lightly edited from Viewpoint Magazine
The following is a dialogue between “Abdul,” “Baaseiah,” and “Nayef,” all mid-20/30-something, African American/Middle Eastern descent/mixed-race, well-travelled artists and experienced activists in/around the Saint Louis City/County area (Ferguson is part of Saint Louis County). This dialogue is a condensed version of a broader discussion between participants in the Saint Louis-area WyldFire! Collective of the questions/prompts provided by Viewpoint’s inquiry. Names have been changed to protect our friends.
What is the history of your group? What actions have you organized, how has your group changed, and what are your plans for the future?
A: I’m not quite sure how to answer this…
B: Well, “we” are not really a group, exactly.
A: Right. I think of us and our friends as a group of Midwest radicals who started working together in the streets of Ferguson after Mike Brown got shot. And when we work together, it’s because we have similar feelings toward what’s happening in the world around us and in our lives.
B: I guess we outta admit a few of us already knew each other before Mike Brown was murdered.
A: Right, some of us met at the rally and pissed off street demo in StL that turned into a small riot when the George Zimmerman verdict came back “not guilty.”
B: Those were good times. Also some of our friends did Food Not Bombs stuff. They met back at Saint Louis’ Occupy. Some of us also just knew each other from around town. Saint Louis really is a small town pretending to be a big city.
A: I feel like what our friends had in common when we came together wasn’t so much political or ideological, not in an organized or a theoretical way, so much as we had some common feelings toward what we were experiencing, in life and in those moments in the streets.
B: Right, we came together basically because we recognized each other in the streets from past stuff, and we were doing a lot of the same sort of stuff out there – tagging slogans on the walls, handing out bandanas and advising some of the folks out there at night to mask-up or take out the cameras, or treating people who’d been teargassed, stuff like that. Yeah, it was less political, and more emotional and practical; about keeping safe together and about how we felt.
A: Well, what about the second part of that question?
B: About the actions we organized? Well, aside from what we already talked about, we did some cooking and food distro with some of our friends in a local Food Not Bombs group under the burnt-out QuickTrip overhang a few nights after Mike Brown got shot. They were there two nights in a row, but the second night we had a table on one side handing out fresh food, and they were barbecuing on the other side and we shared food and war stories and celebrated till the QT parking lot got teargassed later that night.
A: Yeah, that was fun. It was like, some sort of celebration that evening; like a parade of resistance.
B: There were floats, literally, small floats built out of paper mache and whatever else people could get ahold of, mounted on top of cars and in truck beds.
A: And that Thomas the Train thing…
B: “The Peace Train,” that was great!
A: Our actions, aside from the one we coordinated with Food Not Bombs that evening, were not so much “organized” as they were spontaneous convergences of opportunity, need, proximity and happenstance.
B: That’s an overly-complicated way of saying we flash-mobbed. Mass texts to a few dozen friends when the shit goes down!
A: What about “our” future?
B: Do “we” have a future, exactly? I mean, we’re probably gonna keep on doing what we gonna do, just like each of us did before we came together around Mike Brown’s murder.
There are other tendencies that may be in a position to co-opt the movement –it is widely noted that nonprofits play a demobilizing role in social movements, mediating between action in the streets and municipal city governments whose funding they depend on. Because nonprofits have resources that grassroots initiatives often don’t, they position themselves as the leadership, while constituting social bases of support in ways that are more difficult for radicals. How can this co-opting be avoided? How can radicals develop the same bases of support that many nonprofits enjoy?
B: I don’t know if we should be looking to get a “support base” like the nonprofits have, acting like them or trying to become them or become like them; I’m very uncomfortable with that.
A: I feel like trying to imitate the nonprofits, or trying to replicate their successes, basically risks becoming them, perpetuating a sort of cycle of recuperation, settling in, professionalism, selling out and treating other people in the struggle as instrumental – like tools to be used by a vanguard who presume they know better.
B: Yeah, and I’m not sure that the bases of support those nonprofit types have even is social, so much as it’s political; it’s professional, like, a service-provider sort of relationship, outsourcing our agency and submitting it to their leadership, and substituting genuine social relations between human beings with organizational, almost military command culture.
A: So the solution lies somewhere in escaping that cycle of institutional violence and focusing on actual social relations between individuals in the context of their communities?
B: That, and more. I think a solution might be something like focusing on the social relations between people as we are now, and on our aspirations, our dreams; how we wish to be. We need to do the long, hard work of finding new ways to resist the violence of representation and carve out spaces for ourselves and each other to take direct, effective action in our own lives and social space.
A: When we are talking about movement, though, does that mean blowing up what you just described to a larger scale?
B: I think it means not being afraid to call out those who would destroy our uprisings by their attempts to control them. There’s nothing to be gained from arbitrary “unity” with those who’ll destroy us if they’re allowed to. They’re as much an enemy as the police, the institutions they serve (often the same institutions the NGO types get their money from), and the ideologies of those individuals and institutions, like racism and misogyny.
N: We don’t play the numbers game, or subscribe to a theory whereby you need a “mass movement,” that with enough numbers, will shift society in a meaningful way. We’re not anti-organizational, we’re just not in the business of recruitment. Our efforts are instead directed towards the creation of spaces or situations, within insurrections, uprisings, or the quiet that sometimes comes after, to expand the possibilities that people consider legitimate forms of resistance, and to let people know that there are others who think differently than the NGOs. We don’t have too much of a desire to live outside these moments of necessity.
A: We do have our own programs, not under this collective name, but through various other groups. Food Not Bombs collective and Saint Louis Solidarity Network are both important, and though they have little digital presence, they are a strong, familiar presence on the ground for working class people. Sometimes we show up to big demonstrations and give away food, water, and political literature. These efforts can be easy to set up, but they can keep people energized for a demonstration as it runs late into the evening. Scaling up, these groups run [a] monthly mutual aid event, collecting spoilage donations and seasonal clothes. Together, these programs fulfill people’s immediate needs, while also using the space to share ideas and politics. At the distribution, we often try to have talks – about rape culture, the protests, whatever. The emphasis for these events is not so much gaining numbers around our banner or ideology, but using these as opportunities to meet co-conspirators, and to change ideas about what acceptable resistance looks like, and the scope of what we’re fighting against.
An important turning point for the Black freedom struggle in the 1960s were the urban rebellions in Watts, Detroit, Newark, and dozens of other cities, which involved a great deal of property destruction and looting. Much has changed since then, but the political economy of urban development is still a central dynamic of racial inequality in places like Baltimore, Oakland and Ferguson. Are riots also still politically relevant, or has their meaning changed? And what about those places with similar conditions where major riots have not happened, like New York or Philadelphia? What other metrics might we use to measure the development of struggle beyond street militancy?
B: Yes, riots do work – as history shows – and are absolutely necessary if we’re to move past tired old tactics that never worked. Rather than asking whether or not rioting works, I think the real question needs to be why it is that we get herded into worthless peace-policed and permitted protests on the sidewalks? The point of protest oughta be to threaten, a last warning to those in authority before we end them. If we’ve got no teeth and no backbone, I don’t see the point. Street militancy shows we’ve got backbone, and riots show we’ve got teeth.
A: Yeah, militancy is effective. I look at it in terms of the QT that was burned to the ground. Before that happened, Mike Brown was any other Black teen slain by the police. But people did something that the media, police, and many local people didn’t expect, and I’ve met some young people who carried out those actions who seemed surprised by their own actions. It generated a lot of media attention, and changed the way people respond to these murders.
N: Right, but how do we measure effectiveness? I’ve been wondering if something that was effective earlier will always be effective later. Capitalism and the state shift and change as we throw ourselves against it, responding to us. It’s a many-headed hydra, with each head looking different from the last. It seems that after awhile it becomes inoculated against certain tactics and strategies. I mean, as powerful as the riots were, they’re worth thinking about this way, too. They beat us and fired tear gas at us, though we gave them a good run, as well. But the next day, our muscles hurt, we’re sore, and some friends are behind bars, but the institutions are still in place. And in four weeks, our efforts are completely exhausted, and those institutions show no signs of dissipating. In the long run, we’re not sure what’s going to work.
B: One concept that some of us were toying with before all of this kicked off in Ferguson was “community unionism.” We were kind of grasping for straws, but thought that maybe an answer to the increasing precarity of workers, and the epic failure of trade or labor unionism to revitalize itself, would be a kind of community based organization. We had this idea that, instead of going to workers at the point of production, we could go to where they live. By organizing at the neighborhood level, people can choose to focus on issues of racism, of cultural problems, and have an explicit focus on what’s left outside of mainstream politics. The goal wouldn’t be to pass some new kind of laws, but to bring people together, to change our own hearts. As the pitched street battles fade, we are thinking of turning back to community unionism.
The movements of the 1960s and 1970s against racism and police violence led to the emergence of new kinds of organization – including, just to name a few, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Revolutionary Action Movement, the Black Panther Party, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, the Third World Women’s Alliance, and, for white radicals, the Students for a Democratic Society. In the 1970s these groups transformed into new revolutionary organizations, which were often multi-racial alliances between Black, Chican@, Puerto Rican, and Asian groups. Do you see new organizations emerging today, and if so, what is their relationship to the broader Black Lives Matter movement?
A: I do see new organizations forming, all across the board, though I don’t know if the organizations are the best place to look to understand the changing dynamics of resistance culture.
B: We’re better off looking to the spontaneous outbursts in the absence of organizational influence or control, and I don’t just mean acts of violence. Like the night after Mike Brown got shot, Ferguson PD came down into the neighborhood and broke up a candlelight vigil using dogs, tear gas, flashbang grenades and riot gear. There was a very diverse crowd present at the candlelight vigil, and in response many very enraged people surged up the street into the QuikTrip and burned it to the ground.
But what was really amazing was seeing what people did in the aftermath, as QT burned. We saw teenagers handing out food and medicine and hygiene supplies to folks in need in the neighborhood, offering looted cigarettes, booze and gum to strangers, spontaneously dancing and embracing in the streets. Back then that’s where we met some of the folks who became the dearest of friends, and a lot of people bonded over that.
A: I don’t know anyone who’s ever told me they bonded over long, arduous meetings or micromanaged protests managed by NGO types.
N: As a result of these experiences, I think we tend to associate organization with the dis-organizing imperative of the NGOs, the clergy, or even the Revolutionary Communist Party, [Spartacist] League, and the Progressive Labor Party. Whenever there’s a hint of activity in Ferguson, they’re bused in from Chicago, Milwaukee, Boston, or who knows where, and they arrive to bicker with each other and local militant youth.
I often hear and recognize someone on the metro from these various events, and we will exchange a look or smile. I think that in a way, I can see how these kind of relationships are a kind of hidden organization, which is different from those who demand that you do work under their own banner before they take you and your ideas seriously.
Last May, we published an analysis of the uprising in Baltimore, focusing in on the dynamics of white solidarity. The essay confronted a tension pervasive throughout the movement, on the simultaneous necessity of strategic alliances between different struggles of oppressed and exploited peoples, and the possibility that including other groups might obviate the specificity of anti-Black racism. As the movement has developed, it’s proven to have strong resonances with non-Black people, drawing in participation and support from a range of different sectors and struggles and sometimes offering models for others. How do we maintain the resonance between different struggles with shared antagonisms, without effacing what is specific to this movement?
A: For starters, I don’t think there’s any future for struggle in the ally politic model.
B: Right. That model only reinforces radical other-ing and white liberal guilt/savior complexes. When I think about the future of movement, I think a lot about the accomplices model, where what brings us together is our common interest in resistance, our common insistence on taking direct action toward liberation, ourselves, and the common risk we take as individuals together in our pursuit of liberation.
N: This can be tricky when you’re standing next to someone who might be a liberal or a Garveyite, and they begin to chant something that indicates that they’re not in the same struggle as you are. But when your shoulder to shoulder and up against the wall, it’s hard to refuse their comradeship in that moment. We’ve had to learn a certain kind of ideological fluidity, where we can work with people in some contexts, and have to challenge them or separate ourselves from them in other ones. Unfortunately, while there’s a real need for debate within the movement about tactics, strategy, and larger orientation, these debates unfold in really disruptive ways. These conversations between participants in the movement have been really difficult to have.
A: Some of these problems come from reductionism surrounding “white privilege” analysis. It’s an important dynamic for us to recognize, but [the] line that everyone needs to shut up and follow Black leadership, which has in practice meant follow an established liberal leadership, has its own problems.
N: As an immigrant with brown skin, as a Palestinian, the kind of oppression olympics built into the model of ally politics disturbs me politically. To have a college educated white person shouting at me and my friends because we’re not perceived to be as Black as other people, has meant surrendering all the momentum to liberals. It’s disheartening, because a lot of people are becoming invested in it, including the extreme Black-white dichotomies as a way to understand race.
A: Like some of the meanings attached to the old word “comrade,” I think the concept of the accomplice gives us the space we all need for difference, the autonomy to take individual action, and a unity based on the actions we have and will take, not on some arbitrary abstraction or on identity categories – which are far from homogenous or unified in their interests and pursuit of those interests.
B: I remember when Nelly, a rapper who is actually from Saint Louis, came out to speak last fall in Ferguson, at the [Canfield] apartment complex. He was saying how important it is to go to college, to get a job, to become entrepreneurs, and to infiltrate the police forces by becoming police themselves. As if that’s ever changed their core function! And everyone there was just jeering at him, and so he responded with something like: “you have options.” I remember a woman in the crowd fired back saying, “no, you’re rich, you have options.” I think that kind of exchange was emblematic for what we’ve been dealing with out here; we run up against misleaders and celebrity activists that are brought out to validate the aspiring leadership of locals. Linking up with marginalized and working class people is the best way to fight that dynamic, because it’s those people who are themselves saying ‘to hell with that leadership!’
via Tumblr, August 2013
Jerry Koch, currently incarcerated for grand jury resistance and supported by many across the country, has contributed repeatedly to the perpetuation of rape culture, misogyny, and white supremacy within the anarchist / left radical community in New York. We are writing in solidarity with those who have been harmed directly by Jerry, those whose abusers and rapists Jerry has defended, those whose rape revenge tactics have been exposed and condemned by Jerry, those whom Jerry has publicly targeted for their feminism in ways that directly expose them to state repression and social ostracization, and those who have been harmed by comrades of Jerry’s at his direct instigation.
Our aim here is to publicly name Jerry’s violent and statist behaviors and to challenge the narrative of pristine martyrdom that has been built around his grand jury resistance. But we also wish to show that it is possible to be both in solidarity and in antagonism with people and movements. If we cannot hold this complexity, all fractions of resistance and revolt will be easily obliterated from the inside.
The state is not our only enemy: Misogyny, white supremacy, capitalism, and other forms of violence and domination replicate state structures on both broad and intimate scales, even within radical communities. Today, we see that grand juries are being used with increasing and alarming frequency to target radicals. This tactic of intimidation is not new, and neither is resistance to it. We unequivocally support all forms of non-cooperation with the state, and we recognize Jerry’s refusal to snitch as an act of solidarity. However, the solidarity he has demonstrated in resisting the grand jury does not wipe away his history of misogynist, racist, and counterrevolutionary actions.
We stand in opposition to grand juries while also denouncing rape apologists. We are in solidarity with Jerry’s grand jury resistance and we are against his disgusting, vicious, and destructive actions of the near past. We are comfortable in this contradictory position of solidarity and antagonism: It is the position in which we live every day. There are many of us here. We encourage all comrades to realize that you do not need to ignore someone’s destructive behavior just because they are under attack from an enemy. To argue that Jerry’s repression at the hands of the state trumps or mitigates his misogynist and racist actions is a grave political mistake.
In recent decades, grand juries have frequently targeted participants and leaders of Black liberation struggles. Jerry’s comrades and supporters have portrayed him as an heir to this legacy of Black resistance. This is preposterous and disturbing. Jerry has ignored race and gender entirely in his political positions and actions. He has actively oppressed people of color in radical communities and has never publicly acknowledged or taken responsibility for this, nor have his peers openly confronted him about his racist behavior. Jerry and his supporters have referenced the history of Black and Brown liberation in relation to Jerry’s incarceration without self-reflection or accountability, and in so doing they participate in a long legacy of appropriating, silencing, and watering down that history. Through their sloppy, de-politicized invocation of Black struggles, they contribute actively to the perpetuation of white supremacy – against which those struggles were and continue to be waged. They also reveal their true interest: the consolidation of a white revolution.
Supporting our comrades doesn’t just mean supporting them when they’re in a difficult situation. It also means confronting them when they are reproducing the very structures they purport to fight against. We must challenge ourselves and one another to do the work necessary to prevent ourselves from becoming unwitting allies of the state, capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy. We all make mistakes, but when any of us is allowed to consistently destroy and suppress true revolt, that person and their silent peers are all guilty.
Community support means standing by grand jury resistors and acting in solidarity with comrades who have experienced violence within the spaces we share. Get used to this uncomfortable position. It is the position of struggle.
For additional perspectives, check out the following resources, all available online: “Why Misogynists Make Great Informants: How Gender Violence on the Left Enables State Violence in Radical Movements”; “Betrayal: A Critical Analysis of Rape Culture in Anarchist Subcultures”; “The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist Communities”; and “Vikki Law: Resisting Gender Violence Without Cops or Prisons”.
from the book Stokely Speaks: From Black Power to Pan Africanism, 1969
Whenever one writes about a problem in the United States, especially concerning the racial atmosphere, the problem written about is usually black people, that they are either extremist, irresponsible, or ideologically naive.
What we want to do here is to talk about white society, and the liberal segment of white society, because we want to prove the pitfalls of liberalism, that is, the pitfalls of liberals in their political thinking.
Whenever articles are written, whenever political speeches are given, or whenever analyses are made about a situation, it is assumed that certain people of one group, either the left or the right, the rich or the poor, the whites or the blacks, are causing polarization. The fact is that conditions cause polarization, and that certain people can act as catalysts to speed up the polarization; for example, Rap Brown or Huey Newton can be a catalyst for speeding up the polarization of blacks against whites in the United States, but the conditions are already there. George Wallace can speed up the polarization of white against blacks in America, but again, the conditions are already there.
Many people want to know why, out of the entire white segment of society, we want to criticize the liberals. We have to criticize them because they represent the liaison between other groups, between the oppressed and the oppressor. The liberal tries to become an arbitrator, but he is incapable of solving the problems. He promises the oppressor that he can keep the oppressed under control; that he will stop them from becoming illegal (in this case illegal means violent). At the same time, he promises the oppressed that he will be able to alleviate their suffering—in due time. Historically, of course, we know this is impossible, and our era will not escape history.
The most perturbing question for the liberal is the question of violence. The liberal’s initial reaction to violence is to try to convince the oppressed that violence is an incorrect tactic, that violence will not work, that violence never accomplishes anything. The Europeans took America through violence and through violence they established the most powerful country in the world. Through violence they maintain the most powerful country in the world. It is absolutely absurd for one to say that violence never accomplishes anything.
Today power is defined by the amount of violence one can bring against one’s enemy—that is how you decide how powerful a country is; power is defined not by the number of people living in a country, it is not based on the amount of resources to be found in that country, it is not based upon the good will of the leaders or the majority of that people. When one talks about a powerful country, one is talking precisely about the amount of violence that that country can heap upon its enemy. We must be clear in our minds about that. Russia is a powerful country, not because there are so many millions of Russians but because Russia has great atomic strength, great atomic power, which of course is violence. America can unleash an infinite amount of violence, and that is the only way one considers America powerful. No one considers Vietnam powerful, because Vietnam cannot unleash the same amount of violence. Yet if one wanted to define power as the ability to do, it seems to me that Vietnam is much more powerful than the United States. But because we have been conditioned by Western thoughts today to equate power with violence, we tend to do that at all times, except when the oppressed begin to equate power with violence—then it becomes an “incorrect” equation.
Most societies in the West are not opposed to violence. The oppressor is only opposed to violence when the oppressed talk about using violence against the oppressor. Then the question of violence is raised as the incorrect means to attain one’s ends. Witness, for example, that Britain, France, and the United States have time and time again armed black people to fight their enemies for them. France armed Senegalese in World War II, Britain of course armed Africa and the West Indies, and the United States always armed the Africans living in the United States. But that is only to fight against their enemy, and the question of violence is never raised. The only time the United States or England or France will become concerned about the question of violence is when the people whom they armed to kill their enemies will pick up those arms against them. For example, practically every country in the West today is giving guns either to Nigeria or to Biafra. They do not mind giving those guns to those people as long as they use them to kill each other, but they will never give them guns to kill another white man or to fight another white country.
The way the oppressor tries to stop the oppressed from using violence as a means to attain liberation is to raise ethical or moral questions about violence. I want to state emphatically here that violence in any society is neither moral nor is it ethical. It is neither right nor is it wrong. It is just simply a question of who has the power to legalize violence.
It is not a question of whether it is right to kill or it is wrong to kill; killing goes on. Let me give an example. If I were in Vietnam, if I killed thirty yellow people who were pointed out to me by white Americans as my enemy, I would be given a medal. I would become a hero. I would have killed America’s enemy—but America’s enemy is not my enemy. If I were to kill thirty white policemen in Washington, D.C. who have been brutalizing my people and who are my enemy, I would get the electric chair. It is simply a question of who has the power to legalize violence. In Vietnam our violence is legalized by white America. In Washington, D.C., my violence is not legalized, because Africans living in Washington, D.C., do not have the power to legalize their violence.
I used that example only to point out that the oppressor never really puts an ethical or moral judgment on violence, except when the oppressed picks up guns against the oppressor. For the oppressor, violence is simply the expedient thing to do.
Is it not violent for a child to go to bed hungry in the richest country in the world? I think that is violent. But that type of violence is so institutionalized that it becomes a part of our way of life. Not only do we accept poverty, we even find it normal. And that again is because the oppressor makes his violence a part of the functioning society. But the violence of the oppressed becomes disruptive. It is disruptive to the ruling circles of a given society. And because it is disruptive it is therefore very easy to recognize, and therefore it becomes the target of all those who in fact do not want to change the society. What we want to do for our people, the oppressed, is to begin to legitimize violence in their minds. So that for us violence against the oppressor will be expedient. This is very important, because we have all been brainwashed into accepting questions of moral judgment when violence is used against the oppressor.
If I kill in Vietnam I am allowed to go free; it has been legalized for me. It has not been legitimatized in my mind. I must legitimatize it in my own mind, and even though it is legal I may never legitimatize in in my own mind. There are a lot of people who came back from Vietnam, who have killed where killing was legalized, but who still have psychological problems over the fact that they have killed. We must understand, however, that to legitimatize killing in one’s mind does not make it legal. For example, I have completely legitimatized in my mind the killing of white policemen who terrorize black communities. However, if I get caught killing a white policeman, I have to go to jail, because I do not as yet have the power to legalize that type of killing. The oppressed must begin to legitimatize that type of violence in the minds of our people, even though it is illegal at this time, and we have to keep striving every chance we get to attain that end.
Now, I think the biggest problem with the white liberal in America, and perhaps the liberal around the world, is that his primary task is to stop confrontation, stop conflicts, not to redress grievances, but to stop confrontation. And this is very clear, it must become very, very clear in all our minds. Because once we see what the primary task of the liberal is, then we can see the necessity of not wasting time with him. His primary role is to stop confrontation. Because the liberal assumes a priori that a confrontation is not going to solve the problem. This of course, is an incorrect assumption. We know that.
We need not waste time showing that this assumption of the liberals is clearly ridiculous. I think that history has shown that confrontation in many cases has resolved quite a number of problems – look at the Russian revolution, the Cuban revolution, the Chinese revolution. In many cases, stopping confrontation really means prolonging suffering.
The liberal is so preoccupied with stopping confrontation that he usually finds himself defending and calling for law and order, the law and order of the oppressor. Confrontation would disrupt the smooth functioning of the society and so the politics of the liberal leads him into a position where he finds himself politically aligned with the oppressor rather than with the oppressed.
The reason the liberal seeks to stop confrontation—and this is the second pitfall of liberalism—is that his role, regardless of what he says, is really to maintain the status quo, rather than to change it. He enjoys economic stability from the status quo and if he fights for change he is risking his economic stability. What the liberal is really saying is that he hopes to bring about justice and economic stability for everyone through reform, that somehow the society will be able to keep expanding without redistributing the wealth.
This leads to the third pitfall of the liberal. The liberal is afraid to alienate anyone, and therefore he is incapable of presenting any clear alternative.
Look at the past presidential campaign in the United States between Nixon, Wallace, and Humphrey. Nixon and Humphrey, because they try to consider themselves some sort of liberals, did not offer any alternatives. But Wallace did, he offered clear alternatives. Because Wallace was not afraid to alienate, he was not afraid to point out who had caused errors in the past, and who should be punished. The liberals are afraid to alienate anyone in society. They paint such a rosy picture of society and they tell us that while things have been bad in the past, somehow they can become good in the future without restructuring society at all.
What the liberal really wants is to bring about change which will not in any way endanger his position. The liberal says, “It is a fact that you are poor, and it is a fact that some people are rich but we can make you rich without affecting those people who are rich”. I do not know how poor people are going to get economic security without affecting the rich in a given country, unless one is going to exploit other peoples. I think that if we followed the logic of the liberal to its conclusion we would find that all we can get from it is that in order for a society to become equitable we must begin to exploit other peoples.
Fourth, I do not think that liberals understand the difference between influences and power, and the liberals get confused seeking influence rather than power. The conservatives on the right wing, or the fascists, understand power, though, and they move to consolidate power while the liberal pushes for influence.
Let us examine the period before civil rights legislation in the United States. There was a coalition of the labor movement, the student movement, and the church for the passage of certain civil rights legislation; while these groups formed a broad liberal coalition, and while they were able to exert their influence to get certain legislation passed, they did not have the power to implement the legislation once it became law. After they got certain legislation passed they had to ask the people whom they were fighting to implement the very things that they had not wanted to implement in the past. The liberal fights for influence to bring about change, not for the power to implement the change. If one really wants to change a society, one does not fight to influence change and then leave the change to someone else to bring about. If the liberals are serious they must fight for power and not for influence.
These pitfalls are present in his politics because the liberal is part of the oppressor. He enjoys the status quo; while he himself may not be actively oppressing other people, he enjoys the fruits of that oppression. And he rhetorically tries to claim the he is disgusted with the system as it is.
While the liberal is part of the oppressor, he is the most powerless segment within that group. Therefore when he seeks to talk about change, he always confronts the oppressed rather than the oppressor. He does not seek to influence the oppressor, he seeks to influence the oppressed. He says to the oppressed, time and time again, “You don’t need guns, you are moving too fast, you are too radical, you are too extreme.” He never says to the oppressor, “You are too extreme in your treatment of the oppressed,” because he is powerless among the oppressors, even if he is part of that group; but he has influence, or, at least, he is more powerful than the oppressed, and he enjoys this power by always cautioning, condemning, or certainly trying to direct and lead the movements of the oppressed.
To keep the oppressed from discovering his pitfalls the liberal talks about humanism. He talks about individual freedom, about individual relationships. One cannot talk about human idealism in a society that is run by fascists. If one wants a society that is in fact humanistic, one has to ensure that the political entity, the political state, is one that will allow humanism. And so if one really wants a state where human idealism is a reality, one has to be able to control the political state. What the liberal has to do is to fight for power, to go for the political state and then, once the liberal has done this, he will be able to ensure the type of human idealism in the society that he always talks about.
Because of the above reasons, because the liberal is incapable of bringing about the human idealism which he preaches, what usually happens is that the oppressed, whom he has been talking to finally becomes totally disgusted with the liberal and begins to think that the liberal has been sent to the oppressed to misdirect their struggle, to rule them. So whether the liberal likes it or not, he finds himself being lumped, by the oppressed, with the oppressor—of course he is part of that group. The final confrontation, when it does come about, will of course include the liberal on the side of the oppressor. Therefore if the oppressed really wants a revolutionary change, he has no choice but to rid himself of those liberals in his rank.
(aka Stokely Carmichael)
Kwame Ture was born Stokely Carmichael on June 29, 1941 in Port of Spain, Trinidad, the son of Adolphus and Mabel Carmichael. He immigrated to the United States in 1952 with his family and settled in New York, New York. He graduated from the academically elite Bronx High School of Science in 1960 and made the decision to attend Howard University. Howard University conferred on him a Bachelor of Science Degree in Philosophy in 1964.
It was while in Washington that Stokely became deeply involved in the “Freedom Rides,” “Sit-Ins,” and other demonstrations to challenge segregation in American society. He participated with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG). He later joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and was elected its National Chairman in June 1966. While in Greenville, Mississippi, he along with his friend and colleague Willie Ricks, rallied the cry “Black Power” which became the most popular slogan of the Civil Rights era. Consequently, he became the primary spokesman for the Black Power ideology. In 1967, he coauthored with Charles V. Hamilton, Black Power, the Politics of Liberation in America. That same year, Stokely was disassociated from SNCC and he became the Prime Minister of the Black Panthers, headquartered in Oakland, California. He soon became disenchanted with the Panthers and moved to Guinea, West Africa.
While residing in Africa, Stokely Carmichael changed his name to “Kwame Ture” to honor Kwame Nkrumah, who led Ghana to independence from Britain, and, Sekou Toure, who was President of Guinea and his mentor. For more than 30 years, Ture led the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party and devoted the rest of his life to Pan Africanism, a movement to uproot the inequities of racism for people of African descent and to develop an economic and cultural coalition among the African Diaspora.
In 1998, at the age of 57, Kwame Ture died from complications of prostate cancer. To the end he answered the telephone, “ready for the revolution.” His marriage to Miriam Makeba and Guinean physician Marlyatou Barry ended in divorce. He has one son, Bokar, who resides in the United States.
from Queer Ultraviolence: A Bash Back! Anthology, by Fray Baroque & Tegan Eanelli
On Saturday night of the convergence, a now-infamous queer dance party on the El train turned into a spontaneous and illegal march in the streets. Hundreds of people paraded through Chicago’s assimilationist gay neighborhood, Boystown. The atmosphere was joyous, with people dancing wildly and wearing lingerie as masks. Some were completely naked except for their face coverings. The police subsequently attacked the peaceful yet illegal march. People near the back of the march began to place newspaper boxes into the street to stop the police from running queers down. At this point, shameful people in the crowd removed the boxes and screamed, “This is not polite!” With the boxes back on the sidewalk, the pigs were able to injure participants with their cars. The march ended with four people in jail, and one person hospitalized after a police cruiser intentionally drove over their foot.
The following morning, leftist-seeming elements at the convergence ﬂung wild conspiracy theories to disrupt the original radical predisposition of Bash Back! Although there was no black bloc and not a single window was smashed, spineless “outside agitators” claimed they were tricked into participating in a black bloc, and put into harm’s way. Some thought the march was oppressive because there was no consensus to have a riot. First of all, if those people thought that march was a riot, they clearly have no idea what a riot is. Had there been a spontaneous riot, what are the rioters supposed to do? Are they supposed to sit in the middle of the street, in front of the police and vote on whether or not to ﬁght the police?
Many white attendees who had ﬂocked to Chicago from the coasts claimed the spontaneous Bash Back! action was racist. When queer people of color from the Midwest countered otherwise, they were met with a brief silence followed by white people proclaiming that the “black bloc” was indeed racist. These “anti-racist” whites added that the partiers on the train exposed Black people to queerness, which was also “racist.” By the logic of these white “anti-racists,” there must be no queer people of color. The whites and cisgendered people insisted the action was also transphobic, despite trans people telling them not to speak for trans people. Some men even went on to call the actions of women “manarchist.” In a tone implying his guilt, Eric Stanley, of the defunct Gay Shame San Francisco, and now a lecturer at the University of California Santa Cruz, cattily said to a Bash Back! organizer, “Just so you know, people are descending upon Bash Back! to destroy it.”
Lez-be-real here. Propaganda for the convergence said things like, “You bring the balaclavas, orgies, and riot.” There were posters with images of riﬂes, riots, and people brandishing assorted weapons. Had any one of the people who objected to the street march on the basis that it was oppressive or unsafe read a flier, poster, communiqué, or for that matter, anything Bash Back! produced? lt was absolutely clear what kind of people would be attending the Convergence and the tactics Bash Back! advocated were even more clear.
Liberal provocateurs used any sort of identity politics to shade their own cowardice. When the very people these leftists claimed to represent (people of color, transfolks) countered the liberal narrative, they were silenced in the name of anti-racism and trans-solidarity. Rather than admitting their fear and guilt, “anarcho-liberals” fall back on racist tactics of refusal. They ignore, isolate, and alienate people of color (minus a few tokens) to create their own Twilight Zone anti-racist narrative. The Bash Back! tendency was the antithesis of leftist identity politics. The 2009 Convergence was when these two tendencies finally came head to head.