Black Workers, with a Capital B
After considerable discussion within the CHALLENGE-DESAFIO collective, we have decided to change “black” to “Black” when referring to the designation assigned to individuals, communities, or populations of sub-Saharan African descent. The pseudo-scientific concept of “race” is the primary weapon used by the capitalist class to divide and exploit the working class. While racism is a brutal, daily reality for Black, Latin, and Asian workers, “race” is purely a social construct. It is a ruling-class fiction with no genetic basis.
Furthermore, the false choices that the bosses present to workers dictate how workers utilize upper-case and lower-case terms. Most of the terms we use such as Latin, Asian, etc., were influenced by the bosses hold of state power. Not until the Party takes state power can we change words!
The lower-case “black” is defined in one of the bourgeoisie’s dictionaries as, “the opposite to white: colourless from the absence or complete absorption of light” (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 2002). Outer space is objectively black. Coal can be described as black, and also pots, kettles and a number of animals.
None of the hundreds of millions of Black people fit this definition. They come in a spectrum of shades and hues, but none are colorless. In the Western Hemisphere in particular, to be Black is to trace one’s family history to institutionalized slavery.
Our switch to the upper-case “Black,” in referring to “Black workers” or “Black students,” acknowledges the word’s social and political context, not its literal meaning. Decades ago, the upper-case “Black” was popularized by some anti-communist Black nationalist groups, along with the slogan of “Black Power.” We cannot allow the nationalists or any bourgeois group to decide how we use language. It is our job to fit words to describe science as we know it, and to our communist understanding of the world.
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ISIS Beheadings and U.S. Lynchings
Compare these two stories: First, on video tape ISIS beheads a Japanese journalist, Kenji Goto, while it murders thousands in the Middle East, unfilmed. Second, thousands of racist whites travel hundreds of miles to watch and cheer while a Black man is suspended from a rope and at the same time slowly roasted over a fire for hours. ISIS is labeled “barbaric” by the U.S. media — and they are — but lynching was an everyday thing in the U.S. until the early 1900s, when lynching finally became a federal offense and the frequency of such unspeakable outrages fell off.
And while the frequency of lynchings did eventually diminish — despite the best efforts of liberal politicians like President Woodrow Wilson to prevent the passage of anti-lynching legislation — lynching has never died out completely, and the racist attitudes behind it persist and flourish among many white workers and others as a result of cop activity and the media. Many readers will recall the 1998 dragging of a 49-year-old Black man, James Byrd, Jr., for 3½ miles behind a pick-up truck by three white men in Texas, resulting in Byrd’s fatal decapitation. The leader of this atrocity, Lawrence Brewer, was affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan.
And all over the U.S., the KKK and other racist and fascist organizations are very much alive today, even though the growth of the KKK’s various wannabe chapters has been stalled significantly over the years by numerous PLP-led physical attacks by workers and students against occasional demonstrations and marches by these fascists. But virtually no one has ever paid at the hands of the law for participating in a lynching party, which says something about the U.S. criminal injustice system.
While ISIS resorts to videos, U.S. lynchers relied on live cheering crowds of hundreds or thousands. The racists also lynched many hundreds, if not thousands, of equally innocent white men and women who dared to side with their class brothers and sisters in one way or another and were called everything from “n___r lovers” to “race traitors.” In fact, from 1882 to 1968 it is estimated that more than a quarter of some 4,000-plus lynching victims were white. See, for example, http://www.chesnuttarchive.org/classroom/lynchingstat.html.
And the new form of lynchings, of both Black and white workers, continues to this day in the form of daily murders by cops (estimated at some 1,000 per year, or 2-3 per day). Contrary to the claims of both conservative and liberal commentators, racism in the U.S. has not diminished. It has just changed its form – from slavery to Jim Crow to chain gangs to segregation to drug addiction to job discrimination to poverty to homelessness to mass incarceration to daily murders by cops.
The history of this legacy of slavery in the U.S. has been downplayed or completely omitted from textbooks and the media, which clears the way for hypocritical crocodile tears by U.S. politicians over current events in the Middle East. Those with sin — the capitalist class and their bought-and-paid-for elected and unelected officials — are among the first to cast stones. The slightest inkling of the indescribable horrors of U.S. lynchings, over the last few hundred years can be gained from a book of actual photos by James Allen, titled Without Sanctuary.
There are barbarisms and barbarisms, atrocities and atrocities. The profit motive trumps all other considerations for that class that is economically and politically powerful enough to run every country in the world today: the capitalists. They need to apply and encourage racist divisions within the working class mainly to retain their hold on power. As long as we remain under their “iron heel” we will continue to be subject to barbarisms and atrocities from all sides. Capitalism must die so that the world’s working class can live.
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Unemployment Is Capitalist Policy
The “Unemployment NOT Bosses’ Policy” letter (CHALLENGE, Feb. 11) makes the error of equating the anarchy of capitalist production with a ruling-class inability to control unemployment and subject it to the needs of capitalism. When U.S. bosses moved millions of jobs, factories and whole industries overseas for cheap labor and fewer safety restrictions, it was a planned policy to eliminate living-wage jobs and lower workers’ standard-of-living to be competitive with poverty wages and conditions overseas. Today many workers slave at two jobs and live in such poverty that other workers must support them with food stamps and other aid just to survive.
Over the last 30 years workers’ productivity and bosses’ profits have constantly increased while workers’ wages have remained stagnant, reducing them to poverty. The bosses have used union-busting campaigns, anti-labor legislation and cop violence against strikers to prevent workers from getting a share of the increased profits they (workers) had created. Of the world’s 35 most highly industrialized countries, the U.S. is the second highest with children in poverty (WBAI radio, 2/6/15). Many young workers unable to find jobs, afford college or health care were forced into the military and the so-called “poverty draft.” Through such policies planned and created by ruling-class power and control, poverty and unemployment have grown to assure profits and send workers to fight in bosses’ wars against their capitalist rivals.
Because U.S. rulers needed to prevent workers’ revolution during the 1930s Great Depression and wanted a share of World War II’s redivision of colonial profits, the U.S. planned an entrance into that war (see “Day of Deceit,” Robert B. Stinnett). Fourteen million unemployed workers suddenly all had “jobs” in the military and millions of women were suddenly employed in industry. After a short period of post-war reconstruction production, U.S. workers were forced back into the present planned poverty/unemployment capitalist policy because profits drive society. Full employment and a good life for all workers can only be assured with a communist planned society where workers’ needs drive society.
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