[News] Interview with Cynthia McKinney: Reconstruction Renaissance
news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jan 8 16:08:51 EST 2008
[Note: The following interview with former
Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is
reprinted from issue No. 268 of the ILC
International Newsletter (Jan. 8, 2008),
published weekly in multiple languages in Paris.
The interview was conducted for the ILC
International Newsletter by Alan Benjamin on Jan.
5. To contact the ILC, the Reconstruction Party
Organizing Committee, and the Cynthia McKinney
for President campaign, see the "Afterword" at end of the interview.]
Question: Sister McKinney, as someone who is
running for president of the United States on
behalf of the Power to the People electoral
coalition, how do you view the recent Iowa caucus?
Cynthia McKinney: I just received a three-page
letter from a woman in Tennessee -- a veteran who
did three tours of duty in Vietnam. She wrote to
say how dissatisfied she is with the level of
political discourse in our presidential election,
with none of the Democratic or Republican
candidates addressing the real issues that she
and her family are facing in terms of health
care, job offshoring, declining public education,
stagnation of wages, and more.
She is looking for real answers and is not
getting any from politicians and a media more
interested in hype and hot-button issues (such as
the "war on terror" or the "war on drugs") than
in promoting any serious discussion of policy,
much less offering any serious political alternatives.
Angela Davis made an interesting comment on the
current presidential campaign. She said all the
candidates are talking about "differences" that
will not make a difference and "changes" that
will not bring about any change. How true.
Take Obama and foreign policy: Independent
journalist Allan Nairn spoke to Amy Goodman on
her January 3 Democracy Now program about Obama's
top policy advisers. I will quote from the
transcription of this program, appropriately
titled, "Vote for Change? Atrocity-Linked U.S.
Officials Advising Democratic, GOP Presidential Frontrunners."
"Obama's top adviser is Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Brzezinski gave an interview to the French press
a number of years ago where he boasted about the
fact that it was he who created the whole Afghan
jihadi movement, the movement that produced Osama
bin Laden. And he was asked by the interviewer,
'Well, don't you think this might have had some
bad consequences?' And Brzezinski replied,
'Absolutely not. It was definitely worth it,
because we were going after the Soviets.' ...
"Another key Obama adviser, Anthony Lake, was the
main force behind the U.S. invasion of Haiti in
the mid-Clinton years during which they brought
back Aristide essentially in political chains,
pledged to support a World Bank/IMF overhaul of
the economy, which resulted in an increase in
malnutrition deaths among Haitians and set the
stage for the current ongoing political disaster in Haiti.
"Another Obama adviser, General Merrill McPeak,
an Air Force man, was the man overseeing the
delivery to Indonesia of U.S. fighter planes not
long after the Dili massacre in East Timor in '91.
"Another key Obama adviser, Dennis Ross, advised
Clinton and both Bushes. He oversaw U.S. policy
toward Israel/Palestine. He pushed the principle
that the legal rights of the Palestinians, the
rights recognized under international law, must
be subordinated to the needs of the Israeli
government -- in other words, their desire to
expand to do whatever they want in the Occupied Territories.
"And Ross was one of the people who,
interestingly, led the political assault on
former Democratic President Jimmy Carter. Carter
is no peacenik -- Carter is the one who bears
ultimate responsibility for that Timor terror
that Holbrooke was involved in. But Ross led an
assault on him, because, regarding Palestine,
Carter was so bold as to agree with Bishop
Desmond Tutu of South Africa that what Israel was
doing in the Occupied Territories was tantamount
to apartheid. And so, Ross was one of those who fiercely attacked him.
"Another Obama adviser is Sarah Sewall, who heads
a human rights center at Harvard and is a former
Defense official. She wrote the introduction to
General Petraeus's Marine Corps/Army
counterinsurgency handbook, the handbook that is
now being used worldwide by U.S. troops in various killing operations."
That's the Obama team. But Nairn demonstrates
that the Clinton and Edwards teams are equally
loaded with Washington insiders who in one way or
other have contributed to our current national predicament.
There is another message coming out of Iowa that
is aimed directly at Black people. Former Clinton
presidential adviser and columnist Dick Morris
wrote that with Obama's victory in Iowa, "race is
no longer a factor in American politics." Tell
that to the Black folks living in New Orleans and
the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricanes
Katrina and Rita, or who are facing "Hurricane
America" in cities and communities all across the country.
Bill Bennett on CNN said that Barack Obama is the
kind of Black person Blacks should be -- not like
Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. This is the way to
go if you want to get somewhere in this country, Bennett said.
Question: You recently issued a statement
announcing that as a presidential candidate you
would use your campaign to promote the building
of a Reconstruction Party in the United States.
You are now serving on the newly formed National
Organizing Committee for a Reconstruction Party. Why is this important to you?
McKinney: More than two years ago, the world got
to see what many of us live on a daily basis in
this country. They saw the Black community in New
Orleans and the Gulf Coast decimated by
government neglect. They saw a community targeted
by ethnic-cleansing. Throughout this country
there are still communities that are desperate
because of generations of poverty and neglect.
The world now knows this terrible situation
exists in the very heart of a country that is
touted as the most "prosperous" and "democratic" in the world.
This situation has gone on way too long. The
mainstream politicians want it simply to go away.
They want to erase the color line. But while they
and their media change the subject -- preferring
to give us every detail about what Brittany
Spears wore when she was arrested, for example --
and while no one deals seriously with growing
poverty and racism in this country, things only get worse.
It was only after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
that some folks in the Gulf Coast realized there
is a desperate need to build a Reconstruction
Movement because all the palliatives offered by
the politicians haven't worked and because there
are pockets of neglect all over the country -- not just in the Gulf states.
The Reconstruction Movement was born in the
aftermath of Katrina and Rita, but the conditions
of poverty, racism, and neglect have existed
since America's first Reconstruction Period after the Civil War.
A 2003 Harvard University study found that Black
infant and maternal mortality rates are 2 and 3.5
times higher than for whites. Dr. David Satcher
found in 2005 that 83,750 Black people died from
premature deaths for no other reason than that they were Black.
The New York Times wrote that by 2003 nearly one
half of all Black men between the ages of 16 and
64, living in New York City, were unemployed.
And in its 2005 report, United for a Fair Economy
told us that it would take 1,664 years to close
the home-ownership gap and that on some indices
the racial disparities are worse now than at the
time of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In their 2006 report, United for a Fair Economy
told us that Blacks and Latinos lost ground, and
that in order to close the racial wealth divide
in our country, it would take the equivalent of a
"G.I. Bill for Everyone" that would include
comprehensive federal investment in low-income
families and communities, with an emphasis on people of color.
The Reconstruction Movement is needed to bring
attention to the state of Black America today.
But once people acknowledge this deplorable
situation, an agenda and strategy for real change
are needed to address the problem. That hasn't
come from either major political party.
Therefore, redress requires something else: a
political party with reversal of these statistics
as its primary mission. The Reconstruction Party
is therefore the political expression of this Reconstruction Movement.
Question: You say the woman who wrote you from
Tennessee -- like the millions of African
Americans and others who have been left out of
the political process -- is dissatisfied with the
politics-as-usual she is hearing from the
spokespersons of the twin parties of the bosses.
What are the programmatic planks you feel need to be raised this election year?
McKinney: There are specific planks aimed at
addressing the needs of Black people and the
Reconstruction Movement, and there are planks
needed to address the needs of all working people
in this country, including Blacks and all communities of color.
In relation to the Reconstruction Movement, the
International Tribunal on Katrina held in New
Orleans last August highlighted four central demands:
1) Recognition of dispersed hurricane survivors
as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs);
2) Support for the rights of return for IDPs,
including their right to vote in their home states;
3) Reparations for IDPs for the losses they
incurred due to government abandonment and negligence;
4) Support for a massive federal public works
project in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
These are questions that need to be addressed immediately.
The issue of land is at the center of the
struggle in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The
wealthy and powerful want to want to eliminate
Black control over, and access to, the land. We
have watched Black land loss accelerate in the
South. We have seen systematic expropriation of
Black-owned land in the South as a result of government policy.
I was responsible for the amendment that led the
U.S. Department of Agriculture to admit that it
had long discriminated against Black farmers. I
recently learned that this "taking" of Black land
even includes my own family. But in addition to
these land takings in the South, we have
gentrification which takes Black land and Black
neighborhoods in desirable urban and suburban
areas. Across the American landscape,
gentrification is changing Black political power,
too. Hence, we can only expect the statistics to
worsen in the years ahead if we are not able to
address the deteriorating situation occurring in
too many neighborhoods across the United States.
I support reparations; reparations is an accepted
aspect of jurisprudence in this country. The
Black community has yet to be repaired for the
damage it has suffered. Reparations means
addressing the racial disparities that exist in
our country and that are only getting wider.
Other central demands are self-determination and
a new way of electing our representatives so that
everyone with a stake in our government has
representation and a voice in the
decision-making. We need a new economic paradigm
that includes empowerment of local businesses and
local farmers. No community should be asked to
pay the health tax that is the result of environmental injustice.
Unfortunately, too many police officers take
communities of color as a rampaging ground. The
numbers of unarmed Blacks and Latino men murdered
at the hands of rogue police is unacceptable. The
police are once again becoming an occupying force
rather than protection for the community. We must
also rethink prisons. The U.S. justice system is
criminal for its injustice. Young men and women
exiting such an unjust system should not be
punished for the rest of their lives. They must
be integrated into the productive aspects of society.
That won't happen as long as prisons are a source
of wealth for stockholders who have separated
themselves from the society and bear no
repercussions for their "investments." We cannot
accept the continued astronomical incarceration
rates for our children and their continued
criminalization even in schools where
administrative remedies exist -- like in the Jena 6 and the Palmdale 4 cases.
And there is the fundamental democratic right of
Black people to vote and have their votes counted.
In 2000, an estimated 1 million Black people went
to the polls and voted their dreams, their hopes,
and their aspirations -- and the votes of those 1
million Black people were not even counted. Who fought for them?
In 2004, it was the Black vote again that was
targeted for nullification in an election
drive-by shooting. It is clear that the Black
vote will again be pivotal in the 2008 election.
Election protection, then, must also be one of
our central demands. Two presidential elections
were stolen and no one was held accountable.
Growing numbers of people are concerned that
their vote might not be counted in November and
that the will of the voters will be thwarted yet
again with election fraud or outright theft. U.S.
electronic voting machines are a clear-and-present danger to our Republic.
Waging the political fight to win all these
demands requires a Reconstruction Party. If Black
people fail to demand a discussion, an agenda,
and solid policy proposals that redress these
circumstances, in my opinion, the Black body
politic could go the way of the polar bear.
Question: How about your views on the broader
programmatic points of unity of the Reconstruction Party?
McKinney: Regarding the more general programmatic
planks, we just heard the announcement that
unemployment is at two-year high. There is a need
for a real jobs program. We need to make
resources available to provide jobs to Americans
who need them. A massive public works program
would rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, with
union jobs at a living wage. The funding exists
for such a program. It would be provided by
slashing the war budget and making the rich pay their fair share of taxes.
Labor unions are faced with shrinking numbers;
they need a boost in membership. Workers need
unions. The construction trades could partner up
with universities in the field of construction
science, and construction academies run by the
unions could provide job training.
An extra component would come from Green jobs. We
need to manufacture technologies that diminish
our carbon footprint. This makes good economic
and global-warming sense. We need a new economic
and foreign policy that promotes alternative
energy technologies for heating and cooling -- like solar and wind power.
Then there is the issue of "free trade." We have
to put a stop to these "free trade" agreements, and quickly.
After 14 years of NAFTA it is absolutely clear
that unemployment in the United States has risen
as a result of this treaty. We are losing jobs --
especially jobs with living wages and benefits --
to all these "free trade" agreements, be it
NAFTA, CAFTA, the Caribbean FTA, the U.S.-Peru FTA, you name it.
The American workers are not benefiting from
these agreements. Their jobs and communities are
being destroyed. Nor are working people in the
rest of the world benefiting from these
agreements. Quite the contrary: Their working
conditions and living standards, which were
already bad, are deteriorating exponentially.
Only the transnational corporations are
benefiting. They are reaping super-profits.
This new "globalization" has become a race to the
bottom. And now the American workers have joined in this race.
Question: Brother Lybon Mabasa, co-founder with
Steve Biko of the Black Consciousness Movement in
South Africa, wrote an Open Letter to Black
activists and organizations in the United States
urging the formation of a Reconstruction Party.
He described Africa as a "continent, first
ravaged by the slave trade and then by colonial
occupation, that found the promise of national
liberation confiscated and betrayed by horrific
so-called 'ethnic' wars and structural
adjustment/debt-repayment programs -- all of
which were imposed by the U.S. government and by
the international institutions of finance capital
(IMF, World Bank, WTO, European Union, AGOA, NEPAD)."
Mabasa went on to explain that "racism against
people of African origin on all continents is a
scourge that has not been erased. On the
contrary, Black people -- from Brazil, to the
Caribbean, to the United States -- are being
driven into sub-human conditions, rounded up in
prisons, placed on chain gangs, subjected to
indiscriminate police violence, and/or heaved
onto the scrap-heap of unemployment and homelessness."
He then stated that "the children of Africa are
looking for a ray of hope" coming from their
African American sisters and brothers,
particularly in this election year 2008, when the
attention of the American people is drawn to the
elections and the political process.
What can be done to respond to this dire appeal from Africa?
McKinney: Africa is a continent rich in
resources, a continent upon which civilization as
we know it has grown to depend. Because Africans
were so resilient in what might have been harsh
environments for others, because Black people
could be used to satisfy the needs and wants of
others, our very survival has had to overcome
internal and external threats to our very
existence. Our survival as a distinct group
worthy of self-determination and not just as the
source of other people's gratification depends on
our ability to fashion strategies to survive in the face of such hostility.
Africa, as Brother Mabasa, has pointed out, is
now a devastated continent. Millions of people
are dying in the killing fields, or in villages
and city streets from HIV/AIDS and pandemics
thought to be eradicated long ago. Africa is on the edge of an abyss.
I am heartened by election results that have put
the people in power in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile,
Cote d'Ivoire, Ecuador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Spain,
and Venezuela. Africans must withstand the
outsider meddling, and we have a role to play
there to pressure our government to refrain from
its interference. Africom is the latest example
of such interference that must be resisted at all costs.
Ownership of the land in Africa is also something
that must be addressed. I ask, how did the people
who claim ownership of the land get title to the
land? When the white landowners in Zimbabwe,
Namibia, South Africa, and across the Continent
are able to answer that question honestly, then
we can have a discussion about how they will
correct their fundamental injustice that endures to this date.
Then we want to talk about resource ownership.
There is no such thing as a non-blood diamond on
the Continent unless the diamond was mined, cut,
polished, made into jewelry with other precious
metals and gems that were also produced by
Africans. Intermediate stops in Tel Aviv,
Antwerp, London, New York, or Amsterdam are
really not necessary. Africans can do that work
and only when they do that work can we say that
we've eliminated blood diamonds. And blood oil,
and blood coltan, and blood uranium.
Let's talk about debt. By the time we add up the
military interference, the theft of resources,
the murders of authentic leadership, and finally
the theft of its human resources and all that
intellectual capacity, there is no such thing as
African debt to any Western government or
multilateral economic institution like the IMF. Hands off African resources!
This must be part of the platform of a Reconstruction Party.
Question: On the subject of immigration, what
proposals are you putting forward to address this question?
McKinney: The corporations, the mainstream
politicians and their mouthpieces in the media
have found scapegoats for their failed policies.
They tell us the "illegal immigrants" are
responsible for the massive loss of jobs in this
country. This is a bold-faced lie. What is
illegal is the way that U.S. economic policies
treat workers in this country and throughout the world.
It is impossible to discuss the issue of
so-called "illegal immigration" without
addressing the reasons millions of people are
forced to flee their countries to come to the
United States. It's our economic "free trade"
policies and our military interventionist
policies that destabilize countries the world
over and create the massive movements of people
escaping their plight in the hope of supporting their families.
You have to address the underlying problems
behind the immigration boom by implementing
policies internationally based on the respect for
the sovereignty of the peoples and nations of the
world, based on respect for the principles of
self-determination and human rights -- that is,
policies aimed at promoting genuine cooperation
-- not oppression and exploitation.
And as you do this, you have to put a halt to
policies at home that criminalize the victims or
treat them as second-class citizens. These are
all union-busting and wage-depressing tactics
couched in terms of making the victim appear to be the perpetrator.
An amnesty program, such as was instituted in the
1980s, would be a way to deal with this question
equitably while the economic conditions producing
the massive flight of people from their countries is addressed.
Question: What are some of the other questions that need to be tackled?
McKinney: There is, of course the question of
this "war without end." We need the immediate
withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq and from
the rest of the Middle East. This includes all
military advisers. It also includes closing all military bases in the region.
We must reject this "war on terror," which is
only aimed at promoting a failed foreign policy.
It's past time to repeal the Patriot Acts, the
Secret Evidence Act, and the Military Tribunals Act.
But this is not all. We need to bring all of our
troops home from Europe, Asia and Africa. We
don't need our young women and men in harm's way.
We need a Department of Peace instead of a
Department of State. This Department would put
forward projects for peace all over the world. In
the meantime, the Pentagon must oversee the
withdrawal of U.S. troops from about 100
countries around the world. Our presence in those
countries, through our foreign and military
policies, only stokes wars and conflicts.
We must pay very close attention now to Pakistan.
I recently issued a statement saying, No U.S. Troops in Pakistan!
In fact, we need to retool our military to ensure
the adequate protection of people's interests at
home. We could deploy our Army Corps of Engineers
to rebuild infrastructures and communities here
and abroad. We could deploy our diplomats to help
resolve conflicts through peaceful means.
We need to redefine what is meant by national
security. We need to put in place a social index
so that national security exists when our people
feel safe in their communities, when they are
free from hunger and poverty, when they are fully
literate, when there is health care for all, when
they are making a living wage, when they are free from drugs and incarceration.
Health care is another major issue. All too often
patients cannot receive the treatment they
require because the treatment is blocked by the
profit motive of the insurance companies. You
have to take the insurance companies out of the health-care equation.
We in the United States spend far more money than
any other country in the world and we get less.
Close to 50 million people are uninsured.
Countries that have what others pejoratively call
"socialized medicine" are better performing. We
need a universal, single-payer health-care system in this country.
The message I would give to nascent democracies
is, Don't follow the U. S. example on many
issues! There is a growing divergence between our
rhetoric and our practice. And in practice, too
many Americans are hurting. For them, the
American model has failed in terms of health
care, education, and political integrity. We
can't even be sure the election results reflect
the will of our voters. This started in 2000 and has only gotten worse.
The U.S. government cannot put itself in judgment
of other countries' elections until it gets its
own house in order, and its house is in complete
disorder when it comes to election integrity.
Those who own and run the new electronic voting
machines get the exact results they want.
And we need to focus on education, but not with
"reforms" like No Child Left Behind that are
basically aimed at dismantling public education.
We need to instill pride and a desire to learn.
We need free higher education for all. India's
socialized economy provided free higher
education. Now our jobs are being shipped to India.
And we need child care for working families who
need it. Parents should have the opportunity to
have their children taken care of, either through
a family subsidy or through public child-care
centers in schools. This could also free parents
up to go back to school to get retrained.
Then we need to address some difficult questions
that face our youth in particular.
Drugs are more and more prevalent. They are used
to block out the harsh realities. Removing those
harsh realities and giving youth hope -- with
real jobs and a real future -- would go a long
way to addressing this scourge in our communities.
But here again it is impossible to address the
issue of drugs without understanding who is
responsible for bringing drugs into this country.
The CIA has admitted it was involved in
drug-dealing, but no one involved at the highest
level of government has been punished. The
wealthy and powerful bring in the drugs.
Afghanistan today is the leading poppy producer
in the world. This is a regime protected by the
Bush administration. Congressman Henry Gonzalez's
investigations, as well as other research, shows
us that the banking system would crumble if all
the money laundered through drugs were taken out of the banks.
U.S. prosecution of "the drug war" is pitiful.
The victims are thrown into prisons, while the
wealthy users and the big drug dealers get off
scot-free. The rich who own stock in the
prison-industrial complex, or the corporations
that hire prison labor, are reaping hefty sums
while everyone else is impoverished or families
are ripped apart by imprisonment.
This situation is intolerable and must be turned
around! We need money for detoxification,
rehabilitation, education -- not incarceration.
These are just some platform proposals. The
National Organizing Committee for a
Reconstruction Party will be discussing these
issues in the coming weeks to define more clearly
the main demands of our Reconstruction Party
organizing campaign. We will then submit these
for broader discussion, expansion and improvement
to the activists in the Local Organizing
Committees for the Reconstruction Party. Building a platform is a process.
Question: You are seeking the Green Party's
presidential nomination? How do you see the
relationship between the Greens and the Reconstruction Party?
McKinney: This is a time for coalition politics.
I believe we need a coalition -- a peace and
justice coalition, a Power to the People
coalition -- that can put another voice at the
table of American political discussion. We now
only have two voices -- which are more and more
the same voice. And with 5% of the vote we can get three.
The Reconstruction Party is a necessary and
central component of this coalition. Winning the
5% of the vote, which we can do through the Green
Party ballot, will translate into increased
visibility on the issues of concern to the Reconstruction Party activists.
Question: How do you answer those who say you
might be a spoiler on behalf of the Republicans
if you get 5% of the presidential vote in 2008?
McKinney: I tell them that more than 40% of the
potential voters in this country don't vote
because they don't hear a message that motivates
them to go out and vote. I want to give them a reason to vote.
I also tell them that the real spoilers are the
ones who stole the vote in 2000 and 2004 -- or
who didn't fight to defend the vote.
Question: Is there anything you would like to add?
McKinney: I just want to underscore the urgent
need to build the Reconstruction Party. There are
a whole lot of people waiting for us to do
something. The international community also needs
us. They are waiting for us to do something. We
must move today with deliberate speed to build this Reconstruction Party.
Supporters of the International Liaison Committee
(ILC) in the United States, who are actively
engaged in the struggle to build an independent
Labor Party, support the fight to build a
Black-led Reconstruction Party, viewing it both
as the expression of Black people for
self-determination and the first step by a sector
of the U.S. working class, Black workers, on the
road to building an independent political party for all working people.
The formation of the Reconstruction Party
Organizing Committee and the Cynthia McKinney
presidential bid are of extraordinary
significance for workers and peoples the world
over who have been hoping to see someone come
forward in this 2008 presidential election to
represent and defend their interests.
Consistent with its mission of providing an open
forum to all individuals and currents in the
movements of workers and peoples seeking to
advance the struggle against the onslaught by the
transnational corporations and governments in
their service, the ILC International Newsletter
has opened its columns to present the full range
of Sister McKinney's political views, some of
which may not necessarily represent the views of all ILC supporters.
To subscribe to the English-language ILC
International Newsletter, contact us at
<ilcinfo at earthlink.net>. To contact the
Reconstruction Party Organizing Committee, write
to Kali Akuno at <kaliakuno at gmail.com>.
To learn more about Cynthia McKinney's record,
To make a donation to her campaign fund, visit
You can also send a check or money order to Power
to the People Committee, P.O. Box 311759, Atlanta, GA 31153.
The ILC International Newsletter is published
weekly in Paris by the International Liaison
Committee of Workers and Peoples (Entente
internationale des travailleurs et des peuples)
-- 87, rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis 75010 - Paris
- France. Tél : (33 1) 48 01 88 28 Fax : (33 1)
48 01 88 36. E.mail eit.ilc at fr.oleane.com; website : www.eit-ilc.org.
-- Alan Benjamin
Editor, The Organizer Newspaper
(published by supporters of the ILC in the U.S.)
P.O. Box 40009, San Francisco, CA 94140
Tel. (415) 641-8616; fax: (415) 824-1079
Web site: ILC section of www.owcinfo.org
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the News