Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Counterinsurgency, Rebellion and Revolution from 1968 to 2018
Overcoming government repression through shaping a transformative movement

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Saturday February 24, 2018
African American History Month Series No. 5
Note: This address was delivered at the Annual Detroit African American History Month Forum held on February 24, 2018. The gathering was chaired by Kelley Carmichael of Workers World Party Detroit branch. Other speakers were Yvonne Jones of the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA) and the Moratorium NOW! Coalition; Carolyn Baker, a national organizer for the Poor People’s Campaign; and Mond Sankara, a youth organizer for the Detroit branch of Workers World Party. The program was sponsored by Workers World Party Detroit branch.
We are gathered once again this year to celebrate and reflect upon the gallant history of the African American people. There is much to recognize from years past while at the same time a renewed commitment to the struggle for liberation is more than apparent in the current epoch.

Just yesterday, February 23, represented the 150th birthday of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, one of the leading intellectual and organizational figures to emerge during the 19th century and extending his contributions well into the 20th century. Dr. Du Bois was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in 1868 only three years after the conclusion of the Civil War. He would make his transition in Accra, Ghana on August 28, 1963, some 95 years later.

In 1963, the Republic of Ghana was headed by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the founder of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), at the time the vanguard of the African Revolution sweeping the continent and indeed the world. Nkrumah and the CPP forged linkages between the African revolutionaries from throughout the international community.

Dr. Du Bois and his second wife, Shirley Graham Du Bois, were invited to Ghana to play a leading role in the process of building Pan-Africanism and Socialism. Dr. Du Bois was appointed as the Director of the Secretariat for the Encyclopedia Africana. This was a monumental research project designed to reconstruct the history of Africa from the perspective of the people themselves.

There could not have been anyone more equipped in regard to academic training and experience other than Dr. Du Bois to lead such an endeavor. Having graduated from the Historically Black University of Fisk in the late 1880s and later Harvard, Du Bois had then traveled to Germany where he studied the social sciences in the European country which played such a critical role in shaping the fields of sociology, economics, political science, philosophy and history.

He would later return to Harvard for his doctoral work being awarded a Ph.D in history in 1896, the first African American to accomplish this task. His dissertation was on the Suppression of the African Slave Trade from the 17th through the 19th century. The research conducted by him at Harvard would guide his mission over the next seven decades.

Nonetheless, because Dr. Du Bois was a Black man he could not teach at any of the Ivy League or other white universities of the day. He wound up at Wilberforce College in Ohio, another HBCU and then at Atlanta University in Georgia.

Even at this there were problems due to the interference of ruling class interests in the segregated higher educational system. Dr. Du Bois saw the HBCU as providing an avenue for the training of new generations of African Americans in their protracted struggle for full equality and self-determination.

As a result of his ideas which were at variance with the state governments and private foundations which provided funding for the HBCUs, he eventually would leave Atlanta University in 1906, not returning to teaching until 1944. His years spanning from the first decade of the 20th century through World War II were filled with various accomplishments including the participation in what is considered the First Pan-African Conference in London during 1900; the co-founding of the Niagara Movement in 1905 eventually leading to the beginning of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.

In 1910, Dr. Du Bois founded Crisis magazine where he would serve as its editor until 1934. He was the convener of the Pan-African Congresses held in 1919, 1921, and 1923 in Western Europe and then the Fourth of such gatherings in New York City in 1927, where African American women such as Addie B. Hunton would provide the organizational and financial support which in essence saved the movement despite the doubts harbored by Du Bois himself.

Dr. Du Bois would influence countless numbers of African American scholars and activists during this period. One of which was Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) of Virginia, who would also graduate from Harvard in history and go on to make his pioneering contributions related to the documentation and popularization of African and African American history.

Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro (African American) Life and History in 1915. The following year he initiated the Journal of Negro History. Then in 1926, he launched Negro History Week in February. This would eventually be extended to Black History Month in 1976, winning recognition from the federal government some 42 years ago at the height of a movement in the latter decades of the 20th century aimed at extending and expanding the research of Du Bois, Woodson and others in African world historical and social scientific studies.

This review of the contributions of African American historians, social scientists and journalists are essential in understanding how we view the world today. Prior to the advent of these luminaries, the fields of historical and social scientific studies were largely dominated, and remain today even still, by whites who are sympathetic to the racist, segregationist, capitalist and imperialist perspectives on these disciplines.

Many historical accounts for example of slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction discussed these important periods from the perspective of the slave holders. There were notions that the Confederacy was largely concerned about “state’s rights” and that the Reconstruction period was discredited by the promotion of “incompetent and corrupt” Black politicians.

Such a method of thinking rationalizes the founding of the Ku Klux Klan in 1866 in Tennessee as a mechanism utilized to restore the honor of the southern planters and to protect the “sanctity of white womanhood, etc.” Segregation, commonly known as Jim Crow, was necessary to restrain the African American people and was “beneficial” for both races.

A series of laws were enacted to reverse the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution along with the Civil Rights Acts passed from 1866 to 1875. “Separate but Equal” public accommodations was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in its infamous Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896.

The Lessons of 1968: Liberation and Social Transformation

Now let us move ahead to 1968 some 100 years after the birth of Dr. Du Bois and the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment which ostensibly granted “citizenship rights” to the African people in the U.S. Although a new series of favorable Civil Rights rulings in the federal courts had been handed down along with legislation passed in the Congress which once again abolished legalized segregation, by 1968 it was quite obvious that more vigorous action was required.

The most advanced elements in the African American liberation struggle such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) co-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), started by youth involved in the protest movement growing out of the HBCU of the 1960s, had not only taken positions in opposition to the genocidal war against the people of Vietnam waged by the Democratic administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, they had also recognized the pressing need to transform American society at his core. Vietnam was a by-product of the imperialist system of globalized capitalist exploitation, the internationalization of white supremacy and the imperative by the ruling class to stop Socialism and Communism at all costs.

No matter how many false characterizations of the trajectory of U.S. intervention in Vietnam, by early 1968 it became quite obvious that an outright victory over the National Liberation Front (NLF) and Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the North was not realizable. The Tet Offensive beginning in February broke the back of Pentagon forces in occupied South Vietnam and smashed the myth of the invincibility of American military superiority.

Opposition to the war had become widespread the year before in 1967, when Dr. King joined SNCC in publically repudiating the war. On April 15, 1967, both SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael and Dr. King joined over 125,000 people in the march on the United Nations demanding a unilateral ceasefire by Washington. A petition was delivered to Ralph Bunche and U Thant after the demonstration signed by leading figures within the antiwar movement.

Dr. King, SNCC and other progressive forces linked the struggle against racism and national oppression with the demand to end both the Vietnam War as well as the eradication of poverty which disproportionately affected People of Color communities. By 1967-68, urban rebellions were raging throughout the country. Detroit was the scene of the largest Black Rebellion in July 1967 reshaping the role of the liberation movement and the state response to this domestic insurgency.

In 1967, rebellions struck over 160 cities throughout the U.S. The government instituted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Counter-intelligence Program Black Nationalist Hate Groups destabilization program under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover. At this time President Johnson through his Attorney General Ramsey Clarke approved hard-hitting measures to disrupt, misdirect, discredit and otherwise neutralize the African American liberation movement in the U.S.

Dr. King’s response was to build a Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) to address the question of jobs and income. The project was announced in late 1967 and work immediately began aimed at mobilizing thousands from across the U.S. to come to Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1968. People would occupy areas in close proximity to the White House and Capitol Hill demanding immediate policy measures to achieve full employment, a guaranteed annual income and the implementation of national health insurance. The program of the PPC called for the investment of billions within the central cities and rural areas devastated by poverty and social neglect.

In a statement during a SCLC retreat in May 1967, Dr. King said: “I think it is necessary for us to realize that we have moved from the era of civil rights to the era of human rights…[W]hen we see that there must be a radical redistribution of economic and political power, then we see that for the last twelve years we have been in a reform movement…That after Selma and the Voting Rights Bill, we moved into a new era, which must be an era of revolution…In short, we have moved into an era where we are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society.” (

There was the demand for the construction of new housing and schools within livable communities designed to lift tens of millions out of poverty and underdevelopment. This of course could not be achieved without the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Vietnam.

Consequently, despite the false narratives surrounding the legacy of Dr. King in the modern context where the corporate media attempts to portray him only as a “dreamer” and religious figure, during the last two years of his life, he was totally alienated from the liberal Johnson administration. This is important for us today to reemphasize since with this being a midterm election year many people will be coming among us advocating the dropping of all mass initiatives and the placing of our focus on electing Democrats to public office.

This did not work in the 1960s when the capitalist system was much stronger than in the second decade of the 21st century. It clearly will not be successful in this period when the ruling class is demanding even more of the productive capacity and surplus deriving from the labor of the working masses.

Our situation in Detroit is symptomatic of the current crises impacting the cities. This city has been run by Democrats for decades yet they continue to accept the Republican policies of “trickle-down economics.” We have the phenomenon of local tax captures, theft of state revenue sharing monies,  the redirecting of federal funds designed to assist the people being used against them, and the eradication of any semblance of bourgeois democratic rights for the people.

The Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike and the Assassination of Dr. King

Only days after the launching of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ strike was launched by 1,300 African American men seeking recognition through the American Federation of State, Municipal and Country Employees (AFSMCE) Local 1733. The union had been organized several years before. However, the city administration in Memphis refused to negotiate a contract that would result in wage increases and decent working conditions.

On February 1, two workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were crushed to death by a defective garbage truck. Workers had been complaining for years about the hazardous conditions under which they toiled on a daily basis. The city administration took no concrete actions to improve safety on the job and the deaths of these workers served to inflame tensions and embolden the workers.

No real benefits were allocated to the families of Cole and Walker. The workers held a meeting on February 11 calling for a work stoppage until recognition was granted. Mayor Henry Loeb, a businessman turned politician who had just taken office, refused to negotiate with the sanitation workers and their union leaders. Loeb even declared that it was illegal for public service workers to strike in Memphis.

Nonetheless, the workers walked off the job paralyzing the city’s garbage collection process leaving mountains of refuge in the streets. Soon enough a crisis was created in this southern city.

The Memphis City Council made some attempts to end the strike which proved inadequate and unacceptable to the workers. When over 1,000 sanitation workers took to the streets of downtown Memphis on February 22 in a protest action along Main Street, they were attacked by the police with clubs and mace. These repressive measures only hardened their position and served to mobilize community-wide and national support for the strike.

Interestingly enough, the national union leadership of AFSCME headed at the time by Jerry Wurf, suggested to the African American workers that they end the strike amid this escalation in repressive tactics by the police. This was rejected outright by the workers and the community. The strike forged forward throughout February and into mid-March when Dr. King agreed to come to Memphis and deliver a speech to the workers and their supporters at the aegis of the strike support committee (COME) headed by James Lawson.

Lawson, a minister, was a veteran of the Civil Rights movement. In Nashville, Tennessee during the 1959-1960, he conducted trainings on civil disobedience preparing African American students for the launching of the sit-ins and freedom rides of 1960-1961. Lawson was expelled from Vanderbilt University during this time because of his activism.

Dr. King was in the process of mobilizing people for the PPC in March 1968. Only days before going to Memphis on March 18, he had spoken at Grosse Pointe High School on the question of the “Other America” on March 14, outlining a program to eliminate poverty and racism. He would also deliver his last Lent sermon at Central United Methodist Church on the following day, March 15.

The Memphis sanitation workers’ strike and the citywide mobilization were clearly in line with the aims and objectives of the PPC. Here was a signature struggle which combined the plight of low-wage workers with the fight against institutional racism and state repression.

A victory in Memphis would provide the necessary impetus and momentum in taking the PPC to Washington D.C. in the following weeks. The alliance between the Civil Rights Movement and Labor would be of profound significance in exposing the duplicity of the Democratic Party threatening its electoral base in an election year when the disastrous results of the Vietnam War was plain for all to witness.

1968 was also the “Year of the Heroic Guerrilla” in honor of the martyred Che Ernesto Guevara who had been killed at the beckoning of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) the previous year in Bolivia. As the urban rebellions became more violent each summer, 1968 was anticipated to be an even more revolutionary year. There were plans for a boycott of the Olympics by African American athletes. A nationwide campaign to free Black Panther Party leader Huey P. Newton, awaiting trial for the murder of a white police officer in Oakland, California, had galvanized youth throughout the country. People in African American communities across the U.S. were breaking with the inferiority complexes which were imposed by the system of national oppression and institutional racism. A strong emphasis was being placed on national pride and the study of African American and African history and culture.

In Detroit, the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) was founded leading so-called wildcat strikes in the automobile plants, threatening the system of capitalism at the point of production. DRUM and later the League of Revolutionary Black Workers (LRBW) saw the African American working class as the vanguard of the revolutionary movement due to their strategic position within industry.

Meanwhile a series of events in Memphis would illustrate the institutional resistance to change not only in the South but throughout the country. After the call by Dr. King and the Memphis strike support committee for a general work stoppage on March 28, a march through the central city erupted in violence. Windows were broken and police moved in an effort to suppress the crowd of thousands.

That evening Memphis Mayor Loeb requested the intervention of the National Guard amid vicious attacks by local police resulting in beatings, arrests and the execution death of 16-year-old Larry Payne. Thousands of armed troops were seen on the streets of the city the following day in an effort to prevent further unrest. However, the demonstrations by the sanitation workers continued.

An entry from the King Encyclopedia from Stanford University chronicled the situation in Memphis during this period as follows: “Memphis city officials estimated that 22,000 students skipped school that day (March 28) to participate in the demonstration. King arrived late and found a massive crowd on the brink of chaos. Lawson and King led the march together but quickly called off the demonstration as violence began to erupt.  King was whisked away to a nearby hotel, and Lawson told the mass of people to turn around and go back to the church. In the chaos that followed, downtown shops were looted, and a 16-year-old was shot and killed by a policeman. Police followed demonstrators back to the Clayborn Temple, entered the church, released tear gas inside the sanctuary, and clubbed people as they lay on the floor to get fresh air.” (

This same report continues recounting that: “Loeb called for martial law and brought in 4,000 National Guard troops. The following day, over 200 striking workers continued their daily march, carrying signs that read, ‘I Am a Man’.  At a news conference held before he returned to Atlanta, King said that he had been unaware of the divisions within the community, particularly of the presence of a black youth group committed to ‘Black Power’ called the Invaders, who were accused of starting the violence. King considered not returning to Memphis, but decided that if the nonviolent struggle for economic justice was going to succeed it would be necessary to follow through with the movement there. After a divisive meeting on 30 March, SCLC staff agreed to support King’s return to Memphis. He arrived on 3 April and was persuaded to speak by a crowd of dedicated sanitation workers who had braved another storm to hear him. A weary King preached about his own mortality, telling the group, ‘Like anybody, I would like to live a long life--longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now… I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land’.“

The following day Dr. King was gunned down while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel near downtown Memphis at around 6:00pm. Once the news broke nationally, demonstrations and mass rebellions erupted throughout the country.

In Washington, D.C. where the PPC was scheduled to begin in a matter of weeks, the community erupted in rebellion. Students walked out of school while thousands of people attacked businesses and other symbols of the status-quo. Federal troops were ordered into the nation’s capital to take up positions at strategic locations including the White House and the Capitol building.

During the days to come over 125 cities erupted in rebellions. Washington, D.C. and Chicago were the hardest hit. However, unrest took place in Baltimore, Pittsburg, Detroit and other cities. Tens of thousands of national guardsmen and federal troops were deployed throughout the country in an attempt to restore order.

Whither the Poor People’s Campaign?

Despite the assassination of Dr. King and the subsequent rebellions, the PPC organizing continued. The mobilization was delayed by several weeks however it did commence by late April and early May of 1968.

Under the leadership of Rev. Ralph Abernathy, the Vice President of SCLC under Dr. King, approximately 1,500- 3,000 people established a tent city on the grounds near the Capitol and the White House. The PPC was designed to forge an alliance between African Americans, Mexicans, Indigenous peoples and poor whites.

According to the website of the renewed PPC, which is coordinating the events for this year, “The Campaign (of 1968) was organized into three phases. The first was to construct a shantytown, to become known as Resurrection City, on the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. With permits from the National Park Service, Resurrection City was to house anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 Campaign participants. Additional participants would be housed in other group and family residences around the metropolitan area. The next phase was to begin public demonstrations, mass nonviolent civil disobedience, and mass arrests to protest the plight of poverty in this country. The third and final phase of the Campaign was to launch a nationwide boycott of major industries and shopping areas to prompt business leaders to pressure Congress into meeting the demands of the Campaign.”(

However, after less than two months the tent city was not able to sustain itself. Divisions within the leadership of the Campaign compounded by pressure from the City of Washington and federal government led to its dissolution. The largest mobilization was held on June 19, 1968 when 50,000 people came to Washington to support the Tent City.

An Economic Bill of Rights was put forward on June 19 calling for a recommitment to the Full Employment Act of 1946 and legislation to immediately create at least one million socially useful career jobs in public service. The adoption of the pending housing and urban development act of 1968. To repeal the 90th Congress’s punitive welfare restrictions in the 1967 Social Security Act. The extension to all farm workers the rights guaranteed under the National Labor Relations Act–to organize agricultural labor unions. The restoration of budget cuts for bilingual education, Head Start, summer jobs, Economic Opportunity Act, Elementary and Secondary Education Acts.

Although the PPC was not successful in winning its objectives, the demands remain relevant to the struggle today inside the U.S. Our task is to see these efforts through to their realization in the 21st century.

Significance of 1968 to 2018

The objective social conditions of African Americans and other oppressed nations are still dire in 2018, some five decades after the Memphis strike, the assassination of Dr. King and the PPC. In many ways things are worse from the standpoint that many of the communities which were the anchors for the building of a resistance movement in the South, North and West, have been systematically destabilized and demographically drained.

After the concluding years of the Vietnam War there were other problems which were directly linked to the economic restructuring of the world economic system. Facing the potential for the suspension of direct military interventions in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the U.S. capitalist system sought methods of maintaining and enhancing its profit-making capacities.

Real wages went in precipitous decline beginning in the mid-to-late 1970s even within the previously industrial sectors. Manufacturing and mining facilities in the areas of steel, auto, and energy production lost millions of jobs. Many of these jobs went into the Southern U.S. while others were taken off shore where the potential for greater returns on investments existed.

One impact of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1950s through the 1970s was to raise expectations across a broad spectrum of society. Other oppressed nations and marginalized groups demanded their rights aimed at securing gender equity, disability rights, an end to LGBTQ bigotry and exclusion along with addressing problems of grievance redress within the workplace for the entire proletariat.

This process continued all through the 1980s as well when even white collar employees were also subjected to downsizing and wage cuts. In part this was a result of a continuing scientific-technological revolution in manufacturing and service sectors. However, much work remained to be done within the U.S. Classrooms were overcrowded, the environmental degradation of the central cities needed to be corrected, healthcare facilities and workers were being eroded, while the lack of healthy foods and recreation was the order of the day. Instead, the prison population increased by 500 percent between 1980 and today. Imperialist wars attracted young people in search of salaries, careers and educational opportunities. These genocidal interventions have resulted in the deaths of millions and the displacement of tens of millions more both internally and as refugees. Over the last few years the United Nations Refugee Agency has said that the number dislocated people is the highest of any period since the conclusion of World War II.

The reconstruction of the urban, suburban and rural areas has still not been carried out after repeated promises of both Republican and Democratic administrations over the previous four decades. The rhetoric of the administration of President Donald Trump about infrastructural repair inside the country will remain elusive due to the super-exploitative imperatives of the ruling class.

Here in Detroit we have borne the brunt of the economic crisis. During the first decade of the 21st century, the city was the first victim nationally of predatory lending by the financial institutions. This was done in housing and municipal services. Our schools were systematically plundered by the banks with the legal backing of state governments and city administrations.

A contrived imposition of emergency management and bankruptcy was designed to expropriate even more wealth from the African American and working class of the city. The coveted pension funds and public assets were seized upon by the banks and their enablers in the state and federal courts.

Why We Need a Revolutionary Party

The only way in which we can reverse this situation is through organizational development which brings together the most dedicated segments of the population under a program of action that is aimed at targeting those responsible for the crisis. We have read the works of Russian revolutionary V.I. Lenin, the founder of the Bolshevik Party, who in his classic work “Imperialism: The Highest State of Capitalism” identifies international finance capital as the principal enemy of the working class and the nationally oppressed on a global scale.

African Americans must be mobilized politically outside the stifling confines of the Democratic and Republican parties. Socialism is the only solution to the problems of institutional racism and exploitation by the billionaire ruling class.

In conclusion, we want to quote from an essay by Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois who wrote in April 1953 in the Monthly Review that: “The United States, with its existing social structure, cannot today abolish the color line despite its promises. It cannot stop injustice in the courts based on color and race. Above all, it cannot stop the exploitation of black workers by white capital, especially in the newest South. White North America beyond the urge of sound economics is persistently driving black folk toward socialism. It is the United States which is straining every effort to enslave Asia and Africa, and educated and well-to-do black Americans are coming to know this just as well as anybody. They may delay their reaction; they may hold ominous silence. But in the end, if this pressure keeps up, they will join the march to economic emancipation, because otherwise they cannot themselves be free.”
Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Featured on Press TV The Debate: 'Boko Haram Atrocities Continue in Northeastern Nigeria'
Watch this Press TV The Debate program featuring Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, discussing the current security situation in northeastern Nigeria where over 100 more school girls were abducted by Boko Haram just last week.

To view this episode just click on the following URL;

The episode of the daily program aired live on Mon. Feb. 26, 2018. Joining Azikiwe on this segment was Naseer al-Omari, a writer and political commentator from New York. This segment was hosted by Kaveh Taghvai.

Azikiwe discusses the history of the West African state since its independence from Britain in 1960 and the exploitation of its imposed divisions by colonialism on preventing the vast oil-rich nation from achieving genuine national unity and prosperity.

Other issues involving Nigerian relations with the United States and Saudi Arabia are also mentioned. This program seeks to analyze the situation in Nigeria within a broader regional and international context.
Pan-African Journal: Special Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Sun. Feb. 25, 2018--Hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe
Listen to the Sun. Feb. 25, 2018 special edition of the Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire.

To hear the podcast of this episode go to the link below:

The program features our regular PANW report with dispatches on the declared committment of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmer's Union to work with the ZANU-PF government in Harare; Sudan and South Sudan have announced that they will reopen border crossings between the two countries; there has been violence surrounding demonstrations against the government in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); and the drought in the East African state of Kenya is creating fodd deficit in sections of the country.

In the second and third hours we continue our focus on African American History Month with audio files of speeches and interviews with Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X and Dr. Huey P. Newton.
Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Sat. Feb. 24, 2018--Hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe
Listen to the Feb. 24. 2018 edition of the Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire.

To hear the podcast of this episode just go to the website below:

The program features our PANW report with dispatches on the 150th birthday of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois who developed historical and social scientific studies in the United States; The Libyan national resistance movement has issued a statement to commemorate the tragic anniversary of the beginning of the imperialist-backed counter-revolution against the Jamahiriya some seven years ago; Tunisia has announced it is open for tourism once again after an horrendous attack at a beach resort some three years ago; Syria is still being attacked by western-backed groups which attacked the people in Damascus.

In the second and third hours we listen to audio files recognizing African American History Month highlighting speeches of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X and Dr. Huey P. Newton. 
Mass Incarceration for Profit: The Dual Impact of the Thirteenth Amendment and the Unresolved Question of National Oppression in the United States
African Americans remain the targets of a system of institutional racism and super-exploitation

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Sunday February 18, 2018
African American History Month No. 4
Note: This is a lecture which was delivered at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Detroit on Sunday February 18, 2018. Abayomi Azikiwe presented the sermon or message for the day on the history and contemporary significance of mass incarceration and its link to the enslavement and continued national oppression of the African American people.
I want to express my deep appreciation to the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Detroit for extending another invitation to me to speak from this pulpit.

This institution remains as a vital source of inspiration for people in the city of Detroit from various backgrounds. Providing a platform for progressive ideas and social movements is critical during this time period.

As the United States faces profound challenges in the areas of race relations, class exploitation, the rights of immigrants, women and other marginalized groups, the threat of world war and other potential calamities, it is of utmost necessity that those concerned with advancing society towards a sustainable peace and social equilibrium have the opportunity to discuss these issues in a calm and reasonable fashion. Much of the discourse within the corporate and government-sponsored media does not lend itself to finding solutions to the monumental problems we are grappling with in contemporary times.

On a daily basis we are bombarded with images of displacement, dislocation, injuries, death and destruction. Although the U.S. is touted as a “peaceful” and “prosperous” country, “the wealthiest nation in the world”, there is much uncertainty, fear, trepidation and alienation.

The regularity of mass shootings, domestic violence, racial antagonism, misogyny and other forms of bigotry contradicts the official narrative which permeates the propaganda advanced by the mainstream press and the spokesperson for the administration in Washington, D.C. A cloud of routine avoidance of the real issues which concern humanity represents a dangerous phenomenon.

We have heard repeatedly from the oval office of President Donald Trump that the economy is booming, with unemployment being at its lowest levels in history accompanied by skyrocketing business confidence in regard to investment and job creation. Of course these claims are not accurate. Even if they were it would not automatically wipe away the tears of family members and friends of those killed recently in the school shooting in south Florida.

Such fabrications cannot provide food, clothing and shelter to the tens of millions of impoverished people in this country and the billions more around the world. These delusions of grandeur cannot cover-up the loss of life in the theaters of war which the Pentagon is involved in throughout the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The millions who are suffering in our society from the rising tide of racism and all forms of oppression cannot gain solace from the continued enrichment of a small minority of the population which shows blatant disregard and even contempt for the conditions of the downtrodden and destitute. Even here in the city of Detroit, the conditions and concerns of the majority African American population goes unheeded. The elusive emphasis by the powers that be is placed on making Detroit whiter and wealthier. 

When an assertion is made that African American unemployment is at its lowest level in history we must recognize this as another falsehood emanating from a distorted view of the origins and development of America as a nation-state. In fact Africans were the only people brought to the shores of the former British colony of Virginia and other such outposts during the 17th and 18th centuries with a fulltime job waiting for them on the tobacco, sugar and later cotton plantations of east coast and the south.

The Thirteenth Amendment and the Continuance of African Slavery

This year represents the 150th anniversary of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which was ratified by the required number of states by 1868. Ostensibly the Fourteenth Amendment provided citizenship to African people who had been subjected to enslavement for two-and-a-half centuries.

Nonetheless, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 passed by Congress was designed to essentially provide the same guarantees related to due process and non-discrimination, empowering the federal government and its three branches of the executive, legislative and judicial structures to enforce these measures and to take punitive action against any persons or institutions which sought to deny African people such inherent privileges.

Just three years prior to the enactment of the Fourteenth Amendment into federal law, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution was passed in January by Congress and ratified later in December of 1865. This measure was supposedly designed to legally free Africans from slavery. However, a careful reading of the Thirteenth Amendment illustrates its dubious character, language which both frees people from involuntary servitude yet making exceptions under the guise of criminal conviction and sentencing.

The Thirteenth Amendment reads in Section One: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, nor any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Then Section Two states: “Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

Understanding this contradictory character of the Thirteenth Amendment sheds light on the utilization of the criminal justice system in the perpetuation of bondage for the purpose of institutional racism and class exploitation. Why was it necessary to include language which maintained involuntary servitude within the prison system?

Any answer to this question must begin with the explanation that slavery is an economic system. It is a mode and relationship of production which is designed for the maximization of profit for the few landholding gentry. It was the Triangular Trade and chattel slavery which provided the wealth that spawned the rise of industrial monopoly capitalism beginning in the 19th century.

Two African historians documented this transformative economic process during the 1930s and 1940s. These scholars and political actors were Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois of the U.S. and Dr. Eric Williams of the Caribbean island-nation of Trinidad and Tobago.

Du Bois in his pioneering work entitled “Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860–1880”, published in 1935, said that: “Slowly but mightily these black workers were integrated into modern industry. On free and fertile land Americans raised, not simply sugar as a cheap sweetening, rice for food and tobacco as a new and tickling luxury; but they began to grow a fiber that clothed the masses of a ragged world. Cotton grew so swiftly that the 9,000 bales of cotton which the new nation scarcely noticed in 1791 became 79,000 in 1800; and with this increase, walked economic revolution in a dozen different lines. The cotton crop reached one half million bales in 1822, a million bales 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. Such facts and others, coupled with the increase of the slaves to which they were related as both cause and effect, meant a new world; and all the more so because with increase in American cotton and Negro slaves, came both by chance and ingenuity new miracles for manufacturing, and particularly for the spinning and weaving of cloth.” (p. 10)
This same study continues noting in regard to our subject today: “As slavery grew to a system and the Cotton Kingdom began to expand into imperial white domination, a free Negro was a contradiction, a threat and a menace. As a thief and a vagabond, he threatened society; but as an educated property holder, a successful mechanic or even professional man, he more than threatened slavery. He contradicted and undermined it. He must not be. He must be suppressed, enslaved, colonized. And nothing so bad could be said about him that did not easily appear as true to slaveholders.” (pp. 12-13)

Nearly a decade after Du Bois penned Black Reconstruction Eric Williams published Capitalism and Slavery in 1944. This study focused largely on Britain pointed to the direct trajectory of profit-making under the slave system and the rise of industry.

In chapter five of the book, Williams observes: “Britain was accumulating great wealth from the triangular trade. The increase of consumption goods called forth by that trade inevitably drew in its train the development of the productive power of the country. This industrial expansionrequiredfinance. What man in the first three-quarters of theeighteenth century was better able to afford the ready capital than a West Indian sugar planter or a Liverpool slave trader? We have already noticed the readiness with which absenteeplanters purchased land in England, where they were able to use their wealth to finance the great developments associated with the Agricultural Revolution. We must now trace theinvestment of profits from the triangular trade in British industry, where they supplied part of the huge outlay for the construction of the vast plants to meet the needs of the newproductive process and the new markets.” (p. 98)

Williams goes on to chronicle the leading industries in Britain and their origins within African slavery. Banking, insurance, shipping and manufacturing were all fueled by the profits accrued from the super-exploitation of Africans.

Consequently, the economic system of slavery provided the necessary social ingredients to build a new mode and relationship of production, being capitalism. Through the new system mass production and international trade grew by leaps and bounds.

The transitional period from chattel slavery to industrial capitalism required regimentation and mechanisms to enforce conformity with the priorities of the social order. After the independence of the thirteen colonies from London, slavery continued. Alongside the system grew the correctional institutions which were designed to reinforce the status-quo. Some of the first prisons were established in the northeastern state of Pennsylvania.

However, as slavery expanded in the South, both law-enforcement and correctional facilities took on added significance. From the 1820s to the 1850s, Washington, D.C. itself was a major base for private prisons which held and later transported Africans to the slaveholding areas of the South. (

Although President Thomas Jefferson signed into law provisions which prohibited the Atlantic Slave Trade in the U.S. in 1807, human bondage continued as a thriving enterprise. Inter-state trade in African people was rapidly expanding as cotton became the major industry of production and export.

A major institution designed to facilitate the domestic slave trade were private prisons. The opponents of this practice sought to have it regulated or outlawed during the 1820s to the 1850s. However, the private prisons continued operations well into the period leading up to the Civil War from 1861-1865.

There were many cases of free Africans being arrested and later sent into slavery. This was the fate of Gilbert Horton who was arrested in 1826 and held for a month on charges of being a runaway slave.  A Congressman from Pennsylvania, Charles Minor, severely criticized the use of private prisons to service the slave system during the Horton matter. Horton was not released until he was able to provide references from Poughkeepsie which could substantiate that he was not a fugitive from bondage.

Many others were not so fortunate as to escape the clutches of the slave traders. One African woman in 1816 being held in a private prison in Washington, D.C. became so distraught that she attempted to take her own life. Anna as she is known through the records of the day, jumped from the third floor of a well-known slave prison. These events prompted Virginia Congressman John Randolph to speak out against the proliferation of such institutions.

Randolph called for the convening of a committee to investigate the circumstances prevailing in the private prisons in the nation’s capital. Randolph conveyed the plight of Anna stressing: “A woman, confined among others, in the upper chamber of a three story private prison, used by the slave dealers in their traffic, was driven, by sorrow and despair at the idea of being separated from all that she held dear, to throw herself from the window upon the pavement.”

Evan Taparata in the 2016 article referenced above says of the period: “Despite attention to private prisons in DC, substantive reform was elusive. In a renewed push to end the slave trade in 1848, Representative John Crowell of Ohio doubled down on the lack of oversight and visibility of private prisons. Crowell knew of a private prison near the Smithsonian Institute on the National Mall. The Smithsonian, Crowell noted, ‘was founded here for the diffusion of knowledge among men, and in full view of this Capitol, and the stripes and stars that float so proudly over it. But I fear, sir,’ Crowell continued, ‘we shall not be favored with the information’ about the injustices occurring in that prison.”

The Use of Private Prisons and State Correctional Facilities in the Aftermath of Slavery

Of course this practice of having private prisons as lucrative businesses at the service of chattel bondage did not end with the Civil War and the passage of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. Efforts to maintain African people as a principal source of free labor were maintained through a series of laws and social practices.

By 1877, the federal government under President Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew any semblance of national support for Black Reconstruction. The Ku Klux Klan and other white terrorist organizations were founded to restore the supremacy of the slaveholding class through intimidation, the denial of economic freedom and lynching.

African Americans continued to hold office in local and state structures within certain southern states such as Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina into the 1880s and 1890s. Overall however, there was very limited or no right held by African people that the white rulers were bound to respect.

The infamous Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896 ruled that segregation was perfectly legal under the U.S. Constitution. African Americans could be separated from whites on the basis that their facilities were equal to those of Europeans. This was clearly a false premise since enslavement, institutional racism and national oppression were mechanism devised by the ruling class to enable the ruthless denial of rights for the purpose of economic exploitation.

This remained the law of the land until 1954 when the Brown v. Topeka case related to segregated public schooling was deemed a violation of U.S. jurisprudence. Separate but equal was inherently unconstitutional said the Warren court. Subsequently though, almost nothing was done on the federal, state and local levels of government to breakdown Jim Crow.

It would take a persistent Civil Rights Movement which petitioned the courts for implementation of existing constitutional amendments and laws from the mid-1950s through the late 1960s along with mass protests, boycotts and urban rebellions which broke open the U.S. political and social system. Further legislation in 1957 (Civil Rights Act), 1964 (Civil Rights Act), 1965 (Voting Rights Act) and 1968 (Fair Housing Act) added additional measures re-emphasizing what had already been enacted from the Reconstruction era of 1865 to 1875. 

Leading up to this period of the 1950s and 1960s, Taparata conveys as well: “Yet private interests continued to play a major role in the prison industry. African Americans arrested in the Jim Crow South faced the prospect of convict leasing, a system of labor in which states leased out prisoners to private contractors who were more interested in boosting profit margins than ensuring safe working conditions and upholding the citizenship rights of African Americans.”

Many people were ensnarled in this process which specifically targeted African Americans through racial profiling. Charges of vagrancy, robbery, rape, assault, murder and other crimes became reasons to lock up African Americansforcing them into slave labor projects led by private businesses.

Untold numbers of people died on work crews which were composed of African Americans denied due process and the right to adequate legal representation. This same process continued openly well into the middle decades of the 20th century.

In some cases the private and state-sponsored prisons were former plantations where slaves were held and exploited for decades. Angola prison in Louisiana is one such example.

A widely-recognized book and PBS documentary by Douglas A. Blackmon documents the practice of forced slave labor during the late 19th and 20th centuries. Southern and Northern corporate magnates profited immensely from the continuation of slavery after the Civil War and subsequent constitutional amendments purportedly outlawing slavery and the systematic mistreatment of African Americans.

Blackmon paints a horrendous portrait of conditions facing the former enslaved Africans: “Under laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these ostensible ‘debts,’ prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries, and farm plantations. Thousands of other African Americans were simply seized by southern landowners and compelled into years of involuntary servitude. Government officials leased falsely imprisoned blacks to small-town entrepreneurs, provincial farmers, and dozens of corporations—including U.S. Steel—looking for cheap and abundant labor. Armies of ‘free’ black men labored without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced through beatings and physical torture to do the bidding of white masters for decades after the official abolition of American slavery.”

Mass Incarceration for Profit in the Post-Civil Rights Era

The passage of Civil Rights legislation, the emboldened African American political culture and the advent of a new stratum of public figures and social groups did not arise without institutional resistance. Concessions granted to African Americans were carried out under extreme pressure brought about through a series of inter-related actions and global circumstances.

Cold War attitudes linked the demand for equality and self-determination to world Socialism and Communism. After 1947, the administration of President Harry S. Truman oversaw the purging of trade unionists, artists, professionals and business people whose loyalty to U.S. capitalism and imperialism was questioned.

Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy held hearings where people were questioned vehemently about their possible beliefs in Communism. Such extreme displays of paranoia and persecution waned by the late 1950s although the underlying assumptions about the real objectives of creating a society based on equal rights and due process was still held up in suspicion.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) made no distinction between Civil Rights, Black Nationalism and Communism. Any effort aimed at elevating the status of African American was deemed to be automatically subversive.

Leaders and organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was investigated and destabilized right along with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panther Party (BPP). Systematic efforts were made through surveillance, the planting of slanderous material in the media and the framing of activists in concocted criminal plots were designed to both discredit and disrupt political activities.

Political assassination, long term prison sentences and forced exile were part and parcel of a program of social containment aimed at driving African Americans back into Jim Crow and slavery. With the assassination of Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik Shabazz) in February 1965, Dr. King in April 1968 as well as the imprisonment and exile of other African American leaders while criminalizing their organizations, served to hamper the burgeoning struggle for genuine freedom and national liberation.

The advent of hundreds of urban rebellions and other acts of militant resistance during the mid-to-late 1960s and early 1970s were met with firm government repression. This state suppression of the rights of African Americans coincided with the re-structuring of the world capitalist system.

Municipalities such as Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Gary etc., lost millions of job held by African Americans. This was compounded by the outright defeat of U.S. imperialism in Southeast Asia by 1975. African liberation movements won significant victories in the late 1970s and early 1980s which weakened the grip of imperialism over the peoples of the planet.

Therefore, glancing back over these years it is not surprising that after 1980 there was a drastic increase in the rate of incarceration in the U.S. Over these 38 years, the prison population in the country has increased by 500 percent.

African Americans are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. A recent study by the Sentencing Project documents this racialized system of incarceration where African Americans and others are subjected to slave labor conditions and torture.

An article published in the Guardian reveals that: “Black Americans were incarcerated in state prisons at an average rate of 5.1 times that of white Americans, the report said, and in some states that rate was 10 times or more. The US is 63.7 percent non-Hispanic white, 12.2 percent black, 8.7 percent Hispanic white and 0.4 percent Hispanic black, according to the most recent census. The research was conducted by Ashley Nellis, a senior research analyst with the Sentencing Project, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that promotes reforms in criminal justice policy and advocates for alternatives to incarceration. Nellis found that in five states, the disparity rate was more than double the average. New Jersey had the highest, with a ratio of 12.2 black people to one white person in its prison system, followed by Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Vermont. Overall, Oklahoma had the highest rate of black people incarcerated with 2,625 black inmates per 100,000 residents. Oklahoma is 7.7 percent black. Among black men in 11 states, at least 1 in 20 were in a state prison.” (

Overall the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) indicated that 35 percent of state prisoners are white, 38 percent are African American, and 21 percent are of Latin American descent. Combined Black and Brown people constitute nearly 60 percent of the incarcerated population in the U.S.

This process of mass incarceration serves several purposes. These men and women are forced to work under slave labor conditions therefore enhancing the profits for corporate interests which benefit both directly and indirectly from this set of circumstances.

Also the incarceration of oppressed peoples contains them socially and politically. These persons are withdrawn from the formal labor market allowing for the racially split workforce to remain dominant.

Large numbers of Black and Brown people funneled through the police stations, jails, prisons, and under judicial and law-enforcement supervision serves to reinforce stereotypes and pseudo-scientific notions of inferiority among the nationally oppressed. Whites are encouraged through this state of affairs to dismiss claims by African Americans and Latinos that they are actually victims of discrimination. These racist beliefs are reproduced through the jury selection process, verdicts, imprisonment and the treatment of former convicts within society.

The Sentencing Project provides data as well on the rise of private imprisonment over the last few decades. A report issued by them reveals: “Private prisons in the United States incarcerated 126,272 people in 2015, representing 8 percent of the total state and federal prison population. Since 2000, the number of people housed in private prisons has increased 45 percent. States show significant variation in their use of private correctional facilities. For example, New Mexico and Montana incarcerate over 40 percent of their prison populations in private facilities, while states such as Illinois and New York do not employ for-profit prisons. Data compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) show that in 2015, 28 states and the federal government incarcerated people in private facilities run by corporations including GEO Group, Core Civic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), and Management and Training Corporation.” (

This report continues emphasizing the numbers supplied by the Bureau of Justice Statistics which say: “21 of the states with private prison contracts incarcerate more than 500 people in for-profit prisons. Texas, the first state to adopt private prisons in 1985, incarcerated the largest number of people under state jurisdiction, 14,293. Since 2000, the number of people in private prisons has increased 45 percent, compared to an overall rise in the prison population of 10 percent. In six states, the private prison population has increased 100 percent or more during this period. The federal prison system experienced a 125 percent increase in use of private prisons since 2000 reaching 34,934 people in private facilities in 2015.”

There has been a decline of 8 percent in the rate of incarceration in private prisons between 2012 and 2015. Nevertheless, with the coming to power of the Trump administration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed a policy of the previous President Barack Obama to decrease and phase out the use of private prisons for the housing of federal inmates.

The Trump administration has continued the persecution of undocumented and documented immigrant communities. Many of these inmates are housed in private prisons.

A former official of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has recently joined GEO, a major owner of private prisons as alluded to earlier. In late May 2017, Daniel Ragsdale, the former deputy commander at ICE, announced he would be resigning his position with the government to take up employment at GEO Group, which is the second largest private prison corporation in the U.S.

This career move by Ragsdale is surely aimed at strengthening the revenue-generating capacity of such private enterprises through the transferal of government funds. These policies go almost unnoticed by the general public which is whipped up into a false sense of insecurity through the xenophobic propaganda of a supposed threat from immigrants.

Conditions in these private correctional facilities which house immigrants are reportedly extremely dangerous. Inmates with health problems face imminent peril as in other publically-controlled institutions, medical treatment is routinely denied.

Long Term Implications of Mass Incarceration and the Privatization of Prisons

Placing people within correctional institutions for extended periods of time only benefits the racist capitalist system in the U.S. Although there may be an illusory sense of security through mass incarceration, deportations and the denigration of incarcerated persons, it is not in a real sense curbing crime and enhancing social stability.

Moreover, this system of criminalization of the nationally oppressed, the poor and immigrants is unsustainable. These conditions in existence within the U.S. further tarnish the image of the country by exposing America as a bastion of repression and national discrimination.

Slavery by any other name remains unjust. Involuntary servitude has no place within a democratic society. Methods of complete integration and the right to self-determination is the only solution to racial polarization and economic exploitation.

In recent years there has been a resurgence of activism within the prison population. Inmates have engaged in hunger strikes and work stoppages in protest against the dehumanizing conditions they are living in on a daily basis. From Georgia, to Florida and California, these prisoners are signaling to the broader society that change is inevitable.

Whether this change will be peaceful is largely up to the ruling class and their government allies who benefit from mass incarceration. Eventually the system will implode endangering the inmates and the elites who hold them captive.

Those of us concerned about eliminating racism and class exploitation must view the struggle of prisoners as an integral aspect of the movement to end injustice in the U.S. It is within our interest to tear down the existing system and create a society based on equitable security and mutual understanding among peoples.  
Pan-African Journal: Special Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Sat. Feb. 18, 2018--Hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe
Listen to the Sun. Feb. 18, 2018 special edition of the Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire.

To hear the podcast of this program just click on the website below:

The program will feature our regular PANW report with dispatches on the recent release of the film Black Panther which has opened to reviews; the South African government has a new leader in the person of Cyril Ramaphosa; also the Ethiopian government has a new leader as well when Hailemiriam Desalagne resigned.

In the second and third hours we will focus on African American History Month with audio files on Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party.
Lessons Learned From the Past for the Future--Reflections on 1968 and Its Implications for Today
Imperialist War, the dignity of work and the ultimate objective of total freedom

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Saturday February 17, 2018
African American History Month Series No. 3
Note: These remarks were delivered at the Wayne State University Labor Studies Center gathering entitled: “The Building Bridges Conference—Connecting Our Struggles and Identifying Strategies to Build Strength and Solidarity.” The event was held at the Westin Hotel in Southfield, Michigan right outside the city of Detroit.

This panel is designed to emphasize the need to reflect on the history of various efforts aimed at changing the social conditions under which we have lived for an extended period of time.

Since we are five decades away from the groundbreaking year of 1968 I would like to briefly review some important developments which took place just in the first six months of that time and their relationship to what is happening today in 2018.

The focus of my presentation will be related to ongoing problems of imperialist war, the necessity of bringing dignity to all forms of labor, state repression and the movement of the working class to advance its interests within a country and world still dominated by the capitalist mode production.  Since we are speaking from the city of Detroit our experience here portends much for the United States as a whole and indeed the international community in general.

Prior to February 1968, the then administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson was telling the people in America that victory was in sight in the years-long war in Vietnam. However, this changed significantly after the second of the month when the Tet Offensive was launched by the military forces of the National Liberation Front (NLF).

Attacks were carried out in numerous cities and villages throughout South Vietnam including the capital of Saigon. The U.S. embassy became a terrain of battle between Pentagon units and the guerrilla resistance.

By the conclusion of the following month, President Johnson had announced that he would not pursue a second term as head-of-state. Just five days later, the Civil Rights and Antiwar leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis.

The Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike

Within the interim weeks of early February and April 4, 1968, the historic Memphis Sanitation Workers’ strike erupted. This labor manifestation represented a clear break with the past subservience of African American working class people and the white ruling class in the South.

These 1,300 men were demanding recognition as a labor union along with better salaries and working conditions. This strike of course was the outcome of mounting frustration with the system of racial capitalism in the South which had profound implications for the entire country.   

However, it would take a tragic incident to spark the work stoppage. Two African American workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were crushed to death in a malfunctioning garbage truck on February 1.

Angered by the response of the Memphis city administration led by then Mayor Henry Loeb, by February 11 the workers held a meeting to call for a strike. T.O. Jones, who had worked for the Memphis Public Works was the leader of Local 1733 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Although the union had been awarded a charter to organize several years before, they had failed to gain improvements in the situation under which they toiled. 

As the strike continued the intransigence of the Loeb administration accelerated. On February 23 after Loeb had overrode a decision by the City Council to recognize the AFSCME 1733 and its demands, police were called out to attack the sanitation workers and their supporters in downtown Memphis.

In the wake of this provocation the African American community in the city was galvanized forming a strike support committee called Community on the Move for Equality (COME). This group chaired by veteran Civil Rights activist James Lawson brought together people from the clergy, students and community people. By March 18, Dr. King came into to Memphis to address a community rally of 6,000 people in support of the strike.

Linking the Struggles Against War, Poverty and Racism

Conditions were so dire for the sanitation workers that despite their often overtime working hours many of them still qualified for welfare payments and food stamps. The city refused to pay for extended work hours and the safety hazards were such, as mentioned earlier, that two men had been killed by faulty equipment which the city refused to replace.

Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in conjunction with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had come out in opposition to the U.S. occupation and genocidal war in Vietnam. Urban rebellions had rocked over 200 cities since 1964 with Detroit being the largest in July 1967.

Therefore, a convergence of antiwar protests, resistance to the draft, an increasing intolerance of institutional racism and the imperatives of reducing and eliminating poverty, set the stage for a protracted fight against the Johnson administration. Dr. King had been alienated from the president since taking a position demanding an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal from Vietnam.

Concurrently in the late months of 1967 and early 1968, SCLC had announced it was mobilizing thousands of people to erect a tent city in Washington, D.C. demanding swift legislative action from the U.S. Congress to end poverty. The demands of the Poor Peoples Campaign of 1968 are still relevant today: full employment at living wages, national health insurance, a guaranteed annual income and the rebuilding of the inner cities.

Such militant action in all likelihood contributed to the atmosphere that led to the assassination of Dr. King. In days and weeks following his martyrdom, rebellions erupted in approximately 125 cities across the country.

The PPC continued even in the aftermath of Dr. King’s death. Thousands traveled to the nation’s capital where they remained for several weeks.

Nonetheless, the repressive arm of the state would eventually force the tent city to be dismantled by the City of Washington, D.C. Although the PPC was crushed, the legacy of this monumental effort resonates some five decades later.

Lessons for the Contemporary Situation in 2018

There is still much to be said for the overall conditions of working class people and the poor in the present period. A nationwide movement supported by labor has resurfaced to demand significant increases in the minimum wage and union representation. The PPC is once again in operation targeting state capitals in more than two dozen states beginning in May.

Today the gap between rich and poor is even wider than what existed in 1968. Institutional racism is blatant emanating directly from the oval office without apology. Immigrants, people of color, women and other marginalized communities are under constant threat from the federal government urging on armed vigilante groups pledging to “make America great again.”

Threats of imperialist war and its implications remain with the ongoing occupations by the Pentagon and NATO in Afghanistan, the presence of troops in Iraq and Syria, pledges by the administration of President Donald Trump to destroy the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the expansion of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) across the continent, plans to stage a Washington-backed military coup against the sovereign South American state of Venezuela, among other provocations.

As working people we are funding a war machine which has hundreds of bases and other fields of endeavor throughout the world. These resources could be utilized to rebuild the cities, suburbs and the rural areas. Instead of bailing out the banks, the people are in need of pay raises, societal restructuring and reconstruction.

Consequently, there is much work for us to do in the current epoch. The concepts of social unionism are as important in 2018 as they were in the 1930 during the height of the Great Depression. 

Let us take up this challenge and reshape the narrative from one of championing the rich to the crafting of a modern day New Deal for the 21st century. This is our task for the coming weeks and months. 
Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Delivers Statement to Press TV: 'Trump Gun Policy Based on Reelection Concerns': Analyst
Thu Feb 22, 2018 04:55AM

Listen to this statement by clicking on the following URL:

US President Donald Trump’s decision to curb the use of gun-enhancing devices such as a bump-stock ban is a late and inadequate decision that is mostly motivated by reelection concerns, says an African American journalist in Detroit.

“Trump is merely responding because he thinks he will be very vulnerable in the upcoming 2020 [presidential] elections,” said Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire.

“It’s not a genuine approach, it’s a half-hearted- approach, and it’s an approach that really does not get to the heart of the issue,” Azikiwe told Press TV on Sunday.

“We’ve had so many mass shootings in this country…this is happening on a daily basis in the United States,” he added.

Last week, Nikolas Cruz, an ex-student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, opened fire with an AR-15-style assault rifle, killing 17 people in his former school. It was the second-deadliest shooting at a public school in US history.

It was also the 18th school shooting since January 1 in the United States, which loses around 33,000 people to gun violence every year.

US students who survived the deadly mass shooting in Florida are calling for a march on Washington, DC, next month to demand political action on gun violence epidemic in the US.

Student organizers of the protest, dubbed the “March for Our Lives,” told US media that they are determined to use protests to make the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas a turning point in the national debate over gun control.

The organizers said they will demand members of the US Congress to pass gun control legislation, which has always been opposed and foiled by the National Rifle Association (NRA), a powerful lobby group that advocates for gun rights.

The protesters also attacked Trump and other politicians for accepting political donations from the NRA.

The Republican-controlled Congress last year revoked Obama-era regulations meant to make it harder for those with severe mental illness to pass FBI background checks for guns, saying the rule deprived the mentally ill of their gun rights.
Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Delivers Statement to Press TV: Florida School Shooting Reminder That US Is ‘Very Violent Country’: Analyst
Thu Feb 15, 2018 07:05PM

Listen to this statement by click on the website below:

The recent mass shooting at a school in Florida is the latest reminder that the United States is a “very violent country” with persistent gun violence that is a far greater threat than terrorism, an African American journalist in Detroit says.

“It illustrates that the United States is not a peaceful country; it’s a very violent country; it’s a country that was born in violence against Native Americans and Africans,” said Abayomi Azikiwe, editor at the Pan-African News Wire.

“The whole issue of gun control and the effort to combat gun violence is often neglected,” Azikiwe said in a phone interview with Press TV on Sunday.

“There needs to be a real discussion inside the United States about curbing gun violence, about getting some controls over the proliferation of arms inside the United States and if this is not done, the US will deteriorate even further as a society,” he added.

Authorities said Nikolas Cruz, an ex-student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School near Miami opened fire on Wednesday with an AR-15-style assault rifle, killing 17 people in his former school.

Cruz, 19, surrendered to police after the massacre. He was expected to appear in court Thursday afternoon for a bond hearing.

It was the second-deadliest shooting at a public school in US history. Wednesday's attack was the 18th school shooting since January 1 in the United States, which loses around 33,000 people to gun violence every year.

US President Donald Trump addressed the shooting in a White House speech that emphasized school safety and mental health while avoiding any mention of gun policy.

Broward County schools superintendent Robert Runcie called for action on gun laws.

“Now is the time for this country to have a real conversation on sensible gun control laws in this country,” Runcie told a news conference.

The Republican-controlled Congress last year revoked Obama-era regulations meant to make it harder for those with severe mental illness to pass FBI background checks for guns, saying the rule deprived the mentally ill of their gun rights.
Cyril Ramaphosa Inaugurated as South African President
New head-of-state and leader of the African National Congress (ANC) comes from a trade union, political and business background

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Thursday February 15, 2018

A transferal of power from former President Jacob Zuma to his Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has taken place amid jubilation within the Republic of South Africa National Assembly.

President Ramaphosa was unopposed in his confirmation by the legislative body of the most industrialized state on the African continent.

The former trade union leader and chief negotiator for the African National Congress (ANC) after 1990, when former President Nelson Mandela was released from 27 years of imprisonment to embark upon a transitional process from the racist apartheid settler colonial system to a nonracial democratic dispensation, takes over the government amid much uncertainty in recent weeks. Ramaphosa had been chosen as the new ANC president at the National Elective Conference held in December at NASREC.

President Zuma has been under escalating pressure to resign from his office particularly since the ascendancy of Ramaphosa. Zuma and all other ANC and South African governmental heads-of-state are limited to two consecutive terms. Ramaphosa is required to stand again next year during the national elections for both the presidency and national assembly. At present the ANC has a substantial majority within parliament which it has maintained since its rise to power in 1994.

Former President Zuma has been targeted by the South African media for allegations of corruption, popularly referred to as “state capture.” Although Zuma has repeatedly denied such accusations, a growing number of officials within the ANC national leadership structures viewed Zuma as a political liability leading into the 2019 national poll.

Although this cloud had been hovering over Zuma for more than a decade, he had never been convicted in previous attempts at prosecution. A constitutional court decision in 2016 found that the former president had violated regulations surrounding the use of public funds for improvement at his residence in Nkandla.

Nonetheless, the-then President Zuma agreed to pay back funds which were deemed to have been spent inappropriately. Discussions between ANC NEC members and Zuma took on a sense of urgency during the first two weeks of February.

Reports indicated that Zuma had resisted resignation saying that the party had not stated specifically what laws and regulations he had violated. Additional media stories claimed that Zuma had agreed in principle to resign within a six month timeframe.

By February 12, the ANC leadership had made a decision to recall the president from office with immediate effect. Talks continued on February 13 while an announcement was made that Zuma would address the nation the following day.

In an extended nearly hour long interview over the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) television on the morning of February 14, Zuma put his case before the people and the world. He reiterated that he was not defying the party and was only asking for the NEC to articulate why it was imperative for him to step down.

However, later that evening, President Zuma went on national television and announced his resignation after a 30 minute address to the country. He thanked the ANC and the South African people for providing him with an opportunity to serve as a cadre and leader of the struggle for nearly six decades.

Response of the ANC and the Challenges of the New Leader

The resignation of the president was met with relieve by the party leadership. A statement was issued soon afterwards accepting Zuma’s decision and commending him for his role within the organization.

This declaration by the ANC said in part: “Having taken the difficult decision to recall Comrade Jacob Zuma, the African National Congress nonetheless wants to salute the outstanding contribution he has made and express its profound gratitude to him for the role he has played in the African National Congress spanning over sixty years of loyal service. Whilst this may mark an end of his term of office as President of the Republic, we hope and believe Comrade Jacob Zuma will continue to work with the ANC as we undertake our program of fundamental organizational renewal and uniting all South Africans behind a shared vision of transformation and economic recovery. Comrade Zuma is the last in our line of Presidents to have worked closely with the longest serving President of the ANC, Comrade Oliver Tambo. He was trusted by Comrade OR and the ANC to set up underground structures of the movement. He also played a pivotal role in the peaceful negotiation of our transition from apartheid to democracy.”

On February 15, Deputy President Cyril Ramphosa was sworn in as the new leader of the Republic of South Africa. The president was nominated for the position by the ANC being the largest party within the National Assembly. Ramaphosa was uncontested in his bid for office leaving him with an immense responsibility of directing the country towards national unity and economic development.

At present South Africa is emerging from recession spawned by the challenges which are inflicting African and other emerging regions in the aftermath of the precipitous decline in energy and commodity prices since 2014. The South African rand, although recovering somewhat in recent months, has suffered depreciation over the last few years.

Unemployment in South Africa is officially at 26.7 percent during the final quarter of 2017 having declined slightly from 27.7 in the previous period. The nation of some 56 million people had a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $US295 billion at the end of 2016. Amid a slight recovery from the recession, the annual growth rate in 2016 was 0.3 percent. (

The two leading industries in the economy, mining and manufacturing, have been in decline for a number of years. Much of this also stems from the systematic disinvestment from the country in response to the rise of the ANC to power and the militant character of the trade union movement which has demanded larger salaries, better benefits and working conditions.

Business Live reported in an article during May 2017 that: “Manufacturing output was down 1.1% in the December quarter. This decrease was mainly due to lower production in the food and beverages sector, which was down 2.6 percent; and in petroleum, chemical products, rubber and plastic products, which was down by 2.3 percent. Mining and manufacturing output are two major pointers for the economy’s growth prospects. The Reserve Bank’s most recent forecast put economic growth for 2016 at 0.4 percent. Mining output, released earlier on Thursday, decreased by 1.9 percent year on year in December, and was 2.7 percent down for the quarter.” (

Moreover, the radical redistribution of resources including land, finance, mining, manufacturing and agricultural production is far overdue. The recent ANC National Policy Conference during mid-2017 renewed its mandate for such reforms. Nevertheless, South Africa, despite its role as a leading economy on the continent, the region still remains well entrenched in the capitalist mode and relations of production.

A break with the world capitalist system in South Africa is necessary for genuine growth and sustainable development. These measures would require similar policy efforts in other states throughout the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) member states as well.

President Ramaphosa Takes Journey from Labor to Business and Political Leadership

Ramaphosa has decades of experience like Zuma in the ANC and resistance politics in South Africa. As the former Secretary General of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Ramaphosa played a central role in the national liberation movement.

He was chosen by former ANC and South African President Nelson Mandela to lead the negotiation team which reached agreement on a new constitution mandating the removal of the racist apartheid system. There was much speculation that Ramaphosa would be the successor to Mandela. This position went to former President Thabo Mbeki who was elected as head-of-state in 1999.

Mbeki was re-elected again in 2004. Eventually resulting from factional issues, he was recalled by the ANC in 2008 paving the way for an interim administration under Deputy and later President Kgalema Motlanthe.

Ramaphosa left his position as Secretary General of the ANC in 1996 to pursue a career in business. This was done in part to provide funding for the party so that it was not reliant upon transnational corporations for its resources.

According to an article published by News24 in July 2015: “The ANC aimed to fund itself via selected and well positioned cadres placed within the private sector. This was done firstly to create a funding loophole which could not be done within the ANC as the capitals raised were from within its own alliance. Secondly it ensured that the ANC would not need to rely on other companies to raise funds which could have become a risk if the private sector colluded against the ANC. Thirdly it would provide a mechanism for broad based ownership on the JSE (Johannesburg Stock Exchange) and link private sector companies to the ANC.” (

President Ramaphosa will inevitably need to take swift action as it relates to the national economy along with the drought which has struck South Africa. A national drought emergency was declared recently. In Cape Town water resources are limited for personal usage.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), which Ramaphosa was a co-founder in 1985, has cited that priority for water distribution must not be with the still white-dominated agricultural sector. Cape Town municipal structures are controlled by the opposition right-wing Democratic Alliance (DA) and COSATU harshly criticized the DA Mayor Patricia De Lille along with her party in general for worsening the crisis.

COSATU noted in a press release issued in early February: “The threat to jobs and lives of people through diseases from sanitation spills that the DA risked has happened because they want to ensure continued water supply to farmers. Surely farmer’s plants must be allowed to die before people do, but for the DA, Black people lives are less important than farmer’s profit, from export products. The city and the province should know how much water is available in the dam and who the water is meant to go to. If the calculation reveals that half the water that is in the dams must go to farmers, then that must be checked and stopped before creating panic among residents. Failure to do this would be ridiculous. The fact is that farmers have used more water and that needs to stop.”

These and other vital questions must be addressed soon by the Ramaphosa administration in order to prepare for the 2019 elections. Both COSATU and the South African Communist Party (SACP), the two key allies of the ANC in the Tripartite Alliance, have welcomed the inauguration of the new president pledging to work with the ANC for the advancement of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR).