Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Need For a Revolutionary Response to the Current Crisis: From Africa to the Americas

The Need For a Revolutionary Response to the Current Crisis: From Africa to the Americas

by Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Note: The following is the text of the address delivered by Abayomi Azikiwe at the "National Conference on Preparing and Organizing for the Future" sponsored by Workers World Party.

Over the last year the global economic meltdown has continued unabated with rising unemployment in the United States, in Western Europe and throughout the both the industrialized and developing countries. Rates of poverty have increased significantly in the highly developed capitalist states as well as the former colonial territories where many, but not all, have now gained independence.

With specific reference to the conditions prevailing in the U.S., workers and the oppressed have continued to lose their homes, utility services, healthcare benefits, pension funds and access to quality education. Even under the notions of a “jobless recovery”, the corporate news commentators, government officials and “think-tank theorists” all state that there will not be an upsurge in employment for working people in the current period.

The Economic Crisis and the African-American National Question

It has been the African-American people who have borne the brunt of the burgeoning economic downturn. In a recent report issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics it states that “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.” (BLS Employment Report, November 6, 2009)

This same report goes on to point out that “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 has 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 United States. This phenomena may hold significance for the coming period.

The higher unemployment rate for African-Americans is closely related to the disproportional impact of the so-called “sub-prime mortgage problem” which exposed the fa├žade of capitalist expansion during the previous decade and accelerated the near-collapse of international system of finance capital during 2008. In the majority black city of Detroit, which since the post-World War II period saw perhaps the highest rate of home ownership in the country for the working class both African-American and white, 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 present decade.

In an article published in the liberal journal The Nation, it points out that "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. According to Valerie Rawlston Wilson of the Urban League, home equity accounts for nearly 90 percent of black homeowners' total net worth. So as the housing market collapses, much of the trumpeted new wealth that has accumulated in black communities in recent decades will go with it." (The Nation, January 18, 2008)

Political Repression and the Prison-military Industrial Complex

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. We only need to acknowledge the situations involving Oscar Grant in Oakland, the Jena 6 in Louisiana, the murder of Robert Mitchell in Detroit and the brutal assassination of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah which took place recently right outside Detroit.

There are over one million African-Americans imprisoned in the United States. Black and Latina/o men and women constitute well over half of the prison population in the United States. 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 United States is 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, Afghanistan, 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.

At present U.S. imperialism is spending more money on war when the conditions of working people and the oppressed have reached near-depression levels in sections of the country. 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 United States.

In order for this linkage to be made between the rising problems of poverty and repression and the imperialist war drive in the predominantly Muslim populated countries in Asia and Africa- but not necessarily limited to these particular states- there must be a mass struggle waged inside the most oppressed segments of the working class in the United States.

The proletariat must recognize and act upon the fact that the conditions of working people around the world cannot be separated in this period. 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 United States.

The African Condition and the World Economic Crisis

With reference to the continent of 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 in Africa has been the most striking in countries that are closely allied with the United States such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Nigeria and Egypt. Oil exports from Nigeria have not prevented social unrest or political stability. Recently this West African state, that 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 who have risen up to fight against imperialist domination have prompted the U.S. to lead 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 various regions on the west of the continent in Gabon and the Gulf of Guinea. Multi-national 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. Africa is increasing its exports of oil and other strategic minerals into the United States and consequently the imperialists will escalate their military interference in the affairs of the continent.

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 United States, 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 healthcare services without a fundamental transformation of the post-colonial societies and their subordinate relationship with the capitalist states and the multi-national corporations.

We Must Intensify the Struggle Against Oppression and Exploitation

Our focus in the coming period must be centered around the demands related to shutting down the war machines 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 foreclosure 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.

In the French-controlled Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, the workers built a united front of unions, youth and community groups that shut down businesses in the small nations for over six weeks. There is much to learn from these bold and creative actions led by militants within the international working class movement.

We must continue to engage the masses of workers and the oppressed inside the United States in order to form the necessary coalitions and relationships that will lead to the sharpening of our movement aimed at constructing socialism. If we have learned anything from our experiences with the Moratorium NOW! Coalition and the Bailout 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.

When we have raised the demands for bringing the troops home now, the imposition of a moratorium on foreclosures, evictions and utility shutoffs, full-employment, and the end to racism and national oppression, our program has been greeted enthusiastically by the masses.

In this period we must consistently raise socialism as a viable alternative to the capitalist crisis of overproduction and the imperialist quest for permanent war and military occupation. Socialism provides the only hope for the increasingly impoverished masses of workers and the oppressed throughout the world.

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