COMMENTARY: Rutgers is justified in its commemoration of Paul Robeson
Andrea Vacchiano must think that the Targum readership is stupid. In damning a courageous figure like Paul Robeson, she repeats the same propaganda, counterintelligence and yellow journalism that the United States has been using for decades to terrify its population into submission and scare the masses away from socialism. This is somewhat ironic that Vacchiano wishes for as weak a state as possible, yet gives nothing but validation to the deception and the Cold War lies. This is not surprising. The rich and their agents always criticize the state until it uses its power to manipulate the masses into the support of the social elite — the rich. Vacchiano throws around terms like "liberty" and "freedom," but what is this liberty and freedom that is being expressed? For one, holding up a figure like Milton Friedman and his toxic policies of neoliberalism, one is not perpetuating freedom and liberty for the masses of people. The kind of freedom Vacchiano supports is the freedom to oppress, exploit and enslave hundreds of millions around the globe.
Upholding Friedman and his ideology means more than simply favoring an economist. It means to champion inequality and inequity. To uphold Friedman and the capitalist system at large is to uphold necessary poverty and the need for permanent stratification and exploitation of the working masses. It means celebrating unemployment in the United States due to the needs of labor market and profit incentive of outsourcing, while simultaneously cheering the enslavement of children in Africa and the exploitation sweatshop labor. It means starving people of the third world because it is more profitable to bet against a farm in the form of divertives and CDO’s than to invest in the farm itself thus leaving the farmer without the farming resources and the community without food. Upholding neoliberalism is to cheer the profits of private prisons — the new slave trade. It is to celebrate the destruction of entire civilizations for the profit of the few. It is to put the desire of profit of the few over the needs and well-being of the many. This is the "freedom" that stems from Friedman’s thought. This is the "freedom" that keeps Africa starved and in chains and millions of children in sweatshops for 14 hours a day, just so they can afford stale bread to share among their family. This is the "freedom" that keeps poverty a necessity, and which must exploit the working masses in order to gain monetary profit for the fewest of few. This is the "freedom" of Friedman and Vacchiano, the same freedom that has put millions of students into crippling debt.
And yet, Vacchiano has the nerve to compare Milton Friedman and Paul Robeson. Robeson did not stand for stratification or hoarding of wealth in the hands of the few. Robeson did not give the oppressors more justification for the oppression they spread around the world for their profits. Paul Robeson stood up to that capitalist swine and their stooges with nothing less than full confidence and conviction. He stood not just for the liberation of his own people, who at the time were facing Jim Crow, but for liberation and unity of all peoples. Paul Robeson did not offer advice to fascists but condemned them without hesitation. The kind of freedom that Paul Robeson represents is the freedom that one can express when they aren’t working two jobs just to make ends meet and their labor stolen by capitalists for profit. The freedom to live one’s life without worrying of being evicted from their home or shot for the color of their skin. Paul Robeson represents a freedom that allows the workers to control economy. It is the freedom of peoples across the world to have the right of self-determination, to allow the oppressed of the world to be free of imperialist domination.
Paul Robeson and Milton Friedman are not like one another. Friedman and people like Vacchiano do not wish to extend freedom but, rather, extend the ability of the rich to dominate the lives of working masses. These despicable people are trying to put blame on the state as if it only existed in form and not the content. But this is a simple misdirection. The state of the rich must be destroyed and replaced by a state of the working people. When oppression is necessary, it is not for profit or personal gain but to prevent those who wish to hoard the means of sustenance. This is not a question of choosing between two figures of history. This is about making the choice between being exploited by the rich and subjugated for their profit through the market and the state that supports them, or, the freedom of mass democracy of the working people and a state that protects their interests and needs, the mass interests and the mass needs. Which side are you on?
Polina Goryunova is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in philosophy and mathematics.
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