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.
Organizers mobilize for outreach to tenants in Mt. Rainier, MD
by Karyn Pomerantz and Linda Green, 3-1-2021
Over 30 million people face evictions from their homes during the deadly Covid 19 outbreak. Losing housing is nothing new. As neighborhoods gentrify, public housing deteriorates, and people lose jobs, more people have no or unstable homes. The US lost four million affordable housing units and seven million apartments for low-income residents over the last decade. Before the pandemic, 25% of renters spent 50% or more of their income on rent, and 25% of people under the poverty line spent 70% (Aspen Institute)! This serves the financial interests of the developers and banks who build and finance luxury, high priced apartments and houses, adding to the oppression of the entire working class. Since black, Latin, and indigenous people earn less and face higher rates of unemployment, this situation exacerbates the racism fundamental to capitalism. Larger proportions of families of color, including Asian families, expect to apply for assistance. Families with children have higher eviction rates, causing long-term trauma and other health problems.
The pandemic has worsened housing security. What kind of society kicks people out of their homes during a public health crisis!? Obviously, the drive to profit off of workers’ lives has no limits. The moratoriums on evictions only postpone pay-up day. Despite the federal moratorium and financial assistance to landlords, property owners apply laws that allow them to evict, such as requesting evictions for people who stay in their homes past their leases. As of March 1, 2020, a judge has ruled that the moratorium is illegal, throwing millions of people into limbo.
The largest strike in history, a truly awe-inspiring struggle, has been underway in India since September 2020. Over 250 million farmers and other workers from finance, transport, steel, energy and power, health care, communications, ports and docks have participated in this ongoing uprising(1). It is a response to policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that aim to increase the control of private corporations over the Indian economy and decrease the income and rights of workers. Where, we must ask, will this struggle lead?
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.
The surge of wild fires in the state of California — the ravages of climate change, the greed and incompetence of utility companies, the corruption of politicians, the ongoing power shutoffs, the suffering of millions of workers who lose power, money, food, health and safety – no tale better illustrates the death-dealing heartlessness and dysfunctionality of capitalism, even in one of its most “progressive” outposts.
Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 to stop Congress from validating Biden’s and Harris’ win, and to warn people fighting to reform or overthrow capitalism that they would face violent retaliation. This was an action to terrorize activists demanding antiracist equity and related changes. The response highlighted the extreme differences between the violent attack by Trump supporters and the uprisings against police murders, the ongoing hunger strike by 140 immigrants held in New Jersey detention centers, the union campaign by Google workers, demands for Covid-19 protections and universal healthcare, and demonstrations for jobs, housing, and debt relief. The likely collusion between the police and the Trump mob, the ease with which the mob entered the Capitol, and the ability to recruit thousands will embolden right wing groups, leading to their growth and confidence.
On the other side, the medical and economic repercussions of the pandemic, the wider visibility of police violence, and the acknowledgement of centuries of racist oppression have inspired large uprisings across the US and other countries of multi-generational, and multiracial and multiethnic groups of workers and students. The movement against police murders of black men and women sparked by the killing of Trayvon Martin expanded with the execution of George Floyd with thousands taking to the streets. The diversity of the rebels alarms the people who control the economy and government (the ruling class). At this point, antiracist leaders call for abolition of the police, prisons, and other oppressive conditions, trusting that abolition is possible when we have no power. Their hesitancy to call for and build revolutionary change weakens our fight and obstructs the possibility of a better future.
The potential of a growing, more militant movement threatens US capitalism, which leads to the ruling class building and supporting fascist organizations to terrorize and repress us. We have a tremendous opportunity to unite millions of black, white, Asian, indigenous, and immigrant workers over these common problems around the world. We can build a movement to demand radical changes and to seize power. We have a long way to go but must prepare now
As I write this, thousands of racist proto-fascists are storming the US Capitol while over 140 immigrant detainees at Essex County and Hudson County, NJ ICE detention centers are on hunger strike, the third wave of such strikes at NJ facilities in 2020. While protesting inmates are being threatened and coerced, masses of rioting white people are being gently removed from the Capitol, only 13 arrested (that number may grow) after breaching the legislative chambers and causing death and injury. The chasm between the treatment of those who struggle against hatred and oppression, who have fled from violence and poverty, who sicken and die disproportionately from disease, and between those who have been won to hatred and racist violence is gaping and widening.
Millions of voters in the US look to Biden for righting the wrongs of the Trump Administration by ushering in a more democratic civil society and addressing racism and the Covid19 pandemic, participating in global organizations, restraining state violence, mitigating climate disasters, and restoring jobs and housing. Regardless of his gentler rhetoric, Biden, like Obama, will impose policies to maintain US hegemony (control) and serve the super rich.
This article reviews some of Biden’s appointments for domestic policy offices as a reflection of his Administration’s political positions. As one writer said, it’s “back to the future” as he renews the participation of many Obama officials whose presidency increased deportations, warfare, and inaction against racist murders while maintaining a liberal anti racist veneer. Many activists who voted and organized for Biden, Bernie, and the Green Party want to humanize capitalism, counting on elections, regulations, and defunding carceral institutions to transform society. They believe that the abolition of racism and inequities can occur without workers taking power. We can’t allow this illusion to continue.
We can be sure that Biden will better attack Covid-19 than has Trump, for there must be a functioning economy and working class to maintain profits and power. But we quake in the surety that more lives will now be lost to imperialism and expansionism, not only from bullets on the battlefield but from poverty, exploitation, displacement and environmental devastation. We know from his own history that Biden is a capitalist and an aggressive imperialist, a loyal servant of US finance capital (see https://multiracialunity.org/2020/06/16/biden-lesser-evil-or-just-evil/). At the same time, it is important to remember that all the recent Democratic presidential candidates, from the democratic socialists to the moderates, are pro-capitalism and only proposed moderation of the system, at best. No matter who is in office, there is an existential battle between the largest world capitalists for control, primarily China and the US today. Thus it is clear that if we truly want to alter the manner in which capitalist ruling classes attack the workers of the world or their own working class, then it is the system, not the capitalist party or individual in power, that needs to be changed.
In many respects the early decades of the last century resembled our own disordered and perhaps calamitous moment, though the differences between the two periods were equally apparent. In the two decades between the two world wars, fascism was on the rise, particularly in Western Europe, notably in Italy, Spain, and Germany and, in the East, China and Japan. Benito Mussolini, the head of the Italian National Fascist Party, became Prime Minister in 1922. In the decade before Hitler became the Chancellor in January, 1933, post-war Germany was roiling with street battles between fascists belonging to roughly thirty different parties and at least eight left-wing parties, most significantly the KPD (the pro-Soviet German Communist Party) and various factions of the Social Democratic Party.