Tag Archives: police

Communist strategy, international coordination, and the pillar of the Gulf monarchies

Around a year ago Angry Workers of the World published an excellent document around the question of a workers’ insurrection, that looks at the matter in a very concrete and material way.

There is a huge amount in the document that can be discussed, but one thing in particular that stood out was this comment about how to tackle questions of international integration (emphasis added):

Maybe because of the generalisation of the ‘proletarian condition’ of being wage dependent and of the generalisation of ‘parliamentary democracy’ across the globe it now seems obsolete to talk about the impact of uneven development. Everything appears at the same time so similar (global village) and so different, once we look into details. The problem is that we clearly see the effect of regional differences on global class struggle, but:

a) we tend to explain these differences geopolitically or out of ‘national economies’ or even ethnically (oil producing nations, BRIC states, Arab Spring);
b) we celebrate a crude pluralism (‘patchwork of free and unfree labour; all sorts of proletarian income etc.);
c) we don’t develop revolutionary strategies of how regional struggles or struggles within certain stages of development relate to others.

That last bit is key.  This question of how struggles in one part of the world affect other parts of the world is a fascinating and important area of study, and something that I personally started thinking about an awful lot during and after writing an analysis of Saudi Arabia and its historical roots in imperialism.  It turned out that Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf petro-monarchies have played a major and pivotal role in the functioning of global capitalism, particularly in the restructuring toward neoliberalism after the 1970s, as described in detail in Adam Hanieh’s Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States (2011).  If the left-wing movements in the area had been successful in the ’50s and ’60s, it would have changed the course of world history.

Today the Gulf states’ massive oil resources are tightly integrated with global finance capital, as well as with a regional market of precarious migrant labor.  A resurgence in communist struggle in this area would almost certainly destabilize global markets, and such a resurgence would almost certainly be embedded in either struggles by migrant workers from India/Pakistan/Bangladesh/Philippines, or in the struggles of the marginalized Shia populations of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain (who have historically been the backbone of leftist movements in the area).

In the case of migrant worker organizing, this would mean that radicals in South Asia and the Philippines have a critical role to play.  Revolutionary organizing among the migrant workers of the Gulf will require deep connections with the homelands, and the establishment of some kind of “home bases” away from the ruthless police states of the Gulf.

The supply lines of the Gulf’s repressive apparatus are also a key target for disruption, and arguably a necessary condition for successful communist resurgence.  Much of this apparatus is underwritten by the Western military-industrial complex and related surveillance and security organizations and companies.  In the modern era, many of these surveillance/security companies are integrated with the tech industry.  This gives another front on which radical tech workers can fight on.

And speaking of the tech industry, we can “close the loop” on the above analysis by looking at how many Indians migrate to the US to work in the tech industry (especially its core nexus in the San Francisco Bay Area), including in and around security firms.  Perhaps a connection can be made between these migrants, and the lower-skilled migrants in the Gulf; after all both categories tend to hail from the southern Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.  The material and social terrain exists here for a triangle of revolutionary class struggle to be developed between south India, the SF Bay Area, and the Persian Gulf.

This is all of course just one thread in the kind of analysis and strategizing needed to develop an international vision for class struggle.

America’s internal colonialism

I just came across an excellent article on race in America in Vanity Fair, written by an MSNBC host to plug his upcoming book.  A surprising source for an analysis that revives, at least figuratively, the idea that black communities in the US are part of a process of internal colonization.  It’s an odd mixture of Marxian anti-imperialist and liberal discourse.  Here is the thesis:

Nixon was, of course, correct that black Americans “don’t want to be a colony in a nation.” And yet that is what he helped bring about. Over the half-century since Nixon delivered those words, we have created precisely that, and not just for black Americans but for brown Amer­icans and others: a colony in a nation. A territory that isn’t actually free. A place controlled from outside rather than from within. A place where the law is a tool of control, rather than a foundation for prosperity. We have created a political regime—and, in its day-to-day applications, a regime of criminal justice—like the one our Founders inherited and rejected, a political order they spilled their blood to defeat.

And here is an observation on how colonialism, both historic and present, relies on complicity by elite layers of the colonized people:

From India to Vietnam to the Caribbean, colonial systems have always integrated the colonized into government power, while still keeping the colonial subjects in their place.

Half the cops charged in the death of Freddie Gray were black; half were white. The Baltimore police chief is black, as is the mayor. And Freddie Gray, the figure upon whom this authority was wielded?

Well, to those in the neighborhood, there was never any question what race he would be.

This is what distinguishes our era of racial hierarchy, the era of Black Lives Matter and the First Black President. Black political power has never been more fully realized, but blackness feels for so many black people just as dangerous as ever. Black people can live and even prosper in the Nation, but they can never be truly citizens. The threat of the nightstick always lingers, even for, say, a famous and distinguished Harvard professor of African and African-American studies who suddenly found himself in handcuffs on his own stately porch in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just because someone thought he was a burglar.

And a passage comparing and contrasting the rule of law in Nation and Colony:

In the Colony, violence looms and failure to comply can be fatal. Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman who died in a Texas prison cell, was pulled over because she didn’t signal a lane change. Walter Scott, the 50-year-old black man shot in the back as he fled a North Charleston police officer, was pulled over because one of the three brake lights on his car was out. Freddie Gray simply made eye contact with a police officer and started to move swiftly in the other direction.

If you live in the Nation, the criminal-justice system functions like your laptop’s operating system, quietly humming in the background, doing what it needs to do to allow you to be your most efficient, functional self. In the Colony, the system functions like a computer virus: it intrudes constantly, it interrupts your life at the most inconvenient times, and it does this as a matter of course. The disruption itself is normal.

And a rare observation that while the US security apparatus disproportionately targets black people, it is also part of a wider system of repression against the working class in general:

The Colony is overwhelmingly black and brown, but in the wake of financial catastrophe, de-industrialization, and sustained wage stagnation, the tendencies and systems of control developed in the Colony have been deployed over wider and wider swaths of working-class white America. If you released every African-American and Latino prisoner in America’s prisons, the United States would still be one of the most incarcerated societies on earth. And the makeup of those white prisoners is dramatically skewed toward the poor and uneducated. As of 2008, nearly 15 percent of white high-school dropouts aged 20 to 34 were in prison. For white college grads the rate was under 1 percent.

All of this echoes the points I tried to make in an essay I wrote 2 years ago on police violence, about how in numerous working-class communities across the US the police are more or less an exploitative and lawless occupying force.  And there has been much, much more hard evidence on this that has come out since then, ironically in no small part due to the various Department of Justice investigations into the police forces of many major cities like Chicago and Baltimore.  Thanks Obama!?

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.

Sunday Interesting Links

  • Lengthy essay on prison labor, mass incarceration, and labor market dynamics
  • Book reviews on the history of Angola, Cuba, and apartheid South Africa
  • Old essay from 2004 on a radical left environmental strategy in southern conservative states, from the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus
  • Reportage on Indian oligarchs and the arms industry
  • Article on the racial advocacy of New York City’s Health Commissioner, and her old ties with the Black Panther Party

Sunday Interesting Links

  • Overview of the radical autonomous social movements of 1970s Italy, from Issue 5 of Viewpoint
  • Analysis on imperial obsession with women’s clothing in South Asia
  • Report on private security forces in Washington DC
  • Report on efforts in Kuwait to check citizenship via DNA collection
  • Photo-essay on environmental destruction around the world

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.

Thursday Interesting Links

  • The Guardian reportage on anti-gentrification militancy in the Latino community of Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, spear-headed by Maoists
  • A recent strike by Kuwaiti oil workers took around 60% of production offline
  • Alex Tabarrok comments on a recent study showing a drastic decrease over the last 20 years in the number of public firms