Tuesday, July 7, 2020

USA!

"Can't build a decent car anymore. Can't make a TV set, cell phone, or VCR. Got no steel industry left. No textiles. Can't educate our young people. Can't get health care to our old people. But we can bomb the shit outta your country, all right.  We can bomb the shit outta your country!"

----George Carlin, Napalm and Silly Putty

Monday, July 6, 2020

Towering Defiance: W. E. B. DuBois

1903: Atlanta
Dr. W. E. B. DuBois


Babies are named after him, organizations founded in his honor, grave risks run complying with his constant calls for action.

Brilliant, eloquent, and hungry for knowledge, by age twenty-seven he had completed a Ph.D. in Sociology at Harvard and all coursework for another in Economics at Humboldt University in Berlin, the leading economics department in the world. After that, he wrote the first work on American urban sociology, the first social scientific treatise on the slave trade, and a powerful collection of essays worthy of Shakespeare and the King James Bible.

A trail of Yankee and European admirers regularly seeks him out, staying in hotels segregation forbids DuBois himself to enter. Such cruel ironies have etched a half-sneer on the good Doctor’s face, and the scorn only deepens when his requests for research funds are routinely dismissed or ignored.

Condescended to by his inferiors, DuBois responds with volleys of lucid indignation that may subside but never entirely disappear. Seeing the wrath that greets what they take to be their good intentions, Southern “gentlemen” shake their heads and conclude smugly that cities breed a deracialized “uppityness” in general and racial Frankensteins like DuBois in particular.

Teacher, scholar, activist, sociologist, historian, writer, and world traveler, DuBois uses his lyrical voice, analytical rigor, and passionate advocacy with the supreme dignity of an avatar entrusted with the guidance of his entire race.

Boundless ambition marked him early. While still a teenager he decided to “prove to the world that Negroes [are] just like other people.”



Sources: David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. DuBois – Biography of a Race, 1868-1919, (Henry Holt and Co., 1998) pps. 3, 32, 98, 272, 350, 469, 500, 505; Playthell Benjamin and Stanley Crouch, C-SPAN Book TV, April 2, 2003 

1959: Beijing
Portrait of a Harvard Ph.D.

Seeing a lynching victim’s blackened knuckles in a display case jolted him out of brilliant scholarly detachment and converted him to activism.

Decades of distinguished accomplishment later, universities shun him, well-to-do blacks disdain him, and intellectuals refuse to write about him. Only the Communists and the National Guardian risk publishing him, while his sole financial support comes from the pennies of the poor.

Heretical groups, their coffers empty and their leaders always on the brink of jail, compete to have him grace their gatherings with unpaid speeches, which he delivers with aplomb. Always he says exactly what needs saying in an eloquently prophetic voice worthy of Robeson. In private conversation he prefers listening to monopolizing the floor, but whenever he opens his mouth a hush falls over the room.

Prolific author, spellbinding orator, tireless organizer, proud socialist, champion of a hundred causes Dr. DuBois speaks from Beijing University on his 91st birthday: “I speak with no authority, no assumption of age nor rank; I hold no position, I have no wealth. One thing alone I own and that is my soul. Ownership of that I have even while in my own country for near a century I have been nothing but a ‘nigger.’ On this basis and this alone I dare speak.”



Sources: Cedric Belfrage and James Aaronson, Something To Guard: The Stormy Life of the National Guardian 1948-1967, (Columbia, 1978) pps. 137-40, 252; Mary Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Harvey J. Kaye, The American Radical, (Routledge, 1994) pps. 113-20



                       
1903: The Alabama Black Belt
  The Tuskegee Machine
The gatekeeper of rewards, the key to black advancement, Tuskegee Institute champions hard work and savings, the purchase of respect, and a gradual alleviation of racism’s miseries.

Perpetually under construction, the school is built by students whose lessons consist of laying cement, transporting hods on scaffolds, and planing wood in the carpentry shop. Commencement valedictories witness seniors quickly assembling demonstration houses while buildings bearing the names of Northern philanthropists rise up all over campus the whole year round.

Masters of cabinet-making, plastering, masonry, and steam-fitting, Tuskegee graduates never lack for jobs. According to the Tuskegee creed, practical education is worth temporary political subservience, for a man without a vocation is no man at all.

Liberal arts mean nothing to menials locked in caste subordination, and higher degrees merely glorify idleness. Music, literature, and foreign language can wait until blacks become rich, while the vote is a useless thing. Carpentry pays better, and invites no trouble.



Sources: David Levering Lewis, Kent, W. E. B. DuBois – Biography of a Race, 1868-1919, (Henry Holt and Co., 1998) pps. 233, 262, 309, 341, 353; Noel J. Kent, America In 1900, (M. E. Sharpe, 2000) p. 123

1903: The Urban North

The Talented Tenth

Collusion with oppression and meek acceptance of inferiority is turning black society on its head, warn these learned blacks, a self-surrender that awards starring roles to sharecroppers, skilled mechanics, and domestics, while black teachers, preachers, doctors, and undertakers are forced off the stage. In the past accomplished black people traveled and pondered, read more than just the Bible, and at least aspired to express themselves nobly, but today all march to segregated prosperity behind Booker T. Washington and his Tuskegee Machine.
“In the history of nearly all other races and peoples the doctrine preached has been that manly self-respect is worth more than land and houses,” W. E. B. DuBois reminds his tormented race. Dignity comes before utility, he adds, and knowledge of values will forever trump obsession with prices.
      Educated blacks insist that work and money can do their race no ultimate good until it has the vote, higher education, and the power to defeat discrimination. A refinement of character, not material success, is the true measure of humanity. Years ago, Dr. DuBois warned that education should not be confused with a Meal Ticket: “Never make the mistake of thinking that the object of being a man is to make a carpenter; the object of being a carpenter is to be a man.”



Sources: David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. DuBois – Biography of a Race, 1868-1919, (Henry Holt and Co., 1998) pps. 108, 288; W. E. B. DuBois – The Fight For Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963, (Henry Holt and Co., 2000) p. 2; Thomas R. Frazier, ed., Afro-American History – Primary Sources (Harcourt, 1971) pps. 119-28)



W. E. B. DuBois Calls For Economic Sanity


“What has gone wrong? It is clear the workers don’t understand the meaning of work. Work is service, not gain. The object of work is life, not income. The reward of production is plenty, not private property. We should measure the prosperity of the nation not by the number of millionaires, but by the absence of poverty; the prevalence of health; the efficiency of the public schools; and the number of people who can, do read worthwhile books. 

Toward all this we do strive, but instead of marching breast forward, we stagger and wander thinking that food is raised not to eat, but to sell at good profit; houses are not to shelter the masses, but to make real estate agents rich; and solemnly declaring that without private profit there can be no food or homes. All of this is ridiculous. It has been disproven centuries ago.

The greatest thinkers of every age have inveighed against concentration of wealth in the hands of the few and against poverty, and disease and ignorance in the masses of men.

We have tried every method of reform. A favorite effort has been force by war. But the loot stolen by murder went to the generals and not to the soldiers. We tried through religion to lead men to sacrifice and right treatment of their fellow men, but the priests too often stole the fruits of sacrifice and concealed the truth.

In the 17th century of our modern European era we sought leadership in science and dreamed that justice might rule through natural law, but we misinterpreted that law to mean that most men were slaves and white Europeans were the right masters of the world.

In the 18th century, we turned toward the ballot in the hands of the worker to force a just division of the fruits of labor among the toilers. But the capitalists, happening on black slavery and land monopoly and on private monopoly of capital, forced the modern worker into a new slavery which built a new civilization of the world with colored slaves at the bottom, with white serfs between, and the power still in the hands of the rich.

But one consideration halted this plan. The serfs and even the slaves had begun to learn to think. Some bits of education had stimulated them and some of the real scientists of the world began to use their knowledge for the masses and not solely for the ruling classes. It became more and more a matter of straight thinking.

What is work? It was what all must contribute to the common good. No man has a right to be idle. It is the bounden duty of each to contribute his best to the well being of all, of what men gain by the efforts of all have a right to share, not to the extent of all that they may want, but certainly to the extent of what they really need.

You must let the world know that this is your simple and unwavering program: the abolition of poverty, disease and ignorance the world over among women and men of all races, religions and color; to accomplish this by just control of concentrated wealth, and overthrow of monopoly to ensure that income depends on work and not on privilege or change; that freedom is the heritage of man, and that by freedom we do not mean freedom from the laws of nature, but freedom to think and believe and express our thoughts and dream our dreams and to maintain our rights against secret police, witchhunters or any other sort of a modern fool or tyrant.”

--W. E. B. DuBois at the 1953 California Peace Crusade



Source: Heather Gray, Another Look at W. E. B. DuBois, Counterpunch, November 19, 2007

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Substance Matters More Than Symbols




Substance Matters More Than Symbols  



The current wakeup call being experienced by more Americans about historic racism is leading to hopeful actions but if all that results is removal of symbolic remnants of a wretched past these may lead to very little substantial change of the present and future. The rush to remove statues, change street names, remove written distortions of history and denounce past individuals wont mean much if we don’t confront the debased political economic system that is the substance on which those symbols rest and which creates present reality that still only profits a small minority at increasingly dangerous cost to the great majority.

Building a monument to Martin Luther King or Malcolm X to replace those previously honoring slave owners among the original 1% might be wonderful but will only mean new places for birds to leave their droppings unless we make far more substantial changes in the system that makes good use of symbols, even profiting from their creation and service, while maintaining the social and environmental destruction of private profit capitalism.

Changing the name of Wall Street to Open Border Boulevard wont mean much if we maintain it as a citadel of billions for minority capital that comes from the backs, minds and pocketbooks of majority workers.

Renaming the Pentagon the Emma Goldman building won’t make a dime’s bit of difference if we continue using it as headquarters for spending more than 700 billion dollars a year on war and mass murder while raping language in calling that defense. 

Tearing down a statue of Columbus might make a minority among us feel good but the majority of us need to understand that his voyage was not financed by mythological royalty but by early capital in its desire for spreading commerce to new markets. Those 15th century economic powers were on their way to becoming global and have grown tremendously since then, now ruling the planet with massive power and control in the 21st century. They will not be contested by tumbling a monument or burning a flag or taking a knee before it in more polite protest.

We need to learn real history in order to change the present and future, not simply destroy or rename symbols like statues and buildings and streets. The system that must be confronted and radically changed for the good of all people is the one that profited from slavery in the past, and massive bloody violence before and since slavery which continues up to the minute with more threatened as idiot servants of wealth claim villainy all around us with distractions that make their lies inaudible and our dangerous reality all but invisible. We may be helped inspirationally by destroying some symbols and even creating new ones, but the major work must be done on the substance of reality and not its representations and cosmetically false history lessons.

Symbols can play a vital role in many of our lives, whether national, religious or even more personal, but no one can pay the rent or mortgage by giving the landlord a flag or the bank a Koran, Menorah or four-leaf clover, nor feed a family by leaving a statue of Jesus at the CVS, Costco or Trader Joe’s checkout line. Until we change the political economic foundation of the society from a private profit first focus which approaches moral fanaticism to a humane placing of the public good as primary before any private gain, updating the books at a library or the art at a museum will only benefit those able to attend libraries and museums now, but we need to make a difference in the housing and feeding and health care of a population so that all can attend and benefit from libraries and museums in the future.

The anti-democratic political economics of war and injustice that are the foundation of capitalism must be radically changed from its roots, and confronting its history is not only important but critical to really changing the future in substance and not simply in its symbols. At the present moment of more glaring breakdowns in the economy reflected in a health care system that makes primitive societies look at least morally superior, and with national leadership idiotically lashing out at Russia, China and a growing global population finding the USA the most dangerous power in the world, a desire to confront historical lies is important. But of far greater consequence is the creation of a material truth that is a complete, and not only in specific but all circumstances, break with the inhuman aspects of reality that are leading to serious crises not only in health and markets but in planetary survival itself.

And attacks on speech and the labeling of too many things as “hate crimes” are hardly a healthy reaction to past disgraceful language and especially brutal treatment of humanity. In fact, such actions are in perfect keeping with the worst aspects of a society and culture the anti-speech crowds are supposedly against. Treating some nose-picking intellectuals as brilliant creators of self-lobotomies and some market hustlers as revolutionaries for gaining lucrative incomes by indulging in establishment acceptable speech and teaching are not just symbolic but substantial efforts to smother the demand for real change under a blanket of reactionary practice using language of the present to strengthen systems of the past.

What’s most important for sincere advocates of change to understand is the fact that during the current capitalist pandemic-economic crisis, more than 45 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance and at the same time 29 Americans have become members of the billionaire brigade which now numbers nearly 700 people. That’s in a nation of nearly 350 million people. If that describes a democratic republic, then everyone having cancer describes a healthy public.

Those who find such incredible economic disparities tolerable will probably find the new markets for symbols to replace old ones lucrative forms of advancing their own class privileges. The rest of us need to join together in transforming every aspect of our political economy to one that works for peace, justice and humanity, and choose our symbols later, after we’ve seen to everyone’s right to food, clothing, shelter, and an environment assuring a healthy future for all and not just some. Chains, whether enclosing our bodies or our minds, need to be broken, in substance.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Racial Pathology In The USA

 
1901: Atlanta
 The “Machiavelli of the Black Belt”
A former West Virginia slave and the founder of Tuskegee Institute, Booker T. Washington has risen to become the most powerful black man in the United States. In his widely acclaimed autobiography, “Up From Slavery,” he says he did it by hard work and faith in God, the only antidotes to adversity.
Conservative, wealthy, and pro-laissez faire, Washington puts social equality on the back burner in favor of economic uplift. Accommodation, compromise, and propitiation are the price of survival, he says, so blacks must apply themselves to blacksmithing, bricklaying, and carpentry. Then they can buy their citizenship rights. “The black man who spends ten thousand a year in freight charges can select his own seat in a railroad train.”
Washington’s steady stream of bromides and “darky” tales lets him smoothly navigate his way through white society, dissolving tension in condescending chuckles. One of his cheerful maxims holds that lynching “really indicates progress,” since “there can be no progress without friction.” Another praises slavery for having converted pagans to Christianity, thus teaching blacks to work and speak English.
Adrift in a stormy sea of white-sheeted fury, Washington engineers plodding advance by never showing his dislikes. But no matter how much he moderates his moderation and waters down his water, he still evokes white wrath. “I am just as opposed to Booker Washington as a voter,” rails Mississippi Governor Vardaman, “with all his Anglo-Saxon reinforcements, as I am to the coconut-headed, chocolate-colored, typical little coon, Andy Dotson, who blacks my shoes every evening.”

Sources:

David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. DuBois, Biography of a Race, 1868-1919, (Henry Holt and Co., 1998) pps. 169, 215, 240, 256-7, 261-3, 274

Noel J. Kent, America In 1900, (M. E. Sharpe, 2000) p. 123


1901: Washington
Tasteless Dining
President Roosevelt invites Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House and a mortified South recoils in shocked outrage.
The New Orleans Times-Democrat complains that, “When Mr. Roosevelt sits down to dinner with a Negro, he declares that the Negro is the social equal of the white man.” The Memphis Scimitar angrily accuses the president of “the most damnable outrage ever.” The editor of the Richmond Times says he has implicitly endorsed Negro-White courtship and interracial marriage. An outraged Memphis editorialist swears that, “No Southern woman with proper self-respect would now accept an invitation to the White House.”


Sources:

Henry F. Pringle, Theodore Roosevelt - A Biography, (Harcourt, 1931) pps. 174-6

Clifton Daniel, ed. Chronicle of America, (DK Publishing, 1997) p. 535


1901: Chicago
Clarence Darrow Laments The
Moral Deficiencies of the White Race
“Probably I do not look at the race problem in as hopeful a way as many of our people do, for I am somewhat pessimistic about the white race. When I see how anxious the white race is to go to war over nothing and to shoot down men in cold blood for the benefit of trade, when I see the injustice everywhere present, the rich people uniting and crowding the poor into inferior positions, I fear the dreams we have indulged in of perfect equality and unlimited opportunity are a long way from realization. The colored race should learn this: if the white race insults you on account of your inferior position they also degrade themselves when they do it. Every time a superior person invades the rights and liberties and dignity of an inferior person he retards and debases his own manhood.”


Source: Irving Stone, Clarence Darrow For The Defense, (Signet, 1941) pps. 197-8


1901: Philadelphia
Optimistic Editorial In The Philadelphia Ledger:
“The present war (in the Philippines) is no bloodless, fake, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners, and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of 10 up, an idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog...Our soldiers have pumped salt water into men to ‘make them talk,’ and have taken prisoners people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and an hour later, without an atom of evidence to show that they were even insurrectos, stood them on a bridge and shot them down one by one, to drop into the water below and float down, as examples to those who found their bullet-loaded corpses. . . The new military plan of settling the trouble by setting them at each other looks promising.”


Source: Daniel Schirmer,  Republic or Empire: American Resistance to the Philippine War, (Schenken Publishing Company, 1972) p. 232-4

1902: Washington
The Lodge Committee Hearings
General MacArthur denies there is a Philippine war at all, merely an attempt by Americans “to govern themselves” in a “tuitionary annex.” To establish the superiority of the self-governing race he reviews the history of America’s “Aryan ancestors” raising cattle and articulating “imperishable ideas.” He attributes the huge disproportion in Filipino and U.S. war dead to superior American genes and marksmanship, adding that “no war in history has been conducted with as much humanity.”
Carefully screened ex-soldiers instruct the committee on the necessity of shooting and burning all Filipinos as a means of coping with their “inability to appreciate human kindness.” Ex-Corporal Richard T. O’Brien testifies how Captain Fred McDonald and his troops annihilated the village of La Nog, shooting down men waving white flags, but sparing the life of a beautiful mestizo mother so she could be gang raped by the rampaging soldiers.
David P. Barrows testifies that the water cure “injured no one,” adding that the Filipinos in concentration camps are “there of their own volition,” and have actually benefited from the war.
Senator Bacon breaks ranks with the optimists, reading a letter from the commander of one of the concentration camps, who calls them “suburbs of hell”: “What a farce it all is...this little spot of black sogginess is a reconcentrado pen, with a dead line outside, beyond which everything living is shot...Upon arrival, I found 30 cases of smallpox, and average fresh ones of five a day, which practically have to be turned out to die. At nightfall crowds of huge vampire bats softly swirl out of their orgies over the dead. Mosquitos work in relays. This corpse-carcass stench wafts in and combined with some lovely municipal odors besides makes it slightly unpleasant here.”


Sources: Stuart Creighton Miller, Benevolent Assimilation - The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903, (Yale, 1982) pps. 213, 216, 240, 243

Richard Drinnon, Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian Hating and Empire Building (Schocken, 1980), p. 317


1902: Washington
The Lodge Committee (2): Civilized Morality
Senator Rawlins (D, Utah): “If these shacks were of no consequence what was the utility of their destruction?”
General R. P. Hughes: “The destruction was a punishment. They permitted these people to come in there and conceal themselves . . .”
Senator Rawlins: “The punishment in that case would fall, not upon the men, who could go elsewhere, but mainly upon the women and little children.”
Hughes: “The women and children are part of the family, and where you wish to inflict a punishment you can punish the man probably worse in that way than in any other.”
Senator Rawlins: “But is that within the ordinary rules of civilized warfare? Of course you could exterminate the family which would be still worse punishment.”
Hughes: “These people are not civilized.”

 Source: Stuart Creighton Miller, Benevolent Assimilation - The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903, (Yale, 1982) pps. 213, 216, 240, 243


1902: Washington
The Lodge Committee (3): The Way of God
Senator Beveridge (R., Indiana): “When a town or barrio has been notoriously known as a rendezvous, place of departure and return of ladrones [bandits], what then would be a justifiable course to pursue?”
Colonel Wagner: “If the town were notoriously a nest of ladrones, if it was impossible to get the rest of the people to yield them up, it would be justifiable and proper to destroy the town, even though we destroyed the property of some innocent people. The Almighty destroyed Sodom, notwithstanding the fact that there were a few just people in that community—less than ten.”
Senator Beveridge: “How strange; I was thinking of that instance of Sodom and Gomorrah.”

 Source: Richard Drinnon, Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian Hating and Empire Building (Schocken, 1980), p. 319


1902: San Francisco
The San Francisco Argonaut On
Development Obstacles in the East
“...the talk about benevolent assimilation is insufferable cant...We do not want the Filipinos. We want the Philippines. The islands are enormously rich, but, unfortunately they are infested by Filipinos. There are many millions of them there, and it is to be feared that their extinction will be slow...The development of the islands cannot be successfully done while the Filipinos are there. Therefore the more of them killed the better.”

 Source: Oswald Garrison Villard, Fighting Years: Memoirs of a Liberal Editor, (Harcourt, Brace, and Co, 1939) p. 141

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Bigotry, Racism and Capitalist Class Privilege




Bigotry, Racism and Capitalist Class Privilege



" The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the right of every human being to liberty and well-being." -- Emma Goldman

Class divisions are prime factors in all systems, governing where, how and if people live, work, eat, dress, school and survive. All members of a class share its privileges, not just some few, as in the case of what is called “white” privilege, as though it was experienced by all humans characterized in racist society as “white”. No matter the skin tone, sexual preference or ethnicity of the persons, class status governs whether they live in some degree of physical comfort, are educated, make investments and are able to plan for the future, or live in relative and often severe discomfort, in debt, in low cost housing, ghettos, jails or on the street, with their only future plan being able to survive another day, let alone another week.

Class privileges come before and count for more than sexual privileges, which are very real but are at least based on the organic nature of humanity, while race differences are a filthy lie under which we live in the promotion of capitalist class society, along with all other separations used to divide humans from our commonality.

The lawyer reduced to ambulance chasing still enjoys a more comfortable material standard of living than the driver of the ambulance, no matter the lawyer’s sex or skin tone or the driver’s religion or sexual preference. Those able to  graduate from college enjoy privilege by comparison to the majority who have no such luck and those with enough money or program access to get them into the “better” schools enjoy more privilege than those who go to ordinary colleges, but both groups enjoy a class status beyond that of the majority, of all shapes, sizes, beliefs and skin tones, who haven’t a prayer of attending college unless making deliveries, cleaning its toilets or building a wing on the chem lab or art studio. And a less formally educated class of majority  Americans owe what education they have to their teachers, all of whom are and were college graduates who enabled them to become, according to some political bigots, unsophisticated, ignorant, and even “deplorable” members of a working class.

Being born into an educated and materially comfortable family does not guarantee a person wont wind up a miserable and suffering human, but that suffering is much less likely to be physical and may at least have the assistance of therapists and legal drugs, rather than reduce them to seeing a parole or probation officer for therapy after consuming the only drugs they can get, illegally.

These aspects of material class reality should be understood by all but are still buried by consciousness controllers who sell us the prevailing mythology that sees all social ills as the result of individual problems or blamed on those most visible as members of lower economic classes, frequently and most malevolently but not exclusively called “people of color”, as though they were blue or purple, but in fact covering for a racist history that reduced some of us to even lower economic status by virtue of skin pigmentation.

The horrid story of chattel slavery, in which hundreds of thousands of Africans were transplanted to the western world in chains as the cheapest form of labor, serving as the back bone of capitalist profits for a long period of history, is still almost a secret to many Americans. But while that treatment was uniquely cruel it was a continuation of the inhumanity and abuse of first, the indigenous people who lived here centuries before European colonization, and later, immigrant labor from Europe and Asia which sometimes suffered miserable conditions even beyond some slaves who happened to be owned by benign masters. While the squalor and bigotry encountered by millions of immigrants may not have been as disgraceful as the suffering of slaves, the lesser evilism implicit in such comparisons serves as an example of what passes for our democracy, when voters are frequently reduced to selecting someone who sickens them less than the opposition candidate after an alleged political debate that often amounts to pimps arguing about which one represents true love.

 In a system dependent on individual consumption at the market as the be all end all of human relations that finds a majority of humans the world over relating to life in poverty and misery, class divisions are used by rulers to keep democracy from ever happening. The result can be as ridiculous as people with cancer  seeing people with polio as being privileged, with lesser evilism carried to a point very close to current conditions of working people so divided by ethnicity, sex and skin tones that they keep minorities in power by allowing themselves to be so humanly reduced.

Our ruling billionaire class, smaller in number and richer than any in history, hires and rents a professional class to maintain its rule while those professionals hire, rent, administer and educate the working class to maintain everyone’s status as members of separate classes but all somehow democratically equal. During slavery, the upper class House Negroes sometimes organized and led rebellions when they saw how their people suffered while the masters lived on what they slaved to produce.  But most went along to get along, often hoping to bring change about by slowly working to bring understanding to all concerned, or maybe just making life better for themselves, as most of us do. Their behavior was the same as any other group trying to survive as best it can under circumstances seemingly beyond its personal control. Welcome to 21st century capitalism, the time when the system has never been as unjust but has more people thinking and acting beyond imposed and taught differences but as united humans whose experience is far beyond past expressions of change, though with the same opponents, problems and with even more serious calamities for the future if humanity is not successful.

When there are social breakdowns, as are currently being experienced in possibly the most severe and communicated way in capitalist history, class differences become bolder and clearer than ever. The latest political economic crisis in America is due to a possibly overdone but still deadly virus compounded by another in a long series of killings of Black Americans by white police, highlighted as never before in the age of instant communication, as well as instant mis-communication. Long dominance by major media over citizen consciousness is often countered now by what is called social media –though it is still at times very anti-social – but the views of a dreadful and at its roots social crime is, as too often, treated as the act of a bigoted individual, or group of individuals who perform state services in maintenance of American class society.

The horrid scene of a victim  with a police officer’s knee on his neck causing his death even though he offered no resistance  has ignited outbursts of understandable pain and rage but also sometimes cynical manipulation mostly directed at the police as though they are individually acting out racist behavior in some social vacuum in which the formidable economic barriers between communities originate because of servants of the state, rather than the owners and operators of that state: the ruling class.

A relatively comfortable sector of the population has suddenly been confronted by a nearly shut down society under assault by a seemingly new virus and simultaneously seen the most vile aspects of racism for the first time, which the collapsing system has spread in its lust for private profit at public expense, but still clouded by mind management into placing blame for increasing horrors on evil individuals or “identity groups” deemed guilty of perpetuating injustice all by themselves.

Blaming police for the wretched social reality of communities segregated by economics and alleged racial difference is like blaming the military for the wars that destroy nations and kill hundreds of thousands of foreigners while most of us go to work, school, shop, watch TV, feed pets, eat taco-pizza-burgers or health food, buy guns and demonstrate against wars. The political economic realities that treat some humans as lesser commodities in a diseased culture that reduces everything to a market item to be bought and sold are rarely dealt with let alone confronted. The forces of the market exclusively under minority control can no longer be tolerated by any of us wishing or claiming to be working on behalf of humanity and not just a sector of it.

The present moment of a virus which may get worse with demonstrating crowds breathing on one another may end with more deaths and social division but as long as it pits people against the police it will be just what our rulers want. Sincere comments offered by politicians and celebrities are nice but in substance they amount to the usual speeches about hearts going out to the sufferers of whatever tragedy of the moment is being discussed. They are very much like the hordes of us who demonstrate against a war or another injustice, and then go home for diner while the war and the injustice continue after we vote for another candidate who supports the system of war and injustice.
Our rulers have made even more billions during this pandemic phase of a crumbling system which may yet fall on all our heads if we don’t stop lashing out simply at those employed by them and paid for by us and aim our rebelliousness at the top where it resides.

Capitalism will continue pouring billions into the accounts of the fraction of 1% at the top  while millions lose their jobs, hundreds of thousands lose their homes and  businesses, and well meaning if often misled manipulated “rebels” lash out at working class state servants or a handful of shaved headed bikers or other selected by their manipulators enemies, while the real problems ride around in chauffeured limousines, private jets and soon, even space ships. As we continue pouring wealth into the coffers of Wall Street, the Pentagon and Israel, reducing more Americans to crippling debt and poverty while killing more people in foreign countries, the current resident of subsidized presidential housing and some “white” cops are still seen by too many of us as the source of all our woes.


Someof us are reduced to thinking the poor, the homeless and those on the dole are great problems because we not only hear that from our mind managers but frequently see them on the street and under the freeways, while our rulers are never seen unless on major media and might as well be gods. Their upper class servants live in gated communities while they are in walled estates less accessible to common people than the royalty of feudal days were in their castles with moats and drawbridges to keep the common people out and under control. The police certainly serve in the same capacity in some communities but attacking them as the source of our problems would be like feudal rebels attacking the moat or drawbridge while remaining ignorant of the people and wealth they protected.

 We  share a material social reality no matter what our personal comfort level may be for the moment and it grows more dangerous to our future the longer we allow ourselves to be ruled by an unelected tiny minority running a system that works against all our interests. We do not need to simply end poverty and injustice in one or another community: we need to end poverty and injustice for all  by insisting on jobs, healthcare and housing for all people. We do not need to simply stop killing people in the Middle East or in American ghettos: we need to cut military budgets, work for global peace and disarmament, and stop killing people everywhere. That calls for a radically different system than the one under which we live, one that puts the public good before - way before - private profit, and that needed transformation can only come about when we of the majority class unite to bring it about.

 

email: fpscott@gmail.com

Frank Scott’s political commentary and satire is online at the blog legalienate: http//legalienate.blogspot.com

 

 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Uprising On Main Street

“It really doesn’t matter who gets into office it’s all going to come down to the response of the people.”
       ----------Black Panther Aaron Dixon

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown recently wrote that “defund the police” is an ill-advised slogan that will hurt Democrats come November, as though the ongoing mass mobilizations around police brutality weren’t fueled by popular rage at the failure of voting or anything else to offer a path to change. “[If] you take away people’s feelings of personal safety,” warned Brown, “you lose voters.” Ah, feelings! A better word would be illusions. The people for whom the police are a constant predatory menace don’t have any personal safety to lose, and they are in a position to burn the country to the ground, as recent events have shown. If they strike the match, all the King’s horses and all the King’s men will not be able to put “personal safety” together again.

Could this alarming prospect be the reason for so much bizarre behavior from those who have long enjoyed the illusion of physical security? Like white protesters in Houston kneeling and praying to black residents to be forgiven their racial sins. Like white police officers in Cary, North Carolina washing the feet of black pastors. Like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer kneeling down dressed in African kente cloth scarves. Like self-flagellating white people all over the country allegedly sickened by a legacy of slavery they know little about, expressing boundless revulsion over their skin color and earnestly demonstrating their utter unfitness to be or do anything. As convincing as their apparent uselessness is, where is the intended benefit?

On the other hand, the Black Lives Matter advice that whites become “allies” of blacks sounds good but lacks clear meaning. Which black people are whites supposed to make themselves allies of? Barack Obama, who recently helped torpedo a promising social democratic revival that could have put real $20 bills in the pockets of the George Floyds of this world, sparing them the horror of fatal police stops over petty or imaginary offenses triggered by poverty? Candace Owens, who dismisses Floyd as a common criminal and drug addict entirely unworthy of our sympathy? The Congressional Black Caucus, which recently voted unanimously to award trillions of dollars in aid to plundering corporations, thus guaranteeing increased suffering for a large majority of African Americans, who had little enough to start with and now must somehow survive with capital consolidating its already massive holdings in the midst of economic collapse and galloping pandemic?

In short, not all blacks are worthy of support, and many whites are so crippled by self-accusation that they are incapable of providing any. Dilemmas like these should make it clear that solving our racial nightmare will demand more than hashtags and sound bites.

One thing that would help everyone is broad popular understanding of the problem. African-Americans are endangered by police, not because of anything they have done, but because of slavery, which was never entirely abolished. The 13th Amendment declares slavery prohibited “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,” which allows it to continue under the aegis of the criminal justice system. The state, as opposed to the individual capitalist, has the authority to perpetuate the slave codes, which criminalize black life and masquerade as impartial justice. As a result, our prisons are jammed with black prisoners, many of whom are dispatched to the chain gang, a form of exploitation that proved a boon to rapid industrial development in the late 19th century, and has been enjoying a revival in the era of the “war on drugs.”

Any mention of slavery tends to evoke defensive and dismissive responses from white people, most commonly that slavery is ancient history and hardly an American invention. But in fact slavery was only abolished a century-and-a-half ago, not long in historical time, and was succeeded by Jim Crow, which viciously perpetuated something very much like slavery for another century. And the informal apartheid that exists to this day achieves the same effect as legal segregation did under Jim Crow. Even lynching has not been entirely done away with, as the George Floyd killing attests. The only notable difference between Floyd’s murder and the ritual executions of thousands of African Americans during the Jim Crow era was the people on the sidewalk calling out for mercy: during segregation they would have been cheering the murderer on.

As for slavery in other lands, it carries with it no implications for Americans, and it is Americans we are talking about. In any case, why the constant attempt to evade moral responsibility for slavery? If your child stood accused of burning down the school cafeteria, would you really try to complain that she was being singled out unfairly, since arson has existed all over the world since forever? Probably not.

Discussions of slavery naturally raise the related topic of reparations, some form of which is definitely owed. After all, the industrial revolution was based on cotton, which was produced primarily by slave labor in the United States. Wealth accrued not just to the planter aristocracy of the old South, but also to textile manufacturers in the North and Great Britain, among other commercial and financial beneficiaries forming the core of modern capitalism. As for the slaves, they were not given their “forty acres and a mule” upon their (partial) liberation, which carried severely destructive consequences for the entire society down to the present day.

We can no longer accept refusals to discuss redistribution of the wealth from rich to poor on the grounds that we can’t “just throw money” at problems. Aren’t we doing precisely that right now to shore up capital markets? And aren’t they crashing anyway? It was always ridiculous to claim that the best way to help the poor was to throw money at the rich, but in the midst of an outright depression it’s frankly suicidal. To make a long story short, we cannot confront systemic racism without reversing the gift of trillions of dollars of unearned wealth showered on large corporations in response to the coronavirus crisis. That money should go to areas of popular need, not narrow centers of private greed. Only then can consumption rise, jobs return, and a modicum of justice reign. What are we waiting for?

Equally absurd is the racist ideology underpinning slavery, which posited that Africans needed white guidance to advance on their journey from savagery to civilization. This and other perverse notions took hold of even the most “enlightened” minds. Thomas Jefferson, for example, a child of the Enlightenment and author of the Declaration of Independence, dismissed Indians as "savages" and patronizingly saw blacks as almost equal to whites. They had tolerable memories, he thought, but lacked sufficient intellect to understand Euclid, and were entirely bereft of imagination in his view. Interestingly, brown women attracted Jefferson more than white women, but he was terrified at the prospect of losing racial purity, and looked forward to the day when blacks would be shipped to the Caribbean or returned to Africa, leaving the U.S. “without blot or mixture.”

Elite thought didn’t improve over the next century. At the turn of the 20th century anthropologists placed African Americans somewhere between the great apes and the hominids on the evolutionary scale. Biologists reported that their average brain weight was less than that of Caucasians, and substantially less than that of English-speaking Protestants. Psychologists claimed they were possessed of a primal sexuality and prone to irrationality, especially under stress or in situations of intimacy. Criminologists and eugenicists warned of their allegedly innate brutality and hyper-fertility. Race experts believed they had no mental or physical energy, lacked volition, and worked as little as possible, preferring indolence and sunshine to developing civilized artifacts like architecture or literature. One of the most important books published in 1900 was entitled, “The Mystery Solved: The Negro a Beast.”

Doctors predicted they would die out from disease and perversion.

Today, we see the persistence of such prejudicial attitudes, though now the alleged deficiencies of African Americans are believed to reside in their history or culture, rather than in their very nature. But such explanations “might as well be called genetic,” writes educator Jonathan Kozol, based as they are on presumptions of degradation “imprinted on black people.” Those who continue to disdain them “see a slipshod, deviant nature – violence, lassitude, a reckless sexuality, a feverish need to over-reproduce” as being what they unavoidably are.

But in fact this is not at all what they are, but what a racist society believes them to be. That society, now riven by tribal warfare and in a state of accelerating collapse, will not survive if racism is not rooted out once and for all. 

Fortunately, there are signs of a general awakening to this fact. The popular uprising that greeted the murder of George Floyd has been of unprecedented scope and breadth. Protests more than 100,000 strong broke out in various U.S. cities, with parallel solidarity demonstrations around the world. Unlike police brutality protests of the 1960s, recent demonstrations have included a large number of whites, as well as Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, and people of all ages, along with a large swath of the middle class. A coalition this broad cannot be ignored, especially its central demand: an end to the militarized American police state, which means a change in the very structure of the capitalist state in the United States. 

For the first time in a long time popular forces have seized the initiative and ruling elites are forced to play defense. 

Sources:

On racist views of African Americans at the turn of the 20th century, see Noel J. Kent – America In 1900, (M. E. Sharpe, 2000); also Willard B. Gatewood, Black Americans and the White Man’s Burden, 1898-1903, (University of Illinois, 1975)

On recent racist stereotypes see Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities, (Harper, 1991)  p. 192
On Thomas Jefferson's views of Africans, see Eduardo Galeano, Memory of Fire, Vol. 2. (Pantheon, 1987) p. 48

On Jefferson's "without blot or mixture" comment, see Noam Chomsky, "Year 501 - The Conquest Continues," (South End, 1993) p, 22

On possible electoral consequences of protesters' rhetoric, see Willie Brown, "'Defund the police' is bad policy, terrible politics," San Francisco Chronicle, June 13, 2020

On recent bizarre behavior from white people, see Matt Taibbi, "The American Press is Destroying Itself," June 12, 2020 https://taibbi.substack.com/p/the-news-media-is-destroying-itself
 
On the economic roots and benefits of slavery see George Yancy and Noam Chomsky, "Noam Chomsky on the Roots of American Racism," March 18, 2015 https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/18/noam-chomsky-on-the-roots-of-american-racism/
On the Aaron Dixon quote, see Yoav Litvin, "Living the Panther Dream - An Interview with Black Panther Party Veteran Member Aaron Dixon," Counterpunch, June 19, 2020