Tag Archives: black lives matter

Ongoing resistance to US security forces

Charlotte, North Caroline got super rowdy last night after the police killed Keith Lamont Scott, who allegedly had a gun (in an open-carry state), during a security sweep for another man.  Angry locals took to the streets and clashed with cops, smashed up police cars, blocked the local interstate and looted several trucks.  That latter point is especially interesting, and is an escalation over the standard tactic of simple blockades; its perhaps a good time to check out Viewpoint Magazine’s recent symposium on Joshua Clover’s recent book on riots and the circulatory systems of modern capitalism.

Its worth noting that the riots in Charlotte come a couple of days after an unarmed black man was killed by police after his car broke down in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Tulsa, of course, was the site of the infamous 1921 Tulsa race riot, when the wealthiest black neighborhood in the country was burned and bombed by a racist white mob, with hundreds dead and thousands injured.

Meanwhile, the largest prison strike in US history is continuing into its second week.  It seems to have tapered off some since last week, when some 24,000 prisoners across 29 prisons missed work, but unrest appears to be ongoing at some 20 prisons.  Holman Prision, in Alabama, seems to be an epicenter of unrest; one correctional officer was stabbed and killed last week, and according to the Free Alabama Movement, numerous other officers are now themselves dissenting against the administration and expressing support for dissidence.

In other news, around 500 people gathered in Oakland, California this past weekend for a conference held by and for those who have directly experienced the USA’s systems of mass incarceration.

Some notes on imperialism and Black-Desi solidarity

In the aftermath of the grisly police murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, there has been a lot of renewed discussion and debate in progressive Asian American circles about how to understand and argue our position relative to Black America.  I particularly liked this piece from several months ago, specific to South Asian and Desi Americans, that talks about the strategy of “selfish solidarity” that builds on radical critiques of the concept of “allyship”.

However, there has been little to no discussion about the global nature of white supremacy, and the way it is produced through global capitalism and imperialism.  This is likely a consequence of Asian American being preoccupied with domestic matters (a reflection of American politics and society as a whole).  This is unfortunate, because it is only when we take a step back and look at the global setting that basis for Black-Asian solidarity becomes clear.  This is particularly true if we look specifically at Black-Desi/South Asian solidarity.  Here are some scattered observations and thoughts:

  • The ongoing militarization of American police departments–disproportionately felt by working-class Black neighborhoods–is a direct consequence of the central position of the military-industrial complex in the US economy, and the ongoing War on Terror, which has had a devastating impact on communities in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The violent paramilitary forces in control of Afghanistan’s Khost province, and the predatory police department in control of Ferguson, are two expressions of the same system.
  • America’s massive surveillance apparatus, used abroad for things like the drone war in Pakistan, is also used at home to support its racialized and militarized War on Drugs
  • The CIA has played an integral role in destabilizing both South-West Asia and many urban Black communities.  America’s war in Afghanistan during the 1980s saw billions poured into the stabilization of General Zia’s dictatorship in Pakistan, and the entrenchment of a powerful Islamist deep state and the general entrenchment of fundamentalism in both Pakistani and Afghan society.  At the same time, the CIA helped set up supply chains for drug cartels to smuggle cocaine into US markets, as a way to fund right-wing terrorist groups fighting the revolutionary leftist government in Nicaragua; this exacerbated the crack epidemic that devastated many Black communities during the late ’80s and early ’90s, and created the rationale for escalating the War on Drugs and accompanying police violence
  • There is a rich history of Black-Desi anti-imperialist solidarity, particularly in the early 20th century, that can and should be used to build contemporary movements
  • There is potential in exploring the economic dimensions of imperialism and the linked impacts on Black and South Asian peoples, given the inverted relationship between the deindustrialization of American cities like Detroit, and investments into sweatshops in countries like India and Bangladesh

All in all, there are a lot of arguments to be made that South Asian American and Black American political movements are fundamentally fighting against the same systems.  But this is only apparent if we “globalize” the perspectives of America’s racial dynamics, and situate domestic problems within their international context.

Sunday Interesting Links

  • Critical analysis on the “Fight For $15” minimum wage campaign and the absence of political organization, from Orchestrated Pulse
  • Argument for “selfish solidarity” over “allyship”
  • Article about recent scholarship on the politics of land reform in Afghanistan

Viewpoint’s new movement roundtable on Black liberation

Viewpoint Magazine has released their latest roundtable compilation, this time on the Black liberation struggles that erupted in earnest after the protests and riots in Ferguson.  From the introductory statement:

The eleven groups featured below constitute part of what may be an emerging radical pole in the struggle for black liberation. Even in their analytical divergence and organizational heterogeneity, they yield the outlines of a revolutionary unity, opposed to separatism, whose ambitions exceed that of the misleadership both new and old.

The contributors are mainly groups in major urban areas from all around the United States, and provide radical but nuanced perspectives and reflections on their own organizational experiences and evolution, ally politics, gender dynamics, political economy, and more.

Check it out.

Thursday Interesting Links

  • Some observations on the geopolitical implications of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports
  • In-depth article on the CIA-controlled paramilitary groups in Afghanistan, implicated in killings and disappearances via New York Times

Black insurgent practices in the ’60s, and antifragility

Viewpoint Magazine just released a lengthy and fantastic interview with Joshua Bloom, one of the authors of Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (2013).  They discuss a variety of topics, ranging from social movement theory, the concept of “cultural technologies”, the class compositions of the Panthers and their allies, the anti-imperialist movement in the ’60s, state repression and its role in growing radical organizations, gender politics and patriarchy, and how the Black Lives Matter movement compares with the Panthers.

One discussion I found particularly interesting was the question of what pulled the Panthers apart.  As I wrote in this essay on the political economy of revolutionary struggle, from July 2015, it seems to me that a key dynamic behind the bifurcation of the Panthers was their dependence on donations from wealthier White liberals, and how this forced a large segment of the Panthers to move away from their revolutionary socialist program (and insurrectionist comrades) in order to maintain this material base.

Bloom doesn’t discuss the economic factor, per se, but still identifies moderate support as a key reason why the Panthers were able to survive, and even grow, in the face of massive repression–and why, after this support started to evaporate after moderates began receiving concessions, it became impossible “…to sustain the kind of practices – anti-imperialist claims, coupled with armed self-defense, as well as efforts at local self-governance – that the Black Panther Party [was] championing.”  Bloom seems to generally focus on political and culture support that bolstered the Panthers program, but I suspect that it is still important to zero in on the economic support that this implies, and think about an alternative reality where the Panthers focused more on developing their own autonomous material base from which to fund their programs and defend against the state (and hence, severed their dependent on class alliances).

Also interesting were comments at the very end on the Black Lives Matter movement and the “cultural technology” and “insurgent practice” they have deployed.  Bloom talks about how the insurgent practices deployed by both the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement directly confronted and disrupted the systems they were protesting: civil rights activists directly subverted Jim Crow laws, and Black Power militants directly resisted security forces enforcing racialized containment policies, as well as the structural poverty of the urban ghetto.  In contrast, contemporary protests–specifically, disruption of civilian infrastructure–doesn’t have a direct link with police violence, or other issues affecting Black America.  This makes them difficult to sustain.  Bloom notes how recent protests and actions have unfolded (emphasis added):

Well, on day one, there’s real support, because the mobilizing event is fresh in people’s minds. On day two, there’s still support, but less so. And it progressively decreases from there. By week three there’s almost a consensus reaction of “get out of my way, I’ve got to get my kids to school and I’ve got to get to work.”

It’s obvious in this case that you have disruption that is not coupled in any coherent way with the actual claims of the movement, and does not succeed in leveraging those broader institutional cleavages. There’s all kinds of people upset about all kinds of things, and all kinds of people who think that the way that Black America is being treated at the hands of the police and the legal system is quite alarming and a big problem. But no cultural technology exists for making business as usual impossible in a way that draws all those folks on board, to the point where they’re saying: “and when we get repressed, that repression feels just as important to me as the initial killing felt to me in the first place.”

The last sentence sums it up well:

The only way Black Lives Matter will become a movement, and the only way that we’ll dismantle the New Jim Crow, is if we develop the cultural technologies, the insurgent practices, the repression of which would be just as threatening as the initial events themselves.

Perhaps the kind of insurgent practice Bloom is talking about is related to anti-fragility, which describes a system that has a negative feedback response to sources of stress and harm.  In any case, this is a very elegant way to think about protests, militancy, and the way social movements bring political change and protracted action.