black agenda report

Peace, Black Self-Determination, and the Duopoly Trap
Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report, Oct 22 2020

Homo sapiens make a very big deal of the species’ vaunted intelligence, but no group of chimpanzees would allow themselves to be ensnared for generations in a binary trap without exploring ways to escape. Sadly, the same human capacity to imagine a near-infinity of life scenarios (dramas, comedies, satires, election forecasting, best-selling volumes of lies) can also conjure constellations of reasons to believe that a trap is not a trap. In the national electoral process that will culminate on Nov 3, the vast majority of Black voters will invest their (very limited) franchise in a Democrat who has never been on their side of the issues and vows to continue standing in the way of national health care and even the most modest “reforms” of policing. Joe Biden does, however, occasionally rouse himself from geriatric torpor to promise a kind of imperial military reparations: that he will repair Washington’s alliances that have become frayed during Donald Trump’s erratic years at the helm, with the aim of standing up to Russia and China. It’s the Democrats’ very understated way of signaling to the ruling class that endless austerity (the Race to the Bottom) and war will be the operative policies once Trump is gone.

Kamala Harris did not write the 1994 crime bill that condemned additional millions of Black people to the prison gulag, but she was a dedicated prosecutorial disciple of the Biden-Clinton “lock up the (Black) predators” doctrine. Having taken all sides of the issues in the primaries, Harris now speaks only the language of “Joe” and mouths the Democrats’ sacred promise to “Build Back Better,” possibly the most noncommittal campaign slogan ever concocted. But she is Black, and has a heartbeat, and will therefore be only a heartbeat away from the presidency if her ticket wins, which some Black folks and women claim is reason to be excited about Nov 3. They have so devalued the franchise, they are satisfied with a choice of physical “role models,” like the “right” to buy your child a Black Barbie doll for Xmas/Kwanza, only these role models kill and imprison millions.

The hegemony of (white) big capital allows for very few cracks in the corporate-mediated public discourse that might reveal Black folks’ actual worldviews, beyond the excruciatingly narrow left-right choices presented by the two corporate parties. Where do Black folks really (want to) stand on issues of war and peace and social justice? We all know what most Black people fear: four more years of the “red meat” race-baiting that brought Trump into the White House, and which stampeded Blacks deeper into the duopoly trap. But corporate pollsters earn their fees by asking questions that are carefully framed to indicate preferences for one duopoly party or the other; that is, the questions themselves produce answers that appear to reinforce the legitimacy of duopoly rule, the binary straightjacket. However, we do know that the Black American worldview is profoundly Left, a reality “discovered” to the surprise of the Bay Area Center For Voting Research, in 2005. As Bruce Dixon reported in The Black Commentator, the Center’s leftish political scientists assumed that the the white intellectual bastions of Cambridge, Massachusetts and Madison, Wisconsin, were the most left-leaning cities. The Bay Area think-tank concluded:

Detroit is the most liberal city in the US, and has one of the highest concentrations of African American residents of any major city. Over 81% of the population in Detroit is African American, compared to the national average of 12.3%. In fact, the average percentage of African American residents in the 25 most liberal cities in the country is 40.3%, more than three times the national rate. The list of America’s most liberal cities reads like a who’s who of prominent African American communities. Gary, Washington DC, Newark, Flint, Cleveland, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Birmingham have long had prominent black populations. While most black voters have consistently supported Democrats since the 1960s, it is the white liberals that have slowly withered away over the decades, leaving African Americans as the sole standard bearers for the left.

But independent Black politics is not a subject of corporate discussion, and is derided by the Democratic operatives that have infested every civic institution in Black America, including the AKA sorority, whose main political project is boosting their member, top-cop Kamala Harris. The most comprehensive political survey of Black folks took place in 1994-95, under Black political scientist Michael C Dawson. The National Black Politics Study found that 50% of Blacks thought of themselves as a “nation within a nation” (although only 11% wanted to separate from the US); 50% wanted Blacks to form their own political party; 51% saw the police as just another gang; and 74% viewed corporations as “unfair to the Black community.” (See Black Visions: The Roots of Contemporary African American Political Ideologies, Dawson, University of Chicago Press, 2000.) Dr Dawson, a pioneering Black political demographer, used the survey to delineate the ideological affinities of Blacks in the US. It is a profoundly left-leaning polity.

Dr Dawson tracked the divide that separates grassroots Black political thinking and the positions taken by Black politicians (almost all of whom are Democrats), writing:

As black elected officials began to have aspirations that require attracting votes outside the black community, they (with the exception of Jesse Jackson and Harold Washington) deemphasized both their explicit racial appeals and political agendas that included economic redistribution, historically a fundamental political demand of the black community. Finally, many black elected officials became incorporated into the new ruling regime of race relations management, which functions as a regulatory buffer dedicated to incremental changes in race relations and even smaller changes in the economic plight of the poor.

There has been no sea change in the Black American world view since 1995, although eight years with a Black family in the White House clearly enhanced, during Barack Obama’s tenure at least, Black folk’s identification with the US State. When Obama threatened to bomb Syria in 2013 for allegedly carrying out a chemical attack on civilians, more Blacks (40%) than whites (38%) and Hispanics (31%) favored bombing Damascus. (see BAR, Sep 18 2013, “Black America More Pro-War Than Ever.”) However, majorities of all three groups were opposed to bombing Syria: Blacks 56%, whites 58%, Hispanics 63%. A much clearer picture of Black anti-war sentiment, when not clouded by racial loyalties, was revealed by a Zogby poll conducted in early Feb 2003, just a month before the US invasion of Iraq. The pollsters asked:

Would you support or oppose a war against Iraq if it meant thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties?

The Black Commentator, Feb 18 2003, reported:

A solid majority of white men answered in the affirmative, as did more than a third of white women. Only 7% of African Americans favored a war that would kill thousands. Hispanics lost some of their bloodlust when confronted with the prospect of mass Iraqi civilian casualties; only 16% are willing to support such an outcome.

If only 7% of Blacks could countenance mass carnage of Iraqi civilians, then war fever was an entirely marginal sentiment in the Black polity, which was fundamentally different than white America on issues of war and peace. Specifically, Blacks saw Arabs as human beings, even after two years of Arab-demonizing in the wake of 9/11. We at BAR maintain that the Black American consensus remains overwhelmingly anti-war, in both comparative and actual terms. But you won’t get that kind of insight from #BlackLivesMatter name-giver Alicia Garza’s Black Census, which is the largest survey of Black public opinion in history but asked not one question on US foreign policy, as if Black people have no positions on war and peace.

The Census was paid for by the corporate philanthropy that has poured into Black Lives Matter-labeled coffers to yoke the movement into the Democratic Party, which prefers that Black people let white folks do foreign policy. Garza is glad to oblige and has become a major player on the corporate side of the Party. (See BAR, Jun 5 2019, “Black Lives Matter Founder Launches Huge Project to Shrink Black Lives.” And BAR, Oct 3 2019, “The Corporate Democrats’ (and Alicia Garza’s) Get-Sanders Slanders.”) So, while too many of BAR readers, including some of our closest friends and collaborators, will on Nov 3 be rewarding one of the duopoly parties for its record of opposing and actively stifling the vast bulk of Black public opinion on war and peace and social justice issues, please also consider giving support to those organizations that reflect the actual majority, and profoundly Left, Black American worldview.

Below is posted the Black Is Back Coalition’s ground-breaking 19-point National Black Political Agenda for Self-determination, a document that will be highlighted at the Coalition’s Nov 7-8 “Black People’s March on the White House,” an annual event since the organization’s founding in the first year of the Obama Administration; and the Black Alliance For Peace’s demands for all elected officials and candidates in the 2020 elections. (I am a co-founder, and member, respectively, of BiB and BAP,) The anti-war positions taken by BAP and the self-determinationist stance of Black Is Back reflect the opinions of large majorities or very strong pluralities of Black people, as measured by the surveys and studies cited in this article. Those sentiments are marginalized and muted by the corporate duopoly with the collaboration of the mostly Democratic Black Misleadership Class, who are the undeserving recipients of Black and Left votes every election cycle, recurring cycles of despair and fear.

Black Alliance for Peace Demands of Candidate and Elected Officials

The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) has determined climate change and the interlocking issues of war, militarism, and the now-normalized and still illegal US interventionism pose the greatest threats to humanity. That is why we have launched a campaign demanding all 2020 candidates for local, state and federal offices in the US take a position on US interventionism (read our official statement). BAP’s campaign has been making the connection between US foreign interventions and the domestic war on African people and other oppressed groups (see No Compromise, No Retreat: Defeat the War Against African/Black People in the US and Abroad).


  • Oppose the militarization of US police through the Dept of Defense’s 1033 program
  • Oppose Israeli training of US police forces
  • Call for and work for the closure of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM)
  • Advocate for the closure of 800+ US foreign military bases
  • Oppose Trump’s “Operation Relentless Pursuit”
  • Commit to opposing all military, economic (including sanctions and blockades) and political interventions
  • Advocate for an end to US participation in NATO
  • Support efforts to cut the US military budget by 50%
  • Demand the US Dept of Justice document and investigate the use of lethal force by domestic police officers
  • Commit to passing resolutions that commit the US to uphold international law and the UN Charter
  • Sponsor legislation and/or resolutions to support the UN resolution on the complete global abolition of nuclear weapons
  • See our social media campaign @blackallianceforpeace on Instagram.
  • Please encourage organizations you work with to endorse the pledge at There, orgs and individuals can also download and distribute the candidate pledge.
  • To help you mobilize any organizations you are involved with, find the campaign social media resources, an example email, and the candidate pledge attached below. Please share our 2020 Candidate Accountability Pledge with any aligned organizations or individuals to demand that our representatives oppose global militarism, imperialism and repression and tag us in any photos you share!

Black Is Back Coalition National Black Political Agenda for Self-determination
19 Points

  1. Black Women. With this National Black Political Agenda for Self-determination, the entire black or African nation declares our commitment to facilitate the elevation of African women to full, equal partnership in our struggle to create a new world of freedom and socialist democracy for a united black community and a world shorn forever of bosses and workers and slaves and masters and where African women will share the power to guarantee that African women are adequately empowered as equal architects of our new world.
  2. The Black Family. We demand an immediate halt to attacks on the Black family, a genocidal campaign rooted in the Atlantic Slave Trade and embedded in US public and private policy. The US has waged ceaseless war on the Black family: from the slaveholder that sold Africans as units of private property with no claims to family ties that he was bound to respect; to the denial of adult Black people the human right to protect our families. To the deliberate exclusion of heads of Black households from employment sufficient to provide for our families’ needs. To the systemic undermining of Black family structures through public “welfare” programs, such as the foster care system, in which Black children are disproportionately taken away from families and in which parental rights are being stripped from Black parents at an alarming rate. To the criminalization of all Black adults and children by the current mass Black incarceration regime. These intentionally-inflicted harms can only be repaired through the achievement of Black self-determination.
  3. Black Community Control Of The Police. We demand the immediate withdrawal of all domestic military occupation forces from Black communities. This democratic demand assumes the ability of Black people to mobilize for our own security and to redefine the role of the police so that it no longer functions as an agency imposed on us from the outside.
  4. Free All Political Prisoners. This includes “politicized” prisoners who may have originally been imprisoned for non-political reasons, but whose achieved political consciousness after imprisonment resulted in political acts or statements that were punished by specialized treatment and, sometimes, additional prison time. The definition of political prisoners is also extended to all those activists and militants who have been detained, or arrested during the most recent wave or resistance in places like Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We reject the authority of the US State to imprison persons whose imprisonment is rooted in their defense of Black people’s democratic and self-determination rights. Black people ourselves have the right and responsibility to designate those individuals and categories of prisoners to be immediately released from US confinement and control.
  5. Roll Back and End Mass Black Incarceration. The US mass Black incarceration regime is designed to contain, terrorize and criminalize an entire people, with the result that one out of eight prison inmates on the planet is a Black person in the US. As a minimal demand, every US incarcerating authority must take immediate steps to roll back the national prison and jail population to 1972 levels, resulting in the release of four out of five current inmates in a process overseen by representatives of the imprisoned peoples’ communities, primarily people of color. As a maximum demand, all Africans must be immediately released from US prisons and jails and our community given the democratic right to determine their fate.
  6. Reparations. We demand reparations consistent with international norms regarding redress for crimes against humanity. This includes the enslavement, colonialism and apartheid from which we suffer up to today. The totality of the repair, according to international law, must include policies, programs and projects that cease ongoing racial crimes; offer restitution and return us to wholeness; provide compensation that allows for a quality standard of life as well as individual and collective wealth creation; ensure satisfaction that returns our dignity and achieves rehabilitation for the heart, mind, body and spirit injuries resulting from the centuries of trauma and abuse.
  7. Self-defense. We declare our human right to armed self-defense from the violent attacks by white citizens and the assaults and murders by the domestic military occupation forces that include various police organizations. We fully recognize that in a struggle for self-determination any act of resistance by the oppressed is an act of self-defense.
  8. Nationalize the Banks And End Forever The Rule Of Capital, which has been central to the enslavement, extermination, colonization and denial of self-determination to peoples, worldwide. The process must begin with creation of a National Development Bank as the primary engine of commerce and development, and a Black-directed public bank to finance developmental paths chosen by Black communities.
  9. Full Employment and A National Minimum Income. We demand that the US government ensure the provision of living wage jobs for all, and a guaranteed minimum income sufficient to support a life with dignity for every household and individual. This goal is immediately achievable and is intended not only to totally eliminate poverty, beginning with historically super-exploited and deprived communities, but to provide families and individuals with the resources and free time to fully contribute to our community’s social, cultural, economic and political development. This minimum demand for full employment and a national minimum income is not a concession to the existing system of capitalist economic domination, it is not an assumption of the permanence of the worker-boss relationship that helps to define capitalist exploitation. Our ultimate aim continues to be total black self-determination and socialist democracy that empowers the workers at the expense of the capitalist class.
  10. Right to Housing that is safe, secure, habitable and affordable, with freedom from forced eviction and the process of red lining, traditionally used to deny housing to black people. In addition, we demand reparations for the loss of billions of dollars in Black wealth due to home foreclosures stemming from the US government-supported subprime mortgage scam. Just as the financial institutions that perpetrated the scam were rescued through the massive infusion of federal dollars, so too must the victims of this crime be made whole through a reparations process overseen by representatives of the families and communities that were most grievously harmed.
  11. Halt Gentrification through the empowerment, stabilization and restoration of traditional Black neighborhoods. Black people have the right to develop, plan and preserve our own communities. No project shall be considered “development” that does not serve the interests of the impacted population, nor should any people-displacing or otherwise disruptive project be allowed to proceed without the permission of that population. Peoples that have been displaced from our communities by public or private development schemes have the right to return to our communities, from New Orleans to Harlem.
  12. Black Business Must Be Nurtured by public development banks and protected from strangulation by corporate chains and monopolies. Black community planning agencies must protect and give preferential access to local entrepreneurs and cooperatives willing to operate in harmony with the community’s developmental plans, with a special emphasis on agriculture. Accordingly, we demand immediate reparations for Black farmers and an end to the land theft and discriminatory laws and practices used against Black farmers in the US.
  13. Right To Free Education Through Post-graduate Level. Public schools must meet the highest standards of excellence, under the supervision of educational boards directly elected by the communities they serve. We oppose both for-profit schooling and philosophies of teaching that put profit over human development, and we support democratic educational values and strategies that empower students and their communities to determine their own destinies. In the immediate term, Black people in the US need education that facilitates our liberation from white supremacy and corporate hegemony.
  14. Free, Universal, Quality Healthcare For All by a public system that serves the health needs of entire communities, as well as individuals. Given that group health outcomes are closely linked to group political and economic status, past and present, a universal healthcare policy must provide both equal care to all, regardless of social and financial circumstances, and restorative care to historically oppressed communities, which require political self-determination to achieve social and biological wellness.
  15. Voting Rights. We believe the right to vote, to effectively express a preference for political candidates, parties or social policies, is an inalienable right, the deprival of which results in a kind of social death. In this sense, the vote belongs to communities and peoples, as much as to individuals. Therefore, in addition to an irrevocable right to vote, we demand the use of proportional representation voting systems that more effectively reflect Black people’s political aspirations and opinion. Winner-takes-all voting, as practiced in the US, is inherently undemocratic and incompatible with Black people’s right to self-determination.
  16. US Out of Africa, Asia And Latin America, where US imperialism and support for European colonialism has caused tens of millions of deaths and vast social and physical destruction. In addition to US military withdrawal to within its own currently-recognized borders, we demand an end to US proxy wars, drone attacks and political subversion of governments and people’s movements around the globe. Given that the US was the first nuclear power, is the only country to have used nuclear weapons, and has never renounced First Strike, we demand US nuclear disarmament without preconditions, unilaterally if necessary.
  17. The West Must Pay Its Debt To Africa and Its Descendants Africa and the rest of the colonized world owes nothing to European and US governments or financial institutions. Rather, reparations should be flowing in the other direction as payback for half a millennium of slavery, colonialism and imperialist underdevelopment. We reject the suggestion that debt “forgiveness” or “relief” should be considered as reparations. We demand the US immediately drop all debt claims against the formerly-colonized regions of Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific, and begin negotiations for restitution to those countries.
  18. Free Palestine, Down With Israeli Apartheid. We demand recognition of all rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to an independent, sovereign Palestinian State and the right to return for all Palestinian refugees. The US must immediately end all monetary aid, trade relationships and military cooperation with the Apartheid Zionist State of Israel, until that uniquely barbaric affront to human civilization is dismantled and abolished.
  19. Climate Change and Toxic Pollution Created By Capitalism Must End. We demand that the capitalist countries take responsibility for the destruction of the environment through policies based on the parasitic profit motive. We recognize that capitalist-induced climate change for our brothers and sisters on the continent of Africa is a matter of life and death due to the resulting drought, death, famine and starvation. We recognize that capitalist pollution and toxic waste dumps in Africa as well as in our communities throughout the US endangers the health of African people everywhere. We recognize that the same system that built itself through colonial occupation, genocide and enslavement has no regard for the safety of the planet and the health of our communities.

Biden and Liberal Censorship
Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report, Oct 21 2020

We can thank liberals for turning social media platforms into the biggest champions of censorship in the country. Frustrated in the wake of the 2016 election debacle, they rushed to cover up for their own failures and used Russia as their scapegoat. Russiagate began even while the campaign was still in progress, as Hillary Clinton tried unsuccessfully to label Donald Trump a “Putin puppet” and worked with surveillance state insiders to make their tall tale appear real. The country has never recovered from this scheme. The Democrats repeated incessantly that foreign interference lost them the election. Facebook memes and other social media posts were said to be Putin’s weapon against the hapless party which couldn’t turn a $1 billion campaign war chest into an electoral college victory. The big technology companies are on the Democratic side of the duopoly. They are major contributors to their campaigns and that means the two groups collude with one another. The Democrats tell big technology firms what they want, and they happily comply. The post-election impact was immediate, as sites like Black Agenda Report were de-ranked on search engines such as Google. Facebook also limited access to left wing sites. Algorithms have significantly diminished access to independent Youtube channels while elevating the numbers of viewers on corporate media sites.

Their favoritism showed itself again recently when a story of Joe Biden’s personal corruption was resurrected. The NY Post obtained photos and emails from a laptop that once belonged to Hunter Biden. The younger Biden is best known for profiting off of his father’s name. In 2014 after Barack Obama helped to overthrow the elected president of Ukraine, Vice President Joe Biden became the point person for all issues regarding that country. His son was appointed to the board of a Ukrainian gas company and was paid $50k/month in this capacity. He had no discernible experience that qualified him for this position. In recent years the younger Biden is best known for personal scandals and drug addiction. Documents in the laptop indicated that despite his many denials, Joe Biden may have met with Ukrainians doing business with his son. That is a clear conflict of interest by any definition. Facebook and Twitter responded to the story by doing their best to make sure no one saw it. Anyone attempting to share the New York Post article on Twitter was denied the ability to do so and some users had their accounts locked. Facebook limited distribution of the article without saying exactly what that meant. The end result is that millions of people who depend on these platforms for news missed out on a relevant story. Joe Biden may have lied about contacts with people connected with his son in a country which had become a de facto US colony under his control. Despite all the talk of Republican fascism, it is Democrats and the technology companies which support them that are doing most of the censoring that is identified with fascist societies.

Hunter Biden’s activities in Ukraine are not a new story. The emails in the laptop just give more details about what he and his father were up to. The fact that the story appeared in the conservative NY Post thanks to Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon, meant that it automatically lacked credibility in the eyes of many people. Even so, the public had a right to read it and decide its importance for themselves. Twitter hypocritically claimed that it won’t provide access to leaked or hacked material, but they rightly gave access to the recent leak of Donald Trump’s tax returns. The lies and the double standards are breathtaking and that is cause for concern. Black Agenda Report and other leftist news sites always struggled under the weight of corporate control of news-gathering. The 2016 election gave liberals license to live their fantasy of controlling discourse and they joined with their media partners in crime to limit information. It is the WaPo which created Propaganda or Not, Propornot, a secretive group which labeled Black Agenda Report and others as Russian assets in 2016.

The left must beware. The corporate media and their liberal friends may pretend to target the right, but it is leftists who they really want to silence. They are the threat to the fake progressive party which gets support from people who should have abandoned them long ago. The left reveal the plot twists of the kabuki play and must be shut up and shut down. Joe Biden got protection when he needed it most. The New York Post story revealed what smart observers already know. The Democratic party holds on to support with a shaky coalition of white people who intensely hate Trump, black voters determined to keep Republicans, particularly Trump, out of office, and progressives who won’t vote for what they really want for fear of being “spoilers.” Any scandal that might hurt Biden will be hushed up lest the house of cards falls down.

But all of the people don’t take part in the charade. While Biden uses COVID as an excuse for not holding large events, and lets social media make excuses for him, Trump still draws crowds. Election day in 2020 could potentially be a repeat of 2016, when millions of people defied convention wisdom and put their great white hope into office. Democrats are prepared with excuses, and are already claiming that Vladimir Putin was somehow involved in getting a laptop out of a Delaware computer repair shop. The public remains at the mercy of platforms that ought to be regulated while the Democrats strive to keep everyone in the dark and prop up one of the worst presidential candidates of all times. If they succeed their friends in Silicon Valley will come to Washington with them and the people will be the losers.

Say Racism’s Name, and Fight it with Solidarity
Danny Haiphong, Black Agenda Report, Oct 21 2020

The following remarks were given at Stand Up to Racism’s International Conference on Oct 17 entitled “Black Lives Matter Vs Trump: A Decisive Moment in the International Anti-Racist Movement.”

The instability of Trump’s presidency and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement have upset the US power structure. White supremacist groups such as the Proud Boys and the Boogaloo Movement have increased in number and visibility to protect the right of white America to the historic spoils of stolen land and stolen labor. These groups have found their Great White Hope in Donald Trump and his many appeals to keep them safe from Black Americans, immigrants, and oppressed nations all over the world. Equally troubling has been massive counter-insurgency campaign to smother the movement against racism in its crib. The US crusade against Black Lives Matter is enabled by the very forces supposedly monitoring white nationalist groups and organizations in the US. The FBI has been praised for protecting Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer from a white terrorist plot. Yet the FBI was a leading force in the repression of Black Freedom fighters such as Marcus Garvey and Claudia Jones as well as Black Freedom organizations such as the Black Panther Party. Beginning in 2014, the FBI monitored activists in Ferguson and would later target them as “Black Identity Extremists.” Fertile ground was thus laid for a surge in white nationalism embodied by Donald Trump.

The enablers of white nationalism are numerous within the halls of power. Police officers are top recruits of white nationalist organizations. The US military has stoked Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant racism by destabilizing the planet with endless war. Trump is a member of the same class of corporate thieves that called Black Americans “mud people” as they were sold “ghetto loans” in the lead up to the economic collapse in 2008. Trump’s “shithole country” comment was made possible by the West’s continued neocolonial plunder of Africa. Racism is a necessary precondition for keeping the US at the top of a global capitalist order built on centuries of colonialism, slavery, and genocide. Activists from around the world expressed solidarity with Black Lives Matter for this reason. The keyword here is global. Racism is a global ideology and a global system of oppression. A massive wave of anti-China sentiment has swept across the US and its allies to expose both the global character of racism and the dire need for international solidarity.

Anti-China and anti-Asian racism are nothing new. The brutal US invasion of the Philippines, the US’ internment of Japanese residents during WW2, and the genocidal wars in Korea and Vietnam all possessed racist justifications. Anti-China racism intensified in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as the US and its allies moved swiftly to blame their ills on China. Trump has repeatedly called COVID-19 the “China virus” to cover up his role in the deaths of over 200k people. Sanctions have been leveled against Chinese officials and tech companies. Chinese college students have been targeted as potential communist insurgents and forced to transfer from school or return to China. The US military’s “Pivot to Asia” has accelerated under Trump. His administration is now trying to rally Japan, India, and other countries in the region to join the military encirclement of China. These are just some of the policies that have soured US-China relations and threatened the safety of Chinese and Asian American communities living in the US.

Anti-China and anti-Black racism are intimately connected. The same US political and economic elite waging a multifaceted assault on Black Lives Matter has blamed China for everything from the pandemic to the global economic crisis. Black Lives Matter is the internal enemy while China is considered the most dangerous foe to US hegemony. A similar dynamic occurred during the first Cold War. The US desperately wanted to hide its Jim Crow terrorism from international eyes yet relied upon white supremacist organizations such as the John Birch Society to demonize the Black Freedom movement as a Soviet plot. Racism is just as antithetical to human progress now as it was then. Police accountability is antagonistic to the interests of the wealthy who see the police as their loyal protectors. China’s enormous economy and global leadership on the problems of poverty, climate change, and COVID-19 threatens the interests of a society dependent upon military force to maintain superpower status.

“Say Their Name” has become an increasingly popular means of reinforcing the humanity of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the many Black Americans killed by the police each year in the US. Let Black Lives Matter be the first step in building a global movement that says racism’s name and fights it with solidarity. Racism lies at the roots of two of the biggest questions confronting humanity: whether to support Black Lives Matter and oppose US-led escalations toward China that have deepened anti-China antipathy. The answer appears easy, but the path forward is difficult. Full solidarity must be given to Black Lives Matter. Anti-China racism must be rejected without hesitation. How we express and act on these principles should be the only thing up for debate.

America’s Wars on Democracy in Rwanda and the DRC
Ann Garrison, Black Agenda Report, Oct 21 2020

Justin Podur’s new book, America’s Wars on Democracy in Rwanda and the DRC, is about Rwanda and the DRC and their inextricably entwined histories within the framework of European colonization and American empire, and it’s excellent. I believe it will come to stand alongside the best of recent research and writing on the subject, including Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa, from Tragedy to Useful Imperial Fiction by Robin Philpot, The Accidental Genocide by Peter Erlinder, How Paul Kagame Deliberately Sacrificed the Tutsi by Jean-Marie Ndagijimana, Surviving the Slaughter: The Ordeal of a Rwandan Refugee in Zaire, by Marie Beatrice Umutesi, Dying to Live: A Rwandan Family’s Five Year Flight Across the Congo by Pierre-Claver Ndacyayisenga, Judi Rever’s In Praise of Blood: Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, and the UN’s 1994 Gersony Report, 1998 Garreton Report, and Group of Experts Reports on the DRC, 2001-2020. America’s War on Democracy in Rwanda and the DRC added to my understanding of all those works without redundancy, and, like them, it challenges the book that became the most common textbook on the Rwandan Genocide, Philip Gourevitch’s We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda. That’s a godawful book, a disservice to Rwandans, Congolese and anyone else who takes a serious interest in the subject, so the more challenges to it the better.

My strongest response to Podur’s book came with Chapter 10, “How Africanists Present Hutus as Deserving of Death,” which is long overdue. I have never seen more virulent racism than that directed at Rwandan Hutu people, thanks to the “Africanist” scholars Podur critiques, the powerful interests that racism serves, and the distortions and omissions in the popular movie Hotel Rwanda. I have written about this racism myself, as have others, but I haven’t read anything that describes it as well as Justin Podur has by devoting a whole chapter of his book to it. Like so much racism, it is deeply ingrained, not only in Rwanda but also throughout the West. This should be obvious to anyone who observes the constant Western prosecutions of Hutu people for the crime of being a Hutu in Rwanda between April 6 and the first week of July 1994. Often the defendants in these prosecutions are in the dock because the Rwandan government felt threatened by their success, their advocacy for justice in Rwanda, or their testimony on behalf of a fellow Rwandan Hutu on trial in the West. Sometimes those found guilty (of being Hutu) are sent back to be imprisoned in Rwanda, and sometimes they are imprisoned here in the US or in Europe.

Last year I covered the trial of Jean Leonard Teganya in Boston, where the mostly white, all-American jury found him guilty on all counts within an hour of deliberation, despite a public defender’s excellent case. Some years ago I covered the case of Lazare Kabogaya, an 80-year-old Burundian Hutu who was unfortunate enough to have been in Rwanda during the first six months of 1994. The Rwandan government had trumped up some genocide crime charges, but he was in fact on trial for testifying in defense of another Rwandan Hutu somewhere in Europe. The US government wasted a million dollars trying to deport him and failed. Another case I covered was that of Joseph Nkusi, a Rwandan refugee in Norway who was deported to Rwanda for dissident blogging that the Rwandan government labeled “genocide ideology.”

I recently read an essay by a Rwandan American friend of mine, Claude Gatebuke, in which he wrote that the Rwandan government is withholding genocide survivors benefits from young people who were orphaned by the Rwandan Genocide because, having little idea of who their parents were, they might unknowingly give survivors’ benefits to Hutus as well as Tutsis. This is a concern of the Rwandan government because, as Justin Podur writes, it considers Hutus “innately evil” even if orphaned in infancy or early childhood. This fundamental racism took root not only in Rwanda, with Rwandan Tutsi supremacists, but also with well-meaning Western liberals who somehow imagine that it’s a humanitarian response to the Rwandan tragedy. Discussion of the Rwandan Genocide, and Rwanda’s invasion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is always controversial. The Rwandan government will be enraged by this book, but that’s a badge of honor. Its current allies controlling the Congolese government won’t like it either. Nor will the American imperialists it implicates. This bunch are all so self-protectively cloaked in their own self-righteousness that few are likely to read far into it if at all, but nevertheless, the truth continues to emerge.

Liberalism & Fascism: The Good Cop & Bad Cop of Capitalism
Gabriel Rockhill, Black Agenda Report, Oct 21 2020

There is currently one state that has made at least the weak beginnings of a better order.
— Adolph Hitler in 1926.

“Give Franco a hood and he would be a member of the Ku Klux Klan.”
– Langston Hughes

It is often presumed that each individual state has a particular form of government, be it liberal, fascist or authoritarian, which constitutes the primary mode of rule throughout the entire country. We thus often hear expressions like ‘the liberal democracies of the West’ or ‘the former dictatorships of Latin America.’ This geography of governments is linked to a political chronology, which tells us that a government can shift from one form to another, hence the prevalence of sayings like ‘the return of democracy’ or the ‘resurgence of fascism.’ The dominant paradigm for understanding the relationship between states and government can thus be summed up in terms of one overarching principle: each state, if it is not in an open civil war, only has one form of government at one point in time, which rules over its entire territory and population. The one-state-one-government paradigm dissimulates the complex ways in which populations are governed. Its naïve either-or logic provides cover for less savory forms of governance if the state is declared, for instance, a liberal democracy. It also produces a geography and chronology of faraway fascism, by which liberal states seek to convince their citizenry that fascism is something that occurred in the past, that might emerge in the future if liberal institutions aren’t preserved, or that only infests distant lands recalcitrant to democracy. Whatever the case may be, we can rest assured that fascism is not an issue right here, right now.

This paradigm serves as a powerful form of perception management insofar as it does not allow us to see how various sectors of the population and different geographic regions are actually governed and by what forces. Instead of commencing, then, with the one-state-one-government presumption, we should begin the other way around, by a bottom-up materialist analysis of the various modes of governance operative in each historical conjuncture. These modes are not limited to what is called the visible government, meaning the political theater that is daily staged for us by media conglomerates working for the ruling elite, but they also include the invisible government of the deep state, as well as all of the forms of governance that are discretely fostered by the state, but which are outsourced to vigilantes and organized crime (which is not to mention all of the tight economic controls that shackle peoples’ lives). Rather than there being a single agent of governance, such as the elected government, the multiple-modes-of-governance paradigm insists on the multiplicity of agencies that are mobilized for governing different populations, as well as on the variable roles that they play across social strata and at different points in class struggle.

Consider the interwar period in the US, when Mussolini and Hitler were rising to power within the bourgeois democracies of Europe. According to the one-state-one-government paradigm, the US was a liberal democracy at the time, and that is certainly how it presented itself. In fact, it had just won what Woodrow Wilson referred to as a war that made the world ‘safe for democracy.’ In a statement that is less often cited in American history books, however, Wilson clarified what the hollow term of ‘democracy’ actually meant by specifying that the goal of the Great War was “to keep the white race strong” and to preserve “white civilization and its domination of the planet.” Indeed, the US was a racist police state that empowered millions of white-supremacist vigilantes, and that served as a model for the fascist movements in Europe. Hitler wrote admiringly of the US in Mein Kampf:

By refusing immigrants to enter if they are in a bad state of health, and by excluding certain races from the right to become naturalized as citizens, they have begun to introduce principles similar to those on which we wish to ground the People’s State.

As James Whitman has argued in detail, America served as the prototype for the Nazis because it was widely understood to be at the cutting edge of racist and eugenicist statecraft when it came to immigration, second-class citizenship and miscegenation. The Prussian Memorandum of 1933, which outlined the Nazi’s legal program, specifically invoked Jim Crow, and the National Socialist Handbook of Law and Legislation concluded its chapter on the construction of a race state by acknowledging that America was the country that had fundamentally recognized the truths of racism and taken the first necessary steps toward a racial state that would be fulfilled by Nazi Germany. Moreover, scholars like Domenico Losurdo, Ward Churchill and Norman Rich have all argued that the model for Nazi Germany’s white-supremacist colonial expansion was the US American Holocaust against the indigenous population. According to Carroll P Kakel:

The analogue of the ‘American West’ and the ‘Nazi East’ became an obsession for Hitler and other Nazi ‘true believers.’

When Italian fascism first strutted onto the world stage, many Americans at the time immediately recognized it as a European version of the Ku Klux Klan. Sarah Churchwell writes:

Comparisons between the homegrown Klan and Italian fascism soon became ubiquitous in the American press.

With some 5m members in the mid-1920s, the KKK was a deadly vigilante network that enforced the American racial police state, but it was also only part of a larger repressive apparatus. This included white supremacist groups like the Black Legion that were offshoots of the Klan, self-declared fascist organizations such as the Silver Legion of America, Nazi organizations like the Friends of New Germany and the German American Bund, brutal vigilante groups that policed agricultural workers with what Carey McWilliams aptly describes as “farm fascism,” and an expansive network of extremely violent anti-worker organizations that were backed by big business. These anti-labor para-state militants were generally allowed to act with impunity since their agenda seamlessly coalesced with that of the US government. To take but one telling example, in 1919 and 1920 the General Intelligence Division (GID) of the US Justice Dept orchestrated raids in more than 30 US cities, arresting between 5k and 10k anti-capitalist activists, often without warrants, evidence or trials. If one was a member of a racialized group, an immigrant, a worker who sought to organize, or an anti-capitalist activist, it went without saying that you did not have the same rights as those purportedly living under a liberal democracy.

In Facts and Fascism, George Seldes detailed the striking similarities between global fascist movements and those in the United States by demonstrating how big capital in America directly invested in fascism at home and abroad, controlled a pro-capitalist and often fascist-friendly press, and financed repressive racist and anti-labor organizations. The American Legion, for instance, regularly invited Mussolini to its conventions, and one of its first commanders is on record as stating:

Do not forget that the Fascisti are to Italy what the American Legion is to the US.

Its anti-labor activities constitute one of the most violent chapters of American history, according to Seldes, who reminds us that plans were made for a coup d’état in the US:

In 1934, leading members of the Legion conspired with Wall Street brokers and other big business men to upset the government of the United States and establish a fascist regime.

The paradigm of multiple modes of governance allows us to bracket the image that a state projects of itself—its aesthetics of power, so that we can analyze how different populations are actually governed. This tends to vary according to time, place and socioeconomic stratum. Emmett Till, to take a single example, might very well have lived in a state that declared itself to be a liberal democracy, but his brutal beating and murder, as well as the subsequent acquittal of his assassins in a court of law, demonstrate how he and other poor and racialized people were actually governed: by fascist vigilante violence openly condoned by the state. It is important to note that multiple modes of governance are often operative in a single space-time and sometimes target the same populations. The liberal charade of justice during Till’s murder trial obviously sought to convince at least some people that their primary mode of governance was that of the rule of law.

What a materialist analysis demonstrates is that liberalism and fascism, contrary to what the dominant ideology maintains, are not opposites. They are partners in capitalist crime. For the sake of argument, it is worth clarifying that I am not here distinguishing between fascism and authoritarianism, although this distinction can sometimes prove helpful (as in Andre Gunder Frank’s insightful analysis of Latin American military dictatorships). Whereas fascism is generally understood to be a movement that mobilizes sectors of civil society through propaganda campaigns, financial backing and state empowerment, authoritarianism is often defined as relying primarily on the police and military to control the population. These are somewhat porous categories, however, since fascism’s vigilantes are sometimes simply off duty employees of the repressive state apparatus, and authoritarianism has often deputized vigilantes and integrated them into the state. Moreover, in the cases of Italy and Germany, it is arguable that fascism actually evolved into a form of authoritarianism. During their ascent to power within bourgeois democracies, fascists in both cases ran enormous propaganda campaigns to mobilize civil society and work through the electoral system, but once in power, they destroyed the more plebian elements in their fascist bands, and they integrated what was left of them into the state apparatus.

Historically, liberalism and fascism, in this broad sense, have functioned as two modes of capitalist governance that operate in conjunction with one another, following the logic of the police interrogation tactic known as good cop/bad cop. Liberalism as the good cop promises freedom, the rule of law and the protection of a benefactor state in exchange for acquiescence to capitalist socioeconomic relations and pseudo-democracy. It tends to both serve and attract members of the middle and upper-middle classes, as well as those who aspire to be part of them. The bad cop of fascism has proven particularly useful for governing those populations that are poor, racialized, and discontent, as well as for intervening in various parts of the world to impose capitalist social relations by force. If people are not hoodwinked by the false promises of the good cop, or they are not motivated by other reasons to be acquiescent, then the liberals’ partner in crime is on call to beat them into compliance. Those who rise up from any class in order to contest capitalism should be ready to have the liberals and their supposed regime of rights tap out, ceding the fight to their more vicious ally while looking the other way, and reminding any onlookers of the important differences between the lesser of two evils.

The hasty identification of fascism with government, and the complementary opposition between fascist and liberal governments, masks these multiple forms of governance, just as the definition of a state as ‘democratic’ independently of its foreign policy or internal class wars blinds us to its variegated forms of population control. Moreover, it imposes the liberal veil of ignorance, which maintains that fascism is only an important phenomenon if it completely takes over the government. The subtext, of course, is that it is absolutely fine if it continues, as it does in the US, as a form of population management for oppressed and exploited groups through concentration camps and ICE raids, police and vigilante murders, brutal assaults on water protectors, military interventions abroad, and other such activities. As long as a modicum of liberal decorum is maintained for even a small sector of the population, we can rest assured that what we need to do first and foremost is fight to protect the system of liberal rule from so-called fascism.

This is not to deny in the least that there is, for significant portions of the population, a profound, world-altering difference between a self-declared fascist government and fascist modes of governance under liberal cover. When fascist parties attain state power and are no longer held back by their commedia dell’arte with liberals, they can and have unleashed brutal forms of repression on sectors of the population that are generally protected, while increasing their attacks on those that are not and launching barbarous colonial wars. Moreover, dealing with the casuistry and discursive contradictions of the good cop is usually far preferable to facing the iron fist of the bad cop when building power through political parties and organizations (for tactical reasons, it can also be extremely important to find ways of mobilizing and working with liberals, while coaxing them to the Left). However, none of this should blind us to the fact that fascist modes of governance are a very real and present part of the so-called liberal world order, which need to be identified as such in order to be directly contested.

If liberals are tolerant of fascism and defend the rights of fascists, it is not because they are higher moral beings. It is because whether they know it or not, their system of pro-capitalist governance necessitates keeping guard dogs on call for the dirty work. While it is true that they sometimes prefer the general population to be compliant and fall in line with the rigged elections of 60-second dollar democracy, they need to maintain the ability to smash anti-capitalism if there is ever any real threat to the system that supports them. The good cop/bad cop routine only succeeds if it is able to drive a wedge between the two and create the illusion that there is a profound difference, and even opposition, between the amiable police officer who understands our plight and the brutal sidekick who is deaf to our pleas. If the violence of the bad cop is morally reprehensible to the good cop, however, it is because it serves as the latter’s bogeyman, meaning the greater of two evils that the good cop uses to subject populations to its unique form of evil (compliance with capitalist social relations).

It is imperative, then, to recognize, that the good cop and the bad cop ultimately want the same thing: subjects who, by hook or by crook, accept the pervasive violence, ecological destruction and profound inequality inherent in capitalism. Using different tactics, whose very purpose is to obscure their shared strategy, they are both policing the capitalist system. As the American radical tradition has repeatedly pointed out, in language sure to sound barbarous and hence beyond the pale of tolerance to refined liberal ears: a pig is always just a pig. Far from being exceptional or intermittent, fascism is thus an integral part of the systems of governance within which we live, or at least most people live. It is not something that might arrive in the future, although there can, of course, be moments of intensification or complete seizures of state power, which can wreak havoc. It is a mode of governance that is already operative here and now within the system of bourgeois democracy. The failure to recognize this and organize against it has been one of the factors that has contributed to its growth and potential for intensification.

Reformism Isn’t Liberation, It’s Counter-Insurgency
Dylan Rodríguez, Black Agenda Report, Oct 21 2020

This article is part of Abolition for the People, a series brought to you by a partnership between Kaepernick Publishing and LEVEL, a Medium publication for and about the lives of Black and Brown men. The series, which comprises 30 essays and conversations over four weeks, points to the crucial conclusion that policing and prisons are not solutions for the issues and people the state deems social problems, and calls for a future that puts justice and the needs of the community first.

Reform is best understood as a logic rather than an outcome: an approach to institutional change that sustains existing social, economic, political, and/or legal systems, including but not limited to policing, two-party electoral politics, heteronormativity, criminal justice, and corporate destruction of the natural world. To reform a system is to adjust isolated aspects of its operation in order to protect that system from total collapse, whether by internal or external forces. Such adjustments usually rest on the fundamental assumption that these systems must remain intact, even as they consistently produce asymmetrical misery, suffering, premature death, and violent life conditions for certain people and places. While modern policing has emerged through the institutionalized violence of anti-Black apartheid and the long genocidal legacies of chattel slavery and frontier warfare, contemporary efforts at “police reform” nonetheless suggest that policing can be magically transformed into a non-anti-Black, non-racial-colonial (“racist”) system. As the story goes, this white magic is to be performed by way of piecemeal changes in police administration, protocols, “officer accountability,” training, and personnel recruitment.

The #8CantWait campaign, widely publicized on social media by the nonprofit organization We the Protestors and its Campaign Zero effort during the early days of the June 2020 global rebellion against anti-Black police violence, exemplifies the foundational fraudulence of this magical ambition. Premised on the untenable, poorly researched, and dangerous notion that adoption of its eight improved “use of force” policies will result in police killing “72% fewer people,” the 8 Can’t Wait agenda attracted immediate and widespread support from celebrities and elected officials including Oprah Winfrey, Julián Castro and Ariana Grande. Such endorsements are inseparable from the political logic of the non-profit industrial complex: The infrastructure of liberal philanthropy commodifies simplistic narratives of reform into tidy sound/text bites that are easily repeated, retweeted, and reposted by public-facing people and organizations. This dynamic not only insults the intelligence of those engaged in serious, collectively accountable forms of struggle against state violence; it also glorifies clout-seeking laziness as a substitute for actual (abolitionist) activism. One of many glaring problems with #8CantWait, which advocates de-escalation, “warning before shooting,” banning chokeholds, and installation of a “use of force continuum,” is that many of its proposed policy reforms were incorporated by the most homicidally anti-Black police departments in the US (including the notorious Chicago PD) well prior to the state-sanctioned killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many others. Against all historical evidence, #8CantWait attempts to convince those questioning and rebelling against a violent, misery-making system that policing is reformable — that it can be modified and refurbished to protect and serve the very same places, communities, and bodies it has historically surveilled, patrolled, intimidated, and eviscerated. As Project NIA director and abolitionist organizer Mariame Kaba wrote in a June NYT editorial:

There is not a single era in United States history in which the police were not a force of violence against Black people.

A recent amicus brief in Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review echoes Black radical feminist and abolitionist analyses like those of Kaba, Rachel Herzing, Alisa Bierria, Sarah Haley, Beth Richie and Ruthie Gilmore by considering how #8CantWait amounts to a liberal reaction to and attempted appropriation of an emerging global mass movement that radically confronts the foundational gendered anti-Black logics of modern policing. The brief suggests:

Campaign Zero’s decision to move forward with a middle-of-the-road proposal, just as abolitionist organizers have begun to garner increased public support in their demands to defund and abolish the police, is questionable.

It is vital to ask why such reform campaigns consistently emerge with special intensity in historical moments of widespread anti-systemic uprising. The 2020 global rebellions against anti-Black policing, acceleration of abolitionist and proto-abolitionist organizing, and spread of Black feminist and queer radicalisms in our midst are, as the late Cedric Robinson might say, a brilliant, messy, beautiful totality that seeks to overthrow conditions of terror. These conditions are both deeply historical and acutely present, encompassing the deadly forces of criminalization, housing and food insecurity, incarceration, targeted environmental toxification, sexual violence, and cultural demonization. Yet, reform movements tend to simultaneously obscure and reproduce normalized conditions of terror by deferring and/or repressing militant collective confrontation with the historical foundations of gendered anti-Black and racial-colonial state violence. Put another way, if the foundation of such violence is policing itself rather than isolated acts of “police brutality,” or criminal justice rather than the scandal of “mass incarceration,” then reform is merely another way of telling the targets of such asymmetrical domestic warfare that they must continue to tolerate the intolerable.

What might it mean, in moments of widespread rebellion against normalized conditions of terror, to conceptualize reform campaigns like #8CantWait as a liberal-progressive counter-insurgency? How do such reformist counterinsurgencies serve to undermine, discredit, or otherwise disrupt oppressed, freedom-seeking (Black, Indigenous, incarcerated, colonized) peoples’ growing struggles for abolitionist, anti-colonial, decolonizing, and/or revolutionary transformations of existing social, political, and economic systems? Reformism, the ideological and political position that fixates on reform as the primary if not exclusive engine of social change/justice, is another name for this soft form of counter-insurgency. Reformism defers, avoids, and even criminalizes peoples’ efforts to catalyze fundamental change to an existing order, often through dogmatic and simplistic mandates of “nonviolence,” incrementalism, and compliance. Moreover, reformism sees the law as the only legitimate form of protest, collective cultural/political expression, and/or direct intervention on systemically violent conditions. (It is worth noting that the interpretation of violent vs. nonviolent acts requires discussion and debate, particularly in response to oxymoronic notions of “property violence” that rarely account for gendered anti-Black and racial-colonial state violence.) Reformism limits the horizon of political possibility to what is seen as achievable within the limits of existing institutional structures (electoral politics, racial capitalism, heteronormativity, the nation-state, etc.).

While abolitionist, revolutionary, and radical forms of collective analysis and movement frequently create irreconcilable confrontation with oppressive institutions and systems, reformism seeks to preserve social, political, and economic orders by modifying isolated aspects of their operation. A peculiar assertion animates contemporary forms of this liberal-progressive counter-insurgency: that the long historical, systemic, institutionally-reproduced asymmetries of violence produced by existing systems are the unfortunate consequences of fixable “inequities,” “disparities,” “(unconscious or implicit) biases,” corruptions, and/or inefficiencies. In this sense, reformism presumes that equality/equity/parity are achievable and desirable within existing systems. The reformist counter-insurgency pivots on a fervent belief that the spirit of progress, national improvement, and patriotic belief will prevail over a fundamentally violent order. In practice, this belief approximates a form of dogmatic liberal faith, a kind of pseudo-religion. Thus, increased “diversity” in personnel and bureaucratic infrastructure, shifts in the legal and policy apparatus, and individualized “anti-bias trainings” ascend as some of the principal methods for alleviating state violence. There is yet another layer of fatal assumption that structures the reformist position: that those targeted for misery, displacement and premature death under the existing social order must tolerate continued suffering while waiting for the reformist “fix” to take hold.

An abolitionist analysis and collective praxis, on the other hand, offers an urgent rebuttal to the bad-faith incrementalism of the reformist position. Two parts of the spreading abolitionist response are worth emphasizing: First, that the internal logic of the existing social, political, and economic order (following Sylvia Wynter, let us call this “Civilization”) amounts to a long historical war on specific peoples and places. Second, that the transformation of such an order not only requires its upheaval, but also must be guided by the liberation, collective health and self-determination of African-descended peoples, Indigenous and Aboriginal peoples, and other peoples and places targeted by the long history of Civilizational war. Considering the anti-Black, genocidal and proto-genocidal logic of racial capitalism, the (US) nation-state, white supremacy, and settler-colonial domination, reformism is not merely inadequate to the task of abolishing anti-Black, racial-colonial warfare. It is central to Civilization’s expansion, sophistication, and deadliness.

To be fair, some rare reform campaigns seek immediate institutional adjustments that directly address the asymmetrical casualties of anti-Blackness and racial-colonial violence. Abolitionist approaches to reform, for example, endorse short-term measures that defend the existence of vulnerable and oppressed people while allowing organizers, teachers, scholars, and other activists to build greater capacity to completely overturn and transform existing systemic arrangements. #8toAbolition, the abolitionist response to #8CantWait, exemplifies such a program of immediate local reforms, which include defunding/redistributing police budgets, decriminalizing survival-focused economies and communities, decarceration of jails and prisons, and universal access to safe housing. Yet the campaign nonetheless asserts:

The end goal of these reforms is not to create better, friendlier, or more community-oriented police or prisons. Instead, we hope to build toward a society without police or prisons, where communities are equipped to provide for their safety and well-being.

Reform is at best a stop-gap emergency tactic that abolitionists undertake with principled suspicion. This historical moment is marked by multiple obliterations of the reformist script. Growing numbers of people, communities and organizations are unapologetically, militantly rejecting the contemporary socio-political and economic order. This is a time animated by widespread Black and Indigenous revolt, audacious visions of a future against/after Civilization, and a disciplined mass refusal to surrender to the intimidation of right-wing reactionaries and the open repression of the state. Proliferating grassroots activity, language, thought and collective learning expose the brittle ideological claims of reformism, which wilt in the face of the surging art, movement and poetry of abolition, revolution, reparation and radical community that define periods like the summer of 2020. Readers of this and other contributions to Abolition for the People may already be engaged with such communities, but if they are not, they can likely search and find ways to link with such collectives with minimal effort. (Otherwise, they can feel free to reach out to me at , and I’ll do my best to facilitate a connection.) Finally, at a time when the US is reacting to this insurgent, self-liberating swell of humanity by openly moving toward a 21st-century version of white nationalist fascism, it is helpful to revisit the words of Black revolutionary writer, teacher and organizer George Jackson, from his book Blood in My Eye:

We will never have a complete definition of fascism, because it is in constant motion, showing a new face to fit any particular set of problems that arise to threaten the predominance of the traditionalist, capitalist ruling class. But if one were forced for the sake of clarity to define it in a word simple enough for all to understand, that word would be “reform.”

Fatal and terrorizing state violence is not containable to isolated incidents. It draws from and actively expands a long Civilizational history that is based on the evisceration and negation of Black life; the occupation and destruction of Indigenous peoples and places; the criminalization of queer, trans and disabled people; the flourishing damage of state-sanctioned sexual violence; and the stubborn omnipresence of violent misogyny, which are the everyday order of things under the conditions of normalized (domestic) war. Reform is at best a form of casualty management, while reformism is counter-insurgency against those who dare to envision, enact, and experiment with abolitionist forms of community, collective power and futurity. Abolition in this sense is the righteous nemesis of reformism, as well as the militant, principled, historically grounded response to liberal counter-insurgency. Abolition is not an outcome. Rather, it is an everyday practice, a method of teaching, creating, thinking, and an insurgent (“fugitive”) community-building project that exposes the pitfalls of the reformist adventure. It demystifies reformism’s cheap magic and summons an embrace of the dynamic Black radical and revolutionary tradition that informs collective labors of freedom, structures notions of justice and collective self-defense, and induces a political and ethical obligation to fight unapologetically, in whatever ways are available, effective and historically accountable. Anything less is a concession to the logics of anti-Black and racial-colonial genocide.

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