Category Archives: Revolution
This is the point made by Kali Akuno in “From Rebellion to Revolution,” published on the Progressive International website, 6-18-20. Here’s what he had to say (edited, as always, for clarity and brevity):
“The Floyd rebellion is changing the world before our very eyes. What type of change and to what degree it will shift the balance of forces between rulers and ruled, haves and have-nots remains to be seen. What is clear is that there is an active and open political contest to shape the outcome. For the moment, the right wing and the Republicans have been relatively sidelined in this debate, which is mainly between liberals and Democrats on one hand and the radical mass that’s taken the streets all over the country and the world. That radical mass is increasingly examining and advancing critical left demands emerging from anarchist, communist, and socialist analytical and organizing traditions, such as police and prison abolition, economic democracy, and decolonization.
The debate is being played out in the streets, in mainstream media, and through social media, and following trends in these venues, it appears that the liberals and Democrats have gained significant ground in the narrative war on several points. One critical point is making distinctions between “good protestors” and “bad protestors.” Democratic-liberal dominance of this narrative will have negative consequences, some of which include: (1) narrowing the focus of the rebellion, (2) reasserting the myths of “democratic” reform and capitalist correction that only reinforce the perpetuation of the system, and (3) limiting the scope of the revolutionary possibilities and potentialities of the current rebellion.
The net effect of the positional gains of the liberals is that the rebellion is showing some clear signs of being defused, such as the serious policing of the movement on the streets that’s occurring in many places. This is starting to isolate the left in many critical ways and put it and its proposals on the defensive. This is best expressed in the hardcore efforts to water down the abolitionist demand of “defunding” and “abolishing” the police, to which we will return shortly. The aim of the liberals and the Democratic party is to redirect the mass movement towards electoral politics, particularly the 2020 elections, and a limited set of cosmetic corrections and reforms.
Where the liberals and Democrats appear to have made the most significant advance is narrowing the scope of the rebellion in the mainstream media. If you believe them, this is fundamentally just about reforming the police and the articulation of an obscure iteration of the “Black Lives Matter” demand framework. This downplays clear calls to eradicate white supremacy, capitalism, heteropatriarchy, and settler-colonialism, and fails to make sense of the removal of all statues and symbols representing settler-colonialism and enslavement, as well as targeted acts of redistribution that have occurred, and the forced dismantling of the institutions of repression, exploitation, and gentrification. Liberals and Democrats don’t support revolution, and have no interest in dismantling the systems of oppression that confine humanity. All they’ll ever do [as with FDR in the New Deal] is what’s necessary to preserve the existing capitalist system. To this end, they are willing to bend a few things, as long as it doesn’t fundamentally break or alter the social relations that shape society, particularly who owns and controls the means of production. The distorted “Black Lives Matter” framework they’re pushing is about trying to shore up their electoral base for the 2020 elections, particularly among Blacks and Latinos, who they have to rely upon to have any chance of winning. Thus, they support [cosmetic] police reform, while condemning the effort to dismantle the institution and its social function as absurd.
On the demand of “defunding the police” or “abolishing the police,” it must be noted that this question is being raised in the absence of a revolution — which the current moment is not, not yet anyway. Most of the responses are being cast in this light as well: “What will happen to communities without police?” This question assumes that capitalist relations of production and social reproduction will continue to exist — i.e., the same ole shit. Neither capital nor the state have been dismantled or destroyed, and few are proposing this possibility (i.e. revolution) or preparing for it in the present moment. If the fundamental social relations don’t change, however, this reform would only be a temporary appeasement measure, to be quickly attacked and undermined the operatives of the state. Anything the ruling class giveth, it can take away.
I think the demand for abolition should be raised to heighten the contradictions. But, it must be accompanied by the call for revolution, and organizing to dismantle the entire system.
Remember: state agencies all over the country are waiting for the rebellion to subside so they can hunt down thousands of young partisans and put them in jail in the name of justice and restoring law and order.
We on the left – anarchists, communists, indigenous sovereigntists, and socialists — must resist the elevation of liberal and Democratic party narratives and positions, and assert a counter-narrative in all arenas — one that aims towards transforming the Floyd rebellion into something potentially transformative. This must include upholding autonomous action, diversity of tactics, the sanctity of life over property and profits, and the building and execution of instruments of dual power [look it up] to transform social relations and the balance of forces.
A pathway to revolution currently exists, following a strategy anchored by the further politicization of the mutual aid, food sovereignty, cooperative economics, community production, self-defense, people’s assemblies, and general strike motions that already existed and that emerged in embryonic form in the midst of the pandemic. This could be harnessed through democratic efforts to federate these initiatives on a mass level to lay the foundations of dual power.
Cooperation Jackson and the People’s Strike coalition we’ve been working to build with various organizations and allies are working to advance a program of this character to interject left counter-narratives into the mass movement. One of the central things we’re proposing as our next contribution to the movement is the call for mass People’s Assemblies. Building on experiences from the Occupy movement, Assemblies have started spontaneously developing in New York city, Oakland, Portland, and Seattle. These are groundbreaking developments. But, we need more. The People’s Strike is calling for Assemblies to be held everywhere, and in particular calling for a first strike national day of action on July 1st. What we’ve been proposing, and will offer in this process, is that we organize and build towards the execution of a general strike. The beginning of a general strike under current conditions starts with People’s Assemblies in the streets debating and voting on having a general strike. This is how a largely street protest movement can blossom into an instrument of dual power that could radically transform society.
Kali Akuno is the co-founder and executive director of Cooperation Jackson, and co-editor of Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, MS.
The Texas state supreme court just ended its stay on evictions for nonpayment of rent, and other states will soon follow suit, with the federal government cheering them on rather than taking up the slack. Thrown out onto the street, evictees will have to join the currently unhoused (well over half a million people), crowd into homeless shelters, or beg friends or family for living space, creating a rise in Covid-19 infections while houses and apartments stand empty. With unemployment at 40% or higher and unemployment benefits unavailable to many and stopping at some point for the rest, this crisis will only get worse. If landlords are hurting that much financially — and some may be — they need federal assistance in order to continue the moratorium on evictions — unlikely to come from the Trump administration or a Republican-controlled Senate. A second Trump term will only intensify this insanity, and a Biden presidency probably won’t do enough to change it. We need to dump the millionaire politicians and create a system that works for all of us.
I’ve had this book on my shelf for at least a year…finally read it in its entirety this morning, and am strongly recommending that anyone serious about changing the current inhuman system do the same. It’s Elements of Resistance: Violence, Nonviolence, and the State by Jeriah Bowser (2015). It can be downloaded for free at http://www.hamptoninstitution.org under “Publications.”
The Iowa caucus system is similar to the Electoral College in its lack of one-person-one-vote democracy, and the way it was conducted on Monday, using a faulty phone app (purposely created by Hillary supporters, Michael Moore says in his latest Rumble podcast), makes me think 2020 will be just like 2016 for Bernie. The establishment, which includes Clinton, Tom Steyer, Pete Buddigieg, Elizabeth Warren, and the DNC, would rather lose again to Trump — and maintain their privilege — than win with Bernie and the popularly supported, real, democratic change he represents. This is the road to full-blown fascism, since people want change in whatever form they can get it, and can obviously be manipulated by Trump-like hater demagogues. I’m avoiding a peaceful protest against the way the Republican Senate prevented Trump’s impeachment today as a waste of energy, as is, apparently, voting. Only revolution, beginning with something like a mass strike and ending with, at the very least, a new constitution, will create the kind of change we need. Otherwise, we’re headed for increasing dystopia, thanks to a greedy, mostly white, mostly male elite — just like the one that wrote our vaunted Constitution, fearful of the type of “mob rule” (democracy) they saw in Shay’s Rebellion (look it up).
In a web-only In These Times article published 11-27-19, Chris Edelson says that Republican intransigence against impeaching Donald Trump constitutes a “constitutional crisis,” one we can only resolve by reforming or replacing our current constitution. His evidence: even though recent House Intelligence Committee hearings clearly showed that Trump had tried to extort a foreign country into sabotaging the upcoming US presidential election to his benefit, few (if any) Republicans in Congress will vote to impeach or remove him – “a corrupt president who rejects the very idea of legal limits on his power from office.
Our constitutional democracy is based on free and fair elections, individual rights, independent courts, and the rule of law – the idea that no one is above the law. Trump rejects all of these bedrock principles. He’s tried to undermine free and fair elections (most recently demonstrated in the Ukraine scandal); he threatens his critics with prosecution and lawsuits, disdaining the notion of First Amendment speech and press protections; he seeks to delegitimize judges who rule against his policies; and he rejects the idea that ordinary rules and laws apply to him and his allies, declaring (erroneously) that under Article II of the Constitution, ‘I have the right to do whatever I want as president.’
Trump thus poses an existential threat to our system of government. In a functioning system, Republicans would have already joined Democrats in taking action to remove Trump from office, just as they stood against Nixon in 1974.” In our failed system, however, Trump is likely to be able to run for a second term in 2020, and, given how many Americans still believe in his unfulfilled promises and take his lies as “facts,” he may continue on his disruptive and dictatorial merry way for four more years.
“The system is failing,” Edelson believes, “because Republicans are placing partisan concerns – their loyalty to Trump or fear of the political costs of defying him – ahead of their constitutional responsibilities. We need a new constitution, designed to strengthen our democracy against this type of threat. (No system is guaranteed to succeed, but a failed one demands replacement.)
Today’s Republican Party is an anti-democratic, authoritarian party that seeks to gain – and has gained – power without winning a majority of votes. To this end, it pushes voter suppression measures and takes advantage of structural defects in our system. Gerrymandered districts can allow the GOP to win a minority of the votes and still control the House. The Electoral College gave Trump the presidency 2016, even though he lost the popular vote, a feat he stands a realistic chance of repeating in 2020. And he enjoys majority support in a Senate that doesn’t reflect the political preferences of the majority of Americans, but instead allows a minority in sparsely populated states to wield power.
Making the electoral system more majoritarian could force the Republican Party to abandon its anti-democratic approach if it wishes to win. There’s no guaranteed way to prevent would-be authoritarians from gaining power – a popular authoritarian, for example, could win the popular vote. But Trump’s authoritarianism isn’t popular with Americans: his approval ratings are consistently in the low 40s.
A new constitution could address some of the anti-democratic features of our current system, including:
- abolishing the Electoral College;
- reforming or replacing a Senate that gives the 435,000 voters in Wyoming as many votes as the 17,524,000 in Texas;
- eliminating partisan gerrymandering;
- protecting the right to vote against voter suppression efforts; and
- dealing with the corrupting influence of our current campaign finance system.
A new constitution could also be aimed at shoring up the rule of law, including protecting the independence of the Department of Justice and replacing the current impeachment process with something capable of holding a lawless president to account. One idea to explore would be expressly giving the DOJ independent prosecutorial authority over the president. Another would be providing a process for triggering new presidential elections – say, based on a three-fifths vote in the House and Senate.
These kinds of changes aren’t politically plausible at the moment, but they need to be on our agenda, unless we’re willing to risk another attack on the system from a future president, assuming we survive the one mounted by Trump.”
My “quibble” with these kinds of liberal, “progressive” articles is that they never present a clear, realistic solution to the problems they uncover. Our political system isn’t going to someday magically become one in which constitutional reform, which has to be approved state by state, is possible. For most Americans the Constitution is sacred writ, and the idea of changing or replacing it would be met with horror. The idea that the sainted 18th-century “founders” of our system were part of an elite just like the one that rules our country today, and that they designed our political system precisely to avoid the democratic safeguards suggested above is what first needs to be brought out. (The founders equated democracy with “mob rule,” like that soon to be seen in the French Revolution.)
Avoiding dictatorship is hard, because there are always people or groups of people who want to take on that role, as well as people anxious to avoid the adult responsibility of thinking and acting for themselves and their groups’ interests. But we need to start somewhere – or multiple somewheres. In the long run, I think we’re going to need a strong global people’s movement for real and complete economic, political, and social democracy, already started in various places, or recent and lying dormant, like the Occupy Movement. In the short run, we could work to elect Bernie Sanders, the only current candidate for president really challenging the current anti-democratic system. It isn’t going to happen by magical, wishful thinking, like the weak conclusions of articles like the one quoted above, much as I appreciate its bringing the problem into such clear focus.