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All quiet on the internal front

By Michael J. Smith on Saturday December 9, 2006 10:02 AM

Reader correspondence from the mailbag:
A while back, you posted an excellent column asking where the nationwide black uprising was in response to the State-assisted suffering of black, poor Hurricane Katrina victims.

Perhaps now you should write one asking where the upsurge of nationwide Black rage is after the murder of Sean Bell by the NYPD death squads. Not one riot, not one mass mobilization, not one general strike, not anything. Pathetic.

When Martin Luther King was murdered, when Rodney King was brutalized by LAPD thugs, this nation was on fire. These days, what's Black America doing...waiting around for the goddamn' CBC, or Kweisi Mfume or somebody to give 'em permission to rise up?

Hell of a good question. Is it related to the question of why there's no anti-war movement worthy of the name?

Of course you could argue that there's no anti-war movement comparable to the Vietnam period, because there's no draft, and so most people's ox simply isn't gored, actually or prospectively, by the Iraq folly. That argument doesn't hold for the Sean Bell case, though -- it's pretty clear that NYPD has declared open season on black men. Declared it some time ago, and has been acting on it with impunity since. Every black man in New York is walking around wearing a target these days.

The generally despicable Bloomberg did at least react a little more intelligently, on this occasion, than his gangsterish predecessor Giuliani would have done. It's possible that that deflected some of the fury.

But I have a bad feeling that the core reason why there isn't more resistance either to the war or to the police death squads is simply that the repression has worked -- worked on all the dimensions where it's been applied. The roll-back-the-sixties campaign which has driven so much of our politics for the last thirty years or so has been largely successful.

There's the very visible and concrete dimension of over-policing -- too many cops running around, too many jails, way too many people in them, brutal mandatory sentencing right out of the Judge Jeffries playbook. Then of course there's the vast expansion of police powers and the reciprocal narrowing of civil liberties and privacy. On top of that is the ideological offensive -- the terrorist scare, the moral panic du jour about child molesters, Internet predators, carjackers, etc. -- all the bogeys that persuade people to embrace the whips and chains of their prison-house.

Finally, I think that in spite of all the cliches about our "polarized" political culture, the fact is that elite consensus is really quite strong, thorough-going, and almost universally agreed-upon. All the shouting, red-faced popinjays on TV, and their spittle-spewing rants about feminazis, scheming liberals, surrender monkeys and so on, ultimately reinforce, by exaggeration, core principles of that consensus; and the violence of the ranters' language and demeanor is just show business. Violence sells; Bill O'Reilly is the modern equivalent of a bear-baiting, and as with a modern execution, he's a pale, paltry shadow, comparatively poor in entertainment value, of the real good old Renaissance original. All talk and no action, like a liberal Protestant church service.

As for the political parties -- the frenzy of elections is pure factional struggle, a contention among indistinguishable gangs of opportunists for the spoils of office. The various slogans they deploy, as they pursue the same brass ring with the same strategies, are like street gang colors -- ball caps from different, arbitrarily chosen teams, worn so you can tell the contenders apart.

When our rulers are undivided, it's much harder for us to gain any traction against them. Looking back at the Sixties, I think we can see that the elite consensus that dominated the immediate postwar period (I mean World War Two, kids) had rather broken down. We seen, or sensed, our opportunity, and we took it. But no such opportunity exists now, and so our rulers have us boxed up but good.

I don't imagine that's the end of the story. I don't think history is over, not quite yet, and there are still a lot of us and not many of them -- in fact, there are fewer and fewer of them, every day, compared to the more and more there are of us. That's the strategic picture. But there's no denying that just at the moment, the tactical picture is pretty bad, and our troops are mostly pretty discouraged.

Comments (9)

js paine:

the black liberation movement
has no community base outside its own
dwindling membership

the black power days
now look hoakey naive
to " gangsta guys"

not dangerous enough to cut whitey deep
not broad enough or intense enough
to lift off the low stone roof

militant black elements
may find
they need to "find"
"like minded" allies
from other communities

outlaw acts are poses too
if you ain't got
"serious high gears "

js paine:

speaking of new orleans

feature this:

4500 public housing units to be demo- ed

its part of
the black out the blacks project

so dear to local developers
and national republicans alike


What a superb post, Michael.

js paine:

"There's the very visible and concrete dimension of over-policing -- too many cops running around, too many jails, way too many people in them, brutal mandatory sentencing right out of the Judge Jeffries playbook. Then of course there's the vast expansion of police powers and the reciprocal narrowing of civil liberties and privacy. On top of that is the ideological offensive -- the terrorist scare, the moral panic du jour about child molesters, Internet predators, carjackers, etc. -- all the bogeys that persuade people to embrace the whips and chains of their prison-house"

so far internally
the deal has been
whitey kangaroo circus mostly

but why would any of this cow blacks ????

jail em yes
kill em sure 'nough

put more bullets in
the body of a black groom
then they'd fire at the range...kool baby

but cow em with this

that don't give blacks enough
"gut credits"

nope its something imternal
to the black nation itself

its own metabolism its own trajectory

the evolution
of a neo uncle tom caste
preened for whitey consumption

a few successes
can seem like inspiration....

as a call to arms

the national security constrictor
is uppin tightener moves

well to me
has more cubicle whitey appeal

every day is job day
blacks can hardly need
that message

they're already
tightly wrapped inside
the man's coils

Brian Miller:

Speaking from my own disgusting personal experience, I think many middle class people (like myself) are anesthetized by the goodies of modern consumerism. It's hard to rock the boat when you're afraid that the goodies might stop. :(

js paine:

the race to incarcerate...
a race(nation)

here its couched in disguised form
with general stats
but the nasty outline of
the picture is there :

"a Bureau of Justice Statistics report finding that there are now a record 2.2 million Americans incarcerated in the nation’s prisons and jails. These figures represent the continuation of a “race to incarcerate” that has been raging since 1972. With a 500 percent increase in the number of people in prison since then.."


Been visiting and enjoying this blog for a while, have it linked from mine. Tried to write a long comment last week, and the poor old computer froze on me. Maybe I should try to be (slightly) briefer. Answer to a few comments and the post.

Brian Miller: Speaking for myself, I'm a new proletarian working temp proofreading jobs on the midnight shift, six years now. No health coverage and haven't seen more than $21K in six years (not more than $19K for five of those) and I've got ballooning debt that I can't possibly ever pay off. I think quite a few people are in my boat. And more educated white people like myself are getting stuck in it. So, looks like the goodies are stopping for a lot of people already. Income stats show a surge in inequality and bleakest prospects ever for the college educated, along with almost everyone else.

As someone who also is slave to the whim of corporations in terms of when I get work and how much, I'm beginning to know what KM meant by "proletarian." Maybe I'm not doing back-breaking work, but the dynamic is there.

Internationally, more resistance is happening along the class/economic line. Look at the protests in France. Look at factory takeovers, etc., in South America (not to mention leftists getting elected - though that's the less interesting part of it). Can the U.S. remain isolated from this international trend forever?

I don't see a single trajectory of "rollback" since the '60s. I was involved in the anarchist wing of the "anti-globalization" movement in the late '90s and early 2000s. I saw a lot more activity there, and a lot more people thinking about revolution, than I'd seen in all my adult life (I was born 1961, btw). Maybe it was among a small number, maybe it was mostly white and privileged, but there was definitely something different and exciting happening there. And it happened when people least expected anything like that to happen in the U.S. That's often how/when revolts happen.

I see a possibility of something happening more on the class front. Not a repeat of the '60s (especially not the U.S. '60s), maybe more like the '30s or the 1880s? Maybe I'm just a naive commie now. (Though I'm not naive enough to think it's going to start with trade unions, considering what they've become.) But like I said, I wouldn't close the book either.

J.S. Paine, who exactly are the "gangsta guys"? Gangsta rap bands? Well, we got acts like Dead Prez that can be both gangsta and black liberationist. But who/how many think and act "gangsta" in real life? I know about the guns and the war with cops and the danger of the streets - I've seen a lot of that. But seems to me most of "gangsta" is just corny crime melodrama being pushed by corporate recording executives, especially these days. (Not that the music itself isn't good - especially the stuff the corporations aren't pushing...) But, of course, I'm just whitey, so what do I know - would just like to hear more about how the reality for most black people differs from the "gangsta" image that's used to sell CDs.

js paine:


forget my flip labeling
its a bad tick when communicating

my point i think is this:
black power then is no inspiration
for now

yes it exploded on lilly amerika
like nothing else around
when you were about 6 or 7
and fairly
one might claim
it was an unpequaled
challenge to white hegemony
in scale and intensity
since re construction days

this was not we shall over come
eyes on the prize ......
not an appeal to decency .....

but now it looks quixotic at best
and maybe hyperbolic to boot

without broader back up
gestures become postures
become a mockery

but that was then
the butt end of a heroic
national struggle

and i agree now is maybe a time
like the 80's-30's
for class struggle again

lift job nations boats

lets us imagine
the time soon when
black militants link up
with the latino immigrant gig

we'll see

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