Re: [sixties-l] Re: Plantation to the Penitentary.

From: Ted Morgan (
Date: Wed Jun 21 2000 - 19:38:54 CUT

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    Maggie (hi again!), you're very right to put the abolition of slavery in proper
    context of subsequent years and years of oppression by other means. By the
    same token, though, if we can't point to any momentous outcomes of mobilizing
    against oppression (because oppression still remains) we run the very real risk
    of a cynical fatalism --'why bother?' I think the abolition of slavery is a
    great victory for progressive forces and shouldn't be dismissed because of the
    horrific forms of oppression that persisted. "Owning other people" is no
    longer justifiable in common discourse, whereas it once was --hard as that is
    to imagine in today's world (exceptions, of course, still crop up). Now if we
    could get to the point where common discourse considered "wage slavery" and the
    huge income/wealth differential, and debilitating poverty in the same light....

    In a sense, I think the 60s have succumbed to the same washing, at least in the
    eyes of quite a few young people who don't know what the world was like before
    the 60s: i.e., the Movement failed, so why bother to get involved if all that
    noise and action didn't accomplish much.

    My two bits,


    Maggie Jaffe wrote:

    > Dear Sixties People:
    > Good to see / read a number of friends.
    > I must take issue with the statement below
    > >
    > >In a recent post, Lynne Patrick Doyle recently submitted the following to
    > >the list:
    > >
    > >>The American abolition of slavery was an extraordinary moment in the
    > >>history of humanity of a people taking a united stand against the
    > >>enslavement of their fellow human beings.
    > >>
    > >>It is indeed a starkly moral, an incandescent, moment.
    > With the abolition of slavery, the labor pools were filled by "emancipated"
    > slaves who were arrested on various charges like vagrancy, for example,
    > because they didn't have the requisite 50 dollars. Freed slaves became
    > part of the shackled road gangs. All of the roads in Georgia were laid out
    > by prison "slaves." I really need to go back to Zinn on this, but to
    > paraphrase Malcolm X: African-Americans "moved up" from the Plantation to
    > the Penitentary. The policy of using cheap and replaceable prison labor is
    > very much in effect today where the most volatile and rebellious segment of
    > our society-young males-are incarcerated over antiquated and cynical drug
    > laws (Barry McCaffery, our drug "czar," executed Iraqui soldiers and
    > civilians *after* the ceasefire in the Persian Gulf. I digress).
    > According to Joe Grant of Bookzen, 650,000 people were arrested on
    > marijuana charges in the last year alone. Quite rightly, there is almost
    > world-wide condemenation of the death penalty in the U.S.-and those ghastly
    > cells are mostly filled with men of color, the poor, and the retarded.
    > A "starkly moral, an incandescent, moment" sounds lovely, but it just
    > brings to mind of the contrasting worldview between the wretched and the
    > complacent.

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