Sometimes I wonder just how radical or “extremist” my opinions are. A few weeks ago, I was reading an article from the International Committee of the Fourth International. It was about Jill Stein’s appearance on CNN:
I didn’t watch the appearance, but I found myself agreeing with the criticism of it:
In fact, the Sanders campaign was not and the Green Party is not “revolutionary.” Stein’s identification of the impulse behind the support for Sanders with the candidate himself starkly reveals the conventional and pro-capitalist politics of the organization. Sanders’ groveling endorsement of Clinton laid bare the basic purpose of the campaign from the beginning: to channel social opposition behind the Democratic Party. Now, Stein and the Greens are seeking to tap into the same social unrest in order to contain it within the confines of bourgeois politics.
The bulk of the town hall meeting centered on questions of foreign policy, militarism and war, with Stein and Baraka presenting themselves as “peace” candidates in contrast to Clinton and the Democratic Party. They did so, however, in a wholly unprincipled manner, characterizing the “war on terror” and US wars more broadly as “catastrophic policies” driven by “incompetency,” instead of the deliberate actions of the world’s most powerful imperialist state. There was no mention of the economic impetus for imperialist war, including the drive to secure access to oil resources, nor of the broader geo-strategic interests of the American capitalist class.
In her opening remarks, Stein called for enacting “foreign policy that’s based on international law, human rights and economic justice, not on military and economic dominance that’s blowing up at us.” In effect, Stein is giving support to wars sanctioned by the UN Security Council, such as the 2011 War in Libya, and the promotion of “human rights” as the all-purpose justification for war used by American imperialism….
The history of Green parties internationally also exposes the fraudulent character of their pacifism. In Germany, the Red-Green alliance of the Green Party and Social Democratic Party, in power from 1998-2005, supported the US bombing of Iraq in 1998 and the war in Afghanistan in 2001. The Australian Greens supported the 1999 military intervention in East Timor and have supported the brutal oppression of refugees in recent years. The US Greens are complicit in the pro-war record of their international collaborators, whom they have never denounced.
I remembered that Jill Stein gets about 5% in the polls, so how many people care what the Trotskyists think? Even the Marxist-Leninist die-hards don’t go far enough. This strikes me as a bit…reactionary:
Stein and Baraka deliberately obscure the reality that a plurality of those killed by police in the US are white, while the President of the country and numerous politicians leading major cities are black. Fundamentally, they deny the history of class struggle in the US and the need to unite workers of all racial and ethnic backgrounds in a common struggle to overthrow capitalism.
By framing the issue of police violence entirely in racial terms, the Greens wind up offering the most tepid solutions to police violence. At the local level, Stein called for ensuring “that every community has a civilian review board, so that communities are in charge of their police and not the other way around,” and that each community “have access to an independent investigator” responsible for investigating police killings. Nationally, the Greens are “calling for a truth and reconciliation commission so that we can actually understand what is this living legacy of fear, of racism, of incredible racial bias that police violence is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Stein elaborated, “We’re calling for this truth and reconciliation commission so that we can share our stories, we can share music, art, have a facilitated conversation that our campaign hopes to help engender so that we can come to terms with who we are as human beings and overcome this legacy that’s dividing us.”
The notion that sharing music and art is going to do anything to address the reign of police violence is laughable. It is also aimed at presenting police violence as a matter of the supposed intolerance of white people, rather than as a matter of the building up of the powers of the capitalist state against the working class and youth of all races.
I agree that the Greens aren’t going far enough. However, it’s a fact that black people are killed by the police disproportionately. Comparing the absolute rate of black and white deaths without correcting for population is what’s actually misleading. “Obama and some mayors are black, so let’s stop talking about racism” is something I’d expect to hear from conservatives, not communists. In fact, In These Times published an article refuting that very talking point, assuming it was being repeated by Trump supporters:
It is intellectually dishonest to imply that state and federal policies do not play an outsize role in the condition of urban black communities. Cities are not autonomous hubs that shape their own social and economic destinies unencumbered by external forces. Trump’s and his surrogates’ characterization of American cities as uncontrollable “war zones” ruled by “Democrat mayors”—like the “welfare queens” trope of previous decades—deliberately omits mentioning the ruinous social and economic policies implemented by state governorships and legislatures (most of which are controlled by the GOP) and the federal government. These policies have torn apart—and continue to tear apart—the social and economic fabric of cities, frustrating the dreams of millions of African Americans. We must stop allowing Trump, his surrogates and GOP leaders to pretend otherwise.
It seems that white guys across the political spectrum can agree on one thing…It wasn’t always like this. Trotskyists used to have our back, in the 1930s. Max Shachtman, writing in a pamphlet called Communism and the Negro:
The petty bourgeois Socialist party embraces another group which supplies the Negro with assurances, promises, and consolations. In the American Negro question, the hierarchy of the Socialist party is unusually “radical.” It refuses to look upon the Negro’s problem as something “unique.” It will not be diverted from the “straight Socialist” standpoint. As the Negro problem is created by capitalism, it will be solved when capitalism gives way to socialism. In the meantime, the socialists will carry on the same “struggle” for the Negro as they do for the white. The fact that the Negro masses in the United States occupy a special position, that they constitute a distinct racial caste of pariahs, is conveniently ignored by the Socialist theoreticians. When Mr. Norman Thomas declares that “what the Negro wants and needs is what the white worker wants and needs, neither more nor less,” he is covering up with a pleasant fiction the fact that at the present moment, under the rule of American capitalism, the Negro does not yet possess what the white worker has. More than this, Thomas and his colleagues are thus deliberately concealing the wide gap that exists between the upper strata of white workers, the labor aristocracy, and the abused and outcast Negro mass. There is a whole school in the international socialist movement which thus covers up the imperialist oppression of whole peoples, races, and nations. The fight of the backward colonial peoples against the advanced imperialist buccaneers is rejected by them on the grounds that the national democratic revolution is a “bourgeois revolution,” whereas our “radical” socialist theoreticians will have nothing to do with anything but the proletarian struggle against capitalism–at least in words, and more recently not even in that harmless form.
Shachtman quotes Trotsky himself:
“The fight against this policy,” wrote Leon Trotsky in 1922 concerning the abominable attitudes of superiority prevalent in the privileged strata of the white workers,
must be taken up from different sides, and conducted of various lines. One of the most important branches of this conflict consists in enlightening the proletarian consciousness by awakening the feeling of human dignity, and of revolutionary protest, among the black slaves of American capital…This work can only be carried out by self-sacrificing and politically educated revolutionary Negroes. Needless to say, the work is not to be carried on in the spirit of Negro chauvinism, which would then merely form a counterpart of white chauvinism–but in the spirit of solidarity of all the exploited without consideration of color.
I’m with Trotsky, not with her. Who’s with me? This was shared by a white female comrade, in solidarity: