Those other neighbourhood committees did some very dramatic and dashing things, things that nobody did before. Committees in places like al-Rahad broke down the zakat stores, took out grain, and redistributed it. They challenged power at the immediate level, where it impacts on people’s lives.
The CHAZ is a distillate of the self-activity of protesters. What has happened here is that in the midst of struggle, the ruling-class power has just evaporated, at least in this very small corner of Seattle. The people have been left to fill the void themselves. People have taken a political leap and are exploring its consequences.
The Floyd rebellion is changing the world before our very eyes. What type of change and to what degree it will shift the balance of forces between rulers and ruled, haves and the have-nots remains to be seen. What is clear is that there is an active and open political contest to shape the outcome.
On June 4th, the Barclays meeting point appeared to undergo the legendary transformation of quantity into quality, possibly as a consequence of the repeated contact and exchange, over the course of days that felt like months, among protesters on the ground. In fact, at Barclays on June 4th, one could glimpse the first signs of a political subjectivity emerging through still-embryonic and spontaneous processes of self-activation.
Today, when protestors shout “no justice, no peace,” we should understand this as a political principle which takes primacy over the abstract conception of a “peaceful protest.” No protest is unambiguously peaceful, for if it is oriented strategically and organizationally towards the transformation of society, it will necessarily constitute a disturbance of the peace.
“Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will” has become one of the classic clichés of politics. It is supposed to suggest that one should have clear-eyed recognition of how bad things are, without losing hope; it means the conscious volition for changing the world nevertheless. Nevertheless, it might be wise to be somewhat suspicious of a slogan which seems so reassuring, applicable to every context without modification.
We were attempting to find other ways to exert pressure, formulate our positions, and establish contact with different strata of the university. The news sheets were an organizational mechanism, a bridge between the ebbs and flows of activity which exist even in the midst of a wildcat strike. We then began to recognize that producing propaganda was not only a communicative effort but also an endeavor of theoretical and practical self-clarification, especially as the strike itself gained more momentum.
However much upheaval the global COVID-19 pandemic has generated, a great deal more is coming. The economic disaster is already the object of frantic analysis, much of which tells us we can expect a bottom that matches or exceeds the Great Depression of the 1930s, at least as measured by conventional economic indicators like GDP, unemployment, and bankruptcies.
The economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic have provoked great uncertainty among state managers regarding the future of capitalism. But the perspective of capitalist reproduction is not the only one available to us.
In the surreal, suspended atmosphere characterizing our current predicament, it would be easy to focus our attention only on the catastrophe unfolding in front of our eyes. But this strange, anxious time we are experiencing is also filled with struggles, acts of solidarity, and processes of class composition and self-organization.