ATTN: BernieBros of all genders, races, and sexualities:
ATTN: BernieBros of all genders, races, and sexualities:
Congratulations on the heroic struggles you waged in 2016 on behalf of a political revolution!
We were not successful in the narrow sense of winning over the Democratic party, and this is a time of great peril, but we must now struggle against the temptations of despair and cynicism.
Celebrate, instead, and build on the mass mobilization that formed itself around the Sanders campaign, in which millions of Americans recognized in each other a desire for real social transformation.
Make no mistake: we are in this predicament not because of the power of a resurgent American fascism alone, but mainly because of the craven and feckless (lack of) strategy of the so-called neoliberal wing of the Democratic party.
The Democrats have little mass support, have essentially conceded the fight for state government, have collapsed as an effective opposition to the Republican Right, and are led by the rankest and most cynical opportunists.
Struggles to push, transform, or take over the Democrat party are worthwhile only insofar as they do not distract from the main struggle: to build and sustain mass mobilizations that raise political consciousness, invent and deploy innovative forms of political education, and make effective connections to other mass movements that already exist in the United States.
But in early 2017 the movement for a political revolution in the U.S. is at a crossroads: will it continue to invest its hopes in the failing Democrat party? Or will it commit itself to building a genuine, independent, revolutionary mass movement? The latter must be the focus, even as we continue to engage tactically in reform efforts within the Democrat party.
The Sanders momentum was only one of three major developments that advanced the peoples’ struggle in 2016: it should be analyzed in context with the various uprisings and mass actions taken in the movements for Black lives, and the struggles against environmental devastation and planetary destruction instituted around questions of Native sovereignty at Standing Rock and elsewhere.
*Each* of these movements, including the Sanders campaign, had feminist agitation as a central and essential component. Do not give quarter to the lie that the Left is a refuge and fount for misogyny.
There are of course many contradictions in our movement(s), and much struggle to come: we all exist, find ourselves in, a racist, imperialist, transmisogynist, class society where the state is waging an unrelenting war against the poor. We have a lot of work to do in developing a mass consciousness that can effectively liberate ourselves from the distortions and fantasies that necessarily shape our perception in such a false society.
We all experienced in real time the dispiriting and atomizing spectacle of the inauguration, its revival of ancient fascist themes and its jaw-dropping menace and stupidity.
The next day we all experienced something that will turn out to be far more important in the long run.
The Women’s Marches held in D.C. and in something close to a thousand other cities around the world demonstrated the unstoppable power of the mass mobilizations of millions of people committed to realizing a society that strives for peace, justice, equality, and liberation.
The Women’s March, everywhere it manifested itself, showed the unlimited possibilities of fully mobilized people power: people seized and held for a full day both the capital of the American Empire and dozens of global cities, simultaneously across the planet.
Correctly understood, the Women’s Marches of January 21 will act as a catalyst for movement building throughout our society and around the world. In chemistry, a catalyst is not an element or compound that initiates a reaction, but one that accelerates a reaction that is already taking place.
As someone said (@cushbomb maybe?), we’re all on the accelerationist train now, whether we like it (or were prepared for it) or not.
Accelerationists believe that the best way to move towards a new society is to intensify the contradictions of the old one and push the machinery of capitalist exploitation to its necessary end.
As a strategy of the Left, this is a dangerous flirtation both with fascism and racism and with capitalism’s relentlessly self-revolutionizing dynamic; it can come dangerously close to the fantasy that socialism will magically or spontaneously emerge from the dynamics of capitalist development alone.
But whether we like it or not, we are on an accelerationist track, and the new administration, although certainly unpredictable, can be counted on to privatize everything it can, intensify the extractive machinery that endangers the entire planet, bolster and embolden the repressive police power, and shred the last vestiges of legal protections for the poor, disabled, women, racial and sexual minorities, the environment, workers, and so on.
But there are two kinds of accelerationism, two tracks running together. As the dynamics of exploitation and expropriation accelerate to the breaking point, we can adopt an accelerationism of the movement, an acceleration of our own mobilizations.
Angela Davis, in her speech to the Women’s March on Saturday, gave expression to the kind of acceleration of movement building we need to practice in opposition to the accelerated power of capitalist dominion and police repression.
As we organize and mobilize, we have to carefully consider and debate effective strategies going forward.
I think we all can sense a certain growing futility in continuing to engage and undermine, ridicule and disprove, the opportunist lies and self-interested distortions of the media-political class.
Sincere liberals are totally worth engaging and should be, if possible, radicalized and brought on board! Left-liberal unity at this moment is crucial to building real movements!
Liberals should know: leftists want the same things (universal rights, human dignity, equality and fairness, an end to racial and gender oppression) as you, and now is the time to stand together and fight!
(We disagree with liberals that these values can be won within the frameworks of policy, public debate, and existing law. Leftists know that they cannot be won without a more general transformation of the distribution of economic and political power within the society.
If there is a time when liberals can see the ultimate futility of hoping for change from the existing mechanisms of power, it is now.)
What, then, is to be done? The old question, relevant now more than ever, is a topic for continued debate and reflection. Here are a few suggestions:
The mass movement for a political revolution needs to be connected to the movements and struggles for Black lives that have emerged in every major city across the country. We must make a break with purely symbolic, feel-good types of support.
Confront the racists in your life, wave signs and slogans and memes, tweet @ cynical white appropriations of POC bodies for anti-leftist ends — sure, all of that is important. But we must figure out a way to really organize masses of people who will stand up with Black mass movements, put their bodies on the line, disenable police repression and violence, and reconstruct people-powered social services in communities devastated by an unrelenting class war and assault from the carceral state.
We must start thinking of the circulation of masses of people in and out of prison as a place to organize movements, rather than a regrettable response to real criminality.
This does *not* mean entering into communities to “educate” people about their rights, politics, everyday lives, etc. White-dominated social organizations and cultural groups need to learn how to effectively submit to Black leadership.
In the 1960s, the mostly white New Left made many significant errors in their attempts to do exactly this. Many at that time could not distinguish mass-based politically conscious organizing work in Black communities from their own racist, romantic fantasies of heroic black resistance.
So, the two errors we have to avoid are: 1) the condescending attitude that the (white-ish and neoliberal POC) Left has to educate and “include” Black movements, and
2) the romantic, symbolic, failure to distinguish between organic, mass-based anti-racist movements against police violence and Black people in general, which is rooted in the conceptual link forged by slavery and capitalism that regards blackness as the mark of the fungible, the person who is also a fully exchangeable commodity.
Instead we have to forge real links with the actually existing movements to abolish the present state of things, to abolish police and prisons, and to recreate a society in which Black lives can matter.
We have to engage in intense study and criticism and self-criticism and work to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of racial capitalism.
We have to learn how to learn from Black leadership (and I don’t mean the Congressional Black Caucus or even the traditional civil rights orgs).
We have to coordinate occupations of space, mass popular interventions into cities torn apart by relentless police violence and the stripping away of all semblance of social safety nets.
We have to take orders and build clinics, organize needle exchanges and manage the distribution of food and shelter, encircle police stations and erect barriers against fascist, police, and other repressive attacks.
We must also organize to militantly defend the planet against the suicidal ideations of the capitalist extraction industries and their political backers (including Tillerson and the entire new cabinet, chock full of climate deniers).
The defenders who organized to hold back the police and mercenary assaults on Standing Rock Sioux land and sovereignty, and the example of their militancy and visions for a different world, made #NoDAPL into a worldwide catalyst for thinking clearly about the connections between extractive industries, ongoing resistance to settler-capitalist encroachments on Native sovereignty and self-determination, and effective opposition to the mechanisms that seem to lead us inexorably to environmental devastation and ruin.
Even as we reassert the sovereignty of “we the people” against the overdeveloped legal, political, and institutional structures that effectively appropriate sovereignty from the people and hand it over to capital; even as we rethink and rebuild a conceptual framework to wrest “the people” from its fascist appropriation; even as we celebrate our common, universal humanity…
We must also recognize that the sovereignty of “the people” of the U.S. only occurs against the background of the negotiation of sovereignty from Native peoples, the ongoing violent (genocidal war machine) abrogation of the results of prior negotiations (broken treaties), and a repressive state apparatus (police power) that continues to encircle and violate Native lands.
Against violent repression, #NoDAPL activists achieved a major victory when they forced a delay and environmental re-assessment by the Army Corps of Engineers. But just today there has been an executive order issued that appears to give the green light to the extractors to restart both the Dakota Access *and* the Keystone XL pipelines.
The Dakota defenders have been given the order to disperse by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council, which argued for continued resistance in the courts and regulatory agencies as well as representative politics, but the attempted reboot of planet-endangering fossil fuel extraction projects that were defeated by mass movements of the past several years pushes us into uncertain territory.
There will inevitably be mass opposition to both renewed projects: what form it will take, and whether it will be successful is up to us, in our millions.
We live today in an epoch that geologists and stratigraphers have designated the Anthropocene, which means that humanity as a species is now and has been for some time a major force acting on the geological record, the history of our planet
We are extracting wholesale the biomass of earlier epochs and depositing it into the atmosphere, and into the earth as a layer of complex petrochemicals (plastics)
Our entry into the Anthropocene was arguably long and gradual, but is also marked by a precise event: the detonation of the first atomic bombs in 1945 created a worldwide layer of elemental byproducts of nuclear fission
If we destroy ourselves, by whatever means, an alien civilization that arrives in hundreds or hundreds of millions of years will be able to read something of our presence in the geological traces we have left
History is not inevitable, however much we may feel we are on a ruinous track
Climate change is already happening and will cause immense social disruption and unprecedented mass migrations around the world.
The elite are promulgating a strategy of new walls, new barriers to movement, new apartheids, and the mobilization of extreme nationalism, racism, and fascism to divide humanity in the face of the monumental tasks to come.
They are attempting to remake the societies of the global North into lifeboats for the imperialist capitalist class and their police backers and fascist hangers-on.
Nothing at this point can halt climate change entirely: it will almost certainly transform the planet’s ecosystem at time-scales of hundreds of thousands or millions of years.
There is still time, however, to become conscious of our activity as a species, wrest conscious control of history away from the anarchy and devastation of capitalist development, and secure a future for humanity
We have, and can still learn, to think beyond our immediate self-interest and the nihilistic limits of our own lifespan; we can act with determination, courage, and sacrifice in fidelity to a vision, an Idea, of a liberated world.
The Women’s Marches of last Saturday showed us (at least) three things that are crucial to continuing the necessary struggle. 1) Our movements will be led by women, and always have been. (Angela Davis again: “Women have always done all the work. Always!”)
We can distinguish ourselves from the fascists not least in our refusal of the old patriarchal dichotomies of male leadership and female reproductive labor. On the contrary, the recognition and valorization of reproductive labor is a crucial part of the ongoing struggle!
2) Women and their supporters of all genders *already* have a creative and expansive set of visions for a better world, for what real material commitments are necessary to achieve peace and justice.
These visions and ideas and images and slogans are totally inchoate at this moment, and sometimes even deeply confused! (As in the anti-Russia hysteria that has occupied sectors of liberal public opinion.)
But in their very inchoate diversity there is an outpouring of people-powered creativity and imagination that puts the lie to the cynics and nihilists who can only see the blocked-up existing channels for political action and succumb to despair.
3) Even as women lead, we will continue to face deep and seemingly intractable contradictions within any attempts to constitute a mass movement.
While it is right to celebrate women’s massive support for gender, racial, economic, and environmental justice as manifested on Saturday, it is unclear whether women can mobilize themselves en masse to continue to defend Black Lives Matter and other mass opposition.
It is, as I heard one #BLM activist say on Saturday, a “which-side-are-you-on” moment, meaning that if the white and other nonblack women who marched on Saturday are sincere, they must commit themselves to showing up, again and again, to militate for Black lives and against police repression.
(I sincerely regret that I cannot say here the name of this activist: I was in the back and did not hear. But, sincere self-criticism: I absolutely should have known her hame already as a leader of the movement in a city that is nearby to me! What have we been waiting for?)
It is totally unclear at this moment whether the Women’s Marches will mark a new beginning for the mass mobilization of people against fascism, racism, imperialism, and war — or whether on the contrary the mostly symbolic (in truth, imaginary) opposition will work instead to pacify and console masses of people, reconciling them (unconsciously) to passivity while resurgent fascism organizes its reaction.
Comrades, it is up to us! Now is the time!