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Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
“People look at all this and think of Hitler—and they are right to do so. The Bush regime is setting out to radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come. We must act now; the future is in the balance.”
Comparing Bush to Hitler? Just hyperbole or exaggeration? Some people think that the “pendulum” will “swing,” and after the next election some politician will “rescue” us. I think they are hiding their heads in the sand.
Hitler and Nazi Germany are not just words in history books to me, they are within the living memory of my family. I had one parent who lived in Nazi Germany, and another who lived in Poland during the time of the Nazi occupation. I had four grandparents, one great-grandparent, numerous aunts and uncles, many cousins, and one older sibling (9 years old) who, merely because they were Jewish, were executed in concentration camps. My parent in Germany went through Kristallnacht, when Nazi stormtroopers came, armed with axes, and smashed the windows of businesses owned by Jews, and, as they relate, threatened to come back later to chop up the people. Having escaped to England, some members of my family experienced the bombing of London by Nazi rockets, which landed on civilian homes or military targets indifferently. Learning all this, I became a serious student of the history of Hitler and Nazi Germany.
What the Bush regime has done, which even Hitler, in his early years, did not dare to try, is to openly justify the worst of its actions.
The Bush regime, before the Iraq war, announced a doctrine of “pre-emptive” war, arrogating to the U.S. the right to begin wars with first strikes against other nations whenever the U.S. leadership cannot bend them to its will.
Hitler waged war against many countries—but began with the pretense that every action was either simply the recovery of territory that the other nations had won from Germany in World War I, was necessary to “protect” German national minorities against persecution, or was justified by actions constituting an attack of on Germany. (Even the march into Poland required, for Hitler, a justification of a supposed attack on a German radio station near the Polish border. This “attack” was actually staged by the Germans, using prisoners dressed in Polish uniforms, and shot dead. The German people were told that the invasion of Poland, long planned, was actually “self defense.”) Hitler launched a war of aggression against the world, but did not openly proclaim, at the beginning, his right to do so, or the theory of pre-emptive war.
Hitler did not openly advocate that torture was justified, or that secret prisons, secret evidence, endless detention without charges, secret courts, etc. were just fine. Instead, he and his regime denied that they were going on. They were actually occurring, but from my many conversations with people who lived in Germany during those times, many people may actually not have understood the depth and scope of what was occurring.
That cannot be said of people in the U.S. today—or of people in the world today-concerning the open justification for torture, secret prisons, secret courts, secret evidence, endless detention without justification, evidence or charges, prisoners being held without the ability to communicate with the world, sent to other countries to be tortured by other governments on the vague possibility that they will “confess” to something that will “help” in the theoretically endless “war on terrorism.” The Bush regime openly espouses, unashamedly, that this is not only justifiable, but necessary and laudatory.
The Bush regime, in a rupture with the history of the last several centuries, is codifying into law torture practices as legitimate. The just passed pro-torture bill essentially allows the President to simply designate a person an “enemy combatant,” a “terrorist,” etc. and that person can be detained endlessly, without access to challenge their detention in court, and be subjected to torture interrogation.
For the open, legal sanctioning of torture, you have to look back to either the Spanish Inquisition or the days when kings and queens stated, “I am the law.” The just passed torture bill, besides denying access to the court for “terrorists” to challenge their detentions, states that when applying the federal War Crimes Act, “No foreign or international sources of law shall supply a basis for a rule of decision in the courts of the United States in interpreting the prohibitions enumerated…” This throws out the international law of war from U.S. courts. The principles that the U.S. helped to establish after World War 2, under which some of the Nazi leaders were punished, are openly declared not to apply to the U.S.!
The Nazis maintained a pretense, almost to the end, of having a formal legal process. At the beginning, when the Nazi regime carried out its “Reichstag Fire,” which was the excuse for its “Enabling Act,” the equivalent of the Patriot Act, it followed up with a trial in which one leading Communist figure accused of being involved had to be released because of public opinion and the insufficiency of evidence.
The Bush regime has announced the doctrine of the “unitary president,” in which the individual holding executive office as President has seemingly unlimited power to do just about anything in the name of “national security,” or, as their new favorite phrase would have it, “Homeland (read: Fatherland) Security.”
In hundreds of cases, Congress passed laws which Bush, rather than vetoing if he disagreed with them, has “signed” into “law,” while attaching interpretative statements that say that he retains the right to ignore them based on his supposed powers.
Racial profiling is rampant. Thousands of Arab, Muslim, Palestinian, Southeast Asian, and other minorities have been detained, questioned, and held without access to lawyers, family, or friends on the basis of racial and religious background. Arab and Muslim scholars are denied entry into the country to attend conferences or make speeches, or are prevented from coming to teach at universities. To be a tourist from another country taking a photo of a bridge, dam, national monument, or subway station is to risk detention.
Another reason that the Bush regime is frightening and evokes a comparison with the Nazis is the type of weaponry they have access to—at least 10,000 to 12,000 nuclear weapons, enough to blow up the entire world. The V1 and V2 rockets fired at London by the Nazis, while they were terrible weapons, on average killed approximately one person each. They were, truly, weapons of “terror,” but the weapons used by the U.S. against the people of Iraq, and even more so, the threatened use of nuclear weapons against the people of Iran, makes the V1 and V2 rockets of the Nazis pale by comparison.
Muslim charities are summarily shut down, on mere “suspicion” that they “could” be involved in “supporting terrorism.” Attorneys are spied on when they go to prison to try to communicate with their clients, and are prosecuted for allowing their clients to communicate with the world.
The USA-Patriot Act, and other legislation that followed, allows the outlawing of organizations, individuals, and dissent not even vaguely connected with international events as “domestic terrorists.” To shut down protest organizations; to seize bank accounts, businesses, homes, assets; to make it a crime to give “material assistance” to such accused people. And the initial denial of all permits for the October 5th demonstration in San Francisco was announced as based on undefined “Homeland Security” reasons.
Cities have video cameras on street corners, and one city recently discussed requiring such cameras in businesses. For “security” and “crime prevention” purposes, of course. But it also means that people putting a political sticker on a lamp post may find themselves detained by the police, or that the private conversation in a small restaurant between “suspect” individuals is videotaped.
Is this paranoia? No, it is happening. The “anti-terrorist” hysteria that the Bush regime finds helpful to whip up increasingly relies on the use of technology that was considered outlandish science fiction when George Orwell wrote 1984.
There are “no-fly” lists—lists of people that are simply not allowed to travel. People in N.Y. subways can be subjected to random searches, including of their backpacks. During the 2005 World Series, those going to the Chicago neighborhood where some games were played found that all cars entering the area were subject to search, and that you could not drive there unless you had a ticket, or you lived there. Going to visit Grandma did not entitle you to go there!
Wireless interception of phone calls. Tracing of emails. Attorney General Gonzales wants Internet providers to keep and store for years records of everything you do on the Internet, so that it can be examined later if you become “suspect.”
This will end with all dissent being outlawed. “You are either with us or against us.” Go along, or be destroyed, Bush says.
Don’t minimize the brutality and horror of the world events Hitler and the Nazis unleashed, but let us learn the lessons of that history so that it does not happen again.
Because this time, if it does, if we do not succeed in building a truly massive movement to bring this to a HALT, and to drive out the Bush regime, the prospect of a fascist superpower armed with nuclear weapons and advanced technology will make your worst nightmares seem mild.
Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
We don't want a better War on the World
On September 24, Bill Clinton went on Fox News, and stuck his finger in the face of Chris Wallace. He angrily charged Wallace with doing a “conservative hit job” on him. The next day Hillary Clinton jumped into the controversy—”I think my husband did a great job in demonstrating that Democrats are not going to take these attacks.” And some folks who have been taking good stands in opposition to torture, who oppose shredding the basic rights supposed to be ensured by the Constitution, who to one degree or another oppose the war, and who were desperate to see a Democrat stand up to Bush and the bullies at Fox, hailed Clinton as “brave,” and “inspiring,” and said that he “told great truth.”
Time for a sobriety check, because that kind of thinking will send us plummeting off the road, over a cliff, and into the ocean.
Listen to the basic message coming from the Clintons: “If I were still president, we’d have more than 20,000 troops there [in Afghanistan] trying to kill him [Bin Ladin],” Bill Clinton told Fox News, contrasting himself to Bush—by implication a wimp—for not having the “guts” to send more U.S. troops to rampage through the Middle East. Hillary, too, has been talking tough: “The Administration has lost focus on winning the war on Iraq, and all Washington Republicans can focus on is winning elections here at home.”
What’s Behind the Democrats Trying to Out-Hawk Bush?
The people at the top of the Democratic Party are trying to mobilize their base behind a program of being tougher than Bush in the “War on Terror.” And in doing so, to sign up for endless war, torture, and fascistic repression on the homefront. The base of the Democratic Party wants to end the war. But the only “credible” candidates at this point, and in particular the frontrunner (Hillary), agree that “we” cannot get out of Iraq, and are openly raising the need for more troops.
Why is that? Is it—as mainstream pundits preach and many angry people in the base of the Democratic Party think—that this is about appealing to the voters? No, it is not that. Consider the massive turnouts at antiwar protests at the beginning of the war against Iraq, and at various points since then. Consider the excitement generated by even the illusion of an antiwar candidate running for Senate in Connecticut that led to the defeat of notorious Bush-lover Joseph Lieberman in the Democratic primary election.
And consider this: When CNN surveyed people between September 22 and September 24 (of this year), “Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Iraq?” 59% opposed the war! And that same poll said that the war was either “very important,” or “extremely important” to voters (results available at www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm).
Now, fundamentally polls are mainly a way to tell people what to think. Questions are framed, people are fed censored, dishonest news, and then pollsters let them “choose” between options that all fall within a fixed set of parameters. But, given all that, polls do tell you something (including serving as a way for the rulers to get a sense of what the ruled are thinking or angry about). And when a mainstream poll reveals that 60% of the people are against the war, ask yourself why wouldn’t the Democrats adopt an antiwar position simply out of political expediency?
Here’s why the Democrats will not oppose the war at this point: First—U.S. imperialism cannot tolerate a withdrawal from Iraq right now [see “Bush’s Grand Ambitions and the Danger of War Escalation” by Larry Everest]. And second—the Democrats are a party that serves the interests of U.S. imperialism.
Democratic Hearing on the War—Their Interests and Yours
It is revealing to look at what happened at a hearing of the Democratic Policy Committee (Senate Democrats) on the Planning and Conduct of the War in Iraq. Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan started off the meeting by laying out the mission: “We are members of Congress who are unbending in our determination that we succeed in the war against terrorism.”
You want to reduce U.S. troops in Iraq, or get out? Senator Richard Durbin—a Democrat sometimes portrayed as “antiwar”—had this complaint about the Bush crew’s conduct of the war: “They failed to send the sufficient troops to properly equip them, punishing one of the leaders of our military when he suggested we would need more troops.”
Complex arguments on geopolitical strategy were made at this hearing for why “we” can’t get out of Iraq. Those arguments involved things like ensuring the stability of “countries that are currently our friends and allies,” as retired army Major General John Batiste put it. He’s talking about countries like Turkey, with its fascist suppression of the Kurdish minority, and theocratic regimes like Saudi Arabia, and other pro-U.S. regimes like Egypt. that are as brutal and repressive as any who the U.S. has declared “terrorist.” And he is talking about the biggest “friend and ally” of the U.S.—Israel—that acts as a killing machine for U.S. imperialist interests in the Middle East, most recently dropping a million cluster bombs on Lebanon as part of a war that purposely targeted millions of innocent people as part of a strategy to isolate Hezbollah—killing that qualifies as terrorism by any definition.
Are those your demands? That the U.S. shore up these regimes?
In a crudely revealing moment, Democratic Senator John D. Rockefeller IV laid out what worried him about how Bush is waging the war on Iraq: “I’m talking about Indonesia, I’m talking about Africa, I’m talking about South and Central America, other parts of the Middle East, South Asia, et cetera, that—what the effect of this is going to be of an America in a diminished moral and physical and military capacity not being able to do something everybody thought we would be able to do rather quickly…”
Here’s Rockefeller, a monopoly (big time) capitalist himself, and serving in the Senate representing that class as a whole. And, like a mob boss who is upset that his thugs have come back from a collection empty handed, Rockefeller is worried that Bush’s conduct of the war is messing up U.S. imperialism’s ability to operate as the top mobster in the world. The concern of these top Democrats is that Bush’s failings—again from the perspective of the needs of U.S. imperialism—are interfering with the “physical and military capacity” of the U.S. to go anywhere in the world, stomp out any country or force that opposes them—and in the process send a message to anyone else about who is the unchallenged and unchallengeable superpower on this planet.
A little exposure of the horrors of the war came out in these Senate Democratic hearings—like a comment by General Batiste that, “We would, in 2003 and early 2004, collect up huge numbers of Iraqis and put them in Abu Ghraib. The number eventually grew to over 13,000. Probably 99 percent of those people were guilty of absolutely nothing…” But even the little exposure of the atrocities that did come out in this hearing, was in service of promoting the Democrats as the ones who could—in the words of General Batiste and quoted by Senator Dick Durbin—”mobilize [the country] for a protracted long war.”
If you listen to what was said at this hearing—a major event in projecting and formulating official Democratic “opposition” to Bush—what do you hear? You hear them talking about how do we best defend the ability of the U.S. to dominate the world: Africa, South and Central America, the Middle East, South Asia, “et cetera.” And you hear them talking about how to “mobilize [the country] for a protracted long war.” With more troops.
Those things are not in your interests. This is an agenda coming from, driven by, and serving a system of global plunder.
All this sheds light on what is revealed when Al Gore says that while Bush may be messing things up, “we” are “lashed to the mast of our ship of state.” When we hear things like this, we have to have sense enough to say no, you are lashed to that mast. We are going to stand up in our interests, which are the opposite of yours.
Splits in the Ruling Class…And What We Need
The Democrats and Republicans are both ruling class parties, but there are differences between forces that are represented—more or less—by those two parties. Differences that erupt in debates and scandals, which have been settled—up to now—completely in favor of the Bush Regime and its agenda.
At this moment, there is infighting in the ruling class over how —not whether—to pursue the so-called “war on terror.” What combination of rampaging through Afghanistan (and now, talk is being heard about some form of invasion of Pakistan), sending more troops to establish a more effective reign of U.S. terror in Iraq, and/or attacking Iran—possibly with nuclear weapons—is the best way to pursue the interests of imperialism in the Mideast as part of enforcing U.S. domination of the region?
Again, ALL of these things mean nothing but horror for the people of those countries, and NONE of them are in our interests. At the same time, such infighting among the rulers can provide openings through which the masses of people can influence things. But this can only develop into a positive dynamic that pushes things forward in a good way, if we see these disputes as cracks in the wall to push through, as opposed to hitching ourselves to agendas that have nothing to do with our interests and desires.
All the “alternatives” in the current debate in the ruling class are morally and politically intolerable. They are wrong because the so-called “war on terror” is a war for empire. And they are wrong because the U.S.’s McCrusade, while targeting the forces of Islamic fundamentalism, also strengthens the forces of Islamic fundamentalism. Both sides in this conflict agree that this is a war over whose god is the real god—and those terms feed a terrible polarization in the world.
All of this underscores how inspiring and important it is when people come into the streets to HALT the crimes of the Bush Regime, and drive it from power, and the significance of the protests on October 5th. That movement, which must grow and spread and continue forward, needs to stick to its principles. It must judge all who claim to oppose the Bush Regime based on whether they are really taking a position of bringing the crimes of that regime to a HALT—including the illegal and unjust war on Iraq, and any and all escalation of that war throughout the region.
Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
The past week leading into October 5 will prove to be historic. Whether that week will ultimately mark a terrible further turn toward darkness or, instead, the beginning of something very positive, is the question confronting us. What happens on October 5, and what we do coming out of it, has everything to do with the answer.
On September 28, Bush personally went to the halls of Congress. He demanded that the Senate legalize torture, revoke the right of habeas corpus, and grant Bush and others immunity for any war crimes concerning torture prior to 2005. After just a few hours of debate the Senate overturned almost 900 years of legal precedent—laws considered to be at the foundation of the country—to do as Bush demanded.
And so people can now legally be imprisoned at the whim of the U.S. president. People can be held indefinitely without a trial at the president’s discretion. They can be subjected to “alternative interrogation techniques”; to put it plainly, people in U.S. custody can legally be hooded, deprived of sleep, forced into prolonged painful positions, confined in conditions of severe cold, sexually degraded, terrorized by dogs, beaten—so long as the beatings stop short of whatever Bush defines as “serious bodily injury”—and yes, waterboarded. To put it even more plainly: everything we saw in the pictures from Abu Ghraib can now be legally ordered by Bush. Moreover, the president can keep these torture techniques secret and no one who uses—or orders—such torture can be held legally accountable. It was bad enough when Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the others secretly ordered these outrages; to openly make them legal and then crow about this as a great accomplishment is a whole further step—it is truly a leap—into the abyss.
At the same time, Bush took the political offensive to justify his so-called “war on terror.” He did this at a time when some of his closest allies and advisers (as well as some top Democrats) are publicly calling on him to increase the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and to attack Iran; in other words, to not just “stay the course,” but to intensify and multiply the horror. For what will it mean when Bush orders the bombing of Iran as he seems determined to do—a bombing which could very well include the American use of nuclear weapons? Think of the suffering this will cause. And think of the political consequences: because the people in this country have let it go on, because we have not yet mounted a movement that is uncompromising and determined enough in its demand that this STOP, it will add even more force to the dynamic where millions all over the world believe that their only choice lies between Bush’s fascist crusade or an oppressive theocratic brand of Islam.
It goes further. The Bush regime has been tightening the bonds of patriarchy and male domination. It has been suppressing critical thinking: campaigning against dissenting voices in the universities and enforcing religious orthodoxy in the arena of science, from evolution to global warming. His Party has demonized and persecuted immigrants. Their program for Black people can be summed up by the images of the New Orleans Superdome during Katrina and the noose and Confederate flag that once hung in the office of Republican Senator and Bush ally George Allen. Bush openly tells right-wing journalists that he is using the presidency to promote a “religious awakening,” and key forces at the core of his regime are intent on legally recasting the U.S. as a Christian nation—a white, native-born, male-dominated Christian nation. A Christian fascist theocracy.
The Call of World Can’t Wait is right. “The Bush regime is setting out to radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come.” And the sentence that follows is even more profoundly true: “We must act now, the future of the world is in our hands.”
For all these reasons, the demonstrations on October 5 must signal the emergence of a force in this country that has the conviction to break out of politics- (or protest-) as-usual and say NO to the endless awful wars. NO to the torture. NO to the patriarchy and racism and theocratic madness. NO to fascism. October 5 must say to the world that there are people within the United States who are determined to drive out this regime and reverse the horrific direction of society.
Our Party salutes and wholeheartedly joins with everyone stepping out to act on October 5. You are throwing open the doors to what can be a tremendous, history-making, future-changing resistance. You are, finally, uniting to plant a pole that is just as determined to prevent this horror from going further, as Bush and his people are to enforce and continue and worsen it. You are striking a blow against despair and passivity, and you are showing the world that there IS another way, beyond the dead ends of religious fanaticism of one kind or another. Together we can turn this thing around.
* * * * *
There are many different forces that have joined together to make October 5, bringing a great diversity of ideas about both the causes and cures of this current situation. This diversity and healthy ferment is a real strength of this movement, and it has to grow now by leaps and bounds.
As our Party sees it, extreme as he is, Bush represents a system. And this whole system is itself extreme, even if many people in this country don’t always see it until something like Katrina forces it into public consciousness. To take just one example: think about the hundreds of people who die each year trying to cross the U.S.-Mexican border. Who are they? People who’ve been driven off their land because they can no longer make a living because of the huge imperialist companies based in the U.S. which now dominate Mexican agriculture. People desperate enough to risk their lives, all for a chance to be superexploited by those same capitalist-imperialists in this country. People with no way to feed their families but to live life as outlaws—and as scapegoats for still other desperate people within this country. Now multiply that, in one form or another, several billion times—add needless disease and blighted childhoods, add in utterly unnecessary starvation, add callous humiliation and enforced ignorance—and that is the life imposed on the vast majority of humanity by this system. Whole countries brought under the domination of one or another imperialist power; wars waged to protect and extend that power; and the great majority of people in all countries consigned to lives of exploitation or alienation or both. These are the everyday “normal” workings of imperialism.
Now things are going to even greater extremes. We face this not so much because Bush is a murderous fanatic—though he is—but because the people who sit atop that system in the U.S. deem such extremes necessary to preserve and extend their rule. Bush’s fanaticism serves that. Just as the Democrats’ passivity and lack of conviction and “we-can-do-it-better-ism” in the face of Bush serve it in another way.
The answer cannot be to go back to the “good old days.” The old days are gone—and they were never any good anyway. The foundations of this country lie in the genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans. Its development rested on the invasion of other nations and the plunder of other peoples, the rule of the lynch mob and the exploitation of generations of immigrants. And now its preservation and extension depend on the imposition of unbridled aggression overseas and theocratic fascism at home.
We can do much better than this. Another world IS possible. The means exist for humanity to get beyond this division into exploiter and exploited, oppressor and oppressed. To get beyond the domination of superstition and ignorance over the unfettered search for truth, and to achieve a true emancipation of the human spirit. To get beyond the “me-first” mentality engendered by these systems of exploitation and to build a society that fosters cooperation and appreciates the diverse within the universal, the individual within the collective. To get beyond states of any kind and into something totally different, a freely associating community of human beings. That society is communism, and that’s what we stand for.
The first step to such a society is a socialist revolution. This revolution, led by the proletariat and uniting people from many other walks of life, must be consciously made by millions and supported by tens of millions, and able to withstand and defeat all that will be thrown at it by the imperialists. This revolution would bring in a new state power, one that would immediately mobilize the masses in society to set about eliminating the kinds of horrors brought down by imperialism, and the kinds of relations that generate and feed off those horrors. This new socialist state would bring forward the formerly exploited, and people from other strata as well, to put the productive forces of society at the service of doing away with, rather than deepening, exploitation—both within this society and, even more fundamentally, worldwide. It would mobilize people, in a process involving mass upheaval and debate—as well as plenty of intellectual, artistic and scientific ferment—to transform the institutions and thinking of society in a progressive and revolutionary direction. It would involve ever-increasing numbers of people in the actual decision-making and administration of the state, in many forms, thereby helping to lay the basis for the emergence of a society without states—communism.
Our Chairman, Bob Avakian, has developed an unsparing, incisive critique of the history and current direction of U.S. society and laid the foundations of a revolutionary strategy for a country like this. Beyond that, though, he has developed a comprehensive, liberating, new understanding and vision of communism and socialism: one that boldly upholds and builds on the achievements of the socialist revolutions that won victory, and were then later defeated, in the Soviet Union and China, while deeply analyzing and criticizing their shortcomings and recasting their achievements into this new understanding. If you are someone who dreams of revolution and liberation, then you need to get with the person who can lead that—our Chairman, Bob Avakian. And whether you are right now for revolution or not, if you are serious about the very concerns that bring you to October 5, then you owe it to yourselves to engage with Bob Avakian’s path-breaking analysis (which can be sampled in the supplement in this issue).
Coming from this overall understanding, we see it as crucial to drive out this regime: to stop and reverse their terrible crimes, and to prevent the even worse ones they are planning. Victory in this struggle is crucial in going from the present situation—where the fascist forces in society have all the initiative and the people have very little—into one where the sights and the organized strength of the people has been raised; where there is widespread political ferment and debate and critical thinking over a whole range of questions in all parts of society; where there is a lot of initiative coming from those wanting to change society in progressive and revolutionary directions; and where the people on the bottom of society—the proletariat—have begun to take conscious political action. Through that whole process, we are ultimately and urgently working for the time when the combination of the workings of this system and the political work of revolutionaries brings forward a revolutionary people, conscious of the need for revolutionary change and determined to fight for it, and when the first great step to fundamental social transformation can be taken.
No one can predict the course of today’s current crucial battle to drive out this regime. We know there will be sacrifice; and we anticipate that the heroism and courage already shown will be multiplied many times over. But think what can be gained! If we, all of us together with all our different views, can succeed in this urgent and ever more necessary struggle and actually drive out this regime, then a tremendous rock will be lifted off of people all over the world and a whole new situation will open up, where debate and struggle over the future can be carried out with a measure of hope and enthusiasm not seen for decades.
* * * * *
On October 5 people of many different viewpoints and organizations stand together and determined that on October 6, people in every corner of society are discussing why—and sharply debating whether—this regime must be driven out, and how that can be done. We stand together and determined to go from here to rally millions more to act to bring this madness to a HALT. Determined to transform anguish, outrage, and frustration into truly meaningful, positive, and powerful political mobilization. Determined to give heart and hope to the whole world, letting them see that there are people right here acting on conscience and standing for justice, refusing to stop until this regime is driven out and the whole direction it represents reversed.
What emerges on October 5 must quickly go forward. It must become better organized and more active, staying on the political offensive over the next days and weeks, building rapidly on its successes and calling forward other people into the fray.
This new movement cannot compromise its principles: Bush and his whole regime—Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and the rest—must be driven out, and leave Washington politically repudiated and thoroughly discredited. Their crimes—the wars, the torture, the violations of fundamental rights, the moves to theocracy, the enforced ignorance and bigotry and intolerance—must be utterly repudiated and reversed. Anything short of that will leave today’s ugly political dynamic basically intact and continuing to make things worse.
But so long as this new movement stays true to its mission, so long as it reaches out from the 5th even more broadly, then it can, as World Can’t Wait has said, “make all the difference in the world, in a very positive sense and for the possibility of a better future for humanity.”
Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
Part 1: Locked Cells in Rising Water
by Li Onesto
1157 Miles. That’s how far New Orleans, Louisiana is from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – in physical distance. But in terms of being a place of horrific torture of prisoners, the two places are very close.
Meteorologists had predicted that Hurricane Katrina would be devastating. But government officials failed to evacuate the city, leaving tens of thousands to suffer—especially the poor without cars or money and the elderly too weak to leave.
A decision was also made to NOT evacuate the Orleans Parish Prison (OPP). As satellite pictures showed a Category 5 hurricane heading toward New Orleans, the Sheriff of Orleans Parish, Marlin Gusman told the press, “We’re going to keep our prisoners where they belong.”
Across town from OPP, the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals packed up their 263 stray pets and got them safely out of the city.
August 29, 2005. The day Katrina hit, there were 6,375 prisoners in New Orleans. This included 670 women; 354 juveniles, as young as 10 years old; and immigrants being detained. A full 60% of OPP’s population, about 3,800, were people in jail for things like traffic violations, parking violations, public drunkenness, begging, blocking the sidewalk (i.e., being homeless), and failure to pay a fine. Many were awaiting trial and had not been convicted of any crime.
New Orleans had an incarceration rate of 1,480 prisoners per 100,000 residents—the highest incarceration rate of any large city in the U.S. The United States has the highest national incarceration rate in the world, and it was double this in New Orleans. Of OPP’s population, 90% was Black.
Water quickly flooded into the prison complexes. Power was lost, plunging people into total darkness and shutting down the electrical system used to open cell doors. Cardell Williams, interviewed in the BBC TV special, Prisoners of Katrina, said, “After the water came to our waist level, the deputies told us to get into our cells, they had mace and shotguns.”
Hidden Story.How many people know that when Katrina hit, thousands of prisoners were locked up and left to suffer, perhaps drown? This has largely remained a hidden, untold story—denied and covered up by prison administrations, government officials and politicians.
On August 10, 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project released a report, “Abandoned & Abused: Orleans Parish Prisoners in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina,” that documents the experiences of thousands of men, women and children who were abandoned at Orleans Parish Prison in the days after Katrina. Based on questionnaires received from 1,300 prisoners, as well as interviews with current and recently released OPP prisoners, the report contains extensive and damning testimony, and evidence of the inhuman and racist torture-like treatment of OPP prisoners—how they were abandoned, then beaten, shot at, and abused by prison guards, and then evacuated under further inhuman and brutal conditions.
Jim Crow, Chain Gang South. New Orleans is in the Deep South. During slavery, it had two dozen slave auction houses and several times a year the ballrooms of its two grand hotels were used as showrooms for human merchandise. Today, Congo Square, where slaves were auctioned off, has been renamed Louis Armstrong Park and the city is world famous for its Mardi Gras celebrations. But the legacy of Jim Crow, chain gangs, and KKK justice is a living legacy in New Orleans. And the present-day effects of this whole oppressive history are especially and brutally alive in the whole system of unjust courts, brutal cops and inhumane jails.
"Abandoned & Abused" recounts, “In 1980 a mob of white cops rampaged through a black section of the city in retaliation for the murder of a police officer, killing four people and injuring as many as 50. According to reports, people were tortured and dragged into the swamps to face mock executions. In 1990 a black man accused of killing a white officer was beaten to death by officers who had gathered to wait for him at the hospital to which he was transported; no officers were criminally prosecuted or administratively sanctioned. These incidents which would be terms a race riot and a lynching if performed by private citizens are merely the most sensational examples of the department’s racially discriminatory practices.”
Locked Cells, Rising Water. Close your eyes for a minute and think about being in total darkness. You’re locked in a cell. Flood waters are rushing in at an incredible rate and within minutes it is chest high. The guards who have the keys to open the cells and the doors to the outside have left. The phones aren’t working and there is no way to communicate with anyone on the outside. No way to know if anyone is going to rescue you…or if you have just been left to die.
Prisoners told of how people were scared and screaming that they could not swim, that they didn’t want to die. They put up desperate signs on the outside of the buildings that said: “We Need Help” and “Help No Food Dying.”
Some who were not locked in their cells managed to free others. “If it wasn’t for inmates somehow getting my cell open,” one prisoner wrote, “I probably would have died.” But others could not get out of their cells.
For days thousands of prisoners were trapped with no food or water and had to resort to drinking contaminated floodwater containing raw sewage. More than half of the over 6,000 OPP prisoners had been on some kind of medication. But this had obviously been of no concern to the prison officials. Some people started having epileptic attacks, others suffered from not having their medicine for asthma or diabetes.
One prisoner reported: “All through the time of this you heard screams of terror, cries for help and no one was answered… Most of us was on meds and didn’t receive them. I myself went without my asthma pump and struggling with my breathing severely, being not able to talk and feeling weak. There was smoke everywhere and all you heard all night and early the next day was gunshots. I really felt inside like I was about to die and was left there to die!!”
One prisoner, Joyce Gilson, wrote: “You wouldn’t imagine that one person would let another human being go through that when there was time to let us out. It never would occur to me that a person could let that happen, even though we’re in jail we’re human beings.”
Mace, Batons, Shotguns, Tasers. When deputies came back into the prison building, they didn’t come with food, water, or any other kind of help. Instead they came with riot gear, shotguns, mace, batons, tasers, and brutality. One prisoner wrote: “Deputies came up firing rounds down the hallways to keep us in the cells… They even handcuffed inmates to bars of the cells.”
Some prisoners started knocking holes in the walls, trying to get out. Some of them jumped from the third floor into the water. Prisoners told of how deputy snipers shot at anyone who tried to get out of the flooded, suffocating buildings. Some prisoners ended up hanging from the rolls of razor wire lining the fences that surround the prison. Ace Martin, a prisoner in the Templeman III complex, said, “One guy jumped out of the hold and they shot him… He fell on a barbed wire fence. They picked him up in a boat and told us to stay in the hole or we’d be shot.”
Lies and Cover-Up. Public officials and the mainstream media had little if anything to say about what was happening in OPP. When a report finally came from officials, it was full of rumors and lies—claiming that the prisoners had rioted and taken over parts of the complex. The City Council President told a TV station that rioting prisoners had taken a deputy, his wife, and their four children hostage—which was completely fabricated. This was in line with and added to the way the media portrayed the masses of Black people in New Orleans as looters and criminals—while not reporting about the many and creative ways that people came together, cooperated and helped each other out under such dire circumstances and in the face of such blatant government neglect.
Sheriff Marlin Gusman says there were no deaths at OPP during the storm and the evacuation, even though several of his own deputies and many prisoners report deaths at the jail. To this day, Gusman claims prisoners weren’t mistreated and that they were given food and water. So how does he respond to the fact that hundreds of prisoners and even many prison guards questioned by the ACLU completely contradict this? Gusman says: “I have 75 accounts from inmates given by lawyers with misleading questions. It’s kind of hilarious to read them… None of it was true. But when you put it in the paper it becomes more credible and it frustrates the hell out of me. Don’t rely on crackheads, cowards and criminals to say what the story is.”
But who were the real cowards and criminals in OPP when Katrina hit? The thousands of prisoners, along with all the other thousands of people in the city, who did everything they could to try and survive—in the face of murderous neglect and racist brutality? Or those who left human beings in locked cells as floodwaters rose, who shot at people trying to escape to safety, who brutalized people with mace, batons, tasers and dogs, and then covered up and lied about all their crimes?
Next—Part 2: Evacuation Nightmare
Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
"Americans are asking ‘Why do they hate us?’ They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other. "
George W. Bush, September 20, 2001
“They hate our people because it is decent, brave, industrious, hardworking and intelligent. They hate our views, our social policies, and our accomplishments. They hate us as a Reich and as a community. They have forced us into a struggle for life and death. We will defend ourselves accordingly. All is clear between us and our enemies.”
Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, December 31, 1939.
Afghanistan. Iraq. Lebanon. Iran. Now the whole Muslim world. It’s a global struggle, Bush declares. World War 3, he and his gang call it. And they’re right. The U.S. imperialists seized on Sept. 11 to launch a global war, their World War 3. But it’s not a “war on terror” to make America—or anyplace else—”safe” or to “protect” ordinary people, much less end “terror.” These are the big lies of our times.
As every passing day shows, Bush’s war is a savage, bloody world war for greater empire. A war that is inflicting—and based on—massive terror: “shock and awe,” leveling of whole cities in Iraq, limb-destroying cluster bombs in Lebanon, nuclear threats on Iran, and the terror of waterboarding and endless imprisonment without charge.
They’ve been at it 5 years now. They launched their war on the pretext of getting those allegedly responsible for Sept. 11. But since day one they’ve had the whole world in their sights, and have expanded their war to one target after another: first they attempted to conquer Afghanistan, supposedly to capture Osama bin Laden. Then they invaded Iraq—a country with no WMD and no connection to Sept. 11. This summer they encouraged and backed Israel’s brutal assault on Lebanon. Now, they are preparing for a possible war on Iran, most likely sooner, not later. And Bush is telling us he plans years of war against any and all opponents in the Middle East—Sunni, Shi’ite, or anyone else.
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and the rest are trying to create a new Rome—but this one armed with nuclear weapons, practicing legalized, high-tech medieval torture, and declaring that anyone, anywhere can be seized and thrown into American dungeons on the word of a proven liar—George W. Bush. This new American Rome is ruled by imperialist barbarians, who claim for themselves the mantle of righteousness, hope, and humanity.
The truth is exactly the opposite: this war is being waged by the tiny handful of financial-corporate oligarchs who rule the U.S. so they can maintain, extend, and deepen their predatory grip on billions of people all over the world. It’s a war to seize control of the world’s oil and natural gas “heart”—the Middle East and Central Asia—so this energy grip and strategic position can be used to strangle and control others, whether Russia, China, Japan, Europe—whomever. It’s a war whose ultimate goal is crushing any and all opponents before they can even emerge and to create what history has never seen before: an unchallenged and unchallengeable empire.
This is the connection between Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, and every other country the U.S. threatens—not “terror” or “Islamo-fascism.”
This war pits the U.S. against a host of political and social forces in these target countries—including, most prominently, reactionary Islamic fundamentalist currents. These forces oppose U.S. plans, but they represent reactionary politics that can bring neither freedom from imperialism nor any kind of liberation to their countries. Like the U.S., these forces have indiscriminately targeted civilians—although without the massive firepower the U.S. and its ally Israel bring to bear against whole civilian populations. Yet their fundamentalism and their tactics aren’t the basic reason Bush and Co. target them as “Islamo-fascists.” The problem for the U.S. imperialists—many of whom are reactionary fundamentalists themselves, who prop up religious obscurantists, and whose strategy has often targeted civilians—is that these forces pose a major obstacle to their unfettered domination of a globally strategic region.
Grand Ambitions Meet Growing Obstacles
Grand ambitions are one thing. Realizing them is another, and the U.S.’s arrogant, criminal aggression has not only run into various obstacles, but called forth and created even more. In Iraq, the cakewalk crumbled long ago and there are now a reported 800-900 attacks on U.S. forces per week or roughly 100 per day (Guardian, Sept. 30). The pro-U.S. Iraqi government remains an agglomeration of reactionary warlord factions and the country is sliding toward a civil war between different sections of Iraqi society (Iraqis vs. U.S.; Sunnis vs. Shi’ites, and Arabs vs. Kurds). There is also the anti-U.S. insurgency, which is distinct from, and at the same time related to, the civil war. According to Bob Woodward, author of the new book State of Denial, “The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse…” And there are growing calls within the U.S. establishment for sending more U.S. troops. (See “Talk Grows for Troop Escalation,” Revolution #63, available at revcom.us)
"What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other."
In Afghanistan, once assumed to be safely pacified by U.S. and European troops, the Taliban and other anti-U.S. forces are regrouping and the country is starting to look like Iraq. Hezbollah has emerged from the rubble of Israel’s carpet bombing campaign in Lebanon stronger—not weaker. Across the region, the invasion of Iraq has strengthened Iran, which is so far refusing to bow to all U.S. demands on its nuclear program.
A new National Intelligence Estimate found that (in the wake of U.S. aggressions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon) Muslim jihadists were “increasing in both number and geographic dispersion,” and that, according to a New York Times analysis of the report (9/27), “over the next five years the factors fueling the spread of global jihad were likely to be more powerful than those that might slow it.”
Meanwhile, Woodward’s new book chronicles infighting and blindness within the White House. “The book describes a White House riven by dysfunction and division over the war,” the New York Times reports (9/29). “Bush’s top advisers were often at odds among themselves, and sometimes were barely on speaking terms, but shared a tendency to dismiss as too pessimistic assessments from American commanders and others about the situation in Iraq….”
The Bush Regime’s Answer to Obstacles? Ongoing War & Escalation
None of this means that the Bush regime is about to back off or come to its “senses.”
Think of it this way. The Bush regime has rolled the dice, betting that their unbounded war will secure the future strength and power of the U.S. empire. They haven’t “crapped out” yet, but they haven’t rolled any sevens either. So like compulsive gamblers whose fortunes are on the line, their attitude is “double-down,” double-or nothing. In other words, to continue the bloodshed, and escalate.
So Bush isn’t backing off—he’s doing the opposite, loudly declaring that he’s determined to see this war through to the finish, that hesitation, much less defeat, would be disastrous, and the U.S. must and will stay on the offensive—and escalate if need be.
This is the logic of “escaping forward.” Myth holds that Alexander the Great, faced with the insoluble task of untying the Gordian knot, cut through it with a stroke of his sword. Today the Bush regime envisions cutting through the boiling cauldron of contradictions it faces with the sword of military might, and perhaps nuclear weapons. “It was never possible to ‘win in Iraq’ so long as we insisted on fighting in Iraq alone,” neoconservative strategist Michael Ledeen wrote in arguing for war on Iran. “You can not win a regional war by playing defense in one country. It was, and remains, a sucker’s game.” (National Review, July 31, 2006)
And with questioning and doubts growing, Bush is threatening his critics—even those within the political establishment—that they’re embracing “the enemy’s propaganda.” (AP, 9/29)
Think about it. Here’s a proven liar—who has lied repeatedly and continuously about torture, about WMD in Iraq, about Saddam’s connection with Sept. 11, about the “progress” being made there, about the nuclear threat posed by Iran, and most importantly about the whole nature of his “war on terror.” And now, when reality is showing him a liar day after day, he basically brands any who criticize him as terrorist sympathizers. Coming hours after the passage of legislation legalizing torture and indefinite detention against America’s “enemies,” could the fascist threat of imprisonment and the torturer’s rack—no, excuse us, the waterboard—be any clearer?
Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
As we go to press the “Military Commissions Act of 2006” (MCA) has been been passed by both houses of Congress—and rushed to the White House for Bush to sign into law.
Video captures torture of Abu Ghraib inmates
Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
On the 40th anniversary of the Hunters Point Uprising
Editor’s Note: This correspondence was read and distributed at a demonstration on the 40th anniversary of the San Francisco Hunters Point rebellion, and appeared in The Bayview newspaper.
I still remember the day back in September 1966. I was 32 years old and working for MUNI. I had a split shift and was making my way to a store on Third Street before going back home to Doublerock where I lived. I met these cops, and one cop asked me where I was going. I said I was going to a store and then I was going home. He said, “You can’t go any further than this. Take your Black ass and get out of here.” Then the sergeant got called in. He saw my MUNI uniform and said I could go as long as I went straight home and didn’t join the crowd on Third Street. I said OK even though I planned on going down to see what was happening. As I turned around the first cop whacked me with his club in my back knocking me over onto my car. Then the sergeant said something like “let him go,” and I got in the car and took off.
I went down where people were gathering and found out that the police had shot in the back and killed Matthew Johnson, a 16-year-old kid from the neighborhood. There were hundreds of mainly young people out there. People were very angry and yelling at the police, “Get the fuck out of here” and demanding that the police who shot the youth be charged with murder.
People were standing up and speaking the truth. The whole scene was very repressive at that time especially for the youth. Even going down and playing basketball in the projects you were risking being harassed—or worse—by the police. Just like today the system wasn’t offering much hope for the youth. By rebelling, people were standing up against the whole way they were being treated and the hypocrisy of American society, which talked about civil rights but wasn’t giving us anything. Our rage was uncontainable.
The Bayview wrote, “The mayor called in police sharpshooters to line up on Third Street, execution style and fired into the Bay View Opera House where terrified children had sought refuge.” They brought in the National Guard, sent tanks and armored vehicles with machine guns into the streets, but still people rebelled for several days. It was right to rebel and if people hadn’t fought back there probably wouldn’t be ANY Black people in San Francisco today. But still the rebellion didn’t hit at the core of power and today we still have the same oppressive system over us. Only a revolution can uproot this thoroughly rotten setup.
Look at how the Black people were treated around Katrina. Like Kanye West said, “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People.” They left poor people to die in their houses and Black dead bodies floated down the water-filled streets. Families were split up and scattered over the country just like families were split up in slavery days. And a year later, people still haven’t gotten any help and it looks more and more like Black people are being ethnically cleansed out of New Orleans. But Kanye West didn’t go far enough. The fact is that racism and national oppression are built into the very foundations of the system.
Immigrants come over here and are having all their rights taken away. They make money for the bourgeoisie but can’t even send money back to their families. They’re forced to live six or seven to a room. Black people have been catching hell for a large part of our lives. Those of us on the bottom of this society have a deep sense of why the Bush regime needs to be stopped and this needs to be made visible. And when we take the streets in this way it inspires and challenges people from all walks of life.
We’ve been on the defensive too long, getting our asses beat. This Bush regime is literally killing us and our brothers and sisters around the world. We need to get on the offensive against the system, politically. And the sooner the better.
I’ve talked to many people out in the streets here, and, let’s be honest, while the attitude of most Black people is “Fuck Bush,” too much people are cursing at their TVs, or relying on saviors from the Democratic Party, and not taking this on in the streets.
This situation needs to be transformed. On October 5, in over 80 cities around the country tens of thousands of people will not be going to school or work and will be marching in the streets, determined to not stop until the Bush Regime is driven out. All sorts of folks from college and high school students, anti-war activists, immigrants, people from the suburbs, people from churches, and academia, and especially the youth will be out there. Bayview Hunters Point needs to be in the house.
Are there barriers to overcome? Yes. For myself, I’ve found it very helpful to listen to the seven new talks by Bob Avakian. These talks gave me a deeper sense of how we got in the situation we’re in today, and the possibility of a revolutionary communist future that we can fight for. They’ve given flight to my imagination of a whole new world. If you dream about that, too, get these talks (also available at bobavakian.net)
Another barrier to overcome is that a lot of us feel isolated and alone. Let’s get together, talk about how to organize many others to join us on that day. Doing this takes planning and organization. Let’s form committees to organize for contingents from the Hunters Point and other communities.
The future is unwritten, which one we get is up to us!
Drive Out the Bush the Bush Regime Cause the World Can’t Wait
Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
Revolution received the following statement:
It’s 2006 and we are very close to losing Roe. Fifteen states have criminal bans on the books that would outlaw abortion with few exceptions, and Ohio legislators are considering a law that will prohibit all abortions with no exceptions, even if the woman’s life is at stake.
This movement and all people who care about the fundamental rights of women are facing a juncture, and which way we go will decide the future for generations. The pouring of all hopes and energies into the Democratic Party that has sacrificed the issue of abortion to “winning” in the mid-term elections leaves us with this question: at what point will we decide to really fight and at what point does it become too late?
The women of the pro-choice movement must resolve to take a radical departure from the strategy that is in large part responsible for the ground we have lost. Funneling all our energies, money and imagination into elections and candidates and a political process that is howlingly disconnected and at odds with people’s needs, objectives, interests and principles has to be roundly and decisively rejected.
Unless there’s a drastic shift of strategy from accepting “what’s possible” within the official politics of this country that are pitching far right, unless we bust through the confines that are squeezing the life out of what we have going for us the most—the initiative of millions of women who are looking for a way out and asking to be called into action—we are going to lose it all, and the agenda of the Operation Save America lunatics now moving to shut down the last abortion clinic in Mississippi will be the handmaid’s tale we will actually be living.
When you have a situation where even the nine pro-choice women Democrats in the Senate support Pennsylvania’s Robert Casey Jr., an anti-choice, pro-war, anti-stem cell research Democrat, because, in their words, his election is “critical to our efforts of regaining the majority in the U.S. Senate,” isn’t it time for something drastically and radically different?
There is still time, but the clock is ticking. If we treat Roe as already gone we will certainly lose. We cannot settle for a defensive strategy of fighting attacks on abortion state by state. And what is most important, if the whole agenda of unlimited war, torture, massive spying, attacks on gays and women and the destruction of basic rights is not rejected and the Bush regime driven from power, it will become increasingly impossible to stop any single outrage. The entire Bush agenda and fascist remaking of society have to be brought to a HALT.
World Can’t Wait is calling on people to reject accommodating to and settling for what has become a killing logic. What begins as something too dreadful to contemplate becomes today’s compromise position that is then signed into law and given a bipartisan legislative mandate and legitimacy. The point is not, voting or not. Our point is that if our struggle remains confined within the parameters of the elections, we will lose—even if the Democrats win.
World Can’t Wait is calling on people to step outside of these confines—to find your sharpest tongues to say the whole political discourse around this is WRONG and has to be radically altered in the way political discourse has always been changed: by what is initially a minority of society stepping up and stepping out in massive enough numbers to create an entirely different discourse and political dynamic than the one officially permitted. The passivity and demobilization of the pro-choice and women’s movement needs to be swiftly reversed. And the money we need must be found by going directly to the people, instead of allowing ourselves to be limited by the purse strings of those who want to muzzle us.
Public opinion on the war did not change because people voted for Democrats—it changed in spite of it. Massive political action in the streets put out an example and a position that the actual reality of the war soon confirmed for millions of people who were not yet convinced. What would have happened had we not been there in the fall of 2002? Would people be drawing the same conclusions? Would opinion polls on the war be what they are now? Would dissent have been completely silenced without millions of people refusing to “watch what you say” and instead going up against that kind of intimidation in massive resistance, saying “No! Your war is wrong and unjust, and you will not prosecute it in our name”? Would GI’s today be able to say, “I refuse” without this?
The only thing that has a chance of beating back the assault on abortion, on derailing the assertion of patriarchal morality and authority being made into law, of stopping the dangerous fascist remaking of society that is undergirding an endless war for empire, is to put all our energies, post haste, into truly massive mobilization and resistance.
On October 5th World Can’t Wait is calling for a day of mass mobilization to break the paralysis that still grips too much of American political life and to say Enough—Bring This to a Halt! Drive Out the Bush Regime. We are calling on people to walk out of schools, and off their jobs, to stop shopping and close their shops, and to assemble in massive demonstrations.
Be part of taking this momentous step. It is time to pool our energies and resources to take responsibility to really change the course of history. There is no other way the political will of the people will be heard this fall—no other way it will not be frittered away and dissipated.
As the World Can’t Wait Call says: The future is unwritten. Which one we get is up to us.
Drafted by Mary Lou Greenberg, an activist in the women’s liberation movement in the 1960s who has defended women’s clinics and abortion providers across the country. She received a Susan B. Anthony Award for grassroots activism from the NYC Chapter of the National Organization for Women in 2001. She works with World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime and is a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA—NYC Branch
Debra Sweet, National Coordinator, The World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime (worldcantwait.org)
Merle Hoffman, Founder/President of Choices Women’s Medical and Mental Health Center, Long Island City, NY, est. 1971 as one of the first ambulatory abortion centers; co-founder of the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and founder of the NY Pro-Choice Coalition; publisher/editor-in-chief of On the Issues: the Progressive Women’s Quarterly
Eleanor J. Bader, co-author, Targets of Hatred: Anti-Abortion Terrorism; contributor to Z, Library Journal, Lillith, NY Law Journal and The Brooklyn Rail
Rosemary Candelario, Pro-choice activist, co-founder of the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund, formerly of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the Abortion Access Project, and the Reproductive Freedom Taskforce of Refuse & Resist.
Elaine Brower, World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime spokesperson, anti-war activist and mother of a Marine stationed in Iraq
Lucinda Marshall, Founder, Feminist Peace Network (www.feministpeacenetwork.org)
Rev. Monica Corsaro, Co-Covener Religious Coalition for Equality, President of Washington State Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, serving as Ecumenical Campus Minister at University of Washington, ordained elder of United Methodist Church Pacific Northwest Conference
Carolyn R. Swift, Professor Emerita, English Department, Rhode Island College, Providence, RI
Please sign and circulate widely. Contact us at email@example.com and let us know if we can add your name to this Call to Action.
Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
“After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel.”
New revelations have recently come to light of the massive use of cluster bombs by the invading Israeli military against the population of Lebanon during the 34-day U.S.-backed assault and occupation in July and August. (See “Cluster Bombs: Death and Maiming—Made in the USA,” Revolution #61)
A field officer of a rocket firing unit of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that the IDF had fired about 1,800 cluster rockets containing a total of approximately 1.2 million cluster bomblets. A large percentage of these weapons are provided to Israel by the U.S. government. “What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs,” the officer told Haaretz.
In addition, Haaretz reported that IDF soldiers testified that the IDF used phosphorous bombs to start fires in southern Lebanon. (see Haaretz, September 12, 2006)
The use of phosphorous bombs is outlawed by international treaties and the U.S. government and its attack dog, Israel, claim that they recognize (on paper) that these weapons cause “excessive injury and unnecessary suffering.” But then they pretend that these weapons of mass destruction are not actually in their battlefield arsenals.
Anti-personnel weapons like cluster bombs are used to terrorize whole populations of civilians and to depopulate entire geographical areas. They were extensively used by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. And Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have reported on the extensive use of such weapons by the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The 1.2 million bomblets is triple the number previously estimated by the United Nations. The IDF has not denied these figures and also refuses to provide the United Nations mine-clearing agencies with the location of sites the IDF hit with cluster bombs in southern Lebanon.
The United Nations has revised its estimate of the number of still-unexploded cluster bombs—to one million bomblets still on the ground! And the UN adds that this estimate is only for those cluster bombs fired from the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) units and does not include a still-unknown number of bombs fired from Israeli warplanes.
The UN also estimates it will take from 12 to 15 months to clear these bomblets from southern Lebanon. This has far-reaching consequences since, according to the UN, most of the cluster bombs found so far have been on farmland, which means people must now risk death or serious injury to work in the fields. Add to this the over 200,000 Lebanese people displaced from their homes in south Lebanon due to the Israeli invasion. What will this mean for the livelihood of these villagers and for the economic life of the country? What has it already meant for the lives and limbs of the Lebanese people who once lived in the towns and villages bombed and occupied by Israel? So far at least 15 people reportedly have been killed and 90 injured by unexploded cluster bomblets. (see www.maccsl.org)
Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said: “What’s shocking and, I would say to me, completely immoral, is that 90 percent of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict when we knew there would be a resolution, when we really knew there would be an end of this.”
What does it say about the nature of Israel’s U.S.-backed war on Lebanon, that in the last hours of fighting, as a ceasefire was being worked out—some 900,000 bombs were dropped—anti-personnel bombs that are specifically designed to kill, maim and terrorize a whole civilian population?
Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
Set the Record Straight
Set the Record Straight Mission Statement
Against the facile verdicts that socialism has been a nightmare, or at best a terribly failed experiment, we are bringing forth the real and historic accomplishments of these revolutions, especially the lessons of the Cultural Revolution, while digging into and drawing lessons for the future from the mistakes and shortcomings.
We are undertaking a wide range of activities: fact sheets, articles, mass leafleting, forums, etc.; and we are networking with progressive scholars and want to learn from the diverse insights of others.
We are seeking to influence both students and professors, and scholars. We want to contribute to creating an intellectual current that challenges the slanders and superficial summations, that insists on truthful examination of what these revolutions were actually striving to accomplish, the difficulties they faced, and what they were able to achieve, and that sees the relevance of all this to the deeply felt desire of so many for a radically different world.
Visit the Set the Record Straight Project online at: thisiscommunism.org
Q What is communism?
A Communism is a worldwide society in which all classes and class distinctions have been overcome; all systems and relations of exploitation abolished; all oppressive social institutions and relations of social inequality, like racial discrimination and the domination of women by men, put an end to; and all oppressive and backward ideas and values cast off.
Communism is a world of abundance where people together hold all of society’s resources in common. Communism also refers to the comprehensive outlook and scientific method of the proletariat for understanding and changing the world.
Q But I always hear that communism is dull and dreary.
A Imagine a society where people consciously learn about and transform the world…where people are no longer imprisoned by the chains of tradition and ignorance…where people not only cooperatively work to produce the necessities of life, but get into art and culture and science—and have fun doing it…where the scientific outlook and the flight of imagination strengthen and inspire each other…where there is unity and diversity, far-ranging debate, and ideological struggle over the direction and development of society—but no longer stamped by social antagonism…where people interact with each other based on mutual respect, concern, and love for humanity. A world that takes care of the environment.
That is communism.
Q How is socialism different from communism?
A Socialism is the crucial step in getting towards communism, which has yet to be achieved in the world. A socialist revolution overthrows the capitalist class and establishes the system of political rule of the working class: the dictatorship of the proletariat. The proletariat, together with its allies making up the great majority of society, begins to transform society. Socialist revolution creates an economy based on social ownership and meeting social need.
But socialism also inherits social and economic inequalities from capitalism. It still contains classes. There is still class struggle over the direction of society. And for some time, socialist societies will be confronted by hostile capitalist powers. Socialism is a historical period of continuing revolution, and the worldwide advance to communism is a complex and protracted process of revolution and counterrevolution.
Q Socialism might be good as an idea but has it really worked in practice?
A The socialist revolutions in the Soviet Union (1917–56) and China (1949–76) made tremendous advances towards a liberated world. With state power in their hands, the former have-nots were taking hold of and transforming society. The rule of profit and exploitation was ended. Basic social needs were met.
Life expectancy in Maoist China doubled between 1949 and 1976, from 32 to 65 years. Unprecedented strides were made in uprooting the oppression of women and minority nationalities. These revolutions did not fail but were defeated by bourgeois and reactionary forces (in the Soviet Union in 1956 and in China in 1976).
Q Won’t socialism or communism come up against the realities of human nature and selfishness?
A There is no innate or unchanging “human nature.” People’s thinking, behavior, and values are shaped by the economic structure and corresponding institutions and culture of a given society. Ancient Greek society and America’s “founding fathers” regarded slavery as perfectly “normal.”
Capitalism is organized around the private accumulation of profit and economic competition. Selfishness, greed, and individualism are rewarded by the workings of capitalism and promoted by the institutions of capitalist society. They are not “hard-wired” into our genes, and neither is racism or male supremacy.
Q Hasn’t the communist movement produced dictatorial figures like Stalin?
A The widely promoted demonization and lies about Stalin stand in the way of gaining a real understanding of the historical role that he played and the great accomplishments of the Soviet Union. After Lenin’s death in 1924, Stalin assumed leadership—and in the decade that followed, the Soviet Union was an exciting and emancipatory society. Stalin led the struggles to carry out collectivization of agriculture and to socialize the ownership of industry. The revolution created a socialist economy based on public-state ownership, social cooperation, and conscious planning.
This had never been done before. Throughout Stalin’s leadership, the Soviet Union faced incredible pressures: counterrevolution, encirclement by hostile imperial powers, and invasion by the Nazis during World War 2. Stalin led people to stand up to this.
But Stalin also had real weaknesses. For example, as the revolution came under greater pressure in the 1930s, he relied less and less on the conscious activism of the masses and more and more on administrative measures. It was necessary to suppress counter-revolutionary forces. But as threats grew in the 1930s Stalin repressed people who were just raising disagreements and dissent.
Bob Avakian points out that if the bourgeoisie can uphold Madison and Jefferson—who played pivotal roles in the bourgeois American Revolution but were unapologetic slave-owners—then revolutionaries can uphold Stalin while also criticizing and learning from his mistakes.
Q What about Mao’s Cultural Revolution?
A Mao was dealing with the problem of a new bourgeois elite emerging within the Communist Party. They wanted to bring back capitalism, seizing on bourgeois aspects in society. For instance, on the eve of the Cultural Revolution, many factories still had systems of one-man management and competitive bonus systems that pitted workers against each other; educational and health resources were concentrated in the cities. Mao called on people to rise up against oppressive leaders and institutional structures.
Hundreds of millions of workers and peasants were debating questions of the direction of society, criticizing out-of-touch officials, forging more participatory forms of management and administration, and entering into the realms of science and culture.
The divisions between mental and manual labor and between urban and rural areas were being broken down. Middle-school enrollment in the countryside rose from 15 million to 58 million! The Cultural Revolution had coherent and liberating goals: to prevent the restoration of capitalism; to revolutionize the institutions of society, including the Communist Party; and to challenge old ways of thinking—in short, to carry forward and deepen socialist revolution.
Q But wasn’t there great violence, and weren’t intellectuals and artists persecuted?
A Violence was not the main feature of the Cultural Revolution. This was overwhelmingly a political and ideological struggle. And much of the violence that occurred was actually incited by opponents of the Cultural Revolution. Artists and intellectuals were not persecuted as a social group. They were called on to integrate with and learn from the laboring masses, especially in the countryside.
Exciting efforts were made to create revolutionary culture and works of art that could serve as models. Secondarily, there were mistakes and errors in how artists and intellectuals were treated; and these issues have to be handled better in future socialist societies.
Q Where can you find socialism in the world today?
There are no longer socialist countries. The Soviet and Chinese revolutions were turned back and defeated by the guardians of the old order. But there are Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations in many parts of the world committed to the principles of communism and building on the experience of the “first wave” of socialist revolutions of the 20th century.
The Revolutionary Internationalist Movement brings many of these groups together. A Maoist people’s war is being waged in Nepal. In the United States, there is the Revolutionary Communist Party led by Bob Avakian.
Q Isn’t Marxism a dogma?
Marxism is a creative, self-critical, and developing science. People should check out the writings of Bob Avakian. He has been critically summing up the profound lessons of past socialist societies, analyzing vast changes in the world since, and has been extending the horizons of Marxism. He is developing a model of vibrant socialism and communism for the 21st century.
Q But isn’t communism outdated—with globalization and new technologies leveling social differences and eliminating the working class?
The need and basis for communist revolution is greater than ever. The gap between rich and poor in the world has widened enormously since Marx wrote “The Communist Manifesto.” The three richest Americans have assets that exceed the combined gross domestic product of the 48 least developed countries. Ten million children die each year of preventable disease and malnutrition. AIDS plagues the world while pharmaceutical companies guard their intellectual property rights and profits. An exploited working class is definitely not disappearing, including in the U.S. Look at the labels on your sneakers and shirts, or at the components of your computer. They are produced by exploited and superexploited labor in all corners of the world.
Q How can communism be relevant to a wealthy and advanced technological society like the United States?
America has a large middle class. But for many, life is alienating; and the system thwarts people from applying their skills and expertise to benefit society and humanity. Hurricane Katrina revealed the deep faultlines of class exploitation and racial discrimination in the U.S. America is a society with many impoverished (40 million) and working poor…a society with horribly inadequate and unequal health care…a society with a prison system that warehouses huge numbers of young Black and Latino men.
For all its advanced technology and store of knowledge—the system can’t mobilize people to deal with basic problems like hurricane disaster relief. And it has a president who doesn’t even accept evolution as a scientific fact!
Q Will people be able to practice religion under socialism?
A Yes. People will have the right to worship and hold religious services (and the right not to believe in god). But the schools, and the government generally, will promote a scientific-materialist understanding of the natural world and of human society. People will not be forced to give up religion, but there will be society-wide ideological struggle to help people voluntarily cast off enslaving religious belief.
Q Will people still have personal possessions under socialism?
A Yes. But socialism will not be the same kind of “consumer society” we live in today. For example, it will move away from an environmentally destructive “automobile culture.” People in the working and middle-class will have the right to live in the homes they currently occupy. But segregation and speculative real estate markets will be ended; and decent housing for those who had been on the bottom of society will be a priority.
Q Will there be democracy and elections under socialism, and will dissent be allowed?
A There will be real and unparalleled democracy for the masses of people. There will be dictatorship over the old exploiters and those organizing to overthrow the new system. This dictatorship of the proletariat gives the masses the right and the ability to change the world and participate in society in an all-around way.
Communist leadership will unleash diverse thinking and action from the bottom up and everywhere else. It will also foster dissent, including opposition to the government itself, and provide the means for such viewpoints to be heard. Elections will have a role as one means of selecting and developing leadership, and keeping it accountable to the masses. But one thing that will not be up for vote is whether society should go back to capitalism. A revolution to completely change society requires firm and visionary leadership to enable the masses to hold on to power and to guide the challenging and liberating struggle to get to a communist world: where the division of people into ruler and ruled, and between leaders and led, is finally overcome.
Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
Check it Out:
From a reader
The new documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon, which opened in theaters nationwide on September 29, tells the story of the U.S. government’s systematic persecution of John Lennon. The film reveals how the U.S. government used the threat of deportation as a political weapon, bugged phones, tailed Lennon’s car, and attempted to deport Lennon for speaking out against the Vietnam war and the U.S. government in the 1960s.
When the Beatles toured the U.S. in 1966, John was quoted in a magazine article predicting that Christianity will vanish and stating that that the Beatles “were more popular than Jesus.” This prompted a wave of hate whipped up by Christian and conservative radio stations, which organized mass burnings of Beatles records. Footage in the movie shows a Klansman in full uniform denouncing Lennon for not believing in Jesus.
In 1968, during the midst of mass upsurge worldwide, Lennon began to think about his own role. In the movie he says that he thought about how millions sing along with him when he sings “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” so why shouldn’t he sing about something with content. Lennon wrote “Give Peace a Chance” as an anthem for the movement against the Vietnam war, and tens of thousands sang the song at the 1969 Moratorium. John and Yoko also staged a number of creative anti-war actions that utilized their fame to get their message out broadly.
Around this time, Lennon began to sense increasing surveillance. During this period telephone “repairmen” were constantly going into his basement, and he heard strange noises when he picked up the phone. He would be followed in obvious ways, which he thought was meant to deliver a message. The FBI tried to get police departments to set Lennon up on drug charges. Lennon questioned how anyone could find a song about peace threatening. But as Gore Vidal remarks, “Lennon singing ‘Give Peace a Chance’ is a frightening voice for people who want to hear ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ over and over again.”
John Lennon moved to New York in 1971. Like many people, he had become increasingly radicalized in a few years. He is wearing a Mao button in one scene in the movie, for example. And he became friends with radical activists Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, and he met with and came to support Bobby Seale of the Black Panther Party.
During this time the government’s attacks intensified. The spearhead of the attack was the government’s attempt to deport Lennon. They claimed that John was being deported because of an old bust for pot years before. But, as the film makes clear, these deportation proceedings were politically driven, and directed and overseen by top levels of the government—there are memos about the case from Halderman, Nixon’s top aide; J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI; and the head of the CIA. The deportation proceedings lasted many years, with Lennon under constant threat of being thrown out of the country. This not only had a chilling effect on Lennon’s political activities but also hurt Lennon’s ability to tour and was a major diversion from his music overall.
FBI files on Lennon, which serve as the source material for the film, were made public several years ago after a 15-year fight by Jon Wiener, a professor of history at UC Irvine. The files show the FBI monitoring Lennon’s financial contributions to protests at the Republican Party Convention in 1972, contain transcribed lyrics to songs by Lennon, and reference various personal and political differences between movement activists. There are still ten documents that the FBI admits to having but will not release for reasons of “national security.”
At one point in the film Yoko Ono says that they felt that if they went to the Republican Convention they would be killed. As Noam Chomsky points out in the film, the U.S. has engaged in political assassination, citing the well-documented case where Chicago Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton was murdered in his sleep.
With all this as a backdrop, John Lennon was shot to death outside his apartment by Mark Chapman on December 8, 1980. Chapman was deranged and gave numerous different reasons for the killing.
At one point in the movie, Gore Vidal says that Lennon sang about love and peace and “represented life, and that is admirable.” “And,” Vidal says, “Mr. Nixon, and Mr. Bush, represent death. And that is a bad thing.” When I saw the film, the audience erupted into applause at the statement.
Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
With tears rolling down her face, Rosa left her baby son Victor in the care of her friend and neighbor, Julie. Victor’s father had already been picked up. Rosa had to leave the state immediately. La Migra had come to Stillmore, Georgia: Population 1,000.
The Immigration Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) arrived on Labor Day weekend, with guns, bullet proof vests, and a list of undocumented immigrants at a trailer park, and took people from their homes. Only earlier this year, agents started investigating the employee records at the Crider poultry plant and gathered a list of over 700 names and addresses of undocumented workers.
More than 120 undocumented immigrants were picked up in the raids and loaded on to buses to immigration courts in Atlanta. Hundreds have fled as far as they could. Many hid in the nearby woods, without shelter or clean water and food.
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Migra raids. A thousand arrests every week. Detention centers. Deportations. Ultra-militarized border. A 700 mile wall. Cameras, sensors, more virtual technology to hunt down humans. Police-state laws criminalizing immigrants—with more being proposed.
These attacks against immigrants are moving full speed ahead.
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On Thursday, September 21, the U.S. House passed immigration bills that would give the Department of Homeland Security and local and state law enforcement the green light to arrest, detain, and hold undocumented immigrants, and would significantly increase the number of deportations, including of non-citizens accused of being “gang members.”
These House bills, if they became law, would: 1) Allow the Department of Homeland Security to hold undocumented immigrants who are detained and are said to be “threats to national security” for up to 6 months or more. It would bar suspected “gang members” from entering the country and would allow the Department of Homeland Security to deport non-citizens if they are believed to be gang members. It would also expedite the process of deporting undocumented immigrants who are detained for alleged crimes. 2) Increase the prison term for people who construct or finance unauthorized tunnels under a U.S. border. Anyone who permits the construction of such a tunnel could face 10 years in prison. 3) Allow the immediate deportation of undocumented Salvadoran workers who are currently living here and protected under court decisions on asylum that date back to the 1980s civil war in El Salvador. It would give state and local law enforcement the authority to arrest and transfer undocumented immigrants into federal custody in the name of enforcing federal immigration laws. It would also increase the numbers of attorneys assigned by the Justice Department to prosecute immigrant “smuggling” cases.
Then September 29, Congress passed a bill to build a 700-mile fence along the U.S/Mexico border, that would have to be completed by 18 months from now; once built, the fence would cover one-third of the total area of the border. The double-layer fence, which would include roads, lighting, and sensors, would fence off many major cities and border crossing areas: Tecate and Calexico, California; Douglas, Arizona; and El Paso, Laredo, and Brownsville in Texas. Bush is expected to sign this bill into law soon.
The Houston Chronicle reports that the bill includes $21.3 billion for enforcement, including 1,500 more Border Patrol agents and 6,700 new beds for detention centers for immigrants, and “ billions of dollars for a ‘virtual’ fence of ground sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles and other surveillance equipment.” The Department of Homeland Security had already hired Boeing Co., the second-largest defense contractor in the world, on September 21 to build the $2 billion “virtual fence” along the border. Boeing’s proposal includes over 300 radar towers along the borders the U.S. shares with Mexico and with Canada, but the project will first be implemented along the U.S./Mexico border in the Arizona area. Some of these cameras were developed by an Israeli company and can detect people at up to 8.7 miles
Tucked into the bill is a mandate that the Secretary of Homeland Security begin studying ways to “stop fleeing vehicles that enter the United States illegally.” In Iraq, U.S. troops at checkpoints regularly shoot at cars they think are “suspicious,” and many Iraqis—including children—have been killed in such incidents. Will we now see the same sort of thing at the U.S.-Mexico border?
Beyond the new border fence, the September 29 bill calls for Homeland Security to “take appropriate actions to achieve operational control over U.S. international land and maritime borders.” It defines “operational control” as “the prevention of all unlawful U.S. entries, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband.”
Stepped-up border militarization since the 1990s has forced immigrants into ever more isolated and dangerous areas of the border, like the deserts of Arizona. Deaths on the border have greatly increased since then-President Bill Clinton began militarizing the border in 1994 with his “Operation Gatekeeper.” A September 14 government report, from the General Accounting Office, notes that deaths along the border nearly doubled over a six-year period—from 241 in 1999 to 472 in 2005. The group Border Angels estimates that since 1994, more than 4,000 people have died trying to cross.
The fence would also have a devastating impact on the environment and ecology of the border. For example, environmental activists told the San Francisco Chronicle that the government’s plan to build a road near Tijuana, as part of its fence plan, would cause increased erosion, destroying a delicate and rare estuary and causing more raw sewage to flow into the Pacific Ocean. The fence would also disrupt the movement, habitat, and migratory patters of thousands of species along the border, including several severely threatened species.
The response of the Democrats to all this has been to criticize the Republicans for not being tough enough on militarizing and “securing” the border. Ken Salazar of Colorado called the fence a “gimmick”; Harry Reid told the Washington Post that “This is about incumbent protection, not about border protection.” And Nancy Pelosi told the Associated Press that the bill fell “very far short of what Democrats have proposed over and over and over again.”
* * * * *
“These people might not have American rights, but they’ve damn sure got human rights,” said David Robinson, the man who runs a trailer park in Stillmore. “There ain’t no reason to treat them like animals.” He took a U.S. flag to a nearby pond and planted it upside down in protest.
The town of Stillmore is nearly deserted now. There’s hardly anyone in grocery store, in the poultry plant, or on the streets. The Associated Press described it as a “ghost town.”
The Mayor of the town, Marilyn Slater said, “This reminds me of what I read about Nazi Germany, the Gestapo coming in and yanking people up.”
Bob Avakian is the leader
of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. And he is more
than that: he’s an innovative and critical thinker who has
taken Marxism to a new place; he’s a provocative commentator
on everything from basketball to religion, doo-wop music
to science; and he’s a pit-bull fighter against oppression
who’s kept both his solemn sense of purpose and his irrepressible
sense of humor.
We invite you to meet this revolutionary leader through excerpts from two of his books: his memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist; and his collection of essays, Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy.
And we urge you to go to bobavakian.net or here on this site to hear an important recent series of talks which explore communist theory and apply it to a breathtaking range of questions, including political questions which are urgently and sharply posed in today’s situation.
Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
“Bob Avakian is a long distance runner in the freedom struggle against imperialism, racism and capitalism. His voice and witness are indispensable in our efforts to enhance the wretched of the earth. And his powerful story of commitment is timely.”
Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion
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“A truly interesting account of Bob Avakian’s life, a humanizing portrait of someone who is often seen only as a hard-line revolutionary. I can understand why Bob Avakian has drawn so many ardent supporters. He speaks to people’s alientation from a warlike and capitalist society, and holds out the possibility for radical change.”
Howard Zinn, historian
(commenting on From Ike to Mao and Beyond...)
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“At this dark time in the history of our country and of the world, we need some new conversations about Marx and the socialist tradition – conversations free of dogmatism, open to ideas from all sides, but oriented in a progressive direction and eager to learn from thinking critically within the Marxist tradition. This book provides us with one model of what those kinds of conversations can be like.”
author of Karl Marx and Kant’s Ethical Thought
(commenting on Marxism and the Call of the Future,
by Bob Avakian and Bill Martin)
* * * * *
“Just like a landmark art work or historically seminal music, Bob Avakian’s delivery and timing is truly inspiring. The only thing more inspiring is the vision and message he presents to us. Avakian is a revolutionary leader whose voice must be heard far and wide today.”
Wil-Dog, Jiro and Uli from Ozomatli
(commenting on Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, video/DVD)
* * * * *
“This system makes people do what they want them to do. In the new society you might only work for four hours and then you do art, science, crafts, or whatever. The masses out here think they are in control of the drugs but the system puts the drugs out here to keep us from thinking and acting in a revolutionary way. People look at the new society like that is unbelievable. But we have the right person to lead us there. There is enough people around the world that if they got a hold of the Chairman and took him up it would be a cold revolution. People need to know that they have a person like the Chairman on their side and they need to stand up for him.”
Willie “Mobile” Shaw
RCP comrade from Watts, L.A., who died last year
* * * * *
“Avakian has in his understanding what is in the interests of humanity as a whole.”
An immigrant from El Salvador
living in Chicago
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Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
From Ike to Mao and Beyond
My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist
A Memoir by Bob Avakian
From Chapter Four
Street Corner Symphonies
I had this friend Sam. Actually I knew him before high school, because I went to a church in Berkeley where his father worked as the custodian and he would come around and help his father sometimes. Then, when I went to high school, he was a little bit ahead of me but we became friends and then we became part of a singing group.
Sam had this one characteristic: when he was eating, he didn’t want anybody to say anything to him. It was just leave him alone and let him eat. I don’t care who it was or what the circumstances were. That was just Sam, you just knew you should stay away from him then, because he didn’t want to talk, he wanted to eat. So one day, I had forgotten to bring my lunch money, and I was really hungry by lunch. I couldn’t pay for anything in the cafeteria or the snack shack, or anything. I was walking all around looking for some friend to loan me some money. So first I went over to Sam and I knew that I was violating his big rule, but I couldn’t help it. I went over and I said, “Sam.” “Leave me alone, man, leave me alone.” I said “Sam, I’m really hungry.” “Leave me alone, I’m eating lunch.” So I just finally gave up there, but I started walking all around looking for someone to loan me some money or give me something to eat or something.
Finally, I saw this guy who had a plateful of food. What particularly stuck out to me was that he had two pieces of cornbread on his tray. And that just seemed so unfair, because I was so hungry and he had not one, but two pieces of cornbread! I just sat down at the table, across from him, and stared for a long time at his plate. He kept looking at me, like “what’s this motherfucker staring at me for?” I just kept staring at his tray. And finally I said, “Hey man, can I have one of your pieces of cornbread?” “No, man, get the fuck out of here.” I said, “Please man, I’m really hungry, I forgot my lunch money. Can I please have a piece of cornbread?” “No man, get the fuck out of here.” I don’t know what came over me—maybe it was just the hunger—but without thinking, I reached over and grabbed one of the pieces of cornbread. He kicked his chair back, jumped up and got ready to fight. So I didn’t have any choice, I jumped up too. He stared at me for a long time—a long time. And then he finally said, “Aw man, go ahead.” So I took the piece of cornbread. Then after that, Sam, who had looked up from his eating long enough to see all this, came over to me—again it was one of these things—and he said, “Man, that was Leo Wofford, you don’t know what you just got away with.” But I was just so hungry, and I guess Leo figured, “oh this crazy white boy, he must really be hungry,” so he just let it go.
Sam lived in East Oakland, but he went to school in Berkeley. A few times I went out to his house—he lived right where East Oakland abutted against San Leandro, and it was like in the south. There was this creek and a fence right outside of 98th Avenue in East Oakland, and if you were Black you did not go on the other side of the fence into San Leandro or these racist mobs would come after you. Sam lived right at the border there.
A few times Sam took me to places and events out in East Oakland. One time we went to this housing project which was kind of laid out in concentric circles, with a row of apartments, arranged in a circle, and then another circle inside that, and then another one. And at the very center was the playground, where there was a basketball court. When we got there, there were some guys getting ready to play ball—I recognized a couple of them who ran track for Castlemont High—so I went over and got in the game. Well, at a certain point, one of these track guys and I got into a face-off—we had been guarding each other, and sometimes bumping and pushing each other, and then it just about got to the point of a fight. Everybody else stood back and gave us room, but after we stared at each other for a while, it didn’t go any further, and we just got back to the game. But, as this was happening, I noticed that Sam, who had been watching at the edge of the court, was turning and walking away.
Another time, Sam and I went to a basketball game between Castlemont and Berkeley High. The game was at Castlemont, but I didn’t have any sense, so I kept yelling shit at the Castlemont players. Their star player was a guy named Fred “Sweetie” Davis, and at one point he got knocked to the floor by a guy on our team. So, I stood up and yelled, “How does it feel to be the one on the floor, Sweetie?” Sam had been trying to get me to stop acting the fool and shut up, and when this happened, he just got up and walked away, like “I don’t know this crazy white boy.” So, sometimes, without meaning to, I put Sam in some very difficult situations.
Sam was a really good singer. So one day I went to him and I asked: “Hey, Sam, you want to start a group?” He thought about it for a while, and then he got back to me and said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” Sam had a cousin named George who played piano, and George could also sing. So Sam said, “Let’s get George in the group.” And there was this other guy, Felton, who was one of the few Black kids who had gone to junior high school where I did. So I went and asked him if he wanted to be part of it, and Felton said “Yeah.” And then I asked Randy, this white kid who’d been part of this impromptu singing group with John and me in our last year in junior high school.
So the five of us—three Black, two white—formed a group. We figured out pretty quickly that Sam should sing lead, at least on most of the songs, and then the others of us took our parts. You have to have a bass, and that was Felton. We had to have a baritone, and that was Randy. Then you had to have a second tenor, which was the lower-range tenor, and that was George. And the first tenor was me. We had this whole thing worked out. Sometimes we practiced at George’s house, because he had a piano in his house, and sometimes we’d go to my house, because we also had a piano. We’d spend three or four hours a lot of days just practicing, working on our music. And we’d sing anywhere we could get together to sing—this was part of a whole thing where people would get together, sometimes in formal groups and sometimes just with whoever was around at the time, and sing everywhere: in the locker rooms before and after gym class, in the hallways and stairways at school, and out on the street corners.
Eventually, Randy left the group and then Odell—Odell who claimed I’d “stepped on his dogs” way back on our first day of school—replaced him. When Odell replaced Randy I reminded him of that run-in we had, and he didn’t even remember it. But he did get a big laugh out of my telling the story. Odell used to write songs—I’d see him out in the hallway: “Hey, Odell, what are you doing, how come you’re not in class?” “I’m writing some songs, man.” We’d practice and we’d try to get gigs, wanting to get paid and get known a little bit.
We had to come up with a name for the group. There was already the Cadillacs, and the Impalas, so we became the Continentals. Now we’d also been rehearsing at the rec center at Live Oak, because they had a piano in there. The director of the rec center heard us and said, “Hey, I like your sound, would you guys be willing to play for this dance we’re having?” We answered, “Yeah, are you gonna pay us?” And he said, “Well, we have a tight budget, but I could pay you something.” So then we all got together and said, “How about a hundred bucks?” He came back with, “How about 25?” We looked at each other and said, “Okay.” ‘Cause any money was good then.
We rehearsed a lot for this, and we came there that night ready to do this Heartbeats’ song, “You’re a Thousand Miles Away,” and some other tunes. As we were about to go in the rec center, this friend of Sam’s who had been playing basketball was coming over to get a drink of water. And he said, “Sam, what are you doing here?” Sam said, “We’re gonna sing for this dance.” “You can’t sing, Sam.” “Yeah I can, man.” So before we could go in to perform for the dance, we had to have a sing-off between Sam and his friend—they both did a Spaniels song, and after a couple of verses the other guy threw in the towel, because Sam could really sing.
Another time my younger sister got us a gig performing at their ninth-grade dance. The other guys in the group said, “Okay man, this is your sister’s thing,” so they let me sing lead on one song—I think it was called “Oh Happy Day.” And that was a lot of fun.
Some of the white parents just couldn’t relate to this music at all. And with some there was a whole racist element in it, because it was the influence of Black culture working its way “into the mainstream.” But a lot of the white youth were taking it up and were really into it, as exemplified by my older sister’s junior high school class voting “WPLJ”* as their favorite song. I think Richard Pryor made this point in one of his routines—when it’s just Black people doing something, then maybe they can contain it, but when it starts spilling over among the white youth, then “Oh dear, everything’s getting out of control.” So there was that sort of shit, and there was a general thing among the racist and backward white kids, where listening to this music and getting into this culture was part of a whole package of “things you didn’t do.” They would give you shit for that, but it was just part of a whole package of everything they were down on, and all the things they’d give you shit for.
Besides singing doo-wop, I was in the glee club in school. When I was a senior, the glee club teacher talked me and three other guys—two of us Black, two of us white—into doing a barbershop quartet song for the talent show. And we did it—with our own little touch to it. Another time, when I was sixteen or seventeen, I went to a Giants baseball game. Right before the game starts they always have the national anthem, and I was still somewhat patriotic—I wasn’t super-patriotic, but I still thought this was a good country overall, even though I was very angry about discrimination and segregation and racism and all that. So we all stood up for the anthem and, for whatever reason, I started singing along. The song finished and this woman in front of me turned around and said, “You know, you have a beautiful voice.” I’ve often thought back on the irony of that.
But it wasn’t very long before I quit singing that. Later, when I would go to ball games and they would play the national anthem, I would stand up and sing, as loudly as I could, a version that someone I knew had made up: “Oh, oh Un-cle Sam, get out of Vietnam. Get out, get out, get out of Vietnam…”
* Editors' note: WPLJ stands for "White Port and Lemon Juice." [back to text]
Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
From Ike to Mao and Beyond
My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist
A Memoir by Bob Avakian
From Chapter Twenty-seven
Disappointment, Danger, and Going Forward
Over the years and now decades, I’ve experienced many disappointments. Beyond personal hardships and losses, there have been real, and even profound, losses in terms of the struggle for a whole different world and better future for humanity. There have been not only twists and turns but gigantic setbacks, like the loss of China as a socialist country and base area for the world revolution. This is something that I myself, our Party, and communists throughout the world have had to confront.
Of course, there are not only difficulties but also great dangers. The people who so viciously rule the world oppress and exploit people in the most ruthless and murderous way. These are not just words that get thrown around; those are words that hardly capture the reality of the suffering that people are put through—totally unnecessarily—under the domination of this system and the way it twists and distorts the relations among people and turns people into instruments either to be used for the amassing of wealth on the part of a relative handful, or else just to be thrown onto the scrap heap like so much useless material. And there is the crushing of human potential and spirit that goes along with that. None of that has lessened. The need to do away with all that—and, from a strategic point, the basis that exists to do away with all that—hasn’t been eliminated, or even lessened, despite these setbacks and even real defeats.
When I reflect on all this, I think of a conversation I had with a friend when I was a teenager. He was a little older than me, and he was going to medical school. One day I asked him what he wanted to do when he got out of medical school, what kind of medicine he was going to practice. He answered that he wasn’t going to practice a particular kind of medicine, he was going to go into cancer research because he wanted to help find a cure for cancer—he believed that was not only very important but was also possible, and he wanted to make whatever contribution he could to that.
It has been many decades since that time, and while some advances have been made in treating cancer, it’s still a scourge. It hasn’t yet been eliminated. A cure, to put it that way, hasn’t been found. But that person has been working in this field all these years, and I would never say that his efforts have been wasted just because cancer is still here. The need to eliminate cancer, or find a cure for it, if you will, is as great as ever. And, if you take a scientific approach to disease, you know that it is within the realm of possibility to find the means to eliminate this scourge on humanity and that it is worth persevering in that effort.
The same applies to the question of uprooting, overturning, and abolishing these horrendous relations of exploitation, oppression, and plunder on which this system is based and on which it thrives, along with the wars that are waged, and the destruction and despoliation of the environment that is carried out, as a result of its workings and the actions of those who rule it. The need to eliminate this system and bring something much better into being is even more profound than the need to find a cure for cancer. And if you’ve taken up a scientific approach to investigating, learning about and changing reality, then you know that the means can be found to do that. There is a basis within the nature of the world as it is, within the nature and contradictions of this system of capitalism and imperialism, to overturn and uproot and finally eliminate this system and all the horrors it causes in the world. Where you fall short of that, you have to draw the lessons as fully as possible, you have to ground yourself even more deeply in the scientific approach to understanding and changing reality that is Marxism, apply it in a more creative and critical and living way, and work together and struggle together with others in order to both learn more and do more to change the world. All the experience I’ve been through and learned from has taught me much more deeply and shown me much more fully that it is both necessary and possible to do this, and that the best thing I could do with my life is to make whatever contribution I can to this.
Even where there are terrible reversals and losses like what happened with China, this system will keep throwing up the need for revolution to abolish it and to bring into being a radically different and better world, a communist world. This need will continually be brought to the fore, over and over again. The conditions of the people and what they’re put through will continually cry out for this change.
If you have had a chance to see the world as it really is, there are profoundly different roads you can take with your life. You can just get into the dog-eat-dog, and most likely get swallowed up by that while trying to get ahead in it. You can put your snout into the trough and try to scarf up as much as you can, while scrambling desperately to get more than others. Or you can try to do something that would change the whole direction of society and the whole way the world is. When you put those things alongside each other, which one has any meaning, which one really contributes to anything worthwhile? Your life is going to be about something—or it’s going to be about nothing. And there is nothing greater your life can be about than contributing whatever you can to the revolutionary transformation of society and the world, to put an end to all systems and relations of oppression and exploitation and all the unnecessary suffering and destruction that goes along with them. I have learned that more and more deeply through all the twists and turns and even the great setbacks, as well as the great achievements, of the communist revolution so far, in what are really still its early stages historically.
And there have been great achievements, in what is actually the very brief and beginning experience of socialism and the advance toward communism. Whenever the masses in any part of the world rise up, even spontaneously, and especially when they do so with communist leadership, this is a source of tremendous inspiration and shows once again the potential for this whole revolutionary struggle and transformation of society and the world. This is a very powerful and sustaining thing when combined with an increasingly deepened grasp and application of the scientific outlook and method of communism.
As I spoke to earlier, since being forced into exile more than two decades ago, I have continued to give ideological and political leadership and direction to the RCP. I have studied and written extensively on profound problems and challenges confronting communists throughout the world in regrouping and carrying forward the revolutionary struggle in the face of truly devastating losses that have been experienced, above all the revisionist coup and capitalist restoration in China. I have continued to dig into the experience of the proletarian revolution and of the socialist societies that were brought into being in the twentieth century, in the Soviet Union and China, seeking to draw crucial lessons from both the positive but also the negative aspects of all this, and focusing in particular on the questions: How can the masses of people truly become the masters of society and of the state while at the same time advancing toward the ultimate abolition of the state, together with the abolition of all exploitative and oppressive divisions and social inequalities? And what is the relationship between the masses of people and revolutionary leadership in that process?
I have also focused attention on the monumental and unprecedented transformations that are going on throughout the world today and their implications for the revolutionary struggle—in particular the massive uprooting and migration of millions of peasants from the countryside to the urban areas each year throughout the Third World, with the new situation emerging where half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, with huge numbers of them in swelling shantytowns amidst tremendous poverty. I have continued to grapple with social, political and ideological phenomena associated with these transformations, focusing particularly on the growing phenomenon of religious fundamentalism—not only Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East and other areas, but also Christian fundamentalism in the U.S. itself—and the dangers and challenges this presents for the revolutionary struggle to transform society, to bring true liberation and light and break all chains of oppression—economic, social, political, ideological and cultural.
I have written extensively and wrestled deeply—and continue to wrestle—with questions having to do with the role of intellectuals and artists and the creative process in relation to the larger interests of society, and the relation between collective and cooperative principles and the interests of society as a whole, on the one hand, and the role and rights of individuals and individual initiative, on the other hand.
In the context where our Party has undertaken the process of rewriting our basic Programme, in line with changes that have occurred in the world and important lessons we have been drawing in the more than twenty years since our Party Programme was last written, I have led the Party in breaking with serious errors, and a seriously flawed legacy of the international communist movement, with regard to the question of homosexuality. In the past, while we opposed discrimination against homosexuals, we regarded homosexuality as essentially a negative phenomenon which posed an obstacle to the ending of all oppression, and in particular we saw male homosexuality as something that contributed to the oppression of women. This is an erroneous and harmful position which we have not only changed but have set about deeply summing up and criticizing, not only within the Party but in published documents.*
Overall, I have continued to contribute whatever I can, and to lead the RCP in contributing the most it can, to the envisioning of, and the creation of, a whole new world, a communist world—a world of freely associating and cooperating human beings, a world in which the great majority of people, and ultimately all of humanity, would want to live and in which they would thrive, in ways never before possible or even imagined.
Perseverance, and Inspiration
In recent years, just at the time when the rulers of the U.S. and other capitalists and imperialists were seizing on the reversal of the revolution in China and then the collapse of the Soviet Union to proclaim the ultimate triumph of the capitalist system, tremendous rebellions and protests have taken place, throughout the world and within the U.S. itself. In Los Angeles on a massive scale but also in Cincinnati and other cities, uprisings have taken place against outrageous acts of brutality and murder by the police. Through the work of our Party and others, a national coalition has been built against police brutality, and every year since 1996 there has been a National Day of Protest against police brutality, repression, and the criminalization of the youth, with thousands of people taking part in dozens of cities around the country. The battle around the right to abortion, as a key concentration of the fight against the oppression of women, has continued to rage, and is once again sharpening up. At the same time, the fight to eliminate discrimination against gays and lesbians in all spheres of society has taken new leaps. In recent years massive protests and battles have taken place against capitalist globalization and its devastating effects on people throughout the world, particularly in the Third World, and on the environment. Our Party and Maoists in many other parts of the world have been increasingly involved in these movements and struggles.
Seizing on the events of September 11, 2001, the ruling class of the U.S. and its leading core have unleashed a juggernaut of war and repression, declaring a worldwide war to expand their global domination and exploitation in the name of “fighting terrorism,” and instituting new levels of repression within the U.S. which are dangerous in themselves and represent precedent and potential for much greater and perhaps even unprecedented repression. All this has been met with increasingly massive resistance, in the U.S. itself and throughout the world, with tens of millions of people protesting against the war the U.S. was determined to launch against Iraq. I have characterized the juggernaut these imperialists have unleashed as “a cauldron of contradictions” and pointed to the fact that it holds the potential not only for great horrors and devastating setbacks for the resistance and revolutionary struggle of the masses of people throughout the world but at the same time the potential for great advances in this struggle—it holds the potential for these two extremes and everything in between.
This, of course, poses tremendous challenges for our Party and other Maoists throughout the world. One of the most important developments of the last twenty years is the fact that, in the aftermath of the tremendous loss in China, Maoists in different parts of the world, including the RCP in the U.S., have been able to regroup and unite together as an international movement, the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM). And in important parts of the world, Maoist parties, united in the RIM, are making crucial advances.
When I look at all this, I think again of my friend who decided to dedicate his life to ending cancer—and of the even greater need to put an end to the system of capitalism-imperialism and all the suffering and oppression this system embodies and enforces throughout the world. You see that there isn’t anything more important that your life could be about, and whatever you end up contributing during the course of your lifetime is the most important and the most uplifting thing that you could possibly do. And yes, there are moments of great disappointment, but also moments of great joy as part of this. There is the joy that comes from seeing the ways in which people break free of constraints and rise up and begin to see the world as it really is and take up more consciously the struggle to change it. There is the joy of knowing that you are part of this whole process and contributing what you can to it. There is the joy of the camaraderie of being together with others in this struggle and knowing that it is something worthwhile, that it is not something petty and narrow that you are involved in but something uplifting. There is the joy of looking to the future and envisioning the goal that you are struggling for and seeing people come to even a beginning understanding of what that could mean, not just for themselves but for society, for humanity as a whole.
* This is discussed, and gone into in much greater detail and depth, in the new Programme of the Party and in a position paper, “On the Position on Homosexuality,” available from RCP Publications. [back to text]
Revolution #64, October 8, 2006
This selection appears in the book Bob Avakian: Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy, published by Insight Press.
As the world exists today and as people seek to change it, and particularly in terms of the socialist transformation of society, as I see it there are basically three alternatives that are possible. One is the world as it is. Enough said about that. [laughter]
The second one is in a certain sense, almost literally and mechanically, turning the world upside down. In other words, people who are now exploited will no longer be exploited in the same way, people who now rule this society will be prevented from ruling or influencing society in a significant way. The basic economic structure of society will change, some of the social relations will change, and some of the forms of political rule will change, and some of the forms of culture and ideology will change, but fundamentally the masses of people will not be increasingly and in one leap after another drawn into the process of really transforming society. This is really a vision of a revisionist society. If you think back to the days of the Soviet Union, when it had become a revisionist society, capitalist and imperialist in essence, but still socialist in name, when they would be chided for their alleged or real violations of people’s rights, they would often answer “Who are you in the West to be talking about the violation of human rights—look at all the people in your society who are unemployed, what more basic human right is there than to have a job?”
Well, did they have a point? Yes, up to a point. But fundamentally what they were putting forward, the vision of society that they were projecting, was a social welfare kind of society in which fundamentally the role of the masses of people is no different than it is under the classical form of capitalism. The answer about the rights of the people cannot be reduced to the right to have a job and earn an income, as basic as that is. There is the question of are we really going to transform society so that in every respect, not only economically but socially, politically, ideologically, and culturally, it really is superior to capitalist society. A society that not only meets the needs of the masses of people, but really is characterized increasingly by the conscious expression and initiative of the masses of people.
This is a more fundamental transformation than simply a kind of social welfare, socialist in name but really capitalist in essence society, where the role of the masses of people is still largely reduced to being producers of wealth, but not people who thrash out all the larger questions of affairs of state, the direction of society, culture, philosophy, science, the arts, and so on. The revisionist model is a narrow, economist view of socialism. It reduces the people, in their activity, to simply the economic sphere of society, and in a limited way at that—simply their social welfare with regard to the economy. It doesn’t even think about transforming the world outlook of the people as they in turn change the world around them.
And you cannot have a new society and a new world with the same outlook that people are indoctrinated and inculcated with in this society. You cannot have a real revolutionary transformation of society and abolition of unequal social as well as economic relations and political relations if people still approach the world in the way in which they’re conditioned and limited and constrained to approach it now. How can the masses of people really take up the task of consciously changing the world if their outlook and their approach to the world remains what it is under this system? It’s impossible, and this situation will simply reproduce the great inequalities in every sphere of society that I’ve been talking about.
The third alternative is a real radical rupture. Marx and Engels said in the Communist Manifesto that the communist revolution represents a radical rupture with traditional property relations and with traditional ideas. And the one is not possible without the other. They are mutually reinforcing, one way or the other.
If you have a society in which the fundamental role of women is to be breeders of children, how can you have a society in which there is equality between men and women? You cannot. And if you don’t attack and uproot the traditions, the morals, and so on, that reinforce that role, how can you transform the relations between men and women and abolish the deep-seated inequalities that are bound up with the whole division of society into oppressors and oppressed, exploiters and exploited? You cannot.
So the third alternative is a real radical rupture in every sphere, a radically different synthesis, to put it that way. Or to put it another way, it’s a society and a world that the great majority of people would actually want to live in. One in which not only do they not have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, or if they get sick whether they’re going to be told that they can’t have health care because they can’t pay for it, as important as that is; but one in which they are actually taking up, wrangling with, and increasingly making their own province all the different spheres of society.
Achieving that kind of a society, and that kind of a world, is a very profound challenge. It’s much more profound than simply changing a few forms of ownership of the economy and making sure that, on that basis, people’s social welfare is taken care of, but you still have people who are taking care of that for the masses of people; and all the spheres of science, the arts, philosophy, and all the rest are basically the province of a few. And the political decision-making process remains the province of a few.
To really leap beyond that is a tremendous and world-historic struggle that we’ve been embarked on since the Russian revolution (not counting the very short-lived and limited experience of the Paris Commune)—and in which we reached the high point with the Chinese revolution and in particular the Cultural Revolution—but from which we’ve been thrown back temporarily.
So we need to make a further leap on the basis of summing up very deeply all that experience. There are some very real and vexing problems that we have to confront and advance through in order to draw from the best of the past, but go further and do even better in the future.
Now I want to say a few things in this context about totalitarianism. Just as an aside here, I find it very interesting that you can read innumerable books delving deeply into the psyche of Stalin or Lenin or Mao—“What went on in the deranged minds of these people [laughter] that led them to think they could remake the world in their maddened image [laughter] and led them, in the name of some greater moral good, to bring great catastrophe on the humanity that they were affecting?” I don’t know how many books I’ve seen like that. I have never yet seen—maybe there are some, but I have never seen—a study of the deranged psyche of Thomas Jefferson [laughter] or George Washington: “How is it that a person could come to believe in their own mind [laughter] that they were benefiting not only humanity in general, but other human beings whom they owned? [laughter] What depth of psychological derangement must be involved in that? [laughter] What is more totalitarian than actually owning other human beings?”
Or what about the study of the depths of the depraved minds of Lyndon Johnson or Ronald Reagan [laughter], who murdered millions of people, including vast numbers of children? “What must have gone wrong, somewhere in their childhood or somewhere else in their lives? [laughter] What demented ideas must they somehow have internalized that led them to believe that in the name of the shining city on the hill, or whatever [laughter], they had the right and the obligation to slaughter thousands and millions of innocent people?”
I have never seen those studies. Certainly I haven’t read about them in the New York Times Book Review section. [laughter]
Still, there are some real questions that are raised about totalitarianism by the ideologues and the “intellectual camp followers” of the imperialists that do need to be taken on. In particular, they make the charge that in a society which they call totalitarian, but which is in reality the dictatorship of the proletariat, there is first of all an official ideology that everyone has to profess belief in, in order to get along in that society. And there is an official politics that everyone has to be involved in, in order to get along in that society and not get in trouble. Well, what about this?
Fundamentally, this is a distortion of what has gone on in socialist societies: why these revolutions were necessary in the first place and what they were seeking to accomplish and to overcome, and how they were going about doing that. The reality is that, for the great masses of people in capitalist (and certainly in feudal) society, they are barred from really being involved in any significant way in official politics and the politics that actually affect the affairs of state and the direction of society. And they are indoctrinated with an outlook and methodology and ideology that prevents them—discourages them and actively obstructs them—from really understanding the world as it is and changing it consciously. And that is what socialist revolutions seek to change, as well as bringing about fundamental changes in the economy and the social relations.
But what about this question of official ideology that everyone has to profess? Well, I think we have more to sum up about that from the history of socialist society and the dictatorship of the proletariat so far.
With regard to the question of the party, I think two things are definitely true. One, you need a vanguard party to lead this revolution and to lead the new state. Two, that party has to have an ideology that unifies it, an ideology that correctly reflects and enables people to consciously change reality, which is communist ideology.
But, more broadly, should everyone in society have to profess this ideology in order to get along? No. Those who are won over to this ideology should proclaim it and struggle for it. Those who are not convinced of it should say so. Those who disagree with it should say that. And there should be struggle. Something has to lead—the correct ideology that really enables people to get at the truth, and to do something with it in their interests, has to lead; but that doesn’t mean everyone should have to profess it, in my opinion. And this is just my opinion. But it’s worth digging into this a bit, it’s worth exploring and wrangling with the question.
This Q&A includes an answer to the following question:
“My question deals with some of the material from the two series: ‘Views on Socialism and Communism’ and ‘The Basis, the Goals, and the Methods of the Communist Revolution.’
“I’ve been thinking about two things: One is a statement by Arundhati Roy in an interview where she basically said (this is paraphrasing), ‘I support the Maoists in India even though I would probably be the first person they would kill.’ Second I’ve also been thinking about this in relation to the need to make a distinction as you’ve emphasized between those who are actively plotting to overthrow the socialist state and those who are just dissenting or even vehemently opposed to it, but not actively plotting to overthrow it.
“My question is – taking into account the socialist experience and the very secondary aspect where Arundhati Roy might have a point based on what happened in China and also taking into account the particularity of India and the particularities of this country: what should communists say to the Arundhati Roys of the world in relation to this contradiction and why should they believe us?”
REVOLUTION: Why It’s Necessary — Why It’s Possible — What It’s All About --a film of a talk by Bob Avakian