All Politics are Global? The Alliance in the Fightback Against Racist and Political Repression
It is a real pleasure to be present in the city of Harold Washington and Rudy Lozano and Gwendolyn Brooks, a city that inevitably sets the pace that the nation eventually follows. This is certainly the case for the Alliance, which walks in the mighty footsteps of the Civil Rights Congress and the International Labor Defense, organizations which in the first six decades of the 20th century were in the vanguard of the movement to tear down the walls of Jim Crow through their vigorous defense of the Scottsboro 9 and Willie McGee and Rosa Lee Ingram and Claudia Jones.
Thus, when the wonderful Clarice Durham invited me to speak I accepted immediately before she could reconsider and when she asked me about travel arrangements and a possible speaker.s fee, I insisted that I would pay my own way and any funds that might have been expended upon me should be expended instead on your crucially important political organizing.
For the very existence of the Alliance itself illustrates my theme for this evening, i.e. how all political organizers need to be aware of the global political climate when plotting strategy and tactics. Surely, that was the case when the movement to free Angela Davis dispatched Louise Thompson Patterson to Europe in the early 1970s to crusade for Angela.s freedom; the Alliance recognized that just as jazz music.an art form indelibly identified with Chicago.gained momentum abroad before being accepted at home, the battle for international public opinion is essential in the process of compelling the often obtuse U.S. rulers to back down.
You in Chicago know this lesson more than most for you, above all, are aware of the import of a judge.s decision in May 2006 that a special prosecutor.s report on accusations of torture by police here should be made public.just as a U.N. panel urged U.S. authorities to investigate the claims further. The investigation stemmed from accusations by 192 persons—overwhelmingly of African descent.that Chicago police officers tortured them with electric devices. The lesson drawn by many was that if one countenances torture in Guantanamo and Abu Gharib one countenances torture in Chicago; if one countenances lynching in the U.S. South at the turn of the twentieth century then simultaneously this same bestiality will be tolerated in the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century.
Brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, it is well past time that we in the United States recognized a virtual law of politics.i.e. our progress, or lack thereof, is heavily dependent not only on the expenditure of our blood, sweat and tears, our ability to generate street heat, it is also heavily dependent on the global correlation of forces at the moment that we are organizing. Thus, historians and activists have begun to recognize that Jim Crow began to crumble not only because of the heroism of the millions who marched and died, Jim Crow began to crumble because the U.S. found itself enmeshed in a Cold War with the former Soviet Union and Washington found it difficult.at best.to charge Moscow with human rights violations when this nation itself tolerated the most horrific Jim Crow. Jim Crow had to go.
This basic truth.how the global intersects inexorably with the domestic.was recognized by William Patterson, who toiled for years with the Alliance.s predecessors, the International Labor Defense and the Civil Rights Congress and from 1938-1948 lived on the South Side of Chicago where he influenced the novelist Richard Wright and the journalist and poet, Frank Marshall Davis, who eventually migrated to Honolulu where he then influenced a young man with roots in Kansas and Kenya who grew up to be the President of the U.S., Barack Obama. It was Patterson, a talented Black Lawyer and Communist, who spearheaded the defense of the Scottsboro 9.a case that not only set the tone for how to conduct a political defense in a criminal case by mobilizing beyond the confines of the courtroom but, as well, pioneered in pressuring the U.S. from abroad by organizing simultaneous demonstrations at U.S. embassies and consulates all over the world. It was Patterson who in the 1950s, along with his good friend, Paul Robeson, filed a petition at the United Nations, charging the U.S. authorities with genocide against people of African descent and demanded that they be placed on trial.a precedent shattering campaign that adroitly took advantage of Washington.s hypocritical desire to be seen as a paragon of human rights virtue during the height of the Cold War.
In a few months I will be publishing a book that makes the same argument about the demise of slavery in this nation. That is, one of the reasons that Illinois. Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation when he did was not only because he needed a rationale to enlist Black Soldiers in the Union Army but also because it was a way to prevent Britain.with its vast abolitionist movement.from siding with the Confederacy and to win over international public opinion which was dissatisfied with Lincoln.s argument that the war was simply about ¡°saving the Union.¡±
The question for the day.brothers and sisters, comrades and friends.is how does this new international situation influence our day-to-day struggles on the streets of Chicago?
To a degree you can get a better idea of how to answer this question from listening to late night TV comics or perusing some of the literature that is pouring into libraries nowadays. Thus, when President Hu Jintao came to the White House a few days ago, Jay Leno joked that the good news was that had no plans to foreclose. His attempt at humor reflects today.s reality that when President Nixon visited China almost forty years ago in order to enlist Beijing in an anti-Soviet alliance, he unwittingly unleashed a process that led to massive foreign direct investment into China, which has created a runaway economic juggernaut that led the British intellectual, Martin Jacques, to publish a recent book entitled provocatively, ¡°When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World¡±; a few years before that the political economist Andre Gunder Frank published ¡°ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age¡±; just recently yet another left wing intellectual, Rod Bush of New York City entered these sweepstakes with his book, ¡°The End of White World Supremacy: Black Internationalism and the Problem of the Color Line¡±. And before you begin to think that it is only those of the left who are harboring such thoughts, check out the work of Joshua Cooper Ramo, formerly of Goldman Sachs, the bloodsucking vampire squid of Wall Street, wrapped around the face of humanity.his book is entitled .The Beijing Consenus., which he argues has supplanted the ¡°Washington Consensus¡± of free markets, privatization and deregulation. Your homeboy, Robert Fogel, Nobel Laureate at the University of Chicago, argues in the current issue of ¡°Foreign Policy¡± magazine that within decades, China.s economy will be TEN TIMES the size of the U.S. economy.
Even if one does not accept every jot and tittle of these authors, one still has to explain why the Group of 8 nations.the self appointed heretofore guardians of the global economy, dominated by the U.S. and the North Atlantic bloc (with token representation from Japan).has been fundamentally supplanted by the Group of 20, which includes South Africa and China and Brazil and Indonesia and India; that is, the North Atlantic bloc took notice of the simple fact that slowly but surely the center of gravity of the global economy is moving toward Asia, one of the most profound developments to impact this small planet since the advent of the African Slave Trade and the advent of European colonialism in Africa and the Americas.
Among other things, the rise of China, India and Brazil and the relative decline of the U.S. signals that this nation will be more susceptible to global pressure.and keep in mind that this nation ever has been susceptible to global pressure, even during its heyday during the Cold War. This new global environment provides immense challenges for our movement. Frank Rich of the .New York Times. has been among the pundits and analysts pointing to the presence in the White House of the nation.s first Black President in explicating the recent hysteria that has led to a renaissance of armed militia and suicide bombers flying a plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas and the rise of the ¡°Tea Party¡± movement that has mobilized thousands in the streets and a proliferation of death threats against Congresspersons.including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Patty Murray of the state of Washington.who voted for health insurance reform.
I do not believe that Frank Rich is wrong.however, I would add a few more layers; that is, I think, this metastasizing hysteria that is afflicting particularly many Euro-Americans is also due to the rising anxiety driven by a ¡°new world order¡±.but not the one promulgated by George H.W. Bush. Though spending trillions to subdue the Communist Party in Moscow and supposedly sound the death knell for Communists generally, now many of our compatriots find a world where the Communist Party in Beijing wields outsized influence; even worse, this latter Communist Party is administered by Asians in a nation that has a long and inglorious history of anti-Asian bigotry, including interning Japanese-Americans by the tens of thousands from 1941-1945 and perpetrating countless pogroms against Chinese nationals and Chinese Americans in the latter part of the 19th century. I think the anxiety about the new role of Asia and particularly China is made worse by the fact that there is hardly a discourse on the left about the new role of Asia and China, which creates an environment where misinformation and disinformation can flourish. For whatever reason, the left has been reluctant to state the obvious: that Washington.s obsessive, Moby Dick-like focus on Moscow simply prepared the way for the rise of Beijing.and the decline of the U.S.
Simultaneously, this new global environment not only presents us with dangers, it also opens up countless opportunities for activists to bring enormous pressure on the U.S. authorities. To cite two recent examples, a week ago I stumbled on yet another competitor to CNN, this time from Iran.I refer to their new English language 24 hours new channel, Press-tv; it featured a lengthy discussion of the documentary ¡°In the Land of the Free,¡± which focuses on the heroic Angola 3, Black political prisoners in Louisiana, and during the course of this program, viewers were given ammunition by which they could bombard the U.S. authorities with pointed queries about their plight. This is not minor since we all know that one of the central reasons why the heralded Mumia Abu Jamal has not been executed is because of the enormous support he has received from abroad, particularly in Western Europe, where he has been lionized.
Unfortunately, a stance shared by the U.S. right wing and some on the left, is an over-estimation of the current strength of U.S. imperialism. Thus, environmentalists would be remiss if they chose to ignore the recent threat from France that Washington should sign on to the latest thinking on climate change lest it run the risk of facing a carbon tax across Europe.still, this nation.s most important market.in order to compel compliance. The authorities in Brussels, the capital of the European Union have been more successful than their U.S. counterparts in curbing the monopoly power of Microsoft and their ubiquitous Windows system.
The death penalty and the policy of mass incarceration are the areas where the U.S. authorities are particularly susceptible to pressure from abroad, policies that have harmed disproportionately people of African descent. The European Union has been quite hostile to the death penalty and their concerted campaign has focused intently on the 2nd largest state, Texas, which is also the citadel of reaction nationally, if not globally. As the Lone Star state was approaching the dubious distinction in 2008 of executing its 400th inmate since 1982, it was a European campaign that was credited with compelling Governor Rick ¡°The Hairdo¡± Perry to commute the death sentence of African-American inmate, Kenneth Foster.
Recently when the State Department issued their annual report on real and imagined human rights violations globally, China.s Information Office of the State Council issued a blistering analysis of the human rights situation in the U.S. focusing particularly on the question of racism and mass incarceration.
Intriguingly, it has been the indigenous, the various Native American groupings that have been in the forefront. Many of them have been inspired by a new wave of activism in the hemisphere, culminating with the election of the charismatic Evo Morales, as the first indigenous President of Bolivia and the solidarity he has extended to indigenes throughout the Americas. The U.S. was one of only four nations to vote against the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People-which has been a new birth of freedom for indigenes in the Americas. Before that, it was in 2002 that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled that the U.S. had violated international human rights laws by seizing property of the Western Shoshone.the first time an international body formally recognized that the U.S. had violated the rights of Native Americans; then in 2008 the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination formally criticized the U.S. for not doing more to prevent and punish violence against indigenous women. Justice Department statistics reveal that one in three women will be raped in their lifetimes; 86% of the rapes are committed by non-indigenous men.the continuation of a centuries long pattern. Pro-choice advocates should take note of the fact that some Native American nations could become havens for women.s reproductive rights if the U.S. further circumscribes these profoundly crucial rights. Consider also that the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.the oldest continuous democratic government in North America.has long argued that indigenous nations should not expect to win justice from colonizing governments and instead must take their quest for justice to the United Nations and its human rights mechanisms. Against this backdrop the UN Human Rights Council is conducting a year long Universal Period Review of the U.S..s human rights record, holding sessions within the borders of the U.S. This will result in a report to be compiled and presented to the 47 member Human Rights Council that will make recommendations on how the U.S. can improve its compliance with international human rights obligations.
Thus, just recently scores flocked to the law school at the University of New Mexico to hear and present testimony from indigenous nations and individuals about discrimination and illegal tactics historically used by Washington to confiscate land, natural resources, even children and to suppress their rights to self-determination. Suggestive of how important this development is taken in Washington was the appearance in Albuquerque of nine top-level officials from the Obama administration who were dispatched by the Departments of Justice, Housing, Health and Human Services, Education and Agriculture. They listened and took notes as indigenous representatives before this global body demanded their rights.
This session in New Mexico was simply the continuation of a long-term trend, for like Africans in the hemisphere the indigenous too have long sought sustenance abroad to counter the right-wing on this continent. It was in 1923 that Chief Deskaheh of the Cayuga people.territory now occupied by Cornell University.travelled to Geneva, Switzerland to address the League of Nations about the right of his people to live freely on their lands, practice their own religion and follow their own laws. He was treated impolitely but this did not halt indigenous organizing, which culminated in September 2007 with passage of the profoundly important Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Here the ¡°right to restitution¡± was enshrined, which mirrors the campaign of Africans in the Americas for the ¡°right to reparations¡±. Kara Briggs of the American Indian Policy and Media Initiative spoke for many when she asserted in thunderstruck terms, ¡°I can.t help but wonder how the world would be different if 400 years ago, we, the colonized of the world, had this central gathering place to confer about atrocities and organize a worldwide resistance.¡±
The progressive atmosphere that the indigenous are helping to create inevitably will redound to the benefit of the latest arrival on these shores.I speak, of course, of the immigrant population, many of whom are residing right here in Chicago. We need immigration reform in this nation for many reasons.but one often overlooked reason is that these migrants, mostly from Africa, Asia and Latin America, tend to vote progressive and progressive forces in the U.S. badly need to replenish our ranks. In recent years, the largest and most vibrant protests in this nation have focused on immigration reform. Recall the Senate version of the Sensenbrenner bill, the most reactionary immigration legislation proposed in 100 years.was defeated because of the huge May Day marches of 2006. Everyday people in motion defeated this legislation.not Gucci clad lobbyists, Washington insiders; a people.s movement provided the necessary leadership and troops.
This movement continues to advance. On New Year.s day a group of migrant workers and their allies in Naranja, Florida, began a 17 day hunger strike to bring national attention to the issue of immigration reform. Two weeks later, about 10,000 folks marched in Phoenix, Arizona, calling for the removal of the notoriously anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio. And in February, undocumented youth marched from Miami to Washington in support of t he Dream Act, which would allow them to attend college in the United States despite their immigrant status.
It is important for those who are not recent immigrants, nor undocumented workers to realize that we have a stake in their success and not only because we desperately need their votes and, thus, need their status to be normalized.
We also need to realize that the ability to underpay.or not pay at all.these workers is dragging down the entire wage level to the detriment of the working class as a whole. Thus, I congratulate a child of Latin American immigrants, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and the initiation of the ¡°We Can Help¡± campaign which by dint of website and public service announcements and a phone hotline and other means encourages workers.particularly those in construction, janitorial fields, hotels, food services and home health care.to report employer abuses, which often are not just economic but racist and political, i.e. in the Alliance.s jurisdiction, though to be sure, most of these abuses involve non-payment of wages (i.e. neo-slavery). Solis also has hired hundreds of investigators for this project and if she is successful, it should help to lift those at the bottom, which should be a boon for us all.
For outside of the workplace there is a veritable reign of terror targeting, particularly Latino migrant workers. As I speak, on Long Island a gripping trial is unfolding involving the hunting and murdering of an Ecuadorean migrant worker as these white youth were engaged in bloodsport they called ¡°Mexican hopping¡± or ¡°beaner hopping.¡±
But, again, these crimes open the door for the Alliance to seek mutuality with the Mexican and Ecuadorean consulates in the U.S. and thus, increase our strength on these shores.