Monthly Archives: November 1979

1979.11.26: The Indian Left (UMass-Boston)

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1979.11.26: Nehru’s Elitist Approach (UMass-Boston)

Nehru’s Elitist Approach (UMass-Boston, November 26, 1979), by Michael Letwin
1979.11.26 — Nehru’s Elitist Approach — ML — UMB

1979.11.20: Iran — Another Voice (UMass-Boston Mass Media)

UMass-Boston Mass Media
November 20, 1979
Iran — Another Voice
By Michael Letwin

The situation in Iran has frightening results, but they aren’t the ones mentioned by the government or media. The real dangers are that the American ruling class has managed to whip up assaults on Iranian students and support for economic and military action against Iran.

At the same time, attention has been successfully diverted from the tact that Iranian demands are completely justified, that the American ruling class created the current crisis, and that it is cynically manipulating Both the hostages and the phony issue of oil.

The Iranian people have every right to demand that the Shah and his vast stolen fortune be returned to Iran, for the Shah is a criminal. Despite the immense oil riches of Iran, the vast majority of Iranians under the Shah in grinding poverty while he and his cronies practiced wholesale corruption and lived in splendid comfort.

All this was made possible by one of the most repressive societies in the world. There were no trade unions, democratic or civil rights. The army and dreaded SAVAK (Gestapo-style secret police) maintained “order” through the massacre, torture and imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of political prisoners. Thousands of Iranians died in the revolution alone on orders from the Shah and his ministers.

What does the U.S. have to do with this? Everything. A coup saved the Shah from popular revolt in 1953. From then on, he was backed with the most advanced weaponry the U.S. had, $10.4 billion worth between 1972-6 alone, His SAVAK was created and trained by the FBI, CIA and Israeli Mossad. The very embassy which is now in Iranian hands served as the nerve center for real power in Iran for most of the Shah’s rule.

In short, the U.S. stood behind the Shah and his regime until the day he was thrown out by the Iranian revolution, all the while praising him as a “great humanitarian.” Now, not surprisingly, he has arrived in that old age home for worn­out U.S. backed butchers — the U.S. itself.

The American capitalist class supported the Shah, because most of the time, he served it well. He made huge profits available to the major oil companies as well as other American investors and contractors.

He turned Iran into its cop on the Persian Gulf, keeping an eye on Russians, but most importantly, keeping the Iranians and other peoples of the region from disrupting the adventures of American imperialism. Even today, American capitalists hope to win the Iranian ruling class over to cooperating with them.

These facts should help bring us to an understanding of the Iranian demands. Khomeini is obviously trying to focus attention on the Shah in order to divert growing challenges from Iranians against his own repressive rule. However, millions of Iranians are demanding the Shah’s return and denouncing American imperialism because they know what has happened, and that, if American capitalists have their way, it will happen again.

That Iranians feel this way has been so obvious that the U.S. government knew that by granting the Shah entry to the U.S., it was inviting Iranian retaliation. A State Department memo written by Cyrus Vance and made public by the Iranians occupying the Tehran embassy states clearly that the U.S. has long been trying to find an excuse to let the Shah into the country, and not because he was ill.

As early as July 26th, Vance wrote to the American embassy asking when they thought the Shah should be allowed in. A short time later he noted that the Shah’s arrival would mean that “the danger of hostages being taken will persist.” (Boston Globe 11/13/79.)

How then, given the American role in Iran and the conscious provocation that led to the taking of hostages, can we account for the self-righteous nationalism of so many Americans? The “injustice” of taking hostages? The “uncivilized” behavior of the Iranians?

Well, we know that Americans aren’t beating up on Iranian students from of any deep­seated commitment to justice. lf that were the issue, would they have tolerated their ruling class’ support for one of the most brutal regimes known to the Shah’s Iran? Would they have any problem returning the Shah to Iran to stand trial?

American lives at stake? Funny, there are plenty of American lives at stake right here at home, but the media doesn’t rant and rave, the government doesn’t step in, and most people don’t feel compelled to do much about it.

Take the 51 workers who fell off that scaffold in West Virginia last year because the company they worked for wanted to make a few more bucks. There was no outrage when the company was fined all of $150,000 as “punishment.” Then there are the victims of Three Mile Island and the Love Canal, the five victims of the KKK in North Carolina last week, the hundreds of old folks who will die this winter because they can’t pay the heating bills and the needless cancer deaths of 1,000 Americans every day.

The list of “American lives at stake” goes on and on because American capitalism, in its drive to make and protect its profits, causes more avoidable deaths of far more Americans than the Iranians could ever dream of.

The explanation for this selective concern is that, unlike anger directed toward American capitalism, good old-fashioned imperialist-style hysteria about hostages in Tehran is officially approved and encouraged. This kind of anger has been created and manipulated by the government and media.

If they so chose, they could explain why Iranians are so adamant about the U.S. and the Shah, that the U.S. knew the Shah’s arrival would cause a major reaction in Iran, and that all it takes to free the hostages, even now, is the delivery of the Shah to Iran. If this had happened, American anger might be directed elsewhere.

Instead, they have chosen to portray the U.S. as a helpless, innocent victim of insane Muslims who deserve to be blown away.

Americans were stirred up in this way because the situation was too good for the American ruling class to pass up. it took a beating in Vietnam, Angola, Iran and Nicaragua. It hasn’t been able to reinstate the draft or fight another war because Americans wouldn’t allow it. And ever since, it has whined about those days when it could pound its bloody fist around the world without fear of opposition at home,

Now, using the specter of another phony oil shortage created by American oil companies (note that Carter admits that his of Iranian oil won’t cause shortages, just higher prices) and the cynical manipulation of hostages in Iran, the American ruling class hopes to whip up enough support for itself by convincing us that their defeats are ours. That their honor and power is ours. That we should help them control the world.

It will mean tragedy if the American working class supports them. It not only puts us on the wrong side and threatens to see a whole lot of us killed in another Vietnam (or WW III), but it also diverts our attention to anything but the real issue that demands our attention — that “our” ruling class is holding all of us hostage to a system which cares so little for life that it is destroying some of us every day.

We would do much better to follow the example of our brothers and sisters in Iran who had the sense and courage to overthrow their Shah and who continue to fight Khomeini to achieve the goals of the revolution.

1979.11.19: The Role of Religion in I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings (UMass-Boston)

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1979.11.06: The Roots of Racism (UMB Mass Media)

The Mass Media [UMass-Boston]
November 6, 1979
The Roots of Racism
By Michael Letwin

Though it’s hard to believe, white racism as we know it today has not always existed. it began with American slavery.

Black slavery was the foundation stone of the prosperity of American society, South and North, in the 18th and 19th centuries. The transport, sale and labor of black slaves made possible the development of the into the richest and most powerful country in the world. But the systematic enslavement and brutal treatment of millions of black people required some justification.

How could Christian white society explain the horrors committed against black slaves? Simple. As slavery developed, blacks were declared less than human. They were “evil,” “childlike,” “stupid,” and a whole parade of other names familiar lo anyone who has seen Gone With The Wind. They were “obviously” in need of white ownership and deserving of whatever white slave owners committed against them. The slave system in America badly needed such racism to explain to itself, to poor whites and, most importantly, to black slaves that slavery was the “natural order of things.”

Slavery ended in 1865, but white domination and racism did not. After the Civil War, it benefited the American ruling class — both its planter wing in the South, and industrial wing in the keep blacks marked off as an inferior section of the working class, and to confine blacks to the worst jobs and lowest pay. It made sense to encourage racial division in the working class along color lines, for if white workers could be convinced that their interests were with white capitalists rather than black workers, the working class would remain divided among itself instead of fighting against their employers together.

So only a few short years alter the Civil War, Northern industrialists in control of the Federal government had abandoned any pretense of defending the rights of black people. Poor blacks and whites alike were left to the mercy of white racist terror in the South. In the North, economic and social discrimination and segregation were maintained as strongly as ever.

Only the threat created by the Black movement of the 1960’s forced a section of the American ruling class to realize that certain concessions would have to be made to the demands of black people, particularly in the area of civil rights. But even these concessions didn’t prevent the government’s campaign of repression and murder of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Black Panther Party. And, as we have seen in the case of Boston school integration, the concessions have been extremely limited in scope, are at best carried out halfheartedly and at worst sabotaged.

What worked well in dividing the working class has also been used by the ruling class to justify American imperialism. lt was alright to commit genocide on the native American population because they were “filthy red savages.” Half of Mexico was stolen by the U.S. in 1845 because the Mexicans were race. In more recent times, American soldiers massacred “Japs” in WW Hand “gooks” in Korea and Vietnam. That’s ok, they weren’t white.

That the American ruling class has encouraged white racism should not be surprising. America was built on and is maintained on the murder, exploitation and oppression of the vast majority of humanity. Racism is an indispensable way of justifying that tact.

The ultimate tragedy of racism, however, is that most of the time the majority of the white working class has bought it. Why? First, because white workers have not been immune to the dominant ideas of society. And from school to television to the newspapers those ideas have been permeated with racism. Even where blatant racism has been reduced, racist thinking, after generations of existence, has taken on a life of its own. White superiority is as fundamental a view of many whites (both consciously and unconsciously) as the world being round.

At least as important, however, is that in the short run, white workers have enjoyed some benefits from white domination. White racism has ensured that the better jobs, housing and schools go to whites rather than nonwhite workers. It has also had certain psychological benefits for white workers. If you’ve been fucked over by the boss, the cops or the school principal, it’s easiest to blame the problems and take out your frustrations on non­whites who can be attacked without fear of punishment the government.

The systematic racial segregation of Boston only reinforces that hatred since It allows many whites to be completely ignorant of the black people they attack. This scapegoating of blacks and other people of color is especially popular in times of economic crisis, such as today.

So, while the ruling class has organized to maintain racial divisions in the working class through economic discrimination and political manipulation, white working class people often have been willing to play their part by opposing integration of schools, jobs and housing and by tolerating or participating in physical attacks against the black community,

But the short­-term benefits of racism tor white working class people are in tact outweighed by the long­-term losses, Take Boston. The most virulent racism against the black community today comes from the poverty ­stricken Irish Catholic and Italian working class neighborhoods, communities laced with rotten schools, decaying housing and rising unemployment, Can blacks be blamed for that? Hardly: black conditions are even worse.

In fact, American capitalism has squeezed Boston’s white working class for all it could get and has abandoned it now that it’s not as profitable. White racism has enabled whites to suffer a little less from this reality than blacks, but that same racism now makes it a thousand times more difficult to build a united movement against the declining conditions laced by all working class people in Boston.

Despite this gloomy picture, things have been different. Though racism is the rule, white and black working class people in this country have at times worked together against the conditions of life imposed upon them by American capitalism. They have united in strikes. They have fought police terror. They can unite to do this again and lo move on lo establish a socialist society based on the democratic control of all workers.

But they will only do so when white racism is understood, confronted end beaten.

1979.11.00: El Communismo y Estado de Santiago Carillo (UMass-Boston)

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