Racism

More Black Men in Prison Today Than Enslaved in 1850

“More Black men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began,” Michelle Alexander told a standing room only house at the Pasadena Main Library, the first of many jarring points she made in a riveting presentation.

Alexander, currently a law professor at Ohio State, had been brought in to discuss her bestseller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Interest ran so high beforehand that the organizers had to move the event to a location that could accommodate the eager attendees. That evening, more than 200 people braved the pouring rain and inevitable traffic jams to crowd into the library’s main room, with dozens more shuffled into an overflow room, and even more latecomers turned away altogether. Alexander and her topic had struck a nerve.

Growing crime rates over the past 30 years don’t explain the skyrocketing numbers of black — and increasingly brown — men caught in America’s prison system, according to Alexander, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun after attending Stanford Law. “In fact, crime rates have fluctuated over the years and are now at historical lows.”

“Most of that increase is due to the War on Drugs, a war waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color,” she said, even though studies have shown that whites use and sell illegal drugs at rates equal to or above blacks. In some black inner-city communities, four of five black youth can expect to be caught up in the criminal justice system during their lifetimes.

As a consequence, a great many black men are disenfranchised, said Alexander — prevented because of their felony convictions from voting and from living in public housing, discriminated in hiring, excluded from juries, and denied educational opportunities.

“What do we expect them to do?” she asked, who researched her ground-breaking book while serving as Director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California. “Well, seventy percent return to prison within two years, that’s what they do.”

Organized by the Pasadena Public Library and the Flintridge Center, with a dozen or more cosponsors, including the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter and Neighborhood Church, and the LA Progressive as the sole media sponsor, the event drew a crowd of the converted, frankly — more than two-thirds from Pasadena’s well-established black community and others drawn from activists circles. Although Alexander is a polished speaker on a deeply researched topic, little she said stunned the crowd, which, after all, was the choir. So the question is what to do about this glaring injustice.

Married to a federal prosecutor, Alexander briefly touched on the differing opinion in the Alexander household. “You can imagine the arguments we have,” Alexander said in relating discussions she has with her husband. “He thinks there are changes we can make within the system,” she said, agreeing that there are good people working on the issues and that improvements can be made. “But I think there has to be a revolution of some kind.”

However change is to come, a big impediment will be the massive prison-industrial system.

“If we were to return prison populations to 1970 levels, before the War on Drugs began,” she said. “More than a million people working in the system would see their jobs disappear.”

Of all African-American men that were born in 1965 or later with less than a high school diploma, 60 percent have a prison record (28 months median time served).

Source: ACA DMC Task Force/Symposium(August 1, 2010)

So it’s like America’s current war addiction. We have built a massive war machine — one bigger than all the other countries in the world combined — with millions of well-paid defense industry jobs and billions of dollars at stake. With a hammer that big, every foreign policy issue looks like a nail — another bomb to drop, another country to invade, another massive weapons development project to build.

Similarly, with such a well-entrenched prison-industrial complex in place — also with a million jobs and billions of dollars at stake — every criminal justice issue also looks like a nail — another prison sentence to pass down, another third strike to enforce, another prison to build in some job-starved small town, another chance at a better life to deny.

Source: https://www.laprogressive.com/black-men-prison-system/

Image Source: http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2011/03/more_black_men_in_prison_today_than_enslaved_in_1850.html

Say No to War – Welcome Syrian Refugees!

Statement by the Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada, Nov. 29, 2015

Just weeks after the most racist and reactionary government in recent Canadian history suffered a major defeat at the polls, far-right forces are making a brazen attempt to use tragic events in other countries to press the new Liberal government to adopt the discredited right-wing agenda of the Harper Tories. This right-wing drive must be blocked by united and powerful resistance by the labour and democratic movements, bringing together all those who want a future based on economic and social justice, human rights, and world peace.

The imperialist drive towards increased militarization and war on a global scale is an intrinsic feature of capitalist development in general. In turn, it inevitably has a negative impact upon domestic politics, including a pattern of “selective attention”. Events such as the bombings in Beirut, Ankara and other cities, the US military’s massacre at a civilian hospital in Afghanistan, the Saudi aggression in Yemen, or the Ukraine government’s shelling of civilians, are downplayed or ignored in the West. However, the shocking Nov. 13 attack in Paris quickly became the focus of a hypocritical attempt to whip up fear and hatred against refugees and immigrants.

In Canada, the most immediate feature of this xenophobic campaign has been a conscious and deliberate attempt to smear Muslims and members of racialized communities as the alleged source of terrorist threats, crime, and economic problems. This campaign has been fanned by far-right, racist elements in the United States, such as Donald Trump and other Republican presidential candidates who call for fascist measures such as surveillance and registering of Muslim people in a database, removal of citizenship rights, and even the mass incarceration and expulsion of racialized communities. Similar racist voices emerged from the shadows during the recent federal election to support the Tories in their attempt to bar refugees from war-torn areas of the Middle East, central Asia and Africa, and then to fight the new Liberal government’s plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada.

These forces have adopted the rhetoric used by racist movements in Europe, such as the lie that refugees and immigrants aim to use their higher birth rate to “swamp” Canada’s supposedly “white Christian” values. Earlier in the election, they demonized Islamic women who choose to wear the niqab, in an attempt to claim that they support women’s equality – equality rights which in reality were systematically attacked and undermined for a decade by the Harper Tories. The most cowardly and despicable elements among these racists torch mosques under cover of darkness and assault Muslim women and children in the streets. Politicians such as Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall openly spread lies and misinformation, claiming that bringing Syrian refugees to Canada will lead to a dramatic escalation of terrorist recruiting. These forces condemn the Liberal government’s plan to end Canadian participation in bombing of targets in Syria and Iraq, and demand an immediate escalation of military force and a major increase in the military budget.

All of these efforts are connected to a wider corporate push to further erode labour, civil and democratic rights in the name of “protecting” Canadians. The political and physical attacks against Muslim-Canadians are part of a long-standing drive to intimidate and silence all those who reject the agenda of austerity, poverty, environmental destruction, corporate trade sellouts, and war.

The Communist Party of Canada joins with all other progressive people in condemning every form of terrorism, including both the imperialist wars and occupations of the US, Canada and other NATO countries, and those committed by fundamentalist movements such as Daesh and al-Qaeda. At the same time, we stress once again that these dangerous forces have gained strength in large part because of the state terrorism, interventions and exploitation of the Middle East, central Asia and Africa by the imperialist powers and their regional ally, Israel. Many of the terrorist attacks in recent years have been carried out by forces which were in fact spawned and supported by the US and its NATO allies, the root source of mass terror and destruction on our planet today.

Both the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front and ISIS (or “Daesh”) – the main forces attempting to overthrow the Assad government in Syria – have long been financed and armed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, with the direct knowledge and support of Washington. Our Party condemns the imperialist-orchestrated campaign to impose ‘regime change’ on Syria, the real cause of the conflict which has virtually destroyed the country and driven millions from their homes as refugees. The downing of a Russian jet by Turkey, under highly dubious circumstances, has further heightened tensions, and could provoke a wider regional and even global war.

The Communist Party calls for an immediate cessation of all foreign military, political and economic interference and aggression in both Syria and neighbouring Iraq, not an expansion of foreign military operations under the pretext of a “war on ISIS”. We express our solidarity with the Syrian people struggling to defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity, and favour negotiations to end the ‘civil’ war as determined by the Syrian people themselves, without outside involvement, interference, or ‘dictat’. The crisis needs a political solution that has the elected government of Bahsar al-Assad at the table. This is the only path to de-escalate the war tensions in the region, and to end the humanitarian tragedy that has afflicted its peoples.

We also call for full solidarity with the Syrian refugees coming to Canada, and for restoration and adequate funding of the services they desperately need, including housing, language training, legal aid, social assistance and much more. Instead of expanding the Canadian Armed Forces, we demand a complete end to the Syria/Iraq mission, and a 75% reduction in military spending, which would provide $15 billion annually for social programs, housing and infrastructure projects in this country.

Finally, we demand swift action against the racist groups and individuals which are engaged in violence against the Muslim community. These criminal elements must not be allowed to conduct their campaign of racist terror under cover of sympathy for the victims of the Paris attacks.

Source: People’s Voice

Image Source: https://stepfeed.com/more-categories/big-news/are-europeans-finding-their-conscience-on-the-syrian-refugee-crisis/#.VocWi0I72jI

Confronting Racism and Fascism

From the Communist Party of Canada

Seemingly unconnected events sometimes reveal patterns which are not immediately obvious. One such pattern is the re-emergence of racist and fascist ideas which had been consigned to history.

South of the border, the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston – the historic church of slave revolt hero Denmark Vesey – was not the act of a disturbed individual. The killer openly upheld the centuries-long “tradition” of white supremacy, which includes countless murders, rapes, lynchings and police killings against Black Americans. The Civil War victory over the southern slavocrats was not enough to root out their inhuman ideology, which survives in a modern United States where corporate profits are boosted by the exploitation and oppression of racialized minorities.

Across the ocean, Hitlerism was smashed on the battlefields of World War Two, with the Soviet people led by their Communist Party playing the decisive military role. But US imperialism refused to complete the task of eradicating Nazism, choosing instead to turn the remnants of the fascist machine against the USSR and its socialist allies. Today the followers of these fascists are in power in Kiev, and spreading xenophobic and homophobic terror across the rest of the continent.

Here at home, Stephen Harper stubbornly refuses to utter the “G” word, maintaining the shameful pretense that the genocidal policies imposed on indigenous peoples by colonialism were “mistakes” – not fundamental characteristics of the racist ideology of white European Christian supremacy. And at the “grassroots” level, neo-nazis are seeking to turn legitimate anger over falling living standards into violence against immigrants and refugees.

Such expressions of fascist and racist ideology are encouraged by a ruling class desperate to maintain control at a time of deepening capitalist economic crisis. These ideas must not be trivialized – they must be confronted and beaten back wherever they emerge.

International Women’s Day: Reinvigorating Marxist-Feminist Struggles in Canada

From Rebel Youth and written by a YCL comrade and friend

This March, the Young Communist League and the Communist Party of Canada will celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) by expressing solidarity with the ongoing and past struggles of women. While IWD is widely celebrated in civil society today, often little is known about the holiday’s socialist roots. IWD would not have been possible without the struggles of socialist women.

The political activism of Clara Zetkin (1857-1933) and Luise Zietz (1865-1922) was particularly influential. Zetkin and Zietz were committed communists dedicated to organizing working class women and educating their male comrades on the importance of women’s struggles. They understood that the success of socialism depended on proletariat women and men “fight[ing] hand in hand…against capitalist society.”1 In August 1910 at a general meeting of the Second International, Zietz suggested holding an International Women’s Day to bring attention to equal rights, the suffrage and the struggles of working class women. Zetkin seconded the motion and over a hundred women from seventeen different countries voted in support of creating IWD. The next year on March 18 (chosen to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Paris Commune) the first IWD demonstrations were held in Europe. It was a tremendous success with an estimated 300 demonstrations being held across the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1922, with the help of Zetkin, Lenin would name International Women’s Day an official communist holiday.

Since its formation in 1911 IWD has been used as a platform to rally the masses around a number of issues including exploitation, poverty and war. It is useful to revisit a couple examples here. In 1915 in Berne, Switzerland, Zetkin led socialist women from both neutral and warring countries in a demonstration against the ongoing destruction of World War I. Demonstrators distributed manifestos arguing that the working class had little to gain from the bourgeois war and called on women to organize in its opposition. Zetkin argued:

Who profits from this war? Only a tiny minority in each nation: The manufacturers of rifles and cannons, of armor-plate and torpedo boats, the shipyard owners and the suppliers of the armed forces’ needs. In the interests of their profits, they have fanned the hatred among the people, thus contributing to the outbreak of the war. The workers have nothing to gain from this war, but they stand to lose everything that is dear to them.2

In 1917, Alexandra Kollontai led one of the most dramatic IWD demonstrations in protest of the deteriorating living conditions in Russia. Women marched from the factories to the breadlines in protest of high food and rent prices and along the way they persuaded a number of male workers to join in solidarity with the march. The Czar felt so threatened by the women’s rebellion that two days later he ordered it to be stopped by means of gunfire if necessary.3

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The Police Were Created to Control Working Class and Poor People, Not ‘Serve and Protect’

From In These Times

In most of the liberal discussions of the recent police killings of unarmed black men, there is an underlying assumption that the police are supposed to protect and serve the population. That is, after all, what they were created to do.

If only the normal, decent relations between the police and the community could be re-established, this problem could be resolved. Poor people in general are more likely to be the victims of crime than anyone else, this reasoning goes, and in that way, they are in more need than anyone else of police protection. Maybe there are a few bad apples, but if only the police weren’t so racist, or didn’t carry out policies like stop-and-frisk, or weren’t so afraid of black people, or shot fewer unarmed men, they could function as a useful service that we all need.

This liberal way of viewing the problem rests on a misunderstanding of the origins of the police and what they were created to do.

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