Something Very Big.

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Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, Seattle, Washington, USA

IT’S DOUBTFUL whether many of those applauding the current US protests grasp fully the enormity of what is happening there.

Take those six city blocks in Capitol Hill, Seattle, Washington State. By ordering the Seattle Police to evacuate their East Precinct station-house – the city’s mayor effectively acquiesced in the creation of an “Autonomous” and “Police-Free” Zone in her city’s heart. Not even in the wildest dreams of the Black Panthers – the black revolutionary movement of the 1960s – was such a development ever seriously anticipated. Wanted? Yes. Fought for? Definitely. Achieved? Never.

And, as if the creation of “CHAZ” – the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone – wasn’t enough, the adjoining Cal Anderson Park has been converted into a “people’s park”. This development, too, links back directly to the radical struggles of the 1960s.

In 1969, students at the University of California at Berkeley had attempted to thwart the university authorities’ plans to “develop” what had been a free space frequented by the local community, by setting up a “people’s park” and planting a garden. The area was cleared with considerable brutality on the orders of the then Governor of California – Ronald Reagan.

What we are witnessing in Seattle – and in a host of other cities across the United States – is an astonishing eruption of ideas and projects long since consigned to what their critics assumed was “the dustbin of history”. That this is so clearly not the case raises some quite intriguing questions about what we are actually seeing in the United States. Perhaps the most important question is whether these events, taken together, constitute a pre-revolutionary situation?

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In the CHAZ, for example, the watchword has been “self-management”. The local inhabitants have collectively taken over the functions of the exiled police officers. Health care facilities have been established, along with food distribution centres for the poor and homeless. In short, CHAZ has taken on all the attributes of an anarchist “commune” – something not seen (at least not on anything approaching this scale) since the anarchists took over the Spanish city of Barcelona back in the 1930s. (If you want to know what that was like, then read George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia”.)

I would be most remiss if I did not also mention the fact that Seattle, itself, has long been a city where progressive ideas and actions have flourished. It was the famous “Battle of Seattle” which, 20 years ago, called a halt to the hitherto unstoppable forces of “free” trade and globalisation. And 80 years before that, the quasi-revolutionary Seattle General Strike, not only struck fear into the capitalists of Washington State, but also into the entire American ruling-class.

Similar terrors must now be disturbing the sleep of the USA’s present rulers. In the months following the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09 they had been perturbed, briefly, by the Occupy Movement. The ease with which the Occupy protests were crushed, however, put them off guard. America’s masters allowed their neoliberal ideologues to persuade them that the youth of America had lost all capacity to organise effectively and, accordingly, posed no serious threat to the status quo. Their big mistake was to assume that all American youths were white and college-educated. As we have seen over the course of the past three weeks, there are others.

More worrying still, for America’s rulers, must be the way so many authority figures: mayors, police chiefs, media bosses; have openly expressed their support for the ongoing protest demonstrations and – even worse – indicated their willingness to meet many of their demands. Since Neoliberalism and History don’t really mix, the vast majority of the American ruling-class will be unaware of the ominous historical precedent in which ordinarily reliable defenders of the existing order suddenly embrace the key demands of the revolutionary masses.

On the night of 4 August 1789, the French National Assembly, overwhelmed by the giddy elixirs fermented by the revolution then convulsing the country, voted to abolish the feudal system. The entire edifice of aristocratic privilege came tumbling down in a single night – laid low by the aristocrats themselves.

Watching the Minneapolis City Council vote to disband its own Police Department, or the entire Democratic Party membership of the US House of Representatives “take a knee” in remembrance of George Floyd, indicates just how powerful today’s messages of resistance have grown.

The key question, of course, is: Where will it stop? Or, perhaps, more darkly: Who will stop it? Certainly, President Donald Trump would like to stop all of it immediately. He was quick to insist that the “ugly anarchists” be driven from Seattle’s streets. The rest of the Republican Establishment: Senators, Governors, Mayors; must similarly be asking themselves when the counter-stroke will fall. When will law and order be restored in the streets? When will the revolution gathering pace across America be asphyxiated in a cloud of tear-gas – or worse.

Because there is much, much worse lurking in the shadows of American society than rogue police officers. Those determined to Make America Great Again have a very different utopia in mind from the one taking shape in the Capitol Hill district of Seattle. Such people will be pulling out their well-thumbed copies of the murderous “Turner Diaries” and just waiting for the word to split-open American society like a rotten log. That’s no idle boast, because, as we all know, not only are these Far-Right fanatics extremely dangerous, but they are also fearsomely well-armed.

But, they are not the only men with guns. When the truly serious shit hits the fan it will be the armed forces of the United States that has the final word. Over the course of the past fortnight the world has been heartened to learn how seriously America’s most senior military officers take their oath to “uphold, protect and defend” the Constitution of the United States. In the end, however, it is the common soldiery that will have the final say on who they will – and will not – slay.

If they decide to heed their Commander-in-Chief, then the Republic will fall. If they decide to defend the Constitution, then a new birth of freedom can, indeed, be expected in the USA.

In the powerful invocation of Leonard Cohen’s revolutionary anthem, “Democracy”:

Sail on, sail on, oh mighty ship of state

To the shores of need, past the reefs of greed,

Through the squalls of hate.

Sail on, sail on, sail on.

25 COMMENTS

  1. Sociopaths in America are used to imposing their will on the masses. After all, it’s been that way since the first colonists arrived there from Europe.

    It is normal in times of revolution for the ‘security forces’ to do their job -of protecting the privileges and possessions of the wealthy- and to fire on those who seeks to upturn the system…until, at some stage, the people who make up the active units of the security forces recognise the people they are firing on or beating up are very little different from them and that the real enemy is the oligarchy.

    Sadly, it usually takes the death of several people or several hundred people at the hands of ‘security forces’ before revolutions succeed. The murder of students protesting the Vietnam War by ‘security forces’ comes to mind.

    Eventually the oligarchy has to back down or double down. At the moment Trump is doubling down.

    Interestingly, a piece in the Guardian focuses on the defunding of ‘the police we actually need’ -those who protect ordinary citizens from the rich and powerful- by the Trump administration.

    ‘Trump has called himself the “president of law and order,” but these efforts to defund the police have created lawlessness and disorder. And yet, that hasn’t been mentioned by the politicians and pundits pretending to be scandalized by protesters’ demands for a change in criminal justice priorities.

    Apparently, we’re expected to be horrified by proposals to reduce funding for the militarized police forces that are violently attacking peaceful protesters – but we’re supposed to obediently accept the defunding of the police forces responsible for protecting the population from the wealthy and powerful.’

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/15/republicans-are-hypocrites-they-happily-de-funded-the-police-we-actually-need

    Obviously Trumps troubles are only just getting started, as a longstanding family feud becomes increasingly public.

    ‘And the news gets worse for the man in the White House.

    Mary Trump reportedly plans to spill more of the family secrets in a tell-all memoir due to hit shelves in August, just as the presidential campaign heats up, according to the Daily Beast.

    Among the stories she will relate are negative remarks by President Trump’s sister, retired federal judge Maryanne Barry Trump, about her brother.

    Mary Trump, 55, is the daughter of Fred Trump Jr. and the oldest grandchild of Fred Trump Sr., the New York real estate mogul who gave President Trump his start. Fred Trump Jr. died at age 42 of a heart attack exacerbated by alcoholism

    The book, “Too Much And Never Enough,” will be published by Simon & Schuster on Aug. 11.

    It’s not the first time bad blood has boiled over between Mary Trump and her mercurial uncle.

    Mary Trump, a PhD psychologist, and her brother challenged their grandfather’s will by claiming he was improperly pressured by Donald Trump and his two other siblings to shaft them.

    The tax documents that she reportedly leaked revealed that President Trump benefited from a series of allegedly fraudulent transactions and got up to $400 million in cash injections into his flailing real estate empire in the 1990s.

    Trump often lashes out at perceived critics on Twitter. But he has not recently mentioned Mary Trump or her criticism of him in public.’

    https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/world/trump-s-niece-mary-reveals-she-leaked-president-s-taxes-for-harrowing-and-salacious-tell-all-book/ar-BB15vn7z?ocid=msedgdhp

    By the way, most people seem to misunderstand the word ‘anarchy’ and think it means only chaos. It means:

    1. a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority or other controlling systems.
    “he must ensure public order in a country threatened with anarchy”

    2. absence of government and absolute freedom of the individual, regarded as a political ideal

    So the crux of the matter is whether humans are capable of governing themselves or whether they need someone ‘in authority’ to govern them. Our hunter-gatherer origins suggest mostly the former on a day-to-day basis, with a little of the latter in the form of a tribal leader to deal with issues like conflict with a neighbouring tribe or occasional conflict within the tribe.

    Interestingly, Sweden’s policy of self-governance in dealing with Covid-19 has backfired very badly. I see that Swedes are designated for special treatment in the slowly reopening Europe, being regarded as a greater threat than nationals from countries with formal restrictions on movement and social distancing etc.

    There is little doubt that Covid-19 will demolish the world order, commencing with the US and Brazil but involving a plethora of nations that do not have Covid-19 under control and are seeing a surge in cases.

    In the US the race is on to see which state will score fastest increase in cases and will collapse its economy fastest:

    https://www.zerohedge.com/s3/files/inline-images/Screen%20Shot%202020-06-15%20at%206.42.27%20AM.png?itok=ybsh2m-g

    And, interestingly, it is claimed that Trump’s only concern is re-election, and that he will happily see America destroyed if doing so achieves that goal. I can’t see that working out particularly well.

  2. I’ve always seen Chris as a romantic – it’s quite common with the left. I suspect he has dreams of burning barricades with a youthful, slimmer version of himself waving a red flag leading the faithful into the Winter Palace.

    BUMP! Back in reality….

    The CHAZ thing will collapse in on itself. Its legacy will be property damage, excrement and litter.

    • Andrew why are you here? You never try to engage in constructive discussion, just pump out right wing talking points and attempt to refute everything that’s said. It’s almost as if you are paid to be here – except that would be a crazy conspiracy theory!

      Oh wait – people high up in the National Party have admitted that they have a social media team devoted to this sort of thing. If you’re not being paid to be here maybe you should get in touch so you can get a bit of compensation for the sterling effort you’re putting in .

  3. Zhou Enlai is supposed to have said that it was too soon to judge the results of the French revolution. It is certainly too soon to hazard a guess as to where this current bout of unrest will end up. As George Galloway points out, from a UK perspective, it seems to be cultural more than political or economic: https://www.rt.com/op-ed/491681-monument-toppling-absolve-imperial-crimes/ On the one hand, neoliberal capitalism has made full use of cultural unrest from the outset – proudly granting cultural gains while eroding the political and economic power of those they deem surplus to requirements. On the other, the erosion of a stabilising infrastructure over 40 or so years is catching up with them. With Biden waiting in the wings, getting rid of Trump by itself will probably not make a lot of difference. Moreover it is not that hard to replace obvious colonists’ statues with depictions of people like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, already reconfigured to fit the neoliberal narrative within the public dialogue.

    For myself, I would feel more confident if the demand was to demilitarise rather than defund the police, since defunded police can easily be replaced by private security guards. I would be heartened if the repeal of the 1994 crimes act, which has filled prisons with slave labour and impoverished the relatives of the prisoners, was high on the list. Both of these things would indicate an extension from the cultural to the political, with the potential for real political and economic consequences. But one thing we all should have learned, especially since 2008: Cultural liberalism is not automically continuous with fundamental political and economic advances for those neoliberalism rejects.

  4. “This is big, this is real!” as the saying goes. Highly exhilarating to see the US people and movements fight back on various fronts.

    Yet sad for many politicos around the world, that the Sanders Campaign is not around at full strength to help lead a section of the uprising. Bernie and supporters would have crushed Trump over this, while ailing Biden is only able to issue the odd statement. Centrists all over the place should be hanging their heads for parroting the old lines of the DNC regarding sinking Bernie’s bid for the nomination. They will strive just as hard to block a 2024 AOC bid too.

    But nonetheless, it is in the hands of the people now–in the digital age news travels too fast for the likes of Trump to keep a lid on.

  5. A “Ship of Fools” Chris …

    “We’re setting sail to the place on the map
    from which no one has ever returned
    Drawn by the promise of the joker and the fool
    by the light of the crosses that burned.
    Drawn by the promise of the women and the lace
    and the gold and the cotton and pearls”

  6. This hasn’t worked out out so well for the Democrats.

    It seems to me that the initial anger over the death of Floyd was utilized by left wing/anarchist/Democrat ‘agent provocateurs’ to spread the riot further, arm it with the basic tools needed for looting (mostly bricks).

    It didn’t work. He was supposed to have called in the Army and created another Kent State massacre to end his presidency. Instead he just sat back and let these Democrat controlled cesspits just bubble away.

    Now he can use this in his campaign – pointing out this mess as an example of Democrat corruption and incompetence.

    It’s yet another example of the left underestimating him.

  7. Here is some more context of the ‘peoples park ‘ riots that reagan, who was then Californias Governor, initiated and esculated with extreme force ,,, As reagan got re-elected with a absolute majority the real test for trump is how much the usa voting public has changed since then.

    Trump obiously looks to Reagan and copies some of his plays ,,, such as Reagan campaigned for President on the ” Make America great again” slogan ,,, and both seem racist.

    from 59 mins 30 secs through to 1 hour 9 mins ,,, Trump would love to do what Reagan did.

    https://youtu.be/FZlRX1EVnSw

  8. Read the Sinclair Lewis novel, “It Can’t Happen Here.”
    Penned in 1936, it is about the ‘forgotten men’ who marched to Washington saying, ‘something’s rotten.’ Not a million miles away from ‘drain the swamp.’
    Trump cannot afford to go quietly in November. Will he appeal to the ‘forgotten men,’ the rednecks, armed to the teeth, will he delay the election because of the covid scare, will he suspend the constitution?
    November will not be a comfortable time in the USA.

  9. Nixon’s ” silent majority ” still observe , think and vote and that is what wins elections for the incumbent or would be impostor.
    The peaceful protests are sincere and are a reflection of the racist enforcement of the status quo and its suppression of peoples rights regardless of their ethnicity but history is a guide to where these protests end up.
    Nowhere.

  10. If you know where to look Bernie is still campaigning for justice and is still being heard. My other theory for him giving away the fight for contesting the convention in August despite the mathematics and the weakness of Joe Biden is that realistically the only way to advance change is to take the movement he created and make that a force to be reckoned with inside the system and the Democratic party. And that means backing Biden and the Democratic party.
    That would fit with your argument Chris regarding the Mayors and others in local authority acquiescing to the demands of the BLM and finding themselves sympathizing with the message and being able to act locally to begin making change a reality.
    Is a civil war in America just a matter of time with the far right militias backed by Trump agitating in the background ? ” If they decide to heed their Commander-in-Chief, then the Republic will fall. If they decide to defend the Constitution, then a new birth of freedom can, indeed, be expected in the USA”
    All the stars seem to be aligning don’t they ?
    An internal conflict maybe the only way forward in redefining what kind of America it will be in the decades ahead as Americans define their patriotism.

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