Reparations

Chris Brady cdbrady at attglobal.net
Mon Aug 19 17:33:10 MDT 2002


Louis wrote:
"As far as white resentment is concerned, it is up to people like us to
clarify the issues. Unfortunately, nearly every black demand since the
end of the Civil War has led to white resentment of one sort or another.
In fact the Irish workers in NYC rioted against conscription during the
Civil War and attacked blacks on the street and burned their businesses.
I am quite sure that some Germans resented having to make reparations
to the Jews after WWII, especially under conditions of economic
collapse, but it would ill serve our movement if we caved in to
their racism."

I am sure Louis didn't mean to conflate Nazi guilt with the reactions of
Irish working class refugees in the early 1860s.  The Irish riot was
surely racist in character but was also the result of the goading of the
press, priests and politicians of many illiterate people with living
memories of famine and starvation of loved ones, mass murder, cruel
negligence and brutal prejudice, who saw cartoons depicting them not as
vulnerable victims but as apes and idiots yet beneath the sentiment
reserved for animals, who were denied entry to public places because of
their ethnicity and language, who were forced by their class position to
take the worst and most dangerous jobs to feed their families--and were
faced with the possibility of competition with freed slaves for those
jobs, and the downward pressure on their wages, and --to add insult to
injury-- were forced by conscription to fight for this threatened
possibility against what they perceived to be their and their families'
own best interests, while the rich Anglo and Dutch heirs of New York
bought their way out of having to risk their blood for their Republic.
Deprived and depraved, those Irish scum did horrible things.  Why
couldn't they have been nicer and better behaved?  Well, now most of us
are, thank-you very much.  As they adopted the mores of the majority,
the white Irish were coopted and slipped into the mainstream and became
American.  But many of African blood can say, to this day: "America was
never America for me."

I agree with Patrick that this reparations struggle has the potential to
aggravate race relations, but I fail to see why marxists should become
apologists for capitalism and its bourgeois legalisms.  I support
reparations because, in part, it demonstrates the folly of attempting
justice in this system.  Most poor people in the USA are white.  What
about reparations for the working class?  Of the world?

What about descendants of slaves who took the Underground Railroad
north into Canada?  Will they be left out of the settlement for the
African-American descendents of slaves?  What about recently arrived
African people from the Caribbean?  Haiti? The Dominican Republic? As
internationalists, what about Brazil?  Colombia and Venezuela?  Jamaica
and Puerto Rico?  A complete redistribution of global wealth based on
the criminality of all governments to date?

The reparations struggle should be recognized as an opportunity to
radicalize the US working class by awakening them to the universal
principles of social, economic, and historic justice.
Will reparations confound the ruling class?  Damn right!
Will they try to use it to split up the working class even more?
Damn right!  Will they try to keep on with privatization and regressive
 taxation?  Well, let's see, why shouldn't they?  Their only real
opponent is the unity and solidarity of working people.

If reparations actually goes through (IF!)  the plan is to strengthen
the worst off first off, according to Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.
in this past weekend's Sunday magazine, USA WEEKEND (Aug. 16-18, 2002).
For the US working class this can only be a postive development
(for a great many reasons, e.g., the capitalist instruments that
eed on racism and poverty, etc., e.g., the prison industrial complex,
etc.).  And if reparations are refused, the result would further reveal
the hypocrisy of justice under a system for which the notion is
secondary to profit, and in actuality, its antithesis.

To white workers, ask: who should pay?  If, like Pat says, his family
never owned slaves, then what class of folks did?  Does that class
still benefit from a history of racist slavery and exploitation?
Did that class not benefit from aggravated racial antagonism and
oppression?  Was not this country built on labor?
Well, then, who should pay?
Certainly NOT the working class.

Follow the money.

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