This AWTWNS news packet for 14 March 2017 contains fives articles. They may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as they are credited.
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Introducing a transformed AWTWNS
14 March 2017. A World to Win News Service. With great joy, the editors of A World To Win News Service announce its transformation into a more thorough-going tool for revolution based on Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism.
AWTW News Service first saw life in January 2003, at a critical juncture when under the banner of their global “war on terror” the US-led imperialists had launched and were expanding what was in fact a war for empire. After invading Afghanistan, they were preparing to invade Iraq. It was a time when a powerful people’s war was surging forward in Nepal, led by revolutionaries who were participants in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. RIM gathered communists from around the world who, in the wake of the defeat of the revolution in China following the death of Mao Tsetung, banded together from the five continents to strengthen the struggle to do away with the capitalist system through revolution.
AWTW News Service was inspired by RIM, which based itself on Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM). During the years since then, the news service untiringly exposed the crimes of the imperialists in many corners of the globe, bringing to light stories of popular resistance against oppression, analysing how all oppression was ultimately rooted in the system of capitalism-imperialism, and pointing to the need for the solution, revolution.
These past fourteen years have seen major developments, including the collapse of RIM itself. Not only are some of the forces previously united in RIM now sharply opposed to each other, the previous understanding of revolutionary communism itself has, to borrow Mao Zedong’s term, “divided into two”. One strand of the old Maoism has wound up in a social-democratic liquidation of the core revolutionary principles of Marxism, exemplified tragically in the capitulation of the Maoist leadership in Nepal and the termination of the revolutionary war there. Others from the previous MLM movement are stuck in a dogmatist, religious-like upholding of sterile “Maoist” formulas that are equally devoid of revolutionary content. In opposition to this, Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism has fully emerged, rescuing the scientific kernel of communism while criticizing and repudiating those secondary aspects in the past understanding and actions of communists that have actually gone against communism’s liberatory nature. The result is that we now have a qualitatively more scientific framework for understanding the world and changing it through revolution, which is gaining adherents from among forces previously part of RIM as well as others more recently attracted to communism. (For more on RIM, its history, its collapse and the division of Maoism into two, see Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage – A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and Letter to Participating Parties and Organizations of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.)
And how the world cries out for revolution! Everywhere inequality has intensified, women face the violent intensification of patriarchy and degradation, and whole states in parts of the Third World are written off as “failed” and left to rot. The hopes of millions worldwide that soared as US-backed dictators were toppled by mass uprisings in the “Arab Spring” were dashed with the re-consolidation of reactionary rule. War has ripped gaping wounds in the Middle East as the Western imperialists and their local allies contend with reactionary Islamic jihadists, trapping the masses in a vortex of terror and despair. Millions have been driven from their homes, and thousands drown in desperate attempts to cross the Mediterranean to safety – while those few who make it face ever higher walls erected by these same imperialists to keep them out, physical walls as well as the walls of hatred being whipped up against them. Now, after years of normalizing mounting levels of nationalist jingoism, racism and misogyny, the dynamics of this system have propelled the fascist Donald Trump into the post of commander-in-chief of US imperialism. This in turn is giving major impetus to fascist movements that have been steadily gnawing their way into the political mainstream of Europe – in Austria, Hungary and Poland, and now the Netherlands, France, Germany and elsewhere. Throughout the oppressed nations too, the rise of “strong men” like India’s Modi, Turkey’s Erdogan, Duterte in the Philippines and others, tells the same story: the post-World War 2 order is rapidly coming apart at the seams.
The most fundamental question facing humanity today is whether this great turmoil will give rise to the establishment of regimes that are far more repressive and reactionary than even those today, with an unprecedented intensification of oppression and inequality, the unleashing of war and famine, environmental catastrophe and potentially far worse, or whether the oppressed can be enabled to rise, led by a core of conscious revolutionaries, and dismantle the existing state apparatuses in key parts of the world and establish radically new state powers that begin to do away with all oppression and exploitation. This has everything to do with how well hundreds and thousands today can be armed with a scientific approach to reality and act on that basis. Today this means transforming AWTW News Service into one firmly based on Avakian’s new communism, a task that is proudly being assumed by the communists who have been the driving force in it over these years – a task that you are being asked to join in, in countless ways: reposting, distributing, writing, reporting, debating and corresponding with it, to name but a few.
Articles are needed that lay bare how the source of every kind of oppression in every country is ultimately rooted in the capitalist-imperialist system, whether it be through analysing the coup d’etat in Turkey, the failure of the Syriza experiment in Greece, the rise of fascism in the US and Europe, etc.
The news service needs analysis that lays bare the major faultlines ripping through every class-divided society and propelling millions into questioning and resistance, to help increasing numbers make the leap from being fighters on one front against capitalist oppression to fighters on every front. To take just one example, it needs to highlight the many different ways that brave forces are stepping outside normal channels to resist the draconian measures being enacted against migrants, exposing how it is the capitalist-imperialist system that is driving immigration and clamping down on migrants. It has to help establish a powerful internationalist current around this burning issue – showing why and how it is essential that the “whole world comes first”, rather than “what does this mean for me and my country” – so as to bridge borders between peoples, to change not only what people think but how they think, to train them in the communist line and outlook. Or, in relation to patriarchy, to bring out why you cannot break all the links in the chain of capitalist oppression except one, why leaving male supremacy unchallenged quickly opens the door to the strengthening of every form of division and inequality. All this is part of the process of “fighting the power and transforming the people, for revolution” – and not least of all, bringing forth a new generation of revolutionary leaders in this process, who can use this news service to help identify and bring together more revolutionary forces wherever they may be.
It is critical to expose the system and its institutions and structures, but it is also vital to put forward the solution, a new kind of state power and a new way of organising the society and economy to meet people’s needs in the broadest, most liberating sense, and step-by-step enable people to make the transition, through revolution, to a whole new world of flourishing humanity, armed with critical thinking and free of the shackles of class, patriarchy and all social divisions and inequalities. To do this we need to take on and tear apart the reactionary verdict on revolution and socialism. Otherwise, our criticism of the existing system loses force and purpose. Furthermore, based on the new synthesis summation of the socialist experiences of the 20th century, we need to show the necessity, possibility and desirability of Avakian’s re-envisaged socialist society – how it not only meets the basic needs of the people, but will be a vibrant society marked by an unprecedented flourishing of intellectual and cultural life.
Without BA’s new communism and the understanding that has developed on the basis of his approach and method, even for those who have vital elements of understanding about how thoroughly rotten all that exists really is, it is difficult to understand that the world doesn’t have to be the way it is, that the potential for a radically different way of living for all humanity lies entangled in today’s web of contradictions that are driving society, trapping oppressed humanity in dog-eat-dog relations, and threatening unprecedented disasters. Avakian’s visionary understanding of the goal of communism shows how that is not only possible, but an urgent necessity, crying out for action right now.
With this understanding as the solid foundation of the news service, its pages will be open to others who, from different perspectives and approaches, bring to the light of day otherwise hidden stories of resistance and opposition to the prevailing order, shed light on the crimes of the system and how it works, reveal the complexity of the forces at work, and do all this in a way that compels others to turn to this site as a vibrant hub of critical analysis and debate. To truly become a weapon for revolution in growing parts of the world, articles need to be shared, correspondence is needed, key articles translated into different languages, and more. To further this, the news service will rupture from its weekly edition format that has been more oriented to the print media epoch, and instead focus on releasing articles on the Web hot on the heels of major events in the world. We need contributions from all those able to help so that the now far too narrow scope of our articles, limited by our current abilities, can begin to better match the needs of what must necessarily be a global revolutionary process.
Hard truths need to be stated clearly from the outset: the strength of the forces worldwide fighting for communist revolution pales in comparison to the immense challenges before us. But it is an even more important truth that never before in history has there existed a clearer and more scientific understanding of the source of oppression and what is needed to do away with it. On this foundation, A World To Win News Service can and must become a powerful tool serving all those who long for an end to oppression and exploitation, drawing forward and training thousands and influencing millions in many countries around the world, hastening the day when humanity can break free of the shackles that have enchained it for all too long.
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Exhibition review: REVOLUTION Russian Art 1917-1932
14 March 2017. A World to Win News Service. By Sam Albert.
How is it that a show of artworks from a century ago is not only so exciting and thought-provoking but so thoroughly fresh? Surely this is because of the exhibition’s subject, the art produced during an unprecedented explosion of creativity following the 1917 Russian revolution, as well as the fact that no recent show has so well reflected the breathtaking variety of styles, techniques, genres and media in the early Soviet visual arts.
Although the arts in Russia had rippled with the same effervescence stirring the rest of Europe in the decade before the revolution, this torrent of path-breaking, high-quality work cannot be separated from the overall revolutionary process and many artists’ fervent desire to contribute to that. Large numbers of them shared the spirit that marked those times, a spirit of dedication to radical change, self-sacrifice even during the most difficult days, the determination to serve the common good and the emancipation of humanity that gripped Soviet society.
This advanced art was all the more remarkable because Russia was an extremely backward country. Until 1861, within living memory, much of the country’s population had been serfs, peasants who were virtually the property of noble landlords. Still kept in brutally enforced ignorance and worn out by the age of 40, the peasants and workers just emerging from the villages were considered dangerous and sometimes subject to arrest simply for knowing how to read.
The revolution lifted the censorship and police supervision of Tsarist rule overnight. Immediately, the revolutionary government’s Ministry of Education and Enlightenment began supporting the arts, commissioning artworks, organizing exhibitions and subsidizing publications as a myriad of competing artistic schools and trends arose. It sent colourfully decorated trains loaded with artworks, films and projectors, photo and graphic arts exhibits, posters and other materials – and artists, educators and political activists – to the most remote and oppressed corners of the former Russian empire. With the support of the new revolutionary state, whose officials included artists themselves, artists gave free rein to their creativity as an essential part of the transformation that turned backward, ultra-reactionary Russia into the world’s most socially advanced country at that time.
All this was part of a massive effort to break down the abyss separating the relatively tiny educated classes and the vast majority of people, who had been cut off from scientific knowledge, culture, politics and the wide world of ideas in general, not only by repression but even more by their place in society as beasts of burden, and their restricted experiences, religious training and customs. As these masses at the base of society were allowed and encouraged to lift their eyes, artists were also encouraged, organized and financed to play a leading role in the extraordinary social ferment. For the first time in history, they were also free to take culture and their own work to the most downtrodden people, join with them, learn from them, and train them as appreciators and makers of art. With the revolution, the whole society escaped from its prison.
What makes the Royal Academy show so special is that it allows visitors to see and feel what this process of revolutionary transformation was like – what made the Soviet Union “the place to be”, looked to by vast millions of people all over the world, and also a place and time that many visitors, perhaps to their surprise, find themselves wishing they could experience today.
The Royal Academy is one of many museums around the world that have chosen to mark the hundredth anniversary of the Russian revolution, including the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). But unlike that and other shows, most of the 200 pieces in the Royal Academy exhibition were drawn from Russian museums and private collections, much of which has never before been seen abroad. In addition to all sorts of paintings, some classical oils on canvas and others on pieces of wood and almost anything else imaginable, it also features sculpture, architecture models and the particular media in which Soviet artists made world breakthroughs, such as photos and photo-montage (a kind of Photoshopping by hand), graphic arts (both high-concept art pieces and humble items like rationing coupons), the design of homes and industrially-made products, typography and film.
This work is generally well contextualized in its times, without making the show overly historical and textual rather than visual. We see and feel something of the enormous hardships that were, paradoxically, the setting for such sustained creativity. The reasons for these hardships, however, are not always sufficiently spelled out. A complex civil war, starting shortly after the October Revolution and lasting for five years, was fuelled by eight invading armies seeking to crush the revolution before it spread, killing and maiming many millions of people, mostly civilians. This destruction and a trade blockade caused an economic collapse that killed many more. The challenges faced by the young socialist state are brought to life by The Defence of Petrograd, by Alexander Deineka, a powerful figural work (stylized and not strictly realistic painting) giving a sense of ordinary men and women in arms defending their revolution, Kazimir Malevich’s even more stylized The Red Calvary, El Lissitzky’s famous geometric Beat the Whites [the counter-revolutionary armies] with the Red Wedge, and the equally abstract work by the pioneering multiple-media artist Alexander Rodchenko. Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin’s realistic Still Life with a Herring, a table neatly set with two small potatoes, a tiny wedge of bread and one thin, very dried fish, conveys a time when hunger was so severe that everything made of paper had to be protected from starving rats.
We also see celebrations of the spirit of the times, like the pure colour paintings of Vasily Kandinsky, one of the world’s first abstract painters, who became a Soviet political leader in the arts and a teacher, and the dream-like work of Marc Chagall, also a successful artist, who returned to Russia after the revolution to help lead cultural work and education. His Promenade, a luminous declaration of his love for his wife on the occasion of their marriage, conveys the intoxicating sense of freedom felt by Soviet Jews, liberated from the villages, small towns and professions where they had been confined, their previously repressed culture now receiving state support. Equally powerful are many of the pieces made during the industrialization of the country, beginning in 1928 with the first Five Year Plan. This was the first time in world history that, instead of being ruled by the needs of capitalists who squeezed the life out of their workers and society in a merciless competition for profit, a country’s economy moved forward in a planned way to meet the physical, cultural and other needs of the people.
This section of the exhibition brings out the degree to which the leap in the industrialization of Russia was achieved by men and women breaking their backs. But here, too, this generally excellent exhibition tends to look at that industrialization without seeing the context and content. The Russian revolution came out of a world war, by far the most massive slaughter in human history to that date, carried out by capitalist-imperialist powers in their rivalry to divide the world. Then the new socialist state faced the threat of another world war and an even more devastating invasion.
With Ekaterina Zernova’s graphically stunning Tomato Paste Factory, Deineka’s free spirit young women Textile Workers, and the many pieces honouring the shock brigades of workers who volunteered for the hardest jobs with little rest, you can get a sense of not only the economic transformation of a backward country that was important for the revolution to survive and succeed, but also, in some ways, the transformation of its people. Women and men were working not just to eat, but were beginning to consciously take responsibility for their own emancipation and that of the whole world’s oppressed and exploited. No generation before them was free to dream such dreams and fight for them. Less realistic paintings convey the same idea. Petrov-Vodkin’s Fantasy shows a barefoot peasant riding bareback on a bright red horse, galloping resolutely forward at breakneck speed and at the same time gazing backward, contemplating the village life and the world left behind.
Early Soviet art was very much connected with Western art in general, both influenced by it and strongly influencing it for many decades to come. The Soviet avant-garde art movements were part of the overall rupture with past culture sought by many Western intellectuals – an attempted radical rejection of previous art and literature in the years before World War 1 and especially in its wake. Soviet breakthroughs in new media and art forms gave further impetus to this development everywhere. But content matters – innovation for what goals? For instance, compare the American film pioneer D. W. Griffith, on the one hand, and the Soviet film-makers Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov on the other. In both cases, they made history-making technically innovative films with political and social agendas, and in both cases received state support (Griffith’s Birth of a Nation was the first movie to be shown at the US White House). But Griffith celebrated and served the stinking persistence of the old world, specifically the rising Ku Klux Klan and its goal of keeping Black people in conditions not so different than Russian serfs, while the Soviet filmmakers wanted to revolutionize the film medium to help overturn the old order and bring about a world freed of exploitation and oppression.
Or, take the role and portrayal of women. Here there is a stark contrast between Soviet artists and their Western avant-garde contemporaries. For one thing, many women artists are represented in this show, at a time when very few women were able to become professional artists in the capitalist countries. Even those few were more known, at least in their own times, as “the mistress of so and so” than for their work. Unlike in the USSR, Western women were denied the right to divorce, abortion, the vote, political life, an independent social life, careers in most professions and even their own chequebooks until decades later. In late 19th- and most 20th-century European art, the artists most radical in their formal and stylistic experimentation still did not break with the age-old patriarchal outlook in the content of their work. Their paintings and photos consider women’s bodies as objects of men’s desire, erotic commodities, not the bodies of actual people. Even when these artists sympathized with revolution, they did not generally link their art to a project to develop a liberating revolutionary culture as part of revolutionizing human relations and people’s thinking.
The work on view in the exhibition does not adequately reflect the way that the Russian revolution consciously grappled with the question of overcoming patriarchy, even if the communist movement did not yet fully grasp the potential of the struggle for women’s liberation in propelling total social change. But these Soviet paintings of women workers, peasants, agitators and athletes are a breath of fresh air. Alexander Samokhvalov’s Sportswoman with a shot-put, a strong, independent, vibrant individual, represented an important step forward out of the pre-revolutionary era where sports were restricted to the upper classes and women athletes were inconceivable.
The Royal Academy show cannot, of course, escape the anti-communism so pervasive today, although its mainly objective presentation of Soviet art has earned it the wrath of some reviewers. The wall texts and especially the visitor’s guide contain some unmerited, knee-jerk swipes at Soviet society and art that stand out all the more because the show itself provides so much visual evidence to the contrary. After proclaiming, “A revolution that changed everything. A time when the possibilities seemed endless and art thrived across every medium,” the show’s Website headline warns, “But that optimism was not to last.”
The show concludes that the lights went out on the Soviet visual arts scene in 1932, when the Communist Party adopted the line that the style of art it called Socialist Realism should prevail in the visual arts. While this cut-off date seems arbitrarily early and too absolute, the lights did definitely dim during that decade. We are led to believe that this was just a caprice by a too powerful leader, Stalin. The unspoken but unmistakable implication is that darkness is the ineluctable result of any revolutionary change in state power, and especially socialism. Although an art exhibition may not be suited to thoroughly explore the issues involved, which have to be examined in their own right and in depth, still, because of the prejudices and misknowledge visitors inevitably bring with them, this is very misleading. The effect is to throw cold water on many visitors’ excitement about this art and the experience it represented.
The show itself demonstrates that socialism and artistic ferment and greatness are not incompatible. In fact, the establishment of the revolutionary socialist state was the precondition for the art it celebrates. It’s not logically consistent to blame the socialist state’s policies for the negative turn in the arts starting in the mid-1930s without giving it credit for the blossoming of Soviet arts before then. In particular, it’s not true, as a catalogue text explicitly argues, that art flourished in the Soviet Union in the early years because the revolution was so much under attack that its communist leadership was too busy to interfere in the arts. This view is undercut by evidence in the show itself. The new revolutionary state devoted enormous importance and resources to the arts as part of emancipating a population in sore need of it, even when resources were most scarce. And not just Soviet art – the Museum of Modern Western Art in Moscow that opened in 1923 was the world’s first museum of twentieth century art, long before the “advanced” capitalist countries.
Yet there’s more to it than that. Without socialism and moving toward the abolition of classes, it’s impossible for human beings to fully flourish, either individually or collectively. At the same time, this cannot happen without broad social discussions, debate, dissent, etc., which presupposes individual rights and freedom of expression, including artistic freedom.
In developing what has been called the “new communism” today, Bob Avakian has deeply studied and analysed the socialist experience in the USSR and Mao’s China. He concludes that the kind of diversity, ferment and debate that makes this show so dazzling, as well as dissent and more general contention about outlook and values, are indispensable for the process through which people change themselves and the world. Without that approach to politics, culture, the sciences and other areas of human knowledge and thinking, it’s not possible to fully investigate and increasingly understand reality, and change it, including transforming people’s thinking. All art, no matter what style or genre, from the most realistic to the most purely abstract, is a way of engaging with reality.
During the early Soviet years there was confusion about “proletarian art”. Lenin, who died in 1924, opposed the idea that one or another particular form or style of art could be inherently revolutionary. He argued against the contention that there could be an entirely new culture particular to the workers, just as he argued against the view that there is no knowable reality independent of how it’s looked at. Many people – including not just political leaders but both the Suprematists and Constructivists, the main radical trends among the artists themselves – wrongly argued that art should serve purely political and utilitarian purposes. Identifying “proletarian” art as art mainly about workers and peasants, these positions wrongly pushed for a totally instrumentalised art, and at the same time tended to limit the goal of proletarian revolution.
That goal is not to narrowly serve “the workers” or “the workers and peasants” but to abolish all classes, the exploitative economic relations that characterize classes, the oppressive social relations prevailing on that basis, and the backward and oppressive ideas that arise from and help perpetuate societies based on exploitation and oppression. That means communism, the emancipation of all humanity. The common, stubborn claim that certain forms of art were inherently revolutionary, and the confusion about the need for real revolutionary change in the content of both art and overall social relations and not just changes in their forms, was a problem also shared by avant-garde artistic movements in the capitalist countries.
This was not well enough understood by the communist movement under Stalin’s leadership. This show misses an obvious point, that its cut-off period marked the coming to power of the Nazis, whose programme called for invading the USSR and grabbing its resources in a bid for dominance among the imperialist powers, and the dashing of Soviet hopes that a revolution in Germany would come to their aid. This was a situation that had to be faced. Stalin led in defending the revolution, as he was to continue to do until his death in 1953. But there were important problems in general, and not just the arts, in the way the communists led by Stalin understood these challenges and consequently the way he dealt with them.
In an interview about this question, Avakian said, “The more that Stalin felt that they had to go through a breakneck pace to industrialize and arm themselves in a heavy way to be able to deal with this military threat, the more there wasn’t any air to breathe or room allowed for experimentation, for criticism, for dissent, for people trying to strike out in different directions and see how that could all be part of the process, and for the masses to get involved in struggling out what really is the way forward out of all this. And not just THE WAY (with a capital T, capital W), as if there’s only one way, but many different pathways which all ultimately have to be directed toward, or have to find their way toward and be led toward the goal you have, but [people] may find a lot of different pathways there. I don’t think that you can advance through those processes that I’m talking about by one straight, narrow highway. I think that was an understanding that Stalin didn’t have or increasingly lost sight of.”
The draft proposal for a Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, written by Avakian, is a proposed concrete blueprint for a new kind of state and a society where today’s people would want to live. Especially relevant to this review is the section on “solid core with lots of elasticity” on page 5, and the specific policies about the arts laid out on pp. 40-43.
Even the most rabid anti-communists would find it difficult to plausibly argue that the capitalism prevailing in Russia for many decades now has solved the problems the country’s peoples set out to solve a century ago, for themselves and humanity. The contrast between the great advances toward the liberation of humanity represented by socialism, so powerfully visible in this fascinating, rich and lively art, and the world we live in today, seems to be what most impresses visitors about this show. In conversations as they left, many revealed a head full of questions about art, society and the experience and possibility of revolution in today’s cynical, fearful and dark times.
Many can’t help thinking about “the right to the future”, as it has been called by artists today who refuse to accept the oppression and destruction of people and the Earth, and dare to consider the possibility of what Soviet artists called “a new planet”. These artists – and many, many others – are rebelling against today’s dominant culture and working to produce something very different. One reason for this show’s impact is that the role played by art and artists in the world’s first successful socialist revolution seems very relevant today. And Avakian’s re-envisioning of socialism and communism provides unprecedented scope for understanding and acting upon the importance of freeing the realms of arts and culture and the reciprocal relationship between that and liberating humanity.
(Also see “You Don’t Know What You Think You ‘Know’ About… The Communist Revolution and the Real Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future” Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/323/you-dont-know-what-you-think-you-know-en.html)
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India: Outrageous life sentence against revolutionary GN Saibaba
14 March 2017. A World to Win News Service. The dedicated revolutionary activist and Delhi University academic G. N. Saibaba and five others charged with “criminal conspiracy and waging war against the nation” have been sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in the Indian state of Maharashtra. In his 7 March statement, the judge even went so far as to state, “though he [Saibaba] is physically handicapped, he is mentally fit” and that “imprisonment for life is not a sufficient punishment to the accused”.
Saibaba was the joint secretary of the Revolutionary Democratic Front and convener of the Forum against the War on the People, which resolutely opposed the Indian government’s counterinsurgency campaign called Operation Greenhunt that is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Adivasi (tribal people). He also organized fact-finding missions to look into state violence in rural areas.
No stranger to the dungeons of India, this is the third time Saibaba has been jailed for his courageous exposure of Indian state violence against the country’s poor and for his alleged links with the Communist Party of India (Maoist). During past imprisonment, he was refused any assistance needed due to his being paralyzed from the waist down, and denied required medications. Fourteen months of that time was spent in isolation, with all this contributing to his serious physical deterioration.
Many rights organizations and intellectuals waged major protests against his incarceration, considering it an attempt to intimidate free speech and free association. Among them was well-known writer Arundhati Roy, who pointed out that with “evidence” of the kind the state presented against Saibaba, the Indian government could arrest anyone they want and hold them indefinitely – which has happened to many activists who have been charged not for their actions but their alleged associations. Roy herself was then charged with contempt of court for a lacerating exposure of the court’s hypocritical rulings.
As the evidence against Saibaba was meagre indeed, the Indian Supreme Court released him in 2015 and again in 2016 on medical grounds, claiming the lower court had been unfairly harassing him. He had been repeatedly interrogated and his home ransacked on several occasions, and he was fired from his university position. However, the Indian government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems hell-bent on silencing him and putting others like him on notice that this could happen to them as well.
Saibaba’s lawyer and wife are calling on people to oppose this outrageous sentence and fight for his release and are appealing the verdict to the next highest court.
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The world’s peoples need to rise against the global threat of a fascist America
14 March 2017. A World to Win News Service. In the wake of the installation of Donald Trump as president of the United States and the furious massive protests against this in the US and around the world, A World To Win News Service urges its readers to follow the websites of Revolution newspaper www.revcom.us and of www.RefuseFascism.org as closely as possible. Under the battle cry, “In the Name of Humanity, We Refuse to Accept a Fascist America!”, these sites have emphasised:
“With the dizzying and aggressive pace of the Trump regime’s lies, threats, and vicious assaults on whole groupings of people here and around the world – and on the planet itself, these two points are essential to understand:
“One, that this regime is indeed fascist and as such poses a mortal threat and must be defeated. And two, that there are people – millions and tens of millions – who can potentially be mobilized to fight against it and who must be led to step outside the confines of politics-as-usual (including protest-as-usual) to actually OUST this horrendous monstrosity.”
The Trump regime is xenophobic, misogynist, racist, cruel, but it is much more than all that – it is fascist. As revcom.us explains:
“Fascism is the exercise of blatant dictatorship by the bourgeois (capitalist-imperialist) class, ruling through reliance on open terror and violence, trampling on what are supposed to be civil and legal rights, wielding the power of the state, and mobilizing organized groups of fanatical thugs, to commit atrocities against masses of people, particularly groups of people identified as ‘enemies’, ‘undesirables’, or ‘dangers to society’.”
The Trump regime is a product of the system of capitalist-imperialism, and it is ramping up the everyday horrors characteristic of that system to whole new levels: against immigrants, Muslims, women, Black people, Mexicans, homosexuals and other minority groupings. It is hammering into place openly white supremacist rule, rapidly shoving aside the previously prevailing liberal democratic norms. It is stepping up US intervention in the Middle East and other parts of the world, threatening new wars on top of the ones continuing from Obama and Bush, and openly brandishing the use of nuclear weapons; it is clamping down brutally on critical thinking and attacking the concept of truth itself. And the US ruling class is – some grudgingly and some enthusiastically – either going along with all this or at most offering petty amendments.
The situation is extremely serious for the planet and its people, and what is happening and what to do about it have become questions millions of people are grappling with in every part of the world. As Carl Dix, Sunsara Taylor, and Andy Zee, the three people who initiated refusefascism.org, wrote in a 25 January open letter about the situation in the U.S.:
“Every day they carry through some new outrage, be it in the realm of reactionary and repressive executive orders or appointments or proposed legislation, in threats of war or the re-legalization of torture, or in the almost equally dangerous assertion of their ‘alternative facts’ (that is, their lies) as the truth. They surely have more, and worse, yet to come….
“Precisely because this regime is fascist and a qualitative change from the ‘normal workings’ of this system, and because millions of people – correctly – view this regime as utterly illegitimate, the possibility of crisis erupting at any time is great.
“There could be some new outrage – an attack from the Trump-Pence fascists on some section of the people which calls forth resistance and pushes people into the streets in a mushrooming sort of dynamic. There could be a conflict within the ruling class brought on by some move of Trump deemed by others at the top to be too risky, posing too much of a threat to the functioning of the established order and to what they see as their imperialist interests. We should all keep this in mind and remain tense and attuned to seize on even the hints of such possibilities.”
To take just one example of what even a seemingly small initiative can accomplish in this taut situation, a march of several thousand in Manchester, one of many throughout the UK on 30 January, including 20,000 people outside Prime Minister Theresa May’s Downing Street office to protest her government’s complicity with Donald Trump, was initiated 48 hours beforehand by a lone young man who said he was inspired by this tweet originating from the US:
“Remember sitting in history, thinking, ‘If I was alive then… ?’ You’re alive now. Whatever you’re doing is what you would have done.”
This reference to the Nazi era – and the lack of sufficient resistance to stop it – has resonated deeply and broadly around the world, with the installation or rise of similar fascist movements in more and more places. We must not underestimate the powerful resonances of protests in different parts of the world against the rise of this fascist regime in the most powerful and most dangerous imperialist power in history.
People across Europe and everywhere should go to revcom.us and refusefascism.org to closely follow developments and build the most powerful protests possible in their own countries right now and report on these to refusefascism.org, revcom.us or email@example.com.
To understand the roots and dynamics of this, get into these two pieces by Bob Avakian:
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France: Putting the interests of humanity first
14 March 2017. A World to Win News Service. Cedric Herrou, a 37-year-old olive farmer, took on a mission. Driving his van through back roads and villages and along railway tracks in France’s Roya valley adjoining Italy, he has picked up refugees, often youth and children, who have walked across the border. He is the most prominent among people in and around the city of Nice, some individuals acting on spontaneous moral impulse and others members of loosely organized networks, sometimes acting clandestinely and others in the media spotlight, who have been defying laws prohibiting assistance to people the government deems “illegal”.
For this Herrou has been arrested three times so far. On 10 February, after demonstrators in support of him and other “solidarity criminals” in Nice, Paris and elsewhere, Herrou was sentenced to pay a 3,000 euro fine, suspended unless – or until – he is arrested again. While the court turned down the prosecution’s bid to send Herrou to prison this time, it ruled that helping people in immediate danger, which is a legal obligation under French law, is illegal when it comes to some people. On several occasions, armed police have seized immigrant children he has taken in and dumped them on the Italian border. This is a case of illegal child neglect, Herrou argues, but the courts have punished him, not the police and the authorities behind them.
No one, not even the most cold-hearted officials, can deny that the mostly African refugees trapped at the French-Italian border, huddled on the rocks between the highway and the ocean or crammed into camps under police supervision, need help desperately.
They are among the lucky ones who survived the crossing of the Mediterranean, where thousands have drowned. If they were saved from a capsized boat, they more likely owe that to NGOs and civilian vessels and not the European governments who have officially abandoned their search and rescue operations. If they made it to the Italian island of Lampadusa, they may have been brought ashore by fishermen and volunteers. Their determination carried them as they made their way from Eritrea, Sudan, the Gambia and Nigeria and up the Italian peninsula, but many would not have survived without the help of other human beings, each other, first of all, and other strangers.
At a previous trial, Herrou told a rally of hundreds of supporters, “If we have to break the law to help people, let’s do it. Our role is to help people overcome danger, and the danger is this border.” (5 January 2017, Guardian)
Previous attempts to set an example had not ended well for the authorities. In late 2015, a woman was hit with a huge fine for transporting people without papers. When she had heard on her car radio that police were blocking Africans from the main Nice train station, she rushed there, invited people to get in her car and drove them to a less-guarded stop. Contributions poured in overnight to pay her fine.
Nor are such people isolated. In a poll held by the local daily, Nice Matin, readers chose Herrou as the French Riviera’s “person of the year”. This is a remarkable counter-current to the prevailing political climate. Nice was one of the first cities to ban Muslim religious garb on its beaches in the wake of a horrendous Islamist terrorist attack last year. The region has long been a stronghold of the right and far right, in a country where the right and “left” parties that have alternately governed are largely competing with the outright fascists in promoting nationalism and anti-immigrant venom. In a response published in that newspaper, the top local official angrily denounced Herrou for “endangering our country”, “insulting police” and “aiding possible terrorists”.
For or against refugees and immigrants? This is becoming one of the most important issues of our time. When some people see a refugee family struggling along the road, in danger of being hit by a car or dying more slowly, they stop and take them further from the border, or home for the night. Others call the police. This is not just an issue along the borders. In Paris, governed by the Socialist party, the authorities have ordered volunteers to stop distributing food to refugees gathering on the streets. They put up barricades so that the tents and sleeping bags donated by NGOs cannot be used to sleep under bridges. A century and a quarter ago the writer Anatole France sarcastically pointed out, “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges [and] beg in the streets.” That is literally true of capitalist democracy in France today, where the state, whose purpose is to enforce an intolerable status quo, forbids and punishes a morality based on something other than living one’s life in the service of narrow, self and national interests.
Further, the current outrage and many protests against the police beating and rape of Theo, a young black man in a working class suburb of Paris, are not isolated from the state’s campaign to wall off immigrants from countries crushed by today’s world order. They are examples of “French People First”, an ideology and policy that consider certain national origins a problem or even a crime, and seek to redefine and further organize society along ethnic and religious lines. This slogan is openly put forward by the Trump-loving, fascist National Front, but this outlook has been legitimized by all the major parties. Millions of people, no matter where they were born, are deemed a threat to societies that have fattened off a worldwide system of exploitation and oppression.
Now, in the time of Trump, governments and political movements are dropping the thin veneer of the values and morals that they have claimed to stand for and that have generally lulled people whose lives are somewhat comfortable in the countries where the wealth produced by the planet’s people is concentrated. At some point French society could split: for or against the foreigners perceived to be massed at the borders and people in its midst considered less than really “French”.
When people put their personal interests at risk for what they see are the broader interests of justice and humanity, whatever their ideas about the nature of the system they face and the causes and solutions, their refusal to accept one of the greatest injustices of our time is a huge contribution, and not only to those they help. It brings them into conflict with criminal governments that are responsible for this situation and whose solution is to criminalize the victims. It could help build a challenge to the legitimacy of the political and economic order whose interests are in opposition to the interests of humanity.
It is extremely important for more people to be outraged and determined to act right now, and for them to be willing to follow that outrage to its logical conclusion, in their thinking and understanding, so that their actions can become even more sustained and determined as they understand the breadth and depth of the problem and the solution.
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