Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, lectures on the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War on February 23, 2013. The event commemorated African American History Month. (Photo: Leona McElvene), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
A Revolutionary Perspective on the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War
The role of Africans in the destruction of the slave system and the attempts to build democracy and self-determination in the United States
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Note: The following lecture was delivered at the African American History Month commemoration for Workers World Party in Detroit. The event was held on February 23, 2013. The meeting was chaired by Debbie Johnson, veteran organizer for Workers World Detroit branch.
2013 is a year of commemorations. Today, February 23, is the 145th anniversary of the birth of W.E.B. Du Bois, a leading figure in the struggle for African emancipation beginning in the late 19th century and extending to 1963, fifty years ago, when he passed away in the West African state of Ghana.
Du Bois, whose work we will utilize in today’s presentation on the Civil War and Reconstruction, pioneered the social scientific and historical study of African life in the U.S. and on the continent. He along with his second wife, Shirley Graham Du Bois, wrote extensively on the struggle against war and for Socialism and Pan-Africanism during the mid-20th century.
Of course today’s program is being held to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation which went into effect on January 1, 1863. Since the beginning of this year there has been much discussion on this anniversary but today we hope to provide an alternative viewpoint on the historical, political, economic and social forces that led to the demise of the slave system, the eruption of civil war and the failed attempt to reconstruct democracy in the U.S.
Also this year marks the 100th anniversary of the transition of Harriet Tubman, a former enslaved African who fought against the economic system prevailing in the South and who worked as a combatant in the Underground Railroad. She would later serve as an intelligence operative for the Union forces during the Civil War and is credited with liberating many Africans from slavery.
Another important birthday is that of a former Detroiter, Rosa L. Parks, who was born 100 years ago in Tuskegee, Alabama on February 4. Parks is known as the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement” when on December 1, 1955 she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery and was arrested by the police.
Parks was charged with violating the segregation laws of Alabama. Her arrest sparked the organization of the Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted for nearly a year resulting in a Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregation in municipal transportation.
Parks moved to Detroit in 1957 and continued to work as a seamstress. In 1965, she began her work as an aide to Congressman John Conyers and continued until her retirement.
Just earlier this year we kicked-off the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Detroit Walk to Freedom which took place on June 23, 1963. 1963 was a watershed year in the struggle for civil rights in the U.S.
During 1963 there were mass demonstrations throughout the South and the North of the country. Thousands were jailed and many lost their lives including Medgar Evers, who was a field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), co-founded by W.E.B. Du Bois.
1963 also witnessed the first urban rebellion of the period in Birmingham, Alabama in May. Later in Birmingham, four African American girls would die when the Ku Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church, a center for the demonstrations that had engulfed the city earlier in the year.
Consequently, this is a significant year for historical reasons but also for what is happening today in Detroit, in other cities as well as around the world. We will address these issues too later in today’s discussion.
Resistance to Slavery
First of all when we examine the economic system of slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War and Reconstruction, we must begin by recognizing the role of Africans themselves in the abolition of legalized bondage. Despite the earlier claims by revisionist bourgeois scholars, many of whom were ideological racists, Africans engaged in a centuries-long struggle against slavery.
This struggle against slavery began on the African continent itself. This is a very important point because one of the most vicious lies told by these revisionist so-called scholars is that Africans were responsible for their own enslavement.
Through our regular Marxism classes here at this building, we have been reading the seminal work by Walter Rodney entitled “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.” This is a historical and dialectical study of the impact of slavery and colonialism in the economic and social destruction of the African continent.
Such studies contradict the long prevailing views not only in regard to slavery and colonialism but economic and social development in general. Africans today on the continent and within the Diaspora are still being blamed for their own oppression.
In regard to the African resistance to slavery there are numerous historians who have challenged through primary source research the assumptions that guided the academic approach to human bondage and colonialism. Bourgeois scholars have attempted to make it appear that Africans were content with the slave system.
However, African historians such as Joseph E. Harris noted that “It was a combination of European attitudes about blacks and the demand for cheap labor that sired the Atlantic Slave Trade and New World black slavery. When the Portuguese arrived in Africa they began seizing Africans to take to Europe as ‘curiosity pieces’ which confirmed that ‘new’ land had been reached. The early African victims were honored in Portugal, taught Portuguese, and used as informants and guides for future Portuguese voyages to Africa. However, as the number of Africans increased in Lisbon they gradually were relegated to menial tasks, and by the middle of the fifteenth century, a lively trade in African labor (slaves) developed. Thus, even before the Americas were settled by Europeans, Europe witnessed the development of black slavery, especially in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Sicily.”
However, despite this European demand for African labor, it has been recorded that as early as 1564 in Sierra Leone, a group of British traders led by John Hawkins were attacked by an army of indigenous people who wounded several of these men and drove them from the inlands back to their ships on the coast. By the time that these slave-traders had reached the shores, some 200 Africans were awaiting them.
The ensuring battle resulted in the deaths of seven of Hawkins’ most prized subordinates, including the captain of the ship known as the Salmon. The King in this area then began to mobilize a larger contingent of his military forces, which propelled Hawkins’ and his survivors to retreat to their ships and sail back to the Caribbean.
In another slave trading voyage, Hawkins was attempting to capture Africans along the Senegal River, when his group was attacked by the local people with bows and poisonous arrows. The Europeans then moved further east to avoid attack, eventually heading for the Spanish Main.
After this disastrous episode, James Pope Hennessy pointed out that it was well into the next century before the British embarked upon slave expeditions again. Preferring less hazardous means of acquiring slave labor, the British began during the 17th century to attempt negotiation and trade as the principle method of obtaining Africans for exploitation in the newly established colonies in the western hemisphere. Such episodes of resistance during the 16th century were repeated during the entire history of the Atlantic Slave Trade in Africa.
According to an article published in the South Carolina Gazette on July 7, 1759:
“A Sloop commanded by a brother of …Captain Ingledieu, slaving up the River Gambia, was attacked by a number of the natives, about the 27th of February last, and made a good defense; but the Captain finding himself desperately wounded, and likely to be overcome, rather than fall into the hands of merciless wretches, when about 80 Negroes had boarded vessel, discharged a pistol into his magazine and blew her up; himself and every soul on board perished.”
By providing these historical instances of resistance to slavery on the continent of Africa, it provides a basis for further research in order to more fully document the origins of Pan-African revolt and consciousness. Since these actions by Africans in opposition to the Atlantic Slave system occurred in various regions of the Continent, it illustrates that there was a pattern of response to the advent of European imperialism. Even during the height of the slave period in the western hemisphere, the relationships between Africans and their homeland would continue to occupy a prominent role in the political discourse on the question of legalized bondage and the status of the manumission of slaves.
Inside Colonial America and the eventual United States, despite the false claims that Africans were satisfied with being property of the European slave owners and the ruling class, laws were enacted to restrict the movement of the enslaved population. These laws were enforced with a vengeance through harsh imprisonment, torture and lynching.
During the ante-bellum period of the late 18th and 19th centuries, the laws restricting the movements and expressions of African slaves increased in number and severity. In the southern border state of Tennessee, laws were passed in 1803 which prohibited anyone to voice sentiments that could be interpreted as disrespectful to a slave owner, particularly in the presence of slaves.
Also these same laws disallowed any language that advocated insurrection against the slave system. Any discussions or speeches related to the notions of emancipation, rebellion, or conspiracy fell under the rubric of this Act. An 1836 law in the same state mandated that any person distributing literature that encouraged disruption or insolence among Africans, slave or free, was committing and act of felony, punishable by ten to twenty years in prison.
Even racist southern historians such as Ulrich B. Phillips who wrote the book “American Negro Slavery: A Survey of the Supply, Employment and Control of Negro Labor As Determined by the Plantation Regime,” does mention the passage of severe laws directed towards the maintenance of the slave system, although he provides his own rationale for these legal measures that parallels those ideals of the southern slave owners of the period.
Phillips says “Burning at the stake, breaking on the wheel and other ferocious methods of execution which were occasionally inflicted by the colonial courts were almost universally discontinued soon after the beginning of the nineteenth century. The general trend of moderation discernible at that time, however, was hampered then and thereafter by the series of untoward events beginning with the San Domingo (Haiti) upheaval and ending with John Brown’s raid. In particular the rise of the Garrisonian agitation and the quickly ensuing Nat Turner’s revolt occasioned together a wave of reactionary legislation the whole South over, prohibiting the literary instruction of negroes, stiffening the patrol system, restricting manumissions, and diminishing the already limited liberties of free Negroes. The temper of administration however, was not appreciably affected for this clearly appears to have grown milder as the decades passed.”
Consequently, it was the fear of rebellion during the 19th century that led to the increased violence direct against African people. By articulating this rationale, Phillips perhaps unconsciously provides a glimpse of the widespread discontent among Africans during the 19th century and the heightened degree of legal and extra-legal repression geared toward the suppression of the slaves and their counterparts.
With the westward expansion of the territorial boundaries of the United States, the production of cotton became one of the principle industries within the American economy. This commodity whose cultivation was conducive to the black belt soil of the regions of western Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and other areas, grew from the total amount of 9,000 bales in 1791 to 79,000 bales at the beginning of the 19th century.
By 1822, the production of cotton had reached 500,000 bales, only to continue its precipitant rise to one million in 1831, two million in 1840, three million in 1852, and in the year of secession, stood at the then enormous total of five million bales. (Black Reconstruction in America, Du Bois, 1935)
According Du Bois in “Black Reconstruction in America,” “The giant forces of water and of steam were harnessed to do the world’s work, and the black workers of America bent at the bottom of a growing pyramid of commerce and industry; and they not only could not be spared, if his new economic organization was to expand, but rather they became the cause of new political demands and alignments of new dreams of power and vision of empire….
“Their work called for widening stretches of new, rich, black soil-in Florida, in Louisiana, in Mexico; even in Kansas. This land, added to cheap labor, and labor easily regulated and distributed, made profits so high that a whole system of culture arose in the South, with a new leisure and social philosophy. Black labor became the foundation stone not only of the southern social structure, but of northern manufacture and commerce of buying and selling on a worldwide scale; new cities were built on the results of black labor, and a new labor problem, involving all white labor, arose both in Europe and America.”
The Decline of Slavery and the Civil War
It was the economic decline of the slave system prior to the Civil War that played a central role in hardening the southern planters’ position against the supposed governmental favoritism towards northern industrial interests. Leaders of an emerging manufacturing class argued that an increased expansion of mechanized production facilities would solidify a national economy in the U.S.
The secession of the southern states during the early months of 1861, initiated the War Between the States. The consequent social disruption of the southern plantation system led to the mass flight of Africans from the plantations and small farms where they had been held in bondage.
The decision to officially conscript Africans into the Union forces and the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 by Lincoln’s Republican administration, taking effect in 1863, effectively destroyed the ante-bellum slave system in the U.S. Even prior to the incorporation of Africans into the Union military, many deserted the plantations to join work crews within the northern army garrisons.
Du Bois in Black Reconstruction described this process in a chapter entitled “The General Strike.” He notes that “”This was not merely the desire to stop work. It was a strike on a wide basis against the conditions of work. It was a general strike that involved directly in the end perhaps a half million people. They wanted to stop the economy of the plantation system, and to do that they left the plantations.” (p. 67)
He goes on stating that “At first, the commanders were disposed to drive them away, or to give them quasi-freedom and let them do as they pleased with the nothing that they possessed. This did not work. Then the commanders organized relief and afterward, work….The Negroes were willing to work and did work, but they wanted land to work, and they wanted to see and own the results of their toil. It was here and in the West and South that a new vista opened. Here was a chance to establish an agrarian democracy in the South: peasant holders of small properties, eager to work and raise crops, amenable to suggestion and general direction. All they needed was honesty in treatment, and education. Wherever the conditions were fulfilled, the result was little less than phenomenal. This was testified to by Pierce in the Carolinas, by Butler’s agents in North Carolina, by the experiment in the Sea Islands, by Grant’s department of Negro affairs under Eaton, and by Bank’s direction of Negro labor in Louisiana. It is astonishing how this army of striking labor furnished in time 200,000 Federal soldiers whose evident ability to fight decided the war.” (p. 67)
These developments created the conditions for perhaps the most widely known and acclaimed Special Field Order No. 15 by General Sherman which provided forty acres and a mule for the emancipated Africans in the Sea Islands. The resettlement of 30,000 Africans in the region was so successful that it led to the creation of other such experiments throughout the South where the Union armies and the rebellion of Africans had destroyed the plantation system.
According to Du Bois, “The position of the Negro was strategic. His was the only appeal which would bring sympathy from Europe, despite strong economic bonds with the South, and prevent recognition of a Southern nation built on slavery. The free Negroes in the North, together with the Abolitionists, were clamoring. To them a war against the South simply had to be a war against slavery.” (p. 79)
In short, “”The Negro became in the first year contraband of war; that is property belonging to the enemy and valuable to the invader. And in addition to that, he became, as the South quickly saw, the key to Southern resistance. Either these four million laborers remained quietly at work to raise food for the fighters, or the fighters starved.
Simultaneously, when the dream of the North for man-power produced riots, the only additional troops that the North could depend on were 200,000 Negroes, for without them, as Lincoln said, the North could not have won the war.” (p. 80)
As the war proceeded white northern labor became hostile toward the increasing presence of free African men and women who would compete with them for limited housing and employment. Widespread disaffection occurred among poor whites, who after the enactment of the draft in 1863, deserted the Union army by the thousands.
In New York City, the poor and working class whites, many of whom were recent Irish immigrants, demanded the repeal of the draft after being influenced by large segments of the Democratic Party press who were pro-slavery and supportive of the Confederate rebellion.
When the Draft Law went into effect on July 13, 1863, white mobs attempted to call a general strike among their fellow workers. Arson attacks were carried out in the city, telegraph wires were severed and government offices were torn down.
The riots soon turned against the African community, who they felt were the cause of the war with the South. In a report issued by the Merchant’s Committee on the Draft Riots, it is stated that the African community was devastated by the wholesale attacks.
The report read in part that “Driven by the fear of death at the hands of the mob, who the week previous, had, as you remember, brutally murdered by hanging on trees and lamp posts, several of their number, and cruelly beaten and robbed many others, burning and sacking their houses, and driving nearly all from the streets, alleys and docks upon which they had previously obtained honest though humble living these people had been forced to take refuge on Blackwell’s Island, at police stations, on the outskirts of the city, in the swamps and wood back of Bergen, New Jersey, at Weeksville, and the barns and out-houses of the farmers of Long Island and Morrisanio. At these places were scattered some 5,000 homeless men, women and children.”
Recruitment of African troops accelerated after the battle of Fort Wagner. By the end of the war there were at least 154 regiments of Black troops which included 140 infantry units.
According to Du Bois, “Official figures say that there were in all 186,017 Negro troops, of whom 123,156 were still in service by July 16, 1865; and that the losses during the war were 68,178. They took part in 198 battles and skirmishes. Without doubt, including servants, laborers and spies, between three and four hundred thousand Negroes helped as regular soldiers or laborers in winning the Civil War.” (p. 112)
Consequently, the abolition of slavery would not have been possible without the self-direction and self-organization of the African people themselves. Du Bois stresses that by the time of the Emancipation Proclamation “Hundreds of thousands of such slaves were already free by their own actions and that of the invading armies, and in their cases, Lincoln’s proclamation only added possible legal sanction to an accomplished fact.” (p. 84)
Reconstruction and the Failure of Democracy in America
By the conclusion of 1863 it was becoming clear that the Union forces were heading toward victory in the Civil War. This fact posed numerous challenges as it relates to the post-war reconstruction of the United States.
Nearly one year after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, President Lincoln on December 8, 1863, published his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction which proposed a comprehensive pardon to any Confederate member and leader who would take an oath in support of the Constitution of the U.S. and the unity of the states. The only exceptions were officers in the Confederate army and navy who held ranks above colonel and lieutenant and had withdrawn from commission in the U.S. military and assisted with the rebellion of the slave states.
In addition those who left the judiciary and congress to aid the Confederate rebellion and people who treated Africans or whites other than prisoners of war would not be immediately eligible for pardons. Once ten percent of people within a former Confederate state had pledged allegiance to the Union the state could be readmitted.
Interestingly enough, Africans who had literally saved the Union through their rebellion against the slave system and participation in the Union war effort were not included in this proposal for the restoration of full citizenship rights. Africans were excluded from oath-taking, voting, let alone holding office and consequently the state and federal governments would be composed of white men only.
Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction set off a tumultuous debate within Congress. Thaddeus Stevens said the Lincoln plan was preposterous.
African communities in various states liberated during the war made appeals for citizenship rights and universal suffrage but no promises were made. In November of 1863 free men of color in New Orleans appealed to Governor Shepley and later General Banks asking to be allowed to register and vote, they were summarily rejected.
Therefore by the time of the assassination of Lincoln on April 15, 1863, the question of the future political status of the former enslaved Africans was by no means settled. With the conclusion of the war and the death of Lincoln, the Confederate officials were rapidly pardoned and given prominent roles within the state governments.
African American historian John Hope Franklin observed in his book “Reconstruction After the Civil War” that “It is nevertheless remarkable how rapidly, under the circumstances, demobilization of federal troops occurred and with what speed they were removed from Southern soil. In November, 1865, the Secretary of War could report that because of the rapid establishment of civil governments in the South, ‘the military force of the federal government has been greatly reduced, large armies disbanded, and nearly a million brave men…paid and honorably mustered out of service.’” (p.35)
Franklin continued pointing out that “Within a year there were only 11,000 white and Negro volunteers still in arms, and the strength of the regular army stood at 54,000. Indeed, by June 1, 1866, there were only 200 officers and 2,973 enlisted men in North and South Carolina; and every Negro soldier in Mississippi had been mustered out of the service.” (p. 35-36)
White Confederates complained that the presence of African troops was insult to their status and dignity. The federal government under President Andrew Johnson, who followed Lincoln, responded to these sentiments.
Consequently, the notion that still exist today that the Union forces had an overwhelming presence in the former southern states is unsubstantiated. Franklin stresses that “Even casual examination of the report of the Secretary of War for 1865 and 1866 clearly establishes the fact that postwar demobilization was rapid and that only a skeleton military force was in the South by the end of 1866.” (p. 36)
The much Confederate criticized Freedmen Bureau that was created by Congress before the end of the war to aid the emancipated enslaved Africans, provided medical care to 450,000 people and provided twenty-one million rations to white displaced persons and African freedmen. Nonetheless, following the insistence by President Johnson, only 30,000 people displaced by the war were settled and most of the land seized by the Union army was returned to the southern slave owners.
Franklin notes that “After the passage of the Southern Homestead Act in 1866, the Bureau hoped to assist Negroes in obtaining farms under its terms. The lands that were opened up were, for the most part, inferior and unattractive. “(p. 37)
Perhaps the most success for the Freedmen Bureau was its assistance in the establishment of educational institutions for African Americans. Several industrial schools and colleges were established in the aftermath of the war but they by no means met the demand or needs of the 4.5 million people of African descent.
By no means did the Bureau overturn the rule of the former slave-owning class. The hostility towards its activities by President Johnson severely hampered the Bureau’s mission.
The state governments established during the years of 1865-67 were dominated by former Confederates who passed black code laws that maintained white dominance and the denial of due process to African people. It was not until the elections of 1866 and the actions of the Radicals and their allies in Congress during 1867 was there some movement in regard to granting citizenship rights to Africans and organizing the South into military districts.
Johnson was outraged by the assumption of authority by Congress for Reconstruction. Later he barely escaped impeachment and fell from political grace by the end of 1867. By the time he left office at the end of 1868, Johnson had issued a general amnesty for the former Confederate leadership.
During this period the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified granting citizenship rights to the former slaves and by 1869, the 15th Amendment gave voting rights to African Americans. It was not until 1870 that the first African Americans entered the U.S. Congress being Joseph H. Rainey from South Carolina and Hiram Revels of Mississippi.
However, at the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, the Ku Klux Klan was formed in Tennessee by Nathan Bedford Forrest, a former slave trader and Confederate General who was responsible for one of the most egregious atrocities of the war committed at Fort Pillow, where hundreds of enslaved and African troops as well as Union whites were massacred. The Klan organized openly in states throughout the South and battled the Reconstruction process.
Eventually in 1876, as a result of the disputed national presidential election, the federal government largely abandoned the Reconstruction policy. Although in several states including Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina, African Americans would continue to hold office through the 1880s and 1890s, by the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries the experiment in democracy was completely overthrown.
Lynching became common throughout the South and many areas in the North. Thousands of African Americans were summarily beaten, tortured and killed.
Peonage, sharecropping, tenant farming and contract labor laws created conditions that were analogous to those that prevailed during slavery. In 1896, the Plessy vs. Ferguson Supreme Court decision had consolidated federal law in favor of legalized segregation.
It would take until 1954 for this decision to be reversed with specific reference to public education. A mass civil rights struggle beginning in December 1955 set the stage for a renewed effort to eradicate American apartheid.
The first federal law in support of equality since Reconstruction was passed in 1957 relating to the ability of the Justice Department to enforce voting rights. By 1960, students would take the lead through the sit-in movement and the freedom rides to militantly make a move toward the eradication of legalized segregation and universal suffrage.
By 1963 this militancy would initiate a series of urban rebellions beginning in Birmingham and continuing through hundreds of cities by 1970. In 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Nonetheless, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown had all agreed by 1967 that there must be a fundamental transformation of the political and economic system and the repeal of the foreign policy of imperialism. By this time the intransigence of the U.S. ruling class had struck back in a similar fashion as the post-Civil War period through the counter-intelligence program and the policy of benign neglect.
Implications of the Need for Social Revolution
Today we have the advantage of looking back at the historical developments of the Reconstruction and Civil Rights eras of African American history. At present the world capitalist system, headed by the U.S., is facing the worst crisis since the Great Depression.
Even though there have been monumental changes within the political and economic system within the U.S. and the world since the slave period, fundamentally America is still a class dominated society with the corporations and banks dominating all social institutions. The white-only signs have been removed but the barriers to social progress and genuine freedom have remained erected.
The federal government indices through the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census clearly indicate that poverty and structural unemployment is rising among African Americans and other nationally oppressed groups. This is occurring under the leadership of a self-identified African American president who represents the Democratic Party, which many people within this community identifies with.
Has the political culture in the U.S. changed in regard to how African Americans are viewed within the mass media and among the dominant social groups and class? As during the period of Reconstruction and its aftermath, the racist notions of inferiority still exist within the corporate media and educational system.
In the aftermath of Reconstruction the Southern historians sympathetic to the slave system dominated the interpretation of this social experiment. A century later, the educational system and the corporate media minimizes and distorts the meaning of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
Therefore, one aspect of raising political consciousness is to provide an historical materialist view of race relations and national oppression in the U.S. and the world. This is why we initiated MLK Day in Detroit in 2004, to resurrect the actual life of Dr. King related to his anti-war and social justice legacy.
This necessity exists as well for the periods of slavery, Reconstruction and the upsurge of the mid-to-late 20th century. The ruling class will always distort the history of the workers and the oppressed for its own benefit aimed at continuing the exploitation and repression of its natural adversaries.
One point of continuity of the ruling class interpretation of history is the notion that African Americans cannot rule themselves or others within society. The racist historians of slavery and Reconstruction claimed that the system of bondage was well suited to the African American people.
Reconstruction politicians and organizations are portrayed as inherently corrupt and inefficient. Consequently, the dominant ruling interests are compelled to take control of the system completely for the good of not only the oppressed but also the dominant social class.
We witness this on a daily basis in the city of Detroit. The corporate media narrative says that Detroit is facing financial ruin due to the corruption and lack of management skills of the majority African American population.
However, the corporations and banks which have robbed and exploited the people of Detroit for decades are never criticized--in fact they are viewed as the key component in the solution to the crisis. This is an ideological position that attempts to legitimize the continuing racism and national oppression fostered by the capitalist system.
Our contribution in this period is to vociferously attack these views without mercy. There is much data and historical record to support our position that the crisis in Detroit, in the U.S. and the world is rooted in the system of profit that is continuing to exploit the workers and oppressed at ever greater levels.
The situation in Detroit mirrors the world economic crisis: the astronomical rates of joblessness, escalating indebtedness to the banks, rising state repression and the inability of the ruling class to provide any rational answers or effective solutions.
Consequently, it is our task to not only seek answers to the pressing questions of the day but to grapple with a political program of action. The system must be uprooted and fundamentally transformed.
Reform is no longer a long term option. The system is the problem and must be destroyed to make way for a new one based upon the needs of the majority of the people within society.
This is the lesson of the struggle against slavery, Jim Crow and domestic neo-colonialism. War is the outgrowth of the profit system and cannot be eliminated without challenging the system at its root. The challenge must involve us all. Please join us in these efforts.