RAY O. LIGHT NEWSLETTER #47, February-March 2008,
Publication of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA
The 2008 Presidential Election, the Barack Obama Campaign, and the Need for Afro-American National Liberation
“Yes, the faces and the tactics of the leaders may change every four years, or two, or one, but the people go on forever. The people – beaten down today, yet rising tomorrow; losing the road one minute but finding it the next; their eyes always fixed on a star of true brotherhood, equality and dignity – the people are the real guardians of our hopes and dreams.”
“The Battleground Is Here,” 1952
Introduction – The Two Year Campaign for the White House and the Obama Campaign
The 2008 U.S. Presidential election campaign began in earnest immediately after the November 2006 Congressional Elections!
With that election the voters placed the Democratic Party into majority control of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The U.S. population had finally repudiated the Bush Regime’s war policy, a good thing, and had specifically expressed their desire to bring the U.S. soldiers home as soon as possible. Based on our Leninist understanding of the nature of the U.S. imperialist state, including the Republican-Democratic political duopoly, however, we correctly projected that all signs pointed toward an expansion of U.S. forces in Iraq and the Middle East and not the withdrawal of U.S. troops and “bringing them home” that the U.S. voters desired. (See Ray O. Light Newsletter #43, “Some Revolutionary Lessons of the 2006 U.S. Congressional Election,” December 2006) Ever since then, the international proletariat and the oppressed peoples, including the oppressed and exploited within the USA itself, have been the object of an epic propaganda event, a gigantic deception, the so-called “race for the presidency,” a flimflam perpetrated by the U.S. imperialist ruling class.
During this past year, in direct contradiction with the clearly expressed will of the U.S. voters, Republican President Bush and the now Democratic-controlled Congress directed a “surge” of thirty thousand more U.S. military forces in Iraq. This fact should make it clear that the USA is not a democratic country. The U.S. monopoly capitalist and imperialist ruling class will never allow any election to diminish, let alone eliminate, U.S. imperialist super-profits reaped from the exploited and oppressed of the USA and the entire globe. The interminably long 2008 Presidential primary season is aimed at convincing the proletariat and oppressed peoples of the USA and the world, in direct contradiction to our actual experience of the past year, that the monopoly capitalist and imperialist system of rule in the USA can be fundamentally altered through the ballot box and that we have no need to fight against U.S. imperialism by any means necessary.*
*And it is aimed to convince the imperialist partner-rivals of U.S. imperialism and other regional powers in Western Europe, Japan, Russia, China, India, Turkey, Brazil and so forth, that U.S. imperialism can still be reasoned with and negotiated with, rather than having to be united against through economical, political and military alliances.
The fact that the Iraqi peoples, the Afghani people, the peoples of the USA and the world have witnessed the continuation of the Bush-led U.S. imperialist War of Terror at home and abroad without any disruption whatsoever in the aftermath of the Democratic Party’s assumption of control of both houses of the U.S. Congress is a valuable lesson on the nature of the U.S. state. It is a complement to the lesson revealed to the international proletariat and the oppressed peoples by the U.S. government’s treatment of the Afro-American people of New Orleans before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. That lesson: the Afro-American people remain a sorely oppressed nationality within the U.S. multinational state.*
*Our consistent political stand on the Afro-American national question is based on the work of Lenin, Stalin, Harry Haywood and the Communist International. We hold that the Afro-American people constitute an historically developed nation based in the Black Belt territory of the Southern USA and have a right to exercise self-determination in that territory up to and including the right to an independent state existence. In the cities of the North and West, the Afro-American refugees have national minority rights. Thus, the right of the Afro-American citizens of New Orleans to return, like the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to Palestine, is a central demand that is key to the liberation of the oppressed Afro-American people.
Certainly, ever since the USA developed into an imperialist power in the period of the 1890’s, the attitude of the revolutionary movement domestically and internationally toward the Afro-American national question has been a key to understanding how U.S. imperialism must be dealt with. The candidacy of Barack Obama, within the general deception of the 2008 U.S. Presidential Primary season, is thus an attempt by U.S. imperialism to liquidate the Afro-American national question so as to help foster once again pacifist and democratic illusions about the nature of the main enemy of humanity today, imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism.
The Democratic Party Hoax
The collaboration of the leading Democratic Party politicians with the Bush Regime, working together in service to monopoly capitalism and imperialism, on the most important political question of the day, the war in Iraq, has been exposed by the bipartisan support for the U.S. military “surge” in the criminal occupation of Iraq. This includes the Democratic-controlled Congress continued funding of the war and additional funding for the surge.* It is exposed by the Democratic Party Congressional leadership’s successful prevention of any serious effort at impeachment of the Bushite war criminals or even a motion of censure.
* The supposed “success” of the Bush “surge” in Iraq is another “big lie”; but with the collaboration of the Democrats and the connivance of the monopolists’ mass media, this lie has itself represented a success for Bush and U.S. imperialism. The alleged success of the surge has pushed the question of ending the war onto the backburner in the Presidential campaign. It has revived the Republican candidacy of Senator John McCain whose candidacy had been pronounced all but dead. McCain now boasts in his campaign that he may keep U.S. troops in Iraq for the next hundred years! The big lie of the “surge,” aided and abetted by the Democratic Party leadership, may well carry McCain not only to the Republican nomination but to the Presidency in November!
The role of Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman in U.S. electoral politics over the past decade is especially instructive in helping to reveal that the Democratic Party is merely one face of the two-faced single War Party that governs the USA on behalf of the U.S. (and global) financial and industrial monopolists. In 2000, Senator Lieberman ran as the Vice-Presidential candidate on the Democratic Party ticket with Al Gore. No doubt, his influence helped ensure that not one Democratic Senator (including Ted Kennedy) supported the more than a dozen Congressional Black Caucus House members in challenging the stolen Florida electoral-college vote. On this basis the Bush-Cheney Republican team was officially “elected” without a fight on the floor of Congress. In 2006, based on his outspoken support for the Bush Regime’s so-called war on terror, Lieberman was defeated in the Democratic primary contest for his Connecticut Senate seat by a single-issue, anti-war candidate. Lieberman, one of the top Democrats in the land, rather than respecting the Connecticut Democrats’ choice, then chose to run as an Independent. In the general election, Lieberman, a key representative of the Israeli settler state alliance with U.S. imperialism, was returned to the Senate with the help of the national Democratic Party bigwigs who refused to come into Connecticut to campaign for “their” (anti-war) candidate, Lamont. Last month, Lieberman announced his support for Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, the biggest war monger running for President. As it now appears that McCain will be the Republican candidate for President, the Democratic bigwigs who supported the Independent Lieberman (as well as the Bush “surge” that McCain is riding) may well help decide the next Presidential election in favor of the Republican Party! So much for the differences between the “two” parties.*
*Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has been a particularly valuable protector of the Bush Regime as the leading Democrat and number #3 person after the Vice President, in line of Presidential succession. The marvelous anti-war leader, Cindy Sheehan, who lives in the same Congressional District in San Francisco as Pelosi, is running against Pelosi for that Congressional seat. Every effort should be made to defeat the war criminal Pelosi and strike a big blow against the two-party one ruling class war party.
Regarding the Democratic Party race for the Presidential nomination, the three “serious” candidates for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination are there mainly on the basis of “identity” politics, with no real connection to their apparent “constituency.” Consequently, the campaign for the nomination is nothing but a charade to attract the oppressed and exploited so they remain caught up in the web of this brutal system. This fact also keeps any momentum from the campaigns being gathered together into a joint struggle of Afro-Americans, workers and women against their common imperialist enemy.
Hillary Clinton, “the woman candidate,” raises no significant women’s issues! She tries, in fact, to appear “tougher” on prosecuting the so-called war on terror than her two male rivals. Indeed, her all-out support for the Bush-led wars on the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq qualify Senator Clinton as a notorious war criminal on a global scale.
Of the threesome, John Edwards, a multimillionaire lawyer, has nevertheless sounded the most progressive politically, from the standpoint of the international proletariat, beginning [and ending] his campaign in the lower 9th ward of New Orleans, raising the need for universal health care, having a “more solid” timetable for the pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq, and raising support for U.S. workers’ rights to organize unions on a more level playing field, as well. Edwards has exposed the fact that current U.S. law is stacked against the workers. He also has pledged not to take corporate PAC donations. No wonder Edwards has attracted the support of the most progressive actor in Hollywood, Danny Glover, an Afro-American activist who defends the rights of union workers as well as of the Afro-American people and the African peoples through his leadership of the Trans Africa Forum. Edwards, however, is running a distant third, with Hillary Clinton garnering more union endorsements than he. The result is that Edwards is now trying to get “the white male vote”, as the “grown-up” (sic) in the race. In fact, despite his political rhetoric, Edwards has gotten his strongest support from affluent white male voters! [Edwards withdrew from the race as this was being written.]
Finally, Barack Obama is literally an African-American, with an African father and a white American mother, and, through the prism of U.S. white supremacy, he is definitely a Black American. As such he is a magnet for Afro-American voters. But he did not grow up as an Afro-American. In fact, he was raised mainly away from the U.S. mainland and is therefore someone with much in common with the large immigrant population of the USA. More importantly, Obama has no organic ties with any Afro-American civil rights or human rights groups or organizations. His most powerful Black supporter has been Oprah Winfrey, who is likewise unattached to the Afro-American liberation movement.
It is actually white millionaire Senator John Kerry (like George W. Bush, a member of the secret Skull and Bones Society at Yale University) who provided Obama’s springboard into countrywide politics. Kerry anointed Obama to make the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention. In that year’s election, Kerry tried to become president by convincing the voters that he would be a more effective defender of the U.S. Empire than George W. Bush. Along with Kerry, other top Obama policy advisers in this campaign include:
1. Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser in the Carter Administration who brags that he was the creator of the Afghan jihadi movement (the very movement that produced Osama bin Laden);
2. Anthony Lake, top intelligence operative who masterminded the U.S. invasion of Haiti in the Clinton years;
3. Dennis Ross, top U.S. adviser on Israel-Palestine issues both in the Clinton and the two Bush Administrations, who helped ensure that the Israeli settler regime remains in the saddle in that strategic area; and
4. Sarah Sewall, a former Defense official, who wrote the introduction to General Petraeus’ Marine Corps/Army counterinsurgency handbook now being used world-wide in various killing operations. Of course, Petraeus has been the lead man in the George W. Bush’s “surge” strategy that is now priming Republican John McCain to be the next President.
Obama’s campaign, then, has not been fueled by the demands of rising Afro-American masses. Rather, his campaign has been an effort by U.S. imperialism to try to help repair economic and political ties to governments and businesses everywhere from Western Europe to Latin America, to Asia and Africa, attempting to heal the rifts caused by the ignorant, chauvinistic, brutal and rapacious Bush Regime and by the shocking exposure that Hurricane Katrina provided of how oppressive the treatment of the Afro-American people is at the hands of the U.S. government in the current period. In this context, we can understand the significance of former President Jimmy Carter’s admiring comment about Obama: “I think that Obama will be almost automatically a healing factor in the animosity now that exists, that relates to our country and its government.”*
*It is instructive to recall that both the first and second Black U.S. Secretaries of State in U.S. history have been Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, the two Secretaries of State appointed by George W. Bush, arguably the most tyrannical President in U.S. history.
South Carolina’s Democratic Primary and the Question of Black Power
“Race Doesn’t Matter!” –
Obama Campaign chant following his South Carolina Primary Victory (AP)
The South Carolina Primary exposes the absurdist imperialist demagogy that lies at the heart of the Democratic Party Primary race. South Carolina is in the heart of the Afro-American nation. Many Afro-Americans there travel hours per day from rural hamlets to the coast to make minimal wages, while servicing affluent white tourists. Many have faced and are facing imminent loss of their homes through foreclosures because they have been prime targets of predatory subprime mortgage lenders. (See CounterPunch, July 2007)
In states such as South Carolina, half of all mortgagors were losing their homes to foreclosure even before this crisis had fully developed. And only 3 out of 10 Black males and 4 out of 10 Black females were graduating from South Carolina’s public high schools. Somewhere between 30 to 50 percent of South Carolina Black youth were unemployed. Now, on a truly massive scale, stable working class families are being threatened with becoming homeless. This will make the economic crisis faced by South Carolina’s Black people almost universal!
In South Carolina, in a record turnout, more than half of the voters in the Democratic Primary were Afro-American. Eighty percent of the Afro-American voters supported Obama. It was on the basis of this Black solidarity or Black electoral power that Obama won an overwhelming victory in the South Carolina primary – 55% to Hillary Clinton’s 27% and Edwards’ 15%. Yet Obama did nothing to encourage the hard-pressed Afro-American people of South Carolina.
Exultant in this decisive South Carolina primary victory, Obama and his campaigners chanted “Race doesn’t matter!” in the face of the obvious fact that “race” had indeed mattered there. The Afro-American people of South Carolina had demonstrated political support for Obama in the hope that he would help alleviate their suffering. Instead of expressing appreciation to the Black masses for the victory and dedicating himself to representing their interests, Obama and his “campaigners” insulted the Black masses, deprecating their effort. As if ashamed of their support, Obama distanced himself from the very people who had provided his victory.
That shrewd old fox, former President Bill Clinton, correctly observed that Black people had supported the Black candidate. But Clinton did this knowing that he was fanning the flames of white supremacy which would help position Hillary Clinton to win most of the primaries on Super Tuesday when white people would vote for a white candidate. Former President Carter reported that Clinton tried to “explain that he was not raising the race issue.” But Carter observed that “it’s troublesome to them (the Clintons), the adverse reaction.” Thus, Bill Clinton, wrongly given the title of the “first Black President” by many Afro-American people, made a key move to try to make sure that there would not be a first Black president in this election year.
The Obama Campaign and the Jesse Jackson Campaigns
Many Afro-American, Latino and white voters are excited about the supposedly “ground breaking” character of Barack Obama’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for President. Obama’s candidacy is giving them renewed faith in the allegedly “democratic” character of the monopoly capitalist and imperialist political-economic system of the USA. When we examine what is actually groundbreaking about his candidacy, however, the basis for such faith and optimism regarding the old and dying capitalist system in the USA proves hollow.
First of all, contrary to the monopoly capitalist mass media propaganda barrage, Obama is not the first but the third or fourth serious Afro-American candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. The first was New York City Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, and the most recent was Al Sharpton, although Chisholm and Sharpton were each one among many candidates. The most important and most serious Afro-American candidate thus far was Jesse Jackson in both the 1984 and 1988 presidential primary seasons.
Secondly, Jackson’s 1984 candidacy, in particular, was remarkably successful, especially given the fact that the monopoly capitalist mass media had written him off as a fringe candidate from the beginning of the campaign! Jackson had never stood for elective office before but was leading a Rainbow Coalition of Blacks, Latinos, Asians and whites, including union workers. The Coalition had gained momentum from the victorious Harold Washington Mayoral Campaign over the powerful Daley machine in Chicago.
Jackson came in third to Senator Gary Hart and the ultimate Democratic nominee, former Vice President Walter Mondale. Jackson won five primaries and caucuses, including Louisiana, South Carolina, Virginia, the District of Columbia and one of two separate contests in Mississippi. He gained 21% of the total vote (3.5 million votes), though only 8% of the delegates. He was undermined by Democratic Party rules that favored Mondale. While Jackson showed little regard for the Democratic presidential candidate, he tragically refused to lead his “Rainbow Coalition” out of the Democratic Party. For, that was an historical moment where a Black, Latino and labor Party could have been born. One sign of the strength of the 1984 Jackson campaign was that Mondale appeared to give serious consideration to a possible Black or Latino running mate and finally chose the first woman on a major party ticket in U.S. history, New York Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro.
Thirdly, from the narrow bourgeois electoral perspective, Jackson’s 1988 bid was even more successful than his 1984 run. Jackson had proved himself loyal to the system by keeping his Rainbow Coalition within the confines of the Democratic wing of the U.S. monopoly capitalist Republican-Democratic political duopoly in 1984. Thus Jackson’s 1988 campaign was better financed and organized and deemed “credible.” He more than doubled his previous results. Jackson garnered 6.9 million votes and won eleven contests, including seven primaries and four caucuses. After he won the Michigan Democratic caucus Jesse Jackson was briefly considered the frontrunner for the nomination, a feat duplicated by Obama a few weeks ago with his Iowa caucus win.
On back to back days, Jackson suffered a narrow loss to Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in Colorado and then a decisive loss in Wisconsin which made Dukakis the clear frontrunner. Dukakis went on from there to win the 1988 Democratic nomination. Again, Jackson remained in the Democratic Party fold. He supported Dukakis and reaped some tangible rewards from the oppressive system to which he had remained loyal, betraying the interests of the millions who had followed him.
It is noteworthy that in neither election did the Democratic Party adopt any of the progressive and populist platform demands that Jackson had run on (with the exception of his anti-South African apartheid stance). Such social democratic demands as creating a single-payer universal health care system, ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, Black Reparations, support for Black farmers and family farmers, instituting a nuclear freeze, reversing the Reaganomics tax cuts for the rich, providing free community college for all, applying stricter enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and other elementary democratic demands, never made it into the Democratic Party platform in those years when Jackson showed such voting strength. Jesse Jackson showed loyalty to the Democratic Party; and the Democratic Party showed its loyalty to the U.S. imperialist ruling class. And the Democratic Party did not win either of those elections.
Kevin Alexander Gray has astutely observed: “The Rainbow challenge had an effect on both political parties. On the Republican side, it prompted a top-down approach to race politics with the ascensions of Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and others. It’s inspired Bush’s ‘faith-based’ schemes.* On the Democratic side, it propelled the backlash Democratic Leadership Conference (DLC), dedicated to reversing the political aspiration of the Jackson coalition.” (“The Black Primary,” CounterPunch, July 2007) The DLC produced the Clinton presidency.
*The Afro-American people, from the beginning, recognized that Bush had illegitimately become Commander in Chief and, for the most part, they never accepted Bush’s rationale for the war on Iraq, in particular. Spurred on by the heroic Iraqi Resistance, recruitment and reenlistment of Afro-Americans into the U.S. military has been drastically reduced over the entire Bush war period, an extremely important positive development. Nevertheless, the fact that Powell and Rice were in positions of unprecedented prominence within the Bush Regime helped keep Afro-American participation in anti-war actions and organizations to a minimum. Indeed, this is a key factor that has fueled U.S. imperialist acceptance of Obama as a “credible” Democratic presidential hopeful at this time.
Gray sadly points out “The joke that refuses to go away is that Bill Clinton was ‘America’s first black president’, even as his policies on due process, equal protection and equal treatment – in other words, civil rights – were horrible.” (Ibid.)
In this regard, it is worth noting that Afro-American multi-millionaire, Bob Johnson, whose wealth mostly derived from his ownership of Black Entertainment Television (BET), with its pollution of the hearts and minds of many of the current generation of young Black people, was George Bush’s Black point man on repeal of the estate tax and on Social Security privatization, two blatantly pro white ruling class issues. This campaign season Johnson is Hillary Clinton’s point man focusing attention on Obama’s self-admitted drug use in his youth. And Bill Clinton finally made the first prominent mention of the Jesse Jackson campaign victories in South Carolina to diminish Obama’s win there and raise up the specter of a Black candidate with a Black activist base.
Now, twenty years after the second and last Jesse Jackson electoral campaign, what is distinctive about the Obama campaign is that he is the first Afro-American candidate that the U.S. monopoly capitalist and imperialist ruling class (through its mass media) has declared is a serious candidate without a mass movement behind him. Clearly, the U.S. ruling class, the white power structure, has little to fear from Barack Obama. For Obama is in the new tradition of Black politicians.*
*U.S. monopoly capital’s increased penetration of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was noted almost three years ago when Black Commentator published an article on “the defection of ten of the 41 voting CBC members to the Republicans on bankruptcy, and eight on repeal of the estate tax.” To authors Glen Ford and Peter Gamble this signaled that, “corporate-controlled membership in the CBC has reached critical mass.” It is no wonder that, as Gray points out, “Even with more black officials than at any time in history – most of them Democrats – many African-Americans feel that things have been moving in the wrong direction for a while now.” (Gray, “The Black Primary”, CounterPunch, July 2007)
A look at the depth of the problems faced by the Afro-American people in the USA today helps expose how little the election of any Democrat (or Republican) as U.S. President will help to bring about a positive resolution of any of these issues. Nonetheless, the Barack Obama run for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination is a magnet for Afro-American hopes and aspirations as seen in South Carolina – especially because Senator Obama is one of the front runners for the nomination.
THE CURRENT SITUATION OF THE AFRO-AMERICAN PEOPLE IN THE USA
Hurricane Katrina and its Aftermath
In late August and early September 2005, unimaginable terror was inflicted with a devastating one-two punch upon the mostly poor and mostly Afro-American people who were abandoned and stranded in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina landed on them; and this was followed by the collapse of the faulty infrastructure and especially the levee system, resulting in massive flooding from the Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico. Hundreds of human beings drowned in their own homes and thousands experienced traumatic injury and death like rats in a sewer. They had been set up for this experience by the criminal negligence and single-minded pursuit of profit by the banking and corporate interests that run the governments of the city of New Orleans, the state of Louisiana and the Bush-led federal government of the USA. Once the storm and the terrible flood had subsided, these mostly poor and Afro-American victims were victimized again when the U.S. military and the Department of Homeland Security (spearheaded by Blackwater Inc. mercenary soldiers) occupied New Orleans, like Baghdad, and then forcibly removed them from their city. Many New Orleans families were forcibly separated and dispersed to the far corners of the USA, in scenes reminiscent of slavery times.
Two and one-half years later, a quarter of a million people or more, exiled from their New Orleans homes, remain homeless and adrift in this capitalist society. With no substantial safety net, many are jobless, friendless and with virtually no ability to get home or to stay home if they somehow manage to get there. The Afro-American people of New Orleans have been the victims of the most massive land stealing scheme since Black land owners and the Reconstruction governments of Louisiana and other Southern states were drowned in blood by Ku Klux Klan armies more than a hundred and twenty-five years ago!
To cite just a few facts which defy any other conclusion:
1. Almost no rebuilding has occurred in the Lower 9th Ward, the area with the densest Black population within the city and the strongest community spirit. Most of the folks were originally from the Mississippi Delta “super-plantation” cotton region – the very heart of the Afro-American nation. The Lower 9th had one of the highest percentages of stable Black home ownership of any urban Black community in the country. This area is now prime real estate.
2. The huge number of construction jobs involved in the rebuilding and repair efforts that are underway could have served as a stable source of jobs and income for returning Afro-American working class families who have lived in New Orleans for generations. Instead, thousands of Latino migrant workers, with no ties to the area, have been brought into New Orleans by the white bankers and real estate moguls to carry out the rebuilding effort.
3. FEMA purchased thousands of temporary trailers at higher prices than new permanent homes would have cost.
4. Infrastructure support such as resumed city services, and re-opened hospitals and schools, key to the rebuilding of residential communities, have been kept at the barest minimum.
5. As 2007 was coming to a close, only 6% of the Congressional appropriation given to Louisiana to rebuild rental housing had been used; and only 6% of aid money earmarked for the homeless had been used.*
6. Because of a desperate shortage of service workers, the tourism industry capitalists finally joined the poor in fighting to keep open the still habitable public housing and to expand it. However, last month (December 2007), despite the legal and mass opposition, HUD began to bulldoze most of the public housing projects – in this city with an acute housing shortage!
*Another example of where such funds are diverted was just announced in the past few days: “While thousands of Mississippians who lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina remain in FEMA trailers, the state intends to spend $600 million in federal grants originally earmarked for housing on a major expansion of the state-owned port ─ a project that could eventually include casino and resort facilities.” The federal government just approved the diversion of the funds. (MSNBC and AP)
As we pointed out elsewhere: “This has been nothing short of ethnic cleansing for the ultimate profit of the same banking elite that has run New Orleans since slavery times (when New Orleans was the richest city in the USA) and that has run New Orleans in conjunction with the Rockefeller Chase Bank elements for more than a hundred years. This terrible crisis for tens or even hundreds of thousands has underscored the importance of the fight for the Afro-American people’s right to return to New Orleans and need for Land and State Power in the Black Belt territory of their homeland.” (“2007 Country Report – USA”, Ray O. Light Newsletter, Number 45, July-August 2007)
The Jena Six
In September 2006, in Jena, Louisiana, perhaps a few hours’ drive from New Orleans, Black students asked a vice principal of the local high school if they could sit under a tree in the shady area in front of the school which had, by white supremacist custom, been “for whites only.” When told that nothing was stopping them, Black students then sat under the tree. On the following day, hanging from the tree in the school’s colors, were three ropes tied as nooses. The message to the Black students and Black community was unmistakable: the nooses meant that the KKK would lynch students who defy the segregationist order of things. The white power structure, including the city’s school authorities, brushed it off as a “youthful stunt,” giving the three white students responsible a mere three day in-school suspension. Several Black students staged a sit-in protest under the tree. At this point the white principal brought the white district attorney, along with ten police officers, into an all-school assembly.
Looking directly at the Black students in the segregated assembly hall, the DA, Reed Walters, told them to keep their mouths shut about the nooses and threatened that he could “make their lives go away” with the stroke of a pen. Tensions simmered through November. Then the main school building was mysteriously burned to the ground bringing the issue to a boiling point. Robert Bailey, a Black student and football player, was attacked and beaten by a group of white youth after he had been invited to a “white’ dance. Only one white youth was arrested; he received probation and was asked to apologize. The night after the initial attack, Bailey, with two friends, was assaulted by a white man with two companions. The man pulled a gun on Bailey and was prevented from using it by the Black youth who took the gun away. The white man went free while Bailey and his friends were arrested for theft! On the following Monday, at school, Bailey was being taunted by Justin Barker, a white student. This time, it was Barker who was beaten up by the Black students, taken to the hospital and released in time to be out socializing that evening. Precisely along the line threatened by DA Walters at the earlier all-school assembly, six Black students were charged with “attempted second degree manslaughter” and expelled from school. They became the Jena Six.
The Jena Six court cases began in late June 2007 with the charges against Mychal Bell. Though only sixteen years old at the time of the incident, Bell was tried as an adult. All six jurors were white as were all 50 of the potential jurors who had shown up. This was despite the fact that the 150 people in the jury call included Black citizens, who make up ten percent of the parish’s population. Bell was convicted. Gradually, the word got out about this case which shockingly demonstrated the openly white supremacist rule in Jena’s schools and justice system. Clearly, “lynch law” justice was alive and well In Louisiana.
No doubt fueled somewhat by the frustration associated with the horrific limbo existence still being experienced by thousands of Afro-American exiles from the New Orleans area living especially elsewhere in Louisiana and the deep South, the blatant white supremacy in the case of the Jena Six moved large numbers of Black youth, in particular, to respond to a call to come to Jena on September 20, 2007. Thirty thousand or more rallied in the town of three thousand that day. In addition, on the same day, in cities and towns throughout the USA, large and small local demonstrations of solidarity with the Jena Six took place. This was arguably the largest spontaneous demonstration of Black people in the post 9/11 period and was a very good development.
However, thus far, it has not been followed up on effectively. The demonstration and the mass pressure associated with the September 20th demonstration have helped to mitigate the damage done to the Jena Six. But such white supremacist rule in Louisiana and throughout the South has not been stopped or even slowed down. In fact, in the days following the demonstration, in many parts of the South and throughout the USA, noose incidents occurred. With regard to the oppression of the Afro-American people, the USA is still heading back to the past rapidly. To reverse this reactionary course, a new, genuine Black liberation movement needs to be built.
The Impact of Black Political Powerlessness Today in Other Areas
The Subprime Mortgage Crisis: “Forty acres and a mule” was an unfulfilled promise of the U.S. government to the freed slaves at the close of the Civil War. No reparations have ever been received for the generations of unpaid work produced by the Afro-American people in slavery. Ever since then, U.S. government policy has most often prevented Afro-American working families from gaining access to home ownership. This fact helps account for the astounding gap between the aggregate family wealth of white families as compared to Black families in the USA today. Desperate to gain such access, a disproportionate number of Afro-American families (as well as Latino families) have been targeted by predatory subprime mortgage lenders and hooked into the subprime mortgage web by the lure of “easy” mortgage access. Thus, the current subprime mortgage crisis threatens to transform massive numbers of Afro-American working families, in particular, from homeowners to homeless this year.
The Megan Williams Case and the Hate Crimes Laws: In West Virginia, twenty year old Megan Williams was kidnapped and held captive for a month. During that time she was beaten, raped, stabbed, forced to eat dog and rat feces, tortured and threatened with death. One of her captors told her, “This is what we do to n*****s around here.” Ms. Williams almost certainly would have been murdered by her six white male and female captors. Instead she managed to break free and make contact with a passerby who helped her to escape. The barbaric actions of these six white savages toward this young Afro-American woman underscore the white supremacist poison that permeates the USA today.
Despite the overt white supremacy in this horrific incident, including confessions by at least two of the suspects that Ms. Williams was brutalized because she is an Afro-American, the Logan County prosecutor has been “reluctant” to bring state hate crimes charges against the six white defendants. The County prosecutor’s cowardice is further confirmation of the general atmosphere of hatred and oppression that permeates not only Logan County but much of U.S. imperialist society today. Likewise, according to Malik Zulu Shabazz, president of the Black Lawyers for Justice, U.S. Attorney Charles Miller informed him that as the federal prosecutor he had been directed by his superiors in Washington, DC not to file charges in this case, even for alleged civil rights violations!
State hate crimes charges are most often not issued because of the community pressure on these local DA’s in support of the hate crime perpetrators. Federal hate crimes penalties are so weak that this fact has often been used as an excuse not to file such charges. The result is a sentiment, especially among white folks, that there are no more hate crimes being committed, that Black people don’t have anything to complain about anymore. This in turn fosters more such hatred.
Clearly, the Afro-American people and their allies need to organize and win enough political power to compel the enforcement of hate crimes laws and/or mete out justice to these criminals so that such crimes are eliminated from the U.S. multinational state.
The Rutgers Women’s Championship Basketball Team and the Trial of Marion Jones: As an Afro-American woman, Megan Williams was among the least appreciated, most oppressed people in the USA. The widespread white chauvinist and male supremacist attitude that Black women are whores, “hos” in the language of hip-hop, makes them “fair game” as an object of derision and scorn, and of physical and sexual violence. Don Imus, the influential white “shock radio” host, greeted the news of the victory for the Rutgers University women’s NCAA basketball championship team, a team made up predominantly of Afro-American women led by an Afro-American woman coach, by dismissing them as “hos.” Initially, there was no penalty exacted from Mr. Imus. However, the dignity with which the entire team of young collegiate women, under Coach Vivian Stringer, protested the outrageous conduct of Imus led to enough pressure on his corporate sponsors that Imus was ultimately fired. Several months later, as a recipient of much popular “sympathy,” Imus was hired back.
Meanwhile, there is no sympathy for Olympic track and field champion Marion Jones, who was herself a key member of an NCAA Basketball Championship team when she was in college at the University of North Carolina. Jones, now a mother of two, was charged with using illegal steroids in competition and of having knowledge about an illegal check cashing scheme that involved the father of one of her children. A plea bargain was arrived at between her defense attorney and the prosecutor. As a result, the defense attorney and Ms. Jones, a nursing mother of an infant child, wanted her sentence to be limited to time served, while the prosecutor
wanted her to receive the maximum sentence under the plea bargain agreement. Then, with sentence pending, in an unusual turn of events, the Judge announced that he was considering giving Ms. Jones a stiffer sentence than the maximum agreed to in the plea bargain! If this kind of judicial conduct were proper, plea bargains would quickly cease to exist. But the Judge desired to make an example of Ms. Jones.
Such is the state of U.S. imperialist culture today. Black women, no matter how high they rise, no matter how vulnerable their families, are fair game. White men, no matter how ignoble, as long as they support the monopoly capitalist and imperialist system are not. Sympathy for Imus. No sympathy for Jones.
The “Lynching” of Afro-American Sports Heroes: Barry Bonds, Michael Vick and Tiger Woods:
Scandals involving O.J. Simpson, the famous and politically safe former football star and Hollywood actor, have been the focus of countless hours, days, months and years of media obsession. Monopoly capitalist media coverage of Simpson has helped bring about a situation where Black men are marginalized in the USA today to a point comparable with the segregationist past. Black men themselves have become conditioned to the fact that athletics is almost the only vehicle for uplift of themselves and their individual families.
During the decade of the 1960’s, with the emergence of the Afro-American national liberation movement, Afro-American athletes gained access to the major amateur and professional sports here. Many of them became the acknowledged superstars of their sports. At that time, a number of them, including Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jim Brown, took political stands in solidarity with the Afro-American masses whose struggles had brought about their opportunity.
In the contemporary period, Black athletes make far more money and have become far removed from their roots. But in this white supremacist society they are even more vulnerable than the bolder and more generous pioneers who preceded them.
The legendary baseball player, Barry Bonds, has now attained the loftiest baseball record. He is the Major League’s all-time home-run king. Yet, the Afro-American and other young baseball players and fans were prevented from full enjoyment, inspiration and encouragement by Bonds’ prowess because of the constant unproven charges of steroid use leveled against him by the mass media. The recent similar charges made by the corporate owners’ own “official” report against the legendary white baseball pitcher, Roger Clemens, have elicited a far different reaction from the monopoly capitalist media. He has been treated as “innocent until proven guilty,” a fair approach so long denied to Bonds. To Bonds’ credit, he has remained unbowed under all the pressure.
Football quarterback, Michael Vick, one of the USA’s most admired athletes, was shown “no mercy” for his deep involvement in the brutal macho sport of dog fighting. While his conduct was reprehensible and cruel, the swiftness with which white U.S. society determined that he should serve a long prison term was striking. This is especially so when compared with the virtual silence of these same citizens on the issue of impeachment and prison time for the arch war criminal George W. Bush for leading the USA into attacking and occupying Iraq and continuing that occupation, all on the basis of lies, with all the thousands of human deaths on Bush’s hands.
The fall from grace to disgrace of gifted and privileged and spoiled Afro-American athletes on a regular basis becomes an object lesson to Black men (and women, as with Marion Jones) to “stay in their place.” And it serves as “proof” for white working class men as well as Black, that “Black people have nothing to complain about anymore.”
Recently, this sports myth that Black people have nothing to complain about now reached Tiger Woods, already a golfer of legendary accomplishments and widely admired by golfers of all ethnic backgrounds. Woods was the object of an off-hand remark on TV by a young white woman sports announcer who is apparently a personal friend. In her ignorance, she speculated that his professional golf rivals ought to “lynch” him, because that would be the only way to defeat him in golf. Woods himself, like most of today’s Afro-American sports figures, has shown little concern for the plight of the Afro-American people and apparently did not take the comment seriously. There was, however, enough mass outrage expressed at the comment that the young woman was given a two week suspension from her job.
The most significant aspects of this incident are 1. The young woman’s chauvinistic arrogance and ignorance reflected in her apparent assumption that U.S. society has gone way beyond its pervasive white supremacy past and her feeling of entitlement to spread such “light hearted” chauvinism, and 2. Tiger Woods’ own allegiance to his corporate sponsors and privileged existence among wealthy white folks at the expense of any effort to defend the Afro-American people’s history and current plight.
Bill Cosby Blames the Victims: Bill Cosby has taken Tiger Woods’ failure to defend the Black masses a step further. Cosby, a multi-millionaire comedian came from humble origins. Cosby’s own first big breakthrough was playing a Black CIA operative in the Black and white buddy semi-comedy, “I Spy.” That TV series created an idyllic relationship between his character and his white partner (played by Robert Culp) as they spied on various foreign governments and individuals on behalf of vicious and brutal U.S. imperialism. This was a time when there were few real-life inter-racial buddy relationships and almost no real life Black CIA agents. Since then, as his star rose, Cosby has made attempts through large gifts to historically black colleges and universities, through books on “good parenting” and even through his hit comedy show to provide a positive example of a path to success for the oppressed Afro-American people within and under the rules of this unjust system of monopoly capitalism and imperialism.
Having been frustrated by his “impossible dream,” instead of recognizing the need for the Afro-American people to struggle for their freedom against U.S. imperialism, Cosby has openly turned against the Black masses. Some of Cosby’s criticisms of the people for failure to take responsibility with regard to single family homes, teen pregnancies, etc. would have merit if he had the courage to expose the crucial role of the U.S. imperialist government, economic system and culture for this sad state of affairs. In the absence of any serious criticism of the vicious system of imperialist oppression and exploitation, Cosby’s one-sided criticism of the Black masses is an attack on the people and defense of the system and of his own privileged existence. He is blaming the victims.
Cosby’s attack on the Afro-American people can only be understood in the absence of a Black liberation movement, organizing and uplifting the people in the struggle against capital. The Black masses themselves have been dispersed and divided by sex and age as well as economic status. For example, the current “Black” hip hop culture with its anti-women and anti-Black messages is a far cry from the uplifting and ennobling music of Oscar Brown, Jr., the words of the Lost Poets and the insightful political rap of Gil Scott Heron who gave birth to this cultural form.
The openness of Cosby’s attack reflects the gap that is widening today between the Afro-American masses and the Black Bourgeoisie, the latter now more dependent than ever on the U.S. imperialist bourgeoisie for their privileged survival. The emergence of political figures such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and consecutive Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice as well as corporate figures such as former BET chief Robert Johnson suggest that the Black elite is doing better than ever. This is what Barack Obama, with his slightly different political message, actually represents. As Obama’s insulting message to his Afro-American supporters following his primary campaign victory in South Carolina pronounced: the elite Black leadership is everything and the Black masses are nothing.*
*Among the few influential Afro-American leaders today who do respect the Black masses and tell them the truth, such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, many are likely to be found in prison.
Barack Obama versus Hillary Clinton on Source of Civil Rights Victories
In mid January, the tussle between front-running Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton over the candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination for U.S. President produced a controversy worthy of consideration by the Afro-American people and all those aspiring to national liberation and socialist revolution within the current boundaries of the U.S. imperialist state. “Was Martin Luther King Jr. mainly responsible for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the civil rights gains for the Afro-American people in the 1960’s or was Democratic President Lyndon Johnson?”
It is a trick question that reflects the electoral trick bag that the current marathon presidential primary season represents for the oppressed and exploited masses of the USA. For what the “controversy” between Obama and Clinton exposes is their fundamental agreement in support of the status quo. The two candidates agree that the Civil Rights Act and, by implication, the law of the land, is what freed the Afro-American people from their segregated existence.
The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 represented a positive expansion of the rights of the oppressed Afro-American people throughout the country and thus served to encourage an expansion of the arena for the freedom struggle. However, the law’s passage was primarily an attempt by the U.S. imperialist ruling class to contain and ultimately gain control of the rising Black Liberation Movement which was rapidly advancing from a non-violent civil rights struggle for integration into a fight for freedom by any means necessary, as Malcolm X expressed it.
In reality, those mainly responsible for the passage of this legislation were the Afro-American masses, mostly student youth and workers, with a few white radical allies, united in organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), as well as King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and local freedom groups that emerged throughout the land. These Black masses made it clear that they would no longer tolerate the second class status they had been consigned to under U.S. imperialist rule. In their protest actions, they exhibited a willingness to risk arrest and even death. And the SNCC leadership, along with the heroic Robert Williams of Monroe, North Carolina, in particular, reached out to anti-imperialists and revolutionary forces throughout the world from Cuba to China to Vietnam. Their courageous efforts smashed segregation.
The “controversy” that is drawing many of the Black masses and others into standing with Obama or Clinton is itself worth examining more closely. Senator Clinton’s answer was that the role of Johnson, the white President, was more important; Senator Obama came to the “defense” of Reverend King. The implication of Clinton is that the uplift of the Afro-American people today can only be brought about by a practical white politician like LBJ or herself.* Obama’s support for King is based on the dangerous illusion that one Black man can single-handedly bring justice and equality to the Afro-American people. Yesterday it was King, the argument goes; tomorrow it will be Obama himself.**
signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and
then almost immediately launched the open war against the people of
utilizing a large percentage of front line Afro-American troops as
cannon fodder. Key to the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam in clear and
defeat, second in importance only to the magnificent struggle of the
communist-led Vietnamese national liberation movement, was the
soldiers’ revolt within the U.S. imperialist occupation army. But this
occurred in the course of ten years of war, the longest war in U.S.
Clearly the Afro-American people as well as the heroic Vietnamese
people paid a
high price in blood for the illusions about LBJ among the Afro-American
in the first years of the Vietnam War. Hillary Clinton’s consistent
Bush’s war of terror against the world’s peoples makes her an
defender of LBJ’s criminal legacy.
**The following summing up of Martin Luther King’s role by Malcolm X is prophetic and ironic with regard to the role Obama himself is playing in U.S. imperialist society today:
“I would like to mention ... the method that the white man uses, how the white man uses the ‘big guns’ or Negro leaders, against the Negro revolution. They are not a part of the Negro revolution. They are used against the Negro revolution.
“When Martin Luther King failed to desegregate Albany, Georgia, the civil-rights struggle in America reached its low point. King became bankrupt almost, as a leader. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was in financial trouble; and it was in trouble, period, with the people when they failed to desegregate Albany, Georgia. Other Negro civil-rights leaders of so-called national stature became fallen idols. As they became fallen idols, began to lose their prestige and influence, local Negro leaders began to stir up our people at the grassroots level. This was never done by these Negroes of national stature. They control you, but they have never incited you or excited you. They control you, they contain you, they have kept you on the plantation.” (Speech at the Northern Negro Grass Roots Leadership Conference, 1963)
The “choice” between Senators Clinton and Obama thus ends up being the usual “vote for me and I’ll set you free” illusion promoted by the system in every U.S. presidential election so as to keep the workers and oppressed from fighting against U.S. imperialism for political power that can actually lead to changing the world for the better.
The Tactical Significance of the Cynthia McKinney Campaign
The thrust of this Newsletter is an exposure of the bankruptcy of imperialist bourgeois electoral politics at the USA wide level, its dead end character for the working people and the oppressed nationalities within the belly of the beast, and especially for the oppressed Afro-American people. This does not mean that revolutionary anti-imperialists and communists should reject all work in the electoral arena, even at the countrywide level. An important component of “by any means necessary” is the political election arena, for it is an arena where apolitical masses become politicized, where they learn about the nature of the state apparatus and learn to deal with it.
In this light, we are encouraged that former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (Democrat-Georgia) has announced her candidacy for President on behalf of the Power to the People Coalition. She is seeking to broaden the effort by applying for the Green Party’s endorsement as well. But, more importantly, Congresswoman McKinney’s campaign goes up against monopoly capital and imperialism and the Republican and Democratic wings of the U.S. imperialist War Party. It has the potential to gather the genuine forces that the three Democratic bigwigs, Clinton, Obama and Edwards proclaim that they are speaking on behalf of ─ women, Afro-Americans and labor.
This politically courageous Afro-American woman from the heart of the Black Belt South has proven herself a fit leader for the toiling masses of the USA. She was outspoken in her exposure of the stolen Presidential elections of 2000 and 2004. Almost alone in the halls of Congress, she stood up to the frightening and rapid drive to war, and war hysteria and toward fascism. She exposed the corporate profit motive behind the Bush-led drive to war in Iraq. She has called for the immediate repeal of the USA PATRIOT Act and the police state acts that have followed. She introduced articles of impeachment for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice. She stands for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq and the Middle East and seeks to bring all U.S. troops home from Europe, Asia and Africa.
Cynthia McKinney currently serves with or on the following international commissions and organizations: 1. The International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita; 2. The Brussels Tribunal on Iraq; 3. War Crimes prosecutions in Spain; and 4. The Malaysian Peace organization to criminalize war.
On the domestic front, Congresswoman McKinney stands for health care for all; free higher education for all; public child care for working families; and a focus on education that includes exposure of Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” as an effort to dismantle public education. She also calls for a massive public works program and union jobs to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure of the USA.
Beyond all these issues which are of great importance to the Afro-American masses as well as the working class as a whole, Cynthia McKinney’s hands-on involvement with the Katrina survivors and their right to return to their New Orleans area homes, her active defense of hate crime victim Megan Williams in her fight for justice and her excellent legislative work which forced the U.S. Department of Agriculture to admit its longtime discrimination against Black farmers are reflections of her deep concern for the wellbeing of the people from which she has sprung. As Cynthia McKinney eloquently expressed:
“The issue of land is at the center of the struggle in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The wealthy and powerful want to eliminate Black control over, and access to, the land. We have watched Black land loss accelerate in the South. We have seen systematic expropriation of Black-owned land in the South as a result of government policy … I recently learned that this ‘taking’ of Black land even includes my own family.”
The present historical moment finds the Afro-American people and the U.S. working class at a low ebb in the national and class struggles. In this context, the Revolutionary Organization of Labor (USA) encourages active participation in this electoral campaign. We are convinced that the organization and mobilization of the Afro-American people and the U.S. working class can be advanced through participation in the Cynthia McKinney Presidential Campaign.
The Fight for Afro-American National Liberation and Socialism
Our tactical participation in the bourgeois electoral arena, including in the Cynthia McKinney Campaign, needs to flow from a strategy for proletarian revolution in the USA.
Strategically, the struggle for Afro-American national liberation is based on the fight for land and state power in the Black Belt South. In this period the fight for the right of return for Katrina survivors and Justice for the Jena Six are key elements in this struggle.
Similar struggles of the Chicano and Puerto Rican peoples in the U.S. Southwest (occupied Mexico) and on the island of Puerto Rico are potentially strong allies in the struggle against U.S. imperialist national oppression. In these important regions, among others, the national democratic stage of the revolution is a necessary step to the socialist revolution.
In the U.S. (North) oppressor nation the struggle is already at the stage of socialism. The workers in the U.S. (North), including Afro-American and Latino national minority workers, will be greatly aided in advancing the socialist struggle by the ripping apart of the tentacles of the U.S. Empire through successful national democratic revolutions both outside of and within the U.S. multi-national state. And the national democratic revolutions in the nations oppressed by U.S. imperialism both within and outside the U.S. multi-national state will be greatly aided by the struggle of the U.S. (North) working class for socialism in the “belly of the beast.”
Smash the Democratic-Republican Party political duopoly of U.S. imperialism!
Self Determination for the Afro-American Nation in the Black Belt South!