a better world
is probable
  1. Stephen Jay Gould

    February 9, 2011

    “I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” – Stephen Jay Gould, evolutionary biologist.

    Pundits for capitalism argue that so-called free markets advance the cause of human liberty, but as evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould argues here, capitalism in fact subjugates the overwhelming mass of individuals, denying them their free development for the sake of the power and profit for a few.

    My Mom used to tell me a similar thing when we would go grocery shopping together when I was a kid.  “How many Beethoven’s are stuck bagging groceries?”

    Just as much though, and this theme penetrated all of Gould’s work, it also raises the problem of the use and supposed “objectivity” of science in an oppressive society.  Who are the beneficiaries of scientific advancement when the overwhelming majority of people in a society are oppressed?

    You can find some of Gould’s more political writing here.

    For total human liberation! For socialism

    PS. My friend Patrick posted this quote to Facebook, which inspired me to put this blog up.

  2. White people were manfuactured: Henry Ford’s Assembly Line of Whiteness

    January 24, 2011

    There is a fascinating piece of Detroit history that serves as an excellent case study into the historical social construction of what is thought of as “the white race.”  Race has no biological basis at all, and has been socially constructed over centuries to create a system of subjugation, oppression and privilege based on skin color.

    The number of people included in the white race has increased over time.  Historically, people from Ireland, Italy, and Slavic countries were excluded from whiteness.  For a multitude of reasons, these groups were assimilated into whiteness later on, whether to and protect the system of racial privilege, or to protect the capitalist system which had been constructed upon the racist systems of black slavery and colonialism in the global South.

    The social construction of whiteness was made almost absurdly clear by Henry Ford and his “English Schools.”  Workers, especially European immigrants, flocked to Detroit in order to work at Ford’s for the five-dollar work day.  The five-dollar day was split into two sections: $2.40 for the worker’s labor, and another $2.60 paid to the employee upon proving that they are “worthy.”  To qualify for the $2.60, a counselor or investigator from Ford’s Sociological Department would have to certify the worker’s lifestyle and that they lived in a “proper home.”

    Worker’s were also expected to graduate from Ford’s English School, which taught them all the aspects of what Ford and the company thought were the proper American worker lifestyle.  At the Ford School worker’s would learn English and learn the American lifestyle, often by repeating phrases in chorus:

    “Employees should use plenty of soap and water in the home.”

    “Nothing makes for right living so much as cleanliness.”

    “The most advanced people are the cleanest.”

    Upon graduating from the school the workers would participate in a ceremony that people from all over the area would attend. The ceremony consisted of the English School graduates, dressed in the traditional clothes of their native country, walking into a giant “melting pot” while being stirred.  The graduates would then walk out of the melting pot dressed in common “American” clothes, waving United States flags.

    The imagery of the ceremony is incredible and telling.  Immigrant workers would rid themselves of the baggage of their native lands, embracing their new American identity, and the benefits that came with it.  This is part of the nature of whiteness and “white” culture.  Casting off ethnic culture, heritage and history to embrace “white” culture.

    What Henry Ford was able to do with the assembly line for cars, he also did for the reproduction of whiteness and white hegemony.  This brings to mind some idea of why Henry Ford was the only American mentioned in Mein Kampf or awarded the German Iron Cross (the highest honor in Nazi Germany).

    This all reminds me of a story I was told once by an older friend of mine, a mentor of the anti-war and anti-nuclear movements of the 1970s, who had told me that his family never told him about the history of his Irish ancestors, who came to America to avoid persecution for activity in their participation in the Irish Republican Army.

    I myself am very fortunate to know a great deal about my family’s history in this country.  My great grandfather immigrated to the United States to escape a bounty placed on him after deserting the Bulgarian army after spending time with anti-royalists and pacifists.  In 1920 he was arrested for communist activity in Detroit’s Eastern Market during the Palmer Raids, a precursor to the Red Scare that specifically targeted Slavic immigrants.

    Many white people have been systematically denied family history such as this because of how they help to expose the myth of “whiteness.”  If a person of Irish heritage learns about their families history in the IRA, than that person learns about the English occupation and the history of the Irish’s struggle in the United States. Same for Slavs, Poles, Italians and so on.  What if they were to learn about how the US government tried to have them deported for organizing unions and fighting against the Robber Barons?

  3. Detroit’s League of Revolutionary Black Workers

    January 22, 2011

    The League of Revolutionary Black Workers’ is an incredible, exciting and crucial struggle in the history of the revolutionary socialist struggle in the United States.  I first learned about the struggle of the LRBW as an anti-activist at Wayne State, the university which many of the League members attended and out of which their paper, “The South End,” came.  A professor had suggested I look into them and I immediately rushed to purchase a copy of Detroit: I Do Mind Dying by Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin.  As I excitedly read the book (mostly during downtime at a hummus stand located in a local Whole Foods) I was overwhelmed both by the level and urgency of the Leagues struggle, but also how the history of the struggle was right under my nose!

    The League of Revolutionary Black Workers was essentially an revolutionary umbrella organization of working-class Blacks who were forming rank-and-file revolutionary union movements at local Detroit auto plants.  These included DRUM (Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement), ELRUM (Eldon Avenue Revolutionary Union Movement), FRUM (Ford Revolutionary Union Movement) and others.  These movements sought primarily to elevate the struggle of the black working-class in the auto plants, including fighting the UAW leadership which had become conciliatory to the auto industry management.

    Here is a phenomenal short film in which LRBW members tell their own story called “Finally Got the News.”  The film ends with a kind of “call-to-arms” style explanation of the League’s mission:

    The League of Revolutionary Black Workers recognizes that its struggle is not an isolated one.  We have common cause with other black workers in this racist land and the exploited and oppressed across the entire world.  Our ultimate intention is to organize black workers as a whole, as a class in the United States and proceeding from that basic mass organization to extend that revolutionary black organization throughout the community.  It is incumbent upon us to foster, join with, initiate, organize and lead other black workers in our common struggle.  Being in the forefront of this revolutionary struggle we must act swiftly to organize DRUM-type organizations wherever they are, whether they’re in a kitchen, the White House, White Tower restaurants, at Ford Rouge, the Mississippi Delta, the plains of Wyoming, the rubber plantations of Indochina, the oil fields of Biafra, or the Chrysler Plants in South Africa.

    And anarcho-syndicalist/libertarian socialist website libcom has an excellent collection of historical accounts and studies of the League.  I especially recommend A. Muhammad Ahmad’s short overview of the history of the League.