TML Monthly Supplement

No. 18

July 4, 2021

July 4 and the Battle of Democracy

An Occasion to Question What Is Meant by
"Government Of, By and For the People"

- Kathleen Chandler -

Significance of Sentence Given to Derek Chauvin for
Murder of George Floyd

More than 100 Organizations Demand End to
Expulsions of Refugees from U.S.

Abuse and Retaliation Against Hunger Strikers
in U.S. Immigration Detention

The Brutal Massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921

For Your Information

Conception that "All Men Are Created Equal"
Denies Accountability

Conception of Equality in U.S. Declaration of Independence

July 4 and the Battle of Democracy

An Occasion to Question What Is Meant by "Government Of, By and For the People"

This July 4 marks the day in 1776 when the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the U.S. Declaration of Independence, signalling the official separation of the 13 original colonies from Great Britain amid the Revolutionary War. This great revolution proclaimed in deeds that British colonialism could be overthrown. It inspired many anti-colonial fighters and revolutionaries around the world.

The Revolutionary War was not, however, a social revolution but on the contrary transferred the levers of power from one set of property owners to another, entrenching the system of slave labor. The U.S. was constituted as a racist state from the start. It carried out land theft and genocide of indigenous peoples alongside the system of slave labor, which both continued and increased. Along with Black people, women and the "propertyless" were not recognized as citizens and they were all deprived of the right to vote and participate in political life. The oft-repeated slogans of the French revolution Equality, Liberty and Fraternity only applied to slave owners, property owners and landowners, with the U.S. Constitution further entrenching the compromise between slavery and oligarchy, serving to block the revolutionary drive seen in the Declaration of Independence. This included any mention of  the right to revolution contained in the Declaration, replacing it with government impunity to suppress resistance and "insurrection."

The Constitution's phrasing "We the people" and that U.S. government is "of, by and for the people," is repeatedly spoken of to say that in the United States decision-making power emanates from "the people." Nothing could be further from the truth and people know this. The problem with this knowledge is that it is channeled into fighting for the aspiration that the existing democracy should be defended and perfected. Kept hidden is the fact that what is referred to when the words "the people," and "rule by the people," are used, the content is not defined.

Neither what is meant by "the people" nor by the word "rule" in the expression "rule by the people" are explained. Those who refer to government of, by and for the people are taking the U.S. Constitution as their reference point, not the concrete reality in the United States at any historical juncture. For all those seeking change that favors the people, unless the concrete reality is the reference point along with the claims the people are entitled to make on the society they are born into and whose wealth they produce, establishing a vantage point that is to the advantage of the people will remain elusive.

For the founding fathers, "We the people" was themselves, considered the "best and brightest," and thus fit to rule. This is the same conception promoted today. Biden expressed this clearly when addressing the joint session of Congress:

"Our Constitution opens with the words -- as trite as it sounds -- 'We the People.' Well, it's time to remember that 'We the People' are the government -- you and I. Not some force in a distant capital. Not some powerful force that we have no control over. It's us. It's 'We the People.'"

He is speaking to people in government, to Congress, which means the "you and I" are not all the people making up the polity, but those in government. And those in government refers to the executive power, to his government, not everyone who makes up the Congress or even his own party in the Congress. It is the executive power which wields the decision-making power. The Biden administration, whether addressing the joint session of Congress, or the G7 Summit held in Cornwall, England recently or the NATO Summit held in Brussels, is making a clear statement that his government is in control and nobody should forget it.

Biden also refers to the existing democracy and the concern of the rulers that the legitimacy of their rule is being questioned, that the majority increasingly sees them as no longer fit to rule. He says: "The question of whether our democracy will long endure is both ancient and urgent, as old as our Republic -- still vital today. Can our democracy deliver on its promise that all of us, created equal in the image of God, have a chance to lead lives of dignity, respect, and possibility?" To answer his own question and morbid preoccupation with U.S. defeat, he does not offer any concrete solution but makes a statement of faith. He is mesmerized by his own belief that his government in service to the oligopolies and their competition for world domination, will succeed in making the U.S. prevail: "We will meet the central challenge of the age by proving that democracy is durable and strong. Autocrats will not win the future. We will. America will. And the future belongs to America... We have stared into the abyss of insurrection and autocracy, pandemic and pain, and 'We the People' did not flinch. At the very moment our adversaries were certain we would pull apart and fail, we came together... We summoned a new strength, new resolve to position us to win the competition of the 21st century."

Biden, like Trump, Obama, Bush and Clinton before him, is waging the internecine battle between vying U.S. ruling factions while simultaneously dismissing the reality that there is a battle between two Americas, the one of the rich and their government and that of the multitude which is laying its claims on society, affirming the rights of all as the people of the United States strive to have a deciding say in all matters of concern. The people's America is not that of the rich and their government. The striving seen in the many demonstrations and actions of all kinds, petitions, webinars, mass text messages and calls, is for new arrangements of people's empowerment. This has been evident in the persistent and determined battles against police racist killings, for justice and equality, for immigrant and refugee rights, where it has been firmly said, "This is Not Our America, This is Not Our Democracy."

Pretending the U.S. is not under siege from all quarters, when Biden questions "whether our democracy will long endure," he pathetically tries to rescue the situation by resorting to quoting from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address at the time of the Civil War. He does so not only to perpetuate the perversion that it was Lincoln who emancipated the enslaved people, not the enslaved people themselves, but to promote the phrase "government of, by and for the people" to clothe his democracy in colors it simply does not have. Lincoln's Address in 1863 begins by referring to the Declaration of Independence, saying "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

When Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address he was battling the slave power and thus had difficulty referring to the Constitution with its endorsement of and compromise with the slave power. Note that he says "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," rather than how it is stated in the Declaration as a "self-evident truth" meaning that no proof is necessary, it is self-evident that all men are created equal. Turning it into a proposition makes it an aspiration for that "more perfect union" that presidents regularly refer to as a means to dismiss crimes and injustice. As an aspiration, it is also used to justify the continued existence of government structures of inequality which are guaranteed by the Constitution. 

When Lincoln speaks he goes on to say: "Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure." He concludes that the task is to ensure "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." The phrasing, like Biden's and the Constitution's, craftily separates the people from government. This is also readily seen in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." The wording separates the government and the people, just as the expression "we the people" is taken to mean the government. The separation is necessary to enable the structures of inequality established throughout the Constitution, with government being superior to the people, the multitude, the majority.

For Lincoln, the Civil War was not about eliminating the compromise with slavery enshrined in the Constitution. The system of slave labor had de facto become incompatible with the system of wage labor. Through Civil War, the industrial power sought to vanquish the slave power, with both existing north and south. Thus, for Lincoln, the issue was who would wield the national power and how this was to be determined and achieved.

Lincoln talks about ensuring that government of, by and for the people "shall not perish from this earth." But a problem the rulers cannot overcome is that the Civil War and Reconstruction afterwards, where the striving of the people for emancipation was decisive in both, served to advance the democratic revolution stemming from the anti-colonial struggle against the British. The advance meant one form of private property ownership, the system of slave labor, had in fact perished, to be replaced by a system of wage slavery, with sharecropping being one of the forms it took on. This accomplishment proved historically that private ownership of property can be abolished. While the people's striving for power was defeated in 1877 through use of force and terrorism, the Civil War is irrefutable proof that private property can be abolished -- it happened. Nonetheless, the oligarchy as a class remained and the fight over who wields political power, the decision-making power, was raging. For the rich, the challenge was to perpetuate the compromise between the ruling factions so as to effectively rule over the multitude. This Covenant to rule over the people and the need to conciliate interests is at the heart of all the theories of constitution and constitutional rule in the U.S. But that compromise is what is incompatible with the striving of the people for empowerment.

Another problem with referring to the phrase "government of, by and for the people," as a reference point today is that the reference is to the U.S. Constitution, with its compromises with oligarchy and structures of inequality. The needs of the times reject both. A modern constitution must of necessity reject both. A vantage point which advantages the interests of the people requires vesting sovereignty, decision-making power, in the people and finding the ways to do this which are not based on a reshuffle of current structures of inequality. For advancing democracy today, the reference point is not the U.S. Constitution and the mantra that it can be made better. It is a completely new reference point where power emanates from the people and the claims they are entitled to make on the society into which they are born or where they permanently reside. As the people persist in taking their place, they give birth to political processes which of necessity provide structures of equality. The question of political supremacy and defining it requires that the people define who "the people" are by virtue of their act of laying the claims they see fit to make. The rulers, by defining the people as the government and separating the governing from the governed, are acting to block the people from vesting the supreme power in themselves. Using the Constitution and government "of, by and for the people," as a reference point to define a modern democracy falls into many traps which the people striving for empowerment are eager to avoid.

In a people's democracy, the people using their own agency decide what is to be done under specific conditions and circumstances. The power to remove those who block the implementation of their decisions or who commit crimes against the peoples, like aggressive war or planning and instigating such wars, or participating in acts the people deem constitute violence, like killer cops or killer drones, will be held to account. The issue is one of who wields the decision-making power in the service of what rule.

This is what is at stake on this July 4 in the United States.

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Significance of Sentence Given to Derek Chauvin for Murder of George Floyd

Protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 19, the day before the verdict was reached in Derek Chauvin's trial.

Following the court's sentencing of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd to only 22.5 years -- which means he is eligible for parole in 15 years -- many community members were angry, saying such a sentence did not fulfill their demands for justice and accountability. Many had demanded charges of first degree murder for which, in Minnesota, conviction means life in prison. Chauvin's charge of second degree murder has a maximum of 40 years but even that was not given. He was also found guilty of second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder. The judge has discretion to provide sentencing for each, to be served consecutively. For Minnesota, the maximum for second degree manslaughter is 10 years and for third degree murder nine years, or 59 years in total.

Many compare Chauvin's sentence of 22.5 years for murdering George Floyd to longer sentences commonly served for similar or lesser offences, especially when African Americans and Puerto Ricans are being sentenced. One in seven people in U.S. prisons are serving a life sentence, commonly for lesser violent crimes than murder. This includes 3,972 people serving life sentences for a drug-related offence. More than two-thirds of those serving life sentences are people of colour with one in five Black men in prison serving a life sentence, again usually for lesser crimes than Chauvin's.

Puerto Rican political prisoners got 60-75 year sentences just for conspiracy, with no actual act of violence having been committed. Leonard Peltier, an Indigenous leader charged with murder, which even the government now admits he did not commit, remains in prison after 46 years. He is now 77, yet the government refuses to release him.

The sentence given Derek Chauvin will not act as a deterrent to more racist killings by police either. So long as the U.S. state and its policing agencies at all levels refuse to assume ownership of their own actions, such killings will continue until the people themselves succeed in bringing them to an end. The rulers take no responsibility because they believe they will not face any consequences. That is where they are wrong.

Minneapolis rally on April 20, 2021, the day the guilty verdict was returned against Chauvin.

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More than 100 Organizations Demand End to Expulsions of Refugees from U.S.

In a letter dated June 30, 105 organizations wrote to President Joe Biden demanding an end to the expulsions of refugees under Title 42 of the United States Code. Title 42 expulsions are removals by the U.S. government of persons who have recently been in a country where a communicable disease was present. They were implemented in the name of COVID-19. The letter explains the plight of the refugees today and the state of human rights violations at the hands of the U.S. administration. The text of the letter follows.

Dear President Biden:

We, the 105 undersigned organizations, write to express our alarm and disappointment that your administration is reportedly considering plans to continue to use the unlawful Title 42 expulsion policy to block and expel adult asylum seekers for at least two more months and may use punitive measures such as ankle monitors and expedited removal in processing families. Not only does the Title 42 policy violate U.S. refugee law and treaties, but it also endangers people seeking U.S. protection, with over 3,250 kidnappings, rapes, and other attacks on people expelled or blocked at the U.S.-Mexico border since you took office. This number rises every day your administration fails to end this policy. We urge your administration to fully rescind this policy for all populations, comply with U.S. refugee law, and ensure that Black, LGBTQ and other adult asylum seekers, many of whom have been turned back or expelled at ports of entry, as well as families and children, have swift access to the U.S. asylum system.

Many of our organizations have repeatedly called on your administration to end the Title 42 expulsion policy and restart asylum processing for people seeking refuge. Rational, science-based measures, recommended by public health experts exist to mitigate COVID-19 concerns and safely process asylum seekers at the border. The use of Title 42 -- described as a "Stephen Miller special" by a former Trump administration official -- was implemented over the objections of senior Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) experts and has been widely discredited by epidemiologists and public health experts who have confirmed it has "no scientific basis as a public health measure." These experts provided detailed recommendations for the safe processing of asylum seekers to your transition team, the CDC, and other officials in your administration. In May 2021, medical experts for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) filed a whistleblower disclosure condemning the policy for lacking a public health justification and for fueling widespread family separation and detention of children. Medical professionals providing care in encampments and shelters in Tijuana have also decried the expulsion policy as threatening the health and safety of migrants.

Human rights organizations and the media have documented the escalating dangers faced by asylum seekers and migrants subjected to the Title 42 policy, many of whom have been forced into squalid and dangerous conditions in several new camps near the border. Legal and humanitarian staff who work with migrants subjected to the policy have also faced serious risks to their safety. The Title 42 policy has also driven family separations as it presents families with the impossible choice of keeping children in danger or sending them alone across the border for their safety. As a result, many of the single adults who are now stuck in Mexico are desperately trying to reunite with their children in Office of Refugee Resettlement custody or with family in the United States.

The expulsion policy has disproportionately affected asylum seekers from Africa, the Caribbean, and elsewhere, who were not placed in the Migrant Protection Protocols and are not eligible for processing into the United States under Phase 1 or Phase 2 of its wind-down. Black and LGBTQ asylum seekers blocked in Mexico under the expulsion policy and unable to request protection at a port of entry continue to experience targeted discrimination and violence. Recent reports indicate that while your administration may end the policy in July for families, it may continue to subject adult asylum seekers to the policy for at least two months -- an unacceptable delay that would prolong disparities in access to protection and disproportionately impact Black asylum seekers from African and Caribbean countries, as well as LGBTQ refugees and others who are not travelling with children. Such an approach would be completely indefensible. Public health safeguards in no way require or justify disparate treatment between families and adults arriving alone. Moreover, such an approach is contrary to U.S. asylum law and the non-discrimination provisions of the Refugee Convention.

We are concerned that this administration continues to look to deterrence as a strategy to address processing of asylum seekers at the border. Ankle monitors, budget requests for expansive detention, and expedited removal are part of a deterrence strategy that is inhumane and ineffective. Such a cruel strategy is the physical manifestation of the statement "Don't come." Electronic monitoring devices are a particularly intrusive measure that causes physical and emotional harm without a positive impact on appearance rates as compared to appropriate, community-based case management services. With respect to expedited removal, many of our organizations, as well as the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, have long noted failures by Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents to follow basic required procedures to identify individuals who must be referred for credible fear interviews, as well as intimidation and coercion of asylum seekers to withdraw requests for protection.

While we greatly appreciate your administration's ongoing efforts to process into safety certain asylum seekers subjected to Migrant protection Protocols, we remain gravely concerned that the Biden administration continues to block and expel asylum seekers to the same dangers under the Title 42 policy. In a rare public statement calling on this country to uphold its legal obligations, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees recently urged the United States to swiftly end this policy and "restore access to asylum for the people whose lives depend on it, in line with international legal and human rights obligations."

With the 70th anniversary of the Refugee Convention approaching in July, we urge your administration to end its misuse of Title 42 public health authority immediately, restore asylum processing in line with U.S. refugee laws and treaties for all asylum seekers -- including at U.S. ports of entry -- and set an example for the rest of the world by welcoming refugees with dignity.



For list of signatories, click here.

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Abuse and Retaliation Against Hunger Strikers
in U.S. Immigration Detention

We provide below a portion of the executive summary of a recent report by Physicians for Human Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union concerning resistance by detained refugees using hunger strikes, many of them women, and violations of their human rights by the U.S. 

While the report speaks to forced feeding, use of freezing cold rooms and solitary confinement, the women hunger strikers have also brought out that threats are made against them using their children. Officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) threaten to remove children or prevent the mothers from seeing them, for example, as a means to coerce them into ending the strikes. To date, most of the detention centres involved remain open.

Mr. Otieno (a pseudonym) an asylum seeker from East Africa, is one of the many people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention who began a hunger strike to protest poor conditions and seek release during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than listen to his pleas, ICE retaliated by locking him in a freezing cold room, force-feeding him through a nasogastric tube against his will, and transferring him to three different facilities. Only after subjecting him to all of this did ICE finally release him from detention in late 2020. Mr. Otieno, who lost 28 pounds and now takes medication for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, described it as "an experience that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy." He said, "They put me on a bed and handcuffed me to an emergency medical stretcher. ... [They] strap you on the chest, waist, legs, [with] hard restraints ... there is no point in fighting back because you are there with six male, strong officers, and three nurses, and there is nothing you can do." The doctor claimed to have a judicial order but declined to show it to him. Mr. Otieno saw two other hunger strikers who were also force-fed.

The decision to begin a hunger strike in immigration detention is not taken lightly. A detained person's refusal to eat may be the last option available to voice complaint, after all other methods of petition have failed. Detained and imprisoned people worldwide have engaged in hunger strikes to plead for humane conditions of confinement or release from captivity and to bring attention to broader calls for justice.

Each day, the United States government unnecessarily locks up thousands of people in civil immigration detention, including children, in over two hundred immigration detention centres around the country.

People may be locked up for many months -- even years -- as they await final adjudication of their cases or deportation. Trapped in a system marked by mistreatment and abuse, medical neglect, and the denial of due process, hundreds of people in immigration detention engage in hunger strikes as a means of protest each year. ICE's failure to provide safe and humane conditions in detention during the COVID-19 pandemic has only raised the stakes for detained people. Although some detained people, on occasion, are able to bring outside attention to their hunger strikes, very little is known of ICE's systemic response to hunger striking detainees.

This report provides for the first time an in-depth, nationwide examination of what happens to people who engage in hunger strikes while detained by ICE. 

For the full Executive Summary, click here

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The Brutal Massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921

Tulsa following 1921 massacre

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the brutal massacre carried out in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. People across the U.S. commemorated the massacre, decried the racist legacy which the United States continues to enforce, and saluted the spirit and determination of the African Americans who built and rebuilt Greenwood. U.S. President Biden made a point of visiting Tulsa to spread deliberate disinformation according to which "mobs" of "white supremacists" was responsible for the massacre. The claim is that the "hate" of these "mobs" were responsible, not the federal government, not police and government forces which, like the Tulsa mayor, were always part of or protection for government-organized racist and terrorist gangs such as the KKK. It was the government at all levels, backed by the military and a state-organized force specifically targeting the African American community of Greenwood that was responsible.

In 1921, Tulsa, Oklahoma like many U.S. cities was segregated by law. Greenwood, the African American community, was thriving at the time. The attack was no accident. It was in part a land-grab by the mayor and city officials and also a means to suppress the growing success and independence of Greenwood and provide an example to all those striving for equality and opposing government racism.

The government was directly involved, not only through the imposition of racist segregation laws, or because it backed a mayor who was a member of the KKK, but because police forces were involved, including by deputizing and arming their organized force of white men. Machine guns and planes were used to bomb the area. A review of the photos shows brick buildings were turned into rubble, confirming that the level of destruction could not have been accomplished by fires alone. National Guard troops were called in by the Governor. The land grab is evident in the fact that the very day following the massacre, Tulsa passed zoning laws to prevent Greenwood from being re-built. Governments at all levels acted to ensure the crimes were covered up and the African American community was blamed. The crimes include mass graves only now being discovered, 27 so far, along with mass injuries and homelessness for thousands and brutal violence against the entire community.

Tulsa was not an isolated incident. It follows the major rebellions that occurred in African American communities across the country in 1919, also violently suppressed by the government. African American troops were returning home from World War I and were angered by the organized racism and discrimination they faced, including from laws enforcing unequal schools, housing and more. Indeed dozens of African American soldiers in Tulsa rallied and armed themselves to support and defend Greenwood, including from a planned lynching.

Tulsa also takes place in the context of the Russian Revolution of 1917 that influenced people worldwide as the new government recognized the human rights of all and affirmed every person was legitimate and there would be no second class citizens. Organizing was occurring among workers that united Black and white, all of which frightened the rulers, bringing forth brutal repression, use of KKK terror and more. This is the context for the massacre.

When President Biden visited the site on the 100th anniversary, an evident aim of his visit was to cover up the role of the U.S. government of the day and since then in committing such crimes. He even claimed "private planes" were used despite the fact that many survivors have affirmed that the military was involved with various law enforcement on board, firing at people in the streets who were trying to protect themselves and their children from the many fires.

Biden mentions that there were governors and Congressional representatives at the time who were members of the KKK, but does not hold government then and now accountable. He describes some of the events, including government use of "red-lining" and "eminent domain" to target and destroy Greenwood a second time, after the massacre, after people joined together to rebuild it. But still, he holds to the mantra that the United States is the greatest defender of human rights as if all the crimes it commits are just aberrations which do not really count.

"Redlining" was codified racism that shaped cities in the U.S. and continues to do so today. Maps from nearly a century ago created by the federal government's Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC), are based on deeming immigrant populations "hazardous." The presence of Black people was a "detrimental influence" or an "infiltration." Stark red lines on the maps outlined neighbourhoods made up of people of colour, hence the term red-lining. Green lines mark the "safe" areas of mostly white families.

In the 1930s, these "residential security" maps served as guidelines for real estate professionals and loan officers. The maps categorized regions across the country that supposedly deserved investment and others that were considered too "risky" for mortgage lenders. The "risk" was based solely on the racial makeup of a community.

The maps were codified racism. Though eventually made illegal, red-lining continues in various forms. For example, a study released in 2018 found that 64 per cent of the neighbourhoods graded "hazardous" by HOLC remain segregated minority neighbourhoods, most commonly African American. Seventy-four per cent of neighbourhoods branded "hazardous" also remain low-to-moderate income neighbourhoods. A 2017 study found that areas classified as high-risk on HOLC maps became increasingly segregated during the next 30-35 years, and suffered long-run declines in home ownership and house values. The federal government and financial agencies it runs have long been and remain responsible for imposing and maintaining segregation.

The blatantly racist practice has barred Black Americans and targeted communities for generations, ensuring unequal schools while blocking access to capital, government financing for home ownership and all the basic tenets for what is called wealth-building. Created under the New Deal, the HOLC program was meant to ease the effects of the Great Depression. Yet, these policies destined red-lined regions for disinvestment and concentrated poverty.

Redlining was followed by other detrimental efforts such as "urban renewal," which cleared neighbourhoods to construct housing projects and highways, in turn displacing communities of colour, once again changing the urban geographical landscape. To this day minorities are constantly forced out of areas considered "prime real estate," or people are restricted to segregated neighbourhoods.

The role President Biden is playing is to either defend the crimes the U.S. is committing or make no mention of them or of reparations. This is because the crimes continue today and everything is done to divert attention away from the demand for accountability. Biden does not address continuing government structures of inequality that not only maintain inequality but make sure social and political problems are exacerbated manifold. Proof of this is seen in the racist police killings, lack of treatment for COVID-19 and lack of health care more generally, and job and housing discrimination. Biden does not address the lack of any mechanism for the people to hold the government accountable. Addressing that problem is in the forefront of many current battles for justice.

(Voice of Revolution, U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization)

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For Your Information

Conception that "All Men Are Created Equal" Denies Accountability

On July 4, 1776, the U.S. Declaration of Independence was issued, with its now famous phrase, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

The phrase has become well known in part because it is so often repeated by presidents. Importantly, however, it is known because inequality is so rampant in the United States and in relations between the United States and other countries. Taking the phrase in historical context at any time through the history of the United States since it was constituted, what is revealed is how the phrase about equality is used to promote U.S. exceptionalism. Today this most often takes the form of distinguishing the U.S. as exceptional and indispensable, to which all countries must defer.

President Joe Biden, at his press conference after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 16, put it this way: "I made it clear to President Putin that we'll continue to raise issues of fundamental human rights because that's what we are, that's who we are. The idea is: 'We hold these truths self-evident that all men and women...' We haven't lived up to it completely, but we've always widened the arc of commitment and included more and more people."

He also said, "We're uniquely a product of an idea. What's that idea? We don't derive our rights from the government; we possess them because we're born -- period. And we yield them to a government." 

This statement is incoherent as one cannot possess or keep hold of a right and also yield it to government. A human right belongs to the holder as a human being and cannot be given, received or forfeited in any way. It belongs to the holder by right and that right means it exists in its affirmation, as a matter of a human person making claims on society for what belongs to them as a human being and member of that society. That is what a right is. It consists as an expression of a concrete reality.

The U.S. conception of equality, however, is an idea, an aspiration. According to Biden's rendering, the problem with the Constitution is not that it deprives the people, the majority, of power, but that it needs to be more inclusive, bring more people under its rule and accepting of government dictate.

In the press conference after meeting Putin, Biden added, "Human rights is going to always be on the table, I told him. It's not about just going after Russia when they violate human rights; it's about who we are. How could I be the President of the United States of America and not speak out against the violation of human rights?"

Nothing could be more incoherent, absurd and disinforming. Not only is the U.S. the greatest violator of human rights both at home and abroad, but, most significantly, Biden and the U.S. repeatedly fail to take responsibility for the consequences of these violations. Everything is rendered as a variant of "we will do better in the future," as a commitment which has no materiality whatsoever.

There is no accountability and no mechanism for accountability in the U.S. Constitution. African Americans have repeatedly brought forward the charge of genocide and are doing so again at an International Tribunal on U.S. Human Rights Violations to be held this year. Immigrants and refugees also speak to the brutality and attacks on human rights by the U.S., including many deaths at the border due to U.S. actions. In addition to long detention of large numbers of children, a violation of rights under U.S. and international law, a new report documents "forced feeding, forced hydration, and psychological coercion of individuals detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) between 2013-2020." Many were women on hunger strike demanding their release and humane conditions for all those detained. The treatment clearly violated the health and human rights of those in detention.

It is not uncommon to hear it said that when violations of rights take place, the Supreme Court will deliver justice. This denies that the Supreme Court is part of the executive and its constituted police powers. It most recently ruled in favour of child slavery in the suit against Nestlé and Cargill, two of the world's largest manufacturers of chocolate. The suit charged them for knowingly buying cocoa beans from farms in Africa that used child slave labour -- something these oligopolies likely organized and imposed. The suit said they "aided and abetted" the slavery, which is a crime against humanity. The group of six adults sought to bring a class action suit on their behalf and that of thousands of other children. The two giants denied any wrong-doing.

The Court ruled that the law used, known as the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which permits foreign citizens to sue in U.S. courts for human rights abuses, required a far higher level of proof to condemn U.S. companies operating outside the country. The court said that "mere corporate presence" and "general corporate activity" in the United States are not enough "to support a domestic application of the ATS." This means the child slaves have to provide proof that corporate officers in the U.S. actively plotted to aid and abet child slavery taking place outside the U.S. Biden made no comment and it was his administration, like Trump's before him, that was involved in pursuing the case for Nestlé and Cargill.

The absence of constitutional mechanisms to hold the government accountable for the crimes the U.S. system perpetrates and condones is a main concern of the people across the United States this July 4. There are no mechanisms to hold authorities to account, whether it be for killer cops or killer drones or acts of mass incarceration or discrimination, acts of genocide and other crimes against humanity. Many U.S. treaties even impose conditions of impunity for its soldiers who commit not just military crimes but also acts like rape and murder against civilians in countries the U.S. occupies or where it has bases. In similar fashion, in the name of high ideals, elected officials and policing forces enjoy impunity at all levels.

The U.S. rejects the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), set up as an arena to address crimes of countries the U.S. imperialists and its allies want tried, so long as it does not include themselves. There was an uproar among Congress people recently when House Representative Ilhan Omar on June 7, referring to U.S. crimes in both Palestine and Afghanistan, asked Secretary of State Anthony Blinken about U.S. accountability during a Foreign Affairs Committee meeting. She said, "I know you oppose the [International Criminal Court's] investigation in both Palestine and in Afghanistan. I haven't seen any evidence in either cases that domestic courts both can and will prosecute alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.... In both of these cases, if domestic courts can't or won't pursue justice, and we oppose the ICC, where do we think victims are supposed to go for justice? And what justice mechanisms do you support for them?" Blinken responded that both the U.S. and Israel already "have the means." "I believe that we have, whether it's the United States or Israel, we both have the mechanisms to make sure that there is accountability in any situations where there are concerns about the use of force and human rights, etc. I believe that both of our democracies have that capacity. And we've demonstrated it."

The consciousness that words are cheap in the U.S. is very high. As Blinken spoke, the massive bombing and crimes of genocide were occurring against the Palestinians, while police racist killings continue in the U.S. and the lack of charges or accountability persist. There was an immediate effort to try and get Omar censored and removed from the Committee, simply for asking the question. Blinken clearly means the U.S. has demonstrated that it will use force with impunity and defend Israel doing the same and their "rules-based order" decides who is and is not human and worthy of protection.

On this July 4, at a time the crimes the U.S. is committing are growing with every passing day, nobody is celebrating Old conceptions of equality as aspirations with no materiality, as cover-ups for the aim of the Constitution. That aim is to make sure the society is divided between those who rule and make all the decisions to their advantage and those who are disempowered and whose only duty is to obey the verdicts rendered from on high over which they exercise no control. With its structures of inequality and lack of accountability, now is the time to bring in modern definitions of democracy based on accountability, including a modern constitution which codifies what the people of the United States are fighting for today.

A fundamental feature of a modern constitution would be the inclusion of means to hold governments accountable for any crimes, including those concerning aggressive wars and war crimes, genocide and the current practice of lynching by police. It would also provide means for the people to deliberate on issues of war and peace, the economic direction set for the country and an all-sided approach to issues related to security.

A modern democracy suitable to the people must enshrine the people themselves as the supreme source of power. They should be able to remove governments that they consider to be responsible for wars and extreme violence, whether at home or abroad. Part of the battle of democracy, which is the battle over political supremacy, over who has power to decide, is about war and peace and defining crimes and punishment. At the heart of the battle of democracy today is the battle over political supremacy, over securing political power for the people. Political deliberation and discussion are a critical part of the fight to make the people indispensable, not disposable.

(With files from the Ideological Studies Centre -- ISC)

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Conception of Equality in U.S. Declaration of Independence

Looking at the concept of equality given in the U.S. Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, it is necessary to keep in mind that when the Declaration was issued it was primarily addressing other countries, especially France, which the U.S. revolutionaries seeking independence from Britain were mobilizing to help them defeat the British. At the level of nations, treaties can only be signed between equals. Thus, the U.S. Declaration of Independence served to put the U.S. on an equal footing among nations with its own independent standing. Without the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. could not have approached France to make arrangements to fight the British.

It is a Declaration, like the Constitution, made by men of property within a system of slave labour, to devise a means for these ruling factions to sort out their conflicts. One of these was the ability of the various factions to raise their own armies, against the people and each other. The conception of equality they established recognized themselves to be equal members entitled to pursue their life (slavery), liberty (accumulation of property) and happiness (wealth).

The slave oligarchy was included in "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America," on the basis that those who can raise their own private armies promise not to do so and instead accept a single public army, the Continental Army. The private armies, south and north were used to wage war on the majority, called "the multitude" by the founding fathers, the "propertyless." The significance of this is not that they were white men of property and slave-owners as such but that their compromise with slavery, their merger of the system of slave labour with the system of wage-slavery holds as long as the multitude agrees not to question the supreme political power of the slave power and industrial power. The Constitution and the arrangements it establishes, which decide all questions of war, revenue, taxes, crime and punishment, affirms the compromise with slavery and the compromise between democracy (the people) and the oligarchy. To this day that compromise enshrines the rights of the oligarchy, and that the oligarchy alone can determine the limits to its rule.

The Declaration of Independence was written by slave owners yet it proclaims that "all men are created equal." This refers to the solution presented by the French enlightenment movement to the dilemma of how to make property rights judiciable and not a matter of the whim and arbitrariness of a king which claimed divine inspiration. It is nonetheless logically incompatible. The founders attempt to make it compatible with the rest of the Declaration and later the Constitution, with its Bill of Rights, but they fail, leading to the Civil War.

Neither did the enslaved people accept it at the time of the Civil War and before that and nor did those who were declared the propertyless multitude, the mob, accept it either. The U.S. system first attempted to merge slave labour with wage-slavery, which proved incompatible. The Civil War served to eliminate private property in the form of a slave labour system, an accomplishment of the people. But rule remained in the hands of the oligarchy and the system of wage-slavery remained and was expanded -- a system so incompatible with the requirements of today that it can no longer even sort out the conflicts within the ranks of the oligarchy, thus ever raising the danger of civil war at home and more imperialist war abroad. It most certainly is incompatible with the demands of the people for empowerment.

The more the phrase "all men are created equal" is used to justify what cannot be justified, the more the concrete inequality which exists is brought to the fore as a result of the lack of mechanisms to hold those who commit crimes against the people to account.

For Us, Accountability Begins at Home. Only when the peoples can exercise control over the decisions which affect their lives and take responsibility for the results, can the human and social environment even begin to be humanized.

(With files from the Ideological Studies Centre -- ISC)

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