|Ashley Williams questions Clinton|
Afscme Local 444, retired
“We won't organize any black man to be a Democrat or a Republican because both of them have sold us out. Both of them have sold us out; both parties have sold us out. Both parties are racist, and the Democratic Party is more racist than the Republican Party.” Malcolm X
Knocking my American friends and their use of English, I jokingly tell them that British imperialism went around the world and stole everything that wasn’t nailed down, including human beings, but, “They did it with the right grammar.”.
The British ruling class could appear very polite in their brutality, not as crass and vulgar as their American colleagues. They knew what it meant to be “rude”.
The warmonger Hilary Clinton was a little offended by a young black woman who interrupted her speech at a fundraiser in Charleston South Carolina last Wednesday evening. The woman confronted Clinton about her and her husband’s support for the massive incarceration rate for black people that occurred during the 1990’s, particularly the 1994 crime bill that Clinton signed.
The young woman demanded Clinton apologize to black people for her support for the bill and her comment in 1996 that a lot of young black men were “super predators.” and saying that we “Have to bring them to heel.” you know, like we do with dogs.
Clinton was not happy, "You're being very rude," she told her. The woman was shown the door by one of Hilary’s flunkies who put his arm around the young woman as if to comfort her but it is the embrace of death. Who was he to touch her like that anyway?
Yes, the ruling class and their political stooges are very polite; they detest informality, an unscripted world. Most importantly, they despise the working classes and that they have to interact with them at all. They are rotten and racist to the core.
The first thing that comes to mind is that it was in Charleston South Carolina that nine black people were shot to death in a famous church. The shooter was a right wing white supremacist. These people had invited him in to the church and were befriending him, being kind to him. Then he turned and murdered them.
The media always portrays black people as the instigators of violence. But the reality is that black people, and people of color in general, have been the prime victims of the incredible violence that permeates the very fabric of this country and is part of its history. US capitalism has been the most violent when it comes to all workers, European immigrants as well, but the white skinned ruling class and its philosophy of the supremacy of white skinned peoples, has meant not all people are exploited equally when it comes to violence. It is a history of state terror. It’s incredible given the conditions that exist in this community as a result of institutionalized racism and centuries of isolation end exclusion----from accumulating capital as one important example---- that there is not more retaliation against whites as acts of desperation.
It took the brutal murder of those nine black people in that church and an “illegal” removal of it by Bree Newsome, that finally got the racist flag of the Southern Plantation bourgeois removed from public buildings 153 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War two years later. Why is the flag of a defeated enemy still flying in the US? We don’t fly the Japanese of German flags on public buildings, or the Union Jack.
There is no better evidence that the flag is the flag of racists and a racist system of government than the statements of confederate leaders. Alexander Stephens, the VP of the Confederacy said of the Confederacy and its philosophy in March1861:
“African slavery as it exists among us, -----the proper status of the Negro in our form of civilization.” was the cause of the Civil War. * He went on to criticize those who claimed that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was “wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically.” Stevens said these ideas were fundamentally wrong as, “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.” My added emphasis) (1)
The fact is that supporters of this philosophy lost the war, but were not defeated, After the betrayal of 1877 when the last northern troops were withdrawn from the occupied South, the only organized protection against white racist terror black people had at the time, were occupying Northern troops. The betrayal brought the white supremacist power structure back the racist terror continued in the form of Jim Crow. The flowering of black self reliance and political and economic gains that arose in Reconstruction were extinguished through state terror.
That is why the Trump campaign is drawing all the racists and supporters of the philosophy Stevens describes above out in to the open. They were out in the open in Anaheim today and three people were stabbed. They have never been eradicated. Driven underground to an extent by the rise of the Civil Rights movement and the heroic struggle of the black youth, they are becoming bolder once again. Is this the Southern Heritage that some white workers claim to support in defending the racist flag? Are you defending a system under which you too would have no unions, no democratic rights, etc?
So we have the betrayal of the black population with the deal made in 1877 between the white capitalists of the north and white Southern ruling class in the South. One hundred years of racist terror based on the white supremacy philosophy followed; lynchings, mob violence, burning of entire communities and the complete exclusion form the society economically and politically.
Sporadically blacks have revolted against this institutionalized terror. Even after the rise of the CIO which offered new opportunities for them in industry and a voice in the unions they still got the worst jobs, the worst housing. The Civil Rights movement, increased employment opportunity and in particular the growth of the petit bourgeois. The white ruling class needed a buffer zone, needed a middle class layer that could show that there was a way out by working within the system; they had to make some concessions or all might be lost so strong was the influence of the Civil Rights movement globally, including among the Catholics in Northern Ireland and the European colonies in Africa.
But despite the growth of the black middle class, all the promises of improvement, the studies, the academic panels, things don’t change too much. As a 1991 federal study showed, in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement “…the black middle class continued to grow. But overall, poverty rates remained staggeringly high.” (2
After the 1967 riots, a presidential study was commissioned to determine their cause. Titled, the Kerner Report after Illinois governor Otto Kerner that headed it. The report concluded that, “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white----separate and unequal.” The report, in openly discussing the staggering inequality, poverty and disenfranchisement of the black population, angered some people but “raised hopes” of others, the Wall Street Journal reported. “That report said to me this was going to be a better world for my two sons” said Milwaukee’s first black council member Vel Phillips. (3)
An annual US government report on health published in April 1991 found that the previous year had seen the biggest drop in infant mortality in nine years. But despite this, the report found that “black babies are still dying at almost twice the rate of white babies.” (4) These statistics reflect a catastrophic situation. As usual, many reasons were given for why the social conditions of millions of people in the richest country on earth were so bad, were equivalent to conditions that existed in third world nations. As blacks moved in to the urban centers the suburbs expanded as whites fled and the jobs left with them. Between 1967 and 1982, the 12 major Northern cities lost 1.6 million jobs as the suburbs gained two million. (5)
When we look at all of this, is it any wonder that some black folks might have drawn the conclusion that they cannot rely on the white working class to help them or that the white working class will never be an ally in their struggle for equality and an end to racism? It takes me back to the chorus in Nina Simone’s Mississippi Goddamn:
Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We all gonna get it in due time
I don't belong here
I don't belong there
I've even stopped believing in prayer
Don't tell me
I tell you
Me and my people just about due
I've been there so I know
They keep on saying "Go slow!" “
"You can’t have Capitalism Without Racism.”
When Malcolm X said this and things like it, it had an influence on me. I happen to agree with it, which is as good a reason as any as to why. Malcolm X was no fool. He knew what he was saying. And while he doesn’t explicitly say that the only solution is socialism, he certainly puts it on the table and it's clear if we look at history and what is happening today that capitalism cannot begin to eradicate racism; it is vital to its survival in the US.
I have be told by some people that I have no right to give opinions on issues affecting black folks or even use these quotes because as a white person I have no right to tell black people what to do basically. Many of the critics are the black petit bourgeois, the black middle class, who disagree with Malcom X but they won’t say so. They believe that black capitalism offers a future.
Malcolm X also said that: “I believe that there will be ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don't think it will be based on the color of the skin...”
Fred Hampton, one of the many Black Panther members assassinated by the police was more explicit: “We're going to fight racism not with racism, but we're going to fight with solidarity. We say we're not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, but we're going to fight it with socialism.”
These were serious, dedicated revolutionaries, they were not “blowing smoke” as we say. They meant what they said.
As I wrote in an early commentary, we are hearing more and more about white privilege and how whites must own up to it, recognize it, acknowledge it etc. It is always used devoid of class content and even the Ford Foundation and other such bastions of white supremacy are supporting conferences on it. But what does it mean and what is the next step if white people own up to it?
I read a piece by Shaun King the other day about white privilege and he raised many relevant examples of it and what it means to have white privilege in a society based on the discrimination of people based on the skin color. I am white, male and I have an English accent. All these things are an asset for me in the main. I do not believe most white workers if asked in the right environment and with the right purpose, would deny it.
Shaun King’s article never mentions class. He talks about white privilege benefiting a particular segment of society but never explains beyond that. What section in particular? He never mentions capitalism as Malcolm X and the Panthers did. Here’s why. Shaun King does not agree with Malcolm X that capitalism without racism is impossible. His boss is Mortimer Zuckerman. Zuckerman owns the media outlet Shaun King writes for. He is worth some $3 billion dollars. He doesn’t mind that Shaun King talks about white privilege in general terms as he knows white workers will not be drawn to the issue in that way and he is not threatened at all. Shaun King’s boss is from that class from which white supremacy springs. He is a true beneficiary of white supremacy. Perhaps Shaun should take Malcom X’s advice, “Anytime you have to rely upon your enemy for a job you’re in bad shape.”
If we can’t have capitalism without racism we must eliminate capitalism and we can’t eliminate capitalism as a class divided. Racism is not the only problem that capitalism cannot solve. Poverty, environmental destruction, disease, climate change, all these problems are permanent aspects of capitalism.
Forty five US congressmen are black as are mayors of many cities including Baltimore. Back in 2004 there was “hope” that Magic Johnson’s urban development company would bring change in Chicago. But black capitalism and black politicians have not been able, or willing to change the devastating social conditions affecting the black working class. The ruling class is still who it is.
Marx said that the emancipation of the working class is the act of the working class itself. No one can do it for us. We cannot confront and defeat capitalism and the philosophy of white supremacy without uniting the working class. Racism is a form of divide and rule and it is a conscious strategy for weakening the working class. The period of struggle against racism described here proves that the capitalist class cannot and will not eliminate racism in this country. If they could, the confederate flag would have fallen from the masts in the South long ago. They will always use it to undermine workers unity as they do religious sectarianism in Ireland. And in a period when the living standards of white workers are being savaged, there is no way even worse conditions among blacks will improve.
For white workers, it is in our class interest to join actively with black workers and all workers of color against the special and additional oppression they face. Given the history, it is important to be sympathetic to the resistance under the title “Black Lives Matter”, their lives matter less in this society. Of course all lives matter, but some more than others, not because the white ruling class respects white workers, it’s purely a political matter.
There is a simple thing a white worker can do to begin to improve relations with our black brothers and sisters on the job and in general, and that is to validate their life experience and in particular their history as workers and people with different skin tone. Reject the false argument that the conditions so disproportionally affecting blacks, (unemployment, incarceration, crime) are their own fault and instead a result of centuries of racism and exclusion and join with them in struggle for equality for all.
It is the philosophy of the ruling class in the US to blame the poor, to blame poor whites for their own condition also. It is the acceptance of this philosophy in our own consciousness that leads to despair, self hatred and demoralization. We must not blame ourselves. The black panther member just released after 43 years in solidarity explained that it was politics, an understanding of the world from the point of view of the oppressed that kept them sane, grounded.
The road to working class unity is through struggle. White skinned workers are a majority here, and the ruling class appeals to us on the basis of white skin unity, but they are not our friends. We have an obligation to openly and aggressively support all those who are not only discriminated against on racial grounds but religion, gender, disability etc. and condemn those who support racism in the form of the confederate flag for example. It’s in our self interest to do so. We struggle for jobs for all, free education for all, and housing and health care as a human right, but we must also recognize and speak out on the special circumstances that others face through no fault of their own----that they have a deeper hole out of which to climb. We cannot remain silent.
Above all we must keep in mind that capitalism cannot solve any of the problems workers are facing today.
(1) The Emancipation Proclamation, George Novack, America’s Revolutionary Heritage, p. 264.
(2) Black Income Lags Behind Education SF Chronicle 9-20-1991
(3) Black Hopes Raised by ’68 Kerner Report Are Mainly Unfulfilled. WSJ, 2-26-88
(4) Black Americans Life Expectancy Fell in 1988 for Fourth Year in a Row WSJ 4-9-91
(5) Long Bridge in Milwaukee Symbolizes The Continuing Racial Divisions There. WSJ 2-26-88
*Stevens was wrong on this count as it was not slavery in itself but the struggle of northern capitalists against a social system of slave labor. It was a struggle for free markets and free labor and the consolidation of the nation state along these lines. The Emancipation Declaration never applied to slaves in the North where free labor and capitalism was dominant.