Winter in America…

By Greg Godels, 10-16-2020

Lyrics by Gil Scott-Heron

From the Indians who welcomed the pilgrims

And to the buffalo who once ruled the plains

Like the vultures circling beneath the dark clouds

Looking for the rain

Looking for the rain

Just like the cities staggered on the coastline

Living in a nation that just can’t stand much more

Like the forest buried beneath the highway

Never had a chance to grow

Never had a chance to grow

And now it’s winter

Winter in America

Yes and all of the healers have been killed

Or sent away, yeah

But the people know, the people know

It’s winter

Winter in America

And ain’t nobody fighting

‘Cause nobody knows what to save

Gil Scott-Heron (1974) Winter in America

When Gil Scott-Heron wrote these words, the US seemed to be in swift decline. Watergate had cast a shadow over government legitimacy; the US had lost/was losing the imperialist war in Vietnam; economic inflation, unemployment, and stagnation were crushing US living standards. For many in the post-war generation, the early 1970s were a low point in the prestige and influence of the US. 

Scott-Heron was masterful at blending politics with his art, without compromising either. It enabled him to force issues like apartheid, drugs, police violence, racism, and poverty into the listeners’ consciousness, while still entertaining. Many of his songs became anthems for progressive movements.

For many of us, Winter in America affirmed the terminal decline of the US: “It’s Winter in America, and ain’t nobody fighting, ‘cause nobody knows what to save.” Hope was frozen, promise was frozen, and ideas were frozen with the onset of a metaphorical winter: a political, environmental, racial, and foreign policy crisis. 

Scott-Heron’s lyrics touched all the ills of 1974, noting that “all the heroes have been killed or sent away.” The “Constitution was a noble piece of paper…” that “…died in vain.” And “Democracy is ragtime on the corner.” He warns of “last ditch racists” and laments the “peace sign that vanished in our dreams.”

But we were wrong if we thought that the US had hit rock bottom.

Nineteen seventy-four was only the beginning of the long, painful decline. Average hourly wages today are barely higher than in 1974. The minimum wage continues to shrink in constant dollars. The obscene growth of inequality in income and wealth seems unstoppable. 

Constant and persistent aggressions– proxy wars, invasions, occupations, and remote, video game-like massacres– have become almost routine to the point that they tragically muster little domestic resistance. 

Racism remains a scourge on the US, though more and more along a class dimension. African American workers have taken an even bigger hit than their white counterparts; the growing poverty that afflicts the population, afflicts the Black population even more; and, consequently, the neglect, contempt, and official violence that always accompany impoverishment batter African Americans severely.

The competition for jobs in the US has shaped both a narrow, xenophobic response and a wage race to the bottom. The decline of unions, the legacy of anti-Communist purges in the labor movement, has further sharpened the competition for low-wage jobs.

The raging religion of market-fundamentalism has privatized or debased public wealth, commodified social services, and devastated public education. 

Where we thought Nixon shamefully broke the public trust, corruption, political dirty tricks, and lying are political commonplaces in the twenty-first century. 

What was winter in America in 1974 is now a veritable ice age.

And what is most tragic about the continuous decline in the US empire in influence, domestic peace, and mass well-being is the hollowness and ineffectiveness of the available political options.

US politics has devolved since the purges of the left in the 1950s and the failed liberalism in its wake, becoming a paper tiger incapable of confronting the multi-faced crises spawned by capitalism.

Twenty years into the twenty-first century, political partisans, devoid of new ideas, can only reflect back on earlier times, searching for a lost “golden era.” Today’s politics is largely politics in the rear-view mirror– a politics of nostalgia. 

For the petty-bourgeoisie and the want-to-be petty bourgeoisie– engorging on the table scraps of the ultra-rich– the Obama presidency brought life at its fullest and greatest. Hipsters call a sector of this strata the PMC (the professional managerial class). The Obama trickle-up rescue of the economy in the 2007-2009 crisis cemented their loyalty to globalism and elite rule. They are socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Witness their Black Lives Matter signs in their nearly all-white, segregated neighborhoods. They are for symbols and gestures, but not at the cost of redistribution of their incomes or sacrifices in their lifestyles. For them, Trump is the scourge blocking the return to Obama-like civil management of national affairs. They are the dominant force in Democratic Party politics.

The forthcoming destruction of thousands of small businesses will prove a hard lesson for many in the petty-bourgeoisie, sending them scurrying for solutions. Far too many will find succor in the bitter victimhood that has traditionally fed an ugly, twisted populism with roots going back as far as the Know Nothing Party of the nineteenth century.

A similar economic devastation drives many workers toward the bogus radicalism of right-wing populism, especially in the Midwestern states racked by capital’s abandonment of industry for investments in other sectors or other countries. Without a viable, substantial movement to direct their justified anger at capital, they find scapegoats elsewhere. 

Other sectors of the working class long for the celebrated era of “middle class” prosperity after the Second World War, what the French call “Les Trente Glorieuses.” This highly romanticized era saw wages and benefits marching in lockstep with strong productivity gains for US workers, allowing many working class families to buy homes and automobiles, to take vacations, and to envision college education and upward mobility for their children. Forgotten in this idyllic memory is the ugly oppression of Blacks and other minorities and women in this period. Forgotten is the suppression of the left, the vulgarity of culture, and the uniformity of thought. Forgotten is the bloody footprint of US foreign policy around the world.

The social contract of the postwar period came at an often-overlooked cost. Working class leaders agreed to purge left resistance to capitalism and uncritically support US imperialist foreign policy, becoming complicit in the crimes of global anti-Communism. When the moment proved opportune, the US ruling class betrayed its part of the bargain and slammed the door on working class gains.

Though memories of this lost era grow dimmer and dimmer, nostalgia for this interlude holds much of the trade union leadership wedded to the Democratic Party along with a core of organized labor’s increasingly skeptical members.

For most voters, constrained by the two-party system, a desire for an earlier, often fictionalized period inspires their politics. The Biden and Trump messaging underscores this insipid nostalgia: “Build Back Better” (Biden) and “Make America Great Again” (Trump). We can only build back or restore that which is lost. And people are confused over what and why they have lost.

This should be a moment for the left. 

But sadly, most of the left is adrift in a sea of old and failed ideas. Some imagine the noble selflessness of the local food or art coop as a cooperative model for competing with multinational corporations and bringing capitalism to its knees. Do we recall the other “anti-capitalist” fads foisted on us by academic leftists? ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plans)? Micro-financing? 

All of these strategies share a profound pessimism that capital cannot be directly confronted and defeated. Instead, they propose to outfox capital by nipping away at its margins. Despite the fact that similar utopian measures have failed over centuries, influential leftists continually resurrect them.  

The notion that the perfection of capitalist-style democracy can effectively challenge the inequalities and injustices of capital pervades the US left. Since the suppression of the Communist left in the Cold War, the self-described “New Left” has invested heavily in “democratizing” the structures and institutions currently serving capitalism. Whether or not this project makes any sense, it certainly hasn’t succeeded, despite the fact that the New New Left has embraced it. Every ineffective response to the growing crises of capitalism seems to confirm that the socio-economic-political system accompanying capital is its handmaiden and is not and cannot serve as an effective tool against its inequities.

There was a reason that US capital suppressed and continues to suppress Communist and socialist-oriented workers’ movements. It is not nostalgia to recognize that the ideology and strategies devised by Marx, Engels, and Lenin have in the past rocked the very foundations of the capitalist system, sending capitalists and their lackeys into a frenzy of violent resistance. Surely there is a lesson in that fact.

The cold wave of uncertainty, fear, and despair that is now sweeping the US will not abate unless we fight for a new future. The tools are there.

Greg Godels

zzsblogml@gmail.com

The Fight for Women’s Suffrage: the Role of Racism and Multiracial Unity

Updated introduction by Karyn Pomerantz, August 2020. Original article by Al Simpson, April 2019

This month, August 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of the vote for women’s suffrage in 1920. However, the government delayed voting for white women until 1924 and for black women until 1965! The struggle for women’s suffrage is suffused with sexism and racism. Some white leaders, like Elizabeth Stanton, appeased the South’s opposition to the black people’s vote. They sacrificed the voting rights of black women, and forced black suffragists to march in the back lines in their massive 1913 demonstration.

The article, How Racism Weakens the Fight for Women’s Suffrage: Multiracial Unity Is Crucial to Stopping Sexism was published in April 2019 at:

https://multiracialunity.org/2019/04/12/how-racism-weakens-the-fight-for-womens-suffrage-multiracial-unity-is-crucial-to-stopping-sexism/

It covers:

the intersection of racism and anti-sexist politics

the alleged importance of voting

the social and economic status of black and white women

the role of abolitionists in suffrage struggles

Excerpts:

The only genuine path to liberation is through a multi-racial, multi-cultural, anti-capitalist movement of both men and women. This movement has to be class-based in nature, not at all like the amorphous marches of recent years. The movement must take as its central and guiding focus the needs and aspirations of the entire working class. To achieve this, there cannot be any divisions based on sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, immigration status, and whatever else the bosses will come up with to divide us. This is our way forward.

On voting, by Rosa Luxembourg:

“It is sheer insanity to believe that capitalists would good humoredly obey the socialist verdict of a parliament or of a national assembly, that they would calmly renounce property, profit, the right to exploit. All ruling classes fought to the end, with tenacious energy, to preserve their privileges. The Roman patricians and the medieval feudal barons alike, the English cavaliers and the American slaveowners, the Walachian boyars and the Lyonnais silk manufacturers – all shed rivers of blood, they all marched over corpses, committed murder, and arson, instigated civil war and treason, in order to defend their privileges and their power.”

The Rebellion IS Being Funded: The Dangers of Philanthrocapitalism

By Karyn Pomerantz and Ellen Isaacs, 8-8-2020

“I’m very much afraid of this ‘Foundation Complex.’ We’re getting praise from places that worry me.” Ella Baker, 1963 quoted by INCITE!.

In our time of fervent uprisings against racism and the increased unity of workers, many foundations and ruling class opinion influencers like the New York Times (NYT) call for re-imagining or re-creating capitalism in order to save it. Non-profits, corporations, and universities have issued statements deploring inequality and racism as if they just discovered them.

This article discusses the role of foundations and corporations that fund non-profit advocacy, educational, and health organizations. Their motives are actually self-serving, providing tax benefits for themselves (depriving the government of tax revenue) and earning valuable public relations for corporate America.

We will specifically examine the liberal Soros Foundations and the Ford Foundation, their motivations, and the consequences that organizations and movements experience by accepting their support.

Continue reading “The Rebellion IS Being Funded: The Dangers of Philanthrocapitalism”

Hating on Hamilton

By Karyn Pomerantz, 7-14-2020

Hamilton, the smash Broadway musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, has seduced thousands of theatregoers with its hip hop lyrics, dancing, black cast, costumes, and lighting.  It is a triumph of form over content.

The musical tells the story of Alexander Hamilton who grows up in the West Indies, arrives in the colonies, and becomes the aide to and US Treasurer under George Washington. He exercises his ambition through alliances with powerful men and his marriage into the slave owning Schuyler family, a travesty which is barely noted in the play. 

Continue reading “Hating on Hamilton”

Book Review: “White Fragility” versus Anti Racist Agility

By Karyn Pomerantz, June 29, 2020

“White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo ranks as the number one best selling book on many publisher lists and has a months long waiting list at public libraries.  It clearly has an important message to garner such attention. What does this message mean for a multiracial fight against racism as we’ve witnessed in the protests around the world? What kinds of strategies does it encourage to overcome the racist nature of capitalism?

Dr. DiAngelo is a white woman educator who helps companies and organizations diversify their workforces and develop more harmony between workers of different “racial” and ethnic backgrounds. She creates and delivers an antiracist curriculum to the employees, mostly white, in order to expose white people’s racism and, as she states, to encourage them to recognize their privilege so they can stop oppressing black people. (The book focuses on black and white people). 

Continue reading “Book Review: “White Fragility” versus Anti Racist Agility”

Antiracist Book Reviews: Working-Class Unity versus “White Privilege”

by Bill Sacks, retired physician, REVISED June 27, 2020

Black authors have written many nonfiction books on racism over the last decade. Mark Whitaker listed and commented on several in the Washington Post’s Outlook section (June 14, 2020). He pointed out that Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me (2015) opened up a market for such books, and that Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow (2010) was an earlier bestseller that had a huge impact on public thought about incarceration.

The various authors’ analyses of racism differ. Coates claims that there is a caste system, in which all white people oppress all black people, regardless of class. The category of caste draws strict lines between members of different castes, in this case between all white people and all black people. Caste is proposed by Coates as the significant social categorization, as opposed to class, which is defined in relation to exploitation and consists of exploiters and exploited. However, it is class that defines the main interests of each group, not caste. Black exploiters have little in common with black victims of exploitation, who in turn have more in common with white victims of exploitation. Similarly, white victims of exploitation have little in common with white exploiters. The interests of exploiters and exploited are opposed to one another.

Continue reading “Antiracist Book Reviews: Working-Class Unity versus “White Privilege””

Racist Police Terror: Poisonous Tip of the Class War

Racist Police Terror: Poisonous Tip of the Class War

By Nayvin Gordon, MD, 6-24-2020

Introduction

While police violence and other forms of oppression affect Black workers disproportionately, White workers also suffer from racism, including incarceration and police murders (i.e. greater proportions of black working-class people are killed by cops or incarcerated, while greater numbers of white working-class people are killed by cops and incarcerated).

This article documents some of the ways this occurs.  (See also Racism Makes HALF TRILLION Dollar$ in Super-Profits for Capitalists: an Un(der)told Storyhttps://multiracialunity.org/2020/06/22/racism-makes-half-trillion-dollar-in-super-profits-for-capitalists-an-undertold-story/

The fight against racist killer cops helps all workers:

Continue reading “Racist Police Terror: Poisonous Tip of the Class War”

Racism Makes HALF TRILLION Dollar$ in Super-Profits for Capitalists: an Un(der)told Story

by Wally Linder, retired railway worker and organizer, June 22, 2020

The financial foundation of U.S. capitalism is racism. It is the source of some $500 BILLIONS (half trillion dollars) in super-profits. That is the difference between the household income of white and Black families and the basis for the oppression of Black workers in all spheres of life.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2019 figures), there were 17 million Black households in the U.S. The median income of those families was $41,361. The median household income of white families was $70,642. If the bosses paid the Black families the same as white families, an additional $29,281 each, they would have to fork over an additional $497 BILLION, 17 million families multiplied by $29,281 each. This would reduce the bosses’ profits by HALF TRILLION dollars.  

Continue reading “Racism Makes HALF TRILLION Dollar$ in Super-Profits for Capitalists: an Un(der)told Story”

Comrade or Ally? Book Review of : COMRADE, An Essay on Political Belonging by Jodi Dean

By Karyn Pomerantz, 6-12-2020

The uprisings over the horrendous oppression and killing of black people in the US have united people in ways we have rarely seen. Most protests in the past have been comprised of a single demographic group: mostly white in anti-war marches, Latin in immigration demonstrations, and black in anti-racist protests. The multi-racial and multi-ethnic participation in the rebellions stirred by police violence, disproportionate Covid19 deaths in black and native families, and sacrificial back-to-work decisions creates an enormous potential for working class solidarity and revolutionary change.   

Continue reading “Comrade or Ally? Book Review of : COMRADE, An Essay on Political Belonging by Jodi Dean”

ODE TO PUBLIC HEALTH ACADEMY: URGENT CALL TO REFORM AND GO BEYOND PRETTY WORDS

by Ans Irfan, MD, MPH, posted 6-11-2020

Racism is a public health issue. Police violence is a public health issue. Social justice is a public health issue. Let us add a qualifying noun such as “structural” or “systematic” to strengthen our “response” to anti-Blackness and racism. Black lives matter.

With some wordsmithing, some variation of these lines basically constitutes large chunks of the “statements” and “responses” issued by most, if not all, institutions that constitute the public health industrial complex: public health academia; public health associations; public health publishing industry.

Words. Empty words and self-aggrandizing performative advocacy are all that they are. Words matter. What matters more, much more, is the actions that follow them.

SEE MORE: Recommendations to Our Schools and Colleagues:

https://jphmpdirect.com/2020/06/08/ode-to-public-health-academy-urgent-call-to-reform-and-go-beyond-pretty-words/