The Indonesian bloodbath, Part 2

What it has meant for the world

In Part 1 of this article, we wrote about the U.S. role behind the scenes in bringing about the horrendous massacre of up to a million people in Indonesia in 1965-66.

It is now 50 years since the military coup and slaughter began that drowned in blood the Indonesian Communist Party and also decimated the mass organizations of workers, peasants, women and youth that the party had built up over decades of struggle. Together, at least 15 million activists had participated in this broad progressive movement, which was then crushed by the reactionary, pro-imperialist forces in the military, backed by U.S. imperialism and much of Indonesia’s capitalist and landlord ruling classes.

We look now at what effect this monstrous setback had on the world struggle against imperialism, which had been gaining momentum as more countries won their liberation from the colonial powers.

After World War II, Washington tried to turn back the revolutionary tide that was sweeping Asia. A key part of this effort had been the U.S. imperialists’ massive invasion and war in Korea, which lasted three years. But even though the U.S. Air Force dropped more bombs on People’s Korea in the north than it had on Europe in all of World War II, the conflict ended in 1953 with a stalemate at the 38th parallel, where it had begun. In reality, this was a hard-won victory for the Korean people’s struggle for sovereignty. It was the first time that U.S. imperialists had been fought to a draw.

By the 1960s, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was strongly moving ahead with reconstruction on a socialist basis after the ravages of the war.

The People’s Republic of China, which had assisted the Korean struggle in the 1950s by sending more than a million volunteer soldiers and workers to the front, had hundreds of millions of mouths to feed. It was now focused on modernizing agriculture through the revolutionary development of communes.

Socialist North Vietnam was building up industry and agriculture while at the same time supporting the struggle in the south for liberation and national reunification.

Communist-led guerrilla movements were fighting for national liberation in the Philippines, Malaya and Laos.

How did the massacres in Indonesia affect the liberation struggles going on in Vietnam, Laos and later Cambodia? Certainly, the success of Washington’s maneuvering with the Indonesian generals emboldened the U.S. ruling class in their anti-communist crusade in Asia. They continued their terrible wars in Southeast Asia for another 10 years, until the U.S. itself was engulfed by anti-war and anti-racist struggles.

‘Jakarta is coming’

The bloody massacres in Indonesia were hailed by hardliners in the imperialist countries and by the regimes they had cultivated and brought to power in areas formerly “owned” outright by the colonial powers. These reactionaries hoped that the ferocious elimination of those fighting for the rights of the masses in that large and strategic country would undercut similar movements elsewhere.

Indeed, what the forces of imperialism and reaction had achieved in Indonesia was soon used to intimidate progressive movements as far away as South America. One can see the hand of the CIA in graffiti that appeared on the walls in Santiago, Chile: “Jakarta is coming.” Similar threats were directly conveyed to members of the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende before the fascist coup there. (Andre Vltchek in Counterpunch, Nov. 22, 2013)

Most leaders of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) had refused to back down or grovel before the fascist generals, speaking out forcefully at the phony “trials” that preceded their deaths. But the international left movement was painfully lacking in their support. Much of this was due to the internal crisis that had occurred in the Communist movement with the Sino-Soviet split.

Sino-Soviet split

The Chinese leaders had rightfully opened up criticism of the policies advocated by the Communist Party of the USSR, beginning several years after Nikita Khrushchev became its general secretary in 1953. They accused it of accommodating to the pressures of U.S. imperialism and the Cold War by openly revising principles that had been basic to communism, at least on paper, since the time of Lenin.

However, this split between the two socialist giants degenerated from a political struggle to a state-to-state one, leading many imperialist analysts to gleefully predict war between the two. That did not happen — beyond a very brief ­border clash in 1969 — but the effects on the international movement were severe. In almost every country, the parties divided into pro-Moscow and pro-Beijing wings. The PKI was not immune to this.

Nor were the parties in most of the imperialist countries themselves. Instead of mobilizing in defense of the PKI and the left in Indonesia, the opposing factions blamed each other for the defeat.

This needs to be brought up because the need for a united front against capitalist reaction must be understood in the movement. Political differences should not be papered over; they are real and need to be debated to achieve clarity. But in the struggle with the capitalist enemy, the working-class movement must seek to present a united front.

Environmental destruction

There is another area of great concern to today’s progressive movements that is directly connected to the bloodbath in Indonesia: the destruction of the environment.

The victory that imperialism achieved through the bloody elimination of Indonesia’s progressive forces opened up the country for massive exploitation by transnational corporations, especially those that had greedily eyed Indonesia’s abundant natural resources.

Corporations like Mobil Oil, Freeport Sulphur, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Uniroyal, Union Carbide and Unilever rushed in, sometimes availing themselves of virtually free labor from the hundreds of thousands of political prisoners. Of course, the military overlords got their cut.

Once the imperialists were in control of Indonesia’s underground resources and its precious trees, some of which had been growing for centuries in rainforests teeming with life, the result was an ecological disaster.

In the words of “Indonesia is a treasure chest of biodiversity; it is home to between 10 and 15 percent of all known species of plants, mammals and birds. Orangutans, elephants, tigers, rhinoceroses, more than 1,500 species of birds and thousands of plant species are all a part of the country’s natural legacy. The mass destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests and carbon-rich peatlands for palm oil and paper threatens this and is the main reason why Indonesia is one of the world’s largest emitters of climate-changing greenhouse gases.”

Solidarity with the young workers’ movement now struggling to breathe in Indonesia is one of the important ways to fight for a better future — for them, for us and for the planet.



‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts

by Mark Hand | originally posted on Counter Punch

Long-time residents of West Virginia’s coal fields can recite stories, passed down from generation to generation, of appalling working conditions, chronic hunger and violent mine guards. It was only in recent decades that these residents found the courage to tell their stories to historians and writers. Scores of articles and books have now been published on the history of West Virginia’s coal industry from the perspective of these coal mining families.

Missing from most of these published works, though, is a critical look at the coal camp experiences of women. Labor historian Wess Harris targets this lost history in a brand new book that provides jaw-dropping accounts of how women were treated by an industry already widely known for its ruthlessness and callousness.

The groundbreaking book, Truth Be Told: Perspectives on the Great West Virginia Mine War, 1890 to Present, spends a few chapters examining what is known as the “Esau” system.

When husbands or sons were injured in the mines and there were no other men available to work, women could receive Esau scrip, which in turn could be used to buy food or other necessities. Coal companies typically issued wages in a special form of money called scrip, redeemable only at coal company-owned stores and other company-owned places of business.

Esau was issued only to women, and it was a form of scrip that would enable a woman to purchase food for her children during the time that her husband could not work. The Esau was only good for 30 days, and if her husband went back to work within those 30 days, then the company would forgive the debt. And if he did not go back to work at the end of 30 days, then the scrip became a loan that was due and payable in full on day 30.

At the time, most coal miner’s wives did not hold jobs. But they still had to pay back the loan, which was a collateralized loan, and the women themselves were the collateral. Their physical selves would be used to pay the debt.

Harris believes the formal system probably ended sometime between 1932 and 1934, a period when the United Mine Workers of America succeeded in heavily organizing West Virginia. “Once that was in place, the company wasn’t going to try to get away with it if you had a union contract,” Harris said in an interview.

Truth Be Told book coverThe work of West Virginia author Michael Kline, one of the first to write extensively about the Esau system, is featured prominently in Truth Be Told. In a 2011 article published in the Appalachian Heritage journal and reprinted in Harris’s book, Kline explained that until quite recently, “the use of female flesh to extend credit to feed the family was never mentioned by our own regional historians.” West Virginians have accepted that early coal operators “were a mean, iron-willed breed bent on ruthless control and rising profits — but surely not that mean,” he wrote.

Many of these incidents allegedly occurred at the Whipple Colliery Company Store, located near Oak Hill, W.Va., where women would walk up to a room on the third floor to try on shoes and, in the process, would be raped by coal company guards. The Whipple Company Store was one of three company stores built by coal baron Justus Collins in Fayette County, W.Va.

Joy Lynn, who now co-owns the Whipple Company Store and has turned it into a museum, told Kline she has had as many 10 women visit the museum who referred to the third-floor space as “the rape room” because that is how the mine guards forced the women to pay for their shoes. “They would have to keep their mouths shut tight about what had happened to them upstairs,” Lynn said, because the mining companies would threaten to kick them out of their company-owned houses.

The name of Esau comes from a story in the Book of Genesis from the Old Testament in which Esau, a starving hunter staggers into his younger brother Jacob’s tent, begging for food. Jacob feeds his older brother but only after forcing Esau to sign away his birthright.

“For the miner’s wife, forfeiting on the Esau agreement meant submitting to the sexual depredations of the company men, compromising her own integrity and birthright, all for a poke of beans to feed her children, or a week’s rent to keep a roof over their heads,” Kline wrote.

Kline said learning about the “bureaucratized rape” in the coal fields of West Virginia was a shocking revelation to him.

His article on Esau won a Denny C. Plattner Award, but it also earned Kline the wrath of academia. Harris writes in Truth Be Told that professors demanded more sources and more concrete proof, but they did not step up to assist in the research. The work of further documenting the existence of Esau scrip fell to a limited number of “unfunded independent scholars” like Harris.

In Truth Be Told, Harris provides additional documentation based on hundreds of in-person interviews. Many of these people recall their grandmothers or other family members telling stories about these acts, including “having sex with the mine boss or bosses to get her husband’s job back.”

Since the publication of his article on Esau in Appalachian Heritage, Kline writes that “numerous accounts of institutionalized forced sexual servitude in the coal fields have surfaced.”

A woman from West Virginia told Harris and Kline a story about her great-grandmother who was “rented” to coal company agents at the age of 12. She would spend four to six months at a time in sexual servitude in coal camps. “And if the girls had babies, the babies would be taken and sold,” the woman said.

The girls and young women who were taken from their homes in West Virginia were called “comfort girls” or “comfort wives” during their time in servitude. The Japanese government followed the same model, forcing Korean and Chinese woman to work as “comfort women” during World War II. Japan has refused to apologize for forcing the women into sexual servitude, claiming the women were voluntary prostitutes. In West Virginia, state officials have never acknowledged the existence of this formal system of sexual servitude.

The West Virginia woman interviewed by Harris and Kline said her great-grandmother felt so desperate at the time that she did not have any qualms about selling her own babies. “I mean, if you’re a woman and the only thing you have to make money with is your body, and you end up pregnant, you can’t afford to feed that baby. So what are you going to do?” she said.

A woman who needed another week’s worth of groceries or needed new shoes would pay with their own bodies, the woman said.

“My sense is they weren’t ashamed,” Harris said about the exploited women. “It wasn’t something they were embarrassed about. It was very much in the same vein as the men going into the coal mine and taking risks they had no business taking. It’s like you do what you have to do to feed your family. They didn’t talk about it, but they certainly weren’t ashamed of it. Why would you be ashamed of feeding your kids?”

Some academics remain unconvinced such a heinous system existed in West Virginia’s southern coal fields. Paul Rakes, a professor of history at West Virginia University, believes the stories are not credible. Coal miners would not have tolerated such treatment of women, he said in a 20-minute documentary produced by Catherine Moore. “Those men I know from years of research would have done one of two things: 1) they would have either left that camp as soon as they knew this kind of behavior was required or a potential danger; or 2) they would have reacted to it violently,” he said.

Rakes told Moore that he has researched criminal court proceedings in Fayette County and has never come across anything like the Esau story. “If this kind of behavior was common, was an actual institutionalized part of the operating procedure, you could not keep all these things quiet. It would have ended up in Fayette County Court,” he said.

But Harris disagrees with Rakes’ conclusion and insists there are many topics that people in the coal fields feared to discuss. “The culture was: you do not talk,” he said.

“My best guess is they didn’t talk about it because if they had talked about it, they would have risked their husbands getting really irritated and going out and trying to get revenge. Your husband gets killed, you’re a widow, you’re on the street, you get kicked out of the company house,” he said.

The same secrecy surrounded the use of child labor well into the 20th century when boys as young as 10-years-old were still going into the mines in West Virginia. “They were admonished in a very firm fashion not to talk about the fact that they worked in the coal mines,” Harris said. If the children did tell a social worker, then the child could lose his job in the mine and his mother would be removed from her company-owned house.

In his research, Harris said the Esau system existed primarily in Fayette and Raleigh counties, W.Va. “We did not find Esau in Logan, Mingo and McDowell counties, historically the ‘rougher counties,’ but we did find similar behaviors in those counties — basically inappropriate sexual exploitation,” he said. The behavior in those three counties was not as formalized as it was in the region around the city of Beckley, W.Va.

“I wasn’t looking for Esau; it found me,” Harris said. “It was a secret system. Many, many people haven’t known about it. Unfortunately, we’ve found a lot of people who did know about it.”

Mark Hand has reported on the energy industry for more than 25 years. He can be found on Twitter @MarkFHand.

INDONESIA 1965: Lessons of a catastrophic defeat (part 1)

by Deirdre Griswold


Who wants to study defeats? It is much more satisfactory to study victories. To read about conquering heroes instead of fallen ones.

Yet any soldier can tell you that warriors shun the study of defeats at their own peril. The lessons to be learned from past setbacks are essential to future successes.

If for no other reason, the progressive social movements now rising in this period of deepening capitalist decay need to learn about the cataclysmic defeat that occurred in Indonesia starting on Oct. 1, 1965 — half a century ago.

Within a few short months, rivers throughout that populous Southeast Asian nation were clogged with bodies. The army had gone from island to island and from village to village asking local henchmen to round up those who had any association with the Indonesian Communist Party — the PKI — or its mass affiliates: associations of workers, peasants, women and youth who had been demanding justice and greater equality.

Once identified, they were either murdered on the spot or sent to concentration camps. Estimates in the Western press of the number who died in this months’-long bloodbath, reported without emotion, ranged from 300,000 to a million.

You won’t hear about any of this in the self-serving histories that present the U.S. government and military as defenders of world freedom and democracy. But the U.S. was deeply involved, even as it was expanding its neocolonial war in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos at the same time.

In recent years, courageous Indonesians and some Western researchers have dredged up bits of this horrendous history. Two documentaries by the filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer — “The Act of Killing” in 2012 and this year’s “The Look of Silence” — are based on interviews with Indonesians who carried out some of the killings and still brag about it, as well as family members of their victims.

Oppenheimer says that working on the films was like going to Nazi Germany 40 years after the Holocaust — and finding the same people still in power.

Journalist Kathy Kadane in 1990 interviewed former State Department and CIA officials who not only admitted that the U.S. had given lists with the names of thousands of PKI members to the Indonesian military at the time of the killings, but tried to justify it. (Chicago Tribune, May 23, 1990)

Opposition to massacres in U.S.

What has not been mentioned, however, is that an active opposition existed in the United States at the time of the killings. Youth Against War & Fascism, the youth arm of Workers World Party, held demonstrations against the U.S. role in these massacres and exposed what was happening in Indonesia through articles in this newspaper.

YAWF also organized a Public Inquest at Columbia University on June 2, 1966, attended by 1,000 people. The group placed an ad about the inquest in an international edition of the New York Times so that the world could see there was opposition in the United States to the terrible crimes being perpetrated by Washington, in collusion with a cabal of right-wing Indonesian generals.

The famous mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell sent a message to the inquest on behalf of his Peace Foundation. Two of his representatives had been attending a conference in Jakarta at the time of the coup.

Russell wrote that “few had any doubt about what was taking place around them. The United States Seventh Fleet was in Javanese waters. The largest base in the area, feverishly constructed by the United States but a few months earlier on the southernmost point of the southernmost island of the Philippines, was ordered ‘on alert.’ General Nasution had a mission in Washington. The United States was directly involved in the day to day events.”

Speakers at the Inquest included William Worthy, a correspondent for the Baltimore Afro-American who had visited Indonesia three times; Professor Andrew March, of Columbia’s East Asian Institute; journalist Eric Norden; and Mark Lane, a former New York State Assembly member who later conducted an independent inquiry into the John F. Kennedy assassination. The Inquest was chaired by this writer.

The corporate media boycotted the event, but a transcript of the entire meeting was published by YAWF that year in book form under the title “The Silent Slaughter: The Role of the United States in the Indonesian Massacre.” Copies are still listed by online booksellers.

YAWF continued to expose and protest the horrific physical extermination of the left in Indonesia, which before the coup had numbered at least 20 million people — 3 million members of the PKI and 15 million to 20 million activists in various allied groups.

In February 1970 YAWF published “Indonesia: The Second Greatest Crime of the Century,” which went into the country’s struggle to overcome its legacy of extreme poverty after defeating Dutch colonial rule. Under Sukarno, its first president, Indonesia had become a magnet for newly independent countries trying to survive in a world dominated by imperialism.

The book also showed that U.S. politicians were well aware of the monumental crimes carried out by their allies in Indonesia, beginning in 1965, and regarded the tens of millions spent in military aid to the generals as having “paid dividends.” (Testimony of Alabama Sen. John Sparkman at hearings on the Foreign Assistance Program, 1967)

An important player in the Lyndon Johnson administration’s dealings with the Indonesian generals was Vice President Hubert Humphrey, whose “liberal” reputation provided a good cover for his secret contacts with Indonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik. Malik told journalist Marianne Means, of the World Journal Tribune, that Humphrey had played a secret, but important, role in encouraging the “democratic forces” in Indonesia, meaning the murderous generals. (WJT, Sept. 28, 1966)

Next: Political, social and environmental impact of Indonesia’s wrenching transition into the New World Order.

Griswold authored the book “Indonesia: Second Greatest Crime of the Century.” It is freely available online at

“The Second Greatest Crime” was reprinted in October 1975. A third edition was published four years later.

Habitual hospital bombers

Doctors Without Borders staff members at the hospital in Kunduz destroyed by a U.S. military bombardment.Photo: Doctors Without Borders

Doctors Without Borders staff members at the hospital in Kunduz destroyed by a U.S. military bombardment. Photo: Doctors Without Borders

A fluke or a war crime?

U.S. warplanes bombed and destroyed a hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières/MSF) in Kunduz, Afghanistan, on Oct. 3. For 65 minutes, an AC-130U gunship circled the hospital, aiming cannon fire and incendiary munitions at its main building, housing the intensive care unit and operating and emergency rooms.

Some 180 patients and staff were inside. At least 12 MSF personnel and 10 patients, all Afghans, were killed; some burned to death. Another 37 were wounded; 33 are still missing as of Oct. 12.

To prevent such an attack, hospital staff had repeatedly reported their GPS coordinates to U.S., NATO and Afghan forces. During the bombing, MSF officials called U.S. officials in Kabul and Washington, including the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, pleading for them to stop the airstrikes. But the strikes continued for another 30 minutes.

Consequently, MSF left Kunduz. Northern Afghanistan is now without a trauma center to treat war injuries. The aid organization charges the U.S. with committing a war crime in violation of basic human rights, and humanitarian and international law. MSF asserts the bombing was an attack on the Geneva Conventions, which protect civilians, including medical workers, and prohibit bombings of hospitals in war zones. The U.S. ratified these principles in 1955.

Hearing a global outcry, the Pentagon changed its story four times. It kept insisting the airstrikes were “accidental.” Now Gen. John Campbell, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, admits the lethal assault was the result of a “U.S. decision made within the U.S. chain of command.” So far the military refuses to provide details.

In a rare wartime act, President Barack Obama apologized to MFS. The Pentagon has even offered compensation to victims’ families. This falls far short of earning a pardon for such a heinous crime.

MSF strongly repudiates the investigations set up by the U.S., NATO and Afghanistan, and is demanding an independent fact-finding probe of the bombing, under a body set up under Geneva Convention protocols.

After 14 years of occupying Afghanistan, the imperialists are still losing. In their desperation, the U.S. ruling class and its NATO allies are ready to commit any crime, violate any international treaty, flout human rights and disregard human life. It’s their standard behavior in the quest for super-profits.

Bombing hospitals – nothing new for U.S.

U.S. imperialism is a repeat war crime offender, with a long, sordid history of bombing hospitals and killing injured civilians and medical personnel. These were no accidents. They were acts aimed at terrorizing populations and forcing governments to submit. The record speaks for itself.

During the 1950s’ U.S. war on north Korea, U.S. warplanes bombed hundreds of hospitals. Pentagon B-52 bombers obliterated Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi, the largest medical facility in North Vietnam, during the “Christmas bombings” in December 1972.

In Mogadishu, Somalia, a U.N. “peacekeeping force” from Turkey and the U.S. bombed a Digfer hospital in 1993.

When the U.S. and NATO waged war to dismantle Yugoslavia, NATO launched cruise missiles against a Belgrade hospital and dropped cluster bombs on a Nis hospital in May 1999 — and bombed four other hospitals.

The U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, ostensibly to pursue Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. U.S. warplanes then bombed at least six hospitals and clinics in Kabul, Kandahar and elsewhere. In a stunning blow, U.S. planes even dropped a 1,000-pound cluster bomb on a hospital in Herat.

In the 2003 “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign against Iraq, Pentagon aircraft bombed a Red Crescent maternity hospital in Baghdad, killing and wounding medics and patients. A year later in Fallujah, U.S. rockets razed the newly built Hai Nazal hospital. U.S. bombs killed 63 staff and patients at the Fallujah Central Health Clinic.

With much international support, Doctors Without Borders continues to demand truth and accountability from the Pentagon and Obama administration.

More must be done. The filthy-rich U.S. ruling class must pay reparations for its war crimes!

50th Anniversary of Watts Rebellion

by Abayomi Azikiwe

Just five days after the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Watts Rebellion erupted. It lasted several days.

Coming out of the Selma campaign, U.S. Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson was forced to introduce legislation designed to ensure the right to vote for African Americans.

Nonetheless, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the voting rights legislation the following year were not nearly enough to assuage the African-American people in their quest for full equality and self-determination. Unemployment, poverty, racist violence and substandard education fueled the anger of working-class and poor youth throughout the U.S.

As early as May 11, 1963, in Birmingham, Ala., an often forgotten rebellion occurred in the midst of the largely nonviolent struggle to break down legalized segregation. In 1964, a series of violent outbreaks occurred in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, Harlem, N.Y., and several cities in New Jersey.

Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, broke with the Nation of Islam in March 1964 and later formed the Organization of Afro-American Unity, calling for a revolutionary organization urging self-defense against racist violence and international solidarity with the African and Middle Eastern independence movements and progressive governments.

The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, an independent organization, challenged the seating of racist Democratic Party delegates at the national convention that year in Atlantic City, N.J. Contributing to the loss of faith in the Democratic Party, they were refused recognition at the convention despite the MFDP’s mobilization and organization of tens of thousands of African-American workers, youth and farmers throughout that racist state. Fannie Lou Hamer, vice-chair of the MFDP, delivered an impassioned plea to the credentials committee of the Democratic National Convention documenting the horrors under which the African-American people of Mississippi were living in 1964.

However, the Johnson administration — utilizing Minnesota Sen. Hubert Humphrey, who became Johnson’s running mate, and Minnesota Attorney General Walter Mondale — sought to convince the MFDP to accept two seats at-large on the promise that segregated party delegations would not be allowed at the next convention in 1968. The compromise was rejected by the MFDP, yet Johnson went on to win the presidential elections against Barry Goldwater by a landslide that November.

Watts changed course of history

On Aug. 11, 1965, a rebellion in Los Angeles was sparked by police harassment of an African-American motorist and his family. Underlying the rebellion was the continuing national oppression and the failure of civil rights laws to ensure full political and economic rights to the Black masses.

Aug. 13, 1965: National Guard troops occupy Watts.

That day a very common incident occurred when Marquette Frye, an African-American youth, was stopped with his brother in the car and later arrested by Lee W. Minikus, a white California Highway Patrol officer. Minikus said that Frye was suspected of being under the influence of alcohol and resisted arrest. Soon the youths’ mother came on the scene and moved in to protect her sons, who were being accosted by the cops.

In a matter of minutes, a crowd of people had gathered at the scene of Frye’s arrest at Avalon and 116th streets. The decades-long strained relations between police and the community exploded into a confrontation.

This skirmish soon spread throughout the area in the commercial district of Watts, an extremely impoverished African-American neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles. During the course of the next week, tens of thousands of people took to the streets, overturning and burning automobiles and liberating and destroying supermarkets, liquor stores, retail outlets and pawnshops.

The weeklong rebellion required more than 14,000 California National Guard troops, mobilized across a curfew zone covering 45 miles, to restore stability. It resulted in the loss of 34 lives and more than 1,000 reported injuries.

Four thousand people were arrested before order was restored on Aug. 17. Elected officials and law-enforcement agencies promoted the notion that the unrest was the result of “outside agitators.”

Nonetheless, a study completed that December by the McCone Commission, appointed by California Gov. Pat Brown, discovered what the African-American community had already known: that the rebellion was the direct outcome of the people’s subjection to high unemployment rates, substandard housing and inadequate schools. Despite the commission’s findings, municipal and state officials systematically refused to reform police-community relations or create conditions for the social and economic advancement of African Americans in the Watts area.

According to the website “In spite of the protest, the Watts Rebellion did not significantly improve the lives of the community’s Black population. While the revolt inspired the federal government to implement programs to address unemployment, education, healthcare, and housing under Lyndon B. Johnson’s ‘War on Poverty,’ much of the money allocated for these programs was eventually absorbed by the Vietnam War. Today most of the population of Watts is Latino with many residents from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Although the population has changed, many of the issues of poverty, alienation and discrimination still plague the community today.”

Legacy of the Watts Rebellion

The Watts Rebellion was the largest of such outbreaks led by African Americans up until that time. It was followed by hundreds of other rebellions between 1965 and 1970 throughout the U.S.

In 1966, “Black Power!” became the rallying cry of millions, stemming from the “March Against Fear” through Mississippi that June. Organizers for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, such as Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture), H. Rap Brown (later Jamil Abdullah al-Amin) and Willie Ricks (Mukassa Dada), placed greater emphasis on self-determination, Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism.

Thousands of African Americans were elected to public office and millions entered higher educational institutions and employment categories from which they had previously been excluded. Nonetheless, racial capitalism and national oppression remained entrenched.

When the world economic system began a massive restructuring in the mid-to-late 1970s, many of the gains won through the Civil Rights, Black Power and women’s movements were eroded. By the first decade of the 21st century, affirmative action programs were outlawed in various states. The downsizing of education and public systems of governance disproportionately impacted the oppressed communities, since it was in these sectors that the most profound advances had been made.

Out of these rebellions came an emphasis on revolutionary politics, armed struggle and self-determination. It was only after the urban rebellions that any serious movements towards affirmative action, electoral reform and community control were begun.

Significance of Watts in 2015

Today, urban rebellion remains a key element in the struggle of the African-American people against national oppression and economic exploitation. Since 2012, with the vigilante killing of Trayvon Martin and the resultant acquittal of George Zimmerman, a rising consciousness of and intolerance for racism has been rapidly accelerating.

When 18-year-old Michael Brown was gunned down by Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014, a rebellion erupted in Ferguson, Mo., prompting mass demonstrations throughout the U.S. and around the world. Another rebellion in Baltimore this April further illustrated the re-emerging, militant character of the African-American people.

These rebellions and demonstrations must be organized into an independent revolutionary movement. The U.S. capitalist system fundamentally has nothing to offer oppressed youth.

The plight of African Americans and other oppressed nations have not been addressed at all by the administration of President Barack Obama. Nominees for the Democratic and Republican presidential candidacies are conveniently sidestepping the question of the national oppression of people-of-color communities.

Such a political atmosphere provides vast avenues of opportunity for a revolutionary movement to organize these constituencies in opposition to the ruling class. The unrest in Ferguson surrounding the first anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown illustrates that people are ready to fight and only need effective organization to give expression to their social and political aspirations.

Abayomi is the editor of Pan-African Newswire. This article appeared in Workers World and can be accessed at

Class forces behind U.S. genocide in Hiroshima, Nagasaki

by John Catalinotto

On the 70th anniversary of the mass murders of the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9 respectively, a discussion in the U.S. corporate media has centered on the following question: Did the bombs force a Japanese surrender and avoid U.S. casualties?

Historic studies have shown this to be the U.S. pretext rather than the reason for using the bombs. Photographs show the horror. Here we want to focus on the following questions: What was the class character of the two principal regimes fighting this war in the Pacific? What were their goals? Why did their confrontation lead to Washington using unspeakable weapons against a civilian population?

Both the U.S. and Japan were imperialist countries. Both had capitalist economies, with wealth concentrated in a small number of ruling-class families in industry and banking. These ruling classes exploited the working classes at home. Japan ruled Korea and parts of China, where its ruling class invested capital, exploited local workers and looted raw materials. The U.S. ruled the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Hawaii, where it did the same.

The two imperialist powers’ competition for control of the Pacific islands and East Asia led to World War II in the Pacific. The goal of each ruling class was control of the Pacific islands and East Asia. In neither Japan nor the U.S. did the laboring workers and farmers have anything to gain by a victory of “their” rulers.

For U.S. imperialism, the goal was to smash the Japanese state so thoroughly that it would be subservient to Washington in the region. Today, U.S. imperialism still wants hegemony in that region, but this time with a rearmed Japanese ruling class as a junior partner in an alliance against People’s China.

The Chinese and Korean peoples are still trying to get the Japanese rulers to admit to the crimes their military committed on the road to conquest. The current rightist Japanese Premier Shinzō Abe refuses to apologize and instead wants a rearmed and aggressive Japanese military.

Crimes of U.S. imperialism

As communists in the U.S., we focus on the crimes of U.S. imperialism. The ruling class used the vilest chauvinist and racist propaganda against the Japanese people, portraying them as subhumans, to mobilize the population to go to war and kill Japanese. These included interning people of Japanese ancestry in U.S. concentration camps and firebombing and atomic bombing Japanese civilians.

The U.S. military learned how incendiary bombs can destroy cities from the British-U.S. attack on Hamburg in July 1943 that killed 43,000 German civilians and from the one on Dresden in February 1945 that burned or asphyxiated between 30,000 and 90,000 people, mostly refugees.

After the U.S. had captured islands close to the main Japanese islands, the Air Force opened an incendiary bombing campaign that struck 68 Japanese cities, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

The largest and most devastating of these attacks took place on March 7-8, 1945, when hundreds of B-29 bombers dropped 2,000 tons of incendiary bombs on a densely populated residential working-class suburb of Tokyo, burning 130,000 people to death. Washington had plans to continue this slaughter of Japanese civilians during an invasion, set to begin Nov. 1, 1945.

U.S. imperialism’s first atomic bomb was detonated in a test on July 16, 1945. The U.S. ruling class would not hesitate one second to use this weapon against Japanese civilians if it believed this was effective in promoting its property interests and its profits. World Wars I and II showed how ready the ruling classes were to sacrifice their own workers and farmers, let alone those of the “enemy.”

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were two of the few Japanese cities spared in the earlier firebombing campaign. They had no military value. With the war due to end soon in the Pacific — it ended in Europe on May 8 — Washington had a small window to test the two different types of nuclear fission weapons, one made with enriched uranium and the other with plutonium. In these two untouched cities the U.S. could observe what the weapons did as they killed 200,000 people quickly and another 150,000 slowly.

The U.S. military could show the world what it was capable of. It later openly used the threat of nuclear bombs during the wars against Korea and Vietnam.

Soviet Union declared war

The Japanese rulers, who already knew they were defeated, faced what they saw as an even greater threat than the A-bombs. The Soviet Union, a workers’ state, had just declared war. Wherever the Soviet Union occupied, it threatened not only Japanese sovereignty but the property rights of the Japanese ruling class.

Although they hated to surrender to anyone, the Japanese rulers preferred to submit to the capitalist United States than to the socialist-oriented Soviet Union. Under the U.S. occupation of Japan, which lasted until 1950, Gen. Douglas MacArthur repressed the Japanese Communist Party and the trade unions.

Where the Soviet Red Army marched in and helped force out the Japanese — in Manchuria, which is part of China, and northern Korea — the people freed themselves from Japanese imperialist rule and seized the property of the landlords and capitalists. That’s what the Japanese rulers feared more than the atomic bombing of their population.

This article first appeared in Workers World and can be accessed online at

The Civil War: Lessons for today’s struggle

Below are excerpts from the book “The Klan and the Government: Foes or Allies?” written in 1983 by Sam Marcy, the founder of Workers World Party. The entire book can be read online at

In the Civil War in the U.S., the bourgeois democratic revolution was aborted. It did result in ending involuntary servitude. It freed the Black people from their legal ties to the slavocracy. But it failed to carry out the rest of the basic and revolutionary measures which were necessary for formal equality with the white population.

Nevertheless, as a result of the revolutionary prosecution of the war against the Southern slavocracy, the Southern slave state governments were immensely weakened and in part replaced through federal intervention and military occupation by the central government.

These measures were made necessary in order to defend the rights of the Black people and to insure that the Southern slave-state governments did not violate the new federal legislation which the U.S. government had promulgated.

The Southern state governments were thus under the jurisdiction of the U.S. military and had to obey its orders. Unable to do anything legally to subvert the new status and rights of the Black people, the Southern planters resorted to building a conspiratorial terrorist organization to supplement the Southern states’ legalized governments.

We see therefore that the KKK arose as an illegal, extra- governmental secret apparatus, nourished, promoted, and organized by the then legalized governments of the South. …

Need for people’s militia

The duty of the federal government in the South under Presidents Lincoln, Johnson, Grant, and Hayes was not merely to juridically proclaim and defend the rights of the freed men and women. Its duty was also to train, educate, and organize them, above all on a military basis so they would be able to properly defend themselves against the violence instigated and perpetrated by the revival of the slavocracy’s political power.

It was not enough to have subdued the slavocracy militarily. There had to be a counter-force or a parallel force as against the armed forces and repressive organs still wielded by the Southern states, notwithstanding the breakup of the old Confederacy.

It’s true that the Confederacy seemed crushed and powerless, insofar as exercising its political sway against the Northern bourgeoisie. But the old planter aristocracy was permitted to rebuild and revive on the basis of retaining all its private property and land as well as whatever financial and commercial assets it still had.

Under these circumstances, the economic and state power of the planter aristocracy remained an overwhelming force as against the Black people, notwithstanding the gains made — including those in the state legislatures of the South. What the Black population needed to resist the growth of the KKK was an organized militia, trained, armed, and financed by the federal government to protect and defend their newly won rights and also to contest the planters’ right to the land — which the former slaves were entitled to no less than the serfs in Europe during the bourgeois revolutions there.

Treachery of Northern bourgeoisie

The federal government retreated under pressure from many of the capitalists in the North who felt that they had got what they wanted. … As a result the treacherous bourgeoisie withdrew the federal troops from the South and left the Black people defenseless against the KKK. The Southern aristocracy thereafter began a large-scale campaign to secretly recruit, organize, and promote the Klan as a mass terror weapon with an extra-legal and extra-state character, in order to destroy the ability of the Black people to utilize their newly won legal rights as proclaimed by the Constitution. The right of self-defense was virtually nullified by the withdrawal of federal troops from the South. …

Bourgeois scholars of Reconstruction, especially the more reactionary ones, underestimate the tremendous role played by the Black people in achieving the victory over the Southern oligarchy. They do everything to belittle the role of Black people and only rarely is there any mention of what W.E.B. Du Bois in his great book “Black Reconstruction” calls the general strike of Black people, that is, the abandonment of service on the plantations and the support it rendered to the Northern army, which was indispensable for the victory over the plantation aristocracy. …