Viewpoint Magazine on Strategy After Ferguson
This roundtable is a part of our evolving “Movement Inquiry” feature, which opened with an investigations of housing struggles in the US and Black Liberation in higher education. If you would like to get involved, email us at email@example.com.
Ferguson’s August uprising wasn’t the first to follow a police murder, not even in recent memory. But unlike the 2009 Oscar Grant rebellion, or the actions in Flatbush after the murder of Kimani Gray in 2013, the street militancy exhibited by that small suburb of St. Louis endured long enough to inspire a national movement for black lives and liberation. We should pause to reflect on the tremendous ground that’s been covered in these first seventeen months. How distant do the denunciations of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson now seem? Or the simultaneous outpouring of hundreds of thousands of people into the streets and highways of every major American city? Those earliest debates establishing black leadership and the urgent defenses of rioting now carry an air of inevitability to them, but just over a year ago, they remained open questions.
That the movement has developed at such a breakneck speed has posed unique challenges for our inquiry. Trying to keep pace has often a been dizzying task, as new questions and conjectures arise with startling quickness. Celebrity activists and NGO luminaries are designated and in due time discredited, as battles over scarce seats at the table carry on when the mass mobilizations begin to recede. The cycles of co-optation and repression can move many of us to cynicism, but neither has proved capable of exhausting the dynamism of the grassroots. For every Teach for America operation, there’s a Twin Cities’ riot.
With equal difficulty, we have had to confront the incredible political diversity of this moment, which has included everyone from the Nation of Islam, nonprofit executives, and unaffiliated liberals, to afropessimists, oath keepers, and yes, revolutionary communists. And while the political composition of many participants stretches across those camps, it is hard not to sense that the movement is entering a new juncture in which the lines of demarcation are being drawn a little more clearly. With each day the gap between those who frequent the executive offices of Silicon Valley, and those who maintain fealty to the black radical tradition, grows.
The eleven groups featured below constitute part of what may be an emerging radical pole in the struggle for black liberation. Even in their analytical divergence and organizational heterogeneity, they yield the outlines of a revolutionary unity, opposed to separatism, whose ambitions exceed that of the misleadership both new and old.
We hope that this roundtable on “Strategy after Ferguson” is an opening to further dialogue and debate. We welcome your ideas, feedback, critiques, as well as your support in sharing this resource – with friends and comrades, in workplaces and organizing meetings, at rallies and direct actions, and beyond. To get involved, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Ben Mabie
“Rather than calling for ‘black and white, unite and fight’ as if both sides were equal players in a given whole, we say the specific struggles of black proletarians are in all of our interests, and make it possible for us to win together, and we relate to them as such.”
by some members of Ann Arbor Alliance for Black Lives
“Our experiences in this and other movements have clearly demonstrated to us that the concept of allyship is dead or at least dying. The key is to remember that while we may have similar enemies, we do not have the same reasons for our antagonisms.”
by Ralikh Hayes
“The Civil Rights Movement and all those organizing for Black liberation never actually stopped, even as the 1960s winded down. This is a long struggle that was submerged beneath the surface for the last few decades, only emerging as a mass movement again recently.”
by Mike Siviwe Elliott
“The police are just one front of the attack on poor and working people. We fight there because it’s an important part of this larger fight, one that speaks immediately to the needs and interests of those in oppressed communities. But even our strategy to build up this particular fight around community control of the police is based on participating in and supporting other struggles.”
by Kali Akuno
“Organizing against state repression and police terror are cornerstones of the self-defense work that Black people must engage in out of pure necessity in the United States. However, we have to recognize that defense work of this nature, in and of itself, is not transformative.”
by Aurielle Lucier
“This older leadership class is clearly invested in the power they’ve obtained for themselves with a seat at the table, and they mistake that seat as real liberation for Black people. Since the 1970s, there’s been no accountability of Black leadership to the community they claim to represent, and those legacies of protest and movement building weren’t passed down, but were forgotten.”
by Waylon McDonald
“Our focus is not trying to win over the right wing, but focusing on building power within our communities, alongside the majority of Americans who are learning that these kinds of state policies are not in their interests. So while we’re disrupting our enemies, we must, at the same time, organize and build solidarity among and across black, radical, and progressive sectors of the country, without getting bogged down in narrow and reductive identity politics.”
“But we also want to be careful not to solely focus our energies on protesting, rallying, and policy change. We are working towards building autonomous economic power, as we do not believe in relying on white people or this government to do what’s necessary for Afrikan liberation. That comes from the people, all power is with the people and we truly live our lives and run our organization with this motto.”
by George Ciccariello-Maher
“Building these international relationships will take many forms: reviving and transforming a stale solidarity model inherited from Stalinism; insisting on building direct relations between movements, not state-mediated anti-imperialism; and refusing the radical posturing so prevalent today in favor of a revolutionary humility.”
by Abdul, Baaseiah, and Nayef
“I often hear and recognize someone on the metro from these various events, and we will exchange a look or smile. I think that in a way, I can see how these kind of relationships are a kind of hidden organization. So we’re not anti-organizational, we’re just not in the business of recruitment.”
“We propose that we consider institutions such as schools, hospitals and public transportation as social chokepoints, institutional spaces where a diverse range of proletarians come together on a daily basis. Militants should strongly consider the importance of organizing within these spaces.”