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Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
The past week has seen increasing attention and polarization around “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week,” David Horowitz’s attempt to shut down dissent against the war on terror on campus, set for October 22-26. Some of this has come as Horowitz’s threats against women’s centers and Muslim students have come closer to reality. Some was generated by the exposure of a hoax by Horowitz—his fraudulent attempt to pass off a picture from a fictional movie of a woman being stoned to death in Iran as if it were authentic. And some of this came off the uproar at Columbia University over the speech there by Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, the president of Iran. The debate among progressive people over how to respond has correspondingly sharpened.
Last week we posed the choice as one of either confronting this fascist threat, or hoping that it will just go away if it is ignored. We argued for the first course and people responded. This week we’re going to outline and address their responses.
“Yes, this ‘Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week’ poses a threat. In particular, there is a danger in the demonizing of Muslim students on campus, with Horowitz’s demand that they sign an oath supporting the ‘war on terror.’ But if you try to counter this by confronting and debating Horowitz about the truth, you run the danger of offending people on certain questions. It’s better to figure out non-confrontational ways to promote peace and understanding.”
Clearly, one big intent of this week will be to promote a pogromist atmosphere on campus against Muslim and Arab students. One example: following the Ahmedinejad speech, racist graffiti appeared at Columbia University attacking Muslim students, as well as Black and minority students. As Horowitz’s campaign picks up momentum, there will be more. The main website for “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” is promoting the idea of pressuring Muslim students to sign petitions supporting the “war on terror”: “[A] petition,” they write, “forces students and faculty to declare their allegiances: either to fighting our terrorist adversaries or failing to take action to stop our enemies. For this reason, we encourage you to make a special effort to bring this petition to those groups who might be least likely to sign it, for example to campus administrators, student government officers, and the Muslim Students’ Association.”
Horowitz aims to label every Muslim student with the brush of Islamic fundamentalism, to conflate any opposition to U.S. imperialism and its violence with support of Islamic fundamentalism, and then on that basis to force Muslim students to prove their loyalty to imperialism and to shut up about the huge amount of reactionary violence carried out by the U.S. Forcing people into public avowals of allegiance is medieval and truly ugly—and is a typical tactic of fascists.
Horowitz points to the fact that there have been many instances of violent acts directed against ordinary people by Islamic fundamentalist political groups. And, of course, there have been. But, let’s be real clear: the scriptures of ALL major religions contain quite a bit that upholds and indeed commands reactionary violence on every major social issue. When people apply these scriptures politically, they find “divine justification” for all sorts of horrible acts against “unbelievers.” But as Bob Avakian’s article in our paper last week pointed out, the only reason that at this point not as many Christian fundamentalists are going around outside the government engaging in the kinds of violent acts that are commonly labeled terrorism on the same scale as the Islamic fundamentalists is because “violence which serves ends that are passionately supported by the Christian fascist fundamentalists [within the U.S.] has been carried out on a massive scale by the imperialist ruling class of the U.S., utilizing the armed forces and police of the imperialist state.” And the violence perpetrated by the U.S. has been on an immeasurably greater scale and incurred a far greater human cost for literally millions of ordinary people in Iraq alone than anything yet done by Islamic fundamentalists.
But back to Horowitz’s attempts to create a pogromist atmosphere against Muslims: can this be effectively countered by calls for peace and understanding? Horowitz takes advantage of a whole set of assumptions which are deeply embedded in this society and, consequently, in most students—the most fundamental of which is that “the Americans are the good guys.” And there is a whole habit of thought—of not wanting to know, or perhaps better put, wanting not to know, what their government actually does—that goes along with that assumption. Unless and until that foundational thinking is sharply challenged, people will find a way to turn their heads or, worse yet, will be enlisted into Horowitz’s fascist crusade. The only way to make people feel compelled to examine those assumptions is by effectively challenging them with the truth—with hard-hitting and documented facts to back it up. That means taking on and tearing to shreds Horowitz’s arguments and bringing forward the truth in opposition to that.
The controversy at Columbia last week provided what is sometimes called “a teachable moment.” Yes, things became polarized—people argued and lost their temper and all those other things that happen when core beliefs are challenged. But that polarization aroused the students from the narcotizing effects of the everyday routine and the radicals were, even in those difficult conditions and on extremely short notice, able to influence the terms of the debate among the students (with some even breaking into the national coverage of it). In the process, many people began to change their minds—and had the progressive side been nimbler and bolder in seizing on this opening, and if more people who do know better had thrown themselves into it, much more could have been accomplished. The “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” poses the potential to be much more two-sided if the people who understand what is really going on here dare to take it on, compellingly.
This leads us to another argument: “I agree—the danger of letting this go unchallenged is great. And if we could do what you propose—actually confront the Horowitz-led forces with the truth and involve thousands of students in debate, winning over a good section of them—that would be very important. But if we can’t—if we try and are not able to mount a sufficient counter-challenge—that will grant Horowitz a victory and put us in a worse position.”
Obviously, it would be better if we could only choose struggles that we were assured of winning. And, granted, it will take a lot of work and “coming from behind” to do this well. But what if this week goes effectively unchallenged? What if the core assumptions that the Horowitz crowd will be promoting and reinforcing—and all with the avowed open aim of building support for the “war on terror,” which as we write is being used to justify U.S. military aggression against Iran—what if all that just sets the terms, and if people just assume that there is no counter-argument, that what these reactionaries say, after all, is the truth? Especially when everything that these forces will put out is reinforced by the media and even their so-called liberal opponents, with Columbia President Bollinger as a case in point. What effect will that have on mounting any protest at all against the current further depredations being carried out by this government against people all over the world? And how will that play around the world, to those who do not want to be forced to choose between U.S. imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism, but who see no hope of the American people doing anything meaningful to stop the horrors perpetrated by their government?
There’s really no time to lose here. Either those who know better will mount an effective challenge to this, or there WILL be a major victory for the reactionaries and fascists. The chill will set further in at the very time when aggressive new actions are being planned by Bush. And make no mistake, these people will follow up on any such victory and not just make life hell for any who dare to oppose them, but silence the dissenters and drive them out of the academic arena—as they have already done to Ward Churchill and Norman Finkelstein and now threaten to do with others, openly and boastfully publishing “hit lists.”
“But hasn’t Horowitz already exposed himself as a fraud by putting that hoax of a picture on his website? Maybe if we don’t give him attention he’ll go away.”
Briefly, on whether this will give Horowitz attention. Horowitz has attention and will get much more through this week. He is a dangerous force, attempting to transform the universities into sites of uncontested reactionary indoctrination. Moreover, he is backed by people at the very center of the ruling core of the government. The problem right now is not “too much attention,” but the fact that not enough people know about this fascist and understand his aims and methods of deception and coercion.
As to the fraudulent photograph, Horowitz has in fact shown people a great deal about his utter lack of respect for the truth, and his corresponding lack of integrity, through his attempt to pass off a posed still from a movie as a real incident, and everyone should be constantly reminded of this wherever Horowitz goes. On the other hand, the fact is that women are stoned to death for adultery in countries ruled by Islamic theocracies and that the treatment of women overall in these countries is oppressive and unconscionable—and this issue has to be boldly addressed.
First, Horowitz’s proposed solution—the imposition of U.S. rule on these countries—in addition to making things much worse overall, will only make it less possible to deal with this particular outrage. Horowitz actually cites the Shah of Iran as a positive example in this regard! Yes, the Shah carried out certain reforms, from above. What Horowitz neglects to say is that the Shah was implanted in Iran by a military coup engineered by the U.S. against the popularly elected nationalist leader Mossadegh. The U.S. then backed the Shah in carrying out the most horrible methods of torture—indeed, the CIA and Mossad, the Israeli spy force, trained SAVAK, the Shah’s torturers—against any who dared oppose his rule. Thousands died at the hands of the Shah’s repressive forces and when the dam finally burst, a good 80% to 90% of the population participated in his overthrow. Why and how the ayatollahs were able to gain control of and essentially short-circuit and betray this revolution—a revolution which was made by a very broad front of forces, including communist, revolutionary and progressive forces—including the role of the U.S. within that, is beyond the scope of this article.
But if Horowitz is searching for examples of Middle Eastern governments that attempted to carry out reforms of some aspects of women’s oppression, why doesn’t he mention the Afghanistan regimes of the late 1970s and ’80s? These regimes, which were backed by the Soviet Union, including through military invasion and occupation, did in fact institute many reforms in the situation of women which were, at least on paper, much more thorough than either the Shah’s Iran or the laws of the current U.S.-backed government of Afghanistan (which, by the way, is officially an Islamic state). But the regime did not do this through a bottom-up revolution and the reforms did not take root. The power relations in the rural areas remained essentially untouched. And as Bob Avakian notes in his article in this current issue, “the U.S. backed and provided arms to the Islamic fundamentalist Mujahadeen, because it was recognized that they would be fanatical fighters against the Soviets. Other forces, including not only more secular nationalists but Maoists, opposed the Soviet occupation and the puppet governments it installed in Afghanistan, but of course the Maoists in particular were not supported by the U.S., and in fact many of them were killed by the ‘Jihadist’ Islamic fundamentalists that the U.S. was aiding and arming.”
Horowitz doesn’t mention this because this is one of those “inconvenient truths” that undermine the whole framework of “the Americans are the good guys” that he is trying to reinforce, and because he doesn’t really give a damn about the oppression of women, as he’s shown by his alliances with the most reactionary patriarchal forces in this country, like Pat Robertson. The fact that Horowitz is now working with someone like Phyllis Chesler, who was once a progressive feminist, shows however that this notion that the U.S. will somehow emancipate women in the Arab world has to be taken on with real substance, and from different points of view. We intend to address this in more depth next week—including going into how women’s oppression in both the oppressed nations AND within the imperialist countries themselves can be abolished through revolution. But it is crucial for everyone who envisions and works for a world without the oppression of women to enter the fray, from their own points of view, to combat this attempt by Horowitz to create a “wedge issue.” And the same holds true for taking on Horowitz’s claiming to oppose the persecution of gay people when he is aligned with people like Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell who declared that the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina and the attacks on 9/11 were God punishing America for—among other things—tolerating gays.
There are high stakes here. How people understand such things as the U.S. role in the world and the direction of U.S. society; the real choices before people, here and around the world; the roots of women’s oppression and what keeps it going with such virulence everywhere on the planet; and the actual role of religious fundamentalist political movements of all stripes are going to be very contested during this “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.” There can be no bystanders; the question is whether the right side of this argument will speak up with all the power and sweep that it can muster and not only prevent a worsening polarization on campus, but start to change things for the better.
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
Editors' Note: In our last issue, we published an excerpt from the upcoming book by Bob Avakian, AWAY WITH ALL GODS! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World (to be published this coming spring by Insight Press). In this issue we are publishing a further excerpt from that book. Although AWAY WITH ALL GODS! has not yet been published—and what is excerpted here is not necessarily the final version of this section of the book—because of the importance and great relevance of the subject matter now, Revolution has received permission, from the author and from Insight Press, to publish this excerpt here. (The footnotes included here are part of the [draft] text of the book itself.)
Among the most distinguishing features of today’s situation are the leaps that are occurring in globalization, linked to an accelerating process of capitalist accumulation in a world dominated by the capitalist-imperialist system. This has led to significant, and often dramatic, changes in the lives of huge numbers of people, often undermining traditional relations and customs. Here I will focus on the effects of this in the Third World—the countries of Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East—and the ways in which this has contributed to the current growth of religious fundamentalism there.
Throughout the Third World people are being driven in the millions each year away from the farmlands, where they have lived and tried to eke out an existence under very oppressive conditions but now can no longer do even that: they are being thrown into the urban areas, most often into the sprawling shantytowns, ring after ring of slums, that surround the core of the cities. For the first time in history, it is now the case that half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, including these massive and ever-growing shantytowns.
Being uprooted from their traditional conditions—and the traditional forms in which they have been exploited and oppressed—they are being hurled into a very insecure and unstable existence, unable to be integrated, in any kind of “articulated way,” into the economic and social fabric and functioning of society. In many of these Third World countries, a majority of the people in the urban areas work in the informal economy—for example, as small-scale peddlers or traders, of various kinds, or in underground and illegal activity. To a significant degree because of this, many people are turning to religious fundamentalism to try to give them an anchor, in the midst of all this dislocation and upheaval.
An additional factor in all this is that, in the Third World, these massive and rapid changes and dislocations are occurring in the context of domination and exploitation by foreign imperialists—and this is associated with “local” ruling classes which are economically and politically dependent on and subordinate to imperialism, and are broadly seen as the corrupt agents of an alien power, who also promote the “decadent culture of the West.” This, in the short run, can strengthen the hand of fundamentalist religious forces and leaders who frame opposition to the “corruption” and “Western decadence” of the local ruling classes, and the imperialists to which they are beholden, in terms of returning to, and enforcing with a vengeance, traditional relations, customs, ideas and values which themselves are rooted in the past and embody extreme forms of exploitation and oppression.
Where Islam is the dominant religion—in the Middle East but also countries such as Indonesia—this is manifested in the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. In much of Latin America, where Christianity, particularly in the form of Catholicism, has been the dominant religion, the growth of fundamentalism is marked by a situation where significant numbers of people, in particular poor people, who have come to feel that the Catholic Church has failed them, are being drawn into various forms of Protestant fundamentalism, such as Pentecostalism, which combines forms of religious fanaticism with a rhetoric that claims to speak in the name of the poor and oppressed. In parts of Africa as well, particularly among masses crowded into the shantytown slums, Christian fundamentalism, including Pentecostalism, has been a growing phenomenon, at the same time as Islamic fundamentalism has been growing in other parts of Africa.1
But the rise of fundamentalism is also owing to major political changes, and conscious policy and actions on the part of the imperialists in the political arena, which have had a profound impact on the situation in many countries in the Third World, including in the Middle East. As one key dimension of this, it is very important not to overlook or to underestimate the impact of the developments in China since the death of Mao Tsetung and the complete change in that country, from one that was advancing on the road of socialism to one where in fact capitalism has been restored and the orientation of promoting and supporting revolution, in China and throughout the world, has been replaced by one of seeking to establish for China a stronger position within the framework of world power politics dominated by imperialism. This has had a profound effect—negatively—in undermining, in the shorter term, the sense among many oppressed people, throughout the world, that socialist revolution offered the way out of their misery and in creating more ground for those, and in particular religious fundamentalists, who seek to rally people behind something which in certain ways is opposing the dominant oppressive power in the world but which itself represents a reactionary worldview and program.
This phenomenon is reflected in the comments of a “terrorism expert” who observed about some people recently accused of terrorist acts in England that, a generation ago, these people would have been Maoists. Now, despite the fact that the aims and strategy, and the tactics, of genuine Maoists—people guided by communist ideology—are radically different from those of religious fundamentalists and that communists reject, in principle, terrorism as a method and approach, there is something real and important in this “terrorism expert’s” comments: a generation ago many of the same youths and others who are, for the time being, drawn toward Islamic and other religious fundamentalisms, would instead have been drawn toward the radically different, revolutionary pole of communism. And this phenomenon has been further strengthened by the demise of the Soviet Union and the “socialist camp” that it headed. In reality, the Soviet Union had ceased to be socialist since the time, in the mid-1950s, when revisionists (communists in name but capitalists in fact) seized the reins of power and began running the country in accordance with capitalist principles (but in the form of state capitalism and with a continuing “socialist” camouflage). But by the 1990s, the leaders of the Soviet Union began to openly discard socialism, and then the Soviet Union itself was abolished and Russia and the other countries that had been part of the Soviet “camp” abandoned any pretense of “socialism.”
All this—and, in relation to it, a relentless ideological offensive by the imperialists and their intellectual camp followers—has led to the notion, widely propagated and propagandized, of the defeat and demise of communism and, for the time being, the discrediting of communism among broad sections of people, including among those restlessly searching for a way to fight back against imperialist domination, oppression, and degradation.2
But it is not only communism that the imperialists have worked to defeat and discredit. They have also targeted other secular forces and governments which, to one degree or another, have opposed, or objectively constituted obstacles to, the interests and aims of the imperialists, particularly in parts of the world that they have regarded as of strategic importance. For example, going back to the 1950s, the U.S. engineered a coup that overthrew the nationalist government of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran, because that government’s policies were viewed as a threat to the control of Iran’s oil by the U.S. (and secondarily the British) and to U.S. domination of the region more broadly. This has had repercussions and consequences for decades since then. Among other things, it has contributed to the growth of Islamic fundamentalism and the eventual establishment of an Islamic Republic in Iran, when Islamic fundamentalists seized power in the context of a mass upheaval of the Iranian people in the late 1970s, which led to the overthrow of the highly repressive government of the Shah of Iran, who had been backed and in fact maintained in power by the U.S. since the ouster of Mossadegh.3
In other parts of the Middle East, and elsewhere, over the past several decades the imperialists have also consciously set out to defeat and decimate even nationalist secular opposition; and, in fact, they have at times consciously fed the growth of religious fundamentalist forces. Palestine is a sharp example of this: Islamic fundamentalist forces there were actually aided by Israel—and the U.S. imperialists, for whom Israel acts as an armed garrison—in order to undermine the more secular Palestine Liberation Organization. In Afghanistan, particularly during the Soviet occupation of that country in the 1980s, the U.S. backed and provided arms to the Islamic fundamentalist Mujahadeen, because it was recognized that they would be fanatical fighters against the Soviets. Other forces, including not only more secular nationalists but Maoists, opposed the Soviet occupation and the puppet governments it installed in Afghanistan, but of course the Maoists in particular were not supported by the U.S., and in fact many of them were killed by the “Jihadist” Islamic fundamentalists that the U.S. was aiding and arming.
In Egypt, going back to the 1950s, there was the whole phenomenon of the popular nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, and of “Nasserism,” a form of Arab nationalism which wasn’t limited to Egypt but whose influence was very widespread after Nasser came to power in Egypt. In 1956 a crisis developed when Nasser acted to assert more control over the Suez Canal; and Israel, along with France and England—still not fully resigned to the loss of their large colonial empires—moved together in opposition to Nasser. Now, as an illustration of the complexity of things, in that “Suez crisis,” the U.S. opposed Israel, France, and Britain. The U.S. motive was not to support Arab nationalism or Nasser in particular, but to further supplant the European imperialists who had previously colonized these parts of the world. To look briefly at the background of this, in the aftermath of World War 1, with the defeat of the old Ottoman Empire, centered in Turkey, France and England basically divided up the Middle East between them—some of it was allotted to the French sphere of influence, as essentially French colonies, and other parts were under British control. But then after World War 2—through which Japan as well as Germany and Italy were thoroughly defeated, and countries like France and Britain were weakened, while the U.S. was greatly strengthened—the U.S. moved to create a new order in the world and, as part of that, to impose in the Third World, in place of the old-line colonialism, a new form of colonialism (neo-colonialism) through which the U.S. would maintain effective control of countries and their political structures and economic life, even where they became formally independent. And, as part of this, Israel was made to find its place in relation to the now more fully realized and aggressively asserted American domination in the Middle East.
But, out of his stand in what became the “Suez crisis,” and as a result of other nationalist moves, Nasser and “Nasserism” developed a widespread following in the Arab countries in particular. In this situation, the U.S., while not seeking overtly to overthrow Nasser, worked to undermine Nasserism and generally more secular forces—including, obviously, communist forces—that were opposed to, or stood in the way of, U.S. imperialism. And, especially after the 1967 war, in which Israel defeated surrounding Arab states and seized additional Palestinian territory (now generally referred to as the “occupied territories,” outside of the state of Israel which itself rests on land stolen from the Palestinians), Israel has been firmly backed by and has acted as a force on behalf of U.S. imperialism.
Defeat at the hands of Israel in the 1967 war contributed significantly to a decline in the stature and influence of Nasser and Nasserism —and similar, more or less secular, leaders and trends—among the people in the Middle East; and by the time of his death in 1970, Nasser had already begun to lose a significant amount of his luster in the eyes of the Arab masses.
Here again we can see another dimension to the complexity of things. The practical defeats and failure of Nasser had the effect of undermining, in the eyes of increasing numbers of people, the legitimacy, or viability, of what Nasser represented ideologically. Now, the fact is that “Nasserism” and similar ideological and political trends do not represent and cannot lead to a thorough rupture with imperialist domination and to all forms of the oppression and exploitation of the people. But that is something which has to be, and is in fact, established by a scientific analysis of what is represented by such ideologies and programs and what they aim to achieve, and are actually capable of achieving; it is not proven by the fact that, in certain particular instances or even over a certain limited period of time, the leaders personifying and seeking to implement such ideologies and programs suffer setbacks and defeats. In the ways in which masses of people in the Arab countries (and more broadly) responded to such setbacks and defeats, on the part of Nasser and those more or less representing the same ideology and program, there was a definite element of pragmatism—the notion that, even in the short run, what prevails is true and good, and what suffers losses is flawed and bankrupt. And, of course, a spontaneous tendency toward such pragmatism, among the masses of people, has been reinforced by the verdicts pronounced by the imperialists and other reactionaries—not only, of course, in relation to secular forces such as Nasser but, even more so, in relation to communists and communism, which represent a much more fundamental opposition to imperialism and reaction.
Over the recent decades, and at least until very recently, the U.S. and Israel have worked to undermine secular forces among the opposition to them in the Middle East (and elsewhere) and have at least objectively favored, where they have not deliberately fostered, the growth of Islamic fundamentalist forces. During the “Cold War,” this was, to a significant degree, out of a calculation that these Islamic fundamentalists would be much less likely to align themselves with the Soviet camp. And, to no small degree, this favoring of religious fundamentalists over more secular forces has been motivated by the recognition of the inherently conservative, indeed reactionary, essence of this religious fundamentalism, and the fact that, to a significant degree, it can act as a useful foil for the imperialists (and Israel) in presenting themselves as an enlightened, democratic force for progress.
Now, one of the ironies of this whole experience is that Nasser, and other Arab nationalist heads of state, viciously and murderously suppressed not only Islamic fundamentalist opposition (such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt) but also communists. But, with what has taken place on the world stage, so to speak, in recent decades—including what has happened in China and the Soviet Union (as discussed above) and the widely propagated verdict that this represents the “defeat” of communism; the seizure of power in Iran by Islamic fundamentalists, with the fall of the Shah of Iran in the late 1970s; the resistance to the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, which by the late 1980s forced a Soviet withdrawal and contributed significantly to the downfall of the Soviet Union itself; and with the setbacks and defeats for more or less secular rulers like Nasser (and more recently someone like Saddam Hussein) in the Middle East and elsewhere—it has, in the short term, been the Islamic fundamentalists, much more than revolutionaries and communists, who have been able to regroup, and to experience a significant growth in influence and organized strength.
Another example of this whole trajectory, from the 1950s to the present time—which illustrates, in very stark and graphic terms, the points being made above—is the country of Indonesia. During the 1950s and 1960s Indonesia had the third largest communist party in the world (only in the Soviet Union and China were the communist parties larger). The Indonesian Communist Party had a massive following among the poor in the urban areas (whose slums, in the city of Jakarta and elsewhere, were already legendary in the negative sense), as well as among the peasants in the countryside and sections of the intellectuals and even some more nationalist bourgeois strata. Unfortunately, the Indonesian Communist Party also had a very eclectic line—a mixed bag of communism and revisionism, of seeking revolutionary change but also trying to work through parliamentary means within the established government structures.
The government at that time was headed by the nationalist leader Achmed Sukarno. Now, an important insight into this was provided as part of a visit I made to China in the 1970s, during which some members of the Chinese Communist Party talked about the experience of the Indonesian Communist Party, and they specifically recounted: We used to struggle with comrade Aidit (the head of the Indonesian Communist Party during the period of Sukarno’s government); we warned him about what could happen as a result of trying to have one foot in communism and revolution and one foot in reformism and revisionism. But the Indonesian Communist Party persisted on the same path, with its eclectic approach; and in 1965 the U.S., through the CIA, working with the Indonesian military and a leading general, Suharto, carried out a bloody coup, in which hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists, and others, were massacred, the Communist Party of Indonesia was thoroughly decimated, and at the same time Sukarno was ousted as the head of government and replaced by Suharto.
In the course of this coup, the rivers around Jakarta became clogged with the bodies of the victims: the reactionaries would kill people, alleged or actual communists, and throw their bodies, in massive numbers, into the rivers. And, in a phenomenon that is all too familiar, once this coup—which the CIA led, organized and engineered—was unleashed and carried out, all kinds of people who were involved in personal or family disputes and feuds would start accusing other people of being communists and turning them in to the authorities, with the result that a lot of people who weren’t even communists got slaughtered, along with many who were. Once the imperialists and reactionaries unleashed this blood-letting, this encouraged and gave impetus to, and swept many people up in, a kind of bloodlust of revenge. The CIA openly brags about how they not only organized and orchestrated this coup but also specifically targeted several thousand of the leading communists and got rid of them directly, within this larger massacre of hundreds of thousands.
The fundamental problem with the strategy of the Indonesian Communist Party was that the nature of the state—and in particular the military—had not changed: the parliament was to a large degree made up of nationalists and communists, but the state was still in the hands of the reactionary classes; and because their control of the state had never been broken, and the old state apparatus in which they maintained control was never shattered and dismantled, Suharto and other reactionary forces were able, working together with and under the direction of the CIA, to pull off this bloody coup, with its terrible consequences.
In this regard, another anecdote that was recounted by members of the Chinese Communist Party is very telling and poignant. They told a story about how Sukarno had a scepter that he used to carry around, and the Chinese officials who met with him asked him, “What is this scepter you carry around?” And Sukarno replied: “This scepter represents state power.” Well, the Chinese comrades telling this story summed up: “Sukarno still has the scepter, they let him keep that, but he doesn’t have any state power.”
The Indonesian Communist Party was all but totally wiped out, physically—its membership was virtually exterminated, with only a few remnants of it here and there—a devastating blow from which it has never recovered. And the decimation was not only in literal and physical terms but also was expressed in ideological and political defeat, disorientation and demoralization. Over the decades since then, what has happened in Indonesia? One of the most striking developments is the tremendous growth of Islamic fundamentalism in Indonesia. The communist alternative was wiped out. In its place—in part being consciously fostered by the imperialists and other reactionary forces, but partly growing on its own momentum in the context where a powerful secular and, at least in name, communist opposition had been destroyed—Islamic fundamentalism filled the vacuum that had been left by the lack of a real alternative to the highly oppressive rule of Suharto and his cronies that was installed and kept in power for decades by the U.S.4
All this—what has taken place in Indonesia, as well as in Egypt, Palestine, and other parts of the Middle East—is a political dimension which has been combined with the economic and social factors mentioned above—the upheaval and volatility and rapid change imposed from the top and seemingly coming from unknown and/or alien and foreign sources and powers—to undermine and weaken secular, including genuinely revolutionary and communist, forces and to strengthen Islamic fundamentalism (in a way similar to how Christian fundamentalism has been gaining strength in Latin America and parts of Africa).
This is obviously a tremendously significant phenomenon. It is a major part of the objective reality that people throughout the world who are seeking to bring about change in a progressive direction—and still more those who are striving to achieve truly radical change guided by a revolutionary and communist outlook—have to confront and transform. And in order to do that, it is necessary, first of all, to seriously engage and understand this reality, rather than remaining dangerously ignorant of it, or adopting an orientation of stubbornly ignoring it. It is necessary, and indeed crucial, to dig down beneath the surface of this phenomenon and its various manifestations, to grasp more deeply what are the underlying and driving dynamics in all this—what are the fundamental contradictions and what are the particular expressions of fundamental and essential contradictions, on a world scale and within particular countries and regions in the world—that this religious fundamentalism is the expression of, and how, on the basis of that deeper understanding, can a movement be developed to win masses of people away from this and to something which can actually bring about a radically different and much better world.
Rejecting the “Smug Arrogance of the Enlightened”
There is a definite tendency among those who are “people of the Enlightenment,” shall we say—including, it must be said, some communists—to fall into what amounts to a smugly arrogant attitude toward religious fundamentalism and religion in general. Because it seems so absurd, and difficult to comprehend, that people living in the 21st century can actually cling to religion and in fact adhere, in a fanatical and absolutist way, to dogmas and notions that are clearly without any foundation in reality, it is easy to dismiss this whole phenomenon and fail to recognize, or to correctly approach, the fact that this is indeed taken very seriously by masses of people. And this includes more than a few people among the lower, deeper sections of the proletariat and other oppressed people who need to be at the very base and bedrock of—and be a driving force within—the revolution that can actually lead to emancipation.
It is a form of contempt for the masses to fail to take seriously the deep belief that many of them have in religion, including religious fundamentalism of one kind or another, just as tailing after the fact that many believe in these things and refusing to struggle with them to give this up is also in reality an expression of contempt for them. The hold of religion on masses of people, including among the most oppressed, is a major shackle on them, and a major obstacle to mobilizing them to fight for their own emancipation and to be emancipators of all humanity—and it must be understood, and struggled against, with that understanding, even as, at any given time, it is necessary, possible, and crucial, in the fight against injustice and oppression, to unite as broadly as possible with people who continue to hold religious beliefs.
The Growth of Religion and Religious Fundamentalism: A Peculiar Expression of a Fundamental Contradiction
Another strange, or peculiar, expression of contradictions in the world today is that, on the one hand, there is all this highly developed technology and sophisticated technique in fields such as medicine and other spheres, including information technology (and, even taking into account that large sections of the population in many parts of the world, and significant numbers even within the “technologically advanced” countries, still do not have access to this advanced technology, growing numbers of people actually do have access to the Internet and to the extensive amounts of information available through the Internet, and in other ways) and yet, at the same time, there is the tremendous growth of, let’s call it what it is: organized ignorance, in the form of religion and religious fundamentalism in particular. This appears as not only a glaring but a strange contradiction: so much technology and knowledge on the one hand, and yet on the other hand so much widespread ignorance and belief in, and retreat into, obscurantist superstition.
Well, along with analyzing this in terms of the economic, social, and political factors that have given rise to this (to which I have spoken above) another, and even more basic, way of understanding this is that it is an extremely acute expression in today’s world of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism: the contradiction between highly socialized production and private (capitalist) appropriation of what is produced.
Where does all this technology come from? On what basis has it been produced? And speaking specifically of the dissemination of information, and the basis for people to acquire knowledge—what is that founded on? All the technology that exists—and, for that matter, the wealth that has been created—has been produced in socialized forms by millions and millions of people through an international network of production and exchange; but all this takes place under the command of a relative handful of capitalists, who appropriate the wealth produced—and appropriate the knowledge produced as well—and bend it to their purposes.
What is this an illustration of? It is, for one thing, a refutation of the “theory of the productive forces,” which argues that the more technology you have, the more enlightenment there will be, more or less directly in relation to that technology—and, in its “Marxist” expression, it argues that the greater the development of technology, the closer things will be to socialism or to communism. Well, look around the world. Why is this not the case? Because of a very fundamental fact: All this technology, all the forces of production, “go through,” and have to “go through,” certain definite production relations—they can be developed and utilized only by being incorporated into what the prevailing ensemble of production relations is at any given time. And, in turn, there are certain class and social relations that are themselves an expression of (or are in any case in general correspondence with) the prevailing production relations; and there is a superstructure of politics, ideology, and culture whose essential character reflects and reinforces all those relations. So, it is not a matter of productive forces—including all the technology and knowledge—just existing in a social vacuum and being distributed and utilized in a way that is divorced from the production relations through which it is developed and employed (and the corresponding class and social relations and superstructure). This takes place, and can only take place, through one or another set of production, social and class relations, with the corresponding customs, cultures, ways of thinking, political institutions, and so on.
In the world today, dominated as it is by the capitalist-imperialist system, this technology and knowledge is “going through” the existing capitalist and imperialist relations and superstructure—and one of the main manifestations of this is the extremely grotesque disparity between what is appropriated by a tiny handful—and a lesser amount that is meted out to broader strata in some of the imperialist countries, in order to stabilize those countries and to mollify and pacify sections of the population who are not part of the ruling class there—while amongst the great majority of humanity there is unbelievable poverty and suffering and ignorance. And, along with this profound disparity, we are witnessing this peculiar contradiction between so much technology and so much knowledge, on the one hand, and yet such widespread belief in, and retreat into, obscurantist superstition, particularly in the form of religious fundamentalism—all of which is in fact an expression of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism.
This is an extremely important point to understand. If, instead of this understanding, one were to proceed with a more linear approach and method, it would be easy to fall into saying: “I don’t get it, there is all this technology, all this knowledge, why are so many people so ignorant and so mired in superstition?” Once again, the answer—and it is an answer that touches on the most fundamental of relations in the world—is that it is because of the prevailing production, social and class relations, the political institutions, structures, and processes, and the rest of the superstructure—the prevailing culture, the ways of thinking, the customs, habits, and so on, which correspond to and reinforce the system of capitalist accumulation, as this finds expression in the era where capitalism has developed into a worldwide system of exploitation and oppression.
This is another important perspective from which to understand the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism. The more this disparity grows, the more there is a breeding ground for religious fundamentalism and related tendencies. At the same time, and in acute contradiction to this, there is also a potentially more powerful basis for revolutionary transformation. All of the profound disparities in the world—not only in terms of conditions of life but also with regard to access to knowledge—can be overcome only through the communist revolution, whose aim is to wrest control of society out the hands of the imperialists and other exploiters and to advance, through the increasingly conscious initiative of growing numbers of people, to achieve (in the formulation of Marx) the elimination of all class distinctions, all the production relations on which these class distinctions rest, and all the social relations that correspond to those production relations, and to revolutionize all the ideas that correspond to those social relations—in order to bring about, ultimately and fundamentally on world scale, a society of freely associating human beings, who consciously and voluntarily cooperate for the common good, while also giving increasing scope to the initiative and creativity of the members of society as a whole.
1. For many of the same reasons that have been touched on here, religious fundamentalism has also been strengthened in recent decades among sections of the poor, oppressed, and marginalized within the U.S. This includes the fact that there is a conscious strategy, on the part of powerful sections of the ruling class in the U.S., aimed at promoting religious fundamentalism among masses of people whose conditions of life cry out for radical change, and ensnaring them in the reactionary ideology and political program of which this religious fundamentalism is a concentrated expression.
The growth of fundamentalism among significant numbers of people within the broad category of the “middle class” in the U.S. is largely due to other factors, including: a heightened sense of anxiety owing to an economy and a culture which promotes and provides seemingly ceaseless consumption on the basis of expansive credit and debt; a sense of volatility and insecurity in the economy and in society overall; a feeling of losing control even over their children in the face of technological changes (cable and satellite TV, the Internet, etc.); a sense of loss of “place” and community in a society and culture which produce atomization and promote extreme individualism. But what is very important to understand is that, especially among the “middle class” in the U.S., this phenomenon of growing fundamentalism is also a product of the parasitism of imperialism—of the fact that U.S. imperialism in particular is the world’s dominant power, which lives off, and could not do without, the super-exploitation of masses of people throughout the Third World, and that people in the U.S., particularly within the “middle class,” are “high up on the food chain” among the world’s peoples. And, it is important to note, what is involved in the religious fundamentalism that finds adherents particularly in the suburbs and exurbs of America is a deep-seated sense of the role of America as “God’s chosen nation,” accompanied by an aggressive assertion of American chauvinism, as well as of traditional relations and values which embody white supremacy and male supremacy.
The phenomenon of fundamentalism, and in particular Christian fascist fundamentalism, in the U.S. will be returned to in a later section of this book.[back]
2. In addition to what is contained in a number of writings and talks of mine that speak to this subject, an analysis of important aspects of the actual experience of socialism in the Soviet Union and in China, and answers to the slanders and distortions of this experience, is provided by the project Set the Record Straight. This can be accessed, and more information about this is provided, online at thisiscommunism.org.[back]
3. An important source of information and analysis in regard to these events in Iran and their consequences is All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer (John Wiley & Sons Publisher, 2003).[back]
4. In addition to brutally oppressing the people of Indonesia itself, the regime of Suharto carried out a genocidal reign of terror in East Timor, massacring a huge section of the population there—and in this, too, it was backed and assisted by U.S. imperialism, through successive administrations, including that of Bill Clinton.[back]
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
On September 27—one week after tens of thousands protested in Jena to demand the Jena 6 be freed—Mychal Bell was finally released from jail. One of six Black youth facing years in prison for standing up to racism, Bell had been UNJUSTLY locked up for over nine months. UNJUSTLY charged and tried by an all-white jury. UNJUSTLY convicted in a trial where no witnesses were called on his behalf. UNJUSTLY denied bail, even after his conviction was overturned. And Bell is now UNJUSTLY being kept on home confinement and forced to wear a monitoring device on his ankle. The fact that Mychal Bell is no longer behind bars is a real victory for the people—an accomplishment due solely to the fact that people have stood up in a massive way to demand a STOP to the prosecution of the Jena 6. But this struggle is FAR FROM OVER.
Even before all the buses of protesters had left Jena, a racist backlash jumped out. White racists repeatedly drove by with nooses hanging from the back of their pickup truck. White supremacist websites put up racist, hateful slurs about the Jena 6 case and posted the names, phone numbers, and addresses of family members of the Jena 6, aimed at inciting racist vigilantes to take action. Family members of the Jena 6 started getting threatening phone calls. New racist bathroom wall graffiti and threats against the Jena 6 appeared at the high school. All this underscores that an important part of this struggle is to resist such threats and protect the Jena 6 and their families from any retaliation and harm.
Justin Barker, the white student the Jena 6 are accused of beating up, and his parents gave an interview to the editor of a white supremacist publication. The paper’s editor also interviewed Jena’s mayor, Murphy McMillin, telling him he “would like to arrange to set aside some place for those opposing the colored folks,” to which McMillin said, “I am not endorsing any demonstrations, but I do appreciate what you are trying to do.”
These attacks on the Jena 6 have been accompanied by stepped-up official efforts to pave the way for prosecuting the Jena 6—spearheaded by the racist District Attorney Reed Walters. This is the same DA who has been on the scene, set on enforcing white supremacy from the get. This is the DA who in the very beginning, threatened Black students who protested the nooses. This DA is set on prosecuting Bell in juvenile court. And he has gone on a major offensive in the media in recent weeks. He has been given major air time and space in newspapers (like the op-ed page of the New York Times) to present his WRONG and RACIST version of this case and to create public opinion against the Jena 6. He is being widely quoted in the media, spreading the lie that this case is not about race, that it has nothing to do with the nooses being hung, that it is just about getting justice for the so-called “victim,” Justin Barker.
This is a concerted attempt to cover up the TRUTH of this case. A blatant effort to wipe away and deny the very reason this case has touched a nerve among millions of Black people all over this country. Reed Walters wants to wipe away, with the stroke of his pen, the real facts of this case: A “whites-only tree.” Nooses. Blatant, racist, double standards of so-called courtroom “justice.” A vicious KKK defense of the so-called “victim.”
Reed Walters continues to insist this case is not about racism. And this alone shows where he is coming from—that he is prosecuting the Jena 6 as an enforcer of white supremacy. And this is why no one should believe anything he has to say about this case.
The People Demand REAL Justice
The people must demand real justice—and nothing less! And this means the struggle must be built and go on until ALL the charges are dropped and the Jena 6 are free.
“FREE THE JENA 6!” has become a mass demand of people all around the country. Now, in the wake of the powerful manifestation of this demand on September 20—and the racist backlash and continuing efforts by the system to prosecute the Jena 6, this struggle must become even bigger, broader, and more determined; it must NOT STOP until all the charges are dropped and all six of these young men are freed. Anything less than this will not be real justice.
Many people have pointed out that this case shows how the U.S. court system is racist, that the law is applied unequally and unfairly, especially when it comes to Black youth. This is indeed true. And the whole way Black youth are railroaded in the courts is a big part of the whole future this system has in store for millions of Black youth—a hopeless future of unemployment, low-wage jobs, police brutality and murder, and prison.
But this battle cannot be about the Jena 6 getting a “fair trial.” THEY SHOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN CHARGED TO BEGIN WITH. THEY SHOULD NOT EVEN BE ON TRIAL. AND THE PEOPLE MUST PREVENT THEM FROM SPENDING ONE SECOND IN JAIL FOR THE “CRIME” OF STANDING UP AGAINST RACISM.
The whole reason tens of thousands of people have been moved to actively get involved in this struggle is because it is about something much bigger than a schoolyard fight in which “the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.” NO. This is NOT about, as some people say, even some who are part of the struggle, giving the white students and Black students equally appropriate punishment. There has been grossly unequal so-called “justice” in this case exactly because it is about much more than a “schoolyard fight.” And the people cannot settle for anything less than ALL the charges against ALL the Jena 6 being dropped. Calling for something like “equal punishment” for racists and those who stood against racism makes no distinction between right and wrong. And the view that “if you’re going to charge one, then charge the other,” when you get right down to it, ends up accepting the terms of Reed Walters’ LYING argument that this is not about racism, that the prosecution of the Jena 6 has no connection to the hanging of the nooses and other racist attacks by white students.
For all those of all nationalities who hate racism, there is a moral imperative to GET INVOLVED in this struggle. You can’t sit this one out! The whole context, all the events leading up to the Jena 6 being arrested, is not irrelevant. In, fact you can’t understand what this case is all about unless you step back and look at the larger context of the oppression of Black people in this country—and how it manifests itself on a daily basis. And this is what people have to confront and then fight against.
Tens of thousands of Black people came from all over the country to Jena, exactly because they have a real sense that this is not just about what’s happening in Jena. And they are right. It’s the whole thing—the way this system chews up so many Black and other minority youth, and everything else the system has been bringing down on people for years and years and more. And it’s a fact: the only thing that has prevented these young men from being totally railroaded already and that has won some beginning concessions, has been the power of the people in struggle. Millions of people are outraged at the prosecution of the Jena 6. Tens of thousands have felt compelled to act to stop this great injustice. And the whole situation of racism, segregation and the KKK running amok has gotten millions of people questioning WHY things like this are still going on. As one t-shirt worn in Jena on September 20 said, we need to “Get to the root of the problem.”
This underscores the importance of getting this newspaper out far and wide. It not only tells the real story of the Jena 6—it breaks down why it happened and why things like this keep happening. It puts things in the light of the whole society that so badly cries out for revolution. It gives people crucial insights, like Bob Avakian’s series on national oppression: “The Oppression of Black People and the Revolutionary Struggle to End All Oppression”—which are great articles to bring into classroom discussions.
As people are lifting their heads, taking up the struggle to free the Jena 6, feeling the power of the people—this paper needs to get out to the high schools, the places where people work and live and hang out. Get people together and watch the DVD of Bob Avakian’s speech, “Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, and What It’s All About.” People’s outrage, as well as their joy for what was accomplished with the September 20 demonstrations must be given further political expression. The struggle to free the Jena 6 should be one big part of October 22—the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation. And as we continue to build the struggle to free the Jena 6, let’s spread the idea of revolution.
The people must stop, through mass political action, this violent enforcement of white supremacy and prevent yet another case of Black youth disappearing into the system’s dungeons. There are real stakes in this struggle. There is a real battle to WIN. For justice, for the futures of the six young men in Jena and the youth more generally, and over what kind of society this is going to be. The Jena 6 must be freed. And all this must become part of a growing revolutionary movement.
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
It’s spreading. The struggle to Free the Jena 6, Black youth who face decades in prison for standing up against racism after nooses were hung on a “whites- only” tree at their high school (see Jena page at revcom.us) continues with the story of the Jena 6 coming up in many different corners of society—websites, Facebook, Myspace, blogs and intense debate and discussion on the internet; classroom discussions; daytime talk shows; radio and op-ed commentary.
People find out about this case, are outraged, and feel compelled to act. And in the wake of the powerful demonstration in Jena on September 20, there were nationwide student walkouts and other actions on Monday, October 1, 2007 called by a coalition of students, artists, and activists which included artists Mos Def, Common, M1, Talib Kweli; the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; The Hip Hop Association and others.
The call for October 1 put out a list of demands—the first, for all the charges against the Jena 6 to be dropped. A press release issued by the coalition on the October 1 walkouts stated: “This case has become a symbol for the Black community of the disproportionate arrest and incarceration rate of Black people and the excessive punishment of Black students in schools across the country. Many local organizers say what is happening to the Jena 6 youth is similar to what happens in their cities.” Over 55 schools endorsed the action.
Hundreds of students walked out and rallied in New York City, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Dozens participated at University of Colorado at Boulder, Howard University in Washington D.C., University of Louisville, University of Texas, Houston-Tillotson University, Oakland High and Watsonville High in California, and more. As we go to press, we are still hearing reports of the many ways in which schools manifested the demand to “Free the Jena 6” on October 1, which included the participation of not only Black students but white students and those of other nationalities as well.
At University of Colorado at Boulder, over 50 students, Black and white, rallied in support of the Jena 6. CU Boulder student Jarvis Fuller said, “A lot of stuff that happened at the Jena 6 happens here. I’ve had a number of incidents from anything from being harassed by the police to receiving a racist death threat.” A student who walked out of her American foreign policy class recounted how she challenged others. “I said, ‘There’s a walkout today, right now, to show support for the Jena 6, and if anyone wants to join me in a stand against oppression, come now.’” Black and white students walked out of East High School in Denver and stood alongside the road, chanting, cheering, and holding signs that said, “Honk to Free the Jena 6.”
At University of Massachusetts in Amherst, high school youth joined university students to rally and march. A spokesperson for the Black Students Union declared, “This is not just about the Jena 6; it’s about racism in America.” Many signs reflected the outrage at the nooses being hung. A poster displayed pictures of nooses and said, “This is not a joke!” Organizers wore T-shirts with a photograph of a lynching and the question “Just a prank?” A student ran down the story of the Jena 6 and then exclaimed, “Let’s all walk through this town and be loud and noisy as hell!” The march went through campus and out to the Amherst Center, taking up two lanes of traffic and chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, racism has got to go!” and “No Justice! No Peace!” People on the streets saw the protest and joined in.
In New York City, hundreds of students marched from a number of colleges, including New York University, Fordham, the New School, Hunter College, and Columbia University. Students held signs and banners that said, “Resist” and “Jena 6, New York’s got your back!” They converged outside City Hall for a rally.
At Watsonville High School, which is overwhelmingly Latino, students initiated a sit-in at lunch. Senior Viri DeLaCruz, a student organizer there, told Revolution how as part of the nationwide immigration rights demonstrations on May 1, 2006, spirited walkouts took place for three consecutive days. This time a lot of students still didn’t know about the Jena 6, and so a small group of students held the sit-in, saying they thought it would draw attention to this issue more so than a few students walking out. Other students joined them and drew local media attention. One student commented to reporters, “If we don’t take a stand against discrimination and racism, who will?” Watsonville students are now planning other actions in support of the Jena 6. The principal gave what’s known as “Saturday suspensions” (requiring students to come to school for an extra day) to all those who participated in the sit-in, and now the students are planning to fight this.
In Jena the situation continues to intensify. At Jena High School—where the “whites-only tree” once stood and nooses were hung—there is daily repression against those who try to show support for the Jena 6 in any way. Students at Jena High have reported that at the school they are not allowed to even talk about the Jena 6 case or the September 20 protests. Meanwhile, a racist threat towards the Jena 6 with the phrase, “White Power!” was written on the bathroom walls and nothing has been done about it. There is a real need for people around the country, especially students and youth, to find the ways to “have these students’ backs,” to support them in resisting this racist censorship.
Mychal Bell is now set to be tried in juvenile court—with the same judge and the same district attorney who have been fighting tooth and nail to steal away his life. We cannot wait for another unjust conviction of any of the Jena 6. The struggle must grow and make leaps from here, continually and in many ways manifesting the demand of FREE THE JENA 6! Drop all the charges! And students and youth must continue to get organized and come out in mass numbers. On October 1 in New York City, a student organizer commented, “We realize it’s not an isolated incident, this is a cry for our youth to stand up—there is power in the people.” He told reporters that more protests are being organized, possibly every month until the charges are dropped. This is the spirit and determination that needs to continue to become an infectious, organized, and visible force in the growing nationwide struggle to “Free the Jena 6!”
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
We received the following report from a correspondent in Los Angeles, about a walkout at a high school in Watts in support of the Jena 6 on September 20. See last week’s Revolution for articles about the protest of tens of thousands in Jena on that day and in many cities and campuses around the country (available online at revcom.us).
On September 20, students at Locke High School in Watts ran down the hall, pounding on lockers and shouting “Free the Jena 6,” and then burst out through the front doors. Close to a thousand youth walked out of the school and filled the street outside, some holding up homemade signs or Revolution newspaper posters.
Black and Latino students acted together to carry out this protest. One young Black woman carried a sign she had made the night before with clippings from Revolution newspaper: pictures of the “whites-only” tree in Jena, the students at Howard University wearing “Free the Jena 6” t-shirts, and Latino immigrants in foot shackles being led away by immigration police. She compared that picture of the immigrants in chains to what Black people have gone through in history and face today. A Chicana student said, “It’s not just Black, there’s Mexicans here too because we’re all in this together.”
Several hundred of the students who walked out marched about two miles down Imperial Highway to Southwest College where they held a speak-out. Police followed the march all the way, telling the students to get on the sidewalk, but they refused. Passing cars honked in support, and residents and store owners raised their fists and applauded.
At Southwest, a teacher’s assistant told Revolution: “I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe all those kids. They were coming out because they believe in a cause. That melted my heart. It was not only the Blacks, but every other race came together. They had been talking about the situation [in Jena] for days and asking ‘What should we do?’ They talked about how they get arrested for no reason, none at all, and how it’s not right. It’s an injustice and people need to protest because the people have the power.” She continued, “I came here to speak up and a police officer told me to lower my voice! I said, ‘I will not lower my voice!’ We won’t shut up. We won’t stop for nothing!”
Rally at Leimert Park
September 20 actions in Los Angeles started with a 6 a.m. march of about a hundred people down Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood organized by the Black Surfers Association. A rally in Leimert Park drew nearly a thousand people from all over the city. College students who had held rallies at their schools and students from nearby high schools came after school. Some of the Locke students made their way to Leimert as well.
A young Chicana from Valley College said, “We’re supposed to be equal, but we’re not… When I first heard about this I just couldn’t believe the nooses… This stuff is still going on. It wasn’t just back then.”
Two Locke students got on stage, and one told the crowd, “We walked out because we feel that actions speak louder than words. We went to Southwest College and now we’re here [in Leimert]. It made me feel angry that they can do this to Black folks. That they can just kill us and grab people up for doing nothing. This is happening everywhere.” A woman on stage with them said, “I’m a student at Southwest College. I was so touched to see these young people come to our school—they walked all the way from Locke High School in Watts—and it just really touched me so much that I wanted to be a part of it.”
Another student from Valley College said, “We need the radicals back on the high school and college campuses. We need to get people to open their eyes to what’s going on in the world. People shouldn’t just look straight at what’s in front of them. People need to be open-minded to everything, not just one thing.”
“We Need to Start a Movement”
A couple weeks ago most Locke students didn’t know about the Jena 6, but when they found out they became outraged and active. On Tuesday, two Chicano students from the school boarded a bus for the long trip to Jena. One of them had started announcing it in her classes from the minute she decided to go. A teacher proudly told her to go to Jena and represent Locke there. The student told her classmates that they had to do something important at the school on September 20.
One of the students who started organizing early on described the transformation at the school. “I did a current event on the Jena 6 and people couldn’t believe that this was happening here and now. People were dumbfounded…then we started to get out the word of the walkout and things spread really fast.” She said, “Revolution was really important because it showed people the truth that they don’t get anywhere else. That’s how they [the students] found out about this. The teachers told us that they support us and that they’re behind us—that we should keep it up.”
In the days leading up to the walkout, students covered the hallways with posters and signs saying “Free the Jena 6.” As the students gathered for the walkout on Sept. 20, one of them explained, “We need to start a movement. We wanted to, but we couldn’t go down to Louisiana. But this [walkout] is how we can support this.”
Near the end of the day, a freshman from Locke who had gone to the rally at Leimert Park said, “I feel that it was important to make a statement by walking out—we’re showing people that we do care about what’s going on to the people, no matter how far away they are. I’m standing up for something I believe in.”
The student who had done the current event said, “The fact that this is happening now really got people fed up. We’re fed up with what the system is doing to us. It’s not just the Jena 6. We’re fed up with what’s going on in the world.” She ended her comments by saying, “We have to keep on fighting.”
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
There were two full buses that left for Jena from Los Angeles, and I was one of 4 or 5 Latinos that got on. The conversations on the road were wild and fun and at times very intense! Many people on the bus had gotten the Revolution newspaper, which sparked great discussions on the different articles. There was a very heated debate on immigration and there was disagreement over the comparison made in the poster from Revolution newspaper that shows an old photograph with two drinking fountains, one for whites and the other for Blacks, and then asks the question: What’s the difference between ENGLISH ONLY and WHITES ONLY?
There was a vocal minority on the bus that was putting out all kinds of wrong arguments around immigration—the same arguments that anti-immigrant vigilante groups like the Minutemen make. This is dangerous shit! It was not good to see Black people spewing out the bullshit lies that “immigrants are taking our jobs” or that “they’re taking away things that are meant for Black people” or that “they’re illegal but yet get treated better than Blacks”…and that “immigrants should learn ENGLISH”!
Around the poster, some disliked it at first, almost saying: how dare you compare both! I spoke to how there wasn’t a difference, including the fact that the outcome is to make a section of people into “second-class citizens” and justifying the persecution and brutality against them. Really, what is the difference between slave-catchers during slavery times and the ICE raids happening and intensifying around the country TODAY!
It was as if all critical thinking went out the window when it came to understanding why people come here from all over the world and what’s the real source of oppression for Black people. It was pretty bad for about an hour, the worst you could think of came out, and it was even influencing others more broadly on the bus. It was as if somehow the immigrants were now the new oppressors!
The reality is that Blacks and immigrants have a common oppressor. I kept struggling and struggling and focusing on the fundamental point that the real source of oppression for Black people (and for billions on this planet) is in fact this system—this rotten system of capitalism that destroys people and the planet—and that the only revolutionary way out of all this oppression is revolution to uproot this system.
Things began to change and others began to get on my side—both young and old. They started to argue against these wrong positions from their own points of view. Things got more two-sided. Some would say it was the corporations not the immigrants that need to be blamed for the poverty in the Black communities. Others would argue that “you’re being racist like the white people by saying all this shit about immigrants.” At some point I used the example from Bob Avakian’s REVOLUTION DVD of how the system “played” both the Buffalo soldiers (who hunted down Native American people to “prove that they were loyal Americans”) and the Cherokees (who owned slaves that worked on the plantations) only to have the system turn around and betray them. We all started talking about “divide and conquer” and who does it ultimately serve?
Interestingly, this same conversation began to go in another direction—towards what could be done if the people had power in their hands. I agitated around the point that’s in Bob Avakian’s “Views on Socialism and Communism” series—that all the things that “frustrate” us because we can’t fundamentally change them (everything we’d been talking about on the bus) is solely because we don’t have revolutionary state power. I gave examples of what HAS happened when our class, the proletariat (made up of different nationalities throughout the world), had state power—we’ve been able to do really great things. I told the story of China and how when Mao Tsetung led the masses to make revolution to seize state power, one of the things that they did was to save from extinction certain languages of minority populations as a way of combating and overcoming the history of national oppression. And there were many other examples of what got transformed in China as a result of having power in the hands of the people—in education, health care, life expectancy, etc. Without a revolution to seize state power, all of this would not have been possible and TODAY the road to a better world, a communist world, will not open up without first making revolution to seize state power!
Very wild, fun, intense…and full of possibilities!!
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
In his three-and-a-half-minute video, “Jena: Take your nooses down!” John Mellencamp takes an important stand on behalf of the Jena 6—the six Black youth in Jena, Louisiana who still face decades in prison for standing up against nooses hung in their schoolyard. In his lyrics and images, Mellencamp captures how the Jena 6 case concentrates the bitter history of generation after generation of Black people terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan, beaten by police, and kept “in place” by a white supremacist culture and courts. He doesn’t shy away from or prettify the history of lynchings, the real meaning of nooses with Black men and Black couples hanging limp from trees. And he shows the ugliness of all too many white people—students striking against integration, Klansmen smiling unabashedly, even a sign that reads “God Demands Segregation.” On the flip side, this short video captures the smiling and hopeful faces of Black children, the youth of a generation ago who defied water hoses, and a new generation pumping their fists in the air as tens of thousands flooded into Jena on September 20 to demand justice.
Mellencamp is known for singing about Middle America, people living in the heartland. This makes Mellencamp’s new anthem on Jena even more poignant and refreshing—for how it will challenge his audience, as well as for how it indicates the possibility of much broader alliances against racism and national oppression, way beyond the tens of thousands of Black people who have taken up this case so far.
In times like these—of grave and towering injustices coming on top of generations of horrors as well as new tremors of resistance and upsurge—the people need music to be inspired by. And white people in particular need to be challenged and moved to stand up for the Jena 6 and to join the struggle to put an end to white supremacy once and for all. Mellencamp has put out a song and video that will provide both a window into the hopes and horrors of our times for future generations as well as an anthem for today’s generation in our attempts to forge a better world for those yet to come. Check out the video at: http://relative-way.com/jenastream/
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
World Can’t Wait:
The following information about the Declare It Now: Wear Orange! campaign is from World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime. Their website is worldcantwait.org.
We Are What We’ve Been Waiting For
If ever there was a time to step outside the boundaries of what “common wisdom” accepts as possible, this is it. We need—the whole world needs—a movement of massive and powerful RESISTANCE, a movement that begins to wrench the future of humanity out of the blood drenched hands of the likes of Bush and Cheney and puts it in the hands of the people. A movement that unseats a sitting president, and creates a new atmosphere of liberating, fierce, and joyous struggle in the place of the suffocating acquiescence to endless atrocities that exists today.
A groundswell of orange, assisted and amplified by the voices of prominent people and musicians wearing and promoting orange on TV, radio, and on stage at concerts can break people out of this conundrum where millions are just furious but still numbed and rendered inactive by the complicity of the loyal opposition Party and by the anaesthetizing effects of the presidential elections.
The world has been waiting…but the world can’t wait any longer. Can’t wait for a massive movement to arise, determined to make the sacrifices and take the risks; to overcome the obstacles, to show the courage and heart so urgently in demand today; to cry out “enough”—of the unjust wars, the threats of further wars, the mass destruction of entire cities and neighborhoods, the grotesque torture and endless imprisonment, the steady encroachment of a police state of pervasive and permanent government spying, the relentless poisoning of this planet and the very things that make life sustainable. The World Can’t Wait for a movement that has the focus, energy, and resolve to Drive Out the Bush Regime. The world has been waiting—and we are what we’ve been waiting for.
DECLARE IT NOW: WEAR ORANGE, DRIVE OUT THE BUSH REGIME!
Go online to worldcantwait.org for more information on the Declare It Now: Wear Orange! campaign.
Available at worldcantwait.org:
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
Based on high-level sources inside the U.S. government and military, journalist Seymour Hersh reports: “This summer, the White House, pushed by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on Iran.” (“Shifting Targets—The Administration’s plan for Iran,” New Yorker, October 8, 2007.) Hersh writes that the focus of U.S. attack plans has shifted from “a broad bombing attack” to “surgical” strikes on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Hersh says Bush recently told U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, “he was thinking of hitting Iranian targets across the border and that the British ‘were on board.’”
Hersh details the military plans being put in place: “The strategy calls for the use of sea-launched cruise missiles and more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps, supply depots, and command and control facilities.” One former intelligence official called it “fast in and out” and told Hersh the necessary forces are already within striking distance. “The Navy’s planes, ships, and cruise missiles are in place in the Gulf and operating daily. They’ve got everything they need—even AWACS are in place and the targets in Iran have been programmed. The Navy is flying FA-18 missions every day in the Gulf.” A Pentagon consultant told Hersh that the air assault “would be accompanied by a series of what he called ‘short, sharp incursions’ by American Special Forces units into suspected Iranian training sites.”
Hersh’s revelations are the latest (and most comprehensive) in a growing wave of reports on a gathering momentum toward a U.S. military confrontation—and very possibly war—with Iran. (Go to revcom.us for previous Revolution alerts and coverage.) “There has been a significant increase in the tempo of attack planning,” Hersh sums up. One recently retired CIA official told him, “They’re moving everybody to the Iran desk... It’s just like the fall of 2002” (before the U.S. launched war on Iraq).
The latest indication of this acceleration includes a New York Times report (9/30) that “Freedom Watch,” a new lobbying group with close ties to the White House, plans to raise $200 million to launch a campaign targeting Iran, among other things. And there are reports that Vice President Cheney’s office is directing an anti-Iran propaganda offensive by a constellation of government institutions, right-wing organizations, think tanks, political figures, and media. According to Britain’s Telegraph (9/30/07), “American diplomats have been ordered to compile a dossier detailing Iran’s violations of international law that some fear could be used to justify military strikes against the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme.”
The Telegraph also reports there was recently a conference aimed at the U.S. Air Force coordinating “with military leaders from the Gulf to train and prepare Arab air forces for a possible war with Iran.”
Notably, these reports have mainly appeared in British papers or the alternative U.S. press. Major U.S. media—ABC, NBC, CBS, the New York Times, the Washington Post—have refused to seriously report on these heightened military preparations.
Shift in Pretext Building: From Counter-proliferation to Counter-terrorism
In recent months, the focus of the Bush regime’s propaganda campaign against Iran’s Islamic Republic has shifted somewhat from charges that Iran is building nuclear weapons to claims that Iran is waging a “proxy” military campaign against U.S. forces in Iraq. “What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism,” Hersh writes.
Maintaining a stranglehold on the Middle East is crucial to the U.S. global power and the functioning of its capitalist-imperialist system. Bush’s so-called “war on terror” was launched to solidify this U.S. stranglehold by defeating anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism and taking down states like Iraq and Iran that stood in the way of the goal of U.S.-controlled regional transformation. But today, six years after launching their war for greater empire, the Bush regime is finding that its plans have backfired in important ways. Instead of weakening Iran (and Islamic fundamentalism more broadly), the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have strengthened it. “There has been a growing recognition in Washington and throughout the Middle East that Iran is emerging as the geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq,” Hersh concludes. The Guardian (9/30) quoted former UN Ambassador John Bolton saying, “If we were to strike Iran it should be accompanied by an effort at regime change.”
The reactionary state of Iran has its own ambitions in the region, and its role in Iraq and the scope of its nuclear program are not completely clear. But the Bush regime has yet to produce any substantial, concrete evidence for its charges that Iran is behind attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, or that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. Hersh was told by one former high-level C.I.A. official that “the intelligence about who is doing what inside Iran ‘is so thin that nobody even wants his name on it.’” And according to Hersh, ongoing International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) inspections have found that “There’s no evidence that Iran is significantly into weapons fabrication or that Iran has done any of the kind of testing it needs to do to develop an actual warhead. And so, they are enriching, and they may have ambitions, but there’s no rush.”
The difficulty of trying to attack Iran in a way that will not end up backfiring on the U.S. has given rise to sharp debate within the U.S. ruling class, along with diplomatic, political, and military maneuvering. For instance, U.S. strategists have worried that even massive bombing might not destroy Iran’s nuclear and military infrastructure and might provoke an Iranian counterattack with the potential of uncorking an uncontrollable regional conflagration.
Bush, Cheney, and others may hope U.S. threats, coupled with diplomatic and economic sanctions, may trigger upheaval in Iran, and the collapse or capitulation of the regime. Smaller military strikes on the Revolutionary Guards, a pillar of Islamic rule, could be aimed at the same result—without the dangers of a full-scale bombing campaign. Cheney et al may hope limited strikes don’t remain limited, but provoke an Iranian response that the U.S. would then use to justify a massive U.S. counterstrike. Or Cheney could just do an “end run,” putting the rest of the ruling class in a position where they feel compelled to go along. In short, the U.S. imperialists are creating an extremely dangerous situation, including the potential for war to break loose as a result of miscalculations by either side, or an unanticipated incident.
Democrats Paving the Way for War
And what are the “anti-war” Democrats doing in the face of this growing drumbeat for attacking Iran? They’re paving the way for it. On September 26, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed an amendment 76-22 blaming Iran for U.S. deaths in Iraq and calling on the State Department to designate its Revolutionary Guard Corps “a foreign terrorist organization.” The day before, the House of Representatives, also controlled by the Democrats, approved a resolution (introduced by Democrat Tom Lantos) 397-16 calling for new energy sanctions against Iran and also labeling the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group.
At a debate between Democratic presidential candidates, former Sen. Mike Gravel lashed out at the leading candidates: “This is fantasy land. We’re talking about ending the war. My god, we’re just starting a war right today. There was a vote in the Senate today...and it is essentially a fig leaf to let George Bush go to war with Iran.... I’m ashamed of you, Hillary, for voting for it.... And Obama was not even there to vote.” Clinton burst out laughing as if Gravel’s opposition to war was ludicrous. She then repeated Bush regime charges that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are “promoting terrorism” and demanded the U.S. “put some teeth into all this talk about dealing with Iran.” Bush had “ignored” Iran, Clinton charged. “Now we’ve got to make up for lost time.”
Urgently Needed: Mass Resistance to a U.S. War on Iran
While war on Iran may not be inevitable (Hersh writes that he was told “the President has yet to issue the ‘executive order’ that would be required”), many signs show it’s a rapidly growing danger and a real possibility. A U.S. attack on Iran would in all likelihood have catastrophic consequences for the people of Iran, the peoples of the Middle East and the world. It would be an escalation of the U.S.’s global war of aggression for greater empire—no matter what pretext the Bush regime used to launch it—and it would be totally unjust.
Massive resistance in this country must put an end to the war in Iraq and prevent a U.S. war with Iran. Millions of ordinary people from all segments of society, acting now, could change the political terrain—and the calculations of those in power. Today, the Bush regime is planning to stay in Iraq indefinitely and preparing for a possible attack on Iran and it calculates that—and is counting on—people going along with all this. We need to change that calculus. Now.
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
A new petition that appears on the website AfterDowningStreet.org begins:
“ATTENTION: Joint Chiefs of Staff and all U.S. Military Personnel:
“Do not attack Iran.
“Any preemptive U.S. attack on Iran would be illegal.
“Any preemptive U.S. attack on Iran would be criminal.”
The petition says: “To attack Iran, a sovereign nation of 70-million people, would be a crime of the highest magnitude.”
Among the signatories to the peition listed on the AfterDowningStreet.org site are Daniel Ellsberg, author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers ; Thom Hartmann, author and Air America radio host; Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor, Tikkun and Chair, the Network of Spiritual Progressives; Cynthia McKinney, former Congresswoman; Willie Nelson, entertainer; Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star Families for Peace; Norman Solomon, author and syndicated columnist; Elizabeth de la Vega, former federal prosecutor and author of U.S. v. George W. Bush ; Gore Vidal, author; Ann Wright, U.S. Army Colonel (Retired) and U.S. diplomat who resigned in March 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war.
Under the subhead “Legal basis for our Request—Do not attack Iran,” the petition points out: “The Nuremberg Principles, which are part of U.S. law, provide that all military personnel have the obligation not to obey illegal orders.” This part of the petition also says: “Following the orders of your government or superior does not relieve you from responsibility under international law. Under the Principles of International Law recoginized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal, complicity in the commission of war crime is a crime under international law.”
As part of the “Background,” the petition points out: “The Bush Administration’s charges against Iran have not been proven. Neither the development of nuclear weapons, nor providing assistance to Iraq would, if proven, constitute justification for an illegal war.” The petition goes on to say: “The people of Iran have little control over their government, yet would suffer tremendously should the U.S. attack. Bombing raids would amount to collective punishment, a violation of the Geneva Convention, and would surely sow the seeds of hatred for generations to come. Children make up a quarter of Iran’s population.”
In the section titled “Know the Risks Involved in Refusing an Illegal Order or Signing This Statement,” the petition notes: “We knowingly and willingly make this plea, aware of the risk that, in violation of our First Amendment rights, we could be charged under remaining sections of the unconstitutional Espionage Act or other unconstitutional statute, and that we could be fined, imprisoned, or barred from gtovernment employment.
“We make this plea, also aware that you have no easy options. If you obey an illegal order to participate in an aggressive attack on Iran, you could potentially be charged with war crimes. If you heed our call and disobey an illegal order you could be falsely charged with crimes including treason. You could be falsely court martialed. You could be imprisoned.”
This is a very significant statement. The people who are taking this stand should be supported if they come under attack from the authorities for exercising their rights.
The petition can be found online at dontattackiran.org.
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
George Bush is a torturer and a liar, a brazen liar. The U.S. government is made up of torturers and liars. And they’ve been caught—blatantly torturing and blatantly lying—again.
On October 4, the New York Times revealed secret Justice Department memos, dating from 2005, authorizing torture: barrages of painful, cruel, degrading, and damaging treatment. The things the Bush regime has done to detainees—and which have been approved by its Justice Department—include head-slapping, “waterboarding” (“pouring water over a bound prisoner’s cloth-covered face to induce fear of suffocation,” as the New York Times describes it), holding detainees naked in cells at frigid temperatures, preventing them from sleeping for days on end while battering them with thundering rock music, and handcuffing prisoners for long periods in painful or damaging positions. And this is what’s known. No doubt many other horrendous atrocities are being committed that have yet to see the light of day. And the Bush memos justified inflicting these cruelties one after the other—or at the same time.
There is no serious legal—much less moral or political—argument about any this—it’s torture, pure and simple. And torture is a war crime. It’s a direct violation of the Geneva Conventions’ prohibition on “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment. It’s a direct violation of U.S. law because the U.S. government has signed onto the Geneva Conventions.
But none of this has stopped Bush and his fellow torturers from brazenly lying about it. “This government does not torture people,” Bush declared following the New York Times revelations. This follows a pattern. In December 2004, the Justice Department—following a furor over previous Bush “torture memos” which OK’d any treatment as long as it didn’t result in organ failure or death—publicly declared in a legal opinion, “Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms.” Now it turns out that a few months later, after Alberto Gonzales took over the “Justice Department” in February 2005, he and other Bush lawyers immediately began drafting secret documents—now revealed by the Times, justifying torture, and that these secret directives have been in operation ever since.
This follows the Bush regime’s pattern of, when faced with a political furor when its methods have been exposed, lying blatantly about their actions—sometimes indicating a retreat from the worst abuses—while secretly making sure they continue, fighting to make sure torture of the worst kind continues. In 2005, after Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act banning “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment, and again in 2006 after the Supreme Court ruled that the Geneva Conventions applied to prisoners who belonged to Al Qaeda, the Bush regime apparently suspended some activities for a brief period but quickly had its lawyers justify the torture by claiming that none of its practices violated U.S. laws in order to ensure torture—and secret detentions at so-called “Black sites”—would continue.
Meanwhile, Congress and the courts have done nothing to stop this—except pass a few face-saving resolutions in order to deceive the public into thinking that something is being done and the system works. But what all this shows is that this is a torture system and a system based on torture.
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
On Monday, October 1, Kerwin James, a well-known and much-loved New Orleans musician, passed away. Following a long-standing New Orleans tradition, musicians gathered that night in the Treme section of New Orleans to “bring him down.” That is, to play music into the night to memorialize James. They played the kind of music James would’ve been playing if he were still alive. And they began to lead a procession, a 2nd line, in his honor. Usually this would go on from the day the musician died until he or she was buried. But as the band struck up “I’ll Fly Away,” a funeral spiritual, something very untraditional happened.
New Orleans police rolled onto the scene and told the musicians to stop playing. They cited complaints they had received and threatened to arrest the musicians if they didn’t stop playing. The musicians and many people who had gathered to watch or to march in the procession told the police that this was something that happened every time a local musician died. But the cops were adamant. If the music and the 2nd line didn’t stop, the musicians would go to jail.
Finally, the musicians stopped playing. But the cops arrested two of them anyway. Glen David Andrews and James Tabb, two brothers who grew up in the New Orleans music scene, were handcuffed and taken away on charges of disturbing the peace and parading without a permit. The police say Andrews and Tabb continued to play while the other 25 musicians stopped, but witnesses say they were singled out because they were vocal in their protest of the suppression of this long-standing tradition and because their height made them stand out.
Police also vowed they wouldn’t allow any more 2nd lining in that neighborhood to continue the memorializing of Kerwin James. This angered many people in the Treme neighborhood where clubs that feature jazz musicians and 2nd lining is a way of life. Area business people quickly set up a meeting with police on Tuesday, and one of them came up with the money to secure permits for parading through the period of bringing Kerwin James down.
But this isn’t a fight that’s been smoothed out. Andrews and Tabb have been released from jail, but the authorities intend to press forward with the charges against them. And they intend to not back off from stopping what they call parading without a permit. And the musicians aren’t backing down either. Andrews and Tabb have said they won’t accept any deal to make the charges go away.
Andrews said, “How am I breaking the law by lifting my voice to god, in honor of my friend?” Tabb said, “…in our eyes, the police were wrong for stopping a peaceful procession.” And, “When it comes to musicians, I don’t feel a dollar should go to permits.”
Activist Jerome Smith condemned this police action as an attempt to suppress the culture of New Orleans. He saw it as linked to the vision the authorities have for New Orleans—they want to see post-Katrina Disneyland-style tourist attractions with co-opted, sanitized aspects of Black culture. And with authentic New Orleans culture, along with much of its Black population, driven out.
It is definitely in line with the way the cops vamp on the people in New Orleans and all across the country. The case of the cops who gunned down people in the back on the Danziger Bridge in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is winding its way through New Orleans’ courts. A minister’s son is going to court this month in neighboring Jefferson Parish, site of the Gretna Bridge where cops forced people back into New Orleans to face Katrina’s flood waters. His crime—being Black and driving a nice car into Jefferson Parish where the sheriff had vowed numerous times to stop Black people driving through his Parish. Just last week, police chased a youth till he jumped into the river and drowned. They say they were trying to apprehend him for fishing without authorization!
Outrages like these point to why it’s right on time to mount powerful resistance to police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation on Oct 22nd.
For more information on the October 22nd protests, or to get involved, call 888-NO BRUTALITY or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
Part 3: Israel and South Africa
Last spring, at the School for International Training in Vermont, a student posted a fact sheet about the state of Israel on an online discussion group. The fact sheet came from Revolution’s predecessor, the Revolutionary Worker. The school went into an uproar. The Dean of Graduate Studies called for a campus forum—not to debate the content of the fact sheet, but to criticize the student who sent it for violating the school’s policy on “appropriate use of the electronic media” by posting “material that may be or may be perceived as harassment”!
In Revolution #103, we printed the first two installments of this quiz: “Think You Know the Facts About Israel? Take the Quiz and Find Out.” In this third installment, you can test your knowledge on the relationship between the state of Israel and the racist apartheid regime in South Africa when that existed.
1) During the time the apartheid government of South Africa was isolated by a UN embargo on trade, a number of governments still maintained some trade with the racist South African regime. In the case of Israel, that nominal trade consisted of…
a) Trade limited to the export of oranges and other food.
b) Trade limited to the export of eyeglasses and medical supplies.
c) Trade centered on large scale, strategic military assistance including material and training to help the apartheid regime massacre protesters and assistance in developing a nuclear weapons program.
d) None of the above – Israel was one of the few countries in the world to strictly observe the boycott of trade with South Africa.
2) When South African prime minister John Vorster — who had been jailed for his membership in the fascist Ossewabrandwag organization in South Africa that had sided with Hitler – made a state visit to Israel in 1976…
a) Israel allowed Vorster to visit, but in a close parallel to Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s reception at Columbia University in New York in 2007, Vorster’s speech at Tel Aviv University was introduced by the university president with scathing denunciation of Vorster’s Nazi past and the genocidal crimes of the Nazis.
b) Israeli authorities boycotted his visit.
c) Israel’s Prime Minister at the time, Yitzhak Rabin, praised “the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence” and declared both countries were threatened by “foreign-inspired instability and recklessness.”
d) Vorster was detained at the Tel Aviv Airport and not allowed to enter Israel.
3) In apartheid South Africa, after the indigenous African people’s land was stolen, they were declared illegal inhabitants of their own land. In Israel, the status of Palestinian people who own houses in Jerusalem, land seized by Israel in the 1967 war, has been addressed in the following way:
a) Jerusalem has always been almost exclusively been inhabited by European immigrants, and there is no issue of dispossessed Palestinian homeowners.
b) Israeli court rulings protect Palestinians who own homes in Jerusalem.
c) Palestinian property holders in Jerusalem are considered “illegally present people” in their own homes, without legal rights to live in their own houses. Thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank who own land or homes in Jerusalem lost all rights to their holdings.
d) None of the above.
4) In 1976, the South African government’s yearbook characterized Israel and South Africa as confronting the same problem. That was…
a) “Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: Functioning as democracies in areas of the world where democracy has fragile roots.”
b) “Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: Lessening tensions with their neighbors.”
c) “Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: they are both situated in a predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples.”
d) None of the above - Israel and apartheid South Africa have nothing in common.
5) In addition to providing military aid to the pariah apartheid regime in South Africa, which of the following other notorious regimes or armies was a recipient of Israeli military aid?
a) Iran under the Shah, a tyrant who killed thousands of opponents and whose vicious secret police, the SAVAK, received training from Israel.
b) The Islamic Republic of Iran – Israel served as the go-between, sending arms to the Khomeni regime as part of the Reagan administration’s arms-hostages-contras-cocaine dealings.
c) The Nicaraguan Contras, who carried out attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure to overthrow the elected government of Nicaragua.
d) All of the above.
6) Speaking of the Bantustans, remote, barren “reservation-type” enclosures to which the indigenous African people of South Africa were confined, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema that…
a) The Bantustan model was the most appropriate solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.
b) The Bantustan model was appalling, and drew parallels to the forced resettlement of European Jews in ghettos.
c) The Bantustan model was abandoned due to the struggle of the people of South Africa, and pressure from Israel.
d) The Bantustan model might have been appropriate for South Africa, but was not appropriate for Israel.
7) The similarity between the Pass Laws under the South African apartheid regime and the identity cards carried by Palestinians in Israel is that …
a) Israeli soldiers routinely humiliate and harass Palestinians at checkpoints in the same way that the racist South African regime routinely treated black South Africans.
b) Israeli police stop people based on their apparent nationality and demand their identity cards as a matter of routine, in the same way that the apartheid regime stopped black people based on skin color.
c) Walls, checkpoints, and repression create an environment in Israel where much of the Jewish public is shielded from, doesn’t see, and avoids confronting the brutal repression of Palestinians in the same way that South African whites could turn their backs on the impact of apartheid.
d) All of the above.
8) A fundamental difference between the South African apartheid regime’s displacement and oppression of the black people of South Africa, and Israel’s displacement and oppression of the Palestinian people is…
a) In South Africa the process took 300 years, in Israel, it has taken only about 60 years. This clearly disassociates what is going on in Israel from what was done under apartheid.
b) In South Africa, ideologists of apartheid invoked the Bible, while in Israel, ideologists of Zionism invoke the Torah. There is clearly a fundamental difference between the different sections of the Bible being invoked.
c) Israel is in the Middle East, the apartheid regime was in Africa. There is clearly a fundamental difference due to the different locales.
d) None of the above.
Answers Part 3:
1. Answer: c
Source: The Guardian, “Brothers in arms - Israel’s secret pact with Pretoria,” February 7, 2006
2. Answer: c
Source: The Guardian, “Brothers in arms - Israel’s secret pact with Pretoria,” February 7, 2006
3. Answer: c
Source: Ha’aretz, “Land lords,” January 20, 2005
4. Answer: c
Source: The Guardian, “Brothers in arms - Israel’s secret pact with Pretoria,” February 7, 2006
5. Answer: d
Sources: Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians by Noam Chomsky, South End Press, 1999; Israeli Foreign Policy: South Africa and Central America by Jane Hunter; South End Press, 1987; “Background to Confrontation: The U.S. & Iran: A History of Imperialist Domination, Intrigue and Intervention” by Larry Everest, Revolution, series beginning May 20, 2007.
6. Answer: a
Source: The Guardian, “Brothers in arms - Israel’s secret pact with Pretoria,” February 7, 2006
7. Answer: d
Source: The Guardian, “Worlds apart,” February 6, 2006
8. Answer: d
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
Stop the ICE Raids!
At 5:15 a.m. on August 30, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents converged at a supermarket parking lot in Maywood, California. Armed and wearing bulletproof vests, they looked through a list of the names and addresses of targeted people before descending upon homes and apartment complexes in the neighborhoods where so-called “criminal aliens” live. This was one of many raids that have taken place throughout Southern California in the past two weeks.
In total 1,200 people have been detained in these massive raids, and at least 600 of those arrested have already been deported. ICE boasts that this is the largest operation they have conducted in the U.S. so far. Most of the arrests took place in Los Angeles—with many people also being picked up in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura County.
As word spread, shopping centers and neighborhoods that are usually full of life and activity became still. Teachers at ESL schools reported dramatically low attendance. A 19-year-old student from Guatemala told Revolution, “I spent six months in jail in San Antonio because I didn’t have papers when I was 16 years old. They deported me, but I risked it again and came back. Imagine what it feels like to know that you could be grabbed at any moment—I just want to send money to my family. I’m no criminal!”
People in the targeted neighborhoods said that many of the arrests have been made at dawn while people are getting ready to go to work or families are still asleep. Now, people don’t open the door to anyone or talk about the whereabouts of their neighbors to anyone they don’t know.
Maria, one of those targeted by ICE as a “fugitive alien,” came to the U.S. when she was 11 years old. She attended college for a while until she couldn’t afford it any more. She married a U.S. citizen and has an infant child. When ICE went into her home, she told them that she was still breastfeeding her baby. Maria told La Opinion, “They arrested me, they handcuffed me in front of my family as if I were a criminal.” In an unusual turn of events, the ICE did not take her into custody then but gave her a court date. Maria is now trying to get legal representation to change her legal status.
Eight hundred of those detained in these recent raids in the L.A. area were people who were in jail and who were identified as being undocumented. Working together with local law enforcement, ICE detained these immigrants and took them into custody upon their release from the local jails. This is part of the intensifying crackdown where “open season” has been declared on immigrants. Rules, for example, that in many places separated the local police from the federal immigration enforcers are being changed to make every cop into an ICE agent. In order to step up joint work with local police, ICE recently created a command center that is available to local law enforcement 24 hours a day so that they can exchange information about possible deportees. Being arrested for such things as a fight, unpaid traffic tickets, DUI, or a domestic dispute could result in deportation. People who “work hard” and “play by the rules” can be snatched up at any time, their world and that of their families devastated.
According to ICE, 90% of the arrests in the recent Southern California raids were immigrants with “criminal records”—but an unknown number of these were people whose only “crime” is that they were subject to deportation orders. The rest were people who the ICE describes as “collateral arrests”—immigrants who were not on the ICE lists of targeted people but who were caught up in the raids.
The L.A. raids are part of the intensifying ICE sweeps across the country. At the same time as the L.A. raids, on the other side of the country, ICE agents and police carried out what they called “anti-gang” sweeps in Long Island, arresting 186. El Diaro reports that ICE agents came to a house and took away the father of a four-month-old baby, leaving the baby alone by herself for three hours. According to the New York Times, ICE agents and police stormed the house of Peggy Delarosa-Delgado, 42, a U.S. citizen born in the Dominican Republic—the second time this has happened in a year. A nun in the town of Greenport said, “They took guys who I see in church every single week, whose homes I’ve gone into… Some of them work on farms, some of them work construction. They’re family men.”
In northern Nevada in September, ICE agents raided 11 McDonald’s restaurants and arrested dozens of workers. ICE said they arrested 56, but eyewitnesses said that it was at least twice as many.
ICE began their “National Fugitive Operations Teams” in 2003, and more than 30,000 people have been arrested in 2007—with no end in sight. These raids are part of what the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ICE officially call “ENDGAME: Office of Detention and Removal Strategic Plan, 2003-2012 Detention and Removal Strategy for a Secure Homeland.” According to the ICE web site, they “locate and arrest aliens who have been ordered to leave the country by an immigration judge, but have failed to comply.” As of September 27, ICE had 595,000 people in their sights to arrest and deport as part of ENGAME.
These raids and deportations are part of a larger repressive agenda aimed at terrorizing an entire section of people. Emboldened by their self-described “success,” ICE plans to continue expanding the Gestapo-style Fugitive Operations Teams across the country. There are currently 75 such teams deployed throughout the U.S.—5 are currently assigned to the L.A. area, more than any other city in the country.
During massive ICE raids in Nassau County, NY, on September 24 and 26, ICE agents spread such widespread fear and chaos that local goverment officials protested to Homeland Security. The New York Times reported, “Scores of federal immigration agents from around the country, some wearing cowboy hats and brandishing shotguns and automatic weapons, endangered residents and local police.” Most of those arrested had no criminal records beyond being undocumented.
“There are always those who have to be the first ones. In school I read about a young African-American woman who was the first to go to a white school in the 1950s. They threatened her with lynching. But she was brave and she dared [to go to school],” an ESL student from Mexico told Revolution. “We also have to be brave. Things are really serious now… They’re snatching us up like criminals in front of our children. This isn’t right. What can we do? I want to know the answer to that.”
These ICE raids must be opposed wherever they occur. And beyond that, and very importantly, all those who refuse to stand by while these gestapo raids are carried out against immigrants must take to the streets on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation.
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
On October 2, a Planned Parenthood clinic opened in the Chicago suburb of Aurora. The clinic provides birth control, STD testing and treatment (Aurora is spread between two counties that have some of Illinois’ highest rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia), cancer screening, and abortions.
Anti-abortion forces launched a vicious attack against the Planned Parenthood clinic before it opened. They packed city council meetings and staged rallies of hundreds of people outside the clinic site. Reactionary anti-choice forces nationwide mobilized against the clinic, egged on by people like Sean Hannity of Fox “News.” In this atmosphere, city officials refused to allow the clinic to open, claiming there were problems with Planned Parenthood’s permit application.
For weeks, as the opening was delayed, and the “right-to-lifers” dominated the airwaves, influential forces in the pro-choice movement opposed demonstrations in support of the clinic, counseling relying on the legal system instead. This demobilized and confused a lot of people who support abortion rights, who needed to be mobilized to fight to open the clinic. In this atmosphere, there was important discussion among activists, as well as broad distribution of a statement issued by the Chicago Branch of the Revolutionary Communist Party in late September that said, in part:
“The idea that we will prevail by simply sitting quietly and letting this be worked out in the courts, hoping not to ‘make waves’ or ‘offend anyone’ is a dangerous illusion that will only lead to us losing more and more ground. Let’s not be naïve about the anti-abortion movement: they are not going to stop at banning abortion, which would be terrible enough. They have a nightmare agenda for women and society: a return to openly patriarchal values, and a return to the traditional order of things where a woman’s role is to be under the thumb of her husband and the producer of his children, where women are openly the property of men to be controlled by their husbands.”
On September 25, Planned Parenthood called for a demonstration in front of the Aurora City Council. Two to three hundred protesters, including a lot of high school and college students, rallied, wearing pink t-shirts and chanting in Spanish and English. The battle was beginning to get more two-sided.
On September 30, author Sara Paretsky wrote a piece in the Chicago Tribune that got the reality behind anti-abortion demagoguery of comparing abortion to the Holocaust: “My grandmother watched her father die when an anti-Jewish mob broke into their small home and shot him as he lay in bed with his wife. The mob was jubilant and exuberant at his death; their neighborhood priest in Vilnius, Lithuania, led the crowd through the streets chanting a Te Deum to show their thanks to the Lord at the death of someone they considered a nonbeliever. Most members of that crowd called themselves Christians. I think of them when I look at the mob in Aurora that is trying to keep the Planned Parenthood health center there from opening.”
Case in point: Now that the Aurora clinic is open, Joe Scheidler, director of the Pro-Life Action League, has bragged that he is photographing the license plate numbers of clinic employees’ cars in Aurora. These stalkers are openly doing this from the parking lot of a nearby Safeway/Dominick’s grocery store. His son, Eric Scheidler, has already filed a libel lawsuit against Planned Parenthood for a paid ad in which they simply repeated the ugly behavior of Pro-Life Action League activists, including beating patients and clinic administrators and destroying medications and equipment.
After the clinic opened on October 2, Eric Scheidler filed for a temporary restraining order against the clinic, arguing that it still has not met all the requirements for its permit and that it should have been required to hold public hearings before it began building. City councilmen in Aurora have been threatening to pass a rule requiring teenaged women to notify their parents before getting an abortion. Anti-abortion activists have threatened to continue the fight against the clinic. And the permit granted to Planned Parenthood by the city is only temporary.
At the same time, the battle to open the Aurora Planned Parenthood did succeed in forcing the authorities to open the clinic. That will have a profound impact on the lives of thousands of women! And there were potentially important glimpses of the potential for a movement to defend the right to abortion, against the enslavement of women as “baby machines.” Much more of that is urgently needed.
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
Mural Tour Raises Funds for $500,000 Fund Drive—
Revolution received this correspondence:
A great day for a fundraiser!!! The first day of fall, the sunshine was brilliant and bright like it is in fall. A local muralist who has been conducting guided tours of murals led a mural tour in a Midwestern Mexican neighborhood known for its murals and art to benefit the Revolution newspaper half-million-dollar expansion and fund drive.
A woman printed up tickets, and then the word got out through friends and email. The excitement about the tour was in the air. We met at a Mexican art museum—where our guide invited us to sit in an installation of an authentic Mexican kitchen/living room. As we waited for everyone to gather, he invited everyone into his “office.”
About 30 of us took this tour, making a donation to the fund drive. We raised $656. The people who came to the tour were a real mix of ages, backgrounds and interests. There was a young high school Spanish teacher who took copious notes about the murals so she could tell her students about this art. There was a filmmaker in the process of doing a film on progressive writers, two college students of photography who contributed photos of the tour, some health care professionals, and Drive Out the Bush Regime activists.
Our guide took us on a walking tour, explaining the mural movement as a very political movement. It is about public art in the public space. He explained how it is not like painting on a canvas and that the muralist utilizes the existing architecture, bricks, fences and gates and they often become part of the mural and the story. The first mural was Gulliver reclined and wrapped in barbed wire. According to our guide, Gulliver was a metaphor for the sleeping giant of the immigrant masses who were fenced in by barbed wire. At first, as this figure wove around and was incorporated into the architecture of the house, it was hard to make out what it was, and an analogy was made about how the figure blends into the landscape and this is also true for the Mexican people today in the U.S. We saw this sleeping giant awaken during the immigrant rights marches of 2006. He explained to us how the people in the neighborhood got involved in determining how the murals would look. In one mural the woman is big and strong—she symbolizes all women, and the women in the neighborhood wanted her to be painted big and strong not skinny and weak.
In response to the question, why did he contribute to the fund drive in this way, the tour guide said, “Revolution newspaper gives us news that other newspapers don’t, like Jena, in ways that the regular news doesn’t go into. It is a well-informed paper and I want to help with the fundraiser. Art and politics goes together and so this is a good vehicle for the fund drive.”
After the walk people gathered in a local restaurant to socialize and discuss the fund drive to raise half a million dollars for Revolution newspaper. Several of the participants had just returned from the historic march in Jena, Louisiana, and this became a topic of discussion, including the role of the newspaper in sending reporters there since July to really get the truth and get it out, popularize the plans for the September 20 march on Jena. Some plans were discussed for how the fund drive could blossom out more and get more people introduced to the paper, including some professionals who began developing a plan to host the reporters Alice Woodward and Hank Brown for a fundraiser. Packets were passed out to all, and a free-standing display had been created for the event by a supporter for the paper, including with ideas for $100 clubs and creative ways to raise a half million dollars and introduce more people to the paper.
Discussion continued while we ate. One person wanted to discuss what was holding people back from acting in the climate of today. She said that fear was created to keep people from acting to stop all the outrages—the war, the racism. The question of the role of the youth was also posed. A student proudly told how the students on her campus involved with World Can’t Wait and Latino Alliance had united to stop a right-wing Republican group from organizing activities including a “treasure hunt to catch an illegal immigrant.”
Altogether it was a great event—one person commented that all the people were so interesting and that she had never been to this neighborhood before although she had grown up in this city all her life. She had no idea about the wonderful art here and wanted to find out much more about the newspaper that she had just recently been introduced to. Along with the $656 raised for the paper, we came up with potential new ideas for more funds to be followed up.
Here’s a challenge. Does any lover of the arts/reader of Revolution want to match the funds that the muralist raises with these tours? At least one more tour is planned.
Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
Editor’s note: In the midst of our $500,000 expansion and distribution drive, we thought readers would be interested in what three young women from Berkeley High School who attended the march to Free the Jena 6 in Jena, Louisiana on September 20 had to say about Revolution newspaper. The following is taken from a longer interview about their trip to Jena:
Sanghia: I first heard about the Jena 6 case on BET and I didn’t really know about Revolution newspaper until a met someone organizing the bus for Jena. But now I see through reading Revolution that it talks about a lot of stuff that nobody else is talking about so I think more people should read it, including me. Another person on the trip was just busting out with information, and I’d ask “where did that come from” and she’d say “don’t you know?”
Maya: Revolution has really opened my eyes to a lot of stuff that’s going on and a lot of issues that I wasn’t aware of. I think it’s good that you are putting this newspaper out. It should be passed out at high schools so students are able to read it and find out what is going on. A lot of students didn’t know and some still don’t know about the Jena 6. They say, “You went to Louisiana, why?” And I say, “Because of what happened.” And they say, “What happened?” And then they say, “Are you serious.” So I say go to this site and read it.
Lei’Jeaux: Before Jena I wasn’t aware of it. When we were on the bus occasionally we would break out into discussion or someone would read some passages from Revolution and what was in there would really get us pumped up, like OK we’re on that. It’s like words of inspiration and Revolution really helps to bring people forward. When I heard some sections of the paper being read, I was like, what? It really gets to you and really gets you want to get involved in what’s going on. That newspaper is great. I’m really trying to inform people and I’m glad that so many people took advantage of it at the rally. People were coming up saying, “Let me get five of those.” I think it’s a wonderful newspaper.