From the July-August 2015 issue of News & Letters
BLACK LIVES AS SUBJECT
The revolts in Ferguson and Baltimore involved development of consciousness of self as Subjects with power to transform. The Ayotzinapa revolt is for us in Mexico what Black Lives Matter is for the U.S. When these students become Subjects, action becomes masses in motion. This is happening all over the world.
Slavery was a particular struggle for Black people in the U.S. for centuries, but Black people are also bound to the universal of the world today. Some say that Black Lives Matter is a bourgeois appeal to universal human rights. But that is not what the movement is about. The history of Blackness is a history of exploitation and most recently of abandonment. BLM is not just a scream for human rights but a scream of creation of a Black political Subject.
Youth I meet in Black Lives Matter have a vision of a different society beyond not getting killed or jailed. The ISO is focusing on identity politics as some huge problem of BLM. The real relations in this society, including the particular relationship between white people and Black youth, cannot be wished away. You have to be actively working through that human relation.
The miseducation or non-education of Black and Brown youth is another form of state violence. Yet panelists I heard at the Left Forum on a “Black Liberation Manifesto for the 21st Century” still need to appreciate that the masses they hope to guide can contribute to the theoretical direction of the movement.
A Black youth at a protest said, “It’s not about Black and white. I just want to be human.” When he says all lives matter, it’s not the same as when Bill O’Reilly says it. Whites like him are imagining they already live in this post-racial utopia. Reactionaries don’t say “Black lives matter” because they fear condemning themselves.
The Left got away from the centrality of the Black movement. Black people fleshing out the self-determination of the idea on the ground makes the crucial difference in freedom today. That is the kind of idea we need to revive.
RUSSIA IN CRISIS
One thing that is worrying me is that, at a time when all media attention is focused on Ukraine, there is a lack of interest to what is happening in Russia itself. The list of repressed socialists is growing, these are the people fighting at the forefront against the Russian aggression, and they are fully forgotten by international left and labor movements.
Russian labor activist
NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US
“What kind of labor will I be allowed to do?” is a question of people with disabilities. There is a tracking of people with disabilities to be a Walmart greeter or to work at McDonald’s. One young man said that after working as a greeter for six months he realized it was terrible. He had higher aspirations. Yet rather than asking what he could do with his artificial limbs, other employers would look at his missing limbs and say, “We don’t think you can do what we need.” They complained about him being a fire hazard. People hope to be listened to, rather than just reduced to their disabilities, having decisions made about their lives by politicians who don’t care about them. “Nothing about us without us” is our motto.
I am pleased that I came across this dynamite publication in these times of imperialism. I especially admire the fact that N&L has a disabilities news section inclusive of all: race, religion, gender, disability and politics.
Prisoners at New York City’s notorious Rikers Island prison who have any sort of mental diagnosis or received medication inside are being released almost 12 hours after regular prisoners—so late that they are denied access to social service agencies, many of which close at 5:00 PM. People with any sort of mental diagnosis receive secondhand treatment, whether in prison or in a hospital.
Recently out from Rikers
New York City
HOMELESSNESS IN L.A.
Downtown Los Angeles is being gentrified. The authorities want Skid Row out of there. Little Tokyo is being gentrified, too. It used to be cheap enough for artists to live there. This is the area where the women’s center is, dealing with women who are homeless as a result of domestic abuse. It is also a place where people with disabilities can come out, instead of being confined in their homes. Every corner is wheelchair-accessible. Skid Row organizing allies with renters, too, who are losing their homes due to home prices rising. Home-care workers, lots of them Black and Latina women, are there at the struggle for a $15 minimum wage.
CENTRAL CANADA ALLIANCE
In Canada there is an ominous new “Central Canada Alliance” between Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Québec Premier Philippe Couillard against the other provinces. So much for “Canadian unity”! Wynne, because she is a Lesbian, presents herself as an “empowerment” figure, though she only empowers the very rich. She claims that Ontario is a “have-not” province, though it has 40% of the population and already dominates Canada oppressively. Just as Couillard is pushing the “Plan Nord” appropriation of Québec territory and resources for international corporations, Wynne has the “Ring of Fire” development in Northern Ontario, which they both intend to implement by the theft of Québec hydroelectric power—without any consent from the people of either province.
D. Chêneville, Ti-Ouistiti
California and Québec
PERSPECTIVES & PHILOSOPHY
One of the things I like most in the Draft Perspectives Thesis (“Decaying social order shows need for philosophy, revolution,” May-June N&L) is the role philosophy plays. “Philosophy is no less indispensable than activism for the movement to result in the kind of fundamental transformation needed.” It poses that, in Egypt, “lacking a philosophy of revolution, the movement fell prey to capitalist ideology that substituted elections for real self-determination,” and philosophically critiques Left parties in Greece and in Spain. We are referring here to a philosophy not separated from the movement from masses: a philosophy that goes to practice and therefore aids the self-determination of the Idea of revolution.
Masses have their own dialectic and create “spontaneously” their own organizations. The main objective of a group like News and Letters Committees is not that the masses “join” this organization, but to aid the masses and other thinkers to unchain the dialectic (in thought and in action) of their liberation movements. Marxist-Humanism points toward the self-determination of the Idea as an historical need to overthrow capitalism. This activity requires the mediation of organization (philosophically rooted), but not organization as a fixed particular.
ELDERLY TO THE STREETS?
My 94-year-old mother resides in an assisted living and supported living home. She called in tears about a notice posted on the bulletin board informing residents of impending budget cuts that Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to make and how the proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid could cause the facility to close and displace all its residents, with most of them having no place to go. The residents and staff of the facility got together and sent over 200 postcards to legislators demanding that they not make the cuts and letting them know that the residents will lose their home if they do. Now, my mother calls me every day to find out what is going on. She admits that she always felt that because she is a white, middle-class citizen, she would never have to worry about things like this. She has always complained about me being an activist. Not anymore.
WOMEN AND YEMEN HALF-PEACE
Yemen’s peace talks in Geneva: “Congrats, you have an all-male panel!” Keep on excluding women, “half” of the society, and you’ll end up with “half” peace, idiot patriarchal male politicians! Only one female, among dozens of males. They didn’t even bother to put her in the pictures. The point is, gender equality must be taken seriously in the representation of the different sides in these talks.
The electricity generating station in Sana’a, Yemen, has been out of service since April 12. We are living here without any public services. The situation is more horrific than is being shown in the media. We sometimes stay three days without electricity, then it comes only for one hour. Actually we are in hell. Today people who want to move from one street to another have to ride lorries instead of buses and taxis because of the lack of petroleum products and their hiked-up price. Then there was the awful day when a massive explosion rocked the capital of Yemen. Saudi-led coalition warplanes targeted a missile depot in Mount Noqum. It caused an unknown number of deaths and injures of Yemeni civilians. Thick black smoke rose skyward, and other debris was scattered across residential areas, terrifying the residents of the city. Such actions demonstrate that all the parties engaged in the conflict in Yemen don’t care about civilians’ safety.
LABOR AND CLIMATE JUSTICE
“People’s Climate Movement-NY: Organizing for Next Steps” brought together at the Left Forum some of the organizations that had participated in the September 2014 People’s Climate March. Speakers from DC37 (a union of mostly public employees) spoke of difficulties in organizing around climate justice as a union issue. Ray Figueroa of the Community Garden Coalition indicated that activists in the South Bronx recognized the inextricable linkage of issues, as in their effort to stop Fresh Direct from getting taxpayer dollars to garage their delivery trucks in the South Bronx. The trucks pollute and Fresh Direct siphons jobs from, and doesn’t serve, poor communities and food deserts. However, no one mentioned the reasons they decided not to march to the UN Headquarters in September, a political decision that diluted the impact of the march.
Susan Van Gelder
DIALECTIC & WOMEN’S LIBERATION
“The tape machine has been the ‘magic box’ that recorded what [masses] think” (“The dialectic and women’s liberation,” May-June N&L) captures the essence of the relation between theory and practice in a Marxist-Humanist organization. Because “the self-development is not of the careerist woman, but the woman who thought she didn’t know how to speak.” Correspondence, the tape machine, are then transformed into revolutionary means, for they let us know the voice of the “voiceless,” the practice as a form in itself of theory. However, that is not enough: correspondence and the tape machine turn really into that just when we “are rooted in philosophy.”
Women in a two-year long strike here are creating with their actions of resistance, with their “simple” thoughts, no less than a new world, with new human relations, in practice as well as in theory. With what is happening today in Turkey and the Middle East, could we say that women are there the most important element (not the only one) in the process of social uprooting?
VOICES FROM BEHIND THE BARS
Transgender women in the New York City prison system who have had their names and genders legally changed are being housed with male inmates. Also, prisoners who previously received estrogen in patch form (the safest form according to specialists) are being denied the patch and thus forced to take estrogen pills, which are notorious for causing blood clots that can be fatal. The prison medical establishment does not care about the quality of care prisoners receive.
Thank you for the gift subscription to N&L—and for keeping it a printed newspaper. It’s a voice of the people, especially those trapped behind these walls of oppression and repression, who do not have access to the Internet. N&L is our form of social media, and keeps us abreast of what’s going on in the real world—and not just what the government-controlled TV media is pumping through. N&L is always an interesting read. And I read every word in every issue.
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