From the March-April 2021 issue of News & Letters
TRUMPISM, RACISM AND THE SPECTER OF FASCISM
“Trump’s election obsession shreds a flawed democracy” (web article, Jan. 10) reveals extensive suppression of Black and Brown votes and the many ways, overt and covert, that this is carried out. It also shows us how resistance to voter suppression was led by Stacey Abrams’s Fair Fight movement in Georgia, which made a difference in the election outcomes. Similar resistance, small and large scale, also flipped swing states Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. It was not just young voters galvanized by the Black Lives Matter movement but long-time voters learned concretely that we not only have to get out the vote; we have to protect it afterwards. They are also seeing how limited elections are for real change; how “going back to normal” will not answer their quest for new human relations, a new society.
The impeachment trial is very dangerous because non-revolutionaries will say, “It’s over; Trumpism is not the issue.” But it’s clear that all the politicians who created Trump’s power are still there. Nobody in mainstream media talks about their responsibility. I am disgusted that there are no recall efforts. Pence is being rehabilitated as the great hero because he did his job after four years of being up Trump’s butt and building his road. Can’t have unity based only on hope.
The attack on the Capitol is being used as an excuse for a new law to increase powers of the FBI and other law enforcement to target “domestic terrorism.” Joe Biden, who strongly supported the PATRIOT Act after 9/11/2001, is expected to push it. But these agencies don’t need more power, they just need to act against right-wing terrorists instead of Black Lives Matter, climate justice, immigrants’ rights, feminist, Queer, disability rights and other left-leaning protesters who are overwhelmingly nonviolent. The problem is that law enforcement sees the right-wingers as their people and most of the rest of us as the enemy. More powers will be used in the same biased, repressive way.
Many points made in “Trumpist coup reveals fascist threat and Left’s philosophic void” (web article, Jan. 10) help explain the grim context which led up to the Jan. 6 coup attempt, such as the destruction of working-class organizations and the Left’s failure to raise a vision of a totally new, non-capitalist society which the mass freedom struggles are seeking. Still, some unions like UNITE HERE sent laid-off hospitality workers to canvass in Black and Latinx neighborhoods, as did Wisconsin’s worker center Voces de la Frontera (Labor Notes, December 2020). Their efforts helped defeat Trump.
The election, important for fighting fascism, does not reach for a new society, which is why Marxist-Humanism concentrates on supporting mass freedom struggles with a philosophy of liberation. Since then, Republican legislators have not only back-pedaled their condemnation of Trump’s attempted coup but strengthened their attachment to fascism. Even someone who called for the execution of Nancy Pelosi, Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, shows no remorse and fears no retribution. She won’t be recalled; she won her district with 75% of the vote.
Susan Van Gelder
VACCINE INEQUALITY AND INJUSTICE
It is enraging to hear one story after another of the rich and well-connected jumping the line for COVID-19 vaccine ahead of first responders and the elderly. Gov. DeSantis set up one distribution point accessible only to an enclave of the super-rich in Florida, while there have been multiple cases of suburban whites with superior internet skills showing up in South Side Chicago neighborhoods they would normally avoid like the plague. Officials across the country have blamed shockingly low rates of vaccination among Blacks on their resistance to the science rather than on the roadblocks preventing delivery to them. It is a majority of Trump supporters that polls indicate intend to avoid being vaccinated for a “hoax” disease that has struck down half a million people.
Waiting for vaccine
Governments across the world have shown a marked preference to respond to the pandemic by imposing social controls without enforcing public health measures like making workplaces and housing safer and providing the materials people need to protect themselves. New figures show a growing gap between Black and white life expectancy in the U.S.—in one year of pandemic, Black life expectancy fell by three years! This parallels the new but same old twist of skewed access to vaccines. The same type of phenomenon is also seen in the total lack of measures to protect women from increased domestic violence or to make shelters safer from contagion.
In New York people age 50 and up are eligible for a vaccine, but there is not enough vaccine to go around. In Connecticut it’s 65 and up. This causes strife within the population, acting out the capitalistic ethos of competition—not a question of sharing our gifts. My education helps me do better in society, not to broaden my mind. The values are to be competitive in accumulation of things—it’s not what you are but what you have. Beyond capitalism, our knowledge is for enriching our lives and understandings.
Women and men, please beware that a possible side effect of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for COVID-19 is swelling of the lymph nodes. That swelling is often a sign of breast cancer, BUT as a side effect of the vaccine, it is NOT a sign of breast cancer. The Society of Breast Imaging recommends waiting four weeks after you’re vaccinated to get a mammogram. For more information, go to https://www.webmd.com/vaccines/covid-19-vaccine/news/20210211/covid-vaccine-reaction-can-mimic-breast-cancer-symptoms.
Breast cancer survivor
“Vaccine Rollout Inflames Global Inequalities” (Jan.-Feb. 2021 N&L) made me think: “to have one basis for healthcare and another for life is a priori a lie.”
On the eve of Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, beginning a month-long mail balloting unionization election, President Biden made news by recommending that workers vote YES to affiliate with the RWDSU. I hope that means that, despite Union membership in the private work force dropping from 38% to 6% over the last 70 years, Biden sees a political advantage now in being publicly pro-union. More likely Biden knew he would fail to enact the highly popular raise in the minimum wage to $15 an hour (by 2025) and positioned himself as pro-worker in word if not in deed.
CAN HUMANITY SURVIVE?
I continue to be stunned by governors like those in Texas who lift mask mandates or refuse to call for them in the first place. The U.S. had several opportunities to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases but couldn’t do it because people in and out of government refused to wear or mandate the wearing of masks. It’s hard to believe that humanity can survive the pandemic or the coming global warming catastrophe that is just around the corner when science is ignored and the deaths of hundreds of thousands seem meaningless to millions.
Current prosecutors determined that Lamar Johnson was wrongly convicted in 1995 based on prosecutorial misconduct and fabricated police evidence. Two other men confessed that they are the ones who committed the murder. But the Missouri Supreme Court says local prosecutors have no right to file a motion for a new trial this long after the corrupt conviction. The state Attorney General could do it but refuses. You call that justice?
A disgusting professor at Harvard, no less, is promoting the lie that the Korean “comfort women” were actually paid prostitutes who had contracts with the Japanese government. In arguing against him, other professors rightly say he is ignoring 30 years of study and scholarship. He is also ignoring what the women themselves actually have said and the movement they started in order to say it. It would have been nice to have one of those academics say that the women testified numerous times that they were raped and prostituted against their will. Then 92-year-old Lee Yong-soo, who was kidnapped by Japanese soldiers during World War II and raped repeatedly, spoke up. When will we learn to TRUST WOMEN?
MARX’S HUMANISM AND LOVE
Urszula’s perspective on “Marx’s Humanist Essays” (Nov.-Dec. 2020 N&L) brings to mind The Communism of Love by Richard Gilman-Opalsky. Both show Marx’s concern was not how changes in capitalism’s “relationality” (commodification) could be achieved. His concern was relationality (society) itself. Love is a transformative, humanizing catalyst. A relationality based on love takes us from “beloved object” to a revolutionary “beloved person.” There is nothing more human and Marxist. Glad N&L is back!
WHY READ N&L?
I like N&L just like it is, and share it with anyone who is interested. Sometimes it’s great for pissing off the brainwashed Trump-holes too! (If I ever do get my stimulus money, I WILL donate some! Until then, I’m broke.)
CNN has been driving me crazy; we use The New York Times to start our wood stove. They leave out things I see in N&L. It’s a feast, the nuts and bolts that the authors bring in. I’m reading a paper that tells me something and gives me purpose.
Karen Lewis, 1953-2021
The City of Chicago lost a powerful voice for teachers, and for workers in general, with the death of Karen Lewis, former President of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). She was the face of militant opposition to the welcoming of corporate profiteering at the expense of education, students and teachers.
The opposition within the CTU called CORE (Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators) defeated a union leadership in 2010 that had not pushed back against the “education reform” of Mayor Richard M. Daley. He had opened the door to private charter schools by shuttering dozens of high schools and elementary schools in Black and Latinx neighborhoods. He then scapegoated the teachers in those schools, firing them all.
Just two years later in 2012, Lewis led the seven-day CTU strike to victory with enthusiastic participation from parents and students that obstructed then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plans to rapidly privatize the public schools. There were rallies of thousands of teachers and supporters every day of the strike. That strike built on the momentum of renewed militancy in defense of union rights in 2011 against attacks by Tea Party legislators—thousands of unionists had gathered to commemorate Haymarket martyrs 125 years later, 20 times the number present 25 years earlier.
When Karen Lewis got a diagnosis of brain cancer just as she was expected to run for Mayor in 2015, Chicago lost out.
For four more years Emanuel was able to treat the schools and the city with the same open contempt he displayed toward Lewis. Karen Lewis was loved, partly because Emanuel hated her, but primarily because she represented the power of rank-and-file unionists standing up.