August 14, 2005
Revolution #011, August 14, 2005, posted at revcom.us
In Revolution #7 we began the story of Battling for the Future. Last winter, in the bleak days after Bush’s re-election, the Revolutionary Communist Party put out a manifesto that not only told the truth about the Bush regime but put forth a vision of communist revolution and let people know about a unique and outstanding revolutionary leader, RCP Chairman Bob Avakian.
The Party united with hundreds of people to reach thousands more, and distributed approximately two million statements. We aimed to engage and change the thinking of many and draw forward new revolutionary fighters and sympathizers. The idea was to radically affect the political terrain, working toward changing the bad polarization that now exists to one more favorable for revolution.
Here we will give a taste of some of our rich and varied experience and lessons in taking this statement out to the religious community.
“Yes they are fascist, and yes, Christian fascists. They want a theocratic state and morality that will take us back thousands of years and be no good for the vast majority of humanity. These people are very dangerous, and I think we have to resist them with all we have and all we are. I often feel like I am alone in this. I feel like I am waging an uphill battle and that another part of this battle is with people who agree with me but who are also not doing anything more than what they have already been doing.”
Progressive Black clergyman
Taking this statement (“The Battle for the Future Will Be Fought from Here Forward”) to the clergy, we found a deep outrage and anguish. Many were wrangling over the direction Bush and Co. were taking society and organizing against this. They expressed an urgency to fight this trajectory and a deep desire for a resistance movement that unites far beyond them. There was an ache for something better than what stands harshly in front of us.
As we talked to clergy about their fears, desires, dreams, and what we can all do about it, we began to see a great potential. Two members of the clergy on the East Coast wrote a letter to the religious community calling on them to wrangle with the statement. Several grappled with us over the statement and then took bundles for their congregations. Others used the statement to struggle with clergy members over traditional morality. Some donated money to the initiative and others invited us to speak at meetings. With some clergy we initiated or deepened our discussion of the works of RCP Chairman Bob Avakian and his re-envisioning of socialism and communism.
Many of the clergy we approached seemed to have an acute understanding of the dangers of Christian fascism and the necessity to stop this trajectory. Most of those we spoke with felt the situation was dire. Some were in despair—describing this as looking over an abyss—while most expressed an urgency, desire, and willingness to act to change the dynamic.
The letter from the two East Coast clergy said in part:
“Some may ask why we, as religious, are urging other religious people to study [the statement] from the secular RCP? While there will be differences, we think it is important, especially in times like these, for people to engage and wrangle with various insights and world outlooks. And we firmly believe that there is a particular responsibility for members of the religious community to help build what the statement describes as a ’Resistance that will reach out and win over people who have been deceived by this madness but whose deepest interests are opposed to it. Resistance that will be united—but will still include space for dreams and debate’... We can and must help millions of people in the religious and secular ranks to wage a united battle against this New Rome empire and for a truly just and humane future. It is in this spirit that we send this letter and Statement.”
This letter was distributed across the country to scores of clergy at seminaries, churches, and religious events.
One clergy member who contacted us after receiving the statement said we were the only people he’s met talking so directly about the danger of these times. He wanted to talk about what to do to stop this. A lesbian minister told us that the world is so bleak right now that she is having trouble finding the words to inspire people in her sermons. She felt that more religious forces needed to be resisting this course.
Another clergyperson said he had the freedom to speak against this with his congregation—but what about everyone else? A pastor, after reading the statement, changed the subject of his talk at an event discussing the legacy of Black Panther Party. Instead of discussing faith, he talked of the extreme times we are facing.
The morality spoken of in the statement really resonated with some clergy. Some of them used the statement to struggle with other clergy who were being pulled into supporting Bush, even though they were progressive, on the basis of the supposed need for traditional morality.
For example, a group of mainly Asian ministers, after discussing the statement (and among other things drawing the links between the current times and the internment of Japanese people in WW2), were moved to struggle with a Black minister they knew who opposed gay marriage.
As one Unitarian clergy (engaging with another Black minister) put it,
“You need to seriously think about the kind of world these Christian fascists would bring into being—with no science, no diversity, no ACLU, and probably no church for the Black minister. You better talk to these folks [the RCP]. I may not agree with them, but they got some truth on their side. Bob Avakian is onto something that deserves some thinking about and listening to.”
These “interventions” (and the content of what was brought to the clergy—the comparing and contrasting of traditional morality versus a morality forged on humanity’s actual interests) were very significant and provide a model for more of what is needed.
As we wrangled with clergy members, we came to see a willingness to really delve into socialism and communism as re-envisioned by Bob Avakian. There was a ferment and a back-and-forth between discussion over how to resist the current Bush regime and engaging with Bob Avakian’s vision of the future.
One of the clergymen who wrote the letter to the religious community told us the reason he did this was because people need to engage with Bob Avakian’s vision of the future. He felt that people need to think more about how things could be different and better, and aboout how they can’t change things if they can’t envision how something better could be brought into being.
One Christian youth was intrigued by a line in the statement: “Chairman Avakian makes not just what he’s learned but how he analyses things the property of the people.” He found this very challenging and wanted to watch the Revolution DVD to learn more about this leader and how he thinks.
The progressive Black clergyman quoted above also said,
“We have to be prepared and bring forward the kind of resistance called for in the statement and from the perspective of the revolutionary society that encompasses millions of us. If you are talking about this kind of resistance based on this kind of society, then doesn’t Bob Avakian need to be a recognizable force in a huge way?”
In a New York church (where a Spanish-language showing of the DVD of Bob Avakian’s talk, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What’s It All About, was held last summer), statements and DVD samplers had gone out to the congregation. The priest of that church said, “I agree with 60% of what the DVD says and 40% of what the church says.” A visitor to this church described the situation this way: “A small church congregation in an oppressed area is conversing, and increasingly conversant, with Bob Avakian and the RCP.”
A rabbi (who took the statement out to Central American immigrants) spoke of the danger of the Christian fascists, the cohesion they have, and the fact that most people have no idea how deep this goes. He felt there is no one better than Bob Avakian to explain that—having watched the DVD he was genuninely inspired by, and wrangling with the Chairman’s vision.
He also said that he’s not sure how much he’d be engaging with communism if he thought there was a situation where the U.S. could go back to a time when science and reason more ruled the day. This relates to something that Bob Avakian has spoken to—that as deeply felt beliefs people have about bourgeois democracy and how society should function are being torn apart by the drive of the Christian fascists, many people on one hand rush to defend these principles while, at the same time, they begin to look deeper into and even question some of these very beliefs.
The effort among clergy showed the potential to affect and recast the thinking of people and the overall terrain to one more favorable for a revolutionary future, including the potential for individuals—even clergy—to make the break and cross over to fully embrace and popularize communist revolution.
Not surprisingly, religion in its own right was a big question among the clergy and religious people distributing and receiving the statement. Some were concerned about the “place” in all this for their own beliefs.
One clergyperson said, “[Among] the left there is too much emphasis on Marx’s religion as the ’opiate of the masses’ and not enough on ’heartfelt cry of the oppressed.’”
We communists have to be truthful and bold here. We see religion as an “opiate” because we understand that the ultimate end to the “heartfelt cry of the oppressed” does not lie in “god’s tender mercy” but in throwing off the economic and social relations that have laid countless tracks of misery on the majority of humanity, including the weight of tradition’s chains.
To the degree this approach was part of the conversation, it was good—but this needs to be bolder and should increase in the context of resisting the current misery and horrors coming down.
The Story Continues...Next: Battling for the Future Among the Proletariat
Religion and the Right to Religion
by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Revolution #011, August 14, 2005, posted at revcom.us
As part of the basic political dividing lines in society, and how religion relates to this, we have to draw a clear line between a society where people have the right to their religion and one where Dark Ages mentality is imposed on people—to oppose science, to oppose rational thinking, to oppose knowing the real world. It is very important to make, and insist on, that distinction. Now it is true that, for some of the masses the religion they are given actually falls on the wrong side of that dividing line, but they may not know that—they may not think of it that way. And when it’s posed in those terms, I’m not sure a lot of masses who are religious would like to be on that side of that dividing line, supporting Dark Ages ignorance and suppression of science and rational thought. Whereas some of these hard-core Christian fundamentalists who are the social base of Christian Fascism actually don’t mind thinking in those terms. They do regard science as an enemy, they do regard scientific thinking and a rational approach to things as the work of the devil, in essence. So, it is important to formulate things in a way that draws the dividing lines correctly, and enables the masses to be on the right side when, on the one hand, spontaneity might land them on the wrong side but, on the other hand, that’s not really where they want to be—and, fundamentally, not where their real interests lie. At this point, and for some time, many of them will want their religion, but they don’t really want to be in the Dark Ages, even though in many cases that’s where their religion will actually take them if they follow it all the way out. That is a contradiction that needs to be understood and acted on, in all its complexity and contradictoriness. There is a difference—a very important difference —between masses who are caught up in forms of religious fundamentalism and others who are consciously rejecting the whole scientific approach to reality and seeking to be part of imposing a Dark Ages mentality.
With regard to my talks on religion (particularly the one entitled “God Doesn’t Exist—And We Need Liberation Without Gods”1), it is very important to make concerted efforts to get this into the prisons as well as to distribute it broadly among the masses throughout society. I really believe that this can provide an ideological basis, and concrete means, for the advanced, revolutionary-minded people in the prisons—as well as more generally in society—to stand up firmly against and really go after the backward religious stuff that is promoted at every turn.
We have to do a lot of hardcore ideological work—this is something whose importance we really have to deeply understand. Once again, with regard to prisoners in particular, they should be developing themselves, ideologically and politically, as revolutionaries—and not just “revolutionaries” in some general sense but more specifically as communist revolutionaries. They should be a force for this revolution, politically and ideologically. And they could play a crucial role in spreading the message of revolution, of communism, not only among prisoners but among their families and others they have contact with and can reach outside of the prisons. That is an additional dimension to the important contribution that prisoners can make to the cause.
I read another one of these statistics that make your head spin around on its axis: something like 10 percent of Black males between 25 and 29 are in prison. That’s another one of these things that makes your hair stand up and your head spin around. What the fuck—what does that say about this society, this system?! And, for everyone who is in prison now, there are several who have been in prison, and there are a number of family members and loved ones outside prison. Some people in prison have the time, or somehow seize the time, to think deeply and to train themselves intellectually and to explore things. Most people get caught up in bullshit, but not everybody does. And even some of those who do get caught up in this still try to fight it. And revolution—communist revolution—really does represent the only way out for them.
The religious fundamentalists, of various kinds, make a point of recruiting in the prisons, and they come with a heavy ideological message. There is something very important to be learned from the “Losing My Religion” article that appeared in our newspaper within the past year. 2 The author of the article, who comes from a family steeped in religious fundamentalism, says that his own life experiences had provided plenty of reasons to reject religion, but it was only when there was another coherent ideology that he could take up that he completely broke with religion. And that coherent ideology wasn’t another religion—it was the scientific outlook and method of communism, which he was introduced to through writings of mine which he encountered in college. He also commented on that: he said that these writings, and the outlook and method they embody, taught him to do what religion never did—to think critically. It is not at all the case that people can only “lose their religion” by replacing it with another religion in some form. But there does have to be another explanation about the world and existence and why this is the way it is, and how it could be different. And how an individual relates to that. If you want to rupture people out of shit, not only stuff that lands them in prison, but the daily shit they are caught up in, in the society, you have to have a really strong hardcore ideological thing to bring to them. It doesn’t have to be dogmatic—it should not be dogmatic, and it should not be religious—but it has to be coherent and systematic. It has to explain the world—and in our case we can actually explain it in a scientific way [BA laughs]. That’s an advantage of communism over religion, even though religion has certain short-term advantages because it can appeal to things we can’t appeal to, things that go along with spontaneity. But we have the advantage of actually being able to make reality make sense for people. That’s a very powerful thing.
We should not underestimate the importance, not only with prisoners but in general, of doing a lot of ideological work to really enable people to see the world in a wholly different way—really the way it is. To take the pieces of this puzzle that are all out of whack and don’t fit together— it’s like looking through a weird kaleidoscope the way most people see reality. And then it’s misinterpreted for them by all these different bourgeois and reactionary ideologies and programs, and so on, including various religious views. But communist ideology and its application to the world is a way of taking reality and having it make sense for people. That’s what the CD of my speech on religion 3 aims to do, that’s what we urgently need to do in general.
We really should not underestimate the importance of winning people on an ideological basis. Yes, you can’t win them only with ideas. If you don’t provide political—and in that sense practical—means of waging the struggle against oppression and the system in which all this oppression is rooted, then ultimately you can’t hold them just with ideology. But it’s true as well, and very important to understand, that you also can’t win them politically without winning them ideologically. And besides, we want people to have a vision of what they’re fighting for, in the largest sense.
So all this emphasizes, from a number of angles, the great importance of ideology—and of boldly popularizing, winning people to, and developing their grasp of the emancipating ideology and method of communism.
1. “God Doesn’t Exist—And We Need Liberation Without Gods” and a second talk, “Christianity and Society— the Old Testament and the New Testament, Resistance and Revolution,” are available online as audio downloads at bobavakian.net.
by Sunsara Taylor
Revolution #011, August 14, 2005, posted at revcom.us
On July 19 at 9 p.m. Bush nominated John Roberts to the Supreme Court.
Now, the nomination “battle” over Roberts is likely to unfold like the scene in every horror movie. The scene where the kids decide to split up and one-by-one wander around in the dark until they are killed, even while the audience shouts “Don’t go there!”
First, the Roberts nomination is set up by speculation over who will fill the space, and in the process, the terms of what we are supposed to put up with gets pushed further and further to the right. Alberto Gonzales’s name is floated out. But the leading Christian fascists throw a fit, saying that this architect of torture is not fundamentalist enough, not reactionary enough. In the face of this, many progressive people even begin thinking that maybe we need to “be realistic” and lower our sights to hoping that the appointee would be Gonzales.
Then comes the announcement: John Roberts, the Harvard scholar without a paper trail. Behind the scenes, the Bush clique has already spent a full year assuring the Christian fascists that Roberts is “one of them” and the best choice to get (another) “one of them” on the Supreme Court. Roberts spent years working to end abortion, end affirmative action, and take away prisoners rights. He ruled on a key decision that allows the government to proceed with military trials at the notorious Guantánamo torture camp.
Just when people watching this movie are getting angry by what all this means for women, detainees, children, and Black people and itching for a big political throw-down, the Democrats sally forth delivering meek lines about how they will “stick to their guns” to defend some procedural aspect of bourgeois democracy like the filibuster, bi-partisanship, or the consultative role of the Senate. Once again, people get roped into a futile show of opposition around secondary matters, this time as meaningless as “asking tough questions.” In all, the purpose and effect of these characters is to waste people’s time, resources, and energies in a dead end.
So, this time, the twist on the story is that the Democrats claim they don’t yet know fully enough who the real John Roberts is since his record on the bench is so short and besides, it could be worse. Some groups like NARAL and NOW are being allowed to make some statements about what this nomination will mean for women. But Bush is already sure enough about who Roberts is to nominate him, and leading Christian fascists like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Paul Weyrich of Free Congress Foundation are sure enough about who he is to begin praising him and declaring a victory on the very evening of the press conference. And, among all of them, no one is entertaining the idea that Roberts won’t be confirmed.
Finally, in an often rather anti-climactic plot resolution, the Democrats fold, the Republifascists prevail, and society lurches hideously further to the right, leaving millions further demoralized and demobilized.
Barring some unforeseen event, is there anyone who can claim they don’t know how this film will end? That by the time the closing credits stream and the music comes on we won’t be a significant step closer to reproductive slavery for women, the legislation of traditional values (read: tradition’s chains), the stripping of rights of detainees, open racial discrimination, and harsh penal codes for children and others, all set more permanently in place through law?
And, however this particular nomination ends up going down, does anyone really believe that the powerful forces, including the president, who are driving towards a society dictated by a narrow and vengeful brand of Christianity and set on a empire-building “civilizing” mission around the world is going to be deterred or derailed without tremendous fight?
Since the ending has been given away, I won’t feel guilty about divulging the moral of this and every version of this movie. Except that.THE PEOPLE NEED A DIFFERENT MOVIE, WITH A DIFFERENT ENDING.
Yes, the nomination of this anti-woman champion of oppression and repression is an outrage, and should be opposed. But fundamentally, we need to break out of the whole logic and framework that is keeping us essentially paralyzed in the face of a highly dangerous situation.
As the Call for “The World Can’t Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime! Mobilize for November 2, 2005” says:
".there is a way. We are talking about something on a scale that can really make a huge change in this country and in the world. We need more than fighting Bush’s outrages one at a time, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught. We must, and can, aim to create a political situation where the Bush regime’s program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed. We, in our millions, must and can take responsibility to change the course of history.
“To that end, on November 2, the first anniversary of Bush’s ”re-election“, we will take the first major step in this by organizing a truly massive day of resistance all over this country. People everywhere will walk out of school, they will take off work, they will come to the downtowns and town squares and set out from there, going through the streets and calling on many more to JOIN US. They will repudiate this criminal regime, making a powerful statement: ”NO! THIS REGIME DOES NOT REPRESENT US! AND WE WILL DRIVE IT OUT!"
“November 2 must be a massive and public proclamation that WE REFUSE TO BE RULED IN THIS WAY. November 2 must call out to the tens of millions more who are now agonizing and disgusted. November 2 will be the beginning—a giant first step in forcing Bush to step down, and a powerful announcement that we will not stop until he does so—and it will join with and give support and heart to people all over the globe who so urgently need and want this regime to be stopped.”
Revolutionary Communist 4 (RC4) On Air
Revolution #011, August 14, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Jerry: I’ve spoken to other revolutionary communists about this. I have my own opinions, my own concerns about how revolutionary it is to have an older white man from middle class, upper middle class economic background leading a revolutionary organization. What does that say and what does that mean? Is this person so unique that you can’t imagine anyone else doing it? What’s your take on that, Clyde?
Clyde: I think that’s a very important question and I think you’ve gotten right to the heart of it, because this individual that we’re talking about is a very rare individual. I think leaders come along at different times.
Jerry: Our listeners should know that we’re discussing Bob Avakian, who is the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party.
Clyde: .I think really when you want to explore this question you have to explore it from the standpoint of line. What is the position of the person? It’s not a question of how old they are.. the question is, ’What is their line and do they know the way out?’
If you look around and survey the leaders that are on the scene today, there’s none of them that know the way out. There was a brother that called in the other day and he was asking, ’well, what about Elijah Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan?’ Well, I’m sorry. They don’t know the way out. Bob Avakian knows the way out. That’s why I’ve chosen to have him as my leader and that’s why I follow Bob Avakian, because he knows the way out of this system. And ultimately that way out of this system is communist revolution. When you’re talking about communist revolution you’re not just talking about Black people. You are indeed talking about Black people, but you’re talking about people throughout the whole world. You’re talking about hundreds of millions and ultimately billions of people throughout the whole world.
Clyde dug into this question again during the event itself:
"Let me address head on and not duck or in any way be defensive about a white leader, the fact that Bob Avakian is white. I think the crucial question here is not that he is a white leader but that he is a communist leader. He said that himself and I think that’s a very important point to be emphasizing. I think what I said on the radio show yesterday is an important point. When a person comes forward who knows the way out of this, who knows the way out of this mess then I think it is important for people to come forward and learn as much as they can from that person, to become followers of that person.
"But to come back to this question once again. I think sometimes what’s involved is that people are defining the struggle in ways that are not contributing to ultimately where we need to go, but are defining the struggle in ways that are more limited in terms of where history needs to go, where the masses of people need to go, and ultimately I’m talking about where our class, the proletariat, needs to go. In other words, our ideology, our revolution is an international revolution. It’s an internationalist and an international revolution. It is not a Black revolution. It is not a revolution of any particular nationality. We’re approaching this from the standpoint of the people at the bottom of society whose interests lie with eliminating all oppression, all inequalities and all the things that exist under capitalism and when we get power will be inherited from capitalism. It’s moving away from all that.
“So I think that having a leader like this (and having the dictatorship of the proletariat of the proletariat)—as much as it has been attacked and maligned and slandered—having a leader like this is a wonderful thing, not a bad thing. It’s something that if people really want to get out of this, if they really want to get beyond this, if they really want to see another world—and we desperately need another world— then they are able to see the importance of having a leader like this. Those of us who are followers of Bob Avakian and those who are supportive of his work in various ways and what he’s doing and who ultimately become part of that revolutionary process that he is leading have to recognize the importance of what exists in our chair.”
From The Science of Evolution
by Ardea Skybreak
Revolution #011, August 14, 2005, posted at revcom.us
George W. Bush—who has claimed, contrary to the vast majority of scientists today, that “the jury is still out” on evolution—was asked on August 1 about the teaching of “intelligent design” in schools. He answered, “You’re asking me whether or not people should be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.” In effect, this was a public endorsement from the U.S. president of the teaching of the religious and anti-evolutionary “intelligent design” theory in public schools. As Ardea Skybreak deeply analyzed and exposed in an important series (The Science of Evolution) in this newspaper, “intelligent design” is another variant of totally anti-scientific “creationism” pushed by religious fundamentalists.
In the following excerpt, Skybreak speaks to the wrong and unscientific methods behind “intelligent design.” The entire Science of Evolution series is available online at revcom.us/s/evolution_e.htm.
From “Part 7f: Summation: A Question of Methods, A Question of Struggle”
The basic methods which the IDCs (Intelligent Design Creationists) use to investigate the world and try to get at the truth of things are actually quite wrong and unscientific. For instance, whenever they run into a complex process which science can’t yet fully explain or understand, they immediately jump to the conclusion (no doubt based on their preconceived religious assumptions) that some kind of conscious intelligence “designed” at least those aspects of life’s features or processes which we can’t yet fully explain. And they stick to this completely unscientific reasoning and approach despite the fact that a great deal of accumulated scientific evidence about the actual workings of natural processes (including known evolutionary processes) provide ample reason to expect that still incomplete human knowledge about natural processes and mechanisms will keep growing into more complete knowledge of those same processes. But it is important to realize that actual scientific understanding (and advances made on the basis of that understanding) will continue to expand only if we continue to apply systematic methods of materialist scientific analysis to the exploration of the natural world and refuse to get diverted or paralyzed by side-trips into imagined supernatural worlds as a supposed alternative basis for understanding the workings and features of this natural world.
In many ways the Intelligent Design Creationists are really not all that different from the traditional Biblical literalist “scientific Creationists” who claim to find “evidence” of God and divine creation in every supposed “gap” in the fossil record (or gap in human knowledge more generally) and who are prone to switching their attention to some other alleged “gaps” as soon as science can finally account for something which had not previously been known or understood. There’s no end to that game, and these are not the methods through which genuine scientific understanding actually advances.
The IDCs share with all other creationists the essential belief that science—the scientific investigation of natural processes and mechanisms which involve no supernatural powers—is “not sufficient” to explain all the features of life or how they came to be the way they are. But, in addition to this, some of the IDCs actually want to change the whole way science is done. They want modern science to incorporate the existence of God (or at least the possibility of the existence of God) into its basic tool kit. This is why they argue for “theistic science” (which means god-based science). They actually believe science would be better done that way, whereas the vast majority of scientists are convinced that if theistic beliefs and principles became part of the day-to-day operations of science, science itself would go down the tubes—as indeed it would. So here, in broadly sketched outline, we see two opposing camps lining up in what is already becoming a key battle in the “culture wars”—two very opposing outlooks and methods for how to both understand, and seek to transform, existing material reality. Only one of these basic methods and approaches (the methods of “naturalistic” science, also known as “materialist” science) expresses real confidence in humanity’s ability to increasingly understand and ever more consciously transform reality on its own, without recourse to an imagined supernatural world. The other approach (undertaking so-called “theistic science”) would from the start define limits beyond which human scientific investigation could not proceed, and would ultimately surrender human initiative to understand (and transform) material reality and instead wait (and wait) for divine revelation.
Revolution #011, August 14, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Revolution received the following article from Dipak Sapkota, a correspondent for Janadesh Weekly, a pro-Maoist weekly newspaper in Nepal.
In a feudal society like Nepal, it is a great challenge for women to cross the boundaries placed on them by society. For example, according to tradition, women cannot go outside their village without their husbands or a male guardian. In some areas, especially in the Terai regions, women are not allowed to take jobs. And most women are strictly engaged in household tasks within their house and village.
But today, in almost the same ratio as men, women are participating in the People’s War, including as members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Before the armed struggle started in 1996, almost all women in the countryside were working in the kitchen and the house. Now they have not just come out from under the feudal boundaries placed on them, but they are freedom fighters and commanders of hundreds of fighting forces.
We interviewed Comrade Rekha, the Battalion Commissar of the 1st brigade. She is one of the highest ranking leaders in the PLA.
Q: The feudalists and reactionaries say women are weak, that they cannot fight. Is this true?
Comrade Rekha: These kind of insulting claims have been refuted by the huge participation of woman in the People’s War. Hundreds of women have sacrificed their lives. Thousands are fighting with rifles on their shoulders. Dozens of woman commanders are leading hundreds of PLA forces. Women fighters have played a crucial role in wining a lot of battles. Thousands are also doing party work as well as work in the new revolutionary government.
Q: How is the participation of women in People’s Liberation Army?
CR: It is surprising and electrifying. Most of the young women prefer joining the PLA rather than joining a mass organization or doing government work. Many women fighters believe the real way to resist oppression is by defeating the enemy in battle. One-third of the PLA forces are women. I think this figure answers your question.
Q: Are there any problems with the continuity of women’s participation in military work?
CR: There are some. The main problem is the effect of pregnancies. There is at least a two to three year gap (leave) when a woman has a baby. And when the women come back many of them prefer to switch to organizational or state work. There is organizational work in the PLA and all party members are fighters and have to keep themselves fit. But here what I mean by organizational work is work in the party structures (aside from the PLA) such as the district committees, the area committees or cell committees of the Party. There is also organizational work in the women’s organizations, farmers’ organizations, etc. So instead of having regular military training and going to the frontlines of the battlefields these women organize meetings, do cultural programs, etc. As you know, most of the autonomous regions, districts, and villages have people’s governments. So there is state work like tax collection, organizing meetings, management work, judiciary work, etc. PLA members may have to work in any part of the country and have to be highly mobile to be able to participate in centralized and decentralized actions. But leaders and cadres doing organization and state work are often able to work in areas near their native village or district, and so women who are doing this kind of work can go to their home and see their children from time to time.
We are seriously discussing this problem. But the huge and electrifying participation of new women recruits has filled this gap. And there is an exciting development of groups of women commanders and political commissars.
Q: How long have you been a battalion commissar? What is this experience like?
CR: It has been about a year. I was a company commissar before this. Opportunity itself is a challenge. So I am trying my best to perform my role with pride and to meet the challenge. I have learned that the most important thing is ideology and then there is one’s determination. I have experienced that everything is possible if we have a correct ideology and if it is implemented with courage. I never feel that I am weaker than the men in any battles. But there are various kinds of feudal remnants of a male-dominated society. I believe they will be done away with in the course of the revolution.
It seems that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and its leadership have grasped the essence of the great saying by Comrade Lenin that the participation of women is decisive in the success of the revolution. The CPN (Maoist) have tried a lot to develop women’s leadership in the PLA and in the new revolutionary governments. The fact that almost one-fourth of the central leaders are women shows this. There are lots of women commanders and commissars in PLA. And there are also a significant number of women medical activists within the PLA and in all levels and spheres of the party organization and the people’s governments.
After the completion of nine turbulent years of People’s War, what has changed? The first thing on this list is the participation of women in the revolution. This is a significant change. The women have broken their chains of suppression and discrimination. Women have proven that they will not just keep tolerating discrimination and repression and that they can resist and fight for equality and their rights.
So what kind of changes has the revolution brought to the masses of women? In the base areas and the Maoist-influenced areas, there is now much less discrimination of woman. And these changes are spreading towards the urban areas.
The characteristic of traditional distribution of work is also changing. In the base areas we can find men doing household tasks and women are doing work which in the past were said to be jobs only for men. In the PLA and the party, responsibilities are handled with equal participation, whether it is in the kitchen or fighting. This is now spreading to all the masses. In the base areas, the discrimination in salary and wages between men and women has been eliminated. Nepal is infamous for women trafficking—young girls sold in Indian cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta, as well as in Arab countries. Now the trafficking of women has been reduced. In the base areas, the bias against girls in education is being eliminated and parents are encouraged to send their daughters to school along with their sons. The compulsory primary education for children is being implemented in the base areas. People’s governments prohibit adolescent marriages and parents cannot force their children to marry. The minimum age for marriage for women is 20 years old and for men it is 22 years old. Women are given the right of family planning and the right to choose an appropriate contraceptive. Love marriages (not arranged marriages) are encouraged and a priority is given to girls to choose their husband. Polygamy is banned and the remarriage of widows is encouraged. The dowry tradition is prohibited. The sale of alcohol (which led to many women being beaten by their husbands) is banned.
A most significant development in the course of the revolution is the right of women to own property. Under Nepalese law, women do not really have the right to inherit property—they must stay unmarried until they are 35 years old to inherit property. On March 8, International Women’s Day, the women’s organization of the CPN (Maoist)—the All Nepal Women’s Organization (Revolutionary) [ANWO(R)]—called for women to be given equal right to their parents’ property. A significant number of families have implemented this. It has not become law in the people’s government yet but one of the party’s demands is that women be given the right to own and inherit land.
Comrade Jayapuri Gharti, the president of the ANWO(R) says, “In our central committee meeting we decided to call on the masses to give the right to own property to their daughters too. We believe unless women have the right to property, they will never feel equal to men. Equality should start from birth, with the right to property.”
We asked Comrade Gharti what kinds of programs there are for women. She said, “We are proceeding with resistance programs against all the awful rituals that make woman second-class citizens. Against woman trafficking, dowry traditions, so-called beauty pageants, vulgar Indian films and papers, alcohol and other things like this. We have started implementing all this.”
While the revolution has brought significant changes to the lives of women, there are also some problems. There are problems in qualitatively developing the leadership of women. This is especially the case in the PLA. Most of the women PLA fighters are between the ages of 18 and 25 and when they marry and have a baby many shift to organization and government work. The responsibility of children and female diseases are also problems that make it hard for women to participate consistently. Less nutritious food, inadequate sanitation and medical treatment are other health problems women face, and there are still remnants of feudal male-dominated society within the party and the base areas.
Nepalese women, with their courage, sacrifice, and resistance, are determined to achieve victory in the People’s War.
U.S. at War: A Shameful History
Revolution #011, August 14, 2005, posted at revcom.us
This is the first in a new series for Revolution.
April 25, 1945, U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson met with the new president Harry S. Truman to brief him about a major military secret. “Within four months,” Stimson said, “we shall in all probability have completed the most terrifying weapon ever known in human history.”
This briefing lasted 45 minutes. There was no debate over whether to use this weapon. The leaders of the United States condemned tens of thousands to an awful death without hesitation.
Sixty years ago this month, on August 5, 1945, the U.S. military plane Enola Gay circled over Hiroshima, and released a single bomb. It plunged toward the Japanese city below and detonated in an enormous fireball as hot as the sun. At Ground Zero almost everything was simply destroyed and every human being died. Even two miles from the blast, human skin was severely burned.
The wind blew at 1,000 miles per hour —shattering the bodies of thousands of people as it hurled them through the air or brought buildings crashing down upon them.
When the firestorm died down, the former city was a scorched plain. A heavy black rain brought radioactive dust back down to earth. Some of the dead had been vaporized, many others lay where they died, in their thousands and thousands.
When President Harry Truman was told of the Hiroshima bombing, he said, “This is the greatest thing in history.”
The U.S. high command felt that the destruction of one city was still not enough. Three days later, also without warning, they dropped a second bomb on the city of Nagasaki.
Long after the bombing, people kept dying, from a then-mysterious illness — radiation. Five months after the bombing 140,000 people had died in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki.
How was this horror excused? How did the U.S. government and military try to convince their soldiers to fight, their bomber crews to bomb, and the people of the “civilian home front” to back all of this?
The people of the U.S. were told that this war against Japan was a war of self-defense. They were told that they faced invasion from Japan—and that “the enemy” was vicious, fanatical, and barely human.
People were told that the expanded American war machine would defend their homes and “the American way of life.” They also were told that this war was “bringing freedom and democracy” to the world.
Official U.S. mythology teaches the U.S. armed forces are always the “good guys,” guided by the purest motives.
This is one of the world’s greatest lies—covering a truly shameful history. And this war in the Pacific, including the horrific bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is a vivid example.
The Pacific war was part of a much larger world war—where many different class forces, much of the planet and all its major powers were all drawn into a bitter series of interconnected wars. It is beyond the scope of this article to analyze all of that. But we can see, from a closer look at just the Pacific theater of that world war (where the U.S. and its allies fought with the Japanese) how all these U.S. justifications for war were deceptions covering the real motives and goals.
By the time World War 2 broke out, the United States had already been fighting for control in the western Pacific for over half a century. The U.S. brutally conquered the Philippines in the early 1900s and demanded an “open door” into China —to exploit those countries without barriers.
Japan emerged as a rival power—similarly eager to dominate China, Korea, the Philippines, and the rest of this region. The U.S. built a “deep water navy” to “project power” to eastern Asia. And when the Japanese military built a navy to rival all that, and when Japanese troops took over parts of China in the 1930s—driving out U.S. and British “interests” — then it became pretty clear to everyone in power (in both Washington and Tokyo) that a showdown (and probably war) was coming.
But we have all been taught that the main issue was that Japan attacked first at Pearl Harbor.
In fact, you can’t correctly analyze the wars by “who hit first” or even “who is fighting on whose soil.” You have to evaluate them by the goals and class interests that various forces are fighting for. This Pacific war came out of an imperialist rivalry, rooted in capitalism’s drive to “expand or die.” It was a war over which powers would dominate and exploit hundreds of millions of people—and this makes the U.S. war for the Pacific unjust, no matter which of these rivals ended up landing the first blow.
And there is much evidence that powerful forces in the U.S. government were quite excited when the Japanese navy attacked Pearl Harbor—because it now gave them a public justification for the war they had long wanted to launch.
And all this talk of Pearl Harbor being “sacred American soil” is especially grotesque once you look into the way the U.S. military conquered Hawai’i from its own people.
In history books and war movies, people are told that U.S. marines went “island hopping” through the Pacific to “liberate” the people. The colonial master Douglas MacArthur is portrayed as a hero when he promised “I shall return” (to the Philippines he had ruled at gunpoint!).
But the U.S. was fighting for domination, not liberation.
Look at what happened after the war. The U.S. took over the Philippines again, and eventually became the main power in Singapore, South Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan, and South Korea. The U.S. also tried to replace Japan as the power dominating China, but the people of China prevented that through the great revolution led by Mao Tsetung!
The victorious U.S. imposed a series of brutal regimes, including the notorious Marcos government, that tortured the Filipino people over the following decades. Look at the history of Indonesia or South Korea.
The U.S. victory in World War 2 meant more brutal domination, not liberation, for these countries. Generations sweated in the fields and sweatshops, women were crudely sold around U.S. bases, and brutal regimes were propped up by U.S. aid and guns.
And today, U.S. domination is still going on!
During the current war in Iraq, U.S. war-makers like Paul Wolfowitz have said they intend to “bring democracy to the Middle East” and point to U.S. post-war policies in Japan as a model. And it is a way of saying that the U.S. may do terrible things in war, but their victory always means good things in the end.
Is this true? No.
After Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and the Japanese surrender), the U.S. occupied Japan and imposed a new arrangement that included a political system with elections.
But this bringing of democracy was constructed to serve the political and strategic interests of the U.S. First, great care was taken to make sure that Japan remained a capitalist class society. Much of the hateful, oppressive old Emperor system was preserved—and in particular, the Emperor himself was not removed from power.
New political forces were allowed to form and allowed to contend for power as long as they were committed both to capitalism generally and the pro-U.S. strategic arrangement in particular. Revolutionary political forces who opposed all that were suppressed, and important workers strikes were simply banned.
The new Japanese government was not allowed to create a large new military that could ever challenge the U.S., but the Japanese ruling class of monopoly capitalists was allowed to share in the exploitation of the surrounding poorer countries.
In short, the democracy that the U.S. brought to Japan was a bourgeois democracy— designed to prevent revolution, preserve capitalism, and create a Japan in keeping with U.S. interests.
It is particularly shocking when these U.S. war- makers claim their treatment of the Japanese people could be a model for Iraq and the Middle East. As if no one remembers Hiroshima and Nagasaki! As if the world will accept their lame, shameful and still- unapologetic justifications of those bombings!
Officially, the U.S. government claims that these atomic bombs were dropped to “save lives” (meaning, of course, American lives)!
The U.S. military (and its apologists) claim that many U.S. soldiers would have died, if the U.S. had “been forced to invade” Japan’s home islands. And so the atomic mass killing of tens of thousands of civilian Japanese (in their heartless calculations) are treated as if it is a good trade-off. And in such ways, then and now, people of the U.S. are trained to think that mountains of dead bodies are quite fine, as long as they are not American bodies.
And, in fact, all this talk was a lie. By August 1945, the Japanese military and empire were on the verge of collapse—and the conditions were ripe for a negotiated end to the war. Where did this need come from to directly occupy Japan and drop these atomic bombs—it came from what the rulers of the U.S. saw was in their interests.
The U.S. ruling class wanted complete surrender of Japan and long-term occupation—because they were after unquestioned domination—both of Japan itself and the whole vast surrounding region. They were using the most gruesome means to grab complete victory for their global ambitions, and yet claiming to do all this in the name of the people of the U.S.
They wanted to remake Japan in ways that would prevent future rivalry. And they wanted to end this war with a great show of ruthless strength—leaving piles of scorched and radioactive bodies—to send a message to anyone who might still think about challenging the U.S. in the postwar world.
The people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were sacrificed—wiped out in great fireballs—to deliver a gangster threat to the then-socialist Soviet Union (which was preparing to launch military moves in east Asia) and to the restless colonized people of the western Pacific, especially the communist- led revolutionary movement of China.
Those who rule the U.S. today still try to excuse the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and claim these mass murders were all for the greater good.
“Fighting for freedom”? “Fighting to defend America”? No. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are among the most bloodthirsty and brutal acts in human history—and they were all about expanding the reach and profits of U.S. capitalism and its imperialist grip on much of the world.
Setting the Record Straight
Revolution #011, August 14, 2005, posted at revcom.us
The following article was written by a member of the Set the Record Straight project.
One of the lies about communism that has been repeated over and over again is the equating of the Soviet Union under Stalin with Hitler’s Germany. The comparison rules socialism utterly out of order, paints it as a nightmare, rules it off the agenda.and is a total lie!
Nazism or German fascism was a form of capitalist rule marked by extreme repression and open terror against the masses and the abandonment of bourgeois parliamentary and electoral mechanisms. Ideologically, Nazism based itself on the defense of private-capitalist property, the idea of German/Aryan racial superiority, hatred of Jews (anti- Semitism), and anti-communism.
The German economy as it was reorganized under the Nazis remained capitalist through and through: it was based on exploitation and capitalist expansion, and the leading industrial-financial capitalist groups retained their economic control and holdings.
When the Soviet Union was socialist, from 1917 to 1956, its economy was based on socialist public ownership. Relations of exploitation had been overthrown and no longer dominated (although they were not completely eliminated). The economy was structured to meet the needs of the people.
When the Nazis came to power in Germany, they went about “restructuring” and “purifying” German society: imprisoning and murdering communists, gypsies, homosexuals, “half-breeds,” drug addicts, and other sections of society that the Nazis deemed to be biological and moral “pollutants.” Ultimately, the Nazi program led to the mass murder of millions of Jews and other people.
By contrast, in the Soviet Union, a pillar of the Bolshevik program was putting an end to national oppression and establishing equality of national languages and national cultures. With respect to the Jewish people, the revolution in power immediately took strong measures to combat and uproot anti-Semitism. Before the Bolshevik Revolution, Jews were subject to constant pogroms—mob massacres by peasants who were told absurd lies about the Jews. This was overthrown in the socialist revolution, and the confinement of Jews to certain geographic areas and discrimination in employment were ended.
The Nazi party rallied German society around an ultra-nationalist program of preservation of German blood and soil and the vanquishing of a fabricated Judeo-communist “conspiracy” to control the world. The Nazi ideology of irrational hatred of certain peoples and racist superiority was rooted in the economic system of capitalism—a system of horrific human suffering even in “peaceful times.” The Nazi mind-set aggressively disdained critical, rational, and scientific thought (very much like the Christian fascists in the U.S. today). The model “Good German” was unthinking, obedient, and blindly followed authority.
Communism is founded on a scientific outlook that enables people to understand the world and society in their motion and development. Communism is founded on an internationalist world-view of achieving a classless world free of oppression and exploitation. And a defining feature of socialist society is that the masses of people are mobilized to consciously transform economic, political, and social relations and institutions in the direction of classless society and to revolutionize traditional ideas and values that reflect and reinforce class distinctions.
In the Soviet Union, the means of production, which had been seized by the revolution, were placed in the service of society (instead of serving exploitation). And, in the countryside, an unprecedented revolution took place. The formerly isolated, suppressed, and impoverished peasants were led by the Communist Party to rise up, cast off millennia of enslavement and mind-numbing tradition, and overthrow cruel and vicious exploitation and oppression. This process was especially dramatic for women, who made huge strides towards equality after being treated like animals.
Were harsh measures carried out by the proletarian state in the Soviet Union against some sectors of the population? Yes, but the dictatorship of the proletariat has nothing in common with the Nazi program, the Nazi outlook, or Nazi methods. For example, many anti-Communist ideologues and historians allege that the collectivization carried out in the Soviet countryside in the late 1920s and early 1930s was a savage campaign of expropriation and murder. In fact this collectivization was a drive to develop a new system of agricultural production based on collective ownership, and it ignited a genuine upheaval against centuries- old authority, tradition, and oppression in the countryside.
The kulaks, the rich peasants who employed hired laborers, were a focus and target of this struggle. But this had nothing to do with their ethnicity. It had to do with their class position, that is, with the economic power and influence the kulaks exerted in the countryside. It had to do with the fact that they were working to undermine efforts to carry forward collectivization and strengthen the new socialist economy—the kulaks had hoarded grain, profiteered in rural markets, destroyed livestock, and organized sections of peasants against the regime. In this period when many peasants were starving, the kulaks were stripped of their private economic holdings, which were turned into the social property of the collectives. Many of the kulaks were punished, including being forced to leave certain areas. And sometimes this was done unfairly. But the kulaks were not made the object of genocide.
The Soviet approach to collectivization and the way the class struggle was waged in the countryside were not without problems. And Mao had big criticisms of the approach taken. There were serious excesses, including the fact that force was used in situations where persuasion should have been relied on. But this was within the context of a real struggle between revolution in the interests of the masses and counterrevolution.
The German ruling class, under Nazi leadership, went to war with the Western powers as part of a struggle among the imperial powers for global supremacy. France, England, and the U.S. were all seeking to preserve and extend capitalist empire. The Nazis attacked the socialist Soviet Union in order to crush a socialist (anti-capitalist) revolution that was an inspiration to the world’s oppressed and to gain control over a huge, strategically situated land mass, rich in resources.
In the studies that equate communism and Nazism it is also conveniently forgotten that the turning point of World War 2 was the defeat of the Nazi army by the Soviet Union under Stalin. During World War 2, more than 20 million Soviet citizens sacrificed their lives (with millions of communists among them). And Stalin led the Soviet people to defend their revolution against the Nazi-imperialist onslaught.
Reactionaries who promote wild distortions to equate the socialist Soviet Union (until capitalism was restored after the death of Stalin) with Nazi Germany do so with an agenda that capitalism represents the end of history, and that exploitation and oppression are the highest that humanity can aspire to. Progressive people who uncritically repeat the equation of Nazism and communism should, instead, find out the true story, and ponder how they are objectively joining with open reactionaries in defending this system and ruling “out of order” any real and radical alternative to capitalism.
From A World to Win News Service
Revolution #011, August 14, 2005, posted at revcom.us
The following article from A World to Win News Service was written before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the run-off elections in July.
20 June 2005. A World to Win News Service. The 17 June presidential elections in Iran ended in what the Islamic government announced as a near tie between Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president and core regime figure now rebranded as a “moderate,” and ex-Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, close to the regime’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former leader of its paramilitary forces. A run-off between the two men is to be held 1 July.
Popular indignation at the intimidation, ballot-box stuffing and sheer lies about the results was so widespread that the regime resorted to a cosmetic measure, the recounting of the votes in a hundred ballot boxes supposedly selected at random in the capital and three other cities. Even Rafsanjani had to publicly admit that the elections were “tarnished” - which he said people should protest by voting for him in the next round.
The regime closed down two newspapers because they planned to publish a letter from Ayatollah Mehdi Karroubi, the candidate who came in third, saying, “There has been bizarre interference. Money has changed hands.” Karroubi accused the Council of Guardians of adding millions of votes to the accounts of “a certain candidate”Ahmadinejad. The leader of the religious nationalist forces, Ibrahim Yazdi, a supporter of Mostafa Moin, the favorite candidate of the reform faction of the Islamic Republic in this election, also accused the country’s ruling Council of Guardians of electoral fraud. The discrepancies were too obvious to hide. For example, in the middle of the counting the Council of Guardians announced that about 20 million had been tallied, while 15 minutes later the Ministry of Interior responsible for leading the voting process announced that 15 million or so votes had been added up.
The question of vote fraud had two aspects. In addition to the obvious questionability of the results, even bigger doubts surrounded the issue of how many people really voted at all. In some ways this is the most important question because the regime’s legitimacy and the legitimacy of whatever results they finally announce rest on that. In the weeks before the election people were told that their birth document would be stamped to show they voted and that their future employment, university admission, etc., would depend on it. Not content with indirect intimidation, the government mobilized the 300,000-member religious fundamentalist paramilitary force known as the Basij to coax people in the neighborhoods to cast a ballot.
The real issue in these elections was the regime’s future relations with the U.S. First, the regime’s inner circle wanted a massive voter turnout in order to impress the U.S. with their hold over the people and influence the Bush government to change its mind about working for “regime change” in Iran. It was widely said that Rafsanjani withheld announcing his candidacy until the last minute while waiting for the results of back-channel negotiations and wheeling and dealing with the imperialist powers. According to a leak by regime sources, a German diplomat delivered a last-minute letter on behalf of the U.S. to the Iranian leaders.
Second, the main competing programmes of the candidates were around how to mend relations with U.S. imperialism. Rafsanjani stressed his ability to establish relations with the U.S., saying that under him Iran and the U.S. could once again become as close as they were under the Shah. This represented all but open crawling, since the U.S.-backed monarch was overthrown in the 1979 revolution that brought the self- styled anti-imperialist Islamic Republic to power. Ahmadinejad put out a populist line, saying that he would not budge on opposition to the U.S. and would distribute wealth among the poor. Moin, identified with outgoing president Mohammad Khatami, warned against the conservatives’ attempts to wipe out the “republican” aspects of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Reformist leaders are now calling for rallying around Rafsanjani to block the “fascists” from taking power. It should be pointed out that Rafsanjani is one of Iran’s most widely hated figures among the common people, because of both his services to the regime and his use of office for personal enrichment on a scale that allowed him to become, according to some accounts, one of the planet’s richest men. Some observers have compared this situation to the last French elections, when President Jacques Chirac’s languishing political fortunes suddenly revived when France’s electoral left rallied around his candidacy to defeat the neo-fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Mohsen Sazgara, the leader of the ruling class dissidents who in the past six months have forged a highly varied coalition around a project called “Referendum to Change the Constitution,” confirmed the widespread electoral fraud and called for recounting the votes under “international observers.” He was pointed in his criticism, accusing Khamenei, the Council of Guardians, a section of the Revolutionary Guards, and the Basij of usurping the elections. Sazgara himself was a founder of the Revolutionary Guards and is now a leading reactionary dissident. His coalition—said to be favored by the Bush administration—consists of a section of Islamic regime dissidents, the monarchists led by the son of the deposed Shah now being groomed for a future role in Iran by the U.S. State Department, and some opposition Iranian intellectuals in exile.
The Islamic Republic’s Interior Ministry claims that 62 percent of the eligible voters participated in the elections. Even if this were true, it would mean that almost 20 percent fewer people voted at all this time than voted for Khatami eight years ago. But few believe these figures.
Albohassan Bani Sadr, the first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran now in exile in France, says that his observers reported that participation in Tehran was a little over 20 percent. The Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) says that its independent sources report that while there was massive arm-twisting to get people to vote, at most 40 percent did so. Voting stations were very, very empty in Kurdistan, Tabriz (the capital of Azerbaijan), Ahwaz (scene of a revolt by ethnic Arabs a month ago), Abadan, Isfahan, and the towns of northern Iran.
Scattered demonstrations against the elections were held in some parts of the country. Several days before the elections, the first protest by women the country has seen since 1979 took place in front of Tehran University. Its target was Iran’s constitution, which openly holds women to be second class citizens in all matters except voting. This gathering had been called by legal women’s centers, but the short officially permitted programme was followed by an unauthorized, militant demonstration some 5,000 women strong that was attacked by club-wielding police. (American actor Sean Penn was present, with press credentials from the San Francisco Chronicle.)
On election day, the candidates’ hired political operatives remained active until the polls closed (at the last minute, the regime extending the voting for four hours, until 11 p.m.). They found themselves involved in clashes with people disgusted with the whole process. For example, that evening in Isfahan, people got into a fight with Rafsanjani campaigners who were begging them to accept 10,000 tommans (10 euros) to put his stickers on their cars for three hours. The crowd got angry and tore up all the candidate’s posters. The campaigners had lost their official cars, too, because people flattened their tires. Rafsanjani had gone out of his way to recruit young and fashionable men and women as his activists. When confronted by indignant people, many of these youth confided that they were just doing what they were paid to do and that they personally didn’t intend to vote for anyone. Eyewitnesses report that helicopters landed in villages to give out money for votes. At the voting stations in the poor areas, Rafsanjani activists gave out packages of food and money.
Many of the votes the regime did get people to cast were based on the combination of sticks and carrots. But the regime’s attempt to bring the masses into the elections in massive numbers had a good side as well: there was much debate and discussion around the politics of this election. Iran is boiling. The turmoil around this election was one sign of that.
Iraq’s New Constitution
Revolution #011, August 14, 2005, posted at revcom.us
As the new Iraqi constitution is going into its final drafts, it is clear that powerful forces in Iraq are aiming to formally take away many rights enjoyed by women for decades in that country. The Bush administration bragged that the War on Iraq was a liberating one (remember the name “Operation: Iraqi Freedom”). And one important aspect of that was the “liberation” of Iraqi women.
But the current situation for Iraqi women is a horror. In the last two years, as U.S. troops have ravaged the country, extreme violence for women has once again become a daily reality, and many live in fear of leaving their home at all, let alone going to school or work. At home, there is a fear of house raids by the U.S. military.
There have been “honor killings” of women across the country, which are in effect condoned by Iraqi legislation.
Women (as well as men) have been killed at U.S. military checkpoints, and tortured and humiliated in U.S. military prisons. Women have faced mass sexual abuse and rape.
And in the midst of all this a new national constitution, which is set to be voted on this August 15, threatens to formally re-implement the merciless world of tribal and feudal relations that would be based on male supremacist Islamic tradition.
Under the new constitution, equal rights for women would be guaranteed as long as those rights do not “violate Shariah,” or Islamic law drawn from the Qur’an. Iraqis will enjoy all rights guaranteed in “international treaties and conventions as long as they do not contradict Islam.”
What does this mean? Just to give a flavor, let’s look at what the Qur’an says in one surah, entitled “Women” (verse 34):
“Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they [men] spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge [whip or beat] them. Then, if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High Exalted, Great.” (from The Glorious Qur’an, translation by Mohammad M. Pickthall, cited in “The Qur’an, Islam, and the Oppression of Women,” by Bob Avakian, Revolutionary Worker #969, August 16, 1998)
Marriage, divorce, and inheritance would be judged not according to a national secular legal agency, but by the law practiced by the family’s sect or religion. Especially in rural areas, this would mean that women of all ages would be subject (even legally) to extremely backwards views of what their role should be, and would not be allowed to make the most basic life decisions for themselves.
Shiite women could not marry without their families’ permission. Divorce, which could only be initiated by the husband, would not necessarily be required to be decided by a judge, but under some interpretations of Shariah, could be attained simply by the man stating their intention three times in their wives’ presence.
Articles of the (current) interim constitution which require that one-quarter of parliamentary seats go to women would be quickly phased out.
This is all happening in a country that was known as one of the most progressive in the Middle East, especially before the first Gulf War and the years of UN-imposed economic sanctions, which particularly impacted the lives of women and girls in Iraq.
Saddam Hussein’s regime was extremely reactionary, but it was secular. Women had formal equality under the law, were guaranteed education at least through primary school, and had attained the right to file for divorce and have their case heard by a judge. Laws were passed that regulated polygamy (marriages of men with multiple wives). Women had entered the workforce and had the right to vote and run for office.
Now let’s face it: this was not liberation for women. These were some formal rights women had attained, that were far behind where it’s now possible for humanity to be at in terms of ending exploitation altogether, including the oppression of women.
Is all that women can hope for some laws that restrict the degree to which they are relegated to a subordinate position, and give them a little breathing room, when it’s in the interests of their country’s (and an imperialist, dominating country’s) ruling class at that time? Definitely not. It is only with the elimination of classes that women will truly be liberated, and to get there we need a society that is based on overcoming these divisions, not reinforcing them in one form or another, be it “secular democracy” (which is only democracy for the ruling class) or theocracy (which is just another, typically more openly repressive form of capitalism, legitimized by religion).
And, as if we needed any more evidence, what does this say about this country’s war on Iraq, and the claims that the Bush administration made about liberating Iraqi women, when the severe situation that women were living in before the war, which is only more horrific now, and is just going to get worse, was actually caused by U.S. imperialism itself?
The people who claim that women need to be back under the burkha would be dominating society. This is what U.S. “liberation” is bringing to the women of Iraq.
Revolution #011, August 14, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Revolution received the following correspondence:
A march of some 40,000 people, primarily immigrant Mexicanos, hit the streets in Chicago on July 1. The march through the southwest side was a huge outpouring of people who came out of the shadows to oppose the anti-immigrant vigilante group Minutemen and the government’s immigration policy. There are over a million Latinos in the Chicago metro area, but this story was virtually ignored by the mainstream media except in the Spanish-language editions.
The demonstration was initiated by a morning DJ called El Pistolero of the La Que Buena 105.1 morning show (rated in 2004 as the most popular of all radio shows in Chicago) when he learned that the Minutemen, who are hunting immigrants on the border, were setting up an office in Chicago. He was joined by another popular DJ, El Chokolate of 107.9 La Ley. They called on people to take to the streets and deliver a message that the Minutemen are not welcome and to demand immigrant rights.
This call was printed in the Spanish-language press and repeatedly aired on the radio. El Pistolero did a 24-hour marathon calling people to the march. People called in with pledges to bring busloads from the surrounding cities and states. Forty-two churches and various groups, including organizations with ties to states in Mexico, took up the call.
El Pistolero estimated that 60% of the marchers took off work to attend, and many came in work uniforms. As the march passed workplaces, the marchers shouted to the people hanging out the windows to leave their jobs and join the march. Women with small children represented a big portion of the march.
We joined the march with the Revolución newspaper, the Not In Our Name Statement of Conscience, reprints of the article from Revolution #1 titled “The World Can’t Wait — Drive Out the Bush Regime,” and sampler DVDs of Bob Avakian’s speech, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About.We saw our mission as part of repolarizing for revolution and connecting up Chairman Bob Avakian and the RCP to the thousands of angry and frustrated immigrants and others at this march.
People came to the march to stand up for immigrants and against the daily abuses and outrages. Many of the slogans were aimed at mobilizing people within the framework of electoral politics. But we learned that many of the people at the march were wrestling with the big questions shaping the future— questions about the war in Iraq, the direction of society, and how to resist.
People literally lined up to get our papers and leaflets. We distributed 900 newspapers in Spanish and 3,500 flyers. We could have distributed thousands more, but we had really underestimated the turnout.
While writing this correspondence, I called back some of the people I’d met at the march. I reached one young man who made a few remarks about the march—and then said what he really wanted to talk about was the Bob Avakian DVD. “This is real good. He can teach us a lot. I learned about communism—different than what I understood. He taught me about Black people’s history. I didn’t know about it.”
Reflecting on all this made me think—What does this tell us about the times we are living in? What does this tell us about the mood of this key section of the people at the bottom and the potential for a societal-wide movement to declare “The World Can’t Wait...Drive Out the Bush Regime,” as well as the need and basis to repolarize society for revolution.
This march holds an important part of the answer.
David Horowitz: Author, Former 1960s Radical Turned Rightwing Bully
Quoted in From "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks—and Racist Too," by David Horowitz, FrontPageMagazine.com, Jan. 3, 2001:
Conservative, My Ass...