& the great Du Bois
"The Democrats won't have us and the Republicans don't want us.
Is there anything to do but impotently wring our empty hands?"
--Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, "An ABC of Color" (1969)
It is somewhat painful to look at the emerging election campaign, especially when one thinks about the concerns of the African-American community and the American working class.
Both have been virtually ignored, or, if noticed, talked to like they are idiots. Few are the politicians who want to truly tackle and engage the state of Black America, and the state of workers in America.
That's because, in the present world of political politeness, one does not really want to unsettle one group, by promising another group something, and, in the case of the workers, most politicians have conceded the field to that social force that can amass the most dough -- the business class. With the exception of the former "Boy Mayor" (and now Senator) Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.), to speak of NAFTA is a no-no. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has done more to demolish U.S. labor than the planes plowing into the Trade Centers on Sept. 11th!
Because of NAFTA and similar pro-business pacts, the jobs in America which pay the best, manufacturing, are fleeing to warmer climes, where workers are paid a tenth, sometimes a hundredth of what Amer ican workers are being paid. Most candidates out there today, Democrats and Republicans, owe their campaign monies to such corporate interests, and have no intention of cutting off their lucrative flow. They're bought; and they'll stay bought, thank you! Any idea which points to that problem is dismissed as "class war."
For African-Americans, who are over-represented in the working class, the economy is in virtual free-fall, with millions (if they are lucky enough to have a job) living one paycheck away from disaster. For them, an American economic recession spells a Depression. This, in a time when schools are doing worse than in several generations. This bodes ill for the generations coming up, for if education is a failure, what of one's life options?
Way back in the 1920s, the great scholar-activist, W.E.B. Du Bois decried both political parties, for being unworthy of Black political support. Writing for "The Crisis" Journal, Du Bois wrote:
"We are invited not to support either of the old, discredited and bankrupt political parties. In other words, we are being compelled to do what every honest thinking American wants to do--namely, support some third party which represents character, decency and ideals. Just as the two old parties have combined against us to nullify our power by a "gentleman's agreement" of nonrecognition, no matter how we vote--in the same way they have agreed to nullify the vote of every forward-looking, thinking, honest American. The revolt against this smug and idiotic defiance of the demand for advanced legislation and intelligence is slowly sweeping the country. ... May God write us down as asses if ever again we are found putting our trust in either the Republican or the Democratic Parties." (Du Bois, "An ABC of Color" (Int'l Publ., 1969), pp. 124-125)
Du Bois wrote these words over 80 years ago. How true they sound today!
On the most important issues facing the nation, war, peace, social justice, the death penalty, NAFTA, ... how similar so many of the candidates sound, regardless of their "party"!
At bottom, most of them are members of the "Corporate Party," for those are the interests that they represent.
The poor, the working class, the urban young, urban and rural seniors, they are on their own.
For economic issues are not just the stuff of the business pages; such issues are the stuff of most of our lives, as we live in the shadow of economic recession, and something that the business press praises as "the jobless recovery"! Isn't it time for a real third party? One which doesn't have its umbilical cord tethered to Wall St.? Isn't it time for a real Labor Party, that addresses the real bread and butter issues in the interests of the People?
Let us begin to think about solutions, or 80 years from now, we will still be reciting Dr. Du Bois' insights.
Copyright 2003 Mumia Abu-Jamal
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Mumia Abu-Jamal is the author of three books:
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