Afscme Local 444, retired
I have not been active in the Black Lives Matter movement, but I did comment on the slogan "Black Lives Matter" with regard to attempts to counter it with "All Lives Matter," and defended the former after BLM activists interrupted Martin O'Malley and Sanders, two Democrats, at an annual meeting of NetRootsNation, a left Democrat or progressive Democratic Party grouping. O'Malley initially responded saying "All Lives Matter".
Saturday, BLM activists also shut down a Bernie Sanders event after getting up on the stage. BLM has criticized Sanders for not dealing seriously enough with police violence, gentrification and other issues. My immediate reaction to the event in Seattle was confusion and a bit of suspicion. I do not know enough about the BLM movement, who leads it, what its program is, and other details. I am also not a Sanders supporter, and the statement on Sanders by the Project for a Working People's World of which I am a supporter can be read here.
My suspicion is strengthened by the piece on the Black Lives Matter movement written by Bruce Dixon, editor of the Black Agenda Report, I agree with his position. Why does the BLM movement not criticize the black petty bourgeois and those black politicians who play a crucial role in suppressing the revolutionary potential of the black working class and youth? Whenever the righteous anger of the black working class raises its head in the streets or through some form of direct action, the black petty bourgeois and black Democratic politicians ensure this movement does not threaten the system or the Democratic Party and instead try to steer it into that party. They throw a blanket over the movement, calling on the youth to "work within the system, look at us, we made it" and all that nonsense.
I remember years ago when a black youth was killed by a white mob in NYC, I think it was a young man named Yussef Hawkins. Black folks just about shut down the NYC subway system through mass action. It was not a violent response. The city's black mayor, David Dinkins, a Democrat, came out and encouraged people to get off the streets and work through the system basically. This is the role they play as defenders of capitalism and black capitalism in particular. This is another point Bruce Dixon makes, the BLM movement never mentions capitalism it seems.
As long as I have been a conscious socialist, I always understood that the way the white racist ruling class dealt with the rise of the Civil Rights and black power movement of the 60's was twofold, responding with the stick and the carrot. The most radical actors and those that couldn't be bought off were murdered. I think some 39 members of the Black Panther Party were assassinated that way. But they also purposefully encouraged and opened doors for the growth of a black middle class, a black petty bourgeois layer that we see today and who have a home in the Democratic Party. This middle class layer acts as a buffer zone used to hold back the revolutionary potential of the black working class and youth. Jobs, mostly in the public sector, became available that were not available before as doors once closed were forced open by the black revolt. The white racist ruling class were forced by the black workers and youth in the streets to make some concessions, and the concession they made also created for them a layer of what Mr Dixon refers to as an "elite." This elite holds back a genuine movement from below just as the labor officialdom does in the union movement.
The other thing is that there will be many fresh young activists inspired by Sanders for the right reasons, surely it would be more productive to appeal to them, try to win them over rather than simply shutting down a speech. What about Hilary Clinton and the Democratic Party machine and power base? Dixon raises this also. Here is Mr Dixon's commentary that we reprint from the Black Agenda Report
By BAR managing editor Bruce A. DixonIf #BlackLivesMatter is a movement, just what does that mean? Obama's 2008 campaign said it was “the movement” too. If modern movements are indistinguishable from brands, to whom are they responsible besides “creators” and marketers? Are some #BlackLivesMatter leaders angling for spots in what Adolph Reed calls the race management elite? Could this be why #BlackLivesMatter has no critique of the black misleadership class, or of capitalism?
Where's the #BlackLivesMatter Critique of the Black Misleadership Class, or Obama or Hillary?
By BAR managing editor Bruce A. DixonSo what exactly is the BlackLivesMatter movement? It's a hashtag certainly, and it's a brand, likely trademarked by now. OpalTometti, one of its co-creators says it's “a strategic response to combat white supremacy.” But what does that really mean? How would we ever know if we actually beat white supremacy?
Some better questions are whether #BlackLivesMatter is really anything like a peoples movement aimed at changing society and lives for the better, or is it the private vehicle of its co-creators who get to take it where they decide to go? To whom are #BlackLivesMatter's leaders accountable, and just where are they taking their “movement”? Barack Obama's 2008 campaign marketed itself as “the movement” too.
Why doesn't the #BlackLivesMatter movement, supposedly focused upon the unique needs of people of color, have any critique of the black political class, almost all Democrats, who have been key stakeholders in the building of the prison state, in gentrification and school privatization from New Orleans to Detroit and beyond, and who helped peddle the subprime mortgages to black families which exploded and cut black family wealth by nine-tenths? Have they even noticed that a black president has closed and privatized more public schools than any other in US history? For all the big words they use, do they ever mention the word “capitalism”?
There are ominous signs. Last month folks whom Alicia Garza described as “part of our team” disrupted two minor white male candidates at NetRootsNation , the annual networking event for paid and wannabe paid Democratic party activists, embarrassing them with demands over structural racism and “say her name”. If they were positioning themselves for careers inside the far-flung Democratic party apparatus, it was a smart move, because Hillary wasn't there. Hence they got noticed in that crowd of Democrat operatives without antagonizing the people with the real money and connections.
When Hard Knock Radio's Davey D interviewed Garza on July 21, just before the Cleveland #BlackLivesMatter conference, Garza dropped several more indications that seem to point toward an eventual affiliation with Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.
Beginning at 44:31 into the interview, Garza has this to say about the NetRootsNation confrontation
“What happened at NetRoots this past weekend really shook the white progressive movement to its core because when we look at the landscape and the field, who's running particularly for Democrats our folks haven't been that excited. There has been some level of energy that's been generated around some candidates who've been talking about income inequality but at the same time there's a real reticence to hold people accountable.Like all brand-savvy Democrats these days, Garza calls her party “the progressive movement” which makes white Democrats “the white progressive movement.” It's hard to be clearer than that. As for candidates scrambling to align themselves with “...the program the vision and the demands of the black lives matter movement...” the sketchy few of those on their web site are a pretty low bar, and seem not to have been updated in months. Hillary on the other hand, seems to have aced this test by issuing a timely tweet assuring us that black lives do indeed matter. Apparently that's all a candidate has to do to satisfy this movement.
“So I feel really proud of our team for pulling back the curtain, right? You saw that as a result of those action what happened was every single one of those candidates scrambled to release statements to be closer aligned to the program the vision and the demands of the black lives matter movement.”
Here's more from the Hard Knock Radio interview...
“The first thing I think is for us all to acknowledge is that none of us is satisfied with the way that our democratic system is set up. And so we are taking on the task of reshaping it. Democracy should be a place where there are robust and challenging conversations about the future of our nation and the future of our world. So we are really committed to making that happen. At the same time we understand that within the current electoral system there is no candidate who is truly going to meet all of our needs.The line “no candidate... is truly going to meet our needs” is older than Ms. Garza. It's what wise old black Democrat heads always tell us every four years – that demanding more than Democrats are ready to give us is immature and unrealistic, that critics should grow up and shut up.
“So instead of focusing on 2016, what happens during the election, we really have our eyes set on what happens November 5. and have we created the political ground, the political space to actually move a set of demands that will change the quality of life for our people. That's where our vision is set, November 5, 2016 and beyond. So our strategy then sits in that context and when we look at it that way then we understand that we actually need to shape the field. So first things first we have to make sure that Republicans and Democrats, that you can actually tell the difference between them, right?
“To do that we need to make sure that Democrats stop acting like Republicans. In that case we need to push every single candidate on the Democratic party side to be sharper and also to get closer to what it is that we want to see for our communities...
The best way to affect the Republican party is to build a strong democratic (or does she mean Democratic?) movement for racial, economic and gender justice in this country...”
And at the risk of repeating ourselves, how fixed upon the unique problems of black America, can Garza and her “co-creators” of this movement be without a solid critique of the black political class, unless of course they aspire to join that class as some new/old kind of spokespeople, in Adolph
Reed's words, “youthful aspirants to the race management elite”?
If the #BlackLivesMatter strategy for change or “responding to white supremacy” or whatever they're doing consists of shaping the field of Democratic candidates, that says a lot.
Late in the interview host Davey D directly asked Garza the third party question, why shouldn't we found or start or take over a third party directly, enthusiastically and unambiguously stands for what we know our people need, want and desire. Like a good Democrat who knows perfectly well that most Americans believe there ought to be a third party, Garza talked another five or six minutes without even acknowledging the question.
To be perfectly fair, ten days later on the Melissa Harris-Perry show Garza volunteered that some in the #BlackLivesMatter movement were ready to chuck electoral politics altogether.
It's appropriate to wonder what a “movement” really is these days. Maybe movements nowadays are really brands, to be evoked and stoked by marketers and creators when needed. But it's hard to imagine a brand transferring the power from the wealthy to the poor. It's hard to imagine a brand being accountable to its membership, even if you could be a member of a brand. And it's impossible for a brand to prefigure, to get us ready to imagine and become the kind of people we'll need to be to build the new world after capitalism.