black agenda report

The End of Low Wage Work
Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report, May 12 2021

The latest popular lament in the US is not about how the people suffer under a predatory system. In usual fashion, the people themselves are turned into villains when they refuse to acquiesce to their oppression. Low wage workers have made the rational decision to take a break. Why shouldn’t they? They have no safety net, no guarantee of housing or health care or child care or transportation. The combination of unemployment and additional stimulus support has made staying home a better economic decision than working for peanuts under stressful conditions. One would think that employers in retail and restaurants are the victims. The corporate media repeat endlessly that they can’t find workers but don’t tell us why this situation has taken place. The opportunity to hear why workers make a logical choice is never heard. The result is more right-wing propaganda masquerading as news. Even worse, workers are now being punished because they refuse to knuckle under. Montana and South Carolina have chosen to forgo federal unemployment support in an effort to force people back into low wage jobs. Montana’s governor said:

We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce.

His brilliant plan is to give up the additional $300/wk and instead give $1.2k just once. South Carolina’s governor is competing in the cruelty olympics, complaining about “dangerous federal entitlements” and cutting off money to people who need it the most. These servants of corporate interests have reason to worry. There are signs that workers have had enough. Employees in a Maine Dollar General store walked out and explained that the low pay and business model of being overworked was no longer worth it to them.

It is a positive change to see workers take a little bit of advantage of the system. The system takes advantage of them often enough. Discount stores like Dollar General are the fastest growing retail outlets in the country. They hire as few workers as possible, wrongly classify workers as managers in order to exempt them from overtime protection, and regularly engage in wage theft. It is little wonder that the unemployed have decided to stand down. They should be supported by everyone else and their efforts should be part of political demands made to the supposedly less evil democrats. These positions would be filled if wages were higher and working conditions were better, and no one should be confused about that fact. Any anger should be directed at the employers who bend the law to favor themselves and to the politicians who do their bidding. The workers who fight back as best they can should not be the targets of criticism. Complaints and demands should be directed at the members of congress who claim to be progressives. Instead of joining the pro-Biden propaganda they should confront him and the rest of the neoliberals and make good on the image they have created for themselves. If Biden is truly “transformational” now is the time for him to prove it.

Real political transformation is needed, but unlikely to happen at this juncture. The lesser evil crowd won’t do more than they are doing now. Neither will the people who covered for them and spoke of “moving them left” and “holding feet to the fire.” The catastrophe of low wage work is the end result of years of collaboration between the ruling classes and political leadership in both major parties. Hopefully these jobs will remain unfilled when the unemployment runs out. The Dollar General workers in Maine put up a sign which read:

Google ‘general strike’ and learn how we can take our power back!

The refusal to go back to bad pay and unfair conditions is a kind of strike, but it can’t end when the money is cut off. The restaurants allowed to pay less than the minimum wage to tipped workers and the wage-stealing retailers should fear that these bad jobs will go unfilled. The moment is ripe for a general strike, but that means organizing, political education and resistance. The people stocking shelves and flipping burgers can’t resist on their own. At the very least, the rest of us should counter the vilification and fight efforts to kick them while they are down. Everyone in this country is likely to end up in the same predicament of precarity and disposability. We may not know how to call a general strike, but we should know which side to choose in this struggle.

Democrats Give an “A” Grade to Joe Biden’s Brand of Corporate Rule. Should the Left?
Danny Haiphong, Black Agenda Report, May 11 2021

Democrats have treated the Biden presidency’s first 100 days as the calm after the Trumpian storm. Yet the real storm of US corporate rule continues, this time without the partisan opposition that existed under Trump. So-called progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asserted that Biden has exceeded her expectations, while Pramila Jayapal gave Biden an “A” grade for his performance thus far. Long before these overtures, the WaPo declared Biden’s bid to “tame” the left a smashing success. No actual definition of “left” politics would include the Democratic Party as it exists today. True leftists oppose endless war, racism, austerity and environmental destruction. They build organizations and movements that enhance the capacity of workers and oppressed people to challenge the rule of the exploiter class. In the US, this class primarily refers to the capitalist owners of giant corporations and their servants who administer the state. The Democratic Party does not meet any of the most basic criteria of left politics. This poses the following questions: how has Biden’s presidency helped facilitate a more peaceful world, a cleaner environment, and a more egalitarian economic order? Does Biden’s rule offered more political space for mass movements to increase their power over society?

The answer to each of these questions is simply, no. Coming to this conclusion, however, is a difficult task for those who remain loyal to the notion that the Democratic Party can be pushed to the “left.” Complicating the picture is that Biden was confronted with the unprecedented circumstances of entering the Oval Office amid an economic crisis and a global pandemic. Just as moments of crisis and trauma lead to forgetfulness among individuals, so too have they proven to facilitate historical memory loss on a mass scale. The enormity of the global health and economic crisis places the first few months of Biden’s presidency in proper context. Biden’s policies thus far represent the bare minimum response of a social order mired in total decay. More than a half million people have died of COVID-19 and tens of millions of people have experienced unemployment or underemployment in the US since the economic collapse began in Mar 2020. These numbers do not take into account that the US capitalist economy had still not recovered from the 2007-08 economic crisis.

Biden’s immediate COVID-19 relief plan provided one-time $1.4k checks (down from the promised $2k), an extension of unemployment benefits at a lower amount than Trump’s CARES Act, and tax credits in the form of monthly checks to families with children. His “American Families Plan” places several trillion dollars aside for infrastructure repair and development to be paid for through increased taxes on the wealthy. On paper, this would be the largest federal-driven public spending plan since the 1960s. But this is 2021, and Biden’s policies fall well short of deserving celebration. Biden’s investments in electric vehicles, for example, won’t make this form of transportation a mainstream option for majorities of people. Lofty hopes that the US will halve carbon emissions in the next decade are met with the reality that Biden has already shown himself to be more than happy to allow environmentally destructive oil and gas drilling, so long as it isn’t on federal lands.

Perhaps most important to Biden’s presidential legacy thus far is what his administration hasn’t done to mitigate the suffering of the working class. Biden remains firmly opposed to Medicare for All even though one in four Americans avoid necessary medical care due to cost. He has already provided nearly three times more in military weaponry to police departments in the first quarter of his presidency than Donald Trump’s last quarter in office and has rejected use of the DOJ or executive powers to investigate the murders of Black Americans by police. Biden has no plans on fighting his own party’s opposition to a $15/hr minimum wage, even though the policy is supported by broad majorities of the US population. Far from reversing Trump’s immigration policies, Biden has deported more people in one quarter than Trump deported in four years.

Furthermore, anyone who grades Biden glowingly is explicitly endorsing US militarism and imperialism. Biden has delayed US withdrawal from Afghanistan by four months, bombed Syria, supported Haiti’s neocolonial dictatorship, maintained starvation sanctions on dozens of countries, and intensified the US-led New Cold War against Russia and China. To fund these and other imperial ventures, Biden has proposed an even larger military budget than his predecessor. The US military is one of the largest polluters in the world, and its treasure trove of funds render any kind of real public investment in human need both domestically and abroad impossible. Biden’s job is not to improve the lives of “American Families.” His job is to stabilize the US imperialist system. The promises Biden has made in his “American Families Plan” mirror those made during the first three months of Obama’s administration. Many of these promises were broken, and there is nothing to indicate that Biden will not follow the same path. How quickly it is forgotten that Obama ostracized the movement for single-payer healthcare, abandoned the Employee Free Choice Act, and worked to strike a Grand Bargain with Republicans on endless austerity and war.

Biden doesn’t deserve an “A” grade from the Left. In fact, the very act of grading Biden sends a clear message that much of what calls itself the left still lacks a clear vision and roadmap for victory. Corporate Democrats remain the gauge of “progress” rather than its anti-thesis. Entirely negated is the fact that Biden is nothing more than a placeholder presidency for the ruling class. His administration’s primary purpose is to get the US back to the normal operations of capitalist exploitation, racism and imperialism. Yet the normal operations of the US only lead to the very crises that gave us Trump in 2016. Optimism over Biden inevitably fails to consider the reality facing the US’ social system. This system, imperialism, has little left to offer but destructive wars and a world mired in poverty and climate disaster. Biden’s attempts to pander to the Democratic Party base does nothing to change the overall trajectory of the US, but it does cement the Democratic Party’s status as the most effective evil in the arsenal of the ruling class.

Open Letter to Superstar Rapper J Cole about Rwanda and the DRC
Ann Garrison, BAlack Agenda Report, May 12 2021

Dear Mr Cole:

I’m no rap or hip hop aficionado, so I contacted my fellow Pacifica Radio producer and Hard Knock Radio host Davey D Cook to see what he could tell me about you as soon as I saw that you’ll be suiting up to play for the Rwandan Patriots at the debut of the Basketball Africa League in Kigali, Rwanda, from May 16-30. I’m sure you know that this has been all over the sports and entertainment press since it was announced in the New Times of Rwanda  on Sunday May 9. The Athletic says you signed to play three to six games for the Patriots, and even if your basketball career lasts no longer than that, you’ll have hugely increased the hype around the debut of the NBA-affiliated Basketball Africa League. The top headlines, four days away from the Africa League’s debut, are all about you.

Davey D told me you’re a conscious, intellectual guy who went to Ferguson, Missouri, to protest in 2014 after Ferguson cops shot down Michael Brown, and that you make conscious music. I got online and learned that you’re of mixed race but Black-identified and that you’ve experienced life as you look: Black. And that you grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a city of 200k+ people, more than 41% of whom are Black, without much money. I also learned that you’re a brainy, highly disciplined guy who graduated from high school with a 4.2 grade point average, then went on to St John’s University in NYC, and became a superstar rap and hip hop artist a few years after graduating. I read your op-ed in The Players’ Tribune about how you struggled with competing basketball and rap ambitions at St John’s, but decided to throw your energies into the latter. I watched your documentary 4 Your Eyez Only and read what you wrote about making it to lift up Black people and give voice to those who have none.

All very impressive, so I hope you won’t be lending all your brain power, star power and talent to a public relations coup for the President of Rwanda and his brutal, totalitarian regime, which has carried out a catastrophic war and occupation in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for the past 26 years. This war may look like “Black-on-Black violence,” which it is superficially, but the spoils of this war, DRC’s vast mineral wealth, go to the West and to China as a result. The US backed Kagame’s four-year war that ended in the Rwandan Genocide, and then the war, occupation and plunder of DRC. This is a quotation and a quotation within a quotation from Canadian investigative journalist Judi Rever’s book “In Praise of Blood: Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front”:

But I also wanted to flesh out some troubling details on how the Rwandan-led rebel alliance had swept across Zaire so quickly, and do a profile on their financial enablers. Details were emerging as to how the US government and Western-backed business had assisted the rebel army at the height of the refugee killings. The information was limited but solid: On Apr 16 1997, more than a month before Mobutu was toppled and less than a week before Rwandan troops were to machine-gun and slash refugees south of Kisangani, Laurent Kabila’s finance minister, Mwana Nanga Mwampanga, signed a $1b mining deal with America Mineral Fields, whose headquarters was in Hope, Arkansas, President Bill Clinton’s hometown. Jean-Raymond Boulle, the company’s CEO, was close enough to Clinton to receive an invitation to his first inauguration. Boulle gave rebels the use of his Lear jet and advanced $1m in mineral taxes and fees to Kabila in return for a contract to rehabilitate and develop the country’s zinc and copper mines, a project that was estimated to be worth $16b. On Apr 17, the NYT ran a story boldly stating that the Zairean rebels’ new allies were men armed with briefcases: “A week after Shaba Province fell to Laurent Kabila and his rebel troops, mining company executives are swarming around this region of mineral riches and signing lucrative deals despite the uncertainty hanging over the nation’s future. Less than two days after Lubumbashi was captured last Thursday, the executives were already flying into the city aboard private jets and setting up shop in the Hotel Karavia. They could be seen meeting at poolside and over meals with the rebels’ finance minister and the newly appointed Governor of the province. The stakes here are enormous. The province has billions of dollars in untapped mineral reserves. The rolling fertile land holds millions of tons of cobalt, copper and zinc.”

It’s unfortunate that Adam Silver and the NBA decided to stage the Africa League debut in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. The Nation sportswriter and EdgeOfSports podcaster Dave Zirin wrote:

Voices are being raised against the NBA launching its new African League in Rwanda. The pleas of those raising these concerns should not fall upon deaf ears. The NBA has spent considerable time and energy marketing itself as a league that gives a damn about social justice and stands for something more than mere profit.

I’m not finding fault with you for not knowing much about Rwanda or DRC’s recent history. How many Americans know anything about Africa South of the Sahara? You don’t even read about it in much of the left press. I know nothing about it until several events led me to make a study of the African Great Lakes Region twelve years ago. Here are just a few of many articles and radio reports I myself have produced during the past 12 years, while studying and deconstructing all the lies we’re told about catastrophic conflict in the heart of Africa:

Here’s the BBC on Rwanda and President Kagame in 2016, and they didn’t get the half of it: Rwanda’s Untold Story Documentary. I could fill up a page with links about this, but I’m just hoping to catch your attention with at least a few. The debut of the Basketball Africa League is going ahead, and no one seems to doubt that you’ll be playing for the Rwandan Patriots. I’m a fanatic basketball fan myself, and I’m not asking you not to play with the Rwandan team, but I am asking you not to participate in the PR coup. Please don’t have your picture taken with the President of Rwanda or the Foreign Minister or any other top officials, especially not at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, because the president is himself a genocide criminal. I imagine that Bill Clinton will show up for this, so please don’t have your picture taken with him either; he is as responsible as Kagame for the catastrophe in Rwanda and Congo. See Rwanda, the Clinton Dynasty, and the Case of Dr Léopold Munyakazi as well as Judi Rever’s groundbreaking investigative work.

With all due respect,
@Ann Garrison
Contributing Editor, Black Agenda Report

From Palestine to Colombia: The End of the White World Colonial/Capitalist Project?
Ajamu Baraka, Black Agenda Report, May 12 2021

The world is shocked by the image of an eleven-story residential building in Gaza collapsing from a bomb dropped by the IOF, one of the most advanced armies in the world thanks to US support. But in the US, Andrew Yang, former presidential candidate and now candidate for mayor of New York, proudly proclaims that he stands with the heroic people of Israel who are under attack from the vicious, occupied Palestinians who have no army, no rights, and no state. But as politically and morally contradictory as Yang’s sentiments might appear to be for many, the alternative world of Western liberalism has a different standard. In that world, liberals claim that all are equal with inalienable rights, but in practice some lives are more equal and more valuable than others.

In the liberal world, Trump is condemned for attempting to reject the results of the election and indicating that he might not leave office at the end of his term. But as soon as Biden occupies the White House, one of his first foreign policy decisions is to give the US-imposed Haitian president, Jovenel Moise, a green light to ignore the demands of the Haitian people and the end of his term in February and remain in office. In the liberal world, the US that has backed every vicious right-wing dictator in the world since the Second World War, orchestrates coups, murders foreign leaders, attacks nations fighting for independence in places like Vietnam, trains torturers, brandishes nuclear bombs, has the longest held political prisoners on the planet, is number one in global arms sales, imprisons more people than any other nation in the world, has supported apartheid South Africa and is supporting apartheid Israel, while championing human rights! In the liberal world, the US can openly train, fund and back opposition parties and even determine who the leader of a nation should be, but react with moral outrage when supposedly Russian-connected entities buy a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of Facebook ads commenting on “internal” political subjects related to the 2016 election.

In the liberal world, Democrats build on racist anti-China sentiments and the identification of China as a national threat, and then pretend they had nothing to do with the wave of anti-Asia racism and violence. In the liberal world, liberals are morally superior and defend Black life as long as those lives are not in Haiti, Libya, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, all of Africa, and in the jails and prisons of the US. In the liberal world, you can with a straight fact condemn the retaliatory rockets from Gaza, the burning of a police station in Minneapolis, attacks on property owned by corporations in oppressed and exploited communities, on school children fighting back against police in Baltimore, and on North Koreans arming themselves against a crazed, violent state that has already demonstrated, as it did with Libya, what it would do to a state that disarmed in the face of US and European aggression. And in the liberal world, Netanyahu is a democrat, the Palestinians are aggressors, and Black workers did not die unnecessarily because the US dismantled its already underdeveloped public health system.

What all of this is teaching the colonized world, together with the death and violence in Colombia, Haiti, Palestine and throughout the colonized world, is that even though we know the Pan-European project is moribund, the colonial/capitalist West is prepared to sacrifice everything and everyone in order to maintain its global dominance, even if it means destroying the planet and everyone on it. That is why Biden labels himself an “Atlanticist,” shorthand for a white supremacist. His task is to convince the European allies that it is far better to work together than to allow themselves to be divided against the “barbarians” inside and at the doors of Europe and the US. The managers of the colonial/capitalist world understand the terms of struggle, and so should we. It must be clear to us that for the survival of collective humanity and the planet we cannot allow uncontested power to remain in the hands of the global 1%. The painful truth for some is that if global humanity is to live, the Pan-European white supremacist colonial/capitalist project must die.

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