police_brutality_rallyby Ellen Isaacs

For three years, a multiracial group of young public health workers and students have been fighting to pass a resolution condemning police violence as a public health problem (, and this year it was adopted in a rousing anti-racist victory. A summary of the proposal says that:

Physical and psychological violence that is structurally-mediated by the system of law enforcement results in deaths, injuries, trauma, and stress which disproportionately affect marginalized populations (e.g., people of color, immigrants, individuals experiencing houselessness, people with disabilities, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) community, individuals with mental illness, people who use drugs, and sex workers). Among other factors, the misuse of policies intended to protect law enforcement agencies have enabled limited accountability for these harms. Further, certain regulations (e.g., anti-immigrant legislation, policies associated with the war on drugs, and the criminalization of sex work and activities associated with houselessness) have promoted and intensified violence by law enforcement toward marginalized populations. While interventions for improving policing quality to reduce violence (e.g., community-oriented policing, training, body/dashboard-mounted cameras, and conducted electrical weapons) have been implemented, empirical evidence suggests notable limitations. Importantly, these approaches also lack an upstream, primary prevention public health frame. A public health strategy that centers community safety and prevents law enforcement violence should favor community-built and community-based solutions.

The APHA is the largest public health organization in the country and is purported to be liberal or even progressive, although the leadership aims to ally itself with the Democratic Party. The battle over this resolution has clearly shown what liberal means in reality. For two years, the policy board rejected the resolution, always demanding this or that small change. The larger voting body, the Governing Council (GC), also rejected it, raising concerns about criticizing the police or their supporters despite the well known statistic of 1000 racist police killings a year. Two years ago, in order to avoid a floor debate and a vote, the leadership suspended their own rules (an unheard of maneuver) and agreed to instate the policy for one year. They hoped it would just die a quiet death, but that was not to be.

The authors rewrote the resolution, answering all the criticisms, and reintroduced it again. They leafleted, spoke up at sessions or created their own, organized a well-attended off-site half-day meeting about police violence, and held a demonstration before the vote. This year it passed by 87%. Unlike most resolutions, which quickly fade from public view, this one was publicized in The Guardian (11/15/18) and on social media. It will now be used to support the struggles against forced incarceration of psychologically troubled homeless people in San Francisco, against police responding to calls about the mentally ill in crisis in New York City (New Yorkers can sign the petition at, and many others.

The long fight to pass the resolution gave rise to many discussions and debates. Some of the authors feel that it is possible to abolish the police or prisons in this society. This view fails to recognize that the police play a pivotal role in controlling and intimidating the most oppressed members of society, as they have since the days of the slave patrols. Police harassment functions to suppress the anger of the victims of racism and builds racism by attributing disproportionate arrests of non-whites to faults of the victims. Police protect the rich from the poor by siding with the bosses during labor disputes or insulating those in power from large protests. Police attack desperate immigrants, driven from their homes by US imperialist policies, with tear gas and threaten lethal force. As economic hardship grows – which it will given the declining power of the US in the world, as climate disasters increase, and looming war necessitates a draft, the police will be an important part of suppressing an ever angrier working class. (See articles on Mass Incarceration, The Decline of US Imperialism, Immigration and Fascism on this blog). Mass incarceration of over two million people, 59% of whom are black, will continue to create a huge body of people unable to find jobs or housing or vote.

Other discussions raised were whether racism hurts everyone, or only those who are directly affected. The widely held ideas of “identity politics” and “white skin privilege,” encourage the view that all whites benefit from racism, even those that earn only marginally higher wages or have slightly better social benefits than their black, Latin or immigrant co-workers. The counterargument was made that racism hurts all of us, except the corporate class, by lowering the general scale of wages and social services and dividing us against one another. Only a multiracial movement can have the breadth and strength to fight for the quality of life we need and reverse war and economic or climate disaster.

Thus the battle to win passage of this resolution raised the consciousness of the authors about the need to fight racism, raised the issue of the police as an instrument of racist state suppression to the general membership, and forced a large liberal organization to adapt a policy far to the left of their comfort zone. We encourage others to come to the APHA next year in Philadelphia and wage similar battles in other organizations.


by Al Simpsonbars image

The Domestic War on Black Workers

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan officially announced the start of the War on Drugs. This was rather interesting timing because drug use in the United States was declining at that time.[i] Within a few years after the War on Drugs was announced, the scourge of crack-cocaine was spreading rapidly across the country. We will show that the transport and sale of vast quantities of cocaine was, in fact, carried out simultaneously by the very same government that was supposedly responsible for the War on Drugs. While dollars from the sale of crack were used to finance reactionary foreign policies, the repression justified by drug usage was used to imprison and impoverish poor black workers. Today, the United States has the world’s highest incarceration rate of 773 per 100,000 people. Compared to 118 in China, 655 in Russia, and 193 in Brazil.[ii] In 1980 the number of people imprisoned for drug offenses in the in the U.S. was about 41,000, and by 2010 it had zoomed up to about half a million people. People of color were especially targeted for incarceration by a variety of methods.

First, Some History. Meet Klaus Barbie, Criminal of World War II – and Beyond

Klaus Barbie, a Nazi war criminal, committed many horrible crimes. He persecuted resistance fighters in Holland, massacred Slavs and Jews on the Eastern Front and headed the Gestapo in Lyons for two years, where he tortured to death resistance fighters and Jews. Barbie participated in the Nazi killing frenzy before the Allies moved in,[iii] which included sending children from a Jewish orphanage to concentration camps to meet their certain death. The list of horrible crimes goes on and on, for which he was known as the Butcher of Lyons –for good reason.

Barbie was recruited and protected by the US Army Counterintelligence Corps after the war, even though he was one of the most wanted criminals in the world. The reason for his hire was to provide information on interrogation methods, to obtain the names of SS men who might be recruited, and to learn about methods of torture. In 1951 he and his family were given a crash course in Spanish, $8000 and a new identity, Klaus Altmann-mechanic. Barbie and his family were then sent to Bolivia, where It turned out that the CIA had a lot of work for him.

Klaus Barbie sold coca paste, weapons, and participated in at least three coup d’états. He also assisted in the murder of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara in October 1967. During a coup in 1970, he helped place rightist Hugo Banzer Suarez in power. In true Nazi fashion, thousands of leftists and union leaders were interrogated and “disappeared.” Banzer was so pleased with Barbie’s work that he made him an honorary colonel and a paid consultant to the Bolivian Interior Ministry, where he assisted in counterinsurgency work. Barbie also provided the CIA with the names of suspected Soviet and Cuban agents in South America. He assisted in the construction of concentration camps for political prisoners, taught methods of torture and made a fortune selling weapons to the Bolivian military, paid for mostly by the US government.

The Rise of the Drug Cartels

By the mid-1970s the Bolivian economy was in a shambles. Banzer ordered that cotton plantations be devoted to the raising of coca, and from 1974 – 1980 production of coca tripled. This tremendous supply of cocaine was exported from Bolivia and was instrumental in the rise of the Columbian drug cartels. In 1975 the street price of cocaine was $1500 per gram, which fell to $100 to $125 by 1986.[iv][v]

There was an election of a liberal government in Bolivia in 1979, despite massive voter fraud and intimidation by rightwing parties. This was a setup for yet another overthrow, the Cocaine Coup on July 17, 1980, in which Klaus Barbie once again assisted. Leftist newspapers were bombed, and many opposition leaders were arrested, tortured and murdered. The amount of cocaine produced in Bolivia increased from 35,00 metric tons (1 metric ton = 2,205 lbs) in 1980 to more than 60,000 metric tons by the late 1980s, almost all of it intended for sale in the United States.[vi]

The CIA’s Effort to Support the Nicaraguan Contras with Money Made by Selling Cocaine in America’s Ghettos

In Nicaragua in 1979 the Sandinistas (Sandinista National Liberation Front), overthrew the U.S. supported dictator Anastasio Somoza. Presidents Jimmy Carter and then Ronald Reagan created the Contras, an organization which operated out of Honduras and whose purpose was to overthrow the Sandinistas. However, this plan was deeply unpopular in Congress, and the Defense Appropriations Bill for 1983, prohibited the CIA from spending any money for “overthrowing the government of Nicaragua.” That year the CIA budget was reduced to about a quarter of what the Reagan administration claimed would be enough for a properly equipped fighting force. So the administration arranged to receive $1 million a month from Saudi Arabia, funds from South Africa, and to acquire major funding through the sale of drugs.

In 1984 the CIA mined the Harbors of Nicaragua. The political uproar that ensued caused Congress to pass an amendment to limit monies for the Contras even further, so that “no funds available to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, or any other agency of entity of the United States involved in intelligence activities may be obligated or expended for the purpose or which have the effect of supporting, directly or indirectly, military or paramilitary operations in Nicaragua by any nation, group organization, movement or individual.” As a result, the year 1985 was the peak year of drug sales to support the Contras, as the Reagan Administration decided that no matter what Congress did the Contras had to be kept together “body and soul”. Operatives running or selling drugs for the support of the Contras lived a charmed life. Every time they would be caught, they would magically be released without charge. After the expiration of the amendment mentioned above in 1986, the CIA budget allocated to the Contras rose to $100 million.

The Contras Got Lots of Money

Drug dealer Oscar Danilo Blandon testified that the CIA-supported ring sold almost a ton of cocaine in the United States in 1981, $54 million worth. It was not clear how much of the money found its way back to the CIA’s army, but Blandon testified that “whatever we were running in L.A., the profit was going for the Contra revolution.”[vii] The police knew about Blandon for a long time: “Danilo Blandon is in charge of a sophisticated cocaine smuggling and distribution organization operating in Southern California,” L.A. County sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Gordon said in 1986. “The monies gained from the sales of cocaine are transported to Florida and laundered through Orlando Murillo, who is a high-ranking officer of a chain of banks in Florida named Government Securities Corporation. From this bank the monies are filtered to the Contra rebels to buy arms in the war in Nicaragua.”[viii] Blandon was never arrested, nor was another dealer, Norwin Meneses, until he had been shipping cocaine out of Honduras for 15 years under the eyes of and for the profit of the CIA.

Much of the cocaine was sold in Los Angeles at very low prices, after being transported by the cartels through Columbia, Mexico, and Honduras, all abetted by the Contras and the CIA. The streets of Los Angeles were flooded with crack-cocaine.

Exposé of the Origin of the Crack-Cocaine

In August, 1996 the San Jose Mercury News published three articles entitled “Dark Alliance,” subtitled “The Story Behind the Crack Explosion,” written by Gary Webb, a reporter for the Mercury’s Sacramento bureau. The series strong lead paragraph went as follows: “For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the CIA.”[ix] The series got the attention of many black Americans who were angered and outraged by the victimization of black communities by the government. It forced the CIA to publish furious denials and then, later, to start a campaign of non-stop vilification against Gary Webb. Webb was effectively driven from the newspaper industry and died on December 10, 2004, of, get this, “multiple gunshot suicide.”

Justifying the War on Drugs

In 1985, the Reagan administration began a huge campaign to publicize the emergence of crack. There were multiple stories about crack whores, crack babies born to addicted mothers, crack dealers and crack houses. The New York Times even had a picture of a crack house on its front page. The Washington Post ran 1,565 such articles between October 1988 and October 1989.[x] True to form, the worst, most retrograde, stereotypes of urban life were repeatedly portrayed in a racist fashion. The success of the media campaign permitted a big expansion of the War on Drugs, as there was now a rationale for it.

But what happened to the people in the poor black areas of America into whose neighborhoods the drugs were being transported? Mass addiction to powerful, addictive, drugs like crack-cocaine or heroin brings social decay, disease and death. That’s bad enough, but there were also changes in law enforcement procedures and sentencing that ensured that black people, especially black men, would be incarcerated by the millions. The stigma of having a having been a felon and having served time would affect them for the rest of their lives, making it difficult or impossible to obtain a job or even a place to live. This awful situation would not allow them to rehabilitate themselves with work and would deprive them of a meaningful support system. It’s no wonder that it would often lead them back to prison.

The Growth of the American Prison System

Much of the United States was de-industrialized during the late 1970s and 80s. Between 1973 and 1980, over four million jobs disappeared in the United States when American companies moved their operations outside the country. New York City alone lost 40,000 to 50,000 jobs in the apparel and textile industries. Corporations increasingly divested their profits from US-based subsidiaries and reinvested in operations abroad. In the 1970s, over thirty million total jobs were eliminated through factory closings, relocations, and then phased elimination of operations.

The shrinking of U.S.-based industries had a deep impact on labor unions, as the percentage of union members within the American labor force decreased by half in only two decades. Hardest hit were African American blue-collar workers, because in 1983, over 40 percent of all black men in the U.S. labor force were union members, while only 14.4 percent are today.xx Many workers were forced to accept “service jobs” that paid a lot less than the unionized industrial jobs they formerly had. Some of the new manufacturing jobs that opened between 1970 and 1987 were in the suburbs. This forced persons who lived in the inner cities areas to travel by car to the new jobs, because of the unavailability of public transportation. A study on black fathers found that only 28 percent had cars and the rate fell to just 18 percent for those who lived in ghetto areas[xi]. Black women did somewhat better. They were able to get work in social service jobs that were opening as the industrial jobs were vanishing.[xii] As a result of the relentless shrinkage of jobs, there was an increase in crime.

It then became fashionable for politicians to be “tough on crime.” The racist depiction of the effects of crack-cocaine was a bonanza for law and order politicians, who don’t care about the daily crimes against working people: poor health care, bad schools, broken down infrastructure, desolate neighborhoods and so on. Some people complained that the frenzy over crack distracted attention from the real ills in society, but this view was seldom heard. The war on drugs was very popular with racist whites as they could make anti-drug and anti-crime remarks regarding blacks that masked their racist intent. It also provided a cover for the militarization of police forces.


The Cancer Grows

Because drugs suddenly were said to be a threat to national security, the military was permitted to ignore the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 that forbids the use of military for civilian policing. There were transfers of military equipment, intelligence and training to local police forces. Along with this, there were strong financial incentives in the form of federal aid to local police forces that gave a premium to every drug arrest but made no such incentive for arrests involving other types of crimes, causing local police forces to become very aggressive in enforcing drug laws. As if this wasn’t enough, state and local police departments were authorized to keep, for their own use, most of the money and other assets they seized when making drug arrests. Suispicion of drug possession or trafficking was sufficient to allow the seizure of cash, cars, homes, jewelry and other valuables. The rules were so heavily weighted in the favor of law enforcement that more than 80 percent of the forfeitures went uncontested. This gave local and state police departments a tremendous boost in funding, so that the local and state police departments became advocates for the so-called war on drugs – not on winning it – but for its permanent perpetuation. The cops became addicted to the war on drugs.

Laws were enacted to place heavy penalties on the sale and distribution of drugs. To ensure long sentences for possession or distribution of drugs, many of the penalties were mandatory – that is, not modifiable by a judge or jury. As mentioned earlier, it is enough for a person to have committed a felony to be stigmatized for life with very limited employment or housing opportunities. In 1972 there were fewer than 350,000 persons in prison, today there are 2.3 million. Here is a graph that depicts the enormous growth in incarceration, especially after 1980.



hate pictureby Ellen Isaacs

appearing on Counterpunch, November 7, 2018

We live in a nation totally beholden to racism. Founded on racism, built on racism, surviving by virtue of racism. From the near total eradication of Native Americans by disease, slaughter, and death marches; to the enslavement of 12 million Africans and the continued oppression, imprisonment, impoverishment and wanton killing of their descendants; to the exploitation and deportation of immigrants; to the Jews and Irish and Italians being eventually admitted into invented whiteness in order to turn them anti-black, but still maligned; to the wars fought against “gooks” and “ragheads” to increase rich men’s profits – US capitalism survives on racism. And the US that survives this way is not beneficial to any of its working people, tearing us apart from each other, impoverishing our souls and our pocketbooks, depriving us of health and learning and peace needed by all and the strength we could have in our oneness. Separated, we are likely to be led down the road to fascism.

Today we are witnessing national agonizing over the murder of 11 Jews, those only grudgingly admitted members of the white circle, although 6 million others were  slaughtered as the US did little and turned back escapees begging for refuge on the ship St. Louis. Nonetheless, we know all their names and have witnessed the funerals of these latest victims and shared the grief of their intimates. This is not regrettable, it is only in contrast deaths of the approximately 1000 killed by police each year, nearly half of whom are black or Latin (Atlantic, 5/8/18), about whom we learn little and mourn less.

Screenshot_2018-11-03 Hate crime victims in 2016

Despite these harsh words, it would be an error to seek a cause for these disparities in the sculpting of our brains or the failure of our morality. No, we live in a nation that needs racism and thus it is inserted purposefully deep into our souls in our neighborhoods, our classrooms, our media, our pulpits, our clinics, our labor unions –in most of our American experiences. This blog has many articles on the overt creation of racism (Lerone Bennett), and racism in housing, health care, immigration and migration, labor organizing and others areas our lives, things we are not taught and that are kept hidden from us.


Even today, wages and the opportunity to work remain vastly different by race. 51.3% of young black high school graduates are underemployed compared to 33.8% of whites; 23% of young black college graduates are unemployed vs. 12.9% of whites. 330,000 black high school graduates are not employed at all. ( Keep in mind that unemployment rates do not count workers who have been discouraged from looking for work for more than one year, although those numbers are tabulated, nor those who have given up after more than a year of unemployment. According to, the Labor Department even counts as employed someone who works as little as one hour a week and earns as little as $20 a week. The Federal Reserve finds that only one fifth of the difference between black and white can be accounted for by differences in education, age and location. (


2.3 million Americans are in prison, 59% of whom are black, Latin or native American – not “employed”, but providing free labor. Black and Latin workers who are acknowledged to be full time employees earn about 75% of the wages of white workers, disparities based on education, training, and differences in wages paid for the same work.


According to the Center for American Progress report Unequal Education of 2012, schools are just as segregated and unequal now as they were in 1954 when Brown vs Board of Education was decided. The average white student attends a school where 77% of students are white and 40% of black and Latin students attend schools where over 90% are non-white. Not only are students deprived of knowledge and kinship of each other, but schools with over 90% students of color spend $733 less per student per year than schools with 90% or more whites.


How do we accept these disparities in our own country? How do we not rise up against the death of over 10,000 Yemenis and starvation of half of the population? How do we explain our ability to accept the death of half a million Iraqis due to sanctions before the invasion even started? How do we turn away from the deaths of thousands of Gazans imprisoned in their illegal concentration camp? How do we explain the assignment of troops to go to the border and threaten migrating families fleeing the ravages of US imperialism? We can only explain it by racism, and without that racism this government, under Democrat or Republican, would not be able to maintain profits at home or wield its imperialist might around the world.


So let us mourn all of those who die by violence or die young or die by neglect perpetrated by the ruling class or those whom they win to carry out their racist policies. Let us celebrate  times we have fought together, in many union battles, in Selma, in Ferguson, in Charlottesville and many, many more. Let we who work, whether builder or waiter or teacher or unemployed, unite together in every way, in every struggle, in all our mourning, in all our resistance and continue together until we found a world based on equality, one that seeks to provide the fullest life for all. Not a capitalist world, for sure.

How We Can Support the Caravan and Fight Racist Terror

5ed6324758d64391b97eabe8dee21718_18by Karyn Pomerantz, Nov. 1, 2018

appearing on Counterpunch, November 8, 2018

As we write, thousands of men, women and children are traveling to the southern U.S. border with Mexico. The largest group of the migrants who make up the “caravan” are from Honduras. They are fleeing poverty, corruption and violence that is largely the result of over 100 years of US domination, beginning with massive banana plantations. This American business took over most of the best land, and later the US came to dominate mining, coffee and banking as well. To keep its interests safe and also play a role in fighting the Sandanista rebels in neighboring Nicaragua in the 1970s, the US developed and dominated the military. Although a liberal reformer, Zelaya was elected in 2006, the military, with US support, overthrew him in 2009. Since then, poverty, crime, drug trafficking and police violence have driven ever more people to flee.

These conditions are not unlike those in other Latin American countries, such as El Salvador and Guatemala, from which migrants also come. Similar conditions also account for the over 200 million migrants currently seeking a survivable place to settle around the world. While each country has its own specific causes for migration, from wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria to hopeless poverty in Pakistan, India, and Somalia, these migrations reflect the drive for cheap labor, resources, and markets by the major capitalist countries, topped by the US. For decades, the US has off-loaded its manufacturing industries to countries with un-living wages, impoverishing workers in the US and other countries, especially exploiting black, Latin, and Asian people. (See Migration: a reflection of capitalism in this blog at

Rulers around the globe, from Trump to Modi in India, Bolsonaro in Brazil, and Orban in Hungary, use racism and nationalism to attack migrants and blame them for society’s ills. These ideas are not different from those of white supremacists who have murdered blacks, Jews and anti-racists from Charlottesville to Kentucky to Pittsburgh, encouraged by the White House. For most African Americans, racist terror began under slavery never stopped. Klan and Nazi organizations have flourished throughout US history, blaming black and Jewish people for the economic and social problems created by capitalism.

We have also seen powerful movements to fight racism and inequality around the world, from revolutions in Russia and China, reforms in Cuba, anti-colonial movements in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and the civil rights movement in the US. With the murders of black and Jewish people this past week and the growing Administration threats against the caravan, many are asking what we can do to oppose these trends. The following proposes some ideas. You can use the Comments section to add your own suggestions.


  Mass at the border to greet and protect the caravan. Stop the police and military from arresting and shooting the marchers with massive action.

  Speak up against racist and nationalist ideas. There are no such entities as “illegal” people or “invaders.” There are no distinct human races with different capabilities. Jewish people do not control US policy; they are rich and poor, conservative and radical.

  If you are in the armed forces, refuse to follow orders to detain or attack people trying to cross the border.

  Refuse to work in a detention center which imprisons migrants.

  Join the sanctuary movement and find placements for immigrants and oppose deportations.

  Organize demonstrations and vigils against deportations and racist violence.

  Confront white supremacists wherever they rally.

  Forge friendships and political alliances with people from different backgrounds. Fight for each other’s issues, such as open borders and against police violence, to grow the anti-racist movements and build trust.

  Build a stronger, inclusive labor movement to organize for better working conditions and to unite US born workers with immigrants. During the early 20th Century, the AFL (American Federation of Labor) opposed immigration fearing that Eastern European and Mexican workers would take “American” jobs and spread communist ideas. The CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) organized immigrant workers during the 1930s; immigrant women working in the garment industry created the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, one of the most militant unions in that period. Mexican workers organized the United Farmworkers Union in California led by Cesar Chavez and Delores Huerta and struck big agriculture for better wages and safer working conditions. Thousands supported the grape boycott to pressure growers to recognize the union (California has the strongest labor movement in the US with 22 percent of the workforce unionized while the national average is 11 percent).

   Support immigrants on the job. Unions can oppose “reverification” actions where ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) can demand to see the immigration status of employees. Many unions have represented workers caught by this policy and lobbied against it in California.

   Defend Immigrants with sanctuary places, legal aid, and amassing people at sites where raids occur and at the border. The meatpackers union exemplified fighting racism off the job when they defended black residents who moved into segregated Chicago neighborhoods during the Great Migration. They also guaranteed that black union members serve on the executive boards and other leadership positions.

  Reject anti-communism when it is used to attack mass struggle. Communists built the CIO and led many labor struggles in the shipping, garment, and meatpacking industries among others. The Russian Revolution in 1917 inspired people around the world to challenge capitalism and build a more equitable society. Important anti-racist communists in the US, such as Paul Robeson, William Patterson, and Claudia Jones, led campaigns to free the Scottsboro boys, falsely accused of raping a white woman, abolish racist ideas, publish progressive newspapers, support international anticolonial struggles, and build antiracist organizations.


  Do not remain silent in the face of racist speech or acts.

  Do not defend or excuse racist speech as “free speech”. Fascists use free speech principles to recruit members and build deadly movements.

  Do not adopt nationalism and separatism as a response to racism and anti- Semitism. For example, Zionists in Israel use the history of the Nazi holocaust, which murdered six million Jews, to justify oppression of Palestinians.  Farrakhan, a black nationalist, voices hate against Jewish people.

  Do not allow violent racist attacks to be portrayed as “not the American way.” Violence and white supremacy instigated by a small financial elite have always dominated American domestic and foreign policy, from the war against Britain, enslavement, colonizing South America and Asia to conducting the current wars in the Middle East and exploiting globalized labor.

  Do not think that voting out Trump and the Republicans will end deportations. Obama deported more immigrants (3.5 million people by 2012) than all previous administrations. The police have murdered black and Latin citizens with impunity under liberal and conservative administrations.

Capitalists and the politicians who represent them need cheap labor to maintain profits, and the super-exploitation of immigrants, as well as women and non-white workers, helps maximize profits. Immigrants are also scapegoated and blamed for many problems, like unemployment.

We must not allow white supremacists to build their movement attacking workers of color, native born or immigrant. We need to unite students, employed and unemployed, immigrant and US born from all backgrounds to oppose racist ideas and practices. As Ibram Kendi writes in Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (Epilogue): 
“Racial reformers have customarily requested or demanded that … White Americans sacrifice their own privilege for the betterment of Black people… based on a myth that racism materially benefits the majority of White people, that White people would not gain in… an anti-racist America…. It is also true that a society of equal opportunity would actually benefit the vast majority of White people much more than racism does. 
…eradicating racism must involve Americans committed to antiracist policies seizing and maintaining power … over the world.”

We have an opportunity to realize this potential to create a more equal world. But we must fight racism every day.

Kavanaugh – The Tip of the Iceberg

By Karyn Pomerantz, October 16, 2018

Kava nopeThe Kavanaugh hearings and his confirmation as a Supreme Court justice have opened a floodgate of women’s stories of rape and sexual harassment, building on the many recent accounts from the #MeToo movement.  Kavanaugh’s arrogant behavior represents the entitled status of ruling class men who wield their power without consideration for anyone except corporate and right wing politicians.  His danger extends beyond his individual actions to the realm of policy:

  • support for the Patriot Act and torture,
  • opposition to abortion,
  • threats to end the pre-existing condition protection in the Affordable Care Act,
  • support for the public charge policy that would deny immigrants’ use of federal benefits, such as Medicaid and food stamps, whether they were here legally or not
  • support for the detention of immigrants years after they were charged with a crime no matter how minor,
  • support for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 US Census.

His nomination represents the ruling class’ assault on the social safety net with Trump leading the way.

The hearings revealed how the power elite tries to shame and intimidate women into silence.  According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, sixty-three percent (63%) of the people who are raped do not report the crime while only 12 percent of child sexual abuse is reported. One in five women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, yet over 90% of students do not report the assault. Sexual violence also occurs in same sex relationships.  Over 46 percent of lesbians, 75 percent of bisexual women, 40 percent of gay men, and 47 percent of bisexual men reported forms of sexual violence (NSVRC, Statistics About Sexual Violence, Viewed 10-9-2018).


Racism has always been used to depict black men as hyper-sexual violent rapists (of white women) yet black men have a lower rate of rape than white men. (RAINN, Perpetrators of Sexual Violence: Statistics, Viewed 10-13-18).  Among women raped, 17.7 percent were white and 18.8 percent are black. Native Americans have the highest rate of rape, twice the rate of any other groups (RAINN, Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics, Viewed 10-13-18).

While rape is one of the severest forms of violence, there are many other assaults on women’s health and well-being, that disproportionately affect black and Latinx women:

  • High maternal and infant mortality rates
  • Immigration policies of detention, deportation, public charge policies, and migration caused by severe poverty and violence
  • Poor access to health care, abortion and contraception in many areas
  • Economic exploitation by employers; women make 80 percent of white men’s earnings while black and Latinx women earn even less
  • Economic exploitation in the home providing unpaid domestic labor
  • No access to education and expensive school fees that push girls to engage in sex for money in many countries
  • High rates of HIV

kav fight for 15While the media highlights white middle class women in #MeToo, poor women working in fast food, hotels, and factories have joined efforts to prevent sexual harassment.  USA Today reports that workers at McDonald’s filed a suit, and some city councils are passing policies against sexual violence ( September 2018. Viewed 10-13-18).

Legislative and electoral strategies cannot eradicate sexism; it is too profitable due to women’s lower wages and free household labor.

Women have long fought their oppression, demanding equal pay, education, health care, reproductive rights, and political participation.  During the 19th Century in the US, women rebelled against slavery and organized for voting rights.  Women in the Lowell, Massachusetts textile mills led the first strike to demand better conditions and wages.  They played significant roles in the civil rights movement during the early and mid 20th Century, holding leadership positions in SNCC and CORE, two mass anti-racist organizations.  Black women, such as Lucy Parsons, Louise Thompson, and Claudia Jones, advocated for socialism and communism and defended the Scottsboro Boys, who were falsely convicted of raping a white woman in the South in the 1930s.  Many immigrant women led the union organizing drives in the garment, farmworkers and textile industries in the late 19th Century and the first half of the 20th Century.

kav chinese womenIn the newly launched Soviet Union, Alexandra Kollantai and other communists established communal kitchens and housekeeping to alleviate the burdens of domestic labor.  Women also joined and led the revolutionary liberation struggles in China, Vietnam, and South Africa.

Hundreds of women teachers went out on strike in West Virginia in 2018 to demand funding for education and a living wage, and women are joining unions and struggles to raise the minimum wage in the Fight for $15 campaign. Recently, women initiated Black Lives Matter and MeToo!. More women have entered political races for local office since the Trump election.  Hundreds of women protested Kavanaugh’s nomination and confirmation to the Supreme Court risking arrest to do so.

Racism Weakens the Women’s Movement

While the civil rights struggle inspired women’s activism during the 1960s and 1970s, leaders of the women’s movement marginalized and ignored the specific needs of working class and black, Latinx, Asian, and Native women.  Racism weakened the movement for women’s liberation by separating women based on their racial classification and economic status, and choosing a more narrow set of demands and issues that appealed to middle class educated white women.  This was not new.

White women suffragists threw black women under the bus in 1869.  Trying to win support for voting rights from Southern Democrats, they excluded black women and their issues in their movement, prioritizing women’s issues over racial justice.  The Fifteenth Amendment allowed voting for black men but denied this to women. Suffrage leaders Stanton and Anthony lashed out at black men, accusing them of illiteracy and the inability to understand political issues.  (Men often accused women of the same problems).  When Frederick Douglass offered a compromise that would allow voting for any excluded group, Stanton and Anthony rejected it.

kav black and white unity signThe dissension broke the suffrage movement at this time, which was only renewed decades later.  In 1913 suffragists led by Alice Paul and others organized a parade of 5,000 women down Pennsylvania Ave in Washington, DC to promote voting rights. Yet they relegated black suffragists to the end of the march!  Using arguments popular through US history, they did not want to alienate Southern participants but they themselves held the same attitudes (Kendi I. Stamped from the Beginning. NY: Nation Press, 2016).

In 1963, Betty Frieden’s immensely popular book, The Feminine Mystique, addressed middle class white women’s oppression as free household labor and advocated for equal rights for professional women in the workplace.  There was no acknowledgement of white and non-white working class women’s needs.  She and other women established the National Organization of Women (NOW), and developed and promoted the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) with demands for non-discriminatory employment opportunities, maternity leave, child care, abortion, and contraceptives. NOW, led by Friedan, proposed an electoral, legislative approach to winning the ERA that led to opportunistic compromises.   ERA proponents eliminated many provisions in the ERA to gain wider support among state legislators.  As it became clear that NOW did not fight for black women, many left the organization (Smith S. Women and Socialism. Chicago: Haymarket, 2016).

Don’t Trust the Liberals-Build a Mass Militant Movement

NOW’s reliance on electoral politics rather than building a mass movement doomed it to failure.  It supported Bill Clinton who demolished welfare for poor women, advocated sexual abstinence, and opposed gay marriage.  Obama extended the Hyde Act banning federal funds, such as Medicaid, to pay for abortions to the Affordable Care Act.  Yet NOW and moderate women’s groups clung to the Democratic Party.

kav women's lib marchMore radical women renounced this incremental strategy.  They staged demonstrations against labor practices and cultural norms, such as beauty pageants, bridal showers and prevailing standards of beauty.  The Boston Women’s Health Collective wrote Our Bodies, Ourselves to teach women about their health, sexuality, and birth control, criticizing the medical establishment for medicalizing women’s conditions.  The book addressed women in other countries and the racism experienced by US women.  Thousands read the book; it is still in print today

Marxists condemned capitalism as the source of sexism in the United States and opposed US imperialist wars while the conservative leaders of the Feminist Majority led by Eleanor Smeal supported the war in Afghanistan as an opportunity to liberate women there.


During the 1960s and 1970s, separatism of men and women became popular.  Feminists accused all men as the source of sexism, blaming the “patriarchy” or male supremacy as the cause of women’s oppression. Many men adopted the ideology of male supremacy and the so-called ideal of masculinity, such as hyper-sexuality, aggression, and heterosexual orientation, traits used to justify sexual violence. Black men were seen as especially threatening to women.

Black women feminists opposed separatism, arguing that feminists needed to combat racism as well as women’s oppression.  They developed the concept of intersectionality in the 1970s put forward by Kimberle Crenshaw (See blog post on Intersectionality, October 2018, ), acknowledging that women (and men) experience multiple forms of exploitation, especially racism.  While sexist practices, such as rape or fewer job promotions, affect all groups of women, black, Asian, Latinx, and Native women suffer much more.  They could not ignore the effects of racism on men and women.

The Cohambee River Collective of black feminists led by Barbara and Betty Smith published the Cohambee statement that pledged their solidarity with black men:

kav cohambee statement“… we feel solidarity with progressive black men and do not advocate the fractionalization that white women who are separatists demand… we struggle together with black men against racism while we also struggle with black men about sexism.

These lessons can guide the current generations of young men and women to build an inclusive movement based on class: solidarity among workers and opposition to capitalism.  Reject the Democrats and voting as the way out; they will only use us to preserve this system.”


See more about sexism at:



by Ellen Isaacs

Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram Kendi is indeed, as it claims to be, a very complete history of the origin and practice of anti-black racism in the United States. The story begins with the development of racist ideas of African inferiority as the rationale for the capture and brutalization of Africans for enslavement by the Portugese in the 1400s. The author then traces the history of the importation of these racist ideas to the Americas to justify slavery and the continuation of discrimination to this day.


What is particularly thought provoking is the author’s characterization of seemingly non-racist ideas as being all too often actually racist in content, ideas which he characterizes as “assimilationist.” Assimilationists hold the idea that black behavior is inferior and attribute this inferiority to environmental factors, such as climate, culture, poverty or discrimination. In other words, the standards and culture of the predominant white society are assumed to be superior and the failure of blacks adopt that standard must be explained and overcome. Until twenty years ago, when DNA mapping proved we are all one species with more individual than group variation, most subscribed to the view of black and white being biologically distinct groups. Assimilationists, however, even now see blacks as a whole having less desirable traits than whites. Anti-racists, on the other hand, recognize disparities that result from ever-present discrimination, but do not see black people as having been rendered inferior. They see blacks as individuals, who each harbor strengths and weaknesses, but deny that there is any such thing as group traits that can be attributed to all or even many blacks.


Kendi also wishes to make clear the causes of racist ideas. He disputes the oft-repeated concept that racism arises out of ignorance or inborn human proclivities, which then cause discrimination. Conversely, racial discrimination leads to racist ideas, and then to ignorance and hate. Racial discrimination springs from “economic, political, and cultural self-interest…Capitalists seeking to increase profit margins have primarily created and defended discriminatory policies out of economic self-interest.”(pp 7-8). In his conclusion, he reiterates that “If racism is eliminated, many white people in the top economic and political brackets fear that it would eliminate one of the most effective tools they have at their disposal to conquer and control and exploit not only non-whites, but also both low-income and middle-income white people.” (p508) Thus it is a matter of power, not the lack of education or moral betterment, that maintains the sway of racist ideas. “Power cannot be educated away from its self-interest.”


In between these broad statements about racism are 500 pages of details of American history, many of which will be familiar to our readers, but some not. It is interesting to recall that William Lloyd Garrison, a leading abolitionist of the early 1800s, fought for an immediate end to slavery but only gradual equality, reflecting the common belief that blacks had been rendered so incapable of thought and judgment by their bondage as to be unable to function independently. Others proposed removal of ex-slaves to Africa or other distant lands – colonization – feeling that they could never be equal citizens in the U.S. As to the path to liberation, Garrison opposed violence, such as Nat Turner’s slave rebellion, and hoped that moral persuasion would end the heinous practice of slavery.


Frederick Douglass, a runaway slave and the leading 19th century black abolitionist, saw the need for black organizing, but thought that the environment of Africa and the experience of slavery had made the black man into a socially and morally inferior being. After completing his education at Harvard, he believed that some blacks could equal whites through education, what Kendi calls “upward suasion,” and that most white Americans could be rid of racist ideas through their own education. Thus he simultaneously harbored anti-racist, assimilationist, and upward suasion ideas.


Abraham Lincoln, the politician credited with the actual end of slavery, did not see the Civil War as a struggle to end that practice, nor had he a belief in black equality. In 1862, Lincoln said, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.”(p219) The actual Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 freed about 50,000 slaves in Union occupied Confederate states, but continued slavery for nearly half a million in border states, in order to woo their owners to Union loyalty.(p221) Lincoln also favored colonization of freed slaves to either Haiti or Liberia, feeling that the black race could never be equal to the white. Only with the end of the Civil War and the 13th Amendment were all slaves finally liberated. Thus the circumstance of Lincoln’s presidency during this tumultuous struggle for national unity has endowed his legacy with anti-racist content, when he was actually a racist opponent of slavery.


Many other anti-racists, such as W.E.B. Dubois, Malcolm X and Angela Davis are profiled in depth in these pages, more than we can delve into here. But a portrait very relevant to the present is Barack Obama, the embodiment of racial reconciliation, the usher of the post-racial society. Although the Democratic Party had expected Hillary Clinton to be its nominee, Obama’s skilldul oratory and optimistic call for change captured the electorate. He first had to confront anti-racist ideas when his friend, the pastor Jeremiah Wright, was quoted as saying, “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America’. No, no, no…God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human.”(p490) Obama described Wright as having a “profoundly distorted view,” and explained that because of discrimination blacks had disrupted families and defeatist attitudes. He blamed the poor attitudes of young black people for leading them to unproductive lives as opposed to fewer opportunities and little wealth resulting from discrimination. Although Obama often called for an end to discriminatory practices, he just as often called for an end to poor black behavior. The millions who had been thrilled by the advent of the first black president were immersed in the illusion of the end of racism, a wish far-removed from reality, as that president promoted assimilationist and not anti-racist views.

multiracial pic

Kendi is clear that a “society of equal opportunity,without a top 1 per cent hoarding the wealth and power, would actually benefit the vast majority of white people much more than racism does”. (p504) He disparages the concept of white privilege and declares it in the interest of whites to be free of racism – “altruism is not required.” However, it is a weakness of the book that does not make the point that the anti-racist movement must be multiracial, both in membership and leadership. He does not critique the rising tendency for organizations founded by black anti-racists, such as Black Lives Matter, to become nationalist and exclusionary of anti-racist whites, perhaps a reason they are funded by the ruling class (Soros and the Ford Foundation in this case). No movement can be large enough or strong enough to threaten the power of the 1% unless it is multiracial. Nor can we overcome the trenches of separation dug deep between us unless we organize and fight together. Kendi does say that protests are not enough and must be part of a larger strategy to alter the structure of power. But for simply learning what happened on the journey of racism and thinking about what racism really means, this is a highly worthwhile volume.