Robin D. G. Kelley-What is Racial Capitalism and Why Does it Matter?

Mass production undermined the autonomy of labor, for example, like the making cloth or growing vegetables on small plots of land. When you move into the 20th century, workers were not just producers. Under mass production such as Fordism, workers were not just producers, they became consumers. This means that finance is effected Finance was essential for backing colonial projects like the slave trade. Lloyds of London made al lot of its money by insuring slave ships. Early manufacturing enterprises also depended on finance.

Financial institutions began to extend credit to workers in the 20th century. Workers began to consume more, they could afford more, although their wages weren’t going up significantly. Under Fordism as more commodities become available, the products become cheaper. It’s not just survival that’s keeping them working it is debt that becomes the driver. It becomes about having things and debt keeps you continuing to work. They pay the debt back with interest. Capitalist are now able to park their surplus in banks and profit from financial ventures like investments in stocks and loans to workers and businesses at high interest rates. Credit cards come into being in the middle to late 20th century, prime and sub prime mortgages, etc. Peter Hudson’s book Bankers and Empire notes this. Colonial and racial regimes allowed U.S. banks to use the Caribbean and to use sovereign debt as a way to invent new global financial instruments, open new markets, and accumulate huge sums of wealth while evading U.S. regulatory regimes.

This allows us to see how the system is racial. All this is shaped by racial values, it determines wages, employment opportunities, what type of labor you do, whether skilled, unskilled, unprotected, paid, unpaid, access to loans, to interest rates, charge, this is all shaped by racial values, race, gender and class.

Racial Neoliberalism is a response to capitalism’s crisis in the 70’s. Flint Michigan is the story of finacialization, of security regimes, and the assault on democracy. The Flint water supply was poisoned. In 2013, The governor of Michigan, Dick Snyder anointed an emergency manager named Darnel Early to take over Flint’s government in order to impose austerity measures to reduce the city’s debt. Very similar to puerto rico right now. To save money, early decided to switch the public water supply from the Detroit river to the flint river which was polluted. To save money the new, unelected regime stopped chemically treating the city’s lead pipes. Residents were getting sick and continued to receive water bills. They organized. Over half of Flints population is black it is the second most impoverished city in the nation next to Youngstown Ohio.

He tells the story of flint and how GM fleeced the city and left anyway. GM started selling loans to members of the public and became deeply involved in subprime mortgages, predatory lending, black people lost their homes and their jobs. Tax breaks were given to the big corporations to stay but they left anyway. They privatized public assets to attract investment capital. public land is sold to investors, water rates increased, they tried to privatize water, downtown redevelopment schemes using public funding and substantial tax breaks to private firms to finance new buildings, sky scrapers, parking lots and if they can’t pay back the debts, it’s a lost. none of the ventures revitalized downtown or revitalized the economy. It left the city responsible for massive debt which became justification for moving the city council aside and putting an emergency manager in place to manage the debt. Like Puerto Rico. 2014-2015 water wasn’t fit for human or animal consumption. Darnel Early was part of a plan to put Detroit into bankruptcy, to completely to privatize the water department. they cut off services to people, raised the rates/ They signed an agreement with a private firm called “Vilvia” for water management. City shut off water to over 150,000 residents who were behind in their bills and began making plans to eliminate 100’s of jobs. This was a dismantling of democracy. The rise of a black political class that served as junior partners in these forms of authoritarian governments. The black face of authoritarianism all in the name of diversity. “Diversity can jack you up.”

The story of Flint should remind us that the authoritarian turn didn’t begin with Trump. It was already in process for the least 4 decades or 40 years. see 1970. We had at least 4 decades of globalization, neoliberal tax on the welfare state, on public institutions, on the poor, covert wars, political & cultural back lash against movements for racial and gender justice, rampant xenophobia, open masogany, attacks of reproductive rights, a back lash against diversity and multiculturalism way before Trump was elected. The image of Obama ends up obscuring a global shift toward authoritarianism. This is a shift that emerges in response to capitalism’s latest crisis and the mass global resistance movement the emerged in the wake of the crisis.

2010 there was this explosion in 2011, you had Occupy, you had Athens, Madrid and San Paulo and London and the West bank. Uprisings that were all challenging the crisis of Global capitalism. The massive opposition of globalization and the policies of austerity, those policies designed to solve capitalism’s crisis on the backs of workers, on the backs of the poor, both exposed and hastened the crisis that produced Trump. Trumpism wasn’t just bad democratic planning. He had studied all this and predicted it.

Popular consent can be mobilized by incorporated popular discontent and then neutralizing it. Stewart Hall wrote a book called the Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the crisis of the left. important collection of essays. According to Hall, Thatcherism forged a relationship between free market liberalism and traditional conservatists themes like family, nation, patriarchy, respectability, much like Reagan. Themes that emerged in the context of what he called a crisis of national identity and culture precipitated by the unresolved physic trauma of the end of empire. Make Great Britain Great again meaning restore the old order of Anglo saxonism, racialized patriotism and hetero patriarchal authority.

Marxist were unable to see that the working class had been recomposed in the 20th. It didn’t look the same way they imagined it and couldn’t be unified because it was fractured, by race, gender, etc. it wasn’t unified, it wasn’t harmonious. We have to see the historical trajectory in the formation of identity it makes it impossible to see class rule not as a single class but as a historical block. Elements of the working class can participate in class rule. They can support and have a stake in it. Can be non objective, like race. Identity politics can undermine class politics.

“The purpose of racism is to control the behavior of white people not black people, For blacks, guns and tanks are sufficient.”

He talks about the struggle in Boyle heights and Inglewood was the heart of the artistic community on 103rd and central in the 1960’s. it was an artist haven. Property value never went up. The federal government pumped a lot of money in that area through the war on poverty and through the FBI. The FBI pumped a lot of money for people like Daferd Perry, an agent provacateur, to burn down the 300 seat theater that was a former Safeway that was transformed into a theater to destroy art that was created by that community. To wage war on this revolutionary insurgency of the arts. They also pumped a lot of money into the local police to destroy this community. The police, FBI, Cointelpro destroyed this community as capital flight began to disappear and so we get south central LA. The place where the ghosts the place where Watts Towers just wasn’t there all by itself , it was part of the community. When people come into a community to gentrify, what are they really doing? That’s why the Boyle Heights things is so important.

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