The mass racist killings on August 5 by a neo-Nazi veteran in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was not an isolated atrocity. When Wade Michael Page murdered six people and wounded three others in a Sikh temple, he reflected both the long-term needs and contradictions of U.S. imperialism. As the U.S. ruling class proceeds on its collision course with rising capitalists in China over the world’s oil and gas and cheap labor, its murderous brutality will victimize workers at home, as well.
The ex-GI’s crime exposes a serious flaw in the U.S. war machine, where racism cuts two ways. On the one hand, the top brass needs racism to motivate troops to kill dehumanized enemies. On the other, racism hinders U.S. bosses’ ability to mobilize for ever-larger wars that will inevitably become global.
A substantial number of U.S. troops share Page’s virulent hatred for black, Latino and Asian soldiers and superiors. Some racist officers refuse even to recognize Barack Obama as commander-in-chief. Racist “hazing” (actually torture) discourages working-class Asians from enlisting. Moreover, the extreme racism rampant in the U.S. — police killings of black and Latino youth in big cities nation-wide; double jobless rates for these groups; turning their schools into prison-like institutions; their mass incarceration (70 percent of prisoners in the U.S. are black and Latino); the massive deportation of immigrant workers — all deter black and Latino youth from joining the military.
Throw in the two Middle East shooting wars over the last decade, and it’s no surprise that black recruitment plummeted 58 percent between 2000 and 2007, despite the patriotic frenzy following 9/11. And Page’s anti-Sikh rampage further dampens Pentagon hopes that tens of millions of U.S.-led Indian troops will join a potential future battle against China’s vast forces.
The bosses’ dilemma is that capitalism can’t live without racism. The lower wages and benefits paid to black and Latino workers net U.S. bosses hundreds of billions in super-profits, which the capitalists depend on for their very existence. These inequities hurt white workers as well, because they’re used as a club to keep white workers from demanding more or even keeping what they’ve got. The differential is designed to split the working class and weaken its ability to unite to fight the bosses’ attacks.
As the U.S. president, it is Obama’s job to enforce the capitalists’ profit system that wages its economic war on the entire working class. Obama’s racism may be less overt than Wade Page’s, but it is no less dangerous to workers.
The one way for the working class to rid itself of this racist profit system is to join and build the revolutionary Progressive Labor Party in organizing a communist revolution. Communism unites all workers and eliminates bosses, profits, and the wage system that divides us. It enables our class to share all the value that workers — and only workers — produce.
Racists in the Military
In the run-up to the 2001 Afghan and 2003 Iraq invasions, Pentagon chiefs worried openly over the dubious loyalty of racists like Page and how they hurt enlistment figures. They were right on both counts. In 1995, Page was at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, when two neo-Nazi soldiers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division killed a black couple in nearby Fayetteville. Page himself belonged to a neo-Nazi group. The Army punished him for dereliction of duty and going AWOL.
As Togo D. West, Jr., the former black Secretary of the Army, once said, “Extremist activity compromises fairness, good order and discipline and, potentially, combat effectiveness” (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 8/6/12). Yet West’s Army routinely teaches and trains recruits using racist slurs to wipe out “hajis” and “ragheads.”
In 2010, Lt. Col. Terry Larkin, an Army doctor, refused orders for Afghanistan because he challenged the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency. The year before, Maj. Stefan Rhodes did the same thing, while Capt. Connie Rhodes rejected deployment to Iraq. All three tried to cover their gutter racism with the “birther” argument, the spurious idea that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. and therefore is ineligible to be president.
But regardless of his color, Obama must enforce racism to serve his master capitalists. He has deported more immigrant workers than any other president. He endorses education policies that perpetuate racist schools. Racist unemployment and housing foreclosures have soared on his watch.
Tea Party Challenges the Dominant Power Structure
The Tea Party represents domestic bosses with less of a vested interest in imperialist wars. Its dubious loyalty to the dominant power structure makes it a threat to the liberal, imperialist, finance capital wing of the U.S. ruling class. In 2010, a U.S. Army training document envisioned the use of troops on U.S. soil under the following scenario:
In May 2016 an extremist [read “racist” — Ed.] militia motivated by the goals of the “tea party” movement takes over the government of Darlington, South Carolina, occupying City Hall, disbanding the city council, and placing the mayor under house arrest. Activists remove the chief of police and either disarm local police and county sheriff departments or discourage them from interfering. In truth, this is hardly necessary. Many law enforcement officials already are sympathetic to the tea party’s agenda, know many of the people involved, and have made clear they will not challenge the takeover.
U.S.-India Tie Strained
In the wake of the Milwaukee bloodbath, the bosses’ pressing concern is that it could set back the Pentagon’s dream of a grand war alliance with India against China’s vast forces. On August 1, after returning from India, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton D. Carter reported back to the ultra-imperialist, Rockefeller-founded Asia Society: “India is a key part of our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, and, we believe, to the broader security and prosperity of the 21st century. The U.S.-India relationship is global in scope…. Our security interests converge” (Times of India, 8/2/12). “Rebalance” refers to Obama’s new anti-China military build-up. Carter vowed “to work with the Indians on developing a joint vision for U.S.-India defense cooperation.”
But this plan may be compromised by Page’s slaughter. “Sikhs make up 10-15% of all ranks in the Indian Army and 20% of its officers, while Sikhs form only 1.87% of the Indian population, which makes them possibly 10 times more likely to be a soldier and officer in the Indian Army than the average Indian.” (BBC, 8/8/07). In fact, India’s prime minister Manmohan Singh is a Sikh.
Ravi Srinivasan, a Hindu, West Point graduate, and veteran of Afghanistan, lamented how Page may have strained U.S. alliances:
Diversity is a force multiplier on the front lines. It offers a means to relate to… our coalition partners…. Whether or not Page’s military record had any effect on his racist views, the fact that he is a veteran makes him an ambassador for the military….[T]he next time we invade a country, the consequences of that perception may follow us there (New York Times, 8/7/02).
Rulers’ Achilles Heel
These are problems that racism, an essential component of capitalism, poses for the capitalists themselves. Even as the bosses use racism to exploit and divide workers, it will prove to be the rulers’ Achilles heel. The imperialist war machine’s racist outrages and atrocities sparked widespread militant revolts during the U.S. genocide in Vietnam (see box). With communist leadership, such rebellions could lay the groundwork for destroying the deadly profit system.
The fight against racism needs to start in the belly of the beast, here in the U.S. That has been a cardinal principle of the Progressive Labor Party since our inception half a century ago, as shown by our active support of the 1964 Harlem Rebellion. Our Party has joined the current fight against the racist police murders of Shantel Davis and Ramarley Graham in New York and the racist executions of Manual Diaz and Joel Acevedo in Anaheim, California. PLP mobilizes the working class in the workplace and the unions, the military, the communities, and the churches. It fights racism on college campuses and attacks Jim Crow segregation in Brooklyn’s high schools. The Party’s anti-racist struggles help unite our class as a prerequisite for communist revolution.
As our Party has grown and expanded onto five continents, we have spread our anti-racist fight to opposing mass evictions in Palestine-Israel and uniting all ethnic groups in Pakistan and Mexico as well as other areas (see pages 3,4,5).
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