A need for a revolutionary response to the current crisis
Published Nov 24, 2009 9:07 PM
Excerpts from a talk by Abayomi Azikiwe from Detroit at the
WWP National Conference, Nov. 14.
African-American people have borne the brunt of the burgeoning economic
downturn. A recent report issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau
of Labor Statistics states, “Since the start of the recession in December
2007, the number of unemployed persons has risen by 8.2 million, and the
unemployment rate has grown by 5.3 percentage points.”
Second Plenary Session: Jobs and human needs - not banks, racism and imperialist war. Speaker: Abayomi Azikiwe.
This same report goes on to point out: “Among the major worker groups,
the unemployment rates for adult men (10.7 percent) and whites (9.5 percent)
rose in October. The jobless rates for adult women (8.1 percent), teenagers
(27.6 percent), blacks (15.7 percent), and Hispanics (13.1 percent) were little
changed over the month. The unemployment rate for Asians was 7.5 percent, not
Therefore, we see that changes in the labor market as a direct result of the
crisis have maintained the historically higher unemployment rate among African
Americans but at the same time narrowed the traditional gap between
unemployment rates between African Americans and whites in the U.S.
The higher unemployment rate for African Americans is closely related to the
disproportional impact of the so-called “subprime mortgage
problem,” which exposed the façade of capitalist expansion during
the previous decade and accelerated the near-collapse of the international
system of finance capital during 2008. In the majority Black city of Detroit,
people have been severely affected by the decline of the auto industry and the
loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state of Michigan during the
An article published in The Nation points out, “Black homeowners have
been hit particularly hard by the mortgage crisis, largely because predatory
lenders have been steering them toward subprime loans for years, even when they
could afford prime rates.”
With the rise of unemployment, foreclosure and eviction rates among African
Americans, we have also seen an increase in repressive actions carried out as
state policy. There has been an epidemic of African Americans who have been
brutalized and killed by law enforcement, including Oscar Grant in Oakland, the
Jena 6 in Louisiana, Robert Mitchell in Detroit and the brutal assassination of
Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, which took place outside Detroit.
There are over 1 million African Americans imprisoned in the U.S. Black and
Latino/a women and men constitute well over half of the prison population in
the U.S. Racial profiling is conducted as normal law-enforcement procedure
where even prominent African Americans in government, business, entertainment
and even law enforcement are subjected to harassment and possible serious
injury or death.
The ongoing attacks against the Muslim community in the U.S. are justified by
the state and corporate media utilizing the false notion of “Islamic
extremism.” Imam Luqman’s assassination and the trumped-up charges
brought against members of his mosque are carried out in an effort to justify
the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the spreading of the wars into
Pakistan as well as the Horn of Africa and its surrounding waterways in the
Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
The anti-war and peace movements must link the rising Pentagon budget to the
intensification of the exploitation and impoverishment of the majority of
working people and the oppressed inside the U.S.
The outmoded slogans utilized by unconscious elements within the labor unions
which utilize national chauvinism and racism that is masked with slogans such
as “Buy American” and “Protect American jobs” have done
nothing to advance the interests of the working class inside the U.S.
The African condition and the world economic crisis
With reference to Africa, the current crisis in the capitalist-imperialist
states has had a tremendous negative impact by thrusting over 50 million people
back into poverty. With the continued dependence by the former colonial states
on the foreign exchange earnings gained through natural resource and
agricultural exports, the decline in demand in the West resulting from rising
unemployment and impoverishment of the working class has created massive job
losses and food deficits.
This economic downturn has been the most striking in countries that are closely
allied with the U.S., such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Nigeria and Egypt. Oil exports
from Nigeria have not prevented social unrest or political instability.
Recently this West African state, which had been for years the major exporter
of crude oil from the continent to the U.S., experienced a near-collapse of its
financial sector quite similar to what is taking place on Wall Street.
In Somalia, U.S. imperialist interference has resulted in a civil war, mass
dislocation of civilians, and the collapse of the agricultural and fishing
industries, which had sustained the population for years. The resistance
movements inside Somalia that have risen up to fight against imperialist
domination have prompted the U.S. to organize the largest military and naval
build-up around the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean in the region’s
history. Under the guise of fighting “piracy” and
“terrorism,” the U.S. has established a military base in Djibouti
and dispatched flotillas of warships off the coast of the Horn of Africa.
The U.S. Africa Command (Africom) recently coordinated war games in Gabon and
the Gulf of Guinea. Multinational oil firms are competing among themselves to
prevent the People’s Republic of China from making significant
investments in the exploration and export of the recently discovered oil
deposits belonging to the nation of Ghana.
The only solution to the problems of underdevelopment and exploitation in
Africa is for the workers and farmers to break with imperialism. Promises made
by the U.S., Britain, France, the European Union, the World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund have proved worthless. Aid agencies based in the
imperialist states cannot solve the problems of food deficits and the lack of
health care services without a fundamental transformation of the post-colonial
societies and their subordinate relationship with the capitalist states and the
Our focus in the coming period must be centered on the demands related to
shutting down the war machine in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Korea,
Latin America and throughout the globe. In taking a clear position against all
forms of U.S. militarism we inevitably enhance the alliances between workers
and the oppressed in both the capitalist states and the post-colonial
Domestically we must continue our support for labor actions such as the sit-in
that took place last year at the Republic Windows and Doors plant in Chicago.
In Detroit we linked the struggle against foreclosures in the case of Loren
Parker, who was threatened with eviction by the Bank of America, with the plant
occupation carried by the UE workers.
If we have learned anything from our experiences with the Moratorium NOW!
Coalition and the Bail Out the People Movement in the present period, we will
understand that there is no substitute for the difficult work of addressing the
concrete needs of the people. When we do this, there will be a qualitative leap
in our efforts to end the current economic crisis and to build a socialist
society and world.
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