On Building Coalitions
David I. Backer
In the movie Independence Day, terrifying aliens show up to take over the earth, but something amazing happens: all the peoples of the planet join together--despite their differences--and successfully fend off the threat. We don't get a good look at this coalition, or how it forms, but it appears to encompass a vast swath of the spectrum of difference: race, gender, class, nation, religion, language... It was a rainbow coalition, right out of Fred Hampton's playbook--except the enemies were colonizing aliens rather than colonizing capitalists. (The metaphor is pretty good, however.) Other examples of such coalitions include the Communist Party's organizing in the Black Belt in the 1930s, as well as the Young Lords' work in Chicago in the 1970s. What do these coalitions show us about emerging forms of solidarity as we build the Left now? Specifically, what gets in the way of rainbow coalitions? One answer is that folks belonging to various social categories are wrenched apart by the categories themselves. The best-known case is race and class. When it comes to race and class in the US, as Adolph Reed has long argued, the ruling class wins when race wrenches workers apart. Racism is thus a tool the ruling class uses to make sure workers don't get together and get rid of them. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor has articulated the same insight in reference to the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent Women's Marches. But that phenomenon--wrenching--can and does happen in many struggles, both between and within many social categories. Wrenching is one of the things that can keep the Left from getting together and warding off threats to the planet.
The Question of Hierarchy
An Interview with Colin Jenkins
Social hierarchies still exist because they are a natural extension from the more tangible/structural economic hierarchy. The dominant culture in this type of society needs such social norms. The Marxist theory of base and superstructure is useful in this regard, and I think I get into some of this in the piece. A materialist conception of history tells us that society is constructed on an economic base, or is based on the modes of production, because it is this fundamental arrangement that ultimately determines how people fulfill their basic needs. Everything else builds off of that arrangement. In a capitalist system, a large majority of the population is forced to rely on wage labor. This is an incredibly fragile and unstable existence because we are at the complete mercy of a privileged minority that we are forced to rely on to fulfill even our most basic needs. This is why Frederick Douglass recognized that a "slavery of wages [is] only a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slavery." Hence, Marx's focus on exploitation and alienation. This structural oppression created by capitalism explains the need for a Welfare State, because societal unrest would be inevitable without the state supplementing these inherent and widespread inequities. So, according to this analysis, there is a superstructure that builds from this unequal base, and this includes social, cultural, and political realities. Naturally, the superstructure mimics the base, while it also helps to maintain it. In doing so, these corollary developments tend to take on the same characteristics as the base, which, as already noted, consists of a high degree of alienation and exploitation. This basically means...
Striking While the Iron Is Hot
Trump and the Antifa Resistance
I thought that Trump was too unpolished and goofy to beat a career politician of Clinton's caliber. It seemed to me at the time that his ascendency to RNC nominee was the result of in-fighting and disarray within the GOP. I never imagined he'd win the presidential election. I don't think that anything Trump does is particularly strategic on his part. Even when it is apparent he's trying to stick to a narrative, he still seems to go off-script, and delve in to bizarre and perverse tangents. I think the man is totally untethered to objective reality. I think he is popular for the same reasons right-wing, racist, proto-fascist demagogues are ever popular. Namely, the combination of socio-economic despair and a chauvinistic dominant culture. My intuition is that, those who are deeply invested in the narratives and affirmations of the dominant culture, resolve the emotional and cognitive dissonance of their socioeconomic predicament within the culture as well as dissent against it...by going deeper in to their nationalist fairytales and faulting scapegoats and/or lack-of-purity/faith as to explain the present conditions. Trump's utter stupidity, incredulity and narcissism allowed him to say and declare things that a more strategic and refined politician would-not. I think this allowed him to out-flank his opponents in the GOP and DNC alike.
Resistance, Anarchism, and the Black Bloc
An Interview with Lacy MacAuley
The black bloc is certainly not under some sort of hierarchy or leadership structure, as a rule. Most black blocs are really just people who are temporarily masking themselves because they fear retribution - either now or at some point in the future - due to their fighting injustices. The political philosophy of many, but not all, of the people who participate in the black bloc is the political philosophy of anarchism. That is why people associate anarchism with disorder or violence. That is really far from the truth of what an everyday anarchist actually practices and believes. Anarchism is based on mutual consent, and the so-called violent aspect of black blocs and anarchism really needs to be understood. I mean, can you really commit an act of so-called violence against a window, or is an act of violence something that you commit against a person? What most people in the black bloc would say is that it is not violence to break a window. The level of militancy will go up while we see our government, at this moment, actively impinging upon the rights of everyday people. We have already seen the U.S. government make reality policies like the Muslim ban, a "military operation" that enforces immigration law, and violation of trans youths' rights. To a lot of people, the only logical response is to make a strong stand against that.