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Daryl Grigsby: Yes, we can do better

Daryl Grigsby | Other Voices

I am responding to a recent opinion piece, “Western civilization in peril” by Manny Montes, who wrote of an America where arrogant elites cancel speech, public schools are a failure, Western civilization is doomed, and “radical progressive cultural Marxists” destroy all that is good about America.

He mentions Marx or Marxism five times, attributing to it a frightening power. Further, to read his piece, you would think either the Communist Party or its equivalent was a powerful third political force in America — shaping school board policies, forcing children to learn about queer and transgender, and demanding allegiance to the 1619 Project.

Ironically, the only ones who talk about Karl Marx are fear-peddlers who attach his name to any movement of social justice and equality. Otherwise Marx is completely absent from any discourse.

In fact, America stands alone among democratic nations where the political spectrum is limited to two parties, a centrist Democratic Party and a right Republican Party. Other nations have a wide political spectrum, where the environment, workers and many others find a voice.

Ever since the Red Scare, some in America shout “Marxism” from the rooftops to divide and frighten. The power attributed to Marxism is a myth.

I know this because years ago I was a member of a small Marxist party. In the 1980s our very small group fought for farm worker rights, an end to U.S.-supported murders of priests and peasants in Central America, and end to apartheid, support for women’s rights, and ending police brutality and unjust incarcerations.

Knowing what America does to socialists, my mother was worried about my safety.

Since the Palmer Raids in 1919, America has undermined, destroyed and eliminated leftists in this country.

My book, “For The People: Black Socialists in the United States, Africa and the Caribbean,” documents why there is no such thing as Marxism in the United States. The Southern Tenant Farmers Union was attacked by mobs, Claudia Jones was deported, Paul Robeson was robbed of his passport and career, the Colored Farmer’s National Alliance was massacred, unionizing Black Arkansas sharecroppers were murdered, W.E.B DuBois lost basic rights, Fred Hampton was murdered while he slept, and the National Negro Labor Council was suppressed.

Further, many who worked for union rights, racial justice or peace were labeled “Marxist” and lost careers and families. A common FBI question while investigating suspected white communists was, “Do black people visit their home?” Racial solidarity was proof you were a Marxist.

I believe there is a better society than the capitalism that fueled the genocide of Indigenous peoples, allowed for three centuries of the violence and rape of slavery, enables 1% of the population to hold 40% of the wealth, restricts the bottom 90% of Americans to 25% of the wealth, and withholds health care, child care, higher level education, housing and criminal justice from all but those who can afford it. Capitalism tells white workers they have more in common with white millionaires than Black and brown Americans.

Racism flourishes under capitalism. Blacks are arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to longer sentences at higher rates for exactly the same crimes committed by whites. Median wealth for white families is 10 times that of black families. The United States is 6% of the world’s population yet accounts for 20% of the world’s prison population, and in the United States, the vast majority in prison are Black, brown and poor whites.

I am convinced humanity can do better. The failures of Marxism in Russia and elsewhere does not close the book on whether a more just society is possible; a place where wealth, health, education and housing is for all, not some.

I am not alone in this hope, for Pope Francis’ “The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium)” expresses the same desires in the chapter “The Social Dimension of Evangelization.“

Manny Montes vilifies Angela Davis as a “radical black liberationist“ (missing the point that colonists were probably similarly labeled by the British, except the ”Black“ part.)

Davis was recently asked if she was discouraged by the lack of progress. She replied, ”This struggle never ends. In fact there is beauty in the struggle, for in the process, we learn of the complexities of freedom. Freedom has nuances and layers we are often unaware of, and we must always search for better ways of relating to each other.“

I’m with Angela. We can do better. To believe otherwise is to be content with racism, inequality and injustice.

Daryl Grigsby lives in Nevada City.

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