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.
The pursuit of justice has been defined by a rote binary of punished in a cage versus unpunished and free. This situation shapes the demand for traditional, state-sanctioned, prison-based punishment even of killer cops. And yet within the language of vengeance or retribution toward police who kill, there is also a hidden desire for another way, for a way out.
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.
Today’s crisis brings not just destruction, but also opportunity for creation. But to take advantage of this rare opening, we need to know exactly what we are up against.
The operaist inversion must be understood in light of the irreducible partiality of the viewpoint: first the class, then capital. Capital is not the subject of History, it is not that which does and undoes, that which determines development and the conditions for its own overcoming. Rather, history is non-teleological, and at its center is class struggle, its power of refusal and its autonomy.
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.