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!

Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity?

Click here for our pamphlet on political leadership in the 2009 OG rebellions.

This false characterization of white people being the only ones who commit violent resistance is not only incorrect, but also offensive to the righteous black and brown youth that confronted the State during the 2009 and 2010 rebellions. It also erases the rich history of the oppressed rising up and confronting the bourgeois state that profits off of our oppression and exploitation. Black and Brown people have never just stood by and willingly allowed the system to enslave and incarcerate us. Since the beginning of the colonization of the native people and US slavery there have been rebellions and insurrections to fight back against the racist sexist capitalist system that has been built on the backs of Africans, Mexicans, Native Americans, Filipinos, Chinese, ect.,. What is even less talked about is the multiracial nature of these rebellions; the legacy of real working-class solidarity. This is demonstrated in the early slave rebellions, the most note-worthy being Bacon’s Rebellion; the Delano grape strike, which was started by Filipino farm workers and later joined by Mexican farm workers and the UFW; and the most recent Oscar Grant rebellions, which were multiracial and bay area wide.

The media and the State’s targeting of the anarchists for the violence is a paternalistic view that renders Black and Brown people as defenseless children. This works in favor for the system, because it keeps people of color in check and fearful of rising up (even if large numbers do). The State has a diversity of tactics to discipline us and keep us in check. These tactics include outright murder and incarceration; other times they involve brainwashing and erasing our radical histories and enforcing the idea that violent acts of resistance are a ‘white thing’. This tactic of indoctrination is sometimes more effective, because it keeps our minds incarcerated. This is a deadly thing, because the first step in liberation is liberating yourself from the oppressive dominant ideology we are immersed in from the moment we are born. Assata Shakur writes in her bio Assata that “the less you think about your oppression the more your tolerance for it grows. After awhile people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.” If we unquestioningly believe in the system and conform into it then the State doesn’t have to worry about disciplining us and incarcerating us. We are disciplining ourselves by being complacent in a system that needs to be overthrown.

What is trickier to address is the way Black and Brown people have internalized this paternalistic perspective of themselves. Throughout the July 8th Oscar Grant protest I heard people say “don’t riot, don’t loot, it makes Black people look bad.” Or “let’s make Oakland and Black people proud.” “Lets be good citizens” (AKA lets act like dignified white folks). Even the day after the protest I heard people say how embarrassed they were to see Black people bashing in the Footlocker and other businesses. “That’s just ghetto, let’s be more intelligent.” All these different reactions conveyed this fear of Black and Brown Oakland residents looking like poor, uneducated hoodlums. I understand why Black people, especially working-class Black people have these urges to conform and counteract these dominant representations and prove to white people and the ruling class that we are just as good as the White people. I have felt this way throughout my adolescence. You internalize this inferiority and hierarchy of the races and it drives you to want to prove that you can play the game too. I remember being so competitive with my fellow affluent, white classmates to show them that even though I was poor and Black, and that my mom worked too much to go to PTA meetings that I was better and smarter than them. However, conformity in a racist capitalist system is not going to get us any closer to liberation, nor will it convince the ruling class of our humanity and worth. We want to make Oakland proud, but does that mean collaborating with the police like the non-profits and local government did to pacify people’s righteous anger. Does making Oakland proud mean allowing the police to kill more Black and Brown people without any militant resistance whatsoever? If the vision for a better Oakland means the people standing by while schools close down, unemployment rises, and the murderers (AKA OPD) grow and terrorize our communities, then I think the entire city should be shut down.

The liberal strategy of working within the system has failed over and over again. How can we ask for justice in an unjust system, whose roots are based in the violent oppression of Black and Brown people. The very life force of this system is oppression and exploitation. Asking for the police and politicians to be accountable to the people, particularly working-class people of color, is like asking the slavemaster to be accountable to the slave. It is time that we start talking to each other and organizing militant resistance that will strengthen our people power. Militant resistance doesn’t include asking politicians for our rights; it doesn’t include letter writing campaigns or symbolic legal marches. Militant resistance strikes daggers through the heart of capitalism and the means by which the owners profit off of our oppression.

A clear way to do this is to acknowledge the intersections between race and class in order to understand the racialized nature of class exploitation and racism.  The political issues of state violence and killer cops intensify the class antagonisms of society and their racialized nature. Rosa Luxemburg writes in her pamphlet The Mass Strike, “The worker, suddenly aroused to activity by the electric shock of political action, immediately seizes the weapon lying nearest his hand for the fight against his condition of economic slavery: the stormy gesture of the political struggle causes him to feel with unexpected intensity the weight and the pressure of his economic chains.” When a cop kills a Black or Brown person in a working-class neighborhood the issue is not solely about race and racism; it is about race and class. And when working-class Black and Brown people rebel and riot in their neighborhoods as a response to the violence it further demonstrates the relationship between race and class. Groundbreaking marxist feminist Selma James writes in her pamphlet Sex, Race & Class: “When Black workers burn the centre of a city, white Left eyes see race, not class.” The white male-dominated left, as well as the liberal, people of color, ‘community police’ in the form of non-profits both fail to understand how these rebellions are class struggle. When black youth smash banks as a response to killer cops or when they march in the streets chanting “education not incarceration” they are exposing the relationship between class exploitation and racism. In Oakland money is spent on funding OPD to terrorize us rather than on schools, jobs, and social services that working-class people need. Most working-class people understand this and have an embryonic class consciousness. The problem is that working-class people, especially working-class communities of color, are not organized; their consciousness is at a lower level of resistance that expresses itself through chaotic riots. In order to advance the struggle to a more revolutionary and militant direction we need to start attacking capital; shutting down their means to profit off of us, and our oppression. If unions were still vehicles for a fighting proletariat then they would have went on strike in protest of the murder of Oscar Grant, a union rep. And if they were real militant they would have had an indefinite strike until they arrested Mehserle. It took the young militant youth to rebel in order for that to happen. And I think that was a good thing, but not enough. It would have been so much more powerful to have the more chaotic rebellions in the street combined with the organized shut down of businesses. This type of resistance would have expressed the unity between the economic and political struggle on a much higher level. This is the type of resistance we should be working towards in order for real justice to be had not just for Oscar Grant, but for the exploited and oppressed working-class of all colors. All power to the people!

36 responses to “Moving Beyond Violence vs Non-Violence: Justice for Oscar Grant means justice for all

  1. Pingback: Moving Beyond Violence vs. Non-Violence: Justice for Oscar Grant means justice for all «

  2. Pingback: On Trial in the Wake of Oscar Grant | ★Mobilize Berkeley★

  3. Thanks for an excellent analysis!
    May I ask you about the photograph in the top banner of the site? Was it taken in Pakistan or India? Thanks!

  4. Pingback: When to Rise Up « Think

  5. Hello AtS,

    I really appreciate this piece, which, along with only a few other pieces, injects some much-needed sanity into the discussions that have followed on the response to the Mehserle verdict. I don’t object to much here — and, in general, I think the general strike model of action you’re pushing for here (and elsewhere) is a good one. What I do find objectionable is the idea that smashing banks or other symbols of capital and the state is somehow at a *lesser*, undeveloped level of consciousness than, say, engaging in a general strike (“a lower level of resistance that expresses itself through chaotic riots”). On the one hand, you reject the paternalistic assumptions that such action would require the *hidden hand* of outside (ie, white) agitators leading black and brown people into radical action; yet on the other hand, you suggest the need for some kind of *inside* agitator to provide a “consciousness” that is missing. I’m not going to totally write-off the role of consciousness or organization — obviously, these things are important. But it seems that among the people who took the streets there’s already a great deal of understanding of the objects and forces of oppression, and I’m not sure, in any way, that a strike is *more advanced* than a riot. This is true in certain cases; not true in others. And, as you know, in many historical moments, rioting/street-fighting is often what follows *after* the general strike, as a moment of escalation, and sometimes mediates its passage to insurrection (which, for sure, requires coordination and organization). I’m not saying there’s no need for the kind of organizing that AtS wants to see; only that I’m a bit skeptical about the implicit hierarchy of tactics — and the corresponding levels of *developed* consciousness that go with them. I’m not sure, ultimately, how much of a role “consciousness” plays in revolution. The historical record seems to show revolutions being made by people simply because they were tired of being hungry or beaten up/killed by the armed-thugs of the state.

  6. One more point: again, general strike = good. But it’s important to keep in mind (and I’m sure that this doesn’t escape you) that this leaves out many people who are likely to be the most militant — ie, people who have no employment whatsoever, no access to the wage. Given the levels of unemployment in the US right now, and the way that this unemployment is racialized, it’s not surprising to find people attacking capital at the point of sale or circulation rather than the point of production.

  7. You raise good points Comrade, and allow me to see the errors in my own writing. I did not mean to analyze tactics in a way that created a hierarchy, although I see the way my comparison between ‘riots’ and strikes created that effect. It’s not that I think all riots display a lower level of conciousness, and that organized labor represents the higher level. However, I do feel street rebellions where everyone is divided and running around chaotically does represent a lower level of struggle. If people were moving together as a mass, (much in the same way they were during the 2009 rebellions) and collectively smashing in banks and corporations and sharing political goals and understanding that represents a higher level of class consciousness. And I also agree with you about the increasing emphasis being on the point of sale and circulation as opposed to production.

    I disagree with your de-emphasizing of consciousness. I don’t ever say in this piece that there needs to be some inside agitator bringing this consciousness to the class as you insist here,

    “yet on the other hand, you suggest the need for some kind of *inside* agitator to provide a “consciousness” that is missing.”

    I am interested to know where in the analysis you get this interpretation. I think consciousness and level of consciousness is incredibly important to revolutions. Obviously this consciousness doesn’t always happen in a mechanistic way where some ‘revolutionary organization/party’ brings it to the class doing A,B,C. and then suddenly the proletariat will understand their great historic task of smashing capital. This rigid, top-down approach is where most Trotskyist tendencies get it wrong in my opinion. Most working-class people have some type of embryonic class consciousness based off of the objective conditions of oppression and exploitation they are born into. I know growing up poor, black and a womyn shaped my radicalism from a very young age. You state something similar when you say people will often fight back if they are hungry or tired of being fucked with. Participating in cycles of struggle when you decide to fight back also influences that consciousness; hopefully advances it in revolutionary directions. So I understand that consciousness comes out of lived experiences and struggle, and not just from some insider implanted in a workplace. However, I am wondering how in this country, which has been at such a low level of struggle, can we get the working-class to become a fighting class. How can these smaller rebellions or individual class struggles become powerful revolutionary struggles, where the class is acting collectively. How can struggle generalize so that when small incidences happen, such as another bart police murder like yesterday, that they cause the entire un-organized and organized class to rise up into the streets and shut down everything? We are not there yet so how do we get there? People are tired of being hungry, and being beaten and harassed by the state today, but that doesn’t mean everyone thinks change should happen through revolutionary means. But I do think their consciousness can become revolutionary through being exposed to revolutionary history, theory, examples, and struggle. Rosa Luxemburg argued that participating in struggle, particularly the mass strike, was the best way to transform the working-class into a revolutionary class. But she also encouraged the party to study the lessons and history of the 1905 russian revolution to spread to the German proletariat to inspire them to achieve the same level of struggle as their Russian comrades. How does consciousness not play a role in this?

  8. Excellent piece. Seizing the key link as always 🙂

    I was just thinking about this whole “outside agitator” thing. You’re absolutely right it’s hella patronizing, it makes it seem like people of color don’t have the courage or intelligence to rise up without white Leftists controlling them. It reminds me of the Cold War era when they used to say that every rebellion Black folks initiated must have been secretly lead by white Communists/ Russian agents.

    Real talk…. if anything, the fact that white anarchists were even allowed to participate in these Oakland rebellions suggests egalitarian, universalistic sentiments and class consciousness among rebellious youth of color! Folks in the streets have plenty of legitimate reasons to dislike and mistrust white folks considering the way the white bourgeoise is acting to protect their boy Mehserle and every other white racist cop. The fact that there was no Reginald Denny shit this time around and instead people fought the cops together with white folks suggests that a lot of youth of color see the difference between the white bourgeoise and rebellious white working class youth who also want to resist the state. (Reginald Denny was a working class white dude who was beaten up during the LA Rebellion of 1992).

    The irony is all these nonprofits usually talk a lot of bullshit about multiracial unity, tolerance, open mindedness, etc. By this they mean encouraging folks to go soft on the white supremacists and the white bourgeoisie.. they make sure the ruling class maintains unity so they can tolerate killer cops. But just wait till they see some real multiracial rebellion, real unity and tolerance lead by youth of color in struggle against the cops… the minute that happens they start trying to sew bullshit racial divisions and all their Dr. King talk goes out the window! In other words when Black Power and militancy against the racists is what’s needed these fools talk about beloved community and “I have a dream…” but when people build authentic multiracial unity and it threatens the white supremacist status quo then all of the sudden they start talking like Black nationalists.

    (as an aside, I mean no disrespect to nationalists here, I’m sure there are a lot of Black nationalists who are playing positive roles in the struggle… I’m not trying to compare ya’ll to the liberal misleaders, only saying that they are co-opting Black nationalist rhetoric)

    In any case, the best thing happening right now is that more and more working class people of color are starting to see through all this nonsense and are defining more clearly who are their friends and who are their enemies.

    • “The fact that there was no Reginald Denny shit this time around and instead people fought the cops together with white folks suggests that a lot of youth of color see the difference between the white bourgeoise and rebellious white working class youth who also want to resist the state.”

      This was true in my experience. I think it was important that, before June 8th, whites in Oakland did work that visibly opposed the state. In my experience handing out flyers to working class blacks, many people expressed that they were thrilled to see whites doing political work around Oscar Grant. When I would hand out fliers, many blacks would comment about the need to cross racial lines and fight for one another. I think this visibility is a key element of building struggle across lines of division. It also makes me wonder if more Anarchists were visible beforehand I wonder how that might have shaped the rebellion on the 8th, and the discourse surrounding it.

  9. I would argue that Rebelde was correct to hierarchize tactics as Comrade suggests s/he did. What needs to be explicitly addressed in future entries is why organizing toward a general strike is necessarily more advanced than rioting. First, the Chronicle was correct in ’09 to refer to these small-scale episodes of property destruction as “near-riots.” Especially if we consider what happened after the verdict, there is little to suggest that this is something that even *could* be generalized toward mass insurrection. But much more substantial — and this is my second point — is the qualitatively different nature of the threats to the capitalist state posed by insurrection v. general strike. It has always remained unclear to me how even large-scale coordinated riots in a dozen American cities at once would constitute more than an incredibly annoying thorn in the side of the state. Given the basically unlimited capacity of the coercive apparatus at the moment, frontally attacking the state through generalized insurrection is a mistake and a waste of our energies. What might we even hope to accomplish in such an episode beyond the symbolic level? Isn’t the function of relatively spontaneous riots precisely to demonstrate to those who participate that they possess a certain amount of potentially organized power that might be wielded in more coordinated and effective ways, i.e. a means of inculcating class consciousness?

    • @Icarus —

      But the same thing can be said of general strikes. Although the GS might seems like a distant ideal here in the US, there are plenty of countries that experience frequent trade-union led GS’s on a regular basis, and these, too, are a “thorn in the side” of the ruling order — precisely because they end, they have limited (non-revolutionary) demands, etc. All of this is covered quite well in the Luxemburg pamphlet discussed above.

      I agree with you about the limitedness of the riots, their ultimately symbolic character. But I can point to many examples of general strikes in the last ten years that are just as limited. . .And, so my point is simply this: sometimes mass riots give way to general strikes which give way to insurrection, and sometimes the sequence is different. I can give historical examples if you like.

      The hierarchy proposed here is simply an abstract and mechanistic/progressivist rubric that, while it might correspond to some political sequences, is likely to be at odds with the real complexity of class struggle.

      • I wouldn’t disagree with you that day- or even week-long general strikes are merely symbolic, but if we are to compare the potential effect of generalized rioting/insurrection and an indefinite general strike, only the latter has the potential to truly challenge — or bypass, I should say — the coercive apparatus of the state.

        I don’t know if this hierarchy is as abstract as you allege. In almost every example I can think of, mass riots have accompanied wildcats, rarely if ever preceding general strikes. In cases where riots have preceded general strikes, I don’t see any necessary connection between the two. What I’m calling for is an adequate theorization of what this connection might look like; in other words, if we want to continue to defend riots in tactical (as opposed to symbolic or consciousness-building) terms, what is their effect on the functioning of the state, on the inducement of a general strike, or something else I’m missing altogether?

  10. Rebelde, you write really well about the way the rhetoric of militancy being a “white” thing contributes to the disciplining of Black and Brown rebellion. It also serves the purpose of driving a wedge between white and black and brown militants by creating a self-conscious paralysis among white militants who buy into the propaganda. They suddenly begin to question their own militancy, which was originally born out of a rejection of racism and class and gender oppression, and begin to view militancy by white people as inherently “oppressive.” An example of this is the vulgar hand-wringing about how white people should only “follow” the political will of black and brown people.

    I think one of the ways capitalism undercuts white militancy is by reinforcing white people’s identification with the ruling class; even leftist white people carry this inside them when they become paralyzed and alienated from the class struggle. So a lot of white people begin to view their own agency in struggle as being “for” some other, objectified oppressed group, instead of the struggle being incumbent upon us all and affecting us all. Such white people sometimes act without consideration for others in the struggle; sometimes they don’t act at all out of a distorted fear of doing something “wrong.”

    I mean, this is not to say that white militants shouldn’t deal with our shit around race – we have to in order to be real comrades. Men have to deal with their shit around gender, straights with their shit around queerness, etc. But there’s a way that we sometimes start to disinvest our true enemy – the capitalist system – of responsibility for our “shit,” and begin to view the shit (oppression) as little more than mental baggage that we can never fully shed for the purpose of unifying our resistance across these imposed divisions. We begin to do the ruling class’s work for them in exactly the way you delineate in your essay.

    Rebelde, you amaze me; keep up the great work!

    • I’m really concerned by the line of reasoning on display here, and throughout the original post and the rest of the comments as well. It seems to all be built on a scaffolding of misconceptions, bad politics, and bad readings of radical literature. So I offer everything that follows in good faith and with the best of intentions, as a comrade deeply invested in revolutionary change.

      First, whites being racialized as militant or violent seems a lot more like wishful thinking than anything grounded in reality. Sure, the media, police and local government played up ‘outside agitators’ descending on Oakland in order to engage in property destruction, but does that indicate that white ‘radicals’ were ‘racialized’? It seems to me that the ‘outside agitators’ trope was deployed not to open whites up to state violence (because, as we should all well know, whites are never really exposed to State violence in the same way that black folks are–that’s why black folks are the ones being shot on bridges in New Orleans, or arrested in their homes in Cambridge, MA, or tasered in front of their houses in Atlanta, or shot at BART stations in Oakland, and white folks only ever seem to be arrested and released) or to suggest that black folks can’t revolt on their own (the legacy of race riots in this country should be enough to disprove that black folks need ‘radical’ whites to riot), but as a pretext for the pre-planned escalated police presence after the verdict. It seems to me that it would have been bad PR for OPD to bring the iron heel of the State down on black folks who, it is widely acknowledged, have perfectly legitimate reasons to protest after the verdict. So they could use white radicals as a pretext (since the G20 riots were still fresh in the public mind) for the police presence that would be there whether the whites had shown up or not.

      After all, this all rests on the assumption that the State cares about white ‘radicals.’ I’ve been in anarchist and marxist circles long enough to know that nobody outside of anarchist and marxist circles gives a shit about anarchists and marxists. So the idea that we’re so important that the State would have to unleash the full force of the police on our (potential) presence among black folks seems patently ridiculous to me. There is nothing inherently dangerous (to the state, at least) of messily-organized young white men hurling their copies of ‘The Prison Notebooks’ at a bank. On the other hand, any grouping of black folks puts the state in crisis mode. It’s true at black dance clubs (where the police are never far away), or at black schools, or on black streetcorners (which is why the state is so vigilant about enforcing gang laws).

      The fact of the matter is that race is central to the functioning of civil society, much more central than even Capitalism. Race is not an ‘imposed division,’ that allows Capital to survive. In fact, the notion of an ‘imposed division’ is what non-black leftists use to discipline black folks within the movement, because if you try to argue for the centrality of race then you’re either naive (believing in some ‘shit’ invented by the state to protect Capital) or a counterrevolutionary ‘reverse racist’ who wants white people to stop being militant–as though we were actually militant in the first place!–and forever wring their hands in spasms of white guilt. Now, this is what I mean by bad politics, treating race, gender and sexuality as **mere** social constructs, as ‘shit’ that we need to work through to better participate in an assault on Capital.

      And that is why I think the folks writing here rely on such an outdated bibliography. You all talk about general strikes as though de-industrialization and neo-liberalism never happened. And as though the formula for revolution is nothing more than The People + Their Historical Mission + Class Consciousness = New World. This old-fashioned Marxism (even the Selma James variety) has no capacity for understanding the failures of people’s movements across the globe, or for understanding the post-industrial West, not to mention its failure to account for the role of racial Blackness–as a social and political reality–in the formation of Western Capitalism and modern civil society.

      Again, I say all of this with good intentions, but I’m not one for mincing words when it comes to folks who deliberately stand in the way of a real social revolution, one that strikes at the heart of American social relations, not at the political and economic systems built on top of those social relations.

      • Advance The Struggle

        Hey James, thanks for the critical engagement. Some clarifying questions:

        1. Is your first point meant to disagree with either Rebelde’s piece or Huli’s comment? Where do you see arguments that “the ‘outside agitators’ trope was deployed…to open whites up to state violence”?

        2. Where do you see race and gender being trivialized?

        3. What is the “real social revolution” you’re referring to?

        Definitely interested in understanding better what you’re getting at, no word-mincing necessary.

      • James,

        I agree with your analysis about the usefulness of the “outside agitator” trope — as carte blanche to roll out the troops and prevent an uprising of black and brown Oaklanders. But does Rebelde’s piece somehow suggest otherwise?

        I think you might want to reconsider, though, some of your assumptions — it’s absolutely true that the entire disciplinary apparatus of our society is racialized, racist, etc., and that non-whites are treated absolutely different. We all know this. But the idea that the state doesn’t care at all about white window-smashers, etc., is foolish — there’s a history of state power smashing on radicals (white and otherwise). And although white supremacy may make it easier for white folks in the justice system, it’s completely false to assume that these people just get a complete pass, and are allowed to walk. There are a lot of white anarchists and radicals sitting in jail for shit like this. Let’s remember that the only person to go to trial and get charged for the 2009 riots was a white woman — she was able to avoid felony charges, but the DA did pursue her with great fervor. Again, no one denies that white radicals often have more access to the money for lawyers and bail, and are able to trade whiteness in front of the jury. But the idea that whites just get a free pass with the cops and the state is silly. . .

        As for the larger points about capitalism, even if I agree that race is central for the construction of society as it stands now (and I do), your account of race as a mechanism absolutely autonomous from capitalism is both baffling and ahistorical. What is the racist nature of civil society about if not protecting the wealth (value) of the white ruling class? Why do these racist division exist? Where do they come from? In your account, since they have nothing to do with capitalism or capital, they just exist because they exist, and are thus bound to remain baffling. I think that people Ted Allen and David Roediger have done a good job of articulating the necessity of raced constructions for American capitalism — a way of winning over a section (white) of the working class to the ruling order, providing them with a bonus for being loyal subjects of white supremacy, in opposition to blacks and other non-whites. Historically, this was a way of displacing class struggle onto a different, mystifying plane, that established a unity between conflictual actors. . . Race now, of course, has a certain relative autonomy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t bound up with the production of value, the disciplining (and segmentation) of the working class. Capitalism is more than just the encounter between worker and owner in the place of production — it subsumes all relations within society, and even people who don’t have access to the wage are still subsumed by capitalism, inasmuch as they have no access to the means of production and subsistence and are forced to use/get money to procure what they need to live, etc. I do think the magical gesture of making race go away simply by saying, hey, it’s all class, is problematic. It’s just as problematic to establish a pure separation between the two.

      • I’ll do my best to make my responses to ATS and ‘a comrade’ dovetail in a productive way that will address the overlapping issues that have been raised.

        1. It can be found in both, but I’m referring to Rebelde’s assertion that there was a ‘serious racialization of violence’ and that violence was racialized as white radical. (And, less directly, to Huli’s assertion that there exists a ‘rhetoric of militancy being a “white” thing,’ which is akin to claiming that violence is racialized as white.) I take issue with this because to be racialized is always to be opened up to state violence. That is, if we understand that to be white is to be ‘raceless’–that often-noted privilege of whites able to be oblivious about their race–and if we understand black to be completely subsumed by race. Or, as Lewis Gordon writes in ‘Her Majesty’s Other Children,’: ‘In the antiblack world there is but one race, and that race is black. Thus, to be racialized is to be pushed “down” toward blackness, and to be deracialized is to be pushed “up” toward whiteness.’ Then, it is only a matter of understanding the consequences of being made black; being racialized as black means a perpetual openness to violence, whether that violence be physical, political, economic, or discursive.

        Thus, to suggest that whites are racialized (which is a fantasy usually only entertained by whites themselves), is to suggest that they are the targets of state violence. It is to suggest that the ‘outside agitators’ really were the targets of the police action on July 8.

        2. I never characterized it in such a way. I believe that race and gender (and sexuality) were treated with all of the gravity usually granted them by conventional leftist discourse. I proffered that conventional leftist discourse, which is displayed prominently in ‘a comrade’s’ response to my post, is wholly inadequate for understanding nature of American social relations.

        3. This brings me to the issue of the ‘real social revolution.’ If I could go back I wouldn’t have described it as the ‘real’ revolution because ‘real’ is such a loaded word. My point was more in the next clause, ‘one that strikes at the heart of American social relations.’

        The heart of American social relations is not Capital, as is argued by conventional leftist discourse (‘our true enemy – the capitalist system’ -Huli), but antiblackness. The issue, of course, is delineating the relationship between blackness and Capital. I think ‘a comrade’ and I may be at loggerheads over this issue because his argument is premised on the idea that there is a rationality at the core of civil society and mine is premised on the idea that the core (or, the ‘truth’ of civil society) is fundamentally irrational. This is why s/he views racism as something of a tool utilized by the ruling class to segment the working class and stave off revolution.

        Such a view, premised on a rational civil society, can make sense of the political-economy of capitalism (the exploitation of workers according to the profit-motive of bosses) but cannot make sense of the libidinal-economy of antiblackness (the gratuitous violence against the slave [blacks] by the free [non-blacks]). If we review the history of modernity, we find an irrational core at the center of Western capitalism. As historian David Eltis has shown, there was no good economic (rational) reason for exporting slaves from Africa to labor in the New World. It would have been far more efficient to leave Africa alone and enslave Eastern Europeans or other poor whites, but not only were whites never enslaved (indentured servitude being a completely different thing), but the historical record shows that enslaving whites was never even considered. The enslavement of Africans, the creation of a class of beings that were no longer human but merely sentient objects (indeed, the first commodity in the Marxian sense), is what allowed for, on the one hand, the development of capitalism (Eric Williams’ argument) and, on the other hand, the development of the Enlightenment (an argument put for by Charles Mills and Saidiya Hartman in different ways). All of Liberal ideology (democracy, human rights, liberty, etc.) was theorized against the backdrop of the absolute denigration of the black body.

        This is why Capital approaches the white body differently than it approaches the black body. Capital approaches the white body as a person to be exploited in a labor-relation; it approaches the black body as a thing to be accumulated and disposed of in a property-relation. We must remember here that not all slaves were put to work, what is most essential to slavery is the accumulation of bodies, not the labor-value of those bodies.

        This is why even today, after so-called ’emancipation,’ Capital approaches blacks as bodies to be accumulated and disposed of rather than as humans to be exploited in labor-relations. It is why the State approaches whites with the Law (the woman ‘a comrade’ mentions) and approaches blacks with lethal violence (Oscar Grant, among others). Why whites are subjected to economic uncertainty and blacks are subjected to chronic unemployment. Why whites are subjected to suburban ennui and blacks are subjected to the slow-motion genocide of urban slums. Why whites are funneled into the economy (through schooling and careerism) and blacks are funneled out of the economy (through ghettoization and mass imprisonment).

        All of this is not to say that class does not exist or doesn’t matter for blacks, but to say that blackness throws class (and gender and sexuality and ability and every other matrix of human identity) into crisis. Just consider the violence and tumult that accompanies every political movement that even remotely embraces black political demands: the 600,000 civil war dead that accompanied ’emancipation’, the unmitigated crisis of the 1960s (the spectre of the civil rights movement even turned young white people into batshit insane hippies), and the hysteria of our current moment when a (reasonably conservative) black man is the president. That list is anecdotal, perhaps, but the case can, and has, been made before.

        Just consider Bayard Rustin’s 1964 comments on the matter: ‘I believe that the Negro’s struggle for equality in America is *essentially revolutionary*. While most Negroes — in their hearts — unquestionably seek only to enjoy the fruits of American society as it now exists, their quest cannot *objectively* be satisfied within the framework of existing political and economic relations.’ That is, fighting antiblackness necessarily throws Capital into crisis (which is why I think it is patently ridiculous to say that folks who foreground the fight against antiblackness are not also always-already fighting against Capital), but the opposite isn’t necessarily true. One can end capitalism without putting a dent in antiblackness, which is why I contend that Capital is not, in fact, at the heart of American social relations.

      • vlad the impailer

        james your argument is based on nothing. cops are hovering over everything black from clubs to schools to street corners. no shit. but WHY? because they simply hate black? your cop-out response to such a basic checkmate question that would force you to come up with a real answer, is that “anti-blackism” is irrational. so its just an irrational thing… what, an emotion? white devil’s instinct?… what is it? you offer no answer. marxism does. give an answer to what motivates anti-blackism and we can start to have a real discussion. otherwise its empty rhetoric.

        you offer falsehoods such as the assertion that capital could have just as easily have enslaved europeans. no they could not! europe at the dawn of capitalism had a crisis of labor and needed european workers and peasants to produce for the world market which they were already an indispensible part of in their own indispensible niches in the division of labor. hence the enclosure acts etc which forced europeans into factories producing for value not use. hence the witch hunts which forced european women to become productive in this same sense, more specifically, as reproduction slaves for labor-powr.

        Africans in the year, say 1450 and other indigenous people were outside that emerging european capitalist system. the system could grow without africans and indians engaging in production for use. actually it had to destroy that production for use and bring production into line with production for value. thats why at the same time that africans were enslaved and transported to the americas (say 1550), all systems of production for use were being destroyed, from england to the amazon to the african coast. african and indian labor became capital. they became racialized by capital in its first stages as a world system. world capitalism created race as it drew in sources of labor in chunks from hitherto only marginally connected corners of the world. we still live in racialized chunks arranged geographically, ever more crowded and overlapping (for example the ‘black belt’ for is yellow- and brown- ifying today more rapidly than the inner-city bastions of blackness). what remains is a division of labor with racialized specificity. what draws all these groups together into the same geographical zones? both push and pull factors. jobs. the destruction of land and means of subsistence. trade policies. war. …in a word, CAPITAL. as it accumulates so does humanity, hence the rise of the megalopolis. de-industrialization, the drug trade, gangs, and the prison industry are all explained only by the internal contradictions of capital and nothing else.

        along with straight falsehood, you offer a list of truisms , such as the facts the state is more violent toward blacks than whites and that black demands cant really be satisfied in capitalism and that black agency puts capital into crisis almost immediately. but all these truths cannot stand on their own. they are only true because blacks since day one have been at the center of capital itself.

        race has no relevance outside of capital and there is no post-capital that is not post-race. period. counter that. teach us how it is that black slavery created capitalism and abandon your tautologies. teach us how the prison-industrial complex is outside the economy. or how the activities in the club, school, and on the block are outside the economy. they arent. you cant.

        the task is for the working class to learn that we can conquer the means of production and the state. riots and strikes give a glimpse into this possibility, being fleeting moments of working class rule. the task is to sustain these uprisings with lasting structures. these can only really emerge from spontaneous mass activity. so we should welcome them and look to how lasting structures capable of ruling can be harvested out of this fertile soil.

        strikes are primarily for and by the employed, riots are primarily for and by the unemployed. the proletariat and its struggle consists of both dimensions, and thus to progress needs to see these divisions in which class and race correspond heavily be overcome for total class unity. thats what the post advocates and thats a correct strategy.

      • Vlad,

        Based on your choice of pseudonym, your willful translation of antiblackness into “anti-blackism,” and your accusation that I’m talking about ‘white devils,’ you clearly are not interested in discussing anything I had to say.

        So there isn’t much I can offer you besides bibliographical references.

        On blackness and capital:
        Frank B. Wilderson, III ‘Gramsci’s Black Marx: Whither the Slave in Civil Society?’
        —‘Red, White & Black: Cinema and the Structure of US Antagonisms.’
        Cedric Robinson ‘Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition.’
        David Eltis ‘The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas.’

        On the matter of Capital and the Irrational:
        Slavoj Zizek ‘The Sublime Object of Ideology.’
        Jean-Francois Lyotard ‘Libidinal Economy.’
        Todd May ‘The Political Philosophy of Post-Structural Anarchism.’

        On Blackness and the Enlightenment/the (ir)rational:
        Ronald Judy ‘(Dis)Forming the American Canon.’
        Saidiya Hartman ‘Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in 19th-Century America.’
        Charles Mills ‘The Racial Contact.’
        Hortense Spillers ‘Black, White and In Color.’
        Frantz Fanon ‘Black Skin, White Masks.’
        —‘The Wretched of the Earth.’
        Frank B. Wilderson, III ‘The Prison Slave as Hegemony’s (Silent) Scandal.’

        I know this is an evasion of Vlad’s post, just as his post was a bad faith tirade against everything I said and many things I didn’t say, but it should also call attention to the fact that there is more than mere bluster backing up what I’ve said thusfar.

        Unless, of course, his assertion that the Inclosure Acts of the 18th century actually preceded (either historically or ontologically) the 15th century inauguration of enslavement is particularly convincing. Or if it makes sense for him to defend the general strike after I said absolutely nothing critical of riots and/or strikes.

      • “which is why I contend that Capital is not, in fact, at the heart of American social relations.” So, makes capital “capital” besides a specific set of social relationships? At its essence, isn’t capital a social relationship? If this social relationship which is called “capital” isn’t at the center of American social relations, then where else would it be?
        Why is it when black youth rebelled against a racist state which oppresses them on the 7th, 14th, and 8th, the form of expression they chose was the destruction of private property?
        What if race and class work in dialectical relation to one another and are both at the “center” of Amerikan social relations–not one to the exclusion of the other?

      • James Bliss


        You’re right that Capital creates a specific set of social relations, it’s just a question of what those relations are and whether they are essential to the working of civil society or whether they are important. Or, think of it this way, Marxism’s protagonist is a worker who is exploited and alienated by Capital, his labor is exchanged for a wage. This is very, very important for the working of civil society as we know it, but it is not essential. Marxism, as useful as it is for the worker, can not account for the slave because the slave is not exploited and alienated, the slave is accumulated and killed.

        Let me reference Frank Wilderson’s ‘Gramsci’s Black Marx’ (which is available free online): ‘The slave makes a demand which is in excess of the demand made by the worker. The worker demands that productivity be fair and democratic (i.e. Gramsci’s new hegemony, Lenin’s dictatorship of the proletariat), the slave, on the other hand, demands that production stop; stop without recourse to its ultimate democratisation.’

        That is the point that I have been making this whole time. Marxism simply cannot account for the slave’s subject position, no matter what it can do for the worker.

        I’ll offer another, longer selection from Wilderson:

        ‘The black body in the US is that constant reminder that not only can work not be reformed but it cannot be transformed to accommodate all subjects: work is a white category. The fact that millions upon millions of black people work misses the point. The point is we were never meant to be workers; in other words, capital/white supremacy’s dream did not envision us as being incorporated or incorporative ([able to be incorporated]). From the very beginning, we were meant to be accumulated and die. Work (i.e. the French shipbuilding industry and bourgeois civil society which finally extended its progressive hegemony to workers and peasants to topple the aristocracy) was what grew up all around us — 20 to 60 million seeds planted at the bottom of the Atlantic, 5 million seeds planted in Dixie. Work sometimes registers as a historical component of blackness, but where whiteness is concerned, work registers as a constituent element ([That is, work and exploitation are essential elements for whiteness]). And the black body must be processed through a kind of civil death for this constituent element of whiteness to gain coherence ([That is, the absolute un-freedom of the slave is what allows for non-blacks to imagine freedom. This is why it has always been such a commonplace for social struggles to reference slavery and blackness when they have nothing to do with slavery or blackness–why workers so often describe themselves as wage-slaves, for instance.]). Today, at the end of the twentieth century, we are still not meant to be workers. We are meant to be warehoused and die.’

        I hope this was clear enough, and I hope it has helped show where I am coming from.

    • Just one quick comment, James: enclosure actually begins in the 15th century, and is a continuous process from then until the 18th, running parallel to the slave trade. . . The best work on this is Robert Brenner, “Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development”. . .

      From what I can gather from a review of the book, Eltis argues just the opposite of what you claim here — that *slavery* was highly important for the accumulation of British capital, and that the move away from the slave trade impacted British capital. Nonetheless, counterfactuals like those you propose here don’t support your argument — the idea that there would have been a more efficient way to accumulate capital doesn’t imply that slavery had no economic motive. All that is required is that slavery *did* assist in the accumulation of capital — whether or not it was the best of all choices — and I think the evidence is quite clear that the relationship between the agricultural economies of the Americas and the factory system of England was immensely profitable — in fact, it kick-started industrial capital. . .I find it stunning that one would claim that the chief point of owning slaves was not to force them to work (in exchange for the barest subsistence). Why, then, the plantation system? Why, then, cotton and sugarcane? How can you deny that this system was organized around labor? If the whole point of slavery was simply an extra-economic violence, a racial theology, it seems there would have been different ways to go about this — genocide pure and simple. But, on the contrary, Europeans established a system based around labor.

      None of this is argue for the *rationality* of the system. . .On the contrary. Capitalists are not godlike, they make imperfect decisions impacted by material forces and by the state of the class struggle. It is not the choice of the best solution, but of solutions that are *adequate* to the accumulation of capital. Slavery did just fine in this respect.

      • James Bliss

        When I said ‘rational’ I did not mean ‘intelligent,’ I meant that it was based on reason. A capitalist can do something that won’t increase profits, of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that his rational goal is to increase profits. S/he merely made a mistake in pursuit of that goal.

        Now, I have already stated pretty clearly that African slavery was integral for the development of modern capitalism. The point that I made, following Eltis (available here:, is that African slavery was not the most cost-effective option by a long shot. The reason why I make this point is because it’s so common to make the argument that African slavery existed only because it was cost-effective, and that racism is the irrational “leftover” from that purely economic/rational choice of enslaving blacks.

        My contention has been that the irrationality of antiblackness isn’t some leftover from Capital’s rational enslavement of blacks, but that Capital’s rational exploitation of workers is the leftover of Europe’s irrational obsession with accumulating and destroying the black body. You argue that there would have been easier ways to do this, but you are returning to rationality when you say that. The point, at the end of the day, is that there was *no good reason* for African slavery, that the past several hundred years of human history have occurred for *no good reason*.

        Which is a frightening proposition for marxists, who hold onto the rationalist tenets of historical materialism in a most religious fashion.

      • James,

        You know damn well that the Eltis argument doesn’t support the claim that there was *no good reason* for slavery. Again, I’ve pointed out a very simple logical fallacy which you continue to repeat with remarkable determination. I remain agnostic on the question of whether there were more cost-effective options. . . It doesn’t matter: The point is that it was plenty cost-effective as it was. To put it in the horrifying terms of the procedure, the output of slaves in economic terms was greater than the cost of purchasing them and providing for their needs, hence profit (or surplus-value, as I prefer). And I challenge you to give me hard facts which demonstrate otherwise — that, for instance, the slave trade or slave-labor agriculture ran at a loss. . .

      • James Bliss

        I don’t think you know what Eltis’ argument supports or does not support. I will quote directly from the article I just linked:

        ‘In the words of a recent, widely read survey, “The Slaves of the New World were economic property, and the main motive for slaveholding was economic exploitation.”‘ Historians are careful to distance themselves from purely economic theories of human behavior, but on this issue the distance is usually rather short. The often bitter debates on the nature and meaning of New World slavery have produced few since Adam Smith who questioned the basic motivation of the early plantation owners. Simply put, people from one continent forced those from a second continent to produce a narrow range of consumer goods in a third- having first found the third’s native population inadequate to their purpose. Even those who have wrestled with the relationship between racism and slavery have seen the racial basis of American slavery primarily as an economic phenomenon…. Whatever our definition of capitalism, we would expect such elites to have used the cheapest option possible within the limits of mercantilist policies.

        But did this in fact happen? It has become clear in recent years that economic paradigms have limited usefulness in explaining the ending of slavery’ (1399).

        And then:

        ‘The main thrust of the present argument is, first, that a study of such change [of who was considered, for Western Europeans, an acceptable subject for slavery] should be central for anyone wishing to understand slavery in the Americas and, second, **that economic motivation should be assigned a subsidiary role in the rise and fall of the exclusively African-based bondage that Europeans carried across the Atlantic.**’

        Again, my argument all along has been following from this, that it was not pure economic rationality that created the Middle Passage. I’d challenge you to quote me on where I said that there was not an economic component to slavery. In fact, I have said repeatedly that there was, but you get hung up on the argument that there was no good reason for Africans to be enslaved rather than the Western European poor or Eastern Europeans.

        This is all getting repetitive, you refuse to engage with the crucial parts of my argument and repeat again and again that I’m misreading an historian that I have just quoted at length.

  11. During the American Revolution there were numerous riots, which disturbed the local elite as much as the British government. Both sought to control the riots, or use them politically to their advantage. Sometimes the rioters attacked property, such as British goods or the stores that sold them, or the house of the tax-collector. Sometimes they attacked the tax-collector himself, or other government functionaries. Although there were bourgeois elements who supported such activity, they probably feared it more. The fact is that these rioters were acting in their own immediate interests, but the revolutionary energy was cohered by the theories of democracy that were being spread everywhere by radicals on both sides of the Atlantic. Their own class consciousness ran headlong into world events, and the new American government had considerable trouble supressing this insurgence once “independence” was won. As C.L.R. James put it,
    “The farmers, mechanics and artisans, the workers and Negro slaves, pursued strictly immediate and concrete aims and made world history.”

    All this is just to say that although I agree that there are, not “higher,” but more advanced forms of action than a riot, it is also true that riots can be revolutionary in content. In the 1930s, unemployed workers who couldn’t strike organized collective looting of food as a political action, not just for the sake of survival. Same with the housing takeovers then and now. Like James, we have a deep faith and respect for the instincts of the masses of people, and we also recognize a damn good idea when we hear it. This piece and this discussion can go a long way toward shaping our tactics, bridging the gap between what’s called class struggle and what’s called insurrectionism. I look forward to hearing more and to putting these ideas into practice.

    Here we go again! On Thursday July 8th, 2010 close to one hundred people were arrested after an inadequate verdict was released for the Mehserle trial. Just like the Oakland Rebellions of January 2009, most of those who were arrested will not face criminal charges.
    However, THIS IS A CRUCIAL MOMENT for us to show the D.A. and the courts that they cannot decide the fate of those demonstrators that are still facing charges without being accountable to the larger movement for justice for Oscar Grant. This is a call out to all who are able to come support the people still facing charges. Show up to hearings 30 minutes prior to the times below to meet outside the court and walk in together. Below are the dates and info for the upcoming hearings.
    Hearings will be held at Wiley W Manuel Courthouse, 661 Washington St @ 7th St., Oakland.
    Thursday July 22nd 9AM rm 115 4 people
    Friday July 23rd 9AM rm 104 1 person
    Monday July 26th 2PM rm 112 1 person

    Also, make special arrangements if you can to come out for the mass arraignment, to stand in solidarity on the day that most of those arrested will have to show up to court.

    Monday August 9th 9AM rm 107 60+ people

    In Solidarity,
    The Oakland 100 Support Committee

  13. Damn, that post by James is hella clean.

    “Just consider Bayard Rustin’s 1964 comments on the matter: ‘I believe that the Negro’s struggle for equality in America is *essentially revolutionary*. While most Negroes — in their hearts — unquestionably seek only to enjoy the fruits of American society as it now exists, their quest cannot *objectively* be satisfied within the framework of existing political and economic relations.’ That is, fighting antiblackness necessarily throws Capital into crisis (which is why I think it is patently ridiculous to say that folks who foreground the fight against antiblackness are not also always-already fighting against Capital), but the opposite isn’t necessarily true. One can end capitalism without putting a dent in antiblackness, which is why I contend that Capital is not, in fact, at the heart of American social relations.”

    I’m gonna be thinking on this one for a while.

  14. Pingback: On Oscar Grant, Violence, and Outsiders « Aid & Abet

  15. I agree with Rebelde that an emphasis on the outside agitators was a way to downplay the ability and possibility of Oakland youth of color resisting their oppressive conditions. I also feel, however, that the purpose of this was also to pin people against each other. The idea that people from other places are coming into Oakland to destroy the city and then bounce is something that I would imagine would not sit right with many Oaklanders. This can create tension and hostility among the protesters themselves and can be a way to try to encourage Oaklanders to pacify the crowd and monitor the “outsiders”.

    I don’t fully agree with this statement: “This false characterization of white people being the only ones who commit violent resistance is not only incorrect, but also offensive to the righteous black and brown youth that confronted the State during the 2009 and 2010 rebellions”. Like I said before that I agree that the emphasis on outside agitators was a way to downplay the resistance by Oakland youth, but I also feel like the media most definitely did not shy away from covering black and brown youth breaking in footlocker and, in 2009, starting fires. I feel like the media worked to portray Oakland youth of color as savage, delinquent criminals with solely the intent to destroy. Yes, the media showed youth of color engaged in violence but they portrayed them as ignorant and deserving of being arrested. I did not agree with this portrayal but I feel like this is how it came off and this contributed to why people claimed to be so “embarassed” because they did not challenge the ways that media portrayed Oakland youth; they did not think to themselves: these people are resisting oppression, that riot was an act of resistance. I feel like the main problem was that the media and so many others depolitisized the riots. They assumed that people just wanted to be destructive and steal shoes for fun, greed or just because they were criminals as opposed to oppressed people conscious that they are being fucked over by the system, angry about it and wanting to do something about it. Wether or not the actors were clearly conscious of it, busting into footlocker and bashing banks was a definite Fuck You to the oppressors and the system in my opinion.

    I def agree with this statement: “All these different reactions conveyed this fear of Black and Brown Oakland residents looking like poor, uneducated hoodlums. I understand why Black people, especially working-class Black people have these urges to conform and counteract these dominant representations and prove to white people and the ruling class that we are just as good as the White people. I have felt this way throughout my adolescence. You internalize this inferiority and hierarchy of the races and it drives you to want to prove that you can play the game too.” I am so glad this was brought up, it helped me to further understand the situation as I observed different people of color expressing similar sentiments and I have fallen into this as well. Really important to be conscious of this. I also feel like class plays a big role in this as well. When people say “that’s so ghetto”, they are most definitely referring to class here as well as race. When many people of color make these statements I feel like they are trying to disconnect themselves from a certain class of people that they feel is below them. Very much illuminates classism within the black/brown communities.

  16. @James
    Your posts are very intriguing. It seems that your main point is that “The heart of American social relations is not Capital..but antiblackness.” I would like to engage this notion more because although I think there is truth in it, I am not convinced that this is entirely accurate. I certainly agree that the typical Left analysis doesn’t adequately account for the situation of the black subject like it does for the white worker. However, it seems that making antiblackness the center of an analysis is as much of a mistake as making class the center of an analysis. I agree more with Raya’s comment: “What if race and class work in dialectical relation to one another and are both at the “center” of Amerikan social relations–not one to the exclusion of the other?” I know that this is a typical Marxist description, but it makes sense to me.

  17. James,

    Your main point is that antiblackness, not capital, is at the heart of American social relations, correct? I want to engage this idea because there seems to be some truth in it, although I don’t think it is entirely accurate. Doesn’t it seem like as much of a mistake as asserting that class is at the heart of social relations? I think Raya’s explanation is more accurate: “What if race and class work in dialectical relation to one another and are both at the “center” of Amerikan social relations–not one to the exclusion of the other?” I know that is a typical Marxist explanation, but it makes sense to me.

    I certainly agree that Marxism doesn’t address the situation of black people as it does the white worker. However, I fail to see how antiblackness is at the heart of American social relations any more than capital is.

  18. i think CLR James’ explanation is most accurate:

    “The race question is subsidiary to the class question in politics, and to think of imperialism in terms of race is disastrous. But to neglect the racial factor as merely incidental is an error only less grave than to make it fundamental.”

    from his piece on Toussaint L’Ouverture

  19. Michael,

    I have responded to Raya’s post already, if you don’t think my response to Raya was convincing or if you have have any specific thoughts about specific parts of any of my posts, I’ll be more than willing to respond. However, I don’t really have time to repeat very general points that I’ve already made.

    JFT fan,

    I think CLR James’ greatest limitation was his attachment to vulgar Marxism. Fortunately there’s a growing body of work that has moved beyond the limitations of Marxism to begin to theorize the subject position of the slave.

  20. Word Vlad, what about the cows?

  21. I think we will see more voilence from the pigs intill the working class rises and takes power away from the ruling class!I think the people of the world is on the rise and are tried of being exploited bye the us ruling elite.The us is lossing its hold on the world econimcally ,but not millitary.The ruling elite cant buy us off like they use too in the slavery days so the resort to extreme voilence and opression agaist us!As a black male I cant even walk down the fucken street in BERKELEY,CA without being fucked with.I dont think no one from cityhall have no solutions for blacks and working class at all either fuck them all!

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