Sacrificing Workers Lives is Back to Work Plan – Paul Jay

In the streets and at the ballot box, we must fight for: No return to work until it’s safe and with full economic support; community control of the police; and publicly-owned banking and enterprises that create jobs and put the public interest first. – Paul Jay on the Law and Disorder Radio Show 

Rush Transcript

Michael Smith

This is Law and Disorder. Police murder of George Floyd triggered a nationwide popular explosion, the likes of which the ruling elites of America have never endured since the founding of the USA as a settler-colonial state.

244 years ago, the rebellion against police violence comes in the context of 40 million people being unemployed and a pandemic which has sickened a million and a half people, killing over 100000 of them. The plague has brought about a depression in the economy, which will go on for many years, leaving people unemployed, uninsured, hungry and homeless. As always, the most advanced sector of the population in the USA is the African-American population. But there has been an unprecedented amount of solidarity expressed between Americans of all races and ages.

Although we do not yet have a leadership with sufficient clarity, organization and strength, we must view the development of the rebellion as a process. Will demand for community control of the police unfold more generally and to demand for a more just society with the democratic control of the economy. That, of course, is the big question. We are joined today by Paul Jay. The founder and editor of theAnalysis.news. He’s a journalist, filmmaker and the founder of Real News.

He is currently working with Daniel Ellsberg on a documentary series based on Ellsberg, his book, The Doomsday Machine Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. We will discuss the kind of movement that is needed to reverse the nuclear arms race, as well as bring about the democratic organization of our society and economy.

Welcome to Law and Disorder.

Paul Jay

Thank you, Michael. 

Thanks for inviting me. 

Michael Smith

Paul, we’re going to talk today about Trump’s pulling out of the international treaties designed to limit the possibility of nuclear war and the one trillion dollars he and Obama before him plan to spend over the next 30 years revamping America’s nuclear arsenal. But before we get into this, let’s talk about the rebellion that started last week. You covered the situation in Baltimore after the murder of Freddie Gray.

What do you make of what’s going on nationwide now after the murder of George Floyd? 

Paul Jay

Well, I’m not in Baltimore now or in one of the cities that things are exploding.

I got I got away from New York because of the Corona virus, but I have a sense of what’s going on because of having been in Baltimore through the whole Freddie Gray experience.

The thing that’s being missed, I guess, in the way corporate media covers all of this is they they pay a bit of lip service to the issue of poverty and racism, but they don’t ever ask why. Why is there chronic poverty in these cities? Why is there systemic racism? They’ll even use those words these days. I saw Hillary Clinton, I think, actually use the word systemic racism, but it’s a complete abstraction the way they talk about systemic racism, because systemic racism isn’t some virus.

It’s not a covert 19. Systemic racism is an outgrowth of a capitalism that developed out of a slave society. It’s the ideology of slavery. And it’s it’s still in in in exists today because the kind of slavery, outright slavery that existed back when United States was a slave system doesn’t exist except in the prison system where it essentially does exist. But what there exists now is a pool of extremely cheap labor in most of the big American cities.

And it’s very, very profitable for the corporations and nonprofit corporations. I have to say as well, because in Baltimore, it’s places like Johns John Tops Hopkins Hospital, which on the face of it is a nonprofit, but it operates like a for profit and they take advantage of this cheap labor.

And that is the underlying reason why there is still systemic racism. Now, that doesn’t mean there isn’t in the culture.

Permeating the culture, racist ideas and one of the points of the racist ideology in the first place, white supremacy, was to get sections of the white working class to buy into the idea that somehow they weren’t so bad off because at least they were better than the black workers. And they tried to use this racist ideology to divide people. And that’s still a role it plays today. But what’s going on now in the streets is obviously a reflection of the burning, raging anger of people who live in deep poverty.

And I think there’s a nuance to this, which I don’t think gets talked about enough, which is the police brutality. It’s not as simple as they’re just some racist police who hate people with black skin. The system of systemic racism, the system of keeping people in poverty for the sake of having a pool of cheap, cheap labor.

The culture of the police departments, which have very much the inheritors of a culture of the early police forces that went and captured escaped slaves, but all that’s perpetuated because this need for the elites and then very misguidedly sections of white workers who think they’re better off. But the need to keep people in poverty and then restrain them when they fight back. And sometimes that fighting back is political. And these days, more often than not, it’s very self-destructive.

A lot of the fighting back, a lot of the murder and mayhem that goes on in poor neighborhoods is poor blacks against poor blacks. And that’s the product of desperation from living in such conditions. And the police role that I saw this in Baltimore is to contain the consequences of poverty within the neighborhoods that are super poor. So if you’re a white person in Baltimore, it was one of the safest places you could be. I know in twenty nineteen I think there was something like three hundred and forty eight murders in Baltimore.

I don’t have the exact statistic, but it’s something in the range of about 97 percent of those murders were black on black murders and a large amount of it domestic violence that gets portrayed in the media as if it’s mostly gang. And certainly there is some gang violence, but a lot of it is just people cracking under the pressure.

Of living with horrible economic anxiety, not knowing if they’re gonna be able to feed their kids at the end of every month. I think it’s very interesting what’s happening now with the  Covid crisis.

That whole sections of the white working class that thought everything was okay are now being thrown into poverty themselves and never imagined it would happen.

And I think that’s to a large extent going to change the politics.

But cops are the visible sign of a system, and a lot of the rage against the police brutality is too much in my mind, focusing on the cops, although, of course, they’re criminally liable.

And of course, all four cops in Minneapolis should be charged and go to jail.

But but it’s very important that the movement that’s arising sees beyond the cops and even the judicial system, because when I saw the uprising in Baltimore.

There was almost no demands or slogans or people talking. I can’t say none, but very little. That went on a beyond the visible signs of the coercive police state, the police state are coercive. They’re brutal because they’re asked to be, you know, that the elites that run the society and frankly, a lot of ordinary people that are threatened by the violence that comes from neighborhoods that are very poor, including, I have to say, in Baltimore.

Much of the black working class neighborhoods, people who do work every day, and that’s the majority of black Baltimore go to work every day. They’re not unemployed, even though they understand the problem to a large extent of the poverty. They still want to be safe.

So it’s it’s not as simplistic as just rich people telling cops to to go beat up on poor people, poor black people. It’s it’s it’s also a lot of people are anxious and live in fear, but it’s all the consequences of poverty. And that’s what needs to be talked about, not just restraining the police, certainly not just reviewing police forces, because we have to put on the table community control of police, not just review, but most importantly.

And you just go talk to people in the poor neighborhoods in Baltimore and I’m sure in other American cities. What do you want? The answer is simple. They want jobs.

Michael Smith

Let’s talk about the rebellion against the police violence in the context of 40 million people being unemployed here in the U.S. and the dangerous pandemic that hasn’t been adequately addressed. Do you think we’re in for three or four more years of depression, coupled with a second wave of the spreading of this virus?

Paul Jay

Well, you know, I’m not an economist and I’m not a doctor, so I give him my best sense of having talked to economists and doctors.

The answer is, yeah, I think we’re in for at least three, four years.

The vaccine seems to be at least two, three, four years away from being practically effective, even when there is an effective vaccine and there still isn’t. And it could be months in a year or more, two years before there is.

I know in many places like right now I have I happen to be in Canada because I’m a dual citizen. And when they Covid crisis broke out in New York, we went back to Canada.

And the situation here, while it’s much better because there’s a public health care system and the one thing people I don’t think understand about the Canadian public health care system. It’s not just about public health insurance. The hospitals are publicly owned, all the hospitals, with very rare exceptions, which gave the Canadians an ability to coordinate the resources better.

That being said, there is no infrastructure here for manufacturing or distributing vaccine on a scale that’s going to be meaningful for several years. And the same situatios in the United States.

The the economics of it, as far as I understand, is that the the economy is in a death spiral. The bulk of the funding of the stimulus plan went to prop up big companies and indirectly the stock market and maybe even directly the stock market. There’s talk that the Fed is going to directly buy stock, but right now they’re buying junk bonds and corporate debt. And there are a lot of that corporate debt.

And the reason why companies were in a precarious situation because of this closing down of production was they amassed enormous corporate debt by buying up their own stock.

These stock buybacks, which were used to be illegal and were legalized, I believe, during the Clinton administration, you know, they’re just there to juice up the stock price and make money for the larger stockholders and the executives at these companies that got big bonuses because stocks went up and it was a total of smoke and mirrors. But when you look at the amount of corporate debt, apparently the amount of corporate debt is almost equal in the dollar figure to the stock buybacks.

And they’re taking this money and relieving them.

The corporations of corporate debt that work there is the result of total manipulation and that money is not going back into productive activity.

The same thing with buying junk bonds. The Fed is buying a little bit of state and city debt, but not nearly enough, the states and cities are in terrible, terrible shape. So what does it mean? It means this 40 million people that are unemployed. In the end, it’s probably going to be worse. They have almost no purchasing power. Now they’re getting a little bit of stimulus money. What is it, about six, seven hundred bucks a week for a few more weeks if they were already on unemployment insurance that got added to their unemployment insurance.

I know in Maryland, that amounts to about a thousand bucks a week, but that’s not going to last very long. And it’s not even enough to support a family for most people. So on the on the consumption side, the purchasing power side, the side that has to be strengthened, if there’s going to be an economic recovery, there’s very little resources going into it.

Michael Smith

So how is there going to be a recovery?

Well, I think the the plan of the Republican Party and Trump and sections of the elites, corporate elites, is they think of this as, listen, everyday people drive to work and get killed by cars. Does that mean we stop people from going to work and driving to work because some get killed by cars?

So their logic is people will go to work and there some are going to die of Kofod 19 just the way they die from accidents. And maybe it will be in higher numbers. But the thing to understand about a country whose culture is rooted in slave society to the extent to which that mentality still exists.

That what is the whole point of racist ideology is to dehumanize those you exploit the most. Now the elites in the United States Senate. And it was so and to some extent still is in England. But, you know, the early slaves were white. I mean, the British enslaved the Irish. And they dehumanized the Irish in order to enslave them. They also if you look in the 19th century, child labor, well, how did how did the elites justify child labor, kids going into mines at eight, nine years old and dying of methane poisoning?

Well, because they’re not fully human.

That’s why the dehumanization is not just about race. It’s also about class. And the elites don’t give a damn really when I say not all the elites.

There are exceptions, but on the whole, the system doesn’t care. They dehumanize white workers and they dehumanize more Latino and black workers because people of color are super exploited and get dehumanized even more.

But their plan is OK. Some of these workers are going to die, but the economy will come back. They had the same attitude towards climate change. It’s exactly the same mentality the rich just think they’re going to be OK. They’re kids. They’re kids. Kids will be OK. They don’t want to think much further generationally than that, but they’ll live in gated places if they have to. They’ll live it up on hills. I mean, a lot of these rich people have, you know, it’s like, you know, they bought land in New Zealand.

They’re making ways to get even in North and Ontario where we are. This is a big buying up of land and in cottage country in northern Ontario where American elites are going to have retreats.

So the same the same mentality that can look at.

I just wrote an article about a guy named Rodney Todd, who’s five years ago. He and his seven children died. Poisoning because they used a propane heater because he couldn’t afford electricity. It’s not like the elites don’t know about this, that they dehumanize people. And that’s that’s really what their plan for economic recovery is. Well, let’s talk about our demands. What do you think that people should be raising now? What sort of demands should people be putting forward?

Well, there’s when I was in Baltimore, I used to talk about sort of three buckets, the first bucket. Is what can the community do on its own without anything from the political system? To what can you demand from the existing political system now in Baltimore and in fact, in many of the cities where all of this is exploding?

It’s the Democratic Party that runs the cities and in many cases, the states.

So this is this is in many cases, a fight with governments run by the Democratic Party, not everywhere, but many places. And then the third bucket was, what’s a longer term vision for what people should demand and fight for?

And I think it’s very important we talk about all three of these type of demands now, because I think the movement gets very the spontaneous movement especially gets very locked into very, very short term narrow demand.

For example, the primary demand right now in many of the protest is, you know, the general thing about Black Lives Matter.

Yeah, but the truth is they actually don’t matter to many of the elites and they’re not going to matter because of the demands of people in the streets. The reason black lives don’t matter, and I have to say poor blacks don’t matter because rich blacks lives often do matter to the elites. I mean, basketball players, which are primarily black, not only get paid millions and millions of dollars, but the elites, you know, do it their lives matter to the elites.

I mean, it really is an economic thing in the final analysis. The black entertainers matter. But poor working class blacks don’t matter. But they’re not going to matter because people ask them to matter. The economics have to change. So what what kind of demands? Well, first of all, let’s just start with the issue of police violence, because it’s an immediate thing that has to be dealt with.

There’s been a lot of talk and it always comes back at these times about civilian review boards of police. It’s a model that doesn’t work and it shouldn’t be a demand. The demand needs to be civilian control of police. And there’s models like that. Detroit actually had a civilian management control board for a little while before the governor took over Detroit. And one of the first things he did was disband that Toronto has a variation on it where the it’s called a police management board, where they actually hire and fire the police.

But it’s not elected. how the appointments are made or not democratic. But I think people need to demand democratically elected police management boards and the community needs to hire and fire the police chief. It can’t be up to the mayor through this management board.

Now, this isn’t gonna change everything because it’s not going to change who owns stuff. It’s not going to change where the real political power resides.

But I think it is a way to start mitigating police violence.

And if the community has a management board that will simply clean out the type of officers who repeatedly have these offenses and then get their job, you know, continue to work in the police force, and the police forces are also extremely corrupt. There’s one corruption scandal after another in the Baltimore case, and it’s true in many of the big police forces. And and including the police forces benefiting so much from the war on drugs. And that has to be broken that link.

And they benefit not only from the amount of overtime and jobs that are created in the war on drugs, which so devastates the communities. But the corruption is so rampant because the cops are so often interacting with drug gangs who bribe them and so on. And there’s been a lot of these cases, again, in Baltimore, but right across the country.

So community control of the police  is an immediate demand. Then the heart of the problem is unemployment.

There has to be demands about jobs, and it can’t be just give us jobs because it doesn’t happen. It can’t be about trying to instigate the private sector to hire more black workers or to hire in black communities. That policy has been tried over and over and over again. And all it does is funnel money to the private sector and never ends up in any kind of solution for unemployment in the inner cities.

There has to be a public institution, publicly owned ,that trains, hires, creates enterprises that even actually even compete with the private sector. They can be in the form of co-ops, but they need to be publicly funded. People have to start demanding publicly owned enterprises with a mission, public interest mission, which includes employment training, but also provide actual services, create actual products.

I know in Cleveland there’s been some experimentation with this by creating worker co-ops where they created a cleaning business and they made a deal with the city and some of the hospitals that were non-profits that a certain percentage of the cleaning of the hospitals had to go to these worker co-ops. And those businesses, as I understand it, are still viable and have grown.

That needs to be expanded on a much, much bigger scale where, you know, you build public sectors of the economy and you use the power of local government, state government to do that.

And that obviously requires the movement getting involved in electoral politics much more than it has.

And because right now this you know, what’s going on the streets, a lot of the people who are who are so angry, the last thing they’re thinking about as electoral politics and partly because people are so disillusioned for such good reason with the Democratic Party that runs the city’s that are such a mess. So but public ownership is the key to this, plus democratization of the politics. So a police management control board democratically elected. That’s a form of democratization. People getting involved in in primaries, these right wing corporate Democrats and in cities, you can also even run independents.

You don’t have to necessarily go through the Democratic Party in Richmond, California. They elected a fairly progressive local city council, which then appointed a fairly progressive police chief. And they’ve been able to accomplish a certain amount of reforms. I don’t think they’ve  dealt with the issue of unemployment and developing a public sector nearly enough. But they certainly helped lower the murder rate and created a police force that was far more accountable to the community.

So community control of the police, developing public sector employment at the level of cities, demanding that at the state level and of course, at the national level this election that’s coming. I mean, it’s likely Biden’s going to win if there are elections. And I think it’s a real question whether these elections are going to be postponed or not. Either using the pandemic as an excuse, the quote unquote, riots in the streets as an excuse or I’m very concerned about Trump’s begins a confrontation with Iran as another excuse to postpone the elections.

But assuming there are elections, I think it’s likely right now Biden will win the movement. That what’s going on in the streets has to become a more cohesive, conscious movement that makes demands of this Democratic Party administration that you can’t just be the liberal face of the billionaire class, which, of course, is what Biden has always been. Biden’s claiming he wants to be the most progressive administration since Roosevelt. Well, there needs to be a movement on a national scale with a conscious leadership.

And that leadership needs to be made up of working people to a large extent, people of color that demand significant structural reform and put tremendous pressure on Biden that you see us in the streets now. We can be back in the streets when you’re president, too, Mr. Biden. Because if if you just are carrying on the policies of the Obama administration that helped create the greatest inequality gap in history and help set the table for the presidency of this fascist Trump. Well, then we’ll be back in the streets. So so the movement really has to have a short term, a medium and a longer term plan. Paul Jay.

Michael Smith

 We’re come to the end of our allotted time here. I want to talk with you in the second segment about the existential threat of the nuclear situation. So before I say goodbye on this part, please tell listeners how they can reach you and how they can get a hold of your blog.

Paul Jay

So they go to theAnalysis.news, .com works too.

But the name of the thing is theanalysis.news.

And it’s a Web site. And on the web, we do text articles. We do podcasts, video interviews. Sometime soon we’ll be doing documentaries. Some of my documentaries are already up there.

So theanalysis.news.

Michael Smith

Thank you, Paul. You be safe. We’ll continue this interview next week. Thank you so much, Paul Jay for being our guest on Law and Disorder.

 Thank you, Michael.

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  • The National Alliance against Racist and Political Repression has been working for decades to get the kind of civilian control of police Paul Jay alludes to. The Chicago chapter has advanced to 19 of 50 aldermanic supporters in Chicago. The director of NAARPR, as well as the Chicago branch, Frank Chapman, was recently interviewed about the struggle to establish the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) in Chicago on Black Agenda Radio: https://www.blackagendareport.com/community-control-police-vs-impunity