RAY O’ LIGHT NEWSLETTER
“Free the Land!”
by RAY LIGHT
Also included in this issue:
“Breaking News” Cartoon
A poem Chokwe Lumumba
Note to Readers
World Cup Cartoon
Justice for Brazil and Haiti
Reprint “March on Washington’s Fiftieth Anniversary
Do You Know Who Said It??Fidel Castro is “the greatest man in history.”
Hint: This sentiment was expressed recently on a current wildly popular daily TV show. Was this the expression of the head of state of a government independent of U.S. imperialism or a famed political commentator or someone else?–Still stumped? See below.
For the civil rights movement failed to strongly link the fight for political power with the struggle for economic power and the central task to free the land. Tragically, “The Right of Self Determination of the Negroes in the Black Belt,” the key political slogan promoted by the Communist International and its Communist Party USA (CPUSA) affiliate in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, focused on Land and State Power in the Black Belt South, and its extremely successful Alabama Sharecroppers’ Union organization, had long since been abandoned.
Yet, in 2014,“Free the Land!” was the timely and timeless greeting through which the marvelous Afro-American leader, Chokwe Lumumba, intertwined his educational message, his guidance, his untiring community activism and his charismatic personality and generously shared them all with the oppressed and exploited peoples of the world, and especially the oppressed Afro-American people in Mississippi. Last year, in his first interview as Mayor of Jackson, the Mississippi state capitol and its most populous city, Chokwe Lumumba told the Jackson Advocate that he was “excited about the possibility of a great migration to Mississippi.” “We need our people to come back to help build a new society,” he said. Putting forward his vision of “a majority black state,” Mayor Lumumba pointed to the Republic of New Africa (RNA) of which he had been a long time activist, as having “worked since its founding in 1968 to build new communities in five southern states—Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina—centered on cooperative economics.”*
* In an AP interview in 2013, Chokwe stated: “The provisional government of the Republic of New Africa was always a group that believed in human rights for human beings…It was a group that was fighting for human rights for black people in this country and at the same time supporting human rights around the globe.”
On February 25, 2014, Chokwe Lumumba died unexpectedly at the age of 66. He had been mayor for less than eight months.*
* Given the long history of white supremacist/Klan murders and assassinations of outstanding Afro-American freedom fighters in Mississippi, including, among others, Medgar Evers in Jackson itself, the fact that Chokwe Lumumba had some health issues and died in a hospital is no guarantee that he was not the latest such prominent victim.
Despite the brevity of his time at the helm of the Jackson city government, the effectiveness of his administration was already unmistakably clear. Just a week before he died, Jackson’s voters overwhelmingly passed a 1% sales tax on themselves to serve as a capital funding project. Such was their trust of the Lumumba Administration. According to the Final Call’s Eric Ture Muhammad, “Officials estimate over the next two years dollars available to the fund will grow to $1.7 billion … the funding, which Mayor Lumumba fought for, allocates money to a true people’s coalition … to improve the city’s infrastructure, support businesses and, in a first, rehab some Black neighborhoods.” (Final Call, 3-13-14)
Clearly, under the outstanding, effective leadership of Mayor Lumumba, the veteran Revolutionary Black Nationalist, the city of Jackson was in the process of becoming a powerful spark for a new upsurge of the Afro-American national liberation movement against U.S. imperialism. And because the Afro-American national question has the potential to be the “Achilles heel” of U.S. imperialism, still today the main bulwark of world capitalist reaction, the exciting progressive transformation of Jackson and its 75% Afro-American population under the Lumumba leadership held serious implications for the main enemy of toiling humanity, imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism.
Moreover, historically, when the international communist movement has had a generally correct political line on the Afro-American national question (as in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s), it has also been generally correct in its approach to the nature of U.S. imperialism and the revolutionary tasks associated with that understanding. In this context, as the delegate of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor (USA) to a recent international gathering of communists and revolutionaries in Europe, I asked for a moment of silent tribute to comrade Chokwe Lumumba and this was respectfully carried out by the comrades from around the world.
year ago, in the lead-up to the Fiftieth Anniversary March on
Washington in commemoration of the 1963 March, I wrote about the “good
news and bad news” that was then being experienced by the Afro-American
people. The main “good news” was the election of Chokwe Lumumba as
Jackson’s mayor. The bad news included the Supreme Court’s decision
gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the acquittal of George
Zimmerman in his “trial” for the cold-blooded murder of the innocent
youth, Trayvon Martin. All three of these events were focused in the
Black Belt South homeland of the Afro-American people. I observed then
that, “… U.S. imperialism has no intention of allowing the
Afro-American people and other anti-imperialist forces to produce more
Jackson, MS people’s electoral victories, especially in the Black Belt
South. At least not without a bitter struggle. Both the Supreme Court
decision to smash the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Florida
acquittal of the self-confessed killer of Trayvon Martin are key
components in the effort to stem the demographic tide of Afro-American
people returning to their Black Belt homeland, replicating ‘two, three
many Jackson, Mississippi’s’ and ultimately winning Afro-American
national self-determination from the U.S. Empire, up to and including
the right to independent existence as a state.” (“Good News and Bad
News on the Road to the March on Washington’s Fiftieth Anniversary,” p.
19, Ray O’Light Newsletter #79, July-August 2013)*
* See the reprint of the entire article cited below in this issue.
In April of this year, Jackson, MS held a special election to replace Mayor Lumumba. Chokwe Antar Lumumba, the mayor’s son and close co-worker in the struggle, offered himself as a candidate. Sounding like his father, Antar said, “I believe that even though my father was a great man, this journey was never about an individual. It is, was about the people — so the people’s platform and the people’s will still need to be heard.” (quoted in Final Call, op.cit.) The youthful and serious Antar was defeated in a close race in which, at the last minute, a number of conservative Black ministers, seemingly in concert, swung the election to Antar Lumumba’s opponent. But the young man seems determined to continue in the struggle, which is very encouraging.
Finally, now that most of the fiftieth anniversary marches and celebrations have been completed, it is all the more clear that, “the Afro-American liberation struggle of the 1960’s long ago disappeared in the face of effective psy-war, ‘carrot and stick’ policies utilized by U.S. imperialism in collaboration with modern revisionism in the international communist movement.” (ibid., p.18)
A year ago I warned that, “The powers that be will not sit idly by and allow the Lumumba Administration to be successful without a fight. The struggle in defense of the new progressive, pro-people, anti-monopoly, anti-imperialist Jackson city administration and the struggle to replicate it elsewhere can only be victorious in the process of building a new militant Afro-American national liberation movement, fighting for ‘Land and State Power in the Black Belt South.’” (ibid., p.18) This too is all the more clear now.
Eighteen months ago I wrote the following in response to the Newtown, Connecticut Elementary School Tragedy:
“As the citadel of the current world empire, U.S. society, not surprisingly, is much more violent than the other 33 developed nations that make up the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development … . No wonder millions of ‘red blooded American boys’ have gotten the message that might makes right and that mayhem and murder is the solution to their problems. There is an epidemic of mass murders in U.S. society … . And there is every indication that tragic mass murder events in the USA will become not less but more frequent in the foreseeable future.” (“The Brutal and Decaying U.S. Empire and the Newtown School Tragedy,” pp. 6 and 7, Ray O’Light Newsletter #76, Jan-Feb 2013)
Today, President Obama continues his draconian work on behalf of the U.S. oil cartels and Wall Street finance capital. Prominently featured is the defense of dollar domination of the world capitalist economy through U.S. imperialist domination of the Middle East and its oil. Accordingly, Obama is sending additional U.S. soldiers back into Iraq and is more aggressively supplying the Syrian rebel forces escalating the Syrian peoples suffering. So the process continues in which the U.S. imperialist violence against the rest of the world’s peoples can only intensify the violent culture in the USA, on the Evil Empire’s home front. We can expect even more frequent mass murder events in the USA as a result.
— the Editor
by Haki Madhubuti
It is rough to love a people
who do not know or love themselves
one is a Black intellectual-activist committed to
out working the workers,
out studying the studious, committed to
bright sun tomorrows today and understands
in political & legal language the value of
land, off-centered ideas and honored governance.
rougher still to live among and love
a people who are too often defined by their
athletes, comedians, talk-show hosts, sit-coms,
high-school-pushed-outs-confused rappers, the N-word,
youth prison population, male dress-wearing actors,
incarcerated politicians, and prosperity ministers
whose definitions of their god is how close they
can get to him in their lear jets.
it is rough & rougher to dearly love a people
who believe more in others than themselves
forgetting that the only life-substance that nobody,
nowhere is making anymore of is land, and that
most life-giving & live saving sources come from land,
not fast food chains, canned broccoli or fried chitterlings.
Chokwe knew this and took the necessary,
often detoured, yet unrestricted 21st century corrective steps
always in league with Garvey, Douglass, DuBois, Nkrumah,
Malcolm, King, Evers, Wells-Barnett, Rodney, Parks, Bishop,
Sibeko, Brooks, Lumumba (his name sake), Obedele, Cabral,
Afrik, Baker, Cortez, Baraka, Mandela and all the unknown
Black faceless fighters stamped into dried earth to become
liberated songs & yeses,
a quick study & smile,
a city’s head, inspiration and clear possibilities,
whose Afrikan consciousness prepared him
to be us, teach us, lead us and to love us
more than we loved or love our selves.
(for his family, the people of Detroit,
Michigan and Jackson, Mississippi)
[Haki R. Madhubuti is a highly regarded poet and the Founder and Publisher of Third World Press.]
by RAY LIGHT
“For the proletariat needs the truth. And there is nothing so harmful to its cause as plausible, respectable petty bourgeois lies.” (Lenin)
This is the fifth issue of Ray O’Light Newsletter in a row addressing the “continuing downward spiral of organized labor in the USA.” Social studies scholar Staughton Lynd aptly characterized U.S. organized labor as being “in catastrophic decline.”
In Ray O’Light Newsletter #81, we analyzed the September 2013 National AFL-CIO Convention. (The next such convention won’t take place until 2017.) There the Trumka team was re-elected despite its horrible failure to defend the interests of the working class.
We exposed that the positive-sounding “inclusiveness” theme of that convention had a dual purpose: first, to cover up the failure of the Trumka regime to organize workers into the labor movement by bringing into the convention numbers of young and loud and enthusiastic people who appeared to have some relationship to the U.S. working class and organized labor. (They were mostly paid petty bourgeois professional staff folks working for liberal foundation-funded NGO’s.) Secondly, to dilute the extent to which Trumka and the other “labor lieutenants of the capitalist class” have to answer to the working class, i.e. to the actual members of the various labor organizations actually affiliated with the AFL-CIO, as distinct from it “solidarity partners.”
Parts II, III, and IV of the AFL-CIO Road to Ruin in the three issues that followed (Numbers #82, #83 and #84) addressed the three most important U.S. labor struggles over the past six or eight months. In each of the three struggles, the top leadership of the respective union sold out its members or its potential members to the corporation involved. These powerful examples indicated that our analysis in the first one dealing with the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention has some merit.
To explain how the U.S. labor movement got into its current predicament we referred to Lenin’s “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism” (1916) where the leader of the greatest working class revolutionary victory in history thus far observed that “…The bourgeoisie of an imperialist ‘Great Power’ can economically bribe the upper strata of ‘its’ workers…” Certainly, more than sixty years of U.S. imperialist hegemony in the capitalist world had taken its toll.
In the same work, Lenin also insisted: “The only Marxist line in the world labor movement is to explain to the masses the inevitability and necessity of breaking with opportunism, to educate them for revolution by waging a relentless struggle against opportunism, to utilize the experiences … to expose, not conceal, the utter vileness of national-liberal labor politics.” (ibid.) In that first article, we had exposed several right opportunists who, in relation to the 2013 AFL - CIO Convention, had apologized for/defended to one extent or another the treacherous and bankrupt leadership of the Trumka crowd.
In light of this, we asked: “Can we look to the social democratic ‘left’ in the USA to help provide a new militant and revolutionary direction for the U.S. working class and its allies?”
We observed: “None of them even mentioned the Democratic Party, never mind the need for the AFL-CIO and the U.S. working class to achieve political independence from the Democratic Party wing of the ‘Republicrat’ Party of Wall Street. None of them even mentioned the need for Workers Power in the USA, never mind expressed concern that the new member/non-member organizations largely omitted democratic rights for the working class people they are ‘servicing.’ And, remarkably, none of them even mentioned that the working class in the USA labors under the capitalist system, where maximum private profit is the engine driving the system, never mind the need for the working class and its unions to have to struggle against capital for decent wages and working conditions, jobs, a comprehensive jobs program like the WPA of the previous Depression era …”
We devoted much attention to these four articles because of our belief that the U.S. working class, under the impetus of the serious and persistent global economic crisis aggravated by the decline of the U.S. Empire, is beginning to learn through its own experience the need to transform the organized labor movement in the USA into a movement willing to fight the powers that be in defense of its own class interests, including organizing the unorganized, and willing to engage in solidarity with working people throughout the world.
Staughton Lynd and the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA (ROLUSA) apparently are in agreement that (in Lynd’s words) “the labor movement is in catastrophic decline.”
ROLUSA finally sees encouraging signs in the U.S. labor movement after the wages and conditions of the U.S. working class have been savagely attacked by Wall Street finance capital and Corporate America. The class struggle ferment in the aircraft industry, the auto industry and in the truck transportation industry demonstrated over the past six or eight months combined with the initial organized strivings of the working poor from Walmart to McDonald’s places new pressures and demands on the AFL-CIO leadership; it exposes the class collaborationist character of the current leadership of organized labor. And it provides opportunities to build a class struggle-oriented labor movement from the base to the top.
It is at this very moment, that Staughton Lynd, who has labored long in the fields of privileged left academia, is being brought forward as a guru of the labor movement?! According to Andy Piascik who interviewed Lynd in late April, “Since the late 1960’s Lynd has … been deeply involved in the labor movement as an activist, attorney and prolific writer.” (“An Interview With Staughton Lynd About the Labor Movement,” Znet) But, given Lynd’s occupations as stated here by Piascik, one is compelled to ask: who hired you for those labor jobs over these five decades? Could it have been the very same leaders who have ushered in the “catastrophic decline?”
Piascik describes Lynd as “a passionate and prolific proponent of decentralized, rank-and-file driven unionism.” And Lynd’s anarchistic individualism cripples his analysis. Lynd claims that “the CIO was created by John L. Lewis.” In reality, much of the CIO was built up from decentralized, rank-and-file driven unionism!
“In 1933 more than 900,000 workers went on strike for union recognition and wage increases, three times more than the previous year. Trade union membership zoomed as 775,000 workers flocked into labor organizations, 500,000 into the AFL, 150,000 into independent unions, and 125,000 into the Trade Union Unity League…. The strike wave continued into 1934, when mass picket lines increased to nearly 1.5 million workers…. The workers moved into the AFL federal locals which increased from 307 in 1932 to 1,788 in 1934. Most of them outraged every tenet and every rule of AFL procedure and practice…. The new unions adopted the methods of militancy, of the IWW and the Trade Union Unity League, with giant, mass picket lines; with singing and forums, debates and meetings; with the women organized into auxiliaries and active members of every strike; with sitdowns and slowdowns and demonstrations and flying squadrons that sped from point to point in fast cars when there was trouble.” (pp. 276 and 277, Labor’s Untold Story, Boyer and Morais) All the above mass working class initiative and more had already taken place before John L. Lewis broke with the AFL in 1935.
“In 1938, it changed its name from the Committee of Industrial Organization to the Congress of Industrial Organizations, becoming a permanent organization. … Such was the impetus of its growth, with 600,000 coal miners, 400,000 automobile workers, 375,000 steel workers, 300,000 textile workers, 250,000 ladies’ garment workers, 200,000 electrical workers, 100,000 agricultural and packing workers, that it even spurred the AFL into vigorous action… By 1940 the AFL had 4,247,443 members, the CIO 3,810,318, independent unions some 2,000,000 more. In four years labor, with about 10 million members, had almost tripled its growth.” (ibid. page 316)
The CIO was an unprecedented triumph for what Lynd claims to want — mass democratic working class initiative. However the CIO was built with heroic and invaluable contributions from socialist and communist workers, the CPUSA and the Communist International. Lynd’s ability to hold so many professional jobs, have so many books published, become a guru in academia, etc. in the USA in the sixty years or so of the bloody U.S. Empire has to do with his anarchist individualist hostility to socialism and communism which has made him acceptable to the powers that be.
It is this that explains Lynd’s absurd, “big lie” explanation for why the U.S. labor movement is in catastrophic decline in 2014. Says Lynd, “… the reason for this decline is not the Supreme Court, or the McCarthy period, or anything that might be remedied by changing the top leadership of unions, but the model of trade union organizing that has existed in all CIO unions since 1935.”
In fact, the CIO purged itself of its communist heart and soul by the beginning of the 1950’s with the McCarthyite anti-communist hysteria backed up by the U.S. war in Korea. The U.S. labor movement continued to grow a few more years, peaking in about 1955, the year of the merger of the CIO with the old AFL. Since that time the downhill death spiral has been ongoing. In 1955 about 35% of U.S. workers were in unions. Today the percentage is about 11%.
It is remarkable that, while attacking the CIO, Lynd does not even utter the name “AFL.” AFL was the old reactionary narrow craft union movement that had openly anti-Black and anti-women exclusionary membership clauses in most of its union affiliates at least until after the founding of the CIO. The CIO spearheaded inclusiveness regarding both Afro-American and women workers. (Lynd is supposed to be an advocate for Afro-Americans and women in the labor movement?!) Indeed, the AFL had been and remained the chief link between organized labor and U.S. imperialism and generated the hatred of militant workers around the world as expressed in the term “AFL-CIA.”
But Staughton Lynd, the labor historian(!), points to a “CIO model since 1935” as the culprit. This also helps Lynd to “defend from the left” (apologize for) the AFL-CIO labor misleadership now under pressure from an increasingly impoverished membership. The decline, says Lynd, can’t be “remedied by changing the top leadership of unions.” A little later, in case you missed it the first time, Lynd says, “Energy should go into building strong nuclei of self-activity on the workplace floor … Energy should not go into electing new top officials.” (Lynd’s emphasis) I’m sure that AFL-CIO chieftain Richard Trumka, International Association of Machinists President R. Thomas Buffenbarger, Teamsters President James Hoffa and United Auto Workers President Bob King are appreciative of Lynd’s advice to the increasingly frustrated and militant rank and file members of their unions.
Such appreciation could lead Lynd’s current crop of followers to professional jobs with unions. For Staughton Lynd’s principles include “persons with college degrees …[making] their best contribution not as manual workers, but as the kind of professional they have been trained to become, in daily contact with, and support of, other kinds of workers.” So the working class and its communist vanguard shouldn’t fight for leadership. They should rely on professionals like Staughton Lynd “Accompanying” the workers.
Once again as with the right opportunists such as Fletcher/Crosby et al. we can ask about Staughton Lynd: “Can we look to the social democratic ‘left’ in the USA to help provide a new militant and revolutionary direction for the U.S. working class and its allies?”
Like the right opportunists in their approach to the 2013 AFL-CIO National Convention, Lynd never mentions in the puff-piece interview by Andy Piascik that the working class in the USA labors under the capitalist system, where maximum private profit is the engine driving the system or anything about the U.S. Empire — the impact of the U.S. imperialist wars of the past sixty years on the U.S. working class, the impact of the 12 million undocumented immigrant workers as members of the U.S. working class today, the domination of the U.S. government by the financial oligarchy, the role of the Democratic Party as part of the Republicrat Party in the suppression of the workers struggles in the USA, the role of the increasingly repressive state apparatus. In this regard it is easy to see Lynd as the anarchist individualist protector of the “left flank” of the current, bankrupt leadership of the U.S. labor movement, while Fletcher/Crosby and the other open apologists of Trumka et al much more obviously protect “the right flank.”
The current AFL-CIO leadership is key to the U.S. imperialist efforts to keep the U.S .working class marching without protest to impoverishment. However, there is a growing restlessness among all strata of the U.S. working class, including its organized sector whose standard of living and jobs are drying up at an alarming rate. Thus, the importance of ROL USA and other revolutionary-minded activists sharing the message: In Opposition to the bureaucratic leadership of the AFL-CIO: The Path to Working Class Gains against Wall Street capital and ultimately for Power for the U.S. working class over capital has to begin with this:
Several issues ago, Ray O’ Light Newsletter #80, we began using a new format. Over the next few issues, including this one, we will continue with this new format. We would greatly appreciate your feedback. In a few more months we will evaluate the responses of our readers, our contacts and our membership to determine whether to keep the new format, go back to the old one or do some other modifications.
— Is the new format encouraging you to read the Newsletter more or to read more of it?
— Do you like the increased number of cartoons and photos? The mystery quotation?
— Do you prefer the old format? If so, why?
— Do you have any other suggestions for making the Newsletter a more attractive, more effective and more educational tool for helping to empower the U.S. and international working class and the oppressed peoples?
We look forward to your fraternal, supportive and constructive criticisms and suggestions.
Ray O. Light
(Please respond to: Boxholder, 607 Boylston Street, Lower Level Box 464, Boston, MA 02116, USA)
Still stumped?! See answer below to front page mystery quotation.Answer: In his role as co-host of a daily World Cup show, Argentine soccer idol, Diego Maradona, expressed his tremendous admiration for Cuba’s Fidel Castro, arguably the foremost elder statesman of the world revolution. Maradona’s show is aired on Telesur, a 24-hour TV news network created by Venezuela with help from other left-leaning governments on the South American continent. According to a 6-19-14 article in the Wall Street Journal (no friend of Fidel’s or Maradona’s), the show “is broadcast in Spanish and is available in 110 countries [and] is surprisingly successful.” As Telesur President Patricia Villegas explained, “The idea was to have Maradona host the show not just because he’s the great World Cup figure but because he’s a standout figure in Latin America.” (ibid.) Given Maradona’s stature, WSJ writer, Taos Turner reports that the network is looking to keep the show running long after the World Cup has been decided.
Meanwhile, as we go to press, four of the final eight teams vying for the World Cup in the most popular sporting event in the world are from Latin America
by RAY LIGHT
The caricature of the global soccer icon, Diego Maradona of Argentina, in the FIFA cartoon above exposes the fact that the Brazilian ruling class and its corrupt government have waged a class war against the urban poor in the favelas and barrios of the country in order to build the big stadium and rake off big profits and bring the World Cup to Brazil. The urban removal of impoverished Brazilian masses to make way for the stadium was just one of many outrages perpetrated against the people in the build-up to the World Cup. Remarkably, even during the days of this most important sporting event in the world held only once every four years, and even while the Brazilian national team remained in contention for the championship cup almost to the end, there were street protests by the soccer-loving Brazilian people against the corruption and impoverishment caused by the Brazilian capitalists and their rotten system. Once the World Cup is over, the determination of the Brazilian people to fight for economic and social justice and a better world will once more take center stage.
In this new period of class struggle in Brazil, the communists and other revolutionaries need to point out to the people the fact that the war of the Brazilian ruling class against the people at home has been combined for a long time with the war of the Brazilian ruling class against the oppressed people of Haiti. The reactionaries draw strength from the fact that there has not been solidarity between these oppressed and exploited peoples. Thus, the struggles of the Brazilian and Haitian peoples can both be strengthened by their unity in the struggle against the Brazilian reactionary ruling class and U.S.-led finance capital.
June 1st was the tenth anniversary of the deployment of the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH) at the behest of U.S. imperialism. Ever since then, Brazil’s generals have led MINUSTAH and Brazil has provided the largest contingent of troops propping up the imperialist puppet regime that has been in power in Haiti since the 2004 U.S. imperialist-led overthrow of the elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. As Haitian Senator Moise Jean-Charles pointed out, “The UN troops are only there to ensure the exploitation of Haiti’s resources by our oligarchy and multinational monopolies. The occupation removes our right to self-determination and to have an independent and sovereign nation.”
In response to the tenth anniversary, to the unanimous vote by the Haitian Senate on May 28th that called for UN troops to leave Haiti immediately and to the visit of Senator Jean-Charles to the Human Rights Commission of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, this Commission of Brazilian Senators, composed of left-wing members of the ruling Workers Party (PT), voted unanimously for the withdrawal of Brazilian troops from Haiti, an excellent development.
Such international solidarity, especially when it reaches the hearts and minds of the Brazilian and Haitian working class, the working class across Latin America and the world, can become a strong foundation for defeating the capitalist system to attain the World Cup of human dignity for all humanity.
by RAY LIGHT
A Fiftieth Anniversary March on Washington has been called for August 24th. Some bourgeois accommodationist and comprador elements of the Afro-American elite associated with the liberal wing of the imperialist bourgeoisie, the Democratic Party and the Obama Regime are anticipating an occasion of celebration. After all, they have been “getting on” well in the aftermath of the 1960’s civil rights movement. However, within sixty days of the upcoming March it has become increasingly clear that what is really needed by the overwhelming majority of the Afro-American people and the 99% is a new Black liberation movement such as the one that unmistakably announced itself as a force to be reckoned with on that historic day in August 1963. For that dynamic movement had already been developing all over the USA and particularly in the Black Belt South Afro-American homeland in the years 1960 to 1963, beginning with the Woolworth’s Sit-in Movement that burst forth across the South in the late winter and early spring of 1960.*
* Fifty years after the March on Washington, the Wall Street ruling class, as well as its social democratic supporters among the Obama Democrats, the AFL-CIO trade union bureaucrats and the NAACP and other Black Bourgeois misleaders are attempting to portray that historic march as merely a backdrop, a stage upon which Martin Luther King, Jr. made his “I have a dream” speech. The real significance of that March was that it provided all the heroic youth (mostly Afro-American and mostly in the South) with the recognition that they were not alone; there were other heroic youth fighting in other localities with the same bravery and determination that they were displaying in their own cities and towns. There was already a South-wide and countrywide movement for Afro-American freedom. King’s brilliant speech was a product of the strength that he drew from the 225,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial on that historic day. As had been true of King from his civil rights beginnings in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, it was the aroused and dignified people that transformed King into a civil rights leader. The people gave his voice substance and strength and his eloquence inspired them in return.
Several major events have occurred in recent weeks that underscore the urgency of building a new militant, Afro-American national liberation movement, rather than passively celebrating the emergence of the last one fifty years ago. These include: 1. The Afro-American people’s victory in electing the long time revolutionary black nationalist, Chokwe Lumumba as mayor of Jackson, Mississippi; 2. The Supreme Court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and 3.The acquittal of George Zimmerman in his Florida “trial” for the murder of Trayvon Martin, an innocent seventeen year old Afro-American youth.
Like the movement that came together fifty years ago in Washington, D.C., all three of these events are focused in the Black Belt South homeland of the Afro-American Nation. In fact, all three are connected to the current Afro-American migration back to the national territory of the Black Belt. 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)
In an article last year on the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin, I cited the above and then observed the following: “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 Jackson, MS Peoples Victory in Electing Mayor Lumumba-
One inspiring reflection of this fact was the election on June 4th of Chokwe Lumumba as Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, the capitol and the most populous city in Mississippi. Mississippi, the poorest state in the USA today, was the epicenter for the 1960’s civil rights movement that advanced to the level of political militancy expressed in the Black Power Movement. Brother Lumumba was a candidate of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and connects to Mississippi’s heritage of heroic liberation fighters by referring to himself as a “Fanny Lou Hamer-Democrat.” He has been a decades-long fighter for freedom and justice for the Afro-American people. Over the years he has served as a highly successful attorney in support of Afro-American political prisoners, including Geronimo Pratt and Assata Shakur (who has lived for years in Cuba). He has been harassed and persecuted by the state apparatus for his noble work.
Just after the election, when asked by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! about the fact that Assata Shakur had recently been the first woman placed by the FBI on the U.S. terrorist list and had the bounty placed on her head increased by the Obama regime to $2 million, Mayor-elect Lumumba unhesitatingly replied, “Well, I’ve always felt that Assata Shakur was wrongfully convicted, so she shouldn’t have been on a wanted list at all. Assata Shakur, I believe, will historically be proven to be a hero of our times …”
Mayor Lumumba was formerly a leader of the Republic of New Africa (RNA), originally based in Detroit, Michigan, Chokwe’s hometown. The RNA carried out an early reverse migration campaign from Detroit back to the Deep South in the early 1970’s. The RNA had a vision that six Black Belt South states could be wrested from U.S. imperialism to make up the national RNA territory, foreseen as “an independent predominantly black government.” As this was in conformity with the generally sound “Black Nation” thesis put forth in 1928 and 1930 by the Communist International, our predecessor organization, the Stalinist Workers Group for Afro-American National Liberation and a New Communist International (SWG), including me, encouraged and promoted this initiative right at the time, more than forty years ago. Certainly this political background is part of what makes the Lumumba election victory in Jackson so significant today.
Furthermore, Jackson, Mississippi today has an eighty percent black population and a high unemployment rate. It is in dire need of jobs and development. The Lumumba administration, inaugurated on July 1st, has a Peoples Platform which guiding principle is that “Love plus the Power of the people equals progress.” Among the many positive features of this platform are “the right to self determination” defined as “all Jackson residents have the right to participate in the decisions which effect their lives and the city in which they live” and an emphasis on “Workers Rights, Women’s Rights and Fair Wages.” Already in place is a people’s assembly, a meeting every three months where the population is able to express their views in an open forum that is used to “educate, motivate and organize.”
Mass democracy now seems to have a great opportunity to be put into practice in Jackson, Mississippi. And the solid ideas of the Lumumba-led administration will no doubt be replicated in many places, especially throughout the Black Belt South, if they bear great fruit. The powers that be will not sit idly by and allow the Lumumba Administration to be a success without a fight. The struggle in defense of the new progressive, pro-people, anti-monopoly, anti-imperialist Jackson city administration and the struggle to replicate it elsewhere can only be victorious in the process of building a new militant Afro-American national liberation movement, fighting for “Land and State Power in the Black Belt South.”
* U.S. President Lyndon Johnson’s “era of negotiations,” begun in early 1968, effectively dovetailed with the betrayal of the oppressed peoples by the revisionists in state power in the socialist camp, in the USSR and China in particular. This U.S.-led initiative was aimed against both the heroic Vietnamese people (on the cutting edge of the world revolution at the time) and against the rising Afro-American people, then the most powerful force for revolution within the belly of the beast itself.
-The U.S. Supreme Court Eviscerates The Voting Rights Act of 1965-
On June 25, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Marcia Fudge, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, described this as “a day that will go down as one of the worst days for civil rights and civil discourse in this country’s history.”
This law had been the most effective tool ensuring the right to vote for previously disenfranchised peoples of color, especially in the South. From 1992-2006, the Voting Rights Act blocked one thousand discriminatory changes in voting laws, especially regarding voter ID requirements and rolling back early voting. Just seven years ago Congress voted to reauthorize the Act by a vote of 390-33 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate.
The Supreme Court has not openly opposed the Voting Rights Act. Instead it has cleverly eliminated “temporarily” the requirement that states and cities that have historically discriminated against the Afro-American people in the Deep South have to obtain pre-clearance before making changes in election procedures. Claiming that the list of offending states and cities is “outdated,” the Court’s decision will now place the burden on the victims, the negatively impacted voters, after the discriminatory voting laws are enacted and implemented, until such time as Congress “updates” the list of those that are still discriminating against potential voters. The decision has opened the floodgates throughout the states of the Black Belt South for the introduction of new discriminatory laws — restricting and depriving Afro-Americans and other poor and working class people from voting. Laws such as those providing strict “voter ID” requirements allegedly to “prevent fraudulent voting” have become epidemic. Indeed, alleged widespread fraudulent voting is in fact a fraudulent “problem,” one that leads to the much more serious problem of voter suppression.
But the most devastating development in this period has been the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin.
-The Message of George Zimmerman’s Acquittal-
George Zimmerman’s “trial” and acquittal were in conformity with everything else that has happened in this case since Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin in cold blood in Sanford, Florida on February 26, 2012. Over a year ago, in an earlier piece on the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin I stated that “the most important political aspect of the Trayvon Martin tragedy is … 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.” I cited the Nation’s Patricia J. Williams who observed at the time: “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.” Williams concluded 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.”
Indeed, the entire murder trial put on by the state of Florida, beginning on June 10th and ending with Zimmerman’s acquittal on July 13th, projected the message that it is “open season” on Afro-American youth. There was nothing that young Trayvon Martin did wrong; yet, according to the conduct of this trial, there was nothing he could have done to keep himself alive.
Recent books (Douglas Blackmon’s Pulitzer prize-winning Slavery by Another Name and Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow) have documented the post Civil War use of criminalization of Afro-American men in the South up to the present day as a substitute for the old slave system. As Blackmon points out, “Instead of slave owners, the men who now controlled squads of black laborers available to the highest bidder were sheriffs.” (page 64) Throughout this long period, the innocence of black men has not been an impediment to their arrest and imprisonment. On the contrary, the “criminalization of black men” has been a foundation for much of the super-exploitation and superprofits reaped in the Afro-American nation by Wall Street imperialism and the source of many petty bribes and corruptions among the impoverished white Southern masses. The economic engine that drives all capitalist countries, from the least oppressive to the most oppressive is the same: maximum private profit. In the USA, the criminalization of black men is the foundation upon which so much of this hegemonic imperialist power, what is now the U.S. Empire, has been erected.
The historical roots for the total lack of concern for Trayvon Martin and his family on the part of the authorities in central Florida are clear and deep. This is why Zimmerman never showed remorse for his killing of the youth and why his U.S. flag-draped website attracted a few hundred thousand dollars in the brief period it was up before his attorney convinced him to shut it down. This is why it took over two million signatures on a petition on change.org calling for Zimmerman’s arrest and it took hundreds of protest demonstrations by thousands of people demanding the same before Zimmerman was finally arrested. And he was let out of jail after ten days, despite facing a second degree murder charge. This is why Zimmerman felt he could lie to the judge during his bail hearing, claiming he had few funds, and suppressing the fact that he had already garnered at least a few hundred thousand white supremacist dollars with his website.
Yet the few million who had signed the petition and the thousands who had demonstrated all over the USA demanding the arrest of Zimmerman were largely satisfied to passively await the trial of Zimmerman, without continuing the mass pressure that had resulted in his arrest in the first place. This mass complacency was largely based on illusions about President Obama and the criminal justice system and indeed of the U.S. economic system of monopoly capitalism and imperialism.
The present widespread outrage and massive street demonstrations in response to the Zimmerman lynch law verdict, especially in the Afro-American community, are a hopeful sign. And the people in the streets show no sign of letting up as yet. But the previous period of complacency, individualism and bourgeois democratic illusions about Obama, etc. have already been costly. The horrific court decision has its own momentum. All this underscores the need for an ongoing, dynamic Black liberation movement that consistently struggles to unite with its friends and allies on the one hand, and consistently struggles against its adversaries and enemies on the other.*
* Regarding Obama’s disarming role in the Trayvon Martin tragedy, his rotten role in the Atlanta, GA execution of Troy Davis, the firing of Shirley Sherrod at the Department of Agriculture, his promotion of the illusion that the USA is heading toward a “post racial society,” is making great racial progress, etc. I wrote in the earlier piece: “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 Tragic Death of Trayvon Martin and the Struggle for Afro-American National Self-Determination,” Ray O’Light Newsletter #72)
In the earlier article I stated: “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.” To this we can now add: the verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial sends the white supremacist message that young, innocent Trayvon Martin was killed with impunity because there is today no Black Power in the Black Belt South homeland of the Afro-American people. The white supremacist message to young Afro-American men (and the Afro-American people in general) is that they will live and breathe in their Black Belt South homeland in great and constant danger of being killed, no matter how innocently they conduct themselves. And therefore they should leave the Black Belt and never return home again. To reactionary whites and their allies, it sends the white supremacist message that a black man has no rights that the white masses are bound to respect.
All the more true after the verdict are the words with which I closed my earlier article: “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.”
Freedom-loving fighters for justice have a lot to march about on August 24th in Washington, D.C. See you there!
This time when we build the movement, let us be true to the words of the Negro National Anthem—
“Let us march on ‘til victory is won!”
Toward Victorious Afro-American National Liberation!
For A Socialist USA!
“The great appear great to us
Only because we are on our knees:
Let us rise.”
— Camille Desmoulins
Revolutionary Organization of Labor (ROL), USA is 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
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