Friday, July 27, 2012

Workers World on the "war at home"

Today Workers World newspaper's website features an article by Dolores Cox entitled "African Americans and the war at home."  The full article can be found below, and at the website here.

Cox uses the article to paint a picture of the grim history of the Black nationality in the US, from chattel slavery to wage slavery to debt slavery.  No Marxist disputes this.  But Cox leaves out the long and consistently inspiring history of fightback and the many victories of the Black nationality against chattel slavery, wage slavery, Jim Crow, and debt peonage.  Solid articles on the struggle can be read here and here.

One subheading of her article says "Class solidarity is key," which is also correct.  But the article provides no examples, past or present, of this class solidarity.  The fact that her own party leads such a multi-national class-based movement against foreclosures in Detroit is not even mentioned.  Nor is the Occupy 4 Jobs organization that WWP began last year to spread the lessons of these struggles based on class solidarity nation-wide.

Cox makes a few broader statements that are also rather surprising to read in a Marxist-Leninist newspaper, quite apart from the fact that she ignores the impact of socialism in countries like Cuba in eliminating race discrimination.

1.  Cox claims "....Actions such as wars are based on an ideology," which is incorrect politically, as wars are based on the material economic and political interests of states involved in said wars, and ideology is used as justification and rationalization. 

The claim is all the more surprising because it contradicts the first sentence of the article, in which Cox states: "....When wars are declared, enemies are designated to justify them, whether for real, imagined, opportunistic or fabricated reasons."  Here she states that a war's ideological justifications come after the war begins, which would come as a surprise to the workers of Syria and Iran today, who faced Washington's ideological offensive prior to actual warfare.

2.  Cox states that for the Black nationality "....Fundamental rights for all have never applied in the U.S. Instead, privileges are granted to some, and second-class citizenship to others...."  One wonders what kind of theory of the state Cox starts with.  Marxists understand that any rights enjoyed by workers and their oppressed allies, whether fundamental or not, are those won in our struggles, not initiated by founding fathers or supreme courts.

I find the concept of "second-class citizenship" problematic as a Marxist as well; it seems to suggest, though I doubt Cox intended it so, that if our fundamental rights were enforced, working people would enjoy first-class citizenship without changing the state we have today.

3.  Cox also makes this point: "....The cost of external wars means less money is spent on essential social programs and services for those in need at home, which has always included African Americans."  The idea that there is a national income "pie" which is unfairly divided between guns and butter is an old and incorrect one, and a shocking formulation to find in a Marxist-Leninist newspaper. 

Cox is suggesting that the capitalist ruling class war budget could become a peace budget if wars ended; no mention is made of the first step in such a process: overthrowing the rule of the bourgeoisie and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat. Money spent on war, money reaped from the surplus value our class produces, will never be spent on essential social programs under capitalism; to suggest otherwise is to start down the road to Kucinich-style Democratic Party politics or Rainbow social democracy.

Parenthetically, in a supposedly no-war period in the later 1990s, essential social programs like "welfare as we know it" were destroyed, not expanded.

4.  Cox concludes her article by stating "....Class unity and solidarity are needed. In order for people’s power to succeed, all groups, on every level, need to work together to defend on all fronts against a government whose power has gone awry based on its allegiance to capitalism and imperialism."

Here euphemisms liquidate political clarity.  No concrete examples are given of class unity and solidarity, as mentioned above.  But most importantly, the term "people's power," an empty and class-free unscientific slogan which can mean anything to anyone, is employed in preference to the word socialism, which appears nowhere in Cox's article, and is sorely needed to differentiate it from myriad radical left identity politics articles appearing on the internet today.

Cox actually suggests that the capitalist state whose crimes she has spent the previous paragraphs itemizing is merely a "....government whose power has gone awry based on its allegiance to capitalism and imperialism."  


Of course the point made by Marxists since 1848 is that governments and states are not entities which float about classes, influenced by whichever class is strongest at a given conjuncture.  This is the line of every supposedly socialist reviser of Marxism from Eduard Bernstein to today's CPUSA. 

In a Marxist-Leninist newspaper produced by a Marxist-Leninist party, we must do better.

Jay
07/27/2012





Dolores Cox, in white cap, prior to her 2008 arrest in protest of
racist police murder of Sean Bell. WW photo: Monica Moorehead

African Americans and the war at home
By Dolores Cox on July 27, 2012.

When wars are declared, enemies are designated to justify them, whether for real, imagined, opportunistic or fabricated reasons. Actions such as wars are based on an ideology. In the category of the longest wars in U.S. history, the war on its African-American population must be included. For centuries, Black people have been targeted for enslavement, wholesale violence and murder, state-sponsored racism, and legal segregation. They have faced discrimination, oppression, induced poverty, destruction, marginalization and repression. The lives of Black people under capitalism are disregarded.

The law of the land in the U.S. has always been “white supremacy.” As a result, anyone with a designated amount of skin pigmentation is labeled an enemy by the state and by those who embrace the state’s position. Fundamental rights for all have never applied in the U.S. Instead, privileges are granted to some, and second-class citizenship to others; this is based on “acceptable” views on skin color and ancestry. Even the dictionary definition of the words “black” and “white” reveals the subjective bias.

Under U.S. society’s “one drop” rule, one known drop of so-called “Black blood” automatically makes one Black. That automatically makes the individual a target of racism. Conversely, one drop of known “white blood” never automatically makes one a member of the white group. The rule never works in reverse. To qualify for inclusion and equal treatment within a society like the U.S. dominated by institutionalized racism, one has to belong to the specific group possessing “white” blood and skin color. This determines the civil and human rights a person is entitled to in the U.S.

During the period of Jim Crow apartheid, Black people were taxed without representation. Blacks were also under siege in their own communities. This hasn’t changed. In New York City, neighborhoods are largely segregated, notwithstanding encroaching gentrification. Public schools are as segregated as they were before the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling.

There has never been a level playing field in U.S. society. Deliberate placement of obstacles, double standards, denial of aspirations and thwarted opportunities in every field of endeavor are historically based on skin color and ancestry. Discrimination in housing, employment, education and health care access negatively impact the quality of life for every Black family, causing needless pain and suffering.

There have always been disparities in upward mobility, gaps in wealth, income, status and standards of living for the Black population. Since the official end of slavery, Black workers have become a dispensable workforce to be exploited, by every means necessary.

Along with Native peoples, Latinos/as, Arabs, Muslims and Asians, African Americans along with other peoples of African descent have been targets of daily abuse, aggression and domestic terrorism.

Criminalization of the Black population is longstanding. Its impact on Black families has been devastating. Racial profiling by police is increasing the rate of arrests and incarcerations to enormous numbers. Prisons have become a big for-profit industry in this capitalist society, with large corporations like Wells Fargo investing in them.

In recent years, racial profiling by the Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase banks has been rampant. These financial institutions arranged discriminatory, predatory, subprime mortgage loans with higher rates and fees, which have resulted in millions of home foreclosures and evictions. Approximately one-third of those targeted were eligible for standard loans. These mortgage brokers took advantage of African Americans who desired to have a piece of the “American Dream,” but who traditionally were denied mortgage loans based solely on skin color.

The school-to-prison pipeline is the path for Black youth. Racism and a failed public education system enter into it. Unlawful “stop-and-frisk” police policies predominantly target Black males; they annually number in the hundreds of thousands, just in New York City alone. Blacks are also disproportionately victims of police killings and brutality. The so-called “war on drugs” and the “crackdown on gun possession” are largely aimed at the Black community.

Class solidarity is key

The U.S. has never been a “land of the free” or “home of the brave.” Its stated claim of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” has never been inclusive. The abuse of power by those in dominant positions in the state has resulted in perennial attacks on the freedoms of African Americans. Racism has been entrenched into every social, political and economic institution and system in this country. Moreover, the U.S. exports it globally as well.

The war at home has escalated. Today it includes attacks on public sector workers and unions, college students, and the poor and homeless. It includes more mass incarcerations and state-sanctioned attacks on immigrant groups and undocumented workers. Spying on and entrapment of Muslims has increased. Government harassment, raids and repression of activists have escalated in the so-called “war on terror.” Religious bigotry has intensified. Civil liberties are increasingly under attack.

Endless wars abroad are directly linked to the war at home. The cost of external wars means less money is spent on essential social programs and services for those in need at home, which has always included African Americans. By design, those in power have intentionally kept people of African descent at the bottom of the social, economic and political ladder by institutionalized and systemic racism. African Americans have consistently borne the brunt of capitalism’s failures to provide for societal needs and to equitably distribute resources.

The human costs of U.S. militarism abroad are either downplayed or barely mentioned by the big business media. This includes the numbers of civilians injured and killed abroad — women, children and men, the displacement of war victims, refugees and the destruction of infrastructures required for survival. The injuries and deaths of soldiers are barely raised either. The human costs of the domestic war on the African-American population have been ignored for far too long.

There have always been calls to action for social, economic and political justice. Struggle is the name of the game. During the current capitalist economic crisis with its rising unemployment, the Black population’s condition has worsened and become more challenging. With trillions of tax dollars spent on invasions, bombings and warfare, and with a corporate-run government and a pro-rich capitalist economy, a bigger, stronger, multinational struggle is required. Class unity and solidarity are needed. In order for people’s power to succeed, all groups, on every level, need to work together to defend on all fronts against a government whose power has gone awry based on its allegiance to capitalism and imperialism.

http://www.workers.org/2012/07/27/african-americans-and-the-war-at-home/

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