Aug 19, 2019
The following is the first speech given during the political part of the 39th Annual SPARK Summer Festival held in Detroit in August. The two speeches were the political focus of the Festival. In addition, there was a range of other things for people to do.
Workers and their families from throughout the Detroit Metro area, as well as friends of SPARK from other cities where SPARK exists, enjoyed BBQ chicken, Polish sausage and all the fixings of a full picnic meal; over a hundred people danced the afternoon away at the big pavilion.
People could come in and just eat and relax and listen to music at the Blues and Jazz tent; they could sign up and play in a bid whist tournament or try their hand at a game of chess.
Anyone who wanted to know about the stressors that cause high blood pressure, and what could be done, found answers in the Science Hall of Discovery.
People brought their kids and grandkids - and great grandkids! – and everything from “slime” to sack races kept the kids’ attention in the organized children’s area. Or people tried out their artistic skills at the Everyone is an Artist area. Those who wanted to be more active played horseshoes, volleyball, and pick-up basketball. For those who wanted “food for thought,” the Literature tent offered a large selection of books at reasonable prices as well as the SPARK newspaper and journal, and workplace newsletters.
And, finally, as an antidote to the stress of everyday life in this society, towards the end of the Festival, people could laugh and sing along with the SPARK Sunday Night Live comedy troupe, followed by the children’s dance contest.
Something for everyone was to be found at this 39th Annual SPARK Festival. And the contributions and attendance of more than 300 workers from Blue Cross, the State of Michigan, Chrysler, Ford, and many other workplaces made it a really enjoyable and harmonious working class event!
Last weekend, massacres were committed in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. 22 people were murdered in El Paso by a white supremacist who drove from Dallas to El Paso, planning to kill Hispanic people and anyone who got in the way. Just before he began his massacre, the murderer posted a statement of white supremacist and anti-immigrant hatred.
In Dayton, it’s not as clear. Maybe it was racist killings; the murderer was white and six of the nine people he killed were black. But most of the victims were also women, including the killer’s sister, and the killer had earlier planned to carry out violence against women.
This violence did not come out of the brain of two sick individuals. As individuals, they may have been sick. But the violence has been prepared for and even called for by right-wing forces in this country. All of these attitudes – anti-immigrant, racist against black people, misogynist against women – are being pushed by the extreme right wing today. And it’s these attitudes that have fueled the violence.
This country has a long history of violence organized by the right wing. Black people have long faced the brunt of violence in this country. But they are not the only ones. When working people, black or white, tried to do something, including working class militants and poor farmers, they often faced violence from the right-wing.
Black people pushed back the right-wing – that is, the KKK – during the years of the civil rights movement, during the rebellions in the cities and with armed self-defense by parts of the black population. Working class militants during periods of union organizing or during big strikes had to defend themselves from right-wing violence. So did farmers during the populist period, and sharecroppers, black and white, during the 1930s. And during these periods when people organized to defend themselves, the violence receded, the right-wing hid itself.
But right-wing violence is once again raising its dirty head because the forces that could throw it back have been quiet for decades.
But this violence is also being encouraged today – promoted, aided and abetted by the current occupant of the White House, Donald Trump.
During his years as an underhanded real estate speculator, Trump used every corrupt and shady means he could find to make a buck. During his campaign for president, Trump tried to appeal to white workers and rural whites, demonizing immigrants, denigrating black people in his quest for votes. Today Trump’s racism is front and center in the White House, and he has the weight of the federal government behind him.
Every time he tweets about a political opponent, Trump does so in the most vile language. When he attacked four new congresswomen, Trump said they should “go back to where they came from” – in other words, saying that because they came from different countries or different cultures they shouldn’t be here. Black people can recognize those same words because racists used them for years, saying if you don’t like it here, go back to Africa.
Trump’s words encourage nativist ideas in the population. At his recent campaign rally in North Carolina, he led the chant of the crowd, yelling “send them back.”
Trump rants against immigrants from Mexico and Central America, calling them “invaders and rapists.” It’s an idea that comes straight out of the history of this country, as though the only real Americans are so-called “white” Christians. The same attack was made against every immigrant group that came here after the ones who came from England: Scandinavian, German, Chinese, Irish, Italian, Eastern European and Jewish people – especially against Jewish people. Every immigrant group that came here was considered an “invader” when they first got here.
But Trump does more than spew racist ideas, he is inciting violence. At another campaign rally, Trump attacked immigrant workers and asked his crowd what to do about them. When someone in the crowd shouted “shoot them,” Trump just stood there, smirking. He’d got the answer he wanted.
If you read the written words of the El Paso killer, you see many of the same words and the same language of Trump himself. Trump and the killer use words like “invasion,” saying that immigrants are “invading” this country.
If I remember right, you could say that every single one of us, except the Native Americans, “invaded” this country, willingly or unwillingly. Because we all came here after someone else was here.
By his words of hate, Donald Trump is clearly implicated in this right-wing violence we are seeing. Make no mistake about it, Donald Trump has the blood of murder victims in El Paso and Charleston, South Carolina, and other racist killings, on his hands.
In a just and humane and rational society, Donald Trump would be in jail today.
But he’s not in jail. Why not? What does it say about this capitalist society that the head of its government spews racist views? There may come a time when the wealthy class of people who really run this society decide that Trump has become too much of a liability for them because he provokes people to do something. They may decide that he should be impeached, or they may make sure that he does not get re-elected. But for right now, they let him go on because Trump is serving them well.
Isn’t it obvious? The wealthy people who run this unjust and inhumane society are OK with what Trump does because Trump’s racism, his anti-immigrant words, his language demeaning women divides the working class.
The wealthy class, the capitalist class, they make their profits off the labor of working people. If they can work us harder and pay us less, they can take more for themselves. They want more immigrants, but they want to keep immigrants “illegal” so they have no choice but to work for less money.
On the other hand, immigration can be a flashpoint; immigrants can be blamed for everything wrong in capitalist society.
The bosses benefit when we are divided and don’t fight back. When we are fighting each other, we can’t fight them.
The bosses have always tried to pit white workers against black workers, since the time of slavery. But they also push to pit native-born workers against immigrant workers. They’ve done it before; they’re doing it today.
It is all meant to convince workers to direct our anger over low wages and lack of jobs against other workers who come here looking for work, instead of against the bosses who are responsible for the low wages and lack of jobs that we all face.
It is this kind of campaign to divide us along the lines of skin color or divide us according to where we were born that fuels the violence we’ve seen – and will fuel more tomorrow.
Make no mistake, the bullets fired against Mexican people in El Paso – and women in Dayton and black churchgoers in South Carolina, and Jewish people in synagogues in Poway and Pittsburgh are bullets fired against all of us, no matter who you are, no matter where you live. Those bullets were fired against a part of our class, the working class. That means we were all its targets.
How do we defend ourselves?
The Democrats tell us to wait, to pin our hopes in the next election to vote Trump out.
But the working class has never been able to defend itself through elections; we have a different way to defend ourselves against racist and right-wing violence.
If the racism and the anti-immigrant hate is escalating today, it’s not just coming from Trump. There is an organized right-wing that gets billions of dollars in funding from wealthy people around the world. The billionaires behind Fox News are pushing the same vile message as Trump. In fact, sometimes it seems as if Trump is taking his cues from what Fox News says.
So, again, what do we do?
Many people living in Detroit and elsewhere are faced with defending ourselves against the daily violence that we see in impoverished cities. In some neighborhoods, people have been able to defend themselves because they figured out how to come together with their neighbors.
To defend ourselves against right-wing violence, we have to find the ways to do the same thing, but on a much bigger scale; we have to do it on the scale of the whole working class. Sam is going to talk more about this.
I want to come back to something I said at the beginning. In the 1950s and ‘60s, black workers said “No More.” They stood up to the racists and backed them down. They backed down the bosses and their racist politicians, who were the Trumps of that time. The fights made in the streets by black workers carried over into the factories, and many white workers joined them in strikes against the bosses in the plants. We must remember this history.
A fight started by one group of workers can bring down scum like Trump. It can go against the bankers and corporate bosses who stand behind the politicians. Finally, it can spread to bring down their system that produces racism and exploitation. Because it certainly is their system that needs to be gotten rid of.