By Caleb T. Maupin
Published Feb 6, 2010 8:35 AM
South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer recently made outrageously racist and anti-poor remarks at a town hall meeting of his Republican supporters.
In a statement reminiscent of the Jim-Crow-era South, Bauer equated government school lunch subsidies for poor children with “feeding stray animals.” The reason he gave was “Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply,” and so, “you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior.” (McClatchy Newspapers, Jan. 23)
Bauer made these highly offensive remarks while making the case for abolishing school lunch programs. At this time of worsening economic crisis, these programs are depended on more than ever by millions of low-income children across the country.
His words show utter contempt for poor people, as South Carolina’s jobless rate has risen to 12.6 percent. (bls.gov)
Bauer’s remarks were also an appeal to his Republican base in order to try to win support for his gubernatorial campaign on the most bigoted and reactionary basis.
Bauer is a wealthy, privileged individual. In 2006, he suffered a minor injury when the small plane he owned and piloted crashed. Later that year, he was not even issued a warning citation after being caught driving more than 100 mph in his state-issued car. He told the police officer who pulled him over that he might have a gun. Still, no arrest. (wistv.com, March 28, 2006)
Bauer’s remarks exemplify a common pattern of racist, right-wing rhetoric. In the 1980s, former President Ronald Reagan falsely alleged that “Cadillac welfare mothers” lived in luxury at the taxpayers’ expense.
Such lies paved the way for ex-President Bill Clinton’s 1996 so-called “welfare reform” act, which shattered countless families and cast many into extreme financial insecurity, many of whom have never recovered.
The racist term “Cadillac welfare mothers” was used by right-wing politicians and demagogues to whip up attacks against poor and oppressed women and single mothers. Those living in poverty in the United States, including those who receive public assistance, barely have enough food or livable housing or any other of life’s necessities. None has lived anywhere near a life of luxury.
By making these remarks, Bauer aimed to divide white workers from members of oppressed communities, and to exacerbate racism on the part of whites to try to prevent class unity from developing during this economic crisis.
Southern capitalists and their representatives have used this strategy for decades; they have resorted to fomenting racist divisions to divide poor and working people.
As Sam Marcy pointed out in his book, “The Klan and Government: Foes or Allies?” the Ku Klux Klan functioned as a state-sponsored organization which was used to whip up impoverished white workers against African-American people, and whose purpose was also to commit acts of racist terror and violence against oppressed people and their allies.
The last thing that Lt. Gov. Bauer and his allies of capitalist-class bankers and corporation owners want is for workers and oppressed people to join forces and fight against the rich and powerful.
If Bauer knows the history of his state, he can recall that during the Great Depression, under the leadership of communists in the Trade Union Unity League, the National Textile Workers Union was formed and built Black and white unity.
In 1934, when 400,000 textile workers, African-American and white, went on strike nationwide demanding a better life for all, the majority of textile workers in South Carolina joined in.
Ibra C. Blackwood, then the governor of South Carolina, moved to repress the strike. He called on “all good citizens” to join with the National Guard and attack the strikers under orders to “shoot to kill.” Six strikers were shot dead, following orders from the governor on behalf of the capitalist class.
Bauer and the members of his class know that as conditions worsen for working people, misery and, along with it, hatred will grow for the capitalist system. They know this will inevitably translate to a will to fight back.
When workers and oppressed peoples unite in struggle, they are a strong force, strong enough to win victories. The capitalists know and fear this.
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