with Iran, more out of allegiance to Israel than to the U.S., are traitors to the U.S. This begins to emerge in this book. Again, this is being put forward from the point of view of someone who considers himself a deeply patriotic American. Without getting into all that here, I have to say that there is a lot of interesting analysis of the many twists and turns in the inspections by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in Iran, and how the U.S., and the Bush regime in particular, has tried to manipulate those inspections (or the results of them) in the attempt to establish more of a rationalization for going to war with Iran—or in any case to effect “regime change” in Iran, possibly through warfare—and how the U.S. has been, at times, frustrated in these efforts but has never abandoned that essential objective of “regime change,” by one means or another.

Now, we should not get into stereotyped and linear thinking about this either. Some people, with extensive knowledge about the internal dynamics within Iran, as well as about the U.S. and its role in the world, are inclined to believe that a U.S. military attack on Iran is a possibility but that there is also a possibility that the U.S. could try to work with and through various forces within the ruling elites in Iran—forces who would try to move in a direction more acceptable to the U.S.—to bring about some sort of regime change in Iran without having to go to war. And there is also the possibility of Israel attacking Iran and then more pro-U.S. forces coming forward within Iran to present a more “reasonable alternative,” from the U.S. point of view, and to negotiate an arrangement with the U.S. to avoid further warfare.

What seems clear is that both of these things are possible—both regime change and/or war—and certainly it would be very unwise, simply because Iraq has turned out to be a real debacle for the U.S., to therefore discount the possibility of an attack on Iran, by the Bush regime, before Bush leaves office (assuming he does). There are a lot of things at play in this, and I’m not saying this or that analysis is necessarily correct, but I am emphasizing that we should not get stuck in stereotypical, or “one-track,” thinking but rather should continue to dig down and analyze this scientifically.

What is clear, however, is that it constitutes a real contradiction for the U.S. ruling class to have an Iran which, whether or not it has nuclear arms, nevertheless is increasingly asserting itself in the Middle East. Once again (as discussed in Bringing Forward Another Way), there is a real irony in how Iran is increasing its influence, in Iraq and the region more generally, by taking advantage of the mess the U.S. has created in Iraq. And sometimes you just have to laugh, sardonically, when you hear these mainstream-bourgeois news reports: “Investigative journalism is establishing that Iranian forces are operating in Iraq!” I was thinking that there should be a spoof done along the lines of: “Investigative journalists have been engaged in a year-long study, interviewing thousands of witnesses and examining evidence from many sources, and they have now determined that U.S. forces are operating in Iraq!” [Laughter] I mean, here are the U.S. imperialists, who have, with massive destructive force, invaded and occupied Iraq, and they have their mouthpieces making noises about “unearthing the truth” that some other country has got a few forces operating in there. (And at least Iran “lives in the neighborhood”—and didn’t come from thousands of miles away to invade and occupy another country.)

Yet, notwithstanding their lies and distortions, Iran is a real problem for the U.S. imperialists, and the question of going to war with Iran is certainly not, as they say, “off the table.” Not long ago, there was an article in the Guardian of London which reported that, a month or so before that, there was a battle of sorts within the Bush regime over whether to have a more bellicose or less bellicose posture right now toward Iran, and that the result has been that Bush is leaning toward Cheney’s position of being more bellicose. But there are a number of major contradictions at play in all this. It’s not just a matter of the whims or inclinations of particular politicians—or even just the aims and ambitions of those in the Bush regime who are now at the core of ruling class power in the U.S.—but deeper contradictions that are at play, and that hold the potential to bring about a far greater “mess”—yes, for the masses of people, within the U.S., in the Middle East, and ultimately in the world as a whole, but also, in strategic terms, for the U.S. imperialist ruling class.

The pyramid of power—and paralysis

All this sets a certain framework for things. We’ve talked about the paralysis at the top of the pyramid—or specifically on one side (the “Democratic Party side”) of the pyramid—of power in the U.S. But, as dialectical materialists, one of the things we have to recognize—and which we’re discovering in very living terms—is that this doesn’t immediately lead to masses of people springing loose and going into motion with independent political action in opposition to what their government—embodied now especially in the Bush regime—is doing. To a large degree, in the short run this is contributing instead to paralysis among progressive people, particularly among those in the middle strata (although not only there) who look to the section of the ruling class that is represented in a general sense by the Democratic Party, and who are desperately striving to “come under the wing” of this section of the ruling class, but are facing the contradiction—in an even greater way than it was faced at the time of the build-up to the Iraq war, at the end of 2002 and in early 2003—that this section of the ruling class does not want to do what they want it to do. It is not just for some superficial (or subjective) reasons that it doesn’t want to do this, but because the leaders of the Democratic Party recognize that the interests it represents—and fundamentally the interests of the system it serves—don’t lie in doing what many (even the majority) of people who constitute its “base” (or who, in any case, are repeatedly pulled into voting for the Democratic Party) want it to do.

So this “striving to come under the wing” of that section of the bourgeoisie (represented generally by the Democratic Party) is in some significant ways frustrated. But, again, this leads to extremely contradictory results in the short run, in people’s thinking and in what they do—and don’t do—politically. It poses very sharply—and adds another dimension to—the whole challenge of political repolarization (and here I’m speaking of repolarization on different levels—on the level of World Can’t Wait and its objectives and basis of unity, on the one hand, as well as more fundamentally and strategically in terms of repolarization for revolution).

The continuing urgent need for mass political resistance

With that as a background and framework, I want to say some things briefly in terms of World Can’t Wait. First of all, it is important to scientifically examine what has and has not yet been achieved by World Can’t Wait. What has not been achieved is all too obvious: the mass outpouring that needs to be brought forth around the demand to Drive Out the Bush Regime! and repudiate its whole program. On the part of World Can’t Wait, there have been attempts on several occasions in the past two years to call forth this outpouring of political opposition and resistance—and work around this has reached hundreds of thousands of people and has resulted in the mobilization of many thousands, in relatively large and smaller demonstrations in cities around the country—but unfortunately this has still not been on anything close to the massive level that is required. I am not arguing—and I don’t believe it is true—that it was wrong for World Can’t Wait to call for and seek to mobilize this mass outpouring, and to paint, as the “Call”2 of World Can’t Wait powerfully does, a picture of what it would look like, and what it would mean, to have such a mass outpouring. But the reality is that this has not yet happened—for reasons that have to do with things that I have discussed in this talk (and that we have examined in other places) in terms of what people are objectively up against and how they are viewing and responding to that (or not responding in the ways that are urgently needed). So it remains a challenge—for our Party; for others, coming from different viewpoints, who are working within World Can’t Wait; and for those generally who feel compelled to actively oppose the horrors that are being perpetrated by their government—to actually bring forward the massive political resistance that is so urgently needed, and to struggle through the political and ideological questions, as well as developing the concrete means and forms, to make this a reality.

At the same time, while this is, unfortunately, still a secondary part of the picture at this point, it is important to recognize that some things have happened as a result of World Can’t Wait being on the political terrain. You can get at that by just posing the question: What would the political terrain be like if World Can’t Wait had not been out there for the past couple of years? Would the question of mass opposition to the crimes of the Bush regime—crimes which are captured so powerfully in the beginning of World Can’t Wait’s “Call” (the “Your government” indictments) and which have been added to, and have stood out in even sharper relief, since that “Call” was written—would the opposition to that be on anything like the level it is on, without World Can’t Wait (as limited as that level still is, in relation to what actually needs to happen)? I believe the answer is clearly no. Would the question of actually removing this regime, through impeachment or some other political means—driven by mass independent political opposition and resistance—would that be posed even to the degree that it is posed now, without World Can’t Wait? Again, I think the answer is clearly no. I don’t say this by way of ignoring the role and effect of other political forces, or so that we and others can not feel too badly about having fallen short so far. This is part of making a scientific analysis and assessment—it’s dialectically related to recognizing what the shortcomings have been and trying to understand more and more deeply why, but also what there is to build on, in terms of larger objective conditions (some of which I have been speaking to here) but also in terms of the particular things that World Can’t Wait has brought forward and the challenges it has posed to people, which have had a political impact and influence, even though this has so far fallen short in terms of that translating into the kind of mass outpouring that is still so urgently needed.

And there are also new features on the terrain which, in my opinion, have something to do with what has been done by World Can’t Wait, as well as other forms of political opposition. For example, I believe that even something like the present electoral campaign circus—and, more particularly, the fact that this started so early, nearly two years before the actual Presidential election in 2008—is at least indirectly related to what’s been stirred up through the efforts of World Can’t Wait (as well as others). Everybody’s been struck by the fact that this election circus has been out there so far in advance of the actual election. I was just watching CNN the other night: “Countdown to the YouTube debate.” [Laughter] Countdown to the fucking YouTube debate—it’s about a year and a half before the election and we’ve got “Countdown to the YouTube debate”!

I believe that this traveling circus—a version of which they had out early last time, well before the 2004 election, but which has started this time even further in advance of the election—is very consciously a part of the efforts of significant forces in the ruling class to promote the thinking that “Bush is terrible, what he’s doing is terrible, he’s the worst president we’ve ever had, and this is really intolerable…but the clock is ticking down and, after all, he’ll be out of office soon.” That idea, and the paralysis it leads to—the way in which it diverts people in a negative sense, away from the kind of mass political resistance they need to be waging, back into the dead-end of the bourgeois electoral process—gets reinforced by having the campaign already going on. It contributes to creating the impression—or, really, the illusion—that Bush is already gone, and now the attention is focused on who will next occupy the position of chief executive and commander-in-chief.

As I see it, one of the reasons why this traveling circus is out there already is that there is a real awareness among conscious sections of the ruling class that they have to do something about—something which will sidetrack into harmless channels, and politically “anesthetize”—the widespread disgust and outrage over the Bush regime and everything it stands for—everything it has done and is doing, but also everything it stands for in a very basic sense. There is the danger, from the ruling class point of view, that this could be galvanized into a mass political outpouring that breaks out of the confines of bourgeois politics as usual and the electoral framework that reinforces and gives concentrated expression to that politics.

Yes, we have what I call the “Frank Rich illusion”—or delusion—that (to paraphrase): “Bush is over; the Christian fundamentalists, they’re no longer a real phenomenon, that’s all over and done with.” Every once in a while, people with this viewpoint have a moment where they return to reality and recognize that this is not really what’s going on, but there is this whole illusion that’s being promoted—and probably believed by people like Frank Rich, but promoted in any case: “Now, everybody just calm down. Yes Bush is terrible, yes what’s happening is terrible. But everybody calm down. He’s almost gone. These forces are defanged, they really have no more influence.” Never mind the reactionary Supreme Court appointments and decisions. Never mind the ongoing torture (which is not really even disguised and is denied only barely, and with the most evident hypocrisy). Never mind the continuing efforts to treat the scientific fact of evolution in the same way as the right to abortion—that is, as some kind of “crime” and moral outrage (a crime and outrage against Christianity and decency) being committed by various “ists” (“abortion-ists”…”evolution-ists”…and so on). Never mind the fact that Bush still has a firm grip on his role as commander-in-chief, and nothing the Democrats have done—or even talked about doing—has in any way shaken that. Yet, in the face of all that, still we hear: “They are over, it’s all done, they’re defanged, don’t worry about it.” Even when this is in the form of “liberal triumphalism,” it is at best self-delusion.

And in 2008 we will face the fact the election will be in high gear. All the primaries are going to be early in the year, and basically the terms of (ruling class) politics are going to be set by early spring, at the latest.

Al Gore and illusion, delusion and misdirection

And then we have the role of Al Gore. In addition to what I pointed out earlier about Gore and the role he is playing now3 , it is worth looking at what is said—and what is not said—in his new book, The Assault on Reason. The title of this book is a direct reference to what is being done by the Bush regime (and those allied with it). Well, the first thing I did when I got this book, before I read it, was to go to the index. Does the word “evolution” appear in the index? Noooo. Does the phrase “intelligent design” appear? Noooo. Then I read the book itself, and I never found—maybe it’s there and I just missed it, but I don’t think so—I never found any discussion of evolution in this entire book in which the assault on reason by the Bush regime is being criticized by Al Gore.

It is also very interesting, and significant: A number of times Gore actually uses this word crimes in speaking of the Bush administration and what it has done—he repeatedly accuses it of breaking the law. Therefore, in the concluding chapter of the book, Gore calls for impeachment? Noooooo. That never comes up. Here is a bourgeois politician talking about the great “founders” of the U.S. and “our great Constitution” and how it’s being trampled on and manipulated—and yet there seems to be some sort of gap here, some sort of lacuna, where the “remedy” that is provided in the Constitution, when the President commits crimes and breaks the law—this remedy, impeachment, is not spoken to in this book (and not put forward by Gore in general).

Instead, through the efforts of Gore and others, people are being channeled into things which are ineffective but safe—or at least seemingly so—things which hold out the illusion of doing something about the state of the world and the future of humanity, but without any real risk—and without really affecting the state of the world and the future of humanity in any meaningful and positive way. People’s attention is being turned to things like the environment, things like Darfur—and as important and as presently ominous and tragic as these things actually are, the way in which these issues are being addressed, and what people are being told to do about them, by the likes of Gore, are either meaningless or extremely harmful. They either involve courses of action (or inaction) which won’t get anywhere near the actual causes of the problems, and don’t provide an actual solution, or they advocate things, such as military intervention by the U.S. (or forces led by or beholden to the U.S.) into various countries—the actual effect of which would only be, over any period of time, to make things worse in the world. Even if, in the short run, such intervention might lessen some of the violence, in the long run what it will contribute to is more suffering on the part of the masses, and more violence inflicted on them in various forms.

Transforming the political terrain

All this—the operation of the imperialist system overall, as a result of its underlying dynamics, the particularity of the Bush regime and the comprehensive nature of what it is doing and setting out to do, with the lasting implications and impact of this—is still very little understood and confronted. This has imposed and is imposing very real and profound necessity, not only for different sections of the people, but for the ruling class and the system as a whole—within the U.S. itself as well as in the international dimension. For example, the massive debt that’s been accumulated; the gutting of government programs, combined with massive tax cuts; the Supreme Court appointments and decisions—these things have lasting effects and implications that are not easily reversed.

The whole phenomenon which is spoken to in the “Call” of World Can’t Wait, the move to change society in a fascist direction and for generations to come—with torture and the gutting of habeas corpus and the right to trial, attacks on dissent and critical thinking, the many-sided assault on science and the scientific method, and on rational thought itself, the promotion of ignorance and bigotry—this has gone a long way already and has set in motion things that are not easily reversed, including from the point of view of the ruling class and the maintenance and furtherance of the interests of their system. Even if other sections of the ruling class were able to come to the helm of the ship of state (to use that metaphor), and even if they wanted to change course, at least in some significant measure, it would be very difficult for them to do so. Creating a situation where it would be very difficult to undo what they have set in motion—this has, of course, been a conscious intent of the forces grouped around Bush, but it’s also been the actual effect.

Still, at this point (or in the near future), if a mass movement were called forth around the demand to Drive Out the Bush Regime!, it would have a tremendously positive impact on the whole political terrain—rupturing things onto a whole different course, or at least posing a powerful mass demand to rupture things onto a whole different course, and creating much more favorable political terms, in this country and indeed throughout the world—making things more favorable for further resistance against the crimes of this system and, more fundamentally from our standpoint, more favorable in terms of repolarization for revolution. Would things be acutely contradictory, even if this mass outpouring were to come forth? Yes, of course. Would this strengthen a lot of bourgeois-democratic illusions? Yes. But this, again, is part of the material reality that we’re working with—and driving out the Bush regime as a result of mass political opposition and resistance would create a far better set of contradictions, so to speak, than not having such a mass outpouring, even with all of its contradictory tendencies and effects. And in any case, the great need remains to repudiate, and bring to a halt, this whole program and bring about a profound change in the political terrain, through massive political opposition and resistance; and this is a challenge that we, together with others, must continue to confront and strive to break through on.  

1. Bringing Forward Another Way is a talk given by Bob Avakian in the fall of 2006. An edited version of this talk is available at, and this was serialized in Revolution in #83, March 25; #85, April 22; #86, April 29; #87, May 6; #88, May 13; #89, May 20; #90, May 27; #91, June 10; #92, June 17; #93, June 24; #94, July 1; #95, July 15; #96, July 22; #97, July 29, #98, Aug. 19; #99, Aug. 26; and #100, Sept. 9, 2007.[back]

2. The “Call” of World Can’t Wait, and other information about this organization, can be accessed at[back]

3. The earlier discussion of Al Gore is found in the first installment in this series (of Part 2), “Enriched What Is To Be-Done-ism,” in issue #113, December 23, 2007.[back]

This series will continue in the next issue of Revolution.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #119, February 10, 2008

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January 31 Protests:

“Drive OUT the Bush Regime!”

On Thursday, January 31, in response to a call from The World Can’t Wait–Drive Out the Bush Regime, there were protest actions in cities across the country. Updated reports on the protests are online at


Berkeley, January31. [Photo: Revolution]

Berkeley—Protesters rallied at the downtown Marine Corps recruiting center to demand that it be shut down. Among those joining the action was Berkeley City Councilman Maxwell Anderson. A waterboarding demonstration, to protest torture by the U.S., was conducted in the middle of the street. The Marine recruiters had closed the station early, so the protesters came back the next morning. An orange “No Torture” banner was hung from the awning in front of the office, and videotape (symbolizing the destroyed CIA torture tapes) was draped around the center. Three people who chained themselves to the front of the center were arrested, saying they would not go along with business as usual in a torture state. Earlier in the week, the City Council officially declared that the Marine recruiters are “uninvited and unwelcome intruders” and encouraged the group Code Pink to protest in front of the station.


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Revolution #119, February 10, 2008

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Excerpts from:

Cold Truth, Liberating Truth
Part 1: Slavery and Capitalism

On the occasion of Black History Month, Revolution is running a three-part series of excerpts from Cold Truth, Liberating Truth: How This System Has Always Oppressed Black People, And How All Oppression Can Finally Be Ended. This pamphlet was originally published as a series in Revolutionary Worker (former name of Revolution) in 1989. While there have been changes in some of the statistics cited in the pamphlet, the overall analysis continues to be very relevant today.

Racism: Open and Underhanded

Today one of the most common, and underhanded, forms of white chauvinism (racism) is to admit—with a little arm-twisting or even upfront and willingly—that Black people’s situation is one of being far worse off than whites but then to blame Black people themselves for this situation. Looked at in terms of Black people’s overall experience in America, what this amounts to is the dirty trick of admitting that in the past Black people were subjected to oppression and discrimination in this country but claiming now that is no longer the case. “They have been given their chance to ‘make it’ and they have failed—so it must be their own fault and it just shows that they are inferior.” So this racist argument goes.

This same kind of argument has been used to put down Black people—to add insult to the injury of slavery and other forms of oppression—all throughout their history in America. At any given point in this history, the oppressors and those who side with them have tried to deny that there is anything unjust in the treatment of Black people at the time, while perhaps admitting that there was some injustice in the past.

Always the blame is put on Black people for their depressed condition. And always this is a lie—camouflage that covers for the whole economic and political system in the USA and those who run it, the ones who are in fact to blame.

Let’s cut through their boring—and lying—“history” and deal with the real story. In doing this we will see that the forms of discrimination and oppression may have changed at different times in the history of this country but one thing has remained the same right down to today: Black people have been continually subjected to discrimination and oppression under this system. In looking at this we can get a much truer picture of the problem and thus a much clearer understanding of the solution.

Slavery and Capitalism

Everybody knows that Black people did not “come to this country seeking a better life.” They were kidnapped from their homes in Africa, dragged in chains and loaded onto slave ships—treated not like human beings but like things, commodities to be traded and used to enrich others. Tens of millions of these enslaved Africans died before even reaching America, so terrible were the conditions on the slave ships. Those who survived the trip and were then sold to plantation owners were treated like pieces of machinery. Slaveowners commonly referred to the slaves as “talking tools.” That is how Black people were treated for the first 250 years of their experience in America.

Bob Avakian, the Chairman of our Party, has pointed out that the reality of the USA has always been that the government protects the property of white people, especially wealthy white people, more than the rights of Black people. And, as he says:

“It must never be forgotten that for most of their history in what is now the United States of America Black people were the property of white people, particularly wealthy plantation owners.”

And the political leaders of the time—the “founding fathers” of the USA—defended slavery and upheld the interests of the slaveowners against the slaves. This is true of “the father of his country,” George Washington, who was himself a slaveowner, and it is true of the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States—men like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Quiet as it’s kept, the Declaration of Independence condemned the King of England for encouraging slave revolts—and rebellions by “Indian savages”—and this cold fact alone screams out the real deal on people like Jefferson who had the nerve to write in that Declaration that “all men are created equal.” And these same men wrote into their Constitution that Black people only counted for three-fifths of a human being!

To many of these white overlords the enslavement and even the extermination of non-European peoples was so “natural” that they didn’t even disguise what they were doing. For example, the French political philosopher Montesquieu greatly influenced the writers of the U.S. Constitution. Along with what he wrote about politics and law, Montesquieu had this to say:

“If I had to justify our right to enslave Negroes, this is what I would say: Since the peoples of Europe have exterminated those of America [the Indians], they have had to enslave those of Africa in order to use them to clear and cultivate such a vast expanse of land [in America].

“Sugar would be too expensive if it weren’t harvested by slaves….

“It is inconceivable that God, who is a very wise being, could have placed a soul, especially a good soul, in an all-black body….

“It is impossible that these people are men; because if we thought of them as men, one would begin to think that we ourselves are not Christians.”

Here again we see that the African peoples, and the native peoples in North America, were treated as something less than human—as though they were “beasts” or “savages” who never had reached and never could reach the “high level of civilization” of the Europeans. The fact that, both in Africa and in North America, there were highly developed societies and cultures long before Europeans came to dominate these places—this basic truth was denied and “written out of history” by the European conquerors and enslavers.

Next: New Forms of Oppression Under Capitalism

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Revolution #119, February 10, 2008

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Introduction to:

The Science of Evolution and The Myth of Creationism... Knowing What’s Real— and Why It Matters

by Ardea Skybreak

The following open letter from Ardea Skybreak to readers of the Revolutionary Worker newspaper (now Revolution) was originally published in May 2002 to announce and introduce the forthcoming series from which the book The Science of Evolution and The Myth of Creationism…Knowing What’s Real—and Why It Matters is derived. The open letter is included in the book as an introduction.

Dear readers,

In the next few months, I am planning to begin writing a series of articles for the paper reviewing the scientific evidence for the evolution of life on this planet, and contrasting this to the anti-science rant-ings of the religious fundamentalists who wage organized campaigns to try to discredit the science of evolution and prevent people from learning.

about it. The most extreme of these religious fundamentalists (also known as “Creationists”) insist that life never evolved at all, and that all the different life-forms we see on this planet today—all the plants and animals, including human beings—are completely unrelated to each other, share no common ancestors, and have remained unchanged from the way they supposedly appeared at the beginnings of the earth, launched by the hand of a supernatural Creator. The truth is that scientists have been uncovering plenty of evidence and proof to the contrary for more than a century and a half, and today the overwhelming majority of scientists all around the world have absolutely zero doubts about the basic facts of evolution. Evolution is actually considered to be one of the very best-established facts in all of science, and as much of a sure thing as the fact that the earth is not flat or that it goes around the sun. A great many of the advances of modern science have been accomplished on the basis of our understanding of evolution, and would not have been possible without it. Evolution is such a crucial core concept for the understanding of all of life that many scientists like to quote the famous geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky who once remarked: “Nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution.”

And yet, despite all the scientific consensus, the Creationists and their anti-scientific rants will simply not go away. The question is why? And in countries like the United States some of the nuttier proponents of creationism even sit in the halls of power, influence legislation, and are welcomed advisers of presidents. Again, why is that? These are questions we all need to engage.

I would argue that we all need to know at least the basic scientific facts about evolution and understand also how the religious fundamentalists who want to keep the people ignorant and confused about evolution are driven by a reactionary social and political agenda. And we need to learn to recognize what is fundamentally wrong and unscientific in the arguments of Creationists, no matter what form they surface in—and this includes the arguments of the new crop of Intelligent Design Creationists who acknowledge the fact that some evolutionary change has taken place, but continue to insist that much of the diversity and complexity of life could not have come into being without the involvement of some kind of “Intelligent Designer” at some point in the process.

It seems to me that the best and most visionary of revolutionaries are always thinking and wrangling about many different kinds of “big” social, cultural, philosophical and political questions, even right in the midst of the most intense struggles. It’s never a good idea for the focus of our thinking and actions to become so narrow that we fail to grapple with a variety of big questions—including in science and the arts—especially if we’re interested in figuring out how to fundamentally change the world.

I am hoping to spark some lively debate and discussion of these important questions among (and between) a wide variety of readers of this newspaper. We live in a society where professional scientists and non-professionals, those with formal education and those who have been offered little or no such education, are usually kept apart and rarely get to interact and learn from each other. We don’t have to accept these divisions. With its unusually diverse readership, this newspaper is in a position to play an important role in overcoming such divisions.

Grappling with the scientific evidence for evolution and the backwardness of religious fundamentalist creationism is very relevant:

If you are a prisoner in a penitentiary somewhere who is fighting not to be crushed by those conditions and to wrench out of all that madness some real understanding of the way things are (and the way they could be), and is determined to see through all the lies that have been told in order to jail the people’s minds.

If you are somewhere on the outside, bone-tired from just trying to get by, worrying about whether your kids are going to get brutalized or killed by the police, and sick and tired of being told that “things are the way they are because it’s god’s will and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

If you are a professional scientist or anyone else who may already “know all about evolution” but who would like to “connect” this question with a much broader and more diverse audience, and perhaps also engage the intellectual debate on what is the proper relationship of science and religion from a more radical political and ideological perspective.

If you are a progressive-minded person who may hold some religious beliefs but also wishes to be scientifically informed, can’t stand fanatical fundamentalist zealotry, and wants to further explore the question of the relationship between the science of evolution and religious faith.

If you are one of the newspaper’s international readers who knows that what is at present a particularly American form of creationist craziness can easily spill its borders, and who recognizes as well that bringing genuine scientific understanding to the hundreds of millions of peasants and other oppressed around the world can help to throw off the burdens of centuries.

If you are anyone else who simply wants to know the truth about the way things are in nature and society.

And if you are a political activist striving to bring a better world into being, it is important to draw the connections between the outrages and abuses of today—including the promotion of religious fundamentalism and creationist attacks on science—and the underlying workings of the system we live under. We need to help people to see the connections between, for instance, the Christian fundamentalist attack on the right to abortion and everything that happens to women under Islamic religious fundamentalists like the Taliban; connections between why some people and whole countries are so rich, while hundreds of millions throughout the world are literally starving and billions barely survive in wretched conditions; connections between the ceaseless rush for corporate profits and both the brutal draining of human labor and the critical despoliation of the planet; connections between a system of global exploitation and the openended wars being launched by the U.S. government; connections between this system’s historical and present-day foundations in slavery and national oppression and the blatant aggression with which it sweeps the world to this day.

The use of religion to launch broadsides against science in this period in the United States is part and parcel of an overall reactionary agenda designed to shore up and strengthen American imperialism, and this connection too needs to be further explored and popularized among the people. The battle to defend the science of evolution against the attacks of Creationists has been raging for some time in the United States. It is not going away, and it has big implications: not just for science and for religion, but also for the broader political and ideological arenas. In other words, this stuff matters.

In future issues of the paper this series on evolution will try to address such things as: What is evolution, and how do we know for sure it really happened (and is continuing to take place)? What is false about the creationist arguments against evolution, and why are their methods completely bogus? Why is this battle going on today? How can all the wonderful diversity and complexity of life on this planet have come to be without the hand of an “Intelligent Designer”?

It will be difficult to do justice to such a multi-faceted and far-reaching subject in just a relatively few installments in the pages of this newspaper. But I hope to do enough here to at least convey some basic facts for which there is overwhelming scientific evidence, do a little exposure on what the Creationists are trying to pull, and get the ball rolling for some broader mass wrangling on these and related questions.

If people would like to send in comments, or if you have specific questions you’d like answered, I would welcome this and I will try to integrate this into the series. I’d also like to invite others with some scientific background (both professional working scientists as well as students and non-professionals) to assist in whatever ways they can to improve on this project and to find ways to get the facts of evolution (and of what the creationist crusade against evolution is all about) out to an even broader audience than has so far been possible—including to those who might not be in a position to learn any of this through the schools or on the schoolboard and courtroom battlegrounds where most of the evolution vs. creationism battle has so far taken place.

This series will try to speak both to people who have no background in science and to people who already know “the basics” but want to get into some of the more advanced scientific questions. But please don’t hesitate to get into this series even if you’ve “never been into science” or never had a chance to learn anything about evolution. No prior experience necessary! Science really isn’t so mysterious (though some people want to make it seem that way so they can lord it over other people), and in any case we’ll work on breaking it down as we go (and those who know more should help out those who may know less so we can all move forward).

And, as a matter of fact, those of you who have no scientific training and perhaps little formal education in general could play a particularly important role in this: by struggling to become knowledgeable about evolution and what the religious fundamentalists are up to when they seek to deny the people this well-established scientific knowledge, you could do a great deal to help spread a scientific outlook among the people. Many of you have been exposed to a lot of religion and have deep roots and close family and other personal ties within communities where a literal belief in religious scriptures continues to be deeply entrenched and greatly encouraged by the people who run society—whereas, among the masses of people, a scientific understanding of things is generally not promoted or encouraged by those same powers, for reasons that are not too difficult to figure out. You are in a very good position to help bring some light into this situation. Get the word out!

Ardea Skybreak

May, 2002


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Revolution #119, February 10, 2008

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“I’m just amazed at the whole realm of science”

From a prisoner in California

Greetings ’rades,

Got the literature you sent. This will keep me busy for a while. And as well it’s good to have some good study material at hand for the brothers here.

I have been trying to get deeper into the theoretical and philosophical questions as regards communist application. I like to study so many different fields of science, all of it basically. I’m just amazed at the whole realm of science, especially how everything is interconnected. I was reading Stephen Hawking and he had insinuated that all the different forms of matter are just one different primary element (hydrogen), that the early universe just composed that basic element and at the big bang, once the universe expanded and the hydrogen atom went to war with itself, all the other elements were formed. No, of course, he didn’t say it like I did, and I wouldn’t even call that paraphrasing. I let another brother read the book so I can’t quote verbatim but this was how I understood it. And the fact that all these different galaxies actually have a history, that even the earth was once just a gas ball, and that if not for the sun we would go flying off. The law of gravity, special and general relativity, natural selection—I’m just awed at it all. I mean all these specialists in all these different fields, yet we still don’t know the half of it. And we will never know some things. I know some of those people must pull out their hair, dumbfounded for an answer. I do, and I’m no specialist at all.

There’s also something that leads me on dialectical materialism. I do see how if we all did our jobs well, we could help untangle some of the things that hinder people like Hawking or even Einstein for that matter, with his statement, “God doesn’t play dice.” And Hawking, who can take us on a theoretical journey to the beginning of time, who by his own work’s admission, discards any concept of gods, yet he still states some things are meant for god to understand.

Anyways, as I stated, I do see where we are to enter the stage and how, if we do it right, we can bring into life a thing that we all may indulge in the intoxication of potential. And on a philosophical level as well as ideological level, imagine what we could do! Talk about potential. But even now I get riled up just to do battle on these fronts. It’s the only way life even begins to resemble living. As Marx stated, various philosophers have interpreted the world; the point however is to change it! And that is what I’m dying to do. So anyways, thanks for the material. They will be used well!!

You guys have a gold mine on your hands. Bob Avakian is no joke. It must be all those years of struggle that allows him put down his orientation so lively. He has what it takes to indulge millions. Would love to rap with him.

Let me tilt the revolutionary rose for now. Love you guys. Remain vigilant.

In struggle,

P.S. Please make sure I’m on the mailing list for the paper. Haven’t received it in 6 weeks. Absolutely need that in my life.

Again, struggle

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Revolution #119, February 10, 2008

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Hook up with the revolution

Coming Events at Revolution Books

New York

9 West 19th St. (btwn 5th and 6th Aves)

Tuesdays, 7 pm
Join us for a series of sweeping and incisive discussions based on the new series “MAKING REVOLUTION AND EMANCIPATING HUMANITY” by Revolutionary Communist Party, USA Chairman Bob Avakian. The discussions are open to those who’ve been engaging the works of Bob Avakian and those who are brand new—all are welcome! Together we’ll get into some of the most essential questions confronting people who want to see a different world.

February 5: What is wrong with religion—and how would/should a new society deal with religious belief and religious institutions? Does a god exist? And even if such a god does not exist, don’t people need a god in order to “be good” or to have hope and purpose?

February 12: What really happened in socialist societies? What would “doing better” mean and look like—and can you really do better?

February 8, Friday, 7 pm
Black History Month Film Series: Negroes With Guns: Rob Williams and Black Power

Darwin Day commemoration (Call for date and time)
Discussion of The Science of Evolution, The Myth of Creationism – Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters by Ardea Skybreak

February 15, Friday, 7 pm
Black History Month Film Series: Revolution 1967: The Newark Rebellion

February 29, Friday, 7 pm
Black History Month Film Series: The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow: Promises Betrayed (1865-1896)

February 22, Friday, 9 pm
Myself: Protest in Disguise
"PUNK RAP" is a style of MYSELF's own, mixing alternative rock with classic organic hip hop!!! $10 cover

March 13, Thursday, 7 pm
Chris Finan
From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act


1103 N. Ashland Avenue

Every Sunday, 5:00 pm
Discussions of Bob Avakian’s "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity.” Call store for topics.

Monday, February 4, 7:30-9:30 pm
Revolution Books Jam Session - an experiment in directive musical improvisation. An open invitation of participation is extended to ALL musicians to join in. The goal of the evening is to create a series of spontaneous collective compositions facilitated by the house band. EVERYONE is welcome to witness and enjoy this musical event and explore Revolution Books.

February 10, Sunday, 5 pm
Discussion of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian. What is freedom? What is power? And what is the relationship between the two?

February 13, Wednesday, 7 pm
Set the Record Straight presents: "Mao, then and now," video of panel at 2007 U.S. Social Forum, followed by discussion of the Chinese Cultural Revolution

February 17, Sunday, 2 pm
Ardea Skybreak's The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters. Discussion 3: Evolution and Human Beings.

February 17, Sunday, 5 pm
Discussion of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian. What is truth? What is science? Can you scientifically understand society? Does such an understanding mean there is no room for free will and human ideals and actions?

February 23, Saturday, 2 pm
Author appearance: Timuel Black

Timuel Black is an historian and author, chronicler of the Great Migration of Black people from the South to Chicago. He will speak on the dreams and expectations of Black people in their migration to Chicago, which gave way to a very different reality and the continuing struggle to bring in a better world.

February 24, Sunday, 5 pm
Discussion of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian. What is democracy? What is dictatorship? And what is America—a democracy, a dictatorship, or both? If the “true ideals of the founders” could be realized—what would it look like—and why?

February 27, Wednesday, 7 pm
Set the Record Straight presents: Deconstructing  popular misconceptions of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Discussion and video presentation.

February 29, Friday 7 pm
"Opposing White Supremacy and Getting to a Far Better World", with Clyde Young of the Revolutionary Communist Party.

March 2, Sunday, 2 pm
Ardea Skybreak's The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters. Discussion 4: Anti-Evolution Creationism: An Assault On All of Science, In the Name of God.


2425 Channing Way near Telegraph Ave

February 4, Monday, 7 pm
Video nite: Eyes on the Prize
Two Societies (1965-1968): From civil rights marches in Chicago to urban uprising in Detroit

February 5, Tuesday, 7 pm
Discussion of “U.S. Constitution: An Exploiter’s Vision of Freedom”

February 6, Wednesday, 7 pm
Dahr Jamail discusses his book Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq

February 7, Thursday, 7 pm
Revolution newspaper discussion

February 9, Saturday, 11 am
Book discussion: The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism by Ardea Skybreak
Evolution is in action all around us – what we can learn from viruses and fruit flies

February 10, Sunday, Evolution Sunday
Join Revolution Books in Secular Sunday by taking the book The Science of Evolution to Bay Area churches (call for details)

February 11, Monday, 7 pm
Discussion: The Jena 6, the Nooses, And Why We Need a Revolution

February 12, Tuesday, 7 pm
Darwin Day: Video showing of the NOVA Special: Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial

February 13, Wednesday, 7 pm
Revolution newspaper discussion

February 14, Thursday, 7 pm
Author Adam David Miller discusses his memoir Ticket to Exile

Los Angeles

Libros Revolución
312 West 8th Street  213-488-1303

February 5, Tuesday, 7 pm
Revolución: Por qué es necesaria, por qué es posible, qué es. – Spanish language showing and discussion of sections from RCP, USA Chairman Bob Avakian's DVD.

February 6, Wednesday, 7:30 pm
The Science of Evolution, The Myth of Creationism – Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters by Ardea Skybreak. First in a series of discussions: Why is evolution important for everyone to know? What did Darwin figure out?

February 8, Friday, 7 pm
Cinema Revolución – after "super Tuesday" come watch Bulworth!

February 9, Saturday, 2 pm
“Opposing White Supremacy & Getting to a Far Better World”: Presentation and discussion with Clyde Young from the Revolutionary Communist Party.

February 10, Sunday, 4:30 pm
Bilingual discussion of Bob Avakian’s recent talk “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity.” Focus this week will be on the "Historical Experience and the New Synthesis," excerpt in issue #112 of Revolution/Revolución newspaper.

February 12, Tuesday, 7:30 pm
Celebrating Darwin Day with a presentation and second discussion based on The Science of Evolution, The Myth of Creationism—Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters by Ardea Skybreak.

February 16, Saturday, Call for time
Reception for Hank Brown and Alice Woodward, Revolution newspaper journalists who have been covering events in Jena, Louisiana.


2626 South King Street

Every Monday, 6:15 pm
Reading circle/discussion of the current installment of Bob Avakian’s series, “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity”


2804 Mayfield Rd (at Coventry)
Cleveland Heights  216-932-2543

February 7, Thursday, 7 pm
Second in a series of discussions on Part 1 of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian: Are All “Ideal Visions of Society” Equally Valid and Good?

February 10, Sunday, 3 pm
Black History Month Film Showing: The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till


1833 Nagle Place

Every Saturday in February, 7 pm
Ongoing reading and discussion of the series “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian


406 W.Willis
(between Cass &2nd, south of Forest)

Every Sunday, 4 pm
Discussions of "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity—Part 2: Everything We're Doing Is About Revolution" by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

Every Thursday, 6 pm
Discussion on the latest issue of Revolution newspaper, digging into articles and expanding distribution

RBO Goes to the Movies each month
Monthly film showings at the bookstore or gatherings to see current films with discussion afterwards


1158 Mass Ave, 2nd Floor, Cambridge  

Every Monday, 6:30 pm
Weekly discussion of the work of Bob Avakian

February 9, Saturday, 6:30 pm
Dinner and discussion with the staff at Revolution Books about ways the store can make big leaps in the coming year in projecting out as a center of revolutionary ferment and a pole of a revolutionary communist movement. Please contact us in advance if you plan to come.

February 11, Monday, 6:30 pm
Continuing discussion of the talk by Bob Avakian, “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity,” part 2. This week: Meaningful Revolutionary Work: A culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization

February 12, Tuesday, 6:30 pm
Celebrate Darwin Day! Film showing: Inherit the Wind


4 Corners Market of the Earth
Little 5 Points, 1087 Euclid Avenue
404-577-4656 & 770-861-3339

Open Wednesdays & Fridays 4 pm - 7 pm,
Saturdays 2 pm - 7 pm 




Send us your comments.

Revolution #119, February 10, 2008

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Home of the Brave The Defiant Spirit of Viola Liuzzo

from a reader

March 25, 1965: It was the final day of a four-day, 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama to the state capital in Montgomery demanding civil rights. A car carrying four members of the KKK pulled next to a car carrying two civil rights workers, Viola Liuzzo, a 39-year-old white woman, and Leroy Moton, a 19-year-old Black man. Viola and Leroy were shuttling local people back to their homes after the march. The KKK racists fired at the car and the shots struck Viola in the head, killing her.

Viola Liuzzo is the only white woman to be killed in the civil rights movement. Today very few people know the story of this courageous woman.

A Rebel witha Strong Sense of Justice

I recently saw a documentary on DVD, Home of the Brave, released in 2004, which tells Viola’s story. It also relates the struggle that her five children have waged to uncover the facts behind her murder and tells what has been revealed by government documents: that the FBI was involved in her murder and played a key role in the smear campaign against her after she was killed. According to the documentary, the FBI turned over 1000 pages of its files on Viola Liuzzo, which, as one attorney comments, “is an unusual amount for the victim of a crime.” According to the film, the file on Liuzzo was three times the size of the FBI file on the KKK at the height of the civil rights movement!

Viola had been raised poor in Tennessee. She was always something of a rebel with a strong sense of justice, but these were the days before the “traditional role” of women as “housewife” was challenged as it would be (at least to a certain extent) in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Commercials portrayed women as dancing in ecstasy at the powers of a new detergent. Viola was very much trapped in this kind of traditional role, raising the children and taking care of the home. Viola had a baby that was stillborn and this caused a major crisis in her life. Catholic doctrine at the time said that a stillborn baby could never go to heaven. Viola couldn’t understand the irrationality and injustice of this, and it caused a crisis of her faith. This was a painful and wrenching period in her life. But at the end, as one of her children says in the film, “She left the Catholic doctrine and began exploring everything.” She went to Wayne State University in Detroit to study nursing and got involved with student groups, including the NAACP.

When Viola saw scenes on television of police brutally attacking a civil rights march in Selma, Alabama, she was outraged. And when civil rights leaders issued a call for people to come to Selma, she had to go. Black people in Selma and throughout the South suffered under brutal Jim Crow segregation, enforced by the police and the KKK. In Selma, only 150 Black people were registered to vote out of a Black population of 30,000. In order for a Black person to register to vote, a white person had to “vouch” for them. 

Viola knew that going to Selma would be dangerous. Before she left she asked her best friend to take care of her children if anything happened to her. But Viola knew that it was important that people take a stand and she wasn’t going to let anything stop her.

FBI Hand in the Murder

After the murder, a vicious smear campaign was launched against Viola. Racist publications said that white women only went to Selma to have sex with Black men and the mainstream press said that Viola had no reason to leave her family. Her children were taunted at school: “Your mother was a nigger lover.” Crosses were burned on their lawn and bullets shot through their window.

Three men were charged with Liuzzo’s murder. The fourth man in the car, Gary Thomas Rowe, had been a paid FBI informer. Despite an eyewitness in the car, the three men were acquitted by an all-white jury. In closing arguments one of the defense attorneys called Viola a “white nigger.” The three were later found guilty of conspiracy in a federal trial and sentenced to only ten years in prison. They ended up serving six years for a cold-blooded murder.

In the 1970s it was revealed that the FBI informant had played a larger role in the Klan and in the killing of Liuzzo. It turned out that Rowe “had been present at just about every violent act committed by the KKK,” according to Viola’s daughter Mary. The FBI had told him to engage in violent acts. And it came out that Rowe was most likely the person who actually pulled the trigger killing Viola.

According to the film, FBI documents obtained by the family revealed that FBI Director Hoover had personally and deliberately engineered a smear campaign against Viola. Hoover put deliberately false information into reports that were disseminated throughout the FBI and leaked to the press. Hoover wrote that Viola had been sitting so close to her passenger “that it had the appearance of a necking party.” And he claimed that there were needle marks on Viola’s arm.

Viola’s family brought a civil suit against the FBI and the government. Despite all the evidence, a judge not only threw out the case but ordered the Liuzzo family to pay court costs, estimated at $100,000. Son Tony said, “I will never pay a penny to the United States government for the murder of my mother.” The outcome of the lawsuit was wrenching for the family, and especially for Viola’s sons Tony and Tommy, who had played the major role in the suit. The family was confronted with the hard truth that not only had “their” government played a role in the murder of their mother, but that it was unapologetic and was going to punish them for trying to bring out the truth. Tommy ended up dropping out from society, moving to the Mississippi backwoods and apparently taking up the racist thinking his mother fought against. Tony became a leading official in the right-wing Michigan Militia and went underground after 9/11.

For me, this points to a hard truth that revolutionaries need to think about. Even when people’s faith in the government is shattered, they do not automatically turn to revolutionary solutions. In fact, spontaneously people may turn to right-wing populist solutions or religion, or get cynical and demoralized. It is up to us to bring out to people the real forces that are responsible for their oppression and the real solution, and to challenge people, sometimes through sharp struggle, to confront painful truths.

The end of the movie follows Viola’s daughter Mary as she follows her mother’s route from Detroit to Selma and talks to people who knew her mother. Visiting the civil rights museum in Selma, Mary adds her mother’s name to a wall of comments by people who were part of the civil rights movement in Selma. “She came, she marched, and she died for what she believed in,” Mary writes.

The film also brings out how, while things have changed in Selma, in many ways they remain the same. In one scene, Black and white people work together at a polling station, but racist attitudes prevail. A white poll worker, when asked about Viola, says, “I don’t think she had any business down here.” A white couple, when asked if they are glad Black people have the right to vote, say, “I really can’t say.”

A marker has been erected at the place where Viola was shot down. But it has to be surrounded by bars to keep it from being vandalized.

At a time when nooses are appearing again and when society is trying to force women into traditional roles, the spirit and example of Viola Liuzzo is as relevant as ever. Check out Home of the Brave and watch it with your friends.  Text Box:

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Revolution #119, February 10, 2008

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From Harlem to Jena

Editors’ note: This letter was selected from reader comments and correspondence to Revolution. We’re printing it (and will continue to print more correspondence) to give readers a sense of the letters sent to Revolution, and to spark more interactivity between this paper and readers, and among readers. Selecting and printing letters does not imply that we agree, or disagree, with them.

It’s a long way from the concrete sidewalks of New York City to the back roads of Jena, Louisiana. But, for the second time in less than five months, the Harlem Revolution Club decided to make that journey.

The last time—September 20, 2007—the club joined tens of thousands who converged on Jena to demand “Free the Jena 6!” This time around, our club took up the call of the January 21st Committee to come to Jena. The Klansmen was coming with their nooses, confederate flags, and guns demanding “Jail the
Jena 6”—“No more Martin Luther King Holiday” and “Down with Communism.” We had to go down to help politically drown out these racists and make it known that we will not tolerate white supremacy in any form and to stand with all those willing to stand up. We wanted to make it known that we need a revolution and a communist society and an end to the horrors of KKK-style white supremacy.

Just like last time, the club went to people on the streets of Harlem, into the schools and even on the subway to raise the funds to go to Jena and to get the masses themselves involved in this struggle. That mobilization for the Jena 6 rally in September is what actually got me involved with the Harlem Revolution Club, so I understood the importance of asking people to do their part around the January 21 rally.

When I got into that van early Sunday morning, January 20, for the 26-hour ride halfway across the country, this lifelong New Yorker who’s never seen the Deep South before knew I was in for an experience.

I saw my first Confederate battle flag, nonchalantly displayed on the wall of a Chattanooga, Tennessee gas station ($9.95 plus tax). We saw that symbol of hate over and over again as we traveled. The Jena little league baseball team’s logo even has the “stars and bars” on it!

I saw my first Klansman face to face. He was just on the other side of a Louisiana State Police squad car in front of the Jena courthouse. He was dressed head to toe in camouflage and wore a KKK baseball cap emblazoned with, of course, a Confederate flag.  Thanks to our rally, he and his Klucker buddies got their message of racism drowned out that day.

Folks from many corners of the country came to Jena to say no to nooses, no to white supremacy and to demand freedom for the Jena 6. We were different races and ages. It was something. And, I was really proud that our club wanted to be at the front when we faced the Klan rally at the town courthouse and drowned them out.

After the rally we saw how poor Black people live in the rural Deep South when our caravan of about 20 cars took our message into the Black neighborhoods of Jena. Along one-lane roads, some of which were unpaved, there were little trailers, one floor housing projects, and small houses surrounded by vacant lots. It seemed that every fourth house was burnt out or abandoned.

We felt the warmth of the Black people in Jena in their welcomes. They waved to us from the doorways of their homes and the side of the road. “I love y’all,” one older man yelled out as our van passed. Youth, mothers with small children, and older people beamed wide smiles as they grabbed up copies of Revolution newspaper.

During those long hours rolling along the interstate, I got to participate in some very deep and thoughtful discussions—both one-on-one talks and collective discussions with everybody in the van.

In the latter discussions, using Chairman Bob Avakian’s series in Revolution newspaper as a starting off point, we talked about the significance of our participation in the rally, and we wrestled for hours with what it means to fight the power and transform the people for revolution.

I was inspired by this whole effort—by the four days of mobilization on the streets of Harlem, by the long cross country journey to confront the Klan, and by all that we were a part of in Jena. I’m sure that sentiment is shared by everybody who was in our van.

Revolution reader in Harlem

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Revolution #119, February 10, 2008

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The Road Back to Jena, Louisiana

Editors’ note: This letter was selected from reader comments and correspondence to Revolution. We’re printing it (and will continue to print more correspondence) to give readers a sense of the letters sent to Revolution, and to spark more interactivity between this paper and readers, and among readers. Selecting and printing letters does not imply that we agree, or disagree, with them.

We received the following correspondence from Chicago:

My first trip to Jena there were many, many people from around the country with a rainbow of T-shirts showing their hatred about hangman’s nooses, walking through a southern town many of them didn’t know existed until they heard about three hangman’s nooses hanging from a tree because six Black students sat under a tree for shade to get a breeze to cool out on a hot day.

Here it is, the year 2008. A white supremacist group decided to march in Jena and stand on the courthouse steps with guns and hangman’s nooses to remind the people of the heinous and cowardly racist crimes this country, America, committed against a people—to terrorize the people of Jena if they came forth to make a stand for justice.

So people went to Jena to make their voices heard against the white supremacist group. To want to stand on court house steps on Martin Luther King’s day of celebration because he marched and protested against racism, because his voice was heard around the world. To try to silence us as these racist cowards made a stand to remind the township of Jena what they represented.

The history about the hangman’s nooses is a part of history that will never, never be forgotten because you cut down a tree that six Black students stood under. To make a stand against white supremacy groups was well worth the trip. To come from around the country to show and give our support to this town, Jena, means a lot to me and other people who were there and those that could not be there.

I met some high school students from St. Louis who came to be there to make a stand with us. It let me know that our answers and our voices were truly heard loud and clear—and how important this paper, Revolution, is. Because maybe the local newspapers and news reporters will not tell the story about the white supremacist group with their ropes and guns and their confederate flags flying high.

But we will tell the story about the day we went back to Jena to drive out their message of hate with the necessary unity and words of encouragement. When I think about Jena and the hangman’s nooses the song by the great jazz singer Billie Holiday gives sad voice to its evil. In her version of “Strange Fruit” which she first sang in 1939:

“Southern trees bear a strange fruit.

Blood on leaves and blood at root

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze

Strange fruit hanging from poplar trees.”

In remembrance of my cousin and others found hanging and swinging in the trees. Forever will be remembered—never, never forgotten. My cousin was found hanging in his bathroom in a rural town in the North near a military base where he was stationed to serve his country. If he don’t get no justice there will be no peace. Justice for the Jena 6. We got your back. We want a better world.

Sister Soldier

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Revolution #119, February 10, 2008

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“A lot of room for people to be creative in many ways”

On “Film, TV and Radio Writers on Strike:
Why It Matters” #115, January 13, 2008,

Editors’ note: This letter was selected from reader comments and correspondence to Revolution. We’re printing it (and will continue to print more correspondence) to give readers a sense of the letters sent to Revolution, and to spark more interactivity between this paper and readers, and among readers. Selecting and printing letters does not imply that we agree, or disagree, with them.

I wanted to comment on the article on the WGA Strike and why it matters. I liked the article a lot, so this is a very secondary, but I think important, point to make. In the section “Future Society and Unfettering the Imagination,” there is a tendency I think to narrow the kind of creativity and ferment that will be encouraged to blossom into two paths—criticism of the socialist regime and promoting it. There will be much, much more going on than that from artists and others who have neither of those intentions (although ultimately they will come down on one path or the other). My point is that there will be a lot of room for people to be creative in many ways and some will seem totally irrelevant to what is taking place in society (and there should be discussion over that as well). Formulating it in the way the article does could give the impression that all art will be evaluated based on the political standard (for or against); and even while it talks about socialist society encouraging all kinds of creativity and ferment, it could actually stifle those people who have not yet developed a conscious political or ideological position. Anyway, just a thought I wanted to pass on.


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Revolution #119, February 10, 2008

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Pakistan’s Hudood Ordinance

On “Pakistan: A Dangerous Cauldron Heats Up” #115, January 13, 2008,

Editors’ note: This letter was selected from reader comments and correspondence to Revolution. We’re printing it (and will continue to print more correspondence) to give readers a sense of the letters sent to Revolution, and to spark more interactivity between this paper and readers, and among readers. Selecting and printing letters does not imply that we agree, or disagree, with them.

Hi, I read the article “In the Wake of the Bhutto Assassination, Pakistan: A Dangerous Cauldron Heats Up.” It was very interesting and made me think about a lot of different things. Here is one aspect of life in Pakistan that I thought you and your readers may find interesting.

In February 1979, Zia ul-Haq put into effect the Hudood Ordinance, a particularly heinous Islamic Shari’a law. This law relates to “zina” which is unlawful sex, or extra-marital sex. Under this ordinance, all extra-marital sex is unlawful and punishable. Rape and any sex outside of marriage fall under the category of unlawful sex. The only way a woman can prove that she has been raped is if she has four male Muslim witnesses to the actual act of rape. If she can’t prove the rape by this method, and she has filed a report with the police, then by her own admission she has committed the crime of “zina,” of unlawful sex, which is punishable either with lashes, jail and/or stoning to death. Therefore, any woman who reports a rape, since it is virtually impossible to prove, has effectively “confessed” to adultery and will be punished for the crime. Many women are reported on by family members for being disobedient, marrying according to their own wishes, for a host of other reasons.

Jehan Mina, a 15-year-old girl, became pregnant after being raped by her uncle and cousin. Her family filed a complaint of rape but since there were no witnesses, her pregnancy and the report were proof of extra-marital sex and she was first sentenced to 100 lashes in public; this sentence was later changed to 3 years in jail and 10 lashes. According to one report, “Saman, an 18-year-old of the Northern village of Parachinar, told us that she had married a man against her parents’ wishes. Her parents had her husband arrested on ‘zina’ charges, and she was arrested a few days later. Her parents then produced a fake nikahnama (marriage certificate) and claimed that she had been married before. Therefore, her ‘new’ marriage was allegedly invalid and a crime against the state.” (“The Hudood Laws of Pakistan: Voices from Prison and a Call for Repeal,” New Politics, Ashfaq40.htm)

According to one article, in 1979 there were 70 women in prisons in Pakistan; by 1988 the number was 6,000. Some reports say that the number of women imprisoned for “zina” went up by 3,000% between 1979 and 1988. One lawyer quoted in the BBC said that in 2005 about 60% of the women in jails had been imprisoned as a result of Hudood laws.

When Bhutto first came to power she was the hope to many women that it was a sorely needed new day for women in Pakistan—the first woman head of state of an Islamic nation—many women expected her to lead the overturning of the horrendous Hudood Ordinance. During her campaign she specifically promised to turn back these laws. Since the laws were first instituted, women’s groups and organizations had sprung up around the country aiming to repeal the Hudood laws and when Bhutto came to power many women thought she would fight as promised for this.

In both terms that Bhutto did actually rule in Pakistan, she failed to throw out the Hudood ordinances. Why? According to the PPP blog because that is how democracy works—“A democratic system obliges the executive to work together with all other organs of the state while making and implementing decisions.” ( labels/member.html) This is during the same time period that the Bhutto government actually supported the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Coming from the interests of a section of the ruling class in Pakistan, it must have been too “difficult” to take an uncompromising stand against these brutal laws against women when Bhutto felt the higher priority was to align herself with Islamic forces within Pakistan and the Taliban. Another report says, “However, democratic or military, liberal or moderate—no regime has been able to repeal these discriminatory laws, primarily due to pressure from right-wing religious parties.” What kind of a society is needed for these atrocities to actually end?

To me, this is one of those profound injustices that does scream out D-O-P. As Avakian says in the second part of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity,” “...the thing that comes to mind, if you’re approaching this as a communist, is D-O-P: this is what we need to deal with this, to get rid of profound injustices like this, and everything they represent. With the dictatorship of the proletariat, with a revolution leading to rule by the proletariat and aiming for communism, it will become possible to deal with these things in a way that they can never be dealt with by the present system and its ruling class of capitalists. This system and its ruling class can never deal with all this—except in ways that are harmful to the masses.”

Today, although there is much misinterpretation of this in the media, President Musharraf has not overturned the Hudood Ordinance. In November 2006 he passed the Women’s Protection Bill which “amends” the Hudood Ordinance. Essentially the new bill separates the crime of rape from adultery and now rape can be tried under the civil law penal code as well as under Shari’a law. Since Hudood has not been overturned, women continue to be charged with “unlawful sex” with only slightly raised evidentiary requirements, although soon after the new bill was passed thousands of women were released from jail for lack of evidence in their cases. Very importantly, the underlying way of thinking behind the “zina” laws, that women have absolutely no control over their bodies and sexuality, has not been fundamentally challenged or done away with.

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Revolution #119, February 10, 2008

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Reader Debates Our Position on Obama and Election

On “Andrew Sullivan on Obama: The ‘Best Face’ For Imperialism” #118, February 3, 2008,

Editors’ note: This letter was selected from reader comments and correspondence to Revolution. We’re printing it (and will continue to print more correspondence) to give readers a sense of the letters sent to Revolution, and to spark more interactivity between this paper and readers, and among readers. Selecting and printing letters does not imply that we agree, or disagree, with them.


I wanted to reach out to again talk about how you are characterizing Obama. I am not sure it’s quite fair to characterize a man by who supports the guy. Just because the author of The Bell Curve endorses the guy doesn’t mean I know who Obama is or is not. [Editors’ note—Our article noted that Andrew Sullivan, the author of a commentary arguing that Obama should be president, promoted the book The Bell Curve. Sullivan is not the author of that book.]

Does he represent the imperialist view of America? Maybe—I’m not sure one way or another. Is there a current candidate for President who does not? If any of them had to be examined, who is the best representative for a new direction for America (away from imperialist domination...)?

I would probably have to say Ron Paul is the biggest candidate for you. But instead of examining, you criticize. I don’t see any candidates from the socialist party running—why is this? It is easy to be a critic and tear anybody down over a number of things that some other person has said about them. It is a lot more difficult to be behind something that is real and tangible.

I am not sure I like Obama or not, but one thing I do like about him is the way he advocates active participation in government. He is a populist and not an oligarch. Of any of the Democratic candidates in the race, he represents the farthest of the outside of the circle of power (is that good/bad?).

In terms of him having the ability to hold America away from the oncoming Civil War because he will appease people, or will he diffuse tension because he looks different and has a name that has more of an international sound... Maybe. Is this a bad thing though?

I think the best thing for the socialists to do (speaking as one who firmly thinks highly of socialist government and how it is needed in this era of consolidated media and business run amok) is to stay out of the horse race politics (unless they want to run somebody) and stick to the issues. You can speak about people’s views on these issues (and not how somebody characterizes somebody’s view on the issues). And you can continue to shine a spotlight on the government’s problems when they continue with imperialist policy in a post-Bush world.

And there will be a post-Bush world that isn’t in full anarchy or revolution. Unless something major happens this year, the election will be won by somebody who you guys don’t really care for—let’s come to terms with that now, and continue to build a base of people who know what is right/wrong, are organized to do something when something goes wrong, and can bring us forward with a new vision. To me, the socialist party isn’t even close to this vision, and people will not look to anybody but the same people who are getting us in to this mess to get us out of this mess.

Instead of focusing on what is wrong/right—let’s engage on what the role of government should/ should not be.

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New Sanctions and More U.S. Threats Against Iran

By Larry Everest

“We're also standing against the forces of extremism embodied by the regime in Tehran… Our message to the leaders of Iran is also clear… But above all, know this: America will confront those who threaten our troops. We will stand by our allies, and we will defend our vital interests in the Persian Gulf.”

George W. Bush, State of the Union message, January 28, 2008

Bush’s belligerent talk about Iran in his State of the Union message again made clear that Iran remains in U.S. cross-hairs.

In December, the U.S. released a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that reversed the previous 2005 NIE and claimed that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. At the time, many hailed this reversal as a return to sanity, an insurmountable obstacle to a Bush-Cheney war, and a new opportunity for negotiating an end to the hostility between Washington and Tehran.

The NIE may have reflected sharp divisions within the U.S. ruling class, including within the Bush team, over the lack of good military options against Iran and the wisdom of military action—at least at the present moment. And it seems to have slowed, at least temporarily, the momentum toward a U.S. attack that was gathering over the summer and fall of 2007. However, the NIE did not signal a lessening of U.S. imperialist hostility toward—and focus on—Iran’s Islamic Republic. Nor has it meant that war, whether sooner or later, is completely off the table. (See “Lies About Nukes...And Bigger Lies” in Revolution #112, online at

Consider what has happened since the NIE was released.

First, at a December 4 press conference on the NIE, Bush declared: “Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon… My opinion hasn’t changed.” And he repeated his determination to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, emphasizing that “the best diplomacy” is when “all options are on the table.”

Barely a month later, Bush traveled to the Middle East for the first time in seven years as president. The aim of the trip was largely to build a regional alliance against Iran, and perhaps to weigh—and further—U.S. military planning and options. Bush gave a number of speeches targeting Iran, calling Iran “a threat to world peace” and “the world’s leading sponsor of terror.” He received a briefing by Israeli officials on military options for bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities. Canada's National Post reported (Jan. 14) that the main reason for Bush's visit to the region “was to gauge how much diplomatic support and practical help the desert sheikdoms might give if the United States or Israel attacked Iran.”

On the eve of Bush’s trip, U.S. officials charged that five Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy speedboats approached three U.S. warships in the narrow Straits of Hormuz in a threatening manner. Iran denied U.S. charges and called the incident “routine,” and much of the U.S. account of the incident was quickly discredited. But U.S. officials still seized on the “incident” to emphasize what they claim as the “threat” posed by Iran. Bush himself warned that “there will be serious consequences if they attack our ships, pure and simple.”

New Round of Sanctions

U.S. efforts to encircle, pressure, and strangle Iran—and perhaps pave the way for war—have also taken the form of a push for a new round of UN sanctions on Iran. On January 23, the U.S.—along with Germany, France, Britain, Russia, and China—announced that they had agreed on a draft proposal for a new, third set of sanctions to be taken to the UN Security Council for approval in order to force Iran to halt its nuclear enrichment program. (Iran claims that it is enriching uranium to generate nuclear power, which it has the right to do under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The U.S. is opposed to Iran even having the technical know-how to enrich uranium because it could be used to develop nuclear weapons, which the U.S. claims Iran has tried to do.)

These proposed new sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes against high Iranian officials, increased scrutiny of Iranian banks and international financial transactions, and a ban on supplying Iran with dual-use items—materials and technologies that can have both civilian and military uses. These proposed sanctions also—for the first time—call “upon all States…to inspect the cargoes to and from Iran” if they’re suspected of carrying goods prohibited by UN resolutions. As the recent incident in the Straits of Hormuz makes clear, giving “all states”—including the U.S.—UN authorization for such “inspections” could pave the way for clashes in the Gulf—whether deliberate or accidental—which could trigger war.

The U.S. presents its push for further sanctions as a good-faith effort to pursue a diplomatic resolution of its differences with Iran. But there is nothing reasonable or just about the U.S. imposing its will upon Iran, or any other country—whether through economic and political bullying or outright war—in service of imperialist domination. The U.S. offers to negotiate with Iran, but only if Iran first agrees to U.S. demands to end its nuclear enrichment program—which is the very thing they’re supposedly negotiating about. The U.S. has also refused to discuss “security guarantees”—an agreement not to seek the overthrow of Iran’s Islamic Republic. This refusal is a signal that the U.S. has not taken “regime change” off the table. Bush’s State of the Union message that the U.S. has “no quarrel” with the Iranian people but looks “forward to the day when you have your freedom” is a very thinly veiled call for the replacement of Iran’s current Islamic regime with a regime to the U.S.’s liking.

Sanctions and diplomacy are tools in the imperialist arsenal which can be used to weaken a targeted regime and create fissures among its rulers and unrest among its people, perhaps even triggering internal upheaval. They also serve to politically isolate and vilify an opponent and build an international coalition against it. All this can also be part of preparing for military action.

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter argues that the U.S. is attempting to build a case against Iran by passing a string of UN resolutions (“The Sanctions Trap,” At some point in the future, the U.S. could then use this “dossier” to paint Iran as an incorrigible violator of UN resolutions and a threat, and demand the UN take action. Then, as Ritter puts it, “if the international community is unable or unwilling to confront this threat, the United States will have no choice but to take on this task in unilateral fashion”—in other words, through military action.

Imperialist Truth—And Necessity

In his State of the Union speech, Bush said, “And wherever freedom advances in the Middle East, it seems the Iranian regime is there to oppose it. Iran is funding and training militia groups in Iraq, supporting Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, and backing Hamas' efforts to undermine peace in the Holy Land. Tehran is also developing ballistic missiles of increasing range, and continues to develop its capability to enrich uranium, which could be used to create a nuclear weapon.”

Bush is lying when he claims the U.S. is for “freedom”—a real liberation from imperialist domination—for the masses of people in the Middle East. And the word “hypocrisy” is inadequate to describe the head of a monstrous empire who condemns others as “terrorists,” while the military he commands has killed one million Iraqis by some estimates and forced another four to five million to flee from their homes.

But when Bush points to Iraq, to Palestine, and to Lebanon, and talks about Iran’s military power, he is letting out some truth about the necessities facing the U.S. rulers. He is pointing to the reality that Iran is a big obstacle to U.S. plans for the region—to the efforts to defeat Islamic fundamentalism, to bloodily reorder countries that stand in its way, and to radically transform the whole Middle East in order to strengthen U.S. global hegemony.

This is why the U.S. ruling class is united on the need to “contain” and confront Iran (at the very least), and prevent it from getting nuclear weapons. And why a number of powerful voices within their ranks continue to argue for military action. Former UN Ambassador John Bolton, for example, recently told an Israeli security conference that Israel may have to take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb. And leading neocon Norman Podhoretz writes that bombing Iran remains the only viable option despite the NIE (“Stopping Iran: Why the Case for Military Action Still Stands,” Commentary, February 2008).

The necessities facing their empire are continuing to drive the U.S. rulers to confront Iran and try to undermine and/or bring down the current Iranian regime, even as there are differences over the best means—including “military options”—to carry out their aims. And these necessities and this basic course of action will still hold, no matter who is in the White House a year from now.

In the meantime, the U.S. currently has an aircraft carrier strike group and two expeditionary strike groups in the Persian Gulf, right near Iran.

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Revolution #119, February 10, 2008

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From A World to Win News Service

The Great Jailbreak in Gaza—Escape to Where?

Photo shows Palestinians in Gaza on January 25, streaming across the Gaza/Egypt border at Rafah after huge sections of the border barrier were demolished. Israel had imposed a complete blockade of fuel, electricity and food, on top of a year of partial blockades that had already inflicted record levels of hunger, disease and unemployment among Gaza’s 1.5 million people. [Photo: AP]

January 28, 2008. A World to Win News Service. Just when Israel was squeezing its hardest to regain control over Gaza, as a central element in the Annapolis plan for American hegemony in the Middle East, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians—as much as half of Gaza’s 1.5 million population—broke free. [Revolution editors’ note: The “Annapolis plan” refers to what came out of the conference on the Middle East that took place last November. For analysis, see the A World to Win News Service article “Annapolis—A Short Balance Sheet” in Revolution #112, available online at]

It was a great week in Rafah, a sight that delighted people all over the world. But then the sunny, cold weather gave way to drenching rains and the roads turned to mud, and some harsh truths about the wider world began to sink in.

When Palestinians in Gaza first marched to the border with Egypt and demanded that it be opened January 22, Egyptian police attacked them with batons, water cannons, tear gas and gunfire, wounding four. In the early hours of January 23, simultaneous explosions tore large holes in the concrete and metal wall over much of its length. Rafah residents with construction machinery started to tear down and clear away more of it. By daylight, tens of thousands of people were streaming through, not just from Rafah but all of Gaza. Since Israel had told Egypt it could station only a few hundred troops at the border, the Egyptian authorities couldn’t stop them without action far more drastic than they dared to take this time, although they had opened fire with automatic weapons against smaller groups in the past. Over the next few days they used electric prods and clubs against the crowds, but when they tried to close the border they were met with stones and gunfire. More sections of the wall were toppled, until finally people were pouring through in such great waves, in trucks, cars and on foot, that a reporter called it “a seismic and unstoppable reordering of the facts of the Middle East.” (The Observer, January 27)

People said it was like a festival. Many brought children dressed up as if for a party. They bought what Israel has denied them. Above all they bought food: flour for bread, rice, sugar, milk, fruit and vegetables, cheese (such a long time since they’d seen cheese!), biscuits and other packaged food, chickens (and chicken feed—kept out by Israel), goats, sheep and camels for future sustenance. They bought medicines to keep diabetics, heart patients and other sick people from death. They bought heating fuel to heat their freezing homes, diesel oil to run generators and hold off the dark, and petrol for the motor vehicles that had almost disappeared from the streets. They bought much concrete. One young man said that the cement would allow him to build a house and get married; another family pointed out that without it people in Gaza have not been able to build proper graves in the sand. They bought cigarettes and satellite dishes and chocolate and soft drinks.

Many didn’t buy anything at all, or stayed after they had spent their money. They were just enjoying a few days out of prison. Quite a few—and not just youth—had never been able to leave Gaza before in their lives. Others reunited with family and friends they hadn’t seen in years. A few tried to go deeper into Egypt and through that to other countries for medical care or to attend a university or just to get away once and for all.

About a million of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents are registered with the UN as refugees from elsewhere, driven out of their homes by the Zionists when Israel came into existence in 1948. A sparsely populated desert at that time, the UN Partition Plan that created Israel had allocated it to Palestine. What made it matter to Israel was the need to control its population. Israeli troops seized it in the 1967 war and occupied it for the next 38 years. When the mass uprising known as the second Intifada began in 2000, they built a wall between Gaza and Egypt and sealed that border more tightly than ever.

When Israeli troops pulled out of Gaza in 2005, they retained control of Gaza’s coastal waters and airspace and of course its boundaries with Israel as well. Travel was banned between Gaza and the Palestinian communities in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Although Israel said it had turned over control of the border with Egypt to the European Union, it kept effective control, screening the goods coming in and out and stopping most people from crossing. The Israeli army moved back into Gaza to close the border in June 2006, opening it slightly from time to time until they had Egypt shut it in June 2007 following the Hamas takeover of the government in Gaza.

Prelude to Genocide”

In September 2007, Israel declared Gaza an “enemy entity”—not Hamas, but Gaza’s entire population. The Israeli lockdown put an end to most economic life in this isolated strip of land 41 kilometers [about 25 miles] long and 6-12 kilometers [about 4.5 to 7.5 miles] wide. About 75 percent of the population depends on UN and World Food Program (WFP) rations. When Israel decided to cut Gaza off from the rest of the world on January 17, they announced that they would allow enough food in so that people wouldn’t starve. But UN rations are packaged in plastic bags and Israel forbids the importation of plastic into Gaza. The WFP couldn’t get fuel for its vehicles. A situation of chronic malnutrition—even before this almost 18 percent of children were undernourished and 70 percent of infants anemic—became an emergency.

By January 21, Gaza’s only electrical power station had to close down for want of fuel, leaving at least half a million people in the dark. Hospitals had to run their backup generators as best they could and hope that they wouldn’t run out of fuel or fail due to the embargo on spare parts. Death threatened premature babies in incubators, kidney dialysis patients and others. The Israeli authorities failed to give permission to leave Gaza to many hundreds of patients urgently needing treatment abroad.

Princeton University legal scholar Richard Falk called this “a prelude to genocide.” He based this judgement on the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, including clause d: “Deliberately inflicting on [a national, ethnical, racial or religious group] conditions calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part…” The UN Human Rights Council’s Special Envoy John Dugard denounced the blockade as a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which calls it a war crime to inflict collective punishment (punishing or intimidating an individual) “for an offense he or she has not personally committed.”

The U.S. Hand in the Crime

Many Palestinians believe, with good reason, that the U.S. gave Israel the green light to commit this crime. After all, Israel cut off supplies to Gaza the day after Bush left the region. When the UN Security Council was presented a resolution expressing humanitarian concerns for the people in Gaza, the U.S. blocked it.

Whether U.S. permission was explicit or implicit, the Gaza lockdown certainly followed from the Annapolis conference and Bush’s Middle East visit. The U.S. push for a “two-state solution” came not out of any sudden concern for justice but the strategic considerations of the American empire. It was supposed to solve the contradiction between unshakeable U.S. support for Israel as a Jewish state—under present conditions the U.S.’s most reliable outpost and gendarme in the region, and in the long-term perhaps the only country it can fully rely on—and at the same time allow U.S.-dependent Arab regimes in the Middle East to join a united front to isolate and perhaps topple the Islamic Republic of Iran, without earning so much wrath from their own people that these rulers themselves are toppled. It is a plan to achieve the same goals the U.S. has pursued with its invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and its threats of war against Iran—to beat back the challenge to American ownership of the whole Greater Middle East, focusing on the Islamic fundamentalist forces that have put themselves forward as the main obstacle to that.

PLO and Hamas

Through a combination of bludgeoning and bribery over the years, the U.S. got Al Fatah, once the most powerful Palestinian liberation organization, to go along with the creation of a carved-up and crippled Palestinian “mini-state” on less than a fifth of historically Palestinian soil. But everyone knew that the PLO’s rival Hamas and Gaza was a big sticking point in this project.

Everyone might know that, but exactly why this is so is a complicated and multi-layered question. One dimension is that even if a Palestinian “mini-state” comes into existence—and there are reasons to doubt it—Israel intends to subjugate and carve up Palestine even further. For instance, it has continued its land grab in what little land the Palestinians have left to them, building new “Israeli only” roads whose main purpose is to surround and cut off Palestinian towns and villages from each other. The relationship between the oppressor and oppressed is not going to change, whether or not some sort of puppet Palestinian state is established. The potential of the Palestinian masses to rise up against such oppression has long been proven—as it has been proven again now in Gaza. So Israel (and the U.S.) consider it vital not just to get the acquiescence of a few Palestinian sell-outs, but to humiliate the people and crush their spirit. Even when it comes to Fatah head Abu Abbas, Israel both holds him up as their chosen representative of the Palestinian people and repeatedly humbles him.

Another dimension is Hamas itself. Hamas poses no threat to Israel’s existence and not all that much to its tranquillity. No one was killed by the escalation of rocket attacks on the Israeli settler city of Sderot in January that was supposedly the reason for sealing off Gaza, after a long unilateral cease-fire by Hamas. (An apparent Palestinian sniper did kill a farmhand just over the Israeli border.) The Israeli army killed about 40 Palestinians during the same few weeks. Rockets have killed a total of 12 Israelis over the last six years. According to the Israeli peace organization B’Tselem, Palestinians killed 24 Israelis in 2006 and ’07, while the Israeli army killed 816 Palestinians during those two years.

In fact, Hamas has no strategy for defeating the Israeli army and has never tried to do so. That’s not even part of its thinking. The purpose of its rockets is to force Israel to negotiate with it and accept its government. Nor is the Israeli army protecting anyone from Hamas. Hamas has offered Israel a cease-fire many times, including during the most recent lockdown: no more rockets fired in exchange for no more Israeli incursions into Gaza and “targeted” assassinations of Hamas leaders and their wives, children and parents. Some prominent imperialist advisors, such as Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group, have criticized Israel’s refusal to accept the offer.

But there are bigger stakes and larger issues that have made Israel reluctant to make this kind of a deal. Both dimensions mentioned above are involved. The biggest problem with Hamas, as far as Israel is concerned, is its links with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a major source of support, as well as the Moslem Brotherhood of Egypt that it grew out of. Hamas has been attempting to find a place for itself within the boundaries of the present world order, including Israel’s existence. But their Islamic fundamentalism is not just a guise to win people over. In fact, many Palestinians, including in Gaza, don’t like their religious fundamentalism. Hamas has its own ideologically-related aims, and unlike the U.S. and Israel, the maintenance of the present order is not necessarily their highest goal. This is why Bush, speaking in Abu Dubai in January, placed Hamas (and Hezbollah in Lebanon) on the same plane as his amalgam of the Iranian regime and Al-Qaeda.

Mubarak—American’s Egyptian Tyrant

These questions also help explain the complex role of the Egyptian government in all this. On the one hand America’s Egyptian tyrant Hosni Mubarak considers the Moslem Brotherhood the main danger to his regime, but on the other, it has been his preferred opposition. It is legally banned and its members periodically arrested, but it is also allowed to sit in Mubarak’s hand-controlled parliament. This contrasts with the far more ferocious attempts to crush secular opposition forces. The latent strength of this kind of opposition burst forth in what some observers called an “historic” massive illegal rally in support of the Iraqi and Palestinian peoples on the eve of the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, although Mubarak’s secret police have concentrated repression on them ever since.

During the days before the Gaza wall came down there were major demonstrations in several Egyptian cities supporting the Palestinians, some of them seeking to link up with the deep currents of dissatisfaction among the masses. It seems that at a certain point, when he couldn’t stop the Palestinians, Mubarak felt that temporarily tolerating their visits into Egypt could take some of the pressure off his government from both the Brotherhood and the secularists. This, too, is linked to larger questions, since Egypt, by far the most populous Arab country, has played a key role in the Arab world. This situation has brought out the Mubarak regime’s narrow base and great vulnerability for all to see. It has also underlined one of the main reasons the U.S. staged the Annapolis conference in the first place—a grave concern for the way a passionate support for the Palestinian people among all the region’s peoples continues to connect this fault line to others that threaten the existence of all the hated Arab regimes the U.S. keeps in power.

The Gaza jailbreak was beautiful because despite whatever role Hamas played in organizing the breaching of the wall, what shone through was the possibility of the Palestinian masses to take their own initiative, their hunger to do so, and the way that such initiative could begin to change the whole equation. It may be too soon to conclude that it killed the Annapolis process, as some people would like to believe, but it did show that a whole different kind of dynamic process far more favorable to the people’s interests could arise.

But the Palestinian people are out in dangerous waters. Israeli, Egypt, Hamas and Fatah are already manoeuvring, in various ugly combinations, to find some way out of this crisis at their expense. Mubarak’s government has cut off lorry deliveries to the whole Sinai Peninsula, forcing Palestinians to compete with Egyptians for the few goods left in stores there. Police are blocking Palestinians from going further into Egypt, and have detained thousands. Iranian president Ahmadinejad rang up Mubarak during the midst of this crisis, offering to restore diplomatic ties, and it’s not hard to imagine what he offered in return for weakening the U.S.’s united front. Hamas has its own interests in wanting to prove to Mubarak that it can be entrusted with border control, a subject its leadership is about to discuss with Mubarak. According to reports from sources as diverse as the Tel Aviv Haaretz, Al Jazeera,andBBC, on January 28 blue-uniformed Hamas security personnel began to help Egyptian police put up barbed wire along the wall. Fatah seems ready to go along with Israel’s offer to resume deliveries of some supplies, in still lethally small quantities (slightly more than half the petrol and less than 20 percent of the diesel fuel for the Gaza power plant than it was letting through last October).

The mood in Israel is one of revenge for the embarrassment. Already they’ve assassinated the Hamas military commander in Gaza accused of having organized the demolition of the wall. Israel’s chief rabbi, who claims to represent the Ashkenazi (European-origin) religious Jews, called for all Gazans, and by implication all Palestinians, in the West Bank and in Israel itself, to be removed to “a wonderful new modern country” in the middle of the desert in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.

The mood is reportedly turning sour in Gaza.

None of the forces that claim to represent the Palestinian people can possibly provide a leadership that would seek and serve the common interests of Palestine, the peoples of the region and the vast majority of the people of the world. Yet this is exactly the kind of orientation and strategy that is urgently needed in this situation, especially as the U.S.-Iran conflict and all that is tied up with that casts a long shadow over all the players.

“We were like birds in a cage,” Adel al-Mighraky told an American reporter when returning to Gaza after a trip to the Egyptian side with his grandson. “Once the door is open, birds will fly away as fast as they can—this is what we did. But what kind of bird has to go back to its cage after it was freed?”

What’s really needed is for such a breakout to not only bring great pleasure and inspiration, as important as that is, but to become part of a movement and process aimed at truly breaking out of the present world order and all its relationships once and for all.

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Revolution #119, February 10, 2008

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