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Monday, July 19, 2021

A Tale of Two Countries

Two countries have made the front pages and lead stories in our lemming-like capitalist media: Haiti and Cuba.

One country-- Haiti-- has earned the ire of the self-styled Western democracies by overthrowing its colonial slave masters and establishing a free state in 1803, the first country in history to liberate itself from European-imposed slavery. The Europeans and elites in the US never forgave the rebellious followers of Toussaint L’Ouverture and their descendants. Through occupations, threats, “incentives,” and economic extortion, imperialism has ensured that Haiti remains among the poorest countries of the Americas, ranking 145 on the UN’s Human Development Index.

The brutal assassination of the Haitian President, an attempted coup d’état by rightwing mercenaries, only added to the country’s miseries.

Meanwhile, the US cannot decide who it wants to lead Haiti since the assassination: The UN special representative for Haiti, Helen La Lime, a US citizen, designated Claude Joseph. But the self-styled International Core group-- a collection of ambassadors led by the US-- has designated Ariel Henry. As has become the custom, the Haitian people will have little say.

The other country-- Cuba-- earned its punishment in 1959 when Cuban revolutionaries defeated the US puppet government of Fulgencio Battista, liberating the island’s people from a destiny as the US’s playground and a source of super-exploited labor. The US has never forgiven the Fidelistas for their defiance of the empire to the north. Cuba’s embrace of socialism only enraged the beast even more.

US agencies devote persistent attention to overthrowing the government of Cuba and many millions of dollars back up those goals. Against the expressed UN opposition of nearly every country in the world, the US has imposed an air-tight blockade against the tiny island of eleven million people, denying its people even the most basic fruits of economic activity. Moreover, a day has not passed in the last sixty years that the US was not intervening in Cuban affairs.

Therefore, anyone who has any familiarity with recent Cuban history and has read reports of “demonstrations” on July 11 directed against the Cuban government must immediately look for the barely-hidden hand of US agency, supporting, even directing these demonstrations. It is impossible for any honest journalist to not at least entertain the possibility of US involvement.

And yet the first reports from NPR referred to the spontaneity of these demonstrations, as though there was no organization or planning, a ridiculous claim for a network that also insists that Cuba is a police state. Excited reporters inflated the numbers engaged from hundreds to thousands. Pictures cropped or lifted from entirely different, even pro-Cuba events were disseminated by the blood-lusting media, including AP, Reuters, The Financial Times, and The Guardian, and others, as evidence of street opposition.

The number of wild, outlandish claims about Cuba grew geometrically after the events of July 11. The watchdogs of social media were uncharacteristically docile as every imaginable slander of Cuba emerged, a commonplace of US destabilization campaigns.

NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and other media sources attributed the spark for these demonstrations to a dissident rapper who created a slick video in collaboration with a “superstar” expatriate rapper with deep pockets. While this made for an attractive cover-- a feel-good story of individual courage and initiative-- the mainstream media showed little interest in the US-financed twitter campaign waged through automated tweets emanating from outside the island and backed by US dollars.

They also fail to mention the focused US campaign to fund and influence the island’s youth culture against the Cuban government. 

For an industry fixated on exposing “meddling” in US affairs, the infotainment corporations chose to ignore the long history of US-funded regime-change fronts assigned to destabilize Cuba. The World Peace Council provides a handy guide to numerous US-sponsored media organs aligned against the leadership of the Cuban Communist Party, all of which barely conceal their interference in Cuban affairs.

Shamefully, those who are today aghast at conditions in Cuba and blame Cuban problems on the revolutionary leadership that Cuban citizens have chosen never directly address the cruel blockade, the even more stringent sanctions, and the intimidation of Cuba’s friends by its unfriendly neighbor. They do not point to the lost trade, the forbidden remittances, the denied tourism that would allow Cubans to live a more prosperous life. 

In a matter-of-fact fashion, Western commentators cite the recent rise of COVID cases in Cuba, neglecting to mention the lack of syringes to deliver the vaccines developed by Cuba’s advanced biomedical programs, a lack that is the direct result of the US-imposed blockade. A campaign to counter the blockade and provide syringes to save Cubans from COVID death has been in effect for many months, entirely ignored by the capitalist media.

While conditions are difficult in Cuba, the vast majority of Cubans have and will continue to support a revolutionary government that stands between them and the world of grinding poverty and degradation that their grandparents knew. Even the younger generations that never experienced the colonial horrors of gangster rule and slave-like working conditions bear the pride in independence that stretches from Jose Martí to Fidel Castro. They will not surrender their right to determine Cuba’s future to foreign interests and democracy haters.

The US’s capitalist allies choose to stand with the bully against a proud, but poor victim, surrendering their integrity to a vicious blockade. The values that NATO so sanctimoniously proclaims are mocked by the organization’s complicity in strangling the tiny Caribbean Island.

Of course, there is a lesson for those umbilically tied to the Democratic Party. Despite campaign pledges, Biden has continued, even exceeded, Trump’s assault on Cuban independence. Journalists have urged his press secretary to elaborate his Cuba policy, but received only evasions. That policy is now clear. The Miami Mafia and New Jersey’s Havana on the Hudson drive Biden’s team to retreat from Obama’s opening and toward subversion of Cuba’s right to self-determination. For the ethically challenged New Jersey Senator Menendez’s vote, the Biden administration is willing to sell out Cuba.

In the midst of the July 11 excuse for attacking Cuban socialism and Cuban sovereignty, a group including “leftist” intellectuals Etienne Balibar, Noam Chomsky, Robert Brenner, and Mike Davis picked this particular moment to circulate a petition to free Cuban intellectuals allegedly arrested by Cuban authorities on July 11. While propounding their solidarity with Cuba, they show no indication that they discussed the allegation publicly or privately with Cuban authorities; they grant no prima facie credibility to the Cuban criminal justice system; from afar, they assume innocence of charges despite little or no knowledge of the circumstances. In short, they presume that the Cuban authorities engage in arbitrary, unwarranted arrests-- a hallmark of a police state. This is a strange posture for “friends” of the Cuban revolution-- an irresponsible, unconscionable act while Cuba is under severe duress from imperialism.

This is not a moment for quarreling over individual rights-- the manic obsession of the comfortable and the privileged-- when the collective right of self-determination claimed by eleven million Cubans is under attack by our leaders. 

At great costs, Cuba has escaped the plight of Haiti, successfully holding off the domination of the North American behemoth. Should US imperialism succeed, Cuba will be swarmed by US agencies, corrupt aid packages, World Bank and IMF carpetbaggers, and the other counterparts to the sanctimonious missionaries of the Colonial era.

Haiti and Cuba have the same enemies. They are victimized by the same opportunistic politicians, the same jaded journalists, and the same spies, who all work to maintain or turn both into neo-colonies.

The same nest of counter revolutionaries, criminals, and vultures headquartered in Miami that now call for the bombing or invasion of Cuba and for sending troops to Haiti gave birth to the assassination of Haiti’s president on July 7.

Cuba and Haiti will win!

Greg Godels

Friday, July 9, 2021

Beyond Jeremiads: Fighting Racism

It was inevitable that capitalism would commodify anti-racism. That is what capitalism does with everything.


Anti-racism had fallen out of fashion with the election of Barack Obama. While our small, radical left continued to see racism as a scourge on an historically oppressed people, the media celebrated the individual successes of some Blacks as a sign that the barriers to progress were largely removed and we were entering what they wanted us to believe was a post-racial era.

The arming of witnesses with high-resolution smartphone cameras forced anti-racism back into the national conversation. Lurid, graphic videos of police violence against Black youth brought disgust into living rooms, as it did over fifty years earlier with television exposure of the horrors of the war in Vietnam. Consequently, anti-racism experienced a revival, with millions of people across the country and across many demographics raising their voices in protest.

Yet, some saw an opportunity to be seized, a chance for a career, for advancement in a newfound industry of antiracism.

Academic lust for attention-- for the “new” -- birthed the concept of “microaggressions,” the notion that the subtlety of manners, body language, and casual speech carry the germ of racism, indeed, foster racism. 

But microaggressions are to the “macroaggressions” of premature death, poor health care outcomes, grinding poverty, and the super-exploitation facing Black people as headaches are to terminal cancer.

The champion of microaggressions, the leading merchant of the commodification of anti-racism, is unquestionably Robin DiAngelo. Despite no outstanding history in the anti-racism movement, DiAngelo exploded on the national scene with her number one New York Times bestseller, White Fragility. Her book got her unlimited invites on the talk show circuit. And she promptly monetized her fame through lectures and consultancies. Her con was a variation on the “we are all sinners” motif of the holy rollers. Like the stolid burgher in the first pew who must be embarrassed into seeing his or her sinful ways, DiAngelo forces the most racially sensitive liberal or progressive to examine his or her record of awkward moments, verbal stumbles, and clumsy locutions to find that “we are all racists.” She is quick to point out that her exorcisms of microaggressions do not lead to redemption, but must be repeated again and again interminably.

I have written about Robin DiAngelo before, unapologetically excoriating her book, her sanctimony, and her vulgar commercialization of her bogus anti-racism. Now she has a new book, Nice Racism: How Progressive White People perpetuate Racial Harm, and is again making the rounds of the talk shows. Her recent interview on CBS This Morning was typically cringeworthy, citing racial social etiquette as though it were on a par with lynching. She recounts a story of a dinner 30 years ago in which she clumsily sought to impress African American guests with her own racial sensitivity, a gambit that she elevates to a major act of white supremacy.

Matt Taibbi tells us (Our Endless Dinner with Robin DiAngelo) that the new book is simply a plagiarizing of White Fragility, though I wouldn’t know since I refuse to add to the DiAngelo phenomenon by buying the book. Taibbi performs a neat piece of gonzo journalism on the book, mocking her self-righteousness and superiority with his usual sarcastic wit.

However, there is a problem with our shared disgust with DiAngelo’s hucksterism.

It is not enough to simply call her out. Racism is real. DiAngelo’s popular pseudo-anti-racism shields millions of people from an authentic confrontation with the raw ugliness of racism; it leads people to believe that the barriers to racial justice have been overcome, excepting interpersonal relationships; it spotlights feelings, emotions, sensitivities over the hard evidence of racial oppression. In short, Robin DiAngelo deflects attention away from the heavy material burden that racism actually places on Black people.

Unfortunately, Taibbi and others who correctly criticize DiAngelo’s peddling of anti-racism often fail to affirm the actualities of racism, the material consequences of white supremacy.

In the last few weeks, articles have surfaced documenting the scandalous consequences of material racism.

The New York Times ran an article on June 28 with the odd, provocative title Black Workers Stopped Making Progress on Pay. Is It Racism?. The heading was odd because the article actually documents that the gap between Black male and white male earning has actually widened in the last 50 years! When was there progress?

Black men, on average, earned 56 cents for every dollar earned by their white counterparts in 2019 when adjusted for unemployment rates, according to The New York Times

The pay gap has persisted for generations, despite the fact that African Americans have dramatically reduced the education gap. Liberal ideologues have long argued that differences in wealth and income are driven by educational differences. But that excuse for racism evaporates in the face of the facts: “While African Americans lag behind whites in educational attainment, that disparity has narrowed substantially over the last 40 years. Still, the wage gap hasn’t budged.”

The seemingly intractable wage gap of 20% for all Black workers when compared to their white counterparts has a name. It is “structural racism.” “Racism,” because it damages its victims profoundly and with long-term consequences. “Structural,” because it super-exploits Black workers, enabling a pattern justifying lower wages for all workers and to the benefit of capitalist enterprises. 

It might be asking too much for a white “progressive” like Robin DiAngelo to bring these facts before the audience that allegedly brings her three-quarters of a million dollars a year in lecture fees. Evidence of decades of cheating Blacks of fair compensation surely deserves as much attention as regretted words over a dinner at a nice restaurant in a nice neighborhood.

Perhaps DiAngelo also overlooked the life expectancy numbers that came out in the wake of the pandemic from both the CDC and The BMJ (associated with the British Medical Association). Not surprisingly, US citizens, in general, lost more life expectancy from our failing, for-profit health care system than did our counterpart countries with national or single-payer systems (“8.5 times the average decrease in 16 comparable countries..”).

But the dramatic difference between whites and Blacks (and Latino y Latinas) is a national disgrace. Where The BMJ claims that the average white person in the US lost 1.4 years of life expectancy at birth between 2018 and 2020, the average life expectancy of Blacks dropped 3.25 years (and Latino y Latinas by 3.9 years)!

Quoted by NBC News, Steven Woolf, who led The BMJ study and is director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, said “What I didn’t anticipate was how badly the U.S. would handle the pandemic… These are numbers we aren’t at all used to seeing in this research; 0.1 years is something that normally gets attention in the field, so 3.9 years and 3.25 years and even 1.4 years is just horrible,” Woolf said. “We haven’t had a decrease of that magnitude since World War II.”

Life expectancy for Black men is now just below 68 years (68.3 in CDC data for 2020). That means that the average Black male will pay into Social Security and Medicare and see little or none of the benefits, a cruel consequence of the racism built into a dysfunctional social welfare and health care system.

The gap in life expectancy between Blacks and whites is now 5.81 years! Whether it is racialized health care or impoverishment or some other inequality that accounts for this gap, the result is a national scandal.

But more significantly, these numbers underscore outcomes that are baked into US institutions and do demonstrable harm to African Americans. The US socio-politico-economic system systematically produces and reproduces material deprivations on Black people, guaranteeing a second-class citizenship for generations to come.

Television interviews, self-help books, book club readings, sermons, and jeremiads have little impact on these obstacles to racial justice. Shaming, cajoling, or sensitivity training will not break the grip of racism on the material condition of Black People in the US.

Instead, we must impose racial justice on our institutions. We must insist upon workplace representation that reflects our multinational, multi-ethnic society. Popular notions of education reform, elevating role models, promoting inspirational talks, or leaving justice to the market have shown that they will not work.

Every past effort to rectify the economic inequalities imposed by racist practices-- from forty acres and a mule to workplace affirmative action-- has been met with resistance from wealth and power. When the discussion turns to reparative racial justice, the DiAngelos of the world and their corporate promoters stare at their shoes. They would rather talk about racism than incur the economic costs that would come with restorative change. That might cost their bottom line.

Less of Robin DiAngelo’s hustle, more affirmative action!

Greg Godels