Organizers mobilize for outreach to tenants in Mt. Rainier, MD
by Karyn Pomerantz and Linda Green, 3-1-2021
Over 30 million people face evictions from their homes during the deadly Covid 19 outbreak. Losing housing is nothing new. As neighborhoods gentrify, public housing deteriorates, and people lose jobs, more people have no or unstable homes. The US lost four million affordable housing units and seven million apartments for low-income residents over the last decade. Before the pandemic, 25% of renters spent 50% or more of their income on rent, and 25% of people under the poverty line spent 70% (Aspen Institute)! This serves the financial interests of the developers and banks who build and finance luxury, high priced apartments and houses, adding to the oppression of the entire working class. Since black, Latin, and indigenous people earn less and face higher rates of unemployment, this situation exacerbates the racism fundamental to capitalism. Larger proportions of families of color, including Asian families, expect to apply for assistance. Families with children have higher eviction rates, causing long-term trauma and other health problems.
The pandemic has worsened housing security. What kind of society kicks people out of their homes during a public health crisis!? Obviously, the drive to profit off of workers’ lives has no limits. The moratoriums on evictions only postpone pay-up day. Despite the federal moratorium and financial assistance to landlords, property owners apply laws that allow them to evict, such as requesting evictions for people who stay in their homes past their leases. As of March 1, 2020, a judge has ruled that the moratorium is illegal, throwing millions of people into limbo.
Racist healthcare rationing is nothing new under capitalism. Enabling enough people to work and produce profit is the major imperative. There is no need for universal health care unless the economy is threatened as we see with the Covid-19 pandemic. Wealthy people can always buy themselves the care they need, whether it’s meds for Covid-19 or HIV drugs. As Cuba, China, the USSR, and Partners in Health in Peru and Haiti (Netflix’s Bending the Arc) proved, public health workers can take health promotion and treatment to millions of poor people through prioritizing health as a social good and organizing community members to deliver care and prevention. Unfortunately, without workers holding power, these improvements can be defunded and eliminated.
The article below describes the life-threatening situation when hospital administrators ration vital supplies and staff in a respiratory therapy unit in Chicago and how workers opposed these practices. It is part of our series on organizing at work and in the community.
Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 to stop Congress from validating Biden’s and Harris’ win, and to warn people fighting to reform or overthrow capitalism that they would face violent retaliation. This was an action to terrorize activists demanding antiracist equity and related changes. The response highlighted the extreme differences between the violent attack by Trump supporters and the uprisings against police murders, the ongoing hunger strike by 140 immigrants held in New Jersey detention centers, the union campaign by Google workers, demands for Covid-19 protections and universal healthcare, and demonstrations for jobs, housing, and debt relief. The likely collusion between the police and the Trump mob, the ease with which the mob entered the Capitol, and the ability to recruit thousands will embolden right wing groups, leading to their growth and confidence.
On the other side, the medical and economic repercussions of the pandemic, the wider visibility of police violence, and the acknowledgement of centuries of racist oppression have inspired large uprisings across the US and other countries of multi-generational, and multiracial and multiethnic groups of workers and students. The movement against police murders of black men and women sparked by the killing of Trayvon Martin expanded with the execution of George Floyd with thousands taking to the streets. The diversity of the rebels alarms the people who control the economy and government (the ruling class). At this point, antiracist leaders call for abolition of the police, prisons, and other oppressive conditions, trusting that abolition is possible when we have no power. Their hesitancy to call for and build revolutionary change weakens our fight and obstructs the possibility of a better future.
The potential of a growing, more militant movement threatens US capitalism, which leads to the ruling class building and supporting fascist organizations to terrorize and repress us. We have a tremendous opportunity to unite millions of black, white, Asian, indigenous, and immigrant workers over these common problems around the world. We can build a movement to demand radical changes and to seize power. We have a long way to go but must prepare now
As I write this, thousands of racist proto-fascists are storming the US Capitol while over 140 immigrant detainees at Essex County and Hudson County, NJ ICE detention centers are on hunger strike, the third wave of such strikes at NJ facilities in 2020. While protesting inmates are being threatened and coerced, masses of rioting white people are being gently removed from the Capitol, only 13 arrested (that number may grow) after breaching the legislative chambers and causing death and injury. The chasm between the treatment of those who struggle against hatred and oppression, who have fled from violence and poverty, who sicken and die disproportionately from disease, and between those who have been won to hatred and racist violence is gaping and widening.
Public attention to issues of incarceration and policing have grown in recent years. Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow revealed stark inequities in US prisons and jails, building on the long-time work of abolitionists, such as Angela Davis and Ruth Gilmore Wilson of Critical Resistance, Mariame Kaba of Project Nia, and many others. The horrifying murders of black people, the impact of Covid-19 in jails and prisons, and the persistent organizing by public health activists pushed the American Public Health Association (APHA) in October 2020 to approve a policy to abolish prisons, release imprisoned people for health and humane reasons, and reallocate funds for community mental health, jobs, and housing. To surprised supporters, the governing body passed Advancing Public Health Interventions to Address the Harms of the Carceral System with a 92% vote after a hearing where more than 50 people lined up virtually to speak on it. This vote followed the 2018 policy affirming law enforcement violence as a public health crisis that took three years to overcome opposition. The persistent and dedicated authors of the End Police Violence Collective wrote and steered both resolutions to passage (see https://endingpoliceviolence.org). Many national and local organizations have applied its action steps in campaigns across the US.
On the local level, public health and education activists in Prince George’s County, MD organized a campaign to abolish police presence in the schools by removing School Resource Officers (SROs), armed police funded by the Police Department, from the schools to prevent physical and psychological abuse, arrests, and contact with police.
These policies are labeled as abolitionist, a strategy to eliminate repressive and typically racist practices, like policing, to create a more just and equitable world. Citing abolitionist Ruth Wilson Gilmore, the APHA resolution defines abolition as “a process of changing the social and economic conditions that lead to harm and of ensuring that people have what they need to thrive and be well, thereby eliminating the need for jails, prisons, detention centers, and policing.”
This article discusses the APHA policy and SRO removal campaign to fight racist carceral policies at the national and local levels, the potential for abolition under capitalism, and the replacement of punishment with restorative justice.
We should celebrate a victory in New York City (NYC), even though it is a temporary and limited one in a war that we should never need to fight.
Until Covid -19, single homeless adults in NYC were housed in up to 100 bed dormitories where crime and drug use were rampant. Many homeless people preferred to sleep on the street or the subways rather than in these facilities. However, the Covid-19 epidemic forced the City to use vacant hotels –even upscale ones – for shelter in the face of the highly contagious virus. One such move of over 700 single adults to four hotels in the prosperous and “liberal” Upper West Side of Manhattan resulted in a battle between wealthy racist property owners, who used racist slurs to castigate their new neighbors and demand their removal, and local anti-racists who fought back. The anti-racists not only organized petitions and demonstrations to pressure the feckless Mayor de Blasio into reversing his removal order, but they are providing aid and services to the homeless. The once-empty hotels are still home to the needy – for now.
In A Life of Labor and Love, Wally Linder reminds us of the power of a united working class to fight the capitalist bosses and of the special people that make up our class. He interweaves the political and the personal as he chronicles his 89 years of life. He shares the joys and the tragedies, and we get a glimpse of the heart and soul of this ordinary but extraordinary man.
By the time you read this, voting will be winding down, and people will be anxiously waiting for the results. The election has revealed the paucity of choices workers, students, and soldiers have to improve our lives. There is widespread (justified) terror of another 4 years of Trump propelling liberals to support the Biden/Harris ticket. Groups around the US are preparing to defend a Biden victory in light of Trump’s promise to challenge any loss.
The application of scientific knowledge has been embraced by industry as a means of enriching owners for over two hundred years. Science is knowledge of the natural and social world gained through observation and experimentation based on evidence.
The Industrial Revolution of the 18th century had a profound impact on workers’ diseases. Rapid technological progress and industrial growth led to crowded, unsanitary working and living conditions, with a rise in the number of accidents, and exposure to toxic contamination of workplaces and the environment. Science became increasingly important to owners of industry in the 20th century and proceeded to rapidly expand into the entire corporate world. Science has allowed for corporate capitalism to make profits from pens to bombs and from computers to organ transplants. There are museums and organizations dedicated to science and technology. Industry’s profit motive today provides seventy percent of science research funding.
“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.