Before I got too old and ill to work at my moving job I worked with an African American man called Perry. We would have the odd chat. Perry was cautious in his conversation. I was going on one day about class and the class divide and capitalism and I said it is not about color Perry, meaning to go on and say it is about class. But before I could do so Perry interrupted me to saÿ: "Naw you are wrong there. It is all about color"and he rubbed his fore finger and thumb together in the universal signal for money. He was of course right.
But you would not think it to see the coverage of the murder of Trayvon Martin. This coverage is dominated by the major corporations media and the talking heads if they are African American are all well paid talking heads and mouthpieces for one wing or another of this corporate media. And this corporate media does not want any talk about economic issues to come into the discussion. After all it could lead to the role of profits, wages and condition and their role on the violence in US society. And this would put capitalism on the spot. No! Wages jobs conditions poverty economic discrimination has to be kept out of the discussion.
As I said in yesterdays blog the Wall Street Journal blames black people for the murder of Trayvon Martin.. In its opinion they are the ones responsible for violence and crime. (The Wall Street Journal) does not consider corporate crime a crime. It is just good business.) This blaming black people is a vicious slander and attack on black people. Any discussion on the issue of race in the Trayvon case and all the racial killing cases has to start from the question of economics and class or it will make no sense. The corporate class that runs this capitalist system wants labor to be as cheap as possible. One way they achieve this is to divide the working class and thus weaken its ability to fight. The last thing they want is a united mobilized working class. So they stir up racism at every turn, either subtly or not subtly.
They also make sure racism is at the center of the realities of everyday life. Black male median wages in 2,009 was $23,738. Median white male income was $36,875. That is a 2 to 1 difference. Between 1980 and 2002 the black and white wage gap between black and white women grew from 6% to 18%. Black unemployment rate is presently at 16.2% compared to 9.1% for the rest of the population. If the millions of black workers in prison who are not counted in these statistics were counted the unemployment rate for black Americans versus white Americans would be even worse. This is over a 2 to 1 difference. There are huge profits in these figures for capitalism. It gets millions of black workers to work for less than white workers, that is they get cheap labor.
But it is not only that. This strategy of higher levels of unemployment and discrimination against black people helps the capitalists profits in another way. It divides and weakens the working class as a whole and thus reduces the wages and conditions of all workers whatever color. The corporate media con large sections of the white working class and sections of the Hispanic working class into believing the extra problems and oppression of the black people is their own fault. It is all the problem of the blacks themselves, they are lazy, they do not want to work, they are criminals, and on and on it goes. Just like the British ruling class would say about Irish workers (I am Irish background). By conning the majority of white workers to swallow this garbage the bosses prevent working class unity keep black workers at the lowest wages and reduce the wages and conditions of all workers. .
For centuries black workers in America were forced to work for no pay, not a cent, their children were seized from them and sold, black people were hanged and their bodies burnt in celebrations. After the end of slavery millions of black workers with skills were freed from the plantations. This was a threat to white business and white workers. The KKK and other organizations were created to prevent these newly freed black workers from setting up businesses and getting into good jobs, especially the skilled trades. To their eternal shame the skilled workers unions banned black workers for many decades. The legacy of this racism remains. And not just the legacy but the actual racism remains.
A major reason for this is the role of the union leaders. They were forced over the decades to open the unions to all races. But their response on racism and on the Trayvon Martin case has been pathetic. They should have immediately called mass meetings of all their members in every work place, union local and regional bodies of every union to discuss the Trayvon Martin murder and acquittal of his murderer Zimmerman by the racist jury and racist system.
These meetings should have had as their theme the need to stop the racist killing of black and minority youth by the capitalist state machine, to end racism on every front, to unite the working class to fight for a better life for all. They should have discussed how racism divides the working class and hurts all workers and why the unions had to take action. They should have taken the white workers who hold racist ideas in their own ranks and given them a good shaking. There was a call for a country wide day of action on Monday. the union leaders should have been making this call and seen that it happened. Instead all they did was mumble a platitudes and most of them did not even do that. They were as bad a Obama, we are a nation of laws he said and the law has spoken. Maybe we could hear when the US the country run by war criminals and banksters became a nation of laws.
Anti racist and workers unity committees will have to be built in every workplace, every union at all levels, every neighborhoods, every school and college. These will have to take on the fight against racism and take up the fight to unite the working class against capitalism and for a better life for all.
- AFSCME Local 444 negotiations assesment 1997
- Preparing for Revolution: A discussion document
- The Internal lives of Revolutionary Organizations
- Socialist Alternative members: Questions and Answers
- Sanders: Our Alternative
- The Nature of the New European Left
- Catastrophic Climate Change: Caused by Capitalism
- University of California workers and Unions
- An Invitation to Our Readers