We are entering a simmering summer of unrest. Protests and riots have spread to every major American city following the public lynching of George Floyd. The genesis of this upheaval is largely perceived as the successful overthrow and burning of the Minneapolis police precinct that employed Floyd’s murderers.
Social media suffers no shortage of hot takes. One feels compelled to contribute. The riots deserve support. The populist anger bubbling to the surface is entirely justified. The grievance of working-class black communities, who are subject to state-sanctioned terrorism can never be debated, it must be accepted as truth irrespective of how uncomfortable one (writing as an as white person) finds it. The black struggle is a universal struggle. This is because the treatment of black people globally is emblematic of the systemic cruelty and abject failures of capitalism. This fight is universal Discussing injustice under capitalism yet forgoing acknowledgement of its disproportionate impact on black communities is akin to discussing racism in Nazi Germany while ignoring the role of anti-Semitism.
“Minority communities” is more often than not a red herring. It is specifically back communities that bare the brunt of suffering in our current system. In the face of a racially divisive media, the universal element of this struggle can never be overstated. the black struggle has always been a struggle against the cruelties and excesses of capitalism and the state.
However, the current populist rage is need of a critique. The uprisings are opposed by the entire brunt of the American imperialist apparatus. Like any decaying empire, military infrastructure is being turned against it’s own populace. In the face of this. America lacks a united left. The philosophical left has a nauseating habit of projecting its own raison d’état on to uprisings. Examples include the ‘March for our Lives” movement in opposition to gun violence in the US, “Fridays for future”(Lads, Greta Tunberg is a remarkable woman, let her speak for herself.) and Anonymous, a largely ineffective hacker movement. The student movement and associated university unions have been lionised as a transformative vanguard since the 1960s (we are still waiting). Every popular movement is held up as a revolutionary subject. Yet in each of these cases, the primary actors are apolitical. the grievances are the result of political decisions but the anger is not rooted in any cohesive political viewpoint, material or otherwise.
The detrimental effects of unorganised political anger are illustrated in the case of the UK riots of 2011. Following the great recession and the election of a Tory-led austerity obsessed government, the working class were subjected to gruelling cuts to public services and regressive taxes. Class warfare led by Eton alumni. Following the murder of Mark Duggan, an unarmed black man, by police officers, the balloon popped. Rioting began in London but soon spread to nearly every other major English city. Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham all bore witness to protest, looting and the raw physical triumph of communities over police forces. However, the aftermath was a catastrophe. The Britsh police became more militarised, drawing influence from their parental relationship with the united states ( “Daddy can you give me a security culture please” ), surveillance was ramped up, the ability of protestors to organise was severely curtailed through the passing of legislation. In the absence of an organised political movement to channel popular anger in a constructive way, the boot of state will crush an uprising in its infancy.
Ther designation of Antifa as a terrorist organisation is a direct analogue. The decree from the White House unleashes the full power of the Patriot Act to be applied against anyone associated with anti-fascist action. It must be stressed that Trump's announcement is entirely divorced from the reality of what Antifa actually is. Antifa is not a singular organisation. It does not have formal membership, a hierarchy of leaders or set meetings. It does not engage in acts of terrorism under the auspice of a formal organisation and its, therefore, neither terroristic or an organisation. The state is creating a bogeyman to utilise the riots as a means to increase it’s the ability to repress opposition. The slide to authoritarianism is well underway.
The repression of a potential popular movement is also occurring in less coercive ways. The media discourse was initially tacitly supportive of BLM. Within. 48 hours of Floyd's murder, CNN, MSNBC and Fox alike were filled with conspiracy theories regarding a plethora of bad actors infiltrating protests. These ranged from American white supremacists and neo-Nazis to Russian spies. Despite denouncing alleged attempts to create a race war, mainstream media heavily racialised the protests. The false dichotomy constructed is as follows. Black communities vs White communities left vs right, Trump voters Vs Biden supporters. In reality black and brown working-class communities have risen up in a time of economic suffering unseen in generations, coexisting with repression by a racist state, with the intent to express their anger. The core of this is a universalist struggle that is now being derailed and pivoted in directions that deny any chance of class consciousness arising from the protests.
BLM is funded by Wells Fargo, a large corporate American Bank. This is because black people in America have no options other than the aforementioned popular outrage that will inevitably result in more repression or the neoliberal route i.e empty platitudes on social media and millionaire black celebrities proclaiming themselves the voice of their entire community. The only other option as a riot. This occurs with the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. A test of social stability that the US has failed dismally. Nihilism is the spirit of the day. The Zigiest as the German language so beautifully puts it.
The only hope in overcoming this despair is to abandon liberalism as the default critique of police killings. “Police reform” is a mirage in this racial desert. Policing in the United States is largely funded through the private prison system. Private companies bestow generous amounts of cash upon precincts that fulfil arrest quotas. forget “good cops” and “ bad cops” the solution is nothing short of the dismantlement of the current system of law enforcement. This facilitates a wider conversation about taxation and income inequality. The logical conclusion being the necessity of a wealth tax. This line of inquisition instead turns into anger as the only faces of reform in the US are milquetoast liberals who have no desire to overhaul a system from which their class interest rests on. The absence of the left in the United States leaves all vulnerable to the machinations of the state.
Companies funding BLM and marketing themselves on their avowed support for the movement and by extension “police reform” farcical. Corporations only exist because the police hold a monopoly on the “legitimate” use of violence and thus enforce laws that uphold the existence of said corporations. Just as illegal enterprises employ hired goons the respectable barons depend on uniformed thugs.
As mentioned in the introduction, this is merely the preamble. Firstly these thugs have been given the green light by Trump to utilise more force and more repression to quell the protests. Secondly, this rioting has spread and will continue to spread throughout the western world. I am from an Irish town called Dundalk. Population 40,000, a village in North American terms. There was a solidarity protest in the town square. BLM Marches have taken place in Copenhagen, London, and Toronto to name a few. Protests in Paris have already resulted in riots where France’s shameful denial of its own racially charged history/present has come to bear.
Actions normally associated with so-called “third world” nations such as attacks on journalists, invasion of private homes, the deployment of military on civilians have and will continue to become increasingly prevalent. Police use chemical weapons, which are banned in internal conflict against their population in the name of “crowd control” the type fo weapons that Bashar-al-Assad and the Iranian regime have been condemned for utilising. Such tools are just part and parcel of crowd suppression in the enlightened liberal west
To counter this barbarism the “Left” in most of the developed world consists of a class of people in itself as opposed to a coherent working-class movement. The cosy commentariat class have fetishized the BLM movement, vicariously edging on a movement of working people of colour who couldn't give a damn about COVID when their entire life is brutalised by capital and the state. The point has been reached where actions concerned self-sabotage is necessary to display opposition to the status quo. Instead of a movement to drag this anger in material direction, the Twitter left has instead opted to celebrate the coming of an imagined, contrived revolution. If you don't own an anarchist or communist flag get it off your bio.
There is power in destroying a pig station. It is exceptional that people can see what happens when a mob can outnumber the forces of the state. Imagine the possibilities if such a force could be utilised in an anti-capitalist direction. The left can identify the enemies, but it is the masses that act to whom all progress is owed. The major institutions of American life are being called into question. Yet the American left is not-existent. The European left is anaemic. For all our thought out, debated, reasoned theory, we lack institutional power. That is what is essential if civilised human life is to survive what is coming. Unprecedented economic inequality, ecological breakdown due to climate change, the inevitable flows of refugees from the global south and the looming prospect of geopolitical conflict.
Our salvation lies in the formation of workers parties. Despite my personal attachment to anarchist and libertarian socialist philosophy what is needed is a real vanguard. Join a Marxist-Leninist party. Donate to a bail fund, Engage in the protests in your area. Keep reading and listening to the voices of working-class people of colour. The voices of the lest powerful are what shines a light on the true operation of any system and offer our only hope of contributing a better tomorrow.
Above all stay safe, we are all in the frying pan but no one can envisage the coming fire.