Our lessons: the anti-apartheid mass movement in the United States
The May 25, 2020, killing of a black man named George Floyd by four white police in Minneapolis, USA, has sparked an anti-apartheid movement across the United States.
Such a spontaneous movement of people in the United States on the eve of the global corona virus epidemic is truly unprecedented. In particular, where the United States is ahead of any other country in terms of corona infection and has a record number of deaths, such a wave of people against the administration’s racist behavior really amazes us.
Racist treatment of blacks is not a new phenomenon in America. Rather it has always been brought to the fore by various events where the names of institutional structures like Hollywood are associated. Recently, there have been allegations of neglecting non-black or white actors, leading to boycotts of the Oscars (Academy Awards).
The current anti-apartheid movement is the largest mass movement in recent times since the Occupy World Street movement in the United States in 2011. This movement and the slogan âBlack Life Matterâ has spread to every city in America. Despite the efforts of the Donald Trump administration by the police and the army to suppress the movement, the victory of the people’s collective protest is still going on. Police in many other provinces, including Los Angeles, have expressed solidarity with the protesters and expressed their moral support for the Black Life Matter movement. The protesters tore down Confederate sculptures of slave traders and proponents of the slave system in various parts of the country, including those of Christopher Columbus and Captain Cook.
At the same time, the removal of racist content from online platforms is significant. This wave of anti-apartheid movements in the United States has moved the whole world, as well as Europe and Africa. Citizens of various European countries are protesting against racism by declaring solidarity with the agitators in the United States. In Europe, as in the United States, there are calls for the removal of sculptures of various slave traders, kings and statesmen, including the names of King Leopold II of Belgium, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Britain, Robert Milligan, and Clauston. On the other hand, in Ghana, Africa, there is a demand to remove the sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi as a supporter of racism.
The anti-apartheid mass tide created by the people of the United States has become a global mass tide. So that some of the scandalous chapters of history that we should have buried 100 years ago are floating away. Meanwhile, the declaration of a “free zone” by activists in Seattle, USA, has revived the memory of the Paris Commune of 181. Simply put, this movement, like other mass movements, has been enriched by the acquisition of many pieces that show us the dream of a transformational system.
But what we will learn from the experience of these mass movements is important. All sections, progressive or change-loving, are optimistic about the current spontaneous mass movement against racism. In addition to the spontaneous masses, the current movement in the United States also includes organizations such as the Ernakist Mahal, Antifa, Black Panther and the Communist Party, which have undoubtedly established a mass character of the movement. But the limitation is that so far the spontaneity of this movement has sought to justify events in the existing system as opposed to any alternative political motive.
For example, the main slogan of the Occupy World Street movement in the United States in September 2011 was “We’re the 99%” where the issue of economic inequality was brought to the fore. The experience of this spontaneous mass movement in the United States was really pleasant. But the reality is that even after that movement, a clown like Donald Trump did not have to gain much momentum to come to power in the United States. In fact, the Occupy World Street movement has painted a picture of a discriminatory system, but it has not challenged the idea of ââending it. As a result, it has failed to build any structural hegemony to counter the existing system of discrimination, which has 99 percent of the resources in the hands of 1 percent of the people.
Of course, a fundamental question also arises here, are you talking about the establishment of an egalitarian authoritarian counter as opposed to a discriminatory authoritarian system? Neither is it in favor of reforming the existing system nor is it in favor of eradicating authoritarianism. If the existing system speaks of reform or eradication of authoritarianism, then you are bound to be a fraud. Because structuralism or the presence of the state itself informs authoritarianism. In fact, the main contradiction here is the authoritarianism of the majority versus the authoritarian system in the interests of the minority.
Again, if you talk about system reform, it is also wrong. Because caste-based imperialist views, slavery, the structure of labor exploitation are the main driving forces of capitalism. The current global political-economic structure is based on cheap labor, unorganized labor markets, imperialist warfare, arbitrary use of natural resources, racial and caste divisions, and above all, unimaginable inequality in education, health, housing, and wages. And it is impossible to find a single solution to all these inequalities while keeping the capitalist system intact.
In capitalism, the state and the market equally impose authoritarianism on the people. In this case, when the market is in crisis, state authoritarianism takes on extreme proportions. Suppose you are a black man but sell skin whitening cream for a living and the hefty salary you get in return keeps you happy. In this case you may be a staunch opponent of racism but it makes no difference because you have shown loyalty to the system for the sake of livelihood. Now if you want an end to racism, a change of the whole system is urgent, a piecemeal change of attitude cannot change its content.
A major limitation of the spontaneous movement is the inability in most cases to establish an alternative structural system as opposed to the existing exploitative system. An example is the experience of the 2010 Arab Spring. Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria after the Arab Spring have not been able to give any happy memories so far. If the image of present-day Libya or Egypt had been seen by the people of that country before, perhaps the rule of Muammar Gaddafi or Hosni Mubarak would have been accepted for decades to come. It would not be wrong to refer to these experiences as the result of not holding the totality of the spontaneous mass movement.
If the current movement in the United States was in any third world country, maybe the government would have fallen so far. However, in this case, it is not the people who caused the fall of the government. Rather, it could have happened with the intervention of any western country. But since the movement is in the Moral state itself, it can be said without any doubt that they will digest it. In return, some reform measures may be taken to quell public anger. It will, of course, bring about very little change in the racist social structure. This does not mean that the spontaneous mass movement is irrelevant. The spontaneity of the movement for the realization of human rights is very important. There should be such a mass movement and we should also give our full support to it. However, the forces of change need to bring to the fore the issue of political characterization of the movement. So that the movement does not remain just a reaction to an event, it also helps to build the hegemony of a non-discriminatory system as opposed to a non-discriminatory system. Because we cannot allow the mass tides formed by the fundamental conflicts of the present time to be confined to mere public anger.
The current movement in the United States is as much anti-Trump as it is anti-racism. It is as if a devil has seized power in the kingdom of the gods and we are moving to bring back the angel. The opposition Democrat camp has benefited the most from this movement so far. Do we remember Oscar Grant? In 2009, a week after Barack Obama became president of the United States, 22-year-old black unarmed Oscar was shot dead by police in Auckland. From that point of view, racism is not a Republican or Democrat agenda in the United States, it is an integral part of the political-economic crisis of the capitalist system, the solution of which is not to change the political party but to change the system. If it is presented as a partisan policy, Republicans are historically far ahead of Democrats. Because the abolition of slavery took place in the United States in 184 at the hands of Republican President Abraham Lincoln, where Democrats were fiercely opposed to it. On the other hand, there is some opposition among those who are united in the movement, such as the sculptural monument of the pro-slavery group in Bitren, the media is vocal, but the constitutional monarchy of Bitren, one of the patrons of racism, is not very vocal.
Ultimately, a meaningful political change will only happen when white and black people stand up against racism as well as the larger social structure takes a neutral to anti-racist stance. Therefore, the political characterization of the spontaneous mass movement is very important. Which will present a vision of an alternative governance structure as opposed to a discriminatory one and will be proactive in implementing it. And this is where the party, the organization and the coercive force are needed.