It’s Capitalism: Racism and Sexism Win With Any President


Trump’s election signaled a victory for racism and sexism that is not reserved just for Republicans and open fascists.   These ideas and practices also flourish under liberals like the Clintons and Obama, who supported wars against people in Iraq and Syria, gutted welfare programs devastating women and children, and deported millions.

It doesn’t matter who is president — racism would have won no matter who was elected.  Capitalism requires racism to earn huge profits.  It generates this profit by paying workers less than the value of what they produce.  To make super-profits, it creates huge wage differentials between white men and non-white workers and women.   Women earn about 79 cents per dollar white men make, but Latinas make around 35 cents.  This adds up to trillions of dollars a year.

American capitalism also saves untold dollars by providing inferior education, housing, health care and all other services to communities of color.  The lack of unity among workers of different ethnicities and nationalities markedly affects our ability to resist as a class. 

Under our black President, 2.5 million immigrants were deported, thousands were sickened by polluted water in Detroit, East Chicago and elsewhere, vast rivers were threatened by pipelines, millions remained without health insurance and millions more were pressured to buy nearly useless, overpriced policies.  Several unarmed people of color are murdered daily by the police, who suffer no retribution.

Around the world, drones rained death down on poor civilians, and economic policies brought poverty, disease and starvation.  The Clintons forced trade deals and maquiladora-like factories on Haitians to derive profit for US agribusiness and garment manufacturers.

What will be different now?  There will be less pretense that American power is moral, democratic or colorblind.  There may actually be less chance of imminent expanded military conflict or world war, although ultimately any American leader will fight to maintain US hegemony.  But in the end, the wealthy still rule and maintaining their profit margins is their number one priority.  They cannot do this without relying on racism, sexism, and nationalism.

What can we do?  No matter who is in office, it is our job to unite all workers and students to fight for a decent life for all. As always, we must rely on ourselves, not politicians.  How can we do this?  Continue protesting police violence, support Standing Rock, organize forums on racism and other forms of inequalities, campaign for living wages, sick leave, afanti-trump-rallies-nov-9-2016fordable housing, environmental justice.  Invite people of different backgrounds to share their experiences and conditions as members of oppressed groups, but AVOID identity politics that supports politicians based on their gender or other characteristic.  BUILD class consciousness, the realization that we are part of the working class no matter our nationality or any other characteristics.  It will make it harder for the rulers to divide us.   Workers of the world unite!!

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APHA: Police Violence IS a Public Health Issue

Police Violence IS  a Public Health Issue at APHA

An exciting victory in the fight against racist police violence was won at the American Public Health Association convention on November 1, 2016.  Over 10,000 largely progressive health workers meet annually to present public health data and program outcomes.  Members may also propose policy resolutions to represent the organization’s agenda. The cautious and conservative leadership review them and recommend approval or rejection, although a representative membership body votes to accept or reject them.

This year a group of young public health students put forward a resolution stating that police violence is a public health issue that requires action, such as decriminalization, robust police accountability measures, increased investment in policies promoting racial and economic equity, and community-based alternatives for addressing harms and preventing violence and crime, such as jobs, community-run restorative justice and violence intervention programs.

The powers that be recommended its rejection – they didn’t want the APHA to appear to be unfriendly to the police. At the public hearing, people gave eloquent arguments to support it while some wanted to take another year to add references (there were already 82)!  When one person complained that the action steps were unfeasible, the presenter responded: “This is a vision for what public health should fight for.”

When members heard that such a resolution might be rejected, many were angry.apha-rally-nov-1-2016-jpg A leaflet was written and widely disseminated calling for a rally. Over 50 attendees skipped professional sessions to march in front of the convention center chanting “APHA,
practice what you preach today,” “No public health silence in the face of police violence,” and “Stop the killing, Stop the lies, Eric Garner didn’t have to die.”

Many then went inside to where the vote was pending. When the leadership learned that a fierce floor fight over racism was about to occur, they were terrified. Right off the bat they proposed to suspend the rules to allow the resolution stand for one year, and then modified and discussed again in October, 2017.  The vote was overwhelmingly positive, and now there is a chance to continue the struggle next year too.

Attendees also discuss many other issues at the intersection of health and politics at these meetings: conditions in Haiti and Palestine, the influence of war and conflict on health, the huge economic and racial disparities in health and health care within the US, the need for a single payer health insurance system and trade policies.

The embracing of police violence as a health problem is inspired by the mass
movements against racist police violence in Ferguson, New York and Baltimore. When we have a mass movement of united workers and students, we can change the conversations and policies.  Working in large organizations like the APHA gives us the opportunity to reach thousands of people. It is a great place to make new friends and push forward the struggle against war and racism.






Going to APHA?

The American Public Health Association holds its Annual Meeting October 29-November 2 for over 13,000 members.  Blog editors and other anti-racist public health workers will support 2 resolutions on police violence and cholera in Haiti.  If you belong to APHA, come to the hearing on Sunday, October 30 from 3:30 to 6:00 in the Convention Center.

Here are some excerpts:

United Nations’ Accountability for its Role in the Haitian Cholera Epidemic

Decades of neglect of water and sanitation infrastructure have left the Haitian population vulnerable to outbreaks of waterborne illness.  Despite the vulnerability of the population, United Nations’ forces (troops of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH) failed to take adequate precautions with their sewage, allowing human waste infected with cholera to contaminate the Haitian water supply.  Since the cholera outbreak began in Haiti in October 2010, there have been at least 9,229 deaths and 789,242 Haitians infected (more than 1 in 16 citizens), as of August 27, 2016.  Given the role played by United Nations’ (UN) troops in the Haitian cholera epidemic, the APHA urges the UN to take leadership in guaranteeing that the National Plan for the Elimination of Cholera in Haiti (National Plan) is properly funded.  The United Nations’ own special rapporteur released a report in August of 2016 urging the secretary-general to take responsibility for the introduction of cholera in Haiti and advising the UN to make financial restitution for this mistake.  Following this report, the spokesperson for the UN secretary-general acknowledged the UN’s role in causing the cholera epidemic, however there has been no commitment on the part of the UN to take financial responsibility for the crisis.  Without a long-term plan for building a national water and sanitation system, Haiti will remain vulnerable to cholera outbreaks annually during the rainy season and whenever a natural disaster occurs.  Hurricane Matthew, which struck Haiti on October 4, 2016, has already led to a surge in cases—more than 1400 new infections in the 2 weeks immediately after the Hurricane.

Police Violence as a Public Health Issue

Harassment and violence by law enforcement officers result in deaths, injuries, trauma and stress, which disproportionately affect people of color and other marginalized populations including immigrants, homeless individuals, members of the LGBT communities, and individuals with mental illness. Officers are rarely held accountable for acts of violence and harassment for several reasons, including an insular police culture, laws that interfere with investigation and prosecution around misconduct (e.g. Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights), and insufficient civilian oversight. Numerous laws and policies have the effect of promoting and intensifying harassment and violence towards specific populations by police, including those associated the “war on drugs,” criminalization of sex work and of behaviors associated with homelessness such as loitering, and anti-immigrant legislation. While some argue that rates of violence and harassment can be reduced by implementing strategies such as community-based policing or through technological tools such as body- or dashboard-mounted cameras and conducted electrical weapons (CEWs), limited evidence supports the effectiveness of these approaches. Instead, a public health strategy for preventing police violence and harassment should include four main elements: decriminalization, robust police accountability measures, increased investment in policies promoting racial and economic equity, and community-based alternatives for addressing harms and preventing violence and crime, such as community-run restorative justice and violence intervention programs.



The Editors

Is World War III around the corner? From 60 Minutes to the journal of the Council on Foreign Relation(CFR), Foreign Affairs, a recent focus has been on the likelihood of war, even nuclear war, between the major powers. We must not let that happen.

Most conflicts going on now are small wars over control of resources and territory, such as those raging in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. Competition for Middle Eastern dominance between U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Israel, on the one hand, and Iran, now allying more closely with Russia, is intense. Russia, which had played no role in the region for decades, is now actively participating in the Syrian civil war. The Arctic is another source of oil over which competition is increasing.

China is actively cementing its hold over the South China Sea, a source of natural gas and an essential shipping lane, despite sanctions by the Internal Court of Arbitration. China is also forming many new international trade, communication and currency alliances with other emerging nations such as India, Brazil, South Africa, and Russia, with names like BRICS and OBOR. The US led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an attempt to counteract this trend.

Both Russia and China are increasing their military budgets, 10% annually in China and 26% in Russia. NATO just held the largest military exercises since WWII; Obama has called for $1 trillion to be invested in improved nuclear weapons. Seeing what’s coming, CFR calls for a draft in the US, recognizing that widespread battles and occupations require large numbers of boots on the ground. Thirteen years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan did not win US control of resources or stability and showed that an air war and limited numbers of soldiers will not do the trick.

What would it take to throw a wrench in this trajectory? The weakness of all the war-mongering powers is that they need to enlist millions of their citizens into their armies or to patriotically root for victory. In the US, anti-Muslim racism will be whipped to new heights. Poverty and unemployment will drive a disproportionate number of black, Latino, and recent immigrants into an expanded military. Everywhere, patriotism will be used to incite workers and students to fight workers and students of different nationalities to kill each other. Vicious racist terms like “ragheads” for Middle Easterners or “gooks” for Vietnamese are taught to soldiers to incite them to see enemies as subhuman.

We should remember that the main reason the Vietnamese War ended without a US victory is because 25% of American soldiers were actively refusing to fight. Some just sat down in the jungle, while others “fragged” (attacked) their officers. They were influenced by the huge anti-war movement at home and years of organizing and protests within the military. That is why the U.S. ruling class has avoided a draft ever since, but now they know they can’t avoid it. They may choose to call in national service, which not only sounds nicer, but is a way to keep the most anti-war young people off the battlefield, while getting cheap labor at home.

The overt xenophobia of Trump, win or lose, is tolerated, even useful, in order to reinvigorate the idea of Americans over everybody. But Clinton is just as likely to engage in war. No matter who is president, we must fight racism and nationalism, which falsely turn us against our fellow workers and students around the world.



by Ellen Isaacs, August 7, 2016

Appeared on Counterpunch, 8/9/16

THE PLATFORM OF THE MOVEMENT FOR BLACK LIVES has been created by a large coalition of black activists and has caused a great deal of discussion and controversy, especially over the criticism of Israel.  We admire the detailed way in which the oppression of black people in the U. S. has been catalogued, and note that the authors call for unity with other oppressed people – women, immigrants, gender-different, poor workers, and indigenous peoples.  The platform also correctly assesses the ways in which the U. S. attacks and kills workers around the world, from Asia to Africa to South America to the Middle East.


In the introduction, it is acknowledged that the demands are short-term fixes and do not involve the prescription for the type of society that is envisioned.  What follows is an extensive list of the injustices and deficits of our society, some that affect primarily black workers and some that affect all workers. The former include discriminatory policing and criminal justice, unequal education and housing and voting rates, to name only a few.  Some of the called-for policies that affect all workers include universal health care, free education through college, divestment from fossil fuels, and a cut in military spending.


One reads through the long list of injustices and waits for the description of the non-racist humane society that is the ultimate goal.  But this is where the problem lies.  The authors want to “remake the U.S. political system” without a discussion of what that system is.  The system is not determined by which faces make up the legislative or executive bodies – we already have a black president, and many black mayors and police chiefs. There is not a disconnect between the economic and political system; they are both part of a single system: capitalism.  And capitalism needs racism and sexism to function.


The savings in wages and services through super-exploitation of blacks and others is essential to the survival of American capitalists.  If wage differentials of black, women and immigrant workers are added up, it comes to several trillion dollars annually (there is lots of debate about exact figures), but whatever the total, it is a significant fraction of the total gross domestic product (GDP) of near $17 trillion.  Inferior education, health care and housing not only sap the quality of life but save money, while racist policing strives to vitiate the ability to fight back. Even more importantly, racism keeps the working class divided.  If people can be persuaded that those of a different color or religion or national origin are their enemy, they do not unite and struggle together, nor do they understand the true origin of their problems.  Please see the many other articles on this blog discussing the need for racism under capitalism and the necessity of multi-racial organizing.


This Platform, however, describes its long-term goal as “independent Black political power and Black self-determination in all areas of society. We envision a remaking of the current U.S. political system in order to create a real democracy where Black people and all marginalized people can effectively exercise full political power.”  Among specific demands are an end to money controlling politics and a guaranteed right to vote.  But if one understands that the role of the government is to run U.S. capitalism and guarantee its continued existence and world hegemony, then to ask to take the money out of politics is not a logical demand.  Making money is what makes capitalism go round, and protecting that process is the role of the politicians.  And the right to vote will never mean that an anti-capitalist can be elected.  There are differences among the electoral parties over how to run capitalism, but is choosing between them a right we should make a priority?  From the imprisonment of Eugene Debs to the assassination of Salvatore Allende, it is clear that opponents of American capitalism cannot be allowed to seriously compete in the electoral arena or be allowed to win.


This belief in bringing an end to racism through the political process also permeates most of the short-term tactics of the platform.  Nearly every goal is to be reached through legislative action, be it local or federal.  Thus the strategy leans far towards  picking candidates and voting, which does not attack the fundamental nature of the system.  Worse yet, it creates illusions and influences the way we organize in the wrong direction.  If we are thinking about fundamental change, we need to be organizing around demands that build rank and file mass movements, with leadership built from below.  We need thousands, even millions, in the street instead of the voting booth.  We need soldiers who turn the guns around rather than fight unjust wars.  We need leadership that is multiracial, multinational, men and women, with a guarantee of inclusive leadership of our struggles.  We need to explain to those who are fighting back that no end to racism or militarism or poverty can be won under this system, but we can win reforms. We have to see them as short-term gains, that may be taken away, but make us stronger by the unity, militancy and skills we learn.



by Ellen Isaacs

 At least 4 young men of color have been killed by the police in the last 2 weeks: Pedro Villanueva, Delrawn Small, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, although there has been little publicity or outrage about the first two. Even the mass rebellions in Ferguson and Baltimore have not changed the impunity with which cops can murder black and Latin citizens. Although many cities have paid millions of dollars to the families of murdered relatives in the last two years, conceding that malfeasance occurred, and some cops have been fired, not one has gone to jail.

Even though we have a black President and Attorney General, the racist violence continues. It is not a correct response to set out on an individual rampage, as did the Dallas shooter, whose killing skills were taught and mind warped by the racist New Black Panther Party and by serving in the US military slaughterhouse of Afghanistan. It is also not a correct response, as do liberal politicians and “community leaders”, to call for better police training or more minority police. They are relieved that the murder of the cops in Dallas can be used to promote sympathy for the police and mitigate the anger against police murders.

Since their origin as slave catchers, the police have played a role in society: to control and intimidate the poor, minorities, and the rebellious. As political science professor E. B sharp says (Social Science Quarterly, 87:2, 2006), “Heightened police staffing still appears to be part of a social-control phenomenon of subduing a population perceived to be rebellious.” When police harass poor people on the street for selling merchandise (a result of high unemployment), for congregating in their own decrepit housing, for driving cars with broken down parts, they are carrying out purposeful intimidation. The aim is to discourage rebellion against poverty and its consequences. The police also serve as strike-breakers and to contain protesters who step off the sidewalk or raise their fists too high. By concentrating in communities of color and arresting far more residents there than in white areas, they build on racist perceptions and fears.

It is heartening to see the large, multiracial protests that have erupted around the country. But we must remember that when such movements grew after Ferguson and Baltimore, many devolved into nationalism. Even Black Lives Matter, which has been on the forefront of much protest, has chosen to marginalize white and Latino supporters into separate “allied” groups. As our blog posts have emphasized, the entire working class is hurt by racism and capitalism. If we are not united together, we will not have the strength to maintain a mass movement that questions the role of the police and the exploitative system they uphold. We must be united to resist the role of politicians or police chiefs who claim to be our friends because they are of the same color. They do not represent our interests. We must see ourselves as united with working people and students around the globe to resist being drawn into ever more resource wars, building lasting movements on the job and in our schools. There is no doubt that as wars escalate, climate change worsens, and the economic system deteriorates, all of us will be targeted by increasingly aggressive police, as we have seen in Ferguson and Baton Rouge, trying to quell our outrage.



The Free State of Jones Movie Review: Multiracial Attacks on the Confederacy



The Free State of Jones is an amazing story of an organized revolt against the Confederacy during the Civil War in Mississippi by white farmers and escaped black men and women (maroons).  They organized themselves into an armed fighting squad that dominated 1/3 of Mississippi, one of the most racist states.


Slavery devastated the income and employment of white workers while destroying the freedom of black workers.  Plantation and business owners used free, enslaved labor instead of employing white workers.  Only ¼ of white southerners owned slaves; most owned fewer than 20 people. To pacify white workers, the owners created a myth of white superiority that persists today.  They also forced many whites into serving as overseers on the plantations and punished whites who did not capture escaped slaves.


How did this revolt happen?  The Civil War killed over 600,000 soldiers in brutal battles that also maimed and injured many more.  The Confederate Army forced southern workers and farmers to join the army yet allowed men whose families owned 20 or more slaves to avoid conscription.  This “20 slave rule” enraged poor workers and generated resentment against the Confederacy.  Poor families also rebelled against the Confederate soldiers who ransacked their properties, stealing food, livestock, and household goods, leaving their families totally destitute.


At the same time, some refused to support slavery and joined with freed black people to fight the plantation owners.  They rejected the idea of racial solidarity with the rich and fought for their class interests alongside free black men and women.


Newton Knight, one of the poor farmers in Jones County, left the Confederate Army after the battle at Corinth and fled to a swamp where the maroons lived.  Supported by local farmers and enslaved people, they organized themselves into an armed force and attracted 100s of others to stop the Confederacy forces.  Using guerilla tactics, they ambushed the troops and retreated to the swamp and safety.


The movie depicts these events: the Army’s assaults on poor white households, the attacks on the troops, and life in the swamps.  The movie highlights the role of women in this battle.  Knight armed women with firearms and training.  In one scene, a Mom and her 3 young daughters hold off a band of Confederate soldiers with shotguns.  In another, women ride through a battle shooting and killing more soldiers.  Unfortunately, the movie does not give a voice to these women.


The movie clearly extolls and focuses on Newton Knight (played by Matthew McConaughey).  He makes all the major speeches.  Several reviewers accuse the director of playing into the “white rescuer” character.  While the fighters included white and black people, the movie would be stronger if it covered how they worked together and how this struggle changed the racial prejudices among the white members.


Knight continued to fight racism after the war during Reconstruction, building schools and teaching black children along with his own white children.  He fought the Klan yet managed to survive into his 80s.  Unfortunately, this multi-racial solidarity did not prevent the rise of racism and the Klan after the war.


Knight’s family life included a white wife, Serena, and a black wife, Rachel, a former slave, with whom he fathered many children who lived on the same land in different households.  After the war, he continued to live with Rachel without divorcing Serena.


While the story would be strengthened by giving more attention to the other fighters, it offers an important example of multi-racial struggle in the deep South during one of the most divisive periods of American history.  It discounts the image of the white working class as solidly racist who cannot recognize their own class interests.  The Knight “army” showed tremendous black-white solidarity, militancy and bravery to stop the Confederacy.


Books by Sally Jenkins and Victoria Bynum provide more depth on the Free State of Jones.