The New Situation and the Great Challenges
Revolution #036, February 26, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Note: The following are excerpts from a tape-recorded talk by Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the RCP,USA, in the aftermath of September 11 and in the context of the war launched by the U.S. government (and its "coalition"), focused initially against Afghanistan. The text has been edited for publication and subheadings have been added here.
This talk by Bob Avakian is being run once again as a supplement in Revolution because it remains extremely relevant in the way it speaks to a number of crucial questions concerning the development of the situation in the U.S. and the world; the aims and actions of the Bush regime, and the imperialist system is serves; the political and ideological challenges that have to be confronted in building mass political opposition and resistance to this whole direction; and how, from our Party's standpoint, all this relates to the fundamental goal of revolution and the ultimate achievement of a communist world.
WHAT IS AT STAKE
I want to speak first of all to the strategic dimension involved in the current and developing situation since September 11. I think we have to look at it in terms of a very wide range of possibilities connected with what the imperialists are up to and the whole cauldron of contradictions that are involved. To put it in stark terms, the range of possibilities involves everything from, on the one hand, on the negative side, devastating defeats for the proletariat and the proletarian revolution internationally, of a character that would set us back for decades. It could even lead to devastation organizationally, if not politically, for the international communist movement and its vanguard forces, and at the same time to very great advances and consolidations by the imperialists, the U.S. imperialists in particular.
Or, on the other extreme, on the positive side—and this too is possible—the whole course that the imperialists are embarking on could turn into its opposite for them in a profound, and perhaps even an unprecedented, way—it could lead to tremendous advances for the revolutionary struggle of the people all over the globe, for the world proletarian revolution—it could even lead to the possibility of a revolutionary situation and a successful revolution coming into being within what's now the United States. That's how we have to view the range of possibilities and the depth of the contradictions that are at play here and are being further unleashed and accentuated by what the imperialists are doing. One of those two extremes or the other, and everything in between, is possible as a resolution of—as what results or comes to the fore through—this whole cauldron of contradictions.
As can be seen in many ways, including in the major speeches by Bush since September 11, 2001, these imperialists—the U.S. imperialists in particular—certainly have wild ambitions. But they also have a great deal of necessity they're facing. And we need to look at both.
They have ambitions of essentially reshuffling the whole deck, reordering the whole situation—beginning with the strategic areas of Central and South Asia and the Middle East that are more immediately involved now—but, even beyond that, on a world scale. This is "New World Order Revisited" or New World Order 2 that they're trying to carry out on a deeper and more sweeping level than what they set out to do with their war against Iraq a decade ago. They've set themselves a very far-reaching agenda with gigantic implications.
THEIR "MISSION" AND THEIR METHODS
Now on the one hand, they're not approaching this stupidly. Seeing things and proceeding from the standpoint of their class and their class interests as capitalist-imperialists, they are not just acting irresponsibly in the sense of just going off wildly and doing everything at once. They are trying to approach this in an echeloned way; they are trying to do it in a systematic way. From their own perverse standpoint, they're trying to unite all who can be united under their baton—baton in the double sense, the conductor's baton and the policeman's baton, but especially the latter—the "cops of the world" baton. They are trying to unite all who can be united at every particular phase, beginning with what they're doing in Afghanistan, and they envision that—and have explicitly put forward that—at each stage of this their "coalition" will reshape and reform, it will be different at different stages. They're not going to be able to hold the exact same coalition together, with all the same forces, through everything, but at each stage they're trying to effect the most favorable balance for them, the most favorable "united front," in a perverse sense, under their baton. At the same time—and to some degree this has even been openly aired—there is a struggle within their own ranks about the question: does the coalition set the terms for the mission, or does the mission set the terms for the coalition. And it's the latter line—that the mission sets the terms for the coalition at any given point—that is winning out among them.
In other words, occasionally you see some expressions of "pious doubts and petty amendments" coming from the State Department or from other representatives of the powers-that-be—warnings or worries that "if we get too aggressive, or take on too many adversaries all at once, it's going to alienate some of our allies." But the answer comes back from the "hard core" imperialist strategists: "Never mind about that—we can't let these 'coalition partners' set the terms of what we are going to do." (This has been explicitly said by Donald Rumsfeld, who said in a recent speech that the mission must determine the coalition, and not the other way around, or else "the mission will get dumbed down to the lowest common denominator.") There is a sort of brute Mafia logic that is expressed, especially by this hard core. Speaking of those over whom they are moving to impose their domination, they argue along these lines:
"The only thing these people really understand, the only thing that really counts, is power. Yeah, some of them won't like what we do, and some of them may even make a show of complaining about it, but they'll relate to the realities of power. And if we just pulverize people in our way, everybody's gonna just fall in line. So, yes, we have to pay some attention to the political and diplomatic aspects of this, but the leading thing has to be our raw power and its execution to effect what needs to be effected."
And this "mission," once again, is essentially to reshuffle the whole deck, reorder the whole world more in line with how they are perceiving their strategic interests.
It's as if they are saying, "Look, we had this great victory in the Cold War. Then we had this whole period when we had Clinton in there and everything, and we didn't really take advantage of the victory of the Cold War. We didn't 'roll up' the whole world the way we could have and should have, and now it's time to get in there and do this. We let things drift, and it's time to get in there and follow-up the victory of the Cold War with this whole new world realignment that we're going to bludgeon into being. So 'let's roll!' "
That's on the one side—what we can characterize as the wild ambitions they have, and of course this has its domestic component, in terms of setting a whole warfare police-state framework for everything going on within the U.S. itself (which I'll come back to later). But speaking particularly on the international level—which is the leading edge of what they're doing, given their whole imperialist nature and the international nature of the imperialist system—these are their wild ambitions, and in a certain sense this is the freedom they are trying to seize out of this situation. But, of course, everything is not just smooth sailing for them and won't be by far. Despite some initial victories they have won in Afghanistan, they are facing and will face real necessity in two senses: there's the necessity they already face, and there's the necessity that they are going to call into being by what they're doing. There is the potential at any given point—and especially as they roll down the road with this—for this to get wildly out of control.
I recently saw the video of the movie "Thirteen Days" about the Cuban missile crisis, and there are some things that come through in that movie that are food for thought. In particular, at the end of the movie, as a result of the resolution of this crisis (which mainly was a victory for U.S. imperialism in the sense that they forced the Soviets to take the missiles out of Cuba and back up in response to the U.S. "throwing down the nuclear gauntlet") there was this line articulated by one of the U.S. strategists to the effect that, now we're on a roll, now we can go deal with the Soviets, including in Southeast Asia (clearly referring to Vietnam). And, as you're watching this movie many years later, after the debacle for U.S. imperialism in southeast Asia, you can recognize (and perhaps this was the intent of the movie) that "syndrome" of these arrogant imperialists drunk with their own power.
This arrogance, this arrogant triumphalism, is already a marked phenomenon with their "war on terrorism," and particularly with their initial victories in Afghanistan, and this can come into play in a way that will cause them real problems, as things unfold further. Now, this doesn't mean that they won't try to have their strategic "wise men" (and, to be fair to Condoleezza Rice, strategic "wise women") thinking about this and trying to figure out how to avoid that happening—how not to get carried away with their own triumphalism and their "drunk-with-power syndrome"—but there is inherent in what they're doing the great possibility for them of overreaching and overstepping themselves, or unleashing forces that they can't control. And even the use of nuclear weapons by the U.S. imperialists, which is a real possibility through the course of this whole thing, is not any guarantee that they're going to be able to resolve everything in a way that's favorable to them—it could just unleash a whole other level of forces wildly out of control. And within all this, to whatever perverse and monstrous extent the imperialists' unleashing of destruction is carried and whatever forms it takes, the forces of the people, worldwide—and in particular the revolutionary forces of the international proletariat and the international communist movement—will have to be working to wrench something radically different and better out of all this.
So the imperialists do have necessity. In particular, there is the necessity that they will unleash—the conditions and forces they will call into being, or accentuate—by doing everything they're doing, and planning to do, and there is the potential for this to get out of their control at a certain point. They also have certain objectives that they are already pursuing at this point. In other words, some of their moves now arise out of things that were already in motion well before September 11. The RW has done a very good job of exposing some of this—it has been a very important source in bringing this to light—in terms of the whole strategic oil reserves in the area around Afghanistan: the oil pipeline contention which has been going on for a number of years, and all the machinations of the different oil companies and the imperialist state of the U.S. in relation to Afghanistan, and why they worked with or accepted the Taliban, what plans they had for that, why they turned against them—all of which predates September 11 and whoever was behind and involved in that.1
It is important to understand that it is not just a matter of U.S. corporations being "oil-hungry," or simply that the U.S. economy is "dependent on fossil fuels." The more fundamental truth is that the monopoly capitalists who rule the U.S. must control huge supplies of oil and other fuels, worldwide, in order to keep production costs for U.S.-based corporations as low as possible (particularly through super-exploitation of labor in many oil-producing countries), to strengthen their competitive position vis-a-vis other imperialist corporations and countries, and overall to control vital lifelines of the global economy. And these monopoly capitalists use the government apparatus—in particular the military—of the U.S. to enforce this control. This is an expression of the essential nature of the imperialist system we are confronting.
So there is the level of things that were already in motion, even before the current crew came into power in the U.S.—even under the Clinton administration. But at the same time, while there is all that, there is what happened on September 11, and I think the statement by the Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (CORIM) is very much to the point here—that in the murky world of intelligence, where duplicity is the currency, it may be impossible to ever know exactly who was behind September 11. Who, actually, is Osama bin Laden? Of course, he's the villain of the week, or whatever. Remember it used to be Noriega and then it was "Saddam, The Dictator" (and don't forget Milosevic). But who knows exactly who Osama bin Laden is and with whom and for whom he is actually working? All of this stuff is impossible to tell, but it does seem at least quite likely that there were real forces—not the proletariat, not positive forces, but other reactionary forces—who actually hit out at U.S. imperialism for their own reasons. Whether the U.S. ruling class knew that this specific thing was coming and decided to let it go for their own reasons, or whether they knew in a general sense that some kind of attack was coming against them, inside or outside the U.S., but they didn't expect this (which is quite possible), whatever the truth of that is (and again we may never be able to sort all this out) the point is that there is both freedom and necessity for them in this situation.
Their freedom, or a major expression of their freedom, is along these lines: with a lot of things they were trying to get going anyway and that they had on track to one degree or another, once the September 11 attacks happened, they seized on it and said, "Let's go full speed ahead—just pull the throttle on the locomotive all the way." The necessity, or one important aspect of their necessity, is that they cannot allow such attacks to go unanswered—they have to strike back and strike back with viciousness and massive devastation. In fact, even if they were involved in this themselves on some level (or at least knew in advance that these attacks—or some form of attacks—were coming), they cannot allow the appearance that somebody can get away with attacking them. Like any Mafia thugs—and they are that on a monstrous and worldwide level—they can't allow even the appearance that somebody came up and poked them in the eye, and got away with it. If you are worldwide and world-class gangsters like them, if you are global exploiters with an apparatus of mass murder and destruction to enforce and extend that, you just can't allow even the appearance that someone can get away with hitting back at you.
And it is a fact that, whoever was involved with September 11, there are these forces out there who have their own interests—reactionary interests in terms of these Islamic fundamentalists and the class forces they represent—who do have real contradictions, real antagonisms with the U.S. imperialists, who even have a program of trying to force these imperialists out of certain areas of the world and to knock them off their position of being the dominant hegemonic power in the world. There are some real contradictions these imperialists face. There is a certain perverse truth to one thing they say: if they don't do anything about a situation where (at least to all appearances) hostile forces actually struck within the U.S. itself (and caused major civilian casualties—which the imperialists don't care about, except insofar as that makes it seem that they can't even protect the people of the U.S. within their own territory and brings into question the effectiveness of their rule), if they allow this to happen without striking back at the forces that they are identifying as being responsible, then that would in fact encourage some of these forces out there who'd like to strike at the U.S.
So you've got this sort of perverse dialectic or dynamic going where it is true that, from the standpoint of their imperialist rule and their imperialist interests, they do have to strike back. And there is a certain freedom that they're seizing out of the situation—there are certain things they had on track that they're putting on the fast track and going full steam ahead with. But there is also a certain necessity that they face—again, given their role and position as "the world's only superpower," as they like to boast, given the nature of their rule over people throughout the world, they do have to go and pulverize people and make the point, again like any good Mafia thug, that you cannot get up and do this, you cannot show disrespect and even strike at us without being crushed. Or else their whole empire would actually be threatened in a more serious way.
Look at their whole logic. Look at their logic that power is the language everyone understands, the only language they really understand. Well, what does it mean if they don't exercise that power and ruthlessly strike out when they're punched in the eye or kicked in the shin (which is how they look at it)? Their own logic applies, in a certain perverse sense, because they live and rule by that logic and they enforce that logic on everyone they rule over—and therefore, by that very logic, others will be encouraged to seize on their vulnerability that's been shown if they don't strike out viciously and massively in response.
All of this comes together and mixes wildly—that's why I call it a cauldron of contradictions—to produce a lot of potential for things to go in many different directions and even to get out of their control. This obviously poses a gigantic challenge for progressive forces, opposed to these imperialists, within the U.S. itself as well as throughout the world. And in particular it poses a great challenge for the communists throughout the world in terms of being able to wrench something positive, something radically different and better, out of this whole upheaval and the volatility of all these contradictions whose full expression we have not even come close to seeing yet.
GREATLY HEIGHTENED REPRESSION LINKED TO OPEN-ENDED WAR
So the imperialists have definite, strategic objectives internationally, but they also have major objectives domestically, if you will, in terms of political repression as well as a highly repressive social and cultural agenda. As touched on earlier, you can see how, in a certain sense, sections of the ruling class, in particular those that are right at the key levers of power now (the crew that's grouped around Bush—whoever's actually running things), are now setting the terms within the ruling class as a whole. And just as there has been, on their part, a certain feeling that under the Clinton administration the opportunities weren't seized on to make gains internationally—to maximize gains out of the "victory of the Cold War"—so it's also the case I think that there is a feeling among this same crew that what they want to have happen, and the kind of terms they want to set, within the U.S. itself, has got to be radically different than what it has been since the end of the Cold War.
And there is this whole Christian Fascist element—a powerful and highly connected force—that's been asserting itself within U.S. society for a whole period of time and was, for example, a driving force in the attempt to unseat Clinton, which reached its farthest point with the impeachment (and that is really reaching quite far, after all). Those pushing this impeachment were a kind of coalition, or a coalescing of groupings, but a driving force within that were the Christian Fascists, who represent a very powerful element within the U.S. ruling class. Let's not forget that, for example, Bush not only claims to be "born-again" but many of his key functionaries are Christian Fascists—not the least Ashcroft, as well as Ralph Reed and some of Bush's other close advisors during and after the election. (And Ralph Reed is just the cherubic protege of Pat Robertson, who openly spouts reactionary politics and ideology that are essentially theocratic fascism, as well as certifiable lunacy.) These people are hardly removed from key levers of power in the U.S. imperialist state and U.S. imperialism internationally at this point. They were a driving force, if not the driving force, in the Clinton impeachment. They were seeking to set a certain agenda with that and achieve certain political objectives, including actually ousting Clinton from office if they could. And they got very far—it clearly wasn't just a game they were playing, they actually impeached him, they just didn't get the conviction in the Senate to actually remove him from office. And I'm sure that, if you were to talk with them privately (or at least if you gave them some kind of truth serum), the overwhelmingly majority of them would say, "Of course, we didn't have any real legal or constitutional basis for this impeachment, but we had political objectives."
On the other hand, they ran into some real obstacles, and in particular they never won broad support for what they were doing, beyond their regular base of followers. It is not that people like this—the leaders of the Christian Fascists, or the political representatives of the imperialist system in general—make decisions based on what the people think or want, but there really was a certain kind of popular resistance, even if not a large-scale organized resistance, to this whole impeachment thing and to the whole way in which they were trying to construct things around that impeachment. So, even though the people who were the driving force in this actually got quite far, on another level they suffered a temporary political setback. They didn't get the kind of configuration politically, if you will, that they wanted to get out of that.
And then there was the whole election contention—the significant contention that came not with the election campaign itself (which was pretty universally recognized as failing to stir up any excitement) but with the virtual dead-heat in the election (in terms of electoral vote) and the very intense battle this called forth out of this dreary election itself—a battle that, it is important to recall, ended with a highly contentious and clearly partisan Supreme Court decision. Now we have 9-11 and its aftermath, and you can see a certain way in which this is being seized on by a section of the ruling class (whose outfront representatives are headed, nominally at least, by Bush) to more aggressively push their "agenda," not only in the international arena but within the U.S. as well, and to confront the rest of the ruling class with the necessity to go along with this agenda.
To say that this is a coup d'etat at this point is to overstate things, but it is accurate, and important, to note that there are significant aspects of a kind of "rolling coup," that is a situation where certain forces which are very closely linked in with the top echelons of the military are increasingly bringing power unto themselves—and bringing very much into light and illustrating very vividly Lenin's statement that the real power in a bourgeois dictatorship (whether "democratic" or openly fascistic) is the Executive, while the Legislature is a "talk shop." Never has that been more blatantly clear than in the present circumstances, as demonstrated by the slavish way in which the Congress has handed Bush, specifically in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief, greatly heightened and essentially unchallenged power, at least with regard to waging an open-ended "war on terror," and by the repeated, emphatic statements by the heads of the Democratic Party that there is no opposition now, with regard to this war. (This is illustrated, among other things, in the "Democrats' response" to Bush's 2002 State of the Union address, given by the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, Richard Gephardt, who declared that, since September 11, "there has been no daylight between us in this war on terrorism" and who introduced some, largely indirect, statements of difference on economic policy with the overall observation that "to defeat terrorism, our economy must be strong.")
And this whole element of the military, and in particular the officer corps in the military, is one that has great weight. The fact that here, too, right-wing (and to a large degree Christian Fascist) viewpoints and allegiances hold sway, is highly significant. This reveals the posture of various writers and analysts who openly support the U.S. terror war on the basis of the need to defeat religious fundamentalism (and some even speak of defeating "theocratic fascism") to be all the more hypocritical and ludicrous.
For example, Andrew Sullivan (who, although a self-professed "conservative," wrote a major article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine during the Clinton impeachment crisis warning of the dangers posed by the Christian fundamentalist right in American politics—or at least the dangers of their "excesses") now writes a piece entitled "This Is a Religious War." In this article he notes the tendency within literalist, fundamentalist religion to terror and "totalitarianism," but then argues that the real danger—in fact "a more formidable enemy than Nazism or Communism"—is Islamic fundamentalism. Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. pose no real threat, Sullivan insists—or any threat they pose is diminishing and in any case will not prevail—because the U.S. Constitution, with its separation of politics and religion, provides "security against an American Taliban." (See the NYT Sunday Magazine, October 7, 2001.) Sullivan can say this while the Chief Executive of the U.S. government, and the Commander-in-Chief of its Armed Forces, declares himself a "born again" Christian and his inner circle contains a number of confirmed Christian fundamentalists (real embodiments of theocratic fascism), including "the top law enforcement officer in the country," Attorney General John Ashcroft; and the U.S. military, in particular its top echelons, is saturated with people whose sympathies and sensibilities lie with the Christian Fascists.
As for the Constitution, what is it except some words on paper whose meaning, or effect, is determined by the power relations in society, and in particular the needs and requirements of the ruling class of imperialists? And, of course, Constitutions can be torn up or "rewritten" by the powers-that-be. Even short of the open suspension of the Constitution and the open declaration of dictatorial rule by the bourgeoisie, who is it who has the final say in "interpreting" the Constitution? The Supreme Court—the same Supreme Court which, in its present composition, decided the last presidential election.
In some notes I wrote on this present crisis and war2, I spoke to the fact, noted by a number of people, that after the bombing in Oklahoma City, there wasn't any profiling of "young white guys with crew cuts." This is true on one level, and something important to expose, but the deeper level I pointed to is that if they had done an analogous thing then to what's being done now—if they started tracking down all the financial connections and political connections of people like Timothy McVeigh—pretty quickly this would have led high up into the U.S. ruling class, including the military.
This is the kind of "political configuration" that's taking shape within the U.S. ruling class, and it's quite likely that if you gave truth serum to the liberals in the ruling class (and their liberal allies in society generally) they would tell you something along these lines: "You don't understand what's going on here, there's a whole police-state fascist thing being set in motion. We're doing our best to hold the ground against it, but you gotta understand what's going on here." And there would be a certain truth to what they're saying, although the standpoint from which they would be saying this is the standpoint of the imperialist bourgeoisie itself; and from this standpoint the ruling class liberals (and those who follow in their wake) will sooner or later (and often it is sooner) take this position: it is better, far better, to have all this war and police-state repression than to have our whole thing called into question or challenged fundamentally. And they would repeat all the same logic, the same Mafia logic, about how they can't allow themselves—U.S. imperialism cannot allow itself—to be punched in the eye or kicked in the shins (or whatever metaphor you want to use).
But while that is important to recognize, it also must be grasped that there is a whole agenda that I think has been in the works here by certain forces in the ruling class (represented now by the Bush administration) and they are saying, in effect: "Man, we can really go now—we can really ram through a whole program, domestically as well as internationally, that we have been pursuing for some time—we can take it to a whole other level, and we can run roughshod over any opposition." Whatever these forces (and the agencies and institutions of the ruling class in general) knew in advance of September 11—whether they knew some kind of attack was coming but were surprised by the actual nature and magnitude of it, or even if they had a basic idea of the attack that actually came and decided for their own reasons to let it happen (and again, we may never know this)—clearly they have seized on this with full force. And specifically in terms of the "home front," it seems that they feel that they've found a better way than the overt Christian Fascist agenda to get through a lot of things they have been pushing for some time. Rather than making the Christian Fascist agenda, per se, the leading edge and driving force, they are using "terrorist attacks" and the "war on terror" as the battering ram and means for implementing a whole larger agenda. The Christian Fascist element is part of the package—it is inside the larger battering ram—but it's not the overt leading edge and spearhead in this whole thing.
So, on the one hand, we can firmly say that, if those who claim to recognize the dangers posed by fanatical religious fundamentalism and "theocratic fascism" really wanted to fight this, they could do so most effectively by beginning with a serious fight against such forces right within U.S. society and its ruling structures and institutions of power. Then there are the many instances and ways in which the U.S. imperialists have supported religious fundamentalist reactionaries—including the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, and other Islamic fundamentalists—in many countries. And there is the even larger dimension in which they have installed, backed and fortified reactionary regimes of various kinds throughout the world and, even more fundamentally, the ways in which the workings of their whole system have condemned the great majority of humanity to unspeakable oppression and misery—all of which is enforced, as the "bottom line," by the machinery of death and destruction known as the U.S. military.
Beyond just theocratic fascist forces—which do have positions of real power and influence within the U.S. ruling class—there is the need to confront and build the most powerful struggle against the reactionary program around which the ruling class as a whole is being united. A key element in this program is greatly heightened police-state measures and overall political repression. This repression includes blatant "profiling" of people in the U.S. from Arab countries, central and south Asia and more generally those parts of the world where Islam is the dominant religion; it includes large-scale round-ups and detention of particularly men of these ethnic and religious groups, under conditions in which rights that are supposed to be guaranteed to them by the Constitution are flagrantly denied and trampled on; and it includes a general clamp-down on immigrants, legal as well as "illegal," and a further militarization of the borders of the U.S. All this, of course, is linked to an open-ended declaration of war, and the threat of war, in which the U.S. imperialists arrogate to themselves the "right" to intervene in any country where "terrorists"—as defined by them—pose a threat to the interests of U.S. imperialism, to launch attacks against, even to overthrow, any force or any government that they declare to be somehow connected with such "terrorist threats against the interests of the United States," no matter how far removed this may be from the September 11 attacks (or how flimsy and threadbare the attempt to fabricate such a connection).
"PERIOD OF MAJOR TRANSITION, WITH THE POTENTIAL FOR GREAT UPHEAVAL"
When we step back and look at this, one thing that can be (and has been) emphatically said is: "Period of major transition with the potential for great upheaval" indeed! In recent times, even before September 11 and the actions of the imperialists in its aftermath, a number of people in and around our Party have commented that, looking at events in the world, this formulation (from the "Notes on Political Economy" that our Party published) has seemed smarter and smarter—and now this is all the more the case. This is indeed what is represented by the forces that have been unleashed as a result of the "victory of the West in the Cold War," although all this is rooted more deeply in the fundamental contradictions of this era of the capitalist-imperialist system. As we know from dialectical materialism, all things have their opposites (this is the nature of reality and its motion and development, which is reflected in the dialectical materialist world outlook and method). And now the "victory of the West in the Cold War" has called forth an opposite in a particularly sharp way. In other words, as spoken to earlier, there are real Islamic fundamentalist forces in opposition to U.S. imperialism. Whatever Osama bin Laden may actually be, there are real forces of Islamic fundamentalism, and other forces aligned with them or representing the same basic class interests (feudal and reactionary bourgeois class interests), which do have their own objective conflicts and antagonism with U.S. imperialism—and even have their own wild ambitions of knocking U.S. imperialism off its position as the hegemonic world power, the sole superpower in the world, etc.
So, the victory of the West in the Cold War has called forth an opposite in not only a sharp but also a kind of peculiar way—which, in its own way, is as surprising as the form in which the Cold War itself ended—that is, with the demise and collapse of the Soviet Union (something very few anticipated, our Party included, as was pointed out in our self-criticism on this in "Notes on Political Economy"). But, of course, this conflict between Islamic fundamentalist forces and U.S. imperialism is just one expression of a much broader phenomenon of intensifying antagonism between imperialism and the masses of people in the oppressed nations of the world; and all this is the expression of profound contradictions, of major world and world-historical contradictions of this era of capitalism-imperialism.3
Something that has been pointed to, something whose relevance and importance has stood out, in relation to this whole crisis and war and the developing accentuation of all these contradictions, is the statement in the Draft Programme of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, in the Appendix on Central Task, where it emphasizes that: "The Party does not overall determine the political challenges it faces, but how it meets those challenges can have a huge effect on the political terrain itself." In other words, we don't get to choose the necessity that we're confronted with—the objective situation at any given time is generally determined largely by factors other than our own efforts—but we do have some choice in how we respond to that situation, we can take initiative and seize freedom out of that necessity, transforming to the greatest degree possible the objective conditions that we're confronted with. We might like to have things occurring and confronting us in a more positive way, with a more positive alignment, right now.
For example, there has been a developing and already powerful struggle against capitalist globalization—a broad movement which, in its main aspect, was very positive both politically and ideologically. Even a number of imperialist spokespeople noted a few years ago that this "anti-globalization movement" represented not just a political but also an ideological challenge to the whole rolling triumphalism of the capitalist system. If it is not yet pro-socialist, and certainly not communist, it definitely has had a very strong and increasingly accentuated anti-capitalist thrust to it, both politically but also ideologically. And this has been a major challenge, and a growing one, for the imperialists—and a very favorable factor for the proletariat. We have been increasingly recognizing this and deepening our involvement in this movement in recognition of these very powerful factors. And had things continued on that trajectory and developed in that way as part of the overall mix of contradictions, that would have been more favorable perhaps—or more favorable certainly in the short run—than the situation that we've been confronted with since September 11. Yet, while it might have been overall more favorable in a certain sense (or certainly more favorable in the short term), it quite possibly would not have developed in as profound a way as the contradictions that have been unleashed, or accentuated, as a result of and in the aftermath of September 11.
So, on the one hand, what was taking shape in relation to that movement against capitalist globalization is something we would have liked to continue as a sort of defining alignment—or a major alignment on the terrain—and this movement has to be further revived and developed as such. But this is now taking place within a different context whose terms are set by different contradictions (or different expression of major world contradictions) which may very well prove to be even more profound and out of which there may prove to be, over the whole period of all that this involves, more basis for revolutionary advance, in the world as a whole, and perhaps even a heightened prospect for the masses to seize power in what has been the U.S. imperialist homeland itself.
BEING PUT TO THE TEST—MAINTAINING OUR STRATEGIC ORIENTATION
This is an extremely important point of strategic orientation because, after all, what is it that we communists are all about and what is it we live for? We live for—and our whole orientation is geared toward—situations in which the contradictions of imperialism do reach their most acute expressions. And one of the things that is being driven home to us—this is something we have always known theoretically and have lived through on a certain level, certainly in the period, particularly during the 1980s, when world war was a very real possibility—is that the increasingly acute and explosive expression of these profound major contradictions of the imperialist epoch is not going to come to the fore without tremendous upheaval, without tremendous destruction, without tremendous volatility throughout the world, without there being many factors that are unfavorable for the proletarian revolution as well as factors that are strategically favorable. But, on the other hand, as I said, this is what we live for; this is what our whole orientation is geared toward. Otherwise, what are we doing? We are not going to slide neatly into the proletarian revolution. We're not going to oust from power these most monstrous and powerful exploiters and oppressors and mass murderers on a world scale and think that somehow it's all going to be easy, neat, clean, and without much sacrifice, without much upheaval, without much volatility, without much volcanic eruption all over the world, including in the U.S. itself.
So this is putting us to the test, and in fact people all over the world as well as within the U.S. are going to be put to the test in one way or another—we are going to be confronted with the consequences of what these contradictions give rise to, and in particular the horrors that these imperialists unleash. Where are you going to stand in relation to this? Are you going to stand with the great majority of people in the world who have been going through great horrors every day for decades and centuries, as a result of the workings of this system; or, in the hope that you can somehow escape these horrors, are you going to stand with the imperialists who have been inflicting this on masses of people, right within the U.S. itself, and on an even greater scale throughout other parts of the world—and are preparing to inflict this on a much more monstrous scale?
Everybody is going to be put to the test, but of course, that doesn't mean that if people do something bad in the short run, we should strategically write them off. We do have to maintain the orientation of uniting all who can be united, within the U.S. itself, while firmly upholding and giving life to our principles of proletarian internationalism, in unity with the great majority of people in the world against the imperialist system. But there is also the truth, and we have to tell people the truth, that everyone is going to be put to the test. This is not a minor or temporary thing that's going on in the world, after which things are going to return to "normal," whatever the hell that meant—and we know that normal has meant hell for the great majority of people in the world living under this system.
So, again, what is unfolding now is a peculiar expression of fundamental underlying contradictions, the major contradictions of the imperialist epoch. All this can and must be transformed radically—and, in fact, it will be in one way or the other and to the benefit of one class or another.
BUILDING OPPOSITION—REALIGNING FORCES
In the context of the current situation and the objectives and wild ambitions of the imperialists, we can see a very important point from Lenin: what begins as a war among imperialists or reactionaries does not have to end up as a war among imperialists and reactionaries—the alignment that they are trying to bring into being, and even the alignment that now exists, is not the only way things can turn out. And, of course, in this the vanguard MLM forces throughout the world have a tremendous role to play, if we are able to correctly apply our ideology to this situation through all the wrenching turmoil and upheaval of what I've referred to as this cauldron of contradictions. So this stresses that not only within the U.S. itself, but on a world scale, through a whole wrenching process, there is even greater importance to striving for and achieving repolarization, a realignment of forces politically.
One thing I wanted to speak to in connection with this is the question of the "softness" of those within the U.S. most inclined to support the imperialists and even the U.S. armed forces themselves. TV talk show host Bill Maher got in all kinds of trouble for saying that it is the U.S. military that exhibits cowardice by carrying out bombings from a safe distance (and, from what I've heard, Maher has been "making amends" ever since by acting as an avid, not to say rabid, supporter of the imperialists' "war on terrorism").[NOTE: Since the time this talk by Bob Avakian was originally published, in early 2002, and particularly with the Bush regime's move to war against Iraq, Bill Maher became more critical of certain aspects of Bush's program and actions; but he has remained, in general, a supporter of the so-called "war on terror," even while raising criticisms of how this "war on terror" has been conducted.] And there is truth to what Maher said—which only made it worse for him! But it is wrong to look at this one-sidedly, or to ignore the fact that the ruling class itself is aware of and attempting to do something to change this, to the degree they can. In other words, one of the things that this crew that's in power now—and the U.S. ruling class overall, of which they're the inner, decisive core right now—one of the things they're trying to achieve is to overcome this aspect of "softness."
This is one of the reasons Bush and others have been out there from the beginning saying "We can't expect this to be like the Yugoslavia war"—where the U.S. essentially succeeded in achieving its objectives without suffering any significant casualties—or "it can't be like the Gulf War," where the U.S. had minimal casualties..."We have to be prepared for having much greater casualties in order to achieve our great objectives and deal with the 'evil-doers' in the world."
They recognize the importance of orienting and conditioning people in this way, not just with the immediate situation in mind but with the larger picture, the larger objectives, they have in mind. They are thinking strategically and are envisioning a situation in which things could get out of hand to a certain degree—or even if they don't get largely out of hand, there could still be heavy losses on the U.S. side in the course of striving for the objectives, the monstrous objectives that they have. And we have to understand that they can in the short run have a certain measure of success or achieve certain things with this effort to "prime" people—both in their military and among the "civilian population"—to make greater sacrifices.
In other words, despite a certain definite truth—and historical experience that illustrates this truth—that U.S. soldiers are unwilling to make the kind of sacrifices that armies fighting against oppression—and in particular revolutionary armies guided by communist ideology—have been willing to make, it would be wrong to think that the first time they get hit with any serious combat in which they're taking losses, these soldiers of the imperialist military are just going to all fall apart and that the civilian population that tends to back them in the short run will all just immediately turn against the government if and when there are serious casualties and a greater price to pay overall for the imperialists' "war on terrorism." It would be wrong to count on that and to hinge the building of resistance to this whole imperialist juggernaut on it.
To the degree this happens—to the degree that people turn against the government because they see that it is requiring people, soldiers and civilians alike, to make increasing sacrifices and this causes people to question further what this is all for—that is a positive factor that should definitely be seized on in building opposition to the imperialist juggernaut. Politically that can be an important element in favor of the proletariat and the people of the world, but we have to expect that this will go through a dialectical process and not in a straight line. And, in fact, on a certain level there will be, at least to some extent and for a certain time, a "hardening" of some of their forces—both their military forces and some of the base among the "civilian population" that they can mobilize in the short run—before, on a greater level, that turns into its opposite. This was the experience with the Vietnam War. The turning of increasing sectors of the population, and increasing ranks of the military itself, against the imperialist war in Vietnam didn't happen in a straight line. It happened through the kind of complex and dialectical process that I've been talking about, and this current "war on terrorism" has the potential to be much greater in terms of the conflict that it encompasses than the Vietnam War.
So we have to understand all this. Our political work should be strategically guided by winning the masses of people to the correct understanding of all this, and this does include recognizing that there will be a favorable factor, in an overall sense, as the imperialists suffer setbacks in what they're attempting to do—and from the revolutionary defeatist standpoint, the more setbacks they suffer, the better. But we can't expect this to be a one-to-one, immediate, and linear relationship where their suffering setbacks and/or increased casualties among their soldiers and increased hardship for the "civilian population" mean that things immediately and automatically become more favorable for building opposition to their juggernaut, and for linking this to strategic revolutionary objectives. It's going to be a much more wrenching and convulsive and complicated process than that.
Now, obviously, we have a lot of political and ideological work to do in relation to all this. We can't rely on the spontaneity of it. That's a point that needs to be emphasized out of all this. Achieving the necessary repolarization is going to be a wrenching process, but it's one we have to work on systematically. And this does relate to the objectives the imperialists have internationally and the whole way in which they're moving within the U.S. itself. That is, as I referred to earlier, their intention is to create a country that is more or less permanently at war, with the attendant police-state repression and all that goes with that, a kind of warfare police-state.
It is important in this context to think about the meaning of the Martin Niemoeller statement: "First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."
Now, on at least one occasion, when a spokesperson for our Party in New York City, Mary Lou Greenberg, brought up this statement, a reactionary talk show host responded by proclaiming, "Do you realize you just compared the United States to Nazi Germany?—how ridiculous." But of course the point is that even at the time when the Nazis came to power—when Hitler became Chancellor—NAZI Germany was not the same NAZI Germany that it became a few years later—and particularly in the midst of the war when it committed the mass genocide against the Jews. Things unfolded—they went through a process—and by the time NAZI Germany fully became NAZI Germany, in all its horror, it was too late to resist—that, after all, was the whole point of the Niemoeller statement! The point is not that the U.S. is already fascist, although it certainly is at war and there certainly are fascistic elements within this inner ruling group and within the policies they're pushing, which are being adopted by the ruling class as a whole.
THE LAW, LIKE TERRORISM, IS "WHATEVER WE SAY IT IS"
They like to strike the moral posture of being the country of freedom and liberty and constitutional law. They are always emphasizing that, "This is a government of laws, not of men." Well, with their heightened police-state measures and overall repression, they are running into certain acute contradictions around this. Take, for example, the power they're arrogating to themselves to listen in on the conversations of accused terrorists and their lawyers. With that, they're basically undermining the whole concept of a fair trial. How can there be a fair trial when the government can listen in on the conversations of the defense, including its preparation for trial? And this new power to listen to conversations between defendants and their lawyers will undermine further, in a qualitatively greater way, the whole basis for a fair trial—to the degree that it actually exists anyway.
This, of course, goes along with the whole mentality, which they have been systematically trying to cultivate, that as soon as someone is accused they're automatically guilty, and any attempt to have them found not guilty is trickery, the evil doings of those evil (defense) lawyers taking an advantage of "technicalities" (otherwise known as provisions of the Constitution), and so on. It's the Edwin Meese line—the former Attorney General under Reagan—he actually articulated this at one point when he said, "Well these people wouldn't be on trial, we wouldn't be accusing them, if they weren't guilty." And that notion, to the degree that it is accepted and applied, goes a long way to undermining and obliterating due process.
So, you see, this is the way they've conditioned the populace for a long time, but in recent years they've also been carrying out a heightened and more systematic effort to undermine and reverse, in the minds of the people, the innocent until proven guilty principle. And now they're trying to take another leap with this. This relates to the military tribunals that Bush has announced he may, at his discretion, establish. Here, in this situation, the ultimate prosecutor is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the judges are lesser officers in the armed forces—and while they've been forced to make certain cosmetic concessions to due process, Bush and company are still openly talking about legal processes in these military tribunals where many of the key protections and rights that are associated with due process will be eliminated or seriously undercut. So essentially, just as they're saying with terrorism, "it's whatever we say it is," now they're saying in effect and by their own logic, that due process is whatever they say it is.
This is graphically illustrated by the statement that Cheney made—that these people, these terrorists, don't deserve the same rights as other people. So, by this logic, once the executive branch of government—and more specifically the President in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces—declares somebody to be a terrorist, then they should lose rights that are supposedly guaranteed to them by the Constitution (which, it should be noted, is not supposed to apply only to U.S. citizens but to all people in U.S. territory). If you accept this logic, then you have obliterated the distinction between accusation and actual guilt. And if you accept that terrorism is whatever they say it is, and that as soon as they label someone a terrorist that person does not deserve Constitutional protections and due process of law, then in effect you're agreeing that the law itself is whatever they say it is, and that the Constitution means whatever they say it means (and doesn't mean what they say it doesn't mean). Well then, the whole pretense and the whole proclamation that the great thing about America is that this is a system or a country of laws and not of men—this is being undermined and all but obliterated right out in the open. Because you're essentially saying it is "a government of men." It's nakedly the government of the ruling class and its political inner core that decides what the law is, what the Constitution is, who has rights and who doesn't.
While we shouldn't overstate or exaggerate what the situation is at a given point, there is great relevance to the Martin Niemoeller quote and we shouldn't simply look pragmatically at what they're doing at any given time and not look at the whole trend of where things are going, as well as the logic that they themselves are articulating. What is the logic of what they're saying—as one of Richard Pryor's characters put it, "what is the logical conclusion of the logic?" Where does it lead? These are very important points both to understand and to do exposure around—both to help arouse broad opposition to this whole juggernaut and to bring further to light the essence of bourgeois dictatorship, in all its forms and manifestations.
WHO ARE THE BIGGEST "EVIL-DOERS"—WHAT DOES HISTORY SHOW?
I think it would be valuable, for agitational and propaganda purposes and also for more general purposes, to make an analogy to the genocide of the Native peoples in America, as the capitalist system and the slave system spread from the east to the west in the history of the United States. It is useful to look at that experience in light of what is happening today—what's the same and what is different.
In Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones4 I quote a statement by Jim Wallis who said very simply, in his book The Soul of Politics, that the history of the United States is the history of genocide (or I think he said near-genocide) and slavery. This is the history and origins of the United States of America. And, he added, this is not rhetoric; this is just a simple fact.
It's a simple fact, which of course the powers-that-be are always attempting to cover up or distort—or find some excuse, or rationalization, for. You know it's really ironic when you listen to their spokespeople trying to justify their crimes like this. If some criminal got up and made the kind of excuses they make for what they've done in the world, you would never hear an end to the howling! "Oh, yeah I raped that woman, but if I didn't do it, somebody else would have come along and done it worse.... Sure I went over there and murdered 12 people and robbed everybody around, but there was somebody else who was coming along who would have killed 15 people and stolen even more.... Or yeah, I had to go over there and murder and mutilate little children, because I needed to make an alliance with the big crime boss, and if I hadn't done that, he wouldn't have thought I was for real."
Just imagine if some criminal got up and made these kinds of arguments to justify his crimes! Yet, on a worldwide scale, they not only continue everyday to commit much more massive and monstrous crimes, but they continue to offer rationalizations for them that are at once ridiculous and outrageous: "Of course, we had to pull off a coup in Iran in 1953, and install a brutal despotic regime there, and keep it in power for decades, because that was in our strategic interests—we had to have control of the oil there to protect our way of life and prevent the Soviets, or even other big powers, from having control of it. Of course, we had to back Iraq in its war against Iran—or back both sides to a certain extent, to weaken them both while hundreds of thousands died in this war—because that was in our "national interests," to maintain control of that oil-rich and strategic region. Of course, we had to do what we did in Indonesia and slaughter hundreds of thousands of people because we had to keep the Indonesian people from following the communists and undermining our strategic interests (and our oil profits) there. Our way of life was at stake." And on, and on, and on.
So what is your way of life then? You're just admitting that your way of life is thuggery, plunder, rape, exploitation, mass murder. That's your way of life, OK. Now at least we've got it out in the open, so get off your moral high horse. Let's get down on the ground. You're just a bunch of oppressors who rule by brute force, yet you have the nerve to call yourselves the champions of democracy and the "leader of the free world." Mark Twain brilliantly captured something essential when he said that "What you need to get along in America is the perfect combination of ignorance and arrogance." I would add to that—and this is something that is coming more clearly to the fore now—that what American imperialism needs, what it constantly manifests, is the perfect combination of rapaciousness and self-righteousness. This is what is on display now: the perfect combination of rapaciousness and self-righteousness.
Of course, these days it's pretty generally admitted (at least it has been admitted broadly in recent times—maybe they'll try to reverse this verdict too) that, "Yes, we committed genocide against the Native Americans. That was bad."
But think of the reasoning that you're hearing to justify what the U.S. imperialists are doing—or what Israel is doing with the Palestinians, to take one part of this whole picture—and then reflect back on what happened during the time when the U.S. was seizing the land of the Native Americans and committing genocide against them. For example, we hear all this stuff now in the news about smallpox—the danger that smallpox could be used as a weapon of war, a "weapon of mass destruction." But who has actually used smallpox as a weapon of mass extermination? The westward forces of expansion of U.S. capitalism and slavery—the same system that today has become U.S. imperialism—that same system deliberately, knowingly gave smallpox-infested blankets to Native Americans as a weapon of war essentially. So let's remember who has actually done this. I mean, they're always talking about what this or that country or regime would do, how they would use weapons of mass destruction if they could, but who has already done this on a massive scale, in many parts of the world, as well as within the U.S itself—who has already used weapons of mass destruction, on a massive scale, whether it's nuclear weapons or smallpox as a weapon of war?
If you go back and do research, and look into what was written in the media and said by the representatives of the U.S. capitalist system, say in the latter part of the 19th century when they were completing the genocide against the Native Americans and the theft of their lands, whom do you think was portrayed as the "evil-doers" in those days? Do you think it was the cavalry? Do you think it was these people who carried out massacres and committed sexual mutilation of the dead bodies of Native American women, who mutilated children and made tokens and war trophies out of the body parts of the Native peoples that they slaughtered? Do you think that's who was portrayed as the hideous "evil-doers"? Of course not. It was the "savage" Indians. When finally the Native peoples had had enough and found a way to strike back, they didn't always strike back in the most "neat" way. Sometimes they did go to a farm and burn the whole farm down and kill all the people there, including the children—and then this was cited as proof that they were the "savages" who then had to be wiped out because finally they fought back, and when they fought back, they didn't always fight back by the Marquis of Queensberry rules. They perhaps on occasion did one little part of what had been done to them on a massive scale, and this became justification for doing it on an even broader scale or for completing the genocide.
People should go back and look at how these things were portrayed then as opposed to what's been admitted since, and then see how that same logic is being applied now on an international scale as far as who the "evil-doers" are. No, you imperialists don't get to be the "good guys" in the world, I'm sorry. This whole history is very relevant in terms of understanding, by analogy, what's happening now—whether it's Israel and the Palestinians or U.S. imperialism overall and what it's doing in Afghanistan, what it has in store for that whole region and ultimately for the whole world.
On the other hand, things are vastly different now, because despite the heroic resistance that was put up by the Native peoples to this whole genocidal juggernaut, they were not able to withstand these forces of capitalist and slave system expansionism at that time. They were outnumbered and overwhelmed by this whole juggernaut. But the world today is very different. It is not U.S. imperialism that is on the rise, that represents what is rising and developing in the world. It does not represent the interests, nor the felt sentiments, of the great masses of people in the world. Quite the contrary. Not only throughout the Middle East and the "Islamic world" now, but throughout the world as a whole, the masses of people do not look at U.S. imperialism the way U.S. imperialism tries to portray itself in the world—as the "good guys going out to fight the evil-doers." Masses of people throughout the world have an essentially correct understanding of the reality that the U.S. imperialists have tried to stand on its head—millions and millions of people, hundreds of millions and more, understand this at least in basic terms: they know who are the real "evil-doers" who have inflicted tremendous suffering on people throughout the world.
We can and do have sympathy for the thousands of people who were killed in the World Trade Center for example, thousands who died there. But you need to know, American people, that your government is torturing and killing that many children every month in Iraq. People need to be confronted with this. There are many memorials and all these other shows of support for the families of the people who were killed in the World Trade Center, which you can sympathize with, but why are there not memorials and why is there not outrage about the 5,000 Iraqi children that are being slowly tortured to death by the American government every month? Slowly tortured to death—as a direct result of deliberate U.S. bombing and destruction of the infrastructure of Iraq, including things like the water treatment facilities, as well as the continuation of the sanctions which prevent the repair of these things, along with preventing Iraq from getting adequate food and medicine. If they brought these Iraqi children to the U.S. and put them in an auditorium and stood there in front of you and tortured them one by one until they were dead, you would react.
Well, my point is not to blame the American people broadly, because most don't know. There are some reactionary forces who, when they find out, don't care; but most people don't know and it's our responsibility to bring this understanding as part of the overall picture of who the real monstrous "evil-doers" in the world are. And yes, the Osama bin Ladens, and the Taliban—and Saddam Hussein for that matter—represent class forces that also have to be swept aside as part of the revolutionary process of bringing a whole new, ultimately communist world into being, but they are a pittance compared to the monstrosity of U.S. imperialism. This has to be made real and vivid for people in the U.S., and it is our special duty obviously to play a key role in this.
And again, strategically speaking and looking at the world as a whole, things are vastly different than they were 100 or 150 years ago. While there are important points to be made in terms of political understanding, and also in terms of agitation and propaganda, by drawing an analogy to the genocide against the Native peoples in America, there's also the profound truth that the world is vastly different and strategically more favorable for the proletariat and the oppressed people of the world, including the indigenous peoples in the U.S. and all over the world, even though right now we have to face the fact that the alignment in the world is not favorable. It's very unfavorable, it needs to be radically transformed, and there is a lot of work to be done theoretically and in practice in order to bring about a radical transformation that actually does correspond to the needs and the basic interests of the great majority of humanity, and even the great majority of people in the U.S. itself.
"THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS"
One of the things that has been talked about by various intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals (and even "leftists" or pseudo-leftists) in the imperialist camp is this whole "clash of civilizations" point. Back in 1993, Samuel Huntington wrote an article in Foreign Affairs magazine with that title, "The Clash of Civilizations." While Huntington's article is written from the point of view of justifying and furthering U.S. imperial domination, there are some things in this article that are somewhat prescient, far seeing, in terms of predicting ways in which world contradictions would get expressed which are actually being borne out in certain aspects now—including the conflict between what he described as Central Asia and the arc that includes the countries where Islam is the dominant religion, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the West as represented particularly by the U.S.
At one point in this article, Huntington makes the statement that a Western (bourgeois) intellectual and a Soviet Marxist could have a debate, they could find common ground for debate, whereas it is very hard for either of them to do that with an Islamic fundamentalist. Despite the fact that Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. could find a lot in common with the Islamic fundamentalists on many ideological questions, there may actually be an aspect of truth to Huntington's point. But Huntington's approach here also reveals some of the essential flaws in his overall methodology. Among other things, it reflects the error of detaching ideological questions from underlying material factors.
Within all the countries and all these regions of the world, there are different class forces, with different and conflicting class interests—there is not one large, amorphous bunch of people who, while they may be divided into classes, have this overriding commonality with people of the same Islamic or Hindu or Christian civilization, etc. There are very acute class contradictions within all these countries and regions (and "civilizations"); and, as I've pointed to in my writings, even before September 11, some of the ways in which these underlying material and social factors are finding expression right now are not actually in line with the real objective class and social interests of the people involved.
Masses of people, particularly those who have been uprooted from the peasant countryside and thrown into the urban shantytowns, for example, have sought out many different solutions—some of which do, but some of which do not, correspond to their real interests. In some cases, they've sought out, or been attracted to, MLM. But in other situations, especially where the MLM forces have been weak and other forces such as religious fundamentalists have been stronger, masses of people have, in the short term, gravitated toward religious fundamentalist movements in various places. In Iran, even in Turkey (which is regarded as and has a certain history as one of the more secular of the "Islamic countries") and certainly in countries like Egypt and other places, there has been this phenomenon of masses being drawn to Islamic fundamentalism. But, in the more profound and ultimate sense, this doesn't override, nor certainly eliminate, the actual material situation and actual objective interests of these masses.
Obviously, the challenge for the MLM vanguards in these areas, and throughout the world, is to transform this situation—which means we do need to dig into it more fully. We need to do more than just go back to the basics of MLM, or even just to go back to the basics and then try to creatively apply them in all these different places. While we must remain firm in certain bedrock principles of MLM—and apply them creatively, not dogmatically—at the same time we actually need to do some work theoretically and in terms of analysis (and synthesis) to more deeply grasp what's going on with this whole massive "demographic upheaval" in these countries, with the uprooting of masses of the peasantry, with the transformation of much of the peasantry into a sort of shantytown semi-proletariat. There is a lot of work to be done. This challenge is being taken up by the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM), including our Party, and other communist forces, but there is much more that needs to be done. While maintaining our fundamental orientation with regard to the different revolutionary roads in the two different types of countries (imperialist countries and the oppressed countries of the Third World), and while continuing to recognize the fundamental importance of the road of protracted people's war to surround the cities from the countryside in the Third World generally (as discussed in our Party's Draft Programme), we need to understand the tactical and even in certain aspects the strategic implications of these major transformations going on in many countries, particularly countries of the Third World.
We need to confront and "engage" reality. What is driving masses of people in many countries into the arms of these religious fundamentalists? What are the underlying material as well as the political and ideological factors? What failures or shortcomings of secular forces, including Marxist forces, have contributed to this in what ways, and how do we learn to overcome this? How do we address the material but also the political and ideological concerns of the people? What are the factors that are favorable and must be built on in dealing with this? These are tremendous challenges confronting our movement internationally to which we all, including our Party, have to contribute as much as we possibly can and in the various ways that we can. But things are not as Samuel Huntington presents them. There are some things to learn from his analysis, certain ways in which it's insightful and prescient, but there are also definite limitations, class blinders and biases that are incorporated in it.
THE FUNDAMENTAL ANSWER TO RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM
The same basic limitations can be seen in the book The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong, which I understand is now a big seller in the U.S. ever since September 11. This is another person who, from a quasi-materialist and quasi-religious standpoint, is trying to analyze some of these same contradictions. In particular the book is about religious fundamentalism within the three main monotheistic religions in the world: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. So it's very relevant and important in terms of the present situation. It does have a lot of insightful analysis of what gives rise to these fundamentalist movements, in particular the ways in which certain dislocations in the situation of masses of people in various countries and regions—and ways in which they feel their traditional way of life and values are acutely threatened and undermined—give rise to this impulse toward fundamentalism and enable the organized fundamental forces to have much more of a hearing and to mobilize much more of a base. There is a lot to be learned from her analysis.
She does recognize and emphasize—and analyze to some depth—the point that modernity came through a very wrenching process in "the West." It was not a smooth, easy transition. It was wrenching, involving war and revolution and repeated upheavals: this is the process that has led to the kind of modern secular society that—at least at this point—characterizes the U.S. and other "advanced capitalist" countries. And, at least as importantly, Armstrong analyzes much of the way that modernity (or modernization) has presented itself to most of the Third World—as something imposed by, first of all, colonialism and imperialism and, linked with that, corrupt and repressive ruling cliques within these countries themselves (basically comprador forces dependent on and serving imperialism). As Armstrong presents it, these regimes (and the colonial-imperialist powers behind them) do not have, and have not created, an internal basis in these countries for modernization.
But the point she doesn't really, or fully, recognize is that the reason they don't have—and cannot create—a material basis for this is because of the system and class interests that they represent. In contrast, if you look at the history of the Chinese revolution, for example, both politically and ideologically as well as in their material economic and social conditions, masses of people were sprung free to a very large degree from tradition and tradition's chains by a bottom-up revolutionary process, guided by a communist vanguard and communist ideology. This is what is represented by MLM and the forces of proletarian revolution and the international communist movement—which can transform things in a profound way, in a radically different way than the bourgeoisie and the imperialists can impose change from the top down (even in the limited and distorted way that they seek to make social change within these countries).
The achievement of a secular society can be much more thoroughly and fully achieved by the proletarian revolution coming from the bottom up than it ever can be—or even is sought to be—by the bourgeoisie and the imperialists. And the things that drive these dislocated and uprooted masses (and also many among the more traditionally exploited and oppressed peasants and other basic masses) toward the fundamentalists—the underlying material transformations and accompanying social upheavals—can also be much more strategically and powerfully the basis for the proletariat to mobilize the masses in a revolution guided by communist ideology and leading to socialism and ultimately communism worldwide (even if, in the Third World generally, this proceeds first through a stage of new-democratic revolution against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism linked to imperialism). But, again, to bring this about there is a great deal of work to do, including in the realm of theory and, more specifically, analysis (and synthesis) of these profound material transformations and social upheavals in much of the Third World and their political and strategic implications for the revolutionary process. In this there is much that can and should be learned from some of these analyses that are made from a bourgeois (or bourgeois-democratic) standpoint, but they need to be recast and re-synthesized.
With regard to both some things to learn from, but also criticisms that must be made of, the analysis in Armstrong's book The Battle For God (and, in some different aspects, Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" article in Foreign Affairs) one way we can encapsulate an essential point is this: Only a society that has completely uprooted and abolished exploitation and oppression can be a completely secular society. And achieving our ultimate objective of bringing into being a society, and a world, in which all exploitation and oppression has in fact been fully and finally uprooted has to include not just economic, social, and political transformation but also a revolution in the ideological sphere, where the masses are won to and actively take up not only secularism in some general (or partial) sense but a thoroughgoingly scientific and revolutionary, critical and creative outlook, namely MLM and its continuing development.
THINGS ARE BOUND TO BE VASTLY DIFFERENT...THE AMERICA WE HAVE KNOWN WILL NOT EXIST IN THE SAME WAY ANYMORE
As I spoke to earlier, there are both things that the U.S. imperialists have had on their agenda and had on track for a while which they put on the fast track, and there are also real contradictions and real necessity and real forces opposing them that they have to deal with. They have both freedom and necessity, and both have taken a new shape in the aftermath of September 11. And while we must grasp this as fully as we can at this point, and act on this, it is also important for us to continue digging into this and learn more about the dynamics driving them, the underlying material economic forces, the political and geostrategic factors, and the interconnection of these different economic, political, and social forces.
But a crucial point to emphasize here again is the imperialists have set things in motion that can't be easily reversed, and may not be easily controlled. And we can say with a great deal of certainty that at the end of all this—whenever and however what has been set in motion is finally resolved—things are bound to be and will be vastly different, not only internationally, but also within what has been the United States. Whether in a very terrible way, or in a very positive way in terms of the advance of the proletarian revolution worldwide, and perhaps even getting to the point where power is seized by the masses of the people in the U.S. itself—things will be radically different and the America we have known will not exist in the same way anymore.
THE CHALLENGES WE FACE POLITICALLY
In light of what has been spoken to so far, I want to talk about some of the challenges we face politically. To begin, it is worth reproducing a recent editorial in the RW (December 2, 2001) entitled "WANTED: A Powerful Antiwar Movement"5:
McWorld or Jihad?!? There must be another way. How can we fight against the unjust bombings and military interventions of the U.S. government and the intense repression and profiling of Arab and Muslim people?
How can people around the world deal with reactionary forces and ideologies in a way that does not end up strengthening global exploiters and oppressors?
How can people in the U.S. communicate to the people halfway across the planet that there is a difference between the U.S. power structure and the great majority of the people in the U.S.—who have no fundamental interest in oppressing and ripping off the people of the world?
How can we help give "air to breathe" to the kind of movements that can really liberate people from the global oppressors—and create societies where poverty, unjust violence, ethnic hatred, and the oppression of women can be eliminated?
Thinking about these problems—and the need for proletarian revolution in the U.S. and around the world—RCP Chairman, Bob Avakian wrote:
"We must bring forward the vision of a movement against the war acts and repression of 'our own' U.S. government that is so powerful that it cannot be hidden from the masses of people all over the world—including in the countries and areas that are targets of U.S. imperialist aggression and are, justifiably, 'hotbeds' of hatred 'against America.'
"Imagine, what it would (and will) mean to those millions and millions of people when they see hundreds of thousands and ultimately millions of people in America itself, taking on the aggression (and repression) of their own government and standing with the people of the world against all that this government stands for and is doing and enforcing in the world. Imagine the questions that will raise in those people's minds, the 'dialogue' (even if indirect) it will give rise to, among people all over the world with people in the U.S. itself.
"Imagine the inspiration it will provide and the potential realignment it will contribute to—with ordinary people worldwide finding common cause against the oppressors and bullies of the world, first and above all the rulers of America—who, it will be more and more clear, do not speak and act in the interests, or in the name of large, and growing, numbers of American people themselves...."
Unite all who can be united...
Realize the vision...
The whole world is watching.
Clearly, this expresses a grand vision—but one that is no larger than what is required in the face of everything the imperialists have set into motion and are seeking to bring about, at the cost of tremendous suffering. Building the kind of opposition called for in that editorial represents a very important objective that we should have before us as a concrete goal—something to be actively, urgently working toward and uniting and struggling with others to achieve.
Something that is noteworthy, and encouraging, about the situation since September 11 is that, in the face of the declaration of open-ended war (and heightened repression) by the imperialists, there have been some very good stands taken by many people, including some prominent people as well as students and other social forces in U.S. society. Many have not only taken a good stand in general but have sought to actively rise to the challenge of opposing and resisting this whole juggernaut of the imperialists.
And with this objective in mind, there are some important lessons to be drawn from the experience of the Gulf War and the movement of opposition to it. It is very important to keep in mind that, from the first days of the Gulf War, there was massive opposition to that war, in large parts of the world, including the U.S. and many other countries within its war "coalition" at that time. I remember watching a report about a demonstration in Germany of half a million people (or perhaps even a million) against the Gulf War. Of course, they quickly followed this with their typical methods of covering up unpleasant realities, their tried and true means of obfuscation: "However, polls show that the majority of Germans support the war." So, never mind reality; we always have a poll. This reminds me of what Lenin said about how the reactionary ruling classes have need of two functions: the hangman and the priest. Well, now, they also have the bombing and the polls. They have the bombs to kill you with and the polls to tell you what you're supposed to think.
The fact is there was a massive outpouring of opposition to the Gulf War, including in the U.S., especially in the early stages, but then to a significant degree people were disoriented, particularly when it became clear that the imperialists were going to achieve overwhelming military superiority and a military victory—and without many casualties. As this developed—and, at the same time, as the imperialists launched a political and public opinion counter-offensive against the anti-war movement—there was a significant amount of disorientation and even demoralization among the ranks of this movement. Part of this was based on an erroneous assumption—the assumption that this would be essentially like Vietnam, in the sense that the U.S. (and its coalition) would get involved in a "quagmire"; they'd get bogged down; the body bags would start coming home; and then people would turn against the war on a large scale.
First of all, this is a vulgarization of how and why many people opposed the Vietnam War in the first place. Although there were broader sections of the population that were influenced in that kind of way, even they got more politically advanced through the course of coming into motion against the war. But there was a very broad outpouring against the Vietnam War which wasn't based on body bags coming home or on the fact that it became increasingly clear that this war could not be won; it was based on understanding the political nature of that war—the reactionary, oppressive, murderous nature of the war the U.S. was waging and the interests for which it was fighting and, in opposition to that, the interests for which the Vietnamese people were fighting and resisting the imperialist war of aggression.
Secondly, in the Gulf War, there was a certain assumption that got taken up and propagated by some people with incorrect thinking, some political groups and tendencies who are always looking for the lowest common denominator, who took up this logic that "when the body bags start coming home, the people will turn against the war" in sort of a narrow, utilitarian, pragmatic way. And when those things didn't happen, many people were disoriented by that.
In addition, pretty quickly the imperialists began their counter-mobilization around the slogan of "support the troops," and this line was even taken up by some within the anti-war movement, where it served as a kind of ideological and political "Trojan Horse." How can you support the troops and not support the war? What is it that the troops were doing, except waging that war?! Those soldiers who should be supported are those who are resisting—or seeking the means to resist—the war.
This resistance became a large-scale phenomenon during the Vietnam War, and the movement against that war correctly gave support and encouragement to the thousands of soldiers who resisted and rebelled, while struggling to win many more to take the same stand. And there were many within the U.S. armed forces during the Gulf War who were taking the same kind of stand. But the "support the troops" line, when it was not only widely and loudly propagated and organized around by the imperialists themselves, but particularly to the degree that it was taken up by forces within the anti-war movement, had a very disorienting, demoralizing, and demobilizing effect. This is a lesson that should not be forgotten but should be consistently applied and struggled for, including in the face of the same, or other, attempts to derail the movement against this open-ended "war against terrorism."
Now, there are some ways in which we should listen to—and learn from—what the imperialists say and do. While, in the most fundamental sense, they are systematic and world class liars, at the same time, as Lenin said, they do have a need to mobilize the population or to affect the population in certain ways, and in their own perverse way they do let out a certain amount of truth because they want to prepare people for certain things. This goes back to what I was saying earlier about how they are trying to condition the population to realize that, on the one hand, there are going to be (or are very likely to be) more casualties and losses on the U.S. side than there were in the Gulf War. So that's one part of the picture—this is a real prospect for which the imperialists recognize the need to prepare and condition people. On the other hand, there are going to be military victories for the imperialists, and there already have been in Afghanistan. There are going to be aspects of the developing situation in which they are going to be able to minimize their casualties, or to swing more sections of the population behind them in the short run on the basis of greater casualties ("now that our troops are dying, we have to rally behind them even more").
This is going to be a complex process, and once again any sort of simple, linear thinking will fail. The idea that, first of all, they're going to almost automatically get into some quagmire or that, if they do, this will automatically lead to more people turning against what the government is doing—neither of those things is going to be true in that kind of linear way. It certainly won't be true without the active involvement and work of, first of all, the MLM forces in this country and around the world (in particular, our Party and the RIM)—and, together with that, and through a process of unity-struggle-unity, other progressive forces and forces of resistance and opposition to the whole juggernaut the imperialists are unleashing.
Our Party has a tremendous role to play in all that, in striving to unite all who can be united in opposition to this while at the same time, through our independent line and work, linking this to strategic revolutionary objectives. Here again we can see the tremendous importance of repolarization, realigning forces, winning much broader forces in society to oppose the imperialist juggernaut of war and repression. And a key thing to grasp is that this must and can be done—in fact can only be done most effectively—without watering down the movement of resistance to the lowest common denominator, but instead drawing the crucial dividing lines so that the greatest number of people, representing a great diversity of political (and ideological) viewpoints, can be united, in the most powerful way, against the essential thrust and the essential aspects of this imperialist juggernaut.
To quote an internal document of our Party:
"[What is needed is a] movement that can stick to basic principle and still build the broadest united front, keeping in the forefront what it will take to actually stop the whole juggernaut of war and repression vs. getting caught up in sectarian or even simply more narrow and limited interests....
"We have to be ferocious and relentless in exposing the nature of this system, putting forward the solution to all this madness, and on that basis work to unite as broadly as possible and build a real and powerful movement to STOP them....
"The basic approach of our September 14 statement6 was an important application of this orientation—of speaking to and seeking to influence millions from a revolutionary position, drawing the dividing lines and applying the mass line, so that we could unite the broadest number of people in a way that moves them objectively in the direction of our international class's strategic interest. Doing this correctly is a real challenge that we will face all the way through this wrenching process of repolarizing whole sections of society away from the ruling class."
Understanding things in terms of these crucial principles, the important thing is not whether people say they are "anti-war" or for peace, or whether they may be confused for a time about such things as whether the UN and similar international bodies can bring some kind of "just resolution" to the international conflicts that gave rise to the September 11 attacks, and so on. It will be necessary to unite with broad numbers of people who formulate the terms of things in many different ways and have different viewpoints about many different questions. The important thing is that the greatest number of people be won to and united around opposing above all what the U.S. government (and its "coalition" at any given time) is doing—its juggernaut of war and repression. If the dividing lines are not drawn in this way, if the spearhead of struggle is not directed above all at the U.S. government and its whole juggernaut, if the opposition to war and repression is watered down to the point where a general stand in favor of things like "peace" and "justice" fails to identify this government as the main perpetrator of unjust war and repression, then no matter how many people are mobilized, this opposition will be ineffectual at best and at worst may be co-opted and used against the kind of resistance that must be built to actually meet the challenges posed by the imperialist juggernaut. All this underlines the need to continually strive to unite all who can be united in opposition to this juggernaut and at the same time to carry out principled struggle over differences among the forces of opposition, including the crucial questions of how the dividing lines must be drawn and how to build the movement overall so that the greatest numbers are united in the most powerful way.
In an imperialist country a decisive aspect of proletarian internationalism is revolutionary defeatism. And this is especially the case with regard to the U.S., given its role in the world—both its overall position as "the world's sole superpower" and in particular its declared intentto wage open-ended war to further re-order the world under its domination. So the basic stand of revolutionary defeatism is not just something that we communists should uphold; we should struggle to win the movement of opposition and the masses broadly to this basic stand.
In this light it is important to clarify some things concerning revolutionary defeatism—what it is and how it should be applied. Revolutionary defeatism means that, for people in an imperialist country—or in any country where the government is carrying out an unjust war, a war of domination and plunder, a reactionary war that serves only to fortify oppression, or to replace one oppressive power with another—you must put special emphasis on opposing your own government in that war, even if the enemy of your government in that war is equally reactionary. It means that you must refuse to support your government in such a war and, beyond that, you must have a basic orientation of welcoming the setbacks and defeats of your government and making use of them to build opposition to your government and its reactionary war, in accordance with and guided by the objective of making revolution right within your own country and contributing all you can to the international revolutionary struggle. But revolutionary defeatism does not mean that you should actually support the enemy of your government if that enemy and the war it is waging is equally reactionary. Obviously, this can be complicated, and in order to correctly apply this orientation it is necessary to make a concrete analysis of the concrete situation while remaining firmly grounded in basic principle.
Specifically in the current situation this is complicated because, on the one hand, Afghanistan, for example, is not an imperialist country, it is a Third World country, a country oppressed by imperialism and devastated by imperialist war and civil war that has largely been provoked and shaped by imperialist aggression and intrigue. At the same time, the Taliban and other forces that have been the immediate target of U.S. military attack are not progressive forces—are themselves reactionary oppressors of the people. So how does revolutionary defeatism apply to a situation like this? Our objective here is not to root for the victory of the Taliban, for example, but to put emphasis on opposing our own ruling class and to welcome the setbacks and defeats they suffer, not so that another reactionary force can win out, but so that we—the vanguard and the masses in the U.S. as well as those in Afghanistan, and the world revolutionary struggle as a whole—can "break through the middle" of this and the people can rise up and make revolution, proletarian revolution, in their own interests. That's what revolutionary defeatism means. It means we must have an orientation and train the masses with an orientation of welcoming the setbacks of your own ruling class in order to bring closer the time when you can make revolution and sweep away this monstrous system and bring a whole better system and world into being.
We can't do this "off to the side" of the developing movement of resistance, and we can't wait until everybody is much more clear ideologically before we become deeply and actively involved in building this resistance. We have to be in the fray and we have to raise people's political and ideological level through the course of that, in a systematic and concerted way. Here another principle Mao stressed is very relevant: a line and a viewpoint has to be explained repeatedly, not just once or a few times. And in this radically new situation, the line and viewpoint that actually corresponds to the interests and needs of the masses of people has to be forged further and has to be more and more deeply and thoroughly explained and gone into repeatedly through the course of our getting more deeply into the political fray and actually mobilizing masses of people.
"EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED"
There is something we also have to recognize in all this, which is that, as perverted as the imperialist meaning is when they say this, in a real sense everything has changed. And as important as it is to be carrying forward with and not to fold up or downplay other important arenas and faultlines of struggle, besides the battle directly against this imperialist juggernaut of war and repression, there is a whole new and profoundly different context for everything, including these ongoing struggles. We should not ignore that or resist it; we should recognize it and act on it. And we should strive mightily to transform this whole situation in a way that serves and furthers the movement toward the actual sweeping aside and abolishing of this system.
Here again is the importance not only of the role of our Party in this country, but also the great importance of internationalism, of the whole international situation and the international movement, in particular the RIM. Once more, this may not be what we would have asked for, but it's what we're confronted with anyway, and we have to turn it into the greatest advances for the proletarian revolution, in the U.S. and throughout the world, whatever the cost we have to pay and whatever the wrenching process might be.
And, again, despite the perversity of how the imperialists are putting this forward, there is also a profound truth in connection with their insistence that you are with them or against them. The profound thing of importance for our side lies in inverting this. This is something we have to popularize broadly among progressive forces and the masses of people: with regard to this whole juggernaut of war and repression, where these imperialists have arrogated to themselves the power to attack anybody and everybody that they say deserves to be attacked and to repress anybody and everybody that they say deserves to be repressed; in that whole context, we can turn on its head Bush's statement that you're with us or against us, and bring out this profound truth, that if you don't join in building resistance to what they are doing, you will be swept along with it, whether you want to be or not—and you may also be crushed by it. That's a profound truth that we have to bring out to people. It's not enough to be critical. It's not enough to be non-supportive or to be passively against what they're doing. If you don't stand up against it, you will be swept along with it, and quite possibly crushed by it.
So these are major challenges we're going to face. And, once more, we're going to have to confront the fact that they're not going to allow dissent even to the degree that it has been allowed in the past and in the way it has been allowed in the past. In this new and developing situation we are going to face great political complexity but also this extremely draconian, literally police-state repression of an increasingly militarized society, a heightening repression that already has these very real fascist elements within it—very real elements of suspending or undermining the bourgeois-democratic principles that they proclaim so loudly. The fact is that these loudly proclaimed rights are already, and always have been, limited and restricted, are applied very differently with regard to different classes in society, are part and parcel of an overall system of class rule, of bourgeois dictatorship, and are based on oppression, exploitation and plunder all over the world; they are accompanied by death squads and despotic rule in many parts of the U.S. empire, in particular in the Third World, where generally reactionary dictatorship is much more open and brutal; and, even within the U.S. itself, the ruling class tolerates the exercise of these rights only when they do not represent any significant threat or obstacle to the ruling class. But now this ruling class is in the process of heightening the repressive nature of all this—taking major and open steps to undermine the bourgeois-democratic framework within which these rights have been proclaimed. Of course, they assure us, no one should worry, because as they repeatedly insist, "We are very mindful of people's constitutional rights and we are going to be careful to protect those constitutional rights." In other words, "We will take great care to protect people's constitutional rights while we trample on them and destroy them."
And they have certain "magical phrases" with which they refute every criticism of this. One such phrase is: "But we're at war." This is supposedly the answer to every objection to their police-state measures and militarization of society. Just like the way that, when they say "terrorist," everybody's supposed to stop thinking. And in this connection it is important to note that one of the most insidious things that happened on September 11, which has not been reported on in the media at all, is that not only were these buildings crashed into, resulting in the deaths of many people, but there was a secret virus that was unleashed that caused people to lose their capacity for critical thinking and to have political amnesia, so that for them nothing happened before September 11. Of course, I am being ironic here; but, although there is no such virus, the ruling class would very much like for people to lack critical thinking, to not question the version of reality that is pumped at them from morning till night through the mainstream mass media and other institutions, to think and act as if there is no history that precedes September 11, as if this happened out of nowhere and for no reason—other than that some fanatics hate "our freedoms" and "our (superior) way of life," and as if that "way of life" has nothing to do with the suffering of the great majority of people on the planet.
Once again, this is like the historical experience with the Native Americans—the whole monstrous atrocity committed against them. When some Indians rebelled against all that and, say, burned down a farm—well, was there no context for that? Was there no genocide; no massive theft of land, driving people out, slaughtering old people and children along with the others, and forcing the survivors into concentration-camp "reservations"; no repeated breaking of treaties; was it just a bunch of "savages," "evil-doers," committing "acts of terror" with no reason?!
This is why the powers-that-be become enraged over the fact that people are posing the question and many people are taking it up: "Why does everybody hate us?" That's another question that they don't like at all and they want to rule out of order.
And to use Richard Pryor's phrase once more, it is extremely important to ask: "What is the logical conclusion of the logic?"... Where is this logic leading? Cheney told a group of businessmen: all these things you see in terms of these repressive measures that are being put in place, these are going to exist for the duration, for our lifetimes, these are the new normalcy. So they're talking about permanent changes, and there is a definite logic with which they are presenting and justifying this, and a certain momentum that is represented by this logic.
This has big implications, for our Party and for the various forces of resistance and the movement of opposition as a whole. In The Collapse of the Second International Lenin made this pivotal point: because the great majority of the socialist parties of the Second International had become so accustomed to "peaceful times" and the relative tolerance of their activities by their governments; because in fact they hinged their whole "project" on parliamentarism and other forms of essentially "working within the system"; because they were completely unprepared for a radical change in the situation, with the outbreak of World War 1, when all of a sudden the governments no longer tolerated open opposition to their war programs; these socialist parties were in no position to maintain a stance of opposing the imperialist war and working to turn it into a civil war against their own ruling classes, as they had pledged to do only a few years before the outbreak of WW1. A concentrated example of this was the German Social-Democratic Party, led by Kautsky, which had a mass following of millions, positions of leadership in the trade unions, and a number of representatives in parliament. But, when the war broke out, those Social-Democrats in parliament voted for war credits, and when they were angrily confronted by masses of workers who accused them, correctly, of betrayal, all they could say was: "We would have been arrested." To which the workers responded, "What would have been so terrible about that?"—that would have been far better than this betrayal of the international proletariat.
While the situation confronting our Party—and, in a broader sense, the movement of resistance as a whole—is of course not exactly the same as that faced by those socialist parties at the time of WW1, there is much to learn, by negative example, from their experience, and the essential point Lenin was stressing with this example remains extremely relevant and important: we must not allow ourselves to be suddenly put in the position where the only choices are to capitulate or to be crushed. We must do our work and build our struggle and organization so that we are actually bringing forth increasingly broad and determined resistance to the imperialist juggernaut of war and repression and at the same time strengthening the ability of that movement, and the organized forces of opposition in general, to withstand the intensifying attempts to derail and crush them. In fact, we must have an orientation of working to transform such attempts to crush resistance and the forces of opposition into further advances for that resistance and the overall struggle against this system.
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE
In moving to a conclusion, I want to emphasize a fundamental point in relation to the war and repression juggernaut of the imperialists: It is good that many people have made statements of opposition and have mobilized, and are mobilizing, in various ways against this; and it is also good that many others are at least raising questions, concerns, and even criticisms; but there is a profound and increasingly urgent need for things to be developed to a qualitatively greater and more profound as well as broader level. What the powers-that-be are already doing and, beyond that, what they are clearly indicating they are planning on doing—both internationally and within the U.S., both in terms of war and in terms of repression—must not only be questioned, must not only give rise to the expression of concerns, must not only be criticized or just opposed. There must be an orientation of actively resisting and of stopping this, through the mobilization of hundreds of thousands and ultimately millions of people.
In conclusion, then, we are called on to rise to the challenges that are posed with both a sense of real urgency and with a broad overview. To approach this not just in terms of the crucial tasks more immediately before us but to put this in an even larger strategic perspective. To see this not only in its very real negative dimension, but also in its positive potential, to recognize not only the increased horrors that the imperialists are moving to bring about, but also the possibilities for qualitative advance that can be wrenched out of this, for the emancipation of the masses of people all over the globe—for the world proletarian revolution and perhaps even the sweeping aside of this monstrous imperialist system in its most powerful bastion itself.
1. See: "Afghanistan: The Oil Behind the War," RW No. 1125, November 4, 2001, and "Afghanistan Intrigue: The CIA and Osama bin Laden," RW No. 1120, September 30, 2001. RW refers to Revolutionary Worker, now Revolution.
3. All of these major contradictions are, in turn, rooted in the fundamental contradiction of the capitalist system and the capitalist epoch (or the epoch of transition from capitalism to communism) as a whole: the contradiction between socialized production and private appropriation. For a fuller discussion of this, see the book America in Decline, published by Banner Press.
4. "Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones: We Need Morality But Not Traditional Morality," Bob Avakian, Banner Press, 1999. In the essay "Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones: The Reality Beneath William Bennett's 'Virtues,' " Avakian dissects the philosophy and social agenda of this intellectual hitman of the Christian Right. In "Putting an End to 'Sin,'" Avakian critiques the views of liberation theology and explains why a truly liberating morality must break with religious tradition and beliefs.
6. "The Horrors that Come From This Horrible System," RW No. 1119, September 23, 2001. "Through the shock we seek the truth: Global exploiters and mass murderers have no right to retribution and they can only bring more destruction and injustice. To join forces with them, to seek their protection, will only encourage them to commit more crimes against the people of our planet."