George Floyd, US and international protests

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Joined: 25-11-16
Aug 26 2020 21:14

Two people killed and one injured in Wisconsin last night during protests over police shooting of Jacob Blake on the 23rd. There's some pretty graphic content out there if you search around. I'll never understand Americans' fascination with guns (I mean I kind of understand right-wing extremists' interest with them), and I can't say I get organizations/groups like the Socialist Rifle Association, NFAC and others, and where they think any of that is leading to. Some info on the perpetrator, some impressionable right-wing teenager from Illinois who travelled there to "defend businesses":

Joined: 2-03-09
Aug 31 2020 21:14

We recently republished an article by Shemon "The Rise of Black Counter-Insurgency" that originally appeared on the Ill Will EDitions site. It is an astute analysis of the recuperation of what it calls “the George Floyd rebellion”, which merits reflection and debate. This is our introduction. Fischer

The movement ignited by the murder of George Floyd is not quite over, but a relative calm has returned. However, in this period, many struggles do not lead to either defeat or victory, but don’t go away entirely. The flames die down, but the embers keep smoldering. And the fuel for the fire keeps building.

At this moment, a lot of attention and energy is being sucked away by the US elections, which offer us the choice between Trump’s naked iron fist and Biden’s iron fist in a velvet glove. The first uses the movement to evoke a specter of chaos and ruin, even provoking battles to underscore its point as in Portland, and being helped by police departments of some large cities which seem to have decided to let more criminal activity (especially gang killings) occur. The second sucks up to the movement and makes promises which he neither can nor wants to keep.

Of course, the election spectacle is not the only reason why the movement lost strength. What was its strength? Most impressive was the speed with which this struggle against police repression (a pillar of capitalist society) spread all over the US and indeed the world, the vast scale of the movement, its multiracial solidarity, the determination it showed in confronting the police and other guardians of the capitalist order, its willingness to break the law and defy the authorities, whether Republican or Democrat. But then what? What’s the next step? It’s one thing to protest against injustice, racism, and repression, it’s quite another to imagine a world in which their cause is eradicated. It is still difficult to imagine a world which is not capitalist. So the next step isn’t clear. As a result, as Shemon puts it, “protests have gone into a zombie-like phase of endless marches”, without target or purpose. The next step could be to go massively to the work places to get our sisters and brothers in the factories, offices, schools, services and so on to join a struggle which is about more than racial injustice. It must become a general refusal of capitalism’s doomsday course. The work places are capitalism’s weakest point because of its dependency on the exploitation of labor. No surplus value, no profit. In the streets, the state will ultimately always have the upper hand. Militarily it will always be stronger, until it itself begins to fall apart. Conversely the work places is where the collective worker has the upper hand. Potentially.

So for the movement to strengthen further, linking with the proletariat in the work places was a necessary step, and one that implies a broader agenda than Black Lives Matter. But despite the fact that during this time numerous wildcat strikes occurred (most because of low wages and lack of covid-protection), this step was not taken.

We’re not there yet.

The absence of a proletarian answer to the ‘what’s next?’ question created room for the answer that reformism proposes, which is not to oppose capitalism but to improve it, to march and vote and sign petitions to force Congress to adopt better laws and so on. As we argued before, this is both futile (given its systemic crisis, the plagues of capitalism will only worsen) and deeply misleading.

Shemon blames the middle class for shifting the movement’s goal “from revolutionary abolition to reformist abolition”. “A counter-insurgency campaign has fundamentally altered the course of the movement.”, he writes. He blames the black middle class in particular. Although he uses the term ‘middle class’ numerous times, he never defines it. He assumes that it is well-known what it means. In fact it is a sociological term, based not on social function but on income. ‘Middle class’, then, encompasses all those who are neither rich or poor, and is further divided in an ‘upper middle class’ and a ‘lower middle class’. Some calculate that 80% of the US population is middle class. From a Marxist point of view, this is not a useful term. It encompasses both workers (the better paid segment) as well as (small) capitalists. In reality, capitalism tends to reduce the class composition of society to only two classes, melting the peasant class, to which until relatively recently the vast majority of humanity belonged, to an increasingly marginal size. There is the capitalist class, including not only the owners of capital but also its managers, of the state as well as of the economy, thus also the police and politicians. Opposed to it, there is the proletariat, or, to use a term which does not express its misery but its potential power, the collective worker, which comprises the vast majority of the world population. What exists between those two classes is not a class, but social layers with diverging interests: family-farmers and other independent producers, shop-keepers, food vendors and so on. These layers are not the enemy of the proletariat and should not be treated as such. They may aspire to obtain wealth and status by becoming capitalists, but at the same time they see they’re being crushed by capitalism. They can become allies in the struggle for liberation.

Shemon draws a sharp distinction between what happened in the daytime and at night during the heydays of the movement in late May. The demonstrations during the day were more massive, more white, more “middle class” according to Shemon, less confrontational than those at night. After sundown, “a Black led multi-racial proletarian rebellion burned down police stations, destroyed cop cars, attacked police, redistributed goods”. For him, that was the vanguard of the movement. Instead of begging for reforms, young proletarians attacked the capitalist order heads on.

Yes, that happened. But other things happened as well. It’s telling that in regard to the “redistribution of goods”, a.k.a. looting, Shemon mentions only (the chain store) Target and (the luxury store) Versace. He doesn’t write about the small stores and restaurants plundered and burned during these violent nights. We don’t want to inflate these incidents a la Fox News but we don’t want to shove them under the rug either. But Shemon does. Neither does he mention the looting for profit, mostly done by gangs, which are, essentially, capitalist enterprises [1] . And he does not criticize the destruction for destruction’s sake, even of useful things such as street lights, or burning bibles and other acts that serve no purpose but to divide the protesters and provide fodder for bourgeois propaganda. The nighttime actions were spontaneous and self-organized, but self-organization must imply a collective self-discipline, a proletarian consciousness reflected in the choice of targets.

Neither the daytime nor the nighttime protests were purely proletarian and neither had an answer to the ‘next step question’. Violently confronting the police is not a strategy in itself. It offers no perspective if it is not imbedded in a broader movement, as Shemon would agree. And that this movement must extend to the workplaces is also clear. The main battlefield is the mind of the collective worker.

The ‘George Floyd rebellion’, both in its daytime and nighttime manifestations, is a big step forward, but there’s a long road ahead. Yet the embers are still hot and capitalism’s crisis keeps adding fuel to what can become an even more intense proletarian firestorm, increasingly conscious of it anti-capitalist content.


August 24, 2020

Black Badger
Joined: 21-03-07
Aug 31 2020 23:01

a few things from ill will editions might be good, but their Instagram post from the other day definitely isn't an example of that. They say:
"The entire momentum of the revolutionary movement, as well as the networks that nourish it, took 10 years to build [sic].
It will all be wiped out if we allow the social revolution to devolve into an armed conflict between small, increasingly specialized groups..."

It's one thing not to publicly promote shooting back (it's the prudent course when posting on Instagram, the "fun" subsidiary of FedBook); it's something else altogether to promote pre-emptive, voluntary disarming of their "social revolution"...

Black Badger
Joined: 21-03-07
Aug 31 2020 23:02


R Totale's picture
R Totale
Joined: 15-02-18
Sep 8 2020 11:16

Excellent report from Kenosha, including some intelligent discussion of the gun issue among other stuff:

R Totale's picture
R Totale
Joined: 15-02-18
Sep 14 2020 11:40

Fwiw, a bit late now, but I disagree with Black Badger's criticisms of the Ill Will instagram post above - I don't think that having a critique of small, specialized armed groups necessarily means that you're promoting disarmament.
Anyway, also on Ill Will, they recently put this out, which I think is interesting and thoughtful and I've seen going around a bit:
The Return of John Brown: White Race-Traitors in the 2020 Uprising

But then, a few days later, they published an interview with the stockbroker-academic Frank Wilderson. Now, it's true that I already had a pretty low opinion of Wilderson, so maybe I'm not reading it in the most charitable fashion, but it seems to be pretty much totally contradictory to the more useful material Ill Will puts out, with Wilderson repeating his standard themes - "anger towards... radical multiracial coalitions", not just writing off the white proletariat but also digs at all non-Black POC, along with a sort of flattening out of Blackness that erases any question of class and gender and so neatly dodges any question of whether, for instance, stockbroker-academics might have a different position to other Black people. Am I missing out on something really important here, or is this just Ill Will publishing an interview with a reactionary dick who argues against everything that's important in their other work?

Joined: 6-01-07
Dec 29 2020 17:10

Further to posts #93 and #97 above IP have continued this critical discussion here: and
More to come: As Part 3 posted elsewhere on libcom now.