As anti-racist protests continue to sweep the world from Portland, Louisville and Minneapolis in the U.S. to previous protests in Paris, Berlin, London and beyond, the anger of centuries of oppression has come to the boil in a righteous explosion of anger and frustration.
Sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the protests have widened into the realms of anti-racism, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism as the multiple facets of oppression come under one of the most sustained attacks in memory.
Yet, the anger that has been seen on the streets around the world was not unexpected.
While the initial sparks are very different, the violence and levels of extreme police brutality have already been seen in countries worldwide. These counties include those such as France and Chile, the protests reaching their peak just before the coronavirus. Neoliberal states have been desperately clamping down on movements such as France’s Gilets Jaunes for well over a year.
That the anger of the people would explode in the United States and Britain was inevitable. So inevitable that Cambridge undertook a “Millennial Uprising Social Unrest Stress Test Scenario” as to the possible effects of a youth uprising comparable to the French May 68.
When taking the causation back to its origin, the same capitalist methods of division and exploitation lay at the base of the street revolutionary movements in Minnesota, LA and New York as they do in Santiago and Paris. People around the world are angry at a system that has kept them “in their place” for centuries.
Tasked with the defence of the naked and crumbling capitalist system, the likes of Emmanuel Macron lashed out with the full force of authoritarianism. This “defence” saw police beating and maiming protesters with eager barbarity. This brutality is not “a few bad cops”, this oppression is precisely what the police are trained to do by the likes of Israel. They are the first line of defence for the apparatus of the state and are reflective of the policies and ethos of that state and system.
This unchecked power of American police forces, increasingly followed by those here in the U.K., have seen total militarization, many forces now being better armed and equipped than nation-states. Armed with the weapons of war, against whom exactly are the police waging combat? The answer is the people.
The police are an occupying force, who, like neoliberal capitalism itself, will offer a smiling face when citizens provide compliance. The moment that a citizen shows defiance, however, they must be crushed. While innocent civilians are crushed under the boot of the police to perpetuate the cycle of division, the likes of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn were crushed under the boot of state propaganda.
Defiance of the system cannot be tolerated either on the streets or in the corridors of power.
The defiance that socialism offers is the unity of the masses, both black and white alike. This concept of citizen unity is the scenario that frightens capitalism into their bunkers. It is the concept that was a death sentence for Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Fred Hampton alike and the one that meant Sanders and Corbyn had to be replaced by the “good cop” stooges of Joe Biden and Keir Starmer.
This continued disenfranchisement is yet more fuel behind the anger of the protests.
Into this political void steps the extremes of the far-right, offering representation to working-class communities while socialism is kept weak and distracted through its battles with the centre. The rising racism and vitriol from fascism in turns increases division, which in turn increases exploitation. And all the while billionaires get richer.
The only way to break this wheel of division is sweeping away the entirety of the system from top to bottom.
Make no mistake, while toppling statues brings satisfaction momentarily, and they must go, the state is willingly offering them up to pacify the anger of the people. They are sacrifices to ensure that, instead of statues, it is not governments that are toppled.
The protest movement must not settle for token gestures such as Joe Biden and Keir Starmer taking a knee, they must not fall for “good cop” and “hero cop” narratives, they mustn’t settle for renaming streets and pulling down statues. The anger of the protests must be directed where it belongs, toward Wall Street and The City, toward Capital Hill and the Houses of Parliament. Like in France and Chile, the protests must continue until the streets are claimed for the people and, in turn, society itself. Revolutions rarely get a second chance.