“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.
Contemporary Union Busting: How Software and the Irrationality of Capitalism Collapsed the Modern Labor Movement. By: Vaughn MitchellRead Now
Appleton, Wisconsin Starbucks baristas link arms in solidarity (wearegreenbay.com/news/local-news/partners-have-been-struggling-to-stay-afloat-appleton-starbucks-baristas-unionize/)
I had recently finished my Sophomore year of high school when I decided to apply for my first job. There was an opening at Meijer, a popular grocery store found all throughout the Midwest and conveniently in a town bordering my own. Because I had never applied for a job before, I really tried to sell myself on this application, and luckily, I received a call to come in for an interview a couple days later.
The position was stocking shelves inside, but I learned in my interview that they don’t allow anyone under 18 to work in the store for safety concerns. What I had thought was a pro-labor move on Meijer’s behalf to protect me from falling items on the shelves and rather spare me for the parking lot that I later found was surrounded by moving cars and blistering 90 degree heat, I was naively satisfied with what would be my new job.
I was set to start the next week, late June, and first had to watch some training videos that verified I could work with the utmost indispensable knowledge for the laborious job of cart-pushing.
These videos, though, had some caveats.
Most significantly, I was strongly encouraged not to join a union: “Before you read any documents pertaining union membership, please understand that they can be filled with deceptive conditions meant to steal your signature that offer little benefits.” Though I don’t work there anymore, I look back on that summer with a grin on my face hearing that all new Meijer employees are automatically registered  for membership and represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union as of 2022.
This was a completely novel strategy that had opened my eyes to modern union busting, and my experience watching those videos at Meijer parallels many other corporations like Walmart, Starbucks, and most infamously, Amazon.
A 2018 training guide  sent to Whole Foods management, now subsidiaries after being bought out by Amazon, discusses the company’s anti-union sentiments. This mandatory training video explicitly mentions to new employees that "unions pose a threat to this direct connection [between associates and employers]. This commitment to a direct connection with our associates makes union representation unnecessary...we do not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers, our shareholders, or most importantly, our associates."
Amazon has also been responsible for airing anti-union advertisements targeting locations that have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for a vote. Take Bessemer, Alabama, where Amazon's advertisement  had led to a failed union vote. Even after the NLRB had authorized another vote after finding these advertisements strongly interfered with Amazon workers’ ability to unionize, the damage had been done, and Bessemer workers had lost the vote a second time .
This was nothing unexpected, of course. However, another aspect of this training video presents itself as a laughable and ironic practice for Amazon’s labor policy.
Verbatim, "Employee actions in non-union workplaces can be protected...examples would include an employee demanding an increase for all associates or complaining about a work rule that impacts his or her co-workers...associates have the right to discuss their opinions on unions in the workplace at any time."
Where’s the irony?
Well, a report  from The Intercept in April 2022 discusses Amazon’s plans to create an internal chatting service called “Shout-Out” that allows employees to recognize each other for good performance. This program would award “virtual stars” and “badges” for productivity, essentially another way of obfuscating the role of the wage in the worker’s life by replacing an unnecessary reward system that negates the need for pay raises. With this program, instead of compensating for higher productivity, you are acknowledged for it – the chief reason for anticipated resentment to this program. Consequently, this meeting also examined filtering language included in worker’s messages often negatively directed at management. Although a limitation on profanity can be necessary for some phrases on this chatting software, a list of flagged keywords compiled by The Intercept go above and beyond foul language. The lines between profanity limits and deliberate censorship on organization become blurred.
The contradiction of Amazon’s simultaneous allowing non-unionized workers to discuss working conditions as recognized in their training video and blacklisting of words such as “compensation”, “pay raise”, “concerning”, “petition”, “living wage”, among others, speak to Amazon’s wavering neutrality and denigration of labor organization.
While programs and applications like Amazon’s “Shout-Out” can contribute to the breakage of solidarity before workers can even get the chance to organize, another frequently underestimated factor that grips the modern labor movement by its feet is capitalism’s endless pursuit of profit. Simply put, large corporations find it more profitable to abandon sectors of their provided services or even locations of operation altogether if the threat of unionization exists.
One example of the prior occurred in 2000 when Walmart meat-cutters successfully won a union vote in Jacksonville, Texas. Shortly after the vote, Walmart announced  a full transition from freshly-cut meat to packaged meat only. These butcherers, like Meijer employees as of 2022, were also represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union until the positions were removed by Walmart. Walmart repudiated these union benefits by abolishing the positions set to receive them.
Perhaps a more recent example of the latter - abandoning locations of operation - has occurred with Starbucks. This coffee and cake-pop business has recently energized employees in union surges across the country, and Starbucks Workers United (SWU) has influenced more than 180 stores to unionize so far. Just like Walmart decided to obstruct union membership of butcherers in 2000, CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz follows the same pattern today, declaring that 16 Starbucks locations are set to close due to community-related incidents that hinder the operation of each location. He cites in a video  released on July 13th that the closures result from violence and crime near the communities the Starbucks’ are placed in and frequent drug use that occurs in Starbucks bathrooms.
A mere recognition that these locations are closing does not suffice. SWU notes "Every decision Starbucks makes must be viewed through the lens of the company's unprecedented and virulent union-busting campaign.”  Although Schultz clarifies that the company will not be closing locations that “aren’t unprofitable”, it’s no coincidence that 2 of the 16 Starbucks locations set for closure are already unionized, and another one is set for a vote this August. The precise difference between Starbucks’ and Walmart’s union busting strategies is that Starbucks has taken a thinly veiled anti-union position by justifying their closures with the disruptions in the workplace that the surrounding communities cause; on the other hand, Walmart blatantly disrupted union membership by slashing the need for the meat-cutters’ branch entirely.
Both union busting practices of Walmart and Starbucks serve to develop the irrationality of capitalism. This irrationality and inherent contradiction of the traditional capitalist enterprise lies in Walmart and Starbucks halting their productive forces, whether it be workers like the butcherers of Walmart or entire locations like the 16 Starbucks spots (of which those workers also live in precarious situations and will likely be jobless if not relocated). A system designed for the purpose of profit and profit only has molded itself into a new form as a means to preserve its share of the yield even at the expense of workers who fight tirelessly for a fraction more.
Admittedly, examining individual events like these can appear minuscule in the entire context of the modern labor movement. Sure, the optimistic left may say “It’s just one union that was busted, worker solidarity is strong elsewhere!” Though pessimism is not optimal either, that does not preclude the ability to remain wary.
Although a Gallup poll  conducted in September 2021 found that 68% of Americans support labor unions, private sector union membership has been steadily declining since the rise of neoliberalism that has demonstrably impacted the strength of organization. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that figure  of unionized Americans stands at 10.3% as of 2021. It goes without saying that Walmart’s abolition of unionized positions in 2000, Starbucks’ closing of unionized locations most recently, Amazon’s condemnation of a unionized workplace through their training videos, advertisements, and software designed to break the bonds of worker solidarity, and more personally, Meijer’s anti-union training procedures all function as pillars that bolster the hierarchical relations that characterize capitalism.
So, yes, every union vote counts whether you’re a well-to-do Starbucks barista in college making some extra cash or a single mother of 2 children working at Bessemer’s Amazon facility. Having seen coworkers all across the spectrum, the common denominator is that we are all replaceable cogs in the machine. And although it sounds trite, unions offer strength in numbers that is unparalleled to any downsizing, any piece of technology, any advertisement, or any capitalist function that serves to suppress the power of organized labor.
Solidarity to all who produce.
 Thomas, Marques. “Is Meijer Unionized in 2022? (All You Need to Know).” QuerySprout, 4 Apr. 2022, https://querysprout.com/is-meijer-unionized/.
 “Amazon's Union-Busting Training Video (Long Version).” YouTube, 22 June 2019, https://youtu.be/uRpwVwFxyk4.
 “Amazon Is Running This Anti-Union AD to Combat Organizing Efforts.” YouTube, 23 Feb. 2021, https://youtu.be/Pp76Bp0jGOE.
 Palmer, Annie. “Amazon Workers in Alabama Reject Union for Second Time, but Challenged Ballots Remain.” CNBC, CNBC, 31 Mar. 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/31/amazon-workers-in-alabama-reject-union-for-second-time.html
 Klippenstein, Ken. “Leaked: New Amazon Worker Chat App Would Ban Words like ‘Union," ‘Restrooms," ‘Pay Raise," and ‘Plantation.’” The Intercept, The Intercept, 4 Apr. 2022, https://theintercept.com/2022/04/04/amazon-union-living-wage-restrooms-chat-app/.
 Swoboda, Frank. “Wal-Mart Ends Meat-Cutting Jobs.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 4 Mar. 2000, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/business/2000/03/04/wal-mart-ends-meat-cutting-jobs/acdb8f7c-d7c2-4e31-aad7-8f690ba3b35b/.
 Hoffman, Ari. “Howard Schultz on Closing 16 Starbucks Locations.” Twitter, Twitter, 13 July 2022, https://twitter.com/thehoffather/status/1547308330929963008?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1547308376765263872%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es2_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fnypost.com%2F2022%2F07%2F18%2Fstarbucks-ceo-howard-schultz-blames-democrat-run-cities-for-store-closures%2F.
 Corrigan, John. “Starbucks to Close Even More Stores.” HRD America, HRD America, 19 July 2022, https://www.hcamag.com/us/specialization/industrial-relations/starbucks-to-close-even-more-stores/413713.
 Brenan, Megan. “Approval of Labor Unions at Highest Point since 1965.” Gallup.com, Gallup, 20 Nov. 2021, https://news.gallup.com/poll/354455/approval-labor-unions-highest-point-1965.aspx.
 United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Union Members-2021” News Release, U.S. Department of Labor, 20 Jan. 2022, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/union2.pdf
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.
Rape Myths, White Supremacy, and the Carceral State as Tools of American Neoliberalism. By: Emely MendezRead Now
Ask any woman you meet, old or young, and she’ll tell you the reigning piece of advice that she’s been given time and time again; don’t get raped. Of course, rarely are we told such a thing so bluntly. The message is hidden in frequent warnings to not accept drinks from strangers, not drink too much at parties, not walk home alone, and not wear too-short skirts; all things meant to deter a scary man from jumping out of the bushes and attacking you. While many women follow this advice religiously, it still hasn’t done much to stop them from being victimized by rape or sexual assault due to the often unacknowledged fact that many perpetrators are people the victims knew personally. These conversations about deterring rape through individual action are often ineffective because the narrative doesn’t fit the reality. Although it seems like society is oh-so concerned over violence against women, victims are often left unseen and unheard when they seek justice against their perpetrator due to the frequent mishandling of rape cases by the criminal justice system. The reality is that the United States government does not and has never cared for protecting women, only for protecting its own interests. The threat of violence against women is but a convenient tool manipulated against the public to justify the police state, mass incarceration, and the racist criminalization of African American men and non-white immigrants – actions that ultimately enforce the hegemony of White Supremacy and the bourgeois capitalist class.
Rape myths have been used as political tools in the United States for much of modern history, predominantly as a form to uphold White Supremacist and Patriarchal ideals. Deniers of the prevalence of rape culture argue that American society has always been morally appalled by rape, however the reality is rape is only taken seriously when it can be manipulated to support the power of oppressive groups. If rape truly were to be taken seriously in the United States, then it wouldn’t be the case that less than 1% rape investigations end in incarceration for the perpetrator (Van Dam 2018). Further, the mainstream conversation surrounding sexual violence is often centered on the very specific situation of a woman being attacked by a predatory stranger on the street when the reality differs drastically. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, “8 out of 10 rapes are comitted by someone known to the victim.” (RAINN 2022). Victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence often have to tell their stories to a public that has been led to view rape as a randomized attack. When victims who were familiar with their aggressor come forward, they often have to deal with a line of questioning that perpetuates the idea that the victim was somehow inviting the assault. This nationwide misconception of sexual violence is often an influencing factor in cases like that of Brittany Smith, an Alabama woman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing her agressor (Fruen et al 2020). The presiding judge over the case argued that Ms. Smith couldn’t definitively prove rape as she was the one who had invited her assailant into her home in the first place and hadn’t explicitly asked him to leave (Gill et al 2020).
The data on the reality of rape and sexual violence in the United States has not stopped American politicians from parroting rape myths in order to push certain forms of legislation, however. Conservative Republican officials and gun rights lobbyists over the past decade have been strong supporters of “Stand Your Ground” legislation, which allows for the use of deadly force as an act of self-defense in certain cases in which a person has no “duty to retreat” prior to the use of force (NCSL 2022). “Stand Your Ground” legislation has been controversial for much of its presence in American mainstream politics due to its use in the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager shot by Zimmerman on his way home from the convenience store. Zimmerman’s lawyers did not use the “Stand Your Ground” defense in particular, but his defense was dependent on the precedent set by that legislation (Coates 2013). Right wing proponents of “Stand Your Ground” legislation came to rely on rape myths and misconceptions of sexual violence in order to defend these laws against the onslaught of opposition. In support of “Stand Your Ground” legislation, Florida politicians Don and Matt Gaetz and NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer argued that the legislations’ opposition were “‘anti-woman,’” as these laws would ultimately aid women who defend themselves against a would-be rapist (Franks 2014). As seen in the case of Brittany Smith, however, “Stand Your Ground” has not been very effective in this sense.
Rape myths and the threat of sexual violence against women has also been heavily influential in upholding White Supremacy for much of American history. The myth of the Black male rapist dates back to the abolition of slavery and the Reconstruction Era South, in which White Supremacists sought a justification for lynchings and mass incarceration. Black men were painted as brutal and “savage” caricatures by White men, “the claim that black brutes were, in epidemic numbers, raping white women became the public rationalization for the lynching of blacks.” (Pilgrim 2000). Arguably the most well-known instance of lynching in the United States is that of young Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy brutally murdered by a White mob for whistling at an older White woman whom admitted decades later she’d fabricated the interaction (Perez-Peña 2017). Over the course of modern history following the abolition of slavery, the myth of the “black brute” has led to black men experiencing higher rates of incarceration than any other racial demographic. According to the NAACP, African Americans experience 5x the rate of incarceration of White Americans and made up 34% of the correctional population in 2014 (NAACP 2022). The myth of the Black male rapist was influential in the convictions of the infamous Central Park Five case, in which five Black teenage boys were wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for the gang rape of a White woman in NYC’s Central Park (Duru 2004).
Generation after generation of Black men have been chewed up and spit out by the American carceral system with the threat of sexual violence as a convenient justification for it all. In what has arguably become known as a second Civil Rights Movement, Black activists in the past decade have pointed to mass incarceration as a continuation of slavery, with Ava DuVernay’s Oscar winning 13th documentary being a major part of the conversation surrounding mass incarceration. Although the 13th Amendment does, in fact, legalize slave labor as a condition of incarceration, less than 1% of incarcerated individuals are employed by private companies (Sawyer et al 2022). While labor exploitation is part of the suffering inflicted by mass incarceration, the forced idleness of incarcerated individuals has a much broader impact. The masses of Black men sitting in prisons not only serves to keep the Black population subjugated, but also to maintain a certain level of poverty and unemployment in the U.S. that weakens the bargaining power of the working class.
Neoliberal economic policy in the United States over the past 40 years has been centered on limiting labor power as much as possible, as seen in the steady decrease of union membership across the nation which coincides with the rise of American companies engaging in offshore manufacturing (Vachon 2013). The United States’ particular brand of transnational capitalism is reliant on maintaining a certain level of unemployment within the country. The cost of labor in the U.S. deters American companies from making a return to domestic manufacturing, and in order to avoid a rise in wages and a subsequent profit squeeze for companies that do hire American laborers, the state must avoid a too-low unemployment rate. Forced idleness is a major issue in American prisons, with the Brennan Center for Justice arguing that it is one of the main sources of prison violence (Hopwood 2021). Further, the forced idleness perpetuated in prisons reinforces a high rate of unemployment and recidivism for formerly incarcerated individuals. According to Phillipe Bourgois’s “Lumpen Abuse: The Human Rights Costs of Neoliberalism,” the criminal records of formerly incarcerated individuals, “exacerbated by a low skill level imposed by years of forced idleness in a purposefully hostile carceral environment condemns them to chronic unemployment upon their release from prison.” (Bourgois 2011). The criminalization of Black men through the threat of sexual violence against women and the Black male rapist myth has been used to sustain mass incarceration, which ultimately reinforces the exploitation of the working class.
Black Americans have not been the only demographic who’s marginalization has been justified by myths of sexual violence. The massive waves of immigrants, predominantly non-white Latin Americans, who have presented themselves at the Southern border have become an incredibly politically contentious group. Throughout the span of the 2016 Presidential election, anti-immigrant rhetoric became foundational to the right wing populism that brought Republican nominee Donald Trump to victory. During a particularly infamous campaign speech, Trump referred to migrants traveling across South America and crossing over into the U.S. as “‘rapists’” and that women migrants were being raped at “‘levels nobody’s ever seen before,’” claims that he ultimately could not back with empirical data (Mark 2018). Throughout the 2016-2020 Trump administration, his “Zero Tolerance” immigration policy prosecuted migrants at the border for illegal entry and forcibly separated migrant children from their parents, with some parents even being deported while their children were still detained in the states (Diaz 2021). According to Pew Research Center, ICE arrests rose by over 30% in 2017 after an executive order from then-President Trump expanded their authority to allow for arrests of migrants without criminal records (Gramlich 2020). Thousands of migrants who presented themselves at the border – which is considered a legal way to request asylum by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS 2022) – were held in detention centers and treated as criminals while the President justified it all by calling them “rapists.”
Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric was one of the main aspects of his right wing populist campaign which ultimately brought him to victory. In the 2016 election, Trump won 67% of white voters without a college degree, one of the largest margins seen by a presidential candidate since 1980 (Maniam 2016). Coincidentally, the 1980s was around the time that neoliberalism became a dominant economic ideology in the United States due to the Reagan administration. Between 1980 and 2000, the U.S. experienced the loss of around 2 million manufacturing jobs (Charles 2019). As individuals without a college degree are more likely to work blue collar jobs and Trump’s campaign was centered around the classic image of immigrants “stealing” jobs from naturalized Americans, it is only logical that non college educated white voters would be so overwhelmingly supportive of his presidential bid. Donald Trump’s decision to paint Latin American migrants as “rapists” conveniently took away from the image of migrants as predominantly people in search of work. His criminalization of migrants and the increase in ICE arrests and detentions ultimately enforced the hegemony of Whiteness and maintained the racial divisions amongst the working masses.
Rape myths and public misconceptions of the reality of sexual violence have been the driving force behind the criminalization of Black men and non-white immigrants in the U.S. Mass incarceration and anti-immigrant domestic policy has kept the working class powerless and divided with “protecting” women being used as one of many convenient excuses. The dominance of White, cisgender, heterosexual, wealthy men in the United States is maintained while politicians try to convince the public that freedom of “vulnerable” members of society such as women is their main concern. The reality is that the criminal justice system in the United States does not and has never been concerned with sexual violence against women; the states’ primary concern is and always has been maintaining White Supremacist and capitalist hegemony.
Bourgois P. (2011). Lumpen Abuse: The Human Cost of Righteous Neoliberalism. City & society (Washington, D.C.), 23(1), 2–12. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-744X.2011.01045.x
Butler, P., Strode, B., & Johnson, A. (2021, August 23). How atrocious prisons conditions make us all less safe.
Brennan Center for Justice. https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/how-atrocious-prisons-conditions-make-us-all-less-safe
Charles, Hurst, E., & Schwartz, M. (2019). The Transformation of Manufacturing and the Decline in US Employment. NBER Macroeconomics Annual, 33(1), 307–372. https://doi.org/10.1086/700896
Coates, T.-N. (2013, July 16). How stand your ground relates to George Zimmerman. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/07/how-stand-your-ground-relates-to-george-zimmerman/277829/
Criminal justice fact sheet. NAACP. (2021, May 24). Retrieved May 16, 2022, from https://naacp.org/resources/criminal-justice-fact-sheet
Diaz, J. (2021, January 27). Justice Department rescinds Trump's 'Zero tolerance' immigration policy. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2021/01/27/961048895/justice-department-rescinds-trumps-zero-tolerance-immigration-policy
Duru. (2004). The Central Park five, the Scottsboro boys and the myth of the bestial black man. Cardozo Law Review, 25(4), 1315–.
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Gill, L., Mellins, S., French, P., & Vaughn, J. (2020, February 4). Judge Denies 'Stand Your Ground' Defense For Alabama Woman Who Killed Her Alleged Rapist. The Appeal. https://theappeal.org/judge-denies-stand-your-ground-defense-for-alabama-woman-who-killed-her-alleged-rapist/.
Gramlich, J. (2020, September 8). How border apprehensions, ice arrests and deportations have changed under trump. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/03/02/how-border-apprehensions-ice-arrests-and-deportations-have-changed-under-trump/
Griffith, K., & Fruen, L. (2020, November 1). Alabama woman pleads guilty to murdering her rapist. Daily Mail Online. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8825697/Alabama-woman-pleads-GUILTY-murdering-rapist.html
Mark, M. (2018, April 5). Trump just referred to one of his most infamous campaign comments: Calling Mexicans 'rapists'. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-mexicans-rapists-remark-reference-2018-4
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Vachon, T. E., & Wallace, M. (2013). Globalization, Labor Market Transformation, and Union Decline in U.S. Metropolitan Areas. Labor Studies Journal, 38(3), 229–255. https://doi.org/10.1177/0160449X13511539
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My name is Emely Mendez. I'm a Dominican American student at CUNY John Jay College and I'm soon to graduate with a BA in Law and Society. My interests primarily consist of radicalism in Black, Indigenous, and immigrant communities, gender as an oppressive force, and the neocolonial relationship between the United States and Latin America.
Jair Bolsonaro rode the right-wing populist wing to power in 2018. Furthermore, he has acted like Hitler when referring to the Indigenous people and other minorities. Bolsonaro has gone as far as to label Brazil's indigenous people as "inferior" and has talked about "wiping them out.” However, his most cruel impulses are reserved for disregarding the Amazon rainforest, because he does not believe in climate change. Indigenous Brazilian tribal leaders have even gone as far as to file two requests with the International Criminal Court (ICC) one for genocide and another for crimes against humanity. Crimes against Humanity charge is because of his deforestation policies, and they genocide refers to his COVID-19 policies. President Emmanuel Macron of France has even threatened international intervention to prevent the destruction. Let us constitute a new rule that you need to be arrested if you are a politician who committed crimes against humanity. The International Criminal Court must issue an arrest warrant; if found guilty by the ICC the authorities in their own countries must follow through on the indictment. There is hope for making this a reality, given that Indigenous Brazilians believe they have enough proof to charge Bolsonaro with both Crimes against Humanity and Genocide.
"Our house is on fire," tweeted President Macron in 2018 about his disgust with Bolsonaro for his lack of respect for the Rainforest and environment in general. While Macron's war of words with Bolsonaro may not have helped heal relations between the two leaders, it did inspire the leader of an Indigenous Brazilian tribe. Ninawa is a leader of the Indigenous Brazilian people, "Huni Kui." He wrote a letter to France's president urging him to use his power to stop what he calls the "predation" of his land. Ninawa wants Bolsonaro to completely stop farming, logging, and developmental projects that harm the Amazon. Ninawa came with more than a strongly worded letter; he even had a plan to stop Bolsonaro right in his tracks. Ninawa’s plan involved asking the European leaders to stop facilitating the trade of products linked to deforestation: soybeans, meat, wood. Ninawa has great hope for his plan to work because France is the new leader of the E.U., and Macron is already a sympathizer of his cause. Ninawa is not the only indigenous person trying to be an activist for the environment; two other Brazilian Indigenous women also take the fight head-on.
Samela Sateré-Mawé and Sônia Guajajara are two Brazilian indigenous women fighting to stop the destruction of the Rainforest and raise awareness about climate change. Samela is from Manaus, in the Amazon, and Sônia is from Araribóia, in Maranhão. "We Indigenous peoples have been activists long before this word even existed." Samela and Sônia believe that the destruction of their homeland is tragic, but they also believe the far more significant damage lies in the future. They are highly aware of the changing climate and fear that not only will they have to suffer through deforestation, but their children will not even have a place to call home. As indigenous people of the Amazon, they think they should be the leaders of the climate justice movement because it is in their DNA. The perspective of two indigenous women gives a unique set of perspectives because the Rainforest is their home. Samela and Sônia’s work is impressive, it is nothing compared to the impressive work that Eloy Terena has been doing.
Eloy Terena is a lawyer for Indigenous people's land rights. Eloy himself is also an indigenous person who hails from the Terena tribe in Brazil. Eloy's village does not offer education past the fourth grade, so it is truly remarkable what he has been able to make of himself. Eloy has been primarily focused on Brazil since Bolsonaro was elected and is the lawyer representing the Indigenous people prosecuting Bolsonaro. Eloy genuinely believes that Indigenous people are essential in the fight to protect the environment and must take action on climate change. "Indigenous territories are the most protected areas and are responsible for environmental balance, for the protection of biodiversity, for the protection of rivers and lakes, and for that reason, these vital spaces are not only for the people who inhabit them but also, above all, for those who live in large urban centers.” While having legal representation is crucial in this fight, actual scientific data is also needed. Scientists and researchers at the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) provided such evidence by documenting the varying effects that climate change and deforestation will have on the planet.
"Climate change poses additional risks to the stability of the forests. Studies suggest "tipping points" not to be transgressed: 4° C of global warming or 40% of the total deforested area.” Those statistics are even more alarming given that the destruction of the Rainforest has increased significantly over the past fifty years. PNAS argues that we should immediately stop deforestation because reducing deforestation will make the Amazon a global public good for creating high-value products and ecosystem services. If humans do not stop deforestation, PNAS warns that the Amazon will lose it’s biodiversity and cause irreversible damage to the tropical forests. Another concern that PNAS has is that deforestation will also lead to the lengthening of the dry season. The first graph represents what amount of forest area will be left after climate change, and it makes predictions well into the year 2050. The second graph represents the predicted distribution of natural biomes after deforestation. However, an essential part of the article is the two experiments they conducted. One experiment was climate change only, and the other was climate change/deforestation/fire experiments. While PNAS is hopeful that we can do harm-reduction by changing specific policies, they also issued a stark warning. Which alleges that while stopping deforestation will preserve biodiversity and ecosystem services, it will not be enough to stop climate change globally. They recommend every nation needs to follow through on their promises in the Paris Climate Accords and then some.
Let 2022 be the beginning of a new era where leaders who cause destruction and suffering in a suit from behind a desk are held just as responsible as the ax murderer walking down the street. The Indigenous tribes of Brazil believe they have enough evidence to prosecute Jair for genocide and crimes against humanity successfully. Eloy said, "we believe there are acts in progress in Brazil that constitute crimes against humanity, genocide, and ecocide.” Along with his environmental policies, Bolsonaro also mismanaged COVID-19 in his country, which hit the indigenous communities the hardest. Approximately 900,000 indigenous people are more susceptible to COVID-19 because of their weaker immune systems, and an estimated 1,166 have passed away. These horrific crimes are being flaunted in the open with no fear of repercussion, and accountability needs to happen. If a nation leader commits a crime, the International Criminal Court must issue an arrest warrant; if found guilty of genocide by the ICC, the authorities in their own countries must follow through on the indictment.
 James, Chantal. “In Conversation with Two Indigenous Women Fighting for the Future of the Amazon-and the Planet.” Vogue, December 13, 2021. https://www.vogue.com/article/sonia-guajajara-samela-satere-mawe-brazil-amazon-interview.
 Brazão, Mariana, Lara Bartilotti Picanço, and Natália Tosi. “Interview with Eloy Terena, I
ndigenous Land Rights Activist in Brazil.” Wilson Center, August 9, 2021. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/interview-eloy-terena-indigenous-land-rights-activist-brazil.
 Nobre, Carlos A., Gilvan Sampaio, and Laura S. Borma. “Land-Use and Climate Change Risks in the Amazon and the Need of a Novel Sustainable Development Paradigm.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Accessed April 7, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27638214/.
 Aljazeera. “Brazil Indigenous Group Sues Bolsonaro at ICC for 'Genocide'.” Indigenous Rights News | Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, August 9, 2021. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/9/brazil-indigenous-group-sues-bolsonaro-at-icc-for-genocide.
Brazão, Mariana, Lara Bartilotti Picanço, and Natália Tosi. “Interview with Eloy Terena, Indigenous Land Rights Activist in Brazil.” Wilson Center, August 9, 2021. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/interview-eloy-terena-indigenous-land-rights-activist-brazil.
Cetinic, Oleg. “Indigenous Leader to France's Macron: Save the Amazon.” AP NEWS. Associated Press, October 2, 2021. https://apnews.com/article/climate-change-france-paris-forests-emmanuel-macron-d66a05f0ed407b2429fb84e4f349b0f6.
James, Chantal. “In Conversation with Two Indigenous Women Fighting for the Future of the Amazon-and the Planet.” Vogue, December 13, 2021. https://www.vogue.com/article/sonia-guajajara-samela-satere-mawe-brazil-amazon-interview.
Nobre, Carlos A., Gilvan Sampaio, and Laura S. Borma. “Land-Use and Climate Change Risks in the Amazon and the Need of a Novel Sustainable Development Paradigm.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Accessed April 7, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27638214/.
Dan Sullivan is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte studying World War 2 History and minoring in Communications and Journalism. When it comes to writing about Marxism and Socialism he takes a concentrated look into the U.S. and E.U. Imperialism especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union. He is very passionate about creating and putting into place a brand new system of eco-socialism to address the ongoing food and climate crisis. He also takes an interest in how the American church perpetuates the ongoing cycle of violence of American Capitalism by keeping workers content with deplorable conditions. He plans on working for a non-corporate media outlet to report on the U.S. Empire and NATO war crimes and imperialism.
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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!