Friday, July 23, 2010

The Age of Reagan, 1980-present

In this year that we have now declared
the year from Shogun to Reagan,
I remember what I said about Reagan…meant it.
Acted like an actor…Hollyweird.
Acted like a liberal.
Acted like General Franco
when he acted like governor of California,
then he acted like a republican.
Then he acted like somebody was going to vote for him for president.

Gil Scott Heron “B-Movie”

Two weeks after the 2008 presidential elections, Cornel West, the preeminent negro intellectual in the world today, stated on Democracy Now! that the election of Barack Obama signals the beginning of the end of the ‘Age of Reagan.’ The Harvard trained intellectual proves that Carter G. Woodson’s famous saying remains true “Harvard has ruined more good negroes than bad whisky ever will.” In fact, the new administrations neoliberal economic advisors, bank bailouts, and support for wars of foreign aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate the current period of right wing conservatism has not ended. Actually, the Tea party activist and politicians might represent a move from the current form of democratic or covert fascism to the openly white supremacist fascism seen during the era of segregation.

The seeds of the contemporary period begin, oddly enough, at the highpoint of the African Freedom Movement and World Revolution in the late 1960s. In 1968, Richard Nixon was elected President of the United States on a ‘law and order’ platform that appealed to the white middle class and southern segregationist. In addition, the FBI through its COINTELPRO targeted African and other revolutionary organizations for infiltration, imprisonment, and assassination. Although in the 1970s there were attempts to rebuild the movement from its peak of 1968, by the late 70s it was apparent this moment of African insurgency had ended unsuccessfully.

The consolidation of the right-wing national security elites, the moral majority, and fiscal conservatives in the 1970s culminated in the election of Ronald Reagan. In order to prove his White Nationalist credentials, Reagan kicked off his campaign in Philadelphia, MS where three civil rights workers were murdered by white supremacists in the 1960s. Dr. Ronald Walters, former chair of political science at Howard University, states “White Nationalism might be defined as that radical aspect of the Conservative Movement that intends to use both unofficial power and official power of the state to maintain White Supremacy by subordinating Blacks and other non-Whites.”

At the same time, the Reagan administration adopted neoliberal economic policies advanced by the University of Chicago Economics department. According to neoliberal ideology, human beings are primarily rational, self-interested actors, therefore, the state should be eliminated as much as possible so that human nature can flourish. Its characteristics are 1) removal of trade barriers 2) privatization 3) elimination of social services and 4) liberalization of financial markets.

In relation to Africans in America, the most debilitating aspect of this period is the emergence of the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). For example, according a study reported in the New York Times, there were 143,000 African men in prison or jail in 1980 but by 2000 the number had exploded to 791,600. Moreover, African women are one of the fastest growing prison populations in the U.S.

This process of mass incarceration was facilitated by the passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, the Crime Control Act of 1994 and other draconian drug laws. Currently, in the United States a person convicted of possessing 5 grams of crack receives the same sentence in federal court as a person convicted of possessing 500 grams of powder cocaine. That is, literally, 1:100 ratio. What is the difference: the crack form of the drug is primarily used by lower income Africans and the powder form is the drug of choice for middle class and elite Whites. Then, in 1998, Rep. John Conyers entered into the congressional record a document called “A Tangled Web: A History of CIA Complicity in Drug International Trafficking” to show the role of the US government in the drug trade.

In 1994 the so-called ‘Republican Revolution’ facilitated the passage of White Nationalist legislation such as the previously mentioned drug laws. After gaining control of the House and Senate in 1994, the republicans revealed their Contract with America which focused on restoring so called traditional American values and fiscal conservatism. In an attempt to help the democratic party remain relevant, Bill “slick willie” Clinton began to chip away at the New Deal and Great society programs so that the democratic party platform corresponded to the Contract with America.

For example in 1996 Clinton signed welfare reform or PRWORA into law. The bill limited the amount of time a family could be on welfare to five years and had stringent work requirements. Unfortunately, the primary jobs available to undereducated and poor people are low-wage service jobs that do not offer a living wage. And, since Africans are disproportionately poor, they were and are unduly affected. Several of Clintons cabinet members resigned in protest asserting that the new law would cause increased poverty among children. Although these policies are a component of the White Nationalist assault, Africans are told the U.S. is a color blind, now post-racial, society. Therefore, according to the White Nationalists, their problems are the result of their bad morals and pathological behavior.

But don’t be fooled, Reagonmics is global. In 1980, Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of Britain. Both countries, particularly the U.S. uses the Bretton Woods institutions (IMF, World Bank, and United Nations) to project imperial power. The IMF and World Bank utilize the Washington Consensus to impose structural adjustment programs (SAP) on Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In short, poor formerly colonized countries with little to no capital must accept a neoliberal agenda to receive loans with interest thereby undermining their self-determination and further impoverishing the countries. For example, Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel prize for economics, claims that the policies of the IMF and World Bank have negatively impacted the economies of poor countries.

Iraq isn’t new, the U.S. will stop at nothing to impose its will on smaller countries. A case in point, in 1983 following a socialist revolution in Grenada led by the New Jewel Movement, the U.S. invaded the predominantly African nation of 100,000 people. Maurice Bishop, the prime minister, warned that the “state department views us as a threat because we represent a different path of socio-economic development.” A few years later in 1991, the CIA backed a coup on the predominantly African island of Haiti. Then, only returned Aristide, the democratically elected leader, to the country after he agreed to a SAP.

White Nationalist policies from Reagan to Obama are too long to list here. But, how can we transition out of this period? First, African activists, artists, intellectuals, and journalists must engage in an intense ideological struggle with, white and negro, White Nationalists who state “Black people are to blame for their own problems.” We have to unequivocally and boldly state our problem: imperialism and capitalism. This requires us to move from a defensive posture to an offensive posture. In other words, i am calling for something akin to Mao’s Cultural Revolution or the Black Consciousness Movement that challenges bourgeois values and elements in society. Finally, White Nationalism can only be defeated, i think, by Revolutionary Black Nationalism.

Butterfield, Fox. “Study Finds Big Increase in Black Men as Inmates Since 1980” New York Times August 28, 2002.

Cha-Jua Sundiata. “The New Nadir: The Contemporary Black Racial Formation” Black Scholar Spring 2010

DemocracyNow! Cornel West on the Election of Barack Obama: "I Hope He Is a Progressive Lincoln, I Aspire to Be the Frederick Douglass to Put Pressure on Him."

Harvey, David. (2005). A Brief History of Neoliberalism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mitchell, Alison. “TWO CLINTON AIDES RESIGN TO PROTEST NEW WELFARE LAW” New York Times September 12, 1996.

Stiglitz, Joseph. (2003). Globalization and Its Discontents. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Umansky, Eric. “History 101: The CIA & Drugs.” MotherJones.

Walters, Ronald. (2003). White Nationalism, Black Interests: Conservative Public Policy and the Black Community. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Two Sides of the Same Coin: Global Capitalism & U.S. Militarism

The Washington Post published a provocative article on June 4th 2010 entitled “U.S. ‘secret war’ expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role.” The article shows that the Obama administration has continued the militaristic policies of the Bush administration by swelling the number of special operations troops in 75 countries compared to 60 at the beginning of last year. This illustrates that Black faces in high places (neocolonialism) doesn’t necessarily mean a change in policy. Therefore, its important to remember that the primary problem is not US militarism but imperialism and capitalism.

As the global economic situation worsens and the US is bogged down in wars, breaks in the system will occur which allow social movements to arise. To counter this trend, the United States, the military arm of transnational capital, will display more military aggression. Of course, the president is simply continuing the expansionary and imperialistic policies of the white settler regime in North America that started with the theft of First Nation (Native American) lands and enslavement of African people.

In 2008, the US navy reactivated the Fourth fleet. The Fourth fleet was established during World War II to combat the German Navy in Latin American waters. Following the end of the war, the fleet was deactivated. Although the US military contends the Fourth fleet’s reactivation is not a fundamental change in policy, governments in the region assert its purpose is to stop the rise of social movements in Latin America.

These fears are a product of the US Monroe doctrine beginning in the 1820s that stated the entire Western Hemisphere is the United States ‘sphere of influence.’ In keeping with the Monroe Doctrine, the US has overthrown virtually every government in Latin America from Guatemala (1954) to Chile (1973). The more recent coup attempts were in Venezuela (2002) and Bolivia (2008). Also, the leadership of the recent coup in Honduras (2010) was trained at the infamous ‘School of the Americas ’ in Fort Benning, Georgia.

Furthermore in 2008, the United States established the Africa Command (AFRICOM). While the US military declares that AFRICOM is only a restructuring of their command system due to Africa‘s ‘renewed importance’, African governments argue AFRICOMs creation is dependent upon the fact that the US will soon receive 25% of its oil from the African continent. These fears are not unfounded. The beginning of US diplomatic relations with the African continent were the European slave trade. Later, during the Cold War, the CIA supported several assassinations and coups such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo (1960) and Ghana (1966).

Moreover, in May 2008 the US conducted a war games exercise at the US Army War College in Carlisle, PA called “Unified Quest 2008.” The war games included a US response to continued “piracy” and insurgency in Somalia set in 2025 and the collapse of the Nigerian government in 2013. Although the details of the Somalia response were not disclosed, the response to the Nigerian scenario included the deployment of thousands of US troops to West Africa.

As a political commentator stated “you can’t have empire abroad and democracy at home.” Increased US militarism does not bode well for domestically colonized nations in the United States such as Chicanos and Africans. For example, the state of Arizona passed SB 1070 which de facto legalizes racial profiling and forces immigrants to provide documentation on request or risk being detained.

It must remembered, that Arizona was stolen from Mexico during the Mexican-American War. A case in point, in his newspaper the North Star Fredrick Douglass stated the US government “succeeded in robbing Mexico of her territory, and are rejoicing over their success under the hypocritical pretense of a regard for peace.” Similarly, in NYC residents are subjected to stop and frisk policies where upon ‘reasonable suspicion’ NYPD can search any individual for concealed weapons. The American Civil Liberties Union states over 80% those stopped were African or Latino. In addition, similar to checkpoints in Palestine or Afghanistan, in 2008, the DCPD set up checkpoints in the majority African neighborhood of Trinidad in Washington DC.

The African Freedom Movement in the United States has a long history of self-defense against state repression. Two notable works and organizations that should be studied by committed African activists, intellectuals, and street organizations (gangs) are the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB) and Kwame Nkrumah’s The Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare. Founded in 1919, the ABB was a revolutionary Black Nationalist organization that operated on a clandestine basis. They were crucial in the defense of Africans during white attacks on Black communities in the Red Summer of 1919. The Handbook describes how to conduct rural guerilla warfare on the African continent. The coming period of reaction will test our movement for national liberation and self determination.

Blum, William. Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II. Common Courage Press. 1995.

DeYounge, Karen & Jaffe, Greg. "U.S. 'secret war' expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role." New York Times Friday June, 4 2010

Douglass, Frederick. “Frederick Douglass on the Mexican America War,” in Herbert Aptheker, ed. A Documentary History of the Negro People. vol. 1 (New York: Citadel Press, 1967), 267.

Kozloff, Nikolas. “U.S. Fleet in Venezuelan Waters” CounterPunch May 24-25, 2008.

Nkrumah, Kwame. The Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare: A Guide to the Armed Phase of the African Revolution. (International Publishers 1968).

Volman, Daniel. U.S. Military Involvement in Nigeria. September 2009.

African Blood Brotherhood (1919-1925): An Organizational History

“NYCLU Class-Action Lawsuit Challenges NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Practice of Keeping Innocent New Yorkers in Database for Criminal Investigations” May 19, 2010