Tag Archives: Black Lives Matter

On Feeling Good and Doing Good: Chomsky Turns 92

Here’s a suggestion for admirers of Noam Chomsky.

The best way to celebrate his 92nd birthday would be to pay attention to what he has to say.

A case in point came up a couple of days ago with Barack Obama’s criticism of the slogan “Defund the police.” Those promoting it are, according to Obama, often more concerned with “feel(ing) good among the people (they) already agree with.” What they should be concerned with is “get(ting) something done.”

The left was universal in its disdain, denunciations flowing from Jacobin, Current Affairs as well as AOC and all of the members of the squad.

Chomsky’s reaction? “He’s basically right.”

Racing to the Abyss Continue reading On Feeling Good and Doing Good: Chomsky Turns 92

Season’s Greetings, or The Gospel According to . . . Me(?)

You don’t have to be a Christian to recognize the old saw that the core sentiments of the gospels are revolutionary. That doesn’t mean you need to love your enemies. But if you can tolerate them, the next step is often, maybe even inevitably, to recognize that you almost always have much more in common with others in the 99% than with the 1% who have declared war against us.

Of course, it’s no surprise that the plutocratic class and those in the media who cash their checks want us at each others’ throats.  A good indication of how seriously the latter take their job was an Eric Alterman tweet from a couple of days ago: no peace on earth, goodwill towards Trump voters for him.  “Fuck their economic insecurity” thunders the distinguished CUNY Professor and media columnist for The Nation  from his Upper West Side classic six.  The holiday season finds him “totally cool with . .  . Trump voters los(ing) their health insurance, their clean air and water.”

Of course, all that’s to be expected from a neoliberal. What’s disconcerting is when those who claim to be “revolutionary” demonize those whom we should be, in Chomsky’s words, “educating” and “organizing.”  The decades of bipartisan attacks on unions, wages and the social safety net resulting in an unprecedented decline in life expectancy among the Trump demographic are invisible to a “left” addled by the “beauty” of physically assaulting unredeemable “deplorables”.

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With that expression of the holiday spirit in mind, here’s a link to what I thought was the feel good story of the year having run in the Washington Post under the headline “a surprising viral level of understanding at a DC rally organized by Trump supporters.” Picketed by Black Lives Matter protesters, the unexpected result should not have been.  When those with functioning moral compasses find themselves on opposite sides they often realize that their first order of business is not to erect a barricade but to tear it down.  That having been metaphorically enacted, Black Lives Matter and Trump supporters found themselves jointly concluding that “’If we really want to make America great, we do it together.'” with the report going on to note that,  “the crowd cheered.”

“Afterward,” the story continues, “a few Trump supporters approached (BLM activist Hank Newsome) and expressed their appreciation for his speech, including a Bikers for Trump member, who asked if Newsome would pose for a photo with his grandson.

“Upon returning home to the Bronx, the 40-year-old said he received dozens of supportive messages on social media, several of which were from self-described conservatives.”

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I’m not surprised that the story generated little discussion on my feed, which is, as is most of the left, polarized between neoliberal and radical left elements.  As mentioned above, both of them are united in their contempt for, for example, the majority of those who live in my town and who voted from Trump. Both seem to actively relish violent confrontations between “us” (which must mean me) and “them” (who are in some cases some of the finest people I know).

Could it be the the kind of unity which the Washington demonstration hinted at is exactly that which both privileged neoliberals and Nazi punching leftists fear the most?

Could it be that the future of our species requires us to embrace it learning, if not to love our neighbors, to at least tolerate them? Could it be that an opportunistic or pathological hatred of the 99% among both the neoliberal and the ‘radical’ left has a lot to do with our complete failure over recent decades-which is to say most of my adult life? Could it be that the future of the species depends on the left successfully treating what is, in fact, a kind of disease in its ranks?

I’ll come clean: my answer is yes.

And that’s why a lot of what has been posted on this blog has been written off by the official left as the ravings of a crank, as one of them referred to me a couple of weeks back.

We’ll know we’re making progress when we stop ignoring and begin celebrating opportunities to begin creating the fabric of solidarity which has always supported whatever gains the left has had over the years.

Hopefully, there will be more or them in the upcoming months.

Merry Christmas.

Six Thoughts on the Ferguson Uprising

1) I honor, respect and admire those participating in the Ferguson uprising. All of them: not just those engaging in what the bien pensant have designated as acceptably “non-violent” forms of protest.

2) As I have written about here, Ferguson is unusual in having an overwhelmingly majority white city council and police force presiding over a majority black population. This imbalance is likely to be corrected sooner or later with the result that African American local officials and police will be in charge.

3) As a consequence of 2), one of the protestors’ main demands will be met, namely there will be an end to “racist” police murder. What will replace it will be black on black police murder–by definition, not “racist”.

On this basis, the black misleadership class, the community and the left will be mollified.

4) We know this because of recent history in which the devastation of African American communities was almost total-the wars on drugs and crime continuing to take their toll and now compounded by their having suffered the largest loss in their aggregate wealth in their history due to the banking and foreclosure crisis.

As this was presided over by an African American president and attorney general, there was almost no protest, as there will be when “black faces in high places” in Ferguson institute similarly repressive policies locally.

5) This provides the grounds for why I don’t think it’s correct to view Ferguson as within the same trajectory as OWS, as Francis Piven has remarked.

While the uprising is entirely righteous, 2) suggests that it is ultimately about unfinished business of the civil rights movement, necessary but which should have been completed years ago.

In contrast, OWS was, as Piven notes, “something new” and different in that it put on the agenda precisely that which was taboo during the 60s: the 1% vs. the 99%. In a word capitalism, or in two words, class struggle.

6) The behavior and expressed attitudes of the white population around Ferguson make inevitable the view expressed by a facebook commenter: “The problem is that the majority of whites are racist and class unconscious — they are essentially counter-revolutionary at the core of their existential being.”

While there is plenty of reason to assume that this is the case, a movement which takes the vast majority of the population as “essentially counter-revolutionary” and unreformable is one which is by definition incapable of uniting the majority against elite power and privilege.

The new movement which OWS presaged will need to move far beyond Ferguson. In short, what Ferguson has to teach us will need to be learned and forgotten for our real work to begin.

Asking the Hard Questions on Ferguson

A lot of outrage now about Ferguson-all of it righteous and all of it legitimate.

But there are bigger questions which need to be asked and answered.  For example,

While I haven’t studied the voter rolls, as a former local official, I can speculate on why this might be so.

First, the rate of participation of African Americans in local elections is almost certainly pitifully low. This is not, as Democratic Party operatives would have you believe, entirely or even mainly due to voter suppression efforts by Republicans. A lot of it has to do with local machines themselves discouraging participation, failing to mount voter registration drives or get out the vote campaigns.

Their reason for not doing so, as I observed first hand in New Haven, a city which shares some similarities with Ferguson, is because it gives the constituencies which reliably support machine candidates (mainly those revolving around black churches) disproportionate influence.  They are perfectly happy when their own handpicked candidates return to office with tiny numbers of votes rather than have to deal with potentially disruptive challenges which might emerge with more participation.

A second factor has to do with what the Black Agenda Report has pegged as the black misleadership class   There is nothing in any of the previous public statements of Ferguson’s African American Mayor James Knowles III which indicate any concern with police brutality, institutional racism, or anything beyond the most bland and uncontroversial “quality of life” initiatives.  In this, he takes his cue from black misleader in chief President Barack Obama who has still, predictably, failed to make a single statement expressing concern over or even awareness of the mounting destruction.

This gets to a larger point which is that the militarization of local police forces has been proceeding for at least a decade now with virtually no opposition on a local level a process which began with the receipt of surplus military equipment made available to localities.

They, or I should say we, were not required to accept it. And knowing how the guns, stun grenades and ammo would be deployed, there should have been unanimous opposition not only from the left but from anyone who is minimally concerned with civil liberties.

As far as I know, there was no such opposition not only in Ferguson but anywhere in the country. Based on my brief tenure as a local official, I’m pretty certain that the public safety committee hearings where the acquisition of the humvees, assault weapons and kevlar vests were discussed were almost if not entirely unattended by members of the public.  I also know from my experience that just a few calls to a local official would have resulted in, at least, some of the hard questions being asked about the wisdom of putting this gear in the hands of local police and quite possibly the rejection of some of the proffered gear.

Why did the left fail to act when it could have, and almost certainly would have mattered?

The answer is that the left has long since stopped caring about local politics even though our having obtained these positions, as we have seen, could have prevented the drift towards militarized police forces and their now routine suppression of protest.

There is one point of light in this-the Seattle city council campaign of Kshama Sawant whose path to victory began with the most notorious instance-the federally coordinated destruction of the Occupy movement.

Let’s hope that the left has now recognized that local campaigns, far from being “electoral extravaganzas unworthy of the attention of serious activists” are the first line of defense against the imposition of what can only be called a police state, operated by and serving the the interests of the one percent.