From the July-August 2016 issue of News & Letters
Dear Readers: This page is yours. It is about what you’re thinking and feeling about today’s happenings; what makes you angry and must change. It is for you to express what has gone right and needs to continue, or what in your city, country, workplace or neighborhood you want to comment on. Send those comments to us at our national office or to our email address, both of which can be found by clicking here, or you can add your comments in the form below. We look forward to hearing from you.
HATE: ORLANDO TO BREXIT
I have been in a state of sorrow and shock about the Orlando massacre. I broke down to both my therapist and my mother, overwhelmed by grief and by the hate that all Gay people experience here in the U.S. and around the world. My mother asked if I was Gay and I said yes, I consider myself a Lesbian. She said that she did not know what that meant and suggested we drop the subject. Her initial reaction to the massacre was, “Well, they were only Gay weren’t they?” and that she didn’t know any Gay people. Now she knows one: her Lesbian daughter, although she will never acknowledge me as such. For my part, the day after the deaths I wore the most flowery and colorful dress I had as my way of saying: You bastards may gun us down and beat us and rape us, but you will never stop us from being proud of what we are.
New York City
Every time gun control has become a central topic in the U.S., some group has been thrown under the bus. The first time legislation was passed to restrict gun ownership was to disarm the Black Panthers. Republicans and their Democratic allies at the time could unite on what today they would call a threat to the Second Amendment. They didn’t mind because it was disarming Black people. Lax gun laws are a serious problem. But now people are calling for “Terror watch lists,” because of the alleged threat of foreigners shooting innocent Americans. Liberals call for an expansion of the FBI’s ambit on Muslim communities, an organization that has historically shown itself to be nothing short of criminal. Once again, liberals are throwing the most disenfranchised under the bus.
Jo Cox’s murder is just horrific, the outcome of inhuman political ideology. Her murder challenges those who think, “but I wouldn’t pull the trigger (or plunge the knife)” to examine the logical outcome of their ideas, their prejudices. The mass shootings at Pulse in Orlando, at Planned Parenthood in Colorado, in Charleston, S.C., are the outcome of those in power legitimizing and fomenting racist, sexist, homophobic ideology. We had politicians say after the murders at Planned Parenthood that, while they mourn and condemn the loss of life, they mourn and condemn the loss of all the “dead babies killed” by abortion too. And they pretend to see no link between this and the nut jobs’ “justifiable homicide” arguments? And they continue to hold witch-hunt hearings based on lies to close down Planned Parenthood, all the while introducing more laws to limit women’s autonomy.
We workers have a lot of legitimate grievances against global capital and its ravages. The established powers worldwide conduct unending attacks against our lives and livelihoods. But, like Trumpism, the “Brexit” politicians used anti-immigrant racism and narrow nationalism to promote their campaigns. Only international labor solidarity can give us an exit from capitalism.
The racism and xenophobia central to the British campaign to exit the European Union are one aspect of the rise of the Far Right in Europe. Disgracefully, part of the Left also tags along. Nothing could be more relevant than Raya Dunayevskaya’s 1968 letter on then-MP Enoch Powell’s racism, which inspired much of the “Brexit” drive. As she wrote then, “We must tell the proletariat of the technologically developed world that the working people themselves must face the fact that they lived off the fat of the land from the technologically undeveloped countries. Marx showed that at the root of the freedom of wage labor was not only its own struggles for freedom, but also the fact that slavery still existed in Africa, in Asia, in the oppressed minorities within the developed country….Instead of looking down upon the ‘immigrants,’ the British, as the American, as the East European, ought to hail the birth of the new Third World, especially the African Revolutions, for once again showing us the power of the ideas of freedom, that the will to freedom, even when unarmed and facing the mightiest empires, can win.”
Syria solidarity activist
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Racism did not stop in America. It was born in America, it lives today right here in America. Believe it or not, somewhere in America 10 people have been wrongfully convicted and in most cases they are either poor, come from violent communities, and are Brown or Black. Here in Chicago in June, the nation watched a Black commander found innocent despite DNA linking him to the crime. Today it’s a verdict that attempts to question the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore and that the officers who killed him, did not really kill him. We must scream and holler the mistakes of the system into their ears. We cannot allow innocent blood to be shed without accountability. Today it is Gray and tomorrow it will be another case of injustice ruled in favor of the system to continue their systematic pattern of abuse and murder of innocent people.
Tortured and framed by cops
How much Black Lives Matter has shaken up the life and thought of the U.S. is reflected in a dissent issued by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. It is no surprise to see the most reactionary, utterly false ideas written into Supreme Court rulings. What is unusual is to see the language of the movement from below written into an opinion at the highest level of the judiciary. Demolishing Clarence Thomas’s ruling legalizing evidence police find in some illegal stops, she included clear references to “Black Lives Matter” and Eric Garner’s “I can’t breathe”:
“It is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny….[This ruling] says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged. We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are ‘isolated.’ They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere….They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter, too, our justice system will continue to be anything but.”
In April, members of Los Angeles Community Action Network, Black Lives Matter and Stop LAPD Spying Coalition met in Chinatown to support the Chinatown Community Economic Development and Asian Pacific Islanders’ press conference and speakout on the ongoing proliferation of police killings of mostly unarmed Black men and women. We were demanding justice for Akai Gurley, an unarmed Black man killed by NYPD officer Peter Liang over a year ago. A jury found Peter Liang guilty of manslaughter, but he was sentenced to probation and community service. Their press release said in part: “just as the Black community has stood with Chinese victims of police violence—we must stand with the Gurleys and hold individual police accountable for abuses of authority.”
MUHAMMAD ALI AND DR. KING
Did you know that when Martin Luther King said, “We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them 8,000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem,” that he was directly drawing from Muhammad Ali? Ali said: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over.” This is the kind of man that Muhammad Ali was, an organic intellectual who had wisdom way beyond the books.
One cannot help but be struck with how alike sounding were Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King, Jr. That alikeness brought to mind the quote from 19th Century freedom fighter Nat Turner about the universality of the idea of freedom. In 1831, in response to his prosecutor who did not believe him when he denied conspiring with others in a slave insurrection in another county, he said: “I see, sir, you doubt my word. But cannot you think that this same idea [freedom] prompted others as well as myself to this undertaking?”
DUTERTE IN THE PHILIPPINES
No “Left” excuses should be made for the President-Elect of The Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. When he advocates the murder of “criminals,” of “drug dealers,” it echoes the worst rhetoric of the U.S. Right from George Wallace on, and mirrors the practice of death squads like those that murder street kids in Brazil. Extra-judicial killings have significantly increased even before his swearing-in. Human rights groups are protesting. At the same time, Duterte wants to make the country more attractive to foreign investment, and much of the ruling class supports him in this. So whom will his death squads turn their attention to next? Let’s have no illusions.
NEWS & LETTERS READERS UNITE!
Do you have other subscribers in Santa Fe? I go to a lot of places where I ought to see News & Letters and they do not have it. Send me a small bundle of the paper and I will get them around. You cover things that do not appear anywhere else. I like your group and I like your editorials. I hope that you could put out a leaflet to explain yourself briefly and spread the word a lot wider. I would also like to get together with other N&L subscribers in Santa Fe and Albuquerque to see what we can do.
Santa Fe, N.M.
DEADLY ASSAULT ON WOMEN FROM U.S. TO ISRAEL
The Supreme Court’s decision on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was unexpected but so important! It may at least put a damper on the mass closings of clinics offering abortion and the inhuman state laws that made the “right” to an abortion a sick joke. I doubt, however, that it will stop the deadly assault on women from the Republicans and theocratic Right.
A group of women in Beit Shemesh, Israel, had to fight to remove so-called “modesty signs” plastered around their city that ordered women to wear long sleeves and skirts and no tight-fitting clothing. Other signs ordered them to keep off the sidewalks near synagogues and yeshivas. The women had already won one lawsuit and the Mayor of the town refused to remove the signs so they had to sue again! Now the municipality has to pay the women damages for its negligence and remove the damn signs. All religious fundamentalism harms women and this was outrageous.
I was angry to find that Bernie Sanders endorsed Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who is opposed to women’s right to control our own bodies. She voted to ban federal health coverage that includes abortion; she voted to stop stem cell research. Evidently, it is enough for Sanders that Kaptur has his position on trade policies. Well, you can sound like you care about workers, but those suffering the most from anti-abortion policies like Kaptur’s are poor women. If you care about the fact that the 1% has so much more money than everyone else, then you ought to do your damnedest to help those with less, not make their life harder by throwing barrier upon barrier in their way and forcing them to bear children they don’t want and may not be able to afford.
For 2014 the FBI absurdly lists 28 hate crimes against women targeted as women. Their narrow definition excludes the most common hate crime: violence of men against women, which includes rape and domestic violence. It was not so long ago that a husband’s violence against a wife was not even considered a crime unless he actually murdered her. This changed in the West only after the Women’s Liberation Movement showed the truth about it. Omar Mateen engaged in this hate crime against his first wife, though he did not kill her. There is no excuse for making a whole category of hate crimes invisible.