Thursday, October 5, 2017

One Malcolm X quote the liberals steer clear of.

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Well the conservative blog Legal Insurrection that labeled this liberal Cornell professor “anti-capitalist” has nothing to worry about. He doesn’t even mention the term capitalism, capitalist or workers in the interview in a Cornell University paper as far as I can see.

He was criticized for raising the case of the Palestinian people under the brutal occupation of Zionist Apartheid at a “knee in” last week in the ongoing protests against racism and police brutality here in the US. He started a pro-Palestinian chant in an attempt to connect “…expressions of white supremacy on campus and in the United States to systemic colonial violence abroad.”, the author of the piece writes. He should be commended for that.

But the professor goes on, “The colonial occupation of Palestine remains one of the world’s most visible campaigns of white supremacist violence." This says very little about the history of the occupation and the formation of the state of Israel in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War One. The first British governor of Jerusalem referred to the creation of a Jewish state as “Our loyal little Ulster in the Middle East”. The Arab masses were not too reliable with much revolutionary potential. Europe’s Jews could become the Palestinian equivalent of Ulster’s Protestant minority.

The professor talks of linking struggles at home with those abroad , “anti-racism with anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, and anti-militarism,”.   Anti-capitalism does not appear here, though it would have been a golden opportunity to attack the capitalist system and those that govern it using racism, misogyny, militarism and other means to maintain their rule

The professor adds, “If we’re committed to liberation, connecting the local and the global seems not only appropriate, but absolutely necessary,”

Well, internationalism is crucial if we are to overthrow capitalism and create a humane global society in harmony with nature. Fighting racism, sexism and other issues that keep the working class divided is just as crucial.  But the working class do not exist for Professor Rickford. Capitalism likes to keep racism in its divide and rule arsenal. As we have written before on this blog, the US ruling class likes to keep it festering, forever tense as they pay lip service to how important it is we all get along. When it breaks out in to the open this is very expensive and disruptive for them. Only when their system, their class rule is threatened, will they try to whip up open race warfare as a last resort. It is the role of a united working class and revolutionary leadership to ensure it will be too late for them at that point.

So why doesn’t the professor mention the elephant in the room, the global system of production we call capitalism?  He doesn’t mention it because he supports it. He calls for the liberation of the Palestinians and points out that they still remain colonized.

“Liberate” them from what? And replace their oppression with what? De-colonize them from what?  "White Supremacist Violence" I suppose the professor would say. Rockford certainly doesn’t mean capitalism, he’s quite at home with it there at Cornell, prior to that he was on the faculty at Dartmouth..  His parents are both left academics and authors which explains his world view.

Like most black left petite bourgeois (and the white ones) Rickford keeps it safe. They never quote Malcolm X who said that “You can’t have capitalism without racism” because they don’t agree with Malcolm X on this issue. They stay clear of this aspect of Malcolm X’s political development. They have the totally opposite view that Malcolm X came to reject as he questioned the validity of black nationalism as a solution to the racial oppression black folks were experiencing in the US. They believe that racism “can” be eliminated under capitalism, black capitalism is the answer.

One can’t fault workers that belong to specially oppressed minorities in society from being drawn to nationalism, because of history and especially during times when the class struggle is at an ebb. But Malcolm X was right; you can’t have capitalism without racism. What flows from this is that capitalism has to be overthrown if we want to get rid of racism it would seem to me. And capitalism cannot be overthrown without working class unity. Racism and sexism are harmful to workers unity and used by the capitalist class, black or white, to undermine it.

Russell Rickford studied at Howard and Columbia, and was on the Dartmouth faculty at age 24 before Cornell. My guess is he didn’t hang out too much with black workers, blue collar black workers especially. Like most upper middle class academics he doesn’t see the working class as a force for change in society.  White Supremacy, Colonialism these are safer to assault than capitalism, especially in major capitalist education institutions like Dartmouth or Cornell, themselves bastions of white supremacy.

This is the problem with Professor Rickford’s view of the world. It’s like Chris Hedges and others. They point out what is bad, what we all know exists. But they offer no solution because they do not see the working class as a force for change. Malcolm X came to abandon black capitalism as the solution to racism in America. He didn’t say that he believed there would be a social clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing but that it wouldn’t be “….based on the color of the skin.” because he thought it was fashionable.

A prominent black South African trade union leader who I had some minor connection to in the 1980’s getting my union to support him as he was under assault by the Apartheid regime, said of the struggle against that racist regime that “We don’t want to change the color of the regime, we want to change the system”

Professor Rickford doesn’t point to capitalism as the cause of human suffering because he embraces it-------capitalism with a different face.

Professor Has No Regrets After Controversial Chant

“I never assume that most people share my politics,” Prof. Russell Rickford, history, told The Sun.
Activist and scholar of black American history, Rickford joined Black Lives Matter in Ithaca in 2015 and became a founding member of Cornell Coalition for Inclusive Democracy last year, which led protests demanding the University to protect and support international Cornellians in March.

More recently, and more controversially, at a knee-in last Wednesday following the professional athletes and Cornell students who had been protesting racial violence, Rickford led the chant “Free Palestine” just before the crowd kneeled.

Rickford’s chant was followed by a scattered applause and a palpable unease among some in the crowd. Shortly later, the chant “Free Palestine” was dubbed by conservative blog Legal Insurrection as the “hijacking of other ‘social justice”’ causes to turn them against Israel.” It also called Rickford “an anti-capitalist, anti-Israel activist” after the protest.

Following the protest, Rickford was met with criticism that he misused a platform framed for solidarity with athletes and black Cornell students in addressing the hotly debated Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Prof. Rickford assumed that because we were here to protest racism on Cornell’s campus, we all shared an opinion and belief on a separate issue,” wrote Arielle Hazi ’18 in a Guest Room for The Sun. Hazi said she was “frustrated” with Rickford’s decision to initiate the chant.

Rickford said his rhetorical strategy in leading the crowd in the chant “Free Palestine” was precisely aligned with the aim of the protest.

“The colonial occupation of Palestine remains one of the world’s most visible campaigns of white supremacist violence,” Rickford said. The event was held not just to bring awareness to violence against black Americans, but as an expression of resistance against acts of white supremacy — to which Rickford said Palestinians were subject without exception under Israeli occupation.

Rickford said his chant connected expressions of white supremacy on campus and in the United States to systemic colonial violence abroad.

Comparisons of his chant with anti-Semitism, Rickford said, is effectively a insulation of ongoing colonial powers.

“It is also an attempt to silence the millions of Jews around the world who condemn Israel’s apartheid policies,” he said.

When Rickford was growing up, black nationalism, amid its the cultural resurgence in the 1990s, was a basis for his “early resistance to white supremacy.” As he continued to evolve politically after college, he studied the works of Marxist and Third Word theorists, from Frantz Fanon to Amilcar Cabral, and has embraced a leftist view of society.

“I began to link anti-racism with anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, and anti-militarism,” he said.
Protests against racism in America today too often avoid a “direct confrontation of power,” Rickford said. This avoidance of confrontation is something Rickford said he has attempted to counteract in his speeches.

That is why he said he has called for liberation and anti-colonialism not only at home but, more importantly, around the world.

In fact, Rickford said he had also mentioned the history of genocide and dispossession of indigenous peoples in North America in his speech. But he said that there was no complaint about it following the protest, because that statement was not regarded as a serious challenge to the ongoing practice of colonialist power.

“Those in power reserve the right to define the limits of acceptable political expression,” he said.
The fact that people were specifically unhappy with Rickford’s remarks on Palestine demonstrated that, to Rickford, his challenge of Palestinian occupation was a threat to those in power in America.
“The Palestinian people remain colonized,” he said. “Their oppression is routinely justified in the United States, a society steeped in the culture and logic of settler colonialism. All the great structures of U.S. violence — mass incarceration, militarism, police terror, racism, etc. — converge in the occupation of Palestine.”

Rickford said one’s dedication to principles of social justice and equality should not end at home.
“If we’re committed to liberation, connecting the local and the global seems not only appropriate, but absolutely necessary,” he said, adding that his motivation behind leading the chant at the knee-in was to challenge listeners to place their values in a global context.

The Palestinian people, as a group that has long endured colonial occupation and apartheid, to Rickford, were thus necessary to include in the conversation about race and hate in America.

“I always invoke Palestine when I speak publicly. It is part of my attempt to demonstrate solidarity, as the Palestinian people have long done in relation to the black freedom struggle,” he said.

No comments: