Anyone paying any attention knows that non-violent protesting is not okay with the power structure. And since its not okay with the power structure, and we have just discussed how the power structure uses its propaganda mechanisms to condition the masses of people, that means non-violent protest isn’t going to be okay with many everyday people as well. The very same people who are now claiming support for non-violent protest are the same people who violently opposed Colin Kaepernick’s protests during professional football games a few years ago. Of course, logical people understand that no form of protest against the capitalist system is okay to the power structure and anyone influenced by their messaging because reform protests always have the potential to feed into and connect with larger campaigns of resistance against the capitalist system itself.
By the same token, another related line the capitalist media is propagating is the continued sad face grieving for the businesses that are being ransacked during the last week. The line on this propaganda is “what does destroying this business have to do with justice for George Floyd or any police terrorism victim?” If you are willing to delve below the surface analysis, the correct answer will always be everything.
As a student of politics and economics, I know that the reality of who is dominantly successful in business within capitalist countries is largely based on understanding the history of this system. Of course, there are always going to be exceptions to the rule in everything in the universe. There will be some individual examples of people who figure out a business model that excels and permits them to experience financial success, but that happens only on an extremely limited and insignificant basis. Anyone who suggests that the rags to riches model is the norm in capitalism is either a person who deals with complete fantasies or a person who tells intentional lies. There are many fantasies about success in capitalism. There are stories about people sleeping 15 to 20 people in a house, saving every penny they earn and investing these hoards of cash into successful business practices. Or, the people who organize in their respective communities to save money as a community to serve as their own community loan model to help people become successful in business opportunities. All of these stories are deeply flawed. To confirm that, all you have to do is request that the person(s) telling you these stories provide you a real life example i.e. showing you where those practices have taken place from A to Z. Good luck and don’t hold your breath waiting for the examples.
Fundamentally, those examples are deeply flawed. Anyone who saves thousands of dollars (a penny over $9,999.99 to be exact) is going to be required to demonstrate the source of that money. In other words, you cannot take $30,000.00 cash to buy a business, house, car, anything, without demonstrating through forms required by federal law from the Internal Revenue Service where that money came from. Of course, Uncle Sam is always about his money and he is not going to permit anyone to walk around with thousands of dollars in cash conducting any business until he has confirmed that he has received his cut. This would present a very difficult scenario for all these community savings sources and the money under the mattress people, especially since according to the people relaying these stories, many of these people are coming from immigrant communities. I doubt those folks are going to want to have the exposure that you experience when the Internal Revenue Service is pursuing you.
We understand why those stories exist. They exist to substantiate and support the myth that anyone can make it in capitalism if you just put in the effort. Those stories glorify the individualist interpretation of history from capitalism by reinforcing the myth that if you are struggling in capitalism, the sole reason is because you haven’t worked hard enough. This is the belief that many people share towards the masses of African people and others who are protesting against police terrorism today. The idea that the protesting elements are only doing it because they are making excuses for their own lack of individual success serves to diminish the real reasons for the protests – institutional white supremacy and capitalist exploitation and repression of the insurgent masses – while reinforcing the myth of rags to riches. The truth is the overwhelming majority of people who experience wealth in capitalist societies are people who benefit in some way, form, or fashion, from having some elements of wealth passed on to them, all the way down to and including understanding the language of the capitalist business world. For many of these people they benefit from the expertise, culture of profitability, as well as access to material resources, either through relationships they carry or the ability to convince someone to invest in their vision.
The point is capitalism is based on maintaining exploited classes and exploiter classes. This entire system was built that way and its certainly maintained that way. The people who are at the bottom of capitalism objectively work the hardest and receive the less. Those people are also objectively the results of systems of exploitation like colonialism and slavery. On the other hand, the people who own wealth are people who have objectively benefitted from the institutional exploitative system of capitalism. So, no current business owner in capitalism is innocent because all of them benefit from the historical and systemic exploitation of this system against the majority of people in the world. Whether you own a business in poor neighborhoods, this is true because what you are doing is setting up to profit off of the misery of poverty. Or, whether you set up in rich neighborhoods, this is true because you are establishing exclusivity based on the exploitation of poor people. So, again, none of these business owners who are seeing their businesses go up in smoke are innocent. What’s actually happening is what Malcolm X talked about i.e. the chickens coming home to roost.
The people who are out in the streets, and I’m talking about the ones setting the fires on these businesses and taking the merchandise, they understand the contradictions being raised here. And, none of this I’m saying is to glorify and/or romanticize them. Anyone paying attention knows that we push non-stop for revolutionary organizing, not spontaneous urban rebellions. Much of this activity is driven more by individual frustration and anger and not by an organized vision for creating a better society. I know this because I myself have engaged in that same behavior in years past. Yet, our revolutionary organizing over spontaneous uprisings argument in no way deflects from the criticism we wage against the forces of capitalism who are attempting to demonize these street efforts and make them worse than the crimes against humanity that have people out on the streets in the first place. So, we say the people understand these contradictions and if you still don’t, consider this.
From a personal perspective, I have existed in this society my entire life. What I mean is I live the day to day existence as an African man in this society. My day to day experiences can serve as a textbook for white supremacy and how its implemented against us and this statement is true for most Africans and Indigenous people who are paying attention. I walk in businesses everyday. I’m always courteous and conscientious. I don’t make a fuss and never behave in a difficult fashion. I clean up after myself every time and treat all workers well as a rule. Still, 99.9% of the time I enter a business and engage there, I’m treated like a foreign entity. One who the people there would certainly prefer not be there. In fact, its become a game for me when I enter a business to observe how all eyes will be on me. Even in businesses where I’ve developed relationships with the staff and other customers, its still somewhat irritating to me because I shouldn’t have to “prove” myself. I should be respected as I respect them on face value. Yet, it rarely if never happens. I know that this is the common experience for many people whether African, Indigenous, physically challenged, LGBTQ, poor, houseless, etc. If you can acknowledge this point I’m making right now, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to visualize why people on the streets who have these same experiences in these businesses that I’ve described, who come across these types of businesses I’m talking about during these confrontations against police where emotions are high, why those people wouldn’t use that time to strike out against those businesses. In truth, what else would they be expected to do at that time. Dr. King was correct by saying “riots are the voice of the unheard.” We go farther and quote Kwame Ture, one of King’s contemporaries who greatly influenced Dr. King, who said “organization is the weapon of the oppressed.” Even without technology and television the oppressed, properly organized, can overcome, but we are not at that point yet. We are still at the point of reaction and emotionalism. So, in that realm, the business is going to go down. And, I have zero empathy for them because not only do they benefit from exploitation (while ignoring that reality), but they not only ignore the culture in their businesses that encourages people like me to be “othered”, but they do everything they can to perpetuate that culture. So, when it’s the people’s turn, then it’s the chickens coming home to roost.
Capitalism, a system based on prying on people’s exploitation already has a solution for those business owners anyway. Its called comprehensive insurance. You know, you pay extortion money so that if something happens, you can be covered. We won’t discuss the number of insurance claims that are going to be actively denied because of the number of them coming in at once. It’s the capitalist exploitation way. Yet, these business owners didn’t care much about fairness and equity before the result of the injustices spread to their businesses. Now, I’m having about as much empathy for them as they are having for us being shot down in the street like dogs by agents of state repression.
For a different view, imagine businesses (of course this is simply an exercise because nothing of the sort happens on anything beyond a token level) who actively supported communities. I’m not talking about just little league softball, but actively provided spaces for organizations. Provided resources to the extent they could. Regularly speak out against injustices. Hired people from oppressed communities and made every attempt to pay those workers livable wages and healthcare. Create business environments that respect all of humanity and create spaces where everyone feels respected and welcome Do you think businesses who take that approach would be targeted and burned down and gutted because I can tell you for a fact they aren’t? Of course, you should not hold your breath waiting for capitalist media to provide you these perspectives.
For anyone wishing to puruse a more balanced perspective on critical questions like this, we invite you to join our All African People's Revolutionary Party weekly seminar series. This Sunday, June 7, 2020, we will discuss "Looting" & Rebellion and Reform. 4 to 5pm PST @ facebook.com/ahjamu.umi