Thursday, May 26, 2022

Derry Delegation Visits Detroit to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday

DISCUSSION OF LINKS BETWEEN AFRICAN AMERICAN AND IRISH CIVIL RIGHTS STRUGGLES

April 8, 2022 

Irish speakers Paul Doherty and Ciara O'Conner on April 2, 2022 

By Abayomi Azikiwe

Reprinted from Fighting Words, Journal of the Communist League (CWL) Derry Delegation Visits Detroit to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday – Fighting Words (fighting-words.net)

On January 30, 1972, British military forces opened fire on a peaceful demonstration of 15,000 in Derry, Northern Ireland leaving 14 dead and many others wounded.

This massacre became known as Bloody Sunday where the Catholic residents of Derry were protesting against the discrimination and oppression instituted by a British occupation of the territory which extended back several centuries.

Paul Doherty of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign, whose father Patrick was killed on that fateful day, and Ciara O’Connor, Project Coordinator of the Museum of Free Derry, were in the Detroit area to speak and meet with local organizers. Both of these activists and scholars are committed to preserving the legacy of the civil rights and liberation movements of Northern Ireland against British occupation.

An event held on April 2 at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Detroit’s Midtown District heard Doherty and O’Connor lecture on the events surrounding the 1972 massacre. The program was jointly sponsored by the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, the Detroit MLK Committee and EMEAC.

Since the 1960s, there has been striking similarities between the African American movement demanding quality education, fair housing, universal suffrage and self-determination and the campaigns in Northern Ireland for the same objectives. There were those who preferred nonviolent resistance to discrimination and others that embarked upon an armed struggle drawing inspiration from the 1916 Easter Rising led by Irish Republican nationalist and socialist leaders such as James Connolly and the subsequent War of Independence which lasted up until 1921-22.

During 1967, the Civil Rights Association was formed in Northern Ireland. It carried out demonstrations during the period and in 1968 were met with stiff opposition from the Protestant community whose allegiance remained with the British government. Therefore, the Civil Rights Association was fighting the British Loyalists and the security forces occupying the country.

The Derry Housing Action Committee was established in early 1968 to fight discrimination and substandard conditions. These demands parallel those in the U.S. when mass demonstrations and rebellions erupted between 1964 and 1970 over the deplorable conditions of African Americans and Puerto Ricans living in various cities such as New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, among many more.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was martyred on April 4, 1968. The visit by Doherty and O’Connor coincided with the 54th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King in Memphis, Tennessee. King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) were in Memphis to assist over one thousand predominantly African American sanitation workers who were on strike seeking recognition under the banner of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

After the assassination of King, the Fair Housing Act was passed by the U.S. Congress and then signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Nonetheless, in the U.S. this measure, considered the last of the Civil Rights Acts passed from the late 1950s through the 1960s, has never been fully enforced since African Americans, People of Color Communities and the working poor have never enjoyed any semblance of a guarantee for quality housing.

Doherty and O’Connor noted that: “There remains a polarization between the Catholic community in Northern Ireland and the Protestants who are seen as settlers and loyal to the British crown. We want them included as a part of the Irish culture and nation. However, no one should be forced to accept British culture. Sometimes we cannot understand our working class Protestant people maintaining their allegiance to the Democratic Unionist Party. A recent census may indicate that there is a Catholic majority in Northern Ireland which could prompt a referendum on the status of the area in regard to its continued ties with London.”

In the U.S., People of Color communities are rapidly approaching a combined majority over the European Americans. The African American, Latin American, Asian, Indigenous and Middle Eastern population groups are therefore under extreme pressure by successive Democratic and Republican administrations viewing this emerging majority as a potential threat to the racist status-quo.

Compounding the problems in Northern Ireland is the recent withdrawal by Britain from the European Union (EU). Most people in the Republic of Ireland in the South and the Northern region did not agree with many British Conservatives and other forces which voted in favor of severing ties with the EU. The question of the border between Ireland and the EU countries is still an unresolved issue in the United Kingdom.

Historic Links from the Abolitionist Movement to the Irish Liberation Struggle

This author chaired the session on April 2 and began the discussion on the role of Ireland in the struggle to end African enslavement in the U.S. Frederick Douglass, one of the leading proponents of abolition and the total freedom of African people in the U.S. traveled to Ireland in 1845. While there he gained tremendous support for the abolitionist cause and was able to reprint his Slave Narrative which was widely distributed internationally.

A review of a book entitled “Frederick Douglass in Ireland, In His Own Worlds” by Christine Kinealy, was partially read at the beginning of the program. The review published by the Irish Times and written by Brendan Kelly in 2018, says that:

“While Douglass’s work was unfinished at the time of his death – and remains incomplete today – his contribution to the abolition of slavery was inestimable and his personal story full of unexpected turns. In 1845, he published the memoir for which he is best known, ‘Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,’ which placed him at risk of recapture. He fled to the United Kingdom and spent several months campaigning in Ireland, speaking at events in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Wexford, Waterford, Celbridge, Belfast, Lisburn, Hollywood and Bangor. Douglass heard (Daniel) O’Connell speak at a public meeting in Dublin on September 29 1845 and was immediately entranced: ‘It seems to me that the voice of O’Connell is enough to calm the most violent passion, even though it were already manifesting itself in a mob. There is a sweet persuasiveness in it, beyond any voice I ever heard. His power over an audience is perfect.’”

Since the U.S. Civil War and the ascendancy of the Civil Rights and Black Liberation Movements, the work of the African American people still remains unfinished. With respect to Northern Ireland, O’Connor and Doherty recognized the progress which has been made since the 1960s and 1970s, although Ireland remains partitioned between the North and South.

As in the U.S. and other geo-political regions, many activists took up arms after repressive institutions of the colonial and racist states closed all avenues of nonviolent resistance and change. Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Vietnam, and other formerly colonial territories won their independence through mass action and guerrilla warfare.

In Ireland, the Citizen’s Army and the Republican Army (IRA) of the early 20th century waged an armed struggle to break the colonial yoke imposed by Britain and to unite the country. James Connolly, the co-founder of the Irish Citizen’s Army, was captured and executed by the British military in 1916 after the Easter Rising. Later an Irish War of Independence began which was able to liberate vast swaths of territory inside the country. Eventually, during the early 1920s, the country was partitioned by Britain and is still divided today.

The reemergence of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), later known as the Provisional IRA, which originally grew out of the period leading up to the War of Independence (1919-1921), was a cause for concern by the British. However, the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 resulted in a ceasefire between the IRA and the British government. A referendum on a power-sharing agreement was approved by the majority of voters in Northern Ireland and the Republic in the South.

Nonetheless, these developments have not resolved all of the outstanding issues related to a complete break with Britain and unification with the Republic of Ireland. In the U.S., despite the passage of numerous Civil Rights Bills and other measures, institutional racism and state repression remain major factors in the character of relations between African Americans and the majority white population.

The discussions on April 2 in Detroit illustrated once again the convergence of the struggles for civil rights and national liberation on an international scale. Ireland and the oppressed peoples of the globe will inevitably continue their organizing work until their strategic objectives are completely achieved.

U.S. General Admits Goal to Target Russia and China Worldwide

Russian Armed Forces General delivers briefing to the international press in Moscow.

April 24, 2022

By David Sole

Four star U.S. General Laura Richardson made startling admissions in an interview with NBC news on April 16. Richardson, Commander of the United States Southern Command, was interviewed by reporter Jose Diaz-Balart.

General Richardson listed what she, and the Pentagon, consider “threats” to U.S. security. In front of a map of Latin America and the Caribbean, she started with denouncing “unregulated fishing” by China and Russia. Other so-called “threats” included billions of dollars by China of dams, ports and other infrastructure projects. Especially disturbing to General Richardson was the economic aid for countries to set up cell phone systems.

General Richardson admitted that there was no buildup of any military projects, but that she considered the many investments by China and Russia as infringing upon U.S. control and domination in a continent she called “right at our backdoor.”

Of course the U.S. has long considered everything south of the border in the Western Hemisphere as an exclusive area for exploitation for Wall Street banks and corporations. However, these remarks come at a time that the Pentagon, State Department and the capitalist media are denouncing Russia for the Special Military Operation in Ukraine starting February 24, 2022. Ukraine has a 1200 plus mile border with Russia and was posing a threat of building NATO military facilities directed against the Russian Federation.

For a leading general to take aim at Russia and China for purely economic activities exposes the very real overriding forces driving U.S. imperialism in Ukraine, where billions of dollars worth of weapons are being rushed to try to keep a proxy war going, while at the same time enriching the vast U.S. war industry.

Russia’s second stated goal in Ukraine was to secure the safety of the largely ethnic Russian Ukrainian population in the southern and eastern area of that country. The major task of securing control of the industrial port city of Mariupol is nearly completed.

Ukrainian troops in that city of over 400,000 have been militarily defeated, with over 1400 surrendering last week. Only a single pocket of resistance continued as of April 20 in the large Azovstal steel complex. Surrounded and cut off, running out of food and ammunition, it is only a matter of time before Mariupol completely falls to the Russian forces aided by militias from the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

In a startling disconnect, the New York Times described on April 20 the Mariupol situation and its importance to Russia. “Clearing the plant could hold particular symbolic value for President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who has justified his invasion with the false claim that Ukraine is run by Nazis and that he is rooting them out.”

But the Times refutes its “false claim” editorial comment in the very next sentence: “The plant’s defenders include members of the Azov Battalion, a force that does include far-right soldiers, some of them foreign, including white supremacists and people who have been described as fascists.”

These fascist forces have been waging a vicious war against the Donbass republics for eight years, causing 14,000 casualties. Before the Russian intervention, Ukraine had massed thousands more of its troops there, intent on unleashing a massive ethnic-cleansing pogrom on the Russian-speaking population, who are now labeled as “traitors” by the Ukrainian government. And Ukraine’s leaders now call Russian soldiers “orcs”, subhumans with a Tolkien twist.

But now those same Ukrainian forces are largely cut off, and may soon be encircled by the Russian forces, just as they are in Mariupol. None of this should be a surprise, however. From the very beginning of the war the western media have made no attempt to explain the Russian or Ukrainian ethnic Russian point of view. It should be hoped that stubborn facts will force average people to see through the “official story” and set the stage for a mass, anti-imperialist movement in the U.S. and abroad.

War and Peace in Ukraine

April 17, 2022

Russian fighter vs. U.S.-NATO proxy war. | Photo: ussiadefence.net

By David Sole

Reprinted from Fighting Words War and Peace in Ukraine – Fighting Words (fighting-words.net)

Attention in the Ukraine war is shifting to the east. But before we discuss the military situation we ought to spend a moment on the possibility for a negotiated end to the hostilities.

On April 12 Russia’s president Vladimir Putin announced that peace talks that had been going on between the Russian Federation and Ukraine in Turkey were, “at a dead end.” Russian troops had entered Ukraine on what Putin declared was a Special Military Operation on February 24 with two stated goals. Russia intended to ‘demilitarize” Ukraine and ensure that this neighboring country did not join NATO or establish bases with NATO or US troops or missiles on their border.

The second stated goal was to “denazify” Ukraine’s military, which had incorporated ultra-rightwing militias into its structure following the U.S./CIA orchestrated 2014 “Maidan” coup. This goal was especially urgent as Ukraine was moving large military formations and equipment up to the border with the ethnic Russian areas of East Ukraine known as the Donbass.

Ukraine’s military attacks on the Luhansk and Donetsk Peoples’ Republics in the Donbas region had been going on since 2014 when speaking the Russian language in Ukraine was outlawed. Peace had been negotiated, with the participation of other nations, including NATO members and Russia, in the Minsk 1 and Minsk 2 Accords (signed February 12, 2015). Minsk 2 declared a military ceasefire, the withdrawal of Ukrainian heavy weapons from the Donbas border and constitutional granting of self-government to the two self-proclaimed people’s republics.

But Ukraine’s attacks never completely ended. Over 14,000 ethnic Russians were killed in the following years. In January and early February of 2022 the attacks escalated and.it appeared that a major Ukrainian invasion of that region was set to occur.

It was only then that Russia declared that the Minsk Accords no longer existed and the Russian Federation recognized the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk republics. That was on February 21 and the Russian intervention followed 3 days later.

Despite widespread, biased and false reporting from the Western mass media, Ukraine’s military has been seriously degraded by the Russian forces. Why then does Ukraine’s president Zelensky keep urging his people to fight this unequal battle? It is because Zelensky has been convinced that the U.S. and NATO will turn the tide of battle.

Jacques Baud, a former NATO military analyst, recently stated:

“the American and European political leaders deliberately pushed the Ukraine into a conflict that they knew was lost in advance – for the sole purpose of dealing a political blow to Russia.”

Baud and others have exposed how the U.S. and European powers are manipulating the situation. In an interview titled “U.S., EU sacrificing Ukraine to ‘weaken Russia’” Baud stated:

“at the end of February, as soon as Zelenskyy indicated that he might be willing to start negotiations, this was the time where these negotiations were to take place in Belarus.  Within hours after Zelenskyy decided that, the European Union came with a decision providing for half a billion arms to Ukraine, meaning that the Americans, certainly, but I think the West as a whole, made every possible effort to prevent a political solution to the conflict, and I think the Russians are aware of that.”

The ranks are being thinned of Ukraine leaders who might favor a negotiated settlement rather than see the destruction of their country in a continuing war On March 5, Ukrainian negotiator Denis Kireyev was assassinated. According to Baud, Kireyev was eliminated by the Ukrainian secret service who considered him “too friendly to Russia….The same fate befell Dmitry Demyanenko, former deputy head of the SBU’s main directorate for Kiev and its region, who was assassinated on March 10 because he was too favorable to an agreement with Russia — he was shot by the Mirotvorets (“Peacemaker”) militia. This militia is associated with the Mirotvorets website, which lists the “enemies of Ukraine,” with their personal data, addresses and telephone numbers, so that they can be harassed or even eliminated.”

Two top Ukraine generals were fired by Zelensky on April 1, who denounced them as “traitors” according to a Newsweek report.

Zelensky has also relentlessly appealed to his Ukrainian troops and militias in the southern city Mariupol to fight on despite their dire condition. Encircled for a month by Russian forces, Ukrainian military units have been hard pressed in the fighting. On April 13, “1,026 Ukrainian servicemen of the 36th marine brigade voluntarily laid down their arms and surrendered” according to Russia’s defense ministry. Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, has now nearly been captured, except for some troops holed up in a huge iron works complex.

Respected military analysts such as former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter and former NATO analyst Jacques Baud have given dispassionate appraisals of the Ukraine military situation, unlike most of the Western media. They explain that Russia is carrying out limited objectives for their military and achieving their main goals. Even recent leaks from authoritative Pentagon sources confirm this and debunk much of the pro-war propaganda from the corporate media that saturates the air waves.

The great danger, however, is that the pro-war, anti-Russia ideologues in the U.S. government and European Union will continue to flood Ukraine with promises and weapons. Their goal, however, is not to win the war militarily, but to harm Russia politically and economically down to the last drop of Ukrainian blood.

New Labor Organizing

April 13, 2022

Starbucks Workers United. | Photo: Michael Sanabrian

By Gerry Scoppettuolo

Long time labor organizers and activists are detecting new signs of life in organized labor in the U.S. Starbucks and Amazon workers are leading a remarkable rank and file led upsurge that is reaching national consciousness due to widespread coverage in the mainstream bourgeois media. Whether these new victories will portend a deep and lasting change in the working class in the U.S. with attendant international effects, only time will tell.

What started at a Buffalo, New York Starbucks last winter is a movement whose time, it seems, has now come. Since those workers won the first union victory last December, something of a prairie fire has resulted.  Four Starbucks stores are petitioning the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for elections every day in recent months across the U.S.  18 out of19 stores that have held elections resulted in victories – many lopsided. As of April 11, 2022  two cafes in Boston celebrated a combined 27-0 win.  Young rank and file organizers, when they hear of interest in a store within driving distance, are visiting the location and providing organizing “startup” kits with T-shirts, authorization cards and buttons.

These are not the fabled “flying squadrons” of striking textile workers in 1934 who drove from mill to mill from Maine to the Carolinas calling out workers to come out of the factories and join the strike of eventually 375,000. But the excitement in these young workers cannot be denied. They will be joining other Starbucks workers in other countries. One third of Chilean Starbucks cafes are already organized, one store in Canada and 450 workers in New Zealand have also unionized (Wikipedia).

The vast wealth accumulated by Starbucks originates in the exploitation of very young child workers in Guatemala, Brazil and Ethiopia who work for pennies picking coffee beans on contract farms, coffee that, once ground, ends up as a designer brand on Starbucks shelves in wealthy countries. According to the Brazilian Government, some Brazilian children work in “conditions analogous” to slavery. (Infact.com, the Guardian and Mongabay.com).  The capitalist supply chain of exploitation begins here and then moves to the sale force in the U.S. and Europe where additional surplus value can be wrung out of the labor of older workers.

The recent Amazon union victory of 5000 workers in Staten Island, NY- a first in the U.S. – led by African American organizer Chris Smalls has received unprecedented media coverage of an entirely positive character. The recently elected international president of the Teamsters Union, Sean O’Brien, has just met with Smalls promising unlimited support in the upcoming contract campaign. O’Brien campaigned for Teamster president on a promise to organize Amazon.

In Bessemer Alabama, the recent second election concluded recently in a near tie with 416 “challenged” ballots being examined by the NLRB. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU)  lost the first election by a margin of 2-1. But the Board found so many violations of law by Amazon that it ordered a new election. Like Starbucks, Amazon has a huge international workforce of 500,000 as well as the 1.1 million in the U.S. Last year Amazon workers in France, Italy, Spain & Poland went out on strike on the same day (The Insider; Forbes.com). This past week 6 Amazon facilities in France went on strike on April 7th as workers staged a wildcat spontaneous walkout demanding higher wages.   Amazon Workers International is a European cross-border coalition of workers in those countries.

What can account for this new organizing? The young and low-income workforce in the U.S. (over 300,000 baristas and over a million Amazon workers) are struggling economically due to the current rampant inflation and the capitalist-induced rental housing shortage. For one thing the current low unemployment rate masks the fact that in the new world of part time employment, workers must take on two, three or more jobs to make ends meet. The federal government counts workers as employed if they work just one hour a week. Worse, real wages (adjusted for inflation) are falling fast and workers of all ages in warehousing, retail and hospitality industries are struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table. In the first year of the Great Depression, 1930, the old American Federation of Labor and the Railroad Brotherhoods could unionize barely 10% of the workers due to their craft-oriented and racial exclusionary practices.

Today the unionization rate in the private sector is below 10%. (Bureau of Labor Statistics 3/22 and National Bureau of Economic Research, 1937) Except for the Starbucks union, Workers United, a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) affiliate, established unions will not devote organizing capacity to small shops (50 and under). On the other hand, some employers like UBER and Amazon are so vast that only a really big union like the Teamsters have the capacity to organize them.

Oppressed workers have taken it upon themselves to self-organize in a thoroughly rank and file led manner. They are not waiting for an AFL-CIO organizer to knock on their door. Further, a large-scale solidarity movement is growing in parallel to this organizing. At a time when the ruling class in the U.S. and its warmongering media are driving the world to an inflationary global crisis, many workers are fighting back and choosing to engage in class struggle rather than drinking the poison of capitalist war. They deserve all the help we can give them.

Anti-imperialists Worldwide Oppose U.S./NATO Proxy War in Ukraine

April 10, 2022

Greek workers block railroad tracks carrying NATO tanks going to Ukraine.. | Photo: 902.gr

By David Sole

Everyone who watches TV knows that if a crime has been committed the crime scene investigators are called to sift through the evidence. And the coroner is employed to carefully examine a body to determine identity and cause of death.

So one must ask why none of this has been done in the case of the alleged massacre in Bucha, Ukraine. The entire capitalist mass media and politicians around the U.S., Europe and their allies picked up and spread a story about so-called “Russian atrocities” without any investigation or evidence.

On March 30 Russian troops withdrew from Bucha, a town of about 37,000 people about 16 miles west of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. On March 31 the mayor of Bucha announced the town’s “liberation” making no mention of any massacre. On April 1 and 2 elements of the Ukrainian pro-Nazi Azov Battalion entered Bucha.  Only then were reports of murdered civilians heard. Without forensic evidence it would be premature to conclude that civilians were executed and who might be responsible. “Russia said images of atrocities had been staged” according to BBC News.

This lack of investigation by forensic experts didn’t stop U.S. president Joseph Biden from spreading the “Russian war crimes” story. Biden also called for Russian president Vladimir Putin to be put on trial. The BBC reported that satellite photos showed 11 bodies in the streets of Bucha from Russia’s occupation after February 27 to the March 30 withdrawal. According to the BBC the Ukraine government claims that 410 bodies had been found “in areas around Kyiv.”

Anyone familiar with previous U.S. wars (or proxy wars) knows that propaganda offensives are as important as military offensives. Claims of massacres and mass graves were often used to sway public opinion to support a war, reports that were later found false. This was true in the war against Yugoslavia in the late 1990s.

In earlier wars, like Korea and Vietnam, only years later was it shown that the United States military, itself, was responsible for slaughtering civilians. For example, it took 19 months, from March 1968 to October 1969 for the public to learn of the U.S. military’s massacre of 509 villagers in My Lai, Vietnam.

Not everyone in the world is jumping on the pro-NATO bandwagon. It has been reported that Greek railroad workers have refused to transport NATO tanks from ships unloading in Greece headed to bases in Eastern Europe bordering Ukraine.

According to the April 3 New Zealand Daily Telegraph “a dozen trade unions, including workers of the chemical industry of Northern Greece, construction, telecoms, food industry, hotels, catering establishments, local authorities and municipal enterprises” backed a resolution supporting the railroad workers.

“We, the railway workers, work to provide affordable and quality transportation to the people and for the transport of goods which can be used to meet their needs, not to become part of the country’s involvement in plans which are dangerous for the people, by transporting NATO material to areas near Ukraine. We will not be accomplices in the passage of the war machine through the territory of our country.”

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) held numerous demonstrations to support the workers and oppose NATO actions in Greece. It was also reported that “the US recently gained access to 4 additional Greek bases, and the two countries penned a major $9.4 billion naval equipment deal in December.”

It should be noted that while the KKE position on the Ukraine war does sharply target NATO and the United States, it also characterizes the war as an ‘inter-imperialist” conflict, putting some of the blame on Russia.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa strongly condemned NATO’s role for causing the Ukraine war. On March 17 Ramaphosa answered a question in parliament saying “The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded the warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region.”.

On March 19 the Bulgarian Revival Party held a large demonstration in Sofia, the nation’s capital. Thousands of protesters demanded that NATO get out of their country and that NATO weapons not be sent to Ukraine, dragging them into a fratricidal war.

Stop the State Police Harassment and Targeting of Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor

April 10, 2022 

The following letter was sent by the Detroit based Moratorium Now Coalition to top Michigan officials. Rev. Edward Pinkney, an African American community leader in Benton Harbor in western Michigan, needs your support. Please go to the end of the letter to see how you can help with phone calls and emails.

By Moratorium NOW! Coalition

April 7, 2022

To Governor Gretchen Whitmer, State Police Director Colonel Joseph Gafper and DHHS Deputy Director David Knezek:

We are greatly alarmed that Michigan State police are being sent to target and harass Rev. Edward Pinkney, the noted community activist in Benton Harbor, Michigan. On March 25, 2022 Sgt. Hayward of the Paw Paw State Police post and another officer went to Rev. Pinkney’s home. They raised several ridiculous allegations that Rev. Pinkney was selling (donated) water in South Bend, Indiana and that Rev. Pinkney might be tampering with water test results in Benton Harbor. When Rev. Pinkney asked about why the State of Michigan had not paid him for the use of two rooms in his church contracted by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to store filters and water for the past months, the officers accused him of “holding the supplies hostage.” On another recent occasion state troopers came to the church and watched while water was being distributed to community members.

We cannot help but recall that Rev. Pinkney has been the victim of persecution for his community service. He was imprisoned for literally quoting the Bible in an article. This case was thrown out upon appeal but only after Rev. Pinkney spent one year in prison.

On another occasion Rev. Pinkney was arrested, tried and convicted for petitioning to recall the Mayor of Benton Harbor. He spent two and one half years in State prisons. Only after those long years Rev. Pinkney’s case was overturned by the Michigan Supreme Court which found that he had not broken any law. We believe that without mass public support and pressure Rev. Pinkney would have been killed by the guards in Marquette Prison.

So we take it very seriously when State troopers start harassing the Reverend and when spurious charges start to be floated against him.

We demand that you take immediate action to stop the harassment, apologize to Rev. Pinkney and ensure that all officials under your direction cease and desist from any and all further actions that target and endanger Rev. Pinkney.

Sincerely,

Moratorium NOW Coalition

Take Immediate Action: Give your name and city. Express your concern clearly and briefly over the phone or via email. Be polite. On the phone, ask them to please take down your message and deliver it to the Governor or State Police Director.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer

517-335-7858

Michigan.gov/Whitmer/contact, click Contact the Governor, fill in the information and type in your message

State Police Director, Colonel Joseph Gafper

517-332-2521

Msp_webmaster@michigan.gov

David Knezek, Deputy Director for Administration, Department of Health and Human Services

313- 864-0161 (cell phone)

Tens of Thousands Threatened with Property Tax Foreclosures in Detroit

WAYNE COUNTY TREASURER PRESSURED TO EXTEND MORATORIUM ON OWNER OCCUPIED HOMES AND TENANTS

March 29, 2022 

Reprinted from Fighting Words Tens of Thousands Threatened with Property Tax Foreclosures in Detroit – Fighting Words (fighting-words.net)

Detroit demonstration outside Wayne County Treasurer's Office Detroit demonstration outside Wayne County Treasurer’s Office. | Photo: Pan-African News Wire

By Abayomi Azikiwe

March 31 has been designated as the deadline for Wayne County residents to pay back property taxes from 2019 and before, despite the failure of the relevant authorities to provide adequate assistance to working and impoverished households.

For the last two years, Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree has not foreclosed on properties due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has had a disproportionate impact on area residents, particularly African Americans who make up approximately 80 percent of the Detroit population.

This issue is not a new one in Detroit and Wayne County. Since 2005, there have been tens of thousands of homes and small businesses seized due in part to over assessments which grew out of the mortgage crisis during the first decade of the century. Values of homes were artificially inflated by financial institutions in order to sell more first-time and refinancing loans which proved beneficial only to the banks and insurance companies.

Detroit and the state of Michigan were at the epicenter of the economic crisis leading up to and during the so-called “Great Recession” from 2007 to 2010. The impact of the mortgage home foreclosures was to create even more neighborhood abandonment and blight. Successive state and local officials refused to take effective measures through the implementation of long-term moratoriums along with legal actions against the banks which created the housing crisis.

Moreover, the working and poor people of the United States were saddled with bailing out the banks and insurance firms that engineered the economic downturn. Legislation passed by Congress during the final quarter of 2008 placed the burden of the recession on taxpayers within the proletariat. This bailing out of the banks coincided with similar efforts related to the automotive industry where both General Motors and Chrysler were subsidized by public funding in order save them from consolidation or liquidation.

These factors are largely responsible for the housing situation in Detroit and Wayne County where more than a quarter of the population (240,0000) were driven out of the region between 2000-2010. In Detroit, the population, according to the latest Census figures, has declined an additional 80,000 since 2010. At present, population estimates indicate that the state’s largest municipality has a population of 635,000.

Detroit’s population reached its maximum in 1950 with approximately 1.8 million. Over the last 72 years, 1.2 million people have been relocated from the city. This massive displacement was both voluntary and forced when government entities such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the National Interstate and Defense Highway Act facilitated the destruction of majority African American communities and the suburbanization of whites outside the city limits.

The deliberate downsizing and disinvestment in heavy and light industrial production from inside the city center to suburban, out-of-state and offshore locations fueled the migration from the municipality by workers seeking viable employment. The current property tax foreclosure crisis will only further depopulate and impoverish the city.

Corporate Restructuring and the Legacy of Residential Depopulation

Since the contrived and illegal bankruptcy which was imposed on Detroit during 2013-2014, the city has fallen into deeper poverty and community underdevelopment. The appropriation of city assets such as Belle Isle, public works, lighting, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and other institutions, has not reversed the economic trajectory of the municipality.

Tax incremental funding, popularly referred to as “tax captures”, are touted for their utility in fostering “development” largely centered in key areas of the city such as downtown, Midtown, New Center and industrial sites including the new Flex-N-Gate, Stellantis, and the now under construction Amazon facilities located on the eastside of Detroit. Yet these plants and the opening of three casino hotels since 1999, has not fostered sustainable development and a rise in household incomes.

These prestige projects where the owners are largely absolved from paying corporate and other taxes are profiting at the expense of the majority Black population. At present some plants have been forced to lay-off workers as a result of supply chain problems stemming from the continuing impact of the pandemic since 2020. Noise and other forms of environmental pollution caused by these plants are also forcing people from neighborhoods.

Moratorium NOW! Coalition Calls for Mobilization Against Tax Foreclosures

On March 30, the Moratorium NOW! Coalition and other housing activists are holding a press conference and rally outside the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office located at 400 Monroe Street in the Greektown section of downtown. Sabree says he is being pressured to not extend the moratorium on home seizures despite the ongoing crisis related to the pandemic and the overall economic situation.

A statement issued by Moratorium NOW! Coalition on March 23 says that:

“There is no reasonable cause for the home seizures to resume when many households have not recovered from the economic and social impact of a public health crisis not witnessed in more than a century. We are calling on the Wayne County Treasurer to stop the foreclosures; protect renters from evictions where taxes are delinquent; and to work towards a long-term plan to put an end to the housing property tax disaster which has been in existence for more than a decade-and-a-half. A list of over 17,000 homes is being threatened with seizure. The problem is so severe that the Treasurer’s Office is not answering calls from the public seeking assistance. This is totally unacceptable. The only solution is to halt the foreclosures and work towards a sustainable solution.”

The ultimate solution to the housing crisis in Detroit lies within the necessity to change the rubric which guides property rights. Housing should be considered a human right and not a profit-making mechanism controlled by real estate firms and financial institutions. The existing model has only forced more people into homeless and poverty.

Housing Remains a National Crisis

Property tax foreclosures, rising rents, the current inflationary spiral plaguing the U.S. and the subsequent social instability, are all manifestations of the failure of the current administration of President Joe Biden and the Congress to pass legislation that would assist millions of households. None of the social spending initiatives proposed by progressive elements within the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed into law.

Therefore, the striking down of a public health moratorium enacted through the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) by the Supreme Court has never been reversed through legislative measures. This holds true as well for the programs to provide permanent child tax credits to working families along with investments in childcare and the lifting of the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour.

The Supreme Court since 2013 has eviscerated the enforcement provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act while Congress, even with a Democratic majority in both the House and Senate, has failed to take action to guarantee universal suffrage. A series of Civil Rights bills passed by Congress between 1957 and 1968 are effectively null and void. Due to the passage by states of restrictive voting laws, millions of African Americans and other people of color communities will be subjected to massive disenfranchisement across the U.S. in 2022 and 2024.

Yet these issues have been taken off the agenda by the Biden administration and the corporate media which are exclusively promoting sanctions and war against the Russian Federation. Biden traveled to the European North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries during late March to drum up support for further hostilities against Russia and the People’s Republic of China. Meanwhile, workers are paying more than $6 per gallon for gasoline in California along with astronomical inflationary increases for the prices for automobiles, auto services, food and housing expenses throughout the length and breathe of the U.S.

Consequently, the struggle to win housing rights is an important aspect of the overall movement against austerity and imperialist war. Working people and the nationally oppressed must organize independently of the Democratic and Republican parties in order to wage the necessary campaigns aimed at improving living conditions and social stability.