Christianity has a long history in the United Kingdom and the United States (the reference for this text) of supporting/working for leftist movements. Christianity, a religion of empathy, shares the compassion that guides leftist ideals. Of course, organized religion used to control the masses by making them content to divert their attention from their exploitation. However, as seen in the U.K. and America Christians have been very influential in labor movements. In the modern era, churches are centers of the community, places free of bourgeoisie control where grievances are laid out, and actions directed. Where workers are routine, this provides an incredible opportunity to organize a portion of the community.
Christians have a long history of organizing and contributing to labor movements and organizations. One such Christian Socialist was Frederic O. MacCartney. From the start of his life, he was dedicated to the church, becoming a unitarian minister. During his time in divinity school, he read 'looking backward' by Edward Bellamy. This reading would open his eyes to socialist thought. MacCartney would later campaign with the Social Democratic Party of America (which would later transform into the Socialist Party) and was elected to the Massachusetts legislature for four terms. Another Christian Socialist was Thomas J. Hagerty. Hagerty was a Roman-Catholic priest and labor unionist and gave speeches across the country for the Socialist Party to Catholic workers encouraging them to unionize. Hagerty was also a founder of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). He often noted atheists and other religious groups belonged to the Socialist Party as it was not a religious issue. Both Christians were champions of the workers and worked to advance the socialist cause in the late 1800s through the early 1900s America.
The Christian view is to make a more empathetic society, leftist ideas are the most congruent with that view. Most Christians in the progressive era were split between private and public camps. The private party wanted to save individual souls and achieve salvation, the public camp however wished to build the kingdom of god on this earth as a path to the Kingdom of God. To achieve deliverance they would make a new system. The clergy saw socialism as this system and would work with atheistic leftists. Although it is important to note that during this time in Germany the social democratic party was avidly anti-theist. This attitude of cooperation would surprise German immigrants when they noticed the relationship between the American left and Christians. In this era, Christians "accept[ed] the full political program [socialism] without reserve and loyally support[ed] it" (1 Spargo).
Although these early Christian socialists demonstrate solidarity with the working class that is not the case in the modern era. Currently, most churches and Christians are 'fundamentalist Christians' and are intensely conservative socially. This idea originated in the 1900s while the theory of “theological modernism” which compensated for modern developments in science fundamentalists, however, reasserted the authority of the bible. Fundamentalists following the bible with a literal interpretation have led to obviously outdated views and given them a justification for their racist and homophobic views. This provided the reactionaries an opportunity, to infiltrate these socially conservative Christian spaces and turn them into a loyal base of support for capitalism and reactionary thought. This is the origin of the modern reactionary Christian base of support in America and around the world. This combination has led to 'Christian nationalism' an ideology that advocates for a theological reactionary state in America. Christians are indoctrinated with reactionary propaganda along with the belief that leftists will make Christianity illegal, an irrational fear but one commonly held by Christians.
The majority of Christians in America live along the 'bible belt’, an area in the southeastern United States of largely protestants. Demographics of these areas show that at least sixty percent of the population is religious the highest density of religious people is in Alabama at seventy-seven percent. Most of the people in the bible belt are poor and working class. To reinforce this point we need to look no further than Alabama. In the state, sixteen percent of the population lives in poverty. The median household income is fifty-seven thousand dollars while the estimated amount needed to live comfortably while saving for retirement is 61,000 dollars. The state lacks education, jobs, and basic infrastructure along with this the state is quite literally a dystopia. Recently a factory that made car parts was found to be using child labor from those as young as thirteen in dangerous positions. The state has the ninth-highest unemployment rate in the U.S. This all demonstrates the poor economic conditions that fellow working-class people who happen to be Christians endure.
The people in Alabama are extreme reactionaries, which presents a challenge for leftist organizers among the reactionary working-class folks. Nevertheless, it is vital for the leftist cause that these working people are informed. These workers have restricted access to an adequate education that must be where they are. They, like all working-class people, have a capacity for understanding leftist thought and contributing to leftist action. Leftists, however, must hide their more atheistic elements as this is one of the most definitive parts of their identities and the only reliable community poor Christians have ever had. Unfortunately, reactionaries have infiltrated the working Christians though this does not mean we can not educate them. To bypass red scare propaganda a more subtle approach should proceed, educating them on their exploitation and a better, more cooperative future. Among the workers in the state, African-Americans have a staggering ninety percent rate of being religious, as many say religion is a large part of their life. African-Americans are also impoverished and disadvantaged in America. Holding an understanding of their religious beliefs can also help with organizing with African-American workers.
The people in Alabama are extreme reactionaries, which presents a challenge for leftist organizers in the state among reactionary working-class folks. However, it is needed to complete the leftist cause. These people who are restricted from access to an adequate education need to be communicated to where they are intellectually. They, just like all working people, have a capacity for understanding leftist theory and contributing to leftist action, while at the current moment they are intellectually disadvantaged. Leftists, however, must hide their more atheistic ideas and opinions as this is one of the most definitive parts of their identities and the only reliable community poor Christians have ever had. Unfortunately, reactionaries have infiltrated the working Christians, although this does not mean we can not educate them. To bypass reactionary propaganda, a more subtle approach should be taken, focusing on educating them on their exploitation and a better, more cooperative future, never on their religion. Accompanying the workers in Alabama, African-Americans have a staggering ninety percent rate of being religious. Almost as many say that faith is a large part of their life. They are also staggeringly poor and disadvantaged in America. Understanding their religious beliefs is a tool in helping to organize African-American workers.
The most obvious place for communicating is the church, it's a center for community action. Historically churches have food drives or other forms of community action. Utilizing more leftist or left-aligned pastors or church members or simply talking with church members on religious grounds to inform them. When engaging with Christians, leftists need to acknowledge the dominant part religion plays in their communities and identity while not letting religion be an excuse for intolerant beliefs. Do not forget the reason for their reactionary ideology, conservatives, and leftists must be as persistent in informing as we are when engaging directly with the capitalist. Leftists must be tenacious in informing our fellow workers about their liberation and unwavering when faced with opposition.
Spargo, John “Christian socialism in America”, https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/211752 9/30/22
Bateman, Bradley W. “The Social Gospel and the Progressive Era.” Divining America, TeacherServe©. National Humanities Center. 9/30/22 <http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/twenty/tkeyinfo/socgospel.htm>
Crosby, Ben “The Christian Case for Union Organizing” https://reflections.yale.edu/article/hard-times-gospel-values/christian-case-union-organizing 9/30/22
World population review 10/20/22
Benjamin W. is a high school student in Louisiana. Ben is an avid reader which led him towards theory. He is a Christian Marxist Leninist with a focus on Marxism in the modern world along with revolutionary movements in our era. Ben also writes about christianity and the empathy that Christ taught working with leftist movements not against them.
McCarthyism and the Constitution:How the Second Red Scare Led to the Violation of the Constitution and its Amendments By: Nolan LongRead Now
“McCarthyism,” as a term, generally refers to the illegal political persecution of communists by government officials. As such, the present essay deals with not just the figure Joseph McCarthy, but with the entirety of the anti-communist repressions led by the United States government during the period of the “Second Red Scare,” which lasted from the 1940s through the 1950s. Although there is an argument to be made that the “Red Scare,” as it were, is a policy and sociological idea that continued until 1991, the period of the 1940s-50s in particular is representative of mass governmental repression and persecution of American communists. The anti-communist impulse led to trials of communists and non-communists alike. The unconstitutional nature of congressional hearings, House committees, trials, and public persecution of communists can be seen in the cases of the Hollywood Ten, the Communist Party USA, and other parties, individuals, and organizations. The Constitution, its amendments, and other founding documents of the United States were violated in the governmental persecution of communists in this chapter of American history.
The idea of McCarthyism finds its roots in the clearer practice of anti-communism. The political conditions of the postwar period shifted social focus onto the “red menace” that was the socialist world, which was growing in numbers. The American fear of communism is what led to their unconstitutional persecution of said ideology. Senator McCarthy “argued against freedom of speech because much of his rhetoric assumed that any discussion of the ideas underlying communism was dangerous and un-American” (Pufong). That is, the belief that so-called un-American activities were a threat to national security is what led the anti-communists to repress civil liberties.
The most important piece of anti-communist legislation passed during this era was the Smith Act of 1940. It “criminalized speech allegedly meant to cause the overthrow of the government” (Bruce, 25). Passed before the end of the Second World War, the Smith Act was originally used for the persecution and deportation of foreign-born residents with ties to left-wing politics, presently or in the past (Schrecker, 393-394). But following the end of the War, and with American-Soviet relations on the decline, the Smith Act began to be used to persecute American communists.
Himself just one component of the larger Second Red Scare, senator Joseph McCarthy made a name for himself through the persecution of communists within the US Congress. While congressional hearings intended to obtain information or conduct investigations are legal, those of McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) were conducted like trials, not hearings. “Joseph McCarthy spearheaded investigations with little evidence” (Pufong). Those who opposed the Senator’s methods called these hearings “witch hunts,” implying there was no real evidence for his claims; McCarthy used such tactics as public accusations, disregard for evidence, and “unfair investigatory methods” (Pufong). McCarthy, despite being a congressperson, was acting as though he were a judge, thus violating Article I of the US Constitution, which outlines the responsibilities and limits of the Congress. Jurisprudence is not included in the powers of Congress. Section 8 of Article I states that Congress has the power to “constitute Tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court.” But McCarthy’s trials were not constitutionally grounded, as they were not based on proper judicial procedures, as they were operating based on a law which Congress itself had passed, and because they were ignoring Article III, Section 2, whereby all judicial power is granted to the courts. The general unlawful nature of the McCarthy and HUAC proceedings excluded normal court and appeal processes. It can therefore be concluded that both McCarthy and the HUAC violated Articles I and III of the Constitution.
The courts were indeed subverted during the Second Red Scare, giving unconstitutional judicial power to the US Congress. “[Historian Robert] Harris found the courts proved largely powerless when faced with a rabid executive and legislature, supported by a militant public, all determined to bend civil liberties ostensibly to provide for national security” (Bruce, 33).
The McCarthyism of the Second Red Scare began to be associated with denying legal rights and due process of the law; professor of politics Marc Pufong claims that the McCarthy trials violated the Fourteenth Amendment, as the insufficient evidence and lack of due process in the trials deprived the defendants of their right to equal protection of the law. Some lawyers representing the Hollywood Ten said the HUAC trials of their clients violated the Fifth Amendment (Horne, 211). Others argued that “what HUAC did amounted to a bill of attainder, an unconstitutional targeting of one recognizable group – Communists” (199). Bills of attainder are forbidden under Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, meaning this is yet another violation. The consequences of such anti-communist trials were incredible: they led to the defendants’ public scrutiny, professional termination, deportation, and fleeing from the United States. This certainly violates the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness/property which is spoken of in both the Fourteen Amendment and the Declaration of Independence.
Because McCarthy and HUAC were, in effect, acting as courts in these trials, they were subverting American democracy by raising Congress above the level of checks and balances, so that it was operating on its own in legislation, execution, and jurisprudence.
Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution outlines the nature of Treason as “levying War against [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies.” But it was the Smith Act, not this section of the Constitution that was not the basis for the persecution of hundreds of communists during the Second Red Scare. The Smith Act was, in effect, redefining treason as any “subversive” leftist activity or association. This legislation was, then, in violation of Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution. Anti-communist public officials began using this act to justify ever more outlandish accusations of crime among American communists and their organizations. In 1948, “the government argued that the Communist Party was part of a conspiracy to advance a political ideology whose eventual goal was the destruction of the U.S. government” (Thomson). This claim was made without substantial evidence. When the law was brought to the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in 1951, they ruled that the First Amendment was not violated by the Smith Act because of the Clear and Present Danger standard. Morone and Kersh define this standard as “court doctrine that permits restrictions of free speech if officials believe that the speech will lead to prohibited action such as violence or terrorism” (Morone, 124). Political scientist Claudius Johnson noted how the Clear and Present Danger standard was modified to become the “Clear and Probable Danger” standard (Bruce, 34). This change in standards came about to give the government more leeway for the repression of communists’ civil liberties, without worry of constitutional challenge. So, the very standard for the First Amendment had to be changed by the highest court in the country, just so that the prosecutions of the Second Red Scare could continue.
But the Smith Act did not go unchallenged: many more communists, lawyers, and regular citizens referred to the act as a violation of the First Amendment. The HUAC violated the First Amendment in numerous ways. Not the least among them was the case of the Hollywood Ten, where the Committee blacklisted certain writers, actors, and directors from filmmaking; they persecuted leftist filmmakers for the creation of “communist” films, a clear violation of the First Amendment (Horne, 197). In cases unrelated to the Hollywood Ten, the prosecution used another tactic to attain conviction verdicts against communists: multi-defendant trials. Where leading communists were found to violate the Smith Act (which itself was later found to be unconstitutional, leading to numerous amendments to the law), innocent communists who themselves could not be convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the government were found guilty by association in multi-defendant trials (Bruce, 34). Membership in the CPUSA itself was determined a felony by multiple court decisions, an unconstitutional act which would not be overturned until 1961 (Thomson).
The United States government was obviously aware that the actions carried out under the pretense of the Smith Act were unconstitutional. The FBI, a key organization in the anti-communist movement, allied with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for the purpose of subverting the Constitution; “the FBI apparently made use of the INS’ immunity from constitutional restraints” (Schrecker, 399).
Awareness of the unconstitutionality of the anti-communist measures taken by the American government began to surface in court decisions in the late 1950s through the 1960s. In the 1951 Dennis v. United States case that upheld the convictions of eleven CPUSA leaders, Supreme Court Justice William Douglas dissented from the other Justices, saying, “any real danger presented by the communists would likely come from an alliance with the Soviet Union,” of which there was no real evidence (Bruce, 34-35). 1957 was a landmark year, as it repealed several convictions that had been won under the Smith Act by declaring its methods, wording, and prosecutions unconstitutional; the Supreme Court ruled in Yates v. United States that political rhetoric and advocacy was protected by the First Amendment (36). In 1961, criminalization of CPUSA membership was finally reversed (Thomson).
The unconstitutionality of the anti-communist measures adopted by the United States government during the period of the Second Red Scare can be seen both in the methods it undertook (illegal trials, subversion of checks and balances, limitation of freedom of speech, etc.) and in the court reversals of such standards that took place in the years after. Court recognition that these methods were unconstitutional vindicates the belief that the entirety of the McCarthyite persecutions were illegal and in violation of the Constitution all along.
Bruce, Erik. “Dangerous World, Dangerous Liberties: Aspects of the Smith Act Prosecutions.” American Communist History 13, no. 1 (2014): 25-38, web-s-ebscohost-com.cyber.usask.ca/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=0&sid=fdfef7b4-e35c-4350-b7a3-50ff36bf4ee9%40redis
Horne, Gerald. The Final Victim of the Blacklist: John Howard Lawson, Dean of the Hollywood Ten. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006.
Morone, James A., and Rogan Kersh. By the People: Debating American Government. New York: Oxford University Press, 2021.
Pufong, Marc G. “McCarthyism.” The First Amendment Encyclopedia, 2009. mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1061/mccarthyism
Schrecker, Ellen. “Immigration and Internal Security: Political Deportations During the McCarthy Era.” Science & Society 60, no. 4 (1996): 393-426. proquest.com/docview/216131205/fulltextPDF/DAC4F04720CA410APQ/1?accountid=14739
Thomson, Alec. “Smith Act of 1940.” The First Amendment Encyclopedia, 2009. mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1048/smith-act-of-1940
United States of America Constitution, art. 1 and 3.
Nolan Long is a Canadian undergraduate student in political studies, with a specific interest in Marxist political theory and history.
Native Education Now! - Book Review: AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Reviewed by: Vaughn MitchellRead Now
A video from the early 2021-22 school year displays a California math teacher teaching the popular trigonometry acronym SOH-CAH-TOA with a demonstration that clearly mocks Native dresses and dances. Her loud stomping, high-pitch chanting, and drawings of teepees on the whiteboards that represent right triangles could not serve as a more offensive caricature of Indigenous culture. Yet, more broadly, plenty of colonialist myths have permeated throughout American society that are acquired earlier on in school. “Maybe the Native Americans were destined to be overpowered, just look at how advanced their conquerors were.” “If anything, the Native Americans needed to be colonized; they weren’t civilized.” “You want to teach these kids about Native history? That’s Critical Race Theory!” These erroneous claims are a product of a culture that ignores the struggles of Native Americans felt throughout history and on reservations today. Perhaps one of the most genocidal campaigns of the United States was the forced assimilation and movement of Native Americans, a history of conquest seldom taught in today’s schools. In fact, Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz aptly fills these gaps by describing the sophisticated languages, government structures, agricultural techniques, and living conditions of Native Americans pre-colonization in her book An Indigenous People’s History of the United States. For the future of understanding the colonialist project built on murder, torture, rape, war, stolen land, and myths to colonize Indigenous nations, a widespread revamp of educating American students is imperative to understand the truths about how Native people lived and how the U.S. government destroyed thriving cultures.
The typical argument against expanding the teaching of Native history is that such material is too violent and morbid for children to process and that it places indirect blame on the students for the unchangeable actions of the past. The extent to which Native history is taught in grade school mainly includes Columbus’ arrival and Thanksgiving, speaking from personal experience. As children, processing the dense history of Native conquest would be both cumbersome and tough to digest, but outright bans on such material have no place in realms of education. Governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis have signed anti-CRT legislation under the reasoning that it would make students feel “guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress” for learning about the actions of those who share their race or national origin. While this notion concedes the U.S. government’s role in the slaughter of Indigenous people, further education of students is necessary to clear simplistic understandings of Native history. In fact, disappointing research from Reclaiming Native Truth found that only 36% of Americans surveyed believe that Native people are significantly discriminated against. To put it simply, a lack of inclusion of Native history creates unintentional bias against Native Americans from people who don’t understand their struggle. In the case of many high schools throughout the country, a comprehension of what the Trial of Tears was simply does not suffice to understand the severity of their treatment over time.
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers historical evidence beyond what’s included in the school curriculum that documents the brutal magnitude of Andrew Jackson’s operation. For instance, she includes a primary source from a Confederate general who described watching the forced migration when he was a younger volunteer as worse than anything he saw in the Civil War. “I fought through the Civil War and have seen men shot to pieces and slaughtered by thousands, but the Cherokee removal was the cruelest work I ever knew,” (Dunbar-Ortiz 113). These minor tweaks added to school curriculum when teaching Native history are perfect for understanding the development of U.S. colonialism. They also hold great power in clearing cultural misconceptions about terms that find themselves woven into American culture. Dunbar-Ortiz examines the origins of the name “redskins”, the name of Washington’s NFL team until it was changed in 2020, which comes from the skinned bodies of Native people when colonial governments would place bounties on targeted natives (Dunbar-Ortiz 64-65). Bounty hunting in the early colonies acted as a lucrative trade wherein colonists were reimbursed if they showed proof of decapitation. Other myths such as placing false hostility on Native people to justify their assimilation and domination are also prevalent.
Later in history, as land was slowly taken by the U.S. government in the name of Manifest Destiny, assimilation campaigns began with the introduction of Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Created to “kill the Indian and “save the Man”, this boarding school entailed rampant sexual assault and forced assimilation of Native students according to Dunbar-Ortiz's primary sources from previous students. They were forced to forget their languages, wear Anglo-American clothes, and convert to Christianity. Former student Sun Elk testified, “We all wore white man’s clothes and ate white man’s food and went to white man’s churches and spoke white man’s talk,” (Dunbar-Ortiz 212). On the sexual assault topic, Indigenous women remember “We had many different teachers during those years; some got the girls pregnant and had to leave,” (Dunbar-Ortiz 213). Ultimately, elements essential to Natives and Native history were deliberately erased by the United States government, even to the extent of bodily autonomy. Because the current teaching of Native history is purposely simplistic to vindicate blame from the U.S. government, a new approach such as including Dunbar-Ortiz's An Indigenous People’s History of the United States in today’s curricula is indispensable for a better understanding of how Native Americans live today resulting from the colonial actions of the past.
With regards to how Native Americans are subject to abysmal living conditions in the modern day, an enhancement of modern curriculum to include Indigenous teachings is necessary. Sure, it can be understood that Native Americans face overwhelmingly low life expectancies, low standardized test scores, high unemployment rates, and high crime rates on reservations, but such statistics are meaningless without a historical analysis that provides a framework for understanding how they came to be. Take the current state of the Pine Ridge Reservation discussed by PBS Newshour. Nestled in the southern part of South Dakota’s Black Hills, the Pine Ridge Reservation faces among the worst socioeconomic barriers compared to the rest of the United States. Males, on average, live to about 48, and females live to about 52. Nearly half of people aged above 40 have diabetes, and unemployment rates lie above 80% throughout the region. Further evidence corroborates these statistics and characterizes the issue as all-encompassing of Native people instead of limiting to one reservation.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, their analysis of the 2016 American Community Survey found that median household income was 69% of the national average and the share of Native people in poverty was 26% compared to the total population share of 14%. A historical analysis cannot be avoided to explain these socioeconomic disparities that Natives face, though, and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers just that. She outlines a model of colonial progression that begins with economic penetration, then establishing a sphere of influence and protectorate status and finally progressing into eventual annexation. Her model fits best with the Great Sioux Nation, coincidentally the single largest inhabitants of the Pine Ridge Reservation that was discussed by PBS Newshour. Dunbar-Ortiz explains that as the United States began westward expansion, the fur trade quickly became lucrative because it was demanded so much in the eastern part of the country, so the Sioux picked up bison hunting to sell to merchants who would in turn provide them with manufactured goods like tobacco, tools, liquor, and clothing. Trading posts were soon transformed into U.S. Army outposts, which formed protectorate status of the Sioux (Dunbar-Ortiz 191).
A key component of this colonial progression, both of which Dunbar-Ortiz and Vox explain briefly, was the U.S. Army’s campaign to exterminate bison. The purpose of this campaign was twofold: to deplete the Sioux’s main food source and to reduce trade that provided the Sioux with necessary resources. This bison extinction campaign was crucial in the annexation of Indigenous territory. Because their means of trade were diminished, the Sioux were dependent on U.S. rations and commodities granted by treaties which preceded military occupation and violence that manifested in situations such as the Battle of Wounded Knee and imposed citizenship like the establishment of Carlisle Indian Industrial School. The United States had justified their claims on Indigenous lands under new rhetoric that made it an imperative to dominate them under the guise of “protection” by highlighting the appalling living conditions that the government was responsible for creating in the first place. This typical narrative has also contributed to prevailing stereotypes of Native Americans today. Talking points such as how Native people are “uncivilized” and “need to be protected” can lend themself in part to how the United States was successful in creating the environment of immense poverty experienced today that remains the basis of their occupation. Such analysis never finds itself taught in America’s schools today and therefore is necessary to dispel both these beliefs and a one-dimensional understanding of how Native Americans live today.
A more comprehensive teaching of past treatment of Native Americans implies the creation of new methods to assist Indigenous people in the future. While there is no instant remedy for Indigenous living spaces being set aflame as the Cherokee were forced to embark on the Trial of Tears, for past trauma of Cheyenne children being stripped away from their reservations and shipped to boarding schools, for Sioux families brutally slaughtered as the Battle of Little Bighorn commenced, the United States government could take necessary steps that improve the current material conditions of Native Americans shaped by the past. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz raises the idea of restitution instead of reparations: directly giving land back to respective nations instead of paying them for past mistakes on behalf of the U.S. government. This distinction is very important according to many Indigenous nations.
Washington Post writer Daniel R. Wildcat in his “Why Native Americans don’t want reparations” explains that Native Americans don’t view land as a natural resource like the United States does; rather, they view it as a natural relative. Any monetary compensation is thus inappropriate not only because they hold a spiritual connection with the land, but also because the land was never for sale in the first place. Dunbar-Ortiz exemplifies this with her mentioning of the Black Hills. Taken after violation of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, the ownership of the Black Hills was settled in the 1980 Supreme Court case Sioux Nation v. United States in which an agreement of $102 million was set aside for the wrongful seizure of their land (Dunbar-Ortiz 208). That sum has earned interest over the years because the Sioux had never claimed it, and it totals to about $1.3 billion today. It sits in the Department of the Treasury waiting to be collected. The refusal to claim the reparation is reflective both of Indigenous resistance to succumb to U.S. colonialism and a steadfast opposition to validating colonial control. Had this sum been collected, the Sioux would have conceded their land holdings and recognized the U.S. government as the rightful holder, the legitimate buyers of this land. And a history of resistance cannot end abruptly in conceding land that was fought for tirelessly by their ancestors, so Native Americans today keep fighting.
With education that offers knowledge on why the United States government should prioritize land restitution instead of reparations, other American people can participate in the struggle for Native liberation from colonial chains. Recently, movements such as Land Back have gained momentum and serve as proof that Native struggle is not a remnant of the past and that education prevents future exploitation. Claire Elise Thompson describes the growing movement that features the restoration of land, dismantling of white supremacy, and improvement of the environment. Although the central focus of the movement is restitution, the broadened goals of Land Back can attract a variety of organizers. NDN Collective, the formal organization that coined the Land Back movement, even offered “a free, comprehensive, online learning platform to engage in political education and discussions on topics critical to the Indigenous movement to reclaim land and relationship to land” in June 2021. Their goal is to educate interested organizers on the history of colonization to promote action that advocates for land restoration. The Land Back movement has seen remarkable success with this goal as evidenced by Thompson’s description of Land Back protests in the Black Hills that advocate for their total restoration.
Without a robust education on the history of Native conquest and their resistance, new avenues of activism could not otherwise be discovered; hence, the inclusion of Dunbar-Ortiz's An Indigenous People’s History of the United States would be perfect for an audience that seeks to assist and advocate for Indigenous self-determination.
Luckily that California math teacher was fired quickly after the video became viral, and accountability was the most appropriate action to take. But on a larger scale, no accountability lies in the U.S. government’s calculated genocide against Native Americans. From the earlier slaughter of Native Americans in colonial times with King Philip’s War, violation of agreements like the Treaty of Fort Laramie that claimed the Black Hills once gold was discovered, fast-forwarded to forced assimilation campaigns with the introduction of the Carlisle school, U.S. history is characterized by the domination of Indigenous people and settler-colonialism. Because it is a history frequently untouched in today’s schools, Native authors such as Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz deserve their work featured in modern curricula. With the inclusion of An Indigenous People’s History of the United States, the average school body will be equipped with a nuanced and complex understanding of the suffering of Native people at the behest of the U.S. government. To provide the stability and safety of Native populations for the foreseeable future, more people must be educated to deal with the inevitable challenges the United States will pose to Indigenous nations. Our ability to assist marginalized populations is by no means an option, it is an obligation.
ACE1918. “Soh Cah Toa Riverside, California School Full Video.” YouTube, 21 Oct. 2021, https://youtu.be/Bu4fulKVv2c.
Inbody, Kristen. “Survey: People Think Native Americans Don't Exist/Aren't Discriminated Against.” Great Falls Tribune, Great Falls Tribune, 21 Aug. 2018, https://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/news/2018/08/07/survey-people-think-natives-dont-exist-arent-discriminated-against/923250002/.
Khaled, Fatma. “DeSantis Bans CRT from K-12 Classrooms despite Absence from Curriculum.” Newsweek, Newsweek, 22 Apr. 2022, https://www.newsweek.com/ron-desantis-bans-crt-k-12-classrooms-florida-1700255.
Lowndes, Coleman. “Why the US Army Tried to Exterminate the Bison.” Vox, Vox, 2 Aug. 2021, https://www.vox.com/2021/8/2/22605868/us-army-exterminate-bison-buffalo.
“NDN Collective Launches ‘Landback U’: A Curriculum on How to Join the Fight to Return Land to Indigenous Hands.” NDN Collective, 15 June 2021, https://ndncollective.org/ndn-collective-launches-landback-u-a-curriculum-on-how-to-join-the-fight-to-return-land-to-indigenous-hands/#:~:text=LANDBACK%20U%20is%20a%20free,land%20and%20relationship%20to%20land.
Sreenivasan, Hari. “For Great Sioux Nation, Black Hills Can't Be Bought for $1.3 Billion.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 24 Aug. 2011, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/why-the-sioux-are-refusing-1-3-billion.
Thompson, Claire. “What Is the Indigenous Landback Movement - and Can It Help the Climate?” Grist, 25 Nov. 2020, https://grist.org/fix/indigenous-landback-movement-can-it-help-climate/.
Wildcat, Daniel R. “Why Native Americans Don't Want Reparations.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 7 Oct. 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/06/10/why-native-americans-dont-want-reparations/.
Wilson, Valerie, and Zane Mokhiber. “2016 ACS Shows Stubbornly High Native American Poverty and Different Degrees of Economic Well-Being for Asian Ethnic Groups.” Economic Policy Institute, https://www.epi.org/blog/2016-acs-shows-stubbornly-high-native-american-poverty-and-different-degrees-of-economic-well-being-for-asian-ethnic-groups/.
Vaughn Mitchell is a high school senior living outside Chicago. His political interests include the development and origins of labor unions, abolition movements in the 20th century, and the Land Back movement. After his final year of high school, he hopes to study data science and political science on the East Coast.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
“They won’t arrest my thoughts. They won’t arrest my dreams. If they don’t let me walk, I’ll walk with your legs. If they don’t let me talk, I’ll speak through your mouth. If my heart stops beating, it will beat in your heart.” – Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva.
Overcoming poverty isn't a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. This is the best sentence to explain the works of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio da Silva, better known as Lula, the most popular president of Brazilian history, the only president that completed two terms, and the first president from the left, honored with Honoris Causa from Sciences Po, one who served the working class instead of Brazilian elites, first illiterate president who constructed most universities in Brazil. This is how people remember him.
On January 24th, 2018, Federal judge Sergio Moro passed the judgment based on the Lava Jato scandal against Lula and sentenced him to 10 years in prison without any evidence (which became 12 years in prison when he appealed). The whole process was so rigged that the media reported the judgment a few minutes before the Brazilian Supreme Court gave its verdict.
The book is comprised of the interview conducted with Lula in February 2018, just 2 months before his arrest where he exemplified his side, how convinced he was about his works, his views, Lulism (a national movement that United the middle class with the working class in Brazil), Lava Jato scandal, also known as car wash scandal which landed him in prison. The book primarily focused on his trial and politics in Brazil and the coup and failure of his successor Dilma Rousseff. He explains how the capitalist bluffed the Brazilians, how it ruined the society and basic rights of the poor, and how they controlled everything.
It is pertinent to comprehend who Lula is, whom Obama called the most popular leader in the world. Lula was born in 1945 in Caetés located 250 km from Recife, capital of Pernambuco, a state in the Northeast of Brazil, which is one of the most impoverished regions of Brazil. He was born into a poor family and had to quit school after the second grade to work and assist his family. At the age of 12, he worked as a shoe shiner and street vendor. He began to work in a warehouse when he was 14. When 16-year-old Pele became the youngest to score a goal in the world cup final and lifted the Jules Rimet trophy, Lula was a child working in a factory. At the age of 19, he had an accident in an automobile parts factory in which he lost his left hand’s pinky. He had to run to several hospitals before he received the treatment. This juncture shaped his ideas and developed his inquisitiveness in participating in the Worker’s Union.
The days of the American-backed military dictatorship were the darkest period of Brazil’s history, a period which the current Brazilian president Jair Bolosnaro glorifies. This era was characterized by a high level of unemployment, crippling recession, and most importantly the exploitation of the Brazilian proletariat. Lula started as a metalworker in 1966 at Villares Metals S.A, where inspired by his brother Frei Chico he joined the labour movement. His brother was a militant of the Communist Party himself who introduced Lula to labour militancy. He became the president of the Union in 1975.
Lula co-founded the Worker’s Party (PT) in 1980. He faced many hardships, organized labour strikes, and went to jail. He became the most voted lawmaker in 1986. He then ran for 3 unsuccessful presidential elections before becoming President in 2002. His presidency was marked by 76% reduction in chronic poverty, more than 20 million people were lifted from acute poverty, extreme poverty was dropped from 12% to 4.8%, unemployment from 10.5% to 5.7%, tripled the education budget, opened 14 new universities and illiteracy rate dropped from 17% to 9.6%. He later assumed the role of Chief of Staff under President Dilma Rousseff in 2012.
The Brazilian right wing started an impeachment process based on the Lava Jato scandal. This was the time when Jair Bolsonaro (who was very much unknown) broke into headlines when he honoured the notorious and most sadistic Brazilian general, Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, who tortured Rousseff when she was imprisoned. It was a Parliamentary coup and Brazilian democracy faced the biggest threat since the days of the military junta.
Before the 2018 elections, Lula enjoyed 39% of the votes and Bolsonaro 19%, but then Lula was incarcerated which was a ruse planned by Brazilian elites and right-wing groups. Bolsonaro's rating reached the peak when he was stabbed in a rally in September 2017, which proved vital for him as his campaign was based on chaos (most far-right election campaigns are based on threats and securities which are non-existent most of the time, but they use this fear which they manufacture to win elections and dismantle democracy). The judge who sentenced Lula, Sergio Moro, became the Minister of Justice in the Bolsonaro administration. This proves the statement that A. G. Noorani wrote in his book The Trial of Bhagat Singh, “court-rooms serve as the most convenient and effective weapon for the ruling powers whenever they took up arms against freedom and right. For a repressive and tyrannical government, no other weapon is better suited for vengeance and injustice.”
Lula was released in 2019 on the orders of Supreme Federal Court judge Edson Fachin who nullified charges against him because he was tried by a court that did not have proper jurisdiction over his case.
What Lula did for the poor and weak people in his country was something that no other president was able to achieve. He stood against racism and for the rights of blacks in his country; he was (and is) a man whose raison d'être was that every Brazilian would wake up in the morning knowing that they would have breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. This is a good read to get an idea of Brazilian politics and the impact that Lula left on Brazilian society.
This book is important for not just Brazilians who are going out to vote on 2nd October but for all of us progressives and leftist who want to send fascism back to the sewers of history. It motivates us to work tirelessly for the betterment of the working class, to develop class consciousness, to get an idea of the state weaponry and tricks that the right wing employs in the same manner everywhere by spreading hatred. Read this book comrades.
"Where there is hunger there is no hope. There is only desolation and pain. Hunger nurtures violence and fanaticism. A world where people starve will never be safe."- Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva.
Harsh Yadav is from India and has just recently graduated from Banaras Hindu University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. Harsh is a Marxist Leninist who is intrigued by different Marxist Schools of Thought, Political Philosophies, Feminism, Foreign Policy and International Relations, and History. He also maintains a bookstagram account (https://www.instagram.com/epigrammatic_bibliophile/?hl=en) where he posts book reviews, writes about historical impact, socialism, and social and political issues.
Mark Fisher three years before his suicide in 2017
Ask anyone what historical event occurred in 1989 and 1991 and they would say the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sure, these events in succession did mark the closure of the Cold War, but more nefarious and undetected at the time was the emergence of accepting capitalism and liberal democracy as the dominant economic and political worldview. Now that all identified socialist projects had been successfully thwarted, a new path was paved for capitalism to dominate the imaginations of the subconscious and to direct the strictly reformist actions of the conscious. A lasting cultural impact has problematically occurred from neoliberalism’s triumph, namely the pervasive sentiment that nothing ever feels new.
The feeling that nothing is new, frankly, is nothing new. The late political theorist, philosopher, and former University of London professor Mark Fisher wrote on the notion that the ideological victory of neoliberalism after the Cold War has materialized in a tendency to either reiterate or desacralize all cultural happenings. All popular trends, media, shows, music, and products are merely a reconstruction of what the world has already seen, and Margaret Thatcher’s belief that “there is no alternative” only adds fuel to the fire.
In Capitalist Realism, one of his final works before his suicide, Mark Fisher explores the dominating and subliminal belief that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. He constructs his thesis on top of Francis Fukayama’s “The End of History” theory, which posits that liberal democracy is the pinnacle of economic and political development. As a cultural theorist, Mark Fisher adds another perspective that analyzes how the alleged climax of history results in either fruitless cultural development at best or the continued degradation of culture at worst.
And the causes of this developmental-stunt or mere debasement result primarily from late-stage capitalism’s propensity to assign all cultural relics a monetary value, i.e. commodification. The luxury thrift stores could not profit without the revitalization and obsession with thrift culture. Nike capitalized on the profitability of their newly-released “Dunk Low Jackie Robinson” that intended to celebrate the legacy of the beloved ballplayer. Netflix could only stay afloat after releasing their 4th volume of Stranger Things, the most popular show on the platform that lends popularity to their romanticism of the 80’s.
Although they remain relatively scattered and unrelated examples, the common denominator lies in the commodification or fetishization of some cultural or historical relic. The recent obsession with vintage clothing felt all throughout younger generations is but the archetypal style for any American highschooler. The new Dunk Low Jackie Robinson’s intended to pay homage to the first African American baseball player are but a reiteration of history that exist contemporarily in commodity form. The idolization of the 80’s as exemplified by Stranger Things with eccentric outfits and repetitive blares of Kate Bush’s “Running Up that Hill”, though a modern series, are but the most appropriate demonstration of the widely-held sentiment that nothing ever feels new simply because it was designed to represent the old.
The Duffer brothers’ Stranger Things best encapsulates this “culture of nostalgia”. Its ability to remain Netflix’s most popular English-speaking show with over 1.26 billion hours watched inherently suggests that the viewership is both impressed and wildly nostalgic with an accurate depiction of the 80’s.
Additionally, this culture of nostalgia lingers indefinitely as a self-bolstering ideology; if the common sentiment held by the people under a liberal democracy living in parallel with the climax of history, the feeling that nothing can be new restricts the imaginations of what could be. Consequently, as leftists, it is critical to question the validity of historical materialism now more than ever.
Of course, any leftist can understand that Marx theorized that the driving force of change in political economy were material conditions that necessitated transformative efforts to be made. However, Fisher’s Capitalist Realism poses new questions after the alleged triumph of liberal democracy, the most salient of which begging if we can even progress beyond neoliberal hegemony.
As destructive as it is, capitalist realism engenders a societal malaise that perpetuates any new trend, movie, show, music, or product – all cultural happenings – to be predicated on mimicry of the past with specific intent of profit. Such reiterations of previous cultural developments are, again, a product of the cyclic belief that nothing ever feels new. Fisher notes in Capitalist Realism that “capitalism brings with it a massive desacralization of culture…Capitalism seamlessly occupies the horizons of the thinkable…[it] had seeped into the very unconscious…”. In essence, a rampant commodification and branding of what is already heard-of precludes the ability to imagine a society consisting of anything culturally unheard-of.
The cling to nostalgia is by no means a coincidence; rather, it remains and will continue to remain the ideological haven to those disillusioned with the undersupply of anything culturally valuable brought by modern capital. As Fisher puts it in Capitalist Realism, capital exists as “a strange hybrid of the ultra-modern and the archaic.” It exists as a disorganized medley that tries to reconcile the ever-changing times with the historical significance of some element of the past. Precisely so, vintage shops reap immense profits from selling their old-fashioned clothing articles that appeal to a population unsure of how to style with no alternatives ever offered to them. In the same manner, Nike can get away with their evolving shoebuilding practices that coincide with the commodification of Jackie Robinson’s contribution to the MLB that is disguised as a “commemoration”. All the while, Stranger Things and the Duffer brothers’ introduction of Surfer Boy Pizza created an avenue to do a partnership with Palermo’s that advertised a retro pizza box for sale at Walmart.
As independent as the aforementioned examples sound, they all hold similarity in that they each contain historical elements that are inextricably tied with the profit-motive that has characterized capitalism since its inception as the reigning ideology.
While many of Mark Fisher’s theoretical contributions to the left have perceivably opened the doors for more pessimism, an inkling of hope exists for those willing to organize and challenge the limited sphere of imagination that was established under capitalist realism.
Vaughn Mitchell is a high school senior living outside Chicago. His political interests include the development and origins of labor unions, abolition movements in the 20th century, and the Land Back movement. After his final year of high school, he hopes to study data science and political science on the East Coast.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
About the Midwestern Marx Youth League
The Midwestern Marx Youth League (MMYL) was created to allow comrades in undergraduate or below to publish their work as they continue to develop both writing skills and knowledge of socialist and communist studies. Due to our unexpected popularity on Tik Tok, many young authors have approached us hoping to publish their work. We believe the most productive way to use this platform in a youth inclusive manner would be to form the youth league. This will give our young writers a platform to develop their writing and to discuss theory, history, and campus organizational affairs. The youth league will also be working with the editorial board to ensure theoretical development. If you are interested in joining the youth league please visit the submissions section for more information on how to contact us!