Before I start, and even before I introduce myself, I want to send a gesture of solidarity to the Amazon workers in Alabama organizing themselves and fighting for unionization against one of the greatest thieves on this planet, and one of the greatest scum who we all know, and who I refuse to waste any of my breath or any of our time in naming.
And another gesture of solidarity, this time international, to the people of me and my mother’s country Haiti, taking to the streets to remove a president supported by the Biden administration who is attempting to remain seated after his term has expired. Through the use of their collective power of a general strike, the people of Haiti are waging a fight not only against a despot, but ultimately against imperialism. We at Left Voice send our strength, solidarity, and love to all the working class and oppressed people of the world fighting for liberation.
And with that, good evening y’all! This is Carmin Maffea from Left Voice, and I’m sending the most sincere welcome I can to the comrades across the country and even across the world who are tuning in to our event today. It’s pretty humbling, honestly, being a Black kid from New York raised by immigrant parents ending up here hosting an event like this. I’m a kid with shaky knees given this grand opportunity to introduce wonderful and unbreakable Black revolutionaries who have faced jail cells, felony charges, the tricks of union bureaucracy, police batons, pepper spray, and all else for the sake of Black lives.
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Revolutionaries who continue to struggle tirelessly day in and day out, not just for the sheer survival of Black people, but for something far greater, far more beautiful, and something I believe all the listeners here feel is something very possible: the complete liberation of Black people. Where housing isn’t something questionable, where healthcare isn’t something we lack, where we don’t have to wake and worry if today is the day a cop will kill us, where our labor is ours, and production is distributed in a way where all our needs are met, where no child goes poor, where none go hungry, and where all can live their lives to the fullest pleasure.
A liberation that is inseparable from the liberation of queer folks, Brown folks, women, all other oppressed identities, and the working class as a whole and vice versa. The fight for Black lives is a fight that is fundamentally a fight to end capitalism. A racist system that relies on targeting Black people for prison and uses prison labor to maximize the profits of rich men, while our communities starve and while our families and friends suffer. A system whose initial growth was rooted in the enslavement of Black people. A system that relies on the bombing of Black countries in Africa and the maintenance of despots in countries like Haiti to maintain global control by the capitalists.
Racism is just as international as capitalism itself, and the forms of oppression work hand in hand. Being here in Argentina, I’ve seen the similarities of racist capitalist oppression in a form outside of the United States. Just last year, due to the economic crisis brought by the pandemic, many people here lost their jobs and their homes, most being from the migrant population of people who come from Bolivia, Paraguay, Venezuela, and Senegal. When left with nowhere to go, many of them decided to occupy empty plots of land across the country. The most notable one, and the one I saw first hand, was Guernica. There were up to 10,000 people on this plot of land, who had to make makeshift housing of sheet metal, wood and plastic bags. Flooding was a major problem due to the lack of infrastructure like sewage. The residents had to deal with extremely cold nights because of the lack of heating systems and because they were disallowed, yes, disallowed, by the so called progressive government to bring in materials like insulation.
Not only did the government disallow them from helping themselves, but they went even further and violently evicted the residents of the land occupation. They burned their housing, destroying documents and the last things these people with almost nothing had. They beat the residents and shot rubber bullets at them, regardless if it was a fully grown adult or a child.
The reason for this repression was because the empty plot of land belonged to major land owners who wanted to build condos. So therefore, the government respected the demands of the land owners and violently evicted the people, who, I stress, were for a great part Brown migrants.
But just like the fight for housing in the States that impacts predominantly working class Black people, the people of Guernica did not helplessly let the police repress them. They developed councils and assemblies to discuss how to organize, what demands to take up, and how to fight back. They physically fought back against police during the evictions, just as many are doing in the States against widespread evictions today, all for the sake of the right to dignified housing. A fight that is fundamental in the fight for oppressed people, like Black people in the U.S. and Brown migrants in Argentina.
The fight against global oppression under capitalism develops not only through national movements led by oppressed people, but also through movements of global solidarity. Most recently, last summer, when the working class of all colors all over the world rose up to fight for Black lives. And when the working class in every state and city in the U.S. rose up to struggle against the police everyday for the sake of Black lives, despite all the risks it entailed.
The movement last summer, though ultimately demobilized, has radicalized many and has left many others questioning how to bring the next inevitable fight to complete victory. And the answer lies in understanding what went wrong, and using those lessons for the struggle going forward.
Two factors that are responsible for the demobilization of the movement were the physical repression by the military and the police on one side, and when that in many cases only strengthened the militancy of the movement, it was co-optation by the Democratic Party, the union bureaucracy, and social justice and community organizations wholly dependent upon the Democratic Party that completed this task of demobilization.
There was great militancy in the streets, there were assemblies, daily marches, and sophisticated tactics applied to counter repression.
There were also acts of solidarity by workers. Dockworkers had a 9 minute 45 second work stoppage in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. SEIU had held work stoppages for some of its unionized workplaces, and some of these strikes were as long as a day.
However, just imagine if there was an indefinite shutting down of the ports, or if all of the members of SEIU, one of the largest unions in the country, were mobilized to fight for Black lives, or if major parts of the economy were shut down until the demands of the protesters were fully realized. The working class, which for a large part is made up of Black workers, immigrants, women, etc., produces everything society relies on, is the foundation of society itself, and the use of working class power to its fullest extent can bring the very end of capitalism.
However, with the pressures of union bureaucracy, workers are disallowed from using their power to the fullest extent. An indefinite strike fighting for Black lives is shrunken into a 9 minute long work stoppage. The bureaucracy betrays its Black members by unionizing and protecting the very forces that kill them and their children.
Also, people’s volatility in the streets was redirected by liberal orgs or community bureaucracies to send them to the polls to vote for the Democrats. To vote for a “lesser evil” candidate that significantly expanded the very evil the movement was fighting against: the police departments that beat protesters in the street, the police forces that continuously murder Black youth, the prison systems that enslave Black people and erase Black futures. The most militant in the streets were continuously pressured by these orgs that said they were on our side to vote for a party who throughout the entire summer and throughout the country called in the national guard to viciously suppress protests and would issue curfews to give cops the excuse to beat and detain protesters…or anyone else caught in the street, for that matter.
Our struggle relies in combating these institutions of suppression in order to fully realize our potential as the working class to fight for Black liberation, and today’s panel will include speakers, my dearest comrades, who are fighting through the fire and trudging through the mud, taking up these struggles to finally realize a true Black liberation.