Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor Speaking Out For Antiracist Marxism

by Karyn Pomerantz, 9-12-2021

This article reviews the revolutionary politics of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, a Marxist, anti-racist scholar, author, and activist. It presents her positions on class, racism, and capitalism, and the critical need for working class unity.

Over the last ten years, tens of thousands of people have rebelled against racist police murders, immigrant deportations, climate disasters, Covid-19 catastrophes, and incarceration rates that disproportionately endanger black and brown workers. People are asking about the causes of oppression and strategies and solutions to end them. Explanations range from the exploitative practices of capitalism, bad legislation to misbehaviors of poor people. Strategies include voting, building organizations to fight specific injustices, decentralized and uncoordinated organizing, unionizing, cooperatives, community control of the police, and communist parties. People call for abolition to defund and eliminate the police and prisons and end all forms of injustice. Many believe in white privilege and blame all whites for racism.

In a time of these identity politics, leaderless protests, and decentralized organizing, Taylor’s call for organized, multiracial, revolutionary struggle provides a more realistic course of action that can achieve working class power. Her works are worth understanding and applying.

The editors strongly recommend reading her publications and listening to her presentations on YouTube. She has written 3 major books, Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, and How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective.

This blog has promoted multiracial organizing that fights the system of capitalism. Take some time to read the posts on “white privilege,” exploitation, and “It’s Time to Name Names: Capitalism and Imperialism” at  https://multiracialunity.org/category/capitalism-and-imperialism/page/3/ . (If you’d like to get together and discuss these topics, come to our biweekly discussion group and email us for the details).

Continue reading “Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor Speaking Out For Antiracist Marxism”

Review of Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist

By Barbara Foley       Reprinted from Science and Society, July, 2021

Near the top of the New York Times bestseller list through the summer of 2020 and beyond, Kendi’s 2019 provocatively titled book is one among several books urging racial self-awareness and systemic transformation that attained prominence in the wake of the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police. Accompanied by a SparkNotes study guide, How to Be an Antiracist is clearly headed toward classroom use; it is not just a book, but an event. Moreover, in 2020 Kendi was appointed director of Boston University’s new Anti-Racism Institute, which he calls a “factory for antiracist policy.” One must ask, Does Kendi’s book help to develop the anti-capitalist potential of current attempts to de-naturalize racist ideologies and practices? Or does it aid and abet the current rush to the anti-racism bandwagon on the part of corporate America?

Continue reading “Review of Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist”

Critical Race Theory Threatens Ruling Class Power

by Karyn Pomerantz, July 1, 2021

As I write this, Critical Race Theory debates dominate the media, school board meetings, state legislatures, and university campuses. The Oklahoma City Community College canceled a course that discussed white privilege. Politicians in eight states have outlawed its teaching, and nine more are considering legislation to do so (https://www.heritage.org/data-visualizations/education/critical-race-theory-legislation-tracker/). Antagonisms at several school boards led to the cancellation of face-to-face meetings to avoid physical fights. Florida already passed legislation to ban its teaching and requires civics courses to include “portraits in patriotism” … to tell stories and “first-person accounts” of victims of ostensibly communist governments which are then compared with the more supposedly democratic US.” Florida’s Duvall County School Board fired a teacher for hanging a Black Lives Matter flag in her classroom. Texas passed a bill that prohibits teachers from discussing any theories of racism. For example, one section of the bill prohibits lessons that make:

“… any individual (should) feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex”

Another section prohibits teaching that:

“meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a members of a particular race to oppress members of another race (https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/billtext/pdf/HB03979I.pdf).

Proposed bills in other states call for putting cameras on teachers to reveal whether they teach the “wrong” ideas and outlaw any student demonstrations for social justice issues. University faculty in Florida will be required to register their political positions, and students and faculty will have to take surveys about their beliefs, and students must pass a “civic literacy” exam to graduate. If these beliefs deviate from the conservative, racist ideas of the state, the state legislature can remove their research projects and funding, seriously imperiling their jobs and increasing self-censorship.

Emboldened by Trump, opponents claim discussing racism offends and blames white people, that it rejects color blindness. They cite weepy accounts by white children allegedly exposed to these ideas. They never acknowledge the trauma people of color experience from physical, economic, and verbal abuse caused by racism.

Opposition to CRT at Loudoun County, VA School Board Meeting

What is this theory? Why has it generated so much opposition and disinformation? Why is racism so vital to capitali

Continue reading “Critical Race Theory Threatens Ruling Class Power”

Amazon Workers Organize – Black Workers Lead the Way

Karyn Pomerantz, 4-8-2021; Updated on 4-21-2021

Update on 4-21-2021, Behind Union Defeat at Amazon Bessemer – CounterPunch.org. See also comment.

As this is being published, Amazon announced that it won the vote on unionizing the plant in Bessemer, Alabama. Workers at the warehouse launched a union campaign last year to improve working conditions and pay. As of April 9, 7:00PM EDT, the initial count is 1,798 opposed to 738 in favor (out of approximately 6,000 voters). Amazon and the union intend to challenge the validity of some votes.

The workers’ efforts could still spark an international movement at other Amazon centers and in other industries that deliver unlivable wages, poor benefits, and unsafe working conditions. Workers at Walmart, Target, and fast-food restaurants may also be inspired to form unions, threatening the owners with a rebellious workforce and a loss in profit. A disproportionate number of workers in these industries is black, immigrant, female, and Latin. Their role as essential workers and their poverty create disproportionate exposures to Covid 19. Over 20,000 out of 1.3 million (2%) Amazon employees have contracted Covid 19 as of October 2020.

Placing the fight for economic security at the jobsite sharpens antiracist and class struggle beyond the legislative approach in the Fight for 15 campaign. Unions may not win every campaign or contract demand, but they provide a structure for workers to engage in many struggles, such as housing reforms, anti-war movements, and other activist mobilizations. It is important for all of us to support the Amazon workers in all ways possible.

This post will present the issues behind the Amazon organizing, its significance to the working class, the ways we can help, the current and historical role of black workers in the labor movement, and how an egalitarian society could deal with consumerism.

Continue reading “Amazon Workers Organize – Black Workers Lead the Way”

International Women’s History Month: Women Holding Up Half the Sky

By Karyn Pomerantz, 3-21 -2021 

Women marching in 1917 in Russia

Background – The Roots of International Women’s Day 

March is Women’s History Month that is celebrated with marches and cultural programs around the world. International Women’s Day, observed in the US on March 8, was sparked in 1909 when 20,000 women waistmakers in the International Ladies Garment Workers Union in New York City shut down the sweatshops to oppose disastrous working conditions, sexual harassment, and low wages. They inspired the German socialist, Clara Zetkin, to establish International Women’s Day with a march dedicated to universal suffrage, free childcare, and other reforms to improve women’s lives (The Socialist Origins of International Women’s Day (jacobinmag.com). Socialist parties in other countries adopted it with marches and demonstrations to create an international movement for justice for women.  

In 1917 in Petrograd, Russian working-class women held a militant march (pictured above) that launched strikes and revolutionary actions that established socialism in Russia. Lenin celebrated the role of working women in the Russian revolution as the Bolshevik Party endorsed International Women’s Day: 

“For under capitalism the female half of the human race is doubly oppressed. The working woman and the peasant woman are oppressed by capital, but over and above that—they remain in ‘household bondage,’ they continue to be ‘household slaves,’ for they are overburdened with the drudgery of the most squalid, backbreaking and stultifying toil in the kitchen and the family household.” 

Today, we see rote, performative recognition of Women’s International History Month by politicians, the media, and companies who advertise sales to commemorate it while maintaining conditions that oppress women workers. 

This article describes the role of capitalism in women’s oppression, the effects of Covid 19 on women, examples of women workers organizing against sexism and capitalism, and a class-based strategy to abolish sexism. 

Continue reading “International Women’s History Month: Women Holding Up Half the Sky”

Protect Our Students – Promoting School Safety: RACIST COPS OUT OF THE SCHOOLS!

by Linda Green and Karyn Pomerantz

Capitalism uses police as agents of social control in our neighborhoods, jobs, and schools, using their power to put kids on a school-to-jail pipeline. In 2013-2014, school police in 8000 schools arrested 70,000 students with black children overly represented (Ed Week). Detentions and arrests of students can affect college admissions and future incarceration. Criminal justice reformers have been fighting for years to interrupt this pathway by freeing schools of police and punitive policies like the use of metal detectors. Such measures do not prevent violence or its causes, and create an antagonistic climate. Parents, politicians, and teachers take different positions, some claiming School Resource Officers, SROs, are necessary to ensure safety and others protesting the increased risk of arrest and brutality mostly directed to black and Latin students as well as those with disabilities.  

Alternate methods to deal with behavioral problems in the schools exist. Researchers have shown that students who face racial discrimination are more likely to feel alienated in schools, disengaging from them by dropping out or not trying academically. Supportive teachers who acknowledge and show interest in students’ cultural backgrounds help mitigate this alienation (Bottiani, Gottfredson). Abolitionists point out that SROs do nothing to prevent mass school shootings, and a simulation study verified this finding (Child Trends). 

Continue reading “Protect Our Students – Promoting School Safety: RACIST COPS OUT OF THE SCHOOLS!”

Book Review: The Sum of Us- What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee.

By Karyn Pomerantz, 3-4-2021

In The Sum of Us (2021), Heather McGhee refutes the pervasive idea that racism, specifically white supremacy, benefits white workers. She contradicts the paradigm of a “zero-sum game” in which gains for black workers diminish the economic and social status of white workers. Instead, she advocates for “social solidarity” that would create a “solidarity dividend” that enriches the lives of all workers.

McGhee is another liberal capitalist author who has stong antiracist arguments but a weak analysis of the role of capitalism that requires racism to create profit and enforce divisions among workers. Liberal reformers, such as Sanders, the Ford Foundation, and unions, try to preserve capitalism by making it more equitable. McGhee was president of Demos, a liberal think tank for economic reforms. Her book reflects the insights she gained there.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Sum of Us- What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee.”

I’ve Been Working in the Hospital: Racist Medical Care Before and During Covid-19

By Maurice Chikiar, February 4, 2021 

Introduction 

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. 

Continue reading “I’ve Been Working in the Hospital: Racist Medical Care Before and During Covid-19”

Attacking the Capitol: Building Fascism, It’s Not Just Trump

by Karyn Pomerantz, 1-7-2021, revised 1-9-2021

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

Continue reading “Attacking the Capitol: Building Fascism, It’s Not Just Trump”

Abolition Politics Gain Support Nationally and Locally

  by Karyn Pomerantz, 11-17-2020

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.

Continue reading “Abolition Politics Gain Support Nationally and Locally”