If the Democrats’ approach under Clinton is doubling down on Obama’s technocratic neoliberal caesarism, with the constant, quiet upward ratcheting of automated drone warfare and electronic surveillance, the alternative from Trump’s GOP is out-and-out fascism. And when I say “fascism,” I mean the kind with smashed windows, lynchings and brownshirt thuggery in the streets. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the lineup of speakers in the first “Make America Safe Again” night of the GOP convention — which made it abundantly clear that the main thing we need to be kept safe from is Trump and his mouth-frothing political cronies.
The main actual theme of the night’s speakers — aside from “C-list celebrities complaining that it’s harder to express open racism these days” (Matt Yglesias, “Donald Trump has no idea how to make America safe again,” Vox, July 19) — was the onslaught of enemies threatening the Fatherland from without or within, or who have stabbed it in the back, and the need for massive retributive violence against them. Think that’s an exaggeration? Just watch Rudy Giuliani’s and Sheriff David Clarke’s speeches.
Clarke, in particular, wrote an article for The Hill — presumably as publicity for his convention speech — that declared war on the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matters movements, which he denounced as allies of ISIS (“This is a war, and Black Lives Matters is the enemy,” July 18). From beginning to end, it is a throwback to the “Loyalty” and “100% Americanism” rhetoric of the post-WWI era, when police Red Squads and the paramilitaries of the American Legion and Klan — the latter groups directly analogous to Mussolini’s blackshirts — terrorized civil rights activists, socialists and labor organizers in the streets.
The assassinations of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Clarke says, is the unfolding of “a civil war within our borders.”
We as a people need to declare that we stand with rule of law, and not with the false tales of the revolutionary Marxist forces, who most recently have rebranded themselves from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter.
The targeting of police for hate and for murder is by Black Lives Matter and their accomplices are, in actuality, the targeting is our rule of law. Groups like Black Lives Matter, blessed Black Lives Matter organizers hold the same values of America’s age-old enemies, who have always fought the ideals of our Constitution and our nation. y the progressive left and most recently our own President Obama, need to be exposed and condemned for their true aims: revolution.
Black Lives Matter organizers hold the same values of America’s age-old enemies, who have always fought the ideals of our Constitution and our nation….
We have several forces internal and external attacking our rule of law: ISIS, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street – just the most recent iterations of the elements who brand themselves as unique but seek the same revolutionary aim: take down the West, the philosophy of equality before the law, and replace it with their authority, their rules, their hate.
We fight back, and that comes by first describing the fight as what it is: guerrilla warfare.
It’s time to reclaim our future and it begins by condemning Black Lives Matter, organizers and inspiration for hate, friend to enemies of law and order.
To understand the Orwellian hypocrisy of Clarke’s rhetoric about “rule of law,” we need only note that the officers involved in the murder of Freddie Gray were being acquitted even as he spoke. If anything symbolizes the lawlessness of American law enforcement, it’s the long-standing tradition of police torture and murder via “nickel ride” (i.e., putting a handcuffed prisoner in the back of a police car without a seatbelt and then deliberately subjected to being thrown around the car by sharp turns and abrupt start-and-stop driving), and the impunity enjoyed by the uniformed thugs who engage in this practice.
Black Lives Matter came into existence in the first place in response to a long, long history of structural racism and violent lawlessness — lawlessness with impunity — in American law enforcement. It was initially sparked by the murder of Michael Brown — shot in the back — in Ferguson, and the lawless force initiated by the police in the subsequent demonstrations. Black Lives Matter demonstrations have been repeated, again and again, with every — almost too many to count, sadly — lawless murder of an unarmed black person, or (as in the case of Sandra Bland and Freddie Gray) highly suspicious death of a black person in police custody. And in every case, the escalation to massive violence was initiated by the police. In Ferguson, cops sat on top of armored vehicles and threatened “Just wait and see what we’ll do to you when the press goes home.”
Occupy Wall Street, like the Seattle anti-globalization movement of a decade earlier, was a response to a lawless system — a tightly interlinked system of government and big business sitting atop the accumulated plunder of centuries of plunder of land and natural resources, using state force to impose transnational corporate lockdown on the entire planet, and resorting to military aggression against countries (like Honduras in 2009) where landless peasants or labor organizers get out of hand and Chiquita or Shell or Rio Tinto call for backup.
The reactionary — or counter-revolutionary — civil war Clarke proclaims will hardly be the first in American history.
The Great Betrayal of 1877 kicked off a civil war of over forty years. In the Betrayal itself, southern Democratic electors traded their votes to Rutherford Hayes, and handed control of the national polity and economy to the industrial Robber Barons represented by the Gilded Age GOP, in return for an end to military Reconstruction and a free hand in imposing racial Apartheid in the states of the former Confederacy. Arrayed against this unholy alliance of racial and economic reaction was an alliance of radical unions (like the Knights of Labor, Western Federation of Miners and Wobblies), the farm populist movement and the cooperative movement. For the entire period, the forces of reaction waged economic civil war, with banks, railroads and grain wholesalers fighting to strangle farmer cooperatives and industrial employers employing mercenaries to break union organizing effortss. But in addition there were several waves of outright repression, like that after the Haymarket bombings, in which police attempted to suppress the 8-hour day movement and associated general strike by the Knights of Labor, and other forms of labor and socialist organization.
As radicalization trended upward during the Depression of the 1890s (the formation of the Western Federation of Miners, the march of Coxey’s Army, and the Pullman Strike that threatened to turn into a nationwide general strike), the forces of reaction resorted to yet another wave of forcible repression, which simmered with occasional boil-overs through WWI. Grover Cleveland used federal troops to break the Pullman Strike, governors in western states declared martial law against the Western Federation of Miners in the Copper Wars, and employers massacred workers with hired security goons at Homestead and Ludlow.
The ideological offensive included the Cult of “Old Glory” and the Pledge of Allegiance, and the project of “Americanization” in the public schools, as an attempt to counter the wave of working class radicalism and the influx of heavily anarchist or socialist immigrants.
Repression once again escalated, first with the War Hysteria under WWI and the Red Scare afterwards — Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer’s mass arrests of Wobblies, Socialists and anti-war activists, and the violence I already mentioned by the Red Squads, Klan and Legion.
Other, subsequent waves of repression include the one in response to the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s. Besides such acts of lawlessness as COINTELPRO and the police assassination of Fred Hampton, the reaction took long-term institutional form in executive branch plannning for martial law and military training for suppression of “civilian disturbances,” and a long-term assault on the Fourth and Fifth Amendments in the name of a “War on Drugs.”
The most recent wave of state repression was undertaken in response to the anti-globalization movement of the ’90s and the early noughts, and took advantage of the post-9/11 hysteria to institute a massive shift towards police statism. This post-9/11 police state repression has even further intensified in response to the proliferation of horizontal mass movements from 2011 on. These movements prefigure the future society, and a panicked ruling class is playing whack-a-mole in a futile effort to suppress us.
America has a veneer of “law” only when its ruling classes can afford it. In every one of the waves of repression I described, the forces of capital, white supremacy and patriarchy threw off the pretense of “law” and resorted to open, lawless violence when it was seen as necessary to preserve the system. Every wave of working class radicalism, every wave of popular organization in the fight for justice, has been followed by such a wave of official and unofficial state violence. And the system has only scaled back its level of injustice and oppression when forced to do so by popular organization and the prospect of popular resistance — as Frederick Douglas said, power never concedes without a struggle. And that struggle is always falsely portrayed as “lawlessness” by the lawless capitalist state, which is the very embodiment of repressive violence.
I don’t know when this article will appear in print, but I write it on July 19 — the anniversary of Franco’s launch of lawless violence in 1936 against the peasantry and working class of Spain. That day saw heroic resistance by workers’ militias all over the country, and defeated Franco’s troops in half of it. It was followed by worker takeovers and self-management in the factories and peasant seizures of land from the nobility and church in the countryside. This period of popular empowerment, most famously celebrated by George Orwell in Homage to Catalonia, was repressed by the Marxist-Leninist dominated government in Madrid, which preferred defeat by Franco to coexistence with anarchists and libertarian socialists.
I come from an anarchist tradition that focuses on the peaceful construction of a new society “within the shell of the old,” based on building alternative institutions outside the framework of both capital and the state, and gradually building a new post-capitalist society based on voluntary self-organization and self-management within the interstices of an old, dying system, and gradually supplanting it as it dies from exhaustion. Unlike the Old Left, and unlike many verticalists who still see large-scale hierarchical organization to seize control of the state and means of production as the only viable strategy, those of us who favor a path to post-capitalism through Exodus and counter-institution building see the old institutions as obsolete and irrelevant to the new world. As I argued elsewhere,
Our goal is not to assume leadership of existing institutions, but rather to render them irrelevant. We don’t want to take over the state or change its policies. We want to render its laws unenforceable. We don’t want to take over corporations and make them more “socially responsible.” We want to build a counter-economy of open-source information, neighborhood garage manufacturing, Permaculture, encrypted currency and mutual banks, leaving the corporations to die on the vine along with the state.
We just want to be left alone in peace to build the institutions of this post-capitalist society, outperform it through the superior efficiency of peaceful cooperation and horizontal organization, and be there as an alternative for people to turn to as the old system exhausts itself and dies. We don’t see any need for a final revolutionary assault on the old system. State agencies, mass-production factories and large-scale agribusiness are bureaucratic, hierarchical dinosaurs. There is simply nothing they can do that we need, that we can’t do better for ourselves in the post-capitalist society we’re constructing outside their control. If there is to be violence, it will come from the capitalists’ state fighting to smother our successor society in its cradle.
David Clarke has explicitly threatened such violence against us, on behalf of the capitalist state he represents, while falsely accusing us of lawlessness. Far from being “lawless,” anarchy in fact is the only possible form of genuine order. Clarke’s state represents violence — centuries of it — on behalf of the classes who have acquired most of the world’s land and property through looting, and rely on state force to extract surplus labor from the producing classes. Clarke’s state requires violence because its main purpose is to enable the minority to live at the expense of the majority, against our will. Order can only exist where people are secure in their peaceful possession of the land they live on and the products of their labor, and all productive effort is organized through the peaceful cooperation of those involved.
We don’t want violence. If Clarke and the state he represents launch another offensive war of repression against us, it will be his choice, not ours. And if it comes, it will simply be another offensive in an age-old civil war between the people who own the earth and those who live and work in it. We have fought and survived through many other such assaults. And if we are forced to do so again, we are ready.