RAY O’ LIGHT NEWSLETTERMay-June 2012
by ROSE BROWN
See RAY LIGHT’S ARTICLE ON: THE FIGHT FOR JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON MARTIN
Also included in this issue:
Student Victory in Colombia
“If You’re Not Outraged, You’re Not Paying Attention”
For over sixty years, hundreds of Canadian workers, organized in the Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW), built railroad locomotives in London, Ontario. Two years ago, the giant U.S. company, Caterpillar, Inc., purchased Electro-Motive Diesel Inc. and the London, Ontario plant became Caterpillar’s main plant for assembling locomotives in North America. The unionized Canadian workers were earning an average of thirty-five Canadian dollars an hour as well as good benefits and pensions.
Caterpillar, Inc., has a history of union-busting in the USA; it is a Fortune 500 company that made a record profit of $4.9 billion dollars last year, including a 60% profit increase of $1.55 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011 alone! In an effort to take advantage of the global economic crisis and no doubt encouraged by the many concessions that the company had previously wrested from the more class collaborationist leadership of the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) in the USA, Caterpillar pushed the CAW for huge (50%) cuts in wages and benefits.
On January 1, 2012, after six months of union-company negotiations, Caterpillar locked the workers out of their workplace in an effort to force these concessions on the workers. The CAW workers set up picket lines and resisted the company’s demands with slogans such as “50% CUT in wages and benefits: NOT this time Caterpillar!” and “CATER$ILLAR – Record profits, Record CEO Compensation, Record demands for concessions.” On January 21, 2012, there was a huge community-labor protest rally of around 15,000 in support of the workers’ resistance to these outrageous company demands.
On February 3, 2012, Caterpillar, Inc. announced it was shutting down the London, Ontario plant permanently. The company lockout had become a plant closing!
According to a front page article in the January 20, 2012 Wall Street Journal, Caterpillar, Inc. has other railroad locomotive plants, including one in Brazil and a new non-union plant in Muncie, Indiana, where Caterpillar has hired workers at about half the wages of the London, Ontario workers! In addition, prior to its lockout of the London, Ontario manufacturing workers, Caterpillar made an agreement with the Canadian-based monopoly, Bombardier, Inc., to supply it with locomotives produced by workers in Sahagún, Mexico.
Caterpillar, Inc. is prepared to shift its production from London, Ontario to either the “low wage” USA or Brazil or Mexico or to any place else in the world where it can maximize its profits! This fact reflects the utter lack of loyalty of the monopoly capitalists to any country or to any country’s workers. The monopoly capitalists are loyal only to maximum profits.*
* Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric Company, the largest U.S. monopoly corporation, which made $14 billion dollars in profits and paid no taxes in 2010, said years ago that if he could put every factory on a barge and continually move it to whatever was the lowest wage-earning country in the world, that’s what he would do!
From the experience of the militant CAW workers in London, Ontario who refused to submit to Caterpillar’s brutal pressure, it is clear that while trade union militancy and community support is important and quite likely was key to wresting plant closing benefits from Caterpillar, Inc. that were greater than those guaranteed by Canadian law (three weeks severance pay for each year of work), they were not sufficiently strong enough to prevent Caterpillar from shutting down the plant. Caterpillar, Inc. was able to close the London, Ontario plant because the corporation had lined up workers in other countries to meet its production needs!
To be in a position to prevent Caterpillar, Inc. or any other monopoly corporation from closing plants in Canada or anywhere else in the world, workers need to be at least as united and organized “across borders” as Caterpillar and other monopoly capitalist corporations are. To successfully oppose the monopoly capitalists’ efforts to keep workers divided, playing off one section of the international working class against another (workers of one country against those of another), and thereby undermining all of our wages, working conditions and hours of work, workers around the world need to unite and coordinate our struggles internationally.*
* It was precisely this need for international working class unity in the struggle to win the eight hour work day that led to the birth of May Day – the International Workers Holiday – over one hundred and twenty years ago.
However, to stop these profit-driven monopoly capitalist attacks altogether, the international working class needs to take on not only the monopoly capitalist corporations, but the monopoly capitalist class, their political representatives, and the capitalist system itself. In order to do that, we need international vanguard revolutionary working class organization as well.
The most brilliant success of this revolutionary approach took place almost one hundred years ago. During the great October Socialist Revolution of 1917, the workers of Russia, in the leadership of the workers of the countries which had been oppressed by Tsarist Russia, and in unity with the poor peasantry, seized political power and built a socialist society. For at least four decades thereafter the Soviet Union was able to protect itself from monopoly capitalist exploitation and Nazi fascist domination. Monopoly corporations in Great Britain, Germany, the USA or elsewhere could not unilaterally move production to this great liberated area of the world covering one sixth of the world’s territory. On this proletarian revolutionary basis, during the last Great Depression in the 1930’s, there was no economic depression and no unemployment in the Soviet Union! In fact there was unprecedented economic development. Soviet workers and their allies were busy building a society where competition was replaced by cooperation and planning was based on human need not corporate greed.
One hundred and sixty-four years ago, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels concluded the Communist Manifesto with the urgent call: “Workers of the World Unite!” Marx and Engels could have been addressing workers employed, locked out and fired by the giant U.S.-based, Caterpillar, Inc. today!
Remember the Canadian Caterpillar Workers!
Forward to the Elimination of Capitalist
Exploitation – For Workers’ Power and Socialism!
Workers of the World Unite!
by RAY LIGHT
“O, let America be America again –
The land that never has been yet –
And yet must be – the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine – the poorman’s, Indian’s,
Negro’s, ME –
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again…
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath –
America will be!”
– Langston Hughes
In the Age of the Obama Presidency, Trayvon Martin was killed on February 26, 2012, for the crime of being an Afro-American youth walking in public in a hooded sweatshirt in a gated community in the U.S. South. Welcome to the “Post Racial” USA; welcome especially to the Black Belt South homeland of the oppressed Afro-American people.
Despite massive police and corporate media efforts to tarnish Trayvon’s name in order to justify the fact that the admitted killer had not even been arrested following the killing, these lackeys for the U.S. imperialist state apparatus could not bury the fact that Trayvon had a clean legal record, was unarmed and, after purchasing some snacks from the neighborhood store, was simply returning to the home of his father’s fiancée, when he was executed by a Neighborhood Watch vigilante. He was quite simply innocent.
The self-admitted killer, George Zimmerman, is a wannabe cop and was the founder and chief of the local Neighborhood Watch. Zimmerman was patrolling the gated community where Trayvon was staying. Zimmerman, unlike his victim, does have a record of at least forty-six prior 911 calls reflecting misplaced suspicions, and previous violent and illegal activity.
A number of facts clearly expose the predatory character of Zimmerman’s violent and lethal actions toward Trayvon Martin. When Zimmerman telephoned and reported to the police that he was following someone “suspicious,” they instructed him to stop pursuing the youth. Nevertheless, he continued. Meanwhile, in his cell phone conversation with his girlfriend, Trayvon Martin expressed concern and worry that he was being followed. A witness has also confirmed that the youth, with the unidentified stalker in pursuit, was rapidly heading toward home, a further confirmation that he was trying to escape Zimmerman.
Despite all the above facts, Zimmerman was not arrested until April
11th, more than six weeks after his predatory murder of Trayvon Martin!
Zimmerman was arrested only after more than two million people had
signed a petition on change.org calling for his arrest and hundreds of
protest demonstrations by thousands of people demanding the same.
The petition campaign was spearheaded by Trayvon Martin’s parents. They explained their action, as follows: “For weeks after Trayvon was killed, authorities refused to arrest Zimmerman. We couldn’t believe that in 2012, public officials would turn a blind eye to our son’s killing. We couldn’t let that happen.” (See change.org, 4-17-12) In taking their decision to lead this petition campaign, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton followed in the courageous and dignified footsteps of the mother of Emmett Till who almost sixty years ago similarly refused to allow her son’s death to go unnoticed.* And, now, tens of thousands of Afro-American youth, in particular, recognize the Trayvon Martin in themselves. In standing up for justice for Trayvon Martin, they are learning that they need to stand up for themselves and to unite with others to defend their rights in U.S. imperialist society, even in the age of Obama.
* In 1955, the mother of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old murdered in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman, had courageously insisted on having an open casket at her son’s funeral to show the world the bestial nature of the white supremacists who had lynched her son and of white supremacist rule in the USA. This mother’s heroic act challenged the Afro-American people, in particular, to fight to change the USA, with its special repression of the Afro-American people, especially the legal segregation and extralegal terror they faced in their Black Belt South homeland. Thus, the white supremacist murder of Emmett Till became a major stepping stone for the Afro-American people who soon thereafter reached the conclusion that they had to act decisively in defense of their rights. It was a major event that led to the blossoming of the powerful Afro-American people’s civil rights and Black liberation movement of the 1960’s that, among other things, wiped out legal segregation in the U.S. South.
—White Supremacy or Gun Laws?—
In an effort to counter and defuse the massive movement for justice for Trayvon Martin that was surging forward with numbers and activism as Zimmerman remained unchallenged and at large, prominent bourgeois people and pundits raised in the monopoly capitalist mass media that it is gun possession or Florida’s gun laws, rather than still prevailing white supremacy, that were and are the main problem in this case.
In a major article in Time Magazine (4-9-12), entitled, “The Law Heard Round the World,” John Cloud concludes: “even if Zimmerman is eventually charged, it should be Florida’s gun laws that go on trial.” According to this line of thinking, the Stand Your Ground law passed in Florida in 2005, and twenty-five other states since then, provide the excuse for Zimmerman’s lethal action and the state and local police authorities’ inaction. What a whitewash of Zimmerman’s responsibility! Even more significantly, what a whitewash of the Sanford city and Florida state (and U.S. imperialist state) authorities’ failure to arrest and prosecute the killer!
Elsewhere in the same issue, regular Time columnist, Joe Klein, condemns the “zealous” Republican proponents of “ridiculously permissive gun laws like Florida’s Stand Your Ground statute.” (“Triumph of the Gun Fetishists,” ibid.) Klein also condemns “many Democrats” because “they have given up fighting for sane gun laws.” But all this reasonable and pacifist talk against gun laws is a context in which Klein asserts, while furnishing no proof, that “the past twenty years have seen great racial progress in this country.” (My emphasis, ROL) This is his and U.S. imperialism’s punch line.
On this basis, more than a month after the killing, Klein attacks the Black activists, including Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, striving for justice for Trayvon Martin and his family who were organizing the protests demanding the killer’s arrest against the powers-that-be in Sanford, in Florida and in the USA. At the same time, Klein chooses not to criticize these authorities who were still treating the murder of the unarmed Black teen as of no importance!
Bill Cosby, the rich and famous Afro-American comedian, clearly viewing the tragedy from the perspective of a privileged person living in the gated community, stated, “…when you tell me that you’re going to protect the neighborhood that I live in, I don’t want you to have a gun.” “I want you to be able to see something, report it, and get out of the way.” The noted stand-up comedian, so articulate in his comic routines, nevertheless sounds incoherent in his attempt to draw the conclusion that “It doesn’t make any difference if he [Zimmerman] is a racist or not racist.” Cosby’s incoherence is a reflection of his desperation to avoid having to condemn the U.S. monopoly-capitalist and imperialist system and its rampant white supremacist rule over the oppressed Afro-American people.
As if in direct answer to Cosby, Isabel Wilkerson, a former New York Times bureau chief and well known author on Afro-American history, explained that the slaying of Trayvon Martin “happened in central Florida, a region whose demographic landscape is rapidly changing, where unprecedented numbers of Latino immigrants have arrived at a place still scarred by the history of a vigilante-enforced caste system and the stereotypes that linger from it. In this context, newcomers – like immigrants of the past – may feel pressed to identify with the dominant caste and distance themselves from blacks, in order to survive.” Indeed, as the son of a white male judge and a Peruvian woman, Zimmerman may well have both the past and the present pressures of the reality of white supremacist rule weighing upon him.
Zimmerman’s attitude toward his killing of Trayvon Martin, even after the fact, can be discovered by a look at the website he set up to mobilize monetary resources and support. It indicates someone with no remorse but rather pride in his criminal deed! The website is dominated by huge U.S. flags, as is quite fitting. For White Supremacy is still “as American as apple pie.” And, before Zimmerman’s current attorney convinced him to shut it down, the website had already drawn more than $200,000 dollars, a fact Zimmerman kept hidden from the judge, while claiming he had few funds to make bail. Zimmerman’s attorney is presently operating a Zimmerman website to keep those white supremacist dollars rolling in.
The dialectical truth is that there is no dichotomy between the gun laws and white supremacist rule. It is not either one or the other, as the apologists for the white supremacist murder of Trayvon Martin and the refusal of the white supremacist authorities to arrest his killer attempted to project. But the gun laws are the secondary aspect of the dialectical relationship. They are in the service of white supremacist rule, exactly as they are being used to defend the murderer of Trayvon Martin right now.
—The Long Shadow of Chattel Slavery—
The most important political aspect of the Trayvon Martin tragedy, however, is not what made Zimmerman commit his vicious attack, but the white supremacist attitude and conduct of the Sanford and Florida and U.S. imperialist state authorities toward the murder of an innocent Afro-American young man. As The Nation’s Patricia J. Williams observed, “Police failed to follow the most basic procedures for a homicide investigation: Zimmerman was never tested for drugs or alcohol, while Martin’s body was. After sticking him in the morgue, there was no attempt to identify Martin or to notify his family.” (“States of Exception,” 5-7-12) Williams concludes correctly: “When law enforcement officers accept – without question – an admitted killer’s assertion that a homicide was justified because ‘he scared me,’ they license open season. Without question.” (ibid.)
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Slavery by Another Name, Douglas Blackmon unearthed and documented the existence and widespread use of a state and county convict leasing system that developed throughout much of the Deep South after the emancipation of the Afro-American people in the Civil War. Blackmon reports that, “By the end of Reconstruction in 1877, every formerly Confederate state except Virginia had adopted the practice of leasing black prisoners into commercial hands.” (p. 56) Blackmon continued: “Instead of slave owners, the men who now controlled squads of black laborers available to the highest bidder were sheriffs.” (p. 64) According to Blackmon, “Beginning in the late 1860’s and accelerating after the return of white political control in 1877, every southern state enacted an array of interlocking laws essentially intended to criminalize black life.” (p. 53) As Blackmon documents: this new form of slavery endured all the way to World War II in the middle of the twentieth century! Throughout this long period, the innocence of black prisoners was not an impediment to their arrest and imprisonment by the sheriffs and other white police authorities who then were paid a bounty for them by plantation owners and corporate chieftains, including the U.S. Steel Corporation, the largest company in the world at the time.
Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow establishes that the criminalization of the Afro-American people continues today to be a key component in the continued oppression of the Afro-American people throughout the USA and in the Afro-American nation in particular.
Thus, Sanford, Florida Police Chief Bill Lee and the department he led, treated the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 as lightly as the authorities treated the deaths of so many innocent black men throughout the long and sordid history of Afro-American enslavement in Florida. It was “open season” on Trayvon Martin, too. After the pressure of mass outrage from around the country and the world shone light on the criminal indifference of the Sanford police toward the murder of the innocent youth, Chief Lee was suspended from his duties for the duration of the Martin murder investigation. However, Lee was placed on paid leave, hardly a punishment.
With the leverage of mass public sympathy with Trayvon and his family, the Afro-American city manager, Norton Bonaparte, Jr., a well trained professional from outside the Black Belt South, was able get the Sanford City Commission to give Chief Lee “a no-confidence vote.” The disgraceful treatment of Trayvon Martin’s killing, also led to the local prosecutor recusing himself from the case, with the Florida governor appointing Angela Corey as special prosecutor. And she eventually charged Zimmerman.
On April 23rd, once Zimmerman was arrested, however, and the public pressure was somewhat alleviated, the Sanford City Commission rejected the resignation of Police Chief Lee by a 3-2 vote, even though Lee had crafted and signed a resignation agreement with the City Manager. And Lee, who said he really didn’t want to leave, had supporters at the meeting dressed in “Bring Back Billy” T shirts. In fact, the majority of the commissioners, in refusing to accept the chief’s resignation, blamed the polarization around the case on “outside groups.” So it looks increasingly doubtful that the police chief will ultimately be removed at all.
Just after midnight on that same day, Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester released Zimmerman on bail, accompanied only by a GPS ankle bracelet. There were several things that were noteworthy about his release. According to The New York Times’ John Schwartz, having been charged with second degree murder, a serious charge, meant that “Mr. Zimmerman will not be entitled to be released on bail before his trial. Instead, his lawyer will be able to ask for what Florida calls an Arthur hearing, which can take place weeks after the arrest, to determine whether he should be allowed to post bond.” (“Severe Charge, With a Minimum Term of 25 Years,” page A19, 4-12-12) Nevertheless, Zimmerman, who had been able to remain free from arrest for more than six weeks after his killing of Trayvon Martin, was informed by the judge, less than a week after his arrest, that he would be released on bail, and was released after less than ten days in captivity.
Furthermore, the judge has agreed that Zimmerman can go anywhere, without police supervision, including outside the state of Florida. And since Zimmerman has waived his appearance at his upcoming arraignment next month, it is anticipated that it will be a long time before Zimmerman appears in public again. Quite strange treatment for someone charged with second degree murder! Meanwhile, this lenient treatment of Zimmerman has given the grieving parents of the young victim “a heavy heart.” According to their attorney, “They hope his freedom is temporary because the pain he has caused this family is permanent.”
Thus, even though the outpouring of indignant masses of Afro-American people and other justice loving folks has led to an arrest, it is clear that, in keeping with the long history of Afro-American enslavement under white supremacist rule, the state apparatus from Florida to Washington, DC is still treating the killing of the innocent Black youth as a matter of little or no importance.
Apologists for the system such as Bill Cosby and the two Time Magazine writers cited above deny that white supremacist rule is still in the saddle and striding forward rapidly under the impetus of the capitalist economic crisis exacerbated by the reality of U.S. imperialist empire in decline. But, according to Isabel Wilkinson, “… blacks are the target of the highest number of hate crimes in the United States … higher by a wide margin than any other group of Americans … While blacks make up 12.6 percent of the population, they were 70 percent of the victims of racial hate crimes in 2010.” The recent murder and maiming of five randomly selected Afro-American people in Tulsa, Oklahoma by two white supremacists underscores this point.
The Afro-American masses, along with Latino immigrant workers, have also been the biggest victims of the jobs crisis, the mortgage crisis, the prison-labor crisis, and the general political crisis in the USA today.*
* There has already been some attempt by the U.S. ruling class to use Zimmerman’s partial Hispanic roots to pit Latinos and Afro-Americans against each other. In this connection, the fact that Zimmerman has a history of “racially profiling” Mexican immigrants needs to be emphasized.
Furthermore, their long history of terrible oppression and heroic resistance in the USA, makes them among the most likely to break out of the reformist strait jacket of “Republicrat rule” (Democratic-Republican Party joint rule on behalf of Wall Street imperialism). Yet, the Afro-American people have, till now, remained largely passive and in thrall to Obama and the Obama-led Wall Street rule of the current economic crisis period.
—Barack Obama’s Rule and the Killing of Trayvon Martin—
Mumia Abu-Jamal, the still imprisoned and still fearlessly honest Black journalist, warned the Afro-American people during the 2008 presidential election that they should remember that Obama was running to be the leader of “the most powerful white nation in the world.” With Mumia’s insight in mind, let’s look at Obama’s record as President in dealing with the oppressed status of the Afro-American people.
Black Agenda Report executive editor Glen Ford exposed Obama’s role in the Trayvon Martin case with this profound truth: “Anybody that speaks of the U.S. as on a trajectory to a post-racial society is setting non-whites up for racist attack. … At the top of the list is Barack Obama, whose campaign trail ‘Philadelphia Speech’ baldly stated that racism was not endemic to American life and history, and characterized those Blacks who disagreed as having been psychologically damaged by past battles. That a Black president can be gratefully applauded by African-Americans – and publicly pilloried by some whites – for deigning to acknowledge the humanity of his own hypothetical child (‘If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon’) says volumes on the devaluation of Black life in America.” (“Trayvon Killing Reveals Unreconstructed White Nationalism on the March,” 4-18-12, My emphasis, ROL) Indeed, as the weeks passed with no arrest of the killer, his “looks like me” comment was all that the Commander in Chief had to say about the Trayvon Martin killing.*
* Furthermore, as the Trayvon Martin case became widely known, Congressman Bobby Rush (Democrat-Illinois) spoke from the floor of the U.S. Congress in defense of justice for Trayvon Martin’s family while wearing a hoodie. Congressman Rush, a Black Panther in his youth, was physically escorted out of the building. The Illinois Congressman’s protest was the strongest support for justice that the Trayvon Martin case has received from an established bourgeois Washington, DC politician thus far. It is worth remembering that Barack Obama’s first run for political office was an effort to unseat Congressman Rush. From the standpoint of the Trayvon Martin case and the Afro-American people it is certainly good that Congressman Rush defeated Obama in that election.
A few months ago, Troy Davis, a young Afro-American man was executed in Atlanta, Georgia, the unofficial “capital” of the Afro-American nation. Davis was put to death by the state of Georgia, even though all but one of the witnesses who had fingered him for the crime had renounced their previous testimony and Davis had steadfastly maintained his innocence. The National NAACP, led by Benjamin Jealous, was acting as if there was no way that Troy Davis would be executed. After all, the NAACP was well connected with both the President and Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., both men of African descent. Yet Obama and Holder did not “interfere” with Georgia-style “justice,” citing the age-old pro-slavery doctrine of states’ rights! Some of Troy Davis’ blood is on their hands!
An earlier experience of Barack Obama and the National NAACP in Georgia, could have foretold the tragic outcome of the Troy Davis case. In July 2010, the mere allegation that Shirley Sherrod, Georgia State Director of Rural Development United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a Black USDA official, had discriminated against a white farmer led to her being forced to resign by Tom Vilsack, Barack Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture. In 1982, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights had reported that a primary cause of the loss of land of Afro-American farmers was discrimination at the hands of the USDA. And the U.S. Congress has reluctantly begun to pay reparations for this fact. Yet no white USDA official was ever ousted for the actual systemic discrimination against Black farmers now acknowledged by the U.S. government itself. Despite all this, the National NAACP immediately and shamefully trumpeted its support for Obama’s ouster of Sherrod.*
* Of course, when it was exposed that the allegation against Sherrod was a tea party fabrication and the white farmer publicly credited Sherrod with having saved his farm, the Obama Administration and the National NAACP just like the reactionary FOX news apologized to Sherrod, but she got the message and did not return to the USDA.
About six months into the Obama presidency, in July of 2009, Obama’s personal friend, the eminent and well known Harvard University African-American Studies professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested by a white Cambridge, Massachusetts police detective named James Crowley. Gates was then a small, fifty-eight year old man walking with the aid of a cane who proved to the detective that the home Crowley “caught” him in was his own. In spite of all of this, Crowley handcuffed, arrested, booked and jailed Gates for four hours with no legal justification for his treatment of Gates. He merely did not like Gates’ attitude. Gates had not adopted a submissive approach in keeping with the U.S. culture in which the general population, and especially the Afro-American population, prostrates itself before the police power of “law and order.”
Obama’s “executive action” was to invite both the victim and the perpetrator, to come to Washington, DC to have a beer together with him. Thus, was the police detective’s white supremacist rogue behavior toward a prominent Afro-American scholar and friend of the president rewarded by the president!
Finally, the Afro-American working class has been attacked by the Obama Administration as well. The auto industry bailout led to a sharp decrease in the standard of living and union rights for the auto workers. And federal workers have been laid off and have lost income and raises during this Obama period. Now the United States Postal Service, long seen in the Afro-American community as one of the few reliable, accessible sources of stable, dignified and decent working class union jobs, (along with other federal jobs and the auto industry) is threatened with collapse and is a privatization target of the Obama-Wall Street cabal.
The bloody, brutal, harsh and unrelenting historical assault by U.S. imperialism on the Afro-American people’s national identity is the only explanation for the desire of the majority of the Afro-American people to keep hoping that Obama will be “successful,” even though his success clearly comes at their expense! Clinging to this national identification with Obama, the successful individual African-American, many Afro-Americans refuse to recognize the fact that Obama is a more effective enforcer of the national oppression of the Afro-American people than George W. Bush was.*
* The outstanding Afro-American mass leader, Larry Hamm, the leader of New Jersey-based Peoples’ Organization for Progress (POP), recently made this very point in an impassioned speech to a mostly Afro-American audience. Brother Hamm said: without arguing right now about whether we should vote for Obama or not, we need to face the fact that we have allowed Obama to do more damage to us than we would have ever allowed Bush to do! My focus, brother Hamm continued, is not on what you do on Election Day but what you do the day after the election.
—The Impact of More than Ten Years of the so-called “War on Terror”—
The Trayvon Martin killing and its aftermath reveals a widespread and growing belief that it is acceptable and for some even admirable to kill innocent Black youth in the USA. Glen Ford refers to this as “unreconstructed white nationalism on the march.” This degenerate social condition is not only a product of the long and sordid history of the white supremacist enslavement of and terror against the Afro-American people. It is also the product of the contemporary war of terror targeting mostly peoples of color around the world, especially in areas with rich deposits of oil and natural gas, a war that U.S. imperialism has carried out continuously for more than a decade. This began with George W. Bush’s so-called “war on terror” which Bush unleashed against the people of Afghanistan in early October of 2001. The U.S. war in Afghanistan is now the longest war in U.S. history.
Under Bush, the people of the USA witnessed the trampling of the sovereignty of Iraq, the ransacking of the historic city of Baghdad, a permanent military occupation and the murder of Saddam Hussein and thousands of Iraqi citizens on the basis of two “big lies.” Saddam Hussein, rather than being a friend of Osama bin Ladin, was his enemy! And there were no weapons of mass destruction, except on the side of U.S. imperialism.
Now, under Obama, U.S imperialism still maintains a massive military presence in and around Iraq. Also under Obama, the people of the USA have witnessed the trampling of the sovereignty of Libya, the fomenting of anti-Black African immigrant hysteria by the U.S.-E.U. backed puppet armed forces and government there, the U.S. government theft of billions of dollars in foreign bank accounts of the corrupt Gadhafi regime and the murder of Moammar Gadhafi and thousands of Libyans and Black African immigrant workers.
By the time the global capitalist economic crisis began in the USA in 2007, the United States was already the biggest debtor country on earth. It had been able to keep its creditors at bay and even to retain some of its hegemonic economic power largely on the basis of its overwhelming military superiority. The economic crisis served to sharpen this contradiction. In this context, it is noteworthy that Barack Obama kept Robert Gates, Bush’s Secretary of Defense, in that powerful position at the top of the U.S. military forces. It was the first time in U.S. history when the President from one party kept such a powerful figure in the same position he occupied in the other party’s administration. Obama’s retention of Gates helped explain why the transition from the Republican to the Democratic Administration represented no disruption of the war of terror that U.S. imperialism was waging against oppressed peoples in the Middle East and throughout the world, a war that has always had as a key component to keep its imperialist partner-rivals at bay.
In this permanent state of war largely aimed at oppressed peoples of color around the world, U.S. imperialism could not help but foment new rich streams of white supremacy within the people of the USA, whose social fabric had been woven together with white supremacy at its center. Trayvon Martin is thus a casualty of the U.S. imperialist war of terror on the peoples of the world, too.
—The Current Capitalist Economic Crisis in the USA, Danger and Opportunity—
Under the impetus of the economic crisis in the USA, featuring
massive long term job loss, the home foreclosure crisis, and
“Republicrat” bailouts of Wall Street, the 99% of us – Afro-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, Native Americans, other peoples of color and the white masses –
have largely lost our fascination with the capitalist system. The
emergence of the Occupy Wall Street motion in cities and towns across
the USA is a dramatic reflection of this fact. Thus, in order to retain
power, the Wall Street rulers have a paramount need to once again
“divide and conquer.”*
* In the 1890's, as the U.S. ruling class was rapidly developing into a monopoly capitalist class and emerging on the world stage as a formidable imperialist force, white supremacy played a vital role in rallying the white majority in the USA, including the white minority in the Black Belt South against the Afro-American people and uniting U.S. whites against the peoples of color throughout the world.
An ABC/Washington Post poll reveals that “8 out of 10 Blacks believe the shooting [of Trayvon Martin] was unjustified with just 19 percent saying they don’t know enough to have an opinion, while only 38 percent of whites … are willing to call the killing unjustified.” (cited by Glen Ford and others) This poll shows how absurd is the view that gun laws, etc. are the problem and underscores that white supremacy is alive and well in Obama’s “post-racial” USA. It also serves as a warning to revolutionaries here and around the world of the dangers that such white supremacy poses to all of us.
The crisis also provides great revolutionary opportunity. As Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies has reported: “According to the U.S. Census, the South’s share of the black population – 57 percent – is now the highest it’s been since 1960. ... The shift could significantly strengthen the political power of African-Americans in the South, especially in the historic Black Belt stretching from the mid-Atlantic to east Texas. … Afro-Americans moving South also tend to be young: 40 percent of those moving to Southern states in the 2010 Census count were ages 21 to 40. [This] means that the political force of the latest phase of African-American reverse migration South will be felt for years to come.” (“Black Belt Power: African-Americans come back South, change political landscape,” Facing South, 9-30-11)
This demographic shift was begun under the impetus of the substantial though limited achievements of the Black liberation struggle of the 1960’s. It is today a growing objective basis of strength for the emergence of a new more confident and focused Afro-American national liberation movement centered in the Black Belt South. The enactment of the “stand your ground” laws and the arming of growing numbers of reactionary whites across the South is part of a concerted effort to reinstitute white supremacist terror that drove so many Afro-American people from their homeland during the Great Migration and thus reverse the reverse migration back to their Black Belt homeland. (But “stand your ground” is a two-way street!) The few million people, including so many Black youth, demanding justice for Trayvon Martin and his family that has come “out of nowhere” are a reflection of the tremendous current potential for a powerful Afro-American national liberation movement to develop. It can be an important component of an accelerating massive return to Afro-America that can fuel an even stronger Afro-American liberation struggle.
A strategy for successful proletarian revolution in the USA certainly includes Afro-American national freedom as a vital component. And the powerful presence of millions of aroused Latino immigrant workers as well as the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street motion, with all its current weaknesses as well as strengths, reflect the fact that there are strong potential allies from a number of non-Afro-American sectors of the U.S. population. Under the pressure of the capitalist economic crisis, this potential source of allies includes increasingly broad sections of the U.S. working class.
Trayvon Martin was killed for the “crime” of being a young Black man living in the territory of the Afro-American nation, imprisoned by U.S. imperialism. A successful struggle to win Afro-American national liberation, including the right to self-determination on the territory of the Black Belt homeland of the Afro-American people will be a fitting way to ensure that there will be an end to the white supremacist rule that deprived Trayvon Martin of his life and all of us of the gifts he could have presented to the world.
Toward Victorious Afro-American
For A Socialist USA!
by MANUEL AGUILAR
Late last year, Colombian students obtained a victory without precedent in the student struggles in Latin America. The students forced the government of Colombian President Manuel Santos to retract a law intended to privatize public university education.
Under the pretext of improving public education, the Colombian government pushed the law known as “Law 30.” The government said that it would improve university education by investing $3.5 billion that would enable the admission of 600,000 more students. The so-called Law 30 education reform was rejected by the students and other forces that united in a national coalition against privatization. The students shut down thirty-two public universities attended by 500,000 students.
Tens of thousands of university and high school students, community people, teachers, indigenous communities and the trade unions united and marched in Bogota and other important Colombian cities to demand the abolition of Law 30. According to student leader Sergio Fernandez who participated in the conference of UNAC (United National Anti-War Coalition) in Stamford, Connecticut, in March 2012, “The government of Manuel Santos was following the neo-liberal policies recommended by the International Monetary Fund in his eagerness to provide the transnational corporations greater profits and control over Colombian education and sovereignty.”
Almost a year of student struggle in Colombia, uniting all the forces capable of being united and using the creativity of youth – like spontaneous dances, music in the streets and public centers, and street theater – were the key to defeat the threat of privatization of public university education in Colombia. Neither the threat of the repressive forces nor repression itself was able to contain the more than one and a half million students and their allies that paralyzed Colombia with gigantic demonstrations and work stoppages. All of this took place in the menacing presence of the seven U.S. military bases with U.S. soldiers who today stand over the Colombian people.
Similar movements have taken place in Chile, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Honduras against the privatization of public education. These lessons should be learned by students in the United States where attending college has been transformed from a dream to a nightmare – where students who attend college remain in debt for decades and in many cases have to stop attending college because of the lack of resources.
The powerful struggle of the Colombian students shows us that when peoples unite they are capable of dealing strong blows against monopoly capital that is today impoverishing the world.
by PAT KELLY and RAY LIGHT
In early April, the familiar cry of “Play Ball” by baseball’s umpires, heard every Spring since baseball became the “national pastime” about a century ago, heralded the new 2012 major league baseball season. This season, however, the play ball has already taken on a new more sinister meaning.
Only a few days into the season, Ozzie Guillen, the new manager of the Miami Marlins, was issued a five game suspension by the team’s capitalist owners for the “crime” of honesty and free speech! “Guillen, who is Venezuelan, told Time magazine he loves Castro and respects the retired Cuban leader for staying in power so long.” (Boston Globe, 4/11/12) The Marlins team is based in the heart of south Florida’s large and extremely reactionary Cuban-American population. A number of community leaders called on the Marlins to fire Guillen. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig weighed in, saying “Major League Baseball supports today’s decision by the Marlins to suspend Ozzie Guillen.”
It is a very disturbing commentary on current U.S. society that there was almost no public protest at this blatant attempt to stifle Guillen’s freedom of expression and to criminalize “politically incorrect” thought. This included silence on the subject from the monopoly capitalist-controlled mass media. Even the New York Times which has had several run-ins with the U.S. government in recent years, reported the punishment of Guillen uncritically. Sadly, Guillen, abruptly “ate his words.” He issued an undignified apology surrendering to the immense corporate and government political pressure.
This is all the more disturbing because Fidel Castro is a man who should be loved and respected by the working people of the whole world for having the courage to stand up to U.S. imperialism for the last fifty years. Furthermore, in Cuba, despite the impoverishment caused by the decades-long U.S. imperialist economic embargo, the people still have free health care and free higher education, rights and benefits working people do not have here in the U.S.A. Indeed, it would be difficult for any self-respecting Latin American person, any non-exploiter, to have feelings about “Fidel” much different than those expressed by Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen which have now been publicly repudiated, seemingly by the entire U.S. mainstream.
It is worth noting that the recently concluded Summit Meeting of the Americas held in Colombia appears to be the last that will be held without Cuba, despite the efforts of U.S. and Canadian imperialism and Barack Obama, in particular, to try to insist that Cuba continue to be excluded. So, Ozzie Guillen was in step with the rest of the peoples of the hemisphere. It is the followers of U.S. imperialism that are out of step on Cuba.
The decision to suspend Guillen for exercising his “right” of free speech was an act of political persecution, and stands as another exposure of the myth and hypocrisy of “U.S. Democracy.” Apparently, in order to manage or play in baseball’s major league in the USA, one has to give up any freedom of speech and “play ball” with United States imperialism.
*A good bumper sticker reads, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” If you are paying attention, please send me the items that are enraging you. Thanks.
- the Editor
Accretive Health, one of the country’s largest debt collectors, is embedding debt collectors in hospital emergency rooms and where patients are convalescing. Posing as health workers and unlawfully armed with private medical information, they have been demanding that people pay before treatment, pay outstanding bills or discourage them from seeking emergency medical treatment at all! Some hospitals have turned over their front-line staffing such as registration and scheduling to these identified debt collectors of Accretive Health. According to the New York Times, doctors at one Minnesota hospital complained that such strong arm tactics were directly discouraging patients from seeking lifesaving treatments. Even the Attorney General of Minnesota said “It is absolutely stunning that the company has systematically trampled on patient rights, perverting the charitable mission of a hospital.” As patients get harassed, hood-winked and health care of the people of the USA suffers, Accretive’s yearly profits rose to $30 million last year as they rapidly expand their business.
“The great appear great to us
Only because we are on our knees:
Let us rise.”
– Camille Desmoulins
Revolutionary Organization of Labor (ROL), USAis a revolutionary working class organization that fights for working class power and the elimination of all human exploitation. Ray O’ Light Newsletter is the regular publication of ROL, USA. We believe, with comrade Lenin, that the working class “… needs the truth and there is nothing so harmful to its cause as plausible, respectable petty bourgeois lies.” In the spirit of Karl Marx who taught that “our theory is not a dogma but a guide to action,” we welcome your comments.
Ray Light – Editor