Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
You couldn’t miss it on Election Night. People actually pouring into the streets to celebrate the election of a president. Emotions ran high, and tears flowed.
And in the days after: people talking to friends and strangers alike of hope. Hope for a coming era of change from the horrors of the Bush years. Hope for overcoming racism. Hope for a new era of service to the common good.
Hope—hope that is founded on the real possibilities for fundamental change in this world—is indeed precious. Dedicating your life to something higher than the ethic of “I-want-mine” is so vital that the future of humanity actually depends on it. And overcoming—truly overcoming—the divisions of society based on inequality and oppression must be at the heart of any real movement for social change.
But now, in the dawn of the morning after, one must ask and honestly grapple with some basic and very serious questions.
Hope for what?
Service to what?
Unity around what goals and what values?
And victory for whom?
“I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” —Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope
Most of those who celebrated in the streets oppose the string of wars that Bush has launched and the threats of more war. Yet Obama through his campaign promised to send more troops to Afghanistan. He floated the idea of attacks on Pakistan, threatened Iran, and pledged to back Israel—which to this day continues to torment the people of Palestine—to the hilt. He established his reputation by opposing the launching of the war on Iraq—but has already backtracked on this during his campaign, with talk of “listening to the generals” and determining when Iraq was “stable” and its troops “sufficiently trained.”
Most of those celebrating in the streets hate the fascism of the Bush years: the spying, the evisceration of fundamental legal rights, and the torture. Yet as a senator, Obama voted for the renewal of the Patriot Act (which abolished or seriously cut key legal rights), and for immunity for telecommunications companies which illegally spied on people at White House behest.
Most of those celebrating in the streets yearn to see an end to racism, and to the oppression of Black people and other oppressed nationalities. Yet Obama did not speak in his campaign of ending the discrimination and oppression that continues in a Black unemployment rate that is more than double that of whites, discrimination in housing and health care and the legal system, and an incarceration rate of Black and other minority people that is the scandal of the world. No, instead he spoke against his former minister, Jeremiah Wright, because Wright had “a view that sees white racism as endemic.” Obama in that speech went on to say that such thinking is “divisive” and draws people away from the problems of “two wars, a terrorist threat, a failing economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change”—thereby, in a phrase, covering over how systematic discrimination is embedded in every problem in America and negating both the bitter ongoing oppression of Black people as a people and the deep structural problems in American society that sustain this.
Many of those in the streets also see Obama as sharing their values on ending the oppression of women and of gay people. Have they noted that Obama routinely characterizes abortion itself as a bad thing, even if he does not oppose the right to abortion, or how rarely he even mentioned defending this right? Or how Obama, at a time when the right of gay people to marry was being attacked in electoral referendums, said that while he did not support that referendum, he at the same time opposed gay marriage itself—on the basis of his own religious beliefs?
Obama has said he is bringing change. He has called on you—most recently in his victory speech on election night—to both put your efforts behind him and to be patient with his administration. The question is this: judging from Obama’s actual statements and not from what you think he must believe deep down, is the change that he is promising and trying to enlist you in the change we need?
Or are you being enlisted in something that will end up actually opposed to your best aspirations and a morality based on the common good of humanity?
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.” —Barack Obama, in his victory speech
Well, many things certainly are possible in America. It is possible in America for European settlers to commit genocide against the Native American Indians who lived here and to then declare themselves to be builders of a “shining city on a hill” and “the last best hope of mankind.” It is possible in America to kidnap over ten million Africans and hold them and their descendants in slavery for 250 years, exploiting them as the foundation of the great wealth of this country, and then maintaining their descendants in new forms of oppression and super-exploitation, and to simultaneously brag that “the dream of our founders” is based on the principle that “all men are created equal.” It is possible in America to wage and sponsor wars and military coups over the past 150 years that have taken a toll on humanity unmatched by any of the fabled monstrous empires of the past, and to then routinely declare, as Barack Obama did in his speech, that this same country is the world’s great guarantor of “peace and security”—even as he preceded that by assuring anybody who opposed what he called the “new dawn of American leadership” that “we will defeat you.” It is possible in America to subordinate the economies of entire nations to the demands and dictates of U.S. capital; and it is possible to then both super-exploit impoverished people from those countries who then desperately seek work in the U.S. and at the same time to demonize them and scapegoat them as the cause of everyone else’s hard times. It is possible to torture in the name of “safety,” even as you assure the world you don’t.
But apparently, other things are NOT so possible in America. It has NOT been possible in America to actually do away with the structures of white supremacy and the oppression of entire peoples. It has NOT been possible in America to desist from sending troops, CIA spies, and commandos all over the world—nor has it been possible to avoid things like killing 40 civilians at a wedding party in Afghanistan on the day before the election which installed a man who has promised to send more troops to invade that tortured, beleaguered country. It has NOT been possible in America to actually overcome the subjugation of women in every sphere of life, or to end the demonization and systematic discrimination against gay people. It has NOT been possible for America to refrain from the heedless plunder and spoliation of the very planet on which we live. It has NOT been possible in America to overcome the deadening alienation of everyday life for most people, or the despair of seeing your best efforts come to naught for many of those who want to dedicate themselves to making things better.
What has been proven to be possible—and what has proven to be NOT possible—has nothing to do with “human nature” and everything to do with the system that was put in place to ensure the “dreams of our founders.” The name of that system is imperialism—a stage of capitalism in which the majority of humanity are consigned to short, bitter lives of almost indescribable exploitation, humiliation and degradation. . . in which entire nations are subjugated to deepen and extend that exploitation. . . and in which the entire world is divided up amongst a handful of big imperialist powers (with the U.S. currently at the head of that).
That is the system which actually determines what is, and what is not, possible. That is the system Barack Obama is now stepping in to head. That is the system to whose service he now summons you.
Imperialism has an ideology—a systematic way, even if unacknowledged, in which people are trained to view every event in the world. When Barack Obama sings songs of praise in his victory speech to the greatness of America—he is training us in a way of understanding the world. When he goes so far as to not just send best wishes to his opponent, but to gushingly praise this unrepentant war criminal who dropped bombs on civilians over and over again in Vietnam as a “brave and selfless leader”—he is doing that training in a particularly nauseating, and frankly horrific, way. When Barack Obama tells us to “summon a new spirit of patriotism” and overcome divisions—same thing.
This has to be called out for what it is: American chauvinism. This accepts as a given the existence of imperialism. Many of those who celebrated on election night are in effect hoping that Obama will lead to a "better" imperialism. But there is no such thing– there is no "better" imperialist USA, no "good" imperialism of any kind. What we need is to sweep away imperialism, and all relations of oppression and exploitation.
Stop chanting USA, USA—and start thinking about what is really facing humanity and what must urgently be done. Stop waving those flags, and start resisting the crimes of that system, including the very real crimes of the Bush regime that Obama not only is not going to prosecute but, yes, is determined, in large part, to continue. STOP THINKING LIKE AMERICANS—and start thinking about, and trying to proceed from, what humanity needs.
Does this mean, then, that there is no hope? That there is, in fact, nothing one can do? Are we counseling cynicism or despair?
Far from it. In place of false hope, we offer hope based on a real foundation. We offer hope based on the vision of a different society that draws on the fact that humanity could today accomplish great things—starting with the elimination of hunger and disease and homelessness—but is only held back by the economic relations of exploitation in which it is fettered, and the machinery of oppression that backs up those relations. We offer, in short, the hope of revolution.
We offer hope evidenced in the accomplishments of the Russian and Chinese revolutions—before those revolutions were reversed. Those revolutions made leaps in the very things that are NOT possible in this system: the elimination of exploitation and a rupture with the imperialist relations that strangle the world; the uprooting of the subjugation of women, and of oppressed nations and nationalities; the opening up to the oppressed of the spheres of running society and working with ideas—spheres which they are today kept out of by both the normal workings, and conscious policies, of capitalism; and the provision of health care, education and many other basic needs to all of society, in ways that narrowed and did not widen inequality.
We offer hope founded on the scientific work of Bob Avakian, the leader of our Party, who has both upheld the achievements and fundamental lessons of these revolutions, while criticizing and rupturing with significant errors and shortcomings of that first wave of revolution. On that basis, he has revived the REAL dream of emancipating all of humanity from exploitation and oppression, and shown the way forward to do that.
In place of a “service” which can only end up reinforcing the very things you oppose, we offer something which corresponds to your highest aspirations: making revolution.
For there IS work to do—work that urgently cries out to be done. There is the work of fighting for your best ideals and hopes for change. There is the work of actually digging into how the world really works, into America’s real place and role in that world, and into what revolution is all about and how it might be possible. There is the work of fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution.
Let us break, finally, with deadly illusions and let us set about that work—the ending of imperialism, and of all relations of exploitation and oppression, and NOT their reinforcement, in a different package. Let us truly bring about a new day.
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
In Relation to the "Lesser Evil" Election Trap, and the Argument: "Someone is Going to be President."
Imagine a slave plantation, where the slave-owner is clever enough to allow the slaves to vote, every few years, on who will be the Overseer, who will administer, regulate and enforce the exploitation, brutality and humiliation to which the slaves are subjected. Imagine somebody arguing that it is important to get caught up in such elections—because, after all, "Someone is going to be Overseer"—rather than focusing people's attention and efforts on rising up to break free from the slave plantation and finally put an end to the whole system of slavery!
Or imagine a prison full of thousands and thousands of people wrongly incarcerated, where once again the prison administration is clever enough to allow the wrongly imprisoned inmates to vote, every few years, on who will be the Warden. Imagine someone arguing that it is important to get involved in these elections—because, after all, "Someone is going to be Warden"—rather than focusing people's attention and efforts on ending this wrongful imprisonment and sweeping away the whole system that continually perpetuates all this injustice!
Once Again: FOOD FOR THOUGHT.
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
Editors’ note: The following letters are selected from online comments and correspondence to Revolution from our readers. We are printing them (and will continue to print more correspondence) to give readers a sense of the letters sent to Revolution, and to spark more interactivity between this paper and readers, and among readers. Selecting and printing letters does not imply that we agree, or disagree, with them.
Re: “The Morning After the Elections...and the Change We Really Need...WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO NOW?”, Issue #146, October 26, 2008.
Nov. 5—I met you outside Showmans, I am a musician, was against the war in Iraq, performed for anti-Apartheid rallies, political events before you were possibly involved in politics, I am a big Obama supporter and although I see some logic in your article you have to change your presentation or you will forever be marginalized and your effect on this society will be minimal.
This is not the 60's, as much as the Panthers and the radical left was effective, that no longer works. First, stop cursing no matter how frustrated, it may impress 1% of your audience but it keeps you on the fringe. We have to know that Obama is better than Bush-Cheney, just as if Gore would have been President things would be a whole lot different than they are now. We would not be in Iraq, 911 would not have happened the way it did, the environmental issues would be on their way towards being addressed, the Supreme Court would not be so conservative (including abortion rights), affirmative action would not be challenged by the federal govt and the agenda goes on.
Obama will not address every issue you are concerned with, he is not a revolutionary, but many of the most extreme policies of Bush-Cheney will be rescinded and that will be a good thing. He is not a Clarence Thomas, he will not betray his supporters.
Maybe he imperils your ability to organize, it’s easier to motivate people with an extremely repressive regime such as Bush-Cheney. Nonetheless I think things will be better in so many respects, better for the people that you hopefully are concerned about (or are you concerned about ideology). I say give him a chance and stay vigilant in times when he may stray from the course. The system will hopefully be a lot less rotten (I believe) the horrors that you outlined such as global warming and discrimination might be addressed, maybe not in revolutionary terms but in ways that will affect people.
Most of all do things that will help people, Revolution, in the terms that you may embrace may not be around the corner but something important occurred last night and I am optimistic.
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Re: “Obama – And the Hope For a ‘Better’ Imperialism”, Revolution Online, November 2, 2008
Nov. 5—Dear Comrades,
I know, that Obama will not and cannot change the system, I know that the roots of capitalism lie in exploitation. But when I saw the poor black people going to the election with all their hope and how proud they were, tears came in my eyes. Although knowing all that, I cannot help to be happy,
a "Revolution" reader from Austria
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Re: "Colin Powell—And His Endorsement of Obama", Revolution Online, November 2, 2008
Nov. 4—I appreciated the article on Colin Powell. Obama is likely to protect Colin Powell from any war criminal warrants given Powell’s endorsement of Obama just before the election. Powell as 1991 planner of Iraq War I killed off much of the civilian population. Hitting an air raid shelter in Baghdad was justified by calling it a military bunker. His 2003 Iraq II United Nations presentation on Weapons of Mass Destruction was not his first fabrication of truth. But then maybe you have not lost someone and truth is relative. Major Powell put down in writing that the 1968 My Lai massacre was excellent.
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Re: “The Morning After the Elections...and the Change We Really Need...WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO NOW?”, Issue #146, October 26, 2008.
Oct. 31—hi; i believe we need third party; we can not accomplish anything when two party always arguing and fighting with each other; and the irony is these two party fundamentally believe in the same thing: capitalism. i do not believe in communism. what we need a third party such as social democrat like european countries then we think of people rather than money. good luck
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Re: “Exchange with a Reader on Obama”, Issue #145, October 19, 2008
Oct. 24—This is an attitude I find among many friends (who I'll call "hippies" for the sake of simplicity)—they demand that we focus only on the feel-good language and the symbolic "victory" of electing a black man to the Presidency, without being willing to acknowledge—much less discuss—his policy statements (or lack thereof) on issues like militarism, civil rights, corporate personhood and influence, and personal liberty.
Too many people would rather comfort themselves and go back to being self-interested than face uncomfortable truths about the system and those who represent it. In fact, I often encounter liberals and Democrats who will criticize me more for criticizing Obama from the left than they will criticize acquaintances and family members who are open supporters of McCain.
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Re: “Food for Thought”, Issue #146, October 26, 2008
Oct. 24—Why do so many poor people embrace the system that oppresses them and seek only to emulate the wealthy (by wearing fake Rolexes, driving used luxury SUVs like Land Rovers and Escalades, etc.)?
Keeping with your plantation metaphor, aren't most of these people only interested in getting a place in the master's house (or on the porch), instead of freeing themselves (or burning the master's godd**n house down)? Why are so many seduced by the promises of heavenly bling-bling into being submissive and ignorant?
I live among poor and working class people, including many immigrants, and I do NOT see any kind of revolutionary potential among them.
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Re: “The Morning After the Elections...and the Change We Really Need...WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO NOW?”, Issue #146, October 26, 2008.
Oct. 24—Excellent and well targeted. Had a disturbing conversation with the well-known Funky Wordsmith today about the elections. Here's an artist considered one of the most politically radical Black voices in Chicago performance scenes, and he's thinking Obama has brought scores of Black everyday folks into political awareness/involvement and that it will last whether he's elected or not. And that he fears if Obama loses there'll be riots.
I said I fear that there WON'T be. Because if he loses, after all this hoopla, after the "new civil rights movement" born in the flames of Jena and Katrina, after half of Hollywood and NYC stars have pledged their love for this campaign/dream/smoke and mirror show—that if he loses after all THAT, millions will decide they have NO power, NO voice, and instead of becoming more empowered towards real political action/struggle, they'll "drop out" and numb down.
I hope folks are paying attention to Grant Park plans for election night—it’s gonna be the historical place to be, like it or not. Personally, I'm loving the position of "Are you gonna continue to fight for what you believe in when President Obama stands in the WAY of it?"
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Oct. 22—I have felt the same way for decades, since 1968. Now Obama embraces Colin Powell, let's not forget that. Sick. I agree that Barack Obama is dangerous although of course better than John McCain, who isn't? The left is going to make Obama a "Demigod." I can see it all ready. And your absolutely right that the "system" boys want him specifically because he can calm the "crowd" so they can go about their business. Continue to send me whatever and I would like to help in whatever way.
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Re: “Food for Thought”, Issue #146, October 26, 2008
Oct. 21—Do you feel that this society is equivalent to being enslaved or being imprisoned? Honestly?
I think your analogy is wrong. But I guess you have to do what's necessary to further your interests.
You know, the money isn't in pointing out problems. I can do that all day long with a capitalist system or your "Revolutionary" ideologies. The key is to offer real solutions to a perceived problem. I am waiting to hear some real solutions from your organization.
So lets say that we're imprisoned and our votes mean nothing. What are you proposing we do? Breakout? Start a riot? Take the prison over? Set the prisoners free? How? Who will operate the prison? Who will fund the prison? What about the prisoners who want to destroy you? What will you do about dissent? What if you take the prison over, but your management is even worse?
Just some more food for thought.
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Re: “The ‘Palin Factor’: A Christian Fascist Nutcase Runs for VP”, Issue #145, October 19, 2008
Oct. 20—I frankly do not agree with your movement on many things, but I agree that you have a correct analysis on the rise of Christian fascist movement. Most of the so-called "radical left" and so-called liberal "progressives" just don't get it. They continue to harp on the "fascist danger" of weak, marignal right-wing movements like the KKK, but not the Christian fascists. What is more they are in bed with the government, media, and capitalist corporations.
In conclusion, we are in grave danger, and need to build a broad-based anti-fascist movement, or the fascists will completely take over social and political life in this country. The election of Barack Obama will not stop them, as many believe, they will continue to organize and escalate until they are smashed entirely.
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Re: “Exchange with a Reader on Obama”, Issue #145, October 19, 2008
Oct. 17—Nurse Boogey raises feelings that are shared by so many people and you can almost feel the agony she and others are going through. I know because I have felt it too.
But I just want to say to Nurse Boogey to keep true to the truth you know: that the election is for who will lead the american EMPIRE; that for the people of Afghanistan there is no comfort in Obama's words, nor for the people of Iran, or Iraq, Pakistan. I think what may be confusing you is that McCain/Palin represent openly a further to the right social base and forces and what you see and hear and their openly avowed program and agenda is chilling and blatantly ugly reactionary no-nothingism and racism and hatred of immigrants, flat earth, etc.
But I want to offer that this agenda is not going away if Obama becomes president. It will continue to exert much strength that even the "liberal" bourgeoisie moves the needle on abortion further to the right; even the "liberal" capitalist imperialists "reassure" that they would not hesitate to use massively destructive force against Iran or anyone else necessary. An Obama win will not stop the basic agenda of endless war and the fight for the US empire to remain the dominant power in the world.
I know it's getting confusing Nurse Boogey, especially because there is no massive opposition or revolutionary movement on the ground. And more confusing since most of "the left" has thrown up their hands at building an independent political movement and revolutionary movement. It is also hard because forces like the RCP have no broad support at this time.
It is hard to listen to Mcpalin and observe their social base and not cringe and want to become an expat or head for the hills. It is downright scary. But what you're seeing is the coming together of all the basic problems of empire in a globalized world. I'm going to guess you don't actually think Obama has an answer for the financial crisis gripping the U.S. and the globe. I'm going to guess that your eyes well up with tears when you think of voting for anyone, yes ANYONE, who supports the "surge" in Iraq or who opposes late-term abortion rights.
I'm gonna guess that you don't actually think any of these people represent your WILL. So, okay, and I mean this with a real sharing of your intense feelings—why not take a stand and put your hopes and dreams into going for building a revolutionary movement that could actually express the will of millions upon millions of people who want the madness to stop.
Obama is certainly more of an intellectual and speaks in language closer to the present and John Stewart likes him, and so does Colbert, and he excites you and makes you believe, even if for just a second, that maybe there's hope short of revolutionary change.
But at the end of the day you're still stuck with the fact that the SYSTEM Obama wants to head up is a system OF THE PAST, that it can not save the planet from global warming, it can't feed the world's children, it can't stop the meaningless consumerism and waste, it can't stop waging wars for empire.
And, tell me if I'm right Nurse Boogey, maybe part of our problem is that the notion of breaking free of the bourgeoisie altogether in our struggle for change is frightening because then, in a sense, there's no shelter from the storm.
So, here's the thing. Life goes very quickly. And maybe there's is something you haven't yet discovered that can really point the way. It might be good to sit down tonight with some great old music...listen to some old Dylan, and Thunder Road, and Chrisse Hynde's Revolution, and some of your favorite songs that make you IMAGINE what it could and would and will be like when the people of the world have a genuine choice. Turn the music up really loud and don't let any of these politicians drown out your dreams.
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
REVOLUTION newspaper is a communist newspaper, exposing the utter worthlessness of the current system of imperialism from a thousand angles, and showing the possibility of a better world—of a revolution—and how to get there. But it is more: it is also the “better part” of building a revolutionary movement—spreading truth in preparation for revolution, and serving as the organizing hub for the revolutionary movement. Now REVOLUTION announces a new initiative to qualitatively increase its reach and influence, to serve that revolutionary movement.
For this to happen, we need a movement of volunteers to help with every aspect of putting out this paper. We are inviting everyone who wants to, and can, to be part of that.
* REVOLUTION needs correspondents and reporters. We need people who will go into the neighborhoods after a police shooting or other outrage, call meetings, expose the system, learn the true story, and inspire people to resist, even as they engage with a revolutionary analysis and solution...correspondents on college campuses, going to events, getting the paper out in classes and coffee shops, writing to the paper with what they learn struggling over philosophy and culture, and how all this fits into the revolution....
* REVOLUTION needs Spanish translators, and beyond that, a fully bilingual movement around this paper—including Spanish-speaking correspondents, so that this paper can reflect and serve a bilingual revolutionary movement, and represent the kind of society and world that revolution—a communist revolution—will bring into being.
* REVOLUTION needs photographers, artists, designers and layout people, to help produce newspaper covers, back page posters, centerspreads and picture stories, and page layouts that stop people in their tracks on the street, get them to take out their earphones, and start reading REVOLUTION.
* REVOLUTION needs web people—designers and people with technical skills, to transform our website and help create a compelling, accessible, attractive and reliable way to spread REVOLUTION across the Internet. This is one key way people across the country and around the world can connect with this paper.
* REVOLUTION is building a network of volunteer fundraisers, JOIN US NOW. To produce our paper, to make these transformations in our paper, to move our paper to New York City requires funds...urgently and in an ongoing way. And donate generously online at revcom.us or mail your contribution to RCP Publications at Box 3486 Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
BECOME A SUSTAINER...sign up on line, go into your local Revolution Books/Libros Revolución, or make arrangements with your newspaper distributor.
* And more! REVOLUTION needs people to write to our paper. We want to hear from and “dialog” with you. Send in your comments. And what are you learning when you take this issue out? What questions are we encountering...and what are the debates and controversies...and what creative ways have people found to get this issue into the hands of different kinds of people?
With this issue, we announce a bold, mass initiative to transform the reach, role and content of this newspaper in major ways: The REVOLUTION Initiative.
The REVOLUTION Initiative comes in a time of major economic crisis...a time of two U.S. invasions and more being threatened...and a time of major changes in the thinking of people as to what is possible and—if we urgently seize the openings—what is needed. This is a time that demands a much more powerful and broadly distributed newspaper—and website—one that can more fully, directly and deeply contribute to the work of hastening the motion toward, and preparing the people for, a revolutionary situation.
The REVOLUTION Initiative involves making real leaps in building a revolutionary movement around this newspaper. This initiative involves bringing many new people into the concrete work of distributing and raising money for and producing this newspaper. This initiative involves centering the production of the newspaper in New York City.
And this initiative needs to involve YOU.
Revolution today is an invaluable paper, a paper which week after week shows WHAT is happening, WHY it’s happening, and HOW a whole other world is possible. It lays bare the worthlessness of this system—and what we need to do to get rid of it.
Revolution tomorrow will be filled with a still broader range of articles, graphics and picture stories that speak to people from every part of society...exposing in vivid ways what is at work behind and beneath all the twists and turns in society and the world...reporting on and drawing together all the strands and streams of protest and rebellion...and addressing the biggest questions in the realm of ideas and morality.
Revolution today gives people a vital sense of what is going on in building a revolutionary movement.
Revolution tomorrow will do much more of that—it will serve as a forum for people to dialog and share experience, to debate and grapple with all the big questions of how to make revolution and how to keep on making revolution once power has been seized. And it will do all this in both English and Spanish.
Revolution today publishes and highlights the work of Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Revolution today is the place where you can first connect with many of these path-breaking works—works that form a bridge between the communist revolutions of the past, and the communist revolution of the future. And Revolution today is where you can get to know this leader through his speaking and writing on a whole range of topics.
Revolution tomorrow will continue that and more—it will serve as a forum in which the efforts to popularize this work throughout U.S. society and the world—and the responses of a whole range of people to that work will be highlighted and gone into.
Revolution today gets out to thousands in Spanish and English.
Revolution tomorrow will get out in a societal way...reaching and impacting tens of thousands. Revolution tomorrow will lead a movement of distribution. Distributors of this paper will be doing the work of hastening and preparing for revolution—training people to think and act together, to view every event in society from the standpoint of making revolution and emancipating humanity, and to do as much as possible to bring forward a revolutionary people, ready to actually make revolution when the time is ripe. And the networks of readers that will grow up around this paper will form a backbone of revolutionary organization in this country, organization which links people in housing projects and the mean streets of the cities, students and professors on the college campuses, people in rural areas and suburbs, and more.
Revolution today needs financial support to make these transformations.
Revolution tomorrow must lead a mass movement of fundraising...with people finding all kinds of creative ways to raise money to ensure Revolution can be produced, printed and put up on the web each week—and that it can be distributed far and wide. Raising money for this paper each month will be taken up energetically—and in an ongoing way—by teams that form everywhere to win masses of people to financially support this paper, turning the necessity of financial support into a way to enable growing numbers of people to contribute to and be part of the revolutionary movement.
Revolution today is distributed from and discussed at Revolution Books/Libros Revolución stores across the country. Revolution tomorrow will be at the hub of a revolutionary mix centered in and emanating out of these stores—even as similar scenes will also radiate out of regular spots in key neighborhoods or smaller cities. Each week when the paper arrives hot off the press, people will gather in these stores to see what is in the latest issue and get stacks to take out in the world, sharing the controversies and experiences with the last issue—and keeping their fingers on the pulse of what is happening in these heavy times.
Revolution tomorrow will be in the thick of the debate wherever people gather to talk about what’s happening in the world...and wherever people are fighting the power. Revolution will be there when someone is gunned down in cold blood by the police, when critical thinking and dissent are attacked on college campuses, wherever there are outbreaks of protest and rebellion, in the mix and acting like a magnet, drawing forward and learning from the revolutionary sentiments of the people...recruiting reporters...spreading the word of what has happened and compelling people to respond. Revolution tomorrow will be essential to fighting the power, to filling people with an irresistible desire to resist. And Revolution will also challenge the people to raise their heads from the muck and mire, to take up the communist outlook and ethic and transform their outlook, for revolution.
Revolution today is produced by dedicated but far too few people. Revolution tomorrow will enlist—beginning now—many more people into this work. Revolution tomorrow will be centered in New York City. These concentrated efforts in New York City will make it possible to make real leaps in concretely bringing forward and involving people in these efforts—as well as providing a catalyst and magnet that can echo and reverberate to other major cities and across the country. When youth (and others) show up in New York with their suitcases and sleeping bags, wanting to work with Revolution, there will be assignments for all and everyone will be able to jump right away into the exciting mix of revolutionary theory and practice to change the world and make revolution.
And Revolution tomorrow, even as it will be centered in New York, will link up with and draw on this growing revolutionary movement around the country to produce this paper. People will gather each week at Revolution Books stores, or other regular spots, to contribute to every aspect of the production of this paper—wrangling over the writing of articles, developing creative ways to expose the dark forces at work beneath every outrage and to bring forward the revolutionary solution in pictures and graphics, developing hard hitting posters and graphics.
Revolution today is up on the Internet, introducing people to this paper, the works of Bob Avakian and archiving all the issues of our paper.
But Revolution tomorrow must have an exciting, redesigned web site, drawing on the creativity and expertise of many people to find the ways to spread this exposure and communist analysis to every corner of society. Connecting with, engaging and interacting with people in all walks of life who are drawn to revolution and to this revolutionary analysis—from the cities and the rural areas in this country to the megacities and shantytowns throughout the world.
Revolution tomorrow must be the hub and pivot of a whole movement that is ALIVE WITH REVOLUTION—full of political debate and discussion of articles, current political and cultural events, and burning philosophical questions. A movement of people straining to understand and transform the world.
For those who dream that the world can be another way... For those who want to know the truth about how the planet can truly be liberated... For those who cannot wait another day for revolution, and want to set about the work of hastening that time, building a movement concretely working for REVOLUTION and bringing forward a revolutionary people:
VOLUNTEER FOR, AND SUPPORT, THE REVOLUTION INITIATIVE!
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
Revolution received the following from the Defend Science Project:
We wanted to let readers of Revolution know that the Defend Science Project will be running an ad in the special “Giving” section of the November 11 edition of the New York Times.
This ad will point out that the attack on science continues, point to the attacks on evolution, and call for a defense of science and scientific method. The battle to defend science and scientific thinking in many ways is even more important with the election of Obama.
Tell your friends about the upcoming ad, and encourage people to go to the Defend Science website and help spread the word.
Defend Science website: www.defendscience.org
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
“To determine its conduct from case to case, to adapt itself to the events of the day and to the chopping and changing of petty politics, to forget the primary interests of the proletariat and the basic features of the whole capitalist system, of all capitalist evolution, to sacrifice these primary interests for the real or assumed advantages of the moment—such is the policy of revisionism. And it patently follows from the very nature of this policy that it may assume an infinite variety of forms, and that every more or less “new” question, every more or less unexpected and unforeseen turn of events, even though it changes the basic line of development only to an insignificant degree and only for the briefest period, will always inevitably give rise to one variety of revisionism or another.”
(Lenin, “Marxism and Revisionism,” Collected Works, Vol. 15. pp. 37-38, cited in Bob Avakian, Mao Tsetung’s Immortal Contributions, Chapter 4, “Philosophy,” pp. 144-45.)
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
On election day, November 4, Proposition 8 passed in California. This proposition amended the California constitution to declare only “marriage between a man and a woman” would be recognized in the state—in effect reversing a California Supreme Court decision that allowed gay marriage beginning on June 17. Now, this “Yes” vote on Proposition 8—by a margin of 52% to 48%—has effectively ended that right and, by changing the constitution itself, has made it much harder for the right to be restored.
This is truly an outrage. The rights of entire group of people have now been struck down by a referendum! Think about what that means for gay people, once again denied elemental rights that heterosexuals take for granted. Think what it means – to be declared, in effect, less than human. And think as well about the precedent being set: that any right of any group of people can now be put “up for a vote,” at the mercy of religious lunatics, people locked in the grip of ignorance and fascist manipulators. This must not stand!
The reaction to the passage of Proposition 8 here in Southern California was immediate, and angry. Several groups announced a protest meeting in the City of West Hollywood the day after the election. West Hollywood is a city next to LA with a large and visible gay and lesbian population. Speakers voiced support for the election of Barack Obama as president and promised support for the lawsuits that had already been filed to invalidate the hateful proposition. But people in the crowd were impatient and were ready to step out into the streets and resist. An hour into the rally, two young women went into the street, and were arrested by LA County sheriffs. Hundreds, then thousands, of people followed their example, and marched off. With rainbow flags and clenched fists in the air, they marched east into Los Angeles. Homemade signs read “Equality Now!” “No Hate,” “Go to Hell Mormon Church” (the Mormons were among the reactionary religious groups who backed Proposition 8), “What Will They Take From YOU?” The cry went up “Gay, Straight, Black, White, Marriage is a Civil Right”…
Once the march kicked off, several thousand took to the streets and marched on CNN several miles away, and then moved to the tourist destination at Hollywood and Highland where they were met by phalanxes of LAPD riot police. In the face of this, one bold protestor ran through an LAPD police line and jumped onto, and then up and down on, a black and white police car, causing a sensation among the crowds of people. As this was happening simultaneous marches were occurring over a wide area of the city, with many thousands involved, and support growing. The following day thousands marched on a Mormon temple in West Los Angeles.
One man at the protest said gays are among the first targets, but others are going to be next. Another person pointed out that passing a proposition like this in California, which is supposed to be a liberal state, would set a very bad precedent. The defiance, righteous anger, and no business as usual character of this upsurge is a welcome development that needs to be supported by anyone with any sense of justice and spread.
San Francisco: “We Will Not Be Quiet”
Chanting, “Whose Rights? Our Rights!” and “We will not be quiet!” more than ten thousand demonstrators took to the streets of San Francisco on Friday evening November 7 to protest the passage of Proposition 8 in California, blocking traffic during rush hour on Market Street, the main thoroughfare through San Francisco’s downtown and filling the streets of the famous Castro District and other parts of the city with a spirit of defiance. A large group of the protesters took the intersection of 9th and Market near San Francisco City Hall for hours, locking arms and refusing to move. The crowd was made up of mainly people in their 20s or younger and of all nationalities. Many heard of the protest on Facebook or via text messages from their friends or from signs posted in subway stations. This was the second protest in San Francisco in the three days since the election.
As we go to press, reports are coming in of the beginnings of a righteous eruption of protest against Prop 8 around the country. The Salt Lake City Tribune reported that on Friday, November 7, “More than 3,000 people swarmed downtown Salt Lake City to march past the LDS temple and church headquarters, protesting Mormon involvement in the campaign for California’s Proposition 8.” And that after a rally, “the masses headed west…shouting chants such as: ‘What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!’” In Chicago more than 500 people protested the induction of Christian fascist James Dobson into the Radio Hall of Fame – Dobson and his Focus on the Family organization played a major role in getting that proposition onto the ballot and in the campaign for its passage. Stay turned to revcom.us for ongoing news and analysis of this important emerging wave of protest.
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
On Monday, November 3, as many in the U.S. prepared to celebrate a possible Obama election victory, the small village of Wech Baghtu in southern Afghanistan prepared for a celebration of its own—a wedding celebration. But their celebration turned to horror when a U.S. missile struck the wedding party—murdering at least 60 people, mainly civilians, including women and children.
“My wounded son was in my arms, right here, bleeding,” the bride’s father told the AFP news agency. “He died last night. I lost two sons, two grandsons, a nephew, my mother and a cousin.” Three days later, at least 20 more people were killed by another U.S. air strike in Badghis Province. “The Americans are hitting civilian houses all the time,” said provincial council member Mohammad Tawakil Khan. His house was hit, killing two of his sons and one grandson.
The next day another 10 to 13 people were killed in a U.S. air strike on a village in north Waziristan in Western Pakistan, along the Afghan border—the 15th such attack in the last two months.
These are the latest atrocities in the escalating U.S. war in Afghanistan. A July 6 bombing killed 47 members of a wedding party near the village of Kacu and an August 22 attack massacred more than 90 civilians in Azizabad.
U.S. aerial attacks on wedding parties have been a hallmark of the current occupation, since the U.S. occupiers consider any large gathering of Afghans inherently hostile.
According to Human Rights Watch (September 8), U.S. and NATO air strikes tripled in 2007 over the previous year, killing 321 Afghan civilians in 22 bombings, while hundreds more were injured.
The actual number killed by the U.S. is probably much greater. In 2007 NATO reported it killed 6,000 “Taliban.” Associated Press reports that more than 4,200 have been killed in 2008, most of them labeled “militants” (and therefore considered legitimate targets—not “civilians”) by Afghan and Western officials. But these officials have consistently lied about and covered up U.S.-NATO atrocities, so many of these thousands may have been civilians as well. For instance, for days following the August massacre of civilians in the village of Azizabad, U.S. officials claimed the number killed was much lower than villagers and reporters had actually counted. (See, Glenn Greenwald: “The Government, the Media and Afghanistan,” Salon.com, September 11, 2008)
These atrocities flow from and epitomize the unjust, anti-people, imperialist character of the whole U.S. war in Afghanistan—from day one. This is NOT—as the U.S. rulers would have us believe—a “justified response” to 9/11 to “protect Americans.”
As we’ve documented in this series, the U.S. war and occupation of Afghanistan and then Iraq were conceived of by the Bush administration as the opening salvoes in an unbounded war for greater empire, waged under the rubric of a “war on terror,” Its goal from the very beginning was to defeat reactionary Islamic fundamentalist trends and groups that posed a growing obstacle to U.S. hegemony (and the attacks of 9/11 clarified the magnitude of that threat to the U.S. rulers), overthrow states not fully under U.S. control, and restructure the Middle East and Central Asian regions in order to deepen U.S. domination. Bush regime spokespeople called this “draining the swamp,”—which implies the targeting of entire regions which are home to tens of millions of people.
All this is being done to ultimately seize deeper control of key sources and shipment routes of strategic energy supplies and establish new military bases and beachheads as part of a conscious plan to forge an unchallengeable global empire. And Afghanistan has been merely one front in this regional and global war. The war and occupation of Iraq was not a “diversion” from this, but, like the invasion of Afghanistan, part of an overall strategy of greater U.S. empire.
Before the U.S. invasion, life for the Afghan people was hell under the rule of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban. Reactionary religious strictures and suffocating social relations were imposed on pain of death—a savagery scorched into the world’s memory by the stadium stonings of women for “crimes” like adultery. The Taliban also enforced feudal economic relations that kept Afghan peasants shackled and destitute. And while their agenda sharply conflicted with the U.S. agenda at times, the Taliban weren’t fundamentally opposed to imperialism’s overall domination of Afghanistan. In fact they’d been quite willing to deal with the U.S. over oil pipelines and on other fronts.
These reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces are opposed to some policies of U.S. imperialism and represent a growing pole of opposition to U.S. domination in the Middle East. But there is absolutely nothing good about these forces who represent outmoded reactionary economic and social relations and continue to bring down horror on the people.
Following September 11, 2001, Taliban rule in Afghanistan didn’t become intolerable for the U.S. imperialists because of its completely reactionary nature and all the horror it means for the Afghan people. In fact, one factor that contributed to the rise of the Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalist forces was the financial, organizational, and military support given to the Islamic Mujahadeen by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia (often working through Pakistan’s intelligence service) to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s, the U.S. goal being defeating a rival imperial power and gaining greater control of the Middle East-Central Asian region. And the U.S. directly supported Taliban rule for a time in the 1990s. The U.S. decision to invade Afghanistan had nothing to do with the reactionary, theocratic nature of the Taliban, which mainly represented sections of the feudal classes and tribes of Afghanistan’s largest nationality, the Pashtun. The purpose of the U.S. October 2001 invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, and its overthrow of the Taliban regime, was not to bring democracy and liberation to the Afghan people. It was to defeat Islamic fundamentalism and to directly dominate and control Afghanistan to further the U.S. imperial agenda. This was an unjust war of aggression—a war crime—and U.S. and NATO forces continue to try to impose this agenda at gunpoint through a brutal and bloody occupation that targets the Taliban and the Afghan people.
The unjust brutality of the U.S. occupation is illustrated by the Afghan forces the U.S. has relied on, built up, and used to create a puppet regime after the invasion to carry out U.S. objectives. They were the same hated landlords, militia heads, and feudal and tribal chieftains that have tormented the people of Afghanistan decade after decade, who represent and enforce the very oppressive, traditional feudal relations that have made life hell for the people.
In one notorious incident, the barbaric fighters of the so-called “Northern Alliance” locked hundreds of people suspected of being Taliban supporters (many of whom were targeted because they were ethnic Pashtuns) into trailers and suffocated them to death. These are the kind of forces the U.S. has relied on to enforce its occupation. And today these same U.S. allies are responsible for widespread war crimes, including operating their own prisons with “unprecedented abuse, torture, and death of Taliban prisoners” which have been documented by a 2005 report by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. This same report cited 800 cases of detainee abuse by U.S. forces at some 30 firebases, and condemned the CIA for operating secret detention centers holding “ghost prisoners” (detainees who are not given any legal rights or access to counsel and who are likely not reported or seen by the International Red Cross).
The ongoing oppressive treatment of women is another example of the nature of the U.S. occupation. The Bush regime seized on the horrific, barbaric treatment of women under the Taliban as part of the justification for the U.S. invasion with its promise of freedom for women. Yet today, after 7 years of U.S. occupation, Afghan women remain imprisoned in oppressive, violent traditional relations and Islamic strictures, despite a few cosmetic changes in women’s formal legal rights.
In October 2007, the National Democratic Organisation of Afghan Refugees in Europe stated, “The situation for women has deteriorated and hundreds of thousands of young girls and women are kept from school and work and are confined within the walls of their home.”
Every 30 minutes, an Afghan woman dies during childbirth; 87 percent of Afghan women are illiterate; only 30 percent of girls have access to education in Afghanistan; 1 in every 3 Afghan women experience physical, psychological or sexual violence; 70 to 80 percent of women face forced marriages in Afghanistan. Instances of self-immolation are on the rise. (afghan-web.com/woman/)
The U.S. State Department claims that the U.S., together with the UN, the World Bank and other international agencies (which are dominated and controlled by U.S. imperialism) “have assisted in a great variety of humanitarian and development projects all across Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.” (U.S. State Department website on Afghanistan, state.gov/p/sca/ci/af/).
But in reality, the U.S.’s imperialist objectives, the unjust war it’s waging, and the reactionaries it has allied with have ensured that Afghanistan remains an extremely backward, desperately poor country, where life is getting worse, not better.
Take the case of opium production. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, opium poppy production had basically been ended by the reactionary Taliban. Today, after seven years of U.S. occupation, Afghanistan accounts for 90 per cent of the world supply and a third of Afghanistan’s GDP. Why? A big reason is the U.S.’s reactionary warlord allies, who profit from drug money and rely on it to hold onto power. (Eric Margolis writes, “Washington called off efforts by the Drug Enforcement Agency to combat the Afghan drug trade for fear of endangering the power base of its former CIA ‘asset,’ President Hamid Karzai. Starting with Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali, the U.S.-installed regime’s most important supporters are all involved in varying degrees with the heroin trade.” Huffington Post, October 15, 2008.)
Conditions of life in Afghanistan under the U.S. occupation are among the worst on the planet. The statistics mind-numbing, the reality they describe hard to imagine. Afghanistan is the 174th poorest country (of 178), according to the UN’s Human Development Index. Since 2003, life expectancy has fallen to 43.1 years, and adult literacy has fallen to 23.5 percent.
According to the imperialist World Bank, Afghanistan’s total 2007 GDP (gross domestic product) was a mere $11.6 billion—less than what the U.S. spends on three Nimitz class aircraft carriers. Hunger is widespread and growing. “Up to 70% of Afghanistan’s estimated 26.6 million people are considered food-insecure by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),” the World Bank reports, “and millions have recently been pushed into ‘high-risk’ food-insecurity because of high food prices.”
One of every three children under 5 is malnourished, and in 2005 (the last year for which estimates are available), the average Afghan earned roughly $271 a year—less than $1 a day, and 42% of the people exist on less than $14 a month.
Two historically outmoded and reactionary forces are in contention in Afghanistan: Islamic fundamentalist forces which represent historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity—up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other.
The brutal U.S. occupation of Afghanistan has only added more fuel to widespread anti-U.S. sentiment in the Middle East. Given the lack of a genuine revolutionary force that can lead the people to fight both U.S. imperialism and reactionary Islamic fundamentalism—many people in Afghanistan have turned in desperation to the Taliban. And as a recent article from the A World To Win News Service pointed out: “The Taleban and other fundamentalists are taking advantage of the chaos and misery created by the occupiers and the puppet regime. They are advancing their war and imposing their medieval theocratic dictates over more of the country and its people, although they do not have stable areas of political power.” (See “Afghanistan seven years after the invasion—Part I: The state of the occupation,” November 3, 2008, online at revcom.us.)
In this way, the reactionary nature of the U.S. war and occupation have ended up reinforcing and fueling reactionary Islamic fundamentalism.
Right now, some 40 countries have over 60,000 troops in Afghanistan operating under U.S. command, including 33,000 U.S. troops. This is triple the number of U.S.-NATO forces in Afghanistan after the Taliban government’s fall in November 2001. And the Bush regime is scheduled to send another 8,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan in January, while a top U.S. general has asked for another 15,000 on top of that—a “surge” Obama supports. (As of this month, 555 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan since 2001, and U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan have risen this year to at least 113, the highest yet.)
As this series has documented, nothing good can or will come from escalating an unjust and vicious war of empire. Many, many more Afghans will die. Reactionary Islamic fundamentalism will be fueled even more.
So anyone who opposes unjust wars needs to step up their active resistance to any effort by the U.S. to continue or escalate the Afghanistan war—NOW. Putting a new face on the war—and the empire—doesn’t change this in the least. And giving Obama “time” and support means a death sentence for thousands of people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region as a whole.
What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these ‘outmodeds,’ you end up strengthening both.
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
From A World to Win News Service:
November 3, 2008. A World to Win News Service. This is the first of a three-part series on the occasion of the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. A second article, taken from Sholeh Jawid, the organ of the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan, will examine the situation of the Taleban and other Islamic fundamentalists. A third will examine the U.S.’s strategic alternatives and perspectives. These articles will not run consecutively.
Within two months after they invaded Afghanistan, the U.S.-led coalition forces ousted the Taleban from power and declared victory. But the war wasn’t over. In fact, now even American military authorities admit that the war’s end is receding further and further from sight.
After seven years of occupation, the military and political situation in Afghanistan has become critical. The occupiers are making every effort to ease the situation and reverse the tide that has been running against them. Their methods include building up their troop strength, obliging their occupation partners to join the fighting in the war zones, and murdering civilians (including many children) in aerial attacks on an unprecedented scale. On the other side, the Taleban and other fundamentalists are taking advantage of the chaos and misery created by the occupiers and the puppet regime. They are advancing their war and imposing their medieval theocratic dictates over more of the country and its people, although they do not have stable areas of political power.
This war launched with the pretexts of a “war on terror” and “freeing the people of Afghanistan” was in fact a war of aggression aimed at serving the interests of the U.S. and the other imperialists, regional interests given greater importance by their global context. But the achievement of the war’s aims has run up against obstacles arising from its unjust and reactionary nature. This is something that the arrogant imperialists could not and did not want to foresee. All the various imperialist countries, whether ruled by open right-wing regimes or social democratic governments, obeyed only one logic: the interests of monopoly capital and imperialist power relations. They took advantage of 9/11 and the anti-woman brutality of the Taleban regime to legitimize their invasion of Afghanistan. They never doubted that victory would come quickly and easily.
However, “Operation Enduring Freedom,” as the invasion was labeled, brought the people of Afghanistan no freedom at all. Instead, the result has been all kinds of misery imposed on the people in various forms by both the occupiers and the fundamentalists. In addition to frequent bombardments of villages in the contested areas of the south and east, the invaders carry out torture at Bagram (the former Soviet base near Kabul now run by the U.S.) and other military facilities. They harass the people and worse on the streets and in their homes. Instead of the promised economic reconstruction, the country’s economy has become dependent on the drug trade. Some 40 percent of the people suffer absolute poverty, and 20 million—more than 70 percent of the population—live under the poverty line. The invaders have entrusted the government and parliament to the most corrupt and brutal criminals, reactionaries whom the people have known and hated for the last 30 years.
Further, the occupation of Afghanistan has drawn Pakistan deeply into this war, risking a wider and more complex conflict that could pull in other countries in the region, such as Iran and even conceivably India.
When the occupation of Afghanistan started many people were astonished by the military superiority of the imperialists and in particular the U.S. imperialists, especially by the video game-like clips of their high-tech military apparatus played over and over again on global TV screens. Yet today the military situation for the occupation has deteriorated so much that now high-ranking Western government and military officials are using terms like “stalemate” to describe conditions in some parts of the country. A recent, still secret Washington intelligence report calls the overall situation a “downward spiral”. (International Herald Tribune, October 15, 2008) We no longer hear claims that the U.S. is winning the war. All authoritative sources agree that the occupation faces, at best, many more years of fighting.
Even if we compare the present military situation with that of 18 months ago, when occupation officials were still optimistic about victory, we can see that the war has become much more intense. Causalities have risen on both sides. The war has spread to new regions, and areas the occupiers formerly considered under control are now considered dangerous—some of the northern part of the country and even the capital. Maybe the occupiers’ only military achievement in the last two years has been the killing of a number of important Taleban commanders. However, the lasting impact of those killings is debatable.
The changes in the situation have given rise to contradictions among the imperialists and between the occupiers and the puppet regime. These conflicts are not such that they can split or seriously weaken the imperialist coalition at present, but they have hurt morale. The tone has become sharper. Several governments are no longer enthusiastic about sending troops to Afghanistan. Furthermore, they are blaming the U.S. for this deteriorating state of affairs, due, they say, to strategic errors and a heavy-handed approach.
A NATO meeting held in Bucharest last April included an expanded conference on the military situation in Afghanistan attended by heads of state and government. At this summit the U.S., UK, Netherlands and Canada vigorously demanded that Germany, France and Italy send more troops to Afghanistan and lift the restrictions now keeping their forces already stationed there out of combat. The Bucharest summit and the period prior to it revealed significant disagreements among the occupiers. Despite resistance from some countries, those attending agreed to send more soldiers. But the summit was unable to settle the differences. Despite a fake show of unity at the end, it brought to the surface the fragility of the unity between them, reflecting political disagreements and contradictory interests.
At present 40 countries have troops in Afghanistan. Until recently 26 of these contingents were under NATO command in the framework of the so-called International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the rest under U.S.-led coalition forces.
At the beginning of the occupation ISAF had 5,000 troops mainly concentrated in Kabul, and the number of “international coalition” troops went up to 20,000 before dropping down to 15,000 when NATO assumed command of ISAF and began taking part in the war zones. Thus the occupation troops numbered about 20,000 in total.
In the years since then, with the intensification of the war, the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan has increased. There are now about 60,000 troops under NATO command. The total number of American soldiers in Afghanistan at present is said to be about 36,000.
These troop numbers only refer to those assigned to combat roles. The Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) and armed private security company employees should also be counted as part of the occupation forces.
“Despite the word ‘reconstruction’ in their name, these PRT teams working throughout the country are military, not civilian. Each is led by a particular NATO country. Although their members do not wear uniforms, they are all soldiers. They are accompanied by uniformed soldiers to protect their security. Economic, social and cultural programs are only one aspect of their multiple tasks. They also take part in what’s called military reconstruction, organizing the police forces and training recruits. In fact, they control the provincial security commands. They also intervene in all administration affairs, appointing and dismissing foreign experts in government offices in the provinces. These teams have the real administration and security of the provinces under their control and can even appoint or dismiss provincial governors.” (From Sholeh Jawid, no. 18, organ of the Communist [Maoist] Party of Afghanistan.)
Thousands of private security company employees have been sent along with the occupation forces. Although they come and go, their number is estimated to be about 5,000 at any given time. These groups are usually tasked with patrolling the main roads, escorting logistic caravans, and protecting governmental locations and leading officials. Most of the higher-ranking employees of these private armies are ex-U.S. armed forces officers, but they also employ non-American foreign personnel. They have also been trying recruiting some Afghanis, especially from among criminal jihadi groups.
Thus the total number of occupation forces is now approximately 71,000—about three and a half times more than at the start. Following the Bucharest summit, U.S. President George W. Bush approved the deployment of 8,000 more troops in early 2009. Gordon Brown, the UK Prime Minister, indicated that alliance members would allocate at least 18 new advanced helicopters to Afghan operations. France announced it would dispatch 700 soldiers to the war zones in eastern Afghanistan, bringing the total number of French troops to about 3,000. Canada announced it would keep its 2,500-strong contingent in the country. Their troops are stationed in contested Kandahar province, a Taleban stronghold. Earlier Canada had warned that they would withdraw their contingent if other countries didn’t send more help. Under pressure from NATO, the German government pledged 1,000 more soldiers, and the Bundestag (parliament) approved it in October. This means that Germany will eventually have 4,500 troops in the country, the third-largest contingent after the United States and Britain. Finally, General David McKiernan, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently said that he needs as many as 15,000 more combat and support troops, in addition to the 8,000 troops the U.S. already has scheduled to be sent early next year.
Another significant change since the beginning of the occupation is the increased role for NATO in commanding occupation forces. This happened several years ago, at a time when the U.S. was preoccupied with the war in Iraq. As the situation in Afghanistan grew more intense, the U.S. tried to bring in more European forces and soldiers under NATO command from other parts of the world (such as Turkey). Now leadership of NATO and American forces has been combined in one man, the U.S. General McKiernan. This move to re-establish full American control of all occupation troops in Afghanistan and at the same time unify them under a single command reflects the widely-shared belief in Washington that the war is going badly, and that it must be shifted more to the centre of the U.S.’s strategic concerns, in terms of troop levels and especially command, which involves political as well as military components. David Petraeus, the general credited with the U.S.’s recent successes in splitting and at least temporarily neutralizing some of the forces fighting the occupiers in Iraq, has been put in charge of the whole region. He is expected to pay close attention to strategic issues in Afghanistan.
Multiplying their troop strength did not help the imperialists stabilize their occupation. Instead, it resulted in an escalation of the war on both sides, as the following quotes show.
For the first time, in May 2008, the number of coalition soldiers killed in Afghanistan was more than those killed in Iraq. “Pentagon officials said that in May, 16 coalition troops were killed in Iraq, 14 of them American, and that 18 coalition troops were killed in Afghanistan, 13 of them American.” (New York Times, June 14, 2008)
“Overall, McKiernan offered a sober view of Afghanistan, saying the violence is more intense than he had anticipated, particularly in the east and south. The U.S. military death toll has risen to more than 130 this year, exceeding the 117 killed last year and reaching a new annual high since the war began in 2001.”(Washington Post, October 2, 2008)
Yet there is no prospect that the imperialists will abandon their war in Afghanistan. The troop escalation, command changes and other moves are an indication of even more involvement and determination on the part of all the major powers. Within the U.S., from start to finish in the presidential campaign, all the major candidates argued for stepped-up war there.
One contradiction the imperialists face is this: on the one they are not willing to end the occupation, and on the other, the Afghan people’s hatred for that occupation is the main source of strength for the fundamentalists fighting it. Right now there is much discussion within imperialist circles about how to deal with this and make a breakthrough, not only in reversing the unfavorable tide of war but eventually in achieving their political goals. It is an indication of the seriousness of their intentions to persist that while they recognize the risk of extending the war more widely in the region, they are not letting even that danger stop them.
Consequently, once again Afghanistan is at the centre of discussions and differences among the imperialists. Even the future of the puppet regime and in particular Karzai himself is under serious consideration. There is no doubt that the imperialists are striving to come up with a “more realistic” strategy. And it’s obvious their “more realistic” strategy is not going to mean getting their hands off Afghanistan. What seems “more realistic” to them is either to hugely increase the number of their forces in Afghanistan, or to try to cut a deal with the Taleban in some way and draw them into the puppet regime, or a combination of both.
This would not solve the problem, although it could achieve some temporary results. The basic contradiction—imperialist intervention and domination—would remain unresolved and continue to assert itself, as has been the case in Afghanistan for the last 30 years.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
Flash: On Thursday, November 20, an overflow crowd of 200 heard Sunsara Taylor, Massimo Pigliucci and Paul Eckstein in an exchange on “Morality Without Gods,” at New York University in New York City. Sponsored by Atheists, Agnostics & Humanists at NYU and Equal Time for Freethought radio WBAI- NY, the presentations, the exchange between the panelists, and the engagement with the audience was an intense and invigorating experience—something there needs to be much more of!
Watch it on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-jDpdbVff4.
Since early October, Revolution correspondent Sunsara Taylor has been on a national campus speaking tour, giving talks on the recent book by Bob Avakian, Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World. The Away With All Gods! tour brought Taylor before high school classrooms, and to groups who are part of the growing secular, atheist & freethought movement on college campuses. Tour stops included Sonoma State University, sponsored by Project Censored lecture series; the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford University, sponsored by Atheists, Humanists & Agnostics; and two public high schools. Other events on the tour included an appearance at UCLA sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion; the Santa Monica Public Library; Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists at University of Minnesota; Amazon Bookstore Cooperative in Minneapolis; Cleveland State University sponsored by the Department of Black Studies; and a program on “Morality Without Gods—An Exchange” at NYU, sponsored by Equal Time for Freethought on WBAI-NY and Atheists, Agnostics & Freethinkers at NYU.
On November 6, Sunsara Taylor was part of a colloquium sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion at UCLA on “Away With All Gods—Possibility or Fantasy?” with Dr. S. Scott Bartchy, Director of the Center. Revolution is publishing correspondence from Sunsara Taylor about these events. (See Revolution #147 and #148 for Parts 1 and 2. The entire correspondence is available now online at revcom.us.) For more information about the Away With All Gods! tour, and to arrange interviews with Sunsara Taylor, check out www.awaywithallgods.com.
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The audiences at each of the events have been very broad, even as they have varied at each event. They have included people who are questioning their religious beliefs, committed atheists, firm believers who have come to argue for their religion, libertarians (there is a strain of right-wing Ayn Rand type folks in the atheist scene), Bible-believing Christians (this was mostly at the high schools), and quite a bit more.
My presentation highlights several themes in the book and I read several passages from Away With All Gods!, including the opening called, “God Works in Mysterious Ways.” I do a lot of exposure of the content of the Bible and I get into what is wrong with religion and the tradition of Jesus even at its “best.” I discuss what is the basis for morality without gods, the danger of Christian fascism including Palin and the way that Obama has helped legitimate and not to challenge this whole direction, and I give a glimpse of the very end of the book of what it would be like with no more belief in gods and no more suffering that makes people feel the need to seek solace in make-believe.
Some highlights from the road:
At Sonoma a young woman was brought there by a friend. Her mother had not allowed her to take anthropology so she wouldn’t be taught evolution. This young woman was a bit “white-knuckled” by the whole event and wouldn’t say anything after it was over except that she was a believer. Her friend, on the other hand, also grew up conservative Christian. Now she is 18 and after the event said very quietly, “Your talk... made me so.... happy.” She was grinning and fidgeting and looking at the ground. She was very shy. Asked why it made her so happy, she said she had stopped believing when she was about 16, but had never heard anyone explain logically why god doesn’t exist and that belief in god is harmful. Even as she had spontaneously gravitated towards these views, she had never articulated them and it was apparent looking at her that hearing this really had made her genuinely happy.
At the Stanford event, during the Q&A two guys challenged me to study ancient Greek and Latin because, they claim, in the original texts of the Bible god is referred to in gender-neutral language and that the patriarchy wasn’t in “god’s original word” but was smuggled in later by humans. In this, they were trying to unite with the thrust of my comments against the church and fundamentalism, but to do so in a defense of the “true” word of the lord. I got into how patriarchy wasn’t only in the reference to the Lord as male, although that is definitely the case, but saturated throughout the commandments and stories told in the Bible—like the commandments to women to obey and submit to their husbands, or the accounting that Bob Avakian does in his book of why all the “begats” are in the Bible which trace the male lineage of Jesus down from the ancient Jewish patriarchs to Joseph, even though Joseph supposedly had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus!) After this an Indian student (there was a small group of Indian atheists who came to the event) got in on challenging these two other audience members. The defender of “god’s true word” had said, “Who cares about the church, I am talking about the lord...” and the Indian student responded, “I care about the church, because it is doing horrible things and shaping people’s lives today in a big way, including women’s lives...” This was quite good.
One of the other Indian students came and talked to me after the event and asked what I thought of the relationship between globalization and the rise of fundamentalism. He observed that in India both of them really took off in tandem in the mid-nineties. He’d been part of a rationalist group that took atheism to the rural areas in northwestern India but found it extremely difficult because everything about people’s lives was structured around religion: their beliefs, their social order, even the local governments (even as they were supposed to be secular). He wasn’t ready to give up on bringing atheism to people, but seemed very challenged as to how it could ever take hold.
I discussed with him what is raised in Away With All Gods! and some of Avakian’s other works about the way that globalization has brought modernity to millions of oppressed peoples around the world together with profound horrors that have uprooted them from their homelands and thrust them into desperate and exploitative conditions. Also, how this has combined with the loss of revolutionary China and the dream of revolution for millions as a way to liberation in the real world to set the stage for such a rapid and pernicious growth of fundamentalism. While acknowledging that there are some different particularities to India, there is a need to go at this on many levels. It is very important to go out directly with atheism and science, but also with a revolutionary way out. Further, there is an impact that people can have on the whole atmosphere in the world from this country. Avakian has spoken to the importance of building resistance to the crimes of imperialism right here within this country that is powerful enough it can’t be hidden from the people of the world and that this gives more “oxygen” to breathe to those who are secular and revolutionary in various places around the world where fundamentalism is growing. The guy was very taken by this—it seemed to be a brand new thought, trying to figure out how to repolarize society and the world on these questions and that we should go at this at many levels.
There were two very big questions that came up repeatedly from people generally, but particularly from people who considered themselves atheists and part of the secular community.
1. “Isn’t spreading atheism too much like the way religious people spread their religion?” Or, another way it came up: “I don’t want to be part of telling people what to think.” This went together with a tendency, on the part of atheists, to downplay the questions of methodology. Even among big advocates of the scientific method, it still wasn’t always appreciated how this relates to challenging the religious mentality and why this is a VERY GOOD THING to do.
2. “If you don’t believe in god, where do you get your morality from?” Some atheists offered answers like “empathy” and “being good to other people.” While these reflect very good sentiments, in many ways they don’t get beyond all the problems identified in Away With All Gods! with the second of Jesus’ two major commandments (to “love your neighbor as yourself.”) This can’t provide a morality for society as a whole, especially in a world as filled with oppressive divisions and as in need of radical transformation as this one. (If you love the slave-master you cannot really love the slave and if you act in the interests of the slave you will be acting against the interests of the slave-master.)
Also, some raised—and this was a theme that was echoed by more than a few of the organized atheists on campus and trumpeted by Daniel Dennett at the Freedom From Religion Foundation conference—that religion is dying out. Some students cited the slackened belief among their peers as opposed to parents. Dennett cited the same study—that only 4% of Christian teens today will grow up to be “bible believing” Christians — that BattleCry cites in trying to scare people into being foot-soldiers. Also, some (not all) organizers with the Secular Student Alliance seemed to argue that rationality will just win out over time and didn’t see this as an urgent battle that needs to be fought. There doesn’t seem to be a very “live-nerve” among a lot of the atheists I met about the growth and dangers of theocracy and Christian fascism in this country. On the other hand, quite a few of them had a sense of the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism—undoubtedly this is largely influenced by Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris.
This goes together with a big currency among many of the secular student organizers to think the main issue is “improving the image of atheists.” That instead of challenging religion, atheists have to prove that we are good people too. One chapter of the Secular Student Alliance volunteered down in New Orleans rebuilding housing together with a Christian club in order to “build bridges” between the two groups. I was told that “both sides learned that they are all just people” and forged unity. This is very bad. They explicitly didn’t challenge people around their beliefs or the content of them. Instead they just wanted to show that atheists can be humanitarian and moral as well. Some strains of this are not as bad as others—like having an atheist blood drive day is not terrible (something some of them do), but explicitly trying to forge unity with right wing Christian groups is terrible.
This seems to combine two things: 1. Underestimating the seriousness and danger of religious growth and the harm that religion in all its forms does, and 2. Not really getting that there is a danger in the method of religious thought and where it leads, not just in “prejudices” against atheists. This dovetails with a tendency to see the limit of the battle as fighting for the separation of church and state, rather than fighting to break people free from religion itself (even while uniting with progressive religious forces in the very important fight to insist on the separation of church and state as well as other urgent social and political issues).
I got into this more extensively with one secular student leader in particular and I got him Avakian’s book. This guy said he wasn’t really interested in more debunking of the Bible, he hadn’t been personally raised with it, and doesn’t talk that much to fundamentalists. I talked with him about why it is important in this country to take on the Bible not just for talking to fundamentalists but as part of understanding and challenging religion more generally, but then I focused more with him on what is in the last chapter of Away With All Gods!, the polemic and basis for unity-struggle-unity with Michael Lerner and other progressive religious folks, the whole discussion of rational thought vs. faith, and the basis for morality.
In Chicago, I held a salon on the book with a group of performance artists who do a lot of work on religion. Four of the six of them had read at least parts, if not all, of the book and they all took the salon very seriously. Very interestingly, just like the lunch I had with a group of atheists from the Midwest during the Freedom From Religion Foundation conference, the main topic they actually wanted to engage was over questions of communism, revolution, fascism, corporations vs. imperialism, etc. The questions of whether and how a new society could be brought into being and whether the problems facing humanity really flow from a system or something else (corruption, need for more regulation, human nature, etc.).
When the question of methods of thinking and the difference between spreading atheism and science and spreading religion came up, one of the artists said, “We aren’t telling people what to think, we are telling them what WE think.” So I put back to him, “How about, ‘We are telling them TO think.’” And we went from there—getting into the difference between spreading things that aren’t based in reality and training people in a way of thinking that doesn’t sort things out based on an engagement with reality (ie: religion and religious thinking) versus spreading things that are true, welcoming contestation and an ongoing deepening or even correcting of understanding based on measuring things against objective reality (science and a scientific approach).
He got excited by this but it was clear he really hadn’t seen that. This was typical…to a striking degree. It seems we ought to sometime do an event that puts this question front and center, “Why spreading atheism and science is NOTHING like spreading religion.” Or, “Why Science is NOT ‘Just another belief system.’”
Going back for a minute to the student organizer I mentioned before, he definitely was of the view that “atheists have an image problem” and that we need to show that we are good people and have morality and this will defuse the image many believers have of us and enable more people to consider atheism. It was striking because he clearly knew what science was and explained himself that as science-based people we don’t know everything, and we know we don’t know everything, but “we have a damn good method for finding out” and he contrasted this to the Creation Museums where there is absolutely nothing that is left as unknown or an open question. But, while he felt it was good to spread and promote atheism, he didn’t see this as a battle over how people think but over challenging their prejudices and showing that we do good things. He was a pretty progressive guy, and objectively argued for the superiority of rational thought, but didn’t seem to consciously understand the difference between fighting for people to unchain their minds and how this links up with radically changing the world—and fighting to shut down the mind and critical thought in the service of oppressive relations that goes on with religion.
This question also came up from a host on a local NPR affiliate station that interviewed me in connection to the Sonoma event. The interviewer—who was extremely thoughtful and edited a very nice clip out of a half hour interview—asked at the end, “It sounds like you are doing some evangelizing for atheism.” I took this question apart, but this gives a sense of how pervasive this question is.
Interesting in this regard, and a story I told on several occasions to help answer this, is something that happened after I spoke at a humanist meeting in Palo Alto. Afterwards a college student said, “I grew up Catholic and every Sunday no one understood or really agreed with what the priest was saying, but everyone acted like they did and never asked any questions. I came here and you talked and made perfect sense. I understood almost all of it, agreed with almost all of it—I think most people did—but as soon as it was over all these people raised their hands and started disagreeing, challenging you, asking all kinds of questions...”
Questions from the various audiences also included more about how I became an atheist, what my family thought of my breaking with Christianity (this was from students who seemed to be considering or dealing with what their own families would think), whether I had always been a “militant atheist” or at what point I decided to become militant about atheism. In answering this, I talked about the difference it made to learn that the world doesn’t have to be as it is. The more radical I got politically and the more I understood the need for people to be involved in their own emancipation, and the more I came to understand how directly religion is an obstacle to that, the more militant I became about atheism—and I cited that this is a core part of what Bob Avakian is arguing for and pointed to the subtitle of the book.
At Stanford, a young Muslim South Asian woman came right up to me as soon as the event was over and was effusive, “Your story is exactly like mine!! It was so helpful.” She explained that she grew up Muslim in Detroit and there were many things, particularly about women’s role, that rubbed her wrong about her faith as it was practiced, but she also mainly thought this was the people and not the religion that were getting things wrong. Now she is really on the fence and she signed her questionnaire, “I was raised Muslim...but that might change.” Her other comments included, “I think it was fantastic and very inspiring. Her personal story resonates with me and her journey of discovery is personally empowering. I agreed with the facts that religious indoctrination from an early childhood is what prevents people from being able to think critically about religion for themselves as adults.... I had hoped to hear more about the arguments about the ‘non-existence’ of God(s).”
At the Stanford event, a couple of people wrote on their questionnaires that what stood out most to them was really getting a much better understanding about why the attack on women’s reproductive freedoms is tied to biblical literalism, and that the claims to being for the preservation of life in the universal sense that “pro-life” people like to claim has absolutely no basis in the Bible. One wrote, “Aha! Now I get it. No Biblical basis for pro-life position—hadn’t thought of that.” When asked what they learned or agreed with, another wrote, “Universal preservation of life—no basis for it in the Bible,” and went on to write, “These people (religious fanatics) are not on the fringe—they are being normalized. People justify wars as ‘God’s mission.’”
Another wrote, in response to the question of what stood out to you about the speech: “Mythology 4 religion has to be seen from a historical materialist perspective. Nothing is sacrosanct!”
Several wrote that they didn’t see the relevance of communism—and warned that communism can be a religion as well. The question of communism came up at every event, most directly at Berkeley where the Q&A was the richest and the longest. One guy who is sympathetic to communism asked how religion will be handled after the revolution and this was very eagerly listened to and followed up on by others. People wanted to know if socialism was possible because they had questions about “human nature.” An Ayn Randian guy also was intrigued and provoked by the notion that there is no such thing as human nature in the way people understand it (during my speech, I read a selection of some of the chapter heads that I don’t have time to get into in the presentation, including “There Is No Such Thing As Unchanging, and Unchangeable, Human Nature.” Just off of having heard this title he asked about it so we got into it).
The audiences generally were pretty progressive and took seriously the discussion of communism, even while a significant handful of questionnaires admonished or cautioned against it. It seems this is quite affected by the current financial melt-down as well as to some dissatisfaction with the election, even as many were big Obama people. When I criticized Obama after criticizing Palin at Berkeley, there was a lot of applause—this seemed to be from a section of people who are regulars at Revolution Books. At Stanford, a number of people wrote their support for Obama on their questionnaires.
Updates and more tour information at http://www.insight-press.com/site/epage/55427_664.htm.
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
Many today compare Barack Obama to Nelson Mandela, the South African leader who came to power in the early 1990s, after decades of apartheid rule, in which black South Africans had virtually no rights at all, including the right to vote, to live in certain areas, to move about freely, etc.
While basically a reformist, and never really a revolutionary, Nelson Mandela was associated with (and paid a price for his involvement in) the struggle of the oppressed black people in South Africa (while Obama has never played even the kind of role that Mandela played in relation to the struggle of oppressed people). With the election of Mandela in the 1990s—with the coming to office of a black president in South Africa—there was an end to the formal system of apartheid segregation. But the economic conditions of the great majority of black people in South Africa have continued to get even worse since that time, and in many ways so have their social and political conditions. Worst of all, this political shift to a black presidency has played a big role in killing off the previous mass uprisings and resistance of black people and the widespread revolutionary sentiments that accompanied this mass rebellion--leaving the masses of black people in South Africa cruelly oppressed and at the same time politically demobilized, while their actual conditions, including continuing poverty and massive unemployment, continue to worsen. And, for the time being, the revolutionary uprising of the millions of youth and other black people, the hope and striving for a better world that marked that uprising, and the inspiration this provided, have been replaced by growing crime, which has further demoralized masses of black people.
This is a bitter experience whose crucial lessons—which point sharply to the need for revolution and a radically different society and not simply to a change in the color of the person administering the oppressive system—must be deeply drawn, for the benefit of the masses of black people in South Africa and for oppressed people everywhere, including in the U.S.
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
San Francisco Bay Area:
On October 31, hundreds of youth from throughout the Bay Area joined with others in a protest at the ICE (Immigration and Custom Enforcement) offices in San Francisco, demanding an end to raids and deportations of immigrants. Hundreds of students walked out of East Bay high schools to take part in the protest, but the police prevented many from getting across to San Francisco.
The Bay Area cities of San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland are supposedly “sanctuary” cities for immigrants, but that has not stopped the ICE repression. The day after May 1, when thousands of immigrants and supporters marched in the streets, ICE raided 11 branches of a chain of Bay Area taqueria restaurants, arresting 63 workers. And the day after Cinco de Mayo, ICE vans were spotted driving around schools in Berkeley and Oakland, setting off panic among parents and students. There has been growing anger among students in the Bay Area about these raids, and determination to resist them.
The following correspondence is from a member of the Bay Area Revolution Club who was with a group of East Bay students who were part of the walkout.
On Halloween more than 400 hundred students from schools in Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco and Berkeley took part in walkouts to join with others in a blockade of the ICE offices in San Francisco to protest the fascistic raids that have terrorized immigrant communities around the country.
The first of the walkouts was at Richmond High where somewhere between 60 and 100 students walked out and went to the Richmond Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART, which connects the East Bay to San Francisco) station. According to BART police, some of the protesters allegedly attempted to jump the turnstiles into the station. The police tackled and pepper-sprayed a 20-year-old man for “fare evasion.” Two other people were beaten and detained for “obstructing an officer” who was assisting in the beating of the 20-year-old. According to other reports, high school students were beaten, slammed to the ground and arrested en masse, only to be released several hours after. Among the high school students at the Richmond BART station was a young person who was slammed on the floor and suffered an asthma attack, and was sent to the hospital.
BART spokesperson Lynton Johnson said of the confrontation and attack by police at the Richmond station that it “gave us our cue that we need to be aware of other possible protests. And in fact we had more protesters come into the Fruitvale BART station [in Oakland]…And we had to shut it down.” A hundred youth arrived at Fruitvale and were greeted by 10-15 BART police, Oakland police, and Oakland school police officers and a shut gate at the station. Trains were ordered to pass up the station altogether. Another hundred or so students from Castlemont High arrived at the Coliseum/Oakland Airport BART station which was shut down too. And yet more students arrived at the West Oakland BART station and were prevented from boarding there.
I got to the Fruitvale BART station to also be greeted by a closed gate. But when I looked to the left as I got off the bus, I was also greeted by a powerful sight of more than a hundred students clad in black clothing and white bandanas covering their faces, lined up in marching formation with their fists up in the air, chanting in a call-and-response: “People! Power! People! Power!” The students decided to march down International Blvd, one of the main boulevards in Oakland. The police got on their patrol car loudspeakers to announce: “Please go onto the sidewalk. You are obstructing traffic and it is a crime!” Some youth got nervous and started moving toward the sidewalk, while the rest argued with their friends to not listen to the police. They started chanting “Fuck 5-0 [a term used to refer to police]!” Then more than half a mile back, still taking up one side of the street, the young people made a complete 360 back up toward Fruitvale BART. Some of us started chanting: “A world without borders: Si se puede! [Yes we can!] A world without ICE raids: Si se puede! Make a revolution: Si se puede! A world without police murder: Si se puede! A communist world: Si se puede!” Many of the more advanced and radical elements lined up next to us, and many took up the copy of Revolution newspaper on “The Morning After the Elections... and the Change We Really Need... WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO NOW?” As we neared back around to the Fruitvale BART station, some 50 students who had marched about two miles from the Coliseum BART joined our much larger march. There, students did a very lively wave by getting everyone to kneel down, first the front, leading to the back, and then jumping up. Then some of the youth got everyone (by this time some 200 students) to line up again in columns in marching formation. After everyone lined up, the youth in the front with a banner saying “End the ICE Raids!” gave the order: “Fists Up, Forward March!” Others, half-jokingly, started calling cadence. They marched forward toward the gated BART station and a line of about 25 cops.
Around the same time, several hundred students and other protesters began to make their way from a gathering and speak-out at Ferry Park in downtown SF to the ICE offices. When they arrived, the protesters took all the exits from the building, in particular a large alleyway where 10-15 ICE patrol cars and vans—used to round up immigrants and split apart families—were parked. Protesters barricaded these exits by chaining themselves to metal barrels, to prevent these modern-day slave catchers from operating as usual. It wasn’t until later in the evening that several dozen ICE goons cleared the way, along with an ICE patrol car that nearly ran over several protesters. Many people taking out Revolution newspaper were there at the protest to engage with this highly politicized crowd, primarily Chicanos but including many different nationalities, and join in fighting the power. The red flags of internationalism of the revolutionaries could be seen on a few local news reports.
Back at the Fruitvale BART station, the youth running toward the gates and chanting “Let us in! Let us in!” were clearly making the police nervous by their refusal to allow them to set the terms. The confrontation was very heated. [Video of this scene from CBS5.com is available at: http://cbs5.com/local/ice.protest.immigration.2.853754.html] A lot of BART commuters on their way to work, who were literally locked out of the BART station, joined in the protest. In this confrontation, Oakland Tribune videographer Jane Tyska was snatched up and detained and had her film confiscated by police as “evidence” that she scratched an officer’s vehicle and bent the side-view mirror as she was walking backward taping the protest.
Eventually, the youth left the Fruitvale BART station and went to a youth center where a speak-out was organized. Halfway to the youth center and about a quarter of the mile away from the station, an Oakland police patrol car pulled up and announced on its loudspeaker that the station was reopened and that the protesters could go to SF in small groups, just not altogether at once. A few people decided to go back to the station, while the rest started chanting “Don’t trust the pigs!” and continued to the youth center.
Taking a step back from the situation, the human toll of these criminal ICE raids becomes clear…and the righteous anger of these young people becomes much more emboldened. When some of the youth at the protest were asked how many of their family members have been directly affected by ICE raids: more than 75 percent raised their hands. How many of you have had friends affected by ICE: almost all raised their hands, including some white and Black youth. In light of this, I posed a question to a lot of these young people: What kind of system puts millions and millions living in the shadows, only to be blown out of the shadows by ICE agents setting bombs to blow up a door where a family sleeps to deport them, as was done in San Francisco earlier this week? I just read this quote from a statement by SF Supervisor Tom Ammiano on an ICE raid that occurred in SF on October 22: “At the Bay View home, ICE agents broke down the front door, detonated an explosive device, handcuffed the adults and older children, and held all family members, including an 8-year-old child, at gunpoint. ICE took the mother and father, leaving their 19-year-old daughter to care for her 15- and 8-year-old siblings. ICE also brutally attacked a woman, causing her to lose consciousness and require hospitalization.” We’re speaking of human-fucking-beings here!!! Not a movie, not a video game, not an exaggeration! This is what this system does to people who have been thrown off the land by imperialist globalization and free trade agreements and given the “choice” to live in the shantytowns or in the shadows in the belly of an imperialist giant. And there’s a huge significance to hundreds of youth of many nationalities taking independent political resistance out to the streets—four days before one of the most politicized presidential elections in history, where white supremacists and fascists are being unleashed in very disgusting ways, while the Democrats are not standing up, and will not stand up, to forcefully call out and oppose what is going on!
“We’re speaking for those who can’t be heard, living in the shadows; our family members and friends. They can’t be out here, so us young people are [here], to give them hope and support.”
—young person at Oakland protest
The Bay Area Revolution Club and supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Party will be keeping their fingers on the pulse of the masses, diverting these mass movements into the growing revolutionary movement, fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution! We will be taking out, boldly and broadly, Revolution newspaper and engaging with people around the questions of what is and what is not revolution; why is this a revolution aiming toward communism; what is communism; and what is the transition to communism—socialism—all about; all this as part of transforming objective conditions to the maximum degree possible and winning growing numbers of people to take up the communist outlook…especially in the next few days when the election’s outcome is determined by the powers-that-be and masses respond. Humanity Needs Revolution and Communism!
An audio file of the Oct. 31 Flashpoints program on Berkeley radio station KPFA, which includes interviews with protesters at the East Bay BART stations and at the S.F. ICE offices, is available at http://kpfa.org/archives/index.php?arch=29186.
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
Check It Out!
We received the following from a reader who is a law student:
This “Check It Out” for readers of Revolution is about Detained—a film exposing the on-the-ground realities of this country’s custody and immigration system. I attended the screening of Detained last month at Physicians for Human Rights in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Along with the film screening, put on by the Asylum Network at PHR, there followed a panel discussion featuring some of the individuals in the film as well as immigration advocates. After the event, I had an opportunity to correspond with the filmmaker, about why she wanted to make this video, how she made it and why she wants to get this out.
In Detained, filmmaker Jenny Alexander underscores a framework in which immigrants are exploited, humiliated, tortured and silenced. Unlike the so-called “criminal justice system” (where people are supposed to have the right to a lawyer), in the U.S. Immigration system, thousands of undocumented workers are not even afforded representation, are often forced to sign papers they can’t understand and are barred from bringing claims against government officials challenging their detention and confinement.
This documentary includes accounts by immigrant factory workers of what happened at the March 6, 2007 Bianco factory raid in New Bedford, Massachusetts by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. Many of the immigrant workers in this factory—which makes vests and backpacks for U.S. soldiers—were women with small children and the film shows the ramifications of detainment among families and the community. Alexander told me, “Few people actually see the on-the-ground realities of an immigration raid, and few actually find out about the treatment that detainees receive, and how the traumatic separation affects the families and children of the detainees. I thought it was very important to document this to be able to bring this side of the experience to the conversation about immigration and immigration raids.”
The concise, 27-minute film alternates between still shots in which a few of the 361 individuals who were detained, and their family members, recount with vivid detail being taken by ICE officials and placed in confinement, neither being allowed to contact their family members nor being told when they would be released. Alexander vividly illustrates this harsh reality with the experiences of a mother who was detained: the mother’s eight-month-old baby, who was still breast-feeding, had a high fever, was not eating and had to be rushed to the emergency room. Neither the father nor any of the volunteers could locate the mother. Alexander expressed that she documented this account among others “because it seemed unlikely that people would believe what was—happening unless they saw it.”
In between these still shot accounts and illustrations, Alexander also includes the tumultuous fear of deportation and despair that ensued at the local church the day following the raid. Alexander recalls, “I definitely remember in the church basement that the distress was palpable. People were traumatized and were at a complete loss for information—they didn’t know where family members were, where they were being taken, or how they might be able to help them.” Many women were separated from their young children, several held as far away as Texas and Louisiana and most of whom ended up being deported.
Prior to filming Detained, Alexander was working on a documentary about immigrant students and education access. Alexander told me, “The student went to volunteer at the church the day after the raid—so I had my camera with me. When I saw the scene unfolding in the church—the chaos, the family members searching for their relatives, and children whose parents had been detained, I knew that it had to be filmed. Initially, working with producer Michelle Fuentes, we put testimonies on YouTube and prepared DVDs for advocates to use—to get the word out about how the raid was affecting the community and for Senator Kennedy’s advocacy efforts.”
I strongly encourage readers to obtain copies of Detained at activevistafilms.com, watch it with your friends, organize screenings at Revolution Books stores in your areas, and engage in critical discourse about the role and nature of the immigration system within a larger global nation of exploitation. “I believe that politically driven rhetoric has obscured our country’s ability to have meaningful discourse around immigration,” Alexander said. “Due process is being pushed aside in the rush to deport people.”
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
Another Young Black Man Killed by Police in Cold Blood:
At 1:30 am on Tuesday, October 28, Julian Alexander heard noises outside the middle class home he shared with his wife Renee, who is seven months pregnant. They had just gotten married about a week ago when Julian turned 20 years old. Feeling like their safety was threatened, Julian grabbed a broomstick and walked out on the front lawn to look around.
Minutes later, he was killed by two bullets to his chest, one of which struck his heart. Hearing gunshots, Renee and her 15-year-old sister looked out the window and saw the killers—Anaheim police—turn Julian’s body over and handcuff him. Family members tried to rush to Julian’s side, but were told to get back…or else.
A broomstick, a wallet, a cell phone, a toy gun, a suspected burglary in Julian’s neighborhood. Does it matter? Any reason, or no reason at all. To the brutal enforcers of this system, he was simply Black.
Perhaps Julian’s mom was one of the many Black women who hoped her son wouldn’t grow too big and attract the attention of racist, killer cops. But Julian was 6 foot 5 inches, 240 pounds. He was the outstanding defensive linebacker in 2005 and 2006, and defensive player of the year in 2007—before graduating from Notre Dame High School in Riverside, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
Julian was working one of those so-called “good jobs” for Black youth—at a JCPenney warehouse. He volunteered at church and had hopes of a college degree like many in his family had. He was doing everything he was supposed to do to “make it” in America. Did it matter?
All of the above is all too typical of the ugly reality where police murder is but a concentrated symptom of the vicious oppression faced by Black people in America.
But what was unusual in this case was the way Anaheim police chief John Welter immediately called a press conference to say that Julian Alexander “was innocent of anything that the officer suspected was going on in the neighborhood.” Welter has promised investigations that will take 6-9 months but there’s been no indictment and arrest for murder by the yet-unidentified cop. Why not? And what does it tell us about the likely whitewash to come, and the system that allows these outrages to go on and on?
Welter said “I certainly can’t ever guess what’s in the mind of a police officer, so I’m not going to speculate as to what he saw or what he didn’t see or what he thought was in Mr. Alexander’s hands.”
Isn’t it obvious what was in the cop’s mind? Here’s a Black man standing there in the open, late at night. Cops are trained to see this as a threat AND a legal kill. Justifiable homicide is the whole long history of whitewash for killer cops all over America in situations like this. That’s why the family was treated as part of the threat, driven back into the house, and forced to watch helplessly as their beloved Julian died in front of their eyes.
If we had a truly “post racial society” (as Obama claims)—which would take a real revolution to bring about—the machinery of systemic and systematic brutality of this system (police, jail, courts, etc.) would be smashed and such wanton murders of the people would not be allowed to happen. Any security forces in a revolutionary society that do really serve and protect the people instead of private property and wealth, would rather risk their own lives than kill someone like Julian. This was not mistaken identity. It was another racist police murder of an identified Black youth.
The rush to “say sorry” by Welter may have been a quick way to sweep it under the rug as this police killing of yet another Black youth in the run-up to Obama’s election and widespread news would have punched a hole in the myth of “post racial” America.
Outside of southern California’s Orange County main newspaper, there is little news coverage of this outrage. There is little news about the 1400 people who attended Julian’s funeral service on Monday, November 3—the day before Obama won the presidency and told us to be proud of America. Obama and all the politicians above or below him at every level, have expressed neither outrage nor concern. Is it a cover up?
Despite all the election hype, there is no change, no post racial society, for Julian. Same as it’s always been. Julian’s father was quoted in The Press-Enterprise (November 3, 2008) saying, “You’re not guaranteed tomorrow.”
Nor, under this system, will tomorrow be changed for millions of other Black youth in America—a country where white supremacy is cemented into its very economic and ideological foundation by the founding fathers, and sewed into its very capitalist fabric of exploitation and all the oppression that is linked to that past and current brutal system.
It’s been ordinary people, writing on the Internet in response to learning of Julian’s murder, who wrote comparing this to the police killing of Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo in New York City. It’s ordinary people who need to bring this anger into the open and fight to get the cop indicted and jailed for murder. It’s only the struggle of ordinary people whose better tomorrow will come with resistance and revolution that can uproot the oppression of Black people, and uproot all other oppressions flowing from traditional property relations and ideas, and go on to bring about a revolutionary society.
Julian’s mother-in-law Michelle Mooney said in an Associated Press article (October 29, 2008), “He was a good kid, trying to protect his house. And the police, instead of asking questions, they just shot first. Somebody has to be held responsible for this.”
The day should be long past when these brutal enforcers can roll into the community, murder our youth, and get away with it.
Fight the Power, and Transform the People,
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
Letter from a Prisoner to Revolution:
The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) sent Revolution the following letter from a prisoner.
Greetings from the Texas gulag! I want to thank you so much for the Revolution article, the TRUE story of Mao Tsetung and the communist revolution in China [this article ran as a two-part series in Revolution #140 and #141]. It seems to me, the greatest aspirations a socially conscious person can have is uncompromising dedication to the liberation of all humanity. In comparison, all other goals are mean and petty, based on selfishness and vanity. The article made it abundantly clear Mao Tsetung was a People’s hero, and a living embodiment of those high-minded aspirations. He most definitely was not driven by ego or a desire for self-aggrandizement; he was neither a clotheshorse, not did he desire the limelight. What a wonderful inspiration! What a wonderful person to use as a guiding principle!
What little I’ve been able to learn about Marx and Lenin has been slanderous and disparaging, but if Mao Tsetung saw them as worthy of serious consideration and study, that’s a good enough endorsement for me. After all, he dedicated his entire life to overthrow tyranny; it makes no sense he would use tyrants as his inspiration!
So much lies and disinformation has been spread concerning communism—with even the oppressive capitalist-imperialists playing along with the farce to further their own selfish agenda—that even otherwise well educated and informed persons have been systematically conditioned to believe communism equals tyranny, loss of liberty, loss of freedom of expression and dissent, and impoverishment, when just the opposite is true!
The Revolutionary Communist Party is struggling against a rigged and crooked game in which the House makes all the rules. It’s a colossal struggle and the odds of winning aren’t good, but people are amazingly resilient and prone to perceive the truth when it’s finally presented to them, as your newspaper so admirably does. Besides, what’s the alternative?
Yours in the struggle for peace and justice in a Genuine Communist World,
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
Change You Can Believe In?
The first major appointment by President-elect Barack Obama tells us a lot about how much “change” we can expect from his administration. Obama has appointed Rep. Rahm Emanuel to be his White House Chief of Staff. The White House Chief of Staff is often referred to as the second most powerful person in Washington. The Chief of Staff runs the whole operation and decides who may, and who may not, have access to the President.
Emanuel has been portrayed in the mass media as just a Congressman from Illinois and a personal friend of Obama. But he is much more than that. Emanuel is a major operative for the ruling class. He was senior policy advisor to Bill Clinton in Clinton’s first term--Clinton’s Karl Rove. This is when Clinton set out to “end welfare as we know it,” pushed through NAFTA, and signed the Antiterroism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
Rahm Emanuel is aligned with the so-called “New Democrats,” epitomized by Bill Clinton, who have led the shift away from the traditional Democratic policies of the New Deal and the Great Society, toward more openly imperialist, business oriented, and free trade policies. Emanuel left politics for a few years and made millions as an investment banker but returned in 2002, winning a seat in the House of Representatives.
Emanuel is also a hard-core Zionist. His father was in the Irgun organization, an organization dedicated to terrorizing Palestinians and even to the “right’ of the mainstream Zionists of the day and during the 1991 Gulf war, Rahm Emanuel actually served as a civilian volunteer in the Israeli army. It was Emanuel who introduced Obama to the leaders of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), to whom Obama later pledged his support for complete Israeli control of the Palestinian capital city Jerusalem. Emanuel supported the October 2002 joint Congressional resolution authorizing the Iraq War and has earned his Washington nickname “Rahm-bo.”
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
Fundraiser for Revolution:
We received the following letter from readers in Los Angeles:
Looking back on what we’ve achieved through the last few months of taking revolution and communism boldly out to the masses, there’s something to learn about a developing revolutionary communist movement and the rippling impact it has from the fundraising we did right at the beginning in the month of August among Spanish speaking proletarians.
A circle of us regular readers of Revolution set out to raise $1000 to fund the Party’s ideological initiatives announced in the August 3 centerfold of the paper. We went out to some friends who had been getting the paper out and coming to the programs at the bookstore. We knew they wanted to help the paper expand. One person in particular, new to working with ideas, was really challenged by the intensity and enthusiasm of others in getting into the science of communism to really struggle with this. When she goes out to sell the paper, she talks to the masses about this struggle—about how this paper opens doors in your mind, the things you find out about that you would never know otherwise, the things it makes you think about that you’ve never thought possible before. Then in turn, she says that these discussions help her raise her level. She thought she just didn’t like to read but she found out that what she didn’t like was reading alone. In a group it’s fun and you learn more.
Our circle studied and discussed the centerfold in the newspaper about the initiatives: The new Constitution [of the RCP], Bob Avakian’s new book Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, the special issue on the oppression of Black people. We started throwing around ideas for fundraising, Should we make tamales to sell or hold a garage sale?
Someone said they could make the best ceviche anybody ever tasted and we were sure to raise a lot of money for the paper. So we invested $250 and bought lemons, shrimp, octopus, crab, clams, fish, tomatoes, onions, olive oil, bay leaf, and tostadas. When we went out on the street, people agreed it was the best ceviche they had ever eaten and came back for more or bought enough for the whole family. We talked to them about the paper and tried to sell them subscriptions while they ate. One guy was very interested in the new Constitution and we brought him to the bookstore to the Constitution celebration.
We went to a corner with a lot of vendors we know. One vendor who also distributes the paper brought a cooler and got a bunch of cups of ceviche to take to another corner to sell them there. Some of his friends read the paper but think there’s too much anti-communism among the masses for the paper to have broad appeal. They started complaining that the ceviche was too expensive.
But the fundraising project was put out as a challenge to them: here are some people who believe so strongly that we can take that anti-communist shit on, and fight with people to be scientific and recognize that revolution and communism is what they and the masses worldwide need that they invested their money, time and work not to make money for themselves but for the newspaper, ¿y ustedes, cabrones?... This had an effect of “hmmm, something’s happening here….”
Since then one of these vendors has stepped up to the challenge, he gets a bundle of papers every week and pays for them up front. There’s a new respect and seriousness there. Another guy took ceviche to sell to his family and talked to them about the garage sale project. A cousin donated a nice TV that somebody later had a garage sale and sold it for $50.
We took part of the funds from the ceviche sales and bought strawberries and cream. It was one of the hottest weekends and we sold it out on the street, together with the newspaper. People ate strawberries and talked about “who is this Mao Tsetung guy?” Then some other people collected some stuff and had two garage sales on the street.
But people wouldn’t stop talking about the ceviche so we made it again, and followed that up with some gorditas. While we cooked all this stuff, somebody read the newspaper out loud, and we threw around ideas about how to get across our message and get people involved. We thought about making stickers to put on the ceviche cups “Have you read Revolution newspaper?” “Do you know who Bob Avakian is?”
All along in this process, we didn’t ever let determinism creep in and blind us to the terrain we changed with our work! People are watching this, thinking about things they’d never considered, or unearthing hopes for revolution and a better world that they had buried in their youth. We need to lead that forward with getting this newspaper everywhere. We surpassed our $1000 goal and some new readers were developed in the process.
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
New York City Marathon:
Last year three of us did a bicycle “Ride for Revolution” and successfully raised $1,500 in pledges for Revolution newspaper. So I was thinking about this and decided to do a similar fundraiser by running the New York City Marathon—asking friends to pledge a certain amount of money per mile of the 26.2 miles. On November 2, I ran, and finished (!) the race with $1399 of pledges.
About a month before the race I sent an email appeal based on the August announcement in Revolution of the fall initiatives of the Revolutionary Communist Party which challenged people with some urgent questions, including: What kind of society do we want to—and are we willing to—live in? What kind of future will we have? Do we still dare dream of revolution? And is there a viable vision of what that is, and a leadership to point the way? I emphasized the newspaper and its role in building a revolutionary movement. And I updated events with the elections, Sarah Palin and the financial crisis. One woman emailed back immediately commenting on how inspiring the email was.
I sent this to many friends who are around World Can’t Wait, old runner friends of mine who live in Detroit, some relatives and people I’ve met over the years selling the paper. The people who responded the most were friends I met originally through my work with WCW, who are actively involved in WCW from many different political perspectives. None of them would describe themselves as revolutionaries but they have come to know of Revolution newspaper over the past year or more. And as the situation in the world has intensified overall, and especially as the elections approached, many have come to look to the paper more for its analysis. This has led to some very intense and contentious discussions. A few of those who pledged attended discussions of the article by Bob Avakian “The Objective Situation, the Bush Regime and the Bourgeois Elections.” With a couple of people the issue of the newspaper with the manifesto of the RCP, “Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage” played an important role in getting into what exactly is needed in the entire world today.
One significant donation was given by a man I met in Denver who was very supportive of both the WCW and the Revolution newspaper crews who were there to join in the protests at the Democratic National Convention.
Some of the people who responded to this appeal don’t necessarily read the paper regularly and some don’t read it at all. However, there is respect for my raising the questions and debating what is in the paper. Several runner friends in Detroit have been challenged by my sending them articles from Revolution about Obama that they didn’t agree with. When I lived in Detroit and ran with this Black running group, on long training runs we talked of everything from religion to revolution and mixed it all in with singing old Motown favorites. I remember how the coach of the group at one point said, referring to me, “You may not always agree with him but he is the conscience of our group.”
In the midst of this very enjoyable run on a beautiful fall day, I must have stepped on or around 25-50 NYC sewer manhole covers. Each one of them says on it “NYC Sewer. Made in India.” In the New York Times several months ago, there was a front page article telling about the factory in India where the covers are made. The photos showed emaciated-appearing men carrying, by hand, buckets of molten metal, walking barefoot and almost no clothes because of the heat. It detailed the injuries, illnesses and deaths in the place that had almost no safety equipment and no safety regulations. The NYC agency that contracted for the covers simply looked for the best price and found it from a company, I think in Connecticut, and had no idea from where they came or the conditions under which they are made.
Each time I ran past one of these manhole covers, through five NYC boroughs, for 26.2 miles, I was reminded of the lopsided relations in the world and how people in this country are at the top of a worldwide “food chain” and a standard of living that depends on hundreds of millions of people around the world living and working in conditions like those Indians making the manhole covers. The importance of Revolution newspaper and the need for revolution leapt up at me from those manhole covers.
Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
A Rant (Not a Movie Review) on:
For anyone who witnesses and feels the heartbreaking history and the continuing cruelty of present day oppression of Black people in this country; for anyone whose blood boils with the anger and determination to wipe away such exploitation and oppression; for anyone who is striving and working for a world where people enter into social relations on the basis of emancipating all humanity—Spike Lee’s World War 2 movie, Miracle at St. Anna is an insult, a slap in the face, and a slap down. From the opening titles which are done in a cascade of crosses to the closing credits with a full-chorale rendition of “He’s got the whole world in His hands” playing in the background, the movie preaches ad nauseam that the answer to the oppression of Black people is faith in god, and that religion transcends differences among people throughout the world. The message from Spike Lee is get down on your knees, Black people; submit yourself to the Christianity bound up with your enslavement in this country; and hope for...for what!? The most obscurantist superstitious beliefs of the Italian peasants are upheld, and then these same dark age beliefs come out of the mouth of one of the Black soldiers—and are upheld! The one Black soldier who admits that he doesn’t believe in god and also dares to ask “Why are we here? This is not our war,” is portrayed as an opportunist and a sleazeball. Shame on you, Spike Lee!
The movie’s exposures of white supremacy and the constant racism that Black soldiers endured in the military at the time of World War 2 only serve to lay the basis for the movie’s none-too-subtle message that fundamentally what Black people need to do in the face of oppression is pray—it even shows an entire company of Black soldiers on their knees praying before going into battle. It seems that there’s no end to getting to one’s knees in this movie. To sit through this movie and see such mental slavishness being upheld and promoted in scene after scene was as excruciating as it was infuriating.
It is especially significant that this movie is coming from Spike Lee, who in his better moments has stood on the side of the Black masses (most recently with the movie When the Levees Broke about Katrina). Following the closing credits of Miracle at St. Anna are the words that end all of his movies: “A Spike Lee Joint,” but now with a cross underneath; then the stamp “40 Acres and a Mule” and the words, “By Any Means Necessary”—but this time followed by the tolling of church bells. Give us a break!! Spike Lee, who once seemed to uphold the radical and rebellious tradition represented by Malcolm X., has now enlisted in the tradition of “submit to your oppression/prove to the ‘Man’ that you are not dangerous,” championed by such bootlickers as Booker T. Washington and Bill Cosby. In one sense this movie felt like a campaign ad for Obama, made to reassure “white folk”: Don’t worry, us “black folk” ain’t going to get “uppity” no more. Outrageous!!
As the recent special issue of Revolution entitled “The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need” so forcefully put it, “It’s time to get rid of this poisonous nonsense about ‘God will provide’ and ‘Thank you Jesus’ or ‘God willing’—time to quit saying ‘I’m blessed,’ look reality in the eye, and recognize instead: ‘We’re oppressed!’ And then set about joining together in the here and now to do something about it.”