In the lead of erasing history

Flag of the USReuters file photo

Charleston is a port city in South Carolina, USA. This city on the shores of the Atlantic was a hub of slave trade. Free people were brought as slaves from Africa to the US  and half of the slaves would enter through this port.  I visited this city at the initiative of my friends, the couple Sher Khan and Dr Tarana Diba. The market structure still exists where slaves were sold and bought. The old makeshift shops of the market remain as they were. Those have been renovated, air coolers installed in several shops. All sorts of jewelry, clothes and handicrafts are being sold there. There is a museum there too. But there is no word mentioning slave trade. Not a single sign/

The US takes the lead in the world when it comes to erasing history because it is a history that is uncomfortable for those at the helm. The foundation of the country is built on brutal mass killings, robbery, forgery and forcefulness.  This state started off as an extension of Europe after killing 90 per cent of the local people and destroying the old civilisation there. It is hard to find the indigenous people there, the people who were wrongly called Red Indians.  After the end of this brutal occupation, the European invaders started cultivating various crops including sugar and coffee. Workers were needed.

People were forcefully dragged from different colonies including India and were put to work in the Caribbean areas. The demand for labour was increasing in the wide region of North and South America. A nightmare started to take over Africa and to turn the entire continent a source of slaves. A war and fight over occupation began among Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, French, and British rulers over the matter.

Charleston was the chief port where these slaves were kept. As the slaves revolted, it became legal for the Whites to carry arms and use these whenever necessary.

Charleston was also a major site of the US civil war between the South and the North in the 19th century. The Union was on a side and the Confederation was on another side. The Unionists led by Abraham Lincoln won. Slavery was banned officially although this trade had long continued afterwards. Discrimination and repression still exists in various forms.

Industries flourished on a large scale gradually several centuries after slavery trade started. With the consolidation of bourgeoisie in the industrial revolution, the working class also started taking a shape as a vast population. A field for the unity of white, black, man, women and various classes was created here. It also amalgamated with the workers’ movement of Europe.  This workers’ movement of the 19th century’s last half not only brought working hours and demand of wages but also presented its politics and ideology as well as a strong power.

Labour unrest rocked the United States in May 1886. The police attacked the massive rally, demanding an eight-hour work per day. Besides, the leaders of several labour organisations were hanged in a show trial. Workers’ Day (May Day) is observed across the world every year on 1 May, remembering the bloodied demonstration in Chicago. It is surprising that the US doesn’t observe May Day. Instead, they celebrate the Workers’ Day on 4 September in a bid to wipe out the history of Workers’ Day.   

While interacting with people from different professions, including lawyers, in Virginia, I came to know that they actually don’t know about May Day. No discussion on May Day is held at a national level and the mainstream media in the US. But in the US there are also conscious people who are active in continuing the struggle against discrimination and repression. That is the reason why I once saw a massive procession on May Day in New York, chanting slogans against capitalism and imperialism.

California, which is enriched with fruits, crops, natural beauty and diversity, is the another frontier of the US on the shore of the Pacific. I had the opportunity to visit Mexico border via Grand Canyon in the courtesy of relatives Molly Ratan and Jobi Santosh.

Our tour guides were Himu from Bangladesh and Eva Morales from Mexico. There was the billion-year-old fascinating soil and rock formation and soil diversity like the Grand Canyon. There was the Pacific Ocean, rocks and crop fields mile after mile.  There is one of the world's best engineering on the Colorado river – the Hoover Dam. More than hundreds people, mostly black, lost their lives to build this dam. Indigenous people were evicted once again as part of the construction of Hoover Dam and making the Grand Canyon inhabitation  free as the National Park.

California is a green zone. It is a major source of fruits, crops, vegetables, milk, and eggs in the United States. The agriculture heavily relies on ground and surface water resources here. Many undocumented immigrants work in these areas as agricultural laborers at very low wages.

Shyamal Chowdhury, a hydrologist at Sacramento, has pointed out that the excessive use of water in agriculture is causing the underground water levels to decline. Recently, a law was enacted to regulate water usage to deal with the adversity.

He also said during various excavation works along the Colorado River, including river management, human bones and domestic items from the tribal communities that once lived there are still being discovered.

Notably, the states of California, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona were previously part of Mexico. Now, billions of dollars are being spent on constructing high walls to prevent unauthorised immigrants from Mexico.

Additionally, there are accusations of occupation even in the name of the United States. Almost everyone calls this country America, but there is no country called 'America' in this world. There are two continents under this name - North America and South America. When the United States is called America and it is used in media campaigns, the people of South, Latin America, and the Caribbean get aggrieved the most.

I have heard many of them express their anger: “The US rulers have taken over our country and resources. Our history of bloodshed is very long. They also want to occupy our name and identity. But America is ours too.”

You can hear the voices for unfolding the historic truth and establishing a society there against caste-gender-class-racial discrimination and oppression. If you open your eyes, you can see their activities too.

They are now pulling down the idols of the occupiers who were once glorified as heroes. We need to look beyond the imperialist subversive role of the US rulers to these different voices.

The multi-ethnic people of this country have gained various rights through practicing the knowledge, organisation, and struggle. Similarly, they strengthened the tone of their struggle to establish a human society in the world. I will write about this sometime in the future.