Capitalism: The Role of Violence Against Women

Sylvia Federici

Jan 9, 2019 talk

In this talk, Sylvia Federici, author of Caliban and the Witch (see Witch Burning and Women’s Oppression) discusses her two latest books Witches, Witch Hunting and Women and Re-Enchanting the World.

Witches, Witch Hunting and Women elaborates on two key premises: 1) that the extensive free labor women perform is fundamental to the success of capitalism and 2) that violence against women is never accidental. According to Federici, it’s “structural”, ie fundamental to the human exploitation necessary for capitalist accumulation.

Federici divides violence against women into three main categories: domestic, public and institutional. Domestic violence occurs in the context of a domestic relationship, public violence includes non-domestic rape, paramilitary violence and narco-trafficking, and institutional violence consists of police violence, female incarceration (which is increasing) and criminalization of pregnancy.

Federici is also concerned about the growing frequency of actual witchcraft accusations in Latin America, India and Africa. She blames this on what she refers to as “re-colonization,” aka globalization, whereby millions of poor peasants are being driven off their land and turned into refugees. The original witchcraft trials occurred during the 16th and 17th century enclosures, when people were being violently thrown off of communal land.

Re-Enchanting the World, the second book she describes, depicts how this violent dispossession also destroys the community ties and solidarity working people rely on to resist capitalist violence. It strikes a positive note in describing how Latin American women who are forced to urbanize (after losing their land) are starting to collectivize to meet their survival needs. Examples include organizing to fight for access to water and power and to build schools and clinics.

Hidden History: The 1893 US Invasion of Hawaii

The Betrayal of Liliuokalani: Last Queen of Hawaii 1838-1917

By Helena G Allen

Mutual Publishing (1982)

Book Review

This comprehensive biography of the last Queen of Hawaii, deposed during an 1893 US invasion, is based mainly on her diary and other writings. It reveals that the sovereignty of Hawaii had largely been usurped by foreign missionaries, adventurers and sugar entrepreneurs well before Liliuokalani’s birth in 1838.

Hawaii became a constitutional monarchy in 1852, with voting for the national legislature was limited to male property owners. Although native Hawaiians retained the throne until Liliuokalani was formally deposed in 1893, Hawaiian monarchs had no standing military nor ability to limit haole* immigration, ongoing seizure of their lands nor tax the enormously lucrative haole sugar plantations.

When Queen Liliuokalani ascended the thrown in 1891, haole members of the legislature had been plotting the overthrow of the monarchy for two years.

In 1893, haole of US origin residing in Honolulu organized a coup against the Queen. To assist them, they prevailed on US appointed minister to Hawaii John L Stevens to call in 162 marines from the USS Boston.

When he learned of the coup and the marine intrusion, outgoing president Benjamin Harrison requested Hawaii’s new Provisional Government hold a plebiscite. Aware that 90% of the country’s population supported the Queen’s restoration, the latter refused.

On March 1, 1893 incoming president Grover Cleveland ordered the marines to withdraw and replaced Stevens with James Henderson Blount, whom he ordered to restore Liliuokalani to her throne.

When Blount failed to do, so a group of native Hawaiians launched an armed uprising. The Provisional Government responded by declaring martial law. Although Liliuokalani denied any knowledge of the rebellion, she was arrested and convicted of “misprision.”**

Following her 20-month imprisonment, she made repeated trips to the US to advocate for the human rights of native Hawaiians.

The US would formally annex Hawaii in 1898 where they declared war on Spain and invaded the Philippines. In 1900, Hawaii officially became a US territory.


*A term used to refer to “white” residents of Hawaii who are not descendants of native Hawaiians.

**A term in English law referring to neglect in preventing or reporting a felony or treason by a non-accessory.

 

 

 

White Supremacy and the Obama Legacy

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

One World (2017)

Book Review

This remarkable book is a collection of essays about white privilege, Obama’s inability to live up to his campaign promises, and the role of his presidency in setting the stage for Donald Trump.

Coates’ approach to the topic of white privilege is largely historical. He traces the brutal reversal of Reconstruction reforms and re-institution of de facto slavery with Jim Crow laws; the Great Migration north of 6 million African Americans during the early 20th century; the deliberate exclusion of African Americans from New Deal programs such as Social Security, Aid to Families with Dependent Children and FHA (Federal Housing Administration) mortgage insurance; as well as the War on Drugs and mass incarceration of African Americans.

Coates has the best definition of white supremacy I have seen anywhere. In his words, white privilege is “banditry.”

“To be black in America is to be plundered. To be white is to execute and benefit from it.”

Coates gives numerous examples to justify this view: the exclusion of African Americans from wealth creation programs such as FHA and VA (Veterans Administration) mortgage loans, long time job discrimination and wage suppression, the recurrent decimation of prosperous Black communities via white race riots, predatory owner “contract” financing of home purchases, and predatory targeting of Blacks for subprime mortgagae they can’t repay.

My favorite essay is the one advocating for African American reparations, based on the argument that systematic exploitation of Blacks didn’t end with slavery but continues to the present day. As a precedent Coates cites the $7 billion (in today’s dollars) West Germany paid Israel in 1953 in compensation for Germany’s genocidal treatment of European Jews during World War II.

 

The Unpopular Attempt to Privatize Mexico’s State-Owned Oil Company

Crude Harvest: Selling Mexico’s Oil

Al Jazeera (2014)

Film Review

This documentary is about efforts by the Mexican government to privatize the country’s state-owned oil company. This extremely unpopular move would help lead to their defeat in the July 2018 election by left-leaning Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (aka Mexico’s Bernie Sanders).

The film also explores the devastating effect of NAFTA on Mexican agriculture, as well as the link between two million farm workers losing their jobs and the explosion of organized crime. Due to high unemployment, farm workers put out of work by NAFTA are left with only two choices: to cross illegally into the US or to work for Mexican crime cartels.

Pemex, Mexico’s state owned oil company, was first nationalized in 1938. When multinational oil companies demanded compensation, tens of thousands of Mexican peasants pawned their possessions to help the government buy out the foreign oil/gas companies.

Mexico is the last country to offer up nationally owned oi/gas resources to foreign exploitation. US oil companies are rubbing their hands with glee at the immense profit potential of untapped oil/gas reserves in a country with virtually no environmental or labor regulation.

Mexican drug cartels are responding to the corporate invasion by kidnapping oil/gas workers. This significantly increases the cost of production.

Leonard Peltier: Political Prisoner

Incident at Olgala: The Leonard Peltier Story

Michael Apted (1992)

Film Review

This documentary, narrated by Robert Redford, describes the framing of American Indian Movement (AIM) leader Leonard Peltier for the murder of two FBI agents. Essentially a political prisoner, Peltier is currently serving two consecutive life sentences.

The charges arose out of a June 1975 firefight in Jumping Bull on the Pine Ridge reservation in North Dakota. The film portrays quite vividly the regime of terror gripping Pine Ridge between 1973-75. It was overseen by corrupt Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) appointee Dick Wilson, with the support of BIA police. In 1973 Lakota elders, who were the primary targets of Wilson and his “goon squads” approached the national American Indian Movement (AIM) leadership for support.

By mid-1975, the reservation was in a state of virtual war, with more than 60 unsolved murders and frequent firefights like the one that occurred in Jumping Bull.

Based on this background, Pelter’s co-defendants Daryl Butler and Bib Ribideau won acquittal on their first degree murder charges. Given the two FBI agents were in civilian dress, unknown to the defendants and drew their guns on them, the jury found Butler and Ribideau were merely defending themselves in firing their weapons.

Peltier, who had to be extradited from Canada, was assigned a different judge. By the time of his trial in 1997, the FBI had clearly doctored the ballistics evidence and browbeat and intimidated two eyewitnesses into changing their statements.

Peltier’s arrest and trial occurred during a period when the FBIĀ  see The FBI’s War on Black People) was hoping to kill off both AIM and the Black Panther Party by decimating their leadership – through covert assassination and arresting as many as possible on phony charges.

The film can’t be embedded for copyright reason but can be seen free at Incident at Olgala

Mumia Abu Jamal: America’s Most Famous Political Prisoner

Mumia Abu Jamal

Eliot Grossman (2002)

Film Review

This excellent 2002 documentary provides a comprehensive summary of the frame-up of America’s most important political prisoner African American journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu Jamal. Mumia’s unlawful arrest and imprisonment continues to be protested by tens of thousands of activists around the world.

The presenter is Mumia’s new attorney Eliot Grossman, who headed the defense team that replaced his prior defense team in 2001.

Mumia, who was moonlighting as a cab driver, is accused of shooting patrol officer Daniel Faulkner on December 9, 1981. The latter had just pulled over Mumia’s brother Billy Cook and was allegedly in the process of beating him up. Gunshots ensured, with Faulkner ending up dead and Mumia receiving near fatal wounds.

Following hospitalization and lengthy recovery, Mumia was tried for first degree murder and sentenced to death.

Mumia’s legal team successfully overturned his death sentence in 2001 – based on the trial judge’s faulty jury instructions.

Overturning the conviction itself has been even more difficult, even though a professional hit man came forward in 1999 and issued both a written affidavit and videotaped confession that high level cops in the Philadelphia police hired him and a colleague to murder Faulkner. According to Arnold Beverly’s confession, higher ups in the department hated Faulkner for his efforts to expose a police extortion and protection racket. In the years following Faulkner’s murder, the FBI would convict 31 Philadelphia cops for their participation in this scheme.

In his summary, Grossman describes numerous instances of judicial misconduct and defense incompetence that formed the basis of Mumia’s many appeals. Examples of judicial and prosecutorialĀ  misconduct include

  • Judge Sabo denial of Mumia’s five requests for eyewitnesses to identify him from a police line-up
  • Sabo’s denial of Mumia’s constitutional right to defend himself.
  • the prosecution’s use of peremptory challenges to dismiss black jurors from the jury (which the Supreme Court would rule unconstitutional in 2016 – see Scotus New Trial Finds Racial Bias Jury Selection)

According to Grossman, Mumia’s original defense team fell down mainly due to their failure to interview Mumia’s brother Billy Cook or Kenneth Freeman (a passenger in Cook’s care) as eyewitnesses; their failure to challenge the virtually nonexistent ballistic evidence and their failure to challenge key eyewitness prostitute Cynthia White. At Billy Cook’s trial (for “interfering” with a police officer), White testified that Freeman was a passenger in Cook’s car. Under police pressure, she perjured herself at Mumia’s trial by maintaining Cook had been alone.

The video can’t be embedded for copyright reasons but can be viewed free at Mumia Abu Jamal

The Ugly Face of Beauty: Is Child Labour the Foundation for Your Makeup?

The Ugly Face of Beauty: Is Child Labour the Foundation for Your Makeup?

RT (2016)

Film Review

This documentary is about mica mining in the Jharkhand state in India, which produces 60% of the global mica supply. In addition to its use (as glitter) in cosmetics, mica is used to manufacture joint compound (for filling and seams in drywall), drilling fluids (in fracking), plastics, synthetic textiles and as an insulator in the electronics industry.

Although mica mining is technically illegal in India (owing to serious health risks, eg lung cancer and potential mine collapse), mica “processing” is legal and immensely profitable.

Rough 20,000 children (some as young as 3) are employed in mica mining in India. Adults can earn up to $3 per day, with lower caste workers earning less. They sell the mica they mine to processing plants or to the “mica mafia,” which sells it directly to exporters.