Posts Tagged ‘George Floyd Protests’

Anarchists, protests and revolution

September 17, 2020

Photo via Berkelyside

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.  [==John F. Kennedy]

The Black Lives Matter movement wants to de-fund the police.  So do anarchists.  There’s nothing surprising or hard to believe about anarchists involving themselves in the George Floyd protests.

By all accounts, these anarchists are very different from the peaceful, naive, idealistic Occupy Wall Street demonstrators.   They are revolutionaries.

I have a certain amount of sympathy with anarchist ideals, as expressed by the late Murray Bookchin and David Graeber.  Like James C. Scott, I am not sure a society based entirely on voluntary cooperation, mutual aid and self-reliance is feasible, but I think present-day society is more authoritarian than it needs to be.

But I don’t think that destroying the existing corrupt and oppressive economic and political structure will automatically produce a better result/

I take the possibility of revolution seriously.  I think the USA is on the verge of a social breakdown in which violent revolution is a real possibility.

I am sure most people who take part in the Black Lives Matter protests are ordinary people who want to correct an obvious injustice and do not advocate or practice violent aggression.

Photo via CGTN.

My guess is that the “Black Bloc” and “Antifa” are relatively few.  But a small, determined, purposeful minority can have a greater impact than a confused majority.

As has been said, revolution is not a dinner party. Few revolutions turned out the way the original revolutionaries expected.  Even revolutions that historians say were beneficial to humanity were not something I would want to live through.

Voter turnout among the young is small.  But the protests draw lots of younger people.  They have good reason to give up on politics as usual.

I’m not sure what I would say to them.  I could argue that violent protests are playing into the hands of the Trump Republicans.  I could say that they are doing what provocateurs  and infiltrators want them to do.

I could say that if there is a break-down in social order, the radical right is more likely to pick up the pieces than the radical left,  The right has more guns and more sympathizers in the police and military than the left does.

But I could not say with a straight face that the protesters can accomplish necessary change by working through the two-party system.  I don’t honestly see hope in a third-party campaign.  I see bad years ahead.

LINKS

Blocs, Black and Otherwise on Crimethinc.  A manual of tactics for anarchist protesters.  Important.

Inside the Antifa Riots by J.D. for Seemorerocks.  A report on these tactics in action. Also important.

Antifa: What is behind the masks at Berkeley? by Natalie Orenstein for Berkeleyside.

Who are the extremist outsiders appropriating the Black Lives Matter movement? by Wang Yan for CGT

Inside a Cop-Free Zone by Wes Enzinna for Harper’s Magazine.

Joe Biden and the George Floyd riots

September 1, 2020

Strong and wrong beats weak and right.  [Attributed to Bill Clinton]

A month or two ago, I thought that the Presidential election would be a referendum on President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and that Trump would probably lose.

Now it is shaping up as a referendum on the George Floyd protests, which will work against the Democrats.

The American public may support peaceful protests for just causes.  Looting and revolutionary violence are a different matter.

Reports of major violence are in cities with Democratic mayors and states with Democratic governors—Washington, D.C.; New York City; Chicago; Kenosha, Wisconsin; Minneapolis; Seattle; and Portland, Oregon.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I know of no breakdown in civil order in cities with Republican mayors in states with Republican governors.  And I don’t think this is because white people are more racist in states like Minnesota than we are in states like Texas.

It is ironic and unfair that Joe Biden should get the blame for this.  He has been pro-police and in favor of harsh penalties for crime throughout his political career, as has Kamala Harris.

On the other hand, the Trump administration and right-wing street fighters, some working with the official police, have been adding fuel to the fire.

Some news accounts tell of police attacking peaceful protesters, which I am sure happens.  Other news accounts tell of vandals and looters destroying small businesses, which I am sure also happens.

There is almost no overlap between the two types of reports.  I don’t know what weight to give to each.

Joe Biden upholds the right to peacefully protest, while condemning vandalism, looting and mob violence.

I completely agree with him on that.  But I don’t think either side will accept an even-handed approach that equates themselves with the opposition.  Unfortunately.

LINKS

The Trap the Democrats Walked Right Into by Andrew Sullivan for The Weekly Dish.

One Author’s Argument ‘In Defense of Looting’, an interview of Vicky Osterweil for National Public Radio.

When Violence Is Justified to Defend Civil Society by Tony Woodlief for The American Conservative.

You Know In Your Heart the Day of Real Resistance Is Coming by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.

How White Radicals Hijacked Portland’s Protests by Michael Tracey for Unherd.

White Vigilantes Have Always Had a Friend in Police by Christopher Matthias for HuffPost.

Joe Biden Whispers the Riot Act, Sort Of by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

The violent George Floyd protests will backfire

August 27, 2020

Civilization is not so stable that it could not be easily broken up; and a condition of lawless violence is not one out of which any good thing is likely to emerge.  For this reason revolutionary violence in a democracy is infinitely dangerous.
  [==Bertrand Russell, in 1922]

A protest movement accompanied by vandalism, looting and mob violence will not persuade the public to de-fund the police or impose restrictions on them.

I believe the violence accompanying the George Floyd protests is worse than being generally reported.  The destruction caused in the name of George Floyd will not be balanced by any public good.

Instead it will make the re-election of Donald Trump and the Republicans more likely.

News reports say the protests are “mostly nonviolent.”  I am willing to believe that most of the protest demonstrations are non-violent and most people taking part in demonstrations are non-violent.  But this doesn’t matter.

If you have a crowd of 200 protesters, and 10 of them throw brickbats at the police and two of them throw gasoline bombs, it is not a non-violent protest—especially if the rest of the group refuses to disassociate themselves from the brick and bomb throwers.

This is why the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. exercised such tight control over the demonstrations he led.  He did not want anything to happen that interfered with his objective.  Malcolm X differed from Dr. King in many ways, but he, too, insisted on discipline among his followers.

I am an elderly tax-paying, law-abiding, middle-class homeowner.  I am not a revolutionary.  I do not condone vandalism, looting or mob violence.

But I know enough of history to know that violent and terrorist movements have sometimes brought about social change.  This requires a structured organization that is capable of taking power or of negotiating a set of demands and keeping its side of the bargain.  The BLM movement does not have such a structure.

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Second thoughts about race and police killings

July 23, 2020

Click to enlarge

Polls as of July 3 estimate that between 15 million and 26 million Americans had participated in the George Floyd protests, making it the largest protest movement in American history.

Ending abuse of power by American police would be a great accomplish.  But if the protestors define the problem as racial prejudice and nothing else, and if they limit their demands to defunding or cutting budgets of police departments, they may wind up accomplishing very little.

“Race reductionism” means reducing everything to a question of race.  In the USA, almost every social problem has a racial angle.  But very few things are about race exclusively.  Almost every social problem also has a money angel.

No reasonable person would shut their eyes to racial prejudice.  But racial prejudice alone does not explain why white Americans are more likely to be killed by police than Europeans of any race.  Or why American states with the smallest black populations have some of the highest rates of police killings.

The first chart shows the annual rate of police killings per million people for young and older black and white Americans.  It demonstrates that progress is possible.

The second chart shows the rate of police killings in different American cities.  It demonstrates that race cannot be the whole story, unless you assume that people in Albuquerque are more than 13 times as racist as people in New York City, or people in Memphis, Tennessee are nearly three times as racist as people in Nashville, Tennessee.

Police killings correlate more closely with poverty than with race.  Black Americans represent 24 percent of the victims of police killings, and 23 percent of the poor.  White Americans comprise 46 percent of the victims of police killings, and 41 percent of the poor.

Click to enlarge.

There are those who would like to drastically cut budgets for police departments and use the money to improve public education, housing and social services.  Not a bad idea.  The problem is that there isn’t enough spare money in police department budgets to make much of an improvement.

There are those who say it doesn’t make sense that someone with a gun and Mace is the one you call on to defuse domestic violence or deal with a mentally ill person who is acting out. Good point.  The problem is that having an array of highly-trained specialists on hand will not come cheap.

The best outcome would be for Black Lives Matter to broaden its demands to include (1) adequate funding of municipal social services, (2) enactment of Bayard Rustin’s Freedom Budget to create full employment and living wages and (3) reasonable restrictions on gun ownership.  Hopefully, this would result in less crime, fewer police killings and a better world for both white and black people.

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Democracy, the military and the para-military

July 21, 2020

The U.S. Army has been used many times in American history to intervene in strikes, disperse protestors and even enforce court orders to desegregate schools.

So it’s interesting that the top military brass was leery of supporting President Trump’s plan to intervene in the Black Lives Matter protests.

I can understand why they might not have wanted to be identified with one of American history’s most divisive figures.  But there is another possible reason why they hesitated.

Roughly 21 percent of American soldiers are African-American, compared to just under 14 percent of the total population.

If I were an Army general, I would not want to test whether black American troops, and their white and Hispanic barrack-mates, would be willing to put down a movement whose goal is to end police abuse of black people.

But, as it turned out, Donald Trump didn’t need the career military.  The federal government has 132,000 personnel with military-grade weapons.

Since they lack rigorous military discipline, codes of conduct or a tradition of staying out of partisan politics, they serve his purposes better than the career military would.

In Portland, Oregon, unidentified men are grabbing people off the streets, throwing them into unmarked cars and taking them off to unknown locations.

They are not protecting government property or private property.  They are not restoring order.  They are putting down a rebellion.

Presumably we in the United States are not at the point where we can expect people in unmarked cars to dump bullet-riddled bodies into the street and speed away, as in the Dirty Wars in Argentina and  other Latin American countries.  I wish I could say I was confident that we would never get to this point in the USA.

Portland is just the beginning.  The Department of Homeland Security reportedly plans to send its para-militaries into Chicago and other U.S. cities.

The likely result will be to broaden and intensify the conflict.  Revolutionaries and fascists have a common objective—to widen conflicts so that everyone will have to choose one side or the other.

LINKS

Who Are These Guys? by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.

Trump’s police state attack in Portland, Oregon by Patrick Martin for the World Socialist Web Site.

President Trump sending federal police agents into major American cities by Kevin Reed for the World Socialist Web Site.

Border Patrol’s Dream of Becoming a National Police Force Is Becoming a Reality by Jenn Budd for Southern Border Communities Coalition.  [Added 7/22/2020]

TRUMP’S SECRET POLICE: A HISTORY LESSON by Peter Daou [Added 7/22/2020]  Trump is building on precedents set by Bush and Obama.

Why does big business back Black Lives Matter?

June 29, 2020

JP Morgan Chase in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. (Via The Saker)

Why are big corporations so solidly behind the George Floyd protests?

Apple replaced all of the radio stations on its music app with a single stream playing “Fuck the Police” on #BlackOutTuesday to show support for the protests.  Lego pulled advertising for its police-related toys.  Executives of JP Morgan Chase were photographed “taking a knee” to show support for the George Floyd protests.

Amazon, General Motors, McDonald’s, Target and other big corporations all issued statements supporting the protests.  The companies that held back are in the minority, and have been called on to explain themselves.

The two big Black Lives Matter organizations – the Black Lives Matter Global Network (not to be confused with the Black Lives Matter Foundation) and the Movement for Black Lives – have been pulling in millions of dollars in foundation grants for years.

In 2015, Borealis Philanthropy, established the Black-led Movement Fund to attract gifts from major philanthropists, George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. In 2016, the Ford Foundation, announced a $40 million donation to the Movement for Black Lives for “capacity strengthening.

Last summer Ford and Borealis announced “a six-year  pooled donor campaign aimed at raising $100 million for the Movement for Black Lives coalition,” to which BLM is a central part, to support organizing efforts.f

I wasn’t able to find out exactly how much money Black Lives Matter groups have received from foundations and corporate donors, nor how much they received from grass-roots small donors.  Whatever the exact amounts, the two top groups seem to be well-funded.  The Movement for Black Lives itself announced $6.5 million in grants to local BLM organizers.

Again: Why do big corporations and wealthy philanthropists give such support for this particular cause?

The most obvious answer is: Because it is right and just.  Abuse of poor and black people by police is real, it has been going on for a long time, and it is time to end it.

Another answer is: Because it is popular.  Public opinion polls show this.  Support for the protests improves their reputations.

But there is more to it than that.  Another reason is that the Black Lives Matter movement, unlike, say, the labor movement, is no threat to cooperate revenues, profits or dividends nor to CEO salaries and bonuses.

The current anti-racism movement is not an attack on what used to be called the power structure.  Its representatives see think the source of evil is the racism of white people in general.  Its solution is to change the attitudes of white people, and to silence those it can’t change.

The movement seeks to suppress not only actively racist white people, but white people who are unwilling to be affirmatively anti-racist or who inadvertently say or do things that are perceived as racist.

This attitude is, in my opinion, a threat to basic freedoms, and also counter-productive.  If you can’t frankly discuss issues, how can you address them? It also distracts attention from the real racists.  But it is not a threat to corporate power and profit.

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Is there an alternative to defunding the police?

June 13, 2020

Source: Gallup Poll via Freethink.

Note that the figures in the last line of the HuffPost/YouGov poll are reversed.  The correct figure is that 57 percent oppose defunding the police and 27 percent favor it.  Among black people, the figure is 49 percent opposed, 29 percent in favor; among whites, 60 percent opposed, 29 percent in favor.

HuffPost also found that most people take “defund the police” to mean drastic reductions in police budgets rather than complete abolition.

Law-abiding people who live in poor, majority-black neighborhoods complain about being harassed by police.  At the same time, they complain about getting less police protection than people in affluent, majority-white neighborhoods.  They don’t want the police to stay away.  They just want them to stop behaving like an occupying army.

My question is whether the worst police departments are reformable.  There are those who think they can’t be.

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This time it really is different

June 12, 2020

I didn’t see this coming.

I never expected the George Floyd protests to be so large and to have such an impact.

They haven’t won yet.  The tide could yet recede.  Rogue police departments are strongly entrenched.

But they’re closer to changing policing in the USA than I would have thought possible just a couple of months ago.

They demonstrate that positive change is possible, even when the two major U.S. political parties offer only a choice of evils.

The protests are remarkable for their size and scope, for the fact that they continue day after day and for the fact that the powers that be are afraid of them.

The protests are remarkable for the interracial character in all aspects, good and bad.  The first person arrested for setting fire to a Minneapolis police station was white.

I think that police abuse of power is a great evil, and I applaud those who are doing something about it.

Still, when you consider that the USA is failing to respond adequately to the coronavirus pandemic, to the economic recession and to catastrophic storms, floods and fires caused by climate change, it is surprising that police killings are the issue that sparked protests.  I write this as an observation, not a criticism.

I think the reason is the great change in white Americans’ attitude toward race and racism that has taken place in just the past five or ten years.  The writer Matthew Yglesias calls this The Great Awokening.

This change did not come out of nowhere.  Anti-racism activists in colleges, liberal churches and the major newspapers and broadcasters have been working to change the attitudes of white people toward race, and they have succeeded.

A majority of white Americans recognize that racism is a problem, and a majority of liberal white Democrats are more hard-line on racial issues than average black people are.

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