'To Protect and Serve Who?'
Mumia Abu-Jamal's New Pamphlet on Organizing to Abolish Police Violence
Internationally renowned political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal has just published a brilliant 15-page pamphlet about the challenge of the period we're living in in this country: the non-stop police murders of young people of color followed by one acquittal after another of the killer cops. Even when the unarmed young police victims are children, 12 years old in the case of Tamir Rice, the police are let off without even a serious investigation. It's not that this hasn't happened before in U.S. history. It has. But for many reasons there is a heightened consciousness about it today and it is a defining aspect of this decade: the police versus the people, usually people of color, and often children. There is no respite from this recurrent, painful and outrageous saga except for the inspiring and courageous resistance of the young people in the streets, led by those of color. From Ferguson to Staten Island to the 120 college campuses that rose up last week, we are seeing levels of courage and resistance in the face of militarized police on a massive scale that we have not seen since the '60s and '70s. In this pamphlet, Mumia analyzes who the police are, including the roots of their control strategies as dating back to the policing of Black slaves in the colonies and subsequently in the 13 states, most dramatically in the South and particularly South Carolina, but also in the North. He defines the necessity of control of the large slave population, especially in states where whites were a minority, as necessary to maintain the level of exploitation slavery entails. He uses the Marxist analysis of the police as the enforcers of the will of the ruling class based on that class's economic interests. He analyzes how that role continues in the post-slavery period to this day.
Into the Wild, Part One
Towards a Post-Civilized Critique of Civilization
I am holding a large pair of pliers, one handle in each hand. I am trying to take apart this pair of pliers, but the only tool I have to accomplish this is… the same pair of pliers. I twist the metal arms this way and that, contorting my body around, my elbows knocking together as I frantically manipulate my body in hopes of finding the perfect angle. Ultimately, I know that no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to take apart these pliers in this way. The more firmly I grasp the handles in an attempt to wrest them from their hinges, the more committed I become to the project, until it is no longer clear where I end and the pliers begin. The solution, of course, is to simply set down the pliers and walk away. Yet here I sit, both hands firmly attached to my computer keyboard and my books, my eyes transfixed on the symbolic mediums in front of me, my thoughts and words twisting this way and that, as I am somehow convinced that I will be able to manipulate my words and ideas in a creative enough way that will finally satisfy my quest and allow me to walk away. I am not alone in my endeavors - to my left and right are walls of books and essays written by men and women with fancy letters after their name which allude to the many years of plier wrestling that have come before me. Is it hubris that drives me to read, write, and discuss these ideas with others? Is it simply boredom? Do I really think I have anything to add to the grand narrative of philosophy or literature? Why can't I just accept the world as it is, accept the meaningless futility of intellectual discourse, fully inhabit my body, smash my computer, burn my books, and begin living an unmediated existence? Why can't I just walk away?
The Thanksgiving Myth
Reflecting on Land Theft, Betrayal, and Genocide
Sarah Sunshine Manning
As Thanksgiving approaches, many schools throughout the U.S. are making preparations for the standard, and all too cliché, Thanksgiving Day lessons, and fairy tale-esque Thanksgiving plays. And more often than not, the school Thanksgiving activities are largely based on what ultimately amounts to myth, created to serve the imaginations of the dominant society, and simultaneously functioning to erase the tragedies of Indigenous nations. The myth usually goes a little something like this: Pilgrims came to America, in order to escape religious persecution in England. Living conditions proved difficult in the New World, but thanks to the friendly Indian, Squanto, the pilgrims learned to grow corn, and survive in unfamiliar lands. It wasn't long before the Indians and the pilgrims became good friends. To celebrate their friendship and abundant harvest, Indians in feathered headbands joined together with the pilgrims and shared in a friendly feast of turkey and togetherness. Happy Thanksgiving. The End. From this account, the unsuspecting child might assume a number of things. Firstly, they may assume that pilgrims merely settled the New World, innocently, and as a persecuted people, they arrived to America with pure and altruistic intentions. Secondly, children might assume, and rightfully so, that Indians and pilgrims were friends, and that this friendship must have laid the framework for this "great American nation." So, what exactly is the harm in this school-sanctioned account of history? Understandably, the untrained eye may not notice the harm in such a myth, as most Americans are victim to the same whitewashed lie as the rest, and dismantling a centuries-old myth certainly does prove challenging. But the first lesson for educators and adults to digest is the fact that this narrative is egregiously whitewashed and Eurocentric on many levels. Moreover, it is a lie, which serves to rob American children of valuable historical lessons. Truth be told, this beloved lie was packaged solely for nationalistic consumption when, following the bloody Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Back then, Americans were desperately in need of unity and inspiration. Hence, the myth of the first Thanksgiving was born to inspire and unite.
Migration and the Far Right
An Interview with German Antifascists on Heidenau
On Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd of August, Germany was shocked to once again witness scenes of large scale rioting against a refugee centre within its borders. The grainy images shot in Heidenau, a small town near to Dresden in the eastern state of Saxony, would seem distressingly familiar for many Germans - echoing a spate of attacks which followed re-unification in 1990. Outbursts of organized racism were thought to be yet another difficult chapter in Germany's history, but now firmly in the past. Yet the attack in Heidenau was not an anomaly, an echo of history, in a Germany keen to present itself as tolerant and forward thinking, but rather the latest, and most prominent moment in a series of nationalist and racist actions which has been intensifying in recent years. Whilst national populist street movements have made international news, the intensifying chain of small, isolated attacks and the growing national chauvinism in center of German politics has not. This chauvinism which expresses itself in the common tropes of a post-crisis European chauvinism: a distrust of migrants and refugees, a fear of Islam, and disgust towards those seen to be "not pulling their weight" in the current economic crisis such as the poor or the "lazy" (which in Germany found their synthesis in the figure of the "Greek fisherman"). Whilst the attacks in Heidenau were roundly condemned by all parties, one need only see the tone which the largest parties and media channels used during this summer's negotiations with Greece's Syriza government to realize this national chauvinism runs deeper than relatively small neo-Nazi structures (for a brief example of the language and arguments used, see this video by German comedian Jan Böhmermann). Whilst the implications of this broader shift towards reactionary and chauvinistic politics beyond small right wing structures poses serious questions to antifascists and antiracists, and the left in general, at the moment in Germany antifascist structures are mobilizing to counter the imminent threat of organized right wing activists on the streets. Here in the UK the British media did not devote much time to covering the Heidenau story, mainly using it as little more a footnote to longer articles discussing the "refugee crisis" - that is, a crisis for the states receiving refugees..