Media Roundup: Turnt Up Across the U.S.

Protests for the #HandsUpTurnUp day of action in solidarity with the Ferguson rebellion took place in at least 10 cities across the country last night. Unity and Struggle members helped coordinate and lead actions, alongside comrades and friends, in several cities. Shout out to Torque in ATL and the Trayvon Martin Organizing Committee for their dope cross-city coordination.  Below is a brief roundup of media from the actions, with updates as we get them.

In Salt Lake City:

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Hands Up, Turn Up: August 20th National Day of Action

We will be co-organizing actions in our respective cities for the Hands Up, Turn Up National Day of Action on Wednesday, August 20th.  Contact the Trayvon Martin Organizing Committee (TrayvonOC@gmail.com) or the Hands Up, Turn Up Organizing Committee (HandsUpTurnUp@gmail.com) for access to the flyer and to list your local actions.  Please feel free to copy, distribute and share the flyer and one-page propaganda piece below.

So far we’ve heard the following cities confirm actions:  Atlanta, Providence, Houston, Philly, New York City, Washington DC.  Please feel free to add links and other information in the comments section below.

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Hands Up Turn Up: Ferguson Jailbreaks out of History

Let the economists fret over the $27 million lost, and the city planners sigh over one of their most beautiful supermarkets gone up in smoke, and McIntyre blubber over his slain deputy sheriff. Let the sociologists bemoan the absurdity and intoxication of this rebellion. The role of a revolutionary publication is not only to justify the Los Angeles insurgents, but to help elucidate their perspectives, to explain theoretically the truth for which such practical action expresses the search.

- The Situationist International, on the 1965 Watts Rebellion

Things have unfolded rapidly in Ferguson, Missouri. On Thursday and Friday, we have seen reports of “festive” conditions, as locals hug the state highway patrol officers tapped by the Governor to replace the St. Louis County police force, and Captain Ronald Johnson marching alongside protesters.

Yet the mood changed Friday and Saturday night, as some protesters returned to the militancy we saw Mon-Wed nights, facing off with the cops, sporadically blockading the street, occasionally looting, and defying the state of emergency and curfew that followed. The situation on the ground, as the pundits say, is “fluid.”

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U&S members and other comrades have engaged our respective communities with flyering, solidarity protests, and participation in larger, nationally coordinated demonstrations. In between, we have put our heads together to draft some notes analyzing what is happening in Ferguson and nationally, since we see this moment as a qualitative leap forward for the U.S. proletariat and black politics. It is an exciting moment. We are all stretched to the max so please excuse the sparseness, partially thought, scattered nature of the notes below, which were thrown together by many different people as events unfolded over the week. We wanted to have a place holder on the blog where we can discuss what has been unfolding in Ferguson and have place to link to updates, report backs, etc., to draw out clearer, more substantive ideas, and help accomplish the task the Situationists laid out fifty years ago.

Ferguson’s Racial Dynamics

We don’t have a ton of knowledge about Ferguson in particular. Nationally, bloggers and activists have released information about racial profiling practices in Ferguson (apparently the NAACP had already been asking for a federal investigation in this regard):

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Beyond these numbers, some of us feel Ferguson represents a kind of “perfect storm” of racialized social relations. St. Louis, like Louisville and Cincinnati, are long-time deindustrialized cities, which are very segregated, with a large black population and vastly white local government and police department. These cities, historically, have witnessed some of the worst “race riots” in US history, and today the police and other public officials in Ferguson are upholding this tradition of white supremacy in overt ways, in supposedly “post-racial” America: harsh repression of protests, leaving Mike Brown’s body in the street for 4 hours, refusing to release the cop’s name for several days, etc.
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Communism is the Ascension of Humanity as the Subject of History: A Critique of Althusser and the Affirmation of Marx

(By Gussel Sprouts)

“Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution.” (Marx)

If we are to affirm the ideology of Marx, and the Marxist understanding of not only communism, but its relationship to humanity, we can only begin so by understanding his thoughts on ideology and of his break with Feuerbach, and what this means for the relationships of subjects/objects. Louis Althusser, the philosopher who said “structures don’t take to the streets” as he turned his nose up at the students protesting in May ’68, disingenuously knew or cared little for the ideas of Marx and the ways they were distinct from the other thinkers of his time. At other times, he was willfully and honestly ignorant, but it is important to understand that Althusser’s thought is largely contradictory in a logistical sense (he was inconsistent in his breaks/agreements with Marx) but also in a sense that he produced thought which was fundamentally anti-Marxist.

Our critique of Althusser must go even further here than that of his misunderstanding of Marx, but what he builds on with such a conclusion, parallels can be seen in ideological apparatuses already in historical existence and the present moment, to which we can conclude that the ideological and cultural apparatus, the real movement to abolish the present state of things is not one of ideas, nor ideological “structures”. Capital has already reached an unprecedented level of totality, a certain subsumption of the Real by an irreconcilable “big Other” (1). Althusser would have all of this for what he calls “socialism”. We have seen this already in the history of existing socialisms, while originally hiding the ill-informed and possibly disingenuous veil of being “the first Left-wing critique of Stalinism”.

The first few sections are to provide contexts of Althusser (and therefore his thought) with that of Marx, revolutionaries of his time, and his politics in the Communist Party of France. After such, we will venture into Althusser’s ideas themselves. We will find that we do not require a deep understanding of Structuralism (or the sociological and Freudian undertones in his thought) to see that Althusser’s thought is irreconcilable with that of Marx.

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Criminalization, Crisis and Care: Tennessee’s S.B. 1391 and Attacks on Reproduction

Below is a recent article written by members of the Florence Johnston Collective looking at the current crisis of reproduction and state control over/criminalization of women’s bodies.  Last week, a woman in Tennessee was arrested based on her pregnancy outcomes.  The Collective will be releasing a second article looking at these issues, along with a pamphlet for print and distribution.  See the original post here.

Tennessee recently passed a law, S.B. 1391, making it the first state to prosecute women for criminal assault if their fetus or newborn is considered harmed due to illegal drug use during pregnancy.  Criminalization of pregnant women and mothers is one side of the various ways the State attempts to control reproduction and discipline womens’ bodies.  This is an attack against working class women of color not unlike those we have seen in TexasCalifornianationally and globally.  All of these measures will impede women’s access to health care and efface women’s reproductive skills and knowledge.  But unlike abortion restrictions and forced sterilization, the Tennessee law is an attempt to divide feminized workers under the guise of “protection” of women and children, a strategy we are likely to see more frequently as the economic crisis deepens.

S.B. 1391 and the Crisis.

Today’s crisis is manifested in the inability of the class to take care of itself, or reproduce itself; it is a crisis of reproduction.  Wages are so low that the class cannot afford to get everything it needs to go to work every day.  Of course, “everything” we need is a relative term based on time and place; workers in America need a smartphone and cable TV after years of changes in living standards.  The class has supplemented this crisis of reproduction with personal debt.  We get credit cards to buy clothes and pay our cell phone bills and we take out student loans we will never pay back to make an extra $3/hr.  This is what life looks like for the working class today.

For the ruling class, there is another type of hustle.  It is a general law of capitalism that profits must always increase.  So capitalists make changes to the workplace, by introducing more and more machines and pushing workers out of the production process, to ensure an increased profit.  However, this catches up to them.  Since workers are the only ones capable of creating value (there is always a worker somewhere in the production process!), the more capitalists push workers out of the production process, the more the profit margin weakens.  Couple this phenomenon with the working class’s increased dependence on debt and loans and we find ourselves in today’s economic crisis.

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On top of this, because so many workers are pushed out of the production process (consider Detroit’s 23% unemployment rate for example), a surplus population of workers makes it possible for capitalism to pit people against each other in competition for jobs.  In this sense, the ruling class has an interest in controlling the actual number of workers there are in the world at a given moment, based on the needs of capital.

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The Intermediate Moment (Part One)

by Adelita Kahlo and Tyler Zee

*The perspectives advanced below are those of the authors and do not represent an official “line” of U&S.  U&S, as will be seen below, does not have formal positions.  While many of the ideas will be common starting points for U&S, there will be nuanced differences and perhaps some disagreements according to individuals and locales.

PART ONE

Introduction

This piece is the result of many conversations and has been informed by engagement with a cross section of various nodes of activity.  We, the authors, have learned so much through these conversations; many assumptions we held prior to this effort have now been either thrown out or complicated.  While a number of questions remain, a few starting points have been clarified.

As a consequence of these conversations, the scope of this piece has also changed from one tailored primarily to debates within the solnet milieu, since the two of us have been doing aspects of solnet organizing for a while now, to being fundamentally about the intermediate concept and its strategic merits for revolutionaries in the current moment that takes the solnet (and others) as a kind of case study.  While the scope has shifted we very much want to enter into more systematic exchange with the above folks and others that are grappling with these and parallel questions.

Part one of the piece is geared toward making sense of the current moment and elaborating on concepts the writers have used to do so.  This also means a discussion that might appear as tangential but what for us represent an attempt to have a holistic, systematic, and rigorous approach.  The conclusions drawn here are of necessity temporal and are toward the ends of building the bridge between the present and the medium-term future.  So as “scientific” as we have tried to be, there are limits to this piece both in scope and in the factors entering our analysis.

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Reflections on Truth and Revolution: A History of Sojourner Truth Organization 1969-1986

by Eve Mitchell, originally posted on We’re Hir We’re Queer here.

I recently finished reading Michael Staudenmaier’s Truth and Revolution:  A History of Sojourner Truth Organization 1969-1986.  Sojourner Truth Organization (STO) was a majority white revolutionary group that worked closely with Black Nationalist and Black Power groups to build autonomist workplace, community, identity- and issue-based organizations.  They are most known for their theoretical contributions including the white skin privilege analysis and theory of dual consciousness.  Perhaps their most well-known writing (which was originally a speech) is “Black Worker, White Worker,” which describes their approach in building militant, fighting groups that organize on the demands of the most oppressed layers of the class.  Concretely, in their time and in the spaces they organized, that meant the Black proletarian.

Staudenmaier_TruthHowever, as Truth and Revolution describes, STO was involved in many forms of struggle including the early anti-nuke movement, the women’s liberation movement, some immigrant defense work, among other things.  The sheer amount of work they accomplished with very few people and resources in the span of a 17 years is extremely impressive.  This post will discuss some other reflections I have on their work.  These reflections are relevant to me in this stage of my organizing and experience, having recently moved to New York City and attempted to help build the Florence Johnston Collective (aka Flo Jo), a group that organizes within and across feminized workplaces, alongside working to build Unity and Struggle, a small, national, left communist grouping for the last five years.(1)  Obviously both of these tasks have been carried out in an extremely low movement time, in the wake of some interesting struggle globally and some upticks nationally and regionally.  My comments may not reflect some of the broader lessons to be learned from STO; I recommend checking out Truth and Revolution itself to extract those.

1. Privilege Theory and STO’s Race Politics.

Elsewhere I have written substantial critiques of how today’s activists and the Left use privilege theory and identity politics.  While I think this is qualitatively different from how STO used them, I agree with Staudenmaier when he writes that STO must bear some of the responsibility for how this theory continues to be applied.

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Chicago’s SEIU Arrest and the Story of a Stock Photo

by JF

arrest1-320x320The arrest of Jose “Zé” Garcia, May Day 2014.

Details are still emerging from the apparently SEIU-assisted arrests on May Day in Chicago. According to IWW Chicago, marshals from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and staffers of Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) “singled out and physically restrained two activists, leading to their arrests. While the arrests occurred, the marshals attempted to surround and enclose members of the IWW’s Red and Black Brigade contingent of the march, blocking their freedom of movement. The marshals also directed other participants to move past the enclosed contingent, preventing the other marchers from showing solidarity with the arrestees.”

In tandem with this minor scandal, the US labor world is anticipating a series of demonstrations to be held on May 15th, the largest to date for the $15/hr minimum wage movement in the fast food industry, variously titled Fast Food Forward (FFF), and Fight For $15. Accompanying this story on high profile reformist outlets such as Salon is the following dramatic stock photo, credited to the AP, which has appeared more than a few times attached in FFF stories, with little context.

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Loot Back: From Whom?

 A Response to “Why Riot?”
by JF

kiev-old-man-bashed-cop-with-brick

 A response to Phil Neel’s recent piece “Why Riot?” on the ULTRA website. We hope to initiate healthy debate and engagement around this exciting and important project.

Phil Neel’s bold and exciting piece of agitational material “Why Riot?” raises too many points to engage with one response. It’s raw honesty, sophistication, and visceral appeal speak for themselves.  As an initial response I will focus only on its conception of “generations,” an error of the piece which unfortunately seems potentially central to Ultra, and the rectification of which will determine the project’s direction. Admittedly this is not the central focus of Neel’s piece, and while it may seem tangential, I plan to return to Neel’s more central theses once familiarizing myself with his source material, and thereby connect the dots. I will also attempt in the near future to concretize some of the recent history presented below, which is admittedly schematic.

Neel echoes Ultra’s appeal to so-called millennials, or “Generation Zero”: “Our future has been looted. Loot back.” Ultra aims to appeal to this particular “generation” of proletarians, and Neel’s “Why Riot?” is thus far Ultra’s most explicit statement to this effect. Citing Blaumachen’s “age of riots” thesis, the piece is geared those who are not finding political expression through rallying behind demands, or joining/building political groups, but through mass actions of refusal of discipline, illegality, and attack against the forms of appearance of capital, or sites of proletarian social reproduction (smashing windows, short-lived blockages of the points of capital circulation, etc.).

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Taking Back May Day! Statement from Florence Johnston Collective

Hi all, Florence Johnston Collective in New York has put out this statement for May Day.  Please feel free to share.  If you are in NYC you can find us at 5:30PM tomorrow at the Ghandi Statue in Union Square!  Look for our amazing new banner made by a FJC and No Nukes member.

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(Click here for the full flyer in PDF!)

Long before the Haymarket Massacre, the worldwide workers’ movement, and the very existence of a worldwide working class, May Day was a celebration of what we hold in common. Before modern capitalism, vast stretches of the world were held by communities, not individuals. Everyday people with no conception of wage labor shared expansive tracts of land for farming, grazing, hunting, fishing, and coming together to celebrate their communal bonds. May Day originated as a celebration of the fertility of the harvest season, which would provide the food necessary to subsist for the entire year, and of the commonly held land and communal social ties that made survival, merriment, and love possible.

From the fifteenth century continuing through the present day, the development of capitalism has violently enclosed the commons, placed the planet’s resources in private hands, and compelled most people to live in isolation from their neighbors, working for wages in jobs unrelated to their daily lives. This was and is a brutal process involving the theft of land, the massacre and torture of untold millions, and the institutionalization of racism, sexism, and homophobia on a worldwide scale, as capitalism has divided and hierarchized the worldwide working class it has created. This process of enclosure continues to the present day, and will never end so long as there is a free breath of air for the worldwide working class to take.

The communal resources we have lost are not simply land, food, and potable water. We have also forfeited our common knowledges of the body, and our abilities to care for each other regardless of income status. With the establishment of capitalist medicine, women especially were forced out positions of power, knowledge, and authority in matters of health. The power of women over their own reproductive lives, never mind communities’ control of their own social reproduction, has never been fully recaptured, despite many important battles.

Indeed, the relationship of our society to health and to the body itself has increasingly become one fitting the capitalist mode of production — compartmentalization, alienation, and commodification have taken the place of holism, communitarianism, and care based on need. Today, all the “progressive” politicians can talk about is making alienated health care more “affordable”, while still leaving room for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to make a fortune, and not addressing the social causes of our society’s deadliest ailments: overwork, undernourishment, pollution, stress, and self-medication.

This May Day the ghosts of our lost past continue to haunt us. As hospitals servicing the poorest New Yorkers close their doors, care workers find their labor ever devalued, women’s reproductive rights are threatened all over the US, and low income people of the world are shut out of basic health services, we must remember the past, and recall that this does not have to be the fate of humanity. Another way of caring for each other is possible. We cannot return to the past, nor should we desire to, but we can fight for a future inspired by humanity’s greatest achievement: the commons.

May Day is not a day for politicians to give speeches about reforms and compromises. It is not about searching for a kinder gentler capitalism, or a more diverse ruling class. In a world without commons it is a day of loss. And this loss calls not for mourning, but for action. It is only through struggling together as a class that this loss can be redeemed, towards a future of the commons reborn.

The Florence Johnston Collective