From the January-February 2015 issue of News & Letters
FROM FERGUSON TO STATEN ISLAND
I was filled with grief after hearing that the cop who murdered Eric Garner was not indicted. I knew what the decision was before it was announced. Every 28 hours a Black person dies from police violence. It’s not the job of law enforcement to be executioners. Man’s law is flawed because it looks at skin color as being the first indication of whether a person is considered criminal. The scales of justice have been off balance for a long time, and the current model is unsustainable. Which side are you on?
I liked the Dec. 5 N&L statement, “From Ferguson to Staten Island: The logic of racism is genocide,” very much. I would like to know more thoughts on increasing dialogue…to what end? With whom?
The N&L statement captures the totality of opposition to today’s racist police state in the context of the present capitalist crisis. Demonstrations have continued practically daily here in Oakland. Part of the “political and philosophic dialogue” needed, in the Bay Area, is over the tension between some white anarchists, who substitute their opposition to police authority for the movement. For example, a Marxist-Humanist, at the demonstration that blocked freeways the night the Ferguson non-indictment was announced, expressed her view that in light of the depth of racism towards people like herself, police authority is totally illegitimate. Yet she questioned why more Blacks weren’t participating even as she sensed that anarchists, who immediately tested police authority with fires and looting, were tacking their own agenda onto this moment.
Not only is the logic of racism genocide, racism is genocide. It was an act of genocide when millions of Africans were brought to the Americas as slaves to toil for their new masters. It was genocide when white European settlers exterminated Native Americans. It’s genocide today when the levels of incarceration and of permanent unemployment are higher in Black and Latino communities than in any others. What is great is that people are fighting back. While young Blacks are taking the lead, at least here in New York City, thousands of young white people are joining the protests. As the N&L statement says, a new generation of revolutionaries has stormed the stage of world history.
There is a “two-way road” between protests in the U.S. against racist crimes and protests in Mexico against the forced disappearance of the 43 normalistas in Ayotzinapa. Demonstrators have showed solidarity with the other; both feel that the crimes have been committed by the same entity: the State— Mexican or American. Behind the State is always capital. The dialectic of the movement has within it the possibility of acknowledging that truth: in the U.S., it is especially Black and Latino youth who have risen as the main revolutionary subjects; in Mexico, it is students and youth who “have taken the lead.” Although all society is oppressed by capitalism, it is youth who suffer its more devastating effects. Black and Latino in the U.S. and students in Mexico have within themselves the possibility of an economic struggle against capital. We haven’t arrived at that moment, but it is of no less importance: youth and society in general have acknowledged the State as the main enemy. Once the State is defeated, we will find behind it the next enemy: capital. Then, a crucial step towards the reconstruction of society would have been made.
National attention to the movie Selma is rooted in the millions of Americans outraged by the police murders of unarmed Black men. Instead of worrying about if the movie was “fair” to President Johnson, look at Charles Denby’s Indignant Heart. Denby, the Black autoworker editor of N&L from 1955 until his death in 1983, wrote: “…the marchers…changed the entire history of the county and raised the level of consciousness of the Blacks like nothing that had ever happened before.…I believe that Selma would have been the place where the revolution could have started. And I believe Johnson knew that, and that’s why he federalized the Alabama state troopers and sent in thousands more to protect the Selma marchers.”
“Revolutionary Rojava” (Nov.-Dec. 2014 N&L) was excellent, letting us know what is happening in that “distant” part of the world. It gives us hope to know that “for years now Rojava has been making perhaps the most advanced revolution we will see anywhere in our lifetimes practically alone.” I translated this article into Spanish for Praxis en América Latina, the Mexican Marxist-Humanist journal, to let Spanish readers know about Rojava.
I recommend two libcom.org pages that might interest those into the Rojava revolution: “‘I have seen the future and it works.’—Critical questions for supporters of the Rojava revolution” and “‘Rojava revolution’ reading guide.”
Nigerian scholar Akin Iwilade observed that African youth-led protests against austerity bypass the established opposition such as labor unions. The global economic crisis destabilizes established politics, enabling “a global youth culture of protest” and criticism of neoliberalism. African youth are motivated by the economic crisis to construct “hybrid identities” using social media to address local issues. Urban lower-middle class youth are the new activists because of their access to cell phones and the internet, as in recent protests in Uganda, Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, Mozambique, Tunisia and Egypt. He says they are “acutely aware of global discourses of development and democracy and at the same time in touch with the local dimensions of exclusion and disempowerment.”
Child poverty is appalling around the world, but truly appalling in the U.S. You figure that they spend $66 billion keeping people in prison, yet a fraction of that on childhood poverty issues. Nearly 46 million people live below the poverty line, with nearly 16 million of those people being children. Half of all kids with a single mom live in poverty. We have one of the highest child poverty rates in the world and, I believe, the highest when it comes to industrialized nations. Yet the only thing we tend to spend money on is the military (approximately $677 billion a year) and prisons (approximately $66 billion a year).
Black River Falls, Wisc.
All children deserve to live in safety and to be well cared for. This is why I am glad that there was another protest against the badly run Alden Village North. Alden is a deadly place for children. It needs to be shut down. I hope that the Illinois Department of Public Health will soon, finally, close it down. I hope to attend more protests against it. Closing Alden Village North would be a step towards all children being treated with dignity and respect.
For children’s rights
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Thanks to continued effort by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, the Detroit Crime Commission and the Michigan Women’s Foundation launched a fund-raising initiative to pay for testing rape kits, 11,000 of which were discovered five years ago in a Detroit Police Department warehouse, some of them over 30 years old. Despite this good news, I remembered an old anti-Vietnam war poster: “It will be a great day when the schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.” Will overwhelmed prosecutors now have to become experts in fundraising? Fundamental priorities in our society still need re-thinking.
Another grandmother for peace
Community organizations are gearing up to assist 37,000 Detroit residents whose homes are up for the 2015 Wayne County Tax Auction. Many renters and owners have no idea that their houses can be sold out from under them. In a one-square mile neighborhood considered to be viable, 32% of the homes are foreclosed, with 11% occupied houses. Organizations are using electronically available data, mapped by the city last year with major support from real estate developers, to reach their neighbors to fight these foreclosures, recognized by many residents as a way of getting rid of impoverished and minority Detroiters.
I pledge $50 a month to News and Letters Committees. So far, my pension has not been reduced.
What gives me pause is seeing, at the lead of that Paris March, state officials and war criminals like Netanyahu—who has not answered for his state-sponsored terrorisms—and other leaders who rhetorically declare, “Je suis Charlie,” who may have their own state-sponsored censorships as well as ethnic cleansings and terrorisms at home and elsewhere, from Rwanda’s genocide to the Armenian genocide.
Some claimed that the more than a million people who marched in Paris on Jan. 11 were “following” reactionary leaders like Netanyahu. But they overlooked the fact that the government leaders were not leading the march but conducting a photo op on an empty street shut off to the public by security forces. They do not represent the true humanity of masses of people who really do want to transform the world.
RECALLING MARY JO
In commemoration of what would have been the 70th birthday of Mary Joan Schmidt (Mary Jo Grey): Mary Joan devoted her life to the proletarian movement. When the roll call of the revolution is announced, her name will be on the honor list. I am glad that I was able to meet her. Though she is no longer with us, her spirit lives on in News and Letters.