Strategic and Tactical Considerations for the Deactivation of Racial Apparatuses in the Art of Insurrection

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 22, 2011

Concepts of anti-racism are themselves increasingly captured by the racial apparatus, but dripping with contradictions. Humanistic strategies can be seen at work with the inclusion of a blackness without content (i.e. blackness stripped of history) into the global multi-cultural petty bourgeoisie. However, the prisons industry still functions as a renaissance in slavery. On the other hand, a discourse of privilege, born out of the struggles of the ‘60s proliferates to the point of normality—complete with reference points on television sitcoms1 —but the trainings on white privilege never once articulate the armed antagonism of which it originates. Nor does the privilege discourse account for how the condition of places in the economy that were once coded-non-white, and female are becoming indiscernible from other places in the economy—care, desiring, and other affective labor. All these strategies essentially reduce, conceal, and quiet the intensities of forms of life, rather than mark wayward points for escape. A tenable concept of race in the US, must necessarily take this into consideration and exploit the fractures where various miseries meet.

The weakness of counter-attack in the US is in many ways the poverty of both a politico-historical conception of the racial apparatus and lack of sensitivity to the details of how this apparatus conjoins with others in the work of government. Because the function of apparatuses is to produce subjects, and subjects are predicated juridically by law, any anti-racism or attack on racial the apparatus will take the form of an assault on governance (more so than the character of traditional class-struggle). The failure of the ‘60s-’70s anti-racist discourses (e.g. revolutionary anti-imperialism) and their current trajectory as “whiteness studies” corresponds to this. Whereas, they can argue in broadest sense, that the white worker has more material interests in common with the black or brown worker than those who own the means of production, there is no specific understanding of the processes governing those interests. It might be easy enough to say those dudes are just a bunch of leftists who don’t understand that communism is contingent on the proletarian abolishing itself as a class, but that still misses the mark, and doesn’t reveal how the spread of anarchy2 corresponds to a deactivation of apparatuses. There is an economy at work in the production of racialized subjects, but there is no reconciliation through the channels of economic subjectivity (liberal or revolutionary), because racialized subjects, at their core, are animated by desires for a world without work and without predicates.

The old hypothesis: Race Traitor. Race is socially constructed, therefore it can be socially deconstructed. Because the signifer of privilege is white skin, a significant portion of the white working class could act in such a way that confused the flows of privilege. In the ‘60s and ‘70s this meant joining with national liberation movements in armed struggle against the state. In many ways David Gilbert, a white combatant of the Weather Underground and Revolutionary Armed Task Force of the Black Liberation Army stands as the best example of this strategy. As the story goes during a Federal Bank truck hold-up, there is a shoot out. Most of his comrades—who are black—are killed, and he is shot, captured, and given 2 life sentences for the murder of an armed guard—of which he is still serving. Suffice to say that even in the tumultuous ‘60s and ‘70s, no more than a few dozen whites ended up picking up the gun in the US in order to join with vanguardist Marxist-Leninist organizations to have an adventure in refusing privilege. Nonetheless, even those who did, did so out of a deep moral guilt, rather than ethico-political penchant—much less out of class interests. The operation of the white race-traitor can only refuse white-privilege; it cannot on its own deactivate the racial apparatus. Failing to understand how the machinations of Spectacle cooperate with racialization, the race-traitor strategy is doomed to merely produce a wounded white subject—a scandal, certainly, but not a rupture. David Gilbert, in being indistinguishable from the black bodies opening fire, loses his white-privilege and his body becomes a magnet for police bullets, however the moment his body is desecrated, the first part of the sacrament is complete, and the processes of resubjectivation in which a white modified by his radicalness is put before the judgment of the law can be carried through. Gilbert’s comrades, on the other hand, are simply erased.

New developments: capitalism is causing a crisis in racial order. Racial codes and symbols will have to be reconfigured. The violence that fetishized the black body for centuries is becoming promiscuous. Like the unsaid demand of labor in the anti-globalization movement for protectionism, resistance to austerity will come from racial anxieties. Whites are terrified of inhabiting a condition of precariousness that was previously reserved for black and immigrant labor. Right-wing grassroots organizations, like the Tea Party and Minute Men, exploit these anxieties to form a citizenist counter-insurgent force that can act metaphorically and literally as capital’s shock troops. Leftist grassroots organizations, like those that shifted discontent into the Obama campaign, form a citizenist counter-insurgent force that exhaust and bore struggle by directing it through the maze of contemporary politics. Both have the same call to arms: “Society must be defended!” On the other hand, the generation aged 35 and below already experience some of the shifts concretely. Already for many of them, the promises of whiteness as echoed by middle-class myths, have already been undermined. This has happened both because the strange flows of the economy have abandoned many college graduates to stand behind bars, take orders, and ask polite questions, and because liberal progressivism has forced the black body into its awkward diverse photo-op. The gang mentality that offered non-white youth meaningful employment/survival will likely spread across racial boundaries. The isolated violence of school shooters is the outcome of those already futureless youth who have not yet figured out how to form gangs—but it’s intensity will not be reduced once they do Given the fact that all employment will become more precarious, white marginally employed, unemployed, and service sector workers will grow, and might begin to form a larger portion of the prison population. Anti-austerity struggle will be an uncertain discourse until these dynamics are worked out. But this uncertainty is precisely what is advantageous. If we can work to overcome the limits placed on us by racial apparatuses, an anti-austerity struggle can form the kernel from which ungovernable forms of life proliferate, encounter each other, and act as a party against capital and the state.

Like the race-traitor strategy, we constitute an active minority. However, unlike them, we should have no illusions of vanguards or humanism. Their previous configuration of racial antagonisms as black vs white has its residue in today’s racial apparatus, but the ideology of white-supremacy vs anti-racism is impotent in the face of imperial operations of capital to overcome race as limit to its expansion and race as an antagonism that interrupts the free flow of capital. Without drawing lines we cannot defend, we must intensify the antagonisms of race strategically. Race war is the unspeakable scandal of black rage, but what is the unspeakable scandal of forms of life?

As an active minority we can have agency from within a struggle. We can set the tone for how a struggle announces itself, and what tactics and operations are sensible. This art is performed through experimenting with resonance. As mentioned before, the police are the living acts of apparatuses; in the US the police play a particular role in racial subjectivation. Any attack against the police reveals their inability to govern and helps to undermine their legitimacy. Because of their role in managing all subjects, police are a strategic absolute enemy. The point however is not to simply cause the police harm, or declare them illegitimate, the gesture must be an attempt to communicate and reverberate existing hostilities. From within the anti-austerity struggle we should be the flash of lightning that adds paranoid sweat to the police slumber, and to others, that which illuminates the night. others.. Either as a gang, or as a party, depending on how many of us can join up, we should anonymously realize the anti-police pole.

In Jan ‘11 in Milwaukee around 100 youth, mostly black, organized a flash mob and ran riot through the Mayfair Mall. The theoretical role of the active minority should be to articulate how this and events like it relate to the struggle against austerity. For example how black youth, the preferred feast of the prison monstrosity, are refusing to be excluded from racially coded spaces (either by curfew or by geographic barriers) and are using social technologies, to demand nothing intelligible to power, but attack these social spaces. Which is to say, they are refusing to go along with the plan that cuts them out of the happiness preserved for others, and instead are finding different ways to be happy.

In Madison, an active minority could have organized an unruly contingent or called for an autonomous march. It could have made nocturnal attacks on Republican headquarters and developed the tactical sensibility of the struggle. The students that walked out from Rufus King High School and angrily marched for hours more than likely would not be scandalized by such developments. Had elements of the walkouts at the University of Wisconsin (in Madison and Milwaukee) had the strategic foresight, they could have elaborated the antagonisms present by simply having the material capacity (e.g. a mobile sound-system) to transform the pious marches into a disruptive festival, that for whatever reason, tend towards conflict with the police. The next place anti-austerity rears its head we must be prepared to act decisively. However, the total project of deactivating racial apparatuses will not be completed in an instant. Anti-austerity has to come to connote anti-police.

This work is done by developing an anonymous anti-police presence. We must hone in on present tensions, and historical tragedies that pave the architecture of every city. We must practically remember and invoke the ghosts whose labor and deaths are between each brick. Every city has its pogrom, and most don’t tend to hide it too much. Our task will be to reveal the everyday function of the police in the city as camp. Establish territories in the city as communes that feel themselves increasingly exterior and foreign to police orders. The Exarchia neighborhood in Greece and Kreuzberg Berlin in Germany are good examples. Riots against police have become the disposition of their inhabitants. The disposition against the police made the Greece ‘08 revolt an overcoming of the limits (the student-immigrant divide) that were presented by the previous round of struggles. It’s possible a riot in Madison would have ended in a mess, and never spread to Milwaukee, or Green Bay but even if this had been the case there would be no question that some people also don’t want the promise of liberal society. And this would have been a step in undermining the racial apparatuses at work in austerity.

Racial order will not be collapsed simply by riots, but the riot is how the city speaks. The trick of racial apparatuses at work in the city is to imply that the language of those subjectivized racially is incommensurable. The ontological, historical, and social difference of white and non-white bodies is to appear an impasse outside the universal language of capital. Racialized subjects have not shared a common form of life outside of the forms predicated on capital (music, youth subculture, and anti-capitalism). The negative element, the so-called “anti-social”, possesses the greatest possibility of communication. Practically, when we encounter a form of life organized through friendship, when we share a common need for anonymity, looting, improvised activity, when we co-operate across racial barriers, when an ambush of the police is reinforced, when the wealth of a mugged yuppie or a robbed bank is distributed collectively, when we share the space to talk intimately with each other, then we can begin to say we’re fighting racism. But all of this is contingent on attempting to communicate.

Like every struggle before it, the struggle against austerity will grow into an insurrection against the present state of things or it will fade into a reference point for what the next struggle will have to remember and redeem. The global crisis presents the US with a unique possibility. Unlike the previous cycle of struggles from the ‘90s to the early ‘00s, anti-austerity takes place in a environment of extreme social dissolution and disillusionment. The racial catastrophe, which every struggle up till now has failed to avert, still faces us and conjures the image of the camps. On the other side of anti-austerity an armed counter-insurgent force hovers. But, at its fold there lies some something else: redemption. The crisis in racial order will not be completed by a refusal of its privileges, race will brought to its threshold by a letting go, a falling into the forms of life masked by racial subjectivity. This operation will be achieved as it is always achieved through going with the struggle, following its line of power and raising CIVIL WAR to its highest forms. Today, we say: we won’t pay for their crisis, we won’t invest in this society. We want something else, and we need the freedom to experiment with what that might be, but first EVERYTHING—especially the ways we are predicated as citizens, as workers, as subjects, as a governable body—must come to halt.

  • 1Tina Fay as Liz Lemmon on 30 Rock never misses the opportunity to make ironic reference to her white privilege and white guilt. Some would argue that she, and Dave Chapelle work to undermine racialization by exposing it as absurd and neutralizing its intensities, but I think it just made more bloggers work for the Obama campaign and assume a post-race position that fits nicely with the desire of global multi-cultural pettty bourgeoisie
  • 2Theorie Communiste might have said “the movement of riots” in referring to the ‘08 Greek revolt in their essay The Glass Floor