October 2, 2005
Revolution #016, October 2, 2005, posted at revcom.us
With tens of thousands of people trapped in hellish conditions in New Orleans, ninety-four Houston school bus drivers set off on a mission to bring people to safety. They saw that the government had abandoned these people, who were too sick or too poor to get out—or too Black for racist authorities to let out.
The drivers loaded their school buses with bottled water and food. If the government couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything, or if some people who should have helped were paralyzed by thinking this was all “god’s will,” then they would help.
The drivers were prepared to welcome desperate people onto their buses and in many cases volunteered their time for free. But U.S. military soldiers with automatic weapons, fixed bayonets, and camouflage paint on their faces detained them for hours and then forced them to transport soldiers, supplies, and ammunition.
After 31 hours, the drivers returned home—THEIR BUSES EMPTY.
This story has not been told. Houston TV stations covered the convoy of buses leaving for New Orleans. But nobody has exposed how the U.S. military hijacked this rescue effort. Now, for the first time, Revolution newspaper brings you the whole story, as told by one of the drivers:
When Hurricane Katrina happened, I was trying to figure out the dynamic—it’s a natural disaster but it didn’t have to be that bad. People were sitting there, stuck on their roofs with all that dirty water and nothing being done. We were trying to figure out what was going on. I saw the statement by the RCP and when I went to work, we were all talking and sitting in the day room, having coffee and talking in between shifts. I started going around, talking to people about how this is just horrific. These people can’t be left in this kind of situation with no food or water. And I said, if they really cared about the people down there, what they would do is mobilize all of us with our school buses and go down there and get these people.
A lot of people really agreed. Quite a number of people said, “Yeah, we’d be willing to do this for free.” One bus driver said, “Well, I’ve got time, I’m ready to drive the bus, I’m ready to go if they [the school district] will do it.” This started buzzing among the drivers, at this particular bus barn anyway. A bunch of us said to a supervisor, “Look, you need to talk to somebody and tell them that there’s a lot of people willing to go down there in the school buses and bring people back to the shelters here.”
This began on Tuesday and I spent several days going around talking to people. Some people were saying, “Well, god works in mysterious ways.” These were people who didn’t want to drive over there. They were blaming the people, saying things like, “Satan is getting rid of the dregs of society,” and I got into arguments with people over that. I said, "This is a natural disaster and it’s made worse by the way society is set up and the fact that the powers that be really don’t care about the people of New Orleans or Black people in general—or people in general for that matter. This is an example of what they think of us. People are over there in water, in filth, hungry and everything else. It has nothing to do with god deciding to pick and choose who’s going to live and die. A number of people know I don’t believe in god, mostly pretty religious people, and I made the point that there is no god anyway. I said, don’t talk that talk to me, because that’s not what the problem is here.
Anyway, a large number of people at the barn were saying they would do it and then a supervisor said he would check into it but it would be a very big logistical effort—we’d have to get mechanics willing to go and tire trucks and we’d have to figure out where the buses would fuel up, etc. Another thing I was talking about was: Look it, they have to do this now, they have to close HISD (Houston Inde-pen-dent School District) down for two days and get this rolling now. I said, close the schools, extend the school year for two days or cut the Christmas break short, something. Don’t wait until the weekend to do this because that will mean people down there suffering longer.
A supervisor called me into his office on Wednesday and asked me if I’d be willing to drive to New Orleans, and I said absolutely. So he put out a sign-up sheet for volunteers to drive to New Orleans to bring people back and we got 94 people to sign up. A significant portion of them made it really clear that they would do this without getting paid. Like this woman I know wrote on the sign-up sheet, “Don’t have to get paid, will do for free.” People wrote things like that on the sign-up sheet. So everybody was thinking, this is great, we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it.
A supervisor called a meeting for anybody who wanted to volunteer. He said: You hear a lot of talk about these people stealing, robbing, doing all these things down there. You hear all these stories about people being raped and all. The fact of the matter is, these are desperate people and they’ve been put into a desperate situation. Everybody needs to think about, when these people see these big yellow school buses driving in, we are going to be their hope, because nobody else is doing anything. I’m not saying nothing bad can happen to us, but most likely it won’t, because we are their ray of hope. If you have a weak stomach, you have to remember, these people haven’t bathed, they haven’t eaten, they’ve been out in the hot sun, they are not gonna be smelling like roses. What you cannot do if you go down there is act like fools, or start gagging, or reaching for a spray bottle. We have to show people there respect. And we’ll deal with what comes up.
A few hours later a supervisor announced on the bus radios: “This is on, we’re gonna go, we’re leaving at five o’clock Saturday morning.” This was Thursday, so they didn’t close the schools for us to do this.
Everybody was all geared to go. The atmosphere was very exhilarated. People really wanted to do something for these people, like a friend of mine said, “I can’t give money, my electric is about to get turned off, but I can drive the bus and give my time.” People were also very angry over how long people in New Orleans had been left sitting there, and there were some people that were likening it to things that happened in the Civil Rights days. There were a lot of people who were saying that this was about Black people just being written off, that this is the way they’ve always done us. It’s real obvious they don’t care if we live or die. People were really glad we were going, but angry that it took so long to get this together when people were suffering and dying.
People had been saying, bring clothes and there was food donated and piled up by the bus barn. But I’m not sure people would have thought about driving the school buses to New Orleans without me going around saying that we should get the school buses and go down there to get people out—creating an atmosphere where people said, yeah, I want to do that. One person said, “This is so much better than just sorting through old clothes. It is important to get people clothes when they don’t have clothes, but this is different.”
People really wanted to do something and felt the powers-that-be weren’t doing anything. So when this idea came up people were excited, they were looking forward to it. They were figuring things out. Some people brought food to hand out to people when they got on the buses. A lot of these drivers are single mothers, their ability to maintain is difficult, and they were bringing food, and bags of cookies. One person suggested that we boil a lot of eggs so people would have protein, plus powdered Gatorade. Another person’s husband works for a bottled water company and he talked his supervisor into donating thousands of bottles of water for the buses.
There was a lot of initiative being taken by the drivers. But then at a certain point things got taken over by HISD and whoever they were coordinating this effort with [FEMA and Homeland Security].
Friday afternoon, we were all ready to leave at 4:15 the next morning. There was back and forth on the radio that afternoon, everyone excited about going to New Orleans. Then a supervisor got on the radio and said, “The operation has been cancelled.” Everybody was upset, saying, “How can this be cancelled? People are still down there.” Then another supervisor got on and said we had to clear the airwaves and only discuss HISD business on them. He said, you can ask about the trip to New Orleans when you get back to the barn.
When we got back to the barn I went storming into the office and asked why it had been cancelled. I said this is crazy, those people are down there, and I was just yelling. He said look, we were told that since we had 94 buses to go, it wasn’t worth it, because they thought if we didn’t have at least 100 buses leaving it wasn’t worth it. I said, that’s crazy! Tell them to do the math. 94 buses times 60, 65 people on each bus, that’s five to six thousand people. How can they say that’s not worth it! He said, “I agree with you, it’s wrong. In my opinion, this is about extermination of Black people. I’m so upset over this.”
Groups of us were standing around and talking and you really got a sense of the anger over this happening. Some people were saying things like, “well, they know best,” or “this is god working,” and others were saying “this is plain old bullshit.”
I was fuming. I called up different people. I talked to our neighbors. I was saying this is just an outrage. Saturday afternoon, I got a phone call from one of the other supervisors who said, “Are you still willing to go to New Orleans?” I said yes, and she told me to be there in an hour and a half.
At this point FEMA and Homeland Security seemed to be coordinating things.
Right before we left a supervisor said, this is an historic day that people were volunteering to go to New Orleans to try to make a difference in the lives of these people who were displaced.
We got on our buses, escorted by the police, and drove for a couple of hours. In LaFayette, we stopped to refuel the buses and from there we headed to New Orleans, through Baton Rouge.
We had to go through a number of checkpoints where they had the National Guard and different Army people. They had different staging areas for the military and they would let a certain number of buses through and the others had to wait. So we’d go through and wait a few miles down the road on the shoulder. This went on for hours. Then we parked the buses on the side of the road near New Orleans somewhere and we sat.
When the buses started rolling everybody got all excited because we thought, oh, this is it, we’re going to get the people. But we went to another checkpoint where we sat along the road again. We wasted a lot of precious time actually… Maybe not as many people would have died if there had not been the lack of mobilization once we got there, the lack of caring about all these people, and all that sitting around. Everyone was asking, “When are we going to go get the people?”
Finally they moved us out and we went into New Orleans proper. We were driving through and we saw a lot of damage from the hurricane. We saw a lot of trees were blown over, trailer homes toppled over, signs down, roofs off buildings, and electrical wires down. As our caravan went through these areas, some people were coming out and cheering the buses on and waving banners. The people were excited and it brought out the truth of what the supervisor had said, that when people see these big yellow school buses rolling through, we’re going to be their ray of hope.
We drove for about 45 minutes through different parts of the area… and by this time it had been four or five hours that we’d been doing this. At one point we saw all these military trucks going by and we saw a flatbed military truck with all these body bags piled on it.
Then they had us move to a makeshift army encampment. They had these helicopters and cargo planes and they had cots set up all over the place. There were thousands of Army reserve, and different types of Army people, military trucks, tanks, all that kind of stuff. And they were all walking around carrying M-16’s. There were all kinds of boxes of ammunition. Quite a number of the soldiers had that black smudgy stuff on their cheekbones. Some of them were playing cards. Some of them told us they’d been there for three or four days and done nothing but sleep and play cards and hang out waiting to find out where they were gonna be deployed to.
I went over to one of these Reserve guys and said, “Explain to me what your understanding is of what you’re here to accomplish.” He had a gun on his hip and was carrying a rifle and had that stuff on his face. He said, “You see what our badge says? It says to search, rescue, and save.” I said, “If that’s what you really think you’re doing here, you ought to take that black stuff off your face, set your guns down on the ground, and then go through the neighborhood where people have been stranded for days. Because if you and a whole bunch of others looking like you go into these neighborhoods with all this weaponry and stuff, nobody’s going to think you’re there to help them. They’re going to think you’re there to wage war against them, which is in reality what you’re doing. You’re not doing what your badge says. The public will hear on the TV that since you have your shoot-to-kill orders, somebody opened fire on you and you returned it and shot them dead on the street. What people need is help, what they need is for us to go into these places and take them to safety, not all this weaponry.”
Two other soldiers were listening to what I was saying, and the guy on the bus with me was part of all this too. He agreed with me, saying, “If I’d slept on the roof of my house for five days, I wouldn’t think you were here to help either. Being Black, Black people are used to standing there looking at the wrong end of that gun.”
Some of these Army guys were real assholes. They were gung-ho types who’d been to Iraq, done their share of killing over there. They said to me, “What you don’t understand as a civilian, is that they’re people who’ve been let out of jail, they’re raping, they’re looting the stores.” And at that point I said, “How can you stand here and tell me that if your family were in the same situation, if you saw a store that wasn’t flooded out, that you wouldn’t break a window to go in there to get some food and water for your family. You tell me that you wouldn’t do that in the same situation.” And he said, “You have a point there, you’re right.” I told him, “Well, you need to think about that when you go into these places with your shoot-to-kill orders, if you see people looting.”
All this was before we realized that what we were actually there for was to carry military personnel into these neighborhoods on the school buses.
One of the other drivers with me all this time said he was learning a lot just from being around me talking to these people. We still thought we were going to pick people up and take them to Little Rock, we were still under that illusion. It was too hot for me on the bus so I stretched out on the ground under the bus. I had brought a blanket and a pillow, and there was a little cross breeze under the bus and I fell asleep there. I woke up hearing this loud voice yelling, “Ma’am, ma’am.” I look up and see five of these army guys with rifles and bayonets on their rifles and their faces all painted up and the first thing that went through my mind was that they were coming to take me away because of the things I’d been talking about.
One of the soldiers said, “Have you got your orders yet?” and I said, “I’m not in the military. I don’t take orders from you. I’m an HISD bus driver and my objective here is to get people on this bus and take them to a safe place.” The guy on the bus heard all this and came running out because he felt that something was gonna happen to me for the way I was talking to them. He said to them, “We know what we’re here to do. We’re going to leave in a while and get some people and take them to Arkansas.”
Some soldiers then told us we were going to be transporting soldiers into the various wards and parishes of New Orleans and its surrounding areas.
I went around talking to people saying, “This is bullshit, I didn’t come to New Orleans to carry them around, so they can do their shoot-to-kill orders. I came here to pick up people and take them to a safe place. We should just refuse to do this.”
They had enough aircraft of different kinds that they could have been dropping supplies in, not to mention getting in themselves if they wanted, with food and cases of water. They could have brought medical people into the area with their helicopters. There were a whole lot of things that they could have been doing that they didn’t do. So I was going around saying they can get their own selves around to these different areas if they want, I don’t want to do it.
I tried to get people to refuse to do it but people weren’t quite there yet. Some of the sentiment was, well we’re here, they need help, they don’t have buses. I said well what about all these tanks and other things they can use. Some of my friends were telling me to calm down, that I shouldn’t be so angry. I said, no I should be angry over this. There were a small number of people who really agreed with me, who said this isn’t what we came for. But aside from whatever people thought about what we were doing, there were all these guys with weapons all around us. We were in the midst of all that.
An hour later, all these soldiers got on our bus. I looked in the rearview mirror, the one where you usually see the children, to see if they’re sitting in their seats. And I see these guys sitting there with all their weapons.
We drove through New Orleans—some drivers went to Jefferson Parish, some went to wards in New Orleans. Some buses were filled with rations, some had ammunition. When we got to the staging area we had to hook up with people from other bus barns. That’s where we saw all these Migra [INS] with their sirens going. There were lots of Migra cars all over this place.
We got back to Houston at about 1 o’clock Monday morning, 31 hours after we left, WITH NOBODY ON OUR BUSES.
Take A Stand With The People Of New Orleans!
Revolution #016, October 2, 2005, posted at revcom.us
“We’re not angry. We’re way past angry. If someone could look inside us and see how we feel, they’d see that. We’re way past angry.”
– Young man from New Orleans, a few days after Hurricane Katrina hit.
“Now other people will know what kind of horror the Black people go through every day.”
– Woman in a beauty shop in San Francisco
This weekend – Thursday, September 29 through Sunday, October 2 – is a weekend to protest what this system did – AND IS CONTINUING TO DO – to the people of New Orleans. We are calling on people to show their outrage in many different ways:
Everyone reading this should help make this happen. Why? To put it simply – because we can’t let this system get away with murder!
Hurricance Katrina tore the roof off society. It showed the oppression that the powers-that-be try to hide.
People know that you couldn’t prevent the storm. But why didn’t the government help people get out? Why did they let the levees and flood protection systems go bad? Why were people forced to fend for themselves, without food, water, medicine, or shelter? Why were people jammed into that slave-ship stadium and why were many, especially Black people, forcibly prevented – by cops with guns, as well as vigilantes – from leaving New Orleans?
Why were people who did try to rescue and help others prevented from doing so by FEMA, the police, and the National Guard?
How come the government can move thousands of troops overnight, in airplanes and carriers – but could not evacuate a city that faced a storm that had been predicted for days?
And why was the overwhelmingly majority of those left in New Orleans Black – what did that have to do not only with the whole history of this country, but with how it’s set up today? And why were the Black people picked out and slandered in the media, and made the victims of police and vigilante violence?
Who’s responsible? And what can we do about it? These angry questions were voiced by millions, from every walk of life, and resounded all over the world.
These questions all have answers. To begin with, it is the system of capitalism that is responsible and, in particular, its chief representative George W. Bush. And that is why we saw Bush wiggle and squirm and double-talk these past few weeks.
And now Bush and the rest – the rulers of this system – are trying to weasel right out of THEIR RESPONSIBILITY. They are trying to “flip the script.” They want to change the subject. They want to cover up their crimes. They want to put the blame for what happened on the people themselves. And they want to use the chaos they caused through their actions (and inaction) to bring even worse oppression and repression, and even more intense exploitation, right down on the very victims of Katrina.
NO! We can’t let that happen.
The truth must be told. Bush and his mouthpieces talk as if “looting” was the problem. Hell, if people had not taken what was needed, there would have been many more deaths! And anyway, look who’s talking – the chief representative of the biggest looters and thieves this planet has ever seen!
We say NO! And we say that the just demands of the people – to return home (if they desire) to good housing, decent jobs, and all their other needs – must be met, by the government. The repression and dispersion of the people who were evacuated must stop. And those responsible must be held accountable – and must be prevented from reversing right and wrong on this, wiggling out of their responsibility, and turning it to their advantage.
The only way to do that is through struggle. So long as this system exists, there will not be an ounce of justice through any other method except STRUGGLE. Beyond that, we will never get rid of this system – this horror show that grinds people up – without STRUGGLE. As the saying goes, you may not win everything you fight for, but you will surely have to fight for anything you win.
One thing is certain: if we don’t struggle, if we don’t protest, then this system will do even worse. Much worse. The masses from New Orleans will be scattered across the country with no consideration whatsoever as to their needs. Bush’s cronies will gorge themselves further, making money hand over fist through people’s suffering. Whole new powers will be given to the army and police forces, in the name of “fighting disasters” – and these will be used against the people. Maybe worst of all, the spirit of questioning and resistance that rose up after Katrina will be smothered. Bush’s whole agenda will end up advancing, even despite the crimes he committed in New Orleans.
Some people are telling us to pray; some are even saying that the hurricane is punishment for sins, and we should atone and ask for redemption. Well, anyone can pray if they want, but the needless deaths and suffering in Katrina mostly came from the system. None of it was supernatural. And, most of all, the people who were victimized didn’t “bring it on themselves” by any stretch of the imagination, and we can’t allow anything that blames the people for these problems. What we need right now is RESISTANCE, and anything that takes us away from that is dooming the people to more of the same. . . and to worse.
If we don’t resist this, it will say that the rulers can do these things to the masses, and suffer no consequence. It’s like when the police beat up Rodney King on tv, and then were acquitted – if the people had let that stand, it would have made things much much worse for people, in so many ways. The police would have gone on even worse rampages than they did, and people would have felt totally powerless and degraded. But people DID resist, and because of that not only did those cops have to do time, but there was a whole other spirit of struggle and understanding that spread through society, even around the world.
Right now is a special kind of moment. It’s not like normal times, when people on the bottom are demonized and isolated. Now is a chance to break down that isolation, and find allies. Think about it. People all over the world and in this country, from every walk of life, have been jerked awake by the hurricane. They are thinking about what is wrong with society, in a big way. But they badly need to know how the people at the very bedrock of society see this outrage in New Orleans. They need to hear the voices of the people who are usually ignored, or told to shut up, putting out their views on the problem. They need to see just how angry people are, just how intolerable this is, and they need to see people on the bottom acting. At times like this, struggle coming from the people on the bottom can change the thinking of people all through society, and it can compel them to act in a positive way.
But moments like this don’t last forever. The media works on people’s minds, there is repression, there is the daily grind, and pretty soon things don’t just go back – they get worse. Unless. . . unless all that is contested and fought (and ultimately made part of a larger movement). And that is what we are calling for.
So let’s think about this weekend in light of all that. If there are neighborhoods in the major cities of this country where everywhere you look you see the “Wanted” poster, and if this breaks into the media; if the people who were driven out of New Orleans receive banners of solidarity, calling for protest, from people all over the country; if there are black ribbons all over the place; if people gather in groups, big and small, to plan to do more: all that would send a big message, to all of society. And it would also be a big first step forward toward other, more powerful forms of struggle, for even bigger objectives.
The system cannot be allowed to get away with this crime. The righteous demands of the people must be met. The Bush regime must be exposed and held accountable and driven out. The debate over the role of this whole system and what should be done about it – including revolution against it – must rage throughout society. The lid must not be clamped back down.
Revolution #016, October 2, 2005, posted at revcom.us
At the same time as we take up the call to action this weekend, people need to think toward a bigger battle – the struggle to DRIVE OUT THE BUSH REGIME, especially the big mobilizations being called for November 2. The Bush agenda goes way way beyond New Orleans, atrocious as that was and is. To take just one example, there are high-up advisers in the Bush crew (like Pat Robertson) who push for policies that have a clear genocidal thrust against Black people. For another example: Bush himself has slyly encouraged the “minutemen” vigilantes on the border with Mexico, who attack people who have been driven to this country to look for work – because of the ways in which the U.S. has wrecked their countries.
Bush has a whole agenda on women – trying to outlaw abortion, and more generally trying to force women back into traditional roles and taking away the rights they’ve won to participate in society. He wants to put them in a position of utter submission, giving a free hand to brutality, and even doing away with – or sharply restricting – the right to divorce. He’s got the backing of a movement that wants to turn this country into a religious dictatorship, and he has given them powerful positions in the military and courts and his administration. In fact, this very minute he is using the whole Katrina thing to give these people even more power and position and benefits! His regime has made torture a “legitimate thing” and rammed through laws that make it possible to put people in jail without charges and without seeing a lawyer or family – all on Bush’s say-so. He’s stirred up bigotry against gay people and attempted to make them permanent second-class citizens in the constitution.
And then, on top of it all, the Bush regime started and maintained the horrific and shameful war in Iraq– a war built on lies, that has already taken 100,000 lives, with no end in sight.
This is not just a bunch of bad stuff, or “business as usual,” but a whole deadly direction of society that has to be reversed. People who compare Bush to Hitler are right to do so. We can’t afford three more years of this madness. We can’t keep taking worse and worse and worse, telling ourselves that we just have to wait. If we all keep waiting, the people will soon be too beaten down to reverse it. No, we can’t wait – the WORLD can’t wait – there has to be a massive movement, now, drawing on all of society, united to drive out the Bush regime.
It’s like the call for November 2 says:
“That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn–or be forced to–accept. There is no escaping it: the whole disastrous course of this Bush regime must be STOPPED. And we must take responsibility to do it.”
This is what is being planned for November 2 – to start a whole movement that day, to get society going in a whole other direction, with extremely powerful outpourings. The problems we face are bigger than just Bush – Bush himself is the product and representative of the system of capitalism and imperialism, which produces daily horrors for billions, and which must itself be abolished for people to truly get free. But Bush does represent that system right now, in a very ugly form with a very ugly agenda he is jamming into place, and getting rid of him would be an important victory for the people and could be a step – a huge step – toward the larger goal of revolution.
But it won’t happen without you – standing up yourself and organizing others. It won’t happen without you linking up with the Revolutionary Communist Party and with other people active around this movement, and working together to draw in friends, and relatives, and people you don’t even know into this movement. It won’t work without, right now, getting organized. Get on the website worldcantwait.org. Invite over your friends, or talk to people at work. Listen to their ideas and argue with them if you have to, and then join together to do what needs to be done
And that’s yet another reason to take this weekend and step out for the people victimized not just by Katrina, but by the system that caused and is causing so much needless suffering in Katrina’s wake. Let’s struggle, let’s fight for this, and as we do so let’s raise our understanding and develop our muscles for the many struggles to come.
We received the following information from The World Can’t Wait about convergence points and local contacts for November 2 that have been announced so far.
TUCSON: 12 PM at the intersection of Church and Congress.
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA: 12 PM, Civic Center, San Francisco
LOS ANGELES: 12 PM, Actions along Wilshire Blvd from Downtown to Santa Monica, rallying at 5:00 PM at the Westwood Federal Building, Wilshire & Westwood Blvds.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY:
NEW HAVEN: 4 PM, New firstname.lastname@example.org
HONOLULU: 7 AM - 5 PM, Old Stadium Park (King and Isenberg)
CHICAGO: 1 PM, Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park
DETROIT: 12 PM, Warren and Woodward
NEW YORK CITY: 12 PM, Union Square 14th Street
GREENSBORO: 5 PM, Downtown Governmental Plaza, Greene St.
CLEVELAND: 12 PM, Public Square
AUSTIN: 3 PM, State Capitol
Feeder marches: 1:15 PM — UT students, University of Texas West Mall; 2:15 PM — high school students, 6th & Lamar, near Whole Foods
HOUSTON: 12 PM, Market Square Park at Preston and Travis
SAN ANTONIO: 4 PM at Travis Park, 301 E. Travis; 5:30 PM Rally at Milam Park
SEATTLE: 11 AM, Brief rally at Westlake; 12 PM: Hit the streets!
Organize your campus. Get in touch:
Become an organizer. Send your audacious plans for what Nov. 2nd is going to look like where you are. Get informed and connected at worldcantwait.org
by Bob Avakian
Revolution #016, October 2, 2005, posted at revcom.us
This system has decisively and fundamentally failed—betrayed—Black people at crucial turning points in its history. And in particular we can identify two crucial turning points after slavery was defeated in the Civil War.
In the period after the Civil War, during the very short-lived experience of Reconstruction—this was a period that lasted really for only about ten years, more or less from 1867 to 1877—the federal army, the Union army, remained in the South after the war as the enforcers of very real and significant reforms that were carried out, both in the economic base and in the political superstructure.
Today you see the Spike Lee films, and they have a reference to “forty acres and a mule”—this was the promise of land (and the basic means to work the land) that was made to Black people during the Civil War. Land ownership was at that time crucial for Black people to have as some kind of economic “anchor” and basis for them to resist being forced back into conditions of virtual if not literal slavery, of serf-like oppression, on the southern plantations.
Along with “forty acres and a mule,” other economic and political rights were promised to Black people. And in fact during the brief period of Reconstruction, while the full promise of these rights was never realized, there were significant changes and improvements in the lives of Black people in the South. The right to vote and to hold office, and some of the other Constitutional rights that are supposed to apply to the citizens of the U.S., were partly, if not fully, realized by former slaves during Reconstruction. And in fact some Black people were elected to high office, though never the highest office of Governor, in a number of southern states.
This was very sharply contradictory. The armed force of the state, as embodied in the federal army, was never consistently applied to guarantee these rights, and in fact it was often used to suppress popular struggles aimed at realizing these rights. But there was a kind of a bourgeois-democratic upsurge in the South during this period, and it not only involved the masses of Black people but also many poor white people and even some middle class white people in the South. During these ten years of Reconstruction, with all the sharp contradictions involved, there was a real upsurge and sort of flowering of bourgeois-democratic reforms. This was not the proletarian revolution, but at that time it was very significant.
In 1877, all this was reversed and betrayed. The bourgeoisie had gotten what it needed out of this situation: it had consolidated its hold over the country as a whole; it had consolidated its dominant position economically and politically within the South as well as the North and West.
Many of the old plantation owners were now beginning to move back in and take control of their own plantations, now involving exploitation in basically a feudal (or semi-feudal) form, and millions of Black people in particular were forced into sharecropping and similar relations of exploitation and were reduced to a serf-like condition, which was enforced by a whole system of legal and extra-legal terror. At the same time, banking and other capital from the North had bought into much of the southern economy and was intermingled with the plantation system, as well as other facets of the southern economy, on many different levels. So this whole bourgeois-democratic upsurge that marked Reconstruction was beginning to be a serious threat to the bourgeoisie, as well as to the southern planters. The northern-based capitalists had less and less interest in protecting, or even tolerating, this upsurge. They certainly didn’t want to see it continue to grow and perhaps get out of their control more fully.
So in 1877 something very dramatic happened. The federal army was withdrawn from the South and the masses of Black people were stripped of even the partial economic and political gains they had made and were subjugated in the most brutal ways and once again chained to the plantations, only now essentially in peonage instead of outright slavery. And the federal troops that were withdrawn from the South were immediately used in two ways: one, to crush major strikes of what at that time was essentially a white labor movement; and two, to carry further the genocide against the Indians and to finish the job of driving those who survived into these concentration camps of poverty called “reservations” and force them to stay there. Here, once again, we see a very dramatic example of how the ruling class divided and conquered different groups of people it oppressed. And one of the sharpest examples, and real tragedies, of this is how some Black people became Buffalo soldiers fighting the Indians at the very time that Reconstruction was being betrayed.
But the larger point I am emphasizing is that here was a situation involving a major turning point in U.S. history where the question was posed very decisively: Can Black people and will Black people actually be “absorbed,” or integrated, or assimilated into this society on a basis of equality? Will not only slavery, but the after-effects of slavery, be systematically addressed, attacked and uprooted...or not? And the answer came thunderously through—NO!--this will not be done. And there was a material reason for that: it could not be done by the bourgeoisie without tearing to shreds their whole system.
Instead they re-chained Black people—not in literal chains, but in economic chains of debt and other forms of economic exploitation and chains of both legal and extra-legal oppression and terror. So this was one major turning point where the system fundamentally failed and betrayed Black people. And everyone, not only Black people, but proletarians of all nationalities and the masses of people broadly, should understand this very clearly—with a dialectical and historical materialist stand, method and viewpoint.
The other crucial turning point in which the system once again failed and betrayed Black people was in the period after World War 2, with the upsurge of the Civil Rights Movement. Here was a situation where changes in the world economy and world “geopolitics,” as well as changes within the U.S. economy, brought about a very dramatic and rapid upheaval in the situation of millions of Black people.
Everybody knows about the mass migrations of Black people from the southern plantations, particularly during and especially after World War 2. During the 1950s and 1960s, millions of Black people moved from southern plantations to the urban areas, particularly of the North but also in the South. And as we pointed out in Cold Truth Liberating Truth, the very system which first held Black people in literal enslavement, and then held them in serf-like exploitation in sharecropping and other forms—the same ruling class for whom this was profitable because of the particularities of the bourgeois mode of production in the U.S.—this same system and ruling class turned around after World War 2 and drove them off the land, with no consideration for all the labor that they’d put into this land, and everything they’d produced out of it.
Now today you hear all this shit attacking affirmative action— “Well, it’s not fair, my child went and took an SAT and got a high score but then they lost out in getting admitted to the college of their choice, because some Black person with a lower SAT score got admitted, blah, blah, blah.” When I hear this kind of ignorant railing and whining I am reminded of something I saw on a videotape of the PBS series “The Promised Land,” which focused on the migration of Black people from Mississippi to Chicago and their experiences in both the North and the South.
This series told the story in general historical terms—examining the social phenomenon I’m talking about, the mass migration of Black people to the North after World War 2. It focused on people who migrated from Mississippi to Chicago—this mass migration also led people to Detroit, to Cleveland, and so on. But it also portrayed this history in personal terms. Several people were interviewed and recounted stories that showed how and why they left the South and what they encountered in the North. And the story one Black man told really struck me, particularly in light of all this nonsense being whipped up against affirmative action.
This man talked about the way the sharecropping system worked. Not only was there the “normal” and ongoing exploitation of the sharecroppers, but they were swindled on top of that. Under the sharecropping system, the land would be owned by The Man, and he would advance you the seed and the other things you need to plant and harvest for that year. Everything was basically owned by him, including the land the sharecropper lived on and farmed—and at the end of the year there’d be an accounting. You would turn over the harvest to him, and then you’d get back a certain amount. In this case it was sort of modified sharecropping, where you wouldn’t get your payment “in kind,” that is, in the very things you had grown and produced, but you’d get it back in the form of money. That’s the way the sharecropping system worked in the southern U.S. at the time, and from this you can see why you just couldn’t get up and leave if you were dissatisfied and felt exploited and cheated—you were in debt from the beginning to the end of the year. You were always in debt.
So, not only was there this ongoing exploitation that was built into, institutionalized and legitimized in the sharecropping system as such, but there was also outright swindling. After all, the same Man who owned everything, also kept the books—and he also owned the store when you had to buy everything and so on. And he was always cheating the sharecroppers, on top of exploiting them viciously in the first place.
Now one year later, the father of the man telling this story, after having worked all year, went in on the day of accounting and asked for his money for the year. And the plantation Man cheated him. He inflated the cost of everything—all the farm supplies and the food and clothes for the family he had forced the family to buy from him. And then he said, “Here’s what you’re owed now.” It was a ridiculously miserable little sum. The Black sharecropper had been swindled on top of exploited. But, that wasn’t all. The Man then told him, “Yes, this is how much you’re owed, but I can’t pay you this year, because I’m using it to send my son to college.” Now if that ain’t affirmative action for white supremacy, I don’t know what it is! And the sharecropper who had been cheated, on top of swindled, on top of exploited, said, “You mean to tell me I worked all this time trying to feed my children and put shoes on their feet, and now you tell me I can’t even do that because you’re going to send your son to college with the money that I’m supposed to have earned out of doing all this.”
So, I don’t want to hear any more of this shit about affirmative action being an unfair advantage for the oppressed.
But getting back to the period of the Civil Rights upsurge, beginning in the mid-’50s and on into the ‘60s. Once more there is a crucial turning point. We had slavery and we had Reconstruction and that was betrayed. Then there was the whole serf-like, sharecropping plantation system that followed after slavery, with the KKK and all the rest of that terror. But in the ‘50s and ‘60s something new was coming on the agenda—the question of real equality and equal rights for everybody, and abolishing this segregation and Jim Crow and all this discrimination.
That’s the demand that was being raised at that time—that’s the question that was “up” at that time. And what happened? Well, certain formal aspects of Jim Crow laws and outright legal segregation, certain overt “apartheid” principles that denied Black people even formal equality under the law, where the word of a Black person was not equal to that of a white person in legal proceedings, and so on—these things were abolished.
But the question only has to be asked, in order to answer itself: Was anything approximating full equality realized by Black people—did the system open up and make this a reality?
NO! Despite all the tremendous and heroic struggle and sacrifice by masses of Black people (and others who supported them) in this period, the answer was still NO!
Once more the system that for centuries had chained them to the southern plantations, now kicked them off the land because of the changes in southern farming and the U.S. economy overall, together with changes in world economics and geopolitics.
For this system, this massive Black farm labor was no longer necessary, as such, but had become superfluous. So millions of Black people went into the cities, where they were segregated and super-exploited in the lowest sections of the proletariat.
Another dimension of this situation was brought out very powerfully in a speech by Carl Dix, where he talks about his own experience working in a steel mill in the Baltimore area. When he got hired on there, he was immediately shunted right into the shit job in the foundry where all the Black workers were concentrated. And he was talking to this older Black worker—here’s another story that shines some light on this affirmative action question and so-called “reverse discrimination!”—and this older Black worker told Carl about how he’d been there 25 years and was still stuck in this same miserable department, with the hardest work and the lowest wages and the least security, even though he had his 25 years seniority. And he further went on to tell Carl about how he had trained all these white people that came in, who then on the basis of the training he gave them were promoted and got these higher paying and more skilled jobs; yet he never got out of that lousy department. Now, if that ain’t affirmative action for white supremacy, what is it?! So, I don’t want to hear, once again, any more of this reactionary assault on affirmative action, because we’re the longest way from having equality, to say nothing of unfair advantage for the oppressed, whatever that would mean.
The fact is, as Cold Truth Liberating Truth puts it, discrimination is not working “in reverse”; it is working in the same direction, the same ways it has always worked throughout the history of the U.S.: to promote and enforce white supremacy and male supremacy.
Now, looking at this in broad historical terms. Here were these major turning points—after the Civil War and then again after World War 2, with Reconstruction and then with the Civil Rights Movement—where the question was sharply, directly, and decisively posed: will the system give everybody equal rights? And the system answered NO! It was not simply a matter that the ruling class would not do this, but more profoundly it was the fact that they could not. They could not because it would have torn up their whole system, it would have undermined their whole economic base and their whole superstructure to do this.
The Power of Resistance
Revolution #016, October 2, 2005, posted at revcom.us
The following is from a correspondent in New York City:
This year, students at DeWitt Clinton high school in the Bronx noticed surveillance cameras in the stairwells and metal detectors at the entrances. And they were hit with new rules like no cell phones and having to stay in the cafeteria for lunch.
Students have to swipe an ID card, pass through a metal detector, and put their bags through an x-ray machine to get into the building. If the detector goes off, students are questioned in a room with a two-way mirror. Students can’t eat outside now. They can’t leave school until the end of thee day and their every move is monitored and limited.
“The school is on lockdown,” one student wrote on an Internet message board, Sconex.com. “They’re treating us like prisoners,” a 16-year-old junior told the New York Times.
Something needed to be done. And some students decided to act.
Monday, Sept. 19: wearing mock “prison chains,” holding signs that read “DWC Maximum Security Prison,” and chanting “freedom,” 1,500 students, mostly Black and Latino, walked out. This wasn’t organized weeks in advance. Three days earlier one student, who had never considered himself an organizer, posted a plan on Sconex.com: Gather outside and stand, silently, until the end of the first period. The next morning he found himself standing alone outside the school while others lined up to be scanned at the entrances. He said, “Nobody stood with me, not even my friends at first,” according to this student. “A lot of people were like, ‘Don’t even waste your time.’ I felt like an idiot.”
But then, by 11:30 a.m., there was a crowd of 1,500 outside—and they marched two miles to the Superintendent’s office to demand an end to detectors and cameras, “captive lunches,” and the cell phone ban. “This is just the beginning,” said one student. “The protest was just to get the word out that we’re serious about being heard.”
The next day, there was huge police presence at the school. Cops separated students by gender and searched their bags. Police vans, with open doors, were at every entrance. A police bus sat across the street and teams of police roamed all over.
Every time we turn around, another fascistic law or rule is being put into place: the Patriot Act; security cameras on every corner; students searched and harassed; librarians, internet providers and airlines forced to turn over lists, etc. etc. etc.
The people need to resist all this. And the high school students who walked out at DeWitt Clinton should be given BIG props. Their spirit of resistance should be supported, learned from and spread all over the place. This kind of defiance, unfortunately, hasn’t happened a lot. And it needs to happen a whole lot more.
The World Can’t Wait (worldcantwait.org) is calling on students to mobilize and organize under the call “Resist or Die”—No School on November 2!
Get in touch with The World Can’t Wait at email@example.com.
Revolution #016, October 2, 2005, posted at revcom.us
A series in four parts, submitted by A. Brooks, a reader of Revolution newspaper
Along with the biblical myth of creation, also to be found early on in the story of Genesis is the first mention of a theme that is repeated quite frequently throughout the Mosaic books: the oppression and inferiority of women. Even many of those who have read very little, if any, of the Bible are aware of the story of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were supposedly the first human beings that God created. While Adam was created from the dust of the earth, Eve was merely created from Adam’s rib, thus consigning woman in essence to the status of an appendage of man. God forbids Adam and Eve from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. Eve then convinces Adam to eat the fruit anyway, and God becomes enraged upon discovering this. So how does God react? By saying to Eve, “I will make most severe your pangs in childbearing. In pain shall you bear children, yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3)
From this passage, we are expected to accept two notions that reinforce the suffering and subordination of woman: First, that childbearing, rather than being viewed as an act that leads to joyousness, actually represents a punishment bestowed upon woman by God. And secondly, that men should rule over women. As mentioned, the latter in particular is a theme returned to multiple times throughout the first five books of the Bible. The women of the Mosaic books are kept as concubines (sex slaves), bartered and controlled as possessions, and subject to the most horrific of abuses. Abraham, for instance, is one of the most famous Biblical figures. When Sarai, wife of Abraham (who is originally called “Abram” and then later renamed), proves unable to conceive, how is the situation resolved? Well, according to Genesis 16, it is resolved when Abraham sleeps with a concubine instead: “So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took her maid—Hagar the Egyptian—and gave her to her husband Abram as a concubine.”
Later, in Leviticus 12, it is said that after a woman gives birth to a male, she shall remain in “blood purification” for thirty-three days, a period of time during which she must be isolated from all living things. However, if a woman gives birth to a female,she must remain in an isolated state for double that time—sixty-six days. What a statement to make about the value of women in society—both that they must remain isolated in a state of “uncleanliness” following the act of childbirth, and also that their period of “uncleanliness” is double if they gave birth to a girl rather than a boy!
Further on in Leviticus, the horrors for women continue. For instance, it is clearly stated that “When the daughter of a priest defiles herself through harlotry, it is her father whom she defiles; she shall be put to fire.” (Leviticus 21) Here we see not only the horrifying consequence for a woman who engages in prostitution, but also the articulation of the notion that daughters are nothing more than an extension of their father’s property.
Meanwhile, passages in Deuteronomy outline the “ideal” procedure for how to capture women as prizes of war:
“When you take the field against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your power and you take some of them captive and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you desire her and would take her to wife, you shall bring her into your house and she shall trim her hair, pare her nails, and discard her captive’s garb. She shall spend a month’s time in your house lamenting her father and mother, after that you may come to possess her and she shall be your wife.” (Deuteronomy 21)
Where to even begin with the horrors of the above passage?! For one, the reader will no doubt immediately notice that it is apparently of no consequence whether the woman in question wishes to become sexually involved with the man! Rather, the woman is immediately declared a possession of the man who wishes to capture her, and she has no choice but to surrender to him.
The absolute surrender of woman to man laid out in the Bible is driven home in an even more powerful and explicit manner a few passages later: “If a man comes upon a virgin and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are discovered, the man who lay with her shall pay the girl’s father fifty [shekhels of] silver, and she shall be his wife.” (Deuteronomy 22) Again, it is clear that the choice of a woman does not enter into the equation anywhere—she is powerless! If a man “seizes”—i.e. rapes—her, she not only can but must become the property of the very man who raped her, so long as he can provide monetary compensation. And the reader will again notice that the woman is being treated as nothing more than an extension of her father’s property—monetary compensation is paid because a father’s property—not a human being—was violated.
In this same book of the Bible, one finds that if a man accuses his wife of not being a virgin prior to their marriage, the parents of the girl are supposed to produce a bloody bed sheet that proves she was, in fact, a virgin. “But if the charge proves true, the girl was found not to have been a virgin, then the girl shall be brought out to the entrance of her father’s house, and the men of her town shall stone her to death.” (Deuteronomy 22) Perhaps it is worth taking a moment to pause and reflect on what kind of statement it makes if a woman accused of not being a virgin prior to marriage—i.e., accused of not being her husband’s complete sexual property—must be faced with either the humiliation of producing a bloody bedsheet or be brutally stoned to death.
I could go on and on quoting passages from the Bible that demonstrate in no uncertain terms that in every facet of life and society, women were expected to completely surrender to the will of their husbands and to be subordinate to men in general. In the interests of conserving space and time, however, it likely suffices to simply consider this: What would the implications be if the principles discussed thus far were taken and applied literally to a society?
Ah yes, of all the wonderful values extolled in the Mosaic books, perhaps none is more admirable than the notion of one human being owning another. Indeed, slavery is mentioned throughout each of the five Mosaic books of the Bible. Some passages mention the institution in a way that simply makes it clear that the practice is viewed as inevitable and a natural part of the social order of the times, while -others go a step further and actually outline the “proper” procedures by which one human being should “possess” another. In the first category, we find numerous examples taken straight from the Bible. Perhaps most noteworthy is the reference to slavery found in the Ten Commandments. The tenth and final Commandment instructs that God’s people: “Shall not covet their neighbor’s house, wife, male or female slave, ox or ass, or anything else.” (Exodus 20) When this is pointed out to many religious persons, their response is that this part of the Tenth Commandment does not actually condone slavery; it merely mentions its existence. This argument is severely lacking in logic. In fact, it is plain as day that the Bible is implying that there is nothing wrong with slavery itself—rather, people should simply stick to their own slaves and not covet those “belonging” to others!
If “God” were actually trying to say that slavery as a whole should not exist, why would He give an instruction that is clearly designed to protect the “human property” of others? Furthermore, to use an analogy, suppose that in present society someone were to devise a law that said: “Thou shalt not commit murder on a Tuesday.” Would anyone actually try to defend this law by saying, “Well, this law isn’t saying that murder is OK, it just says that murdering on a TUESDAY is not OK”? Of course not. By specifying that committing murder on a Tuesday is immoral, the law would clearly be implying that murdering someone on any other day was just fine—just as saying that people should not “covet” other people’s slaves clearly implies acceptance of slavery and merely rejects coveting the “property” of others.
Slavery is also mentioned in Genesis 12 in relation to Abram (again, he who was later renamed Abraham): “Because of her [Sarai, Abram’s wife], it went well with Abram; [upon entering Egypt], he acquired sheep, oxen, asses, male and female slaves, she-asses, and camels.” Notice that acquiring slaves is viewed as a sign of when things “went well.”
Or how about Genesis 17, when God tells Abraham: “As for the homeborn slave and the one bought from an outsider who is not your offspring, they must be circumcised, homeborn, and purchased alike.” Or how about Genesis 32, when Jacob sends a message ahead to his brother Esau: “I stayed with Laban and remained until now. I have acquired cattle, asses, and male and female slaves.”
Still not convinced that the Bible is chock full of references to slavery—references that make clear that the Bible approves of slavery? How about this fine passage from Exodus, which instructs that, “When a man strikes a slave, male or female, with a rod, and he dies there and then, he must be avenged. But if he survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, since he is the other’s property.” (Exodus 21) Here, the Bible goes one step beyond the part of the Ten Commandments where slavery is merely “mentioned”: Now slaves are clearly identified as “human property”—which, we can only conclude, is just fine with God. And this passage also makes clear that beating slaves within inches of their life is acceptable as long as they are not literally killed.
References to slavery hardly decrease as one progresses through the five Mosaic books. In fact, if anything, these references become more explicit. In Leviticus 25, God instructs his “chosen people” that “Such male and female slaves as you have—it is from the nations round about you that you may acquire male and female slaves... such you may treat as slaves.” There it is, plain as day—enslaving other peoples is OK in the eyes of God, according to the Bible. And as a later passage in Deuteronomy makes evident, the Biblical God does not merely sanction the enslavement of people in the nations “round about you,” but rather is perfectly willing to accept the enslavement of his own chosen people as well: “If a fellow Hebrew, man or woman, is sold to you, he shall serve for six years, and in the seventh year, you shall set him free.” (Deuteronomy 15)
Again, as with instances where the Bible sanctions the oppression of women, there are many more that could be found and discussed, just in the first five, Mosaic books of the Bible. But I feel that those referenced so far are more than enough to make all of us shudder at the implications of applying this “core principle” of the Bible literally.
Many good-hearted religious folks point to passages such as the Commandment that reads, “Thou shalt not kill” to argue that the practice of state-sanctioned executions is ungodly. Unfortunately, while the death penalty in this society is indeed a great horror, it is not “ungodly.” The Holy Bible is full of instances where God commands that people be put to death. In some passages, God decrees that a specific transgression occurring in the Bible be dealt with by executing the offender, while in still other places he merely articulates that in any instance where a specific act is committed, the offender shall be put to death.
Passages in Exodus 21 outline a variety of crimes for which offenders shall be executed:
“He who fatally strikes a man shall be put to death.”
“He who strikes his father or mother shall be put to death.”
“He who kidnaps a man shall be put to death.”
“He who insults his father or mother shall be put to death.”
In particular, it is worth examining the last of these “crimes.” Think about that law for a moment: “He who insults his father or mother shall be put to death.” How many of us in society—even those who are extremely close to our immediate families—have not at one time or another in our lives done something that could be considered insulting to our parents? The Bible would have us believe that any of us who are guilty of such an act should be put to death!! Many folks may be surprised to find that such a horrific law could be stated in the Bible; to be honest, I was pretty blown away myself! But perhaps it is not surprising that passages like this are not well advertised: Evangelical Chris-tians are not anxious to point out that their beloved scriptures would call for executing those who merely insult their mothers or fathers, because it would make the lunacy of following the Bible literally a lot more readily apparent!
In the event that anyone missed the point of the passage in Exodus 21, God is kind enough to repeat it several times throughout the Bible, including in Leviti-cus, where it is plainly stated: “If anyone insults his father or mother, he shall be put to death.” (Leviticus 20) This principle is then spelled out further in Deuteronomy, in a passage that articulates the notion that “If a man has a wayward and defiant son, who does not heed his father or mother and does not obey him even after they discipline him, his mother and father shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his community. They shall say to the elders of the town, ‘This son of ours is disloyal and defiant. He does not heed us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Thereupon the men of his town shall stone him to death.” (Deuteronomy 21)
Working on the Sabbath—a day which God commanded be set aside as a day of rest and worship to Himself—is also a crime for which the Bible advocates a penalty of death. In Exodus, this is made clear when God says: “Nevertheless, you must keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between you and me throughout the ages. He who profanes it shall be put to death.. Whoever does work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.” (Exodus 31) Like the Commandment concerning the execution of defiant children, God is nice enough to alleviate any confusion by repeating throughout the Mosaic books that those who work on the Sabbath shall be put to death, including in a passage further on in Exodus: “Whoever does work on it [the Sabbath] shall be put to death.” (Exodus 35)
That death to those who work on the Sabbath is designed as a law and not merely an idea is made clear in Numbers: “Once, when the Israelites were in the wilderness, they came upon a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him as he was gathering wood brought him before Moses, Aaron, and the whole community. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘This man shall be put to death: the whole community shall pelt him with stones outside the camp.’ So the whole community took him outside the camp and stoned him to death—as the Lord had commanded Moses.” (Numbers 15)
Another crime for which the death penalty is advocated is blasphemy. As will be discussed at greater length in the next part of this series, it is made plain throughout the Mosaic books that God will show no mercy or patience to those who deviate from following him absolutely. For now, it will suffice to mention just a few examples of this. In Leviticus, the Bible describes an occurrence where, “The son of a half-Israelite woman had blasphemed.” (Leviticus 24) The penalty for this blaspheming was brutal: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands upon his head, and let the whole community stone him.’” (Leviticus 24)
Immediately after this passage, it is made clear that this instance is to serve as an example of the proper ways that blasphemers are supposed to be dealt with in all cases: “And to the Israelite woman, speak thus: Anyone who blasphemes God shall bear his guilt; if he also pronounces the name Lord, he shall be put to death. The whole community shall stone him.” (Leviticus 24) Again, it is worth reflecting on the implications of this Commandment from God: How many of us in society—religious or otherwise—have not at some point uttered an expression such as “Oh my God!”, or “God damn it!”? According to the Bible, that is blasphemy—“taking the Lord’s name in vain”—and is grounds for the death penalty!
One particular form of blasphemy for which God doles out particularly merciless punishment is the worship of other supernatural Gods or spirits. In Leviticus, we find that “A man or a woman who has a familiar ghost or spirit shall be put to death; they shall be pelted with stones.” (Leviticus 20) In Deuteronomy, Moses continues with this theme, reminding the Israelites: “Revere only the Lord your God and worship Him alone, and swear only by His name. Do not follow other Gods. For the Lord your God is an impassioned God, lest the anger of the Lord your God blaze forth against you and He wipe you off the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 6)
The theory of these passages is put into brutal practice in many instances in the first five books of the Bible, including in a memorable passage in Exodus: Moses returns from Mount Sinai to find that many of the Israelites have built a golden calf and are worshipping it. Upon returning to the Israelites and observing the calf, Moses is consumed with rage and responds by grinding the calf into dust, and then making the Israelites drink it. (Exodus 32) But Moses didn’t quite stop there. He then “stood up in the gate of the camp and said, ‘Whoever is for the Lord come here!’ And all the Levites [descendants of Levi] rallied to him. He said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, each of you put your sword on thigh, go back and forth from gate to camp, slay brother, neighbor, and kin.’ The Levites did as Moses commanded, and three thousand fell that day.” (Exodus 32)
Adultery is still another crime that the Bible deems punishable by death. Certainly it is the case that, even in a better society than the one we live in, the emotional harm that one human being can do to another by sleeping around on them would perhaps frequently justify adultery being labeled as an “immoral” act. (However, even if this is generally true, it has different meaning under different circumstances: For example, if a woman develops a relationship with someone other than her husband because the husband is abusive, that is very different from a married man who sleeps around as a means of acquiring sexual “conquests.”) And whatever emotional pain might result from adultery, it certainly seems reasonable to say that adultery is not a “crime” for which offenders should be punished by law, much less executed!! However, the ultimate penalty of death is indeed prescribed throughout the Mosaic books for those who commit adultery. In Leviticus, we find the decree that, “If a man commits adultery, the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.” (Leviticus 20) In Deuteronomy, this point is repeated when Moses, who is supposedly articulating the word of God, says, “If a man is found lying with another man’s wife, both of them—both the man and the woman with whom he lay—shall die.” (Deuteronomy 22)
Besides the horror involved in calling for adulterers to be executed, the sheer hypocrisy of the Bible must also be pointed out here: Many of the key figures of the very same Bible that calls for the death penalty to be meted out to those who commit adultery themselves have more than one wife!! As early as Genesis, we find reference to Lamech, who “took to himself two wives” (Genesis 4). Earlier in this series it was noted that Abram (later renamed Abraham) was married to Sarai, but because Sarai could not conceive, Abraham was “forced” to lay with Hagar, a concubine offered to him by his wife. And here we see an instance of “like grandfather, like grandson”: Abraham’s grandson and Isaac’s son was named Jacob, who took to himself two wives—Rachel and Leah. Yet, for some reason, all of these men were able to escape the penalty of death that was supposed to await all adulterers.
While there are several other “crimes” for which the death penalty is advocated, there is one that, in light of recent current events, particularly merits discussion here. This “crime,” as the Bible deems it, is homosexuality. With fundamental rights for gay people in this country currently at stake, it is necessary to understand important historical roots for the attacks on these rights. For this reason, scriptural commentary on homosexuality perhaps deserves its own section here.
In 1998, Matthew Shepard—a gay man in Wyoming—was kidnapped by a couple of anti-gay thugs, tied to a fencepost, and beaten to death. This unspeakable atrocity immediately opened eyes across the nation to the persecution—often violent—that is constantly visited upon homosexuals in this society. One of the most enduring and horrifying images in the aftermath of Shepard’s murder was that, at his funeral, anti-gay religious leaders and also several lay persons held signs with cruel and vicious slogans, such as “God hates fags.” Indeed, the outrageous truth is that such picketing at the funerals of homosexuals is rather commonplace, as is the twisted notion that AIDS is somehow God’s way of punishing homosexuals.
Such despicable persecution of gays has clearly continued, and perhaps even grown since 1998, as anti-gay religious Evangelicals have accumulated more and more power in America. And now, the basic rights of homosexuals, including the right to enter into marriage and receive the same medical and other rights as heterosexuals, is under attack. Many Evan-geli-cals have based these attacks against gays on the fact that the Bible classifies homosexuality as a sin. Many gay-rights supporters, including religious organizations, have rightly condemned these vicious attacks on the basic rights of homosexuals. In doing so, however, they have often claimed that the Bible is a book of tolerance and that God would never advocate violence against homosexuals.
Here again, unfortunately, we see a contradiction: Justice, and a morality that reflects this, are clearly on the side of progressives, yet the Bible is clearly on the side of the Evangelicals. And this is yet another powerful example of what is wrong with interpreting the Bible literally as a means for organizing society—or of attempting to base justice and morality on what the Bible literally says. For in actuality, the Bible does condemn homosexuality in no uncertain terms.
A passage in Leviticus clearly states “Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence.” (Leviticus 18) And there can be no doubt what is meant by “lie with,” because this phrase is used throughout the Bible in a way that makes it clear that the phrase means “to sleep with” or “to have sex with.”
In addition to the horror of classifying homosexual relations as an abhorrence, two other things are noteworthy about the placement of this passage in the Bible: First, that it follows directly after God gives a speech in which he emphasizes that his laws, and only his laws, are to be followed directly. In other words, it is clear that God’s decrees on homosexuality, just like all the rest of his decrees, are meant to be followed literally: There is no wiggle room. The second noteworthy aspect of the placement of this condemnation of homosexuality is that it is uttered as part of the same passage that also condemns practices such as bestiality and incest, thereby lumping acts of love between two people of the same sex with sex between people and animals and also amongst family members. That the Bible would implicitly link these practices is not insignificant; many powerful Christian fundamentalists, including Senator Rick Santorum, have picked up on this logic to assert that “legitimizing” gay sex and gay marriage would open the door to the acceptance of such practices as bestiality and incest. This may seem absurd to us—and it should. Yet it is an absurdity that originates from the Bible itself.
But the Bible does not stop at merely condemning homosexuality as an “abhorrence.” It also has God very clearly advocating the death penalty for homosexuals. Just a little bit further on in Leviticus, it is stated, “If a man lies with a male as one lies with a woman, the two of them have done an abhorrent thing; they shall be put to death —their bloodguilt is upon them.” (Leviticus 20)
Thus, this section of my analysis of the five Mosaic books has hopefully demonstrated well beyond doubt that the society envisioned in these parts of the Bible is hardly one that we would want to live in. And let us remember that it is in these parts of the Bible that the Ten Command-ments are to be found—yes, the same Ten Commandments that Christian fundamentalists are demanding be posted in all kinds of public places, including in schools and courtrooms, with the insistence that these Ten Commandments will inspire “moral character” among youth and the people in society as a whole. From what I have shown here, it should be clear that the kind of society that would result from implementing literally what is said in the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic books of the Bible would be one characterized by the ultimate dominance of faith over science; the total subjugation of woman to man, enforced by tremendous and violent repression; the flourishing existence of human slavery; bloody and unforgiving religious intolerance; the bloodthirsty conquest and plunder of peoples who have different religions and ways of life, or who simply get in the way of what the “chosen nation” of the Lord is determined to control and exploit; the violent oppression and persecution of homosexuals; and the meting out of the death penalty for a wide variety of acts that many of us today would not even consider to be “crimes.”
In the next installment, I will discuss the way in which the Bible is characterized by yet another element of fascism: Consolidation of rule by fear and terror.
Mexico City Showing
Revolution #016, October 2, 2005, posted at revcom.us
August 29, 2005. A World To Win News Service. Mexico City. The lights were off…the movie theater full…more than 120 people avidly watching the screen…some were standing for lack of seats…some commented in whispers what they were hearing…others came in curious to know who is this Bob Avakian from the United States.
So began the first of two major showings in Mexico City as part of a national campaign to get out the filmed talk, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and one of the leaders of the international communist movement.
The showings took place in May and June in two well-known cultural centers in Mexico City frequented by various strata. A broad publicity campaign was done in the newspaper La Jornada (a main Mexican daily, which published a letter-invitation), in universities, unions, cultural centers, demonstrations, schools, towns, bookstores, and a radio program.
To get the video shown, people came forward from different trends, social groups, Maoist organizations like the Movimiento Popular Revolucionario, and Revolucion: Comite de Difusion, a collective formed to take up the main task of putting out the communist line of Bob Avakian. Though not all are Maoists, they are drawn to Bob Avakian and united around the task of taking out broadly the communist vision that companero (familiarly, comrade) Bob puts out. They see that it’s necessary that people take up analyzing and debating not only what kind of change but also what kind of society and future are possible through transforming the imperialist system with a revolution. In Mexico and the rest of the world, millions of people die every day but they don’t know that this vision exists and that another world really is possible.
At the end of the first showing, a debate developed among Marxists, Leninists, anarchists, Maoists, Che Guevarists, activists from the brutally suppressed 1968 student movement, trade unionists, housewives, students, youth, and older folks. There were many positive comments on the video’s content as well as Bob Avakian’s role as leader. Here are a few of them:
“It’s like we’re in a situation where we don’t know where to go. It feels like an atmosphere of distrust, fear of the future, instability. I feel like there are no guidelines or parameters on where to go. But I think Bob Avakian has a plan full of hope in the face of the uncertainty that weighs on people” (a feminist).
“What I like about the video is that it takes you step by step, like it takes you by the hand, on how to make change, how to make a revolution. It’s like the main ingredients were being put out there” (a student).
“This is unheard of. Avakian engages a whole bunch of things. He does so with a lot of passion, in a very convincing and forcible way” (a poet from the 1968 movement).
“It’s good that there are leaders like Bob Avakian who brush off the cobwebs we have,” someone else said.
A big debate developed around the possibility of a revolution in the United States: “It’s sad to see the youth in the United States. They don’t know what’s happening around them. It’s a shame.” Another person took this on, saying: “Those who live and struggle in the belly of the beast are a very positive example for those of us in Latin America. We need to get together with them like brothers and sisters.”
There was much curiosity about the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist line. A woman trade union activist said, “My organization says it’s socialist but we don’t talk about socialism nor about what I just heard. I want to take this to my group so they get into it.”
“I was expecting something else. I was expecting him to talk about how to start a revolution. I was expecting something more heavy, but it was all very good,” said a university student. “The video is for everyone. It’s very easy to grasp. We have to show it in our school. Because who’s going to take it out to people like us?”
The first showing ended with a song by a revolutionary singer-songwriter who’s participated in struggles against imperialist domination in Mexico, referring to Maoism and the People’s War in Peru in his songs.
After the second showing, the debate focused on the need to analyze the history and experience of past revolutions and to apply the lessons to developing revolution in Mexico. “I want to talk about what those of us who wanted to make a revolution 40 years ago went through. At one point we looked down on the Mexican revolution. But when we learned to use the powerful tool—the surgical tool for historical events, that is, historical materialism; we took up study in some depth of the French, Bolshevik, Korean, and Algerian revolutions. Then we went back to study the Mexican revolution with a new perspective. I believe that a good Marxist should really exercise the brain’s neurons to deepen the study of historical events.”
The showings in Mexico helped break with some myths that many have about revolutionary leaders and that in the belly of the beast there aren’t people fighting for communism. They got out more broadly the theoretical line of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. It was a warm reception for the communist vision and a leader like Bob Avakian from the people in this country. “Welcome to the Maoists from the United States,” concluded a spectator.
Racist Rumors and Reality:
Revolution #016, October 2, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Black and poor survivors of Hurricane Katrina are being dispersed around the country, monitored by Homeland Security, channeled into starvation wage jobs, and locked up. The media and authorities are isolating and repressing them and spreading lies to turn people against them.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina there was a steady stream of vicious attacks against the thousands of Black people desperately trying to survive. The news media, high officials, politicians and Bush himself contributed to an ugly, racist atmosphere—with widely propagated horror stories of savage evils and atrocities supposedly carried out by Black victims in New Orleans.
While the system abandoned people in desperate circumstances in the Superdome, Fox News and the police pumped out stories of babies being raped, children being murdered, “thugs” terrorizing the people.
But the fact is these were all LIES.
The New York Times (NYT) and the Guardian, and other papers reported that there is NO PROOF that the story of baby rapes and murder ever happened.
David Carr from the NYT wrote that “many of the urban legends that sprang up—the systematic rape of children, the slitting of a 7-year-old’s throat—so far seem to be just that.” (“More Horrible Than Truth: News Reports,” NYT, 9-19-05)
Howard Witt, the Southwest bureau chief of The Chicago Tribune, wrote that much of what he had been told, even by public officials, did not check out and he found himself inundated by rumors.
Police Chief Eddie Compass said on Oprah, talking about the Superdome: “We had little babies in there, some of the little babies getting raped.” But the night before, he had told The Guardian, “We don’t have any substantiated rapes.”
And the churning out of such lies was highly orchestrated.
Carr points out that three days after Katrina hit, there was a shift in the Lexus Nexus data base (a clearing house for news and information) where stories focused on rape, murder, mayhem and violence among people trapped in New Orleans. Much, if not most, of such stories were unconfirmed rumors and outright lies. Yet they were repeated again and again.
Then there was Bush with his “zero tolerance” for looters and in the first few minutes of his “Speech to the Nation,” his reference to "people left at the mercy of criminals who had no mercy…
Barbara chimed in with:
“What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they [Black people displaced by the hurricane] all want to stay in Texas…many of the people in arena here, you know, they were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.”
Bill O’Reilly on Fox did his part to vilify Black people, saying,
“Many, many, many of the poor in New Orleans…they weren’t going to leave no matter what you did. They were drug-addicted. They weren’t going to get turned off from their source. They were thugs, whatever.”
And even today, Fox News continues to rant that the “looting” was the major problem in New Orleans after the hurricane.
Then you have Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force, saying,
“This place is going to look like little Somalia.… We’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.”
(Army Times, 9-2-05)
What happens when Black people are presented as less than human and then Bush announces that “the Department of Homeland Security is registering evacuees who are now in shelters, churches, or private homes.”
Ask Brian Murph.
When the federal government flew more than 100 victims of Hurricane Katrina to Rhode Island, the state police did criminal background checks on everyone. One of the evacuees, Brian Murph had an outstanding arrest warrant, for larceny and other crimes and was promptly handcuffed and taken away.
(Associated Press, 9-23-05)
This is not an isolated incident. This is happening in cities across the country with state and local authorities doing background checks on evacuees. Many times checks aren’t made on all evacuees, but just those seeking help from charities—in other words, people who are often Black and poor.
The news is now reporting that these checks show that many of the people leaving New Orleans have “criminal records”—which fits right in with the racist efforts to vilify Black victims of the hurricane.
Some people hit by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans said they felt like the U.S. government was treating them like the people in Iraq. Well, think back to this true story:
One of the lies that paved the way for the U.S. bombing and invasion of Iraq in 1991 was the story that Iraqi troops who marched into Kuwait had taken 312 babies out of incubators at a Kuwait City hospital and left them on the floor to die. This story was a key piece in the campaign to paint Iraq as totally evil and justify the U.S. invasion. The incubator story was repeated many times by newspapers, TV and radio. But this story was a complete hoax! And by the time the truth came out, the U.S. had brought massive destruction to Iraq with weeks of bombing and killed 200,000 Iraqis. (See, “Wagging the Dog”: The Great Incubator Scam of 1990, RW #944)
The system has been working overtime to vilify the masses of Black people in New Orleans. But the truth is that overwhelming, people’s actions were to help one another. Like the actions of “The Soul Patrol,” a group of about a dozen civilians who organized camps after the hurricane, delivered provisions to people still occupying flooded areas and reportedly rescued hundreds. Or the many Black youth, so-called looters and “thugs,” who were praised by the elderly for gathering food and resources to help large groups in need.
There is a vicious agenda behind the racist vigilantism that’s being whipped against Black people. Those white people who have been drawn into this need to wake the fuck up. And those who know the reality of this snare should continue to resist and expose this in every way.
Prisoners in New Orleans
Revolution #016, October 2, 2005, posted at revcom.us
It was like being a “low class” passenger on the Titanic—locked down below while water rushed in and the ship sank.
As Hurricane Katrina approached New Orleans, sheriffs and guards abandoned Templeman III, one of several buildings in the Orleans Parish Prison—leaving hundreds of prisoners locked in their cells with no food or water. When generators died there was no light or air circulation and toilets backed up. Some prisoners in ground-floor cells were not evacuated until four days later—after they found themselves standing in water up to their chest or neck.
One prisoner told Human Rights Watch, “They left us to die there.”
A prisoner who was in a cell on an upper floor said, “We was calling down to the guys in the cells under us, talking to them every couple of minutes. They were crying, they were scared.”
Many of the prisoners had been arrested for things like criminal trespass, public drunkenness or disorderly conduct. Many had not even been brought before a judge and charged, much less been convicted.
Officers said there had been no evacuation plans.
Corinne Carey, a researcher from HRW who interviewed prisoners, guards, and state officials, said, “At best, the inmates were left to fend for themselves. At worst, some may have died.”
Some prisoners said they saw bodies floating in the floodwaters as they were finally evacuated from the prison. 517 prisoners are now listed as missing.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, the system delivered a sentence of cruel and extreme punishment and possible death to hundreds of prisoners.
Sources: Human Rights Watch and AFP
by Travis Morales
Revolution #016, October 2, 2005, posted at revcom.us
In the United States of America, 2005, the fascist brown shirts are on the march. In the wake of mass murder at the hands of the Bush regime in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the racist anti-immigrant vigilantes of the Minuteman Project are mobilizing with guns at the U.S.-Mexico border to hunt immigrants. They say they’re acting in response to the Homeland Security Department’s decision to temporarily shift some Border Patrol agents to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina—which, they claim, “leaves our country vulnerable to increased trafficking by illegal aliens and terrorists attempting to enter the United States.” Translated from reactionary double-speak, this means: “We have an opportunity to hunt down desperate and starving people who are being driven from their home countries across the border in order to survive—so let’s go for it. And while we are at it, let’s whip up some anti-immigrant hysteria.”
And just why is the U.S. government sending the Border Patrol to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast? “Recovery efforts,” my ass. Thousands of immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean worked for low wages in the fancy restaurants, hotels and casinos of New Orleans and Mississippi that have been destroyed. They are no longer needed. The Border Patrol is carrying out the official hunting and deportation of immigrants whose lives have been devastated by both Katrina and the criminal negligence of the Bush regime—while the Minutemen are carrying out the unofficial hunting down of immigrants at the border
And let’s be clear, the Minutemen are not so unofficial. For several years, while publicly distancing themselves, the Border Patrol cooperated with the reactionary Barnett brothers—the forerunners of the Minutemen—ranchers who hunt and detain immigrants at gun point before turning them over to the Border Patrol. While the Bush administration hypocritically warns against vigilantism, they have done nothing to stop the Minutemen.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republican governor of California, invited the Minutemen to patrol the border with Mexico. He said,
“I think they’ve done a terrific job... They’ve cut down the crossing of illegal immigrants a huge percentage. So it just shows that it works when you go and make an effort and when you work hard. It’s a doable thing.”
And in a step to move the Minutemen from unofficial to official fascist brown shirts, U.S. Rep. John Culberson, a Texas Republican, is pushing legislation to create a citizen border patrol whose members would be deputized to make arrests and authorized to carry guns. He said, “We need more manpower on the border.”
All of this comes at a time when the Minutemen are expanding their efforts to organize armed patrols in urban areas such as Houston, Chicago, Fort Worth, El Paso, southern California, and many others. In mid-October, they are holding an “America First” Summit on National Security in Chicago.
These moves to expand and organize Nazi-style attacks on immigrants have sparked outrage, opposition, and resistance. On July 1, 40,000 people, mainly immigrant Mexicanos, marched through streets of Chicago to oppose the Minutemen and the government’s immigration policy. At the border in southern California, people have confronted and disrupted Minutemen patrols. In numerous cities, people are organizing to confront them.
It’s like I said when I spoke at a September 17 anti-Minutemen rally on the steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin:
“This country has absolutely NO right to talk about anyone violating its borders and stealing its resources. It is total hypocrisy. This country has a whole bloody history of violating borders all over the world and plundering resources. They stole half of Mexico’s land in a war of conquest and exterminated the Native Americans so they could kidnap Black people from Africa and bring them to Texas in chains as slaves. They have gone all over the world invading and conquering and plundering. Some people say that is old history—but it is present day reality. They are killing tens of thousands in Iraq. The Bush regime is committing mass murder of Black people by criminal negligence in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. And they are killing thousands at the border. It IS true: The World Can’t Wait. Drive Out the Bush Regime!”
Police Attack and Phony Friends
Revolution #016, October 2, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan is taking the “Bring Them Home Now” campaign from Camp Casey (named after her son who was killed serving in the U,S. military in Iraq) outside Bush’s ranch to cities, towns, and suburbs across the country. But when her tour rolled into Manhattan the police stormed the rally, confiscated the sound system, and arrested Camp Casey New York organizer Paul Zulkowitz. A Green Party activist who witnessed the attack said he was “standing just to Zool’s left and witnessed an NYPD official draw an index finger across his throat…,” signaling police to move in.
In August, speaking to an audience of veterans from World War 2, Cindy spoke truth about the war in Iraq, calling it “George Bush’s war for imperialism and insatiable greed.” (Hypocrites and Liars - truthout.org). Visiting Louisiana after the hurricane, Cindy wrote, “When I reflect on how the mother of the imbecile who is running our country said that the people who are in the Astrodome are happy to be there, it angers me beyond comparison.” And she demanded that George Bush “pull our troops out of occupied New Orleans and Iraq, and excuse his self from power.” (michaelmoore.com).
The Village Voice reported that Hillary Clinton met with Sheehan a few days later in Washington. After the meeting, Clinton said that Sheehan is “playing a very important role… But [!!] I happen to think that fighting for freedom is a noble cause.”
What “noble cause” is Hillary talking about—a war of greed, plunder, torture, and mass murder? And Hillary’s comment is a specific dig at a theme Cindy has emphasized since the Crawford, Texas vigil. Speaking to a Veterans for Peace convention, she said:
“The other thing I want [Bush] to tell me is ‘just what was the noble cause Casey died for?’ Was it freedom and democracy? Bullshit! He died for oil. He died to make your friends richer. He died to expand American imperialism in the Middle East. We’re not freer here, thanks to your Patriot Act. Iraq is not free.”
Come hear Raymond Lotta, Maoist political economist and author, talk on why and how
Revolution #016, October 2, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Come hear Raymond Lotta, Maoist political economist and author, talk on why and how
“Socialism Is Much Better than Capitalism, and Communism Will Be a Far Better World”
Unjust war in Iraq and the “normalization” of torture…half the planet living on less than $2 a day…strangulation of the Earth’s ecosystem…natural disasters like tsunamis and hurricanes that become social disasters because of heartless social systems.
Do things have to be this way? Over and over we’re told that this is “the best of all possible worlds…the only possible world…and you might as well accept it.” But there is an alternative.
Socialist revolutions in the Soviet Union (1917–56) and China (1949–76) and Mao’s Cultural Revolution accomplished great and unprecedented things. They opened liberating vistas that humanity can build on.
Raymond Lotta will tell you why. And he has the facts to back it up.
An honest conversation is urgently needed about the real experience of socialism, including shortcomings and errors, in order to point the way to a far better future for humanity.
If you feel angry with the way the world is, you need to hear Raymond Lotta.
Raymond Lotta has written numerous books and articles including America in Decline and Maoist Economics and the Revolutionary Road to Communism. He writes for Revolution newspaper. He has lectured internationally and has spoken at major anti-globalization activities in the Philippines and India.
Monday, October 17, 4:00 pm
Lindsay Rogers Room, 707 IAB, Columbia University, New York
Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2005, 4:00 pm
Lipman Room, University of California – Berkeley
Thursday, Oct. 20, 2005, 6:00 pm
A18 Haines Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles
Thursday, Oct. 27, 2005, 7:00 pm
First Church Unitarian Universalist, 3 Church Street
Harvard Square, Boston
To Assist or Donate to this Tour, contact
Set the Record Straight
P.O. Box 981
Chicago, IL 60690-0981
Revolution #016, October 2, 2005, posted at revcom.us
September 24—As many as 250,000 people rallied and marched in Washington, DC, against the U.S. war in Iraq. Tens of thousands more marched in San Francisco, and there were protests in other cities. in the U.S. and around the world.
Our correspondents report that broadly among the protesters, there was a determined sentiment that we can not tolerate three more years of Bush, and many talked about wanting to see Bush impeached or Bush, Cheney, and others tried for war crimes. “The World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime!” signs, stickers, and leaflets were a big presence.
Many people said they had come to the DC protest because of Cindy Sheehan—whose Camp Casey outside Bush’s ranch and bus tour around the country (which ended in DC) have struck a nerve among millions.
Cindy Sheehan said in her speech,
“We can’t give the homicidal maniacs any wiggle room or long-term strategy sessions. For one thing, when our leaders strategize, we are put in even more jeopardy; they have proven that they are not too bright or even a little compassionate. But the most important thing is that people die every day in Iraq for absolutely no reason and for lies. We have to say NOW because the people on the other side are saying NEVER. We can’t compromise, we can’t say please, and we can’t retreat.”
Another speaker in DC, actor Jessica Lange, said,
“They say there’s no way to withdraw now. The truth is, they never intended to withdraw. What they planned was continuing military presense in the Middle East, control over the region, control over the oil. They have their eyes on the prize, the master plan. And they want the American people to remain in the dark and to keep the American people unaware of the bloodshed, the torture, and the devastation.”
Revolution #016, October 2, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Cheers to poet Sharon Olds for rejecting an invitation from “First Lady” Laura Bush to a major book event in Washington, DC, a dinner at the Library of Congress, and breakfast at the White House.
Olds, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and professor of creative writing at New York University, was among a number of writers and poets invited by Laura Bush to give readings at the National Book Fair on September 24—the same day as major antiwar demonstrations in that capital and cities around the country.
In an open letter to Laura Bush (first published on The Nation’s website), Olds said:
“In one way, it’s a very appealing invitation. The idea of speaking at a festival attended by 85,000 people is inspiring! The possibility of finding new readers is exciting for a poet in personal terms, and in terms of the desire that poetry serve its constituents—all of us who need the pleasure, and the inner and outer news, it delivers.”
“I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness—as an American who loves her country and its principles and its writing—against this undeclared and devastating war.”
“But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration.”
“What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady who represents the Administration that unleashed this war and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting ‘extraordinary rendition’: flying people to other countries where they will be tortured for us.”
“So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.”"
Jeers to Lance Armstrong, who went on a bike ride with war criminal George Bush at his vacation ranch in August—at a time when Cindy Sheehan’s antiwar Camp Casey was right outside the ranch.
Delivering his famous “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech in Detroit on April 12, 1964, Malcolm X said:
“The first thing the cracker does when he comes into power, he takes all the ‘Negro leaders’ and invites them for a coffee, to show that he’s all right. And these Uncle Toms can’t pass up the coffee.”
This month’s “Can’t Pass Up the Coffee” Award goes to champion (or, chump) cyclist Lance Armstrong.