Date: April 23, 2016

Like America, China needs to put new faces on its currency, too (Here’s who they should be)

The United States Treasury Department announced on April 20 that President Andrew Jackson would be removed from the $20 dollar bill to be replaced by escaped slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman. The choice, after a year of activism by Women on 20s.org, knocks out two birds with one stone, by relegating a slavery-supporting populist to the back of the bill in favor of a black woman who helped hundreds of slaves run away to freedom.

One of the consequences of American activists’ successful Women on 20s campaign last year, which was ultimately successful in convincing the U.S. Treasury Department to replace controversial seventh president Andrew Jackson with escaped slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman, is that it has given Americans pause to consider the meaning and purpose of the national symbols our government chooses to put on our currency.

At the most simplistic level, it has exercised reactionary conservatives like Donald Trump and Ben Carson to denounce a “politically correct” choice of replacing a white male president with a black woman. Reactionary liberals like Feminista Jones and Danielle Paquette have denounced what they see as the commodification of a black revolutionary on a symbol of capitalism. Ideological conservatives, however, have mostly celebrated Tubman as a god-believing, gun-wielding, freedom-fighting Lincoln-era Republican.

Currency is the national symbol that residents of a country have the closest connection to. They carry it with them everywhere they go, hold it in their hands, and spend most of their waking hours working to earn it. As such it has been the subject of research papers on the construction of national identity. Scholars and columnists have pointed to how the Confederate States of America featured slaves on its currency as a depiction of its national identity.

As John Majewski wrote in Modernizing a Slave Economy: The Economic Vision of the Confederate Nation,

Embodying the new nation’s sense of self, Confederate currency often depicted idealized visions of past heroes, contented slaves, and stately plantations. Confederate notes also featured representations of a modern slaveholding economy. The popular $100 note issued in Richmond in 1862 shows a larger-than-life locomotive that dwarfs the human figures standing beside it (Illustration 5, top). Modern, powerful, and dynamic, the locomotive aptly symbolized how Confederates imagined their economic future.

Since Americans have began thinking more and more about affording greater social prominence, not just legal rights, to minorities and historically oppressed groups, it is fitting that a president, Jackson, who is now infamous for his support for slavery and unconstitutional forced migration (the Trail of Tears) of American Indians from the Southern United States is being replaced by Tubman, an underground railroad conductor who helped lead hundreds of slaves to freedom and served as a spy for the Union army.

When the campaign to replace Jackson got started, I got thinking, too, about China and Chinese currency. It also have a depicts a controversial populist who was responsible for untold deaths on its currency—and one who, for that matter, very well might be offended at seeing his image “commodified” and used to purchase bourgesouie items of luxury from foreign companies.

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Barry crashes the Brexit party!

So, this happened.

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If you’re living under the rock (or you’re American) then you probably don’t know that UK is heading for a Brexit vote in a month, a situation, where ideologies are blurred and a civil war is raging.

In that moment, enter Barack Obama with the casual Chicago game. Now, say what you may about this guy, or his politics, but one has to admit, he is perhaps the greatest and the most gifted extempore speaker of his generation. Well, maybe Bill Clinton, at his prime, not at his diminished stage like now, was better than Barry. But anyway, he changed the game, in a way David Cameron couldn’t have imagined, and the backlash from the “out” camp was severe. Socialists were livid that an American President is dictating another country how they should vote. Rebel Conservatives and ultra-right wingers are livid as well.

Some of them do have a point. Without going into the merits of BREXIT, it is unbelievable to think any country, or even the British PM urging Americans to sign and ratify UNCLOS, or form a borderless union with Mexico and Canada, or join AIIB led by China. Not going to happen. Ever.

Also, curiously, this campaign has divided the left. I mean, by definition, if you’re a red-blooded Marxist, you should be against a free trade espousing, neoliberal, hegemonic union, which dictates economic policies of small countries, crushes left movements like Greece, and throws its military weight around, right? 

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