06: Cops and Mental Health, Paul Heideman on Class Struggle and the Color Line

April 15, 2018

Most histories of the left claim that Communist Party members in the 1930s were the first U.S. socialists to prioritize the fight against racism, but Paul Heideman's book Class Struggle and the Color Line: American Socialism and the Race Question, 1900-1930 tells a different story.

Paul talks with us about the overlooked contributions to the U.S. and international left made by Black socialists like Claude McKay and Cyril Briggs, and how events like the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the race riots of 1919 helped set in motion the Black radical movement that didn’t fully flower for another two generations.

If after listening to this episode you want to learn more about how the socialist movement approached the “race question,” you can (and should!) check out Class Struggle and the Color Line (http://bit.ly/HeidemanBook). Here are some other resources:

A shorter introduction to the topic is John Riddell’s article for the International Socialist Review, “Black Liberation and the Communist International” (http://bit.ly/RiddellBlackLiberation).

For more on Karl Marx’s avid interest in the fight against slavery, check out Donny Schraffenberger’s “Karl Marx and the American Civil War” (http://bit.ly/MarxCivilWar).

Danny goes off on one of his tangents, citing Oscar Ameringer’s classic socialist pamphlet “The Life and Deeds of Uncle Sam” which you can find here (http://bit.ly/LifeDeedsUncleSam) and judge for yourself if it was really worth interrupting Paul.

In our introduction, Danny and Eric discuss the contemporary horror of police killings of people in the midst of mental health episodes. The discussion quickly covers a lot of ground. Here are links for some of the cases and statistics we talk about:

Shaun King’s article for The Intercept: “Danny Ray Thomas Was a Broken Man Who Needed Help. Instead He Was Gunned Down by a Cop in Broad Daylight.” (http://bit.ly/DannyRayThomas)

The New York Daily News story about why New Yorkers are afraid of police showing up if they call 911 for a family member having an episode. (http://bit.ly/911Fears)

Many of the statistics Jen cites about deadly interactions between police and people with mental illness come from the Treatment Advocacy Center (http://bit.ly/TreatmentAdvocacy)

A talk given by socialist David Whitehouse on “The Origins of the Police” (http://bit.ly/PoliceOrigins)

The Atlantic’s story on Cook County Jail being “America’s Largest Mental Hospital” (https://theatln.tc/2qudB6G)

Music and audio from this episode

“Lizard Eyes,” The Boy & Sister Alma (Dead Sea Captains Remix)
Jamilia Land, speaking at a rally on March 31 in Sacramento
“Swim Good,” Frank Ocean
“Joe Hill” and “Let My People Go,” Paul Robeson
“If We Must Die” read by Claude McKay
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor speaking on “The Fight Against the New Jim Crow” at the 2012 Socialism conference