Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
Beginning on Sunday, November 28, Wikileaks began publishing batches of 251,287 secret State Department diplomatic cables from 274 U.S. embassies and consulates around the world—the largest batch of secret government documents ever made public. These documents had been leaked to Wikileaks, a website dedicated to government transparency. Wikileaks aims to release all the cables, which date from 1966 to February 2010 (with most from the past three years), in stages over the next several months. This follows Wikileaks' releases of secret documents on the U.S. wars in Afghanistan in July and Iraq in October.
The U.S. struck aggressively against Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange in the wake of these latest disclosures: the domain name (wikileaks.org) was shut off, their web servers were shut down, their bank accounts frozen, and credit card companies have shut off contributions to their website. Obama's Attorney General is talking about criminal prosecution. Fox "news" mouthpiece and touted Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said "anything less than execution is too kind a penalty." A prestigious Ivy League university has told students they risk future job prospects if they read any of these documents online. (See accompanying article, "U.S. Lashes Out at Wikileaks" in this issue.)
U.S. officials insist that Wikileaks' disclosures are harmful to the conduct of U.S. diplomacy, and that important matters of state must be kept secret. But what is revealed about the actual nature and purposes of U.S. diplomacy around the world in these cables? Why do the U.S. rulers feel that secrecy is so necessary? And what ramifications are U.S. officials worried about?
In Yemen, the State Department, the U.S. embassy and diplomacy did not prove to be an "alternative" to violence or war. Instead, they helped facilitate, orchestrate, and then cover up the U.S. assassinations.
Wikileaks' revelations on the killing of 68 people in Yemen in December 2009 sheds light on all these questions.
Yemen is a country of 23 million, about the size of Texas, located on the Arabian Peninsula, south of Saudi Arabia. It is the poorest country in the impoverished Arab world, with half its children suffering malnourishment. On December 17, 2009, the Yemeni government claimed to have killed 34 al-Qaeda militants in air raids and security sweeps in the mountainous region of the south, near the city of Sana'a. A week later, on December 24, it claimed to have killed another 34 "militants" in the eastern province of Shabwa.
This version of events was then reported by the world media. For instance, on December 25, AFP (Agence France-Presse) reported, "Yemeni aircraft killed 34 suspected Al-Qaeda members, including senior leaders, in a dawn raid on Thursday in a remote mountainous region, the second such strike in eight days, security sources said.... Thursday's strike brings the Yemeni government's tally of Al-Qaeda suspects killed in the past eight days to 68." Buried in the dispatch, AFP also reported that according to local officials, "49 civilians, including 23 women and 17 children, were killed in that air strike." (Subsequent reports by Amnesty International put the number of children killed at 21.)
Now, secret cables describing discussions between U.S. officials and the rulers of Yemen between September 2009 and January 2010 reveal that this story was a deliberate lie cooked up by U.S. and Yemeni officials.
It turns out these 68 people were killed by cruise missiles fired by the U.S. military—not Yemeni forces, and that this had been secretly set up months earlier at a September 6, 2009 meeting between U.S. and Yemeni officials. There they decided to step up airstrikes against Islamist forces, while having Yemen's government take credit for them and keeping U.S. involvement secret. A secret U.S. cable summed up, "In a September 6 meeting with Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan, President Saleh pledged unfettered access to Yemen's national territory for U.S. counterterrorism operations...." Saleh was quoted as saying, "I have given you an open door on terrorism...."
On December 20, after the December 17 strikes which killed 34, including many civilians, Yemen's Deputy Prime Minister for Security and Defense Rashad al-Alimi told the U.S. ambassador that he and President Saleh viewed the attacks "as a success" and that President Saleh wanted them continued "non-stop until we eradicate this disease." (December 21, 2009 cable from U.S. ambassador to State Department)
And who were the victims of this mass murder? Alimi said, "the civilians who died were largely nomadic, Bedouin families who lived in tents near the AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] training camp and were assisting AQAP with logistical support," according to the secret U.S. summary of the meeting. The U.S. ambassador reported, "Alimi said they were poor people selling food and supplies to the terrorists, but were nonetheless acting in collusion with the terrorists and benefitting financially from AQAP's presence in the area." (December 21, 2009 cable) On January 2, General David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, traveled to Yemen and "congratulated" Saleh on the massacres—labeled "recent successful operations against AQAP" in the State Department cable on their meeting. Petraeus also told him that U.S. military aid to Yemen "would increase to USD 150 million [$150 million] in 2010." (January 4, 2010 cable from U.S. ambassador to State Department)
"'We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,' Saleh said," according to the State Department cable on the meeting, "prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just 'lied' by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG [Republic of Yemen Government.]"
Keeping U.S. responsibility for the killings secret came up repeatedly in these meetings. At the December 20 meeting, U.S. and Yemeni officials worried that "local and international media will continue to look for evidence of a U.S. role" and according to the cable, disclosure of the U.S. responsibility could "undermine public support" for further strikes. So Yemen's President insisted, "it must 'maintain the status quo' regarding the official denial of U.S. involvement." Yemen's deputy prime minister argued that "U.S. munitions found at the sites" of strikes "could be explained away as equipment purchased from the U.S." (December 21, 2009 cable)
"When the first two American missile strikes against Qaeda camps in Yemen took place in December 2009," the New York Times (December 3, 2010) reports, "Mr. Saleh publicly claimed that they were Yemeni strikes to avert any anti-American backlash."
In sum, within the span of a week, the U.S. imperialists murdered 68 people, living in their own country thousands of miles from U.S. shores, with no warning, no charges, no legal proceedings, and little or no evidence that most of those killed—perhaps all those killed—had done anything to anyone. This with the collaboration of the despot who runs Yemen, whose rule and military is supported and funded by the U.S. Then the massacre became grist for jokes between U.S. and Yemeni officials.
All this was kept secret to prevent an anti-U.S. rebellion in Yemen, which would have made it much more difficult for the pro-American government there to collaborate with the U.S. military, or perhaps even lead to its downfall. And secrecy is also aimed at hiding from people in this country and globally the fact that the U.S., which claims the mantle of leader of the "free world," and the rule of law, is illegally assassinating innocent people whenever it suits its purposes.
In Yemen, the State Department, the U.S. embassy and diplomacy did not prove to be an "alternative" to violence or war. Instead, they helped facilitate, orchestrate, and then cover up the U.S. assassinations.
To the extent these Yemen cables were reported in the U.S. mainstream media, the role of the U.S. was spun, distorted and covered up. The New York Times December 3 story on them ran under the incredible headline: "Yemen Sets Terms of a War on Al Qaeda." As if the fact that Yemen's rulers advised the U.S. on how to best carry out murder, while also finagling for more aid from the U.S. in exchange, was more significant than the reality that U.S. imperialism was setting the agenda overall—and carrying out the massacre!
Yemen also illustrates how secrecy and lies are essential for maintaining the oppressive structures of U.S. global domination around the world. Today the U.S. and other imperialist powers exert dominance in oppressed Third World countries through client or surrogate states, rather than by ruling openly as colonial overlords, such as the British did in the 1800s. Now neo-colonial control is exerted from behind the scenes, while maintaining the outward appearance and pretense that these regimes are sovereign and independent states.
As the case of Yemen—as well as Wikileaks' revelations on dozens of other countries—shows, maintaining these appearances is essential to the existence of these regimes. Foreign intervention—and U.S. intervention especially—is widely hated. And the imperialist-backed or created regimes themselves are deeply unpopular and highly unstable because they're characterized by overt corruption, violent repression, and super-exploitation of the people they rule due to the overall workings of the global capitalist-imperialist system. If it became widely known that these rulers—who posture as nationalist opponents of foreign dominance (and in the Middle East as supporters of the Palestinian people)—were just fronting for the U.S., even giving the U.S. the green light to murder their own citizens, their rule would become even more tenuous—threatening both their rule and U.S. dominance.
Wikileaks has also revealed that in 2007, the U.S. demanded Germany drop its investigation of CIA personnel operating in Germany for the illegal arrest, kidnapping, and torture of a German citizen of Lebanese descent, Khaled el-Masri, in violation of Germany's own laws. If not, cables revealed, U.S. diplomats threatened Germany would suffer "a negative impact" in U.S.-German relations.
In Germany, the actions of U.S. diplomats served to cover up illegal torture and rendition, to protect those who had committed these crimes, to hide evidence of the global U.S. torture network from public view, to illegally intervene in the legal proceedings of another country, and to help preserve the U.S. government's ability to render and torture people to this day—all in violation of international law.
El-Masri, a grocer from a town in south Germany, was arrested in early 2003 during a trip to Macedonia because his name was similar to that of an alleged al-Qaeda operative. Border agents who arrested him notified the CIA, who questioned him illegally and rendered him to Afghanistan, where he was held for five months without charges, repeatedly interrogated, beaten, sodomized, and tortured, before being released.
After his release and return to Germany, a case was filed on his behalf in the U.S. In May 2006, it was thrown out by a federal judge—not because el-Masri hadn't been brutalized, but because pursuing the case "poses a 'grave risk' of damage to national security by exposing government secrets." ("Lawsuit Against CIA Is Dismissed," Washington Post, May 19, 2006)
Prosecutors in Munich also began an investigation into el-Masri's kidnapping and torture. According to human rights attorney Scott Horton, the investigators "were able to conclude very quickly that his narrative of what happened to him, from beginning to end, was accurate, that in fact he was drugged, and he was subjected to a special starvation regimen. And they were able to tell this from skin and hair samples, which they tested. They then began to ascertain who had been involved in the snatch, and they identified 13 CIA agents who had been involved." (Democracy Now!, December 1, 2010)
In 2007, charges were being drawn up against the 13 agents and the case became something of an international issue. At the time, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice publicly stated that the U.S. was not pressuring Germany or intervening in its legal system on this case. She was lying. One secret cable reported that the U.S. Embassy in Berlin was threatening Germany that "issuance of international arrest warrants would have a negative impact on our bilateral relationship;" in other words, that the U.S. would punish Germany (perhaps economically or politically) for obeying its own laws. After the U.S. ultimatum, the German government forced the Munich prosecutors to drop the case. (February 6, 2007 cable from U.S. ambassador to State Department) (Pressure was also secretly put on Spain to drop investigations of U.S. torture, rendition and other crimes it committed in Iraq and Afghanistan.)
So in this instance, the actions of U.S. diplomats served to cover up illegal torture and rendition, to protect those who had committed these crimes, to hide evidence of the global U.S. torture network from public view, to illegally intervene in the legal proceedings of another country, and to help preserve the U.S. government's ability to render and torture people to this day—all in violation of international law.
Wikileaks shows that U.S. diplomats are part of a global U.S. network of spying and intelligence gathering centered in U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. And the extent of U.S. spying Wikileaks has revealed opens a window into the increasingly sharp, cutthroat rivalry among the world's imperialist countries and other powers, and U.S. efforts to gain an upper hand on rivals and potential rivals through illegal spying.
Wikileaks has revealed that the U.S. State Department under both Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton has ordered department personnel to engage in widespread, extensive spying on all foreign leaders and officials they meet, including obtaining detailed personal information such as passport and frequent flier numbers, credit card information, phone numbers, email and computer passwords, even their DNA.
For example, Wikileaks has revealed that the U.S. State Department under both Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton has ordered department personnel to engage in widespread, extensive spying on all foreign leaders and officials they meet, including obtaining detailed personal information such as passport and frequent flier numbers, credit card information, phone numbers, email and computer passwords, even their DNA.
The State Department is also illegally conducting a massive spying operation against the leadership of the United Nations, including Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and permanent Security Council representatives from China, Russia, France and the UK.
One 2009 classified directive authorized by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demands that State Department personnel at the UN obtain "forensic technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, including passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks for official communications.... Washington also wanted credit card numbers, email addresses, phone, fax and pager numbers and even frequent-flier account numbers for UN figures and biographic and biometric information on UN Security Council permanent representatives. The operation targeted at the UN appears to have involved all of Washington's main intelligence agencies," including the CIA, FBI, and Secret Service. (Guardian UK, September 28, 2010)
All this is illegal according to UN conventions. (A 1946 convention states, "The premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable ... immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action." A 1961 convention states "the official correspondence of the mission shall be inviolable [untouchable].")
According to the Guardian UK, the level of personal and technical detail being demanded, including the specifications of computer and phone systems, passwords and encryption keys, points to the possibility of widespread hacking or surveillance operations. Since 2008, at least nine directives have been issued to U.S. embassies around the world with a host of demands for detailed information on various targets of U.S. surveillance. The New York Times worried that these memos "appear to blur the traditional boundaries between statesmen and spies."
The U.S. claims that the Wikileaks cables endanger lives, but an analysis of the Wikileaks cables reveals that what is being threatened is the ability of U.S. operatives—people who have orchestrated great crimes—to endanger and kill people around the world in service of U.S. dominance.
Wikileaks' trove of secrets offers vivid, direct, and unassailable evidence that the U.S. routinely carries out all manner of crimes across the world, from torture and rape in Afghanistan, to mass murder in Yemen, to illegal spying at UN headquarters. They show the U.S. involved in a no-holds-barred capitalist-imperialist rivalry with powers they are allied with, as well as their more direct rivals. They document how the U.S. manages a global network of brutal client regimes as key links in their empire of oppression and exploitation. And these secret cables show that the U.S. lies about all of it. This is the nightmare world the U.S. dominates, and is viciously trying to maintain.
For the imperialists, secrecy is essential because everything they're doing is unjust and against the interests of the vast majority of humanity. In their own home base, secrecy is extremely important for the imperialists to keep broad sections of the population in a state of blissful ignorance and complacency about what the U.S. is actually doing around the world (coupled with fear that any link to criticizing the U.S. could open people to persecution) and to minimize opposition and resistance.
In fact, secrecy is even more vital and a much bigger deal for the U.S. rulers in the "post-9/11" world than previously. The U.S. ruling class, spearheaded by the Bush regime, decided to publicly embrace torture and to openly flaunt international law. They did so because their empire and system are confronting big challenges, and they've decided that even more vicious, lawless and brutal methods are called for. As the Wikileak'ed cables show, far from being omnipotent "masters of the universe," the U.S. rulers are feverishly working to shore up and extend their dominance in the face of extremely costly and difficult occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, unstable client regimes, the challenge posed by Iran to U.S. and Israeli hegemony in the Middle East, the growing assertiveness of Russia and the rapid rise of China as a major player and potential rival, as well as a host of other issues. So, since the Bush regime—and continuing under Obama —the emphasis on official secrecy (and spying and intelligence gathering) has only grown.
The revelations also expose the Obama presidency: what was an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. tarnished by the Bush regime, around the world and domestically, is exposed as more of the same.
Nobody should ever listen to U.S. government pronouncements the same way again, without thinking "yes, but what's the real deal? What do their secret cables say about this?"
And most important, these revelations can—and must—become a "teachable moment"—a moment when millions learn about and confront the horrors and crimes this country is responsible for around the world.
Here we've focused on only a few of the many cables posted by Wikileaks. (And even the thousands of cables leaked to Wikileaks represent only a small slice of what the U.S. does around the world, and do not include communications considered most secret, with the highest security classifications.) Stay tuned for further coverage of Wikileaks' damning revelations.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
This is a tale of two people.
One is on tour promoting his best-selling memoir, bragging about ordering waterboarding—one of the most barbaric, medieval, inhuman forms of torture. Waterboarding is unequivocally illegal under U.S. and international law.
The other is revealing leaked documents that show how the first man, and the U.S. government he headed, carried out torture and other crimes. And how the U.S. coerced, bribed, threatened, and blackmailed governments around the world to back off from investigating and prosecuting these crimes.
One of these people is treated with kid gloves by the media—his crimes absolved by the current President and prosecutors.
The other is in jail. Government and media figures call for his persecution, even for his assassination. Until his arrest, he was hounded by the "law enforcement" agencies of the Western powers. His website was shut down even though it violated no law. Students at prestigious elite universities are told if they want to work for the U.S. government, they better not read the exposed documents.
George W. Bush has the bestseller—and his crimes are ignored. Wikileaks' Julian Assange is in jail, his website under official siege, and his life threatened by prominent and influential figures in the U.S.
Here's the question everyone should ask: What kind of a world is it where the greatest criminals are in power, and those who expose them are jailed, censored, and threatened?
And what are you going to do about it?
Send us your comments.
Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
On December 7, Julian Assange, director of the Internet media outlet Wikileaks, turned himself in at a London police station. For weeks before his arrest, Wikileaks began releasing hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables from U.S. embassies throughout the world, and threats against him from governments and police agencies in the U.S. and Europe mounted.
In particular, the U.S. state unleashed a full-court press of repression, threats, deceit, and manipulation in a furious effort to silence Julian Assange and shut down Wikileaks. Journalist Glenn Greenwald said in an interview, "whatever you think of Wikileaks, they have not been charged with a crime, let alone indicted or convicted. Yet look what has happened to them. They have been removed from the Internet ... their funds have been frozen...media figures and politicians have called for their assassination and to be labeled a terrorist organization." (Democracy Now!, December 7, 2010)
Leading U.S. political figures clamored for Assange's capture, even his execution. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell said Assange is a "high tech terrorist," and Newt Gingrich said he is an "information terrorist" who should be arrested as an "enemy combatant." Influential right-wing columnist William Kristol asked, "Why can't we use our various assets to harass, snatch or neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators, wherever they are? Why can't we disrupt and destroy Wikileaks in both cyberspace and physical space, to the extent possible?" Sarah Palin, writing on her Facebook page, asked, "Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?"
The Mafia-like code words used by these people were clearly intended to mean the U.S. should use its resources to track down and kill Assange.
Other imperialist states joined the hunt. Sweden re-issued a warrant for Assange's arrest on charges of rape, based on an allegation made earlier this year; then dropped days later and then reinstated. Then Interpol put out a "red notice" for Assange on December 1, meaning he was on their most wanted list—an extraordinary move.
Assange, who is an Australian citizen, became "stateless." He was forced to live surreptitiously, on the move constantly. Eric Bresson, Industry Ministry of the French government, said there would be "consequences" for any French company that helped keep Wikileaks online in France. Tom Flanagan, former campaign manager for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said Assange "should be assassinated, actually. I think Obama should put out a contract and maybe use a drone or something." (cited in Montreal Gazette, December 5, 2010)
On November 27, the U.S. State Department sent a letter to various financial and Internet companies telling them it considers Wikileaks activities illegal in the U.S. Then, on December 1, Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, called on "any other company or organization that is hosting Wikileaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them. Wikileaks' illegal, outrageous, and reckless acts have compromised our national security and put lives at risk around the world. No responsible company—whether American or foreign—should assist Wikileaks in its efforts to disseminate these stolen materials." (cited in Guardian UK, December 1, 2010)
Lieberman's call signaled an international financial squeeze aimed at removing Wikileaks from the Internet and cutting off its funding. Post Finance, the Swiss Bank which holds Assange's personal account, froze his funds, depriving Assange and Wikileaks of about $130,000. Soon PayPal, Amazon, Visa, and Mastercard cut off Wikileaks. A sustained "distributed denial of services" cyber assault on Wikileaks succeeded in shutting down its website. In an extraordinary assault, the domain name service (DNS) provider for Wikileaks cut off its service, meaning that the Wikileaks site lost its wikileaks.org web address and was no longer accessible to viewers. In the fight to keep Wikileaks' site up and open, within hours new providers in other countries picked it up, and as of this writing the Wikileaks site can be found at wikileaks.ch (based in Switzerland).
Again, it must be emphasized—neither Wikileaks nor Assange has even been charged with a crime pertaining to these documents. And since there haven't even been charges, there has not been a trial, or any safeguards that should be given to someone as basic elementary rights. Yet Assange has been hounded and threatened and basically had a free-standing contract put out on him by very "respected" people. Representatives of the government, along with major corporations, have denied the group he is part of the ability to function on the Internet and have frozen his assets, at the very time he is coming under sustained attack, both legal and extra-legal. He is literally battling for survival, political and personal. The idea of "innocent until proven guilty"—and now, even innocent until charged!—has been shredded.
Even looking at Wikileaks and its trove of documents, and posting them to Facebook pages or in emails has been threatened. At Columbia University, Boston University, and Michigan State University letters were sent to students saying that their career opportunities would be jeopardized if they were found going to Wikileaks. The letter from Boston University's career services office said, "Two big factors in hiring for many federal government positions are determining if the applicants have good judgment and if they know how to deal with confidential/classified information. The documents released by Wikileaks remain classified; thus, reading them, passing them on, commenting on them may be seen as a violation of Executive Order 13526, Classified National Security Information. See Section 5.5 (Sanctions)."
In opposition to these efforts, Assange remains defiant and unrepentant, and people throughout the world have worked to keep Wikileaks online and funded, and to ensure that the release of the material Wikileaks has in its files will continue. Hundreds of mirror sites have appeared around the world.
Some of the material Wikileaks released has been published in major newspapers, such as the Guardian UK, the New York Times, and Der Spiegel. But the main thrust of, coverage of and especially the commentary on Wikileaks and Assange has been to join in the vilification of Assange, and not to substantively report on what the Wikileaks exposures reveal about the workings of the imperial state.
Marc Thiessen, a prominent columnist for the Washington Post, wrote on August 3, "Let's be clear: WikiLeaks is not a news organization; it is a criminal enterprise ... [WikiLeak's] actions are likely a violation of the Espionage Act, and they arguably constitute material support for terrorism."
The facts are actually pretty basic. The mass media in the U.S. has always fundamentally been an instrument of imperialism, but this has become even more blatant and direct since 9/11. This came out very sharply leading up to and during the U.S. invasion of and war against Iraq, when the media trumpeted and embellished the lie that Iraq was hiding "weapons of mass destruction." And especially since George Bush & Co. initiated the "war on terror," major media in the U.S. and other imperialist countries have repeated whatever lies and deception are fed to them by White House and Pentagon spokespeople. They have consistently—and without fail—created public opinion for unjust war, with all its horrors, including torture, as well as unprecedented repression—including widespread roundups of people who were not even accused of having any connection to 9/11.
"Embedded journalists" tell the story of imperialist invasion and occupation from the perspective of an invading army, with little or no pretense of "objectivity." They meekly accept Pentagon dictates about where they can go and what they can cover. Most of all, with few exceptions, they do not seek out and report on the crimes ordered and carried out by the U.S. government and military; and when such crimes have come to light, they do not challenge in any meaningful way the justifications and evasions provided for the wars, the torture, the spying, the deaths of countless children, the use of drone bombings upon civilians, and all the other monstrosities at the core of the "war on terror" the U.S. has waged under Bush and Obama.
In the case of Assange, violations of these "rules of the game" for acceptable mainstream journalism have brought on a whole range of vicious attacks. The nature of Wikileaks—a journalistic outlet that makes available materials made available to it—has been distorted and portrayed as all kinds of things it is not. People calling for the persecution and even murder of Assange are given major, mainstream, and sympathetic press, while hardly any defense of Assange is allowed to reach the broad public. And Assange has been the target of full-out character assassination, as typified by a page one piece in a Sunday New York Times that gathered all kinds of baseless and unsubstantiated slanders into what is commonly known as a "takedown piece"—a "profile" specifically intended to ruin someone's reputation. ("WikiLeaks Founder on the Run, Trailed by Notoriety," New York Times, October 23, 2010)
As blogger Chris Floyd wrote this week, "[Wikileaks] is a journalistic outlet just like CNN, ABC, CBS, Fox and other mainstream media venues, where we have seen an endless parade of officials—and journalists!—calling for Assange to be prosecuted or killed outright. Every argument being made for shutting down Wikileaks can—and doubtless will—be used against any journalistic enterprise that publishes material powerful people don't like."
And, some are beginning to make that argument. Joe Lieberman has called for a federal investigation into the New York Times to determine whether it has violated the Espionage Act of 1917 by printing some of the documents. Lieberman said "I certainly believe WikiLeaks has violated The Espionage Act. The New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship. Whether they've committed a crime, I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department. Why do you prosecute crimes? Because if you don't, others are going to do it soon and again. And I'm afraid that's what's going to happen here."
Not that long ago, in 2008, the weekly news magazine The Economist gave Wikileaks its "new media award" for that year. Shortly after, the New York Daily News listed Wikileaks first in a ranking of "websites that could totally change the news."
But all that began to change drastically when Wikileaks released its April 2010 files, revealing, among many other atrocities, the Collateral Murder video. (Collateral Murder, online at collateralmurder.com) This video showed the cold blooded murder of journalists and Iraqi civilians by U.S. military forces. Now there is an all out effort to prevent Wikileaks or anything like it from existing in the days ahead.
Even in the best of times such democratic rights as do exist in the U.S. are tightly controlled and constrained. Such rights are, in the main, not even extended to whole sections of the people—immigrants, or basic masses in the ghettos and barrios, for instance. People and groups that disagree with government policy are routinely spied on and harassed. For those who advocate or represent a more fundamental challenge, including revolutionaries, the edge comes out all the more sharply, up to and including railroads to prison and assassination.
This is because the U.S. government is at bottom a dictatorship—a state whose rule is enforced by armies and police, courts and prisons—in short, the use of violence; and this violence is used on behalf of the capitalist-imperialist class and their "freedom" to exploit, plunder and oppress people all over the world. Because the documents released by Wikileaks give a glimpse of some of how that is done, the sharp edge of this dictatorship has now openly come out and been trained on Julian Assange and Wikileaks.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
Editors' Note: The following is an excerpt from a recent talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA; this is one of a number of excerpts from that talk that are being published in Revolution. The first two excerpts appeared in Revolution #218 and #219. The entire Part I of the talk is available at revcom.us. This has been edited, and footnotes have been added, for publication.
But, as I've been emphasizing, the other side of the contradiction (in which the economic base is ultimately and fundamentally decisive) is the fact that the way to bring about radical, qualitative changes—in the economic foundation (or base), and in the political-ideological superstructure—is opened and is made possible only by decisively defeating, and then dismantling, the stranglehold of political and ultimately military power that is exercised by the ruling class of the presently prevailing system, and replacing this with a new, revolutionary state power. That cannot be underlined enough times. We can come up with all the ideas we want for change in society and the world—and others can come up with creative ideas which can make a contribution, especially if they're recast in a correct framework, a correct understanding of reality—but if that doesn't get translated into a movement which actually, when the conditions emerge to make this possible, succeeds in defeating and dismantling the repressive organs and the overall institutions and instrumentalities of power of what is now the prevailing system, there is no radical change that is going to occur. It's as basic as that.
People can talk about "let's make change without seizing power." Well, you can make some little changes temporarily around the margins and in the interstices, if you will, but you ain't gonna change shit about the basic character of society and the world without seizing power—without, through a mass struggle, in the appropriate form when the conditions exist or emerge, actually defeating and dismantling the organs and institutions of power of the old ruling class, and replacing that with a new system which is in correspondence with, which reinforces—and which embodies the power to continue the transformation of—the underlying economic base of society, as well as the superstructure itself. It's just that basic.
Just think about it. You want people not to be shot down on the streets, time and again, by the police, with the killers then being exonerated in one form or another—usually outright, "justified homicide"? You want that to stop? You have to have a different state power. Why do we want state power? Why do we keep talking about it? Because we don't want these outrageous things, and everything that they are a concentration of, to keep on happening to people—when it's totally unnecessary as well as outrageous and egregious. You want to put a stop to rape, you want to put a stop to impoverishment of people, all the other horrors in society and the world today? You have to have a different set of social and economic relations, and you have to have a different set of power relations that corresponds to and backs that up and furthers it. You have to have a different culture and ideology. And you're not going to have them if you don't have a new state power—yes, a radically different state power, but state power. It's that basic.
These things that people do abhor and hate, and do repeatedly protest and rebel against—you can go down the line, the wars, the torture, the treatment of immigrants, all the rest of the outrages—are not going to be eliminated unless this existing state power is defeated and dismantled and a new state power, a radically different state power, is established and, on that basis, things go forward from there with transformation in the economic base and further transformation, in turn, in the superstructure—back and forth—all aiming for the ultimate goal of a communist world.
We really must not underestimate both the need and the importance of deeply grasping this in its full dimension and significance, and being, yes, really "pit bull" in proceeding on the basis of this understanding—including in how we present and discuss with people the question of revolution: both the necessity of revolution and what becomes possible through actually breaking the hold of the old, reactionary state power, which enforces these relations of exploitation and oppression, and all the outrages they give rise to, and establishing and consolidating in place of that a new, revolutionary state power, representing a real and truly great leap on the road to abolishing all such outmoded relations and the outrages to which they continually give rise and the antagonistic conflicts among human beings to which they continually give rise.
In short, a truly radical change in society as a whole, in its basic nature, is really possible only through a revolution whose first great leap takes place in the superstructure—particularly in the realm of politics (although the realm of ideology is extremely important, as is culture in particular, which I'll speak about later) but particularly in the realm of politics—and more specifically political power to rule and set the terms in society as a whole. At a certain point, this struggle assumes a concentrated form in the battle to seize the power to decisively determine the character and direction of society. This revolution, upon succeeding in that first great leap, then must proceed to carry out the transformation of the economic base, and the social relations, as well as the superstructure itself as a whole, in the cultural and ideological (including moral) as well as the political spheres.
This is really what's being gotten at in the article "There Is No 'Permanent Necessity' For Things to Be This Way, A Radically Different and Better World Can Be Brought Into Being Through Revolution."1 This is something we should be repeatedly coming back to: there is no permanent necessity for the existing system. Within the actual reality that we are confronted with, and the contradictory dynamics of that reality, is the possibility—not a guarantee, not a certainty, not an inevitability, but a real possibility—of a radically different world; but it can only be brought about on the basis and in the ways that I have been speaking about.
It is worth repeating once again—and we need to be continually illustrating this in a living way, and going into it deeply in a living way with people—that the kind of radical change that is necessary and possible does not and cannot involve the imposition of some utopian scheme or philosophically idealist notion of how society ought to be, abstracted from the actual conditions that exist and the actual contradictions that are driving things. Rather, this involves the transformation of the—contradictory—reality with which we are confronted, with both the pathways for change, and at the same time the constraints, that this presents. Here is another analogy with evolution in the natural world. You can't have evolution just of any kind you might want. In fact, it's one of the proofs of evolution—as opposed to the idea of "intelligent design" or god bringing about changes—that changes in the natural world do occur on the basis of what already exists at a given time and both the possibilities and the constraints that this poses in regard to such change. You can't just come up with an entirely new species, for example, that bears no relationship to anything that ever existed before. The same is true in human historical evolution, and revolution. And that is why you can't just impose on reality any utopian scheme or philosophically idealist notion that you might come up with.
So it is important to grasp both the material basis for what we're about, for radical change in society, and the contradictory nature of this material reality, which has its positive side but also its negative side, in relation to our objectives. It opens up the possibility, while it also places obstacles in the way of realizing that possibility—which, if you think about it for a second, is obvious because we run into these obstacles all the time. But this is rooted in material reality. It's not just some stubborn quality of masses of people, for example, that makes it difficult at times to mobilize them around the goals of revolution. That is often a factor—the reluctance of people at times to take risks in order to bring about needed change—but that in turn is rooted in material reality, in underlying conditions that are independent of people's will and larger than the individuals whom we might be interacting with or who might be on the political stage more broadly at any given time.
This is a point that's emphasized in the Manifesto from our Party—and it's important to grasp this very deeply and firmly—that both the basis for change but also constraints and obstacles and difficulties are posed in this contradictory nature of reality that we are confronted with at any given time, a constantly changing reality.
All this sheds further light on the point that was stressed earlier: In today's world, given the actual material conditions that have resulted—not conditions that were "bound to" result but conditions that have in fact resulted—from the historical development of human society, there are now fundamentally only two alternatives, in terms of what the character and direction of society will be and, correspondingly, how society will be ruled: Either the capitalist-imperialist system—in which an exploiting class, and in particular the capitalist class (or bourgeoisie), through its political and administrative, bureaucratic and military functionaries, holds and exercises political power, expressed in a concentrated way as a monopoly of "legitimate" armed force, and along with that and underlying it the dynamics of capitalist accumulation, setting the fundamental terms for how society functions—either that, once again—or the socialist system, in which society is ruled in the most fundamental and largest interests of the formerly exploited class, the proletariat, and this political power is increasingly exercised by masses of people who are led, yes, by a communist vanguard, and conscious social planning of production increasingly replaces the driving force of anarchy of capitalist production (even while of course, there will always be ignorance as well as knowledge and necessity will always confront human beings, with the challenge of transforming it into freedom through struggle).
To speak in terms of how this finds expression in the superstructure, and to boil this down to its basic political terms, the only real alternatives at this point are the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, in one form or another, or the dictatorship of the proletariat—with all the radical differences there are between those two dictatorships.
We can see the reality of this and the radical differences reflected very strongly and powerfully in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), recently published by our Party.2 Embodied there you can see both the need for a state, in order to have a new system, and the radically different nature of that state, as well as the radically different nature of the society as a whole and its dynamics, in contrast with capitalism.
Here it's worth just taking a moment to tell a story which I think sheds a lot of light on what I've been talking about—the basic materialism that is so crucial to everything we are about. This has to do with the time, back in the days of the Revolutionary Union (the forerunner of our Party), when we were working on Red Papers 7 about the Soviet Union—analyzing it as a social-imperialist state (socialist in name but imperialist in fact and in deed), an analysis which was highly controversial and contentious within the movement, broadly speaking, and among those who were claiming the mantle of communism, at that time. I remember there was, for example, this group, the Communist Labor Party, and they published an article which denied the theoretical possibility of capitalist restoration in a formerly socialist country. That article made the analogy that it's like a baby—you can't stuff a baby that's been born back into the womb—which, among other things, revealed a rather mechanical materialist understanding of society! But those of us working on Red Papers 7 went through a whole process of agonizing over the question of how to understand the reality and dynamics of capitalist restoration in a former socialist country.
We had done enough work to be convinced that the thesis that the Soviet Union was a capitalist (social-imperialist) state was true, that it reflected reality accurately in basic terms. But we were trying to understand, and therefore be able to explain in more living terms: why is it that if you have a revisionist political line, you will inevitably restore capitalism? So we went through the actual process: OK, what would happen if you had a revisionist line in leadership of what had been a socialist country? How would you actually carry out and guide the functioning of society, and the economy in particular? What principles would adhere and would be the governing principles, so to speak, in the underlying economic base and in the actual dynamics of the economy? And we "walked through" the process where, with a revisionist line, you could not implement genuinely socialist planning and carry out the socialist transformation of the economic relations—the ownership system, the division of labor, and the distribution of wealth resulting from that. How, with a revisionist line, you could not lead, and fundamentally rely on, the masses to carry out, in an increasingly conscious way, the development of the economy and transformation of the economic relations, but would end up having to fall back on bureaucratic methods to regulate the economy; you would have to have some way that everything wouldn't fall apart; you would have to go back to the mechanisms and dynamics of the capitalist system, of commodity production and exchange, with the law of value in command.
We actually walked through this (I'm simplifying this somewhat in summarizing it briefly here—we spent days and weeks struggling with how to understand all this) because we didn't just want to assert this: "Ah, you've got a revisionist line, you're going to get capitalism—what's the big deal?—now let's move on, next discussion." No, we actually wanted to understand these dynamics, and so we spent weeks, actually—a group of us were working on this and we would meet periodically, but as we were getting close to actually publishing Red Papers 7 we met quite frequently—and we went back and forth, sitting in a room and out over coffee and all the other ways that you're familiar with, wrangling with: OK, what are the actual dynamics here? Why couldn't you maintain a socialist economic base with a revisionist line? If you think about what's involved in having an economy functioning in a way that doesn't rely on the market mechanisms of capitalism and the accumulation of capital privately, etc.—and how you would meet the needs of the masses of people and the larger needs of the revolution, not only in that country but in the world, and actually do it in a way that didn't fall back on the masses being essentially mindless machines of production, alienated from the very process that they were carrying out—it became clear in really going through this that you couldn't do it without a revolutionary line in command. It would break down.
This, I believe, sheds a lot of light on the basic points I'm making here—about how it's one system or the other, and the dialectical relations in all that, between the economic base and the superstructure of politics and ideology.
But through all this, of course, it is necessary to continually come back to and emphasize the fact that the socialist system is radically different than the capitalist-imperialist system (and other systems ruled by exploiting classes). And the interests of the proletariat, in the largest sense—not in a narrow and economist sense but in the largest sense—are radically different from those of all previous ruling classes: the fundamental interests of the proletariat, as a class, really do lie, and can only lie, in the emancipation of humanity as a whole from systems which are founded on exploitation, and in which the fundamental and essential social relations are in antagonistic contradiction with a socially conscious approach to interacting with the rest of nature. That is basically what I was getting at in relating the story about the grappling we were doing in the writing of Red Papers 7, in coming to understand more deeply the nature and dynamics of the Soviet Union as a capitalist (social-imperialist) state.
Socialism, while itself an economic system and a form of class rule (the dictatorship of the proletariat), is also a transition to a still more radically different society and world; and the goal of this transition is the transformation of both the economic base and the political/ideological superstructure to achieve the abolition of all class divisions, all exploitative and oppressive relations among human beings in general, everywhere in the world, and with that the elimination of any need for, or possibility of, dictatorship of any kind by any group or class—the elimination, in other words, of the state as an instrument of rule by one or another class, and for the suppression of the classes and forces in society which are in opposition to, or pose a threat to, the interests of the ruling class—and, along with this, it is a transition to a world in which we have moved beyond a situation in which any group in human society will, in comparison with and even in opposition to certain other groups and individuals, have institutionalized power, or disproportionate influence, with regard to the fundamental character and direction of the interactions among human beings, and between human beings and the rest of nature.
2. Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP Publications, 2010). [back]
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
Prisoner writes on the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal):
November 28, Sunday, 2010
To whom this may concern:
I just finished reading the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) about two minutes ago—and in one word to describe my impression of this historic document, I would have to say it was: NECESSARY.
For one, it captures what socialism really is in a tangible way. For many of us—before we informed ourselves of the subject—we either viewed it indifferently or echoed the same distortions that the Tea Party faithful are regurgitating today, which is nothing more than the repackaging of bourgeois propaganda. Unlike what they say about socialism—"It promotes totalitarianism"; "It's anti-democratic"; "It seeks to reinforce a one man dictatorship"; "Its aim is a worldwide centralized form of government"; etc.—this document provides the masses with a vivid picture of what a socialist Republic right here in America would really be like. Instead of being what the bourgeoisie cast it as being—juxtaposed to the bourgeois democracy of America today—one can picture for themselves how the proletarian democracy of the New Socialist Republic in North America will be exponentially more democratic than the United States of America can ever hope to be—from its basic institutions to its legislatures to the Executive Council, who will actually govern this society with the most invigorating force of democracy that this country has ever witnessed.
Not only are those many distortions and lies about socialism placed in its true light, it illustrates comparatively, as stated in the Preamble (p.2) how: "all states have a definite social content and class character: they are an expression of the prevailing social relations, and most fundamentally the economic relations (relations of production), which have a decisive and ultimately determining role in regard to how the particular society functions and is organized."
This point is reflected by how fundamentally different the work environment will be organized in contrast to how it's now under capitalism. Instead of one man management being the rule as it is today, under the New Socialist Republic in North America: "Managers must take part in production; forms of collective management involving the direct producers must be established; and people as a whole will, increasingly, rotate between administrative tasks and productive labor. Regulations and rules must serve the conscious social organization of production." (Article 3, Section 8) From this material basis—guided by socialist policies and principles of collective production, administration, and distribution—is reproduced in varying degrees all the basic institutions of society on up to the state itself, which is what gives it its proletarian class character in form and content, in contrast to a capitalist one.
Viewed from this prism of class rule, I believe it allows the masses to understand why a socialist system would be more aligned with their true class interest, since human society will become the means to its own end (all workers), instead of allowing itself to continuously be subjugated as a means to someone else's end (their profit). If we've learned anything from this last recession, I'm sure it's that any system circumscribed around profit will always be antithetical to full employment, raising the standard of living for the working class as a whole in the long run, or in their real class interest—which brings me to my next point about this remarkable Constitution.
I believe the strongest selling point for the superiority of socialism in comparison to capitalism, is the people's right to employment and a guaranteed income, as spelled out in Article 3, Section 8(1). After this last "Great Recession," I don't believe there's no other section in this Constitution which will resonate with the masses more than this section right now. People are financially hurting and don't fully understand why there's very few meaningful jobs available these days. This section—with its eleven points—should become a primary educational tool in raising the consciousness of the people, so they come to view poverty, underemployment and unemployment as a symptom of this particular economic system, which brings with it no corrective measure short of revolution.
By contrasting these eleven points with the state of the capitalist economy and unemployment today, I believe it will open people's eyes to why and just how full employment can become a real possibility for their lives. Once they come to understand that, the rest of this Constitution will come to be looked upon more concretely.
Right now, for most, socialism is still an abstract thing, which is disconnected from a solid material basis; yet I've found, once it becomes ground within the workplace setting dynamically for people to visualize, it becomes easier to explain what "the dictatorship of the proletariat" is and why it will be important to "continue the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat" throughout the entire period of socialism—in the workplace (production relations) throughout the superstructure (between the proletarian and bourgeois line), on up to the state itself (between genuine Marxism and revisionism). This ties the form and content of socialism together dialectically, which dynamically demonstrates how the two are interrelated and inseparable.
On a more general level, philosophically speaking, I like how this Constitution allows the masses to see that revolution and abolishing a decadent system doesn't mean doing away with it completely, in the sense that one will be starting from scratch. I think many mistakenly believe this, without adhering to materialist dialectics in relation to the qualitative leaps in things; yet as indicated throughout this whole Constitution—although the capitalist-imperialist state of the U.S.A. will be crushed and abolished—many of the positive features of the former capitalist state, such as: individual rights and civil liberties, the three branches of government, etc., will be re-established on a higher basis. Just like there's no such thing as an "evil" gun in and of itself—only individuals and policies behind it can be said to be such—the same can be said about many of those features which will carry over into socialist society. This is not to say that there won't be "characteristics" (such as bourgeois right, etc.) which must be eradicated completely before we're going to be able to achieve communism; but only to say that nothing is abolished completely, all at once. The history of any phenomenon—including a state—is still tied to its past, both negatively and positively, and will always undergo future changes, possible reversals and negations.
In addition to the above, I particularly like how Chairman Avakian's new synthesis, particularly the principle of "solid core with a lot of elasticity," was given broad expression to throughout this whole document. Instead of perpetrating the same erroneous mistakes of past Communist vanguard parties and states, one walks away from this Constitution with a reassured confidence and belief in genuine communist leadership. After I read all ninety-one pages, it made me proud and hopeful to know that there's at least one Communist Party in existence which has approached communism as an evolving science, capable of learning from its past mistakes, while upholding the most positive features of proletarian revolution throughout its history. For that reason, I must salute Chairman Bob Avakian's leadership for that.
Lastly, I want to say that I'm in total agreement in how this Constitution in Article 2 handles the question of self-determination and/or autonomy in regards to minorities and formerly oppressed nationalities. Being Black myself and around a lot of brothers in prison who have embraced a New Afrikan line, I know how delicate this issue is. After reading the Constitution though, I believe this is the best approach to maintaining the United Front Under the Leadership of the Proletariat, before, during, and after the revolutionary seizure of power. It is my hope and belief, that all formerly oppressed minorities and nationalities stay a part of the New Socialist Republic in North America because it will only strengthen our cause, domestically and internationally; however, I also believe it's best left up to those concerned to decide for themselves, and the only principled way to broach this subject.
In closing, I believe this document is history in the making. I feel the same way about this Constitution that I'm sure many Anglo Americans felt in reading Thomas Paine's Common Sense, before the American Revolutionary War. In the same vein, the validity and profundity of this Constitution doesn't require Marx, Lenin, or Mao to be alive to recognize that this document makes complete "Proletarian Common Sense" today. I'm sure others will only concur and second that motion, especially once it becomes our own reality.
P.S. I want to say thanks to those who donated to PRLF, so that it was possible for me to get a copy of this Constitution so quickly.
P.P.S. Also if possible, I would like for you to send me Bob Avakian's book A Horrible End—or an End to the Horror? Thanks.
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund sent the following request from a prisoner for the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal):
"Hello, my name is XXX and I am one of many thats being held in one of Alabama's many prisons. I am also a proud reader of the Revolution paper. I don't know what it is about some of the people here but when I bring this type of conversation to the table they shy away... I also [have friends] here [who] love the fact that I get this paper, everyone wants to get one but we understand that there are others that would like to get this paper in other prisons so we all share mine and build on the topics weekly. We are so excited about the CONSTITUTION for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. It's like waiting on Christmas when you were a kid. So Please, Please. Send me a copy so me and the few others that believe and think how I do can start putting this in our lives. You know Obama spoke of change... I don't see it... this is the real change.... Thank you for giving so many people a chance to be heard. Change is here."
HOLIDAY APPEAL FROM PRISONERS REVOLUTIONARY LITERATURE FUND
For the holidays, give a gift of critical thinking and a life of the mind to a prisoner:
Adopt a subscription to Revolution newspaper for a prisoner.
To make a donation, including a tax-deductible donation, go to PRLF.org.
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
A reader responds:
"Dear Revolution newspaper,
"Me and a comrade discussed the request for a copy of the new Constitution from a brother in prison in Alabama. I was in prison for many years and appreciate what it means for this brother to get Revolution newspaper and to want the new Constitution so much. I want him to know that we are inspired by his words. And, I pledge to organize people in this housing project to donate $200 that will be sent to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund to pay for 20 Constitutions and the shipping to prisoners.
"I challenge everybody reading this, especially ex-cons and people living in public housing projects around the country, to match what we are doing or do even better. We need to get hundreds of copies of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) into the hellholes of this society—prisons and projects. Let us know if you are down with our challenge."
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
From a Reader:
Some friends and I put our heads together and came up with fundraising ideas for promotion and distribution of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) during the holiday season.
One for outside and one for inside! Don't let anyone—whether on the inside or outside of prison walls—go hungry for the hope and vision of real change presented in this Constitution. When you buy a copy of the Constitution for yourself, buy one for a prisoner too. And urge everyone who buys a copy for themselves to buy another one for a prisoner.
Carry copies of the Constitution with you everywhere. Holiday parties are a great opportunity to sell copies.
Give Constitutions as Gifts. And enclose a note saying you've purchased another one for a prisoner in the name of the recipient.
Make Contributions as Gifts. Tell friends and relatives that instead of exchanging gifts this year, you'd like them to make a contribution to help promote the Constitution on the Internet. And that you're making a contribution to do the same.
Year-End Fundraising Parties. Plan special parties December 30-31 to get contributions on the spot.
Many people make contributions in late December for year-end tax deductions. Make sure people know that they can make tax-deductible contributions for sending the Constitution to prisoners via the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund website—prlf.org. Tell people that $200 will buy Constitutions for 20 prisoners.
Don't keep it a secret. And whatever you do, send reports to Revolution newspaper to let others know what's happening, what you're learning and what people are saying.
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
Responding to "Toughest Questions"
Question: "I hear you when you speak about all the 'macro-oppression' in the world and the very big problems that you think need to be changed through revolution, but what do you have to say about 'internalized oppression'?"
Answer: Since this question—or very similar questions—have come up a number of times over the years, I thought it was important to speak to it.
First, it is important to appreciate even the way this person framed the question, using the words: "internalized oppression." I believe that accurately captures what is going on when we see oppressed people doing self-destructive things much of the time. Tyler Clementi, the gay student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after being bullied and ridiculed, was just one of a whole epidemic of gay teens who have taken their own lives. Thousands and thousands of women cut themselves or starve themselves or stay in relationships that are emotionally and physically abusive. There are Black youth in every city in the U.S. who are out in the streets risking their lives and endangering the lives of others over bullshit.
Some people look at all this and say, "Well, those people are just monsters." Or they say, "Those people are suffering from low self-esteem," ... or, "They have no respect for themselves."
But the truth is, when these things happen in the epidemic numbers they happen in—they are not just a whole bunch of people's individual problems or "personal" problems. They are part of a pattern. It is a pattern where all the oppression of this society—all the anti-gay bigotry and discrimination, all the misogyny and treating women like objects of sexual plunder or the butt of a joke and all the brutality and rape and insults that go along with that, all the "stop-and-frisks" and racist profiling and miseducational tracking and mass imprisonment and insults that confront Black and Latino youth as well as many immigrants—gets internalized. All this putrid shit that comes from this culture and this society is so pervasive and so suffocating that it not only forces them into conditions that no one should have to live through, it has even embedded its way into people's own view of themselves and own feelings about their own worth and the worth of others like them. It is exactly as she says, not their own individual problem, but oppression internalized.
And the truth is, just as this comes from society and not something that flows from their own heads in some isolated way, it cannot be fixed or transformed just by those individuals transforming their own attitudes or their own thinking. But still you hear this kind of thinking all the time: "Just think positive." Or, "No one else is going to respect you until you respect yourself." Well, this reverses cause and effect—and leads people to blame themselves for things the system does. How are you going to go through life being constantly insulted and degraded, bullied or brutalized, ridiculed and even possibly killed—every week, every day, every hour—without that getting into your head?
Besides, what kind of craziness is it to think that the problem is that you are not well-adjusted enough to living in this totally fucked up world? The real problem is not in your head, the real problem is that this world is so fucked up that it does this to thousands of gay youth, to millions of Black youth, to the whole half of humanity that is women! ... and more.
Really, we ought to put our energies to changing all this, making the kind of revolution that can get rid of all this oppression, bringing into being a world that really values and respects gay people and lesbians and sees their love and their lives as valid. We need a revolution that is about overcoming racism and all the oppression and horrors that have gone along with it through the history of this country and that fosters learning about and forging relations of respect and equality between people of different nationalities or races. We need a revolution that recognizes women as actual human beings capable of participating fully and equally together with men in every kind of human endeavor.
And, we need to start living that way today as we fight to bring that world into being. We have to be—and we can be right now—an embodiment of the world we are fighting for. That's what this movement for revolution does. We foster this revolutionary, this liberating culture and this attitude now—and we learn from each other and are transforming ourselves as we come together to transform the world. This is not about "getting your head together first" and then going up against the system later; it means that as we are fighting the power, we are transforming how people think and feel and relate to each other, for revolution.
And in this way, we—right now—are building a movement for revolution—the kind of revolution that can emancipate humanity—and we are creating space and a culture right now where oppressed people are valued and respected, seen for who they are and what they have to contribute both to those around them as well as to humanity as a whole. This is a culture where people can both fight to put an end to the source of the "macro oppression" and, in the process get that "internalized oppression" out of their own heads because a whole different morality and culture is being reinforced by a whole movement for revolution that is seeing things differently and living differently now. This is a process where people change themselves as they change the world.
This is not only the greatest and most meaningful way to go at both the "macro oppression" as well as the "internalized oppression," it is, frankly, the only lasting way to deal with either of them. And there are a lot of people—coming from very different perspectives—who ought to get in on this together with us. We need to be living differently, challenging backwards attitudes, bigotry, racism and sexism. We need to be planting a pole—and doing it with pride—that says we are about something totally different, something really liberating, something revolutionary. And this is something that we should be doing now. By that I mean, starting right here, right now.
The Toughest Questions You Face...
We want to know the toughest questions that you run up against. When you are getting out Revolution newspaper, or wearing the T-shirt with the image of Bob Avakian, or in some other way representing for revolution... what questions do you run up against that provoke you, or intrigue you, or bother you—and that you want help understanding and answering. Especially if you are newer to the movement, or cut off from other revolutionaries—we want to hear from you. Send us the questions you run up against, and we'll do our best to answer them. Not only that, we'll ask everyone else who reads the paper for help. If you can, tell us a little bit about who tends to ask you these questions, and how you understand and respond to them. You might also want to let us know a little bit about what you're doing—without going into specifics, in what kind of situation are you building the movement? For instance, whether you are selling the paper on a campus, or wearing the BA T-shirt in a neighborhood, or debating with people in prison, etc. But that's optional. The main thing is this: we want to hear the questions you're running up against.
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
Every year, millions of people in the USA experience homelessness. Countless others live on the brink of eviction—a paycheck or unemployment check or two away, constantly facing decisions about paying rent or buying groceries, medicine, or clothing for the kids. Unlike housing foreclosures, which are closely tracked and tallied, no national figures are kept on evictions. But it is known that millions of people in this country have been pushed to—and over—the edge in recent years as they struggle to keep a place they can call home and meet one of life's basic necessities.
The most oppressed and vulnerable people under this capitalist system suffer the worst from the horrors of being evicted and losing the roof over their heads. And Black women have been hit with particular ferocity by the waves of evictions.
A recent study focusing on Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, concluded that for young Black people, "eviction can be thought of as the feminine equivalent to incarceration... nearly 60 percent of the 50,538 tenants evicted in Milwaukee County between 2003 and 2007 were female." Matthew Desmond, a sociologist at University of Wisconsin-Madison who wrote the study, analyzed court records and other research material and also lived in two high-poverty neighborhoods in 2008 and 2009.
Desmond found that in the poor majority Black neighborhoods of Milwaukee, 1 in 10 renter-occupied households is evicted every year. And, "The odds of a woman being evicted in black neighborhoods is twice that of men. It's not like that in white neighborhoods. It's quite stunning." The study also pointed out that Black women were evicted at double the rate of white women in similar circumstances.1
The high eviction rate that Black women face is part of the overall discriminatory housing situation for Black people, which arises from the oppression of African-American people built into this system in the U.S. from its very beginning, as well as decades of conscious policies by the capitalist rulers. In the period after World War 2, massive changes took place in U.S. society, including very importantly in the lives of African-Americans. As the plantation system in the South was breaking down, five million Black people were driven into the cities of the North. Hoping to escape the Jim Crow conditions in the South and drawn by the often unmet promise of good jobs and a better life in the "Promised Land," Black people who arrived in the Northern cities encountered harsh segregation in every sphere—in jobs, education, medical care...and housing. They were forced into and locked into certain areas of Northern cities by government laws and policies that resulted in subsidized housing in the form of inner-city projects in the ghettos, as well as by police repression and racist vigilantes. In contrast, in the same period, the U.S. government subsidized home loans for huge numbers of white people, including better-off workers and middle class people. This was reinforcement of white privilege—by federal government policy.
The 1960s saw a tremendous upsurge of struggle by Black people, including rebellions in the inner cities throughout the U.S. But as tremendous and powerful as this struggle of Black people and the overall upsurge of the '60s were, the ruling capitalist-imperialist system was not overthrown. The national oppression of Black people has continued, and in many ways is even more intense today. Black people in this country face the highest levels of racial residential segregation in the world—shunted into neglected neighborhoods lacking decent parks and grocery stores and often with no hospitals at all. And all this is reinforced by racism and hatred, official and unofficial, and by police terror and murder. (For a much more extensive analysis of these developments, go online for the special issue of Revolution titled "The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System, And the Revolution We Need" at revcom.us/a/144/BNQ-en.html.)
One of the towering crimes of U.S. capitalism is the massive incarceration of Black men. In today's America, about 1 in 8 young Black men are in prison or on parole. Factory, warehousing, and other jobs which had previously employed large numbers of Black men in cities have dried up to the point of disappearing, with plants and even entire industries either moving out of the country, shutting down altogether, and in some cases moving to rural areas or "exurbs" far from the city centers. Many of the minimum wage jobs in fast food and other components of the "service economy" are staffed primarily by women. One result of all this is that millions of women are in the position of not only being the sole wage earner in a household, but the only person a landlord will allow to sign a lease. This is a key factor in why Black women are being evicted at such high rates.
As sociologist Matthew Desmond pointed out in an NPR radio interview in February 2010, "[I]n inner city Black communities, women are disproportionately represented in the low rate service sector of the economy. And therefore are able to have income documentation necessary to sign a lease. That income can also come from the form of public assistance check. But low wages and welfare stipends have remained relatively stagnant. Over the last 10 years, well, the cost of housing has increased by historic proportions. So, just a quick example: in 1997, the fair market rent for just one bedroom in Milwaukee, was $466. In 2008, it was $665. The welfare payment in the city hasn't increased at all. It's been $673 the whole time. What we're seeing is that even in high poverty neighborhoods, the average cost of renting is quickly approaching the total income of welfare recipients and low wage workers...
"It's down to a fact that, you know, people like Clarissa [a woman from Milwaukee who is one of the people Desmond profiled in his research] are paying 80 to 90 percent of their income towards landlords. They have no wiggle room. They're one sick child or one accident away from eviction. And we've reached a kind of unreasonable point in inner cities today, where families don't have access to the public housing or rental assistance. And we should bear in mind this is the majority of low income families, not the exception."
And the surge in evictions of households headed by Black women is taking place in the context of the current economic crisis that has put a huge squeeze on the availability of housing for the poor. Robert Greer, a housing developer who specializes in what is called "affordable housing" projects, said in 2009, "Despite a demand for our product that far exceeds the supply, affordable apartment developers are finding it nearly impossible to assemble the necessary capital to move forward with their projects. Putting together deals that make sense is more difficult now than it has ever been, because the program's biggest investors of the past have been sidelined."2
Stop and think about what the housing developer is actually saying. People in the inner cities urgently need housing. But investing in new housing in the inner cities where Black and Latino people are concentrated does not bring a sufficient rate of return, so such housing does not get built. Last August, 30,000 people in East Point, Georgia, near Atlanta, came out to apply for 200 public housing apartment units and 455 vouchers for Section 8 rent assistance. East Point is almost 80% African-American. (A spokeswoman for the local housing authority said that even those few who finally made it through the admissions process "would have to wait years" before they could move in.)
While the capitalist economic crisis has affected the masses of people generally, it has had an especially devastating effect on Black and other oppressed people. Far from the fantasy of a "post-racial" society, for millions and millions of African-Americans in the U.S., the oppression and discrimination they face as a people continue and are getting WORSE under this system.
1. A University of Wisconsin-Madison press release on the study noted, "Desmond's research showed that in neighborhoods in which the majority of residents are black, 18,247 women were evicted in those five years, compared with 9,703 men. In white neighborhoods, 7,941 women and 8,246 men were evicted in the same time period; in Hispanic areas, 3,139 women and 2,205 men were evicted." [back]
2. A report prepared for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in January 2010 found that "From 2001 to 2007 the nation's affordable unassisted rental housing stock decreased by 6.3%, while the high-rent rental housing stock increased 94.3%. This translates into a loss of more than 1.2 million affordable unassisted rental units from 2001 to 2007." [back]
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
"I am shamed by the actions of my government and I will do everything in my power to make it stop killing innocent people in my name," said Leah Bolger, a leader of Veterans for Peace. Veterans plan to chain themselves to the White House fence on December 16 to deliver the message, "Mr. Obama: End These Wars. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Now!"
Daniel Ellsberg, a vocal defender of Wikileaks' Julian Assange and of Bradley Manning, who the U.S. military has charged with leaking documents, will speak and participate. Chris Hedges, author of Death of the Liberal Class, called on his readers to join him in going to the D.C. jail for the protest.
Debra Sweet of World Can't Wait told Revolution that World Can't Wait is supporting this protest. "Since Veterans for Peace began planning this protest, Obama announced that U.S. troops will not be withdrawn from Afghanistan beginning in 2011, but beginning in 2014. The Obama administration responded to Wikileaks' revelations of U.S. domination through diplomacy with serious threats to prosecute Julian Assange, yet the Department of Justice refuses to prosecute a single U.S. war crime in those leaks."
For more information go to worldcantwait.org.
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
In April 2009, after a month-long trial, a jury in Denver concluded that Ward Churchill had been wrongfully fired from his tenured position as Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado (CU), where he'd taught for nearly 30 years. The case arose out of an orchestrated right-wing campaign launched in early 2005 targeting Churchill for controversial statements he'd written critical of the U.S. in the wake of 9/11. The University eventually fired Churchill after engineering a full investigation of charges of "research misconduct." And the controversy generated around Churchill became a major focal point of a nationwide campaign to chill and suppress critical thinking and dissent in academia.
The jury in Churchill's lawsuit found that he was fired in 2007 in retaliation for the essay he'd written—and not because of research misconduct as CU's administration and Regents claimed. And they determined that he would not have been fired for academic misconduct in the absence of his essay.
But three months later, in early July 2009, Denver Chief Judge Larry Naves threw out the jury's verdict and ordered a directed verdict in favor of CU on the grounds that the trial should never have taken place. This decision was based on a finding that the CU Regents were acting in a "quasi-judicial" capacity—that is, as judges—when they fired Churchill, so they were immune from being sued.
Having thrown out the jury's verdict, Naves then went on to hypocritically invoke it—in a way that contradicted and cut the heart out of the essential content of the verdict. He claimed that the jury's decision to award only a nominal $1 damage award "compelled" him to deny reinstatement, because it would disregard the jury's "implicit" finding that Churchill had suffered no damages that warrant reinstatement.
Churchill would not be reinstated, and he was not entitled to lost earnings or a financial settlement.
Three of the trial judge's rulings were challenged by Churchill's attorneys in the Colorado Court of Appeals. Two amicus briefs (filed by parties not involved in the lawsuit) were submitted as well by many of the most prominent national civil liberties and faculty groups, challenging the judge's ruling and pointing to the danger it would pose to the rights of professors everywhere. One was submitted by the Colorado ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), the National ACLU, the AAUP (American Association of University Professors), and the National Coalition Against Censorship; the other by the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Society of American Law Teachers, Latina/o Critical Legal Theory, and numerous law professors and attorneys. (All of the documents in this case can be found at www.wardchurchill.net.)
On November 23, 2010, the Colorado Court of Appeals rejected all challenges to Judge Naves's findings put forward on Churchill's behalf.
The basis for the appeal was clear. First, to declare that a university's top governing body, with the power to hire and fire faculty and employees, is immune from legal challenge—after it has been shown to have violated the Constitution for political purposes—delivers a message of intimidation to faculty everywhere that they have no protection from retaliation for expressing political views at odds with those of their university employers.
Further, to argue that the amount of financial loss determines whether a constitutional violation should be remedied is absurd. And it's clear in this case especially that doing so on the basis of "speculation" about the intentions of the jury turns their verdict on its head. One juror, whose sworn statement was included with the appeal briefs to the Court of Appeals, directly contradicted the judge's finding. According to her, all but one of the other jurors wanted to grant Churchill some amount of money. Not being able to win over that juror, in the end they took to heart Churchill's testimony that the case was not about the money, hoping that the judge would give Churchill his job back or give him some compensation. "The jury did not award $1.00 because we believed that Churchill did not suffer 'actual damages.'"
Prominent attorneys and many academics and scholars spoke out sharply against Judge Naves's decision at the time. Professor Brian Leiter, philosopher, legal scholar, and currently John Wilson Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, described the decision as having "possibly catastrophic implications" in an online piece titled:"Attention State University Faculty in Colorado: You Have Almost No Remedy if the Regents Violate your First Amendment Rights." Jonathan Turley, George Washington University Law School professor and frequent national media commentator, called the refusal to reinstate Churchill "bizarre."
For those who are not regular readers of Revolution, this case began in early 2005 when Ward Churchill became the target of a highly orchestrated, nationwide right-wing political witch hunt after an essay he'd written shortly after 9/11 came to light. This essay was critical of the U.S. role in the world, and characterized those people who worked as functionaries for the large corporations with offices in the World Trade Center serving "America's global financial empire" as "little Eichmanns"—a reference to the functionaries of the Nazi regime. Churchill's essay became the focal point of a major assault on critical thinking and dissenting scholars in academia that continues to this day.
Right-wing hit man David Horowitz published The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, and used (his version of) Ward Churchill's case as his introduction. And the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), a powerful, right-wing force dedicated to transforming and suppressing critical thinking and dissent in the universities started by Lynne Cheney, wife of the former vice president, published a pamphlet before the investigation of Churchill was completed titled "How Many Ward Churchills?"—with their answer being, "They're everywhere." A chilling message spread to faculty on campuses around the country to "watch out!"—criticism of past or present U.S. crimes could threaten your reputation, your job, even your career.
In this controversial and intimidating atmosphere, faculty, students, and others stepped out to oppose the demand for Churchill to be fired, seeing it as a key battlefront in the growing assault on academia, with the goal of bringing sweeping changes to university life and intimidate and silence other progressive and radical scholars. University faculty wrote letters and op-ed pieces for newspapers and magazines, and circulated statements signed by hundreds and hundreds of professors in support of Churchill. A full-page ad appeared in the New York Review of Books signed by many well-known public intellectuals, including Derrick Bell, Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk, Irene Gendzier, Howard Zinn, Rashid Khalidi, Mahmood Mamdani, and others calling on CU not to fire Churchill.
The CU Board of Regents had first tried to openly fire him for the content of this essay, and appointed a committee to look over every word Churchill had ever published or spoken in public to find a way to fire him based on the content of his work. Then, after Horowitz published an article in the Rocky Mountain News "advising" the University to take a different tact, the Regents announced they were switching gears and now were going to investigate Churchill for academic misconduct. They cobbled together some mainly old complaints about certain aspects of Churchill's scholarship, formed a faculty committee to investigate, and used the committee's findings of alleged research misconduct to fire him in July 2007.
The decision to investigate Ward Churchill's scholarship was nothing but a sham, a way to accomplish the same goal of firing him for his political views, but under cover of "concern for academic standards." The investigation itself lacked credibility—Churchill's body of work was put under a microscope, often focusing on things like footnotes. In one case, the investigating committee spent more than 40 pages discussing a controversy and the footnotes involved, when Churchill had spent no more than a couple of paragraphs on it.
There isn't a single writer, author, academic, or anyone who has written in any kind of significant volume, whose work could withstand this kind of microscopic examination without revealing footnoting errors, or problems in crediting sources. And then this so-called "inquiry" into his academic work was used to attack academic research and critical analysis about the genocide of Native people in the U.S.
When the verdict was announced, very powerful ruling class analysts and media mouthpieces were outraged. A significant setback had been delivered to the forces in the ruling class hell bent on suppressing and stifling dissent and critical thinking on campuses. A great deal of political "capital" had been "invested" in the public lynching of Ward Churchill. His name had been made synonymous with all things "wrong" with the university—critical thinking; and particularly challenging and laying bare the embedded mythologies that have played a crucial role for centuries in whitewashing this country's crimes past and present, from its origins in slavery and genocide, through its predatory history that has enabled it to gain and maintain the top-dog position in the world it clings to today. The image of America as the "good guys" fighting the "evil-doers in the world" had been taking a hit since the 1960s. All the more valuable was the fact that they'd been able to package this assault on the universities as a defense of academic standards.
Despite the verdict, for them Churchill remained the "poster-boy for academic irresponsibility in both substance and style," as the Chairman of the conservative National Association of Scholars put it. A senior fellow at the ruling class think tank the Manhattan Institute called Churchill's scholarship "hideous and embarrassing," blaming the University for hiring "for diversity reasons, an unprepared, erratic, ideologue with no sense of fairness and no academic credentials." And Ann Neal, president of ACTA, described "shock, hurt, and even anger as surely natural reactions" to the verdict.
These were the stakes that confronted Judge Naves when he stepped in and "fixed" the problem. In doing so, he demonstrated that when interests that are fundamental to those who rule are at stake, the courts are compelled to "interpret" the law in service of those interests. And this is all the more pronounced when the need to make a societal shift is involved. The ruling of the Colorado Court of Appeals has only made this clearer.
The Appeals Court considered and ruled on three questions. The first was whether Churchill suffered an "adverse employment action" (defined as "an act that would deter a reasonable person from exercising his First Amendment rights") as a result of the investigation into the content of his writings launched by the Board of Regents. Their conclusion? No. He did not.
The facts are that the CU Board of Regents held an emergency meeting on February 3, 2005, where they condemned Churchill and his essay, and unanimously voted for a resolution to investigate every word ever published or spoken publicly by him in search of a "cause for dismissal" in the content of his work. And the purpose of the investigation was made public.
The testimony showed that the investigation harmed Churchill's professional reputation, affected his personal life, and had a chilling effect on other members of the faculty. Churchill testified that he missed deadlines and defaulted on book contracts. Speaking engagements were cancelled. Natsu Saito, a law professor on the CU faculty and wife of Ward Churchill, testified that she was compelled to resign from the University because she felt she was equally vulnerable to attack. And the investigation scared a number of junior scholars who said, "If I'm going to have a career, I can't say things like this. I can't do things like this." [From Churchill's Opening Appeal Brief]
What does it say that a state Appeals Court can look at this evidence and deny that the Board's actions would have a chilling effect on faculty members' exercise of their First Amendment rights?
The second question the Appeals Court ruled on was whether the trial judge was wrong to grant CU's Board of Regents quasi-judicial immunity—which therefore meant they could not be sued for damages. No, they said—he was not.
To be granted quasi-judicial immunity, a body has to be functioning in a judicial capacity. But as the briefs submitted to the Appeals Court by attorneys for Churchill and by those in support argue, the Board of Regents does not fit that criterion. First, because they have a stake in the outcome of the matter and represent one side in the dispute, they cannot be considered to be acting in an independent and impartial manner. Judges in such a situation would have had to remove themselves from the case. And second, the majority of the Regents, if acting as impartial judges, would also have had to remove themselves from the deliberations because they had expressed their belief that Churchill should be fired before all of this began.
In a special issue of Revolution (issue #81—"Warning: The Nazification of the American University"), we wrote that powerful right-wing forces have set out to transform university administrations into "instruments of coercive enforcement and control over faculty and students—intimidating, threatening, and 'cleaning house' of dissident thinkers when called on to do so, while leaving scholars under attack to fend for themselves."
This ruling by the Colorado Court of Appeals greatly assists this transformation now taking place on university campuses everywhere.
The final question was whether the trial judge was wrong to refuse to reinstate Churchill to his position on the faculty of CU-Boulder. No, said the Appeals Court. He was not.
The jury verdict in the trial has been a "problem" for the court all along. The most fundamental one was the determination that Churchill's firing was in violation of his constitutionally protected right to free speech. The assumed remedy in such a situation, where someone's constitutional right is violated, is reinstatement. The Appeals Court avoided mentioning explicitly Naves's effort to hang his decision on his imagined "intent" of the jurors' verdict. But it still ruled that it was within the discretion of the trial judge to determine what a just remedy was. So the Appeals Court declined to "disturb" the decision of the trial court—even though it decided to grant no remedy at all!
There is clearly a great deal at stake in whether this fundamental transformation in academia is defeated. As we wrote after the jury's verdict in April 2009, "The overall objective of this attack on dissent and critical thinking is to change the university as we have known it: in its internal life and functioning and in its effects on society. If this reactionary program wins out, the university will be turning out students who will have had little, if any, opportunity to think critically, into a society qualitatively more severely repressive than anything seen in this country's history...
"The challenge to administrators, faculty, and especially students is to stand up to this assault. And broader segments of society must join with them. We must continue to defend those like Ward Churchill when they are singled out for attack, and, more generally, defend the ability of professors to hold dissenting and radical views. It is vitally important that the new generation of students step forward to defend an unfettered search for the truth, intellectual ferment, and dissent. One way or another, this struggle over the university and intellectual life will have profound repercussions on what U.S. society will be like, and on the prospects for bringing a whole new society into being."
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
From a reader and distributor of Revolution
Revolution newspaper, in announcing the release of the Constitution, said, "Beginning on that day, everything that people think is possible, and impossible, will come under radical challenge." And indeed it has. That has been our initial experience in taking out the Constitution to immigrants. For many, life here is a living hell—but revolution, especially here in the belly of the beast? "Not possible" has been their view. Yet we found many who welcomed this getting challenged. And for others who didn't initially welcome that challenge, it opened up a much-needed and continuing dialog.
We went to a concert of a radical band that drew Spanish-speaking youth. We got there early to try to connect with the band and to talk to some of their most ardent fans. Referencing some of the band's most radical material, the challenge was posed: "Imagine North America without 'Tio Sam' [Uncle Sam], with instead a state not based on feasting on people around the world and destruction of the planet, but where the economy had been completely changed, and which is supporting people around the world to also get free."
Eyes lit up, people loved it and wanted to hear more.
One high school student originally from Mexico immediately bought the Constitution, and from then forward he was on a mission to get our message to the band. He said: "You are my heroes, this is what I have been looking for ever since my family came here from Mexico. I was starting to think that everyone here [referring to people who were not recent immigrants] was reactionary and so I didn't think I would find something like this." Later he emerged, excited and waving his copy of the Constitution, now with the autograph and message from a band member written on the inside cover. And we learned later that a band member bought the paper, and we were told that he announced to the crowd during their set that "part of our purpose of being here in the U.S. is for a socialist and egalitarian republic in North America."
As fans were lining up, we went down the rows getting out the newspaper and talking about and showing people the Constitution. At one point in talking with some people about imagining a society as envisioned in the Constitution, and talking specifically about the change in the economy and sustainable socialist economic development to be real caretakers of the planet, two people raised, "All this sounds really good, but to get this won't we have to trade in our freedom of speech and have to be careful to watch what we say?" We got into a whole discussion of why this Constitution is so path-breaking—providing a framework for how the new revolutionary power will carry out all the transformations we had been talking about, while welcoming and valuing dissent as an important source of new discoveries and insights in the new society. People from Spain, Colombia, Mexico and two from Italy joined the discussion at various points and looked through copies of the Constitution. Some said they would check it out on-line once it is posted there, taking the palm card on the Constitution.
Going to this concert was the beginning of a broader effort to take out the Constitution among concentrations of radical-minded Spanish-speaking immigrants. Two dozen copies have been sold so far.
Not everyone we talked to wanted their thinking challenged. Several have dismissed it, declaring that it was premature—"first you have a change, then the people will decide how to change the Constitution," and pointing to recent events in Bolivia and Venezuela. These were people who two decades ago would have argued that no real change could occur without a revolution, yet in this debate they admitted that what is happening in Bolivia and Venezuela does not represent a destroying of the old state, or a sharp break out from the economic stranglehold of the whole capitalist-imperialist system. But they responded that such a radical change was sadly not possible in today's world and that reforms within the framework of the global capitalist-imperialist system was the best that could be done now. But through this debate some important questions are being put on the table for further debate and discussion in some circles.
In another discussion, one person said, "Not even Fidel told people about what they were going to do before the revolution—this is great."
Among a group of young Mexican immigrants, the fact that this Constitution is out NOW, as we are building a movement for revolution, was seen as both unprecedented AND welcome.
This is just a beginning of what can be uncorked when we really get this into people's hands.
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
Cancun Climate Talks:
On December 11, UN talks on climate change ended in Cancun, Mexico. Like the talks held in Copenhagen a year ago, the Cancun summit moves the world no closer to seriously dealing with the pressing environmental emergency on this planet. (For more on the Copenhagen talks, see "Copenhagen Climate Summit Accord: A Crime Against the Planet," Revolution #187, December 27, 2009.) At the last minute, an agreement was announced in Cancun. This article is not able to get into a full analysis, but it is clear that this agreement does not fundamentally move toward stopping the danger of climate change.
Earth's ecosystems and humanity face a multifaceted environmental emergency—the destruction of forests and other natural habitats; extinction of species; acidification of the oceans and wiping out of ocean life; pollution and degradation of water, air, and soil. Climate change is a leading edge of this emergency, interacting with and making worse the other factors. Climate change is already occurring and threatens to become unstoppable.
In his recent book EAARTH, author and activist Bill McKibben presents an extremely sobering and frightening picture of the changes already occurring, and the more extreme changes to come:
If humanity does not protect and preserve the fast-vanishing natural ecosystems and address the causes of their destruction, we will very likely witness before long a qualitative unraveling of the natural world on our planet. The climate situation cries out for immediate action to massively cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that cause global warming. But the Cancun agreement does nothing but pledge that countries will make emissions cuts. A statement from Friends of the Earth says the agreement's "embrace of the 'pledge-based' paradigm, with rich countries polluting however much they like, could lead to a future in which temperatures rise by up to nine degrees (Fahrenheit) according to a recent UN analysis. This would devastate human civilization and the natural world."
In the midst of the Cancun talks, Wikileaks released U.S. diplomatic cables, which revealed how the U.S. threatened and bribed countries to adopt the 2009 Copenhagen accord. The Copenhagen agreement included voluntary cuts in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions of 5 percent below 1990 levels, which is criminal when scientific studies say cuts of 50 percent or more are actually needed. This deal was engineered at the last minute by the U.S. and a few others and then rammed down the throats of the rest of the world. The leaked cables show that the U.S. used the promise of paying money to oppressed countries in a "green fund" for helping them deal with climate change to both bribe and blackmail them to support Copenhagen. U.S. officials discussed with European officials how to "neutralize, co-opt or marginalize unhelpful countries" such as Venezuela and Bolivia.
These revelations make it even clearer that the future of earth's ecosystems can't be left in the hands of the U.S. and other powers, who have repeatedly proven incapable of doing anything but using talks such as those at Copenhagen and Cancun to pursue their own interests at the expense of the natural world and humanity. To hope that real efforts on climate change can come from such a system is complete illusion. This capitalist-imperialist system is not only incapable of solving this problem—left in its hands, there is no other path but unraveling environmental catastrophe that will set the course of things on this planet for generations and potentially thousands of years.
But there is a way out! The needed basic technology, knowledge, and science exists to combat the problem of climate change, and there is potentially a tremendous desire latent among the world's people that could be mobilized, but is being blocked by this system. We need revolution and a new state power to generate all these potentials in the way they must go.
Most importantly, there is a plan for a radically different approach, contained in "Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development" outlined in Revolution newspaper's April 18, 2010 special issue on the environment.
But the reality of potential environmental catastrophe has to be faced upfront, and we don't have much time. We need to develop massive resistance against the capitalist assaults on the environment, and this must be part of building a movement for the one thing that has a shot to save the planet—communist revolution that would set up a new socialist state power.
This system and those who rule over it are not capable of carrying out economic development to meet the needs of the people now, while balancing that with the needs of future generations and requirements of safeguarding the environment. They care nothing for the rich diversity of the earth and its species, for the treasures this contains, except when and where they can turn this into profit for themselves... These people are not fit to be the caretakers of the earth.
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
From A World to Win News Service
November 29, 2010. A World to Win News Service. Recent reports by both human rights groups and Afghan officials indicate that violence against women in Afghanistan is on the rise and that this has been the trend since the beginning of the occupation of Afghanistan by the U.S. and other NATO countries.
A report published in April 2009 by the women's rights organization Womankind said that 80 percent of Afghan women suffer from domestic violence. Other reports put this figure as high as 87 percent. Afghan Minister of Women's Affairs Hassan-Banu Ghazanfar recently said that it effects 90 percent.
November 25 marked the International Day for the Eradication of Violence Against Women. This violence is global and not particular to Afghan women. In the world as a whole the vast majority of women face violence in one or another serious form during their lifetime. The facts about violence against women even in the most developed countries are shocking. Rape, physical and sexual abuse by the husband or boyfriend, harassment and worse at work places, the trade in women and sex slavery are only some of forms of anti-woman violence. These facts suggest that this is not just a remnant of the past but that world capitalism even in its most developed stage is a source of oppression, discrimination and violence against women.
So there is not a single country in the imperialist-dominated world where women have escaped from oppression and violence. This article focuses on Afghanistan not only because these women have suffered severe oppression by the various fundamentalist rulers over the last three decades, and not only because the level of violence and other sorts of oppression is so extreme, but also because the imperialist powers have occupied the country under the pretext of liberating Afghan women. Their political representatives still shamelessly claim that whatever else might have gone wrong with their plans, at least this is their one great achievement. Now after nine years of occupation we are in a position to measure the results of that so-called liberation by the imperialist occupiers.
Many of the published reports and investigations about violence against women in Afghanistan cite beating, harassment, forced marriage, rape, preventing women from going to the hospital and to school, forcing them to do hard labor, taking their children away from them and depriving them of any voice in family and social affairs.
According to the previously mentioned Womankind report, 60 percent of marriages in Afghanistan are forced. And nearly 57 percent of girls are forced into marriage before they are 16 years old.
The situation is especially severe in areas controlled by the Taliban, where public punishment is delivered for disobedience to patriarchy. According to the BBC Persian service, in August in Badghais province in north-western Afghanistan, "a 48-year-old widow whose husband had been killed a few years earlier and who became pregnant by another man was accused of an illicit relationship and sentenced to 200 lashes and then death. The death penalty was carried out by a Taliban commander who shot her in public. According to a police official in Badghais, the man had promised to marry her. According to the same report, the man was also arrested but was released after paying a fine to the Taliban."
Amnesty International on August 16 confirmed that in the north-eastern province of Kunduz a couple were stoned to death in a village under Taliban control. The young couple were accused of running away because their parents opposed their marriage.
Last summer a picture on the cover of Time magazine revealed just how horrendous the situation can be. In Oruzgan province the Taliban accused an 18-year-old named Ayesha of leaving her husband and sentenced her to ghesas (an Islamic punishment that means cutting off part of the body). This sentence was carried out by her husband, a Taliban fighter, who sliced off her ears and nose and left them in a mountainous area.
The Western official media uses this kind of news and has especially highlighted the crime against Ayesha to argue that the Taliban are the source of violence against women in Afghanistan. This is an attempt to justify the occupation. And more than anything it was used to counter the opinion of people in the U.S. who favor an American withdrawal. The Time magazine picture of Ayesha was accompanied by this headline message: "This is what happens if we leave Afghanistan."
Now Ayesha has been transferred to the U.S. for plastic surgery to rebuild her nose and ears. But the problem is that the Taliban are not the only force who support and carry out violence against women. There are thousands of Ayeshas in the areas under Taliban control and also under the occupiers' control who have lost parts of their body or their lives. Even if they are still alive, their real life has been stolen from them.
This imperialist war propaganda might be able to deceive some people abroad but in no way can it justify the occupation in the eyes of the majority of people of Afghanistan who have also experienced the brutal violence of the U.S. and other occupiers, not only against women but also children, the elderly and the whole population. The fact is that the imperialists can hardly conceal the blood on their hands from violence against millions of people all over the world, including and particularly the women in Afghanistan. None of this can be washed away by plastic surgery for Ayesha.
Another report indirectly sheds light on the situation for women under the U.S.-led occupation. "New research in Afghanistan shows that the number of women committing suicide in this country is increasing. Young women committing suicide by setting fire to themselves first seemed to be a problem in Herat province and partly in Qandahar and Nimrooz, but now it has spread to most provinces and particularly the northern and eastern provinces of Afghanistan. Faiz Mohammad Kaker, Karazi's advisor on health and sanitation, said at a news conference that 90 percent of these suicides are due to depression or mental problems. He also put the number of the women who suffer from severe depression at 28 percent, which is a very high figure. He said that approximately 2,300 Afghan girls and women between the ages of 15 and 40 who suffer from depression commit suicide every year." (BBC Persian service, July 31, 2010)
Why are depression and mental problems so widespread among women and so severe that they led to many suicides? Could it be anything but the kind of life that these women are subjected to? Even Kaker did not try to hide it, or better said, could not hide it. He said, "The continuation of the civil war and violence in Afghanistan, displacement, early marriage and forced marriage, rape, domestic violence and broad poverty are the causes of mental problems and depression in Afghanistan."
A new phenomenon in Afghanistan is that the number of women using drugs is on the rise. According to the figures released by the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission, more than 120,000 women are now using drugs, particularly opium.
Why is the number of women drug addicts and suicides increasing? Is it not that poverty and violence against them is increasing? Doesn't that mean that the U.S. and other imperialist countries have made the situation even worse for women?
There is no doubt that women suffered in almost unbelievable ways when the Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalist groups were in power. But isn't it true that the occupation has made the situation more complicated for women? Hasn't it added to the problems and hard lives of women in Afghanistan, just as the U.S.-led occupation has indisputably done in Iraq? The available reports and figures, and even the research carried out by pro-imperialist forces and Karzai government officials, all suggest that it has.
And we know that the figures are far from complete. We are not talking about the violence of air bombardments, or the night raids, or the random killing by occupation soldiers. In all of this, as in family life, women are the main victims.
The Western imperialists are responsible for this. In the 1980s they supported, trained and financed the Islamic fundamentalists to use them in their global fight with the rival Soviet imperialist bloc. They supported these Islamic fundamentalists when they seized power after the Soviets were driven out. The West chose to remain silent for the following two decades while their Afghan allies committed atrocities against women. As the Taliban fought to come to power to enslave women, there were many reports that the U.S. was involved in backing them through the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service. And then when the U.S. decided to fight the Taliban, once again the people of Afghanistan and particularly the women had to pay for it.
The only way that the U.S. can try to make themselves look good in Afghanistan is by trying to compare the situation for women in certain areas now with the way it was or is under the Taliban. This in itself is an implicit admission of how horrible the situation for women is throughout the country. However, even in this revolting comparison it is not clear who is the "winner."
What the U.S. and the Karzai government they installed point to as their big achievement is that they have opened schools for girls and allowed women to go to work. Some women are employed as government officials or members of parliament and even a handful as police. All this was forbidden by the Taliban.
But Afghanistan has been an Islamic republic where sharia (religious law) takes precedence since its current constitution was adopted to give religious cover to the occupation. The Karzai regime has adopted sharia-inspired laws related to marriage and the family that give men the right to prevent their wives from leaving the house. It is illegal for a wife not to give in to her husband's sexual demands. The Karzai government's habit of freeing men imprisoned for committing gang rape is so notorious that it even provoked a protest by the United Nations. In an interview with the BBC Persian service, Sima Samar, now the head of the Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan, declared, "the government institutions are a serious obstacle to women's rights in Afghanistan."
But the U.S. and other Western imperialists have not finished punishing Afghan women. Now that they have decided to explore negotiations with the Taliban, we can be sure that whatever pretense of women's "rights" that may remain will be sold out if the U.S. can obtain some "political solution" for its failing war. This course of action has been denounced in advance by several women's rights groups operating under the occupation.
The lesson that can be taken from this is that no imperialists or other reactionary forces can free women; they are the main oppressors of the people of the world including women. Liberating the women in Afghanistan was only a pretext to invade for their own imperialist interests.
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.
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
At every point, we must be searching out the key concentrations of social contradictions and the methods and forms which can strengthen the political consciousness of the masses, as well as their fighting capacity and organization in carrying out political resistance against the crimes of this system; which can increasingly bring the necessity, and the possibility, of a radically different world to life for growing numbers of people; and which can strengthen the understanding and determination of the advanced, revolutionary-minded masses in particular to take up our strategic objectives not merely as far-off and essentially abstract goals (or ideals) but as things to be actively striven for and built toward.
The objective and orientation must be to carry out work which, together with the development of the objective situation, can transform the political terrain, so that the legitimacy of the established order, and the right and ability of the ruling class to rule, is called into question, in an acute and active sense, throughout society; so that resistance to this system becomes increasingly broad, deep and determined; so that the "pole" and the organized vanguard force of revolutionary communism is greatly strengthened; and so that, at the decisive time, this advanced force is able to lead the struggle of millions, and tens of millions, to make revolution.
Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
We have a strategy—and our newspaper is, as "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" statement says, "the foundation, guideline, and organizational scaffolding for [the] whole process" of carrying out that strategy. This is the paper that cuts to the bone to tell you WHY things are happening... to show you HOW it doesn't have to be this way... and to give you the ways to ACT to change it. It is a call to action and a means of struggle. It is, and has to be much more, the scaffolding on which this movement is built, where those who are getting into it and following it can wrangle in its pages and on its website with how we can better build this movement. It is a guideline where today thousands, but soon tens of thousands and eventually millions, all over the place, stay connected and learn to act in a powerful and united way. It is the foundation where those who read it learn about the larger goals of revolution and communism and come to see the ways in which the struggles of today are connected to those larger goals... where they come to grasp the scientific communist outlook through its application to all the many particular events and outrages and developments in society... and where they get organizationally linked up to this revolution.
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
Revolution newspaper is the foundation, guideline, and organizational scaffolding for the movement we are building for revolution. Stop and think about it—how essential is that?! But the reality is that this newspaper will not fill this need without more people becoming regular monthly sustainers. Sign up yourself to contribute regularly. And then, wherever you are—at a protest, a concert, selling Revolution, at FaceBook... or just hanging out—struggle with people, including people you just met, to sustain Revolution regularly. Once a week, check yourself: How is this going? How many new sustainers did you sign up?
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
It is this system that has got us in the situation we're in today, and keeps us there. And it is through revolution to get rid of this system that we ourselves can bring a much better system into being. The ultimate goal of this revolution is communism: A world where people work and struggle together for the common good...Where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings...Where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world.
This revolution is both necessary and possible.
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Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
In Bob Avakian, the Chairman of our Party, we have the kind of rare and precious leader who does not come along very often. A leader who has given his heart, and all his knowledge, skills and abilities to serving the cause of revolution and the emancipation of humanity. Bob Avakian came alive as a revolutionary in the 1960s—taking part in the great movements of those days, and especially working and struggling closely with the most advanced revolutionary force in the U.S. at that time, the Black Panther Party. Since then, and while many others have given up, Bob Avakian has worked and struggled tirelessly to find the way to go forward, having learned crucial lessons and built lasting organization that could continue the struggle, and aim to take it higher, while uniting with the same struggle throughout the world. He has kept on developing the theory and strategy for making revolution. He played the key role in founding our Party in 1975, and since then he has continued the battle to keep the Party on the revolutionary road, to carry out work with a strong revolutionary orientation. He has deeply studied the experience of revolution—the shortcomings as well as the great achievements—and many different fields of human endeavor, through history and throughout the world—and he has brought the science and method of revolution to a whole new level, so that we can not only fight but really fight to win. Bob Avakian has developed the scientific theory and strategic orientation for how to actually make the kind of revolution we need, and he is leading our Party as an advanced force of this revolution. He is a great champion and a great resource for people here, and indeed people all over the world. The possibility for revolution, right here, and for the advance of the revolution everywhere, is greatly heightened because of Bob Avakian and the leadership he is providing. And it is up to us to get with this leadership...to find out more about Bob Avakian and the Party he heads...to learn from his scientific method and approach to changing the world...to build this revolutionary movement with our Party at the core...to defend this leadership as the precious thing it is...and, at the same time, to bring our own experience and understanding to help strengthen the process of revolution and enable the leadership we have to keep on learning more and leading even better.
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