Sunsara Taylor’s perpetual revolution

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Sunsara Taylor

Sunsara Taylor, whom we’ve been discussing this week, is currently telling anyone who will listen that Donald Trump is a fascist, worse than Hitler, who will gradually introduce a cruel dictatorship and maybe even destroy the entire planet in a nuclear Armageddon. You might induce from this that Taylor cherishes American freedom and sees Trump as a disastrously departure from the previous occupants of the Oval Office. Um, no. Last year, long before the election of Trump as president seemed even a remote possibility, Taylor was on the warpath against the American system. Along with her Revolutionary Communist Party comrade Carl Dix, as we saw yesterday, she set out on a national tour of college campuses with a goal of recruiting revolutionaries and overthrowing the government. The press release announcing the tour read, in part:

bob-avakian-communist-columbia-micah_fleckThis world cries out for radical change….

A radically different and far better world is possible—getting rid of this madness and horror, and getting beyond a world of oppression, exploitation, and domination. This will take an Actual Revolution.

“Revolution” and “socialism” are in the air…But a real revolution—one that aims to change the world—is radically different and, yes, more demanding. A real revolution requires a scientific understanding of society and how to radically change it. That science has been qualitatively developed by the revolutionary leader, Bob Avakian. We’re coming to your campus to get into this with you.

The tour appears to have been something less than a spectacular success. Witness a report by Columbia University student journalist Micah Fleck. “Though flyers spangled the hallways and scaffolding of Columbia’s campus promoting Carl Dix and Sunsara Taylor for Months,” wrote Fleck, “fewer than two dozen students attended their April 13 talk in a room that can seat more than 200.”

But Taylor didn’t let the pathetically low turnout defeat her. Referring to the cause, quite simply, as “The Revolution,” she and Dix presented a “new constitution,” which the RCP had helpfully published in book form in 2010. (It can be read in its entirely – 104 pages – here.) Taylor told her cozy audience that her movement sought to bring about “a world without America and everything America stands for.”

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With fellow RCP leader Carl Dix

As we’ve noted, no matter what the name of the group or the specific cause du jour, Taylor has always been nothing more or less than an operative for the RCP. And her specific groups and movements and campaigns have never been anything other than efforts to enhance the RCP’s influence and power. And, above all, to raise the profile of Bob Avakian. Even a relatively sympathetic student, Pier Harrison, who attended one of her events at New York University in February 2010, was taken aback by the fact that she spoke “with cult-like reverence for party Chairman Bob Avakian.”

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Annie Day

Harrison reported that “[b]etween Taylor’s speech and the Q&A[,] staff sent around collection baskets, just like in Church, for donations to support her tour, and the goals of the RCP.” Harrison asked moderator Annie Day, also an RCP member, whether she, Taylor, and their comrades “intended to stage a violent or non-violent revolution. Her response: violent.

So, would there be bloodshed? Day replied: “Revolution is a serious business. This is not just the frustrations of individuals. We are not pacifists. So to answer your question, yes.” Harrison wrote: “The most mind-blowing part of this whole event was realizing that by ‘revolution’ they mean that they are willing to kill people.” He also suggested that “the RCP has hijacked the feminist agenda to further its own will to power, which, again, they do not hide.” He was certainly correct about that. Whether the issue is war or women’s rights or the Trump presidency, the business of the RCP – with Sunsara Taylor as its public face and voice – is hijacking, pure and simple.

Sunsara Taylor’s war on “the war on women”

We’re spending this week in the constantly agitating company of tireless activist Sunsara Taylor, a longtime member of Bob Avakian’s Revolutionary Communist Party. Over the years, she’s been the public face of a number of different groups purportedly dedicated to fighting different injustices. These days, as we’ve seen, she’s a spokeswoman for Refuse Fascism, which seeks to unseat President Trump (who, she argues, is worse than Hitler) and replace him with (who else?) Bob Avakian. Years ago, as we saw yesterday, she was involved in End Pornography and Patriarchy, a bold campaign to end America’s “war on women,” which, again, only Avakian could put a stop to.

taylorwarAnother group on Taylor’s résumé was “The World Can’t Wait,” which was active around 2007 and which was one of many organizations protesting America’s war in Iraq. Indeed, it’s hard not to feel that the real point of “The World Can’t Wait” was to bring in members who were motivated by antiwar sentiments as a first step toward recruiting them into the RCP. Taylor “spoke at over 50 campuses” in an effort to “Drive Out the Bush Regime” and thus bring an end to the war. In connection with this antiwar effort, she and her colleagues also made a practice of shouting down politicians who were trying to deliver speeches. “The World Can’t Wait” made a good deal of noise during George W. Bush’s presidency but seems to have disappeared into the ether by the time Barack Obama took office.

sunsBut Taylor didn’t go away. After putting in a good few months trying to stop America’s wars in the Middle East, she shifted gears and threw herself, heart and soul, into an effort to rid the planet of religion. This movement was tied in with the publication of Avakian’s 2008 book Away With All Gods: Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World. Just as “The World Can’t Wait” seemed to be a transparent attempt to exploit the antiwar movement to gain RCP converts, so Away With All Gods and the attendant activism comes off as a painfully obvious effort to swell RCP ranks by piggybacking onto the then-hot atheism movement spearheaded by Christopher Hitchens, whose bestseller God Is Not Great had come out in 2007, and Richard Dawkins, whose The God Delusion appeared in 2008.

Last year found Taylor involved in yet another crusade. In the months prior to the election that put Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Taylor was busy helping to run the RCP’s “Get into the Revolution Organizing Tour.” Along with her RCP comrade Carl Dix, she traveled from campus to campus around the U.S., trying to convince students “to become communists and kill off America.” On to that triumph tomorrow.

Fighting for Communism: Sunsara Taylor

As we saw yesterday, Sunsara Taylor is very worked up about the election of Donald Trump. She and her colleagues in a group called Refuse Fascism warn that he’s as bad as Hitler – no, worse! – and call on the entire country to take to the streets and force him out of power. Rarely has any guest on a political interview show seemed as close to outright hysteria as Taylor did on Tucker Carlson Tonight one night in mid February.

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Taylor and friends on the warpath

It’s a shame, because before Trump entered the White House, Taylor was just a quiet housewife who – no, just kidding. In fact, Taylor has spent at least the last decade being splenetic over something or other. Before Refuse Fascism, there were other groups with other names. The complaint varied from group to group. But the rage was always there. The prescription for change was always the same: to bring people out into the streets, screaming and protesting and committing acts of vandalism. And the ultimate goal was always identical – a society living under Communism, Bob Avakian style, with Bob’s Revolutionary Communist Party calling the shots and Bob himself installed as Beloved Leader.

“I’m fighting for Communism,” Taylor said, quite straightforwardly, in a 2010 public appearance. She was quick to acknowledge that historic Communism had erred a bit once or twice, but she assured her audience that Avakian’s supposedly new and improved version of Communism would work out terrifically.

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Anyway, on to Refuse Fascism’s forerunners. One of them was End Pornography and Patriarchy, a movement to eliminate what Taylor described as “The Enslavement and Degradation of Women.” While Trump was still busy making real-estate deals and videotaping episodes of his NBC series The Apprentice, Taylor was getting apoplectic over what she called America’s “war on women.” Of course, according to her there was only one way to stop this “war on women”: to take to the streets, bring down the government, and replace constitutional democracy with “the new synthesis on [sic] revolution and communism developed by Bob Avakian.”

In one of her harangues about “the war on women,” Taylor issued an “urgent call” to all and sundry, young people especially, “who are uncompromising and defiant in their refusal to accept and their determination to defeat the current war on women.” Inviting the members of her audience to join her in “a new movement…that aims to affect all of society” and “change people’s thinking” and “seize back the moral high ground…throughout every corner of society,” Taylor urged them “to go out into the streets…to unmask the horrors that people have grown accustomed to” and “go forward from there until we win.” As part of her campaign, Taylor defended late-term abortion, implying in one video that a fetus doesn’t look like a human baby until after it’s born.

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Taylor being placed under arrest in Texas

One anecdote from 2012 is illuminating. While pro-life activists were holding a street protest during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Taylor and some of her comrades showed up. “They were carrying signs and blowing whistles,” 11-year-old Zoe Griffin told a reporter. “They were jumping around and chanting things like ‘A baby’s not a baby ’til it comes out, that’s what birthdays are all about.’” They were also waving signs that read “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology.” “They were acting like five-year-old children,” Griffin said. When Taylor saw Griffin and other pro-lifers who themselves were praying while holding signs that read “I’m a person” and that featured images of fetuses, she began screaming at them, pointing to one after another while saying “You’re a person! You’re a person!” When she got to Griffin, she said, “Fetuses are not.” But that wasn’t enough. Taylor told Griffin “you’re a stupid kid.” When Griffin broke into tears, Taylor turned to the adult pro-lifers, including Griffin’s mother, and said: “Look what you’re doing to this little girl with all your bullshit. You’re making this little girl cry!”

More tomorrow.

For her, Trump isn’t Hitler. He’s worse.

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Sunsara Taylor

Recently we spent a few days recounting the curious careers of Bob Avakian, longtime head of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and his loyal sidekick Carl Dix.

As it happens, there’s a third figure who looms large in the RCP and who deserves her place in the sun on this website. Her name: Sunsara Taylor. She surfaced recently on the Fox News program Tucker Carlson Tonight, where she was identified as an “organizer” of a movement called Refuse Fascism. Its exclamation-point-heavy website explains its position:

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Bob Avakian

In the Name of Humanity,

We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America!

Drive Out the Trump/Pence Regime!

The Trump/Pence Regime is a Fascist Regime. Not insult or exaggeration, this is what it is. For the future of humanity and the planet, we, the people, must drive this regime out.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence have assembled a vicious cabal that has put forth positions and begun initiatives which demonstrate that they fully intend to shred political and social norms with catastrophic consequence. Because Trump has his finger on the nuclear trigger, the Trump/Pence regime is more dangerous to the world than even Hitler….

The Trump/Pence regime will repeatedly launch new highly repressive measures, eventually clamping down on all resistance and remaking the law…IF THEY ARE NOT DRIVEN FROM POWER.

During her six-minute appearance on Carlson’s show, Taylor may have set a world record for comparing Trump to Hitler. “We the people,” she insisted, “must drive this regime out!” Donald Trump and Mike Pence, she charged, “are operating out of Hitler’s playbook.” She referred to Trump’s “Nazi inauguration.” Her prescription for change: “We need to pour into the streets and say no….We must drive them out. We must stay in the streets.”

Quite a show. But as it turns out, Refuse Fascism is only the latest in a long list of groups with which Taylor has been involved. Or perhaps the proper term should be “pseudo-groups” or “front groups,” because in fact Taylor has, all along, been nothing more or less than an RCP operative and a devout disciple of Avakian.

no-stoptrumppencemosaicenspfararabv1These various groups or sub-movements (or whatever you want to call them) have come and gone over the years, rising up at a certain point – apparently in an effort to catch a wave of public feeling – and then disappearing when the wave breaks on the shore. They all involve a good deal of money-grubbing. Case in point: Refuse Fascism’s Facebook page urges supporters “to start out with a $5 donation” and be “part of crowdfunding this movement to stop this fascist, illegitimate regime from ruling.”

Tomorrow we’ll take a little stroll through Sunsara Taylor’s previous attempt to overthrow the U.S.A. – and rake in cash for the RCP.

Socialism’s triumph: Oil-rich Venezuela is out of gas

Nicolas Maduro

As the Venezuelan economy continues to circle the drain, perhaps the quintessential symbol of the extraordinary personal incompetence of President Nicolás Maduro and of the thoroughgoing failure of the socialist system he inherited from his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez, has been the mind-boggling inability of this, one of the top oil-producing nations on earth, to meet its own people’s demand for gasoline. This shortfall has occurred despite the fact that Venezuela has actually been importing fuel – for most of which, according to reports, it has been unable to pay its bills.

Cars lined up for gas at Maturin, Venezuela, on March 23

Over the last few months, despite continual reassurances by Maduro, the supply crisis has only gotten worse. On February 21, Maduro promised “good news soon” because he had installed a “new PDVSA board” that was dedicated to fighting “corruption and unnecessary costs.” On March 22, however, thanks to maintenance issues, production challenges, shipping difficulties, and a shortage of working trucks attributed to a lack of spare parts – in other words, significant problems at pretty much every stage of the oil extraction and distribution process – the situation had deteriorated to a point at which the entire nation was experiencing a critical shortage of petrol. At gas stations across the country, dozens of cars could be seen queued up, their owners hoping in vain to be able to fill their tanks.

Eulogio del Pino

Aside from the magnificently unmasterly Maduro himself, the personification of this embarrassing dilemma is Eulogio del Pino, president of the country’s colossal oil entity, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), which is the primary engine of the nation’s economic power, such as it is. Or was. In a touch that would seem insane in the policies of any country but that these days seems par for the course for the Bolivarian Republic, just a couple of days ago came the news that Venezuela, despite its domestic oil crunch and its emergency oil-import policy, had not only continued but stepped up fuel exports to Cuba, Nicaragua, and other allies.

On March 23, a man in Maturin pushes his car after running out of gas

But, as with much else about Venezuela’s current, many-faceted nightmare, the chief culprit here seems to be Maduro himself. Apparently more interested, even now, in shoring up and enhancing his own power than in trying to rescue his nation from catastrophe, he’s dismissed relatively skilled key officials in the PDVSA and replaced them with his political and military cronies, most of whom have little or no background in the oil business – or, for that matter, in the competent management of anything. Other PDVSA executives, recognizing that Maduro’s hirings and firings are only helping to drive the state-owned company even further into the ground, have jumped ship of their own accord, presumably recognizing that at this point, under present governance, the whole massive enterprise is, quite simply, doomed.  

In the midst of all this drama, Del Pino, in what can only be read as a display of the remarkably tone-deaf insouciance that so often characterizes the mindless, mediocre agents of ineffectual and indifferent authoritarian states, visited a fuel distribution plant where, in response to a chorus of irate complaints by laborers about their working conditions and salaries, simply smiled inanely, loftily ignoring their concerns. Somehow, that distant and detached reaction seemed the perfect summing-up of the whole ridiculous tragedy.

Hooey from Hughey

So far this week we’ve met a couple of college professors who, not realizing they were being videotaped, browbeat their students after Donald Trump’s election victory – and ended up going viral. Today we’ll pay a quick visit to an academic who went public himself with his reaction to the election results.

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Matthew Hughey

His name: Matthew Hughey. An Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut (he’s also on the Adjunct Faculty of the Africana Studies Institute and American Studies Program), he’s written several books with titles like The White Savior Film; Race and Ethnicity in Secret and Exclusive Social Orders; White Bound: Nationalists, Antiracists, and the Shared Meanings of Race; The Obamas and a (Post) Racial America?; and 12 Angry Men: True Stories of Being a Black Man in America Today.

Plainly, the red thread running through his work is race. According to him, all of his scholarship is guided by a single question: “What is the relationship between the heterogeneous interpretations of race and the long-term staying power of racism and racial inequality?” We’re not sure that we entirely understand this question, but let’s not allow that to distract us. In order to probe his guiding question, Hughey explains, he studies “race and ethnicity as a dynamic and ongoing practice with an emphasis on racism, meaning-making, and asymmetrical relations of power.” So race and ethnicity are practices? Or, rather, a practice? Welcome to academia. “A thorough scholastic comprehension of race,” Hughey maintains, “must move beyond views of static identities or ideologies. Rather, an understanding of the processes and contexts that produce race, how race is imbued with particular meanings, and how race constrains and enables pathways of human action and order, is necessary.”

Um, what? Hold on, his next paragraph is quite a bit clearer:

I situate my worldview against concepts of social life that are entirely individualistic and which analyze society only in terms of psychological make-up, skills, and atomistic behaviors. These assumptions gesture toward a belief that social structures will magically change via one’s hard work, good intentions, or education. History affords too many examples of participation by the “righteous,” “educated,” and “hard-working” in structures of oppression to allow any objective observer of social life to accept that notion that equitable or just social arrangements are based entirely on the redemption of the individual without direct attention to external social forces.

Simply put: black people are still held back by racism, no matter how skilled they are and how hard they work. There’s a degree of truth in this, of course. Prejudice has held back all kinds of people in every society throughout human history. The main point, however, should be that America today is less racist than virtually any country at any time, ever. Four years ago, as it happens, the World Values Survey found that the U.S. is one of the least racist countries on earth. Check out this map, which suggests that a serious, scrupulous scholar who was genuinely interested in exploring racism would do far better to study India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria, Indonesia – in fact almost anywhere outside of the Americas, the Anglosphere, and Scandinavia – than to focus on the U.S.

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But to the likes of Hughey, racism in the above-named countries – racism everywhere other than in the West – is invisible. Or irrelevant. Or, perhaps, attributable, via some contorted academic logic, to Western colonialism and/or American imperialism. For the whole point of the kind of “scholarship” that people like Hughey pursue is to prove, for the millionth time, that America is Ground Zero for all human iniquity. Again, yes, there is abundant iniquity in the U.S. But there’s more of it almost everywhere else on the planet. And to ignore that fact as systematically as Hughey and other academics in the social sciences do today is to give a pass to a great deal of outright evil.

Which brings us to Hughey’s take on Donald Trump’s election. He wasn’t happy with it, of course – and he blamed it on (what else?) white supremacism. When confronted on this assertion by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Hughey readily added that Trump’s ascendancy was also the fault of three other vices: sexism, heteronormativity, and capitalism. But the main cause of Trump’s win, he insisted, was race – because America is and has always been afflicted by white supremacy. There was, to be sure, one little detail Hughey didn’t explain: how had an electorate so thoroughly and permanently poisoned by a white supremacist mentality managed to elect a black man to the presidency twice in a row?

Orange Coast College: punishing the victim

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Pro-Cox feminists

Yesterday we met Olga Perez Stable Cox, who teaches courses in Human Sexuality at a California institution called Orange Coast College and who made national headlines in December after a videotape of one of her classroom rants about Donald Trump went viral. Members of the student Feminist Club, fearing Cox might face disciplinary action, held a rally in her support. The College Republicans held a counter-rally in support of the student who had taken the video, freshman Caleb O’Neil, who faced possible legal action by the teachers’ union and possible suspension by college officials.

Alejandro Vargas, deputy secretary of OCC College Republicans, post a quote from instructor Olga Perez Stable Cox as they counter-protest a rally where other students, including those in the Feminist Club, rally in support of instructor Olga Perez Stable Cox in Costa Mesa, California, December 12, 2016. A video clip of Cox telling her human sexuality class that electing Trump was an act of terrorism has gone viral. A student said the teacher asked all Trump supporters to stand up so she could, "Show the class who to watch out for" (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)
The counter-protest: Alejandro Vargas of the College Republicans with a poster quoting from Cox’s rant

When they realized O’Neil was in danger, other students from Cox’s classes came forward to defend him and to amplify the case against Cox. One of them, Vincent Wetzel, said that Cox’s rant “has nothing to do with free speech.” Cox, he argued, was “overstepping her profession.” Wetzel, who is gay, told the Orange County Register: “Of all the people who are supposed to provide an inclusive environment, it’s her. Now, I don’t feel comfortable.”

Orange Coast College student Caleb O'Neil is being suspended for videotaping his teacher, Olga Perez Stable Cox as she was making strong anti-Trump comments a week after the election. in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, February 15, 2017. (Photo by Sam GangwerOrange County Register/SCNG)
Caleb O’Neil

Two students said that after O’Neil had stopped taping, she’d asked Trump voters in the class “to stand up and show the rest of the class who to watch out for and protect yourself from.” When no one in the class stood up, she accused them of being “too embarrassed” to admit to supporting Trump. One student, Tanner Webb, rejected the faculty union president’s claim that Cox had been inviting students to discuss the election results and that O’Neil had “chosen to not engage in a discussion.” Cox’s “anti-Trump rant,” said Webb, “was no open debate to engage students.” As it happens, Webb was enrolled in another class taught by Cox, and in that one, too, he said, she “continually bashed on Trump supporters, belittling them and making it seem like every person who voted for Trump was an LGBT community hating white supremacist.”

In the end, sure enough, O’Neil was suspended. At a press conference, he said that he’d taped Cox “because I was honestly scared that I would have repercussions with my grades because she knew I was a Trump supporter.” In a joint statement, college president Dennis Harkins joined faculty and union leaders in fully backing Cox, who, they said, had done nothing other than exercise her right to “express views that may challenge student opinions, world view, or ideology.” (In a rare example of good news from this front, it was reported on February 23 that O’Neil’s suspension, under national pressure, had been rescinded.) 

Orange Coast College student Caleb O'Neil and his attorney William Becker, right, speak to the media about O'Neil being suspended for videotaping his teacher, Olga Perez Stable Cox as she was making strong anti-Trump comments a week after the election. in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, February 15, 2017. (Photo by Sam GangwerOrange County Register/SCNG)
O’Neil and his attorney William Becker hold a press conference

As for Cox, she told anyone who would listen that, far from being a bully, she was the one who’d been bullied. A month later, she was still unapologetic, telling the Register “I didn’t say anything wrong or do anything wrong. I didn’t say anything that thousands of Americans weren’t feeling or saying…I don’t regret it.” O’Neil, she insisted, was “part of a national campaign to intimidate liberal professors.” Meanwhile, it emerged that in addition to punishing O’Neil, OCC administrators were investigating the College Republican club – an act that club president Joshua Recalde Martinez described as “Gestapo-like.”

That’s an overstatement, we hope. But there’s no denying that Cox’s effort to “identify, humiliate, and shame” her pro-Trump students (as the College Republicans’ lawyer, Shawn Steele, aptly put it) was rooted in a disturbing authoritarian impulse of precisely the sort that Cox had accused Trump of personifying – and that an equally authoritarian impulse informed the decision by OCC and union officials to punish Caleb O’Neil and the College Republicans for bringing Cox’s petty classroom tyranny to light.