The professional politicians of race, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, played a particularly cynical role. Together with their supporters in the International Socialist Organization and other pseudo-left groups, Jackson and Sharpton used the Trayvon Martin killing as an opportunity to insist that race, not class, is the fundamental issue in American society. The more immediate aim is to prepare the ground for the reelection campaign of Barack Obama, who is now presiding over a massive assault on the working class of every race.
It is worth reviewing the political pedigree of Jackson and Sharpton, two individuals who personify the decay of the civil rights movement and the cultivation of a wealthy black elite that is fundamentally hostile to the social aspirations of workers, both black and white. In the course of their services to capitalist politics, both have become multi-millionaires, even as the conditions of life for the vast majority of black workers and youth have deteriorated. These are not, in any meaningful sense of the term, individuals on the “left.”
Jackson’s emergence coincided with the first stage of the breakdown of the civil rights movement. He has sought to portray himself as the heir to Martin Luther King, Jr., the leading figure in the struggle for black equality from the 1950s to his death in 1968. However, both King and the civil rights movement of the earlier period were of a very different character.
King, whose rise to prominence grew with the mass resistance of the black workers in the South, had come to believe by the late 1960s that the oppression of blacks was fundamentally a question of class. In one instance he noted that the gains achieved by the civil rights movement had been “limited mainly to the Negro middle class,” and that to challenge the degradation of the majority of blacks would require an interracial movement of poor people. “We are saying that something is wrong … with capitalism,” King said. “There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”
King was not a revolutionary socialist but a reformist, and, ultimately, the demise of the mass civil rights movement stemmed from this fact, and under the leadership of reformist clergymen, it accepted the profit system that was the basis of racial and class oppression. Instead of providing an impetus for the struggle against American capitalism as a whole, King and others ushered the civil rights movement back into the Democratic Party, which, ironically, had ruled the South since the days of slavery.
Whether you agree with Eley that race was used to distract from apparently insurmountable class differences or not, I think we can all agree that Al Sharpton used the death -- misused it. Lied and lied repeatedly thereby making a mockery of poor Trayvon.
I have more respect for Jesse Jackson than I do for Al Sharpton. That's not why I'm silent on Jesse. I just don't know what he did. I couldn't escape Sharpton and his theatrics. I never, to this day, have seen Jesse talk about the murder on TV or heard him on the radio. Sorry.
Again, it's an interesting take.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):