Fight Racism And Fight Poverty To Get The Justice We Need
From a whisper to a scream! From Ferguson to Baltimore, from Moral Mondays to Dream Defenders…. A new generation is in pursuit of justice.
The fight on America’s streets against police killings and for decent wages and job security cannot be won without a conscious fight to change the system. The old social order is in the grip of a revolutionary change. Work is changing forever as human labor increasingly cannot compete with robotics. Late stage capitalism with automated production simply does not need people in the paid workforce in the way that it used to, and permanent poverty is growing. What automation is exposing is what our national social discourse doesn’t discuss, the role class plays in keeping the rich richer and the poor poorer.
The struggle for economic and social justice is taking many different forms but fundamentally, the poor of all races and ethnicities are hurting the most. More and more people are falling into poverty. The engine driving this is class – the owners of giant factories, farms, shopping arenas and entertainment networks are the ones who profit from robotics – coupled with the mechanism of corporate dictatorship. Corporate dictatorship means that corporations have captured the allegiance of almost all public elected officials, so that the state uses its powers to support the welfare of corporations rather than the welfare of the public. In the various struggles against police murder and brutality, the people themselves have raised this issue of class.
Our elected officials are supporting this disaster by enabling a corporate dictatorship agenda, moving to prevent the working class from uniting in an effort to fight a system which no longer can provide food, housing, healthcare, education and better lives for the large majority of its people. A new Jim Crow terrorizes black and brown workers and increasingly it is being extended to poor workers of all colors. Everyday it becomes more apparent that the police protect and serve the ruling elite. It’s becoming clearer that the goal of militarized terror by the police against the growing groups of broke and temporary poor workers is to shut down their protests. Additionally, class leaders who dare to stand and fight for our rights are being persecuted, harassed and jailed.
What is clear is that poverty and racism work together to keep workers in what the ruling elite defines as their place. Capitalism is an economic system for making some people rich at the expense of others, and it’s rules require that some proportion of exploited workers will be poor. Racism and white supremacy, which were created along with the development of capitalism, determine which groups of workers will be exploited most ruthlessly. Without a fight against racism workers cannot rise out of poverty. Without a fight against poverty they cannot destroy racism.
There is a solution to this dilemma. Our vision of a future with more social and economic justice for all looks forward to a world where the microchipped algorithms and robotic controls that are steadily eliminating human labor are used to create abundance for everyone, instead of record profits for corporations, their executives and their stockholders. In community trainings we teach that the only way for workers to achieve abundance for everyone is to stop fighting each other for the crumbs that trickle down from corporate austerity policies. Workers need better, more creative ways of supporting each others’ causes, because all workers are under attack.
America’s Historic Shame continues unabated.
Last year protesters for justice encountered a cruelty that resembles the brutal attacks on the anti-segregation demonstrations of the 1960s. Demonstrators, men and women, black and white and other, were beaten and rounded up like cattle. Witnesses reported seeing officers forcefully push the barrels of assault rifles into the faces of the people they have sworn to protect. A bold, trigger-happy army occupied the streets of Ferguson. America watched in horror as the militarized police force treated all as criminals. That violence is back again. This generation is valiantly stepping up but no one section of our class or community can beat this corporate machine alone. We desperately need a plan to build a new solidarity movement.
A new generation has stepped onto the political stage in Ferguson…New York….Charleston… Baltimore… Cleveland … and so many other places. Their leaders survive by being temp workers, part-timers, low wage workers. They are part of a Global population working on the edges, almost always in or near poverty. Jim Crow actions are commonplace and the leaders of this new generation of protestors are dedicated to ending the Jim Crow carnage.
The elite are trying to corral the new generation. They are focusing their weapons of divide and conqueror to insure their dominance in the era of the robot revolution. To the brave warriors: let’s move quickly and follow the wisdom of political prisoner Rev. Edward Pinkney,
“We must say to all the people, Black, poor whites, red, yellow, brown, and everyone else, that we can win this fight if we fight together. It’s us against them. Its not one thing, it’s everything.”
Poverty On The Rise, it’s rising in our country and all over the world.
Some reports place the numbers of poor and near poor as high as 80% in the U.S. An Oxfam report showed that the combined wealth of the richest 1 percent will overtake that of the other 99 percent of people next year unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked. Oxfam’s research paper titled: Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More, shows that the richest 1 percent have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2014 and at this rate will be more than 50 percent in 2016. (Click HERE to read it) .
The revolutionary structural changes in the economy, the replacement of human workers by robotics, means this new poverty is permanent. It is creating new bonds for political working class unity. There is a new environment in which to educate about how the corporate ruling elite is re-doubling efforts to divide and conqueror along racial lines.
Attorney and author Michelle Alexander’s powerful, eye-opening book “The New Jim Crow” explains how the criminalization of African Americans has resulted in mass incarceration as a system for controlling the black poor. This has fueled whole new industries in both the private sector and the public sector as the poor are increasing criminalized. Most of these control systems were focused on inner city African Americans. But we see in the continued harassment by law enforcement that at any given time law enforcement officers are licensed to be judge, jury and executioner for any people who are poor, regardless of race or ethnicity.
The recent assassinations of 9 black worshippers in Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is also bringing into focus the special danger of what is called the Southernization of the nation. The South has traditionally led the nation in negative things like low wages, poverty, obesity and shrinking the social safety net while lagging behind in positive things like economic mobility and access to health care. And the South has a long history of terrorizing its poor population into accepting negative things, primarily by first terrorizing African Americans and then telling other races they should be happy because they’re not black. Today’s summary executions of unarmed African Americans are intertwined with the death grip of poverty. Today’s Jim Crow in the era of Corporate dictatorship rests on a long history of genocide, chattel slavery, terror, and brutality. At the end of the Civil War era legal and extra-legal “black codes” insured white supremacist domination and ultimately served that era’s big financial institutions by guaranteeing that African Americans would work for low wages or in debt peonage. The Southernization of the nation has played a persistent and lucrative role for big money interests in America. One important consequence was fostering the kinds of politics that forces people to work for wages that cannot sustain them or their families.
It’s not just centuries of poverty, it’s also persistent attacks on democracy, most recently through renewed efforts that make it harder to exercise the right to vote. These efforts are spreading from the South into the Midwest with new restrictions on voter registration, and into every state through the techniques of mass incarceration that Michelle Alexander’s book talks about.
The U.S. economic system has always exploited groups considered out-of-favor with the ruling elite, and that has historically included women. Women are still feeling the impact of that exploitation. One in every three American women either live in poverty or are right on the brink of it, according to a 2014 report on women in poverty. That’s 42 million women and 28 million girls. Nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. According to census data released in late 2014. Women are more likely to be poor in every major racial and ethnic group within the U.S. Young women aged 18 to 34 and older women are much more likely to be in poverty.
The Need to Control The Right To Protest Grievances
Today, because the gap between rich and poor is growing so explosively, the economic crisis is forcing governments at every level to maintain control of people who cannot find work, have no healthcare, have insufficient food or none at all and are losing their homes. Poverty is growing among all races in the working class while the rich of all colors get richer.
Under these conditions, police violence and the threat of arrest and imprisonment are directed against anyone, regardless of color, who is a threat to the system. If you’re unemployed and demanding a job, you’re a threat. If you’re demanding health care, you’re a threat. If you want education, or housing, or an end to poverty, or to stop the home foreclosures, you’re a threat. So the real enemy for workers is the system the police protect.
Corporations continue pushing workers out of the economy by preaching austerity while privatizing – and profitizing – everything in sight, by buying the votes of elected officials, by militarizing police forces to control dissent, and even by attacking democracy itself. Every economic gain and public service that workers and the middle income have built up since WWII is being torn down. Poverty is growing in the cities, towns, in the suburbs and across color lines.
Working people and their families are in dire straits, and need help as good jobs continue to disappear, wages and benefits plummet and all profits from robot-driven productivity gains flow to the 1%. The long-term answer is that workers have to use their class power to rise up in protest and build unity to fight against austerity and for “Black Lives Matter”.
This becomes especially important as both major parties have been captured by corporate interests, and the corporate goal is to make both parties into willing partners for achieving the corporate agenda.
Corporate Dictatorship – What is it?
The late General Motors’ CEO Charles Wilson made big news when he told a congressional hearing in 1953 that he once thought what was good for General Motors was good for the country and vice versa. In the mid 1980’s the Democratic Party openly abandoned its traditional working class platform to slavishly embrace the corporate dictatorship agenda of the super rich. From that point on the party has steadily and definitively moved to the right, steadily buying into the corporate war against workers, the nation’s war on the poor.
Global corporations are using their enormous stashes of money to convince both political parties – and the American people – that social policies which promote maximum corporate profits are best for everybody. THAT IS A LIE! It means waging war on working families, as every worker knows, and it amounts to a corporate dictatorship that savages democracy by ignoring the wishes of working people. Neither major party is willing to stand up for the rights or the needs of workers, who are being dragged into hardship and poverty in ever-increasing numbers as the shameful gap between rich and poor continues to widen to unprecedented proportions. The merger of corporations and government is increasing at a breakneck speed. These new formulations represent America’s 21st Century fascism
The needs of this new powerful force of corporate driven government require it to attack democracy and stifle the discontent of those increasingly impoverished by the system. On the other side a new generation is stepping up to fight for the people.
So we also see the coming together of a perfect storm. On the one hand there is a war on workers, jobs are not coming back. The first waves of mass layoffs and permanent layoffs began in the 1980s, first affecting industrial workers and then reverberating through the service economy. Now even knowledge workers are being affected as more and more production is automated, digitized and turned over to robots and computers.
The problem for the ruling class has become, how do they control the rise of a huge and growing new class of workers who are no longer needed? At the heart of this new class is the Black worker, who entered the industrial workforce late after a mass migration from the sharecropping fields of the old agricultural South. The ruling class relied on the historic forms of control that arose out of that sordid history of slavery and white supremacy. The target today is the new class as a whole, but the ruling class takes aim first at the Black worker who is at the core of this new class. It is a kind of racism that is based more on economic status than on skin color, but it is racism nonetheless.
A Militarized Police State
The centerpiece of the ruling class’ response is the formation and implementation of a police state, principally as a form of social control. The power of the State has been and is being utilized to mass incarcerate more than two million of our poor, Black, male & female, and young people. It is a mass incarceration that is designed to warehouse a new class that is deemed disposable, no longer needed in the new global economy.
Alongside this militarized police state is a new Jim Crow, including state sanctioned violence against unarmed civilians. While its focus has been African American its target is the many millions of poor and dispossessed. This is the new racism, directed against an emerging new class that includes the “ghetto blacks,” the “undocumented immigrant” and the white, so-called “trailer trash,” all increasingly temp workers. In other words, the class differences with the ruling class are emerging as the basis for the savage economic assault against the poor of all colors.
Connected to this is the steady assembling of political power by the corporate elite who have taken over our government. One good exploration of this is in investigative reporter Matt Taibbi’s current book “The Divide,“ which throws light on our two corrupt justice systems, a tough one for the poor and a lenient one for the corporate and financial elite. As the New York Times wrote in its review of “The Divide”:
“Violent crime has fallen by 44 percent in America over the past two decades, but during that same period the prison population has more than doubled, skewing heavily black and poor. In essence, poverty itself is being criminalized. Meanwhile, at the other end of the income distribution, an epidemic of white-collar crime has overtaken the financial sector, indicated, for instance, by a proliferation of record-breaking civil settlements. But . . . Wall Street has come, under President Obama, to enjoy near-total immunity from criminal prosecution. It had more to fear, ironically, when George W. Bush was president.”
The Way Forward: Building a powerful movement to fight racism & fight poverty.
This new generation that has stepped up to protest the police violence issue represents a powerful new social force. All across the country they refuse to be quiet or content with yet another appeasement on issues of systemic racism and oppression. As I noted earlier the vast majority are a new class of workers, greatly impoverished or heading towards it through low wage work, gentrified out of their affordable neighborhoods, or branded as criminals for trying to feed, house, and clothe their families. They are black, they are black and brown, they are black women, they are queer, they are young, they are women, they are disabled, they are often under 40 and they are finding their voice.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar has written in Time Magazine about how the current racial tensions are in fact part of a class war. While elections won’t solve the many problems we face in our nation, they do offer a unique opportunity to explore a new way forward. In a recent essay he notes that the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is refining its demands of the justice system and insisting that the various presidential candidates respond. Abdul Jabbar alerts us to reject the distraction of candidates who dismiss Black Lives Matter out of hand, and focus on going forward to advance the BLM goals.
The success of these courageous young leaders requires a new vision of what the age of robotics makes possible. Just imagine how all our lives would improve if the profits from robotics were turned to public good instead of private profit. We can’t stop racism unless we also fight poverty. The country’s steady drift toward Southernization serves the growing corporate dictatorship. It’s exemplified in Michigan, where we’ve seen not just the wholesale loss of jobs and homelessness, but also the suspension of democracy, the theft of public assets including public pensions and attacks on dissidents like Rev. Edward Pinkney. The 66-year-old community activist who stood up for poor black workers in Benton Harbor is serving a 2.5-10 year sentence on a bogus conviction of changing dates on recall petitions and can’t even get bail while he appeals his tainted conviction by an all-white jury. As he says, in Michigan, “Democracy has been stolen from the people. Water rights have been stolen. Poverty is growing. We, the people have nothing in common with the billionaires, their corporations and government. We must stand together for a new America,” Standing Together for a New America.”
As this new generation steps up to fight for all of our rights we have a new opportunity to move our fight from one for economic rights to one for political rights. To successfully fight forward against the rise of the police state and to stop the carnage against black folks and poor folks requires a specific plan to fight racism and poverty. Today a new solidarity movement for political power must be conducted or we will hang separately one by one.