Published in Issue 416 of The Black Commentator on March 3, 2011
Republished in thepeoplesvoice.org on March 4, 2011
The second paragraph of this article was quoted in Africa: Race, Class Struggle And Organised Labour in the ‘Age of Wisconsin’ by Ajamu Nangwaya, published March 31, 2011 (linchpin.ca), April 2, 2011 (dissidentvoice.org), April 21, 2011 (pambazuka.org), April 21, 2011 (allAfrica.com, page 3-4) and elsewhere.

By Larry Pinkney

“History is the only true teacher, the revolution the best school for the proletariat…Marxism is a revolutionary worldview that must always struggle for new revelations.”–Rosa Luxemburg

“Industry required ever greater skills, thus closing their doors to the poor. Unions, fearing automation, warded off the poor; their predominantly White members often developed a paranoiac racism.”

–Introduction by Franz Schurmann for the book, To Die for the People, by Huey P. Newton

Being euphorically oblivious to the inherent contradictions of class struggle in a corporate-capitalist society is a certain recipe for perpetuating hypocrisy and assuring catastrophe.

While it is certainly heartening to see some people making and taking a stand in Madison, Wisconsin, this does not mean that Wisconsin has somehow become Egypt. It has not. There are numerous inherent contradictions that have yet to be forthrightly addressed in Wisconsin, U.S.A., and which strongly impact the most economically and politically dispossessed and despised of people in Wisconsin and throughout the United States.

A major portion of the so-called “progressive” media has thus far committed an enormous disservice to the poorest and most downtrodden of everyday Black, White, Brown, and Yellow people by pretending that the struggle in Madison, Wisconsin, is truly reflective of the aforementioned everyday people. It is not. It is perhaps an important beginning-awakening of a kind, but it is not a people’s movement led by and for the most dispossessed of that state or of the United States as a whole. Nor is the clash in Wisconsin, fundamentally one between the Republicans and Democrats [i.e. the Republicrats]; as the Democrat and Republican parties there have worked together for many years - particularly with reference to disenfrachising and incarcerating Black and Indigenous people in that state. It warrants taking a closer look at Wisconsin, the home state of the former and notoriously infamous U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Though meticulously ignored by both the corporate-stream media and the so-called “progressive” media, Wisconsin, despite its relatively small Black population, has the highest proportional rate of Black incarceration in the nation, followed closely by the “liberal” state of Minnesota (with its own outrageously high rates of racial disparity relating to Black and Indigenous incarceration). This is absolutely no coincidence, and has been consistently supported by Republican and Democratic party politicians alike. A similar massively disproportionate and horribly high rate of racial disparities can also be found in Wisconsin, as they pertain to unemployment, under-employment, and police brutality afflicting the Black and Indigenous populations there. Let us not be euphorically oblivious. Wisconsin is not Egypt. Indeed, most everyday brown and black-skinned North African-Egyptians would be hard pressed to live in Wisconsin, being accorded real dignity and respect.

And what of the economically disenfranchised White farmers and their families in Wisconsin, many of whose farms have been nefariously gobbled-up by the avaricious multinational corporations of agribusiness et al? What of them?! These people, like many others, do not even have union jobs or protections, no matter how tenuous such jobs might be. Their lives are cynically toyed with by both Democratic and Republican party politicians, as if they are expendable ping-pong balls. They must not be forgotten!

Notwithstanding the historical (and still present) racism on the part of far too many unions in this nation; everyday rank and file union members of all colors and both genders have nonetheless tenaciously struggled and given their very lives for the right of collective bargaining, only to be often sold out by “concessions” made by much of their own union leadership. The right of collective bargaining should be viewed as a fundamental human right, not only in Madison, Wisconsin, but throughout this nation. However, there is a very real danger, as has been consistently demonstrated, particularly in the past thirty years, of unions becoming the hapless political pawns of most especially the Democratic Party, which patronage is always at the expense of their rank and file union membership. Whether this will occur or not with respect to the struggle in Madison, Wisconsin, remains to be seen. What is clear is that there needs to be a concerted, clear, educated, and consistent struggle for bringing about an end to corporate-capitalism in all of its odious forms, not a revising or reforming of it. This applies not only to unions but also to any organization engaged in a viable people’s struggle for real, systemic change. The corporate-capitalist pie is a filthy and poisonous one that is utterly and wholly politically bankrupt in favor of a relatively tiny corporate / military elite. If the leadership of unions in Madison, Wisconsin, or in any other part of this nation for that matter, fails to steadfastly demand and organize for the right of collective bargaining and systemic change – said leadership should be swiftly and uncompromisingly replaced - without missing a beat!

Observing much of the so-called “progressive” and/or Left media in this nation falling all over itself as it proclaims that the struggle in Wisconsin is somehow the same as the people’s struggle in Egypt and other parts of North Africa and the ‘Middle East’, etc. is inaccurate, disingenuous, and utterly hypocritical. The “activists” in Madison, Wisconsin, may want to seriously consider, as a part of the struggle there, exposing, for example, the connection between corporate capitalism, the corporate weapons research and/or development carried out at the University of Wisconsin and the U.S.corporate-government’s ongoing support for repressive puppet regimes around the world. To be sure, the ongoing struggle in Egypt is a legitimate and much-needed and wonderful inspiration to the people of Wisconsin and no doubt elsewhere, but it is definitely not the same as Wisconsin. Moreover, “progressives” and Leftists in this nation must openly and forthrightly address the contradictions contained within any genuine “class struggle” in this society, with a view towards eradicating them, not ignoring them and pretending they don’t exist. Being in solidarity with struggles of oppressed peoples worldwide, including in Egypt, is extremely important. But it is quite a different thing from being Egypt, or Tunisia, or Haiti, etc. We must not be infantile or “romantic” in the political sense. We must be real.

Let us hope for and work to ensure that the struggle in Wisconsin becomes a national one that encompasses and, in a major way, is led by, the everyday dispossessed Black, White, Brown, Red, and Yellow people of this land, even as we grapple with our own contradictions while being in active solidarity with struggling peoples globally. In this struggle, recognizing and addressing contradictions, be they class, gender, or, color contradictions, serves to sharpen [e.g.clarify] the struggle. Clarification in this ongoing struggle is enormously important. After all, this people’s struggle for economic and political justice and human rights – is a process, not an end to itself.

Remember, as Rosa Luxemburg stated, “history is the only true teacher,” even as we maintain a “worldview” in “this struggle for new revelations.”

Onward my sisters and brothers! Onward!

Larry Pinkney is a veteran of the Black Panther Party, the former Minister of Interior of the Republic of New Africa, a former political prisoner and the only American to have successfully self-authored his civil/political rights case to the United Nations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In connection with his political organizing activities, Pinkney was interviewed in 1988 on the nationally televised PBS News Hour, formerly known as The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, and more recently on the nationally syndicated Alex Jones Show. Pinkney is a former university instructor of political science and international relations, and his writings have been published in various places, including The Boston Globe, San Francisco BayView newspaper, Black Commentator, Intrepid Report, Global Research (Canada), LINKE ZEITUNG (Germany), 107 Cowgate (Ireland and Scotland), and Mayihlome News (Azania/South Africa). He is in the archives of Dr. Huey P. Newton (Stanford University, CA), cofounder of the Black Panther Party. For more about Larry Pinkney see the book, Saying No to Power: Autobiography of a 20th Century Activist and Thinker, by William Mandel [Introduction by Howard Zinn]. (Click here to read excerpts from the book.)

 

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