From an IN Correspondent Overseas

First message:

I’m not on the ground so I can’t get a tangible feel for the Ferguson aftermath. What I can see from afar is a huge reactionary backlash, with people putting up “I stand with Darren Wilson” signs on their Facebook pages, comments on all the mainstream and even some liberal and libertarian sites being dominated by people “defending” Darren Wilson and spewing tons of race hate. The Oathkeepers have mobilized volunteers from around the United States for property defense in Ferguson in collaboration with the local multiracial petty bourgeoisie, and the KKK is actively recruiting in all of the surrounding areas. Plus the local and state police have mobilized actual military units in police drag, along with the National Guard. I’m not sure what the positives are. That downtrodden people are out in the streets acting out of sheer desperation? That leftist ambulance chasers are sweeping in to promote Bob Avakian? Jill Stein, of the Green Party, talking about “full and fair investigations”? The French foreign minister and Chinese, Sri Lankan and Iranian media getting in jibes that America needs to “look at itself before it points the finger at others”? That the petty-bourgeois black nationalist whiners like Sharpton and Jackson are giving speeches about voting and putting black people in police uniforms? Where’s the way forward? Where is the connection being made to a path toward socialism? Or even a mention that the police serve the role of defenders of bourgeois rule and don’t need to just be reformed, fixed, trained or integrated, but abolished? Any sympathy or solidarity strikes or labor actions of any kind? Maybe some would say this can help further disillusionment in Obama and “black faces in high places” among black people and liberals but, on the other side of it, major right-wing talking heads are steadily pushing the lie that these protests are secretly driven by an anti-American Obama-Holder radical black cabal (!). Then there’s terrible shit like., this with counter protests against “the little thugs.”

But like I said, I’m not on the ground. Maybe you have some positive info that would change my outlook. My early optimism for Occupy quickly turned to pessimism that turned out to be much more warranted.

Second message:

From what I’ve seen from non-political people, this is probably right.

Though his “95 percent” is probably more accurately stated as 95 percent of white people since America is about 12 percent black.

Leftists have a habit of looking at protests and telescoping what they see out to the population at large. Some leftists were convinced that Occupy was the start of a huge turning point but, at its height, it had the support of somewhere around 30 percent of the population while 45 percent opposed it according to polls. And now where is it?

This has more potential since it goes to the core of life for millions of people but I haven’t seen anything but the same old protest tactics and the same old protest leaders, not to mention the huge reactionary backlash that seems to go unnoticed. Not counting the marginalized RCP USA and Marcyite ambulance chasers, I haven’t heard a demand more radical than “more blacks in the police force” or “no more armed personnel carriers for police.”

I’d love to be wrong.

Read this to the end, seems to reflect what I thought.

Third message:

I have been keeping up with events there as well as I can considering where I am. A problem with “left communism” that I’ve seen since I started bouncing around it in 2008 or so is that it is so small. Because of this I think some forces and individuals are warmly welcomed when they come anywhere near it, even if their actual politics are totally off. There’s certainly a need for dialogue with people who may be “coming around” but there’s also a danger of opportunism and watering things down out of the desperation to make contacts.

This whole thing doesn’t look so promising to me, and I’ve been known to overestimate movements.

Obviously this is a huge issue that goes to the heart of American society, and this is the biggest rupture around it since the LA Riots of 1992. I remember a huge reactionary backlash against those events then and I see similar things now.

Despite the protests, I see a lot of backlash now. The shooting of the two cops in Brooklyn really helps this. Racist groups are apparently using all of this to recruit across the country and having a lot of success. The media is up in arms about the usual “burning their own businesses” and “looting.” How many times have they talked about “thugs” and marijuana smoke in the crowds? All the old ugly shit is coming back into the mainstream, albeit under sanitized terms (“urban,” “ghetto,” “thug” replaces the old racist terminology thanks to political correctness, but the underlying ideology remains). It really lifts the veil on decades of liberal identity politics, diversity, inclusion, post-racial, whatever-the-fuck.

On the protest side, we see many (but not all, or perhaps even a majority of) black people. That can be expected. Beyond them, we see some liberal protesters, some libertarians (who have made all sorts of arguments that this is not a race issue but one of “militarized police,” a “rising police state,” and a “loss of rights”). The usual fake-Marxist ambulance chasers are also there, including the presence of Bob Avakian’s cult in full force. But in all of this there hasn’t been any real connection to the class struggle that I can see.

The liberals are great at redirecting and actually using issues like this to drive the fabricated wedge between “races” even wider. It’s like the feminists who make men the enemy, thus alienating half of society. It was great to see Sharpton get booed when he pushed his get-out-the-vote shit to angry crowds, but any “split” seems to go towards more doomed liberal tactics. The soft end is pushing a vote for more Democrats and black faces in high places. The “hard” end is only pushing for the same kind of shit we’ve already been through like “community control and oversight,” “federal investigations,” “community policing,” justice through the courts, racist individual cops, etc. Short memory, absence of other ideas, absence of any kind of working class movement to assert itself and its tactics, or something more sinister?

Who is making the connection to capitalist society and the development of capitalism in the United States? Who is identifying the police as the armed apparatus of the state, a force that can’t be reformed to help workers and black people in the lower classes since its very purpose is to enforce the rule of the capitalist class? No one I see except for the usual small Trotskyist sects like the Spartacist League that are so ignored that they might as well not exist.

Plus the protests are oriented to “consumers.” Disrupting Christmas shopping sounds like some AdBusters shit. What’s the goal? To guilt people who work hard all year into not enjoying the longest holiday they have, something most look forward to all year? Liberal, “vote with your feet,” commercial boycotts, etc. Is there any connection being made to class struggle? Not that I see, though who knows what could be done in such an absence of open struggle anyway. You mentioned a connection with the part-time fast food workers. That has great potential if it can get beyond the grasp of professional “labor organizers” who thus far seem to be the ones in charge.

The organized labor movement is shit as we know. Even as some labor lieutenants were being pushed to the left by events, the police unions they welcomed into their federations long ago pooh-poohed any attempt to do anything remotely radical. Apparently, 1199 and the UFT were attacked for planning to protest against their “brothers and sisters” in the PBA at a demo in Staten Island. The matter was resolved by the union leaders who got the fence wedged nicely up their asses and handed out signs that said “Support NYPD, Oppose Police Brutality.”

The most promising connection I’ve seen anywhere is perhaps the adaptation of the “black lives matter” slogan by poor Afro-Colombians all the way in South America. They’ve picked up the slogan in poor Afro-Colombian areas including the Southwest coastline where a wave of protests and a general strike broke out earlier this year over decidedly political issues like healthcare, education, exploitation of local resources with nothing going to the local population, etc Who knows how much potential this has, but at least issues there have been approached from a rudimentary class position?

The biggest tragedy in the United States is that all this outrage may amount to nothing more than the release of some steam, with sections of the ruling class applauding it here and scolding it there, but nothing really changing. The murders go on as the protests increase for fuck’s sake. Cleveland, New York, etc. of the most major attacks on the working class in the United States in my lifetime (if not THE most major attack) has taken place with almost no one taking notice

There are more black people involved here. Makes sense to me. It’s an issue of black people being locked up, beat down and killed. Rather than the participation of so many black people being a positive and nothing more, I see it as indicative of the way the race divide has been used. First, races were pitted against each with racism, i.e., we are all different and so we can’t live together; then the liberals came along and “redid” the split by pushing “diversity,” i.e., we are all different but we should live together. We’re still different you see, we’re still “others” and “apart.” Class? What’s that? Occupy was mostly white. This is mostly black. Seems the class is greatly fragmented. Where’s the class struggle that can supersede the artificial race divide like we’ve seen in big multi-racial working class struggles in the past?

Or maybe (even hopefully), I’m wrong and this could really lead somewhere. Maybe that’s why the media and bourgeois bobble heads are using the killing of the two cops in NY as an excuse to restrict, reroute and even end the protests. People are being arrested for posting really abstract anti-police slogans on the Internet. Preventative measures, using an excuse to crack down, or do they know something I don’t? Not to mention the open chasm this has opened between police and governors, mayors, and even the president.

The question goes—what happened to the class struggle? Is it in a lull or has so much production been outsourced that it has simply “relocated”? Asia has been a real hot box since I’ve moved here, and even before that. From reading the Western press, even from the left groups, this isn’t being paid much attention to.


2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Noel Ignatiev,

    In response to Anonymous asking Where’s the class struggle? The struggle against the police now being led by black youth IS the class struggle. Of course there are political weaknesses in the movement, and one of them its separation from the places where surplus value is created, but unless the actual struggle is taken as the starting point, the result will be a repetition of the mistakes and failures of the past, when the struggles of black folk were seen as side issues in the class struggle. Du Bois notes that even the Marxists of the First International missed the significance of the movements of black folk in the south after the Civil War and failed to take steps to root itself among them. What is needed now is not standoffishness but intervention: an effort to identify the communist elements in the movement, differentiate them from those that reinforce the rule of capital, until they form part of a revolutionary social bloc.

  2. Dawut,

    So demonstrations made up by definition of various people of all classes is “class struggle”? Or are they all honorary members of the working class because they have brown skin? If so does that include Obama, Powell and Rice too?

    There are petite bourgeois elements, lumpen elements, even bourgeois elements involved in this wide, popular, multi class movement. That’s why it’s not “against the police” but largely corralled by the leaders into all kinds of reformist avenues. Community control or more black cops are the demands. Abolish the police as the enforcers of capitalist rule are not.

    This is a racial struggle, justified totally by the treatment of blacks in America, but not a class struggle per se. Communists should work to transform it into a class struggle by centering it on the workers and working to isolate the other class elements by showing that they are so tired to the system that they could not and would not fight for the abolition of the capitalist state, which of course is the only thing that will stop killer cops once and for all.

    If Noel doesn’t know what class and class struggle are he probably shouldn’t be contributing here.

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