From the September-October 2020 issue of News & Letters
BLACK REVOLT AND RACISM
The “Wall of Moms” idea is great. But I think a lot of people are missing the point. Trump’s thugs say they are coming to Chicago to police Black people in Black neighborhoods who they deem criminals at a moment when an entire movement arose to say no to police violence, and is calling for abolition or defunding of the police. Sending in troops is the state’s answer to the movement—to come in and police Black people in Black neighborhoods in the name of fighting crime. To make it look legit, the white supremacist Chicago Police Department union president even requested Trump send his goons.
Mad as hell
It is a relief to see the image of the Confederate battle flag removed from the state flag of Mississippi. Yet the the state of Georgia flag is far worse: a full-blown “Star and Bars”—the actual “national” flag of the Confederacy—is hiding in plain sight. Governor Sonny Perdue made it the official flag in 2003 and he knew exactly what he was doing. Georgia is carrying the worst baggage from Civil War days: the lowest minimum wage in the nation, $5.15; a Workers Compensation system stripped so bare that it has created life-threatening situations for thousands of injured workers; one of the worst instances of voter suppression in over 50 years was instituted; and several recent racist police killings. The Stone Mountain monument stands as a nuisance that attracts diehard segregationists. Georgia is one of the worst states for taking protective measures against COVID-19.
San Francisco Bay Area
John Lewis, the young advocate of direct action to achieve social gains, had little in common with the Congressman Lewis became. (See “Remembering John Lewis and Bloody Sunday: Racist barbarity spawned new forms of revolt,” Sept.-Oct. 2020 N&L) His 1963 speech at the March on Washington was harsh in its criticism of the Kennedy administration, and march leaders forced Lewis to tone it down. Once part of the Beltway establishment, Lewis was often on the wrong side of issues central to Black liberation.
How do we best honor such a human being, such a moral force as John Lewis? We continue to resist injustice. We continue to insist on the beloved community. And we continue to challenge ourselves—how in these times can we best use our voices, our energies, our resources and our lives toward these ends?
You are in this struggle not only for the liberation of others, but for yourself as part of humanity. Beginning there is the way through which all struggles can unite in solidarity under a banner of a multifaceted human liberation. No one needs you to free them. We free ourselves, with each other, through struggle. The notions of being an ally and privilege can limit your idea of freedom. The privilege to walk down the street while white without being killed is not freedom. It’s the bare minimum expected just to live! It doesn’t mean white or male or heterosexual privilege doesn’t exist. It does! And the lack of it among oppressed groups is deadly. Equality is important and worth struggling for. But equality in a messed up, hierarchical, class-based world isn’t freedom and is never possible for all. If you are radical, your hunger won’t be quenched by getting a piece of the pie, though you need to eat in order to live. But you want to make a new pie, or new world for all, including yourself, no matter your privilege in the current one.
DIALECTICS OF LIBERATION
In the Writings of Raya Dunayevskaya column “From Black mass revolt to Freedom” (July-August, 2020) written in response to the revolts of 1967, she wrote: “Now that a new page in the dialectics of liberation—its thought as well as its struggles—has been opened, the question is: where to now?” This summer we witnessed the largest protest movement ever in response to police killings of Black people. Led by young Black women and men activists, it is a new page in the dialectics of liberation. Yet, it is in danger of being swallowed up by Democratic Party politics or even by corporate America suddenly “discovering” that Black Lives Matter. By submerging the magnificent protests into old categories of thought and action, rather than reaching for the fullness of a philosophy of liberation that calls for the total uprooting of racism, classism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia of capitalism and reconstruction on new, human beginnings, aren’t we in danger of stopping halfway? Of course, we need to get rid of Trump. But the only way to do that is via concretizing in real life Marx’s “revolution in permanence” that ends humanity’s prehistory and begins our liberatory future.
Our school district is sending teachers and students back to summer school—it seems like an experiment to see if teachers will go back, or will be forced back, and if parents will send students. I will not be sending my daughter right away. I don’t feel it is safe for everyone. Our present school board rarely communicates with parents: despite social media, robocalls, and parents being more available now, we get no texts, and at meetings you have to fight for three minutes of public comment. The district wants to partner with the community. But the community wanted to open Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy as a COVID-19 test site. The district refused the community request.
Parent and public school graduate
Electoral politics will not bring a new society, but it tells us important things about where we are. The growing social movements and discontent are having an impact even on the undemocratic U.S. political system. Recently, Cori Bush, a Black woman who was active in the Ferguson protests after Michael Brown was murdered by the police, defeated 20-year incumbent Lacy Clay in a primary election in Missouri for the U.S. House; and Marquita Bradshaw, who started as an environmental justice fighter against the Memphis Defense Depot in her teens, stunned the Tennessee Democratic Party establishment by defeating their anointed candidate in a statewide primary for the U.S. Senate. A new generation is moving in new directions, and elections are one part of it.
HISTORY AND FREEDOM
Many people think that removing statues of those who engaged in crimes against humanity—such as Christopher Columbus or leaders of the Confederacy—is a waste of time or that they are just part of our history. I believe keeping their statues in public spaces honors them and perverts history. Hitler was an important part of German history but the German government does not allow his statue in public spaces. Even the Spanish government stripped Columbus of his titles and jailed him temporarily for his enslavement of the Caribbean Indigenous and for brutally murdering those who resisted. Those Italian Americans who use Columbus as a figure to represent their contribution to U.S. society would recoil in shock if they knew what crimes he and his brother Bartolomeo committed in the “New World.” There are other Italians that Italian Americans can honor in place of Columbus, such as Giuseppe Garibaldi or Giuseppe Mazzini, who were instrumental in the unification of Italy in 1870. Not learning from our history will prevent us from solving the racism, prejudice and xenophobia that afflict this country.
Thomas Siracuse (Siragusa)
Garibaldi would be a particularly apt choice to replace statues of Columbus since he fought to liberate Uruguay and Brazil and was offered command of the Union Army early in the Civil War. He refused the appointment since he insisted that he would only fight to end slavery and Lincoln was still pettifogging on the issue at the time. To top it off, Garibaldi lived for a time on Staten Island. He stood for freedom both in the old world and new. He is a symbol for the Italian-American immigrants to America, like Sacco and Vanzetti, Carlo Tresca and Vincenzo Vacirca.
Dylan, an Italian American
Thanks for writing “The Gig Economy’s Highway toward Increasing Surplus Labor,” posted July 14. I’m an Uber driver in a medium-sized city and, wow, these past few months have been tough. Unemployment wasn’t worth it for me because I would only qualify for the $600 per week which is now over. It’s been tough just keeping everything safe/clean in my car, let alone the notion that I may not be able to pay my bills. I can’t imagine what it will be like when Ubers drive themselves…
Class society is based on the few exploiting the millions. The hope is that workers will rise to the occasion. There have been 500 strikes in the U.S. just in July. The system wants to crush them. This uprising is not alone Black Lives Matter. It’s all people who are fed up with this system. They know the system has no answer for them.
FIGHTING THE RIGHT WING
Thanks to Adele for her review of the The Power Worshippers by Katherine Stewart (see “Power Worshippers,” July-Aug. 2020, N&L). I have family members who have fallen for this movement, I’m sorry to say. Some are part of the movement with eyes wide open, believing that is how this world should be. There is no reasoning with them. Others are ignorantly part of the movement and I think would be horrified, to one extent or another, if they knew the real intentions. Christian nationalism must be revealed for what it is and be fought. We who want a truly human world must show what it is we are for in contrast to Christian nationalism. Eyes may be opened, minds might be changed.
I’ve been a white far-right-wing person all my life. I don’t remember making that choice. It’s, I guess, bred into us Southern whites. But since I’ve been reading N&L and other papers, I’m growing away from racism and far-right thinking. I feel so sad for the way non-whites, Gays, etc., are being treated all over the world. I feel sad the way we are treating animals and planet Earth, our home. I need to help others come to this Marxist-Humanist way of thinking, which is hard due to being in an American white prison gang, “Aryan Nation.” If I can change from white racist to a more Marxist way of thinking, then anyone can. We must stand up and fight for equal rights for all humankind and planet Earth. We are shattered by hate and fear, divided by religion created by far-right people to control everyone. The time for revolution is now in this moment. Never has the setting been more open for a revolution to work. Your paper and Earth First have helped me liberate myself. I hope I can help other people in here come to this way of thinking with the help of great papers like N&L.
Have you noticed how each “liberal” decision Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts handed down was timed to saturate media coverage before he went on to issue horrendous blows to democracy—like the case on partisan gerrymandering in 2019 or the final two decisions in summer 2020 that prevent any hope of voters being able to review Trump’s suspicious tax returns before the election. Roberts has stepped into a kind of fixer role as the de-facto “median” judge. Also, as a member of the conservative Federalist Society, Roberts’ decisions are consistent with someone who is working out a long-term strategy for continuing corporate and religious dominance over U.S. law and society.