Sunday, 28 February 2016

AN AMERICAN MADE CRISIS: Europe’s Muslim Concentration Camp in Greece

The entire world is well aware of the humanitarian crisis arising from Muslim refugees fleeing war-torn countries that include Syria, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The countries are all Muslim and the common trait they share is that the US and its European and Middle East allies engaged in military solutions to political crises that have not spilled over into a massive trans-continental refugee crisis. The refugee tragedy is a massive humanitarian one according to the United Nations, and it is becoming worse because the principal country, namely the US, causing the refugee crisis is absolving itself of any responsibility from this crisis and only focuses on where to create the next military intervention. This does not mean that Russia backing the Assad regime is free of culpability. However, the Russians are trying to weaken the jihadist elements in Syria that are forcing the mass displacement of people.

In the official White House web site, the US states that 12 million people or half of Syria’s population has been displaced since 2011 and it is entirely the fault of the Assad regime.\ The US position is that along with the Syrian government, Russia, Iran and to a lesser extent China are really responsible because they would not permit the US and its regional allies – Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states – to remove Assad from power and place a regime of their liking. In other words do exactly what they did in Libya where things have worked so remarkably well since the US and its allies along with al-Qaeda removed Muammar Gaddafi from power.  

 Although by no mean the sole culprit, the US was the driving force behind military interventions that destabilized every one of these countries and caused the dislocation of four million refugees from Syria lone and millions more from the other Muslim war-torn nations that the US and its allies decided to destabilize for geopolitical and economic advantages in the last fifteen years. Although the West presents itself as humanitarian, developing countries host more than 80% of the world’s refugees. According to the United Nations, the world refugee population hit 60 million in 2014 and it surpassed that figure in 2015, largely because of conflicts invariably created not owing to local opposing groups – government vs. rebels – but foreign interventions of one type or the other. \

Those who read about the refugee crisis from a distance may see Greece as Europe’s warehouse. However, a closer examination of the refugees in Greece reveals that this tiny Balkan country could evolve into Europe’s concentration camp in many respects minus the “final solution”. This is not only because of the dreadful conditions that prevail for refugees everything from lack of food and medicine, but because the number one reason for the humanitarian crisis and the reaction of the entire Western World is racism. Non-white Muslims trying to enter the predominantly white European continent is an anathema to Europeans whether they are neo-Nazis, conservative or even liberal in many cases who do not want their way of life, social structure and culture contaminated with Muslim influences. Of course the European businesses love the cheap labor migrants provide, but they detest the people that provide cheap labor.

European racism and religious prejudice toward Muslims has deep roots that date back to the crusades. The Muslim refugee crisis has intensified such latent prejudices and it has made the Muslims the scapegoats for all calamities that have fallen on Europe amid contracting economies and slow job and income growth. People would much prefer to blame the Muslims running from their war-torn countries that the West ravaged than their governments and corporations responsible for the crisis in the first place. The US war on terror resurrected racism and xenophobia to new heights and the Muslims are now the new Jews of the Western World. (J.L. Thomas, Scapegoating Islam;

On 25 February 2016, the EU interior ministers meeting in Brussels centered on Austria’s proposal to lock out all refugees from entering Europe by essentially keeping them in Greece. This would mean that Greece, which has lost an estimate 30% of its GDP because of IMF-EU imposed austerity since 2010, would be saddled with the Muslim refugee crisis that many around the world predict would explode into a massive humanitarian crisis very shortly. Considering that one-third of Greece’s population is in effect below poverty and official unemployment is 25% with unofficial rate at closer to 35%, the country would revert to its 1950s status as one of the world’s poorest nations, if the refugee crisis is added as a permanent feature to the rest of the economic problems it is facing.

Greece simply lacks the physical facilities to accommodate refugees that need housing, hospitals and clinics, food and clothing until a permanent solution is found at the EU and/or United Nations level that seems to be doing very little to solve this crisis. Imagine one nurse per 25-30 patients in a hospital that frequently runs out of bed sheets and all kinds of basic medication. Imagine a country that can hardly feed its own people having to feed an additional one to two million refugees in the next few years.

The EU expects Greece, a country that is in complete shambles because of austerity, to stem the refugee flow to Europe. Dimitris Avramopoulos, Greek conservative politician and EU commissioner for migration warned earlier this month that the humanitarian crisis in very real amid a deadlock among the EU members on the issue and the US wiping its hands clean and arguing it is a European problem. The irony here is that the entire world knows the culprit is the US that caused the crisis by going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan and destabilizing the rest of the Middle East by backing various jihadist rebels from Libya to Syria that eventually turned against the West.

Even a number of Republicans have argued that the Obama and Bush administrations caused the crisis in Muslim countries that gave rise to the refugee problem. However, no Republican or Democrat is willing to provide the appropriate humanitarian assistance or accept refugees that the US created. No Republican or Democrat is willing to open the borders for Muslim refugees. On the contrary, there are those like Donald Trump who want to keep all Muslims out and screen them on a case by case basis because the assumption is they are terrorists, even if they are children. Of the 50 states I the US, 31 have declared they will not accept Syrian refugees. If the US refuses to accept its responsibility for the crisis it has created with its allies, and the Europeans are very divided on this issue with Germany playing the role of moderate, this leaves the problem for Greece.

Since January 2015 Greece has been under the SYRIZA Party that calls itself leftist but whose policies are a mirror image of the neoliberal ones that the previous conservative government followed. Under the SYRIZA regime, the country deteriorated faster because the IMF and EU demanded even greater cuts in pensions and wages, even greater cuts in social programs, including health and education, and higher indirect taxes that fall on the masses. On top of impoverishing Greece by imposing austerity, the EU plan according to SYRIZA leader and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to reduce the country into a refugee warehouse. On 24 February 2016, the prime minister stated: " We will not accept the transformation of our country to a permanent warehouse for human beings, while at the same time we continue to operate in Europe and at summit meetings as if nothing is happening. We will not put up with a series of countries that not only erect fences on their borders but at the same time do not accept to put up a single refugee."

Greece is a country that is in shambles politically, economically and socially, and Tsipras is partly to blame because he won election on the promise to end austerity and he has continued it to the detriment of the popular base that elected him. The austerity measures that the Greek government has accepted and the capital flight by the country’s few thousand wealthy people has resulted in the complete de-capitalization and utter dependence on the EU. Instead of leaving the EU and making a fresh start under a national currency, Greece opted to remain under the German-imposed patron-client model of integration. This integration model relegates them to a status not very different from that of the rest of northern Balkan countries. On top of the financial and economic crisis that essentially dismantled society as the Greeks knew it before austerity, the EU imposes a refugee problem on a country that is essentially not much better off than its northern Balkan neighbors.  

As I stated above, most refugees in the world are in fact in developing countries. There are more than four million Syrians who are now refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and even Iraq a country from which people are leaving for the West. Although the EU struck a deal with Turkey not to allow refugees across the Aegean Sea into Greece, the Turkish government accepted the promise of $3.3 billion payment from Europe in exchange for cracking down on the refugee trafficking business that is very lucrative for human smugglers.
Turkey has allowed about one million refugees through the Aegean Sea and by land into Greece. It is estimated that more than 3000 have drowned and many thousands died along the way trying to reach Western Europe. For its part, Turkey argues that it cannot perform miracles and stop refugees from crossing over to Greece. There are stories of tragic proportion with children having lost track of their parents and continuing to walk across Greece trying to reach northwest Europe only to be stopped somewhere along the way in Eastern Europe because Hungary is adamant about taking any refugees in the country.

Much of eastern and northwest Europe as well as the UK refuse to accept the slightly more generous German proposal for shared responsibility. If nothing else, the refugee crisis has fractured the otherwise weak EU solidarity threatened by the UK as well as Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and of course the perennial Greek crisis. German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has stated that his country could accept up to 500,000 refugees per year for several years, but he demands the rest of EU share the responsibility. Recognizing that Greece will simply become Europe’s concentration camp for Muslim refugees, the German government is asking for cooperation partly because the crisis has intensified nationalism at all levels and some countries are openly questioning the benefits of staying in the European Union.

The tragedy of the US-made refugee crisis in the Middle East that has spilled over into Europe is that a) it will probably take a long time to be resolved and b) the US will continue creating such crises in the near future regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican is elected president in 2016. The EU has shown that at its core racism, xenophobia and anti-Muslim prejudice runs very deep and it is unlikely to change. Muslims are as much the new Jewish scapegoats of Europe as they are for the US. Although anti-Semitism is not exactly erased in the Western World, the new focus of white Christian prejudice is on Muslims whose lands the West has been ravaging since the era of European colonialism in the 19th century. No European leader could win political office advocating a more tolerant policy toward Muslims any more than an American politician can win office without advocating a tough position on the war on terror, a euphemism for the continued military-solution option to US-instigated political crises in the Middle East.

The US will probably start another military intervention and most certainly continue to destabilize the Middle East under its next president, whether Republican or Democrat. This will lead to a more intensified crisis that will mean more refugees and an even greater humanitarian crisis than we are seeing in 2016. The defense industry in the US is very powerful and the political and ideological orientation toward militarism is deeply ingrained in the culture of PAX AMERICANA. War, intervention and destabilizing governments are all part of a way of life for the imperial America that continues to see itself as the world’s policeman and the world’s preeminent superpower despite its rapidly eroding economic role against the reality of China’s global economic hegemony.  

Monday, 22 February 2016


In the battle between a giant multinational corporation known for its record of tax evasion around the world as well as its hypocrisy of manufacturing in Asia not because of low wages but “talent availability”, APPLE is not yielding to the FBI/Justice Department request for hacking into the cell phones because the big winner will be SAMSUNG and the other ten largest cell phone companies in the world. APPLE has argued that the US government wants to unlock the cell phone that the shooters in the San Bernardino killings used. However, the goal of the US government under Obama claiming to be the protector of civil liberties is to gain access to all cell phones and carry out surveillance for all users at will. This is not only a constitutional issue that essentially touches on the Fourth Amendment – right to privacy – but it also opens a Pandora’s box because other governments would demand same access as the US has. When it became known that the NSA was spying at home and abroad using the giant tech companies of Silicon Valley, the position of Obama administration officials was that foreigners were not protected under the Fourth Amendment, while US citizens needed to understand that national security is above their Constitutional rights.

On 16 February 2016, the US government convinced a California federal judge to have Apple reveal encryption security features in its cell phones. APPLE has been fighting back both with public opinion campaigns as well as using its lobbying efforts in Congress as a counterweight to the Justice Department. Because it is well known that APPLE along with GOOGLE and all major tech companies had secret agreements with the US government to conduct illegal surveillance at home and globally, it seems somewhat puzzling at this juncture why APPLE is fighting the Justice Department. Is APPLE so interested in protecting citizens for idealistic reasons, for the sake of furthering democracy, or is it simply a case of protecting its global market-share?

Thus far, no government in the world has made the kind of demands of APPLE that the US has made. However, the US of course invokes American Exceptionalism against the background of the “war on terror”, just as it invoked anti-Communism during the Cold War when civil liberties were readily trampled. However, that they are asking APPLE to provide code access to cell phones clearly indicates that the Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department and the FBI have not been doing their jobs as effectively as they claim. Moreover, the question is where does surveillance stop? If there is no privacy of any kind, as we have discovered after the Edward Snowden revelations regarding National Security Agency violations of the Fourth Amendment, then why not suspend the Constitution altogether and declare a State of Emergency?  Why go through the motions and the thin faced of a democratic society at all?

For APPLE the argument is hardly the constitutional rights of citizens but global market share. I repeat that if APPLE yields on this issue, the other twelve major cell phone makers in the world will prevail in the global market, most notably SAMSUNG.  It is a myth that APPLE or any cell phone maker is concerned about privacy when these dozen large phone companies around the world have been violating the privacy of consumers for many years by illegally collecting and commercializing information of their users without their knowledge. APPLE along with SAMSUNG is among the biggest violators when it comes to privacy, so it stretches one’s imagination to come up with reasons why it is fighting the FBI/Justice Department now. If there was a financial incentive for APPLE to give the FBI what it wanted, it would have done as secretly as it collects information and never discloses it to its users. However, there is no incentive, but there is massive potential harm from the competition.  

The America people know very well that their government violates the constitution in the name of national security and it does so randomly and not just in extreme cases such as that involving the unique incident of the San Bernardino case. The surveillance state would not have been possible in the absence of the tech companies cooperating with government. This is not an issue of whether is the US is moving closer to a police state. By its own criteria as defined in the Constitution the US has been practicing police state methods that go back to the early Cold War when Communism was used as the justification. Today, it is terrorism, which ironically the US helps to strengthen by its own policies in Islamic countries, including Syria where ISIL has been operating with the considerable support of US allies in the last five years. After all, there was no ISIS before the US and its EU and regional Middle East allies decided to overthrow Assad in Syria. Even when the Russians were bombing ISIS targets, the US and its allies were critical, giving the impression to ISIS that the priority was removing Assad not ISIS.   
  • The APPLE issue reveals very clearly that the more technology dependent a society becomes, the more it slips down the road of a police state at home because it is pursuing militarism abroad. This does not mean that technology in and of itself is a bad thing – no Luddite thesis here – but that the use of technology by corporations and the state makes it easier to have a police state.  Civil liberties are eroding very rapidly in the US and one reason the country ranks at about the same level as Turkey when it comes to social justice is because its practices are about as democratic. The “security hoax” which the government has been pursuing at home and abroad has actually helped to strengthen not just the military industrial complex but tech companies that receive multi-billion contracts from government agencies. The state-corporate nexus has been responsible for the evolution toward a police state that has become more necessary than ever as society is becoming increasingly polarized socioeconomically. Security is the last resort of the state to defend welfare capitalism that accounts for the downward social mobility in America and the increasing alienation of citizens who believe their government serves the top ten percent of the wealthiest people –
  • 63% of Americans say money and wealth distribution is unfair
  • These attitudes are substantially unchanged over past 30 years
  • Slight majority of 52% favor heavy taxes on rich as fix

Saturday, 20 February 2016


In February 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared 20 February “World Social Justice Day”. The concept of social justice can be traced to ancient religions and philosophies East and West – Hinduism to Islam and Christianity, Marx and Gandhi. Arising from the Industrial Revolution and Enlightenment liberal philosophy, Harvard University philosopher John Rawls who characterized the modern concept of social justice as: "Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override. For this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others." (Theory of Justice, 1971).

While there are those who maintain that humanity is better off today in terms of social justice than when Plato addressed the issue almost 2,500 years ago, certainly better off than when Marx dealt with it in the 19th century or Mahatma Gandhi addressed it in the mid-20th century, there is increasing empirical evidence that society is becoming polarized socially and geographically. Despite decolonization, neo-colonization in a variety of forms under economic hegemony of multinationals persists. Despite reducing poverty since 1995 from about 33 million to about 20 million, the idea that about 100 people own more wealth than half of the planet’s population is hardly encouraging for social justice. 

Urging all members to promote social justice in accordance with the goals of the World Summit for Social Development of March 1995, the UN took the symbolic step of trying to address the most serious problems including: 

1. Poverty eradication; - poverty has decreased largely because of the rise of Asia, but it has increased in the developed countries since 1995.
2. Unemployment and decent work - real unemployment is double the official numbers because of people discourage to look for work and the number of part time and and seasonal work has risen since 1995
3. Gender equity - women’s labor participation has risen in most countries while income inequality remains a problem as does the “glass ceiling”. While gender equality improved very modestly for professional upper middle class women, it has declined for the vast majority at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder along with declining living standards for all workers since the “great recession” of 2008.  
4. Access to social well-being – this is especially problematic for all minorities across developed countries, but more so in the US where institutionalized racism is even more pronounced as declining living standards impact first the lives of blacks and Hispanics.
5. Justice for all – no one would argue with any empirical data to prove it that there is justice for all. There is certainly justice for all according to their socioeconomic and ethnic-racial background.  

Although there are many conservatives and ultra-right wing elements in the US and around the world that believe social justice is just another way of promoting Communism, world leaders met under the UN umbrella in March 1995 to address social justice problems. At the time, the New World Order was still evolving and markets were expanding because of the former Soviet’s Bloc’s integration into the capitalist world economy and China’s emergence as a global economic power. In the middle of the decade there was enthusiasm about the triumph of capitalism over Communism and governments, bourgeois politicians, journalists and academics were singing the praises of the market economy that promised to eradicate all social ills and create a mythical “Shangri La” world across the planet. That was 21 years ago and since then social justice has lessened considerably if we examine the record by the numbers in each of the domain that the UN listed as needing progress. 

The neoliberal policies that the developed countries have been pursuing and promoting across the globe are a catalyst to the decline of social justice along with the US-NATO military-solution foreign policy that has created massive drain on civilian economies, accounts for increasingly authoritarian domestic policies and destabilizes parts of the world that in turn destabilize the West by engaging in unconventional warfare – uprisings and terrorism – combined with massive migrant flows.  

Analyzing the progress of social justice in the US and Europe in the last two decades one is struck by: Sharp decline in middle class living standards; 2. Higher unemployment, especially youth unemployment; 3. Demise of working class rights, especially collective bargaining challenged both in the US and many EU countries; 4. Social welfare programs erosion and a corresponding sharp rise in corporate welfare along with massive tax breaks to the degree that the largest multinationals pay no taxes; 5. Rise in poverty partly because of rising personal debt, declining incomes and wider income gaps between the poor and rich; 6. Rise in racism and xenophobia across the EU and US as the masses are accepting ultra-right wing and conservative arguments that the fault for society’s ills rest with the minorities, already in the country or recent arrivals. 

While it is great for the UN to at least have a special day set aside for social justice, the UN is utterly helpless because its most powerful members and the world’s G-20 (richest nations account for 80% of the wealth) resist any commitment to social justice because it would erode the neoliberal policies intended to strengthen the top 10 percent for whose benefit the political economy exists. When right-wing political supporter and billionaire Charles Koch agrees with Sanders that there is a rigged political economy based on “cronyism and inequality” what is left to say by a critic from the progressive camp?

Besides corporate welfare system that concentrates wealth at the very top of the socioeconomic pyramid, the US as the world’s most powerful military power continues to subsidize a parasitic defense sector that erodes the political economy and along with it social justice. The signal the US sends to the world politically is hardly encouraging about social justice, According to the OECD the US ranks 27th out of 31 countries, difficult to explain considering it preaches social justice to the rest of the world. There is something seriously wrong when the US ranks slightly above Turkey that has a horrible human rights record, according to the State Department. 

When the US condemns Turkey for its lack of social justice but ranks at the same level as Turkey, the only way to rationalize the hypocrisy is to invoke “American Exceptionalism”. Apologists of the US as a leader in democracy, a country that is already well on its way to embracing many aspects of a police state, especially in the domain of surveillance as the dispute with Apple Phone indicates, insist that criteria that it applies to the rest of the world does not apply to the US because it has a special mandate from Divine Providence. In short, the US can continue down the road of a police state because of Pax Americana and its special role in the community of nations.

 In the 2016 presidential campaign, no candidate other than Sanders has touched on social justice. No media outlet, mainstream think tank or academics hired to analyze socioeconomic and political issues for the mass media discuss social justice. This is because it means addressing the issue of corporate welfare and a tax structure that favors millionaires. Social justice entails fixing the archaic infrastructure – everything from water plants and pipes leaking lead into drinking water to bridges and schools - instead of pouring money into defense to allegedly fight terrorism when all evidence points to the US indirectly supporting the jihadists through third parties – Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait, etc. Social justice means accepting responsibility for causing chaos in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt among some of the countries where Western intervention has brought instability and resulted in mass migration and absence of social justice.

While the concern of people across the world is a better life for themselves and their children, governments have yielded to corporate hegemonic influence on policy because multinational corporations subsidized by the state enjoy policy influence on all fronts. For the US  strengthening the defense sector so it can remain the world’s policeman and plan for more interventions is about the only issue concerning the media and all presidential candidates, with Sanders addressing economic inequality. Even though public opinion polls among all voters indicate very clearly that living standards matter in their lives, the media, politicians and well-paid analysts continue to promote terrorism and militarism as top priorities. The mind of the public is constantly bombarded with fear of a foreign enemy when the enemy is the tiny domestic socioeconomic elite that exert influence over policy.

Although the US ranks very low on social justice, things are hardly better in Europe. Social justice took a downward turn after the “great recession” of 2008 for all countries in the developed world, and a very sharp downturn for the periphery nations of the EU after 2010. The changing of the integration model from inter-dependence to a patron-cline model has entailed a rise in unemployment, underemployment, poverty and lower living standards for workers and the middle class for Italy, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, and especially Greece. Austerity policies have concentrated wealth within the core of northwest Europe, draining capital from the rest. This has resulted in political polarization with people looking to neo-Nazi and neo-Fascist groups or to left wing parties for solutions that the bankrupt parliamentary system is not providing.  

Social justice cannot take place under the existing neoliberal political economy that works to diminish it. Nor is it realistic to expect all capitalist countries, as different as they are in their history and unique traditions, to model themselves after Norway that is about as close to the UN social justice goals as any nation can be.  It is unrealistic to expect the political and social elites responsible for the absence of social justice to deliver the UN goals on this matter. Only grass roots movements intended to undertake systemic change can make a difference. If people expect social justice to be handed to them by the same people that are depriving it, they are delusional and things will only become much worse.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

RACE and CLASS in AMERICA: A synoptic perspective


College students study race and class in sociology courses or in Black Studies programs, although it should be part of the core curriculum for all incoming college freshmen who need to understand the history of this multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society. The issue of race identity vs. class identity in the US is as old as the institution of slavery followed by an apartheid society from the end of the Civil War to the Supreme Court decision of 1896 in Plessy v. Fergusson, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and down to the early 21st century with lingering cultural and institutional racism manifesting itself in everything from the criminal justice system to public schools and public health.

The sociological and political issue of race transcending class and vice versa is controversial depending on one’s ideological perspective. White liberals and black nationalists subordinate class to race, while varieties of socialists for the most part, although hardly unanimous, argue that class transcends race and it must be so in order to address the broader problems of social justice. The dominant culture and institutional structure that includes government at all levels and everything from the educational system and churches to media have always subordinated class to race. It is hardly surprising to this day that this is what the majority reflect in public opinion polls as well, considering that America is much less class conscious than other developed nations despite the lack of social justice.; also see Barbara Fields, “Ideology and Race in American History” in Region, Race, and Reconstruction, ed. by J. Morgan Kousser and James M. McPherson (1982).

The Congressional Black Caucus and the Politics of Conformity

In February 2016, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) decided to endorse Hillary Clinton on the basis of her record of support for blacks arousing the curiosity of many who immediately looked into the financial backing of the CBC to determine who exactly was paying for the endorsement. Beyond the obvious Washington corporate lobbyists linked to the CBC, there are several salient questions that need some analysis, including class consciousness vs. race consciousness in America, and why is it that there is a blurring of the two.

Is the political economy best served currently by both black and white elites and the white dominant culture and institutional structure perpetuating racial divisions over class divisions? Is identity in America based on skin color, ethnicity, religion and gender rather than class? Does race consciousness mean the same thing in the early 21st century when a black president has been elected twice as it did in the mid-19th century when black abolitionist Frederick Douglass lived in a society where race and class were the same under the institution of slavery? Is the CBC following a long-standing tradition of black churches that conform within the white establishment?

Historically, black clergy have kept the congregation focused on spiritual matters within the black community isolated from the white mainstream; some have gone along with the white establishment both conservative and liberal so they can keep their turf; others as during the 1950s and 1960s became politicized and demanded reforms within the system or declared Black Nationalism as the solution. Does the fact that CBC exist indicate societal racism that needs a political power broker? If so, what does this reveal about race vs. class identity and why the former transcends the latter in America when it is not the case in other multi-racial societies?

The racial identity vs. class identity issue emerged in the forefront of the presidential election of 2016 when two white people in the Democrat Party – Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders - were competing for the voting bloc of African-Americans who supported overwhelmingly Barak Obama in his bid to the White House. Despite the fact that the Republican Party had a black presidential candidate (Ben Carson), in February 2016 the Congressional Black Caucus chose to support the former Sec/State Hillary Clinton, arguing she represents the interests of black people, presumably all of them and not just the 35,000 black millionaires in a population of about 39 million blacks or 13% of the total in the US.

It is important to note that big capital was as solidly behind the decision of the Black Caucus as it has been behind the Clinton campaign. There is something seriously wrong and highly hypocritical when the Black Caucus claims to represent all black people, but its funding sources come from the largest US-based multinational corporations influencing its decision to endorse Clinton rather than Sanders.
“Members of the CBC PAC board include Daron Watts, a lobbyist for Purdue Pharma, the maker of the highly addictive opioid OxyContin; Mike Mckay and Chaka Burgess, both lobbyists for Navient, the student loan giant that was spun off of Sallie Mae; former Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Md., a lobbyist who represents a range of clients, including work last year on behalf of Lorillard Tobacco, the maker of Newport cigarettes; and William A. Kirk, who lobbies for a cigar industry trade group on a range of tobacco regulations.”

A Historical Overview of Race and Class

Although the promise of capitalism is that it is color-blind and a system that provides equal opportunities for all to attain upward social mobility, the empirical reality not just in the US but across the globe has been anything but the promise. The market system has always taken advantage of race, gender, and ethnicity to divide the working class and middle class and to benefit by paying lower wages to those groups in society that are discriminated. Just as there have been lower wages for women, similarly the white-black wage ratio has also been lower working to the benefit of the employer using race to realize higher profits, thus contributing to the strengthening of US capitalism. Racial stereotypes that the media and the dominant culture perpetuate – blacks are prone to crime, collecting welfare, and draining the social welfare system – help to maintain racial divisions that keep a large percentage of the minority community in a permanent state of social subservience.  (Nicola Ginsburgh, “Race and class in the US” Issue: 134 (27th March 2012)

Capital accumulation would not be possible in the absence of the active role of the state. This is where politicians enter into the picture of promoting co-optation so that capitalists encounter the least possible resistance to their goals. Following a long-standing tradition of yielding to white bourgeois co-optation, which has been an effective mechanism of sociopolitical control of the minority population, the Black Caucus invoked race above class to endorse Hillary Clinton. That she is running on a platform to maintain the neoliberal status quo that has kept blacks in the lowest income category of any social group in America in the last half century, including under Obama was not mentioned because the same big capital contributors to Clinton are also contributors to the CBC bought and paid for.

Without mentioning big money contributors behind the endorsement, the Black Caucus argued that Hilary and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, were involved in the Civil Right Movement of the 1960s and Hillary best represents the “Obama legacy” whereas her opponent has been critical of America’s first black president for caving to Wall Street and the establishment. Two-thirds of Americans believe that the class divide is a more serious issue than immigration or race relations, given that the elusive American Dream has become just a dream for the vast majority, causing polarization in society in across all social realms including race relations.

Historically the American Dream – upward social mobility from the working class to the middle class - was never as easily attainable for blacks as it was for whites. Before the Civil War, the American Dream was more or less the domain of the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant elite, but it was hardly much different from the end of the Civil War to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. While there was a gradual opening for upward social mobility to blacks, it was hardly comparable to the rate of whites. More significant, the vast majority of the black population continued to make up a disproportionate part of America’s poor, lacking decent health and education. Although the Civil Right Act officially put an end to the Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Fergusson (1896) of “separate but equal”, it hardly ended the practice throughout the country of an apartheid society. 

 In an article entitled “Race transcends class in this country: A response to Seekings and Nattrass”, South African university professor Xolela Mangcu argues that in his apartheid society race transcends class because people see color first and foremost even after he would have to announce his social status. Moreover, regardless of class differences, black people feel a sense of solidarity because of their common struggle against apartheid society.

As shocking as many people may find it, there are some similarities between South Africa and the US, though clearly the US is the military leader of the world and still a powerful economy despite the global challenge that China has presented in a remarkably short period of time. Because of the institution of slavery that relegated black people in the southern states to the status of property that whites owned, and because of Jim Crow laws at the state and local level enforcing segregation and apartheid conditions, a hierarchy evolved based not just on class but also race. Almost like a caste system, blacks were at the bottom of the hierarchy, followed non-Western European immigrant workers from of any ethnicity regardless of color, and then white workers. Not surprisingly, the slowly evolving black middle class also fell into the same race-based hierarchy, considering that many cities have historic black middle class neighborhoods, just as they do of other ethnic groups.

The endeavors of civil rights leaders in the 1950s and 1960s, including Martin Luther King to have race eliminated as criteria and to have blacks accepted on the same meritocracy-based criteria as whites was actually conceived by Europeans during the Age of Reason in the 18th century when the US was born as a republic. While the Founding Fathers incorporated the value system of the Enlightenment in the Constitution and laws, they excluded minorities and women. The white European bourgeois philosophy and values of the 18th century are deeply ingrained in American society that places the individual above the collective, thus protecting the individual property owner and slave owner.

In a recent article entitled Martin Luther King Jr. Transcended Color and Class and So Can You,” liberal Huffington Post reflects the ideal of 18th century Enlightenment liberal thinking against any communitarian values.In reality, no one can set another free. True equality arises from within. When you become it and live it, your demonstration of strength of character creates your ticket to freedom. Each one of us contains all the power we require to set ourselves free. Ultimately, it's an inside job.” The suggestion that Martin Luther King transcended class and race is as absurd as the one that freedom comes from within. Of course, he was the first to admit as much.

This 18th century liberal ideal assumes that the individual has choice in the matter of transcending race and class, when in fact the institutional structure determines racism and classism. No one decided to become a slave while all along thinking in her/his mind he/she is free. Slaves did not have the ability to free themselves from the institution simply by imagining they were free. This is only something that religion promoted to provide slaves with a spiritual outlet for their predicament in daily material life and something that white masters promoted along with black preachers, although for different reasons, resulting in maintaining the status quo. 

Racism at the City Level: Chicago

American history is rich with examples of black leaders conforming to the white establishment and endorsing the political enemies of workers and especially black workers en masse. Some such cases have been very egregious that backfired on the black community. For example, the black leadership in Chicago chose to support Rahm Emanuel, another Obama protégé committed to neoliberal policies and conducting policy to strengthen the richest citizens of the city. The black elites and black community leaders for the most part rejected Jesus Garcia, the candidate running on a populist progressive platform with a broad appeal to the middle class and workers. Despite the fact that Emmanuel had a record of covering up for institutional racism in the police department and refusing to make any changes at the leadership level, black leaders asked their followers to vote for Emanuel because they assumed a Latino mayor would be less friendly toward the minority community than a mayor linked to Obama.

This was two years after Emanuel had ordered that 53 public schools and 61 buildings primarily in minority neighborhoods be shut down so the city could save $1 billion. This was carried out as part of a neoliberal agenda where Emmanuel was privatizing public services and using funds saved by shutting down schools so the city could then transfer funds for a variety of corporate welfare projects to local businesses. Moreover, he proposed building a public school near an environmental toxic site to save money. Nevertheless, blacks voted for him instead of his Hispanic opponent, despite his record of supporting a racist police force, and pursuing a racist policy toward public education. Although these neoliberal policies impacted largely the black community, they are at the core class and not race issues despite the hit the black community took because it was the easy target to the white establishment.

Black Nationalism and the Liberal Integrationist Model

Both at the local level as Chicago politics suggests as well as the national level the issue of race benefits capital but it only continues unabated because politicians black and white perpetuate the interests of capital over class and race, the latter which they use to subordinate the class struggle clearly evident in subtle and blatant forms. Unfortunately, Black Nationalism in the 20th century has actually helped to inculcate into the minds to black people that race consciousness transcends class consciousness. This is certainly since the era of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association in the 1920s and down to the late 20th century with various black leaders advocating nationalism, albeit often for opportunistic self-serving reasons as in the case of some black Muslims. (William L. Van Deburg, Modern Black Nationalism: From  Marcus Garvey to Louis Farrakhan (1996).

Despite the reality that in all people’s everyday material lives class transcends race, Black Nationalist leaders have tried to sell illusions not very different than those the church has been selling to the faithful who need spiritual comfort against the incredible odds in the real world. By the same token, the liberal integrationist model which has presented itself as the antithesis of Black Nationalism has also contributed to distracting from class consciousness in the black community. The liberal integrationist models rooted in local and national Democrat Party politics and coming out of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s were in essence detrimental to the upward socioeconomic mobility of blacks, always as judged by results clearly evident half a century later.

In fact, those liberal integrationist experiments of the 1960s and 1970s (segregated housing that entailed ghetto living, permanent welfare, substandard health and education, etc.) were in essence intended to provide the minimal social safety net while at the same time absorbing a tiny percentage of the black elites into the institutional mainstream. Meanwhile, nothing changed for the vast majority of the population that remains at the very bottom of the socioeconomic ladder judged by income and personal wealth statistics. It is these black elites that the Congressional Black Caucus represents today as it has historically, rather than the unarmed black teenager shot by cops every other week in cold blood in one of America’s cities. Gary Peller, Critical Race Consciousness: The Puzzle of Representation. (2012).

The underlying problem is social justice. Both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King recognized toward the end of their lives when they too finally went beyond the issue of race and on to the much larger issue of class and the structure of the political economy and dominant culture. The alienation of blacks in contemporary society is not so different than it is for Hispanics and other non-European immigrants, or poor whites. The lumpenproletariat, of which a large segment blacks have been related by the political economy, are in the same boat as their brethren of other races and ethnicities.  They are all operating under a system geared toward capital accumulation and bent on using race, gender, ethnicity and religion, especially targeting Muslims since 9/11, to divide the masses. This is hardly a new strategy, considering we see it on the part of the Europeans in the 19th and 20th century and their behavior toward colonial people as Franz Fanon among others has argued trying to understand the root causes of class and race alienation.

Alienation, Race, Gender and Class
Like sexism and xenophobia, racism breeds alienation not only because of the exclusion from the mainstream but because the people on the receiving end internalize the identity assigned to them by the hegemonic culture rooted in discrimination. As George Lulacs, History and Class Consciousness (1972) pointed out in the 1920s, the issue of alienation is catalytic in capitalist society, an issue on which Existentialist thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre dueled in their writings especially as alienation was dominant in bourgeois life. Not only do we see very clear evidence of alienation among the petit bourgeoisie in America across all ethnic and religious groups despite their protestations to the contrary that capitalism effaces such alienation, the problem is becoming even more pronounced in a techno-society that continues to alienate human beings from each other as individuals and social classes striving to assert their identity and pulled in different directions by forces intended to distract them from the problem of social justice.

Against such a culture of alienation even more prevalent today than when George Lucacs was writing a century ago, it is hardly surprising that racial, ethnic, religious, and other “communal” identities transcend class identify, especially for the lumpenproletariat. After all, who wants to identify with the working class? Whereas the American middle class was the essence of the American Dream a half century ago, that class is now considerably weakened, debt-ridden and hardly carries the same prestige it did during the early Cold War. Is it any wonder that working class people with high school diplomas support a billionaire right-wing populist presidential candidate Donald Trump who represents their fears and aspirations, their prejudices and anxieties, even when he invokes xenophobia, sexism and racism?

What a better way to co-opt a segment of the disgruntled masses and keep them divided than to have such right wing populists who point to working people of a different race, ethnicity and religion? This is exactly what ultra right-wing politicians did in the interwar era of Fascism and Nazism rooted in discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender and religion. Public opinion makers – think tanks and media, politicians and community leaders - mold mass psychology to accept alienation as normal, to reject class consciousness and to identify with communal groups of similar background instead of seeing the absence of social justice in its universal framework impacting the working class and middle class regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or gender.  

There are many sociological and historical studies analyzing the issue of race transcending class in America that goes hand in hand with gender transcending class, and ethnicity, and religion. These are all traits of a capitalist society where the political and social elites co-opt a small percentage of the leadership of the minority groups, keep these groups separate and use them to forge political and social consensus that serves a political economy aimed at preserving the privileges of the wealthy that includes a small percentage of blacks and other minorities, as well as women. Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton, a millionaire who represents Wall Street, used her gender as an issue to co-opt women voters just as the Black Caucus used the issue of race to co-opt black voters for Clinton.

Divisive tactics based on race, religion and ethnicity were commonly used by European colonialists to co-opt the native population and to keep it divided, whether in Africa, India and the rest of Asia, especially in the 19th and early 20th century. In short, the tactics of European imperialists remain alive and well in 21st century US.
Throughout history, the social and political elites in the US have endeavored to suppress any attempt at raising class consciousness, while exacerbating race, gender, ethnic and religious consciousness.

It is hardly surprising that class consciousness is subordinate to race, gender, ethnicity, and religious consciousness in a society where the entire institutional structure from educational system to community social clubs have no references to class because it is an anathema to even mention the class structure although it is staring at people in the face when they go from the ghetto to the gated community. It is a testament to the success of the elites in co-opting the disgruntled masses in the late 1960s and early 1970s by fragmenting their causes, breaking down their solidarity by focusing on specific groups that included feminists, blacks, Hispanics, gay rights activists and environmentalists, and all separate and never in solidarity with each other.   (Angela Davis Women, Race and Class, 1983;   also see Paula S.
 Rothenberg, Race Class and Gender in the US, 2004)

Civil Rights, Cold War and Cryptic Jim Crow

As the white establishment as the co-opted black elites always sing the praises of the civil rights movement, which did go a very long way in addressing some of the most egregious segregation problems and it did result in modest upward mobility.  While the civil rights movement had some limited success, would any one argue that it eliminated institutional racism in America? If not, to what degree is this the fault of the white establishment and the black political elites that enjoy influence over black ministers and community leaders?

The Obama legacy on which Hillary Clinton is running for president in 2016 is much closer to the Clinton one in so far as it continued the neo-liberal tradition that strengthened the richest Americans than it did the bottom 90%; among those bottom 90% blacks doing very poorly under Obama with youth unemployment at 50% and income disparity that suggests very clearly institutional racism as a mechanism that strengthens capital. Given the material lives of the vast majority of black people, the Black Caucus is about as relevant to black peoples’ lives as Gloria Steinem and her generation of upper middle class feminists to the lives of working class women of all ethnic backgrounds.

In many multi-racial societies, class transcends race but not in the US where the elites of all ethnic groups and races have joined historically to suppress the concept of class as radical, socialist or Marxist. By contrast, race isolated as an issue is acceptable because it speaks to the possibilities of co-optation of a segment of minorities into the white institutional structure.  In this respect, the US is not very different from South Africa, but very different from the Muslim North African and Middle East countries where class most definitely transcends race.

In a pluralistic society that claims to be Enlightenment-inspired merit-based but in reality steeped in racism and xenophobia diversity is essential to prove that the system works and must be sustained as is. During the early Cold War when the US was engaged in a global struggle for ideological and political influence with the Communist countries, domestically it practiced apartheid while preaching the virtues of democracy to the rest of the world. The Civil Rights movement emerged from the Cold War political climate and became necessary to silence critics about the limits of American democracy. John Kennedy recognized as much but so did Lyndon Johnson. In the early 21st century America has come full circle with the anti-Islam campaign under the name “war on terror” elaborately institutionalized to replace the Cold War.  (Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy. 2011)

Although the internal dynamics of a society drive domestic policy, in the case of the US foreign policy under Pax Americana bent on global policing if not hegemony invites attitudes of inevitable superiority as history suggests in the long standing Protestant tradition of providence and Manifest Destiny. Just as racial discrimination was part of the conquest at the expense of Native Americans, Latin Americans from the Polk to the McKinley administration, there was a parallel race discrimination against blacks that is continuing despite Affirmative Action as one way to address it.

 Diversity and Affirmative Action emerged from the Civil Rights movement that was in no small measure intended to improve America’s image abroad, but also to come to terms with the substantial demographic changes as minorities were becoming a larger percentage of society. Although loosely applied in many cases, Affirmative Action has helped to bring more blacks in college and that has been a catalyst to upward social mobility in a merit-based society. That some whites view Affirmative Action in higher education as preferential treatment for blacks or reverse discrimination as they argue in courts, including the Supreme Court, fails to take into account the centuries of excluding blacks from higher education on the basis of skin color without any regard to meritocracy.

Education is itself a commodity for purchase by the wealthiest, considering that the children of the wealthy have access to the best schools, and the very wealthy are contributors to universities where their children attend classes. In other words, as a microcosmic reflection of the larger society, higher education is based primarily on class and secondarily on race, considering that the rich black students graduating from expensive private or affluent suburban schools can hardly be placed in the same category as the inner city public high school graduate where preparation for college is a luxury instead of a priority. (Ira Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America. 2006)

In the workplace Affirmative Action been used as a meritocracy mechanism for professional jobs that benefit the black college-educated middle class now dwindling at an even greater rate than the white middle class under neoliberal policies of corporate welfare since the Reagan era at all levels of government.  Other than skin color, which they use for their own personal gain, what exactly do black corporate executives have in common with an unemployed young man in Detroit? Similarly, white CEOs have more in common with their black counterparts than with unemployed white youths in rural Louisiana. Solidarity exists among the black and white capitalist but not necessarily among the black and white unemployed youth of working class background.

In the era of a two-term black president, in the era of self-proclaimed pluralism, America is just as steeped in repression rooted in racism directed at working class blacks as it was before the Civil Rights movement. This becomes very clear when one looks at the American justice system and prisons filled with minorities. Moreover, the courts are institutionally biased against minorities. For example, George Zimmerman, the “neighborhood watch” volunteer shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February of 2012, but the court acquitted him. In most cases police killing unarmed black youth, prosecution and imprisonment of the police officer and police reform to end racism is rare.  (Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. 2015;

One could ask what the white and black political and social elites are doing about this new form of racism and absence of social justice at a time that they have the audacity to preach human rights and civil rights to the rest of the world. If Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were to return today they would be shocked that America remains so utterly oblivious to improving social justice for all people, especially minorities. These civil right leaders of the 1960s would probably not be shocked that the Congressional Black Caucus is on the payroll of multinational corporations that contribute by the millions to buy influence. Because the minority political leaders as well as most community and church leaders feel that racial equality comes within the capitalist system, their goal is greater integration within the system not the struggle against it. A clear recognition that the capitalist system is the source of inequality and social injustice as much in the black community as in all others will be the beginning of social action. Major Owens, The Peacock Elite, A Case Study of the Congressional Black Caucus, 2011)

Neither Black Nationalism nor liberal bourgeois schemes intended to assuage the entire minority community by absorbing a small percentage into the institutional mainstream while providing a weak social safety net for the rest have succeeded in eliminating poverty and ending institutional racism. Grassroots organizing and class solidarity is the only hope blacks, Hispanics and all working people. Following political and community leaders on the payroll of corporations, or merely dependent on business funding for their activities will only perpetuate the status quo. It is not unrealistic to expect institutions under the existing political economy to continue enjoying various ways of co-opting the leadership of the black community and quelling any demands for social justice. As America’s demographics are rapidly changing and the current minorities (13% black 17% Hispanic) will become the majority in 25 years or so, systemic change will come collectively by a cross section of people coming together to address the structural causes of injustice that rest with the social order under the current political economy.