Alternative alternative at
Wed Apr 3 17:43:17 MST 2002


The issue of reparations is a democratic demand.  As capitalism and
imperialism entered into its senile epoch, many democratic demands
acquired a transitional character.

Asserting that the question of reparations is a conservative approach to
capitalism is, IMO, a misguided criticism.  The debate is not whether
Marxists should support the issue of reparations, but what kind of
reparations could be supported.

Capitalism cannot afford and is adamantly against recognizing its
history of primitive accumulation of capital through slavery and the
genocide of indigenous peoples and Blacks during colonial times and
beyond as it cannot recognize the present day utilization and
super-exploitation of immigrant workers.

It will be interesting to note that the support of large sectors of
Social democracy for colonialism, anti-immigrant positions and finally
of the war efforts of their own bourgeoisies were at the root of the
collapse of the 2nd International and these issues had, since then,
lingered in the Marxist movement as key questions to be trashed out.

The question of democratic demands and in particular reparations has a
powerful appeal for broad sectors of oppressed communities, but also in
significant layers of other communities.

Couple of years ago I participated in putting on the ballot in San
Francisco the Bayview Hunters Point Reparations Act (essentially around
the issues in a prominently African American neighborhood). In spite the
opposition of both the Republican and Democratic Parties, most of the
media and the mainstream Black leadership in the neighborhood, the
proposition won a whopping 80% of the vote in the Black and Latino areas
of the City and close to 45% citywide (70,000+ votes).

If reparations are aimed at creating jobs, health and education
benefits, etc in a process in which elected councils from the oppressed
communities will have the power to decide where and how to invest the
funds, I see no reason for not supporting wholeheartedly such
initiatives.  I'm NOT particularly afraid of the ability of capitalism
to co-opt these initiatives, which seems to be the main concern from
many quarters in the Marxist movement.

Of course, a debate with the demagogues and minimalists who would reduce
the issue of reparations to the creation of a new, smallish privileged
layer as a token gesture should occur, but isn't that something that
would happen around any other issue as well?


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