ANTI-ASIAN RACISM, ANOTHER AMERICAN TALE

by Ellen Isaacs

Although no form of racism in the US can compare to the barbarism of black chattel slavery and its consequences that persist to the present, racist practices and ideas have cruelly affected other groups. One such is Asians, whose immigrant history is little known today. Moreover, there is a prevalent notion that Asian-Americans no longer suffer discrimination, and that they in fact fare better than many whites.

Although there are stories of a few Asians in the colonial US from the 1600s, probably from India, the first large group of Asians immigrated in the mid 19th century. The US government became directly involved in transpacific commerce in the 1840s, and the goals of empire stimulated building the transcontinental railroad and the Panama Canal. Chinese workers began to arrive in 1849-50, recruited as contract workers and anxious to flee war and poverty at home.  They were needed to work as gold miners, railroad builders, and factory and farm workers. Indeed, a foreign miners’ tax became an important source of US government revenue.

Naturalization was not possible for these workers because Congress, in 1790, had limited citizenship to “free white persons” of “good character.” The 14th Amendment of 1868 granted citizenship to newly freed slaves and the Dawes Act of 1887 did the same for Native Americans, but Asians remained excluded by the Burlingame Amendment. Unable to become citizens, Asians could not aim to become permanent settlers, own property, or seek any legal redress. Many anti-Chinese statues were passed in California, although often struck down by the courts. Thus the immigrants tended to group together and not learn English or adopt American culture. They were stigmatized as backward, as much of Asia was a colonized and impoverished region in the 1800s.

Over 12,000 Chinese workers made up 80-90% of workers on the early transcontinental rail lines, the first of which was completed in 1869. The work was difficult and dangerous, involving roadbeds over uneven ground and blasting tunnels through rock. Besides earning low ages, Chinese workers were required to pay for their own lodging, food and tools and were whipped if they walked off the job.  In 1867, 5,000 workers staged the era’s largest strike, which was broken by cutting off all their food and supplies.  And yet the ceremony to celebrate the driving of the final spike included no Chinese.

Chinese people made up 20% of California’s workforce by 1870. Until then, a chronic labor shortage made immigrant labor necessary, but as westward expansion ended and the urban population and labor pool increased, immigrant workers were feared as a source of competition for scarce jobs, and the Depression of 1876 increased anti-Chinese sentiment. Unions, rather than welcoming immigrants, opposed immigration in order to “protect” American workers. Attacks on the Chinese increased. One of the worst was in 1873 in Los Angeles when 500 vigilantes, including the chief of police, killed 19 Chinese immigrants and destroyed their homes and businesses.

In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, which restricted Chinese immigration for 60 years. Over the next few years, Japanese and smaller numbers of Korean and Indian laborers began replacing the Chinese workers in low-paid jobs in railroads, farming and fishing until Japanese immigration was also restricted in 1907.

By 1924, all Asians were denied citizenship and were barred from marrying Caucasians or owning land. Some Indians who had already been naturalized after having been deemed “white,” as opposed to Asian, were reclassified on the basis of a Supreme Court decision in 1923 and stripped of their citizenship – 65 in all. The cheap labor gap was next filled by Filipinos, who came in large numbers in the 1920s and could not be excluded because the US had annexed the Philippines in 1898. Nonetheless, Congress passed restrictions on their entry in 1935 as a response to the next depression.

During World War II, over 120,000 Japanese were interned in camps, supposedly because they posed a threat to national security, although German and Italian immigrants were not similarly treated. In reality much of the motivation was that Japanese farmers had become very successful and practically controlled the market in some fruits and vegetables. Despite a State Department report which was seen by President Roosevelt that concluded that there was no internal Japanese threat, internment proceeded on the basis of racism and profit The Supreme Court upheld the racial expulsions. John DeWitt, the Army general in command of the coast said: “A Jap’s a Jap. They are a dangerous element, whether loyal or not.”

The Japanese were housed in primitive camps in the remote West or Arkansas, surrounded by barbed wire and guards. Young men were then enlisted to fight in Europe, and 300 who refused were sent to federal prison. When allowed to leave the camps, internees were forbidden to return to the West Coast until a court case overturned the law in 1945. A redress movement began in the 1970s and 1988 finally brought a presidential apology and $20,000 payments to surviving detainees.

World War II had a very different effect on Chinese immigrants, as China had become a US ally against the Japanese. There was again a shortage of workers, and by 1943, 15% of all California shipyard workers were Chinese. The Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in late 1943, and 22% of Chinese men in America served in the military.

Racist views of Asians were pivotal to lack of American success in subsequent wars. General MacArthur, leader of American troops in the Korean War could not believe that North Koreans or the Chinese, who had just won their communist revolution could possibly stand up to US military might. He described Asians as “dutiful, primitive and childlike.” Likewise it was inconceivable to US leaders that North Vietnamese peasants using guerilla tactics could defeat the mighty American military.

It was not until 1965, during the civil rights movement, that quotas of 20,000 immigrants per country were established, which allowed Asian immigration to resume. Engineers and scientists were favored due to the technological competition of the Cold War.

Asians began to be touted as “model minority” in the 1960s, in the era when blacks had begun protesting against racism in large numbers. The claim that one minority had flourished or even surpassed whites, was useful to pin racism against blacks on their own individual failings and let racism off the hook. However a survey of Asian-Americans reported that 30% had endured discrimination in the workplace, as opposed to 26% of blacks. Researchers at the University of Toronto found that employees of East Asian descent, generally Chinese, Japanese and Korean, were stereotyped as high in competence but low in warmth and dominance, perpetuating “the idea that East Asians are ideal as subordinate employees, suited for technical competence positions, but are unqualified to be leaders and managers.” In general, all Asians were lumped together, despite coming from a wide variety of countries, and all attributed with similar characteristics, such as passivity and remoteness, even if intelligent.

After 1965, refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos also began immigrating, in response to the misery caused by the US sponsored wars in those countries. By 2012, Asian immigrants had surpassed those from Latin America in numbers. Many, especially from India and China, came from rapidly developing economies with a surplus of educated labor. Thus many were able to obtain employment-based visas for highly skilled immigrants, and Asians make up only 10% of unauthorized immigrants.

New Asian immigrants who came with less education, such as the Vietnamese and Koreans, have a higher rate of poverty than the general population, The success of the wealthier and better educated Asian immigrants has led to the myth that they are all “model” and successful immigrants and not held back by racism. This is not only untrue, but has continued to be useful in denying the significance of racism against black and Latin Americans, who can now more easily be blamed for failing to make it as opposed to being victimized by institutional racism.

Recent Anti-Asian Racism

        A particularly disturbing case is that of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American who was murdered in 1955 by two white men in Detroit who thought he was Japanese and represented Japanese automakers whose competition was threatening their jobs. At the killers’ first trial, only for manslaughter, they received probation and a $3700 fine.  At a second trial, one actually received a long sentence for a civil rights violation, but at a third trial both were acquitted. In 1999, Wen Ho Lee, a prominent physicist, was accused of selling secrets to China and put in solitary confinement for nine months.  Even the New York Times wrote articles condemning him without investigation, but it turned out that the charges against him were false. In colleges where Asians make up 15-50% of students, frequent racist attacks are reported, which have increased as Trump has upped the verbal attacks on and trade war with China. However, competition with China will endure way beyond this president as it represents the main ongoing imperialist rivalry in the world today, and anti-Asian racism can be expected to increase.

         There is a very widespread belief that Asian-Americans are even better off than white Americans, a story that hides a very different reality. The wealth gap amongst Asians is actually larger than that for whites, somewhat higher than income inequality.  Although wealthy Asians have more wealth than wealthy whites, there is greater economic diversity. The ratio of wealth for the top 10% to the bottom 20% was 168.4 for Asians compared to 121.3 for whites in 2010-13. In 2015, the poverty rate for Asians was 11.4% as compared to 9.1% for whites.

Anti-Asian racism, like many other forms of racism, is a potent weapon in winning the population to support wars. The enemy is demonized as were the Vietnamese during the war on that country, when soldiers were recruited and trained to kill “gooks”.  After 9/11, all Muslims became branded as evil, resulting in attacks on many Asians as well as Middle Easterners. Soldiers being trained to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan were indoctrinated to kill “ragheads.”

In the last year, the cases of affirmative action for black and Latin students at selective New York City high schools and at Harvard have been used to make Asian students appear to be the villains in excluding these groups. The usual myths are floated to exploit this divide. One is that all Asians are successful and smart, the “model minority” who have earned their place high in the hierarchy and should not be threatened. This narrative, once again, is used to blame the victims of anti-black and anti-Latin racism for their own lower attainment. It also assumes that the resources for an excellent high school or college education are inherently limited. But why should there be only a handful of excellent high schools in New York City? Why should there be so few lower schools that adequately prepare students for competitive high schools? Why are there not enough seats at excellent universities that are affordable for all and so few high schools that adequately prepare their students to flourish in college?

Another common source of friction is between Asian small business owners and shoppers in poor black communities. There are many stories of mistreatment of black customers, who are looked on with more suspicion and afforded less courtesy than white customers. Once again, two struggling communities are poised to blame each other for their economic difficulties, while corporate America reaps profits and is spared the anger of united workers.

The wedges that are driven between Asians and all other groups competing for scarce resources distract the society at large from dealing with the lack of adequate schools and social programs for all working people. The lack of unity between white workers and black, Latin, Asian and undocumented workers causes all of us to be certain losers in the battle for a better life. In fact, a united multiracial struggle is the only way that we can win the struggle for the resources we all need. That is why racist stereotypes are perpetuated in the media, the speeches of politicians, the classrooms and the churches. Let us embrace each other and join ranks in our fight for an egalitarian society.

Resources

Two Faces of Exclusion, the untold history of anti-Asian racism in the United States, Lou Kurashige, University of North Carolina Press, 2016

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/injustice-japanese-americans-internment-camps-resonates-strongly-180961422/

http://picturethis.museumca.org/timeline/world-war-ii-homefront-era-1940s/chinese-american-culture/info

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexnowrasteh/2012/07/09/the-rise-of-asian-immigration/#639ef74b742c.

http://www.asian-nation.org/racism.shtml#sthash.2bAocevV.dpbs.

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/06/19/the-rise-of-asian-americans

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/reports/2016/12/20/295359/wealth-inequality-among-asian-americnas-greater-than-among-whites/

https://theoutline.com/post/1351/black-asian-conflict-beauty-supply?zd=1&zi=j5nembk3http://www.asian-nation.org/racism.shtml#sthash.2bAocevV.dpbs.

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/reports/2016/12/20/295359/wealth-inequality-among-asian-americans-greater-than-among-whites/

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/06/19/the-rise-of-asian-americans/

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/reports/2016/12/20/295359/wealth-inequality-among-asian-americans-greater-than-among-whites/

THE LOS ANGELES TEACHERS’ STRIKE AND OTHER TEACHER ACTIONS AROUND THE NATION

by Al Simpson

February 12, 2019

The Racist Nature of Education in the United States

According to the Center for American Progress report Unequal Education of 2012 (https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-12/news/2012/08/22/32862/students-of-color-still-receiving-unequal-education/), schools are just as segregated in unequal now as they were in 1954 when Brown versus Board of Education was decided.  The average white student attends a school where 77% of students are white, and fully 40% of black and Latin students attend schools where over 90% or students are non-white. Especially in the big cities, racist segregation and differences in school funding have led to a dual education system, good in the suburbs and white upper income areas — where the students are prepared for college and professional, technical or managerial jobs — and poor elsewhere, especially in neighborhoods where there are people of color. Let’s look more deeply into this.

High school graduation rates are white 78%, Latin 58%, black 57%, and Native American 54%. The differences are partly due to funding through property taxes, but also because districts that serve people of color employ less experienced, lower-paid, teachers.

Nationally, schools spend $334 more on each white student than on a non-white student (https://nces.ed.gov/search/?q=number+of+students+in+school). The total public-school enrollment in 2012 was about 50 million, about 41% of whom were black, Latin or Native American. If this $334 per student of color deficit is multiplied by 41% of 50 million, we come out with a figure of about $6.847 billion saved a year through racist spending differentials. This figure is an approximation, as the number of students per year and the years the deficits were calculated are one year apart, but enrollment does not increase at a rapid rate, so we can accept the ballpark amount of $6.8 billion. This is evidence that education for people of color is not a priority for the capitalists.

The difference is even greater when you consider that wealthier white neighborhoods can make up for shortfalls in funding of the schools because they have the financial ability to purchase needed equipment and supplies. Poorer neighborhoods, where people of color generally live, would have more difficulty in obtaining equipment and supplies that are not funded by the school district.

The Recent LA Teachers’ Strike

Tens of thousands of teachers and education workers took part in a six-day strike to improve the learning conditions of the students, who are 90% black and Latin.  Their demands included:

  • Reduced class sizes. Black and Latin neighborhoods have class sizes of 42 or more, making any individual attention impossible.
  • More non-teaching school personnel such as nurses, librarians, and counselors. Often a nurse comes to a school once a week.
  • An end to excessive testing.
  • Regulation of charter schools, so that public schools will no longer be converted to charter schools, thus destroying public education. In the Charter schools the students are often taught by poorly paid, unqualified, teachers.
  • And an increase in teacher pay to provide them with a living wage.

The local teachers did an excellent job of organizing in the community. There were multiple marches throughout the city of Los Angeles of 50,000 people each. This educated people so that the entire city was discussing the problems regarding LA’s education system and its $2 billion unspent reserve. Because of the organizing efforts of the teachers, over 80 percent of Los Angeles County supported the teachers’ strike.[i]

There was a problem with strike breakers (scabs) that needs a bit of an explanation. The message given by a picket line is simple: It means do not cross. If enough scabs break through the picket line, then the strike will be ineffective. This places the jobs of the striking workers in jeopardy! So, in order to defend their right to earn a living, the strikers have to make sure that no one crosses the picket line. Some wonderful militant teachers limited the number of scabs entering the schools by blockading the entrances with their cars and by other means. That made the strike more effective. It also built unity amongst the strikers. The school district has plenty of money for scabs, not for anything else, of course. Scabs were paid up to $385 per day.

The results of the LA teachers’ strike

Progress was made on reducing testing, defense for immigrant students, creating green space on campuses, and supporting ethnic studies. Up to 28 schools will be exempt from random searches of students – a failed anti-gun policy put in place that harassed students of color. Thirty schools will be designated as Community Schools, meaning that they will receive extra funding and more local control so that they can establish wrap-around services for the neighborhood. Community schools are the union leadership’s vision of what public schools should look like, and they hope that by establishing these first examples they can show a real alternative to charter schools.

There will be teacher librarians for every secondary school 5 days a week. There will a nurse for every school 5 days a week. Unfortunately, the increase in counselors is minimal; the student to counselor ratio is being decreased from 750 to 1 to an equally ridiculous 500 to 1.

Class sizes have been reduced, but maximum class sizes for math and English are set to 39 students, still way too high.

Teachers’ pay is being increased 6 percent over two years. Unfortunately, this was proposed by the school district before the strike started.

Some Thoughts About the Strike

The entire contract bargaining process is extremely legalistic and designed to narrow down workers struggle, confining it to closed-door sessions between small groups of experts and lawyers. This wasted a lot of time, time that could have been used to organize a strike. But the union misleaders weren’t interested in that. Workers need to be building the strength to completely break through this framework and take back the initiative from the bosses and their courts.

That means that unions need to start breaking the law. Public sector unions were built on illegal strikes in the 1960s and ‘70s, and the 2018 West Virginia teachers strike was waged without any formal legality as well.  There is no such thing as an illegal strike! The bosses are making the laws  that benefit them; we can’t be governed by that. The biggest gains of the labor movement have been made through mass law-breaking.

It was difficult to obtain even basic reforms that were sorely needed by the students and teachers. This is because capitalism is not set up to provide for education or any other public good. It is set up to provide profits for the capitalists; everything else is secondary at best, and there is always, racist, unequal funding for public services to people of color, as mentioned earlier.

This is the first Los Angeles teachers’ strike in 30 years. So, there was little or no memory of how to organize a strike and how to avoid the pitfalls that the school district and the union misleaders would set up. Even so, the LA teachers did a great job of organizing the strike with an 80 percent approval rating by the public! They also won some needed reforms. Now that the LA teachers have gone through the process of organizing a strike, they have picked up some of the necessary knowledge and experience to defend themselves better in the future. The struggle is not over because the contract contains escape clauses for the hiring more nurses and teacher librarians. Also, there are “reopeners” on salary, so that may have to be renegotiated as well. Let’s see what happens. As mentioned earlier, the teachers have picked up the necessary knowledge and experience for a strong fightback. It’s a good idea to start organizing now.

Teachers’ Strikes Happening Now!

West Virginia Teachers Approve Strike Action

Teachers and other school workers in all 55 West Virginia counties voted last week to call a work action against a reactionary omnibus education bill moving through the state legislature.

The teachers gave overwhelming approval for a strike or other unspecified protest. American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia (AFT-WV) President Fred Albert said that the “work action” could mean anything “from picketing at schools to work stoppages.” He also refused to give a deadline.

The threat of renewed strike action comes nearly a year after the nine-day strike which was sparked by the determined wildcat action of teachers and school workers in the southern coal counties. The wildcats, in defiance of the unions, spread the strike statewide and galvanized subsequent teacher walkouts across the US. The union misleaders eventually forced a return to work without meeting any of the teachers’ essential demands.

Increasingly angry over the failure of the legislature to fully fund their healthcare or provide adequate funding for classrooms, teachers in the state are now livid over Senate Bill 451. This pro-privatization bill ties promised raises and insurance changes to charter schools, vouchers and anti-strike measures.

Senate Bill 451 was approved by the House Education Committee with a 15-10 margin Friday evening, including some changes from previous iterations. Among them was the removal of the “education savings accounts” that would siphon off money off from public districts into vouchers for private and religious schools. The Education Committee also recommended placing a limit on the number of charter schools that could open in the state—but still introduces the scourge of unregulated, for-profit schools into West Virginia.

Denver Colorado Teachers Strike

Denver teachers are set to walk out today in their first strike since 1994. Negotiations between the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) and the Denver Public Schools (DPS) have dragged on for 15 months without a contract. Teachers voted by 93 percent to strike on January 22.

The Denver strike highlights the growing determination of educators to beat back the concerted bipartisan assault on public education.

The fight of 5,600 Denver teachers follows the six-day strike of 33,000 Los Angeles teachers and the march of 2,500 Virginia teachers in January, which in both cases, pitted teachers against Democratic-run state governments. This follows strikes by tens of thousands of educators last year in Arizona, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Washington state, and in the cities of Jersey City, New Jersey, and Pueblo, Colorado.

Chicago Charter School Strike is in Its Second Week

One of the reasons the bosses so loved charter schools is that they were intended to be non-union schools where the lower wages would permit private companies to siphon public funds for education and to destroy public education and the teachers’ unions. But surprise, surprise, the charter school teachers organized themselves!

The strike by 175 teachers at four Civitas campuses, part of Chicago International Charter School (CICS), has entered its second week with teachers and staff seeking raises, smaller class sizes, a reduction in healthcare costs and more support staff.

The strike began February 5 after talks broke down over teachers’ demand for an eight percent raise in the first year. CICS says it would accept the proposal only by eliminating crucial support staff, like social workers and counselors. According to the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), negotiations continued throughout the week last week. The schools have been kept open by administrators with students doing online activities.

In ongoing negotiations, the CTU is calling on CICS to use “some portion” of its $36 million set aside to support instruction to meet teacher demands, but no figure nor any number of counselors or support staff has been given. A spokesperson for CICS told the Chicago Tribune last Friday that the length of the teachers’ workday and year, and whether the maximum class size of 28 or 29 students, are also at issue.

Earlier this week, CTU reported a “subject matter” hearing on charter management where CTU officers and staff gathered to testify to city officials about allegations that CICS is siphoning off millions of dollars a year from school communities.

The four schools—ChicagoQuest, Northtown, Wrightwood and Ralph Ellison schools—are managed by Civitas Education Partners and have an enrollment of about 2,200 students. This walkout is the third strike of charter teachers in the US; the first took place at Acero Charter Schools, also in Chicago, last December. The second run by the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union. Charter schools are publicly-funded by taxpayers but privately managed.

Striking CICS teachers said police had been called to the picket at CICS Wrightwood twice Thursday and Friday by Civitas management, though there was no reason for any police presence. Teachers are also charging that they are being intimidated on the picket lines by Chicago police.

Teachers have also spoken out on social media to demand CTU not accept any class size “loopholes.” Last December, the CTU shut down the four-day strike at 15 Acero Charter Schools which got them a reduction on class size limits by just one student or 31 students per room. Teachers have complained that these sizes are still unmanageable and sometimes dangerous. Compare this to the enormous class sizes of 39 or more in Los Angeles.

Oakland students walk out as school board prepares major cuts

In Oakland, teachers are in their second year of working without a contract, as negotiations between the school district and the Oakland Education Association (OEA) have dragged on for over 20 months. Last week, teachers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, with 95 percent voting in favor and a high rate of participation of 84 percent of all teachers. The looming strike in Oakland will likely take place after the teachers strike in Denver, which is set to begin today.

Last Friday, at least 4,000 high school students across Oakland either stayed home or walked out of class in a “sickout” coordinated by the students themselves, as a demonstration of solidarity with their teachers and their determination to fight to improve public education. Roughly 200 students, along with some parents, rallied outside Oakland Technical High School and marched down Broadway to the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) headquarters downtown.

In an email that was widely distributed to teachers and students, the group of students organizing the sickout, “Oakland Student Organizers,” said its “primary goal is to establish students as a substantial force within the school district by reminding the central office that we both control their funding, and—through our parents—elect their bosses.” It added, “We have the right to a quality public education, and we will fight for it.”

In an effort to intimidate students and mitigate the impact of the sickout, OUSD Communications Director John Sasaki sent out a district-wide call Thursday to all families and staff, in which he warned that students participating in the sickout would miss the opportunity to supposedly have access to “on-site admissions opportunities and millions of dollars in scholarships to historically black colleges and universities.” The district’s effort to mitigate the walkout proved unsuccessful, as the vast majority of high school students stayed home or went to the rally.

At the rally, Samuel Getachew, a junior at Oakland Tech, told KQED, “Students are primarily the people that are affected the most by educational issues.” He continued, “This is an action that will hopefully lose [the district] a lot of money, and through that, make them realize that not only are students willing to participate in these conversations, we want to so badly that we’re willing to do anything it takes.”

The “sickout” followed two teacher-led wildcat “sickout” strikes that took place in December and January, in which hundreds of teachers participated. Both actions have also been organized independently of the OEA, which has acquiesced to the district’s stalling tactics. The OEA deliberately isolated Oakland teachers from Los Angeles teachers during the strike last month, in the hopes of preventing a statewide teachers strike.

Summary

This teachers’ and students’ rebellions are by no means only an American affair. “Red pen” teachers have been marching every weekend across France, Tunisian teachers have been on strike since October, New Zealand primary school teachers are threatening to resume their walkouts and similar struggles have erupted on virtually every continent over the course of the last year.

While the world’s billionaires increase their wealth by $2.5 billion a day, teachers find themselves in the front lines of the fight against the degradation of essential social rights by capitalist governments around the world, which claim there is no money for public schools or to pay teachers decent wages.


[i] Survey conducted by the Thomas and Dorothy Leavy center for the study of Los Angeles.

WHOSE SIDE ARE THEY ON? WE CAN’T RELY ON THE NEW “SOCIALIST” POLITICIANS

by Ellen Isaacs

            The premise of this blog is that US capitalism cannot live without racism, which is also true of many other racialized societies, such as South Africa or Israel, with histories of settler colonialism and large non-European populations. And racism is also basic to imperialist exploitation of the darker nations of the world, be it pre- or post-colonialist, for their resources and markets.

            Of course, capitalism also cannot live without profits, as the making of profit is the very reason for being of a capitalist enterprise, and profits come from returning to workers less than the value of what they produce. That means limiting wages and benefits to the level needed to provide enough adequately healthy and trained workers and high enough to prevent mass rebellion. Moreover, a capitalist cannot choose to limit his profits, even if done in the name of moral good, for capitalist competition dictates that one’s profits must be the same or higher than others in the same business, as investors and lenders will always favor the most profitable.

            Huge amounts of profit in the US are made by paying women and black, Latin, and immigrant workers less than white male workers, adding up to 25-50% of corporate profits in some years. In addition, from the days of slavery to the present, divisions between white and non-white workers have massively weakened the ability of workers to unite and organize to make gains for their class as a whole. Segregated housing, schools, work places and often, unions, have kept workers estranged and weakened. Thus it is impossible that a racialized capitalist state can be reformed so as to dispense with racism or provide workers with equality, justice, and ample social benefits within its own borders or, that any imperialist nation can do so in the nations over which it holds sway.

            Nonetheless, in the US today we are witnessing an ecstatic reaction to several aggressive and progressive newly elected members of the House of Representatives and Democratic presidential candidates. Many of them, as well as their forerunner, Bernie Sanders, call themselves democratic socialists, by which they mean they aim for a kinder form of capitalism. In fact, over 50% of registered Democrats now say they favor socialism over capitalism. The fundamental problem is that democratic socialists want to better peoples’ lives without fundamentally changing the economic relations between the working class and capitalists, a relationship ultimately maintained with force.

            The platforms of Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar are identical in most respects. They all call for a $15/hour minimum wage and equal pay for women, abolishing ICE, ending mass incarceration, gun control, more affordable housing, a carbon tax and other mechanisms to control climate change, free higher education, increased banking regulation and some degree of taxing the rich and campaign finance reform, and single payer universal health care (Medicare for All). To just consider the case of health care, it is extremely unlikely to imagine the capitalist class forfeiting the profits of the pharmaceutical industry, the most profitable in the country, let alone those of the health insurance companies. Moreover, health depends very heavily on many factors other than medical care, such as a good diet, exercise, a clean environment, safe working conditions, and a minimization of stress – all the things denied to most workers under capitalism. The fact that the US ranks low among developed countries in almost all measures of health is not important to capitalists as long as the well-to-do can obtain adequate care and there are enough healthy workers to do the work that needs to be done. In fact, the unemployable – the old or disabled – are only a burden to the system, an unremunerated cost.

            All of the politicians named declare the wish to limit the prosecution of foreign resource wars, but their foreign policy aims and strategies are vague and limited. Ocasio-Cortez, for example, says that continued US military action in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia “damages America’s legitimacy as a force for good…. We can become stronger by building stronger diplomatic and economic ties, and by saving our armed forces only for when they’re truly needed.” Of course when they’re needed is completely undefined, and does she really believe that the US was ever a force for good in the world? When exactly? Without the capitalist class being removed from power and as long as it is in a competitive relationship with other large capitalists, it is inconceivable that the US military would only respond to an attack on its territory or only intervene overseas to insure justice for the world’s poor, as opposed to guaranteeing access to vital resources and markets.

            Bernie Sanders also espouses a fanciful foreign policy, saying “in order to effectively combat the forces of global oligarchy and authoritarianism, we need an international movement that mobilizes behind a vision of shared prosperity, security and dignity for all people, and that addresses the massive global inequality that exists, not only in wealth but in political power.” Of course, US capitalism is dependent on the subservient relationship of the less developed world to obtain minerals, oil, ports, and pipelines, all in competition with China and Russia. Although he has recently criticized Israel’s harsh policies in Gaza, he has not voted against the massive military aid to Israel or ceased calling for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine question, which most observers see as absurd given Israel’s continued land grabs in the West Bank.

            Gun control and some degree of free education may be affordable, and the system can tolerate some prison reform. But to institute an actual living wage (at least $30/hour), equal pay, and limit investment in fossil fuel are simply not affordable for American capitalism to remain competitive in the short run, the only time frame in which competition allows them to think.  To talk of abolishing ICE is a superficial demand, having nothing to do with the actual role of immigrants in the US. Essential to the agricultural economy and disproportionately represented in many low-wage jobs, immigrants are invaluable as a source of super-exploited and intimidated labor. Attacks on immigrants are also a widely accepted form of racism against those of Latin descent, so valuable in justifying the perpetual US abuse of Latin America. And to postulate that one could prevent capitalists from financing politicians and massively lobbying them is antithetical to the way in which they maintain power while appearing to promote democracy.

Democratic Socialists Cannot Change the Nature of Capitalism

            Whether or not they call themselves members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), these reformers are supported by that group and have the same platform. The DSA, formed in the 1970s as a response to the rightward policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, states on its website that “working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few.”  Elsewhere, they say the DSA “fights for reforms today that will weaken the power of corporations and increase the power of working people. For example, we support reforms that:

  • decrease the influence of money in politics
  • empower ordinary people in workplaces and the economy
  • restructure gender and cultural relationships to be more equitable….

We are socialists because we reject an international economic order sustained by private profit, alienated labor, race and gender discrimination, environmental destruction, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo.

We are socialists because we share a vision of a humane international social order based both on democratic planning and market mechanisms (emphasis added) to achieve equitable distribution of resources, meaningful work, a healthy environment, sustainable growth, gender and racial equality, and non-oppressive relationships.”

            A major delusion of the would-be reformers of capitalism is the belief that the owners of the major productive forces and the bankers who finance them would ever voluntarily give up the massive amount of wealth which they control: the top 1% now have nearly 40% of US wealth (which has occurred at several other times in US history). Nor is the state separate from the interests of capitalists and able to choose to redistribute the wealth. As Marx pointed out so many years ago and Noam Chomsky still explains so well, the state is the instrument of capitalist rule, providing the armed force necessary to break strikes, conquer new markets, put down rebellions and intimidate the poor, especially those of color, in a day-to-day way.

            Large upheavals, like the 1960s urban rebellions, have engendered reforms and have been counteracted with broad strategies besides outright force, ranging from promoting black politicians to create illusions of change (many black mayors, even a president), to flooding communities with drugs followed by mass incarceration. The small group of new congressional representatives is significant for promoting the illusion that the electorate will be able to redistribute wealth, prevent climate disaster, and increase racial equality if only enough progressives are elected. However, why would we expect the capitalists and their allies — who have made sure Bernie Sanders, with his few domestic reform proposals, could not get the nomination; who regularly manipulate the vote through gerrymandering, racist ID or felon laws; who use armed force to break strikes or disperse anti-racist protests; who massively murder the poor from Yemen to Afghanistan to Honduras, who have dropped a nuclear bomb – would ever willingly cede wealth and power?

            To be sure, many tremendous gains have been made through workers’ struggles, such as the shorter workday, health insurance, pension plans or maternity leave. However, no such gains are fixed or permanent. As soon as they are won, the move is on to take them back.  This may take the form of price increases or general inflation or demanding give-backs at the next round of contract negotiations.          When and if discontent from below becomes too great, the system may have to bend a little. The partial success of the Fight for $15 campaign is a move in that direction, although $15/hour for a family of four is probably about half of a minimum livable wage in the U.S. There is also a need to keep wages just high enough so that workers can buy goods, another impetus for a little give in the system. Meanwhile, racism and patriotism are built to diminish struggle by dividing workers and fool us about whom our real enemies are.

Social Democracy in Practice has Failed

            It makes no sense to posit that capitalism can be changed so that profits become secondary to workers’ needs and desires. Proponents of this idea usually point to Scandinavian and South American countries to prove their point. In Sweden, Social Democrats were in power from 1932-76 and again since 1982, but 90% of corporations are privately owned. The economy experienced downturns in the 1990s due to bank deregulation and a housing bubble, and again in 2008, along with everyplace else. The result was the usual – a cut in benefits for the working class. In 2013, overall unemployment was 9% and 29% among 15-25 year olds. Sweden has the fastest growth in class differences within the OECD countries. In Norway, the most generous of all the Nordic countries, the fall in world oil prices, devastated the economy, causing layoffs and unemployment and a rise in indebtedness, bankruptcies, and strikes, all to save the profits of the ruling class.  There is no escape from capitalist crises in a capitalist economy. The Danish ruling class has just implemented a policy forcing mainly poor Muslim immigrants in “ghettoes” to give up their children 25 hours a week to be inculcated with “Danish values,” rather than acting to mitigate the poverty and despair in these neighborhoods.

            In South and Central America, some attempts at social democratic reform, as in Chile or Guatemala, which were threatening to the US capitalist class and not supported by armed popular movements, were simply militarily wiped out. In others, like El Salvador or Nicaragua, there was more prolonged armed struggle, but ultimately the victorious reform governments were defeated by their own weak ideology and proved to be capitalist neighbors tolerable to the U.S. rulers.

            In Venezuela it was a somewhat different story. Venezuela had economic strength due to its vast oil resources, and this wealth enabled President Chavez to distribute many benefits to the population, However, the economy remained dependent on the world capitalist market for a single product, oil. The US was primarily angered because Chavez developed closer ties with China and Cuba, lessening its dependence on the U.S. There was no mass communist movement involving power or decision making in the hands of the workers, nor any development of other sectors, such as agriculture. As a result, when oil prices tumbled, the economy went into free fall. Masses of poor people are now facing starvation and crossing the border into Colombia searching for food, as the US is attempting to engineer a coup.

            Other so-called socialist regimes in Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador have similarly retained capitalist economies, even though their rulers have tried to be somewhat more generous to the poor. But nowhere has there been a mass-based party that was actually running society or had armed power. So one by one, all these regimes have failed to deliver lasting reforms and have been defeated by coups, lost elections or fiat, often orchestrated by the US.

Electoral Politics is Not Enough

            DSA specifically rejects the necessity of actually seizing power by the working class, communism,  and rejects communism as a form of authoritarianism as evil as capitalism. In fact they call the collapse of Soviet and Chinese communism “a critical gain for democracy.” Rather than analyzing why these seizures of power from capitalists by workers turned back into capitalism, they decide it is better to try and manipulate the fundamental laws of capitalism, to empower workers without taking power.

            The US is losing the perch of economic pre-eminence it held after World War II, when it manufactured half of the world’s goods. Now China is about to be the main producer of goods in the world, outstripping the US within the next few years. Politically, the US is also losing its political dominance, with China gaining sweeping influence in Africa, Asia, and South America with its infrastructure projects and Russia reasserting itself in Eastern Europe and the Middle East (see The Decline of US Imperialism on this blog). The threat of increased conflict with China and Russia necessitates a stronger and more expensive military. Thus it is more difficult for American capitalism to make concessions to workers, a trend which is only worsening.

            The leaders of the Democratic Party realize that a little “radicalism” is a good thing, maintaining the illusion of a real shift in priorities. But ultimately they must find a candidate to protect the interests of the financial elite, but one who appears to have the interests of many workers, someone like Obama. To date, their best bet is Kamala Harris, a black woman, but one who is a former prosecutor with a very reactionary record. She opposed compliance with a court order to dramatically reduce California prison overcrowding, because it would shrink the number of inmates available for work in the prison system. https://blackagendareport.com/bernie-sanders-vs-kamala-jailer-and-her-corporate-backers.   She has refused to attack predatory lenders and bilkers, criminalized school truancy, upheld convictions obtained with prosecutorial misconduct, supported the death penalty, and opposed investigating shootings by police officers (NYT 1/17/19). Sounds like she may have broad appeal simply based on gender and race, while threatening no capitalist priorities. But they may have to find someone with better liberal credentials.

            Ultimately our conclusion is that you cannot dispense with the evils of capitalism without getting rid of capitalism. Although reforms may be won by mass actions like strikes and rebellions, as opposed to merely via elections, they will never be enough in quantity or duration to guarantee every working person a secure, healthful, and fulfilling life, free of racism or exploitation. Having faith in well-spoken reformers in elective office only serves to deflect us from the organizing we need to do. While it may take decades and a crisis like major war or climate disaster to actually see a mass movement able to threaten the power of the capitalist class, we can build struggles now that bring that day closer. But we must rely on militant, multiracial organizing of fellow workers, students and neighbors directly for what we need. If we rely on so-called radical politicians and concentrating on elections, we are only fooling ourselves with delusions and losing an opportunity to become experienced rank and file leaders, able to lead an anti-capitalist struggle.

Housing Market Racism Persists Despite ‘Fair Housing’ Laws

by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Originally published in The Guardian, 1/27/19

As a new year begins and the 2020 presidential election looms closer, our political focus will start to narrow around the issues thought to be most urgent and likely to mobilize voters. One issue surely to be glossed over, if not completely ignored, is the persistence of racial segregation. Even writing it feels off-topic, like referring to an anachronism. We have become so habituated to the ingrained treads of our racial geography that they are unremarkable. When segregation is remarked upon, it is almost always in reference to the histories of public policy and private action that were necessary to the invention of “black neighborhoods” or “white suburbs”.

Antiracism and America  A collaboration between The Guardian and American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, Antiracism and America is an ongoing series that sheds light on the structures at the root of racial inequities. It highlights the ideas of writers, scholars, activists, and others focused on dismantling these structures in an attempt to move to an antiracist America

In other words, residential segregation and discrimination in the American housing market are considered historical matters. That the nefarious operations of the Federal Housing Administration have come to light and redlining has become more widely understood have not been enough to generate the urgency necessary to dismantling today’s unjust housing practices. Consider the muted recognition of the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

In its time, federal fair housing, which entailed the right to be free of racial discrimination in the housing market, was hailed as the crowning achievement of the “rights revolution” of the 1960s. But the effects of “fair housing” have been imperceptible in large swaths of the country, where poor and working-class African Americans live in racially segregated enclaves. The reluctant celebrations of the Fair Housing Act’s milestone anniversary this past year were rooted in the basic fact that racism continues to pervade the American housing market. This reality was made worse by the selection of the underwhelming neurosurgeon Ben Carson as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Carson has characterized the formal objectives of the Fair Housing Act, including the affirmative pursuit of racially and ethnically mixed communities, as “social engineering”. He has worked to undo the legally mandated responsibility of Hud to not only fight racial discrimination but to pursue integrated communities where it can.

The effects of ‘fair housing’ have been imperceptible in large swaths of the country

But even before the neurosurgeon took a sledgehammer to the stated mission of Hud, the agency was hardly effective in rooting out discrimination. If there were any questions, they had to have been snuffed out by the housing collapse that precipitated the economy crisis of 2008 – the anniversary of which was also scarcely observed. When the dust settled, more than 240,000 African Americans had lost their homes to foreclosure because of predatory home loans they had been targeted and manipulated into taking. The story of real estate racism and the subprime loan market is an old one now, but it served as a reminder that no matter the language of the law regarding “fair housing”, racism in the housing market persisted.

The destruction of the value of black housing 10 years ago has set the stage for revamped exploitative practices that view African American communities as sites of extraction instead of investment. In cities that suffered some of the greatest housing losses, like Chicago and Detroit, there has been a resurgence of “land installment contract” sales on homes for those whose credit won’t allow them to secure conventional loans. Disproportionately elevated rates of poverty, few financially meaningful assets, and rock-bottom wealth accumulation have combined with racist assumptions in this contemporary moment to, once again, marginalize prospective black property owners.

Across the country, African Americans are being denied mortgages at rates dramatically higher than their white peers. In Philadelphia, for instance, African Americans are almost three times more likely to be rejected for home loans than white people. As a result, the gap between black homeownership (44%) and white homeownership (69%) is enormous. The much discussed wealth disparity between African American and white families is deeply rooted in black marginalization within the housing market. In the US, where homeownership makes all the difference in terms of social and class mobility, African Americans’ fraught access to this asset has put black families at a permanent disadvantage.

And the rising costs of rent weigh heaviest on African Americans, who suffer from lower wages. Over the last year, rents have risen across the United States by 4% to an average of $1,209 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,442 for a two-bedroom apartment. In some cities, such as San Francisco, Boston, New York and Chicago, it is nearly impossible to find safe and sound apartments for these prices. As the cost of rent climbs above income, ordinary people face eviction, displacement and homelessness.

Escalating rents can also help to constitute markets out of condemned and otherwise uninhabitable properties. In Philadelphia, hundreds of apartments have been legally designated as “unfit for human habitation” and yet landlords, often illegally, collect tens of thousands of dollars in rent on these dwellings. According to a Harvard study, between 2010 and 2017 prices “in poor urban neighborhoods rose 50% faster than in rich neighborhoods”.

Cities will often turn a blind eye in the cases of the most egregious housing abuses because they are not willing to create an alternative. Over the last two decades, tens of thousands of units of public housing have been destroyed, often on the lie that they would be replaced. But rather than replacing desperately needed public housing or developing concrete plans for refurbishing affordable housing, municipalities allow dangerous “last resort” housing to exist for its poorest, and often black, residents.

In place of publicly financed and managed housing, housing vouchers that ostensibly allow holders to overcome the expense of rentals in better-resourced neighborhoods have been put forward. But renters wait for an average of 32 months to obtain vouchers in those states that still maintain waiting lists. And, with the exception of those living in Chicago, New York and Washington DC, no landlord is required to accept them. In a city like New Orleans, 99% of voucher recipients are African American and 82% percent of landlords refuse to accept vouchers. Even in cities where this practice is illegal, without a commitment and staffing to enforce anti-discrimination laws, there is very little to stop housing discrimination. The result is that poor and working-class black renters remain isolated in economically marginal neighborhoods. These are communities that have become ripe for human disposability. These are the food and job deserts where families are stranded by inadequate public transit systems and rising fuel costs. The divestment from these neighborhoods shows up in under-resourced public services and facilities like schools, hospitals, and libraries, all hemmed in by violent and abusive policing.

The crises spawned by the spatial, economic and social isolation of African Americans are still generating consequences

While we may understand many of the roots of residential segregation, its persistence has created the perception that it is an unchanging, even permanent, fact of American life. The visual markers of a multiracial society – and the fact that racial boundaries that used to be virtually airtight have become somewhat more permeable – have, perhaps, mitigated the sense of urgency that residential segregation inspired 50 years ago. But the crises spawned by the spatial, economic and social isolation of African Americans throughout the 20th century are still generating consequences, even if we don’t discuss them as such.

Housing is central to the “good life” in the United States. At the same time, America’s governing bodies have abdicated a responsibility to house their residents to a private, profit-seeking sector that has played a historic role in the segregation of our cities and suburbs. The real estate industry has always relied on racism to generate profit for its stewards. It is, quite simply, why racism continues to flourish in the housing market a half-century after the Fair Housing Act was passed.

Until we remove profitability from the equation and, instead, treat the right to safe and sound housing as a human and civil right, residential segregation will continue to thrive – and, in turn, drive up prices. The higher the costs of housing, the more those who suffer from lower wages and higher debt are forced to the margins of the market. African Americans are overrepresented in the group of people suffering from this inequality, demonstrating yet again how race is firmly linked to class in the United States.


Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is an assistant professor in the department of African American studies at Princeton and author.

70,000 MEXICAN STRIKERS MARCH TO U.S. BORDER

by Al Simpson

The strike by 70,000 auto plant workers in Matamoros, Mexico is now in its second week. They just held a “day without workers”, where the plants were idle, and production was completely halted. The strike has already cost the bosses $100 million and is slowing production at General Motors and Ford assembly plants. Photos on social media showed deserted factories and union bureaucrats struggling to keep production lines operating after workers put down their tools en masse. Over 50 factories have now stopped production as a result of the strike. The union bureaucrats and the bosses have been shown to be impotent.

After refusing to show up to work, the auto parts and electrical workers held a massive march through the city of 500,000, chanting “we will win this fight no matter what,” “the workers united will never be defeated,” and “empty plants, a day without workers!” The workers’ demands include:

  • A 20 percent wage increase.
  • $1,700 bonus payable immediately.
  • A shorter workweek.
  • A cut in union dues.

The workers understand that they are much stronger if they look beyond the national boundaries set up by the bosses. The rally began at the town square in Matamoros, but the workers decided to march to the border near Brownsville, Texas in order to appeal to American workers. Needless to say, there has been an almost complete news blackout of the strike and this march to the border. Nevertheless, workers in the United States and Canada have heard of the Mexican strike and are grateful for it, especially given all of the plant closures recently announced by GM and Ford.

The shortages at US plants because of the Mexican strike shows the international nature of capitalist production. Many auto manufacturers moved much of their operations to Mexico in order to save money on wages and break the strength of the auto workers’ unions. Meanwhile, despite Trump’s ranting against immigration, American agriculture depends on poorly paid Latin American immigrant labor, whose ability to organize is weakened by amti-immigrant terror. This strike demonstrates why fightbacks by the working class are much more powerful if international. Of course, the bosses and the union misleaders would fight such a prospect with all their might. But the workers can, by putting their trust in themselves and building rank and file strike committees, run strikes that would be international in nature, and would do a wonderful job of crippling the bosses.

POLITICIANS’ RACIST SQUABBLES HURTING WORKERS

by Ellen Isaacs

            There is one thing the now 30 day old government shutdown shows for sure – neither Donald Trump nor his opponents have any concern for poor U.S. workers, the biggest victims of this power game between the main wing of the ruling class and the usurpers of the on the right. 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck (CNBC 1/9), and now 800,000 federal employees and hundreds of thousands of contractors, who are 40% of government personnel, are without one, whether or not they are being forced to work. To understand the devastation, we must know that 21.2% of U.S. families have no savings, including over 32% of Latin and 37% of black families. 40% of all families have less than $400 in available cash for emergencies, according to the Federal Reserve. What more proof need there be that workers cannot afford to live under this capitalist system?

            Native Americans living on federally funded land have been hardest hit. Snow covered roads are not being cleared, ambulances cannot run and medical care is devastated by a 60% unpaid healthcare workforce. Some of the other concrete effects of the shutdown, which disproportionately affects black and Latin workers, are:

            *food stamps, used by 38 million people, were given out early for February and will no longer be available;

            *federal cash welfare for $34 million is gone and being temporarily replaced by states; USDA loans and federal rent subsidies for low income rural dwellers will end by 2/1;

            *food inspections have markedly decreased;

            *approvals for opioid drug antagonists cannot be had.

If workers have not already died from these measures, they soon will, and it is certain that widespread effects of the stress and deprivation will continue long after the shutdown ends.

Why Make a Crisis out of Immigration?

            Trump pretends that there is an “immigration crisis,” but illegal border crossings have dropped from 851,000 in 2006 to approximately 62,000 in 2016, and both immigrants with legal status and undocumented immigrants commit crimes at a much lower rate and have lower unemployment than the native born (NYT 1/11/19). Most illegally imported drugs are smuggled through legal ports of entry. Given the falling fertility rates of native-born Americans, the U.S. would need to admit more than a million immigrants a year until 2050, more than double the current number, just to maintain current levels of production (NYT 1/15/19).

            What the maintenance of legal barriers to immigration does accomplish is to keep this large body of workers in a state of constant fear, drastically limiting their ability to demand higher wages or organize. By branding immigrant workers as dangerous and criminal, racist and nationalistic divisions are also sown between them and other poor workers, including blacks and legal immigrants or their descendants.

Why is This Happening Now?

            There may be no better explanation than that Trump is a bumbling politician, devoid of any stable advisors representing the usual ruling class forces. He sees himself as beholden to his most racist and reactionary base to fulfill a campaign promise to “build the wall” and earn his racist and nationalist stripes. However, there should be no illusions that the Democrats or liberals who oppose him have any interest in treating immigrants with humanity. Since a century ago, Presidents Wilson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, both Bush’s and Obama have set up draconian barriers to immigration and deported huge numbers, about 3 million by Obama alone, and all of them have divided families without mercy.

            The Democrats today, representing the main finance wing of the ruling class, are anxious to weaken Trump, who is destroying years of policies that strengthened international military, political and financial alliances. They are horrified by his general undisciplined behavior and that he is withdrawing from Syria and Afghanistan, threatening to withdraw from NATO and risking precipitous armed conflicts by taunting Iran, North Korea and China, before large numbers of workers are ready to fight and support war. They also oppose his total destruction of environmental regulations, overt white supremacy, and destruction of “free trade,” all damaging to the reputation and sway of America’s large corporations and their relations with international cronies. The Democrat’s majority in the House gives them the clout to carry on with this game of chicken and perhaps bring impeachment closer or, at least, shake loose some Republican allies of Trump.

            Ultimately, workers must rise up collectively to defend themselves from both parties. Mass sickouts among airport workers are already happening and may spread. Although federal workers are legally banned from striking, job actions are needed to defend their very ability to survive as all the bosses ignore their needs. The government would not be able to fire all federal employees, like Nixon did the air traffic controllers in 1981 when they struck. Once again it is clear that capitalism cares naught for workers’ lives and that, if organized and united, workers could change this whole game, demonstrate their power to themselves and the politicians, and save themselves from want and hardship.


The Women’s March is not enough- A MULTIRACIAL ANTI-CAPITALIST MOVEMENT OF WOMEN AND MEN IS NEEDED



by Ellen Isaacs

The Women’s March, which will occur in many cities on January 19, 2019, began two years ago as Trump became President. It was in large part a response to his coarse and disparaging behavior toward women, and involved several million marchers in the U.S. and around the world. Issues included reproductive rights, criminal justice, defense of the environment and the rights of immigrants, Muslims, gay and transgender people and the disabled. Unfortunately, many of the slogans implied that workers would have been better off if Hillary had been elected. No leaders and scarcely any marchers related the problems of racism and sexism to capitalism.

To have any hope of improving the lives of the working class, ending war or saving the planet, workers must unite across all genders, nations and ethnicities to fight for a society run by and for themselves. That will take a revolutionary change, and to be strong enough to do that, we must stick together and avoid the false promises of liberal, even if well-intended, reformers.

This year’s March suffers from the same weaknesses as before, but has been further marred by accusations of anti-Semitism against the leaders. Two of the four have had some relationship with Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, who is overtly and loudly anti-Semitic. Farrakhan has referred to Jews as termites and claims that they hold vast disproportionate amounts of power in the U.S. However, his views of blacks are just as distorted. Without any class analysis of racism, he simply asserts black separatism and aims for more blacks to become successful capitalists. He also, in a form of racism, blames the inferior social status of black people on their own bad behavior, as poor fathers or providers, rather than on the ravages of racism.  This was the theme of his famous Million Man March of 1995. Of course, there is no room for seeing that black and white workers are both hurt by the divisiveness of racism and must unite together to make reform or revolutionary change.

The two Women’s March leaders accused of anti-Semitism, Linda Sarsour and  Tamika Mallory, have repudiated this racist idea, especially Sarsour, who is a vocal supporter of anti-Zionism and Palestinian rights. She has also raised significant sums to support the victims of anti-Semitic attacks, as in Pittsburgh. In fact, most of those accusing her of anti-Semitism do so because she criticizes the brutal apartheid policies of Israel. Rather than being concerned about fighting racism, her detractors promote Israel’s debasement and murder of Palestinians. So bitter is this dispute that the march has been cancelled in Chicago and several other locations, and two competing marches scheduled in NYC.

However, none of the March leaders have made any criticism of nationalism per se, with reference to Farrakhan or in general, nor do they discuss capitalism as such. In fact, the Guiding Vision statement (https://www.womensmarch.com/mission/)  of the Women’s March movement states that it wishes to bring together people of all political affiliations in “shared resistance and self-determination.” They call for “accountability and justice for police brutality and ending racial profiling,[dismantling] the gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system,… an economy powered by transparency, accountability, security and equity,… and equal pay for equal work.” Even more radical is the call for “cessation to the direct and indirect aggression caused by the war economy and the concentration of power in the hands of a wealthy elite who use political, social, and economic systems to safeguard and expand their power.” However, the only means discussed to accomplish these goals are a new Constitutional amendment, adherence to UN Human Rights Declarations and maintaining the right to unionize. Change, presumably, will come via the ballot box.

Such a call for anti-racism, anti-sexism and economic justice is not progressive when it is limited to a call for separate self-liberation of each oppressed group and to exercise one’s civil rights under capitalism. Instead, we need a unified and fighting working class. Whether we are using terms like the now-popular intersectionality or national liberation or identity politics, we are creating divisions based on ethnicity rather than class. In every identity group there are representatives and supporters of the capitalist elite, be it Barack Obama, Keith Ellison, Condoleeza Rice,  Robert Menendez or Chuck Schumer, to name a few. Instead, we need to unite as workers all and not allow ourselves to feel the lack of our common interests or be pitted against one another. Only a united working class, which includes the unemployed, the teacher, the welder, the nurse or the home aide – all who need to work for survival – has the power to bring about change, be it significant reforms or eventually, revolution. Although now couched as somehow progressive, identity based divisions and the false attribution of blame for social ills on “others” is what paves the road to fascism.

Despite an apparatus for voting which allows for a periodic (and often manipulated) choice between various members of the ruling class, there is no hope under capitalism to maximize the quality of workers’ lives – any workers.  Capitalism survives by making profits, that is by paying workers less than the value of what they produce and minimizing benefits and social expenditures. Capitalism inevitably leads to wars between competing capitalist nations and to the destruction of the environment, in order for short-range profits to be maintained. Racism and nationalism allow us to be recruited to fight these wars. So, in this time of dissatisfaction, let us expand our horizons and march together in multiracial unity and for an end to capitalism.