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

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

We hear all the time about what geniuses the masters of capital, the lords of innovative technologies and global supply chains are. But are modern supply chains really that different from the transAtlantic slave trade, which brought genocide of Native American and African peoples and destruction of natural environments?

Ecocide & Genocide Are The Secret of Capitalist Efficiency

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

We hear all the time about how the competitive genius of firms like Wal-Mart, Monsanto, GE and Apple Computer have mastered innovative technologies, and global supply chains to bring us all the objects we covet and consume. We understand they did all this by being braver, more far-sighted and just plain smarter than the rest of us, because that's what we've been told all our lives.

But thanks to intrepid journalists who have visited and reported on sites like the massive 400,000 employee Foxconn plant in South China, through which nearly all Apple's Dell's, and the product lines of many of their “competitors” pass, there are many reliable accounts describing how final assembly of all our cell phones, computers and computer subassemblies is done by workers, often children confined to barracks, exposed to toxic chemicals, worked to death and disability for near-starvation wages in 12 to 24 hour shifts, and discarded for newer serfs before they reach their late twenties. This innovative system is backed up by a Chinese state every bit as much the craven servant of capital as our own US government. And this is only one stage in the electronics industry's global supply chain.

It starts in Central Africa, in the Congo where most of the world's coltan, a naturally occurring compound used in every cell phone, circuit board, computer, car, aircraft, missile or electronic device, is mined. To ensure that a strong central Congolese government didn't block Western access to its vital resources, Western powers engineered the invasion of Congo by seven surrounding countries who turned it into a vast free-fire zone and killed 5 to 6 million in the last half of the 90s alone. The ore is shipped to China on freighters fueled by West African oil, where that industry has turned Nigeria's delta region into one of the most ecologically devastated areas on earth.

Capitalist efficiency then, is nothing more than the murderous offloading of real costs onto powerless oppresssed people and the natural environment.”

In China the coltan is refined and processed using coal fired electricity, with the coal coming from the rape of Australia's indigenous lands. Chinese manufacturing for US companies selling to the US market are an enormous contributor to atmospheric carbon dioxide which is melting the polar icecaps and causing uncontrolled and catastrophic global climate change. The electronic subassemblies are put together in Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and Maylasia under conditions so terrible even the Chinese government can't force them on its people. The subassemblies are shipped to China for final assembly and to the US on more oil-burning freighters. The electronics industry differs only in the particulars from global corporate agriculture, fisheries, auto, textile and many other industries.

Capitalist efficiency then, is nothing more than the murderous offloading of real costs onto powerless oppresssed people and the natural environment. The trans-Atlantic slave trade was a global supply chain as well. The genius-grade innovations of Steve Jobs, the Waltons and the rest of the investor class are ecocide and genocide. They are parasitic vampires, a malignant disease feeding off humanity and the planet Earth. It's time we begun planning a cure, and how we will someday live our lives without these geniuses of capitalist efficiency.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and lives in Marietta GA, where he serves on the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20120222_bd_myth_of_capitalist_efficiency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:35pm EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Educational policy in the Obama era isn't about education at all. It's about replacing skilled, experienced teachers with rootless temps better suited to serve in the privatized holding tanks they wish to turn public schools in poor neighborhoods into, for a population on its way to low wage jobs and prisons.

Black Teachers Fired En Masse

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Blacks currently make up only 29 percent of Chicago’s teachers, but they comprised 43 percent of those recently fired...”

If you have any doubt that President Obama and his cronies are at the forefront of public school privatization and the decimation of Black teachers, just take a look at Chicago. That’s where Obama’s basketball buddy, Arne Duncan, wreaked havoc as schools chief until the new president appointed him secretary of education, and where Obama’s former White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, now reins as mayor with overall control of the public schools. Arne Duncan fired 1,300 Chicago teachers during his eight years at the helm, the large majority of them Black women, replaced by mostly white, younger teachers at about half the cost. The teachers union sued, charging racial discrimination – a case that is still before the courts. Now, with a thousand more teachers fired last year under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the union has filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, once again charging racial discrimination. Blacks currently make up only 29 percent of Chicago’s teachers, but they comprised 43 percent of those recently fired. Whites represent almost half the teaching force, but only 36 percent of the layoffs. The union’s lawyer calls it a “systematic effort to rid the Chicago Public Schools of tenured teachers who are African-American.”

Community groups have joined the teachers in asking the courts to ha the closing of 17 supposedly “underperforming” schools, many of them on the city’s South Side. In Chicago, such closings wipe out the schools’ entire work force, right down to the janitors – whose performance, of course, has nothing to do with standardized test scores. But wholesale staff massacres clear the way for charter schools operated by private teaching corporations. The Academy for Urban School Leadership, a national charter school founded by a venture capitalist, once employed the current CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. The new crop of young, white teachers are largely graduates of programs funded by a Who’s Who of rightwing foundations and corporations – the people educator Diane Ravitch calls the “billionaire boys club.”

Their goal is not just to break the teachers unions, but to de-professionalize education and to sunder all ties between teachers and the communities they serve. ”

President Obama has advanced the corporate project to privatize public education with lightning speed, inflicting far more damage in far less time than George Bush ever could – because George Bush is not a Black Democrat. Bush’s men called the teacher’s unions “terrorists” and other bad names, but Barack Obama has been a much more effective servant of the privatizers. Their goal is not just to break the teachers unions, but to de-professionalize education and to sunder all ties between teachers and the communities they serve. Thats why Black teachers have been targeted for mass firing in Chicago and all across the country. They tend to have tenure and to be staunch supporters of their unions, and they live in the communities where they work, as neighbors, parents and leaders. When Barack Obama and Arnie Duncan and Rahm Emanuel target Black teachers for mass elimination, they deliver a savage blow to African American community cohesion. Privatization of public schools is a central part of the disempowerment of Black America. For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

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

Direct download: 20120222_gf_ChicagoSchools.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:25am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

The most successful organizations for economic self-help of the last hundred fifty years have been labor unions, and in the US, African Americans have been more likely to form and join unions than any other group. So when President Obama imposed new restrictions on organizing unions, and make it easier for companies to dismiss and disregard union contracts he struck a blow first and hardest against black collective action for economic security.

Barack Obama Deals Crippling Blow to Unions, Black Economic Self-Help

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

Black people love to talk about economic self-help, about what old Elijah Muhammad used to call “doing for self.” What we don't look at most of the time, is what collective economic self-help actually looks like in the real world. Mostly, it does not look like individual entrepreneurship, everybody starting their own small business.

In the real world, a great portion of the things we use and consume every day from the electric power, transport and communications grids, along with the appliances, vehicles and devices used thereon are produced, delivered and utilized by and through organizations with many hundreds or many thousands of employees. Think about the cable, mass transit and highway systems, the internet and the health care industry. Think government. Think Wal-Mart and McDonalds and you'll be thinking about the places where millions of poor people work. Any black conversation about collective economic self-help that ignores the existing workforce in existing workplaces is a pretend conversation.

In the real world, the most successful collective economic self-help organizations of the last hundred and fifty years have been labor unions. single 3 day strike by the black led New York City transit workers in 2005 protected the homes, the medical care, retirement security, college educations and living standards of more black families than the half-dozen wealthiest black Americans – that would be Oprah, Puffy, Bob Johnson, Tiger Woods, Bill Cosby and some real estate guy have employed or helped in their entire careers.

In the real world, working people, especially black and brown working people, are eager to help themselves, and the most potent way to do that has been to form and join unions. When offered the chance, black women are the most likely joiners, followed in order by black men, Latino women and men, and finally by white women and men. Why then, has US private sector union membership dipped to around 6% of the workforce? It's not because unions were outmoded or greedy or not in step with the times. It's because increasing corporate domination of US political life has resulted in laws and court decisions which have made most strikes illegal, collective bargaining extremely difficult, and organizing unions in the first place nearly impossible. It's long been illegal, for instance, to fire workers suspected of union activity, but the fines are so small and long delayed that employers routinely violate the law and pay the fines as an inconsequential cost of doing business.

This week President Obama betrayed the collective economic interest of black and working people by signing into law new restrictions on the formation of unions. From now on bosses in many sectors can file anti-union lawsuits and depose under oath workers who sign union cards. Employers can add unpaid ghosts and no-show workers to eligibility lists to prevent union drives from getting a majority of eligible signatures. The same law also makes it easier for corporations to dismiss union recognition and contracts by changing their ownership.

This was no compromise forced upon the president by unreasonable Republicans. This was the unprovoked and naked surrender of our rights to economic self-help, our rights to struggle for a living wage, for dignity and security for all our families by a Trojan Horse black president elected with black and union support, but governing on behalf of his real masters, the lords of capital.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and lives and works in Marietta GA, where he's on the state committee of the Georgia Green Party.

Direct download: 20120222_bd_collective_economic_selfhelp.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:55am EDT