An outline for my blog on the BLM movement, it's rise to prominence, and the race question. I give a detailed idea of where I think the BLM current should possibly go from here.
The “black movement” in America has been in desperate need of revival for a while now. Not only have we convinced ourselves that race no longer matters in the US and really the world over, but we have actively made u-turns around the topic so we don’t have to talk about it when it is apparent that we do. This is not to take the liberal rhetoric about having a “discussion” about race as that has it’s own problems. However it is to recognize that we have been ignoring race and why it matters. More over we have convinced ourselves that we owe nothing more to minorities, that we have ultimately built up through trial and error some kind of great free-land for them to pile into to escape racism, persecution, and lack of success. This obviously, is not true for anyone that is actually looking at the issue. The presence of race itself, invented by Europeans for conquest of the western hemisphere and the development of world capitalism means that race is still an issue, there is no harmony of races. There is no melting pot of race, race itself is a structured social system of rank based on reactionary conceptions of science/anthropology. When we treat black people, Latino people, and Native American people different that we treat white people ect., then we are still living in a regime of race and thus a regime of racism. Fighting racism is thus a matter of abolishing race in all it’s forms as a unit of production and division of labor.
Because we still live in a regime of race where the division of labor that constitutes race functions in the sphere of social production we thus have a society where segregation according to skin color still exists in many forms. Some examples; the relegation of Asian and Mexican Americans to migrant work, the segregation of the American white population into well off suburbs and cities and the American black and brown population into cities and suburbs with largely dead and dying economies, the disproportionate police targeting of black and Latino people by both police and courts, the assumption that black and brown folks are probably criminals, and the many prejudices that races have among each other about each other just to name a few. This brings us to BLM or the “Black Lives Matter Movement”. This movement is an attempt to revive the black movement in America, the aim being to show Americans that as a country we have let the black population suffer in the shadows through the social corrosion of white on black racism. That this must end now! That the lives of the black population do matter and that they must be appreciated as that of the white population. These are the first steps to the abolition of race, the oppressed race realizing it is an oppressed faction and struggling for it’s self emancipation, this is why many on the left including myself are justifiably excited about this movement and have been since it’s inception. That being said there are many things that BLM needs to move forward with if it is to be a worth wile social movement that actually changes things for the black population, I am only an outsider to this struggle as I am white, I benefit from the political repression of the black population and the current regime of race. That means that anything that comes out of my mouth very well should be taken with a grain of salt and that my opinions very well should be informed by the opinions of the black population, this is their movement, not mine as I am not black and am thus not oppressed in that way. However, I think it is important for outsiders to try to help when they can, that being said this will be a detailed analysis of BLM from an Anarchist/Communist perspective which will come to a concise conclusion about what I think BLM (as an outsider) aught to do. I encourage black comrades to correct my mistakes where I make them as again, this is a struggle by and for black people, not for white folks like myself.
Out of The Ashes:
BLM has it’s origins in the regime of race and it’s effect on the black population in the US. The US has a history of forcing it’s black population into under-developed areas and submitting them to horrid racialized police violence, this is what spawned both the Black Panthers and the Black Rider Liberation Front that took inspiration from them. The early black movement as a whole rose out of these ashes, specifically the unwillingness of the black working classes to take it anymore. The black movement was thus the up most expression of proletarian dispossession with the working class refusing to take any longer the oppression they endured on a daily basis. BLM is no different which is what excites many leftists about it, the fact that BLM is specifically working class in it’s origins and that it was set up to initially to destroy the oppression of the black working classes that the United States has so obnoxiously refused to talk about.
BLM in it’s infancy was a reaction to the shooting of Micheal Brown, Brown was confronted by a police officer (Darren Wilson), likely racially targeting him and his friends when they were walking on a sidewalk in Ferguson, Missouri. All eye witness reports seem to point to the fallowing as the likely coarse of events; the officer started aggressively confronting Brown and His friends and tried to grab Brown from inside the car, brown then in trying to get away pushed the officer off of him and tried running away, the officer then point blank shot him in the back killing him, this was then covered up by the police department with a shotty story not supported by eye witness report nor dispatch radio transmissions. This plainly racist targeting of Brown and his friends was enough to let the people of Ferguson know they could not deal with this racialized violence anymore, they were being discarded by white America and they needed to put an end to it, this makes sense given the investigative report that came out a few months ago detailing the Ferguson police department’s outright abuse of the black population or the Ferguson DOJ. This culminated in a mass uprising of black proletarians in Ferguson which then spread throughout black communities in the US rebelling both violently an peacefully against the institutions of political power that were holding them down, at this point the movement was not yet a movement, rather, a breather, the black proles involved wanted nothing more then to shake off what was being done to them. They eventually came to the conclusion that they would have to consciously mobilize to end their oppression which lead to BLM being born as an official movement getting it’s name from the newly found slogan “#BLACKLIVESMATTER”. This was accelerated later by the killing of Eric Garner by multiple male and white police officers in a clearly racist display of power. The movement only gained more momentum after all officers involved in these cases got off pretty much unscathed. Even more momentum for the movement came as a result of Freddie Grey being killed in a police car most likely as a result of police brutality in Baltimore essentially proving the point BLM had been trying to make and sending Baltimore up in riots. Again, the lack of punishment for the officers involved with Grey’s death only fueled the fire. At this point BLM has become a full fledged social movement with a largely proletarian base holding to the principle that the establishment has not yet done anything to help the black community, which is very obviously true.
During these situations of revolt the media was obviously present and active in painting even the peaceful parts of the movement as violent thugs that are only destroying the community that they are trying free. Even self proclaimed “revolutionary” and Latino rapper Immortal Technique famous for his highly politically charged lyrics bought into this line of media propaganda that not only completely misunderstood what happened, but painted a blatantly false picture of the events as random riots with no direct mission and even some what malicious intentions. The real story behind the protests was that they were largely peaceful and only began violent confrontations with riot police when said riot police doing their job (as will be talked about later) as a repressive and reactionary social force became violent themselves. Most of the violence was targeted at these police and the looting and smashing of businesses was number 1; mostly targeted at chain shops that are were part of large corporations such as in one instance a ToysRUS and 2; was carried out in order to disrupt the economic structures that were holding the people in these communities down (which again will be talked about in detail later).
The Black Lives Matter Movement is not yet fully developed in the sense that it has yet to actually come out with a concrete set of demands. There is no substantial ideology to BLM, rather it is simply coming out of the desire to make America recognize that it has left the black population behind and that this is a bad thing that should be rectified. Here we find a major problem. The only way to move forward in any sense, at least in politics, is to have a concrete platform. Without a program that one can aim at there is real a lack of coherency to your movement that makes it almost impossible for said movement to bring any real social shift/change. BLM is certainly looking for something, but it doesn’t know what yet and it doesn’t seem to be trying to figure that out either. BLM seems to just tread on without any real demands, don’t get me wrong, it is still doing good work, but this work is being done by a movement that is undeniably underdeveloped and also, has yet to confront that.
This has lead to many problems even in the period of infancy the movement is in at the moment. One of those being many unscrupulous people forming ties with BLM including one person in a major position within the movement who supports the democratic party. The lack of direction means that decidedly reactionary elements have all the opportunity to take up the cause as theirs, this is exactly what happened with Occupy. Occupy was a middle class movement with no actual demands outside of justice for the 99% and accountability for the 1%. As a result all manner of reactionary and questionable people were present including Nazis and David Icke famous for the conspiracy theory that the governments of the world are actually reptilians plotting to take over the world and replace humans with reptile aliens. Thus occupy had no real proletarian base to work from in order to build real opposition to the real issue, that is world capitalism, the state, and the division of labor. We need to make sure this does not happen to BLM as it very well could given the undefined nature of the movement’s demands and the “black misleadership class” that is strangling the movement at present for it’s own ascendance in the system, the very same class that essentially killed the old black movement.
Above is the new motion put forward by some activists within the movement. Some of the things on this list are actually very sensible, for instance an end to glass window policing, however, the over all plan of “Campaign Zero” I don’t think can be defended so easily. Black Lives Matter to it’s credit has focused on many different struggles with a kind of intersectional approach, for instance BLM is often very concerned about the struggles of trans-gender people. This is a good thing obviously and it shows that BLM really does have potential as it is reaching farther into different oppressed communities rather then exclusively focusing on the issues of black folks to a fault. This shines through in Campaign Zero as the aim of the plan seems to be to put police forces in the United States through a series of reforms so that they are monitored more closely and internally operate with a more intersectional and minority friendly attitude. The problems with this are clear.
The main issue is of curse the fact that the police are not designed to defend oppressed communities, actually the opposite. The police are the ground force of the capitalist class, or the class which owns property in the means of social production and thus the class with political authority in capitalist society. The police have a role in the social division of labor to be the on the ground defense and offense of the capitalist class. The police then are designed to enforce the political authority of the capitalist class on the ground which means silencing social movements and protecting the property claims of the capitalists to the means of social production at all costs. The police are designed to be corrupt and oppressive as such, there will be no kind intersectional police even if said police are monitored with things like hidden cameras. Those policies of monitoring the police do help because they ensure some type of public accountability, but the police themselves have a clear institutional role that can not be side stepped with some nice proposals about how we would like the police to act.
Racism in the 21st Century:
When we who are on the side of BLM and of the black community and all racially oppressed communities fighting against said oppression vocalize our support for these principles we often find the consistent objection from usually white folks. “What racism”? Many people as I noted in the introduction seem to think that we live as many people put it in a “post-racial society” or rather a society where race if it does exist which I think most people think it does, doesn’t matter, that we have through the civil rights movement and liberalized western society fought off racism and where ever we may see it today it plays an inconsequential role. Here I want to show why exactly it is that this kind of liberal position on race is fundamentally flawed.
As Peter Gelderloos argues in his article on the state and fascism race does not materially exist, it is presupposed to exist, but it doesn’t, at least outside of social context as race only exists if we are talking about race as a social institution. There are no biological indications of race yet the assumption of race prevails, we still view those with different skin colors as different from ourselves, in many cases lesser then ourselves. This is the point where race begins to constitute itself, that is the point of production. Race is a division of labor just as any other social hierarchy, social hierarchies to exist must relegate laborers to specific tasks creating a hierarchy in production of people who have organizational power in production and people who do not. Race being social hierarchy has the same effect producing race based domination at the point of production and thus as a social institution constitutes racism. As long as there is “race” there is racism and we can not make arguments about liberal democracy over coming race.
Racism in the modern context implies a few things. One of the most important of those things is how racism is built into the very order of capital today. Capitalism as it always has relies on a system of nation states that it must regulate and develop in order to maintain itself, opening up nations to their interests and sucking resources out of them in most cases. This order has created a system of labor segregation where black,brown, and Asian folks are forced into sweatshops and exploitative mining work, usually doing menial labor often connecting parts A and B. The whole global order thus relies on a form of racism to perpetuate itself.
Another one of those things is the way welfare states produce racism, this is two fold in my view. That is first, whatever racism comes out of the artificial xenophobia generated by native bourgioes to have the native proletariat of said country externalize their suffering at the hands of austerity measures and seeing less public services and more privatization of their lives to people from other countries, usually immigrants. Second, whatever racism comes from the xenophobia that naturally arises from a high standard of living and relatively large amounts of wealth being produced within a specific nation, this leads to the population seeing their wealth as something they need to protect against foreigners.
Racism in the US takes a very specific character in that the country itself was built on racism and was actually part of the colonial movement that birthed race as an institution. The whole US economy was built off the back of African involved in slave labor, this process was only done away with after the economy could be feed by prison slave like labor rather then traditional plantation slavery. Black people were brought here by a very specific process of striping them of their identity and culture and assimilating them into slave life, the slave trade started as a result of the colonies not having enough to produce for themselves which at the time American capitalism was dependent on. American capitalism only exists because of the slave trade in many senses. This brings us also to the destruction of the already existing native American society that had to be carried out in order for America to expand it’s territory and built itself up as a world capitalist power and for the settlers to establish the colonies in the first place. This is why after the American revolution the victory of the colonists struck fear into the hearts of both natives and blacks a like. If this is the non-racial liberal society so many of us cling to to avoid conversations about race then I think it is obvious our “color blind” friends have little evidence for their case.
Racism now has of course progressed, natives now constantly have to fight to keep industry from destroying sacred land and are relegated to reservations with poor conditions. There is disproportionate police violence against natives and they are also raped at a high rates. Aboriginal people (as they usually prefer to be called) are basically second class citizens in America.
Black people in America now face a reality that is completely stacked against their integration into mainstream US society. Black people in America were never suppose to become active participants in mainstream America, they were brought here to sustain the American colonial economy and were thought of as only 3 5ths of a normal person, they didn’t deserve to have any real part in our civilization unless it was building it from the ground up with hard labor. Thus the process of undoing this rigid form of white supremacy has been a long and hard one replacing one form of discrimination and racism with another. After black folks were freed from slavery by the Civil War it would seem that was all they would get, black folks may have been free, but they were still only 3 5ths of people in the sense that immediately after they were freed state’s rights laws were passed that basically made it illegal to be black. As a result black people were subject to extreme police brutality and racial violence in general. Being black in America at this time was comparable to being in hell as it seemed racism had only increased with these new developments after the abolition of slavery.
The story does not end there, as I said earlier in the piece this kind of racism still prevails to this day, the black population all over the world along with the poor population has been herded into underdeveloped inner cities lined with liquor stores and full of racialized police violence and poverty. This is especially true in America, after the first world war returning veterans were giving housing and educational programs so they could keep on their feet when they came home. Black Americans were not treated as white Americans were by these programs, white veterans had a distinct advantage in regard to the quality they received from these programs over black veterans. As a result of this discrimination and the fact that at the time having black neighbors made one’s property values go down the organizations involved in these programs ended up structuring black housing so that black people were concentrated in impoverished areas. This has lead to a reality of black life where the black experience is usually that of a community ravaged by racialized state violence and crippling poverty. It seems there has been very little major change since times of slavery, black people are still treated as 3 5ths of actual people. The message of black lives matter is one counter to this white supremacist form of capitalist economy. It is that black people ARE people, not 3 5ths, but real people who deserve a comfortable and free existence just as much as the ]anyone else This highlights the problem with counter arguments to the effect of “all lives matter”. Obviously everyone’s life does matter, that’s the point, for to long in this country and throughout the world the black, colored, lgbt, and womyn population have not had their lives treated like they matter and that this needs to change, and soon.
So what is the content of BLM? I think that BLM is a largely proletarian movement that aims to challenge the institutionalized racism, homophobia, and sexism of American society. This movement has achieved many great things in so far as injecting these topics into the mainstream discussion and even into leftist circles that are too concerned with class reductionism to look at topics like race. However, BLM atm has a lack of a program which has allowed it to be co-opted by liberal NGO like organizations aiming for extremely mild reforms for rather empty goals like “the health of the community” as well as sects which have a class character of opportunism aiming at leading the movement into pacification and likely ultimately fizzling out. In order for BLM to be really productive and be a real venue for black, brown, POC, LGBT, and womyn’s liberation it must articulate a proletarian ideology which seeks the liberation of the planet from capital and class society to be struggled for on the basis of self organization of the oppressed in society.