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

Michigan’s Republicans are creating a legal model for American fascism for the benefit of Wall Street. The state’s new emergency financial management legislation “is the prototype for a host of laws designed to make government – the state – a compliant tool for a dictatorship of the most predatory sections of the ruling class.” Naturally – this being the United States – the first localities targeted for de-democratization are Black.

 

Michigan’s “Emergency” Financial Regime: What Fascism Looks Like

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

There is nothing to stop the state from abolishing democratic governance in any of Michigan’s cities, if an emergency can be declared or created.”

Fascism is not all about jack-boots and guys with mustaches. It is a system of economic and social control. The particularities of fascism in any given nation grow out of the special dynamics of that country. Fascism in the United States will be blow-dried. And its legal and bureaucratic form will take shape in places like Michigan, where an innocuous sounding piece of legislation called the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act is the prototype for a host of laws designed to make government – the state – a compliant tool for the dictatorial rule of the most predatory sections of the ruling class. In 2011 America, that’s Wall Street, finance capital.

Michigan’s law allows the state to appoint emergency managers to nullify contracts, including labor agreements – which is what has unions upset. But the scope and intention of the law is much deeper and wider than simply anti-union. The legislation allows emergency managers to nullify the powers and authority of local governments of all kinds. One of its supporters gave the game away when he spoke of the need to impose a kind of “financial martial law” in which all pretense of democracy would be abolished in targeted communities. The community the Republican politician had in mind was Detroit, the Black metropolis, where the public schools were promptly put under emergency state control. But there is nothing to stop the state from abolishing democratic governance in any of Michigan’s cities, if an emergency can be declared or created. On April 15, the mostly Black city ofBenton Harbor, the poorest jurisdiction in the state, was placed under total financial martial law, its citizens suddenly made more powerless than Blacks in Selma, Alabama, prior to the civil rights movement.

Wall Street imposes instant emergencies on the larger society by starving cities and schools and the public sector in general, in order to strip down, privatize and commodify every asset in sight.”

Fascism always requires an “emergency,” a “crisis,” to justify the surrender of whatever citizen liberties previously existed. Its mass organizing principle revolves the “Other” – the scapegoating of a hated group that can be blamed for the emergency. Historically, in the United States, that “Other” has been Black people – although other “Others” have been added to the list. The U.S. has always been fertile ground for fascist politicking – in fact, I have long maintained that White Terror under southern Jim Crow was a peculiar form of American fascism.

Fascism is also associated with militarism and the national security state, which are certainly famiiar aspects of modern Americana. More importantly, the militarization of the inner cities has been an established fact since the mid-1960s. The proof is in the one million African Americans behind bars.

The “crisis” that justifies the outright abolition of democracy – beginning, of course, in Black America – is the crisis afflicting finance capitalism. Wall Street then imposes instant emergencies on the larger society by starving cities and schools and the public sector in general, in order to strip down, privatize and commodify every asset in sight. Michigan's fascist model will doubtless be duplicated across the nation, as Wall Street moves to rule directly, through its emergency managers, by one name or another. The permanent emergency has begun.

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: 20110427_gf_MIFascism.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:42am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

If American economic hegemony crumbles, so must U.S. imperialism. An IMF report predicts Chinese economy will surpass that of the U.S. in just five years, based on the value of goods and services produced. After the eclipse, all that will remain of U.S. imperial power is its awesome military – the power to destroy a world it can no longer dominate by other means.

 

China to Become Economic #1 in 2016: U.S. Imperialism Doomed

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

At or around the year 2016 the United States will fall from the economic pinnacle it has occupied since the late 1890s.”

The end of U.S. economic hegemony in the world is near – much nearer than almost anyone thought. No less an authority than the U.S.-dominated International Monetary Fund predicts that China will outstrip the United States by the year 2016, when measured by the real value of what people earn and spend in their domestic economies. It’s called “purchasing power parities,” and under that measure – which is as good as any – China’s economy will outgrow the U.S. in five years, $19 trillion compared to $18.8 trillion. And the gap will continue to grow, from there.

Imagine: most of us alive today will see a watershed in modern civilization. At or around the year 2016, unless something wholly unforeseen occurs, the United States will fall from the economic pinnacle it has occupied since the late 1890s. Much more importantly, the bell will have tolled, definitively, for U.S. imperialism.

This is a subject that is separate from the question of capitalism’s continued survival as a social system in the U.S. or elsewhere on the planet. It is about U.S. empire. However one describes the Chinese system, it is not the twin of U.S. imperialism, which has maintained its supremacy through the rigging of world markets, the artificial supremacy of the U.S. dollar, and most importantly, the coercive force of its military – all of which are interrelated. U.S. imperialism seeks to entrap the world economy, to put it in service of finance capital, largely headquartered in New York and London. The Chinese system is fueled by relentless production of actual goods.

For some on Wall Street and in the Pentagon, the economic news is a signal for massive, preemptive military action.”

The U.S. and European imperialists, in one sense, dug their own graves decades ago, when they gambled that they could somehow maintain their grip on the world, while transferring the production of real goods, actual products, to the south and the east of the planet, through corporate globalization. They methodically dismantled the productive capacity of what had been the world's powerhouse, the United States, in search of ever lower labor costs in what we used to call the Third World. The outsourcing of actual production to the east and south meant higher rates of return – profits – on investors' dollars. Detroit and Pittsburgh and Chicago withered and rusted away, while Wall Street became economically and politically all-powerful.

Wall Street thought it could remain in the global catbird seat through its financial supremacy, backed up by an irresistible military. But especially since the meltdown of 2008, Wall Street has turned pure parasite All that now remains of U.S. imperial power is its military, more expensive than all the other militaries of the world, combined – in some ways, as much a burden as a weapon.

The Chinese do not spend even one-fifth the U.S. war budget, but will soon have an economy that is leaving the Americans in the dust. For some on Wall Street and in the Pentagon, the economic news is a signal for massive, preemptive military action, before the whole imperial edifice collapses. These are people who cannot envision a world in which they are not on top. They will not go down quietly. We are in, as the Chinese say, “interesting times.” The empire may not choose to go out in twilight, but in an inferno.

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: 20110427_gf_ChinaEconomy.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 9:35am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR editor and columnist Jared A. Ball

The Media Reform Conference and Democracy Now! share common characteristics: they are the best that the white left has to offer, and profoundly inadequate. Democracy Now! doesn’t just shortchange people of color, but unions as well. And the politics of periodic Media Reform conferences are as blindingly white as the corporate variety. “Black and Brown radicalism is omitted culturally by the same mechanisms through which Black and Brown radicalism is omitted politically.”

 

Race, Class, Unions and Media “Reform”

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR editor and columnist Jared A. Ball

Even the best news media that the left has to offer is still a space inhospitable to left-of-center Black politics.”

There is truly good reason for friends to remind me of my having gone back on a previously made promise to stop attending the very white and liberal National Conference for Media Reform. Again the conference gathered, this year in Boston a couple of weeks ago, and again nearly all of the Black and Brown people I spoke to expressed disappointment at being present but not so much heard. One friend promised to smack me and anyone else he hears about coming back in the future. Another more prominent Black woman within this and other related political struggles whose experience and work truly deserves more credit and attention than she gets simply raised her tired eyes above her glasses and asked me with all the frustration and fatigue in the world, “Jared, why do you come here?”

I told her it was because I get to see her and many others I truly admire and who I get to see too infrequently. I also told her that I come because there is legitimately a ton of great information and insight to glean from these events. Information, not so much analysis. But ultimately I told her I go because I hope it will lead to more of us doing what we need to do to collectively bring more focus to the struggles of Black, Brown and Indigenous communities in this country. So once again I am left with another critique of a so-called “movement” that I again will hope help inspire me and us to do more to do what we have to do to organize our media and political work to have greater impact.

So sure, I participated on a panel about the troubled state of hip-hop politics and we all made points regarding this and the fact that finding air time for thoughtful rap music is as difficult as finding space for any thoughtful Black or Brown politics. I made sure to be clear that this was not for any lack of either but was the result of an overwhelming fear of such expression even among the white Left. Black and Brown radicalism is omitted culturally by the same mechanisms through which Black and Brown radicalism is omitted politically. Hip-hop is reduced sonically to the same narrow nonsense imposed upon its discussion politically by the academic and journalistic community. And, as we had to repeatedly point out, this was also the case in spaces occupied by white liberals who claim differences between themselves and the mainstream or right wing. And when I mentioned how the media darling of the left, Democracy Now!, was actually worse than the mainstream Meet the Press in terms of Black participation several took note even if not all took it easy.

Finding air time for thoughtful rap music is as difficult as finding space for any thoughtful Black or Brown politics.”

My point was and is simply that even the best, and it is the best, news media that the left has to offer is still a space inhospitable to left-of-center Black politics. And while this tendency seems solidly in place there is yet another way to see it. As BAR has long-ago reported, participation, particularly Black female participation, in this country’s labor unions is percentage-wise higher than any other segment of the population. So to now find that coverage of labor unions by the leading institution of the white left seems as bad as that of the mainstream shows yet another reason for members of the nation and world’s majority to be concerned.

John Nichols is a leading founder of and spokesperson for the media reform movement. During one of his talks at this year’s conference he pointed out the absence of coverage of labor unions in the nation’s liberal mainstream press, noting that rarely do they mention unions at all and more infrequently than that do they mention unions by name. Nichols also pointed out the fact that it is too easy to pick on right wing media for this kind of criticism because, as he said, even without the radical right media world the liberal mainstream would be as bad as it is. But is this also true of the white left who claim difference from that liberal mainstream?

Well, looking at Democracy Now!, the flagship white left news media program, during the calendar year prior to this most recent up-tick in coverage due to the labor strife in Wisconsin we find that out of roughly 250 potential programs only 30 or 12% mention labor unions at all and only 9 or 3.6% mention them by name.** In yet another potential area for the Black and Brown left to impact the national discussion there is, again, a similar blind eye. It is also one more in a long line of examples pointing to the need of the world’s majority to work more closely to increase the impact of our journalism and media work. We and the world desperately need it.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. Online visit us at BlackAgendaReport.com.

Dr. Jared A. Ball is author of I Mix What I Like: A Mixtape Manifesto (AK Press) and can be reached atIMixWhatILike.com.

** Democracy Now! online archives were searched between January 1, 2010 and the end of January, 2011. The show airs each weekday, hence the “roughly 250 potential programs,” out of which those that mentioned “labor unions” or “unions” in this country at all were counted. Those that made even one reference and in passing were counted. This actually gives undue credit to the program considering that many of these references accompanied no real discussion and less actual information about or perspective of union members regarding the issues covered in that program. The following program dates had any mention of unions and those in bold specified them by name:

1/4/11, 12/20/10, 12/13/10, 1/6/11, 12/29/10, 12/23/10, 12/10/10, 12/2/10, 11/30/10, 11/2/10, 10/28/10, 10/14/10, 10/4/10, 10/1/10, 9/24/10, 9/14/10, 9/20/10, 8/25/10, 7/27/10, 6/22/10, 6/18/10, 5/31/10, 5/18/10, 4/16/10, 3/26/10, 3/25/10, 3/18/10, 2/16/10, 1/15/10, 1/13/10

Direct download: 20110427_jb_MediaReform.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:36am EDT