Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The question is not whether fascists have held power in the United States, but why they have not yet been able to rule as fascists. The question may soon become moot, as the U.S. Supreme Court acts to further “dismantle legal barriers to actual fascist rule” – most recently through its decision on providing “material support” to “terrorists.”

In New York City, “a ‘people's lawyer’ and civil liberties heroine, Lynn Stewart, faces re-sentencing on her conviction of giving material support to her client.”


Fascism Enters Through “Terror” Door

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The national criminal justice system is now set to operate as a recognizably fascist political machine.”

For more than 40 years, the Left has been sounding alarms about the United States’ imminent descent into fascism. And there have, indeed, been fascists at every level and in every branch of U.S. government. One can even make the case, as I often do, that during the long period of Jim Crow the southern states fit nearly all the usual definitions of a fascist regime. At various times and places, America has teetered on the brink of fascism, or experienced episodes that certainly felt like fascism to those who lived through them.

With the Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding laws against providing what is called “material support” to terrorists, the national criminal justice system is now set to operate as a recognizably fascist political machine. Six of the nine Justices endorsed the government’s definition of what constitutes “material support” for groups it deems terroristic, including a civil rights activist’s attempt to draw a Kurdish resistance organization into non-violent dialogue with its Turkish adversaries. The High Court majority essentially ruled that mere interaction with those branded terrorists is a serious crime, no matter what one’s intentions. It is criminal to give such groups any advice whatsoever – even if the advice is to find non-violent means of reaching their political goals. The new law of the land is: thou shalt not talk to or appear in any way supportive of those who the U.S. government has proclaimed “terrorists.”

It appears to be settled law that the United States can label opponents of its allies abroad – Turks, Israelis, Pakistanis, Indians, whoever – as terrorists, even when their activities are not directed against the United States. Nelson Mandela and other South African freedom fighters remained on a State Department terrorist list until just two years ago – which is a useful historical point.

No American citizen was punished for actively supporting the ANC.”

We can safely say that the U.S. is much closer to fascism now, under Barack Obama, than it was under President Ronald Reagan, 30 years ago. Back then, the Reagan regime embraced the white minority government in South Africa. Yet, even though Mandela and his African National Congress were on a U.S. terror list, no American citizen was punished for actively supporting the ANC. Ronald Reagan and his crowd may have been fascists – I think they were – but the mechanisms of law were not in place to allow them to rule like fascists. Since 2001, the fascists that have long been among us have been allowed to perfect their judicial, legislative and executive machinery of state power, and to dismantle legal barriers to actual fascist rule.

Next month, in New York City, a “people's lawyer” and civil liberties heroine, Lynn Stewart, faces re-sentencing on her conviction of giving material support to her client – who was marked as a terrorist. Federal prosecutors – that means, Barack Obama's prosecutors – want to increase Lynn Stewart's 28-month sentence to decades in prison – a death sentence for a woman of her age and health. When all the people's lawyers are gone – and Lynn Stewart is among the last – then so, effectively, is the rule of law. And all our talk about the definition of fascism will be moot. For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20100623_gf_SCOTUSterror.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:20am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

President Obama is showing his own core conservative politics with his choice of Elena Kagan for the U.S. Supreme Court. A New York Times investigation shows “Kagan as a devotee of so-called 'race-neutral' social policies that avoid solutions that directly target racial disparities.” This is not an example of Obama “reaching out” to the Right, but of promoting a lawyer whose views “appear to be identical” to his own. His choice ensures many decades of bad news for Black people.


Kagan and Obama: Two “Race-Neutral” Peas in a Pod

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Kagan was part of the right wing of Bill Clinton’s center-right White House.”

It is a measure of their timidity and lack principles that the civil rights establishment did not protest President Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan for the U.S. Supreme Court. It is also, I believe, a great irony of history that the first Black president and his first white Supreme Court nominee share an ideology on race that is effectively hostile to Black people. They are two race-neutral peas in a pod.

The New York Times did its due diligence and searched through nearly 5,000 pages of documents to reveal that Kagan was part of the right wing of Bill Clinton’s center-right White House.

Between 1997 and 1999, Kagan was deputy to Bruce Reed, a White House domestic policy aide and operative of the Democratic Leadership Council, the outfit that funnels corporate money to favored Democratic politicians. Bill Clinton was one of the founders of the DLC, in the Eighties, as a means for white leaders in the South to hold on to power in the Democratic Party even as whites kept deserting to the Republicans. It was Reed who coined the phrase, “End welfare as we know it.” Elena Kagan and Bruce Reed teamed up to resist whatever Black progressive influences remained in the Clinton White House. In Clinton’s second term, their nemesis was Christopher Edley, Jr., a Black law professor who founded The Civil Rights Project at Harvard. Edley was brought into the White House as a consultant to help shape the president’s racial policies. Edley wrote that he feared “this could well be the administration that presides over the substantial dismantling of opportunity in selective higher education.” It is clear that two of the people he feared were eager to take the wrecking ball to affirmative action were Elena Kagan and her boss and political buddy, Bruce Reed.

Reed and Kagan resisted the very idea of forming a White House commission on race.”

Christopher Edley had good reason to worry. Reed and Kagan wanted to keep the decibels on race as low as possible, and the two resisted the very idea of forming a White House commission on race. These two right-wing Democrats disparaged social safety net programs as vectors of dependency; they spoke of civil rights issues as things of the past, with Ms. Kagan writing that the White House “focus should be on the future, not Kerner – meaning the 1968 Kerner Commission Report that warned of two separate nations, “one white, one black.” In a sense, Elena Kagan and Bruce Reed personified the white corporate backlash against Black and labor influence in the Democratic Party.

The New York Times' investigation shows Kagan as a devotee of so-called “race-neutral” social policies that avoid solutions that directly target racial disparities. She will not be a friend of Black people in her next, lifetime job. But she is precisely the kind of Justice that Barack Obama could be expected to favor, since their racial views appear to be identical. Like Kagan, Obama assumes a position of race-neutrality, that in practice refuses to redress past or current racial inequalities. Barack Obama's gift to Blacks is to put another racist on the Supreme Court.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20100623_gf_KaganReed.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:17am EDT

by BAR columnist Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.

The U.S. Social Forum is now underway in Detroit, with thousands in attendance. “Black America must work in solidarity with other people’s struggles, as has always been the case,” says the author. “However, in our current moment of malaise in Black ‘leadership’ we also think it necessary to remind this nation’s activists that many of the problems that they seek to address internationally need as much redress domestically.”


The US Social Forum Must Become a US Social Movement

by BAR columnist Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.

It is necessary to remind this nation’s activists that many of the problems that they seek to address internationally need as much redress domestically.”

Watching the World Cup continues to inspire questions and thoughts about the international linkage of political struggles. I keep thinking of the song “Sun City” written by Steven Van Zandt, guitarist with Bruce Springsteen and consigliere in the Sopranos. The song was written as a protest against apartheid and in solidarity with the plight of Native Americans. Among the many artists to participate in the song’s recording and video was the rock group U2 and their front man Bono. But after seeing him now in promotional spots for the World Cup I cannot stop thinking that perhaps he should be renamed “Bonzo substantial.” I mean he really has become little more than a sleeker modern form of what Gil Scott-Heron called the “ultimate in synthetic selling...” or “the cavalry” called in “to disrupt the perception of freedom gone wild.” Bono, who once stood in protest of events taking place in South Africa, now champions, adds his signature to, then in signature signs for a massive check for an event which is every bit the Madison Avenue-styled “masterpiece” masking of continued, even worsening exploitation described in Scott-Heron’s “B Movie.” Danny Schecter, the news dissector, suggested at that time that the song Sun City become one of “change not charity, freedom not famine.” Today South Africa stands as symbol of neocolonial wrong-doing redesigned by euphemism as “progress” where the tournament choosing to take place there is charity and Bono lends his face to mask the famine.

Perhaps Bobo should be renamed ‘Bonzo substantial.’”

But as someone who lives in and carries a passport for the United States all of this has also been a constant reminder of a question asked of those here during protests of the World Economic Forum of a decade or so ago. Out of those protests against the WEF and its oppressive economic ordering of the globe emerged the World Social Forum in 2001. Later some members of that forum would ask this nation, “What are you all going to do?” In allied response to that call came the founders of the US Social Forum which will convene its second gathering this week in Detroit. Their goals are clear. They state that, “The US Social Forum (USSF) is a movement building process. It is not a
 conference but it is a space to come up with the peoples’ solutions to the 
economic and ecological crisis. The USSF is the next most important step in our
 struggle to build a powerful multi-racial, multi-sectoral, inter-generational,
diverse, inclusive, internationalist movement that transforms this country and
 changes history. We must declare what we want our world to look like and we
must start planning the path to get there. The USSF provides spaces to learn from each other’s experiences and struggles, share our analysis of the problems 
our communities face, build relationships, and align with our international 
brothers and sisters to strategize how to reclaim our world.”

Black Agenda Report will be there. Black America must work in solidarity with other people’s struggles, as has always been the case. However, in our current moment of malaise in Black “leadership” we also think it necessary to remind this nation’s activists that many of the problems that they seek to address internationally need as much redress domestically. In fact, veteran author and journalist Herb Boyd, who is set to screen his groundbreaking documentary on Haiti at this event, referred to Detroit as “Destroyed.” For these reasons I was a participant in the first US Social Forum in 2007 and was at once inspired and disillusioned. On the one hand there were thousands upon thousands in attendance and an impossible program lineup of so many interesting groups and topics being dealt with that it was positively overwhelming. On the other, there seemed no clear conclusion, program or plan to deal with the concerns raised. And for all the progressive talk, for all the powerful condemnations made of US domestic and foreign policy all we got one year later was the pitiful placement of hope in the utterly hopeless Democratic Party and Barack Obama.

To avoid becoming our own massive “Bonzo substantial” masked in radicalism it is to be hoped that those of us gathering in Detroit or “Destroyed” will make the US Social Forum a genuine US social movement.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. Online go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

Jared A. Ball can be reached at jared.ball@morgan.edu.

Direct download: 20100623_jb_USSF.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:11am EDT