The global economy continues to be mired in a Depression. The police are shooting one black person every 36 hours in the U.S. People of color are being stopped and frisked by law enforcement at unprecedented rates and the impact is traumatic and destructive for its targets and our communities. Through Occupy Wall Street, there was a brief moment when the mainstream started talking about income inequality. Times are tumultuous across the world and not just in the U.S.
Almost 40 years ago, in 1973, over 750 people gathered for three days in May to attend the founding conference of the National Defense Organization Against Racist and Political Repression. The conference was held in Chicago. The call for the conference was sponsored and supported by several prominent people including Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Julian Bond, Noam Chomsky, Fannie Lou Hamer, Anne Braden, Herbert Aptheker, Angela Davis, and William Kunstler among others. In Chicago, participants voted to form the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and elected Angela Davis as one of the co-chairpersons of the organization. Davis was just coming off her acquittal and she delivered the opening address of the conference. If you can, you should read the entire speech. I offer some excerpts below because I think that her words are as applicable to our current circumstances as they were in 1973.
“The rulers are desperate. They are desperate because their profits are indeed being threatened abroad. They have decided to try to compensate for these losses by turning on working people and poor people here at home. As with any escalation of domestic oppression, black, brown, red and yellow people will suffer hardest and longest. This desperation is the content of the wage freezes — wage freezes complemented by price gouging of customers. This is why General Motors, American Telephone and Telegraph, and Standard Oil could report record profits in the first quarter of this year.
This is also the meaning of the budget cuts — the elimination of any pretense at welfare, the dismantling of the so-called poverty programs, the cuts in medical assistance, financial assistance for students, etc., etc. These things are simply unprofitable for the capitalist-controlled economy. This new drive for profits through wage freezes, ruthless speedups accompanied by layoffs, the elimination of social programs is being pursued at the expense of working people.
More and more people are beginning to move toward far more radical solutions than the replacement of one government administration with another. More and more people are going to refuse to be silent; they will refuse to accept their assigned places in Nixon’s new majority. They will refuse to shoulder the imperialist burden.
The Nixon Administration and those for whom it speaks are therefore trying to eliminate the existing channels of democratic expression and opposition. And this policy is being carried out by official institutions at every level of the society — by the Supreme Court, by local courts, police departments and prisons.
We see the systematic character of repression reflected on the community level. Local police agencies are being turned into paramilitary units. They may be assassination squads, like STRESS in Detroit; they may be off-duty armed vigilante groups, such as the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association in New Jersey, which has launched an attack against George Merritt of the Plainfield 4; they may be uniformed patrolmen with shotguns as in New York City, where they recently shot down a ten-year-old black child, because, they said, he looked like a robbery suspect. […]
Repression continues to prevail within the prisons. We will never forget the vicious assassination of George Jackson, a trailblazer of the movement behind the walls. We know that Governor Rockefeller, with the approval of President Nixon himself, ordered the Attica Massacre. The Attica brothers are still under indictment as are the San Quentin Six in California. My former co-defendant, Ruchell Magee, will soon be facing a second trial.
Throughout the rest of her Address, Davis makes the case that the winds of fascism are blowing in the U.S. She stops short of calling the U.S. a fascist state but warns that it could end up becoming one if people do not resist. I think that everyone should read the entire speech for historical context and to perhaps better understand our current historical moment.