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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 seasonally adjusted.”

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 present decade.

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 multinational corporations.

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 nations.

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.