Wrong on Nixzmary Brown

As a working-class person who receives public assistance, I was disappointed and offended at Bill Davis’s article “Nixzmary Brown’s tragic death” (PWW 2/11-17). Nobody excuses child abuse or murder. But gone completely from this piece is a Marxist-Leninist critique of state agencies of the government like Children’s Protective Services. CPS is not a class-neutral institution, nor is it always benign or in the best interests of the child.

From Karl Marx’s day to our own, bourgeois ideologues, government agencies like CPS, social-reformers and reactionaries alike have considered the poor to be “unfit parents.” Capitalism breeds poverty yet its masters blame the victim. Their patronizing cry to “protect the children” is often used as a smokescreen for stealing the young from working-class families, especially if they’re African American or headed by women.

Further, one of the whispered secrets of the left is that Children’s Protective Services has also been used to intimidate low-income activists. (I speak from experience. CPS “investigated” and disrupted my family after the news showed a photo of us at a protest. They found no abuse and closed the case. It was a political attack.)

Yet Davis is left wondering why so much actual child abuse goes unreported. It is because CPS is not “above classes.” It is state-monopoly capitalism and not the working-class that endangers children in a systematic and fundamental way. Davis seems to miss this point.

A reader in Minnesota
Via e-mail

Bill Davis responds:

My apology to the reader for any offense. I was trying to explore how state-monopoly capitalism systematically and fundamentally endangers children (in just one way) and, even more important, what is to be done about it.

Broad fights for every child to have a decent childhood and for every family to be able to rear their children in decent conditions are basic democratic struggles. Child welfare services are, of course, not neutral. They are one area of struggle. Unionized child welfare workers are an important part of our fight for more and better preventive and supportive services for families in need.

The ruling class does use children’s protective services against working people, something that child welfare workers and their unions also fight. Of course, the solution is not to abolish child welfare services any more than doing away with health care or public education would deal with ruling-class malfeasance in those areas.
I do not wonder why so much actual abuse goes unreported. I do wonder how we can best resist ruling-class efforts to blame the victim and to turn us against each other while fighting for our children and families in a society ruled by those who put profits before people.

I am confident that we will come up with the best ways to fight and that we will win.

Disability access corrections

Thank you for publishing “Wheelchaired activists demand access rights” (PWW 1/21-27). Unfortunately, the last paragraph about time limits to correct disability access violations is inaccurate. There is no 90-day limit for fixing access violations.

The new initiative would basically make it impossible to enforce our civil rights, as there is no enforcement mechanism in the ADA or Title 24 of the California Building Code. The Unruh Civil Rights Act gave us the right to sue for disability access.

Finally, “wheelchaired people” really should be “wheelchair users.” Not all of the disabled people were in wheelchairs!

Susan Chandler (Barnhill)
disAbility Advocate, Easy Access West Sacramento CA

Cartoon controversy

In the spirit of freedom of the press I would appreciate it if you would publish the “Mohammad cartoons” in your newspaper. It would show that you have the courage to come forward when many in the liberal and mainstream press have seemed to have lost theirs.

I enjoy reading the World. I particularly like all the news about labor unions and legislation that deal with economic and workers’ rights.

Andrew Skaggs
Via e-mail

Editor’s note:

Thanks for your kind words about our labor and legislative coverage.

We will not publish the cartoons in question. In our view, they do nothing to promote working-class unity or solidarity of the world’s peoples. Nor do they expose the vicious racism and exploitation of the capitalist system.

On the contrary, they are mean-spirited expressions of religious intolerance, and are particularly harmful at a time when anti-Islamic propaganda is being used to justify the Bush administration’s war on Iraq and its phony war on terrorism. No principles of free speech require us to disseminate such provocative bigotry.

The toon question

I don’t happen to be a Muslim, but I can see that the level of hatred directed at Muslims here in the U.S. and around the world is at an all time high. They are automatically suspect, they are insulted and reviled, some of their homelands are bombed and occupied by foreign troops, and some are even jailed and tortured without trial.
Those of us who don’t happen to be Muslim have Muslim sister and brother trade unionists, friends and neighbors. We can’t be silent when right-wing hate mongers spend their time stirring up trouble with hateful speech: on the TV and radio, in newspaper articles, and yes, in cartoons.

Our struggle to protect free speech should not be twisted and deformed to “protect” hateful insults that enrage those at whom directed. Publishers and producers don’t work in a classless vacuum. We can’t let them pretend that they have no responsibility for what happens when they print or air hate speech.

Cartoons can zing with rapier intensity at our class enemy. They can be thought provoking, make us laugh out loud, or move us to tears. The great Mexican political cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada worked tirelessly at cartoons dedicated to the working-class and revolutionary struggles during the period of the Mexican Revolution. His political work landed him in jail on several occasions. Posada never catered to wealthy sponsors and his work never made him rich. He knew which side he was on.

Barbara Russum
Chicago IL