If you think of the Drug Wars not just as a misdirected police boondoggle but as the latest version of Jim Crow laws you’ll be very close to the truth. Jim Crow laws were passed to terrorize freed slaves after their betrayal by Republicans to the Dixiecrats in the Compromise of 1877, called “Great Betrayal” or the “Corrupt Bargain”. Republicans got to keep the presidency, Union troops were withdrawn from the unreconstructed South and the KKK began a period of terrorism and lynching that only began to taper off after the 1960’s.

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,

Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze,

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Along with the terrorism came a wave of Jim Crow laws whose intent was to make it easy to jail African American for decades for non-crimes and sell their labor on the cheap in railroad and agricultural chain gangs. It was a latter day form of slavery.  

Today “More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began”, says Michelle Alexander, an Ohio State law professor and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. “Most of that increase is due to the War on Drugs, a war waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color.” She’s right of course but it gets worse. The impoverishment of people of color, as usual ‘last hired and first fired’ is intertwined with the galloping pauperization of all workers. That impoverishment was caused by deregulation and the job exporting policies of Carter, Reagan, the Bushes, Obama and above all Bill Clinton. They  worked in concert to push the standard of living and the wages of working people down and to increase the wealth of the rich since Carters time. Successful beyond their wildest dreams these politicians managed to push the economy off the cliff in 2007.

Clinton, the ‘liberal’ Dixiecrat signed NAFTA and then employers stampeded to take jobs overseas, to break unions and to lower wages. Then Clinton championed and then signed the act repealing the Banking Act of 1933 it unleashed predatory lenders, causing the current depression and throwing about 25 million into unemployment or underemployment, poverty and homelessness. At the same Dixiecrat Clinton slashed welfare and pushed for a $9.7 billion bill to hire 200,000 new cops in case there was trouble.

The politicians who reintroduced Jim Crow – Democrats and Republicans alike – are criminals. The biggest problem in the US is that all the wrong people are in jail. In a just society – a socialist society – Wall Street criminals will be applying for bail, not bailouts.

We need independence from both Democrats and Republicans and a worker’s party like the AFL-CIOs Labor Party and a government responsive solely to working people to flip things around, jail the real criminals and free their victims.

Bill Perdue

Bill Perdue