Monday, July 6, 2020

How the FBI tried to break the Black Panthers

Reprinted from the UK Website Left Horizons.

By John Pickard, Brentwood and Ongar LP member
June 30, 2020

Huey P Newton, with Bobby Seale, (right) was a founder member of the US Black Panther Party, in Oakland, California, in 1966. Fourteen years later, he wrote a doctoral thesis for The University of California Santa Cruz, outlining the measures taken by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to destroy the Black Panthers.

I didn’t know Newton’s doctoral thesis even existed, until it was flagged up in a post in the Left Horizons Facebook Group, but once found, its 100 or so pages – effectively a short book – is well worth reading, particularly with the back-drop of the unprecedented and broad Black Lives Matters protests in the USA today. Newton did not aim in this thesis to give a detailed history of the Black Panther Party, he only set out to catalogue the highly ‘illegal’ methods of the state, and particularly the FBI, to destroy the party.

This is not the place either for a historical analysis of the BPP, which was shot through with contradictory political trends and tendencies, as were its membership and leaders. What is clear, however, is that once the party took off, it was seen by the capitalist state and the FBI as a threat to the status quo. There was first of all the ‘outrage’ of seeing young black men exercising their rights to bear arms in public – as white people had been doing for years – and giving an example to black youth that they can fight back. Then there were the ‘social’ programmes aimed at promoting self-reliance, self-confidence and self-respect in the black neighbourhoods, the very opposite to what the capitalist state would have for these communities.

Citations from public records and Congressional hearings
Newton’s accounts of FBI intrusions and methods are not just the fanciful ramblings of a conspiracy fantasist. In a lengthy list of sources, he cites official documents, evidence given in court and statements made to various Congressional hearings on the FBI and the Black Panthers.

His account details, from public records, the efforts of the FBI to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize" the Black Panther Party. “The whole study”, Newton suggests, “shows the lengths to which, so far at least, a government can go in a constitutional democracy before it must choose between destroying a dissident political organization, or in the process of doing so, the very fabric of constitutional democracy”.

He outlines many of the methods used: disinformation (‘fake news’ in modern terms), informers, harassment, provocateurs, false letters and bank accounts, tax investigations and many others. But far more devastating, he writes, were the brutal deaths of his personal friends: “Bobby Hutton, murdered by the Oakland police in 1968; Alprentice Carter, murdered in Los Angeles in 1969 by men working in association with the FBI; and George Jackson, who was murdered at San Quentin Prison in 1971.”

Newton himself spent “a total of three years (1967 to 1970) in prison, has been arrested numerous times, has spent the last thirteen years in court (an average of two trials per year), and from 1974 to 1977 was in involuntary exile as a protection from physical abuse and death.”

Martin Luther King targeted by FBI
The main vehicle used by the FBI was the ‘counter-intelligence project, abbreviated as COINTELPRO and this organisation had Martin Luther King in its sights as well. Newton cites the public testimony of William Sullivan, who was in charge of the FBI campaign against King. “No holds were barred”, he said, “We have used [similar] techniques against Soviet agents. [The same methods were] brought home against any organization which we targeted. We did not differentiate.”

According to Newton, the Party differed from other organisations representing black and poor people in several important respects. First, he wrote, “the Panthers embraced from the outset an explicitly socialist ideology”, which they came to name "revolutionary intercommunalism." It was in essence, he argued, “despite certain differences…basically socialist or Marxist…”

This was bad enough for the state, but Party members also began to patrol the community with loaded weapons on public display. They were “not pointed toward anyone”, Newton adds, and they were dressed in leather jackets and berets.

The patrol participants were careful to stand no closer than ten feet from the arrest, to stay within the presumption that they were not interfering with the arrest. The Party had always urged self-defense against poor medical care, unemployment, slum housing, underrepresentation in the political process, and other social ills that poor and oppressed people suffer.”

Brutalising black communities with impunity
It was the sight of armed black activists more than anything else that captured the public imagination internationally as well as in the USA. Here were black youth – wearing what amounted to a ‘uniform’ – facing down the police who were used to brutalising black communities with complete impunity. The picture above shows Newton and Seale (with shotgun) on a BPP poster of the time. In his book, Seize the Time, Bobby Seale described one of those first confrontations on the street between the police and an armed group of Black Panthers.

The Panthers were not seeking a gunfight – they were making the simple point that the brutality was no longer going to go unchallenged. “My name is Huey P. Newton,” Seale quotes him as saying, “I'm the Minister of Defence of the Black Panther Party. I'm standing on my constitutional rights. I'm not going to allow you to brutalize me. I'm going to stop you from brutalizing my people. You got your gun, pig, I got mine. If you shoot at me, I'm shooting back."

Establishment seriously alarmed
The Californian state law allowed for anyone to bear arms, but of course the lawmakers had not expected that this right would be exercised by poor black people. Not surprisingly, the establishment was seriously alarmed by this development and with the sensational media interest, to some it extent took attention away from the social aspects of the BPP programme.

What Newton terms community “survival programmes” included “a free breakfast program for school children, health clinics providing free medical and dental service, a busing program to take relatives of prisoners on visiting days, and an escort and transportation service for residents of senior citizen housing projects, as well as a clothing and shoe program to provide for more of the needs of the local community. It was these broad-based programs, including the free food programs where thousands of bags of groceries were given away to the poor citizens of the community, that gave the Party great appeal to poor and Black people throughout the country.” 

Social programmes raised support for BPP
The director of the FBI, J Edgar Hoover, was fully aware of the potential of a party offering these benefits and support in the black community. "The most active and dangerous Black extremist group in the United States” he said in an interview, “is the Black Panther Party (BPP). Despite its relatively small number of hard-core members . . . the BPP is in the forefront of Black extremist activity today. Moreover, a recent poll indicates that approximately 25 per cent of the Black population has a great respect for the BPP including 43 per cent of Blacks under twenty-one years of age."

The FBI was also concerned about the influence of the Panthers through the circulation of its newspaper. According to an FBI memo “The BPP newspaper has a circulation in excess of 100,000 and has reached the height of 139,000. It is the voice of the BPP and if it could be effectively hindered, it would result in helping to cripple the BPP.”
As the former assistant director of the FBI asked on his retirement in 1974, “How much of this dissent and revolution talk can we really stand in a healthy country? Revolutions always start in a small way. ...”

One of the major goals of the FBI was to sow dissension within the Party. A 1970 memorandum from FBI Headquarters to the San Francisco field office of the FBI, is cited by Newton. What the head office proposed was:
A wide variety of alleged authentic police or FBI material could be carefully selected or prepared for furnishing to the Panthers. Reports, blind memoranda, LHMs [letterhead memoranda] and other alleged police or FBI documents could be prepared pinpointing Panthers as police or FBI informants; ridiculing or discrediting Panther leaders through their ineptness or personal escapades; espousing personal philosophies and promoting factionalism among BPP members; indicating electronic coverage where none exists; outlining fictitious plans for police raids or other counteractions; revealing misuse or misappropriation of Panther funds…”

False letters sent out to create dissent
Many fake letters were indeed sent here and there by FBI agents, one prime aim being an attempt to create a personal breach between two key leaders, Huey Newton himself and Eldridge Cleaver, who spent some time in exile Algeria. The implementation of this plan, according to Newton, “could not help but disrupt and confuse Panther activities”.

One of the main types of disinformation used was the create a rumour that such-and-such a person was an FBI informant. The use of “snitch-jackets” in this way, was “widespread”, according to Newton. The FBI also provided whole stories for newspapers and magazines, which were printed without change, as if they were bona fide news items. We know the same practice is followed here in Britain, where MI5 or the police have ‘planted’ news through their contacts in the billionaire media outlets and printed them without question.

Another way of spreading dissent was to spread stories about BPP leaders living “lavish” lifestyles on party money. Newton gives an example of the FBI sending “a fictitious letter from a national Black Panther Party officer to Party chapters in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New Haven, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C…mailed from Oakland

Newton even describes an FBI plan – again, revealed later – to create a fictitious bank account; the plan explicitly mentions the creation “in the name of HUEY P. NEWTON through an appropriate bank which will cooperate with the Bureau confidentially. A photostat of a false ledger card could be prepared and mailed to national headquarters anonymously along with an appropriate letter condemning NEWTON. The account should show regular sizable deposits over a period of several years and have a sizable balance existing.”

Political activity disguised as ‘fighting crime’
Much of the budget for disrupting the Panthers was hidden in projects ostensibly created to fight crime and drug abuse. In fact, one of the main aims of the state in this entire period was to associate the Panthers’ political work with criminal activities. “Between 1968 and 1974,” Newton explains, “the federal budget for enforcing narcotics laws rose from $3m to more than $224m, a seventyfold increase. And this in turn gave the president an opportunity to create a series of highly unorthodox federal agencies.”

According to FBI documents, of 295 documented actions taken by its COINTELPRO organisation to disrupt black groups, “233, or 79 percent, were specifically directed toward destruction of the Black Panther Party. Over $100m of taxpayers' money was expended for COINTELPRO; over $7 million of it allocated for 1976 alone to pay off informants and provocateurs, twice the amount allocated in the same period by the FBI to pay organized crime informants.”

There are many reasons for the decline of the Black Panther Party: political, social and personal, but there can be little doubt also that the active disruption of the state played a role. The reason why Newton’s thesis is useful reading today, forty years after it was written, is that it gives an insight into the real role of the police as an arm of the capitalist state and is a pointer to what it will do today in the Black Lives Matter movement.

It is a demonstration, if one was needed, that the apparatus of the state is there to protect the interests of the capitalist class, not to keep ‘law and order’ for the majority of the population.

The capitalist class are a tiny proportion of the population, far less even than 1 per cent and, having been forced to concede democratic rights to the majority of the population – rights that were always won through struggle, and not given gratis – this tiny minority can only govern by secrecy and lies, cloaked with heavy smokescreens like the willing press and a tame judicial/legal system. It is because of such a heavy reliance on keeping the majority of the population completely in the dark about what really  happens that the capitalist class is so relentless and vicious in its treatment of whistle-blowers like Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.

Newton’s thesis gives a pointer
When it comes to their interactions with the police, any ‘protection’ or useful service that working-class people might get – and it is modest at best – is only a by-product and part of the subterfuge. As a part of maintaining the smokescreen, massive publicity is given to police activity in tracking down (some) murderers and criminals. Given the surveillance capability of the police and secret services today and their access, should they wish to use it, to bank account details, phone records, etc, they could end organised crime in a week if they chose to. But that is not their main purpose. Their fundamental role is to defend the interests of the ruling class and to monitor and disrupt political movements that meet with disapproval.

Newton’s doctoral thesis gives a pointer to measures that are likely to be implemented today against any radical or opposition political movements. There is no reason to suppose that what the FBI did in the 1960s and 1970s – and we only have what it was forced to admit to – it will not still be doing today.

We know that the police in Britain have a track record of infiltrating political groups, even peaceful, legal ones. Thus, the campaign group organised by the Lawrence family seeking justice for their murdered son, Stephen, was infiltrated by the police, trying to discredit it. We know that the police put spies into environmental campaign groups; in one case a police spy lived with an unsuspecting woman activist for years and had children with her until he was unmasked. Yet not one of these highly ‘illegal’ activities has ever been exposed to public scrutiny, much less brought to court or led to punishment.

What it shows is that the concepts of ‘legality’ and ‘law’ in a capitalist society are not absolute; they depend entirely on whose class interests they serve. Just as the capitalist class use ‘legality’ as a device only when it suits them, the labour movement must do the same: what is ‘moral’ and ‘legal’ for us must be defined by what is in the best interests of the working class and nothing else.

We don’t throw up our hands in despair
We don’t draw the conclusion from documents like Newton’s thesis that engaging in political struggle is not worthwhile. We do not just throw up our hands in despair. But it does show that we need to focus on the political aims and programme of a movement – any radical movement, including BLM – and question its direction, its integrity and its leadership.

A movement built around charismatic ‘leaders’ with minimal participation by an active rank and file is more open to state corruption and disruption than one in which the rank and file actively and relentlessly challenge and question the leadership. In modern times that also means having a movement based on real people, as opposed to on-line networking, in which mutual support, respect and loyalty are built through the experience of common struggle over many years.

Huey P Newton’s doctoral thesis, War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America, is freely available as a PDF to download here. It might be a good starting point and would at least be a useful component in any labour movement meeting around the BLM issue. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Uncle Tom and a Little Bit of US History.



I have never read the book Uncle Tom's Cabin,  although I have read a number of books about this era and also books by black authors. I read Richard Wright's books, Robert F Williams' Negroes With Guns, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Detroit I do Mind Dying, Organized Labor and the Black Worker and many other historical accounts of the Black American experience.

I have to confess that I did not know too much about this book at all and watching this I feel compelled to read it.  It's a work that is famous the world over. Richard Mellor

Sweatshops and monopsony power – a review


Faiza Factory Leicester. Working During the COVID-19 Lockdown. Source


Leicester is a medium-sized city in the centre of England.  It has come into the limelight in the last few weeks because of an outbreak of COVID-19 in the city, forcing a local lockdown, while the rest of England starts to ‘come out’.  Leicester has a relatively high British Asian community and many are concentrated for work in the garment industry.  And it is here that the COVID outbreak seems to have emerged.

The reason is clear. Garment workers in Leicester work out of tiny, unsafe factories or even homes, employed for below poverty wages ($5 an hour!) and they have worked throughout the coronavirus crisis lockdown. These small businesses had to carry on because there was really only one buyer, the online retailer, British Asian owned BooHoo.  Like Amazon, Boohoo has made a fortune during the pandemic with shop-based retailers in lockdown.  Its profits are registered in the tax haven island of Jersey. And it dominates the Leicester garment industry.  It’s a classic example of monopsony power.


We often see the concept of ‘monopoly’ in political economy and leftist circles as a relevant category for modern capitalism. We don’t usually recognise ‘monopsony capitalism’.  But we should.  This is where Ashok Kumar’s book, Monopsony Capitalism Power and Production in the Twilight of the Sweatshop Age fills a gap.


Whereas, monopoly implies a dominant or hegemonic seller in the market for goods and services, controlling prices and keeping out potential rivals, monopsony implies the control of the market by a dominant buyer over many smaller sellers.  The capitalist labour market is one key example, where capital exerts relative monopsonic power over workers, unless they are organised in unions etc.


The Boohoo monopsony in Leicester is repeated on an even larger scale with major retailers like Walmart in the US or Amazon globally, or manufacturers like Nike or Apple or food producers like Nescafe or Del Mar, which exert huge monopsonic power over their suppliers (in farming, garment and footwear, electronics etc).


Kumar is a lecturer in International Political Economy at the School of Business, Economics and Informatics at Birkbeck University. His book takes us to the heart of the monopsonic capitalism globally through the value chain of cheap garments and shoes in the shops of the ‘global north’ to the sweatshops of Bangladesh and other countries under the domination of the multi-nationals.


Monopsony Capitalism argues that the garment value chain globally relies on the unequal power dynamic of many suppliers and few buyers – monopsony. The result is a low level of surplus value capture at the production phase of the supply chain, which ensures chronically low capital investment in the peripheral countries’ industry.  Cheap labour and many suppliers are preserved, as opposed to the use of machinery and fewer, larger companies. Fragmentation and low capital investment in garment and footwear value chains creates low barriers to entry, resulting in bidding wars between thousands of smaller firms from around the world.  Indeed, a ‘sweatshop’ can be defined as a workplace where labour has essentially no bargaining power.


The Rana Plaza tragedy of 2013 when a massive garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, floor upon floor, crushing many of its occupants was a catalytic moment. “The Rana Plaza disaster proved a monument to the complete and utter failure of Western activism: 1,134 workers perished.”  Consumer boycotts and campaigning in the global North against ‘sweatshops’ proved to have had no effect.

But what has happened since shows another way out of this nightmare. After Rana Plaza, the Bangladeshi unions demanded new safety conditions, similar to the way in which reduced hours and better safety was fought for in cotton sweatshops of mid-19th century Britain that Marx records. By August 2013, 45 garment factory unions had been registered with the Bangladeshi government. The unions used a ‘hot shop’ organizing model, following the trail of labour unrest from case to case, factory to factory, establishing and strengthening union footholds. An almost endless pool of small garment firms across the globe began to steadily disappear, absorbed into larger rivals or forced to merge.  Thus, Kumar argues the monopsony power of the multi-national retailers increasingly faced oligopolistic companies, driven by their workforces to demand better prices and terms.

Kumar’s book analyses workers’ collective action at various sites of production primarily in China, India, Honduras, and United States, and secondarily in Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. Action by labour in these countries have “tested the limits of the social order, stretching it until the seams show, and forcing bosses to come to the proverbial table, hat in hand, to hash out agreements with those who assemble their goods.”

In these case studies Kumar reveals that there has been increasing supplier-end consolidation, raising the surviving suppliers’ share of value, and so facilitating self-investment and higher entry barriers.  Workers struggles over wages and conditions have altered the balance of economic power between the multi-nationals and the domestic suppliers.


Kumar reminds us that Marx and Engels argued that global capital would generate a global proletariat that would ultimately be its undoing. But perhaps collective worker action is the exception under capitalism. Maybe capital’s structural advantages in certain sectors, like garment and footwear, have effectively resolved the dialectical struggle in favour of capitalists.  Kumar’s case studies suggest otherwise. The garment sector (and vertically disintegrated value chains generally) are also “animated by the logic of competition, which moves inexorably in the direction of consolidation, thereby reducing the monopsonistic power of buyers. while changes in the value chain are reflected in the bargaining power of workers.”

Kumar confirms that Marx’s law of accumulation still operates, namely that capitalism must increasingly come to rely on ‘dead labour’ (technology and so on) and less and less on ‘living labour’ (workers) and that includes the peripheral ‘emerging economies’ too. Higher levels of ‘dead labour’ start to create higher barriers to entry:  Why? “Because the smaller the organic composition of capital, the less capital is required at the beginning in order to enter this branch and establish a new venture. It is far easier to put together the million or two million dollars necessary for building a new textile plant than to assemble the hundreds of millions needed to set up even relatively small steel works.”


Relying on this fundamental trend in capitalist accumulation, Kumar reckons “there is a change in the air.” In China, India, Honduras, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia many factories already have a relatively high organic composition. It becomespossible to glimpse another world where bosses come to the proverbial table, hat in hand, to hash out agreements with those who assemble their goods. When labour unions, activists, and advocates marshal their resource  – financial, moral, political, and human – to support smart, focused, bottom-up organizing in large, increasingly integrated firms, garment workers will transform their industry.”


Once barriers to entry have been established among the domestic suppliers it will be impossible to tear them down and return to monopsony power. Sweatshops occur where surpluses are limited, and production is diffuse and isolated from consumption. But competition eventually creates a centralized industry, with a few mega-firms in a few locations.  Then suppliers ascend, giving workers the high ground too.  But as Kumar says, “whether this is indeed the twilight of the sweatshop age or a new race to the bottom may ultimately depend on the self-organization and demands of the working people.” 

That applies to the garment sweatshops of COVID-19 Leicester too.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

How Black Americans Co-opted the Fourth of July

This article is reprinted from JSTOR Daily

After the Civil War, white southerners saw the Fourth of July as a celebration of Confederate defeat. Black southerners saw opportunities.

A Fourth of July picnic, possibly in South Carolina, 1874, by J. A. Palmer via Wikimedia Commons

By: Livia Gershon
July 3, 2020

Like all symbols of American patriotism, the Fourth of July has meant different things in different times and places. In Memphis in the first decades after the Civil War, Brian D. Page writes, it was a distinctly Black holiday.


Page begins his story in June of 1862, when U.S. forces took and occupied Memphis. Soon, many formerly enslaved Black people streamed into the city. Its Black population rose from 3,882 in 1860 to 15,525 in 1870. The Army garrisoned Black soldiers in the city, to the consternation of many white residents. The Memphis Daily Avalanche warned in 1866 that the stationing of Black soldiers “corrupts the whole Negro population of the South; it puts before their eyes a picture of their race, which raises their expectations above all reason and discontents them with the plain tasks of labor."

Many white Memphis residents associated the Fourth of July with the Confederacy’s defeat and the Black soldiers there. In 1869, one local paper reported that the holiday was celebrated “only by our Germans and our colored citizens.”


July 4 parades featured bands, contingents from the mutual aid societies, and military groups such as the M’Clellan guards.


For Black Americans, the holiday also meant something new. In 1852, Frederick Douglass had given his famous speech contrasting the promise of Independence Day with the reality of enslavement. Now, with freedom, it seemed like Black people might gain the full rights promised by the Declaration of Independence.


Page writes that the city’s first Black Fourth of July celebration occurred in 1866, just two months after the Memphis massacre in which white mobs killed forty-six African Americans. Each year, mutual aid groups like the Sons of Ham and the Daughters of Zion organized events featuring longstanding Black American traditions like barbecue and late-night dancing. They drew thousands of participants from the city and the surrounding area.


July 4 parades featured bands, contingents from the mutual aid societies—each with its own flags, banners, and regalia—and military groups such as the M’Clellan guards. In some cases, women marched in a separate procession from men, or rode in carriages.

Page writes that leaders and participants, who included many day laborers, housekeepers, and other low-wage workers, as well as professionals, placed great value on orderliness and neat, formal dress. “The attention to order and appearance in these celebrations was as much a self-conscious attempt to gain respect in society as it was a reflection of the standards of contemporary celebrations,” he writes.

Top of Form

Most parades went outside Black neighborhoods, claiming participants’ equal rights to the city center. At least one, in 1878, featured the M’Clellan guards engaging in a competitive military drill.  Meanwhile, at Independence Day picnics, speakers urged African Americans to contribute to the building of churches and schools and asserted their equal claim to the rights promised by the Declaration of independence.

The political climate changed in the 1870s as the federal government abandoned Reconstruction and local Memphis elites led a successful movement to dissolve the city charter, reducing the power of Black voters. By the 1890s, white southerners were again embracing the Fourth of July. But, Page writes, to Black Memphis residents, it “once again became a far off promise of equality as the words of the Declaration of Independence were voiced, but proved to have little meaning, in the Jim Crow South.”

 

Friday, July 3, 2020

Mt Rushmore: Trump Travels to Paha Sapa to Insult Native Americans.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

The Sioux have never accepted the validity of the US confiscation of Paha Sapa, the Black Hills. Mount Rushmore is controversial among Native Americans because it is located in the Black Hills. Members of the American Indian Movement led occupations of the monument be-ginning in 1971. Return of the Black Hills was the major Sioux demand in the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee.

Due to a decade of intense protests and occupations by Lakotas and allies, on July 23, 1980, in United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Black Hills had been taken illegally and that remuneration equal to the initial offering price plus interest—nearly $106 million—be paid. The Sioux refused the award and continued to demand return of the Black Hills.

The money remained in an interest-bearing account, which by 2010, amounted to more than $757 million. The Sioux believe that accepting the money would validate the US theft of their most sacred land. The Sioux Nation’s determination to repatriate the Black Hills attracted renewed media attention in 2011. A segment of the PBS NewsHour titled “For Great Sioux Nation, Black Hills Can’t Be Bought for $1.3 Billion” aired on August 24.

The reporter described a Sioux reservation as one of the most difficult places in which to live in the United States: "Few people in the Western Hemisphere have shorter life ex- pectancies. Males, on average, live to just 48 years old.

Almost half of all people above the age of 40 have diabetes. And the economic realities are even worse. Unemployment rates are consistently above 80 percent. In Shannon County, inside the Pine Ridge Reservation, half the children live in poverty, and the average income is $8,000 a year. But there are funds available, a federal pot now worth more than a billion dollars. That sits here in the U.S. Treasury Department waiting to be collected by nine Sioux tribes. The money stems from a 1980 Supreme Court ruling that set aside $105 million to compensate the Sioux for the taking of the Black Hills in 1877, an isolated mountain range rich in minerals that stretched from South Dakota to Wyoming. The only problem: The Sioux never wanted the money because the land was never for sale."

That one of the most impoverished communities in the Americas would refuse a billion dollars demonstrates the relevance and significance of the land to the Lakota nation, not as an economic resource but as a relationship between people and place, a profound feature of the resilience of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

You Can Survive Domestic Violence. It's never the Victim's Fault.

Some years ago I published  some notes I found after my mother had a stroke that led to her death. She described the stress she dealt with when my father drank. The aggressive posturing, fists raised, insults and never being sure whether she should speak or stay silent as either one could make him angry. Like my friend's comments below, she said she was always walking on eggshells.  The author is a friend I have known for some years and the comments speak for themselves. In my mother's time she said the shame and society meant these things stayed in the home. But it's always better to share your experiences so other victims of domestic violence get to see they are not alone and it's not their fault. RM

                                                *********************

I don’t talk about this much but I was in a very toxic relationship for 9 1/2 years with the father of my kids. I walked away torn and broken to pieces. I was 40 pounds overweight and having to seek therapy to save myself and my kids.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do but if I stayed I knew I’d never be happy and my kids would think that it is OK to grow up in a household where the parents are constantly at each other‘s throats. That is not normal!! Most people put up with it and go through the motions for the children but from my experience that’s not the best move. It can cause long-term trauma.

It didn’t help that their father was abusing alcohol and suffered from childhood trauma himself so I was always walking on egg shells. He was never physically abusive with me but he would get in my face and scream and me like he was a drill sergeant and him being six feet three inches tall against my five feet eleven and a half was very intimidating so the mental and emotional abuse that I went through for those 9 1/2 years took it’s toll on me.

Even given all of what he put me through I still love the man I spent nearly a decade with him and he is the father of my children. This is the first time I speak of this but I have never demeaned him on social media and will never. I am only speaking for the women out there that think that they should stay for the sake of the children but in reality they need to think long term affects.

Four years ago on Mothers Day I left having to start all over again with my two children one being six and one being 10 months old. It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do but I have been blessed with a great partner who adores me, treats me like a queen and loves my children. I never thought I’d see the day. I’ll be 40 in November And I can finally say that I am the happiest I have ever been.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Coronavirus rampant. Capitalism’s genocide.

Capitalist food production Source: USA Today
Harry Hutchinson
Labour party NI
Tyrone Peoples Assembly/Dail

Left Horizon (International Socialist).

Ten million cases and half a million deaths worldwide, with the Covid 19 virus now out of control in the Western, Middle Eastern, Asian and African continents. According to the WHO, “ The pandemic is accelerating at 183,000 cases per day, the biggest increases in N and S America.”

In the US all 50 states are facing increases in the pandemic , with 40,000 new cases per day, totalling almost 2.2m cases and over 126,000 deaths. Most of the US cases are in food processing, nursing homes and prisons. According to the New York Times, there are 282,000 cases in 12 facilities. In Latin America there are 2m cases. Brazil has registered 1m cases.

Britain has the highest cases and deaths in Europe. Although the official figure in Britain is just under 43,000 deaths, the overall total is likely to be 2x this, taking into account the 127% increase in annual ‘naturally recurring deaths’ during this period from last year.
S. Africa has 100,000 infections, the highest in the Continent, followed by Nigeria and Ghana with 20,000 and 14,000 respectively. Countries like Iran and India have recorded their highest daily death toll.

SECOND PHASE.
The new phase of the pandemic has begun. Beijing is in strict lockdown, with 100 new cases. New lockdowns are taking place across Europe, including Countries, like Germany, who previously had brought the Covid 19 Virus under control. Contrastingly, American States continue to lift the lockdown, despite the surge in new cases. Texas remains open despite over 3,000 new cases per day. Hospitals are again being overwhelmed with Covid 19 patients.

BRITAIN. NEW OUTBREAKS.
Prodominately in the garment factories, Leicester has recorded 69 cases per 100,000. These factories employ mainly migrant workers, where workers have claimed they were forced to return to work despite reporting sick. Overall 18% of positive Covid 19 tests are in Ethnic minority people. Many of these workers earn £3/hr. Workers in the garment factories were told to hide pay slips, so the Company could furlough workers at a higher rate.
Rochdale has also the same cases as Leicester, followed by spikes in Barnsley and Bradford. Six other cities in Britain have reported Covid 19 spikes.

The Government delayed the test results to the City councils in Leicester and Barnsley. For 10 days Leicester city Council were delayed from taking any action to control the outbreak of the Virus as the Government refused to hand over test results.

GLOBAL APPROACH.
The WHO have emphasized the need for a global approach to this pandemic. The pandemic cannot be contained in one country. As lockdowns are being lifted the Covid 19 virus is spreading out of control amongst all groups, including young children, where reports of severe sickness is being reported among children.

The choice to clamp down on the virus was ignored by the far right Capitalist countries in the US, Britain and Brazil. These Countries refused to offer adequate aid to the poorer countries in the Middle East and Africa, where the virus is now rampant.
 

Capitalism’s genocide is global.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

COVID-19, Police Murders and Mass Protests: US Capitalism Exposed

The April heat will make the virus go away Trump 2-10-20

Richard Mellor
Editor Facts For Working People

Afscme Local 444, retired


As the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc around the world, the barbaric market driven US health system stands out as the miserable and tragic failure it is. “The US has the greatest number of confirmed cases and deaths in the world.”, wrote John Tozzi in BusinessWeek’s June 11th edition.


Tozzi points out much we already know and what many people live through in the real world. The US healthcare system is the most costly of all the advanced capitalist economies consuming 18% of US GDP. We spend almost $4 trillion a year on health care. lt's also the most inefficient. Even blockaded Cuba has a better infant mortality rate than the US and a similar life expectancy (CIA Factbook).  It is that way because in the US, health care is a business, a commodity. If you can pay for decent health care, you get it, if you can’t you don’t.
Private sector spending on health care is triple that of comparable countries according to studies.

Despite all this and the incredible profits in what I prefer to call, the industrial sickness industry, the US response to the pandemic is that of an impoverished third world country. That is because when it comes to taking care of the public, we are impoverished. “Hospitals with billions of dollars in revenue couldn’t secure dollar masks to protect staff”, Tozzi wrote.  And when we consider the conditions among Native Americans we are talking catastrophe. In the Navajo Nation, the worst hit in the country, 30% of the people have no running water and 40% no electricity. The issue of disease hits close to home with Native Americans as millions of them died from diseases brought in by Europeans that they had no immunity to.

As an example of the refusal of US capitalism to fund public health (or pretty much any public services) Business Week gives an example of the Milwaukee Health Department where, prior to the pandemic, the public health department’s budget serving 600,000 people amounted to $33 for “every city resident”.

Of course, it’s been this way for a long time for millions upon millions of people. We all know that health care is the leading cause of bankruptcy or that people buy health care (and food) with their credit cards. Millions of people put off necessary procedures because they don’t have the money. Thousands travel across the Mexican and Canadian borders to get life-saving drugs that are priced out of reach in the US.


“If you can’t pay you can’t play”
warns a common US slogan. That your ancestors worked and paid taxes all their lives, (barring African Americans whose ancestors received no taxable wages for three hundred years) fought in wars and possibly died or were physically and mentally damaged in them, is not considered a sacrifice worth rewarding with something as basic as decent health care. Cannon fodder indeed.

The BusinessWeek article points out that the US spent $94 billion on public health in 2018 which amounts to less than three cents of every dollar spent on health care.
Yet despite being in the middle of a pandemic of historic proportions, public agencies citing shortage of funds, due to declining tax revenue, are cutting services and reducing staff.  Recently, Trump proposed cutting the discretionary funding for the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention by 9% ($700 million). Meanwhile, as BusinessWeek points out, “…..five for-profit health insurers together returned $13.9 billion to shareholders in dividends and stock buybacks—an amount greater than the entire CDC budget.”

We live in the belly of the beast here. All public policy, political debate, allocation of capital, which is the wealth workers create through the labor process, is determined on the basis of profits not social need. Housing, education, health care transportation, environmental protection, all these and other critical social needs are subordinated to profits.  “Despite the trillions of dollars the U.S. devotes to health care…”, Business Week adds, “…the country lags behind many other developed economies on health measures such as life expectancy and infant mortality.”

So the pandemic has simply exposed the system for the miserable failure it is. The recent mass protests against police violence and the disproportionate murder of black people and other people of color by the state security forces is centuries in the making. The pandemic has hit all poor people hard but black people more so because racism is an institutional aspect of capitalism that has effected every aspect of their lives in an extremely negative way.  

Housing is worse in these communities, so is transportation, employment, health care, access to decent food and so on. The police are armed occupiers in these communities to ensure the anger that eventually breaks through the surface is suppressed or at least contained within them.


Here is a famous speech by Martin Luther King on the Homestead Act and the ridiculous ideology that those who have, as opposed to those who don’t have, “pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps”. The ruling elite or the 1% as some refer to them, 
promote this ideology to defend their social position which is a product of theft and violence.

As King explains, it is as one example of how the white racist ruling class in the US needed to create a solid economic base on which to rest and maintain its rule, the poverty stricken European peasants, exploited as they were, were offered this carrot in the form of the White Race identity. The white faces we see in powerful positions of government and business have no love for the white worker, this decision was simply a business decision. And in the long term and the wider sphere of things has been harmful to the material interests of the European/white working class.  See The Invention of the White Race by Theodore Allen two volumes covering Ireland and the Anglo-American colonies.

For those without the time or the  inclination to struggle through two volumes of US history here is a PDF that covers the issue and is considerably shorter. Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery.*

BusinessWeek continues:
Beyond those specific failures, underlying inequities make some Americans more vulnerable than others. The virus spreads quickly in settings where people have little power to avoid it: nursing homes, homeless shelters, meatpacking plants, and prisons and jails that detain the world’s largest incarcerated population. Covid-19 kills more people who live in denser cities and crowded homes and work in lower-paying “essential” jobs. Black Americans, who have higher rates of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and asthma, are disproportionately harmed and killed by the virus.”

Reading the serious journals of capitalism it is obvious there is a significant concern within the US ruling class over this disastrous failure of capitalism to deal with an emergency like COVID-19.

“Once we come out of this pandemic, there is going to have to be some kind of an evaluation around, Do we need to be spending more on public health?”, Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute tells BusinessWeek.

All the so-called experts have been shaken by US capitalism’s disastrous failure here. The health care situation has been pretty bleak in the U.S. for a long time, a poor system kept in place by the powerful lobbyists in the hospital and pharmaceutical industries and the doctors that get rich off of sick people. It has been made easier for them through the collaboration of the heads of organized labor who have refused to lead a movement against this madness. How do we get to a point where the physical health of 31% of young adults make them ineligible for military service?

Naturally, BusinessWeek, owned by the billionaire Michael Bloomberg, points to the American character for being so individualistic, anti-government and selfish.  We are opposed to the government providing health care for all is the implication.  “The idea that the government should invest in the health and well-being of its citizens has always been in tension with America’s predilection for individual liberty”

What does it mean to say America has a predilection for individual liberty? The individual liberty of Carnegie, Jay Gould, their successors Bill Gates and Warren Buffet is what BusinessWeek means by individual liberty. But US history is full of examples that prove working class and all oppressed people have achieved any “liberty” at all through collective action; through recognizing that there is such a thing as class interests.


The right to join unions was not won from the most brutal ruling class on the planet by people obsessed with individualistic Rambo tactics. They realized individual liberty was linked with collective liberty and class solidarity. This solidarity and class consciousness has been successfully weakened with tragic consequences for people of color and to the detriment of all workers through conscious racist policies and the introduction of “white” as a racial definition and the white supremacy ideology, that arose in the mid to late 17th centuries.

Another expert, David Blumenthal,
President of the Commonwealth Fund adds his two cents, “Our failure to deal with the pandemic reflects a deep flaw in our system of governance and our political culture,”

We can see how concerned some of the more astute sections of the US capitalist class are in the wake of the pandemic and the huge widespread response to the George Floyd murder and racism and racial violence in particular.

The quote above doesn’t explain what “our system of governance” is. Is it a feudal system? A slave system? Of course not; we live in a capitalist system of production where the means of producing the necessities of life are in private hands and these means are set in motion on the basis of profits.

Capitalism is constantly championed in the media as the most productive, fairest and “only” system of production that works. The media and its apologists conveniently forget this important fact when reporting on catastrophic failures of this system which is responsible not only for the virus itself as a by-product of industrial food production, but the failure of the US government to deal with it. The destruction of the environment is market driven.

The “flaw” according to Blumenthal, is to be found in the collective US character. We hold “continuing hostility and distrust toward government” in addition to this Rambo like obsession with individual liberty.

From the first time European capitalism set foot on this continent, there was class tension between the labor they brought with them and the merchants who were seeking wealth. There is much evidence that blacks and whites joined together in order to improve their conditions, conditions that were so appalling and the death rate so high that many fled to the safety of the local native communities. Lerone Bennett: “ ………….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.”  The Shaping of Black America, P62

Nothing will be the same after this. We’ve seen massive protests against police violence and against lack of resources and money to fight the pandemic. The US working class has stepped on to the world stage in a big way and has sparked off similar movements globally given fuel by the degenerate misogynist and racist in the White House. It has generated concern and divisions in the US ruling class that they are trying to rectify.

Moneyis being thrown at the movement by corporations and racist images are being removed from brands and public places.
We must beware of Greeks bringing gifts as the old saying goes.


As I have pointed out, we are witnessing the US working class in motion, it is not the industrial working class or the organized working class at this point but the working class nevertheless. If the organized working class were to overcome the obstacle of their own pro-capitalist leadership and join this movement, something that is inevitable at some point, this will open up great opportunities for working people and our families.

* Also more information here: The Developing Conjuncture Jeffrey B Perry