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America’s Unfinished Revolution: Where Do the George Floyd Protests Go From Here?

The Indypendent, June 5, 2020

It takes but a few minutes for the ruling elite to recast collective calls for an end to state violence against black people into images of the criminality of black protesters and to call for an end to looting

How quickly the government wants us to get back to the status quo where the ruling elite has been looting from the working poor every single day of our lives. Looting from the labor of black workers through over 200 years of slavery in our country. Looting from the labor of black workers in the 100 years of convict-leasing and forced contractual tenant-farming under the Black Codes. Robbing working people — and always the hardest hit black and brown people among them — their schools, their homes and communities, their labor, their health, their rights, and their lives

The real role police play in our society is to flex the muscles of the ruling class and to maintain the ruling class’s interests.

Even during the three months of this pandemic, a handful of billionaires have already looted $434 billion from the backs of the working people while people continue to suffer.

If we’ve learned anything from the legacy of the Black Codes — created by former slaveholders after the Civil War to re-enslave freed blacks into a system of enforced labor, perpetual inequality and second-class citizenship — we know that all this looting by the ruling elite cannot occur without a legalized system of criminalization and state violence. 

In Policing the Crisis, Stuart Hall looked at the law-and-order policies that mirror Reagan’s manufactured campaign against drugs and muggings in the black community. 

Hall argues that at every turning point or crisis when people come together to challenge the legitimacy of the government, when we unmask the illusions of our “civil democracy,” that the ruling elite do two main things to hold on to their power in order to continue looting from working people. A) They refashion and rename the laws that criminalize sections of the working class, legally making them an underclass of second-class citizens without rights. B) They intensify state violence and terror. “Law and order.”

While Derek Chauvin and his fellow police officers must be prosecuted and convicted of homicide, we must see what the real role police play in our society. It is to flex the muscles of the ruling class and to maintain the ruling class’s interests. To manage dissent as our collective exploitation deepens. To keep order as the disorder in our lives becomes unbearable. Police violence sets the stage for intensifying inequality so the ruling class can manage to maintain order as they continue to loot from us.  

Police power is sanctioned by laws of criminalization. Thus, the slave laws became the Black Codes after the Civil War, and then the Drug Reform Act after the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. 

During the same year that Reagan signed into law the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 and introduced the mass incarceration system we know today, he also signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act and a provision, called the employer sanctions provision. Following the same form of the slave laws and Black Codes, this law makes it a crime for undocumented workers to sell their labor freely, relegating them into an underclass of workers with no rights. 

At a time when workers across racial divides were just beginning to unite and fight for better conditions, not only did this law lead to the criminalization and incarceration of countless undocumented workers, but it put undocumented workers against other workers, particularly poor black workers, forcing them into a cycle of unemployment, underemployment, mass incarceration and poverty. 

So at this critical juncture, when we face another turning point, a crisis of legitimacy, what will be the result of the spontaneous actions of the multitudes of people that have united together to denounce our government:

Will we release some steam for a few days, be satisfied with the prosecution and (if we’re lucky) conviction of a few cops, accept a few reforms of a police system that will never be accountable to anyone else but their maker — the ruling class? Will we settle for mere survival, be content not to be killed, so that we can live under the peace of everyday violence and robbery forced upon our communities, our health, and our lives?

Will we hang onto illusions that equate equal opportunity with being as exploited as a vanishing group of white, middle-class workers are or as a few black and brown faces rising into positions of power and wealth? That is not the liberation of us all. 

If we’ve learned anything from our history, it is that our history’s turning points failed to turn toward true transformation and liberation for people because at each critical juncture from Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement to the recent Occupy Wall Street movement, ruling power has hereto been able to disunite working people: poor white farmers from freed slaves, industrial from agricultural workers, citizens from immigrants. Consequently, it has succeeded in deceiving people into accepting reforms that served only a fraction of the working class while undermining the collective unity of the 99 percent. 

We must see that these state-sponsored killings are a war, not only on black people but on all working people. It is time that working people, the 99 percent, provide political leadership, starting with a clear demand to end the criminalization that divides working people and fight for equal rights for all workers. Only then will we be able to unite together against our common oppression and exploitation and realize our unfinished revolution. 

Working People Need Equal Rights to Fight Back During the Pandemic

It is clear that the government has failed us.

Across the U.S. working people are suffering from either record-high unemployment or being forced to work in unsafe conditions without any health protections.The government has allowed our frontline health care workers–doctors, nurses and home attendants–to work long hours without basic protective equipment. Housing and food insecurities ravage communities as families find themselves on the brink of homelessness and poverty. On both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans have cut deals to use billions of dollars in taxpayers money to enrich the CEOs of large corporations, while thousands of workers still have not seen any type of relief.

From the beginning, the government has failed to conduct widespread testing, treatment, and isolation of the coronavirus, allowing the pandemic to spread, and is now pushing workers back to work under these dangerous conditions! While it is imperative that working people come together to fight for ourselves, we also find ourselves more divided than ever.

Across the country, workers from nurses and home-attendants, to sanitation workers, to workers of big-box stores like Target and Amazon are organizing and going on strikes or sick-outs. But it is not enough to demand protective equipment, hazard pay, or rent relief. The current crisis reflects deep-seated systemic inequalities and division that has been growing for working people long before this. And because not all workers have the right to organize, these gains will inevitably be limited to one group of workers in the exclusion of others, while the government continues to divide the working class and weaken our collective power.

At the root of the division among working people is the employer sanctions provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (1986). This law criminalizes and creates an underclass of workers without any rights by making it illegal for undocumented workers to work, and therefore to organize for better conditions. In effect, this law gives employers the power to smash organizing efforts of workers by pitting undocumented workers, who have no rights, against others. Time and time again, working people have seen that any attempt to organize and ensure safe working conditions has been undermined by this division.

Both Democratic and Republican Parties have been exploiting this division among working people for the benefit of the 1%. While Republicans like Trump fuel hatred towards the undocumented immigrants and call for their deportation, Democrats like Cuomo preach love towards them even while they force them to endure deplorable working conditions like 24-hour workdays in the NYS home healthcare industry. Both sides of the aisle act to divide working people, detract workers from holding our common enemy accountable, allowing the super-rich to profit off our backs. It is no coincidence that, as labor conditions continue to decline, the super rich continue to see their profits increase, comfortably sitting on top of a weakened and divided labor force.

We need the right to organize and the right to refuse to work so long as the government refuses to protect our health! Without the equal right to organize, any refusal to work is a hollow demand. Let’s unify working people for our common interest and join us to demand that the government:
1. At all levels, establish disaster relief funds for workers affected by COVID-19, regardless of immigration status
2. Ensure equal rights to organize and unionize by:
– Protecting the rights of all workers under the National Labor Relations Act, regardless of immigration status
– Ending the criminalization of undocumented workers by repealing the employers’ sanctions provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act
– Establishing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers

President Trump Raises the Spectre of the Yellow Peril to Divide Americans and Shortchange Working People in $1 Trillion Stimulus Package

Source: Common Dreams: President Trump Raises the Spectre of the Yellow Peril to Divide Americans and Shortchange Working People in $1 Trillion Stimulus Package

Months before the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the U.S., neighbors and friends stopped letting their kids play with my son, eyeing me with sideway looks when I said hello to their children on the street. 

Although I have not been attacked or cursed at, as some other Asian Americans have been, the silent social exclusion began long before Trump started calling for social distancing, a reminder that I am still seen as a foreigner, even though I was born and raised in this country. 

Framing the virus as a foreign threat Trump not only seeks to deflect blame for his inaction, but it allows him to further his efforts to criminalize immigrant workers in this country. 

Trump has long framed the spread of the coronavirus as a foreign threat to spare him of his responsibility and failure to take action to protect Americans from this crisis. Trump dismantled the National Security Council’s global health security office, slashed CDC’s budget, criticized media outlets who covered the spread of COVID-19  for “panicking markets”, while reassuring Americans that the virus would just “disappear.” It is no wonder that we are woefully short of test kits, and people are being turned away from hospitals. 

By framing the virus as a foreign threat Trump not only seeks to deflect blame for his inaction, but it allows him to further his efforts to criminalize immigrant workers in this country. 

On February 28, at a South Carolina rally Trump used the crisis to push his divisive immigration policies saying, “Border security is also health security” and criticized, albeit inaccurately, “the Democrat policy of open borders” for bringing in the virus into the country. 

On March 11, before Trump imposed a travel ban, the president shared a tweet by the conservative youth activist Charlie Kirk, who branded the disease the “China virus,” writing, “Now, more than ever, we need the wall. With China Virus spreading across the globe, the US stands a chance if we can control of our borders. President Trump is making it happen.” 

In the U.S. during the 1880s, as the nation was recovering from the Civil War, propaganda of the “Yellow Peril” stoked divisions among Chinese and Irish workers in the American West. Fears of Chinese immigrants taking jobs away from Irish immigrants turned into outright attacks of the Chinese, resulting in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Similarly in the South, former slaveholders spread propaganda that newly freed black workers would take away jobs from white workers, sowing divisions among workers, and building support among poor whites for the passage of Jim Crow laws and the re-enslavement of African-Americans. Meanwhile, the robber barons of the railroad, banking, and manufacturing industries, benefited from this disunity, impoverishing workers while enriching themselves.

This past Wednesday during a news conference Trump, again called the COVID-19 virus the “Chinese virus,” and defended White House officials’ use of the phrase “kung flu,” while he introduced the $1 trillion economic stimulus package. How much of our taxpayers’ money will working people actually receive? While Congress chips away at the paid sick leave, not only exempting employers with over 500 employees, but now allowing employers with less than 50 workers to be exempted, Trump extends billions in bailouts to the airline and cruise industry. Haven’t we learned from corporate bailouts of 2008, that wealth does not trickle down? And while Americans still are waiting for test kits and 27.5 million Americans without insurance will not be able to afford treatment, Trump seeks to help the private healthcare industry profit from America gaining exclusive rights to the COVID-19 vaccine. 

So while Trump criminalizes and blames immigrants for this crisis, the government seeks to get away with excluding undocumented immigrants from any sort of governmental relief, while allowing employers to continue to super-exploit them. It seeks to get away with hoodwinking the working Americans to blame “the yellow peril” and other immigrants so that we do not hold the government accountable for using this crisis to further deepen the wealth gap, enriching the robber barons of our time. 

We need to come together, as working people, to make sure that any government response to the coronavirus prioritizes the needs of working people, and is not used by private corporations to enrich themselves off this crisis. ALL working people should have equal rights to free testing and treatment, housing relief, direct economic assistance, and paid sick leave. All states should take California’s lead and ensure that all workers qualify for unemployment benefits, regardless of their immigration status. 

Criminalizing immigrant workers and dividing working people will NOT bring about public health security. But ensuring equal rights to universal healthcare and economic relief will. 

Working People’s mini-cast: Break the Chains, Pt III (w/ Shirley Lung)

Join Maximillian Alvarez, host of the Working People podcast in part III of the mini-cast series on undocumented workers and the fight to repeal the employers’ sanctions provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (1986)  (in collaboration with the Break the Chains Alliance). Alvarez talks to Shirley Lung, Professor of Law at the CUNY Law School, about the passing of IRCA, its immediate and longterm effects, and the American tradition of criminalizing marginalized workers. Listen here.