Friday, August 18, 2017

Books: US Gun Culture, Outlaws and False Heroes

Order this book here
Here are the first few pages of a chapter from Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz' forthcoming book, Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment.  The chapter is on Missouri Confederate guerrillas. In this short excerpt Ms Ortiz destroys a few favorite myths propagated by popular culture and the mass media about guns and the aftermath of the Civil War. It looks like a must read for those of us intent on unlearning official history. RM

 Here is one critic's review:

"Gun violence, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz compellingly shows, is as U.S. American as apple pie. This important book peels back the painful and bloody layers of gun culture in the United States, and exposes their deep roots in the killing and dispossession of Native peoples, slavery and its aftermath, and U.S. empire-making. They are roots with which all who are concerned with matters of justice, basic decency, and the enduring tragedy of the U.S. love affair with guns must grapple."—Joseph Nevins, author of Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment. San Francisco: City Light Publishers, January 2018. *


I grew up in rural Oklahoma. Both my parents were born in western Missouri. My father, besides being a tenant farmer and rodeo man, was an actual proletarian cowboy who worked on a large cattle ranch in Oklahoma mending fences and herding cattle long distances before he married my mother.
In this world, stories of “Robin Hood” outlaw heroes were pervasive. These included the James Gang, Jesse and Frank; and the Younger Brothers, Cole, Jim, John and Bob, Belle Starr—dubbed the “Bandit Queen”—my female role model. I was, thanks to my mother, a devout Southern Baptist; yet it didn’t seem contradictory that these bandits broke nearly all the Ten Commandments, because they stole from the rich and gave to the poor, or so it was said. Not until I moved to San Francisco when I was twenty-one and took a college course in U.S. West History did I learn that all my heroes had been Confederate Guerrillas, associated with William Quantrill’s Rangers. They all came from middle-class families who bought, sold, and worked enslaved Africans, and who were devoted to the Confederacy, that is, the preservation of chattel slavery. This came as a shock, because by that time, I had for the previous four years taken sides in favor of the Civil Rights movement and despised racism, the main reason I left Oklahoma as soon as I could. I’ve been trying to figure out this disconnect ever since. But I do know that border-outlaw narratives have played a role in gun fetishism and a culture of violence and racism in the United States.

I was not alone in buying into the myths about these outlaws. Even in San Francisco, New York City, and beyond, during the folk music revival of the late 1950s, Woody Guthrie’s 1939 recording of the 1882 traditional song extolling Jesse James was revived and made the pop charts:

Oh, they laid poor Jesse in his grave, yes, Lord They laid Jesse James in his grave
Oh, he took from the rich and he gave to the poor But, they laid Jesse James in his grave
Pete Seeger recorded the song in 1957, followed by Eddy Arnold in 1959, the Kingston Trio in 1961, and in the 1970s, it made the charts again recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band as well as by Bob Seger; even The Pogues as well as Bruce Springsteen got in the act in the mid-1980s. It was recorded by dozens of other lesser known folk, pop, and country musicians.

And, there was a larger theme of sympathy for the slave South’s “Lost Cause” in the 1960s counter-culture. The Band first recorded “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” with lyrics by Robbie Robertson,77 in 1969, when they were closely associated with Bob Dylan, topping the charts in several categories; Joan Baez recorded it in 1971, with the same result, as did Johnny Cash in 1975. Liberal San Francisco music critic Ralph J. Gleason waxed eloquently on The Band’s recording: “Nothing I have read ... has brought home the overwhelming human sense of history that this song does...It’s a remarkable song, the rhythmic structure, the voice of Levon [Helms] and the bass line with the drum accents and then the heavy close harmony of Levon, Richard and Rick in the theme, make it seem impossible that this isn’t some traditional material handed down from father to son straight from that winter of 1865 to today. It has that ring of truth and the whole aura of authenticity.”

Virgil Kane is the name...
Back with my wife in Tennessee
When one day she called to me “Virgil, quick, come see,
There goes Robert E. Lee!”
Now, I don’t mind chopping wood And I don’t care if the money’s no good You take what you need
And you leave the rest
But they should never have taken the very best
The night they drove old Dixie down And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down And all the people were singing

This was a post-World War II composition mourning the Confederate defeat in the Civil War, written by Robbie Robertson, also a member of The Band and one of the most celebrated of the many musicians, writers, and producers coming out of the 1960s. He is also Mohawk, his mother from the Six Nations Reserve outside Toronto, Canada, his father Jewish. Not having grown up in the United States, Robertson likely had very little knowledge of the Civil War, but Joan Baez did and was a pacifist and an icon of the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the time. It seems that the sanitized lore that views bloody, murdering, Confederate guerrillas as righteous outlaws continues to be deeply ingrained in United States culture.

And, it wasn’t just the music counterculture, but also mainstream pop culture. True Grit, a best-selling 1968 novel by Charles Portis, also serialized in the popular mass-distributed magazine The Saturday Evening Post, was made into a blockbuster movie in 1969, featuring John Wayne as the fictional Rooster Cogburn, former Confederate guerrilla with Quantrill. John Wayne won the Academy Award for best acting the role as the good-hearted drunken antihero who proves himself a true hero. Ethan and Joel Cohen did a 2010 duplicate remake of the film for the new generation starring Jeff Bridges in the John Wayne role, accompanied by a new edition of the novel with an afterword by bestselling author Donna Tartt, which reached number one on The New York Times bestseller list.

The 1976 film, Outlaw Josey Wales, directed by Clint Eastwood, the script by Forrest Carter adapted from his 1972 novel, The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales, featured a Missouri Confederate guerrilla played by Clint Eastwood, based on the true story of Bill Wilson, a folk hero in the Ozarks. After Union troops murder his wife and child, Wales refuses to surrender at the end of the war, seeks revenge, and guns down the Union man that killed his family. He then flees to Texas with a bounty on his head. In the film, Josey Wales expresses his world view: “Now remember, things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. Cause if you lose your head and give up then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is.”

Forrest Carter, who wrote the script for Outlaw Josey Wales, is the pen name of Asa Earl Carter (1925-1975) who was a leader in the Ku Klux Klan in the 1950s and a speech writer for the segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace in the 1960s. He changed his name and successfully turned to writing, first the Josey Wales book, then in 1976 what claimed to be a memoir, The Education of Little Tree. The story is told by an orphaned boy of five years old, being raised by Cherokee grandparents who called him “Little Tree,” with stereotypical noble savage actions and settings, perfect for the growing “New Age” appropriation and distortion of Native ways. At the book’s release, The New York Times published an article outing Forrest Carter as Asa Carter, former Klansman. It was not a big secret, as Carter had run for governor of Alabama in 1970. The article reported, “Beyond denying that he is Asa Carter, the author has declined to be interviewed on the subject.”

Carter died at age 53 in 1979, beat to death in a fight with his son. His literary fame faded. There had been no questioning of Carter’s claim of Cherokee identity until the University of New Mexico Press bought the rights to The Education of Little Tree in 1985, and published it as non-fiction in 1991. The book took off and became the number one best seller on The New York Times best-seller list and won the American Booksellers Book of the Year award, and became a much loved book. The Cherokee Nation denied that Carter was Cherokee, and Carter’s Ku Klux Klan background was once again revealed, leading the Times to shift the book to its fiction list. Despite calls from the Native American academic community and the Cherokee Nation that the University of New Mexico Press withdraw the book from publication, instead they changed the cover, removing the “True Story” subtitle and reclassified it as fiction, but the biographical profile did not change to include Carter’s Klan activities and the lack of evidence of his being Cherokee; it remains one of their bestselling books. Oprah Winfrey had endorsed the book when it was published, but removed it from her recommendations in 1994.

Clint Eastwood, directing The Outlaw Josey Wales, featured several stereotypical Native American characters, written by Carter, and performed by excellent Native American actors, Geraldine Keams as a love interest, the elderly Chief Dan George as his spirit guide, and Will Sampson as a protector. In the script, there is no mention of slavery even though Wales was a Confederate guerrilla who rejected the Confederate defeat.

Two other widely viewed films—Bonnie and Clyde and Pat Garret and Billy the Kid—glorified gun violence of real-life outlaws who were not Confederate guerrillas, but have contributed to those narratives being folded into ones of the Wild West even though Bonnie and Clyde were bandits in the Great Depression era, and Billie the Kid’s short life ended in 1882. With Bonnie and Clyde, Arthur Penn broke through to mainstream box office triumph and was embraced by the counterculture of 1967 at the same time. The film was noted for the bloodiest scenes in film history, and starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Sam Peckinpah’s 1973 film, Pat Garret and Billy the Kid, featured the popular musician and songwriter, Kris Kristofferson as the Kid, and a memorable soundtrack by Bob Dylan, who also played a cameo role.

How did it happen that popular culture transformed Confederate guerrillas into celebrity Western gunfighters, merging them with actual Western gunfighters, and what has this phenomenon contributed to the culture of violence, racism, and gun love in the United States?

* Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz grew up in rural Oklahoma, the daughter of a tenant farmer and part-Indian mother. She is the author of many books, including Outlaw Woman, a memoir of the 1960s and her time in an armed underground group, and the acclaimed An Indigenous Peoples' History ofthe United States. She lives in San Francisco.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

World Economy: Picking up?

by Michael Roberts

The latest economic data are showing that economic growth in the major capitalist countries has been picking up in the first half of 2017.

Japan’s economy expanded at the fastest pace for more than two years in the three months to June, with domestic spending accelerating as the country prepares for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

In the Eurozone, real GDP growth rose at annualised rate of 2.5%, with the Visegrad countries of Czech, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia rising at 5.8% in the second quarter of this year.

With the US economy continuing to trundle along at just over a 2% a year growth, the major economies are looking a little brighter in growth terms, it seems – at least compared to the falling growth rates of 2015-6.

What has been the key reason for this slight improvement?  In my view, it is the relative recovery in the Chinese economy, considered by most observers and the evidence as the driver of world economic growth (at the margin) since 2007. As the IMF put it in its latest survey of the Chinese economy, “With many of the advanced economies of the west struggling in the years since the financial crisis of 2007-09, China has acted as the growth engine of the global economy, accounting for more than half the increase in world GDP in recent years.”

Manufacturing output in China increased 6.7% yoy in July, continuing a slight recovery in 2017 after reaching a low in 2016 from a peak of over 11% a year in 2013.  As a result, Eurozone manufacturing output has picked up, particularly in Germany, the Netherlands and Italy as they export more to China.  The US manufacturing sector has also reversed its actual decline in 2016.  Japan’s manufacturing sector leaped up 6.7% compared to 2016, led by construction demand for the Olympics.

This all looks much better.  But remember most of these major economies are still growing at only around 2% a year, still well below pre-2007 rates or even the average in the post-1945 period.  The ‘developed’ capitalist economies are growing at their slowest rate in decades.  Ruchir Sharma, chief global strategist and head of emerging markets at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, noted in a recent essay in the magazine Foreign Affairs that “no region of the world is currently growing as fast as it was before 2008, and none should expect to. In 2007, at the peak of the pre-crisis boom, the economies of 65 countries – including a number of large ones, such as Argentina, China, India, Nigeria, Russia and Vietnam – grew at annual rates of 7% or more. Today, just six economies are growing at that rate, and most of those are in small countries such as Côte d’Ivoire and Laos.”

Nevertheless, all the purchasing managers indexes (PMIs) that provide the best ‘high frequency’ guide to the attitude and confidence of the capitalist sector in each country all show expansion is still taking place – if not at the pace of 2013-14.  Again the key seems to be a recovery in China’s PMI.

What does all this tell us about the likelihood of a new global economic recession in the next year or two?  That is something that I have been forecasting or expecting.  The latest data would seem to point away from that.

The mainstream forecasters remain optimistic about growth with the only proviso being that it is China that might collapse.  The IMF survey makes the familiar argument of the mainstream that overall debt is so high that it will eventualy collapse in bankruptcies and defaults, causing a slump and weakening the world economy.  Total debt has quadrupled since the financial crisis to stand at $28tn (£22tn) at the end of last year.

I disagree: for two reasons.  First, when China’s growth slowed sharply at the beginning of 2016, the mainstream observers argued that China could bring the world economy down.  My view was that, important as the Chinese economy was, it was not large enough to take the US and Europe down.  Those advanced economies remained the key to whether there would be a world slump.  And so it has proved.

Second, the size of China’s debt is large but the Chinese economy is different from the advanced capitalist economies.  Most of that debt is owed by the Chinese state banks and state enterprises.  The Chinese government can bail these entities out using its reserves and forced savings of Chinese households.  The state has the economic power to ensure that, unlike governments in the US and Europe during the credit crunch of 2007.  Governments then were beholden to the capitalist banks and companies, not vice versa.  So any credit crisis in China will be dealt with without producing a major collapse in the economy, in my view.

So does this mean that a new world slump is off the agenda?  No, in short.  One of my key indicators of the health of capitalist economies, as the readers of this blog well know, is the movement of profits in the capitalist sector.  Global corporate profits (a weighted average of the major economies) have also made a significant recovery from their collapse at the end of 2015. Indeed corporate profits overall seem to rising at the fastest rate since the immediate bounce-back after the end of the Great Recession.

But this overall figure is driven by the Chinese recovery and the pickup in Japan (due to the Olympics construction?).  Corporate profit growth in the US, Germany and the UK is slowing again after a brief pick-up in late 2016.

For me, the key remains the state of US economy and in particular, profits and investment levels there.  The booming US stock market is now way out of line with corporate earnings levels.  The S&P 500 cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings (CAPE) valuation has only been higher on one occasion, in the late 1990s. It is currently on par with levels preceding the Great Depression.

US corporate profits have recovered in the last few quarters after declining (although now slowing again) and, along with that, business investment has picked up.  Watch this space over the rest of 2017 to see if this is sustained.

Total domestic corporate profits have grown at an annualized rate of just 0.97% over the last five years. Prior to this period five-year annualized profit growth was 7.95%. At $8.6 trillion, corporate debt levels are 30% higher today than at their prior peak in September 2008.  At 45.3%, the ratio of corporate debt to GDP is at historic highs, having recently surpassed levels preceding the last two recessions.  If there is an issue with the level of debt, it is in the US, not in China.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Charlottesville and Trump's racism and lies.

Fascists scream their hatred in Charlottesville.
Sean O'Torain.

The Predator in Chief Trump carries on. Tramping on all the institutions and myths that US capitalism has put in place to allow it to rule through their so called democratic system. He drags out the truth that Washington and co, the fathers of the nation were slave owners. (according to US capitalist myth there were no mothers involved in the founding of the nation). The US capitalist class want to try and forget that the founders were slave owners. But Trump to cover his own a.. drags it out. This weakens the authority of the capitalist class.

Trump also vilifies the courts which keep capitalism safe. He vilifies the capitalist media which censors events and history to keep people supporting capitalism. He is well on the way to wrecking the Republican Party one of the two major parties of capitalism. The US ruling class has a real problem on their hands. As the authors of this Blog have said for the past years, US capitalism is in an economic, a military and political crisis. A new economic collapse lies ahead. As does the breaking of the US military as it is unable to win its wars in the Middle East.

The political crisis has come much faster and is much deeper than we thought due to Trump being elected President. And we have not seen the half of it yet. Wait till his illegal financial and other dealings with the Russian capitalist regime and other former Soviet regimes are exposed. US capitalism is in a severe political crisis.

The little man in North Korea is laughing at the US as its ruling elite fight amongst themselves. The authors of this Blog thought that a war with North Korea was very very unlikely. We think this is even more the case now given the weakening of Trump and the fragmentation of the capitalist political parties and organizations in Washington. But true to form, US capitalism is not using North Korea's step back, what the Wall Street Journal refers to as a climbdown, from it's threat to attack the US colony and military base of Guam to open the door to better relations. American forces are expected to begin joint military exercises with South Korea next week which is sure to return the situation to normalcy for US imperialism as this is one of the main issues for North Korea. The North has repeatedly raised these exercises as intimidation and threats and they are a major obstacle to a more stable relationship.

It is hardly worth talking about the Democratic Party. Paralyzed by its absolute commitment to capitalism and its institutions it is unable to bring Trump down. Like the capitalist media and increasingly sections of the Republican Party, it tries to criticize Trump by appealing to the sanitized version of history that US capitalism serves up. Trump will not be defeated this way. In the last analysis he is not that much different from the rest of the capitalist class - addicted to profit and power, racist, sexist, and seeks to rule the world.

US allies internationally are condemning Trump for his statements on Charlottesville. US authority around the world is collapsing by the hour. Like the dominant sections of the US capitalist class itself, we find it very hard to see how US capitalism is going to get out of this mess. The resignation of CEO's from the American Manufacturing Council shows a move away from Trump by some of the big capitalists. But they are putting forward no alternative. Just jumping ship. When what is necessary from the capitalist class's point of view is somebody else to take the wheel of the ship.

We have not heard yet from the slimy cowardly McConnell, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate. His spouse is in the Trump cabinet. She is an Asian American. She stood by Trump's side as he said the anti fascist forces were as bad as the fascist forces in Charlottesville. There would be no place for her in the fascists' America. Yet she stands there with a grin pasted to her face. Two others of the Trump regime stood by Trump as he equated the fascists with those who were opposing them. They were from a Jewish background. There would be no place for them either in the fascists' America. It is staggering to see how low these people will stoop to keep their positions and their snouts in the trough. Trump's daughter's husband is Jewish and she herself has converted to the Jewish religion. Amongst the chants of the fascists at Charlottesville was one where they said they wanted a man who would not give his daughter to a Jew. Trump does not hate Jewish people enough for them. Then there is the gender issue. According to them, Trump 'gives' his daughter to her husband. What an utterly backward bunch.

Trump's Effort To Make It An Issue Of Violence.

Trump is trying to make the events in Charlottesville an issue of violence or not violence. Trying to confuse people in this way. I was in a coffee shop yesterday and saw a lady I had spoken with a few times. She is very opposed to Trump. But she was a little confused. She asked me what did I think about what Trump said that there was violence on both sides. Was there not she said. She said she was against violence. I responded.

My friend you have spoken to me many times about your little grand daughter. And that if anybody hurt or abused her you would kill them with your bare hands. So you are not against violence. She then agreed. I pointed out that it was not violence that was the issue. It was to what end the violence was used. The fascists, the Nazis, why do people persist in calling them neo-Nazis, they are Nazis, they use violence to try and put in place a regime which would slaughter and/or drive into second place all but white Christian males. The anti-fascist forces use violence to stop such a development and instead to build a society where all people whatever race, religion, gender are treated equally. It is not a question of violence it is a question of to what end the violence is used.

Trump's performance yesterday gave a huge boost to white racists and fascists. This was shown by the thanks he got in statements from Spencer the fascist and Duke of the KKK. And it was no accident that when Trump was not sticking to the script written for him by his handlers as he had done in his previous statement on Charlottesville, he did not condemn the KKK. Yesterday Trump was being Trump. When he was being himself Trump did not condemn the KKK. He did not do so for two reasons. One is if he had done so he would have been condemning his father who was in the KKK. Daddy Trump was arrested in 1927 in New York city as part of a KKK mob fighting the cops. It would not do to criticize daddy. The other reason he did not condemn the KKK was that he does not actually condemn the KKK. Like the KKK Trump is a racist through and through. He does not need the racist Bannon to make him one.

There are 14 million members in the trade unions. They have to act.

I see that Trumka president of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Unions (AFL-CIO) has resigned from Trump's American Manufacturing Council. As has his deputy chief of Staff. Of course, true to form he waited for some Chief Executive Officer's of major companies to resign first, waited for these bosses to give him cover. He and the AFL-CIO should never have been on this council in the first place. It was just a continuation of the so-called Team Concept where the union leaders advise the bosses how to better compete with other companies and of course central to this, agree to cut the wages and benefits of their own members. In his statement of resignation Trump never mentioned that the racism and the ideas of the Fascists, the Nazis, the KKK were ideas that divided the working class and weakened the working class. It was the statement of a liberal. Not the statement of a workers' leader.

Instead of being on this council of Trump, Trumka and the leaders of the 14 million strong trade union movement should have taken the following action: called meetings of all the union leaderships, from this call meetings of all the union movement, that is union conferences, regional conferences. labor councils, locals and meetings on the shop floor of every organized workplace. Explain the danger of fascism and racism and sexism to the working class, how these divide and weaken the working class. And from these organize to mobilize the union membership on to the streets to stop the fascists and the KKK and the likes. It is a disgrace, a betrayal, that the youth and anti fascist forces are let to fight alone. It is a disgrace that the young woman Heather was murdered when this could have been prevented if the trade union leadership had mobilized its forces. Along with this any member of an Fascist organization who is also a member of a union should be expelled from that union. Should be given a choice. Either the union or the fascist organization.

For working class unity. Against racism, fascism, nazism, sexism, all of which divide and weaken the working class.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Bannon speaks through Trump. Points to Opponents Hypocrisy.

The above is a short clip of Trump’s press conference today. In it he returns to his previous position in the aftermath of the Charlottesville events that both sides are to blame. If we watch this closely, it is obvious that behind these comments is Steve Bannon his advisor and leading fascist theoretician in the White House.

With Trump as his mouthpiece, Bannon is appealing to the Nazi’s, fascists, KKK and other racist and white supremacist groups. Trump points mockingly to the hypocritical stance of his detractors among the US capitalist class who are attacking him on the basis of “American Values”.

He points a finger at them, what about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, these were both slaveowners, should their statues come down? On cue from Bannon he attacks the corporate executives who have resigned from a manufacturing panel he convened as “grandstanders who are easily replaced. After some CEO’s resigned, Richard Trumka head of the AFL-CIO who shouldn’t be on the panel anyway announces to the media,“We cannot sit on a council for a President who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism,” Well they pretty much all support that. What a toady Trumka is, begging the heads of US manufacturing, the steel and auto industries and the Predator in Chief for some crumbs from the 1%’s table, arguing for protectionist measures that weaken US workers and the working class internationally.

No matter what Trump says he is a completely degenerate individual and no friend of working people and we condemn him unconditionally. Trump’s father was arrested for his connections to the KKK and as a slumlord there is a long record of him discriminating against workers, the poor and people of color. He was endorsed by the KKK and the Nazi’s during his campaign and never disavowed them. In this battle between the ruling class in this country workers have no side. Trump’s criticism of the established bourgeois puts them in a bind. Trump, but particularly his mentor Bannon know that his detractors are on shaky ground.

In his criticism Trump calls them out for their hypocrisy and portrays himself as the true champion of American Values supporting workers and jobs at home. But what are these so-called “American Values” that the politicians and corporate heads throw out when it suits them?

The first one that comes to mind is the savagery and genocidal war against the Native population. Then there is African slavery and a system of apartheid that existed in the Southern states that is being revived by Trump and his allies today-----the millions of Europeans in textile mills, mines and factories, whose children worked alongside them. Genocide, slavery, indentured servitude and in the imperialist era nuclear attacks on civilian urban centers.

The turning of North Korea in to a wasteland, whose cities were wiped out by 24 hour bombing, Vietnam, three million dead and chemical warfare, and a generation of young American workers lost. Cambodia 600,000 dead, Laos. This devastation is the result of American capitalists and their values.

Poor social services, poor health care, homelessness, inequality, declining living standards and mass poverty these are American (capitalist) values. Workers have no allies in this battle. Elizabeth Warren and the liberal wing of the US capitalist class are hypocrites. We counterpose their American values with the values of the working class and all oppressed peoples; cooperation, solidarity, productive labor and a respect of nature.

For and end to capitalism and a democratic socialist world.

The Divisive, Reactionary Nature of Identity Politics

“….before Jim Crow, before the invention of the Negro or the white man or the words and concepts that describe them, the Colonial population consisted largely of a great mass of white and black bondsmen, who occupied roughly the same economic category and were treated with equal contempt by the lords of the plantation and legislatures. Curiously unconcerned about their color, these people worked together and relaxed together.  They had essentially the same interests, the same aspirations and the same grievances. They conspired together, and waged a common struggle against their common enemy-------the big planter apparatus and a social system that legalized terror against black and white bondsmen………….the available evidence, slight though it is, suggests that there were widening bonds of solidarity between the first generation of blacks and whites.  And the same evidence indicates that it proved very difficult indeed to teach white people to worship their skin.”  Lerone Bennet, The shaping of Black America

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I want to add a few comments to the video above. It’s not that I always forget them but I struggle to keep the videos fairly short.

I have been at events actually organized by socialists and with speakers who claim to be socialists and have heard them proclaim that this country, meaning the modern nation state of the US, was built on the backs of Native Americans and people of color, or Native Americans and black people.

It leaves out the white working class (and the Asian) and this is a serious error but it is inevitable in the world of identity politics.  It was built on the backs of the white working class also. Not only that, it makes no distinction between the classes within the communities of color at this present stage in the country’s history.

As far as the Native Americans, they had to be swept away in the genocidal war to occupy their lands. The US ruling class did not use the tactic of starvation first in Vietnam pouring chemicals on their food, it was a conscious strategy in US capitalism’s history to starve Native Americans to death through killing their main food supply was it not? I mean the Buffalo. They were herded in to camps and enclaves much like the Palestinians are today with the support of US weapons and money.

No class conscious white worker would deny history or that they have had an advantage based on skin color if it is presented to them correctly and if we discuss this in the context of building working class unity.  But to lump them all together, to talk of “white supremacy” devoid of class content is harmful to the struggle against racism sexism and ultimately capitalism. Even the Ford Foundation is supporting conferences on White Supremacy. Most of the Italians that came here were impoverished peasants as were the Irish and others, most Europeans, were poverty stricken. To talk of “whites” as if they all occupy the same role in history, without a mention of class, makes it much harder to build working class unity without which capitalism, therefore racism, cannot be ended.

Working class Italian or Irish descendants of these people would know of the horrors and poverty of their existence handed down to them from their families. The lives in the factories, coal mines and textile mills of industrial US. In Louisiana the plantation bourgeois would import the "free" Irish labor to work on the levees which was dangerous work with a high death rate. Slaves were a commodity and too valuable. Not much skin tone solidarity there.

In the first English settlement, Jamestown, the ruling class was composed of English investors and capitalists under the authority of the King through a joint stock company formed for the purpose of expansion in to the colonies in the early stages of capitalism’s development. The whites that labored were different. A big problem for the ruling class was labor power, finding enough workers. As more whites and blacks were imported they formed bonds as people do. This had to be undermined and the idea of "white" as a racial definition was introduced. (Prof Jeffrey Perry has some excellent information and videos on this on his website. Check the "Developing Conjuncture" on the left of the site for information and dates of events.)

Understanding that class antagonism is the dominant feature in society does not, or should not in any way obscure the brutal, violent and racist history of capitalist development in the US. It does not mean we deny that for Native people, black folk or people of color in general it is a different history, not totally different but different as color or what we call race here, has been the dominant divide and rule method. It would not have been possible without the cooperation of the white workers either directly or passively.

But British capitalism didn’t descend on the African continent because they didn’t like the skin color of the majority of the population. British capitalism occupied Ireland, stole all the land, starved the people before they went in to Africa, and the Irish are white.

This does not mean I don’t understand why some people might have the view that the white working class is a lost cause, is inherently racist, is reactionary to the core. But there are those that take this position to advance their own class interests, the white bourgeois at all times and sections of the black petite bourgeois who, in competition with their white class colleagues, appeal to the black working class to help them in that war.  This section of capitalist society is weak in relation to their white class colleagues as they are smaller, less powerful and lack the connections to the white racist ruling class that the white middle class has. I do not believe the white working class is a lost cause, and in the workplace that becomes clearer especially when there is a strong, militant rank and file union presence there.

On coming to the US I learned that saying that when the whites sneeze the black folks catch pneumonia or something along those lines. It is known to anyone with a brain that when economic conditions are bad for white folks, blacks as a group are in a state of severe depression, in some ways, permanently.

But to ignore white workers and the changes over the 44 years I have been here is not useful. Malcolm X came to understand this in his later years, Martin Luther King led a mass movement and came to understand that socialism might be the only way the suffering of black folks could be eradicated. Malcolm X was far ahead of any of them today.

We should keep one statistic in mind when considering this: the life expectancy of whites is declining. This is a staggering statistic in this country in the post war era; some privilege that. Imagine what is happening on the ground that has led to this?   What it means with regard to health care, housing, education putting food on the table. Most importantly, what it means in the consciousness of the masses.

US capitalism is in an economic, political and looming social crisis. In times like these the possibility for class unity is greater as workers are forced in to struggle. It’s my view that history shows that as workers move in to struggle we tend to seek class unity, we tend to move to overcome those imposed social barriers that are an obstacle to driving back the capitalist offensive.  But this won’t always last if the movement, or the leadership of the movement does not take it forward.  At some point without collective progress, the movement can disintegrate in to an “Every man or woman for themselves” approach.

As Aristotle pointed out: “Nature hates a vacuum”.  If the movement, the left, does not overcome the poison of identity politics and excludes significant sectors of the working class, reaction will gain traction.

“And it can be said by inverting this language, that the laws were also passed to leave a mark on whites, who were instructed under pain of punishment, how to act in relation to blacks. Under these laws, whites of all classes were penalized for expressing human impulses. It therefor became very expensive for a white person to like black people or to love them. This was not, it should be emphasized, a matter of hints and vague threats. The laws were quite explicit. Symptomatic of this were the laws passed to punish whites who befriended blacks or ran away with them.” Lerone Bennet. The Shaping of Black America

Sunday, August 13, 2017

DSA Statement on Charlottesville Nazi Rally

We live in ever more perilous times. Please see the DSA statement below on the Nazi violence in Charlottesville

Statement of the DSA National Political Committee Interim Steering Committee, August 13, 201
Yesterday's events in Charlottesville, Virginia are a stark reminder that we must fight for socialism or succumb to the barbarism of white supremacy.

We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the white supremacist, racist, anti-Semitic terrorist attack on our comrades in the DSA, the ISO, IWW, Antifa and all others who joined forces in the streets of Charlottesville, VA yesterday.
The final number remains unknown. However, latest reports suggest that at least one person has lost their life and at least 19 injured. Two DSA members were hospitalized and have since been discharged. There are reports that an ISO comrade was also injured. A comrade reportedly from the Industrial Workers of the World lost their life on the front line of the battle against fascism.

In the face of growing racist, anti-Semitic, white supremacist violence, comrades from across the left came together in an incredible display of left unity. They came from many different organizations but spoke with one voice, chanting “Black Lives Matter” and other pro-solidarity slogans. Undaunted, they held the line and showed the fascists that they shall not pass. The day ended with the streets of Charlottesville free of Nazi scum.

We call on the left to build a strong united front against this emboldened right wing. We need to be clear and recognize that white supremacist terrorism will not simply go away if it's ignored. This violent and dangerous movement should never be allowed to have a platform. It should always be fought against by the strength of our united front.

It is important to acknowledge the differing responses of the police to white supremacist marches and terrorism and their reactions to Black Lives Matter protests and marches. Black Lives Matter protests are always met with the worst police brutality and suppression while white supremacist marches are allowed to freely attack counter-protesters on many occasions.
In this way, we plainly see whose side the police are on. From the days of the creation of the modern day police in the 1800s, they were used as a violent force for the physical suppression of a resistant working class, of Black slaves, and indigenous people. Today, their role of social control and oppression remains largely the same.
Trump delivered a meandering and at times incoherent statement earlier this afternoon. During the statement, where at one point he even talked about totally unrelated "record employment", he predictably blamed "all sides" for the violence, as if the left has a centuries-long history of state, systemic, and societal violence against oppressed groups. This is a tired line that the right wing uses to justify its terror. Trump also spoke of the need for "law and order", but we know that this is a signal for more police and vigilante terrorism against Black and Brown communities and the left.
We believe that the terror unleashed on our comrades can be defeated. We also believe that the wider system of racist oppression can be defeated, but only with the ending of the capitalist system which birthed it.
We encourage you to donate to help with the medical costs of comrades injured in the attack. As we mourn for the dead, we must also fight like hell for the living. DSA members across the country are turning out for solidarity actions in their communities. Get in touch with your local chapter to find ways to participate.
Together, we will fight fascism and build the better world we know is possible. Solidarity forever.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Nazi Murder in Charlottesville *

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

The new Constitution has put to rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution-----African slavery as it exists among us-----the proper status of the Negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and the present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as “The rock upon which the Old Union would split.”……The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically…. These ideas however, were fundamentally wrong.   They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error….

Our new government is founded on exactly the opposite ideas; it’s foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon, the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that Slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. (Applause.) This, our new Government, is the first in the history of the world, based upon this great physical philosophical and moral truth.
Alexander Stephens, VP of Confederacy. March1861 The Emancipation Proclamation, George Novack, America’s Revolutionary Heritage, p. 264.

*Note: The original title of this posting was incorrect so it have been changed.  Since posting this I have not found evidence that two other protesters were killed or that they were IWW and DSA members. One person died and there were some 19 injuries according to the later news.  There were two police that died in a helicopter crash. RM

Fascists, Nazi’s and white nationalists murdered three Americans today and from what this writer can gather, one was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the two others victims were member of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). A fascist drove a car in to a group of protestors opposing the gathering of right wing forces that oppose the removal of symbols and statues of its confederate past.

Most workers will not know much about today’s IWW as they are a very small grouping but most of them are working people and many of them are also in AFL-CIO unions. They are genuine, dedicated people committed to the workers’ cause in the main.  The DSA has been around for a while and has mainly been active in the Democratic Party although the group has grown and broadened its base since the last election and the rise of Bernie Sanders. The DSA has grown from some 7000 to about 25,000 since the election according to most reports.

In response to the events, the US Predator in Chief, Donald Trump, issued the following statement:
"We are closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It has been going on for a long time in our country -- not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America."

The man who spent his entire campaign for US president fanning the flames of racism, misogyny and bigotry “condemns” these very same traits that were present at this rally but condemns both sides. He condemns those espousing racism and bigotry and those fighting racism and bigotry. It’s that old, “A curse on both your houses” approach.

Trump’s cover for the racist’s assault and murder of protestors was backed up by the White House that issued a statement saying, “The president was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protesters and counter-protesters today.” They will use these Nazi’s against workers in strikes and protests in the future. They will be their shock troops and are present in many of the nations police forces.

Let’s remind ourselves, one group of protestors were Nazi’s the other weren’t.

What’s even more repugnant about Trump is that he points out that this type of bigotry has been going on for a long time in the US, that’s true. And he has not only participated in it and benefited form it but fought to continue it Trump, the serial sexual predator wants us to “love each other” now apparently. We can see from this image put out by a Sante Fe police chief how ingrained, how racist and anti-worker the state’s security force are.

I have said many times to friends of mine that the US is not as conservative as the mass media want us to believe. Yes there is confusion, prejudice and blatant racism that is the product of a few centuries of brainwashing. But in the aftermath of this incident, I see that both parties are condemning Trump for not “condemning” the fascists. Marco Rubio, himself no liberal ideologue, called for a “condemnation” of the racists and right wing groups that participated.

While there is a certain amount of self interest related to this in that Trump is a liability for the serious and most astute section of the US bourgeois and that there can be no doubt that they are in discussions trying to figure out how they can get rid of him, it is the mood in US society as a whole that forces them say anything critical at all.

We have seen many struggles here around housing, racism, working conditions, police brutality and the civil war in North Dakota as the Native American people and their allies fought a months long battle to protect their (and all of our) precious natural habitat and water rights. We’ve had the women’s marches, the spontaneous airport protests against anti-immigrant legislation, the science marches. There are too many to go in to but we are not silent here. The Working class in the main has not stepped in to the fray with the organized sector being held back by its pro-corporate leadership but this will not last. The main issue is that all the various movements in opposition to the capitalist offensive have not been brought together in to a national, direct action movement against capital.

Listening to the Virginia governor
Terry McAuliffe McAuliffe was as bad as Trump. He told the fascists to “go home”. In the aftermath of the events he thanked the cops, the National Guard, the clergy and threw in a pitch for the military that are true “patriots” defending us from the evil people abroad who want to destroy our way of life.

But is it OK then for Nazi’s to just “go home”. And do they not do their Naziing in their own communities? Do they suddenly become ordinary folk? It’s OK for them to be Nazi’s in their neighborhood is that it. Can you imagine if this had been a march of black folks. Not necessarily radicals or black nationalists but just regular folk even church people. And heavens forbid they would be Muslims.

I was in a discussion on Facebook today (FB is still denying our blog boosting rights on its FB page) and one young guy was making the argument that we should not protest these anti-social elements but ignore them, protesting empowers them he said. He made the argument that flags aren’t really powerful symbols, flags didn’t give the third Reich power manipulation of people’s emotions did.  I responded:

Flags are part of the manipulation of people's emotions. Do you think the priest waves that incense-laden chalice around at a Benediction because it doesn't influence people's emotions? I am opposed to the capitalist state banning them. They will simply use that law to ban workers, strikes, protests, socialists. But workers of all backgrounds must turn up to confront these scum with a massive show of force. Make them fearful of showing their heads. Those that might be redeemable we can maybe help, the rest, especially their mouthpieces can fill the empty jail cells that are occupied by workers, disproportionately workers of color. Remember, these people want to use the first amendment to build a mass movement to deny the rest of us the right to the free speech.
You may well have good intentions, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions as they say.

Workers must not ignore these fascists, it is the death of us if we do as fascists are anti-union and anti-worker. Some of those that organized the march today want to return to the old South. White workers were mostly poor under that regime. They had what we call white skin privilege that was significant in the sense that they were a notch about the black folks but they mostly lived a wretched life. They could kill black folks, rape black women with impunity as no people of color could testify against them in a court of law. This was the gift to them from the white plantation bourgeois for keeping their mouths shut.

But white wages and living standards in the South are lower than the North and this is due to racism and racial segregation.

No ,brother, sisters, comrades, we don’t ignore these forces we turn out in our tens of thousands to deny them a voice. They must fear us. The reason the governor tells them to “go home” and Trump blames all sides and the Democrats and Republicans sound like radicals attacking Trump because he hasn’t condemned these right wing forces strongly enough, is because they are afraid of the working class. They are afraid of social unrest and a mass movement against them. Otherwise they wouldn’t give a damn. They keep us apart because class unity is a very strong instinct among workers. They invented whiteness as a race in order to undermine class solidarity, these very same politicians and bourgeois calling for us to love each other spend every minute of their day figuring out ways they can divide us. The resistance of the additionally oppressed ethnic and other groups in society what they often call today, “marginalized” groups has put a halt to the more blatant racism and cruelty that this society was built on. And the changing  attitude of the white working class is part of that.

They are afraid of us sisters and brothers.

No, we need to be out there more not less. The cowardly heads of the 14 million strong trade union movement have so far said nothing. They are a disgrace as the power of the fascists, emboldened and given legitimacy by Trump, has brought them out in to the open. We can thank Trump for that, he has given them a false sense of security and they can be seen more clearly but they will not prevail.

And I have to end with this. That very slick and classy bourgeois politician Barack Obama had this to say:
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

This is just liberal claptrap. He knows damn well that capitalism does not teach, does not have an ideological base that encourages love and human unity.  Obama was the first black head of the Harvard Law Review and then president of the United States. One does not get in to those positions without being completely trusted by the unelected people who run this country.

And while I think that he is a decent enough person it’s pretty sickening to watch Harvard professor Cornel West holding hands and praying with people singing,
"This Little Light of Mine." This does not work comrades.

Thanks to all the anti-fascists, Wobblies, socialists, workers and others who were there today to stand up to the fascists. And shame on you Richard Trumka.