against narratives of necessity

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“The Pitfalls of Liberalism”, by Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)

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.

Kwame Ture
(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.

………let’s………get………weird………….

Tonight: Interest/Planning Meeting for a Direct Action Class!

Direct Action and Radical Social Theory: Interest Meeting

Bash Back! 2009: An Editor’s Note

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.

“safe spaces”

from destroy the scene: BROS FALL BACK


Advocates for Youth have defined a “safe space” as:

“A place where anyone can relax and be fully self-expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability; a place where the rules guard each person’s self-respect and dignity and strongly encourage everyone to respect others.”

“I think many people who use this language either believe that one can create a safe space in this world, or are limited by the language they have picked up in these subcultures. The need for spaces where one can feel comfort, physical security, love, and support is real, but, outside of specific moments, this is impossible without the total destruction of this world.” –VirulentFlowers

We often delude ourselves as punks or radicals; we act as though we’ve made a complete break with our cultures, as if we’ve created a space free of domination. We seem to think that we can simply walk away and leave it all behind. If we really want to actualize the spaces we want we’ll have to do better than that; we’ll need to burn the bridges behind us.

Safe spaces don’t exist. We can attempt to protect each other, and even make moves to screen who we deal with but until we end the world there’s no way we’ll ever be safe, even amongst ourselves. We’ve all gone to similar messed up schools, grown up among creeps, liars and bullies and we can’t simply undo everything that has led us to become the people we’ve become, not without actively unlearning who we are, and without undoing what made us. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t take care of each other, heal each other and empower each other, only that we need to understand our context. That we are surrounded by misogyny, white supremacy and every other form of domination that holds this world together. We should probably acknowledge pre-existing hostilities.

Starting from a place of hostility, what would it mean to keep each other safe, to protect each other in our spaces, to hold our ground and potentially take more?

fragments: Wampanoag, Narragansett, Lenape

ham-sarts

http://youtube.com/user/DeAndreSmithREVO/

http://youtube.com/user/DeAndreSmithREVO is a 2014 sculpture installation by amerikkkan artist DeAndre Smith. The sculpture is individually recreated in one of several different forms each time the viewer requests to see it by entering appropriate search terms into the multinational corporation Google’s popular web search engine. In each Google search he applied a different system of change to each of twenty-four possible combinations of results divided into four types , each containing one of the four basic types of lines Smith used (anti-policing, black liberationist, insurrectionary, and counter-hegemonic). The result is four possible permutations for each of the twenty-four original searches.

Smith has been the subject of hundreds of solo exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world since 1965. For more on DeAndre Smith and his work, we’ve compiled recordings of the artist in conversation with members of the media below.