Origins of Racism

Book Review: The Tragedy of American Science by Clifford Conner

A Review by Nayvin Gordon, M.D., November 24, 2020

I highly recommend this short book, The Tragedy of American Science: From Truman to Trump, by Clifford D. Conner, 2020. This is an easy to read, concise and well documented analysis of how U.S. science has been affected by the capitalist economy since World War Two. The author does not hold back from placing the origin of the tragedy at the feet of U.S. imperialism. This is a must read for everyone starting with students. The book is broken into three major sections.

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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.

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HOMELESSNESS: Deprivation and Demonization in the US

by Ellen Isaacs

November 7, 2020

Anti-racists welcome their new homeless neighbors

We should celebrate a victory in New York City (NYC), even though it is a temporary and limited one in a war that we should never need to fight.

Until Covid -19, single homeless adults in NYC were housed in up to 100 bed dormitories where crime and drug use were rampant. Many homeless people preferred to sleep on the street or the subways rather than in these facilities. However, the Covid-19 epidemic forced the City to use vacant hotels –even upscale ones – for shelter in the face of the highly contagious virus. One such move of over 700 single adults to four hotels in the prosperous and “liberal” Upper West Side of Manhattan resulted in a battle between wealthy racist property owners, who used racist slurs to castigate their new neighbors and demand their removal, and local anti-racists who fought back. The anti-racists not only organized petitions and demonstrations to pressure the feckless Mayor de Blasio into reversing his removal order, but they are providing aid and services to the homeless. The once-empty hotels are still home to the needy – for now.

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The Racist History of the U.S. Supreme Court – Part 2

by Richard Foard

November 7, 2020

Chinese Exclusion

The background for the Chinese exclusion cases starts with the immigration of tens of thousands of Chinese to the U.S during the late 1840s “Gold Rush.” These immigrants later made up the majority of the workforce that constructed the U.S. transcontinental railroad. When insufficient numbers of white workers applied to perform the arduous, dirty and dangerous labor that this project required, railroad bosses from the Central Pacific Railroad (including Leland Stanford, the founder of the University) began hiring immigrants from China. They were paid $26 per month, working 6 days per week, 30-50% less than white workers. “Hundreds [of these workers] died from explosions, landslides, accidents and disease.” (https://www.history.com/news/transcontinental-railroad-chinese-immigrants) After the completion of the railroad in 1869, these workers continued to toil for the big railroad bosses, who pocketed enormous amounts of money from their sweat and blood.

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Wally Linder: Review of A Life of Labor and Love, A Memoir of Communist Organizing and Family

by Carol Caref, 11-4-2020

In A Life of Labor and Love, Wally Linder reminds us of the power of a united working class to fight the capitalist bosses and of the special people that make up our class. He interweaves the political and the personal as he chronicles his 89 years of life. He shares the joys and the tragedies, and we get a glimpse of the heart and soul of this ordinary but extraordinary man.

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Voting: Social Change or Hoax?

By Karyn Pomerantz, Nov. 2, 2020

Introduction

By the time you read this, voting will be winding down, and people will be anxiously waiting for the results.  The election has revealed the paucity of choices workers, students, and soldiers have to improve our lives.  There is widespread (justified) terror of another 4 years of Trump propelling liberals to support the Biden/Harris ticket.  Groups around the US are preparing to defend a Biden victory in light of Trump’s promise to challenge any loss.

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The Racist History of the U.S. Supreme Court – Part 1

by Richard Foard

October 16, 2020

With the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the nomination by President Donald Trump of Amy Coney Barrett to immediately fill Ginsburg’s position on the Court, competing factions of the U.S. ruling class have geared up for a furious battle over Trump’s third appointment to that Court. The Democrats threaten to retaliate against Trump’s plan (if they win the 2020 presidential election and retake the U.S. Senate) by expanding the number of justices on the Court and then packing it with liberal justices. Liberal and conservative media pundits, law professors and political analysts have all staked out their positions.

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Winter in America…

By Greg Godels, 10-16-2020

Lyrics by Gil Scott-Heron

From the Indians who welcomed the pilgrims

And to the buffalo who once ruled the plains

Like the vultures circling beneath the dark clouds

Looking for the rain

Looking for the rain

Just like the cities staggered on the coastline

Living in a nation that just can’t stand much more

Like the forest buried beneath the highway

Never had a chance to grow

Never had a chance to grow

And now it’s winter

Winter in America

Yes and all of the healers have been killed

Or sent away, yeah

But the people know, the people know

It’s winter

Winter in America

And ain’t nobody fighting

‘Cause nobody knows what to save

Gil Scott-Heron (1974) Winter in America

When Gil Scott-Heron wrote these words, the US seemed to be in swift decline. Watergate had cast a shadow over government legitimacy; the US had lost/was losing the imperialist war in Vietnam; economic inflation, unemployment, and stagnation were crushing US living standards. For many in the post-war generation, the early 1970s were a low point in the prestige and influence of the US. 

Scott-Heron was masterful at blending politics with his art, without compromising either. It enabled him to force issues like apartheid, drugs, police violence, racism, and poverty into the listeners’ consciousness, while still entertaining. Many of his songs became anthems for progressive movements.

For many of us, Winter in America affirmed the terminal decline of the US: “It’s Winter in America, and ain’t nobody fighting, ‘cause nobody knows what to save.” Hope was frozen, promise was frozen, and ideas were frozen with the onset of a metaphorical winter: a political, environmental, racial, and foreign policy crisis. 

Scott-Heron’s lyrics touched all the ills of 1974, noting that “all the heroes have been killed or sent away.” The “Constitution was a noble piece of paper…” that “…died in vain.” And “Democracy is ragtime on the corner.” He warns of “last ditch racists” and laments the “peace sign that vanished in our dreams.”

But we were wrong if we thought that the US had hit rock bottom.

Nineteen seventy-four was only the beginning of the long, painful decline. Average hourly wages today are barely higher than in 1974. The minimum wage continues to shrink in constant dollars. The obscene growth of inequality in income and wealth seems unstoppable. 

Constant and persistent aggressions– proxy wars, invasions, occupations, and remote, video game-like massacres– have become almost routine to the point that they tragically muster little domestic resistance. 

Racism remains a scourge on the US, though more and more along a class dimension. African American workers have taken an even bigger hit than their white counterparts; the growing poverty that afflicts the population, afflicts the Black population even more; and, consequently, the neglect, contempt, and official violence that always accompany impoverishment batter African Americans severely.

The competition for jobs in the US has shaped both a narrow, xenophobic response and a wage race to the bottom. The decline of unions, the legacy of anti-Communist purges in the labor movement, has further sharpened the competition for low-wage jobs.

The raging religion of market-fundamentalism has privatized or debased public wealth, commodified social services, and devastated public education. 

Where we thought Nixon shamefully broke the public trust, corruption, political dirty tricks, and lying are political commonplaces in the twenty-first century. 

What was winter in America in 1974 is now a veritable ice age.

And what is most tragic about the continuous decline in the US empire in influence, domestic peace, and mass well-being is the hollowness and ineffectiveness of the available political options.

US politics has devolved since the purges of the left in the 1950s and the failed liberalism in its wake, becoming a paper tiger incapable of confronting the multi-faced crises spawned by capitalism.

Twenty years into the twenty-first century, political partisans, devoid of new ideas, can only reflect back on earlier times, searching for a lost “golden era.” Today’s politics is largely politics in the rear-view mirror– a politics of nostalgia. 

For the petty-bourgeoisie and the want-to-be petty bourgeoisie– engorging on the table scraps of the ultra-rich– the Obama presidency brought life at its fullest and greatest. Hipsters call a sector of this strata the PMC (the professional managerial class). The Obama trickle-up rescue of the economy in the 2007-2009 crisis cemented their loyalty to globalism and elite rule. They are socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Witness their Black Lives Matter signs in their nearly all-white, segregated neighborhoods. They are for symbols and gestures, but not at the cost of redistribution of their incomes or sacrifices in their lifestyles. For them, Trump is the scourge blocking the return to Obama-like civil management of national affairs. They are the dominant force in Democratic Party politics.

The forthcoming destruction of thousands of small businesses will prove a hard lesson for many in the petty-bourgeoisie, sending them scurrying for solutions. Far too many will find succor in the bitter victimhood that has traditionally fed an ugly, twisted populism with roots going back as far as the Know Nothing Party of the nineteenth century.

A similar economic devastation drives many workers toward the bogus radicalism of right-wing populism, especially in the Midwestern states racked by capital’s abandonment of industry for investments in other sectors or other countries. Without a viable, substantial movement to direct their justified anger at capital, they find scapegoats elsewhere. 

Other sectors of the working class long for the celebrated era of “middle class” prosperity after the Second World War, what the French call “Les Trente Glorieuses.” This highly romanticized era saw wages and benefits marching in lockstep with strong productivity gains for US workers, allowing many working class families to buy homes and automobiles, to take vacations, and to envision college education and upward mobility for their children. Forgotten in this idyllic memory is the ugly oppression of Blacks and other minorities and women in this period. Forgotten is the suppression of the left, the vulgarity of culture, and the uniformity of thought. Forgotten is the bloody footprint of US foreign policy around the world.

The social contract of the postwar period came at an often-overlooked cost. Working class leaders agreed to purge left resistance to capitalism and uncritically support US imperialist foreign policy, becoming complicit in the crimes of global anti-Communism. When the moment proved opportune, the US ruling class betrayed its part of the bargain and slammed the door on working class gains.

Though memories of this lost era grow dimmer and dimmer, nostalgia for this interlude holds much of the trade union leadership wedded to the Democratic Party along with a core of organized labor’s increasingly skeptical members.

For most voters, constrained by the two-party system, a desire for an earlier, often fictionalized period inspires their politics. The Biden and Trump messaging underscores this insipid nostalgia: “Build Back Better” (Biden) and “Make America Great Again” (Trump). We can only build back or restore that which is lost. And people are confused over what and why they have lost.

This should be a moment for the left. 

But sadly, most of the left is adrift in a sea of old and failed ideas. Some imagine the noble selflessness of the local food or art coop as a cooperative model for competing with multinational corporations and bringing capitalism to its knees. Do we recall the other “anti-capitalist” fads foisted on us by academic leftists? ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plans)? Micro-financing? 

All of these strategies share a profound pessimism that capital cannot be directly confronted and defeated. Instead, they propose to outfox capital by nipping away at its margins. Despite the fact that similar utopian measures have failed over centuries, influential leftists continually resurrect them.  

The notion that the perfection of capitalist-style democracy can effectively challenge the inequalities and injustices of capital pervades the US left. Since the suppression of the Communist left in the Cold War, the self-described “New Left” has invested heavily in “democratizing” the structures and institutions currently serving capitalism. Whether or not this project makes any sense, it certainly hasn’t succeeded, despite the fact that the New New Left has embraced it. Every ineffective response to the growing crises of capitalism seems to confirm that the socio-economic-political system accompanying capital is its handmaiden and is not and cannot serve as an effective tool against its inequities.

There was a reason that US capital suppressed and continues to suppress Communist and socialist-oriented workers’ movements. It is not nostalgia to recognize that the ideology and strategies devised by Marx, Engels, and Lenin have in the past rocked the very foundations of the capitalist system, sending capitalists and their lackeys into a frenzy of violent resistance. Surely there is a lesson in that fact.

The cold wave of uncertainty, fear, and despair that is now sweeping the US will not abate unless we fight for a new future. The tools are there.

Greg Godels

zzsblogml@gmail.com

The $5 TRILLION SWINDLE: Robbery of Workers’ Social Security

by Wally Linder

October, 2020

The “debate” over the Social Security (SS) “crisis” is a cover for a trillion-dollar looting of the SS Trust Fund, pulled off for over 52 years by every Democratic and Republican president who has occupied the White House — Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama, Nixon, Reagan, the two Bushes and now Trump. It IS a crisis, not of SS but one of U.S. capitalism, mired in a multi-trillion dollar debt resulting from illegally spending the workers’ SS surpluses to finance US imperialism’s wars against Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan. It mirrors a general law of the profit system: shift the bosses’ financial burdens onto the backs of the working class.

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LEST WE FORGET: THE DEADLY DEMOCRATS

US Flag Around the Earth — Image by © Images.com/Corbis

by Ellen Isaacs

September 15, 2020

Many bloodbaths and much pain. Many overseas tragic events have been forgotten, some hardly noticed as they occurred, especially if Americans were not killed. And many have been committed by those we label liberals, progressives, humanitarians – – Democrats. We must not forget that Democrats support military and political hegemony as devotedly as any other leaders of US capitalism, much moreso than Trump’s domestically based supporters like the Koch and Mercer families. His isolationism is even more worrisome to the liberal ruling class than his blatant white supremacy and incompetence with respect to Covid-19. More urgent than quelling the protests over racism and mitigating the mass evictions, unemployment, and lack of health insurance is retaining resources, pipelines, cheap labor and bases overseas.

To many nonwhite, immigrant, unemployed, and humane workers, Trump is so repulsive that his replacement with a Democrat is desperately desired, and that is why it is imperative that we recall the criminal legacy of that party. In this essay, we will review only the Democrats’ imperialist endeavors since the end of World War II, not to imply that mainstream Republicans are any less guilty. 

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