From the September-October 2020 issue of News & Letters
by Terry Moon
There is rage in America—rage at the choices the Trump administration has forced on people by his purposeful bungling of the coronavirus pandemic, rage at his racism, sexism, disdain for people with disabilities; and anger at his attempts to destroy what little democracy people in the U.S. have, all to keep himself in office.
THE PANDEMIC DOES DISCRIMINATE
That rage showed itself when teachers across the country struck or staged sickouts rather than accept Donald Trump’s demand to open schools regardless of the consequences. A school principal in small-town Arizona, whose students are 90% Hispanic and poor, spoke out when ordered by Gov. Doug Ducey to open or lose 5% of his school’s funding. He said: “I already lost one teacher to this virus. Do I risk opening back up even if it’s going to cost us more lives? Or do we run school remotely and end up depriving these kids?…There’s no way it can be safe.”
You see it in obituaries in local papers like the one in Jefferson, Tex., where David W. Nagy’s wife wrote: “Family members…blame his death and the deaths of all the other innocent people, on Trump, [Texas Gov. Greg] Abbott and all the politicians who did not take this pandemic seriously and were more concerned with their popularity and votes than lives.”
Over 200,000 have died because of incompetence, because of politics, because of this anti-human system. Those who died were mostly old, Black, Latinx, Native Americans, immigrants, disabled or poor and are viewed by those who run this country as an acceptable loss. As we go to press, more than 1,000 Americans are dying every day.
The rage was revealed when tens of thousands demonstrated in every U.S. state against police brutality and racism—a racism made “acceptable” by Trump and his cronies who praise white supremacists and demonize Black, Brown and white demonstrators as thugs, looters, mobs, Antifa and anarchists when what demonstrators want is justice, peace, an end to racism and police killings, and a refusal to return to the way things have always been.
Now there’s rage and fear about the coming election. Politicians talk about “the people,” as if they speak for them. But Donald Trump and his enablers dread “the people” as he orders the police and Federal thugs to beat, teargas, jail and lie about their victims.
This dread of “the people”—which is fear of revolt, of revolution—has never been more obvious than in the blatant and often frighteningly effective efforts to silence and disenfranchise voters and to wreck the approaching election that Trump may lose.
ELECTIONS/DEMOCRACY UNDER ATTACK
Ever since Blacks and women won the right to vote, taking the franchise beyond land-owning white men, that right has been under siege. The most vicious attack was during Reconstruction when Black voters’ lives were put in jeopardy when trying to vote. By gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the U.S. Supreme Court majority let loose the Trump administration and state legislatures to stop not only Blacks from voting, but anyone who may vote Democratic.
Trump has tried to discredit voting by mail, lying that it was rife with fraud. Republican governors are working to make voting more difficult: cutting the number of voting stations—especially in Black, Latinx, poor and student neighborhoods; shortening times for voter registration and attacking early voting, making it more difficult for working-class people; using any excuse to reject mail-in ballots; tightening rules for who is allowed to vote by mail, for example not allowing a fear of catching COVID-19 as a valid reason. These new efforts are in addition to racist and partisan gerrymandering, mass incarceration and old-fashioned intimidation.
Now Trump has attacked the United States Postal Service (USPS) by installing his sycophant, the multi-billionaire Louis DeJoy, as Postmaster. (See “USPS crime scene,” Sept-Oct. 2020 N&L) Trump refused the needed funding increase, stating openly that without it the USPS is “not equipped” and “you can’t have universal mail-in voting.”
Sabotaging the USPS has drastically slowed down mail delivery, causing huge numbers of voters in primaries to be disenfranchised, as it did in Minneapolis. In one mostly Black public housing complex, it took nine days for mail delivery to resume after it was stopped before the election. People in Missouri told of 24-day delays for mail to “arrive back at the county election board.”
Postal workers in Detroit fought back. A mail carrier in Detroit reported: “The carriers were so outraged about the ballots and the political mail [not being mailed], we said we were still going to take the ballots out.’”
In the time of COVID-19, people are depending on the USPS for everything from medication to government checks. But the attack on the election is not confined to destroying the USPS.
Trump is also ruining the 2020 Census. His administration shortened the time the Census Bureau has to complete the job by 30 days when the Bureau had asked for an extension. Their aim is to undercount Blacks, Latinx people, and the poor, and cut their political representation. It will devastate their federal funding, which includes money for school lunches and healthcare. Lizette Escobedo, a Latina activist leading a census program for a Latinx rights group, said: “We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and they might be shortchanging every Latino community for 10 years to come. This is cruel.”
FEDS IN PORTLAND, A DRESS REHEARSAL FOR THE ELECTION?
The country was also outraged when Border Patrol agents, Homeland Security personnel and who knows who else invaded Portland, Oregon, at Trump’s bidding and began brutalizing demonstrators. Trump’s move was reminiscent of every tin-pot dictator and warlord who amasses their own private army of thugs and mercenaries.
Wearing no identifiable uniforms, name tags or badges, they often attacked peaceful demonstrators. People were kidnapped, dragged off the streets and literally thrown into unmarked vans. Trump’s minions didn’t take their victims to police stations but to holding cells at the Federal Courthouse. They effectively “disappeared” them, as they didn’t let anyone know who had been taken or where, stripping protesters of their civil rights.
These actions, which continued for days—and weeks if you count how long this makeshift collection of thugs remained in Portland—effectively destroyed democracy, free speech, the right to assemble, the right to protest. Methods honed in repressing immigrants, African Americans, Iraqis and Afghans are being turned against ever greater swathes of the population.
That there were no real consequences to an outrageous violation of people’s freedom stokes not only outrage but fear—fear that such forces could be used again. If Trump loses the election, the fear is that he will summon his paramilitary raiding party again to crush any movements in the streets to stop his illegal coup. What makes this fear realistic is that Trump has already done the unbelievable with no serious repercussions.
This danger is palpable because Trump also sent his “forces” to Kansas City and Seattle, and threatened to send them to Albuquerque, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and St. Louis. Not coincidentally, the majority of voters in these cities are projected to vote for Democrats.
THE LEAP TO FREEDOM IS FROM NECESSITY
People are fighting back out of necessity. If things don’t change, 67 million households, including millions of children, may soon have their water turned off, because the moratoriums stopping water shutoffs will have expired. At least 51 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the pandemic started and that doesn’t include all those who didn’t file but are unemployed.
Experts in the housing field are predicting an “eviction apocalypse” where up to 23 million families are forced out of their homes. This will be a catastrophe. Trump’s hollow executive order on unemployment and evictions did nothing to change this. It merely mandates that “agency leaders” study if a rent moratorium is necessary and, if so, are there funds to pay for it.
Trump has hollowed out, dumbed down or politicized every U.S. agency involved in health and safety, pollution control, immigration, labor, education, housing—everything. Every system has failed humanity in this time of crisis.
MOVEMENT FROM PRACTICE FIGHTS EMERGING FASCISM
Like the postal workers in Detroit who, after being told to leave the political mail behind, delivered it themselves on their own time, people have been fighting back. On Aug. 15, 100 people showed up at DeJoy’s home, banging on pots and blowing horns, protesting his attempts to wreck the USPS. As activist Martha Leslie Allen said, “Today we joined #ShutDownDC, and others in delivering democracy—and a lot of noise—right to the door of DeJoy’s swanky condo in Kalorama.” Signs read “Postmaster saboteur,” “Stop voter suppression,” “U.S. Mail=our property,” “Defend democracy,” and the ever present “Black Lives Matter.” They plan to demonstrate there again.
Even before this latest housing crisis, Black women had taken matters into their own hands. Following in the footsteps of welfare rights organizations, women in Oakland, Calif., formed Moms 4 Housing. They inspired Reclaiming Our Homes in Los Angeles and Occupy PHA (Philadelphia Housing Authority). The women and children take over vacant homes and apartments, help families move in, and fight to keep them there. Dominique Walker of Moms 4 Housing pointed out what should be obvious: “The true crime lies in this society we live in that can normalize people living in the street. Shelter is a human right.”
As we go to press, Moms 4 Housing reports on an upcoming demonstration to protest an eviction: “On Jan. 14 in a pre-dawn raid of a residential home in Oakland, Calif., the Alameda County Sheriff’s spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to evict women and children from a vacant, speculator-acquired property.
“Tanks, military-styled officers, drones, robots, a battering ram and assault rifles were used to execute an eviction order on Black women and their children. There has not been a more stark example in recent history of militarized racism in housing than in the saga of Moms.
“…Now more than ever, we must divest from policing to end terror and invest in the essentials that our communities need to thrive and survive COVID.”
Not only have Black women been leaders in the fight against evictions and homelessness, they, including their Transgender sisters, were founders of the Black Lives Matter coalition and called for and led many of the demonstrations that blanketed the country and are ongoing as we go to press. (See “Black youth lead revolt challenging deadly racism, aiming to dismantle system” and “Black women speak a new humanism” in the July-Aug. 2020 issue of N&L.)
Those demonstrations, like the decades-long struggle to end slavery, like the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and ’70s, have inspired new strata to join them in the fight for freedom and for an end to racist police violence and the whole racist society.
In unprecedented numbers white, Latinx and others joined in the demonstrations. First a Wall of Moms, then of dads, then of veterans, and always of youth. Not only to be allies, but because the humanism of the Black struggle for freedom is in such vivid contrast to the anti-humanism of the police, the state, the federal government that it was clear to all and especially the youth that it was their freedom too that is at stake.
NOT BACK TO NORMAL BUT TO A NEW HUMAN SOCIETY
The upcoming presidential election is eliciting a great deal of hope and energy because so many are frantic to get the great destroyer out of the White House. No one who cares about humanity would argue against that effort. Destruction of the Republican hold on the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government would immediately make a difference in people’s lives, including saving lives of those who might die if Trump remains in office.
And yet what Black Lives Matter is shouting loud enough for anyone who cares to hear—and they’ve been saying it years before the COVID-19 pandemic—is that our “normal” U.S. society is racist to the core and must be transformed.
When the #MeToo movement took hold, women made clear that the whole rape culture must change. The Women’s Marches were demanding not only issues like equal pay, but a comprehension that women are whole human beings.
When youth by the hundreds of thousands “Marched for our Lives,” they weren’t only saying they wanted gun control, but that a society that values guns over human lives must be completely transformed. Youth climate strikes called for deep systemic change.
The movement to support immigrants and refugees, to honor DACA dreamers, and those who are our most essential workers and yet are treated like dirt, was not only to stop Trump’s violence against children, but to erase borders so that all could travel freely as a human right.
What Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris represent is not these voices, these ideas. What they pledge is a return to “normal.” But it is the “normal” that got us here in the first place. It is the “normal” that “elected” Trump, that discriminates, that has led to the rich getting obscenely richer and the poor losing everything, that put humanity in the middle of an out-of-control pandemic that has killed millions and a planet that is in danger of becoming uninhabitable.
As we wrote in the last issue of N&L: “There is no sense in waiting for a return to normal, because there is no return to normal….What shines through the revolt is the underlying philosophy of humanism, and the political maturity of our age…
“The negative in that self-activity is easy to see: efforts to tear down the systems of racism and other oppressions. The positive in that negation is not as easy to hear, but it is crucial to listen—and not only to support the revolt, letting it speak and highlighting the reason in what the rulers and media portray as unreason, but to let the Idea of Freedom hear itself speak.
“The negation embodied in spontaneous revolt is a needed first step. To proceed to the reconstruction of society on truly human foundations requires unification of theory and practice, including a clarification not only of what masses in motion are against, but what they are for.”
Black masses have taken the lead and this past decade has seen every force for freedom taking to the streets demanding a new and different world, certainly not a return to normal. The revolt has been continuous. Can it develop to a revolution in permanence?
The Marxist-Humanist Theory of State-Capitalism: selected writings by Raya Dunayevskaya
This collection of 17 writings by Raya Dunayevskaya, founder of Marxist-Humanism in the U.S., contains a selection of her writings on the theory of state-capitalism, ranging from her original analysis of Russia as a state-capitalist society in the early 1940s to writings on the global phenomenon of state-capitalism from the 1940s to our era.
“Raya Dunayevskaya’s essays on the nature of capitalist and Soviet societies are full of the kind of scholarly insights and political wisdom that no one interested in these topics can afford to ignore. A mind-stretching exercise for those willing to risk it!”