(Note: this is an updated version of an article originally posted on We’re Hir We’re Queer here.)
In the wake of a five day hunger strike over conditions of confinement at Karnes family detention center in South Texas, many are beginning to look critically at family detention. But this practice, and the struggle against it, is nothing new. Groups in the southwest, including Grassroots Leadership and Texans United for Families have been struggling to end family detention for almost a decade. Most recently, these groups are struggling around a new facility in Dilley, Texas, the largest family detention project since Japanese internment. In developing a strategy against immigration detention, we must consider how capital and the working class is composed and why there is a renewed emphasis on women’s and family immigration detention.
Immigration detention has been steadily climbing over the past few decades. Some cite the prison boom as a 1980s-90s phenomenon, since the U.S. saw massive rates of incarceration of primarily black men due to draconian drug laws, mandatory minimum sentencing, and other strategies for criminalizing the black working class.
At a certain point in the early 2000s, prison rates tapered off. However, this is also around the time that immigration detention as a national phenomenon began to dramatically increase. While Grassroots Leadership, and many other advocacy and community groups will argue that this shift toward detention expansion is parallel to the expansion of the private prison industry, I believe this is only one side of the story. Why, in the middle of the deepest economic crisis in the U.S. since the Great Depression, is the federal government expanding the immigration detention system, and why are women and children being particularly targeted in this effort? I will attempt to answer this question; but first, some background info.
Continue reading Women and Children First…But the First Shall Be Last
While the wealthy dance and drink fine wine in a futuristic playground, working people suffer on the outskirts — hungry, heavily policed, and struggling to secure basic subsistence. Once there was the chance for revolution, but now it’s a distant memory, a discarded hope kept at bay by brutal police, aching poverty, and the separation of working people into small segregated areas afraid or unable to talk to each other in a meaningful way.
Is this Panem of The Hunger Games, or the America of 2014?
Questions of whether The Hunger Games belongs to the “left” or “right” typically inhabit the same old partisan sideshow where answers are determined in advance and politics is a matter of arguing opinions. This is not the domain of revolution, which in 2014 must be the site of unanswered questions and argumentation by action.
On November 23rd in New York City, a group of activists, organizers, and revolutionaries came together to discuss the meaning of The Hunger Games to the class struggle in America. What does the popularity of this book and movie series tell us about the popular imagination? How is it read and understood by young people about to enter the job market with little hope of success? Think ahead to what an American revolution could look like, what do we make of Katniss’s struggle against not only the unjust class society she inhabits, but the authoritarian alternative that calls itself the revolution?
Listen to activists, authors and revolutionaries John Garvey, Jasmine Gibson, Jarrod Shanahan and Yuko Tonohira in a discussion moderated by Jocelyn Cohn and sponsored by Unity and Struggle and Insurgent Notes. Special thanks to Mylo Mendez for recording the audio, and to the Brooklyn Commons for hosting.
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.
The recent spike in the size and intensity of the street protests surrounding the racist murder of Eric Garner, most notably in New York City and Berkeley, California, is a profound phenomenon. But while the protests and street battles in Ferguson, Missouri had been consistently maintained since early August, it was only after Eric Garner’s murderer was not indicted, only a week after another grand jury failed to indict the police officer who murdered of Mike Brown, did the protests and street battles really take off.
The rolling over of the struggle between these two incidents represents a unique moment, when masses of people both maintain the continuity of the struggle, and reap the benefits of experience and a higher level of consciousness, with new militants and leaders emerging very quickly.
But these moments of continuity also provide a wealth of experience and information to develop our analyses, strategies and tactics. What follows are a series of discussions written by a number of members of Unity & Struggle based on our experiences and conversation with other militants in the streets. We offer them up, in order to further develop our theory and practice, and welcome other contributions to the discussion.
Also, courtesy of Servius of RIFAMS Distro, a printable pamphlet of the discussion
The following is one in a series of posts dealing with the wave of protest sweeping the United States following the police murder of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. Other posts in this series include: Burn Down the Prison: Race, Property, and the Ferguson Rebellion, 5 Ways To Build a Movement after Ferguson, The Old Mole Breaks Concrete: The Ongoing Rupture in New York City, and Points for Discussion on Race in the United States from Noel Ignatiev.
Turn Up Htown: Reflections on Nov 25 Day of Action
by Out of the Flames of Ferguson
The decision made by the grand jury to not indict Darren Wilson for the merciless killing of Mike Brown came at no surprise. I had been hearing and reading about similar stories prior to that one of Brown and realized the outcomes were pretty much the same. A black man dies at the hands of our American brothers and sisters and the system continues to work flawlessly. No indictment. No charge. Paid vacation. Half of me wishes this was fiction but all of the conscious me knows it is a full blown reality.
Knowing that it would not be anytime soon before any kind of justice would be displayed regarding such cases, many individuals including myself took our frustration to the streets. We marched tirelessly throughout Third Ward the following night…
It seemed as though I had arrived to the protest at precisely the right time. There was at least one thousand people there with signs that read BLACK LIVES MATTER and HANDS UP DON’T SHOOT. The momentum had been building for some time now and I could gather from observation, that at that corner of Southmore Boulevard and Dowling Street, the massive group in its entirety had to make a decision. The energy was perfect and our power as group was getting more intense by the second; however, there was a problem. We had no direction. Our mission has suddenly started to unravel. We began to look like fools in the eyes of the oppressor. While the majority wanted to push through the barricade of horses and pigs in uniform, those individuals who we thought were on our side presented their own agenda.
Continue reading Turn Up Htown: Reflections on Nov 25 Day of Action
The following is one in a series of posts dealing with the wave of protest sweeping the United States following the police murder of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. Other posts in this series include: Burn Down the Prison: Race, Property, and the Ferguson Rebellion,Turn Up Htown: Reflections on Nov 25 Day of Action,The Old Mole Breaks Concrete: The Ongoing Rupture in New York City, and Points for Discussion on Race in the United States from Noel Ignatiev.
1. Work to abolish police and prisons, not to reform them. President Obama has passed legislation to put body cameras on police officers, but this won’t stop the cops from killing black folks. Eric Garner’s murder was caught on camera like many others, and it didn’t save his life. Even worse, this reform can be used against the people it’s supposed to protect: a recent study showed body cameras help police far more often than their victims.
The police and the prison system can’t be reformed, because their basic role is to maintain a racist, unjust, unequal capitalist society–and this requires violence. As Kristian Williams documented in Our Enemies in Blue, police forces developed in the U.S. to capture runaway slaves, crush strikes, and prevent hungry mobs from taking what they needed to live. The system isn’t “broken” when it kills someone like Mike Brown, it’s working just as intended.
Instead of chasing reforms, we should work to abolish police and prisons. It won’t happen all at once, but we can guide our efforts with the catchphrase: disempower, disarm, and disband. We can disempower the police on the streets, by building neighborhood groups that respond to police abuse, and deter them from terrorizing us. We can demand the police be disarmed, taking away their military gear and firearms. And we can work to disband police units one-by-one, starting with the most vicious.
Continue reading 5 Ways To Build a Movement after Ferguson
The following is one in a series of posts dealing with the wave of protest sweeping the United States following the police murder of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. Other posts in this series include: 5 Ways to Build a Movement After Ferguson, Turn Up Htown: Reflections on Nov 25 Day of Action, The Old Mole Breaks Concrete: The Ongoing Rupture in New York City, and Points for Discussion on Race in the United States from Noel Ignatiev.
Burn Down the Prison:
Race, Property, and the Ferguson Rebellion
by TZ with edits from Chino, HiFi, and JF
I don’t have to work.
I don’t have to do nothing
but eat, drink, stay black, and die.
This little old furnished room’s
so small I can’t whip a cat
without getting fur in my mouth
and my landlady’s so old
her features is all run together
and God knows she sure can overcharge—
Which is why I reckon I does
have to work after all.
-Langston Hughes, “Necessity”
“A lot of people in the bourgeoisie tell me they don’t like Rap Brown when he says, ‘I’m gon’ burn the country down,’ but every time Rap Brown says, ‘I’m gon’ burn the country down,’ they get a poverty program.”
-Stokely Carmichael, Free Huey rally, 1969
“We may risk the prediction that we are entering into an era of riots, which will be transitional and extremely violent. It will define the reproduction crisis of the proletariat, and thus of capitalism, as an important structural element of the following period. By ‘riots’ we mean struggles for demands or struggles without demands that will take violent forms and will transform the urban environments into areas of unrest; the riots are not revolution, even the insurgency is not revolution, although it may be the beginning of a revolution.”
-Blaumachen, “The Transitional Phase of the Crisis: The Era of Riots,” 2011
Continue reading Burn Down the Prison
The following is one in a series of posts dealing with the wave of protest sweeping the United States following the police murder of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. Other posts in this series include: 5 Ways to Build a Movement After Ferguson, Burn Down the Prison: Race, Property, and the Ferguson Rebellion, Turn Up Htown: Reflections on Nov 25 Day of Action, and Points for Discussion on Race in the United States from Noel Ignatiev.
The Old Mole Breaks Concrete:
The Ongoing Rupture in New York City
by JF and friends
“When history is written as it ought to be written, it is the moderation and long patience of the masses at which people will wonder, not their ferocity.”
Toward a Practical Grasp of the Present
The US working class is on the move. The Ferguson militants are the vanguard of a rebellion threatening to generalize across the United States. Individual cases of police murder are escaping the confines of their particular context and blurring into the total condition of life under white supremacist capitalism. The ruling class is breaking ranks on the question of police violence. The movement politicians are running behind the movement. The police are scared. There is no talk of the 99%.
As unarmed black men murdered in the street by pigs who the state calls innocent, Michael Brown and Eric Garner have many things in common. But most important to understanding the last four months in the United States is that they both stood up and said no more. Ordered rudely out of the street in Ferguson, Michael Brown refused. Harassed constantly by the NYPD, Eric Garner took a stand: “This stops today!” We can cite a million subtle causal factors for the ensuing mass movement, but we should not lose site of its grounding in brave acts of defiance that cost two black people their lives.
Continue reading The Old Mole Breaks Concrete
After a recent discussion and debate with the NYC local, we asked Noel Ignatiev (formerly of Sojourner Truth Organization and the journal Race Traitor) to clarify some of his theses on the status of race in the US on the eve of the Ferguson grand jury decision. We hope Noel’s position can serve as a prompt for a reinvigorated and principled discussion, grounded in US history and our understanding of Marx.
While the present moment is unique, we hope to understand the activities of the class today as part of an unfolding of the broader history of struggles against white supremacy and capitalism. If you are interested in responding to this piece at length please get in touch with us.
Noel’s piece is also one in a series of posts dealing with the wave of protest sweeping the United States following the police murder of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. Other posts in this series include: 5 Way To Build a Movement after Ferguson, Burn Down the Prison: Race, Property, and the Ferguson Rebellion, Turn Up Htown: Reflections on Nov 25 Day of Action, and The Old Mole Breaks Concrete: The Ongoing Rupture in New York City, .
Noel Ignatiev: Capital is race-blind; the capitalist mode of production (cmp) tends to reduce all human beings to abstract, undifferentiated, homogenous labor power. However, the pure cmp exists nowhere; all existing societies, including those in which the cmp prevails, contain elements left over from the past as well as elements that are the product of the political intervention of various groups.
Racial oppression is not universal to capital. Four places developed historically on the basis of racial oppression: the U.S., South Africa, Ireland, and Palestine.
Continue reading Points for Discussion on Race in the United States from Noel Ignatiev
U&S NYC will be at the #IndictAmerica action tonight at 7pm, beginning at Union Square. If you’re in NYC, meet us at the Northwest corner of the Square at 7pm by the #IndictAmerica flag. Below is our statement, written with other members of the Trayvon Martin Organizing Committee.
Burning All Illusions Tonight
Another black youth dead. The killer pig walks free. This is “justice.” And we’re supposed to just take it.
The Ferguson grand jury confirms what many already know: this system will never give us justice. The only way to prevent another Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride or Sean Bell is to dismantle the whole damn system. To abolish the cops, the prisons, and the fake-ass democracy of capitalist rule.
Capitalist white supremacy requires that cops kill us. Real talk: the police exist to serve and protect capitalism, wealth and the people in power. It’s their job to attack anyone who gets in the way. If we want to stop killer cops, we have to burn the system to the ground, and replace it with something completely new. Not small businesses, or new politicians, or even a new state–but a world run by us, the people, to fulfill our own needs and wants. True freedom. We build this world by fighting back.
Continue reading Burning All Illusions Tonight
Today, members of Unity and Struggle, along with comrades from Sloths Against Nuclear State and Barnard Columbia Divest for Climate Justice * will be engaging in the People’s Climate March in New York City. We wrote a short pamphlet to share with people who are engaging in these struggles, and who are working through questions of reform and revolution in regards to climate change and environmental destruction.
“Climate Change is Not an Environmental Issue”
It’s easy to forget the roots of climate change. For many people, climate change and environmental destruction are synonymous with human society, or population growth. Non-profits, academics, and even some radicals blame environmental destruction on the “anthropocene” and “human intervention.” But we want to call the origin of the crisis what it is. We are not only dealing with an environmental crisis. The same root cause that creates climate change is behind inequality, poverty, many contemporary illnesses, homelessness, and everyday alienation. This root cause is not humans, or “human society” writ large. It is instead a particular form of human social relations: capitalism.
Capitalism is the organization of society around production purely for exchange and profit, as opposed to use. Capitalism requires overproduction, debt, endless growth, and most important of all, inequality. Capitalist social relations are inherently anti-democratic. Whether you work for an NGO or for an energy company, you are working for something that exists outside of your direct control. Without inequality, there would be no workers to exploit, no land to grab, and no rents to raise. Without hierarchy, capitalist production would become obsolete–as the people formerly on the bottom would take democratic control over the means of production, and end exploitation. Inequality, hierarchy, exchange, misery, and alienation are all sources of life for capitalism, and sources of death for working and poor people. The state (congress, the police, local civic bodies, courts) exist to maintain inequality and hierarchy, and work out conflicts within the ruling class. Continue reading Against Climate Exceptionalism