Lessons From Ferguson, Missouri: The People Deserve an Army
[credit: Al Jazeera]
Ferguson is on fire
The little town just 20 miles north of St. Louis made national headlines a few days ago when protests turned to riots over the death of unarmed 18 year-old Black resident Michael Brown. Riots since then have only intensified and clashes with the police becoming more common. A no-fly zone has been established and something of a ‘media blackout’ has occurred as two reporters have been arrested and pictures show police firing tear gas at what seems to be other journalists trying to report on the situation.
Ferguson, Missouri is effectively under Martial Law. Images of heavily armed men aiming upon angry crowds light up social media as politicians (now including President Obama) craft their state-sponsored “opinions”.
The media is still focused on the ‘rioting’ leading many to question the intentions of those involved in the protests. Some will claim “what use is there to the violence”? The better question is who is utilizing the violence? The crowds in Ferguson want justice. The people of that oppressed community want to know that they won’t be gunned down for walking in the road; for being in the “wrong place at the wrong time”; for being black.
How does the United States of America answer their angry pleas? With tear gas, armored vehicles, and a small military.
If history has sown us one thing it is that the United States of America has nothing but contempt for the oppressed. We could spend endless hours detailing the efforts the US has undergone to sabotage self-determination and social revolution; from Cuba to Vietnam, from Oakland to the Bronx, from Ferguson to the Gaza Strip; the United States is an enemy of the oppressed and always has been.
Power is never relinquished easy. And if the protesters in Ferguson and the oppressed masses from all around the country want to truly dismantle this White Power, then we should be ready to fight for it. The idea of passive resistance or peaceful routes to challenging the status quo are very appealing. No one wants to get hurt. And for most people, the idea of harming another is something not to be taken lightly. However, the peaceful route of resistance will never give freedom to the oppressed; let alone justice to Mike Brown or any other victim of police terrorism. For peaceful resistance to work your opponent must have a conscience. Do you think the officer who gunned down innocent Mike Brown has a conscience? Do you think he ponders the depth of social circumstances or ethical imperatives? The police are the flexing arm of the oppressor state; they have no conscience and if they do then it is not strategically reliable. Peaceful resistance also requires an audience. The police are actively arresting reporters and journalists. Those who aren’t arrested are no doubt intimidated or as some pictures would show even assaulted. The audience for Ferguson has not come through the major media outlets it has come through social media; through the organic relations between the masses as mediated through the alternate forms of communication (not predominantly determined like the mass media). However, even with an audience does that stop the police? Absolutely not.
The audience for Ferguson, as sympathetic and energized as we may be, are still trapped in this symbolic universe of liberal inaction. We can relate to the suffering. We can relate to the destruction. We can relate to the brutality. But our methods of expressing this relationship are thoughtful at best and offer no concrete assistance to the oppressed people of Ferguson (at least in the methods most commonly taken).
The people of Ferguson don’t need liberal inaction. They don’t need passive sympathy. They don’t need peaceful resistance. The people of Ferguson, like the people of Gaza, need a People’s Army.
[credit: Daily Kos]
“Without a people’s army the people have nothing.”
This does not mean we should disdain the energy of the People simply because it has materialized in a different form. Rather, we should celebrate this energy and promote the self-determined attitude the masses have taken as they rise up against police terrorism.
What the People’s Army does is allow the masses to adequately respond to police terror and defend themselves from fascist assaults. The People deserve an army.
They deserve to be safe and to carry out their struggle without fear of police reprisal or death. The People’s Army allows the oppressed from all over the country to relate to and fight alongside Ferguson, Missouri in a way which is not “state-sponsored”. It is not some adventurist or nostalgic appeal to concepts long since past. We don’t need to appeal to Mao Tse-tung or Lenin when we approach the issue organically. All of the answers to the present situation are present in our own contemporary understanding. The difficulty is determining which ideas to promote and how to promote them from the multitude of representations among the masses.
This is where the Party comes in. Not a party in the bourgeois political sense or the worn-out rhetorical device used by all sorts of “Marxists”. We mean a Party in the most human and profound sense. A Party composed of the oppressed, the most politically advanced of the oppressed, who exercise leadership and decisiveness in organizing resistance to this racist imperialist state. The Party combined with an equally radical People’s Army ready to defend the interests of the exploited against their exploiters. This is what will transform the Ferguson outrage into a systematized and powerful force.
Everything but power is an illusion. If we wish to truly challenge the circumstances we live in and transform the society we inhabit, then our number one priority should be the acquisition of power. Power, in all its amorphous forms, but most certainly in the form of established state power; political power as presently wielded by the ruling class against the ruled. Seizing this power and maintaining a dominant relationship to it will require nothing less than a class-shattering struggle.
The kind of justice demanded by the family and friends of Mike Brown is not possible in our current social order. As long as money is more important than people, people will be nothing more than a means to money. The fundamental problem with our society, with our present existence in capitalism, is not something that a few reforms or a flashy new law can fix. The problem is inherent to the very function of our society. And to be truthful it isn’t necessarily a “problem” at all. When one lives in a society established upon the genocide of one group and the enslavement of another, what “problem” is posed by that ongoing systemic oppression?
There are many lessons to take from Ferguson, Missouri, even though the struggle is not yet finished. We need a Party. We need a People’s Army. We need a new society. We need justice for Michael Brown. And until we are ready to fight the system which dominates us in a meaningful and systematized way that justice will remain only a fleeting hope; a “clean” and liberal notion for pundits to laugh at on the evening news.
Solidarity with all the protests and marches happening around the country and around the world for the people of Ferguson. The solidarity of the oppressed stretches from Gaza to Missouri, from one people to another; it’s all one struggle. Solidarity with Ferguson, Missouri. Fuck the Police. Justice for Michael Brown is justice for all.