Monthly Archives: July 2010

To the Lumpen Mass…..or does it explode?

Did the problems of the Black Panthers come from their base in people outside of the formal economy?  Where are the borders of the working class?  Can Marx’s concept of the “lumpenproletariat” help explain conditions in the modern-day ghetto?  How can we respect the revolutionary possibilities of lumpen people, but still relate to working-class people that are often preyed upon?

Our comrade Deluche who writes at …or does it explode hit on some of the above questions, and there’s an ongoing conversation at Gathering Forces that we’ll put up here soon.  Here’s Deluche:

* lumpen= people who aren’t working class or the bourgeoisie. The lower class ie prostitutes, pimps, dboys, etc. . .

I was recently in a discussion with some friends about the lumpen proletariat and their place in the over all revolution against Capitalism. One of my friends, an activist in the homeless rights struggle was at odds with another of my friends because he diss the lumpen, claiming that they have no place in the revolution. I said the following

It’s really interesting because I agree and disagree with Huey and the Panthers on this point. Organizing oppressed communities, in particular Black and Brown ones, means your going to be dealing with the Lumpen. And I agree with Huey that they need to be placed inside of the thought of bringing about revolution under capitalism. Marx analysis was based and limited to the time he lived in, he did not project into the future and so his analysis of the lumpen follows the same way. What constitutes the lumpen now is very different and Boone is right in his aggression towards certain parts of the Lumpen. Huey himself said that certain parts of the Lumpen couldn’t be organized such as pimps. It is very difficult growing up in a place where you are surrounded by pimps, prostitutes, DBoys etc. . . I know when I was growing up I developed a hostility towards them and still harbor ill feelings (it’s hard not to when people are selling poison to their own, you know and your immediate family are victims of that) However, I am trying to always remember that I hate this system, which has produced the lumpen, more. That people are shaped by their conditions. Another interesting point that I picked up speaking to an ex panther the other day was how detrimental the Panthers being the party devoted to organizing the lumpen was. The Ex Panther was saying, and I agree, that the working class is the only class that can bring about revolution under the Capitalist system because of their relations to the ruling class and the means of production. Thus, the working class is the revolutionary class. Marx was right on this, however I agree that it is essential that we start a new pedagogy that has a place for the lumpen, they are the most effected by this Capitalist system in many ways. And if we are talking about updating the Left and making it relevant well. . .

It’s funny cause this all started with me reciting a lyric from a Digable Planets song. “To the lumpen mass. . .”

Moving Beyond Violence vs Non-Violence: Justice for Oscar Grant means justice for all

by Rebelde

Protest sign: "50 days of strike for 50 bullets fired!!!"

Shot from a Sean Bell police murder protest in NY

The Oscar Grant movement and the 2009/2010 rebellions in Oakland have triggered a lot of discussion about violence versus non-violence. What are the correct tactics to fight against state violence? How do we get justice for innocent Black and Brown men and womyn who are brutalized and murdered by the police? These are the questions that continually ran through my mind at the 2010 protest/rebellion on July 8th in downtown Oakland. During the earlier part of the protest a lot of non-profiteers, liberals, and regular people were talking about this debate between violent and non-violent resistance, and largely condemning acts of ‘violence’. Youth Uprising (an Oakland non-profit) was passing out flyers for their community gathering, which said “violence isn’t justice.” All around there was encouragement to be non-violent and peaceful. There was also a serious racialization of violence by the media, the churches, and the local government and non-profits. Violence is characterized as something coming from outside of ‘the community’; beware of the ‘outside agitators’ that come in the form of white anarchists. Before the verdict was released I listened to my co-workers talk about these ‘agitators’ who were coming into Oakland from everywhere to wreak havoc in our city. It was alarming to see this panic and fear of anarchists being conjured up by the bourgeois media and the State. There is some truth to this statement that violence does come from outside of the community, but not in the form of anarchists, but in the form of racist killer cops. What’s really violent is living in a world where people die everyday from curable diseases and hunger; where working-class youth are deprived of an education by closing schools and building more prisons; where the police can kill innocent men and have it recorded on video and still not be guilty of 2nd degree murder!

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Lessons from the Struggle: Oscar Grant Rebellions of 2009

Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity?

Click here for pamphlet.

Every day now Oscar Grant is in the news.  Mehserle is waiting for his verdict and most people’s thirst for justice will not be satisfied with a manslaughter verdict.  It’s not clear what’s going to happen the day of the verdict, but tension is rising and the issues are being talked about everywhere.  Will there be rebellions in multiple cities throughout the country?  Will struggles on the streets be better organized than January 7th and 14th 2009? In 2009’s Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity? we wrote:

“One can imagine how the response to the Oscar Grant murder might have become the seed for a new militant organization in Oakland. People were angry and they were ready to take action. A city-wide walkout, one day strikes, and a mass unpermitted snake march were all possible.
Why didn’t anything more militant take place in January 2009? The possibility was there, but what was missing? . . . There was no organization.”

This is still the dilemma faced by citizens, youth, students and workers who are angry with the situation but also frustrated without a way to act against this injustice that feels effective and political. The city, nonprofits and radio stations use abstract notions of love and positivity as the categories angry people should vent through.  They are also arguing that the murder of Oscar Grant and the rebellions of the 7th and 14th of January are two sides of the same coin of violence.  The rebellions were not violent to any individual – only property.  To say that the ‘life” of property is equivalent to Oscar Grant’s life is an insult, meant to throw sand in our eyes so we don’t see the political nature of a government engaging in systematic state-sponsored racist murder. Until an organizational force can be built to prepare for coming struggles against the government’s unjust nature (the cause that inspired the formation of the Panthers), the murders will continue.  Check out our pamphlet on the rebellions of last January, and let’s think about what lessons we can bring into this next cycle of struggle.  

The graphically-designed pamphlet is here

Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity?

The murder of Oscar Grant set Oakland on fire, but who put the fire out?
The working class people of Oakland, their consciousness set ablaze, found an inadequate set of organizational tools at their disposal to do the work that deep down we all know has to be done – confront the state (government) and its underlying property relations.

The primary organization available to them was a coalition of nonprofits; the secondary organizational tool was a self-labeled revolutionary communist
organization. Both played prominent but ultimately problematic leadership roles while Oakland youth lacked cohesive theory and organizational
structure through which to effectively challenge their oppressors.

Using the Oscar Grant episode as a case study in the role of political leadership in the Bay Area, we hope to reveal the most glaring shortcomings
of the left today. We believe new leadership is necessary, and hope that this document can contribute to its emergence.

I. State Sponsored Racism: Then and Now
II. The Struggle Begins
III. CAPE, Nonprofits and the State
IV. RCP and Revolutionary Organizing
V. A Victory?
VI. Lack of Organization and Lost Opportunity

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It’s Dark But It’s Promising, This Marxist Feminist Ground

After an anti-budget-cut organizing meeting last spring, I told a Marxist party militant that I’d heard he argued “feminism is bourgeois.”  He explained that it’s bourgeois because it seeks to end oppressive social relations without overthrowing capitalism, and that of course he’s for equal rights for women but the school of thought known as “feminism” is not going to be helpful in making that happen.  Sadly enough this incorrect (and I might add patriarchal) perspective is not new to “marxists.” Not only does this class-reductionist claim ignore the way capitalist social relations effect gender social relations (which feminism addresses), but it also erases the long history of Marxist, radical or materialist feminists that actively critique capitalism.  Since the ’70s lots of feminists have left Marxism behind, many seeing the work of Marx and his various successors as unhelpful to liberation from patriarchy or even supportive of gendered hierarchies; this strangely parallels the way this Marxist party militant failed to see the vital necessity of feminism in our struggle today.  Are these dynamics changing?  Are revolutionaries less patriarchal today?  Are feminists becoming more interested in revolutionary anti-capitalism?

Kloncke, a feminist blogger and friend of AS, has been guest-blogging at Feministe recently and doing some honest exploration of her experiences with feminism, Marxism and the recent Marxist Feminist group started by an AS militant.  There are a lot of interesting responses in the comments at Feministe, including some Marxists who take up a  lot of space debating where we should really be “patiently explaining.”  Kloncke’s post is a good example of the sort of humble questioning and careful pedagogy that we’re all going to need if we hope to bring revolutionary theory to the current and coming self-organization of the class.  Check it out, and share some thoughts on feminism and Marxism in this time of crisis!

[To commenters: Kloncke laid out a Buddhist-influenced comment guide here that asks us in summary to ” (1) Abstain from snark; (2) Prioritize the positive; (3) Honor our bodies; (4) Be honest(ly); and (5) Get friendly with silence.”  While this may seem hippy-dippy to some of our more hard-boiled economic determinists, I think it’s both wise and helpful for getting into these complex subjects together.  Try it out compas!]

It’s Dark But It’s Promising, This Marxist Feminist Ground

by Kloncke

Among the searchlights of critical thinking, feminism is one heck of a beam, right?

For a while there, my Women’s Studies classes served up mind-fuck after delicious mind-fuck: teaching me how to pick apart and expose the essencelessness, the cultural and historical contingencies, of so many “natural” or “obvious” patterns. Feminism also gave me a keen eye for harm: especially the kind of harm that results from apparent ‘progress.’ Those invisible, or supposedly inevitable ‘externalities’: one group getting saved while another gets screwed. Feminism was like this twin engine for understanding reality: extreme possibility and extreme constraint. Exciting, for sure. Made me feel like I had a good grip on the truth.

But after a while my feminism hit a block. I just didn’t know what to do with it anymore. Jessica Valenti describes the same sense of dissatisfaction with the academic side of things in Full Frontal Feminism:

When I started coming home from grad school with ideas and theories I couldn’t talk to [my mom] about, academic feminism ceased to be truly useful for me.

…[A]cademic feminism isn’t for me. I like activism.

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