Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Adolph Hitler University and Med Center.

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I thought the title might get your attention. An institution would not fair too well with a name like that.  Adolph Hitler was a fascist and a mass murderer.  The NAZI’s as they were called, believed Slavs, Romany (Gypsies) Jews and blacks were sub human sending some 12 million people to gas chambers, six million of them Jews.

Hitler endorsed a philosophy that murdered workers’ leaders, the mentally ill, and gay people. Some of the first deportations were trade union leaders, communists (Stalinists) and socialists.  The National Socialist philosophy, its adherents and intellectuals, conducted medical experiments on human beings of the “sub human” races. They conducted experiments like giving a mother electric shocks if she refused to electrocute her child.  They wanted to see how much pain she could take before she killed her own offspring.

So why do we have a city and university named after Jeffery Amherst, or 1st Baron Amherst as he was known?  Amherst was a colonial officer of the British Army who was the first governor of what was to become Canada and was the British Crown’s governor of Virginia.  Amherst College in Massachusetts is named after the Baron and there are numerous towns and public places in Canada named after him.

Amherst, like all of his class saw workers as lesser humans as well.  How can a miner, a peasant, a guild member not be of lower intelligence?  The ruling class has to justify its social rank; it must validate its rule. In order to subjugate the masses of another nation or country; they have to be demonized. The working class that provides the cannon fodder for imperialist ventures must be convinced that it is in their interests to defend what little they have against foreigners. The Irish were referred to as “White Chimpanzees” in the British bourgeois press of the time. Cromwell wanted to slaughter the entire race. In my lifetime, the Irish were still being portrayed as lazy, stupid, dirty and promiscuous.

Amherst was a vicious racist as well. He had no love for the native population in the colonies, both in the America’s and Australia. Amherst supported the policy of selling or supplying the Native American population smallpox infected blankets.  He was quite creative in his desire to commit genocide in the America’s supporting any other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race.”.

We live in a class society, governed as we are by that class of people that own the means of producing and distributing the necessities of life.  So it should comes as no surprise that their institutions, the airports, libraries and other public institutions are named after the leaders of that class.  What worker with an ounce of class-consciousness would name a public institution after Reagan or the imbecile Bush or other members, politicians or leaders of the ruling class?

In the ruthless competition between the capitalist classes of the various nations states, there breaks out at times open warfare.  This was particularly so prior to the advent of nuclear weaponry and the ability of some of the major players, the US in particular, to blow up the entire world.  Nuclear weapons have undoubtedly made the likelihood of wars between nations states more complicated for fear it all goes up.  The US’s recent predatory wars are not wars at all but turkey shoots.  The warmongers at the Pentagon didn’t invade North Korea. Instead, we are amidst a period of never ending regional conflict fanned in particular by a substantially weaker though armed to the teeth US capitalism; but all the major players are involved.

For Europeans, workers and the ruling class, the name Hitler, represents all that is evil, one of the greatest threats to civilization, bourgeois democracy and the rule of capital, (excepting communism of course).  For Western (and many eastern) Europeans, the name Stalin is not too popular either although for a while he was in such favor with the US ruling class that he appeared on the front page of Life Magazine.

For Native American historians and others more aware of their own history, Jeffrey Amherst must surely occupy a similar place, a cruel, vicious invader bent on wiping out an entire culture.  Cromwell has a similar affect on the Irish. He wanted to wipe them all out and wreaked havoc with his invasion of that country.

Yet I’ll wager that if there was a campaign to change a place name like Amherst, there would be much opposition.  The white ruling class would lead the campaign whipping up fear among workers of European descent that “our” culture is threatened by this assault on “our” history and “our” past.  But Amherst is their historical figure, not mine. Yes they teach “white history” but it is the history of the white capitalist class, the same way  Black History Month tends to focus on black American entrepreneurs, artists, or inventors, or literary figures not that these are not an important part of history but the rich militant history of workers, the huge battles, strikes and violent struggles in the face of brutal oppression from the bosses, this is hidden. 

I’ll wager most people can go from Kindergarten through 12 grade in the US education system and know nothing about the great 1877 uprising, the Flint occupation, the strikes of Latino, Japanese and other workers in California, the wars against the lumber barons and mining corporations or the Seattle General Strike of 1919 when workers controlled that city for 5 days.

The ruling class writes history from its point of view, we know that.  But we have the ability today with the Internet to find out so much more about our history, and from the comfort of our own homes.  Working class people have our own heroes, many of them will have to be discovered, many of them are nameless yet made great sacrifices on our behalf. * They are from all different nationalities and cultures. What worker with an ounce of class-consciousness would support naming a public institution after people like Ronald Reagan?  The heroes of the ruling class in this country have historically waged the most vicious assault on the rights of workers and the rights of specially oppressed minorities and the ethnic groups.

United We Stand is an OK slogan depending with whom we stand, our class, or those of the same color, religion or ethnicity regardless of social position. In the case of the Native Americans, a simple act that would cost the rest of us nothing, standing with them on their objection to the name Redskins for a sports franchise, would a be an important act of solidarity strengthening us all.

Objecting to public institutions and places being named after individuals who had no respect for workers in general and committed genocidal acts against Native Americans in particular would be even better.

* In Mother Jones’ autobiography she mentions Big Mary Septak.  She ran a boarding house for workers and led whole troops of women against the Pinkerton’s and hired thugs of the ruling class in order to defend the workers fighting for democratic rights, independent unions and freedom.  In a genuine workers’ democracy, people like Big Mary Septak will have a library or perhaps an airport (especially in Pennsylvania) named after her.

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